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My first ever Xangel!!! I totally blame this on [info]amejisuto. She egged me on with "I will if you will." How could I resist?
So, enjoy and let me know what you think.

Rating: NC-17 for the complete thing. contains smut and bad language.
Genre: Comedy Romance.
Warnings: None
Feedback: Yes please. I gotta have it. It will encourage me to write more Xangel.

Thank you so much to my wonderful beta [info]kitty_poker1



Just Begun


by
Suki Blue





Part One



Spike quickly looked at Xander, the road, then back at Xander. He wasn’t sure if he should be shocked, scared, outraged or pleasantly surprised.

It happened like this:

Spike had offered to go to LA for the week. Angel was cooking up some magical brew to banish an irritating demon that was roaming Sunnydale, scaring the kiddies and leaving trails of green sludge everywhere. Spike didn’t care to find out what the green sludge was. He just didn’t want to have to clean it off his boots for the third time in a week. Anyway, tall dark and moody needed some rare plant to finish the potion and this plant only grew in Sunnydale. At the time, Spike had been tempted to ask why his grumpy grandsire couldn’t have come to Sunnydale to do the spell. It would have been a lot easier. He’d bitten his tongue and was glad he had. After Angel added the plant to the other ingredients, they would have to wait a week for it to mature before it could be taken back to Sunnydale and that meant a week of fun in LA for the lucky guy/girl/vamp that offered to do the honours. Spike was insistent that he should go. No-one had argued.

So, Spike was all packed, luggage in the trunk of his car, plant cutting in the glove box, cigarettes on the dashboard and guess who came wandering along, begging for a ride?

Xander Harris.

“Hey, wait up! I’m coming with!”

Spike had observed the bulging backpack and correctly assumed that Xander wanted to go all the way to LA and not only as far as Pizza Express.

“Don’t mind, do you?” Xander had asked, already opening the passenger door.

“Nah, 'course not. Staying the whole week?”

“Yep.”

“Does Peaches know?”

“Nope.”

Spike had grinned from ear to ear. Things could prove very interesting. There was nothing more fantastic than watching Angel get his knickers in a twist and Xander was guaranteed to be the one twisting them.

The journey to LA had been a smooth one. Numerous punk albums blared out from the car stereo and, to Spike’s surprise, Xander hadn’t complained once.

Roughly half an hour from their destination and Spike had been forced to ask.

“So what’s the deal, pet? What’s in LA? Got a crush on King Broody?” he teased.

Xander had shrugged. “No. Just looking for some action.”

If there hadn’t been a roof on the car, Spike would have lost his eyebrows to the road.

“Come again, mate?”

Xander chuckled and stared out the side window. “That’s the idea.”

After another round of raise the eyebrows and a small amount of deep thought, Spike started firing questions.

“So, you gonna hit the LA Clubs?”

“Uh-huh. Clubs, bars, whatever,” Xander replied, casually.

“Hm. Didn’t think all that was your sort of scene.”

Xander shrugged again. “I just want to get out there and have some fun. Sunnydale is boring and the people are all the same.”

“Right on both counts, mate. What I wouldn’t give for a decent bar in Sunnydale.”

Xander nodded and stared back out the window.

One long moment passed before Spike spoke again. “Better class of bird in LA.”

“Not really into chicks. Cocks are more my thing.”

Spike nearly crashed the car.

**

It was a while before Spike could spit out any words. His brain desperately searched for a response, but the cool, calm manner in which Xander was looking at him was putting him right off his thoughts.

What should he say?

What *do* you say to something like that?

“Wash your mouth out with soap!”

Probably not something like that.

“Excuse me?” Xander asked in an amused tone.

Spike hesitated. “Well,” he said, indignantly. “Kid your age, shouldn’t be saying, shouldn’t be thinking and certainly shouldn’t be doing things like that!”

“Okay, firstly, I’m not a kid anymore and secondly, are you crazy?!”

“Eh? What do you mean, am *I* crazy?”

“Gimme a break, Spike. You’re a vampire. You’re into all sorts of weirdo sex stuff. There is no way that you can be shocked by this.”

“Oi! I’m a hundred odd years old, I’ve earned the right to do as much *weirdo* sex stuff as I like. You’re just a baby! And where the hell did you find out about what vampires do?”

“Hey! I’ve earned the right too! I’ve been alive for twenty years! Have you been alive for the last twenty years? No, I think not. Spike, I’m gay. I’ve always been gay and I’m not going to stop on your say so. And to answer your question: Giles has hidden books that aren’t as hidden as they should be.”

“Pet, I ain’t questioning your sexual preferences. Christ, I wish I could say that I was *just* gay. Fuck, I ain’t even picky about species, never mind bloody gender. But I’m bloody well gonna question you cruising the city for pick ups!”

“Why?!”

“’Cos the city ain’t exactly a safe place, mate. Can’t you cruise in Sunnydale? At least then you know the area a bit better.”

“I tried that.”

“And?”

“Crap. Hardly any decent looking guys and have you got any idea how difficult it is to put on a cool, sexy exterior when you’re terrified that you’ll either accidentally pick up a demon or your friends are going to catch you smooching with the hot new bartender at the Bronze?”

Spike sighed. It had to be difficult for Xander. Coming out and telling your friends that you were gay was hard for most people but add to that the complication of dating on a Hellmouth and you had yourself one hell of a lifestyle.

“Xander. Why don’t you just tell your friends? You just told me. Weren’t that hard, was it?”

“No, it wasn’t hard. It just kind of came out. I don’t think I intended to tell you. But you’re different, anyway.”

“I am?” Spike asked suspiciously.

“Yeah. You’re like…my big brother. I think I could tell you anything.”

Spike pulled himself a little straighter. No-one had ever said anything to him like that before. He thought about his feelings for Xander and smiled. He did kind of think of himself as his big brother. And, as Xander’s older and wiser sibling, he had a duty.

“Xan, it’s great that you want to explore your sexuality, but, and I don’t mean to sound like a complete ponce, don’t you want your first time to be…special?”

Xander nearly choked on his tongue. “Gods, Spike! I’m sooo not a virgin!”

