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Title: Finding home
Author: Devo79
Characters: Angel, Xander.
Rating: PG13

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Xander stood on the pavement outside his house and stared at the light streaming out the window in the kitchen. He looked to the left, scanning the street.

Angel could smell the nervous energy pouring off the boy and he shifted slightly behind the parked cars so he could keep an eye on Xander. The teenager was still just standing there. Finally he walked briskly up to the front door and was just about to knock when he hesitated. A low rumble coming from Xander‘s stomach, just loud enough for the vampire to hear, made the boy clench his hand and knock on the door.

Silence. Then the front door opened a fraction of an inch, a tiny beam of light breaking the gloom of the evening air.

“Mom,” the door was opened a little more, “He’s not home, is he?” Xander asked anxiously and looked over at the empty driveway.

“No,” the woman’s voice sounded brittle.

“Can I come in?” Xander asked.

“I…I’m sorry, Honey, but,” she ran her hand up and down the door as if she was soothing it.

“Come on, Mom,” Xander leant closer to the door, “Dad isn’t home and I just need my clothes. Please. I think the teachers are starting to notice. Please,” he begged.

“I can’t, Alexander,” she whispered, “He’ll know. He’ll find out and you know how he gets. Just…” she reached out and put her hand on Xander’s chest, “Give it another week and I’m sure he’ll have calmed down…I can’t let you in…I can’t. I’m sorry,” she looked embarrassed.

“Okay. It‘s okay,” Xander said.

“Did you find somewhere to sleep?” his mother asked.

“Sure, I told Willow we’re redecorating and that my room was a mess. She has a guestroom and I can stay for as long as I need,” Angel could hear Xander’s heartbeat quicken as he told the lie.

“You need any money?” Xander’s mother started fumbling in the pockets of her housecoat.

“It’s okay,” Xander said and placed his hand on his mother’s shoulder.

“I only have five dollars,” she held up the money, shamed by the amount. When Xander didn’t reach for it she tucked it in his jeans pocket, “Take it.”

“Thanks,” Xander whispered and kissed her cheek.

“He’ll get a new job,” she said almost hopeful, “And he’ll stop drinking then.”

“Sure,” Xander said.

“He’ll let you move back in,” she sounded as if she was trying to convince herself.

“I’m okay for now, Mom. Go back inside. It’s getting really dark and it’s cold tonight.”

“Okay,” she nodded and was just about to close the door when she said, “Thank Willow’s mother for letting you stay.”

“I will,” Xander promised and didn’t move away from the door before his mother had closed and locked it.

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Following the boy was easy. He made as much noise as a herd of stampeding buffalos.

Xander stopped outside a small store, turned around and stared right at the delivery truck Angel was hiding behind, “You can stop doing your stalker impersonation now, Angel,” he said, “I’m going inside,” he pointed over his shoulder at the 7Eleven behind him, “I’m gonna get me something to eat.”

Standing outside the 7Eleven, his mouth still open to form some kind of protest, Angel felt quite foolish when Xander came out of the store and waved mockingly at him.

“Slow night for the brooding crusader?” he asked as he walked past the vampire and crossed the street.

“I don’t brood,” Angel mumbled and couldn’t shake the feeling that he had been played by a lesser adversary.

“Right,” Xander said and opened the small bag of toast bread he had bought. He took out one slice and started eating it, “’Cause,” Xander sprayed small bits of toast all over his shirt, “hanging out in the dark, following people around and contemplating all the wrong things you’ve done is just so damn positive,” he held out the half eaten piece of bread offering it to Angel.

“No, thanks,” Angel said a little surprised.

“Okay,” the boy said and took another bite of it, “’S more for me.”

------------------------------------------

“You sleep here?” Angel made a face as they passed what had once been the bathroom but now seemed to be a recreational resort for rodents.

“The second floor is much nicer. Cleaner too,” Xander reassured him and started up the rickety steps.

“No rats?” Angel asked and kicked a dead rat out of his way before he started following Xander up the stairs.

“And that would be why it’s nicer,” Xander disappeared into a room.

The door was gone. Probably stolen, Angel thought glumly.

“Home, sweet home,” Xander exclaimed and held out his arms as if hugging the room.

“Reeks,” Angel said bluntly.

“So do you,” Xander retorted and pulled the door to a build in closet open. He took out a metal box and put it on the floor. Opening it, it became clear that it functioned as a pantry. The toast bread was pressed into the box.

“You can’t live here,” Angel said and looked around the room. Apart from a mattress with some nasty stains on it, a few blankets and an old chair with one of its legs held together with string, the room was bare.

“Funny how I’ve been living here for a week and a half then,” Xander took a bottle of water out of the metal box and opened it. He took a few sips, screwed the bottle cap back on and put it in the box. The box itself was put back in the old closet.

“What about…” Angel was searching for words, “Showers and clean clothes?”

“Take showers at school. Told the girls the washer is broken and we’re getting it fixed,” Xander brushed off a few crumbs of toast off his t-shirt, “Used some of my money to wash my clothes at the laundromat two days ago,” Xander shrugged.

“Pack up your stuff,” Angel took a step closer to the human, “I have a couch you can sleep on and I’ll buy food.”

“Um…I could do this whole show and dance routine about how I’d rather stay here than spend time with the undead…but honestly,” Xander ran a hand through his already messy hair, “You totally suck less than the rats and the weird noises at night in this place.”

“So you’ll pack your stuff?” Angel asked and looked around the room again.

“All done.”

Xander was holding a backpack in his hand, “Right,” the vampire said and started walking out the room.

“Wait,” Angel turned back and watched as Xander opened the closet, pulled out the metal box and took the lid off. He ripped the bag of toast bread open and left it on the floor.

“You‘re feeding the vermin?” Angel asked with a disapproving frown.

“Rats need to eat too,” Xander shrugged, “Just a goodbye present for my furry neighbors,” he nodded over at the corner where a rat was peeking out from a hole in the panel.

-----------------------------------------

“So this couch of yours,” Xander looked at Angel as they made their way out of the house, “It wouldn’t be situated in front of a really nice TV with cable, would it?”

“No,” Angel said, “TV rots your brain. Not that anyone would notice.”

“Pfftthhh! You know what?” Xander threw his arm over Angel’s shoulder and gave him a one-armed hug, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

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