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Xander sobbed in Spike’s arms with his hands curled to
his chest like a frightened child. Eventually, the sobs gave way to waves of
tears, then finally to great, deep breaths, then to sniffles and the inevitable
snotty intake of breath.
“You through?” Spike asked, not unkindly. Xander
nodded, not untucking his head from Spike’s chest. “Is it tissue time?”
Xander nodded again. “Okay. I’m not going far.” Spike unwrapped an arm and
snagged the box of tissues from the bedside. He tapped Xander on the shoulder
with it, and let him pluck his own.
After a couple of handfuls had been used and tossed aside,
Xander rolled to his back. Spike mopped a bit at his shirt, cocking an eyebrow
at Xander who had to smile a little. “Sorry.”
“It’s not the most disgusting bodily fluid I’ve had
“TMI, Spike.” Spike rolled to his back and copied
Xander’s pose of staring up at the ceiling. Xander sighed. “I don’t know
why he did it, Spike. He could have taken those goons, easily. I know he heard
“I can’t describe how close a Sire is to ya,” Spike
said. “Dru… I love Dru more than I love my left gonad sometimes. Even with
her evil ways. Your Sire is your parent, your leader, your lover, a… a
“Yeah.” Spike sighed “I… I was a mediocre human. I
admit it. I never would have been a footnote even had I not been turned. You
told me DeAmeron took Anthony from a dead-end life of servitude and gave him
eternal youth and strength. Plus, he took him places and treated him good.”
“That’s what he said,” Xander whispered, his throat
closing up again. “But, he… Damn it!”
“He left you alone?” Spike asked gently.
Xander nodded, and Spike opened his arms to take Xander
back against his chest. “Did I ever tell you about Morgan?” Xander asked
after a while.
“He is the healer, the shaman. I called him Morgan
because he looks like a really, really old Morgan Freeman like in Driving
Mrs. Daisy, but shorter and even older. I was, of course, always getting
hurt, so I saw Morgan a lot. I could speak something close to his dialect, so we
started teaching each other words. He… he is a good man. I want to see if we
can get him out of there.”
“Recover Morgan. It’s on the list.”
“I asked him why he stayed, and he told me he was pretty
much the last of his tribe. He figured he could stay where his healing magic
would always be needed. And he is good, Spike. Damn good. I’d be a mess of
scars if it weren’t for him and would have died several times over.”
“Then I know him to be a good man.” Spike murmured.
“The goons had tied him up. Morgan, who had taken care of
all of them, they tied him up! He got loose and came in the ward. I can’t
imagine what he saw.”
The room stank like the ring. The three who had
assaulted him were very thoroughly dead. One of the women had awakened and was
crying in her bunk. The bed Xander had been sleeping in was smashed and the man
himself stood wild-eyed, covered in blood, sweat, semen, and what could only be
the dust of his partner.
Morgan swore an oath and chanted a calming spell. He
watched carefully as the adrenaline drained from Xander’s body and he sagged.
The spell had the benefit of calming his woman patient as well.
“Xander,” he said calmly, slowly approaching the
man. “We have to clean you up a little.”
“If it is known you were coupling with Anthony as they
attacked, it will not go as well for you. Come on.” Xander looked dumbly down
at himself and allowed Morgan to pick his way to a basin and return with a damp
cloth. The healer’s touch soothed him as he wiped away the semen and dust.
“That was Anthony,” he said dumbly.
“I know. I let him in.” His task completed, Morgan
stood and folded the cloth neatly into a tight square. “I will treat this with
respect and hold it for you. Yes?” He tucked it into a pocket of the pouch he
“Yes,” Xander mumbled. Morgan led him to a bench and
sat him down.
“Listen to me, Xander.” He shook his shoulders a
little and made him focus. “I have to call alarm. They,” he pointed at the
crumpled bodies, “came in here after you. Anthony killed the first two before
Kyle killed him. Then you killed Kyle.”
“I killed them all. Killed them too quickly.”
Morgan shook him again. “No, Xander. It is the only story that will fly. Understand?”
Xander looked over at the bodies, down at himself, and
then into the caring brown eyes of his healer friend. “Yeah,” he rasped.
“Good, you sit there.”
