The Silver Southern Moon

Summary: While on their road trip, Angel and Xander encounter some strange happenings in the North Carolina town of Missing Mile
Rating: R - NC17ish
Disclaimer: Angel, Xander, and all folks from Sunnydale belong to Joss/WB/Fox/whatever; Steve, Ghost, and any other recognizable resident of Missing Mile, North Carolina belongs to the great Poppy Z. Brite  
Date: July 23, 2000
Notes: This story is taking place sometime during the summer after graduation in the Buffyverse, and a little under a year after the events in the novel ‘Lost Souls’. The other fics in this series can be found on my page but they don’t need to be read to understand this one. Just know that Angel secretly accompanied Xander on his roadtrip, and they did manage to get beyond Oxnard.

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Part 1

**********

“Dammit!!” Angel soundly thumped his frustrated head against the steering wheel, and quickly glanced at his traveling companion. “Not a word, Xander.” The vampire said, threateningly.

The teenager in the passenger seat blinked innocently at the older man. “I’m not going to comment on anything, Angel, and certainly not your excellent navigational skills. . . most likely because they’re non-existent.”

Angel growled. “I hope, that if nothing else, this trip shows you just how much I care about you, because if I didn’t, I’m pretty sure I would have killed you by now.”

“Hey, this isn't my fault!”

“You were the one reading the map!”

“Yeah, but *you* were the brain trust who gave me the map to read!”

Angel acquiesced to the logic. “Good point.”

The two mismatched traveling companions were pulled over on the side of one of the many lonely two lane blacktops that weaved through the state of North Carolina. . . at least they thought they were still in North Carolina.

Angel simply abhorred the busy freeways that were so prevalent on the North American continent, preferring to stick to the smaller back roads, customarily known as the “scenic route”. He had taken a chance in giving Xander the map, and if it had been a leap of faith the vampire would have fallen screaming into the abyss.

They were, in a word, lost. Using more words - completely, utterly, totally, wholly, thoroughly, intensely. . .

Angel started the car and silently cursed the lack of any close road signs.

“Deadboy?”

The vampire’s thinned patience made his voice hard. “What?”

Xander seemed to shrink in his seat. “I’m really sorry I messed up again.”

Aided by his unusually good night vision and the soft illumination provided by the dashboard, Angel could clearly see the forlorn look in his young lover’s rich brown eyes, and his irritation quickly disappeared. “It’s okay.” He smiled ruefully. “I mean, it’s not like we have anything planned. This trip is supposed to be spontaneous, not regimented, and I’m sorry I overreacted.”

Xander grinned in relief. “Tell you what, I’ll accept your apology if you accept mine.”

“Sounds fair.”

“Good.” With the weight of his guilt gone, Xander’s mind returned to it’s default setting. “Hey Deadboy, in all the years you’ve been around, you ever done it in the back seat of a car?”

The vampire raised an eyebrow. “No, I can’t say as I have.”

“Huh, maybe we should remedy that?”

Angel absently wondered what he had ever done to deserve the eager attentions of such a beautiful young man. “I really don’t think the side of the road is the best place to experience certain new things.”

Xander’s expression drooped. “Yeah. . . but I can still have my way with you in the motel room, right?”

Angel reached around and cupped the back of the boy’s head. His fingers tangled in soft brown hair and he drew the mortal close to him. Their mouths met with aching familiarity. Lips pressed firm in a chaste, but none the less, sensual declaration.

The men parted slightly and Angel whispered against warm, soft skin. “Xander, you know my body belongs to you.” The vampire’s eyes lowered submissively. “Do with me as you wish. . . just not on the side of the road.”

Xander pouted and removed his questing hand from Angel’s pants.

The older man pulled back onto the highway and smiled as a petulant raspberry was blown his way.

*****

A half an hour later the young lovers finally pulled into something resembling civilization - the welcoming town of Missing Mile. . . or so proclaimed the sign they passed. The sleek, black, 1968 Plymouth Belvedere slowly prowled down the almost deserted streets in what looked to be another unremarkable sleepy southern town.

Xander cast an inquisitive glance around at the empty buildings. “Where is everybody? Even Sunnydale had more of an active nightlife then this.”

“It is almost one a.m., Xan.” Angel shrugged. “Small towns like this usually shut down after midnight.”

“Well, there’s got to be some place still open, I’m starved.” Xander let loose a pitiful sigh.

Angel smirked. He had long ago stopped trying to figure out the enigma that was Xander’s stomach. “Don’t worry, I’m sure there’s a convenience store around here some place, and maybe we can get a line on a place to stay.”

The vampire had just finished speaking, when, suddenly, in the distance, there appeared a beckoning neon glow. Angel aimed the car towards the illumination while Xander absently rubbed his rumbling tummy.

The great monstrosity that was the Quik-mart drew in the black convertible like a moth, and Xander bounced out of the car almost before Angel put it into park. The vampire resisted the strong urge to bang his head against the steering wheel again, and instead silently followed his lover into the store.

The teenager had already grabbed a shopping basket and was busy filling it with almost every cellophane wrapped product he could get his hands on. “Ooooh, Swiss rolls!”

Angel glanced at the basket, momentarily marveled at his lover’s digestive tract, then went to the front of the store to talk to the cashier.

“Um, hi.” He flashed the girl behind the counter his most charming smile. “Is there any place around here where my friend and I could spend the night?”

Patty Crenshaw slowly appraised the two young looking men, and after she decided that neither one looked like any of those drug dealers she had been hearing so much about, she decided to go ahead and answer the taller man’s question. “Well, your best bet would be the Motor lodge out on route 42. How long you folks planning on staying for?”

Angel gave the woman a polite smile. “I really don’t think. . .”

“Not sure yet.” Xander said, walking up to stand beside the vampire. “Is there anything fun to do around here?”

“Fun?” Patty thought for a moment. “Well, sometimes some of the younger boys go out off Violin Road and shoot possums.”

“Oh.” Xander blinked. “Doesn’t that just sound. . . yeah.”

