Crazy Diamonds
by Tesla

After a seismic shift, it took a while for things to settle down.

That's what Xander had learned in those long-ago physical science classes. And Sunnydale was on a fault line. As a freshman in high school, he had believed it, of course: believed that people died when a temblar suddenly made barbeque forks leap off their hooks and pierce their jugulars.

Now, he just smiled when people said, Oh, yeah, Sunnydale! That was like Mt. St. Helen's in reverse, wasn't it? Didn't most people get out in time?

"Most of them," he'd say. And then they'd realize that one of his eyes was artificial and they'd look embarrassed and change the subject.

He wasn't surprised that Angel and his people had lost their building in a "freak gas explosion caused by a fault shift." That was the usual explanation for supernatural happenings in California, wasn't it? From what Andrew had said about Angel & Company, they were desperate, dissolute outlaws, gray hats at best. Andrew had hinted at further secrets, secrets that he wouldn't give up under torture. No one mocked him, because Andrew was really trying hard to be a Watcher- --or trying hard to be Giles, that is. Funny how annoying it was to have Andrew not following him around with worshipful glances. Especially as Xander had, reluctantly, decided that British men didn't really do anything for him.

Sorry, Giles. Not that you aren't hot in an older-guy kinda way.

Not that Giles paid more than the most cursory attention to Xander's coming out. Unlike Willow, who said, more than once, "Just remember, you're still a demon magnet, buster!"

"Yeah? I'd take a demon right now," Xander groused back. "I don't think the British appreciate my humor."

"Who does?" Dawn had snarked, and then any unburdening of secrets was lost in the immediate need to show Dawnie that he was still bigger than she was.

So, back in California, finding Slayers. It was nice to be on his own home soil. "Did you know that they elected The Terminator while we were gone?" he told Willow.

"I told you to register for your absentee ballot!"

"Yeah, but, Will! Any chance he's a demon?"

"We thought of that, but no," she said reluctantly. "Heard anything about Slayers?"

"How can you tell the difference between a Slayer and a normal California girl?" he shot back. "I suppose I could go to malls."

"Don't start acting like a cranky old man," Willow said, hanging up.

That's exactly what he was, though. He felt a little old-school, a little behind the local culture. Him, Xander Harris, pop culture addict! Turning into Giles.

He decided that he had to return to his roots, and go buy some new clothes.

New funky clothes.


His instincts were good, because, suitably clad in baggy khaki shorts, a long-sleeved shirt and a Dead teeshirt, he walked around a dumpster in a parking lot, and saw a Slayer handily dust a vamp. She tossed down the broken bed-slat she used as a stake, and saw Xander.

"Hey," he said. "How'd you learn how to hit them in just the right spot?"

"A white guy showed me once." The girl shot him a calculating look. "You one of them Watchers? He said sooner or later a Watcher would be lookin' for me."

"He did? I mean, yeah," Xander said, shaking her hand. "Xander Harris."

"Takisha Little," she said. "Yeah, about a couple years ago, I started havin' weird dreams, all monsters an' shit. I got a job down by the pier, an' I started seein' 'em when I was waitin' for my ride. An' then, yo, one day this customer tries to put his hand on me? An' I broke his fuckin' wrist." She shook her head. "You gonna hook me up with the Slayers? 'Cause I'm all kinds of ready to get outta here."

"Yeah," Xander said. "I can."


"A dude who does them tourist pictures," Takisha had said, before Xander put her on the plane for Bath. "He saw the first vamp jump me. Looks kinda like you, but then I think all you old white dudes look alike."

Xander went exploring. The first night, there was a chilly rain, so there were few tourists and fewer street vendors along the beach. The second night, he had to drive out to Orange County on a mystical hot tip from the Devon coven, and found that he was too late: the Slayer had left to go back to college, in Texas. The third night, he went to check out a band that billed itself as the Dingoes, but they weren't Oz's old bandmates.

The fourth night was the night before he was going to fly to Texas, so he thought he'd take one last stroll by the beachfront. Not that he'd find anything, really. The white picture-guy could be anyone who had come into contact with Angel and his people, back when they were demon-fighters -- or someone that had known Buffy, that summer she had been hiding out in LA. He nearly missed his target, though, because he was looking for a photographer. He walked past and then wheeled around a man sitting in front of an easel, doing portraits in charcoal and pencil.

