Angel and Spike were sipping their mugs of blood shortly after they’d woken up. Xander was waiting to feed until Spike had drunk enough blood to support the both of them. Currently, his eyes were fixated on Spike’s wrist, watching it bend as his Sire drank from the mug.
"You really should get him used to drinking on his own," Angel commented lightly. "If anything ever happened to you where you couldn't feed him, he'd starve to death."
“No!” Xander answered for Spike. “I don’t wanna drink any blood but his.”
"I know you don't want to," Angel said. "And hopefully you'll never have to, but you should at least be able to bring yourself to do it. It's for his own good, Spike. You know that."
“Master?” Xander turned the puppy dog eyes that always won over his Sire.
"Shhh, it's alright, Pet," Spike soothed. "Angel's just trying to look out for you, the way I'd want my Sire to. I'll give it some thought. It wouldn't be something you had to do all the time, just as long as you knew how in case the day ever came when you absolutely had to."
“Yeah, yeah,” Xander said and reached out for Spike’s wrist. When his Sire nodded, he rolled up Spike’s sleeve and bit into the flesh. The entire time he kept staring at Angel with a smug expression as he fed.
Angel grinned, hiding it behind his mug as he watched Spike feed his Childe. Xander certainly was a handful. It was going to take both him and Spike to handle the boy now that his powers were emerging. He knew there was no way to get rid of them short of Divine intervention. That meant Xander was going to have to learn to live with them whether he liked it or not.
“See Spike likes feeding me,” Xander said, licking away the last of the blood from his Sire’s wrist. He still had the self-satisfied grin plastered on his face.
"I know he does," Angel agreed. "But I also know he'd never forgive himself if you died simply because you couldn't feed."
“I’d be able to feed,” Xander scoffed. “I’d know how to find an illegal source of blood. It’s like choosing between a chocolate bar and lumpy, cold oatmeal. Which would you rather eat?”
"Then prove it," Angel challenged. "Show me you can feed yourself for a single day and I won't say another word. I'm not trying to hurt you, boy. Spike's not the only one that doesn't want to lose you."
“You can’t make me!” Xander spat. “Spike won’t make me.”
"Nobody's going to make you do anything you don't want to," Spike cut in quickly. "Isn't that right, Sire?"
Angel sighed heavily. “You’re spoiling him too much, William.”
"Mine to spoil, in't he?" Spike replied. "Now be a good Sire and reassure the boy you won't try and make him do anything he doesn't want to. I told you I'd think on it and I will so just back off for now."
Xander turned the puppy dog eyes on Angel and waited. The truth was he’d thrived under Spike’s spoiling and Angel’s over possessiveness.
"You know I'd never force you," Angel admitted in defeat. "Just think about it, okay? I worry for you, Childe."
“Drinking only his blood makes me feel better about what I am,” Xander admitted quietly.
"About being a vampire? You shouldn't be ashamed of that, Xander." Angel frowned. He didn't like to think of Xander being ashamed of what they were. It had taken him a great deal of time, and a lot of coaxing from Cordelia, to put his own shame over feeding to rest. He hated the thought of Xander feeling the same way.
“Take your pick, any form of demon freak will do.”
"You're not a freak," Spike said stubbornly. "You are what you are. And your bloody demon blood kept your soul from vacating the premises when I turned you. I'd think you'd be glad we didn't have to get Red to charm you up like she did the pouf."
That last comment made Xander smile a little. “You’re a pouf now, too.”
"I am not a pouf. I'm simply diversified in my choice of sexual partners. Peaches is the only pouf around here."
If his embarrassment meant that Xander would smile, then he was willing to play around. “Define pouf, Willy.”
"Oi! Don't call me that. I hate that bloody name," Spike complained loudly. "You don't hear me calling you Liam, do you?"
“Liam?” Xander choked.
"Yeah," Spike nodded. "It was his name before Darla got to him. What? The Watcher never told you about that?"
“Never really thought about, maybe Giles mentioned it and I forgot. So let me get this straight. Angel used to be named Liam and you used to be named Willy? Is it some sort of tradition to pick a new name when you’re turned?”
"Only if you really hate the name your bleeding parents stuck you with," Spike told him. "I never could stand Willy. Angel here felt the same about Liam. So we picked names that suited us a bit better. You, though, you still seem like a Xander to me."
“C’mon, you don’t like Zeppo? Or I could borrow a page out of Giles' book and go by Ripper.”
"Don't you dare," Spike growled. "If I didn't actually like the cheerleader, I'd rip her tongue out for calling you that. Bitch had no right to say that to you and she was fucking wrong anyway."
