Title: Everything Happens to Me
Everything Happens to Me
Xander paced back and forth across his basement room, talking to himself.
"How about: 'Hi, Angel. What's up? Remember that ryver thing?... Yeah, the big nasty demon that almost got you.... Yeah, that's the one. I was just wondering if it passed along any... uh... little bits of 4-1-1 about yours truly. It does that nasty mind-reading thing.... Yeah.... Uh, no. He must have been lying about that part to be annoying.... Yeah. You know evil demons and their sick, twisted mind games. Well, I'm glad we could talk this through. See ya.'"
Xander exhaled. "That stank. He asked me to call. What did that mean? 'I want you to call so I can tell you you're a sick pervert?' 'I want you to call because I know a way to kill a man over the phone?' 'I want you to call so we can have phone sex?' God.
"What do I do? Deny everything? Deny nothing? Did the ryver even tell him anything? It must have; he was looking at me funny for the entire time after that. But what did it say? What am I supposed to do about it? Does Angel want to kill me... or kiss me? Could my thinking be any more wishful?
"Why does my life have to be so complicated? Why can't I fit in anywhere? Why am I so bizarre?"
"Xander? What are you doing?"
Xander nearly jumped out of his skin. He spun around to see Anya.
"Knock. K-N-O-C-K. This is what normal people do before entering a room unexpectedly. At least when they don't want to shorten the life span of the occupant. Or are you trying to kill me?" Xander looked thoughtful for a moment. "Now, everything is falling into place!" he said, with sudden enlightenment.
"Don't be ridiculous. What good would you be dead? I came by because you didn't call again. Again, you didn't call," she corrected herself.
"Was I supposed to call?"
"We were supposed to have a date."
"Date-like qualities. Date-like."
"I saved your life." She considered a moment and then revised the statement. "I got Giles to save your life."
"And I appreciate that."
"Doesn't that mean anything?"
"Sure it means something. It means you're a good friend. Thank you."
"When do we copulate again?"
Xander nearly fell over. "Look, Anya. I really can't do that again. It wouldn't be fair to you. It wasn't really fair to you the first time."
"Fair to me? But I want to."
"But I don't," Xander blurted. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that. And you're the absolute last person I'd want to have mad at me... what with the vengeance and all. But I have to tell you that my... affections lie elsewhere."
"Why do you have to tell me that? That hurts!"
"I have to tell you that because it's the truth. And because if I didn't tell you, I'd just be leading you on. And you might get hurt even more later."
"This hurts now."
"Welcome to being a human. Look, Anya, I don't know whether it's your heart or just your libido playing tricks on you here, but it's just a crush. People have them all the time. It'll pass."
"But what if it's not a... crush? What if you're the one?"
Xander blinked and stared for a moment, then looked down at the floor. He spoke so softly that Anya almost couldn't hear him. "Because I think—I hope—I may be the one for someone else."
Anya took only a moment to respond. "That's not fair."
Xander looked up, suddenly tired. "Life isn't. Surely as a vengeance demon you'd know that."
He wandered away, his head hanging. When he turned back and saw the lost and confused expression on her face, his heart softened.
"Anya, I know it hurts, believe me. It's happened to me more times than I care to remember, and it feels awful to be hurting you in the same way."
Anya looked down and sniffed.
"But it'll pass. And you'll just try again. You go on trying until one day, it works," he said, not entirely convinced himself. He paused, then added, "And, no, I'm not auditioning for a part on 'As the World Turns,' I'm actually serious, if not actually original."
"What if it doesn't work?"
"It will. You're a nice girl. Once you get used to being human, you'll be a real catch."
Anya stared for a moment. "Thank you, Xander."
Xander smiled and moved to hug her, but Anya stepped back. Anya looked down, and Xander looked relieved.
"I had better go," Anya said, heading for the stairs.
When she was halfway up, Xander called to her. "You should really find some girlfriends to discuss this sort of thing with. Talking... very helpful. Buffy and Willow are really nice. You could get along with them great... eventually... maybe."
Anya shot Xander a fleeting half-smile and then continued to slowly climb the stairs.
When Xander heard the door close, he quickly turned to stare at the telephone, glaring as if he were about to spar with it. After a few moments he swaggered up, ripped the receiver from the hook with great violence, and rapidly dialed a number from memory.