“Eh?! Who?! I’ll kill ‘em!”

“Spike, calm down. There will be no killing of anybody. I’m an adult and just in case you were wondering, yes, I consented to each and every one of them.”

“Eh?! Bloody hell, Xan! How many blokes you been with?!”

“I’ll tell you only if you promise not to get mad.”

“How can I promise that without knowing how many? Sodding hell. Just spit it out, will you.”

“Okay, but you can’t shout. Promise?”

“Yeah, yeah, I bloody promise. Out with it, brat.”

“Five.”

“WHAT?!”

“Hey! You said you wouldn’t shout!”

“That was before you told me you’d slept with half the gay population of Sunnydale.”

“Spike. Five. That is the *whole* gay population of Sunnydale.”

Spike couldn’t help but smile at Xander’s oddly timed humour.

“Yeah. Choice is a bit limited, innit?”

Xander nodded and fiddled with the hem of his shirt. “So, are we cool?”

“'Course we are. Idiot. Gonna tell Peaches?”

“I dunno. Will he tell?”

“Soul of discretion, is my Grandsire. Your secret is safe with him. He’ll want to know why you’ve tagged along, apart from to annoy him, that is.”

Xander laughed and turned up the stereo. “Were The Sex Pistols gay?”

**

“Hey, Deadboy! Surprised to see me? I thought I'd keep Spike company on his trip. Don’t mind me staying the week too, do you? I assumed you’d have a spare room. Nice place, by the way. It’s, um, spacious. Oh, before we forget, we brought your plant.” Xander smiled cheerfully and handed the plastic bag containing the plant cutting to Angel. “We weren’t sure how much you’d want so Willow cut a whole batch.”

Spike watched carefully for Angel’s reaction to the presence of Xander Harris. They had never really hit it off. Xander’s jealousy of the older vampire had planted a rift firmly between the two from an early stage. Of course, that was way in the past, but Angel still held Xander at a cool arm's length. Spike suspected that it was due more to a distaste for Xander’s chirpy nature than any resentment of words once said. Xander, on the other hand, was more than happy to bounce around Angel like he was his best buddy. Nothing wound up a brooding vampire like endless cheerful babble.

To his credit, Angel handled Xander’s presence with style, grace and just a tiny little growl. He looked down at the bag Xander had handed him.

“They’re squashed.”

“Um…yes. You see, Spike and me, we stopped for a bite…well, not literally. We stopped because I was hungry…”

“You do surprise me,” Angel interrupted.

“Yeah, bottomless pit, that's my stomach. Anyway, so we stopped and I got this huge cheese burger. I can’t tell you how nice it was. It was *this* big,” Xander said, holding his hands up in a burger shaped gesture. “So, I had this vanilla shake with it and I spilled it all over myself, getting in the car. See?” Xander made another gesture to show his stained shirt and pants. “Anyway, Spike said that he had napkins in the glove box. So I opened it and the plant fell out. So I put it on the seat while I mopped myself down. Then I forgot that I put it on the seat…and I sat on it.”

“You could have just said that you sat on it,” Angel pointed out, irritably.

Xander grinned. “Where would the fun have been in that?”

“Where indeed,” Angel droned, turning his back and starting to walk away.

“Hey, wait up! Aren’t you going to show me to my room?!”

“If I do, will you promise not to come out for the whole week?”

“No can do, Deadboy. Got me some guys to pick up.” Xander picked up his bag up and started up the stairs. “Are you coming, then? I really need to change out of these clothes. I reek of vanilla.”

“Right.”

If Angel had been shocked by Xander’s announcement, he didn’t show it. With an expression of long suffering weariness, he waved Spike to go in front and followed up the stairs.

It was going to be a long week.





Part Two



Angel showed Spike and Xander to their rooms, careful to put them as far away from his room as possible. It was a pity that the Hyperion didn’t stretch over two states.

“Hey, this is great!” Xander declared, sitting on the side of the bed and giving it a hefty bounce. “Plush. Nice soft bed and, oooh, check this out!” Xander hurried to the other side of the room and ran his hands over the surface of a large oak dresser. “Nice workmanship. Imported? Looks Italian.”

“Very astute. I’m glad you like it,” Angel said with about as much enthusiasm as a goldfish in a yoghurt pot. “Kitchen is downstairs. Would you like me to show you?” he added, clearly hoping that Xander would not like.

“No. That’s okay. I’m gonna unpack before I do anything else. I’ll find my way in a while.”

“Sure. When you’re ready just come down the stairs, turn left…”

Xander held up a hand. “No, no, don’t worry. I suck at directions. I’ll just wait ‘til someone starts cooking and I’ll smell my way there.”

Angel nodded and left Xander’s room, shutting the door firmly behind him. He had no doubt that Xander Harris could sniff out any given food product or food preparation facility within a twenty block radius.

“Peaches!” Spike yelled, clapping Angel on the back and striding cheerfully along side him.

“Don’t call me that. Don’t you have to unpack?”

“Done it.”

“Already?”

Spike shrugged. “How long do think it takes to unpack seven pairs of jeans, seven shirts, seven pairs of socks and a bottle of Daniels?”

“Good point.”

“Where are we going?”

“*I* am going to the kitchen.”

“Great. M’starvin. Got any human?”

“Cow.”

Spike screwed up his nose. “Better than pig, I s’pose. Xan not joining us?”

“He’s unpacking. Thankfully, he seems to have brought more stuff with him than you. He might be a while. I hope you two will be going out later?”

“Auuww, Peaches. Anyone would think you didn’t want the pleasure of our company.” Spike chuckled, unsurprised at Angel’s usual ‘leave me to brood’ attitude. “Actually, got a poker game lined up. Gonna take face-ache with me.”

“Thank the gods,” Angel muttered.

“Wanna come?” Spike asked, deliberately not hearing Angel’s muttered relief.

“No, thank you. I have to work on the spell.”

“Suit yourself. So, shagged anyone half decent recently?”

Angel stopped abruptly. He was in no mood for his Grandchilde’s prattle.

