SO. How are you all? It has been such a long time, I know… and this update unfortunately does not bring news that my lack of updates (for any stories) has been lifted, only that I managed to get the wordcount up enough in the first two days of my scheduled off vacation time that I could finally post what I already had written.

"but why didn't you post what you had?" because I only had like 3k, and it would have been an actually awful place to just leave things, and… yeah.

Enjoy!

(Also, apologies to fanfic dot net people because I posted this on ao3 like 2 weeks ago because it was easier to do so from my phone, and then forgot to post here once I got back from camping and yeah.)

Truth in Madness

Chapter 7—Nice Guy

The basement had walls covered in a mismatch of band posters and colourful blankets, futons and couches and chairs filling the room in rough semi-circles. On every couch and chair and pillow there was probably more than two dozen people Xander only vaguely recognized as maybe from school, probably from the Bronze, and even in the multi-colored strings of Christmas lights set up the air was tinged grey with how much smoke there was.

He wondered if that was the point, or if he should probably open a window or something.

Low music as people alternated between pulling out instruments and fiddling around with Devon's music collection. I wasn't like any party Xander had ever been to before, and that was either good or bad or someplace in between both at the same time.

Devon was a nice guy.

Like a really nice guy.

Xander was really comfortable, just lying back on his couch and it was just really… everything was really soft. It's nice. Xander just feel really calm, and it's nice.

And Devon keeps bringing him more brownies.

They're good, and Xander thought he'd have reached his too-much-food stage ages ago, but…

He swallowed, the taste of chocolate coating his mouth.

Actually, he could probably still eat…

Oz fell into the seat next to him, and Xander grinned widely. Oz froze.

Xander waited, wondering what was up. Licked over the front of his teeth, sucking, wondering if maybe he had chocolate on his teeth?

"Um, you're not… saying anything."

Xander shrugged, still smiling. "I was about to say the same thing. Hey, Oz, can you write when you're all wolfy? Like, words-writing, not making note of fluff." Xander asks.

"…I don't think so," Oz replies. "Why?"

"The proper definition of a man is an animal that writes letters. Or something like that." He frowned; searching Oz's face for the right set of letters before remembering that you can't read people's faces like that. Not really.

(That was unfortunate.)

It would make social interactions much easier, otherwise.

"I can't remember who said that, but I guess it doesn't matter because I just did." He blinked and grinned at the room at large before remembering regular social convention. "Wait, no, rewind a moment—what's up Oz? I mean, hi? Hello."

Xander pursed his lips, wondering if he'd gotten that right. Should he have started with Goodbye? Or toodles? Toodles was a neat word.

"I was kind of wondering the same thing, Xander. Your eyes have gone all…" he tapped his temple gently. Xander sighed, happy. It was good when people were worried over you; it meant they cared. It was nice to know Oz cared, even if they'd known each other for, like, ages already. As long as—or not as long as Willow, he frowned, but surely for a long time right? Maybe. They would know each other for a long time, and that was almost the same thing, wasn't it?

But he cared. That was a good thing.

That made all the stressy-stress horribleness of the past however long a lot better, or at least less bad. Possibly both. Oncoming things would be difficult, but then they'd be better, he knew. They would inevitably come 'round back to horrible, in some way, at some point—several points, but they'd get better.

"Things will get better," he reassures Oz with a smile, "so long as there's clear communication, caring between friends, and a few other feel-good sentiments. Or something. But things will also be less bad if I stay away from drugs. Drugs make you go blind, you know—or me. You? I don't know."

Oz frowned at the table in front of Xander, examining the ends of cigarettes and not-cigarettes collected there in ashtrays and discarded cups.

"Xander you didn't…"

"Nope," he replies wit a small grin. "I've been told doing drugs makes you go blind. But, then again, I've also been told that about masturbation…" he shook his head. "I've just been sitting here, drinking water and eating brownies!"

Oz paused. Impressive, Xander thought, as he wasn't doing anything to really pause at, but there he was.

"…Brownies?"

"Yeah, I tried one and it was good, and then your buddy Devon just kept bringing more over…" at the growing frown-y look on Oz's face, Xander shook his head and, after a moment of thought, put a hand on his arm. Contact helped… right? Or something like that. His memory was a bit fuzzy on that. Contact good?

Non violent contact, he confirmed.

He felt a bit like he was playing a video game where the graphics were lagging, everything just a little too disjointed for him to react in what was probably an appropriate time-frame…

"No, no, don't worry. They were really good brownies." He grinned. "I didn't know I was that hungry until he just kept bringing them over."

Xander leaned back on the couch with a sigh. "Such a nice guy."

Oz sighed too, but his sigh was a bit more… frustrated sounding. Worrying.

He should have a brownie.

Oz shakes his head when Xander tells him this, raking a hand through his hair.

"Great…" He stood, pulling Xander up with him by the elbow. Xander grinned and let him. Xander was feeling all floaty, and Oz was fun. He was a cool guy too.

No wonder he was a friend of Devon's.

Oz looks at him wide-eyed for a moment, got the same little wrinkle between his eyebrows as Willow did when she encountered a situation she had absolutely no experience to draw on. It was cute.

Xander looked down and immediately saw the not-problem; his feet weren't touching the ground.

He remembered gravity and straightened out from his mid-air seated position, sneakered feet sinking into carpet. He made sure they stopped before going through the floor, and smiled at Oz. Waited for what was next.

"…Right. C'mon, we should get you home…"

Xander sat back down. On the couch, this time.

"Xander, c'mon, we should really go…"

Xander shook his head, scrunching his nose.

"Home is not a good idea," he says sadly. "I blew off Spike and Dru and kind of Angel-Angelus because otherwise Devon would have seen the tranquilizer gun."

"…You're still having tea parties with those two? Or… three?"

"Oh, no," he shook his head, and grinned with the feeling of it. He just felt so loose. "I haven't. Not since Angel went all… psssh," he waved a hand. "But he was all fine and like, Wonderland-y that time after he killed Theresa—which was totally uncool, and he'll be all extra broody after we get him back to brickfaced Broody Angel—but then I promised that I'd be by once the werewolf stuff was over with. Not," he conceded with a small nod, "that you were dealt with, not in our usual fashion, or even that the werewolf stuff is even really over with, but I don't think that'll keep Drusilla from screaming or Spike from sitting on me."

