WARNING: While this part is not what I would consider NC17, it does feature a scene with some fairly harsh language, as well as vampires doing the evil things that vampires would do. It's not graphically described, but just be warned, it's a heavy R.
Defender of the Night Part Two
Buffy could hardly keep from staring at him the whole time they made their way back to the school. Of course, a lot of people stared at their small group as they walked down the streets of Sunnydale, but seeing as it was Halloween, no one gave Xander's monstrous appearance much thought.
She was giving it enough thought to make up for everyone. He was a magnificent sight, even if Xander lacked the kind of calm confidence that Goliath had. Where Goliath walked straight, his shoulders back and chin up, Xander slumped, walking with a slow gait that held a hint of awkwardness. Which made sense, of course. He had a whole new body to learn how to use, and many of the parts were different.
Okay, all the parts were different, but some of them were hardly human. His wings, feet, and tail in particular. She stared at the long appendage swishing behind him as he walked, and wondered what it must be like to suddenly have a few extra limbs.
Probably just as strange to suddenly grow nearly a foot in height. Xander was, to her way of thinking, gi-normous. He was a good head taller than even Angel, and given her own petite frame, she had to crane her neck just to look at his face.
A face that she could not stop thinking of as beautiful. Noble. Was it the remnants of the noblewoman, whose thoughts and feelings she could still recall deep in her mind? Lady Buffy had been seriously crushing on Goliath by the time they'd made it to the factory. He was, to her mind, the storybook hero that would protect her from all the horrible monsters of her childhood. She shivered as she walked, recalling the warm feeling of protection that her noblewoman self had felt when Goliath had picked her up, wrapping those cloak-like wings around her after saving her from Larry.
"Are you okay?" Angel asked. She looked at him in surprise, having forgotten he was walking beside her.
"Yeah," she said, rubbing her arms. "Just remembering what it was like to be her."
"You remember it?"
"Yeah. It was like I was there, but I couldn't do anything. Majorly freaky."
"I'm sorry," he said, and Buffy smiled softly at him, stepping closer to him. Angel put his arm around her shoulder, but she frowned softly when she realized he offered her no warmth at all. Goliath's body was powerful, strong, and warm.
"I'm worried about him," she whispered as they walked. Xander had been silent since they left the warehouse, and they were all giving him his distance. Even Willow, whom they'd spotted several blocks away after she'd returned to her body, and to life. Willow and Cordelia both walked silently behind them, giving Xander sad or interested glances at random intervals.
"Maybe it'll wear off soon," Angel said. "Maybe the bigger the change, the longer it takes to wear off."
"Maybe," Buffy shrugged, but she didn't think so. Many of the kids had changed just as much as Xander had that night. Willow herself had died! That was a pretty big change, wasn't it? And she'd reverted back to her body just as soon as the spell had apparently ended. No, her Slayer senses were telling her that whatever happened to Xander, it was not going to be wearing off any time soon.
She let her eyes turn to him again, wondering if Xander had some remnant of Goliath in his mind, the way she had the remnant of the unnamed noblewoman. Her own costume had been of a vague and abstract person, a random noblewoman of the 1700s. Xander had been a specific fictional character. Would he have as much detail in his memories as she did hers? Would he have more?
The first thing she was going to do tomorrow morning was borrow every single tape of Gargoyles that Willow and Xander owned, and watch them all back to back.
Cordelia wasn't entirely sure why she stuck around. Once the crisis was over, she had no real reason to stick with the group of vampire slaying losers, especially since she found out that Angel really was a vampire after all. Ick and grossness.
It had been a really weird night for her, although not quite as weird as a few she'd had in the last year. Ever since Buffy showed up, it was like her life was just destined to get weirder and weirder.
Only tonight it wasn't her life that had gotten weirder. Well, okay, indirectly it had, but Xander was the real recipient of the weirdness, and she had to admit, she felt bad for him. Even if he was a huge hunk with a broad chest, powerful shoulders, and hands that could probably crush steel. Not to mention the wings, which gave him a very regal look when he draped them around his shoulders. Cordelia didn't know where the character called Goliath had come from, but he was pretty good looking for a monster.
And now he was Xander. A very quiet, very sullen Xander. In fact, she was still slightly suspicious about Goliath being Xander in the first place. The Xander she knew, the one she'd gone to school with all her life, he didn't do sullen. If something was upsetting him, he wasn't able to shut up about it.
