Xander gave up on the coffee bar line after fifteen minutes. He didn't
need a caffeine fix that bad. Another scan of the crowded club told him
neither Buffy or Willow had arrived yet. And to think they ragged on him
for being late. Bolstered by the temporary self-assurance, he made his
way across the dance floor. A flicker of white in the shadows caught his
eye. Xander frowned. It couldn't be-
He'd never seen the man without Buffy around, almost as if without her,
the guy didn't exist. Well, I can dream, can't I? Angel skirted the
dance floor, searching. Something in the way the man moved reminded
Xander of the dark, shuddery days of his hyena-possession. He'd walked
across the campus with his pack, watching the students the same way Angel now watched the dancers.
Did Angel see the same things in Buffy he had in his possessed state?
The sheer strength and power of the girl, roiling like heat waves against
the horizon. The challenge. The need to pit himself against that
strength, find the chink in the defenses. To bring her down. To possess,
and know the strength still lay under the surface.
Xander came back to himself, nails digging into his palms. Angel had
stopped prowling and was watching him. Xander started towards the
vampire. This is a bad idea. This is a really bad idea, chanted the
sensible portion of his mind. He ignored it.
Angel saw him coming and waited, leaning against the wall, ankles casually crossed. Xander stopped in front of him.
The vampire didn't reply, just looked amused. Okay, not only is this a
bad idea, it's stupid as well.
"Buffy's not here."
Angel made exaggerated, searching glances to his left, then to his right.
"I noticed that."
Jerk. Xander felt the hot blood creeping up his neck. Angel's eyes
narrowed slightly and he went still. Xander felt a chill brush along his
spine, suddenly aware of the age and nature of the being in front of him.
The teenager jerked his chin up and wished the vampire wasn't taller than himself. Yet another black mark in the unfairness column.
"So what're you doing here?"
Angel half-grinned. "What do you think?"
The vampire laughed softly. "Never figured you for having a dirty mind."
It took Xander a few moments to untangle that. He scowled at the vampire. Buffy would get mad if he hit the guy, but he really wanted to knock that smug look off the creep's face. Angel pushed away from the wall.
"Catch you later."
"I doubt it."
"You do that a lot, I've noticed. And it hasn't done you a lot of good."
Xander blinked, and the vampire was gone, walking away with the last word. Xander lunged after him. No way was he going to let things end there. His pride had taken enough of a beating this year.
He banged open the streetside door and stood in the alley, looking for the vampire. He could see nothing. Feeling stupid, Xander turned to re-enter the club. Angel was right behind him, bracing one hand against the brick wall.
"That wasn't very bright," the vampire observed. "Don't you know it's
dangerous out here at night?"
"Maybe I like danger." Why, oh, why did I say that?
Angel studied him, his dark eyes unreadable. "Something like that, you
should be sure of."
Xander squared his shoulders and met Angel's gaze straight on. The
vampire didn't look away, but reached for his hand. Xander tensed, but
didn't flinch away. Would take more than some undead freak touching him to get him to bolt. Hey, I ate a raw pig. Killed it. I don't
Angel's touch was almost gentle as he turned the teen's hand over.
Xander blinked and looked down at the four bloody crescent marks on his
palm. He'd forgotten all about them. With a growing sense of unreality,
he watched the dark head bow over his hand, felt the light brush of lips,
followed by the quick, wet flash of a surprisingly warm tongue. A slow,
almost pleasant shiver uncoiled from the pit of his stomach, raced through him. Angel raised his head.
"So...are you sure?"
Xander stared into the other's dark eyes, stirred by the flickering
emotions he saw there. He could walk away, he knew. Angel would let him go. And this almost-was thing would hang between them-and he'd probably trip over it at the worst possible time, in front of witnesses.
"Yeah, I'm sure."
Angel released his hand and ran a fingertip along the neckline of Xander's shirt. "The times where I'd take an offering in an alley are long over. If you're willing, you may as well be comfortable."
