Title: "Cold Fire"
Author: Mala
Spoilers: "Angel" Season 2.
Rating/Classification: PG-13, angst, L/D-L/A-ish, humor.
Disclaimer: Grrr. Aargh.
Summary: As Lindsey drowns his sorrows at Caritas, some familiar faces become his mirror and a certain Host gets him to sing. NOT a Willow/Lindsey 'shipper fic. At all.
Dedication: To Laure and Lex.

The redhead is lovely, he thinks. In that way that some young women inherently are. Sweet. Soft. Translucent skin that sets off the fire in her hair and the innocence in her eyes. He watches her laugh and his heartbeat accelerates just a little. He hasn't heard such a kind sound in a long time.

He doesn't want to hear it again.

So he turns his head...he stares at the boy across the table from the Innocent. Dark-haired and dark-eyed. Quick with a grin. He says something in a snappy cadence that sets his friend to giggling again. Unbearably good-natured and fresh-faced. He hasn't seen such a kind face in a long time.

He doesn't want to see it again.

The heat of sun-kissed hair. The roaring warmth of laughter.

He is cold inside. He is frozen. And the chill is bitter, deep in his bones. And they can't thaw him.

He wants something different.

He always has.

Not innocence. Not good. Not kindness.

Not the likes of them.

Not really.

He swallows a tepid mouthful of scotch...grimacing against the taste. The saline drip they'd given him after he lost his hand had been more palatable.

"Xander!" The girl shrieks, her voice rising and falling like a shower of sparks from a fireplace.

The boy pushes back in his chair, gesturing with his hands and raising his eyebrows as if to say "Who? ME?"

"Yes, you!" she gasps, a huffy, mock-outraged, smile playing at the corner of her mouth. "Hello, GAY, remember? No boys for Willow! None!"

If this Xander had forgotten...he and the rest of this little club would certainly remember from now on.

He chuckles, swirling the dregs of his drink around in the bottom of his tumbler. So, the ingenue is happily lesbian? He should've guessed. Working with Lilah has been a crash course on the interior of closets, after all.

After a few moments, the shifting of chairs and the rise of conversation breaks the awkward silence...allowing the deep shade of beet red to recede from the embarrassed friends' faces. Allowing their voices to return to a more discreet decibel.

He wonders if he's disappointed.

And then he shakes his head and shivers.

Cold.

He's so unbelievably cold.

He's been cold for days. For weeks.

The bruises have finally faded...no more mottled yellow and purple marking his face. And he thinks that he wants them back. Because at least the broken blood vessels underneath his skin were pulsing...were a sign of the knuckles that had dug in and forced the ice from his veins. The knuckles, the rich, mocking, voices...the two sets of dead, angry, eyes that always seemed to look past him or over him.

They are so jaded. So dark. So callous.

They are so not innocence...not good...not kindness.

They are....

"Vampires!" A green face bobs in front of him as the chair scrapes sideways. "You can't live with 'em...and you can't live with 'em! Haven't you learned your lesson, Sailor?"

He stares at the Host. Horns. Red eyes. Snazzy, blue, double-breasted suit. Will a scowl do or does he have to resort to a "go away"?

"Oh, Honey, don't look so dour!" The demon waves a hand, carelessly...gaze wandering towards the stage where a Chaos Demon and a Banshee are mangling 'Endless Love.' He gives a small shudder before he leans forward, candid. "I can't turn up the heater in here...too many cold-blooded critters running around...but I can give you a reading."

This time he does manage a "Go away." And then he drains the rest of the watery piss-colored scotch. Over the casual din of Caritas' regular crowd, he can hear the 'Hello, Gay!' Innocent and her Comedian still talking.

Is it his imagination...or does one of them say a name? One of *the* names?

"If you think any louder, I'm gonna go deaf and those poor kids are going to walk out with holes drilled in the backs of their heads...why don't you give us all a break and sing a little?"

He shivers, staring at the clear bottom of his glass...wondering why he can now see the deep red tablecloth beneath. Deep red. Like the lesbian's highlights.

"Hum a few bars?"

He growls. Not unlike a creature of the night in full face.

"Oooh...temper temper...now I KNOW you have a song bouncing around in your sweet little heart."

Perhaps the Host will shut up if he appeases him? If he does what he asks? He sighs...getting to his feet. He hunches his shoulders, to conserve a little heat, as he shuffles towards the Karaoke machine and then the barstool that now sits center stage...empty and expectant.

He cradles his pinned-over shirt sleeve against his chest as he takes a seat on cool, slightly creased leather, clutching the microphone with his remaining, frostbitten, fingers.

The music begins...and he remembers what it felt like to bruise. To break. To be black and blue and purple and yellow...swollen and weak and helpless. To feel the vague flicker of flame against his skin.

*No one knows what it's like
to be the bad man
to be the sad man.
Behind blue eyes...*

("Hey! Giles sings that so--")

("Shush, Xander!")

*No one knows what it's like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies
But my dreams
They aren't as empty
As my conscience seems to be
I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That's never free*

There is a large burst of applause when he's done with the subsequent verses. When he stumbles back to his table and finds a fresh tumbler of noxious scotch with a jaunty pink umbrella floating in it.

"Well?" he whispers, hoarsely, ignoring the looks and praise still being cast his way...feeling tiny icicles dance on the prickly hair at the back of his neck.

The Host clicks his tongue, shaking his head like he's someone's mother about to start lecturing. "Niiice choice of songs. All that angst and self-recrimination! And a lovely set of pipes. I could give you the number of an agent--"

He is simply cold...but his scowl is Arctic.

The demon sighs, unthreatened, leaning an elbow on the table. "Well, all right, then, back to the gothic drama that IS your psyche. You've got it baad for the dark side, Sailor."

Tell him something he doesn't know, he thinks. And, perhaps that sentiment shows on his face, because the Host leans in, red eyes quickly losing their humor.

"The time is coming and coming fast. You have to choose. And if I were you, I would choose love and light...'cause the darkness is only going to make you colder. And not in the way you like...none of the romantic icy touches of brooding vampire boys and girls...I'm talking the kind of cold that burns. I'm talking the Big Chill. Dante's Inferno has nothing on this where you could be headed."

He finds himself licking the dripping stem of the paper umbrella. The small hits of scotch are growing on him. "So...so, you're saying I'm going to Hell?" he chuckles.

"No," the Host murmurs with a small shake of his horned head as he stands up and pats his chair back into place under the table. "I'm saying you *are* in Hell...and you're going to die if you don't get yourself out."

He shrugs.

He doesn't watch the flashy demon walk away. Instead, he cocks his head to the young voices that have risen again despite prior humiliation.

"Hey...I'm all for finding Dead Boy...I kinda miss the guy!"

"Xander!"

"Well, I do, Will! You can't slay without a resident vamp-boy to taunt!"

"Oh, yeah? S-say that to his face when we find him! I dare ya!"

"You think I can't? Ha! I fear no Angel!"

The heat of sun-kissed hair. The roaring warmth of laughter.

He is cold inside. He is frozen. And the chill is bitter, deep in his bones. And they can't thaw him.

He wants something different.

He always has.

Not innocence. Not good. Not kindness.

Not the likes of them...those kids...those dumb, clueless, pretty kids.

Not really.

"'I fear no Angel'," he repeats, softly. "I fear no Angel..."

The redhead is lovely, he thinks.

But death is lovelier.

Explosive.

The kind of cold that burns.

Cold fire.

--the end--

March 6, 2001.



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