Sequel to Beautiful Broken

Broken Revenge


Chapter 1:

Xander walked slightly behind Spike through the muggy night air. Even through he wore jeans, he found his hips involuntarily twitching in time with the hip chains he wasn't wearing. Instead the straps holding his precious soluna knives tight against his thighs rubbed a small sore spot on the inside of his upper leg, but Xander ignored that in favor of enjoying in Spike's running commentary on the stupidity of the fledges whose dust Xander could still taste on his tongue.

He subconsciously swung his hips a little more enthusiastically in the post fighting high. He honestly wished Spike would just take him home and they could work the energy off in a game of strip tag, but his Master had given his word to deliver Xander to Willow's house for a visit, which explained why they strode down the sidewalk toward Willow's quiet neighborhood. Then again, most of Sunnydale was pretty quiet for a Hellmouth without a slayer.

He wondered what others saw when the two of them walked down the street. The Master Vampire and his killer pet? Two killers looking for prey? Champions patrolling their territory? Xander remembered when he had been one of the people who ran for safety after dark, although his safety was often the slayer which technically wasn’t all that safe. However now he could imagine how he looked with his hands inside the light leather coat he wore to hide his knives and stakes and various other weapons.

Demons used to look at him and dismiss him as the trivial, unimportant one, and now when he and Spike confronted some orange slimy demon trying to raise the dead, that demon looked back and forth between them trying to decide who to fear more. Xander smiled. Oh yeah, he was Big Bad, Junior.

"Pet, you gonna be alright with Red, then?" Spike asked interrupting Xander’s little reverie, and Xander wondered why he wouldn't be fine. He hadn't had an episode since two weeks earlier when a red-haired fledge had reminded Xander of a fellow slave who had not taken to Lashar's training nearly as well as Xander had. Xander rolled his head to one side and stretched his neck at the memory, both of the panic attack that had left him trembling in his Master's arms and of the original man's sightless eyes staring up at him from the floor of the training area.

"Yes, Master," he answered without voicing his confusion.

"Right then. Got a few chores to run," Spike said as they started up the walk to the house where Willow and Tara had settled using Spike's money conveniently filtered through Angel. Xander was so startled that he temporarily lost his pace and had to take two large steps to get back to his place just behind and to the left his Master.

Spike was leaving him. Spike had left him in the house four times, but each time Joyce had been there to distract him with stories of Spike before he had returned to Sunnydale, the sad stories of Spike still reeling from the death of the slayer he had loved and the funny stories of Spike tormenting Angel or playing some practical joke on Giles.

Now Spike was going to leave him alone with Willow. Xander honestly wasn't sure how he felt about that. Joyce was part of his new life, his life as Spike's slave, but Willow still looked at him with eyes that searched for the old Xander. However, Spike hadn't asked for his opinion, so he followed silently as he braced himself for sad Willow eyes without having Spike there to deflect the power of the Willow pout.

Spike knocked once on the door, and from the speed at which Willow threw it open, Xander knew she had been standing behind it waiting. Great, she was in on the whole abandon Xander plan too if her near bouncing frame was anything to judge by. So nice of Spike to actually let HIM in on the plan.

"Xander! Spike! Come in," Willow practically sang, and Xander followed Spike into the house and to a living room with bowls of snacks and a stack of movies conveniently waiting.

"Hi, Willow," Xander managed, and Spike reached back so that the vampire's fingertips touched the back of his hand. Xander treasured these little touches that Spike would make more than all the lavish words of praise Leshar had ever offered. Without looking up, Xander knew that Spike would be smiling at him for taking the initiative to speak first, and how sad was it when you counted your success by such tiny baby steps. Right, Big Bad Junior in the graveyard, utter wimp when facing friends. He suspected he still had one or two mental issues to deal with.

Spike sat on the couch, and Xander slid in next to his Master, close enough that their thighs touched, and Spike's hand found the small of his back, slipping up under Xander's shirt.

"How are you guys doing tonight?" Willow asked as she held out a bowl with tiny candy bars. Glancing at Spike out of the corner of his eye, Xander caught the small nod and he reached out for one Hershey bar and then distracted himself with unwrapping and eating the glorious treat as slowly as possible.

"Got us a nest of fledges down at the south end cemetery," Spike answered. "Boy took out five or six fledges on his own," he said in a tone that conveyed a pride that Xander had never even heard his parents use. Of course, he had never really given his parents anything to be proud of.

"Five, Master," he replied. His use of "master" made Willow physically flinch back, and Xander dropped his eyes so he didn't have to see the condemnation in her eyes. He knew how pathetic he was, unable to even walk on the streets without his Master to tell him he was doing it right and keep the nightmares away, but he had come to terms with his own broken soul. He just wished Willow and Giles and even Angel could come to terms with it. Joyce never commented, never looked at him with eyes that made him feel weak, but he couldn't live his life hiding in her house.

"Bloody good. Those weren't newly risen fledges even if they were soddin' morons," Spike answered. "They had some strong blood in 'em. We might have a new master wandering around town." Instantly Xander felt Willow's gaze leave him. He looked up to find her gnawing her lip in worry and looking at Spike.


"Not if I can find him. Only problem then'll be his when I break his neck for moving in on my territory. Might leave him out in the open for the sun to fry, helpless to get away with his neck broken." Xander wondered how he could feel so uncompromisingly safe in the possession of a vampire who was still clearly a monster in many ways, but then Spike looked over at him with concern coloring those blue eyes, and Xander smiled his reassurance. He looked back to Willow who looked a little less than reassured.

"Well maybe Tara and I can do a search spell, look for demonic energy. If this new master vampire has a lair, he might have been in one place long enough for the energies to gather." Xander didn't miss the slight stutter over the word master, and he knew Spike wouldn't have missed it either. Xander really hoped that would be enough to keep his Master from leaving, but Spike stood, his hand landing on Xander's shoulder and pressing down to keep Xander in place.

"Right, you do that, and I have some errands I need to run." At Spike's words, Xander bit down on an urge to follow his Master or beg his Master to take him, too. Anything to avoid that look Willow gave him that was both hopeful and infinitely sad. He didn't want to be looked at like that. However, he sat silent and accepting of his Master's decision. He knew that Spike did what was best for him even if it made him miserable at the time, and if he would eat broccoli on his Master's orders, he would play nice with Willow for him too.

"We'll just be watching some movies," Willow said as Tara now appeared at the door with her arms crossed protectively across her center. Xander breathed a little deeper at the sight of the second witch. Spike stood silent and unmoving with those strong fingers gripping tightly enough that Xander could feel a slight soreness that he actually cherished because it somehow just proved how much Spike didn't want to leave him.

"Right then," Spike finally said before he started for the door so quickly that Xander didn't have time to follow even if he had seriously considered disobeying. The closing of the door sounded entirely too final, and Xander found down the feeling of panic at being without his Master's protection. It was stupid. He was stupid. Willow and Tara wouldn't hurt him any more than... he struggled but he couldn't quite fill in that blank. He couldn't exactly say his parents given how many times they'd ripped him apart with their words. At one point in his life he might have put Giles in there, but the watcher and Angel had hurt him so badly by trying to take him away from Spike that he still felt uncomfortable around either man. They wouldn't hurt him any more than his Master would, he finally settled on.

Looking up at Willow in the silence of the living room he realized he had been internally babbling because Willow had that sad face that she used whenever he did something particularly unDroopyish. Droopy Harris would have done his babbling out loud, but Xander simply didn't do that anymore. Nope, it was all mental babble for him, and why did that suddenly sound not so mentally healthy?

"So, any good movies?" he finally asked. His words got Willow moving at such a speed he suspected she had been drinking way too much caffeine.

"Tara and I went and got all your favorites. I have two different Babylon V movies and Alien Nation and all the Star Treks including that one with the half naked women you like, but then most of those old Star Treks had half naked women and Enemy Mine and the Alien movies, but those might not be a good idea."

Xander listened to the babble and wondered if he had sounded that nervous and afraid back in his babble days. And he didn't even comment on her suggestion he not watch Alien movies as if he was some sort of child prone to nightmares. His nightmares weren't inspired by any movie gore or imaginary monsters.

"Maybe Xander should pick," Tara said as she now came out of the doorway to settle on the couch next to him. Xander smiled his gratitude to the woman whose silences had become even longer since Spike had rescued them from slavery, as opposed to Willow who seemed to have become even more energetic as if smiley faces and bubbly babble could make the past disappear.

"Oh yeah, sometimes you just have to tell me to shut up," Willow agreed with a wide smile. "So you pick, Xander." Xander looked over at the selection with their brightly colored titles. The girls wouldn't want to watch the alien movies; he knew that so he ruled them out right away. The Alien Nation videos really were just extensions of the television show, and he remembered Willow trying to describe the show to a very confused Tara. Buffy had laughed and accused him and Willow of being geeks as Tara had looked on with concern that she had somehow caused a problem. Xander couldn't help smiling a little at that memory that had almost been lost in his maze of a memory.

"Enemy Mine," he answered. Willow's sharp look toward Tara told him he had chosen wrong and he ducked his head and tried to suppress that curl of panic that he felt at others' displeasure. And that made wisps of anger rise at the idea that he had to please others.

Xander pushed down a growing resentment before he involuntarily showed his aggravation. When Spike wanted him to do something, Spike would just tell him. Giving him a choice and then getting unhappy at his choice just seemed unfair, and as much as Xander told himself that he was safe, that little part of his mind where Leshar's voice still echoed told him that he would be punished for doing the wrong thing.

An hour and a half into the movie Xander knew his punishment for choosing wrong and he found his eyes darting toward the door more and more often.

"That is just wrong, enslaving people because they're different. No one should be a slave," Willow said as she made one more comment about slavery. Xander flinched, well aware that she was condemning the racists in the movie, the men who had captured Xander, and Spike who still kept Xander by his side. Xander reached up and fingered the warm metal links of the collar that was magically sealed around his neck. Nothing short of death would take the collar from his neck and nothing short of death would keep him from his Master, Willow guilt included. Tara made a noncommittal noise.

"Slavery destroys people's initiative and drive. If Davidge hadn't come, these people would have just given up. I never realized how sad this movie is." Xander watched Davidge go searching for Zammis as he reached under the leather strap that held his luna knife against his leg and pushed the harsh demin into the sore skin below. The stinging pain distracted him, and he lost Willow's next words as he imagined Spike's fingers pushing into his shoulder and bringing all the pain inside to that one spot, almost as if the physical pain turned a knob that allowed all the deeper pain to flow out of his soul. Spike would pull all the pain to the surface and then erase it with a bite that burned into his flesh and then slowly turned to desire.

"Are you liking the movie?" Tara asked quietly, and Xander returned to reality as he thought about his answer. He did enjoy the movie, but the running commentary was hard to take. He knew there was something wrong with him for not fighting his slavery, but Tara hadn't asked about all that.

"Yes," he said quietly as Davidge scooped up Zammis.

"Xander, you know you can talk to us, right?" Willow asked, and now she moved from her end of the couch to the spot next to him, her hands seeking out his right hand and capturing it effortlessly.

"Yes," Xander agreed. He could talk to them, he just didn't have anything to say.

"We both know what a hard time you had, we were there too, and we know how hard it is to trust people and get back out in the world." Xander glanced over at Tara whose eyes focused on the popcorn bowl in her hand. He could practically feel the fear from her, but he didn't see Willow as having a hard time at all. "I know you can fight your way back from this," Willow said, and Xander felt his guilt rise up and drown out even the stinging pain of his leg. He pressed harder, but the physical pain eluded him.

"I..." Xander collected his thoughts as Willow sat holding his hand with a hopeful expression. "I'm happy now," he finally said although the statement wasn't true of this exact point in time. Willow's eyes shone with moisture.

"You're better than this; you're stronger than this. You faced down and Angelus and went into the Master's lair to bring Buffy back from the dead." Xander remembered the slack expression on Buffy's wet face when he had pulled her from that water. He wondered if he do that again if he had a chance to go back in time. Maybe he'd have let her die if he'd known what waited for her. He wondered what expression had been in her eyes when she'd been eviscerated by the demon as the Initiative soldiers watched. He wondered if she had found pain or pleasure as Spike had drained her life. He wondered if her last thought had even included him or if she'd assumed him dead.

"That isn't me anymore," Xander finally said, his eyes focused on the coffee table as he focused on the way the grain of the wood ran parallel until a knot interrupted it, swelling the lines and making new patterns in the wood.

"Xander, you're still the same boy who used to eat those tofu burgers my mom packed when she was on that vegetarian kick. You save everyone else, and now you just need to save yourself." Xander thought about that for less than a second.

"I don't need saving," he said, coming as close to arguing as he could without having his stomach reject the small treats he had allowed Willow to push on him during the movie. He closed his eyes tightly against the vision of the people he hadn't saved.
"You're more than a slave," Willow insisted.

"Yes," Xander agreed because he was more. He was Spike's slave, but he was also the person who Spike trusted enough to let pieces of broken William shine through and he was the one who listened to Joyce's stories and shared the pain of losing Buffy.

"You could stay here." Willow looked at him with such hope that Xander felt his heartbeat accelerate wildly at the thought of leaving his Master, and that lack of control made him struggle to catch his breath. Leshar would have stripped the skin from him for showing such an obvious sign of fear and Xander took several breaths as he tried to get himself under control. Spike wouldn't abandon him, he told himself , his Master wouldn't allow him to leave.

"No, I can't," Xander answered simply.

"Willow," Tara interrupted from the green chair where she had pulled her knees up so that her heels rested on the chair seat. Xander could see her own distress even as he tried to ride the wave of his fear using his confidence that Spike would come for him soon.

"He could," Willow said sharply, and Tara physically pulled back into the chair. Xander would have physically retreated as well except that Willow still held his hand captured in her strong grip. He didn’t want to physically fight her over possession of the limb. "He was always the strong one, and sometimes Buffy and Giles didn't see that. Giles thinks he needs Spike, but Xander isn't weak, he doesn't need Spike."

Xander held himself perfectly still as the word weak echoed into the corners of his mind. He knew that Buffy and Giles had always dismissed him as normal guy, and that didn't even hurt any more. He just didn't like Willow holding up a mirror to his weakness. He knew he was weak for needing Spike, but that's who he was now. He wasn't even normal guy, he was weak guy. He remembered wild green eyes as a head strained back to look at him, silently begging him for help, begging him to be strong enough to resist. He hadn't. He was weak. Xander physically shook his head to try and dislodge the edge of a memory that had taken hold.

"I know you're still in there. You put on a face like nothing hurts, but I know you don't want this kind of life. You hate Spike; remember how you wanted to stake him because you said he couldn't be trusted no matter how much metal he had in his head? Remember that fight you had with Buffy the night Giles asked you to take Spike to your place? You never would have knelt at his feet, and I know that person is still down there." Willow's pleading voice went on pulling out memories that Xander didn't think about very often.

He really had hated Spike, and now he couldn't quite figure out why. He hadn't wanted one more rival for Buffy's attention; he wanted to be her white knight just like Angelus had called him. More than that, Spike wasn't one of them, he didn't belong in the group. But now Spike was the center of the group holding Giles together financially and Xander emotionally and saving the girls. Everything centered around Spike, and Xander didn't want that to change. Without Spike he didn't know where he fit anymore.

"I don't hate Spike," he said seriously.

"I don't want you to hate Spike," Willow insisted, but Xander could hear the truth in her voice. The way she emphasized the word hate made it clear that she wanted him to dislike Spike, turn on Spike. Feeling like he had just discovered he was the last stranger alive in a tribe of cannibals, Xander straightened his back and dropped his eyes down to the floor as he fell back on the gestures that had pleased his trainers. He wasn't going to do anything and that way he couldn't do anything wrong.

"Xander, you're stronger than this," Willow wailed, and Xander explored the shades of brown and beige on the carpet because he really wasn't. He glanced up, and the television glare caught on Willow’s red hair and her eyes shone with tears even though only one had escaped and now ran along the outside of her cheek.

A memory of another red-head flashed into his mind. Those green eyes had begged him to be strong, tears running from the corners of those as the girl had twisted. Xander remembered the feeling of cold steel loops high on his thighs, a third loop circling his aching genitals. He wasn't strong. A fire burned through his flesh so that he'd cried out in pain, and the handler behind him jerked the leash so that metal dug into his thighs harshly and brought him to a halt. Leshar and the green horned demon with red eyes had talked on and on.

Xander had gone to his knees when they stopped, the concrete cold and crushingly hard on his bare knees, and now he vacillated between the down kneel and the more formal position kneel as his body demanded movement. The cool air had brushed over his skin making the hairs on his arms and legs stand up, but that just made the fire inside burn even hotter as he started grasping for breath. Such bad behavior normally would have earned him instant punishment, but Leshar had just laughed until money finally changed hands. The green demon had walked over to the barred front of a closet sized room where another sad eyed woman sat hugging her knees with the side of her head resting on the concrete wall. Leshar whispered words, and Xander had lost himself to his own weakness. That fire had burned away the last strength he had possessed.

Xander lost himself in a fractured set of memories where the green eyed girl became the blonde woman in whose blood he had once knelt who became Buffy lying dead beside the water. Xander pulled his form in tighter as his trembling muscles threatened to rip him limb from limb. He closed the fingers of his left hand around his right wrist and straightened his shoulders, Leshar's voice correcting his form to the sound of a flat wood strip hitting flesh. The knees apart, the head bowed, the hands at the small of the back, the spine straight, the eyes down, the expression pleasant and neutral, the feet pointed, the breathing even, the mouth closed... Xander's mind spun with all the rules.

A voice called out "floor," and Xander slid gracefully into the new position, his forehead touching the ground, his knees spread, his hands still at the small of his back, his eyes closed, his shoulders close to the ground the fingers of his right hand relaxed, his spine slightly curved, his breathing regular, his heart controlled and beating regularly, his body accepting of his handlers' punishment.

"Down," a voice ordered, and Xander slipped into the position with his hands resting on his thighs, his back straight, his head down, his eyes unfocused, his butt resting on his heels. Hands explored his cheek, cool knuckles brushing his hair back, but with his head bowed, the hair just fell back down. A low voice whispered, and Xander knew that voice. His breath caught in his chest and he could feel warm trails start wandering down his cheeks until a hand brushed them away.

"My beautiful pet, always gonna be mine, aren't ya?" the voice asked, and Xander leaned into the touch that now cupped his lower chin, fingers tangling with his hair. "But we need to leave now, and I need my pet to follow me. Can you do that, pet?" the voice asked and Xander struggled to focus his eyes. A second hand joined the first so that his face was held between strong hands that slowly tilted his head up and Xander saw Spike kneeling down in front of him, his leather duster thrown open and Spike's blue eyes searching him.

Xander opened his mouth to answer and time made a little jump because suddenly he was buried in Spike's lap sobs jerking his body in an irregular rhythm as his hands crept forward and sought out Spike's waist.

"Shh, pet. 'S'all right. Whatever it is, I'm bigger and meaner than it. It tries to come for ya and I'll break it into soddin' pieces." Xander pressed closer and Spike bent over his back so that the vampire's weight now pressed down on him, and Xander fisted Spike's t-shirt, holding on even as he struggled to find the pieces that matched reality. The carpet was real, the sound of an informercial offering stain cleaner was real, but most importantly, the smell of leather that now enveloped him was real, the weight of his master was real, Spike's crooning was real and Xander held on to those feelings until he could feel his heart slow and his breathing evened out.

"Master?" Xander asked, finding himself on the floor of Willow's living room.

"You okay, pet?" Xander could feel his muscles ache in the aftermath of the spell, but he had regained his ability to tell past from present.

"Yes, Master," he answered, embarrassed to have once again proved to everyone just how broken he'd been by his time in the slave pens.

"What scared ya, pet?" Spike asked as he sat up. A pair of green eyes flashed across Xander's memory, but he couldn't remember where he'd seen that shade of green or why those eyes seemed important.

"I don't know, Master," Xander finally answered.

"When I came in, what were you thinking of?" Spike's hands brushed over Xander's chest and legs and arms in a gesture Xander knew was Spike's way of checking that he hadn't hurt himself.

"Position training," Xander answered truthfully.

"Nothing else then?"

"No, Master." Xander tried to remember anything else that might have caused him to retreat. Spike gave him a strange look before getting to his feet. Xander stayed on his knees feeling safer somehow and needing to hide in his Master's shadow.

"Told you lot to be careful. We're not doin' this again any time soon," Spike sharply barked out, and Xander jumped a bit at the tone, but Spike stepped to his side and buried a hand in his curls, and Xander leaned into Spike's leg. He finally looked up to find Willow and Tara on the far side of the room. Tara still sat in the same chair except now Willow was sitting on the floor in front of her with swollen red eyes, her head resting on Tara's lap as Tara gently played with her hair. What a messed up lot they all were, Xander thought as he looked at his lifelong friend's tear streaked face.

"I didn't..." Willow sobbed and then had to take a deep breath.

"We didn't mean to hurt him," Tara finished for her, and the look Spike gave Tara was a lot more reassuring than the glare he directed at Willow. Xander knelt at Spike's side watching the silent war over custody of the insane slave, and his hand found it's way up to his collar as he fingered that warm, smooth metal and reminded himself that he was Spike's no matter what Willow thought or wanted.

"Doesn't matter what you meant. You won't have another chance to hurt him," Spike insisted.

"Please don't take him away." Willow pushed herself away from Tara's lap. "I won't... I'll be more careful of what I say. I didn't know!" Spike remained silent for so long that Willow's tears now flowed freely over her cheeks.

"I'll think about letting him come back over, but next time I'll be stayin'," Spike finally said, and Xander breathed a sigh of relief that the decision wasn't his. He didn't want to come back here, and he would have answered his Master truthfully, but he did still love Willow and he didn't want to have to say that to her face.

"Heel," Spike said, a command that he rarely used anymore and Xander stood and followed his Master out into the darkness of early morning.

Chapter 2:

Morning, or rather evening came a little late the next day. By the time Xander sighed himself into consciousness, the bedside light was on and the drapes open to the starry sky. Xander jerked in surprise and the chain going from his hand to the ring set in the wall pulled him short. Spike hadn't used that ring for anything other than play in two weeks, not since his last flashback, but when Spike had brought the chain and cuff out before bed, Xander had simply held out his arm.

"Oi, finally up then?"

"Yes, Master," Xander agreed as he tried to figure out just how late he was. Spike was dressed and he had obviously missed the naughty waking up portion of the evening. As soon as Spike unlocked the cuff from his wrist, he went to the bathroom to take care of his human needs, hoping that Spike would ambush him in the shower. Instead Spike just shouted in for him to come to dinner when he'd finished. Xander hurried after that, coming down stairs with his hair still dripping onto the back of the grey t-shirt Spike had left waiting for him on the bed.

Downstairs Joyce had fixed pot roast, and Xander slid to his knees next to Spike's chair. Spike was busy dunking forkfuls of meat into his mug of blood while Joyce made the obligatory disgusted noises. When Spike wordlessly slid a plate off the table, Xander took the plate and fork and put them on the ground in front of him.

He had finally picked up his own food a few days earlier, and the fact that Spike and Joyce ignored his progress somehow made it easier. It made him feel like they would ignore it if he once again took his plate and slipped it up on the table for Spike to feed him. Strangely, the very fact that he *could* do that made it easier for him *not* to do that, and Xander had long ago stopped trying to understand his own screwiness. So his plate sat in front of him full of meat and potatoes and carrots that Joyce had cut up into bite sized pieces.

"Xander, Willow called and said that she found several boxes of your things in her parents' basement. She packed them up for you when you disappeared," Joyce offered casually. "She's bringing the boxes by tonight, and Spike said to just put them in your room." Xander kept chewing since her comments didn't require a response, but he understood Willow's gesture to be her way of apologizing. Xander put another piece of meat in his mouth as Joyce and Spike discussed the museum.

Xander had eaten all the food including the bitter tasting carrots by the time Spike announced that it was time for them to patrol. Xander stood and took both his plate and Spike's dishes to the kitchen where he loaded the dishwasher.

"Hurry up, pet. Got a poaching master to find," Spike called, and Xander hurried out as he dropped his hands to the handles of his two knives. Oh yeah, he felt a need for a kill. As he reached Spike, he spotted the items in Spike's hands and quickly pulled his shirt over his head as he waited in front of his Master.

Because he was looking down, he watched at long, pale fingers with chipped black fingernails traced the curving S shaped snake whose dark red bands mimicked the color of blood and then the fingers traced the dark X shaped hawk both caught within the curves of the snake and catching the snake with its talons. Xander shivered at the feeling of those fingers touching him so intimately. This moment had become a ceremony between them and Xander turned around smiled as Spike asked the first question.

"What are they for, pet?" Nimble fingers played with his collar and he answered the same way as always as he felt the draping chains swing against his back. The cool metal slid across his skin as the chains swung slightly.

"For following even when you act like a git, Master." His answer earned the same pop on the back of the head it did every morning. Xander turned.

"And what is this for?" Spike asked and fingers hooked a long black chain with three brilliant red crystals to the collar. Spike's finger trailed down Xander's chest along the line of the decoration down to the waistband of Xander's jeans, and Xander took a deep breath to combat the rising lust at that small touch.

"For letting go of the pain and guilt," Xander said, the words calming him and helping him forget the pain of yesterday's flashback. Spike stood back and looked at him for a moment, and Xander raised his eyes to his Master and gave a smile that said he was ready for whatever life threw at them. As much energy as Xander could feel running through him, he just hoped that future included either fucking or fighting, preferably both. Spike smiled back and opened the front door. Slipping his shirt back into place over the decorations, Xander followed his Master out into the night.

The streets were quiet as Xander walked at Spike's side, his swinging gait replaced with a quieter, more deadly stride. His hands dropped to the hilts of his two knives, resting there beneath his light jacket. As they turned the corner into a tree-lined cemetery, Spike lengthened his stride, and Xander immediately understood the maneuver. When they had first started hunting, this had lured many vampires and demons out. Spike would nearly disappear, and Xander would wander the graveyard seemingly alone.

As Xander slowed his own pace through the grey and white headstones, he used his training to control his emotions so that he wouldn't smell of the excitement he always felt during the hunt. Leshar had tried to turn him into an object to be used by demons, and hunting demons gave Xander more joy than he had ever revealed to even Spike although Xander guessed that his master understood.

Xander didn't even try and keep track of Spike who had disappeared into some trees on the far side of the cemetery. He trusted his Master as a hunting partner, and he needed to look slightly clueless for this to work. Vampires could never resist the smell of another vampire on a human; Xander suspected it was some sort of territorial thing, and on the rare occasion that another vampire or demon managed to touch Xander, Spike's reaction had been nothing less than spectacular.

Even while musing, Xander listened to the night as Spike had taught him. In fact, it might just be Spike stalking him now, hoping to catch him off guard and pin him to the ground. Of course, Xander didn't miss the irony in that since he'd throw himself to the ground if that's what made his Master happy. Xander considered doing just that for the half-second that it took him to realize that if it wasn't Spike, the move would be monumentally stupid. Instead Xander moved away from the crypts with their deep shadows as he tried to draw out whoever was following him.

Xander was so interested in the faint sounds of rustling fabric and whisper-soft steps on his right that he almost missed the sound of a feet landing on the ground. He barely had time to turn before he found himself face to face with a pimple-faced vamp with an evil smirk, not that he had seen many non-evil expressions on vamps other than Spike.

"Vamp-whore," the creature hissed through his fangs, and Xander didn't even consider engaging in the whole insult for insult method of fighting Buffy had perfected. When it came to Xander, Spike had one rule: kill it quickly. Xander pulled the longer iron sol knife and made a clean arc so that the supernaturally sharp blade passed through the vamp's neck cleanly until the metal hit the backbone. The vamp turned to dust just as his mouth fell open in surprise, and the sudden lack of a backbone sent Xander stumbling forward into the cloud of dust.

Still sneezing, Xander spun around on the damp ground and found two more vamps headed his way, one showing off with a flying leap over a tombstone. A clattering, snapping sound distracted him, and he looked over to find Spike fighting a trio of vamps. Or, two now because Xander could see the person sized hole in the branches of a tree as ashes rained down through the leaves. That's an interesting staking technique, just fling the fledge at the whole tree and hope some branch hits the heart. Xander smiled briefly as he considered master vampires playing a demonic version of shuffleboard with fledges and trees.

While admiring the graceful motions as Spike spun and kicked, Xander almost broke the first rule of fighting when his first opponent reached him. Because he'd been distracted, Xander fell back several steps with the vamp pressing forward and snatching at his arm.

When cold, dead fingers curled around his knife arm aggressively, Xander drew his luna blade and drove it into the vamp's wrist before yanking himself free of the grip. He managed to nearly rip off the vamp's hand, and that would be an angry face, Xander realized.

"Filthy animal," the vamp snarled, and Xander's shoulders started trembling at the sound of those words. How many times had he knelt in position at a client's feet or at a trainer's side as they had used those same words? He tightened his grip on his knives as he considered how close he had come to losing himself completely. Creatures like this one had tried to turn him into the worthless animal they believed him to be, but now Xander had the power. He had the knives. He had the Master who would appear to rip vampire heads off bodies the minute Xander was in any real danger.

Xander smiled grimly.

"Dirty vamp," he returned as he struck out at the vamp that cradled its injured hand. Xander expected the knife to slice through the vamp's neck, but instead the vamp turned so that Xander struck collarbone without doing any real damage. Now the second vamp joined the fight. Xander slipped the two knives back into their scabbards as he pulled a simple stake from his waistband. While he preferred to fight with the knives which worked against any number of demons they might find on patrol, the stake still worked best against vamps.

Xander warily pivoted to keep the new vamp in his attack range as it circled him. It was a slightly older vamp with eighties hair hanging down between its shoulder blades and a leather jacket. The injured vamp had retreated to a gravestone with angry snarls, but Xander didn't ignore him even as he moved to defend himself from HairVamp.

Eventually HairVamp got tired of the game and lunged forward, but Xander had seen the move coming and shifted his weight to one side so that he could drive the stake into the vamp's side and then use the momentum of the vamp's lunge to push him safely past. He had practiced the move a dozen times with Spike, and when the injured vamp went sailing past him perfectly, Xander did a little bounce of his own.

HairVamp recovered quickly, and Xander had to hide a smile as the vamp started circling him again, slowing driving Xander back toward his injured partner. Xander allowed HairVamp to maneuver him over the soggy ground until he was just outside of the striking range for the crippled vamp behind him. Without warning, Xander spun and drove his stake into the injured vamp's chest, turning him to dust.

Unfortunately, HairVamp behind him took the opportunity to tackle him to the ground, and Xander found himself breathing in the scent of mud and grass as the weight of the vamp pressed him to the earth. Xander twisted, but he didn’t have the strength to fight off a vampire. When long stringy hair appeared right in front of his face, Xander realized that HairVamp was bending over to bite him.

Xander expected Spike to pull the skanky vamp off any time, but he also didn’t want to disappoint his master by giving up. Since his hands were pressed into the earth, Xander reached up with his teeth and got a mouthful of hair before jerking his head back viciously. When his head hit the vamp’s head, Xander could practically hear bells ringing in his ears, and obviously the vamp wasn’t happy either by his startled yelp. Instinctively, the vamp tried to yank back away from the pain, but Xander kept his jaws closed on the hair so that the vamp managed to pull out a large chunk of his own hair, and that was when the vamp let Xander go.

Xander scrambled to his feet and pulled his sol knife while HairVamp was still using fingers to explore the damage to his scalp. When Xander’s knife cleanly separated body from head, the vamp’s fingers were still touching the damaged scalp as it turned to dust. Xander turned and spotted two vamps who had stopped to watch the fight. After taking one look at him, both vamps, who looked like little more than fledges, turned and fled. Xander shoved his knife into its scabbard and went running after them.

The sprinklers had dampened the ground so that Xander slipped and went to one knee as he turned the corner around a large crypt. One of the vamps was standing beside the crypt with the second vamp on his shoulders scrambling for the crypt roof. Xander pulled his stake and drove it through the lower vamp’s back before it had a chance to even snarl. The vamp on his shoulders came plummeting down through the dusty cloud, and Xander felt a sharp pain in his head as the vamp’s boot contacted the back of his head.

Xander stumbled forward and grabbed for a headstone to keep him upright, dropping his stake in the process. As a body hit him from behind, Xander’s lungs were crushed between the force of the attack and the unyielding stone, so that when the vamp pulled away, Xander sank to his knees and dragged air back into his lungs while he fought away a dizziness that left him on the edge of puking.

The vamp grabbed his neck and yanked him to his feet, and Xander clawed at his jacket to reach his knives before the dizziness and now lack of oxygen put him down for the count. Xander had just closed his fist around his luna knife when the vamp who was currently choking the life out of him went flying backwards with enough force that his body hit the side of the crypt with a wet sound that suggested certain bodily fluids were no longer inside the body.

Xander fell to his knees and gasped as Spike proceeded to pound into the now broken vamp lying on the ground. Even though his neck hurt, Xander thought the pain was well worth it as he watched Spike snap a bone in the vamp’s arm… the arm that had tried to strangle him. One bone after another snapped with a dull cracking sound that Xander could barely hear under the screams and pleas for mercy.

Drawing in deep breaths to drive back the darkness that threatened to overtake him, Xander watched with grim satisfaction as the demon who had hurt him was reduced in an inhuman pile of arms and legs sticking out at improbably angles. When the fledge finally started begging for death. Spike pulled out a stake and slammed it into the fledge’s back with enough force that the fledge’s dust scattered and the stake ended up deep in the damp soil.

As Spike turned to him, Xander smiled conspiratorially. At least he did until he saw the unmasked fury in his Master’s eyes as they looked at him.

“Master?” Xander asked in a small uncertain voice.

“Bloody heel,” Spike snapped as he stood up. No hands running over his body checking for injuries, no congratulations on taking out the vamps, no warmth or love in that look at all. Xander shivered as he rose and took his place as his Master’s side.

Chapter 3:

Xander followed back to the house silently, trying to gather his thoughts. Okay, Spike was pissed, which might have something to do with the whole nearly getting his neck ventilated, but Xander also knew he’d done well. Droopy Harris never could have killed so many vamps, not when the vamps were decent fighters rather than shell-shocked fledges just crawling out of the grave.

His nerves still felt tight after the adrenaline of the fight, and he wanted to explain himself to Spike, but his Master's rigid back stopped him. Spike slammed open the door so hard that Xander flinched, but Xander just silently closed it carefully behind him before locking it and hurrying up the stairs after Spike who was headed for their room.

"Master," Xander offered quietly once they'd reached their room despite his post fight energy and growing anger at Spike's reaction. His own anger only grew when Spike's response was two sharp taps on the floor with his boot. For half a second Xander thought the taps had just been an accident, a simple scuff of Spike's boot on the ground. Then he felt the fear grip his backbone, the fear that suggested things like running and screaming. Finally Xander realized that he was directly disobeying, and he went into the spread position as ordered.

His arms reached from the dresser to the bed as he lay face down and spread eagled on the floor, forehead resting on the carpet as he tried to even remember the last time Spike had used a punishment position on him. His ass reminded him of a time Spike had not only ordered him into punishment position but followed through with a spanking.

"You bloody little git. You nearly got yourself killed out there," Spike snarled, but Xander remained silent, his fingers splayed against the carpet and his toes pointed as he held proper form. "You are a soddin' human, and you do not bloody heal like a vamp. What's more, if you get killed, you'll fucking die," Spike growled, and now Xander felt the floor vibrate as Spike furiously paced in the space around the bed, each time having to step over one of Xander's arms. He didn't even dare point out the humor in Spike's statement because he didn't think Spike found the situation funny.

"What were you thinking?" Spike finally demanded. Xander considered each word before speaking.

"I was killing enemies, Master."

"You were trying to get yourself killed," Spike countered, and Xander didn't contradict him, not that he would ever contradict his master. "Why the hell did you go after them?"

"I wanted to kill them, Master," Xander answered honestly.

"And did it even occur to you that you might be the one gettin' killed?"

"Yes, Master," Xander bit his tongue and cursed the part of Leshar's training that made the truth jump to his mouth when his Master asked a question. And funnily enough, while he hadn't considered that before, now that he had answered, he knew it was the truth. He knew every time he went out that he faced death, just like he had known it when he followed Buffy. Jesse had proved that. After his answer, the pacing stopped. As the silence grew in the room, Xander wanted to fidget, but he held position as ordered and waited.

"Get into the corner, back to the wall," Spike ordered, and Xander rose to obey. Well, he did after a second's hesitation. He had a right to kill vampires. He had a right to be angry about the fact that demons threatened him and every other human in Sunnydale. He'd been fighting vampires since… well, since before he'd become property. Property, and that's exactly what he was. Xander walked to the corner as he used his tongue to find the slightly raised part of his inner cheek where he'd been tattooed like any other animal. The anger flowed into pain. "Shirt off," Spike snapped, and Xander pulled the fabric over his head.

He had barely even gotten his arms down when hands removed the front decoration. Xander stared sightlessly with his head lowered, a skill he had honed.

"Turn." At Spike's words, Xander turned and faced the wall. He half expected pain, and he got it, just not the form he expected. Quick fingers removed his back decorations before reaching down and unbuckling the soluna knives. Xander remained still as he heard these things being put away in the bedside drawers where Spike normally kept them.

"Xander, tell why you would risk your own life like that," Spike said in a scary quiet voice, and Xander's pain doubled. He remained silent because he didn't have an answer. "Pet?" Spike asked, his voice dark with warning.

"I don’t know, Master."

"Bloody hell. Look at me, pet." Xander turned and looked into angry yellow eyes for a moment before dropping his gaze to the ground. He had never seen Spike so angry, and he had no idea what to say. Then again, he suspected that nothing he said would stop the coming punishment.

"I bloody well can't deal with this right now," Spike finally announced. "Floor." Xander looked up, his anger starting to reassert itself and he caught Spike's eye. Spike's growl reminded Xander of his place and he dropped to the floor, his hands clasped behind his back, his legs folded under him, and his forehead to the ground.

At first Xander thought that Spike was pacing again, but when he reached the far side of the room, he made scraping sounds that Xander didn't recognize. Well, at least he didn't until Spike returned and started placing the coins he'd retrieved from the dresser on Xander's body.

“I’m going to go kill somethin’ and you’ll bloody stay here until I come back from patrol. And while I’m gone, you better come up with some better answers unless you want me to heat your arse.” Spike pressed the cold round disks into his skin like tiny reminders of Spike’s cold anger.

The coins wouldn't move easily on the bare skin, but the two coins balanced on the back of his head meant he couldn't move from his position without having them slide to the floor, and with the coins on the back of his arms, he wouldn't be able to replace them without Spike knowing if he failed.


Xander knew he'd fail. He always failed. Green eyes and long brown hair on an otherwise featureless woman floated in front of his vision. Wasn't that what Willow had implied the night before? Spike slammed out of the room, and Xander listened to the footsteps on the stairs and then finally the front door crashing shut, and he was left in the corner like a child sent to his room. Hell, at least a child had dreams about growing up and being someone; Xander didn't even have that.

Xander could feel his anger grow. He was an adult man for god's sake, and here he was huddled in the corner like… well, like a slave. Xander could feel his muscles tremble and he struggled to stop the motion before a coin slid out of place. God, what the hell was wrong with him that he was not only obeying, but worried about letting Spike down? Spike, who had shoved hot pokers into his own sire and master.

Willow was right, he was weak. At least William had become someone new, someone to be feared and respected, but Xander was still just a broken slave. Weak. The word echoed until Xander couldn’t control the shivering and one of the coins on his head started shifting. Xander tilted his head slightly to stop its progress toward the floor, and now he could hear that Leshar voice that lived in his head snap about position.

But Leshar couldn’t hurt him so why couldn’t he get rid of the Leshar voice? Xander’s trembling increased, and a trail of cold down one arm traced his failure. Failure. Xander surged to his feet in a burst of anger and the coins clattered and bounced against the wall before falling softly to the carpet. Xander froze in horror.

As his legs started trembling, Xander leaned against the wall to keep from falling. Instead he managed a slide down the wall before huddling against it in terror. He reached out and picked up one of the pennies Spike had put on his body, and Xander had an irrational desire to hide the evidence, to pretend that Spike had never put the coins on him and just go back into position. He somehow didn’t think that would work with Spike the way it had worked with Mrs. Padile in seventh grade. “Oh, but I gave you that paper right after class, Mrs. Padile. You were standing by the fish tank when I handed it to you.” He imagined himself trying that with Spike. “Oh, you never put coins on me. I would never do something as incredibly stupid as disobeying you when you’re already royally pissed at me.” Xander suppressed a sob.

Well, it wasn’t like he wasn’t going to get punished anyway. At least now he had a reason for the punishment. At least now when Spike whipped him it would be for disobeying and not because Spike thought he was too weak to take on a couple of fledges. He flicked the penny away from him angrily and listened as it dully pinged against the wall over by the boxes.


Curiosity took Xander over to the new boxes. He was going to get punished anyway, so he might as well amuse himself before Spike came home. Xander found himself digging through boxes of his own life, a life he didn't recognize. The clothing he threw to the side at once, and he didn't even want to know what in his warped mind ever thought green and purple flowers were a fashion statement. The books were mostly westerns and science fictions that he tossed aside with the clothes. When he hit the layer of music, he found himself going through his various CD's one at a time.

The Pasty Cline CD had gotten him through the whole Cordelia issue. He picked up one of his few blues CD's and remembered playing it after Jesse's death. God, the box was like a map of his pain. Well, he hadn't called it the music of pain for nothing. Spotting Hank Williams stuck in the side, he pulled the cracked case out and popped it open to the shiny disc inside. Coins and Master forgotten, he went over and flipped open the CD player and put Spike's disc carefully to the side as he slipped in Hank and hit play.

The twangy voice started singing of a cheatin’ heart, and Xander sat on the edge of the bed remembering the first time he'd heard this. The music was actually Uncle Rory's, but the man had left it with Xander after a binge of depressing music and drinking had led to a small gun accident. Other people had happy memories of uncles with candy in their pockets, but Xander got the fuzzy end of the lollipop where uncles were concerned. His parents had been fighting, and Xander had put in the first disc he could find. The sound of Hank singing on about being lonesome had drowned out his parents' words, or at least most of them. It made it easier for Xander to ignore the fight when his own faults got dragged into their little personal conflicts.

The track changed and now Hank sang about poor Kaw-liga who never got a kiss. After Buffy had shot him down, he'd listened to that one about a thousand times. God, he'd thought his life was over. Xander remembered lying on his bed and staring at the ceiling as the music flowed through him. He remembered that feeling of aching loss. What the hell had he known about pain back then?

Pain wasn't having a girl say no, it was watching a girl scream no at the top of her lungs as a trainer raped her. It was a gagged green-eyed girl who could only beg with her eyes, knowing that it wouldn't help. Xander's heart tightened as a memory crowded in and made his chest seem too small. Green eyes condemned him as fragments, shards surfaced with their sharp edges jabbing his conscience. He shot up and pulled open the player and pulled out the disc. Bringing his hand down on the edge of the dresser, he felt the disc crack.

What the hell did Hank know about being alone when he'd never been caged and silent and totally alone even when other people… other slaves and slavers and demon customers crowded in on every side? Xander grabbed the box and tipped it up and he blindly opened another case and grabbed a disc. This one came down on the corner of the nightstand. Yeah, like losing your girl was pain. These people didn't know pain. They’d never had their flesh burned from their body.

Another disc shattered under his hand, and now he scrambled to collect the cases from the floor. Another disc and now Xander felt the jabbing in his palm, and he stuck the bleeding hand in his mouth as he pried another case open and slammed the CD inside with his free hand. Another. What the hell had he known about pain back then? He’d been a whiny little shit who complained because he parents didn’t love him enough. He brought his hand down on another. Another.

When Xander had a sizable stack of shards around him, he kicked out, scattering the pieces to the edges of the room. What the fuck did these people know about pain? The light from the bedside lamp caught in the reflective surface and Xander fell to his knees at the flash of green. Green eyes flashing hatred and fear. All around him, the mottled reflections trapped him. Everywhere he looked, the discs reflected him back in distorted, surreal forms. One disc picked up the brown of his hair, a slender shard propped against the dresser reflected the black and red of his tattoo, a fat piece showed him a nearly accurate eye. Xander reached out and picked up that piece and pressed it into the carpet until it cracked into two smaller pieces.

Xander breathed heavily and wanted to destroy something else. He wanted to take his knives and go kill. When he was moving, doing, fighting, he could push these things away, but now he was trapped by flashes of color. His knee started aching, and he shifted slightly. He knew pain, from both side he knew pain. Memories of those green eyes came up and Xander felt the tears start. He reached up and wiped them away; he didn't want to cry.

The front door slammed, and Xander realized that he had lost another chunk of time kneeling in the room. He looked around and the true panic started as his brain started ticking off his offenses. The coins scattered in the reflective shards accused him of betraying his Master. Xander stood and realized he had dripped blood on the carpet. A thump from downstairs sent him dashing into the hall, and now the fear rose up so strongly that Xander could taste the bile in his mouth.

"Joyce, that you?" a voice called. His Master's voice called. Xander looked at the stairs and then dashed into the bathroom and slammed the door. He wasn't sure whether he was hiding or just in need of the toilet, and his stomach heaved as if to prove he had a reason to be in the room. Fast footsteps on the stairs, and Xander bent over the toilet as his stomach fought him.

"Pet?" Spike called, and Xander could almost call that voice Spike's concerned voice, but he knew pissed had to be close behind. Spike should be pissed. Green eyes. She should be pissed. She probably was pissed. She wouldn't ever forgive Xander, which was totally okay with him because he so totally didn’t deserve forgiveness.

"Xander?" The doorknob rattled and Xander realized he'd actually locked it. Almost sure he could feel those cold steel loops clamped around his thighs, Xander bent over and started throwing up for real, the heaving turning into good old fashioned worshipping of the porcelain god. A weight hit the door and Xander realized that he was about to get the punishment of his life or possibly death, but after all, he deserved it.

The door burst inward, and Xander scrambled over the edge of the bathtub, instinctively trying to get as far from the invader as possible. He pushed himself against the tile wall, as Spike pinned him with a yellowed gaze.

"Pet?" he said quietly, and Xander slid down the wall and hid his face in his knees. "Xander, come here," Spike ordered, and Xander ignored him, the fear making his legs shake, but he couldn't do it. "Xander," the tone was sharper now, and Xander wanted that, he wanted the pain that would follow disobeying that voice.

Instead, a hand reached down and wound around his neck. Xander didn't move as Spike crawled in the bath and sat awkwardly, pulling Xander toward him. "Xander, tell me what you need," Spike asked and now the circles started on his back, and Xander fought, pulling away from that grip and trying to reach the cold hard wall.

"Xander, you'll obey me. Tell me what you're afraid of." Xander pressed his hands to his eyes, not even sure how to answer that.

"Xander, tell me what you're thinking," Spike tried, and Xander opened his mouth because one thought was filling his whole mind.

"I raped her, oh god, I raped her," he sobbed as the trembling muscles finally gave out and Xander was pulled into Spike's lap.


Chapter 4:

Xander lay curled half on the bed and half in Spike's lap, and boy could he possibly act like *less* of a man? No wonder Willow worried about him. Normal-guy Droopy Harris may have dressed bad and babbled way too much, but at least he didn't crawl in another man's lap after a good crying jag. Then again, Droopy Harris wasn't a rapist. Okay, he'd tried with the whole hyena-Buffy thing, but he'd never actually done the deed. Xander hiccuped.

"You back with me, pet?"

"Yes, Master," Xander whispered miserably as he picked at the edge of the tape holding a bandage over the cut on his knee. He hoped that Spike got the punishment over with quickly so that he could go back to lying in Spike’s lap, and again with the lack of manhood. Xander felt a near-hysterical giggle bubble up and he considered that he might need to start checking his manhood periodically to make sure it didn't just fall off from lack of use. Well, not lack of use in terms of sex-type using because he was getting more sex now than he had when he was dating Anya, which was actually a lot of sex. If anything, he was going to wear his cock out. Xander realized he had wandered off into an internal babble when Spike tapped his nose.

"Master?" he asked, focusing on two amused eyes and one raised eyebrow.

"You ready to talk?"

"I'm sorry, Master," Xander immediately offered as he looked around at the tipped cardboard boxes, the brightly colored clothes flung around the room, the blood dripped on the carpet, and the shiny shards scattered randomly as if a CD bomb had exploded.

"Bit of a mess, innit?" Spike’s tone was light. Xander wasn’t expecting that, and for some reason it made the little knot of panic in his belly grow colder.

"Yes, Master. I'll clean it up," Xander said as he started pulling himself out of that safe embrace.

"Bollocks. Clean later, talk now," Spike said, and Xander really didn't have a choice since strong arms closed around him, keeping him in the nest formed by Spike's legs. Xander sighed a little as he curled up and pressed in even farther. Strong fingers now started combing through his curls, gently separating strands stiff with dried sweat.

"So, start with what you're feelin' right now."

"Guilty, Master. Angry. Weak. Like I shouldn't have survived." Xander whispered the last part, and arms tightened around him.

"Got a right to be angry, pet. Only person I ever knew who had more of a right to be angry was Dru and she was a bit on the loony side." Xander made a small snorting sound; he wasn't sure he entirely qualified as sane himself. "Was waitin' for ya to finally find that anger I could feel running under your skin." Spike's words caught Xander so off guard that he twisted to get a better look at Spike's face.


"Ya scared a century of live outta me trying to take your anger out on those fledges, chasin' 'em like that." Spike took a deep breath, and Xander was floored by the sudden realization that Spike had been so worried about him. Before Xander could apologize again, Spike continued. "So, angry I can figure out, let's start with guilty. Why guilty, pet?" Spike's words brought up the image of those green eyes, and now Xander could remember the face, long and narrow. Pretty in an exotic sort of way, but slightly disturbing in its proportions, or maybe she just looked that way because of the metal bar gagging her mouth. "I asked you a question," Spike said in a sharper tone of voice, and Xander hiccuped again as he tried to get enough breath to admit his guilt.

"I raped her," he muttered, the words burning his mouth.

"Who?" Spike asked without any condemnation in his voice, but then again, this was a soulless vampire he was talking to.

"I don't know her name," he admitted, somehow feeling even worse for that sin.

"When did it happen?" Spike asked in a nearly emotionless tone.

"I don't know."

"Closer to the time you were taken or closer to the time when I found ya at the auction?"

"Near the middle, closer to when I was taken maybe," Xander said as he tried focusing on the details he’d pushed so far back in his mind that he had lost them entirely.

"Right then, about four months ago."

"So, what happened?" Spike's fingers continued their task of freeing individual curls with one hand while the other hand ran gently down Xander’s side as he lay curled in a ball. Xander focused on those hands as he tried to pull up individual details without losing himself in the whole memory.

"Leshar caged me and two others. We drove for a long time." Xander remembered the rough road and the way his body ached at every bump, as he flexed his fingers and toes just to remind himself that he did still control his own body in some ways, even if it was a pathetically small way. That had been before he'd seen Leshar take bolt cutters and neatly cut off the fingers of another slave who did the same thing, snipping them away while the man's wide, panicked eyes streamed with tears around the rod down his throat that kept him silent. Xander pulled himself out of that memory and returned to the even darker memory of the woman.

