JD took a moment to run his hands over the beautiful furniture that adorned Xander’s store. He’d dropped Abby and Casey off to go see a film and had finally decided to confront Xander about his suspicions.
Screwing up his courage, JD stepped through into the workshop to find the carpenter hard at work.
“JD! Hey, everything alright?” Xander glanced behind the other man. Not seeing Abby he switched his attention back to the dark-haired agent, who was looking uncharacteristically nervous.
“Abby’s fine. She and Casey went to see some chick flick. I didn’t fancy it.” JD moved closer to where Xander was working and started to play with the scraps of wood scattered over the workbench.
Xander sighed. He’d had a nasty feeling that JD had started to put things together the last time the young agent and Abby had got together for a chat. Abby had been concerned that Xander was going to be mad, but as he’d explained to her, JD was smart and she needed to talk about what had happened in Cleveland. She’d been more comfortable talking with JD rather than the father figures of Ezra and Josiah.
“Soda?” Xander offered as he went to grab himself something from the kitchen area. JD followed him and they both sat at the table that he’d put up for Abby when she came over with him.
“Yeah, sure.” JD fiddled with the drink for a while before smiling. Xander wasn’t going to make it easy for him, and he wasn’t surprised.
“What do you and Abby fight, Xander?” JD couldn’t bring himself to say the words yet. Not until he had something from the other man.
“What do you think?” Xander asked.
“When Abby talks about what happened… She told me about the man, the one that was killed, but when she’s talking about patrol… She doesn’t use the words man or people. She talks about ‘things’… and monsters.” JD trailed off. Damn, Xander’s poker face was nearly as good as his Dad’s.
“And I may have seen Josiah’s browser history.” JD shifted uncomfortably. “I wasn’t snooping! I was just using his machine, and…”
Xander rubbed his eye tiredly. “Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss, JD.”
“I want to help Abby. If she can’t talk to me without having to censor herself all the time, how can I help properly?” JD figured that appealing to Xander’s desire to help Abby was his best bet at getting the other man to open up.
“Just because you could
know more, doesn’t mean you should. You’ve helped her a lot already.” Xander had to try and give the man one last out. “There’s no going back, JD.”
“I'm your friend; Abby's friend, too. I may not like the truth, but I can handle it.” JD was determined to follow through despite Xander’s warning.
Xander snorted. “You and ‘a few good men,’ eh?”
“Real funny.” JD sighed, realising that there was only one way this could go. “Xander?”
“Yeah, JD?” Xander didn’t bother to hide the sadness in his voice.
“Are vampires real?”
“Yes, JD. Vampires, demons and magic. It’s real. The world would end tomorrow if some of them had their way.” Xander figured there was no point in trying to sugar-coat anything.
JD paled a little and fell silent. Xander let him have the time to truly think over what had been revealed.
“But you and your friends -- Abby
-- you stop them, right?” Xander was humbled by JD’s faith in him and his friends.
“They’re fighting them every day,” Xander said. “I just get called in as back-up for the big stuff.”
“Why Abby?” JD had picked up on Xander’s reticence about his part, and decided to focus on the reason he’d opened this can of worms.
“Abby’s a slayer. She has preternaturally enhanced strength and speed to help her fight vampires in particular, but other nasties, too. But, when it comes down to it, she’s also a vibrant young woman who needs a normal life as well.” Xander didn’t want JD to be too freaked out by Abby’s capabilities. She needed friends, not hero worship, or -- worse still -- fear.
“Wow.” JD found it hard to imagine being that young and fighting monsters, even with ‘help’. He looked over at Xander, and it struck him once again that his friend had been through the same thing as well. “What about you?”
“I’m nothing special, JD. Just stubborn, like my Dad,” Xander finished with a small smile. JD fought the urge to argue that point, but decided to ask another question instead.
“So how come nobody knows about this, normally? How safe is Denver, or Casey?” JD suddenly realized the wider implications of his new knowledge.
“Take it easy.” Xander sought to calm the rising worry. “Denver’s pretty safe. Generally, the beasties keep themselves contained; the last thing they want is an angry mob of humans hunting them. The troublesome ones tend to be drawn to hotspots of evil - Hellmouths. Sunnydale was one, there’s one in Cleveland, and I’m sure there are other places too.
“The chance of you encountering anything under normal circumstances was incredibly low. We called it ‘Sunnydale Syndrome.’ People don’t want to believe in the monsters in the dark, so if they see something weird, their brain supplies a perfectly rational explanation. BBQ fork accidents, gangs on PCP, that kind of thing.”
“Huh, that explains some of the weird shit in the Sunnydale PD files,” JD mused.
“Yeah, but now you know
. So you won’t be able to help yourself; you’ll find yourself looking into the shadows that you would have ignored before, and they will look back
.” Xander wanted to make sure that JD wasn’t going to go off half-cocked.
“I understand why you needed to ask, but I don’t want you telling anyone about this, and more importantly I need your word you won’t go looking for proof. Ezra, Vin and Josiah, they know and they’ve given me the same promise.” Xander held JD’s eyes until he was sure the man understood.
“Buck…” JD knew he was terrible at keeping secrets from his room mate.
“I know, JD. Eventually, they’re all going to figure this out, but I want to give them as long as possible, free of this part of my life.” Xander knew it was futile, but he still felt the need to try. “They are in no more danger not knowing. I made a deal with the local demon lord for protection of my friends. Sure, there’s a possibility of rogue elements, but they’re actually safer than before I came here.”
“I know you wouldn’t put us at risk, Xander, not if you could prevent it.” While the whole thing was scary, JD knew that the man who sat before him had a protective streak as big as Larabee’s. “I won’t go looking for trouble, but just in case…” JD trailed off, unable to verbalise the question.
Xander nodded, understanding the other man’s reluctance to voice the question. “Few basic rules, then. Demons – they’re pretty rare but very varied, so best plan is to run. Vamps, on the other hand, run if you can but they’re quick, so -- sunlight, stake to the heart and beheading are the only sure ways to kill vamps. Shooting them will just piss ‘em off. They can’t enter a home uninvited, but you need to be careful with public places and hotels. Crosses and holy water may repel them, but they’re not foolproof. Garlic’s useless; silver, other than as an actual blade, too.”
“OK.” JD’s face was a study of concentration as he worked to memorise what he’d been told.
“So, JD, that’s Vamps 101. What are you going to do when you get home?” Xander asked.
“When you get back to the apartment, what’s the first thing you’ll see?” Xander prodded.
“A mess?” JD was thrown by the fact they’d appeared to switch subjects.
“I’m not joking, JD. You wanted to know; now you need to work on understanding. Think. Just like in your day job, your brainiac mind is your best weapon.” While Xander’s words were teasing, the tone was deadly serious.
JD fought the urge to call Xander on his apparent mocking. His friend was obviously trying to make a point, and he had little doubt it would be to his benefit. JD fell silent as he mentally ran through what he’d see as he entered his home. Vin had talked him through the trick, which helped when later entering a bust or crime scene. As the door opened he was faced with the living room, couch and TV directly ahead of him; to the left was the kitchen and to the right his room and the bathroom. In the back corner were the stairs up to Buck’s room on the mezzanine. Nothing.
JD fought to rein in his frustration. Xander was trying to help him, not make fun of him. He forced himself to think back over the context of their conversation. They’d been talking about protection; defense; invitations… JD grinned at his friend, who smiled right back.
“When I get home, I’m gonna throw out our welcome mat.”