“Then there’s that club over on the other side of town, the Yew, I think it is.” Patty continued. “They have live bands almost every night. You fellas might enjoy that.”

Angel tried to ignore Xander’s hopeful expression. “I really don’t think we’ll be staying that. . .”

Patty went on, heedless of any interruptions. “Course, the town’s been pretty quiet lately, what with the whole monster thing.”

“Monster?” Angel futilely hoped for a punchline.

Xander folded his arms across his chest. “Figures.” He said, pouting.

“A man got ripped up by something two nights ago. It was just north of town, too.” Patty shrugged. “Now, most people are either hunting him, or hiding from him.”

Angel raised an eyebrow. “Him?”

Patty nodded sagely. “Yep, the Bigfoot.”

*****

“Xander, it wasn’t a Bigfoot.” Angel sighed as he set their bags down in the clean, yet, seedy looking motel room.

The boy’s eyes were bright as he regarded his lover. “What if it was?”

“It wasn’t.”

“But. . .”

“Xander, Bigfoot is a mythical creature that doesn’t exist outside campfire tales, and yes, I do appreciate the irony in me making that statement.”

The teen nodded. “Good, cause I’m not sure I stayed awake enough in English to explain it to you.”

Angel rolled his eyes. “Anyway, from the rest of what that clerk said, I gathered the man was mauled. . .”

“Oh, just *mauled*. I can see how a *mauling* doesn’t warrant our involvement.”

“Will you just let me finish?”

The mortal thought for a moment. “Probably not.”

Angel pinched the bridge of his nose. “Well, at least you’re honest.”

“And, you’re obstinate.” Xander exclaimed. “Why couldn’t it have been a demon? Are we in an evil free state?”

“No, I’m sure there are demons in North Carolina, and I’m also pretty sure there are bears here too.”

Xander frowned. “So, you think the man was attacked by a regular old bear?”

“It makes sense.” Angel tried to reason with the teen. “Not every bad thing that happens in this world necessarily has a supernatural cause.”

Xander rolled his eyes. “I know that. I just think it’s kinda weird, that’s all. I mean, you and I pull into a town where a guy got attacked by a big, hairy. . . big. . . hairy. . . Oh! Werewolf?!”

“Nope, wrong kind of moon.”

“Oh. . . but still, we should try and help.”

“It’s not a. . .”

“Okay,” Xander said quickly. “Let’s say you’re right. . . hypothetically, of course.”

Angel smothered a grin. “Of course.”

“Even if this thing is a bear, wouldn’t you still be the best person to take care of it? You know, one Grrr to another.” Xander curved his fingers into imaginary claws and bared his teeth.

The vampire blanched slightly. “No.”

“Why not?”

Angel sighed. “Because vampires and bears don’t mix, and I’ve actually grown accustomed to keeping my internal organs. . . internal.”

The boy’s face fell. “Oh. So, what you’re saying is. . . you couldn’t handle it.”

The vampire looked indignantly at his companion. “Uh, it’s a *bear*, Xander.”

“Hey, I’m not passing judgment.” Xander paused as the vampire nodded. “I totally understand your reluctance. I mean, all those times back in Sunnydale that I went up against things that could have killed me in a heartbeat. . .”

“Not working.”

“. . . and I’m just a regular human. . .”

“So not working.”

“Angel, it’s okay to be scared.” The boy’s large brown eyes radiated compassion and understanding, and the effect made the vampire feel rather ill.

With a deeper sigh then usual, Angel relented. “Okay. Fine. I’ll go out later tonight. I need to feed anyway.”

Xander grinned and wrapped his arms around Angel’s neck. “Good.” The boy gently nibbled at the willing lips of his lover. “Do you have any idea how sexy you are when you do the whole hero gig?”

“Mmmm.” Angel began to rock his hips against the younger man. “Didn’t you say something earlier about. . . ah yes, having your way with me?”

Xander’s hands snuck under the vampire’s shirt and began to dance teasingly over the cool flesh. “Did I?”

“Unless,” Angel pulled away. “You’ve changed your mind.”

The boy narrowed his eyes at that statement. Quick as a striking snake, he moved forward, and grabbed a handful of Angel’s hair. The vampire’s head was tugged to the left, and Xander immediately latched onto the exposed throat. The mortal’s mouth sucked hard at the lifeless jugular. Angel gave a soft moan as the stolen blood began to move through his undead veins.

Xander felt the skin under his tongue jerk with a sluggish pulse, and the teen moved slightly to gnaw at his lover’s clavicle. After a moment he stopped and gave the vampire a purely predatory look. “Angel?”

The older man tried to control his unnecessary pants long enough to answer. “Y-yes.”

“Take off your clothes.” Xander licked his lips in anticipation. “And let me see that beautiful ass of yours.”

The boy’s words went straight to Angel’s cock, which the vampire was only too happy to set free from it’s denim confines. He slowly stripped for his lover, knowing very well the fuel it was adding to Xander’s desire.

The boy’s eyes grew darker and darker, as each new inch of perfect, pale flesh was uncovered. As he watched Angel disrobe, one thought echoed through Xander’s mind. One single word. “Mine.”

Angel’s eyes flew up at the softly issued statement. He met the younger man’s gaze, and laid a gentle hand against the warm cheek. “Mine.”

The men’s mouths met again. The kiss was full of arousal, and passion, and a keen undercurrent of love prevailed in their union of mouths and tongues. The lovers made their way across the room, and fell onto the bed in a tangled, undulating heap.

*****

Out on the other side of town, for the third time in as many nights, Ghost woke up screaming.

Steve was by his side in a second, having opted to sleep beside his friend’s bed on account of the previous two night’s performances. Neither man had said anything when Steve had settled on the floor, instead of just sharing the bed like they had done in the past. The dark haired man knew he didn’t have the words to explain the action, let alone the reason behind it. And Ghost. . . well, he was too terrified by the images running behind his eyelids to contemplate much anything else.

And now those images had played out again, reducing the normally joyful sensitive to a trembling wreck. Steve wrapped his arms around the thin body, offering comfort during the sobs and an ear for the descriptions that would follow.