Instead of getting mad at Spike’s show of over possessiveness, it caused Xander to feel safe. “I like it when you get like that.”
Spike blinked at his lover then shook his head. It was hard to figure the boy out sometimes. "Whatever you say, Pet."
“You know what I was able to do today?” Xander hedged.
"What?" Spike asked, quirking his eyebrow.
“I sorta levitated up the stairs.”
"Did anyone see you?" Angel asked worriedly.
“No,” Xander said, his happiness disappearing at what he thought was a rebuke. “I won’t do it again.”
"I'm not angry, Xander," Angel said quickly. "But you need to be cautious. Was it dark outside when you did it?"
“No one saw,” Xander assured Angel. “I would've been able to tell if I was in danger.”
"I was thinking more of you accidentally floating into a sun-drenched room," Angel said. "But tell me what you mean by able to tell if you were in danger."
“Oh, I don’t know, I just would've known,” Xander said. He wasn't good at explaining how he just knew.
"You think it's something?" Spike asked, studying his Childe carefully.
“Maybe,” Xander admitted. “I might have felt you were in danger when we were patrolling last night and the time Cordelia cornered Angel about another pay raise.”
"That could come in handy," Angel smirked. "Just make sure."
A sharp cry followed by a loud crash cut Angel off. A second later, he sprang to his feet and raced toward the door. The cry had definitely been Cordelia and Angel had a sinking suspicion she was having another vision.
“Cordelia!” Angel called out and rushed to the main room to her aid. He helped her off the floor where she was cowering. “Another vision?”
"Oh God," Cordelia moaned, unable to get anything out past the pain at first. She felt strong hands lifting her and settling her on a chair.
“Tell me what you saw,” Angel implored.
"Xan-ander," she choked out. "They're coming after Xander. Demons. A lot of them."
“What kind of demons?” Spike demanded, shaking Cordelia’s shoulder.
"I'm not sure. Um, People Demons, I think," she said, trying hard to remember every detail of the vision.
“People demons?” Spike repeated back. “What does that mean?”
"Were they Purson Demons, Cordelia?" Angel asked, his ability to interpret Cordelia-speak having improved during his time with the girl.
“Like, duh? Do I look like a walking demon encyclopaedia?” Cordy sniped back. “Get Wesley to find me a picture of what a purse demon looks like and I'll tell you whether that’s it or not.”
"Spike, get Wesley. Now!" Angel ordered. "Xander, get Cordelia some aspirin and a glass of water."
A few minutes later Cordelia was sitting comfortably on a chair trying to get rid of a headache when Spike pulled Wesley into the room. “I got the Watcher and his books.”
"I take it Cordelia had another vision," Wesley said, taking in the pained expression on the girl's face. "Spike mentioned something about Purson demons?"
“Yeah, like I said, purse demons,” Cordy sighed. “Tell me what they look like. They were people demons.”
"Well, yes. Purson demons can take on the guise of humans," Wesley said. "They can morph back and forth, similar to how a vampire's face will change."
“You mean I could be some icky slimy thing under all this?” Xander piped up.
"Oh, they're not slimy," Wesley put in quickly. "They tend to be more leathery than anything else. With facial ridges not entirely unlike vampires. I should think the melding of the two would go quite well actually."
“Ewww,” Cordelia chimed in and Xander just cringed.
Angel decided it was time to try some damage control. “You might not be able to change at all,” he said.
"Just like I can't float and I can't tell when there's danger near?" Xander shot back, running a hand through his hair. He'd been trying to accept this like Angel and Spike wanted him to but it was just too much. And if it was too much for him, how long would it be before it became too much for Spike?
“You've got special gifts, luv,” Spike came up behind his Childe and wrapped his arms around the younger man’s waist. “We'll get through this together and even if you grow horns, I'll still love you.”
"You sure about that?" Xander tried to kid, the desperate tone of his words ruining the attempt.
Spike whispered into Xander’s ear. “I’d even suck on them. You'll always be beautiful to me.”
"Thanks," Xander whispered back, relaxing a bit in the face of Spike's continued reassurance. "I'm sorry to be such a prat about all this. I know you guys think I should be glad I'm a freak but..."
“Ummm, hello? Look around, Xander,” Cordelia said. “We’re all freaks. I’m like a receptor for the wishes of The Powers That Be. Wesley is a super geek with a leather fetish. Everyone knows Angel and Spike are freaks.”
Xander actually chuckled at that. Leave it to Cordelia to pull him out of his funk and put things into perspective again. "Alright. Enough feeling sorry for myself. Now what exactly did you see?"
