Title: Thy Human Sire
Disclaimer: The boys don't belong to me... and they never will. Saddly.
Summary: Xander is changing and no one knows why. Separating himself from the Scoobies and trying to find out who he really is he finds something that he never would have expected...
Note: I want to say a big, a really big thank you to whichclothes who helped me as my muse and my beta! And thanks to warpedminded for creating the banner!
Previous chapters here!
“What do we have?” Xander heard Angel ask when he and Spike finally descended the stairs.
“Well,” Wesley said carefully removing a book from Gunn's hold. It was an old leather-bound volume and it looked like it would dust at any moment.
“There is the usual case of fledges which are haunting the old factory south from here.” The young man looked up and caught Xander's eyes. A soft blush covered his cheeks and a sad gaze drifted to the clasped hands between Xander and Spike.
“I'll take care of those, together with Cordy, if she wants to,” Gunn grinned and moved to the side glancing behind himself where the former cheerleader stood tapping her fingernails onto the table surface.
“Dusting vampires and the risk of ruining my clothes?” A doubtful look appeared on her face.
“Well, Charles, if you're paying for the clothes I would love to help you!” The truly evil smile on her face sent a shiver over every man's spine and Gunn started fidgeting.
“Eh, well, then I guess I have to go alone since my pay-check isn't that high and I need it,” he mumbled not looking at Cordelia or Angel.
“Well, not only your check is way too small,” Cordy nodded and threw a nasty glance at the head of Angel Investigations who had the decency to look a little bit ashamed.
Xander laughed lightly and tugged Spike to follow him. Wesley and Gunn stared silently at them while Angel did a double-take and Cordy started grinning.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Angel growled. Spike winced almost imperceptibly; just Xander noticed and tightened his grip on the hand he was holding.
“That is none of your concern, Angel,” he said and tugged his vampire with him when he walked over to the sofa and sat down. The blond sat next to him – closer than would be inconspicuous. Spike was trembling softly and stared at the floor. Xander frowned a little. His vampire was still not back to his old self. His emotions were still wreaking havoc and his thoughts were going in circles. The blond still looked way too vulnerable and Xander's protective streak came back full force. He stared at Angel and didn't lower his gaze until the older vampire submitted.
“Sorry,” came the mumbled apology. Xander nodded and returned his eyes back to Wesley.
“Okay, Wes,” he smiled softly at the former Watcher.
“What do we have? Besides the fledges, that is?” Wesley cleared his throat and carded his hand through his hair nervously while Gunn walked over until he stood next to Cordy who sat perched on the edge of the desk.
If someone would have looked into the room – someone who didn't know that Angel was the head of AI – could have gotten the impression that Xander was the leader. He was sitting relaxed and confident next to his handsome blond vampire while the other members – the original group – stood around them in a half circle looking at the other two.
“Well,” Wesley started again.
“There are a few ghouls running through the central cemetery. Nothing major as it would seem but reports are telling of them acting in a kind of organized fashion. They are known for attacking and hunting alone not for forming a group and hunting together.”
Xander nodded thoughtfully.
“It appears that there is a stronger power hiding behind those minions,” he concluded and Wesley nodded.
“Yes, I concur that. It would have to be a really strong power. Not because ghouls are strong minded but because they are too dumb to understand anything other than fear and hate.”
“How can we defeat them all at once?” asked Angel and walked over to look at a picture inside the book Wesley was holding. Unconsciously, or so it seemed, he walked over to him behind Cordy and Gunn making as little noise as possible.
“Fire is the most effective method if you want to kill many of them. Beheading is very effective, too, but not if you want to destroy many of them,” Spike offered quietly still not looking up.
“Yeah,” Wesley confirmed closing the book before Angel could look into it. Angel frowned but kept silent. Gunn and Cordy were already packing stakes into the back of their pants and taking a crossbow each.
“Okay, then,” Xander said and stood up. Spike followed a second behind.
“Cordy, Gunn – you two are able to take care of those fledges, right?” Both nodded and the evil grin reappeared on Cordelia's face. Xander answered with one of his own that caused both sets of eyes to widen.
“Then I will take our resident vampires and barbecue a few ghouls. Wesley, would you stay here and take in the calls and give us some notice if there are any other unusual occurrences?” The young Watcher nodded blushing lightly.
“What the hell is going on here? Since when does Harris tell us what to do?” Angel asked, confused and frustrated at the same time. He looked a little lost standing next to the table while Cordy and Gunn were heading out and Wesley was busy walking towards the makeshift library. Spike remained silent while Xander started laughing.
