Next chapter, yay! All notes and remarks about Alice in Wonderland and the Cheshire Cat can be found in the first chapter's notes.

Please note that I'm not doing every chapter, but I'll at least be mentioning them as best as I am able…

Warning you now that there's some pretty explicit stuff in this. At talk of alternate universes, be careful, and really I don't know if I should be changing the rating or not.

Casual regard for violence is still violence.

Enjoy!

Truth in Madness

Chapter 6—Oooh.

Aside from cake, the previous day was not good. Not good at all. Demon arm losing=good, everything else=bad.

The next morning doesn't get better.

He could probably sleep longer, but the bed is moving slightly, consistently, constantly, and it sounded like Spike and Drusilla were muffling themselves.

That wasn't good, because being around Spike and Drusilla had taught him that when they weren't making noise, they were doing something that would freak Xander out. When they were trying not to make noise…

He turns his head and peeks his eyes open.

And—yep, that is a big no-no, that's a bad, nonono—

"Oh my god!"

He tries rolling away from where they're having sex right next to him, but Drusilla has one hand tangled in his starting to get a bit too long hair, and Spike had his fingers twisted in the looser material of his jeans under his belt. He doesn't do more than jostle them and lose a few hairs. Drusilla bounced harder on his lap when Spike roared with laughter, and Xander felt entirely justified in poofing away from the entirely inappropriate vampires, a little ways outside of their weird warehouse of inappropriateness.

He'd have gone straight home, except, ugh, what if he smelled like sex. Like vampire sex. His parents wouldn't know the difference, but coming home in the wee hours of the morning smelling like…

Like the sex he was not having.

Ugh.

He shudder and stuffed at his shoulder… didn't really smell much besides Drusilla's weird incense, and decided to walk anyway.

He checked his watch and found that he had another two hours before he had to be at school. Which was good.

He needed to shower.

He shook his head and started the not really long walk home, breathing in the smell of recent rain. It still smelled a little damp out, but unless it started raining again, he'd use the walk to clear his head. Walking was better than sitting in his room having an entirely justified freak out because vampires had had sex right next to him.

If he had been a Seer, he'd have left immediately after that one weird wake-up call earlier, and saved himself the trauma—

Though, actually, would he have actually saved himself the trauma? Because he'd have Seen it, and…

He shook his head, and had a brief longing for tea. Not tea with Drusilla. For Wonderland tea. He wasn't tired, but he could use the shot of adrenaline, the strength and euphoria that came with it. He grimaced, and wished doubly for the strength, because he'd have to deal with people at school…

He was still happy that Buffy and Willow were so surprisingly okay with his whatever with Spike and Drusilla, and all the kudos for Oz and his well tested chill, but Giles…

He'd find him to tell him his little bit of blue-eyed advice, because it was important, but he wasn't prepared to forgive him yet.

Hell, Giles might not be looking for forgiveness, and as much as the thought burned…

He shook his head and decided that instead of words, he'd just write down the advice, because once again words wouldn't be the thing to make things better. Then he jumped.

Out of nowhere, Angel. Not the last person he'd like to see, but he was pretty darn close. Angel blinked at him, and tilted his head. It was mostly the setting and the damp dark of the alley, but he almost looked spooky.

Xander frowned and looked to the sky… it was still a little while until the sun was up, but this was getting pretty close. It was only a little while.

"Deadboy? Much as I'm sure I'd get a laugh out of it, I'm pretty sure Buffy'd be a little upset if her boyfriend went all extra crispy. You are sort of the white bread of personality types, but turning yourself to toast won't actually help that."

Instead of the blank faced resignation to both the (wholly accurate) nickname and par-for-the-course snarkasm, the corner of his mouth quirked up for a moment before an expression of extreme sadness took over his features.

This, more than the setting and the dark and the brooding vampire coming out of the dark, made Xander uneasy. Angel did extreme brooding, not extreme emoting. Brooding wasn't emoting.

Angel let out a long sigh, and held his arms out some.

"Xander, buddy, you were right."

"Mhmm, I'm not yea- or nay-saying that until you tell me what I'm right about. And what's with the sadface."

Angel sighed again and moved closer.

"You were right about my attitude; brooding doesn't help…" he paused, and held his arms out a little more. A little wider. Like he was expecting…

It took Xander a moment to remember, but when he does he almost laughs because wow this was his life.

"Cuddling," he-as-the-Cat had informed him so long ago, "is infinitely more useful than brooding. Remember that, after tonight."

He doesn't laugh, because he'd be an asshole to laugh at someone when they felt like they needed a hug (even if it was Angel), but he does quirk an eyebrow and give him a look just to make sure he knew just how odd Xander found this whole thing… and he does this while walking forward to give the guy a hug.

It would be weird; it would be so weird, but now that he was paying attention he could see that Angel was damp like he'd gotten caught in the rain, and considering how relieved he and Buffy were that he wouldn't have to go hiding a demon arm around the world…

Ugh, maybe he's extra broody because of the totally justified and reasonable thought that he doesn't deserve Buffy.

Or more like Buffy deserves better than usually brickfaced Angel—and now he was feeling guilty after Deadboy stood up for him with Buffy and Willow when Giles was all—argh.

Xander shook his head and ignored Angel looking at him from under his ridiculous eyelashes (which was actually impressive since Angel had an annoying few inches on Xander) and pulled him into a hug.

Wet leather, cologne, and the weird dirty musky field smell he normally associated with the very few visits to the relatives on his moms side (and their crazy sprawling estate), and one other smell that was kind of familiar but he couldn't…

Angel sighed into the hug, ducking his head down lower to his shoulder. Hell yeah Xander gave the best hugs, though it was a little uncomfortable what with it being Angel, and a vampire, and the neck thing. Though he thinks it'd be much more uncomfortable if he hadn't had the, uh, experience in hugging Drusilla and Spike.

Angel let out another breath, what sounded like a small laugh, and Xander recognized what that one other smell was. Scrunched his nose. Now that was just gross.

"Ugh! Blood breath—I know you have to drink the stuff to survive or whatever, but brush your fangs afterwards!"

Angel tensed, and gave a small growl—tough luck, Xander told it how he saw it—and ducked his head down, to Xander's-

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

In an alternate universe, what happens next has dire consequences.

Angelus' fangs rip into Xander's throat, and in his shock Xander only jerks in the cage of his arms. He Is confused, because what?!, and curious because you can't know about vampires being a real life actual thing without wondering what it's like, and because he is, at heart, a cat. the combination keeps him from poofing away.

In yet another alternative universe, Xander does poof away after the first rip of flesh, and dies choking on his own blood in the relative comfort of his own room.

But in this particular alternate universe he stays, mostly from confusion and a lack of comprehension, and it's too late, all he hears when he drops to the wet concrete is the sound of Angel's laughter, tastes something like too-raw steak and copper pennies dripping down his throat… and does what people bitten by vampires do.

It is both the best and worst decision of Angelus' unlife.

His blue-eyed moments stay, and help Angelus rule the Hellmouth, and Xander and Spike are both feared as his most enthusiastic Enforcers.

Spike is feared for immediate infractions, and Xander is feared because he can find anyone after a short stop In Between.

Sometimes he remembers to bring Spike, to keep him in line.

Buffy doesn't fall quickly, but it's hard to fight a vampire who can appear as a disembodied head to bite you—hard to stake a vampire who regularly disappears his torso to In Between while fighting.

He caterwauls worse than Drusilla on a bad day when Angelus drains her dry, and stops soon enough when he's given permission to turn Willow and, after a little longer, Cordelia.

They thrill and terrify him as vampires, and they all laugh when Drusilla manages to turn Rupert Giles, and Sunnydale California expands its borders, slowly and steadily as a pool of blood seeping into dry earth.

Oz, when Willow turns him, is quiet and intense.

Xander lets the next slayer stake him in his (heartless) chest, and rips her head off while she is still gaping in shock at his failure to turn to dust. He laughs all the while.