“You go on ahead, Spike. I need to make a start. Don’t make a mess.”

“Whatever.”

Angel turned his back and walked away, well aware of the faces Spike was making behind his back.

“If the wind changes, you’ll get stuck like that.”

“Ponce.”

“Annoying Grandchilde.”

**

Xander wandered into the kitchen and leant on the counter. “Where’s Neanderthal-brow?” he asked.

“Fuck knows. Fiddling with the spell, I think. Either that or he’s probably pouring all his woes out in some bloody journal.”

Xander laughed at the vision of brood-boy, bent over a desk, confessing his sins and scribbling his sorrows in a huge parchment filled journal, complete with quill. “He should get a Live Journal. That way he could share his depressing musings with other equally depressed and tortured souls. They could start a community!”

Spike put his third mug of blood in the microwave and roared with laughter. “I’ll suggest it to him. There’s chocolate mousse in the fridge, Xan,” he managed to inform him as his amusement died down to a tame snigger.

“Great! That’ll get my energy levels up for later. I’ll be buzzing all night.”

Spike looked confused. “You won’t need that much energy for poker.”

“While I would agree with that, Spike, whole heartedly, I don’t see what that has to do me.”

“Poker. Tonight. Me and you. I told you. Need to clean your ears out.”

“I clearly remember you saying that *you* were going to play poker. I, however, agreed to no such thing. *I* am looking to score tonight.”

“I thought we talked about this.”

“Yeah, we did.”

“Well, then. I really don’t think that…”

“Spike, I appreciate your concern, but I’m a big boy. I can take care of myself.”

Spike eyed him doubtfully. Xander had a funny way of attracting trouble. “Right, then. Don’t go far. Don’t drink too much and make sure you’re in by twelve.”

“Spike!”

“Okay, one. Now you can’t say that isn’t fair.”

“No, but I can say that you’re beginning to wig me out. Next thing, Deadboy is gonna make sure I’ve cleaned behind my ears.”

Spike laughed. “Have you?!” he asked suddenly.

“Oh, geez!”

**

Xander leaned on the bar and took in his surroundings.

Hot guys.

Lots of hot guys.

Holy cow. Gorgeously hot tall guy at nine o’clock.

Holy mother of all cows. Gorgeously hot tall guy is checking me out.

Smile, Xander. That’s it, show some ivory.

Nice. Yup, he’s coming over.

Play it cool but hot. Cool but hot, cool but hot, cool but hot, cool…


“Hey there. I couldn’t help but notice you were all alone. Waiting for someone?” the hot tall guy asked.

Xander raked his eyes down and then up the stranger’s body before he answered. “Maybe. Maybe not.”

“What’s your name?”

“Angel,” Xander lied.

“That’s a beautiful name. Would you like to dance with me, Angel?”

“Sure. Why not?” Xander said, taking the offered hand.

The music in the club played a loud, slow thumping baseline that was easy to grind to and Xander allowed the stranger to take the lead, enjoying the feel of the man’s slender hands on his hips. The stranger pulled him closer, pressing groin to groin as the baseline thumped harder and the lights changed to a pulsing red glow. Xander was strangely reminded of heartbeats and blood before his ‘chosen’ fixed him with a seductive stare. Xander gently bit his bottom lip and peered up at the man from under long black lashes.

“You have beautiful eyes,” the stranger purred. “And the most wonderful lips”

Ha, they fall for it every time, Xander thought. He released his bottom lip from his teeth and purred back. “Do I?” he asked shyly.

“Oh yes.” The man bent his head and kissed Xander tentatively.

Xander put up with the tender kiss for a few moments, before he felt his sex drive kick in. He grabbed the back of the stranger’s neck and deepened the kiss, swirling his tongue inside to play and tease. He felt the man’s erection brushing against his own and he moaned into his mouth, bucking and twisting his hips in time to the music.

“Fuck,” the man breathed. “You are so hot. Would you blow me?”

Xander felt his jaw drop and his manbits droop. Would you blow me? How so *not* sexy is that? Could anything be less sexy?

“I want to spread your cheeks and ram my hot rod into you.”

I shouldn’t have asked.

“Um…sorry, I didn’t catch your name?” Xander began.

“Rupert.”

Okay, the mast was officially down.

“Rupert. I just remembered; I have to go and…water my…dog. It was nice meeting you, though.” Xander gave him a cheerful wave before he bolted for the door.

LA was a strange place.

**

Xander didn’t have to look far inside the Hyperion before he found some company. Angel was sitting in the lobby, leafing through a pile papers.

“Hey, Deadboy, watcha doing?” he asked, cheerfully.

“Working.”

“Can I help?”

“Know anything about ancient Brillian plant spells?”

“Um…no.”

“Then no.”

“Oh. I’ll just go to bed, then.”

“If you want.” As soon as the words had left his mouth, Angel knew he had made a mistake.

“Well, I don’t really want. Sure you don’t need some help? I’m good at the research guy thing. If there were an award for the best research guy, I’d definitely be in the running. Actually, I’m quite good with the running too, especially when fleeing for my life. Not so good with the chasing, but…”

Angel sighed. There was only one way to shut Xander up. He picked up a stack of papers and shoved them in Xander’s direction. “Look for anything pertaining to Brillian magic and its reliance on plants. The potion doesn’t smell right; I’m worried that Giles may have incorrectly translated the original working of the spell.”

“Sure! I can do that. Easy.”

“Don’t be so confident, Xander. The original details are very hard to find. I’ve been searching all night and so far I haven’t been able to…”

“Found it!” Xander handed Angel back a crumpled old sheet of parchment.

“That’s it!”

“Don’t sound so surprised, fang features. I am good for some things, you know.”

Angel raised his head at Xander’s slightly hurt tone. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean…This one is all written in Brillian. How did you know what it was?”

“I only said I didn’t know anything about Brillian plant spells. Didn’t say I couldn’t read Brillian.”

“That you didn’t. Thank you.”

“Pleasure. Glad I could help. Want coffee now. That was exhausting,” Xander said. He made a move to leave, the urge for caffeine tugging at him.

