Home | Fan Fiction | Livejournal | Music Videos | Links | Contact

Fallen Angel: The Baby Red Dragon

Amothea
Fallen Angel: The Baby Red Dragon
Rated: NC-17, Angst.
Archive: Please ask first.
Email: amalthia@slashcity.com
Feedback: Love it.
Spoilers: Takes place before Angel turns bad.
Disclaimers: The characters and so forth belong to the WB, Joss Whedon, and whoever else has a copyright on them. I'm just borrowing them. I'm not making any money off this story.
Dedicated: To Rebecca for the wonderful beta reading and edits, without her help this story would been even more confusing. Thank you Nicole for encouraging me to finish this chapter. I would also like to thank my mom for proof-reading the story and fixing the grammatical errors. Therefore if you find any errors, it's not my fault! ^_^ I would also like to give a big thanks to everyone who sent feedback to me.

Fallen Angel: Part 1
Fallen Angel: Part 2

"Xander, slow down!"

"No, Angel! I will not slow down! It's your fault we are in this situation. All I wanted to do was eat and go to sleep and did that happen? No! Some demon you pissed off hundreds of years ago, transported us here!" Xander stopped suddenly and turned around and growled angrily. "You better tell me why I'm stuck in the middle of a dense forest in Timbuktu for all I know, before this day is over." He spun around and tried to walk off, but the ground shrubs and trees blocked Xander's path.

Angel reached over and grabbed Xander's uninjured wrist and yanked the teen around. He was not going to put up with Xander's mood swings, especially now, in what could be enemy territory. "Look I'll tell you the details later, but for now, we need food, shelter, and warmer clothes. In case you haven't noticed the stars have disappeared and the temperature is dropping. It looks like it is going to rain. We're in the same boat and I'm tired of hearing you complain. Running through this forest in the dark is not going to help us. Now stop acting like a child and calm down."

Angel tried to see Xander's expression, but it was too dark. He placed a hand on his slender shoulder and squeezed, trying to convey comfort. Xander rolled his shoulder angrily, and he felt his grasp slipping until his fingers clutched at air. His fingers unconsciously clenched into a fist. A deep breath helped from doing something unforgivable, like punching his injured friend in the jaw.

"Xan, I know you're scared, but please relax. I don't think there are any large carnivores roaming the forest, it's too dense, so we should be safe. Come on, let's try to sleep."

"I heard you the first time. Now where would you suggest we stay tonight? I don't see any Holiday Inns around, do you?"

Xander's sneering voice was the last straw. Angel quickly placed a hand over Xander's mouth and grabbed the back of Xander's head. He just wanted the boy to shut up. For some reason his emotions felt out of whack, he should not be this frustrated with Xander's moods.

Admittedly, once Xander regained his senses he complained non-stop for the last six hours. It was enough to drive anyone insane. "Xan, please just be quiet. A while ago I saw something that looked like a rock formation. I think it might provide shelter from the rain. When I let go, you are not going to talk anymore tonight, unless we are in immediate danger. Please, just do this for me. We both need to sleep. I'm human now, and I'm not as strong anymore. Nod your head if you understand me." He waited for what felt like forever, but then he felt Xander move his head up and down; then he released his hold and stepped back.

"Follow me."

By the time they made it back to the rocks he'd seen earlier a light mist of rain started drifting down through the tall trees. A Slow drizzle had began, and his jacket kept him warm but his companion was quickly becoming wet. Xander was using his jacket to cover the cast surrounding his broken wrist, along with half his arm.

He sighed, relieved that Xander was taking pains to hide the cast from the rain. Drying the young man wouldn't be a problem, but the cast, once it became wet, would lose its firmness. "Come on, Xan, there's enough rock hanging over this spot it should keep us dry." Xander moved closer to him, teeth chattering and his body trembling, "Lets take off this shirt." He said reaching over and gently helped the shivering teen pull off the soaked, silk shirt.

Angel shrugged off his jacket and wrapped it around Xander. It was cold outside and his friend needed the warmth. They also needed to lay down and try to sleep. He took Xander's shirt, placed it out of the way on top of a rock, and sat down. His feet were killing him and he couldn't wait to sit down. Next time he bought a pair of shoes he'd make sure they were designed for miles of walking.

His body felt like it was full of aches and pains. Despite his weariness he took the wet jacket Xander used to cover his cast and laid it out on the ground, wet side facing down. Angel sat down first and motioned for Xander to join him. The outcropping rock stuck out about ten feet; it made a nice roof. Angel laid down flat on his back and waited for his friend join him so he could sleep.

Watching, Xander slowly pull off the black over-coat and sit down next to him, tested his patience, but finally Xander lay down next to him, making sure the overcoat covered them both. The coat was long enough to cover them from neck to waist.

His favorite coat was going to be dirty, but that didn't bother him as much as the person resting by his side. Xander kept jarring him then would move away. The third time it happened he grabbed the slender waist and held on. "Stop moving and go to sleep." Angel ordered.

After that Xander snuggled up next to him and passed out. It took Angel longer to find peace in sleep. He hadn't slept outside in such a long time; he wasn't used to the sound of rain hitting forest leaves and the scuttling sounds of squirrels rustling about on the forest floor trying to find shelter. Angel heard so many forest sounds, but not clearly, and not very far. His hearing, strength, and remarkable eyesight were gone. While he pondered over these changes, he drifted off to sleep.

**********

"Come on, Angel, rise and shine, enjoy your first day in the sun, in a foreign country." Xander called out way too cheerfully.

He groaned and rolled over, onto dirt. He sat up quickly, his body was still in the shade, but he wondered if Zalazarus was lying about him becoming a full human. The demon could have taken away his strength and waited for him to stupidly rush out into the sunlight and turn to ash. No he felt too crappy to still be a vampire, plus his stomach growled and rumbled. He needed human food, too. There was a pressing need in his lower body. Shit, he missed being a vampire.

"Hey, this place isn't too bad now that it's daylight! I found a way out of the forest. Are you going to sit there forever? Come on, we need to go." The teen was walking back and forth near the entrance of the overhanging rock trailing behind him two coats. Xander's blue silk shirt was tied around his waist, still wet from the night before. It looked like Xander was trying to shake the dirt out of the coats, but was having a hard time because of his broken wrist. Angel stood up slowly and plodded towards the sunlight. He stuck out his hand first and waited anxiously for the pain. None came. He peered out between his tightly clenched eyes, not realizing he had closed them. Xander looked at him with a perplexed expression on his face.

"Angel, what are you doing. You are not going to turn to ashes; you're human now. I heard your heartbeat this morning. Hurry up and piss so we can start walking."

What was the deal? Last night Xander was as waspish as any old housewife was, and now he was ordering him around, as if he was an infantry soldier. He stepped out into the early morning sunlight. It washed over his face and felt pleasantly warm. The drizzle and fine mist of rain from last night was gone. In its place, dew-tipped trees, and damp ground full of tree leaves and nettles. The forest was coming alive. He smiled even though his body ached from sleeping on the hard ground and his stomach hungered for food and water. He took care of his business quickly, surprised he still knew how, and strolled back to the large rock formation, sticking out of the side of a large hill.

Xander was sitting down on top of a fallen tree going through his coat's pockets, his bare chest still showing signs of bruises and scratches. Angel sat down next to the young man before he said anything. "How are you doing?" His voice cracked and it came out kind of deep and husky.

"There's a stream not far from here, the water might help your voice. Tell the truth, I feel kind of good. More relaxed and at peace. Maybe its because I'm far away from the Hellmouth. Anyway, things don't look so hopeless now. I climbed to the top of the hill early this morning and I saw a village not far from here. It's going to take some walking, but I'm sure we'll get there within a day or two. It looked like a large village so we may be able to buy food or something. I'm sorry for the way I acted last night. I overreacted to this situation. I was really tired, I guess. Anyway, go get a drink of water and come back soon. I already drank more than I can hold."

