Breaking Free


by
StillRose




Part Twenty-Eight

Angel finished wiping Xander’s face with the wet rag and then pulled the thick blanket up and over the still unconscious man. Quietly Angel stepped out of the cell and pulled the door shut.

Angel winced at the sound of the lock clicking into place. He hated locking Xander up, but Angel needed to clean himself up and take a breather. Angel couldn’t risk Xander waking up in another rage or fit when Angel had his back turned. A holding cell is just insurance, Angelus whispered.

Angel turned away from Xander’s cell and stepped into the small room adjacent to the holding area. A pained grimace crossed Angel’s face as he realized turning his back on the kid was exactly what he was doing. He turned the water on in the sink, rinsed the bloody rag he’d used to clean Xander and then began to clean his own bruised and bloody face.

As a rule, Angel tried to avoid his reflection. There were too many deeds from his past he still couldn’t quite manage to look himself in the eye over. Yet, there were times, like now when his face was mush, his emotions were raw and the weight of the war was too much.

Angel looked up into the mirror above the sink. The kid got in a few good licks, Angel observed through one swollen an eye: the other was a lovely purplish shade of black. Angel would have smiled but that would have set his cracked lip bleeding again.

If he’d had any decent training he’d have lasted longer, critiqued Angelus. You could help him with that. You could take all that raw passion and lithe material; turn it into a dark knight to match your Spike.

Angel ignored his darker self and continued dabbing at this face. Unwanted, but not unwelcome, memories surged into Angel’s mind. He thought about another time and another Biogen.



*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*



“You know I’m just goin ta kill ya when I recover,” Angelus had purred at the young dark man so carefully trying to wrap a bandage around Angelus’s torso to keep the Biogen’s intestines from falling out.

“Probably,” the young man had muttered.

Angelus grimaced but did not cry out against the pain as the young man secured the bandage. Pain was familiar. Pain was a tool. Pain was friend and foe. Right now, pain told Angelus just about every major organ of his was seriously damaged from the crash. Pain hadn’t even begun to register the other less critical lacerations or broken bones. However, the young man seemed to have registered them.

“I won’t be able ta move ya until yer healed up some more,” the young man had said.

“Are ya daft or just suicidal?” Angelus had asked.

The man had laughed. “I guess that depends on who ya ask now doesn’t it?”

Then the young man had gently begun to work on the next wound. He tried resetting the first of the compound fractures in Angelus' right leg.

Angelus couldn’t hold back the groan.

“Well, ya could at least tell me yer name,” the man had said and oddly the question helped Angelus focus. “I should at least know the name of the man’s whose goin’ ta kill me once he’s recovered.”

“Not a man,” Angelus hissed. “I’m a Biogen!”

“Oi! Sorry fer makin the mistake!” The young man had exclaimed with not an ounce of regret as he twisted and pulled Angelus’s leg into place. Angelus screamed and his eyes flashed gold. He stared at the young man who now held up two bloody hands as he waited for Angelus to gain composure.

“Ya can see why I made the mistake, yer blood’s just as red as mine,” the man had said before he began to set the next break.

“WHY! WHYYYY are you doing this?” Angelus screamed something coherent this time as his bones were slid into place.

“Shhh,” the young man crooned once again giving Angelus a chance to breathe and calm down from the pain. “I’m just tryin ta help. Ya’ll heal faster once we get everything bandaged and in place…at least I think ya will. I’ll tell ya a secret, I’ve never treated a Biogen before.”

Angelus blinked at the young man who was now splinting his broken leg into place. One down and one to go, Angelus thought.

“Why?” Angelus whispered.

“Name?” the man replied.

“Angelus,” the Biogen growled.

The young man paused and sat back on his haunches and looked at Angelus. He studied him for a few moments as if he thought Angelus would suddenly disappear or sprout wings or grow another head or morph into whatever nightmare made incarnate Angelus' name had become across the galaxy.

“Huh,” the young man had finally said. “The leader of the Biogens himself. The one who started it all.”

“Now ya understand, boy,” Angelus had snarled. “Now ya know why you should run far and fast.”

Once again the man had surprised Angelus. Instead of fleeing he moved back to Angelus and very gently took his hand and then just as gently, but firmly shook it.

“My name is Doyle,” the man had said.

“Why?” Angelus had just whispered. “Why are ya helping me?”

“Because I choose to,” Doyle had responded as he withdrew his hand and once again set about to work on Angelus’s wounds.

“I’m goin ta kill ya!” Angelus’s yelled.

“That’d be yer choice then wouldn’t it,” Doyle said calmly and didn’t stop working.

“Ya think this will buy ya mercy? Ya think that I won’t kill ya and any other humans I find here just because you aided me?”

That got him, Angelus thought as Doyle stopped and looked Angelus squarely in the eye.

“Ya don’t get it do ya?” Doyle said softly. “This isn’t about you; this about me. This is about my choice. This is about me doing what I think is right. Now you Biogens, ya might never had a chance ta learn this because of the way the Council brought ya into this world. They grew ya in vats and such. They placed collars and what nots upon ya. But being human is about the choices we make. There’s not a bloody lot we can do sometimes about the things that’s done to us or the things around us; but how we choose to react to those things or how we choose to deal with those situations…well that’s what makes us human.”

“I told ya I’m not human!” Angelus snapped almost defensively as if what Doyle was saying could wound and cripple him more than any of the injuries from the crash landing on this wasteland colony.

“Yer not?” Doyle said as he once again held up his red bloody hands for Anglus to see. “Ya bleed the same. Ya started out with pretty much the same DNA. Ya may have some super bugs in yer blood and some genetic tamperin ta give ya perks like strength, night vision, regeneration and all the fancies some mad doctor could dream up but yer still human.”

