Chapter Eight--A Conversation in a Graveyard


Sunnydale Cemetary, 11:17 p.m.

Buffy and Xander were quiet as they entered the empty cemetary -- as quiet as they had been all the way from the library. Buffy hopped up on top of a gravestone and inclined her head slightly. "Hey?" she called softly.

Xander met her gaze and smiled fleetingly.

"You want to talk?" She reached out and brushed a hand against his arm. He shook his head, "not really."

"You sure?" she asked gently. You were really having a tough time in there with Cordelia, weren't you?" He was silent still. "Xander, it might help to talk about it."

He turned to her and offered a joyless smile and nodded solemnly. Digging his hands in his pocket, he met her gaze, "Buffy, I guess I always assumed my dislike of Angel revolved around the fact that he was with you . . . but now, I wonder. I was so disgusted with her. I saw her and she looked like Cordy, but I knew that she was a vampire and I wanted her dead."

He breathed a sigh and then ran a hand over his face. "I know that sounds terrible and I feel awful saying it, but that was not Cordelia, that was -- Buffy, she was dead. She said it herself." He turned to her and suddenly cried out, "and I don't understand how you could have been with Angel. How could you have kissed him? Touched him? Buffy, you got pelvic with him. You did the pelvic tango with a dead man!"

"Xander!" She jumped off of the gravestone and stood before him. "That's harsh."

"No, Buffy," he shot back, "it's the truth. Angel is dead. It's as simple as that. He may walk. He may talk. But he has no breath and he has no heartbeat. He is dead. He's been dead for two hundred years. I looked at Cordelia and I didn't see the beautiful girl I made out in the broom closet with -- I saw a dead girl, a walking corpse. And soul or not, she's a vampire."

Buffy opened her mouth to protest, but found herself unable to voice the words. Finally, she just nodded, "yeah, I know. I just -- Xander, when I first met Angel, I didn't know he was a vampire, and by the time I found out, I'd --"

"-- already fallen for him," he cut in. All she did was nod again and then shoving her hands in her pockets, she walked away, brushing her hands along the tops of the gravestones. Xander looked after her, his gaze a mixture of confusion and love.

"Buffy . . ." he trailed off, not knowing what to say.

"You're right. I mean, I was falling for him. I did. And now when I look at him, I can't help but feel that I never knew him. And Giles was right, a part of me hates him -- is disgusted by him."

"Because he killed a Slayer," Xander added.

"And you don't understand that?" she questioned and stopped before a gravestone, leaning forlornly against it.

"Of course, I get it. Buffy, I --" He began moving in her direction even as she cut him off with her words, "-- no, you don't get how I couldn't have been disgusted before. I mean, once I found out that he was a vampire, right?"

Xander halted and ran a hand over his face, "Buffy, look, I don't know what to say. I liked Angel, I did. I thought he was okay for a dead guy and for the dead guy who had my dream girl's heart," he smiled wistfully. "I can't judge for you. I can't talk for you. I just know that when it comes to Cordelia, I can't deal."

She was quiet for a few moments, seeing the despair cloud his eyes and his smile begin to fade. "So," she began, trying to lighten the mood with a little bit of honesty, "it's safe to say I have no need to be jealousy-girl when it comes to Cordelia then?"

Her attempt worked as his wistful smile widened, "you'd be jealous?"

"I --," she began and then looked away, a grin appearing on her flushed face. She had opened herself up to this line of questioning. "Yeah, I would. I was."

"What do you mean, 'you was?'" He asked.

"You was? Has all of your time with Giles done nothing for your English-speaking?" She laughed. He moved close to her and leaned against the gravestone she was standing beside.

"You're avoiding the question." She looked away and then back, her eyes shining.

"I guess when I was no longer the belle of your ball, it was a bit of a let-down. I mean, you can speak from experience. When Willow turned her admiration from you to anyone else, even Oz, you had a bit of a miff about that."

"Buffy," he took a step closer, leaning slightly, his dark head bending over her, "you're still the belle of my ball. You've always been -- from the moment I first saw you and it's never changed." He paused and met her eyes, his voice dropping to a near-whisper, "Buffy, I love you."

Her eyes widened, "Xander . . ." she trailed off as he began speaking quickly, his voice rising slightly.

"I do. I know we can lay it down to this whole Erosean thing, but I'd be lying if I said I haven't felt this way for a long time. And I swear even if I wasn't your Erosean, I'd still love you."

"What about Cordelia?" she asked suddenly.

"She's dead," he answered simply.

