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Please click here for fic notes and Chapter I

Chapter II:
They walked in silence. Xander hadn't seen much of this side of town, so he spent a lot of time looking at the houses and into people's windows. Anywhere but at Larry. He was also keeping an eye out for anything...unusual. Since meeting Buffy and finding out the truth about the world around him, Xander found he almost never let his guard down. Good thing too, because here came a stray vampire, looking for a meal. Thankfully, it was alone. And hopefully not very bright, Xander thought as he readied his stake behind his back. Glancing at Larry, it was clear he suspected nothing about the person approaching them. Just as well.

As the vampire walked closer, now with eyes yellow and fangs glistening, Xander silently chanted his mantra. Do not die. Do not die. Do not die. And before the vamp could say a word or grab either one of them, Xander thrust his right hand forward, just as Giles had taught him. For once, the demon fates were with him, because the look of shock was gone in a poof of ash within seconds. Done.

But the memory of killing Jesse was still so fresh in his mind, instead of relief at the quick kill, Xander felt tears well up unbidden. He turned away from Larry so he wouldn't see.

"Xander, what the fuck *was* that?" Larry asked, sounding completely freaked out. And what was with using his first name? Xander couldn't remember that ever happening before. He wiped his eyes as quickly as he could, and tucked the stake back in his pocket.

"Just some crazy guy," he said, pulling Larry forward. "Let's keep going,". But Larry resisted, standing his ground.

"That was *not* just some guy," he said hotly. "He was all..weird looking, and then he disappeared. Disappeared right in front of us 'cause of something you did! Tell me, Xander, I can handle it," Larry demanded.

Xander laughed humorlessly. Oh sure, Larry thought he could handle it, but really, could anyone? It would change his whole view of the world, and Xander didn't want to be responsible for that.

"I can't," he replied shortly, shaking his head.

"Does it have anything to do with what happened to that kid Jesse you used to hang out with?"

And since when were footballs players perceptive? "What is this, drag Xander through all his emotional baggage night? Where's your house anyway?" he asked, anxious to get inside. A vampire slayer he was not, that he'd killed this one so easily was mostly due to luck.

"Another block that way." Larry pointed, but didn't start walking. "Please, just tell me."

"Vampires are real. That was one. I staked it in the chest and it turned to ash," recited Xander. "Any questions?" There had been a time when he would have paid good money to see Larry dumbfounded. Now it was just kind of annoying. Or maybe even endearing. Ugh.

"Can we go now?"

"Um, sure, I guess," said Larry, shuffling ahead to keep up with Xander. "Seriously man, that was a real vampire? And you like, killed it?"

Xander felt a moment of pride before remembering his fallen friend. "It was either that or be killed," he said flippantly, trying to regain his equilibrium. "Can't wait too long before choosing. Remember that." He pulled the stake back out and handed it to Larry as they walked up to the porch of a large ranch. "Here," Xander said. "Hang on to this in case you're ever wandering around Sunnydale alone at night. Aim the pointy end towards the heart." They stood there for a minute, Larry turning the stake over and over, inspecting it for god knows what.

Suddenly, there were arms wrapped around him and he coughed. What the hell?

"You saved my life," said Larry into Xander's ear. "Thanks."

Xander awkwardly patted him, ignoring his body's urge to lean forward into the warm embrace. "Um, no problem there Larry. Just providing a public service." He waited, but Larry did not let go, and finally he put his arms around those broad shoulders. Larry tugged their bodies closer together, and Xander was not sure at all what was happening, just that he kind of liked it. His ribs twinged but he ignored them in favor of enjoying himself, at least briefly. It felt good to be held. But then it was too good, so good that something that shouldn't was taking notice, and he pulled back before the evening's embarrassments were piled on by yet another one.

"So, are we going inside or what?"

on to Chapter III
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