AN:I have no idea why I gave it this title.
Xander watched the sunrise and thought about how the night's events had gone; he'd taken out an entire gang of zombies, and not just brainless ones along with a couple of the blue girls, all the while trying to get help from his friends, who brushed him off.
Man, he'd really done a fine job of screwing up his relationships with the gang; he'd alienated Buffy just by his attitude toward the corpse she was dating, his cheating with Willow was a three for one, screwing up his relationship with Cordelia, Willow and Oz... Funny how no one had blamed Willow just him.
Where was he, oh yeah, screwing up relationships.
Wesley would never be a friend, but then being hostile toward him was a group action and his hitting on Cordelia certainly deserved its own heaping of scorn. Faith … well while he no longer had to fear bug ladies he really didn't feel good about that situation. Of course being shoved out the door practically naked probably had something to do with that.
Thinking over last night he couldn't help but think that none of the Scoobs that weren't a slayer would have come through it half as well... Though the idea of Cordelia taking his part with Faith in the motel room …
Xander slapped himself in the face.
There was plenty of time to think of that later, when he wasn't in public; for now focus!
Okay; he was being saddled with all the blame for him and Willow playing tonsil hockey, he was being pushed aside in favor of girls who had far less combat skills than he did.
His mind flittered off for a moment as he recalled Buffy calling him one of the girls.
He always said what he thought and refused to follow like the mindless sheep that followed Cordy. Was that it, was it really because he was an outspoken male that he was being pushed aside?
Oz always went along with whatever they were doing and Giles had caved on the Angel issue; they had no choice but to accept Giles and Wesley anyway since they provided both the tools and the books.
Xander shrugged. In the end it didn't really matter why things were happening so much as what was happening. Besides all this deep thought was reminding him of the mental wellness book that Willow had made him read last year - it made some good points and he'd almost bought into it. But some of the tests had said Willow wasn't a good friend so he knew it had some major flaws.
The real question was what to do now, what did he want?
A girlfriend would be nice, but he was feeling a bit gun shy about the subject right now so maybe taking time off would be good … not like he had a lot of prospects in that department anyway.
Some more money would be nice, but a job took time and effort he really didn't feel like putting out. Still, it was either a job or a life of crime. Recalling the gold cross they'd found he considered tomb raiding, but in Sunnydale the tombs could be occupied.
Then again he wanted to keep killing vamps so that was a two for one deal, hunting alone without any kind of magical boosts was all but suicide …
De-ratting Amy would probably get some help if she was bribed, Willow was supposed to be working on that but she really didn't seem to be putting a lot of effort into it or if she was she wasn't sharing.
Hadn't Miss Calendar gotten ratted and had it undone a short time later? Xander couldn't recall if Amy had called on Hecate to rat Miss Calendar as she had herself so maybe calling on Hecate was the answer – it was at least the start of one if not.
Hearing the bell ring he realized he was late for class; apparently he'd spent hours sitting and thinking.
“Hey Giles, need a hand?” Xander offered.
Giles set the stack of books he was carrying down, “I suppose so, last night's battle was a tad messy but shouldn't you be in class?”
“Probably but something occurred to me and I wanted to run it by you before I did anything stupid,” he replied.
“By all means then, fire away,” Giles replied, bringing out a pot of tea from his office and two cups.
Xander wasn't a tea drinker, but knew Giles thought better with a cup in hand.
“Amy called on Hecate for the rat spell, so why can't we call on Hecate to undo it?”
“Its not that simple. Hecate wouldn't have turned the spell on her if she wasn't being punished for some fault that Hecate took exception to. So asking her to release the spell is basically asking Hecate to stop her punishment before she'd learned her lesson.”
Xander nodded and sipped his tea. “Couldn't we ask? I mean right now, we're working from guesswork – educated guesswork, but still guesswork. For all we know the Hansel and Gretel demon had a reflect spell set up to avoid transformations that extended to its minions.”
“You have a point there,” Giles conceded, “asking any of the gods for answers is rather easy, it’s getting their attention and a straight answer that's difficult.”
Xander sipped his tea. “What would be the best time to do it?”
“Tonight would be fine,” Giles replied, “providing we get this mess cleared away.”
Xander grinned. “I've got a free next period anyway, so it shouldn't be too much trouble.”