“I saw flashes of Xander being attacked,” Cordelia tried to explain. “There were so many of them. They were all big, ugly men.”
"How many?" Angel asked, glancing up at his Childer. He didn't like this. Cordelia's visions normally came to pass fairly quickly. If an attack was coming, it was coming soon.
“A dozen, maybe more.”
"Where was the attack?" Angel pressed. "Was it here?" That would only make sense. If they were warned, they would keep Xander inside where it was marginally defensible.
“It was some place with water,” Cordelia said. “It’s hard to tell. The visions aren't clear cut. I just remember there was water nearby.”
"Well then, I think the thing to do for now is to keep Xander away from the water," Wesley said. "That might buy us some time to figure out what these creatures want and how to stop them."
“I bet they’re the Brotherhood,” Xander put in.
"No doubts about that, Pet," Spike said. "Sounds like they've come to even the score. Don't you worry, though. Me and Peaches can handle 'em."
“This is my fight,” Xander said. “You won’t do this without me.”
"Never dreamed of it," Spike said. "But this is gonna be bad. Killing bad. You might even see some faces you recognize. You need to be prepared for that."
“You mean the men who were always around my house growing up that my father passed off as ‘uncles’?” Xander scoffed. “My mother? My grandfather?”
"Possibly," Angel said. "Though I doubt if your mother will be there. They don't have much use for women other than to breed. She wouldn't be invited along on a raiding party. But you can bet your Grandfather will be there."
“She told me he’d avenge my father’s death. She’s probably locked up in that damn basement she grew up in,” Xander laughed darkly.
"If she hasn't been resold already. Don't give her a second thought, luv. She let that bastard kill you," Spike said fiercely. "If you ask me, the bitch got off too easy as it is."
“You’re all my family now,” Xander said and then looked around. “Even if it is a really, really weird family.”
Xander was on edge. He'd been feeling more and more claustrophobic the more he was forced to stay in the hotel. He knew the others were right to be cautious but it still grated on him. At this rate he'd never be free of his father's kind. Today was the worst day yet. He felt like he imagined a caged tiger must feel. And he couldn't seem to get rid of the nagging sensation that something was wrong.
Spike and Angel wouldn't even let him out of the hotel and one of them was always with him. It was like they were babysitting him. It was driving him insane. He might be Spike’s Childe, but he wasn't a kid.
What made it even worse was that he couldn't even complain about it. Not really. They were just trying to protect him. He'd gotten fed up and snapped at Spike and the hurt look on his Sire's face was enough to silence him for the rest of the day. He didn't want to hurt his Sire's feelings, but they were driving him out of his fucking mind.
Spike was currently watching some soap opera he’d recorded during the day. Xander wandered aimlessly around until he heard the phone ring. He let it ring thinking Cordelia would answer it like she usually did, but it kept ringing. She must have gone out on one of her famous spur of the moment shopping sprees. He picked up the phone and answered, “Angel Investigations.”
"Don't say anything," the voice on the other end of the phone said. "We have your pretty little friend, boy. Do what you're told and we won't send her back to you in pieces."
Xander didn't dare speak, just grunted an affirmation into the receiver.
"Good boy," the caller chuckled. "Come to the cannery down by the docks. You've got one hour. Come alone or the first thing you'll see is her head on a pike."
Xander grunted into the phone again, not taking the risk of offending Cordelia’s kidnappers. He hung the phone abruptly and tried to think of a plan to get away from Spike’s watchful eye.
"Who was that?" Angel asked, dropping some files on Cordelia's desk.
“It was a wrong number,” Xander said. “Just some nutjob.”
"I know you're restless, Childe," Angel said, laying his hand on Xander's arm. "But this won't last forever. As soon as we get a lead on these guys we'll get this taken care of once and for all."
“Yeah, yeah… sure,” Xander repeated. “Listen, I’m just gonna go up to the roof to be alone for a while, okay?”
Angel started to protest but stopped. Xander obviously needed a little time to himself. He contented himself with the knowledge that nothing could get up to the boy without going through the lot of them first. "Alright, but try not to stay up too long or Spike'll come looking for you. It’s only a few hours until sunrise."
“Yeah, okay,” Xander said and then he looked Angel directly in the eye. This might be the last time he saw his Grand-Sire. “Thank you.”
Angel frowned at the boy, something not quite right about the way Xander said that. "Just be careful," he said, pushing the thought aside as worry for his Childer. None of them were handling this enforced incarceration well.
“Spike, I’m just going up to the roof for a bit. I don’t want you to miss your show,” Xander lied. “I'll be good.”