Angel felt slightly bad. He should learn to be more tolerant. Although irritating and way too cheerful, Xander still had a lot to offer. He was smart, strong, brave and incredibly loyal. Just because Angel felt like kicking his ass into Alaska didn’t mean he shouldn’t cut him some slack now and again.

“There’s a pot already made,” he said. “If you want to pour me one too, we could go through this translation together. Make sure we get it right?”

“Sure. No probs. Got any cookies? I’m starving. Bottomless pit again.”

Angel couldn’t help but smile a little. Would Xander ever be full? “I think we can do better than that. Call for pizza. There’s a menu next to phone in the kitchen. My treat.”

Xander only nodded, stunned into silence. Deadboy offers pizza? What next? Spike quits smoking? Giles gets contacts? What kind of alternative dimension is this?





Part Three



Xander had the distinct impression that someone or something was trying to wake him up.

“Xan. OI! Get up, you lazy sod,” Spike shouted, shaking Xander’s limp body with more force than Xander thought was necessary.

“Wah? Apocalypse?”

“Lunch.”

“Oh. In bed?”

“Not bleedin’ likely! C’mon, brat. Shift your carcass.”

“Just five more minutes.” Xander mumbled, curling back up into his beloved foetal position.

“Oh, no, you don’t. I’m bored and I ain’t got no-one to talk to!” Spike cried as he grabbed Xander’s arm and dragged him off the bed.

“Spike?! What the hell?”

“Just get up. I wanna know about last night. C’mon, Xan, I’m bored. Entertain me.”

Xander sat in a bedraggled heap on the floor and sighed. Spike made a fantastic alarm clock. Unfortunately, Xander had smashed his last three alarm clocks against the wall. It didn’t bode well for Spike.

“Me shower. You go. Coffee. Strong. Toast. Burnt. Ten minutes.”

“Why do I have to make sodding coffee and toast?”

“Because you’re the bastard that that woke me up. Now, be gone, oh irritating one.”

Spike walked away mumbling something about stupid, lazy humans. He headed towards the kitchen anyway.

**

Spike placed a plate of burnt toast in front of a still-sleepy human. “Did you pull, then?” he asked.

“Kinda,” Xander replied through a mouthful of crumbly, buttery goodness.

Spike raised an eyebrow. He still wasn’t particularly happy that his friend was running about the city flaunting his goods, but that didn’t mean that he didn’t want to hear the juicy details. “Tell me,” he demanded.

So Xander told the tale of the hot, tall guy that had no clue whatsoever.

“I can’t believe that anyone could say such cheesy stuff.” Spike paused for a moment to think about it. He laughed. “Blow me?”

And that was the moment that Angel chose to enter the scene. Timing? Perfection.

“William!” Angel thundered.

Spike knew he was in trouble. His Grandsire only ever used his human name when he was about dish out a damn good telling off.

“Xander is a guest in my home and I demand that you show him some respect!”

“I didn’t…”

“No excuses, Spike. Apologise to Xander immediately.”

“But…I didn’t! Xan, tell ‘im!”

Xander smirked into his coffee and said nothing.

Angel frowned at Spike and turned on his heels.

“You shit!” Spike whispered to Xander.

“Takes one to know one.”

Spike scowled and crossed his arms.

“Oh come on, don’t get all sulky. I’ll tell him.”

“Yeah, you better. And I want a full apology. In writing.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” Xander snatched the last piece of cremated toast and trotted out of the kitchen to catch up Angel.

“Hey, Gabriel. Wait up!”

Angel stopped and turned, an irritated expression stamped firmly on his face. “Yes?”

“About that? Just now? It wasn’t how it sounded.”

Angel nodded silently.

Xander didn’t know why he said it, but somehow it just popped out. “There isn’t anything between us. Me and Spike, I mean. We’re not…you know, doing anything."

Angel nodded again, his expression now totally unreadable. Xander stared back, suddenly feeling a little uncomfortable.

“You don’t need my help with anything, do you? ‘cos I was thinking of hitting the shops.”

“No, I don’t need you for anything. Go right ahead.”

“Okay…I will.”

“Okay.”

“Sure.”

“Okay.”

“Right.”

Both men shook their heads and walked off in separate directions.

Spike leant on the door frame and popped a cigarette in his mouth. Well, well, well, three holes in the ground. How weird had that just been? If Spike didn’t know better, he would have sworn he’d just witnessed sexual tension. He’d have to keep an eye out.

**

Angel stood over the boiling pot and sniffed it. Fish guts. A definite aroma of fish guts. That was so the opposite of it being right. The potion should smell more along the lines of wet dog and a hint of eggs. Angel sighed loudly and snatched up the new translation that he and Xander had worked on the night before.

Frogs' legs: Check

Watercress: Check

Eye of gecko: Check

Hash Browns: Ch… hang on. Fuck, Hash Browns? He’d put Hash Browns in the potion? Damn Xander and his atrocious handwriting.

Angel was about to brood when he felt an unfamiliar movement on his face. A smile. Only Xander Harris could cause him to put Hash Browns in an ancient Brillian potion. What a pair of idiots. His smile soon turned into a strange sort of giggle and, before he knew it, he was holding his sides to prevent them from splitting. Just wait until Xander got back. He was going to find this so funny.

A loud crash, a woman’s scream and a shouted “Xander!” rose from the lobby and Angel shot to his feet. What the hell?

Angel charged from his room and bolted along the landing. Another crash boomed throughout the hotel and Angel recognised Cordelia’s voice shrieking with fear.

“Xander, look out! Up there! It’s up there!”

Angel ran faster.

“Bloody hell! Where the fuck did that come from! Only you, Harris! Fuck, watch it!”

Spike.

Clearly something had gotten into the hotel. Demon, probably. What could be lurking about during the day? Grettal Demon? Twurdle Mouse?

“Xander, no!” Cordelia shouted, her voice thick with panic.

“Bollocks!” Spike added. “Peaches! WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU!”

“Right here,” Angel said with calmness he didn’t feel. “What’s going on?” he asked, paused halfway down the stairs.

