When Xander walked into the kitchen, Buffy eyed him warily. She didn't remind him of his Buffy at all. This girl was cold, cynical, and hard. He tried to set her mind at ease by giving her the patented 'Xander is a goofball' grin. It wasn't working.
"Hey Buff. How are you?"
"Amazingly well for a guy who just spent the last two weeks fighting for his life in a hell dimension."
Buffy didn't seem impressed but, surprisingly, Riley did. The soldier looked Xander over from head to toe and then nodded.
"You must have done well. I'm impressed. Military background?"
"Well, I was possessed by a soldier once on Halloween. But mostly, what I know, I learned from helping Buffy."
This peaked Buffy's interest and she perked up.
"So, you still work with me where you're from? Not Angel?"
"Deadboy? No way! Still a scooby, through and through."
That made Buffy smile, something Xander wasn't sure this version of his friend knew how to do. It warmed his heart to see at least a small trace of the girl he knew reflected in the woman in front of him.
"So, I was thinking. I could be here for a while and I should at least know the basics of what the situation is here in this world. Any big nasties on the current agenda?"
"Nope. All clear on the hostile front. We took out a large nest of vampires just outside of town two nights ago. Things have been quiet since."
Xander nodded to Riley and then turned to Buffy.
"Is it okay if I ask a question - it's kinda personal?"
"Did you die here? See, ‘cause on my world, you died in the battle with Glory. I've been trying to figure out if there was some way we could have stopped that."
Buffy looked sad and Riley put an arm around her. Giles glared at Xander and Xander suddenly felt very afraid of the older man. He stepped back and said he was sorry.
"It's okay. No, I didn't die here. Dawn did. Before the ritual, she was coming home from school and was... "
Buffy broke off with a sob. Xander felt like an ass. He wished he hadn't asked the question now. No Dawn meant that Buffy was truly alone in this world, no family to fall back on at all. No wonder she was so cold and hard. He was so caught up in his guilt that he almost missed the look that passed between Giles and Riley. Almost.
"Um... I think I'll take a walk around town. See what's different here. Besides, after two weeks in that place, I really feel like I need the wide, open space and plentiful fresh air. So, can I come here later?"
Giles looked up from the book he was studying.
"Oh, of course. I still have a great many questions I would like to ask you, as well."
"Sure thing G-man!"
Xander grinned and then made for the door. He spared a quick glance at the vampire on the sofa before leaving. Spike sat just as he had before Xander entered the kitchen. He wondered if the vampire were allowed to move without permission.
Angel awoke to the sound of loud knocking on his bedroom door. He groaned and rolled out of bed. The only reason for him to be awake at this time of the day was if Xander had a vision. He grabbed his slacks and tugged them on as he walked to the door. He just finished doing up the button and was pulling on a shirt when the knocking started again.
"I'm up! Hang on."
Angel opened the door to find a haggard looking Wesley waiting for him. He didn't see Xander and was about to ask where he was when Wesley answered his question.
"Xander is in the office, he's had a vision regarding himself, some soldiers and ... Spike."
Angel’s eyes locked on to Wesley’s and he growled. The last time he had seen Spike, the younger vampire was watching amusedly as another vampire ran hot pokers through his body. He stormed down the stairs to the office. He wanted to know exactly what Xander’s vision had been.
A few minutes later, Angel was still trying to figure out what he was supposed to do with the information Xander had given him when the phone rang. Without even thinking Angel picked it up.
"Angel Investigations, we help the hopeless. How can I help you?"
There was a pause on the other end before the caller spoke.
"Deadboy, don't hang up. This is going to sound seriously fucked up, but it's me, Xander."
Angel looked at his seer, who was currently lying with his head in Wesley’s lap, while the English man massaged his lover’s temples and tried to soothe away his headache.
"Okay, explain. 'Cause from where I'm sitting, you're here in my office."
"Shit! All right, short version. I'm not from this reality. I think my ex-fiancé - who is an ex-vengeance demon by the way - cursed me. I've been hopping from one reality to another for a while now. I showed up here last night, and Spike is in big trouble. He needs your help."
