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Chapter 38

Another envelope lay atop the final layer of packages. Spike took it out and handed it to Xander. “Giles and his record keeping,” Spike said fondly.

Xander untucked the flap and read it. “Well?” Spike asked when Xander neatly put it away and set it aside.

“The little package is my journal, and his notes on trying to find me. He says he read back over them all and thinks… I may have known about the slavers before hand.” 


“Oh, he didn’t put it like that.” Spike watched Xander pull the crystal from his pocket and turn it over and over. “With hindsight, knowing what he now knows, he thinks I may have been very close to them before I was captured. In fact, he wonders if I was taken specifically.”

“There’s no way.” Spike felt a sudden anger at Giles for dropping this on the already guilt ridden Xander.

“Maybe there was. I… I had two leads on slayers that I thought were false because… because they disappeared before I got there. At the time, I thought it was because the villagers didn’t want their protectors taken.”

“Look, you can’t blame yourself…”

“I don’t, Spike. I didn’t know anything! I went where they told me and did what they said. If anything, I’m mad at the council. How long after I was taken did they discover the slave ring?”

“It was investigating your disappearance that lead them to it.”

“They should have been investigating the Slayers vanishing. I wanted to, but I was told others would tend to it. Plus… I wanted to go home.”

Spike reached out and squeezed Xander’s knee. “I can’t blame you there, mate. Africa is the most evil place I’ve been.”

Xander looked at Spike with a slight smile. “I keep forgetting you went there.”

“Yeah, I’ve done the cargo hold thing plenty of  times. ‘Tain’t fun.”

“Let’s open the main package, Spike.”

Spike took out the bulky object and fumbled with the zipper. The scent of dust and faint spices hit them when the bag gasped in the cool air of the room after being packed away so long. As he pulled out the backpack, a white sheet of paper came with it and landed before Xander.

He picked it up and smiled at it as Spike took out one last package from the box and put all the packing back in it. “What ya got?”

“Inventory list. Giles is always so meticulous.” Xander read over it as Spike put the packing box aside. “This says it’s package two of three.”

Spike picked up the thick padded envelope he’d found under the backpack. “Here’s three of three.”

“This says package one was bedding and tarp. I can see why he wouldn’t want to pay shipping on a tatty blanket.” Xander frowned, feeling a sudden, unreasonable desire to hold the ugly brown blanket that had kept him warm so many nights.

“I’m sure it’s all sealed up safe and he’d send it along if you wanted,” Spike said quietly.

“Yeah. I’m sure it’s safe. Let’s see what’s in bag number two.” Before he could put it off any longer, Xander grabbed the zipper tab on a small front pocket and pulled, automatically working it over a spot where one of the teeth was broken. He pulled out a battered, thick paperback. Xander studied the painting of sand and sun on the cover before passing it to Spike.

Dune? I never read this one.”

“I was enjoying it, what little I’d read. I had picked it up for the flight back.” Xander dipped back into the pocket and frowned. “My… tickets should have been in here.”

“It’s in packet three, I bet.” Spike pulled another neatly folded paper from the package.

Xander took the list and looked it over. “The date at the top is two years ago, he said he just reread it.”

“That’s when he had his stroke. He stepped down from his active position on the council after that. He didn’t give up on you, ever, if that’s what your thinkin’. From what I understand, he had to finally give in and have his notes transcribed onto computer. I bet that’s what he reread.”

“Giles hates computers.”

“Bloke’s made an uneasy truce with them. If she’s feeling geeky, Willow’s got some stories she thinks are funny about his calls for tech help.”

Xander put aside the list and opened the main compartment of the bag. The first thing he pulled out was a small stack of neatly folded clothing. “Giles did my laundry,” Xander said, opening up a t-shirt.

“I don’t remember feeling the world pause on its axis.”

Xander held a faded t-shirt with the Babylon 5 logo on it to his chest. “This won’t fit any more. I was so tickled to find it. When Sunnydale sank we had nothing. Faith drove us to the nearest town and we took care of our wounded. We found a thrift shop and this shirt was there. I had blood on my clothes from… Buffy and wounded potentials and those uber vamps.” He folded it once more and put it aside.

“Maybe Oz would like it.”

“Maybe.” Xander looked at the clothing as he talked. “It didn’t truly hit me… the fighting, the losses, until about five days later. Giles, Buffy, Willow, and I were having lunch… somewhere.”

“The original four,” Spike muttered.

“Four what?”


Xander paused, considering this. “Wow, you’re right.” He put aside the shirts and pulled out a small leather bag. “We were talking about what had happened, finally. And about who we had lost.” Xander worked the knot loose. “We talked about you.”