"No, I mean, you dated her. You were with her for over a year --"

"-- was I supposed to sit around, moping for you forever. You had the jones for a vampire. And I didn't want to believe that I'd met the one when I was only sixteen and that I didn't have a chance. So, I dated Cordelia. I'm a normal teen-ager and I wanted to not love you. I wanted so not to care."

"Did I really hurt you?" she asked softly, laying a hand on his arm. He shook his head and smiled, but his words denied the action, "actually, yeah, but you're just a normal teen-ager, too. It's okay," he grinned and then reached out and grabbed both of her hands. She froze, but he didn't release his grip, merely loosened his hold.

"Buffy?" he whispered softly.

"I'm sorry. Xander, this is easier for you. I mean, you've liked me for a long time, but this -- this for me, is still too strange and unreal . . ." she trailed off.

"You don't feel anything for me other than friendship?"

"No. I -- I don't know what I feel. I'm confused." She held his gaze for a moment and then looked away. Letting go of one of her hands, he reached out, cupping her face. She turned back to look at him and although her eyes were soft, they were also full of questions and doubt. Still she took a step closer and didn't look away. He smiled sweetly, "it's okay." She shook her head slightly.

"No, Buffy, it's okay," he repeated as he took her in his arms, enfolding her in his embrace.

~~~

In the corner of a shadow beneath a tree, Angel stood silently watching them. His fists were clenched and it took every ounce of strength and control he had to keep from attacking Xander and killing him.

He closed his eyes and lowered his head, a low growl emerging from his throat. He looked back up at them and his face bore the ridges and contours of his vampire-self. He took a step out of the shadow as they pulled apart and then found himself frozen by an unfamiliar sound.

Laughter. Joyous laughter. And it belonged to Buffy. And he had never heard it before. Then another sound entered the night -- a deeper laughter of baritone. Once again, Angel's eyes shut as their laughter melded and blended, a perfect combination of youthful joy -- the high lilt of a female fused with the low rumble of the male. A sound he and Buffy had never made.

He stepped back into the shadow and turned away.

~~~

"What's so funny?" Xander asked as their laughter faded. "Why are we laughing?"

"I was just thinking," she replied vaguely.

"About?" he pushed.

She pulled away and shook her head, "nevermind, I doubt you'd think it was funny."

"Try me."

"I was thinking of when you did that love spell on Cordy, but it backfired. I was just trying to imagine what it must have been like when my mom came onto you."

"Not to mention Druscilla," he added dryly. "I had to tell you the whole story, didn't I?" he asked rhetorically.

Buffy looked away and repressed another giggle. "I'm sorry. I know that was . . ." she paused, searching for a suitable adjective, "beyond freaky -- but if it had happened to someone else, it would have been hilarious."

"Haha," he offered without mirth. "See, I'm laughing. Funny. Next subject."

She smiled up at him, "sorry."

He waved it off, "it's okay," he smiled and then suddenly clapped his hands together. "Hey, I've been meaning to ask you something."

"What?" she asked as she hopped up onto a gravestone.

He rubbed his hands together and once again leaned against the grave stone, "is your dream really totally like mine?"

She nodded and then spoke. "Well, yeah, it's the same, but it's from my point of a view. It started with an empty room and then grew to have lights and music and people dancing and a guy in a tuxedo who I couldn't see and I was wearing long, white gloves. The last time I had the dream, I saw black hair on my mystery man and I knew it was you."

"Yeah," Xander jumped in enthusiastically, "she has white gloves and I'm wearing a tux. I haven't seen anything but her arms though," he paused, "it's weird. I wonder if this means we'll have this like psychic link now."

She turned to him suddenly, "I knew you were at Spike and Druscilla's!"

"Hmm?"

"When you and," she bit her lip and continued, her voice lower, "Cordelia were missing, I just knew to check Spike and Dru's. I had a feeling, like I knew you would be there."

"Wow," he commented softly. "Do you feel stronger? As a Slayer, I mean?"

"Yeah, yeah. I feel stronger all around and," she paused, considering, "I feel more at peace then I can ever remember feeling before." She smiled sweetly up at him, "I guess I can thank you for that, too."

He offered a little salute, "you're welcome."

She grinned and then sent a sideways glance his way, "I'm glad you're here," she paused and said consideringly, "Alexander."

"Alexander?" he repeated, a befuddled expression lighting upon his face.

She frowned slightly, "no one ever calls you Alexander and it's a nice name . . . a strong name . . .," her voice dropped a notch, "a sexy name."

"Sexy?" he again repeated.

