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Xander woke up to his stomach roiling and his head throbbing. First thought: What did they ferment to get that potent a batch of grog? He rolled over and opened his eye. Second thought: No. I’m home. No post-fight grog. Who knew Spike’s imported beer was so strong?
He opened his eye without moving and immediately saw Spike. He was asleep, sprawled in the reading chair with his head to one side and a book held in his left hand. He reminded Xander of a painting of a woman all in orange asleep in the sun that Tara had shown him in a book once, even though Spike was a study in black and white. He could see the book Spike held with his finger closed in place like a bookmark. It was the slim volume of poetry called “101 Famous Poems.” Xander had taken it from the library the other day while he had been looking for a poem he wanted to read.
Xander studied Spike’s relaxed features. There was a
softness there that was never present when the vampire was awake, and he
appeared a lot less, well, dangerous. Spike shifted in his sleep, throwing his
right arm up over his head. This increased the likeness of the painted woman’s
pose so much he almost giggled. Spike’s t-shirt pulled up and a wedge of pale
flesh was revealed. Xander’s eye was drawn to it. The morning sun through the
necro tinted window shaded in the arch of a stomach muscle. Damn it,
Xander thought, I wanked myself silly last night, my head is spinning, and I
have to pee like a racehorse, yet all I want to do is go over and pull that
shirt up some more. Plus back to the whole it’s Spike thing…
“You finally awake?” Spike asked, making Xander guiltily shift his attention back to Spike’s face.
“Yeah. I think so.” Xander tossed off the warm covers and headed for the bathroom. “Excuse me.”
Spike’s chuckle followed him. “I’m still not sure about holding your hair for you if you barf.”
Xander opened the toilet lid and wondered why there were bits of Funyuns floating in the bowl as he relieved himself. He hadn’t been sick, had he? Xander thought that during his time in Africa his stomach had learned that if it managed to get anything like food, it had better keep hold of it. He washed his hands and peered at himself in the mirror. His long hair was a tangled mess and bits of yellow clung to it. He vaguely remembered attempting a taste test between Funyuns and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. Damn, he’d been very drunk. What had he said to Spike? Worse, what had he left laying around?
Xander’s eye widened and he spun around to inspect the bathtub. Apart from a candle that had burned down and puddled on the side of the tub and a half-eaten chocolate bar on the shelf, there was no sign of his sport the night before. Xander leaned on the sink and thought back. He was sure he’d cleaned everything up and stuffed it in a drawer before opening his fourth beer. Yeah. Then he’d put on Patsy Cline and the rest of the evening was a blur.
Apart from the Funyuns.
Xander frowned at himself in the mirror and tried to pick out a bit of food. He crossed to the door and leaned into the bedroom, keeping most of his body shielded. Spike still sat where he had been and was reading once again, this time some thick paperback. “Hey, Spike?”
“I’m going to shower.”
“That’s probably best. I’ll clean up out here while you do.”
Xander looked around the room for the first time. Bits of snacks lay all over the carpet and the bed was a tangled mess. The empty beer bottles sat neatly by the door in their cardboard carriers. “You don’t have to do that.”
“Are you in any shape to do it?”
“Then I will. If I’m going to hang out up here with you, like you asked, then I’ll hang out in a clean room. Those onion things smell foul, but you owe me one.”
“Thanks, Spike. Uh…” he wanted to ask about the toys. A part of him just knew he’d left some tell-tale evidence of his date with Rosey Palm and her five sisters… and their brother Pug.
“What?” Spike lowered his book and cocked a brow at him.
Xander hesitated. At least Spike wasn’t teasing him about if he had, and if he said anything, that would just give the vampire teasing fodder. Not that the vampire had been teasing him too hard lately, which was strange, now that he thought about it.
“Earth to Whelp!” Spike finally said.
“Uh… I didn’t barf last night, did I?”
Spike grinned. “No. I guess you’ve grown an iron stomach. I remember being able to send you running with just stories.”
Xander ducked his head. “Yeah. That you could. You knew all my buttons and pushed them al the time, you evil bastard.” He closed the door, went to the shower, and turned the spray on hot.
Spike unlocked the door and crossed to the sewing room. Midra looked up from where she was cutting out a pattern. “How’s Xander? He didn’t seem too happy last night.”
Spike paused, studying Midra’s neat work before answering. “We knew he’d have to break before he could heal. I think the cracks are showing. He drained two six packs of my beer last night. ”
“We’ll leave you be, then. How about later I bring up a nice non-threatening brunch?”
“Good idea. Man’s got all kinds of candy squirreled away, but nothing good. I’m going to clean up the mass he made,” Spike said as he wheeled out the vacuum cleaner.
