Clinical Vampire Depression
“So, Deadboy, how’s the endless cleaning of weapons, most of which are already clean, going for you tonight?” Xander asked as he came in the armory room and dropped a crossbow on the nearest workbench. “With more slayers, shouldn’t there be fewer vamps and bad guys to go around? I know I’m not good with math, but if one slayer can handle all the baddies of the world then 300 slayers should be like, 1/300th as busy, meaning slayer-sidekicks should be unemployed and seeking a new line of work. Only, it seems like there are more baddies than ever,” he sighed as he dropped onto a stool next to the crowded work space. The three slayers he’d patrolled with had already been by, and their weapons, complete with demon goo, were already dripping onto the stained wood.
“Never will get rid of them,” Angel said, his voice filling the empty space between the slithering whorp of the sharpening stone against the long-knife he was working.
“Wow. You still talk. What with all the lack of talking lately, I was about to promote you from Deadboy to Speechlessboy. Not really the same ring to it, though.”
“So, what’s up that you’re so chatty tonight?” Xander started disassembling his own crossbow, sliding the string off the wood. Angel just grunted.
“Okay, so chatty-Cathy time is over, and we are returning you to your regularly scheduled brood.”
“Xander, go…” Angel stopped, clearly unable to come up a command fit to finish the sentence.
“What? Jump in a lake? Fuck myself? Fuck someone else? Come on. I can’t hurl the insults back if you don’t get with the hurling.”
“Go away,” Angel said softly. He had paused in his duties, but now he focused on the blade and pulling the sharpening stone against the cool surface.
“Maybe I should give you options. To tell me to go jump in a lake, growl ‘A’. To suggest I fuck myself, growl ‘B’. To suggest I perform anatomically impossible stunts on my own anatomy, growl ‘C’.”
“Great. You’re going to stay down here sulking, and you just want me to go up there and deal with a house full of girls who don’t get my Monty Python jokes. You get them. You frown because you have no sense of humor, or possibly any humor you once had did not get turned with you and so died a sad and tragic death centuries ago, but at least you know I’m going for a joke. They’re like…” Xander shivered as he gestured vaguely toward the house above them where the Chicago slayers were doing each other’s nails after a night of vamp hunting.
Angel didn’t even bother glaring this time.
“I mean, come on. Monty Python is classic. I was going for a Knights that Say ‘Nee’ joke, and one of them offered to research it. Research. They’re all for hunting down the Knights that Say Nee and de-nee-ifying them, which is vaguely horrifying, and oh my god, I’m turning into Giles, aren’t I?” Xander stopped and stared at Angel, clearly begging him to disagree, before he put his head down on the corner of the workbench with no demon goo.
“Next thing I know, I’m going to be complaining about ‘these kids these days’ and wearing tweed. You have to save me Deadboy. Eat me before it’s too late to stop the horror,” Xander mock-begged as he turned his head enough to consider Angel with a wide, tragic eye. “You know you want to. You’ve wanted to eat me ever since my sophomore year, so just do it before the tweed gets me.”
“Xander,” Angel paused in his work, gritting his teeth as he considered all the things he wanted to say to Xander, things he wouldn’t give himself permission to actually utter. “Just go annoy someone else.”
“Nope, it’s your turn, so you get the Xander treatment tonight,” Xander answered with a casual shrug as he sat up and leaned an elbow against the bench, his chin resting on his palm.
“I don’t feel like company.”
Xander snorted. “Right, as opposed to any other night of the week when you’re a regular social butterfly. I actually think we have girls who think I’m lying about the vampire in the basement. They probably think I keep you in chains… and that is borderline disturbing, so pretend I didn’t just make a bizarre bondage reference.”
“I’d like to forget your whole visit, and I can get started on that as soon as you leave.”
“Forgetting… not as easy as it sounds. Oh, I’m big with forgetting to take out the garbage or pay the cable bill, but the brain is a weird thing… it remembers the socks I left on my dresser the day the Hellmouth when kablewy. Willow gave me those socks. They were red. She’s never forgiven me for sending those socks to hell.”
“Xander. Just. Go. Away.” Angel snarled the words as he slammed the sharpening stone and the knife on the bench and turned toward his small apartment on one end of the basement.
“I’m like mold… you don’t get rid of me without burning the whole house down and disinfecting the ashes,” Xander shouted after him as he chased him across the training area and to the door to Angel’s quarters.