Angel smacked his forehead on his desk several times. Xander’s vision was beginning to become clear. Two Xanders, and now he had to save Spike. Redemption was dirty business sometimes.
"What has Spike gotten himself into this time?"
Wesley and Xander, who had been following the one-sided conversation as best as they could, stiffened at the tone of Angel’s question. They knew by the resignation in their boss's voice that they were going to be saving a vampire very soon. They just wanted to know why.
"There's this military group here in Sunnydale, called the Initiative. They're bad news, they capture demons - any demons - and experiment on them. The got a hold of Spike. They put a chip in his head that keeps him from hurting humans. He can't defend himself, Angel. But that's not the worst part. Riley, Buffy's new boyfriend, is one of them, and he now owns Spike. Angel, he pulled out his fangs."
Angel growled and damn near crushed the phone in his hand. He didn't like Spike, but he was still family, and his demon side roared at the injustice of what had been done to his childe. He looked over at his co-workers and sighed. He hated dragging them into danger but he would need their help on this one if he were going to rescue Spike.
"We'll leave when the sun sets. Where are you staying?"
"Giles’ place. But don't come here. I'll meet you at the mansion on Crawford Street. It's probably the safest."
"We'll be there two hours after sunset."
Angel didn't say goodbye. He just hung up the phone and waited for the questions to start.
Xander hung up the phone and headed for the park. He was in no hurry to go back to Giles’ place any time soon. The man gave him the creeps. There was just something not right about the way he and Riley interacted. Back home, it was no secret that Giles didn't care much for the Initiative or Riley Finn in particular.
Upon reaching the park, Xander found a secluded bench and pulled out his journal. He was really glad that he had this; he thought he might keep up the tradition if - when - he got home. It did seem to help him figure out his thoughts.
I don't like the way Giles and Riley interact with each other. Earlier today, when I asked about Dawn and Glory, they shared this ... look. I didn't like it then, and the more I think about it, the less I like it now. Dawn was killed here; therefore, Buffy didn't have to die to save the world. I just don't like the coincidence.
I was told that Dawn was killed on the way home from school. I never found out how, since Buffy began to cry. That was when I saw the "look". I think Riley and Giles are behind her death. I know it doesn't sound right, but this is NOT my Giles. This man is someone else, someone who sees only the black and white in the world - just like Riley.
I know that my Giles has it in him to kill, I mean look at Ben. But to kill Dawn? No way. I remember how hard it was for him to even suggest it back home; there is no way he could have actually done it. But here? It looks like he did, or helped Riley do it, at least.
I called Angel. I don't know if it was the right thing, messing in the goings-on of alternate realities, but I can't just leave Spike to Riley. Not after what I saw. I suspect that there is a lot more going on than I've been told. Spike wouldn't break that easily. I might be wrong; God I hope I'm wrong, but I think Riley rapes Spike. It wouldn't surprise me; he seems to like the power he has over him too much not to do that as well. I hope Angel can help get Spike away from here, I kinda hope he'll take me too, ‘ cause I doubt I'll be wanting to stay after this.
Rather than go back to Giles’ place, Xander wandered around town until the sun began to set. He knew Angel would be leaving L.A. any time now, and he was looking forward to meeting the Xander of this reality. If he could not only put up with, but also actually work for Angel, he must have either the patience of a saint or a masochistic streak a mile wide.
He found himself wandering through one of Sunnydale’s cemeteries. He knew it wasn't a very smart thing to do, but from what he had been told, this Sunnydale wasn't the vamp-infested town that his Sunnydale was. Besides, he was hoping to catch sight of Buffy and Riley. If he was lucky, maybe he could get Spike away from them and make a break for the mansion.
Xander heard noise up ahead and slowly crept forward to investigate. It looked like Buffy and Riley had found some trouble after all. There were a couple of large greyish demons, both armed with broadswords, circling them. Xander didn't see Spike anywhere close but that didn't mean he wasn't nearby. The vampire was very good at stealth.
