“Yes!” Gunn shouted with a small whoop as he stared at the computer screen on Fred’s desk in the lobby of the Hyperion.
“What is it?” Fred glanced over from where she was standing at the file cabinet, sorting and refiling their closed cases.
It was just after ten p.m. on a Friday night in Los Angeles and the team at Angel Investigations was bored. They were between cases, the demon activity seeming to be at a lull, and no one had anywhere better to be so they hung around the hotel, making busy work, or, in Gunn’s case, surfing favorite sites on the Internet.
“The new one. It’s up,” Gunn replied with a grin as he clicked the mouse and leaned back in the chair.
“What’s up?” The slender brunette asked curiously as she methodically slipped the stack of files back into the drawer, one after the other.
“Oh, this must be that Internet demon fighting thing again.” Cordelia looked up from the desk where she was sitting and flipping through the latest issue of “W” to glance at the computer screen. “Honestly, Gunn, you’re an addict.”
“Hey, don’t mack on my choice of entertainment. I seem to remember that you were the one who couldn’t miss an ep of that bad shit ‘The Bachelorette’,” the young man replied with a smirk, his eyes never leaving the screen where the now downloaded video was beginning to play. He frowned, playing with the volume controls.
“That was… educational. As a single woman in Los Angeles, I need to understand the criteria for choosing acceptable men,” Cordy airily retorted, her gaze now fixed attentively on the screen.
“Uh-huh,” Gunn snorted. “Are you sure it wasn’t about that Harvard man you thought was so hot? Or maybe you’re hoping to be the Bachelorette number two?”
Ignoring the question, Cordelia pulled up a chair and sat next to Gunn, pushing him over slightly for a better view of the screen.
“So now you want to watch?” Casting her a look of irritation, Gunn once again adjusted the volume on the computer. The sound of crickets came through the speakers as the camera panned through a densely wooded forest.
“It looks interesting.” Cordy shrugged as Fred glanced back over her shoulder with a small grin. “And I’m always willing to expand my horizons… unlike some people.”
“Ah. There we go.” Sitting back again in his chair, Gunn crossed his arms over her chest to watch.
On the video, the camera once again passed over the outline of the large, muscular man who had been on the screen when the video began. Just ahead of the man, a flashlight illuminated a tall, beefy demon shrouded in a black robe. A pair of yellow eyes in a dark, swarthy face gleamed maliciously at the camera. The video shook as the person holding the camera seemed to jump back. A deep voice broke the silence with a narrative:
“This here is a … They’re bloodthirsty … They have … organs. This one … a real bad … feed … the area … last coupla…”
Gunn cursed softly and fumbled with the speaker cords as the audio sputtered intermittently.
Off-camera, a woman’s voice mumbled something and the camera wobbled slightly. There was a glimpse of blonde hair, then the camera zoomed in on the large tattoo on the back of the man’s neck, just before he turned back to face the camera.
“You know…” His rich, deep voice purred at the camera just before the audio broke off again.
“Who is this guy, anyway?” Cordelia asked as the camera moved back to scan the demon.
Angel, sitting at a desk behind them and studying an ancient demon anthology text, spoke for the first time, “Some idiot that’s going to get himself killed.”
Gunn shook his head adamantly as he found the end of the almost completely unplugged cord. He reached beneath the desk. “No way, man. This dude is bad ass.”
On screen, the man and the demon circled each other cautiously. When the demon lunged forward, the man threw a punch and the fight was on. The loud thud of each blow could be heard as the force of each thrown fist or kick seemed to reverberate through the camera.
Gunn smiled proudly and sat back in his chair. “Ah. Now we have sound.”
With a low hooking kick, the man managed to sweep the demon’s legs out from under him and the creature dropped to the ground on its’ back. Gunn stopped the video and moved the arrow back to replay that bit of the video again. “Watch this move right here. See that? That takes power and skill. Besides, X took out that Manikesh demon in Cartegena in less than an hour.”
Angel shook his head. Amateur demon hunters were dangerous to themselves and to those that they brought along into the action along with them. This guy apparently drug along someone to hold the camera while he was showing off his questionable skill and who knew how many others. Mostly likely, his death would be caught on film, so maybe the next guy who had such a stupid idea would be less likely to try it. He sighed with resignation. They should probably see if they could find the guy and stop him before that happened.