"Screaming? Sitting on you?"

Xander nodded.

"…And instead you're here."

Xander nodded.

"…And you don't want to go home because Spike and/or Drusilla might be at your house? Where your parents are? And Spike will… sit on you?"

Xander opened his mouth, closed it, and frowned. "Well, we had an agreement, but that was conditional to the tea parties, so…"

Oz sighed, but was remarkably calm. Xander was remarkably calm. The thought of Spike and Drusilla being pissed off should get his heart pounding, but… Well, he wasn't looking forward to being sat on; especially since he wasn't wholly sure only Spike would be doing the sitting.

"Xander. Xander, would Spike or Drusilla hurt your parents? Or, or would Angelus?"

"No." A beat. "…Maybe."

Oz sighed again

"How many brownies did you eat?"

"So many," he shrugs, and gives Oz a sad look. "You'll be leaving soon, won't you?" He shakes his head before Oz can answer, because of course he doesn't know, not yet. But he probably would. He could already feel the distance yawning between them. "Not yet, I mean, but soon. Not really soon, but sooner than would be likely otherwise." He gives Oz a long look, because Willow wouldn't be happy, but there was a large likelihood that Oz would make her a bit more upset with his absence, for various reasons.

"Communication," he repeats, because that would be significant.

"We'll both be leaving soon," Oz says after giving Xander an odd look, and Xander doesn't have the heart to tell him that that's not what he meant. He was talking farther than that. "Did Devon tell you what was in the brownies?"

"Mmm, no. Chocolate? There's definitely chocolate in the brownies. And chocolate chips. Chewy bits around the edges. They were delicious." He smiled and then frowned, because Oz was actually looking… upset. Not calm. Xander didn't really want to be around if Oz and Devon got to fighting. He liked Devon, and didn't want to have to freak him out if he had to help Oz beat him up for whatever reason. Even in the midst of looking not-calm, Oz frowned at him with some concern—oh. Xander put his hand back down from where it was covering his left eye.

"Oz, I can just, y'know," he wiggled his fingers, "back home, or to Willows, or to Buffy's. It's Friday, so no school or anything… oh! I could grab Larry for you!"

Oz frowned, and his eyes kept skipping away from his. "You know… if you're planning on beating up Devon. He'd be much more useful than I would, just saying."

That made Oz laugh, at least, and Xander lit up with a grin.

"No worries, Xander… but I think it might be best if you headed out. Just remember to grab some food, drink lots of water… and try to stay out of trouble." Oz seemed to consider his own words, and then winced. "Maybe I should go with you…"

Xander laughed and stood with Oz, pulling him into a hug immediately. "Oz. Oz. Ozzy-ozzy oxen free. Free oxen. No, wait—Go deal with Daaaaa…" he trailed off. "You know, I've forgotten his name? Don't tell him I said that, though. He's still a pretty good guy, even if he got you angry. But really, go deal with David? Darren. Donny. Go deal with Danny, because I can get home safe, and he may or may not be choking on his own vomit right this moment."

When Oz pulled back from the hug to give him a look, Xander shrugged. "I have no idea. But he'll mostly be one of the people who'll survive Sunnydale, except where he isn't; contrariwise to the times he lives past graduation. I'm not sure this time, though." And he really wasn't. "But you should go, just in case I'm right and just in case I'm wrong, and I'll head out the front door and ffft," he let him go to wiggle his fingers, turning it into an odd little goodbye wave to the room at large. Several people waved back, blinking through the smoke-hazy room. Xander stood and pulled Oz into one more hug, because hugging was great when he remembered to give them, and then started to back away towards the door. He almost trips over an ornate glass… thing, vase? But doesn't when someone snatches it out of the way. "Don't you dare break her!" He smiles and doesn't mention that her thing would break in a month's time when she uses it to defend against a vampire. Doesn't mention it because she'll get a thing she likes better a week before that, so she'll get over it.

Or nothing will happen at all and that would be survivable, too.

"I'll be on my way. See ya Monday!"

There's no one on the stairs when he heads up to the main floor… he hesitates in front of the door, because he swears he can smell more brownies being baked in the kitchen…

Someone knocks on the door.

Xander looks around to see if anyone else seems to have heard.

Someone knocks again so, shrugging, Xander opens the door.

Grins wide.

"You bloody little—"

"Spike!"

The thundery expression on Spike's face only lessens teensy bit when Xander throws his arms around him in a hug. When he leans back, arms still around his shoulders, Spike's eyes flash yellow; Xander beams.

"You're standing! And without crutches! That is equally good and terrifying—mmmm I'd rather you didn't do that." Much like he did the first time he'd shown up in Spike and Drusilla's warehouse, back when Kendra had been in town, Spike had grabbed a handful of his hair to hold him steady and was using his other hand to keep his eyes wide open.

"Yeah shut it… What'd you do to your eyes?" He snorted. "Angelus won't be pleased if you've gone permanently blue eyed." His eyes hardened, and his one hand clenched tight in Xander's hair. With the other he kicked at the door so it slammed against the wall and bounced back shut.

Xander winced but didn't make a noise at the manhandling.

"What in the bloody hell made you think that Angelus bein' 'round had any effect on our deal, eh?" Spike wrenched his head back further and started marching him down the street. "Three nights a week without fail was the deal, and Dru's been in a right snit. Even with Angelus about playing her sodding Sire… Bloody fuck you are going nowhere for the next couple days, even if I have to sit on you..."

He stopped, and wrenched Xander's head back up again.

"You reek of chocolate. What were you takin' in there? Smelled like a bloody sex pistols concert…"

Xander scrunched his nose, because smoking was still… no.

Spike rolled his eyes and at least shifted his grip to the back of Xander's neck instead of gripping his hair.

"C'mon lovey, use your words. I know you've got 'em. You can tell ol' Spike what you got up to, eh?"

Xander grinned wide and shrugged a little.