“Big bird!” Xander shouted from his place crouched on the floor.

Angel immediately conjured up the image of a Sesame Street character in his mind. “What?!”

Xander pointed up to the ceiling. “A big bird! Shit, it’s coming back!”

Angel glanced up and caught sight of an enormous demon bird as it spread its wings and swooped through the lobby towards Xander. “NOOO!”

Angel leapt off the stairs, almost flying through the air to cut off the bird’s attack. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of Spike flinging himself over Xander’s body to protect him from the razor sharp beak that was soaring towards them.

The demon flew faster than any natural bird could ever hope to and Angel screamed with rage and the effort to reach his friend and Grandchilde before they could be skewered by the mammoth beak. He stretched out an arm and, with all the strength he had, he firmly grasped a powerful wing and swung the squawking demon bird into a wall. Angel ran to where it lay flapping, trying to get up and resume its attack. He grabbed at both wings, struggling to keep the feathered menace even slightly still. Spike came to his aid and together they managed to tie the bird up with some handy rope that Spike had in his duster pocket. No-one could ever accuse Spike of not being prepared.

With the demon bird well and truly tied up, Angel rushed over to where Cordelia was pulling a bloody Xander to his feet. “Are you okay?” he asked.

“Me? Yeah, 'course. I’ve gotten worse from my Mom’s hamster.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, little bastard hates me. Not a day goes by when he…”

Angel frowned. “No. I meant, are you sure you’re okay?”

“Oh, um…yes, I’m fine.” Xander replied, swaying a little

Angel looked him up and down before making his decision. “Come upstairs, let me take a closer look.”

“Really, I’m fine,” Xander said, a little flustered at Angel’s concern. “Don’t worry about the blood. I bleed all the time. It’s a hobby.”

“And while I’m sure it’s a wonderful and fulfilling hobby, I’m going to insist that you don’t pass out because of it.”

Xander swayed again and Angel made a grab for him, swinging an arm around his waist and leading him away. “Do you need me to carry you?”

“No way! I’m totally in control. All legs working just fine.”

“All of them?” Angel asked, amused.

Cordelia walked over to where Spike was holding on to the restrained bird and together they watched her boss walk away with their friend. “Was that my imagination or…no, it can’t be.” Cordelia shook her head.

“What?”

Cordelia had a brief think. “Was Angel concerned for Xander’s welfare?”

“Looks like it.”

“Huh.” Cordelia had another think. “Hey! He didn’t even ask how I was! How selfish!”

“Well, that’s Grandpappy for you. Always taking care of the bleeding and barely able to stand, rather than the not bleeding and perfectly sturdy.”

“Was that sarcasm, bleach job?”

Spike put on his most innocent face. “Course not. Like I would do a thing like that.”

“Pfft. What are we gonna do with this thing, then?” she asked, motioning to the struggling bird.

Spike shrugged. “Got any stuffing mix?”

**

Angel sat Xander on the end of the bed and walked away to get the first aid kit.

“Wow,” Xander said. “Big room. It’s nice.”

“Thank you,” Angel replied, returning with the kit and standing in front on Xander.

“I always pictured you in a more…colourless room. This is pretty, um, colourful? Kinda cosy.”

“Thank you. I like red.”

“So I see…uh, are you just going to stand there?”

“I’m waiting for you to take your shirt off.”

“Huh?!”

“Your shirt. I need to see how bad you’ve been injured.”

Xander stared up at Angel’s blank face. The adrenaline from the bird strike was beginning to wear off now and Xander couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed to be taking his clothes off in front of Angel. He gave himself a mental shake. Hey, he’d taken *all* his clothes off for five other guys *and* had sex with them. This was just Angel fussing and doing his parental figure thing. It’s cool. No biggy.

“Xander? Are you alright? You look a little dazed.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, I’m fine. Really. What were you saying?”

“Shirt?”

“Oh yeah, sure.” Xander unbuttoned the yellow check shirt and threw it aside on the bed. “See? I’m fine.”

“And your t-shirt.”

“Oh yeah, sure. No probs.” Xander grasped the hem of the t-shirt and stretched to pull it over his head. “OW!”

Angel lurched forward, catching Xander’s arms before he could attempt to lift his t-shirt again. “Careful, Xander. Let me see…”

“Ow! Hey, no poking!”

“Sorry. That’s a nasty gash you’ve got there,” Angel said as he ran two fingers along the injury. “Let me help you with your t-shirt.”

Xander nodded gratefully and let Angel help him. The pain from the wound was starting to finally kick in and suddenly being half naked in front of Angel didn’t really matter.

“Thanks.”

Angel eased the tee away and set to work cleaning up the wound, pausing each time he heard Xander’s breath catch or felt him tense. “So what happened?” he asked.

“Nothing, really. I was just coming back from the shops. I got loads of great bargains, thanks to Cordy. I bumped into her at Bloomingdales. That girl really knows her stuff.”

Angel nodded in agreement. “I would say that is a fair statement. So how did you go from shopping with Cordy to nearly getting yourself killed by a Thrushencawt?”

“A Thrushencawt? You’ve seen one before, then?”

“Many times. They’re native to L.A.”

“Oh, you don’t say…Ow!”

“Sorry.”

“That’s okay. Anyway, so we were waiting for the bus and this…Thrushgot…?”

“Thrushencawt, “ Angel corrected.

“Yeah, that. It just swooped down and landed next to me.”

“They do that a lot. Did you make a sudden movement? Is that why it attacked you?”

“No! I would never make a sudden move unless I thought I had a good chance of escape. That thing was so massive, there was no way I could outrun it!”

“Quite right, Xander. So what wound it up enough to attack you? I noticed it wasn’t going for Cordy".

“I know! That’s so unfair. I was the nice one.”

“What does that mean?”

“Meaning, she wasn’t going to give up *any* of her hot dog. I gave it nearly half of mine and then it attacked me!”

Angel smiled at the hurt tone in Xander’s voice. Only Xander Harris would feel hurt by the rejection of a giant demon bird.

“I was only trying to make friends. Why did it attack me? Am I that unlikable?”

