Jet's Slash Fiction

Title: Often and Silently
Author: Jet
Rating: PG
Content: Angel/Xander
Series: Sequel to "In the Bleak Midwinter."
Summary: Different people ring in the new year in different ways.
Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine and are borrowed without permission.
Distribution: I would be honored. Just contact me first.
Feedback: Is very welcome at
Spoilers: None of consequence.


Often and Silently
by Jet



Blank silence.


Xander suddenly woke from his reverie. Dick Clark was being enthusiastic on the television and Buffy was holding a tall glass of bubbly liquid in his face.

"Thirty seconds to go," she said with a smile. "Toast the new year with us?"

Xander smiled and accepted the glass, waving it beneath his nose and sniffing lightly. "Ah," he pronounced with pleasure, "excellent. A light, perhaps slightly citrusy bouquet, with a distinct note of fruityness, tending towards a perceived sweetness." He sniffed again. "And do I detect a hint of apple?"

Buffy stared at him in confusion. "It's non-alcoholic sparkling cider."

"That explains it," said Xander, rising from the couch.

Willow was already counting down, and Buffy joined her. Oz seemed to chime in only for the prime numbers.

When everyone shouted, "Happy New Year," Xander smiled and clinked glasses with them. He downed his draught and then closed his eyes, murmuring softly to himself.

He opened his eyes to find Willow looking at him strangely. "You okay?"

Xander smiled slightly. "Just starting the new year off right."

The celebrants on TV broke into "Auld Lang Syne," and the four celebrants in Buffy's living room joined in with their own, rather confused, rendition.

"What are the words to that song anyway?" asked Xander, when it was over. "Every time I hear someone sing it, their speech is too slurred to make it all out."

"I think that's the secret," said Oz.

"Resolutions!" Buffy suddenly exclaimed. "I resolve to eat less fat and to slay more vampires."

"I resolve to get the band to learn at least one more chord."

"Got your work cut out for you," said Xander, sympathetically.

Oz nodded somewhat wistfully.

Willow grinned. "Well, I resolve to levitate something heavier than a pencil. Like a binder. Or maybe an encyclopedia!"

"Do you only levitate school supplies?" asked Buffy.

"Her specialty," said Oz.

Buffy grinned and turned around. "Xander?" she prompted.

Xander hesitated for a second, then an overly worried look crossed his face. "But if I say it out loud," he confided to her in a loud whisper, "it won't come true!"

"That's birthday wishes."

"Oh, yeah, right." Xander shrugged. "Oh, well."

"Hey, are there any more cookies?" Willow suddenly asked.

"Kitchen," said Buffy, turning about and leading Willow out of the room.

When they were gone, Xander looked around for his coat. He extricated it from the pile of coats and jackets on a chair, and started to put it on. Oz watched him silently from across the room.

When Buffy and Willow returned, Xander was slipping his hand through the second sleeve.

"Leaving already?" asked Buffy.

"Someone has to be at home to keep the 'responsible adults' in line," Xander said, humorously. "Thanks for the party. It was really."

Willow smiled forlornly at him. "Take care," she said. "Happy New Year."

Xander smiled back. "Happy New Year, everyone. Stay out of trouble."

"No chance of that," said Oz, "but thanks for the sentiment."


Angel sat staring blankly across the empty room, a small book lying open but unread in his lap.

The candle flickered, causing the bronze figurine on the mantelpiece to shimmer brilliantly for an instant. Angel glanced up and stared for a moment, then turned back down to his book. The same sentence that had stopped him cold minutes before still silently mocked him.

"When I am from him, I am dead till I be with him."1

He tossed Thomas Browne violently aside and buried his face in his hands.

It made no sense, or perhaps too much. Angel had known the pain of separation, of unending death, for nearly a century. Long enough to understand, to control that pain. Until a week previous, reading had been one of those controls, granting a transitory sense of humanity to Angel's soul. Anything, Shakespeare to Joyce, anything to make that momentary human connection. Anything except Donne.

But now, nothing worked. Because suddenly, humanity had been brought into sharp focus. Suddenly, a week ago. When the shield of separation had briefly dropped.

And it had kept dropping repeatedly since then, each time allowing Angel to glimpse the possibilities beyond. Possibilities which, Angel told himself, he had no right to imagine.

Better to remain separated, isolated. Happiness was never meant for the creatures of the night. Even those reformed.

But he couldn't stay apart any longer. Because Xander kept dragging him out of his self-imposed exile. Xander, even when he wasn't there.

It wasn't just the faint trace of Xander's scent in every part of the room, it was Xander's constant presence in Angel's mind. ("...from you that I could private be!")2 Xander himself did not predominate Angel's thoughts, but it was as if he were there, crouching at the edges of Angel's consciousness, waiting for the slightest association before suddenly leaping into view. And bringing with him—

Buffy had allowed Angel to briefly pretend to be human. And it had been briefly amusing to occasionally pretend to be a human teenager, a safe fantasy from which he could easily withdraw.

