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Inner Demons

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Title: Inner Demons 3/?
Author: Jessi B.
Disclaimer: I own nothing :{
Rating: R, for some mentions of violence
Characters: Johnny, Roxanne, Stuart (the camera guy)
Warnings: Slash (later), some violence, tentacle monster
Pairings: Johnny/Stuart (later)
Summary: A visit to Doctor Strange prompts Johnny and the Rider to work together for the common good...
Notes: Bringing in a few characters from the comics here and referencing a few things that will become clear later, unless you’ve read the comics and then you’ll know about them.  I’m playing around with Johnny’s Rider here and going away from comic cannon.  Well, more away from the comic cannon.  Comments and critiques welcome.

Spiderman’s friend dropped something for Stuart at the station. Just his name scrawled on the front of a plain white envelope and inside was a single business card. The card was simple, white, with ‘Doctor Strange’ and a phone number.

He wasn’t sure what he’d expected really. After all, most people knew who Doctor Strange was but if <i>he</i> was the Sorcerer Supreme or whatever he would have something cool, with maybe reflective background and a title...

Still, on his lunch break while Roxy ran for food, she had a car and he was grabbing a nap if he could in the break room, he used his cell phone to call the number.

“Doctor Strange residence,” a calm, lightly accented voice answered.

“Hi, I...” Stuart stopped. How the hell was he supposed to explain this over the phone? “I was...referred to you...well, Doctor Strange by someone who thought you could help with a situation...”

“I’m afraid the Doctor is out now but if you could explain what happened and leave a number...”

“Oh, sure. See...Wow, this is gonna sound nuts...I have a friend who sold his soul. It was...well, he had good intentions but anyway the devil kinda...well he’s the devil so he was crap about keeping his end. Anyway he made my friend his...bounty hunter and possessed him with this possessing spirit. Now the devil, after my friend did stuff for him, offered to take it back afterwards but J...my friend kept it and he’s been doing good things with the power right?”

“Deal with the devil, possessed, yes...” the man on the other end seemed utterly calm which made Stuart feel better.

“Well, he and the spirit they had an argument. So now the spirit has started taking control of the body when my friend would rather he not. Now the spirit isn’t really bad, he’s just...he doesn’t get why he shouldn’t do certain things. Like...like why killing is a bad thing. So my friend is understandably nervous and the two of them refuse to talk...”

“I see,” the man took his number and he heard hurried scratching in the background that he assumed was writing. “I’ll pass the message along. Would you say the possessing spirit is dangerous at the moment?”

“No,” Stuart answered quickly. “Just...irritated. He’s reasonable but he doesn’t want to loose the freedom he has now either.”

“I understand, thank you and we will contact you again soon.”

“Thanks,” disconnecting Stuart sighed and lay back on the lumpy break room couch. He didn’t feel like that had been much help but at least the guy hadn’t laughed in his face. Turning to face the back of the couch he fell into a fitful doze.

It was slow news day so he and Roxy ended up filming the police take down a new villain (Deep Freeze) using a fire hose. Say what you wanted about the cops they were damn ingenious when it came down to taking out certain criminal elements. He’d seen one cop talk a costumed villain down with Hostess Fruit Pies. It was also kind of nice to see someone normal save the day once in a while.

His phone rang as he was waiting for Johnny to pick him up sitting beside Roxy's space in the parking garage.

"Hello?"

"Stuart Kane? This is Stephen Strange, I was told my servant Wong you had need of my services?”

“Hi, yes.  Well, a friend does but...listen I know that you’ve gotten rid of demons before but if Mr. Wong has spoke with you...”

“He has said that you do not think the demon is a threat.”

“He’s not a terrible guy, I mean Johnny will tell you differently but really he’s not that bad and he just seems a little confused as far as normal moral situations go but overall...”

“I understand you would rather me not harm him.”

“Right, exactly, but if you could help otherwise I’d appreciate it,” Stuart said hesitantly.  “My friend and the demon won’t compromise and they’re not listening to me.  Besides I thought you’d know more how to deal with this kinda thing...”