The phone, surprisingly enough, rang only once.
"Angel Investigations! We help the hopeless!" Cordelia's secretarial singsong was unmistakable.
Xander almost hung up. "May I speak to Angel, please?" he asked, shakily.
Cordelia muted her phone and called to Angel. "It's for you. Big surprise. I think it's a client. He sounded kind of nervous."
Angel picked up the phone in the next room. "Hello?"
There were a few moments of uncomfortable silence.
"You, uh, asked me to call."
"Right. How are you doing? I think the ryver died."
"Yeah, I think so too. I had a sort of a dream kinda thing.... I'm doing okay. How are you?"
"I'm okay too."
Angel shivered. "Yes?"
"Could I... would you...?" Xander trailed off.
Angel suddenly spoke as if he were participating in an entirely different conversation, and in a voice that wasn't completely his. "So, Xander, I was wondering if you'd like to hang out in LA for a couple of days. You didn't exactly get a chance to relax and see the sights last time."
"That's an understatement." Xander sounded relieved.
"So what do you say? When can you get out here? If you want to," Angel added, hastily.
"Yes!" exclaimed Xander eagerly. He checked himself, cleared his throat, and continued more calmly. "Yeah, that sounds great. I can probably leave anytime. I'll check with Buffy and Giles, but I don't think they'd even notice if I left. Well, except for the occasional doughnut...." Xander suddenly recovered his determinedly casual tone. "I mean, whenever's convenient for you."
"Hold on a moment." There was a pause as Angel carried the cordless into the next room to look at the calendar that Cordelia had laid out on her desk. "How about Friday?"
"That'll be great. Should I just come to your office?"
"Another client?" Cordelia whispered, hopefully. "Are you going to remember to ask this one to pay?"
Angel gave her a look and left the room. "Yes. Do you still have the address?"
"Yeah, I remember how to get there. What time?"
"Anytime after sundown is good for me."
"Right. I'll see you on Tuesday then, Angel." Xander's voice had become businesslike.
"All right." Angel also sounded like he was closing a deal. "See you then."
"Angel?" Xander's voice had changed.
"I'm looking forward to it."
Angel paused for a moment. "So am I."
"Giles? Where are you, G-man?"
"In here. And don't call me that."
"Force of habit."
"What is it, Xander?"
"I, uh, need to get out of Sunnydale. I was thinking of visiting LA for a little while. Y'know, big city, cosmopolitan culture, night life not predominated by nasty demons...."
"So you'll be gone for a few days?" asked Giles, offhandedly, not looking up from his book.
"Gee, don't get all broken up about it," Xander muttered.
"What was that?"
"Nothing, nothing. Yeah, a few days. I'm not sure. I don't exactly have a schedule."
"Lucky devil," said Giles, leaning over to grab a dictionary. "Have a good time, Xander. The change will do you good."
"...so please leave a message after the beep!" Willow's cheerful voice was followed by the aforementioned tone.
"Hi, Will. It's Xander. Sorry I missed you last night. I just called 'cause I'm leaving town for a few days, so I won't see you and Buffy at the Bronze on Friday. Tell Oz good luck. Giles has the number on the kind of off chance you need to reach me. Hope classes are going well. See ya."
Xander stepped down from the bus and looked around at twilight in the big city. He slung his small bag over his back and mounted the stairs to Angel's office. In some excitement, he scurried down the hallway and rapped sharply on the door.
There was no answer.
Xander waited, looking around, and noticed a bright yellow post-it that had fallen to the floor.
"Xander," it read, in handwriting that was almost too rushed to be legible. "Be back. Please wait." At the bottom, in the same hand but in more careful writing, was, "Sorry."
Xander stared at the note for a while, then sighed, dropped his bag, and sat down next to it on the floor.
An hour later, he was drowsing, but was instantly shocked into consciousness by someone bursting out of the stairwell and running down the hall. Xander recoiled and tried to scoot away.
"Angel?" asked Xander, peering at the disheveled figure looming over him. "What happened?"
"Don't apologize. Are you okay?"
"I've been worse. Usually better, though."
"Man, look what it did to your coat. That's harsh."
Angel looked away. "I need to shower and change."
"It's okay, you—"
"I got dinner reservations for eight-thirty."
