Crystal City
by Rubywisp

Xander takes to haunting a not-really-local honky-tonk bar in the days following the Scoobies' arrival in L.A. Everybody's consumed with sorting things out, with picking themselves up and dusting themselves off, but Xander's tired of it. He picked himself up, dusted himself off, and jumped back in the fray for seven years, and he thinks it's about time he gets to wallow if he fucking well feels like it. So he takes himself away from worried Willow-glances and Giles-frowns, from Buffy-questions and Andrew-pesterings, and disappears two, three, four times a week to a place where the music's loud and the beer is cold. And on Thursdays, it's a buck a bottle before 8 p.m.

He doesn't dress up when he goes out. Sometimes he doesn't even remember to change out of whatever shirt he's spattered paint and spackle and sawdust on all day long, supervising the Hyperion's transformation from vampire lair to Slayer dormitory. Just grabs his keys and his wallet and takes off in whatever car Angel's scary new corporation has made available to them this week. His lack of care with his appearance seems to be outweighed by the something-or-other of his eye patch, and he invariably gets hit on once or twice a night by girls wearing the tightest jeans he's ever seen on anybody not named Spike.

He ignores them all, which would be a shame if he gave a shit. But all the girls look like Anya to him, with their too-bright smiles and their too-cheerful voices and their too-tight blouses full of firm and supple warm embraces. It hurts in a way that makes the ache in his empty eye socket seem like a good time, in a way that Xander knows there's no salve for, so he does the only thing he can, and doesn't care.

The girls aren't the only ones wearing tight jeans, Xander notices. And notices and notices and notices, which leaves him wondering if Willow thought he was in any way serious about the gay thing and decided to help him along a bit. But he can't ask her, because that way lies health pamphlets and condom giveaways, so he keeps his mouth shut. Just tries to stop noticing. The fact that it requires effort is not lost on him.

Somewhere amongst his sitting and drinking and staring and drinking and not-flirting and drinking, he meets up with Lindsey and the two of them hit it off. Xander likes Lindsey's lack of ability to deal with bullshit almost as much as he secretly admires Lindsey's ability to spread it. He doesn't have a clue what Lindsey likes about him, but Lindsey laughs a lot, and even a guy with only one eye can see that that's something new for Mr. Lindsey McDonald, and maybe that's it.

So Xander works at it, takes care with it the way he does his measuring and sanding and painting, laying wisecracks and drywall and friendship and flooring in an unconscious dance that Xander can almost see the shadows of every once in a while, just off to the left like they are.

Time fluxes, nights at the bar turning into time at the movies, at horse races, at concerts for bands Xander's never heard of in clubs he'd never notice from the outside. Restaurants and strip bars and even a weekend in Vegas to escape the winter rain, where Xander discovers both the clean, sharp thrill of hitting a royal flush and the humid, murkier tang of getting sucked off by a obligingly enthusiastic lap dancer while Lindsey smirks his way through a blowjob of his own on the other side of the room and Xander pretends not to watch.

He can still taste the traces of the final slide of Lindsey's satisfied glance in his direction when he's creeping through the front door of the hotel the next morning, late enough that he's crossing his fingers for time to shower, shave and suck down a pot of coffee before everybody's awake and he has to finish painting the hallway on the fourth floor. Early enough that the double throat-clearing from the couch quick-stops his heart and his feet in unison.

There's worry and clear confusion in Willow's eyes, something muddier and darker in Angel's, and Xander takes the easy route - why are you even here? Don't you have some Armani you could be ironing? - but the belligerence bounces off Angel like it's not just his head that's made of brick, and Willow's worry sharpens to blunt words.

It's Spike, surprisingly, who breaks the stalemate of Xander's stubborn refusal to either answer or back down when he walks in through the door of what is now Giles' office and uses his convenient corporeal/not powers to jab Xander forcefully in the chest and say the first word that's made sense in the last 10 minutes.

Lindsey. Xander can't believe this is all about Lindsey, that they even know about Lindsey, know Lindsey at all. A few - carefully-edited, Xander's positive - stories later, and Xander's already past tired of trying to convince a couple of people who he personally had to help keep from destroying the world that a morally ambiguous ex-employee of the company Angel now runs isn't enough of a bad guy to need worrying about. He says so, ferociously, ignoring the hitched breath his words pull out of Willow as resolutely as he revels in the not-quickly-enough shuttered pain he sees on Angel's face.

Inside, he's surprised by his own exultation, unaware until this moment just how much he'd been keeping Lindsey at a convenient and frustrating civilian-arm's-length. Suddenly, everything else can wait - Willow's wavering between scolding and solicitousness, Angel's unwelcome heavy-handedness, Spike's running commentary as he watches the whole scene unfold, openly waiting for the bell to ring and the half-Nelsons to fly.


Xander blows through lights and his own apprehension simultaneously, making it to Lindsey's apartment in record time. He pounds on the front door with cold hands, loud enough to wake the neighbors and the hung over; Lindsey's still rubbing the not-enough-sleep out of his eyes when he pulls the door open with a raspy "Better be fucking good, or I'm taking back the whole 'trip-is-on-me' thing."

Xander doesn't answer, just pushes Lindsey up against the door frame and kisses him. Hands on Lindsey's neck, fingers in his hair, leg between his thighs, ignoring both the neighbor lady's window slamming shut and the enthusiastic horn-honking from across the street. Everything except the way Lindsey unfolds into him, one hand on Xander's hip, the other scratching softly on Xander's chest where Lindsey'd started to push him away when Xander leaned into him. Xander's not sure which one of them is breathing harder when he finally pulls back.

They lick their lips in unison, and Xander ducks his head, chuckling only almost-bashfully. "Good enough?"

Lindsey thinks about it, head cocked. Xander would worry if Lindsey didn't have that 'I'm about to lay down four kings and take all your money' gleam in his eye. "Don't have enough evidence to go on."

Xander's grin widens then disappears as he fights to look suitably concerned. "No? Hm." He shivers in the rain just starting up again. "What would you say if I said I'm better once I'm warmed up?"

Lindsey grins and pushes away from the door, into the apartment. "I'd say you can do better than that, I'll pay for this trip and the next one."

Xander follows with a laugh. Lindsey ends up paying for Vegas for the next two years.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Updates / Silverlake Remix