Heart To Heart
"So," Xander said after they had closed the door to the hyena room. "There many things like this here."
Angel's eyes shifted for a moment but kept his voice level. "I'd like to state for the record that you get possessed and the like way too much."
The two stood in silence after that. Neither moved. They just stared down the hallway of doors mostly ignoring the other's presence. It was an awkward silence to say the least. Well, for Xander it was anyways, Angel didn't seem bothered in the least.
Finally Xander couldn't take it anymore. "As much as I don't want you here it may be awhile to get you out. "After y... Angelus tortured Giles I don't want to lay this on him until he's better. Maybe I could get some of the others to hit the books with me?"
It wasn't a question directed at Angel, but he answered it anyway. "Somebody will probably end up spilling to Giles if you do that."
"I should at least tell Buffy you're not in hell. Take a bit of the chip off her shoulder."
"NO!" Angel exclaimed spinning the boy to face him, piercing him with an intense gaze. "She can't know!"
"Alright, no telly Buffy. Got it." Xander told him as he took a startled step back. "Any particular reason."
"Why do that to her?" Was all he said as he sighed and leaned against the cold stone frame of a door.
"A 'huh' and a 'wha' for five hundred Alex?"
"Why give her that hope." He clarified. "Why give her the hope that she may be able to get me back when it may not be true. I may be stuck in here forever or simply fade away. We just don't know anything yet. I won't give her hope only to crush it later. Don't tell her? Please?"
He didn't know if it was the emotion in the voice or the look in Angel's eyes that did it. Maybe it was the fact that Xander couldn't remember Angel ever directing the word 'please' towards him. Whatever it was he soon found himself agreeing to keep it from her, for now.
Xander had a fear of his own though. One he wouldn't voice. One he only barely acknowledged himself. If Angel's soul was stuck inside him and Buffy had to choose, would she kick him out of his own body to have her lover back? Logic and reason tended to leave town when it came to those two. Xander didn't know what scared him more, what he believe she may be capable of or that it didn't seem like such an irrational fear.
It wasn't long after his talk with Angel that Xander woke up in the courtyard of the mansion. Looking up he noticed the sun was beginning to set. With one last contemptuous look at Acathla he left the mansion. He moved quickly, determined to get home before the sun set. Xander wasn't in the mood to deal with the Sunnydale nightlife tonight.
Not that it would have been much of a problem right now. A lot of the demon population either left or hid when the whole Acathla end of the world thing started. They'd start coming back soon though. Now that they knew they weren't going to be eaten by the bigger demons from the portal.
He managed to make it to his home just as the last of the reddish orange sky gave way to the darkness of night. Despite this morning's display Xander still half expected to find his parents half in the bag when he walked through the door. Instead he was greeted with silence.
A single light was on, coming from the living room. Peering in Xander saw his mother sitting in the easy chair reading a book. Surprisingly it was only a can of coke on the table beside her. His father was nowhere in sight.
Shaking his head Xander turned to quietly make his way to his room unnoticed.
"Alex, is that you?"
So much for that. "Yah mom."
"Come in here please." She told his as she set down her book. "I need to talk to you."
Sighing and casting one last longing look in the direction of his bedroom he complied. He sat on the couch that was separated from her chair by a small table between them. His mother looked like she was trying to say something several times but would stop like she couldn't find the right words.
"So, ah, where's dad?" He asked uncomfortably after a moment.
"Working overtime." At his sceptical look she added, "No, really."
"Ooookay." Was his response. The simple word was drawn out, like the very concept of his father working overtime was utterly bizarre. Which to him it was. "Is that what you wanted to talk to me about, cause I think it's great that the two of you are trying to change. I really do. It's just..."
"Odd, I know." She finished for him. "That Joyce Summers is an amazing woman. Some of the things she... said really hit home. I wish I could have been half the mother she is."
Xander didn't know how to respond to that. He'd wish the same thing sometimes. So instead he didn't say anything. He just stood and walked over to her, putting a reassuring hand on her shoulder. The two shared the first mother/child moment they had in years. Both knew their relationship wasn't fixed. Not by a long shot. But at least it was a start.
Without a word Xander started to leave only to again be stopped by his mother's voice.
"Alex." She called. When he turned back he saw the same look of conflict on her features as before. Like there was something she didn't know whether or not to voice. Finally she seemed to come to a decision. "Take off your sunglasses?"