“Hey, Angel,” he grinned.
“I just thought we could cut the whole discussion short so that we could go out and fight. I don't have the intention to take over your business so keep it cool, okay?” His voice was even but the steel underneath it couldn't be missed. The older vampire stared at him, surprise clearly written on his face. When he didn't answer Xander shrugged and went over to the weapons lying out, taking a collection of knives which he placed in his belt and boots. Then he grabbed an axe and leisurely traced the blade with this thumb. He felt great, confident and strong. The exact opposite of how he usually felt. The thrill of the upcoming fight sending waves of adrenaline through his veins and making him shiver with anticipation.
“If you have no intention to take over then why are you acting like you already did?” Angel's voice wasn't angry just confused and when Xander turned around he could see the older vampire standing uncomfortably next to Spike who had readied himself with weapons as well. The young man sighed and then shrugged.
“You can still say what you have to say, Angel,” he said calmly.
“I’d go and try to kill those ghouls before I answer, though. It would be a good thing to end this menace before we discuss anything else, now, wouldn't it?” Xander jumped a bit at the authority that resonated in his voice and he was a little spooked when Angel snapped his mouth shut and went to grab some weapons.
'Okay,' he thought.
'What the hell is going on? No one ever listened to me much less did as I said. So why are they doing it now? More important what did I say that made Angel shut up?' Xander's other concern was that he wondered when he had started calling the older vampire by his name let alone doing so in his mind. The only explanation he had so far was the he was growing up after all and name calling was something from the past.
'It's just like with Spike,' he tried to reason with himself. Shaking his head he took the axe and headed for the door. Both vampires followed him outside. There he took a moment to gather his thoughts again.
“Okay, Angel,” Xander straightened his shoulders and like a snug coat the confidence settled around him.
“You are familiar with the streets of LA. Where is the central cemetery?” Angel looked at him again. The disbelief in his dark eyes deepened but the respect he couldn't hide from the mortal's gaze grew at the same pace.
“It will take us about fifteen minutes when we take the car,” he answered pulling out the car keys. Xander nodded and followed Angel who led them to the garage where a bunch of cars were waiting to be taken out. Since most of the cars were of the sporty kind with only two seats they took the SUV which stood in the back of the garage. Spike climbed into the back without arguing, leaving it to Xander take the seat next to Angel. They pulled out onto the street and melted into the nightly traffic of Los Angeles. Neither of them spoke and the silence grew heavy enough to be cut with a knife. Angel stared out of the windshield while Xander watched him out of the corner of his eyes. The strong jaw was working tightening and relaxing again like he wanted to say something but was preventing himself from it. The silent chest was currently heaving with unneeded breathing and the rather large hands gripped the steering wheel like a vice. His knuckles were white from the force and Xander was sure that there would be dents left when Angel could pry his hands off again.
Sighing soundlessly he played with the axe in his hand.
“Tell me what has you so riled up, Angel,” he ordered quietly trying to test this new found confidence and – the really unusual – authority he seemed to have gained. The other vampire remained silent for a few more minutes while they were trying to get through the still rather heavy traffic. The young man smiled when he saw the people rushing over the sidewalks gathering in front of clubs and bars trying to get in – with original or fake ID's. It was much easier to get into the clubs here than it was in Sunnydale with the town being so small that the bouncer – if there were any – or the bartenders had memorized the faces of the youngsters and could pretty much tell to the point who was of age and who was not. Here you just walked to the next club and tried again.
'I wonder if Angel and the others go to those clubs as well. At least once in a while.'
“I don't really know what it is,” he then started and immediately Xander's attention snapped back to Angel. He hadn't really expected an answer but was pleased to get one.
'Maybe it wasn't my imagination then,' he thought and waited for the vampire to go on. While he was focusing on Angel he never lost his concentration on Spike. His senses were tuned on the movement the blond made. Every little sound was recorded and filed away in his mind.
“I guess, I'm just surprised that you have grown so much since the last time I saw you,” the words were slow, hesitant as if the vampire had to taste them to see if they were the right ones.
“The 'Xander Harris' I got to know and remember was loud, obnoxious and downright nasty sometimes. I...” He broke of quieting again but Xander knew what he meant and the memories weren't nice.