"Before he uncaged us, he gave us each a shot. And there were handlers there and I hoped it was something that would just kill me." Xander knew he should feel something about that, but he couldn't seem to feel any emotions at all, as if Spike's lack of emotion had leeched into him through Spike's hands. Xander hiccuped and took another breath as he tried to figure out how to say the truly difficult parts.

"I started feeling wrong. Hot. Sore. The handlers put a strange leash on me that went around my upper legs with a loop that circled my cock and balls, and I remember being surprised that I was hard. I wasn't interested or excited, but I was hard and aching and the cold steel around me made me want to touch myself." Xander stopped as he remembered the feeling even though he couldn't quite connect to his emotions. Shame. That was the one emotion he couldn’t help feeling.

"A breedin' leash then," Spike said when the silence had gone on for a while.

"Yes, Master.” Xander nodded, unable to look up at Spike. He felt a heated blush climb into his cheeks. “They chained my wrists and then the handlers made the three of us stand in this concrete and steel building and I started feeling this need. I was the second one Leshar took into the building and there were all these pens with women, and a woman..." Xander froze as he remembered her strapped down with that green demon casually leaning on her as if she was one more piece of furniture.

"Where was she, pet?" Spike prompted him.

"Strapped down. I... I should've..."

"Pet, you were drugged and chained and leashed. I don't think you could've done anythin', and thinkin' you should have done somethin' is just foolish." Xander's memories felt like something he’d watched rather than something he had lived through. He suddenly couldn't remember what the leash felt like digging into his thighs and he couldn't remember the color of the walls.

"Green eyes," he said softly, as he remembered them burning into his. "Her eyes begged me to stop and I didn't. I raped her," Xander confessed in a whisper. He remembered driving into her the way he would remember a television show, in two dimensions with no smell or feeling or taste attached to the memory which was suddenly flat. "I raped her and then I forgot her." He shivered, turning his head away from Spike’s embrace.

"Not your fault, pet. Bloody wankers raped you just as much as her. Violated ya, made ya do something ya didn't want to do."

"But *I* forgot her," Xander protested as he pulled his knees all the way up. A good man would have remembered her and felt guilty and been sorry, but all he did was forget her.

"Soddin' idiot," Spike started, and the dismissive tone caught Xander so off guard that his guilt was temporarily derailed by confusion. "Normal to forget things ya can't handle. Brain's way of making sure we don't all end up talkin' to the stars and even worse, hearing them talk back.” Spike paused, and his voice softened. “Not long after Angelus did his whole disappearin' act I was lookin' for a whip to give Dru some attention. Found a book of poetry at the bottom of one of her chests." Xander tilted his head to look up at his Master because right now his Master wasn't making a lot of sense. He didn't see how poetry really had anything to do with his cowardice. Spike's eyes lost their focus for a minute.

"Bloody bad stuff, that. Bloody rot about love and roses and beauty." Spike's fingers stopped, and Xander could suddenly see a bit of the old William in Spike's soft amusement. "Problem being, I wrote the shite. Angelus, he taught to me to be ruthless. Humiliated and hurt me until I stopped being the weak creature Dru'd turned, and I forgot the bits that didn't fit in with the new vamp I'd become."

"We're both kinda messed up, huh?" Xander asked as he looked up and Spike smiled down at him.

"Yeah, pet. In some ways we are, but we muddle on. Bloody hell, at least we know we're missin' a few marbles. Most people never do admit to themselves that life's sent them arse over teakettle. We're one up on those poor gits who think they've got it figured out."

"Giles," Xander said quietly.

"Yeah, Giles. One day he's goin' to figure out that he's killing himself for lettin' his slayer die first, but that's a slayer's lot, innit? Life hands slayers the short end, sets 'em up to die." Xander reached out and put a hand on Spike's thigh and the fingers that had been playing with his hair stopped so that Spike could put his own hand on top of Xander's.

"You miss her," Xander said.

"Bloody hell, yes. She was a tough bird and a lady to the end. Cared more about you lot than she did about her life, and she bloody well taught a soulless vampire to be a better man." Xander fell silent as he thought about what he'd done. He thought about the woman's face and he wondered if she had blamed him, or their demon handlers.

"So, the demon who set this whole lot up--what'd he look like?" Spike asked in an overly casual tone of voice, and Xander looked up at his Master. He described the slave owner's green skin and horns and red eyes.

"Pylean, then. Those lot don't think much of humans. Probably breedin' and sendin' the rugrats back to his dimension." Spike's words sank into Xander like ice that froze his soul. Why had he been so blind? Oh, that was easy. When faced with his own weakness, he had always hidden, always pretended that the bad stuff didn't exist.

He dusted his best friend, then went home and got rid of every gift Jesse ever gave him. He tried to rape Buffy, and got Giles to go along with the whole 'can't remember' plan. He kissed Willow and then asked Cordelia to pretend that it never happened. He lied about the whole re-soul Angel plan and then when the guy turned up straight out of hell, Xander couldn't even bring himself to admit that he might have been wrong. God, a hundred years in hell should rate at least an apology, but no, not from Droopy Harris. Repress and forget were his favorite words. He started shaking again, his muscles trembling beneath Spike's arms.

"Pet?" Spike asked, and Xander opened his mouth, unable to get words out.

"Xander? Tell me what you're thinking." Spike's hand captured his chin and turned his head so that Xander was forced to look into intense blue eyes. He hiccuped again as he closed his eyes and tried to push away the pain that sent tremors though his frame.

"She's going to have my baby," Xander whispered, speaking the knowledge that had frozen his heart. "God, I always hoped I'd be a better parent than my parents managed to be, but my son or my daughter is going to grow up in a slave pen." Xander truly gasped now, his heart pounding out his panic as he curled his hands into fists so tightly that he could feel the cut on his palm open, a trickle of blood tickling his flesh.


Chapter 5:

"Right then, no matter what she says, you don't get your knickers in a twist," Spike ordered as they stood outside a bar in Los Angeles.

"Yes, Master," Xander agreed as he took several deep breaths of the dirty air. That was a mistake, and Xander felt his eyes tear up a little as his lungs burned with the exhaust from the highway on the other side of the concrete wall. No wonder demons had taken over this part of the city.

"And if she won't help, we'll just bloody find another way. Got it?"

"Yes, Master," Xander agreed. Somehow knowing that Spike was a persistent, single-minded bastard was so reassuring at times like this.

"Right." Spike took a deep breath as he stood outside the door to the club hidden inside a plain looking warehouse. "Bloody hate these bastards," Spike said under his breath before knocking. Xander stood behind and to the left of his Master on what he considered his "real world" manners. He kept his head slightly tilted enough to show his deference toward his Master without catching too much attention.

A window in the door slid open with a rusty hiss, and Xander couldn't help thinking about bad 1950's movies about prohibition. But instead of a gangster in a pin-stripe suit, the six inch by twelve inch opening showed a grey-faced demon with horns that curled around like a ram's… or a Fyarl demon's horns. Xander barely contained a grim smile as he realized that he had a truly strange set of random facts rattling around in his brain.

"What?" the demon snapped.

"Open the bloody door. Why the hell do you think I knocked? Wanker." Spike flashed his game face, and the demon cocked his head curiously.

"You that souled-up vamp?"

"Bloody hell, no. And if you even think about callin' me that again, I'll rip your horns off your head and shove 'em up your arse," Spike snarled in a thick accent, and the game face was now back for real.

"Yeah, and how am I to know that?" the demon snarled. Oh yeah, this was going ever so well.

"'Cause I'm here to meet Calsha," Spike snapped back. The demon's head cocked to the other side briefly and the gaze moved over to Xander who kept his head down and watched surreptitiously from under his hair.

"Wait here." The small window screeched shut again and Xander could feel Spike's growl vibrate the vampire's entire body. Since he couldn’t do anything to help, Xander simply waited patiently until the click announced the opening of the door one second before the heavy metal swung open.

"'Bout time," Spike complained as he headed into the darkness of the club. Once inside the door, Xander made a special point of staying close as he stood on a catwalk looking down at a dance floor and bar with more demon varieties than he had ever seen in one place. Faith with her love of violence and demon fighting would have considered this heaven.

Spike started down the metal grate stairs with a pounding of heavy Doc Martens, and Xander stayed as close as possible without tripping on his Master. He only realized he was being obvious when Spike reached the bottom of the stairs, and Spike's hand reached out and took Xander by the wrist. Spike quickly pulled Xander's hand up to the back of his waistband, and Xander stood confused for a half second. Then he gave his master a small smile as he grabbed his Master's jeans tightly. As Spike threaded his way through the crowded room of dancing and fucking demons, Xander held on and followed.

"'ello, luv," Spike purred in his sexiest voice as he came to the far side of the room. Xander would have gone to his knees, except that Spike's arm reached around and pulled him to his Master's side in a one-armed embrace. "Appreciate you comin'," Spike said, and now Xander glanced over to see the blue demoness from the demon market where they had found Willow and Tara. She was perched on a tall barstool, long legs crossed, looking over the rim of her drink with an eyebrow cocked at Spike.

Her long tail curled around one of the wooden chair legs, and her large muscular slave stood beside her wearing jeans and a tight black t-shirt. The clothes made him look even larger, which was scary considering he'd been pretty damn big at the market in Las Vegas.

"For the price you offered, I'd be a fool to ignore your message. However, I am not going to get myself banned from the Midwest shows for you and your strange obsession for certain humans." The blue demon calmly sipped her drink as she ran a possessive hand down her slave's arm. He didn't react, but instead divided his attention between the crowd and Spike like a Rottweiler guarding his owner.

"Oi, not the only one who gets attached," Spike gestured toward that possessive arm as he dropped into a chair, pulling Xander into his lap. Xander had a brief image of himself dancing with a very aggressive Buffy who was intent on showing her ownership over him. Well, that and making Angel jealous. Spike started stroking his inner thigh in an equally clear demonstration, the only difference was that Spike actually did own him, in more ways than one. Well, that and Spike was less likely to leave him aching and humiliated on the dance floor, and Spike was male, and evil, and actually cuter. Quite a lot of difference, then.

"I plan on my beauty here being the foundation of a new stable, better than the one those perfidious thieves stole after my father's death,” Calsha said. “I have yet to figure out why you are so fond of yours. You clearly don't mean to breed or trade."

"Have other reasons for keepin' him." Spike’s hand continued its path slowly up and down Xander’s thigh.

"Vampires," she sniffed. "You lot keep the flaws of your human hosts," the demon complained, but her disdain was softened with the hint of a friendly smile. Spike just snorted. For his part, Xander concentrated on not squirming under the attention of Spike’s wandering hand, which was quickly making his jeans more than a little uncomfortable.

"Maybe," Spike conceded. "But that don't change the fact that I'll pay well for information on the female I mentioned on the phone."

"It sounds like it was Govel's stock. He's moved into the Midwest shows since your sire shut down the West Coast, not that he's very popular with the true breeders, but he has good enough stock that some breeders are buying from him under the table."

"I'll get ya enough money to cover four breeding females if you get me into the show, and buy me the female I point out," Spike said in a suddenly serious tone of voice. The hand that had stroked Xander's thigh non-stop now stilled.

"That's a generous offer," Calsha said slowly. "Perhaps too generous. What's your interest in this female?"

Spike cocked his head. "Really not any of your bloody business, is it now?"

"If you're planning something at the show that could get me banned, then it is definitely my business," and now the demon's eyes flashed an inhumanly brilliant blue and her tail whipped the chair legs.

"Bloody hell, I'm not looking to get anyone banned from anywhere. I do, however, plan on getting what I want. So you can either profit off that, or you can soddin' well watch as I take it from someone else."

"Vampires." Her hissed comment seemed to be her final word.

"Right then, I guess somebody else will be makin' a profit off helpin' me." Xander felt Spike's hands gently tipping him off his lap, and he started to stand so that Spike could get up as well. Xander kept his eyes down and he tried not to panic at the thought of their best resource refusing to help.

"I didn't say I wouldn't help," Calsha said smoothly just as Xander reached his feet.

"You didn't say you would, either, and I'm soddin' not puttin' up with this manipulative shite."

"And here I thought you were beginning to learn patience..." Calsha's words were followed by her slave sliding gracefully to his knees next to her chair. Spike's hand remained on Xander's hips, and Xander waited as Spike made up his mind. After several seconds, Spike pulled Xander back down to his lap.

"Not bloody likely." Spike's words were harsh but then Xander watched as Spike lowered his head and gave Calsha a wicked grin. Then Spike's hand began his wandering across Xander's thigh again, and Xander didn't think of anything other than how to get that hand to do something just a little bit more interesting. Xander squirmed slightly, but Spike's hand retreated leaving Xander frustrated and aching.

"The last time I agreed to help you look for someone it ended up with an entire auction getting called on account of fire, panic, and full out frontal attack." Calsha's hairless tail caressed her slave's chest before sliding down to the waistband of his jeans.

"Oi! Wasn't my bloody fault my no-good sire had to come charging in on his white horse," Spike complained, and now Xander felt talented fingers work the button of his jeans.

"Does that mean your sire's going to come charging in again?"

"Not bloody likely. He doesn't even know we're going this time." Xander stifled a groan as Spike popped the top button of his jeans, and Xander wondered when he had developed an exhibitionistic kink. Knowing that others were watching and wanting and not able to have him because Spike would rip their arms off... that made him horny enough to moan a little louder.

"Somehow I'm still not comforted. Why do you care about one female anyway? You seem to be rather... pleased with your current acquisition."

"Eyes off my pet, luv. I'm very happy with him." Now Spike spoke with a sharper tone and narrowed his eyes in challenge. Xander squirming began in earnest as the show of possessiveness set off a wave of need. "Doesn't mean I don't want another."

"Ah, but you're not asking about another. You're asking about a particular one," the blue demon pointed out shrewdly. "So, I have to ask myself, is this like when you were looking for two particular witches? Your questions have a bad habit of leading to disasters and catastrophes."

"Not goin' to happen."

"Are you sure? Your sire seems the sort to interfere."

"Already said I haven't told the poofter what we’re doin'." This time it was the demon's turn to look at Spike in disbelief, her tail curling up and wrapping around her slave's upper leg as she cocked her head to one side.

"You are one of the most intriguing creatures I have ever met, which is why I would like to trust you even when common sense and my instincts suggest that you're a cheating, lying bastard…”

"Thanks, luv," Spike interrupted but the demon continued, refusing to be swayed by Spike's sarcasm.

"… but if you can't give me a better story than this, I'm going to have to go with instinct and tell you to go fuck yourself."

"You can be a right bitch, you know that?"

"Of course, that's what you love about me, isn't it?" Calsha demanded tartly.

Spike snorted his answer. "Right then, this doesn't go past the two of us. Fact is the boy's rather fond of a particular female, a female who's already carrying his child. I happen to be rather fond of the boy. I assume you can figure it out from there." Spike's hand once again stilled, and Xander found his growing lust sidetracked by thoughts of what he had done, and who he had abandoned to the slavers.

"Ah, yes. They are very emotional pack animals. So many trainers forget that, but I do understand what your boy would be going through. My own boy sold himself into slavery just to save his former mate, and when I get him stable mates for breeding, I fully intend on allowing him to choose females with whom he is comfortable. And I fully intend to keep his mates for life."

The demon reached down and allowed her fingers to run through the man's hair. As Xander looked he could see a particularly intense expression on the man's face, and for one second he couldn't understand it. But then he looked down and saw the demon's tail disappearing into the man's open fly. He had a sudden appreciation for just how clever that tail could be, and the many uses its owner had for it. The man obediently held his body carefully still, but Xander could imagine the effort of concentration required, considering the growing bulge distorting the front of his jeans.

"Right then, so you'll help?" Spike's voice was carefully neutral, but Xander could feel the coiled tension in the body underneath him. For her part, Calsha simply sat and stared for the longest time. Finally she gave a small nod.

"Some might say I'm as foolish as the humans I train, but I've always had a soft spot for owners who care for their animals. I'll help."

"Always knew there was a reason I liked you." Spike flashed one of his widest smiles, and the business discussion seemed to be over, even though no details had been settled. Calsha leaned back with a drink in one hand while her other hand slowly wandered through her slave's hair, separating a small lock from the rest before rolling it between her fingers.

Spike's fingers found something more interesting to explore and Xander heard a rapid clicking sound as the zipper on his jeans was lowered. He braced one hand on Spike's shoulder as he struggled to keep still, but he was far less successful than Calsha's burly slave who continued to hold himself motionless, despite a fine misting of sweat that had appeared on his face.

Xander gasped for breath as Spike's hand brushed teasingly near the head of his cock. Struggling to stay motionless, he didn’t dare look down at the talented fingers that now slowly explored the sensitive notch under the head, brushing feather-light against the slit. Xander struggled to think of some image disgusting enough for to cancel out the rising lust that demanded that his body move, but nothing came to mind. Considering how many disgusting things he'd seen in his life, it said a lot that none of them were horrible enough to counteract the powerful desire that he felt for Spike.

Spike's other hand reached up under Xander’s t-shirt and began pinching and rolling a nipple. Xander suddenly realized that, for Spike, this was a game- he was trying to see how much Xander could take without moving. Without him sliding off Spike's lap and down to his knees between Spike's legs. Without him pulling the zipper down on Spike's jeans and swallowing him whole, feeling that magnificent cock in his mouth. Well, two could play that game.

Xander held his breath as he counted backwards in Spanish to control the rising wave of lust as Spike's fingers slowly worked their way into his jeans, sliding under to cup his balls. Unfortunately, Xander didn't know any numbers beyond diez, and so he had finished his counting long before Spike had finished his teasing. Long, long, long before. Xander panted as Spike played with Xander's body until Xander dug his fingers into his Master's shoulder in need. Xander could feel his muscles start trembling.

Spike lifted Xander by the waist, rearranging him so that they were face to face and Xander happily reached toward Spike's jeans, but Spike's hands closed over his, silently forbidding the touch. Xander glanced up at his Master in confusion, but Spike just pushed at Xander’s hands until he understood that Spike wanted him to clasp them at the small of his own back.

Groaning in need, Xander closed the fingers of his left hand around his right wrist in response to Spike's silent order. Now Spike's hand explored far more freely. Fingers reached up under Xander's shirt to pull at the other nipple. A thumb slid through the precum on the head of Xander's cock. Fingers pushed Xander's jeans open before reaching down to stroke his balls more firmly. Xander counted the same ten numbers in Spanish over and over as he fought the need to move under the gentle teasing touches.

"Bloody beautiful," Spike muttered, pulling Xander's t-shirt up and running his hands across the bare skin. A finger traced the outline of Xander's tattoo, and Xander started to seriously pant as he struggled to obey. Then Spike leaned forward and drove his fangs into Xander's muscle just beside the design. Xander gasped and pushed toward his Master as he struggled to keep his hands behind him. Just as the lust was started to become unbearable, where his training would break and he’d be unable to stop his hips from thrusting, the fangs were gone and Xander was left struggling to remember even his name much less any training at all. Dropping his forehead to Spike's shoulder, Xander breathed in the smell of the familiar leather and ached with a burning need to touch his swollen cock, to rub again his Master until he could fall over that cliff into release.

"Every demon here is watchin', wishin' they could feel you move so needy at their touch. Calsha herself is wonderin' what's better, her perfect slave who controls himself while smellin' of human lust, or my beautiful pet who wants me so bad not even Leshar's trainin' keeps him from squirmin' with need," Spike whispered. "Every demon here can smell ya, pet. Knows ya want me. Makes me feel like the biggest demon here," Spike confessed so quietly that his breath barely disturbed Xander's curls. Xander shivered at the raw lust he could hear in his Master’s voice.

Spike's fingers gave Xander's cock a quick squeeze before Xander heard a second zipper make that rapid clicking sound that sent shivers of anticipation through Xander's body. However, Spike hadn't given him permission to do anything, so Xander struggled against his own needs as he straddled his Master with his hands behind his back. He fought to remain still and obedient even while Spike stroked himself, throwing his head back in pure pleasure.

Xander wasn't even sure which he wanted more, to feel Spike's strong hands on his own cock or to feel Spike's cock under his fingers and in his mouth. Xander's whole body shivered with need at the thought of either.

"Go on then, pet," Spike said in a husky, deep voice. Xander practically whined his relief as he slid off Spike's lap and went to his knees between Spike's legs. Despite the fact that his own cock bobbed comically and borderline painfully, Xander concentrated on Spike. He placed a small chaste kiss on the very end before looking up into Spike's amused yellow eyes.

"That the best ya got?" Spike asked in mock-displeasure, and Xander smiled at the challenge in that tone. He started by trailing kisses down the shaft, blowing warm air across the moistened skin and watching as the flesh twitched. When Xander got to the balls, he opened and gently sucked one ball into his mouth, enjoying the musky smell and taste of his Master.

Xander continued to suck and roll that ball around in his mouth until Spike groaned loudly. Smiling, he released the one and moved to the other side. Now Spike was shifting in the chair, and Xander hurried to move to the main event before Spike came. Xander licked up the bottom of Spike's cock and then sucked the head into his mouth. As he knelt on the floor, he looked up at Spike with his head thrown back and his hands gripping the table.

Xander slowly slid down Spike's cock, relaxing as the hardness hit the back of this throat. Driving himself past the gag point, Xander slowly sank until his nose was deep in Spike's curls. Xander held that as long as he could, swallowing rhythmically around the cock and enjoying the incoherent noises Spike made. When the need for air forced him to back off, Xander panted though his nose and played with trapping the foreskin between his tongue and the back of his front teeth.

Spike's hand closed over a fistful of Xander's hair, and Xander thought Spike might want to control the thrusts, but the hand didn't push or pull. As Xander’s mouth sank on Spike's length again, the fist moved with him, just reminding him of who had control. Xander shivered as another wave of lust made his own cock twitch with need.

Xander pulled back a second time as the need for oxygen forced him to think about unimportant issues like air and consciousness. The third time, Xander didn't slowly sink, but rather drove himself forward, nearly gagging as his throat didn't have time to adjust. Either the speed of the thrust or the tightening of his throat in silent coughs drove Spike over the edge.

Xander could feel the unintentional thrusts as Spike started sliding over into orgasm. Xander held position through the first and second waves and then drew back so that he could taste the bitter salt of his Master, and that taste had overtaken chocolate in his own personal favorite food taste test. Xander swallowed as fast as he could, catching the last of Spike's orgasm.

Xander now took his favorite position with his cheek lying on Spike's thigh while he quietly mouthed the now shrunken penis. Spike's hands gently played in Xander’s shoulder-length curls, and Xander idly wondered if Spike would ever take him for a haircut. He had an image of himself with hair down to the floor gently sucking Spike's spent cock.

Xander arched his back in contentment as Spike's hand brushed the hair out of his face so that Xander could look up into Spike's blue eyes without moving.

"You forgettin' something?" Spike asked curiously, and Xander gave up his prize long enough to answer.

"Master?" he asked before going back to the gentle kisses on the side of Spike's cock.

"You haven't come, pet," Spike pointed out, and the ache in Xander's entire lower body made that perfectly clear. However, the comment wasn't formed in a question so Xander continued to worship Spike's cock as he looked up into his Master's amused expression. "Oi, you, bring me a towel," Spike demanded, and for a brief second, Xander thought his Master meant him, but then he noticed Spike's gaze was to a figure moving off to the right, and Xander dismissed the order from this thoughts as he concentrated on the cock under his lips. Usually Spike would be hardening again, but his Master wasn't cooperating today.

Spike held out his hand for something, and when Spike's hand came back into view, it had a plain white bar towel. "Right then, up you go." Xander unwillingly gave up his treat and stood at his Master's order. He didn't know what to expect, but what Spike did next certainly qualified as a surprise. Spike's hands on his hips turned him so that Xander was facing the club where demons continued to dance and fuck and drink, but now a good number of them also watched with wide eyes gleaming from their corners in the shadows.

Xander suddenly realized just how exposed he was with his jeans open and his hard cock hanging out obscenely. Then again if there were any vice cops in the club, they would have bigger concerns than Xander's dick. Xander felt himself being pulled backwards so that again he straddled Spike's lap with his legs open, only this time he had a lot more showing.

The blue demon still sat at the table across from them. Now the slave that knelt beside her chair trembled slightly and his hair was wet with sweat, but he continued to hold himself still as that tail obviously teased and tormented him. The blue demon had an amused expression on her face as she watched Spike and Xander, while her tail stroked her slave’s jeans and her hand continued to play with his now damp and sweaty hair.

Xander let his body relax into his Master as Spike's hands settled on his thighs. He had no idea why Spike decided to leave him flashing the bar, but it wasn't his place to question his Master, especially not in a demon bar. So Xander sat there on Spike’s lap, and demons continued to watch as the second slave continued to hold himself still under his own Mistress' attention.

"Finish yourself up then, pet," Spike ordered as he handed Xander the white towel, and for one second Xander drew a complete blank as he tried to figure out what Spike wanted. But then his mind filled in the blanks all too well. Eyes suddenly wide, Xander looked around at all the watching demons, and he didn't know if he could do this. Slowly he closed his fist around his own cock, and tried to ignore the circle of watching eyes.

To his own surprise, his first touch on his hot cock almost sent him over the edge, except for the distracting embarrassment of performing for a demon audience. Obediently, Xander moved his hand up and down on the painfully hard shaft. He needed to come so badly that his own touch was almost too much to bear, but no matter where he sent his eyes, demons looked back at him from the darkness. He was unhappily reminded of when he’d been a kid in school, unable to pee when other boys were at the urinals.

"I have you, pet. Go on then," Spike said softly, hands holding Xander’s hips possessively.

"Master," Xander whispered back, desperate to not disappoint Spike.

"They all want you. They all want you, and they can never ever touch you. I'd bloody break them into a thousand pieces if they so much as looked at you wrong." Spike's words sent another shiver of lust over Xander, and he decided that it didn't matter who was watching.

Xander reached down and with his fingertips brushed across his balls lightly sending a dart of pleasure up his backbone. He let his head fall back on to Spike's shoulder as he concentrated on moving his hand at the familiar pattern. It been a long time since he played with the old sock puppet of love, but there are some things a boy simply does not forget.

Xander clutched the white cloth in one hand, curling his fingers into it as he groaned. With his other hand, he moved up and down the shaft feeling the tendrils of lust and the sharp edge of delayed need take over his body. Xander started gasping air through his open mouth, and some part of his brain registered the fact that he probably looked like a beached fish. He didn't care.

Spike’s hands dropped from his hips to tighten on his thighs, and Xander moaned as he sped up the movement of his hand on his sore cock. He felt his balls tighten, and with a gasp he shot into the little white towel, barely getting it over his cock in time as his back arched in orgasm, his head thumping against Spike’s shoulder.

Xander lost himself in the need and the release, the pleasure and the pain, the feeling of Spike's hands anchoring him as they held onto his thighs. He felt as though every bone in his body had been magically turned something soft and squishy that he really couldn't come up with a name for because his brains at all leaked out of his ears. Or maybe out of his cock. He didn’t know which, and he didn’t care.

Strong arms reached around and took the towel, gently wiping the last traces from Xander’s cock before tucking him back into his jeans. Xander just lay there with his arms hanging, panting as if he’d run a marathon.

"Nice animal," Calsha commented. Xander tilted his head enough to see her slave had finally broken, his body sprawled on the floor bonelessly with a tell-tale stain on the front of his jeans.

"So you'll help us get his mate back?" Spike asked.

"I gave my word, even if it was just a vampire to whom I gave it," she shrugged, looking down fondly as her slave struggled to push himself up with his arms to get back up onto his knees. Calsha reached down and cupped the far side of his face before pulling him closer. He followed her pull until he was sitting on one hip and leaning into her legs for support. Xander wondered if he had that same stupidly blissed-out expression on his own face. He probably did, he realized.

"Right, call with the details then," Spike said, and Xander suddenly found himself lifted up onto his feet. Swaying a little as he tried to recover from his intense orgasm, Xander followed Spike across the dance floor. This time the demons moved smartly out of the way as they passed, and Xander could feel envious eyes on him. Funny enough, that really didn't bother him as long as he was following his Master.

Outside the warm California air had a feeling of coming rain, a sort of wet blanket feel that made Xander sweat the minute they started walking away from the club.

"Right then, that’s one job left in this bloody town, and then we can go home," Spike said with an edge of nervousness in his voice. Xander wondered what the one job was that produced such an unusual emotion in his bad-ass Master. However, it wasn't really his place to question, and so he followed behind silent and sated.

Chapter 6:

As they walked towards the car, Xander found himself walking with a rolling swing, as if he were wearing his hip chains. A few weeks ago that wouldn't have surprised him, but since he and Spike had been hunting, his gait had changed. Instead of the wide rolling gait of the harem boy in heat, he had learned a taut, controlled prowl that announced to prey and predators alike that he was not something that you wanted to mess with in a dark alley.

Now that Xander recognized his slave-boy gait had returned, he stumbled as one leg tried to swing wide and sexy while the other slid forward stealthily. Even though Spike hadn't commented, Xander tried to focus on walking like a predator, not like well-trained prey. His hands unconsciously slipped below his jacket to where the knives would be had he been wearing them.

"We'll find her, pet," Spike announced out of the blue without breaking stride or looking back. Strangely enough, Xander had never doubted it. Of all the things Xander doubted in his life including himself, his sanity, and even his own moral compass, he never doubted Spike.

"I know, Master," Xander answered.

Reaching the car, Xander slipped into the passenger side of the plain little tan car Spike used to drive to Los Angeles, and he pulled the seatbelt across his lap as he looked out the window. He knew that people could be willfully blind. He’d grown up on a Hellmouth, and despite the fact that the portal wasn't actually active during most of his younger years, it was still a Hellmouth and strange things still happened. But really, the general stupidity on the Hellmouth didn't have anything on LA.

Xander watched green-skinned demons walk in and out of pools of light under the street lamps, and he wondered what humans thought when they came to this part of town. Of course, not many humans actually came to this part of town, but someone had to get lost and end up down here at some point. You'd think they'd be on the phone to 911 or Geraldo Rivera or the Navy or something. Xander had this image of a tourist in a floral shirt having his car break down. He'd probably end up as a midnight snack.

Maybe people just thought this part of LA had an obsession with Halloween all year long, sort of like those little towns whose livelihood depended on being permanently Christmassy. Maybe people just got really good at not seeing what they didn't want to see. Xander sometimes wished that he could relearn that sort of blindness, and go through life without knowing what lurked in the shadows. Of course, not knowing didn't make the shadows any less dangerous, and Xander pushed that thought the back of his mind. Instead he watched in growing confusion out the window as the Hyperion finally appeared at the end of the street.

Spike pulled the car up to the front of the old hotel and Xander was struck with just how badly the hotel needed refurbishing. That is, if somebody didn't just take the much easier route of setting it on fire and starting over. The paint was peeling, boards were rotting, the decorative trim was chipped away, several stones had large cracks, and mold crept up the building from the foundations. All in all, this place needed about a thousand carpenters and handymen working 24 hours a day for a month before it would be actually habitable. So of course, Angel lived there.

"Right then, we need to talk to Angel before we head back to the Hellmouth," Spike announced, and Xander could hear the defensive tones despite the fact that his Master really didn't have to justify or explain his decisions to Xander. Since Xander didn't have a veto vote over Spike's decision, he simply sat silent. Of course, if he did have the choice he would have vetoed the idea of going to Angel. They had only recently broken the Broody One of showing up at Joyce's house to "check in," and Xander really didn't want to encourage Angel to start doing that again.

"Come on, then," Spike said as he got out of the car, and Xander unfastened the seat belt before opening his own car door and hurrying after his Master. Xander caught up at the front door as Spike found the entrance locked and pounded hard enough that Xander worried Spike would break the door down. Luckily the door swung open before that could happen.

"Angel," Spike said tightly as he pushed by his sire, and Xander followed quickly, keeping his eyes firmly on the back of Master’s neck. He didn't think Angel would shut the door in his face, but those Droopy Harris fears occasionally came back to haunt him.

"Spike?" Angel replied in a dazed voice, and Xander wasn't surprised since most of the time Spike avoided the broody one like the plague. Well, actually more than the plague since Spike couldn't actually get the plague.

"Why the bloody hell is the door locked?" Spike demanded to know as he headed for the tacky round couch in the middle of the lobby. When Spike sprawled across the ugly fabric, Xander was temporarily torn between going to his knees or sitting next to his Master. Spike solved that by reaching out and snagging his hand before pulling Xander to his side. Xander was left half sitting on the couch, half in Spike's lap, and completely happy as his Master's hand kneaded his shoulder.

"We *were* trying to keep the undesirables out," a sharp voice suggested from behind them. Xander jumped a bit at the sound, but Spike's hand around his waist held him in place.

"Weasely," Spike said as a greeting as Wesley came into sight.

"Wesley!" the former watcher snapped back, and Xander barely contained a manly type giggle as Spike looked at the man with a single eyebrow raised and a definite 'you idiot' expression. Wesley obviously recognized the expression because he frowned and crossed his arms over his chest aggressively.

"And what brings you here? I thought you were busy installing yourself as the Master of the Hellmouth." Wesley said snidely, and Xander watched Angel flinch at that. He could just imagine the fights the two of them had over Spike's reign over the Sunnydale Hellmouth.

"Just thought we'd do some visitin' while we're up here on business," Spike said casually.

"Business?" Angel snarled the word and stepped forward aggressively. Xander wasn't sure who would win a fight between these two, but he found himself suddenly terrified of finding out. He closed his hand around the fabric of Spike's t-shirt despite the fact that if it came to a fight he should be getting out of Spike's way, not holding on. As Xander's heart started racing, he found himself fascinated by the fact that he realized he was being totally irrational, but he couldn't seem to stop anyway.

"Oi, you great lummox. Ya got the subtlety of a musk ox, Peaches," Spike snarled at Angel, but one strong hand closed comfortingly around Xander's wrist, and the other rubbed Xander's neck hard enough that Xander was caught between wanting to lose himself in the massage and wanting to hunch up his shoulders to protect the sensitive body part.

"Xander, I'm sorry," Angel said quickly, and Xander looked up in surprise at the sight of Angel backing away with a pained expression on his face.

"Ya should be, ya nit." The fingers on Xander's neck tightened for a second. "Ya alright now?" Spike asked him, and Xander nodded as he felt his heart slow to a more reasonable pace.

"Yes, Master," he finally answered since nodding was rude unless forbidden to speak.

"Right then, I need to talk to Angel in private, don't I. You wait here," Spike ordered.

"Yes, Master."

Xander pulled away from Spike's lap but remained sitting on the couch as Spike stood and gestured towards Angel rudely. Rather than respond to the blatant insult, Angel just rolled his eyes as he started towards the door on the far side of the room. Spike followed.

As Xander watched his Master walk away, he tried to remind himself that he was safe. But as much as it pained him to admit it, without the familiar surroundings of Joyce's home- hearing Joyce rattling around on the first floor, or the familiar sound of Spike cursing softly in the other room- he didn't feel safe. In fact, the way Wesley was watching him in a combination of horror and suspicion made him feel like a bug under a microscope. Even that was better than the way some other people looked on him with pity, Xander thought miserably.

But then again, if Droopy Harris had a chance to see the new Xander Harris, he would've been doing more than staring. Droopy Harris would've been making all sorts of comments about how pathetic a person had to be before they didn't feel safe outside of their own house. Droopy Harris would've rolled his eyes and commented on the intelligence of any one who felt safer in Spike's arms than anywhere else in the world. Xander's self-recriminations were interrupted by Wesley's voice.

"Xander, I haven't had a chance to speak to you much since you've… gotten back." Wesley sounded uncomfortable, so at least Xander wasn't alone in his overall feeling of weirdage. And of course now Xander got the ultimate revenge; Wesley got to sound stupid while Xander just sat and looked at him. In the old days that never would've happened, but Wesley's comment made it sound like Xander been off at Boy Scout Camp and had just gotten home. Xander didn't say anything, since technically he hadn’t been asked a question. With a look of wary concern, Wesley stepped a little closer.

"So, how have you been lately?" Xander dispensed with his polite training altogether as he gave Wesley his best stupid stare. Not the stare that made Xander seem stupid, but the stare that implied that Wesley was stupid, because Wesley actually was- stupid that is. 'How was he'? Xander paused to consider just how he wanted to answer that one.

"Struggling to get through every day without having a panic attack bad enough to make me want to crawl into a corner," Xander finally said.

Wesley's expression went from horror and suspicion to outright mortification. Mortification. Listening definitely had done him some good because in the old days he definitely would not have even thought that word. Of course the fact that it was a Lirowaus word was a bit on the ick side.

"Well, I'm terribly sorry to hear that."

Wesley had taken a step forward, but now he backed up several steps, his hands reaching up and taking his glasses from his face and polishing them in a gesture that Xander had grown to associate with Giles. But maybe the gesture was just common to all English people. Maybe English people had some sort of glasses fetish. Or maybe it was something they learned at the Watcher’s Council, like a secret handshake.

"You know that if there’s anything you need I'd be more than happy to help you. Zelicwa wrote two rather shocking tomes on the demonic slave trade, so I can imagine that you have rather a lot to deal with."

Xander was impressed with Wesley’s grasp of understatement, and again with the comparison to Giles, and wondering if it was an English thing or a Watcher thing. Despite their shared knowledge, Xander found himself completely uninterested in talking about it with Wesley. In fact, there was only one person he ever wanted to talk about it with, and that was Spike. Xander looked over to the door that kept him from his Master’s side.

"I'm sure they'll be done soon," Wesley offered, and Xander sat on the couch tracing a finger along the edge of a faded stripe. "I must say it's rather disquieting to have you so silent. My memories of you and Ms. Rosenberg involve rather more talking."

Xander could think of any number of responses ranging from the fact that Wesley didn't know him well enough to have an opinion in the first place, all the way up through his memories of Wesley including more cowardice. He said nothing, and sat looking down at his finger, tracing a faded stripe on the sofa fabric.

The silence in the hotel thickened until Xander could make out the faint sound of cars passing on the road outside. He strained his hearing hoping that he would catch some sound of his Master's voice, but the two vampires were talking softly enough that no sound escaped the office. Considering those two tended to yell more often than talk, it was actually a little worrying.

"Would you like something to drink?" Wesley asked eventually. Xander wondered whether the man had finally remembered his hostly duty or whether he had just gotten frustrated at the silence.

"Do you have water?" Xander asked. He wasn't all that thirsty, but the chance to get Wesley out of the room was just too good to pass up. If Wesley didn't stop staring at him, his silent babble was going to turn into audible babble.

"Of course. I'll be right back." Wesley hurried from the room and Xander found himself torn between enjoying the moment of privacy and panicking at the thought that he was totally alone. He could walk out that front door, and no one would stop him. Even more terrifying, someone could walk in the front door and take him. Xander wondered how long it would take Spike to react if someone did push that door open and come running in, sword drawn. In anyone else's life the thought of someone running into the room with a drawn sword would be well... ridiculous. In his life, not so much.

Xander was so caught up in thoughts that someone could come rushing in the door or he could go rushing out the door that when the door actually started pushing in, he had a moment of pure blind white terror. The terror mutated into plain old garden-variety panic as a squeal pierced the air.

"Xander! Oh my god Xander, it's you! I can't believe it's you!" Cordelia rushed into the lobby, arms thrown open and a wide smile on her face. Instinctively, Xander stood up, but he suddenly didn't know what to do. He'd been trained to handle a lot of situations, but an enthusiastic ex-girlfriend with a history of verbally castrating man running at him... that wasn't covered in the training.

"I can't believe Angel didn't tell me that you were coming to visit! Oh God, you don't know how long everyone looked for you. I was so worried. And then everyone else went missing, and all I could think was that everyone I'd known was gone." When Cordelia reached him she closed her arms around his upper body hugging him tightly, and Xander in return let his palms rest on the sides of her waist in a small imitation of a hug. Cordelia Chase was the only woman he knew who could take his kidnapping and reduce it down to the fact that he had worried her. In some ways it was good to know that some things in this world could be relied on to never change.

The door to the office slammed open so hard that the glass window shivered and the wood rebounded off the wall as Spike slammed into the room.

"What the bloody hell is going on?" he demanded, anger roughening his accent.

Xander dropped his hands and physically stepped back, hoping to get away from Cordelia's embrace. Touching wasn't allowed. Touching was never allowed. You didn't let the trainers catch you touching. Not unless… Xander struggled to push down the terror that came bubbling into his throat as the memory threatened to surface.

Xander recognized his own irrational thoughts; he knew that he was sliding off into a void, but he was suddenly helpless against the memories that rose like dark floodwaters, threatening to tear apart everything in their path. He stepped back again but Cordelia simply stepped with him her arms trapping him, condemning him as she glared at Spike. As long as her arms were around him, he was breaking the rules. You didn't touch. You never touched.

Xander started breathing heavily and he tried to remind himself that this was Cordelia, this was Spike, this was Angel. They didn't care. And yet the panic continued to rise until the rushing darkness threatened to breach his defenses and the memories pushed in on him.

How many lessons had they expected them to learn? How many? He wasn't the smart one, he wasn't good at remembering things. They couldn't expect him to remember all the rules. And yet they did. There were rules and rules and rules. And punishments and rules and torture and rules. Xander shivered as he remembered the cold steel links brushing against his back. Don't touch.

Xander blinked and as the world swam into focus he realized Cordelia was sitting on the ground staring at him in horror. Spike was standing behind him, strong arms curled possessively around his waist. That was allowed; Spike was allowed. Master was allowed to touch. Xander turned in his Master's arms and buried his face in the crook of Spike's neck as he tried to catch his breath.

"S'all right, you're fine." Spike’s voice crooned in just the same way he had once crooned to Dru, and Xander wondered who would win the loon contest now. He was pretty sure he could give the crazy seer a run for her money at this point. Lucky for him Spike seemed to be into crazy, because those strong arms cradled him to his chest until Xander could breathe again.

Xander glanced up at Wesley's open-mouthed horror and Cordelia's shock and Angel's... well, he couldn't actually tell what Angel was feeling, not that this was anything new. Okay, he couldn't hide in Spike's arms forever. Not even if he wanted to. Xander took a deep breath and stepped back. Xander saw nothing but loving concern in Spike’s eyes as he opened his arms, allowing Xander to step out of his embrace.

As Angel held out a hand to help Cordelia from the floor, Xander opened his mouth, but then he couldn't quite figure out what to say, especially since he had no idea what happened. Well yeah, he had a pretty good idea since Spike would have sent her across the room with one shove and she was only on the floor in front of him. That gave him a small hint about who had done the pushing. He wasn't a complete moron, just a half moron.

"Cordelia, I..." Xander started, but then he lost his words.

"Cordelia didn't mean to startle you," Angel said carefully when Xander's voice had failed him. Behind him Spike muttered a few choice words on Cordelia's parentage, and Angel gave his childe a quick glare. "And neither did Spike," Angel added in a darker tone.

"I'm sorry," Xander blurted out quickly.

"No, I'm sorry," Cordelia added. "You're just looking so good with the trim fighting form and the muscles and the gorgeous curls that you're obviously using conditioner on, not to mention the vast improvement on your wardrobe... I mean, I just forgot," she trailed off plaintively.

Cordelia's comments left Xander speechless, not in the slave-without-permission-to-speak type speechless, but in the oh-my-god-how-are-you-supposed-to-handle-a-compliment-from-Cordelia-Chase type speechless. He'd just gotten more compliments from her in one sentence than he had in the entire time they were dating. Of course the entire time they were dating she never complimented him once, so that wasn't actually hard. Xander looked over to Spike since he had no idea how to handle anything he’d just heard.

"Bloody right. He's looking right shaggable, isn't he?" agreed Spike with a cheerful leer. Okay, now that wasn’t exactly what Xander had expected, not that he had any idea what to expect. He found himself blushing a little.

"Ew. Okay you didn't have to get that graphic," Cordelia complained with a pinched expression on her face.

"Oi, you know you're thinkin' about it, but you already lost your chance at the boy." Now the leer changed into something a little more smug.

"Oh please," Cordelia sniffed, and Xander realized that her dismissal didn't hurt at all. He wondered whether that was because he had Spike now or because she had just called him cute... at least it sounded like she called him cute. "Besides," Cordelia continued as she narrowed her eyes, "as I remember you had a little something to do with that."

"Worked out soddin' well for me, didn't it?" Xander watched the two of them banter back and forth, and it suddenly occurred to him that they liked each other. Well, not like each other as in *liked* each other, because that would just be wrong and ew, but they liked each other in a cat liking a scratching post kind of way.

Xander wasn't entirely sure that Angel understood that because the older vampire had moved to stand between Spike and Cordelia as though he was going to have to physically defend Cordelia's honor. Xander leaned back a little and Spike's hand found the small of his back where it rested comfortably.

"William, I think we have more important business to deal with here."

"Oi, just havin' a little fun with the cheerleader." And again with the grin, this time with a hint of tongue behind his teeth.

"In your dreams, Bleach Boy. You're never going to have any fun with me," Cordelia snapped. Spike's only reply was one of his knowing laughs that always managed to make Xander's cock twitch with need.

"Wesley, pack the weapons," Angel changed the subject. "Try to stick with the classics: stakes and swords."

Xander turned and saw the ex-watcher hovering at the edge of the group.

"What are we going after?" Wesley asked as he started toward a large cabinet at the far side of the lobby.

"Vamps," Angel answered shortly, and then before anyone could say anything else, the great Broody One turned and disappeared back into the office, closing the door behind him loudly enough to make it clear that he didn't want company.

"Right then, we're off," Spike announced brusquely. Xander offered Cordelia a small smile and Wesley absolutely nothing as he followed Spike out of the Hyperion towards the waiting car.


The entire ride back to Sunnydale, Xander kept expecting the Inquisition to start. Questions about what had triggered the flashback or whether he was okay after the flashback, but Spike remained unusually silent. Or a least as silent as he could be considering that he was singing along at the top of his voice with what Xander considered to be the world's worst music. It took all of Leshar's training for Xander to not make a comment about the wails and random screeches that were currently pounding out of the car's radio.

Eventually Xander couldn't take the lack of talkage any more, either that or he was going to go utterly deaf from Spike's music.

"Master?" Xander spoke barely above a whisper, but Spike immediately reached out and flipped the radio off.

"Yeah, pet?"

"Is Angel coming to Sunnydale?" Xander bit his tongue, physically bit it. He bit it hard enough to make it hurt, which, when he thought about it, wasn't the brightest thing in the world, but every fiber of his being was screaming at him about training and not questioning his Master.

"Yeah," Spike answered as he reached over and let his hand rub the inside of Xander's thigh. The answer was just friendly enough that Xander could tell himself that he wasn't in trouble, but it was just short enough to let Xander know his Master wasn't planning on saying any more. Xander would just have to wait and see.

Chapter 7:

"Does everyone know his place?" Angel asked as the four of them stood in the shadows of one of Sunnydale's oldest cemeteries, one that happened to be close enough to the Hellmouth that Xander would have been able to see the top of Sunnydale High if he hadn't helped blow the place to pieces.

"Wesley?" Angel asked.

"I'll cast the congelo spell and keep it up as long as possible."

"Xander?" At Angel's question, Xander cast a quick glance toward Spike who gave a small nod.

"I'll defend Wesley while he does the jello thing."

"Congelo!" Wesley snapped while Spike laughed.

"Spike?" Angel continued, ignoring the glares between Wesley and Spike.

"I'm bloody killin' anythin' that moves," Spike said as he waggled his eyebrows at Wesley.

"Try to limit yourself to killing this new Master's minions," Angel said dryly.

"Ya used to be a lot more fun, Peaches," Spike answered as he sat back on a headstone.
"You're the one who asked for help, William," Angel said through tight lips.

"Oi, it was that or make m’self a bunch of minions to use as cannon fodder."

"William," Angel growled. Xander couldn't contain a small snort of laughter at the sight of Spike getting his sire completely wound up. Spike looked over and gave him a wide grin and a wink while Angel rolled his eyes and turned away muttering.

"You two stay here and look helpless, we're going to circle and see if we can't flush out some vampires. I'm feeling a need to kill something myself," Angel said as he started walking.

"We'll be close, just come if ya hear Angel scream for help, yeah?" Spike said with an intense look at Xander. Xander gazed back confidently.

"Yes, Master," he answered as he rested his hands on his knives. Spike turned and disappeared into the trees, walking in the opposite direction as Angel had.

Xander felt like bouncing on the balls of his feet the way he'd so often seen his Master do, but instead he sat waiting on a stone bench with his fists curled around his knives. The old Xander would never have been so patient, he realized with a start. A tiny, hesitant bubble of pride flickered through him.

"Are you alright then?" Xander looked over towards Wesley in surprise, trying to figure out what he could've said or done to give the former watcher the idea that he wasn't. After a long silence, Xander finally realized he was going to have to answer.

"I'm fine." Xander wondered what he must look like to the other man's eyes. After all, Wesley had known him before Leshar and before Lirowaus and before him losing his mind. Before becoming this new being, bonded to a Master who he once couldn’t stand to be in the same room with.

"It's just that you seem rather… I don't know… subdued." It wasn’t exactly a question, and so Xander didn't bother to answer, instead divided his time between looking at Wesley curiously and scanning the cemetery. Wesley sighed. "You must admit that most of the time we were together in Sunnydale, between you and Miss Rosenberg, a small city could have been powered off of the energy you two exuded." Xander thought about that comment for several moments while he stared out at the dark shapes of the trees and the shadowed outlines of the gravestones.

"I just don't show my excitement now," he finally said. Wesley frowned a little.
"Yes, quite. I can see why Giles would be concerned."

"You talked to Giles about me?" Xander didn't mean for his voice to get that sharp, and he took a couple of deep breaths to get control of his emotions again.

"Giles and I have spoken," Wesley said in a guarded tone. Those two of them discussing just how messed up *he* was suddenly struck Xander as the most hypocritical thing that he had ever heard. After all, Giles wasn't exactly in good shape himself, and at least Xander could admit that he was completely and totally screwed up. That gave him one up on Giles.

Xander would have considered telling Wesley at least some part of this, but a stirring in the trees distracted him. He turned to look at a group of tall elms that stood over a stone mausoleum at the far side of the cemetery. There it was again. One of the tree's leaves shimmered and danced for a moment as though something had hit the trunk hard enough to make all the branches shake. Xander stood and took a step forward as he drew his longer knife. The cool metal in his hand gave him confidence, and he could feel his adrenaline start to rise as he scanned the rest of the cemetery for other signs of movement.

"Spike," Xander said in a normal tone of voice, confident that Spike would still hear him. "Something's up at the north end."

"Xander, did you see something?" Wesley stepped up behind him, and Xander ignored the watcher in favor of trying to identify any possible enemies. No, Wesley, he hadn't seen anything, he just wanted to send his Master off on a wild goose chase in the middle of trying to flush out the invading Master Vampire. Xander bit off any sharp words, but he couldn't keep from rolling his eyes.

Xander spun at the sound of something scraping rock to his right. It was so loud that even Wesley heard because the watcher muttered a strange English curse under his breath before beginning to chant.

Xander smiled wickedly at the night and bent his knees a little as he considered the darkness around him. Keeping his sol knife in his right hand, he pulled a stake out of his waistband with his left as he started circling Wesley. Wesley's hands gripped a crossbow, but the man made no effort to actually aim since he was concentrating solely on the magical spell that Xander could feel start to slide around him, the power slipping over his skin like a snake.

