To Be Wanted

Title : To Be Wanted
Author: Dea Brynhild Ensomhet Spikess
Fandom: BtVS/Ats, obviously.
Timeline: Bs2 meets As5. Spoilers for all of Buffy and the last episode of Angel.
Rating: PG-13 for this part, but I will get it up to NC-17. Take the necessary precautions: practice responsible reading.
Pairing: Spike/Xander, eventually
Disclaimer: Don't own any of the Buffy or Angel cast/crew/characters/plotlines/etc. Please don't sue.
Email: BrynSpikess@hotmail.com
Archival: Just ask and ye shall recieve.
Summary: Xander gets his heart broken and a wish granted on Valentine's Day.
Dedication: to Yin, who wanted time travel, snark, and some hot loviní. Happy birthday! Hope you like it!
Author's note: I wanted to give you a complete story, but it looks like the story is going to be longer than I'd anticipated, so you'll be getting it in chapters. Gives me a little bit more time to work on the latter parts, make 'em extra good ^_^ Huge thanks to penne4m for doing a quick laste-minute beta. I've since edited it, so any mistakes you find are all mine. Point them out and I'll fix them. Thanks also to SilverWick, who helped me bounce ideas until I came up with something original and worthy of Yin.
Last updated: 11/21/05

~~~~~***~~~~~

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: Maybe it's just me.
Chapter 2: We're sorry; this call cannot be completed as dialed.
Chapter 3: The third most beautiful thing.
Chapter 4: It's hard to believe that I'm all alone.
Chapter 5: I'll just say what's on my mind.
Chapter 6: I would cry just a little just to have you back.

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 1: Maybe it's just me, but I think being dumped for no reason on Valentine's Day is a little bit more worthy of vengence than having your boyfriend kiss his best friend when he thought he was going to die. How about you?

Xander wandered down the street outside the Bronze, still in shock. Cordy had dumped him. Nope, he still couldn't grasp the concept. How could she, and on Valentine's Day no less?

"That was harsh." he heard a voice behind him and he turned around, hand automatically going for the wooden cross in his pocket. The guy who had spoken had shoulder-length dark curly hair and dark eyes, and he didn't particularly look like a vampire, but Xander wasn't taking any chances as he wrapped his hand around the cross. "I didn't mean to pry, but I kinda overheard that thing back in the Bronze. My sympathies to you, man."

"Uh, thanks." Xander replied.

The guy smiled, stopping a few feet away and sticking his hands in his pockets. "Women, huh?" he chuckled. "They always know how to hurt you."

Xander nodded. "Yeah, I guess."

"Don't you just wish sometimes that she'd get what she deserves?" There was something strange about the guy, but since he wasn't attacking or anything, Xander tried not to notice. He was probably just letting the Scooby life affect him too much, seeing hints of demons when there were just human quirks.

"That'd be cool."

"Yeah." Glancing up at the stars that were barely visible with the light pollution, the guy said, "If you could wish for anything right now, what would you wish for?"

Xander let his guard down just a little, following the stranger's gaze to look at the stars. He didn't know why the guy cared about him, but it was kinda nice to talk with someone outside of the Scooby gang for once. He pondered over the question, thinking not only about being used and cast aside by Cordelia, but also the entire stressful Angelus situation and everything else that was making his life shitty right now. "I wish she'd just die, unpopular and alone. I wish I was living an amazing life far away from Sunnydale, and I wish that the stupid apocalypse was done and over," he finally decided. He looked back at the guy for his reaction, and gasped at what he saw.

The guy smirked, his face covered in veins and wrinkles. "Done." he murmured, and the world vanished around Xander.

Xander blinked. Rain was coming down in sheets and his nice suit quickly became soaked as he looked around. He was in an alley somewhere, but it wasn't outside the Bronze like he'd been before. This alley was completely alien to him, although he couldn't see very much with the rain coming down as heavy as it was. "Stupid." Xander muttered to himself. "Why didn't Giles ever warn us that there were demons who granted wishes?" The thought of Giles spurred Xander into motion - after all, if there was anyone who could get Xander out of some demon curse he'd accidently stumbled into, it was the G-man.

