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Rating: NC-17 for the whole thing

Warnings: Fluff. Het

Summary: Xander and Angel move their relationship to the next step.

This is the sequel to Just Begun and Just Dance

Thanks to the best beta in the land, [info]kitty_poker1



Just Us


by
Suki Blue





Part One



Xander closed the apartment door behind him and leant against it. Breathe, breathe, breathe.

“You alright?” Spike asked from the couch.

“GAH! Geez, warn a guy, would you?”

“Sorry, mate. Just popped by to watch some footie. Don’t mind, do you?”

“Go ahead. Couldn’t care less. My casa is your casa, or something with a little more French. Or Italian. Spanish?”

Spike snorted a laugh, shrugged, and took a huge gulp from his drink. “Spanish, I reckon. So, what's wrong? You look as pale as me.”

“I did it, Spike,” Xander explained as he took a deep breath. “I just handed in my notice at the site.”

“Yeah?”

“Yep, one month and I’m gone. God, Spike, what am I doing?”

“Erm, moving in with Peaches?”

“Exactly.”

“Not having second thoughts, are you, pet?” Spike eyed Xander suspiciously and then carried on talking when he got no reply. “It ain’t too late to back out, you know. If you’re not sure about you and Angel…”

“NO!”

Spike flinched slightly at the sudden, loud bellow.

“I mean, no, in a slightly less desperate tone. I love Angel. I wanna go live with him. I wanna leave damp towels on his bathroom floor every morning. I wanna irritate him when he’s trying to work. I wanna call him Cuddles in front of inappropriate people. I wanna be with him.”

“I’m sensing there’s a but coming.”

Xander turned around to check.

“Not that kind of butt, idiot!”

“Oh. Sorry, one track mind. Um, the but is – and now I can’t stop thinking about butts – that this is all really scary stuff. I’m moving away from my friends, giving up my job – which I’m really good at, by the way. I’m leaving *my* apartment, my sacred little space. I’m gonna have to share again, Spike, and you know how long Angel takes in the bathroom.”

Spike nodded and grinned.

“And then I’m going to have to find another job. I mean, I know I’m qualified and all and it shouldn’t be all that hard to find work, but…what if I don’t like it? What if LA sucks big time? What if Angel *never* lets me in the bathroom? What if I’m never clean again? What if I slip on my own damp towels? Spike, what if Angel won’t let me have any towels?! Oh, my god…!!!!”

“Xan, luv, calm down a sec and tell me what this is all really about.”

Xander threw himself on the couch, beside Spike, and flung an arm over his eyes. “Buffy.”

“Ah, thought so.”

“What am I going to tell her?”

“The truth?”

“Oh, yeah, the *truth.* Like that won’t go down like several tons of bricks. Hey, Buffy, I’ve been boning your beloved ex for the past five months. Why didn’t I tell you? Because I’m a liar and a loser. Oh, and by the way, I’m moving in with him. Will that do for the final nail in the coffin or would you like more? Yeah? Okay, I love him and he loves me; he loves me enough to want me by his side. I guess he never loved you that much, huh?”

Spike narrowed his eyes in thought and finally got up to retrieve more Cherry Coke from the fridge. “Well, a little brutal, but at least you’re getting the point across.”

“Spike,” Xander warned.

“Pulling your leg. Look, I don’t know what you should say, but you should say something. In fact, you should have said something at the start like I said you should. Not that you ever listen to anything I say…”

“I do listen! I-I just don’t like to admit it. Look, I know you’re right, I should have said something right at the start. But it’s too late now. I’ve made my bed and not washed the sheets for five months. Now I have to lie in it and wish that I had a maid.”

“Eh?”

“I have to live with it and eventually do my own laundry.”

“Eh?”

“I have to be straight with Buff.”

“Oh. Want me to be there?”

“No, it’s okay. I’m a big boy now and I can fight my own battles. Although, feel free to lurk in the shadows somewhere near just in case she gets all battley.”

“Will do. When?”

“Um, sometime soon that isn’t right now? Is that committy enough for you?”

“It’ll do. But do yourself a favour and make it sometime sooner than soon. They’re going to want to know why you’re upping sticks to the city.”

“Can’t I just tell them that I prefer the shops? Yeah! Actually, that could work. I’ll tell them that I’m gay and I’m moving to the city for shopping, dancing and dating reasons. They’ll never suspect a thing! Of course, it’ll involve having to come out, but…”

“And when Buffy shows up on your doorstep looking for Angel and fluttering her girlie, Slayer eye-lashes at him? What are you going to do?”

