Teaching New Tricks To An Old Dog

by Adalisa
Third in the Xander/Puppy series

As many other nights before, the Scooby Gang were all reunited in the Library, doing some research about the Mayor's latest plans. The scene was so usual that at first sight one wouldn't note the changes. Buffy was beating a punching bag, Willow had her laptop in front of her, as Oz took notes at her side, Giles read some old books in some ancient language, and Xander did the same with some of the newer books, sitting at his usual place in the oak table. Even Cordelia was there, checking the few newspapers that hadn't been added to the computer database.

The only different things were Wesley, the young and all too eager to show his knowledge new Watcher, who was almost pacing around the library, book in hand, and Puppy, who was sitting right in front of Xander, reading carefully a book, sometimes frowning as if he tried to remember something.

It had been two weeks since Buffy and Xander had their little fight in the Harris' attic, and Puppy had been staying with Xander all that time. Although the rest of the gang didn't know it, Xander's parents were aware of having a visitor, one unable to stand sunlight, and they were kinda o.k. They rarely ever where in the house anyway, and Xander had been in charge of his life since he was 15... Also, the other slayerettes didn't know about the new dark UV free window that adorned Xander's bedroom and that was fine for the teenager.

The day after Buffy and Willow found out that Puppy was staying with Xander had been too tense. The girls weren't talking to Xander, Xander wasn't talking to either Giles or Angel... No one paid any attention to Wesley. And when night came, and Xander had to get Puppy to the library, where he could get more used to the reality he lived now, things had gotten worse. Puppy didn't do anything without looking at Xander first. He only listened to Xander's words, taking them all as orders. That only made the glares at the young mortal more and more hurtful.

The worst part had been that Puppy had only been doing what he had been taught to do. Xander couldn't possibly hold anything against the tortured vampire.

Four days later, since the situation had gotten way too tense to be enjoyed, Xander asked Puppy if he preferred to go to the Bronze or stay in the house for a while. Puppy had choose to stay. That had been somewhat an improvement, since it was the first free-will decision that Puppy had made, besides living with Xander instead of sharing the mansion with Angel. Xander had gone to the Bronze for a while, just to meet Angel there.

The vampire was, surprisingly, not as upset as the rest of the gang for the latest arrangements. He had admitted that he would preferred it if Puppy stayed in the mansion, but it was o.k. with him. And it had been Angel's idea to get the UV-free windows for the attic, to keep Puppy safe.

Xander and Angel had parted as friends that night, and the vampire had promised that he would talk to the others, make them understand that nothing was Xander's fault. At least something good had come from all the changes.

Xander had gone to sleep early that night, only to awoke around two in the morning at the feeling of someone climbing into his bed. Seeing him awake, Puppy had immediately run away and return to the attic, but in the morning, Xander had found Puppy sleeping in the floor, at his bed side. That afternoon he had got the UV window for his room. If Puppy ever repeated that trick, he would be safe from the sun in Xander's room.

And Puppy had sneaked in the room again the next night too, and when Xander woke up, he had again ran away, only to return and sleep in the floor.

It was then when Xander got a new idea. He still didn't had all the details about his doppelganger's rules and actions, and he didn't want to know them, but he knew that he could at least bend the rules a little. Change them as long as he told Puppy what to do.

They had to meet with the others in the library in order to make a new plan regarding Faith, the Mayor and the Ascension ceremony. If things went as usual, Xander was sure that he would be hearing various hurtful remarks about Puppy and leashes. So before they went out, and while Puppy ate his breakfast, Xander decided to breach the subject.

"About tonight... we're going to do some research and..." he began, and immediately the vampire stopped eating, looking at him eagerly.

"You don't want me to go?" Puppy asked, a little sadness creeping in his voice. It was natural, since he hadn't left the Harris' house in two days.

