A Friend in Need
Summary: Xander's thoughts about Angel/us.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters, they belong to Joss and Mutant Enemy.
Author's Notes: This takes place during Becoming, Part 1, right after the scene in the library where everyone is arguing over the spell to restore Angel's soul. I've been tossing this idea around in my head for over a year, really, and then I was just re-watching the pilot episodes, and decided to put it down on paper... so to speak... I know there may be a few logistical problems, and I'm not a huge fan of Xander's, but I have this need to give him a little 5 minute 'benefit of the doubt' fest.
Feedback: Thanks for reading! Feedback, as always, is greatly appreciated :)
"When you look at him, you're not looking at your friend... you're looking at the thing that killed him." - The Harvest
"You just want to forget all about Ms. Calendar's murder so you can get your boyfriend back." - Becoming, pt. 1
Xander stomped on the aluminum can with a vicious pleasure. It didn't satiate his anger, though, so he moved onto the next one. The high school quad was rife with discarded cans. He was outside - not enjoying the lovely day - because he was well aware that he wasn't welcome in the library. It was a strange feeling. Ever since Buffy had moved to Sunnydale, the library had been like a second home to him... or a first one, considering that where his family lived wasn't much to brag about.
He kicked at another helpless can, acutely aware that he'd stepped over the line with Buffy just now. When he'd said what he knew had to be said... her eyes had been so cold. He'd never seen her so cold. He imagined that an awful lot of vampires were dusted right after seeing that expression. But he was her bud, and he'd just stepped up to the plate for the side of good. Hadn't he? That spell... unpredictable at the very best. And who could perform that kind of magic? Ms. Calendar had said it was lost forever, and Xander mistrusted its 'sudden' reappearance. He knew what had to be done. Why was he the only one who seemed to be willing to do it? Maybe because he'd learned his lesson better than the rest of them had.
The loud crunch of the next can partially camouflaged his hiss of pain when brutalized aluminum poked through a rip in his sneakers. He yanked his foot back, stumbling backwards onto a nearby bench. Ripping his shoe off, he inspected his foot, relieved that it was only a small cut. He lowered his foot back to the concrete... and only then looked at where he'd landed.
It was the same bench where he and Will and Jesse had first talked to Buffy. He could remember that day with such aching clarity - when so much that had transpired since had been dulled in his mind. The day he'd first met Buffy. And no matter what happened after, that was probably the single most important day of his life.
How do you put a price on the day you meet the most vital person on the planet? The Chosen One? When you never even suspected she existed before? At that moment... on the bench... he'd had no idea that she would ever be what she was to him now. Friend. Confidant. Protector.
But something else had happened that day, too. That same day, somehow, he'd lost Jesse forever.
It was funny how no one ever talked about it. Sure, he and Will had gone to the memorial service. It had been painful - Willow had cried a lot, and Xander had too... just afterwards, when no one was around. Jesse's folks had moved away not long after that, knowing - even if the police had never found the body - that their son was gone forever. Xander could certainly have vouched for that... he'd avenged his best friend's death personally. At the time, the whole situation had been so bizarre, and the hurt of Jesse's loss was too fresh. Jesse was his bud, his amigo, his best friend... and then bam! Nothing. Just a demon wearing a beloved face. And after all this time, Xander had learned the difference between demon and human. He knew that what Giles had told him solemnly outside the darkened Bronze that terrifying night was true - Jesse wasn't there any more. Even if he hadn't been able to accept it at the time, he knew the way of it now.
And people never talked about it. Nobody ever mentioned Jesse. Never talked about how Xander lost the most of anyone that day... except maybe for Willow. It was suddenly all about the work they needed to do, the lives they needed to save. And soon, there were other people horning in on the inner circle that had once been only Xander, Jesse, and Willow. Buffy first, of course. Then Giles. Even Cordelia and ultimately Oz. And Angel.
Angel was the worst. Not only did he insinuate himself into Buffy's life and make her fall in love with him... but he did the unforgivable - he started to replace Jesse. Xander hadn't realized at first what was happening. He'd hated Angel on sight, of course. Mostly because the first sight of the vampire had been accompanied by Buffy drooling all over him. Xander knew right away what was going to happen. By the time he asked Buffy to the Spring Fling, he knew what her response was likely to be. Even though she'd called it quits with Angel, she still talked about him all the time. After that first summer, it got worse. She and Angel started dating regularly, and at first it was all Xander could do to be at the Bronze with them at all. Only Will kept him sane, then. And, in retrospect, Cordy. All that pre-relationship sniping had helped to distract him from Buffy and Angel making googly eyes at each other.
But slowly, things started to change. Xander realized gradually, much to his disgust, that he respected Angel. Just knowing how much the vampire loved Buffy... knowing that he'd willingly die to protect her... made him realize that he and Angel had a little bit in common. And from that bit, respect and a grudging camaraderie were born. It was so different from his relationship with Giles. Giles was like a father to all of them, even Angel, sometimes. Despite the huge age difference between them, Xander and Angel were far more contemporaries with each other than with Giles. Buddies. Amigos. Even if Xander vehemently denied it. Even if he insisted outwardly on bad-mouthing Angel.
And he never realized how much Angel meant to him personally until he was gone.
Because Angel WAS gone. Really gone. And Xander wasn't going to make the same mistake with Angel that he'd almost made with Jesse. His friend Angel was dead. Time to exact revenge on the thing that had killed him.
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