His head ached and his throat did hurt, so he decided not to answer nor was he going to try to decipher all the information that was thrown at him. Angel stood up and walked forward in the direction Xander pointed. The teen surprised him, he never expected Xander to apologize. The boy, no young man, must have done some soul searching while he searched for water.

Gurgling and splashing sounds told him the stream was nearby. It was slow going through the forest; strong tree branches with sharp branches blocked every move. He had to force his way through the trees and he wished he'd worn his coat. It would have protected his arms against scratches and his shirt from being ripped. No wonder scratches covered Xander's cast, back, and arms.

Cold water hit his back. He gritted his teeth and kept moving. The water falling from branches was more annoying than the scratches. Angel finally escaped the trees mutilating his arms and was glad to see the clear stream running over smooth rocks and down a small hill. They must have been on the other side of the hill last night. He bent down and scooped up a handful of water and to drink it greedily. He stuck both hands in the icy water, cupped them and brought them to his mouth. Angel did that until his stomach started hurting, and then he drank a little bit more. When he stood back up he could feel the water sloshing inside of him. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world.

Angel headed back toward camp, if that could be called a camp. It was more like the place where he and Xander passed out together. Angel didn't have any lighters or matches with him, not ever having to smoke, nor having any friends that smoked. They had better reach civilization soon; otherwise they were going to spend another cold night together.

**********

"Okay, let's take a break." Xander was the first to say, once they came to clearer spot in the woods, and immediately sat down on the best-fallen log. Finding decent seats was Xander's specialty, apparently.

They had been walking for five hours. From the top of the hill the village didn't look too far away, but they had to go up and down hills, ravines, and through thick foliage. It was slow going. They were not going to make it to the village today. Angel would have worried more, except Xander was in an exceptionally good mood and they found nuts, berries, and more water as they walked. A lot of the food they found looked similar to what they had in their world.

He sat down next to Xander, rested his feet, and leaned back against a thick tree.

"What I would give for a chocolate milkshake and a hamburger right now." Xander said wistfully. "Hell, right now, cafeteria food sounds good. I'm so hungry."

Xander voiced his own thoughts, he had lived with his vampire hunger for blood, but the sense of pain was now different. His stomach clamored and begged for something to fill it, his hunger for blood was deeper and centered around his heart. Angel couldn't decide which was worse. Visions of bread and, for some odd reason, pie filled his head. Suddenly feeling slightly disoriented he shook his head.

"Hey, what did you do!"

Angel looked down at the ground and his mouth dropped open. A loaf of bread and what looked like a cherry pie lay on the forest ground. Before he could say anything Xander was already ripping into the bread and as an afterthought he tore off half and tossed it to him. Angel didn't feel like questioning how the bread appeared in the clearing, he just bit into it and started chewing. It felt good to eat like a normal person, the sensation of chewing and swallowing strangely comforting. Xander quickly finished the bread and was picking at the pie, trying to clean off the dirt from the cherries.

"Xander, wait." It was easier to think on a filled stomach and this didn't seem right. Why would food pop out of thin air and right in front of them?

Xander popped a cherry into his mouth and started chewing. "Hey, this tastes good."

"Didn't I say wait?" He asked, a bit peeved at Xander's nonchalant attitude and disregard for his wishes.

Xander stopped chewing and swallowed. "Yeah, you said wait, but then you took too long getting to the point. I don't see the harm in eating the pie. Its not like we stole it or something."

"Xan, I don't know how those got here, but I do know I was thinking of bread and pie and when I opened my eyes they were here. They had to come from somewhere."

"Well, why don't you touch the damn pie and see if you have a psychic flash or something?" Xander asked facetiously, then he burst out excitedly, "Hey, wait a minute! Didn't that demon say we would both have some kind of ability in this world?"

"Yeah, the demon did say that. Maybe my ability is to conjure stuff up..."

Xander quickly interrupted him, "Yeah or steal it, like teleportation."

He smiled, Xander was returning to normal, talkative and imaginative. The thought of stealing someone else's food did not sit well with him, however.

"Hey, what's wrong. You're frowning all of a sudden?" Xander's voice sounded smaller and less cheerful. His expression must be really dark.

"I don't like the idea of me taking people's food with magic. It's not right."

"Well, you can't send it back can you? So why don't we eat it and move on? This can be a very handy gift. I wonder if it would work with other items, like clothing. Can you imagine how much money you could make conjuring up CDs? I can sell them at school or something. When we get back anyway."

He let Xander ramble on, enjoying melodious voice if not the content. Angel decided to see if he could sense where the food came from. He sat down next to Xander and picked up a sugarcoated cherry and held it between his finger and tried to see where it came from. Slowly a mental picture of a large smoky kitchen with people running back and forth yelling at each other filled his mind. Angel concentrated and tried to imagine the cherry going back to where it belonged. He felt mildly disoriented and closed his eyes. When he opened them again the cherry was gone and Xander's face was white. He smiled slowly, "Enjoy the pie, Xander, the place where it came from had plenty of food and tons of pies."

"The cherry! It disappeared, vanished, and went bye-bye, right in front of my eyes. You were holding it and then it was gone. If this was teleportation, you would have gone too, wouldn't you?"

He frowned. "What's your obsession about teleportation? I think my ability is to conjure stuff from other places. I'm just glad I can return the items. It just might come in really handy."

Xander picked up another cherry and popped it into his mouth. He wasn't even bothering with the crust. "I hope I have teleportation as my gift. I always wished I could disappear whenever I needed to. It might have saved me this." Xander held up his arm with the cast then lowered it again. He picked another cherry and popped it in his mouth, but he didn't chew. Instead his eyes filled with tears, which slowly ran down his cheeks and down his chin to fall on his white dirt stained cast, like lonely, falling crystals.

Angel was such an idiot. Of course Xander would want teleportation; he wouldn't have suffered as much abuse if he could have escaped. His wrist wouldn't be broken and the rape never would have happened. Angel moved over to Xander's side and pulled him up and away from the pie lying on the ground, broken and dirty. He hugged the smaller young man. "Xan, I'm sorry. It wasn't your fault. What happened with your father and that man was horrible, but they are dead now and it wasn't your fault."

Xander started sobbing louder, his pep talk didn't work. Angel didn't know what to say to the traumatized teen, he didn't want to deal with this now, but when would they deal with it? Shit. It looked like it was going to be now. Angel sat the crying teen down on the fallen tree, letting the teenager sob against his coat racking his brain for anything that might make his friend feel better. Angel should have known Xander's cheerful act was just that, an act. "Shhh...it's okay. You'll be okay. I'll protect you and make sure nothing like that happens to you ever again. You know talking about it might help," he suggested quietly, once Xander's sobs turned to sniffles.

"I don't know if I can talk about it, Angel," Xander said softly, his voice muffled.

"I think it might make you feel better if you do. I'll still respect you and I won't leave you. No matter what you tell me. I swear."

Xander leaned his head against Angel's chest, so he leaned back against the tree to help support Xander's weight. He didn't want to interrupt once the teen started talking.

"Well, I guess you know what happened two nights ago. My dad has always been an asshole. He would hit me and sometimes make me suck him off and occasionally he would want more, but most of the time I would be able to get out of it. It just never occurred to me that he would try to get rid of me, to sell me to someone else. When I was younger the attention made me feel special, my mom ignored me all the time, so when my dad started touching me I didn't tell anyone, afraid that he would go away and no one would hug me any more. I loved the attention, but after mom left, he started hurting me. I must have been ten when he first made me suck him off. Before I would use my hands on him and he was fine with that I suppose. He hurt me so much that time because I fought back. I couldn't go to school the next day or the day after that, he beat me so badly. The next time I just did what he told me to and he didn't hurt me anymore. When I was fourteen, he raped me. On my fourteenth birthday, if you can believe that." Xander's voice hardened with remembrance and Angel kept his face expressionless afraid the confused young man would mistake his rage, and think it was aimed at him, instead of his bastard father.