They both knew what the dreams meant, even without the gruesome front page stories.

“This. . . wasn’t like. . . it was different.” Ghost’s fingers dug into Steve’s arm, perhaps trying to ascertain if the man beside him was actually real.

“Tell me.” Steve’s gently stroked pale hair.

“A new death’s here. It’s yellow, not red. But it’s seen red, it’s. . . bathed in blood, and delivered pain with a smile. It’s beauty hides it’s perverse truth.” The soft voice was filled with resignation. “It’s going to come for us.”

Steve didn’t say a word, but tightened his hold.

*****

The surface of Angel’s face rippled as he cautiously sniffed the air and allowed the various sounds and smells of the night to assault his true senses. Somewhere above him there was the steady fwap of a bat’s leathery wings, while to his right a soft scurrying sound signaled the presence of a smaller mammal, probably a raccoon.

The demon inside wailed to be let out to play, but Angel squelched those urges. There were still at least three hours until dawn but he wanted to feed quickly. The faster he fed, the faster he could return to the surprisingly comfortable motel bed, and his Xander. With that cozy thought in mind, the vampire began to hunt.

It would have been highly impractical, not to mention eventually smelly, to try and transport any blood in the Plymouth, but Angel already had other ideas on how to gain his sustenance. Slaughter houses, butcher shops, even the meat department of a grocery store were viable sources for blood, and if all of those options were somehow unavailable, there was always the old fashioned way.

Angel knew that a full grown deer could sustain him for at least five days. He had been unsure of how Xander would react to the thought of him killing animals, but the boy had merely said that it was the circle of life. . . and it moved them all. . . through despair and hope. . .and then Angel quickly found a much more pleasant activity to occupy the mortal’s mouth before there were any more Disney lyrics.

So, occasionally, Angel was once again playing the part of a predator, and as much as the civilized aspect of his personality objected, another deeper, instinctive part was definitely enjoying the situation. It was certainly more of a challenge, pursuing animals. Humans were far too easy.

The vampire began to move, almost silently, through the underbrush. His elongated fangs were practically itching from the overabundance of stimuli. The woods had suddenly quieted, as the lower animals silently acknowledged the appearance of the area’s newest dominant predator.

No living creature could disguise it’s heartbeat, however, and Angel still had a pretty good bead on several potential meals. He swiftly dismissed the raccoon, remembering the multitude of scratches visited on his arms and torso by the last one of those vile creatures he had tried to have for supper. No, raccoons were definitely more trouble then they were worth, but there was a nice sized fox about twenty yards in front of him, and. . .

Angel’s nostrils flared as another, more powerful scent wafted over to him on a soft summer breeze. It was a smell the vampire recognized all too well. He had dealt out enough death in his time to have memorized it. Something had very recently spilled quite a lot of blood.

The night’s earlier conversation came back to the vampire, as he unconsciously shifted into what Xander lovingly referred to as his ‘super stealthy’ mode. Angel cautiously followed the scent trail for about a hundred feet until he found his bear. . . laying on it’s side, a twisted mess of internal organs half spilling from it’s ripped stomach.

The vampire was a bit taken aback by the outright dismissal of his pet theory on the murder. He still didn’t believe the culprit was a Bigfoot, but there was obviously a skillful predator calling these woods home. A large, skillful predator, Angel amended, as he studied the carcass. He estimated the bear to be around seven feet long, and it had been felled by a single blow. Something had disemboweled it with one swipe. Something large, powerful, and. . . possibly still around.

Angel looked up sharply, his eyes scanning the trees. Maybe the lower animal’s silence wasn’t for him after all.

With a good dose of paranoia running through his veins, the vampire stood and began to edge away from the carnage. This was not how he wanted to spend part of his vacation.

**********

Part 2

**********

Angel crossed the threshold of the motel room and quickly shut the door behind him. He moved the heavy drapes, and anxiously peered outside. Darkness was rapidly losing it’s hold on the world as the sunrise approached. Everything had already begun to take on that predawn bluish tinge, as the vampire scanned the parking lot and the highway beyond it.

He frowned in disgust at his own actions, and yet Angel still couldn’t shake the panic that had overcome him in the forest. His common sense had quickly dictated that if the bear’s killer had still been around, he would have been able to smell it. Nothing could have walked away from that without a good unhealthy stench of blood on it. But, logic was suppressed by instinct, and good old fashioned fear.

Vampires might be ruthless and vicious, but they certainly were susceptible to some things, and it wasn’t a stretch of the imagination to believe that whatever had taken down that bear could also most likely defeat even a master vampire. The majority of demons wouldn’t ever consider approaching such a large carnivore, and the ones that would. . .

Angel turned from the window and looked at the peacefully snoozing figure on the bed. Sunrise still wasn’t until another half an hour, and he tried to figure how far they could get before he became charbroiled. According to the map they had purchased Raleigh wasn’t *that* far away, but. . . as much as every instinct the vampire had was screaming at him to take what was his far from this unknown threat, he knew he couldn’t do that.

Xander wouldn’t let him.

For a regular mortal with no special skills or powers, Xander was incredibly adamant about fighting the various forces of darkness that had crossed their paths. Oh, he would always complain and offer many long term benefits of running away, but when it came down to it, and some new big bad was wreaking havoc, the dark haired teen would be one of the first on the front lines.

The vampire knew, deep in his soul that, regardless of his relationship with the mortal, he wouldn’t have been able to abide the slaughter of innocents either. But, still being a moderately anti-social type, it was nice to have Xander around to blame such valiant thinking on.

Angel quietly undressed then climbed under the sheets, laying flush against Xander’s back, snuggling into the warmth. The boy made a few happy murmuring sounds as his subconscious acknowledged the familiar presence, and Angel smiled into the mop of soft, dark hair. It was moments like these when he almost believed everything would work out okay. . . almost.

*****

Ghost morosely stared into his increasingly soggy cornflakes. The morning had come in bright and beautiful, full of chirping song birds, and the promise that somewhere in the thick North Carolina woods there was another corpse.