“Bitch slap her ‘cos he’s mine? Okay, I see your point.”

“Exactly. Don’t lie to her anymore, Xan. It’ll make matters so much worse.”

“Yeah, I know. Hey, when did you get all wise and knowing?”

“Been watching Dr Phil. Bloody good bloke, he is. Just let me know if you ever get pregnant and don’t know who the father is. I’ll know exactly what to do. Just give me a shout.”

“Um,” Xander said with a puzzled expression. “I’ll be sure to do that.”

Spike nodded and held out one of the two cans in his hand. “Cherry Coke for your sorrow?”

Xander took the can and smiled. “That’s just the thing. I know this is a big deal and it is really scary, but I can’t remember ever being as happy as I am right now. I found him, Spike. I found my ‘someone’ and I’m so happy. I don’t see why I should feel guilty for that. And that, in turn, makes me feel incredibly guilty. Ironic, huh?”

“Very. You shouldn’t feel guilty, though, Xan. These things happen, and it ain’t like you stole him or anything. Look, maybe he should be the one to tell her?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. Fuck. I wish I’d told her at the start.”

“Told you so.”

“Don’t be an asshole.”

“Can’t help it. Learned it from you.”

“Well, I don’t know how you managed that because I learned it from you. So there.”

“Immature brat.”

“Learned that from you, too.”

Spike seemed to realise that he had no way on this earth of winning an argument of such childish proportions. He popped the tab on the can of Coke and slurped half of it in one go.

“So, how goes you and Cordy?” Xander asked, cunningly steering the conversation away from the mini-argument. He was winning and there was no way he was prepared to jeopardise that.

“Yeah, good, good. A beautiful bird and hot sex; what else could a bloke ask for?”

“You miss her, don’t you?”

“Fuck, yes. Every minute of every day that we’re apart.”

“So why don’t you move, too? I’m sure Angel wouldn’t mind. Much.”

Spike shrugged and turned away. “We’re not at that stage yet. Hasn’t even been mentioned.”

“Oh.”

“’Sokay. When you think about it, you and Angel moved really fast, ‘specially when you consider your arch enemy status. Me and Cordy, we’re just taking it slow.”

“Oh,” Xander said, again. It really didn’t take a genius to work out that Spike wasn’t being entirely truthful himself. “I’m gonna miss you, you know?”

Spike turned back around and smiled. “I’m gonna miss you, too, pet. Very fucking much.”

“You too. I’m gonna visit, though - lots. And you’d better visit, too, buddy, and not just for the hot sex with Cordy.”

“Oh, I get to have hot sex with you and Angel?”

Xander slapped him on the arm. “Euw. You know what I meant. Don’t forget me, blondie.”

“It’ll never happen.”

Xander smiled and leant back against the couch. “Good. Who else is going to make me the best tea on the planet?”

“Angel?”

“Puhleeze! Sewer water, much? Ergh.”

It was Spike’s turn to smile. So, he finally had one up on his Grandsire. Weirdly, that thought made him feel a hundred times better. Spike’s smile turned into an evil grin as he bet himself that he could probably fry a better flat sausage than Angel.

“Hey, Angel.”

Spike shook his head and pulled himself out of his daydream as Xander spoke. He looked around the room and realised that Xander was on the phone. “Say hi to the old bloke, would you?” Spike called out in a bored tone, turning back to the TV and settling down for the long run.

“Spike says hi.”

“I heard.”

Xander waited.

“Okay, if I really must; say hi back.”

Xander grinned and turned towards Spike. “Angel says hi back.”

“Joy.”

Xander rolled his eyes and sat on the floor, pulling the phone onto his lap. “So, how are you?”

“I’m good. You?”

“Good.”

“Missing you, though.”

“It’s only been three days,” Xander remarked. “Missing you, too, though. Um, I handed in my notice.”

“Yeah? That’s great.”

“Yeah, I had a day off, so I finally got around to typing it up and I thought I’d just go in and do it - get it out the way, you know.”

“How did they take it?”

“Good. They said they were sad to lose me, but they’d give me a recommendation.”

“That’s great. I’m pleased.”

“Me too. This is it, Angel. The ball is set loose and it’s started to roll. It’ll roll the right way, right?”

“Of course it will. And you know I’ll be there if you need me.”

“I know. Thanks, Angel. I love you.” Xander ignored the fake gagging actions from the couch.

“I love you, too, baby. What about your apartment?”

“Oh, well, my choices there are simple beyond simple. Either I can break my lease and pay a hefty fine or I can illegally sublet. Either way, I’m pretty much stuffed.”

“How much longer left on your lease?”