"You sure, Pet?" Spike called, rising from his chair. "I could go with you. Just to be safe."
“No. Just think of this as a sign of how much I love you,” Xander said, trying to pass it off as a quip. He still wanted one of the last things he said to his Sire to be ‘I love you’.
"Alright," Spike said. "But don't stay up there too long and try to keep out of sight just in case."
“Don’t worry about me, this is just something I need to do.”
Spike watched as his Childe headed up the stairs toward the roof. Something was certainly bothering the boy, that much was obvious. Spike chalked it up to cabin fever but told himself he'd go check on the boy shortly. It wouldn't do to let his Childe start taking after the broody one.
Xander got up to the roof and scaled down the fire escape on the backside of the building. He doubted he would live through the night, but he was determined to get Cordy out alive. He found the cannery easily enough. He had a moment to wonder why demon types seemed to gravitate to refineries and the like then a large man with skin like leather and tall ridges on his face was walking out to meet him.
“You must be the bastard spawn of Archeron’s female,” the large demon spat.
"Yeah, that'd be me. Now where's my friend?" Xander asked, dispensing with the pleasantries.
“Follow me,” the male demon said and showed Xander into the cannery.
Xander followed wordlessly. There really wasn't much to say. He knew how this was going to play out. It would be the same as it had been in the alley behind his house, only this time he was pretty sure it would end with a stake through his heart.
In the middle of the room he came up to a large cage with demons surrounding it. Inside was Cordelia, who looked at him with imploring eyes. It frightened him that she didn't talk. She always talked, especially when she was afraid.
"Let her go," he said. "You got what you wanted. You don't need her anymore."
A large, obviously older demon stepped out of the group and laughed. “Don’t give me orders boy.”
"Let. Her. Go," Xander repeated, shifting into game-face as he did. He wanted Cordelia out of there. He didn't want her to have to watch what was going to happen to him and he didn't trust these guys to live up to their end of the bargain after he was dead.
But the older demon wasn't scared, instead he just laughed and jostled Cordelia’s cage. “Do you have any idea who I am?”
"Oh sure. You're the guy that my Sire is going to spend a year or two torturing to death. And that's if Cordelia gets out of here in one piece. Hurt her and there's no telling how long Angelus will keep you alive."
“I would be your grandfather, spawn,” Archeron hissed. “If my son-in-law had done his job correctly, you’d be dead now.”
"Oh he did his job correctly, I just got lucky," Xander said. "So I take it you're here to finish the job, huh? Well, go ahead, but let her go first. You know as well as I do a human has no place here."
“I've become rather attached to her and you’re here now,” Archeron said. “Why shouldn't I just keep her?”
"Because if you let her go there's at least a chance that Angelus won't hunt you and your entire line down like dogs," Xander said. "In case you didn't notice, he gets kind of testy when his humans are threatened."
“That’s because you’re his bitch now,” Archeron laughed.
"Yeah, I am," Xander shrugged. There was really no point in trying to explain his relationship to the demons that were going to kill him. Let him think what they wanted.
“Let the female down,” Archeron waved his hand at the cage. “Do you want to hear about your mother, boy? She sends her regards.”
"I'll bet she does," Xander muttered. "I guess she's the one that ratted us out. I can't believe I was actually worried about her."
“I bet that comforts her when she’s in the slave pens.”
"Is that supposed to upset me?" Xander asked, refusing to feel anything but contempt for the woman. "I offered her a way out. She made her choice. It was the same choice she made when she let my bastard of a father kill me. If you ask me, she got what she deserved."
“And that’s why you’d never had made a decent member of the Brotherhood,” Archeron said even as Cordelia was dragged from the cage. “You were too weak, too much of your human blood came out.”
"Yeah, well you can enjoy making it all come out again when you kill me," Xander said. He turned to Cordelia, wishing he had time to really say goodbye. "Tell Spike I love him. Angel, too."
That was the last thing Xander was able to say before they threw him into the same cage Cordelia had occupied.
Spike had been watching his taped soap and when the tape stopped, he looked up at the clock and realized Xander was still on the roof. “My boy’s been up there for a long time,” he commented to Angel.
"Let him have some space. This hasn't been easy for him," Angel said. He knew Xander felt trapped. He also understood that the boy wasn't going to put up with it for much longer. They were going to have to do something even it if turned out to be wrong.
“It’s been awhile since he fed,” Spike hesitated. “I should go up and feed him. He always feels better after he’s fed.” Of course, Spike also felt better after he’d fed his Childe, but he had to maintain a certain amount of machoness.