“I’ll help if you wish,” Midra offered.
“No. He’s in the shower and who knows if he’d be happy showing off his naughty bits unexpectedly.”
“Leave it by the door. I’ll take care of it when you’re done.”
“You’re a peach, Midra,” and wheeled out the vacuum cleaner.
“Not as peachy as you, vampire,” she said quietly.
Spike paused and listened to Xander cursing Funyuns and all things Frito Lay under the sound of the shower. He ran the cleaner around quickly and efficiently, then listened again as he coiled the cord. Xander’s string of curses had progressed to shampoos, their heavy bottles, and their inevitable ability to land on your toes. Figuring the man would be busy for a while, Spike sat the machine in the hall beside the beer bottles, dashed to his room and returned with a few key items.
When Xander finally had his hair less like a movie theater floor and came out with a towel around his hips, Spike was sitting at the table in his gray lounge clothes typing on a sleek black laptop he’d opened beside Xander’s.
“Where’d that come from?” Xander asked, toweling his hair.
“My room. And don’t get water on her!”
“Her?” Xander scoffed.
“You call powerful machines her, don’t you? Misty’s state of the art.” Spike ran a finger over the top of the screen with pride and reeled off a string of megas and gigas that completely lost Xander as he pulled on a pair of soft, loose pants.
“You need that much umph to look at porn?”
“Doesn’t hurt, mate,” Spike smirked. “Sit down and I’ll help you set up your computer.”
Spike engaged Xander’s attention setting up his e-mail and showing him new programs for an hour before he started to fidget. Spike cocked an ear at the door. “Are you hungry, Xander?”
Xander looked at the pile of snacks on the table and frowned. “Kinda.”
“Go look outside,” Spike said dismissively.
Puzzled, Xander opened the door, or tried to, because it was locked. “Oh, yeah. I have a lock.” He unlocked the door and opened it to find a tray on a small table, and no one in the hall. Xander picked it up and bumped the door closed behind him.
“Okay, Houdini, how did you do that?”
“Midra was in the sewing room this morning. I just heard her deliver it.”
Xander ate silently, playing with downloading files as he did. Spike didn’t want him slipping into a brood again. “Would you like to spar today?”
“No,” Xander answered absently, not looking at Spike.
“Okay, then. Do you mind if I send some e-mails?”
“Why would I?” Xander shrugged.
Spike shifted his computer a bit and typed rapidly. Xander finished his meal and wandered to the stack of books by the chair. He picked up a random one and went to the bed. He flipped back the blanket, paused, and said over his shoulder, “You changed the sheets. They were blue before.”
“Thanks,” Xander said and slipped under the covers. For a few minutes he watched Spike’s long, sure fingers as they danced over the keyboard. He was divided about being around the vampire today. Spike had said he’d asked him to stay, and very dimly he could remember that. Maybe Spike would get bored, go away, and let him mope in peace.
Spike chuckled at something and Xander looked at his profile. Maybe it would be nice to have company. Once in a while, long ago in the basement of doom, they’d had some okay times. Xander dove into his book, hoping to get lost.
Spike checked some of the sites he liked and shut down his and Xander’s computers. Xander was sitting against the headboard, slumped down, with his knees up, propping up his book. At least he hadn’t asked him to leave. Spike picked up the book he’d brought from his room and went to the bed. “Can I join you?”
“I said you could any time, didn’t I?” Xander said from where he was snuggled down in the covers with his graphic novel, not looking at Spike.
Spike climbed in bed, turned with his back to Xander, and opened his paperback.
“Come on over,” Xander said. “You may as well put your cold feet against me when I’m expecting it.”
“What makes you think I’d want to?” Spike asked playfully.
“You’re a warmth whore. Like... like all vamps.”
“Okay. I’m not one to turn down a snuggle.” Spike shifted and pressed his back and feet against Xander’s side.
“Hey! I didn’t say anything about snuggles! Just… foot warming.”
“It can’t be snuggles anyway, no one’s arm is around anyone,” Spike said, enjoying Xander’s heat and apparent good humor.
They both got comfortable and opened their books. After a while, there was a chuckle from Xander. “What are you reading?” Spike asked.
“Sin City,” Xander answered.
“That’s not a funny book.”
“I guess not. But what was done to the guy with the whited out glasses… I was just imagining doing that to someone in particular.”
“Kingpin?” Spike asked softly.
“It is a beautiful plan. Tie up the guy with razor wire, cut off bits, and feed them to his own dogs. I suspect we’d have to take our own dogs to Africa..”
“We could throw him to the werewolves!”