“About four months, I think.”

Xander could almost hear Angel nodding in thought on the other end of the phone.

“I’ll pay.”

“No, you won’t. I don’t want to start things off like that. I’m a responsible adult and I can take care of my own problems.”

“Okay, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

“I just won’t leave a forwarding address. They’ll never find me.”

“Xander…”

“Joking! Sorry, couldn’t resist.”

Angel sighed. “Just tell me if you need help.”

“I will. Thanks. So, I was thinking, I could come visit you again this weekend. I know that I should be doing stuff, but I miss you, and how long does it really take to pack up a life? Couple of days? Yeah, packing shmacking, I can do it anytime. Spike can help me!”

“Oi!”

“Xander, there may not be any point in you coming to visit this weekend.”

“Oh. Why?”

“Because chances are I’m still going to be in Sunnydale.”

“But…What…? You’re *still* going to be in Sunnydale? *Still?* You’re here already? Here in Sunnydale? Really?”

“Yes, really.”

“How so? Don’t tell me there’s a demon on the loose and Buffy needs help to find it and destroy it?”

“Not quite. Giles called me. He needs help.”

“You’re telling me. Why anyone would want to wear all that tweed is just beyond…”

“No, he needs help with some books. They’re part of a set that was lost a millennium ago. Very dark magic is contained within them. We need to seriously consider what would be the best thing to do with them.”

“And he called you for that?”

“No, he called Wesley.”

“So, what happened?”

“Wesley has a bad case of 'flu. There’s no way he could go anywhere. Then Giles suggested that maybe he could come down to LA with the books.”

“Yeah?”

“I vetoed the idea. This way I get the bonus of seeing you.”

“Plan. Where are you now?”

“Outside your door.”

There was a small knock and Xander slammed down the phone and wrenched open the door. “Angel,” he breathed.

And then they kissed.

“Bleedin’ hell! Mind a bloke’s eyes, would you?!”





Part Two



Xander fell back on the bed and pulled Angel down on top of him.

“What about…?”

“Spike?” Xander finished. “He’s watching soccer. Don’t bother trying to kick him out; an apocalypse won’t move him now.”

Angel bent his head down for kiss. It didn’t really matter what Spike was doing. It had been three days since he’d touched, kissed and tasted Xander. It felt like a century. He closed his eyes and gasped as he felt his shirt being ripped open.

Warm hands wandered over and over his chest and Angel sighed and let Xander do as he pleased.

“So, how long do you think you’ll be able to stay?” Xander asked as he pulled Angel’s shirt off and tossed it to the side.

“A couple of days, at least,” Angel murmured into Xander’s neck.

“You’re gonna stay here, right? With me?”

Angel licked his lips and lifted his hips as Xander unbuttoned his pants and began to push them down. “Of course,” he said, turning and sitting briefly to push them the rest of the way off, along with his shoes and socks.

“And we can have time for just us?”

Angel lowered his naked body onto Xander’s fully clothed one. “I insist on it.”

Button after button popped on Xander’s shirt and he smiled up at his lover and stroked the side of his face. “It’ll just be you and me.”

“Oi, Xan, got any of those peanut-butter cups left?!” a voice shouted from the living room.

Angel stopped what he was doing while Xander answered. “Top cupboard, far left, behind the twinkies.”

“Ta!”

“Sorry, Angel, where were we?”

“I’m naked.”

“I gathered that part. Now, get me naked.”

“But, Spike…”

“Cannot join us.”

“I didn’t…Oh,” Angel said as Xander reached between them and stroked him back to life.

“Yeah, oh. Exactly. Feeling better?”

“God, yes.”

“Good, now get with the making me as naked as you. I feel like grinding. And then I feel like letting you fuck me face down into this here pillow.” Xander squeezed his hand tighter as he spoke. He ran his thumb over the head of Angel’s cock and raised the come-soaked digit to his mouth.

Angel pounced.

Xander’s clothes were shredded, removed, thrown across the room and finally pronounced DOA as they hit the floor.

Their hips connected and their lips locked. Xander wrapped his legs tightly around Angel’s body and rocked against him.

“Oi, Xan! Where’s the remote?!”

They paused. “Um, in about a billion pieces, in the trash!”

“Eh?! Why?!”

“Um…could you give me a minute?! Or five?! Kinda in the middle of something?!”

“Yeah, 'course. Sorry, mate. I’ll talk to you when you’re done.”

“Thanks! Okay, where were we?”

“I think maybe we should continue this when there isn’t a Spike around to interrupt.”

“No way! I’m hard as hell and so are so you!” Xander moved his hips and rubbed his cock against Angel’s to make the point and seal the deal.

