"There he is," Willow said with a smile lighting up her face as she spotted her crush and long time friend across the club.
Buffy turned to where Willow was pointing and waved her male friend over. Then she went back to trying to spot Angel in the crowds.
"Hey ladies. Looking lovely tonight," Xander said as he walked up to them.
Willow blushed while Buffy just took it in her stride her only reply was to cast an eye up and down Xander and smile before saying, "Not so bad yourself Xan… More leather I see. Trying to copy Angel's fashion sense?"
Xander snorted a laugh and shook his head, "Do you see any silk?" he asked. Can I get you ladies a drink?" he asked to head off any possible reply from Buffy.
"Just a soda," Willow said with a smile. "You must be feeling flush?"
"Yeah, not doing badly at the moment. Got my first pay check yesterday." Xander said and then moved off into the crowds and towards the bar.
Willow turned to Buffy. "How much can he earn in an after-school job?" she asked curiously.
Buffy shrugged, more interested in finding Angel than in anything Xander was earning. However, she was happy for him. He was obviously doing well for himself, and as far as she was concerned, he deserved a little good in his life. Now if she could just hook him up with Willow, who she was sure would be perfect for him, then she figured the group dynamic would be perfect.
Willow looked at Buffy with a slight smile, "See him yet?" she said, knowing that Buffy would not really concentrate on anything she was saying until they found Angel.
"Not yet" Buffy admitted. "Oh wait," she said suddenly and moved off into the crowds, cutting through them like a knife through butter.
"Oh don't worry about me, I'll be fine," Willow huffed to herself, and then smiled as a Soda was pressed into her hand from the side. Xander had obviously come back a different way than he had left. "Thanks Xander," she said and turned to him.
"Not a problem for you, Wills," Xander said, and then followed Buffy's progress with his eyes, giving them a roll when he saw her final destination. In many ways, he was over his crush on Buffy now. The lifetime crammed in his head had allowed him to see that their differences would mean they would most likely make either a horrible couple, or - oddly enough - a very good one. He admired her still and not just for her looks, but also for her spirit and determination. That said, and perhaps it was Malufurian coloring his thoughts, but her relationship with Angel sickened him somewhat. He tried to remember that he had a soul, that he was one of the good guys. However, all he really saw when he looked at the guy was a vampire. It was to his mind Buffy's job to slay such creatures, not make google eyes at them.
Still, in the end, it was her life and her decision. This is one of the things Malufurian's experience had taught him. It was not up to him to make her decisions for her; it was all down to her. He had his own life to worry about after all. This brought him to Willow, who was smiling at him in a quite fetching way. He was tempted to take up the invitation inherent in that smile he really was. He was also terrified of doing so. Willow's friendship over the years had meant so much to him he could not even begin to describe it. To his mind they were soul mates; he just was not sure that would translate well into a relationship. He did find her physically attractive. It was hard not to, she was a beautiful young woman now. However, there were aspects of her personality he was not sure he would cope well with within a relationship.
"What are you thinking?" Willow asked, a little self-conscious as Xander had been staring at her for a few minutes.
Xander smiled at her, "Us, old times and how very important you are to me."
Willow blushed but smiled widely, perhaps this was the sign she had been looking for.
"I can't imagine a world in which you and I aren't friends. That would destroy me I think," Xander said carefully.
Willow half frowned. Perhaps this was not going in the direction she had hoped after all.
"Sometimes I think if it wasn't for you I'd have gone postal years ago. You have my soul Wills. I just wanted you to know that."
Willow blinked back sudden tears. His tone was impossibly soft and caring and it just tore at her heart. "I…" she began but Xander reached out and laid a finger on her lips.
"Let me finish Wills," Xander told her, "Many nights when things got too much I was able to come to you and hide away, and you'd hug me and tell me it was all going to be OK and that saved me Wills. I don't want to do anything to destroy our relationship. I want us to be 'Willow and Xander' for the rest of time."
Willow nodded, tears in her eyes. She knew where this was going now. Apparently her best male friend in the world was not as clueless as she had thought, and this, unless she was mistaken, was him letting her down *very* gently.
"Is that okay?" Xander asked softly, his eyes suspiciously bright.
Willow paused for a moment before nodding, her shoulders a little slumped. Then Xander pulled her in for a big hug and kissed her hair, whispering sweet nothings into her red tresses to calm her down. Something he had done on many occasions, Willow realized, and suddenly she did not want to lose that either. Xander had just told her he loved her, which is something she had wanted to hear for a long time. Of course, it was not meant the way she had hoped, but the fact was she loved him too, perhaps just as much in the way he did her. A relationship, to her mind, would be wonderful. However, what if? That was the question of the day. What if it all went wrong. They might not be Willow and Xander anymore, and that thought made her want to hide in a hole until it went away.