She frowned then. That wasn't entirely true, was it? She wasn't exactly close with Xander, at least not in any way she'd ever admit to, but she knew him pretty well. She knew there were things in his life he never spoke of to anyone. They were the things she made a somewhat conscious decision to avoid in her verbal battles with Xander, only occasionally touching on such subjects as his home life. Usually such a thing was a sign that she was really, genuinely angry with him. It was kind of their unspoken way of determining the difference between their good-natured arguments and their real ones.
That meant that he was really upset, she realized. And maybe scared too. Xander had barely said ten words since the warehouse. He simply shambled forward; shoulders slumped, wings hanging down lifelessly. His awkward gait showed that he wasn't entirely sure how to move with his new legs. At least that was proof that he was no longer Goliath. Goliath moved with assuredness and purpose. Despite the body being the same, Xander looked like a completely different creature now, just based off of how he moved.
It was lack of confidence, she guessed, and it made her angry. Goliath had been an impressive figure, despite how frightening he could be at times. He'd garnered her respect very quickly. To see him moving in such a listless, sullen way, it was almost a crime. It instilled something in you to see Goliath's quiet sense of strength and confidence, and to have it suddenly disappear left a hole in her. It seemed wrong.
"You should stand up straight," she said to him suddenly, breaking the icy silence of the group as they entered the school.
"What?" he grumbled in Goliath's voice, deep and resonant.
She pulled her shoulders back, as if to demonstrate, unaware of how it presented her ample chest to all. "Like this. You're slouching."
"I don't care," he said.
"Cordelia, now's really not the time to be giving him posture lessons," Buffy chided her.
"It just looks wrong, that's all," Cordelia explained. "He shouldn't sulk like that."
"I'm not sulking."
Cordelia snorted. "Oh please. You're king sulker."
She gasped as he whirled on her, his eyes glowing brightly. "So what if I am? I'm not allowed to sulk? I got turned into a monster! If this doesn't wear off, I'm never going to see the sun again!"
Her heart hammered in her chest, amazed at how the simple and handsome features of Goliath's face could twist into something so horrifying when his - or rather, Xander's - anger flared. She stared back at him, unable to think of what to say.
Xander's wings lowered, and he turned his head to look at them, apparently not realizing he'd brandished them in his anger. He turned his head before turning away from her, letting his wings drape his shoulders again as he moved ahead of them, ducking his head slightly to avoid hitting it on a low doorway as he made his way down the halls.
She felt a soft smack on her arm. Willow glared at her. "That was totally mean, even for you."
Giles stared in utter fascination. The creature before him was truly stunning, and remarkable even beyond some of the incredible demonic beings he'd seen in his lifetime. He was like a work of art. Gothic art, but art nonetheless. He stood nearly a head taller than Giles, not counting the wings. His legs were slightly bent in the way of four-legged animals, with the elongated heel that seemed to bend in the wrong direction. Giles suspected he might clear almost eight feet in height if he were to stretch, though it would clearly not be a natural position.
"A gargoyle, you say?" he spoke in a soft voice, staring at Xander in open awe.
"Yeah, from the cartoon," Willow said.
"Cartoon?" he frowned at her. Surely Willow of all people knew that gargoyles had, at the very least, originated as stone statues. A cartoon series had not come up with the concept.
"I mean he's not a real gargoyle," Willow said. "Obviously, on account of he's alive and not stone. He's a gargoyle like from the cartoon."
"Lucky me," Xander said darkly. Giles raised an eyebrow. Xander's new voice was deep and rumbling, almost demanding respect. Incredible.
"Fictional then," Giles said, finally tearing his gaze from Xander's impressive form. He frowned and turned to a bookcase. "That would pose a problem in identifying the repercussions of your transformation. My information on gargoyles would no doubt differ greatly."
"Actually, um, I think we're okay about knowing what it means to be one," Willow said from her position at the table, her laptop open before her. "There are a bunch of websites, especially this one where the creator of the show answers all these questions they didn't answer on the show."
Giles sighed. Websites. Perfect. Xander was a character from a cartoon show, and their only reference material rested within those infernal machines.
"Then perhaps you should inform us, Willow, once you've gathered what information you can."
"Who cares about that?" Cordelia asked. "Why didn't he change back with everyone else?"