“There were some inquiries, but with Morgan’s story and
the fact they abused him, too, it was all judged justifiable. We said Anthony
was defending me, killing two of them, and I… defended him. So I got
Anthony’s quarters, privileges.”
“Was that so bad?”
“There was more. They sent me into the ring… a lot. I
won and I won and I won. They moved me to the death matches. I killed whatever
and whoever they put in there with me. After a few months, when I did what they
told me and I was rewarded by… Spike, they gave me Anthony’s job as chooser.
I was the one who sealed people’s fates. I said pleaser, fighter, or fodder. I
was the one who granted slow death or quick. Like… like the nazis sorting Jews
off the cattle trains. Showers or Death. It was all death, Spike.” Xander’s
voice cracked. “It was me.”
Spike rubbed circles on Xander’s back. “I’m sorry.”
“And for a while, I didn’t care. I fought and killed. I
grew wealthy. I did what they said. There was never any mention of cursing me,
because I never tried to leave. I didn’t care enough.”
“What changed it, Pet?”
“A girl. A thirteen year old girl. God. She looked so
much like Dawn at that age. As she cowered before me, she had the same sad,
shocked look that Dawn did when she discovered she was the key. And do you want
to know my first reaction upon seeing her? That I wanted to buy her and keep her
in my quarters so I could look at her all day and maybe…” Xander couldn’t
say what he’d wanted, that he thought to take her virginity and let no one
else touch her. He knew Spike could bridge the gaps. “Last night, when Dawn
put her head in my lap…” Xander shuddered.
“It’s okay, mate. It’s okay. I know you would never
“I… I bought the right to be sold. Did you know
“I did wonder why they’d let a prize like you go.”
“I had three times the wealth you cut from my hair. From
all the killing. Blood money. I knew about the ships to America and I bought the
right to be packed up like cattle and brought here. I knew I could be facing a
much worse life, but I could take no other way out. Funny. Offing myself was one
of the only things I could think about in the beginning. But toward the end… I
just wanted to be an America one more time. Never in a million years did I
imagine you striding into the hold
with a poofy attitude and buying me.”
“Well, I’d been saving my allowance for something
“I don’t think I’m so special.”
“What’s not special about you?”
“I’ve killed so many, Spike. Demons and humans. There
were…” he swallowed. “I
recognized more than I said on Gunn’s list, because I killed them.”
“If you want, you can just say you know they’re dead,
not how. You can borrow the file and he doesn’t even have to be in the
Xander wasn’t listening. He pulled away from Spike and
sat on the edge of the bed. He ran his fingers into his hair and clutched it.
“I know so many ways to kill. So many… with pikes, stakes, knives, clubs,
swords… with just my bare hands.”
Spike moved to kneel in front of Xander where he had his
head down and his hair clenched. “Xander?”
“I won the jewels and wore them like I was supposed to. I
paraded my status and… I’m a monster,” Xander muttered in self-loathing.
Suddenly, Spike grabbed Xander’s arms, ripping his hands
from his hair and hauling him to his feet. “Get dressed!” he gritted,
staring a dazed Xander in the eye.
“We’re going to the barn.”
Xander tried to wrench away, but the vampire was too
strong. “I don’t want to fight!”
“I do!” Spike let him go, scooped up his jeans and
threw them at him. “Get dressed or I’ll haul you through the house like
this,” he snarled, taking off his lounging pants and grabbing his own jeans.
“Fuck. Yeah.” Spike said, accenting the words by
thrusting his legs in the jeans.
Hurriedly, Xander pulled on jeans and a t-shirt, but Spike
didn’t give him time to question before he was pulling him down the stairs.
“Spike? What…” Willow asked as a harried and confused
Xander was pulled past them where she sat on the couch with Oz.
“Stay out of it, Red. This doesn’t concern you.”
He pulled Xander through the kitchen, down the stairs to the tidy laundry
room and opened the door to the tunnel. There Xander balked.
Spike stopped, flipped
a switch beside the door, and rounded a glare at him. “It’s a long
hallway, Xander, not a tunnel. Come on before I knock you out and carry you.”
Xander gave in, still very confused and followed the clean
white walls of the well-lit, hallway. A small piece of his mind admired the
construction of it.
They passed a set of stairs that must lead to the garage,
then on to another set that opened to the barn. Xander opened his mouth to
speak, or at least catch his breath, when Spike took him by the arms again.
