My plan to post one fanfic chapter a week during Nano fell apart because of the spurty nature of my muse... enjoy.

Previous parts: HERE

Summary: Their world has changed, so what will the grand finale look like in this grand new world?
Warnings: None (Pre-slash)
A/N: A little dialogue taken and twisted from Graduation Part II

Part Twenty Seven (Conclusion):Keep Walking

  • If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained. Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing. ~Saint Augustine

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This time, actually beta'ed!! Thanks slashpuppy!!

In this universe, Xander challenged Angel right up front--called him a pedophile to his face. And from there, everything changed.

Previous parts: HERE

Summary: So, just how well will Riley and his team handle the weirdness that his Buffy's life.
Warnings: None

Part Twenty Six: Powerful Beyond Measure

  • “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. --Nelson Mandela

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In this universe, Xander challenged Angel right up front--called him a pedophile to his face. And from there, everything changed.

Previous parts:
Part one: Bumbling to a Save
Part two: Family Ties
Part three: Devil in the Details
Part Four: Bad Karma
Part Five: Rust Upon Iron
Part Six: Mending Fences... or tearing them down
Part Seven: Quiet Waters Mirroring Undistorted
Part Eight: Bait, Swindle and Self-destruct
Part Nine: Deaf, Dumb, and Destiny-blind
Part Ten: The Road Not Taken
Part Eleven: Full Circle on the Lesson
Part Twelve: The Care and Feeding of Humans
Part Thirteen: A Little Brutal Honesty with Tea
Part Fourteen: A Slippery Leash

Part Fifteen: Flesh and Blood and Heart

The aftermath of Angelus' spree threatens to pull Xander's world apart.

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"Would the Master like anything else?" the skanky vamp with greasy, shoulder-length hair asked as he looked over Xander's shoulder at a now sated and sleeping Angelus. The only other vamp to survive Angelus' little visit had been a woman with long, dark hair that was tangled with bits of straw and grass, and she was out dumping the one human who had not survived her visit to the suck house tonight.

"No, no, Master is just fine. Huge with the fine. Needing some quiet," Xander assured the vamp. He bit his lip to try and just hold it together a little longer. Angelus was... Angelus was terrifying. And he felt exactly nothing for the poor woman who he had drained. Her fists had clawed at him, pulling him closer, and Xander had watched the lust on her face with disgust. Then her eyes just sort of sagged. Of course, Angelus' only concern was that the woman's death not count as breaking the deal. And since the alternative had been dying just before Angelus went gone out on a killing spree, Xander had agreed to let just the one dead woman not count. Just one. Hey, it wasn't like one life was all that important in the face of stopping Angelus. Xander thought he might puke. He definitely wished the one lost life had been his own.

The skanky vamp looked at him strangely. "You call for me, Leander, if you need anything," he whispered as he backed out of the room.

Xander walked over to the pile of "their cleanest blankets" and sat down heavily. It would be morning soon, and he would have to go over to his parents and make nice noises, and he just didn't know how he was supposed to do it. He'd watched a woman die. He'd watched biting and sex and variations on sex and he'd watched a woman die. He might freak out more about the sex if he hadn't watched a woman die. And he was fairly sure his brain was broken.

He leaned back against the molding wall of the old house and looked around at the boarded windows, the piles of dirty blankets and quilts and the three remaining humans who'd been fucked and relieved of a few pints of blood. He watched Angelus sleep, praying that Angel would be able to take control once the drugs were out of his system. Actually, he decided, he didn't wish he had died instead of that woman, he wished it had been Devon. What a loser. What a moronic loser. He just wished he had more words for stupid because he'd use them all on that arrogant, vain, stupid pill-popper. Xander felt a cold trickle down his face, but he was too tired to even reach up and wipe the tear away.

Part of him wanted to blame Angel for this. It would be so easy seeing as how Angelus had used Angel's body. Besides, Angel took control away from Angelus long enough to tell Xander to run... not that he had. Why couldn't he pull control away long enough to save that woman? Xander's life wasn't worth more than that woman. She might have kids or a husband or parents out there looking for her. They'd never know that she died because she wanted some vampire to bite her. And Xander knew that Angelus, not Angel, had been doing the biting, but her death just hit a little too close to home.