"Dinner reservations?" Xander asked, with amazement. "Deadboy?"
"I'll have to hurry. Follow me. Please," Angel added, apologetically.
Xander stood, grabbed his bag, and silently followed Angel into his office, then into the elevator. He stood silently beside Angel as they descended, nervously fiddling with the strap of the bag over his shoulder and occasionally shooting a quick, cautious glance at Angel. But Angel was staring grimly ahead, lost in his thoughts.
When the elevator stopped, Angel tore the gate open, and led Xander into his apartment. "Please come in. You can leave your bag here for now."
Xander dropped his bag where Angel had gestured.
"Make yourself comfortable," said Angel, distractedly. "Give me about fifteen minutes."
"Okay," said Xander, sitting down on the couch, overwhelmed.
Angel nodded and left the room.
Xander folded his hands and sat almost motionless for the entire fifteen minutes. Except for a short while, about seven minutes into the wait, when he raised his head and looked about in amazement. "I'm in Angel's apartment," he murmured to himself, stunned. He glanced in the direction of the bathroom, where he could hear water running. "And he's in the shower." Xander smirked. "Truth is stranger than fiction." He shook his head, and then went back to staring at the floor with a confused look on his face.
Fifteen minutes to the second after he had left, Angel returned to the room. Looking picture perfect. His hair and clothes were once again immaculate and his skin radiated an unearthly glow.
Xander raised his eyebrows and gave a sidelong smile. "How do you do that without a mirror?"
"Practice." Angel was still distracted. "One more thing. Then we can leave."
Angel disappeared into the kitchen. Xander heard the refrigerator opening and the rustle of plastic packages. He shivered.
Moments later, Angel returned, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Xander involuntarily licked his lips. When Angel turned to face him, he rose quickly.
"Ready?" asked Angel.
Xander just nodded nervously and followed Angel out.
The ride in Angel's car was uncomfortably silent. Angel drove quickly, but not roughly.
Xander just stared at the lights and tall buildings, before contributing his sole comment: "Big change from Sunnydale."
Angel acknowledged this with a barely perceptible nod.
Xander went back to staring out the window, unable to keep his thumb from rubbing nervously back and forth on his thigh.
Finally, Angel pulled into a space across from a well-lit awning with a number of very fashionably dressed people milling about beneath it.
Xander stared at the restaurant with some trepidation as he got out of the car and walked around to the other side, where Angel was locking his door.
"This looks a little swank. It's a good thing I sort of dressed up today," Xander said, looking down at his clothes, which were teetering on the brink of overly casual.
Angel turned and looked Xander up and down. "You look great," he said honestly, with a slight smile. "C'mon." He grabbed Xander by the hand and led him across the street.
Xander, too busy staring at Angel in amazement to walk, almost stumbled. But he quickly caught up and followed Angel into the restaurant, only releasing Angel's hand when they crossed the threshold.
Once inside, they found themselves approaching an impeccably groomed maitre d'. He smiled at them with an air of superiority. "Name?"
Angel hesitated. "Harris." Xander turned to look at him but Angel stood completely still facing the maitre d'.
"You are over an hour early, sirs," the maitre d' said smugly after checking his list. "You may wait here in the lobby, or come back later, if you wish."
"It's eight-thirty," said Angel, gesturing to the clock on the wall.
"Yes," said the maitre d' with a deprecating smile, "it is indeed. And your reservations are for nine-thirty."
"I'm afraid you're mistaken."
"I called two days ago and said eight-thirty."
"It says nine-thirty here."
Angel leaned in. "It's wrong." Angel's voice had a snarling edge, and his eyes glinted copper for a moment.
The maitre d' superficially kept his composure, but his eyes darted nervously and a sweat broke on his brow. Xander had to hide his smile by pretending to cough and covering his mouth with his hand.
"If you could wait but five minutes," the maitre d' said, his voice tightly controlled, "I might be able to squeeze you in." He gestured to a passing waiter and withdrew to exchange a few words. The waiter nodded and walked off, and the maitre d' returned promptly.
"If you would just follow me," he said, hastily grabbing two menus and walking into the dining room. He led Angel and Xander to a table against the far wall. "Your waiter will be with you momentarily," he said as they sat, and laid the menus on the table. "Please enjoy." He bowed perfunctorily before turning quickly on his heel and trotting with rather anxious haste back to the entrance.