Fred nodded, now standing behind Gunn. “It was pretty impressive.”
Cordy looked up and over at the normally shy girl, her eyebrows quirked upward in question.
“What? I watch it with Charles once in awhile,” Fred replied somewhat defensively with a shrug. Crossing her arms over her chest, she glanced at the computer monitor covertly once again.
The brunette seer grinned. “You watch it because the guy is hot. Look at those arms. Oh, and that butt. Um-mm. That is some real salty goodness.”
Angel glanced up at Cordy then leaned around to glance curiously at the screen. The guy fighting the demon appeared large and muscular, though the tight fitting black shirt could have been just padding for the camera. Certainly a guy like that would want to make himself look good if he was planning on broadcasting his exploits across the Internet. The vampire looked closer. Definitely looked like padding. He shrugged, returning his attention to his book.
“He is hot, isn’t he?” Not even pretending any longer not to watch, Fred sat on the desk behind them, her eyes fixed on the screen.
“Why don’t they show their faces? Or when they do, they’re all blurry?” Cordelia asked, trying to get a good look at the guy who was rolling around on the ground with the demon. Those arms were definitely impressive, she thought, watching the muscles strain to hold the large demon away from him.
“So you won’t recognize them,” Gunn replied matter-of-factly. “Some of X’s stunts are, well, less than legal.”
The camera panned back, giving the viewers a wide view of the fight and the surrounding area before once again zooming in on the man and demon.
“Oh my god!” Cordelia exclaimed suddenly, slapping Gunn on the arm. “That’s in Sunnyhell. Those are the woods near Lover’s Lane.”
Fred and Gunn cast interested looks at the brunette. Angel’s head came up sharply. Despite his preternatural eyesight, nothing of what he could see on the screen looked distinctive. Not that it mattered that much really; it just meant if that guy was local, it’d be easier for them to find him and put a stop to the idiocy.
“What? I grew up there. I remember things.” The former Sunnydale cheerleader snorted indignantly, smoothing her hair. No need to elaborate on other reasons why she easily recognized the woods where teenagers in Sunnydale often parked to make-out.
“Uh-huh. Spent some time there in a backseat or two, did ya?” Gunn grinned teasingly and nodded as he turned back to the screen.
“That is none of your business,” Cordelia shot back with a look that clearly indicated no further questions on the subject would be entertained.
“Damn. Right in our own backyard,” Gunn said, just as the man on the screen landed a hard kick to the demon’s chest that sent it backward a few feet.
As they watched, the demon lunged forward again and, with a far-reaching wide arm swing, swiped at its’ attacker. The long claws ripped through the man’s shirt almost completely tearing off one sleeve to reveal a heavily tattooed arm. The man cursed, his deep voice clearly audible on the screen, and kicked the demon hard away from him. He rose to his feet, looking down at the bloody gash. He then reached out to tap the hand of the small blonde woman entering the picture next to him, almost as if tag-team style. She glanced at the wound on his arm, tracing it with her fingertips as she spoke with him briefly but her words were muffled. He smiled and laughed then gave her a hard kiss on the lips. She then turned and landed a hard kick to the demon’s gut.
“Like you wouldn’t recognize that arm if you saw it naked somewhere?” Cordelia asked with an interested smile that almost qualified as a leer. “I’d never forget a bicep like that one, much less that tattoo.” Leaning forward, she rested her chin on her palm. “So, who’s the girl?”
They all winced as the petite blonde slammed hard into a tree from the force of the demon’s blow. She rebounded quickly, drawing a small knife from her belt and lunging at the demon with graceful skill.
“My guess is that she’s X’s new girl,” Gunn said as the cameraman panned the girl’s figure clad in the tight black leather pants and pale yellow halter. She’d dropped the leather coat that she had been wearing only moments ago, although the tiny string back halter offered little protection.
“And damn, is she hot,” the young man added with admiration as she landed another four or five blows to the demon’s head almost without effort. “And a hell of a fighter.”
“If you like small, blonde and perky.” Cordy sniffed almost indignantly. She cocked her head curiously, her brow creasing into a frown. Blonde. Sunnydale. Demons. Oh God. Surely it wasn’t… It couldn’t be… it had to be… could it be, really?
