At five o’clock, once the various practices were completed, the newly assembled group stormed the library.
Wesley and Giles, who were pouring over dusty volumes, looked up in consternation. Faith, who was lounging on a table and contemplating dinner and Cordelia's tits, looked up with interest.
“What’s this?,” she asked, eyes roving over the arrivals and the newbies.
“Hi, Giles! Faith!,” Buffy cheerfully greeted. She then scowled. "Wesley."
“Er, Buffy, was a school assignment given of which I am unaware?,” asked a wary Giles.
“Huh? Oh, no. Harmony, Larry, and Percy figured out the whole Slaying thing, so you have three new Scoobies. Aren’t you excited?”
Slowly, Giles removed his glasses and began furiously polishing them. “I see.”
Wesley, outraged, stood and began bellowing.
“Take it down a notch, Scarecrow,” Faith drawled, before turning to Buffy. “How’d all this happen, B?”
“Xander’s into guys."
Faith blinked at the non sequitur. “Huh. Okay. Have to say, kind of saw that coming.”
“What!,” Xander screeched. “Why does everyone keep saying that?”
She chuckled. “Yo, X, look at your harem: there’s the Queen, who has a bigger pair than any guy I know; B, who’s pretty damn emasculating herself; Red, who’s all with the freaky mojo; and me, with my obvious hotness." She shrugged. "You worship our collective shiny, but haven’t gotten beyond third base. It’s no surprise you turned to guys.”
“I still like girls,” he mumbled petulantly.
“Oh?,” she smirked. “So you’re looking for a threesome?”
His eyes sparkled. “Are you offering?”
Her smirk turned to a leer.
Giles decided it best to interrupt this potentially horrifying turn of events.
“Buffy,” he said calmly, “none of this explains how Ms. Kendall, Mr. Blaisdell, and Mr. West came to be aware of your Calling.”
“Excuse me, Mr. Giles,” Larry interjected, donning his Mature Adult Voice, “but I’ve suspected something to be amiss for quite a while. I’ve grown up on the Hellmouth and I’ve watched people disappear or turn up dead my entire life. That started to change when Buffy arrived. I’ve seen her save people. I’ve seen how Willow, Oz, Cordy, and Xander stand at her side. I don’t have much to offer, but I’m strong and I’m fast. I can’t just walk away.”
Giles cleared his throat. “Your attitude is commendable, Mr. Blaisdell, but I cannot condone your active participation in Buffy’s duties. She and I have both been taken to task for allowing the others to be involved.”
“Screw the Council!,” Buffy bellowed. “What have they ever done for me but try to kill me and my mother
Xander, Willow, Cordelia, Oz, and Faith, each of whom had an extreme fondness for Joyce Summers, all glowered.
“Bastards,” Faith muttered.
“Now see here!,” Wesley interjected.
“Shut it, Queen Mary,” she snarled, “or my foot’s going to use your ass to launch you back across the pond.”
The younger Watcher reddened, but fell silent.
Harmony sniffed disdainfully. “I’m now involved in this whether you like it or not, librarian."
Giles curled a lip. “And just what is it you think you can contribute, Ms. Kendall?"
In response, Harmony eyed the training dummy the Watcher had set up for the Slayers before launching into a series of flips, landing at the foot of the model and rearing up a leg, kicking off its head.
Faith whistled appreciatively. “That’ll do."
Giles didn’t know what to say, so he settled for prevarication. “And you, Mr. West?”
Percy balked. He had only been filled in on the walk from the field to the library and, frankly, he still didn't believe it.
Buffy walked over to the weapons cache, withdrew two titanium tactical batons, and tossed one to Faith, who nodded. Simultaneously, the Slayers snapped the batons in half.
Percy turned a sickly shade of green and stumbled back. “Holy fuck!”
“Quite,” Giles smirked. “Buffy, you still haven’t explained this to my satisfaction.”
She sighed. “Well, remember what happened at lunch?”
He darkened and nodded tersely. “I don’t see how that relates, however.”
“Wait, what happened?,” Faith demanded.
“This punk attacked Cordelia in the hallway before third period.”
“What!,” Faith and Wesley exploded, for entirely different, though vaguely similar, reasons.
“I wish we could just stop talking about it,” Cordelia groaned.
Xander put an arm around her, and she happily curled up against him.