Xander turned to make a comment to Angel when the waiter appeared at his elbow, surprising him.
"May I get you a drink, sir?"
"Um... sure," said Xander, flustered. "Sp—Sprite."
"And for you?"
"Nothing for now, thanks," replied Angel.
"I'll be right back."
Xander turned to Angel with an amused grin, but Angel was staring darkly out across the restaurant. Xander shrugged and began to peruse the menu. His eyes widened with amazement. He turned back and forth through the pages, nervously. Eventually, he looked up, eyeing Angel cautiously.
"Um, Angel?" he said, weakly.
"Yes?" Angel didn't turn, and his tone was still dark and angry, making Xander cringe.
"I'm sorry," he said, almost trembling. "I can't afford this. I just don't have the cash...."
Angel turned to Xander with a somewhat amazed expression. "Don't worry," he said, softly. "My treat."
"Really? I don't want to be a—"
"Really," said Angel, kindly but with finality. "Get whatever you want."
"Th—thank you." He stared at Angel for a moment before sniffing and hiding his face behind the vast menu.
But not before Angel noticed Xander's eyes watering. He stared curiously at Xander, despite the folio between them, almost as if he could see through the paper. He heard more quiet sniffling coming from behind the menu. His brow furrowed, and his mouth settled into a grim line.
The reappearance of the waiter with Xander's Sprite brought them both out of their reveries. Xander, looking much more relaxed, gave his order. The waiter turned to Angel.
"And what would you like, sir?"
"Nothing, thanks," said Angel flatly, handing the menu to the waiter.
"Nothing? Are you sure?" asked the waiter, not accepting the menu. "The fillet of sole is particularly good. Or perhaps you'd like to order from our dessert menu?" he asked, proffering yet another paper volume.
"I said no," ground out Angel between clenched teeth. Xander's eyes widened.
"Fine," said the waiter, offended. He tore the menu from Angel's hand and trounced away, nose held high.
Xander watched him leave, then turned to Angel, who was staring at the wall. Xander gave a half-smile. "Persistent, isn't he? Thought I'd see game face any moment there, Deadboy."
The corners of Angel's mouth tightened.
"It's good of you to put up with all this just to take me out to dinner. I really appreciate it."
Angel finally gave a semblance of a smile.
Xander stood and placed his napkin on the table. "I'll be right back. I need to find the... uh, restroom."
Angel folded his hands and hung his head as he waited for Xander to return, occasionally shaking his head drearily. After a couple of minutes he looked up to see Xander approaching the table, walking away from the waiter who was walking quickly in the opposite direction, very red-faced.
Angel nodded to Xander as he sat down, then turned back to look at the waiter across the room.
"What did you say to him?" Angel asked, after a moment.
Xander looked nonchalant. "I told him you were a vampire and that if he didn't lay off, you'd tear him limb from limb."
Angel stared. "You're kidding."
Xander smiled. "You can read me like a book. Actually, I told him you couldn't eat anything because of your blood condition."
Angel looked bewildered.
"Sorry, hope you don't mind. Just thought it'd break the tension...."
"No, it's okay. It's actually...." Angel smiled. "It's actually kind of funny."
Xander raised an eyebrow. "Sense of humor, Deadboy? Didn't know you had it in you."
Angel's brow furrowed and his mouth opened to voice a protest, but he saw Xander's half grin, and returned it.
They were still staring at each other when the waiter suddenly appeared beside them, beaming obsequiously. "Here is your meal, sir," he said, carefully placing a steaming plate before Xander. "Would you like anything else to drink? Sir? Water? No? Sorry. I mean, very good. Enjoy your meal," he said, looking nervously from Xander to Angel. He turned about and moved quickly away.
It took visible effort for Xander to wait until the waiter had retreated out of earshot. Eventually, a quiet laugh burst out and Angel laughed along with him. Then Xander looked down at his plate and gaped. "Can't say I've ever eaten like this in Sunnydale."
"Well, that's why you came after all," said Angel, turning away again to look out around the restaurant, as if casually looking for escape routes in case of emergency. "Experience the big city, see the sights."
"One sight in particular," murmured Xander, staring directly at Angel.