The young sensitive had had prophetic visions before, imaginings that occasionally spoke of the great horror that existed outside the little house on Burnt Church Road. Usually he could just meditate for a little while, maybe share his musings with Steve, then shake it off. It was an ability he learned early on. But these dreams, these premonitions were staying with him, like a sickly film covering his world. Everything seemed so tainted, so wrong, so. . . like before.

Even almost a year after the blood and death he would always associate with New Orleans, Ghost could still see the carnage brought about by his own hand. The surprising ease with which the long blade he held sunk into Zillah’s temple, the stomach twisting metallic smell of the gore that had run down his arm, the indescribably look on Nothing’s face as the lifeless body crashed to the floor. . .

Ghost had long accepted that there had been no other option. Steve’s wrists still bore the defensive scars from Zillah’s razor, and the slightest hesitation would have resulted in a matching wound on the guitarist’s throat. That was not going to happen.

In the subsequent months, Ghost had attempted to rationalize his actions. Zillah and the rest of his little tribe had been evil. There was no way of knowing how many people those creature’s had killed over their lifespans.

For a little while Ghost had actually convinced himself that that was why he hadn’t wavered in an action that a few weeks prior would have sickened him just to think about. However, as Ghost continued to hold Steve through the countless nightmares that plagued that winter, the truth refused to be ignored. There had been nothing noble in his actions or his thoughts.

Zillah had died because he had dared attack Steve.

Love had turned him into a killer, just like Nothing.

Poor, lost, Nothing. Ghost knew that there really hadn’t been anything he could have done for him. By the time the boy had reached Missing Mile Zillah had already claimed him, body and soul. Blood called to blood, and Nothing had answered that call. All Ghost could do was watch as any remaining virtue was destroyed by the evil intrinsically interwoven in the love the boy had craved.

There were times when the young sensitive truly wished to share these thoughts and feelings. Take the inner demons that had continued to plague him and thrust them into the light. But, that had stopped being an option a while ago.

Whereas Ghost longed to talk about what had happened, Steve’s preferred method of dealing had become avoiding the topic all together. There was nothing to discuss because nothing had happened. Certain names were simply not to be mentioned.

After a while, things seemed to return to normal. Steve became stronger and once again provided a steadying does of reality to Ghost’s slightly skewed version of the world. But things were still far from right between the two.

And that fact was apparent as Ghost jumped when the figure sitting across from him cleared his throat.

“I was thinking,” Steve started, eyes fixed on his own bowl. “Maybe we should leave town for a little while? You know, go on another tour?”

Pale blue eyes drifted upward. “We can’t.”

The dark haired guitarist slammed his hands on the table. The breakfast dishes rattled from the sudden gesture of aggravation. “Why the hell not?!” The fact that Ghost was unfazed by his impromptu mini tantrum only served to further annoy Steve, who wanted nothing more then to throw his slight friend over his shoulder and retreat somewhere that served sweetly potent things adorned with little paper umbrellas.

“Because.”

Steve squelched the sudden urge to say that wasn’t an answer. He refused to further his descent into hell by mentally becoming his third grade teacher. “We know that the thing that tore up old Bud Johnson is the same thing that’s been messing with your dreams. Last night you said something else was in town and it was gonna come for us, like, specifically or something. I’m sorry, but regardless of my various not so healthy habits, I don’t have an inclination to end up dead anytime soon.” The rise in temper had peaked and already begun to ebb. “Besides, you look like shit, Ghost.”

The young sensitive was about to comment on his friends’s less then stellar outward appearance, but thought better of it. “We can’t run, Steve. Don’t ask me why, cause I won’t be able to give you an answer that wouldn’t lead to more questions that neither one of us would be likely to understand. Believe me, if it was an option I’d be the first one in the T-bird, but. . .” His gaze dropped to the table as his voice faltered.

Steve heard the almost silent note of desperation in the younger man’s voice. He wanted to go to Ghost, hold him until this new nightmare was over. However, Steve knew better then most, that more often then not what a person wants doesn’t mean shit to the higher ups in the universe.

The dark haired guitarist had never been a morning person, but suddenly breakfast had become depressing as hell. “So, do you still feel like singing later?” Steve’s voice reflected his hope that the new subject would catch on.

“Yeah.” Ghost hadn’t even had to think about his answer. Though no new lyrics had come to him lately, the music he and Steve made had become one of his last refuges. “We should play the Yew tonight.”

*****

Angel slowly blinked his way to consciousness. His well honed internal clock told him it was sometime in the mid afternoon. Usually that would still be a tad too early for the vampire, but his veins ached with the need for sustenance.

Just as Angel decided that would have to send Xander out to hunt for a grocery store. The vampire realized that he was alone in the bed.

The lack of affection that was so prevalent during Xander’s life had turned the boy into an avid cuddler, and it was not unusual for Angel to have to disentangle himself from a warm, possessive body before getting up in the evenings. The vampire never dreamt of complaining, though. In fact, a quiet snuggle session was one of his favorite activities with the mortal. Oh, the sex was incredible, but to Angel, nothing could compare with just holding that beautiful, warm body in his arms.

Angel’s ears strained, trying to discern if the mortal was in the bathroom, but the only heartbeats he could pick up were from the next room over. He glanced at the dresser, noted that the keys to the Plymouth were gone, and decided that Xander had probably just gone out for more food. At first the vampire was a bit put out over missing his cuddle time. . . until the haziness of sleep disappeared and Angel remembered why he hadn’t taken the time to eat earlier.

Panic rushed through the vampire as he leapt out of bed, totally ready to throw open the door, race outside, and. . . immediately burst into flames.

No, actually going to look for Xander was definitely out. But worrying was most certainly in.

It’s not that Angel didn’t trust Xander to go out by himself, it’s that he knew the boy’s track record when it came to attracting supernatural trouble. In all his two hundred and seventy some years, Angel had never met anyone with such a propensity for getting into the strangest predicaments. The boy had almost been mated to a giant preying mantis for crying out loud. The vampire was quite happy to play the protector for the younger man, but with the large summer sun beating down outside, he was stuck stewing in the motel room, knowing that there wasn't a single thing he could do.