“I’d think even way out here in this dump of a colony ya’d get the news, boy,” Angelus growled. “There’s a war; Biogens versus humans.”

“It’s an old story,” Doyle said going back to his wound tending. “Quite borin’ if ya ask me. Back when it was first told it was called ‘Cain versus Abel.’”

“Yer daft! That’s it!” Agnelus cried as if he desperately needed it to be true.

“I’m daft?” Doyle muttered. “I’m not the one letting my former masters define who and what I am. I’m not the one goin’ on a literal bloody killin’ spree provin’ those same masters right.”

Angelus tried to jerk away from Doyle and screamed, “Leave me alone!”

Doyle paused and then moved away from Angelus. He looked at the pale Biogen with flashing gold eyes and he tried to keep the empathy from showing. Instead he turned, grabbed a blanket and covered Angelus.

“I’ll keep watch tonight but no matter how hurt ya are, I’m gonna have ta move ya away from the crash site come morning,’” Doyle said softly. “Council troops will be lookin’ for ya.”

“Why are ya doin’ this?” Angelus asked quietly and as close to breaking as he’d ever felt.

“I told ya, my poor fallen angel,” Doyle said as he smiled, “It’s the right thing ta do.”



*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Angel wiped his face again. Even after all these years he still found tears to mourn Doyle. Wish you were here, Angel thought. I’m sure you’d have found a dozen different, better, ways of dealing with this.

Angel sighed, rinsed the rag one more time twisted it and hung it over the sink to dry. He turned off the water and once again looked at his reflection. Already the nanites were doing their job. The swelling on the right eye was down while the left eye was looking more purple then black.

Angel turned back around and walked to the room with the holding cell. Xander was awake sitting on the cot.

“I’m a prisoner again?” Xander asked.

“No,” Angel said as he walked over and unlocked the cell door. “I just needed a break and wasn’t sure whether or not you were still going to want to clock me when you woke up.”

“Well, in that case you might want to shut that door again,” Xander almost growled.

Angel sighed and leaned against the door frame. “Can’t we talk first?”

“Sure, Angel,” Xander purred. “Weather sure is fine here on Hyperion.”

“Xander you were dying!”

“This is a conversation for Spike and I to be having!” Xander shouted as he stood up.

“I know that,” Angel acknowledged.

“Then why did you send him away?” Xander asked. And why did he go?

“Xander, the nanites are changing you…”

“Xan-man’s slow, Angel, but he’s not that slow,” Xander interrupted. “Kinda got clued in on the changes when I saw my right eye.”

“It’s more then just regeneration…”

“Strength, speed, night vision,” Xander interrupted again. “Been through the academy training on ‘How to Kill the Enemy.’ Course they didn’t offer a course on what to do if I become the enemy. Suicide hotline?”

“Don’t even joke about that!” Angel growled.

“What? Gonna beat that out of me?” Xander snapped.

“Is that what you want? Spike to come back and find you dead?”

“I didn’t want Spike to leave in the first place!” Xander shouted. “And I sure didn’t want to be a Biogen!”

“So what are you going to do, Xander?” Angel asked. “Mope? Bitch? Whine? Throw another tantrum? Rage and…”

“How dare you!” Xander choked once again feeling the nanites surging in him and his face shifting. “I didn’t ask for any of this! I didn’t ask to be tortured by some psycho! I didn’t ask for the magical wonder cure…”

“And I didn’t ask to be created in a vat and be a slave for a sadistic fuck,” Angel replied.

“Not the same thing,” Xander growled.

“Sometimes, Xander, we can’t control what happens to us or around us but we can choose how we react or handle the situation. You have a choice”

The thing about change is not that it happens but it’s about the choices you make when it happens. Xander froze as Jesse’s voice floated through his mind like from a half remembered dream.

“Xander?” Angel asked noting the sudden change in Xander.

“What did you say?” Xander asked quietly.

“Sometimes we can’t control what happens to us but…”

“..it’s about the choices you make when it happens,” Xander finished.

Angel nodded. Xander sat back down on the cot and stared at Angel.

“Tell me about the changes,” Xander finally said. “Tell me about being a Biogen.”





Part Twenty-Nine

Spike once again paced his way across the bridge.

“By my count that makes your twenty-forth circuit,” Wesley said as he checked their course. On their current heading, they were only two ship rotations out from the Wash colony.

“Who asked ya?” growled Spike.

“Just making conversation,” Wes replied.

“If I wanted to have a bleedin’ chat I’d start one.”

“Well perhaps I do. Perhaps I find it distracting to have my captain glowering and pacing incessantly.”

“Sod off,” snapped Spike as he flung himself into the captain’s chair.

“You could at least have the decency to get drunk and lock yourself away if you are going to be an…,” Wes started as he turned away from his console to face his friend and captain.

“Can’t. On a mission,” Spike interrupted.

“Never stopped you before,” Wesley observed.

Spike looked up and met his nav officer’s gaze. Wes returned the gaze.

“Don’t have the heart for it,” Spike finally confessed. “Drunk or sober I miss him, Wes. Drunk or sober I’m worried about wot’s happenin’ to ‘im and wot he’s thinkin’….”

Spike looked away. He curled his hands into fists and took deep breaths.

“I could give you platitudes and the rote ‘It’ll be ok….,’”

“Please don’t.”

“I could,” Wes continued, “but I won’t. What I will say is that Alexander LaVelle Harris is one of the most remarkably loyal individuals I have ever met. When all is said and done, I just do not believe it is in him not to at least give you a chance to explain your decisions.”

“Including leaving him?”

“Including leaving him,” Wesley assured. “Besides, given what I also know of Angel, I am sure it will not take Xander long to figure out how high-handed your mentor can be.”

Spike snapped his gaze back to Wes and quipped, “You have no idea, Wesley. You have no idea.”


