disclaimer--- If you recognize it, it's not mine. It's probably a goood thing too. :)
a/n-- this was completed Feb 2003 for Kylia's Bday. She wanted Angel/Xander--sweet and lighthearted I believe. This is an AU set right after Joyce died in the Buffy timeline but before the major Glory stuff, also after Fred came back but before the Darla/Conner stuff in the Angel timeline. Also, it *looks* like I'm Buffy-bashing, but keep reading, okay? Big cheesy ball of mushy tooth-decay ahead---
The Baron's Roses
"You want me to what?!!?" Xander paced from The Magic Box's sales counter to the Scooby Central research table stopping briefly to eye the blonde slayer standing with her hands on her hips.
"C'mon Xander, its no big deal. I just want you to take these flowers, this box and this note to Angel." Buffy stuck out her lower lip and pouted, she just *knew* Xander would go for it. It had never failed her with any number of the male population she'd used it on in the past.
Xander glanced at the offending objects on the table and grimaced.
"Buff, you have got to be kidding me. Why on earth would I, world-wide Angelus-hater of all time, give him flowers and whatever else you have wrapped up there? Never mind drive all the way to LA to do it?"
Buffy could see that this would take a little more convincing and she was running out of time.
Damn, but she can whine, he thought, worse than Cordelia used to be over a ruined Chanel. I can't believe she conned me into getting out of a perfectly comfortable wallow, in a perfectly comfortable bed, not to mention showering, shaving, and clean clothing for Chaos' sake. Since when am I a follower of Chaos? Beside the point, his mind answered itself, and continued with its rant, and meeting her here, after-hours no less to help her win Angel back. Valentine's Day is tomorrow and her *highness* wants these delivered to him tonight. Then again, maybe a trip to LA would be good for me, but I'm not going to make this easy for her.
"Buffy, tell me again why *you* can't deliver these and why *I* have to be the one to play flower delivery guy?"
"Those are just the *warm-up* Xander, I'm going to follow the presents about half a day later. I figure I'll get there about noon. I'll wake the honey up and I know that by then he'll have had time to buy me something nice in celebration. We'll be happy and you'll have done your good deed for the well being of all Slayerdom. Xander, please?!" Buffy stopped her pacing in front of the table, placed the note and small box into the box of flowers, gently closing the bow-covered lid.
Xander had to admit, it *was* romantic, in a girly-Slayer type way.
"Fine. I'll do it, score one for the happiness of all Slayerdom."
The moment those words left his mouth he heard an unearthly squeal and suddenly had his arms full of blonde slayer.
She kissed his cheek, bruised his ribs, and said, "thank you *so* much Xander, you won't regret it, I promise!"
He rubbed his sides gingerly, speaking quietly, "you're one of my best friends Buff, but I couldn't make it too easy for ya, right? But really, why me?"
Buffy's eyes glistened slightly in the store light.
"Aw, Xander, I just thought you might want something to do, a brief vacation or something," she smiled gently picking up the package before continuing, "but you can't back out of it Mister, you said you would, now scoot! Besides, I already told Cordelia you were on your way!"
Xander groaned, taking the package from the Slayer's hands. At least she hadn't mentioned Anya directly, well, Anyanka, now, er, again. Whatever. All because of one little mistake, well, maybe not that little, but she shouldn't have noticed. I covered perfectly, he thought. Well, ok, not that perfectly, I'm still alone and on my way to Angel's of all places, talk about irony, geesh.
He looked out to the improved version of his Uncle Rory's car. With his new job, he'd been able to fix the car up better than when it had come off the line. He had to admit he was rather proud of it. Working on that car had kept his nerves calm around Anya, primarily because she insisted on shopping if he were going to play in all that black grease. He could find her when he was clean, she'd said. Xander swallowed, Damn, he loved that car.
Xander shook himself out of his thoughts and opened his car door. Sliding the gift over to the passenger seat, he was surprised to see a note, a bag, and a half-thawed bottle of water waiting for him. He watched the slayer lock the shop, wave a small goodbye at him and left for her nightly patrol.
He glanced over at the bag, which turned out to be his duffel bag with possible at least until he looked, overnight gear packed in it. How did she, he started thinking, but cut the thought off, shrugged he shoulders and picked up the note.
Just wanted to say thanks for going with Buffy's plan
instead of making her Cranky Slayer. I know your
holiday isn't going like you planned, but a few days
away from the Hellmouth couldn't hurt, right? I
packed everything I thought you'd need with a few
surprises. Be well and come back soon.
Love-- Scar'et Wich
P.S. If you get into trouble, I'll know and I'll bring me
and my witchy powers to the rescue!
