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[personal profile] devo79fanfic
Title: Inner Child, part 4 - The end
Author: Devo79
Characters: Angel, Xander
Rating: PG

--------------------------------------------

Angel paced back and forth in the lobby. His leather shoes made a muffled creaking sound every time he reached Cordy’s desk. He angrily turned around only to walk all the way to the stairs, stop and then stare hard at the door and pace back to Cordy’s desk.

“They’ll find him,” Lorne promised from his position on the stairs. The demon had retreated there after being growled at by the worried vampire.

“You don’t know that,” Angel stopped pacing in favor of glaring at Lorne.

“No,” he demon agreed, “But pacing isn’t helping and you’re going to need all your energy when the sun goes down and it’s your turn to lead the search party.”

“He’s been gone almost 24 hours now,” Angel said and slumped down next to Lorne on the steps, “You know LA,” he ran a shaking hand through his hair, “You know what could happen to him out there.”

“I do,” Lorne nodded.

Silence filled the large room until Lorne turned and looked at Angel, “He really did a number on you didn’t he?”

“Who?” Angel asked only just managing to tear his eyes off the front doors.

“The little man,” Lorne smiled, “He’s really gotten under your skin, hasn’t he?”

Angel grumbled and began fiddling with the hem of his jacket. He tried to avoid Lorne’s inquisitive red eyes. The vampire sighed and his lips quirked, “I guess I told you he had that ability.”

“You two…weren’t friends?” Lorne turned on his step so he was facing Angel, “I mean before…when he was a grown man?”

“Friends…” Angel looked thoughtful, “No,” he shook his head, “Saying we were friends would be stretching things…a lot.”

------------------------------------------------

The old lady at the bus stop was staring at him. Her old wrinkled hands were wrapped around a walker and she kept swaying a little forward as if she couldn’t find her balance point.

“Aren’t you too little to be taking the bus all alone?” she asked in a high-pitched creaking voice. The lady smiled, the movement of her lips accentuating the wrinkles around her eyes and mouth.

“going home,” Xander mumbled and dried his eyes. He was a big boy and big boys didn’t cry like a little baby.

“Hmmmm,” the lady said and hobbled closer, the walker scraping across the pavement, “Your mommy’s waiting for you?”

“no,” he studied the cracks in the pavement before he defiantly looked up and into the old woman’s watery eyes.

“Oh,” she squinted and shook her head, “I guess your father’s on the bus then,” it wasn’t a question so he just nodded minutely and looked away.

------------------------------------------------

“Did you find him?” Angel asked the second Buffy and Gunn closed the front doors behind them.

“I think we need to call the police,” Buffy said and looked apologetically at Angel, “We’ve tried everywhere, Angel. There just isn’t any sign of him.”

“We can’t call the police,” Gunn said and threw his jacket at Cordy’s desk, “How are you going to explain who the kid is or why you can’t find him?”

Buffy just nodded and then looked over at Angel. The vampire was hovering close to the front doors, “The sun won’t be down for a few hours,” she pointed out.

“I know,” Angel growled and glared at the door as if trying to will the sun to set, “I could take the sewers…”

“Boy won’t be there,” Gunn said and sat down in Cordy‘s chair, “I know this is goddamn hard but you just have to wait.”

“Maybe Giles and Cordy found something,” Buffy offered optimistically.

-----------------------------------------------

“Excuse me,” Giles said and smiled disarmingly at a small group of elderly women sitting at the café tables outside the small coffee shop, “You shouldn’t by any chance have seen a small dark-haired unaccompanied boy?”

“No,” a woman with bluish curls answered, “I don’t think so. But this is LA. There’s so many exciting things going on,” the other ladies twittered in agreement.

“Ah, yes,” Giles nodded.

“We’re just here on a shopping trip,” a woman with a green cardigan said flirtingly, “Seeing the sights and enjoying the view,” her eyes traveled up and down the watcher’s body.

-------------------------------------------------

Cordy looked around the room at the demons. A few of them took a step back, their scales rustling nervously.

“I swear to God,” a huge turuarki demon shuffled a little as Cordy’s voice filled the small bar, “If I find out any of you knew where he was and just didn’t want to tell me…”

“Honestly,” a small brown demon with warts on its face held up its four hands, “There hasn’t been a kid here and we haven’t heard anything.”