“Yeah, my history teacher said he'd consider it a personal favor if I avoided his class this week.”
“Whatever for?” Giles asked, obviously a bit surprised.
“I can get a bit upset when we discuss certain social inequities and I keep diverting the classroom discussion from the planned materials,” Xander replied.
“Really?” Giles repeated suspiciously.
“I believe he said inciting a riot, but you know how that goes.”
“Indeed,” Giles said, trying not to snicker.
Xander was looking at his notes and back to the book in his hand as he slowly deciphered the Latin script.
Seeing one of her most disruptive students working on something constructive, his English teacher gave him a pass on the day's work; Latin root bases and modern English, which fit rather well.
Willow however almost got in trouble for trying to get Xander's attention to find out what he was doing.
Xander left the class with his nose buried in the book only to have it snatched away.
“We've been trying to talk to you for the last five minutes!” Buffy complained, the book in her hand.
“Well I just started making headway in translating it so I was kinda interested in what I was doing,” Xander explained.
“No possession or anything?” Willow asked.
“Nah, Giles gave me the book it’s clean.”
“Oh, what's it about?” Willow asked as he reclaimed it from Buffy.
“Gods and prayers,” Xander replied, searching for his place.
“Why are you reading that?” Buffy asked.
“Research,” Xander said, “what's with the inquisition?”
“We weren't -” Willow began but Xander interrupted her.
“Snatching things out of my hands and asking a bunch of questions?”
“Okay, maybe we were coming on a bit strong,” Buffy admitted, “but this is Sunnydale, any of my friends starts acting different I've got to check.”
“Got me there,” Xander admitted, “I'm doing research for Giles, nothing earthshaking just some basic research and Latin practice.”
“Okay!” Buffy chirped, “Lunch?” she then asked.
“Nah, I just got into this and was beginning to enjoy it,” Xander replied as he waved them off and wandered toward the library with his nose in the book again.
“That was a great dinner Ms. S,” Xander said, “thanks for inviting me over.”
“Think nothing of it, we love having you around,” Joyce replied as they cleaned up.
Dawn quickly drug Xander to the living room while Buffy was in the bathroom and her mom was busy with the dishes.
“Xander?” the twelve year old asked.
“Yes, Dawn?” he replied, wondering what she was so excited about as she pushed him onto the couch and climbed onto his lap.
“You're single right now, right?”
“Would you be my boyfriend?” she asked intently.
“Couple of problems with that,” Xander replied, thanking the gods that he'd been prepared for this conversation.
“Well for one thing you are 12 and I'm 17 that’s a bit of an age gap.”
“I don't mind!” Dawn said brightly, “and when I'm twenty you'll be twenty five that's not that big a gap.”
“You've got a very good point there but at 12 and 17 the gap is a lot bigger because it’s not just about age alone.”
“Really, what else is it about?”
“It’s about two people coming together as equals; right now I have a lot more experience at living than you do and I'm at least a little more mature, so it'd be real easy to manipulate you, which is lousy for a relationship, but as you get older you too will get more experience and maturity and catch up with me, like at 20, understand?”
“But isn't Buffy way younger than Angel?” Dawn asked.
“Yep, and you know how I feel about that relationship. It’s pretty much doomed to make them both unhappy and I care about you too much to put you through something like that.”
“So when I'm older I can ask again?”
“Of course you can,” Xander replied, “and when you've caught up to me I'd be a fool to say no.”
“Can you be my pretend boyfriend when you visit?” Dawn asked.
“What does a pretend boyfriend do?”
“Holds me when I want a hug, never takes my sister's side over mine, and gives me a kiss before he leaves.”
“Don't I already do most of that?” Xander asked as he considered it.
“Yeah, I guess you already are my pretend boyfriend then.”
“I guess I am.”
After a game of Monopoly, which Dawn won with Xander's cheating help, it was time to go.
“Ahem!” Dawn said, pointing at her cheek as Xander got ready to leave.
“Almost forgot,” Xander admitted and bent down to kiss her cheek, but Dawn quickly turned her head and gave him a peck on the lips before retreating upstairs giggling.
“I can't believe she faked me out like that,” Xander said just before he was suddenly crushed in a hug by Joyce.
“You've made a young girl very happy,” Joyce said.