Spike considered it. “No, I think you need a more hands-on approach.”
“You’re right.” Xander was suddenly uncomfortable with this line of conversation. “What are you reading?”
“Perdido Street Station. It’s kind of… strange but the language is very rich and detailed. I think the best way to describe it is ‘Victorian cyberpunk.’ Giles recommended it.”
“Giles recommends books to you? Things have changed.”
“Actually, he mentioned it to Gunn, who hated it, so he passed it to Oz, who recommended it to me.”
“Have you ever read Rebecca?” Xander asked.
“Is that the one Hitchcock made into a movie?”
“Never saw the movie, but it was one of Anthony’s favorites. Great book.”
“Read a lot, did he?”
“Yeah. And in several languages. His sire taught him French, Spanish, German, and some Asian language; maybe Chinese. He was going to teach me some.”
“Nice sire he had,” Spike mumbled and turned a page.
Xander pushed himself up, sat higher against the headboard, and looked down at Spike. “Didn’t Angelus or Drusilla teach you anything?”
“Oh, sure. Lots. How to hunt, torture, main, kill.” Spike emphatically counted off the points on his fingers. “Useful things like that.”
“Oh.” Not wanting to stir Spike up, Xander went back to his book.
Spike cursed himself. The man was sliding toward brood. If
he didn’t keep him talking at this point, he’d close himself off. “When
did you see his sire?” Spike asked.
“You said you saw DeAmeron once.”
“I did. I saw him the day he was dusted,” Xander answered curtly.
“Oh.” Maybe he shouldn’t press.
Xander tried to go back to his story, but the past intruded.
“What’s wrong, Anthony?” Xander quietly asked his
lover over the noise and tension of the games around them.
“I’ve got a feeling I’ve not felt in many
“What is it?”
“I think… I think my Sire is near.”
“Really?” Xander said excitedly, but then saw the
worry lines on Anthony’s brow. “But that’s good, isn’t it?”
Anthony shook his dark head and the jewels in
his hair glinted. “No. If he’s here, he’s been captured.”
“He’s clever and old, he can escape.”
“If he’s in this far, he won’t leave without
finding me, and I am so exposed… I fear for him, Xander.”
“Let’s just keep our eyes open. You’ve described him, and I bet I can pick him out. Okay?” Xander patted his lover on the back as if in pre-fight encouragement when all he wanted to do was hug him close.
“Yes. Yes. We will make it through this round, then I
will try to locate him.”
They had grown physically very close in the past year.
They would spend many lazy afternoons exploring one another’s bodies and
physical limits. Many a night Xander had lain spent in the tall vampire’s
arms, wanting to tell him of his love and devotion, but fearing the sting of
rejection. Instead, he would express himself with his hands, mouth, cock and
Now he felt Anthony’s anxiety rolling off him in
waves. Xander fought his games poorly and got a bad scratch he should have
avoided. Finally, it was Anthony’s round.
“Tonight we have a treat for you,” called the unseen
announcer. “A vampire of very old blood.” Xander saw Anthony’s back stiffen
where he stood out in the ring. “He was caught sniffing around, and you all
know what happens to those we catch snooping?”
A chant of “death, death, death,” started up among
The announcer laughed. “That’s right. Death for
someone! Will it be our house champion, Anthony, or the old one? Traditional
wooden stakes only! Place your bets and let’s find out!”
Xander startled when someone touched his arm. He looked
down to see his friend the healer beside him. “What is it, Morgan?” he
asked, returning his eyes to his companion.
“It’s Anthony’s sire, I think. They caught him
“Damn.” Xander tensed, wanting to tell Anthony, to
help him, but Morgan held his arm. His apparently brittle hands had surprising
“No, Xander. If you make any move into that ring, it
will be your death for sure, you know that.”
A two foot wooden stake was tossed to Anthony, and he
caught it by reflex only. His eyes never left the door on the far side of the
ring. Finally the flurry of betting stopped and the door opened. Xander watched
as a man a bit shorter than himself, with pale skin and shoulder length dark
hair stepped into the ring. Like all fighters, he wore nothing more than a loin
cloth and carried his own stake. Xander could not miss the strength and dignity
Xander could clearly see the grief in his eyes and read
his lips when he said Anthony’s name. The two ran toward one another and the
crowd cried out in anticipation. Instead of blows, the two embraced one another.
Xander barely acknowledged the cat calls of the crowd and the taunting of the
announcer. Only Morgan’s hand kept him from running to them, from calling out.
They were talking, but he couldn’t hear them.
“Oh, my Anthony. I have found you at last, but how
horrible for you to be here.”