"How did that make you feel?" He asked, not sure how Xander would react but hoping he would scream or yell do anything to let out his rage. Emotions that strong shouldn't be bottled up forever.

"How do you think I felt? I was mortified, humiliated. I felt dirty, ashamed, and I didn't want anyone else to find out. I wanted to kill him so much. Do you know how that feels to hate someone so much and yet not be able to fight back or do anything? I felt weak and stupid. I never should have encouraged him when I was younger." Xander pushed away from him, stood up, and started pacing. "You know what, Angel? I think I hate myself more than I hate anyone else in the world. I wished he would have gone overboard and killed me. I wanted to die, and yet I figured everything would work out because he was my dad and he would take care of me. I kept thinking that if I did everything he said and obeyed him he would stop hitting me and love me again, and instead he tried selling me to some fucker from South America! I wanted to pound his face in, burn him up with a fireball, I don't know. I just wanted to be bigger and stronger so I could fight back. I even botched my own escape attempt. I broke my wrist running down stairs I walked up and down my whole life. How pathetic is that?"

Angel was starting to worry. Xander's face was turning whiter and whiter in anger and his hands were glowing with red light. He was afraid to say anything; he didn't want that fury focused on him.

Xander slammed his unbroken hand against a tree in front of him. "I just wanted him to die. Die, die, and die!" Xander screamed at the cloudless sky and flung his unbroken hand out. A wave of red and blue light escaped and flew across the clearing. Four trees clumped together slowly slid off their trunks and collapsed into the clearing. The branches and leaves slowly started burning. The blast took out four feet worth of trees. That seemed to drain the anger and energy out of Xander. He backed up against the tree behind him and slid down it. His face was white in shock at the destruction he had caused.

Instantly on his feet, Angel rushed over to the burgeoning fire and used his coat to beat it out before it spread, thanking all the gods he ever believed in that Xander flung his hand the other way. Angel had never seen anything move so fast. He would have been cut in half for sure.

He walked over to Xander once he was sure the forest was not going to burn down. A black cloud of smoke drifted up through the trees. Yeah someone was going to come and investigate. They needed to get out of there. Angel knelt down next to his friend and leaned his forehead against Xander's forehead and stared into the brown tear filled eyes. "Xan." He didn't know what to say. He felt like holding this boy and never letting go. So much anguish and hatred buried inside such a cheerful exterior. He tried speaking again. "Xan, we need to go before anyone comes to investigate all the smoke."

Angel started to move but Xander reached out and grabbed his shoulder, his grip somewhat weak. He looked back into the panicked eyes. They pleaded for understanding, love, and friendship. "You don't hate me, do you?"

"No of course not! You are the bravest guy I know and what happened to you was not your fault. You were a child when it started happening. Your mother should have protected you but she didn't. Please don't blame yourself. Blame your father. I'm so sorry this happened to you, but don't ever think about killing yourself again. I know I would be devastated, and I don't know what your friend Willow would do without you. You are an admirable person. I don't know how to make you see the good inside yourself, but I know it will come with time. Come on lets get up and get going." He placed a quick kiss on Xander's slightly parted lips and pulled Xander to his feet, letting go of Xander's hands once he saw Xander on his feet.

Xander swayed drunkenly and fell back against the tree. "Um Angel, I don't feel so good. I can barely stand."

Angel caught Xander before he fell on the ground and hit his head on a rock or something. The sudden weight caught him by surprise and he almost fell on top of the unconscious teen. He ended up having to drop to his knees to keep Xander from injury. This was not good. Angel quickly checked for rocks that might be hiding under the leaves, and lowered him the rest of the way down. He couldn't hold him up forever. The guy weighed more than two hundred pounds; at least it felt like it. Angel sat down next to Xander and rubbed his sore knees until the throbbing pain lessened.

Angel didn't know what to do. He couldn't carry Xander out of the forest, and it wasn't safe to stay here any longer. The black smoke was cause for scrutiny, but it would take hours, if not days, for someone to come and investigate. Forest fires happened all the time didn't they?

Angel decided to rest and relax. Apparently, their powers would have some bad side effect. In his case, he was stealing everything he conjured, and Xander would probably pass out every time he used his power, not a good combination.

The sun had started sinking past the tree line, turning the forest treetops a weird shade of pink and orange. Night was coming soon. Hopefully, it would remain cloudless. The temperature started dropping once the sun faded from view and he wished he hadn't batted out all the tiny flames that flickered and ate away at the green leaves of the now decapitated trees. A small fire would have been nice.

The rustle of leaves and slight groaning told him Xander was finally waking up. Angel knelt next to him and placed a hand over the teen's chest to hold him down. Knowing Xander the kid would bounce to his feet, only to pass out again. The brown eyes opened and for a brief moment panic flashed in them, but once they recognized him as a friend they calmed.

"What happened?" Xander's voice was surprisingly clear.

"I'm not sure. I think your power takes up a lot of energy, and you passed out."

"Great, I have this really cool power and can't even use it." Xander pushed his hand away and sat up. He shivered and reached for the coat that his head was lying on. He shook it out and carefully wrapped it around his back and held the two flaps together with his uninjured wrist. His other hand rested on his lap.

Angel quickly fired back. "I wouldn't say your power is completely useless. You were conscious and aware for a minute or so before you passed out. You never know what may happen in combat. If you can kill all your enemies in one shot, passing out won't matter."

"Okay, okay, I get the point. I have to be highly selective on when and where I'm going to use it." Xander sighed and shifted into another sitting position. The forest floor wasn't exactly a quality made mattress.

"Yeah that's about right, but I wouldn't worry about it yet. Right now it worries me that you and I have no control over our gifts, and while I can practice mine, it's going to be a lot harder to teach you, especially if you keep passing out."

"Hey, I don't think I'll pass out all the time, maybe every time I use it I'll build up a tolerance?"

Angel grimaced at the suggestion and quickly answered back. "I doubt that. It would defeat the purpose. Zalazarus wants us to lose, so none of our powers are going to be that great or foolproof. We are going to have to use our own wits to get through this challenge. Now I don't know about you, but I'm tired and cold. I figured if we sleep together like we did last night we'd both be warmer. What do you think?"

He could see the glare through the last bit of sunshine left in the forest. "Am I suppose to answer that question?" Xander's arms and legs were trembling and shaking from the cold.

"Well I guess not, we only have two coats. If we don't want to die of hypothermia this is the best solution. While you were passed out I cleared a space for us to sleep, so there shouldn't be any spiders or snakes."

"Great, I can't wait to see this masterpiece you created."

"Um actually you're already in it. I decided why mess with perfection, since no bugs have bitten you, crawled in your ears, or anything of that sort, it's probably safe for me to sleep here too."

"Bugs crawl in people's ears?"

"Yeah, you didn't know that. I read a article about a Boy Scout troop..."

Xander punched his arm lightly and quickly started feeling his ears for any bugs that may be hiding inside. "Stop it, it's not funny. I don't even want to think about anything crawling in me while I'm sleeping."

Angel finished laying out Xander's coat. It wasn't as big as Angel's coat so they used it for a headrest. He folded it a couple of times so it was semi-thick and long enough for them to both use it as a pillow. Angel waited until he was lying next to Xander before speaking.

"Look, I'm sorry I was just trying to lighten the mood. I didn't realize that you might actually be scared of something like that. I did check for insects and other strange bugs that may be hiding in the leaves surrounding us, but Xander you have to realize, men and women have camped outside for thousands of years, and humans survived the experience. The Boy Scout thing was a rare incident don't worry you'll be fine. We're more likely to be trampled by a wild boar..."