“And tattooed,” Fred added, noticing the tattooed design across the girl’s lower back. The wide tribal pattern spanned the small of her back, just above the low cut leather pants.
“Whatever, it’s all good.” Gunn grinned with approval as the camera once more stopped panning to focus on the girl’s bottom in the tight black leather pants. Off camera you could hear the man’s deep voice shout, “Yo, C.J., up with that already.” The camera was then jerked upward just in time to catch the demon land a brutal upper cut to the blonde’s jaw. She tumbled hard to the ground.
The viewers at Angel Investigations all flinched and groaned simultaneously. None of them expected the girl to get up from the blow, but she sprang to her feet with the smooth moves of an experienced martial artist. She quipped something, but again her voice was muffled. The man that Gunn referred to as X, laughed, his words clear on the audio as the camera panned to him then back to the demon, “Okay, baby, it’s your beast then. But you’ll owe me.”
“What is it?” Angel asked, looking up again and seeing a glimpse of the dark demon.
Cordelia leaned forward, squinting at the screen, her brow creased in concentration. “I’m not sure.”
“I can’t tell,” Fred replied, picking up a pair of glasses from the desk and putting them on. She leaned forward peering at the screen then took the glasses off again. “Nope, still can’t tell.”
Gunn answered distractedly, “It looks like a heart with wings in the middle. The rest is some sort of tribal pattern.”
“Not the tattoo,” Angel muttered with exasperation looking up to the ceiling. “The demon. What is the demon?” He suddenly wished Wes hadn’t been the one to go for take out. He could have picked it up. So what if he didn’t eat Thai – or any food – it would have gotten him out of the office for a little bit.
“Ooh, man that had to hurt.” Gunn drew back from the screen.
“But look, it’s still getting up.” Fred pointed anxiously as the demon on the video struggled to its feet once more.
“I like the tribal pattern.” Cordy arched and looked back over her shoulder as if trying to see the base of her spine. “I wonder if I can add that to the sun that I got. You think it would go?”
“She’s as good or better a fighter than he is,” Fred commented with admiration as the girl leapt from the ground to land a hard side kick to the demon’s ribs.
“They only hooked up recently. This is only the third time I’ve seen her in a video. She was in a Isalina demon fighting one about a month ago, and a skydiving one a couple of months before that.”
When the camera lingered on the girl, still for a moment while she sized up the demon again, Cordelia leaned closer, studying the screen intently. “Hey! That looks like…” Abruptly the brunette seer shut her mouth, glancing nervously at Angel. “No. No, it can’t be. She doesn’t have a tattoo. Besides, that guy’s a hottie. No one that hot would… give… her…” Glancing at Angel again, she trailed off as she moved her chair, deliberately blocking the screen.
Gunn shot a quick questioning look at Cordelia. “What’s up? Do you know-”
“No, nothing. Nothing is up.” The former Sunnydale cheerleader interrupted abruptly, answering the question she knew was being asked. She enunciated each word clearly and specifically, her eyes demanding that Gunn drop it. “No, not me. I don’t know anything. Anything. At all. Nothing.”
“Well, it makes sense really. The Hellmouth is there, so it would be a good spot to find demons if you wanted to videotape slaying them,” Fred said with a small shrug, as if stating a common, well know fact. She completely missed the byplay between Gunn and Cordy, although Gunn still looked at Cordy with a trace of confusion.
“We need to find him,” Angel stated with a resigned sigh.
“What? Why? Why would you want to find them? Er, him?” Cordelia asked over her shoulder, her eyes flitting to Angel nervously.
“I wouldn’t mind throwing down a beer or two and shooting the shit with him. I’ll bet the man has some stories to tell,” Gunn said emphatically, watching as the petite blonde finally snapped the burly demon’s neck and it dropped to the ground. A few hands clapping could be heard in the distance on the audio.
On screen, the girl walked confidently over to the big muscular guy that Gunn referred to as X. They exchanged a few words, their voices muffled on the tape, but it seemed to be joking banter. With a sudden burst of energy, she jumped into his arms and wrapped her legs around his waist as their lips met in a hungry kiss. The camera stayed on them for a few seconds then panned down, zooming in slightly to catch a pair of large hands sliding along her thighs to cup her leather clad bottom before the video cut off.