Angel's vampiric senses had no trouble picking up the mumbled comment, and he quickly turned and squinted at Xander in surprise. Xander looked down uncomfortably, and took a bite from his plate.
"This is fantastic," he said, around the mouthful.
"Don't talk with your mouth full."
Xander took another bite. "Yes, sir," he drawled, having to tilt his head to keep his food from spilling.
Angel glared for a moment, then smiled and returned to looking around the room.
Xander ate quickly but without hurry. "This is great," he said, while slicing something on his plate. "I was starving. I hope it's not annoying to sit here and just watch me eat."
"I ate before we left."
"You know what I mean."
"Yes. I'm happy to be here."
Xander suddenly laughed nervously. "Oh, man. I've gotta tell you about the people I met on the bus ride down here. Okay, so there was a priest, a rabbi, and a Hare Krishna. No, really! I swear. Anyway, they were all sitting in the back of the bus...."
"...so by the time we got to the next station, the guy almost had me convinced he was from another planet," Xander was saying as they stepped out of the elevator and into Angel's apartment.
"Did all that really happen on one bus trip, or are you making this up?"
"Does it really matter?"
"Now I'm sort of concerned for your safety."
Xander shook his head. "Only my sanity was in danger. Which was lost a long time ago, anyway. Could I use your bathroom? Too much Sprite. Sorry, you didn't need to know that, did you?"
Angel just shook his head. "Just around the corner," he said, gesturing. Xander smiled and walked off.
Angel stared after him for a moment, then went to sort through the CDs lying atop the stereo. He quickly gave up this pointless task and took to pacing back and forth restlessly for a while, then sprawled on the couch. Not much later, he was fidgeting, then shifting positions on the couch. Just as he bounced up to start pacing again, he heard Xander's voice drift from the bathroom. "Um, help?"
Angel approached the bathroom warily. The door was ajar and he pushed it open to find Xander kneeling at the toilet, trying to reach behind it. Angel just stood for a moment in the doorway, trying to understand the scene. Then he saw the level of water in the toilet rising perilously high.
"It's flooding," Xander explained, red-faced. "And you don't have a plunger. And the faucet won't turn. Could you give it a try?"
Angel reached behind the toilet and quickly closed the valve. As Angel stood, Xander slammed the lid on the toilet.
"I'll have to find a plunger somewhere," he said, unable to meet Angel's eyes.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know the plumbing was in such bad shape," said Angel. "I've never—I'll take care of it. Why don't you go unpack?"
"It's my apartment, it's my problem."
Xander finally looked up at Angel. "Okay. I'm sorry."
Xander quickly rinsed his hands and sheepishly left the bathroom.
Angel glared at the toilet for a moment and then kicked it angrily, but carefully so as not to destroy it and create even more mess. Eventually he strode out of the bathroom, glowering. He glanced up at the wall as he passed, but found no plunger among the collection of swords, axes, and crossbows.
He paused in front of the guestroom and called into the darkness, "I've got to go out for a minute. I'll be right back. Are you okay?"
"I know you vampires like eternal darkness, but where's the light switch in here?"
"It's right—" Angel flicked the switch. There was an electric buzz and a bright flash, and then the room was plunged into almost total darkness as all the lights in the apartment were extinguished. "—here."
There were a few moments of deathly silence before he spoke again, in a harsh growl:
"My landlord is a dead man."
Xander couldn't help it. He brought his hand to his face to try to muffle the explosion, but one second later he burst out laughing. And he couldn't stop.
Angel stared at him in bruised amazement.
"I'm sorry," Xander managed, between guffaws. "It's just..." The rest of the sentence was lost.
Angel's eyebrow arched. Then he smirked. Then he smiled. Then he was laughing along. The two made their way out to the main room, where more light filtered down from upstairs.
"I'm sorry," Xander eventually said, once their laughter had died down. He wiped his eye. "It's not funny."
"Yes, it is," said Angel, in a far better mood than he'd been in before. "The joke's on me. This whole evening. It's just...." Angel paused and looked down uncomfortably.
"Just what?" Xander asked softly, still smiling.
"I just wanted everything to be nice for you."
Xander said nothing, but raised both eyebrows and smiled even wider.
"But... the demon, the dinner, the electricity, the toilet." Angel intoned the last word with pure hatred. "The only thing that could make it worse is if—"
Doyle tore open the basement door without knocking. "Vision!" he panted, clutching the doorframe and his stomach.