“Yeah?” Spike asked.

“We did.”

Xander said nothing more, and Spike didn’t push. As much as he wanted to know what the young man had thought of him, this was about Xander. He gently dumped the contents of the bag on the rug. It was a magpie assortment of shiny and brightly colored things and a white folded sheet of paper. With amusement, Spike captured a marble that tried to escape.

Xander took the marble from him and studied the clear orb with a blue swirl in it. “I found this by the road outside of Sunnydale. We stopped outside the crater and for some reason I looked down just before I got back on the bus. It was half buried in the dust. I carried it in my pocket for the longest time.”

Xander put it down and picked up a brown cowry shell. “The little brother of one of the Slayers told me very solemnly that his people used these for money, and he would trade me this for a shiny round coin so I wouldn’t be without money.” Xander smiled at the memory. “Fortunately, I had a quarter in my pocket. It was one of those state quarters with an astronaut on it. He was delighted.”

Next he picked up a small carving of a dog like creature. “The shaman in one village got me stoned. The next morning he told me he talked with the hyena in me. He told me she said she liked being home.”


“Yeah, in high school I was possessed by a hyena sprit because of a crazed zookeeper. I don’t know how he knew that.”

“And here I thought painting glasses on the school statues back in my day was fun,” Spike muttered.

“It was yet another wacky Sunnydale fieldtrip.”

Xander picked through the pile, sharing stories and fingering the trinkets. “Something’s missing,” Xander said at last, poking around to see if it was hidden. “It was a coin-like thing. Flat, silver colored with scratches on it. I found it on the street somewhere. I carried it for a couple of months.”

Spike picked up the folded paper. “I take it this is an invoice?”

“Yeah, see what it says.”

Unawares, Xander picked up his newest stone from all his treasures and worried it as Spike looked from list to pile. “Here it is… ‘one disc, silver, strong residual magicks, blah blah blah, retained for further study.’ And he’s drawn a picture.” Spike passed the paper to Xander.

“Magicks? I wonder what kind.”

“Quite a few of the pieces here have a trace of magic to them, according to the list. Of course, when you carry something and work it…” Spike frowned at the stone Xander still turned over and over in his other hand. “You tend to carry things around that you find, don’t you?”

Xander shrugged. “I guess so.”

“What were you carrying when you were kidnapped?”


“You tend to find things and carry them until something new comes along.” Spike pointed to pile of objects. “What was your worry stone of the week?”

Xander frowned… “I didn’t have it long… There was nothing in my pockets when I woke up…” Xander closed his eye and sat the stone down. Spike watched silently as Xander rubbed his fingertips together, then reached in his pocket as if looking for something. Xander opened his eye. “It was like a dog tag! It was… damn… it had a symbol on it that… wheeeere did I see it?” He snapped his fingers. “It was the symbol of one of the rival slavers!”

Spike grabbed a pen off the table and handed it and the invoice to Xander. “Can you draw it?”

Xander nodded and sketched the few simple lines that sort of looked like an antelope’s head. “It was like this.”

“I bet you found another magical bit and it drew them to you.”

“You think so, Spike?”

“Maybe.” Spike looked at the picture Xander had drawn, and again at the drawing of the missing piece. “I think Giles will find this interesting.”

They were interrupted  by a soft tap at the door. “Come in!” Xander called.

Midra pushed the door open and bustled in with a tray. “I figured you were too absorbed in your package to come down, so I brought dinner up.”

“You’re the best, Midra.” Xander said as she set it on the table.

“Don’t get used to it.” She paused at the door. “You want the meeting canceled?”

Xander paused. “No. We’ll be down within the hour, I’d say. Thanks.”

Xander stood, picked up the tray and sat it between them on the floor. Two big cappuccino mugs sat under saucer lids, accompanied by a napkin-covered plate of cornbread, and a glass of milk. Xander took the lid off one cup and scowled. “It looks like tomato soup, but I’m guessing this is yours.” He passed the cup to Spike and moved the other one to his side of the tray. “This looks better! Stew and cornbread.”

Spike picked up a big piece of cornbread and crumbled it into his blood. “Midra makes the best cornbread.”

Xander made a face at him, and scooped the pile of treasures into the bag. He continued to unpack the bag and tell stories as he absently ate.  He found another t-shirt and was surprised when a wooden carving the size of his hand rolled out. Spike picked it up and burst out laughing. “What did you get up to you didn’t tell me about?”

Xander blushed at the sight of the carved monkey with a phallus bigger then he was. “Grandmother type gave it to me,” he muttered. “She said it would help me have strong sons and healthy children. I guess she was wrong on that point.”