Riley's stun gun was having no effect on the demons and they were closing in. Buffy wasn't doing so well holding off her attacker. It seemed this slayer wasn't as good as his Buffy. That, or she had gotten sloppy, letting the commandos do most of the work.
Riley let out a loud whistle and seemingly out of nowhere, Spike attacked. He was vicious and bloodthirsty, attacking the demons with fists and feet. Xander saw him go into game-face and wince at the pain his transformation caused. It just made him all the more determined to help Spike escape from these people.
Once the fight was turned back in their favour, Riley and Buffy went on the offensive. Spike was left to watch and be ready in case he was needed to fight again. Xander took the opportunity to sneak closer. Spike must have smelled him approach for he turned and looked at him.
Xander motioned for the blonde to follow him and slowly crept away. Spike looked around to make sure that he wasn't being watched before following him. Once they were far enough away to talk without being overheard but still close enough for Spike to hear the fight, they stopped.
"Angel is on his way."
Spike gasped in surprise. He hadn't really thought the human would call his sire. And even if he did, he hadn't really expected Angel to come this quickly.
"Yeah, he said as soon as the sun set he'd head out. I'm supposed to meet him at the mansion. The one on Crawford Street - you know the place?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Then come on. If we get there now, and lay low, we can leave as soon as Angel gets there."
Xander grabbed Spike’s arm and began pulling him away. Spike struggled with himself to follow, but his 'training' kept nagging at him that he was supposed to stay with his master. That he would be caught and then punished for running away again. Xander felt Spike slowing down and almost growled in frustration.
"Come on. Spike, we have to go!"
"I know. I just..."
Xander knew all about conditioning thanks to his soldier memories. He knew that Spike was having difficulty disobeying his programming, but they didn't have time for this right now.
"Spike. Riley Finn is an asshole; he isn't worthy of you or your protection. Let the big grey bastards eat him and let’s go! I promise, I will stake you myself before I let him get his hands on you again. Okay?"
Spike looked at Xander in awe.
Xander took Spike’s hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
"I promise. Now come on before they realise you're missing."
Spike and Xander ran from the cemetery in the direction of Crawford Street. They stuck to the shadows as much as possible and then cut through Miller’s woods. They were more than halfway there when they heard a group of people behind them. Xander swore softly and Spike sped up dragging Xander behind him.
"Probably, yeah. They patrol the town nightly."
"You think they saw us?"
"Don't know. Keep running."
As they continued to run toward the mansion, a thought suddenly occurred to Xander. The Spike in his world had a tracking device implanted by the Initiative; it made sense that this Spike did as well.
Spike spun around and looked at Xander.
"My Spike ... er, that is to say, the Spike in my world had a tracking device. Okay it was shot into him from a rifle, but still. Is there a possibility that you have one?"
Spike thought about the last -and only - time he had run away from Riley. He hadn't made it further than the bus station when he was rounded up by a group of soldiers.
"Bugger! How do we get rid of it?"
"Dig it out. Problem is we have to locate it first. Hopefully they aren't looking for you yet."
They continued to run toward the mansion hoping that either Angel would be early or that the soldiers weren't following them. It was still only an hour or so after sunset. If the soldiers were following them ... they were in a world of trouble.
Xander spotted the mansion up ahead and with renewed vigour increased his pace. He couldn't believe that he was relying on Angel, of all people, to save him - especially after the place he had just come from. Oh well, he would hit him after they were safe and sound in L.A.
The front door of the old house was locked up tight so they made their way around the back and broke in through the basement window. Spike pulled his lighter out of his coat and lit the way to help Xander see their surroundings. The basement was dusty and dank but at least they were safely inside. Now if only Angel would get there soon.
Angel could sense Spike’s presence as soon as he pulled into the driveway of the old mansion. Unfortunately he could also sense several humans as well. He leaned over the back seat and informed his co-workers. If these soldiers in Xander’s vision were the same ones that had captured Spike - and it was probable that they were - they would know he was a vampire on sight. As much as he hated it, he had to let Wesley and Xander do the first search of the house and the grounds.