He hadn't walked two steps when he almost tripped over a large thing lying in the middle of the alley. He leaned closer to inspect the thing, and then backed away. It was a demon corpse with its throat slit, some species he didn't recognize. He looked around wildly and realized that the entire alley was littered with bodies, and they all appeared to be not-human. Something apocalyptic must have happened here. Surely that meant that Buffy was around somewhere, kicking demon ass? He began to run down the alley, dodging and jumping over bodies, keeping his eyes and ears out for anything that was still alive. He saw a human-looking figure standing in the distance, leaning against a wall for support, and he headed over towards it. "Hey, do you know..." He froze in horror as the figure turned around and Xander got a good look at his face. "Oh, shit."

"Xander?" Angelus asked, sounding confused. He took a step towards Xander, and Xander took two steps back, pulling out the cross and holding it out. Angelus didn't take another step.

"Stay away from me!" Xander cried, his grip tight on the cross. Oh god, he was going to die. He wasn't ready to die. There were so many things he hadn't done yet, like move out of his parent's house, make love to a girl, and start his solo rock-star career. But he wouldn't be able to do any of that now. Angelus was going to torture him and kill him, and then probably leave his body for Buffy to find. Willow would cry, and Buffy would kick his ass for walking around Sunnydale alone at night and talking to strangers. Someone else moved a few feet away, and Xander took a few more steps away from both Angelus and the other figure, swinging the cross back and forth between them.

"Bloody hell. Xander?" The second figure said, and Xander's eyes widened as he recognized Spike from Parent-Teacher night.

"Oh fuck." Xander murmured, trying to keep the cross between him and both vamps at the same time. It wasn't working too well. Xander thought frantically, trying to come up with an escape plan. It was just him and two Master Vampires, and no Buffy to be seen. He was so gonna die. "Just stay away, you hear me?"

Both Spike and Angelus were staring at him with these weird shocked expressions on their faces. "You've got two eyes." Spike said, startled.

Xander blinked. Did vampires do acid? "Uh, yeah. I was kinda born with them." He remembered something, and took another step away from the vampires. "And apparently you can walk again. I guess organs don't do as much damage as they used to."

A third figure approached, a girl Xander didn't recognize with blue streaks in her hair and a really strange sci-fi-like outfit. "I killed the last of them." She looked at Xander appraisingly, her weird blue eyes scanning him from head to toe. "Who is this?"

"Xander Harris." Angelus said, and he took a step forward. "But I don't understand--"

Xander thrust the cross towards him and he flinched back a step. Xander turned, aiming the cross at Spike who also flinched back. Last, he pointed the cross at the girl. She cocked her head and didn't flinch, no expression on her face. Xander glanced at the cross, then at her, and then back at the cross again. He shook the cross hard and then shoved the cross at her again. She didn't move, just stared at him with those unblinking blue eyes and a superior attitude. Apparently, whatever she was, crosses didn't work on her.

There was a pain-filled groan from behind him, and Xander looked for the source of the noise while keeping an eye on the two vamps and the smurf. There was a black guy a few yards away, trying to stand up. He looked human, with a scary amount of blood pouring out of a wound in his stomach. Xander made his way over to the guy, thanking whatever powers looked out for stupid Slayerettes that the other three hadn't attacked yet. He touched the cross to the guy's shoulder, and was relieved when there was no reaction. That didn't mean that the guy wasn't some other kind of demon like the girl was, but the white knight in him insisted on helping out if he could. And if the guy did turn out to be a demon with aims to kill him, well, he was going to die at Angelus' hands anyway, so it didn't matter. "Hey, are you okay, man?" Xander asked, putting his arm around the guy's waist and helping him to his feet.

"I'm not feeling so good." the guy moaned, leaning heavily on Xander.

Xander supported most of his weight, edging them out of the alley. "Don't worry, I'll get you to a hospital and they'll get that fixed right up." He tensed as he saw Angelus take a step towards them, and frowned as Spike grabbed Angelus by the arm, restraining him. "Let them go. He'll get him to a hospital, and you can check up on him later." he heard Spike say. Angelus nodded and the three of them departed, heading towards the other end of the alley.

Xander sighed in relief, but was that much more confused. Why had Spike let him go? He knew Angelus liked to play mind games, but it didn't seem like Spike's style. After Parent-Teacher Night, he spend several evenings sneaking into Giles' office to research 'sires' and to see if there was any reason he might need to worry about Spike coming back to claim him. He learned everything he could about Spike's, Angelus', and Drusilla's pasts, and it had seemed like he was okay - Spike tended to kill and move on, not likely to play the kind of mind games Angelus had when he turned Drusilla.

