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“I didn’t have much contact with the other men after
that. Only when Anthony couldn’t train with me because of other business or if
he wanted me to practice against a human. I forget why, but one day he took me
with him as he went to their quarters. Four men shared a cell and they didn’t
have many luxuries.” Xander chewed the side of a nail. “They looked at me
with hatred, Spike. I had done my best make things better when we worked
together. It weighed on me.
“So after three months, I requested an audience with
“Didn’t you talk much?” Spike asked as he fiddled
with the motor. “You seemed all chatty at first.”
“No. Up to that point we had just talked twice. He had me
escorted to his quarters and fed me again.”
Xander was uneasy being alone with this powerful vampire
again, but the food looked too good to pass up. Once Anthony motioned for him to
eat, he sat with steepled fingers and watched Xander eat with unmatched
enthusiasm. Half way through the meal, he interrupted Xander’s happy food
thoughts. “So, Xander. What is it you wish to speak to me about?”
“Oh,” Xander swallowed his mouthful and wiped his
mouth. “Sorry. It’s just this is so much better than what I normally get.”
Anthony eyed the simple meal of fresh fruits, a slim cut
of meat, and a heel of bread. “I do not pay attention to what the fighters
“That’s kind of my point. If I’m out of line,
I’ll just take my banana and leave.” Xander picked up the fruit in question.
“That is, if I’m allowed to take the banana.”
“I have no need of human food.”
Relieved, Xander sat the banana back on the tray and
took a small bite of the meat. “I understand that. Angel never ate anything.
Oddly enough, Spike did. He liked to put Wheetabix in his blood.” Seeing
Anthony’s raised eyebrow, Xander cleared his throat. “So. To my point. We
are in hell.” Xander paused to gauge the vampire’s reaction. When he only
nodded, Xander continued. “We’ve all been kidnapped. Taken from family and
friends. Put in holes in the ground and fed things the demons tending us
apparently do not want. I know you may not care and I know you’re not the one
in charge. I’ve figured out a bit how things flow around here, but maybe you
can do something.”
“What have you figured out about ‘the flow’ around
here?” Anthony asked.
Xander bit off some bread and spoke around it. “People
come in, but they don’t all stay. I believe you see them all and determine who
goes where.” Anthony nodded. “I think this is the clearing house. And you
keep those you judge will have a fighting chance in the ring.” Anthony nodded
“You are very observant.”
“Thanks. And… I know you’ve provided a bit better
for me. The zoo keepers are afraid of you, so they do what you say. Thanks for
that. And the books. I appreciate what a privilege it is to be in a room by
myself, but without the books you’ve loaned me, I’d be crazy by now.”
Another nod and perhaps a quirk of a smile from Anthony. “So if the guys could
have a little more consideration they - we may fight better. All hope of escape
has been thrashed out of us after seeing that woman slowly killed for trying.”
Xander suppressed a shudder at the memory of seeing the vampire before him
slowly disembowel a woman who had made it to the surface with his bare hands.
“Hey, heck of a technique you’ve got there.”
“You have nothing to fear from me, Xander.”
Xander met his gaze levelly. “Yes, I do. No
disrespect, but I don’t know you from the devil. As soon as I stop amusing you
or get badly hurt, you’re just as likely to eat me. I don’t know how many…
other kinds of slaves are here, but you seem to have say over the fighters.”
“You are correct.”
“Make the keepers give us our due. Give us... I
don’t know, warmer blankets. Food that isn’t half rotten more nights.
Little things. If we can maybe earn them somehow.”
Anthony stared at the bold human who dare invade his
personal space and demand things. And he felt something solid within him yield.
“What?” Xander said quietly, not daring to even eat.
“I am thinking about what you have said. You may
finish your meal.”
“I don’t know if I can.”
Anthony dropped his hands to his lap and smiled. “Let
me ease your mind and tell you I am not going to kill you for your
“Okay. Good then,” Xander said and went back to
eating, still uneasy about the eyes upon him. When Anthony abruptly stood, he
couldn’t help but tense.
The vampire paced away from him and stood gazing at a
watercolor of the English country side that hung on one cloth draped wall. “I
should thank you, Xander. You make me realize I’ve been in a rut for… I’m
not sure how long. I will look into what you say.”
“Thank you,” Xander said, feeling some optimism for
the first time in months. He ate the coveted, unbruised, ripe banana last. He
was starting to worry about his host when he finally turned away from the
landscape and sat again in the throne-like chair.
“You may wonder why I am here.” Xander cautiously
nodded. “I was captured almost half a century ago. I cannot leave because I
have been cursed; linked to this place. Any time I approach any of the exits I
find myself back here. In this room.”
“Damn,” Spike said. “That’s an evil curse.”
“Yeah, it would be,” Xander replied.
“When I was a ghost I could go as for as the L.A. city
limits and I’d find myself right back in the Wolfram & Hart building. I
couldn’t touch, taste, feel, smell or run away. I can’t image having to be
underground for that long.”