"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards," he says, "but I remember Oz wasn't happy when I told him." He tilted his head and considered Spike for a moment, asks, "Will you get upset if I tell you I ate brownies, too?"

Spike laughs and ruffled his hair, and while that was nice Xander felt like sitting down. Soon. Not right then, but soon.

"And how many brownies did you have, hmm?"

Xander smiled and found a good spot of sidewalk to sit. Sat down, ignoring the slight sting from where Spike's nails scraped the back of his neck. It'd be fine.

"Many brownies—all the brownies, I think." Spike crouched next to him, pulling at where he'd moved one hand to cover his eye.

"What's all this then, ay? What'd you do to your eye?"

"I didn't do anything to it. Someone will, though the lottery's still going. You should sit, it's a good time to sit, Spike."

"No, I think you'll find it's time to walk."

Xander shook his head and covered his face with his hands, laughing and worrying because he wasn't looking forward to what would and maybe shouldn't be happening soon and in a while.

He felt Spike's fingers tickle at the back of his neck, where it was feeling damp from where his nails had scratched. It hurt a bit when Spike rubbed his fingers through the wound, shallow though it was. He heard a faint wet noise and figured that Spike wasn't letting anything go to waste.

"You're not yourself, pet…" Spike didn't sound very concerned about this, more thoughtful than anything, so Xander stayed sitting on the sidewalk. Obviously nothing was wrong.

He peeked through his fingers at Spike, curious.

"Who am I then? Tell me that first, and then, if I like being that person, I'll come up; if not, I'll stay down here till I'm someone else."

"Or," Spike says, bending to get a grip under each of Xander's arms, lifting, "I could do this and just bring you with me."

Xander grinned and draped one arm over Spike's shoulders. It was slightly awkward with Spike being a bit shorter than him, but vampire strength and that lovely floaty feeling made it all too easy to walk leaning on Spike. Or not walk; his feet weren't actually touching the ground.
"You win! Or something like that. Oh! How fine you look when dressed in rage. Your enemies are fortunate that your condition is not permanent. And you're lucky too: red eyes suit so few." Xander laughed because Spike didn't have red eyes, and Spike gave him a curious look.
"Can't quite tell if that was you or the brownies talking."

"So many brownies," Xander agrees, "I'm very much afraid I didn't mean anything but nonsense. At some point, somewhere else, that meant something, but we don't have that kind of tea here—no, not tea…Hmm…"

They were silent for a while, Xander trying to figure out just what he was trying to say, when he realized it didn't matter. Not here, anyway.

"Hey Spike," he says, "Did you want to take a shortcut?"

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

Spike is laughing, grinning wide when they appear, and Drusilla tackles Xander to the ground. Snarls in his face. Her teeth seem large, seem more than very sharp, and her left incisor is very close to his eye. Not the eye he's most concerned for, though, so it's fine.

His tailbone might be bruised, but Xander grins up at her.

"Happy Birthday!"

Her game face fades to a pout.

"You're late."

"Terribly," he agrees, and plays with the hem of her dress. It was red this time. "Your dress is pretty."

Dru flicked his nose hard enough to sting and shook a finger at him. "None of that… now what have you done to make my Spike snicker so?"

Xander shrugged and smiled when Spike swooped down to swing Drusilla up and around, still laughing.

"Bloody brilliant, no wonder you disappear at the drop of a hat!"

"I don't wear hats," Xander says, perfectly happy to stay sitting on the ground. At some point someone had gotten a bunch of carpets, and the one he was on was really soft. It was nice. He pushed his fingers into the fibers, kneading.

Spike picked up and twirled Drusilla, making her laugh, and dipped her low beside Xander.

He grinned at her upside-down—from her perspective, at least. And maybe from his own, he wasn't quite sure.

She reached for his face, trailing her nails along his cheek—there was a steady increase in pressure.

Xander smiled at her. Her nails broke skin, and a thin trail of wetness ran down his cheek. He twitched his nose, a faint trail of blood from when she'd flicked him making itself known.

He worried, distantly, as her pinky had dug in perilously close to his eye. He's fairly sure that's a bad thing. There were a bunch of face things, ligaments and tendons and stuff, probably. Important face things that did important things and shouldn't be cut.

Probably.

She hummed at him when he finally leaned away, Spike pulling her up from the dip. Xander wondered why Spike was frowning.

"Now wait a mo', what's happening with you? Did someone magic you, or something?"

That had Xander laughing, because no, no one had. He didn't think so. But he did get hit with the major mojo more times than most, didn't he? But he didn't think he'd been hit by anything. Except, kind of, by Spike and Drusilla.

But then it was more scratches and flicks rather than hitting, and he thought that was ok?

His focus, quite suddenly, shifted to Spike.

"I'm going to make a mistake, soon. A really bad decision, you should—" Xander stopped, tilted his head, and scrunched his nose. "No, you can't do anything about it. It'll happen at school. And it'll probably most definitely happen."

"What's the mistake, then?"

"Hmm? Oh, I don't know." He grinned. "Probably something bad. Ish." He turned to Drusilla. "You've got something on your fingers."

Drusilla sighed, staring at the red on the tips of her nails. "Sometimes the colours… the colours are too yellow…" she makes a small wounded noise in her throat listing into Spike's side. Lifted her hand to Spike's face and let him lick the blood on her fingers clean.

Xander nodded, understanding completely.

"A little too green from my perspective."

Drusilla tuts, shaking her head at him. "That's because you've much too much blue in your sight, kitten… Kitty's had too much cream."

"No luv," Spike denies for him, grinning. "He's had a few too many brownies."

"Brownies?"

Xander looked up at where Angel had appeared from the shadows, noticed a stinging on his face… thought about it, and winced.

Brought a hand up to feel the tackiness of slightly dried blood on his face, and remembered that what he was thinking of hadn't happened yet, the cuts hadn't healed yet, and when he refocused on Angel he remembered another thing that hadn't happened yet.

"No."

Angel crouches right in front of him, face a friendly mask with knife-holes for eyes. He reached to Xander's face—pulled his hand down from covering his eye.