Jesse's parents never found out. They never knew that Jesse had died and gotten vamped and then died again on Xander's stake. Every once in a while, Xander still logged on to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children and looked at Jesse's face on the computer screen. For a long time, Xander hated Angel for being alive... or sort of alive, when Jesse was dead. A good deal of that hate came from guilt that his best friend had turned to dust on his stake. But then he started hanging out with Angel just to prevent the Buffster from doing the hanging, and everything changed. But now, now it was changing back. Angelus had just killed some woman, and like Jesse, that woman's family would never know why they lost her.

Two, three years ago, he would have blamed Angel and kept right on walking. Growing up sucked, though, because now Xander had to think about the fact he had played his part in both tragedies. His gut wanted to hate Angel. Hate was second only to fear in his gut. But his head was not going with the plan, and that just left him sort of stuck.

Taking a sobbing breath, Xander wondered if the sun was up. He bet Buffy had called about a million times. Faith might have even gone over to ask why the hell they weren't home. Maybe not. Faith still had a habit of sneaking the booze when she knew Angel would be out, so maybe she got drunk and then came home and passed out. God, how was he supposed to tell them? What was he supposed to tell them?

'Hey, I made a deal with the soulless version of Angel, and guess what, only one woman died.' Yep, he was a real hero. The room smelled sour and musky, and one of the humans who had stayed the night on his own pile of dirty blankets stirred in the corner. His pants had been shredded, and Xander had no idea how the guy planned to get home half-naked and walking bow-legged. Oddly, he seemed to have enjoyed the sex even if Xander thought it looked like the most painful process in the history of really painful processes.

Xander scratched his leg and studied the two women on a separate pile of blankets. It was better than looking at Angel's very naked backside as he lay sprawled, face-down on the bed. What made a person come to a suck house and let a vampire bite them and then... do what Angelus had done? He'd never felt the need to use 'ravish' outside of those stupid book Buffy read, but that did seem to be the best word for it. What had happened was way outside of how Xander traditionally defined sex. He thought he had made second base with Cordy, but now he was fairly sure he wasn't even to first yet. After last night, he needed a new definition for the bases, a whole lot of therapy, and possibly a lobotomy.

The man groaned and then went still. Yep, he was waking up and realizing what he had done. Say hello to regrets and recriminations, Xander thought as he watched the guy press his hand on the floor and slowly look around. The guy frowned, glanced at Angelus dominating the entire bed, and then looked over to Xander.

"When will he be back?" the man whispered, and instead of horror and guilt, Xander could only see hope in the man's face. Yep, Xander was giving up his spot in line at the nuthouse to this guy.

"I have no idea," Xander shrugged.

Disappointment flashed across the man's face before he pushed himself to his knees, groaning again before he bit his lip to silence himself. Pulling one old blanket free from the pile he'd slept on, he stood and wrapped it around his waist, but not before Xander saw the thin streaks of blood on the man's thighs.

"Are you okay?" Xander asked. Yep, this guy was a fruitcake. He was a fig short of a fruitcake even, but if he was hurt, Xander could call an ambulance from his cell phone. Not that he had for the woman who had died.

"Buddy, I'm fantastic. Seriously, I'll pay double for that," he said eagerly. And Xander found whole new levels of squick.

"I'll tell him," Xander smiled weakly. Okay, if Angelus was still in control, he'd probably be pissed at having humans pay as though Angelus were for sale. If Angel was in charge... hell, if Angel were in charge, that was going to be a drop in the big old guilt bucket he was going to be trying to drown himself in.

The man nodded and stumbled awkwardly to the door. A scrap of his pant leg was still caught around his ankle and long threads trailed after him. Xander watched them make a wormy trail in the dust of the floor.

One of the women opened her eyes, glanced around, and then promptly went back to sleep, leaving Xander alone with his thoughts. He just stared at the wall and tried to think about nothing... except maybe about how that wall paper was really, really ugly. He didn't even know they made wallpaper that shade of yellow. Water stains sort of blended with the design of leaves. He was exhausted, but he couldn't bring himself to close his eyes.

