Chapter Sixteen: Starving Shadows
Summary: The facts of life get explained to Angel
Doyle scowled into the bare cupboards, trying to conjure food by glare alone. Slamming the door he moved over to the fridge and peeked inside, noticing the distinct lack of food. Growling, he closed the door and went searching for his husband. They needed food.
“Angel,” he said, tapping the taller man on the shoulder. “We’ve got a bit of an issue.”
“Something’s wrong?” the vampire asked, glancing down in worry. “Is it a demon?”
“Only the one growling in my stomach,” Doyle answered. “We have no food.”
“Oh,” Angel blinked.
“I need money to go get food,” Doyle said slowly. “You have the money.”
“Oh, yeah,” he laughed sheepishly. “Hold on.”
Doyle shook his head as his husband walked away, wondering if the latest demon had hit the vampire just a little too hard. Sighing, he walked over to where the trio were curled up together, watching some old movie. He smiled at the peaceful look on Xander’s face, happy that the boy was finally comfortable. They had been living in the hotel for three weeks and it had taken almost the whole time for the young man to relax.
“Heading out to the grocery store,” the seer said in greeting. “Anyone want to come with me?”
“Sure, we’ll come,” Spike said, pushing Xander up. “‘Sides, I need some. Weetabix™.”
Doyle looked at the blonde for a second before shaking his head. He really didn’t want to know what the vampire wanted cereal for, really he didn’t. They grabbed their stuff and waited patiently for Angel to come back, wondering what was taking the dark vampire so long.
“Sorry,” Angel apologized as he came down the stairs. “I didn’t know how much you’d need.”
Spike snorted, Xander shook his head and Dru giggled as Angel shoved a handful of cash at the stunned Doyle. The seer took the money gingerly, blinking down at the wad of money he held. There had to be almost a thousand there, definitely more than they needed.
“I think Peaches should come with us,” Spike said suddenly, a grin on his face. “Give him an understanding of buying food.”
“Yeah,” Doyle answered absently. “That might be a good idea.”
Angel protested as they pulled him out to the car and headed for the all night Wal-Mart. It was obvious that the vampire hadn’t bought food in recent history, but he would learn.
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There were certain things in the world that Angel was not prepared to deal with. After half an hour in the store, he decided that Wal-Mart was definitely one of them. As soon as they had entered the doors, the others had split up. Spike dragging Xander to the toy section, Dru heading off for parts unknown and Doyle going to the food section. Angel followed behind his husband, absurdly frightened by the bright lights and brighter displays scattered around the store. He watched in awe as the smaller man shopped, grabbing things seemingly at random and throwing them in the cart.
“Do we really need three loaves of bread?” he asked as Doyle kept filling the cart.
“Yes,” the seer said patiently. “We actually go through a lot of bread during the week.”
“Why don’t you go find Dru,” Doyle sighed. “I’ll finish up here and then come and get you.”
“All right,” Angel nodded, happy to find something else to do.
He walked through the store searching for his wayward childe. A while later he finally found her in the children’s section, talking very seriously to a bunch of balloons. He listened as she asked them questions and waited patiently for the answers.
“What are you doing Dru?” he asked, coming to stand beside her.
“Talking to my new friends,” she smiled. “Aren’t they pretty?”
Angel nodded and looked around for any help in dealing with the demented seeress. He sighed with relief when he noticed Spike and Xander up the aisle, their arms loaded down with toys. He caught Spike’s eye and gestured the younger vampire over.
“Hey Dru,” the blonde said, shoving the items in his arms at Angel. “What do we have here?”
“I made some new friends,” Dru giggled. “Can we take them home with us?”
“Sure, I don’t see why not,” blue eyes met brown and Angel glanced away from the fierce look in Spike’s eyes. “All of them or any particular one?”
“All of them,” Dru clapped.
“Okay then.” Spike untied the balloons and handed them over, making sure that Dru had a firm grasp on the strings. “Let’s go find Doyle and get out of here.”
“Good idea,” Angel muttered as he followed along behind them, wondering when he had lost control over everything.
“Doyle, come see my new friends,” Dru shouted when she spotted the seer.
The half-demon smiled at her. “They’re very nice.”
“But they’re afraid,” she pouted. “They think that they’re gonna be pulled down and fall.”
“Barophobia,” Doyle said.
“What?” “Huh?” Spike and Angel both stared at him.
“Barophobia. It’s a fear of gravity,” the seer explained.