"It's not that, Angel..." Xander never called him Puppy, like the others did when they had to make a difference between their Angel and this Angel. Xander had other ways to make himself understood, like calling Buffy's boyfriend 'Dead-boy'. "Look... " He breathed deeply, knowing that the wrong choice of words could destroy what little advance they had done. "When we're with the others... you don't have to agree with everything I say or do everything I say... "

"...because they will think that you're treating me like a slave?" Puppy finished for him, before looking away. "But... but you are my master..." Hearing those words from the vampire, Xander had to flinch. It was not the first time Puppy called that. That had been right after the fight with Buffy... but the way in which he said it, the absolute submission... it still made Xander's heart hurt. But he couldn't tell Puppy to forget the whole idea. That had to be gradually, gently. And without breaking the rules.

"Why have you been coming to sleep in my room?" He asked, wishing to stray a little from the slavery subject.

Puppy looked at the last drops of blood in his glass, one of the smallest adjustments Xander had managed to make, and his voice came very low, very shy. "You once told me that if I was very, very good, you would left the cell open... and that I would be able to sleep in your room then..." The vampire said, then turned to see Xander, a tear shining in his eyes. "I have been good, right? That's the reason why you left the attic and your door open..."

Xander closed his eyes, and bit his lip. It was just as he had feared. But he could use that little fact to his advantage. "Yes, yes Angel. You've followed the rules..." he refused to use the words 'been good' with the vampire. No matter what the others think of him, no matter what his own doppelganger had thought, Angel was not a dog. "...but if you want to sleep here, there's something you have to do..."

The mortal regretted his words immediately, as the vampire leaned forward with an amazing speed, kissing him fully in the mouth. Xander's eyes opened big with astonishment and shock, and he backed away, looking at the vampire with scared eyes. "What are you doing?"

"You... you said there was something I had to do... It was what you always said when you wanted me to..." Puppy was puzzled by Xander's actions, even more than when Xander had been nice to him. But Xander didn't let him finish. He really didn't wanted to know.

"I wasn't talking about that. I am not gay." Wonderfully, he managed to keep his voice even. It wasn't good when he yelled or screamed near Puppy, as the vampire always interpreted that as the first part of punishment. "You will never have to do... anything like that... ever again." Xander finished, blushing furiously.

"I... I am sorry..." Puppy walked away, until he was almost at the door of the room.

It took a little for Xander to recover himself from the shock. He had thought that he was ready for any revelation from Puppy's world, but obviously the fact that he had been gay or bi or whatever... and that he had forced Puppy to... do _THAT_ , had been too much.

"It's not your fault, Angel... It's just one of those differences that no one thinks to mention..." Breathing deeply, he walked to where Puppy was and kneeled in front of him. "Look, the only thing you have to do is stand a little more for yourself in front of everyone. You do that, and then you can sleep in my room every day."

At the end, Puppy had done that. It had took three or four more days, but finally, the rest of the group noted the change. Puppy didn't flinch when Willow talked to him, had helped not only with the research, but also had volunteered to go with Buffy patrolling one night... and had been confused with Angel by Faith that time.

Buffy, and Willow had took that as a great sign, insisting that Puppy should move with Angel right away... although surprisingly, both Giles and Angel had backed up Puppy's decision to stay at the Harris' house. But not even them knew that now Puppy and Xander shared the same room. That had took a few arrangements, as Xander moved most of his stuff to the Attic to make room for another bed, but with Puppy's eager help they managed to get everything in order without any interference. And in that fashion, life continued in the relative calmness of Sunnydale.

* * *

Willow looked at the vampire and Xander with the corner of her eye. She hadn't been too sure of leaving the fragile Puppy with Xander, who rarely seemed to be aware of the magnitude of things going on, and all too often made tasteless jokes in the worst imaginable moments... But Puppy didn't look as frightened as he had when he had first arrived, so she really couldn't say anything about it. At least Anya hadn't tried to contact her again, so there was no danger of anyone else coming from Puppy's universe.

Turning her attention back to her laptop, she continued her job, forgetting all about Puppy and Xander for the moment.

* * *

Giles looked up from his book to Xander and to Puppy, hoping that no one would note it. He had been very worried for the health and well being of Xander ever since Puppy appeared in their lives. He hadn't discussed it with the teenager, but in the first days, before Puppy went to live with Xander, Giles had been sure that sooner or later Puppy would attack Xander... and most probably try and make him a vampire.