Of course. Angel.

He looked pretty much the same as he had, back on Graduation Night, but no longer dressed in black, no longer with gelled hair sticking up, but it was Angel. He sat under the bright lights of the faux-townsquare tourist trap, sketching his customers with quick, sure strokes. Xander had never, in his weirdest feverish imaginings, thought of Angel dressed in a long-sleeved tee-shirt, jeans, and black high-top Converse. Was this just as opposite to leather pants that Dead Boy could find?

Xander stood well behind him, then advanced when the current sitter stood up and took her portrait, carefully sprayed with fixative. "Let that dry, then roll it up," Angel said, and Xander nearly shuddered at the sound of his voice.

He swallowed, then advanced, dropping a twenty on the wooden box of supplies. "How about me, next?"

Angel looked up sharply, then focussed. "Xander?" he said, slightly unsure.

"Yeah. We all thought you were, uh, dead, and I'll make the jokes."

After a moment, Angel began sketching. "I heard that you were in Africa," he said.

"Yeah, that's right."

"Is that where you lost your eye?" Angel asked, his gaze never leaving the pad of paper.

"No, that was during the last days of Sunnydale. You remember, you made a visit there?"

"Yeah, and I was sent back here, for a second front that wasn't needed."

"No, Spike saved the day," Xander said maliciously, and was unprepared for the tiny smile that appeared on Angel's face.

"That's what he kept saying," Angel said. "What, didn't Andrew tell you that he re-surfaced here?"

"No," Xander said, glad he was sitting. "He left that out. What, is he working the lemonade stand?"

"No, Spike's finally gone and not coming back," Angel said. He looked up one more time, then rapidly cross-hatched an area on the pad.

"Hey, you're fast. You could do that guy's show, you know? Happy little trees Except the whole sunlight thing. Seascapes in moonlight probably get monotonous."

Angel smiled again, the corners of his eyes crinkling deeply. "When do you go back to England?" he asked.

"I don't---I'm going to stay here for a while. So, aren't you going to go to England, now that Spike's gone? I thought that----oh, right, that whole evil thing. How do I know you're not evil, now?" Even as he said it, he felt silly, like he'd teased him about having big feet.

Angel laughed. "I would have killed Takisha, instead of showing her the right way to stake a vampire. That's why you came by, right? I haven't seen her for a while."

"Yeah, she's gone to Slayer Central, now. I'm surprised you could resist taking another Slayer under your wing."

That, oddly enough, did sting Angel. He looked steadily at Xander, with the same sad brown eyes that used to make Buffy (and Willow) melt. "I don't do that any more. It doesn't work out."

"You mean, they die? Like Cordelia?"

Angel looked away, his drawing hand slack. "Yes. That's what I mean." He picked up the can and carefully sprayed the paper. "Here you are, let it dry before you roll it up."

"That's it?" Xander asked, automatically taking the drawing.

"Yeah," Angel said. "Good seeing you Xander. I have some more customers."

Xander walked away, rolling up the drawing despite himself.


It was over a month before Xander went back to the beach.

During that time, he e-mailed Giles and Willow with the information about Spike, and Angel. Willow wrote back that Buffy just shook her head, and said, "That was a long time ago."

Still, he half-expected that he'd receive a phone call from Buffy, pelting him with questions about one or the other Vampire With A Soul (pat. pending.) It took a while for him to realize that the Buffy said that The Immortal had "healed her heart?"

He'd apparently healed her heart.

"Jeeze," Xander grumbled to himself. "Wish I'd slept with him." Maybe he'd still feel all broken up inside, even if Anya had survived. It was the loss of everything, not just Anya or his vague thoughts of life, back together, him building houses and her sellling them. Maybe he'd always known he was more comfortable with men; that women brought out all his insecurities and all the Harris bullying.

Not that he was that much smoother with guys, but, hey, West Hollywood. He at least got laid, there.

Why he thought about Angel, again, immediately afterward, he didn't care to examine.