A ghost of a feeling warned Xander that someone was behind him, and he spun with both weapons ready to take out the intruder, but he froze when he realized that it was Angel.

"They're coming," Angel said, and Xander barely avoided giving a hearty 'no duh' at the vampire's words. Instead he moved over to Wesley's right side, leaving Angel to guard Wesley's left side. "Where the hell is William?" Angel growled, but Xander knew that his Master would be near. Rather than worry about where Spike was, Xander concentrated on himself and the job his Master trusted him to do.

When the attack finally came, it came far more suddenly than Xander had expected. One moment the cemetery appeared to be abandoned, silent even of the normal sounds of night, which in and of itself was rather suspicious. The next moment a dozen vampires poured in from all directions, noiselessly running across the grass and darting between the headstones. Xander didn't waste his time with words, but instead fell into a fighting crouch, prepared to defend himself and Wesley.

As the vampires surged toward them, Wesley's spell reached out; Xander watched as his enemies' motions became awkward and slow. However, these were not helpless fledges who fled at the first sign of trouble. Of course, they weren't master vampires either, but they were old enough that they didn't panic. Instead they pushed forward in groups of three and four and Xander waited calmly for the first wave of attackers to reach him.

There were far too many vampires for Xander to get fancy, especially since he had to hold position and defend Wesley. So as the first vampire reached him, a curly red-haired man with a wide nose, Xander struck out with the blade of his golden Sol knife. The metal sliced through flesh and divided bone, turning the vampire to instant dust.

Xander didn't have time to celebrate, though. A second vampire was already on him, close enough to grab his arm. Xander slammed the stake home and pulled it out before the vampire even had time to turn to dust. Lunging forward through the cloud formed by the second vampire's death, Xander slashed at the third vampire. He missed the killing blow that he had intended, but his knife sliced her shoulder and arm, forcing the vampire to fall back.

Xander didn't have time to give chase, and so he turned on another of the sluggish attackers. This time he thrust forward with the stake, lodging it in the vampire's back with one hand while he used a vicious backhand to send his knife through the vampire's neck. Xander was breathing hard now, and he stepped back toward Wesley as he tried to catch his breath. His arms already ached from the force of his blows, his knife sending vibrations up through him as the metal struck bone. But Xander had learned to love that ache. It reminded him that as much as demons could hurt him, he could hurt them back.

Taking a quick glance around, he saw Angel was making short work of the vampires on his side. Wesley meanwhile continued to chant, and Xander shivered as the magical waves crawled over him. But this moment of reflection didn't last long since more attackers rushed in.

A dark-skinned man with dark, deep eyes ripped the stake from Xander's hand only to have Xander's knife halve his skull straight down the middle. Xander hadn't even been sure that that would kill a vampire, but because of how the vampire had grabbed his arm, it was the only strike he could make. It obviously worked because the vampire collapsed into dust before Xander's stake, which it had tossed aside, even hit the ground.

Xander pulled his silver Luna knife in one arcing motion as he brought his Sol knife down into the backbone of a vampire tossed in his direction by Angel. Wesley's chanting took on a shrill edge of desperation, and Xander danced to one side to avoid a vampire's fist as he glanced over at the watcher. Angel was several yards away battling his own group of vampires, and Wesley was continuing to chant while aiming his crossbow at a blonde woman who had managed to get past the two defenders.

Xander brought an elbow down into his own adversary's face, feeling the nose break under the pressure before he followed that up with a quick beheading. By that time, Wesley had already let fly the crossbow bolt. Even while distracted by the chanting, Wesley's aim proved true, and the woman disintegrated into a cloud of ash and dust. However two more vampires closed on Wesley's position. Xander hurried to defend the man. There were so many vampires that without the spell's assistance, none of them had a fighting chance. Even though he had feared that Wesley would give up the chanting in favor of defending his life, Wesley continued to chant even while striking out at the first vampire with his stake.

The second vampire was so focused on Wesley that she never saw the blade that severed her head from her body. Xander felt a grim satisfaction, and he turned to deal with the second attacker. However, Wesley knelt on one knee in the grass, still chanting, while dust and ash slowly settled to the ground. Xander moved closer to Wesley as he took up a defensive position again.

Xander knew that his fighting skills had improved tremendously since he had started fighting with Spike. Of course, when your two choices were to get better at fighting or get your ass kicked by a 120 year old Master Vampire, improvement was a given. However, with Wesley's spell he discovered a whole new level of demon fighting. Now the demons were the ones who were slow and awkward and Xander could dance between them, striking out at the head of one with a golden blade, while sinking a silver blade deep into the belly of another.

In the back of his mind, Xander was aware of the fact that the waves of demons were thinning, but he forced himself to stay focused on killing as many of them as he could reach. When Wesley’s voice stilled, Xander had a moment of shining panic where he thought that he had failed. He whirled around, determined to kill whatever demon had forced Wesley to stop his spell-casting, but instead of finding another attacker, he found Wesley standing under a tree next to Angel. Both were looking around at the cemetery.

Xander watched as two stray vampires took off across the grass with their newly recovered speed, and Xander took one running step in their direction. Then he stopped. There was the whole 'he would never catch them without the spell slowing them down' thing, but more than that, he didn't want a repeat of Spike's anger. He really didn't think Angel and Wesley needed to watch him get put into a punishment position or get spanked. And really, if they did want to see that, Xander didn't want to know they wanted to see that because of the whole ew factor, well, that and his ego could do without either of them getting to see that little humiliation.

Until then, Xander hadn't noticed his master's absence, but now he looked around the empty cemetery. The moon shone bright enough to cast long, indistinct shadows at the base of each gravestone and the trees' leaves made a gentle chittering sound. However, other than Wesley and Angel, he didn't see any movement. Xander tightened his fists around his knives as he cast a panicked glance toward the far sides of the cemetery. He saw only distant brick walls, the tall mausoleums, and the arched gateway marking the entrance to the cemetery. No matter where he looked, there was no Spike.

Xander set off for the copse of trees where he'd seen Spike disappear before the fight. A thin little voice in the back of his mind pointed out that if Spike were dead, there wouldn’t be anything left to find. However, Xander was good ignoring that little voice. Hell, he'd been doing it for years. He set off with a determined stride that took him within a few feet of Wesley and Angel.

"Xander?" Angel said as Xander marched past them, intent on his goal.

"Xander, hold on!" Angel called, and Xander just ignored him with the same determination with which he had once ignored his math teacher, Mr. Phillips.

"Xander!" Angel called again as Xander left the vampire behind. When Angel's heavy hand fell on Xander's shoulder, he simply rolled his shoulder and shrugged to one side to get rid of the unwanted touch. However, the hand came again, and this time it held his shoulder more firmly. Unable to continue forward, Xander turned with an angry scowl.

"What?" Xander snapped and then he took a couple of deep breaths as he tried to control the anger and fear.

"Xander, just hold on a minute," Angel suggested. However Xander wasn't interested in any suggestions.

"I need to find Spike," Xander said almost desperately, and then he realized how unnecessary those words must have been since he didn't have any other possible reason for walking off in the first place. However, Angel didn't seem impressed with his needs because the large hand remained on his shoulder. "Damn it, let go," Xander demanded as the panic rose.

"Xander, we'll go together, but we need to go find Willow first. She'll be able to cast a spell to find him." Xander didn't know what annoyed him more -- the fact that Angel was physically stopping him from his goal or the fact that Angel was talking to him as though he were three years old and mentally challenged. Okay, the mentally challenged part might be debatable, but he was definitely older than three. And he certainly wasn't going to waste precious time going to Willow.

"You go get Willow. I'm going to find Spike." Xander tried to take a step backwards and yank his arm out of Angel's grip, but the vampire didn't budge.

"Xander," Angel said in that same condescending tone.

"Deadboy," Xander sneered in his own snottiest tone. Behind him he could hear Wesley gasp, but he didn't have time for Wesley's crap either. "Get your fucking hand off me," Xander demanded when the snotty tone of voice didn't work.

"Angel," Wesley said from behind, "perhaps you should let Xander go." Xander craned his neck around to look at Wesley in surprise. Where he had expected to see pity or some self-assured superiority, instead he only saw something that came close to understanding. Angel's hand loosened, and Xander took a step back.

"Oi, what the bloody hell are you lot up to?" Spike asked as he came through the trees. Blood trickled from a slash in his face that ran from the outer corner of one eye down to his chin, and as he walked, his tongue snaked out and licked the blood from his split lip. His left leg was dragging a little, but his expression was one of pure, violent glee.

"Master," Xander breathed softly in relief.

"So what have you nancy-boys been up to while I was off killing the new would-be master of the Hellmouth?" he demanded with a smirk. Xander could feel his legs tremble in the aftermath of his near panic attack. His first instinct was to go to his knees and press his cheek against Spike’s thigh, seeking the relief and protection and security that he always found at his Master's feet. However, the presence of the two men standing behind him made him suddenly self-conscious and so he stood and waited until Spike reached him and slid a bloodstained and strong arm around his waist, pulling him into his Master's side.

"Can't leave you lot alone for a second, can I?" Spike’s expression was feral, but his tone was almost affectionate.

"William," Angel only said the one word, but Xander could feel Spike's muscles twitch in response.

"Right then, thanks for the help, now get your bloody arses out off my Hellmouth." Spike softened his words with a smile, but it wasn't a very soft smile.

"Perhaps that would be best," Wesley offered. When both vampires turned to stare at Wesley, Xander felt a flare of sympathy. After all, he used to be the one that would always open his mouth and say something that was unnecessary, inappropriate, or unwanted. Heck, sometimes it was all three. He'd found the whole not talking thing to be much easier on the ego than the talking thing. And again with the wonderment at how much he’d changed since the days of Droopy Harris.

"We should probably stop in and see the others while we're here," Angel finally declared. Xander could tell that Spike wanted to order Angel out, he wanted to be respected as the Master of the Hellmouth that he truly was, but that wasn't the relationship that he and Angel shared.

"Right then, you do that." Spike's arm tightened around Xander's waist and then Spike started walking back in the direction of Joyce's house. Without warning, Spike stopped and looked back at the two men still standing under the tree in the middle of the cemetery. "One last thing, Xander and me have some hunting to do, so we won't be around town for a while."

"Spike, do you think that's a good..." Angel never got to finish his comment.

"Bloody hell yes! You saw my boy fight, he moves like a demon, like a soddin' fury takin' his revenge. Don't go thinkin' he can't take care of himself because he's a whole sight stronger than Giles or Willow who keeps natterin' on to you when she thinks we aren't around to hear. We have business to take care of. So just keep your bloody nose out of it." Spike's words left Angel standing with his mouth literally open in shock, and Xander understood the feeling.

Without another word Spike turned back and hurried Xander off to the far side of the cemetery. Xander followed willingly, practically floating on a cloud of approval. Spike thought he was strong.


Chapter 8:

"Right then, before we go in there, we need to have a talk," Spike said. Xander turned in the car seat so that he was angled toward his master. Unfortunately, he didn't take into consideration the new outfit. A strap between his legs attached to a small black pouch that enclosed his cock and balls on one end and to a belt around his waist on the other, and when he turned in the seat he found the skin pinched sharply in the stiff leather. Spike obvious misinterpreted the expression.

"Oi, what's that look for?" he asked, and Xander schooled his face into a more neutral expression.

"Ow… Master," Xander said with an apologetic shrug as he squirmed little more. Xander found himself smiling as Spike rolled his eyes. Xander really did understand Spike's amusement what with the whole surviving Leshar's training only to complain about pinched skin. However, that didn't change the fact that Xander really was glad that his hair had never grown back because that would be more ow-making than he really wanted to deal with.

"Loon," Spike accused him. "So, are ya listening to me now?"

"Yes, Master," Xander agreed as he shifted a little more to try and find a more comfortable position. No matter how he shifted, the edge of the leather strap bit into some piece of sensitive skin so Xander finally gave up and just sat still with his best 'paying attention' expression on his face.

"Not happy about going in there, pet," Spike said as he nodded at the large building. Xander sat in the rental car looking at the enormous two story brick factory and he couldn't exactly claim he was thrilled. He didn't know what scared him more: the idea that they might not find the girl or the idea that they might. Xander flashed on a memory of her eyes, and he feared seeing the fear and accusation in her eyes again.

And he wasn't exactly the poster boy for mental health, so part of him understood Spike's logic, which really was kinda scary considering that neither he nor Spike were really good at the logic parts…. Or the plan parts. Or the not getting their asses kicked parts. But a little piece of his brain still felt like he had raped the girl, and being told by a soulless killer that he shouldn't feel guilty didn't exactly help that. Xander should have been used to his brain not really getting along with itself, but he couldn't help feeling the creepy anyway.

Spike hadn't asked a question; he had just complained, so Xander waited.

"You aren't the same person you were before, pet." Spike said and Xander waited for Spike to say something that wasn't ridiculously obvious. "Ya have to remember that this is an act, pet. Don't let yourself forget that you're a bloody demon hunter," Spike said, and Xander watched as Spike's fingers twitched nervously. It suddenly occurred to him that he hadn't seen Spike smoke in a long time, but now those long fingers moved as though searching for something to do. Xander idly wondered what Spike did with his hands before cigarettes.

"You understand what I'm saying, then?" Spike asked.

"Yes, Master," Xander answered.

"Pet, I’m looking for a little more than a 'yes.' Need to know you're going to be okay because I don't care if you have fifty soddin' rugrats in there, I won't risk you." Xander froze at that open confession. Blue eyes turned to look at him, and Xander could see the nervousness of those hands reflected in eyes that had flecks of yellow sparking in them like tiny flames.

"I'll be fine, Master. I…" Xander thought for a moment about what was and wasn't true in his own head. "I'm not like their slaves," he finally answered. "I know how to fight back."

"Bloody right. You faced down Angelus. You helped take out another Master's army of vampires without tripping on one of 'em."

"Which is more than Droopy Harris would have been able to do, Master," Xander added.

"Oi. Droopy Harris was so confused and untrained, he was lucky he didn't stake himself," Spike said with a smirk.

"You couldn't kill him," Xander blurted, and then he bit his lip as he turned his eyes back to the brick building outside their rented car.

"And you're right about that," Spike said softly. Xander ducked his head down. For some reason he felt like being right somehow made his blurting even worse, and yeah, chalk one up for the lack of logic on that one. Xander focused his eyes on the dash until he heard Spike sigh. Then he risked a small glance.

"Bloody glad I couldn't," Spike said as he reached over and ruffled Xander's hair gently before tugging on a curl.

"This is just playactin', and having the courage to walk in there knowin' the danger shows how strong you are."

Xander stared back into his Master's eyes calmly. "I have to find her, Master."

"Still the White Knight, so we find the bird and get the hell out. Don't bloody like these people," Spike said briskly as he opened the door. Xander got out on his side and pulled the heavy coat closer around him as the chilled fall air whipped around his face. His breath came out in white plumes and his feet tingled with the cold of the dark asphalt.

Spike had tried arguing for Xander to wear shoes, but Xander knew the coat alone would cause enough raised eyebrows. Hell, arriving at a show walking behind his Master would cause a few raised eyebrows. Well, assuming the demons had eyebrows. It might cause raised eye ridges or raised spines. Or, hey, they could have actual hackles to raise.

Xander knew full well he'd gone on full out panic-babble mode but then he was following Spike into a building full of creatures that saw him as a lower-life form. Of course there was the being weaker and shorter lived and more fragile Xander kinda understood where they were coming from, but it didn't mean he wanted to hang out with them.

He mentally replayed the image of Spike telling Angel off. Spike had called him strong and if everyone else in this old factory thought he was weak and helpless, it didn't matter. Xander flexed his hands inside his coat pockets as he imagined the feeling of Sol and Luna in his hands, the feeling of their blades slicing through demon flesh. Spike banged on a door that came open almost immediately, and Xander slipped to his knees in perfect form. These were demons and he was on demon manners.

"So you're the vampire. Register your animal and get your room assignment at the desk there," Xander kept his eyes properly focused on the ground in front of him, but he recognized the rattling sound of the demon's voice, and he flashed on an image of his beautiful Luna knife slicing through the line of spine along the back of his head. Right. And then the rest of the demons would have him and Spike shoved in a cage in about a second. Xander reminded himself to let go of the anger. Not in the plan.

"Thanks, mate," Spike answered and then he was on the move. Xander rose and followed, the fluid slave gait coming back to him as he stepped onto the tiled floor and felt demon eyes watching him. Somewhere back in his mind, the primitive part of his brain screamed at him to run, but he focused on watching Spike's coat flap as he followed like a proper slave.

"This where I get my room key?" Spike stopped and Xander knelt again.

"Your beast checked in?"

"Plannin' on doin' it after I get my room and have the boy put our things away," Spike answered calmly, but from his place kneeling at Spike's feet, Xander could see one of Spike's legs twitching nervously.

"Gotta check in your animal first. Get him papers and I'll give you your key," the demon said in a bored tone.

"And where do I do that?"

"Doctor's that way," Xander stood and followed as Spike took off again.

"And get him out of those clothes," the demon yelled, and Spike stopped so suddenly that Xander nearly bumped him and had to drop to his knees so close to Spike that his shoulder pressed into Spike's knee.

"Right, off with the coat, pet," Spike ordered, and Xander instantly shrugged it off onto the ground. Xander resisted the urge to trace the figure tattooed into his chest, his bird. Even in the harsh light of the factory it was beautiful, each individual feather was clear as the bird prepared to take off or land, wings stretched up to the sky. The tattoo and the collar were permanent, other decorations had been chosen to impress the local slavers.

Leather armbands were laced around his forearms, the long trailing laces running down the back of his arms. On the front of his collar hung his black chain with three red crystals trailing down his chest and ending just at his belly button. And with the coat off, demons could see his draped back chains with teardrop shaped crystals that were worth more than most slaves at the show. Xander reached down and tried to unobtrusively pull one hip chain out from where it was caught in the folds of the coat, and the red crystal on the end came free just as Spike scooped up the coat and started walking.

Without the coat to muffle the sound, his ankle strap with it's small bell chimed with each step, and he had actually argued against that one, but Spike had insisted. Xander wondered whether Spike liked dressing him up or whether the vampire wanted a way to keep track of Xander in the crowd, but it didn't matter. Spike had wanted it, and now with every step, Xander tinkled. And really, tinkling in public… not his thing.

Xander considered sharing that joke with Spike, but they had reached other desk, and Xander went to his knees properly. Of all the ornaments he wore, though, the auction required pouch annoyed him the most. The tight leather straps and small pouch squeezed uncomfortably, and when Spike reached down and stroked his hair as he talked to the demon, the pouch became even more uncomfortable. The strap continued between his butt cheeks giving him a permanent wedgy, and the strap around his waist made it hard to see the delicate black links of his hip chains.

"Up, pet," Spike ordered, and Xander realized that the petting of the hair and the aching of the cock had distracted him long enough that he had lost track of the conversation.

He rose with a roll of his body that made his hip chains slither around his legs, and Xander hated the fact that the chains sliding over the leather of the harness made an unpleasant scratching noise.

"Right over here," a high-pitched voice said, and Xander kept his gaze down as Spike guided him with a grip on his elbow.

"Does he need to be restrained?" the high-pitched voice asked again, and Xander was guessing Nelka demon. Or Ritome demon. Or Shurl demon. Or he had no idea. The last was a very real possibility.

"No, and don't want him restrained," Spike insisted darkly.

"Then let's just check him out then."

Xander stood, Spike's hand on his elbow keeping him from kneeling, and Xander switched into a proper stance, his legs apart, his hands at the small of his back, his head down. An unfamiliar and hot hand ran down his arm and then unexpectedly pinched the skin right above his elbow.

Xander jumped a little, and then cursed himself out a lot. During Leshar's training he had endured whips without flinching. Focusing himself on the dual images of Spike calling him strong and the girl's green eyes begging him to save her, Xander took control of his body and the examination continued.

A finger went in his mouth, and he obediently opened as it explored.

"He's marked," the voice said suspiciously.

"Yeah, trainer did that before I bought him."

"West Coast slave?"

"Yeah. Got a problem with that?" Spike demanded. Xander focused on keeping his breathing normal, but his body wanted to move to Spike's side when his Master took that tone. The finger in his mouth withdrew and a hand pressed down on his shoulder. Since fighting wasn't an option, Xander submitted and sank to his knees.

"I have a problem with abusing good stock. I'm not some Pylean," the demon said, hissing out the word Pylean like a curse.

"Case you haven't noticed, I'm not soddin' green."

"No. You're just a vampire." If the word Pylean had been a curse, the word vampire was… well, something way bigger than a curse. Way, way bigger. An uber-curse. And really, he needed to borrow a thesaurus from Willow.

"You're supposed to sign off on him being healthy or not. So just do your bloody job," Spike snarled, and from the slightly leaky sound on the 's' sounds, Xander guessed his Master had gone into game face.

"I don't like you, vampire."

"I'm not thinkin' much of you right now either. So sign off on the bloody paperwork before I start—" Spike's words cut off so suddenly that he risked glancing up, panicked at the thought of something happening to Spike, but his Master simply had an expression of intense concentration as his lips pursed together and then pushed first up and then down, resulting in some pretty strange expressions.

"Right, just do it," Spike finished. Xander felt a warmth spread around his back before something smooth and hot touched him. This time he kept himself from flinching, but as the heat grew, he had remind himself that Spike would protect him. He recognized this heat having felt it a dozen times when Leshar's doctor would heal him. It had been an endless cycle of injury and healing, and he focused his eyes on the tattoo to keep that memory from sucking him under. Eventually the heat ended and the tapping of footsteps told him that the demon had walked away.

"He's healthy," that voice admitted, and Xander could hear the unhappiness in it, which, hey! If she liked humans, she shouldn't be hoping he wasn't fine.

"Paperwork then," Spike snapped, and Xander heard the sound of a pen over paper.

"If at any point he isn't fine, I reserve the right to kick your ass out of the show," the demon bit back, and then the sound of rustling paper.

"Oi, wouldn’t hurt my boy," Spike insisted before he turned. The minute Spike took a step, Xander rose and followed after him. Focusing on his swinging hip chains and keeping his back chains motionless and the tinkling of his damn ankle strap, Xander could just let the other fears slide away.

Following after his Master as Spike got a room key and led him through the mass of demons uncaging their humans and setting up booths, Xander concentrated on the cool slide of metal links across his body and the tickling of the leather laces and the pressure on his cock which was maddening and yet somehow still incredibly pleasurable. He let his body lead him to a plateau where the only thing that existed was his Master and the touch of his Master's toys against his body.

He had reached a place of almost dream walking when a voice slammed him back into reality with shouting demon voices and boxes and crates slamming into the floor and all the other normal sounds of a huge open space filled with construction.

"I thought you would have already turned my sweet boy there," a familiar voice said. Spike stopped in the middle of the corridor, and Xander went to his knees. Part of him wanted to tremble in a combination of fear and rage at hearing that voice, and another part obsessively checked to make sure his form was perfect as he knelt at his Master's side.

"Leshar," Spike growled.


Chapter 9:

"Vampire," Leshar said in a voice that made his distaste clear.

"Not interested in anythin' you have to say," Spike snarled as he started walking, and Xander rose to follow. However, Spike stopped almost immediately. Xander's hip chains bobbed awkwardly as he came to a halt and slid back down to his knees. From there he could see Leshar's legs right in front of Spike's legs, and Xander took deep breaths as he reminded himself that in a fair fight Spike would rip all of Leshar's skin off his body before letting him die.

The problem was the feeling of others watching. The sounds of construction petered off, and Xander could just imagine the demons gathering around them. Xander had more experience with demons than most people, and he didn't see demons being big with the fair fighting thing.

"Your beast attacked me, stabbed me. Since he is still an animal and not a half-breed like you, that demands punishment," Leshar insisted, and Xander had to struggle not to tremble at the word punishment: he just wasn't sure whether he was feeling terror or fury. "An animal cannot be allowed to get away with that behavior," Leshar announced loud enough for the gathering crowd to hear.

Xander listened as the normal background sounds faded as the demons around them quieted. Oh yeah, this was bad.

"My pet isn't any of your business," Spike stepped forward a half step, and Xander just kept still since Spike would need room to move if a fight broke out. Without his Solluna knives, he knew he wouldn't be much help in the middle of it. He had a brief image of himself trying to fight and keep his hips chains flowing at the same time, and really… this might be a sign he was approaching quietly hysterical.

"Misbehaving animals are the business of everyone at the show. Surely you know the rules." Leshar backed off a step, and Xander could see his former trainer's shoes move across his line of sight.

"You soddin' little wanker. You're about to--" Spike's words were cut off by a strangely whining voice yelling something in a language Xander didn't recognize.

"Not goin' to be talked to like that," Spike snapped back. Xander watched Leshar's legs retreat several steps more. The large tentacled thing that edged into Xander's vision made Xander want to back off himself, but he held position. He wasn't going to get out of this himself, so he had to trust Spike to fix this one. Xander tried really hard not to remember how all of Spike's pre-chip plans had worked out. Hell, most of Spike's post-chip plans had sucked monkey balls too.

The voice whined about something else, and this time Leshar answered.

"Yes, I do. That animal is violent and has attacked a handler." Xander focused on the line of the tiles in front of him as he realized that he was the topic of conversation.

"He's my property, and you can just get your hairy arse out of my business," Spike growled after another briefly whined inquiry.

"How dare y--" Leshar legs stepped forward fast enough that Xander was happy to be behind Spike, but the legs suddenly stopped a couple of feet away from Spike who had dropped back into a fighting stance with one foot braced behind the other.

"Enough!" The whiny voice shrieked in a tone that made Xander think of fingernails down a chalkboard. The world's biggest nails and the world's biggest chalkboard. Amplified. By about a hundred. He couldn't control the flinch at that tone of voice, and then he froze as he checked his form and pulled his back straight again.

"Charges have been made, leash the animal," the voice demanded in a tone that was only bone-gratingly annoying. Xander watched as Spike's back leg twitched nervously, but he wasn't surprised when Spike dropped the fighting stance and started digging in one of his duster pockets. They were surrounded by demons, and Spike might be a little manic but he wasn't stupid. Not even he would try to fight all these demons.

Soon Spike's hand appeared with a leash in hand, and Xander remained motionless as Spike attached the leash to the same link as his front decoration.

"I'm not havin' my pet punished for stabbin' you, that's for sure," Spike snarled, and Xander flinched mentally even if he didn't show it as he rose smoothly to his feet with the leash swaying between them as he trailed after his master. He was quickly revising his opinion on his Master's non-stupidness. Okay, maybe he wasn't stupid-type stupid, but he was big on the not keeping his mouth shut type stupid. Xander knew full well that the other demons would demand punishment for the stabbing no matter what Spike said.

Xander concentrated on swinging his hips in perfect time with the dangling hip chains. The motion made his ankle strap ring merrily, and Xander tried focusing on that rather than the whipping he was going to get. If he was lucky it would be a whipping. Xander tried to not think about the other options. Funny though, the more he tried to not think of other options, the more all those options kept crowding into his mind.

Even though Xander was well on his way to a full out panic attack, he lowered himself gracefully when Spike stopped again. Spike took a step back, and Xander would have adjusted himself; however, Spike's hand found his hair and long fingers held him in place with a simple caress.

"The full council is not here, so this will be an informal meeting. However, we need to decide if the animal is to be allowed at this show."

Xander's breathed a little easier. It sounded like the worst they would do is send him home. At least that thought was a comfort until Xander realized what that meant. No him, no finding the girl; no finding the girl, no finding his child. Suddenly Xander would rather endure a dozen whippings. Earlier he had worried about facing the girl, and now terror ran though him at the thought of not having the chance to face her. Spike's hand pulled him into a lean, and Xander took deep breaths as he tried to control his rising tide of fear and guilt and pain.

Xander didn't realize that he had missed another chunk of time until Spike tugged a lock of hair.

"Master?" he asked, his voice carrying that shaky edge-of-crying tone that he had hated as a child. It had had always made his father look at him with his bewildered sort of disgust like he was shocked that a child of *his* could be so babyish as to cry. And really… he wasn't fond of it now either.

"They asked you a question, pet," Spike said, and Xander trembled a bit as he realized he was screwing it all up. He couldn't get his brain to even engage enough to remember the question much less answer it.

"I..." he paused as he voice shook uncertainly. "I didn't hear, Master. I'm sorry," Xander whispered since he couldn't control his voice when he spoke louder. At one point he had thought having his voice squeak at unexpected times as it changed was embarrassing, but this trembling that made his throat tighten and strangled his syllables... this was even more embarrassing. At least he wasn't trying to babble and cry at the same time, Xander consoled himself.

"Inattentive," Leshar snapped harshly, and Xander didn't quite control his flinch. Spike's hand just started a soothing pattern of circles.

"Pet, are you being inattentive?"

"Yes, Master," Xander admitted, hating that all these demons were seeing his failure.

"Why?" Spike asked softly, and Xander really wished Spike would just wait on the public humiliation until they were alone. Not that it would be public then. But he really preferred private humiliation to public humiliation.

"Master, I don't want you... I'm making you look bad," Xander finished after a false start. "I'm sorry, Master." Xander's body trembled despite his best effort to keep form, but it was so hard to keep the body in form when he was leaning into that strong leg and feeling those slender fingers in his hair.

"S'all right, pet. The council here just asked why you stabbed him."

"You ordered me to, Master," Xander immediately answered.

"I demand that the vampire AND the slave be removed from the show at once. His willingness to..."

"Stop!" the fingernails down the chalkboard voice demanded in a high-pitched scream.

"What do you mean by ordering your slave to attack?" the voice challenged Spike, and Xander felt a tightening in his stomach that threatened to force his breakfast out.

"Oi, I... Pet, when did I tell you to stab Leshar?"

"When you gave me the knives," Xander said, and the hand in his hair had stopped petting and now held several curls firmly. Xander tried to focus on that day even while Spike communicated anger in the tightness of this grip and the small movements of Spike's leg and in the clipped words. "Master, you told me to stab anyone who tried to take me away again," Xander finished.

"You never… Leshar," Spike growled, his voice low and feral, and Xander could practically feel the shift as Spike's anger moved to the trainer. "Xander, tell me what happened." Xander thought back on that day with the smoke and the panic and Willow's blood on his hands.

"I was trying to get back to you. I knew you had gone farther in, and I was hiding and running. Leshar stopped me, grabbed me. He tried to pull me toward the exit, and I got scared," Xander also remembered getting angry, but he'd learned to not say some things. He was telling the truth about being scared though so none of the demons who could sense a human's lies would find anything in his reactions.

"I was trying to get the animal out of the fire," Leshar interrupted, and Xander didn't argue. He fell silent and waited for another question.

"I remember the vampire giving that order," a familiar voice rumbled, and Xander had the impression of something large moving behind him although he didn't turn to check. "It was right after the vampire killed Lirowaus for poaching."

"It's not poaching to take an animal away from a vampire," an unfamiliar voice called from the crowd.

"They'd given him passage into the auctions. The West Coasters sold a breeder to a vampire, so they can't then steal him back. Are we primitive beasts to steal from each other and show our weakness... our inability to earn for ourselves that which we covet?" Xander thought the feminine voice was familiar, and Xander suspected it was the blue demon, Calsha. "If Lirowaus wanted the animal, he should have bought him or challenged the vampire."

"Maybe we should challenge the vampire now," another voice called, and Xander focused on breathing as an angry mutter traveled through the crowd. Part of Xander wanted to have his knives in his hands so he could fight back, but another part was glad to be unarmed and leashed. If he wasn't, he knew he'd be doing something stupid right now. Monumentally stupid. Droopy Harris stupid.

"Oi, I'll take on any challenge," Spike shouted to the crowd, and Xander waited on the edge of panic to hear the response to that.

"I'll take you up on that, vampire." Xander nearly lost his balance as Spike spun around. "And when I'm done, you won't have to worry about someone taking your slave because you'll be a pile of dust that gets swept away into the trash." Xander focuses his eyes on the intersection of four tiles and his heart pounded nearly out of his chest.

"You're goin' ta be the one dyin', mate," Spike snarled, and Xander tried really hard to hang on as reality began to slip away from him in wisps of terror and panic.

That whine was back again, and Xander was really starting to resent the lack of English... he had enough trouble keeping track of what was going on without people talking in language he didn't know.

"He can just bloody wait here," Spike insisted angrily.

Whatever the other demon said, it didn't please Spike who offered only a growl at return.

"I'll take him," the feminine voice from the crowd offered, and now Xander saw the blue skinned demon who owned the huge slave. She stepped forward into the side of his vision, her slave missing from her side as she held out her hand. Spike stood motionless for a long moment, and Xander took furtive glances to the sides where demons watched with expressions that ranged from bloodthirsty to bored.

"Fine, but you keep him where I can see him," Spike finally handed over the end of the leash. Xander decided that he had already screwed up enough for one day, and so he shifted to kneel at Calsha's feet without complaint. Oh, he felt like complaining. He felt like complaining a lot. But instead of saying the many, many bad words that were currently crossing his mind, he slipped into a formal position kneel at Calsha's side.

"Pet, look at me," Spike said, and Xander looked up into the yellow eyes of his Master. "You watch me."

Since Spike had ordered him to watch, Xander kept his eyes focused on his Master as Spike strode across a large room to where some chairs stood against the wall. He shrugged out of his duster, catching it as it fell and tossing it onto one of the chairs before he turned around again.

Spike was still in game face, his ridges making shadows and his yellow eyes scanning the crowd. Calsha started walking toward another wall, and Xander stood and followed using his best form. When she stopped, he flowed to the floor, his hands tucked in behind his back and his head high so that he could watch his Master. Spike looked over at him and gave a crooked smile that Xander associated with sex and violence and mayhem. And when had mayhem gotten sexy? From the sudden painful tightness of his cock in the pouch, mayhem was very, very sexy.

A screeching noise came from the right, and Xander turned to look at the demon who had the world's most annoying voice. It could give Cordelia lessons on screeching. The thing looked vaguely like a flattened octopus with tentacles making up the lower half of its body. The fact that it had a sort of miniature humanish head stuck on the top just made it all the more disturbing.

"Just make sure the vampire follows the rules," another demon demanded in reply. Xander looked over, finally able to see the demon that would be fighting Spike. Calsha had skin that was a light shade of blue the Xander had to admit didn't look bad on a woman. The demon who wanted to fight Spike, however, had grayish-blue skin that made it look dead with huge mottled freckles-pimples things that varied from dark purple to sort of a greenish blue. It wasn't pretty. Then again, its mother probably loved it. The demon turned around and Xander got a good look up the widened, upturned nostrils, the sharp teeth, and the tight little horns held close to its head. Okay, even if he had given birth to the thing, Xander still wouldn't love anything that looked like that. Just ew.

"Only one rule here, Mate. Don't die. And I bloody well expect to follow that rule." Spike bounced on the balls of his feet as he paced a six foot section of the room. The blue demon snarled his frustration, and Xander returned his gaze to Spike.

As soon as he looked at his master, Spike looked back and winked.

"No helping the combatants, no calling a truce, winner takes the prize," freaky octopus dude declared. Xander didn't have to ask what the prize was.

"Enough bloody talking. Let's get on with this then." Everyone else seemed to agree with that because the center of the room was suddenly empty of all demons. Calsha even had to snarl at a gray skinned demon who tried standing in front of her as an audience formed in a squished-circle shape.

Spike started circling immediately, and Xander recognized the strategy. Spike's movements were slow and deliberate, intended to convince his enemy to ignore Spike's greatest advantage: his speed. The other guy kept pace with Spike, shifting from one large clawed foot to another as he prepared for an attack.

Spike's first attack was slow; he moved in and took a short jab before retreating. Xander struggled not to smile as he watched Spike toying with the demon. He had seen Spike use that same clumsy feign on any number of vampires, and they always fell for it. And then, once they saw Spike as slow and unimportant, then he would move in. Obviously this demon wasn't smarter than the average fledge.

The demon struck when Spike tried to make another circle around it, a huge law slashing through the air. Spike threw himself backwards his hands flying wide of his body so that he resembled a bird flying in reverse. And then Spike landed as gracefully as if he were a bird. Crouching slightly, he tilted his head as he looked at his opponent.

Xander expected the taunts to start now. Now that Spike knew how fast his enemy was and knew which hand his enemy used to attack, now Spike could have some fun. But the look of intense concentration didn't change on Spike's face. Spike snarled with yellowed eyes and lunged forward. When the demon brought his hands up to protect his face, Spike dropped into a crouch and swept the demon's legs with a solid kick.

The demon roared, and a number of monsters in the audience made answering noises: hisses and snarls and slurping sounds of disgust. Spike danced back again. The demon had half rolled to its side in an attempt to get back up when Spike landed a kick in its face.

The demon reached out and grabbed Spike by one leg, and Xander flinched as his Master went flying through the air. The demon tossed Spike like a rag doll into the wall where he slid down to the ground behind the line of watching demons. Oh yeah, that hurt. But when Spike pushed his way through the crowd, Xander couldn't see the pain in his expression. All Xander saw was the cold determination and even colder fury on Spike's face.

Spike launched himself at his opponent, his fist flying toward that wide nose. The demon brought his own hands up to defend his face, but at the last minute, Spike dodged to the left and slammed a foot into the side of the demon's leg. Stupid demon to fall for that twice, Xander decided. The thing had pretty well asked to get killed.

The audience grew still, and Xander had to remind himself to stay in form. The demon reached up, clawing at Spike, but his Master simply backed off leaving the demon on the floor. It supported its weight on its one good knee and one hand as he continued to follow Spike's circling movements with its eyes. Its second leg stuck awkwardly out to the side.

Spike dashed in and backhanded the demon across the face sending him collapsing onto his elbow before Spike retreated. Xander was shocked when the audience of demons cheered Spike's move. Spike's smirk grew wider as he began to torment the demon with a series of crippling hits. With every strike the audience grew more appreciative, clicking and howling and growling demands for blood. Xander knee-walked forward with Calsha who stepped forward as she cheered Spike to even greater violence. Xander watched in horror as the demon was reduced to raw flesh and seeping blood and bones that bent at impossible angles.

But despite his disgust, Xander kept his eyes on his Master as he'd been ordered. Spike brought his boot down one last time on the demon's head, and Xander could practically feel the moment when the monster died. Spike, bloodstained and gleeful, danced around the body once or twice to the sound of cheering demons before he turned towards Xander and Calsha. His eyebrows were lowered and his tongue pushing out on his lower lip. Xander knew that look. Despite the gore and his own disgust, he still couldn't resist that look.

"Come on, pet, got business in our room," Spike said as he retrieved his duster. Xander immediately stood and started toward his master, but when the leash tightened he stopped for a moment and looked back at Calsha. With a tilt of her head she dropped the lead so that the metal links fell against his chest and legs. Xander ducked his head submissively before returning to his Master's side.


Chapter 10:

When Spike opened the door to their room, Xander followed him in and stood just inside the door as Spike closed it behind them. At the last auction, Xander knew to go to his knees. At Joyce's house, Xander knew he would sit on the bed. Now he just hovered next to the tall dresser. The room held a large bed with a bench at the end and two nightstands, a television with a couch in front and from what little Xander could see through the open door, a huge bathroom.

The greens and browns looked like a magazine cover or one of the 'after' pictures on that British home improvement show Spike watched when he thought no one was paying attention. And really, that was proof his Master still wasn't the brightest bulb because Xander always paid attention, even when he pretended he didn't so that Spike could watch 'Changing Rooms' without having to make excuses. The illusion of normalcy was broken only by a large portrait of a yellowish brown demon leaning against a tree under a blue sun. Not even the British would hang something that ugly, Xander told himself. Then again, he'd seen 'Changing Rooms' so that was up for debate.

Spike started shrugging out of his duster as he walked across the room, and Xander quickly stepped forward and caught it before it could fall to the floor. He draped the coat over the bench at the foot of the bed before following Spike to the bathroom.

Spike washed the blood from his hands as Xander stood in the doorway watching.

"Master, why did they start cheering you?" Xander finally asked. The demons had clearly wanted Spike to lose. They wanted to see Spike's broken body lying dead on the floor, and they wanted Xander kneeling at that blue demon's feet. Xander shivered involuntarily at the thought.

"'Cause I was winning," Spike answered with a tight grin, as he pulled a washcloth from the rack and started cleaning his face. Only then did Xander realize some of the blood was Spike's own, from a large split at the side of his head.

"But you were beating one of their own."

"Oi, you don't have a very good understanding of demon psychology, pet. Most demons hate vamps because we're pack animals... we fight in clans or gangs. Demons see that and think it makes us weak. They think it's something left over from the humans we used to be. Out there, I proved that I wasn't weak and I didn't need anyone to fight with me."

Spike was still smiling as he continued to wipe off the blood that slowly seeped from his head wound. But for Xander, those words meant something else. For the first time he realized that Spike really didn't need him to fight. Every time they went out together, he wasn't helping Spike, he was just he was just one more person who Spike had to protect. Xander stood by the door motionless as he tried to make this piece of information fit in with what he already knew.

"Pet? You alright?" Spike suddenly asked, and Xander glanced up to see Spike looking at Xander's reflection in the mirror.

"Yes, Master," Xander said.

"Don't bloody lie... I've heated your backside for that before, and I'll do it again." Suddenly Spike was in front of him staring into his eyes with a bright blue gaze that demanded the truth.

"I..." Xander stopped as he tried to arrange his thoughts before running the risk of babbling. "I was just thinking about the fact you didn't need anyone to fight with you," Xander finally finished. He didn't know why that made his heart hurt so bad. It should be enough that Spike protected him and cared about him and made him feel loved, and yet Xander suddenly realized it wasn't. However, whether it was enough or not, it was what he had. He just had to adjust.

"Xander, tell me what you're thinking right now." Spike's gaze pinned him to the wall, and Xander opened his mouth to answer even though he really didn't want to. He wanted his thoughts to be private, but everything he was--including his thoughts--truly did belong to Spike.

"I had just -- I just wanted you to need me," Xander said quickly, well aware of the ridiculousness of the comment and how weak it made him sound. "I know you don't, Master. I'm okay with that, really. I just got a little confused," Xander hurried to explain.

"Bloody hell, I always manage to muck things up, don't I?" Spike's words made Xander open his mouth to protest. After all, it was Spike who saved both his life and his sanity. But Spike held up a hand to stop Xander from saying anything.

"Only meant that I don't need my bloody clan and I don't need to make minions or have some soddin' little gang to back me up." Spike's hand reached up and brushed a loose curl back from Xander's face. Xander half closed his eyes as the fingers combed through his hair and a thumb traced the edge of his eyebrow. "Always need you, pet. Ya fight next to me, but more than that, you're part of me." The hand that had been tracing Xander's features now trailed down his face and over his neck down to the tattoo displayed on Xander's chest. Xander lowered his eyes and watched as Spike traced the familiar design. Spike started with the snake, sliding one finger over the curves as he traced the animal sinuous body.

"That's me, pet. I'll always be part of you." Spike's fingers moved to where the hawk's claws clutched the snake in its grasp.

"Never had anyone really hold on to me, pet. Loved Dru. Bloody still love her, but I was just a substitute for Angel. Tried to be more, ta show her that I was worthy of holdin' on to, but she left without even tryin' to set me on fire. Not the first," Spike snorted, and Xander could hear the pain etched in those words. "There was a good couple of months after I got turned where Angel was everythin' to me. He'd take me out huntin' and taught me ta be a vampire. Yeah, he beat me bloody more days 'n I can count, and he broke William to pieces. But he soddin' put me back together in his image, the arrogant bastard. Then Darla comes back, and one word from that bitch, and Angelus suddenly don't have time for me anymore." Spike took a deep breath, and Xander brought his hand up, resting his palm against the upper part of Spike's arm.

"Bloody stupid. This rot happened years ago. But I look at this," Spike ran that single finger over the spot where hawk and snake met. "I look at this and..." Spike's voice stopped for a second, and then Xander watched as Spike practically changed personalities in front of his face. The body which had been leaning in toward him and making small, slow gestures gathered energy. The stroke on his chest grew firmer and the thumb trailed down to rub over Xander's nipple hard enough to create friction heat. Spike's body leaned insolently back against the doorframe.

"And I bloody want to fuck you senseless, pet," Spike finished, the vulnerability lost under the lust and raw need in that statement.

Xander shifted so that one hip was thrown out to the side and he pressed into that touch against his chest.

"My Master," Xander said quietly, and suddenly the eyes looking at him were yellow.

"Bloody hell, yes. I'm your Master and don't you forget that." Spike said as he reached over and gathered up the hanging leash. Spike slowly wrapped the leash around his hand so that it shortened until Xander was forced to step toward his Master, Spike's fist with the gathered leash fit right under Xander's chin so that he couldn't move his head at all. Sucking in a breath, Xander’s hands snaked to the small of his back, left hand clasping right wrist, offering himself in a perfect submissive posture.

"Mine," Spike growled as he licked the side of Xander's jaw, and Xander shivered so sharply that his hip chains banged against his thighs. "Bad form, that. May have to punish ya for that," Spike whispered in a voice that made it clear that any punishment would leave Xander begging for more. Xander's body involuntarily shivered again as the pouch became a torture device, caging his desperate cock.

"Well, I can see threats of punishment don't work," Spike said silkily as his free hand went around Xander's waist. Xander surrendered his body as he was pulled close, his covered cock pressed against Spike's hip, and a strong hand slipped down to his ass. Xander opened his legs in invitation as he started breathing harder.

Spike's fingers played with the strap that went between his cheeks, loosening it without removing it so that Spike's finger fit between the leather and skin. Xander gasped at the first cool touch against his hole. He also widened his stance more, but Spike didn't move that fist that held the leash, so now Xander's chin was forced up. Spike pressed the tip of his finger into the perineum, and Xander's hands flew from the small of his back to Spike's shoulder where he held onto his Master just to keep his legs from going out from under him.

"Want somethin', pet?"

"To make you happy, Master," Xander murmured truthfully.

"Bloody hell, pet, you always do that." Spike stroked the skin between Xander's legs, and Xander felt the tingling sting of it since the leather had irritated the skin until it was more sensitive than usual. The only thing that kept Xander from spreading his legs even more and pressing into that warm burn was the leash now snug against his neck. Xander groaned.

"Love that you're vocal, pet. Love ta hear you suffer." Spike nipped an earlobe before soothing it with his tongue, and Xander twisted wildly and moaned in need. Spike's hands held him captive, and Xander raised one leg and hooked it around Spike's thigh so that his Master would have more room to work.

"Greedy," Spike said as he brought two fingers around to Xander's panting mouth. Xander took them in eagerly, teasing the hand the way he would tease Spike's cock if his Master would just let go of the leash. When the fingers were wet, Spike pulled them out, and Xander trembled as he waited. Almost immediately, Spike pushed in with two fingers, Xander's body instinctively opening to his Master. Spike drove the fingers in a little farther, and Xander trembled with a desire to start thrusting.

"Not the best angle here," Spike commented as he pulled his fingers out leaving Xander aching with need. "Go get on the bed," Spike ordered.

"Yes, Master," Xander answered as he headed for the bed, twisting his hips to make his decorations twirl as he jingled across the room. Xander had to crawl to the center of the large bed before going into a Present kneel. He spread his legs and tucked his arms under his head so that his ass stuck up in the air. Once he went into his kneel, Xander waited. Of all the rules he had learned to break, he never broke position without being given permission.

The bed dipped as Spike crawled in, but Xander kept his forehead on the bed and his eyes forward. A firm hand ran from his knee up to his hip where the leather straps and hip chains were attached. Xander focused on proving his submission by remaining still as Spike removed the hip chains. Of course, Spike was still evil, so he slowly dragged the warm metal links up Xander’s backbone before setting them aside on the nightstand.

Xander was really hoping for the pouch to come off next, but instead Spike pulled up on an ankle, unbuckling the band of tiny bells before planting a kiss on Xander's calf. He was more than half-way to mindlessly panting already, but when Spike then drove teeth into the calf muscle and sucked, Xander jerked as though jolted by electricity before pulling himself back into form. Spike followed up the assault with a series of licks first on the injured calf and then up the thigh and over Xander's ass.

Xander quivered with need and considered cursing Spike out when that talented tongue kissed and licked and nipped from one side to another while that leather strap between his cheeks kept those touches away from the most sensitive skin.

"Master," Xander finally begged as the torture continued.

"Hmm," Spike answered before licking along the edge of the strap.

"Master, please."

"Please what?" Spike asked before biting again, his fangs slipping neatly into Xander’s left cheek. Xander lost all coherent thought as Spike fed, the pulling sensation making the world turn gray around the edges in a very, very good sort of way.

"Please, Master- please take off the harness," Xander begged once Spike had taken a couple of mouthfuls of blood and stopped. Xander's cock struggled with its tight confinement, like a joint that desperately needed to be popped or a muscle trembling at the edge of a cramp. It was that same feeling of impending pain and the overwhelming need to move, stretch, release the pressure that threatened to make his head pop off.

"What'll ya do for me if I do?" Spike asked, draping his body over Xander's and reaching down to play with the buckle at Xander's waist.

"Anything, Master," Xander promised. Of course he would do anything anyway, but to get the harness off he'd say anything. Nimble fingers worked the leather strap out of the buckle, and Xander focused on keeping form as his cock inflated like one of those little sponge animals he used to drop in water as a kid. Only his cock was a whole lot more fun to play with than a red sponge seahorse. Spike palmed the head of the cock before closing his fist and stroking the shaft.

Xander trembled. He wouldn't come before his Master. Nope. Nuh-uh. He had more control than that. Maybe. Spike lifted himself from Xander's back, and Xander waited for the feeling of his master taking him. Instead of the hard filling thrusts he expected, Xander felt a cool tingling as Spike's tongue laved the irritated skin that had been under the leather strap. The strokes tingled and burned a little, and it was all Xander could do to not push himself back into that sensation. Spike's tongue reached down to the underside of Xander's balls, and Xander resisted the urge to move. But it was a close call.

Now Spike sucked at one of his hairless balls, and Xander could feel the air move across the damp skin Spike had left behind. The sensation was so sharp, so immediate, so overwhelming that Xander gasped and clutched the sheet to keep from breaking form.

"Master," Xander whined. If Spike didn't get to the main event soon, Xander was going to cross the finish line without him despite all his good intentions. In an attempt to hold off his own orgasm, Xander mentally reviewed every demon Spike ever taught him, every way of killing Spike had ever trained him to use. Unfortunately the thought of violence didn't exactly calm anything down. And Xander could feel the tightening in his balls and the stiffening of his muscles just as Spike pulled back.

"Someone's having a lot of problems with rules today," Spike said in an amused voice. Xander would have answered except he really didn't have enough functional brain cells left to figure out human speech. He stretched his arms out some so that he could grasp the bars of the headboard as he struggled to bring himself back from the edge of orgasm, even though the only thing he wanted to do was thrust his hips forward and fall over into that blissful chasm where only pleasure existed.

Luckily, Spike took mercy. Without any further preparation or warning, Spike thrust into Xander's body. Xander threw his head back and nearly screamed as Spike hit the prostate on the first slamming thrust. Xander focused every bit of self control he'd ever possessed into not coming as his entire body stiffened in pleasure.