“Buffy?,” Giles prompted, his patience all but gone.
She rolled her eyes. “Fine. Well, you know that Xander spent the weekend with Cordy, and she designed this whole makeover deal-y. Xander now rules the school at her side. Well, with her permission, of course.” She snorted. “In one day, she transformed him from the King of the Dorks to King of the Land.”
Faith looked over at Xander and was surprised that she had missed the new duds and do. “Wow,” she whispered. “You rock!”
He blushed. “Thanks."
She laughed. “Not you! I was talking to her Highness! Talk about playing Fairy Godmother." She doubled over and howled. "Literally!"
“Children, please,” Giles moaned.
“Right,” Buffy said. “Part of Cordelia’s plan entailed procuring a bodyguard for Xander for the classes which she didn’t share with him, so that he wasn’t harassed. That’s where Larry came in.”
Wesley nodded. “Admirable."
She rolled her eyes once more. “Whatever. Anyway, like Larry said, he had it all pretty much figured out. He just didn’t know our official designations.”
A startled Willow blinked. “We have designations?" She frowned. “You mean like the Borg?”
“Dear Lord,” Wesley murmured, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“Yet it’s obvious he knows who the Borg is,” Percy hissed.
“You do, too?,” Xander asked.
Percy offered a shy smile.
“You’re all nerds!,” announced an annoyed Cordelia. “Can we move this along?”
Giles sighed. “Thank goodness someone other than myself has been gifted with a modicum of common sense."
Faith huffed. “Wait. I still want to know about these designations."
“You. Me. S-L-A-Y-E-R-S,” Buffy said slowly.
Faith narrowed her eyes.
“Right,” Buffy rushed on. “Willow’s the witch, Cordy’s the bitch, Oz is the wolf, and Xander’s the token penis.”
“Token penis?,” Xander screamed. Still, he guessed it was better than being 'one of the girls'.
“I have a penis!,” Giles roared.
They all blinked at him.
“For the purposes of this argument, you are penisless,” Buffy argued, shuddering. She was just not able to posit her Watcher having bits.
“So he’s a eunuch," observed a happy Xander. "Like Angel?"
“Angel is not a eunuch!,” Buffy protested.
“Might as well be,” Cordelia demurred.
Xander preened in triumph. "Ha!"
“How do you stand it?,” Wesley whispered to Giles.
“I lace my tea with bourbon.”
Wesley nodded sagely. “And now, there’s more.”
Giles shook his head. “Absolutely not. I have yet to be convinced.”
“Well, what’s it gonna take, John Houseman?,” Harmony barked, hands on her hips. “We all know what’s going on here. If you think I’m going to stand by and let Cordy or Xander get killed, think again! Who’s going to stop me? You? I don’t think so!”
Cordelia looked at Harmony with approval.
Faith snorted. Loudly.
“Besides,” the girl continued, “I need to learn to protect myself. I’ll be damned if I’m going to be some demon’s midnight snack.”
“John Houseman?,” repeated an aghast Giles. “But he’s...rotund!”
Wesley snickered, but withered at Giles’ dark look.
“Look Giles,” Buffy said, “here’s the bottom line: Harmony, Percy, and Larry know what’s up. That’s not going to change. You can either give your approval, or we can ignore you and you lose all control of the situation. Either way, they’re in this now. So it’s up to you how you want to handle it.”
“What about Jonathan?,” Xander whispered.
“Later,” she hissed. “We still need to feel him out.”
He grinned. “I’ll just leave that part up to you."
She colored and shot him her best Death Look. He volleyed with The Cordelia Chase Patented Evil Glare of Malevolence, and she blinked and quickly turned away. She felt rather than saw his smirk, and made a mental note to torment him later at her leisure.
“We’re gonna do it anyway,” Percy said to Giles, a lazy smile on his face.
“We shall see,” Giles said stiffly. “One month's probation. If you can prove yourselves useful, you may stay, with limited participation.” He schooled his face into one of disinterest. “Now, then, shall we plan tonight’s patrol?”
Buffy shrugged. “Yeah, okay, but let’s make it fast. We’re all going to the Bronze.”
Giles raised a brow.
“We’ve discussed this,” she said evenly. “I will perform my duty, but I will be allowed to have a life.”
"Faith too!," Xander added.