Three blocks later, and Xander had managed to find a few people walking around late at night to point him towards the hospital. Apparently there had been a few minor earthquakes right before he found himself in the alley - probably a side effect of the battle that had killed so many demons - and they were trying to figure out what had happened while still keeping a safe distance.

The guy had passed out by the time they got to the hospital. Xander half-carried, half-lugged him inside, and as soon as they got in the lobby nurses flocked around them, helping him ease the guy on to a stretcher. One of the nurses recognized "Mr. Charles Gunn" on sight, and Xander made a note of the name. He assured them that the blood on his clothes wasn't his, and asked if he could stay with his 'best friend' overnight. Teresa, the nurse that recognized the guy, showed him to an empty hospital room and promised that they would bring 'Gunn' in as soon as they'd checked and patched up his wounds. He sat down in a chair against the wall, and let his eyes fall closed.

He had so many problems that he didn't even know where to start. He didn't know where he was and he had no idea what was going on. Spike's words, "You can check up on him later," were swirling around in his head, and he was on edge, half-expecting Angelus to stroll in the door any moment.

As if on cue, he heard the door open. He was instantly on his feet, reaching for the cross when he recognized Teresa. "Sorry." he apologized, relaxing.

She smiled. "It's okay. I'm used to Gunn's friends being jumpy." In one arm was a bundle of clothing and a folded newspaper, and in the other she held a steaming cup of black coffee. "I brought you some clean clothes that should fit - Anne usually keeps a supply here just in case some of her boys get into a scrape. And you looked like you could use some coffee."

"Thank you." Xander said, gratefully accepting the items and setting the coffee and newspaper down on the bedside table while being careful not to get any blood on the clean clothes. "Is there a shower?"

"Mmmhmm. It's right through there." Teresa said, pointing at one of the doors in the room. "Gunn should be done in about an hour or so, and then we'll bring him in here. You can press the call button if you need me for anything."

"Thank you." Xander said again, "I will." She smiled and left, closing the door behind her. Xander took the clothes into the bathroom, setting them on top of the sink as he peeled off his sodden and bloody suit. He'd paid more than he could really afford to look good for the Valentine's Day party at the Bronze, but it didn't matter anymore. He took a quick shower and changed into the spare clothes, pleasantly surprised at how well they fit. It wasn't much, an old pair of jeans with faded paint stains and a thin over-sized sweatshirt, but they were clean and warm, and he felt comfortable. He stuffed the suit into the trash bin and headed out into the main room, settling back down in the chair to browse through the newspaper and sip the still-warm coffee. The date in the corner of the L.A. Times read "May 18, 2004". Xander nearly dropped the coffee in his lap.

"What the hell?"

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 2: Beeeeep. We're sorry; this call cannot be completed as dialed. Please check the number and try again.

Gunn is out cold when they wheel him in. "He'll be unconscious for a few hours," Teresa said, "But don't worry. I've cleared it with the staff, so nobody will bother you. You can stay as long as you want."

Xander thanked her, more than happy to have the silence to try to unravel the situation. He'd obviously pulled a Marty McFly, but without the cool car or the strange scientist. Although there was a strange veiny wish-granting demon of some sort. His first urge is to hit the books, which brought to mind Giles again. Reaching for the phone, he dialed 9 and then Giles' phone number.

"Beeeeep. We're sorry; this call cannot be completed as dialed. Please check the number and try again."

Xander redialed twice, and hung up when he received the same error message both times. He squashed the uneasy feelings that began to brew, and tried to rationalize why Giles' number didn't work. Maybe he got a new phone number. Maybe he moved. After all, a lot can happen in six years. He tried Willow's number next, and then Buffy's, and even Cordy's, but they all went to the same error message. The uneasy feeling intensified. He checked to make sure Gunn was still asleep, and headed for the nurse's station to borrow the yellow pages.

Teresa handed it over with a smile, and he's just about to look up Giles' name when he heard her say, "I'm sorry, but visiting hours are over, sir." He looked up and came face-to-face with Angelus.

Panic flooded through him and Xander can't help the knee-jerk reaction to make a joke when he's moments away from death. "Why don't you come back during the day? My bad, I guess you can't."

Angelus' eyes narrow slightly, but he doesn't rise to the bait. He's also missing that menacing aura that Xander was expecting, the tension in the air that made you realize that you're standing barely two feet away from a creature of darkness that wouldn't hesitate to rip your throat out for fun. In fact, Angelus was looking almost... broody, like he'd gotten himself souled again. "Is Gunn all right?"