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Angel sighed. How to begin? He wondered. Well…, Angelus started to whisper an answer and Angel ignored it as he walked over to the other side of the room, grabbed a small chair and placed in a corner of Xander’s cell. Angel sat down and looked at Xander.

“’Once upon a time’ is always a good start,” Xander said. “Surprisingly less cliché then ‘It was a dark a stormy night.’”

“Fred’s best at all the science and the technical details,” Angel began. “She’ll be able to tell you exactly in what ways your body is changing. I can tell you the ‘generals.’ The stuff you haven’t already figured out. The nanites are reproducing inside of you and regenerating you. They are following their programming…”

“To make me bigger, meaner and maybe just a tad blood thirstier?” Xander interrupted.

“That’s all up to you, Xander,” Angel replied. “How ‘blood thirsty’ you want to be.”

“You must have been parched then.”

“Once,” Angel sadly acknowledged. “You have to understand, Xander, Biogens didn’t have parents. We had investors, inventors and owners. We were brought up with a mental program designed to make us obedient, easy to control and to keep our emotions in check. We had collars placed on us to reinforce that programming.”

“Spike told me a little about it,” Xander admitted. “But I don’t see how….”

“How it applies to you? Don’t you, Xander? The nanites enhance everything about you. Don’t you think they’d enhance your emotional responses too?”

Xander frowned.

“Right now you are a raw power house. You get angry; you react. Your body and the nanites will react even faster than your conscious control can keep up with…”

“I don’t understand…”

“Think Xander,” Angel said looking earnestly at Xander. “Think about how you felt when arguing with Spike. Think about how you felt just before you took apart my office upstairs.”

I felt hurt, Xander thought. I felt betrayed. I felt scared.

Xander’s breathing grew heavier.

“Think, Xander!” Angel ordered. “Don’t feel.”

Xander looked at Angel and concentrated on remembering the events without bringing his emotions into it; but he couldn’t. I’m a Biogen! Xander thought. I am the enemy! I have “things” inside of me; changing me! Spike, did this to me! Spike did this and he lef….

Xander’s heart began racing and his breathing grew faster. Once again he could feel the strange sensation of his face shifting and changing.

“Xander!” Angel growled, “Learn to control what is happening to you or these emotions and reactions will control you!”

Xander took a couple of deep breaths. I am Alexander LaVelle Harris. Xander thought to himself. I’m Lieutenant Xander LaVelle Harris. I’m Spike’s pet! Slowly Xander began to feel the changes recede.

“That’s it, Xander,” Angel soothed. “That’s it.”

Xander focused his gaze back on Angel and took a few more deep breaths. Xander felt calmer and the changes rushing through him cease.

“That’s part of what being a Biogen is, Xander,” Angel finally said as Xander was back to normal. “You have to keep the enhanced side of yourself in check unless you really need it.”

“So what? Walk around never feeling anything?” Xander asked half afraid the answer would be “yes.”

“No,” Angel replied only half wondering if it was true in his particular case. “You just have to learn a new level of control you didn’t have to worry about before. Your body is enhanced and all the hormonal spikes and valleys bring with it an entire new set of reactions than it used to have. You need to learn what those are and master them…,”

“Is that what the war was all about?” Xander asked as he pinned his gaze on Angel’s face. “Was it all just a big Biogen temper tantrum?”

Angel wiped his face with his hand and sighed. “Xander, it was a little more complic…”

“Explain it to me,” Xander demanded.

“Xander….”

“I’m a Biogen now, right? Don’t I have a right in knowing about this war? About why you started it? How it got started?”

Angel finally returned Xander’s gaze. “I’m not sure this will help with your control.”

“Risk it.”

“How much did Spike tell you?”

Xander took a deep breathe. Xan-man, practice the control, he thought as anger surged through him thinking of what Spike had suffered while being a Biogen controlled by the Council: controlled by Quentin Travers.

“Quite a bit,” Angel answered his own question as he watched Xander’s struggle for control play across the young man’s face. Xander finally nodded.

“Did he talk about me?” Angel asked.

“Not so much,” Xander replied.

Angel stood up and began to pace. “I was Quentin’s enforcer.”

“Enforcer?”

“His top Biogen. I was in charge of security and all the Biogens Quentin…owned.” Angel almost spat as he said the last word.

“Ok.”

“I was good at what I did, Xander. I was the best. I was designed not to be just muscle for Quentin but to have brains enough to keep his ‘house’ in order. While Travers could present the civilized and polite face to the world and the rest of the Council I could do and arrange for all his dirty work and with Quentin there was a lot of dirty work.”

“That still doesn’t…”

“It was my idea that Quentin buy Spike,” Angel ignored Xander’s interruption. “I was too well known and too closely associated with Travers to be an assassin. I saw Spike and knew he had the potential. I was the one that suggested the sale to Quentin.”

Xander clenched his fists. If I didn’t have reason to hate you before, Xander thought while he struggled to breathe deeply and keep calm, I do now.

“Spike was every bit as brilliant as I could have imagined. He moved flawlessly. He was quick and efficient. I must confess, sometimes I hated his efficiency. See, I enjoyed it when one of Quentin’s enemies died; not because they were his enemies but because they were human and if I couldn’t kill Quentin I could kill them.”

“What?” Xander asked. “I thought you were under their control.”

A stunningly beautiful and cold smile passed over Angel’s face as he paused his pacing. “That’s what they thought too. The truth was, Xander, I was different from the very beginning. I was never the perfect Biogen Travers thought I was. I seethed and I hated. The mental programming had always been just ‘noise.’”

“I don’t un...”