After a moment, Xander flinched, a vague memory-will-wouldn't-maybe-could-be of another hand going for his face—different hand, going for his face, different hand, going for his face, different hand, going for his face, a differenthandgoingforhisface adifferent—

"I'll go blind," he says with a slight frown. "Or half-blind. I think I remember my Gram saying that once—different situation altogether, but I don't think I have enough eyes to go around." He grinned, sudden and sharp, and Drusilla laughed.

"Creepy people after my eyes… Creepers after my peepers—jeepers creepers they're after my peepers! Hah!"

It's funny even though Xander doesn't like the idea of being blind, or losing an eye, or even being eyed like he knows people soon will… eye… him.

He jerked his head to the side, the crack of a slap registering to his ears only after wards. He turned back, confused, and tilted his head at Drusilla, somehow back on his lap. The throbbing in his cheek was a welcome respite from the itchy sting of the scratch on his cheek and nose—why were they still there? He'd thought they'd heal by now. He'd gotten wounded way back… no, wait, when had he gotten injured? He couldn't remember, but it couldn't have been recently.

"Daddy, Spike, I don't like him like this…" She gripped his hair in on hand and stroked, pulling, pulling…

"Ouch!" His hand went to his cheek where he'd been slapped, fingers moving through the wetness that was only now registering. Her nails had cut him.

He made a face at her when the hair pulling hurt, had apparently been hurting for a while now… his scalp ached, now.

Drusilla moved in close and licked at the blood between his fingers, focus divided between licking up the blood and moving his fingers away with her tongue. Xander suddenly remembered, again, again, again, and leaned to the left to look at Angel again. Drusilla's lukewarm tongue distracted him for a moment, but not long enough to derail his train of thought.

"No," he shook his head. "No."

"You're going to have to be a bit more specific than that, Xander."

"Boy's gotten a bit slow, ay?"

Xander didn't jump from the sound of Spike directly behind him, his voice still laced with a hint of laughter—Xander did make a small noise of thanks when Spike took the hand still tugging on his hair, on his scalp, and removed it, threading their fingers together instead.

"Spike, make him stop. I don't like him like this. Kitten is not here."

"What you talking about love? You're right on top of 'im."

"No, no," she started to rock, "he's not, kitten has gone far, far into his own lit'le head, his mind is like swirls… whirling… whirling away from me, Spike. Make him stop. Mummy doesn't like him this way."

Xander looked around Drusilla again, pulling her into a loose hug when she leaned in, to look at a slightly troubled looking Angel.

"No," he repeats. "Whatever you're just planning right now, no. No. Or whatever you were planning before… I can't tell. You have a plan, will have a plan, and it'll go wrong, but I can't tell which one, when, or…" Xander tilted his head again, curious. "Was it you? Was it your plan that'll be going wrong, or…" he trailed off, thinking. "Am I talking about my mistake? Will it be the same thing? Hmm. I want another brownie."

"I think you've had enough brownies." Xander would agree with that, except he was feeling a bit… distressed? He thought? He was feeling somehow dangerously disconnected from himself, a little bit like he should be shaking, or like some bad mojo was going down and like he should be hyper alert and worried over this. And he didn't like the feeling. Chocolate usually helped.

Xander made his hands disappear to D…amian? Dylan? D-name's house, to the brownies in his oven, and brought the brownies back to him.

Chin on Drusilla's shoulder, he looked down at the pan in his hands…. And realized that he didn't know what to do with hot brownies. They were very hot. He didn't even have a knife. He was about to disappear his hands again to get a knife, but his hands were shaking, and there was a smell

"Bloody fuck!"

Spike, or someone, took the metal pan of brownies from him, but his hands kept shaking. The brownies were very hot.

The pan they'd been in was very hot.

It made sense, he supposed.

The brownies had been in an oven…

Spike was sniffing at the pan he'd thrown to the nearest table, scowling and puzzled. "Don't think chocolate's the only special ingredient in these…"

"Kitten doesn't have eyes for himself." Drusilla leaned back from his very loose hug, expression uncharacteristically solemn. "Kitten must sleep the brownies away, else I may scoop his eyes out to suck the blue from them."

Before she fully got her fingers up, before she got her hand fully off from around his shoulders, Xander felt his eyes drooping because she would, she would…

He fingers were only just wavering in front of him when he felt his eyelids flutter and droop. His last thought was for why his hands hurt so much, and why they wouldn't stop shaking.

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

He has a splitting headache when he wakes up, the kind that usually meant he'd had way too many Dr. Pepper's before he'd gone to bed, and maybe a bag or two too much candy. Dehydration and sugar-high recovery were way with the not-good for the ol' noggin.

Or something similar.

His hands hurt, too; his palms ached like he'd spent all night carving stakes, or like when he'd dug the grave for the Master and skipped out on using gloves. But worse. His fingers felt raw.

He keeps his eyes closed from experience, and rolls over to bury his face in the blankets, to pull a pillow over his head. The material chafed against his hands, stinging and unpleasant.

He figures he's at Spike and Drusilla's lair since that pillow is immediately pulled away, but he'd been around them long enough to know how to get his way with two violent, super strong vamps.

His disappears his head instead, enjoying the floaty feeling of In Between. After a second of further thought he also disappeared his hands, sighing at the cool relief to his palms.

A body immediately rolls onto his own.

It is much larger than Spike's.

Then he remembers.

Oh.

Right.

Angelus.

"It's time to wake up," Angelus rumbles against Xander's back. It was like having a lion against his back.

Or a Dandelion.

He almost snorted at the thought, the memory of petal-soft fur seen from a book warring with fur-soft petals from not-memory, all warring with what sort of a reaction he'd get if he told Angelus that he reminded him of a dandelion. Big and heavy and kind of soft and not terribly warm. Also dangerous.

Room-temperature breath stirred the hairs at the base of his neck.

It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards, Xander thinks. He wished he could play this forward so he could figure out how the hell—

Oh.

Oh no.

Disappearing and appearing a few feet to the left—out from under Angelus, his neck more out of reach from mouth-contact—he felt more than heard Spike grunt from the impact, and scrambled more left. It was interesting, without hands. Drusilla caught him up into a hug Xander was mostly okay with falling into; her hugs were sometimes in the awkward levels of comfortable, as she had no problem squishing his face into her more than ample chest like he was one of her dolls. Then there was the awkwardness that came up when Xander considered the thing/not-thing he had going on with Cordelia, not to mention his fondness for breathing.

