Running only led him further into town and further into trouble. Nothing about this world was right. It was dark, dreary, scary as hell and he hadn't seen any people. Other than the dead ones when he'd first arrived, that is.
The buildings still standing were in a state of disrepair, and the others were no more than piles of rubble, some of them on fire. He had to wonder what had happened here, but there was no time for thinking. Right now, he needed to find someplace safe and hole up till he figured out what was going on.
Xander didn't stop running until he found himself in the cemetery. He hid in one of the sturdier-looking crypts and sat as far back from the door as possible. He would never complain about where he was again if this was his punishment. Taking out his journal he began to write.
I don't know where I am or what I'm going to do. This world is not a friendly place. When I opened my eyes after the dizziness passed ... God. The sight, the smell ... All those bodies. I will never forget it as long as I live. Which may not be long judging from this place. It looks like a war zone.
I haven't seen any people. Then again, I haven't seen any demons either. Other than those bodies. I don't know what to make of it yet. I found a crypt to hole up in. Hopefully I won't be here long. I don't think I want to know how things are different here. I imagine hell looks a lot like this place does.
I don't want to die here, where no one will even know who I was. I want to go home. I want to see my Willow again, have her slap my arm and tell me I'm being silly. I want to have Buffy kick my ass while she trains; I don't care if I bruise for a month. I want to take Dawnie to the mall and buy her everything she smiles at. I want to watch Giles polish the lenses off his glasses as he explains why the world is going to end this week. I want to have an argument with Spike; one where we call each other creative names and smile at the inventiveness of the other. I want to tell Anya I'm sorry, that I never meant to hurt her.
Xander closed his book and waited for the sun to set. He only hoped that no one found him. He had a gut feeling that there was no slayer at all in this version of Sunnydale. No scoobies either. Hell, he'd be happy to see Spike, as long as he was chipped.
Xander must have drifted off, for the next thing he knew he was being dragged from the crypt by two of the ugliest demons he had ever seen - and he'd been up close and personal with Chaos demons, so he knew ugly.
These guys were big, nine - maybe ten - feet tall. They were the sickliest colour of green, and had dripping pustules all over their bodies. They smelled bad too. Really, really bad. Xander couldn't help but retch as one of them leaned over and exhaled in his face. The big ... thing ... didn't like that too much and displayed his anger by hitting Xander hard enough to knock him unconscious.
When Xander next awoke, he was in a cell. It was filled to capacity with other people, some of them in really bad shape. He didn't see anyone he recognised at first; then he saw a small shape huddled in the corner. If it weren't for the shock of red hair he wouldn't have even seen her.
Xander quickly pushed his way through the other people and crouched down beside his long-time friend. He tilted her face up to get a look at her and gasped at what he saw. His Wills, his beautiful Willow was covered in scars; she was filthy and missing an eye. He pulled her into his arms and held her as he cried.
Xander realised that something was wrong when she didn't respond. He looked around at the others and wondered why it was that they just sat there, seeming to accept the fact that they were prisoners. Why did no one care?
"What the hell is wrong with her?!"
Xander was angry. He wanted answers and he wanted them now. He needed to know how things had turned out so wrong on this world and if there was any way to change it. One man sitting nearby looked at Xander and shrugged his shoulders.
"She don't speak. She don't cry. She don't fight. She's broken."
The simple speech turned his stomach. Broken. Willow was broken. And why did the man talk like that? Like he didn't know how to form sentences?
"Why? Why is she broken? Why do you speak like that?"
"We don't talk. Only when told to. Acathla don't like us to talk."
Xander's gut clenched at the name. Acathla was released here. Angelus had been successful. Hell on earth was reality here. He was going to die - he knew it. This was like a farm or something; sooner or later he would be killed for food. He wanted to throw up. Again. So he did.
Just then the door opened and two of those green things came in again. They grabbed a young man from one of the benches and dragged him out. The man didn't even put up a fight. What the hell was wrong with these people?
"What the hell is wrong with you people!?"
