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Poker Knight

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Summary: All it took was one bad choice on his friend's part to change everything.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Xander-Centered(Recent Donor)ChilordFR18746,343147392125,59127 Oct 1030 Nov 13No

Chapter 6

Chapter 6

-o-o-o-

“So, who is she?” Buffy asked as they approached the funeral home.

“Who's who?” Xander glanced back at Buffy. “Because, I don't think we're talking about who's on first.”

“No Abbot and Costello, Xander.” Willow frowned at him, her arms crossed resolutely about her chest.

“How about Simon and Garfunkle then?” He smiled innocently back at the pair of them, only to wince under both double barreled glares. “That's a no I take it?”

“Xander...” The warning tone in Willow's voice immediately made him wince. “Who is she?”

“Is now really the time to get into this? What with the Giles man being in trouble?” Xander nodded his head towards the funeral home they were approaching. “I mean, what with the awaiting threat of grave and mortal peril awaiting?”

“There's always a threat of grave and mortal peril here,” Buffy said with a light glare. “This is the Hellmouth.”

“Really?” He canted his head to the side and lightly tapped the corner of his mouth. “I hadn't thought about that! Well then, let's never talk about this.”

Willow opened her mouth for a moment, before shutting it as she settled for just giving him the look she usually reserved for him trying to put off studying until the last minute and she wasn't about to let him get away with it. “Xander...”

“Funeral home, right there! Shouldn't we be worried about our Watcherly type librarian slash mentor figure?” Xander just pointed towards the funeral home that was steadily getting closer.

“Grrr…” Buffy actually growled back at him. “This isn’t the end of this.”

“Right, then can we make with the stealth now?” Xander asked hopefully as he glanced around. “Because, you know, not really big on the whole let the hungry vampires know exactly where you are.”

Both girls gave him looks that promised a great deal of discomfort in his near future. Offering them back a nervous grin, he walked up to the door and glanced around. “So, um, does anyone have a key?”

Buffy walked up to the door and gave the handle a simple twist. The sound of metal snapping filled the air, when she then pulled the door open. She then turned back to Willow and Xander and gestured inside. “I always have a key.”

“Oookay.” Xander warily stepped into the waiting darkness of the building before his voice dropped down into a near whisper. “So, Wills, where’s Mr. Watcher hiding out?

“He’s in the um…” Willow paled visibly as she gestured and her voice giving a whispered squeak as they walked through the funeral home. “You know, with the bodies.”

“Well that’s just peachy.” Xander shuddered a bit as he glanced back at her. “I mean, what with the whole… yeahhh... This is just….”

“This is so cool!” A new voice cut in, causing all three of them to whirl around to see Owen standing there, a grin on his face as he eagerly looked towards Buffy. “Are we going to see a dead body?”

“Owen, what’re you doing here?!” Buffy strangled down the urge to scream as stared back at her date.

“He insisted on following you.” Morrigan’s voice cut in as she strode out from behind him. “And I thought it would be a good idea for me to follow.”

“Which is why I followed them to make sure they didn’t get into trouble,” Angel agreed as he too stepped out of the shadows.

“Well, this is just one big ole group outing.” Xander noted dryly as he glanced around. “I feel safer already.”

“So glad you think so.” Morrigan purred out as she slid up to Xander and wrapped her arms possessively about him.

“Xander…” Willow was almost growling out as she glared back at him.

“Owen, you really, really shouldn’t be here!” Buffy glanced around, biting nervously on her bottom lip. “I mean…”

“What about you?” Owen shot back, his grin almost impish before he nodded to the rest of the group. “And everyone else?”

“… Right.” Buffy turned and glared at Morrigan and then Angel before grabbing hold of Angel and pushing him over to the rest of the group. “You make sure they don’t get into trouble, I’m going to go… make sure there aren’t any security guards or anything.”

“Oh, good idea!” Owen nodded his head quickly, before looking back at the rest of the group. “So, um…”

“Indeed, very um,” Xander agreed with a nod of his head and a grin. “So, any particular reason you thought it would be a good idea to make with the party crashing?”