The librarian turned the page of the book he was reading, still with the problem in his mind. His main worry was that Puppy, deprived of his vampiric master, would try to regain what he knew... change the world to be as close as the one he knew. But when it had become obvious that somehow Xander had managed to reassert his doppelganger control, Giles' mind had turned to worry about Xander's mental health. It was obvious to anyone who looked with some care that the hold that the Vampire Xander held in Buffy wasn't just about torture or physical pain... And the Watcher was all too sure that Xander, who even when he did careless comments and seemed not really interested in anyone was a very kind and gentle soul, could take that knowledge.

However, now it seemed that Puppy was beginning to change, to become more independent from Xander... even when they still lived together. But Puppy's newly gained confidence still made Giles feel better. Maybe that meant that Xander would never have to face everything that his doppelganger had done.

* * *

Buffy hit the punching bag with her mind somewhere else. A somewhere else not that far away... She had her attention in the couple sitting on the table, Puppy and Xander. For the past week, Buffy had tried mightily not to think of them as a couple, but to no avail. She saw Puppy's servile attitude when it came to Xander, remembered the very clear death threat that had come out of Puppy's throat... and hated her friend for that.

Sure, she knew that Xander hadn't been the one who turned her boyfriend -or an alternate universe version of him- into Puppy... the other universe Xander must have been nothing like their Xander... But still... When she and Puppy had gone on patrolling, she had tired to pry a little into how he and Xander were getting along, just to meet very elusive answers. And her mind had begun to make connections about it. Not very nice either.

She had tried to talk it with Willow, but her friend had assured her that it was just her imagination. And the Slayer wasn't going to believe that. Then she had tried to breach the subject with Angel... but her courage had failed her. There was no way she was going to discuss with her boyfriend the fact that she thought that one of her friends was screwing her boyfriend' doppelganger.

So she had changed her role. With this particular vampire, she wouldn't be the Slayer. She would only watch. And if she ever found proof that Xander was taking advantage of him, well... her ex - best friend would better start praying because not even Puppy's ill- placed loyalty was going to save him.

* * *

Puppy was reading, his head ducked in the book that Giles had given him, trying to remember if the Master had ever mentioned something about an Ascension... but that didn't stop him for noting that at least three pair of eyes were on him and Xander... Cordelia sometimes risked a glance at Xander, but it was only to see if the mortal noticed that Wesley was looking at her, Oz sometimes looked at him to see if he noted that Willow was looking at them. Wesley seemed uncaring of the events there.

But Giles, Willow and Buffy's looks were heavy on Puppy's back. So heavy that he had to restrain himself from looking up, to see if they weren't making Xander uncomfortable.

That was the real trick. The hardest part of everything was not to rush at Xander's side every time he needed help, or every time he looked like he needed help. Not to look at Xander to be sure that he was there. Puppy was sure that Xander didn't need protection from vampires, demons and stuff like that. His friends might not note it, but Puppy was sure that Xander could fend for himself. But at the same time, Puppy knew that Xander would never defend himself from the ones he called friends, even if they treated him badly, even if they were not really his friends. And, even when he was still as strong as his vampiric counterpart, Xander was mortal. He didn't had the advantages of fast healing or increased strength.

So Puppy had decided silently that he would protect Xander. And if the protection included not to look at the mortal boy, he would do that. He would be good, he would follow the rules, and maybe... just maybe Xander would allow him to sleep in his bed. The others could think whatever they wanted; but they would never really understood why Puppy stayed at Xander side.

Xander was his master. Puppy loved him.

And the only thing he really wanted was for his master to love him back.

Part 2

The ambush was so childish, so obvious, that later Buffy and Giles blamed themselves for the outcome. Even when the evidence that Faith had gone to the Mayor's side had been overwhelming, even when she had proven to be a dangerous psychopath more than once, Buffy had not changed her routine patrols, neither in days nor in routes. And Faith had known that. She and other 25 vampires had been waiting for Buffy.