He was still gasping when Spike pulled back and then slammed in again, this time reaching around to fist Xander's cock so that when Spike rammed into him, Xander was driven forward into that tight space. Training finally flew out the window as Xander felt his whole body shudder and spasm as his climax crashed over him. As his body tightened, it felt as though Spike's cock doubled in size. The increased pressure from his own muscles tightening wrenched a scream from him as the world dissolved into white-hot pleasure.

Xander felt the waves crash through him as Spike continued to thrust, impaling him two or three more times before his own orgasm overtook him. Spike's weight dropped onto Xander's back, and Xander's legs went out from under him sending them both to the bed. Xander lay there trapped under Spike's weight, impaled by Spike's cock, eyes resting on his chain leash that was still draped across the white fabric of the sheets.

"My Master," Xander whispered into the pillow.

"Forever," Spike whispered back, both hands coming up and closing over Xander's wrists, pinning them to the bed. Xander closed his eyes dreamily. Sex slave may not have been one of the options at career day back in high school, but all in all, it wasn't a bad gig.

Chapter 11:

As they left the room the next day, Xander was surprised at how different everything looked. The hallway that led to the rooms had been crowded with boxes and crates when they had gone to get their bags from the car the previous night, but now the only things crowding the passageways were a colorful variety of demons and their slaves.

At shows that he had been to first with Leshar and then Spike, Xander had seen very few decorations. Most slaves had hip chains, simple metal links intended to make sure that the slave had a proper gait. But the jewels Spike had used to decorate him were fairly rare. Here, Xander fit right in with the others. As Xander followed Spike down the stairs and out into a huge central room, competition arenas were being set up.

They followed a blue skinned demon that was obviously the same species as Calsha down one side of the enormous room. At first Xander had thought it was Calsha, but then he noticed this demon was slightly smaller and lighter blue. Besides, the two slaves following this demon looked nothing like the football-player type that followed Calsha around. These two women were slender and both decorated in silver and blue jewels. One woman had a complicated harness of silver bands that encircled her upper body with blue stones in set into the smooth metal. The dark haired woman had blue and silver rings woven into her braid, which reached down past her waist. The length of it was emphasized by thin, blue ribbons woven into it that trailed down to the woman's knees.

Xander also noticed that most of the slaves here weren't leashed. A few wide-eyed humans with trembling bodies followed at the end of a chain, but most of the humans simply followed their masters, and it was perfectly obvious who their masters were just by the way their eyes followed one demon or another.

Spike skirted the competition area with its rings of half walls dividing the different arenas. Xander knew they were heading straight for the auction area. As they passed groups of demons chatting with kneeling slaves at their feet, Xander could feel eyes turning toward him and Spike. Xander kept his back straight and his head bowed submissively as he pranced after Spike who charged through the crowd with abandon.

Spike stopped only when he reached the first enclosure of humans. A Pylean stood to one side of a large enclosure inside of which several women either sat or stood. Xander looked at the demon out of the corner of his eyes, searching his memory so that he could compare this face against the one from his nightmare. But the more he tried to remember that day, the more his memories slipped away. Even Leshar's face dissolved into a blur in his mind as he struggled to remember the day, and the more he struggled, the more a fog distorted the faces from the dream.

He and Spike had worked out a system of signals so that Xander could discreetly let Spike know whether or not they had found the right dealer with the right woman, but now Xander realized he had no way of quietly telling Spike that he had no idea. Hopefully Spike knew him well enough to figure out that the lack of signalage meant Xander had gone clueless. Not exactly a new state for him.

Xander focused on his body, checking his posture and straightening his back as a familiar dread started crawling up his backbone. What if he couldn't find her… what if he couldn't remember her? Xander focused on his breathing to control the tugs of panic that made him fight to keep his cool. He'd failed so many people, he couldn't fail her. She didn't have anyone else.

"You looking?" the demon asked in a dismissive tone, and Xander focused on a green leg as he struggled to pull himself out of that dark place his mind sometimes wandered.

"Maybe, course of you're goin' to be all pissy about it, maybe not," Spike snapped. Strong hands caressed Xander's hair, and the sudden anchor and sense of belonging left Xander close to tears, and yeah, he really was a basket case. He wondered if Spike's treasure trove was even enough to cover the therapy he needed. Maybe he and Willow and Giles could get some sort of group discount for the truly fucked up. Now Xander struggled with a growing bubble of laughter at the thought of a psychiatrist trying to untangle their psyches. The therapist would need therapy. The therapist giving the therapist therapy would need therapy.

"I've run a clean stable for going on 40 years. If you're looking for stock to abuse, keep on walking, vampire," the Pylean answered after a long pause. Xander assumed his Master and the trainer were doing some quality glaring, but he wasn't about to look up and check.

"Oi, my pet look abused you?"

"He the beast that stabbed Leshar?" Xander was proud of himself for not shivering at that tone of voice.

"He followed orders when somebody tried to take him away. Innit what you expected a trained slave to do... follow orders?"

"I reckon those just aren't very conventional orders to give," the demon answered quickly. Xander tried ignoring the growing knot in his stomach… the one that told him to get into a fighting stance at that tone of voice. However, Xander knelt quietly through the exchange, and just when he thought Spike was about to lose his temper, Spike snorted and walking away. Xander guessed that flippage of fingers had probably happened, but he rose to follow gracefully despite his Master's bad manners.

"Arrogant bastard," Spike said once they had rejoined the crowds wandering from one slave pen to another. Spike had explained that they couldn't afford to look like they were searching for anyone in particular, so Xander wasn't surprised when Spike stopped to lean against a fence and gaze over the stock being offered by a mountain of a demon. None of the women had red hair, and none came even close to matching the vague and disturbingly indistinct memory in Xander's mind. So after a quick glance at the slaves, Xander concentrated on Spike.

His white knight heart was breaking at the sight of all the humans caged and trapped and treated like animals. But he didn't have the power to help them, and Spike was not big with the doing of good deeds. He protected his Hellmouth and his humans, but he wasn't ever going to challenge Angel for the title of champion.

Despite his attempts to avoid looking, Xander did. It was a little bit like watching an accident on the side of the road. Xander didn't want to see this; he really, really didn't want to see this. And yet, he found himself continually glancing out the corner of his eyes at these people.

The pen Spike was leaning against had four females and two males, and the only decoration any of them wore was the required pouch and harness around the males' genitals. Three of the women sat on the floor talking quietly, and the fourth one, a girl who didn't even look old enough to drive yet, curled on the floor her head in one of the older women's laps. The older woman was stroking her hair gently, and one of the males walked over and squatted down to say something. Whatever he said, the four women laughed so quietly as to barely make any sound at all.

This looked so normal that it somehow bothered Xander. At the West Coast auctions the crying and fighting and begging slaves meant that no one could forget the horrors. This place had a creepy Stepford wives kind of vibe going. And really? That sort of everything's perfect "Ted" kind of vibe wasn't of the good. A strange voice interrupted his thoughts.

"Looking for a breeder? Got good stock, guaranteed no plastic surgery, and all of it bred in-house. No captured stock. In fact, the youngest girl there is two generations out of Darkboy who was owned by old Bilc't. Good lines, good training. You won't find better stock."

"Lookin' for something a little older," Spike said.

"You've got to understand, these aren't free range humans. You pick up a human off the street, and you're getting some inferior product," this demon offered in the same tone of voice Xander's uncle had used to get Xander to buy his junker of a car. "Lack of natural selection and junk food are quickly destroying the bloodlines out there. But these animals have been bred for at least four generations. The taller male there, eighth generation. You can breed them earlier, and they rarely go down to the diseases or defects so common in the free-range stock."

"Rather fond of the free-range sort myself," Spike answered. Xander felt a familiar hand reached out to stroke his hair. He risked breaking form just enough to lean a little into the touch. Having someone talk about him like that… yeah, Ted-level creepy.

"So that's the Hellmouth boy that Leshar keeps talking about," the demon said, and Xander was suddenly uncomfortable with just how interested that voice sounded. Obviously he wasn't the only one.

"He's not for sale," Spike growled. Xander had the sensation of something heavy moving away, but he kept his gaze lowered.

"Not a problem. I don't normally buy the free range beasts, especially the stallions, but have you given any thought to renting out his services? Some of his get could fetch a pretty penny."

"Not interested." Without a word of farewell, Spike pushed away from the fence and started walking. The Xander flowed to his feet and followed after, his bells jangling every time his right foot hit the ground.

Xander followed Spike to several enclosures where the owners ranged from friendly to hostile to interested in buying Xander. But when Spike stopped next to yet another fence, Xander could immediately see the difference. Xander went to his knees in proper form, but before he did, he noticed the tall chain-link fence. Most trainers at this show used low bars that clearly told the slaves to stay within a certain area even though they could easily get out. Not that getting out would do them any good, but still. Xander knew that if those fences had been used at the previous shows he'd been to, panicked humans would have been running all over the place. Xander knew better than anyone that fear made any action, even a stupid one, better than no action.

When a Pylean came out, Xander found himself taking shallow panicky breaths. Yeah, all Pylean demons had red eyes, but this one's eyes were the very red of hell. Or maybe that was just Xander's imagination because he recognized this demon. Its face was more rounded than the other Pylean, his horns longer and the wrinkles at the base of his horns deeper. Xander flashed on an image of this Pylean laughing. He ducked his head so that the demon couldn't see his face, giving Spike the signal that they had found the right slaver. Spike's only reaction was to run his fingers to Xander's hair, and Xander focused on that real feeling to try to escape the phantom coldness of a breeding leash looped around his thighs.

"Move on. I'm not interested in selling to you, vampire," the demon said as he walked over to them. The voice. Xander remember that voice. The sight and sound of this particular demon sent Xander's world tilting off-kilter. The image of the girl exposed, terrified, her eyes pleading with him: that image rose in his mind no matter how much he tried to fight it off. Glancing through the metal mesh of the fence, he could see red hair. One girl stood on the edge of a cluster of slaves. Xander trembled. Her stomach had just a slight roundness to it.

"Too bad." Spike's voice sounded indifferent, but the way Spike gently bounced one of his legs revealed the truth. Xander tried focusing on that instead of on his own fragmented memory that pushed in on him until he wanted to scream. Okay, maybe curl up in Spike's lap came closer to the truth, but for the sake of his manhood, he was going with the scream. A sharp tug on one of his curls pulled him back toward reality.

"I've got money to invest in one or two free range humans, but if you aren't interested, mate..." Spike let his words trail off as he started to walk away. Xander rose to follow even as he felt the panic rising in his chest, making it hard for him to breathe. For several seconds nothing happened, and Spike slowed down as he considered the stock inside an open fence on the opposite side.

"Not likely to sell to vampire, and now am I?" The demon finally called as he stepped forward into Spike's path. Out of the corner of his eye, Xander caught a glimpse of the demon putting both of his hands on Spike's chest before he gave a push. Xander backed up to get out of the range of the fight that was about to break out, but Spike just looked at the demon calmly.

"Your loss, mate. But if you ever soddin' touch me like that again, don't expect to survive." Spike detoured around the demon with Xander in tow, and Xander was torn between his need to get away from the slaver and a need to find the woman. After what he'd done to her, he couldn't leave her.

Xander's panic had nearly reached that point of doing anything just for the sake of doing something when Spike sat on the bench along the outside wall. He went to his knees, his body trembling, and he couldn't even say exactly what he was feeling. Spike's hand ran through his curls before pulling Xander's head to rest on his Master's knee. Xander focused on the shop set up on the opposite side of the corridor from the bench. The small structure had a front glass window displaying any number of slave decorations.

"Pet," Spike said softly, and then a cool hand pressed something dry and crinkly to his chest. Xander looked down and to see a corner of white sticking out from Spike's hand as it rested there above his tattoo. Xander reached up and took the slip of paper. Opening it, Xander saw a series of rapidly scratched lines and squiggles that made his handwriting look neat. He looked up at Spike in confusion.

"He don't want ta be seen sellin' me a female. That," Spike nodded toward the slip of paper as he spoke in a near whisper, "tells me to come back after hours and discuss a price." Xander looked down at the cryptic slip of paper in his hands, and relief washed through him. Yeah, she was probably going to kick his ass for the whole rape thing, and he was so not going to argue with her about that, but he was going to save her. They were going to save her. They were going to save his child. Child. Wow. Xander looked up at Spike and smiled even as he blinked back tears.

"My bloody white knight. You didn't think I'd leave without her, did ya?" Spike asked in an over-exaggerated tone of outrage.

"No, Master. I knew you wouldn't," Xander answered honestly as he handed the paper back. Spike quickly slipped it into a coat pocket before returning to stroke Xander's hair. So, we can go sit in our room for the day or find somethin' to amuse ourselves," Spike said as he looked at the crowds passing them by without a glance. Xander knew which one Spike wanted to do, but he hadn't been asked a question, so he just waited.

"Well?" Spike asked with a familiar tug.

"Maybe we should look around, Master," Xander answered.

"Yeah, thought you might like that." Spike stood up and started toward the competition area, and Xander followed, tinkling and swinging and not even caring since he was going to be a father. Of course he might want to stop tinkling and swinging before walking the kid to kindergarten, but still. Him. A father. Xander felt something that he could only describe as awe fill him.

Xander followed Spike past various arenas until they reached a particularly large circle defined by a half wall. When Spike stopped and leaned against a post, Xander gracefully slipped to his knees and watched the action from beneath his curling bangs.

Two slaves stood balanced on the ends of uneven posts that were placed randomly around the inside of the circular half wall. One was a woman with dark skin rippling over strong thigh muscles. The woman had one foot solidly placed on a low post, and her second foot resting lightly on a post two feet away and a good twelve inches higher. Her long hair hung over her shoulder in two thick braids, and a chain went from the harness she wore to the harness on the second slave.

The second slave was a thick-waisted man with a snake tattoo slithering down his leg. He had both feet planted solid on posts that were roughly the same height. His knees were bent slightly, and from the back, Xander could see the slave's hands flexing in leather bindings. Xander was still trying to figure out the game when the woman moved.

Without warning, she threw herself backwards to a new post. The chain between them snapped taut, and Xander could see the male bracing himself against the pull as he threw his weight back against the harness. The woman reached the end of the chain without reaching the post, and Xander thought she would fall. Instead she twisted her body so that she found a new footing. Using the chain to help keep her balance, she writhed in an effort to regain her balance, and the man chose that moment to strike.

He dashed forward toward the woman. As the chain went slack, the woman started falling. She turned that into jump and went for the next post. The man continued charging toward her, and she jumped unsteadily from one post to another with him in pursuit. Near the far side of the circle, her foot slipped, and she had to stop to catch her balance. That moment gave the man a chance to catch up.

Xander could now see that both slaves had their hands tied behind their backs, but that didn't stop the man from driving a shoulder into the woman's back, sending her jumping for the next set of posts. Her foot didn't quite reach the post, and Xander could hear the crack as she fell to the sandy ground right after slamming her knee into the top of the post. Immediately the crowd shouted their approval.

The man immediately dropped off his own post, going to his knees as two trainers hurried into the ring. On stepped to the man and slipped the chain off his harness before leading him off. The second demon, a vaguely cat shaped creature with sharp yellow eyes, held the woman down by her shoulder as he ran a long clawed fingers over the leg that had made such a spectacular cracking sound against the wood. After a moment, the cat-demon gave a huffing grunt, and took the lead chain in hand as he led her limping to the opening on the opposite side of the wall.

"Well, pet?" Spike drawled quietly. Xander considered the ring. It would take balance and coordination. He felt a faint stirring in his chest that Spike would trust him at such a game. He wasn't sure, but he thought it might be pride.

"Yes, please, Master," Xander said as he leaned his shoulder into Spike's knee. He knew that the demons would judge Spike on his performance. When Spike started walking toward one side of the arena, Xander gracefully flowed to his feet and trailed behind with his head properly bowed and his hip chains dancing against his legs.

"I'm enterin' my pet, here," Spike announced to the grey skinned demon at end of a line of three slaves in harnesses chained to a horizontal pole. Xander knelt at his Master's side, careful to keep the form perfect under the eyes of so many demons.

"Lose the decorations," the demon clicked a brusque answer, and Xander wondered whether the demon talked that way to everyone or whether the demon was just insulting Spike. Either way, Spike didn't even comment. Spike gestured, and Xander stood as strong fingers removed his arm bands and hip chains and finally the draping chains from his back. Xander knew that he couldn't wear decorations in the ring, and he didn't want to risk damaging his valued possessions, but he still couldn't help the fluttering in his stomach at losing the soothing touch of the chains and leather against his skin. Ironically, Spike left the damn bells around his ankle, but then those bells amused Spike far more than Xander.

Xander jumped in surprise when a dry scaly hand landed on his shoulder before the trainer started buckling on the competition harness quickly and efficiently. Eventually the chain would be attached to the metal ring in the center of his chest, and leather straps around his chest and shoulders ensured that the ring didn't move. Keeping his head down and his hands at the small of his back, Xander watched Spike move away still carrying the decorations. By the time Spike had reached the column and turned to watch, the demon trainer had strapped his wrists into wide leather bands and was pulling to make sure the bands were tight.

When the demon was satisfied, he reached up to chains hanging from the horizontal pole, and clicked a fastener to the ring on Xander's harness. A slap on Xander's butt made him move up to the other three waiting slaves, the chain sliding on the pole as he walked.

Because he was so far back, Xander couldn't really see the ring or the competition on the other side. He did however, have a great view of Spike who stood at the pillar with bored eyes. Every once in a while, those blue eyes would glance over to him. Xander could feel his skin warm every time Spike glanced at him, and he would have thought it was a pure accident except that Spike then started working his tongue so that the sideways glance came with a smirk that sharpened his cheeks and a flash of tongue between the lips. Xander had thought it was bad when Spike would tease him in bed, but this was near torture. He couldn't even touch as Spike's hand slipped into the duster. Xander could imagine exactly what Spike's hand would be doing in there.

His lewd daydreams were interrupted by the exclamations of the crowd. The trainer passed him before unclipping the first slave and leading him to the ring. Xander shifted to his other foot, unused to standing for long periods of time. Unfortunately that led him to bump the slave who had been added to the line behind him, and that slave obviously took exception, bumping back rather forcefully. Xander smiled an apology to the woman in front of him who he hit in turn, glancing behind him to silently explain the problem. The woman looked over his shoulder and gave a small smile of forgiveness back.

As the line settled into waiting again, Xander returned his attention to Spike who still had his hand under the duster. Xander half closed his eyes as he imagined Spike's hand on his body, which actually made the frustration worse, especially since the pouch he wore had very little room for him to show any interest in that way.

Spike smiled wickedly, his mouth coming open in a laugh even if Xander couldn't hear it. Xander allowed his expression to turn into a glare for a half second before he counter-attacked. Rolling his hips slowly as though hearing music, Xander watched as Spike's eyes flashed yellow. Xander lowered his eyes and tilted his head just slightly so he could watch his Master as he shifted his weight in small seductive waves that rippled from his shoulders all the way down to his knees. Turning, Xander presented his Master with his near naked backside as he combined the hip roll with the full body undulation.

He lost the pattern as the crowd cheered again, and Xander turned back to find Spike looking particularly frustrated. He smiled sweetly when Spike glanced his way, and the vampire lowered his eyebrows even more. Xander remembered the day when he had half feared and half resented the way Spike took what he wanted. He hated that Spike chased Buffy with abandon. He feared that when the chip came out that Spike would hunt him down and torture him with the same dedication. Now, he smiled even more sweetly at the idea that as soon he finished, his Master was going to pin him to the nearest surface.

Xander traded in the hip motions for slow shoulder rolls. Once again, the calls of the crowd interrupted his attempts to torture his Master. The trainer appeared again and unhooked the woman in front of him. This time, Xander had an unobstructed view as the trainer led her to the center of the ring, having to dodge the posts to get to a small open space in the center. She knelt at the trainer's side as the cat-demon brought a woman from the other side. The cat demon held a chain from one hand, and when the second woman knelt, the cat demon attached one end of the chain before handing over the other end for the second trainer to attach.

Each demon bent over and said something to the woman at his feet. As the women stood, they glanced at each other before taking a position next to a post. Each demon picked up a slave and put her on the post of her choice before retreating out of the ring. Xander watched at the two women lightly jumped from one post to another without making any attempt to actually dislodge each other. The two seemed like they were engaged in some sort of dance, and their physical similarities with fair skin and light hair reinforced the image. As Xander watched the two women circle each other, his eyes fell on the harnessed slave standing at the far side of the circle.

His heart nearly stopped when he saw the corded muscles and thick legs of the slave waiting to kick Xander's butt. Xander felt as though the room suddenly had no air in it as he struggled to get oxygen into his panicking, screaming lungs. Glancing over toward Spike, Xander felt guilt rise in a tide as he realized that he could never take the brute, and Spike would be the one who looked like a fool. Okay, he'd look like a fool too, but he'd had years of training for that. It was called high school.

When his eyes found his Master's gaze, the lewd expression had disappeared under a cool indifference that made Xander confused as well as panicked. Didn't Spike care that he was about to get his butt kicked and humiliate both of them? Oh god. Some days he really didn't understand his Master. Unfortunately, chained and harnessed the way he was, he really didn't have a lot of options.


Chapter 12:

Xander looked back toward the dark-haired brute of a man he was about face in the ring. The man had his head half-bowed, but Xander still caught the smug expression on the man's face, and Xander couldn't really blame him for having a little smug confidence. Xander lost himself for a moment in the vision of the two girls now dancing around each other with the chain pulled in a tight line between them. A pull from one nearly unbalanced the other before the second girl recovered and the ballet continued.

He prayed briefly for a miracle... maybe the two girls could just keep could circling until Spike got entirely bored and pulled him out of the contest. At the very least maybe his Master would get tired enough that he would wander away and miss Xander's complete and utter humiliation at the eyes of the blond hulk on the other side of the ring.

Suddenly panicked that his Master might have actually gotten bored enough to wander away, Xander searched the crowd, and Spike still leaned against the same pillar. The vampire bounced on one foot, and the image sent Xander searching the crowd for enemies. Which actually, was a little difficult since they were in a building surrounded by demons who saw humans as big Pomeranians. It's not like these were good people. However, Xander couldn't see anyone who posed a particular threat, certainly nothing to cause that excited bounce in Spike's body.

Spike looked over toward him and gave a sly smile, and Xander's confusion increased. Surely Spike didn't expect him to actually win against the mutant brute, did he? Xander watched as the smile on Spike's face widened. Oh shit. Xander looked back to the huge slave on the other side, and felt a fine tremor run through his legs as he realized that Spike expected him to win, which meant that the vampire would be twice as disappointed when Xander was firmly trampled. Guys like that had been pushing Xander into lockers for more than half his life.

Thank god this was an arena that seemed to discourage actually physical damage. Him going up against brute-slave was like David and Goliath. Okay, Xander realized that was a particularly bad comparison since there was the whole David actually winning thing, but he didn't have a slingshot, and he didn't think brute-slave had some huge weakness. Actually, he didn't even think the brute had a small weakness, much less a big one. He searched for a metaphor that described it a little better. This time his mind supplied the image of Spike taking out Lirowaus. He remembered Spike's lithe frame breaking limbs gleefully as Lirowaus fallen under the much smaller demon's fists.

Xander looked at the brute again and considered a few new options that had started creeping into the edges of his awareness. He was a lot smaller, but the two women who were dancing on the posts now weren't using strength to win, so maybe he just needed a strategy. Too bad he had never been the strategy-boy. The crowd sighed softly as one of the women finally slipped off a post. Obviously the pair had not been a crowd pleaser.

As the trainer led the loser past him, unfastening her harness and giving her back to her owner, Xander took a deep breath and reminded himself that he would still belong to his Master no matter how much he screwed up. Besides, everyone expected him to fail. Several demons had even turned away from the circle, no doubt certain that this was going to be a short and predictable match.

Xander stood still as the trainer unhooked his harness and led him to the center of the ring. Determined to hold out long enough to earn some respect, Xander flowed around the posts using his best form, exaggerating the movement of his hips and twisting his body sexily. When the trainer reached the center of the ring, Xander sank to his knees and focused his eyes on the ground in front of him. A hand grabbed the ring on his chest and attached a chain, and Xander waited for the order to move.

"Pick a post," his trainer said curtly. Xander stood with a roll of his hips and watched as the brute was lifted to a post on the east side of the circle. He didn't want to be close enough to charge or far enough away for the chain to pull him off balance. He walked to a post on the south side and waited as he was lifted by a thick shoulder in his stomach and set on the post. Xander curled his toes on the side of the wood and waited as the trainers left the ring.

The brute-slave looked over toward him and frowned angrily, and Xander just smiled back. The last trainer stepped out of the ring, and Xander attacked.

Xander dashed from one post to another roughly parallel to the brute. At first the brute just looked confused, and then he bent his knees as he expected Xander to reach the end of the chain and try and pull him off balance. Unfortunately for the brute, that also meant he couldn't move quickly with his weight evenly distributed between two posts and his knees bent. Xander dashed in and aimed a quick kick to the man's knee.

Even though the kick was not enough to actually throw the brute off balance, it succeeded in enraging him. Xander skipped away as the brute charged after him, eager to make the contest one of sheer strength. With his wrists bound, Xander found that he couldn't run as fast as he wanted without risking falling, but the brute seemed even more handicapped by the restraints.

Laughing over his shoulder, Xander dodged as the brute tried to shoulder slam him only to find Xander dashing away across the tops of the posts. Xander increased the distance, making it seem like his only goal was to escape the rampaging monster behind him, but really, that was only one of his primary goals.

Brute tried to keep up, but Xander raced ahead until the chain was only sagging a little between them. With one last glance, Xander threw himself off a tall post toward three posts clustered together on the north side of the ring. Brute was in a section of the ring with far fewer posts spaced much farther apart.

Halfway through the jump, Xander felt the chain tighten and snap. Brute was in the air too, so the chain didn't totally stop Xander. However, since the chain attached to the front of the harness, the chain dug into his right arm and pulled him around so that he was falling backwards, finding the three posts with one foot and one shin so that he knelt awkwardly on the tops of the posts. His eyes immediately watered with the pain of the bruised shin, but he wasn't about to let that stop him.

Now that he faced the brute, Xander could see the shock as the other man struggled to keep his footing as he jumped from one post to another. The chain tightened as the man lost his balance and fell backwards. Xander shifted his weight and jumped for a closer post just so that the man couldn't use the chain to help balance himself. The brute's shoulders rippled with muscles, and Xander could imagine the man's arms struggling to break free and windmill out in an attempt to regain balance.

Rather than give him a chance to regain that balance, Xander now leapt toward his opponent whose only concern was just staying on the posts, half leaping and half falling from one to another as he fought for balance. Xander closed the distance and slammed his shoulder into the man's back. The brute sailed down toward the ground; however, Xander couldn't get his own balance back either; his toes scrambled for the post as he found himself following the brute to the ground, landing on the man's back.

For a moment, Xander lay there stunned and then he slid off the brute's sweaty back and went into position on the sandy floor of the circle. Because Xander had his head down, he almost didn't see the man rising up with a furious red face coated on one side in sand. His only warning came from the angry curse from the brute right before the man jumped to his feet.

Xander didn't quite understand what was going on until the other man had charged forward and pinned him between a post and the brute's wide body. Xander felt a flash of utter terror as he considered the number of times Lirowaus has done the same thing. His hands had been locked into leather cuffs at the demon had trapped him up against some wall. Xander could feel Lirowaus' hands sliding down his sides, and without even realizing what he was doing, Xander brought his knee up and slammed the man's balls up into his body.

When the other man howled and backed up a step, Xander sidestepped away from the post and danced backward. The trainers were hurrying into the ring, but the brute was faster, charging forward with his head lowered like a bull.

Xander dashed toward a tall post and ducked behind it, but the chain was tangled around the huge slave's harness, so Xander had a lot less room to work. The man struck out with a foot, and Xander went to the ground with the kick to avoid taking the full force of the hit; however, from the ground, he aimed his own kick at the man's jaw. Then the cat demon had the other man by the harness pulling him back, and Xander pulled his legs under him in a formal kneel as he ducked his head submissively.

The two trainers ignored him, and he held position with his knees spread slightly and the sand making him itch as he kept his back straight. The sounds of scuffling and a demon curse or two made him strain to see what they were doing, but all he could see with his head lowered was the sand of the arena, the bottom of a few posts, and the chain that had connected him to his opponent lying half buried. He didn't dare move.

The sound of something dragging through the sand left Xander nearly twitching and ready to run for the safety of Spike, but these demons were judging Spike by his behavior, and he wouldn't let his Master, his child, or himself down by failing now. They couldn't afford to get kicked out now.

Two grey legs stepped into his vision, and Xander remained motionless as leather straps touched his face. He twitched his shoulder as another memory slipped forward. He hadn't bit. He hadn't swore or yelled. He didn't deserve this, but Xander didn't think anyone wanted to hear his opinions, so he opened his mouth and let thick fingers push the bit between his teeth as the leather tightened until he couldn't open his mouth.

A leash was attached to his collar, and at the pull, Xander rose and tried to use his best form as he followed the demon out of the ring. The first time he'd worn a muzzle, he'd practically ripped at his own face trying to get it off, and Xander never really had gotten used to the feeling as long as he'd been with Leshar. Of course Leshar usually wanted his mouth available for other duties, so Xander hadn't worn one very often. Xander just hoped that Spike took it off quickly because the leather felt rough against his face.

The trainer stopped outside the ring, and the leash tightened, telling him to stay on his feet. Xander followed the command, widening his stance slightly into a more formal position and keeping his head down. The trainer unbuckled his harness without removing the wrist restraints, and Xander was starting to worry because he couldn't even smell the cigarette-leather scent of Spike.

When hands started working the wrist restraints, Xander breathed a sigh of relief through his nose, but instead of removing the restraints, Xander could feel something more narrow and tighter added over the top of the wrist cuffs. Despite the fact that it was clearly breaking form, Xander looked up at the trainer with wide, confused eyes. Even though the trainer had never shown anything but cold indifference, the demon now let his hand rest on Xander's shoulder as he fingered a few long curls.

"Did fine. Good beast. All animals that fight go before council and owners pay fine." The trainer's hand fell away, and Xander let his head drop down as tears burned his eyes, and he couldn't brush away a tear that tickled at his cheek. He had managed to fail spectacularly. The demon tapped Xander's neck, and Xander folded into the full Floor kneel with his forehead pressed to the concrete as the sounds of the crowd passed by.

Xander relaxed into the position and worked at controlling involuntary muscles twitches. The wrist restraints were slightly uncomfortable now, and the muzzle left him wanting to rub his face against his shoulder, but he had already hurt Spike's standing with these demons enough. He didn't need to mess up more because he was already approaching Droopy Harris levels of screwing up.


Chapter 13:

"Bloody hell." At the sound of his Master's voice, Xander would have thrown himself at Spike's feet if he hadn't already broken far too many rules. "He didn't bloody deserve to be left here like he'd done somethin' wrong. Soddin' wanker attacked *him*." Xander felt the touch on his head and he rose into the Down kneel, keeping his gaze on the ground as he rested his butt on his heels. Long fingers reached down to pet his hair, pulling sections out from under the muzzle straps.

"Just policy," the grey demon answered, clearly back in 'don't bother me' mode.

"Bloody, fucking..." Spike stopped as suddenly as he began. "Wankers," he finished as he turned away in a swirl of leather. Xander rose and followed silently, muzzled and without any decorations. And really, he knew he had reached new lows when the lack of decorations bothered him more than the muzzle. For the first time, he found himself grateful for the stupid bells around his ankle because it distracted him from the absence of warm chains sliding over his back as he walked.

Spike charged into the crowd, and Xander hurried to follow without breaking form. Eventually Spike turned the corner to the sections that led to the living quarters. Xander thought Spike was taking him back to their quarters, possibly for a reminder about why they needed to be on best behavior. Instead Spike dropped on a bench between two potted plants near the hallway that led to the stairs.

Xander immediately went to his knees at Spike's side. He wanted to explain, especially since he didn't know how much Spike had seen, but the muzzle prevented that. He kept his head down in shame, but Spike's fingers reached under his chin and tilted his head up.

"Saw the whole thing, pet, and you didn't do a single thing to regret. Well, 'cept maybe not kickin' that wanker hard enough to put out a couple of teeth." Spike used the back of his index finger to stoke a small section of Xander's cheek. Xander gave a small sob and felt the tears start at that tender gesture. He wasn't even sure why he was crying, but Spike just used a finger to wipe away the tears before pulling Xander's head into his lap.

"Don't bloody have the key to the cuffs or the muzzle. Can't get those 'til we go before the soddin' council." Xander leaned into Spike until his Master was supporting much of his weight.

"Blamed yourself, didn't ya, pet?" Spike asked, and Xander nodded as he tried to slow his breathing before he clogged up his nose with snot. He could breathe through his mouth, but it was uncomfortable since he had to curl his lip up to do it.

"Ya didn't do a thing wrong. Can't blame yourself for every bad thing that happens in life," Spike said as he drew small symbols on Xander's body using his finger tips. Xander concentrated on the feeling of his Master's touch tracing his body so much that another problem started to assert itself. Spike laughed quietly.

"Got a problem there, mate?" he teased as he used the top of his boot to rub Xander's genitals inside the leather pouch. Xander groaned and pushed his forehead into Spike's thighs as he tried to avoid humping the conveniently placed boot. Spike laughed again.

"Can't see the council for a good two hours, pet, so don't get yourself too worked up," Spike warned, and Xander had to think that through. It wasn't like they hadn't had sex with Xander tied up in the past. He looked up at his Master, and Spike either knew him well enough to read his expression even with the leather straps over the bridge of his nose and his chin and his forehead or the vampire had picked up a few skills from Dru.

"Before, if ya had a problem, I was there to get you loose, remind ya that you weren't trapped in the nightmare. Can't cut you loose now, not the cuffs on your hands, and if I cut the muzzle, there'll be hell ta pay." Xander thought back to the night when an open window had allowed the overpoweringly sweet smell of apple blossom to drift indoors, a scent that had reminded Xander of a client who had held him down and raped his mouth enthusiastically. A demon whose musk had smelled of apple. Spike had ignored his own needs as he had pulled the restraints off Xander's shaking body and held him tight.

The fact that his Master considered such a possibility made Xander even needier, and now the pouch seemed entirely too small. Rather than back away, Xander scooted forward and pressed his crotch into Spike's leg as he started a slow torturous rubbing that caused equal parts of glorious pleasure and frustrated pain as his cock struggled against the imprisoning leather.

"Nut," Spike complained mildly, and Xander just rubbed his cheek against Spike's hip invitingly.

"Good animal there," a deep voice rumbled, and Xander jumped before going back into position at Spike's feet. Nice. Get caught horribly out of form when the demons here already didn't like him. Yep, Droopy Harris rides again. He shook his head a little so that the curls Spike had pulled loose would fall in front of his face hiding the muzzle.

"Wot of it?" Spike asked suspiciously.

"Just a comment. I'm trying to figure out where you fit into this, vampire."

"Just here to show my pet and do some buyin'," Spike said, and out of the corner of his eye, Xander could see Spike reach for his cigarettes.

"That's just it. Never knew a vampire to keep a pet for anything other than torturing, but your animal clearly isn't tortured."

"Oh, he was, mate, only it wasn't me that did it."

"Yes, I'm aware that the West Coast circles had gotten out of hand. Too many bad breeders and slavers in that area with the Hellmouth feeding Pylean and Etperan portals and Wolfram and Hart getting their fingers into the markets."

"Don't bloody care who did what. They took somethin' that belonged to me. My sire made a gift of him."

"Is that why you destroyed the market and drove half the slavers out of business?"

"Never said that was me," Spike snapped back, and Xander was on the verge of panicking when talented fingers started stroking the skin of his neck and shoulder. Xander wondered what would happen to him if these people decided to try and kill his Master. Of course, trying to kill Spike didn't mean succeeding. He knew that. Buffy had learned that. And Angel… Giles… most of the demons at Willie's place. Oh, the Initiative. They'd tried really hard to kill Spike, and Spike was still walking around even after all the soldiers were gone.

Xander told himself to trust Spike even though his fingers itched for a weapon. A suddenly flash of himself trying to fight with his hands tied behind his back nearly triggered hysterical laughter, and Xander breathed deeply to try and repress the laughter and the fear.

"It's not that I care. I run a large stable, and the idea of my stock ending up in that perversion rather bothered me," the low voice said amicably. Xander wished he could look up and see if the demon was being sarcastic, but Xander held himself formally with his head bowed too low to see anything other than the floor.

"Yeah, not planning on runnin' a stable, just want a companion for the boy," Spike said in a half-truth.

"He is beautiful, and he clearly does not have the uncontrolled aggression many of the larger males seem to suffer."

"Oi, he's got himself a temper, but it doesn't keep him from having common sense." Xander might have questioned that given the chance since his common sense had been noticeably lacking lately and he knew where there was a big pile of broken CD's to prove it.

"I'll pay one thousand for ten confirmed pregnancies." Xander's soul froze as his brain processed those words.

"Not sellin' his services," Spike answered softly in the voice that Xander had learned to fear far more than Spike's yelling.

"I run a good stable. Happy animals. I specialize in smaller animals, less aggressive males. The breeders around here are too concerned with breeding large, strong animals, and it's hard to find a good stallion who isn't aggressive."

"Bully for you--don't bloody care."

"Two thousand."

"Mate, you're startin' to bother me."

"Just keep the offer in mind. The name’s Dareh," the deep voice suggested before footsteps with a dragging sound that might have been a tail or just really, really heavy feet.

"Wanker," Spike offered to the demon's back before standing. "Council meets in just under two hours. Don't really want to parade you around in your new gear, so let's just head back to the room. Xander stood and followed Spike up the stairs and toward their assigned rooms.

Once they had gotten to the room safely and locked the door, Spike threw his duster on the bed and dropped onto the couch.

"They're just as batty as the others," Spike said, and Xander nodded slowly as he looked at the duster. He should put it away, but with his hands bound he couldn't even reach the hangers. He couldn't pick up a coat or fight or even wipe his own nose. Xander thought back to his training and realized that wasn't exactly true. Yeah, the cuffs were similar to the ones he constantly wore with Lirowaus, but Spike wasn't Lirowaus.

For one thing, Xander wanted Spike. He wanted to feel Spike buried inside him. He wanted to watch as Spike lost all control and shifted into game face as he thrust harder and harder. He wanted to feel Spike's legs tremble with need. He wanted to know that he could make Spike pant for air and make Spike's cock hard with need. Oh, for a slave who wasn't supposed to want anything, he wanted lots and lots of stuff.

Xander started his silent dance from earlier, rolling his hips as he arched his body in slow waves. He smiled awkwardly around the bit in his mouth dipped his head in time to a song that existed only in his head. He didn't even know the title, he just remembered the melody from some station Willow used to listen to. Letting his eyes fall half closed, he surrendered his body to the half-remembered notes, swaying from side to side in time with the beat.

Half turning away from Spike, he glanced over his shoulder only to find yellow eyes watching him intensely. He added a shoulder roll as he let his head fall to one side so that a shoulder curved invitingly. Another glance told him that he was close to winning since his Master's hands gripped the arm of the couch brutally. Xander rolled his hips in a pattern that would have sent his hip chains twirling before letting his head fall to the other side exposing the opposite side of his neck.

Xander backed up slowly so that he was standing in front of Spike with his back to his Master. Still swaying with the music, Xander widened his stance so that he was poised over Spike's lap. Slowly he lowered himself onto his Master lap, his fingers searching for the button and zipper of Spike's jeans. Spike's hands found his waist and then slid around to his stomach and Xander threw his legs open in a silent plea.

Spike chuckled in a tone that reminded Xander of Angelus before fingers slid under the waist of the pouch without removing the tight covering. Xander mewled helplessly as he dropped his head to Spike's shoulder so that the front of his neck curved outward.

Every time Angel visited, Xander found at least one chance to offer Spike his neck this way. The first time it had been an accident. He had been walking by after taking the popcorn bowl to the kitchen, and Spike had reached out to pull him down into his Master's lap. Xander had happily submitted, dropping the back of his head to Spike's shoulder, and Spike had gone stiff. Thinking he had done something wrong, Xander sat up to find Angel game faced and ready to pull the upholstery off the couch with his death grip on the arm of the couch.

Afterward, Spike had told him that Angel emitted such a wave of pheromones that Spike had been temporarily reminded of his own days under Angelus. Now Xander did it on purpose to torture Angel, and since he had started, Angel visited much less often. However, Xander had also discovered that the sight of his neck arched out had a similar effect on his Master. The zipper under his fingers yielded and Xander slipped a finger in the opening to find his Master's cock in the hope Spike would do the same for him.

Instead Spike's finger moved up to pinch a nipple, and Xander bucked up in pleasure even as he groaned in pain as his cock demanded more space.

"Problem there, pet?" Spike whispered in his ear, and Xander squirmed as fingers teased one nipple while Spike's second hand cupped his trapped cock. "Think I feel somethin' moving in there," Spike announced calmly as though he didn't know that the added pressure made Xander desperate for more even as he was desperate to make the pressure stop. The result was that Xander twisted and pressed the back of his head into Spike's shoulder as he took needy gasps through his nose. Xander threw his legs as far open as he could as he thrust up into that hand.

"Know what I'd like to do to you?" Spike asked. "I'd like to bloody throw you face down on the bed and drive into you as you beg for my cock. Want to hear you promise me anything if I'll just take you and make you mine." Xander nodded enthusiastically and thrust forward. The hand that had been working his nipples slipped between their bodies, and Xander didn't even notice until Spike pushed aside the strap that went between his legs. A single finger invaded him and Xander made a squeaking sound that he blamed on the muzzle because as a man he did not squeak. It was written in the man-code, right after the rule where he didn't admit to wanting to crawl into another man's lap to cry.

Xander sat up as he straddled Spike's lap, trying to impale himself farther. The angle was wrong, and Spike wasn't anywhere near his prostate, but the feeling of his master inside him, moving, twisting, bending sent him humping and pressing back into the sensation.

"You bloody need me, don't you pet?" Spike asked, and the finger inside him bent as Spike's other hand lay flat against Xander's back. Xander nodded again as he started rocking against the finger. His cock screamed, and Xander just didn't care. Well, he did, but the pleasure of feeling Spike inside him more than made up for the ache of his imprisoned cock.

The finger was pulled out, and Spike's hands were on his waist, lifting him. Xander thought his Master just wanted to stand, and he moved forward until he could stand on his own, but Spike kept pushing him until he was in front of the bed. Xander immediately bent over so that he was lying on the bed with his groin off the edge and his feet on the floor.

"Stay right here," Spike ordered with a slap on Xander's butt that left Xander even more horny and desperate. He widened his legs and shifted a little to get comfortable as he watched Spike walk over to their luggage and pull out lube. Funny how a blue and white tube could send waves of lust through his body now. Xander breathed heavily as he watched Spike drop his own clothing to the floor revealing defined and chiseled muscles that Xander loved to watch.

Xander also loved to watch as Spike fisted his own cock, rubbing the organ far more aggressively than Xander ever did. Xander liked to feel the foreskin and explore the shapes lovingly, but Spike just grabbed it and started pulling enthusiastically, throwing his head back and growling his own pleasure as Xander's fingers twitched with a need to touch for himself.

"Bloody hell, the sight of you laid out like a buffet is enough to make me come," Spike growled happily. Xander could only lay there with his legs open and his fingers curling in a mute imitation of Spike's hand which continued to pull at Spike's cock. "Could come all over you and leave you hard and aching. Could do it and you'd still want me the next day, wouldn't ya?" Xander couldn't even nod easily with his head sunk into the soft mattress, so he just blinked back complaisantly and hoped that Spike saw the truth.

"Never want a thing from me but to make me happy. And when you get some happiness, you just count that as bonus." Spike continued masturbating, and Xander squirmed a little at the thought that he might not get any, but Spike had given him enough that if this were some new kink showing up, Xander would certainly survive.

"Funny thing, Angelus and Darla and even Dru wanted somethin' from me. Thought I could keep 'em by givin' them everything. Tried to do the same for Buffy, giving her everything including my own self-esteem. Tried to stop bein' a vamp for the lady. But it never bloody worked because they didn't want me, and trying to be what I wasn't... well can't keep it up forever. I reckon a century is about as long as I can pretend to be what I'm not. But you... you take me however I am and never want back." Xander lay on the bed and wondered what had happened to make Spike pull up memories of his old lovers, but Xander couldn't ask, so he just wiggled his butt a little in invitation. Spike noticed.

"So, what if I just move that strap a little to the side and drive in without lettin' you loose?" Spike opened the lube and spread it on one finger before doing exactly what he'd threatened. He drove two fingers into Xander deep enough to find the prostate and press into the sensitive gland. Xander humped the bed, helpless in his lust as his cock struggled to come erect in the confines of the tiny pouch. Spike pulled his fingers out. "What about it pet? Invite still open for that?" Xander pulled his lips back and breathed through his mouth as he gave another wiggle.

As painful as it had been to have his cock denied the ability to harden, it was also pleasurable in some perverse fashion. It was like when he had been a teen laying in bed masturbating with his parents downstairs. Sometimes they would come to bed earlier than he expected, and he would be caught with a handful of hard aching cock as they settled in on the other side of a paper thin wall. He would lie in bed, and part of his brain told him to go turn the water on the bathroom and finish, and part of his brain told him to just stop and let himself back off that edge. Instead he would continue to slowly thumb the slit of his cock, feeling the need grow ever larger without being able to actually satisfy the lust.

The lust and pleasure and pain had combined to a point where his cock was the only thing that existed. He didn't think about failing his best friend and watching him turn to dust. He didn't think about what kind of a man he was who would follow anyone who offered him a kind word. He didn't even think about his favorite dirty fantasy where the evil Faith came back and admitted that she wanted Xander and would just take him and drag him off to a world where he had to please her or face punishment.

Nope, on those nights when his parents interrupted his nightly appointment with the sock puppet of love he had lost himself entirely.

"You smell like you like the idea, pet." Spike's body was suddenly resting on his back, pinning him down, and Xander wiggled enthusiastically this time. He felt fingers pull at the leather strap between his legs, and without any further prep, Spike started pressing in slowly. Xander arched his back and moaned in pleasure as his minimally prepared body stretched deliciously. He always loved it when Spike spent a little less time preparing him so that he could feel every centimeter of his Master's cock forcing him open.

He collapsed back on to the bed in a haze of lust and need and want as the pleasure of having his entrance stretched balanced against the pain of his cock's battle with the pouch. Xander bucked up so hard that he lifted Spike with him before falling back to the bed and thrashing. However strong arms wrapped around him and held him as he threw his head from side to side in blinding, overwhelming need.

Xander surrendered to the white space that had existed for him on those nights when his parents had interrupted him. His whole body had been reduced to the cock driving into him slowly and the cock imprisoned in that pouch. Xander felt Spike's balls press up into him, his Master's hair tickling his sensitive skin, and he whined for more.

Spike started slow, rocking in and out no more than and inch, and Xander struggled to throw himself back onto his Master's cock and impale himself brutally, but the hands that had held him through so many nightmares now returned and held him still.

"Shh, pet. Goin' to do this right, and that means you just lay there and find your happy place. You aren't in control of this." Xander fought back against those hands for a second and then he sagged back onto the bed, clearly unable to win against vamp strength, even if he hadn't been tied up and gagged.

Spike returned to the slow, torturous thrusts, and Xander could only surrender to the feeling, the white pleasure of sensation erasing the rest of the world as Spike took what he wanted however he wanted. As Spike's thrusts grew longer and started hitting the prostate, Xander trembled with need.

If he could have, he would have begged for release, just like given the choice, he would have come and not drawn out his evening masturbation session as a teen. Without choice, he could only let himself float and tremble and lose all touch with reality as his Master now slammed in enthusiastically.

Finally Spike buried himself balls-deep and started coming. Xander humped the bed, helpless to come or to resist the urge to try. Eventually, he felt Spike softening, and he let his body relax underneath his Master's weight. As Spike finished, Xander felt the tremors of pleasure that he normally felt after an orgasm, but his cock still ached with denied need. Funny enough, the tremors were actually stronger than what Xander normally felt after an orgasm. Either that or he normally didn't pay much attention to the aftershocks. Now that he knew they were all he was getting, he concentrated on the way these small vibrations of pleasure ran the length of his backbone.

"Beautiful, pet." Xander smiled crookedly despite the bit in his mouth as Spike gently traced the edge of his lip with a fingertip. "Feels nice, don't it?" Closing his eyes, Xander let his body answer as he squeezed his ass muscles around his Master's cock. He didn't want to move; he didn't want Spike to move. If possible, he didn't want the rest of the world to move.

Spike rolled off him, and strong arms moved him up the bed so that he rested on his side with his head on a pillow. Xander didn't even realize he had gotten chilly until Spike pulled a blanket over him.

"Be right back, not sleepin' in a bloody wet spot even for you, pet," Spike said as he slipped out of bed. He soon returned and slipped a towel under Xander's hips and crawled in bed behind him. "Go ta sleep, pet. It's still an hour or so before council, and I'll wake ya up."

Xander rolled a little get closer to Spike since he didn't have much energy to do more, but Spike obviously got the message because he pushed up until their two bodies pressed together and Spike's arm tightened around his waist. Xander closed his eyes and let himself drift completely away even as Spike started tracing designs on his stomach.


Chapter 14:

Xander followed Spike into the near-empty area at the back of the main competition hall where a long, low desk separated four demons of various sizes, shapes, and colors. The room was the same as before, but Xander felt like a kid getting called to the principal's office this time. Must be the desk. Xander saw the other slave already in place at his master's feet wearing the cuffs and muzzle, but also hobbles and a rather short leash.

Even without a leash, Xander followed closely on Spike's heels, lowering himself as gracefully as possible at Spike's side. Spike had explained that he would give Xander back his decorations just as soon as the council's cuffs were off his wrists, but Xander couldn't help feeling naked without them. And really, that was ironic since the pouch he wore around his genitals was a whole lot more than he normally wore around demons. And just think, in gym class he used to hide behind towels because he didn't want people catching a peek at Xander Jr. Now he was all embarrassment-proof in the peek department.

"Master Spike," one of the four demons nodded toward Spike. "All parties are present. The council has found that slave G-493 has instigated a third fight. He is banned from competing and will have his official breeding records altered to reflect his violent temper. $500 fine." Xander didn't think the punishment sounded particularly harsh, but G-493 obviously did, because his frame started trembling slightly, and his trainer jerked up on the leash sharply.

"The council finds that slave Xander did not instigate but did respond violently when provoked. His violence was limited to the attacking male. He will be kept on a leash or muzzled for the remainder of the competition. $200 fine." A putty-faced demon stepped up and reached down to unlock the wrist cuffs, ignoring Spike's rather terrifying growl as he did so.

"Master Spike," the council's spokesdemon warned coldly. The growl went down in volume without actually disappearing. "The muzzle stays until the beast is leashed."

"Oi, got a leash here," Spike said as he pulled out a black chain. Under his voice he added, "ya wankers," and Xander kept his head down as Spike attached the leash in front and the draping chains in back. Then the other demon reached over and unlocked the muzzle. Xander had to squash his urge to pop his jaw as Spike decorated his body. His Master skipped the ritualistic repeating of why Xander had earned the decoration, but the feel of the cold gems resting against his backbone gave him the strength to lean into Spike’s leg in silent supplication.