Xander and Wesley were checking around the side of the mansion when they heard footsteps approaching. Xander quickly pushed Wesley into the wall and began kissing him passionately. When three armed soldiers came around the corner - weapons drawn - the lovers pretended to be startled.
The man in the lead ordered the other two to holster their weapons while he looked at Xander and Wesley with unhidden disgust. Xander licked his lips and eyed the soldier appreciatively. It was the easiest way he could think of to get rid of them. Most homophobes thought gay men were all perverts who would fuck anyone. In this case, Xander was hoping to use that to his advantage.
"Look Wes, soldier boys."
Xander purred in his most seductive voice. It took Wesley a few seconds to catch on but once he did he played along.
"Mmm, very nice. Haven't had a military de-briefing before. You boys want to play?"
The soldier looked at the two in disdain and backed off. He nodded for his men to move out before backing away even further.
"You should go home. It isn't safe out here at night."
That said, he quickly left to catch up with his men. Xander looked at Wes and grinned.
"A de-briefing? Wes, that was great! Looks like I'm rubbing off on you."
Xander raised his eyebrows in a cheeky manner at him. Wesley just smiled and took Xander’s hand. They continued to make their way around to the back of the house. They spotted the broken window and were about to climb in when Angel joined them.
"The humans are gone. How did you manage that?"
Xander winked at Angel and then dropped down through the window. Wesley and Angel followed right behind him.
Angel could hear three heartbeats. He assumed the third one belonged to the other Xander and began to hone in on it. Wesley and Xander followed behind him as he led them further and further into the basement. When they reached the door to the room with the furnace and water heater, Angel stopped.
"Spike, I'm here. Come out."
A few seconds later, Xander stepped out of the room. He looked at Angel, then at Wesley, and then lastly at himself. He shook his head and ducked back into the room. Angel could just make out Spike’s voice as Xander talked to him. A few minutes after that, Xander returned dragging a somewhat wary Spike behind him.
"Okay, Deadboy. Let’s get the hell out of here before Finn and his commando boys come looking for Spike."
The other Xander chuckled and then grinned at his double.
"Deadboy. Haven't used that one in years, I think I miss it."
Angel growled and spun on his heel. He stopped below the window and listened. Once he was sure it was safe, he jumped up and grabbed the ledge before pulling himself through. He reached down for Wesley who gave him his hand allowed the vampire to pull him up. The Xander of this world was next.
Spike and Xander stood underneath the window and looked at each other. Spike was still heedful of getting caught and he didn't know if he could actually do this. Maybe he would be better off just asking Xander to stake him. The boy said that they were friends in his world, and he had helped him to escape. Would he do this as well? Put him out of his misery? Xander broke into the vampire’s thoughts.
"Your turn, bleach boy. Up you go."
"Why me? Why don't you go first?"
"’Cause I don't trust Angel to pull me through the window. He'll probably bash my head 'accidentally' or drop me on my ass. You go first and then help me up."
Spike grinned at Xander’s distrust of Angel. This human was amusing; he could see why he would be friends with him. Spike grabbed the window ledge and pulled himself through before reaching back in for Xander.
Once they were all outside they headed for Angel’s car in a hurry. None of them had the desire to stay longer than necessary. Xander jumped into the back seat and Spike got in beside him. He knew Spike didn't exactly trust the other humans in the car, and his relationship with Angel was tenuous at best. He figured it would be better if he sat beside Spike on the way to L.A.
Wesley and the other Xander piled into the front seat with Angel. Neither man wanted to sit any closer to the blonde vampire than they had to. He might be chipped, and also the victim of this particular vision-inspired rescue, but he was still a demon.
The ride back to L.A. was made in relative silence. Spike fidgeted and squirmed in his seat until Xander took both of his hands in his and held them. He figured this was the easiest way to calm him; touch always seemed to work for him when he was scared or nervous. Spike actually offered him a slight smile and relaxed a bit. Xander didn't relax until they reached L.A.