The fight had been quite unfair, but thankfully for the Slayer, her friends where nearby. Angel, Willow, Oz, Xander and Puppy had followed her and joined the fray. But what had probably been just another patrol night, changed drastically when Faith saw Xander... For some strange reason Faith always lost control when it came to Xander.

The evil Slayer had dumped Buffy in the lap of two mindless vampires, and gone straight to the mortal boy, who had his hands full trying to stake just one of her group. Faith did her job so well that not even Puppy noted that she and two vampires had managed to grab Xander and ran away. The only thing they heard as Faith and the vampires ran away was that there would be no way that Buffy would be with her friends again. The message was very clear.

They wouldn't see Xander alive again.

Buffy wanted to return with Giles, and see what they knew of Faith, and the Mayor... to see if he could think where they had took Xander. Willow and Oz had agreed, but Angel had thought it was a bad idea. That reduced Xander's life expectancy a great deal.

Puppy remained silent as they argued, but when they began walking to the library, he turned away from them. "I'm not going with you." He said evenly, even when he could feel his anger rising. "We have to find Xander first."

"We need a plan. " Buffy said, looking at Puppy as if the vampire was too foolish to understand what was going on. "Now come on, we cannot loose more time."

"If we go to the library, Xander is most surely going to die!" Puppy insisted, not letting his eyes drop down. He was going to show Buffy and everyone else that they couldn't boss him around. Especially not when Xander's life was on stake.

"And if we go without a plan, we're all going to die!" Buffy answered, her eyes fixed in Puppy's. She was not going to back down here. "Why cannot you understand that, Puppy?!"

Hurt flickered in Puppy's eyes. When they were with Angel, they tried to avoid calling him anything. Not by his name, and not by Puppy. But they still called him Puppy from time to time. Xander was the only one who called him Angel, preferring to use 'Dead-boy' when talking to the other Angel... "Do whatever you want, Slayer." He growled, showing game-face "But I'm going to find Xander."

He didn't wait for her answer, turning around to follow Xander's scent. If Xander's 'friends' couldn't risk themselves a little for the one who had risked his own life to help more than once, he wasn't going to loose time with them.

* * *

Puppy found Faith's hideout very easily. She had chained Xander, making him bleed, by cutting his skin, by hitting him until the flesh gave up... And that made the scent stronger. He had never feed from Xander's blood... after all, he had known Xander as a vampire, without his own blood... but in the few weeks that he had been in this reality, that smell had filled his dreams, his whole notion of safety was built around the steady heartbeat in Xander's chest.

Thankfully, Faith was almost alone. She had only two bodyguards with her, the other vampires no where in sight. And she was talking.

"C'mon Xander. You know this could be a lot more fun if you just told me what your 'friends' know about the Ascension and the Mayor..." She finished her phrase by caressing his cheek. As if that crude caress could erase the bleeding spots in Xander's face. "... You tell me, I let you go."

"Do... Do I really... look that... stupid, Faith?" Xander managed to chuckle, and Puppy's heart broke. How could Xander laugh when his body was in the brink of death? "I'm not you... I won't betray my friends..." This won Xander a straight punch directed to his stomach, making him vomit a mouthful of blood. But strangely, he kept grinning.

"Xander, What friends?" Faith asked, smiling brightly. "Be real, no one cares if you live or die. Man, look around you. Did they came to save you? No. And they didn't told you that the world was ending either. You're a zero to them. Here, you at least could be a good spy in our side. Here, you won't be a loser"

Xander lowered his head, his eyes full of sadness. Puppy could see that clearly from where he stood. But when he lift his head, he was smiling again. Or at least, he tried to... he had a split lip. "You know, Faith... if you work that up, you could be a good Cordelia replacement..."

Faith hit him again, this time in the chest. Puppy could hear a crack from the boy's body, he was sure that Faith had managed to broke a rib or two... and Xander was biting his lips, not screaming.

"I'm going to kill you Harris... and no one is going to care about that."

As the evil Slayer rose the knife, ready to sink it in Xander's chest for the last time, Puppy couldn't stop himself. He ran towards the girl, knocking down one of the vampires, and staking the other, making Faith so surprised that she forgot for one moment that her whole intent was to kill Xander and she immediately attacked Puppy, full of confidence. After all, she had already fought against Angel and won, even when he was pretending to be Angelus...