“What are you?” Spike asked.
“What do you think you are? You were just telling me.”
“I’m a monster.” Xander said, meeting his gaze
“Did you ever kill anyone outside of the ring when it
wasn’t out of necessity?” Spike asked.
“Did you ever kill for the fun of it? Laugh about your
“Do you know how to torture someone? How to keep them
alive for days?”
“No!” Xander tried to pull away from Spike, but he just
gripped harder, making Xander stand still or break a bone.
“Do you know how much flesh and muscle you can carve from
a vampire before he finally ashes?” Spike asked, his voice growing quiet along
with Xander’s stillness.
“No.” Xander answered, the direction of the questions
Spike lessened his grip. “You ever fuck the corpse of
“No,” Xander said more quietly.
“Have you ever,” Spike’s voice cracked, “killed an
entire orphanage of children and arranged their bodies in storybook pictures to
make your girlfriend smile?” Xander shook his head. “Do you know just how
much blood you can drink from a girl like Dawn so they still cry when you rape
them?” Spike’s voice was just a whisper. He dropped his hands from
“No,” Xander said, understanding it was about Spike
Spike looked away to where the high window let in a single
square of sunlight. “Then you’re not a monster, Xander. I am. Because…
because once in a while, just every now again when I’m lonely or drunk… I
wish I didn’t have this sodding soul and could cut a path of destruction again
without morals or guilt.”
“Spike, you’re not a monster. You’ve helped us out so
much and now you work for the Slayers.”
“You ever taste the blood of your vampire, Xander?”
Spike snapped, turning back to him, his eyes glinting.
Xander blinked at this sudden turn. “No.”
“Do you know anything about it? Drinking a vampire’s
Xander rubbed his arms where deep bruises were forming, as
he frowned at Spike’s intensity. “Buffy once said Dracula made her taste it,
and that she… saw things.”
Spike scoffed. “Made
her, right. Poncy Dracy making the Slayer do something. I am a monster,
Pet, and you are not. I want to show you.” Spike shifted into game face and
bit his wrist. He held it out to Xander. “Drink. One swallow.”
Xander looked from the dripping gash to Spike’s eyes.
“You dare me?” Xander said weakly.
“Drink!” Spike snarled.
Uncertainly, Xander took Spike’s arm, fought down the
gorge that wanted to rise in his throat at the heady scent, looked in Spike’s
yellow eyes, bent and pulled one swallow from the rapidly-closing wound.
Sensations and emotions rushed through him like the rapid
clips a the beginning of a TV show where
they say “previously on.”
He felt what it was like to be a vampire; to be so strong,
quick, clever, and aged. He saw gruesome sights that churned his stomach;
deaths, pain, and suffering, all of it being rendered by Spike’s narrow hands.
He saw a myriad of victims, screaming under Spike’s body as they were violated
in every way and with every possible thing. Women, men, children. He saw
glimpses of Drusilla throughout as if she were the focus of it all, though she,
too sometimes suffered his dark art. The specter of Angelus blessed the mayhem.
Xander found himself on his knees on the dirt floor of the
barn, the ruins of his breakfast shot through with blood like a TB victim’s
mucus. He dry heaved when the smell hit him, and pushed himself away. Spike let
go of his hair and stepped back.
Xander spat and wiped the back of his mouth. He squeezed
his eye shut and did his best to will away the visions that were already fading
like a nightmare.
“You all right, mate?” Spike asked quietly.
Xander sprang from the floor and punched Spike with all the
force he could. “You God damned, son of a fucking bitch!” he yelled at Spike
where he lay on the floor, blood streaming from his nose. “How the fucking
hell dare you?” He screamed at Spike, belittling him in several languages and
daring him to get up. Finally, he’d shouted himself hoarse so he stumbled
away. He fell on his knees in the patch of sunlight and breathed in great
lungfulls of air as tears ran down his face.
The sunbeam moved off his face and just warmed his knees
before his breathing evened out.
“You still say you’re a monster?” Spike asked quietly
from where he still lay on the floor. Xander hesitated, then shook his head.
“You don’t doubt that I am?”
“I never doubted that, you’re a vampire,” Xander
said, then coughed.
“Do you still want me around? I understand if
“You’re not very popular right now.”