Several people turned to look at him when he yelled but then just as quickly went back to what they had been doing. Which as far as Xander could see, was nothing but staring off into space. Xander eased Willow out of his arms and leaned her up against the wall. He turned to the older man who had spoken to him before, the only one who seemed to speak, and asked him what happened to the people who were taken out of this room.
"They fight. They live? Maybe they come back. They die? They're food."
Xander's mind was spinning. Fight? Fight whom? What? And food? Oh hell no! He was NOT gonna be meat for those monsters. He just had to hold out until the next shift. He wished there were a way to take Willow with him.
"Who do they fight? Demons?"
"Sometimes. Sometimes humans. Don't matter. It's all just sport to them."
"Like throwing the Christians to the lions? That's ... That's ... Barbaric! Why don't you fight back?"
"No point. Where you from son? Everyone knows demons rule the world. No point in fighting it."
Xander shook his head sadly and went back to the still form of his friend.
Xander must have fallen asleep for he was awakened rather abruptly by a very large orange-and-purple coloured demon dragging him across the floor and out of the room.
He fought. He kicked and hit and screamed bloody murder. It did him no good whatsoever - in fact it seemed to amuse the creature. Xander took one last look at Willow and closed his eyes. She was just sitting there staring blankly at the wall, the same as she had been when he'd first seen her.
The demon tossed Xander into a small cage-like cell and then walked away. Xander looked around, wondering what was going to happen next. He didn't like the feel of this at all. His 'Hellmouth radar' was going off in a big way.
The place was dark and he could just barely make out the shapes of other cells in the area. He figured this must be a holding area. But for what? He hoped it wasn't the food galley. At least he stood a chance of surviving if he had to fight. All those late-night beatings by various demons while on patrol would finally pay off.
At least he still had his pack on. The journal was the only thing that kept him sane sometimes. It reminded him that he had a home, someplace he belonged, someplace he would - hopefully - see again. If he were to lose his journal in this God-forsaken dimension he would never forgive himself.
Xander carefully slipped his backpack off and pulled his journal out. He tucked it into the back of his pants and pulled his t-shirt down over it. He put his pack back on and waited. At least this way, if they took his backpack or if it was torn off in a fight he would still have his most prized possession.
It felt as though he'd been in the cage for hours when finally someone came into the room. He watched as the cage across from his was opened and a man was pulled out. He didn't understand what the demon was saying to him, but he understood its intent when it licked the man's face and grabbed his ass. It put a whole new level of fear into him. Fighting was one thing, but no WAY was he going to give his ass to some demon. Uh uh!
When the door closed and the room was silent again, Xander risked taking his journal out to write in it. It was the only thing he had to pass the time.
This place is worse than I thought. Acathla was set free here; I guess Angelus wasn't stopped in time. I found Willow. Gods ... she isn't there, ya know? I was captured, taken prisoner. I don't know what's gonna happen to me. From what I've learned, humans are kept for entertainment and food. The entertainment comes in two forms, fighting - against demons or other humans - and sex. I'll die first.
If I thought it was oogy knowing that my alternate was doing the naked mambo with Spike, you can imagine how I feel about this. At least Spike looks human. He's not so bad once you get to know him, and from what Xan says, he's a totally different person with him. The Big Bad thing is just his cover. These guys? They're disgusting. I've only seen a couple different types, nothing I recognise, but eewww! I'd shag Spike willingly compared to them. Hells, I'd shag Angel! Blech!
I'm in a holding pen of some sort. I've been separated from Wills and the others that I was with. I'm not sure why, but I know it can't be good. A man was just taken from the room a few minutes ago, and he wasn't going to fight - if you get my drift.
This place is a nightmare. I want to go home. I swear the first thing I'm going to do when I get home is drive to L.A. and punch Angel in the face. Damn stupid vampire! What the FUCK was he thinking? I knew there was a reason for my hating him.
I can't help but wonder where Buffy was when Angelus was opening the portal. I mean, she should have stopped him right? She did back home, so what happened here? Did Spike double-cross her? Did Angelus kill her? So many damn possibilities, and no way to know for sure. I'm afraid to find out what other possible nastiness awaits me. There have been so many close calls, so many apocalypses ... apocalypti? Whichever.