That was her worst mistake. She had never believed that Angel hadn't been interested in hurting her that time, and she didn't knew how much Xander meant for Puppy. Faith had always thought that Puppy was nothing more than a weaker version of Angel, so after confusing him with Buffy's boyfriend, she had been sure that in any future encounter, Puppy would be easy to handle.

It was that why she never knew what hit her, as Puppy's fist connected with her face, throwing her to the floor, she tried to get on her feet, only to meet with Puppy's hand, grabbing her jacket, forcing her to stand before hitting her again, until her face was covered with her own blood, and she was barely conscious. He threw her to the floor, kicking her in the ribs, making her gasp for air.

He could have killed her. He wanted nothing more than kill her, the one who had almost killed Xander. No one could touch his master.

"No... stop..." Xander's voice was incredibly weak, only a whisper. But Puppy could hear it very clearly. He left Faith's bleeding form in the floor and kneeled at Xander's side. "Don't... kill her... you'll only feel worse... later..."

Xander choked the last words, blood coming out of his mouth. Puppy touched the mortal's face for a moment, scared to have arrived to late, but then he heard the soft, continuos rhythm that was Xander's heartbeat and felt relieved.

He couldn't loose more time. He went to Faith's limp body, getting the key to the shackles that kept Xander a prisoner. Then he freed the teenager, and, carefully carrying him in his arms, he took him to the nearest hospital.

* * *

Xander had to stay a week in the hospital, the first days barely conscious. He had four ribs broken, his left lung was punctured, he was suffering a severe head contusion, his left arm was broken and his left ankle was seriously twisted. And he had severe cuts all over his body, causing an incredible loss of blood.

In fact, according to the doctors, Xander would have never survived if Puppy hadn't got him to the hospital when he did.

Buffy and the rest of the gang went to visit him, but they never stayed long. A couple of minutes if Xander wasn't conscious and maybe half an hour if he was. Buffy looked very uncomfortable, but neither she or Xander brought up the subject of why Puppy had gone alone after Faith... No one thought of keep guard in Xander's room, in case that Faith decided to visit back, but luckily she didn't. And so, Xander spend his recovery time in the sterile room, with no get well cards or best wishes near him.

But he was not alone. Puppy never left his side by night, even when Xander never knew.

* * *

"I don't like this..." Buffy began, as she, Willow, Oz and Giles walked away from the hospital.

"What Faith did was pretty much extreme, yeah... " Willow nodded, but Buffy interrupted her before she could continue.

"I'm not talking about Faith. I'm talking about Xander and Puppy." The blonde Slayer was frowning, and the others knew it as a sign of anger in her. "I don't like the way Puppy fawns over Xander..."

Giles coughed, a little uncomfortable. "I'm sure you're overreacting, Buffy... Puppy doesn't..."

"He threatened to kill me if I touched Xander... and look at him, coming every night, looking at Xander with so much... hope!" Buffy yelled, looking at his friends. Willow cringed and hugged Oz's arm more tightly than before. "And Xander doesn't care in the least for him."

"We cannot be sure of that, Buffy..." Giles tried once again to say, worried about Buffy's actual pettiness.

"Yes... Xander has been very nice letting Puppy stay in his house, and lately Puppy has been less and less scared of me and everything..." Willow interrupted, trying to sound more cheerfully than she felt. "I'm going to prove him that Xander is only playing with him. " Buffy insisted, before running away from the group. "You'll see and tomorrow, Puppy will be living with Angel again!"

As the blonde girl disappeared in the distance, Oz shook his head. "I don't think that is such a great idea" he said, and Willow nodded. It wasn't a good idea at all.

Part 3

It was dark when Buffy came again, this time accompanied by the twin vampires, both dressed in the same clothes. She had took extra care on getting sure that there was nothing different between the two undead man.

As they entered the room, she held one of the Angels' hand, letting the other walk towards Xander's bed. The boy smiled to them, half sitting in his bed, his body held together by casts. Thankfully, the most notorious wounds had already healed, and now he was sitting with the help of some pillows.