(It really was 50/50 sometimes if he was more likely to get smothered by Drusillas boobs or by Cordelia if she ever saw this.)

But here, now, he still had his head In Between so he wouldn't feel the splitting headache he'd apparently gotten from Devon's drug brownies.

God, Xander was going to… to do something when he saw him next. He was fairly certain that giving drugs to unsuspecting ANYONE was a no-no… and Devon had given Xander quite a few brownies. He'd laughed and encouraged Xander into what he'd originally thought had been a mild pre chocolate coma haze. He felt especially stupid then, too; he knew about putting weed into cookies and other snack-foods, should have checked once he'd seen that recreational drugs were, well. Around.

Internally groaning, and shoving Drusilla away enough that he'd have room enough for his head, he brought his head (and the headache) back and looked around—tried, he tried to look around.

Blinking hard, and straining his eyes to see through the darkness he saw… nothing. Nothing? Did he forget to bring back his eyes? No…

He shook his head, pulling back further from Drusilla.

"Something wrong, love?"

"Can someone turn on a light or something? I can't…"

"I like the light from the red candles best…" Drusilla trailed off, one hand leaving him. "…Pretty. The wax burns skin so nicely."

"Oh," he replied, absently patting Drusilla's arm. "Oh, so…"

So there was light. The light was on. Xander just couldn't… he just…

Xander couldn't see. At all. He blinked, hard, and waited a long moment just in case it was one of those times when he was just moving a bit too quickly. You know the situation, where you get up too suddenly and suddenly you can't see for about a minute but once it passes you just… drink water or something.

But the not-seeing was lasting quite a bit longer than he remembered ever not seeing anything with his eyes open. And his head wasn't rushing… Still achy, not any better after he'd shaken his head, so…

He felt a slight breeze against his face, faint enough he only really felt it on his cheeks, and jerked back.

"Did you just—did someone just wave their hand in front of my face? Not cool, not—that's not supposed to be a thing that you actually do, that's supposed to be something comic book and cartoon characters do. And you aren't supposed to do that—" Xander cut himself off, a slightly slurred life lesson from years ago coming to mind. Rubbed the heels of his palms into his eyes, hard enough that it hurt through his pounding headache.

"Drugs do make you blind, oh my god my mom was right, I had drug brownies and they made me blind, I thought mom just made that up but—"

"Shhh!" Drusilla hissed and smacked him, bringing a startling ache and sting to his face. Why did his cheek hurt so much? "Kitten will be put in time out if he can't stop yowling." His hand, when he brought it to his face, shook. His palms felt… shiny. Tender. Swollen, a bit. Did he do something to his hands?

"What? How are you going to do that if I can't see you—Ouch wh—mmph!"

He assumed the smack to the head came from Drusilla, but the smell of cigarettes coming from the hand over his mouth told him that this was from Spike. He'd lick his palm if he wasn't sure Spike would take that as an invitation. For what, he wasn't sure, but Spike was always warning Xander that one day he'd take him up on this or that invitation and he assumed it was either sexual or otherwise demon-y. Both of which he was especially NOT taking him up on.

He breathed heavily out his nose when—probably Spike—used his fingers to keep his eyelids open. It was more reaction than any real expectation to escape that had him jerking against the hold Spike and Drusilla had him in. He jerked again when yet more fingers pulled his other eye open, felt entirely justified in being more freaked out, because Drusilla was keeping his arms at his sides, Spike had one hand in use on his eye and the other over his mouth, so that left…

"Your heart is pounding so hard, Xander. If you aren't careful, I might think you're afraid of me. You can't think that I would try taking your eyes…"

Xander didn't actually need to see to know Angelus was grinning, or probably smirking right now, he was apparently that sort of guy—less with the brooding expressions, more of the jock-like facial contortions of cockiness.

Shaking one hand loose from Drusilla's hold he pulled at Spike's hand—it wasn't fair that Angelus could use his creepy asshole-y-ness but Xander's main defense/attack was being muffled by nicotine stained fingers. His fingers ached terribly, but he thought he was putting up a good enough fight.

Somewhat typically, though, Spike's hand stayed where it was.

"You don't have any pupils, so keep your gob shut already."

It probably says something that his first instinct is to rush to a mirror—

Because for one, he can't see and therefore that's absolutely useless, and for another he's in the villainous vampire lair, and vampires don't have mirrors. Because vampires. So there's that.

He hmm'd, frowning when Spike's hold on him made his lips buzz.

He wasn't entirely sure why him not having pupils meant he couldn't see, except that people had pupils, normally.

Seeing people.

And him not being able to see and him not having pupils was obviously connected as, when he could see, he also had pupils.

Or at least no one had told him otherwise, or that he'd noticed.

Though, speaking of noticing…

What time was it?

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

Willow would probably be alarmed to hear that Xander was more worried about the fact that it was Sunday than he was about the whole not-seeing thing.

She'd be alarmed at it all—especially the whole being unconscious for more than 30+ hours in the vampire-y vampiric lair—but probably especially alarmed at the blindness. Possibly (hopefully) temporary blindness.

Though she'd probably be alarmed at more than just those things if she were here, too—

Like how no one would tell him what time of day/night it was after fessing up that it was Sunday (and getting them o say even that much had been a miracle unto itself), or how Angelus seemed to be alternating between acting like they were best buds and trying to scare Xander into an early grave.

Though considering, you know, vampires, it could be both.

Spike is acting weird and kind of territorial throughout this too, of course, because there's no better time to change up your normal behavior than when you've got a somewhat hapless blind human around to sit on.

Of course, Xander can kind of see (ha) why.

He'd thought Spike and Drusilla were the super creepy gooey romantic murder couple, but that was—well, no, they still were, but Drusilla was somehow worse with Angelus.

And where Spike calmed Drusilla down from where she got upset or confused Angelus seemed to enjoy bringing up old terrors and, from the sounds of it, introducing new ones.

Also from the sound of it, Drusilla didn't seem to have an issue with it.