Buffy nodded. “Right. Faith, too." She turned to the other girl. "You’re coming, right?”
“Wouldn’t miss it.”
Harmony grinned poisonously. “Good. You can help us keep an eye on Xander and his date.”
Faith perked up. “Date? You and the Queen reunite and are feeling good, X?”
“Oh, no,” tutted Harmony. “Xander has a date with a guy.”
Faith, Giles, and Wesley stared.
“Thank you so
much, Harmony,” Xander hissed through clenched teeth.
"And tomorrow you might find yourself asking if you know where your unicorn collection is."
“Who’s the lucky dude?,” Faith asked lightly, trying to diffuse the situation.
“Devon,” Oz replied.
“The guy from your band?" At his nod, she let loose a wolf whistle. “All right, Choice Cuts! Good score, X.”
Xander blushed and shuffled his feet.
Giles growled. “Xander, in my office. Now."
The boy turned wide eyes on his friends, distressed to see them looking just as nervous and uncertain. “Yes, Giles,” he whispered.
Wesley’s mouth fell open at the quiet submission.
Giles turned on his heel, stormed into his office, and took his seat, awaiting his prey.
“Be strong, but firm,” Buffy advised. “He has no real power over you.”
“Right,” Xander replied, a forced smile on his face. “Just like the Wicked Witch of the West.”
“Watch out for fireballs,” Willow whispered.* * * * *
Xander silently entered the office and hovered.
“Shut the door."
The boy complied.
“Sit,” the Watcher ordered, gesturing to the chair across from him.
Xander sat and stared at the floor.
“Xander,” Giles said softly, “look at me.”
“You’re disappointed in me,” Xander whispered.
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous,” Giles said kindly. “However, I think you need to discuss these...developments with someone who has a bit more knowledge than your peers.”
“I’m really not comfortable with this!"
“I'm sure,” Giles smiled, “but nevertheless, I cannot allow you to run about misinformed and ignorant. I am unsure as to what your parents have told you of, er, relations, but...”
Xander held up a frantic hand. “Whoa! Cease and desist! I am so not talking about this with you! I haven’t, I mean, I’ve never, I mean, this is none of your business!”
Giles sighed and placed a hand on the boy's knee. “Young man, I care about you. I worry for you as much as, if not more than, Buffy." He sighed. "Your heart is so open, Xander, that I’m afraid it leaves you quite vulnerable. You wore your heart on your sleeve for two years with regard to Buffy." He looked away. "I confess I had rather hoped you and Cordelia would stay together, as you are ideally suited to one another. Indeed, I would go so far as to say you bring out the best in each other." He blinked. "As well as the worst, on occasion.”
“Yeah,” Xander whispered.
“But this, Xander, I just don’t know. I fear that you are jumping into a situation which you cannot truly fathom. Have you even discussed this with your parents?”
The boy blanched and began trembling.
“I take it you do not believe they will be accepting.”
Xander shrugged a shoulder. “I-I don’t know. I can’t believe I didn’t even think about it. I guess my mom would be okay, but I don’t know about my dad.”
Giles nodded. “Well, it is, of course, your decision what you wish to tell them. You will soon be eighteen and will take responsibility for your own life. I just want to ensure that these feelings you believe you have are yours alone, and not those which someone has led you to believe you are most suited.”
“Xander, are you truly attracted to men, or have the girls convinced you that you should be?”
“Well,” the boy exhaled, “it’s something I’ve always kind of known. I just tried never to think about it. Then this weekend, I was hanging with Buffy and Willow, and we started talking about, um, things, and before I knew it I was thinking sexy thoughts about Angel!”
“Oh, dear,” Giles murmured.
“And about you!”
Giles raised a brow. “Really?”
“This is not the time to fishing for compliments, Giles!,” the boy trilled.
Giles smiled softly. “I was not. I was just rather surprised.”
“Xander, as much as it pains me to admit, Angel is rather spectacularly put-together. I imagine he appeals to a great many people, the lack of a pulse notwithstanding.”
The boy snorted.
“As for me, well, I am quite flattered.”
“And not disgusted?,” Xander asked bitterly.
“Of course not! Xander, being attracted to the same gender is not abnormal or perverted or all of this other rubbish that narrowminded bigots proclaim. Who you love is simply who you love, and that’s the end of it.”
