The Xander Zone, Part 3

Author’s Notes: This is pretty much AU, though it does take off from canon.

The Dungeons & Dragons references are from (Planet D&D), and ( “The Gamer’s Nook”), which contains an interview with Vin Diesel and Conan O’Brien on the character ‘Melkor’ and verified and added to by Zippy. *g*

And if you care, here’s a list of X’s tattoos: On the back of his neck, three X’s. On the small of his back, two guns crossed to form an X. On his left arm, a tribal band on his bicep, a bull charging out of flames and clouds. On his right arm, the words “dis” and “order” by his wrist, two eagle wings going up his arm, three stars on his elbow, a bull on his bicep, the word “chaos,” wrapped in blue filler, on his forearm. (And the heart with the X&Y that I made up). On his right shoulder, a star with an eye in the middle. On his stomach, the word “Melkor,” the name of Diesel’s real-life Dungeons & Dragons character. On his bellybutton, a chaos symbol topped by flames. Around his right nipple, a star. Yeah, I did my research. *G*

Thanks Copper for the beta!

See previous chapters for additional notes.

Rating: Adult; explicit sex

Disclaimer: Own nothing. All belongs to Joss, ME, Fox, et.al.

Pairing: Initially B/Other.

Distribution: My site, EverySixSeconds; sites currently with permission to host my fics; all others please ask.

Originally posted: 10.23.2003

#

Present, Angel Investigations…

Stepping back from where he had been leaning on the desk to study the computer screen, Angel turned abruptly to face Gunn. When he spoke, his tone was low and frighteningly calm. “You said there are other videos with Buffy – this girl – in them?”

Gunn looked apprehensively at his boss and friend, slightly alarmed by the chill in his voice and the turbulent look in his eye. It was a look he hadn’t seen often – perhaps only a time a two and then only in the heat of an intense fight. He reflexively took a step back, away from the vampire. Warily he replied, “Yeah, there are two others.”

“I want them. Now.” Angel said in that same deceptively calm tone, only his dark eyes betraying any sign of his underlying emotions.

“Sure, man.” Gunn took at seat at the computer, moving the mouse to open up the folder containing the data files. “I’ve downloaded all of them. Just give me a sec here.”

His jaw clenched, Angel stepped back and looked over the counter at Spike now slumped on the floor. With a smooth economy of motion and effortless strength, he walked around and grabbed the smaller vampire by the coat, hefting him up and depositing him roughly in a nearby chair.

“Get me some rope.” Angel directed the comment to the room in general, his hand firmly on Spike’s chest holding him in place.

Fred glanced with wide eyes at Cordelia, who only shrugged in response.  Gunn didn’t even move, preoccupied at the computer.  Skirting both vampires, the slender brunette retrieved a length of rope from the weapons closet then returned, handing it to Angel with an outstretched arm as if afraid to get to close.

“Why tie him up? Why don’t we just, you know…” Cordy asked, pantomiming a staking action with her fist. It was hardly necessary to be vague since Spike was still out cold, but no one thought to mention that to the seer.

“I want to know what he knows about Buffy and that… that GUY,” Angel snapped angrily, leaning down and wrapping a length of rope around Spike and binding him tightly to the chair. It was a good thing that the vampire didn’t need to breathe.  Next he began to secure each of Spike’s arms to the arms of the chair.

“Ooh-kay. Like he’ll really know anything…” The brunette seer replied unenthusiastically, turning her attention back to the computer screen and watching as Gunn navigated through the various folders of saved files. Under a folder entitled “Gunn” he double-clicked on one titled “vids” to reveal several more folders.

Locating the videos he wanted, Gunn turned and nodded to Angel. “Here you go, man.”

“Here. Tie his feet.” The vampire tossed the remaining length of rope to Cordelia as he returned to the desk. “Make sure he’s secure.”

“Why do I have to-” The brunette began to protest indignantly, jabbing the hand holding the rope out in front of her to punctuate her words while her other hand settled on her hip.