"I left my heart In Between," he explains, giggling with Drusilla.

Willow kicks him hard, jealous of the attention, and Spike frowns. Forever worried over him and Drusilla...

"Pet, you might've dusted yourself doin' that. Would've left us all upset and lacking for playmates…"

Xander sniggers and sticks his tongue out.

"It's why I tested on you first, silly! And then on Cordy, and Drusilla, and Angelus, and even Willow!"

Xander laughs through the roars and snarls, the much delayed panic, laughs harder and stays in place as they take turns peeling the skin from his back in thin strips, and kisses the taste of his own flesh from bloody lips.

Wonderland screams in his head, wild and bloody, but now the whole world screams louder for him.

His gameface grins a cat's grin, wide and full of sharp teeth, and when his eyes aren't blue they're glowing yellow and gleaming madness…

Pity this universe, and be grateful that it is not our own.

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

-shoulder, which Angel will probably feel guilty for later since it's so close to his neck, and Xander poofs away.

He spares a half glance to the wide expanse of Angel's back before shaking his head and walking away faster. He needed to get home, get showered, get to school, and ugh he had to tell Giles his blue-eyed thingy.

"Deadboy, let me know if you need another hug, but I have had a weird enough morning, and at no point am I the person to talk to about guilty vampire feelings. I am not a therapist! You drink blood to survive, Buffy likes you despite your personality and eating habits, and I really never had a chance if she's okay with blood breath, so just—ugh. Just no. And now I have to go shower because—I'm not telling you why. Get out of the sun."

And because he was now realizing he also didn't have a stake handy in case he ran into another vampire

(one not looking for a hug)

he poofed back home.

He put his clothing into a plastic bag to be disposed of later, absently thought that Cordelia would be happy, as she'd never liked that shirt, and then had as thorough a shower as he could without his dad yelling at him about the hot water.

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

He rips a page out of his notebook to write it down, and heads to the library first thing. He's early enough that he can meet up with Willow at the front of school later, and Buffy too if today is one of her early days, but he wants to get this dealt with early.

So he can reasonably and maturely avoid the hell out of Giles afterwards.

Giles looks tired, which makes Xander both happy and concerned, and startled to see him. Xander throws the note (which he'd made into an airplane on the way over because he was bored and agitated) to Giles and watches it hit him lightly in the chest.

"Xander, what-"

"'Be warned watcher, betrayal soon followed by grief will leave you shattered, if you let it.' That was what I was going to say the other night but didn't, and despite what you think… I'm crazy, not evil. And that seems like pretty pertinent advice. And," he holds up one hand when Giles looks like he's about to speak, "I'm not sure if you're looking for forgiveness or not, but you won't be getting it right now. Because I'm going to be the mature one right now and say I did not deserve that—It's not smart, like at all, for me to be having tea with Spike and Drusilla, but it means three nights a week their plans for chaos and murder are put on hold for tea time. Call me crazy all you like, but that's a good thing. And you know what? We mostly talk about the stars, and Wonderland—not about how I can help them kill my best friends."

Giles winced and looked down at the paper airplane.

"Xander, I-"

"Nope."

And he left to In Between to wait in front of the school for Willow. Because he'd used up the maturity he had for the day. All of it.

So no, he wasn't going to listen to what Giles wanted to say… just nope.

He sighed and ignored the few people who jumped at his sudden appearance. After a moment of Xander's nonchalance, they shrugged it off and continued on their way… Hellmouth Blindness at it's best.

So, school was going to be fun.

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

Willow and Buffy left the horribleness of the previous night mostly unsaid with worried looks and a quiet, "are you okay?" and otherwise treated the day as a normal one.

Well, no, Buffy seemed a bit preoccupied, a bit worried about something else, but Xander figured that it was whatever happened with Angel and he'd be hearing about it at lunch.

And he did.

"I'm just really worried… he just—took off. I couldn't find him, and…"

Buffy trailed off, Xander and Willow traded looks at what Buffy was deliberately not saying. He wasn't entirely sure, but he thought it might be a sex thing—it took effort, but he manfully didn't scrunch his nose.

Ugh.

So that was what Angel had been all broody sadfaced about. Guilt over… over having

No. Just no.

No.

He shook his head.

"I wouldn't worry, I saw Deadboy last night—or this morning, whatever. I wouldn't worry. He seemed more sorry and guilty and broody than anything, and that's only a little more than usual. Buffy, find him tonight and talk to him, and I'm sure everything'll be fine." He looks her square in the eye. "But remember that I'm not the detail guy—I do not want to know details. Details you can tell Willow you cannot tell me. Okay? Buff. No, this is not a laughing matter, you have to—Willow, can you- oh great, blank for some of my best material, and this is what gets them to laugh."

He throws his hands up and heads to the garbage to dump his tray and to properly hide his smile.

If he had to hear about Buffy and Angel doing… that, then he'd sign himself into an asylum.

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

The rest of the day did not go well, and this for a number of reasons.

Giles kept showing up in a distinctly uncasual casual way, and that meant that when Xander wasn't cutting himself off from conversation to walk away, he was also being entirely uncasual in his escapes by disappearing In Between when there's no immediate escape route…

This meant that, while still trying to leave off conversation about him having teatime with the Big Bad vamps, they were alternating between scolding him for doing wiggins-worthy stuff in front of the Uninformed, for using his one really useful superpower for frivolous things, and also trying to convince him that he should give Giles a chance.

And he would, he told them—just not now.

For now he was going to let his anger run out, let the feeling of betrayal lessen, let himself be upset, so that when he eventually does get over the thing between him and Giles, he'd be able to avoid the spiteful festering sort of thing from popping up in the future.

So there was that, but annoyance at the attempted kind-of-ambushes and Buffy and Willows unique attempts to help, meant he snapped kind of extra hard at Cordelia, which had him feeling guilty… but when he found her later, after school (and carefully avoiding the habitual gravitation to the library), she wasn't really upset. She was understanding, even, and all grinning at him, and just…

He sighed.

Just beautiful.

Since they'd passed the make-up part of kiss-and-make-up, they moved onto the kissing part, and that was as amazing as ever…

The slamming of the door behind Willow had him reeling worse than any punch.

With the training with Giles Willow was much faster than he remembered—but luckily, instead of having to resort to going In Between to catch up to her, once they're in the hallway she wheels around to face him.

"Willow!"

"I knew it! I knew you two were… well, not knew it in the sense that I had the slightest idea, but I knew there was something I didn't know! You two were fighting too much—it's not natural!"

"Willow, I know it's weird…"

"Weird? It's against all laws of God and man, it's, it's Cordelia—remember? The we hate Cordelia club, of which you are the treasurer!"

"I was going to tell you."

"Gee what stopped you, could it be shame?"

"All right let's overreact, shall we?

"I mean—"

"Willow. We were just kissing. It doesn't mean that much."

"…No…. it just means that you'd rather be with someone you hate than be with me."

When she ran off this time, Xander had to stop and think a moment.

Because she needed to stop and think, and he wanted to run after her, because he'd kind of thought that the Willow Shame had gotten through her crush, but…

He shook his head, and poofed with the intention of appearing ahead of Willow. He wasn't sure if it would actually work that way, but…

She blinked at him, stumbling slightly when she stopped, and he blinked back.

Held up his hands when she looked at him with teary eyes and looked like she was bout to do an about face and run again. "Look, Willow, we just… Look, we need to talk about this. Like actually talk. Not Buffy talk, either, but… look, I'm going to go back to the school, and I'm going to wait there, and if you're ready and willing to talk… whenever that is, I'll be there. In that hallway."

She sniffled slightly and wiped her eyes with her sleeve.

"W-what are you going to do… just wait? And why not either of our houses?"

Xander shrugged.