“Fuck, yes!” Angel ground his hips hard and attached his mouth to Xander’s neck for a good long suck.

“Annnnngellllll. Fuck me? Please? Fuck, please!”

Angel released Xander’s throat and flipped him over. He grabbed a well placed tube of lube from the nightstand and quickly prepared Xander for his entrance.

And what an entrance it was!

Xander gasped and groaned and pushed himself back onto Angel’s thrusting cock. He felt himself being tugged to his knees and he quickly held onto the headboard for dear life. “Fuck, Angel, yes. God, yes, fuckfuckfuckfuck!!”

Angel held tightly to Xander’s hips and thrust in an increasingly uneven rhythm. “Xander…I can’t live without…”

“I know. Can’t…live without…either. Fuck, love…you.”

“God, yes, Xander…love…you!” Angel thrust faster and reached around to pull Xander into completion with him.

“Oi! Peaches! Your cell phone is ringing!”

“Ignore him,” Xander gasped. “Just…just a little more. YES!” Xander came and clenched and brought Angel coming straight after him.

As they slumped down together on the bed, the sound of singing chipmunks got closer and the door handle twitched. Angel quickly grabbed the edge of the sheet and pulled it roughly over the two of them.

“I said, your bloody cell phone is ringing, you ponce!”

“Spike,” Angel growled. “Get out.”

“Pleasure. Just take the sodding phone.” Spike held out the said phone and waved to a sleepy, sated looking Xander. “Alright under there, pet? You look thoroughly shagged, luv.”

“I’m good. Thanks. You can go away now. And Angel? Please make the singing stop.”

Without looking at the display, Angel silenced the chipmunks. “Uh…Buffy.”

Spike mouthed ‘Ooops’ and quickly backed out of the room under Xander’s glare.

“Hi. Yes, I’m in town. Where am I? Oh, I’m…I’m…I’m on my way. Yeah, sure. See you there.” Angel hung up the phone.

“So, that was the Buffster, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“So, you’re going?”

“Yeah. The Magic Box. I have to look at the books. Sorry.”

“No! Don’t be sorry. The books are important, ‘cos, you know, what with all the dark magic and the potential badness and the possible running and screaming. You should go. It’s fine. I’ll be here when you…”

“You’re not coming?”

“No. Well, no. I mean, no. Um, did you…? Can I…? Did you want me to come?”

“I think we already did that.”

Xander hit him. “You know what I meant.”

“Of course I want you to come! You’re part of the team, you know that.”

“Yeah, I know,” Xander sighed. “But…it's Buffy. You haven’t seen her in months; not since…us. I don’t want it to be awkward for you. I’d rather stay away. See? I’m considerate guy.”

“It’ll be awkward anyway. I want you with me.”

“Are you sure? ‘Cos I could be with you in a spiritual, inside your heart sense? Or, or maybe I could be with you in a ‘send Spike on my behalf’ sort of sense? Yeah? No?”

“Xander…”

“I just don’t want to be in the way. I don’t want to make things worse. And I definitely don’t want to be foot in the mouth guy. I mean, you know I have kinda big feet, but my mouth? A whole lot larger.”

Angel silenced him with a kiss. “I want you with me. And I love your mouth. And your feet - even though you’re a kicker.”

Xander grinned. “I only kick when I dream.”

“And what on earth do you dream about that makes you thrash about like a drowning man?”

Xander blushed and sat up. “Nothing.”

“Xander, tell me. What do you dream about?”

“Just…stuff.”

“What stuff? What is it?”

“Living dead, terminator hamsters.”

Angel raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, I know. It’s weird. They chase me, I run. Hence all the kicking. I sleep run.”

“That’s…strange. But endearing,” Angel said as he ruffled Xander’s hair.

“Hey, less of the patronising, Gabriel.”

“Less of the name calling, big mouth.”

“Practice what you preach, um, un-dead preaching guy.”

Angel leant in for a kiss. He nibbled Xander’s lower lip and gently sucked on it. “Let’s not argue, baby.”

“Mmmm, ‘kay.”

“Oh, bloody hell. Here we go again! Do you two ever disconnect? I thought we were heading out.”

Angel whipped his head around “Were you eavesdropping?!” he asked.

“No! Yes. Cable’s out. So, we going, or what?”

Angel turned to Xander and waited for the answer.

“Yeah, we’re going.”





Part Three



“Hey, guys! Buffster. Wills. G-man. So, I hear we got another situation that calls for some Scoobyage!” Xander near enough yelled excitedly.