A lot can happen in six years, he remembers, and then glares at Angelus. It doesn't matter if Angel's somehow managed to get his soul back; he's still a vampire and thus evil by nature. Xander can't reach his friends to make sure they're okay, so he's not really feeling the trust right now. "Why do you care?"

"I care." Angelus replied. He pauses, looking at Xander speculatively. "You are Xander, aren't you?"

Xander blinks. "You are Deadboy, aren't you?" he retorts without thinking, because the rational part of his brain is currently quivering in the corner, waiting for Angelus to reach out and snap his neck like a twig.

"Where did you come from?" Angel asks, and Xander suddenly knows that the soul is there. There's something about the inflections in his voice, the way that he grimaced at the nickname. Angelus could pretend to be Angel, but he wouldn't be able to keep up the charade for long without insulting or trying to get past Xander by now. And why would Angelus bother acting for him? It wasn't like he could really stand in the way of a Master Vampire.

Except, apparently he was, because Angel hadn't made a move to get past him. "Sunnydale, California. Born and raised," he said, deliberately misinterpreting the question.

Angel nodded once, acknowledging Xander's evasion and letting the issue go. "Tell Gunn that we're at the Hyperion." He turned and was down the hall before Xander could blink.

Teresa's voice caught his attention. "You're from Sunnydale?" she asked, obviously having overheard the conversation.

Xander glanced at her and nodded. "Yeah." With one last glance down the empty hall, he went back to the yellow pages. Giles wasn't listed, nor was Mrs. Summer or the Rosenberg residence. He didn't even bother looking for Cordy, he knew her number was unlisted.

"How did you escape the collapse?"

Xander looked up, confused. "Collapse?"

"You didn't hear?" Teresa said. Xander shook his head, his throat too constricted to utter a reply. "Sunnydale doesn't exist anymore. One day it just collapsed in on itself, and now there's nothing but a huge crater. Weirdest thing."

Xander swayed, suddenly light-headed. Teresa hurried around the desk and steadied him, helping him over to a chair to sit down. "I'm so sorry. I thought you knew," she said, sitting next to him and touching his shoulder as he stared into space in shock.

Sunnydale was a crater. They were all dead. Willow. Buffy. Giles. Cordy. Briefly he wondered if maybe they'd gotten out of the town in time, but no. A town collapsing was definitely a hellmouthy thing, and Xander knew that his friends would be right in the middle of it when the apocalypse came. There was no reason to cling to false hopes.

With a heavy heart, he stood and walked back to Gunn's room.

~*~

Angel stepped into the hotel and paused, taking in the scene. Spike sat on the edge of the counter, feet swinging off the edge. Illyria perched on the round ottoman in the middle of the lobby. Illyria noticed him first. "Has Charles been wounded beyond repair?"

"I think he's all right." Angel replied, sitting down on a nearby couch with a sigh. "I didn't really see him."

Spike smirked. "Harris stand up to you in the hospital again?" Angel didn't reply, and Spike chuckled. "Figured as much. Kid's got the biggest knackers I've ever seen."

"I don't get it." Angel rested his head in his hand. "He's supposed to be in Africa."

"He's supposed to have one eye, and be a good head taller and a good load heavier." Spike shot back. "Either that was a shapeshifter of some sort, or else-"

"It wasn't a shapeshifter." Angel interrupted. "I would have been able to sense it. That was Xander. A younger version, but definitely Xander." Illyria watched them silently, but whether she was contemplating the arrival of Xander or mourning Wesley's death, Angel couldn't tell.

"So what?" Spike said. "Xander just decided to make an Excellent Adventure trip through time? Why?" Spike shook his head. "You saw him in the alley; he had no idea what was going on. He still thought you were evil and I was paralyzed - that was, what? Six years ago?"

"Give or take." Angel replied.

"So, why is he here now?"

Angel shrugged. "I don't know. Hopefully Gunn will be able to find out more about what's going on."

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 3: The third most beautiful thing.

The cracked and water-stained ceiling of the hospital was the third most beautiful thing Gunn had ever seen. The first most beautiful thing was Alonna, whenever she was passionate about something. Her eyes would flash and her tongue would be oh-so-sharp, and it would be almost as if he could see the fire crackling in her heart. The second was a smiling Fred, confident in her own abilities, no sign of the shy hesitant girl from Pylea. But the ceiling definitly ranked third. He never really thought he would live through the battle, but since he doubted Heaven (or Hell for that matter) smelled like a hospital, odds were that he did make it after all.