"Pet, you alright?" a voice interrupted his little trance. Xander jerked, gasped, and looked over to find Spike crouched next to him, all vamped out and twitching his nose like a rabbit... although he probably shouldn't point out the rabbit part since he didn't have a love of pain and bloodletting.

"Hey, me? I'm fine. Look all my fingers and toes are still attached," Xander said as he held his hand out and wiggled his fingers. Spike looked at him oddly. "And you're here."

"Right then, need to deal with the big bugger first, alright?"

"Deal away," Xander nodded. He should probably feel something about Spike showing up, but the part of him that felt things had gone on vacation and not left a contact number. Maybe it had even moved and failed to file a change of address form. Maybe... maybe his brain was really and truly broken.

"Sire?" Spike said softly as he edged closer to the bed.

That broad back stiffened, muscles rippling under the skin and then in the blink of an eye, Angel was up, his hand around Spike's throat. He snarled, showing his vampire teeth, and then dropped back into his human face. "Spike?"

"Angel?" Spike asked, his voice still sounding way more respectful than Xander had ever heard him.

"What are you—" Angel looked around with a slowly gathering expression of horror. He let go of Spike's neck and dropped back down onto the bed as though someone had cut all his leg muscles. That same woman in the corner opened her eyes and blinked owlishly at Spike.

"Get out," Spike ordered when Angel just continued to stare blankly. Xander knew exactly how Angel felt. Yep, the brain was not engaging with the world right now.

"What?" the woman asked as she frowned. She pushed herself up and woke the second woman. Spike threw Angel's pants at him, and Angel started putting them on mechanically.

"Master, do you need anything?" Leander asked from the doorway.

"Yeah, get the birds out of here," Spike said before he turned his back on them. With a respectful nod, Leander reached down and practically picked one woman up under each arm as he hauled them out of the room.

"So, wot possessed you to go after a suckhouse, Peaches?" Spike asked, his usual insolent tone back. He leaned against the wall and pulled out a cigarette.

"I... Spike, just get out of town before the slayer sees you," Angel said wearily. His pants were on and he sat back down on the bed. "I need to get Xander home.

"During the day when you own a bloody convertible? Good luck with that, luv. Soddin' idiotic, owning a convertible unless you plan a little self-immolation."

"What? No," Angel said peevishly, and if Xander knew what immolation was, he might even understand why Angel was peeved.

"At least you don't smell like you're starvin', and I know I didn't see a pile of bodies outside, so did ya decide to take up with a stable?"

"No!" Angel protested about the same time Xander pointed out, "There was a pile of one."

Spike turned and gave Xander one of those patented raised eyebrows. "Don't generally call one body a pile, pet."

"Oh god," Angel breathed. "Xander, I'm so sorry. You never should have seen that. Oh god, I'm sorry." Angel had a whole tragic face going.

"Um, I’m feeling more sorry for the woman," he said. Yeah, Xander knew he should probably be doing the supportive thing, but he didn't want to be supportive. He wanted to whine and throw a fit and have someone just undo the last twelve hours. He felt like he was four years old and his drunk father in a Santa suit was yelling about how Xander was too fucking old to believe in dumb shit like Santa anyway.

"I'm well and truly out of my depth here. Bloody hell, I ate three baggage handlers just to make it here this fast. So, I don't really know why you have your knickers in a twist over one Happy Meal."

"They aren't Happy Meals!" Xander shouted as he exploded up from the floor.

"No, they aren't," Angel said quickly. "She was a human being with a soul, and I chose to kill her," Angel said firmly as he got up to follow Xander across the room. When Xander flinched back, Angel just froze. Guilt clawed at Xander because he knew that Angel wasn't technically to blame, and hurting him wasn't going to fix any of the things that had gone wrong. Xander crossed his arms over his stomach and didn't know what to say about any of this. His brain was all twisty and fuddled, and for him to be fuddled took a lot of fuddling because he was used to a brain that was a little fuzzy on the logic bits.