“Well it’s a funeral home! There’s gotta be something cool to do here, right? I mean, we could totally check out the dead bodies, or…”

For a moment, Angel and Xander somehow managed to roll their eyes at the exact same time. Morrigan snorted softly. Willow simply stared back at him with her mouth hanging open.

“What?” Owen caught the incredulous looks on their faces and blinked. “What’s wrong with wanting to see a dead body?”

“Seen them before,” Morrigan stated flatly and shook her head. “Not particularly interested in seeing more.”

“Same,” Angel agreed with a slight nod.

“As much as it pains me to agree with him, likewise,” Xander said with a grimace.

“Uh huh.” Willow nodded her head firmly. “I like to avoid the creepy dead bodies when I can.”

“Really? But…!” Owen stared back at the group as he glanced around. “It would be cool!”

“Yeeeeeah…” Xander turned his head and glanced at Willow. “Why does Buffy like this guy again?”

“He’s deep?” Willow offered before wincing at the simple incredulity on Xander’s face. “And, um, he has these deep, poetic thoughts and he’s all sensitive and what not.”

“Ah, she has poor choice in men then.” Morrigan nodded her head in understanding as she casually seemed to almost drape herself over Xander. “Ah well, her loss and what not.”

“Xander, who is she?” Willow finally demanded as she turned and poked him lightly. “And no more avoiding the question!”

“But why not? Nobody complains about Angel being all avoidy and clear as mud!” Xander whined softly as he pointed to the other man.

“We complain about it all the time,” Willow reminded him as she scowled lightly. “You, me, Buffy. Most of all you.”

“Well, you don’t see him ever giving any answers about it,” Xander said as he grumbled lightly under his breath.

“It helps to not give them a chance to ask and to stay away long enough for them to forget about their questions,” Angel admitted, causing their attention to turn back at him. Seeing their looks he gave an almost bored look back at them. “Just pointing out it won’t work for Xander.”

“Damn you.” Xander grunted sourly and almost pouted back at the man before glancing back at Willow then Morrigan. “She’s Morrigan. Morrigan, this is…”

“Willow, I already heard,” Morrigan said dryly as she rolled her eyes and continued to hold onto Xander.

“Morrigan?” There was a pause as Willow furrowed her brow in confusion before looking back at Xander, her eyes shining lightly in hurt. “You’ve never mentioned her.”

“Yes, I have,” Xander said to quickly correct her. “She’s one of the people I play poker with.”

“Well, that you used to play poker with.” Morrigan almost purred out the words as her lips curled back into an almost feline smirk of satisfaction. “Then you went and won me. Now, I’m all yours, to use in whatever wicked way you want.”

Owen and Willow both froze at that, while Angel just shifted uncomfortably as he glanced around. As Xander groaned in annoyance, Morrigan reached up and brought her finger to her lips. Slowly tapping it thoughtfully, she tilted her head to the side. “My, was it something I said, Master?”

“Oh, I will get you for this,” Xander said with a sour grunt as he glared back at Morrigan. “Oh, will I do something! Something not so nice! Something that will make you regret it!”

“A spanking?” Morrigan offered innocently, wiggling her hips meaningfully next to his.

“… I said something to make you regret it,” Xander responded flatly, “Not something to encourage you to do it more.”

“Ah, such a shame, and I was so looking forward to a good, long, firm…” Morrigan’s voice dropped with each of those last three words, escaping her lips a breathy, hungry velveteen caress.

“Xander!” Willow’s voice half squeaked as she tried to squeak out the words, her eyes half bugging out. “You! Her! I…! How could you?!”

“He was very enthusiastic,” Morrigan said innocently, before Xander could respond. “And he’s quite the quick study, I mean, his tongue alone…”

As Xander made strangled sounds, his face glowing crimson, he reached out and covered Morrigan’s mouth with his hand. “Too much information! Way, way into the they-do-not-need-to-know area!”

“I… I…” Willow stared back at Xander, before suddenly turning and running back deeper into the funeral home.

“Willow!” Xander’s hand jerked away from Morrigan’s mouth, as he immediately tried to follow after the girl, only to be restrained by Morrigan. “Dammit, let me go! She could get killed!”