"Angel, you are not helping! Go to sleep." Xander snarled and turned his back on him.

Angel felt slightly ashamed and guilty for worrying Xander. He was so nervous and didn't know what to talk about, so of course he started babbling random information, thinking it would make Xander feel better to have the facts. Now, instead of sleeping peacefully, Xander was trying to use his hand with the cast to cover his ear facing the ground and he'd pulled half the coat up to other ear.

Xander's attempts to cover his ears stole half his cover, so he moved closer to the warm body, spooning up behind the shorter and narrower teen. At first Xander tensed, but after a few minutes, his body relaxed back into his. Angel tried to stay awake until he knew for sure Xander was sleeping, but once again his human body failed him.

**********

Slight cursing and the sound of branches snapping penetrated his concentration and distracted him from watching for any villagers entering or leaving the tiny hamlet of wooden and stone homes. He counted twenty houses, from his vantage view, on the top of a tree.

"I don't see why we can't walk on the road. It'll be faster and the villagers will see us coming. I kind of want to see another human face, besides yours. You're not the best company you know." Xander complained swatting at another branch that snagged his pants.

Already their clothing was full of holes and tears. Twentieth century clothing was not designed for walking through a dense forest for over four days. Nor did it protect them from scratches. Angel's body hurt all over from tiny scratches, that by themselves barely stung let alone hurt, but add them all together and pain is what you got.

Angel sighed trying to keep his temper, which he found increasingly difficult as one day of hiking quickly turned into five days in the wilderness with nature boy. "Do I need to explain this again? We are hiding out until we know what type of people live in the village. For all we know they could be seven foot ogres. Now be quiet. I think something is happening. Someone just entered the village."

Xander started hopping up and down trying to see what he was seeing.

"Stop it Xan, you look like a Jack in the Box, besides you might attract attention."

Xander stopped hopping and started kicking leaves. "Angel isn't it my turn yet?" He sounded bored and angry.

Angel climbed down from the tree and dropped the last five feet, not at all worried about spraining his ankles. "Okay I checked them out, they are human. Or close enough anyway. It looks like they are preparing for some sort of celebration. Lots of cooking and people milling around what looks like the town center. Let's go."

Xander's mouth gapped open in disbelief. "That's all the reconnaissance you're going to do?"

He smiled enjoying Xander's surprise. "I told you I wouldn't take long. And yes we are going to use the road leading into town. We look scary enough as it is in our clothing."


"Speak for yourself, Deadboy," Xander paused as if just realizing that he wasn't technically dead anymore, "Ah well you know what I mean."

"Yeah, don't worry about it. Come on let's go."

**********

A young child spotted them from the tall green grass surrounding the village. He or she picked up its wooden toy and ran inside the village gates yelling what sounded like mommy strangers. Even though he saw how fast the villagers reacted to the last visitor entering their village it still surprised him when in less than two minutes, half the males in the village stood in front of them blocking the entrance, with short swords, axes, and wooden spears. At least they didn't have muskets or some other kind of projectile weapon.

Xander threw his hands up in the air in a sign of surrender, his face became flushed and he started sweating, next the teen would start babbling. Unfortunately, Xander always babbled when he became nervous and right now was not the best time for the young man to say something inane.

"Xan calm down. Everything is going to be okay, just let me do the talking. Okay?"

Xander lowered his arms and held them clenched at his sides. "Yeah, I understand. Tell them to lower their sharp pointy weapons."

An old man with white hair sprinkled with brown strands, pushed through the crowd of young males, and walked up to them. On closer inspection the old man wasn't that old, maybe forty to fifty years old, but rough living aged people faster, so it was hard to judge. He remembered how old his mother and father looked when they were still living. Modern technology, food, and easy living slowed the aging process. The clothing the men were wearing was similar to that of what he expected to see in medieval town, brown and homespun.

He stepped toward the older man, making sure to keep his hands open, so the men could tell he wasn't hiding a weapon. "My name is Angel, and my companion is Xander, we mean no harm."

The older man nodded his head, but his gaze kept returning to their clothing and Xander's cast. These men had probably never seen sneakers, trench coats, or silk shirts. Nor had they ever seen plaster used on a person. Of course their clothes were ripped and torn, but they were better than anything these people had ever seen.

"I don't know where you boys are from, but I can tell you don't mean any harm. I'm sorry about the reception, bandits and trolls, are currently plaguing this area and Lord Blain's soldiers haven't arrived yet to root out the problem. My name is Elija come on in. We might be able to help you."

Angel allowed Elija to lead him and Xander through the crowd of villagers and into the protective circle of the village. Everyone was talking and he could hear a dog barking somewhere in the tide of voices. The thatched houses were clumped together in two rows each row leading to the middle of the village.

He leaned closer to Elija and asked. "What's going on? It looks like a celebration?"

"Yes in five days, Marta and Dangak, are to be married. We're preparing for it now. Today is the day we chose five of our men to find go into the forest and find a baby fire dragon. It's a great honor to bless the marriage." He must have looked confused because Elija patted his shoulder and said, "Don't worry about it. I'll explain once we get inside my tavern. It's too noisy out here to talk, you two have the look of confused foreigners."

Xander didn't say anything during their walk through the village; he stared at everything around him in a daze. Angel felt a inkling of understanding, in the forest Xander could imagine they were still on Earth, but here in this village, hearing the people talk about dragons, bandits, and trolls. It was impossible to lie to oneself anymore. They were truly stuck here until they completed their quest.

Finally their guide stopped in front a stone dwelling; he opened the wooden door and led them inside. The door creaked when he closed it. The room was cooler and a lot darker it was also quite empty. The uneven wooden tables and chairs cluttered the walkway. Elija led them to a table by the bar. There were more lanterns hanging from the wall.

"This is the town meeting hall, tavern, and inn. Enjoy the quiet while it lasts, tonight after the women and children go to bed, everyone will pour in here to drink. For the next five days, no one is allowed to drink during the day, bad luck for the newlyweds in case you're wondering. Now tell me your story and make it quick, soon you two will be needed outside to participate in the competitions."

Xander squeaked out, "Competitions?"

Elija nodded his head and answered. "Yeah, all the young males in the village compete to see who goes up into the forest to bring back a live baby fire dragon. We have to send the best; therefore you two have to compete so we'll know for sure the best are sent. Now what's your story?"

Angel thought for a moment not sure if he should tell the truth. Would Elija even believe him? He opted for using what he'd already heard from the villagers. "My friend and I were attacked five days ago by bandits. They stole everything but the clothes on our backs. Xander and I, have been surviving off the forest for the past few days, and we need help to make it back to our country."

"Stop. I don't want to hear anymore." Elija interrupted him. "The only truth you've spoken is that you've been living off the land. I know you're lying and I want the truth." Elija's calm and soothing voice hardened and his blue eyes demanded that they answer truthfully.

Angel didn't know what to say. He bluffed his way out of more awkward situations, but now in the face of a human male, roughly his equal, he felt lost. Always before when he dealt with humans and demons, he had confidence in his vampire strength. Now he and Xander were dependent on this man's goodwill. With one word he could call the wrath of the villagers down on them.

"Ummm...I'm not sure where to start." He forced out slowly. His throat felt dry and scratchy.

Elija stood up and walked behind a counter and brought back one wooden mug. "Here this water should make you feel better. Now look, I know you two are not from around here, and your bandit story is not going to work while you're wearing clothes nicer than anyone in this village has ever seen. Only the rich and powerful lords own silk material. I'm sure plaster casts are not from around here and I don't think anyone else in this world has ever seen anything like it. So if you want our help, the truth might be the best policy."

Angel gripped the wooden cup tightly and quickly took a long drink before handing it to Xander. The water was cool and soothing. "Okay the long and short of the story is this. A demon sent us here to this planet or world, to complete a quest. If we succeed we'll be returned to our world, and if we fail the demon will kill us. My friend Xander was pulled into this by accident, for which I'm sorry. That is the truth."