“Squeeze much tighter and you'll have made a young man very happy,” Xander teased.
Joyce laughed and let him go while Buffy hit him in the shoulder. “Perv!”
“A hug and a hit, equilibrium has been achieved,” Xander said cheerfully.
“Off you two, I know you have things to do but remember it’s a school night as well.”
“Will do Ms. S,” Xander promised.
“I'll walk you home,” Buffy offered as they left.
“I'm researching with Giles tonight,” Xander replied.
“Then I'll walk you there,” Buffy said and they fell into companionable silence for a while.
“So you really see me and Angel as something like you and Dawn?” Buffy asked.
“Nope, what I said to Dawn was about one problem I have with you and Angel; one of many and the age difference between me and Dawn is nothing compared to the canyon between the two of you.”
“So I'd be better off with someone my own age?”
“Someone like you maybe?” Buffy asked archly.
“Sorry, you're not my type,” Xander replied.
“What?!” Buffy stopped, as stunned as if she'd been hit with a 2x4.
“What?” Xander asked in confused fashion.
“What do you mean I'm not your type?”
Xander shook his head. “No offense but as I've gotten to know you I've found you're just not the type of girl I'm looking for.”
“You asked if you can have me and asked me to the Spring Fling; you've risked your life for me!”
“I didn't say you weren't attractive and I've risked my life to save Giles and Oz; doesn't mean I want to date them,” Xander shuddered and started walking toward the library.
“Oh,” Buffy said quickly catching up, “well I'm a lot more mature than girls my age.”
“When you heard a prophecy saying you were going to die, you knocked Giles unconscious and rushed off to die; you all but dry humped me to make Angel jealous, you rushed off to jump into a trap god knows how often, you let a demon that looked like your boyfriend run free, I recall you shunning Janna for things that were your own fault...” Xander said, ignoring Buffy's attempts to speak or protest. “No, you're no more mature than any girl your age.”
“Neither are you!”
Xander nodded. “Yep, about the only way I show my maturity is by admitting I'm not a lot of the time and I've made my fair share of mistakes because of it, and likely will screw up in the future.”
“Aha!” Buffy declared as if she'd just scored a point.
“You admit you'll screw up in the future!”
“Well yeah, everyone will,” Xander replied shrugging, “I also admit to being as mature as most people my age which means I'll have moments of immaturity as well.”
“Okay, well I love Angel,” Buffy said.
“Love isn't a cure all magic word; love doesn't mean that it’s all going to work out or even that it’s a good idea,” Xander said bluntly.
“You don't know what it’s like –“ Buffy began.
“To love someone I can't have a future with?” Xander interrupted, “I offered my life to Ampata both to help her and save Willow, she chose to die rather than take it. I know love, I know loss and I know not to get involved when it'll only lead to heartache and tears. Love means letting go sometimes, for the good of the other person, if not yourself.”
“It’s not the same!”
“It never is, but it’s close enough. You don't actually see Angel when you look at him; you see an ideal image not what he is.”
“I see Angel just fine.”
“Really? You see a corpse preserved by the power of the demon inside it? And operated by a soul changed by a curse to live the demon's life like its own struggling to figure out what's his impulse and what belongs to the demon and least we forget despite his well-preserved image, he is easily over five times Giles' age. Hell, he's older than this country! He was freed once, his soul at rest after the torment it had been through and rather than let him rest in peace you and Willow ripped his soul from its just reward to make it suffer the fires of hell, only to return it to the shallow mockery of life it was forced to endure before.”
“You've been holding that in for a while,” Buffy said quietly.
“I've spent a lot of time thinking about things,” Xander replied flatly.
The silence stretched on for a while before Xander said, “Well at least we know he truly loves you.”
“What?” Buffy asked in confusion, “how?”
“Because if someone did that to me who I didn't love, what I'd do to them would make my demon shudder.”
“Yeah,” Buffy said quietly.
“Thanks for walking me here,” Xander said and waved Buffy off before going inside.
“No problem,” she replied quietly as he vanished.
Xander entered the library, surprised to find Wesley helping Giles to set up the circle.
“Let’s do this thing!” Xander said cheerfully like a great weight was off his shoulders.AN2: Yet another idea I had that didn’t make the cut.
AN3: Typing by Godogma as always otherwise it’d never get done!