“Wow. I didn’t know you were a ghost.”
“I’ll tell you about it some time” Spike waved away
Xander’s attention. “What did he say?”
“I have a position here which you have rather
accurately summed up. I’m the one who chooses the showers or the gas. Left or
right. Life or death. I rebelled at first, then they cursed me. I had no reason
to struggle. You are the first being to sit and talk to me in far too long. You
are correct in all you say. I will do what I can for those around me.”
Xander just stared at the vampire for so long he stood
and approached him.
“Sorry!” Xander said. “I… I didn’t expect an
answer that quick.”
“Were you hoping to negotiate over more meals?”
Xander shrugged and played with his napkin. “Beats
staring at he wall.”
Anthony chuckled and
went to the chest. He pulled out a new paperback and set it on the table
by Xander’s elbow. “This is the sequel to the last one. Perhaps once
you’ve read it, we can discuss its strengths and weaknesses.”
“Okay. I've never been in a book club before.”
Anthony went to the door and opened it. “Have a good
sleep, Xander. We will speak soon.”
“After that things did get better. Slowly, but they got
better. For all of us fighters.” Xander twirled a wrench on his finger.
“That’s good, Xander. You did good.” Spike wondered
about his twinge of jealousy at the thought of Xander spending so much time with
this unknown vamp. The suspicion of what
their relationship became bothered him. He turned his attention fully to the
bike and tried to be casual about getting the information he wanted.
“Yeah, I made the cages a little better padded.”
“What about your new friend? Did you chat about books?”
“We did. It started out that we would talk about the
books we read. Then, the went on to other things,” he said, one of his hands
went up to wrap around the pearl at his throat.
Spike attached a wire, trying to concentrate on getting it
right. “What next, poetry?”
Xander chuckled. “Actually, yeah. I tell you, if my
teacher’s had used some of those poems in class, I wouldn’t have flunked
“Let me guess. John Donne?”
“How did you know?”
“To His Mistress Going to Bed, right?”
“Figures it would take poems about women undressing to
get you to read.”
“Spike! I read a lot!” Xander sat up straight.
“Not while I lived with you.”
“Because I had television and wonderful things like that!
I read the whole time I was in Africa.” Xander frowned at the stings.
“And then you joined a private book club.”
“Anthony kept me sane, Spike! We talked about all kinds
“Dinner, poetry, how long before he got in your pants?”
the minute he said it, Spike wished he could call it back. He turned to Xander
to find his friend’s eye wide. “Xander, I…”
Xander’s face darkened, he stood up, and threw down the
wrench. “You don’t know a thing, Spike. Not a God damned thing.” He turned
and ran for the door.
Cursing under his breath, Spike scrambled to his feet,
scattering bike parts, and ran after Xander. “Wait! Xander, I’m sorry!” He
stopped short of the bright sunshine outside the door. “Come back!” He
watched, trapped, as Xander ran away up the path and disappeared into the woods.
With a snarl, Spike whirled and threw the screwdriver he still clutched across the room. It imbedded itself in a wooden stud and the plastic handle shattered. Disgusted with himself, Spike put his back to the wall and slid down to sit in the cold floor.
Xander ran. He let his feet take him up the path to the
overlook. He didn’t see the trees blurring past. When he reached the table,
his breath was burning in his lungs. He sat on the bench, dug his hands into his
long hair and let it go.
It had been hard to think about Anthony so much. Hard to remember and talk about those early days. He thought the one person who would understand would have been Spike.
Half an hour later, Oz stepped into the garage carrying a
tray. He looked down at Spike who still sat by the door. “Spike? I brought
lunch for you and Xander. But, no Xander.”
Spike sighed and pulled himself up. “I put my foot in it,
Oz.” He crossed the garage and leaned against the tool chest.
The slim redhead followed him and sat the tray on top of
the chest. He sat down on the low stool Xander had vacated. “That happens.”
“That’s the problem. It shouldn’t. Not with me. He
trusts me, Oz. Hell, he even hired me to hear him out. He was opening up about
someone he cared for and I…” Spike flung himself away from the tools,
desperately wanting to destroy something. His hands clenched and unclenched.
Oz pointed at a cardboard box by the door. “You know,
that box over there looks mighty helpless.” Spike went gameface, and attacked
the box. He kicked it, pummeled it, and ripped at the cloth that soon spilled
out. When the box was reduced to something not even close to square and the
clothing inside ripped to shreds, Spike finally stopped.
He crossed back to the tool chest and sat down on the floor
with is back to it and closed his eyes. “What did I just destroy and which
female will scream at me for it?”
“Old clothes destined for the thrift store. I’ll tell
Willow I took it into town.”
“Should I go after him?”
“No,” Spike sighed. “I should. Damned sun.”
“He’ll listen, I’m sure.”
“I’m not, Oz. He’s so fragile right now. I let myself
get… I didn’t watch what I said.”
“He’ll forgive you.”
“I hope so, Oz. I hope so.”
On to Chapter 16
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