Gunn looked around the room, gaze falling on the dozing man in the chair near his bed. The door opened, and Teresa entered. "Hey, T." Gunn greeted her with a smile.

"Hey yourself." Teresa smiled back, checking his vitals and making notes on a clipboard. "How are you feeling?"

Gunn chuckled. "Like I got hit by a Mack truck. How's it look?"

"Like you got hit by a Mack truck with a very sharp knife." Teresa raised an eyebrow. "I thought you were a big-time lawyer now, staying out of fights."

Gunn shrugged. "This was one fight that couldn't be avoided."

"I've got to say, I'm surprised that you're here. Your file says you were checked into the Wolfram & Hart medical facilities two months ago with a stab wound. Doesn't sound like your avoidance tactics are working very well."

"Well, sometime I have to depend on my good looks and charming wit to get me out of dangerous situations."

She didn't look amused. "I worry about you, Charles. These last two times managed to miss any vital organs, but you may not be so lucky next time."

"It's okay, Teresa. I promise I'll be more careful."

Teresa didn't look like she believed him, but she let it go. She glanced at the dark-haired man. "Your friend Xander tried to stay awake until you woke up, but it doesn't look like he was able to make it. Poor thing, I don't blame him. I can't believe he hadn't heard about the Sunnydale collapse." She shook her head and went back to work. "Well, you'll be all right. A few stitches and some bedrest and you'll be just fine. I've got to get back to the other patients now, the ones who were able to avoid Mack trucks."

Gunn grinned. "Thank you, T."

"No problem." Teresa smiled, and left.

Xander. Gunn frowned as the name tugged on some shred of a memory from years ago, Cordelia's voice as she ranted about men in general and ex-boyfriends in particular. It was a rather unusual name, and considering Teresa had mentioned Sunnydale, it was more than possible that this was the same guy. Still, Gunn couldn't imagine Cordy dating someone so young, so either the name was just a wacky coincidence (he snorted - yeah right), or else something weird was going on. Shifting into more of a sitting position - and wincing when the movement made the pain flare up - he called to the kid. No time like the present to figure out what was going on. "Yo, Xander."

The kid jumped, forcing himself awake and alert, head jerking up to meet Gunn's gaze. "How'd you know my name?'

"Teresa came in while you were asleep. Mentioned your name and Sunnydale." With a little mental shrug, Gunn decided to cut to the chase. "You ever date Cordelia?"

Xander blinked, obviously taken by surprise. "You know Cordy? Is she okay?" he asked, hope coloring his voice.

Same guy, which meant something weird was definitely going on. "She's dead. Died not too long ago in a coma."

The boy's face fell and he lowered his head as Gunn watched him. "Damn wishes." he muttered, almost too softly for Gunn to head. "I didn't mean it."

Grief was apparent in the guy's posture, and Gunn felt a twinge of sympathy. He still hadn't come to terms with Cordy's death either, much less Wesley's. Suddenly he realized that he couldn't remember much of anything after he'd collapsed mid-fight, and he wondered if the others had made it. "Hey, have you seen Angel or Spike around?"

Xander regarded him for a moment, before answering carefully, "He said that they were at the Hyperion."

Gunn stumbled over the next question. "Did Illyria make it?" It wasn't that he cared for her, he still hated her for killing Fred, but he didn't want to imagine Fred's body lying bleeding and broken in the rainy alley.

"The chick with the blue hair?" Xander asked. Gunn nodded. "Yeah, she looked okay."

Gunn let out a sigh of relief.

Xander leaned closed. "So tell me, how'd you end up knowing Spike and Angel, and not getting your throat torn out?"

Gunn smirked. "It's a long story."

"I've got time." Xander replied.

~*~

Angel closed the book he'd been reading, rubbing his eyes as he leaned back on the round ottoman in the middle of the lobby. All of the old books Angel Investigations had acquired over the years, along with several texts stolen from what used to be the L.A. Branch of Wolfram and Hart lay piled in stacks around the lobby. Wesley had arranged to move the books here fore safe keeping right before the final battle, despite the collective belief than none of them were going to survive an all-out confrontation with the Senior Partners. In hindsight, he was glad Wesley had thought ahead 'just in case'. He was trying to find some information regarding time travel, but he honestly had no idea what he was looking for, and the 'read' pile of books was much, much smaller than the piles of 'not read' books. On the plus side, he did find out that Rijvo demons were deathly allergic to aspartame, but that little nugget of information was pretty much worthless considering the Rijvo were considered extinct.