Buffy smiled and cocked her head. “Hey, Xan. Been on the sugar again, sweetie?”

“Who, me? Erm…yeah, why not?”

“Ooookay. You’re weirder than usual.” Buffy laughed and shook her head. “Which isn’t that unusual at all.”

A shadow appeared and loomed at the door and Buffy’s bright smile faltered and drooped. “Angel. Hi.”

“Hello, Buffy.”

“Hi. I already said that, didn’t I?”

“Well, who doesn’t repeat themselves now and again?” Xander asked, in an attempt to break the sudden tension that really wasn’t so sudden from his point of view. “I know I certainly do. And Giles does it *all* the time, don’t you, G-man?”

“Don’t call me that. And yes, I find myself repeating myself every minute of every day, Xander.”

“See?”

For the first time in his un-life, Angel struggled to keep his face expressionless. He wanted to at least give Xander a crooked grin or even an affectionate eye-roll, but Buffy was gazing at him with a look that was a cross between a wide-eyed deer and a slightly crazed stalker. Even the slightest sign of behaving like he was happy was going to arouse suspicion.

“Giles, do you have the books?”

“Yes, yes. This way, Angel.” Giles led him to the table and pointed to two enormous black books. “There. Do you know what they are? Are these the ones?”

“Yes. The Books of Damnation,” Angel confirmed with a nod.

“Chilling,” Xander commented.

“Why do you suppose these books always have such unsettling titles?” Willow asked. “Why couldn’t it have been The Books of Fluffy Kittens?”

“Probably because of the lack of fluffy kittens?” Buffy suggested. “But I know what you mean. Why couldn’t it have been The Books of Stuff That You Might Not Like So Much?”

“Catchy,” Xander said with a smile. “You should be in publishing. Do they have people to name books or do the authors do it themselves?”

Giles sighed and ran his hands through his hair. “Angel, do you have any suggestions for what we might do with them?”

“Er, well, you could try keeping them apart. Maybe keep them away from chocolate when they’re all together…”

“No, I meant the books.”

“Oh. Right. I don’t know exactly. My experience with them is limited.”

“But you’ve had some experience?”

“A long time ago, yes. I was given the fourth in the series by an acquaintance.”

“And what happened?”

“I had to let it go. There were a lot of people that wanted it. Angelus wasn’t interested enough to fight for it. He used it a couple of times then threw it at the first person that came close enough.”

“Angelus used it?” Buffy asked. Her face clouded over and expressed a mixture of guilt and heartache.

“What did you do?” Xander asked, as easily as if he’d asked what the time was.

“What did Angelus do,” Willow whispered to Xander, loud enough for everyone to hear.

Xander shrugged. “Okay. What did Angelus do?”

“Nothing too horrific, surprisingly. Angelus was going through a…childish phase at the time. He turned a few people green, gave a couple of cats some extra legs, made it light when there should only have been dark.”

“Nothing drastic, then,” Buffy said sarcastically.

“Could have been a lot worse, ducks,” Spike said. “Angelus was only playing. Even I would have run for it he’d ever worked out what the books were really capable of.”

“So, they’re spell books?” Xander asked.

“Yes, *very* powerful ones. It’s said that they hold the key to the destruction of the world and all its dimensions.”

“Really? Huh. They look kinda…cheesy. Like one of those Books of Shadows that you can buy in the mall with all the pentagrams and skulls on the front. Kinda tacky. And I suppose they’re meant to be bound in some kind of human skin. Looks more like rubber, to me.” Xander stretched out a hand to prod one of the books.

“NO!” Angel reached out and snatched Xander’s wrist, pulling him back and away from the books. “Don’t touch them! Don’t ever touch them!”

“Hey! What’s the big deal?! Giles touched them. Why can’t I?”

“It’s okay, Angel. I put a binding spell on them the moment they came into my possession. They’re quite safe to touch.”

“For now. But we have no reason to believe that the spell will hold indefinitely.”

“Yes, of course. Quite right, Angel. It would be wise to be cautious.”

“Why did you have to put a spell on it?” Buffy asked, turning her back on Xander and Angel and walking around the table to peer suspiciously at the two books.

“It taints souls,” Giles explained. “It draws the soul to the books and binds it to them. That soul is then filled with darkness and will stop at nothing to assemble the ten books and ultimately destroy the world.”

“Dramatic much?” Buffy asked with raised eyebrows. “So, it didn’t affect Angel…”

“Angelus,” Willow prompted with another whisper.

“It didn’t affect Angelus because he didn’t have a soul. That’s why he only ‘played’ with it and ditched it once it got too hot to handle.”