Elija stood up and motioned for them to do the same. "Come on, my grown son left some of his clothes behind when he and Ileac, his wife, moved to the city to become candle makers. Some of them should fit you two." Elija led them to another door and into what looked like his home.

Angel glanced at Xander trying to gauge his companion's mood. The teen looked lost and confused. They needed to find out as much as possible about this country before they left his village.

Elija continued to talk while rummaging through a trunk. "I'm not sure what to think about you're story, but I can sense you were telling the truth and that you mean no harm. If this quest really is a matter of life or death, I'm willing to allow you to work in the tavern until you have enough marks to travel to the King's Tower. The Mage School has a large library and someone there should be able to help. I think you can find a lot of answers there. Having horses will be a great benefit but they are hard to come by. Once you two change into these clothes you'll blend in and I would recommend that you stick to the bandit story."

Xander finally spoke up. "Why are you being so nice to us?"

Elija handed Xander a brown tunic and worn leather pants. "I'm helping you because, thirty years ago, a demon saved my life, and he asked me to guide and help any strangers that came here from earth, as long as they were good. You two aren't the first strangers I've helped over the years. Just the kindest and least evil."

"Zalazarus?" He whispered.

"Yes. Not a bad demon as long as you stay on his good side. I got in some serious trouble back home and he sent me here to escape it. I've never been happier, and my gift helps me find trouble before it finds me. Helping one or two strangers every three or four years isn't too bad. Now you two hurry up and change. It's almost noon. And my wife Allele will be returning soon to cook more food. For the next five days due to the festive occasion people will invite you two to dinner, so don't worry about food. Word of caution; don't touch any of the girls here, unless you want a shotgun wedding. Or in this case pitchfork wedding."

Elija left the room closing the door behind him.

"Man that man sure does talk a lot." The first words out of Xander's mouth made him chuckle.

"Yeah, but it really helps. We need to know about dragons, trolls, and bandits. Elija has a great point, we need horses, and we're not going to get them from here. I think Elija mentioned someone named Lord Blain, I think that's the first place to go. We can try to join his guard and maybe get a horse out of it. Or try to buy one?"

"Wait a minute. Why don't you? You know...?"

"What you mean use my powers? I can't do that it's stealing. Besides how do you know the horse won't die?"

"You can practice with a rat or a cat, can't you? I don't care. Angel we need to get back to our world soon. I don't think I can handle this. Everything is so different and I have no practical skills. How are we going to get enough money to buy supplies and horses? We can't survive here? I can barely pass high school!" Xander paced the small room nervously, the creak in the floorboard unnaturally loud.

Angel stepped in front of Xander and grabbed the thin shoulders. The brown eyes widened and then lowered to floor. He spoke softly not wanting to startle the young man. "We'll be fine. We survived in the forest for five days. We've already found food and shelter for the night. Let's just take this a day at a time. Right now the people look happy and well fed. They won't mind helping strangers. If things get too bad I can always use my ability. Just relax and don't worry."

Xander moved away from him and slowly unbuttoned his shirt. It fell to the floor so he picked it up and threw it on a bench next to the wall, and tried to pull the tunic on over his head.

Angel was grateful they landed in this world during the spring, instead of fall. Otherwise they would have been in a world of hurt come winter. Xander cursed when he realized his head was in the wrong place and he couldn't pull the tunic off because his other arms were trapped. The cast made it harder for Xander to wiggle free.

"Ummm...Angel can you please help me?" The material covering his face muffled Xander's voice.

Angel smiled. "Yeah just don't move anymore." He'd already taken his shirt off but decided to help Xander out before he tried to figure out how to undo the ties for his tunic.

He stepped close to his friend and lifted the trapped arms above the teen's head. The shirt caught on Xander's ear; he pulled the material away and with a little bit of effort was able to pull the rest of the tunic over the head. Xander slowly lowered his arms to his side. They stood almost chest to chest the tunic dangling from the white cast. It took him a moment to realize just how close he was to the smaller man, he was so fascinated by Xander's eyes, gold flecks studded the brown rings gazing at him in confusion. A blush spread across Xander's cheeks.

Angel quickly backed away and turned around, not wanting Xander to notice his erection. "Hurry up and get dressed before Elija returns." His voice felt thick and his body, hot.

*****

Angel held his breath and stuck his head into a barrel of water. He stayed under as long as possible before pulling his head out and shaking the water out of his head. He shivered briefly and moved back out into the sunlight.

The cold water felt wonderful against his hot body. Walking through the woods didn't prepare him for the strenuous contests the village set up to challenge the young men. He did the best he could, but the heat was finally getting to him. He used his brown tunic to wipe the excess water off his face. Not minding the few rivulets of water trailing down his naked back and chest.

He stepped back into the shade, knowing it would take time for Xander to finish his part of the competitions. He enjoyed watching the teen. The young man's slender form was hunched over a board with his eyebrows narrowed, chewing on the end of a stick, an intense look of concentration on his face. Unlike him, Xander was only allowed to participate in the contests designed to test intelligence. So far Xander had beaten all but one villager, the blonde hair boy he was playing against now. Apparently, Xander did very well at strategy base games.

Angel even surprised him by beating the other young male villagers in physical strength contests. His human body felt tremendously weaker than his vampire self, but apparently his muscles were stronger than normal.

Elija said that for sure he was going on the dragon hunt. Angel hoped Xander won as well so they wouldn't have to split up. He didn't want to imagine how much could go wrong in two or three days, but Xander had a knack for finding trouble. A big cheer went up and his attention was once again drawn to Xander sitting in the middle of a large crowd of people, smiling.

"Your friend won."

He didn't turn toward the voice, already recognizing Elija's steady timbre. "He's a smart boy." He replied back.

"If you two succeed in the dragon hunt. Lord Blain will award you some money. He's coming for the wedding. It's a great honor."

"You mean it's a individual hunting thing?" He asked.

"Yeah, but don't worry the village will supply you with necessary equipment, and point you in the right direction. If you get Lord Blain's attention he might want you to join his guard. Other young man have done so when given the option."

"So how many people are going on this hunt?" He asked while watching Xander. The teen was still in the center of a mob of people but was talking excitedly about something, ever now and then pointing towards the board and the pieces on it. Xander's blond opponent was smiling too and talking back just as rapidly.

"There should be three teams of three. I guess nine all together. Some years there are more and others less. Are you paying attention? Or are you lusting after your friend?"

It took him a moment for Elija's words to register in his head. He was listening on auto pilot, too preoccupied watching Xander smiling and looking happy. He didn't think he would see that for a long time. Xander fit in fairly well with the villagers. It looked like he was making friends already.

He forced himself to look away from Xander and towards Elija's smirking face. "I'm not lusting after Xander. I'm looking out for him. I got him into this mess. He's my responsibility now. What makes you think anything differently?"

If anything Elija's smirk grew wider. "It may be the woody you were sporting while observing your friend. He's a handsome young man, wouldn't you say?"

Angel felt a flush of blood staining his cheeks and kicked at the hard packed dirt under his feet, welcoming the brief pain in his toes. When he felt he could calmly tell Elija that he had no interest in Xander, he looked up again. "I'm not..." he trailed off. Elija was gone and so were half the villagers. "Shit."

He grabbed his shirt from off the ground where it had fallen, and rushed to catch up with the villagers heading towards the town center. The contests were held on the outskirts of the village so they wouldn't disrupt the people not participating, but the village was so small he didn't know why they bothered. Must be tradition.

**********

"It's been two days, wouldn't we have found something by now?" Xander asked A'Rin, the blond teenager he played against during the competitions.