Xander shivered.

Now Drusilla and Angelus were off in a corner (or maybe the center of the room, Xander couldn't exactly look and check), Angelus murmuring things (Xander didn't want to know) that made Drusilla shriek with laughter.

Somehow in retaliation, Spike shoved Xander onto his belly and took up shop sitting on his back. From the sounds of it, he'd grabbed a book sometime beforehand, and was now switching between simply sitting on Xander and lying on his back.

Xander didn't really mind; turns out he'd somehow burned his hands when he'd been impaired from the brownies, and Spike had gotten his hands on some kind of burn lotion. So Spike was dabbing on a new layer of the gel like stuff on his hands in return for using him as some sort of living seat/space heater—not very different from their sleeping arrangement, really. And Xander was still a bit… well, nervous of Angelus would be both an over- and understatement what with the reputation for torture and also Xander's ability to poof away, but Angelus wasn't Drusilla or Spike. While Spike wasn't happy with Angelus taking up all of Drusilla's attention, Xander was happy that it meant he got some space from Angelus' intense focus. And Spike was good to talk to when he got confused, so…

Spike kept him from being bored with stories about the various demons and occasional hunter he'd run off and/or killed, his book mostly forgotten. Xander was uncomfortable with the first story about the hunter he'd killed before he remembered the guy who'd been after Were-Oz and offered to split what Xander's eyes were apparently worth. If hunters were all like that, then they were entirely aware of the terms and conditions involved with their hunting expeditions. And going after Spike…

Spike had growled when Xander shared the rather unique experience, which had Xander laughing; with him laying over Xander like this, the rumbling against his back was mildly ticklish. Spike's worry for him was also funny, though.

"If someone ever actually came after me for my eyes it's not like they'd get very close, you know?" Xander flicked and wiggled his fingers demonstratively. "Besides, not really a seer/future-seeing type person, so this shouldn't actually be an issue, right? Right. The hunting guy asked if I wanted to split the money he'd be cheating some stranger out of, and didn't exactly push when I said no, so seer eyes probably aren't even worth that much, anyway."

"Last couple of seer eyes I saw go to the black market went for a cool billion, love, and they weren't even a matching pair." Spike rumbled against his back. Xander thought he must be in his game face from what he could hear… while all the vampires he was on a somewhat friendly basis with could speak clearly through their vampire teeth, along with snarl like a freaking lion when out of game face, there was a particular, hmm, inflection when they talked while showing off their vampire-y selves. Xander couldn't tell right then, though, as he still couldn't see, so…

"So maybe it was just Buffy that kept him from pushing… Not sure how much use mine would be worth right now even if I were a seer or whatever what with the non-seeing blindness thing I've got going on. Not that I am a seer, of course, because I'm not, I'm just very good at giving odd advice, but still. If there was a market for my sort of advice giving eyes, would the price go down without the pupils?" Xander laughed and offered up his hands to Spike again when he felt a tap at his wrists. Spike grumbled more, unimpressed with his logic. "Get your own pair of Harris exclusive eyes! Pupils not included, seer powers not included, blue colour only sometimes included, call now while supplies last!"

"Well," an entirely unexpected voice replied, "that's one number I'm definitely interested in calling."

On top of him, Spike had shifted, no longer as relaxed lounging across his back as he was. "Best be thinking of backing off, girl. Me and my boy here were having a private conversation here." Menace didn't quite fit the tone Spike was using, but there was definitely threat there. Xander tilted his head, turning to the surprisingly familiar speaker.

"Theresa? Is that…" Xander's confusion cleared, and he scowled. "Oh my god Angelus, that is such a, a dick move! You killed Theresa and turned her? Probably only to annoy Buffy, too, that is so, ugh, really?"

"I wouldn't be annoyed at Master Angelus, Xander," Theresa said, sounding amused and now a little bit lisp-y. New vamps always had a bit of a lisp when they went fang-faced, though Theresa seemed to have avoided sounding like she'd stuffed cotton in her cheeks. "It's so much better as a vampire—"

"Not going to stay one long," Spike interrupted, "if you can't catch a bloody hint."

"The uninformed must improve their deficit, or die," Xander supposed with a small smile Theresa's way (unless she'd moved), shifting under Spike.

"And people think you're crazy." Spike mussed Xander's hair, scratching at the base of his neck and probably leaving specks of black nail polish in his hair. It was better than when Drusilla left her red polish, anyway.

As ever, Xander wasn't sure if he should really be pushing into the pleasant feeling or not.

"I'm not saying kill Theresa, Spike—Theresa, I hope you weren't getting that from what I just said." Xander craned his neck, hearing her shift and figuring it was only polite, only for Spike to use his grip in his hair to push his head back down.

"Gonna snap your own fucking neck."

Xander poofed his head to In Between to escape Spike's grip, and tried elbowing him—flinched, because of course he'd also accidentally hit his palm against the bed, and poofed his hands away as well. With minimal shoving, Spike let him up enough to roll over onto his back before sitting on his stomach and catching hold of his forearms. When Xander only brought back his head, and not his hands, Spike growled.

Xander grinned, and brought his hands back into aching reality. Wiggled his fingers to show they were still a bit damp with ointment.

"Well that's certainly not a trick you showed off at school."

"Actually I do it all the time, enough that Willow worries and Giles thinks I'm somehow going to get in trouble… you probably didn't notice it because you were still under that whole Hellmouth Blindness thing." Xander wanted to know at what point after (or while) being turned into a vampire that Hellmouth blindness stopped being a thing.

"Oi, you still hanging about?" Xander started to wonder about Hellmouth deafness, since Theresa obviously wasn't Spike's favourite anything and was still hanging about… Xander didn't mind her around, she was nice when she was non-vampire-y and aside from a sudden lisp hasn't seemed to change.

He turned to where he guessed she was at, grinning.

"You don't need to see into the future to get that away from Spike might be a better—" he turned, focused slightly to the right of where he was looking.

"Head West, else dire misfor—kkck!" A sudden coughing fit had his throat feeling raw and wet, and he could barely breath through each wracking cough. What the hell? A moment of reprieve had him gasping, before a new wave had him curling upright—as far as Spike would let him—trying to clear his airway. He could taste blood.