Giles frowned and pulled his glasses off, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "There could be any number of reasons. The spell was designed to create chaos; this could simply be one way of doing that. It could be that Janus, the being that powered the spell, deigned to have it continue in this regard. It could be that another of the pantheon of gods deigned to alter it somehow. There are more than a few trickster gods that may have interfered. It could be that the magic altered Xander so completely that it would somehow take more magic to reverse it, in which case it simply wouldn't. There is also the possibility that the fictional gargoyle he became has some natural hardiness to magic, which would again mean more power would be necessary to reverse the change. In a case such as that, the essence of the magic will only do that which is necessary."
"Jeez, you could just say 'I don't know' like a normal person."
"What about changing me back?" Xander asked. "Couldn't you just do a spell to change me back?"
Giles sighed. "I'm afraid not, Xander. Ethan's spells are powered by the particular deities he serves. Even attempting to beseech them could result in far greater consequences."
"Then I'm stuck. Forever." It was not a question.
Giles wished he had an answer for him. Perhaps, with time, he might find some solution, but the chances were undeniably slim. It had taken powerful magic to alter an entire town full of people, particularly if so many of the changes were on the same level as Xander.
Xander's dark eyes stared at Giles for a moment, until it was clear no answer would be forthcoming. Powerful fits clenched together with an audible snap, indicative of how strong his grip now was. He took a deep, heaving breath, and for a moment Giles was sure he was going to begin screaming at them all.
Then Xander's shoulders sagged. "Forever." He turned, and without another word, walked out of the library. Though they all felt the tug, none of them followed after him. Perhaps he just needed to be alone.
Xander pushed the double doors open, paying little attention as they nearly tore off the hinges. He took a deep breath as he stepped out of the school, the cool night air barely registering on his skin. He recalled an episode when it had been snowing. Gargoyles rarely felt extreme temperature differences in the climate.
He looked down at his new and massive body, his brain threatening to reject the image he saw. Only a simple loincloth covered his blueish-skinned body. It would likely be the only thing he wore for the rest of his life. It's not as if he could find a shirt made for a seven-foot tall guy with wings and a tail.
The night was quiet after the chaos of earlier. Halloween was supposed to be an off night for the demon world. The one night where you could walk the streets at night in Sunnydale and not have to worry about some monster jumping out at you.
Except now he was the monster, not the walker. He stared at his thick arms, flexing the fingers again. He felt so powerful, so strong. He knew his fingers could drive through solid concrete if he wanted to.
He probably wouldn't have to worry about some random vampire ever again. Did vampires even drink gargoyle blood? Why should they care to, when there were plenty of normal humans running around they could feed off of?
Stupid vampires. He didn't even register as a meal for them anymore.
Xander sighed and moved silently across the empty courtyard, coming to a seat one of the many benches. He growled and cursed softly when he tried to sit, nearly squashing is tail as he did so. He stood up again and had to think for a moment before he could find the right muscle to control his tail, swishing it out of the way so he could sit down. The bench creaked softly against his weight. Goliath's weight.
He put his face in his new massive hands, closing his eyes as he tried to pretend this wasn't happening. It was hard when he could feel the wind against the backs of his wings even as he had allowed them to fall into the draped, cloak-like position that Goliath often wore them in on the show. His wings had tiny claw-like appendages at the tips, and they would clasp together about his neck, forming a cloak. He was glad for that at least. It made him feel not quite so naked.
At that thought, he frowned. Did gargoyles have...guy parts? Xander stood up, his new heart suddenly beating strong her in his chest. Oh god, what if he'd been castrated to go along with everything else?
Although when he thought about it, he could feel that he definitely had something between his legs. He'd just not thought about it before then. Swallowing nervously, Xander glanced around, making sure he was alone. A part of him marveled at his incredible night vision. He thought he might actually be able to see better in the dark as a gargoyle than he had in the light as a human.
Reaching down carefully, Xander slipped a large finger between the belt that held up his loincloth. He looked around sheepishly one last time, and then pulled the belt slightly away from him, looking down.
He let go.
Okay. Gargoyles definitely had guy parts.
Boy did they ever.
Xander sighed, and sat back down, careful to move his tail out of the way first this time. He blew his breath out, puffing his cheeks as he exhaled. Then he stretched his arms, his wings spreading along with them. He frowned, turning his head to look at them. They were leathery and fairly bat-like, and appeared to be almost translucent. He might have called them beautiful, if they weren't on him.
Damn it! They were on him!
This was not happening. This could *not* be happening. This meant the destruction of his entire life! He wasn't even human anymore. Everything was different. He couldn't have friends, he couldn't have a girl, and he couldn't even go to school.