"Give him a little longer," Angel said, trying not to grin. "If he's not down in a few more minutes you can go up and get him. He probably just wants to vent where you can't hear him. You know how he gets when he thinks he's upset you."
“But he could be hungry,” Spike protested, already getting antsy. “And he’s alone.”
"Because he chose to be," Angel said, putting a bit more steel in his voice. "He'll come down when he's ready. Don't crowd the boy."
“Since when do you dictate how I treat my Childe?” Spike snapped. Xander wasn't the only one feeling the stress of the situation.
"When it's necessary," Angel replied smoothly. "We're all stressed out. Xander wants some space, you will give it to him. He hasn't even been gone an hour yet. At least give him that much before you run after him like he's an errant puppy."
“Fine,” Spike snapped and sat there staring at the blank television screen. After a while he finally sulked, “I’m bored.”
"Really? I couldn't tell," Angel quipped.
“Well, what are you gonna do about it, Peaches?” Spike challenged, even making sure to use the nickname Angel hated.
Angel came out from behind the front desk and strode over to his Childe. He towered over him, using his height and Spike's position on the sofa to add to the effect. "Just what would you like me to do about it?" he challenged.
Spike licked his lips and put on his most insolent face. He wasn't the only one who was comforted by feeding, but he usually had to get Angel in a sexual mood to get that. “Maybe I want you to shut me up?”
Angel moved in closer until his legs were pressed against the front of the sofa and his body was just a few scant inches from Spike's face. "You want me to fill that nasty mouth of yours up with something?" he purred seductively. "I've got just the thing."
Cordelia rushed back to the Hyperion, having run from the cannery. The demons had taken all of her money and she didn't even have a quarter to call home. She just wanted to get back, not even thinking of a collect call. She burst into the lobby, tears spilling from her face and yelling for her friends. “Angel! Spike!”
"Cordelia!" Angel shouted, jumping back from Spike. "What's happened?"
“They got Xander!” she sobbed.
"Who?" Angel demanded roughly. He heard Spike growl behind him and join him at Cordelia's side.
“The demons! His family got him.”
"Where?" Spike managed to get out, his eyes glowing as he forced himself not to shake the answers out of the girl.
“The old cannery by the docks,” Cordelia said. “They grabbed me and forced Xander to trade himself for me.”
"I will fucking kill him when we get him back," Spike ranted as he headed for the door, mindless of the fact that dawn was fast approaching.
"Spike! The sewer!" Angel spat as he began tossing assorted weapons onto the table. "Cordy, get Wes on the phone and tell him what's happened. Have him meet us there."
“Get him back, please,” Cordelia begged, even as she rushed to the desk. “I'll get Gunn and his crew, too.”
Spike rushed back to Angel and gathered the weapons in his arms. "It's not your fault," he whispered to Cordelia before hurrying toward the sewer access. He knew they wouldn't kill Xander right away, they'd want to play with him a bit first. That meant there was at least a chance his boy was still alive.
Xander’s screams echoed through the large building. His cries were inhuman and only induced laughter from his tormentors.
"You're a strong one," the large demon admitted. "I'm glad. I would hate for this to end prematurely." He drew back his arm and lashed out at Xander again, the razor sharp claws on his hands slicing though both cloth and flesh as if they were nothing.
Xander tried to move away from his tormentor, but his bonds held him in place. “You know what the beautiful thing about our claws truly is?” His tormentor was talking as if this was a casual everyday conversation. “Sure, they’re nice and sharp, but the truly beautiful part is the poison that infects the wound and leaves the victim in torment.”
Xander tried not to scream as the demon sliced into him again. He could feel the poison flowing into him, making his body writhe in pain. He wasn't going to give the bastard the benefit of hearing him scream, though. Not if he could help it.
“It’s almost a shame you didn't join the Brotherhood,” the demon ran his claws over Xander’s back. “I could have had a lot of fun with such a pretty one like you.”
"Fuck you," Xander spat weakly. He knew exactly what the demon was implying and he'd stake himself before he'd give himself to this bastard. He belonged to Spike. Nobody took him but his Sire.
“You wish,” the demon laughed. “I wouldn't touch a filthy, bastard spawn like you.”
"Good, 'cause I'd rather bathe in Holy water than feel your hands on me," Xander replied. He could feel himself getting weaker as his blood oozed from the gashes across his chest and stomach. He almost wished the bastard would get on with it already but the part of him that wanted to live wanted to hold onto every second he had left.
"Chak, strip him!" the demon called out, stepping back from Xander. "I want to make him really bleed."