Xander closed his journal and slipped it back into his pants. He had just given himself something to think about there. What if the next place he went was worse? What if he died before getting home? He could end up anywhere. A world where the Master rules, or a place where they didn't stop Glory in time. What about ADAM or the First Evil?
It was suddenly too much for Xander and he gave in to his emotions. He hung his head in his hands and allowed the tears to fall.
So far I have had to fight ten times. I hate it here. I've had to kill demons before, but not like this. These creatures were pathetic, harmless things that didn't want to be here anymore than I do. It's almost as bad as killing a human being.
Don't get me wrong, I want to survive this. I will kill if I have to; I just don't want to. They are slowly killing me anyway - at least that's how it feels. I haven't seen Willow since that first day. I don't know if that's a good thing or not. I mean, she looks like Wills, but she isn't. She's empty, hollow; nothing there but a husk. I feel bad that I'm almost relieved to not have to look at her.
I spend almost all of my time in this cage. They take me out to fight in the pen and afterwards they bring me back here. Wherever here is. I wish I'd paid more attention in school, then I might know what to compare this place to. It's not unlike the Coliseum, but it isn't the same as that either.
The pen where the fights take place is disgusting. It reeks of decay and there are bodies piled up the corners. I know if I die, I won't end up there; the only bodies there are demon. No, if I die here, I'll end up something's dinner. It's that thought, among the many others that keeps me going. I refuse to be food.
I remember taunting Spike about how biteable I am: "moist and delicious" is what I told him. He finally sneered out that I was a real nummy treat. Gods, what was I thinking? Telling a demon, even a chipped one, that I would be a good meal is suicidal. I must remember to tell Spike that I take it back. I'm NOT biteable. No numminess at all! That is, if I ever get home.
This place is like something out of a nightmare. At night, or whatever passes for it around here, I hear the screams. The ones that aren't entertaining enough for the pens - the men, the women, hells, I think some of them are children - I hear them scream and beg for death. They won't find it. Not until they are so used up that they are no fun anymore. When they refuse to scream, when they stop fighting back, that's when they may finally find death. But then again, maybe not.
I know in my heart, that Willow was one of them once. One of the unlucky ones. It kills me. I refuse to think about it when I hear the screams. If I don't block it out, if I even once envision her screaming like that, I will go mad. I have to keep my wits if I'm going to survive this place long enough to shift.
Xander tucked his journal away just as one of the large orange-and-purple demons stepped into the room. This was not a good sign. He had already been taken out earlier to fight, and the time for fighting was long past. There could only be one reason for this visit and Xander would die before he allowed that to happen to him.
As soon as the door on his little cage-like cell had been opened, Xander charged. The demon had not expected the attack and therefore Xander caught him off-guard. As his shoulder plowed heavily into the demon's mid-section, the demon let out a burst of foul breath and doubled over. Xander took the opportunity to make a run for the door.
Outside in the hallway, Xander paused for a quick look around. He knew the way to the pit but other than that he was completely lost. He turned in the opposite direction of the pit and ran like hell. He could hear the demon following close behind him. He ran faster, but he was quickly tiring. Weeks of being underfed and forced to fight for his very life had drained his energy, so it was not very surprising that he was soon caught.
The demon didn't seem to be all that put out by the chase, in fact it seems downright happy about it. Xander figured that the demons of this world didn't get to hunt their prey very often, judging by the calm acceptance he had seen from the humans around him. The thought sickened him. He would never surrender to this willingly.
He continued to struggle against the large arms that held him. He kicked out with his legs; he clawed and bit. It did nothing except further excite his captor. When he realised that he had been dragged into a darkened room by the thing, he screamed.
The demon began pawing him and snuffling at his neck. Xander was almost violently ill as he felt the vile tongue of the demon taste his skin. He couldn't ever remember being more repulsed than he was at this moment. The demon ripped his shirt from his chest and Xander felt hot salty tears run down his cheeks. For all his earlier bravado, he knew he wouldn't die first. He would endure this and live through it. He felt the demon's clawed hands at the fastenings of his pants; he closed his eyes and wept with relief as the dizziness overtook him.
