AN: Here we go again. I worked hard on this one.
In a warehouse across town Drusilla moaned and fell to the floor, clutching her stomach as if in pain. Beside her, Spike leaned down as far as he could in his wheelchair a concerned look on his face.
"What is it, love?" Spike asked, when she didn't answer he reached down and shook her gently. "Dru?"
She looked up with a mad smile her face and giggled girlishly. Rolling onto her feet like a great cat about to pounce, her eyes sparkled with delight as she leaned toward Spike as if she had some great secret to tell. Spike cocked a scarred eyebrow and decided to humor her. Knowing her it could be something important about the Slayer or something about the stars speaking of a mouse trapped in a cage.
"The kitten has gotten sick and is a real cowboy now." Drusilla said coquettishly as she whispered in Spike's ear. "He doesn't like candles, no, he wants an exploding star, a party with gunfire and streamers. Daddy isn't daddy anymore, he's sick with a soul sickness, but he's not the Angel-beast. He wants to do something naughty, no more happy meals, no more parties. The cowboy smells like huckleberries now, he wants to hurt sick daddy, he likes happy meals and parties. We'll have great fun with him!"
The evil glint in her eye made Spike grin wickedly. So, Dru doesn't like Angelus anymore. Well, it's not like the good ole days when they were all fairly sane, Angelus went off the deep in since he lost that soul. As for the kitten or cowboy, whatever the hell he was, it looks like he wants to help get rid of Captain Forehead. That's enough for Spike to like him, but if what Dru was saying is true, then this guy will be a lot of fun. She didn't even say anything about the bloody Slayer getting in the way which is always good news to have.
Spike stood up from his wheelchair, no use pretending anymore, and grabbed Drusilla's waist. Holding her close he leaned forward to rest his forehead on her's, his eyes alight with the wicked smirk that was mirrored in her eyes. Then, they started dancing and for the first few seconds he imagined that he dancing on Angel's grave.
Xander looked at the cards in his hand, two pair of aces and eights with a queen kicker, also known as the deadman's hand. 'How charmingly ironic.' He mused as he looked around the table and the many demons trying to look emotionless or confident, they were failing miserably. He let the slightest smirk tug on the corners of his lips as he flicked his thumb, causing his queen of hearts to disappear and the ace of diamonds to take her place.
They were sitting in the backroom of Willy's and were playing for money, gold, and other trinkets of a valuable nature. Kitten poker was six days a week, however, real poker was only on Friday night. Xander was happy to say that he was winning and even happier to say that some of the more dangerous demons at the table were looking quite angry with him.
He was dressed in his brand new crimson vest and was wearing a white dress shirt made with Parisian silk, along with his, now, usual black slacks, black riding boots, and his hat from Halloween. His long black coat was laying in a chair in the corner of the room. He was also wearing a thin shoulder strap that allowed his revolver to be on the left side of his belly and a belt holster that held his other revolver on the right side of his belly, a bit lower than his other.
He knew that he was tempting fate by playing poker at Willy's with Angelus out gunning for any of Buffy's friends, but that only made it more exciting. Add in the fact that some of these demons looked like they would try to kill him if he won another hand and you have less chance of going home than Charles Manson does of getting out of prison.
Xander let out a chuckle at that, watching as the demons glared at him with murderous eyes for being so smug. He just smiled mockingly at them which only made them even more pissed off at him. One particularly nasty looking Drazah demon snarled loudly at him and Xander winked at him, tapping the butt of his gun menacingly.
The night was winding down and Xander knew that this would be the last hand of the game as he would either walk out that door with about twenty thousand dollars and several demons dead or he would be dead and it wouldn't matter anyhow.
"I call." Xander said as he tossed five hundred dollars into the pot. The other two that had stayed in looked a bit cocky and called also. No doubt they figured that they would get the money one way or the other. He watched as the first one, a Gredoriz demon, laid down his cards.
"Pair of kings, jack high." Growled the Gredoriz in a voice that sound like crunching glass with someone being dragged through it. It sat back and smirked at Xander in a, normally, threatening manner. He merely nodded at the demon with a cheerful smile. The other player, the evil looking Drazah demon, laid down his cards next.
