One of the Crowd

by Wolfling

(Rated G)


Xander sat at a booth in the back of the pub, nursing a beer and peering through the smokey dimness at the entrance while trying to look like he wasn't peering through the smokey dimness at the entrance.

He was waiting for the contact that Angel and the evil law firm had provided them when they had gone to the vampire for assistance in retrieving some magical doo-dad -- Harbath's Pendulum -- that had gone walkabout when the Council had blown up real good. They -- well, Willow and Giles -- had managed to track down where the Pendulum had gotten to, but it had quickly become apparent that they were going to need professional help to retrieve it.

Somehow Xander had found himself volunteered to act as liason with said professional help. Because of course, he had so much experience in this sort of thing, though if he was being honest, none of them did. But you'd think, considering the clandestine nature of the whole operation, they would have wanted to go with someone a little less... conspicuous. Which would have been...pretty much anyone else.

That hadn't always been the case. Once, he'd been the most ordinary of them all, the Everyman amongst a crowd of the extraordinary. But that had all changed in one moment, a moment that was still going on in his nightmares. So now he was special, just like the others, but unlike them, it wasn't because of something he had or could do, but rather something that he was missing.

Xander raised a hand to trace the outline of the patch covering where his left eye used to be, a nervous habit he'd developed that he found himself doing whenever he was agitated or upset. Especially when he dwelled on the new blind spots in his vision that still took him by surprise sometimes, or the fact that he was never going to be able to just blend into a crowd again.

Though, he supposed, it made giving instructions on how to find him at the pub fairly easy. "Go to the King's Arms and speak with the one-eyed man," Xander muttered under his breath. "My life's become a bad spy thriller, and I'm not even the main character."

No, the main character would be the woman who was just entering the drinking establishment. She was dark-haired, smokey eyed, with curves in all the right places. The tight red leather outfit she was wearing only accentuated her assets and drew more attention to herself, as did the confident but sensual and almost challenging way she had of moving. She was obviously not the blending into crowds type any more than Xander himself was, though for far more pleasant reasons.

As Xander watched, she coolly scanned the room until she spotted him and headed over, taking the seat across the table all without saying a word.

She regarded Xander silently for so long that he began to get antsy. "Am I supposed to be talking about monkeys forgetting their umbrellas or something?"

The curious look she'd been giving him morphed into a cross between confusion and doubting his sanity. "What?"

"Did I need a password?" he clarified; her expression didn't change so he elaborated. "You know, I say 'The monkeys need umbrellas,' and you say, 'But only at night,' and then we know we've got the right person."

She looked at Xander, unblinking, for a few seconds, then asked, "You Harris?"

"Um, yeah." Feeling foolish, he asked, "You're Gwen?"

"That's me." The very faintest ghost of a smile touched her lips. "There; we each know we've got the right person without involving any monkeys."

"Right. Sorry. I' at this."

"Yeah, I kind of figured." She leaned forward, suddenly all business. "Angel said your organization wants to obtain a certain item that's not for sale."

Following her lead, Xander put on his best professional demeanour. "Yeah. Harbath's Pendulum. We've tracked it down, know where it is and who has it, but would like to get it back if we can with a little more finesse and a lot less carnage than our usual operations. If we can."

"Which is where I come in." Gwen smiled at him in a way that seemed to raise Xander's temperature by several degrees. Hey, he was still a red-blooded American male after all; he'd lost his eye, not his sex drive. "I'm all about the finesse."

"Sounds like you're my girl then," Xander heard himself say, then stumbled over his words to make it sound more professional and less like a come on. "Our girl. The Council's girl. The girl -- woman -- for the job. And I'm just going to shut up now before I can swallow any more of my foot."

Gwen's smile grew more genuine. "Least you're man enough to admit it." She leaned closer, her gloved hand brushing against his bare fingers; Xander felt a tingle of...something go through him at the touch. "So you're going to be my liaison?"

"Um...yeah," he replied, wondering about the sudden change in the timbre of the conversation from just business to...something less businessy. Not that he was complaining, but it wasn't the sort of thing that usually happened, beautiful women coming on to him. Except when...

"You're not a demon are you?" he blurted.

"What?" Gwen looked surprised, then darkly amused, her mouth twisting into a smile that seemed to hold secret humor. "No, I'm not a demon. I'm a...recovering freak."

"Oh." That was better, Xander supposed. At least the recovering part. She probably wasn't going to try to eat his head or sacrifice him. "Good."

"Are you a demon?"

Xander blinked. "No. I'm just a..." Normal human being, he had been going to say, but that wasn't really true, hadn't been for a long time. He traced the outline of his eye patch absently, the most visible sign of his being different, but it wasn't the only reason. "I'm just another freak." He smiled. "One of the crowd."




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