Motive and Opportunity


Angel: "I'm not AN Angel. It's just a name."

The Hyperion is never completely silent, especially at night. The old hotel creaks and settles, old wood and stucco responding to changes in temperature and humidity. And under the more mundane sounds, there's the half-heard whispers of incompletely manifested spirits, the echoes of death and despair left by the Thesulac. Usually he puts on some music when he's here alone.

But tonight he wants quiet as he sits at the desk in his suite, staring at a photo of Kate, taken when she was fresh out of the academy, smiling in her starched new uniform. Pretty, pretty, Katie. He's dwelling on the way she'd tasted, filling his mouth, trickling down his throat. The blood in his mug is human, but it's not the same, not nearly enough.

Oh - Katie - what are you so afraid of?...

Sips and wonders if she's lying in her bed, tossing restlessly, her hand rubbing the marks of his teeth. If in her dreams she smiles, as her body, unfettered by her consciousness, remembers the ecstasy of their brief joining.

Probably not. In reality it had been too quick. He'd been as careful as he could...but there hadn't been time to give her much more than pain. And somehow, he doesn't think he'll get another chance. He hears the clank of the elevator. Wonders who it is. Cordelia and Wesley had gone home hours ago, exhausted. Gunn, with another emergency? Maybe it's Kate, come to retrieve her crucifix/stake. That was clever, she'd even gone to the trouble of having it blessed; it had been hours before his hand stopped itching. Next time she'll probably bring a flame-thrower. Resourceful girl, his Katie.

Except that she's not his. Not now, not ever.

Whoever it is making no attempt at stealth, so it's probably not Wolfram and Hart trying for another bite at the apple. There's a human heartbeat pounding faster as it comes closer. He lifts his mug to his mouth, sips and swallows. Focusing on Kate's cool beautiful face, so young, so certain of everything. Waiting until he senses his visitor is standing at the door before finally looking up.

Nervous manboy, slouching in his baggy clothes, dark eyes a little hostile despite the fact that he's come here of his own free will. Fair amount of fear coming from him, maybe not enough considering the circumstances. Angel licks his lips.

"Xander?" Angel says. A spark of concern -- is something wrong in Sunnydale? Buffy... Dies quickly when he remembers that nowadays in an emergency people phone, they don't send messengers.

Harris seems to take his name as permission to come forward, and stand in front of the desk.

"Hi," he says. Doesn't seem eager to make eye contact. He spots Kate's photo.

"She's pretty," he says, carefully casual. "Friend of yours?"

"Sometimes." Angel removes her from Xander's speculating eyes by closing the
file and dropping it into a drawer.

"Kinda late, Xander, what are you doing here?" Suddenly he's impatient, wanting whatever this is explained and over with so he can get back to his reverie.

His eyes slide away from Angel's. Focus on the lamp.

"It's Riley," he says, and stops, obviously embarrassed by bringing up the new
boyfriend to the old boyfriend.

"We've met," Angel says.

Xander takes a deep breath. Quick glance at Angel's face, and then he's talking to the lamp again as he spits it out in an unhappy gush of words.

"He's been kinda…off lately. Pulling all these risky stunts, when we're out on patrol, that is, when he bothers to show up… Buffy hasn't noticed, cause of all the stuff with her mom…" Another fleeting look at Angel who nods. He knows all about Joyce's medical problems. If she dies, it will be yet more confirmation that if there is an almighty God, he's a vicious bastard.

"Well uh, I saw him going into this warehouse and I thought maybe he was going to get himself into trouble, so I followed him and, uh looked through a window..." Voice rising with anxiety, talking faster and faster, eager to get it all out and over with.

"He was sitting in there, letting this skanky vampire chick suck on his arm. Letting her feed on him. And after awhile he stopped her, gave her some money, and left." He stops, dark eyes fixed on Angel's now, waiting for his reaction.

Laughter is not an appropriate response. Angel repeats this to himself until he's sure he can maintain. The idea of army boy falling prey to this particular perversion is just too perfect.

Amusement swept away by black rage directed at the big blond idiot when he realizes what the news will do to Buffy... who already has far too much on her plate. He never liked that guy.

"Have you told Buffy?"