Xander smiled at Willow's references, including the bad grammar. He could remember countless times she'd told him the last sentence as they parted for their homes, and surprisingly enough, she *had* shown up when he needed her almost miraculously. At five years old, they were the unbeatable team. Xander would always protect his best friend, just like the mutant protected his sister. They would fight, but they always had each other.
She always made up the best stories when he'd come over to hide from his family. They were all about the two of them beating the bad guys together. She couldn't say his name properly so he became Q'siber, and he'd had trouble with his l's so she became Scar'et. It was them against the world, and he'd loved her better than his toy car and his stuffed lion, Roar. Hey, she was the one with most of the imagination, right?
He smiled at his thoughts, reached into the bag and his smile became a full out grin. She'd packed a plastic bag filled to the brim with tooth-decaying treasures. Yellow cakes with the ooey gooey filling and the chocolatey cakes with more of that sugary goodness, candy bars, peanut butter cups, and a tiny heart-shaped box of assorted chocolate candies rounded out his junk food stash. He eventually spotted the thermos wedged between his duffel and the backrest. He opened it, smelled the rich Colombian brew with hints of cinnamon and hazelnut, and grinned impossibly wider. Gotta stop off somewhere later and thank Will. She's the best!
Xander kept his mind blessedly blank throughout most of the drive, occasionally dipping into his stash worthy of a dentist's nightmare. Buffy might have talked him into this trip, but Willow made it enjoyable. She had even packed enough junk food for his trip back. It looked like a few days supply of clothing so he'd have to be back in Sunnydale on Saturday if he estimated right, but that was just fine with him, assuming he and the *vampire* didn't kill each other before then. Something bothered him about Buffy's speech though. He couldn't quite place his finger on it, but it was there, whatever 'It' was.
Oh, no! Xander started slowing the car to a crawl with his sudden nightmarish thoughts. Luckily for him, the light ahead had turned yellow, so it wasn't odd for him to slow. He was glad he hadn't inadvertently provoked anyone or caused an accident. Amidst the thoughts swirling in his head rapidly, one managed to flow into words without his knowledge or permission, Buffy told Cordelia I was coming to visit. That thought inexorably flowed into another, what if Buffy's just trying to set me up with her? She wouldn't do that, Xander thought desperately, knowing deep down that the slayer would if she thought it would make him happier, not realizing how it would affect others.
"No." He glared at his brunette secretary. There wasn't anything on this earth she could do that would convince him to help her with her plan.
"Angel, its just a gift, all I want you to do is give it to him for me, and you can do it tonight instead of tomorrow if it'll make you feel more manly, you big baby." Cordelia placed the brightly wrapped, rectangular box back into Angel's lap over his clenched fists. She quickly let go causing Angel to make the decision to drop the box or accept it. Cordelia smiled inwardly at her employer's decision. She breezed past the old check in counter and sent him her million-watt smile. "Thanks, Angel," she paused adding softly, "really," and left into the night.
Xander, suddenly nervous, stopped before the front doors of the Hyperion. The place looked so *big* and well, despite the brief touch of light streaming from the lobby, depressingly devoid of life. He grinned at his own pun, feeling much calmer. He was still punning with the best of them so things couldn't be too bad, right? He looked down at his hands and blanched. Might as well get this over with, he thought, and pushed into the hotel.
Angel was sprawled sideways in an overstuffed chair, one leg carelessly thrown over the arm; his back braced by the opposite chair arm. Xander noticed the vampire's dinner sharing space on the chair's end-table with the lobby's single source of light. Angel exchanged the book he'd been reading with his dinner without glancing towards the nervous young man.
Shit! He knew it was me! How did he know it was me? All I did was walk through the door. I think I suddenly need to pee. Xander shifted from one foot to the other only partially due to nerves, "um, Angel? Bathroom?"
Even without seeing his face, Xander could hear the amusement in Angel's voice.
"Down the hall, to your left."
"Thanks." The young man paused a moment before making his decision. "Um, here." Xander dropped the package next to the occupied chair. He moved as quickly as he could towards his destination, and not so incidentally far away from the seemingly unavoidable train wreck as possible.
What's this? Angel thought as he picked up the package, shaking it slightly and puzzled at the soft shifting sounds. Xander was definitely in a hurry, but he probably just drank too many liquids on the way over. He didn't bring his stuff into the lobby. I'm assuming Cordelia either didn't tell Buffy, or the slayer didn't tell Xander he could stay in a room here.