No, perhaps it was better this way.
Buffy walked up, towing Angel by the hand, and looked at the two of them with worry in her eyes. Seeing Willow crying she reached out a hand and placed it on Willow's shoulder.,
Willow half turned, and cleared her tears away, "I'm okay," she said and found she really was. She was okay, which was strange because she was sure she would have been crushed if Xander had rejected her, but then he had not, he had merely redirected her instead.
Buffy glared at Xander for a moment, but it failed to have any effect on him, which was new. "What did you say?"
"That's between us." Xander said seriously, still hugging Willow.
"It's alright Buffy, it's nothing bad. In fact it's kind of wonderful. We're going to be Willow and Xander forever, and we've decided that being friends is the best thing in the world." Willow said carefully, looking Buffy in the eye and begging her to get the idea.
"Oh," Buffy said sounding disappointed; then she smiled, "As long as you're happy I suppose."
Meanwhile Xander's and Angels eyes had met. "Xander," Angel intoned with a deep voice.
"Vampire," Xander replied mildly, only to yelp when Buffy darted around Willow to slap him on the arm.
"Enough of that you two. Who knew that a vampire had testosterone to throw into a pissing contest." Buffy said, with a glare at her boyfriend. Then she turned on Xander who was smirking, "And as for you. Cut it out, he's my boyfriend; get used to it. You want me to be happy don't you? Well he makes me happy." She said leaving no wriggle room. Now Angel was actually smiling.
"Sure," Xander said carefully. "For as long as that lasts, I am happy for you."
Buffy narrowed her eyes at the tall teen, and then realised that whilst Xander had always been taller than her, he was now actually taller than Angel. Then she shook it off as unimportant. "Glad to hear it," she said eventually, not wanting to get into a full-scale fight right at the moment. She wanted to decompress from school, then go out and slay some vampires. Simple needs perhaps, but it was her life. A full-scale argument would just ruin that for her and she did not want that.
Xander flashed a smile, "Anyway, can I get either of you a drink. A soda, B negative? Anything?"
"Soda, thanks," Angel said after a slight glare. He realised that in his way Xander was trying to be nice, he was just unable to do it without being a smartass in the process. It was just Xander's way in fact. It was also up to him to be the adult. To Angel's reasoning, he had a couple of centuries on Xander. He could be the bigger man here, despite the fact it was actually fun to spar with the young man. Not that he would admit that in a thousand years. In addition, he did not get the jealous vibe off Xander anymore, nor did he seem intimated by Angel. He could not put a finger on why, but it was almost as if Xander now thought he could deal with Angel if push came to shove. That interested Angel, he had to admit, and since he was no longer competing for Buffy's 'fair hand', in truth Angel did not actually have a problem with Xander. They had issues to work out, which either they would or they would not. It didn't much matter to Angel really, though it would be good for the group if they got along. Therefore, he ignored the jibe and took the olive branch.
Xander nodded and looked to a slightly steaming Buffy, "Buff?"
"Coke," she said, carefully neutral. If Angel was not going to make a scene out of the quip nor was she.
Xander once again braved the crowds, leaving Willow with Buffy and Angel. "So - you're okay?" Buffy said carefully.
Willow smiled a smile that lit up the area and nodded, "I actually am." She said sounding almost surprised. "Now I can move on." She added with a grin and looking around as if to find a prospective boyfriend.
"Well, this time steer clear of any soulless vampires." Buffy said jokingly.
Willow laughed slightly. "That did put me off the idea for a while, I'll admit. But surely I can't get caught twice."
There was a moment of silence and then Buffy said, "Just in case. I will look them over, OK?"
Willow nodded, with a slightly worried look on her face.
Angel turned away to cover the smirk on his face and then back as Xander reappeared with their drinks. "Here," he said with a slight smile, and passed around the drinks as he had gotten another for Willow and himself. "Wellllll, this is nice." He said, then half frowned when he spotted someone, an unwelcome someone at that, trying to get his attention from across the club. It was very low key, but there was no mistaking it. They wanted to talk to him and, apparently, did not want anyone to know about it. 'Weird, what does she want' Xander thought to himself.
"Thanks for the drink," Angel said, causing Buffy and Willow to also thank the dark haired teen.
"Not a problem, got to share the wealth huh? Anyway, got to - urh visit the mens room. Be right back." He said in a distracted way.
Willow watched him go with a half frown, and then turned back to Buffy, "That was weird; he hadn't even touched his coke."
Buffy shrugged, "So - Patrol tonight?"
Xander cut through the club easily, the crowd moving out of the way of the new predator in their midst. It was not a conscious thing with Xander, but since finding his forms he had a way about him that made him stand out. He made his way quickly to the strange request and the even stranger requester and stood before them in double time.