“The only thing that kept me under control, Xander,” Angel whispered almost seductively, “was the collar. Before Biogens were sold we were each given a ‘taste’ of the pain the collar could inflict. It was the final lesson to ensure we were obedient. In my case it worked. I behaved, endured Quentin and bided my time…”

“Endured?” Xander interrupted before he could stop himself. Oh ghods! Xander thought Travers didn’t!

“I worked for Quentin a long time before Spike, Xander,” Angel said simply. “Travers enjoyed the power trip. He really loved the ‘Thank you, sir’ at the end.”

Xander gripped the edged of the cot and focused on his breathing to keep from losing control as hate, revulsion and nausea swept through him.

“You know, that was the one flaw I saw in Spike,” Angel confessed.

“What?” Xander wheezed as he kept working on controlling the emotions raging in him.

“Spike actually believed all the programming. He actually meant it when he ‘thanked’ Travers.”

“Shut up,” Xander whispered, not wanting Angel to speak about Spike like that.

“Spike was a true believer,” Angel continued, “and I couldn’t let that be.”

“You couldn’t?” snapped Xander.

“No, I couldn’t. I didn’t. I…” Angel paused, looked at Xander and then resumed pacing again. “I…changed his thinking.”

“How?” Xander asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Angel replied.

“It doe…”

“Do you want to hear how the war got started or not?” Angel growled.

Xander narrowed his eyes and studied Angel. What other secrets between you and Spike are you hiding? Xander thought. He then nodded his head.

“One day Travers sent me on a mission. I was supposed to be buying some information on a rival member of the Council. Information Spike and Dru would use on their next mission for Travers.”

“Dru?” Xander asked. Were they together even then? Xander wondered. Surely that wouldn’t have been allowed.

Angel stopped pacing again and stared at Xander. “Anything you have to ask about Dru, you ask Spike. You have a right to know about her but their story isn’t mine to tell.”

Once again Xander silently nodded.

“Anyway,” Angel resumed his story and pacing, “the mission was a setup. Instead of being a buy it was a trap.”

“A trap? For what purpose?”

“To give Quentin a bit of his own,” Angel replied. “The assassination feelings were mutual. Quentin Travers wanted Darla Masters dead and Darla wanted Quentin dead.  Darla set up a trap for me and I fell right into her hands.”

Xander’s stomach lurched when Angel mentioned Darla Masters. Darla Masters, she was the Councilwoman who rallied the troops at the beginning of the war! She kept the Council from falling apart.

“And what did she hope to gain by that?” Xander finally asked.

“Access,” Angel replied.

“Access?”

“Access to Quentin. I was his enforcer, after all.”

“But how would that hel…”

“Darla had this idea. Tamper with Travers most trusted Biogen and let him kill Travers.”

“Tamper with?” Xander just stared at Angel. “How?”

Angel once again paused his pacing and stared at Xander. “She disabled my collar.”

Xander paled. She couldn’t! She… Xander felt his face slip.

“Control, Xander,” Angel gently said. Xander fixed golden eyes on Angel.

“What happened next?” Xander growled.

“Darla didn’t just remove my collar. She ‘tempered’ me as she put it. ‘Temper’ is a much more ladylike word then torture. Still, her idea was to train me in a very short time to bend to her will, then she would disable my collar, send me to kill Travers and then I’d wait quietly until she came back and enabled my collar again or killed me.”

Xander’s head reeled. Darla the early hero was the mother of this carnage!

“There was only one small flaw in her plan. One tiny, pygmy sized problem,” Angel continued. “The collar was the only thing keeping me in check no matter the mental conditioning inflicted on me.”

Angel paced back to his chair and casually sat down. “’Twas given a man everythin’ he wished for in disablin’ my collar,”

Xander focused back on Angel.

“I gladly went back to Travers and I happily killed ‘im. Happily killed his family and every single human in service to ‘im,” Angel recited with a smile. “That is after I disabled the collars on the other Biogens in service to Travers. As much as I’d loved to do all the killin’ myself, it wasn’t practical. Besides, would have been selfish. Don’t ya think?”

Xander felt a chill go down his spine. Angel’s voice was thick and heavy with an unfamiliar accent.

“Angel?” Xander asked.

“Now,” Angel replied with another stunningly beautiful but frightening smile. “But then I was Angelus and I reveled in bein’ free of my leash. When we were done with Travers I was hopin’ ta go back and thank the lovely Darla fer her graciousness; but it seems she’d become averse ta my company.”

“So you just started killing randomly?”

“Randomly! No! There was a precise art to it! First killed everyone who I ever knew had done business with Travers; which was easy considerin’ I had the password to all his personal accounts. Which also meant I had access to his wealth until the Council froze them. We went after other Council members; specifically those with access to ships and other means of interplanetary travel. It was glorious, Xander! Spike was at my side and together we were slaughterin’ every human in sight and freein’ every Biogen. For every lash, for ever r…wrong doin’ a human died. We’d never known such freedom! We were the doom of humanity and were celebratin’ it!”

“Stop it!” Xander shouted as he felt his face morph and stood up. “Stop rejoicing in the deaths! Yes, you were treated horribly and maybe Travers deserved everything he got but not everyone else! You killed thousands! Did they all do you wrong! Many humans didn’t even own Biogens!”

Angel laughed. “Didn’ matter, Xander! What does right or wrong mean when you have hatred surgin’ through your veins while you have the means and the ways to carry yer passions out, eh?”

“It does matter!” Xander found himself staring furiously down at Angel who still lolled in the chair.

“Does it?” Angel asked staring back up at Xander. “How do you feel right now, Xander? Angry?”

“Yes!” Xander clenched his fists.

“And why don’t you strike me?”

“Because…,” Xander struggled to think. “You aren’t the same person you were then and…Spike believes in you...”