Xander opened his eyes to see that he was standing in a classroom. It was night-time and the room was dark, but he recognised it as being his fourth grade classroom at Sunnydale Elementary School. Was this really the same place he had been kept prisoner all this time? As a child he had often felt like a prisoner at school. Life was just full of bitter ironies.
Being careful to make no noise, Xander left the classroom and headed for the front door of the school. He didn't care if he set off the alarms; he was not staying here one more moment. He needed to find out if this world was friendly or not, and he needed to find a place to clean up. A couple of weeks under a hot shower might erase the feel of those clawed hands on his skin, that slimy tongue on his neck; the scent was still lingering on him.
Out the door and into the night he went. At first impression, this place wasn't overrun by demons, but you could never be too careful. Xander kept to the shadows as he moved towards Giles' apartment complex. So far, he had been the one constant in every shift except the last one. He figured if he was going to find help, there would be the place to look.
Xander stopped outside the door and listened. He could hear voices inside but he wasn't sure whom they belonged to. He hesitated for a minute but finally got up the courage to knock. It couldn't be worse than where he had just been.
The door opened and a very shocked-looking Giles stood there and stared at him. He was sure he looked frightful - half dressed, filthy, covered in demon gore and blood - but he hoped that he would be welcomed inside.
"Xander? Is that really you?"
"Yeah, G-man. It's me. Can I come in?"
Giles did not ask him to enter but he did step aside, allowing Xander entrance to his home if he was able to cross the barrier. Xander, of course, did.
In the living room, five sets of eyes turned to look at him. Willow, Tara, Buffy, Riley ... and Spike. Xander couldn't quite fathom what was wrong with this picture but something was definitely off. He heard Giles talking and spun around to look at him.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"I said, what brings you to Sunnydale and are the others with you?"
"Uh, no others Giles. Just me. Can we ... Can we talk in private for a minute?"
"Of course. Would you like to clean up first? You look like you've spent a week in a hell dimension."
"Two actually, but that's another story. Do you maybe have some clothes I could borrow? I think these need to be ..."
"Yeah, that or exorcised."
Xander followed Giles upstairs to the bathroom and was handed a clean t-shirt, socks, and a pair of soft grey sweatpants. He smiled in thanks and then closed the door before stripping out of his soiled clothes and setting his journal on the counter. It was now the only thing he owned.
The hot water was a balm to his soul. He scrubbed himself raw with his fingernails and the soap. Every place the demon's hands had touched received extra scrubbing. He washed his hair until the water ran cold and he had to turn it off. He dried himself slowly, luxuriating in the feel of the soft towel against his newly sensitive skin.
Once he was dressed and feeling a bit more human, he rummaged in the medicine cabinet until he found a spare toothbrush. He thoroughly cleaned his mouth and then drank about five glasses of water. Knowing that he couldn't put it off any longer he picked up his journal, tucked it into the back of his pants and left the bathroom. He knew that Giles would have questions; Giles always had questions.
Xander was extremely relieved to see that the others were gone by the time he got downstairs. He wasn't up to a full disclosure of the past two weeks with the whole gang. Especially Riley. Something about the soldier had always bothered him, and this world's version was setting off his Hellmouth radar in a big way. He did not trust Agent Finn.
Giles walked out of the kitchen with a tray of sandwiches and a tea service. He spotted Xander and motioned for the boy to take a seat in the living room.
"I thought you might be hungry."
"You have no idea!"
Xander shuddered in remembrance of the things he had been given to eat on the last world. He was sure he would never complain about health food - or any food - ever again. Hell, he'd eat Buffy's cooking and like it, after what he had ingested there.
Giles poured them both tea while Xander tried not to wolf down the sandwiches as if they were going to grow legs and run off if he didn't. He smiled apologetically at the older man and sipped at the hot tea.
"So ... You mentioned others? What others, and why would I 'bring' myself to Sunnydale? Don't I live here?"
"Er ... No. You live in L.A., with Wesley. Don't you remember? Did you suffer a recent head injury? Demon attack?"
