Chapter Fifteen

 

The rich melody like the sounds of a spring evening. He was reminded of rain on the rooftops of the cabins at camp. Xander’s eyes flew open at the sound of her voice, for he knew it so well. The nanosecond he’d opened his eyes, Xander knew his ears had not deceived him, as he feared. There she was, standing like the goddess of light and beauty before him, wet locks of blonde hair in total disarray but only making her more appealing. An aura of lightness surrounded her still dim figure in the inadequate lighting; nonetheless, Xander saw her clearly, perhaps because wanted to so desperately. Another stalwartly figure stood beside Buffy, a figure he recognized almost as quickly as he had Buffy. Faith. She stood gallantly alongside her fellow slayer, crossbow forming a strange growth as it protruded from her chest, a fierce-looking metal arrowhead glinting in the dingy light. All remaining thoughts of suicide dwindled away when Xander discovered the fact that Buffy had come for him; she did care.

Out of the corner of his eye, Xander watched as Angelus whirled around, completely startled to see the slayer had already arrived and, at the same time, filled with such rancor toward her that Xander thought the demon thing inside his eyes was going to burst forth from them, it felt so many waves of hatred pulsing through it. "So, you found me. I’m quite impressed. For such a seemingly naïve little girl, you sure are fast." He paused to listen for a response. He got none; therefore, he continued. "I must admit to you, I hadn’t expected you until another day or so had passed. I didn’t even get a tolerable amount of time to work over our good friend Xander. Now is that really fair?" Angelus sighed wistfully. "But I guess some things just aren’t meant to be, are they, lover?" His ferocious eyes motioned betwixt him and her, sending silently messages through the air. He was trying to manipulate her with her emotions, but, to Xander, it didn’t seem to be working very well.

While Buffy examined the vampire’s every move with her grandiose eyes, Xander followed her with his. She slid nimbly around the room like a cheetah on the prowl, attempting to analyze her prey’s next move by judging carefully the moves he was making then. When he did nothing but taunt her further with his eyes, Buffy took a step forward.

"Ah, ah, ah," Angelus scolded, waving a hooked finger at her. "If I were you, I wouldn’t get any closer. It would make the demon very irate, and that would be the last thing most people would want."

"I’m not most people," Buffy commented truthfully, and Xander sighed at that fact; she wasn’t, she was better than they were.

"Still…" He placed a menacing hand on Xander’s black-and-blue variegated throat, squeezing until it seemed he was a beached fish gasping for air. Angelus’ fingers were crimson because of the blood oozing from the puncture wounds hastily inflicted in his neck. The slayerette pressed his eyelids shut, tighter still, until a palette of colored dots danced wickedly behind them.

"Xander…" she breathed, stretching a ghostly arm out to him in vain, striving to reach him, but getting nowhere near, of course. Finally, Buffy took a single step back, and, satisfied, Angelus released his iron-tight grip, leaving the boy squirming hopelessly on the floor.

"B…Buffy. D…don’t worry about me, I’m o…okay. Just wh…watch your back. He’s the D…Devil."

Angelus cackled crudely. "And that I am. Thank you, Mr. Harris, for establishing the obvious. Now let’s give our brave companion a hand." There was a brief flash of silence for a quick, mocking golf clap. "Even in the face a raw fear, in the face of adversity he manages to rustle up the courage to exhort you to be careful and to tell you he’s okay, which he most certainly is not. For Godsakes, look at his tormented body, a mere wraith in a pair of Levi’s jeans and a T-shirt. Just imagine what his soul looks like now, hah!" He gurgled, "What a mess. And all thanks to you, his slayer, his eternal beloved, his Buffy."

Xander’s breath caught in what was left of his throat; he couldn’t even manage a word. Had those dreaded words just come from Angelus’ fang-lined mouth? Oh God, he hoped not. The room was deathly silent as the fan whirred ceaselessly onward into oblivion. Faith and Angelus were lost in a fog that now surrounded Buffy and Xander like an opaque wall. She stared at him, mystified even more so as time wore endlessly on. The gathering mists that encompassed the pair clouded her normally clear eyes. Xander noticed that the slayer’s mouth was turned slightly downward at one end, a look of bewilderment showing vaguely on her face. Oh, what Xander wouldn’t have given at that moment to know exactly what Buffy was thinking.