The teenager pursed his lips in thought, "I think that is why the elders always send more than one team of men off in four directions. In hopes one group will succeed. For the past few years the baby red dragons have been harder to find, which is why we left five days before the actual wedding. My grandfather tells me that in his youth you could find red and green dragons everywhere, but for some reason they are dying out or moving on."

"I hope we find one! I never saw a dragon before!" Xander exclaimed his eyes shinning with excitement.

Angel tried not to groan. From the moment Xander was told he was going on the mission, the young teen changed. He'd never seen Xander so excited about anything in his life. The night of the competitions he talked to all the old people, who stayed outside celebrating, trying to find out everything he could on dragons.

"Don't worry about young Xander. All the children and young adults are like this until they finally see one. Xander is older than average, but its never too late to see your first dragon." Anorak said gently.

Their hunting party had four people instead of the usual three, mainly due to his unrelenting refusal to be separated from Xander. A few villagers complained, but decided to let them stay together. So far he liked both young men. Anorak was twenty something and in great physical shape, with short dark brown hair and gray eyes. A'Rin stood out from the other villager's because of his blond silky hair, blue eyes, and pale skin.

According to Anorak, A'Rin's mother arrived at the village pregnant and penniless seventeen years ago and hasn't left since. The young man was bright and seemed kind. Him and Xander hit it off rather quickly, even though Xander beat him at Roc, a board game no one bothered to explain to him.

The first night out of the village they camped in a field of green grass, under the open sky. Millions of bright stars lit the sky. He'd never seen so many stars in one sky. By the time he was born pollution had already started to ruin the night sky.

They finally entered the forest earlier this morning. Since then they've climbed steadily uphill, with the sun beating down on their backs. Xander tried to keep up with them for the first hour but soon he started dropping behind and his head hanging low each step smaller and smaller. He wanted to ask Xander if he was all right but didn't want Xander to know just how often he watched him. It was A'Rin who came to the rescue, begging Anorak and him for a break. The pale face flushed and sweating. Xander looked just as pathetic.

After that first break, him and Anorak walked behind Xander and A'Rin, letting them set the pace. They already covered four or five miles and neither of the teens looked like they were going to fall over and die at any moment. So he started talking to Anorak out of boredom.

Anorak carried the cage that they would carry the baby dragon in. It looked heavy but really wasn't. The villagers made it out of lightweight wood and strong vines. He carried the smaller spare cage along with most of the food. Xander and A'Rin carried some food and sleeping pads and rolls. Both of the young men were too slender and fine boned to carry anything really heavy.

"I'm worried that Xander will be disappointed if he gets his hopes up too much. I never saw a dragon myself; I've only seen pictures. They can't be that dangerous if people catch them regularly for weddings." Angel said after a long pause.

"Ah, I wouldn't worry. My mother said the same thing to me and I wasn't disappointed. It's about time for our next break. I'm hungry." Anorak said.

"Let's wait until we get to level ground. It'll be more comfortable. Besides, I think Xander and A'Rin are walking faster, now that they are talking to each other instead of concentrating on how miserable they feel or how much their feet hurt." Angel said trying not to smile.

Anorak looked up from the rocky ground and stared at the two figures ahead, talking with their heads close together. "Hmmm...I think you're right. They do walk faster when they are talking together. I can wait."

They walked in silence for the next thirty minutes or so, he didn't feel like talking. Anorak seemed content with the silence between them as well. It was nice, this world. The villagers, though poor, seemed content, happy, and well fed. The air smelled fresh, there were no airplanes flying overhead every hour, nor were there trains, or sounds of cars. It was quiet, except for Xander and A'Rin.

He could be happy here, if only him and Xander didn't have to complete the quest, or fight evil ever again. Except he wouldn't be happy anymore knowing that the humans in his world needed someone like him to protect them from vampires and other demons. Buffy couldn't do everything alone. Slayers died young without help.

"Hey Angel! Anorak! Let's take a break! I think it's time for lunch! Isn't it?" Xander stopped at an outcropping of rocks and dropped his backpack and leaned it against one of the larger rocks. Without waiting for their answer. A'Rin followed suit, except he had to dig in his bag to find a package of dried fruit his mother packed for him. They had some last night for desert and there was so much of it they could eat it at ever meal.

His shoulders sighed slumped in relief once he took off his backpack. Angel rolled his shoulder blades trying to work blood back into them and lessen the strain. "I'm ready to eat. Let me guess what's for lunch? More beef jerky!"

"Wow you're finally getting a sense of humor. But yeah you're right more dried deer meat. Good thing you're not a vegetarian."

Angel shook his head and said lightly, "Xander sometimes you're too much."

A strange sad expression crossed Xander's face for a brief moment before he went back to being the perfectly happy Xander again. "I try," was Xander's only response.

The walls were back. They never did find time to sit down and talk. He doubted they ever would. Every time he tried to get Xander alone, Xander made excuses and ran away with the nearest villager he could find. It was obvious that Xander didn't want to be alone with him and he didn't know how to fix the problem. He should have spent the time to talk to Xander while they were trying to get out of the woods, but he felt too tired to talk after a while and by the time they stopped for the night he didn't want to do anything but sleep. Now there were too many people around and with Xander avoiding him like he had the plague, there wasn't much he could do.

****

"Angel do you like the stars?"

"Yeah, on earth you can barely see them unless you drive out to the middle of no where."

"I know that. It's just that when I was younger I wanted to be an astronaut. I think I was on a camping trip with my mom and Aunt Rita and I remember seeing millions of stars and wishing I could be up among them."

"Xan go to sleep, we have to start heading back for the village tomorrow if we are going to make the wedding in time."

"It's a shame we didn't find any dragons." Xander said burrowing into his sleeping roll. It was growing colder outside and they weren't sharing their body heat now that they both had their own bedrolls.

He was hoping to see a dragon as well he admitted to himself, realizing that he felt as disappointed as Xander. "Maybe next time, we'll be lucky."

"Maybe." Xander replied sleepily.

He looked up at the sky through the trees and wished he had his vampire vision back. The stars would stand out more brilliantly with it. The half moon cast shadows everywhere but made the clearing they slept in less threatening. A cold breeze rustled the tree leaves. He shivered. Once again wishing him and Xander were sleeping together like before. He slept better knowing Xander was safely molded to his body, warm and asleep. He stared at Xander until he couldn't keep his eyes open any longer.

****

The accident when it happened took him completely by surprise. Why it surprised him he didn't know. Lady Luck must have completely passed over Xander when handing out her favors. Of course if Xander wasn't horse playing with A'Rin, nothing would have happened. They would have hiked back down the hill and enjoyed the wedding even though they returned empty handed. As it was he now had to repel down the side of a cliff and retrieve an unconscious Xander.

"Angel, when you get down there make sure the rope is secured around both of you, and you'll have to hang on to the rocks. I don't know how strong the rope is." Angel nodded his head, showing Anorak that he understood.

Angel stepped nearer to the edge and looked down the steep twenty feet separating him from Xander. The young teen was lying on his back and he could see the thin chest rising and falling. Hopefully, the worst of Xander's injuries would be minor. Xander didn't fall that far.

"Here I go." He whispered to himself and lowered himself over the side of the cliff.

Rocks and sharp branches from the little trees sticking out of the side of the cliff poked his arms and hands. Angel gritted his teeth and concentrated on finding better handholds. His fingers slipped on loose rocks and he fell for a second before the rope around his chest pulled taunt, stealing his breath for a moment. Scrabbling for handholds to take the weight off the rope was harder when he couldn't breath. His feet dug into the side of the cliff and he grabbed the nearest rock big enough to support his weight. Thorns tore into his palms, but he didn't care. Air filled his lungs and he drank it in.

"Are you all right!"

It has to be Anorak. A'Rin's looked too upset by this mishap to speak louder than a whisper. He thought.

He called back. "I'm fine! I slipped! I'm going to start climbing down again!"