The sound of a key in a lock snapped Angel from his thoughts. He hurried to the opening door and before Xander had a chance to even say hello the teen found himself spun and sandwiched between a wall and a very frantic vampire.

Xander opened his mouth to protest, but was cut off by a pair of cool lips pressing firmly against his own. Angel’s kiss was hard and dominating, meant for reassurance more then anything else. Yes, this was his Xander, alive, and in one piece, and rapidly succumbing to oxygen deprivation.

Angel reluctantly pulled away, a bit proud with the dazed look he had placed on the mortal’s face. But anger prevailed over egotism. “Where the hell have you been?!”

“Out terrorizing little old ladies and house pets.” Xander, used to the vampire’s possessive nature, rolled his eyes at the unwavering, yellow tinged gaze. “I wanted to see what the town looked like in daylight. And, I picked up a paper. The local one only comes out once a week, but it’s got a front page article about the murder.”

“You still should have left a note.” The vampire was dangerously close to pouting.

Xander smiled. The concern in the older man’s voice warming him almost more then the kiss did. “Sorry.“ He held out a brown grocer’s bad. “I also stopped by the supermarket. Thought you might be hungry.”

Angel accepted the bag and pulled out a package of raw steak. “How did you know?”

Xander smirked. “When I woke up, you were chewing on my shoulder.”

Angel looked properly chagrined as he tore through the plastic wrap. “No lasting damage, though, right?”

“Nothing worse then some of the other injuries I’ve gotten in bed with you.” There was an almost dreamy smile on the teen’s face.

Now it was Angel’s turn to smirk. “Napkins?”

“Here ya go.”

“Thanks.”

Xander watched as the vampire’s handsome facade shimmered, then transformed into the ridged gameface of the demon. “Tell me the reason you didn’t feed earlier was because the overabundant raccoon population pushed every non possessed animal out of the forest?”

Angel silently chewed his bloodied meat.

“Yeah, thought that was too much to hope for.” Xander sighed and sat down on the bed. “So, we’ve got a problem. Is it a big problem?” Once again, the teenager correctly read the vampire’s silence. “So, we’ve got a big problem. On a scale of one to ten, one being dumb ass fledgling vamp and ten being big ass snake demon from Hell, this would be. . .?”

Angel swallowed. “Not sure yet. And we don't’ have access to any demonology books, so even if I see this thing I still might not be able to make a proper identification.”

“Wait, you haven’t seen it yet?” Xander frowned. “How do you know it’s such a big problem then? Maybe it’s just a little problem pretending to be a big problem. You know, like Spike.”

Ignoring the reference to his childe, Angel told the teen about the discovery of the bear carcass. Xander listened quietly, for a change, large brown eyes getting even bigger with every extra detail. Finally, after the vampire was done, he let out a low whistle.

“You know it’s bad when the Hellmouth actually starts to look like an appealing vacation spot.”

Angel nodded his agreement, and took another bite from his beyond rare lunch as he scanned the front page of the newspaper. “Doesn’t say very much, does it?”

“No, but neither did Sunnydale’s paper. Oh!”

Angel swore he could almost see the lightbulb icon flashing above Xander’s head. “What?” He asked, warily.

“Gruesomely strange murder. . . small town. . . you know, somewhere people are talking about this, maybe even someone who saw something. That Bigfoot angle had to come form somewhere, right? All we would have to do is differentiate what they might have actually seen from any crap they might have made up.”

“Oh, that sounds simple.” The vampire said sarcastically.

“Actually, it is.” Xander replied seriously. “Willow, Buffy, and I used to do it all the time back at the Bronze. You know, cut through the ‘Roving gangs on PCP’ crap, and try and figure out what kinds of demons different people had run into.”

The teen bounced a bit as another idea popped into his head. “And I know just the place we can go tonight. Remember that club the cashier told us about? I found it today. It’s called The Sacred Yew, no earthly idea what the hell that means, but it looks Bronze-esque. I think we should check it out.”

Angel mulled this over then finally agreed. “All right. Let’s try it.”

“Cool!” Xander’s grin quickly turned into a pensive frown. “I hope they’ve got a decent band.”

**********
 
Part 3


**********

At first glance, the Sacred Yew was nothing special. Another old, semi-dilapidated building in a not so prosperous part of town. It wasn’t until one ventured inside that the true magic of the place was found. Unlike most clubs in the South, at the Yew, tolerance was not the exception, but the rule.

Young people from all over the region came to the club for an escape from the stringent restrictions found in most central North Carolinian lives. Kinsey Hummingbird, the founder and proprietor, had definite rules for his club, but not one of them was designed to impose on his young patrons senses of self, and even youth from as far away as Raleigh and Chapel Hill appreciated that fact. Of course, the having the regionally renown ‘Lost Souls’ as a semi-house band, certainly didn’t harm the attendance rate.

Ghost and Steve had just finished their first set, and the singer was busy occupying himself by peeling the label off his beer bottle when a not so pleasant sensation practically socked him in the stomach. *Something* had just found the Yew.

Pale blue eyes anxiously flicked around the darkened club, trying to pinpoint the exact source of the most powerful aura the young man had ever felt. And then. . . he saw him.

The man looked to be in his mid twenties. Tall, with broad shoulders and an imposing air, he easily cut a path through the young goths and not quite ravers, who stared with something akin to awe at the dark figure. Even to a non-sensitive, the man radiated danger, and darkness, and. . . power. He was everything they wanted to be when they grew up.

Ghost’s fingernails bit into his palm as he tried to control the tremors of fear that wracked his thin frame. He had never felt such power before. Not even Zillah, or poor Christian, combined had given off such energy.

Perhaps he was the same as them. Perhaps he had come to avenge the destruction of his kind. He wasn’t human, Ghost was sure of that, but. . . the youth with him was. There was a naive innocence that almost radiated off the creature’s companion, and with a jolt, Ghost was reminded of Nothing.