"I'll probably be avoiding Giles until the guy finally goes home… if he doesn't actually live in the school library. And I figure the school is a good neutral place… that way you won't feel like I'm all invading at your house, and you won't feel like I have... I dunno, home field advantage at my place. Besides, right now my parents are kind of…" he grimaced. She mirrored it.

She knew what his parents were like sometimes.

She sniffled again and gave him a watery half-smile.

"You can't be all thoughtful when I'm upset with you…"

Xander held up his hands again, and shrugged. "I'll still be there, Wills."

And he poofed away.

This was really not the best day.

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

"Let's get this straight, then. I don't understand it, I don't want to understand it, you have gross emotional problems… and things are not okay between us."

Xander inclined his head.

"I will say that is both fair and something I have been hearing way too many times, lately. But I will also say that the understanding thing, at least in this… as much as your thoughts and opinions matter to me, I don't think understanding all of my relationships are in the friend code."

"It should be."

"But if it was, I probably wouldn't have an issue with Angel, you wouldn't have as much of an issue understanding the snark and sarcasm and smooching going on between Cordy and me, and we'd all be much happier."

Willow scuffed her toe on the ground and looked to the side. Xander made note to not mention smooching again.

"You, uh, you didn't say anything about Oz and I."

Xander grinned and ducked his head to catch her eye. "That's because you two are just adorable, and in an entirely not condescending way. Uncondescending. Condascending? Whatever, the thing is that you two are adorable and shy with each other, and you're both crazy-smart with each other. You're all with the cleverness and compliment each other with the…" he trails off, not entirely sure of what words he was looking for, and how he would get the sentiment across.

He's been (in his opinion) very good about keeping the Alice in Wonderland quotes to a minimum—even the ones he only vaguely recognizes as Wonderland-ish—but he thinks he's being fairly wise in not mentioning anything about Oz understanding him better.

Nothing ended friendships quicker than—well, actually being a dick and doing your best to push someone away, using personal information against them…

Well, nothing made friendships more strained than those that turned into competitions and constant comparisons.

Though sometimes he wished he could get away with blunt language the way things had—did—do in Wonderland.

Wished he could tell Willow that she had a big bad issue with believing in things she's decided to be impossible. Or highly improbable enough that she decides they're close enough to impossible.

'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' he quoted the Queen in his head. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!'

He doesn't say this, and instead shrugs into the silence.

"I'm not sure what else to say that won't make this get violent or teary."

Willow laughs. "Coward."

"Oh no, I'm very brave generally," he counters with the smallest of grins, "only today I happen to have a headache."

Willows eyebrows slant drastically, suddenly in full-on worry-mode.

"Not like before, right? You're not sick, or, or somehow—"

"Wills, I'm all right, I swear. Lets not get distracted, now. Or, more distracted."

She pursed her lips.
"It'd be easier to understand the, the you and Cordelia thing if you were sick… Right now I'm feeling like I don' know you even half as well as I thought I did…"

Xander pulls her into a hug, shushing her gently. "C'mon, I know you're smarter than that…"

She shakes her head.

"Can't you figure out how to poof to the past and talk sense to yourself—or, no, poof me there—only, I don't like poofing, it makes me nauseous, and I just…" she trailed off, Brooding Willow making an appearance.

"I couldn't even go back to yesterday because I was a different person then," he says to fill the silence, wincing because that had the tang of Wonderland in it, and hoped dearly that Willow hadn't noticed.

Gently taking her by the shoulders, Xander pushed Willow far enough away that he could look into her eyes.

"Look, Willow, it's just—we're good together, yeah? We're good the way we are now, and we'll only be better friends as we go on. We would not be good together, not the way I think you're hoping…"

"But no, we-!"

Xander shook his head, cutting her off.

"No Willow. I'm not strange, weird, off, or crazy, my reality is just different from yours. I love you Willow, but our realities are similar enough to be friends, but not similar enough to be more than that. That you really, honestly don't understand how Cordelia and I can be around each other kinda shows that."

Willow blinked, sniffling, and took a small step back.

"How long are things going to be awkward like this?"

"Not forever." He hopes.

"And how long is forever?" she asks, probably rhetorically. Or else she's asking an unWillow-ish thing to get him to smile.

He shrugs instead, offers, "Sometimes, just one second… probably a bit longer than that for this."

"…Emotions are hard."

Xander nodded, hoping dearly that the wobbly quality of Willow's voice wouldn't mean crying in the near future.

"And now I'm getting a better idea of that"

And then the lights went out.

"And now I'm having a wiggins."

"Let's get to the library—I can't see your face, but stop making a face. You'll have to forgive Giles at some point."

Before he can comment on that—because he is going to forgive him, just not yet—

"Xander? Willow?"

"Angel?" Well that's not totally random. Not at all. But for all the voices to come out of darkness, his isn't the worst to come.

"Thank god you're okay… not that I didn't believe you, Xander, but it's… um…"

Xander shook his head, because that was such a non-issue.

"Deadboy, you talk to Buffy?"

"Yeah. What's up with the lights?" Okay, so something did happen… and they were not talking about it. Okidoke.

"Y-I don't know, but I think I have an idea."

"Forget about that now… I got something to show you…"

"Show us?"

"Yeah… I can show the others later, but Xander, if you want to go get them…" he leaves it hanging, and Xander can't see him, but he still hears the smirk in what he says next. "You don't want to miss this, though."

"O…kay. You know, you're in a pretty chipper mood."

Angel laughs, and wow this was a total 180 from last time he saw him.

"Hey Willow… c'mere."

"What is it Angel?" Willow starts forward, and Xander is torn between the Very Good Idea of getting Buffy here and not leaving Willow alone, and not just because they still had a few things to clear up between them. But he really wanted to know what it was Angel wanted to show them. What if it was cool? Despite his usual brickfaced-ness and bland personality, Angel could find cool things. Like the place they set up for Buffy's Birthday.

"It's amazing."

Xander started forward too, curious and wondering what Angel wanted to show her—she wouldn't mind if he saw too, right? He could get Buffy after.

"Stop. Willow get away from him."

Xander turned to see Ms. Calendar at the door, a wooden cross held out. For Angel?

He turns back to Angel and Willow to see what's up, just in time for Angel to grab Willow, Game Face right next to her neck.

"Hey! Don't do that!"

"Oh I think I do that." Xander opens his mouth to respond, but he's just… really? He suddenly feels really bad for making fun of Angel—for a 200-something year old vampire, the guy was lacking in the witty repartee. Cordelia could at least keep up.

"Angel!" Willow twisted in his hold, wincing when it made the grip he had on her hair tighten.

"Oh he's not Angel anymore… are you." Ms. Calendar didn't make it a question. Well Xander had a question, he had many questions. They mostly revolved around the classics like 'what the hell' and 'why', but he also had the extra special 'who else would Angel be?'

"You're wrong. I am Angel… at last."

"Oh my god." Angel-maybe-not-Angel actually grinned at him, extra startling for his mouth full of fangs.

"Xander you should come here… I've got a message for Buffy."

"Why don't you give it to me yourself."

Buffy! Xander let out a relieved sigh, because her timing was impeccable.

"Well it's not really the message you tell, it sort of involves finding the bodies of all your friends."

"This can't be you." Her voice trembled on the last word.

"We already covered that."

Not really interested in listening to more of their… whatever, Xander took the cross from Ms. Calendar and crept slowly towards Angel—demony, evil Angel.

Could they start calling him Satan?

Could that be a thing?

He brought the cross up into Angel's face, and when he wrenched away Xander made sure Willow was out of reach before grabbing Angel's hand. Jerked him forwards and hoped he wouldn't be killed in the next two minutes. Wondered why he'd thought this was a good—well, no, he hadn't actually thought this through, and he really should have, but of all of them he was the one most likely to escape a dangerous situation…

"You wanted a hug, right?"

…So maybe he'd take the dangerous situation away with him.

Xander grabbed him up, and wow this was probably the most dangerous hug he's ever given—not that grabbing like this could really be considered a hug, but, y'know. With the general thought of anywhere but here, he wrenched Angel after him In Between.