“That’s a fucked up fear,” Spike laughed. “How’d you know that anyway?”
“I used to be a teacher,” Doyle shrugged. “Learned a lot of odd things.”
“A teacher, eh?” Spike eyed him seriously. “I might just have a job for you.”
Chapter Seventeen: Dreaming Shadows
Summary: Presents and Dreams
Note: Time jump in this chapter. It’s just over a year later.
Xander smiled as the candle-laden cake was set before him. Taking a deep breath, he made a wish and blew out the flickering lights, laughing silently at Dru’s clap and giggle. Doyle pulled the cake away and Spike placed the first gaudily wrapped box in front of him. Excited, Xander ripped the paper off and carefully opened the box, his mouth dropping open in shock at the contents.
“We’ll teach you to use them,” Spike said as Xander turned pleading eyes on him. “You’ll be training with me and Angel with them.”
Xander ran a careful finger over the dagger set, noting the protection runes etched into the silver blades. He pouted as the daggers were removed and another present set in their place. He opened this box and stared in glee. Inside was a leather duster, just like Spike’s. Lifting it out of the box, he stood and slipped into it, smiling at the feel. It didn’t carry the same feeling of safety and comfort that he got when he wore Spike’s, but it had it’s own comfort. He lifted questioning eyes, glancing at everyone.
“The old man got it for you,” Spike drawled, loving the look of shock on his boy’s face and the embarrassment on his Sire’s.
Turning, Xander met Angel’s sheepish gaze and moved closer to the older vampire, wrapping him in an unexpected hug. Angel patted the boy’s back for a moment and then hugged the boy back when he realized Xander wasn’t letting go. Finally, Xander released him and stepped back to the table, leaving the confused vampire to stand by himself. Both Doyle and Spike snickered at the flummoxed look on Angel’s face while Dru handed Xander his next gift.
Once the latest gift was opened, Xander clapped his hands in glee at the assortment of video games that filled the box. He knew without a doubt that they were from Spike and he graced the blonde with a brilliant smile. Opening the next gift, he mock frowned at the books. He had grown an appreciation for the written word under Doyle’s tutelage.
“We can start on these later,” Doyle told him. “I noticed Spike sparked an interest in Shakespeare. That’s his completed works.”
Xander reached up and hugged him, giggling silently at the wave of red that crept over his teacher’s face.
“I’ll help you read them,” Spike offered. “Be just like hearing it straight from the dead guys mouth.”
Xander and Doyle paused and looked at each other, strange expressions on their faces. Turning together, they each bestowed Spike with his trademark ‘raised eyebrow’, wicked grins stretching their lips. It took Spike a second to realized what was amusing them before his statement hit him.
“Ha ha,” he said sarcastically. “Ain’t it time for cake.”
The humour of his words was forgotten in favour of the cake and they all sat down to enjoy the treat. The cake was finished quickly and they cleaned up before heading off their separate ways for the day. Doyle dragged Angel upstairs, muttering something about rewarding sentimental fools. Dru headed toward the kitchen, talking to Miss Edith about having a tea party. Spike led the sleepy young man up the stairs to their suite, helping the boy strip down and tucking him in.
“Happy birthday, Xan,” he whispered, leaning down to brush as chaste kiss over the sleeping man’s lips. “Welcome to the adult world.”
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He could hear screaming, hoarse and uncontrolled, full of fear and fury. After a startled second he realized that he was the one screaming. The shock of hearing his own voice silenced him and brought the world into focus. The scene around him made him lean over and retch.
The hotel lay in ruins around him and the streets surrounding were on fire. Afraid, he began to search the wreckage for his family, sobbing when he found Miss Edith laying in a pile of ashes. There were two more piles not far from the first and a short distance away a bloody, broken body lay almost unrecognizable. Tears skewing his vision, he reached out and touched one of the arms, snatching his hand back at the sensation of cold skin.
From the shadows laughter came, chilling him deeply. He looked around but his sight couldn’t penetrate the darkness and the laughter rose in volume, echoing wildly around the rumble.
“Just say yes,” a voice whispered from nowhere. “Say yes and this will all remain a dream. Just a dream.”
He clamped his lips shut and shook his head, willing himself to wake up.
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Spike gathered his boy into his arms as sobs shook the tense body. Holding the trembling young man tightly, he vow to kill anyone who was messing with his boy. Anyone.