Angel parked the car at the hotel and everyone got out. Wesley and Xander made their excuses and beat a hasty retreat. Angel had already told them earlier that day that they should stay away from the hotel for the next couple of days. He needed time to make sure Spike wasn't a threat to them before they came back.
Xander looked around the lobby and whistled. The place was huge. He had never been to see Angel in L.A.; he had no reason to visit, after all. He hated Angel, and he and Cordy weren't exactly on speaking terms. Willow had told him about this place, but seeing it was another thing entirely.
"So, is there room here for the two of us or do we need to find a hotel?"
Spike snorted and then looked around nervously. He would need time to overcome his conditioning. Angel noticed his childe’s behaviour but didn't say anything. Instead he turned to Xander and frowned.
"You know, you're nothing like the Xander I know. He grew up."
"Yeah well ... You’re exactly like the Angel I know - still a depressing, broody bastard with no sense of humour. Oh, and I wanted to ask? Just what the hell were you thinking with the whole 'open Acathla and suck the world into hell' plan, huh? ‘Cause I just spent two weeks in that reality, you asshole, and let me tell you I was lucky to make it out alive and ... untouched!"
Xander felt all the rage he
had stored up inside him bubble out, and before he knew it he swung out and decked the stunned vampire. He shook his arm to lessen the impact pain and let out a calming breath. He smiled at Spike and then turned to Angel who was rubbing his jaw.
"Well. I feel better. Now about those rooms?"
Angel gaped at Xander, and Spike burst out laughing. Maybe he'd be all right after all.
Angel showed Xander and Spike to a couple of rooms right across the hall from each other. He made sure they were far enough away from his so as not to disturb him, but still close enough that he could keep an eye on Spike. For all the camaraderie between them, he still didn't trust Spike not to try to eat Xander.
After showing them to their rooms, Angel made the mistake of asking if there was anything else that they needed. Xander immediately answered that food would be a good thing, and possibly some clothes so he could shower. Angel gave them directions to the hotel’s kitchen, and then disappeared into his room to find suitable clothing for his ... guests.
Downstairs in the kitchen, Xander was making himself a couple sandwiches while Spike tried to figure out how to work Angel’s ancient microwave in order to heat his blood. It was not going well.
"Bloody hell! The bleedin’ poof lives in a fuckin' hotel for Christ’s sake - you'd think he could buy a microwave that doesn't have a dial on it."
Xander chuckled and walked over to see what the problem was.
"Oh, I remember these. My grandparents had one, you have to turn this and then push that. See? 'Sides, I'm surprised Deadboy even has a microwave, I didn't think he could wrap that Cro-Magnon brain of his around the concept of modern technology."
Spike turned and studied the human who had, for lack of a more accurate description, saved him. He noticed that while he was open and friendly with him, he was downright rude and snarky to Angel. He figured it couldn't be just an 'all demons are bad' thing, otherwise the boy would have left him to Finn. He wondered what Angel had done to him.
"You really hate him don't you?"
"Who Angel? Yeah, I guess I do."
Xander was just finishing making his sandwiches and cleaning up after himself. Spike retrieved his blood from the microwave and walked over to join him.
"How come? I mean if you hate him, which you obviously do, how come you’re here?"
"It's complicated. Angel and I have never liked each other. Plus there is that whole ‘suck the world into hell’ thing. That place was horrible. God, I can still smell it, hear the sounds when I close my eyes. If I hadn't shifted out when I did..."
Xander shuddered as he once again felt the clawed hands on his skin, the slimy tongue tasting his skin. He noticed Spike looking at him oddly and shook it off.
"Anyway, in my world, he offered me to you as a snack on parent-teacher night. He was trying to fool you, or so he would have everyone believe. Personally, I think he'd have been happy if you had eaten me."
Spike couldn't help but grin at the image of his sire presenting him with this tasty young man as an entree. It never would have worked; Angelus would have turned the boy, not eaten him.