"Three of a kind, nines with a jack kicker." The Drazah grinned in a triumphant manner and reached for the money greedily. It was a good hand for a 'no wild cards' game, Xander had to admit that. It would be even more impressive if he didn't know that both players were cheating out of the ass.
"Full house, aces over eights." Xander drawled in a intolerably smug manner. He drew a throwing knife from the top of his right sleeve and threw it at the Drazah, nailing it in the middle of it's eleven fingered hand, the same hand that was reaching for the money. It let out a low growl at Xander who reached over and yanked out the knife. Twirling the knife, he slid it into the sheath in his boot so as not to hamper his right hand in the shooting that was bound to start.
"You cheated!" The Gredoriz accused, it stood up threateningly as did the Drazah. Xander smiled at them disarmingly and leaned back in his chair. He saw the other players shake their heads at his stupidity and had to hide his grin.
"Well, gentlemen, if I recall correctly you were also cheating. I'm just better at it then you are, that's all." Xander smirked, riling them up was just too fun. "But if you want to do something about it then I feel that I must advise you that it would be an inter species matter and thus could be construed as a hate crime."
That seemed to be last straw. Both of the demons leaped across the poker table at him with murder in their eyes, both of them moving in a manner faster than any human. Unfortunately for them, Xander seemed to be faster at drawing his pistols than they were at crossing tables. Xander rocked back in his chair and placed his feet down to stand up, his pistols appearing in his hands in less time than it took to blink.
He fired with deadly accuracy, hitting the Drazah in the left eye, the center of it's chin, and the spinal cord, the Gredoriz was less lucky than it's companion taking a shot above the groin in one of the few places that it was vulnerable to harm and the second shot directly in the groin, which was more to the left than a human's. Xander was no fool, he knew that bullets wouldn't kill the Drazah, but *very* few things could get shot in the head and still be able to function right afterward.
Xander pulled out a cherry wood stake and stabbed the Drazah right above where the tail bone would be on a human. The demon screeched and slowly decomposed until nothing was remaining except goop. He had done some research on the demons that he had heard played poker on Friday night. One of Xander's rules of poker was that you *never* played poker with something that you didn't know how to kill, another was don't play if you can't get a hold of what does kill them.
Xander walked up to the table and collected his winning. To the shock of all who had seen what had just happened, Xander was whistling the old song 'Huckleberry' cheerfully as he piled the money and valuables into a satchel that he had brought with him. Once that it was packed up, Xander turned toward the assorted demons that had been playing poker a few seconds ago.
He stood still as stone as he looked at them all, then he smiled cheerfully and tipped his hat at them. "Good evening, then." And walked out the backdoor.
The group let out the breathe that they had been holding and before long they were playing poker again. Only now they were gossiping about the gentleman gambler who killed two demons in less time than it took to blink and whistled 'Huckleberry'. They didn't say anything about the fact that he had only killed one immediately and killed the other a few seconds later. They gossiped all night and, having heard of his friendship with the Slayer, dubbed him Huckleberry Harris. The name stuck.
Cordelia Chase was not happy. First there had been that thing in the basement with Xander Harris, then the car thing with Xander Harris, and then the janitor's closet thing with Xander Harris. She just couldn't figure out why she was wasting her time with the loser, she was the Queen Bitch of Sunnydale High, she could have any man wrapped around her well manicured finger in less time than it took to show a bit of cleavage.
But Xander Harris? The last week or so he hadn't even showed up at school, let alone talked with her. She knew something was up as no matter how much Xander hated her, he wouldn't just brake their...their, whatever it was, up for no reason. Nobody left her out in the cold, figuratively speaking of course as they lived in southern California.
She didn't even know why she even had a thing with him. Whatever caused her unholy attraction to Xander had definitely started after Halloween, sure she had been, regrettably, attracted before but after that night it had been supercharged or something. He started dressing nicer, he didn't back down from Larry or the other jocks, and that he would occasionally slip into that southern drawl that was undeniably sexy didn't help matters any.
Now? He had even spoken to her in six days! Not a phone call or pass along message and, God help her, it was turning her on. She liked that he was out of her control and she hated it. Why did Xander have to get so complicated? It used to be simple, snide remark, insult, chalk one up on the invisible board, and walk off. It was better when Xander had been a loser.