Xander swallowed, found his voice. "What'd you have in mind?"
Angel smiled, a charming expression. "Follow me."
Dazed, he followed after the vampire, only realizing when he was halfway up the steps that they'd reached some kind of converted apartment. Vamps with housing. Weird. Angel glanced over his shoulder at him as he unlocked the door, then stood aside to let him in.
What am I doing, what am I doing, what am I doing? Xander clamped
down on his nerves, staring at his surroundings.
'Spare' described it pretty well. Lots of open spaces, odd items that
spoke of a taste and perspective that outstripped Xander's own limited
experience. Something brushed his shoulder, and Xander twisted around.
"Why don't you sit down?" Angel suggested.
He looked even taller in the shadows. Even the angles of his face seemed different. Strong. Imposing. Xander felt his heartbeat pick up. What would it be like, to test that strength, measure its limits? Of course, a mis-step would get him seriously killed, but what was life without a
"I think I'll do that." Hell of a time to find out that hyena might not
be as far banished as I'd like. "So what is it exactly that's gonna
"You made me an offer," Angel said in his ear, his voice much closer than
he'd anticipated. A light touch at the side of his neck. "I plan to take
you up on it."
Xander turned on his heel and grabbed a double handful of Angel's crushed velvet jacket. The vampire's eyes widened, then he smiled.
"I didn't know you had it in you."
"Learn something new every night, huh? Now, why don't you tell me what's going down here?"
Still smiling, Angel reached up and broke Xander's grip. The pad of his
thumb brushed along his wrist, settling over the pulse point.
"I'm going to feed. Just a little." The vampire edged a bit closer.
Xander caught a whiff of spice and the faint scent of some kind of
expensive aftershave. "Not even enough to make you dizzy."
Xander let out his breath slowly, relaxing a minute fraction.
"Some people even like it," Angel assured him.
The time for stalling had passed. The vampire kept one hand closed around his wrist, but the other glided up to his neck and began kneading at the tight muscles. That damn shiver was back, and suddenly standing upright became difficult. Angel pressed against him, lips just below his ear.
"It's better when the blood's moving fast, running rich and hot," he
The shiver spread into a shudder. Xander became excruciatingly aware of
the blood moving under his skin. His heartbeat roared in his ears,
drowning out the world. The anticipation, the screaming tension were
become unbearable. Angel supported most of his weight now, and he found that at some point, he'd looped an arm around the other man's neck. Just to keep his feet. Yeah. Right.
He waited for the bite, almost wanting it now.
But Angel didn't go for the neck. Instead, Angel raised Xander's wrist to
his lips. A slight shift in the strong frame against him, and Xander knew
the vampire's face had changed, the fangs were ready.
A light, almost gentle break into the skin, sort of like the TB test he
got every year for school. But this had more force, stretched out longer.
And it stretched out, running through him in brilliant streaks of color
and sensation. It wasn't like kiss ing a girl, or a heated dance. No,
that was bringing someone into your world, under your skin.
The vampire changed the world, became his focus. And Xander wasn't at
all sure he wanted his old world back.
Then, that fast, it was over.
Angel released him, and Xander stumbled back, just managing to recover his balance. He looked down at his wrist. Tiny red marks on his wrist.
Unnoticeable if he wore long sleeves for a couple days, sure to heal or
fade after that.
"Wonder if I still have to worry about praying mantises now?" Xander
"What?' Angel asked. He had his human face back, and looked a little too
pleased with himself.
"Long story. Never mind." Suddenly, Xander felt claustrophobic. He
scrambled to his feet. "I better get out of here. It's late."
Angel gave an ironic grimace. "Yeah. So it is." He turned towards the
door. "I'll let you out."
Xander got the strange sense that he'd somehow hurt the vampire's
feelings. Nonsense, he told himself. Bloodsuckers don't have
Or did they?