Angel felt a moment of panic when he realized that he had to start climbing down. Blood covered his fingers and he could feel it dripping down his hands and onto his arms. A small bug crawled out from the beneath a rock and waddled towards his bloody hand. It looked harmless, an ordinary house spider, but it was all brown and bigger. He couldn't stop his eyes from focusing on the tiny hairy legs; it was so close to him. It wasn't until the spider had almost reached his hands did he realize that the spider could be poisonous and he quickly moved. In less than four minutes he was kneeling next to Xander.

Xander's face was turned to the side and he looked almost comfortable passed out on the large outcropping rock. Small shrub bushes stuck out everywhere catching his clothes, but he was still able to kneel next to the younger man. He felt a hitch in his chest when he saw blood on the rock behind Xander's head.

Angel shook his shoulder not sure how to wake the teen up without causing further injury. "Xan! Wake up. Come on I know you have a hard head."

Angel stood and glanced up. Anorak and A'Rin were lying on their stomachs watching him. He saw Anorak bring both hands to his mouth cupping them around his mouth. "Is everything all right?" Anorak yelled.

Angel shouted back. "Yeah! Xander is unconscious! I think I'll have to wait until he's awake before I can move him."

He sat back down next to Xander and held the kid's hand. It didn't take long for Xander's long black eye lashes to flutter open. His brown eyes widened in confusion and his arm with the cast on it rose to touch his head. "Ouch, what happened?"

A rush of anger flooded him. "You and A'Rin were having too much fun and you fell off a cliff. That's what happened and now we have to climb back up." He stood up, angry and not sure why, which only made him madder.

Xander sat up slowly and climbed to his feet. Not looking up. "Angel, I'm sorry."

Xander's crestfallen expression did not prevent him from venting his anger. Why was Xander so careless with his life? "Xan, I don't know what you are thinking half the time. You could have been killed. What if this outcrop of rock wasn't here to catch your fall? You could have broken your neck. You need to start thinking about other people besides yourself occasionally, what am I suppose to do if you die?" Angel stopped himself, already feeling like he said too much.

Angel moved closer to the cliff wall not minding the small thorny trees snagging his pants. He needed to calm down. He hadn't realized how terrified he was of the possibility that Xander wouldn't wake up, until the kid opened his eyes and looked at him with those soft honey brown...I'm not going there. He shook his head trying to deny the strange warmth filling his chest. Maybe he cared more for Xander than he realized.

The kid visible flinched from his angry outburst. "I said I'm sorry. My head is killing me, isn't that punishment enough. God my parents were never this protective."

"That's because they didn't love you!" Angel shouted.

A loud rumbling sound interrupted whatever Xander was about to say. Dust and rocks rained down on them from the cliff wall and Angel pulled Xander toward him to the relative safety of being by the wall. Hopefully, any big rocks would fall away from the cliff face. When the dust cleared he was able to see a red flying wyrm gliding away becoming smaller and smaller until it faded from view. It was mocking them, somehow.

"That isn't a baby dragon is it?" Xander asked in awe.

"God I hope not. I don't think the villagers can feed anything that large. Besides, how would we get it there?"

Something nudged the back of his legs and Angel jumped forward dragging Xander with him. He spun around and his mouth gapped open. A puppy sized red dragon was poking its nose out from a small hole hidden by the thorny tree shrubs. It lumbered its way out of the hole, the tiny wings stayed folded against his or her back. Xander gasped once he realized what he was seeing. Xander made as if to step forward, not that he could blame the kid, the dragon was kind of cute.

"Xan, don't move. We need to get a cage for it."

"It doesn't look like it has teeth..."

"That is not the point. We don't know anything about these dragons. It's skin could be poisonous."

"Angel I don't know what your problem is, but ever since we got to this world you haven't been acting like yourself. I always thought you were more adventurous but all you do is worry and try to control my life. I can take care of myself! So back off, if I want to touch the stupid dragon I will!" Angel was shocked by Xander's outburst, and didn't know how to react. He was only trying to protect Xander. What did he do wrong? Why did the thought of Xan dead or injured make his heart race in panic? Angel never felt this protective of Buffy.

Xander jerked his arm free from his grip and dropped down next to the dragon before he could stop the teen. The small red dragon reared its head up and backed up startled too badly to remain still. In retrospect I knew that this was the moment my relationship with Xander changed forever.

The young teen flung out his unbroken arm and wrapped it around the dragon's head, preventing it from running back into the hillside. The dragon hissed and started wiggling his body but Xander wouldn't let the baby go. Angel stood still for a moment not sure if he should help the teen pull the baby dragon back out so they could take it to the village, or let Xander subdue the dragon by himself. In that one moment of indecision the dragon sank its mouth over the fleshy part of Xander's thin arm. He never heard such a shrill scream of pain in his entire life and his blood went cold. Nor had he seen anyone's body stiffen and then relax all in one second.

Angel dropped to the ground beside Xander and the dragon. Not sure how to separate the intertwined dragon and human boy. Blue eyes of the dragon stared at him defiantly; its mouth still clamped onto Xander's arm. His friend had fallen on his side and his broken arm clutching the dragon, holding it closer to him. If anything the dragon dug in deeper burrowing itself next to Xander's stomach, a strange purring sound emanated from the dragon.

Xander hugged himself closer to the dragon, not minding anymore that a red dragon was biting him. Angel didn't know what to do, so he backed away from Xander who was now staring into the dragon's slit blue eyes.

Anorak and A'Rin were still at the edge of the cliff, their anxious faces brightened when they saw he was still safe. "Angel! Are you okay?" Anorak yelled.

"Yes! But I think Xander is in trouble. We found a baby red dragon and it bit Xander! Now I can't separate them! What do I do?"

Anorak and A'Rin disappeared for a moment and he was afraid that they were going to abandon him and Xander, but then they quickly appeared again, this time holding the dragon cage.

Anorak continued to be the spokesperson. "Once they separate, make sure the dragon is secured in the cage, and you need to get Xander up here very quickly. I can't explain what is happening, not like this. Hurry up the bonding doesn't take much time and Xander won't be able to climb up if you wait too long!"

Angel watched them lower the cage counting the seconds in his head and watching Xander and the dragon cuddling together out of the corner of his eyes. The dragon still had his mouth wrapped around the teen's arm and he wondered if it was sucking the kid's blood or something. Worry briefly filled his chest, but Xander's eyes never left the dragons, and wonder filled those beautiful brown orbs.

Xander is beautiful, the thought startled him and he felt his face turning red for thinking about his friend in a sexual way. Scraping and clattering noises distracted him from his disturbing thoughts; he looked up; the cage was almost in reach. Standing on his toes he pulled the wooden contraption away from the tree branches and gently brought it to the ground.

Restless sounds distracted him from finishing folding out the cage. Angel glanced up half expecting to see the dragon still attached to Xander's arm. Instead, the two had separated and now the dragon was lying docile next to the slender teen, which was absent-mindedly petting it like a dog or cat.

Angel moved towards the teen. The dragon raised its small red head and hissed at him before laying its head back on Xander's waist. The small dark blue eyes followed his every movement. A snake like tongue flickered out and retreated. Probably a sign saying don't come any closer.

Not wanting the pint size dragon to take a bite at him, he stayed where he was and tried calling out to his friend. "Xan! Get up we need to climb up the cliff."

His voice jerked Xander out of his lethargic stupor. The teen slowly sat up and inspected his surrounding with careful attention. Xander's gaze moved so slowly from the ground, covered with tiny white rocks and dust, up to the blue sky, and then at the small green trees that looked like a fire hazard. Finally, Xander's stare rested on him and Angel stood up straighter, the normal rounded black irises were slit like cat eyes, like the dragon.

"Angel?" Xander asked very slowly, as if feeling words for the first time. "Everything is so much more brilliant. I can't believe I never saw this before."