Xander couldn't help the giggle that escaped at the English man's confusion and worry. He shook his head and took a deep fortifying breath. He put down his now-empty teacup and sighed.
"Giles… There are some things I need to tell you, things that you may not believe, but I swear they're true."
Giles quirked an eyebrow but settled in to listen. It took Xander several minutes to explain the basics of his situation. Immediately following came a lengthy question and answer period. By the end, Xander had lost track of how many times Giles had said 'fascinating' and polished his glasses.
"So, now you know my story. How about telling me what's the what in your world?"
"What exactly would you like to know?"
"First? Riley, I guess. In my world he and the Buffster split up. Are they still an item?"
"Yes, they did go through a bit of a ... rough patch. However with Joyce's illness, then her death, Buffy needed someone to lean on."
"Okay. So what's the deal with Spike?"
This was the question that interested him the most. It hadn't occurred to him just what had been so off about the scene he walked in on until now. Spike had been sitting on the couch beside Riley. Those two never sat anywhere near each other.
"Spike is ... Well Spike is a bit of a long story. Are you familiar with the work of the Initiative?"
"Oh well then, that simplifies things. Spike is Riley's"
"Spike is Riley's what?"
"Property, so to speak. He's been fitted with a behaviour modification chip. He obeys whatever command Riley gives him. He's been a great asset to us with his knowledge of demon languages and his fighting skills. Does the Spike of your world not have such an implant?"
Xander was horrified. This casual acceptance of Spike's slavery was unbelievable to him! The Giles he knew was better than that. Still, Xander tried to make light of it.
"Oh yeah, he's chipped. He doesn't exactly belong to anyone though. But he does work for us."
Another question was suddenly on his mind.
"Does Angel know?"
"About Spike? I don't think so, at least if he does, he hasn't said anything. In fact, I don't think we've heard from him more than once since his move to L.A.."
Xander didn't think too much of Deadboy, especially after the place he just left, but even he wouldn't let Spike become property to Buffy's boy toy. At least he hoped not.
Xander needed time to think; he needed time to process this new and extremely startling information. He hoped that this Giles would be gracious enough to offer him a bed for the night. If he was going to figure out how to get Spike away from Riley, he needed a good night sleep.
"Hey, Giles? Would it be all right if I crash here tonight? I don't exactly have anywhere to go."
"Certainly. I'll make up the guestroom. I would like to speak with you some more about your ... travels. Would that be acceptable?"
"Sure, but can we do it tomorrow? I've been in hell for two weeks and I'm beat."
"Oh! Of course. Terribly sorry about that. Where are my manners? I'll just go fix up the room."
After Giles left, Xander searched the room for a pen. He'd lost his in the last world and he desperately needed the clarity his journal provided. Maybe, if he wrote this down and looked at it objectively, these versions of his friends wouldn't seem like heartless monsters.
Xander found a pen and tucked it into a pocket just as Giles came into the room and told him the guestroom was ready. The two said goodnight and Xander headed upstairs.
Riley owns Spike. Riley owns Spike, and no one here seems to be bothered by that fact. Buffy, who dated a vampire, is now dating a man who owns a vampire. Giles, a man who has many times threatened to stake Spike but never will as long as he remains harmless, who I know watched Passions with Spike - faithfully I might add - is not bothered by the fact that Spike is essentially a slave. Willow and Tara - two of the kindest, most soft-hearted people I know - are not bothered by this? Willow? A Jewish Wicca is okay with the owning of a sentient being?
Okay. I wrote it down, I read and re-read it and it still doesn't make sense. These are not the people I know. My friends would not stand for this. Okay Spike is ... well he's Spike - a demon, an evil soulless thing. Yeah. An evil soulless thing that risked his life to save a frightened young girl from a hell God, that endured hours of torture from said hell God for the same young girl. An evil fiend that has saved my ass on more than one occasion when he could have let me die. How evil is that? How evil is a guy who laughs at Monty Python and watches Saturday morning cartoons?