“Thanks,” Xander mumbled, ducking his head and blushing.
“I just want to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Even I am aware of Mr. MacLeish’s reputation, and while I in no way doubt your ability to guard your, er, honor, and while you seem to have quite a number of potential assassins at your disposal, I just don’t want you to rush into anything.”
He held up his hands. “Got it. No rushing." He sighed. "Look, Giles, I’m not ready for that. I wasn’t even ready for that with Cordy, and I love her.”
“Love? Present tense?”
Xander bit his lip and nodded. “I’ll always love her,” he whispered.
“Ah, I see. And I take it she is unaware of your continued feelings.”
“I don’t know,” Xander moaned. “I mean, we made out Friday night, but I put a stop to it because I didn’t think we were ready, especially after that disaster with Willow.”
“That was quite sensible of you.”
Xander raised his head and stared into the man's eyes. “Giles? How could I hurt her that way?” He bent over, putting his head between his knees, his shoulders shaking with suppressed sobs.
“Get up and come over here.”
Xander hauled himself to his feet and took a step, still staring at the floor. Giles reached out, grabbed the boy’s waist, drew him forward, and settled him in his lap.
Xander curled up, grabbed a fistful of tweed, and continued to cry, albeit it much more quietly.
“You made a mistake, dear boy, as have we all. You did not set out to hurt Cordelia or Oz intentionally. You have learned and grown from the experience, and that is all you can do. You have offered sincere apologies and have attempted to make restitution; whether or not you will be forgiven is out of your hands.
"I believe Oz has forgiven you, and I rather think Cordelia has as well, though perhaps not tacitly. You must give her time; indeed, you owe her that. Still, it would appear that she continues to support you, and you must be nothing but grateful.”
“I am,” Xander sobbed. “But I know I don’t deserve it.”
“I believe you would be hard-pressed to inform Miss Chase how and with whom she chooses to spend her time,” Giles smiled, resting his head atop Xander’s own, and rubbing soothing circles on the boy’s back.
“Why are you being nice to me?,” Xander hiccupped. “You’re always angry with me.”
“No I'm not. As I said, I worry about you greatly. I expect you to make mistakes, but I also know that you hold your hurts and your regrets so close to your heart that I fear you will one day allow them to overwhelm you." He took Xander's chin in his hand and forced the boy to look into his eyes. " You are more than your mistakes, Xander, and you must learn to forgive yourself. You have great potential, and while it aggrieves me that you do not see it and sometimes attempt to run from it, I have no doubt that you will be a great man.”
“I love you, too.”* * * * *
“What do you think’s going on in there?,” a worried Cordelia hissed to Buffy. “It’s so quiet.”
Buffy tried to shrug, but the gesture devolved into a spasm. “I don’t know, but whatever it is, it can’t be good.”
“Should we go in there?,” Percy asked. “I mean, who is
this guy? And who is he to order Harris around? And why did Harris listen?”
“Giles is kind of like our teacher-mentor-surrogate father,” Willow replied, "and if you think that was bad, try going in there. Just leave your next-of-kin by the telephone.”
“I don’t like this,” Faith muttered, pacing. “X is too, well, not scared of Jeeves, but kind of nervous about him, you know what I mean?”
“Giles’s opinion means a lot to him,” Buffy said quietly.
“Xander needs to do this,” Oz stated. “Leave them alone.”
Wesley cleared his throat. “Let’s plan the patrol, shall we?”* * * * *
“I mess everything up,” Xander whispered.
“Ridiculous,” Giles countered. “You brought Buffy back to life. You saved me from Angelus and Drusilla. You stopped the Judge. Not to mention standing up to Angelus in the hospital.”
Xander froze before pulling back and looking at the Watcher in horror. “How do you know about that?”
“Cordelia, of course. After you told her, she made a beeline for me and then proceeded to rip me up one side and down the other. She’s rather tenacious, that girl, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She lectured me for a good half-hour of how my treatment of you sometimes presents itself, which is certainly not how I intend, and then she railed at me for leaving Buffy alone in the hospital with only an unarmed mortal boy for protection. She was quite right to do so.”
The boy knitted his eyebrows. “Cordy was worried about Buff?”
Giles chuckled. “Indeed. The girl’s heart is just as big as yours, but she keeps it closely guarded.”
“That’s what I need to learn how to do, huh?”