And he would never see the sun again. He buried his face in his hands, and let out a cry of anguish that startled him with its ferocity.
He was just like a vampire now. Doomed to live the rest of his life in darkness, to never feel the sun's rays on his face, save for the few moments he might remain flesh during the sunrise.
Panic welled up inside of him. What would it be like, to turn to stone? Would he be awake, unable to move, to breathe, or to make a sound in any way? Or would it be like sleeping? Would he just black out, only to wake up at sunset? He closed his eyes and could feel Goliath's distant memory. It was like sleeping. Like sleeping.
Everything was different. Everything was changed. He couldn't go back home, he realized. His parents would never even attempt to understand what had happened to him, and he wasn't going to give them the opportunity to prove him right. Xander Harris was dead, another casualty of the Hellmouth. Only he hadn't been done in by a vampire or a mantis lady. He'd been done in because he liked a cartoon show.
A sound made his ears perk up, and he brought his head up quickly to look in the direction it had come. Buffy stood at the edge of the courtyard, looking very unsure of herself.
"Xander?" she asked in a quiet voice. "Are you okay? I heard...A heard a scream."
She'd heard him. Of course she had. She had Slayer hearing, after all, and it wasn't like Goliath screaming in anguish was the quietest thing in the world. Frankly, he was surprised the whole town hadn't heard him.
Couldn't go home. He had nowhere to stay, and during the day he'd be completely vulnerable. What if some random delinquent decided to carve their name in a particularly frightening gargoyle statue they happened across?
Couldn't go to school. Monsters weren't allowed in school. So he'd be a drop out as well as a hideous beast.
Couldn't have a girlfriend, not that he'd had one to begin with. Who was going to go out with someone that looked like him? He wasn't even human anymore. Was it technically even legal for a girl to go out with him?
Legal? Legally he didn't exist. Xander Harris was a teenaged human, not a whatever-aged gargoyle. He was a nobody now. A nothing that no longer mattered in the real world.
He realized he hadn't answered her when he felt Buffy's warm hand on his shoulder. He nearly jumped at the touch. Xander blinked and pulled his head back, turning to look at her. She sat on the bench beside him, one hand on his shoulder, rubbing soothingly. Her eyes were wet with tears as she looked up at him.
They must have looked ridiculous. He was a giant gargoyle, seven feet tall with humongous wings and a tail. He was a hideous blue monster, with talon-like hands that could crush a person's skull easily. She was a tiny little blonde girl, with hands that could bend steel, although she didn't look it. She was beautiful, slender and graceful.
"Shouldn't you be with Angel?" he asked. It was spiteful, but he was in a spiteful mood.
Her hand paused. "He's helping with the research. Everybody is."
"And only you came out."
"I came out because I heard you," Buffy said. "I don't think they did. The library's pretty soundproofed. Even Angel didn't hear anything. We all thought you'd rather be alone, but when I heard you I...I told them I was getting a glass of water." She paused, licked her lips. "Do you?"
"Do I what?"
"Do you want to be alone?"
He wanted to be human. He wanted to be himself again.
"No," he whispered.
So she sat with him, and tried to be of some comfort.
"We have to," Willow was saying when Xander and Buffy finally returned to the library. No one said a word about their prolonged absences.
"Have to what?" Xander asked, drawing the other's attention. His voice seemed to demand it.
"Beseech Janus," Willow said, looking sadly at him. "Try to find out why you didn't change back."
"I'll remind you again, Willow, that such a thing is exceedingly dangerous. Janus is a being of immense power, there's no telling what he'll do if contact over such a trivial matter."
"It's not trivial!" Willow exclaimed. "It's Xander!"
"Not trivial to you," Xander said. He could recall Goliath's memories, his own dealings with god-beings. "Trivial to Janus."
"I don't care," Willow said. "I think we should do it. It might be the only way to change you back."
Xander frowned, unsure of what to say. He desperately wanted to change back, to not have any of this be real. But could he risk his friends over that?
"How dangerous are we talking about?"
"There's no telling," Giles said. "The spell itself is fairly simple. It is only Janus's reaction that worries me. There's no way to predict his response."
Xander looked to Willow, "Can you do the spell by yourself?"
"Now hold on," Giles began. Xander glared at him, his eyes flashing momentarily, and Giles closed his mouth.
"Yeah," Willow answered. "I could do it myself."