"Uh, no. She's got a lot to deal with right now, and if I tell Giles he'd try and do something. And Buffy would find out; Giles isn't real good with covert."

"So, why are you here? You want me to talk to Riley?" That would be a short and terminal conversation. Can't help letting a little smile slip out at the thought.

"Uh, No. I just…" His voice peters out and he stands with his shoulders hunched, studying the stitching on his absurd sneakers. Angel waits. Knows that he's finally getting to the real reason for Xander's presence.

"I just wanted to know.. I wanted to ask you... I thought getting bit *hurt*." He winces visibly at some memory. "So why the hell would he pay for it? Is it some kind of a S & M thing?" And there's confusion, and disgust, and above all, longing on his face.

Ah. So that's it.

He takes his time deciding what to say while Xander squirms under his gaze. He can imagine what Xander saw in that warehouse. G.I. Jerk's face, transformed by bliss. Perilously attractive to someone like Xander. In the 5 years he's known him his features have changed, from adolescent to adult. But some things remain the same, he's still unhappy under the jokes, still angry, still unsure of his place in the world. Anxiety clear in his posture, his face, his eyes as he waits for his answer. Absently Angel lifts his mug, but it's empty, he sets it back down.

He recognizes that hollowness at the heart of Xander, knows it intimately. He'd rebelled against his father's expectations, because he'd wanted, needed, something more, though he'd had no idea of what exactly. He'd fulfilled his father's worst fears, when he'd filled the void with drinking, gambling, fucking and best of all the release of a good fight, the simplicity of the giving and taking of pain. He'd been 27 years old and still living under his father's roof, when he died.

Oh, and wouldn't Angelus be infatuated by the boy; by the tangled bundle of conflicting desires, pain, and badly concealed rage that is Xander. By his raw need. He's pure temptation, set before him, and if this is another test from the PTB, they've timed it badly.

"Mostly, yeah. If the vampire's just feeding, trying to drain as quick as possible, it's gonna hurt," Angel says. "But it can feel good, really good." Telling the truth, when he knows he ought to lie.

"Oh." Blink, and... yes, disappointment.

"If you like, I can show you." Deciding to fall.

"What?" Xander backs away, eyes wide. An acid spike of fear sprays into the air as he makes the obvious assumption. And if he were Angelus, what could he do about it? Angel thinks, they're all alone here. He gives a little push:

"Xander, you could have phoned. You didn't need to come here so I could *tell* you what you want to know."

Another wonderful flush of embarrassment. The blood coming to the surface, heat curling into the air from his skin. Makes it that much harder to sit here and wait. But he can be patient, knowing that the outcome is not really in doubt.

"'re a guy." And that's Yes, whether he recognizes it or not. All they're doing now is negotiating the details.

"Are we talking about sex, Xander?"

"No! And *Hell* No!" Takes a step back, panicked. Possibly a little too vehement.

"Long as we're clear," he reassures him. Not entirely succeeding, but Xander's still here. "Only way you're going to really know. But it's up to you."

Xander's face still shows the conflict, his conscious mind aware that he should get out of there now, go back to Sunnydale, resume his life. It's odd to think that despite everything, Xander's doing better than Liam ever did. He has a girl that loves him, the prospect of children someday. None of which he ever had, not at 19, nor at 27.

Not now. Not ever.

And he knows that none of the good in Xander's life counts against his hunger to know what Riley had felt, to experience for himself the heaven he'd seen reflected there.

Can see the self-loathing when he steps back toward the desk, and nods. "O.K., show me."

Angel gets up from the chair. "Take off your shirt."

"What? Oh." Still nervous, but committed now as he turns his back to obey. Jumps when Angel reaches out to take the shirt and hang it neatly over the back of a chair. Xander shivers and it occurs to Angel that it's cold in the room.

"Sorry, still haven't been able to get the heat working. Cordelia has a space heater under her desk. I can go get it."

"No. It's O.K."

Angel shakes his head. "Don't want you catching cold." He goes into his bedroom, gets one of his robes. It's too big for him, he looks very young huddled in the heavy black silk, but he stops shivering.