"That never happened here. I would remember something like that. So, you still didn't answer the question. Why are you here?"
"Better than there. I mean, at least here I know what to expect. Angel is a vampire; he has a soul, yada yada yada. There? Those people are not normal. They're nothing like the gang in my world. I think Riley and Giles had Dawn killed, and look at how they treated you. Okay so yeah, we chained you up in the bathtub until we were sure you couldn't hurt us, but we fed you and didn't... torture you."
Spike smirked at Xander and raised an eyebrow.
"Chained me in the tub? Well, better than having me fangs ripped out. Any other little bondage scenarios you'd care to share?"
"Uh, I ah ... tiedyoutomybarkaloungerwhenyoulivedwithmeinthebasement."
"You tied me to what?"
"A chair. In my basement. So you couldn't eat me in my sleep. It was stupid, but I was scared of you."
Spike puffed up a bit at that information. It had been a long time since anyone had admitted to being afraid of him. He could have wept for the sheer joy of it. Instead he smiled at Xander and then drained his mug. Xander watched the vampire feed with a mixture of curiosity and disgust. Whenever he'd seen his Spike feed, the vamp had gone into game face, this Spike didn't. It was weird seeing him drink blood while looking human.
"Hey, Spike? If we didn't meet on parent-teacher night, when was the first time you tried to kill me?"
"Well, there were a bunch of times. Let’s face it, hanging out with the slayer will make you a target. I think it was that time I kidnapped the witch; any other time, you just happened to be around when I went after the slayer - wasn't personal then."
Xander couldn't help but grin at the matter of fact statement. It was true; hanging out with Buffy did make him a target. But in the end, what he was doing - helping to save the world - was worth it. Spike rinsed his mug and headed for the door before turning back to Xander.
"So. You think the old poof has a telly?"
Angel had been listening to the conversation between the two in the kitchen. He began to understand this version of Xander a little better. In this reality, while he and Xander did have their problems, it was nothing like what the other Xander had just described. He had to wonder what his double was thinking trying to pass Xander off as food to Spike. Angelus would never have shared something as sweet-looking as Xander; he would have kept him around for weeks, breaking him in before turning him. His double must have been pretty dumb to think that even Spike wouldn't see through that plan.
He wondered what had possessed this version of Xander to help Spike, not that he didn't think he should have. He just wondered why. It wasn't as if they were friends - hell they didn't even know each other. Unless the Spike of his world was different than the one here, he couldn't see them being in the same room without bickering and insulting each other.
He moved away from the door just in time to avoid being hit with it as Spike - followed by Xander - walked toward the back staircase and up to their rooms.
After a long hot shower, Xander was grateful to slide into the satin pyjama pants that had been left for him - even if they were Angel’s. He was extremely worn out from the running earlier that night. Take that, added to the stress of the past couple weeks and finding out that the people he should have been able to trust were monsters with his friends faces - it was no shock that he was falling asleep on his feet. He did feel sorry for Buffy; he was sure that she had no idea what had really happened to Dawn, even though she was taking Spike’s slavery in stride.
Spike had showered, dressed, and wandered downstairs to find a book or something to occupy himself with. Angel didn't have a television - big shock there - so he was bored. He was also trying not to think about where he should be, where some part of him insisted he belonged - at his master’s side.
Spike snarled and punched the wall in frustration. He hated this, being neutered and de-fanged. Helpless to defend himself, forced to kill his own kind under the orders of what should be his food but was in reality his owner. He heard Angel come up behind him and spun around to face him.
Angel took one look at his childe’s demon face, gaps where his fangs should be, and almost wept. At his worst, Angelus had never taken William’s fangs. He had beaten him, fucked him raw, starved him and left him strung up in chains for days on end, but he had never done anything like this. Even Angel, soulboy and champion for the Powers, considered this to be wrong. It would have been more humane to stake Spike then to make him live like this.
"What do you want, Poof?"