“Yes, but she doesn’t want to see you right now,” Morrigan pointed out before gesturing to Angel. “Have him do it.”

“Me?” Angel blinked then stared back at the woman. “But…”

“Yeah, him!?” Xander agreed as he stared incredulously back at Morrigan.

“Well, it’s him or him.” Morrigan gestured from Angel to Owen. “Which is it going to be?”

“… Fine.” Xander bit back the growl that wanted to roll out of his throat. “But if she dies because of this, I will never forgive you.”

Morrigan flinched lightly, before standing firm back firmly. “Hardly my fault she has some childish crush on you and can’t stand to see you with someone else.”

Xander just glared even harder at her before he turned that glare onto Angel. “Well?! What’re you waiting for!”

Angel glared back at Xander for a moment, and it seemed as if he was almost about to refuse him. Then, the glare turned into a scowl and started to stalk after Willow. “Fine.”

“And that leaves us with…” Xander turned his head and blinked as he saw Owen was no longer anywhere in sight. “Oh, you have got to be…”

“Well, look, alone at last.” Morrigan smiled triumphantly back at Xander, only to have him squirm free of her grip as he stalked in the direction Buffy had left in. “… Master?”

“So, so not in the mood now.” Xander grunted as he proceeded to stalk off in the direction he figured Owen had gone in.

“Well, that could have gone better.” Morrigan tapped her lip, before sighing as she shrugged her shoulders. “Ah well, maybe next time.”

With that, she began to follow after Xander, just in case.

-o-o-o-

Xander could hear the voices, muffled but familiar coming from the door ahead of him. Pausing at the threshold, he took a deep breath, before stepping inside. Inside, he found almost exactly what he was expecting.

Giles was back in a corner, trying to look inconspicuous. Buffy was standing with her back to the body lockers, looking somewhere between panicked and angry. That just left Owen, standing there looking both eager and confused in equal measure.

“Well that explains where he ran off to.” Xander’s voice was subdued as he stepped into the room, and glanced around. Forcing a weak smile onto his lips, he turned towards Buffy. “Well, it seems a kinda morbid place to continue a date, but hey...”

“Xander! Why didn’t you keep him with you!” Buffy immediately shifted her attention onto him.

“I was a little distracted, what with Willow running off,” Xander said with a complete deadpan, before he glanced over at Owen. “And he apparently decided it would be a good idea for him to just up and run off.”

“Wait, Willow ran off?!” Buffy’s eyes widened. “And where’s everyone else?!”

“Angel went after Willow. Owen you can see for yourself.” Xander nodded towards Giles then shrugged his shoulders. “And Morrigan is hiding in the shadows outside.”

“Morrigan is here?” Giles relaxed visibly at that, letting out a sigh of relief. “That’s reassuring.”

“Not really,” Xander said as he sent a glare back over his shoulder. “She’s the one that made Willow run away.”

“Wait, who’s Morrigan?” Buffy cut in as she glanced from Xander to Giles and back. “And how do you know them?”

“Isn’t she Xander’s girlfriend?” Owen looked utterly confused as he finally spoke up. “I mean, she was all over him like she was…”

“Her name’s Morrigan?” Buffy repeated, incredulously before staring at Xander. “What kind of name is Morrigan?”

“The name of Celtic goddess.” Morrigan's voice cut in as she stepped out of the shadows behind Xander. “What kind of name is Buffy?”

Xander groaned softly and caught his face in his hand for a moment, before he glared, pointedly at Owen. “This is all your fault.”

“My fault?” Owen repeated, visibly confused as he looked back at Xander.

“Yes, all your fault,” Xander agreed with a sour twist to his lips. “If you had just stayed put in the Bronze, none of this would have happened.”

“But…” Owen started to protest as he glanced back at Buffy.

“Well, he’s not wrong,” Morrigan said helpfully with a nod of her head.

“And it’s your fault too.” Xander swept around and pointed his finger at her with a glare. “If you hadn’t insisted on doing all that…!”

“It was going to happen eventually.” Morrigan shrugged her shoulders in nonchalance.