“Quite. Xander, you have this misconception that your empathy for others is a detriment, when nothing could be further from the truth. Your belief in the goodness of people, while sometimes distressingly naive, is as fundamental to fighting the darkness as any book or trusty weapon. We’ve only gotten this far because of you. Buffy is only alive because of you
Xander swallowed heavily and looked away.
Giles sighed. “You don’t believe me. Perhaps I’ve waited too long to tell you. Nevertheless, it is
true, and the others know it as well.”
Giles was frustrated, but knew it was a lost cause and decided discretion was the better part of valor. Therefore, it was time to engage in Evasive Maneuvers. Right!
“Now, we must discuss sexual intercourse between two men,” the Watcher declared with finality.
“Giles!”* * * * *
The others looked up collectively at the horrified shriek.
“I don’t want to know,” Harmony said, throwing up her hands.* * * * *
Xander sat there, stunned and miserable, as Giles described the prostate and how best to stimulate it, before launching into a rather colorful and disturbingly vivid lecture on hygiene and safe sex practices. He had never been so humiliated and mortified.
“I can’t believe this,” he whispered.
“No, it’s quite true,” Giles insisted. “You see, should your partner have a foreskin...”
“Stop! This isn’t happening. I’m hallucinating. This is a spell. This is a nightmare! This is something Hellmouthy!”
“Xander,” Giles said slowly, “if you believe that I am going to allow you date randy young men without knowing how to protect yourself, you are sorely mistaken. By the way, do you have condoms?”
“Giles! I’m not planning on doing...that
...with Devon, okay?,” a peeved Xander complained. “It’s just. A. Date. Our first! It might not even work out! We might despise each other!”
“Or," Giles argued, "you might get carried away and before you know what’s happening, his cock is in your mouth and you have no idea how it got there."
Xander blinked. “Wait. You didn’t just say...”
“I assure you that my vocabulary is quite varied."
“Apparently!" Xander sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Look, Giles, I get what you’re trying to do, okay? I really, really do. And I appreciate it more than you’ll ever know. And I promise that if I have any questions, I will come to you. But this is just one date! One small, tiny date. Not to mention, I won’t be there alone! The Apple Dumpling Gang out there will be with me the entire time. Probably taking notes and devising hand signals.”
Giles chuckled. “Truthfully, Xander, what do you think about these potential new members?”
“Are you seriously asking?”
“I trust and value your opinion.”
That made Xander want to cry again, but he forced himself to man up. “Okay. Well. Larry’s obvious. Big, strong, stubborn. For some reason, this whole Hellmouth thing really, I don’t know, offends him. He’s going to be involved whether or not we like it, and he’ll do it on his own if he has to. Isn’t it better that we know what he’s doing?”
“Percy and Harmony are wild cards. Both are in good shape and are smarter than people think. I don’t know about their dedication. I trust them not to say anything about all of this to anyone else, but beyond that, I’m just not sure. I can see Harmony wanting to be involved just because Cordelia is. Percy?" He shrugged. "Who knows? I mean, it has to be about more than just me.”
“Ah, I see. So, Mr. West has declared his intentions, has he? Well, I must confess that I would much prefer you to see him over Mr. MacLeish, but it is, of course, your decision. You are aware, of course, that Mr. Blaisdell fancies you.”
The boy nodded hesitantly.
“Don’t make the mistake you made with Willow,” Giles advised. “Don’t ignore it and hope it will go away, because it will just fester and rear itself when you least expect it. If you are not attracted to him, let him know so that he is free to move on. I understand that you don’t want to hurt anybody, but sometimes it cannot be avoided.”
Xander fidgeted, bouncing his leg. “I don’t know. Larry...he’s a nice guy. I’ve gotten to know him better, and he’s pretty much a big teddy bear. I know he would protect me and care for me, but he still scares me a little. He made me miserable for years.”
“Is that not also true of Cordelia?”
“Yeah, but that was fun!”
Giles laughed. “I understand. Well, perhaps it would be best if you didn’t put all your eggs in one basket. You have three young men interested in you, so why not play the field? You’re only seventeen, Xander. You don’t yet have to decide your life or with whom you wish to share it.”
“That just sounds weird. I mean, I go from having no love life, to having all these demons try to bed me, to Cordy and me snarking our way through months of heaven and hell, to that really wrong Fluke-thing with Willow. And now when I decide that I might want to date guys, they’re just all crawling out of the woodwork?”