"Sit down." Offers his chair to him. Xander sits down gingerly, jumps when Angel comes up behind him and touches him. He brushes his fingers softly along his neck, savoring the sensation of soft warm skin, applies gentle pressure on the carotid, feeling the pulse jumping under his fingertips. "Here?"

"No!" Still some sense of self-preservation left then. Good.

"Yeah, too public," Angel agrees and continues his leisurely mapping of Xander's circulatory system.

"Cephalic? Radial?" Angel murmurs, carefully manicured fingernails tracing the
veins in his arms, then down to his thigh. "Femoral?"

"Hey!" Angel removes his hand, doesn't laugh.

"The arm then, the elbow's best." He takes the boy's arm in a firm grip and turns it upwards, rubbing the bend with his thumb. Xander goes tense again as he drops to his knees, and leans against him. Some slight resistance as he takes hold of his arm and stretches it out on the table. Instinct still trying to save him from himself, a little too late. Angel lowers his head and Xander shivers at the sensation of his lips, cold against the skin. He lifts his head, looks at Xander, making sure he's ready. His eyes are wide, glistening with fear...and need. Xander nods and takes a deep breath as Angel lowers his head again.

This is the tricky bit. Deep relief to relax the bonds and finally let the demon out, face pressed to the skin, so the boy won't see it, and then... Xander's startled gasp of pain as the teeth go in, it hurts he knows, nothing he can do about that. Has never forgotten that sharp agony in his throat, when the pretty lady he'd followed into an alley turned into a monster. How he'd tried to struggle against her iron grip as pain and weakness spread through his body...

The first welling up of blood into his mouth makes him grip the boy's arm a little too hard because it's been so damned long... He's trying to push him away, but he keeps on sucking and swallowing and Xander tastes so good going down, the warmth spreading from his belly throughout his body. Too long. He keeps on, steady pressure and he can tell the boy is on the edge of losing it, panic cresting in the blood when, at last...

Xander moans, and the hand trying to push him away goes limp in his hair. Angel remembers that too, the sudden transmutation from agony to delight. How he'd stopped trying to save himself and pressed himself into Darla's eager mouth, spending himself into her; emptying himself out in the longest and last orgasm of his life. Feeling his heart slow, knowing he was dying and so glad to end this way.

The horrible sense of loss when she pulled away, leaving him on his knees in that stinking alley, heart faltering, on the edge of death.

Xander slumps forward, and Angel stops drinking, panicked for a bad moment that he's taken too much. Relaxes when he finds the pulse at the side of the boy's neck steady and strong. He hadn't taken that much, no more than the Red Cross would. He'll be fine.

He lifts Xander into his arms and takes him to the bed. Lays him down. The bite is still oozing and he takes a few moments to lick away every last trace of blood, until the marks of his teeth are clear and pale on his skin. Then he gets bandages and antibiotic and dresses the wound.

He feels better than he has felt in months. He feels replete, his body tingling with borrowed life. He looks down at Xander lying there, pale and used, and tries to summon up some guilt for what he's done. If Cordelia was here he'd at least try to work up the pretense, but he's not feeling it. He hadn't been able to feel it for Kate, and Xander had *asked* him. Wonders what Xander will do now that he has his answer.

He'll be hungry when he wakes up. Eggs, he thinks, toast...he's not sure what's in the refrigerator.

When he comes back up with the food, Xander's eyes are open.

He seems a little surprised to be waking up at all. Lying on his back, looking up at the ceiling a bit blankly. Then puzzlement, at the smell of breakfast.

"You're awake." Xander turns his head and sees Angel. "Made you some food."
He sets the tray down on the bedside table.

Still obviously confused, but he's young and he turns his attention to eggs, bacon, toast and orange juice. Angel watches, pleased, as he eats it all.

Done, he looks down at his arm. Angel suspects that if he were alone he'd peel back the bandage, stare at the brand. Watches him shiver, and look away.

"Now you know," Angel says.

Xander nods, still not looking at him.

"Are you going to tell her?" He looks at him then, and Angel sees a flicker in the boy's eyes, showing that he understands this is two questions, not one.

"No." Glances over at Angel. Who smiles and nods. Satisfied.

"Come on, I'll show you where you can sleep."

Xander gets up and lets Angel lead him away into the darkness of the hotel.



Companion piece: Q&A




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