Chapter Eighteen: Unusual Silence
Summary: Now for Something new and different
A/N: Introducing a new character
Something was wrong. Angel stared hard at the lobby, desperately trying to figure out what was amiss. He knew part of it was that he was alone in the hotel, the empty rooms and corridors felt desolate without Doyle’s laughter, Dru’s babble, Spike’s bragging and Xander’s smile. The other part was the almost peacefulness that had descended upon their lives. Other than the demons they fought and the occasional spat between him and Spike, life was idyllic. That alone worried the vampire. Everything was nice and sweet, and Angel knew it was only a matter of time before disaster struck.
Sighing, he leaned against the counter and propped his chin on one hand, staring at the doors. The others had left him home once again while they went shopping, Doyle stating he only wanted to deal with one whining child at a time. Not that Angel actually wanted to brave the horror that was Walmart. Truthfully, the five times he had in the past year were more than enough to last him for the rest of his existence. Still, while he didn’t want to do shopping, he didn’t want to be left home alone either. He had become accustomed to having someone around him at all times and being alone felt strange.
The doors started to open and he straightened up, trying to look like he was doing something important. He slumped a little when he saw it wasn’t one of his family coming through the doorway but someone else instead. The stranger was young woman, pretty with long dark hair, dressed in designer clothing.
“Hello,” she greeted him as she walked regally into the room, glancing around the lobby briefly before turning to look at him. “I was told that someone here could help me deal with some strange things.”
“Probably. Depends on what sort of strange things you need help with,” Angel told her.
The door behind her opened, letting the missing four enter before she could speak again. Doyle looked at Angel who shrugged. He didn’t know what was happening yet anyway. The seer nodded and dragged Spike off to the kitchen to help him put stuff away. Angel smiled as Dru headed over to one of the couches, a balloon gripped in one hand and Miss Edith in the other, carrying on a conversation only she could hear. Xander closed the door and skirted around the young woman, coming to stand beside the taller man.
“Do I know you?” the woman asked, staring hard at Xander who tipped his head to the side and really looked at her then shrugged. “Where are you from?”
“He’s from a little town not far from here,” Angel interjected.
“I didn’t ask you,” she snapped. “He can talk for himself.”
“Actually, he can’t,” Spike said from behind her, making the woman yelp.
“Oh,” she blinked. “Anyway, I’m here looking for some help.”
“Help with what exactly?” Angel asked.
“I’m not sure you’ll believe me, but I’m telling the truth,” she began. “See, vampires and stuff are real and I’m sorta being stalked by one”
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Xander watched the woman carefully, wondering why she produced such a confused feeling in him. It felt like he knew her, or someone like her. Even her name, Cordelia Chase, sounded familiar but his memories before the hospital were foggy and he couldn’t really remember anything. He listened as Angel and Doyle assured her that they believe in vampires too and could help her. She had seemed so shocked when they didn’t dismiss her right away and instead asked her a series of questions about the vampire stalking her.
“Wait, didn’t you use to skulk around Sunnydale?” Cordelia asked Angel.
Xander started and stared at her in shock. He hadn’t heard that name in years, and hearing it now sent little shivers of fear down his back.
“I didn’t skulk,” Angel protested. “And yes, I was in Sunnydale.”
“Wow, no wonder you believe,” she laughed. Her eyes darted over to Xander and a knowing look crossed her face. “Xander Harris.”
He nodded slowly, still staring at her. She obviously knew him but he still couldn’t place her.
“It’s okay if you don’t remember me,” Cordelia told him. “It’s not like we were friends or anything.”
Suddenly the image of a younger girl staring down at him imperiously entered his mind and he blinked in shock, remembering the vicious girl she had been. She was correct though, they hadn’t been anything close to resembling friends. Cordelia Chase had been pretty and popular, he was just Xander.
“You disappeared years ago, what happened to you?” she asked bluntly.
He shook his head and shrugged, hoping to deflect her questioning. Looking over at Angel, he silently begged the vampire to start questioning her again so he didn’t have to answer. Nodding, Angel directed her attention back to him and Doyle, letting the young man breath a sigh of relief.
“Are you staying some place safe, Ms. Chase?” Doyle asked politely.
“I’m staying in a very nice hotel downtown,” she replied, smiling at him.
“Hotel’s aren’t really that safe,” Angel told her. “Vampires can come and go as they please.”
She paled. “Really?”
“Yes,” Doyle nodded. “Do you have any other place to stay? Family or friends?”
“N-n-no,” Cordelia stuttered. “I don’t know anyone in town yet.”