Giles cocked his head. “This school is rather small, you know, and I would gather that same-sex options are somewhat limited. Your young men are probably relieved to find that they are not alone and that there is an appealing candidate.”
He examined the boy more critically. “You honestly have no idea just how attractive you are, do you? Xander, you must stop comparing yourself to others. Yes, Angel is very handsome, but so are you. Just because you’re not his twin does not mean that you’re inferior. Buffy, Willow, and Cordelia look nothing alike, but you have been strongly attracted to all three of them. Why is it so hard to believe that others might feel for you as you have felt for those three? And there is, of course, Faith to consider.”
Xander frowned. “But they’re girls! And Cordy’s the Queen! They’re used to it." He shrugged. "They know they’re beautiful.”
Giles sighed. “Honestly, I don’t know how you can have three girls for best friends and not understand that women are just as insecure of their appearance as males. This is not a gender issue, but a human one, particularly for adolescents. Do you truly believe that someone as meticulous and demanding as Cordelia Chase would deign to date someone physically repulsive? And for months, at that?”
“I guess not.”
“Exactly. Now, what is this Buffy tells me of special glasses? She left me a note in my faculty mailbox. You are dyslexic, correct? Cordelia also came to me earlier and informed me that you are under the misguided impression that you won’t be attending university. Young man, think again.”
“No," Giles snapped. "You
look. You are an intelligent person. You have a duty to yourself and to the world to develop that mind and stop looking to television and comic books to expand your horizons. You will wear your glasses. If you are embarrassed to wear them in class, fine, but you will wear them here. You will also report to the library after the end of classes each day to do your assignments, which I will be reviewing prior to your turning them in.”
“That's crazy!," Xander yelped. "What’s the point, anyway? I’ve already missed the deadlines for college applications!”
“Luckily for you, I looked into the admittance policy for UC-Sunnydale. They have rolling admission and as a resident of the state, you are entitled to attend. Your grade point average, while not spectacular, is acceptable. Further, it is not as if the school is Berkeley or UCLA. You will be more than adequate. I will assist you whenever you require."
Giles stared at him. "I took the liberty of pulling up your academic records, and was rather surprised to see your high test scores; you beat Buffy, and her score was quite impressive. I have also drafted a letter to the Admissions Committee to advise them that you were only recently diagnosed with a learning disorder, and as such, your application should be viewed accordingly.”
“The one I have right here,” was the easy reply, as Giles patted a stack of papers to his left. “I have filled out the statistical data, and I will allow Willow to assist you in drafting the essay. You will not let her write it for you.”
“And how am I supposed to afford tuition? Books?”
“We will look into scholarships. You may have to take a part-time job or student loans, but you will attain an education. Is that clear?,” Giles said coldly.
Xander sighed in resignation. “Yes, sir.”
“Splendid!” With that, he stood and walked toward the door. “Shall we?”* * * * *
The girls looked up anxiously as the office door opened, and were upset to see a smug Giles followed by a meek and blushing Xander, tear stains dried on his face.
“What did you do to him?,” Cordelia roared.
“Nothing at all,” Giles replied. “There were some issues that needed to be discussed, and they have been. As per your decree, my Queen...,”
Faith and Buffy snorted, while Harmony and Larry snickered. Cordelia crossed her arms and cocked her hip.
“...Xander will be applying for the fall term at UC-Sunnydale. I have told him that Willow may help him write the essay, though she will not write it for him. Is that clear, Miss Rosenberg?”
Willow squeaked and nodded.
Cordelia began bouncing.
Buffy grinned. “Awesome, Xan!"
He shrugged and plopped down on a table, where he was soon joined by Percy, who smirked at Larry.
"Maybe we can room together," Percy purred.
Xander's eyes became huge.
“Get over your damage, dorkus!,” Cordelia barked at Xander. “You’re not going to waste your life in dead-end jobs only to come home and zone out in front of the talking box like some loser.”
“Indeed,” Giles sniffed. “I have drafted a preliminary letter of recommendation, and I am reasonably certain that I can coerce, er, convince, a few other faculty members to do the same. Should that fail, I will simply draft a new letter and sign Miss Calendar’s name.”