“Yes, but not in the middle of…!” Xander paused, sending Owen another glare. “You know, in the middle of a place where her running off can make with the trouble for everyone!”

“Relax, I’m sure the pretty boy will be more than adequate protection,” Morrigan said dismissively before glancing over at Giles. “Having a good evening, Mr. Giles?”

“Ah, yes, quite.” Giles nodded his head slightly. “It's been a most... surprising time. Not so much as when we were first introduce by no means, but, certainly memorable.”

“Wait, you mean Giles knows her?” Buffy suddenly pointed a finger accusingly at Xander. “How does Giles know here but we don’t?!”

“I rather wish I didn’t, to be perfectly honest, Buffy,” Giles said as he glanced at the girl. “I met her because of a former… acquaintance of mine.”

“Well, I definitely wouldn’t call the skinny prude your friend,” Morrigan said agreeably before glancing at her nails. “Especially not with that gun fetish of hers.”

“Yes, thank you so much for reminding me.” Giles’ face twisted into a look of extreme displeasure at the words. “I can’t help but worry that someday…”

“Um, Giles? Could we maybe talk about this later?” Xander asked as he glanced around. “You know, somewhere that’s not a creepy funeral home where who knows what is lurking about?”

“Later,” Buffy agreed before she gave Xander a hard, meaningful look before turning her attention back to Owen. “So, um… Owen! How about you come with us, this way!”

Before Owen could protest, she grabbed hold of his arm and gave a firm pull. When Owen was dragged after her with a startled yelp, Xander looked warily back at Buffy. “When you say us, you mean…?”

“I mean, make with the moving, unless you want to stick around here in case something decides to pop up?” Buffy’s temper was visibly frayed as she glared back at Xander. “Because, seriously, this is not my idea of a good date.”

“I don’t know, this is pretty cool…” Owen started, only to be caught in a glare from both Buffy and Xander.

“So, so not cool, man,” Xander muttered under his breath before he glanced back at Morrigan. “Well, you heard her, onwards and outwards with us.”

“Whatever you say, Master,” Morrigan said with a sarcastic drawl. “I live but to serve.”

“Xander wishes,” Buffy noted as she gave her a look then glanced at Xander, before shaking her head and tugging on Owen again. “Probably knowing him, in Technicolor and Dolby Surround Sound.”

“Is there any other way to dream?” Xander grinned slightly, before waggling his brows at Buffy. “You should meet some of the other stars.”

“Um, this isn’t going to be some kind of kinky foursome sex game, right?” Owen asked hesitantly, before quickly holding his hands up when the others stared at him. “Because, you know, nothing wrong with that, really! I’m just, uh, not quite ready for that kind of thing.”

“NO!” Buffy blushed brightly, her cheeks crimson. “I am sooo not interested in anything like that with Xander! I mean… it’s Xander!”

“I’m standing, right here, you know,” Xander said with a grumble. “You know, instead of being in another room where I can’t here you, or I couldn’t remind you of You-Know-What.”

“There, there,” Morrigan said consolingly as she lightly patted her arm. “I’m sure she meant that in the nicest way possible. She wants to see you as nothing more than a friend.”

“… And in what world is this a nice, kind thing?” Xander stared in disbelief back at Morrigan.

“The world of a teenage girl is a complicated, contradictory and utterly whimsical thing,” Morrigan said in way of explanation before tilting her head lightly to the side. “Though, I suppose that isn’t exactly something limited to one sex.”

“Can we go, already?” Buffy demanded as she glared back at the others.

“Fine. I’m sure Giles will be fine, all alone, here with the dead bodies.” Xander smiled back at Buffy, before Giles spoke up.

“Why, yes. Yes I will. Do have fun with your little… escapade,” Giles said with a completely straight face. “You will take proper precautions, won’t you?”

“… I so, so don’t need to hear that,” Buffy muttered quietly under her breath as she tugged on Owen’s arm again. “Come on, Owen.”

“We’re really not going to be doing anything like that, right?” Owen asked worriedly as he glanced at Buffy who only gave a half glare from him to Xander and back, then pointedly pulled him along with her. “That’s a no I take it.”