"What? Is there an echo?" she asked of the graveyard in general, smiling widely. Xander chose not to answer that question, but did offer about the state of his name, "Buffy, you can call me Alexander if it makes you happy -- but only in private," he added quickly.

Her smile faded slightly, "private, yeah," she paused and released a shaky breath. "Xander? What happens if we don't show up to the right place? What if we don't make this Erosean connection thing?" "

"Don't know," he replied simply.

"Are you worried?" she continued.

"A little, but I don't know. I mean, nothing could happen," he paused and breathed out a puff of air, before turning to her. "Buffy, but that's not what you're really worried about, is it?"

She opened her mouth to speak, but then decided against it. He continued when she remained silent. "You'd think right now we'd be wondering about the same stuff, but you're worried about what happened with Angel. And I'm worried about what happened to Cordy. And as for this whole Erosean thing -- I"m still kinda confused about the whole thing and you're bummed because you can't imagine me as your soulmate and no matter how I try to deny it, it hurts."

"Xander . . ."

"Buffy, I don't expect you to apologize or explain away feelings you don't have. I'm just confused -- if this thing is real, then why aren't you jonesing over me? It's just -- I don't know."

"I know," she offered. "We just got to muddle through this crazy thing we call life. And besides, we should know soon enough. Giles said that the signs indicate it's drawing nearer. So if it happens, it's gonna be soon --"

"-- and until then we just wait and play 'The Crying Game.'" He gave himself a quick shake, "man that movie gave me the wiggins. I mean, I thought that chick was a babe and it was a guy!"

"What are you talking about, Alexander?" and she felt a small thrill when she said his full name.

"You know, 'The Crying Game.'" He began to sing tunelessly --

"I know all there is to know about the Crying Game.
I've had my share of the Crying Game.

This is not ringing any bells?" he asked.

She shook her head slowly. "You know, the girl was a guy," he explained, "the Irish terroist got the hots for her -- him, whatever."

"Oh, oh, yeah," she replied, remembering the film. "I remember. Wasn't that a big secret?" She questioned.

"Yeah," he paused and leered, "we like secrets." Grinning, he waggled his eyebrows suggestively. She reached out and lightly smacked him on the arm. "Xander?! How could you not know that that was a guy? Didn't you look at his hands?" She hopped up off the gravestone and gave him an exasperated look over her shoulder. "Men, they never notice the details."

"Hey, she was a babe! I was content with her babe-factor," he called out, walking after her. "Hey, Buff?"

She turned around to face him, "yes?"

"We blowin' this joint?"

She nodded, "yes, I want to check --" she broke off, hearing a rustling in the bushes.

"What?" Xander asked, looking around, trying to identify where the sound had come from.

"Ssh," she whispered softly and stealthily walked to the quivering shrubs. In a lightning quick move, she reached in and grabbed the noise-maker. Upon seeing her captive, Xander muffled a snigger or two, "ooh, Buffy, be careful, that wild and dangerous kitten might hurt you."

She threw another exasperated look his way and then concentrated on the tiny black trembling ball of fur she held. Pulling the kitten close to her, she cradled it in her arms and then turned to Xander, "I think I"ll name him Alexander."

He staggered back a few steps and slapped his hand against his chest, "I'm wounded. You're naming that scrawny thing after a hunk of burning love like me. Truly, Buffy, how can I ever look at you the same?" he asked even as he walked near and held out a gentle finger to the kitten's fur. She smiled up at him, and repeated firmly, "Alexander."

~~~

In the distance, Angel and Cordelia watched quietly and tears ran down the freshly-made vampire's face. She turned to Angel.

"Why are you doing this to me?" she asked softly, heartbreak in her voice. He shook his head and a hundred years of guilt and pain were in his eyes, "you had to see it for yourself. I could explain about their connection until Christ is reborn and you wouldn't believe until you saw yourself," he paused and then said softly, urgently, "Cordelia, there is nothing here for us now."

She looked away.

"Cordelia, if we stay, we will only cause both Buffy and," he paused and a note of rage throbbed in his voice, "Xander," again he paused as he sought to bring his temper under control. "Buffy and Xander," he repeated, "pain. Plus, Spike and Druscilla will add you to their list of targets. You don't have to make the decision now, but I think you should seriously consider the idea. Besides, you don't want to run into your parents or old friends."

She was still and silent for a long moment, before finally she nodded and sent one more despairing look toward the Slayer and her Erosean. Angel reached out and took her hand, and they left the shadows of the cemetary and headed back to his apartment.