“Just do it, Cordelia,” Angel growled impatiently as he took Gunn’s seat in front of the computer. He shot her a quick look then turned his attention to the screen. Gunn motioned to the first video, and with a quick click of the mouse the player opened up and the video began to load.

With a roll of her eyes and an exaggerated sigh, Cordelia stomped over and knelt down in front of Spike. As she looped the rope around the still unconscious vampire’s legs, she grumbled loud enough for the others to hear, “This is so not good.”

“What? What isn’t good?” Fred asked, the only person that seemed to be paying attention to the brunette seer. Angel and Gunn had their attention focused on the video that was now beginning to play.

“Tying him up? Or not… dusting him?” The slender young scientist prompted, inching only slightly closer as she pointed to Spike. The peroxide blond vampire made her a bit nervous, as did Angel’s obvious agitation.

“Well that isn’t good either, but I actually meant him,” Cordelia answered, jerking her head in the direction of the computer as she tugged firmly on the knot, tying it securely. “He’s got Buffy face already.”

Apprehensively, Fred glanced over at Angel’s broad back. “Is that bad? I mean, he doesn’t talk about her much at all…”

“Oh, it’s bad. Trust me. Buffy face can last for weeks.” Standing, Cordelia walked around the desk and wiped her hands off on Angel’s coat that was hanging on the chair. “He hasn’t even seen her – well, not in the real in person sense – and already the brooding has begun.”

“Oh?” Fred mouthed, her eyes once more riveted on her rescuer from Pylea, the man she revered practically beyond all else. She had hoped that his former girlfriend had been all but forgotten, especially since his brief meeting with her that he wouldn’t talk about, but it would seem from his behavior that perhaps that was not the case.

“And I have a bad feeling about this…” Cordy continued, watching as the two men stared intently at the screen. “I say batten down the hatches – this one is going to be the worst one yet.”

“So, I’ve got three orders of pad thai, the basil eggplant, five chicken satays, three scallop satays, but I forgot the nuer ta cai…”  Wes declared as he strolled in the room, intently studying the contents of the two bags. He didn’t look up until he almost reached the counter.  His expression betrayed none of his surprise as he took in the unconscious vampire tied to the chair.

“Oh. I see we have company.”

#

Sunnydale, four months earlier…

“And this one?” Buffy questioned with a smile, her fingers tracing the elaborate lettering of the word ‘Melkor’ across the lower stomach of the man lying on the bed next to her. It was quiet in the house, the fading afternoon sunlight streaming through the blinds covering the windows and casting the occupants of the bedroom in a warm golden glow.  Buffy lay on her stomach, the white sheet draped over her behind her only covering as she examined the various tattoos that covered her new lover’s exquisitely muscled body.

Reclining against the pillows, one arm behind his head, the other loosely draped around the woman that had been his near constant companion for almost two months now, X smiled. “I spent a lot of years playing D&D – Dungeons and Dragons.”

“Oh really?”  She teased, her small feet with their pink painted toenails swinging in the air behind her. She knew some of the gamer-goobers, as they were often called, that were into D&D from school; X didn’t fit the profile at all. “You were into gaming and role playing?”

“Not long. Only for like twenty-four years or so,” Xander returned good-naturedly, one hand sweeping the golden strands of hair back from her face as he looked down at her. “It was a pretty good training ground for the imagination, not to mention what I’m doing now.”

“So what’s Melkor?” Buffy asked as she inched up in the bed, her head now level with his shoulder. Her gaze drifted back to the elaborate lettering of the tattoo, which was partially covered by the shared sheet that was also draped over his lower body.

“A character I created. A Drow witch-hunter. Double-specialized witch-hunter,” he replied with mock seriousness, his deep voice a rumbling purr. “The Drow are an evil offshoot of the happy go lucky elf race.”

“So, you’re an elf then?” She laughed teasingly, finding the idea even more incongruous to the man that she had come to know. “Aren’t elves, like short and squat and…” Pausing, she wrinkled her nose, “smelly?”