-o-o-o-

The walk through the shadowy halls of the funeral home was thankfully uneventful.

“I hope Angel didn’t run into any trouble finding Willow.” Buffy noted as she walked up to the funeral home administrator’s office. “Look, you guys can hide in here while I make sure that the rest of this place is… clear of anyone breaking in.”

“Um, I already checked that door, Buffy,” Owen said with a helpless gesture. “It’s locked.”

“Not really.” Buffy turned around, putting her back to the door and smiling brilliantly at him as she reached down to discreetly put her hand on the door handle. “With these, you just have to…”

A hand suddenly exploded out of the door, grabbing hold of Buffy’s throat from behind.

“I can feel the power he has given me, I can smell the blood, pouring through your veins, calling me!” The voice was slightly muffled behind the door, as the hand pulled tighter on Buffy’s throat. “He has chosen me!”

“Well, that was unexpected,” Xander noted lamely as he stared, blinking at the scene in shock.

“You might want to help her, you know.” Morrigan stated as Buffy’s face was beginning to turn red as she was struggling to dislodge the hand on her throat.

“Uh, I… hey!” Owen was suddenly moving forward, grabbing hold of the arm, trying desperately to remove the grip from Buffy’s throat. “Let her go!”

“I think it’s going to take a little bit more than that.” Morrigan noted dryly as she reached down, grabbing hold of one of the shards of broken door and offered it to Xander. “Maybe something like this?”

Xander stared at the piece of wood for a moment, as if trying to wrap his mind around what she meant for him to do, before he suddenly blinked when Buffy managed a gurgled shout. Springing into action, he didn’t even realize he’d managed to shove Owen to the side. Then he felt a tugging in his hand as he brought down the sizable chunk of wood onto the arm that was choking the life out of Buffy.

An inarticulate scream filled the air as suddenly Buffy dropped to her knees next to Xander. A ragged, choking cough filled the air as reflexively her hand reached up, rubbing at her throat. As she knelt there, gasping for breath, a string of angry words almost roared out.

“I will bring down his wrath upon you! I will tear the flesh from your bones, I will…!” The voice ranted on and on as more sections of the door began to explode out from further blows.

“Rant like the nut job you are?” Xander couldn’t help but ask as he glanced over at Morrigan and then down to the still coughing Buffy. “Yeaaaaah, I don’t think we’ll be sticking around for that.”

Dropping down, he moved to help Buffy to her feet, before one of the vampire’s arms had penetrated a lower portion of the door, and grabbed hold of the back of his shirt. Immediately he yelped as he felt his head slamming back into the remains of the door. As the world exploded into a heady veil of thick, cloudy thoughts and pain, he vaguely noted that he was being jerked away.

Blinkingly lightly, he noted a head of blonde hair appearing next to him. He couldn’t quite tell, however, if it was Buffy or Morrigan. Not that he particularly cared at that point in time.

They were getting him away from the bad thing. For that he was eternally grateful. Not as grateful as he’d be if they’d both stripped down to their bra and panties and started to wrestle in warm, glistening oil, but…

“That is soooo not going to happen,” a feminine voice, that a part of his mind guessed was Buffy, said.

And apparently the filters from brain to mouth weren’t working currently.

“What was your first clue?” The second voice was much more sarcastic. Probably Morrigan.

“Um, is he going to be all right?” Male. Ugh. Right, Owen, and now he was intruding on his happy thoughts. Was being able to enjoy the thought of glistening female flesh in the privacy of the company of the beautiful girls in question too much to ask?

“Xander…” Buffy’s warning growl could be heard. On the frightening to cute scale, it was most definitely, firmly entrenched in the cute side of the scale. Which was of course why it was so embarrassing for something when she kicked its ass.

“If I wasn’t completely certain he’s delirious, I would soooo dump him on the ground right here and now.”

“Well, he does have a point, you’re not exactly menacing.”

“I am too! I am completely and totally menacing and even terrifying when I want to be!”

Yes, only a fool would come between Buffy and her ice cream. The haagen-daz incident would live on in the annuals of infamy.

“… The haagen-daz incident?”