“Because you don’t think it’s the right thing to do and you are trying to keep control,” Angel said cutting through Xander’s excuses. “You’ve been brought up to understand that just because you have feelings doesn’t mean you can act upon them. You were taught feelings are ok and natural but that they do not justify the natural actions you instinctively want to take with those emotions.”

“So what? You are trying to blame your actions on your lousy childhood? I’ve heard that one before, Angel. Biogens didn’t have parents so forgive them if they are psycho killers,” Xander snarled.

“Xander, we not only didn’t have the tools to deal with those emotions we had tools that enhanced those emotions! We were wind up dolls set in motion,” Angel tried explaining.

“And that excuses it?!” Xander yelled.

“You wanted to know how the war got started,” Angel simply said.

“I was right, “ Xander said as he began to calm down and backed away from Angel. “It was nothing more than a temper tantrum.”

“You still aren’t getting it,” Angel said.

“What is there to get, Angel? You were hurt, angry, wanted revenge and when you had the chance you went for it. You reveled in it and now for some reason you’ve had enough you want to stop it. However it just doesn’t work that way. Now there are consequences to the actions you took and whether or not you’ve had your fill of the war the humans haven’t.”

“Do you want to know how I did it?” Angel asked as he slowly stood up from the chair.

“Did what?” snapped Xander.

“Got through to Spike. Broke through his perfect mental conditioning,” Angel replied.

Xander’s eyes narrowed. There’s a trap here, Xander thought. “How?”

Angel took a step forward. “I took the same liberties Travers did.”

Xander’s world went yellow and he launched himself at Angel. He felt his fist connect with Angel’s face.

“Spike fought me,” Angel continued as he blocked Xander’s next punch, “Seems his master was allowed, but not his master’s dog.”

Xander rushed Angel and slammed the larger man into the bars of the cell. Angel’s head bounced loudly off the metal.

“When Spike complained,” Angel huffed as he threw a punch into Xander’s left kidney, “Quentin had him punished for disturbing him over something so trivial and then made it quite clear that as Travers’ enforcer I could have Spike when I wanted.”

“I’m going to kill you,” Xander hissed as he grabbed Angel’s head and slammed it into the bars in three successive blows. Angel stumbled and fell to the floor.

“Spike finally understood,” Angel said as he curled in a ball as Xander kicked him. “Do you?”

“Do I what?” Xander roared as he picked up the downed man and flung him across the cell.

“The emotional override? The seduction of the power surging through you?” Angel wheezed.

“I only understand you’re a soulless fuckin’ Biogen and I’m going to kill you!” Xander screamed as he once again pounced on Angel. Xander picked Angel up and once again slammed him into the bars.

Angel grabbed Xander and reversed the throw painfully slamming the younger Biogen into the metal bars.

“Really, Xander?” Angel hissed into Xander’s face. “Then what? After you kill me what?”

“I’m going to destroy everything you ever touched! Xander yelled as he attempted to punch Angel who quickly blocked the punch.

“Including Spike?” Angel asked.

“You never touched him!” Xander yelled as he kneed Angel.

“I did!” Angel wheezed and delivered an uppercut to Xander’s chin. “Oh I did! Not just in power or possession but as a lover.”

“Liar!” Xander screamed and slammed a fist into Angel’s kidney. “He’d never forgive you!”

“He did,” Angel said as he grabbed hold over Xander and pinned him. “Who do you think helped him find his humanity?”

“Dru!” snapped Xander as struggled free.

“He first learned about love from Dru,” Angel said, “but humanity?”

Xander screamed and charged once again slamming Angel into the bars. “I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you and I’ll KILL HI…!”

Xander went very still and stumbled away from Angel and then fell to his knees.

“Xander,” Angel softly whispered.

“No! Oh ghods! No!” Xander sobbed.

Angel knelt by Xander. “Xander, breathe and let it go.”

Xander looked at Angel. Slowly his face shifted and his eyes returned to watery and shimmery chocolate brown.

“It’s ok,” Angel said softly.

“It’s not!” Xander cried. “I wanted to…I felt…I….”

“But you didn’t and you wouldn’t,” Angel said. “Do you understand now?”

Xander nodded. I stopped because some part of me knew what I was saying…where I was headed was wrong…but if I hadn’t…If I didn’t know….Xander refused to finish that line of thought.

“How could he forgive you?” Xander finally asked.

Angel sighed and sat down next to Xander. “I don’t know.”

“I hate you,” Xander said with cool conviction.

“I know,” Angel said then sighed, “but now you know why Spike and I really never could have been…”

“Some part of him will never trust you,” Xander said.

Angel nodded and tried to hide his own shimmering brown eyes, “If it serves your sense of justice, losing Spike is its own punishment.”

 “Do you honestly believe there’s punishment enough for what you’ve done?” Xander asked.

Angel turned and looked at Xander, “No. But hopefully there’s restitution enough and I plan on spending the rest of my life working toward that end.”

“By helping the colonies?”

“That and helping the Biogens find their humanity as well as end the war,” Angel answered. “And maybe by helping you.”

“Helping me?” Xander snorted.

“Xander, you’re beginning to learn about what you are now. You need to learn to control your Biogen side. You need to do that before Spike comes back.”

“Is he?” Xander asked softly.

“What?” Angel asked.

“Coming back?”

“Of course!” Angel said. “Xander, he only left because I didn’t give him a choice.”

“You…”

“Xander, what kind of scar do you think your relationship with Spike will carry if you lose control and you throw down with him like you’ve done with me?”

“I wouldn’t…”

“Wouldn’t you?” Angel’s piercing gaze demanded an answer.

Xander couldn’t meet Angel’s look.

“Xander, let me help you learn control then you and Spike can hash out what happened. Give yourselves a chance.”

“You had no right to interfere,” Xander said.

“I had every right,” Angel said.

“Why?” Xander asked.