--------------------------------------------------

“Hey,” the man smiled at him.

Xander looked up from the bench he was sitting on. He dangled his legs back and forth, the lace of his left shoe tracking a fine line in the dusty earth under the bench. The large tree behind it made it one of the few shady places in the park. The man standing over him was old. He looked almost as old as Cordy and she was really old even if Angel had told him not to say it to her.

“Your dad around?” the man asked and scanned the area. He licked his lips.

“no,” Xander whispered.

“Bet your mom is here somewhere then,” the man continued.

“no,” Xander felt tears pressing behind his closed eyes and shook his head violently.

“So,” the man said and sat down on the bench, “You’re all alone here. Just you and me.”

Xander tilted his head back to get a better view of the man. He had funny lines next to his eyes when he smiled and he had shiny lips. The man put a hand on Xander’s knee and squeezed. Xander stared at the large hand and squirmed a little.

“Just sit still,” the man said, “I’ll buy you a big ice cream, okay.”

Xander nodded. He hadn’t eaten in forever and was really hungry.

“with chocolate sprinkles?” Xander asked and watched as the big hand traveled up his thigh.

-----------------------------------------

Angel ripped the door open the second it was dark enough for him to leave the shelter of the hotel. He looked left and right suddenly uncertain what route to take.

“We’ve already checked out the neighborhood,” Gunn said from behind him, “No one has seen anything or heard anything. Lorne is trying to pull a few favors but…”

“He couldn’t have gone far,” Buffy added and walked over to stand next to Angel, “He’s just a kid…”

“He’s a smart kid,” Angel interrupted and glared at Buffy when she snorted, “What?”

“He’s Xander,” Buffy said and looked from Angel to Gunn, “He was never a genius to begin with.”

“And yet he survived on the Hellmouth,” Gunn said and shouldered his way past the slayer.

“Look,” Buffy followed the two men as they moved away from the hotel, “I’m not saying he was…I just…hey! Wait up!” she quickened her steps to keep up, “Xander was always a little clumsy and…”

-----------------------------------------

Cordy put her cell phone back in her purse.

“So?” Giles asked anxiously. They were sitting in a diner, a cup of steaming hot coffee in front of them.

“Angel is trying to find Xander by following the kid’s scent,” Cordy said and squinted her eyes almost closed, “I’ve seen him do stuff like that before but never so long after the person has disappeared.”

“I’m certain he will do his best,” Giles pointed at the map spread out between them, “Have we been there?”

“Twice,” Cordy sipped her coffee, “We’ve been all over the neighborhood twice.”

“Angel seems,” Giles searched for the right words, “Attached to Xander.”

“I guess,” Cordy put the cup down on the corner of the city map, “Honestly, I think we all are.”

-----------------------------------------

Xander sat down on a step outside a closed shop and looked down at his scraped knee. It hurt and he could see little specks of dirt grinded into the bleeding skin. Shivering, holding back tears, he curled in on himself trying to keep warm in his t-shirt and jeans. His left shoe had long scratches in the blue leather and he sniffled sadly when he noticed that the bright red stripes down the sides of the shoe had been torn off.

“You crying?” a gruff voice asked.

“no,” Xander denied and dried his eyes, “i’m a big boy.”

“Big boys can cry too, you know,” the voice continued, “You mind if I sit down here on your step? It‘s a bit chilly tonight.”

“’s not mine,” he sulked.

“Still,” the man smiled, revealing a lot of teeth missing, “Only polite to ask.”

------------------------------------------

Wesley looked down at the map in front of him and held the pendulum over it. He took a sip of the potion and winced.

“Taste bad?” Fred asked and leant forward to look into the now empty cup.

“Very bad,” Wesley held the pendulum over the middle of the map and stated chanting under his breath. The pendulum started swinging in slow circles going wider and wider until it seemed to get too heavy and dumped down on the map.

Fred leant forward and looked at where the tip of the pendulum had landed.

-------------------------------------------------------

He looked down at the child and pulled him closer. His coat was just big enough to cover the little boy as well and he smiled when he felt a little hand find his and hold on.

“You just keep those pretty eyes closed and get a little rest,” he whispered into the darkness of the alley, “You look like you could use it.”