Xander sighed. "Tell me the truth then. If Giles said he wouldn't do it, would you do it anyway?"
She stared at him for a long moment. Then she nodded. "It could help you."
"What if I said not to do it?"
Willow bit her lip. "Don't tell me not to," she said. "Please, Xander. I have to do whatever I can to help you."
He nodded slightly, sighing as he moved over to the stepladder Giles sometimes used to get to the tops of bookcases. He swished his tail out of the way and sat on it, one leg bent at the knee, and put his chin in his hand. He could understand Willow's plea. If their positions were reversed, he'd do the same thing. No Roman god was going to keep him from helping Willow, and it felt good to know she wouldn't let it keep her from helping Xander either.
Willow stared at him expectantly, awaiting his response. Giles frowned at both of them, but remained silent, aware that this was between the two old friends.
"I don't want you to," Xander finally said. "But I won't stop you if you decide to try."
"Then I'm going to do it," Willow said.
Xander nodded slowly, gratitude and worry filling him in equal measure. "Thank you."
"Willow, I..." Giles began. He paused, pulling off his glasses. "I, I understand that I won't be able to talk you out of this. I'll help you in any way I can." He sighed. "When do you wish to cast the spell?"
"Right away," Willow said. "Before dawn."
There was no reason to ask why.
Xander swallowed nervously, his eyes taking in the room. The library was lit only by the dim light of the ceremonial candles, but to him it was as if it were the middle of a summer's day. Willow and Giles sat in the middle of a chalk circle, holding a smoldering branch between them. Buffy stood with Angel off to the side, and Cordelia watched from her position on the library counter, her foot lightly tapping against the side of the counter with a regular rhythm. She looked very bored.
He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself, but even that was a unique experience. His chest expanded greatly as his new and much larger lungs filled with air. He wondered how long he could hold his breath. Wasn't there an episode with the Loch Ness monster where Goliath had been underwater a lot? He couldn't remember if gargoyles were any better at holding their breath than humans were.
He was stronger, he was bigger, he was more durable and he would live at least twice the human life span. It seemed like a great deal, if you forgot about spending the daylight hours trapped as a stone statue, or the monstrous appearance. It wasn't the kind of trade-off he thought he'd ever jump to make.
"Janus, we beseech thee," Willow intoned, waving the branch in the air. "Come forth, ye master of duality. Come forth."
"Janus, we implore thee," Giles said. "Appear before such as humble as we. Appear, o' lord of beginning and end, portals and passages. Appear before us!"
There was a cracking sound, like a gunshot, and the smoke of the branch began to swirl into a circle. A hideous tearing sound echoed through the room, and they all covered their ears in surprise.
"I am once again brought forth to this realm," a booming voice resonated throughout the library. "It becomes bothersome."
"W-We apologize, o' great Janus," Willow said, trying to placate the god-being.
A double-headed man appeared in the smoke. One head was bearded, the other clean-shaven. The bearded side spoke first.
"Why do you summon Janus?"
"To restore he who was altered by the power of your magic," Giles said. He gestured to Xander. "His life is forever altered."
The head turned, and the clean-shaven side spoke. "I am forbidden to interfere in the lives of mortals."
"B-But you already did!" Willow exclaimed. "He's like this because of you!"
"That which cannot be broken can be bent," the head turned, and the bearded side spoke again. "I was bound by human magic to empower a spell, yet I was bound by my lord's law to not interfere. As such, the mortal you bring before me was altered so that his life might remain his own. In this way, I do not interfere."
"But can't you change him back, especially if he asks for it?"
The head turned again, the clean-shaven side staring at Xander. "Duality is the domain of Janus. Once human and now gargoyle, his form pleases me. He is as he shall always be. Gargoyle, until his life is ended."
"No!" Willow cried. "You can't! Please, just change him back! He doesn't deserve this!"
"Do not beseech Janus again, foolish girl. My will is done."
And with that, the smoke dissipated, and he was gone.
Xander's head drooped. That was it. He was stuck. He was cursed. Cursed by some Roman god who apparently thought it would be a real hoot for him to be a gargoyle.
Thanks again, Hellmouth.
Drusilla whimpered, rocking back and forth as she clutched her doll to her chest. Several of Spike's former minions stood around her, wondering what they should do with her now.
"We should just stake her," one of them said. "It'd be more humane."
"Screw human," another said. "In fact, let's just screw. She's a hot piece, even if she's nuttier than a chipmunk."