Spike sauntered up and leaned over, whispering in Angel’s ear. The blonde glanced over at the young woman before saying something softly to Doyle as well before turning to Xander. “You okay with her staying here?”
Xander looked up at him and nodded, smiling softly at him. Spike gave him a quick hug and walked off, whistling softly under his breath.
“Ms. Chase, would you be willing to stay here until this is resolved?” Angel asked.
“Here?” She glanced around and sighed. “I guess it would be okay.”
Doyle smiled at her. “It’ll take a few for us to get a room ready for you. Would you like something to drink while you wait?”
“No, I’m okay,” Cordelia said. “But can I ask a question?”
“Sure. What did you want to know?”
“Why is there blood on the carpet over there?”
Chapter Nineteen: Frisky Shadows
Summary: Xander meets someone new
Xander peeked around the corner, sighing with relief that Cordelia was not in the lobby. In the week she had been there, she had stalked him around the building, constantly asking questions. Most of the time he wouldn’t have answered her even if he had been able to. Glad to finally be away from her, he sank down on one of the couches and finally relaxed. Doyle had sent Angel and Spike off to search for information on Cordelia’s stalker and the seer must have been keeping the woman occupied. Dru was napping in their suite and Xander was alone for the first time in over a year. Squirming further down into the couch, he let his mind drift into other random thoughts.
A soft sound broke him out of his daydreams and he looked around in confusion. The lobby was still empty, but he could hear the sound again. It was a soft little whine and was coming from the office. Curious, he sat forward and peered in that direction, hoping to catch a glimpse of whatever was making the noise. From his vantage point he couldn’t see straight into the office and with a sigh he pushed himself to his feet, walking slowly in that direction. The closer he got to the office, the louder the sound, but when he stepped inside the noise stopped. He searched the room visually, looking for anything out of the ordinary. A small ball of something on the floor by the desk stood out and he cautiously approached it, stopping when it moved. The lump stretched, becoming a small grey creature that looked a lot like a kitten with little black wings. Carefully, he reached down and picked it up, cradling the shaking body against his chest. He started to pet the creature, marveling at the soft fur and the leathery feel to the wings. A quiet, rumbling purr started and he grinned down at the creature.
Walking slowly he headed out of the office and started searching the hotel for Doyle, hoping the seer could tell him exactly what his new friend was. He had reached the top of the stairs when the front doors opened, letting Spike and Angel in. Still smiling, Xander headed back down, silently extending his handful to his vampire.
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Grumbling, Spike pushed the doors to the hotel open, hoping to get away from Angel as soon as he could. Their search had been a bust and the darker vampire had started brooding. The last thing the blonde wanted to do was deal with a morose, remorseful Angel. Better to let Doyle handle his own husband.
Spike grinned when he saw his boy on the stairs, the sight of the dark haired youth enough to calm his nerves. When his boy reached the bottom of the stairs he held something out and the vampire nearly screamed when he saw the hell cat curled in the palm of the young man’s hands.
“Xander,” he started quietly. “Where did you find that?”
Xander pointed to the office and then started stroking the small form, still smiling. Spike shook his head and looked at Angel for help, but the older vampire was laughing too hard.
“That’s a hell cat, pet,” he said patiently. The boy shrugged and continued to pet the creature. “You can’t keep it, Xander.”
The boy’s smile faded and a pout came into effect. Dark brown eyes grew large and damp as Xander stared at him, clutching the hell cat to his chest. Spike felt his resolve melt and sighed in defeat. Nothing could withstand the boy looking like that, not even him.
“Fine, you can keep him. But you’re taking care of him and we’re finding a way to keep him from calling others into the building,” Spike said finally.
Xander smiled widely and placed a quick kiss on Spike’s cheek before running up the stairs. Snarling, Spike turned to glare at Angel.
“A lot of help you were!” he snapped.
The older vampire stopped laughing. “Doyle found it yesterday,” Angel told him. “It’s already been warded. We thought it would be good for him.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” growled Spike.
“And miss the look on your face?” Angel laughed.
“I really hate you,” the blonde grumbled, heading off after his boy.
Chapter Twenty: Fragile Shadows
Summary: Xander’s Growing Up
Three weeks. The stalker vampire was dead and still the bloody bint was with them. For some reason, Doyle and Angel agreed to let her stay, giving her a job as a secretary. Spike wasn’t sure why they needed a secretary in the first place, but he grudgingly agreed to leave the girl alone if she left him and his be. So far, the truce was holding up and an uneasy peace hovered over the hotel.