--------------------------------------------------------

Wesley put the phone down and started cleaning up the ingredients he’d used for the potion. The pendulum was carefully put back in its mahogany case and locked away.

“How’d he take it?” Fred asked anxiously.

“His boy is missing,” Wesley mumbled, “He didn’t take it well.”

----------------------------------------------------

Gunn had a hard time keeping up with the vampire and the slayer. He stopped to catch his breath and watched how Buffy tried to put her hand on Angel’s shoulder only to have it shrugged off.

“He’s been here,” Angel said and took a deep breath tasting the air.

“How long ago?” Gunn asked and walked over to join them.

“Not too long,” Angel scanned the area. Most of the buildings were old factories that hadn’t been in use for a decade or more. The signs had faded and almost all the windows were smashed.

“How’d he end up here?” Buffy frowned down at her new white leather boots. A large black oil stain had soaked into the leather.

“He only knows the mall and the area just around the hotel,” Gunn smirked down at Buffy’s boots.

“He must have just kept going after he ran out the hotel,” Angel said. He turned around and closed his eyes. Lifting his hand and pointing further down the damaged asphalt road, he said, “He went that way.”

-----------------------------------

Xander felt the world move. His legs dangled in the air and his right arm slid down his side and flailed a little as he was startled awake. The nice warm coat slid off him and landed on the ground.

“no!” he yelped, “don’t touch!”

“Xander,” a voice he recognized whispered against his ear, “It’s okay.”

“no,” he tried to kick but a strong hand and a deep voice repeated, “It’s okay. We’re taking you home.”

“gunn?” Xander mumbled and opened his eyes just enough to make out the street-fighter’s face. The arms around him held on tighter and he squinted up at Angel, “i don’t wanna go home.”

The arms seemed to tighten even more around his chest, “Why?” Angel asked.

“don’t wanna go home to my dad,” Xander whispered and sniffled. But only a little. He wasn’t a crying sissy even if his daddy said so.

“Just sleep, Xander,” a woman said and he hid his face in Angel’s dark coat shrugging off her hand.

“don’t touch,” Xander repeated and the woman stepped back, a look of surprised plastered on her face.

------------------------------------

Undressing the half asleep child turned out to be easier than Angel had expected. The limp arms and legs were like overcooked noodles and Xander drifted in and out of sleep. Angel pulled the small t-shirt off him and then the tiny wife beater with Bugs Bunny on it. He stared at the finger sized bruises on the boy’s ribs and upper arms.

Remembering Xander’s plea not to be touched, he very slowly and full of dread unbuttoned and unzipped the dirty jeans and pulled them off. Nothing. Not a single bruise. He pulled the briefs off as well and reluctantly checked them to see if they had been stained or if…God forbid…there was blood on them.

“Is he…unharmed?” Giles asked from the open door.

“Close that door and leave,” Angel growled.

-----------------------------------

Cordy handed Angel a big fluffy towel and watched him lift the still sleepy boy out of the bathtub. Only Xander’s hair and feet were visible under the towel. She stepped out of the way, letting the vampire sit down on the toilet lid with Xander cradled against his chest as he dressed the mumbling boy.

“Was he hurt, Angel?” Cordy asked and knelt down in front of them.

“He has bruises on his ribs and arms,” Angel said hoarsely.

Cordy started putting socks on the chubby feet, her fingers stroking the arch of each foot, “But nothing…” her voice trailed off.

“No,” Angel shook his head and managed to get Xander dressed in his pjs.

------------------------------------------

“’m hungry,” Xander mumbled against Angel’s shoulder just he was lowered to the bed, “that man didn’t give me any ice cream,” he slurred.

Angel stiffened, “What man, Xander.”

“i told him not to touch,” Xander blinked owlishly up at Angel.

“Where did he touch you,” Angel sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled the blanket over Xander’s body.

“legs,” Xander said as he drifted back into sleep, “but I kicked him. and ran real fast. my shoes…” the little voice grew fainter, “i fell and hurt my shoes.”

“We’ll get you new ones,” Angel promised and leant over, pulled the blanket all the way up to Xander’s chin and kissed his forehead.

-----------------------------------------

“So…about Xander,” Buffy said when Angel joined the rest of his team and their guests in the kitchen.

Cordy stared disbelievingly at the slayer.

“Well,” Buffy put her sandwich down on the plate in front of her, “We haven’t really solved the problem yet, have we?”