But Xander, without even really trying, had demanded that Angel be human. And be himself. Angel didn't know who that was.

But Xander seemed to.

Xander, who had visited Angel five times since that first Christmas night, and had stayed the night twice, both times falling asleep again on the couch. Xander, who was content to sit and simply talk to him, about normal things, without pretense. Xander, who could make any story into a madcap comedy. Angel had found himself truly laughing. He had forgotten real laughter....

But even more precious was the silence. The complete trust. It spoke volumes, yet left Angel more confused than ever.

Neither Xander nor Angel ever spoke of it. Neither dared to discuss what was happening, if indeed, Angel thought, anything was. They never even talked about when they would next meet, or how long Xander would stay. Xander would just show up, and leave when he was ready.

Leaving Angel to wrestle with his thoughts. And his humanity.

His? Angel knew he had none. That had been taken by Darla, and never returned. His curse had given him his soul, which meant pain and remorse. Nothing more.

And yet, last week, he had burnt a candle in his window for the first time in two centuries. That candle of welcome to Mary and Joseph. To life. To hope.

To humanity.

Angel wasn't sure if he had been cursed anew... or if he had perhaps been granted the greatest Christmas present ever given.

A flicker of light drew his eye back to the bronze Gabriel on the mantelpiece. Could anyone ever see that when they looked at the demon, the inhuman creature that Angel was?

A familiar cadence of cautious footsteps in the hallway roused Angel and he quickly strode to the door, waiting for the knock that he knew—he prayed—must follow.

When it did, Angel controlled himself carefully, waiting an appropriate amount of time before slowly, casually opening the door.

Xander's eyes rose to meet his and they stared for a few moments.

Precious silence.

"Hi," said Xander, eventually. "Sorry I'm late."

Angel glanced at the clock. It had slipped past midnight without his noticing. "I'm glad you're here." ("My gracious silence, hail!")3 Angel stood back and let Xander in.

Xander shrugged off his coat and hung it himself, performing what had become a comfortable ritual. He then headed for the couch.

"Buffy had a new year's party," he explained, sitting down.

Angel joined him. "Good time?"

"...was had by most." Xander smiled suddenly. "Buffy made these ginger snaps. They tasted all right, but they were... chewy. Kind of contradicts the name. And you won't believe what Willow did with the party hats...."


Half an hour later, Xander's stream of narrative and banter had settled into a slow trickle. "Hey, look," he suddenly said, glancing at the clock, "it's the new year in Anchorage." He turned to face Angel. "Happy New Year."

"Happy New Year, Xander."

"I guess I didn't miss it after all." Xander smiled at Angel for a moment, then turned away and began fiddling with the hem of his shirt. Angel watched his lips move silently. Eventually, Xander seemed to give up. "So much for new year's resolutions," Angel could hear him mutter, faintly.

It was now or never. "Can you stay the night?" ("Come live with me and be my l—")4 Angel flinched mentally.

Xander froze, then turned and simply nodded.

Completely unsure of what he was doing, Angel, moving like an automaton, rose and led Xander to his bedroom.

Xander tarried in the doorway for a moment, then quickly strode across the room and sat on the edge of the bed. He removed his shoes, shivered, and then sat still.

Angel watched in silence. When Xander suddenly shivered again, Angel said, "I don't have any heat in here. Maybe you'd better leave your clothes on," wondering if the suggestion would imply the opposite.

But Xander gratefully accepted the out, and lay back silently on the bed.

"I've got to put the candles out," said Angel, quickly escaping from the room and silently cursing himself all the way.

Methodically extinguishing the candles in the living room brought some order to the chaos in his mind, but not enough. He felt as if he had suddenly stepped on a land mine, and was afraid to move for fear of detonating it.

Eventually, Angel could delay no longer. He returned, silently and cautiously, to his room and stood in the doorway.

Xander had turned on his side and lay facing away, apparently well on his way to sleep.

Making every motion with excruciating care, Angel noiselessly approached the bed, removed his own shoes, and lay down. And stared at Xander.

Complete trust.

Angel had broken the silence, and Xander had taken his words almost as commands.

Complete trust.

As gratifying and as reassuring as it was, it was far more disturbing to have that sort of power over another person. Even though, without knowing it, Xander had even more power over him.

Hearing Xander's breathing become quiet and regular, Angel reached ever so carefully out and wrapped his arms around the boy, pulling him close. That physical contact confirmed the truth. Xander was there. With him.

Angel held Xander tightly, but gently. He could let go before Xander awoke, letting Xander free from his desperate, foolish, selfish attempt to escape from his own prison. He could let go. Perhaps....

And as Angel drifted off to sleep, Xander smiled.


O you whom I often and silently come where you are that I may be with you,
As I walk by your side or sit near, or remain in the same room with you,
Little you know the subtle electric fire that for your sake is playing within me.
— Walt Whitman