"Yeah, pet?" Spike finally asked.

"I'm sorry, Master," he offered sincerely.

"Yeah, next time either run or take the prick's front teeth out with that kick," Spike said loud enough for the few demons standing nearby to hear. Several of the demons gasped.

"Yes, Master," Xander agreed quietly.

One of the demons behind the desk made a clicking noise, but Spike spun on his heel and stormed out so fast that Xander had to hurry to catch up before the leash could go taut. He really sometimes had trouble swinging his hip chains in rhythm when his master insisted on storming around like a raging bull.

Spike didn't stop until he reached the far side of the competition area. He stopped in a small alcove that had a bench, but he ignored the bench, choosing to lean against the wall. Xander could tell that Spike was somewhere between furious and homicidal.

"Master?" Xander breathed softly as he went to his knees at his Master's feet. A hand dropped down to play with his curls, and Xander simply waited. He knew Spike's body language well enough to read the uncertainty and stress in his Master's body.

"Maybe we oughta just cut out of here, pet," Spike said softly. Xander could feel his entire body stiffen at the thought of walking away from his child. He knew he ought to feel more guilty about abandoning the woman he had raped, but it was the thought of the child in her stomach that really made the panic rise. However, Spike hadn't asked a question, so Xander simply knelt there and tried to avoid doing anything Droopish like hyperventilating and passing out.

"These gits take a lot more interest in other people's slaves that I'm comfortable having them take." Spike's hand continued to caress his hair, but Xander heard what his Master wasn't saying. He was his Master's property, and Spike would protect him. But Xander was a whole lot more interested in protecting someone else. A couple of someone elses. However, his guilt and his morals and his imminent hyperventilation wouldn't count if Spike decided to walk out the door.

"Gettin' an uneasy feeling here," Spike added. And again with Spike's annoying habit of not asking a question. Xander leaned into Spike's leg in a silent request, but Spike just ran a hand through his hair, ruffling it. Xander chose to believe that Spike was distracted and slightly stupid rather than believe Spike would deny him the right to voice his comments. "The other shows, they hated me right up front. These wankers smile at ya to your face and then make disgusted little noises when they think ya aren't looking."

"Master?" Xander tried again quietly.

"I know what you're goin' to say, pet. Ya want to stay until we can take a shot at buying the girl."

Xander risked a quick glance up before dropping his gaze back to the floor. Okay, he could rule out Spike being slightly stupid. The hand continued to caress his curls, and Xander relaxed into that feeling. Not really much else he could do with Spike not giving him permission to talk.

"If we go back there now, the wanker'll know we're desperate to get the bint. And other people might take too much notice." Spike sighed and took a step toward the bench before dropping down. Xander knee-walked the distance and went into a Down kneel, his head resting Spike's knee. Considering how bad he was at making decisions, he was kinda glad to leave this one up to his Master. Spike's hand found his hair again, and Xander really did think the vamp had a hair fetish... not that he minded. Anya and Faith had both wanted cuddling about as much as they wanted a root canal, and Xander had always wanted someone who would touch him outside of orgasms.

Spike sighed heavily again. "Ya want ta stay, don't you?"

"Yes, Master," Xander answered immediately.

"Right. Got one day ta get through and then tonight we go and make a deal for the girl. And I swear by all that's unholy that you're never getting within a mile of slavers again." Spike's hand tightened into a fist at the back of his head, pulling his hair with a firm grip until Xander was looking up into the yellow-eyed face of a demon. Xander smiled slowly. "Not goin' to lose you, not even ta see some little rug-rat with those eyes of yours," Spike said as he cupped Xander's cheek with his free hand.

"So, best bet is to stay in public where there's less chance of anythin' happening. I figure there's nothin' in the room that we can't live without, so we wait until the meeting time, buy the girl and then head for the hills."

"Thank you, Master," Xander whispered, as relief threatened to bring tears to his eyes. He would have walked out without the girl because he would always follow Spike, but he knew he would have hated himself for the rest of his life, too. And he really did have a bit too much already going on with the self-doubt and guilt scale already.

Spike released his hair, and Xander kept looking up as he rested his cheek against the Spike's knee.

"We'll get through this, pet. I'm probably just bein' paranoid after that rot with Lirowaus." Xander could see Spike's eyes scanning the crowd behind him, and he just waited. "Right, no reason we can't go see some of the sights and get some dinner," Spike suddenly announced as he straightened up. "Come on, then." Spike stood and started toward the crowd. Xander hurried to follow before the leash could tighten.

Xander focused on watching Spike's legs as they hurried past competition rings. Yeah, the last competition had ended slightly not so good, but Xander had really loved the feeling of kicking the big guy's ass. Oh yeah. No more Xander the Zeppo for him.

Spike stopped only once, and then only long enough to pick up some blood and food before he found a table against the wall. Spike had thrust the tray with human food at him, and Xander carried it to the table, setting it down before his master before he went to his knees. Feeding himself was all well and good in Joyce's house, but it wasn't going to go over well at a slave show. Besides, if he was perfectly honest with himself, he really didn't mind eating from Spike's hand.

Xander settled his butt down onto his heels as he went into the comfortable Down kneel at Spike's feet. Around him he could see several other human slaves eating from the floor, but Spike's hand appeared in front of him with a chunk of what appeared to be some sort of brownish bread. Tucking his hands into the small of his back, Xander reached forward and took the treat before sucking at the fingers that it offered it.

When Leshar had first made him do this, he'd been humiliated. Now, especially since he didn't *have* to do this, he enjoyed it. He enjoyed the small little sighs that came from Spike as he slowly worked his lips around those slender fingers. Spike pulled his hand back with a groan, and Xander smiled as he chewed his food. He wondered whether, if he looked up, he would see an aggravated _expression or an amused one. It didn't really matter. His master needed a distraction, and Xander was more than happy to provide one.

A second chunk of bread appeared, and Xander took all three digits into his mouth. Using his tongue to pull the bread from between Spike's forefinger and thumb, Xander concentrated on sucking and nipping at the hand that fed him.

"Bloody hell," Spike whispered above. Xander smiled and then leaned so that his shoulder rested against Spike's knee. "Not that I don't appreciate the effort, pet, but we're not going to get caught alone in the room, and this isn't the kind of place that would approve of you showing your skills in public," Spike pointed out from above.

Xander looked around the room in surprise as he realized the Spike was right. He'd seen humans decorated and punished, leashed and sold, petted and put into competitions. However, he hadn't yet seen one fucked. Xander risked a quick look up at his master.

"What? You hadn't noticed?" Spike rolled his eyes and closed his hand into a fist before giving Xander a half-noogie. Xander ducked his head in embarrassment. He really hadn't noticed.

"I expect that's one reason why some of these demons are a mite bit peevish. The way you smell, it's hard to miss the fact that I enjoy my slave," Spike pointed out. "So, much as I appreciate you trying to amuse me, let's save that till we get home."

"Yes, Master," Xander agreed sheepishly. Now he felt guilty about getting Spike worked up without being able to follow through. Well, unless he could talk Spike into going back to the room. Or bathrooms. Demon shows had bathrooms. And oh god, he was going to hell for even thinking that. Food appeared in front of him, and Xander took it without worshipping the fingers that delivered it.

With dinner done, Xander followed Spike, who seemed to randomly wander the competition floor. Now that he was paying attention, Xander could see that these people really didn't have the same view of slaves. The various competitions on the West Coast that Xander would have classified as sexual torture were all missing. No blow job competitions, no seeing how large of a penetration a slave could take, no advertisements for storefronts where you could do whatever you wanted to do to a human body.

Considering how much of Leshar's training had been focused on teaching his slaves to be good little sex toys, Xander wondered how well the trainer was getting along in this new circle of demons. However, Xander also noticed that other things had not changed. There were no old slaves, and Xander had a pretty good idea what happened to humans that were too old to be prettily paraded around like overgrown poodles.

And as much as Xander had been completely and totally nauseated at the thought of his son or daughter being stuck in a place like Leshar's club, somehow the idea of them being stuck here was even worse. At least in Leshar's club the humans knew they were being abused… at least they had some humanity left, even if the only part of their humanity they still carried was the shame that showed in their eyes when no one was looking. But here, most of the humans had this creepy contentment that made Xander angry not just at the slavers but at the slaves.

And yeah, he did see the irony of that, given the fact that he was happily and willingly following behind his master twirling his hip chains and tinkling with bells on his ankle as he followed Spike from one part of the competition floor to another. He still couldn't help feeling a little sorry for these people who had become content in their roles.

Up ahead, he spotted a familiar game being played behind Plexiglas walls. A quick little fantasy trotted through his mind as he hesitated at the sight. Realizing that the slack in the leash was disappearing, he hurried to catch up just as the leash pulled at his neck.

"Pet?" Spike asked as he stopped. Xander went to his knees, and Spike sighed. "Something wrong?" Spike asked as he looked around.

"No, Master," Xander assured him. He was actually embarrassed having been caught daydreaming at the end of the leash, not that he needed to apologize for daydreaming, because he had a right to daydream. Maybe he just shouldn't be daydreaming in the middle of a rescue attempt. Xander took a quick glance up, and Spike was looking at him with a confused _expression

"Out with it, then," he ordered. Xander ducked his head even lower in embarrassment. This is why he had always sat in the back of the classroom… fewer opportunities to embarrass himself.

"I was just um... daydreaming, Master," Xander finally admitted.

"And what exactly were you daydreaming about?" Xander recognized Spike's amused voice, as he glanced over at the competition ring he had just been watching. It was stupid. Not that he hadn't done stupid before, and not that Spike hadn't *seen* him do stupid before, and hey, Spike did some stupid himself. Still, getting caught being stupid in the middle of the big 'rescue the child' plan seemed even more stupid than his normal stupid. But Spike had asked him a question, so he took a deep breath to answer.

"The game, it looks like one-on-one basketball," Xander said as he tilted his head toward the competition arena where two slaves chased after a small ball. As far as Xander could tell, they weren't allowed to take a step with the ball in hand. So as soon as one grabbed the ball, he would fling the ball at a clear wall, bouncing it off the wall before diving to try and regain it. Then when he was close to one end, he would throw the ball at a small hole in the wall. Xander waited as Spike looked toward the arena.

"Yeah, I suppose it does, pet." Spike didn't say any more, but Xander knew his master wouldn't leave it at that.

"I was just thinking that I could beat them. As much time as you make me practice throwing knives, throwing a ball seems pretty easy," Xander finished, well aware of how lame he sounded.

"You want to compete?" And now Spike sounded confused. Xander tried to arrange his words so that he didn't end up babbling, but this was a topic close to his babble button.

"It's just that I was always picked last, Master," Xander said softly as he picked through his feelings. "And now I know I wouldn't be the worst player." Xander shrugged slightly to show that he understood how pathetic *that* sounded. The chains on his back shifted, reminding him that he had made an inappropriate movement for a slave who should always control his body.

"Not last anymore, pet," Spike promised as he ran strong fingers through Xander's hair. "I suppose that means we have ta go find ya a muzzle so you can compete."

Xander would have protested, he really would have. He would have pointed out that kicking some serious slave butt on the court couldn’t erase those old memories, except Spike was already storming toward the end of the enormous room where the vendors displayed slave gear, and Xander was too busy concentrating on swinging his chains at a near run to argue about anything.

By the time Xander's wait in line was over and he was ready to go in the Plexiglas ring, he was almost sorry he had said anything. The muzzle was the finest quality microfiber guaranteed to allow his skin to breath without chafing, but it was still a muzzle, and Xander had to focus on not reaching up and scratching under the straps around his face. However, when a trainer came and unhooked his harness from the waiting pole, Xander focused on the slave in front of him.

The woman was slightly older, a few gray hairs at her temples, and her legs were firm with muscle. The trainers quickly covered the rules, and then Xander went to stand near the hole in the wall where his goal was located. The ball would randomly fall from one of the two goal holes every time play stopped either because of a foul or a goal. Unfortunately, this time it came out the woman's side, and Xander dashed the length of the court, his bare feet slapping the cold and slightly squishy gym-mat type flooring as he raced to recover the ball.

Three goals won the match, and after what seemed like hours of playing, Xander and the woman were tied, even if Xander did still think her second goal was a foul and he was going to have a bruise on his hip to prove it. The Plexiglas walls allowed Xander to see dozens of cheering demons, but he didn't have time to look for Spike as he leapt up and grabbed the ball the woman had thrown hard enough to make the plexi shiver. He fell onto his back still clutching the ball, and a buzzer sounded.

Cursing his own clumsiness, and the muzzle that kept him from getting quite as much air as he would like, Xander got up and dropped the ball into a goal hole before going back to his own side to wait for the drop. A demon tossed the ball into a chute high in the air, and it came rattling down. Xander tensed as the rattling sound moved toward his side of the court. When the small black ball bounced out his opening, Xander grabbed it and flung it hard at the right side as he raced toward the other side of the court. The woman ran to intercept the ball, but Xander had used a sharp enough angle that he reached the ball before her.

Grabbing the ball, he threw it again behind the woman so that they now ran for her end of the court. She grabbed the ball first and went to throw it, but it hadn't even hit a wall before Xander caught it. Enough was enough. He took aim at the small hole in the wall, and then feigned a throw to the left. The woman dashed to recover the ball, leaving her goal open, and Xander threw with every bit of precision Spike had ever taught him. The ball hit the center of the hole and dropped while the woman was still trying to figure out where the ball had gone.

A chorus of approving yells met the final goal, and Xander blushed as he dropped to his knees. The woman turned and nodded a head toward him before going to her knees as well, although a little more slowly. The trainers came in and attached leashes before leading them out to where their owners could collect them.

"Best game of the day," the heavy, scaled demon who held his leash told Xander, and Xander had to restrain a need to do a Scooby dance as the demon locked his leash to the wait pole. Since Spike wasn't in sight, Xander sunk into a Down kneel and waited for his Master to pick him up. Maybe he could even make the bathroom suggestion since his win had left him about as worked up as a fight normally did.

The adrenaline of the game slowly wore off, only to be replaced with something darker. If Xander were honest with himself, it felt something like absolute cold terror, but he was going to call it concern. Yep. Just concern. Concern enough to make his stomach clench and his skin turn cold. Xander listened to the sound of one match after another ending as slaves joined him on the wait pole, only to have their masters pick them up while he still waited. And waited and waited.

The crowds had started to thin out, and Xander could feel the edge of weariness in his own bones that suggested the sun was coming up and it was time for all good little demons to go to bed. Right. Something had definitely happened. Xander checked both sides of the aisle before reaching up to his collar. The leash might be locked to the wait pole, but it was only clipped to Xander's collar. The biggest problem was getting past all the demons who would certainly notice him walking without an escort.

Xander watched as a hulking purple demon slimed by. The thing slid forward, not looking to either side, and Xander reached up to unclip his leash. He could follow the purple demon with downcast eyes and as long as it came close to an exit, he'd make a break for it. A little part of his brain pointed out that it was winter and he was going to die of hypothermia before getting anywhere, but he had a lot of practice ignoring his brain. He just had to get part one of the plan in motion and then he'd worry about part two.

"Here he is," a heavy hand dropped onto his shoulder, and Xander froze, his hand still close to his collar and oh boy was that bad.

"Bad form," a second voice rasped, and Xander dropped his hands to his thighs.

"Muzzle must itch. It's been a good animal all day. Shame his master left him."

"Vampires. Who ever heard of a vampire keeping a trained slave like this. The animal would be better off if his master never came to claim him," the raspy one announced as a clicking sound told Xander his leash had been unclipped from the pole. Xander kept his eyes down as he battled the panic that rolled through him. Spike wouldn't abandon him… he just wouldn't.

A small tug on his leash brought him to his feet as he wondered what would stop Spike from coming to get him. As the demon with his leash started across the half-empty rooms filled with vacant competition rings, Xander tried really hard not to think about the dust that lightly covered the concrete floor.


Chapter 15:

"Up and at 'em, boy," a cheerful voice called.

Xander stretched and pulled his knees up in front of him as the handler hit the chain-link fence with a heavy fist, making the entire length of it rattle. When the handler opened the gate to his small cell, Xander expected the food to be left on the floor and his muzzle to be loosened. He'd come to expect a routine in the last couple of days. That routine was about all that was holding him together now as he sat in the cold cell holding a single blanket around his frame as he sat on a blue mat that might have once been part of some high school gym equipment. It smelled like it.

That first day he had expected Spike to come flowing through the door at any moment, cursing and threatening with every breath. Xander had fantasies about following Spike back to the room only to smack his worthless master upside the back of his head for scaring twenty years of life out of him. But despite the fact that these demons clearly knew he belonged to Spike, Spike hadn't come yet. They even complained about Spike not coming yet, making it clear that they considered having to take care of stray humans an annoyance.

Two other humans had ended up in a small room behind the council chambers, but they had been collected as soon as their master had sobered up enough to claim them. Only Xander remained. Locked in a chain-link cage, he sat in the dark fighting his nightmares and feeling cold terror sink into his bones, and no one was there to hold him or brush his hair out of his sweating face when he awoke screaming.

Xander found himself wildly veering between utter terror that Spike was dead and an equally strong fear that Spike had found something more interesting than him. In some of his nightmares, Dru showed up during that game that he had won, and Spike walked away following his Dark Princess. Xander hated that nightmare the most -- the feeling of the warm Plexiglas shaking as he pounded on it begging and screaming for his Master to come back for him. But Spike hadn't even turned as he walked away, disappearing into the crowd as Xander heard Drusilla's insane laughter.

When he was awake Xander knew that Spike wouldn't do that. When he was awake, his greatest fear was that Spike had abandoned him in a far more permanent way… a dusty type way. And he didn't feel guilty about that at all. Nope. Just because his stupid daydreaming about his stupid high school geekiness got Spike… okay, he wasn't even going to finish that thought because that thought was going to lead to guilt, and he didn't feel that… much. Only enough to make him want to rip his own guts out, that's all.

Either way, whether Spike was dead or alive, whether Spike had abandoned him or been torn from him, it didn't matter. He was alone. He couldn't help remembering how he had felt when Leshar had first taken him. He'd been so sure that Buffy would find him. He'd been so confident that they would never give up; they would never leave him to the demons. But they had never come for him. When the cages were quiet and Xander was alone in the dark he found himself crying tears of loss and fear and even rage. Rage that she hadn't loved him enough to look for him. Rage that Spike might never find him because Spike's ability to form a plan, which had never been high in Xander's book, had fallen to all time lows here.

And now Xander sat and watched as the lumbering demon came near him, waiting for food to be left in the muzzle to be loosened. But instead, the demon locked a leash to the front of Xander's collar and gave a sharp pull that forced Xander to his feet.

"Time for you to earn your keep," the demon announced as he started out of the room of cages. Xander closed his eyes and focused on breathing steadily as the meaning of those words sunk into him. He just had to accept it. He wasn't strong enough to fight all of them. He knew he just had to accept it. But God--accepting was so hard now. Xander fought his body, forcing it to follow behind the demon who held his leash as they walked through the council chambers into a post set in the ground.

The demon locked the free end of the leash onto the end of the post, and Xander sank to his knees on a small square of padding next to it. His eyes burned, and he struggled to not cry as the demon walked away. And really, how pathetic was he that he would rather have his demon keeper next to him?

Xander waited in a Down kneel with his hand resting on his thighs as he tried to figure out how he was supposed to earn his keep chained to a post. Oh, there were lots of things he could do chained to a post, but most of them involved things that Leshar had taught him to do, and he hadn't thought these demons were into the cross species kink. Xander was so distracted he didn't even hear anyone come up behind him. He didn't know anyone was behind him at all until he felt a sharp tap on his butt.

Instantly he flowed up into formal position: his hands behind his back, his knees spread, his back straight, and his butt up off his heels. A firm touch ran down his back into the inside of his left thigh, curling around his thigh so that Xander could now see the end of a tail wrapped around his leg. And really... when tails and started looking familiar he had to wonder if he'd been spending too much time with demons. Xander peeked out of the corner of his eye and saw the big football looking dude properly kneeling nearby. Oh yeah, this was bad. If Spike were within 5 miles, Calsha would never have the nerve to do this.

A hand rested on his shoulder and then trailed down to a nipple before Calsha knelt next to him.

"Where's your Master, little one?" Calsha whispered in his ear. Xander couldn't answer with the muzzle on, so he limited himself to a rather unpleasant glare.

"You are a treat," she said as she ruffled his hair, and Xander nearly broke position to push her away as anger rose like a wave. "I can't seem to find him right now, but I will do my best to purchase you in the auction. I have rather limited resources, but I expect Spike or his sire would reimburse me and reward me rather handsomely."

Xander heard Calsha's words through a sort of haze. Auction. And oh yeah, the Harris luck has struck again. Xander fought against an urge to shake in fear and an equal urge to punch Calsha right in her smiling mouth. Great. She thought buying him was helping. He would prefer the kind of help that came with explosions and magical search parties and someone finding his master, and oh god please don't let finding him mean finding the dust that used to be him.

"Be good," Calsha offered with a final stroke down his cheek, and Xander didn't miss how her slave shifted uncomfortably at the touch. Then Calsha left, her slave following without a leash, while Xander was left chained to the post.

Then Xander got it. Earning his keep. He was out here on display for the auction later. Xander looked up at the demons around him despite the fact that it was against every rule Leshar had ever taught him. And why was he not surprised to find Leshar right in front of him, smiling with an expression Xander had learned to dread.

Xander lost control then, shaking as he realized what was about to happen to him. Suddenly Xander couldn't get enough air. He felt his nose flare out as he struggled to gasp, but he just couldn't breathe. Forgetting form, he reached out for the post, pushing himself to his feet with one hand while he pulled at the muzzle with the other. He could see the demons around him turning to stare as he stumbled backwards to the end of the leash.

"You'll fucking use your mouth as I order you to or you'll find yourself without one," Leshar had sworn at him that day, the caged humans around him watching silently. Xander remembered his skin burning from the lash marks as two of Leshar's demons had held him down so Leshar could force the muzzle over his face. Xander had sworn back, yelling about the slayer, but a sharp burst of agony across the bottom of his foot made him gasp, and then his mouth was full, not of the demon cock Leshar had been trying to get him to service, but of something colder, something rancid. Xander started dry heaving, but it had been so long since he had eaten that nothing came up as a plastic piece fit over his mouth and kept him from spitting out the rotten bit in his mouth.

"So think on that," Leshar has hissed as he pulled on Xander's leash. With his hands bound behind his back, Xander fell awkwardly forward onto his knees. The leash kept pulling and Xander put out his foot to stand only to collapse back to the floor as his foot blossomed in pain. Xander hadn't remembered much more after that except the taste in his mouth and the constant pain... the pain as the collar bit into his neck. The pain of the muzzle strapped on too tightly. The pain of the whip marks decorating his back. He'd prayed for a death that never came. He still prayed as the darkness descended.

"Just a bit of hyperventilation," a high pitched voice said, and Xander struggled back to awareness as he felt a warm hand running up and down his leg. "Heart rate is elevated. This will calm him down though." Xander felt a pinprick of something at his thigh, and then the world started graying around the edges, and why they had woken him only to put him back under? Didn't really make sense to him.

"He unhealthy?" A lower voice asked, and Xander just hoped that the doctor said yes. If the doctor said yes, it would be over quickly. And hey, the doctor was not into hurting humans, so might even be over without any more pain. Xander's brain turned on itself at the very thought. Part of him wanted to hold on for long as it took for Spike to find him. Another part of him viciously attacked that kind of hope as foolish. After all, he'd waited for Buffy and it hadn't mattered. If they sold him, if he disappeared into the slavers' world again, he wasn't strong enough to hold out.

"Not at all. He's in an exceptionally good health. However, you and I both know that some of the slime from the West Coast has sleazed its way into here. If one of those west coasters threatened him..." the doctor didn't finish her whispered words, but she continued her caressing of Xander's leg. Between the drugs in the gentle touch, Xander found himself sinking into a half sleep where he heard things only at a distance. Man, he had no idea what they had given him, but to hell with selling slaves... they could make a fortune selling this stuff on the street.

"It's hardly fair to blame an animal for his owner's sins."

"Since when do you expect those assholes to be fair? I suspect this was a plain old panic attack, and I can hardly blame the poor thing considering he was owned by a master who considered him a food source. I can't believe they sold such a sweet-tempered boy to a vampire."

"He was charged with fighting."

"I saw the fight. He tried to get away, and he stopped the minute the trainers came in the ring. Most males aren't able to stop once they start swinging. Besides, everyone knows how the vampire ordered him to fight. It wasn't even put on his breeding record."


"Hopefully he'll get a better owner this time," the high-pitched voice said as a warm hand reached up and pushed the hair from his eyes. Xander blinked as he lay on the ground and tried to focus.

"I think you gave him too much," the second demon offered, and now Xander could see a humanish looking bald guy with long straight horns coming from his head. He blinked again and tried to figure out why the horns kept turning color. Then again, the whole world seemed to be turning a few colors.

"Maybe," the woman admitted, and now Xander turned to see a bluish woman with a wide nose and crinkly forehead, and blue really was the in color for demons, only the guy demon with the horns wasn't blue, he was more human colored. Xander opened his mouth to point that out, but his mouth didn't actually open. He blinked rapidly as he tried to figure that one out.

"Probably," the woman amended herself, and then she reached down and removed the muzzle.

"Pretty blue demon lady," Xander giggled. The demon looked down at him with a raised eyebrow.

"Definitely," she amended herself again, and Xander tried to roll over onto his stomach. Unfortunately his arms didn't seem to work right.

"Not rolling right. Rollin', rollin', rollin', keep them somethin' rollin' along," Xander half whispered and half sang as he struggled to get up.

"Up you go," a deep voice offered and then Xander found himself sitting with his back to the post as strong hands lifted him. The woman was back, her hands holding either side of his face.

"Hey, my arms are gone. That never happened before," Xander pointed out, and he knew he should be upset about that, but he really couldn't be because he was upset about something else, only he couldn't figure out what the something else was.

"What's his name?" the blue lady asked the other demon.

"Don't call me Droopy 'cause that's who I used to be, but everyone called me Xander back then even though I was Droopy 'cause I'm Xander now and not then… except Cordelia. She called me a Zeppo," Xander said indignantly.

"I'm sure that was very unkind of her," the lady offered as she bent in close to Xander's face while still holding it still with her hands.

"Did you know my arms were gone? I should go look for them," Xander pointed out as he went to lean forward, but the lady demon held him in place.

"Xander, your arms are behind you." The woman looked over at the other demon. "Let's get the restraints off. I think it's safe to say he's not reacting violently."

"Violence. Spike likes violence," Xander muttered as the other demon knelt down next to him and reached behind him. "Hey! He found my arms." Xander said happily as he pulled his arms in front of him and looked at them.

"Spike? Was he here? Did Spike say something that upset you?" the woman asked.

"I should hit Spike. I should hit him really, really hard. I bet I could get Angel to hit him for me because Angel hits a lot harder than I do."

"I'm sure you hit just fine, Xander. Why should you hit Spike?"

"He went and died on me and he promised he wouldn't. He promised I was safe, and now he's gone and he'd be here if he wasn't dust because he doesn't break his promises," Xander felt tears roll down his cheeks as he suddenly remembered what he was supposed to be upset about. He reached out and wrapped his arms around the demon's waist as he lay in her lap and cried.

"Well he's certainly not a fighter," a voice above him commented wryly.

"If I didn't travel so much…" the high-pitched voice of the woman said, and Xander felt strong hands rub his back. "Well, we obviously need to put him somewhere quiet until this wears off.

"I do wonder what this will do to his value, having half the auction see him like this," the man commented.

"Well if someone wants an aggressive stallion, they won't be buying this one," she answered. Xander felt hands pull him up, and he wiped at his eyes as he stood cautiously. When he didn't feel any pain, he pulled up his left foot and examined the bottom of it.

"It's not cut," he announced proudly as he held it up for the woman to see. Unfortunately he unbalanced himself and nearly fell on someone behind him. Actually, he did fall on someone behind him, but the someone was a huge, wide, grey demon with beady eyes and huge hands that reached out to hold him up.

"Steady, boy," a deep and familiar voice said softly.

"Come on, Xander," the blue lady called as she pulled at the leash, and Xander pushed himself away from the large blobby demon as he followed unsteadily. Can't let the leash get tight, he told himself as he focused on the swaying chain connecting him to the lady. "Let's get you to your cage so you can sleep this off some."

"Can't you give him something?" the horned guy asked as he followed.

"Yeah, but then he'll be confused and hyper. That won't help sales. I had no idea that he would react so strongly to the drug. Most of the animals here have been exposed to it dozens of times, but I guess not this one."

"Just say no," Xander managed as he half-followed the conversation.

"Well let's hope he's sober by the auction."

"If not, he's still a sweet little stallion, even drugged up to his gills."

"No gills… didn't stay in the steam room long enough," Xander protested as hands helped him through a gate.

"That's fine. No gills for you," the lady demon promised, and Xander stood in the middle of the cage swaying as he heard the gate close behind him. He waited for something… for someone, but he couldn't figure out who. But someone was missing. Xander turned around and put his hand out to the latch as he tried to pull it up. Xander frowned when it didn't move.

"Xander, where are you going?" the high voice asked, and Xander looked up into the brown eyes of a blue skinned lady.

"Gotta find Spike. He gets lost." Xander blinked as he tried to figure out why the gate wouldn't open.

"Xander, Spike isn't here. He says you should lie down."

"Spike said that?" Xander asked as he tried to focus on the unmoving latch.

"Yes. Spike said to lie down."

"Oh." Xander stopped pulling at the latch as he slowly sank down to the mat. He reached behind him and grabbed his blanket. "If Spike says," he muttered as he closed his eyes.

"Such a sweet stallion," the lady said as she walked away from the already sleeping slave.


Xander was fighting a horrible headache when the handler who first took him out of his cage appeared. His memories might be a little fuzzy, but no amount of repression and drugs could erase the knowledge that he was going to be sold again. Xander had explored every inch of his cage, trying to find some way out, but in the end, he had to admit that he was screwed. In fact, if Leshar bought him, he was screwed in more ways than one.

Since he really didn't have any other options, he knelt as the demon came in and locked a leash onto his collar. Xander squeezed his eyes shut at someone else's leash going on Spike's collar.

A pull at his collar got him up on his feet and he followed, intentionally pushing every thought he had underneath a layer of training. He just had to focus on this walk and keeping his back straight and not swinging his arms and really swinging his hips. He focused on making his pace perfect as he followed the demon across the competition floor to the far side where rings had been torn down to make an open space. He concentrated on keeping his head bowed and breathing slowly so his throbbing head didn't pop open and he might have spared time for a prayer or two that Spike would come riding in on a white horse… or a black horse… or no horse at all worked for him as long as Spike did the saving part.

The demon leading him stopped, but a hand on his arm kept him on his feet as the demon moved another human to make room for Xander. The crowd sounded fairly large, but he didn't dare look up as his leash was locked to a wait pole. Instead he sank to his knees and remained in the formal Position kneel despite the fact that his kneecaps weren't used to it, and it made them ache. Yeah, somehow he thought aching kneecaps might be the least of his problems if his Master didn't show up.

The slave in front of him went for $4,000 and Xander focused on the memory of Spike's hands brushing over his body, of Spike's body pinning him to the damp ground after a fight with some local fledges. He refused to believe Spike would never do that again, so he just needed to focus on that and not the hands now unclipping his leash and leading him into the ring.

"And this is our prize of the auction. A very nice little stallion, a prize winner who managed to defeat Lyew's mare, Dusty, in the ballcourt. A clean breeding record and a clean bill of health from the doctor make this one a real prize." Xander kept his eyes down because really it made it easier to pretend to be in that other auction, the one where he had given up all hope only to have Spike save him.

A sharp tap at his butt, and Xander dropped into a Position kneel. "Not a bit of rebellion here, folks. He's a free range human, but we have a medical review promising that he has had no cosmetic repairs at all. You can bet on getting some very nice coloring out of his pups." Xander bit his tongue at the announcer calling him a stallion and his children pups because hey, mixed metaphor much?

A touch on his head put him into a Down kneel with his butt resting on his heels, and Xander nearly sighed in relief at the chance to get off his kneecaps. "Now since he's being sold to pay his Master's unpaid fines and boarding fees, I can't take less than a thousand, but I don't think that's going to be a problem, is it?" the announcer asked with a laugh. The audience made a variety of noises, some of which seemed to slice right through Xander's drug-induced headache.

"$3,000," a female voice called out, and Xander recognized Calsha. Okay, he could handle Calsha. Her own slave didn't seem to suffer too much. Of course, her own slave just might break Xander's neck what with the whole lusting after the mistress thing he had going.

"3,200," an unfamiliar voice called out.

"$3,500," called another.

"$3,700," yelled a voice that Xander knew entirely too well. That was a voice that had once commanded his every move and inspired every nightmare. Please, please, please just let Harris bad luck skip him just this once. The universe owed him after the whole preying mantis teacher and mummified life eating Halloween date. Hell, the universe really owed him after already spending six months in Leshar's stable.

"$4,000," Calsha quickly countered.

"$5,000," another voice called out.

"$5,500," Calsha yelled.

"$6,000," another demon yelled, but a deeper voice yelled "$7,000" at the same time.

"Let's keep the bids in order, please. I have $7,000 from Dareh, is there a bit for eight?"

"Eight!" Leshar's voice ripped through Xander's defenses until he could feel a thousand memories pushing in at him… things he didn't want to remember… things that made his rage rise up until he trembled with a need to smash the demon's face. But then the auctioneer's hand fell on his shoulder, and Xander reminded himself that demons could smell so many human emotions. Without any effort at all, he flipped that fury over into fear as he considered what Leshar would do to him now. He'd stabbed his former owner, and everyone seemed to know that Spike and Angel had driven the West Coast slavers out of business. He had no doubt Leshar would take that out on his hide.

"Nine," a low voice countered.

"Ten thousand!" Calsha called out.

"Eleven," Leshar yelled back without waiting for the auctioneer. Xander heard a soft "damn" from Calsha's direction and then he didn't hear anything. He trembled as he realized the bidding was beyond her. She wasn't going to buy him and then deliver him to the nearest Aurelius vamp for a quick rescue.

"We have $11,000 from Leshar. Any new offers?"


"$12,000," Leshar snapped back immediately.



"13,500," the unfamiliar bidder countered. There was a silence after that, and Xander waited for his fate to be sealed. His heart might be healthy and all, but he was fairly sure he was going to have a heart attack.

"$13,500 to Dareh, any more offers?"

"$14,000," Leshar yelled.

"$14,500." A silence fell on the crowd as that deep voice called out his offer. The auctioneer waited.

"We have $14,500 at Dareh. Any more offers? Last warning…" The auctioneer waited, and Xander forgot to breathe as he waited to hear just how much Leshar hated him. With each bid, Xander could hear the fury and frustration, and Xander just knew that if Leshar got him, he was going to pay for every cent in missing skin. However, Leshar didn't call out another offer.

"Dareh's bid wins," the auctioneer called out, and the crowd's silence was broken. Xander had the impression of something heavy moving, and he looked up to see the wide grey demon with beady eyes who he had earlier landed on. Xander ducked his head submissively as he realized just how many rules he had gotten used to breaking. Time to undo the undoing of the rules, he told himself as he held position while Dareh paid for him.

"Come on, boy," the deep voice ordered as Dareh took the leash. Xander rose and followed his new master out of the room. He just couldn't help taking one last look at the crowd as he searched for a bleached blond head.


Chapter 16:

Xander followed behind the demon who had bought him as he tried reminding himself that the demon didn't actually own him since he was a person and had rights, not that his person-type rights meant much to a demon, but still.

Xander remembered when he had followed Spike that first day, wondering whether he was about to be tortured or rescued. He hadn't even dreamed of asking questions back then, and now he bit the inside of his cheek to keep from asking the questions that flashed across his mind so fast that he could barely even acknowledge one before another crowded it out. Oh, things like where they were going and what this Dareh planned to do to him. But just like before, with Spike, the answer didn't matter. Dareh held his leash and if Dareh announced that he planned to use Xander as a sacrificial victim for bugs to eat alive, Xander would still have to follow.

And okay, Xander really needed to find a way to turn his imagination off because that image was not of the good. Xander stumbled a little, losing his pace for a second as that fear suddenly turned into a three-dimensional daymare.

"Here we are," Dareh announced as they came to a part of the show hall Xander hadn't seen before. The crates were certainly familiar enough for him to figure it out though. Xander's eyes stung as he realized that once he got in that crate, he would have no options. Not that he had a lot of options now what with the chain, but he could scream or curse or break his own neck trying to run away. They weren't good options, but they were options. Once he was nicely caged, he wouldn't have those options.

"Fekell, need a size five crate for my new stallion," Dareh called and Xander slipped to his knees. He was too tired to try the breaking his own neck on the chain option. "Fekell!" Dareh yelled.

"Jes a minute!" a voice yelled back before muttering too softly for Xander to hear. Okay, big double doors for loading crates. The crossbeam looked way too heavy for him to lift. Nothing close enough to grab and use as a weapon, and he wasn't even sure what type of demon Dareh was. Of course decapitation worked with most demons, but Xander didn't have anything that would work to decapitate him. He thought about pulling a Princess Leia with the chain, but he thought Dareh would probably just knock him into the middle of next week. Then again, maybe the guy would accidentally kill him, and Xander couldn't decide if that was in the positive or negative column.

Before he could come to any decision, a short gnomish thing came pushing a fairly large crate. "Ya know, you guys could put yer orders in before the last day," it huffed unhappily.

"What would be the fun of that?" Dareh laughed as he grabbed the edge of the crate, yanking on it. Yep, gotta make sure the new stallion can't get away, Xander thought. Unfortunately the crate seemed pretty damn sturdy. If Dareh couldn't pull it apart, Xander wasn't giving himself much change of kicking his way free.

"Fun would be me gettin' home to the mate before she guts me," the gnome complained.

"Well, I had no idea I was going to get such a nice stallion today."

"Isn't he a little big for your usual stock?" the gnome asked in surprised voice, but Xander just kept his head bowed.

"Oh, it's the temperament that I like," Dareh rested a hand on Xander's head, and Xander chanted to himself about accepting even though he wanted nothing more than to push Dareh away. Really, he should feel some gratitude since the demon had kept him away from Leshar, but Xander just wasn't feeling it. He'd be damned if he'd feel gratitude. Actually, he thought with a start, if he started feeling gratitude he probably would be damned.

"Up and in, boy," Dareh ordered. Xander stood up before his brain had even processed the order. Since there really wasn't a choice, Xander climbed over the side of the crate and onto the firm gel-like material inside. Without waiting for an order, Xander got down onto his side, tucking his knees up against his chest so that he would fit. It wasn't comfortable, but it wasn't particularly uncomfortable either. He watched as Dareh locked his chain onto a ring near Xander's head.

"Be home soon enough, boy," the demon's large hand slapped Xander's naked thigh, and Xander had to push memories of Lirowaus away as a lid slid down over the top of the crate. Oh yeah, he wasn't going to have much room to move, but maybe he could brace his back against the wood and push a board out of place with his knees. Xander held onto that hope in the dark as he listened to an electric screwdriver seal him in.

Shafts of light from the slats between the boards at his head and feet kept the claustrophobia from closing in too much, so now he just had to wait for a private moment before trying to break free. Yep. He could do this. Xander felt his eyelids droop. Yep. Just wait for the right time, and then he would break free and go find his worthless master. Uh-huh, he was so going to kick Spike's ass, just as soon as he made sure it was in one piece, Xander told himself as he started to fade. He'd just rest for a while and then it would be time for the great escape. After a small nap.


Xander woke when Dareh opened the top of the padded crate. Oh shit—sleep spell. When the threads of panic started weaving through him, he threw himself back into Leshar's training. On his knees, back straight, head down, hands at the small of his back, knees spread, thoughts of slipping a knife between Dareh's beady eyes. Okay, he might have improvised the last part, but Xander also knew he couldn't do anything until he figured out where he was. With the sleep spell keeping him under, he could be on the other side of the planet or in another dimension. Until he knew more about where he was and how to get back to Sunnydale, he would play good pet.

A heavy hand ruffled his hair, and Xander recognized the gesture as affectionate even as he gritted his teeth. Only Spike touched his hair, and then he used long fingers to delicately tease individual curls.

"Shhh, boy. You're alright." The deep, soft voice startled Xander, and he realized he was leaking smells that probably included terror and fury. Xander let himself sink into the memory of Leshar's cage, into the memory of Leshar's lesson. A slave accepted. Pain or pleasure made no difference—a slave accepted. Struggling to find that center of nothingness, Xander almost missed the command.

Standing, he stepped over the edge of the crate and followed Dareh through a door into a wide open space. Okay, the leash was gone, so that was an improvement. The wood floor was warm under his feet, and shafts of light from either a skylight or really bright light bulbs divided this huge room into a checkerboard pattern. A large horned demon waited leaning against one wall and Dareh walked directly to him.

For his part, Xander tried to keep his mind on form and tried not thinking about ugly possibilities, and yet the harder he tried to focus on his form, the more the images of those ugly possibilities superimposed themselves over his vision, which really wasn't helping with the not thinking thing. He just wished his brain would cooperate with him for once, but the damn thing was quickly skittering over into the panic-level inspired by SAT testing or imminent rape.

"This your new boy?" the horned demon asked in a voice that clicked slightly. When Dareh stopped, Xander went to his knees exactly as trained. Dareh's large hand found his hair and rubbed it roughly.

"Yep. Not breedin' this one out, either. He's going to be private stock."

"He's taller than your usual."

"But with such a sweet disposition and such beautiful bone structure, I know we'll get champion pups out of him." Xander couldn't repress the shiver fast enough as he heard his future laid out for him. For most slaves, the life of a breeder was some sort of holy grail land, but Xander would rather be at Lirowaus' feet than give this man children to enslave.

The horned demon darted forward far faster than a creature of that size ought to be able to move, and Xander couldn't stop his instinctive reaction to jerk back.

"Looks a little skittish."

"If you jumped at me like that, I'd be skittish too," Dareh complained, and Xander felt that large hand move to the side of his head, pulling him toward Dareh's leg. A tiny part of Xander uncurled and practically begged for the protection that gesture offered, but Xander stomped down on that feeling even as he pressed the side of his face to Dareh's knee. It was an act. He would do what he had to, but he was only acting, he reminded himself firmly.

Dareh made small huffing noises that might have been comforting noise, and Xander turned his head so that he was nearly burying his face in Dareh's huge thigh. If Dareh wanted helpless, Xander could play helpless all the way up to the point that he shoved a stake through the demon's heart. Or cut off his head. Or took a knife and planted it in the middle of Dareh's neck. Xander stopped before he started leaking smells that had nothing to do with fear.

"Such a sweet little stallion," Dareh said as the hand rubbed the back of Xander's neck. "He smelled of terror when I took him out of the crate, but he's still obedient and sweet. I tell you, we can create a real demand here. We could bring this stable up to one of the premier facilities if we take some time to show him interdimensionally. He made quite a stir at the show this week.

"Considering how much you paid for him, he better bring in some revenue or we just may be out of business."

"I run the stables; that's the deal. I'm telling you that he could put us on easy street." Xander listened to Dareh's voice with snakes of revolt and disgust crawling through his belly.

When Leshar had beaten and whipped and terrorized him, the trainer had wanted to break Xander, to rip his humanity out of him, but that meant that they saw he had a humanity that needed to be ripped away. These demons talked about Xander as though he truly was an animal. Xander knew that he should be grateful he didn't fall into the hands of another sadist like Leshar or some biologically freaky demon like Lirowaus, but instead all he could think about was that he would rather have those demons trying to make him forget his humanity than Dareh with his soft words and absolutely belief that Xander had the intelligence of a coffee table. Usually he at least got compared to living creatures like geese… as in doesn't have the sense of.

"So, let's get him checked out," the horned demon said as he turned at walked to the far side of the large room. Dareh followed him, and Xander followed Dareh despite a growing and irrational desire to hit the demon upside the back of the head and run. He wasn't exactly going to prove his intelligence with that move, so instead he followed behind like the meek stallion they thought him.

"Hop up," the horned demon ordered with a slap to a bed shaped platform that was about twice as high as a bed. The hoses hanging over the platform told him exactly what the platform was, and Xander stood on shaky legs. Accept, he chanted to himself. He put his back to the platform so he could jump up and sit, but he missed on his first try and simply succeeded in scraping his back along the edge.

"Not exactly impressive," the horned demon clicked derisively, and Xander's legs trembled even more.

"He's terrified. New owners, new stable, new role. I watched him take on a male twice his size in competition, so don't worry about that." Dareh put hands on either side of Xander's waist and easily lifted him even as he spoke. Great, one more demon with super strength. Why couldn't he ever get kidnapped by the wimpy demon? Like Clem! Why couldn't Clem ever kidnap him? Xander flashed on an image of serving Clem which, from what he could tell, would involve making a lot of nachos. He could do nachos. He couldn't do good nachos, but if Clem was okay with him opening a couple of cans and stirring, he could so totally do nachos.

"On your back," the horned demon tersely ordered, and Xander felt an irrational need to have a name. Since no one had given him permission to speak, he just pulled his legs up and lay on his back with his legs open to the edges of the platform. He chanted his little "accept" chant as loud as he could in his head as his fear hijacked his body, making tremors run under the skin.

"Shh, boy. You're okay," Dareh soothed, and Xander felt another irrational desire to hit the demon as hard as he could. Right. Because being kidnapped and dragged away to make slave babies was terribly, terribly okay. The word 'wankers' floated to the top of his mind, but he shoved that down without mercy because there were some fears he just couldn't deal with right now.

A scaled hand ran across his chest, stopping over his heart, and Xander struggled to make that organ respond to his internal chant of accept. Instead it continued to race out of control until Xander could feel physical pain wrapping itself around his body. How many times had he lain on a table like this as the Pockla healed his torn flesh? He remembered the Kren demon whose semen had burned at his skin. He'd done as trained and ignored and accepted the agony until the demon had left and Leshar had come into the room. His trainer had been furious at the idea of Xander being damaged and had called for the Pockla before strapping Xander to the table.

He had waited for the healer as he'd gasped in agony. He'd finally given up the struggle to stay silent and started screaming by the time the healer had arrived. Instead of blocking the pain, the Pockla had moved directly to healing Xander's acid burned chest. The healer's chants had the effect of ripping the torn and damaged tissue from his body as Xander had screamed himself back into silence, able only to writhe and sob in mute agony as the magic knit his body back together, pulling and stretching and burning and tearing through him in order to make him attractive again.

"Master." The whisper slipped out, and Xander knew who he wanted to answer, who he trusted to pull him out of his memories, but the large warm hand that pushed the hair back out of his face wasn't his real Master.

"It's alright. He's just checking you over physically. We don't want any contagious diseases in the stable."

"We'd better do a sleep spell. He's going to give himself a heart attack at this rate." The horned demon moved away, and Xander felt like begging. He didn't want to sleep with these thoughts first in his mind. He wanted his Master to tell him that he was alright and safe and loved, and he didn't know whether he would ever get to hear that again. If he couldn't have that, he'd settle for feeling safe by cutting every demon who'd ever touched him into small pieces and walking over their blood-soaked remains. Xander felt the anger rise like a tidal wave to wash away the fear.

"I don't know why you want this kind of nervousness in the stock."

"He isn't normally a nervous animal. You have to understand that he was trained in that West Coast union and owned by a vampire. He has reason to be nervous about new owners." Dareh's words made Xander's mouth open as if to give an explanation, but he quickly closed it. These two might discuss his possible reasons for freaking, but that didn't mean they actually wanted to hear from him. Hell, they wouldn't listen to him any more than a vet would listen to a sick cat. Not that cats could talk, and Xander still wasn't sure how these demons could think of humans as animals what with the whole talking thing, and with that thought, Xander found himself sinking into a dreamless dark.


Xander rolled to his side groggily. The floor wasn't hard enough for a floor, but he certainly wasn't in a bed. Xander pushed himself up blinked several times to clear his vision. When he raised his hand to rub his eyes, he suddenly remembered.

Shaking his head to clear it of the obviously too strong sleeping spell, Xander considered his hands. They were in fists, and skin-tight, black material wrapped around the closed hand tightly enough that Xander couldn't even wiggle a finger. A slightly thicker cuff around the wrist had a tiny latch that Xander stared at hopelessly. Other than that, he was unrestrained. He didn't have anything on his body except for Spike's collar.

The floor crinkled under his feet as he stood, and Xander recognized the absorbent padding from the punishment rooms in Lirowaus' house. They would catch a slave's body fluids and prevent them from stinking. Great, so he was supposed to pee in the same eight by eight cell where he slept. Okay, that wasn't gross, not at all.

Looking around, Xander realized that he wasn't in a cell as much as a stall. The wood slats had the same sort of padding as the crate, only now he could see between the boards. Starting at waist high, two inch gaps allowed warm air to circulate through his cell. The front of the cell had a simple door latch. Xander could see that the only thing between him and freedom was a simple latch that a child could open. At least a child with a finger who could put the finger through the hole and trigger the latch on the other side. At the moment, Xander was short on fingers that would reach through that hole.

Climbing was obviously out despite the fact that the boards ran horizontally, providing a nice ladder. First, he hand no free fingers to grab and climb. More importantly, the top of his cell above the seven foot mark was chain link fence to the ceiling. Right, so that left escaping out of his stall impossible. At the realization that this was a stall and he had been reduced to the level of dumb animal, Xander shivered. Yep, he had found something that he actually liked less than rape and torture. Even worse, he didn't know how long he'd be able to hold out this time. A small part of him already whispered about acceptance.

Spotting a water bottle hanging from one wall, Xander went over and sucked on the hanging tube until he had satisfied his thirst. Of course that made other problem even worse. Xander considered holding out, but really there wasn't much point. The only thing he could do was pick a point in the opposite corner as his water bottle. Spreading his legs, Xander let go and watched his pee splash against the corner and then ran down onto the floor mat which soaked it up and swelled a little in the process. And now it was just time to wait.

Xander walked over to the wall with his water bottle and he sank down, letting his legs sprawl out in front of him. Xander wondered if Spike was still out there. He knew that if the vampire was in one piece all he had to do was wait and Spike would eventually find him. But if Spike was dust… Xander gave a gasp of pain as he tried to just focus on the logic and not feel the agony… if Spike was gone he would have to make some choices.

Gone. Xander felt his eyes burn, and he used his forearms to wipe away the tears that formed. He could still remember back to a time when he'd argued vehemently for staking the vampire; however, that had been a different lifetime and a different Xander. If Spike was gone, Xander really didn't have anything to go back to.

Joyce deserved a life without having to care for the resident nutcase who had flashbacks and nightmares enough to keep a staff of psychologists happy. And Willow. Xander knew that Willow couldn't even look at him without feeling guilt or pain or something that wasn't good for her. He could see it in the way her eyes slipped away from looking at him and the way her mouth would sometimes tighten into a tense line when she thought he wasn't looking. And Giles spent all his time around Xander biting his tongue and trying not to verbally strike out at Spike. Yeah, he didn't need to go back there. Maybe he'd find a nice city and tell some cop the whole story. That would probably get him a semi-private room with all the medication he could handle.