“He’s already healing,” the other demon complained. “Even with the poison. Pure humans are so much easier to torture, but at least this half breed will last longer.”
Rough hands grabbed at Xander's clothing and began ripping it from his body. He grunted as the material dug into his wounds before giving way under the demon's strength. He was fairly sure they weren't going to rape him but that made him wonder what they were going to do.
Angel thought it was a bad sign that they didn't meet any resistance, but that only made him run faster. They would pay big for taking his Grand-Childe, even if he had to track down each and every one of them.
Spike counted in his head in the most obscure demonic language he could think of as he ran. He needed to calm down. If he didn't, he was likely to walk in there and simply implode once he got a look at what they'd done to his Childe. He knew Xander was hurt, he could feel it. The only thing that kept him from totally losing it was the fact that, hurt though he may be, Xander was still alive.
Dawn was fast approaching, even as they crashed through the manhole cover closest to the cannery. They met no guards and the large doors of the warehouse were wide open. “We have to check if he’s there,” Spike cried out.
"Spike! He's your Childe. Try and sense where he is," Angel instructed.
Spike concentrated hard and felt a warm tingling in his head. “He’s in there!”
Angel nodded and led the way, making sure to enter first. He didn't want his distracted Childe running headfirst into a trap. And he didn't want Spike to be the first to see whatever had been done to his Childe. From the smell of blood in the air, Angel knew it was bad. The place reeked of Xander's blood all the way outside.
“Hurry up, Angel!” Spike growled. He had to get to his Childe’s side.
"Caution, William," Angel whispered. "Getting dusted won't save your Childe."
“He needs me!” Spike growled. “I can feel him calling for me.”
"Which means he's still alive. And that means we still have a chance to get him back," Angel hissed, grabbing Spike and stopping him from rushing into the room. "Use your fucking head."
“I can’t sense any enemies,” Spike hissed. “I’m going to him!”
"You will wait!" Angel commanded. "I'll go in first. If it's clear, you follow. Do you understand me?"
“Then do it!” Spike didn't want to waste time arguing.
Angel glared at Spike again to make sure the other vampire hung back, then slowly entered the building. The first thing he saw was an iron cage hanging from the ceiling. It had been hoisted up so it hung just under the windows. Angel understood in an instant. They had hung Xander there and left him, content to let the early morning sun finish the boy off.
Xander was naked and laying on the bottom of the cage. Blood was dripping from the base and pooling on the concrete floor below. Xander was covered in blood and wounds from head to toe, but that was not Angel’s most immediate concern. The morning sunlight was only a few precious feet from hitting his body.
"Spike! Get in here!" Angel roared as he raced toward the cage. There had to be a lever or pulley somewhere to lower the thing. He just had to find it. Fast.
Spike dropped his weapons and ran full speed at the sound of Angel’s voice. What he saw made him want to collapse and weep, but he couldn't. He saw the sunlight creeping ever closer to his vulnerable Childe.
"Xander, listen to me," Angel called out as he searched for a way to lower the cage. If he couldn't find one soon he was going to have to climb up there and try to pry the door off barehanded. "Stay as flat to the bottom of the cage as you can."
“Master?” Xander was barely able to whisper. “Master... please help me…”
"We're coming, pet," Spike called out. "Just hang on a tic and do what Angel says. Don't try to sit up or move or anything. Just stay right where you are."
“Master,” Xander continued to repeat piteously, sobbing softly.
Angel finally found a wire cable attached to one of the beams and tore it off, tearing his own flesh in his haste to quickly lower the cage to the ground. As the cage was lowered, it swung dangerously into the sunlight.
"Careful, Sire," Spike hissed, knowing better than to yell and distract the other vampire. It seemed to take forever, but Angel finally managed to lower the cage to the ground. As soon as it was down, Spike rushed forward and attacked the door.
They hadn't bothered to secure it with a hex or too strong of a lock because Xander was in no condition to get out. But Spike was motivated by his Childe's continued pleas and ripped open the door.
Angel quickly shrugged out of his coat and handed it to Spike to wrap the trembling boy in. From the amount of blood on the floor, it looked like Xander had nearly bled out. That was almost as deadly for a vampire as it was for a human. "He needs to feed and we need to get him home," Angel said.
Spike picked Xander up like he weighed nothing and carried him towards the manhole cover. “We'll feed him in the sewers where it’s safe. We'll both have to feed him.”
"Can you manage him?" Angel asked, ready to help carry the boy if need be. He, too, would feel safer feeding Xander in the sewers. This building had too many windows for any vampire to feel comfortable in.