Cordelia had had enough, she was going to get Xander's attention if it killed her, nobody brushes off Queen C. She walked with the much feared determination of a woman scorned toward the School Library, slammed the doors open, and stormed in. Buffy and Willow looked up with curiosity, Oz just looked at her with his usual expression.
"Where's Xander?!" Cordelia, in full bitch mode, demanded. Buffy raised an eyebrow at the tone and wondered what exactly Xander had done.
"He's been sick the last few days." Willow said, frowning as she realized that she hadn't heard from him lately either. She looked up to see that Cordelia was gone and the Library doors were swinging back and forth.
"Okay, am I the only one freaked out by Cordelia doing that?" Buffy asked, looking disturbed.
"No." Oz and Willow echoed together wearing similar expressions.
Cordelia was coming from the mall where she had dealt with her anger via therapeutic shopping when she caught a glimpse of Xander walking down the street. He was a bit pale and a little red around the eyes but with the sun out she didn't think that it was a cause for concern. What was a cause for concern was that Xander was walking around and had apparently lied to his friends. Something that she couldn't remember him ever doing before. Say what you want about the doofus but he was loyal.
Narrowing her eyes, Cordelia quickly put her bags into her car and locked it before following Xander. It was a mystery like one of those spy movies, which kind of worried her as Xander was not mysterious at all, at least not that she knew of. She grabbed her sunglasses and put them on in an obvious disguise.
She followed him for five minutes and he finally came to one of the high class apartment building. She saw him look around then go inside. Okay, she knew there was no way that Xander Harris was able to afford an apartment like the ones here. So, what was he doing here? She walked inside and went up to the main desk.
"Hi, my friend Xander Harris asked me to come over but he forgot to say which room he's staying in. Could you help me, please?" Cordelia asked the twenty something clerk in her best 'I'm so sweet that I melt in your mouth' voice. It always worked for her in the past and this time was no different.
"Sure, just give me a moment." The clerk smiled at her, eying her cleavage before he proceeded to type something into his computer. Then he frowned. "What was the name again?"
"Xander Harris, though he might be under Alexander." Cordelia told the clerk and he typed some more keys. She watched as he shook his head.
"Sorry Miss, but there's no one registered under that name." He said apologetically. Cordelia frowned. She really had to stop frowning so much or else she'd get wrinkles.
"Then who was that guy who just came in?" Cordy asked confusedly, she knew that was Xander. The clerk's eyes lit up with recognition.
"Oh, John Huckleberry." He said brightly, warming considerably. "He's a pretty nice guy, always gives big tips and he's friendly, unlike some of our other customers."
"Well, he dropped his wallet and I thought he was my friend Xander and decided to hand it back to him. He always forgets his things, but if this belongs to that guy then I'd like to give it back to him." Cordelia lied. It wasn't her best lie but it was the best she could come up with on short notice.
"Oh, well, go right ahead. He's staying in the penthouse, just go to the top floor. You can't miss it. It's the only door there." He told her. Cordy smiled at him in thanks and walked to the elevator. Penthouse? Just what the hell was going on?
She knocked on the door to the penthouse suite with questions flying threw her head. The door opened revealing Xander with his white silk shirt unbuttoned and looking a bit sickly. His eyes widened at seeing Cordelia standing there, but recovered quickly enough.
"Cordelia Chase! What an unexpected and bloodcurdling surprise. I would have never expected you to lower yourself to come and visit me." Xander drawled, a hint of a southern gentleman's accent creeping into his voice. He stepped aside and gestured politely. "Do come in."
"What about that whole 'anyone could be a vampire so don't invite them in' thing that you guys say?" Cordelia asked as she strolled into the penthouse imperiously, she rounded on him as soon as he shut the door. "So, what the HELL is going on? First you turn into an oddly sexy guy, then we have a thing, you lied to your friends, AND you didn't even call me! We didn't even have sex and you don't call me! I swea-"
"I'm leaving Sunnydale as soon as Angel is dealt with." Xander said, stopping Cordy cold in her rant. She looked at him with shock. Xander leaving town and his friends, Xander leaving her. It just didn't compute, Xander was the loyal guy, the one who never leaves, the one that you can always count on.
"Why?" Cordelia asked, her voice barely above a whisper. It hurt that Xander was leaving. Why did it hurt? It's not she liked him or anything, hell, she hated him with a fiery passion, so why did it hurt? Xander's face darkened and he gestured for her to take a seat on the couch.