He sighed, the sound echoing in the old hotel. Illyria had departed, mentioning something about preforming rites over Wesley's body. Spike had also left, voicing a desire for a drink. Angel had decided to remain, but was now reconsidering. The hotel was full of memories and scents, years of moments with Cordelia, Wesley, Fred, and Gunn saturated every room and piece of furniture. Cordelia's computer still sat behind the counter, and he imagined that the files on the hard drive were still organized in Cordy-logic that he had never come close to grasping. Guilt and pain flared, and he forced himself not to remember any more. Part of him wanted to leave, to drown his sorrows like Spike or maybe pick a fight with some random demon on the street, but he'd told Xander where to find them, and he didn't want Gunn coming back to an empty hotel.

Wiping a few stray tears from his eyes, he picked up another book and started to read.

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 4: It's hard to believe that there's nobody out there. It's hard to believe that I'm all alone.

"He has a soul?!?!" Xander's exclamation was heard several rooms away.

"And he saved the world at least once, too. Got burned to a crisp, and the ashes whirled around in Angel's office and reformed into Spike." Gunn chuckled. "Then they started bickering like an old married couple over the Slayer, Whatshername."

"Buffy?" Xander supplied, hoping he's wrong.

"Yeah, Buffy. So they're yelling about who loves her more, then Harmony storms in and rips him a new one--"

"Harmony?" Xander interrupted, confused.

"Apparently she and Spike had this thing once, but she hated his twisted obsession with the Slayer."

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 5: There ain't no easy way to start this conversation, so I'll just say what's on my mind.

"They break up, and he goes out and gets his soul for Buffy, and then gets burned up saving the world when the Hellmouth opens in Sunnydale."

"Thus reducing the city to a crater." Xander adds. Gunn nods. "Did very many people survive?" he asked hesitantly, hope flaring.

"Almost everybody, I think." Gunn replied. "The town was pretty much deserted when the fighting started, and most of your crew made it out right before the collapse. Your ex didn't make it, though."

Xander frowned. "Ex?" He dated someone other than Cordelia? Then he almost smacked his forehead. Of course he dated someone else. It'd been six years, and she did dump him. There was no way he was going to pine after her for the rest of his life.

"Yeah, a girl named--" Gunn stopped mid-sentance, paused for a moment, and then said, "I don't know if I should be telling you all this after all. Isn't it like against the rules of time-traveling or something to know too much about your own future?"

"Damned if I know." Xander replied, his head in his hands. This was a lot to take in. Granted, there were many holes and gaps in the timeline Gunn explained, and some of it was confusing, with Gunn occasionally stopping and retelling a scene that he had already told, except with the addition of someone named Connor. When Xander had pointed this out, Gunn replied that something had happened that gave him two sets of memories, one with Connor and one without.

When Xander pressed him as to the identity of Connor, Gunn shook his head. "You don't want to know. Trust me. And don't you dare mention that name to Angel, or else he'll have my hide for telling you, okay?"

"Somehow everything comes back to that vampire." Xander muttered.

Gunn cocked any eyebrow. "Wild guess here, but I'm taking it that you don't like Spike and Angel?"

"I don't like vampires." Xander replied. "They turned my best friend, and I had to kill him."

A brief pause stretched before Gunn murmured, "They turned my sister. I had to kill her."

They looked at each other and for a moment, a bond of understanding was forged.

~*~

The sun was starting to set by the time the hospital let Gunn go, but not without Teresa making Gunn swear that he would try to avoid any future incidents with Mack trucks. Xander almost laughed, wondering if the Mack trucks were driven by gang members on PCP. Gunn was still a little woozy on his feet, so Xander offered to help him walk to the hotel, where Gunn swore Angel would take care of him. Xander still didn't trust the vampires, but he trusted Gunn's judgment.

They reached the doors of the Hyperion and Xander let out a whistle. "This is much bigger than Dead-boy's apartment back in Sunnydale."

Gunn turned to Xander. "You sure you won't come in? The big guy can be dense sometimes, but he's got the soul of a champion. He won't rest until he's figured out what's happened to you."