Spike may be a demon, he may be soulless and evil, but I've seen him do things for the people he loves that souled beings wouldn't risk. He fought through a mob for Dru, knights on horseback and a hell God for Buffy and Dawn. He's saved Willow and Tara from countless beasties. He befriended Anya when she needed someone to talk to. Someone who would understand all that she had lost by becoming human. Spike is evil, but he's my friend. I won't leave him to this fate.
Xander closed his journal and tucked it under the pillow. He wasn't lying when he told Giles he was beat. He needed sleep in the worst way. He would figure out a plan tomorrow. Unfortunately, he knew it would involve calling L.A. and talking to Angel.
Xander rolled over onto the warm, sleeping body of his lover. He nuzzled into the other man’s neck and gently placed one of his legs between his lover’s thighs. He languidly rubbed himself against the hard thigh that was pressed into his groin. He smiled when he felt the other man begin to stir. He kissed his way down the smooth chest underneath him, stopping to taste each tiny pebbled nipple before thrusting his tongue into his love’s navel.
Wesley sat up with a screech.
"Ack! You know I hate it when you do that! It tickles."
"I know. Let me make it up to you?"
Xander didn't wait for an answer, he just sucked the head of Wesley’s cock into his mouth and brought one hand down to caress and fondle his balls. He liked waking Wesley up this way; the older English man was not in a very alert state in the morning and made the cutest noises during sex.
While Wesley was moaning and trying not to thrust too hard into his mouth, Xander took the opportunity to open his legs wider. He then flipped open the bottle of lube and squirted some onto his fingers. He gently inserted them into Wesley’s ass and began stretching him. Once he was sure he wouldn't cause the man any discomfort, he released his cock from his mouth and crawled up his body.
Wesley merely squeaked in reply and Xander chuckled before kissing him. He pulled Wesley’s legs up over his shoulders and eased his way inside his lover’s tight, hot body.
Xander cherished every day he and Wesley had together. In their line of work - demon hunting - death was a common occurrence. Not to mention the fact that being Angel’s seer wasn't exactly making him friends with the power players in this city. Wolfram and Hart were always seeking ways to get to Angel; he knew that first hand.
He had inherited his visions from his former lover, Doyle. When they had met while Xander was working at a bar in Oxnard, it had been love at first sight. There was just something about the Irish half-demon that called to Xander. He moved to L.A. with him and never looked back. Not even after he and Doyle learned that Angel was the champion he would be working for.
Doyle’s death tore Xander apart. He was heartbroken and wasn't taking the visions too well either. He just wanted to give them to someone else and crawl into a hole and die. He even kissed Angel, trying to pass them to him. All that happened was that he got the first real laugh he'd had since Doyle died. The look on Angel’s face when Xander kissed him was the funniest thing he had ever seen. Up to that point, he didn't know that vampires were capable of blushing, or that Angel had such a ... vulgar vocabulary.
After that it got easier. He worked with Angel at night and held a job at a demon karaoke bar during the afternoon. When Wesley strolled in one day looking for a demon he was tracking, they started talking. Before they knew it, Wesley was a full-time employee of Angel Investigations. Xander fell for him soon after. Since then, they hadn’t spent a night apart in over two years.
There was nothing Xander would rather do than spend Sunday morning making love to Wesley. It was the day they set aside just to be together, no outside influences. Except, of course, for visions sent from the PTB.
He could feel Wesley tightening around him and knew he was going to cum soon. He sped up his pace, increasing the strength of each thrust until they were both crying out their release. Wesley’s arms came up around Xander’s back and pulled him down to sprawl across his chest.
As they lay there basking in the afterglow, Xander began to thrash wildly and gripped his head. Wesley held him as still as possible and waited for his lover to ride out the vision.
~Soldiers~ ~Running~ ~Fear~ ~Woods~ ~Xander~ There was more, but it was fuzzy and Xander couldn't quite grasp it.
When Xander finally lay still once again, Wesley rolled him over and got out of bed to fetch him a glass of water and some painkillers.
"Should I call Angel or should we just go over?"
"I'm not sure. This one didn't make a lot of sense. There were these soldiers, chasing someone? I think it was me - but not me. Does this make any sense, Wes?"