“I do, I can meet you as early as tonight if that’s possible...”

“That depends, do you want to meet the demon first or my friend?”

“I’m sorry?”

“The demon can come out at night if he wants and he usually wants so...”

“I see, then tomorrow afternoon?”

“Sure I’ll see what I can do...I think my friend will be ok with the idea but...well, the demon might not be as happy...” Stuart took down the address and hung up just as Johnny pulled up.  He looked tired and had a streak of oil across his cheek.  He’d been doing under the table work for a garage somewhere during the day.  The garage was a little seedy but Johnny was good at the job and could handle himself.  He’d mentioned it absently over breakfast to Stuart.

“Hey,” Stuart caught the helmet.  “You should get a spare, it’d be sad for some patrol cop to catch you because you’re not obeying traffic laws.  You got a black streak on your cheek by the way...”

“They’d have to catch me first, thanks...” Johnny wiped at the streak.  He watched Stuart nervously juggle the helmet from hand to hand.  “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, well...Ok, so Spiderman kinda recommended someone last night who he thought might be able to help you.  Doctor Strange, you’ve heard of him right? Well, he had someone drop the contact info by and I sorta called...”

“No one can help me with this thing, Stuart, and I doubt some magician...”

“Sorcerer, I think magicians are like birthday party magic, anyway...he says he can see you tomorrow, and you know what could it hurt?”

“Guess that’s true...Ok, I’ll go.  What time?”

 

***

“He’s not going to do anything to you,” Stuart sighed.  He was sitting easily on the flaming Gracie, funny what you could get used to, and watching the Rider take out a chain-welding thug.  The Rider dropped the man and looked back at the human on his bike.

"I am a demon, it would make sense for him to remove me given his past record of deeds.  Johnny’s memories are my memories...”

“Ok, yes, but I told him not to hurt you.  He agreed.  I’ll go too and if it even looks like he’s going in that direction I’ll veto, ok?”

The Rider walked to the bike and ‘looked’ at Stuart.  Stuart shifted uncomfortably under the gaze.

“I’d never do anything to hurt you or Johnny, ok?  I just don’t think you can go on like this...Johnny doesn’t know what you do when you’re out and eventually he’s gonna do something stupid or you are and he won’t know why and then...well, if one of you goes what happens to the other side?”

“I will...trust you with this, Stuart Kane.  I will agree to this meeting as well.”

***

Stuart felt under dressed when the door to Strange’s large house opened.  Johnny at least had the benefit of looking cool in his leather jacket and worn jeans.

“Stuart Kane and his friend I assume?” the Chinese man who answered greeted asked.

“Yes, and you’re Mr. Wong?” Stuart asked, taking his hat off as he was motioned inside.

“Yes, the Doctor will be with you in a moment.  I have tea in the sitting room if you’d like...”

“Thanks,” Stuart glanced at the silent Johnny Blaze who was frowning.  But he followed the man servant none the less and Johnny followed his lead.  The tea was good and reminded Stuart of his grandmother, she was a delicate but set in her ways woman who insisted on Sunday tea with his family.  She’d taught him the proper way to eat with a fork and knife and which silverware to use when there was more then a dozen.  Johnny shook his head when Wong offered to pour him a cup as well before the man bowed and walked away to retrieve Strange presumably.

“You ok?” he asked after another moment, watching Johnny pace the room.

“Yeah...just, something here makes me antsy.  The Rider too...”

“Maybe the magic or...I don’t know, something he’s got down to protect against demons? Like...demon flea powder?”

Johnny snorted but smiled.

“Very close actually,” Strange said, stepping through the door.  “I have wards to keep demons out.  I fear that might be effecting you given your unique situation, Mr.?”

“Blaze, Johnny Blaze,” Johnny stepped forward to shake the other man’s hand.  “Stuart said you might be able to help...”

“Ah, yes, Mr. Kane,” Strange shook Stuart’s hand and the cameraman winced at the jolt that went up his arm.  “A pleasure to meet you in person.  Please, sit back down and tell me of your problem.”