Angel pondered a moment more at why Xander would be giving him a gift. The last time they'd had contact was during that Chumash incident, and Angel now had to admit his heart had clenched seeing the young man still with Anyanka. Of course at the time, I was still too entangled in the thought of Buffy being my redemption to see what was really happening, not to mention all the entangled feelings brought back after the death of her mother. There's no way it could work, but I still wanted to comfort her any way I could.
Maybe the words Anyanka had thrown at him were true? I don't understand how she could be telling the truth though. Harris hates me.
Angel shook off his brooding thoughts and glanced once more at the box Xander had practically tossed at him. He was a victim of a hit-and-run-gifting? Angel smiled sardonically, that was bizarre even for me, he thought, and lifted the lid.
The scent memory hit him before he could even believe what his eyes were telling him. It had been over a century since he'd enjoyed this particular fragrance. Of course the first time around he had been an unensouled vampire in Bourg-en-Bresse, France. That was an enjoyable time for both his demon and his soul to remember, which was surprising because of the lack of bloodshed involved.
He had separated from Darla, Spike, and Dru, promising to meet up with them at the beginning of the new year in Romania. Angelus had wanted to spend time near the Jura Mountains without his Sire. The last time he was in France, nearly a hundred and fifty years earlier, she'd left him in a burning barn. It was an experience he didn't care to repeat with anyone, let alone his bitch of a Sire. Oh he had needed her all right, but at the time, he was at the point where his need to be on his own had outweighed his need for her.
He pulled his mind from the past and really *looked* into the box. The roses were beautiful, crimson with white tooling on the ruffled edge of each petal, just like he remembered. The small velvet covered box and cream colored paper looked at home among the dark foliage. He reached into the greenery for the velvet box and gasped as the thorns bit into his hand. He transferred the small box to his left hand, and smiled deliciously. He remembered the thorns as well, licking his lips. He placed his injured fingers into his mouth, and sucked gently for a moment, reliving the memory of the first time he'd met thorns on this particular flower.
"Sir, can I help you with something?" The dark haired young man smiled but it didn't quite meet his eyes, but Angelus couldn't fault him for that. The vampire was currently traipsing through his garden without watching his step in the least.
"Just admiring the lovely scenery, young man." Angelus gave the young man a smoldering smile, smirking inwardly as he heard the human's heart rate quicken. Aye, m'lad, beautiful scenery, this should be amusing.
Fire flashed in the young man's brown eyes at the vampire's tone.
"I assure you Sir, I am not that much younger than you. Would you be so kind as to step off my roses?"
"These? Why of course, I'll just step over here." Angelus smiled, stepped off the vine he'd been holding down with his boot, and lazily resumed his stance on the garden path. "Tell me about the red ones."
"Those?" The young man asked pointing to the vines facing him that were staked to the ground.
"No, over here, the ones with the white edges." Angelus pulled the young man to him. The vampire wrapped his hand around the human's and pressed their palms to the dark green foliage. As the thorns bit into their hands the vampire hissed at the scent of fresh blood. "Sharp aren't they boy?" Angelus taunted. "What are they called?"
"Stop calling me 'boy', my name is Reverchon," the young man remarked angrily snatching his hand back pulling a handkerchief wrapping it around the small punctures, "and who might you be?"
Such fire, Angelus thought. 'Tis a pity I'll only have a few days with him.
"You may call me Giroud, Baron Giroud," smirking at the suddenly wide eyes of Reverchon. It was good to know the local nobility.
The young man in question *hadn't* known Angelus wasn't even from the Ain, and of course, the vampire didn't enlighten him. Angel picked up the small box, opening it he saw the claddagh he'd given the slayer several years earlier. For a brief moment he was afraid the slayer was trying to pick things up again, but he'd spoken with her days earlier and *knew* that couldn't be on her mind. He read the slayer's tiny script quickly:
Thanks for finding him. I needed the closure before I could
move on. I've had this resized, it'll fit him perfectly.
One day you WILL give it to him, or I'll have to sharpen Mr.
Pointy, and you'll fit into a shoebox, m'kay?
PS. Go get Xan's things; he won't make the first move.
Three tiny hearts and her name ended the note. Angel smiled the first real smile since Cordelia had left for her date with Wes and Gunn hours earlier. To be accurate, it wasn't really a date. The three of them weren't romantically involved, with each other or anyone else for that matter.
At one time Angel speculated about a romance between Fred and Wes, but it never materialized. Their shared interest in seeking knowledge and the world of books was a start, but still too awkward for a definite connection. To be honest, Angel didn't think Wesley would choose anyone over *his* slayer for anything long-term. The Irish vampire knew the ex-Watcher still harbored deep feelings for the brunette slayer, some good, some bad, but deep nevertheless.