Instead, he used his mad Watcher skilz, and stalked Angel. Xander sat, eating dinner, and then nursing a coffee and piece of pie, across the square from Angel. With the days being longer, Xander didn't drive there until the late sunset. He was a little surprised that Angel was already set up, his plastic-covered sample portraits displayed, busily sketching away. He worked steadily through the evening, and took a five-minute break to disappear inside the artsy- craftsy store next to his stand. He returned, and sat down to draw, as long as the tourists came.

The evening became night, and Xander left the restaurant and took station at a yuppie bar, sitting outside under the strings of colored lights. The wind blew up a little, from the ocean, and the lights danced in and out of the twined grape vines and silk ivy. Eventually, the tourist crowd slacked off, and the little stores closed.

Angel folded up his easel and drawings, packed them away in the wooden box, which had a handle, folded his camp stool and moved off, towards the parking lot.

Xander threw down a couple of bills, and slid out after him.

In the parking lot, Angel stowed his things in the trunk of a dark vintage convertible, and Xander managed to duck behind the other cars, to his own rental, and managed to pull out of the parking lot and trail behind Angel.

Angel drove to an apartment building, that had ground-floor inside parking---which made sense, of course. Xander pulled over to the curb, across the street. He was surprised to see the lights on in a corner apartment. A lot of windows for a vamp, he thought. Guy's getting sloppy in his old age or something.

After a while, Xander thought that there wasn't going to be anything else to see. Maybe Angel had retired from the hero business.


Things went their usual way in the Watcher business. Xander flew up to Seattle to track reports of a possible new hell-mouth eruption, but it was only a phasic time-slip. There wasn't any need for a full- scale investigation, as the local coven had matters well in hand. "It's just an urban legend that we're the wettest city in the country," Mrs. Caza said, taking him back to the airport. "Heck, we're not even in the top ten."

"Yeah," Xander said, unconvinced, looking at the fog. It was nice to get back to sunny SoCal; he'd had enough fog and dampness from his one and only winter in Devon. There wasn't anything much on tap going on, so he decided to kill the afternoon at the movies. He was more than aware of the irony, but hey, Planet of the Apes on a big screen.

When the credits rolled and the lights came up, Xander was startled to see that he recognized one broad-shouldered silhouette walking towards the exit. "Angel," he called.

Angel didn't stop.

"Hey, Angel," Xander called, louder.

Angel turned, one hand on the panic bar. "Yeah?" he asked, squinting. He leaned on the bar.

"That door goes outside--" Xander said, alarmed in spite of himself.

The door opened. It had rained during the feature, and the sun glinted crazily from the puddled parking lot. Angel stood, half in shadow, half in sunlight. "I know," he said.

Xander nearly tripped on a spill of popcorn, and stepped down hard into the aisle. He stood, staring at an unburning and uncrispy Angel, as other Ape fans made their way out of the theatre, buffeting them.

"You're not burning," Xander said, stupidly.

Angel looked surprisingly sad. "Yeah, I know." He stepped out into the sunlight, and put on a pair of Raybans. "Come on, I'll tell you about it."

Xander followed him, blinking at the blazing light.


"I didn't think it mattered, one way or the other," Angel said. "You hate me, remember?"

"I hate--hated--evil you," Xander said. Three o'clock was a little early to be drinking beer, but he needed it, just to get over the distinct shock of sitting in the sun with a human Angel. Tectonic plates were shifting and new continents had been born, and yet cold beer? Still better than Giles' pub. "I was just jealous of you. And I seem to remember you clocking me in the face for the hell of it, when you were just pretending to be evil." He got his thumb-nail under the label on his beer bottle. "I would have thought that you'd have told Buffy, first thing."

Angel shook his head. "For whatever reason the Powers let me become human, Buffy isn't part of the bargain."

"How do you know?" Xander asked, his attention on the label. Angel didn't answer, and after a moment, Xander looked up.

Angel was studying the contents of his glass of beer. When he finally raised his eyes, they weren't sad brown doggy eyes: they were black.

"Because we already tried it once," he said, finally.

"Jesus," Xander said. "Buffy never said---"

"She doesn't remember," Angel said. "It was reversed." He set his glass down. "So that's it."

Xander ripped part of the label away. "How is it, sunlight?" he asled, crumbling the damp paper and tossing it in the ashtray. "All you thought?"