It wasn't intentional, but he's kind of unsurprised that anywhere turned out to be Spike and Drusilla's place.

Shoving Angel away, he was hardly aware he was going to do it when his fist made contact with Angel's jaw, snapping his head to the side.

Angel immediately had an iron grip on Xander's wrist, but that sort of thing hadn't been an issue for him for a while now.

"Don't," he says, shoving at Angel with his captive arm, felt the beginnings of a bruise, "touch Willow again. Don't."

And he disappeared back to the school, appearing at Willow's side.

"Wills, you okay? Willow?" She nodded, but he pushed her hair behind her shoulders to check her neck, carding his fingers gently through the hair at the base of her skull to check for bruising.
"Xander, where did you bring him?"

"You didn't leave him In Between, did you?"

"I left him at an abandoned warehouse," he answers Ms. Calendar and Buffy both, "but next time he grabs one of you guys like that again I might just—oh my god he totally tried to bite me! That asshole!" He ignored Willow's elbow in his side for the swearing and took the moment to feel extremely, surreally betrayed.

"I gave him a hug and he tries to bite me, and he just," Xander gasped, "this totally explains the extreme sadface! When Angel is evil he shows emotions on his stupid brickface!" He felt a lot like he'd somehow cracked a code he wasn't even aware existed…

Buffy, Willow, and Ms. Calendar were more interested in the circumstances that brought Xander into hugging distance of not-Angel, but…

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

After explanations are through, including how exactly Ms. Calendar knew something was wrong with Angel-the-now-soulless, Willow asks Xander a very important question.

"I-if Angel is now, um, Angelus… does that mean he's going to be all friendly and evil with Spike and Drusilla?" And Xander, is left unsaid, though Ms. Calendar's eyes cut straight to him.

Xander grimaces, mind still firmly on the fact that Angel-us, Angelus had tried to sneak-bite him, and still firmly NOT thinking on what happened to make him Angelus-y, and shakes his head.

"I'm not having tea with Drusilla anymore if Evil Deadboy is going to be there."

Drusilla had tried to bite him, sure, but at least she'd been honest about it—Deadboy just made hugging a little more suspect.

Asshole.

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

If it were possible to skip out on the entire next week, he'd do it. Gladly.

If it isn't Buffy and Willow giving him worried looks, it's dodging Giles who does not understand that Xander isn't ready to forgive him yet. When Willow and Buffy aren't giving him worried looks, Willow is making barely veiled comments about him and Cordelia, and Buffy makes jokes and does her best to distract them from… each other.

When it's not a nameless vampire trying to grab him, it's a furious Spike looking way too terrifying for someone getting around on crutches, or a wailing Drusilla coming after him for so many missed tea parties, or, on one blood curdling instance, Angelus.

Xander was just glad that he'd warned his parents of a hair-gelled, Leather-clad Canadian Queer who'd been hanging about at the school, following guys home, because otherwise Angelus totally would have gotten an invite into his house.

It coated his mouth with a sour taste to say it, but if there were anything that'd keep his parents from falling for that thrall trick again, this time from Angelus, it'd be that combination.

Xander didn't have a problem with gay people, didn't have an issue with leather, didn't have an issue with Canadians—though he couldn't believe any whole nation could be nice enough for niceness to be their stereotype—but the only thing that'd make his parents dislike someone more…

Well, even Xander thought it'd be a bit of a stretch to say a hair-gelled, Leather-clad Canadian Queer Liberal was hanging around. His parents might've asked about how long he'd talked to the gay Canadian.

"Not if Deadboy's going to be there," he tells them, and disappears.

"Not if Angelus is invited," he yells, running, before poofing away.

"No, no, no, no, no!" he shouts, stumbling out of his bedroom window, away from a wailing Drusilla.

He spends quite a few nights napping at Willows without her parents knowing, feeling both happy and annoyed that his parents had left for Vegas for the week, after making sure he wouldn't let any Canadians into the house.

So really, he wishes time ravel was in his arsenal of skills, because then he'd gladly skip out on this week—maybe the next, too, as the teachers were being unreasonably mad for their professions, as well.

No he wasn't interested in taking a class specifically on classic literature, no he didn't want to sign up for philosophy next year, yes he's sure…

If anyone had told him even last semester that he'd have the various arts teachers after his ass because they wanted him to attend their classes…

Xander sighed and almost turned around when he saw Larry and his goons… but as little as he wanted to interact with them, he was even less interested in leaving Oz to their jock-strap level personalities.

Though it sounded like he was holding his own.

Conversation wise.

Because there wasn't any actual fighting, which was good.

"Gee, what has my favourite upperclassman and my least favourite upperclassmen hanging out like it's not weird, hmm?"

"Hey Xander. Willow just headed to class…"

"Harris." Larry's lip curled, "you aren't gonna try and hug us, are you?"

"Only if you ask nicely," Xander replied brightly, tugging the sleeve of Oz's plaid shirt to lead him away; if there wasn't a fight right now, there would be one soon.

Because that was how his life was working out, lately.

Tracy Milligan gave him a small smile while she was walking past—Larry tipped the books from her hands.

She scowled at Larry and his goons, and bent to pick them up—Xander bent to help.

"Ooh, thank you Thighmaster!"

Tracy rolled her eyes a little in the way that wasn't unique to Buffy and Willow's I'm embarrassed and offended, so Xander batted his eyelashes and tilted his head.

"Oh, and here I thought nobody would notice!"

Tracy still hurried off, but was at least smiling again. Larry shoved him.

"You trying to say something?"

"Oh definitely. I mean, I've been working so hard on my girlish figure, and sexist jerks just don't seem to be noticing—hey now!"

Larry and his goons jumped a little when the harder shove Larry aimed at Xander just had Xander's shoulder disappearing; the jocks all got a little leery when he did stuff like that, but Hellmouth blindness had them quiet and brushing it off…

'Normal' people were weird

Vampires and demons trying to kill everyone? They were obviously on drugs.

Try to shove a guy and part of his body disappears? Xander didn't know how they explained away that one.

Oz grabbed his remaining sleeve and led him away in the startled silence of Confused Jocks. Which was probably good. If they'd aimed a punch at his other shoulder he might've lost his backpack In Between.

"So what bit of wisdom were you gaining from them?"

Oz shrugged.

"Just sexist jerk talk. They seem to be under the impression that I must be getting something specific from dating Willow…"

"Is it too much to hope that that specific thing would be scintillating conversation?"

"Little bit."

"Oh high school…" the head of the English department turned the corner, and Xander flinched back when her eyes zeroed on him. Ms. Hogan wouldn't stop hounding after him!
"Sorry Oz, gotta go—do something. Yeah. I just… bye!"

Students jumped a little when he appeared, and from behind a confused Ms. Hogan he gave Oz a double thumbs up.

From beside him Cordelia sighed, most likely disgusted with his uncool behavior, and yanked his arms down.
"Are you trying to embarrass me?"

He had no clue where she'd appeared from—and he was the one with super powers? —but he didn't much care when he wrapped her up in a hug, grinning at her bemused gaggle of Cordettes. He still wasn't considered cool, but the fact that he'd gone blue-eyed for Cordy and several popular girls besides had given him some weird… not exactly green card, but it was definitely a card that meant that he could be huggy with Cordelia and not have her yell at him for associating with her in the halls. In public.

He thinks it probably helps that he's at least a little huggy with anyone who stays within reach for long enough.

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

Willow was still a bit, um, frosty about Cordy and him doing the do—not that there was any actual doing, because they hadn't explored past groping and heavy kissing and Xander trusted that Cordy would make it explicitly clear when she was ready and willing to move past that part—

Not the point.

Willow was not with the happy on the Cordelia-Xander front, but she wasn't any more hostile to Cordelia than she's been before.

And that was what was important.

That was important.