“Hey now!” He swatted her playfully on the behind, a smile on his face. “No mocking the powerful Drows. I’ll have you know that they live underground in a cruel and dangerous society.  They even worship a Spider Goddess, who is the embodiment of cruelty and spite. Okay, so they’re sort of racists, believing in their own superiority over the other races, like the hobbits, humans or other elves, but they have reason to think that since they’re pretty damn smart. Bad ass Drow Witch Hunters prowl the masses of humanity, searching for ‘blasphemous’ magic and foul Chaos mutations. So, they may be elves but they are feared as well as respected.”

“Okay, so then you’re a bad ass elf. A little tall for an elf, but okay.” She murmured with a smile, her fingers drifting higher up his chest as she settled comfortably in the crook of his arm. “So why’d you get it tattooed on your stomach?”

Adjusting the pillow behind his head, he lowered his arm to wrap it around her, pulling her firmly against his side. “Most of my tats either tell a story or mark an event in my life or just serve as a reminder of something. That one… I guess I identified with the character for a long time; I felt like I was living my life underground, and that we do live in a cruel and dangerous society. It’s about how to survive…  Now – well, now I guess I can also say it was something of an omen.” He gave a short laugh as he ran his hand down her arm in a gentle caress.

“And you said you got all your tattoos at the same place?”  She asked curiously, struck with the idea that each of his many tattoos had a special significance. Her eyes roved over the arm draped across her waist. The words “dis” and “order” were scripted by his wrist and above that there were two eagle wings going up his arm. The word “chaos,” wrapped in blue filler was written on his forearm. The work was undeniably well crafted and beautifully designed.

“Yeah, most of ’em are from a place called Last Rites Tattoo in LA. Indie. She’s a helluva artist.”

“Take me there,” Buffy said after a minute, turning her head to look up at him.

“Why? You want a tattoo?” He questioned with a lift of one eyebrow. His lips curved upward in a small smile. He admittedly found tattoos sexy – he certainly had no objection if she wanted one.

“Maybe.” Her reply was evasive, turning her head back to resume her perusal of the ink covering his arm.

“Then maybe I’ll take you there.” He returned, dropping a kiss on her hair.

“What about this one?” Buffy asked, her fingertips now tracing the small heart with the intertwined “Y” and “X” on Xander’s forearm. The tiny heart was almost hidden amongst the other tattoos that covered his skin on his left arm. She paused for the space of almost fifteen seconds before asking, “Did you love her?”

X’s gaze moved from the woman lying next to him on the bed, to the small design. He knew without looking which inked pattern she was referring to; he’d studied it often over the years – had even contemplated having it covered with some other design – but had never been able to bring himself to do that. Perhaps he hadn’t quite given up or perhaps he wanted to keep the reminder.

After a brief pause he answered simply, “Yes.”

“What happened?” Buffy asked without hesitation; in their brief time together no subject had been untouchable or off limits. X listened, but never judged. He asked questions and genuinely cared for the answers. He pushed gently when she hesitated to talk, his open acceptance managing to bring out years of tucked away thoughts in only a few short weeks. He hadn’t even quirked an eyebrow when she finally told him about her former ‘cradle-robbing creature of the night’ ex-boyfriend.

“She left.” X replied honestly, his gaze drifting from the beautiful blonde at his side to the windows. Outside the tree branches swayed with the wind and the sun sank lower on the horizon. “One day, she just took off.”

“I’m sorry.” She said, truly sympathetic. She knew what it was like to have someone that you loved leave without even so much as a goodbye; it left an open wound that seemed to never heal.

“It was a couple of years ago.” He returned his attention to Buffy, his hand lifting hers to his lips. He kissed each fingertip gently.

“I’m still sorry.” Buffy said, shaking off the painful reminder of her past relationships including her meeting with her vampire ex only a couple of months ago, only a few days after her… resurrection. All of it was also so hard to acknowledge – it almost didn’t seem real. She could hardly believe that it had all taken place only a week or so prior to her first meeting with Xander Cage. How much things had changed in such a short time.

“Have I told you today how incredible you are?”  His grin was effortless and intimate and Buffy wondered how many times he evaded serious conversation with that expression. X pulled her up and into his arms. “Or how you amaze me with your many… talents?”