Upon seeing his friends, Xander face brighten immediately. "Hi, guys!" He smiled, and propped himself up, nodding towards Angel, who was now sitting at the side of the bed. "Dead-boy, nice to see you. Angel... why are you staying in the door?"

There was a very uncomfortable silence following his words, and Xander looked from the Angel sitting at his side, and the Angel standing at Buffy's side... Buffy was looking at him with shock, while the Angels had a slight smile in their faces. "What? Did I mix them up? That could be easy, I mean... both are dressed with the same clothes..."

"No... you didn't mix us up, Xander." Angel said, smiling widely. Then he pulled out from his pocket the caddalagh ring that he had never stopped wearing, and put it on his finger, just to be sure that Buffy wouldn't confuse them later on. "Although no one would have blame you if you did."

"I knew you were not going to confuse us... you have never done it before." Puppy said as he walked closer, but his smile was now smaller. "I am sorry... This was all my fault."

"Don't say that, Angel..." Xander shook his head slowly, and the others could see that it hurt him to do so. "If you hadn't been there, I would be toast. You saved me."

There was another moment of silence, that was immediately interrupted by Buffy, who assured Xander that Faith would be dealt with soon. Then Angel told a little about what had been going on in the nights, at least the details that hadn't been provided by Willow or Giles, while Puppy only looked at Xander's frail form. He still couldn't take out of his mind the image of the bloodied body of his master, as Faith enjoyed the torture... And he would never forget the courage that Xander had showed that day.

A doctor came around midnight to tell them that, even if they were family, they should leave Xander alone, so he could rest. Buffy nodded, and practically dragged Puppy out of the room... She never noticed when Angel turned to ask Xander one last question.

"How did you knew who was who?" he asked, sure that Xander would understand that he meant he and Puppy.

Xander looked up at him, confusion playing a little in his brown deep eyes. "I dunno." The mortal said at last. "I just know that you're Deadboy and he's Angel... that's all."

* * *

Xander had to stay a week more after Buffy tried to show everyone that he didn't cared for Puppy's welfare, because the doctors wanted to be sure that his bones where healing correctly. The fact that Xander was the only one who could tell which Angel was which was never discussed in front of the Slayer, but it was a common subject among the Slayerettes. Even Cordelia admitted that Xander always noted small details in the relationships he had.

And although nor Xander nor Puppy knew of this, their friends thought of them more and more as in a relationship, even when there was no evidence of it being true.

Buffy never commented about it again, but became very insistent when it came to her relationship with Angel, expecting them to be together every minute of the night, making plans for patrol nights, for her few free days. And never once mentioned Xander's name unless it was in direct reference to Faith's misdemeanors.

And all the while, Puppy only waited, becoming a little solitary, even for Angel's standards. He rarely talked to the rest of the group, partly because he still blamed them for Xander's condition, partly because without Xander he felt out of place.

Every night, just before dawn, he returned to Xander's house, to sleep. And because Xander wasn't there, because he missed the presence of his beloved master, Puppy slept in Xander's bed, wishing for him to be back soon.

* * *

"Xander... can we talk?" Giles was incredibly early in the hospital, the day Xander was supposed to leave the building. They had planned that the Scooby Gang would be there to help Xander get home, so he had been waiting for them. But he had never expected to see the ex - Watcher two hours before the decided time.

"Sure, G-man... What's up?" He asked, curious. Giles had not been in all the visits that the others made, busy with his job and with trying to get Wesley out of his business.

"I have asked you not to call me that. " The ex - Watcher sit in the chair next to Xander's bed and took of his glasses. "And I just came here to ask you to be careful when you get back home."

The Watcher was not meeting Xander's eyes, something that puzzled the young man. "Don't worry, Giles. I won't be going to the Mayor's house to throw pebbles in Faith's window." Xander joked, and that made Giles look up, smiling a little. "I think after this we can be sure that she doesn't like me."

"I wasn't talking about Faith, Xander." The librarian breathed deeply before continuing. "I am very concerned about the... dependence... that Angel... Puppy... has developed towards you."