“Because you’re both family and I’m not going to let you hurt each other.”

Xander met Angel’s gaze. He looked for deceit and found none.

“Biogens make their families, Xander. Spike became mine a long time ago and the moment he made you his; you became part of my family too,” Angel explained. “Whether we like it or not.”

“I already have a family,” Xander whispered. Willow! Buffy! Will I ever see you again? Will you want to see me?

“Isn’t there room for more?” Angel asked.

Spike, Xander thought. There’s room for Spike. Memories of The DeSoto crept into Xander’s mind and he realized there were others he could think of as family; Fred, Wesley, Faith and maybe even Gunn if Xander were under attack and short on ammo.

“Maybe,” Xander admitted.

Angel laughed.

“Anyone ever tell you you were a stubborn whelp?” Angel asked.

Xander smiled and confessed, “Nope. Only a stubborn ‘git.’”





Part Thirty

“So where do we go from here?” Xander finally asked as he let his new found calm sink in deep.

“Well, I think a shower would do us both good,” Angel replied as he picked at his bloodied and sweat stained shirt.

Xander wrinkled his nose and snorted. “I’m not sure the enhanced sense of smell is a blessing.”

“You’ll change your mind,” Angel smiled as he got to his feet and offered a hand down to Xander, “the first time you catch wind of an enemy hidden behind full cover.”

Xander looked up and grabbed Angel’s hand, “Enemy? You mean my friends? Buffy? Willow?”

Angel pulled Xander to his feet. He stared at the young man with a new sorrow in his eyes. “Xander…,”

“What, Angel?” Xander asked as he withdrew his hand. “You have some inner pain to share on this one? You said Biogens make their family, well what happens if your family no longer wants you? What if Spike hadn’t forgiven you Angel? What if he didn’t want to be your ‘family’?”

Angel flinched. I can’t lose Spike, Angel thought, anymore than I already have. “I don’t believe ‘family’ ever really lets you go, Xander.”

“You don’t know that.”

“No, I don’t,” Angel acknowledged, “but it’s what I believe…but what I believe really doesn’t matter in this situation does it?”

Xander sighed and shook his head. “No it doesn’t.”

“C’mon let’s go upstairs and get a shower,” Angel said.

“And then what?” Xander asked.

“We work on your control.”

“How are we going to do that?”

Angel grinned. “Well by doing something we both enjoy; I’ll needle you and you’ll pummel me and when you can keep from slipping into your Biogen face…”

Xander’s face eased into a genuine grin, “Oh I think it’s going to take me a looong time to learn some control.”

Angel narrowed his eyes a moment and then laughed. He didn’t doubt Xander would be tempted to make any chance to beat Angel down last a long time. However, Angel knew Xander wanted to see Spike more. Xander would work hard despite how he felt about Angel because of how he felt about Spike.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


“I’m not feeling too good about this,” Gunn said as he resettled his weapon for the sixth time as he waiting for the ship to finish landing.

“You and me both Charlie boy, “Spike replied.

“Wes,” Faith called into her communicator, “any hails yet?”

“Still silent,” Wes’s voice drifted to the trio in the hold.

“Fred?”

“I’m still picking up very little ambient movement. Nothing, though, like you would expect from a thriving colony.”

“Heat signatures?” Spike asked.

“Many,” Fred paused a moment too long and the crew could feel the young woman’s dread in the momentary silence, “but the larger signatures aren’t consistent with ‘life.’”

“Decay?” Spike asked. There, he was the Big Bad. He’d said it first, Spike thought.

“Yes,” came Fred’s quiet and resigned reply.

“Look alive down there boys and girl,” Spike ordered as the ship landed, “cuz we may be the only thing that is.”


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Spike didn’t need to be a Biogen to pick up on the stench of the decay Fred had so accurately predicted.

“Damn!” Gunn choked as the trio departed The DeSoto’s gangplank.

“Stay sharp, Charlie Boy, “Spike ordered as he took point.

Death and decay were as much a part of Spike’s existence as light and day. It was more than a fact of life; it was very much a central tenet of his life. Senseless and wasteful death was far too familiar. Yet the destruction and remains of the colony spread out before him like a buffet of horror was an unwelcome reminder of those truths.

“Biogens!” Faith spat as she stepped closer to the bullet riddled body of a mother curled a top a lifeless child.

“Rogues?” Gunn asked.

Spike stepped closer to the bodies and crouched down. Spike spent a few moments studying the gruesome remains.

“No,” Spike finally answered Gunn. “Too clean.”

“Clean!” Faith snarled.

Spike stood back up and looked at his crew.

“If it had been Biogens, Mum here would have been made to watch the bint be killed before being snuffed.”

“Are you….”

“It’s wot I would have done,” Spike cut off Gunn’s question.

Faith and Gunn reflexively tightened their grip on their weapons. Spike sighed.

“Spread out,” Spike ordered. “You’ve got ten clicks to look for any survivors and record wot you see. We’re leaving in eleven clicks.”

“Spike?” Faith asked.

“Somebody’s playing games and we’re not playing ‘til we know who the other team is and wot the stakes are,” Spike answered. “Move out. You got nine clicks left.”


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Xander grimaced and then sluiced away the soapy grime from his torso. It had been several days since his talk with Angel in the cell. In the beginning it had been two days of pounding sessions with Angel that always ended the same; Xander coming to bloodied and bruised after a Biogen berserk. By the third day Xander had managed to keep his human face. A reward in of it’s self, Xander had thought. Still progress was slow and the time away from Spike long.

“Damnit!” Xander shouted as he slammed his fist into the shower wall. The wall held fast; Xander’s knuckles didn’t.