Angel placed a band aid over the cut and pressed it down gently. “It didn’t attack you because it didn’t like you. It attacked you because it wanted more food.”

“Oh…why?”

“Because it’s a wild animal and that’s just what they do. Would you ever feed a wild animal at a zoo?”

“Um, yeah?”

“Really?”

Xander nodded.

“You have a death wish,” Angel stated, just for the record.

Xander nodded again. “It must be the Hellmouth in me.”

“Must be,” Angel agreed. “Does that feel better?”

“Stings,” Xander complained.

“Good.”

“Hey!”

“That will teach you to feed wild animals.”

“Will it?” Xander asked, breaking into a small smile.

Angel sighed. “Probably not.”





Part Four



“We’re all going out. You’re coming.”

Angel looked up from his papers and frowned at his Grandchilde. “Did I hear you knock?”

Spike raised exasperated hands in the air. “You know you bloody didn’t. Come on, then. I’m thirsty.”

“I’m not stopping you.”

“Yeah, you are. You’re coming with us and we are waiting for you, hence, you are stopping us.”

Angel returned to his papers. “I can’t. Someone has to watch the potion.”

“Bollocks. The potion can watch itself. It’s boiling. What more do you want? Expecting it to get up and do the tango?”

Angel opened his mouth to say something probably ineffectual, but the words became stuck as he caught sight of Xander entering the room.

“Hey, Peaches and Cream, what’s the hold up?”

Spike grinned and hooked a thumb in Angels’ direction. “He doesn’t want to come.”

“Oh, come on, Deadboy. Don’t be a grouch.”

Angel stared at the human formerly known as Xander, geek of Sunnydale, now to be referred to as Xander, seriously sexy stunner of Sunnydale. He’d dressed up for the evening’s activities and was now wearing dark blue jeans with a hint of sparkle and a shiny, tight black shirt that clung to his body like a second skin.

“Deadboy?” Xander prompted, concerned that Angel hadn’t spoken for a full two minutes. “Hello? Anyone in?”

“Yes,” Angel finally managed.

“Yes you’re in, yes you’re a grouch, yes you’re coming or yes you’re not coming?”

“Yes.”

Xander frowned with bemusement and cocked his head. “You get stranger by the day, you know that, right?”

Angel hesitated, desperately trying to stop staring at Xander and make sensible things come from his mouth. “Yes.”

Spike rolled his eyes. “Bloody hell! Talk about bird brain!”

Xander laughed and crossed the room, pulling Angel up from the couch. “Come on. I’m not taking no for an answer. You and Spike saved my life today and Cordy…well, let's just say that she saved my shopping. I got these today. Like?” he asked both Spike and Angel, gesturing to his sparkling jeans.

“They’re poncy,” Spike answered

“They’re wonderful,” Angel sighed, almost drooling.

“Thanks!” Xander said cheerfully, completely missing Angel’s reaction. “Anyway, I want to buy you *both* a drink to say thanks.”

Xander didn’t give Angel a chance to react. He already had him by the arm and was busy dragging him out the door.

Spike hung back and grinned to himself. Sooo, Peaches liked what he saw, eh? Even as Xander’s honorary big brother, he had to admit that the kid looked seriously hot. If he wanted to pull a guy tonight, then Spike had no doubt that Xander would have no problem whatsoever. A thought entered his brain and he chuckled. He’d always fancied himself as a matchmaker.

**

“More chips?” Xander asked, offering the bowl to Angel for the fifth time in half an hour.

“No.”

“Suit yourself. I like this place. Sooo much better than that awful club from last night…well, I guess the club itself was okay…” Xander trailed off and tilted his head as a familiar song began to play. “I love this song! I’m gonna go dance. Who’s coming?”

“Me!” Cordelia chirped, grabbing Xander’s arm. “Let’s see what you’ve learned since Sunnydale.”

“Oh, I learned plenty.”

“Oh, yeah. Prove it, Hell-Boy.”

Cordelia all but dragged Xander onto the dance floor and Spike grabbed the bowl of chips, leaning back in his chair to get more comfortable for the show.

“He’s got a few good moves,” Spike said finally, nudging Angel in his ribs.

“I wasn’t watching,” Angel replied, his eyes glued to the dance floor.

Spike smirked but stayed silent. Yup, Angel’s got it baaaad, he thought. Spike’s smirk dropped as he caught sight of two men moving between Xander and Cordelia. He sat forward and got ready to intervene.

“Neither of them will appreciate that,” Angel said, guessing his Grandchilde’s next move.

“What?!”

“They’re only dancing.”

Spike stared at Angel for a moment before he looked back to the dance floor. “But they cut in! That ain’t allowed!”

Angel sat forward and studied his dancing friends. They looked like they were having a good time. Intervention definitely wasn’t called for. They were just enjoying the music and enjoying the company of other humans. A sad look crossed the older vampire’s face and he quickly hid it.

“I think they’re fine,” he said at last, staring down and examining the bottom of his drink.

“Yeah, well, I think I’ll join ‘em…just to make sure.”

Angel nodded but didn’t lift his eyes.

“You alright?”

“Yes.”

Spike left the table, knowing that he would get nothing further from Angel now that a full on brood was in progress. He jumped into the dancing bodies and quickly found his friends.

“I didn’t know you danced, Spike,” Xander yelled over the music.

“'Course I bloody dance!”

“Show us, then?” Cordelia asked, sure that the only dance that Spike would know was the Locomotion.

“You asked for it. Prepare to be awed.” Spike nudged one of the intruders away with a sharp dig of elbow.

Xander giggled at Spike’s attempts. He wasn’t half bad, but needed some serious practice. Obviously Cordelia thought the same thing and Xander backed out to find Angel as Spike found himself on the end of a dance lecture.

“Aren’t you coming?” Xander asked Angel when he found him staring into his drink.

“No. You go on. You all look like you’re having a great time.”

“Yeah, we are, but it would be better if you would join us. I hate people getting left out. It sucks.”

“I’m fine, Xander. Really.”