*****

“Wow.” Xander’s wide eyes scanned the smoky room, taking in everything they could. This place was decidedly not The Bronze, and that was of the good. . . at least, as far as the teenager was concerned. Besides being potentially fatal, everything in Sunnydale was just so. . . boring.

Angel did not share his young lover’s enthusiasm. In fact he was scowling like only a souled vampire that had gone to hell could. He had dressed in simple jeans and a plain cotton t-shirt to try and blend in. It had been an exercise in complete futility. People like Angel did not blend, and certainly not in places like The Sacred Yew. Needless to say, staring humans did not make a happy vampire.

Xander placed a gentle hand on a tense arm. “I’ll be back in a minute.” He said. “Try to. . . mingle.”

The teenager didn’t notice the priceless mixture of horror and incredulousness that had appeared on Angel’s face, and he was completely oblivious to the pair of pale blue eyes that tracked him across the room.

*****

Xander finished washing his hands and checked what he could see of himself in the tiny, smudged mirror. Every flaw he had always noticed was still reflected back at him, but somehow. . . they weren’t quite as bad as they were before.

Maybe it had something to do with all the many pre and post coital moments Angel had spent waxing ecstatic about various parts of Xander’s face and body. Yeah, that would most likely boast anyone’s self esteem.

With a blush for where his last thought took him and an eyeroll for the narcissistic behavior that started it all, Xander turned from the mirror. He was almost to the door when it opened, omitting an incredibly pale looking young man.

Growing up in Sunnydale Xander had seen pale. . . pallid. . . anemic. . . His hometown was most likely the only place in the state of California where the majority of people didn’t have tans. And it hadn’t just been vampires. Oz was one of the palest people Xander had ever met, but compared to this guy, the werewolf. . . well, you know, in comparison.

Xander inwardly cringed at his thought process while he waited for the other man to move out of the way. He didn’t. Finally Xander spoke. “Um. . . can I. . . get by?”

Ghost licked his lips, and told his nerves to shut the hell up. He had to try. “Don’t go back to Him.”

Xander blinked. “Excuse me?”

“I want to help you.”

“Help me?” Eyebrows fully raised, voice seeped in suspicion, Xander wondered if this was just some. . . east coast thing?

Ghost winced. No, that probably hadn’t been the best thing to say, considering the setting. “Look, you don’t have to stay with Him. My friends and I, we could. . . hide you.” He wondered at the cosmic meaning of the fact that his impromptu crusade to save this kid’s soul was permeated by unforgivable lameness.

“Whoa there.” Xander flashed a nervous smile. “I don’t think I even want to know what you’ve been smoking, let alone if I could have some.” He began to slowly step around the older man. “So, I’m just gonna leave, and you can do. . . whatever it is. . . you came in here to do.”

Ghost shook his head. This was so not going like he had hoped. “He’s not human. He’s. . . he’s evil.” The words came flying out, a last minute attempt to shock the dark haired man into listening to him. The reaction was not what he was looking for.

Xander’s face seemed to shut down. His eyes hardened and his mouth pressed into a deep scowl. This was unexpected in a wholly not good way.

A sliver of fear went through Ghost. He had been wrong, this young man did know what he was keeping company with, and was obviously not pleased about being called on it.

Without a word, Xander turned and exited the bathroom. A part of him was quite pleased with how calm he was handling all this. Another, larger part, was screeching hysterically. Luckily for the larger part, he found his almost painfully conspicuous vampire with not so surprising ease.

Any other time Xander would have been laughing his ass off at the look of absolute consternation on Angel’s face concerning his social predicament. This time, however, he merely grabbed the older man’s arm and began to pull him towards the door.

“What’s. . .”

“We’re leaving.” The teenager said firmly.

Angel resisted slightly, which since he was a vampire, meant they stopped moving. “But, what about your idea?”

“Screw the idea.”

“Xander?”

“Dammit, Angel, I said let’s go!” The mortal anxiously looked over the vampire’s shoulder and tensed.

Angel felt the change in Xander’s body. He turned his head, wanting to see what had so upset the younger man.

*****

Ghost watched the human try and pull the creature to the door. He needed to do something, say something. Suddenly everything stopped. His voice, his brain, his very heart, stilled as his eyes locked onto Angel’s. There was one second when the young sensitive’s mind was filled with just how lovely those soft, brown eyes were. And then, he saw what was behind them.

Ghost couldn’t even scream as the images assaulted not just his head, but his very being. Blood, and pain, and tears. . . it had liked the tears almost as much as the blood. Skin shredding, ripping. . . leaning close so it could hear the sound made right when the flesh tore. There were screams and there were sobs, and there was more. . . so much. . .too much. . .

Steve was by his side before Ghost even had a chance to hit the ground. Muscles strained as he held up his friend, who was surprisingly heavy. Steve suddenly couldn't get the word ‘deadweight’ out of his head.

Angel crossed to them in a few quick strides, with Xander right behind him. The bartender hurried over too, obviously another witness to the incident, while the others in the club simply didn’t notice, or didn’t really care.

“Dammit.” Angel cursed as he got a good look at Ghost’s condition.

Fire and fear raged behind Steve’s eyes. “What. . . Did you do this!?”

“Angel?” Xander gave his lover a concerned look.

“It’s okay. I’ve seen this happen before.” Angel said softly.

“When?”

“The last time someone touched my mind.” The vampire looked sharply at Steve, who flinched. “Your little physic friend here needs to learn to stay out of places he’s not welcome. If you want him back, we need to get him some place quiet. Now.”

Steve’s thought process temporarily froze on the ‘physic friend’ remark. “Um. . . Kinsey?”

Kinsey Hummingbird, worry clearly etched on his face, looked up from Ghost’s still form, his eyes snapping into focus at the mention of his name. “Down the back hall, on the left, there’s a room with a couch.” The bartender anxiously wrung his hands. “Are you sure we shouldn’t call the ambulance?”

“No.” Steve said quickly, knowing full well that Ghost was as likely to respond to modern medicine as a paramedic was to actually know what was wrong with him. “It’s okay, Kinsey. We’ll handle it.”