@~~`~~~

His slayer? His eternal beloved? His Buffy? Were those Xander’s words or Angelus’? Granted, they had come out of the latter’s mouth, but did Xander ever admit those things to him? If he had, Buffy couldn’t honestly say she was surprised. Well, now that wasn’t entirely true. Before she’d left Sunnydale behind, Buffy had known for a fact that Xander had had a crush on her; he’d made it quite apparent just how deeply he enjoyed her company at so many points in their strained relationship. However, when she’d returned, Xander hadn’t seemed to notice her half as much as he’d used to, nor did he run to greet her the moment he saw her hair glinting under the warm California sun, and she could feel him slipping away. So, after all, this was a surprise… if they actually were his words.

But then again, what if Angel had been making all of it up just to throw her off-guard. Had that been his intention, then surely it had worked its magic. At least in the event of a surprise attack, she had Faith to back her up; that was a comforting thought, for Faith was a damn good slayer. However, she sometimes lacked what other called "people skills"—this trait was foreign to many slayers, though.

Back to what Angelus had said. How had he known what she wanted to hear? Assuming, in the first place, that that was what she wanted to hear. It was, wasn’t it? Oh God, so confused and no time to sort things out. Dammit all to Hell! What did she want to hear? What were her true feelings for Xander? Why couldn’t she just make up her damn mind! Too many questions, all without answers. Buffy, you’re doing too much thinking and not enough acting! she scolded herself. "Let him go, Angelus!" she commanded. "He’s done nothing to you."

An evil chuckle was issued from his blood-rimmed mouth. "The hell he hasn’t. Seems to me he’s the one who interfered more than anyone else, especially in that despicable Buffy and Angel relationship thing, not that I mind that any. Seems to me Xander’s been, is now, and always will be an integral part of our relationship, even if he dies."

"Well, you know what? I don’t wanna find out."

"I’m kinda curious…" Angelus announced as he touched his powerfully muscled hand to Xander’s neck again, gently squeezing.

Buffy’s eyes widened slightly, but she refused to show her fear. If Angelus sensed any more weakness or fear on her part, he’d be on her like a lion on a zebra. Instinctively, she knew what to do: change the subject. "I can’t believe I bought that crap about you being my Angel. I should’ve killed you when I first knew you were back."

"Yes, I was pretty convincing, wasn’t I?" he bragged, tugging proudly on his shirt. Suddenly, the vampire’s face twisted grotesquely, and he changed into the incredibly familiar appearance of Buffy’s sacred Angel, saying in his most timorous voice, "B…Buffy? Is that you? Help me…ah hah hah hah!" Their former ally shifted back into Angelus, who stood laughing hysterically all the while.

"Drop the whole Angel façade; you can’t fool me anymore."

Angelus smiled evilly, his lips curling wickedly at the ends. "Sure I can. I’ve done it for the past coupla weeks, I can do it again."

It was at that point that Xander realized that Buffy had known about Angel being back from Hell for awhile now—she’d even seen him, conversed with him, possibly even more than that, too—yet she never once bothered to bring up the subject of the vampire. Why didn’t she inform them of this crucial fact? Why had Buffy insisted on deceiving her own friends? Couldn’t she see that disaster was on the horizon; was she that blinded by love for this nocturnal being that she failed to realize that only trouble would ensue? It was quite evident that wherever Angel was, Trouble wasn’t far behind.

However, Buffy wasn’t finished with what she had to say. Disregarding Angelus’ warnings, Buffy took a step closer. "But now I know, and, therefore, you’ve got no hold on me anymore. You may as well give it up, Angel. You can’t win; all you can do is hope to die quickly—pray that my stake hits your heart and not something else."

"We have yet to see that, now don’t we, Buffy?"

"Don’t you know the good guys always win?" Faith chimed in.

"Don’t you know that’s only in the movies?" he mocked viciously.

Then Buffy interrupted anxiously, "Are we just gonna talk, or are we actually gonna fight?"

"Itchin’ for a fight, eh? I’ll give you your last request. Let’s go," he ordered. But before he got up, Angelus kicked Xander so hard it made the poor whipped boy’s heart skip a beat.

"K…kill him, Ba…Buffy," Xander wheezed.

She nodded and closed in on her prey.