"She was a human being who chose to be here," Spike pointed out as he waved at the room, his cigarette making a bright arc. "If cancer killed her, ya wouldn't be blaming cancer cells."

"I might be. I can be irrational and blaming. I'm actually really good at irrational and blaming," Xander said softly. It was easier than saying what he really thought.

"Spike," Angel sighed as he backed up a step. "It is not irrational for Xander to blame me. Xander, I understand that it's difficult for you to be around me right now, especially given what I did... and implied. I hope you will accept living money. I'm sure Blair can take you in until you get your feet under you."

"What?" Spike nearly yelped. "If you're tossin' him out with the garbage, I'm bloody well taking him with me."

"You will leave him alone," Angel snarled as he turned to face off against Spike.

"Ya think it's better to just turn 'im out? You fucking ponce. Soul, no soul, you never bloody change."

"I'm doing what's best for Xander," Angel hissed Xander's name past his fangs, and now Spike vamped out.

"Like you did for Dru? Like you did for me or Penn or anyone else you just got bloody tired of?"

"Dru? Is that was this is? One more temper tantrum over Dru? Xander is a human being, and I won't even ask him to look at me. I killed a woman in front of him. You have no idea what kind of comments I made about how I was going to turn him, about how he should plan his hunt to kill the most people, how I threatened to hold him down and... and...." Angel stumbled over his words, but Xander remembered exactly what Angelus had threatened to do while holding him down. Angelus left very little to imagination, which was probably good in the being useful way because Xander could not have imagined most of what Angelus said without very specific words and graphic demonstrations with a human volunteer. The only thing that had saved him from a more immediate demonstration was Angelus' determination to not accidentally kill Xander and apparently human bodies, virginity, and a vampire who'd been denied sex for a century were not a safe mix.

"Fucking hell." Spike dropped his cigarette and crushed it under his boot. "I've said that shite to him a thousand times, or did you have your head up so far up your underfed arse that you never heard it? And it's not like I don't kill! If the boy was as fragile as Dru was before ya turned her, he'd be a gibbering idiot already."

"You have no idea what I've done."

"I have a nose, and I can pretty much guess from there. But I don't see you out massacring nuns and laying their bodies in the street and I don't smell anything more than your bloodmark on the boy, so I'm not sure what you think you're fucking apologizing for," Spike said with a dismissive snort.

Angel's fist struck out and caught Spike just under the jawbone. Spike's arms flew wide as he crashed into the wall and a stud gave way with a thundering crack. He came back with a low flying tackle that caught Angel just above the knees and Xander slipped out of the room. They were both worked up, they probably need to try and kill each other for a while, and Xander definitely needed some space.

Scurrying out of the room, he picked through the trash and the odd bits of broken furniture that lined the halls and the staircase as he headed downstairs. It was time for him to just be somewhere else for a while.

"Can I help you?" Leander asked when Xander reached the front room, and Xander screamed and nearly jumped out of his own skin. The vamp backed away and held his palms up. "I would never poach on a true Master's territory, you are safe, young one."

"I was just... uh... practicing my yell," Xander said. Leander didn't look convinced, but the mighty crash from upstairs distracted him. Angel came thundering down the stairs first, stake in hand. Leander backed away, his hands still up and his expression panicked for that one second it took for Angel to drive a stake into his heart. The look of horror and shock was etched in dust for one second before Leander exploded.

"Geez, Angel. What part of not poaching did you not hear?" Xander demanded. Part of his brain was pointing out that Leander had been a vamp, but the other part kept wanting to think about how he'd been a nice vamp. Yep, Xander decided, he was stupid. He was huge with the stupidness and despite Spike's claim, clearly insane.

Angel just stood, Leander's dust in his hair as he looked at Xander in confusion.

"Oi, what did you do that for?" Spike asked, and he sounded as confused as Angel looked.

"He was a vampire," Angel said sharply. Spike's eyebrows rose. Yep, even Xander could spot the hypocrisy in that statement.

"He was a bloody suckhouse vamp... about as dangerous as your common field mouse."