Doesn't mean he doesn't have the niggling Willow-disapproval in the back of his mind while playing tonsil hockey with Cordelia—wait.

"Did you hear that?"

Cordelia pulls back from trailing her lips along his jaw line, body still in a light twist waiting for

"Xander, is this really the time? I have only so long before I have to get back home, a limited amount of time to do things I can never tell my father because he still thinks I'm a good girl…" she trailed off, pouting. "Your eyes haven't gone blue, if that's what you're worried about."

Xander shook his head.

"First off, you're still a good girl relatively speaking, and secondly… Believe me when I say I'd much rather continue what we were doing, but Spike and Drusilla have been getting better at finding me…" his eyes searched the darkness, but if it was Spike and Dru, they were in a mood.

Well, they were always in a mood one way or another, but Xander at least knew he could get away quickly.

He could do the same with Cordelia, but she'd threatened particular bodily harm if he did it without warning ever again.

She started the ignition, huffing when Xander looked at her, curious.

"As if I'm waiting around for Dead and Deader to show their pasty faces—AAH!"

The face that looked through her windshield wasn't pasty or white and it most definitely wasn't Spike or Drusilla.

It was much hairier.

It leapt onto the hood.

"Drive! Driving would be nice any moment now!"

Cordelia slammed in reverse, engine loud over the wolf man's growls, and without a seatbelt Xander slammed into the dash.

"Xander it's still on the hood! It's—scratching daddy's car!"

"Not the thing to focus on!" Xander looked at the steel grip Cordelia had on the wheel, and had a very bad idea. Damn it.

"I'll get its attention, then Cordy you have to drive once it's distracted! Okay? Cordy!"

"Yes, yes, okay now go!"

Feeling like the worst sort of distraction, Xander appeared just behind the wolf man and yanked a handful of grey fur—lost his arm for a moment when it whirled around and swiped at him, lunging when he scrambled backwards. But he'd done his job well enough, because its claws were no longer sunk into the metal of the car, and the wheels of Cordelia's car squealed and kicked up gravel when she sped away… which was a good idea, except Xander had the nasty suspicion that the werewolf-like creature would go after the car if he left immediately—

He appeared just out of reach, and started heading away from the road Cordelia had taken; it'd lead them closer to one of the housing areas if he had to continue for much longer, but he could lose it before then, he was sure.

Xander ran, boosting himself forward by several meters every time the werewolf started to catch up (and damn was it fast!), and when his heart was pounding and he was gasping for breath, he poofed home.

Collapsing onto his bed, panting, he sincerely hoped his parents would forget that he hadn't come in through the front door, because he was so not going out again.

Werewolves, he thought with some disgust.

Couldn't they have skipped to werebunnies?

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

"You're sure it was a werewolf?"

"Well, lets see… 6 feet tall, claws, a big ol' snout in the middle of his face, like a wolf—um, yeah, I'm sticking with my first guess."

"Seems wise."

Xander nodded to Oz, "Yeah, and there was the little part where it tried to bite us—and wow that thing is fast!"

"It was so awful."

"Not too awful if you were willing to leave Xander to it," Willow pointed out. Cordelia rolled her eyes.

"Please, Xander was the one who decided to play teleportation tag with wolfy last night. The only real tragedy of the night is that Daddy just had this car detailed."

Willow only hummed in response. It wasn't exactly a happy hum, but she leaned into Oz when he rubbed a hand up and down her back.

Xander paid attention, but didn't look at Giles when he explained the 'wild dog' attacks of last night, the mutilated animal carcasses, and left reassuring Willow of the relative bunny safety to Oz.

Thankfully, Giles seemed content with leaving their interaction on Xander's terms, and leaves to research werewolves and see if they had to worry about their furry new friend in the next 24 hours…

Buffy, surprisingly, pipes up with some book knowledge of her own.
"I think I remember something about werewolves in the Slaying 101 book, so I'll check in at lunch, 'kay?"

Before they headed to class Oz caught his eye, so he hung back while the girls went on ahead.
Oz held up a finger, a smiley face Band-Aid on its end.

"My cousin Jordy just got his grown up teeth in. He does not like to be tickled."

Xander laughed and raised an eyebrow.

"Ankle biter, huh? Any sign of longstanding consequences yet?"

"Nah. Guess we'll just have to wait and see."

Xander grinned and pulled him into a quick one-armed hug.

"Maybe it'll be a good consequence… like, maybe your cousin will develop a phobia against biting people."

"We can only hope, I guess."

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

"No cheating," Buffy grinned at him, and Xander returned it along with a significant look.

"I could, and am, going to say the same Ms. The Slayer."

She went off with Willow, and Xander headed to the table to sign his name on the participation clipboard. Noticed the bandage around Larry's arm, just above his elbow.

"What happened?"

"Oh, last week some huge dog jumped out of the bushes and bit me. 39 stitches."

He was ready to be sympathetic, but that kind of died with the bragging tone.

"Hmm," he jerked his chin Oz's direction. "He got bit too, though he didn't need any stitches."

"By a dog? They oughta shoot those strays…"

"My cousin, actually." He looked down at his clipboard, then said, "I don't think it's legal to have him shot over it."

Theresa, his partner for the class, looks nervous as their gym teacher explains the exercise.

"Don't worry about hurting me," he says with what he hopes is a reassuring smile. "I'm used to bruises."

"That doesn't really make me feel better…" she sighs. "I don't know, this just doesn't seem like much fun to me."

"Well, that's school for you. It's not real work unless you would rather be doing something else."

That gets him a smile, and then he's got to grip her across the collarbone with his arm—he's very conscious of Cordelia's eyes on him, the next group over. Yep, that was her collarbone that he had his arm on, he was gripping her shouldernothing else.

Of course, five minutes later Buffy flips Larry over her shoulder, and he has to let go of Theresa to cheer.

"Whoo, yea Buffy!"

"Harris, back in line!"

Theresa's shaking her head when he puts his arm back around her, but he considers it a success when he ends up on the mat before the end of class. On his side, because she'd rolled him off her shoulder rather than flipping him straight over like Buffy had, but it was still good.

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

He gets the condensed version of things after lunch from Buffy since he'd skipped out on the library time—and ignored the pointed look she gives him for it.

"So it turns out that our furry friend might not even know he or she's a, uh…"

"Animal lover?" he offers. "Sleep walker? Sleep walking animal lover? An unconscious part of PETA?"

Their desks are just too far away for her to elbow or kick him, but he can se that she's tempted to try anyway.

"… Yes. That. But it turns out that Fluffy doesn't even have to be, you know, fluffy to turn someone. There's an entry from an unnamed Slayer in the 1950's who talks about someone getting bitten during a, um, particularly enthusiastic significant other."

"Talk about necking."

"You're so mature sometimes, it's a real wonder you can find humour in anything."

He shrugged.

"Everything is funny, if you can laugh at it."

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

Buffy wasn't so sure about Xander patrolling for the werewolf on his own, but her Slaying 101 book also mentioned that werewolves are attracted to, well…

He'd gotten a particular look when it cam to why the werewolf had gone for Cordelia's car last night.

So Buffy and Giles went back to the make-out point, figuring that the werewolf would be more interested in the woodsy surroundings, and Xander went to the Bronze. He thinks he got the easier of the two options.

But also not, because he noticed Cordelia and Willow were talking… and not visibly fighting, which was good and not to be interrupted. He had the strong feeling that they were talking about him, but even so, so long as they were with the talky talky and not the fighty fighty he was going to encourage it.

And that meant staying out of sight of them.

And, predictably, that means that he doesn't see the werewolf when it enters the building, doesn't see when it jumps down on the table right in front of them.

"Oh great…"

People are dong a good enough job of evacuating on their own, so he focuses on the werewolf—specifically, getting its attention.

He appeared behind it, grabbed a handful of fur—

"OW FU—that's not how it's supposed to go!"