“Give the girl a cigar, a medal and a lifetime subscription to ‘State The Obvious Monthly’.”

“Shut up, Spike, before Mr Pointy gets to be Mr Happy. Or something else with no double meaning.”

While Buffy and Spike bickered, Angel let go of Xander’s wrist and allowed him to pull his hand slowly away. As fingers and palms brushed, they both chanced a small, apologetic smile. “Sorry,” they said together.

“…burn it? Are you bloody thick as well as stupid?”

“Excuse me?!” Buffy put her hands on her hips and glared.

“If it was as easy as burning it, I think someone would have tried it a bloody long time ago.”

“Giles, tell him.”

“I’m sorry, Buffy. As much as it pains me to admit it, Spike is correct. The books are impervious to fire. In fact, they are pretty much indestructible.”

“Pretty much?” Willow asked.

“It is said that any person who tries to destroy or harm the books will be engulfed by the fires of Hell itself.”

“Ouch,” Buffy said with a wince.

“Indeed,” Giles continued. “There is only one way to destroy the books that we have here and all the others in the world with them.”

Angel nodded as he remembered the legend.

“And that is?” Xander asked.

“Love.”

“Love,” Xander repeated. “As in the art of?”

“No, Xander, as in ‘only a true love of mind, body and soul - a perfect connection - can defeat the evil of the Damned'. The legend says that it would take the ultimate sacrifice in the name of love to stop the books forever.”

Silence reigned as the seriousness of the situation finally hit home. They could not let these books get into the wrong hands.

“I’m afraid that we must translate this legend and do whatever it takes before the spell breaks and our souls are dragged into evil and despair.”

“Right,” Spike said. “Well and truly buggered then, aren’t we?”

“Spike, don’t say that,” Willow pleaded. “We’ll find a way. Love always finds a way,” she added, with a chuckle that died a death before it really started.

“What're we gonna do then, eh? Kiss them? Make sweet love to them? Quote poetry, offer roses and get down on one knee in front of them? How the hell does love destroy a couple of books?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Spike. Maybe you should call Cordelia and you two can kiss in front of them. That’s enough to make anyone combust.”

“Oi! Say what you like about me, but if you slag off my Cordy again, I’ll break both your sodding arms!”

While Spike and Buffy began bickering again, Angel turned to Xander and opened his mouth.

“No,” Xander said, getting in first. “I’m not leaving. I’m not going anywhere without you, not for my safety or for anybody else’s…not that I’m a danger to anyone else…I’m not, right?”

Angel shook his head no. “I just want you to be safe.”

“So make me safe. Just don’t send me away.”

Angel nodded and smiled. “I won’t. Just don’t…”

“Touch them. Yeah, I got it. No touching, no way, nope, not me.” Xander took a deep breath. “You know, I have Giles’ spare keys. We could try out the ‘making love in front of them’ theory later tonight?”

“Bloody bitch!!”

“Blond freak!!”

“Right, that’s it!” Giles bellowed. “Anyone else who feels like an argument, please go somewhere else to do it. I have neither the time nor the patience!”

Silence

“Thank you. Now, unless there are any other suggestions, I propose that we order in pizza and get started on the research.”

“I have some books in my car; they might help.”

“Wonderful. Xander, would you assist Angel in getting them?”

“Sure! I mean, yeah, if I must.”

“Spike, please order the pizza. And Willow, I’d like you to make a start on finding a stronger binding spell. I don’t have much hope that this one will hold for more than a few days. Buffy, a quick patrol, if you wouldn’t mind, and then straight back here to help with the research.”

“But…” Buffy considered arguing, but decided it would be useless. Giles was clearly in one of his moods. She looked longingly at Angel for a moment and then grabbed her weapon and started towards the door. “Okay, a-vamp huntin’ I must go. See you later and save me some pizza, guys,” she said with a final wave.

The door shut behind her and Xander struggled not to sag with relief.

“That should give you two some breathing room,” Giles whispered to Xander and Angel. “I’d say you have about twenty minutes. You really should have told her at the start, you know.”

Two jaws dropped. “How did you…? Do you…? You know?!” Xander stammered.

“Of course. They don’t call me a Watcher for nothing.”





Part Four



“I still can’t believe he knows,” Xander whispered over the top of his book.

Angel glanced up and then around the room until he spotted Giles leaning against the counter, nose deep in the biggest tome that Angel had ever seen. “I guess he really does watch. Are you sure you didn’t say anything to him? Anything at all?”

“No. Definitely not. I was very careful; very. In fact, careful was my middle name there for a while. The Lavelle? Went straight out the window.”