Angel tore his gaze away from his childe’s face and lowered his eyes. He didn't want Spike to see the pity in his eyes; it would only enrage him further.
"I thought you might be restless. I wondered if you wanted to check out the training room, maybe spar for a bit. I haven't had a good work-out partner in a long time."
Spike grinned at Angel. He was actually looking forward to this. It had been far too long since he'd fought against his sire, and it was a good way to relieve some of his stress.
"Sure Peaches, lead on."
Two hours later, two battered, weary, and bloody vampires trudged up the stairs of the hotel to their rooms. They had started off with light sparring, but it rapidly turned into something of a brawl. Angel had forgotten how fast Spike was, and how quick he was to learn his opponents’ weaknesses. All the years apart had made his childe a finely honed killer. He knew that Spike needed the release that a fight would give him; he had never liked being helpless in the past, a fact that Angelus had used in his favour. Besides, he figured if he wore Spike out, it might save him some repair costs to the hotel.
Spike was looking forward to a long hot shower and then a good night’s sleep in an actual bed. He had been sleeping on an old army cot while staying with - being held prisoner by - Riley. The thought of a real mattress, clean comfortable bedding, and a soft pillow was almost enough to make him skip the shower but he was covered in blood and sweat, so a shower was definitely needed.
Angel showered quickly and then called Wesley and Xander to check in. He wanted to keep them up-to-date on his guests and the situation in the hotel. He didn't have much to report, but figured they would appreciate the call.
"Wes, it's Angel."
"Ah, how is everything there?"
"Good. Just thought I'd call and let you know I'm not dust."
"Very thoughtful of you."
"Could I speak to Xander for a minute?"
"Of course, one minute Angel."
There was a pause while Wesley put the phone and went to get Xander. Angel could hear the approaching steps on the other end of the line just before Xander spoke.
"Hey Deadboy! What's up?"
Angel growled in annoyance. He hated that nickname and was overjoyed when Xander had stopped using it. However, thanks to this other Xander it looked like it was going to be a frequent insult again.
"I really hate that name, Xander."
Angel could hear the laughter in Xander’s voice and tried not to smile along with him. It didn't work.
"Look, do you think you could pick up a few things for Xander and Spike tomorrow? You would know his size and I will give you the sizes for Spike. Also, I think I'm going to need some groceries; he eats the way you do!"
"Sure, just let me grab a pen and you can tell me what you want."
Down the hall from Angel’s room Xander was having a nightmare. He was back in his cell; the orange-and-purple demon was coming toward him. When the door opened, Xander ran. He ran as fast as he could but the thing still caught him. He struggled uselessly against it, kicking and hitting it. He could feel it smelling him, tasting him. When the clawed hands unfastened his pants he screamed. It wasn't supposed to be like this, it hadn't happened this way, he had shifted!
Xander was trapped by the demon; he couldn't escape. He continued to scream and fight, he looked over the thing’s shoulder and saw Willow watching from the doorway. She stared at him with her one green eye, blinking. Then she tilted her head ever so slightly and spoke.
"You left me to this, Xander. Why? Why did you leave me behind?"
Xander shook his head frantically as the demon’s hands roamed over his most private places.
"No! No Wills, it wasn't my fault. I wanted to save you, I didn't know how. Please. It wasn't my fault. Please."
The demon continued its assault, fondling his cock and balls - squeezing them painfully hard. He felt a long sharp claw reaching between his cheeks to probe at his anus and he screamed again. Willow began to laugh.
Spike had just finished drying off and pulling on a pair of sweatpants that Angel had left for him when he heard the scream. He knew all about those screams. They were the kind you made when you were helpless to do anything else. He shook his head sadly and left the room.
Xander hadn't locked his door so Spike was able to enter the room without breaking down the door. He took a look at the thrashing, moaning man on the bed and then sighed. He wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do or not but it had always worked with Dru, so he slid into the bed beside him and began to softly stroke the boy’s back while talking to him.
"Come on, pet. Wake up now. Just a dream s'all."