Xander gripped his arm where the werewolf scratched him, feeling at least three cuts in his shirt. He was sure he'd feel the actual cuts in a moment, because he could certainly feel the blood dripping from them, but shock was keeping that particular feeling from him for the moment.

The werewolf snarled at him, and Xander poofed to a slightly safer distance.

"Okay, so Wolfy learns, good to know." Xander clenched his hand into a fist because yep, there was the pain. "Wish I'd known that before trying the same trick twice…"

Mostly empty now, it was a terrifying game of keep-away with the werewolf until the Bronze was totally empty—and thank whatever powers that be that Buffy showed up when she did, because he wasn't sure what he could do when Wolfy lost interest in the game.

"Buffy! It's in the back!"

"Got it—get out of here!"

Didn't have to tell him twice.

He poofed away, and started walking in the neighborhood he appeared in.

Craning his neck and pulling his torn sleeve out of the way, he grimaced at the scratches.

"Seriously? Ugh, this'll be fun to explain…"

He shook his head and took a left to cut through the truck parking lot. He had some cash; he could stop by the all night drug store and get some gauze. He still had the elasticized bandages from when he'd sprained his ankle as a kid, and he was very well stocked in antiseptic, but he didn't think Band-Aids would cut it with scratches like this. He just needed the gauze and he could keep it in place with the bandages.

He paused at the edge of one of the trucks, a flash of plaid catching his eye.

Feeling stupid, but worried all the same, he took a step towards the shadows where the plaid-wearer was standing. Because generally people don't just stand in darkened corners of truck yards in the middle of the night.

"Hello?"

The darkness shifted slightly, and a pale face rose from—oh shit, her neck, and that was Angel in his game face.

Xander jumped back before he could think, and Angel grinned bloodily. Let the plaid-wearer drop.

"Oh shit," Xander felt the blood drain from his face, "Theresa."

"Oh Xander… did you know her? And did you," Angel paused, sniffing, "did you bring me a snack? This is a better apology than I could have hoped for…" He grinned and stepped over Theresa's body. Xander laughed a little, backing away and clutching his arm tighter. He really did blend in with the shadows remarkably well. Maybe all that leather served a purpose after all.
"Haha, you see, I can't really think of anything I need to be sorry for—not to you anyway."

"Oh, I'm sure if you think hard enough it'll come to you. I mean, with Spike sulking about on his crutches or in that wheelchair of his, and Drusilla…" he sighed, shook his head a little, "she has been very upset that you've been missing her tea parties."

"Yeah, see I'm still not setting where you fit in—and oh, here's an idea, how about I just, uh, go, and you can go and find something wooden and pointy to fall on."

Angel lost his game face and gave him an indulgent smile, still walking towards him. Xander gave a quick check behind him to make sure he wasn't going to do anything like walk into a wall, and when he looked back Angel was a lot closer than he was before.

"See, it's when you say things like that that make me think you might be avoiding me. And that can't be the case, now could it?"

"Um, yeah, actually. That's exactly it. So I'm just going to uh—Ah! Bad dog!"

The werewolf lunged at him and Xander moved to the top of one of the nearby trucks, because where the hell did it come from? Were there more werewolves? Was it the same one? He probably should have stayed to see what was up with Buffy, but his arm… They should really get pagers or something.

He shook his head, and decide to do what he should have done right from the get go, and poofed directly to the drug store—he startled Lenny, the guy who hung out outside the shop all the time, but ignored that in favour of pushing through the door and getting his damn gauze.

A few bucks poorer, Xander shivered in the sudden breeze, and froze when he heard footsteps behind him. He spun and scowled at Angel, giving a quick check to see if the werewolf was also around. Would just figure if the werewolf teamed up with the vampires.

Angel smirked at him and glanced at Lenny, spun the stem of a flower in one hand.

"If you keep hurrying everywhere like that, you're bound to miss something."

"And yet the hurrier I go the behinder I get. Such is life—not that you'd now about that, eh Deadboy?"

He didn't even twitch. Maybe there was a difference between Angel and Angelus—Angel always did that eyebrow quirking thing. He nodded down to his arm.
"You know, I could help you out with that…"

"If you're about to try and convince me that saliva is a disinfectant, I wouldn't suggest it."

Angelus' smirk widened, and he shrugged slightly.

"Believe what you want, Xander, but all I want to do is help you."

"Uhuh, and I just want you to lave me alone."

"If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does."

Xander sputtered, and Angelus just fucking smirked.

Asshole.

"That's—that's not fair! You can't use Wonderland quotes against me like that! "

Angelus just smiled, smug.

"I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about—and if I did, I'm sure I wouldn't try using it again."

Xander scowled.

"Not unless it worked, you mean." He sighed and went to rake his fingers through his hair—thought better of it, what with his bloody hand. Damnit.

He pointed at Angelus.

"Try to bite me and I'll…" he frowned, thought for a moment, "well, I'm not sure how far I can go, strictly speaking, but I'll transport you directly into the nearest sunrise."

Xander frowned and pointed again.

"I'll be by for tea after this werewolf thing is dealt with."

And then, with Angelus' stupid smirk an afterimage behind his eyelids, Xander poofed home.

Throwing his shirts into the garbage bag he used for slaying-effected clothing, he grimaced at the cuts on his arm. Scratches. Whatever.

Three long ones and one smaller, thinner one, and removing his shirt had reopened them in some places. That was going to be fun to shower with.

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

In the morning he checks and cleans his arm, and packs more gauze and disinfectant in his backpack—he wasn't looking forward to it, but he'd probably have to let Giles take a look at it.

"Alex! Your English teacher called for you last night, you got a meeting with her before school, so hurry up!"

…After he goes to the meeting his dear mother apparently set up for him.

Xander sighed and headed out the door, poofing away once he was out of sight of his house.

"Oh my…! Xander, don't do that! You scared me."

He shrugged. "Sorry Wills, but apparently my mom agreed to me meeting with Mrs. Perburry and Ms. Hogan will probably be there…" he sighed, because Willow was literally the last person he should be complaining to. She was all for Xander going on to advanced English and Literature courses… if he wanted any sort of commiseration, he'd have to wait and talk to Oz.

"Anyway, it means that I won't see you guys until class… but, um, you know Theresa?"

Willow immediately gave him sad eyes, "Xander, she—"

"Angel killed her, Willow."

"He—what? Really?"

"Yeah, I saw the guy with his face in her neck, was about to leave, and then—wait, quick question, did you guys, um, catch the werewolf last night?"
"Oh," she blinked, "no. No we didn't."

"Oh. Right. Well, then the werewolf showed up again right before I poofed away from Angel-"

"Angelus."

"-Whatever, but that's when I got out of there, because Wolfy is fast. Like really fast. I don't think I want to play tag with him again, honestly. But I heard the radio and…" he took a breath, let it out slowly, "I think it's going to be a real issue for Buffy to humanely catch our furry friend if she thinks it killed someone."

"… Why didn't you go to Buffy?"

Xander winced. "Because I'm a coward and really don't like that You Just Mentioned Angel look on her face—and look at the time, I have a meeting with a gaggle of English teachers to look forward to! And by the way can you ask Giles to have the emergency kit out for at lunch, I kinda got scratched the other night."

"Xander!"

"See ya!"

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

The meeting went exactly as well as Xander had feared it would, with good (and misplaced) intentions on one side and extreme disinterest on the other, and then Xander begged out of the meeting because he had to go get his books.

Really.

He did.

He was just glad he didn't have English until after lunch…

He turned to—of course—Larry, and said,

"Your secret will eat you from the inside out if you let it."

Xander blinked and tilted his head. What kind of secret did Larry of all people have? And if it was the sort to eat him up inside, why hadn't Xander gone all blue eyed earli—oh. Oooh.

Before Xander could ask, the bell rang and Larry and his goons rushed off, and Xander left to find Buffy.

"I think I know who Fluffy is!"