She grinned back, suddenly grateful for the distraction; the change in subject was better than dwelling on painful memories. “No, but you can tell me now.”

He rolled her beneath him so she felt only the silky friction of his muscles beneath the smooth skin but none of his two hundred and fifteen pounds. “You’re an amazing woman, Buffy Summers. Smart. Sexy. Hot.” He murmured softly, the rumbling vibrations of sound passing between them and giving her that warm liquid glow that often flooded through her after hearing that rich, deep voice.  “Maybe I’ll get a ‘B’ right here in your honor.”  He pointed to a small patch of skin on his upper arm.

“Somehow,” she smiled, her lips close to his, her eyes matching his teasing glance.  “I don’t think you’re serious.”

“Maybe I am,” he murmured against her lips, “But right now, why don’t I show you some of my talents…”

#

“Hey, Buffy, I didn’t hear you come in last night. Or the night before that,” Willow said with false cheerfulness as she came through the door into the kitchen. There was a trace of censure in her voice, which was not uncommon as of late.  She hadn’t come right out and said so, but she didn’t like or trust Xander Cage and wasn’t happy about Buffy spending so much time with him.

“Oh my God!”

“Hey.”  Buffy, who had been leaning over and examining the contents of the refrigerator, whirled around in surprise at her friend’s exclamation. “What?”

“That- that – thing… on your back… a tattoo…” Willow stammered, her eyes wide. “That’s uh, new.”

Craning her neck, Buffy looked over her shoulder to glimpse the ink design across her lower back at the base of her spine. The healing tattoo was framed perfectly between the low-rise jeans and cropped shirt that she wore.  Returning her gaze to Willow, she smiled happily. “Yeah. What do you think?”

“It’s uh, nice, I guess. Angel wings, huh?”  The red-haired girl asked, staring once more at the design as Buffy turned her back. “And heart in the middle that’s kinda all brokeny.”

“Yeah, and?”  Buffy replied, scooping some fruit and cottage cheese in a bowl on the counter.

“Well, it’s er, nice, I guess. Kind of an unusual choice of… er, designs.”  Willow sighed resignedly. She should have known that Buffy would do something like this given the person that she was spending so much time with these days.  “So, where’d you go and get your body all permanently drawn on with ink and risky needles?”

“LA.” The blonde Slayer replied matter-of-factly as she took a bite of her breakfast.

“LA?”  Willow parroted in question, leaning on the counter between them. She suddenly wished Tara were here; Buffy seemed to open up more to her than she did to anyone else.

“Yep, LA. The woman that’s done all X’s tattoos is there and I wanted quality work, so… Well, we went.  I told Indie – she’s the artist – kind of what I wanted for the design, she sketched it up, we made a couple of changes and then she just did it. I think she did a great job.”

“I guess so, if you like that sort of thing.” The red-haired girl mumbled disapprovingly. She didn’t exactly object to the idea of a tattoo as much as the reasons – and perhaps the men – behind it.  Buffy was so easily influenced at times, Willow thought.  Of course, with the mention of LA, the design made a little more sense now. “You didn’t happen to see-”

“LA’s a big place, Will,” Buffy interrupted firmly, her gaze clear and direct. She took another bite of her food before continuing, “And no, I didn’t see anyone I knew.”

“You know Buffy, is he – X – really… Is he really the right guy for you?” Willow ventured, sweeping imaginary crumbs from the table and avoiding Buffy’s eyes. “I mean, not to judge, but well, first it’s patrolling, then it’s motorcycle racing, and now a tattoo…  I mean, I’m all for you having a guy and well, dating and stuff, but…”

“It’s not like I got his named tattooed on my ass, Will.” The petite blonde returned with a smile, recalling X’s teasing conversation about getting a ‘B’ added to his tattoos and the amorous activities that followed. He hadn’t, of course, followed through with the tattoo – she wouldn’t have wanted him too at any rate – but it made her feel important and special just the same. Something he was so often good at.