Xander turned around and leaned against the wall as he cradled his injured hand and let the water pound down on him. Immediately, Xander felt that increasingly familiar tingle signaling the nanites at work healing his injury. The perverse side of Xander wanted to keep pounding his hand into the wall and try and force the injury to stay around longer.

Who’d ever think the Xan-man would miss his lumps and bruises, Xander bitterly thought as he let the nanites do their work. Who’d have thought I’d come to think of pain and injury as humanity badges?

Xander turned his attention away from his healing knuckles and back to finishing his shower. He’d been too tired the night before and now getting rid of the grime and stale sweat was as close to bliss he’d come since Spike’s tender ministrations on The DeSoto.

Spike, Xander thought as he chased the water with his hands, I miss you washing me. I miss your hands.

Xander laughed a little. I’ll never admit if of course, you’re too full of yourself and have too much a hold over the Xander as it is.

When he was done rinsing, Xander stepped out of the shower and shook his head. Water sprayed around the bathroom. Xander smiled at the imagined “OI!” Spike would have shouted if he’d been there.

Xander grabbed his towel and dried himself off before stumbling nude into the bedroom and collapsing face first on the bed. Xander inhaled deep.

He might never get used to the accelerated healing caused by the nanites. Xander might not even fully master his body’s enhanced reactions to his emotions. However, Xander did find use for his Biogen senses.

Though it had been long before Xander’s torture since Spike had last slept in the bed, Xander’s sense of smell could still pick up Spike’s scent.

“Spike,” Xander whispered as he breathed in his lover’s scent. “Come back, Spike. Please come back soon.”

Xander rolled over on to his back. He had made progress in controlling his emotions.

“Harm’s still got all her fingers, toes and big hair,” Xander muttered.

Angel’s latest test of Xander’s control had been to let Harmony stutter and sob her way through an apology for her unintended part of Xander’s abduction. Her apology had been as over the top as her fashion sense.

Xander had held on to his sanity through his anger but for one eerie moment he had to admit how tempted he was to get rid of Harmony and not just for his own sanity but for humanity’s as well.

“Xander,” Angel’s voice drifted from Xander’s communicator.

Xander groaned, rolled out of the bed and made his way to the pile of discarded dirty clothes. Xander fished through the garments and pulled out the communicator.

“What Bio-boy?” Xander answered. Xander could almost hear Angel’s pause for patience. Xander smiled. Never think I’ll give one inch to you, Angel. An uneasy alliance is the best you can hope from me.

“We'll meet in my office this morning,” Angel finally replied.

“In the mood for another redecorating session?” Xander purred.

“I’ll see you in a rotation.”

Xander sighed and picked up his dirty clothes.

“Another day,” Xander muttered. “Another throw down.”

Xander comforted himself with thoughts of Spike’s cocky grin as he got ready to meet Angel.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Angel turned the round vid disc over for the sixth time. He knew what he was about to do to Xander would be pushing Xander’s new control past all boundaries but it was the ultimate test for Xander. If he could keep his control through this; he could keep his control through the hard times with Spike.

Plus, you finally have a an excuse to watch the vid, purred Angelus.

Angel pinched the bridge of his nose and tried to force his dark voice back into quiet submission. A knock on the door followed by Xander’s entrance interrupted Angel.

“Headache?” Xander asked. “We haven’t even started with the insults yet.”

“Sit down, Xander,” Angel replied.

Xander narrowed his eyes and took a sit. “What’s the game plan today?”

Angel stood up and loaded the vid disc into the viewer in the corner of his office and then returned to his seat behind his desk.

“Wes found this at ‘The Thorn’,” Angel said as he turned to Xander.

Xander paled but kept his voice steady as he asked, “What is it?”

“Caleb had his session with you recorded,” Angel answered simply.

Suddenly the room seemed devoid of oxygen as Xander panted through his shock. Fucking Biogen bastard! Xander’s mind screamed even as he fought for control. Xander could feel the red rage just behind his eyes and his face slipping into the monstrous visage he hated.

“So, fun viewing Angel?” Xander spat. “Bring back warm and fuzzy memories? Maybe you picture yourself in Caleb’s pl….”

“I haven’t watched it,” Angel interrupted calmly.

“Then how the fuck do you know what’s on it?” screamed Xander.

“Wes, found it. When he realized what it was he shut it off and brought me the disc.”

Xander clenched his hands until his fingernails burrowed deep into his palms causing pain and blood. Wes, saw it! Wes saw me! Xander’s thoughts were frantic with the remembered horror and shame.

“Xander…” Angel began.

“Why now? Is this another fucking test?” Xander yelled. “I watch this with a smile on my face and you’ll end this stupid separation between Spike and I?”

“Yes,” Angel answered. He refused to lie to Xander about this.

But are you going to mention you want to watch it for intel reasons as well, purred Angel’s dark voice. Or don’t you buy your own lie? Perhaps you just want to see if Caleb’s technique was better than yours?

“Oh yeah,” Xander replied. “I can see just how fine an example of humanity you are, Bio-boy!”

“Xander,” Angel sighed. “Perhaps you need to see it too.”

“Me? See it? Newsflash beaker baby, I LIVED it!”

“And how much of you do you really remember?”

Xander jumped up and pounded his fists down on Angel’s desk. “All of it!”

“Do you, Xander?” Angel asked calmly. “My experience says that people block as much of trauma out as they can.”

“If I remember, your forte is at traumatizing and not being traumatized,” Xander snarled. “I hardly think that makes you an ‘expert.’”

“You’d be surprised,” Angel replied.

Xander pounded his fists on the desk again before forcing himself to step away from Angel. Keep it together, Xander. Don’t fall apart before Angel even gets this show started.

“Besides, it might help you with Spike,” Angel said.

“How do you figure that, Bio-boy?”

“Maybe if you see what Spike saw….see yourself as Spike saw you,” Angel started.