It didn’t take long to explain.  Overall, Stuart supposed, it was a simple enough explanation...just weird.

“I see, well, as Mr. Kane has asked I not harm the demon...” Strange started, Johnny shot Stuart a look that the other man avoided, “I am a bit limited in options.  I do think that you might wish to...talk with your inner spirit to resolve this issue...”

“He’s not very...talkative,” Johnny sighed.  “He doesn’t want to give anything up.”

“Neither do you though,” Stuart pointed out.

“Well <i>he’s</i> the one in <i>my</i> body...”

“Yeah, but he’s not too happy about it either, I mean I think he prefers it to other things but...”

“So you’ve conversed with demon extensively?” Strange interrupted.

“He goes out with him when he’s out,” Johnny said, frowning at the young man.  Stuart shrugged under the two sets of intense looks.

“Yeah, just to make sure he doesn’t do anything Johnny’ll regret.  I mean he’s not terrible...he says he doesn’t remember much from before except for the other people who have been Riders and before Johnny he ummm...didn’t get out much.”

“I see...” Strange frowned thoughtfully, “I do think...”

That was when the wall blew in.  Stuart, who was used to this sort of thing while carrying a few extra pounds of camera, rolled out of the way of a large chunk of wood that took out the coffee table and part of the chair he’s been using.  The thing that blew the way in appeared to be a tentacle monster, in Stuart’s expert opinion, and had enough spiky mouthed octopus arms that he didn’t care to hang around.

Doctor Strange started chanting and calling on something (Stuart was of the private opinion he was making this shit up) and the thing’s many arms bounced off of...nothing right in front of the sorcerer.

“I’m sorry...I had just contained this creature when you arrived he must have broken through...” Stuart never found out what the thing broke through because the tentacles had stopped going after the prickly pray Strange presented went for the other less defended humans.  Stuart shoved Johnny back as a purple arm came towards them, dodging the other way he wasn’t happy to see the arms following him.  He jumped to avoid it, dodged another, slid free of a third, but he was being herded back and away from Strange and Johnny.

“I fear it may have chosen the weakest for pray...” he heard the sorcerer say as he ducked a blindly feeling tentacle.  He yelped when one finally got him, wrapping around his middle and small sucker mouths full of sharp teeth working to get through his shirt.  He shoved at the thick muscle, hitting it, and clawing at it to get away.  Stuart had always figured he’d die in some bizarre way...he just figured he’d be taping at the time.

Strange put a restraining hand in front of Blaze as the cyclist stepped forward.

“You have no power as you are, you’d be throwing yourself to the beast...”

“I’ve gotta...”

“Stay still, Blaze, the beast is calming and if I can just find the right incantation...I might be able to get him to safety,” Strange said then murmured things in rapid succession under his breath.

<i>

*This must be stopped...*

“Got any fucking bright ideas?!"

*He’s here because of you...because of us.  Think Blaze, we work more efficiently when we are of one mind.  Let me use your body and I promise to keep you as aware as I am...*

“Fine, great you picked a hell of a time to...”

*Let me use your body...*

“Wait...now?!  It’s not even close to sunset yet...”

*I am well aware, despite that I think I may manage...he is innocent and I will not see him harmed.*

“Do it...” </i>

Strange turned when he felt the rise of demonic energy at his side and watched Johnny burn away before the Rider’s flame.  The flaming skulled creature beside him let out a low growl and started forward, his chain lashed out and sheared off a row of tentacles as he strode towards the struggling cameraman.  The tentacles on the ground wriggled, shooting out burning hot black blood and the monster screeched in pain.

The chain was brutal and effective and Stuart yelped as tentacle holding him up was sliced off.  The Rider ripped it off him and pulled him up out of the pools of smoking blood.  At the same moment the spell Doctor Strange was chanting seemed to take hold and the bulk of the creature, with all the tentacles still attached to it, vanished leaving behind blood and pieces of itself still wriggling.