Angel's face hardened into a frown and Xander started edging for the front door again. Human bones in the middle of vampire fighting led to breakage and pain and calls to 911, and Xander was just so not in the mood. He was almost to the door when Angel shot forward and grabbed Xander's arm. With a cry, Xander reversed direction, and Angel let go way too fast, a look of almost comical horror on his face. Stumbling back, Xander found himself caught in Spike's arms. He twisted to move away, but Spike just tightened his hold.

"Hey, thanks for the save because I really didn't need to fall on my ass today, but you can let go now. I'm fine," Xander said as he squirmed.

"Try that on someone who can't smell the blind panic on ya," Spike snorted. "Now, Peaches, you mind telling me what the bloody fuck happened?"

But it was Xander who spoke up. From the way Angel was blankly staring at the floor, they were all going to stand there for way too long if they waited for Angel to talk. "Buffy's boyfriend put drugs in the Jello and when Angel ate them, it made his soul distinctly unsoullike or untherelike or something unhelpful because Angelus came out. But now that he's sober, the soul is soullike and therelike," Xander summarized.

"You mean all it takes is—" Spike just stopped as he stared at Angel.

When the silence continued, Angel looked up, and despair turned to a narrow-eyed anger. "Don't ye think about it boy unless you want me to rip the skin from your backside," Angel warned. Xander had heard that voice before... that was the voice of angry-Angel. The Irish 'don't fuck with me' accent that meant he was close to losing it. Only now, Xander realized that voice was also Angelus.

"Okay, if I have a vote here—and, yes, I realize I so don't—I'm voting for the never bringing Angelus out again plan." Xander twisted to look at Spike earnestly, and Spike shifted his hold so he could smoke his cigarette with one hand and hold Xander with the other.

"Angel is less of a dominating bastard, anyway," Spike shrugged. "Still, I don't know how we're going to solve whatever mess you lot see. As far as I'm concerned, things are good, but you two look like someone vivisected your bloody puppies." With that, Spike leaned against the banister, still holding Xander firmly in one hand.

"You can't understand, you don't have a soul," Angel said firmly. "Now let Xander go. Xander, you can take the convertible." Angel pulled out keys, but Spike had already yanked Xander back so that Xander was now standing between Spike and the banister, very firmly pinned. In aggravation, he punched Spike's side and was promptly ignored.

"The boy is in a right funk, and you're going to give him a few thousand pounds of metal to go play with after tellin' him you're foisting him off on some git named Blair? Peaches, you're a fucking idiot."

"Watch your mouth," Angel warned as he stepped forward. Xander couldn't see Spike's face, but from the long plume of smoke that headed for Angel's face, he was guessing Spike was going for insolent and disrespectful. Oh yeah, they were going to fight, and Xander was going to get broken. Then again, broken would save him from having to explain to anyone else how much of an idiot he'd been.

"I'm a fucking monster, Spike. You are too! We're abominations that shouldna even exist, and yet we do. We walk and talk like humans but we're fucking dead things gorging off the lives of those who should be here," Angel snapped, and then he turned his back. Xander didn't know what Angel was going to do until the door was open. For one second, Angel stood in the sun, smoke rising from him, and then Spike tackled him from the side. The front door splintered under the impact and the two vampires tumbled into what used to be the dining room.

Xander was frozen for one second before he leapt after them, scrambling over the fallen door. Angel was on top now, his fangs already deep in Spike's neck, his hands on Spike's shoulder as Spike's fingers clawed at him. After a minute, Angel jumped up with his mouth stained red, and turned toward the door, but Xander was already blocking the dining room door, his arms stretched to cover the whole area.

"Xander, move," Angel said slowly. The blood on his face and the yellow eyes made Xander's stomach curl in fear.

"No," Xander said firmly.

Angel narrowed his eyes. "You know I can't risk him getting out again. He wasn't kidding--he'll rape you, Xander. He'll turn you."

"Which is a great reason to kill Devon, but not you," Xander pointed out. That surprised Angel into backing up a step and dropped back into fully human features.