Xander was taken aback. Not just because he was trying to hide something. It was phrased as a request, not a command. It was not screamed or even spoken normally. The question was spoken softly with an almost fearful catch.
"My eyes are bugging me." A simple lie but it would normally work.
"No they're not." He shouldn't have been surprised, tonight was anything but normal.
Slowly and resignedly he closed his eyes and took off the sunglasses and placed them in his pocket. Hesitantly he opened his eyes, expecting to see fear and anger as his red irises came into view. Instead he only saw sorrow as she sighed and placed her head in her hands.
"I was afraid of that."
Xander stared at her curiously for a minute before growing nervous. This wasn't what he had been expecting. Fear, anger, they were normal for him, this he didn't know how to deal with. "What do you mean 'I was afraid of that'?"
"You might want to sit down for this Alex."
Almost on automatic he sat back down on the couch, growing more nervous with each step. "Nothing good happens when you need to be told to sit down for something."
"It's just... I've... I've seen someone with red eyes before." She told him with a sigh, finally deciding not to hold back anything. "Your father."
"Dad doesn't have red eyes." He replied in confusion. A sinking feeling in his stomach told him he already had an idea on what she meant though.
"No, Tony doesn't. Your real father did." She told him, tears threatened to come, but she was doing an admirable job of keeping them in. They wouldn't help right now.
"I... I wish I could say that I was going to tell you when you were ready or that it was just easier on you not to know, but I can't. The truth is it was just easier for me."
Xander wanted to be angry at her, he really did. Maybe it was just the shock of it, maybe he would be angry later, right now there was just so much he wanted... needed to know. "Where is he? Can I see? Does he know about me? Did he want-"
"He's gone Alex. I don't know what happened exactly, but he died when you were eight." Her voice was soft and etched with sadness and her eyes downcast as she spoke.
"His name was Max Sutton. We were best friends since childhood. He was so adventurous, always travelling. Strong, loyal practically to a fault. I had loved him for years before I actually told him. It turned out he had felt the same way." She took a moment and smiled as she remembered, only to frown as she remembered what happened next.
"It wasn't that we didn't love each other, we were just... different. My life was here, I couldn't just up and leave to travel the world and he couldn't stay." A single tear fought past her defence and slid down her cheek. "Max never knew I was pregnant.
"I met Tony not long after that. He was a good man then. Not like what he became. I thought he would be a good father. That he would take care of us. He still doesn't know you're not his son."
Xander said nothing and just listened as his mother spoke. There were so many things he wanted to ask, to say, to yell. But he didn't. He was afraid that if he did that, as emotional as she was getting, she would clam up and he wouldn't get any answers. So he stayed silent... until his mother's next comment that is.
"There's something else you need to know before I go on. It may be hard for you to believe but magic exists."
Xander couldn't help but snort at that. "Yah, I got that one. My friends and I have been fighting vampires, demons and the like for a couple years now."
"My God!" She exclaimed. "How could I have not noticed that!?"
"You haven't exactly been the most observant person when it comes to me."
She visibly flinched at the comment but made no objections. It was true and she knew it. Her voice just got soft and her eyes downcast again. "I guess it shouldn't have really surprised me though. You always were a lot like Max."
"You mean he..."
"Wow." Was all he could say before a realization hit him. "That's how he died isn't it? Fighting some demon?"
"I don't know for sure, but probably."
They were quiet for another moment, both caught in their own thoughts. Xander was the one to speak first. "What about the eyes?"
"Max was, what he called, a Harmonizer. He could take the souls of demons and use their power. I don't know much more than that. I didn't really understand everything."
Xander sighed. It wasn't the definitive answer he was hoping for, but at least it was a start. His mind began to wonder to the possible ways to research Harmonizers when his mother spoke again.
"There is someone who would know more. A good friend of Max's. He lives in Whales." She paused for a minute and her lips curved upwards in a slight smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "He is a little... odd though."
"Whales huh?" He said more to himself than her. He was about to ask more questions when he looked over at his mother. She was finally losing the battle with her tears.
"I'm sorry Alex!" She cried. "I should have told you long ago. I was scared. I'm so sorry."
Silently he got up and went over and embraced her. Neither spoke. Jessica reflected on the love she had lost and Xander on the father he would never know. He'd be angry later he was sure. Right now Xander knew he needed the comfort as much as she did.