A third rubbed his hands together. "Ooh yeah, I like that idea. I always wanted a taste of Spike's girl."
"Spike!" Drusilla wailed, sobbing on the bed. "My beautiful Spike!"
"Come on," the biggest of them said. "I get first dibs."
"Yeah on the cunt," the other laughed. "That leaves at least two more holes, assumin' we don't make some more!"
The others all laughed.
Drusilla ignored them, clutching Miss Edith to her chest as she wailed over the loss of her undead lover. Were she sane, Drusilla might have noticed just how tightly she was able to hold her doll. She might have noticed at the force with which she was able to cry out her anguish. But Drusilla was not sane. She was a raving lunatic, a demon in a human body. She was, at that moment, aware of nothing but the pain of having lost Spike.
The minions did not have that excuse. Their excuses for not noticing Drusilla's sudden lack of weakness were stupidity mixed with mindless lust. They were too busy planning on raping her to be aware of the great effect Spike's death had on her.
Drusilla had sired Spike, and as such, imparted a taste of her own strength to him. With his death, whether because of their "loving" bond or simply the bond a sire has for their childe, some of that power was returned to her.
She didn't react when a hand grabbed her arm, pulling her roughly towards the gang of vampires. She didn't react when one of them mauled her breast, or even when they ripped the front of her dress. As the largest of them made his way between her legs, Drusilla stared in shock at what she saw behind him.
"My Spike," she whispered, eyes wide with wonder. "You've come back to me."
"What?" the vampire on top of her nearly screamed. He quickly turned his head. There was no one there. "Jeez, stupid bitch almost gave me a heart attack."
"Toldja she's nuts."
Drusilla smiled dreamily as the man thrust within her. In her eyes, the vision of Spike stepped closer.
"Of course I came back, luv. I could never leave you."
"Oh, my Spike," she said, tears in her eyes. "You'll be with me forever."
"Forever," her vision said. "Now come on, luv. I need you to do something for me."
"Anything." She paid no mind to the vampire currently gyrating against her.
"Kill these fools, and drain them all. You'll need all your energy."
"Oh!" she gasped, covering her mouth with her hand. "Yes, of course I will! We've company coming!"
"That's right," Spike told her. "Company's coming very soon, and you'll need to be as strong as you can to be ready for her."
"Yes, my Spike," Drusilla said as she wrapped her arms lovingly around the man atop her.
"Ha ha! Look at the stupid bitch! She thinks he's Spike!"
"I have to be ready," Drusilla whispered in the vampire's ear. "For the Slayer."
Then she sank her fangs deep into his neck, and drank deeply.
Angel's arms were around Buffy as they sat together. Angel leaned his back against the wall, sitting on the floor of the hallway, and Buffy sat with her back to his chest. She held his arms around her middle, a part of her trying to regain that protective feeling that her noblewoman self had felt while wrapped in Goliath's wings.
Buffy closed her eyes and sighed, allowing Angel's presence to soothe her worries. Xander and the others were still in the library, with Willow doing her best to compile any relevant information about the show. Xander had barely said a word since the spell had been cast, and sat silently on the stepladder, lost in his own thoughts.
She could hardly imagine what was going through his mind. Her eyes squeezed tightly shut as tears began to form. Why did this have to happen to him? Xander didn't deserve this. Nobody did.
Angel shifted slightly. He spoke in a low voice. "I have to go soon."
It was getting late. Or rather, it was getting early. Dawn was coming, and Angel would have to leave before the sun was up.
"Just a few more minutes," she said pleadingly, holding his arms around her. When she was with him, she could pretend things were okay.
"A few more."
She sighed and settled back against him, enjoying the feel of his head resting over her shoulder.
"I'm really worried about him," she admitted.
She turned her head, looking at him sideways. "What's it like? Knowing you're never going to see the sun again."
His expression was unreadable. "It hurts. Especially...Especially since I met you."
"My greatest wish is to be able to take you out in the sunlight," Angel said.
She smiled softly and kissed the side of his cheek. "I don't mind being in the dark with you."
"It's never dark when you're around," he said, offering her a rare smile. It made her feel a little better, if even for a moment. She turned her head, staring distantly at the opposite wall.
Xander didn't have anyone to share the darkness with.
They sat together for a few more minutes, until finally Angel had to go. They kissed softly for a moment before he left.
Buffy walked slowly back to the library. She found Cordelia standing in front of the doors, just staring at them.