?,” Xander demanded. “But that’s...just wrong! And gross!”
“On the contrary, I find it highly appropriate. Jenny was quite fond of you and remarked on several occasions that she believed you far more intelligent than that for which you or anyone else gave you credit. I will backdate the letter, of course, prior to her death.”
“Giles, are you sure about this?,” Buffy softly asked.
“Very. End of discussion.”
“Daddy would write you a letter, too,” Cordelia told Xander. “I’ll ask him.”
“Please don’t,” he begged. “I’m embarrassed enough.”
“By what? That people want to help you? That they believe in you? God, you’re so lame
. You do a lot for other people, Xander. Why can’t they help you?”
“Oh, hell no! Let’s count down Harris' Greatest Hits: you saved me from being raped and murdered by the demon which wore your best friend’s face; you saved Giles from further torture at the hands of the Scourge of Europe; you blew up a supposedly unkillable demon that would have destroyed the world; you went undercover on the swim team to keep the coach from turning the guys into caviar; you stood up to that creep Angelus when he came to kill Buffy in the hospital. And let’s certainly not forget that you brought Buffy back from death
after forcing Angel at crucifix to take you to the Master's nasty lair.”
Faith, Wesley, Harmony, Percy, and Larry gaped at Xander.
“Hospital?,” asked a confused Buffy, as Angel blew in.* * * * *
“Oh, man!,” Xander whined as the vampire entered.
“Good to see you, too,” Angel drawled.
“What night in the hospital?,” Buffy demanded, whirling to face her boyfriend.
Angel’s eyes found Xander, who swallowed heavily as his eyes bugged.
“I didn’t say anything, I swear!,” he loudly announced, holding up his hands in surrender.
“Hey! Sir Broods-A-Lot!,” Cordelia bellowed at the vampire. “I’m the one who spilled the beans. Got a problem? Take it up with me!”
Faith smiled blissfully. "I'd pay to see that."
“Wait,” Larry interrupted. “Angel’s a vampire? Buffy’s dating a vampire?”
“Who are you?,” Angel asked.
Larry crossed his arms and glared.
“What. Hospital,” Buffy hissed.
“No big, Buff,” Xander rushed to explain. “When you had the flu, remember? Angelus came to pay his respects and I advised him that you weren’t seeing visitors.”
She first stared at Xander, before turning to stare at Angel. “Is this true?”
“It is,” Angel said somberly.
Buffy stared another minute before nodding. “Okay. Xander, thank you. I really don’t know what else to say. Thank you.”
“I never wanted you to know,” he mumbled.
“And that’s what upsets me more than anything,” she replied, “but we can talk about that later. We need to get going.”
“Okay,” Xander whispered.
“I’m not mad at you! Why would I be? You saved my life!”
He held his tongue, wondering what she would do if she knew he had tricked her into sending Angel to Hell. He didn’t regret it, not after everything Angelus had done, and he truly believed the vampire would have killed her, but he felt guilty that it was Angel and not Angelus who had been the one to endure the torment. As much as he still debated whether or not the soul truly made the man, he knew it was wrong that Angel had suffered.
Angel blinked, confused by the waves of sorrow and affection pouring off the boy, especially as Xander was staring right at him. It was uncomfortable and annoying and very sweet. And he kind of wanted to give Xander a hug. Or a kiss. No! Bad Angel!
He cleared his throat, trying to get his bearings. “Buffy, what’s going on? Who are all these people?”
Buffy sighed. “Cordy, if you would?”
“Sure,” the girl nodded. “That’s my other best friend and cheerleading co-captain, Harmony Kendall. Next to her is Larry Blaisdell, quarterback and Xander’s bodyguard. And next to Xander, and sitting far
too close, is Percy West, fullback and allegedly Xander’s new potential love interest.”
Angel blinked again, questions burgeoning on his lips.
“Xander needs a bodyguard because he’s realized that he also likes guys, and I won’t tolerate any nonsense from the Blockhead Brigade who might try to harass him because of it."
She shrugged. "Let's see, what else? Oh! Larry’s gay, but he’s out, so it’s okay that I tell you. Percy’s not out, so don’t tell anyone yet that he likes Xander. Oh, and Larry and Harmony already figured out the Slaying thing. Larry’s known about it for a while, and Harmony used to follow me and Xander on patrol. Percy just found out, though, but he’s taking it very well. Probably because he's sitting way too close to Xander.”