"Xander, the apartments are in your name. I've left enough money in the bank that you won't be trapped into going back with your parents. It's okay to hate me for what I have inside, don't blame yourself for that." Angel said sadly as Spike slowly dragged himself to the side of the room and glared at Angel.

"Spike's right. You're an idiot," Xander said as he crossed his own arms over his chest. "I don't hate you... okay, I kinda do," Xander admitted with a grimace. "But I hate that you were this giant twit who paid for sex and had huge father issues. I hate that you had insecurities on top of your insecurities, Angel. I hate that Angelus is never going to get past that. Angelus is everything Liam secretly wanted to be and I really, really hate that this superpowered, twisted, teenage version of you is always going to be under the surface. But I don't hate you... the souled you... because you've grown up since being Liam."

Angel looked at him with a frown and then shook his head. "Xander," he said softly, "you don't understand; Angelus is a demon. He's a monster who is focused on you."

"I'm hitting the bullshit button on that one," Xander said with a snort. "Spike's a demon, only he still likes music and food and poetry." Spike gave an outraged 'Oi' at the idea of him liking poetry, but then again, Xander might be in-denial boy too if he read the old fashioned stuff Spike liked.

"Xander," Angel said with some frustration.

"Angel, look where Angelus came. Lots of sex, money changing hands, way too much drinking going on... ring any bells? Hey, if you went and got all weird about proving yourself to be just as good as your father, I'd start calling you Liam."

"Oi, boy's got your number." Spike smirked as he got slowly to his feet, one hand on the bloody bite on his neck.

"I didn't—" Angel looked around.

"And I hate you for lots of stuff... for being a normal screwed up teenager as Liam, for one," Xander nearly shouted. "I mean, if you're supposed to be some perfect superhero, dark knight type, your human roots are showing. And then I hate that you're lying to me and being big, old hypocrite boy."

"What? I'm not lying. Xander, I didn't know that drugs would affect me like that," Angel said as he took a step forward.

"Yeah, yeah, I got that. But you're starving yourself? You're playing big old martyr and making yourself all crazy hungry for human blood when I'm the closest human blood most of the time? Okay, that's officially sounding both stupid and dangerous."

"I can control the hunger," Angel said stiffly.

"And I can control my need to breathe... for about sixty seconds. But you're practicing holding your breath during deep sea diving... and I think that metaphor fell apart in the middle what with you not needing to breathe. The point is, though, that your control is going to snap and I'm at ground zero. Not feeling safe here."

"Which is why I need to do this," Angel said, his eyes going to the gaping hole where the front door had been torn down.

"You fucking ponce," Spike said from his spot still leaning on the wall. "You do that, and I'll fucking turn him myself."

"Say that again, and I'll dust you," Angel snarled as he turned on Spike.

Xander threw himself forward and grabbed Angel's arm. "There will be no dusting of Spike. And even if you did dust him, what would keep Drusilla from coming after me? Hello! She's the one who thinks I'm the puppy that peed on her daddy or something. And what about the big bad that's coming? So, you take off, and you just leave me to deal with all that? Maybe I'd be safer if Spike did turn me."

Spike smirked, and Xander had to hold on tightly to keep Angel from ripping his arm out of Xander's grip. "Not volunteering. Nope, I like myself with a heartbeat, and after seeing just how freakily terrifying Angelus is, may I say that I truly don't want my teenage issues getting immortalized into some demon. My issues have issues in here. It would not be pretty, people." Xander shuddered at the thought of what he might be like as a vampire. He had his fantasies of shooting bullies and finding his parents dead so he had to go off and live with a rich uncle and beating up Buffy in a fight because he was super-strong and no longer in need of her emasculating offers to beat up boys for him. Yep, his issues would make for a grade-A typical, homicidal vampire.

"Xander, you can't be okay with what I did," Angel said, and the anger slipped aside so that Xander could see the raw pain. While Xander had seen lots of moods on Angel, he hadn't ever seen this much pain.

"Oh, I’m so not. I'm totally not. I'm furious with you. I mean, if you weren't starving yourself, maybe Angelus wouldn't have been so..."