Spike put the ridiculous carving aside. “Is that what you want, Xander?”

Xander shrugged. “One time, yeah. Now… Now it’s not an option, is it?”

“They might be able to remove the implant, Xander.”

Xander barked a laugh. “Wouldn’t be a very good trade off at this point, would it? There’s all kinds of things I can’t catch, and if by some weird twist of fate I hook up with a girl, I can’t accidentally knock her up. Sounds pretty sweet.”

“Xander, I…”

Xander shook his head. “Sorry, Spike. I… it’s just that I haven’t thought about these things for so very long. I’m not the boy who carried this pack.”

“You weren’t a boy for a long time before that.”

Startled, Xander met Spike’s blue eye and searched for sarcasm. Finding none, Xander looked away. “Damned Hellmouth.”

“There’s one more package.”

“No. I’ve done enough memory poking for one night. Let’s go face down the lions and throw them gifts when they roar.”


As soon as Xander came into the living room where everyone was gathered, Gunn started apologizing again, Dawn hugged a pillow to herself, and Willow put on her worried face.

“No!” Xander said, cutting through the chaos. “Sit down, everyone.” Spike put the box he carried down beside Xander where he stood in front of  the blank TV and went to lean against the wall behind everyone else. Xander didn’t look at anyone until they were all settled. “Thanks for being here. I’ve got some things to say and to share. We’ve done our apologies. I’ve said I’m sorry to those I slighted and it’s been said to me. Does anyone else in the room fell like they need to give or get an apology from anyone about anything?” He studied each in turn and received negative responses from all around.

“Good.” He stood solidly before them, feet apart and at ease like one who was used to talking at gatherings. Only his right hand was busy, turning the new stone over and over slowly. “I’m not the boy I was. I spent five years in cold, damp caves fighting for my life. True, I was lucky enough to have someone who cared for me and I for him, but he was killed.”

Xander ignored the shocked breath from Dawn and answering murmur from Willow. ”Yes, I was with a guy.”

“It doesn’t matter, Xander,” Dawn said quickly.

“No. It doesn’t,” Xander said, cutting her off. “Anthony was intelligent, funny at times, a wonderful protector and a vampire.”

This time there were several catches in breath. Xander had wondered how much Midra had shared and was pleased when he realized she was keeping his secrets. “He didn’t have a soul, but he had plenty of humanity. We’ve all seen this phenomenon in action.” Spike scowled in reply to the pointed look Xander gave him. “If it weren’t for Anthony, I would have died in the first month. After he was murdered, my life changed. I changed.”

“In the caves, I was cold, lonely, and bored most of the time. What was there to do? Drink, fuck, and fight. Well, and read, but there is just so much of that one can do. So, yeah, I would drink when troubled. I guess fortunately for me, my supply was limited. And I did remember too much abuse from my dear old drunken dad.”

“So the other night, when I stupidly thought I could face up to seeing the names and faces of so many I’d killed or seen killed by myself, I drank. If there hadn’t been any alcohol in the room, I would have found some. So that’s no one’s fault. And I was lonely. So, when you ladies, my good friends, came up, I was too far gone to see anything but pretty bodies. If it makes you feel better, I even tried to get fresh with Spike.”

When several of them turned to look at Spike, he just stood with his arms crossed and nodded.

“Which is why all the shouting and running off on Spike’s part. I know I’ve been a hermit a lot of the time, hiding up in my room, but I spent five years not being able to leave a room without an escort. For years my life was pretty much limited to a nine by nine room when I wasn’t in the arena training to kill or killing. So excuse me if my social graces aren’t what they once were. If I’m uncertain about a situation, I will leave, and we’ll sort it out in time, got it?”

Everyone nodded. “The jewels I wore were given to me for killing others. Many demons, some humans. It’s blood money, and I want to use it to get the bastards who run the slave ring.” Gunn nodded. “If I make you uncomfortable, I realize I could buy my own house and live wherever I want, but…” Xander paused and swallowed. “I love it here. It feels like home. I… don’t know how to fit in just yet, but I think I can get there with your help and understanding.”

“Xander?” Dawn asked, making Xander look up. “Can I give you a hug?”

Xander smiled. “I’d very much like that, Dawn.” Soon, Xander was surrounded by supporting hands and friendly kisses. Only Spike held back.

After several  minutes of mush, Spike broke it up. “Oi! What’s in the box? Is it prezzies?”

“Presents?” Dawn squealed. “Did Giles’ box come?”

Xander shot him a grateful look and untangled himself from the girls. “Yes, it did. Sit down and we’ll sort it out. Spike, you want to play Santa’s helper?” 

On to Chapter 39

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