Chapter Ten

Xander walked down the stairs quietly. Last night had been one of the few nights he had gotten a decent night's sleep. Finding Willow and Angel brought back a lot of memories. Some good. Some bad. Memories nonetheless.

Xander walked into the garden. Because of the castle, a huge shadow covered the whole area. It gave it a sense of coolness and calm. The floral scent that came from the garden overwhelmed his senses. He deeply inhaled the aroma. He could distinctly recognize the aroma of his favorite flower, violets. As he walked down the path, he saw another figure ahead, standing by a small pond. It was Angel.

Angel. There was so much he had to tell him. So much he had to say.

"Angel?" he asked quietly.

The vampire turned to him, his face hidden by the shadows.

"Hello, Xander," Angel replied.

"Um, we have to talk," Xander said.

"I figure we do. You first," Angel responded.

Xander's brow furrowed. Angel sounded depressed. Disturbed.

Xander ran his hand through his hair and said, "I've been wanting to talk with you for a long time."

"Is that so?" Angel replied coolly.

"Uh, yeah," Xander said. "I wanted to thank you for what you did."

"Thank me?" Angel echoed, with a touch of amusement in his voice.

"Yeah," Xander answered. "For saving Willow. You were there when Buffy and I weren't. I know I treated you badly. I was a stupid kid who had a crush on my best friend. That doesn't excuse it, but I just feel that I shouldn't have gotten jealous. She's in love with you, not me. I learned to accept that. I moved on."

Angel started laughing. Xander stared in amusement as Angel turned. Angel walked towards him and grinned. Suddenly his face transformed into his demonic, darker half.

"You son of a bitch," Angel growled.

Xander's own amusement quickly faded. <I really didn't like the way this was going.>

"You can just stand there and lie to me. Bastard. You think I wouldn't notice?" Angel asked as he stalked closer.

Xander backed away and shifted into the defensive. Something he learned to do quickly in the past three years.

"You are thanking me? You're grateful? I save your friend. My friend. And this is how you thank me?!" Angel screamed in rage.

The 243 year old vampire lunged at him. Xander shot his foot up and connected with Angel's jaw. Angel fell back, but quickly recovered. He jumped towards him again. Xander grabbed Angel's arm and flipped him. Xander moved back quickly.

"Angel, what's with you?" Xander asked.

The vampire didn't reply as he lunged again. His fist connected with Xander's jaw, sending him reeling back through a bush. Xander landed painfully onto the ground. He quickly jumped back to his feet and was knocked down again as Angel punched him again. Xander landed on the ground with a groan.

Angel kneeled down next to him and growled, "I'm going to rip out your throat."

Angel brought his clawed hand down towards Xander's throat and grinned. Xander dug his free hand into his pocket and pulled out an object. He brought his hand up, connecting the object in it with Angel's face.

"AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!" Angel screamed.

Xander pulled the small metal cross back from Angel's face. He dropped it onto the ground and rolled away. He silently thanked himself for putting it in his pocket this morning. He pulled himself up and realized his mouth was bleeding.

He turned around, but was slammed into by Angel. The vampire slammed him against the wall of the castle.

"Give it up, boy," Angel growled.

Xander felt the rage build up in him. He was tired of this. <Screw this shit.>

"If you haven't noticed... I'm... not a boy!!" Xander yelled as he slammed his fist into Angel's jaw.

Xander followed up with a left to his gut. He swung his foot up and connected with the vampire's face. He bent his knees and jumped up, flipping behind Angel. He swung his foot back and kicked Angel's back, causing him to rush towards the wall.

Angel swung around and rushed him. Xander grabbed the vampire's hand and threw him with all his strength. Out of the shadows and into the sunlight. It took Xander a moment to realize what he had done, but he was too late.

Angel started to scream in agony. The sun was causing his skin to blister and boil. Xander rushed forward and shielded Angel's body with his own. He grabbed the vampire and dragged him into the shadow of the castle. He collapsed in exhaustion next to Angel's battered body.

"I'm sorry," Xander panted.

"For what?" Angel asked as his face morphed back to his human half.

"For everything. I don't know what I said that hurt you. But I'm sorry," Xander replied.

Angel looked up at him and said, "It's my fault. I... I just couldn't control myself. I love her so much."

"What?" Xander asked, perplexed.

"Do you know... Do you know what it's like to love someone so much, and have her in love with someone else?" Angel asked.

"I don't see where you're going with this. I mean Buffy loves you. Who else would she..." Xander trailed off.

Angel nodded and responded, "It's you. I saw it last night. The moment you collapsed, she was by your side. I was in pain from my wounds, but the love in her eyes for you, it was worse than any damage Falen could do."

Xander shook his head. He had felt something for Buffy once, but after her rejection, after Willow's disappearance, he had forgotten all of that. Now Angel was telling him that she was in love with him.

"No," Xander said.

Angel turned his healing face to Xander who was shaking his head.

"Buffy is in love with you. Has been, always shall be," Xander continued.

"But..." Angel began, but stopped when Xander flashed him with a look that obviously told him that the conversation was over.

Xander got up and bent down. He grabbed Angel's hand and helped him up. Together, they headed towards the castle. Xander and Angel shuffled into the dining room and were greeted by Buffy. Xander noticed Angel freeze. Buffy noticed it too, then noticed the condition they were in.

"What the hell happened to you guys?" She asked as she rose from her seat. "Was it vampires?"

Xander looked at Angel, who averted his gaze from Buffy and Xander.

"You could say that," Angel replied. "Um, Buffy. We need to talk."

Buffy nodded and replied, "Yeah. We do. Xander, would you excuse us?"
"Yeah, sure. Would any of you know where Willow is?" he inquired.

At the mention of Willow's name, Xander noticed Buffy tense up.

Angel responded, "I think she is in the woods. Since daylight doesn't bother her, she likes to take walks in the woods. Sometimes I would go with her. It's fairly shaded in there."

Xander nodded and left the two alone to catch up. He walked outside and felt the warm sun shine on his face. He headed down the path towards the woods. As he walked under the towering trees, Xander noticed that the bleeding from his mouth had already stopped, and he was in good condition. All he had to worry about were some nasty bruises. As he headed down the path, he noticed a figure walking into the darker parts of the woods. It was Willow.

"Will, wait up!" He yelled.

The girl stopped and he caught up with her.

"We have some catching up to do." He continued.

"We sure do."

Xander then noticed that Willow's voice was different. The figure turned around abruptly. It was a girl with red hair like Willow's, and she was amazingly beautiful.

"Who are you?" Xander asked cautiously as he backed away.

The girl moved closer to Xander, till he was against a tree.

"I......" She started as she ran her finger down his chest. "I am your worst nightmare."

The girl's face suddenly warped into the trademark demonic visage of a vampire. The girl grabbed his neck faster then he had ever seen anyone move. His vision started to blur badly as the female vampire pinned him against a tree.

"You're pretty careless for a guy I met just last night," the vampire said.

Xander then recognized the voice... Falen.

"This isn't possible... Falen is a guy," Xander choked out.

"Mortal minds are sooooooo fragile. Unable to figure out the most simple things. Well don't expect me to do that." The female Falen said as he pulled back his fist. "I'm not your token bad guy, gal, whatever. No spilling the beans for the plan from me."

And with that Falen released a wicked punch that blacked everything out in Xander Harris' life.