They motioned for him to follow them and led him out of the club's back entrance and into an alleyway. Then they turned to him and made a shushing motion as Xander opened his mouth to speak. They darted a nervous look around them and then seemed to relax slightly.
"Harris," they said.
Xander frowned, "What do you want Harmony, and what's with the cloak and dagger routine?"
"I don't want anyone to see us talking," Harmony Kendall said with brutal honesty.
"Well that's easily sorted, I'll leave." Xander said turning to do just that.
"No! Please, wait and hear me out." Harmony reached out and held Xander's elbow.
Xander turned back and glared at the hand until she removed it, and then let out a sigh. "What's this about Harm? It's not like you to want to talk to me."
"I know, but you're the only one I can think of to help me out."
"Help you out? Why would I do that?"
"Please you're hip deep into all the freaky shit that happens in this town, and you know it. I need your help here. Would you refuse a request for help?"
Xander was about to say that indeed he would, when he noticed her eyes. There was no scornful look and a hint of actual intelligence looking out from her baby blues. Not something he expected to see if he were brutally frank. She had always been the school ditz and boy, did she play her part well. "Alright, I'm listening."
"It all started on Halloween," she began, and Xander tensed. Apparently, he and Jonno were not the only ones having a problem with repercussions from that night.
"What did you go as?"
"I don't know; kind of a fantasy thing. It was the only costume left in that new shop , and I thought I would look hot in it, so I got it. But I don't know what it was supposed to be."
Xander let out another sigh, "Oh boy. Alright, what can you do now?"
"Give me your hand." Harmony told him, her eyes serious as she pulled out a small flick knife from her bag.
"You've got to be kidding me."
"Please, just - trust me."
Xander was about to tell her to go to hell, when he caught her expression again. Despite his better instincts, he held out his hand and let her cut his palm. It hurt, but he had suffered much worse over the years, and certainly worse in Malufurian's lifetime.
"Ready?" Harmony said, her voice wavering slightly.
"I'm bleeding on my new pants."
Harmony nodded to herself, lightly bit a lip, and placed a hand over his palm. Warmth flooded from her hand and spread up his arm, and an almost holy glow spread halfway up his arm. Then the warmth and the glow disappeared, and Harmony stepped back.
Xander looked at his hand and ran a finger over where the cut had been. There was not even a mark left and, other than a little blood, he seemed to be perfectly healed. "Right," he said with a frown. "Tell me, can you sense how kind of healthy people are?"
Harmony nodded, "And I can feel the power coming from you, now you mention it."
Xander nodded again, mostly to himself. This was a new wrinkle. Luckily, he knew the game pretty well and what sort of class could heal like that. She did not strike him as the paladin type, and besides he could not sense an aura coming from her. Using what looked to be holy powers, she just had to be a Priest. This was damn near funny, considering who he was looking at. This time, though, the wrinkle was that she had no idea what she was dealing with, and to his knowledge it was nominal at best, having only seen other priests in action during the odd raid and dungeon. The real insider knowledge was not available to him. Malufurian's massive amount of memories was not too helpful either. His healing abilities were linked to nature; not using 'The Light'. He also had not had much to do with the priests. Some dealings obviously, but it was the intimate knowledge he needed to help Harmony, and he just did not have it. Jonno would be no help either. He was a mage, and had a rogue. Not germane to being a priest in the least. He had to help her though; otherwise she could end up hurting someone. He was well aware that Priests could do some serious damage. The thought of the cheerleader having that sort of power was more than a little worrying.
"Well?" Harmony demanded, when he had not said anything in a long while.
"I can help, maybe. I'm willing at least, but it's going to take some work. You need to learn control."
"You're telling me! I wiped out a bunch of freaks earlier, and I don't even know how I did it."
Xander pursed his lips in thought. Holy power would be deadly to vamps, and from the freaks' comment it was likely she had come across vampires, especially in Sunnydale. "I hate to tell you this, but you need to come with me."
"Unless you want to explode when you least expect it, or maybe hurt a friend or loved one because you do something without thinking about it. Just to make your life a little more interesting, I also need to take you to a fellow nerd's house as well. Get a handle on your abilities. I know the costume you wore I think, and we need to do some research, and he's the one with the means to do that."
"Jonno," Xander replied.
"Oh God, not him." Harmony despaired.
"Cut that out for a start unless you want to do this alone. You came to me for a reason, and I can help, but I won't if you keep that shit up."
Harmony pouted and stomped her foot in anger. It was a fascinating thing to watch because she was very well made. It made Xander wonder how she had looked in her costume since the costumes themselves had been tier sets. "Fine!"
Xander nodded, "I have to say goodbye to my friends."
"Because I'm not rude," Xander said with an eye roll, and walked off to do as he had said.