Yes, it was true. Xander had indeed been very careful. He’d been very careful not to tell Giles that he was boinking Buffy’s ex. And he’d been very careful not to mention that sex with Angel was hot, hot, hotter than Willy’s Flaming Hot ‘Chicken’ Wings. His visits to the city were explained by Spike’s relationship with Cordy plus the fact that Xander and Spike were more or less glued together like a table top to one of its legs. Yep, wherever Spike went, his bestest friend in the whole wide world, Xander, went too. And vice versa, of course.

So how did Giles know? Xander wondered if he was that transparent.

“Okay, patrol done. A total of three vamps done and dusted and not even one nail broken. Now, that’s what I call a successful mission. Is there pizza left?”

Buffy closed the door to the Magic Box behind her and grinned as everybody silently pointed to the remaining pizza on the counter.

“I can’t believe you actually managed to leave her some, pet,” Spike muttered as he took the seat on the other side of Xander.

“That would be the guilt talking, or eating. Or not eating. My appetite is kinda ruined.”

“Never thought I’d see the day.”

Angel frowned and put down his book. “You have nothing to feel guilty for. Neither do I. Well, except for the gruesome deaths of thousands of…”

“…miniature horses,” Buffy finished.

At Angel’s and Xander’s quizzical looks and Spike’s snort of amusement, Buffy swallowed another bite of pizza and shrugged. “What? I was talking to Willow.”

“Yes,” Giles said with a sigh. “And while I’m almost certain that your tale of shrunken animals was a most relevant one, could we all get on?”

“Geeze, Giles. Grumpy much?” Buffy sat down at the table with a bump and automatically reached for the nearest book. “Do we have anything in English? Or preferably American? I don’t know what the hell this is all about.”

Xander smiled and leaned over the table, taking Buffy’s book and swapping it with the one he’d been reading.

“Thanks, Xand.”

“Welcome, Buff. And see, I even got part way though it for you.”

“Oh, I have a head start! You’re the best Slayerette ever,” Buffy teased.

Xander attempted a chuckle, but it sank and died a grisly death at the hands of his guilt.

“What’s up, Xanny?” Buffy asked. “You look…kinda guilty. Are you okay?”

“I’m…”

“Did you spend all your pay check at Sideshow again? Did they get in the Deep Space 5 collector’s plates finally? You bought them all, didn’t you?”

“Every last one,” Xander said, overly loud and over cheery. He didn’t even bother trying to correct her that it was Deep Space *9*. And hey, he *had* actually bought all the Deep Space 9 collector’s plates, so it wasn’t like he was actually lying.

“Bad Xander,” Buffy giggled.

Xander nodded in false cheer and turned back to his newly acquired book. His guilt, palpable as it was, was just going to have to sit on the back burner and grow mould until the world was, once again, safe from the perils of ridiculous books that were old enough to know better. Xander nodded inwardly and felt suddenly better and stronger.

“Yes, “Angel agreed. “Very, *very* bad Xander.”

And he felt unexpectedly firmer too. “Umm…”

“Angel,” Buffy chided. “I’m sure Xander has a little tucked away somewhere.”

“I’m sure he has a lot tucked away somewhere.” The smirk on Angel’s face was classic Spike and Xander was left wondering who had actually learned it from whom.

“I bet he does,” Spike said with a casual look that was not doing that great of a job of hiding his amusement. “So, Xan. Wanna tell us all about what you’ve got stashed away? Angel’s pretty good at all that stuff. You might want to let him take a look at your assets.”

Xander glared.

“What? It was only a suggestion,” Spike said innocently.

“Perhaps a suggestion about our current problem would be more appropriate at this time, Spike, hm?”

“Yeah, alright, Watcher. Spoil a bloke’s fun, why don’t you.”

Xander shifted in his seat and tried to ignore the look Angel was giving him without actually *looking* at him. Okay, so that didn’t actually make in sense, but he couldn’t exactly blame himself for that. Angel’ teasing and his beautiful fingers moving sensuously over ancient pages in a manner that was clearly erotic… Okay, so he probably could have been using those same fingers to fish a gherkin out of a burger and Xander still would have found it entrancing. But anyway, that plus the fact that Spike *knew* that he had an erection that was just begging for Angel to take his wonderful, talented, gherkin retrieving fingers and touch him was starting to fry his brain.

He just hoped to god that there wasn’t a fire. Well, it wouldn’t matter if there was because there was no way on this earth that he was moving from his seat. Nope, he’d just have to burn.

“Willow, have you managed to find anything on a stronger binding spell?”