“That was...succinct,” Angel allowed. “Thank you.”
“It’s what I do,” the girl cheerfully replied.
The vampire turned to Xander. “So you do like guys?”
Xander frowned and narrowed his eyes, looking to Buffy, who blushed.
"I might have let it slip," she whispered. "Xander, I'm sorry."
He knew she was, and decided to let it go. “Wanna make something of it?,” the boy barked, his hackles raised.
“Hey, it’s cool,” Angel responded. “It’s none of my business, anyway.” Even though he kind of wanted it to be.
Xander desperately wanted to offer a smart retort, but in the name of peace, he settled for mumbling his thanks.
“So what’s the plan for tonight?,” Angel asked no one in particular.
“We’re Bronzing it,” Buffy said, "all of us. Oh, Cordy, Xan, and Harm are also bringing another guy, Jonathan Levinson. You’ll meet him later. I don’t know if he knows about the Slaying, but he might. I’ve saved him a couple of times before, and he’s really smart, so he might have put two and two together.”
“And we’ll all be watching out for Xander. He has his first man-date tonight with Devon MacLeish.”
Angel darkened and looked at Oz. “That singer from your band?”
The boy nodded.
“Save it,” Cordelia snapped. “Xander’s been warned, and so has Devon.”
Angel nodded tersely.
“What the hell?,” asked a floored Xander. “Why would you care who I date?"
“Because you deserve someone who will treat you well. I can smell sex on that boy. He actively reeks of it. And of pot, too. Who you date is your business, but if it’s going to be him, you’re going to be watched.”
“Who do you think you are?!”
“I may not be your friend, but I am your ally. You saved Buffy. Twice. Once from me. I owe you.”
“You don’t owe me anything!,” protested an affronted Xander.
“We’ll have to agree to disagree.”
“Hold on!,” Xander shrieked, before he was led from the room by Harmony and Cordelia.
“Let’s go!,” Harmony trilled.
“Have to get you all gussied up for your man!,” Cordelia added.
“But...but!,” Xander tried, before the doors swung shut after them.
Larry turned to Willow and Buffy. “I’ll pick you up in two hours?”
“Can I get a ride, too?,” Percy asked.
Larry stiffened, but nodded. “Where do you live?”
“Actually, two streets behind Summers. I could just meet you at her house.”
“Perfect,” Buffy sang, grinning like a piranha. “My mother will probably want to speak with you about Xander. See, she pretty much considers him her son, and she's very
pro Cordy/Xander. Prepare to be interrogated and judged accordingly.”
Percy looked very nervous very quickly.
“Look,” Willow cut in, “Devon was warned, and now you will be. Fair’s fair.”
“But Harris and I aren’t even going out!," Percy protested, before smirking. "Yet.”
“Doesn’t matter. Whenever a potential suitor is introduced into the group, they have to get the Shovel Speech.”
“Yes, quite right,” Giles agreed. "And Joyce is just the woman for the job."
Percy moaned. “Oh, man! I didn't sign up for this."
Willow glared. "So you're saying Xander's not worth it."
Faith glowered. "He better not
be saying my boytoy's not worth it."
The girls looked at each other, nodded, and began moving toward Percy.
"Okay, you win!"
Buffy turned to Faith. “Why don’t you come home with me for dinner, and then can we can plan what to wear.”
The other girl snorted. “Wear? What’s wrong with what I’ve got on?”
“Fine," Buffy replied, rolling her eyes. "You can help me
decide what to wear."
Faith looked the other girl up and down, wondering if there was possibly enough time in the world to correct Buffy's sartorial preferences. But if anyone was up the challenge, it was her. “Yeah, okay.”
Buffy turned back to Angel. “Meet you at eight?”
Angel nodded, still slightly overwhelmed.
Faith had already begun storming out. “B! Red! Studs! Let’s go!”
The girls and Oz, Percy, and Larry followed her, leaving an uncomfortable vampire and two annoyed Watchers in their wake.
keep an eye on him?,” Giles asked Angel.
The tone was casual, but Angel recognized an order when he heard one. He nodded. “I will.”
Giles nodded in kind and returned to his office, while Angel took his leave.
Wesley stared into space. “It is amazing that any evil is ever fought around here.”