There was a beat, and then Angel's legs buckled slightly and a look crossed his face indicating that he would either shift to game face or have hysterics.
But Xander, in one quick, steady movement, grabbed Angel by the shoulders and pulled him forward—and into a kiss.
Angel responded immediately, without even thinking. His arms wrapped around Xander's waist. Soon the moment stretched into seconds... a minute....
Doyle stared dumbly from the doorway. "That wasn't my vision," he muttered, amazed.
Eventually Xander and Angel pulled away. Xander took a deep breath and shivered slightly when he exhaled. He looked at first warily up into Angel's eyes, but then smiled broadly when he saw the irrepressible grin plastered on Angel's face, an unusual sight.
Eventually, Xander turned and said to Doyle, with superb nonchalance, "So, what's this about a vision?"
Doyle started. "I... uh..."
Xander turned back to Angel. "Look, I'll go unpack. Where do you keep the candles?"
"Don't bother," replied Angel, walking over to the closet where the breaker box was. He flipped a switch and the lights came back on. "Stay in my room. Get some rest and I'll see you when I get back."
Xander smiled and grabbed Angel's hand for a second before leaving the room. Angel couldn't help following him with his eyes.
When Xander was gone, Angel turned around. "C'mon, Doyle," he said, "out with it."
"Vision, Doyle. Vision."
"Oh, right," Doyle drawled, settling back into forced normality. "Girl's having a slight problem with a warlock."
"Two visions in one night?"
"Look, I don't control these things. So you can believe me, or you can just ignore it, and stick around here with your..." Doyle's brow furrowed.
"All right. I'm coming," Angel said, grabbing his shredded coat from its hook.
Five hours later, Angel was replacing his coat on that same hook. He wandered into the apartment, dropped a plunger by the door to the bathroom, then stopped in front of his bedroom.
A dim light on the bedside table provided the only illumination in the windowless room. Angel could still clearly see the Xander's sleeping form, lying on his side, lower arm lying under his pillow, mouth slightly open.
Angel just stood there, watching Xander sleep, watching him breathe.
Suddenly, Xander stirred and opened his eyes.
"Hey," he said softly, a tired smile on his face.
Xander just looked back for a while. "Come in," he said eventually, with a small chuckle.
Angel casually strolled over and sat on the edge of the bed, turning to Xander.
"Everything all right?" Xander asked, yawning.
"Fine. Easy job. Inexperienced warlock trying to terrorize a girl into giving up her seat on a board of directors."
Xander laughed. "Sounds so mundane. Aren't these evil-type characters supposed to be trying to take over the world?"
The corner of Angel's mouth curled, then his face fell and he suddenly looked nervous. "Well, I'd better let you sleep...."
Xander reached out and grabbed Angel's hand. "No, I'm glad I woke up. I'm glad you're here. I wanted to say thank you for dinner, and... sorry about earlier. I shouldn't have... done that in front of Doyle."
Angel smiled and shook his head.
Xander smiled back. "Is Doyle...?"
"He avoided talking about it after we left."
Xander nodded, then turned to lie on his back, staring at the ceiling, still holding Angel's hand. "What happens now?"
"What do you want to happen now?"
Xander gave a sudden short laugh, then stifled it. "Maybe I'd better just sleep. Do you want me to change beds?" he asked, sitting up.
"No, no, relax. I'll sleep during the day. I've got work to do."
Xander fell back on the bed with a small bounce. "What do we do tomorrow?"
"Cordelia wants to show you around town. Is that okay? She just wants to show off."
Xander snickered. "Yeah, that's okay. Should be amusing, in that overbearing-cheerleader kinda way."
"I'm sorry I can't go, but I'd rather not—"
"—burst into flames. Yeah, I know." Xander smiled and tightened his grasp on Angel's hand. "She'll bring me back here no later than sundown, right?"
Angel laughed. "As early as you want."
"Good. Because I'm not here to see the sights."
"I know." They stared at each other for a moment. "We'll talk about that tomorrow."
"All right," said Xander, releasing Angel's hand and settling into a more comfortable position. "Good night, Angel."
Angel leaned down and kissed Xander gently on the forehead. "Good night, Xander."