Disclaimer: It all belongs to Joss.  Not mine, no money, etc.


Xander shut the door behind him with a sense of real relief.  He knew Angel was following him, and not for the first time, he was glad that he had never given the vampire an invitation to his house.

But he knew Angel was going to try.

Well, this sucks, he thought, and couldn’t stifle a giggle.  He slumped back against the door, letting his head fall against it with a soft thud, and waited for the shouting to commence.

It didn’t take long.

“Xander!” Angel’s voice carried easily through the door, and the way he pounded on it, Xander thought for sure that would be several difficult-to-explain dents in the morning.  Too bad it isn’t wood, ‘cause at least then I could stake him with it, he thought, then felt a little guilty for it.  Buffy still loved him, God knew why, and he didn’t want to see her all broken up about him dying.  Again.

“Open the door, Xander,” Angel threatened, adding another few powerful thumps for good measure, hard enough that the door shuddered in its frame.  “I know you’re there, boy.  You are going to tell me what the hell is going on.”

“No, I’m really not, Dead Boy,” Xander called.  It didn’t matter if he and Angel had a screaming match through the door or not; both of his parents were usually out cold by this time of night.  “You don’t have any right to know.  You stopped with the right-having when you left, so just get back in the Angel-mobile and go on back to LA.  That’s where you wanted to be, after all.”

There was a heavy silence through the door, but Xander didn’t for a moment believe that the vampire had left.  He let the spirit come up, and everything came into sharp focus in the darkness.  Colors bled out to grey, scents became overwhelmingly strong, and the softest sounds were magnified.

He could hear Angel outside, shifting his feet, could smell him – blood, death, unnatural – and he had to fight to put the brakes on what the hyena inside wanted to do.

Predator, it growled.  Scavenger.  Pack.

No way, Xander thought, as forcefully as he could.  No way is Angel part of the pack!

The hyena had been dormant since the “exorcism” at the zoo.  It had stirred some now and again, usually when his emotions were high, as if the anger or fear or lust or… whatever called to the spirit and tried to rouse it.  But everyone had thought that it was gone, including him.  He still wasn’t quite sure why it wasn’t… unless it was because he’d been the alpha of their little pack, that he’d bonded with it more than the others had.

When he’d had sex with Faith, though, it had fully woken up and practically scared the life out of him.  It had taken all his strength and every bit of persuasion he could muster to convince it not to turn the tables on the Slayer, because its first plan had been to flip her over and pound her through that thin grungy mattress, to crush her windpipe with his bare hands.  See how you like it, bitch…

But listen it had, mostly because he’d been able to tell it that it was still part of a pack.  The pack was small, yes, but it was a pack, and if it wanted to still be part of the pack, it had to listen to him.

It didn’t want to listen.

It chafed against all his restrictions – don’t do this, behave, control – each time more strongly, and Xander had taken to going out at night after Buffy had patrolled, just to give the beast a chance to roam free and prove its strength against other demons.

That was something it liked to do, even if he had to apply a little bit of pressure to get it to behave.  There were some demons it wanted to bully – like this complete loser of a demon with baggy saggy skin – and he really had to rein it back then.  For the most part, though, things were going well. 

Things had been going pretty well.  But now Angel was here.  Angel thought he was possessed.  Angel wanted to know what was going on.  And Xander knew that if he didn’t tell Angel something, the vampire would go to Giles and tell him that Xander was possessed.

Neither he nor the hyena wanted that.  He wanted to keep the hyena.  With it, he was stronger, faster – nearly as strong and fast as a vampire, though he was still far short of Buffy’s league.

Stupid Dead Boy, Xander thought, waiting for Angel to come up with his next move.  It’s all your fault.  If you hadn’t come back…

That was just it, though.  That vampire connection that somehow still existed between Spike and Angel – and probably crazy-vamp, now that I think of it – was what was responsible for Angel’s currently annoying presence outside his door.  So that made it Spike’s fault.  Xander suddenly felt a bit more cheerful.  Too bad he couldn’t tell Buffy that whatever was going on was all Spike’s fault.  It’d be the one thing certain to get him the dusty ending he deserved.

“Last chance, demon,” Angel growled, and Xander wondered a little how the vamp knew he’d loosed the hyena.  “Come along peacefully, or I’ll have to hurt you.”

“Oh, threats,” and he wasn’t quite sure if that laughing, teasing tone was his or the hyena’s.  “I knew you’d show your true colors eventually!  If you hurt me, Angel, Buffy is so gonna get told.  Maybe you’ll end up in a dust buster after all.  Oh, what a happy day that would be!”  He sighed, loudly and dramatically. 

After a few moments, he noticed there was silence outside.  He couldn’t smell those vampire-y smells so intensely anymore – old blood lingering, old meat and bones – so it was possible that Angel had left.

Xander sighed and pushed the hyena back down.  I should check to make sure he’s really gone, he thought.  Then I suppose I gotta call Giles, and make with the warning.  The G-man is so not going to be happy to be woken up this time of night…

He opened the door, just a crack, to peek out.  Angel wasn’t on the stoop, but he had determined that already.  He opened it a little further, because he couldn’t really see down the street at this angle.  Nothing.  No vampire striding away in his long leather coat.  Maybe he went the other way…

He hesitated a long moment; the only way he could really make sure that Angel was really gone was by going outside and leaving the protection of the mystical barrier.  Fine, he decided at last.  I’m just about as fast as he is, so if he’s really not there, I can just jump back inside… With that, he took one cautious step outside.  Just gonna take a quick look and then call Giles…

Within seconds of stepping out, Angel landed on top of him, tackling him off the stoop.  He hit the ground hard, and the impact – and the not-negligible weight of the vampire on top of him – knocked the wind out of him.

The hyena surged up, seizing control, shocking him with its ferocity.  He/they snarled, twisting around, snapping over his shoulder.  “Back off, vampire,” and whoa, was that his voice? “This is none of your concern!”

“And now I know you’re possessed,” Angel said, a little smugly, and managed to grab both arms to bring them behind him.  “That is not anything the Xander Harris I know would say.”

“I’m not the Xander Harris you used to know!”  He/they thrashed, trying to buck the vampire off, to get away.  But Angel’s position was too strong, and the hyena couldn’t get the leverage to buck him off.  As soon as the stiff leather of Angel’s belt touched his wrists, the hyena disappeared, and it was just him, panting in the scent of crushed grass and dirt, with Angel’s knee in his back.

“No, you’re not,” Angel muttered, and hauled him to his feet.  “That’s why I’m taking you to Giles, so he can get to the bottom of this.”

“Bastard.” Xander spat out some grass, right onto the vampire’s leather coat, and just for a second, that was satisfying.

Angel didn’t even seem to notice, and started dragging him down the street, one big hand wrapped around his arm.

And with the hyena not willing to come out again, Xander could do nothing but let himself be pulled along.

February 28, 2009
© randi (K. Shepard), 2009