"I like it," Angel said, putting on his sunglasses and looking out over the tables, filling up now with people with their cell phones and iPods and large empty plates with dabs of food. He saw what Xander was looking at and said, "Believe or not, this place does a decent cheeseburger and fries. That is, if you want---I'll understand if you want to go on your way. I'm still the same person I was, you know. Just without the demon."

"And a pulse," Xander said. "I'm hungry, and I have an expense account."

"Good," Angel said, and signalled the waiter. Once their orders were given--with Angel wanting his well-done--there was a lull. Angel leaned back, crossed one large sneakered foot over the other, and asked him if he'd happened on any Lurite demons when he was in Africa. Xander found himself immersed in shop talk, that he hadn't really had for a while, with the understated British Watchers.

And that really should have been that. He called Giles with the news. "Shanshu?" Sound familiar?"

"Oh, yes," Giles had said, sounding impossibly unsurprised. "A prophecy about the vampire with a soul. I did wonder, you know. Wyndam-Pryce---Wesley's father---sent me Wesley's journals. He'd used his time to do some excellent research and translations. So Angel is--alive? And well?"

"Kind of depressed, why?"

"Hm." Even over the connection, Xander could picture Giles taking off his glasses, and smiled to himself. "Prophecies, as you know, Xander, can be extremely--capricious."

"Tricky, you mean. Like Angel could have got one of those Twilight Zone things and became, what, a two hundred year old guy and died?"

"Precisely," Giles said. "Wesley seemed to half believe it. So, he's a perfectly ordinary twenty-eight year old man?"

"Well, thirtyish, I'd say," Xander said. "I guess, in the greater scheme of things we've seen, not so very startling, huh?"

"Not at all," Giles said. "But still fascinating."

"You been watching Classic Trek again?" Xander asked.

He thought Giles said, "You know I'm a Dr. Who fan," but couldn't tell for sure.

After they finished talking, Xander went outside on his sliver of balcony. The sun was just setting, setting his tiny view of the ocean to random geometric shapes, glinting fire. He automatically touched his left eyelid. In the room behind him, the laptop said, "File's done."

More Council business, he thought, then straightened his shoulders and went to read his files.


Xander didn't think he'd talk to Angel again, and he didn't, for the rest of the summer. He actually felt a real earthquake, a minor one that rattled the windows in his apartment as if a jet had flown past. The entire building went silent, and then all up and down the street, people went to their windows and opened their front doors, wanting to see if this was the Big One. It wasn't, of course, and it was too bad that it passed him by without him realizing what was happening until it was over.

The tourist season was winding down, and the faux town square was misting as an early morning rain burned off the slates. Angel was leaning against the doorway of the art store, with a tall Starbucks cup. He looked like every other dude, this time with a bandanna tied over his head, biker style, and his shoulders filled up the doorway. He looked startled to see Xander.

"I thought you'd have left by now," he said, sipping at his drink.

Xander could smell it. "I'm based here. Is this what you do all the time? Gives you a great tan, I'll say that."

"Pretty much, since I have to eat," Angel said. He went to his stool, checked it for damp, and sat down. "Sit down, look like you're a customer."

"It's weird," Xander said, sitting down, with his blind eye toward Angel. "I keep coming back because you're the only one in town from Sunnydale. Well, you know what I mean."

"The only veteran of LA," Angel said. "Did your--did your family-- ?"

"Yeah, I got 'em out. They moved to Florida. I don't go visit, because there's not--well, my father and I. Some family, huh?"

He only heard the scratching of the pencil on the pad. "Vampires usually kill their families," Angel said in a level voice. "First victims, easiest victims."


"I thought that would wipe him from my life, but it did the reverse. So, you know--"

"It wasn't Sunnydale," Xander interrupted. "But when I came out."

Angel dropped his pencil and it rolled to the toe of Xander's shoe.

"So," Xander said, "you wanna go out sometime?"

He felt Angel touch him on his left sleeve, to make him look that way. He turned his head. Angel looked a little flushed, under his tan.

"I can't," he said. He bent and picked up his pencil.

"Oh, you've got a partner?"

"No, I don't--anyone."

"You're kidding. I mean you've--no? Not at all? What was the first thing you did after you realized you were alive?"

"Ate breakfast," Angel said. "Pancakes."

"Not my first choice, but okay." Xander leaned forward, lowering his voice. "You meant what you said before, huh? Seriously? You're afraid to have sex?"

