Angel looked down into the eyes that glared at him, the wall pressing hard against his back, and the tip of the stake sharp against his chest, mentally admitting to himself that he hadn't quite expected his return to Sunnydale to turn out like this.
"I could do it, you know. Push this stake in and kill you, and no one would *ever* know." Xander twisted the stake slightly and a drop of blood ran down the wood. "Oh, they'd worry and look. But they'd never once realise that you were a pile of dust in a back alley in Sunnydale." Leaning forward, Xander brushed his lips along Angel's ear. "They'd never know, because you never told them where you were coming." Pulling back, he looked the vampire in the eyes. "And you'd let me, wouldn't you?" Stepping back, Xander dropped the stake. "Go home, Angel. You're not wanted here."
"No, but I'm *needed*."
Xander frowned at Angel's words. "Who by? Buffy has Riley; she hardly needs you stalking her."
"I'm talking about you, Xander," Angel replied softly. "*You* need me. You've needed me since I came back from Hell. Whether it's for closure, or vengeance, I don't know. But you *do* need me."
"You're wrong. I only ever needed Angelus, and you're not him."
"I could be." The words were out before Angel could stop them, freezing Xander in his tracks, the words lashing out at him.
The mortal turned slowly, his eyes fixed on Angel's face. "You're not Angelus," he repeated. "You could *never* be Angelus." His voice dropped. "Not unless you're about to go out and lose your soul for me, and I doubt if you're prepared to go *that* far."
Angel glanced down, suddenly wondering why he'd ever thought returning to Sunnydale would be a good idea. He'd long ago decided to put Xander Harris from his thoughts; to ignore the veiled looks the boy gave him when he believed no one was watching him, knowing that they weren't for him, but for another who wore his face. He ignored the looks, and the unbidden images that came with them. Visions of Xander on his knees, begging for the harsh caress of leather; and of Angelus, revelling in each whimpered plea for more. He ignored the muted cries of ecstasy that ran through his memory. He ignored the scent of himself on Xander, still ingrained into the boy after so long that it would probably always be there. He ignored it all, walling it away in some corner of his mind. And then Rebecca Lowell had thought it a good idea to dose him with Doximall, to give him a taste of perfect bliss. And the walls had come crashing down, staying down even after Angelus had been brought back under control.
Chained and alone in the darkness, there had been nothing to stop the barrage of images, the assault of memories as night after night of Angelus' time with Xander had replayed in his mind. Refusing to be walled away again, the images had stayed with him, burned into him. Angel had tried to banish the memories, but they had refused to leave. His mind had become preoccupied with Xander, and Angel had found himself fixating on the mortal who consumed his demon's thoughts; remembering the sound of skin against skin, the taste of tear-slicked flesh, the sounds of pleas whispered into the darkness.
"I thought not." Xander's voice succeeded where Angel had continued to fail, and the images receded to the back of the vampire's mind, the imagined mewls of muted pleasure and exquisite pain replaced by the very real sounds of the Sunnydale night. "You can't be what you're not, Angel." Xander said softly. "Believe me, I've tried." There was a poignancy in his words that made Angel want to apologise. Apologise for not being able to be what Xander wanted him to be, for not being Angelus. Apologise for not being a soulless killer who tainted everything he touched. Apologise for not being the one Xander needed so badly.
"And besides, I accepted a long time ago that I wasn't going to get Angelus back."
There was an underlying sadness in Xander's tone that made Angel angry. How dare he mourn that demon. "So you started fucking Spike instead?" Angel hissed. "I can smell him on you, Xander. Smell him *in* you." Angelus had often let Spike watch him with Xander, but had never allowed the younger vampire to participate. It seemed Spike was more than making up for it.
Xander turned away, anger radiating from every pore.
"It's wrong," Angel continued. "All of this, you and Spike, you and Angelus. What you and he had was wrong, Xander, can't you see that?" He *had* to know it. Deep down, Xander had to realise that.
Xander's eyes blazed with fury as he turned back and advanced on the vampire. "He loved me!" he yelled.