The introduction of Xander’s hell kitten into their lives had been a interesting one. Spike grinned as he thought about the kitten. Hella, as the kitten had been named, was like any other cat: mischievous and devious. The ability to fly just made the animal’s attacks more interesting. She dropped things on them from the ceiling, giving little kitten smirks when they jumped. Cordelia and Angel had become her favourite targets, leaving the others laughing in the wake of her attacks.
A soft, wet touch to his ankle snapped Spike out of his musings and he looked down at the black lump of fur and wings rubbing against him.
“Hey there,” he crooned, bending down to pick up the kitten. “Where’s your daddy at?”
The hell kitten purred and rubbed against his cheek, batting the side his head with a wing. Spike laughed, scratching the kitten’s head as he went looking for his missing boy. He searched the bottom floor, finding Dru in the kitchen with Miss Edith. Pausing to give the loopy vampire a quick kiss, he continued his search, heading toward their rooms. Their suite was empty and Spike growled in annoyance. He hated when he didn’t know where Xander was. How was he to protect the boy if he couldn’t find him?
Still growling, he knocked on the married couple’s door, hoping one of them had seen Xander. Doyle opened the door, smiling in greeting and letting a wave of laughter flow into the room. Peering in, Spike could see his boy curled up into one of the armchairs, a wide smile on his face. When the boy looked up and saw Spike his smile grew and the blonde felt his anger at the boy flow away.
“Have a meeting and forget to tell me?” Spike snapped in mock anger.
“Angel was just telling us about his last case,” Doyle told him, pulling him into the room.
“Oh really,” he arched an eyebrow. “I don’t remember this case.”
“You had taken Dru out for the night,” the seer reminded him. “It was last week.”
Spike nodded, remembering the fit the insane seeress had thrown, prompting him to take her out for a night on the town. “What happened then? Must have been good with the way you’re all laughing.”
If vampires could have blushed, Angel would have been bright red, as it was, the vampire ducked his head and muttered under his breath until his husband made him continue.
“This woman was certain there was a demon in their house and it was targeting her daughter. She made claims of strange sights and noises. I agreed to go check it out. I searched all the rooms, but there was nothing. So I figured that it was just their imaginations since they had just moved into the house.
“The mother wouldn’t let me leave. She kept saying that there was something and I had to find it. She led me up to the girl’s room and told me that most of the strange things had happened in there. All I could think was it had to be the girl. There were bears everywhere. Piled on the bed, the floor, in the closet. There were posters of bears and little figurines around. I was almost certain it was the girl,” Angel paused.
“I take it that it wasn’t?” Spike smirked.
Angel shook his head. “As I turned to leave the room, one of the bears jumped out at me. It turns out there was a demon. It was a shape shifter and there were so many bears that it wasn’t noticed among them.”
“Okay, while somewhat amusing, I don’t see what’s so funny.”
Doyle laughed. “Seems the girl was fond of that bear. She made Angel go with her to a Build-a-Bear shop to make a new one.”
The image of Angel surrounded by half made teddy bears and being led by a little girl popped into Spike’s head and he joined the others in laughing at the older vampire’s misfortune.
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There were hands on him, but they didn’t hurt. They stroked down his sides, tickling and making him feel warm, but there was no pain. Soft lips brushed over his, barely there kisses and he lifted his head to get more. But the mouth didn’t linger, instead it travelled over his cheek and down his neck, leaving little biting kisses in its wake. The hands moved lower, sliding down his hips and trailing over his thighs. He sighed as the lips came back up, pressing harder against his and a wet tongue laved over them, encouraging his lips to open. A strange feel grew inside as he let his lips fall open and the tongue slipped inside, mapping the contours of his mouth.
“Xander.” His name was whispered in a familiar voice, sparking new sensations deep inside.
“Spike,” he breathed.
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His heart racing, Xander sat up quickly. He looked around the room and noticed he was alone, though the presence of Spike’s duster on one of the chairs stated that the vampire wasn’t very far. Sliding off the bed, he padded over to the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror, wondering if he dreams would show on his face.
He was confused. The memory of Trent had dimmed, but the fear still remained. Yet he was dreaming of Spike touching him in a way that should make him afraid but there was no fear. Rubbing a hand over his face he struggled with what to do. Finally he headed back into the bedroom and grabbed his notebook and pen and went looking for the one person who wouldn’t judge him. Beside, Doyle always had answers.