“It as a perfectly justifiable reaction!”

“Relax, he’s a boy, they will never understand the wonders of chocolate.”

“Dark chocolate. Xander tried to hide it.”

“He does have moments of stupidity, but that’s hardly surprising.”

“I resemble that remark,” Xander said as he finally managed a bit of coherency. “And let me say… owies.”

“Back with us then?” Morrigan asked with her lips curled into an amused smirk. “A pity, I was enjoying the way you were making her blush with your thinking out loud.”

“Bah, I make her blush even when I do have the filter on. It’s really a lovely shade, I mean…” Xander answered back, his words slightly slurred. “She gets this scowl and she just...”

“Xander, I am right here, and I can drop you at any time,” Buffy said with a growl right next to him.

“And then I would crawl forward and try to bite at your ankles.” Xander managed a weak grin before stumbling slightly. “Or, at least, I’d make an effort.”

“Really, I never knew you had an ankle fetish, Xander,” Morrigan noted with an arched brow. “Do I need to worry about keeping mine covered?”

“Funny. So, where’s that crazy you-know-what?” Xander blearily looked around. “Because, you know I’m not looking forward to round two now.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry too terribly much about it.” Morrigan waved her free hand negligently. “I’m sure someone will take care of him.”

“… Someone?” Buffy asked incredulously as she stared back at Morrigan. “He was a…!”

She paused then, glancing over at a clearly uncertain Owen. “Um, gang banger on drugs! Yeah! That’s not the kind of person that just… gets taken care of!”

“… Would someone happen to like wearing red?” Owen asked, his face pale as he was looking back behind them.

“… Morrigan, did you do what I think you did?” Xander asked very, very carefully as he refused to look back over his shoulder.

“What? All I did was get an acquaintance of Mr. Giles to resolve this particular incident.” Morrigan’s innocent smile was almost believable. “He was more than happy to oblige.”

“When did you do that? We were dragging Xander the whole time!” Buffy stared, rather suspiciously back at Morrigan.

“Oh, I have my ways,” Morrigan said demurely as her eyes twinkled wickedly.

“Indeed.” It was a very, very familiar voice that immediately made Xander want to bang his head against the nearest wall. “And what ways they are.”

“Really, Al, you know we’re both taken. What would your bony-arsed lady say?” Morrigan drawled out and shook her head.

“Probably something involving loud noises and bodily harm,” Alucard said unrepentantly as he glanced towards Owen. “Who’s… this?”

“I, um, er…” Owen stared up at the mad grin on Alucard’s face, paling quickly. “I’m… I’m Owen!” His voice cracked then, causing Xander to wince lightly. “I’m Buffy’s date!”

“What… amusing taste you have.” Alucard glanced towards Buffy, before chuckling softly.

“Xander… we really, really need to have a talk about your choice in girlfriends,” Buffy muttered under her breath and glanced over at her friend.

“Girlfriend?” Xander blinked lightly and glanced back at Buffy in confusion before he remembered the weight on his other side. “Oh, right. Her.”

“So glad you remembered,” Morrigan said with a drawl, her eyes dancing as they walked back into the mortuary. “Hello again, Mr. Giles.”

“Hiya, Ripper!” Alucard noted gleefully, his eyes shining.

“… You.” Giles paled visibly, before noting Xander’s condition. “Good Lord! Xander, what happened to you?”

“Um, crazy guy punching through doors?” Xander said half heartedly. “I mean, Owen certainly wasn’t really doing much good and well…”

“You stabbed a guy with a piece of wood!” Owen pointed out.

“And I have the splinters to prove it,” Xander agreed with a wince as he looked down at his bloodied hand. “Just… ow.”

“You’ll need to have that looked at to make sure it doesn’t get infected, Xander,” Giles noted as his voice grew somewhat detached. “I’d hate to have you lose that hand.”

“So would I. This is my stake hand.” Xander nodded quickly.

“You’re stake hand…?” Owen looked at him oddly for a moment. “I… is that a euphemism?”

“That’s right!” Buffy quickly cut in, nodding towards Owen. “You know Xander! Always with the crazy euphemisms and… oh EWWWW!”