"He wanted to own you!" Angel retorted, grabbing Xander's arm to hold him there, to stop him from leaving before he understood what Angel was trying to tell him. "He wanted to see you suffer." Reaching out, he trailed the back of his fingers down Xander's cheek. "He wanted to hurt you."
"And maybe I wanted him to."
Angel stopped at the hissed vehemence in Xander's words, his fingers still resting on Xander's face, feeling the warmth of the boy's skin seep into his cool flesh.
"Did you ever think of that?" Xander continued, his voice a harsh whisper. "Maybe I *wanted* him to hurt me. Maybe I *needed* him to."
The words hung between them, heavy in the night air. Perhaps Angelus *had* known what he was doing when he chose Xander - take a damaged soul, break it further and then re-mould it into everything you could ever want; everything you could ever desire. Angelus had done it with Drusilla, and he had started to do it with Xander. The clarity of thought as the vampire compared his insane childe with the boy in front of him caused Angel to tighten his grip on Xander's arm, his fingers digging into the flesh. A shiver ran through Xander, and the soft scent of arousal hit Angel; arousal, mixed with the unmistakable scent of his childe.
"You've been with Spike," Angel said, an inexplicable flare of jealous rising in him as he released his hold on Xander and stepped back.
A soft smile crossed Xander's face as he absently caressed his right wrist lightly. "You know, it's strange about Spike, but we've discovered that his implant isn't actually triggered if the person he's hurting is willing."
*Mine!* A voice howled possessively in the back of Angel's mind. Before he realised what he was doing he had closed the distance between them, pressing himself against the hot body. "He can't give you what you need, what you want."
"And you can?" Xander replied, a deprecating laugh escaping him. "You've got *nothing* I want, Angel."
Keeping his eyes locked on Xander's, Angel slowly reached out and wrapped his fingers around Xander's arm. Lifting the boy's wrist to his mouth, Angel gently licked at the rope burn that wound its way around the flesh. "Are you so sure?" he asked.
Xander's breath quickened with each lap Angel took at his bruised skin. Heavy lidded eyes fought not to close; irises so dilated that the vampire could barely make out the ring of brown that surrounded them.
His fangs dropping, Angel scored a line along Xander's wrist, teeth slicing skin. Xander's eyes finally closed as his flesh parted under Angel's lips and blood spilled out into the vampire's mouth.
"Want you," Xander breathed the words.
You have me, Angel thought, pushing his tongue between the flesh of the cut wrist to cajole more blood out. You don't need Spike.
Xander arched further into Angel's body, a gasp escaping his lips. "Angelus..."
The name stabbed at Angel, and he tore his mouth away from the bloody wrist as the sound of the murmur died in the air.
Xander's eyes opened, arousal dampened by confusion.
"I'm not him," Angel stated quietly.
A frown crossed Xander's face, and Angel realised that the boy didn't know what he'd said.
"You called me Angelus," Angel told him. "I'm *not* him."
Xander reached out and slowly brushed his fingers along Angel's mouth, wiping away the blood - his blood, human blood - that framed the vampire's lips. "Try again, Angel," he said quietly. "I *know* Angelus, and it seems you're not as different from him as you claim to be."
"I'm not him," Angel repeated.
Xander looked at Angel, his eyes fixed on the vampire's. Silence surrounded them for long minutes, until Xander eventually turned his gaze away from Angel's face. "No," he said finally, "I guess you're not."
Angel heard the note of acceptance in Xander's voice. "I... I'm... sorry, Xander." Sorry that Angelus started this. Sorry that you had the kind of life where it was easy for you to accept that love comes with pain. Sorry that Spike had learned so well under his sire's tutelage. Somehow, the words seemed so very inadequate.
Xander smiled softly. "So am I , Angel. So am I."
Angel watched silently as Xander turned and walked out of the alley, listening to the retreating footfalls until they faded completely, knowing that the boy was returning to Spike. Totally alone, Angel closed his eyes, and someone, locked away deep inside the vampire, screamed.