"I'm afraid to do anything," Angel said, his hands idle. "Afraid to leave LA, afraid to ride a motorcycle--well, I've never liked doing that---afraid to talk to people and answer questions about my life. Think about it."

"There's probably some demon types you've pissed off when you were all toothy," Xander said thoughtfully.

"Another reason not to get involved with the kind of stuff I did before. I could hurt someone more than help them."

"Well, there you go," Xander said triumphantly. "Same thing. We're alike. I can get the no sparks, that's fine, but there's no reason why we couldn't hang. Go to ball games, that kind of thing. Catch a movie. You know, I bet my moves are better than yours, now, if we ran into any vamps."

That brought Angel's chin up. "Oh, I wouldn't go that far."

"Yeah, prove it. Work out with me."

"All right," Angel said. "What? You're right. I could use a friend."

"Say that again, only add 'Xander' to it. 'Xander, you're right.' "

"Fuck you," Angel said, without heat.

"Oh, promises, promises."


It took three weeks of spotting before Angel let Xander come to his apartment. That was only because Xander had jumped the wrong way and caught a claw across his arm, before tranq-ing a scorpiuus demon that Giles had particularly asked about. Angel was so antsy about the scorpiuus, and not mentioning anything about demons in his gym, that Xander agreed.

"See, these demons can leave a bit of poison claw, like a jelly- fish," Angel said earnestly. "But you can't use alcohol or peroxide or anything. Egg whites. It's kind of a--potion--" he unlocked his door. "I have a couple of books."

"Nice place," Xander said. "I mean, face it, business rentals, not that great." He was trying not to contrast this normal-looking guy's place with the mansion on Crawford, with the basement apartment Xander vaguely remembered. "I didn't think artists made out that well."

"I get by," Angel said, going to the refrigerator. "C'mere, roll up your sleeve."

Xander came over, yanking up his tee-shirt sleeve. "It's--whoa, it's purple."

"Yeah," Angel said, sounding like his old self. "I told you." He picked two eggs from a carton, and cracked them into a dish, sloshing the whites out.

"Smugness--ow--doesn't become you."

"Good thing this poison wasn't on the tip of an enchanted dart," Angel said. "Then you'd have to find someone to chant a spell."

"Fortunately, I do know someone," Xander said, twisting so he could see it. "Lots of someones, but, Willow."

"It caught you on the blind side," Angel said, tossing the egg-shells into the trash.

Xander stiffened. "Yeah," he said.

"You train to compensate?" Angel asked, still seriously.

"Yes, I do," Xander said. "I wasn't lucky this time. Which is why I'm a Watcher, not a doer. If it hadn't been a little demon, I wouldn't've gone after it. And I had a tranq pistol. I've tranqed werewolves before, ones that were jumping at me." He felt that he'd been a little ungracious, and added. "I'm used to it." He looked around. "Hey, is that a plasma screen?"

Angel brightened. "Yeah, wanna see?"

"Fire it up, man," Xander ordered.

And then they ended up watching The Wrath of Khan, which was all very well but not getting them much further. It was odd how not odd it was, Angel as regular guy. He had always tried to blend in, in a way that Spike, for instance, never had bothered with. Spike was a vampire and pleased to be one, regardless of his television-watching and battered-onion-ring-eating passions. Angel, on the other hand, had healthy food in his kitchen.

"You probably cook," Xander said, accusingly, after Angel failed to produce any chips or pretzels or other artificially manufactured foodstuffs.

"Breakfast, mainly," Angel replied, unthinkingly, and then blinked at Xander's grin.


So, they were buds, veterans of the demon wars, which sounded like a good title for a series of graphic novels. At any rate, they were the only ones that really understood each other, or so he liked to think. And Xander didn't hesitate to use Angel as a resource, too. Angel may have a newly jump-started heart, but he still remembered all the creepy stuff he'd learned at Wolfram & Hart. And, Xander could run stuff by Angel, if Giles was busy, or due to the time difference, asleep.

He found himself bitching to Angel about the guy he was sort of seeing, Patrick. "I mean, it's like we were supposed to be all casual, and now he's wanting to be all committed. Trust me. I guess I should be grateful he's not a demon."