“Wong!” Strange had barely opened his mouth to speak when the man appeared, two katana swords in hand.  He sheathed them and frowned at the carnage.  Stuart hissed and stripped out of his over shirt as it started smoking where the black blood had touched it and large holes showed where the sucking mouths had eaten through his clothes.  Large welts were popping up on his waist and hips where the creature had held him.  “Take Stuart and find him something to wear and let him shower I will...clean in here as best as I can.”

Wong took the appearance of the Rider as without any kind of surprise and quickly led the slightly smoking Stuart away.  Stuart would have normally been more embarrassed stripping off in front of a stranger but his clothes were smoking and so he stripped out of them quickly and took the soft red robe Wong offered, wincing when the material touched his skin.

"This way, Mr. Kane..." Wong motioned him through another room and into a large bathroom.  Washing made him feel better but the welts were still painful and the water only hurt as it hit them.  When he stepped out in a towel Wong had laid out a blue silk shirt and a pair of black dressy pants.  His tennis shoes, wiped clean though a bit pitted and burned by the blood, were there though and his wallet and keys were beside the neatly folded pile.  Stuart wondered absently if he was borrowing Wong's or DoctorStrange's clothes, wincing as the fabric touched his hips and waist. Stuffing his things in the borrowed pockets he hung his towels neatly over the tub and walked out following the sound of voices to what looked like a dining room.

"So you have come to an agreement then?" Strange asked as Wong served them tea.

"Yeah, me and the Rider talked it over a bit..." Blaze glanced up as Stuart entered.  "We kinda had to work it out pretty fast...thanks anyway though."

"I should be thanking you, I'm very sorry the two of you ended up in the middle of this..."

"The story of my life," Stuart smiled, sipping the tea Wong had given him.  "If I'd had  camera it would have been like a normal day..."

Johnny frowned and Strange smiled back.

"I'll get some salve for your wounds, they should clear up normally..."

"Thanks, and I'll have these dry cleaned and return them..."

They talked a few more minutes, Strange agreeing to see what he could find on the Rider and contact Stuart about it, and then Strange got a jar of funny smelling ointment with a neatly lettered note with instructions for use.  Wong showed them out and Gracie rumbled to life, coming to them immediately and sliding under Johnny's hands.

"Looks like she was worried..." Stuart said smiling as Johnny swung a leg over the bike and silently handed him the helmet.  "Youok?"

"Yeah..." Johnny glanced over his shoulder at the younger man as he pulled the helmet on and slid on behind him.  He felt an answering tug of worry from the Rider and was relieved someone seemed to understand.  Stuart took the dangers and troubles that Johnny had brought with a shrug and a smile and seemed to have very little care for his own safety.  Still frowning he roared off, having the Rider so close in his head was disconcerting but useful.  The Rider agreed with him but he had yet to find a way to discourage the cameraman either.

They stayed in that night, the Rider let himself be pushed down so Stuart would rest, and Johnny sat on the couch, TV volume on low as Stuart slept in the other room.

<i> *He will be harmed if this continues.*

"Yeah."

*I do not find this acceptable.*

"Where do you get your language from anyway? I don't talk like this."

*My language is a combination of all those I possessed before you.  I have improved on them.*

"Yeah, well, guess you have.  Listen, he's gonna keep going out so long as he thinks we need him."

*Yes, but...*

"What? If you behave yourself we won't have to worry about this."

*However, I will not see him then.* </i>

Johnny blinked at the infomercial that was playing.  His own mind was turned more internal then out and he could feel the Rider's distress at the idea of not seeing Stuart.  He let himself reach for the emotion, curious, and the Rider let him in.  Stuart was the only one the Rider knew, really knew.  The thought of the cameraman being hurt bothered the Rider, but so did the thought of not seeing him.

<i> "Right, ok.  We compromise.  Once a week he goes with us.  A day when he can actually get some rest or won't need to do something the next day."