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

With a promise to meet up in the library for lunch (and Buffy didn't have to look so pleased at that), Xander left to ambush Larry in the locker room.

"Jeesh, Harris, wear a bell next time…"

"Haha, funny, cat jokes are real funny—why so jumpy, Larry?"

"Geeks make me nervous." Oh Xander was totally right, Larry was definitely the werewolf—why else would he be getting so defensive?

"Uhuh, and that has nothing to do with any, let's say, secrets that may or may not be eating you up on the inside?"

"Harris, just because you did your freaky eye trick on me, doesn't mean you know squat."

"I know your secret, big guy. I know what you been doin' at night."

"Curiosity killed the cat, Harris…" he grabbed the front of his shirt, "you lookin' to die today?"

Okay, different track.

"Hurting me isn't gonna make this go away, people are still gonna find out…"

Larry seemed to deflate a little, and let go of his shirt… but instead of actually saying anything, or continuing with the threats he was just… quiet.

"Larry? You're thinking about something, and it makes you forget to talk."

He shook his head.

"What do you want, huh? What're you after? You're too crazy to be after hush money, so what is it?"

"I don't want anything, I just want to help!"

"What, you think you have a cure?"

"No, it's just… I know what you're going through—or something close enough to it. I've been there, y'know? Twice, even, and I know it kind of messes with how you look at everything, at everyone. That's why I know you should talk about it." He didn't think Larry would survive talking about it with people like Spike and Drusilla—though any and all interaction with Drusilla would do wonders for how he treated women, Xander was sure of that.

"That's easy for you to say. I mean, even with your creepy eye trick you're nobody. I've got a reputation here."

"Larry, please, before someone else gets hurt! Look, if you drink much from a bottle marked 'poison' it is certain to disagree with you sooner or later. I don't think I'm being crazy in saying, in this case, it'll be sooner."

Larry paces away, shoulder hunching.

"Look, if this gets out, it's over for me… I mean, forget about playing football, they'll run me out of this town." Xander opened his mouth to point out that they hadn't run him out of town yet and he's crazy, when Larry whirs around rom his pacing and continues with,

"I mean, come on! How are people gonna look at me after they find out that I'm gay?"

Xander closed his mouth.

Ran their conversation through his head and… oh. Oooh.

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

He makes it to the library in… shock, he thinks.

Okay.

So that just happened.

And he thought he'd had communication problems before

Well at least he and Larry were now… friends, sort of. Ish. Kind of? Was this a good thing?

He wasn't altogether sure.

Larry thought that Xander was gay, now, too…

"Hey Xander are you, ahem, are you okay? Because I heard from Willow that you were, uh…" Oz trailed off, and Xander shook his head.

"You know, I just had a really odd conversation."

"Oh?" Oz paused, and then said, "you know that's really saying something. Coming from you I mean."

"Oh I know, and I still mean it… and I don't think I'm allowed to tell anyone about it. Like, I think there are ethical rules somewhere about keeping conversations like the one I just had… quiet." He shook his head again. "Sorry, what were you saying before?"

"Ah. Willow said you'd been, um, hurt. By the werewolf. She was… very upset. Understandably," he seemed to rush to say, "but—you know. Upset."

Xander winced.

"Yeah, she's been throwing me worried looks in class… our fluffy buddy scratched me. Apparently hair pulling only works the one time—which is fair, I guess, but I wish the relative ability for werewolves to learn from past experiences could have been mentioned or something… Look, I'm heading to the library to get Giles to look over my less-than-dire war wound, if you come with then you can do the supportive emotional thing when Willow overreacts to my scratch."

Oz nodded but didn't move when Xander started heading to the library.
"Oz?"

"…You're forgiving Giles, then?"

Xander tilted his head, and Oz expanded on that odd question. "You just… the library. Are you forgiving Giles, or…" Oz shook his head a little. "you don't seem to forgive easily."

"Oh, no," Xander laughed, "there's very little forgiveness happening between the G-Man and I right now… mostly because he hasn't said sorry, and I'm not actually ready to stop and let him, but he's got a lot more medical first-aid know-how. So that's what's happening right now."

"But you will forgive him? Eventually? Like, hypothetically of course, the werewolf… would you forgive him for…" Oz trailed off and jerked his chin.

Xander checked over his shoulder before realizing Oz meant his arm.
"What, this? I've gotten worse from—well, mostly from vampires, but this is the first time in months that I've actually gotten injured and it was from a guy who doesn't even know that he did it. Or doesn't remember doing it… I'm not exactly going to be offering to cuddle up with the guy on the full moon…" he trailed off and shrugged again. Scrunches his nose, because he'd honestly thought Larry was the werewolf, and cuddling Larry… He shuddered.

"All that aside, I'd like to make sure I don't have, say, wolf nail clippings in my arm, so if we could go to the library now…?"

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

Willow did indeed overreact, Buffy went all adorable and terrifyingly pouting, and Giles some mystical stuff that felt a lot like mace or saltwater or mace-y salt water over his arm…

Xander didn't care that he was making probably the least masculine face possible, and making squeaking noises because that stung.

It stung, it stung, it stung and frothed a little bit and when Giles carefully wiped his arm down little gravelly bits and a long line of yesterday's ruined shirt fabric pulled free from the wound. At least he didn't need stitches…

Giles sprayed it a second time with antiseptic and covered it with new gauze and bandage—and realized that everyone had made a probably less-than-stealthy retreat from the room.

He was alone with Giles.

That's what he got for letting them know what happened before getting his scratches treated…

He sighed.

"Giles—"

"No, no—um, Xander…" Giles sighed and pulled his glasses off to clean them.

"Things have been. Strained."

Xander snorted.

"That's one way of putting it."

"Look Xander I—what I said was out of line. I should never have implied that you would—"

"Said. You said it; you went right past implying and outright said that you thought I went crazy enough to help kill Buffy."

"And I should not have."

Xander closed his mouth, not expecting Giles to own up quite like that. Especially after Xander interrupted him.

Xander stays silent.

Giles sighs, puts back on his glasses.

"I am sorry. I was not thinking, and I do not believe that you could mean any harm to Buffy or Willow… and I hope you may someday forgive me for my harsh words."

Xander nodded, once.

"I'm not quite ready to forgive you all the way… but I just need some time. Thanks for fixing up my arm."

After a pause, Xander nodded and headed for the door.

"Come back!" Giles called after him, and then hesitated. "I've something important to say."

This sounded promising, or worrying, or that regular Hellmouth mix of both, so Xander turned and came back again. Raised his eyebrows in question.

"Keep your temper."

Xander stared. Felt his lips twitch.

From the doors he heard a shocked gasp, and turned his head enough to see that Buffy and Willow were peering through the glass in the door. They ducked out of sight.

He looks back to Giles, and he can't help it when his mouth twists into a grin.

"You lost something in the delivery without the Hookah. Caterpillar could say a thousand words in one puff."

Xander shook his head, feeling suddenly nostalgic for some nonsensical debate with the smokestack of a bug.

He turned and continued towards the door—paused, and turned to throw Giles another grin.

"Thanks G-man."

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

He'd like to say that he was entirely involved with the plan for stopping the werewolf for the night, but that would be a pretty big lie.

Willow had dove into the research aspect, pulling up student profiles in probably less than legal feats of technological might, doing her best to find out who of their fellow students could possibly be the werewolf…

Oz was busy, apparently. Xander didn't know what to do with that. He wasn't all that worried, though, not when Willow eventually left to go after him.

He'd wanted to go pay his respects to Theresa with Buffy, especially considering the whole, you know, thing with Angel being the one to kill her, but Oz's buddy Devon had wanted to talk to him.

Weirdly.

Wanting to get him out of the library where Giles had books on werewolves spread out, where he had a suspicious looking case he wasn't opening—

Suspicious, that is, to Xander. Normal Xander.

To the crazy violent soldier still in the back of his memory there was the comfor-uncomfortable certainty that there was some sort of gun in there. A firearm.