“And what does it matter anyway?  I don’t know if he’s the right guy. I just know that I like being with him. He listens to me, he makes me laugh.  I have fun with him. I need that right now.  I’m not thinking about anything beyond that.  Besides, he makes me forget-” Buffy trailed off, turning away and glancing out the window.

“Forget what?”

“Stuff. He just helps me to forget stuff.” Buffy said firmly.  She stared outside for a few seconds before she shook the uncomfortable feeling away. She hadn’t told her friends that she had been in heaven before they yanked her out of there for what they perceived to be her own good. They didn’t know what it had been like – nor did she want them to know. She shrugged, “I just like spending time with him.”

“But you take him patrolling with you.” Willow declared almost accusingly, knowing the significance of such a concession from Buffy.

“Yeah, so?”  Finishing her breakfast, Buffy washed the small bowl in the sink.

“You didn’t even take Riley with you on patrol – at least not when you could help it.”

“I know, but with X … it’s different,” Buffy replied, opening the cabinet and putting away the dish. “I don’t worry about having to take care of him – he can take care of himself. It’s more like… I don’t know, having an equal. A partner.”

“But how do you know you can trust him, Buffy?” The red-haired Wicca questioned with a frustrated wave of her arm. “You don’t even know him.”  She chose to ignore the fact that the pair had spent several nights together in Buffy’s room and from the muffled sounds, indulging in more intimate pursuits that just talking.

“I just do. I trust him,” Buffy said defensively. She honestly didn’t understand her friend’s objections to X, but she also wasn’t about to compromise his job by revealing anything about his reasons for being in Sunnydale to them.  As a matter of fact, they were fairly certain they knew who had stolen from the Initiative; now they only needed to find out what and why.

“I mean, the fact that he already seemed to know about vampires, demons and stuff. That’s just one more thing. Doesn’t that seem a little… a lot suspicious to you?”  Willow stated adamantly, “Doesn’t that just reek of… you know, badness?”

“Not really.”  Buffy replied with a small shake of her head. “You know about them, Xander knows about them. Why would X be any different?”

“Because most people don’t know about them?  Hey, maybe he’s part of the Initiative. Have you thought about that?  He could be a spy! Or worse!”

The petite blonde smiled. She thought a lot of things about Xander Cage when she first met him, including the thought that he could be part of that stiff government agency. That hadn’t lasted long – and in fact, now seemed almost ludicrous. Government operative, surprisingly yes.  Initiative.. no.  “No. He’s not part of the Initiative. Trust me on that.”

The sound of the front door opening jolted Buffy and she glanced over at the clock. It was twenty minutes to nine.

“But Buffy-”

“Look, Willow, I’m sorry you have reservations about X, but I like him. A lot.”

“Let me guess. You’re talking about X the wonder boy again.” Xander Harris said in a mocking tone as he walked into the kitchen. “Just what’s up with the big goon this time?”

“Xander.”  Buffy admonished with a roll of her eyes as she walked into the dining room. Her duffel bag sat on the table next to her jacket and a few other items of clothing.

“Where are you going this time?”  Xander asked, following behind her.  He cocked his head and squinted curiously at Willow who was trying to send him some sort of signal with her eyes.

“Out.” The blonde Slayer stated matter-of-factly as she tucked a few things into her bag.

“Out? As in out with X again?” Xander questioned with a sneer.  He’d disliked the burly man in Buffy’s life since just about the first minute he had met him, a little over a month ago.

“Yes, out with X,” Buffy said firmly, casting her friend an irritated look.  She was familiar with this routine, having been through it several times before. She knew Xander disliked her boyfriend of the same name; he made no attempt to hide his feelings on the matter, often calling X a tattooed freak or other choice names.

They had had this same conversation – or a version of it – several times since she had introduced X to her friends and again in earnest, just two weeks ago when Xander came over in the morning before work to find X in Buffy’s kitchen making breakfast. The fact that X had obviously spent the night with Buffy made Xander Harris ballistic. Since then, his jabs and barbs had gone unchecked – though he was careful never to make a single comment within X’s hearing.