“She’s right,” Angel said and sat down in the chair opposite Buffy’s, “That’s why I think I need to make something very clear. Xander is staying here, with me…” Angel smiled at his team, “With us. He’ll have a home here as long as he wants. I’ll take care of all his needs.”

“But he’s just a little kid,” Buffy said, “You don’t know anything about raising a child.”

“As true as that might be,” Giles interrupted her, “That could be said about all parents when they have their first child. And if what Cordy tells me about the Harris family is true, and I believe it is, then it would be irresponsible to send him back to live with them.”

“We wanted him to go somewhere safe,” Buffy continued, “You can’t honestly tell me this,” she waved a hand around the kitchen indicating the entire hotel, “is safe?”

“He is much stronger than any of you give him credit for,” Wesley said.

“I know Xander is strong,” Buffy ran both hands through her hair, “But this is different. He’s a little defenseless boy.”

Angel snorted, “If what Xander told me before he fell asleep again…Well, let’s just say there’s a child molester limping around with a bruise on his shin.”

“Child molester?” Giles blanched.

“He didn’t do anything,” Angel reassured the pale watcher, “Xander kicked him and ran before it got that far.”

Giles mumbled something and took his glasses off to polish them meticulously with a piece of tissue. The watcher blinked furiously a few times trying to regain control over his frantic heartbeat.

--------------------------------------

Epilogue

A loud scream catapulted Angel out of bed, down the hallway and into Xander’s room.

“daddy!” the shriek sounded again and Angel hit the light switch and blinked up at the ceiling light for a split second.

“You okay, Xander?” Angel asked and looked around the seemingly empty room, “Xander?”

“shhhh,” came a strained voice from under the bed, “he’s gonna hear you.”

“Who’s gonna hear me?” Angel asked and knelt down next to the bed. He looked under it and stared directly into a pair of big brown eyes.

“the clown,” the boy hissed and pulled the Action Man closer to his chest.

“The clown?” Angel repeated and Xander rolled his eyes in annoyance.

“he was big and had huuuge eyes and a big red nose,” Xander’s voice was muffled by the Action Man pressed against his mouth.

“It was just a bad dream,” Angel tried to calm him.

“he had nasty teeth,” Xander said, “all big and sharp and…” he shivered.

“You want me to check your room just to be sure?” Angel offered.

“uh huh.”

Angel stood back up and looked around the room, “If there’re any clowns hiding in here you better give yourself up,” he said menacingly, “If you don’t I’ll be drinking clown blood for breakfast,” a giggle coming from under the bed spurred him on, “I’ll suck your scrawny clowny neck until your silly shoes start to curl.”

“are they gone?” Xander asked as he slowly crawled out from under his bed.

“Yeah,” Angel looked around the room, “All gone.”

“did you check the closet?” Xander look intently at the closet door.

“I forgot about that,” Angel said and walked over to the closet.

“scare him with your bumpy face,” Xander demanded and Angel went into game face, turned the closet door handle and ripped the door up.

He snarled at Xander’s shirts, pants and odd collection of toys and then growled over his shoulder at Xander, “No clowns hiding here.”

“okay,” Xander said and scratched his butt with Action Man’s leg, “can i sleep in your room.”

“Why?” Angel asked, “The clowns are all gone.”

“what if they come back?”

“Okay,” Angel lifted Xander up, “Let’s make a deal. Tonight you get to sleep in my bed and tomorrow Wesley’s going to make an anti-clown-potion.”

“so they can’t come into my room?” Xander asked.

“Yep,” Angel said and carried Xander down the hallway and into his bedroom. The room was only lit by a small lamp hanging on the wall by the door. He put Xander down and pulled the covers back on the bed.

“Wha’?” Cordy mumbled and turned sleepily around, her dark blue nightgown twisting around her body. She looked up at Angel and frowned, “Is it morning already?”

“No,” Angel helped Xander under the covers and then crawled into bed.

“did you have a bad dream about clowns too?” Xander asked and cuddled closer to Cordy.

“Um…” Cordy looked over at Angel, “Yeah…they can be real scary those clowns with their weird shoes.”

“don’t worry,” Xander said and patted Cordy’s shoulder, “angel’ll just scare them away with his face.”
 
Next chapter

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