Xander stopped thrashing but he was still moaning and whimpering quietly. Spike continued to speak to him in the same low, soothing voice while petting him softly.
"You gotta wake up, Xander. I can't do nothing to help you in your dreams, pet. Come on. Wake up, that's it. Nothing here but you an' me."
Xander started to wake up slowly, shaking off the nightmare. He realised that he wasn't alone in his bed, and tensed up until he heard Spike’s voice. He wanted to cry he was so thankful. He didn't cry, but he did burrow into Spike’s arms and squeeze him tightly. Spike just continued to pet him and lay down next to the boy.
Angel hung up the phone with Xander and went down the hall to check on his guests; he thought he had heard screaming. When he looked in Spike’s room it was empty so he moved on to Xander’s. He cracked open the door and was shocked to see Spike in bed with the man, holding him and gently rubbing circles on his back. It was a familiar scene, but back then it was a different brunette that Spike held in his arms.
Spike was aware of Angel’s presence but didn't say anything. What was there to say? He wasn't doing anything wrong, Xander had rescued him, and he was just returning the favour. When Xander lifted his head to speak though, he put his finger to his lips to quiet him before glaring at the vampire in the doorway. Angel got the message and slowly closed the door.
"Sorry luv, didn't figure you wanted Angel listening in on something that's obviously private."
"Angel was here? Shit. Thanks."
"No worries. Do you wanna talk about it?"
"No. Not really."
Spike nodded and just continued to lay there in bed with Xander. He knew he should leave but the heat was nice, and he could do with a bit of comforting himself so he stayed. Eventually, he heard Xander sigh in frustration.
"It might help to talk, pet. You don't seem to be able to sleep."
"I know. It's just ... It's hard."
"Yeah, but hey you survived it yeah? So it's over with. Whatever it was, you lived through it."
Xander took a deep, calming breath and then slowly let it out. He didn't want to talk about it, he wanted to forget it ever happened, but he knew that it wasn't going to just go away, and maybe he would feel better if he told Spike. It couldn't make him look any girlier than laying here clinging to the vampire.
"It was awful, Spike. That place? It was so horrible, and I found Willow, only she was broken. She didn't know me, she never even looked at me or spoke or anything. I held her and ... nothing. She was so beaten, scarred. It was like looking at a person whose soul had left but the body kept living."
Spike nodded to let Xander know he was paying attention and continued to pet him, trying to soothe him. Xander stared off into space for a moment before continuing.
"Just before the shift - before I ended up in this reality, a demon took me out of my cell. He - it was going to ... rape me. I ran. I ran as fast as I could. I was just too weak from fighting and not eating, it caught me."
Xander began to shake as the images assaulted him once again. He could hear Spikes low soothing voice speaking to him but he didn't understand the words. He was aware of soft cool hands rubbing his back and he sighed. It felt nice, being held and comforted. He was beginning to understand what the other Xander meant when he said Spike wasn't what he appeared to be. The man beside him was a caring, compassionate individual. Xander shook his head and began to talk again.
"In the dream, I didn't shift. After the demon tore my shirt, he licked my neck and then went for my pants. That's when it happened - the shift - but this time I was still there. Only I wasn't alone, Willow was in the doorway; she was blaming me for leaving her there. I tried to tell her that it wasn't my fault, that I couldn't help her. The demon’s hands were everywhere, it grabbed my ... and then I felt its claws at my ... she was laughing at me, Spike. She laughed and said it was all my fault."
Xander broke down and began to cry. Spike held him tighter and let him. He wasn't sure what to do for him; when Dru was this upset he usually distracted her with sex. Somehow he doubted that Xander was looking to get shagged after that. Especially by a demon.
Spike held the sobbing boy and made quiet shushing noises as he stroked his hair. He waited until the boy fell asleep before trying to extract himself from the warm arms that had wrapped around him. Every time he got free of one, the other would tighten. Eventually he gave up with a chuckle and settled down to sleep. He just hoped the boy wasn't upset with him in the morning.
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