“Yes!” Spike growled. He wasn't going to let Xander out of his arms right now for anything. “Just get the cover so I can get him down there away from the bloody sun.”
Angel nodded and moved quickly. He had the cover off and waiting before Spike made it over to him then he was following his Childer down into the cool darkness. He watched carefully as Spike set Xander down and thrust his wrist into the boy's mouth. He would make sure nothing approached as he fed. Once they had Xander back at the Hyperion, he'd take his own turn feeding the boy.
“C’mon, luv,” Spike ordered. “You gotta feed.”
Xander forced his eyes up to those of his Sire. He could see the fear in his Master's eyes but he was too tired to do anything about it. All he wanted to do was close his eyes and sleep. Somewhere deep down, though, he knew that if he went to sleep now he would never wake up again. Using the last of his strength, he bit down, sinking his fangs into the proffered wrist.
Spike sat there and stroked Xander’s blood-matted hair as he fed. He let the boy drink just as much as he dared. “Angel, get your arse over here, it’s your turn!”
"No," Angel shook his head as he pulled Spike to his feet. "He can feed from me back at the hotel. One of us needs to be at full strength in case we run into anything on the way back. Can you carry him again?"
“Yeah, let’s get a move on,” Spike said. He picked up Xander and settled the lanky body in his arms, thankful of vampire strength.
Angel led the way again as they hurried back to the hotel. It was slower going this time as a seriously depleted Spike carried his Childe. Angel actually had to keep him from stumbling a few times as his legs weakened. "We're almost there," Angel told Spike as he braced him once more.
“Good. I feel like I’m carrying him from hell and back.” Spike wouldn't let his Childe think he wasn't strong enough to protect him.
They finally made it to the hotel and Angel helped Spike get Xander inside. They rushed him over to the nearest couch and laid him down, then Angel tore into his own wrist and shoved it under the boy's nose.
“No!” Xander protested the foreign blood. “Not my Master!”
"Feed!" Angel commanded, glaring at Spike. This was the very reason he'd wanted Xander to feed on someone other than Spike. They didn't have time for this nonsense right now. Xander was still dangerously low on blood.
“If you don’t feed from Angel pet, we'll have to force feed you,” Spike tried to reason with his panicked Childe.
"Master?" Xander gasped, staring at Spike in horror. He didn't want to feed from anyone but Spike. Spike was his life. That was how it had been from the beginning. He didn't want to change that.
“You have to feed from him to get better,” Spike explained. “I’m almost drained myself. I can’t give you anymore right now.”
"I... I can wait," Xander said, the effort of speaking even that much taxing his system.
“You'll do this because I command it,” Spike snapped. “I'll never make you do it again, but you will do it now!”
Xander cringed at his Master's tone and obediently pulled Angel's dripping wrist into his mouth. He had to reopen the wound but as soon as the blood hit his fangs he began to suck hungrily. The demon in him howled for food and Xander wanted to get it over with as quickly as he could.
Spike moved closer to Xander and stroked his face as his fed. “It’s not so bad, luv,” he crooned. It was hard to see his Childe feed from someone, even his own Sire. “You've tasted it before in my blood. This will get you all nice and strong again.”
Xander shuddered as Spike crooned to him. He couldn't tell his Sire how the taste of Angel's blood made his stomach clench. He didn't want to hurt Angel like that. All he wanted was for Spike to tell him he could stop so he could go curl up in a corner someplace where bad things wouldn't hurt him anymore.
Angel made Xander drink until he could tell he was at least out of immediate danger. When he touched Xander’s face to indicate he could pull away, Xander did, pulling his fangs out with a sob. Spike had spoiled the boy too much for his own good and now it could threaten his life, but the boy was so fragile right now. “Would it make you feel better if your Sire fed you from now on?”
Xander nodded, refusing to look up. He clutched his knees to his chest, ignoring the pain that shot through his body at the movement. He wanted to curl up and die. He almost wished the sunlight had gotten to him. He hurt, inside and out, and didn't know what to do to make the pain go away.
“Angel, his wounds should be healing now,” Spike noted with alarm.
Angel looked at Xander and frowned. Spike was right, the boy's wounds should have at least started to heal with that much blood in him. Instead, they continued to ooze, draining away the very blood they had forced him to ingest. "Put him to bed," Angel said. "I'll see what I can find out about the ones that did this."
As if on cue, Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn burst in the front doors of the Hyperion. “Angel! Spike! Are you here?” Wesley called out.
"Oi, Watcher!" Spike called out as he lifted Xander from the couch. "Over here."
“You got him out safely,” Wesley commented as they ran towards Spike and Xander. “When we got there, the place was covered in blood, but deserted.”