“Oh my God, a tattoo?”  The brown haired boy exclaimed loudly, finally picking up on what Willow was trying so hard to point out. His eyes narrowed angrily. “Buffy… did that freak – did- did he make you do that?”

“No. Of course not,” Buffy replied flatly with a roll her eyes. “And I told you not to call him that. Or if you’re going to then I think maybe you should start calling him that to his face and see if he likes it.”

“Honestly, Buff, I can’t believe how rash and irresponsible you’re being.”  Xander declared with a shake of his head. “First you went off for two days with that-that- that guy leaving Dawnie alone. And now you go and get a tattoo…”

“Dawn was here with Willow and Tara, Xand.” Buffy stated matter-of-factly as she shrugged into her jacket. Outside the window, she saw a blue Pontiac GTO stop at the curb. “Or are you saying that they’re irresponsible, too?”

“No, of course not,” he replied grudgingly, “But I’m saying that you’re neglecting your sister just so you can do the monkey love thing with X or whatever his real name is, and that’s not exactly a smart.”

Casting an assessing glance in his direction, the blonde Slayer only replied dismissively, “I gotta go.”  She didn’t want to argue, nor did she want to discuss her love life – such as it was. Her friends had never been particularly understanding or supportive regarding her choice of men; she doubted that anything had changed in the regard after her resurrection.

“You’re just leaving again?” The brown haired young man demanded questioningly as he followed Buffy to the door. “You just got back! You coming back today? Tomorrow? Next week?  I mean, we might want to know. And where are you going anyway?”

“Not that it’s any of your business, but X is taking me skydiving,” Buffy said as she peeked out the window on the door.  X was coming up the walkway to the house. “And I’ll be back tonight.”

“Skydiving? Skydiving?!” Xander snapped, “Well that’s real responsible, Buff, real responsible. Go get yourself plastered all over the face of the earth so that psycho Slayer Faith can take over. Oh, wait, she can’t. She’s in jail.”

Ignoring her friends, Buffy opened the door with a smile. “Hey.”

“Hey,” X replied in greeting, a smile curving his lips on seeing Buffy open the door before he even knocked.

“Hey there, X,” Willow said with false cheerfulness from her position behind Xander and Buffy. It was an attempt to soothe things over, but Xander’s expression hid none of his feelings.

“Hey.” X nodded politely before giving Buffy a kiss. With his hand on her shoulder, he turned her around slightly to examine the tattoo on her back. “So did you put that cream I gave you on that or do I get the pleasure?”

“Oh, I think I’ll let you,” Buffy replied in a low voice, glancing back at him over her shoulder. With his hand on her waist, X kissed her cheek and whispered something to her in reply that made her laugh softly.

“Oh please,” Xander muttered bitterly, rolling his eyes at the affectionate display.  He was jealous of the man that shared his name for more reasons than one: the big guy had brought Buffy out of her shell; making her laugh and smile again for the first time since they brought her back. She spent more time with the big goon than she did with her real friends anymore and then to top it all off, she took him out on patrol with her.  They were her patrol buddies; they backed her up. Now suddenly she didn’t need them anymore.

“Hey, so why don’t you guys come with us?” X invited good-naturedly, aware of the tension between Buffy and her friends. His dark eyes met those of Xander Harris almost challengingly, though it wasn’t overt.  He knew what the brown haired boy thought of him, and he didn’t particularly care – though for Buffy’s sake he always tried to get along with her friends.

“Skydiving?” Willow asked with wide eyes.

“Yeah, it’s a rush.” He replied, glancing at Buffy before returning his gaze to her friends.

“No, it’s dangerous and stupid,” Xander said with a trace of hostility in his voice. “And you shouldn’t go either, Buffy. I still can’t believe you’re going to do that. It’s just.. irresponsible, that’s what it is.”

“Well, Xand, we’re videotaping it so I’ll let you watch when we get back.” Buffy said as she picked up her bag and started out the door. “You can see it’s safe.  And,  you can tell me if you believe I’m going to do it.”