"Obnoxious?" Spike offered helpfully. Angel must have been upset because he ignored the jab.

"Over the top," Xander said instead. "And I'm all issues boy about that. And I'm issues boy with Devon because drugging people for fun and games is neither funlike nor gamelike. And I'm all about the issues with what I saw last night. I mean, it's one thing to have a general concept of sex, but some of those things last night... they were not in my general concept. Not in my general concept or specific concept or even the porn I look up when you think I'm doing my homework on the internet. I'm thinking either much therapy or much denial is going to be needed to deal with last night. And I'm issues boy about the fact that I talked you into going to that party and I talked you into coming here and I didn't exactly call 911 when you drained that woman, and maybe they could have helped her if they got here fast enough, but I just sat there and watched you kill her." Xander stopped, his heart pounding way to fast and his head starting to feel like it might just pop under the pressure.

Before Xander could blink, Angel's arms were around him, and for a half second, he panicked, his brain sending up images of Angelus' arms around a woman who was dying. But this was too familiar. Awkward, but familiar and familial and safe. Xander slipped one arm around Angel's bare waist. "It wouldn't have made any difference if you'd called. I killed her, you didn't," Angel reassured him.

"Angelus killed her," Xander corrected him, "so, we can blame Liam for creating Angelus, but not you."

Angel sighed, but he was obviously not willing to keep fighting over that point. "And Angelus' first plan was to drag you around town on a killing spree. He knew he didn't have much time, and he wanted to leave a trail of bodies that would make everyone notice him. You talked him out of that," Angel pointed out

"Bloody hell, the boy talked Angelus out of something? The way I remember it, the stubborn bastard did exactly what he wanted," Spike said with a snort. Xander looked over and Spike was trying to light a cigarette with a hand that shook. His neck had stopped bleeding, but it was still smeared with blood.

Angel's arms tightened around Xander for a moment, and then he let go and backed away. "Xander promised to make me drink human blood."

"And no way are you making a liar-man out of me because if Devon or anyone else does the stupid again, I am not going to face Angelus after breaking my word," Xander said as he pointed a finger in Angel's direction. "There is such a thing as bagged human blood. I saw on the news where they throw lots out when they screen it for disease, so you will not be starving yourself," he said firmly. "Because Angelus scares the shit out of me and breaking my word to the psychopathic killer is just not going to happen."

"Xander," Angel sighed again, but at least he was looking at Xander and not the sunny doorway. "I don't want you blaming yourself for any of this. You kept something truly horrible from happening last night."

"And yet, the horrible happened to one person," Xander pointed out. "But I feel like my head is going snap like a rubber band because I'm also thinking that Spike kills and I knew that, and I never got on the kill-Spike train with Buffy. I'm a worse hypocrite than anyone, and I don't know how I'm supposed to be okay with myself knowing that." The energy drained from Xander and he took a step back and leaned against the edge of the doorway. Maybe Giles was right. Maybe Xander was just being stupid. But looking at Angel and Spike, Xander couldn't see things all black and white like back when he'd first met Buffy. Clem wasn't evil at all, and Angel wasn't generally evil. Which left Spike who was definitely evil, but Xander still didn't want to kill him, which definitely put Xander on the shady side of morality.

"I don't go making a show out of killin'," Spike objected as though that make killing okay. But then as a demon, Xander really didn't expect Spike to get it. Angel looked over at Spike with an unreadable expression. Spike just leaned against the wall with his cigarette hanging from his mouth.

"He's family," Angel said, and Xander remembered those conversations from so long ago. "We don't have to like what he does, but he's still family. But you haven't done anything wrong. If you blame yourself for any part of this, therapy is probably a better choice than denial." Angel stepped forward and laid his hand on Xander's shoulder. Looking up, Xander focused on the vampire's expression, which was all Angel without even a trace of Angelus.

"Yeah, yeah, we're all more screwy in the head today than yesterday," Xander agreed sadly.

"Speak for yourself, mate. I'm willing to admit that you two are downright touched in the head, but I'm just fine," Spike said as he blew out a cloud of smoke. The cocky would have worked better if he didn't look ready to fall over.