Buffy jumped away from Xander, blushing brightly as she stared back at him.

“What, was it something I said?” Xander blinked innocently back at Buffy as he swayed lightly from the sudden lack of support.

“Pervert,” Buffy said with a sour glare at Xander.

“Hmph. Considering how quickly your mind went into the gutter… I was talking about camping supplies, thank you very much.” He glanced over at Morrigan and shook his head. “I mean, really, just because I’m a teenaged boy…”

“You take each and every opportunity you can to ogle her.” Giles pointed out neutrally as he glanced at Alucard. “And that’s not mentioning the… incident.”

“Ah, yes, the infamous incident,” Morrigan said agreeably. “Long shall it live on in memory.”

“Well, I wasn’t ever planning on forgetting it, true.” Xander got a grin on his face as his eyes grew distant. “It was a most…”

“Dammit, will you ever just let it go!?” Buffy demanded her face pushing towards crimson.

“Um, nope?” Xander paused a moment as he eyed her, before suddenly smiling, pleasantly. “Unless of course you’d like to return the favor, in which case, I wouldn’t have anything to hold over you, now would I?”

“Sooooo not going to happen.” Buffy growled the words out as she glanced away, her blush not lessening in the least.

“Of course not,” Alucard said with a drawled out voice. “Why, never have I heard a more convincing denial.”

“Must you taunt her so?” Giles asked, before pausing a moment and pulling his glasses off to quickly polish them. “Never mind. You’re you. Of course you must.”

“And whoever said your kind couldn’t be taught!” Alucard chuckled softly, before his eyes gleamed. “That reminds me, how would you like to do me a… favor?”

Giles looked him for a moment, his voice became completely dead pan as he said, “No, I will not hold a copy of that video and help you blackmail your… employer.”

“Ah, curses, foiled again.” There was a pause as Alucard absently rubbed his chest. “At least there was no fencing paraphernalia this time.”

“Um… are things around your normally this… crazy?” Owen asked Buffy as he warily watched the others.

“No! Of course not!” Buffy quickly cut in, as she glared at Giles and Xander. “Right?”

“Indeed.” Xander nodded his head quickly. “Usually it’s much, much crazier.”

“Everyone has their off days,” Morrigan said comfortingly as she lightly patted Xander’s back.

“I know, but still, it’s the principal of the matter,” Xander noted mournfully. “I have a reputation to maintain! What will people think?!”

“I… I think I’m going to need to… you know… Go,” Owen said as he glanced nervously over at Buffy. “I’ll, um… talk to you later, ok?”

“Oh… do you, um.. want me to walk you home?” Buffy asked hopefully.

“No… I think I need to clear my head, you know?” Owen smiled lightly at her before turning and walking away.

“Buffy, I…” Giles began to speak, only to have Buffy hold up her hand.

“Giles, I really, really don’t want to hear ‘I told you so’ right now,” Buffy stated quietly. “Just… not right now, okay?”

“I was going to say I’m sorry.” Giles coughed, politely as he looked back at her, and Buffy produced a wane smile.

“Thanks. I’m going to head home now and break open a carton of haagen-daz and try to forget what kind of miserable existence my life is,” Buffy stated simply as she hung her head and walked out of the room without looking back.

“So, that’s the new Slayer.” Alucard noted and rubbed his chin slowly. “Isn’t she a little… short for a Slayer?”

“Al…” Xander said warningly as he glared back at the mideon.

“What? I could gobble her up in one bite! She’d barely be an appetizer!” Alucard grinned back at him. “Though, I’m sure she could be put into all kinds of… interesting positions being that sized.”

“… Bad, bad monster. Stop giving me those kinds of thoughts,” Xander muttered softly, before slowly looking around. “Wait… Where’s Willow?”

“Oh, I’m sure she’s fine with the cursed piece of trash.” Morrigan waved her hand dismissively. “Nothing to worry about.”

“… Cursed piece of trash?” Xander repeated as she stared back at Morrigan.

“Well, he’s one of those demonically animated corpses cursed with a soul.” Morrigan arched a brow at him. “I thought you knew.”

