Chapter Four--The Erosean
Sunnydale Hospital, 4:53 a.m.
Willow peeked into the hospital room, her red hair falling over her face and hiding the worried frown there.
"Will, come in, " Xander called, sounded very much like himself. She breathed a sigh of relief and bounced in. She pulled a chair up alongside his bed, anxious worry back upon her face. "Are you okay, Xander?"
He smiled and leaned heavily against the pillow. "I've been better, just feeling a little weak and woozy." Willow nodded, "but you're," she paused and then added weakly, "okay okay? I mean, you're not, well, you know, a . . . " she trailed off and Xander shook his head.
"I'm not a vampire. I don't know why I'm not. Spike and Dru certainly tried and they," he glanced away and released a puff of air. He closed his eyes and shook his head again. Finally, he turned back to her, and his smile was weak. "They succeeded with Cordelia."
Willow nodded, "yeah, Buffy told us when she called. So they really . . ., I mean, Cordelia's," her voice rose slightly and she looked behind her to make sure no one was walking by, "a vampire?"
"Wow, I mean not good 'wow,' but 'wow' like a bad 'wow.' Very bad 'wow.' I'm sorry, Xander."
He shook his head, "I just don't believe it. I can't believe it. But I saw her as a vampire and she tried to do it to me. God, Will, she tried to make me her companion. She bit me, she made me suck her blood and she just kept smiling and smiling, the most awful smile I've ever seen. Because it was Cordy, I mean, it *was* Cordy and it was the kind of smile she got when she was being, you know, Cordy and then there was blood dripping from the corner of her mouth and her fangs. God, her fangs. Cordelia has fangs and it was my blood. My God, I can't -- I just --" He broke off and ran a hand over his face, breathing heavily, then he turned to look at her. "You know what I keep thinking?"
Willow shook her head slowly. "No," she said softly.
"I keep thinking," he stopped and gave a short bark of laughter that held no humor, "I keep thinking," he repeated, "that I can't make any Angel-cracks to Buffy anymore because I'm in the same boat. My girlfriend's a vampire. But then she's not like Angel, cuz at least Angel is one of the good guys, sorta, if you forget Miss Calender and all of the other stuff, and I'm rambling. I just, Willow, I just can't believe this."
She nodded, "I know. I can't imagine how upset you must be."
"I don't know if upset is a strong enough word. I don't know what I am. But hey, I've been trying to look on the bright side," he gave another mirthless laugh, "at least I won't be going through the hell that Buffy did. I mean, Cordy and I were just fun, not this great love." He couldn't disguise the bitterness in his eyes.
"Xander," cried Willow, "you don't have to pretend. I know you cared for her, you did date for over a year."
"I'm not pretending. I --, I don't know. I just don't know. The thought that my girlfriend is a vampire keeps running through my head and I swear it's the biggest joke on me." Willow nodded solemnly, "what are you gonna do now?"
Yeah, I guess, I mean, it's over now." She paused and looked down for a minute, "right?" "Yeah," he ran a hand over his face again, breathing heavily. "Yeah, it's okay though. I can deal; I have to. I mean, it's not like we," he paused and looked up, his eyes clouding over, a sheen of moisture evident, "loved each other. We weren't like Buffy and Angel. Geez, me and Cordy weren't even you and Oz. It was just teenage hormones."
"Xander," Willow said softly, "I'm so sorry."
"I hate this town. I hate Sunnydale. My girlfriend is a vampire."
He laughed again and then shut his eyes, "God, I feel like hell."
"You look, well, you look bad."
"But, it's understandable," Willow hastened to reassure him. "I mean, no one would expect you to look good right now. How do you feel, I mean, other than like . . . down there?" He smiled and it was genuine warmth, "not good, but thanks for asking."
"Xander?" she began hesitantly, not able to drop the subject, "you really didn't love Cordelia at all?"
He looked at her, opened his mouth to speak and then merely shook his head.
"Because of Buffy?" she asked quietly and she kept her gaze steadily on him. His eyes widened and he looked away and then questioned brightly, "where *is* the Buffster and your werewolf boyfriend?"
"Xander!" she looked toward the door to make sure no one was standing there. She frowned at him and sighed, "Buffy and Oz went to talk to your mom and Giles is at the library researching. Buffy said she'd be here as soon as possible," she paused and then added in a rush, "you *are* still in love with her, aren't you?"
"Willow," he began and then just shook his head before offering quietly, "It doesn't really matter whether I am or not, does it?"