Angel wanted to ask questions, but he needed Xander to stand up and start moving. "Xan, we need to climb up the cliff. Anorak and A'Rin say it's important to do it soon."

Confusion marred Xander's face. "Angel, I can't leave Zeli. She needs me." The dragon climbed onto Xander's legs.

This was a far different picture compared to five minutes ago when Xander was angrily hanging onto the baby dragon's neck, trying to prevent it from leaving.

"We can take her with us. Remember we brought cages. Anorak and A'Rin can pull her up. You can't live in the hillside with her, Xan, you have to know that."

"I know that!" Xander yelled out obviously frustrated. Maybe Xander did want to live with the dragon.

Xander gently guided Zeli off his lap and shakily stood up. Blood ran down Xander's arm and the devious dragon licked the thin trail of it, before scuttling towards the open cage. She walked into the cage and sat down. His mouth dropped open just as quickly as Xander's.

"I guess she wants to come with me." Xander said faintly.

Angel helped Xander stand up, and held onto the back of the kid's shirt, helping his friend keep his balance. "Are you okay?" He tried to sound gentle and he guessed it worked because, Xander leaned into him and wrapped an arm around his waist, and rested his head on Angel's chest.

"I think so, I'm sort of dizzy and it's really hot."

"Do you think you can stand up straight and climb up, it's really not that far."

Questioning Xander's ability to do something helped, because Xander immediately pushed away from him and stumbled towards the rope still hanging down the side of the cliff. Xander rested a moment before forcing himself to climb. Angel decided not to say anything, not wanting to distract his friend. The cage was next to his legs so he quickly made sure all the catches were secured. The strange blue eyed dragon glared at him.

Angel glanced up and was relieved to see Xander's legs disappearing over the edge of the cliff.

He grabbed hold of the rope and stretched it out towards the cage, making sure he tied the rope securely around the wooden bars. Angel had the feeling that Xander would kill him if something bad happened to the little dragon.

"Looks like it's just you and me Zeli. I hope you had enough breakfast this morning, because I have no idea what dragons eat."

He finished tying the knot and picked up the cage, mildly surprised that the dragon was so light. "Hey! Anorak! Start pulling up the rope and be careful! The baby dragon is in the cage!"

Angel waited until the cage was halfway up the cliff before starting to climb. He was glad to note that his old vampire reflexes for climbing had not deserted him. Finding one handhold and then the next wasn't hard at all.

The sight that greeted his eyes at the top shocked him. Xander was on the ground his shirt laying five feet away and Anorak and A'Rin were holding the teen down, who was struggling to escape their hands. It looked like they were trying to rape him.

Angel quickly got to his feet and rushed at the two guys he thought he could trust. Angel grabbed A'Rin by the hair and pulled him off Xander. He flung A'Rin away from him, the young teen sprawled out on his back and didn't stand back up.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Angel yelled at Anorak, who only stared at him his eyes wide in surprise. Anorak quickly climbed off Xander and ran to A'Rin to help his friend back up to his feet. They stood away from him somewhat fearfully. A'Rin started rubbing his head with a grimace. Angel was too angry to really notice that Xander had not been trying to escape Anorak's hands.

Fully intending to beat Anorak to a bloody pulp he took a step toward the two men.

"Angel! Stop! We were trying to help Xander." Anorak yelled.

Fury darkened his vision. "Is that what you call help! Raping a defenseless person?"

A'Rin's eyes widened, and Anorak's face flushed angrily. "Gods no! Angel! A red dragon bit Xander! Think about it! Gods where are you from? Your friend was trying to take off the rest of his clothes! He needs sex, and we thought it might be better if you were with him since you're partners! If I were bitten by the dragon, A'Rin would be my partner and the same backwards. That is why there are four of us in this team!"

Angel swayed on his feet as the Anorak's words penetrated his skull. He spun around and dropped down beside Xander. The teen was moaning a thin film of sweat covered Xander's upper torso, and Angel could see the outline of Xander's erection through the thick fabric of the leather pants the villagers loaned him. His friend was completely unaware of his surroundings.

A firm hand gripped his shoulder and squeezed gently. He looked around trying not to feel ashamed by his behavior, he hadn't known. Angry but understanding eyes bore into him.

"A'Rin and I set out your bedroll along with Xander's. When you told us Xander was bitten we set them out for you, and we also brought some cooking oil as well. It's near your roll. A'Rin and I are going to go on ahead a mile or so, to give you more privacy, and Angel, you have to keep the dragon close to Xander, they are bonded now." Anorak finished simply, as if the dragon bite wasn't a big deal.

He didn't know how the other men felt about losing control over their bodies, due to a dragon bite, but he knew it would terrify him. Xander was going to hate him in the morning. So many more questions raced through his mind, but he didn't have any time to ask them. Xander needed him right now. "A'Rin, Anorak I apologize. I overreacted."

A'Rin stood next to Anorak, a furious blush staining his otherwise white checks, and he avoided looking at Xander who was now trying to figure out how to take off his deer skin leather pants. He barely even peeked up to reply back. A mumbled no problem would have to suffice.

Anorak was less timid. The other man punched him in the stomach, hard enough to drop him to his knees. "Angel, I would never ever rape anyone. I thought we knew each other better than that."

By the time he caught his breath again, Anorak and A'Rin were gone. The baby dragon was sitting on the large rock next to the trail, apparently enjoying the sun. Angel picked Xander up and half carried and half dragged him to the bedrolls and laid him down.

Xander fingers fumbled with the unfamiliar ties of his pants, trying to loosen them, so he could take off the rest of his clothes. "Angel help. It's hurting my skin." Xander begged.

Tears brimmed in Xander's eyes. Any thought of somehow leaving the teen alone to suffer through the dragon bite disappeared. "Here, move your hands." He knelt next to Xander and gently caught the small wrist in his hand and held it above Xander's head. He untied the pants, let go of the Xander's wrist, and pulled them off. His friend gave a sigh of relief as the material left his skin, but it only lasted for a moment.

Whimpers of need escaped Xander's clenched jaw. Angel laid a hand on Xander's chest and watched in fascination as the thin slightly muscular chest rose to meet his touch, arching off the ground painfully. "Xan...?" he whispered.

Shit, please let Xander be coherent enough to say yes or no, Angel thought.

"Angel? God, A'Rin told me what the dragon bite is. You'll have to, you know. The burning, I can't take this anymore, just don't hurt me. Please." Xander panted out. Then started crying. Fear and lust warred with each other in the beautiful brown orbs.

The look pierced his heart and he stretched out next to Xander making sure his body didn't touch the sobbing teen. "Shhh...Xan. I won't hurt you. I promise." Angel kissed Xander's pink lips. Slowly running his tongue over them, feeling the soft texture of lips, before delving into Xander's mouth. His tongue met Xander's and the teen kissed him back, somewhat frantically, his tongue was never still and tried to reach into Angel's mouth deeper and deeper.

Angel's body quickly started to clamor for more and he hugged Xander to him and rolled on top of the teen, using his body weight to keep the teen from moving away. Small moans escaped both their mouths and Xander's unbroken arm wrapped around his back pulling him closer. Angel inserted his knee between Xander's legs to help him keep most of his weight off of the writhing figure beneath him.

Sometime during their kiss, he felt wetness against his belly and realized that Xander had come. Small whimpers of pleasure filled the small clearing, and Angel decided now would be a good time to take off his clothes. He undressed in record time. It felt gratifying to finally be able to touch someone without craving the warmth *blood* of a human body. His fingers tingled and shivers of pleasure ran up his arms and straight to his groin. He'd forgotten how many nerve endings he used to have.

Angel started kissing Xander again, determined to enjoy ever second, and make sure Xander loved it just as much, if not more. Neither man noticed the fading sun, or the baby dragon watching from its perch on the sun-baked rock.

To be continued....Fallen Angel: Lord Blain and the Soul Eater