Xander nodded and wondered what to do. If he had a penny for every time he’d claimed that he was fine about being left out, then he’d have…a lot more money than he had right now. Xander made up his mind. If Angel didn’t want to dance, then neither would he.

“Well, I’m gonna get myself another drink. You? Same again? Good. Back in five,” Xander babbled, not giving Angel the chance to even open his mouth.

If Angel didn’t want to dance then he would have to talk. Xander was going to get a half decent conversation out of that vampire if it killed him. And it probably would.

**

“…and then it turned red and dropped off,” Angel slurred, half drunk from a beer that Xander had laced with god knows what.

Xander winced. “Sounds painful, man. Were you able to get it fixed?” he asked.

“I was going to but another one grew back in its place. It was just one of those things.”

Xander glanced back over to the dance floor and caught sight of Spike bouncing around like a lunatic. “Does he ever run out of energy?”

Angel looked up at Spike and then turned to Xander, a small smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. “Sounds like someone else I know. You remind me of a puppy.”

“Erm, thanks? I am house trained, you know.”

Angel laughed and nearly fell sideways off his chair. “Oops! Um, what was I saying? Oh yeah! Puppy…oh…erm, yes. You have puppy dog eyes. Anyone ever tell you that?”

Xander rolled the said eyes. “Yes, yes, yes. *All* the time. It’s the only compliment I ever get. Although, I have to ask, if they are so cute and appealing, why can’t I ever get my own way?”

Angel thought about the question, his face contorting with genuine confusion. “I don’t know. Because humans are stupid?”

“And vampires?”

“We’re stupid too. If you flashed those eyes at me and asked for something, I’d give it to you in a second.”

“Really?” Xander asked, fully aware that Angel was getting drunker by the second.

“Yep,” Angel said with two giant nods. “*Anything*”

“Okay, then, let’s see. Gimme two hundred dollars.”

Angel pulled out a wad of cash and slapped it on the table. “Done!”

“And your watch.”

Angel took off the watch and handed it over immediately.

“And whatever is in your left pocket.” Xander added, hoping that whatever was in the pocket would not be sticky, half chewed toffee.

“Done.” Angel pulled out a pack of sugar free gum and slapped it on top of the money.

Spike suddenly appeared and leaned over the table, inspecting the former contents of Angel’s pockets. “This looks like a fun game,” he said with a grin. “You know what would be much more fun?”

Two voices in unison: “What?”

“Kitten poker.”

Angel shook his head with an exaggerated movement. “Nope. Kitten poker is crap.”

“It ain’t!”

“Yes it is,” Angel said, determinedly. “It’s a game for babies.”

Xander slunk back and stifled a laugh.

“Oi!” Spike shouted. “Who you calling a baby?!”

“Well, if the cap fits.”

“You are treading on fucking thin ice, mate!”

“I’m sorry, Spike,” Angel said, sounding anything but. “I just don’t think you have what it takes for a real man’s game.”

“Is that fucking so? What do you call a real man’s game, then? Mr Potato head? Sounds more on your wavelength.”

Angel laughed and swayed. “I’m talking about a real game. A game of skill and brass balls. A game of courage and infinite dexterity. A game that *you* couldn’t handle.”

“Bollocks. If you can play it, then so can I.”

“I’ll only beat you,” Angel insisted. “I was the national champion *five* years in a row.”

“Well, prepare to be the un-champion!”

“Erm…” Xander interrupted. “Can I play?”

“Are you sure, Xander,” Angel said, seriously. “It can get pretty competitive.”

Xander nodded enthusiastically. “Not a problem. Whatever this game is, I’m sure I can give *both* of you a run for your money.”

“Oh, you won’t need money.”

“Kittens?” Spike asked.

“No.”

“Then what we gonna bet with if we can’t use money or kittens?”

Angel grinned. “Our clothes,” he declared, grandly.

“Strip poker?” Xander suggested, a little worried now. Poker was not his game. He had this problem with grinning at good cards and frowning at bad ones.

“No.”

“Then what?” Spike asked.

Angel sat up straight and grinned from ear to ear. “Strip froggy tiddlywinks.”

Spike blinked.

Xander wasn’t sure if he wanted to pinch Angel’s cheek and coo at him for using the word ‘froggy’ or to get seriously worried about what they were going to have to do with said froggies.

Angel frowned at the silence. “Come on, you two. Are you men or mouses?”

“Mice,” Spike corrected. “How much have you had to drink?”

Angel swung his head round to Xander to provide the answer.

“Um, he’s had…a bit.”

Spike nodded. “Strip froggy tiddlywinks, eh?”

“Uh-huh.”

“You’re on! Xan, you up for it?”

“I dunno. I don’t really like frogs. What will I have to do with them?”

Spike turned to Angel. “Won’t have to lick ‘em, will we?”

Angel looked shocked. “Why on earth would we do that?”

“It gets you high.”

It was Xander’s turn to look shocked. “Really? Does that work with all frogs?”

“Naaah. Just one or two. Think they call them lickybacks.”

“Oh. Okay then, as long as there is no licking or ingesting of any kind, I’ll play. Just one thing, though. Where are we going to get frogs from at this time of night?”

Angel tapped his own nose. “I know a few people. I could score a dozen or so off the black frog market. I’ll just get Cordelia and we’ll be on our way.”

Xander watched Angel walk away before he spoke. “There’s a black frog market?”

Spike shrugged. “Apparently.”

“I thought frogs were green?”





Part Five



With Cordelia gone home muttering something about men and their crazy antics, it was just Angel, Xander and Spike left sitting around the small coffee table. A large oversized mixing bowl had been placed in the middle of the table and Xander was puzzled as to what had compelled him to get involved with this weird game.

“So we have to get our frogs in the bowl?” Xander asked with a tilted head.

“Yes. If your frog misses the bowl, then you have to take off an item of clothing. If one of your frogs jumps out of the bowl at any time you also have to take off an item of clothing.”

“And how do we get the frogs in the bowl? Can I throw them?”

Angel laughed. “No, Xander. Where would be the skill in that? Look, I’ll demonstrate. You put one frog in front of you, like this, then you take your chosen lead frog and hover it over the top. When you feel that your aim and timing are right, you drop the frog onto the other one. If you are clever enough, the bottom frog will be surprised and jump straight into the bowl. Like this.”