"Yeah, we got him out," Angel said. "But something's not right. He's not healing. I need you to help me find out why."
“Did they cut him with their nails?” Wesley demanded. In the days they’d spent waiting for the Brotherhood to attack, he’d spent every waking moment studying up on Purson demons. He hoped he knew everything that there was to know about them.
"Looked like it," Angel said. "He's been worked over pretty good but some of the wounds definitely looked like claw marks. Why?"
“Purson demons have a poison in their claws that stops their victims from healing,” Wesley said. “Like an anti-coagulant, but stronger.” He was already trying to remember if he’d read anything about a counteragent.
"Is there an antidote?" Angel asked worriedly. Anti-coagulants were bad. Even feeding Xander wouldn't help. It would be like pouring water into a sieve. The blood would simply run right back out again, but without blood, Xander would turn to dust.
“I think there was an obscure reference in one of the minor demonology tomes from the early sixteenth century,” Wesley said. “I'll have to look it up, but if I remember correctly, it’s very complicated. I'll need someone who’s adept at magic to mix it.”
"Then get someone," Angel said as he headed after Spike and Xander. "He's bleeding out almost as fast as we're putting it in him and he won't drink from anyone but Spike."
“I have herbs that will slow the bleeding. I'll get them together. Cordelia, ring up Sunnydale and get Willow here as soon as possible.”
Spike carefully laid his charge on the bed, cringing at the soft hiss of pain his lover let slip. He was scared. He knew that Xander was still in danger, that his boy would die if something wasn't done. Spike had never felt so helpless in his life. Not even when he'd first been chipped. "Sshhh... easy, luv," Spike whispered as he settled next to his Childe. "You're safe now."
“Happy that I’m gonna die in your arms,” Xander sighed, cringing in pain.
"Stop that!" Spike said, wishing he could give his Childe a good shake for even thinking that. "You are not going to die. I won't allow it. Angel and I can keep you alive until we figure out what's wrong."
“It hurts so much,” Xander complained. All he wanted to do was sleep.
"I know, luv," Spike said. "And I'm sorry. I wish I could take the pain away. Just hang on for a little while longer. We'll figure this out and you'll be good as new in no time."
“I just want to sleep…”
"Then sleep, pet," Spike said, unable to deny his Childe the relief that sleep could bring. "I'll be here when you wake up. Just... don't leave me, Xan."
“I want to sleep, but… but I feel if I do, I might not wake up.”
"Don't you leave me, Xander," Spike pleaded. "I need you with me. I can't do this on my own anymore. So you stay with me. Don't make me have to follow you."
“You don’t mean that,” Xander begged, grabbing at Spike’s clothing desperately.
"Yes, he does," Angel said from the doorway. He had no doubt that Spike would follow his Childe into death if need be.
“Then you can’t let me die,” Xander begged Angel now.
"Cordy's getting some help but until they get here you're going to have to do what we say and not fight us on it even if you don't like it," Angel said, trying to prepare Xander for what was to come. "Wesley's working on something to slow this down a bit and help with the pain. He should be up with it soon."
“I’m hungry again,” Xander whispered, looking at Spike with pleading eyes. The blood he’d ingested had only briefly quelled his hunger.
Angel walked over to the bed and handed Spike a blood packet. "You know it's too soon to feed him again. If he wants to live, he's got no choice."
“Master?” Xander had enough strength to lift Spike’s wrist and lick it lightly, gazing up at Spike the entire time.
Angel sighed and turned to leave. Spike would do what he wanted and nothing he said would change that. No matter how dangerous it was for him. He'd end up letting Xander drain him and there was nothing Angel could do about it.
“Can I just have a taste before I have to drink from the bag?” Xander asked weakly, still nuzzling Spike wrist. “Just a little bit.”
Spike looked at his Childe then back to the retreating back of his Sire. He knew Angel would damn him for it but he didn't care. He tore open the corner of the bag and drank from it quickly, gulping the blood down before thrusting his wrist toward his injured Childe.
“I'll just have a bit,” Xander repeated. He closed his eyes and bit into the flesh, sighing with relief.
"Drink, luv," Spike said, stroking the boy's head. He could feel the blood leaving him as Xander fed. His stomach clenched as he was slowly drained, but he didn't pull his wrist away. Xander needed the blood more than he did at the moment.
Finally Xander pulled away and whimpered, “I’m sorry. I just need you so much.”
"Don't be sorry." Spike gently swept Xander's sweat-drenched hair away from his forehead and leaned down to place a gentle kiss on his lips. "We'll get through this. I promise."
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