Gunn whistled loudly. “Damn. Now that’s how all demon killing should end.”
“Can we see it again?” Fred suggested timidly.
Angel stood suddenly, jerking his head around to stare at the door.
At the sound of the chair scraping along the floor, Gunn looked back over his shoulder, “Yo, what’s up, man?”
The door to the Hyperion slammed open with a bang. In the next instance a very drunk Spike staggered through the opening.
“Looks like we have company,” Angel said softly, walking to around the desk to stand near the counter.
“Yeah, if you call dead and overly peroxided company,” Cordelia muttered as she rose to her feet and stepped next to Angel. She reached beneath the counter where a stake and several other weapons were hidden.
Gunn turned down the volume on the computer and came to his feet as well, pushing Fred behind him.
“That’s not a very nice welcome now, is it, pet?” Spike slurred as he staggered his way across the lobby to the counter. Leaning heavily on the cluttered surface, he took a drink from the brown paper wrapped bottled he held in his head.
“That’s because you’re not welcome here,” the brunette seer declared firmly, raising the armed crossbow. “Or did you not remember that part?”
“Now there’s no need to get your…” Spike swept her body with his eyes, stopping at her crotch before lifting his pale blue eyes to her face, “lacy thong in a wad there. I’m not here for trouble. Just stopped in to commiserate with an old, well, not pal…we’re not exactly friends, now are we, Angelus?” His gaze drifted to Angel as he mused drunkenly, “Acquaintance, then? No. No… one’s sire would be considered more than that I suppose.”
He looked at the others briefly as if contemplating something before returning his eyes to Angel’s face. “Oh, who the hell I am kidding. I’m here to salt some wounds.”
Slamming the now empty bottle on the counter, he reached in his pocket and pulled out another one. As if he didn’t care that a crossbow was aimed at his chest, he unscrewed the cap on the bottle of liquor concealed by the brown bag with clumsy fingers. He grinned almost triumphantly when he got it open and took a big swig. He wiped sloppily at his mouth and frowned thoughtfully down at the counter. For a few seconds, he looked as if he might be about to cry before he collected himself.
Angel studied the younger vampire warily. “What are you doing here, Spike?”
“You see, Peaches, she won’t see me either,” Spike muttered in an angry petulant whine before taking another drink.
Spike cast a quick, impatient look at Cordelia. “Oh, bloody hell, would you put down that crossbow? You’re making me kinda twitchy.”
“You’re going to be twitchy dust in a minute if you don’t get gone.” She didn’t change her stance.
“What are you talking about?” Angel asked quietly. He didn’t want to ask but something compelled him. Perhaps it was the fact alone that Spike was standing in the lobby of the Hyperion. Last time he had seen the younger vampire, Angel was being tortured to reveal the location of the ring with the gem of Amarra. Not exactly the kind of thing you forget – or forgive. Spike risked his unlife by simply walking through the doors of the hotel. The question was why.
“She up and dumped me,” Spike moaned, wiping at his eyes. He choked up as if he were going to cry then pulled himself together, taking another drink from his bottle. “Not that she was actually with me. Not yet. But she woulda been. I just needed a little more time.”
“She who? Who are you talking about?” Cordy questioned suspiciously. “Are you talking about your skanky girlfriend, Dru? And even so, why should we care?”
“Cordelia.” Angel warned softly, wary of Spike even with Cordelia armed. He knew that his childe could be unpredictable and dangerous, even when drunk. Spike wasn’t someone you wanted to underestimate in any circumstance.
“The goddamn Slayer, you dumb bint. What, did LA sap your brain? Oh, that’s right. You never had much of one to begin with.” Spike slammed his bottle down on the counter, his eyes meeting Angel’s. “Buffy Summers. Your ex. My should be ex.” He laughed resentfully. “Not X’s ex or anything. Who goes by just an initial like ‘X’ anyway?”
“X?” Gunn questioned softly, cocking his head to one side.