"No, not really. Was there anything else?"
Xander closed his eyes and concentrated. Lately the visions had gotten increasingly more painful and it was harder to recall the details. He tried to pay more attention as he reviewed the information.
"Shit! Get dressed. We gotta go see Angel, now."
"What is it? Xander, you're scaring me."
Xander stopped and pulled Wesley into his arms. He held him for a minute before pulling away.
"There was someone else in my vision. Someone I was trying to help."
"Spike. That's why we need to talk to Angel. I mean why the hell would I be helping Spike? The bastard tried to kill me, he tortured Angel, and I won't even mention the things he called Doyle."
Wesley nodded and began dressing. He was worried about Xander’s health. The visions were getting worse and causing his lover to practically have a seizure each time he experienced one. Though he was glad the vision hadn't come any earlier. Say, when Xander was giving him a blowjob. He really didn't want to have his penis bitten off!
Xander woke to the sound of voices downstairs. He wondered how long he had slept… He opened one eye and peered at the clock beside the bed. It was after 11 A.M.; that meant he had slept at least ten hours. He wondered who was downstairs with Giles.
"Only one way to find out."
Xander pulled on the socks and t-shirt, having slept in the pants, and after once more tucking his journal into the back of his pants, left the room. He made a quick stop-off at the bathroom to freshen up, wishing he could jump in the shower and scrub himself raw. Again.
The first thing he noticed as he started down the stairs was that Spike was sitting on the sofa and Riley and Buffy were arguing with Giles in the kitchen. He studied the blonde vampire for a minute. He looked like Spike, except he seemed ... broken.
The vampire swung around to look at him, wariness written on his face. He didn't speak, but he didn't look away either. Xander figured it was the best he was gonna get and took a chance.
"Look, I don't know how long I have until they come back in here, so listen up. I'm not from here; this isn't my dimension. In my world, we're ... friends. I don't like Riley and I think what he is doing to you is wrong. I'm going to try and get you away from here."
Spike still looked sceptical but nodded at him. Then with a move that was pure Spike, cocked one eyebrow and tilted his head.
"I told you. In my world, we're friends. Hell, we were roomies for a while after you got chipped. Just try to trust me okay?"
Whatever Spike might have said to that, Xander would never know because in that instant, Riley walked through the door and Spike went back to what he was doing before he had spoken - nothing. Xander tried to look innocent and shrugged at Riley.
"Hey, how do you keep him quiet? The Spike on my world never shuts up."
Xander really didn't like the feral grin that Riley gave him as an answer. Nor did he like the way Spike flinched away when Riley strode toward him. It was all Xander could do not to throw up when Riley tipped Spike’s head back and wrenched his mouth open. There were holes where there should have been teeth. Teeth that would grow into fangs when his face changed.
"It learned not to disobey me. It wasn't easy at first but eventually the training took. It doesn't do anything without my permission, including speak."
Xander swallowed the bile that had risen in his throat and tried once again to act casual.
"Hmm, so how many vampires do you own, or is this a one-of-a-kind?"
"This one is mine. It's a prototype. I'm working the bugs out, so to speak. We believe that with the chips and the right training, demons could be taught to serve humanity; free labour if you will."
"Like undead houseboys?"
Xander gave the patented goofy-Xander grin and Riley actually laughed. He slapped Xander on the shoulder and headed back to the kitchen. Xander shook off the feeling of revulsion he had after being touched by him.
"I'd rather have that demon’s hands on me again than his."
"Yeah, tell me about it."
Xander swung around to look at Spike. He hadn't expected him to talk to him again, not after the way he had just acted with Riley. The look in Spike’s eye told Xander that there was more to this 'training' than beatings and fang-removal. He almost didn't want to know.
"Does he ... hurt you?"
"What do you think. Look, you serious about helping me?"
"Then call my Sire."
"Angelus! Dru couldn't help herself out of a corner with a map and a flashlight. Please, call my Sire. Tell him..."
"I will. I promise."
Spike nodded and went back to ignoring everything around him. Xander slowly let out a breath and tried to put on a goofy face as he walked into the kitchen to meet the others.
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