Xander pulled his knees up to his chest and hugged them as he tried to contain his desire to punch the walls. Leshar had turned him into this creature whose only choices were bad or worse. If it weren't for the need to keep Dareh thinking that he was some meek and helpless animal, Xander would have screamed out his rage. Then again, he had to consider the possibility that he was actually a helpless animal because no matter what he did, he just ended up back in some slave pen.

Xander lowered his head to his knees as the tears came for real this time. Dareh was about as good as a slave got, and a small voice in Xander's head said to accept for real. If Spike came, he could have his real Master back, and if he didn't, then Xander would spend the rest of his life in a place where he wouldn't be beaten and abused. Xander took a deep shuddering breath and he looked at that thought from all sides.

He didn't know whether it was fortunate or unfortunate that Dareh had one expectation that Xander just couldn't give in to without fighting. Yeah, he had some serious suckage in terms of parenting, but his parents did care in their own dysfunctional, selfish, 'oh, I'm sorry but you aren't very convenient to have around' kind of way. But his parents would never have handed him over to a demon, and if he did what Dareh wanted, he would be turning dozens of his children over to demons. Not going to happen. Okay, it probably was going to happen, but he wasn't going along with the plan willingly.

Wiping his eyes Xander tried to get on top of the wave of emotions that threatened to drown him. Footsteps came down the corridor, and Xander quickly shoved all his emotions back into their box as he went into a position kneel with his back perfectly straight and his long curls hanging in front of his face.

The door to his stall slid open, and Xander recognized the legs as Dareh's.

"Ah, my precious boy is up. Come on then," Dareh waved a hand and Xander rose gracefully despite his internal struggle to keep his despair and anger firmly boxed. Dareh slid the door closed and started walking before Xander could go to his knees at the demon's side, and Xander followed even without a specific order.

The sunlight nearly blinded Xander, and he blinked rapidly and tried to focus on Dareh rather than the rising sun which had shone directly into his eyes the minute he had turned the corner to leave the stable. They walked across a grassy path with large chain link enclosures set up at regular intervals. In a couple Xander could see people watching as they sat under canopies or trees. Actual people type people.

Xander kept his eyes down as he tried to ignore the widely spaced enclosures. He couldn't do anything for these people, and considering how much trouble he was in himself, feeling some weird guilt really didn't make much sense.

"Eechon suggested 'Mudslide' as a name for you. I somehow don't think mud quite does your coloring justice." Dareh eventually started talking as their walk across the fields continued.

"I considered 'Tigereye' since your eyes to have a bit of that sparkle to them, but you really aren't much of a tiger." Dareh stopped next to one of the tall chain-link enclosures, and Xander went to his knees in the grass without a comment. He had a name, and this discussion made him want to snap out his name, but then again, he hadn't been asked.

"Your hair is nearly the same color as the brown bands in onyx, so that's a possibility as a name, and then you are so sweet I couldn't resist the idea of naming you after candy. So which do you like better my boy, 'Onyx' or "Chocolate'?" Xander froze as he realized that Dareh wanted him to choose his new name, and really, that upset him far more than it should. He was Xander, and he didn't want to answer to anything else. Somehow having to answer to 'Chocolate' or 'Onyx' seemed even worse than Leshar's calls for 'Slave' or 'Mouth', and really, those had been pretty humiliating.

"Onyx, master," Xander finally answered. If he was going to be named after something, he wasn't going to be named after something that got eaten and shit out. He'd been shit out by life often enough without tempting fate any farther.

"Good boy. Onyx it is. So, can you play nice with the girls? If you hurt then I will whip you to remind you to respect your owner's property."

Xander looked up in panic and saw three or four young women sitting under a tree at the far side of the fenced in pasture. "I won't hurt them, master," Xander answered quietly.

"Good boy, Onyx. Go on then," Dareh opened the gate and Xander rose and went in without complaint even though he wanted very badly to bite the hand that fed him. Actually, the hand that hadn't gotten around to feeding him, and he suddenly realized he was damn hungry.

Xander knelt inside the gate, waiting. "Go on, go meet your harem, Onyx. No kneeling in the pasture." Xander stood awkwardly as he suddenly realized what he was expected to do, and his balls made a run at becoming internal organs. Yeah, that wasn't happening. Xander wondered how much patience Dareh would have before he would resort to the breeding leash and drugs. The gate latched closed, and Xander could tell with one glance that he wasn't going to be able to open that without the use of his hands. A voice in the back of his mind wondered where the hell Spike was because he wasn't getting out of this on his own.

Chapter 17:

Behind him he heard Dareh's heavy footsteps wander away from the enclosure, and Xander breathed a little easier knowing that he wouldn't have an audience because he sure as hell wasn't breeding those women. Not that there was anything wrong with those women. Or what those women were doing, and holy hell Xander hadn't really understood how Tara and Willow could do the whole horizontal mambo, but the two brunettes were giving him a nice clear visual of exactly how lesbian sex worked.

And Xander suddenly realized that he had lost his gay card because his cock certainly was interested in that. Xander had a flash of panic that they might have given him something because he really shouldn't be interested in anything other than escape. Not even *that*. And oh boy, he had to wonder if Tara and Willow did *that*.

Tearing his eyes away from the lesbian porn fest that his 'harem' was putting on, Xander searched the edges of the enclosure with his eyes. In the part of the enclosure where he *wasn't* looking--nuh-uh, no siree, not looking at the lesbians—a couple of trees provided shade for their little fun fest. Next to the gate, a long narrow lean-to ran the length of the fence, and Xander went to explore that.

The solid beams were joined with mortise and tendon joints, so there were no loose bolts or sharp nails that Xander could make use of. A long board running the length of the lean-to had empty tin pans, so Xander figured dinner would eventually be served outside. On the outside end of the lean-to, a huge plastic container sat on a shelf with a tube hanging down. Xander grabbed the tube in his mouth and drank the luke-warm water since he didn't have anything else for his rumbling stomach.

Since standing still involved more thinking than Xander really wanted to do right now, he started off on a slow walk of the fence, visually searching every inch. Luckily, the barrier wasn't electrified, but Xander still didn't have a clue about how to get out, and he wasn't even sure he wanted to. If he proved that he had aggressive traits and more than a few passing thoughts about beating Dareh to a bloody, whimpering pool of demon flesh, he would get sold off in a second, and who knew where he'd be then.

Xander glanced over toward the women. His inspection of the fence had brought him ever closer, and they had stopped their little orgy in order to watch him and whisper. Xander thought he vaguely remembered this nightmare: naked and trapped somewhere while women pointed and laughed. Of course these women had their hands bound, and if they were laughing, they were polite enough to be too quiet for him to hear.

Xander turned his attention back to the fence as he stepped into the shade of the trees.

"If you're looking for some sort of magic door that will respond to 'open sesame,' you're not going to find it." Xander turned around and found himself face to face with one of the brunettes that had earlier put on the cable-worthy porn show. He shrugged noncommittally.

"I'm Brandy," the woman said. Xander opened his mouth to introduce himself, and he found that he didn't know which name to use. If these women called him Xander after Dareh had renamed him, he would be in serious trouble, but he certainly wasn't ready to call himself Onyx. He might be dumb as a stone some days, like when he insisted on going into that stupid ballcourt, but he really wasn't one.

"Yeah, first time you have to say it, it kinda sucks. I don't even think my old name anymore," Brandy said, and Xander found himself considering her with an open mouth. She looked normal with large brown eyes and hair that flowed past her wide shoulders in unruly curls. "I have some empathy," she explained. "Not enough to do anything useful, but enough to recognize that feeling of loss and confusion."

"I guess Dareh calls me Onyx," Xander finally answered.

"Good compromise," Brandy smiled at him. "You'll get used to it." Xander kept his mouth shut since any slip could result in him hobbled and chained when she bought herself some special treat by snitching on him to Dareh. And why did he suddenly feel like he was in the plot of some strange prison porn movie?

"So, how long are you here for?" Brandy asked.

"Um, I don't know. Until he decides to sell me?" Xander didn't mention the more likely possibility that Spike would show up and rip Dareh's head off. Oh please let Spike show up and start ripping heads.

"He bought you?" Brandy nearly squealed, and Xander stepped back so that he was pressed up against the fence.

"Nice, girl. Scare the boy away, and when we finally have a man who isn't some little half pint runt." A woman who was older than Xander, like nearly Joyce-type old walked up. "I'm Sky," she said with a flash of white teeth contrasting against her dark black skin.

"Um, Onyx?" Xander answered uncertainly. Two more girls stood behind Sky, one the tiny brunette Brandy had been playing with and the other the leggy blonde who had watched.

"This here's Sunshine and Carmy," Sky provided introductions with a nod. "So you're here to stay." Xander nodded mutely, caught somewhere between an adolescent fantasy and stark terror at what Dareh and these women expected him to do. "Dareh usually brings guys that don't come up to my chest and have cocks the size of pencils. It's nice to think we're going to have a real man around." With horror, Xander realized that he was significantly larger than a pencil since his cock had far fewer moral issues about this whole deal than he did.

The blonde swerved around Sky and pressed her hip into Xander's groin, making him squirm and groan as his cock came to full size. "Want to mate?" she asked with all the subtly of a rabid bear. That certainly helped his cock deflate some. Xander wondered if this woman had ever been in the vengeance business because she sure came off like a certain ex-vengeance demon he had known.

"Girl, you need to back off. The boy still has sleep spell in his eyes from the crate and you're acting like a bitch in heat." Xander found himself whispering a thank you to Sky.

"I don't want to end up on the breeding stool again. I hate that thing," Sunshine pouted as she flipped her long blonde hair out of her face with a forearm, and Xander could find himself sympathizing. He wasn't fond of the breeding leash and drugs, but that didn't mean he was going to start rutting with the first woman who threw her nicely formed taut breasts and wide pink nipples at him. And oh yeah, he was in trouble here.

"Dareh never expects the male to just start breeding the minute they come in here, and you'd better be grateful for that. Going right from the streets to Dareh you don't know how lucky you got it, girl." At that pronouncement, Sky turned her back on them and started walking back to where the girls had been before, leaving Xander with the three younger women. Taking one glance at the older woman's retreating back, Xander twisted away from the girls and trotted after her.

"So, have you been here long?" Xander asked as Sky reached the small hill under the trees and sat down.

"Been in demon slave pens for thirty years now. Been with Dareh for four," she offered as she waved a hand toward the hill next to her. Xander took the invitation and sat. "You?"

"Um, captured about eight months ago," Xander said.

"Lord, you're a baby," Sky exclaimed as she looked over at him. Xander had a flash of Joyce with her motherly concerned and shocked expression, but he was not going there since he also saw a whole lot more of Sky, and while she was older, her body still had plenty to lust over. His cock sure wasn't complaining about being near Sky although Xander was trying his best to ignore that. He'd gotten through high school classes with Buffy and Cordy in their competing skimpy outfits, so he could get through this. And really the whole drugged water thing was starting to feel like a possibility.

"So, captured?" Sky asked.

"Yeah, grabbed off the street," Xander said in a distracted tone of voice as he tried to push aside the anger he felt at Dareh's manipulation. Well, either Dareh had manipulated him or he was a sick bastard who had a hard on when his heart was being crushed at the thought that Spike might be…. And again with the not going there. Xander bit his lip and tried to concentrate on Sky. Actually he tried to concentrate on her short kinky hair that curled close to her head since focusing on other parts led to problems which led to anger which led to guilt, and oh god he was starting to think that an asylum might be the right place for him.

"Well that's sure dumb. And a good way to have an investigation come entirely too close to home." Sky snorted her disgust.

"But weren't you…" Xander let his words trail off as he looked at the three younger women who had resumed their early activities. Sunshine had her arm across Carmy's stomach, holding her down as she teased the woman's nipple. Xander groaned in pained frustration, and Sunshine looked up with a smile that made it perfectly clear that the show was for his benefit. Xander found the canopy of leaves above suddenly very interesting.

"I can see why Dareh likes you. They aren't going to mind at all if you join them," Sky offered. As if to make a point, Brandy's face disappeared between Carmy's legs, and the woman started making needy panting sounds that Xander's cock reacted to enthusiastically. But he wasn't looking. Nope. Not looking. Of course, if he had a hand, he would have gone behind a tree to finish himself, but that wasn't an option, so he stared at the swaying leaves and tried to use the control Leshar had beaten into him. Taking deep breaths he managed to get himself back to half mast.

Struggling to marshal the three brain cells that still functioned, Xander searched for the threads of the conversation.

"So, you guys weren't captured?" Xander really tried not to notice the way Carmy made little satisfied sighs as the other two women started slowly and gently kissing each other over her sated body.

"Sunshine was born on a farm. Carmy and Brandy were junkies living on the street. Brandy used to be a social worker but she just couldn't emotionally deal with what she saw and felt, so she started using. Me? I was an addict by the time I went to school. Ma used to give me stuff to keep me quiet while she entertained her men. When I was ten some weird looking dude offered to give me a better life than she could, she gave me up quick enough."

"Oh god," Xander's erection sagged as he considered the meaning behind those words. "Your mother?"

"Boy, you really are a baby if you don't think stuff like that happens. Truth is, the man probably spoke the truth. I'd be dead if I was still out there, and I saw Brandy when Dareh bought her. She wouldn't have lasted another week on the street."

"But she was free." Xander glimpsed down from the waving green leaves above them.

"Baby, none of us is free, before or after the demons. We got demons in ourselves to fight, and not everyone can win that fight. The demon who took Brandy off the street probably saved her life." Sky nodded toward the pile of women, and Xander glanced over to find Brandy trapped between Sunshine who straddled her from behind and sucked on her neck and Carmy who was locked in the most intense kiss Xander had ever seen. Brandy's bound hands moved as though trying to clutch Carmy's back, but without fingers to grab, they simply slid over Carmy's smooth, tanned skin. All three women made needy little sounds, but Brandy squirmed and groaned and writhed in frustrated need.

Oh god, Xander was walking the edge of orgasm just watching them. And back to tree watching and look the leaves had five points and that meant something. Too bad he never listened to his science teacher because he could use a science lecture to distract him right now. Hell, even a preying mantis teacher would be better than the little fantasies his brain sent up because he would definitely go to hell for doing that without a whole lot more torture or drugs. Nope. No sex, no babies, no breeding for the Xan man. He was just going to stare at the blue sky and green leaves and think monk-like thoughts. And shit, monks probably thought about the bible a whole lot and his brain was coming up with a big zero on that front.

"Go join 'em, Onyx." Sky's use of that hated name brought Xander back to reality.

"It's wrong," Xander whispered as he fought his own body. Oh shit he was in trouble. He tried conjuring the memory of Spike, but that didn't exactly make his cock unhappy.

"Oh please, they're puttin' on that show for you, so don't even try and say they don’t want it." Sky snorted.

"I won't give Dareh children to enslave," Xander hissed angrily even though he couldn't get his cock back under control this time.

"Is that…" Sky stopped. "Yeah, I know it's hard, babe." Xander concentrated on a swaying branch with a long streak of white that was either the world's biggest bird ish or some sort of disease. When something warm and tight and wet engulfed his cock, he yelled in surprise and lust. He didn't even need to look to know what Sky was doing, but the sight of her lips stretched out around his cock, her bound hands braced against his hip bones, pressing him to the earth confirmed it. She slid up and worked her tongue around the slit as she sucked.

"You don't… mphf… No," Xander couldn't form words as he tried to use his elbows to pull himself backwards, but his arms collapsed when she slid down on his cock with her tongue darting out to stroke the underside of the sensitive organ. She buried her nose in his curly hair, and now Xander bucked uncontrollable once and then twice before he felt himself coming.

Slumping back onto the grass with his arms thrown wide, Xander still couldn't form words when he felt Sky lay down next to him, her head cushioned on his arm.

"That's what I love about you guys. Once off and you're putty in a woman's hands," Sky laughed. "You can't fight this, Onyx. Dareh's about as good as you get. You don't breed and he'll just use the stool and breeding leash, and if you fight, he'll sell you, and you'll end up lord knows where."

"I know," Xander said in a quiet rage. "And I'm sure you'll be happy to help him," he said as he yanked his arm away from her. She had given him relief, but it was a cold, bitter form of it. But then, she was just part of Dareh's power over him, and he knew that. He was clueless guy sometimes, but he wasn't out and out stupid guy.

"So don't be a moron." Sky ordered frostily as she stood up. Xander just looked up at her without moving. Hell, he didn't have anywhere to go. Xander struggled against tears of rage, and he couldn't even say why until he realized what this reminded him of. It was straight out of his and Jesse's secret fantasies with the lesbian sex and the older woman, and Xander suddenly felt supremely dirty. Of course it was so close to that old forgotten fantasy that maybe it was an actual dream. Maybe he was still asleep in the crate and imaging this whole thing. Of course, if this was his imagination, Sky would be Spike, so maybe it wasn't a dream.

"Lunch time," a voice announced, and Xander blinked. The women were across the enclosure under the lean to and he realized time had somehow jumped. Or, more likely, he was losing what little bits of his mind he still had. He looked toward the fence where some new demon who looked rather humanish stood next the lean to waiting. Xander pushed himself up and started walking that way himself.

"Come on, Onyx, hurry up, boy," the demon called, and considering he looked more like a teenager than anything demonish, Xander found himself slightly annoyed. Either that or he was annoyed by the name. At least he hadn't picked chocolate because he would have a serious problem if he got annoyed every time he heard the word chocolate. The creamy goodness that was chocolate didn't deserve that kind of disrespect. Xander broke out into a jog as the smell of hot food hit his nose. Oh yeah, he was hungry.

When Xander got close, he wasn't sure about the rules here. Dareh had said no kneeling in the paddock, and Xander wasn't sure where that left him in terms of eating rules because the hand bindings certainly weren't going to allow him to feed himself. When he got within six feet of the demon, Xander realized he was taller than the kid and that the kid had a leather strap of some sort in his hand.

He stopped and ducked his head submissively without going to his knees. A master's words always overrode training orders, but Xander still half expected punishment as the boy came up to him. Instead the boy reached up and slipped the leather around Xander's neck loosely and took the trailing end in one hand. Xander was almost grateful for the leash since he was on unfamiliar territory here.

The boy led him to the board and clipped the leash to the chain link fence so that Xander couldn't move very far in any direction. He noticed the girls were already tied in place, and Xander stared in frustration at the small clip that held him here. All he needed was one opposable thumb, and he could unlatch that clip, but instead he had to stand and wait as the boy unloaded a small truck that stood just outside the gate.

The smell of warm food grew stronger, and Xander's stomach growled in anticipation as the boy carried a pail in. Xander stepped to the side as the boy used a scoop to ladle a thick stew into his pan, and to heck with manners, Xander just started eating ravenously. The boy had to slap him on the arm to get him to stand to one side so that he could add a second ladle before going down the line.

Xander wasn't even half through before the boy put the bucket back on the truck and returned. He tried to ignore the presence behind him, but then warm hands were on his waist. Xander froze. A hand ran down the front of his leg and then pulled on the shin. Xander shifted his weight to the other foot so the boy could pull it up. The boy repeated the action on the other leg, and Xander shifted again.

"Go on, Onyx, eat up." Only Leshar's training kept Xander from making an inappropriate comment about what the kid could do with the stew and the pan it came in. However, since he didn't doubt that would come at the price of a whipping and a whole lot more vigilance, Xander kept his mouth shut and ate, which really, wasn't keeping his mouth shut, but at least he wasn't talking.

The hand slid around and cupped his balls before firmly grasping his soft cock. Xander widened his stance before he even had a chance to realize he was doing it. The boy clucked approvingly.

"Looks like someone has already bred," the boy said with a slap on Xander's butt. "Wonder which girl you went for." Down the line Sky made a snorting noise. The boy laughed as he walked over to her. Xander had enough slack in the leash to watch the boy stroke Sky's shoulder.

"Nice, Dareh finally buys a stallion, and he breeds with the only infertile female on the farm. I guess you had to keep your role as alpha female, huh?" the boy asked.

"Yes, Posk," she said quietly. The boy gave her a slap on the butt.

"Mouthy," he accused her, and she just went back to eating. Xander was nearing the end of his own lunch and slowing down as the hunger was satisfied.

"Well at least we know you're a breeder," the boy, Posk, said as he returned to Xander, running hands down Xander's arms, which Xander carefully allowed to hang motionless. "And Dareh is right about your temperament." Xander had finished his lunch but he licked the bottom of his pan for lack of anything better to do. At least he did until Posk took the pans and left them standing in the lean to, chained to the fence. He walked out the gate to the truck. Xander considered the open gate and the waiting escape vehicle for just a second before he moved his gaze. Sky was watching him, and Xander reminded himself not to trust her. She might think that she didn't have choices, and maybe *she* didn't, but Xander refused to believe that. He had to believe that Spike was out there somewhere.

Posk came back and unhooked Xander before leading over to a section of the fence close to that open gate that taunted him with freedom. Xander could have growled when the boy hooked the leash to the fence and Xander was left to consider just how annoying the world was without opposable thumbs.

"Feet first," Posk said as he knelt down behind Xander. The boy repeated the maneuver with Xander's feet, and Xander allowed him to lift his feet without protest, putting one bound hand on the fence to help him keep his balance. This time Posk rubbed something cool into the skin on the bottom of the foot. When Posk bent the leg all the way up to his butt, Xander was confused until he heard the clicking noise, and somehow being given a pedicure like a horse made Xander so angry that he had a burst of adrenaline at the thought of snapping the kid's neck.

Under the lean to, Brandy pulled at her leash sharply, and Xander started chanting his acceptance mantra before he got himself in trouble. Of *course* he had to have an empath in his paddock. Once again proof that the universe hated him because having Brandy around meant he didn't even get privacy in his own head.

The boy put down one foot and pulled at the other, and Xander shifted to accommodate as his second foot was tended.

"Okay, down boy," Posk ordered as he unhooked the leash. Xander went to his knees, and Posk attached the leash lower down before stepping up behind him. Sneezing as something with an alcohol smell was sprayed into his hair, Xander squirmed a bit, and Posk was obviously stronger than he looked because firm hands held him immobile until he stopped. Xander froze in horror expecting some sort of punishment, but Posk just started brushing out his hair.

"Hands," Posk asked, and Xander raised his arms uncertainly. Taking two buckling leashes, Posk attached his hands to the fence before unlocking the small clasp that held the hand bindings in place and pulling them off. Xander watched curiously as the boy rubbed some sort of lotion into his hands and encouraged him to flex his hands several times before reattaching the hand bindings.

Xander patiently endured the rest of the grooming including a rubdown with some sort of powder before Posk moved him back into the lean to. Because he had been first, Xander then had nearly an hour of watching Posk briskly groom the others before finishing and taking them all off the leashes. At the end of this time, Xander had come to a number of conclusions, including the fact that Posk could get downright careless when he was comfortable. Sunshine and Sky had both had their hands leashed close enough that they could have unbuckled their own restraints if they had just a small distraction.

Feeling a lot more confident, Xander spent his afternoon under the trees and staring out across the farm at the dozen or so paddocks he could see from here. In most, groups of women huddled and looked back at him, and Xander decided he really needed to get out of here before they brought out the breeding leash because if he got all these women pregnant, there was no way Spike could buy them all.


Chapter 18:

Three days later, and Xander was ready to climb over glass to get free. Sunshine had taken it as a personal challenge to mate, and Xander was getting ready to revise his 'don't hit women' rule. Xander avoided her as much as possible, but then in the stable Dareh had put her in the same stall, and Xander had spent the evening with her rubbing on him until he had finally had an orgasm against her leg.

She had been furious that he didn't mate with her. Furious enough for her to pee a long stream down his leg as he tried to push her away. The girl could take subtle lessons from Anya. And it really wasn't very comfortable sleeping with her pee drying on his legs and making him itch. Damn that woman had a temper… a temper and a big bladder. His only revenge came from watching her drink his water, which he had learned to avoid. Let her spend the day horny and hot.

The next morning Dareh had looked at them both strangely, and Xander retreated to the comfort of his training, turning his mind off in favor of focusing on his body. When Posk came to feed them, he had laughed and slapped Xander on the back as he looked at the yellowing stain down Xander's leg.

"Seems like you don't go for the aggressive girls, huh boy," the handler laughed. Xander could tell him all sorts of stories about the aggressive women he'd gone for… or who'd gone for him, but Xander just kept eating. "Well since you're going to need to be washed down, I might as well do the girls first. That way they don't have to stand in the mud," Posk said as he rubbed a rough hand up and down Xander's back. Xander ignored the casual touches since at least they weren't the sexual touches he got from the girls.

With nothing better to do, Xander watched as Posk took the woman aside and groomed them one by one. He even managed to avoid snickering when Posk tried to groom Sunshine only to find that every touch on her body made her press back into him and moan pitifully. Served her right, Xander thought as he waved an arm to chase away a persistent fly.

When Posk finally took Xander aside for grooming, he had to get water from the truck to actually wash down Xander's legs before he could start with the normal grooming. The result was a damp ground and a Posk who was swearing in two different languages about the time. When the time came for Posk to care for his hands, the boy clipped the leashes far too close together, and Xander didn't even blink. He did, however, conjure his most violent fantasy: an image of Leshar slowing being gutted while bound with those leather ties that Xander could still remember cutting into his own flesh. The pain and anger rose up to an overwhelming raging fire that left Xander desperate to destroy something.

In the lean to, Brandy cried out incoherently and yanked back against the leash.

"Steady…" Posk started with a rather mild tone, but when Brandy screamed 'no' and pulled back hard enough to make the entire chain link rattle in protest, the boy took off for her. Not wasting any time, Xander unclipped his own hands and ran for the truck through the open gate.

Out of the corner of his eye, he watched as Posk discovered his error and reversed direction. "Onyx!" Posk shouted, and Xander realized that he would never get off the property before Posk could raise the alarm.

Spotting a post hole digger in the back of the pickup, Xander pulled it out and swung it before Posk could even slow down. Between Xander's swing and Posk running into it, the kid went down hard and turned a brighter shade of green.

"The name's Xander," he yelled as he swung the weapon again, catching Posk on the leg as the demon struggled to get up. Posk retreated toward the enclosure on his hands and knees, and Xander dropped the post digger so that he could grab him by the neck and drag him toward where the leather leashes still hung from the fence.

"Onyx," Posk coughed out, and Xander tightened his hold around the demon's neck until he could hear Posk struggled to breathe. After that, he found it easy enough to drag him back to the trees. He buckled the wrist restraints around Posk's wrists.

"My name is Xander and I'm not some fucking animal you can chain up," Xander snarled as he pulled the end of a wrist restraint to a tree and fastened it.

"Okay, Xander. Xander, you know you're going to be in trouble," Posk said slowly, still gasping to get his breath back. He also started struggling up onto one arm, and Xander aimed a punch that sent him crashing back to the ground so that Xander had a chance to grab the second wrist leash and pull it to another tree, spreading Posk wide between the two.

"Onyx, you need to stop. I don't want to get caught being careless any more than you want to get caught attacking a handler, so just unbuckle these restraints and we can forget this." Posk demanded, and Xander raised his fist to shut the demon up. Posk flinched, closing his eyes tightly and pulling his head to the side. Xander stopped as he noticed the demon's trembling arms and the slight catch in his breath. Xander knelt beside the tied up demon and looked down into brown eyes that at the moment looked entirely human even if the face was a bit green.

The rage drained from Xander as he realized that Posk couldn't hurt him any more. Or, Posk could hurt him, but only if the plan went bad, and if the plan went bad, Posk was the least of his worries. "You're right. I don't want to get caught. But I'm not going to turn into an animal just because you treat me like one," Xander said in a voice that came out more tired than angry.

"Onyx," Posk whispered as Xander stood up.

"My name is Xander," he repeated before running back to the lean to. The four girls all glared at him murderously, but only Sky spoke up.

"Babe, you have really fucked up this time. What the hell do you think you're doing? How far do you think you're going to get?"

Xander stopped and looked down as he realized that he wouldn't get far even if he did find a human town. Sky had been able to tell him they were somewhere in the Southwest part of America, but he didn't think any small town sheriff would be amused by a naked crazy guy. Xander turned back around and darted back to the trees where he pulled Posk's pants off.

"Onyx," Posk's voice promised pain, and Xander knew this was his only chance out because as much as he had humiliated Posk, he was never going to get another chance. Hell he was going to get locked into a tiny room chained to a wall if this failed. At least until Dareh sold him, and Xander wasn't betting on anyone wanting him for breeding after this stunt. Hell, Dareh would probably sell him to Leshar if this didn't work.

"Sorry, Posk, but considering how many times you've tied me up, I think I still owe you," Xander pointed out as he slipped the pants on. They stopped mid-calf, but at least he wasn't dangling his danglies any more. Xander started toward the truck at a good trot, ignoring the yells behind him, and just hoping everyone else would ignore them until he got clear.

As Xander pulled open the door to the white truck, he could feel his hands shaking in terror. A huge part of him wanted the leash. A huge part of him would have even welcomed the whip at this point. The sheer terror that struck him as he slid behind the wheel of the truck took his breath away, and Xander had to focus in order to hold his hand steady enough to turn the key.

Xander struggled to slow down his breathing as he felt the world start to grey and fade. The brilliant sunshine seemed to dim as though clouds had blocked it, and somewhere in the back of his brain Xander realized he was hyperventilating. Great, he could fight off the trainer but he couldn't deal with his own psychosis. Xander somehow thought there was something rather appropriate about that. Holding his breath on each gasp, Xander slowly fought his way back to rational thought.

Steering his way past the barn and main buildings, Xander floored the gas once he reached the drive leading up to the main gate. He considered crashing through the gate, but he really didn't want to disable the truck, so he pulled to the side and got out to see if he could open the gates. Using his fingers which felt strange after being bound so long, he explored the main gate latch and eventually twisted it open.

"Onyx," a deep, soft voice called, and Xander found himself really hating that name as he spun around to face Dareh.

"Oh shit," Xander whispered as he felt his legs go weak so that he had to grab the side of the gate that now swung open.

"Onyx, where's your trainer?" Xander found himself giggling in a state of near hysteria.

"He's a little tied up right now," Xander said in a pun too horrible for even Droopy Harris to use.

"But he's okay?" Dareh asked as he took a step forward away from his jeep and closer to the truck. Xander could feel the urge to go to his knees make his whole body tremble.

"He's a little grumpy," Xander hedged as he tightened his fingers around the metalwork of the gate. The edges of the scrollwork dug into his skin, and he focused on that rather than the growing panic both at Dareh's appearance and at his own reaction to the leash held in Dareh's hand. Part of his brain whispered that it would just be easier to let Dareh put that around his neck. As long as he was leashed all he had to do was accept, which really… that actually sounded good compared to the blind panic he felt now.

Run for the truck and get clobbered. Run for the road and get run down. Try to attack Dareh and get clobbered. All he needed was Buffy and a stake and it would be just like old times. Xander struggled to slow down before his own body took away his choices.

"It's okay, boy. Just breathe. Calm down." Dareh took a step forward, his massive bulk vibrating the ground beneath Xander's bare feet. And then he reached into the truck and pulled out the keys. Xander took a deep shuddering breath as that escape route disappeared. "You don't want to fight. I can see that."

"Never did want to," Xander admitted with a whisper as he watched a huge demon creep toward him, and it was the truth. He fought with Spike, he'd fought for Buffy, because he thought it was the right thing to do, but running had always been his first line of defense. Usually the second and third lines too. He was a regular Forest Gump, well except for the going to college part and the war hero part and the ping pong which he had never gotten the hang of, and Xander officially recognized that he had reached babble land. Dareh made little soothing noises, and Xander knew that he had to do something now or the decision would be made for him.

Xander went with his strength. He ran. Since the keys to the truck were in Dareh's hand, Xander dodged around the truck without stopping, his owner's heavy footsteps pounding the ground behind him. Without even glancing to see whether a hand was about to yank him off his feet, Xander flung himself into the Jeep and turned the key that waited in the ignition. Oh yeah, score one for being underestimated Xander crowed as he slammed the Jeep into gear and hit the accelerator.

Almost immediately he could feel the Jeep veer off to the left, and he knew what he would find if he looked back, which explained the whole not looking back thing because he didn't want to see what he wasn't looking at. He just jammed the Jeep into second and fought the wheel to keep it on the road. He didn't even know where he was going, but anywhere not here was a good start as far as he was concerned.

The wheels skidded on the gravel road and the growls of unfamiliar profanity were so close to his ear that Xander flinched and hunched forward over the wheel as he kept driving.

"Onyx," Dareh howled over the sound of gravel pinging against the underside of the Jeep, and Xander tried really, really hard to ignore the voice in his head that said he was doing something so monumentally wrong because he wasn't. He had a right to fight back even if his whole brain had been rewired to make him not believe that. He had a right to say no, and damn it, he had morals. Obviously, since he was okay with being tied up and spanked by the evil undead, he didn't have good morals, but still, he had morals.

Xander let the wheel go, pulling the vehicle to the left before he yanked the wheel back making the Jeep fishtail madly. "My name is Xander," he yelled over the sound of the tires digging through the gravel. Xander hit the brakes and actually drove off the road altogether before hitting he accelerator again and bouncing over the uneven ground next to the road. He heard something heavy hit the ground at the same time that the Jeep's steering suddenly returned to normal.

Shifting into second, Xander drove back up onto the road and had gone several hundred yards before he decided he had to know. Stopping the Jeep, Xander looked back to see Dareh standing in the middle of the road with his hands on his hips in obvious frustration.

"Onyx, you get back here," the demon yelled.

"Fuck you," Xander shouted back. "I won't fucking give you my children to raise and sell, you bloodsucking pig. We're people. We have hopes and fears and families just like you do. You fucking asshole. We have people we love." Xander could feel a familiar fury rise up until he was left shaking, wanting to put the Jeep into reverse and run the bastard over at the same time he wanted to sit down and cry. Deciding that neither one was very safe with a demon the size of Dareh only a few hundred yards away, Xander got back in the Jeep and put it into gear as he headed down the gravel road praying that he was heading for some place safe because if Dareh found him now, he was going to be in serious trouble.


Chapter 19:

Xander pulled the Jeep in behind the dirty white café. A sign hanging by one hook said the "The Hungry Romantic" and Xander wasn't even going to guess at how stupid a person had to be to name a restaurant something like that. Besides, the peeling boards and dark window painted with the latest $1.99 special didn't look very damn romantic. Of course Xander was more interested in the pay phone hanging on the side of the building.

He parked the Jeep in the shade of a scraggly tree and then jumped out, hissing as his feet hit the hot gravel of the lot. "Fuck," he whispered as he picked his way to the corner. A quick glance told him that no one was around the phone, which was good considering that Xander looked a little strange in his bare feet and his short, tight pants.

Tiptoeing gingerly over to the phone, he picked up the handset and punched in numbers that Spike had made him memorize when they had first reached Joyce's house: calling card numbers and Spike's cell phone. Xander rested his forehead against the warm black metal of the phone box as he waited for the connections to make.

The phone made a shrill squawking sound. "The phone you are trying to reach is out of service," the automated voice answered, and Xander felt his chest tighten around his heart as he gave a sob. It didn't mean anything. Spike could have lost the phone or broken it fighting some baddie. Or maybe he forgot to charge it. Spike wasn't always big on the old responsibility scale. Then again, maybe he left the cell phone in the room that day at the auction. There were a thousand reasons why the phone wouldn't be in service, and yet the only reason Xander could focus on was that the phone was gone. What if the phone, and his Master, were dust?

Xander felt the heat of the late afternoon sun on his back as he gasped for air and tried to breathe despite the crushing weight of grief that threatened to destroy him. Slowly, Xander took the phone away from his ear and gently laid it back into the cradle.

He couldn't do this. Not without Spike he couldn't. Xander gave a little hiccup as he felt tears warming his eyes even while he stood there and wondered what to do. A little part of him said to just curl up in a ball and give up because it didn't matter what he did. It didn't matter how hard he tried, it all just fell apart anyway.

So what if he'd saved Buffy from The Master, he'd only saved her so that she could die a death far more brutal. And Jesse. And Miss Calendar. And the sweet little Willow who he had known, she was gone. In her place was a brittle woman who he didn't really understand. Xander took deep breaths as he tried to fight back against the despair that stole every bit of pride that he'd felt in freeing himself.

If he were in New York, he would seriously try his 'explaining the whole plan for the cops' plan. Right now some Thorazine would be of the good. Instead he picked up the handset a second time and punched in another set of numbers.

As the phone on the other end rang, Xander practiced the possible speeches in his head. He just had to do this without sounding completely and totally pathetic, and avoiding bawling over the phone would be step one. As the phone rang for the third time Xander took a deep breath and then pushed it out as he tried to regain control.

"Angel investigations, we help the hopeless," Cordelia's voice announced cheerfully, "we're out right now, but if you leave a message, we will call you back." The sound of that voice from another lifetime helped Xander push the fear into a corner of his mind and focus on getting himself out of trouble.

"Angel? Um, I think I need some help here. Oh, this is Xander. Spike and I kinda got separated, and I'm really hoping you know where he is because I don't. But, that's not really why I'm calling. I kinda got sold at the auction, and I think I'm in New Mexico. I'm on Highway 60 at a place called The Hungry Romantic, and hey, stupid name for a restaurant, huh? So, here's the problem. Short on the money front, nearly as short on the clothing front, and not doing so well on the gas front either. So before the demons who are chasing me catch up with me, I'm really kind of hoping that you can come and do the whole helping of the hopeless thing. I mean, if you have time." Xander physically flinched even though no one could see him over the phone. If he had time. Yeah, pathetic much? "So, I guess I'll just wait."

Xander slid the phone back down onto the cradle and sent a prayer up. Maybe Spike was with Angel. That would explain the whole dead cell phone because Angel and cell phones didn't mix well. Yep, he would just blame it all on Angel. Because Spike wasn't dust. No sirey. No dust for Spike.

Xander turned around and rested his back against the warm wood slats as he looked down at his tattoo. With his left hand, he touched the image with his fingertips, feeling how the skin was slightly tougher where the ink was darkest. He traced where the hawk's claws gripped the snake.

"You can't be gone because I didn't let you go," Xander whispered to no one in particular. Even as he told himself that Spike was still unalive in the walking around way, he felt tears sliding down his face. He reached up and brushed them away angrily. "Great," he snapped at himself sarcastically, "Just sit here and get your ass captured again you big goober," he told himself. Xander had skipped the gas station that was a little too conveniently close to the ranch, and he had skipped the rundown little house 30 miles past that, but he didn't really think he'd escaped.

So, give Dareh's boys an hour at each place to search for him, and he had a little time to spare. Xander couldn't get much farther with the gas in the Jeep, so he turned his mind to making a stand. Well, either making a stand or finding a way to end things quickly, depending on how fast Angel showed up. Either way, the one thing Xander knew he had to do was avoid making little slave babies. He shivered at the thought, and he knew that if he did that, he would break in a way that not even Spike could save him from. He tried to ignore a quick flash of an image of some demon feeling up a little boy with wide brown eyes who looked suspiciously like Xander's school pictures. Of course, if Dareh had his way, Xander's children wouldn't ever have school pictures or schools or normal friends. They would grow up with women who thought that slavery had somehow saved them from the streets and they would grow up thinking that demons had a right to own their bodies.

With that thought in mind, Xander strode across the gavel lot, the tiny edges of the stones digging into the bottoms of his feet as he headed over to move the Jeep. That would happen over his dead body.

Xander pulled the last of the short scrubby branches over the hood of the Jeep before studying the trinkets he'd recovered from the glove box and under the seats and in the backseat. Fifty-nine cents, four paperclips, a book of matches, and a blanket with more unidentifiable stains than Xander cared to thing about. Xander picked up a paperclip, and fingered the thin metal gently.

He remembered how he had slipped Spike the paperclip in Lirowaus' dungeon. He'd truly believed he'd never see Spike again. He remembered the empty ache that had filled his whole body when he had given up on his Master, given up the chance to ever feel safe and loved again. And now, he felt that same pain, only it was someone else who had ripped Spike from him. He knew that. Spike would never leave him, not to Lirowaus and not to Dareh. He closed his fist around the paperclip, feeling the end prick him.

Lirowaus had imprisoned Spike to make Xander behave. He had asked Spike to go to that auction, and he had wanted to go into the ballcourt. The vampire had survived over a century of Angelus and Darla and revolutions and slayers, but a couple of months of Xander and…. Xander stopped himself from finishing that thought. He'd given up once and Spike had surprised him, so he wasn't going there. Xander opened his hand and looked at the paperclip before putting it back down with the other things he'd scavenged.

Grabbing the blanket, Xander started pulling at it, rubbing a side against the medal edge of the wheel well to try and start a tear. Running barefoot in the desert wasn't going to happen, and he sure wasn't going to trust The Hungry Romantic staff, so he was on his own. The fabric of the blanket suddenly gave, and the blanket ripped in half. Xander took one half and repeated the process until he got strips.

Right. Matches plus wick plus an eighth of a tank of gas. That worked. And everyone thought his countless hours of MacGyver worship had been wasted. He'd learned more practical stuff from MacGyver than his history teachers. Of course, he wished he'd paid a little more attention to geography because he didn't even know how far away Angel might be. If he had to hold out for days, he might be in a little trouble. Okay, he might be in a lot of trouble. And if Spike wasn't there, Angel just might consider a local apocalypse or demon infestation a higher priority than rescuing one human who seemed determined to just get captured again. Really, he had preferred his old demon-magnet reputation where the demons came to him. This new capture fetish he seemed to have was just not of the fun.

Pulling the gas cap off, Xander pushed the end of a strip of blanket down into the tank. Using a branch from a nearby tree, he shoved the fabric down until he knew the end was soaking in the gasoline, and then he took the matches in hand. Four matches. Even he couldn't screw up that many times.

Xander settled himself in the bottom of the ditch. A particularly sharp rock dug into his ass, and he fished under him and tossed it away. He'd made himself as hard to find as possible given the wide open land, but he wasn't betting that it would fool anyone for long. His best hope was that after not finding him at the first two places, Dareh might think he'd gone the other way. Or maybe Dareh would just wash his hands and say 'good riddance,' not that Xander was expecting that after Dareh had spent all that money on him.

Xander leaned his bare shoulder against the tire and thought back to the day Spike had fallen asleep on top of his sleeping cage. If he couldn't have Spike, at least he could indulge in some Spike-shaped memories and fantasies as he waited.

The afternoon sun was just starting to dim as it headed for the horizon when the white truck pulled into the restaurant. Two men got out, and Xander stopped breathing as he watched them scan the surrounding area. He thought they would be more likely to thoroughly search the area behind the restauraunt, so he had the Jeep sitting in a ditch across from the place. One of the men nodded toward the back and started walking around the side by the payphone. The other started toward the restaurant itself, and oh god, Xander knew that walk. Posk. Great, if that one caught him, he could bet on some nice revenge torture before he was dragged back to Dareh, not that he intended to be dragged back to Dareh, because his days of being dragged were over. Xander reached down and picked up the matches from the ground where he'd left them.

After a while, Posk reappeared and wandered around the far side of the café. Xander had to remind himself to take nice slow breaths so he didn't pass out. 'Come on guys,' he silently shouted at them. 'See, no escaped slaves here, just keep right on a going. Go search for your cranky stallion somewhere else… anywhere else.'

The sun had turned the sky red before the two men-shaped demons came walking back to the truck together, and Xander chanted a fervent 'move on… move on… move on,' in his head. For once his luck held and the demons got in the truck and started backing out of the parking space. Xander kept his eyes focused on the truck's back window as the demon behind the wheel backed onto the road. He went from holding his breath to softly cursing when the demon's eyes suddenly went from scanning the road to locking in on Xander. Well, probably the Jeep, but the results were the same.

The truck stopped, right there in the road and both demons got out and started trotting toward him. The cleared the road and the shoulder, and had just started hurrying across the desert when Xander stood.

"One more step, and me, the Jeep, a chunk of desert, and hopefully you two will go boom," Xander said as he pulled a match out of the matchbook and stood next to the gas tank with the rag sticking out of it.

"Now, Onyx," Posk started.

"And if I have to tell you my name is Xander one more time, I'll blow us all up on general principle," Xander said in his best 'I'm crazy and just might do it voice.' And really? Not that hard to come up with that voice right now. The only thing that kept him from going through with it was the chance that Spike was still out there.

"Okay, not a problem," Posk said as he backed up, putting out an arm to force the other demon, a grayish looking flabby-faced thing, back with him. Posk whispered something to the other guy who then turned and ran back for the truck. "So, do you really think you're going to be able to just walk away here?"

"Um, I'm thinking that's a no. I'm also thinking rescue is on the way so all I have to do is wait. Either that, or finish this by blowing myself up so I don't need rescue any more. Either way," Xander gave a shrug to show it didn't matter to him even though his stomach knotted and curled unhappily at the thought of the whole self-immolation thing. He really wasn't into pain… well, not that pain anyway.

"Okay, it's okay. We'll just wait here with you, okay?" Posk asked. He backed up toward the highway where his friend had moved the truck out of the middle of the freeway and parked it on the highway closest to the Jeep.

"And if I say no?" Xander asked.

"We'll be right here," Posk answered as he leaned back against the white truck. The second demon got out and stood looking from Posk to Xander and back again until Xander thought the guy was going to get neck strain. Knowing he didn't have any other choice, Xander leaned against the Jeep and watched them suspiciously.

Before long, a second truck, a blue and white thing with scraped fenders and a dented hood, pulled up behind Posk's truck, and Dareh wiggled his way out of the cab. Xander bit down on an urge to suggest the man give Jenny Craig a call. Posk went to talk to Dareh while the second demon dude watched as Xander stood up straight and took the matches in hand again.

Sure enough, Dareh started lumbering toward him.

"Keep coming, and we're going to find out if you're flame proof," Xander said as he raised the matches. Even in the slowly fading light, the demon should be able to see them.

"Xander, calm down," Dareh said gently.

"Oh yeah. Sure. I'll calm down so that you can have them sneak around and shoot a trank dart into me. That's a good reason to calm down. Yeah. Not even." Xander turned to look at Posk and the other guy, but they were climbing in the white truck without looking at him at all.

"Where are they going?" he asked. The only thing worse than having enemies cutting you off from escape was having enemies that you couldn't see any more. Xander crouched down and pressed his back to the Jeep. Great, you moron, he told himself. Just put a few ideas in the demon's head what with the trank gun suggestion.

"They're heading back to the farm. No one's going to sneak around you, boy," Dareh said as he inched closer, crushing desert plants under his wide heavy feet.

"And why am I not believing that?" Xander asked with a roll of his eyes. "Oh yeah, because you're still standing in my way."

"I'm not going to leave you alone out here; it can be dangerous out here."

"Oh yeah, I might get grabbed and tortured by some demon from another dimension who thinks that I'm nothing more than an animal. I'm there on the danger part."

"I was actually thinking something more along the lines of dehydration."

"Really? 'Cause I'm thinking the first is a lot more probable here."

"Onyx, did Posk do something to hurt you?" Dareh demanded, pulling himself upright so that his bulk was suddenly redistributed into a creature that stood seven or eight feet tall and had the girth of a wrestler, and oh buddy, Xander really preferred the six foot fat-looking version of Dareh.

Then Xander's brain processed what Dareh said, and he really couldn't resist laughing at that, laughing hard enough that tears trailed down his face until he had to wipe away. "No, you were the one who did the hurting," he gasped. Dareh's weight collapsed back in on itself so that the wide sloping face once again looked like the non-threatening blobby demon Xander knew and most definitely didn't love.

"How did I hurt you, boy?"

"You don't even see it, do you? You really think I'm so much of an animal that I don't feel something for my children? Do you really think I would stand by and let you turn my sons and daughters into slaves?" Xander could hear his own voice become shrill and unstable. "I'll die first. I won't let you do that to my kids." And suddenly the tears that Xander felt on his face had nothing to do with laughter.

"Oh my sweet little boy," Dareh said as he bent his thick, short legs and lowered himself to the ground.

"Not yours," Xander snarled in frustration.

"Perhaps not. Perhaps your master will come, and perhaps he'll reimburse me the price I paid for you. In which case, this is just a discussion between friends." Xander snorted his disbelief that the word friends, but Dareh ignored that.

"Have you heard of evolution?" Dareh asked, and Xander had to mentally review the question before he could quite believe his ears. And people accused *him* of changing topics.

"Duh. Darwin and birds and monkeys. I didn't sleep through school, and may I point out that is one more advancement brought to you by the primitive human brain. For animals, we don't do too bad," Xander said sarcastically.

Dareh laughed softly. "Cuomsi identified the process of evolution a couple of millennia before Darwin was born. But you're right that your species does show some promise. So perhaps you know about natural selection."

"You're not going to distract me you know."

"I'm actually not trying to. So does that mean you don't know natural selection?"

"And again with the thinking I'm stupid." Xander sank down the last few inches to rest his butt on the ground.

"I've never thought you were stupid, or I wouldn't have bought you," Dareh said with a shake of his head. "So natural selection happens when an individual member of the species..."

"Yeah, yeah. An individual that has a favorable mutation will succeed and have more babies. An individual that has a mutation that's unfavorable, dies. So an owl that can turn white in winter so that it can't be seen against the snow will kill lots more prey and have lots more babies," Xander quickly finished. He'd actually been awake and non-daydreamy that day in class. "Told you I wasn't stupid."

"And so you did. So, over time as the strongest individuals survive and produce and the weak individuals die, what happens to the species as a whole?"

"It evolves. Or it adapts. I got that question wrong on the test because I kept getting the two terms confused." Okay, there went his non-stupid argument.

"And it evolves for the better?"

"That is the point. Species don't exactly evolve for the worse."

"Ah, but they do. Think about it, Xander. If you had a diseased dog that couldn't digest its food properly, what would happen to that dog in the wild?" Xander searched Dareh's face looking for some clue about where the demon was going.

"And again, we're back to the 'I'm not stupid'. It would die."

"And what if someone gave this dog medicine so that it would survive and then fed the dog and protected the dog so that it could have 200 puppies while a wild dog that was healthy would only have 50?" Dareh asked as he inched closer. Xander raised his hand with the match and he stopped. "Over time, would that species become stronger or weaker?" Dareh continued, inching back until Xander lowered the matches again.

Xander suddenly didn't like where this conversation was going. "I think I'm done talking with you."

"That's fine. But you need to listen. Cuomsi called it interferant adaptation. The humans who are strongest and smartest are choosing not to have children. Many intelligent attractive women have their first child 35 for 40 and then they only have one or two children. The whole human culture encourages those who are successful to reduce their reproduction.

"But those who are least successful, they keep right on having kids. They may have six or eight or 10 kids in the course of their lifetime. And then modern medicine takes people who have severe genetic defects and makes it possible for them to pass those defects off to another generation. I've lived in this dimension for nearly 200 years, and I'm watching your species become more fragile.

"So, given these facts, what do you think is the fate of free range humans? The day is going to come when the only genetically healthy humans are the ones on the farms. And your species is far too unique to allow you to destroy yourselves. So, will you waste your strength and your beauty in a gene pool that has already doomed itself, or will you allow yourself to admit that this is the only way for your species to survive and that you're just part of their survival?

"That's bullshit," Xander said. He wasn't quite sure where the bullshit came in, but he was sure it was bullshit.