He flinched slightly and brought a hand down the side of his face to wipe away the phantom feel of blood splatter.

"You okay man?"

"Huh? Oh, I'm just dandy. Thought I felt something for a second there, don't mind me. So, uh, what was it you wanted?"

Devon reels back a little like Xander just said something… well, something crazy. But Xander was more than a little certain that he hadn't said anything odd…

"Dude. Harris. Xander. You totally haven't made time to hang with me and the boys, and that's just not cool."

"Um… what?"

Devon laughed, and clapped him on the shoulder.
"Man, don't tell me you forgot?" he snorted. "Nah, you're yankin' my chain. Everyone wants a chance to party with the seniors! C'mon, we got a party tonight—Oz said he was busy, but you can hang with me eh?"

Xander scratched the back of his neck and laughed along, because why not? Today was a day for weird conversations.

"Right, well, see the thing is—" Behind Devon, the library doors swung open before Buffy made a face and pulled back into the room, a large tranquilizer gun in her hands. The doors kept swinging. Devon started to turn—

"Cake!"

Devon turned back to Xander, frowning. Belatedly someone, probably Giles, stopped the library doors from swinging and revealing his gun-toting friend.

"Cake?"

"Yeah, um, I have cake—very important cake—that I have to deal with at home. Tonight." Devon started to frown, looking both puzzled and offended.

"Dude, seriously? Cake?" He raised an eyebrow, "sure you're using the right word there, Harris?"

He winced, but plowed on ahead.

"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more, nor less… But tomorrow! Tomorrow I'm free." He winced, thinking of Spike and Drusilla and what Angel probably told them and just… "Yeah, I'm free tomorrow. Tomorrow good? That was Oz can be there, too."

"Ah," Devon started grinning again, and clapped his arm, shaking him slightly. "Sounds good, man. I'll make sure Oz knows the details, so I'll see you later, right man?" Xander grinned and nodded, gritting his teeth and pointedly not letting any noise out because, by all that is holy, his arm.

"Awesome. See you tomorrow man."

Xander kept smiling after Devon walked away, though he thought it might look a bit more like a rictus, and shook his head.

Then Cordelia rounded the corner.

"Xander? Ugh, I have been looking all over for you—cheerleading practice just ended, and you are going to walk some of the girls home."

"I am?"

She rolled her eyes and tossed her hair over her shoulder.

"Of course. I know you and Buffy and Willow are all over this wild dog thing, and since I haven't heard anything from you about it being over with… yes. You get to play protector, for all the good that'll do us."

"Thanks, Cordy. Your confidence really gives me a happy. Really."

She smirked and started walking towards the gym—Xander sighed and followed.

He could catch up with Buffy and Giles afterwards."

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

He'd also like to say that he'd actually been there for the take-down of the werewolf, but in reality he got there just in time to see Willow—Willow!—shoot the tranq gun and put Fluffy to sleep. Like, actual sleep.

The guy sure could snore.

"I shot Oz." Willow sounded like she might be in shock.

"What?"

He ducked, the strange guy with stubble he'd appeared besides swinging at him.

"Hey, hey, hey! No need for violence!"

"And what the fuck are you supposed to be?"

Xander frowned and leaned to look around him. Buffy was picking up the guy's gun.
"Buffy? Who is-" he interrupted himself to turn to the guy and say, "be careful of red eyes and blue teeth, green collars will choke you through the West. Well that makes about as much sense as ever. But seriously, who's this guy?"

The man scoffed, but his eyes went contemplative.

"Seer, huh? You particularly attached to your eyes, kid? Split the profit with you for 'em… still a pretty penny, and I know a guy to do the surger—"

"What? No! No, no, nonono!" He poofed behind Buffy, entirely unashamed. She'd dealt with the weird spider-egg monster, she could deal with this guy no problem. "Very attached! Buffy, seriously, I leave you alone for like two hours and suddenly you're hanging around guys like this? Not cool—though good job with Fluffy."

The man scoffed again, rolling his eyes.

"No wonder this town's overrun with monsters. No one here's man enough to kill 'em!"

"Oh I wouldn't be too sure of that."

Xander wasn't sure what the man could have done to merit a show of Slayer Strength (aside from that black-market-y thing he offered with his eyes), but the gun barrel bending impressed him. That was not an easy thing to do—and the shotgun would be useless. Xander thought he could probably save the scope, but…

Buffy shoved the ruined weapon at the guy—wait, were those teeth around his neck?

"How about you let the door hit you in the ass on the way outta town?"

Xander scrunched his nose (because ugh, teeth, teeth were always creepy), but gave Buffy his mental tally of badass points. In pastel purple leather jacket and a ponytail, she'd totally just stared down Shotgun Toting Tooth-Necklace Guy.

Werewolf snores punctuating his departure, Xander looked down at their furry friend. At Willow, crouched next to him.

"So… what's this about Oz?"

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

"So I never actually asked—and it seems silly now that we know who it was going wild in the moonlight—but how did your talk with Larry go?"

Xander leaned on the vending machine and laughed. Laughed a little more. Stopped laughing when the look Buffy was giving him turned concerned.

"Hah, um, yeah. Went well enough. I guess. Definitely not a werewolf…"

A couple seniors knocked the books from a freshman's hands, jeering when she bent to pick them up—Larry appeared and bent to help her.

In an amazing show of dominance among the Senior Ranks, the other two seniors backed down under the look Larry gave them.

Xander was all for Larry's sudden care for not being a total jerk to girls, but he had an uneasy feeling he knew why.

Suddenly, the side of the vending machine was just—fascinating. He hadn't noticed before, but it was all grooved on the edges, and there was hadly anything carved into the sides by bored students…

"Hey, Xander, look, about what you did… I owe you."

Xander was all set to nod and hope he left, but then Buffy had to get all curious. "What did you do?"

Larry looked to Xander. Great, now he had to answer.

"It's really nothing we should be talking about… ever. Or really, if Larry wants to talk about his, um… yeah, then he can totally do that, no shame in that, but I don't… mmm."

"Oh, I know, I know!" Larry nodded, probably thinking he knew what Xander was talking about, but didn't. "It's just, well… thanks."

And then with one last ridiculously thankful look, Larry clapped him on the arm and walked away.

Xander slowly let out a breath, because…

Buffy raised an eyebrow.
"Isn't that…?"

"Yep." It was indeed right where he'd gotten scratched.

"And doesn't it…?"

"Hurt like hell? Oh yes." It was throbbing.

She winced.
"C'mon, let's make a quick stop at the library; I know for a fact that Giles keeps pain pills around for after training."

.-~-~-~~-~-~-.

"You know, I only agreed to get Devon away from the library… you don't actually have to come with, if you don't want to."

Oz raised an eyebrow.
"You realize Devon is my friend, right?"

"Well, yeah, but aren't you tired from last night or something?"
"Only a little sore… Look, Xander, I'm fine. I swear. Just be sure to let me know when you're ready to head out."

Xander was about to say that Oz didn't have to leave when he did if he didn't want to when they reached the door to Devon's place.

Oz opened the door, but paused.

"Oh, and uh don't smoke anything before running it by me first, okay?"

Xander made a face, thinking of his Uncle Murphy's yellow teeth and gross fingers, but followed after Oz down to the basement…

Oh. Oooh.

That kind of smoking.

Well, Oz wouldn't have to worry about that, either, not after what Robo-Ted's cooking had done to him—

His eyes caught on a table in the corner.

Ooh, brownies!

.-~-~-~~-~-~.

Redripper666, what's the point of asking a question in a review if you disable PMing? Though I have no clue if you'll ever read this, but… *shrugs*

Thanks to everyone for all the support, and sorry it took so long to get this out!

But hey, it's got a LOT of stuff in it… and more Spike and Drusilla coming up next!

It'll be great :)

Thanks for the support, let me know what you think!

~Doodled93~