"Are you sure?" Angel asked, from his crouch next to the right rear tire of Xander's car. He was checking the tire pressure with some kind of high-tech digital gadget Xander had bought from QVC in an insomniac buying spree.

Xander closed his eyes for a second. "As far as I know, why?" He so didn't want to hear the answer.

"One of the first paranormal cases w--I--saw here, was a demon who moved from host to host right after sex. Burrowing demon." Angel squinted up at him evilly.

"God," Xander said. "Have you been saving that one up for me?"

Angel suddenly grinned, a wide white smile full of such light and charm that Xander wanted to make him smile again. The old Sunnydale Xander could have thought of another quip, but Xander'd gotten out of the quipping mode, somehow along the way. While he was still thinking, Angel stood up, and handed him the pressure gauge.

"It works, but I don't think it's worth what you paid for it," he said. "So, I'll see you around, huh?" Angel said, and went back to his car.

"See you," Xander said.


Xander woke up the next morning, thinking that he came to California for an American boyfriend, damn it, and instead of wincing when Patrick called him on his cell-phone, he should answer it, damn it. But it seemed that he didn't want Patrick. Damn it.

He wanted Angel, and he was the only one Xander wanted. Despite the fact that the big guy had apparently taken vows of chastity.

It was raining a lot this winter, and demons didn't prowl and Slayers weren't surfacing right now. Angel had some kind of free-lance illustration work going, so he worked indoors, at a drawing desk beside the corner windows.

"Not much going on right now, for those of us without magic powers," Xander said, standing with one shoulder on the window frame, staring out at the rainy street below. "Giles thinks I should take a break. And I would, except that it's kind of slow for construction."

"But you don't need the money, do you?" Angel asked, his head still bent over his work. "Because I have--"

"No, Giles is the Council. He's re-formed it, and got some of the Academy grads, but he's the man. And he has all of his old Sunnydale homies on salary."

"Faith is all right?" Angel asked suddenly. "She's okay?"

"She's in Cleveland. Hey, you and I oughta call her. She'd like hearing from you." Faith, of course, had found out from Giles all about the LA group's fiery finale. She was still furious that she hadn't been able to get there and die beside Angel and Wesley, just as if one apocalypse hadn't been enough for her. A Slayer's Slayer, Buffy had said, and it wasn't exactly a compliment.

"I'd like that," Angel said, his pencil raised above the paper.

Xander nearly dropped his Razr, getting it out and calling Faith. It was the first time Angel had asked him to do something, anything, related to their past.

"Yeah? This better be good, Harris, your timing's for shit," Faith growled.

"Chill, woman, I got a formerly dead guy who wants to say hi," Xander said.

"Angel?" Faith said, her voice high and pleased. "Let me talk to him!"

Xander handed the phone over, and felt, yeah, jealous that Angel was beaming with pleasure, talking to Faith. Of course, he was beaming at Xander and he had to love that.

"It's not sunny right now," Angel was saying. "But I do live near the beach. You should crawl out of the snow and come out here some time. No, you're not wanted by the feds. Wesley--" Angel stopped, his voice catching--"Wesley took care of that when we were at the law firm. Okay. You--you take care of yourself, okay, Faith? Here's Xander."

He handed the phone back to Xander, the light gone out of his face. Faith said, into Xander's ear, "Listen, what the hell is he doing? Drawing pictures? I know he ain't bullet-proof no more, but shit, Xander. We could use him."

"It's complicated," Xander said.

Faith drew in her breath. "You're trying to--oh, man!"

"Shut up, Faith," Xander said genially. "It's not like that."

"You be nice to him, or I will come out there. And I'll have my boots on." Faith laughed sinisterly. Shit, she'd always been able to read him, read any one's sexual interests. It was her own particular Slayer gift. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

"Thanks, that gives me a lot of room," Xander said, and hung up on her chortling. He looked out at the rain. "That's the first time I've heard you talk about--anyone." He didn't hear anything, so he turned around.

Angel was sitting, staring at his hands, as if he'd never seen them before.

Xander moved then, and put his arms around Angel. Angel turned in his chair, and clutched at Xander's waist like Xander was a life preserver, and Angel was sinking.

And maybe they both had been, because when Angel raised his head and they finally kissed, Xander saw stars, dancing like crazy diamonds in his stinging eyes.


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