"You've got to promise me that you won't say a word of this to anybody or I swear I'll leave before this thing with Angelus is settled." Xander said to her and started pacing back and forth. He turned towards her and looked into her eyes. Cordelia noticed for the first time that his eyes had changed, wildness had taken the place of laziness, a taunting mirth replaced the laughter, and they had gained an odd coldness to them.
"Goddamn it! Promise me Cordy!" Xander yelled at her, slamming his hand down onto the coffee table and yanking Cordelia out of her thoughts. She nodded quickly a little bit of fear in her eyes. He calmed down a bit at seeing her fear and felt ashamed. He only had part of a life left and he'd kill himself before he'd spend it acting like his father. "Words Cor. I need to hear the words."
"I promise." She whispered. Xander nodded in acceptance and started pacing again, trying to figure out the best way to way to tell her the bad news. Most would wonder why he would tell anyone at all, it's not like he wanted the pity or anything. Truth was he wanted someone to know, no, he *needed* somebody to know, to understand that he wasn't abandoning his friends.
"I'm dying." Xander said flatly. Sure it wasn't the most tactful way to say but now it was done and over with. "When I dressed up as Doc Holiday on Halloween the chaos magic gave me Tuberculosis or at least I think it did. Maybe I just have bad luck."
For a long time Cordelia just sat there trying to come to terms with Xander had told her. It felt like someone had just stabbed her through the heart. If anyone else told her this she'd think that they were playing a sick joke, but not Xander. Xander just didn't joke about this kind of stuff. Finally she looked up and saw him rolling a cigarette. The old fashioned kind with rolling papers and a bag of tobacco.
"That stuff will give you cancer you know." Cordelia said automatically, realizing just how idiotic that sounded as soon as the words left her mouth. Xander smirked at her and lit the cigarette with a match. He took a deep draw and exaggeratedly let it out with a mischievous grin.
"I doubt that the cancer will get to me before the TB will." He snarked and sat down opposite of Cordy. "Most people would be horrified to have cancer. If I caught it then I'd laugh my ass off."
"Isn't there treatments for TB? I mean they can cure it can't they?" She asked, her voice trembling slightly. Xander looked at her for a moment and sighed sadly.
"The doctors said that it was a strain that they had never seen before, it's immune to the usual treatments and the unusual ones. I don't know what caused it to become that way, the Hellmouth or the Chaos Magic, but it's incurable and, hey, it's not contagious." Xander said and looked down. They were quiet for long moment then Xander laughed. Confused and wondering if he had cracked under the strain Cordelia turned toward him.
"What?" She asked in bewilderment. Xander just shook his head and kept snickering. Laughing a little herself Cordy leaned forward. "No, seriously, what is it that's so funny."
"Would you believe that Doctor wanted to send me to a, and I quote, 'top of the line sanatorium'." Xander said, grinning as Cordy laughed out loud. "Yeah, I thought they closed them all down, but I guess there's a few left."
"What did you say to him?" Cordy asked, still cackling. Xander shook his head and blushed.
"It's not for the ears of a beautiful young woman." Xander purred in a voice that was purely a southern drawl. Cordelia blushed and then grinned at him. They sat there for a while just talking and joking, enjoying the light atmosphere.
"Cordy." Xander said suddenly in a serious voice. "You know that we can't continue our relationship."
"Why not? You think I'm gonna let some lung goop stop me?" Cordy asked incredulously. Xander looked at her and Cordy saw the sadness in his eyes.
"I'm dying Cor, you know that, and I'm not going to have you staying with me during the best years of your life until I finally cough my lungs out and die." Xander said firmly. "And that is also the reason why I feel I must leave Buffy and the others. They don't need me anymore. They might want me around but they don't need me. However if you or they ever do need me, an all-hands on deck sort of situation, then I'll be there. But I don't want ya'll to see me slowly die."
"How long?" Cordelia asked softly. Xander sighed deeply, letting out a slight cough as he did so.
"A few years. Four or five if I'm lucky, but given my luck so far....probably three." Xander said, his voice emotionless. "I bought a some life insurance. It's a four million dollar policy, so you guys ought to be well off."
"Hurry up and croak all ready!"
END OF CHAPTER
AN: Not bad length wise, huh? Well I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter. Review...it motivates me.