“… Wait, Angel is a vampire?!” Xander’s eyes bugged out of his head. “And he’s alone with Willow!?”

“Oh, dear lord…” Giles face turned ashen as he stared at Morrigan. “You’re quite certain?”

“Well, it might not be a curse, but he is one of them and he does have a soul.” Morrigan shrugged his shoulders.

“And you sent him after Willow!” Xander pointed out with an edge of panic in his voice. “My Willow! And you sent her off with a vampire!”

“Relax, I’m sure there’s nothing for you to worry about,” Morrigan said dismissively. “He hardly has a predatory presence at all.”

“You say he has a soul?” Giles spoke up, curiosity rippling through his voice. “Absolutely fascinating.”

“Again, why is everyone missing the fact that he’s a vampire, with Willow! Who knows what he’s doing!” Xander repeated his eyes wide.

-o-o-o-

Willow sniffled softly as she pushed her spoon into the chocolate sauce smothered ice cream and forced a smile onto her lips as she looked across the booth over at a rather uncomfortable looking Angel. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Angel said quickly as he shifted slightly in his seat. “I thought you could, you know, use a bit of a pick up.”

“Yeah.” Willow quickly nodded her head before looking back at the bare table in front of Angel. “Are you sure you don’t want anything?”

“I’m fine. I already… had dinner.” He couldn’t quite meet her eyes when he said it, a look of guilt flashing across his features.

“Oh.” Willow’s shoulders slumped as she pushed the spoon into her ice cream before slowly pulling it back up to her lips and taking a small bite. “You sure you don’t want any desert? It’s really good.”

“I’m sure. Thanks.” Angel nodded his head again. “So, Buffy was out on a date?”

“Yeah, looks like.” Willow nodded her head, perking up slightly before her shoulders slumped down. “And so was Xander.”

“Yeah.” Angel nodded softly, his lips curling down into a slight frown.

“And he didn’t even tell me about it!” She frowned herself as she stabbed her spoon into her ice cream. “I mean, we tell each other everything! And he doesn’t even tell me he’s dating someone!”

“Well, have you told him about how you feel about him?” Angel asked curiously as he arched a brow.

“That’s different!” Willow brushed brightly as she stabbed into her sundae with her spoon. “This is some, some… floozy! Who he never even told us about!”

“Well, maybe he wanted to keep it a secret?” Angel looked more and more uncomfortable as he sat in the booth, watching as Willow stabbed her spoon into the sundae and took another bite.

“We don’t keep secrets from one another! We’re best friends!” Willow immediately protested.

“And you tell him everything about your life?” Angel asked curiously.

“Of course!” The was a pause before she looked off to the side. “Well, maybe not every single, tinsy little detail, but I tell him most everything! I don’t keep any major super secrets like that!”

“Then what’re you going to do?” Angel asked curiously as he winced just a bit.

“I’m gonna, I’m gonna…!” Willow paused, then deflated as she pushed another spoonful of ice cream into her mouth. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“Ah.” Angel nodded his head, shifting again in his seat. “So, what do you think, of, ah, Owen was it?”

“Owen? He’s really sweet and deep and sensitive!” Willow nodded her head absently as she toyed around with her sundae. “He’s really into poetry and stuff, especially Emily Dickenson, I think.”

“Never really got her appeal.” Angel grunted sourly and shook his head. “So, Buffy’s really into him?”

“Yeah, though, I think, um, Cordelia keeps trying to sink her claws into him.” Willow frowned a bit and pushed her spoon deeper into the ice cream. “I mean, it’s Cordelia! She’s just…”

“So I’ve gathered,” he said agreeably.

“It’s just so not fair!” Willow’s eyes glistened again as she spoke. “First he’s kissing Buffy, then this new girl and I’m right there! Why can’t I get Xander smoochies…?!”

“I’m sor-… wait, Xander and Buffy?” Angel’s head snapped up and he stared at her.

“Yeah… I don’t think anything really came of it.” Willow shook her head and slumped back. “It’s just not fair!”

“Tell me about it,” Angel said with a grumble as he slumped back in his seat.
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