“Yeah. I get that. I’ll go,” Spike pulled his splayed
“I didn’t say that,” Xander whispered.
Spike sat up, wiped the dried blood from his face, and
dusted himself off best he could.
The sunbeam slipped off Xander’s lap and he felt a sudden
chill. “Then tell me this, Spike, if you can. If I’m so good, why did
Anthony leave me? Or did you show me that to prove how evil all vampires are?”
“Oi! No one’s as evil as William the Bloody is… was.
‘cept maybe Angelus.” Spike muttered. “And I think Anthony was a bloody
idiot. Didn’t see the value of what he had, could only mourn for what he lost.
Seems to me he held on to the dream of his Sire so long he’d never planned
Xander looked over his shoulder at Spike as he sat cross
legged in the dust, his hair unraveling from its braid, and a smear of dried
blood on is chin that he kept scratching at. Spike raised an eyebrow at him as
if expecting to be contradicted for calling Anthony an idiot, but said nothing
more. Xander turned back to the sunbeam as it crawled away from him, leaving him
in the dark. “What if… what if I had told him I loved him?”
“You never did? Huh. I didn’t know the bloke, but you
might’ve set yourself up for a deeper hurt, mate,” Spike said quietly.
“Nothing stings as bad as loving someone more than they love you.”
Xander knew Spike spoke of Buffy. “But he treated me like
he did love me, even if he didn’t say it till the end.”
“Funny how folks can do that, innit?” They sat quietly
for a minute. “Buffy told me she loved me once.”
Xander turned around, leaving the sunbeam to travel on
alone. Spike now sat slumped with his elbows on his knees and his hands limp in
his lap between them, staring at them. “Really? When?”
“Just before I went to ash in the ruddy school basement.
I could tell she said it cause I wanted her to.” Spike sniffled.
“It was a sweet thing she did.”
“You think she didn’t really love you?”
Spike ran a hand over his head and sighed. “The problem
with love is that there are so many different flavors of it and just one
“Like; I love Star trek and chocolate.”
“And I love Manchester United and spicy chicken wings.”
“I love swimming in the ocean and sunshine.”
“I love hot blood and a good fight.”
Xander paused. “I love Anthony ,Willow, and Giles.”
“I love Drusilla,” Spike sighed, still looking at his
“Like Eskimos have a thousand words of snow, we need a
thousand words for love.”
“Huh.” Xander pushed his hair out of his face and
Spike looked up. “Wot?”
“I love you, Spike,” Xander said with a straight face.
Spike raised an eyebrow. “I love you, too, Xander.” He
waited to see what the man would do next.
“You know what else I love?” Xander asked, getting to
“Lunch!” Xander bounced over to Spike and held out his
Spike took it and let Xander pull him to his feet.
“Food’s you’re first love, innit?”
Xander brushed some of the dust off Spike’s back. “Yep.
It was a good thing we were so poor, or I would’ve been fat!”
“And easier to catch,” Spike snickered as he opened the
door to the tunnel. Xander paused, his cheer suddenly gone. “I’ll meet you
inside if you want,” Spike said. “You don’t have to take this route.”
“No, it’s not that. I… thanks. That was the nastiest
thing I’ve ever experienced, and there have been some nasty ones.”
“Let me finish. It was harsh, but… it worked. I… I see what you were trying to tell me.
I… there was so much I could have done that I didn’t, and that makes me a
Spike looked away. “Proved I’m a monster, too.”
“Spike,” Xander said, making Spike look
back. “You were a monster, but I think now you’re a fine
Spike smiled a shy smile, then pulled a fake frown.
“I’m evil. Always will be.”
“That’s right, Big Bad,” Xander hesitated, then
pulled him into a hug. “And thanks for holding my hair when I barfed.”
“Didn’t wanna smell you on the way back, is all,”
Spike said quietly, returning the hug.
“Thank you for… for finding me, For buying me and not
leaving me there.”
“Like I said, I’d been saving up.”
Xander gave him one more squeeze, then pushed him away.
“You can’t fool me. That was the council’s money.”
Spike grinned. “Yeah, you should’ve heard their
reaction to my expense account that week.”
“Does that mean I belong to the council?”
“Nope, I’m the one who signed the papers. Your ass is
mine!” Spike laughed, patting Xander’s head. “Let’s go find lunch.”
On to Chapter 31
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