Maybe I could interest Gunn in Fred, Angel groaned at his thoughts, he was *matchmaking*, on the eve of Valentine's Day, I *have* to get out more, and did Xander drown in there or what? I know the decor can't be *that* interesting. Not counting the lighting at Cordelia's insistence, it hasn't been re-done much in fifty years.
The souled vampire sighed, placed Xander's box on the couch opposite his chair, finished his dinner, and went to retrieve the young man's things.
Xander blinked in the harsh light. Why on earth the lights in the bathroom were hospital bright when the rest of the hotel was shrouded in near-darkness was beyond him. It's not like Angel *needs* to see himself in the mirror clearly or anything.
Xander washed his hands, splashing water on his face before turning back to the mirror. He was proud that his hands only shook a little. Xander wouldn't have thought he'd be in this position not two months after the Anyanka debacle. He blushed at the memory of their last night together. He'd begun dreaming of the souled vampire nightly, even after Anya had worn him out physically, and it had bled into his waking moments with amazingly sucky timing.
Although, he had to admit, he'd been dreaming of the brunette vampire, in a not-so-platonic way since the first time he'd laid eyes on him. That conversation in the locker room with Larry was denial in its highest form, and Xander knew it.
Now what? Xander asked himself. I could hide in here for a while and bolt when it becomes too light for Angel to follow me. There's no way I'll be able to stay here after Buffy arrives tomorrow, er, later today. No matter how I feel about him, Buffy deserves happiness. We all know she's lived *way* beyond the life expectancy of a slayer, and with her mom dying and Glory on the horizon...
Xander's thoughts trailed off. Xander dried his hands absently, not even noticing they were already dry, then opened the door.
He visibly steeled himself resolutely walking back into the lobby. Angel was gone, his dinner finished and the box opened. Xander had to admit the flowers were beautiful. He just wished they weren't from the slayer, although he couldn't think of anyone he *did* want. Flowers weren't really his style, if he even had a style. Cordelia did love the locket he'd given her. She still wore it occasionally when it coordinated with her outfit.
Cordelia! His mind suddenly sparked. Where was she? He wondered. Another box caught his attention on the couch across from Angel's chair. The box was beautifully wrapped in the *same* paper and ribbon as Angel's gift. Xander immediately became suspicious, even before seeing his name printed on a note attached to the lid. Okay, I know Angel didn't go shopping with Buffy to get the present she gave him, so something *else* has to be happening here. What is the deal with notes today? Everyone forget how to speak or did those heart-stealers come back? When the Gentlemen attack, Xander mused.
Opening the note he read:
Hey Xan! This is cheesy. Really! Who'd have thought I'd be
giving an ex of mine *anything* (never mind on Valentine's Day)
but we were working on a case and they give us stuff. Oh, and
one is for Wills. I had to hide it here because I couldn't get
it under the radar of Mr. Nosy Undead and the Super-Geeks. You
guys are insane to still live on the Hellmouth. You'd better be
staying a few days Alexander LaVelle Harris! I expect to see you
and Angel in the shower when I come back! You're both alone and
it'd do you some good!
Translation, Xander thought, I saw this and knew you both would love it. I don't want anyone to know I'm nice, and remember what you and Willow like. I miss you both. Don't leave until I get back. You and my boss both need to get laid, preferably together, and I'd like to watch. Xander grinned at his interpretation. It was hard to mistake the last two lines for anything but exactly what Cordelia said, not that he was interested in letting her watch, at least not the first time, Xander grinned.
Xander opened the present and bit his lip, his eyes rounding almost comically. Inside were two framed sketches of the super-hero siblings he and Willow loved, *original* sketches, *and* signed by the artist, as well as several first edition comics. Wow! I wonder who they helped to get *these*. There's no way Cordelia could afford this! I mean, they're not the Professor, but still! I can't wait to see Willow's face when she gets this! That look's gonna be priceless, but even better when I tell her its from *Cordy*!
Xander's smile faltered as Angel reappeared carrying his things.
"Buffy told me to get your stuff." Angel dropped Xander's things at his feet. "Said you were staying a few days."
"Um, look, I don't have to-"
Angel cut him off.
"It's ok, Xan. I have plenty of room." Angel smirked. "Hotel, remember?"
"Yeah, but Buffy..." Xander trailed off, uncomfortable with the thought.
"What about her?" Angel looked puzzled.
"I'm probably not supposed to tell you this," Xander shifted forward, the note from Cordelia still clutched in his hand, "but she said she was coming over tomorrow, and that you'd buy her something, too."