"Now that I know you have objections to breeding, I won't ask you to breed freely. If it bothers you, we can even keep you in a separate paddock away from the mares so you don't see the pups."

"Not gonna happen. Spike's coming," Xander said despite the fact he didn't even know whether Spike was still in one piece.

"And if he doesn't? Will you truly destroy yourself even though you could have a long and productive life ensuring that your species survives its own stupidity?"

"Oh please. The only thing in my future is a trip back to the auctions, and I know who was runner up in the bidding now that I've proven that I'm not so good tempered after all." Okay, that was a stupid thing to say because the only thing in his future was a rescue when Spike roaring in and ripped Dareh to little itty bitty Dareh pieces. He had to believe that. If he didn't believe that he should just have the strength to light the damn match. Xander looked down, but Dareh's voice became louder, interrupting his thoughts.

"Have you? Onyx, what did you do to Posk when you had him helpless?

"I stole his pants and generally humiliated him. And that was after taking a post hole digger to his stomach."

"And did you kill him?"

"What? No."

"Exactly. Another male would have killed him. And right now, you're threatening yourself instead of me."

"That's only because I don't have anything to threaten you with," Xander pointed out as he held up the matches.

"Really? So if I gave you a gun, you'd shoot me?"

"Oh hell yes!" Xander answered immediately. "Shootage would be of the good right now. I'd shoot you and run for the hills."

"Shoot me to escape, possibly. But would you kill me?"

"I've killed plenty of demons," Xander hedged. He tended to kill the demons who didn't remind him of some sort of weird Mr. Rogers with a bondage fetish. Fledges he could kill without a thought. Lirowaus he would have killed, Dareh he wanted to kill, but he wasn't sure if he could actually do it.

"I don't doubt that. You fought beside a slayer and a vampire, but if you had no one to fight beside, would you go out and fight on your own? Is it in your nature to fight?"

"Hey, I've chosen to stupidly throw myself into plenty of fights," Xander pointed out.

"And my guess is that you've done so for your friends. Your nature is to follow the pack, to protect the pack. You aren't naturally aggressive or you would have killed Posk. I will not allow Leshar or any other trainer to touch you, ever."

Xander could feel the arm that held the matches trembling slightly at the offer of protection, but he kept his mouth shut for once.

"Why don't I just sit here and let you think about that?" Dareh suggested as he shifted his large body and crossed his arms over his knees. Then he lowered his head onto his arms as he watched Xander with small, black eyes. Xander just leaned against the warm metal of the Jeep as the last orange and pink streaks faded to gray in the evening sky. Right. Now all he had to do was wait for Spike. Or Angel. He never thought he'd say it, but he'd be thrilled to see Angel right now.

"Good night, boy," Dareh said softly. Xander gritted his teeth as he ordered himself to stay awake until the cavalry came to the rescue.

Chapter 20:

Xander jerked his head up again as he wrapped his arms around his knees and tried not to shake. The moon hadn't even moved an inch from the last time he had jerked himself into wakefulness, so Xander didn't think he had lost too much time. Dareh hadn't moved, those dark eyes stayed closed and didn't reflect any of the light from the nearly full moon.

"Just hang on," Xander whispered to himself as he clutched the matches. Maybe he should make a little fire. But he didn't think he could afford to get distracted from the demon sleeping near the highway. Nope. He wouldn't be distracted or fall asleep or let himself think too much about what Dareh had said. Nope. He was not-thinking guy and he had proved that more than once.

Xander squirmed a little to ease his sore back, but he hated to move too much. The Jeep was still a little warm where his body heat leeched into the metal, but the night had gotten cold a lot faster than he expected. Normally he was in his stall before night fell. Xander's teeth started chattering and he tightened his jaw. Putting his head down on his knees, Xander slowly tuned his body's pain out as he focused on watching the long strip where the moonlight reflected off the yellow centerline stripe. Pulling the paperclip off the matchbook cover, he fingered it. He just had to trust Spike. Closing his fist around the piece of metal, Xander went back to watching and waiting.

Xander jerked awake again as something strong locked around his ankle. Grabbing for the matches, he ripped one out of the book and tried to strike it. His hands trembled, and the match didn't flare. He reached to try again, but the arm with the matchbook was yanked forward with enough force to pull Xander to his feet. Rather than pull back against that strength, Xander pushed into it, bringing the hand with the match close enough to strike it, and the smell of phosphor filled the air as the match lit. Xander instantly touched it to the matchbook, and the flash of brilliant orange-white light illuminated the side of Dareh's head as Xander twisted in his grasp. He could see the Jeep. He just had to…

Xander went to toss the matches, and Dareh pulled his arm up at the last minute, throwing Xander's aim off so that the matches sailed up into the air and then fell far short of the Jeep, setting a small grassy tuft on fire. Xander put his knee into Dareh's side and pulled for all he was worth while Dareh stomped on the small fire, ending Xander's whole self-immolation plan.

"Hush, Onyx," Dareh said as the hand that had grabbed his wrist let go only to snake around his waist. Xander used the extra bit of freedom to aim a punch as Dareh's side. The flesh gave under his hand, like punching a pillow, but Dareh didn't even twitch. Xander pulled back his hand to punch again, but then Dareh pulled him in so close that he was near suffocating in the mass of warm demon. Since he couldn't pull back his arm enough to get any force behind a punch, he brought his knee up with pretty much the same results.

"Hush, now boy." One of Dareh's arms circled around his back, trapping his arms to his side as Dareh used his other hand to grab the attacking leg. Xander was left pressed into Dareh's stomach, feeling the little plastic buttons of the demon's shirt dig into his bare chest, as his one leg hung helplessly.

"No!" Xander gasped as he tried to worm his way out of the embrace.

"Shh, boy. Just hush now. You've created quite enough of a stir without bringing humans out of the café. I'll kill them to protect you, Onyx." Xander trembled even though his body was quickly warming.

"No. Please no," Xander begged although he wasn't sure whether he was asking for himself or the people in the café.

"It's okay." Dareh tightened his hold, and Xander watched the cacti and scraggly tufts of grass and stones go past as he stared at the ground. Soon enough, the rocky land gave way to the black asphalt of the highway. When Dareh released his leg, Xander tried to kick again, feeling his last chance of escape slipping away, but Dareh just leaned into the truck, effectively trapping Xander as he opened the truck's door.

Changing tactics, Xander tried taking a small piece of Dareh's skin and pinching it as hard as he could as Dareh picked up a CB radio.

"Dareh one to home. I need two extra drivers and a van out near the Romantic."

"Sure thing, boss," a voice answered. Xander let himself sag as his last hope disappeared. He couldn't fight his way free and he sure as hell wasn't talking his way free. Helpless in Dareh's embrace, he fell back on the only lesson that seemed to apply and let himself go limp.

"And have the vet on call when I get there."

"You got it," the voice on the other end offered, and Dareh dropped the radio back into the cradle before reaching farther in for something else. Xander trembled. He'd tried to run and he had no illusions about what would happen now. He knew just how badly he was about to need that vet. But maybe all wasn't lost. Maybe Angel could still find him now that he knew to come to this part of the country. And maybe Dareh would move him. And maybe Spike was dust. Xander didn't fight as Dareh pulled back from the truck, and he felt the cold asphalt under his feet.

"Hush now, boy," Dareh said, and then Xander felt a rough fabric slide around his bare shoulders. Dareh backed off a step, and Xander stood still, his eyes down as he waited for whatever judgment his master made. Instead, he watched as Dareh pulled a rough brown blanket around him tight enough to pin his arms to his side before Dareh pulled him into his body again.

"Are you okay, Onyx?" he asked.

"Yes, master," Xander answered quietly. He really didn't have any other options as Dareh slammed the truck door closed and then stood with his back to the truck, pulling Xander up so that Xander's feet hung helplessly. Xander lay his head down on Dareh's shoulder and let his mind empty out so that he went into that same half sleep that he had lived so much of the last several months in.

"You will be punished for running," Dareh said, and Xander had enough control of his body to prevent a shiver from running down his back even though it ran through his mind. He'd figured that out the minute Dareh had asked for the vet.

"But I didn't lie to you, boy. I won't sell you to the likes of Leshar, and I won't ask you to breed freely. You will, however, breed, and you will obey me. Do you understand?"

"Yes, master." Xander answered. He watched as headlights appeared from down the road, praying to see Angel's convertible racing through the dark. Instead a black van pulled up, and the two farm hands from earlier, including Posk, got out.

"Posk, drive the Jeep. Laist, you have the truck," Dareh said as he carried Xander to the open side door of the van. Xander flashed on an image… another van pulling up in the dark, and how could he have been so stupid? He tried to accept as a slave should, but the memory of those first hands on him, gagging him, tying him down. He remembered the terror as he looked into red eyes and he started struggling against a memory that would never change because he hadn't been strong enough to save himself. He was never strong enough.

"Shhh, boy," Dareh whispered, and then Xander felt himself folded up as Dareh gathered him into his lap.

"No," Xander gasped as he struggled against the large, warm, gray hands that held him and the memory of those cold hands that snatched and grabbed at him. He struggled until he pulled an arm free and then he clawed at the demon holding him even though he couldn't even see that demon through the fog of his own memories.

"Hush, Onyx. Whatever is frightening you, it isn't real. You're safe." Xander trembled to a stop then as he realized who had him. It was too late for struggling, so he let himself go limp.

"And you think that will save the stable?" a cynical voice asked.

"I know this will. He stopped short of seriously hurting anyone. He's just panicked." Dareh told whoever was up front. Xander was turned the wrong way to see, and he didn't have the energy to try and twist around.

"Onyx, what's panicking you?" Dareh asked, his arms tightening around Xander. Xander took a deep breath and tried to not panic at the thought of giving Dareh another part of himself. But he couldn't lie to a master.

"I remembered being taken," Xander admitted.

"Ah, they didn't do it kindly then. It has to be done right to avoid the stock panicking," Dareh's large hand brushed curls out of his face, and Xander barely avoided another shiver of revolt.

"How did they do it?" Dareh asked curiously. Xander sat in silence as he decided how to answer that without lying and without giving too much of himself away.

"They pulled up in a van, opened the door and dragged me in. Several held me down while the others ripped the clothes from me. When I started screaming, one of them shoved my underwear in my mouth and then they chained my arms and legs before dropping me in a cage." Xander tried to keep the emotion out of his voice because that belonged to him… him and Spike. Despite the calm tone, Dareh's hand froze and the arm around Xander tightened.

"I am going to gut that trainer. More to the point, I will make sure no one ever buys stock from any place that hires him," Dareh growled in a voice that sounded suspiciously Spike-like.

"You do that, but you'd better hope the pups don't pick up their father's nervousness."

"They'll be perfect," Dareh assured his partner, but Xander didn't find it comforting at all.

Xander sleep-walked through the rest of the evening, the lack of sleep and cold and fear and shock combining to make him only half aware as the driver of the van examined him, taking his pants and checking all his fingers and toes for damage from the cold. He followed quietly as Dareh held his wrist. He watched without comment as Posk attached cuffs and a short chain to his ankles. He held out his hands so that Posk could reattach the hand bindings.

"Okay, now for the punishment part," Dareh said as Posk finished the second hand. Xander was sitting on the edge of the metal examination table, the cold of it contrasting with the warm stable air, and he let his bound fist fall to his lap as he waited with his head bowed.

"You will stay in the stable for two weeks, which means dry food. And the leg restraints stay on until I can trust you, even if that means forever. Do you understand?"

"Yes, master," Xander said with a confused glance up.

"Onyx, is there something you want to ask?"

Xander hesitated as he considered whether he really did want to know. "Is that all?" he asked quietly. "After I… you know," Xander stopped since he really didn't want to repeat all his crimes.

"Some of those mistakes are Posk's, and he'll have to answer to those," Dareh said, and Posk hunched his shoulders. "I do believe I told you stallions were more high-strung."

"Yes, sir, you did," Posk answered quietly.

"And I believe I told you this one was fast and clever, and more expensive than any three mares put together."

"Yes, sir."

"Well, then I think you can share Onyx's punishment. As long as he's confined to the stable, you'll be cleaning the stables and not the paddocks."

"Yes sir," Posk said quietly.

"So get him bedded down and get some sleep because you have an early morning." Dareh turned and walked out of the room, and Xander sat on the cold steel waiting for the revenge to start. After the post-hole digger to the stomach, the kid had a right to take a swing or two. Instead Posk pulled a familiar piece of leather out of his pocket.

"Down, Onyx," he said, and Xander slipped off the table and to his knees. Posk slipped the leash over Xander's head and then gave a small pull. Xander nearly lost his balance as the hobbles pulled him short, and he really wasn't used to wearing such short hobbles. Instead of falling, he found himself leaning against Posk's hand as Posk pulled him up.

"Come on, let's get you to bed so I can get at least a couple of hours of sleep before I have to be up again." Posk pulled on the leash and Xander shuffled after the boy, looking slightly down at the back of the demon's head. "I can't believe I did something that stupid and next time I'm in a hurry, I'm going to be a whole lot more careful. You know, you cracked one of my chest bones, Onyx, and I have to say that hurts. Not to mention the fact that I missed one seriously hot date tonight, and while your sex life may come easy, some of us have to work for it."

The whole time Posk walked slowly down the length of the stable, and Xander could see curious eyes looking out at him. Xander flinched at just how many eyes there were… dozens and dozens of women in their stalls, and now Dareh had all but promised to use the breeding leash. Xander shuffled a little faster since he wanted to get to the relative privacy of his stall in the corner before breaking down and crying.

"In ya go," Posk said as he held open the stall door. Xander stopped long enough for Posk to slip the leash off, and then he shuffled in and sank to the ground. "I hope you like the view because you're going to be seeing it for a while," Posk offered, and Xander kept his eyes focused on the wooden slats of his prison.

"Don't worry, boy. Time will be up sooner than you think and then we'll both be back out with the grass and the trees and the pretty girls," Posk said. "Just don't think you're going to get away with *that* a second time."

Xander didn't answer or move as Posk slid the door to the stall shut. He looked up at his water bottle, but somehow standing up seemed like more effort than it was worth. Stretching out and putting his arms under his head, he let himself finally fall asleep.

Xander woke briefly when Posk appeared with a scoop of dry food and a new stall liner. Moving from one side to the other to make it easier for the demon to clean up his stall, Xander waited for a swift kick that didn't come. He almost wished it did because it would be so much easier to hold onto his hate if someone would just kick him. When Posk left, Xander lay down again and let himself drift back to sleep. He wasn't sure how much time passed when his stall door opened again.

"You haven't touched your food, boy, are you feeling sick?"

"No," Xander answered as he pulled his legs up.

"Well, up on your knees. Dareh called for you at the house, so if you need to pee, do it here." Xander used the side of his stall to brace himself so he could get up to his knees. He still hadn't had any water, so peeing really wasn't first on his mind. After a second, Posk slipped the leash around his head and then pulled to get him up. Xander stood with a sigh and shuffled slowly behind the trainer.

"Oh, and Dareh has company, so let's show good manners, okay, boy?"

"Yes, Posk," Xander answered quietly as he hobbled along after the trainer. The house turned out to be a stone building with a wide porch. Xander couldn't get up the stairs, so Posk got a shoulder in his stomach and lifted him from the ground to the porch before leaping up himself. And then Xander was back to the shuffle bit as he followed meekly. When the doors opened, Xander flinched at the sight of Angel standing next to a wide stone fireplace with Dareh seated on the biggest chair Xander had ever seen, and yes the universe did really hate him.

Posk walked slowly to Dareh, forcing Xander to follow until Posk handed over his leash and Xander went to his knees at Dareh's feet. Angel stood there with his spiky hair and red shirt, and Xander didn't even want to think what he looked like after sleeping in his stall, and some days he wondered how Spike could pick him after having Angel. Not that he'd ever had Angel, but Angelus was just as handsome.

"Xander," Angel breathed softly, and Xander could hear the shock in his voice, and really, considering that Spike had told Deadboy all sorts of slave stories, it really made Angel look a little on the clueless side. Either that or Xander was feeling resentful and just a little terrified that Angel and not Spike had shown up.

"So you see that Onyx is just fine."

"So, I'm still willing to pay $14,500 for his return." Angel turned his eyes from Xander to Dareh.

"Ah, but that doesn't take into account his care and feeding, or the trouble he all put us through last night."

"Fine, I'll add another $500." Angel said with clipped tones that suggested to Xander that these two had been arguing for a while. Dareh's hand reached out and rested on Xander's bowed head. Xander continued to watch these two

"You have my final offer. $14,000 and ten confirmed pregnancies. You can take delivery of him in six or seven days when I've finished breeding him."

"And I told you that I'm taking him today. Either you sell him or Spike is going to tear this place apart, but I won't allow the boy to be bred."

"I thought I might leave that up to him." Dareh's hand moved to under Xander's chin and tilted his head up and toward the gray demon. "It seems the Aurelius vampires are rather stubborn so let me explain this to you Onyx. We have several possibilities. One, you stay here until you have been bred ten times, and as I promised, I will not try to make you do it willingly, so your conscience can be clear. You know I'll take care of your pups, and I certainly will never sell any males. Then after you have impregnated the mares, your Master's sire can pay the $14,000 and you can go back to the Master you adore. I will certainly not have any hard feelings." Dareh pushed the curls out of Xander's face in a gesture that would have been gentle except for the rough skin of the demon's thumb against his forehead.

"The second option is that your Master's sire angers me and I throw him off the farm. He attacks, but he can't possibly know the defenses I have around this place so many if not all of his supporters, including your Master, will die, and then I will have you for the rest of your life. I will build this stable up into one of the most successful breeding farms in ten dimensions.

"The third option is that your Master's sire angers me, but when they attack they actually do manage to rescue you. Your rescue will come at the cost of some of them dying, and the mares and their pups will be caught in the crossfire, and those like Posk who have cared for you may die fighting. Who knows, your Master may not survive. Or maybe your Master will lose his sire in his fight to get you back. How would he look at you if Angel died in your defense?" Dareh looked over toward Angel, and Xander glanced that way as well.

"You tell us what you want, Xander." Dareh's voice was soft, confident, kinda creepy, and Xander looked up at the demon who held his leash.

"I won't breed."

"Onyx," Dareh said warningly, "that isn't an option, and we have discussed that."

"Angel," Xander said, looking up even as he knelt at Dareh's side. "I know Willow's magic is a little wonky right now, but she has it in her to do a destructive spell… trust me she has it in her right now," Xander said with a bit of a dramatic shiver. "So tell her that I truly want to end it. I need to end it before things get any worse. Please," Xander said quietly. Xander summoned up the feeling of black despair he'd once felt when he'd walked out of that room where Spike had hung in chains. Intentionally allowing that memory to rise, he allowed the loss and pain and misery to fill his heart until the tears threatened to spill over. "Tell her I want it," he said, his voice trembling with the emotions that threatened to crush him.

He looked up at Dareh's shocked face. "She has some control issues, so I might end up being ground zero of a small nuclear explosion, but I know she'll do the spell. I just can't do what you want," Xander said as his body started shaking. The memory nearly overwhelmed him so that he could feel Lirowaus' shackles on his body instead of Dareh's.

"Perhaps I shouldn't let Angel communicate that." Dareh answered quietly.

"Spike already knows. As you say, we are sire and childe," Angel said, and Xander could have smiled as Angel picked up his bluff. "If you're sure," Angel said sadly.

"I'm sure. I'm not doing so well in the not getting captured department, and I'm tired. I actually tried to blow myself up last night, but I didn't do so well with it," Xander said with a helpless shrug.

"Onyx," Dareh snapped as he gave the leash a yank. Xander sank back onto his knees and dropped his head submissively.

"So, it looks like negotiations have changed. I'll give you $16,000 and walk out of here now, or the witch with whom Xander has been friends since they were 'pups' will make him the center of a very large explosion."

"You wouldn't blow him up." Dareh said confidently enough.

"Yes, I would," Angel said flatly. Xander could only wait as Dareh shifted.

"Vampires. You really shouldn't be allowed to trade. Inhabiting human bodies makes you entirely too conflicted when it comes to training them," Dareh finally announced with a huff of frustration. Xander took a deep breath and allowed relief to push back the edges of the memory. "Posk, get in here and remove the restraints from Onyx," Dareh shouted at a volume that made the glass in the windows rattle. Posk appeared and quickly darted forward to take the leash.

"And find him some clothes," Angel requested. Xander considered wiggling his naked ass at Angel as he followed Posk from the room, still on the leash, but he wasn't sure he wanted to push it that far. Angel had said Spike was here, but if that had been a bluff along with everything else they'd said in the room, he couldn't afford to piss Angel off. If Spike was still missing, he would beg, bribe, or torture the broody one into finding his Master. And if Spike was out there waiting, Xander was going to kill the bleached menace. Okay, maybe not kill, but there was going to be some butt kicking just as soon as he made sure the butt in question was still undusty.


Chapter 21:

Xander followed Angel down the same driveway where he'd made his escape attempt just twenty-four hours earlier. Like then, he was wearing nothing other than Spike's chain collar and Posk's pants, which still dug into his waist uncomfortably even though Posk had accused him of stretching them beyond repair.

Crossing his arms across his stomach, he struggled to keep silent as long as Dareh watched from the porch. He could see the white van waiting by the side of the road and either Spike was in it or he wasn't. Demanding to know right now really wouldn't change that. Xander could feel his stomach tighten with fear, a bitter taste rising in his mouth and a stinging sensation irritating his throat.

Of course, Angel could put him out of his misery with one word, but the broody one hadn't even looked at him since he came back half dressed, which was an improvement over being paraded in front of Angel buck naked while the vamp stared with an open mouth.

Walking down the drive, the pebbles bit his feet, and Xander concentrated on that rather than the fear that the van was empty, which really didn't explain why he couldn't tear his eyes from the van. The moonlight was bright enough that Xander could now see Wesley looking out the open passenger side window.

"Thank heavens. You took so long I really was starting to get tired of his swearing."

"Bloody hell, get these soddin' chains off me before I rip your intestines out your nose."

"And yet I feel no need to get near him," Wesley rolled his eyes, and Xander lost a step as his leg muscles nearly collapsed as relief washed through him. Angel pulled the side door of the van open and Xander could see Spike pulling against chains set in the side of the van above a long bench seat

"Enough. If you had shown an ounce of self control…"

"If you had bloody shown up earlier," Spike interrupted his sire even though Xander could see that Spike's eyes focused only on him. He could only stare back as Angel climbed in the van and unlocked the chains.

"I seem to remember someone threatening to set me on fire if I showed up before the deadline," Angel said dryly as the chains fell away. Spike didn't answer as he pushed Angel aside and then Xander found himself gathered into strong arms.

"Bloody hell, if that wanker hurt one hair on your head," Spike's voice trembled, and Xander stopped hugging his own stomach and slowly slid his arms around Spike's waist. His Master looked so slender, but under the black t-shirt, he could feel muscles rippling as Spike's body quivered with anger.

"Dareh didn't hurt him, so there will be no bloodbath," Angel said, and then Xander felt a wide hand push on his back. Before he could even react, Spike had flung Angel into the side of the van with a dull thud as Angel's head impacted the side of the van.

"Don't bloody touch him," Spike snarled in game face, and Wesley's soft "Good Lord" came right before the man scrambled out of the van holding a crossbow. Xander stepped into Wesley's line of fire at the same time that Angel held up a hand.

"It's fine, Wesley. William, don't push your luck here. Get Xander into the van and let's leave. Wesley, I'll drive until sunup and then you can take the wheel." Xander held his breath until Spike finally shook his head, his game face dropping away as a mask of indifference dropped into place.

"Just don't want you pushin' him around, Peaches," Spike said, and then Xander found himself pulled into Spike's arms again one second before Spike guided him to the open van door.

"Yes, well, I think I'll be riding up front with you," Wesley said softly as he climbed back in the passenger door.

"It might be best," Xander heard Angel say right before Spike slid the side door shut with that unique sound of metal sliding into metal. The interior had a long bench seat against the one side, leaving a wide aisle down the middle of the van, and a heavy black curtain separated the front cab from the back. The back windows had even been painted black as well—slightly more practical for a vampire than a convertible, Xander realized. He sat in the middle of the bench seat, and Spike sat beside him, angling his body to face Xander even though Xander could barely see that from the wisps of light trickling in from the front and the blacked out window.

"Are you okay?" Spike asked in a softer tone now—strong, cool hands running over his arms and down to his hands where Xander closed his fingers around Spike's for just a second before Spike continued his examination. Fingers ran up his chest and to his shoulders, kneading sore muscles for a second before gently exploring the curve of Xander's cheek. Xander closed his eyes as two thumbs gently traced the shape of his eye before Spike pushed his curls back away from his face.

"Pet. So bloody sorry," Spike whispered, and then Xander found himself pulled forward into a crushing hug. The familiar scent of tobacco and leather and alcohol clung to Spike's shirt, and Xander closed his eyes and let himself relax for the first time since the ball court. He could feel his own body shaking, but he couldn't seem to stop it.

"Where were you?" Xander whispered. Of all the horrors he had imagined… Spike staked by some hunter, Spike imprisoned by Leshar, Spike dust under his feet at the auction… Spike chained up by Angel hadn't really entered his imagination.

"Bloody Leshar and his toadie made a move. Killed the moron's minion, and I would have bloody killed Leshar too if the soddin' shurl hadn't gotten involved."

"Shurl?" Xander tried to pull back and look at Spike, but Spike's arms held him immobile.

"Yeah, the bint blindsided me. I was chained up in back of her shop while you were bein' sold, and she just blithered on the whole bloody time."

"But… why?" Xander demanded. The shurl certainly hadn't tried to hurt either of them last time, and this was making sense of the not even kind.

"Told ya that shurls were demons to avoid. Bloody batty creatures, do things that don't make sense to anyone 'cept themselves. But I’m back now, and I'm never letting you go again," Spike promised, and Xander felt a worm of discomfort stir at that promise. It sounded a little too much like Dareh for comfort.

"Spike, I…"

"Shh. You're bloody exhausted, can feel it pourin' off ya. Just sleep. We'll talk more when we get back to Sunnydale, when we don't have Broody McBritches listenin' in," Spike whispered. Xander opened his mouth to protest because really he hadn't been doing anything but sleeping lately, but then he realized that as much sleep as he had gotten, it hadn't satisfied the bone deep weariness in him. And now, safe with Spike, he stretched his legs out on the bench seat as Spike arranged him in his Master's lap. The motion of the van along the highway rocked him and Spike's hand soothed him and Xander slowly fell asleep.


"William, I am not saying this again. You will not drive home without some blood and some sleep."

"I didn't know you cared, Peaches." Spike snarked as he followed Angel into the hotel. Xander followed close behind, but not so close as to get caught in the middle if the two vampires started fighting over the keys Angel currently had in his pocket.

"I have already rescued you once this month. That's my limit." Angel answered as he retreated to behind the counter. Xander didn't miss the fact that Angel had retreated to the far side of Cordelia. Meanwhile, Spike leaned against the counter, his entire body quivering with the energy of his one foot that bounced nervously.

"I can drive better than you any day of the week. 'Sides, animal blood isn't really my taste."

"Don't look at me, mister. My blood is way out of your league," Cordelia offered with a sniff.

"Don't worry, I try not to eat the Happy Meals I've exchanged pleasantries with. That was Angelus' game," Spike said, and Xander sat on the round couch waiting for the fireworks. Angel flinched at the insult, but he didn't blow up and he didn't hand over the keys. Xander was slightly impressed. He'd expected Angel to throw the keys at Spike's head by this point.

"Cordelia, order some human blood from Proiso. Then get these two settled in a room where Spike's liver can recover from the last week." Xander looked at Spike sharply, but his Master had his back to him.

"Just bloody give me my soddin' car keys."

"Fine. I'll make Angel give you the car keys, and you can come back for Xander later. I've been meaning to take him shopping anyway." Cordelia turned her smile toward him, and Xander's warning bells went off at that expression. "Now that you're gay, do you have better taste or is Spike just buying your clothes? I have to say this look is really working with the muscles and the classic black, but you have got to learn to accessorize. A nice watch or some highlights in your hair would make you very GQ," Cordelia informed him, and compliments from Cordelia made Xander wonder if another apocalypse had started while he was out of the loop. Usually that expression had led to emasculation and humiliation.

"Boy comes with me," Spike snarled in a voice that would have sent a sane man… a large sane man… an armed and dangerous sane man running for cover. Cordelia just smiled back. "If you want to kill yourself, be my guest. But Xander isn't getting into a car with you until your blood has more blood in it than alcohol."

"Of all the bloody, fucking…"

"Hey, watch the language! You're going to be a… Okay, what will you be when Xander's lady friend pops out with the baby? Master-in-law? Step Master? Master-Father? I'm seeing therapy in the future for this kid. Lots and lots of expensive, professional help. Maybe you could get a group discount on some anger management classes for yourself," Cordelia smiled sweetly at Spike, "but you'd better learn to curb that tongue or you're going to be spending a lot of quality time with the kid's teachers," Cordelia chastised him with a raised finger.

"Baby?" Xander asked. Oh god, he was going to hell because somehow in all the panic about not having kids he had managed to forget he was having a kid. Maybe that memory was just in a particularly weak part of his brain, well, weaker.

"Mother To Be isn't really talkin' much, but physically she's fine and Joyce is watchin' over her until we get back to Sunnydale," Spike said softly, and Xander sighed as he realized what Spike was saying even without saying it. Physically she was fine, but mentally she had checked out, not talking and withdrawn. Xander couldn't say he was surprised having spent several months with no forwarding address on his own brain.

"Spike, just take a room, sleep, feed, and then I will personally cheer as you get out of my hotel," Angel said from behind Cordelia. Xander wondered how much energy it took for Angel to not dominate the vampire he had once broken and recreated. He wondered how much effort it took for Spike to constantly reject the sire who had once been his everything.

From the stiffening of Spike's back, he was about to say something stupid. "Please," Xander whispered. Spike turned his head while still leaning on the counter. "I can't face her tonight," Xander said with a shrug, well aware that he was a coward, but a man needed time to work himself up to facing the pregnant victim of his rape.

"Right. Just doin' this for the boy," Spike snapped as Cordy tossed the leather duster on the counter.

"And don't leave your retro-fashion faux pas lying around the office."

Spike scooped up this coat in one hand and held his other hand out for Xander as he headed for the stairs. "Bloody pushy humans," he snarled under his breath. Xander stood up and took Spike's hand as Spike charged up the hotel stairs with him in tow.

Once in a room, Xander looked at Spike more closely. The bleached hair was the same, well except for a bit of darker root showing. The nails had no chipped polish. The black jeans had a stain on the leg. And Cordelia had accused him of having more booze than blood in his body, and Cordy's insults always cut to the core because they were true. The woman had a nasty habit of telling the truth a little too publicly.

"Master?" Xander asked as he took the coat from Spike and laid it over the back of a chair.

"Thought I'd lost you. You know I never would have given up lookin' for ya, but the way you fight back, I didn't know if I had time to find ya," Spike slipped an arm around Xander's stomach and pulled at him until Xander could feel Spike's body pressed up against his back.

"I don't fight back, remember? I just get broken," Xander said as he kept his eyes focused on the ugly painting of a lopsided farmhouse that hung above the bed.

"Bloody hell, even Leshar couldn't finish that job. You played the part, but your eyes always showed that spirit you have in you. Angelus, Leshar, Lirowaus, Incan mummies, preying mantis, dozens of fledges… they all took a shot at breakin' ya, and maybe you are different than you would have turned out without all that, but ya aren't broken. You keep gettin' right back up and fighting back."

"No, I don't. I'm weak, and I lie there and take it. I go from one person to another, and I just become whatever they want… maybe that's what I'm doing now," Xander said as he pushed on Spike's arms trying to get him to get go.


"Let go."

"No bloody chance. Just calm down before your soddin' heart explodes."

"I'll calm down when you let me go," Xander countered, and when Spike suddenly released him, he stumbled forward and caught himself on the end of the bed. He could feel his knees shake and he wasn't sure if it was shock that Spike had let him go or fear that he would be punished or anger that he felt shock and fear for speaking up. Xander turned around to face Spike who now wore a confused expression.

"Pet, tell me what's going on in that head of yours," Spike ordered, and Xander thought back to the time Spike had ordered him to say everything he was thinking. He'd accused Spike of being cruel then, for taking away the only control he still had, the only hiding place he had left.

"They're my thoughts, don't I have a right to that?" Xander said as he backed up toward the door. Spike's body went stiff.

"Oi, whatever screw ya have rattlin' around loose up there is causing brain damage," Spike shot back, and then Xander watched as the defensive expression on Spike's face morphed into something more compassionate.

"Pet, just tell me what has ya all worked up."

"Nothing," Xander answered as he kept inching backward.

"So why are ya suddenly convinced that you're weak?" Spike asked as he started moving forward with a roll of his shoulders that made Xander feel like the weak-kneed prey he was. His cock twitched in anticipation, and that just proved how weak he was because Spike controlled his body, his reactions, and he couldn't keep that hot anger even when he wanted to.

"Newsflash, Spike. I just had to get rescued… again. I'm not exactly independent man here… or independent-thinking man or mildly competent man. I'm not even 'safe to let out on the streets alone' man. I'm big old fuck up man here. So whatever you're going to do, just do it," Xander finished softly as he stopped backing up. He watched as Spike stopped and straightened up before cocking his head to the side in an almost laughable expression of confusion.

"Bloody hell, don't want to do anything *to* you, had a thought or two about what to do *with* you."

"Well, I guess you can do whatever you want with me, can't you? After all, I'm yours bought and paid for," Xander practically spit out as he held his arms wide in surrender.

"What the fuck has gotten into you?" Spike demanded as he closed the distance and grabbed Xander's wrists, pushing his arms back down to his sides.

"I'm just tired, so whatever you want to do, just do it so I can go back to sleep," Xander lied quietly.

"Had better offers from dead fish. Do ya really think I'd just use you like that?" Spike asked as he reached up and slid a hand around the back of Xander's neck, and Xander could feel his collar pressing into the flesh at the back of his neck. His unbreakable collar that he would wear for the rest of his life. Xander shivered as cold dread crawled up his back.

"Don't you? Use me, I mean." Xander muttered as he focused again on Deadboy's horrible artwork and not the unchipped, unsouled vampire holding his body.

"You never seemed to mind," Spike whispered back as he leaned forward for a kiss. The feeling of those talented lips against his made Xander's body throb and heat up and he moaned as he opened his mouth to his Master. "You seem ta enjoy it enough," Spike whispered as he pulled back, cupping Xander's hard cock in his hand.

"Don't," Xander begged quietly, once again unable to control his own body, and he wasn't even sure whether it was his own lust or that command from so long ago. Spike was hard so he had to be hard.

"Don't what? Don't make ya feel good?" Spike whispered, cool lips against his neck, and Xander could feel his eyes grow warm with tears even as his cock filled, and yeah, he was sliding down the short side of nuts here.

"Don't make me feel like this. I don't want to," Xander whispered even as he stood still under his Master's hands.

"Somethin' tells me that's a lie," Spike said as he pressed against Xander's cock, forcing a moan out of him. "Somethin' tells me you like this more than just a little," Spike pressed again.

"No. Stop it," Xander snapped as he brought his hands up and hit Spike on the front of his shoulders to push him away. "It's not what I want. It's not me. I'm not some fucking demon whore. I don't want to be. You can't fucking make me." Xander's hands closed into fists without him even realizing it, or at least he didn't realize it until he was swinging. He got in a couple of punches before a strong hand grabbed his wrist and his entire body was flung to the bed using that captured arm as leverage.

Once he hit the bed, Xander scrambled toward the far side but couldn't make it before a hand closed over his ankle, holding him on the bed. As Xander turned, he found himself looking into the yellow eyes of a seriously pissed off Master vampire, and equal parts lust and terror ran hot through his veins as he realized that punching the big bad demon might not have been the smartest thing… not that anyone ever accused him of being smart in the past.


Chapter 22:

"What the bloody hell is going on with you?" Spike demanded, and for one second Xander froze, and then all his stupid genes conspired with his growing anger and he used his free leg to start kicking as he tried to free himself. He got in one kick to Spike's cheek before Spike grabbed the second leg at the ankle, pushing it to the bed so he could hold both ankles in one hand.

"Let go," Xander demanded. Yeah, like that would work.

"Not soddin' likely. Not until you've stopped going off your bloody rocker." Spike grabbed for his jeans, and Xander started struggling madly because he didn't want to feel lust, he didn't want to feel Spike's body holding him down and driving him crazy with desire.

"Bloody… just stop it," Spike snarled as he held on to Xander's legs with both hands.

"Angel!" Xander screamed at the top of his lungs.

"You fuckin' brat," Spike snarled as he pulled on Xander's legs, forcing Xander to slide across the bed, and Xander grabbed the edge of the mattress for leverage as he screamed louder.

"Angel! ANGEL!" Xander shrieked as Spike tucked both of his legs under one arm and went back to pulling at his jeans. Xander bucked up and tried to use his arms to pull free of Spike's embrace around his knees, but it didn't work and he collapsed onto the bed as Spike pulled his belt free and started wrapping it around Xander's ankles. Pounding footsteps in the hallway announced Angel's approach no more than a few seconds before the door flew open.

Xander didn't know what he expected, but Spike surprised him by not even reacting to his sire's presence as he finished buckling the belt that trapped Xander's ankles.

"Xander?" Angel asked from the doorway in a voice even more confused than normal.

"Get him off me," Xander begged, and yeah, having to beg Angel for anything fairly well sucked big time, but it was better than the alternative because Spike was still in game face looking seriously pissed.

"Spike?" Angel asked in an equally confused voice.

"Get out, Peaches. This don't have anythin' to do with you." Spike turned and gave his sire a long look before turning back around to pull Xander's shoes and socks off. Xander looked up at the larger vampire standing in the open doorway hoping to send his own silent message, but Angel refused to look at him.

"Aren't you supposed to be doing the whole rescue thing here?" Xander asked desperately as Spike pulled him even closer so that his bound feet touched the floor and Spike started pushing up on the shirt Spike had given him in the back of the van. "Angel?" Xander squeaked as he looked up desperately.

"Spike, maybe you should…."

"Angel, I don't have time to deal with your guilt on top of this, so if ya want to do any good, take your cheerleader out for dinner."

"The sun is coming up."

"Figure somethin' out, just bugger off."

"Angel?" Xander begged weakly as Spike forced the shirt over his head, pulling the shirt off him.

"Xander, I…" Angel stopped, and Xander suddenly knew that he couldn't look to Angel for protection. Spike was his family, and Xander was just the tag-along he put up with the same way Angel had put up with him for Buffy's sake. Xander turned his head, watching the green drapes and letting himself go limp as Spike pulled his hands together and tied them with the shirt.

"Not now, mate. Just get out," Spike said and then he grabbed Xander by the arms and shifted him so that Xander's head was on the pillow, pushing Xander's legs up onto the bed.

"Xander," Angel said, but Xander just continued to stare at the curtains. Angel had chosen a side, and Xander just had to accept that. Angel made small sighing noises. "I'll be right down the hall," Angel finally offered.

"Just stay the hell out of this, ya overgrown potato farmer," Spike said as he straddled Xander's body, and Xander trembled as he raised his hands over his head to give Spike more access to his chest. Spike had punished him in the past, and the whole throwing punches was way more punish-worthy than whatever he had done last time, which he couldn't even remember now.

Angel didn't say anything else, but the door closed, and Xander closed his eyes and waited. And he waited. He had intended to just stay quiet during the punishment, but he found he couldn't wait with the lack of punishment—he opened his eyes to find Spike just sitting on his thighs.

"Well?" he asked, and then shut his mouth quickly because antagonizing the demon sitting on him was a very Droopish thing to do.

"Well what?" Spike asked as he shifted and leaned forward, bracing his hands on his thighs. Xander just stared up silently.

"Bloody hell, can't keep up with your mood shift today. What the hell am I going to do with you?"

"Um, let me go?

"Is that what you want?"

"Uh, yeah."

"Why?" Spike asked in a curious voice, his head tilted.

"Um, huh?" Xander asked. Of all the possible responses, he wouldn't have guessed this one. "What do you mean why?"

"Why the soddin' hell are you suddenly so keen on walkin' away?" Spike asked, his eyes now blue and curious and locked onto Xander in a way that made Xander squirm. He looked away before answering.

"Um, to be free?" he answered in his best 'no-duh' voice. Of course, the minute it came out of his mouth, he flinched. Just stop trying to annoy the vampire, Xander ordered himself.

"Not buyin' it, pet. Start talking. What are you thinking right now?"

Xander simply stared off toward the curtain again, and then he gasped as Spike pulled his jeans open, the sound of the zipper loud in the silence of the room. Xander didn't even have time to bring his bound hands down to protect himself before he found himself flipped over to his stomach with his jeans around his knees. He heard the sound of Spike's hand hitting his ass before the heat of the strike registered in his brain. And even then, his brain obviously didn't get the right message because the sharp heat and sting made him groan in need and ache in ways that had nothing to do with punishment.

"Well? Ya ready to talk now?"

Xander remained silent, not really sure how to answer since the only answer he had would just make Spike more angry. Of course keeping silent wasn't smart either, and Xander gasped as another set of slaps landed on his backside, harder this time. He tried pushing up using his hands, and Spike easily pushed him back down to the bed before finishing off with three hard swats that definitely crossed the line between fun pain and not-so fun pain.

"Ow," Xander complained as he squirmed.

"So, tell me what you're thinkin', pet." Spike scooted backwards so that his weight was on the back of Xander's knees, and Xander blinked to keep the tears from his eyes, and he opened his mouth without saying anything. Five more slaps, harder than any previous hits sent him struggling to crawl up the bed, away from Spike, but strong hands closed over his hips and held him in place.

"Stop, please, just stop," Xander begged, barely getting out one word at a time with his ragged breath.

"What are you feeling?" Spike asked calmly.

"Scared," Xander immediately answered.

"Of what?"

"The vampire hitting me?" Xander could hear the incredulous, snotty tone in his own voice, and he braced himself for more hits that didn't come.

"What about me scares ya, pet?" Spike simply asked.

"Um, the hitting?"

"Why does the hitting scare ya? What do you think will happen?"

"Hitting… hurting… hurting… hitting, what's not to fear?" Xander gave a yelp when he found himself flipped onto his back, his hot butt hitting the bedspread and making him arch up away from the sting. Spike's hands on his hips pushed him back down and Xander tried to ignore his hard cock laying against his stomach just like he tried to ignore the feeling of every wrinkle and fiber in the bedspread pressing against his hot, tender skin.

"Do ya really think I'd hurt ya, pet?"

Xander looked up, and Spike had a confused and possibly even hurt expression. "There was the whole microscope thing," Xander pointed out, dropping his eyes back down and looking at his own treacherous cock still hard despite his own best interests to control it.

"Oi, that doesn't count."

"You gave me a concussion."

"That was before."

"Before Buffy," Xander said quietly.

"Before I fell in love with you, you git," Spike corrected him, and Xander looked up. "Bloody hell, have I ever hurt you since the day I came and found ya?" Spike demanded, and Xander had to think back on that.

"Um, no?" Xander didn't miss the way Spike flinched at his answer, and his own stomach knotted at the expression on Spike's face. However, Spike just reached down and cupped his cheek.

"Wouldn't ever hurt ya, pet. So what makes ya fear me?"

"Stupid not to, not that I'm all not-stupid guy."

"What are you afraid I'll do, pet?"

"The hurting isn't enough?"

"Don't really seem to be botherin' ya much, truth be told," Spike said, and Xander gasped for air as Spike's hand closed around his cock.

"And yet the lack of bothering is really kinda bothering," Xander answered, pulling at the shirt tied around his wrists even though he knew from experience that anything Spike tied was going to stay tied until Spike untied it.

"Bloody hell, you're feelin' afraid of not being afraid?" Spike demanded as he sat up and gave Xander the most confused look Xander had seen since the day Spike had first tried to figure out the washing machine.

"I'm not supposed to want this," Xander said quietly as he dropped his gaze back down to his own stubbornly hard cock.

"Bollocks, if we're going to worry about 'supposed to,' I'm supposed to be out there eatin' the villagers. Hell, after what Angelus taught me, I'm supposed ta be drinking down nuns and burning churches. Poof always did have a thing against the Catholic church. So, let's leave 'supposed to' out of this."

"And yet I'm not feeling better," Xander pointed out with a partial shrug. His tied hands made the gesture awkward and as his ass settled into a dull throb, his cock twitched in time with the pain.

"Balmy git. Why aren't ya supposed ta like this?"

"Um, hello. Not really manly to be all okay with getting tied up and spanked."

"So, you're afraid of me makin' ya enjoy this?" Spike tightened his hand around Xander's cock and started a slow stroke, the heat of dry skin pulling against dry skin heating Xander's cock deliciously.

"No," Xander objected, pushing against the hand Spike held on his chest keeping him down on the bed. Spike gave him a wicked leer, the tip of his tongue appearing between his lips, and Xander pushed harder. "NO." Xander bucked up and shoved Spike's hand off his chest.

The vampire was so surprised that Xander managed to knock him off balance and push him back. Twisting to his side, Xander threw himself toward the edge of the bed even though some part of his brain pointed out that he had less than zero chance of getting anywhere. Spike proved that by grabbing his shoulder, and then Xander found himself tossed back onto the bed, Spike's weight pressing down on him, his bound wrists trapped between their bodies.

"Off. Get off!" Xander demanded, bucking wildly but not managing to do more than rise an inch from the bed before Spike's weight and his bound ankles conspired to trap him.

"Calm down."

"Off," Xander demanded again, and he got about as far as he had last time.

"Bloody hell, just calm down."

"Just—" Xander stopped as he anger suddenly flipped into hot shame that brought tears to his eyes. He wasn't strong enough to stop Spike. He couldn't free himself… he couldn't even stop his cock from lying between them hard and aching even now.

"Xander, listen. Can ya hear me?"

"Yeah," Xander let his body go limp under Spike's weight. "I can't. Please, just… please." Xander closed his eyes and tried to ignore his body's reaction to being trapped under Spike. Except now Spike was sliding off to the side, his body resting on the bed and leaning against Xander's side, a single arm around Xander's waist holding him in place.

"Just what, pet? You're actin' weirder than usual here, and I'm not following wherever you're goin' in your head." Spike's one hand traced small figures on the bare skin of his side while the other went to Xander's hair.

"I just want out." Xander knew Spike heard him because the body beside him went suddenly still. "Please, just untie me," Xander asked softly with his eyes still closed. He didn't want to see Spike's expression because he knew that if he had to see the betrayal on Spike's face he couldn't go through with it, and he needed to go through with it.


"Not your pet."

"Xander, open your eyes and look at me."

Even though Xander didn't want to, he did open his eyes, his body trained to accept orders even when his common sense told him it was a stupid thing to do, and yes stupid was the word of the day because he could feel his stomach twist into a cold knot as he looked at the expression on Spike's face. The same cold, distant expression he'd sometimes use on Angel. The same expression he often got when someone mentioned Buffy.

"Remember what she said about this?" Spike asked, and the hand released Xander's waist to reach up and trace the edges of the tattooed snake and falcon.

"And this would be the woman that kidnapped you and does all this crazy stuff? I'm thinking she might not be the most reliable source of information," Xander pointed out.

"Tell me why."

"Doesn't matter."

"It bloody well does. I'm not letting go of you because some bug crawled up your butt and died."

"And you were the poet?" Xander asked, making a small laugh that immediately died when Spike's face took on a sharper look.

"Listen, if ya still want to be free in the morning, we'll call the Poof in here and he'll help ya get set up somewhere else. He'll make sure I don't even know where ya are, and he'll make sure ya have enough of my money to make a new life," Spike said. "Hell, it'll make him so happy we'll have to check and make sure his soddin' soul stayed plastered on."

"You'd do—" Xander stopped, not sure how he felt about that.

"I'd do whatever it took ta make ya happy, but I'm not walkin' away from this until you can give me a reason other than 'supposed to' or 'it doesn't matter'."

"That's about it for reasons. I got nothing else here," Xander quickly answered and then found himself even more quickly flipped back over onto his stomach, his hands trapped beneath his stomach, and Spike this time straddling his upper back and shoulders. And like last time, the swats on his butt made the skin burn and sting as Xander squirmed.

"So, let's get something straight here, pet. I'm not walkin' away without a good reason, and you're not goin' to lie ta me as long as you belong to me, which will be until you can come up with a better reason than any of the rot you've tried so far."

Spike spanked him five more times, and Xander yelped in pain. He just knew his ass had to be red with Spike-shaped handprints. "So, why are ya scared of enjoyin' this?"

"I shouldn't," Xander cried out, hoping to stop the swats. Spike's cool hand now ran over the heated skin, soothing the flesh and making Xander squirm and pull at the leather around his ankles.

"Why not, pet?"

"It's not normal."

"Not like you've had a normal life last year or so," Spike pointed out and Xander remained silent. "So what have you got to feel guilty about?" Spike's finger slipped down into the crease of Xander's ass, barely brushing the edge of the hidden hole and sending a hot spike of lust straight to Xander's cock.

Xander gathered his thoughts, trying to figure out a way to answer that, but he didn't answer fast enough. The hand that had soothed his bruised backside raised up and delivered five hot, hard, sharp slaps to the bottom part of his ass, right where he would have to sit and feel it. Xander yelped.

"What have ya got to feel guilty about?" Spike repeated.

"Rape would be one."

"Ya didn't rape anyone. Bloody hell, you lot with souls can turn anythin' into guilt. You happened to be attached to the cock the slavers used, but you weren't controllin' it any more than she was." And the hand that had spanked him now returned to soothing the angry flesh, gently tracing the lines curves of Xander's body.

"Like usual," Xander snorted as he tried to squirm his hands into a more comfortable position.

"What's that mean, pet?"


"How is it you don't usually control your cock?"

Xander froze as he realized what he had let slip. "Just that it follows orders now… get hard, get soft, come now." Xander stopped when another set of slaps targeted his upper thighs.

"You usually lie better'n that, pet."

"Out of practice," Xander admitted after several deep breaths. He wasn't sure whether his needy gasps were him struggling through the pain of the spanking or fighting the need to thrust his hard cock into the bed below him.

"So let's try this again. How is it you don't usually control your cock?"

"I just… can't we just skip the humiliation and get on to the blaming part of the breakup?" Xander asked, and a sharp pinch on his already hot ass told him the answer to that.

"I shouldn't want this," Xander said helplessly.

"And we're moving backwards now 'cause you already pointed that out. Why shouldn't you want this? What's wrong with knowing that I'm here to protect you and make sure you don't go hurting yourself? What's wrong with trustin' me?" Spike's weight disappeared off his back, and then Xander was pulled up so that he was on his side and half in Spike's lap as the vampire leaned against the headboard. Xander pulled up his knees so that he was curled up with his upper body resting against Spike's thighs.

"A real man should do the whole protector thing, and here I am curled up in your lap about two seconds away from crying, and this is doing bad things to my manliness," Xander admitted softly.

"Nothin' wrong with wanting to have a safe place ta hide after the things you've seen, pet." Spike's hand went back to Xander's hair, petting gently.

"Not really blaming the kidnapping and torture thing. I'm thinking I was wired wrong from day one."