“I might understand why he made the decision he did?” Xander finished.

Angel nodded. Xander sighed and then sat back down on the couch.

You need to get through this Xander, Xander thought. McBroody has set the bar for this “test” and I intend to sail clean over it. I’m tired of being away from Spike. Besides, Angel, and I can’t believe I’m thinking this, may be right about needing to see Spike’s point of view.

Xander cast a look at Angel and then relaxed back against the couch. “No popcorn?”

Angel turned and hit the remote button to activate the viewer.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Spike paced in the The DeSoto’s hold. He’d been ready for the ship to land rotations ago and the clicks it was taking for Wes to land on Hyperion were driving him mad.

“How much longer!” Spike snarled in full game face.

“One click less then when you asked me the last time,” Wes replied trying to hide his amusement at Spike’s impatience. The trip back from the Wash colony had been long and grim. No one could forget the images of carnage they had seen. The lack of any survivors had made it worse. The only thing to lighten the crew’s mood was the impending reunion between their Captain and his CM. Everyone hoped for a happy ending because they all could use one.

“One of these days someone’s going to prove you’re not as smart as you think you are, Percy,” Spike growled back using the diminutive he knew Wes hated.

“Perhaps,” Wes replied, “but I doubt very much that it will be you on that day.”

Spike tried to hide his laugher at Wes’s cheeky response. It came out somewhere between a growl and a cough.

“You got those images all together on one vid?” Spike asked changing the subject.

“Yes,” Wes replied. “And I’ve got your report logged too.”

“You and Faith…”

“Faith and I will make the report detailing your suspicions while you take care of Xander,” Wes replied.

Spike growled again and then asked, “How much longer ‘til we land?”

Wes didn’t push his luck in laughing his response, “Five more clicks.”


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Xander’s nanites were working overtime in trying to repair the continued damage Xander was inflicting on the palms of his hands and to his bottom lip. The images of his own torture were more brutal than he had remembered and yet they were so well ingrained in his consciousness he could almost feel every blow and strike again as he watched them being delivered on the screen.

“Well, Mr. Harris,” Caleb seethed into Xander’s ear. “Seems you provoked me into something I wasn’t ready to do yet. I was hoping to give you some more images but by the look of your eye I can tell that’s not going to happen any time soon…or at all.”

Xander had long given up on trying to keep his human face and now he gave up trying to stop the growls from emanating deep from within the back of his throat.

Angel split his focus from watching the vid to watching Xander. I’m pushing him too hard, Angel thought even as he kept the viewer going. Angel worked hard to keep his face from shifting. Caleb had been brutal. And good, Angelus admitted.

Angel shifted in his seat and once again tried to make out more features of the silhouetted figure lurking in the back of the room. Who is that? Angel wondered. All Angel knew was that it was someone who hadn’t been in the room when they rescued Xander.

There was the faint hiss of a torch being activated. Xander locked down as tight on his control as he could. This is the never seen before footage of the Xan-man, Xander thought and nearly gave over to the sea of rage as he saw the torch in Caleb’s hand flick over his thigh.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*



Spike didn’t even try to wait for his crew once they landed on Hyperion. Spike didn’t even try to walk to Angel’s HQ. Spike used all his Biogen strength and speed to rush as quickly back to Xander as he could.

This time Angel can bloody well sod off! Spike thought as he rushed back to his Pet. Xander an me are gonna talk this out, kiss’n make up and then shag ourselves silly!

Spike stormed into the HQ only to hear Xander screaming,” SPIKE! SPIIIIIKEEE…SPIIIKELIKESWHISKEEEEY!”

There was no thought or even instinct. Spike slipped into full Biogen mode and ran towards the sound and the smell of his terrified Xander.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Angel noted the mysterious figure had slipped out of the room shortly after Caleb had begun torturing Xander with the torch.

Why then? Angel thought. Xander hadn’t given away any useful information. Why not stick around longer? And was it coincidence he left just before we arrived? Had he been tipped off somehow?

The mystery of the mysterious “other” was distracting to Angel. So distracting he failed to notice how rigidly Xander was locked into position on the couch. So distracting he failed to pick up the scent of Spike entering the building.

The only thing to break Angel’s distraction was the vid version of Xander whispering “Spike, I love you,”and a fully enraged Spike barreling into his office.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Spike burst his way into Angel’s office and noticed first that his Pet was rigid with fear and control on the couch and secondly that there was a viewer replaying Spike and Xander’s worst nightmare.

Angel looked up at Spike. “Spike….”

Spike didn’t care what Angel had to say. He grabbed the bigger Biogen and threw him out of the chair and against the wall.

“IS THIS HOW YOU HELP? HUH ‘GELUS!!!!” Spike snarled and then drove his fist into Angel’s face. “MAKE XANDER RELIVE THIS?!!”

“Spike…,” Angel tried again.

Spike struck Angel again knocking him to the ground. Then Spike ripped the viewer out of the wall. Sparks and wires spilled everywhere. Spike ignored them and Angel as he turned and went to Xander.

Xander managed to get to his feet before Spike reached him.

“Spike,” Xander whispered past his fangs and all the overwhelming emotions seeking to drag him down into beserker mode.

“Xander,” Spike whispered in return as he gently reached out and cupped Xander’s face. Spike stood there letting all his senses but taste revel in Xander. Spike absorbed Xander's pain and loss through osmosis and touch. He whispered another word, “Pet.”

Xander smiled for the first time in game face and nodded.

“Spike…,” Angel tried again as he pulled himself to his feet.

Spike spun around and snarled at Angel, “I’m taking my Pet upstairs. Butt in again and I’ll put you down myself!”

Spike then turned around again and gently, but firmly grabbed hold of Xander’s arm and led him out of Angel’s office.




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