Disclaimer: Joss said I could play with his toys.  Not mine, no money, etc.

The Demon Inside

Sunnydale was not where he wanted to be… except Angel wasn’t sure that he actually wanted to be anywhere else.

Buffy was here, and she was the reason for everything he did, for everything he was.  She was why he’d left, and why he wanted nothing more than to come back.  But she wasn’t the reason he was back now.

However, she was why he was wandering around, cemetery to cemetery, instead of getting the information he wanted from Willy; he didn’t want word to get around to her that he was back, no matter how briefly.

He wasn’t quite sure where it came from, but he’d gotten the sense of something being not quite right.  Somehow he’d managed to ignore it for a couple of days, but even Cordelia had noticed how… twitchy he was and had ordered him to figure out what was going on.

That jumpy feeling had only gotten stronger the closer Angel had gotten to Sunnydale, but even so, it never came clear just what was wrong.  He was almost certain now that it had to do with his Childer, and the very thought of them – his… no, Angelus’s beautiful, deadly creations – made his soul writhe with shame made his demon stir restlessly with the need to protect them.

The only sound he could hear was that of his own footsteps following him; there were no fledglings stirring, no demons lurking.  Everywhere he went, the tang of metal and gun oil filled his nose.  Something is not right, he thought, and frowned heavily.

Dwelling on what was going on in Sunnydale was preferable to trying to figure out how he felt about something happening to his Childer.

Even so, he was not fully distracted from his thoughts until he caught a whiff that he knew woven through the ones that were so out of place.  He’d spent so many hours in Buffy’s company with her friends that he could distinguish their scents as easily as hers.

It was Xander.  And Buffy was nowhere around.  Which means she has no idea he’s out here, Angel thought, increasing his pace.  Why is he out in the cemetery at night alone?

It was then that he noticed that it wasn’t just Xander’s scent he was following; it was combined with another that, while he didn’t recognize it, put him in the mind of something demonic.  Great, he groaned, he’s gotten kidnapped…

The trail freshened, and he slowed a little, not wanting to announce his presence to the demon – demons? – that had taken Xander.  Just follow them, he told himself, and slipped through the shadows as silently as if he were one himself.  If you get a chance, kidnap him back…

He stopped then, because he saw Xander and his… captor…

Saw Xander, standing alone amid the headstones, quite alone, but with that faint odor of demon still floating around him.

Cautiously – just because he couldn’t quite feel there were other demons around didn’t mean they weren’t there – he moved forward.  “Xander?” he called softly.  “Are you all right?”

As soon as he’d spoken, Xander’s whole body went rigid, every muscle tightening.  An instant later, he turned around, moving as fast as a vampire would, and Angel took a step back in spite of himself.

Xander’s eyes glowed a sickly green, bright and eerie in the darkness.

“What are you doing here?” The voice was Xander’s but layered, with an echo of something deeper.

Demon possession, Angel thought, shocked.  How did this happen?  Does Buffy know? He took a slow step forward.  “I know you’re there, demon,” he said, infusing his tone with quiet menace.  “You shouldn’t have possessed one of the Slayer’s friends.  You’ll be out on your incorporeal…”

“Oh, shut up, Dead Boy.  You don’t scare me.”  This time it was just Xander, without any demonic inflection.  He sounded weary, and his eyes had lost their glow.

“You know, I remember asking you before to not call me that,” Angel said, then he paused, thinking about what he’d just said.  It wasn’t unusual for a possessor to access the host’s memories at that personal level, and he’d reacted to Xander’s words as if it were Xander who had spoken.  Just Xander, no demon.

What was strange was the way that his eyes were no longer gleaming, the way that Xander’s scent was no longer so mingled with that of the demon.  In fact, that smell of demon, of other, had faded even as the glow had, and now was little more than a faint tickle of aroma, as if the demon had passed through and disappeared.

“I can hear the rusty wheels turning from here.”  Xander was eyeing him from his seat on a nearby headstone.  “Before you strain your dinky little brain, blood-breath, here’s the deal.  You get the hell out of Dodge and I won’t tell Buffy you were here.”  He slapped his hands against his thighs and stood up.  “So that’s settled.  I wish I could say it’s great to see you again, but it hasn’t, and I certainly won’t be looking forward to seeing you the next time.”  He began to walk away, one hand raised in a cavalier wave.

Suddenly furious – how dare this little whelp dismiss him so casually! – Angel leapt forward with every bit of vampiric speed he had, and clamped a hand around Xander’s arm.  “You wait, boy,” he growled.  “We are going to go see Giles and get to the bottom of this.  I don’t care if Buffy knows I’m here…”

“No, we are not,” and Xander pulled away from him, not easily, but he managed.  His eyes were lit from within and his voice echoed once more.  “This isn’t any of your business, and I, for one, do care if Buffy finds out you’re here, because I don’t want to see her that upset.  You don’t even know how much you leaving hurt her, do you?  Or maybe you just don’t care.”  The demon veneer dropped away again.  “Just leave, Angel, all right?”

“No!”  Angel tried to take hold of him again, angered by his words.  I do care about Buffy, he wanted to say, I just don’t want to hurt her any more than I already have…

You used to care about your Childer, too, a voice taunted from within.  It incensed him into making another grab for the boy.

Xander sprang away.  “Look, Brood Boy, if you stay, you could be in danger, and I really, really don’t want to have to tell Buffy I saw you.”

That gave Angel pause.  “What?”

Xander stayed just out of reach.  “You noticed how many vamps and other baddies are out tonight, right?  Well, it’s been like that for a few weeks – they’re all disappearing almost as soon as they raise their ugly heads… and it’s not Buffy doing it.  So if she knew that whatever is doing this got its hooks into you, she’d want to rescue you… and she can’t go up against something that’s taking down all these vamps.  Get me now?”

Ah, guilt.  Harris had him pegged, damn it.  He clenched his fists.  “You… how can you know anything about this?”

Xander let loose a wild laugh.  “Other demons, how else?” he replied with a sneer.  “They sense the demon inside, and they talk.  They also said something about how an old vamp in black leather got captured the other day.  He had really blond hair... sound like anyone you know?”

And with that, the boy was off, running, giggling as he did.  Angel just stood there stunned.

He’d been right; the feeling of… distress had been one of his – Angelus’s – Childer.  It’s Spike.  Captured… by some kind of military operation, he realized, if the smell of guns is anything to go by.

His soul urged him to leave Spike – unrepentant, soulless, evil – to whatever fate was in store for him.  The demon within him clamored that his family needed to be rescued, to spill a river of blood in his name if necessary.

And Xander is a demon.  He shook his head, trying to deny the truth.  There’s got to be something else going on here.

Confused, enraged, Angel strode out of the cemetery, taking the same path Xander had by the simple expedient of following his scent.

He wanted answers, and the boy was going to give them to him.

No matter what.

January 31, 2009
© randi (K. Shepard), 2009