Xander watched Angel's confusion jump a notch, then saw his face clear. His laughter startled Xander, causing the young man to look around for the cause. The vampire started speaking, "Xander," but then lost it again.
"Angel, this is weird," Xander said impatiently. "Why are you laughing?"
"Tell me." Angel joined Xander in his chair, companionably wrapping an arm around the younger man's shoulders. "The piece of paper in your hand, did it happen to come in your package from Cordelia?"
"Aren't you getting a little too friendly here? Guy, ya know." Xander squirmed in Angel's light embrace. "But yeah, it did."
Angel snagged his own note, settling Xander closer, he whispered, "And didn't it strike you as odd that both packages are wrapped in the same paper?"
"Well, yeah." Xander didn't know what to think. Well, actually, Xander couldn't think, for the blood in his brain was rapidly rushing south at the Irish vampire's proximity. "I guess Cordy and Buffy were shopping at the same place."
"They were doing more than that." Angel smirked. "Here."
Xander took the proffered note and read silently. Blushing furiously at the implications between Buffy's note and Cordelia's he asked, "What first move? Who did you find? Re-sized what?"
"Shouldn't you let me read your note first?"
"Fine. Here." Xander handed Angel the note. Trying to distract Angel from its contents, Xander spoke quickly, "But you still didn't answer my questions."
"Oh, that. Buffy wanted to find Riley, and she was returning my ring." Angel's eyes crinkled with mirth as he continued reading. "Mr. Nosy Undead?" He chuckled.
"Riley? She wanted closure with Finn?" Xander shifted, carefully neglecting the subject of the ring. Xander really didn't want to know whom the ring was for, especially if it wasn't him.
"I think she wants to date someone new. Talking with Hayseed and returning my ring is her way of getting a fresh start. She deserves it, you know."
"Yeah, but why did she make me think you were getting back together?"
"Would you have come if you knew the truth?"
Seemingly changing the subject, Angel said offhandedly, "Did you know Anyanka came to visit me a few months ago?"
"Wasn't my reaction. She was delightfully informative." Angel smiled wickedly, "although I think she was disappointed at the lack of bloodshed."
"The claddagh's yours, Xan." Angel reached for the ring and placed it into Xander's palm, "But I'm not letting Cordelia watch any time soon."
"Claddagh, mine, but..." Xander remained somewhat speechless, closing his fingers over the ring.
Tilting the younger man's face towards him, "First move?" Angel mumbled into Xander's lips as he stole a brief kiss.
Gathering his wits, Xan spoke, "I can't believe they set me up! Those dirty rotten," his smile grew wide, "best friends of mine!"
"I think even Anyanka wanted you to be happy." Angel replied, helpfully unbuttoning Xander's shirt, "I wouldn't go anywhere near her for the next few centuries, but she did do us a favor and wished us many happy orgasms after we roasted in the pits of a Schalman demon's bowels." Angel leaned back into the younger man kissing him soundly.
"Wha-" pulling in air, Xander mumbled, "the curse?"
Angel replied distractedly between kisses, "would've re-activated the second I dropped out of the hell dimension, soul's permanent."
"Good. The rest of your people?"
"Out for the night."
"Probably should move this upstairs."
"Lock the door?"
"Okay, okay. How long do we have to wait for the naked fun part?" Xander had never seen Angel move that fast. The doors were locked, the lamp off, and Xander was getting a great view of Angel's black denim covered ass as the vampire raced up the stairs with the human draped over his shoulder.
Placing his burden on his unmade bed, Angel looked over the half-dressed human. "Have you done this before, Xander?"
"No, but it can't be that hard, uh," Xander blushed again, "you know what I mean! Now get over here, its time for the nakedness and the sex!"
"Wouldn't want to keep you waiting." Angel stripped off his shirt and crawled up the younger man's body.
After several sweaty, sticky, fun-filled hours of testing the happiness clause, both men fell asleep. Angel woke up as Cordelia unlocked the front door, and even Xander heard her when she said, "it's about damn time!"
Rubbing his face into the vampire's chest, he mumbled, "Don't wanna get up now."
"You don't have to Xan." Angel carded through his lover's hair. "I can deal with Cordelia."
"No." The younger man sounded petulant and squeezed his body pillow tighter. "Not until we figure out some good payback."
Angel brushed aside a lock of hair from Xander's forehead.
"Yeah." Xander snuggled deeper into the vampire's embrace. "Happiness like this deserves payback. What do you think the girls would want?"
"I'm sure we can figure something out."