Kinsey stared hard into Steve’s face, and then backed away. Whatever he had seen there seemed to satisfy him.

Without another word, and with little to no exertion, Angel picked up Ghost’s limp body and quickly started down the hall, with Steve and Xander following close behind.

They found the room and in that absent minded kind of way that people teetering on the bridge of shock usually have, Steve noted that someone really needed to clean this place up. Empty beer bottles and overflowing ashtrays seemed to be the predominate decorative features. But the couch was relatively clean and. . . non-smelly, if not a truly horrible shade of orange.

Angel gently placed Ghost on the garish sofa. “What’s his name?”

Steve faltered for a minute. They had been best friends since fifth grade. He really did know this. “Uh, G-Ghost.”

Angel crouched down and leaned close to the pale young man, his lips stopping a fraction of an inch from Ghost’s ear. “Ghost? Ghost, you need to come back now. Those aren’t your memories, Ghost. Just let them go.” Worried brown eyes darted back up to Steve. “What’s your name?”

“Steve.” The guitarist started as a warm hand grasped his shoulder. He turned to find Xander beside him, a soft, anxious yet reassuring not quite smile on the younger man’s face.

“Ghost?” Angel’s voice had gotten slightly louder. “Ghost, Steve’s waiting for you. Remember Steve? He needs you to come back. Now.”

There was the slightest flutter of impossibly pale lashes. “He’s finding his way back.” Angel stood up and moved towards the door, apparently satisfied that any true threat to the young sensitive had passed. “I’m gonna get him some water for him.”

“I can do that.” Xander offered. “Maybe you should stay?”

Angel grimaced. “It might not be a good idea for me to be. . . right here when he wakes up.” He saw Xander’s concerned frown, answered it with a shaky smile that a promised an explanation later, and closed the door behind him.

It had been less then ten minutes since Ghost had fallen, since Steve had felt that God awful, all encompassing fear pass through him. His brain had officially overloaded. Who were these people? What had happened? The tall guy had said Ghost had touched his mind. How the hell did he know that, and exactly what kind of shit did he have going on in his head to make Ghost fall out like that? Hundreds of questions ran through the guitarist’s mind, but the most prevalent was the first one that actually made it out. “What the *hell* is going on!?”

Xander sighed, not in the least surprised by the outburst. “Would you like the long version, or the short version?”

“Which ever one is gonna make more sense.”

The teen blinked at him a few times. “Well. . . um. . .”

“Fine, just. . . Short version.”

“My name’s Xander. The tall, scowling one who just left is Angel. He’s a good vampire, I’m his. . . uh. . .” The teenager frowned as a myriad of words flitted through his mind. Boyfriend? Companion? Lover? Everything he could think of was either banal, or blushworthy, and Xander didn’t quite feel like being either right then. “We’re together.” He said finally. “And, occasionally we. . . fight the forces of. . . evil.” So much for not being banal.

Steve was silent for a moment, the gears slowly trying to turn. “Is there a medium version?”

Xander sighed. “How about this. Everything that we thought that went bump in the night when we were kids, actually goes bump in the night. . .of course, somethings go bump in the day too.” He shook his head. “Um, let me start over. Demons and bad things actually exist. I grew up on a Hellmouth, kind of an evil central, and my friends and I fought a lot of different nasties. Without delving too much into the drama that used to occupy our lives, Angel and I found out we really liked each other. So, after we survived my graduation ceremony, he and I went on the road, got lost, and ended up here.”

“Okay.” The older man said, not quite getting any of it.

“Kind of a lot to take in, I know. Believe me, I know.” Xander thought of something as he gazed at Ghost. “But, your friend is psychic, right? So, all this otherworldly stuff shouldn’t be completely new to you.”

“No, it’s not.” Steve said quietly. Suddenly his addled mind grasped onto something Xander had said from before. Vampire! They were vampires?!

Steve made himself calm down. Vampires. That was okay. He had fought with vampires before. They were almost the same as humans. It just took a little more to bring them down. But they could die. That green eyed psycho Zillah had.

Without looking away from the thing - Xander, that was it’s name, right? Like it mattered - Steve’s fingers searched for then found an empty beer bottle on the table beside him. His hand curled around the neck and with a sudden jerk of his arm he lifted up and then brought the base of it down on the unyielding metal table.

Xander, startled by the sudden sound, turned just as the wickedly jagged glass of the broken bottle came flying towards his face.

**********

Part 4

**********

As the broken bottle was swung towards him, Xander barely had time to breath, let alone react. But, luckily his Slayerette instinct - which, without nightly life or death situations had been utilizing an amazing amount of racked up vacation time - kicked in. The teen gave a yelp, threw his arms in front of his face, and leapt backwards. His finely honed method of self-preservation prevented injury to his face, but he hadn’t been quite quick enough to stop the sharp glass from tearing across his forearm.

“OW!!” He gaped at the blood welling up on his skin, then glared at the dark haired guitarist. “Dammit!! What the hell’s your problem?!”

Steve paused at the unexpected reaction. Where was the clawing and the biting and the just. . . general. . . being evilness that he had come to associate with these creatures? He suddenly felt very unsure of his actions, which only served to piss him off more. The guy was a vampire. He had said it himself. “You’re a vampire. You said it yourself.”

Xander momentarily forgot his wounded arm as he fixed Steve with a look of complete incredulity. “What?! *I’m* not a vampire! Are you high!?”

For once the older man’s head was relatively clear. . . of any herbal induced fog at least. “I heard you.” He insisted, thrusting the broken bottle in the air, punctuating each word. “You said you were a vampire.”

“No.” Xander let the word drag out a bit, as if he was speaking to a child, in this case a particularly surly child. “I said Angel was a vampire, and not just a vampire, a good vampire. *Good* vampire. Notice the emphasis on the word ‘good’?”

Steve snorted. “I know vampires.” His voice shook with something he still truly wasn't ready to identify. “There is no such thing as a *good* vampire. The whole lot of them are nothing but leeches, destroying whatever they can sink their filed teeth into. If you’re really not a vampire then why are you with him?” He cocked his head. “Can you even see what he’s doing, or are you only gonna wake up when he gets tired of using you?”