“Sire. Why did you come? I cannot leave here. They
have cursed me and I will die outside this compound.” Anthony cupped his
Sire’s face in his hands, looking into the dark eyes he had believed lost to
“I did not mean to get caught, believe me in this. I
was betrayed into captivity. We will find a way to end…”
“No. No. There is no way. Look. See? They have
crossbows trained on us. If we do not fight soon we will both be dust.”
“Then dust me, my sweet child.”
“They would have to curse me to keep me here and I
could not survive it. I cannot.”
“Sire, no, please.”
“No, Anthony. I have not had a moment’s joy since I
learned you were lost to me. I cannot go on without you any longer. I’ve had
more years then most.” DeAmeron pulled Anthony into his arms and kissed his
cheek. “I love you, boy. I always
did.” Then he shoved Anthony away from him.
“Sire!” Anthony’s breath was ragged and he held
his weapon at his side. He took a step in his direction like a lost child.
“Then live for your mate over there.” With that,
DeAmeron lunged abruptly at Anthony. Caught off guard, he reacted as he’d been
trained. He brought the wooden weapon up, and watched as the beloved face of his
Sire turned to ash before him, the last tear in his eye evaporating with the
Spike could feel Xander grow still and stop turning pages. He was about to ask what was wrong when Xander spoke.
“They made Anthony kill his own Sire in a death match, Spike.”
It hit Spike like a slayer’s punch. “God damn sons of bitches!” Spike spat, sitting up and facing Xander. “Talk about low.”
“I watched it happen,” Xander said sadly, putting aside his book and twisting the covers. “It was a big to-do. They’d brought in fighters from all over and the audience was full. Without warning, they paired Anthony, their top fighter, with one they’d captured. It was DeAmeron.
“He had a… powerful presence. Even naked and in the center of a dirt fighting floor, he had this power about him. They talked a little. I couldn’t hear. Then… then DeAmeron looked right at me and said something. Anthony half turned to look at me, and… His Sire almost threw himself on Anthony’s stake.”
“Right after he killed his Sire, they let loose another challenger. Didn’t even give him time to recover. The dust was still blowing. I… I’ve never seen anyone fight with so much fury, Spike. Six in a row he killed.”
Anthony screamed out his anger and grief as another fighter was released into the ring. The cotof demon never had a prayer. Within two minutes, Anthony had ripped off its head and stood covered in gore, looking like a primitive god of fury.
Seeing an opportunity to make up for the disappointing
fight between the two vampires, they offered losers a chance to redeem
themselves. Anthony ripped, bit, and stabbed six opponents to death within
fifteen minutes. Finally, Xander
could see Anthony weakening, and could watch no more. He pushed forward to the
bell that only certain fighters could ring to signal an unfair fight was going
on. Morgan followed, clinging to him.
As the judgment was being made between the unseen ones
who ran the games, Xander watched Anthony first droop, then fall to his knees
among the shattered corpses of his victims. The call came down to end the games
and the crowd started to filter out. Morgan let go of Xander’s arm at last and
he went to Anthony.
“Anthony?” The wide brown eyes that turned to him
were empty and hollow as if everything were lost. “Hey, let’s go get you
“Leave me alone, human,” Anthony said flatly,
standing up with his back straight and walking away.
“He wouldn’t talk to me for a long time after that. I… I wanted to help him, but he wouldn’t let me.” The loss in Xander’s voice made Spike turn and put his hand on his shoulder.
“That was bloody unfair of him, but, to be honest, I can see why he did it.”
“Can you, Spike?” Xander cried. “Can you tell me why he acted as if all were lost when he still had me?” Xander’s voice cracked and a tear slid from his eye.
Spike dared slip his arm around Xander and pull him close. “A Sire is everything. It sounds like he was everyone to Anthony. His human companions would have been long dead, but as long as DeAmeron was out there, Anthony held some hope of rescue. Even as you thought about Buffy and the intrepid Watcher.”
“But he had me, Spike. And I had him. We… kept each
other sane.” Xander sighed. “And about the rescue… I know. Honestly. I know
that. It’s just that we spent just one evening together talking before I was
sent off to fight. He hadn’t sent for me for almost two weeks, then… we were
together all night. He didn’t want to talk at all, just… touch me like it
was the first, or last time. I left from his quarters that morning.” Xander
swallowed and sniffed. “It was right after I came back a week later that he
The painting is "Flaming June" by Lord Leighton Fredric
Street Station” is an awesome book by China Mieville
City” is the series of graphic novels by Frank Miller.
is both a wonderful book by Daphne Du Maurier and a film by Alfred Hitchcock.
On to Chapter 29
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