"You know they work a lot better if you open them," Buffy said. Cordelia jumped, clutching her chest in fright.
"Jeez! Lurk much?"
"I wasn't lurking, I was walking. What are you doing staring at the door?" Buffy frowned. "In fact, what are you doing here in the first place? Don't you usually go home after the badness?"
"I...I wanted to talk to Xander," Cordelia admitted, to Buffy's surprise. The dark haired girl crossed her arms over her chest, glaring at Buffy, almost daring her to say something.
"About what?" Buffy asked suspiciously.
"None of your business, nosey."
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Fine, whatever. I'm going inside."
"Fine. Me too."
They both pushed open the doors together, and strode into the library.
"Because!" Giles was arguing. "Puck is a fictional character!"
"So is Goliath!" Willow argued back. "And now he's sitting right there!" She pointed at Xander.
"I'm not Goliath," Xander grumbled. Willow turned slightly red.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean..."
"What are you guys talking about?" Buffy asked.
"I said we should try to summon Puck," Willow said. "To help change Xander back to human."
"The guy from the Real World?" Cordelia frowned. "He sticks his fingers right into the peanut butter jar!"
"Oh dear Lord," Giles groaned, covering his face with his hand. "Puck. From A Midsummer Night's Dream. Shakespeare."
"He did Shakespeare?" Cordelia asked in astonishment. "I didn't know he was an actor."
"You think Puck could help?" Buffy asked Willow, ignoring Cordelia's confusion.
"He did on the show," Willow said. "There was a girl gargoyle, and he turned her into human during the day."
Buffy glanced at Xander. "But still gargoyle at night?"
"Well that's better than nothing, right? So let's do that."
"We can't," Giles said. "Puck is not real. Goliath is not real either. The spell created Goliath based on the fiction. There is no Puck to summon."
"So we think!" Willow exclaimed. "But how do we know for sure?"
"It doesn't matter," Xander said glumly. "You need the magical mirror to call Puck anyway, and even then he's not going to give you what you want, assuming he's real in the first place."
He slid off of his perch on the stepladder, and looked at them all. "It's going to be dawn soon. I should...I should get someplace out of sight."
"You can use my office," Giles said sadly. "I'll close the blinds. We can try to determine a better situation this evening."
"Yeah," Xander nodded sullenly. He took a deep breath and stepped into Giles's office, and nearly knocked over a cabinet with his wings. He spun, banging into the desk. "Argh! Son of a!"
His eyes flashed white as his roaring voice gave them all a startle of fright. He growled softly.
"I don't think the office is going to work, Giles," he said a moment later.
"Yes, I'm afraid it's rather small for a creature of your size."
Buffy wasn't sure she liked Giles calling him a creature. She looked up, and could see the sky turning a dark blue outside the window. It was slowly matching the tint of Xander's skin as it lightened.
Xander stepped back out into the middle of the room. "So where do I go?"
"Why do you have to go anywhere?" Cordelia asked.
"Because as soon as the sun comes over the horizon, I'm turning to stone," Xander said darkly.
"So? I mean, why does that mean you have to hide somewhere? We'll just tell everyone you're a statue."
Xander glared at her, but Giles shrugged slightly. "I suppose it's not out of the question."
Xander sighed and stepped beside the weapons cage. He took a deep breath, and stood slightly taller. "Just...Don't let anyone break me, okay?"
"We promise," Buffy said, staring at him sadly.
It happened faster than they would have expected. One moment, Xander was standing there watching them. Then his legs hardened, turning gray as they turned to stone. Within a handful of seconds the stone transformation swept over him, and Xander stood immobile. He appeared to be nothing more than a majestic and intricately carved statue of a particularly magnificent gargoyle.
Willow sobbed quietly and let her head sink to the table. Giles cleared his throat and put his glasses on.
"I suggest we all get some sleep," Giles said. "There are a few hours until school starts."
Buffy stepped in front of Xander, and carefully reached up to brush her hand against his face. It was cold and lifeless, and felt exactly like stone. She felt a tear roll down her cheek.
It was so surreal. This inhuman statue had been her best-guy-friend just a few hours earlier.
"What about Xander?" she asked.
"He'll be fine," Giles assured her. "I'll make sure nothing happens to him during the day."
It took them all a few minutes to stop staring in quiet astonishment. Finally they all slunk silently out of the library, all of them numb with the reality of the situation.
They would fix this. They had to.