Angel positioned a small frog so that it was facing the bowl. With careful aim and a look of sheer concentration he dropped his lead frog onto the other one. The bottom frog had the decency to look surprised and with a load croak it jumped straight into the bowl.

“Looks easy enough,” Spike observed.

“Yeah,” Xander added.

Angel hid a smirk. That’s what they think.

**

Half an hour later and all hell had broken loose. Frogs of all shapes and sizes hopped happily and unhappily about the room, Spike was down to his jeans and one sock and Xander had only his boxers left. The two men were shouting at each other about whose frog had just jumped out of the bowl. Xander had a suspicion that it was probably his, but there was no force on this earth that was going to make him admit it.

A fully clothed Angel leaned back on his hands and smiled. How happy did he feel right now? Words couldn’t describe. It had been a long time since he’d had any genuine fun. Even his time spent with Buffy didn’t come close to a night of strip froggy tiddlywinks with his friends.

Friends?

When had that happened?

He’d always held Spike close in his heart. This was his Grandchilde, his family. No matter what had happened in the past, no matter what words had been said, he had always loved Spike and so had Angelus.

And Xander? Angel had never hated him. He was constantly irritated and infuriated by him, but he never had and never would hate him. If anything, he was grateful to him. It had been Xander that had helped him to hold onto the last piece of himself that was human. How? By making him just feel. Angel did a good job with hiding emotions, but Xander was the only one, apart from Spike, that could bring them to the surface.

A snarky comment here.

A sarcastic remark there.

A joke.

A swing of his hips.

A lick of his lips.

So, yes, somewhere along the line Xander had become a friend. Angel felt a longing stirring within him. Something more than friendship? Was that what he wanted from his irritating, loud mouthed, pigheaded friend?

“Spike, it’s your frog and if you touch my boxers or come anywhere near them again, I will cut off your hands and slap you with them.”

Yes.

“It’s your bloody frog! Look, that’s mine, little green fellow.”

“They’re all green!”

“Guys, I think we should call it a night. I think we can all safely say that I won.” As much as Angel would have loved to watch Xander stand and pull off that last piece of clothing, he didn’t want it to be under these circumstances. They were all pretty drunk and, no matter how much confidence Xander had gained over the last couple of years, chances were he would feel mortified in the morning.

Spike looked over and seemed to understand. But that didn’t mean he was happy about it. Losing was not in Spike’s vocabulary.

“Alright,” he said with narrowed eyes. “But I will require a re-match. I’m sure you bloody cheated.”

Angel didn’t bother with a retort. The effort was just too much. “Could one of you help me clear up these frogs?”

Spike seized his chance. “Yeah, I will.”

Xander narrowed his eyes as he buttoned up his jeans. What was that sneaky vamp up to now?

“Thank you, Spike.” By the expression on Angel’s face, it was clear that he shared Xander’s concerns.

Xander said his goodnights and left the room. As much as he was concerned about Spike’s sudden urge to help, he was too tired to really care.

Spike padded around the room, using his vampire reflexes to chase and capture the little bouncing froggies. “This would be soul destroying if I had a bloody soul to destroy.”

Angel threw him a quizzical look.

“The only thing I use my vampire skills for is pouncing on bloody frogs.”

“I understand your frustration.” Angel grimaced. The drink was well and truly wearing off and it was leaving him with a mighty headache.

“Talking of frustration. When you gonna make a move on Xan?”

Angel dropped his frogs.

“Well?” Spike persisted.

Angel’s colour went from ivory to brilliant white. “I…I have no idea what…”

Spike smirked and placed his frogs in a large tub. “Deny it all you want, Peaches, but I’ve seen you gawping. I fucking know you fancy him. Don’t blame you either, he’s not bad looking. Fucking gorgeous when he gets dressed up…like tonight.”

“He’s…very attractive and I do like him…”

“But,” Spike guessed. “There is a definite but coming. What’s the problem? You like him. Go for it.”

“It’s not as easy as that. Xander and I are so different…”

“Opposites attract.”

“I’m a vampire…”

“He has an open mind.”

“He lives so far away…”

“He’ll get the bus.”

“Spike! It wouldn’t work!”

“Why?! Because you think you don’t deserve a chance at love? Because you prefer to live your life devoid of any pleasure?”

“No.”

“Then what? Is it the love thing you’re scared of? Hell, I’m not saying you have to fall arse over tit in love with the boy! I’m just saying that you two could give it a shot. Take it slow, whatever.”

“It isn’t that.”

“Bloody hell, Angel, I know you want him. It’s fucking obvious. Tell me what’s holding you back?”

Angel sighed. “I don’t think he wants me.”

“Oh. Have you asked?”

“No.”

“Then how do you know?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t see why he would. He’s so young and full of life. Why would he want me?” Angel’s eyes filled with unshed tears.

“Fuck off, you tosser!! Don’t be such a bloody ponce!”

Angel blinked away the tears and genuine confusion crossed his face. “What…?”

“I get so sick of you bloody whining all the time. If you like him and it turns out that he likes you, then I don’t see a problem.”

“But what if…”

“Shut it. He does. I’m fucking certain of it. *And* I’m gonna find out for sure.”

“Spike, you can’t…”

“I can and I’m gonna. Don’t fret, Peaches, I’ll be discreet.”

Angel fretted and Spike softened.

“Look, I know you’re crap at this stuff. So just let me drop a couple of hints and see if you’re at least in the running. I promise that I won’t let on that you got a crush.”

Angel fretted some more and finally nodded. “Okay. But please watch what you say. I don’t have many friends and I’d rather you didn’t alienate me from one of them.”

“Have I ever let you down?”

“…”

“Okay, just forget I said that. Angel?”

“Yes?”

“I might not know much. But I do know about the love stuff. I’ll see if he’s interested. And I will be discreet.”

“Thank you.”

“My pleasure. I’ll fix you up. Just don’t do anything perverted with these frogs while you’re waiting.”





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