"Uhm, actually it does."
Willow turned around and Xander glanced up, "Giles!" they spoke in unison. "I'm sorry," he apologized as he stepped near Xander's bed. "I heard the end of your conversation and well, it, uhm, it does matter. Quite a bit, in fact, Xander."
"What matters?" asked Buffy as she and Oz entered the room. Willow and Xander both looked very uncomfortable. Giles, however, felt no compunction in responding promptly and honestly.
"I know this will be somewhat, ah, embarrassing for the two of you, Buffy," he turned to her, "and Xander," once more he met Xander's gaze, "but what matters is whether or not Xander is in love with you."
"Oh," Buffy mumbled quietly and offered an abashed smile, unable to meet Xander's gaze. He was quiet.
"Xander?" Giles asked, not willing to let the young man drop the subject. "This is important. It may very well explain why you, uh, are not, well, you know." All of the teenagers looked at him suddenly, Willow was the first to respond.
"Xander's feelings for Buffy could explain why he's not a vampire?" She asked incredulously, forgetting in her surprise to be cautious.
Giles inclined his head slightly, "well, it's a bit more complicated than that; but it is important. Xander?" he repeated.
He was silent for a bit longer before nodding swiftly. "Yes," he bit out quietly. Giles nodded, "Ah, I see, as I expected." He turned around and walked over to a chair in the corner, sitting down, he adjusted his glasses. "It's quite simple then: Xander is Buffy's Erosean."
"What?" cried Buffy.
"Yes, uh, he is your Erosean," Giles returned promptly.
"Which is?" Oz asked.
"Well, without going into a long explanation," Willow, Xander and Buffy exchanged glances at the improbability of that not happening, "basically, Buffy and Xander, are, ah, well, you could say 'soulmates.'"
"I think you better go with the long explanation, Giles," Buffy said, a slight edge in her voice.
"Oh, well, then right then." He readjusted his glasses and went into lecture mode. "Every Slayer has an Erosean, but only seven Slayers have ever united with their Erosean. You see, it's very rare that a Slayer and their Erosean find each other. It depends on a necessary convergence of cosmic alignment, location and, uh, a specific date and time.
"Now, any Slayer who actually connects with their Erosean are, well, quite simply, the strongest Slayers. The role of the Erosean is to love and support their Slayer, but also reign in and help keep their, ah, normalcy in check. And, uhm, Xander is your Erosean," Giles finished calmly.
"Soulmates?" Buffy and Xander asked in unison.
"Uh, well, that is a simplistic way of putting it. But, uh, yes, soulmates will do." "Wouldn't that imply that *both* parties share the same feelings?" Xander asked, then added bitterly, "the feelings between us are not exactly mutual."
"Oh, well, that's because you met too soon."
"Huh?" Buffy spoke, "can we vague that up a bit more?"
"Well, the two of you met too soon, which is why your feelings aren't mutual yet. but this is changing. In fact, it probably would have happened sooner were it not for your previous relationship with Xander," he paused and then added, "and there is, of course, the Angel situation. That complicates things."
"Changing?" Oz spoke up for the first time.
"What?" Buffy and Willow turned to him.
"Changing. Giles said that your feelings were changing," he turned to Giles, "right?" "Uh, yes. I knew there was something there, a vague recollection was stirred by your actions in my flat."
"What actions?" demanded Buffy, her voice slightly high, confounded by this new information.
"Your tender concern, you wiped the blood off of him, you were taking care of him and it was completely accepted by the both of you as natural. The worry and touch of strong affection in your voice when you spoke to him. Also, the fact that you *knew* Xander was at Spike and Druscilla's."
"Giles, what is the big deal? Anyone of us would have done the same, considering the circumstances."
"There was more to it . . ." he shook his head. "Buffy, just trust me on this. The only record of someone *not* being turned is because that individual was a bound Erosean of a Slayer."
"Explain that one?" Willow asked, somewhat in a daze.
"An Erosean can not be killed or turned as long as his Slayer is alive," he paused, "well, killed by a vampire, that is."
"Giles, you're tripping," Buffy offered her opinion succinctly.
"Yeah, G-man, hey, I'm all for it, but I don't know," Xander added.
Giles sighed in exasperation, deciding to let Xander's unwelcome nickname pass, "well, there is a very simple and expedient way of proving it. Buffy, touch Xander's hand."