Xander bristled at this, absolutely hating the fact that this obvious nutjob from a nothing town had managed to somehow figure out the biggest insecurity in his present life. The teenager opened his mouth, ready to deliver a scathing reply that would focus not only on Steve’s clearly limited intelligence, but also on certain aspects of his family’s lineage and/or genetic disposition. Jagged weapon of potential death be damned.

However, before Xander could speak, a weary voice rose from the sofa. “Steve, quite being a jackass.” Ghost’s pale blue eyes were tired, but alert, as he calmly regarded his bottle wielding friend.

“Yeah, Steve.” Xander said crossly.

Steve ignored the teenager and immediately dropped down next to the couch. “Ghost. . . I thought. . . “ He shook his head, as if the physical act would help clear his mind. “Are you okay?” The question was asked softly

The door to the room opened, and Angel, ever one to appreciate the value of good timing, hurried through. “I got him some wa. . .” The vampire trailed off, the glass of liquid in his hand forgotten as his nostrils flared and fixed on a coppery tang in the air. Blood, with the faintest note of fear attached to it, and under that, another scent, one that had been etched into Angel’s soul over long, sleepless nights of trying to memorize ever single aspect of the warm mortal in his arms. No, not just blood then. Xander’s blood.

With one glance the vampire knew all he needed to know. The dark haired stranger was still holding the bloodied bottle. He had injured Angel’s mate. The demon inside demanded retaliation and for once, it’s human host agreed.

Angel snarled, his handsome features disappearing as the ridged countenance of the demon took center stage, much to Xander’s trepidation, and Steve’s dismay.

The golden eyes of the demon fixed on him, and suddenly Steve couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, couldn’t see anything but the promise of death reflected in those yellow orbs. Angel growled again, and the guitarist could feel himself sliding further down the food chain.

With his good arm, Xander squeezed Angel’s shoulder. “Deadboy, just. . . it was a misunderstanding, everything’s okay. So, stop with the ‘Grr’.”

“He hurt you.” The vampire’s gaze from his mortal prey. Oh, he had no real intention of *killing* the younger man. But Xander’s safety had always brought out Angel’s baser instincts, and that combined with the stress from the past day had the vampire just itching to beat the crap out of someone.

“He’s sorry.” Xander gave the guitarist a worried glance. “ Aren’t you, Steve? Very sorry.”

Steve nodded mutely

Angel licked his lips. “I can make him sorrier.”

Ghost suddenly cleared his throat, reminding the others of his presence. “But that’s not what you’re here for. Is it, Angel?” His voice was strong, clear, and confident, and the words he uttered next had everyone else in the room reeling. “You’re here to stop it.” He laid a hand on Steve’s arm. “And we’re here to help you.”

*****

“Can I just say that I really don’t like this.” Steve’s knuckles were white as he gripped the steering wheel of the T-bird.

“Yes.” Ghost leaned his head against the glass of the passenger’s side window.

“I really don’t like this.” If it was possible, his hands actually tightened around the wheel.

“I know.” Ghost sighed.

Trusting the old, brown car to remember the way home, Steve turned to glare at his companion. “We’re inviting a *vampire* over to our house. Don’t you find anything wrong with that? Don’t you remember the last time we had visitors with pointy teeth?”

There was silence for a moment, then, “Yeah, I do.”

“And?”

“And, this is different. He’s different.”

“No kidding.” Steve returned his attention to the road, pleased to find that they had only slightly drifted into the other lane. “That thing with his face. . . that was really real, wasn’t it?”

Ghost sighed again. “Yeah.”

“I really *really* don’t like this.”

“Do you trust me?”

“Ghost, it’s not about. . .”

“Steve?”

“Yeah.” The guitarist said truthfully. “Yes, of course I do.”

Ghost merely nodded, and returned his gaze to the darkened, blurred landscape.

*****

“I don’t like this.”

Xander sighed. “It’s not exactly on my top ten list of things to do either, but. . .” He absently fiddled with the makeshift bandage on his arm. “That wasn’t exactly the best place to talk rampaging monster, and that guy, Ghost, did say that he had stuff that could help my arm get better. All in all, this is the most expedient course of action.”

Angel frowned. “Expedient?”

Xander puffed up defensively. “Hey, you try hanging around stoic, British, watcher guy on a regular basis for three years and see if you aren’t permanently marred with a grandiose, yet mostly ineffective vocabulary.”

Angel slowly blinked. “You aren’t possessed again, are you?”

Xander scowled. “Moving on,” He said firmly. “What exactly is so bad here? Psychic boy said he could give us the low down on the evil thing, right?”

“I don’t believe ‘low down’ was the phrase he used, but. . .”

“Whatever.” The teen rolled his eyes. “We’ll find out what it is, lob off it’s head or something, and then you and I will go back to the hotel and celebrate with hot, sweaty, monkey sex.”

“It’s not that simp. . .” The vampire paused as Xander’s last words sunk in. Oh yes, for a moment he had almost forgotten that he was in a relationship with a nineteen year old male. He cleared his throat. “It’s not that simple.”

“Elaborate on the complexities.”

“I’m just not sure we should trust them.”

Xander’s brows rose. “It this because of Steve? You know, the part of me that remembers what it was like to be normal kinda understands the whole freaking out thing.”

“No, it’s. . . it’s not that.” Angel’s eyes glittered, brown irises suddenly full of golden flecks. He took a deep breath, letting the unneeded process calm his more instinctive nature. The vampire chose his next words carefully. “I just think we should be careful around them.”

Xander was silent for a moment, and then, as he was sometimes prone to do, the teenager accurately seized upon the unspoken reason behind Angel’s concern. “When Ghost went inside your mind, how much did he see?”

Angel sighed and somewhat wished his lover would occasionally be as obtuse as most people made him out to be. “Everything. He knows everything.”

Xander closed his eyes, not liking any of the thoughts that had popped up at that admission. “Yeah,” He said softly. “I can see how that might be a problem.”

**********


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