“Ever since that bleedin’ wanker rolled in to town, it’s motorbike racing and sky diving and extreme sports this and that. You’d think slaying would be excitement enough, but no, it’s like she’s turned into some sort of adrenaline junkie,” Spike continued with a wave of his arms as if Gunn hadn’t spoken. “If she’s not racin’ around somewhere, it’s Xander this and Xander that. It’s bloody annoying, that’s what it is.”
“Xander?” Angel and Cordy question in unison.
“Yes, Xander. Is there an echo in here? And what is it with you anyway, Angelus, the wide open spaces and all the windows.” He gestured at the wide lobby and high windows in the hotel. He quirked a brow at Angel and staggered slightly, leaning heavily on the counter. “Death wish, perhaps?”
Noticing Fred peering around Gunn, Spike leaned forward and smiled slightly at the slender young woman. In his current state of drunkenness, she reminded him slightly of Dru. “Well, hello there.”
Gunn moved Fred back behind him again, his eyes narrowing angrily at the vampire.
Spike frowned at Gunn’s protective stance but glanced back at Angel again. “I mean, if he hadn’t shown up I’m pretty sure I would’ve have a chance with her. We kissed, you know? There was no tongue, but there would’ve been next time I’m sure of it Then suddenly he’s the only one she has time for.”
Angel’s eyes narrowed at the thought of Buffy kissing Spike. And what had pushed her into Xander’s arms? He couldn’t deny that the boy was… normal. Well, almost normal. Still, the idea of Buffy with Xander made his stomach churn. He had wanted better for her.
“Xander?!” Cordelia’s laughed trilled out in the lobby as she lowered the crossbow slightly. “Oh my god. That’s priceless. Buffy and Xander Harris. Who would have ever guessed?”
Spike spat the mouthful of alcohol out, spraying the counter. “Harris? Xander Harris? Bloody hell, you really aren’t the sharpest tack in the box here, are you? Course look at the lot of you…” Taking another drink, the blond vampire grumbled, “Xander Harris, indeed. now there’s a waste of a human life. I wouldn’t even bother to bite that one.”
The brunette seer’s eyes widened abruptly as realization dawned. “Oh. My. God.” She turned slowly to stare at the computer screen.
Wiping at his mouth with his sleeve again, Spike looked up. He leaned over the counter, almost to the point of lying sprawled across it to see what caused the normally chatty brunette to shut her mouth so unexpectedly.
The video was looping once again on the computer screen.
“Well, well. What’d we have here?” With a nod, Spike smirked and gestured at the screen.
Angel tensed, a bad feeling creeping along his spine. Reluctantly he looked at the playing video.
Gunn cleared his throat slightly and adjusted the volume on the computer. The man’s deep voice sounded clearly through the audio as he narrated the beginning of the hunt.
“This here is a Tramscaposa demon. They’re bloodthirsty vicious killing machines. They have a thing for internal organs. It’s a delicacy to them. This one has been a real bad boy, feeding in the area for the last coupla weeks.”
Off-camera, a woman’s voice mumbled something and the camera wobbled slightly. There was a glimpse of blonde hair, then the camera zoomed in on the large tattoo on the back of the man’s neck, just before he turned back to face the camera
“Well, you know what we do to demons like this one don’t you?” The rich, deep voice purred at the camera just before the audio broke off again.
A woman’s short laugh could be heard nearby, then the man speaking stepped forward and punched the demon hard. With a growl and another punch, he added, “Welcome to the Xander Zone!!”
Angel pushed the others aside to move closer to the computer screen. He leaned forward on the desk and watched the video in stunned silence, a low growl rumbling from his chest and growing steadily louder, turning into a snarl when the girl wrapped her arms around the man’s neck and kissed him.
“Buffy.” The tall, dark-haired vampire ground out through clenched teeth.
“Oh, so you have seen Buffy’s new man then.” Spike asked with a cocky grin. “That, boys and girls, would be Xander. Xander Cage. Or, as his friends call him,” he continued in a mocking tone, “X.”
In the next instant the blond vampire slumped to the floor unconscious, Angel having slammed his head solidly on the counter.
Additional Author’s Note: Xander Cage, aka ‘XXX’ belongs to Revolutions Studios and Columbia TriStar Entertainment. Vin Diesel, sadly, does not belong to me either. *g*