Distantly he could hear a familiar crumbling sound, one that was usually followed by Buffy complaining about ashes and dust on her clothing, and the soft shuffle of Drusilla's slippers.

"Bloody hell, the fuck you do that for, Peaches? Boy's gone and choked on his words."

"Naughty, naughty."

"Hmm, well maybe next time he'll learn not to go giving away his significant advice to the unworthy. It's unlikely she would have given his words the care they deserve."

If Xander could just get the air and the time for it, he'd call bullshit. As it was, he was distracted by the wetness he'd coughed into his hands. Not saliva, judging by the coppery taste it left in his mouth.

Blood? Really?

Spike snorted, and pulled at Xander's hands. Either to look at them for further damage, or possibly because of the probable blood on them, Xander wasn't sure. The coughing had at least slowed down enough that it was a few weak coughs—and those mostly because Xander could feel an achy tickly rough feeling in his throat that had him worried about if he could actually tear something there? The idea of a cut in his throat brought him back to his mom making him check through all of his Halloween candy for razorblades, because you never know Alexander, and that reminded him of her doing drugs= inevitable blindness thing…

And he had been doing such a good job of not freaking out about the blindness, but it was hard not to freak out when all he could taste was blood, he couldn't see, his hands hurt, and it was incredibly likely that Theresa had just been dusted. By Angelus, if he was inferring correctly.

"Now I can't say without hearing the whole of it, but it seemed like she might'a found some use in whatever warning he was going to give."

Xander could feel his face twisting in confusion as he tried to think what he'd been about to tell Theresa, exactly…

…but had he said anything? Maybe Angelus had just seen his eyes go blue and had dusted Theresa before Xander could say anything.

"How," Xander paused to clear his throat, voice gravely, "could she have gotten anything from a cough? I didn't say anything."

Spike had twisted his hands slightly behind, to where there was a new weight on the bed. Probably Drusilla, he decided, when the slightly ticklish feeling of the blood being licked off his hands. He didn't think that would be terribly tasty, what with the ointment Spike had been slathering his palms with, but the only pause in the licking was Drusilla making a soft shushing noise.

"What you talking about? You were in the middle of telling the bint to head west to avoid something like dire misfortune. Huh, you got blood on my shirt."

"Oh, terribly sorry," Xander cleared his throat and winced at the taste, "I got blood on your shirt? I'm sure this is a new experience for you; I bet you've never gotten blood on your shirt before. Let go of my wrists so I don't get any more of my blood on you, why don't—hey, hey, hey! That was snark, not invitation!"

Spike only hummed, tilting his wrist further so Drusilla's little kitten licks could more easily get to his palms. Her tongue wasn't rough like a cats, but his hands were still burned and it hurt.

Something wet and room-temperature and not-something-he-was-thinking-about swiped cross his lips. Xander leaned back in Spike's hold and gave him an unimpressed look. Kept his mouth closed because Spike definitely wouldn't hold back the (don't think about it!) licking just because he might end up licking inside Xander's mouth. All he could taste right then was blood, so it might actually be something Spike was going for.

"Waste not, want not," was the only reply he got before being ignored in favor of more licking.

The bed shifted under new weight, and another hand took hold of his wrist from Spike.

Xander, in the tradition of all Harris men faced with something they didn't want to face, didn't think about it at all when Angelus cleaned his palm with broad swipes of his tongue.

(It fucking hurt. Also, gross vampire spit.)

"Now then, what were you saying about your significant advice to… Theresa, was it?"

"Nothing," Xander frowned, "because I didn't say anything. What advice could I have given Theresa? You just staked her."

"Because you were going to waste your significant advice on her."

"Is that something you're actually going to do now? Stake anyone who I may give significant advice to? Because that's not cool. And why do you think I would have given her more blue-eyed advice?"

"Kitten has gone and lost a page of his script."

"What? No, I haven't. If anything you guys have gone off on a different script entirely. I'm still in Wonderland while you guys are all out, out damn spot with Hamlet." He wiggled his fingers again for example. Drusilla bit his index finger in retaliation, and wouldn't let go. He'd wiggle his fingers more, or even disappear the digit In Between, except her teeth were feeling extra sharp and he couldn't see her face. He couldn't be entirely sure that she wasn't going to chew through his finger because he was teasing. He debated adding that the Hamlet thing worked extra because of all the daddy issues collected into one room, but didn't want to include himself in that.

He also thought that Angelus would probably have more than words about that, and knew Spike would do something.

(He wasn't sure WHAT, but Spike would probably do something.)

"Script or no, I'd rather we get on the same bloody page here. Seems like pet doesn't remember his few words of wisdom for dustpile over there."

"I didn't forget anything."

"Well that's not very convenient."

"I'm not forgetting anything. I remember everything!"

"Kittens thoughts twist and twine at no ones convenience, least of all his own."

"And that is beside the point because I did not forget anything!"

Drusilla sighed into his palm; he could feel her smile. "Thoughts so twisted and knotted together, Kitten doesn't notice when his yarn gets snipped."

"Y'don't think our boy here's unraveling?"

"Hmm," Dru nipped his palm, "his knots keep him together."

Xander would have gotten up to pace, he felt so agitated, if Spike weren't still sitting on him. As it was he pulled his hands free—or rather made them disappear, leaning back on his wrists. Spike at least usually wasn't like this. He could imagine Drusilla getting confused—maybe he WOULD have said something, but he hadn't said anything to her before Theresa was dusted. He hadn't. And he could believe Angelus screwing with his head but Spike trying to screw with him this way…

Making him uncomfortable using sex or something, sure, but Spike didn't do that. He didn't try to mess with his head that way. It was Angelus who had fun riling up Drusilla, not Spike.

It made Xander really… uncomfortable, the thought that he could have forgotten—

But he hadn't! He definitely hadn't. He remembered every bit of unsolicited advice he'd given out, and he hadn't given any to Theresa the Vampire. He hadn't forgotten, he hadn't.

What you claim not to know is merely what you've denied, said a voice he'd never heard, yet knew nonetheless. He wanted to scratch her face to ribbons, even if she only existed in his head.