*Acceptable.*</i>

***
"So?" the man sitting on Doctor Strange's couch was dressed in worn dark jeans, a tee shirt covered by a green vest, black gloves, sturdy boots, and a greenish fedora sat on the arm of the couch beside him leaving revealing dead white longish hair pulled back into a short ponytail.  He had dirt on his boots and clothes as though he'd been digging, as if in testament to this a shovel was propped against his knees.

"I am not sure the demon in possession of Blaze is indeed Zarathos," Strange said, taking the cup Wong handed him.  "The spirit reacted to protect the young man who I put in harm's way very quickly.  He seemed worried specifically for the man not as innocent blood and the two reached an agreement to 'save' him quickly.  Not that it was necessary, mind you, aside from a few superficial wounds Mr. Kane was fine and I would not have allowed him to be harmed terribly...the attraction spell worked just as I thought, but in my brief dealings with the spirit I must concur with Mr. Kane.  He is not dangerous so much as...uninformed."

"This Stuart Kane..." the man started, frowning as he took the cup of tea handed to him.

"A friend.  He seems to serve as the spirit's conscious and tutor in human ways.  The spirit seems...I can only describe certain actions as child like. It seems to not know things that even without memories I believe Zarathos would have knowledge of.  I believe the Medallion of Power may have given the spirit the power to...be.  While I sense many similarities in power there are differences as well, this Rider feels more like a vengeance spirit then a true demon..."

"The only know spirit of vengeance is...well, not here, because of their mother making deals," the other man frowned.  "I'll check into it myself."

"Very well, but take care.  This creature is unknown to us, my friend, if you should need assistance..."

"I may be old, but I'm not that old.  I've been handling these kids for a long time now..."

"If I may...you also seem to have lost a few of your charges, don't be too proud to accept help.  Especially now, I sense...something dark on the horizon."

"You're not the only one," the white haired man took a hand over his face, looking tired.  "I'll see if I can get ol' bone butt to come make my acquaintance..."

***

Stuart had put up token protests at being told how things were going to be done the next morning.  Truth be told though he was looking forward to the down time.

"The Rider'd like you along though," Johnny said as he put scrambled eggs and toast in front of the other man.  He'd done shopping at an all night convenience store last night.  "That was part of the deal, at least once a week if you can make it..."

"Yeah?" Stuart couldn't help a smile.  It was nice to know at least the Rider appreciated the company.

"Yeah, he likes having you around and...I think you're really his only...friend at this point.  If you don't wanna..."

"No, it's fine," Stuart said quickly as he dug into his eggs.  "I don't mind, aside from loosing sleep I did sorta like going out.  Gracie and the Rider are fun to ride with, not to mention an inside view on the whole hero thing..."

"Right," Johnny frowned, looking away.

"Eggs are good, thanks..." the cameraman said hesitantly watching Johnny worriedly.

"Welcome, get those finished up and I'll help you bandage those sores..."

"It's fine..." he stopped at the glare Johnny was sending him.  "Right, sure, and thanks."

***

"You look terrible," Roxanne said frowning when she got in that morning.

"Yeah, the Doc Strange meeting got interesting.  Though...oddly enough I think it helped..." Stuart shrugged.  Roxy got them coffee before listening to the explanation.  Stuart was grateful.  "So I'm still a junior member of the Justice League I guess."

"I swear I'm going to get you a little camera and..."

"And we'd explain it away as what the 'Ghost Rider Cam'? Actually...you know that would be kind of...funny...."

"'Now to the 'Ghost Rider Cam'..." Roxy said in a serious on the air voice.  "As you can see thanks to the helmet camera, Ghost Rider is still on fire and our cameraman is still ducking behind his shoulders to avoid being hit by the Thing..."

"Hardy har har," Stuart said lips twitching despite the frown he was trying to keep in place.

"And there goes the Rider, yes, he is ramming the villain through a wall...remember kids, not everyone has a flaming head so you should always wear a helmet when riding a bike.  It's the law."

Stuart snorted and laughed.

"Speaking of, though, that reminds me of what I need to do on my lunch break..." he said, sipping his coffee.