"Wha...? What are you talking about, Giles?" Xander asked, very surprised. He knew that Puppy was somewhat dependent on him, he still couldn't make the vampire understand that he could get his own food in the butcher's shop for instance, but he never once believed that the others in the group had noticed. "I... I thought ... Angel is doing very well on his own..."

"Xander... I am not sure of how to explain this to you, but I do not think that Puppy is really becoming more independent. I do not know what he suffered in his home dimension, but I can tell you that he did not fear your Vampire doppelganger as much as he... probably... loved him."

Xander grew pale as he remembered Puppy's half given kiss, his attempts to sleep in the same bed as Xander... and shook his head. Giles could not really mean what he meant. There was no way that someone could loved a monster like the one his vampiric double was. "But even so..." he begun, knowing that he really didn't had any proof that showed the librarian how wrong he was "... Angel knows that I am not the vampire that tortured him... Why would I be careful?"

The ex - Watcher shook his head and looked directly at Xander's eyes. "If I am right, Xander... and I really hope I'm not... when Puppy realizes that he is absolutely safe in this reality, he might start missing his... owner..." Giles said that word very fast, as if he felt really uncomfortable with it. "...And then he might try to get him back..."

"Get him... but..." Xander's eyes opened wide, as he remembered the way in which Puppy had attacked him the first day, trying to bite him. Could that really have been that... that the souled, tortured vampire wanted to be in the company of the cruel, sadistic being that Xander Vampire had been? "... No... No Giles... you're mistaken."

"I wish I were Xander. But until we can be sure... never let your guard lower."

"I'll carry a stake with me all the time, if that makes you feel better." Xander looked at Giles, slightly annoyed. He really didn't wanted to know that Puppy was probably addicted to a soulless bastard.

* * *

That night, as Xander was trying to sleep for the first time in his own bed, he risked a glance at Puppy. The vampire was sleeping in the floor, ignoring the warmth of the bed that they had carried into the room for him.

Apparently, he still blamed himself for the attack on Xander.

"Angel... It wasn't your fault. You saved me." The mortal said, and Angel immediately looked up. Obviously he wasn't asleep. It was too early for him. Then Xander seemed to consider something else, and he moved to one side, carefully avoiding to lean in his hurt side. "And... I never thanked you for not killing Faith..."

"I wouldn't have suffered for her death." Puppy said, flatly. It was true. He felt grief for every death he had caused, for every act that he had done in 250 years. But when it came to the woman who had hurt Xander so much... he had been close to feel joy. "... She deserves to die."

Xander winced. He had never heard such a cold statement from Angel's lips... not from this Angel, not from Buffy's boyfriend... Not even from Angelus, who spoke with glee when it came to blood-related subjects. "No one deserves to die, Angel... Not here at least." Then he forced himself to smile, and looked at the vampire again. "Come here... you can't sleep in the floor."

The hopeful smile that shone in Puppy's face made Xander feel mixed emotions. For one side, he felt happy and relieved that he had been able to do something to make the vampire smile... and then he felt shame. Shame for not being able to give Puppy the same love that the vampire gave him. Fear for knowing that Giles had been right... and something else, something so deep in his heart that he couldn't recognize it. But he kept smiling as Puppy climbed over the covers, putting his head on the extra pillow that Xander used.

"Thank you, master." Puppy whispered, before closing his eyes, a peaceful smile in his face. The happiness that filled those words brought a tear to Xander's eyes... and when the teenager felt sure that the vampire was asleep, he covered the cold form with his own covers, hugging the still form before turning to the other side.

"I know this won't help, Angel..." he whispered, all to sure that the vampire wasn't hearing him. "... but I'm sorry for all the suffering I caused to you in that other reality... I would never have done that to you..." Then he lowered his voice even more, so much that he himself hardly heard it. "... I love you..."

Then he closed his eyes, and fell asleep. He never noticed the smile that grew in Puppy's face. The vampire had heard every single word.

And for the first time since he had discovered he loved the teenager vampire that had took care of him in the master realm, Puppy was truly and completely filled with happiness.

The End