Willow shook her head without looking up from the page. “But I did find a spell to turn water into wine and fish into fish cakes, although that last one might just be a recipe. It was scribbled in the front of the book.”

Giles closed his eyes and wondered what he’d done to deserve his life. “Oh, dear me. Somebody give me some sort of strength.”

“Strength,” Xander repeated. He put down and book and paused in thought. “Huh.” He went to get up and then realised that his current personal problem was still partly hanging about. He concentrated hard and tried to picture Wesley in a nightgown and swimming cap. That did the trick and Xander was finally able to stand and wander away from the table. To the untrained eye it looked as though he was in a daze. But Spike and Angel knew better.

“Batboy’s onto something,” Spike explained at Buffy’s questioning look.

“Oh. He’s on to something – apparently,” Buffy repeated to a worried looking Giles.

“Xander, do be careful up there. Those books are very dangerous.”

“I know,” a distracted voice drifted down. “Just wanna…” The drifting voice drifted off.

Angel - satisfied that Xander knew what he was doing - turned back to his book. This was useless. He and Giles both knew damn well that they weren’t going to find a thing. They were simply going through the motions for lack of knowing what else to do. Information on The Books of Damnation was scarce at best. Angel only knew of one single text that maybe held more information than ‘love will find a way’. But finding it? That was another thing entirely.

Angel snapped his book shut and abruptly stood up from the table. “I have to call Wesley,” he announced, as he marched behind the counter and reached for the phone.

“Thought he was sick,” Spike said, without looking up.

“He is.”

“So, you’re going to drag the poor fellow out of bed, eh? That’s the plan?”

“Yes. I need a specific text. I’m hoping he can help me track it down.”

“Poor bloke.”

“It can’t be helped, Spike. I may even need him to come down here. Of course, Cordelia will have to drive.”

Spike brightened. “Oh, well, in the name of a crisis, eh? All gotta chip in, sick or not.”

Angel smiled faintly as he reached for the phone. Yeah, he understood. He was totally willing to admit that he’d change his tune, if it meant seeing Xander. Not that excuses or a crises would be needed to bring them together soon. Once Xander had worked his notice, he’d be leaving Sunnydale for good. And that meant everybody finding out and no more secrets. There was good and bad in that.

“Cordelia, I need to speak with Wesley.”

Xander jumped down from the attic space and headed towards Giles with his nose stuck firmly in a book. “Would this work?” he asked, turning the book around for Giles to see.

“Hm, a strengthening spell.”

“Yeah. I figured, why waste time looking for a different binding spell when we can just strengthen the one we have? What do you think? Would it work?”

Giles scratched his head and squinted at the text. When he looked back up it was with an expression of surprise and pride. “Yes, Xander. I do believe it would. Well done. It hadn’t even crossed my mind to try something like this.”

“Spike! Get off! No, Cordelia, you cannot speak to him. Just put Wesley on the damn phone!”

Xander tired to ignore the kerfuffle in the corner and concentrated on Giles instead. “It just made sense. Um, you have most of the ingredients here, but I’ll need to go out of town to get the…”

“Hog’s buttock. Yes. Send Spike.”

“Oi!”

“It wouldn’t kill you to help out, Spike.”

“I do bloody help out!”

“He does help out, Giles. Give him some credit.”

Giles relented. “I apologise; that was very rude of me. Would you please fetch me a Hog’s buttock?”

Spike nodded and sniggered. Buttock was a very funny word. “Alright.”

“And take the book and Willow with you. It must be a very specific hog’s buttock. The weight, size, texture – it’s very important indeed.”

Willow approached and took the book from Giles. Truth be told, she was a little upset at herself for not thinking of strengthening the current binding spell. Oh well, perhaps buttock hunting would take her mind off it.

“Where are they going?” Buffy asked as Willow and Spike left the shop.

“Shhh, they’re hunting buttocks, ahahahah,” Xander said in his best Elmer Fudd voice.

Buffy grinned and nudged Xander in the ribs. “Bummer.”

“Let’s hope they don’t get shit faced on the way.”

“Well, Spike is a bit of an ass-wipe.”

“Hey, less of the Spike-bashing. He’s a good guy.”

Buffy shook her head and hugged her friend. “Yeah, maybe. But he’s not as good as you, Xand.”

Xander looked helplessly at Angel, willing him to turn around and offer comfort with just a glance. Why did Buffy have to choose this day to be all huggy and best-friendy? It was more than a guilty, evil, boyfriend-stealing Xander could take.

Angel put down the phone and stepped around the counter. “I have to go back to LA.”

Definitely more than he could take.





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