“I hurt you,” he said softly and moved as to look at Spike since he couldn't see him through the mirror. The blond vampire looked back at him. Blue eyes shining with understanding. He knew that it was important for his human friend to sort things out and he kept himself quiet for that. A soft smile appeared on Xander's lips when he reached out and squeezed Spike's hand thankfully. When he turned back he caught the look of painful longing on Angel's face. It was only a second but it was enough to start the tingling in his mind again.
'I'll ask Wes later,' he promised himself returning his attention again. The mask of calm indifference had settled back onto the handsome face of Spike's Sire.
'Handsome? Where did that come from?' But the thought remained unanswered. Instead he took a deep breath and listened to Angel again.
“No, you didn't,” came the expected reply. Even though his voice was calm and somewhat light Xander wasn't a fool and picked the sad undertone up easily.
“Be honest with me, Angel!” he ordered and he could hear the hard edge in his own voice. But the other one remained silent.
“You can be honest with him, Sire,” came Spike's voice form the back-seat and Xander smiled. When Angel only growled he felt an answering growl rise in his own chest.
“For Christ's sake, Angel, I thought we covered that base last night!” Xander hissed and looked at the dark vampire.
“You said it yourself, I have grown up. I can handle anything you throw at me. Insults and threats included. So please, be honest with me here, okay?” A hand reached him and settled on his shoulder. Instantly Xander relaxed and placed his own hand over Spike's. Angel's growl subsided slowly and he slumped in his seat.
“You want to know the truth, okay, yes you hurt me. More than once but I know that I deserved most of it.” Quiet defeat. Something Xander had never thought he would hear in the proud vampire's voice. Angel slowed down a bit and steered the car into another street.
“You may deserve many things but certainly not all of the things I said to you. I was a stupid boy at that time. Trying to impress a girl, that I knew I had never a chance with. It's no excuse but maybe an explanation. I told Spike, when we got to know each other and I tell you now. I don't hold anything from the past against you. Not anymore. Those things passed and even though they won't be forgotten they will remain unmentioned. I want a clean slate. A fresh start if you will. I don't expect us to become friends, like Spike and I did, but I think we can at least become equals to some degree with one respecting the other.” Xander didn't look at Angel and stared out of the window and into the night which was enlightened by the different signs indicating the still very active life going on in LA.
“How do I know that I can trust you?” Angel asked softly. The defeat was still there, nearly concealed but still there. But there was something else – underlying hope and the longing that Xander had seen in his face just moments ago.
“You don't know and there is only one way to get to know for sure,” the young man answered.
“I have to prove myself trustworthy to you. And I will, if you let me.” The last words were a barely covered plea. Spike squeezed his shoulder in silent comfort and support. Angel nibbled on his lip and threw him a look that spoke volumes. The doubt was there, as was the fear to be hurt and betrayed again. Xander turned his head and met his eyes without blinking. He forced his own mask down and let everything show in his eyes. His own hurt, fear, doubt and the ever burning hope. The soft tingling had subsided again. When Angel's expression softened a smile crept over Xander's lips. It was then when he noticed that they weren't moving anymore.
Getting out of the car all three men grabbed their weapons and headed towards the heavy but rusty iron gate that separated the graveyard from the rest of the city. Xander took a look around. It was eerily quiet. In the back he could hear the buzzing from the busy street they had left behind but the area they were in now was as dead as the graveyard should be. Taking another look around he noticed that people who were walking into their direction stopped when they reached the end of the block nearest to the graveyard. They stood there for a few moments before turning around again and heading back a confused look on their faces.
“Guys, I don't know what it is, but it uses magic,” Xander said quietly his eyes still roaming around taking in everything unusual.
“Great, bloody mojo,” Spike grumbled and gripped his own axe a little tighter even though it wouldn't be really useful if they had to fight against magic.
“We should take a look around first,” Angel thought aloud.
“If it is magic we might have to leave it for tonight and come back when we know more about it and how it can be either broken or reversed.” his face showed that he didn't like that idea one bit.
“Tara could help us, if we need a witch,” Xander provided and he liked his idea. Spike nodded silently.
“Why not Willow?” asked Angel and he tried to make it in a casual by-the-way manner but he didn't get it right. Xander just shook his head and focused on the gate again.
“I'll tell you later, Angel. Now we have to examine this cemetery and then we can talk – all of us!” Again his voice got that steely calm that he had recognized as the one he had used back at the Hyperion. Both vampires nodded silently.
Tightening his grip on the axe one last time Xander moved towards the gate with both vampires following behind.