"You need blood," Xander pointed out as he looked at just how pale Spike was.

"You offerin'?" Spike asked with a grin.

"Me? Big with the no," Xander said as he reached up and touched the sore bite mark on his neck. He was so never going to be able to hide it. Maybe he could grow his hair really, really long... within the next hour.

"I am," Angel said. It took Xander a second to catch what Angel meant. Stepping away from Xander, Angel held one arm out to the side, and Spike yanked his cigarette out of his mouth and let it hang his hand hang limply at his side as he stared in shock. One Spike eyebrow went up. "Quickly, before I change my mind," Angel said in aggravation. Spike dropped his cigarette and crushed it under his heel before quickly moving right in front of Angel. Angel bent slightly, and Xander watched as Spike eyed Angel's neck with a look that came close to how he looked at Drusilla... all devotion and focus. Vamping out, Spike slowly bit down on Angel's neck. Angel's arms came around Spike's body as Spike's eyes fell closed.

Yep, they were all family, Xander thought. Screwed up and morally ambiguous family, but family all the same. And truthfully, Xander thought he was probably about as morally questionable as the less human members of his family.
In this universe, Xander challenged Angel right up front--called him a pedophile to his face. And from there, everything changed

Previous parts:
Part one: Bumbling to a Save
Part two: Family Ties
Part three: Devil in the Details
Part Four: Bad Karma
Part Five: Rust Upon Iron
Part Six: Mending Fences... or tearing them down
Part Seven: Quiet Waters Mirroring Undistorted
Part Eight: Bait, Swindle and Self-destruct
Part Nine: Deaf, Dumb, and Destiny-blind
Part Ten: The Road Not Taken
Part Eleven: Full Circle on the Lesson

The Care and Feeding of Humans

It's time for Homecoming, only Angel doesn't understand these human rituals, and he really doesn't under why all the women in Xander's life seem so determined to make his boy unhappy.

In this universe, Xander challenged Angel right up front--called him a pedophile to his face. And from there, everything's changed.

Previous parts:
Part one: Bumbling to a Save
Part two: Family Ties
Part three: Devil in the Details
Part Four: Bad Karma
Part Five: Rust Upon Iron
Part Six: Mending Fences... or tearing them down
Part Seven: Quiet Waters Mirroring Undistorted
Part Eight: Bait, Swindle and Self-destruct
Part Nine: Deaf, Dumb, and Destiny-blind

On their road trip to get rid of Acathla, Angel and Xander discover something disturbing about Angel's future and the curse that gave him a soul.

The Road Not Taken

In this universe, Xander challenged Angel right up front--called him a pedophile to his face. And from there, everything's changed.

Previous parts:
Part one: Bumbling to a Save
Part two: Family Ties
Part three: Devil in the Details
Part Four: Bad Karma
Part Five: Rust Upon Iron
Part Six: Mending Fences... or tearing them down
Part Seven: Quiet Waters Mirroring Undistorted
Part Eight: Bait, Swindle and Self-destruct

Deaf, Dumb, and Destiny-Blind.

A road trip shakes Xander's world view when he learns more than he ever expected about demons and slayers and a fate-demon named Blair Sandburg.  But at least Xander's not alone in having to face the fact that he was a little dumb when it came to destiny and reality.

Yep, two stories in two days. This muse must have eaten her Wheaties. In this universe, Xander challenged Angel right up front--called him a pedophile to his face. And from there, everything's changed.

Previous parts:
Part one: Bumbling to a Save
Part two: Family Ties
Part three: Devil in the Details
Part Four: Bad Karma
Part Five: Rust Upon Iron
Part Six: Mending Fences... or tearing them down
Part Seven: Quiet Waters Mirroring Undistorted

Bait, Swindle, and Self-destruct

After Willow and Buffy tried to visit Xander, his parents figured out that their son was spending more nights out than at home.  They put down their foot to keep him home, but now Angel is ready to put his foot down.  Xander doesn't have time to train, he isn't getting homework help, and the parents have just gotten in his way one time too many.

September 2016

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