Buffy glanced over at Giles and then met Xander's gaze with a hesitant smile, finally she took a deep breath and then lightly reached out and touched the back of Xander's hand. Giles shook his head, "no, not like that." He pressed his hands together as if in prayer, "like this," he demonstrated. Willow sighed and exclaimed, "oh, like Romeo and Juliet." Oz glanced at her and the two shared a smile.
Buffy took another deep breath and then held out her hand, palm outward towards Xander. He did the same. Their hands touched and behind them, Giles began chanting softly, "as one they are one. Together they will be in strength and in love."
As he spoke, lacings of brilliant gold light began winding about their touching hands. With a gasp, both pulled back and Xander began breathing heavily.
"Okay, that was freaky!" Xander cried out.
"Very. Definitely freaky. High on the freak-o-meter," Buffy added, her voice trembling slightly.
"Well, it could be that thing you were chanting, Giles," Willow theorized. "I mean, it could work with Buffy and Oz or me and Xander or, even Xander and Oz."
Stifling words of exasperation, Giles sighed. "Fine, then put your hand against Xander's, Willow."
Willow smiled slightly and reached out, touching Xander's hand as Buffy had. To the side, Buffy watched cautiously. Giles repeated the chant.
"Maybe it has to be Buffy to work," Willow offered. Giles rolled his eyes, "Buffy, touch Oz's hand, then."
Buffy turned to Oz, who smiled calmly as he held out his hand. Xander watched, a possessive concentration on his face. Buffy and Oz held hands and for the third time, Giles spoke the words.
And again, nothing happened.
"Maybe the power's gone," Buffy remarked, turning to Giles.
"For good --," he broke off, "fine, touch Xander again." Buffy complied. Giles, his irritation showing in his voice, repeated the words that proved a Slayer and Erosean true and again, the gold lacings of light wound about their touching hands, binding them together. Buffy and Xander locked gazes and a bit of awe entered into their expressions. At last, they pulled away shakily.
"Buffy, does it hurt?" Willow asked quietly.
"No," her voice was tremulous, "it's like a hot, electric charge running through my body." "Yeah!" Xander burst in, "that's exactly what it feels like. And I feel great!"
Willow looked at him, a slight frown on her face. "Xander," she admonished, "you don't have to act all strong for Buffy's sake. We all understand that you've been through a lot and you're weak."
"No, Willow, I do feel good," he insisted.
"Xander, five minutes ago, you said you were weak and woozy. Those were your words : 'weak and woozy,' you said."
"Yeah," he agreed, "but now, I fell good. I feel great! I feel --"
" -- Buffy!" exclaimed Giles. Xander turned to him, a puzzled look on his face, "I feel Buffy?"
"Yes, yes, you and Buffy, your touch, the connection made you stronger."
"Look, Giles," Buffy interrupted, "I'm not saying this is totally out there -- I mean that *thing* did happen, but Xander and I have touched before without feeling surges of strength. I think you're just jonseing for your theory there."
"No, no, it makes sense," Giles responded, unperturbed with excitement rising in his voice. "Remember, when the Master killed you?"
Buffy raised an eyebrow, "that's not something you just forget," she replied archly.
"Yes, of course, but Buffy, I always thought it a bit, well, uhm, miraculous that with some mouth-to-mouth only, Xander was able to bring you back to life. This explains it."
"It does?" Buffy responded doubtfully.
"Yes, yes, and it also is a very viable explanation as to why you are such a strong Slayer."
"Yes, because you've been in constant contact with your Erosean for the last three years."
"Giles," Willow asked hesitantly, "what about Angel?"
Beside her, Xander mimicked silently, what about Angel? Buffy turned around and frowned at him, she looked back at Giles, "yes, Giles, what about Angel?"
"Well, uh, see, now that is unusual and I don't really know what to say about that. But," his voice brightened, "I have absolutely no doubt that Xander is your Erosean," he stated emphatically.
Buffy nodded and turned back to Xander. Their eyes met and he nodded as well.
"So," Oz said to the room in general, "what happens now?"
All looked at Giles. "Uhm, actually, I don't know exactly. We'll just," he paused and smiled at Buffy, "play it by ear?"
"Yeah, good advice, Giles." Without thinking about it, she slumped down on the bed by Xander, absently reaching out and brushing a lock of hair that had fallen onto his forehead. Xander smiled softly at her, she returned it with one of her own and pulled her hand back, sighing softly.
Willow looked at the two with a dawning realization and then faced Giles, who slowly inclined his head in acknowledgment. "Yes," he said softly and Willow looked away, her gaze returning to Buffy and Xander.