(In this reality, in this reality she only exists in his head, and in other realities she was much, much stronger than he.

But Alice was stronger.)

I don't need to recapture vagrant memories, he hisses back in his head—or aloud, he doesn't really care. He didn't want to hear anymore. He didn't—truth or not, he didn't want to hear that he could be losing his mind that way, because all he was was memories even the memories that weren't in the most technical way his own.

Spike starts to say something, as does Angelus, but Xander doesn't want to hear anything more. Doesn't want to hear that he could be forgetting—but he wasn't—because that idea was frankly more terrifying than getting his eyes plucked out for auction.

Poofing outside, he heads towards home—probably home. He just didn't want to poof there immediately, with how agitated he was feeling. He could just imagine how he was going to bring up his (hopefully, probably) temporary blindness to his parents while feeling like he could just crawl out of his skin.

He didn't think too long on if he could actually do that—

There's more than one way to skin a cat—

And continued down the street. He couldn't feel heat on his shoulders, so he assumed it was anywhere between dusk and pre-dawn; with how humid it'd been during the week, he couldn't say much temperature-wise.

He also couldn't trust anything that either Spike or Angelus said about time (Drusilla getting rather confused on the point, sometimes), so he was left assuming that he hadn't missed school (probably), and that if he stayed out 'late' enough he could reasonably ask his parents what day it was.

He wondered if Hallmouth blindness—and, hah, what a thing for him to say what with his current condition—would be able to help him out with explaining some way to his parents what happened.

Someone mugged him? Hit his head really hard? A head injury could do some crazy things, if he was remembering Giles' lectures correctly, so maybe random blindness was explainable.

Ch-thup, ch-thup, ch-thop, ch-thup, ch-thop, ch-thup!

Xander cocked his head at the noise. It was getting closer, which could be alarming except it was kind of familiar? If only he could see…

CH-thup, CH-thup, CH-thop, got closer, louder, and then Xander could hear rapid breathing, kind of panicked, a bit high pitched? It was really familiar, somehow, but he couldn't quite…

"….lp….. heLP… HELP ME… a monster!"

Ah.

Lady running away from a monster. Xander could bet she was regretting those flip-flops. Difficult to run in, and loud enough that even if you got away from the baddie they could probably still hear where you were going.

Ms. Flip flop kept running past him—smart lady, Xander wasn't a vampire but he could have been—only slowing enough to breathlessly tell him to "r-run!"

Xander didn't run, if only because he would inevitably run straight into something painful—

It was a minor miracle he'd avoided walking into anything so far—

But he appreciated the heads up regardless.

With the sounds of flip-flops fading behind him fast, the lady having turned a corner at some point, Xander strained to hear whatever had her spooked.

After at least a minute of silence, Xander shrugged and continued on his way.

He didn't doubt that she had seen a monster, but if it wasn't right on her tail then it probably found a slower snack.

Which was still distressing, but less Xander's problem at the moment.

He'd make it to the end of the street, at least, and then poof his way to his house's front entryway—

He hadn't heard anyone walking next to him, but he still turned to his left and said

"Do not cling to your traditions, else you'll find yourself grasping at air in the future."

His throat hurt a bit, still, from whatever had him coughing earlier, but from the growling his little prediction got he could guess he'd be hurting a lot worse if he didn't get out of there quickly—

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

His parents aren't home when he poofs to the door, so he slips In Between straight to his room and takes a nap rather than think about if that was helpful or not.

In the morning (he thinks?) he poofs his way to Willow's place and loiters on her front step. Her parents always headed to work at around 5am, and he didn't think he was there that early… he just hoped Wills still checked her front step like she did when they were kids and Xander met her before school just about every weekday.

The sun has warmed his shoulders by the time he hears the front latch to her door open. He turns to her with a smile.

"Well look who the cat dragged in. You know Oz was really worried about you, mister!"

Xander winces, but opens his arms to a hug—feels better when she immediately steps close. "Yeah, I probably wasn't doing the very best when I left him, but I didn't give him much of a choice… That one friend of his? D-something? Yeah I think he uses the same cookbook as dear old Ted—well, maybe not exactly," he amends over her gasp, "but his secret ingredient sure wasn't extra chocolate in those brownies!"

"Xander he pu-put drugs in brownies? And you—what am I saying, of course you ate them! Xander!"

"What? It's not like I knew they were illicit brownies!"

"No but you probably took the whole tray of them, didn't you? You—oh, god, Xander please tell me you didn't eat a-a whole tray of drug brownies!"

"I, well—"

"Xander that's really dangerous! You could've, you could've overdosed, or, or you could have—Xander, Xander look at me, Xander look—"

Xander tried, he really did, but short of feeling for her to pull her back into a hug, it was really difficult getting eye contact in his… condition. And his mild hope for putting off the talk of this… situation died a quick death the moment Willow stopped her fussing with a short click of her teeth.

Xander tried not to get distracted by how odd a thing to focus on that was.

The hands that cradled his face smelled strongly of that heavy hand cream Willow put on every night.

"Xander… what's wrong with your eyes? What's…"

Xander shrugged.

"Yeah, well, you thought you were only making one joke with that 'cat dragged in' thing, but you were actually making with the jokes on that first 'look' part, too. And, you know, we're probably all going to laugh, and laugh, and laugh about this, but, ah, do you perhaps remember that thing my mom said when we were kids? To scare us off drugs?"

Willow's horrified silence was enough of an answer.

Then, another question came to mind.

"And, uh, do you mind telling me what day it is? 'Cause really it's a tiny miracle I know it's daytime."

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

So, I thank you all for your lovely reviews, even if I have gotten rather lax in responding and letting people know that I am, in fact, getting these reviews and I am, actually, getting all feels-filled because REALLY REALLY you are all lovely. I do not have the words to properly express how glad I am to have lovely people like you leaving me such nice thoughts.

I still have another 2-ish days off, and in between hiking and swimming I will be getting as much writing as I can possibly get done.

For those also waiting on Tony Spark… I have half of Iron Man done. Now I just have the more difficult half to be done. But that is another thing I am working on right now.

~Doodled93~