Xander shrugged. "Thanks, but I'm just not feeling the trust. It's like, a few days ago by friends and I were aiming a rocket launcher at him, and that sort of thing is just a little bit hard to get past, you know?"

"Yeah. But where else are you going to go?" Gunn replied. Xander couldn't answer, gaze dropping to his feet. "Look, I've got a friend who owns a shelter, but you're going to have to hurry, because she locks the doors at sundown. Tell her Charles sent you." He gave Xander directions to the shelter.

Xander nodded, memorizing the directions. "Thanks, man. I appreciate it."

"No problem. Thanks for getting me to the hospital." Gunn replied. "Good luck. If we find anything, I'll stop by Anne's and let you know."

"All right." Xander replied. With a parting handshake, Xander took off for the shelter. He followed Gunn's back-alley route, and was almost at the shelter when he ran into a trio of vampires. The sun was down just enough for them to be out without frying. Xander swore and pulled out the cross and a stake Gunn had given him at the hospital.

"Hey, look at who figures himself a vampire slayer..." The one on the left grinned, showing of his fangs. He was large and muscled, with short dark hair and tattoos down both arms. The vampire in the middle was the scrawniest of the three, with a silver-studded black leather collar and wristbands, and a faded rock t-shirt.

The one in the middle glanced nervously between Xander and the other two vamps. "Mebbe he is a Slayer, Tony."

The one on the left, Tony, growled and slapped the middle one upside the head. "You drink spoiled blood or something, Paul? All Slayers are girls, stupid. You know that."

Paul rubbed the back of his head, but bravely spoke up again. "Yeah, but mebbe he's a whatchamacallit? Trans-something or other, where he's a girl that's dressing up as a guy?"

"This ain't no chick." The vampire on the right, who wasn't particularly remarkable in size or style of dress, slowly took a step towards Xander, who was seriously starting to rethink Gunn's offer of Angel's hospitality. Speaking of Angel, a thought that quickly became a really bad plan condensed in his head.

Xander took a step back. "Now guys, as much as I'd love to get in a rumble with you all, I gotta tell ya that I'm already taken. You mess with me, and my Master will hunt you down. You'll be dust before sunrise."

"Oh yeah?" Tony sneered. "And who's your Master, little renfield?" It was on the tip of Xander's tongue to claim Angel, but someone else spoke first.

"Me." Spike said, standing behind the three vampires. Before they had time to react Spike shoved a stake through the hearts of the left and right vampires. Paul took one look at Spike and ran, but it was too late. Spike threw a stake at the retreating vampire, and his dust soon floated to the city street.

Xander held on to the cross and stake tightly. "Spike." There was a red cut on the vampire's cheek that Xander thought was odd, but he couldn't put a finger on why.

"Xander." Spike replied. He slid the stake still in his hand into a pocket of his duster, and then pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He pulled one out and had it almost to his lips when he reconsidered, slipping it back into the pack. He tilted his head at Xander, half-smile playing around his lips. "You can take the boy out of Sunnyhell but I guess you can't take Sunnyhell out of the boy."

Xander began walking toward the shelter half-a-block away, the tenseness in his shoulders the only sign of his discomfort of having a vampire near. "What do you want."

Spike shrugged, walking beside him. "Nothing, pet. Was just walking along minding my own business when I thought you might need a hand."

They got to the shelter and Xander knocked on the door. A wrought iron frame was already locked over the main door, but Xander hoped he would still be able to get in. "Hello?"

The inside door opened and a vaguely-familiar blonde woman peered out through the iron. "I'm sorry, but the doors close at dusk."

"Charles sent me? He said you might have an extra bed for the night." Xander tried, and the woman noticed the cross in his hand.

"I'm not offering an invitation, but if you can cross the threshold then you can stay," she said, unlocking the iron outer door and pushing it open. Xander caught it and she retreated inside the shelter. Xander passed the threshold without any problem, and was about to turn around and close the iron door behind him when Spike entered the shelter too. Xander's jaw dropped.

"How did you... I thought..." Xander babbled, and Spike held a finger to Xander's lips to quiet him. A warm finger. Then Spike took one of Xander's hands and pressed two of Xander's fingers to his wrist, where a pulse was beating steadily. Xander was too shocked to break free from Spike's grasp.

"I take it Charley-boy didn't mention the Shanshu?" Spike inquired with a raised eyebrow.