Angel jerked the door open, got through, and had the door almost closed when Xander’s foot appeared in the remaining crack. Xander yelled as Angel still tried to slam the door.
“Move it or I’ll break it,” Angel threatened.
“Not moving. See, the reason Buffy sent you here is that I’m smart enough to know that you can’t just keep locking yourself up and dumb enough to ignore the fact that you look angry enough to eat me. You know, that really is an Angelousy face. The fangs and annoyed frowny thing you have going on is kinda creepy. Okay, you always look annoyed, but the homicidal annoyance is new.
Angel closed his eyes and counted to ten. When he opened them, Xander was still standing there.
“If you’re making some sort of wish for me to go away, I am so telling Buffy on you. The ‘w’ word is not allowed in this house.”
“Back off,” Angel snapped. He reached out, intending to just shove Xander back, to remove the obstacle from the door and lock himself inside. But Xander went stumbling back, his arms windmilling and his face a perfect mask of surprise and fear as he struggled to catch his balance. Angel roared forward, at first intent on saving the boy. But when he grabbed Xander’s shirt, he yanked the boy to one side and then the other like an errant puppy who’d peed on the carpet. “What do ye know, boy? You come down here like nothing’s wrong? What’s wrong with you?” The whole time, Angel had shoved the boy back, shaking him until they ended up on the far side of the basement and he slammed Xander against the cinderblock hard enough to make the boy’s teeth rattle.
Angel stood, breathing unnecessary breaths, his fists wrapped around the fabric of Xander’s shirt, and guilt and shame rose like mist as he realized what he had done. He looked at Xander’s face, waiting for the accusation, the anger, the shame that would match his own as Xander again learned that human strength couldn’t match that of a vampire. Instead, Angel found himself looking into the eye of a man, a man who gazed back at him with understanding.
“We’re both fucked up, Angel. But I’m not walking away. You don’t get to hide down here and pretend that losing Gunn and Wes hurt any more than losing Anya or Joyce or Tara or even Jesse.” Xander whispered the last name.
“I just want to be left alone,” Angel said, his voice soft in the aftermath of his attack. Slowly, he let go of Xander’s shirt, backing away.
“Which is the best reason to not be alone,” Xander countered as he reached out and grabbed Angel’s arm.
“If I ask you to just let go?” Angel asked.
“So not happening,” Xander answered immediately as he started pulling Angel toward the stairs.
“I’m strong enough to make you.”
“No,” Xander said quietly, “you aren’t. So be a good little vampire and come play with the slayers or I’ll be forced to pull out the big ammunition and bring my country music CD’s down here.”
“God, I’m in hell,” Angel said softly. He flinched as his attempt at humor just reminded him of one of those truths he tried to forget as he stared at the lines in the cinderblock of his basement home.
“Do us both a favor. Let me do the jokes. If you want, I could write you some material,” Xander’s voice was forgiving as he pulled Angel onto the stairs and they started heading up.
“Knights of Nee jokes?” Angel asked with a sigh. He’d given up arguing and now followed Xander out into the hallway of the Chicago home of the Watcher’s Council.
“The Knights who SAY Nee. Geez, I thought you had an education, Angel. You know, Spike’s coming to visit next week. I bet he could sit on you long enough to get the whole Monty Python box set into you.”
“Don’t try it,” Angel warned. A slayer came running by on the heels of her feet, her bright yellow toes pointed in the air and the smell of nail polish making Angel’s eyes water.
“It’s no use fighting. I have the whole weekend planned already. Spike can bring the otter blood, I’ll make the popcorn.” Xander pushed open the door to the family room, and the television flashed blue and red light, a cop scene showing on the big screen even though all the girls had abandoned the room.
“You can’t expect me to agree to that without a fight,” Angel said as he considered the room, not even sure where to sit.
“Oh, you can fight,” Xander shrugged. “You have to fight. Fighting is what makes you know you’re alive, but when it comes to Monty Python, you are so going down, Mr. Broody-Brows. So, pick a movie, find a seat, and leave the demon gooey swords for morning. There’s more to life than demon goo and sharpening swords. Speaking of swords, did I tell you what Dawn did with that sword of Hytwel? Spike was cursing in about three different languages, and that was over the phone three hours later. I’m going out on a limb and saying that was an angry Spike. She had her hand on the hilt when...”
Angel surrendered and picked a chair as Xander proceeded to tell him all about Spike’s near skewering and immolation from the magical sword of Hytwel.