Chapter Twenty-Seven - Believe Me


Xander exhaled as he stared dully around the Bronze from where he sat. Oz's band was playing and Willow was sitting at the table most close to the stage to cheer him on. Cordelia was dancing with *another* guy, the third guy he had seen with her within that hour, to the slow rock song that resonated from the group on stage. Buffy, who he had been avoiding the entire night, as she did the same, sat beside their redheaded best friend looking as bored as he was feeling.

It had been a few weeks since the spell had broke, and less than coincidentally, it was the last time that they had truly met and exchanged words in what could be considered a conversation. Within that time, the less argumentary Slayerettes and even the Watcher made many attempts to unite them, but needless to say, all attempts were futile. They had all just about given up on the silent couple, and try as they might to get back to some degree of Sunnydale normalcy, they couldn't. Meetings often held in the library were awkward and surprisingly empty without a sarcastic Xanderism interjected between acts of seriousness, and the fact that Buffy was considerably being serious scared them all entirely.

Pushing his glass away from him, he grabbed his jacket and headed out the door, narrowly missing running into the stream of teenagers coming in. A blast of less-than-warm air hit his face as he left the Bronze, the music fading with every step of his tread. The near-June nights were surprisingly cold for the usually warm-climate, but the weather was among the few items of the day that didn't bother him. Clutching his jacket tighter, he continued to head towards home, all the while realizing that he was being followed.

@~~`~~~

Buffy glanced at the empty table where Xander had sat a few minutes ago and sighed as she wondered how long this 'give him time' concept was going to last. It had been awhile since she had talked to him, they hadn't even bothered with school hallway 'hi's. When they did meet, it was so awkward that they would just mutter inaudible greetings and walk away, much like they had done when Oz and Willow had trailed her to his table.

Looking around the Bronze with its nominally happy teenagers, she suddenly felt tired of the old scene and stood up, "Will…you mind if I bag?"

The redhead looked at her disappointedly, "Buffy, come on, you've hardly had a free night since…well…just stay and have fun."

"Fun's not exactly optional for me, right now, why does it matter if I go or if I stay?" She answered, "I know you, Oz, and Cordy are trying with the happy and all, and I appreciate the effort, but can we just not right now?"

Willow smiled softly, "If you want to go, Buffy, it's up to you. I wouldn't want you to stay if you're not having fun."

"Thanks," she said as she grabbed her jacket and gave her friend's hand a squeeze, "I'll see you tomorrow?"

"Definitely," Willow said with a nod.

@~~`~~~

A few blocks away from the teen dance club, the footsteps continued behind him and he swore under his breath as he realized that he was lacking in both cross and stake. Glancing around the dark streets of Sunnydale, he prayed to find some weaponry and soon, as he quickened his gait to equal that of the one behind him. Finally, he found a jagged piece of flat wood from a cheap, broken crate on the floor and dived for it. He clutched tightly to the awful-excuse for wooden-vampire weaponry; despite that, he was acquiring many-a splinter from the even sorrier-excuse for wood. Defensively, he turned around, his heart beating a mile-a-minute.

"Hello," said Angelus blinkingly, "Long time no see…White Knight."

"I don't have time for this, okay, Angelus?" Xander said bitterly, "Just tell me what you want and get your sorry-face out of my - "

"Tsk. Tsk," the vampire replied with a chuckle, "You aren't exactly in a position to make demands, Xander. I mean, I'm a solitary kind of fellow…y'know me…old, brooding sack-of-potatoes me, but sometimes it helps to have a little company."

He heard himself intake breath as Angel's counterparts unveiled themselves from the masks of shadows and gulped as he weakly dropped the wood in his hand, knowing, it was all-downhill from here…or not.

@~~`~~~

"You'd think we lived in Antarctica," muttered Buffy as she clutched her jacket tighter. Then, she paused as she looked at the coat that enclosed her and realized that it wasn't hers after all, but the one that Xander gave her on the night they broke up.

Shaking her head to clear her mind of him, she continued her tread down the dark Sunnydale streets and wondered why it was that the prosperous town couldn't hold well with the city street lamps. She was about to continue on her straight path, when she heard a yelp-like noise in one of the alleys of the buildings. Pulling a stake from the coat pocket she carefully walked into the back street and wondering if there was anybody stupid enough to take the Bronze back way home.

@~~`~~~

The salty aftertaste of the first contact of blood lingered on his tongue when the ringed-wearing fist of a vampire gashed his lower lip. His arms flailed uselessly in an attempt to defend himself as the hands and the fists hammered into his face. With every blow, the world seemed to spin uncertainly around him as it grew dimmer and dimmer…

@~~`~~~

"Hey, boys, where's the party?" a voice called out from the distance.

The vampires paused from their attack and looked up at the petite blonde that approached them. They all looked at each other and grinned before a majority walked slowly towards her, the few others resuming their initial attack as commanded.

Her fist connected with the fanged-face of the first vampire, who taken off-guard, allowed the thrust of the stake into his heart to be quick and easy. The others backed away in slight caution as they realized this girl to be the dreaded slayer that caused their leaders constant bickering. Then as they glanced back at their adamant leader, they continued towards her.

One-by-one, they began to fall, as the ashes flew in the cold night wind when each demonic-possessed heart was pierced with the sharp apex of Buffy's stake.

@~~`~~~

The hitting stopped and the pain numbed by their hits, now, resonated everywhere. The world continued its whirlwind - spinning, spinning, spinning - as the darkness loomed near.

@~~`~~~

"Angel," she said softly when those that remained ran to save their immortality.

His head lifted from the body that remained on the floor with his trademarked wicked grin, "Hello, lover, I hear you're up to your old tricks again."

In her distance, she gasped at the unmoving body on the floor, and she breathed heavily as she looked at him with newfound anger, "I could say the same for you."

"You could," he said nodding as he stood up and walked towards her, "I see that lost time hasn't changed the usual results."

"Well, it pays to be consistent," she replied and she took a deep breath and continued, "What's with the games? Can't we just cut to the chase? It's just you and me…your ignorant lackeys have scurried off to coward-land or are a little bit ashy, there's no one else. Everything's strictly neutral."

"Oh, I don't know, slayer, seems that your…um…" he glanced at the figure on the ground, "White Knight's still around…or near being around, anyway."

Instinctively, she ran towards the body, pushed the grinning vampire aside, and kneeled down beside the motionless form, "Oh my God, Xander." She pressed her fingers against his neck and felt a faint pulse.

"He's alive, but…uh…it wasn't exactly how I planned it. He was suppose to be on your doorstep, bruised, battered, and…well…dead, but, um, close enough, don't you think?"

"Damn you," she spat bitterly, "I swear to God, I'm going to kill you…I'm going to see you dead."

"Temper, temper," he said with a laugh, "Maybe you will…maybe you won't, we'll just see about that."

"I will, believe me," she replied.

"Oh, I believe you, slayer…I believe you're going to try your *darn* hardest," he mocked and then his face grew serious, "The battle will come in time, and when it's time, you'll know. Believe *me*," and with that, he sprinted away, his dark coat trailing like a cape behind him.

"Soon, Angel…very soon," Buffy said as he disappeared into the night and she turned to Xander who was slowly coming out of his unconscious state.

"Xander…Xander…" she whispered as she looked at his blood-streaked and bruised face with eyes of concern.

He opened his lesser swollen eye and felt her hand clasp his and with a very weak squeeze, he said in a shallow breath, "I love you," and then her face faded as the world succumbed to the black.