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 6: I believe that I would cry just a little just to have you back now, here with me.

"Shan-what?" Xander stuttered, still trying to kick his brain into gear. Spike was human. Spike, who was one of the most feared vampires in history, second only to Angelus, was human. "B-but you're a vampire!" he exclaimed.

Spike shushed him, glancing nervously at the other people within hearing distance in the shelter. "Keep it down and I'll explain everything."

"Is there a problem here?" Anne said, approaching them warily. "I don't allow vamps inside my shelter."

Spike smiled innocently. "Then it's a good thing there's no vampires here, innit?" She continued to watch him, and he sigh, plucking the cross from Xander's lax grip and showing the lack of sizzle to her. "See? Not a vampire."

Anne nodded, closing and locking the shelter doors while Xander turned from staring at Spike to staring at her. It suddenly struck him where he'd seen her before. "Hey! You're Chantrelle from that vampire-worshiping cult thing!" He glanced nervously around, worried that maybe Gunn had betrayed him and sent him to a vampire cult.

"I was Chantarelle, but I'm Anne now. I was a fool then; I didn't realize the truth about vampires." the woman replied, and recognition blossomed in her eyes. "You're a friend of Buffy's, aren't you? I remember you in the club right before... You don't look like you've aged at all!"

Xander laughed with a slight edge of hysteria. "Funny story, that." Vampires turning human, ex-cult-members running shelters... "What kind of bizarro world is this?"

"Heh." Spike grinned under Anne's questioning gaze, pulling Xander close with an arm across his shoulders. "He's had a long day."

"Okay." She didn't look like she believed him, but they passed the vamp test so she couldn't very well kick them out now. "There's a couple cots empty, if you'll follow me." She led them to a room, and left them to settle down for the night. "Breakfast is at nine sharp."

"Thanks, Anne." Spike said as she left, sprawling out on one of the cots. Xander sat down gingerly on the edge of the other cot, still trying to grasp the situation.

The silence stretched for a several minutes before Spike murmured, "Hey. You okay?"

Xander snorted. "Just peachy," he answered in a monotone voice. Spike shrugged and was about to fall asleep when Xander spoke again. "So, you're human?"

Spike rolled onto his side so he faced Xander. "Yeah. There was a prophesy, called the Shanshu. Said that the vampire with a soul would have to endure the apocalypse and several trials before becoming a real boy."

"Huh." Xander said, nodding as he took the information in. "I'd have thought Angel would be first in line for that kind of a reward. Not that I'd like to see him rewarded, but..."

"He probably was." Spike grudgingly admitted, "But he signed it away, and seems like I got it." Xander was quiet, and Spike continued, "I don't know how much Gunn filled you in--"

"He gave me a brief summary of what's happened over the years." Xander said, and suddenly grinned. "Did you actually date Harmony?"

Spike groaned and buried his face in his cot while Xander laughed.

~*~

Angel heard Gunn's footsteps and hurried to the door to let him in. "You're back."

"You can't pay enough to keep me away." Gunn replied with a grin, and shuffled his way into the lobby with a wince and a slight limp. He glanced around and whistled, the sound echoing in the space. "Nice upkeep. I thought it would be dustier."

"I had a cleaning company come in every other week while we were at Wolfram and Hart." Angel replied.

Just as Angel helped Gunn settle into a chair in the lobby, Illyria stalked in, Wesley's body in her arms. She laid him down gently on the couch across from Gunn's chair.

"I can't believe he's gone." Gunn said, unable to tear his eyes away from Wes.

"I do not understand." Illyria spoke, frustration apparent in her voice. "This should not be happening."

"Wes was human." Angel said, "Humans die. It happens, and we can't always stop it."

"No." Illyria shook her head, staring at him with unblinking blue eyes. "His body should be cold. It is not."

Angel's eyes widened and Gunn reached for Wesley's hand. "Man, she's right." Gunn exclaimed. "He's still warm... and I think I feel a pulse. It's really faint, but I think..."

Angel focused his senses on Wesley and was able to pick up an extremely slow heartbeat and very slow, shallow breathing. "He's still alive." Angel uttered, shocked. He took another look at the stab wound, which was indeed lethal. "How is this possible?"

"His heartbeat and breathing is not sufficient for a human to sustain life." Illyria said, "Despite this, Wesley is alive."

~*~

To Be Continued...

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