"Ya aren't wired wrong, pet. Nothing in the world wrong with you except havin' too big of a heart."

"Not really. I shouldn't want this. I never should have wanted this because ya know, wanting something on a Hellmouth, not so smart. And I've lived on a Hellmouth long enough to know that wanting something on a Hellmouth is not so much with the smartness, and really I'm hoping you're going to do something to stop me here because the whole babble thing… not really my thing anymore." Xander took a deep breath as the tears he had so recently fought back threatened once more.

"What did ya want, pet?"

"Oh, that's the thing. It's not really what I wanted, but I kinda wanted it, but you know what they say about being careful for what you wish for. That goes double on a Hellmouth."

"What did you wish for, pet?"

"I was just so damn tired of being there for everyone, ya know?" Xander's guilt made the words hard to say.

"Yeah, pet. Always bein' there and not havin' anyone see that you're there. I know."

"And really, it was so damn stupid."

"We all wish for somethin' stupid sometimes. Me, I wished for Cecily. She probably turned into a bloody shrew who verbally emasculated her husband. Lots of Victorian women did that."

"I wished for Faith," Xander admitted in a whisper so small only a vampire could hear.

"From what I hear, ya got Faith."

"Yeah, but I wished for more, ya know. I was so tired of being scared and fighting, and I'm really a coward and no one figured out that I was this big fraud. Nearly peed my pants taking on Angelus with a rock."

"Most men pee their pants when faced with Angelus. Armed and trained soldiers peed their pants. Takin' him on with a rock should've made you pee your pants."

"But Willow and Buffy, after they got over being mad about the whole 'kick his ass' comment, after that they were all complimenty about how I would always back them up, and really, I just wanted an excuse to not have to, which is, you know, big time wrong. And then along comes Faith… she just grabbed me and threw me down and oh buddy was that a good time, at least for me because I finished a little quick for her I think."

"You thought she'd be the excuse." Spike's words were soft but sure, and Xander flinched as he realized Spike had untangled his disjointed story.

He nodded. "I used to have this daydream where she came to my house and just took me, and then I'd be her love slave and I'd have an excuse to not have to be the cavalry with the rock, and how pathetic am I?"

"Lots of people have fantasies, pet."

"I fucking fantasized about playing sex slave to evil slayer girl. My fantasy was how to abandon my friends and get away with it. My fantasy was to have evil ride up and take me away and turn me into their little pet, and you know, I'm thinking I kinda deserved Leshar because with the exception of the whole male thing and evil thing and selling my services thing, that was sorta my whole fantasy, wasn't it?" Xander's words rose in volume as his anger returned, his anger at himself and at Leshar who had made that dirty little thought all too real. Of course, his dirty little thoughts never included the death… the pain… the fear and the guilt and the hatred.

"Soddin'… ." Spike paused before continuing. "Pet, fantasy isn't reality. Ya don't have anything to feel guilty about."

"And when I was with Leshar, and he killed that girl, when I looked at her blood-- I told myself it wasn't my fault because I was *just* a slave and I didn't have choices and I didn't have to be the hero any more, and a part of me was way too okay with that," Xander blurted in one breath.

"You were just tryin' to survive."

"And now? I'm the little slave serving master and I can hide, and this… it isn't right. I shouldn't want this. I should want to be free."

"Why isn't it right?"

"Um, thought that was a little obvious."

"No soul, pet. Sometimes you lot with souls have funny ideas about right and wrong."

"I'm hiding. I should be out there fixing what I screwed up and instead I'm lying in your lap crying." Xander reached up as he finally realized he was crying, and wiped his tears away.

"Right. So let's take this one soddin' issue at a time. First, why do you feel guilty about abandoning your friends? Ya never did that. Ya stood by them until the day someone ripped you away."

"And yet I wanted to leave." Xander wiped at the new tears that appeared.

"The slayer bloody well *did* leave. Red thought about leavin', goin' to college somewhere else and lettin' you lot handle the Hellmouth. Peaches left—couldn't take it any more. Love Joyce like a mother, and yet her first reaction to findin' out 'bout the slayer package was to push Buffy away. Everyone wants to walk away when it gets tough, but you stayed put. You kept right on playin' white knight even when ya didn't want to."

"Doctor Spike," Xander said with a small smile. "Not to be confused with Doctor Spock or Mr. Spock or Mr. Rogers."

"Loon." Spike answered with a familiar tug on a lock of hair. "And havin' fantasies doesn't mean Leshar is one bit less evil, and while I don't have a problem with evil in general, evil that touches my humans has a short life expectancy."

"I shouldn't want—"

Spike interrupted. "Bloody hell, Xander, millions if not billions of dollars get spent on cuffs and restraints and bars and bloody fancy silk rope. If it's so bloody wrong, why the hell are so many people doin' it? And there are not that many soddin' demons out there with internet shopping habits and credit cards."

"They don't hate themselves like I do," Xander pointed out as he stared at absolutely nothing, the entire room out of focus.

"Pet, listen to me. I'm not Leshar, and I'm not goin' ta force anythin' on ya." Spike voice had a small tremor that Xander could barely hear. "People give themselves to each other because it makes them feel whole and needed. People make commitments because it's what works for them… it's how they make each other feel good." Spike's hand stopped stoking Xander's hair, and Xander allowed Spike to push him up so that he was leaning against the headboard as Spike reached over and untied Xander hands.

"There's nothin' wrong with you and there's nothin' wrong with wanting to feel good and wantin' to make someone else feel good." The shirt came free, and Xander rubbed his wrists and watched as Spike reached down and pulled Xander's jeans up far enough for him to reach the buckle of the belt.

"You're a stupidly brave human, always fightin' for other people, and this rot about you tryin' to run away *is* rot. Otherwise, you would have made Faith the offer. She was tempted away by her need for approval, but you were the one who stayed strong." Spike pulled the belt free before dropping it on the floor next to the bed.

"I'll miss you, but if you can't be with me without tearin' yourself apart, I understand that." Spike kept his back to Xander as he walked over to the dresser and grabbed the duster draped over the chair next to it.

"Just don't ever tell me where ya are because I will come lookin' for ya, and you will find yourself chained to my bed for the next decade or so. Angel probably already has some safe house picked out, and trust me, he might be broody, but he can keep a secret." The click of the lighter and the smell of cigarette filled the silence as Spike lit a cigarette, and it was only in the silence that Xander suddenly understood Spike's offer. He pulled his jeans up and stood next to the bed.

"Spike?" Xander asked.

"You never gave yourself to me. Should've seen that, but I never have been very good at seein' what I didn't want to see. You needed somewhere to heal and find yourself again, but don't ever think that needin' that makes you any less strong. Different kinds of strength in the world, that's what the unsouled version of Peaches never did figure out. He thought he needed to run around killin' and that anyone who did somethin' different was weak."

"You aren't weak," Xander said, recognizing the pain in Spike's words.

"You aren't either, pet," Spike answered without turning around, the smoke from his cigarette drifting up to the ceiling. "Just always keep that in mind." Spike took a deep pull at the cigarette so that Xander could see the reddish glow like a halo around Spike's head in the dim room. He waited for something else, but Spike didn't say anything else, and Xander stood in the dark not sure how to mend the sudden rift he could feel between them. He wasn't sure he knew how to or if he wanted to or if he should. Standing in the dim room, Xander suddenly wasn't sure of anything any more.


Chapter 23:

Xander stood by the bed, and he wanted nothing other than to make the last week disappear. He wanted to go to back to where he could give Spike what he needed, but he couldn't figure out how to do that without turning into what Leshar had tried to make him. Well, that was kinda assuming he wasn't already what Leshar had tried to make him because a year ago he wouldn't have been sleeping with the evil dead. No, back then he just fantasized about murderous slayers, which really wasn't much better.

"Spike?" Xander called again, almost hoping the vampire would grab him, tie him up, make him stay, take away the guilt because it wouldn't be his fault. Maybe Spike could even give him something to think about before his brain exploded from the babble. Instead Spike stood unnaturally still. Xander waited for an answer or some response, but when nothing came, he took a step back toward the door. In the back of his mind he expected Spike to spin around and grab him, but that didn't happen. He took another step as he fastened the button to his jeans. His stretched shirt was lying next to the side of the bed closer to Spike, and Xander left it as he retreated one inch at a time.

"Spike?" Xander whispered even as his hand reached out and curled around the cold metal of the door knob. The only response was another red halo as Spike drew a deep drag on the cigarette. Xander could feel an overwhelming panic rise in his chest as he turned the knob... enough that he really thought he might just have a heart attack and die, which might be of the good because it would hurt less.

Xander pulled the door open and then he found himself fleeing down the hallway, his bare feet pounding down the threadbare carpeting as he fled away from Spike and away from the stairs that led to the lobby and away from everything familiar as he ran down corridors that were increasingly dusty and unused.

Turning one corner after another, he charged up a set of narrow stairs into a section of the hotel that must have once been scheduled for a renovation that never happened, boards stacked up along the wall and unwrapped rolls of ugly wallpaper propped up in door jams. When Xander stubbed a bare toe against an abandoned hammer in the middle of the hall, he stumbled and went down to his knees.

Somehow getting up took more energy than he could find in himself. Instead he scooted over to the wall where he could sit with his back braced against the decaying wall and pull his knees up to his chest and cry. Somehow standing up for himself and walking away from Spike didn't make him feel stronger... it just made him feel lost.

Xander tried to let go and cry, but he found his eyes dry as he stared at the cobweb decorating the doorjam across the hall, tiny white threads stretching from one side to the other, a masterpiece in buggy building, and Xander felt a need to go over and rip it apart. Not logical, but he really wasn't feeling big on the logic lately. Of course he was too tired to even lift his head from his knees much less crawl the whole five feet to the other side of the hallway. So instead he sat and let his mind slowly wind down to nothing as he stared at the milky strands.

"Xander?" a deep voice asked, and Xander knew the voice and ignored it. It wasn't the voice he wanted to hear, and he didn't want to want to hear that voice, and he really needed to find a good therapist because that didn't even make sense to him.

A heavy body sat next to him, and Xander could feel the movement of air over his bare arm even though he continued to trace the pattern of the spider web. He could also feel his back sending a warning cramp that told him he'd been here way too long. But at least he was feeling something other than the grey emptiness, so he didn't stretch. The muscle running from his backbone to his right side sent warning twinges of a coming cramp, and Xander let himself concentrate on that rather than the wrong vampire sitting next to him.

"He's pretty upset," Angel started, and then the silence came again. Xander tried to tune his words out, but he couldn’t. He wanted to know what Spike was feeling, and part of him was glad Spike was upset because Spike didn't want him, or at least Spike didn't want him enough to keep him. Or maybe Spike… Xander stopped his brain before it burnt out and went back to focusing on the muscle twinges in his back.

"He's afraid you're going to do something to hurt yourself, but he doesn't want you to feel pressured." Angel's explanation made sense since Xander didn't think the older vampire would track him down without Spike asking him to. Xander still didn't know how he felt about that though. He wanted Spike to pressure him... he wanted to go back to what he'd had a month ago.

"I heard most of the conversation," Angel said, and then fell silent. As the two men sat in the hallway, Xander had an image of the spider making webs over them as they sat silent because neither of them was big with the knowing how to start conversations. Droopy Harris had some seriously mad talking skills but Xander couldn't find that part of himself. He just wanted Angel to go away so he could die in private. Just sit until he rotted away. Leshar used to brag that his slaves could do that, didn't he? The silence continued and Xander lost himself in wondering whether he wanted to just sit and fade away or if that would be more proof of his cowardice what with the leaving the woman and his child and Willow and Joyce and Spike and Cordelia.

"You aren't weak," Angel blurted into the silence. Xander tilted his head so he could look at Angel. The vamp had a pained expression on his face.

"You don't have to give me a pep talk," Xander let the other man off the hook. "I'm not going to throw myself off the roof." Nope, he wasn't going to be all dramatic if he did it. He expected Angel to run for it, and from the expression on Angel's face, he was pretty close to it. Instead, the vamp sighed.

"Xander, being with Spike doesn't make you weak."

"I thought you'd be happy we're not a 'we' anymore," Xander answered, ignoring Angel's lie and trying really hard not to be humiliated that Angel had heard his secrets. Hell, after working in Leshar's whorehouse, he should be beyond embarrassment.

Angel sighed again, and for a creature that didn't have to breathe, he did that a lot. "I didn't have a problem with you and Spike."

"You checked up on us all the time."

"Until you started torturing me. Once you started going out of your way to make me miserable, I figured you were back to normal," Angel flinched at his own mistake as Xander raised his eyebrows in disbelief. "Okay, I thought you were close enough to normal that you could stand up for yourself even against Spike. And I was right." Angel shifted uncomfortably on the hard floor, and Xander figured the vamp didn't spend much time on a hard floor.

"Um, not so much with the standing up against Spike," Xander admitted with a shrug. This time, it was Angel's turn to look at him as though he had lost his mind.

"Xander, Spike would rather cut his own arm off than risk taking you back into the slave ring, and yet he took you back in there. Why do you think he did that?"

"Masochistic?" Xander joked, but his humor just made Angel stare at him blankly.

"He never treated you like a slave." Angel's voice was soft and slow as though talking to some mentally impaired child, and Xander clamped down on an urge to hit him.

"Hello? Chains and spankings, not that I really want to discuss this with you," Xander said as he went back to starting at the web.

"I can't say I want to have this discussion either, but you need to think about how Leshar treated you and how Spike treated you. If you want to go somewhere else and start over, Spike is right that I'll support you until you get on your feet. But you really need to start listening to yourself and not to what everyone else tells you… and that includes what I've told you in the past," Angel said, and then he pushed himself up. Xander looked up at Angel for a brief second, surprised that Angel wasn't doing the Angel version of a Snoopy dance at the news. In fact, it sounded vaguely like Angel was telling him to go back to Spike which was rating pretty high on the weird o'meter.

"Angel?" Xander asked.

"Just don't make any quick decisions." Angel turned around and retreated down the hallway, leaving Xander alone with his stubbed toe and spiderweb and whirling thoughts.

Xander stood at the open doorway and watched as Spike shoved unfolded shirts into a dufflebag. While he hadn't noticed it before, Spike's things were spread around the room as if Spike had been here a while. Of course, the vampire tended to spread out and fill any space he was in rather quickly, but he was obviously leaving now. And he hadn't come to look for Xander. Even though he had been the one to flee the room, Xander still couldn't help but feel abandoned, and yeah he knew it was stupid.

"Goin' ta stand there and stare all day?" Spike demanded as he turned back to grab more clothing out of the chest of drawers. Xander jumped a bit. He hadn't realized Spike had seen him since the vampire hadn't reacted.

"Um, maybe."

That made Spike turn and look at him. "Wot?"

"Staring is easier than having to talk. Talkage bad, starage good," Xander said, and then he blushed, realizing that he had admitted that he liked staring at Spike. Obviously not all of his Droopy instincts had left him.

"Pet?" Spike cocked his head to the side, a forgotten black t-shirt dangling from his hand.

"Is that how you see me? As a pet?" Xander held his breath because there was something important here, even if he wasn't entirely sure he understood it.

"Wot? No." Spike's voice went from confused to insistent in a second. "Called Dru a pet, and she weren't exactly pet-like. Bloody hell, the fact is I played beta to her for over a century," Spike admitted without any apology. "Just means I fancy ya."

"I'm just thinking... being a pet was the fantasy, but not really up to being a pet. Or down to being a pet. Not feeling pet-like anyway." Xander said as he started breathing again just in time; he felt a little light-headed from lack of oxygen.

"If it bothers ya, I can stop callin' you that," Spike said slowly and carefully.

"No. As long as you don't mean pet-type pet, it doesn't bother me," which was as close as Xander was going to come to admitting that he liked it.

"Right, never did think of ya as an animal."

"Even when you first bought me?" Xander looked up when Spike didn't immediately answer.

"Bloody hell, I was aggravated that first day. I wanted ta find the girls, and I was scared you'd do something to bollocks that up." Spike took a step forward, tossing the shirt onto the bed. "I was bloody wrong. You're the reason we found them because you never would give up on your friends, even after they gave you up for dead."

Xander flinched at the last point even though he already knew it. "Gave up on myself," he whispered.

"No, you never did, pet. Weak means givin' in, and you stood up even when you didn't want to. You survived and held on to what makes you different from most of the gits out there in the world." Spike took another step forward so that he stood four feet from Xander, and Xander suddenly dropped his eyes to Spike's feet in those big clunky boots.

"And what we do... doesn't that make me weak?"

"Only if you do it because you feel like you don't have another choice, pet. One man is weak for letting someone else break him and force him to his knees. Another man is weak for hiding who he is and never going to his knees when he wants to because he's too afraid of what other people will say. I don't know if what we do makes you weak or not, pet." Spike remained standing several feet away, and Xander chewed on his lower lip.

"Would you still want me if..." Xander stopped. This was a demon and he didn't even know if Spike could want him without owning him.

"Pet, I'll take ya any way ya want. Told Buffy a long time ago I was love's bitch, and I haven't changed. I need to love someone, and I need ta be loved, it's part of who I am. What's more, ya make me happier than anyone else in my life ever has. I don't want ta lose that, but I don't want ta be the one that finishes breakin' you."

Xander blinked rapidly to clear his eyes from the gathering moisture. His throat was tight and when he spoke, the words came out roughly. "And if I wanted to sit next to you on the couch and fight over the remote?"

"Bloody hell, I'll give you the soddin' thing," Spike promised.

"And when it comes to decisions, we can talk them through? You know, decide things together, and hell, maybe I'll even work up to eating at the table," Xander was going for funny, but even he didn't think his joke was actually a joke since it lacked something in the funny department.

"Whatever you want, pet. Not like I'm scoring well in the decision department lately." Spike gave a short laugh even though Xander didn't think he was being very funny either. Funny how both of them lost their funny at the same time.

"And behind closed doors, if I want--" Xander stopped.

"What? What do ya want, pet?" Spike stepped forward again so that only a small space of carpet separated Spike's black boots from Xander's bare feet. Xander bit his lip and stared at those boots. He didn't know if he could do this.

Xander took a small step forward and sank to his knees at Spike's feet, leaning in so that his cheek and the front of his shoulder rested against Spike's leg. "Master?" Xander asked, his stomach knotting in fear even though he had done this a hundred times.

"You're safe," Spike promised, a strong hand resting familiarly on his head, and Xander guessed that Spike could hear his heart. "Doesn't make ya weak at all, admittin' what you need. And never forget that you chose to give me this and you have the right to take it back. I'm not takin' your power--I'm not taking your choices."

"But I'm giving them to you," Xander said, confused as he looked up.

"And I'll hold them for ya as long as you let me, pet. I'll hold the power, but it's still your power to take back if you need to," Spike said as he ran the back of his fingers down Xander's cheek, and Xander shivered in desire. "Never had anyone put me first before. Never had someone trust me like this. Makes me want to ravish ya, pet. And seein' as how you've given me permission, I think I just may." Spike spoke in a low, husky voice that made Xander tremble in lust. "May tie ya to the bed and ravish ya while you're helpless to defend yourself," Spike suggested as he stroked Xander's cheek softly. Xander groaned. "That okay with you, pet?" Spike asked.

"Yes, Master," Xander answered, and the familiar words warmed him in a way they never had before.

"Strip and get on the bed, pet," Spike ordered, and Xander undulated up, intentionally rolling his hips so that they brushed against Spike's thigh. Technically bad form, but the small growl of lust from Spike made it worth it. He stripped as quickly as he could and got on the bed, kneeling in the middle with his back to Spike and the room. Xander could hear Spike moving around behind him, opening the dresser before the rapid clicks of a zipper suggested that the vampire was now naked, and Xander felt his cock harden in anticipation.

He could only hope that his lust wasn't overriding his brain… well, that and he hoped that he didn't hate himself tomorrow and that he didn't freak out tomorrow and that he could actually do the whole normal talking together making decisions thing with Spike and, if he was being perfectly honest, he really hoped Spike tied him down and fucked him into oblivion.

Chapter 24:

"Wonder what I should do with you," Spike asked in a thoughtful voice, and Xander opened his mouth to make a suggestion. A firm hand came down on his ass so hard that he gasped and fell forward onto the bed, catching himself so that he was on all fours, his ass burning with the heat of the strike.

"Didn't give ya permission to talk yet, pet," Spike pointed out in a cheerful voice, and Xander straightened up, tucking his hands in at the small of his back and ducking his head submissively as he realized that he had fallen for one of the simplest tricks. Spike's words hadn't been phrased as a question, not that Spike had ever enforced that rule before. A cool hand ran down his back, a short fingernail scratching lightly over his shoulder blade before sliding down. Looking down, Xander watched as the slender hand came around and cupped his heavy balls, delicate fingers wrapping around Xander's hard erection.

Xander shivered in lust as Spike squeezed.

"Soddin' inconvenient. Make this disappear, pet," Spike ordered as he opened his hand. Xander opened his mouth to protest before another slap on his ass made him think better of it. Okay, soft. He could do soft. Maybe. Xander pulled up any number of horrifying memories, but with Spike here, they couldn't inspire the terror required to make his cock soften. Of course, Spike going all powerful and mastery wasn't exactly helping with the cock thing either. He didn't think he had ever felt such lust burning through him.

Xander bit his lip in frustration and a growing sense of anxiety as he realized he couldn't control his erection. Despite his best effort, he remained hard. Even the fear of disappointing Spike only took the edge off his gathering orgasm without actually making him soften.

"Need some help there?" Spike asked with another squeeze, and Xander knew that one good stroke and he'd be soft because he'd come all over himself.

"Yes, Master," he answered quietly and respectfully. Just saying the word 'Master' caused a shiver down his backbone. The word was familiar, but the feeling of saying it out of choice transformed it so that it warmed Xander in an unfamiliar way.

"Well you stay, and I mean that—not a muscle moved." Spike let go and disappeared from sight. He could hear Spike go to the small refrigerator where he kept blood. However, Xander held position, listening as the bathroom water ran, and even though he was dying of curiosity, he held position. He'd given the choices to Spike, and breaking a rule would be bad. It would be breaking what he and Spike had together, and he was honest enough with himself to know that he couldn't survive that. Besides, as bad as he wanted to come—and he wanted to come pretty damn bad—he wanted to please Spike even more.

When a bowl of ice water appeared in his vision, Xander barely had time to wonder what Spike was doing before he found his cock and balls dunked into the frigid water. His first instinct was to pull his legs together and cover his genitals and possibly to swear colorfully, but he relied on his training and held position as he gasped for air that he couldn't seem to find. Within seconds, his cock had shrunk to an embarrassingly small size and his balls ached from the cold.

"Ya alright, pet?" Spike asked as he lowered the bowl. Even though Spike didn't say it, Xander could hear the offer to stop in the concerned tone.

"Yes, Master," he answered immediately, trusting that whatever devious idea Spike had in his brain, it would be more than worth it. Sometimes he appreciated having a century-old lover.

"Right, I'll just hurry then." Spike put the bowl on the end table and took the towel that was draped over his arm to towel off Xander's genitals quickly as Xander knelt with this hands behind his back. As soon as the cock was dry, he could feel the stirrings return, but before he could do more than twitch in anticipation, Spike had grabbed his cock and balls and slipped them through the hole into the pouch from the show.

Xander groaned, both because he realized that he would never get hard in this thing and because he remembered what Spike had done to him last time. The feeling of Spike driving into him while his cock was imprisoned had driven him to a whole new level of lust. Really, really nice levels of lust. Nirvana-y levels of lust.

He watched with lowered gaze as Spike locked the leather belt around his hips and then attached the front strap from the pouch to the belt, tightening it to keep the pouch close to the body. When Spike walked away, Xander expected to feel his Master line up behind him and thrust. In fact, he shivered in anticipation of feeling Spike taking him, needing him, pinning him to the bed and ravishing him. Instead a hand slapped him playfully on a hip.

"Hands and knees."

Xander immediately obeyed and a wet finger began playing with the sensitive skin behind his balls. Xander's breaths started coming with little pained moans as his cock fought against the pouch. Spike's finger circled his sensitive entrance, teasing the raised skin around the hole without penetrating until Xander's cock sent jagged bolts of desire and need through his body.

"Hurt?" Spike asked. Xander remained silent since he couldn't quite figure out how to answer that. Yes and no. He could feel the strain in every part of his body: every muscle, every ligament, every cell. But while he might call the hot trails running through his body pain at another time, right now they were something else, not pain but not not pain. Yeah, brain cells were abandoning him.

"Do ya want it to stop?" Spike amended himself.

"No, Master," he immediately answered that one. From the laugh Spike gave, Xander suspected that the vamp understood. A finger slipped inside, quickly followed by a second, and that stretching-straining sensation added to the symphony that was quickly overwhelming Xander. He could feel his arms tremble with the strain while his vision blurred until even the horrible pattern on Angel's bedspread disappeared in a blue-green haze. Spike wasn't doing any more than usual, but Xander could feel every touch like fire. When Spike added a third finger, he suspected the noise he made could be called a whine.

Then Spike stopped, his fingers buried and motionless.

"Whose are you, pet?"

"Yours, Master," Xander answered truthfully.

"And that's because you chose it, innit?"

"Yes, Master."

"Mine to play with and love and torture," Spike said quietly, and the torture might have worried Xander except that Spike chose that moment to press in and press into his prostate hard enough to send white flares through Xander's vision.

"Yes, Master," he practically yelped. A hand came down on his ass and the sound seemed to echo in Xander's hearing as his body jerking in an impotent imitation of an orgasm.

"Don't remember askin' you a question. Seems like someone's not payin' attention," Spike accused him in an amused voice, and Xander could only pant as the fingers retreated, leaving Xander's hole feeling cold and slack. Xander knew the noise he made then could qualify as a whine. Knew and really didn't care.

"Kneel up, pet," Spike ordered, and Xander obeyed. Then leather came across the front of his face, a thin strap across his forehead and another across his chin before a curved piece of rubber slipped into his mouth, pressing down on his tongue before the straps tightened, forcing him to bite down on the intruder. Because of the curve of the mouth piece, Xander couldn't spit it out without opening his mouth, and with the harness holding his jaws closed, he was very effectively gagged.

Xander had never liked gags before, but now the very fact that he couldn't say anything, he couldn't protest, he couldn't make Angel's slightly ugly hotel fall down from his screams of lust... well he was discovering he didn't mind gags at all. Spike stood behind him and now embraced him from behind, running hands over Xander's bare stomach before sliding up to pinch Xander's nipples. Xander groaned, the sound now muffled. Everywhere that Spike touched, he could feel the sensation of flesh against flesh long after Spike's hands had moved on. It was as if Spike was leaving a trail of touches that made his whole body come to life one cell at a time.

"Go on, then, let go. Can't get loud even if ya wanted," Spike whispered, his breath stirring the curls around Xander's ear, and letting go seemed like a good idea. Xander let his head fall back to Spike's shoulder, the front of his neck arched out as he grunted and moaned into the gag. When Spike gave a particularly strong pull on his left nipple, Xander yelled, the noise turned into a moan by the gag. Spike then soothed the abused skin, rubbing the nipple with a thumb until it grew warm, and Xander babbled a string of nonsense words, the gag saving him from saying them out loud. The whole time, Xander fought his own body, the urge to thrust and thrash nearly overwhelming him when Spike thrust something firm and long deep into his body.

Xander's hands clutched ineffectually at Spike as his Master stood behind him, his fingers sliding over taut stomach muscles as he explored the small bit of skin he could reach while keeping his hands behind him. One finger brushed by a coarse curl and Xander wanted to beg for the right to touch his Master's cock. But Spike ignored him as he finished by pulling the leather strap from the back of the pouch up through his legs, tightening it and driving the toy deeper into Xander's body before locking it to the belt in back.

Then Spike's hands closed around Xander's wrists. Xander squirmed a little as Spike closed leather cuffs around first his right and then his left wrist. Then the vampire locked the right wrist to a ring on the belt over his right hip, locking Xander's wrist to his side. The left quickly followed.

"On your back." Spike's hands half guided and half lifted him until he had turned so that he was lying in the middle of the bed on his back. Lying on his back, the object in his ass felt twice as large, and Xander knew he would have already come all over himself if Spike hadn't put the pouch on him. Ironically, he felt both an urge to open his legs and release the pressure and to press them tightly together and thrust, but Spike had pushed his legs together when turning him, so Xander lay with his legs together nearly dying of frustration and his own need to move.

Meanwhile Spike wandered the room, eventually bending over to grab his jeans and pull the belt free from the loops. Xander's eyes opened at the thought of Spike using that on his front, which really didn't seem like the best idea. Xander took several deep breaths through his nose and reminded himself to trust Spike, not that it was easy when Spike had that devilish expression on his face. But the whole ice water thing had turned out for the best in that Xander was way past normal lust and into Nirvana-land lust so Xander was going to assume that Spike knew what he was doing with the belt.

"Seems like you're at my mercy now, pet," Spike said with a smile as he walked to the end of the bed and started crawling up Xander's body. Pausing for a moment to wrap the belt around Xander's knees and buckle it, Spike continued until he was on all fours over Xander's face. Smiling the whole time, Spike lowered his weight slowly, and Xander felt the helplessness wash through him. Spike's weight anchored him to the bed, a supernatural creature strong enough to snap him in half pinned him helpless and bound. Pulling at his wrists, Xander strained as his body grew tight with desire.

"Can't say I have much mercy, though," Spike said playfully before kissing Xander's closed lips. Xander desperately wanted to return the kiss, to grab Spike's waist and feel the muscles flex under his hand, to open his mouth and feel Spike's tongue take command. Instead he could only lie there as Spike continued kissing him, now adding small thrusts as he rubbed his erection into Xander's thigh. Xander trembled.

"Let go, pet. Want to feel you movin' under me," Spike said, and Xander's eyes snapped open, looking into an amused yellow gaze for permission before beginning to writhe at the feeling of Spike holding him down, kissing him, pinching his nipples, nibbling at his neck. Xander felt light-headed as he strained against the wrist restraints and struggled to open his legs.

"Forgot somethin'," Spike commented in his innocent voice which always meant he was up to something far less than innocent. Xander couldn't even form a coherent thought before the object in his ass started vibrating. The sensation traveled through his prostate and into his trapped cock, which made a Herculean effort to break through the leather pouch.

Xander did more than squirm then, he bucked and writhed as the vibrations varied from lightly tickling to deeply massaging his prostate. However, Spike never moved, pinning him down so that his strongest and most desperate thrusts were little more than twitches beneath Spike's strength. The world seem to narrow down to just him and Spike, everything else fading into nothingness as he felt Spike rubbing his own hardness against Xander's leg. Then a line of kisses along his collarbone turned into teeth driven deeply into his shoulder muscle, and Xander's whole body tightened and trembled. The world vanished into whiteness where he only dimly felt the dampness of Spike's release and the feeling of being held down.

Xander had the sensation of floating even as Spike curled around him, a strong leg lying over his thighs and Spike's head resting on his shoulder. He didn't even realize how chilled he had become until Spike pulled a blanket over them before settling down to trace small designs over Xander's chest. Xander closed his eyes and let himself fall asleep.

What felt like a lifetime later, Xander wandered his way back to consciousness, Spike's weight still resting against him, pinning one arm down. Using small movements, he tested his bonds again, pulling at one wrist and fighting the muzzle. Nothing shifted. Xander lay staring at a crack across the plaster of the ceiling alone with his own thoughts until Spike woke up and freed him.

He should probably feel guilty. God knows that Giles would have several different varieties of kittens if he walked in. Hell, the man would probably give birth to demon kittens if he walked in. And Xander was trying to avoid even thinking about Willow who would definitely be pulling out the toad spells. But then again, Xander thought Angel would probably just roll his eyes. And Cordelia? Xander suspected that she probably had her own collection of naughty toys. Back in the day, Cordelia had been known to do things like grab him by the cock, pulling him along with those fingernails dangerously close to parts of his body that he preferred unpunctured.

But what had Spike said about some people being cowards for listening to what other people said? Xander hadn't ever seen himself like that since he had done the whole "kick his ass" thing and the bomb in the basement even after getting called the Zeppo thing and the telling Buffy off for walking out on them thing. He'd even dated Anya after the Scoobies had burned through telephone wires pointing out that Hello?!?! Demon?!?! He still remembered the wide-eyed look of shock on Willow's face when he'd shown up with Anya on his arm.

So he wasn't all cowardly in listening to other people about other things, so maybe he shouldn't care about Giles and his potential demon kitten offspring.

"Oi, you're thinkin' awful loud, pet," a tired voice complained, but Xander couldn't exactly answer. He watched as Spike pushed himself up and blinked owlishly while looking around the room.

"Bloody hell, almost sunset. If we hurry, we can get out of here before Peaches goes on any more guilt trips." Xander could only blink up since he wasn't going to be hurrying anywhere anytime soon. At least not unless Spike planned on untying him. Spike must have realized that because he reached down and worked the muzzle buckle, pulling the leather strap loose before pulling the whole harness off so that Xander could finally open his mouth. Xander pushed the mouth piece out onto the mattress away from Spike.

"You alright, pet?" Spike asked.

"Yes, Master," Xander answered, and then he paused, trying to find more words but unsure about both what he wanted to say and whether he had permission to say it.

"Ya look a little unsure 'bout that," Spike commented as he started unbuckling a wrist restraint.

"Master," Xander paused again. "I don't know the rules." Xander said the words quietly.

Immediately Spike stopped moving and looked into Xander's confused eyes. "Bloody hell, some days I really do bollocks things up."

"No, Master," Xander objected.

"I soddin' well do. I went into Lirowaus with no plan other than to impress the bastard. I bloody threatened Angel if he came looking for us at that latest show before the deadline I gave him. I've scared ya into flashbacks at least as often as Willow. And no matter how much I bollocks it all up, you still look at me with this expression of trust that makes me love ya even more." Spike reached up and brushed curls off Xander's forehead before cupping the back of his head and pulling him forward for a kiss.

Xander opened his lips so that their tongues could meet. Spike's kisses were normally demanding, but this time his lips moved slowly and his tongue explored gently. When Spike pulled back, Xander was left blinking in shock and desire.

"Do you really?" Xander asked.

"Really what?"

"Love me?" Xander whispered feeling like a 15 year old girl needing reassurance, but they he'd violated the manly code so often that one more violation shouldn't be such a big deal.

"Yeah, mate, I do. Which is why the rules here aren't all 'bout me. Ya get veto power over anythin' you can't live with, and you have a right to set rules too." Spike promised as he unfastened the belt from around Xander's knees and then started work on releasing the pouch.

"And if I'm okay with doing what you want?" Xander asked.

"Even better. Lets me be as evil as I want. Just don't think that you lose your right ta veto later if ya want." Spike worked on releasing the second wrist, and Xander reached up and cupped Spike's face in his two hands, and the unfamiliar feel of Spike's face made him realize that he had never touched Spike's face. He moved his hand up so that he could run a thumb across one eyebrow, feeling the smooth hairs interrupted by the sharp edge of the scar.

"I kinda like you evil," Xander confessed as he really examined Spike's face. Xander suddenly had the breath stolen from him as Spike pulled him into a passionate kiss, the vampire's strength crushing him to Spike's chest.



Chapter 25

"We're outta here," Spike announced happily as he thudded down the hotel stairs, a duffle with of clothes thrown over his shoulder. Xander felt a brief flicker of guilt that he hadn't folded and packed the bag, but they didn't have time for repacking. However, considering how Spike had stuffed the clothes inside, next time he would just tell Spike to let him handle the clothes, and god he was turning into Cordelia. Given the choice between round two in bed or packing, the man-code demanded that Xander pick sex. And the fact that he left a wet spot large enough for two men in the middle of Angel's bed, where Angel was going to have to smell it and clean it… well, that was just a bonus.

"I know you're not taking Xander before I have a chance to take him shopping."

"Just savin' the boy from a fate worse than death."

"If that were the case, you'd have to save him from yourself," Cordelia shot back. Xander followed Spike down the stairs, hiding a smile as the two exchanged killer glares.

"Oi, never dumped him on Valentine's day, now did I?" Spike asked.

"Well, I never gave him a concussion."

"Yeah, but I made up by actually puttin' out some, unlike some ice queens."

"Someone who wears as much eye make-up as you shouldn't bring queens into the conversation," Cordelia answered with a smile of triumph as she straightened up a stack of papers on the hotel counter. When Xander got to the bottom of the stairs, he leaned against the rail, his hands resting on the hilts of his beloved Sol and Luna knives, but this was one fight Spike was going to have to fight without him because he had long ago learned the futility of going up against Cordelia 'Queen C' Chase.

"If you didn't belong to Peaches…" Spike started, but a deeper voice interrupted him.

"Don't even think about finishing that threat," Angel ordered as he came out of the back office, "and I thought you were leaving."

"Now that you're here, we definitely are." Spike headed for the lobby doors, and Xander followed behind.

"Xander?" Angel's voice stopped him, and Xander turned to look at the vampire who suddenly seemed less broody and pushy than he did just slightly confused. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, Deadboy, I'm fine," Xander answered.

"You know, you don't have to be a stranger just because your significant other is a pain in the ass," Cordelia offered.

"I know. We'll make a trip up so you can drag me to the mall and maybe even do a bit of shopping for baby clothes," Xander said as a peace offering.

"Baby clothes? Oh, you can never start too early if you want little ones to get a good fashion sense, and any little boy or girl with Xander Harris' genes is going to need a little Cordelia Chase intervention to prevent a future tragedy," she answered with a smile that completely cancelled the bitchiness in her words.

"Deal," Xander smiled back.

"Oh bloody hell, not letting her turn any boy or girl of ours into some soddin' cheerleader," Spike complained as he slammed the doors to the hotel open, but Xander could also hear the resignation to adding one more human to his strange little family. However, Xander didn't feel like aggravating the vampire any more than absolutely necessary, so he gave Cordy and Angel a small nod and hurried after his Master.


When they left the hotel, Xander hadn't noticed which direction Spike had turned their car, so when the buildings began to thin and the highway signs started giving distances for Santa Ana and San Diego, Xander cocked his head in confusion.

"Spike, aren't we going the wrong way?" he asked as they passed a sign announcing they were on Interstate 5 South

"Nope." Spike reached over and flipped off the radio, so Xander took that as an invitation to more talk.

"So, are you going to tell me where we're going?"

"Sure thing, pet."

Xander waited in the silence of the car and watched as the corner of Spike's mouth twitched in amusement. "Well?" Xander finally demanded.

"Well wot?"

"Well, where are we going?" Xander's exasperation came out in his tone, and he bit his tongue as he realized what he had done. Spike, however, didn't seem upset as he laughed outright.

"See, ya only had to ask the right question."

"Wait a minute." Xander looked at his Master suspiciously. "You're giving me shit?"

"Yeah, why?" Spike looked over at him for far longer than Xander was comfortable considering they were traveling at about 80 miles an hour.

"I don't know. It just… it's been a long time since someone gave me shit," Xander admitted with a shrug as he realized how many times he had annoyed Spike with similar answers. "And can I just point out that it was not my fault I took questions literally?"

"Bloody hell, you enjoyed annoyin' the shite out of me some days with your question and answer games."

"Yeah, but I would have been all literal-boy even if I hadn't enjoyed watching you fume." Xander smiled shyly. He'd missed this kind of fighting where it wasn't about life and death but just about giving someone crap.


"Your brat," Xander quickly pointed out.

"Bloody right."

"So, where *exactly* are we going?"

"Got business to take care of just south of here. Can't let Leshar keep tryin' ta get back at us, 'specially not with the sprog on the way. Won't put the others in danger when he comes after us, so that means going after him."

Xander tried to come up with a response, but as fear uncurled in his stomach, he found his mouth drying out to the point that he couldn't even swallow.

"Pet? You all right?"

"Um, no. But you're right that we can't have him coming after us. If something happened to Joyce—" Xander stopped there because he really didn't want to even think about something happening to Joyce after all the somethings that had already happened to Joyce.

"Yeah. Wouldn't even want the watcher gettin' killed, although it would save a fortune in therapy bills."

"Spike!" Xander looked at the vampire in shock.

"Just tellin' it like it is, pet."

"So we're going to the … house?" Xander paused in the middle, unable to say the word whore even though he had been one. Hypocrite much, he accused himself silently.

"No. Not enough demons are willin' to pay for a night, so his real business was sellin' slaves. Since the attack in Las Vegas, he's had to take a job workin' for someone else. He's still a trainer, but he doesn't own his own place any more." Spike offered as he slowed the car and started heading for an off-ramp.

"And somehow I'm not feeling sorry for him."

"Just one thing, pet. This is a slaver farm, but not like the one Leshar ran."

"More like Dareh?" Xander asked. Somehow that made it harder because he still hadn't quite decided what he thought of Dareh.

"Yeah, or Calsha. Anyway, we aren't goin' in there to play Abraham Lincoln and free the slaves, so don't make any moves towards the slave stalls."

"But I can't just…" Xander could feel the need to do the right thing and the need to obey Master battle in his mind. Spike pulled the car to a stop and reached over for Xander's hand.

"Look at me, pet," Spike ordered, and Xander looked at his Master, desperate for some way to stop pulling himself apart at the seams.

"I'm a demon, pet. That's what you pledged yourself to. I'm not goin' to change, and part of that means I'm right jealous 'bout keepin' what's mine. You're mine, and I'll do whatever it takes to keep ya happy and alive. That means you can't keep tryin' to save the whole bloody world. You get those slaves out of there, and they'll die of drugs or in a vampire suck house or get shot or they'll just lay down and stop breathin' because they've bloody given up. I know you're a white knight and all, but you can't save everyone, pet. More important, I won't risk losin' you the way I lost Buffy because she tried to fight every bloody fight that came along." Spike took a deep breath, and Xander could see the pain in his face.

"I bloody begged her to bugger off when things started goin' wrong. She called me a soulless coward, and the coward bit stung. Made me right stupid. I should have buggered off and waited, listened until I figured out what was up. If I'd have walked away when I knew we couldn't win…" Spike took a deep breath and looked away out the front of the car where a lamp post illuminated a section of trees. "Maybe I could have gotten Peaches to help. Maybe I could have gotten those Watcher blokes to step in. Maybe I could have done something so that one of the strongest ladies I ever knew didn't die because I bloody drank her dry."

"Spike, that wasn't your…"

"Killin' her wasn't my fault, pet," Spike cut him off. "Tryin' to fight every battle even knowin' that it'd lose me the war, that's my fault. I'm bloody old enough to know better, and that's why I'm tellin' you this now." Spike took a deep breath before turning and making eye contact with Xander again. "I'm Master because I've been around long enough to know trouble, even if I did usually walk right toward it in the past. So, when I tell you it's a battle we aren't goin' to fight, you bloody listen up. I won't lose you like I lost her," Spike let go of Xander's hand and brushed a finger along his jaw. "Trust me that I'm doin' this for your own good," Spike whispered, and Xander could suddenly feel the tension leave him.

"I gave myself to you, Master," he whispered.

"So if I tell you that gettin' involved in trying to shut this place down will bring more evil into the mess than good?" Spike asked. Xander looked into the shadowy face of his master, lit only by the light filtering in through the front window of the car.

"I believe you," Xander said. "And I trust that you're right," Xander finished. Spike nodded once.

"Right then. Got word that Leshar will be prepping a new stable on the other side of those trees. You just stay back. I need to know you're keeping yourself safe."

"I don't need babysitting," Xander protested. "Usually," he added after a second of silence.

Spike only snorted as he opened the car door, the light showing his amused expression. "Yeah, pet, but this revenge is mine." Spike pushed his door closed softly, and Xander hurried out of the car and followed as Spike headed around the stand of trees using a narrow sand path. The high roofline of several buildings stood above the trees, but they were obviously heading for a building on the edge of the compound. As they turned a bend in the path, Xander saw the traditional red wood and the wide doors decorated with X's.

Spike's stride took on that dangerous rolling gait Xander had seen in so many nights of fighting together as they searched the cemeteries for unlucky fledges. Suddenly Spike veered off to one side, and Xander followed without hesitation, not spotting the door until they were feet from it.

Silently Spike slid in the open door, and Xander followed. The cavernous inside of the barn was half transformed, a second story framed in new, yellow wood even though the ceiling hadn't yet been put in place. Bits of straw dotted the wood plank floor and the heavy smell of horses still filled the space. However, Xander didn't see his former trainer, at least not right away.

A heavy thudding noise came from a far stall, and then the low half door swung open as a figure appeared at the far end of the barn. Even with the yellowish and weak light of the single overhead light, Xander recognized the shape that had haunted his nightmares; however, unlike any nightmare, Spike stood between him and the shadowed figure. Xander watched as Spike shrugged his shoulders, his leather coat falling off his shoulders as he stalked forward.

"Vampire." Leshar's body flowed into a defensive posture, one that Xander recognized after his months of training with Spike.

"Think we established that already," Spike answered calmly, and Xander moved closer to the wall as Leshar now stepped forward.

Without another word, Spike struck with one fist, and the sound of flesh hitting flesh filled the air. Leshar's head snapped back, his body following as he stumbled backwards across the wooden floor. But if Xander expected Leshar to go down easily, he had obviously underestimated the demon.

Leshar grabbed a support pillar with one hand and used it to brace himself as he brought his leg up and planted it in Spike's stomach when Spike rushed him. While Spike was bent over in pain, Leshar brought an elbow down onto the back of the vampire's head with a nasty crack. Xander stepped forward, anger rising up to overshadow his fear as he watched Spike fall to the ground. Xander pulled his Sol knife, its blade gleaming even in the dim lights from the overhead bulb.

However, before he could do anything, Spike's foot shot out and slammed into Leshar's ankle, and only the demon's grasp on the pillar kept him from falling to the ground as his feet went out from under him leaving him hanging from the wood post. Before the trainer could get his feet back under him, Spike rolled away and bounced back up. Spinning around he slammed Leshar's head into the post with a powerful backhand and then he kept spinning until he landed a solid punch into Leshar's lower back. The demon lost his grip on the post and fell heavily to the ground.

Spike danced forward and brought his boot up before slamming it down toward Leshar's head, but Leshar grabbed it and yanked hard enough to send Spike crashing to the ground.

"Bloody fucking hell," Spike snarled before kicking with his free leg. Leshar's head snapped back once and then twice from the force of the kicks before he could scramble backwards, still holding Spike's boot.

"You're going to be sorry you ever came here, vampire," Leshar growled as he struggled up onto one knee, and then Spike's hands were scrambling for the broomstick just at the edge of his reach. Leshar must have spotted it because he yanked viciously at Spike's leg just as Spike's fingers closed around the impromptu weapon. Swinging it like a baseball bat, Spike caught Leshar across his face, forcing Leshar to let go.

Then the two demons fell at each other, rolling one over the other in a tangled mass of limbs and fangs and growled insults. Xander tightened his fist around his Sol knife and sent up a quick prayer as he watched helplessly. Then Spike came flying out of the tangle, his arms flailing as he slammed into a wall. Xander brought his knife up ready to jump in, but Spike simply grabbed a chain from the wall and swung it in an arc towards Leshar's head.

The heavy links hit low around Leshar's face, and then the trailing end wrapped around Leshar's neck following the force of the swing. Leshar grabbed the chain trying to pull it free of Spike's grip, but Spike held on. Since he couldn't get free one way, Leshar fumbled with the end that had wrapped around his neck, struggling to pull the loops off himself. However, Spike heaved on the chain, using it like a leash to pull Leshar toward him just as he raised his boot and delivered a sharp kick to the demon's knee, sending Leshar to the ground with a heavy grunt.

Leshar reached out blindly with one hand, but Spike danced away, dragging Leshar across the dusty floor.

"Not quite as arrogant without your soddin' minions, are ya?" Spike demanded, but Leshar could only make a wet gurgling sound as he clawed at the chain around his neck. Because Spike had reached his goal, the chain went slack and Leshar managed to pull a loop of chain away from his neck, but then Spike grabbed the short end of chain that dangled down in front and pulled it tight so that once again the links dug into the flesh of Leshar's neck.

"Filthy half-breed," Leshar snarled, but Spike neatly flipped him over wooden horse so that his back was braced on the three inch wood rail and his legs sprawled awkwardly. Spike pulled the two ends of the chain down and around the wooden brace, pulling Leshar's head tight against the beam.

"Pet, got a padlock in one of my coat's pockets. Bring it here, yeah?" Spike's voice was pleasantly casual even as Leshar's hands curled into claws and reached for him with vicious swipes. Xander stood frozen for a moment before he could shake off his shock and back up to where the coat lay forgotten on the floor. A quick search of pockets and Xander came up with the small silver padlock which he took to Spike.

"Bloody wanker. Not nearly as big now that you're the one all helpless, are ya?" Spike demanded as he slipped the lock through two sections of the chain. Leshar didn't answer, but instead flailed his arms in an impotent attempt to reach Spike. His thick fingers flexed, and Xander found himself staring at those muscular and tough hands which had touched him in so many ways: hands that had whipped him and beaten him and brushed the hair out of his face and locked that first collar around his neck.

Xander couldn't control his heart which raced out of control as Spike stepped back away from his prisoner. Now Leshar's eyes rolled so far to the side that Xander could only see a line of color as the demon watched Spike's pacing.

"I have money," he rasped.

"Mate, I have more money than I'll ever bloody use."

"Contacts. You want to take down slavers, and I can give you names. Exporters. People who run portals and recruit houses."

"Can't say I care. I bloody care more about what you did to my boy and the fuckin' shite you pulled at the last auction. And really there's only one thing I'm looking for now."

"I can…" Leshar's words ended in a grunt as Spike landed a fist into his stomach.

"You can die, mate. That's about all you can do." Spike pushed the demon's shirt up, exposing a grey and lightly scaled belly. The wood horse had cross braces, making two "A" shapes under the top beam, and Spike propped his foot on one of the lower braces and pulled a knife out of his boot. "Think you can handle that?"

Spike ran the knife up underneath Leshar's shirt, the sharp sound of ripping fabric filling the air. As the lightly scaled stomach appeared inch by inch, Xander couldn't help staring. He never knew the power of clothing but standing fully dressed as Spike cheerfully stripped his former trainer... Xander could almost feel the power shift in the room.

Shadows floated across Leshar's body as Spike circled, ripping here and slicing there until the demon lay naked, his legs sprawling wide to keep his balance on the narrow sawhorse.

Xander had expected more cursing or demands or bribes, but Leshar had fallen into a sullen silence even while Spike whistled brightly.

"So, see any place ya want ta start?" Spike asked as conversationally as he might discuss the television channel. Actually, he was calmer. Spike got way more emotional over English soccer. Unreasonably emotional. Popcorn throwing emotional. And Xander recognized the signs of babble. Blinking blankly, Xander opened his mouth without saying anything. He was still trying to figure out how to deal with a universe where Leshar was naked and he was dressed. He really didn't have any answers.

"Guess I'll just get started without ya," Spike commented lightly as he twirled his knife and pursed his lips. His cheekbones sharpened, and the harsh overhead lighting turned the lower half of his face into a shadowy mask. Xander could hear the sharp clanking of chain as Leshar's body jerked against the restraints.

Spike now turned his head as he studied Leshar's vulnerable body, and when Spike's gaze focused on Leshar's genitals, Xander felt his own heart beat faster. Spike stood near Leshar's head and let the tip of the knife rest on the exposed chest as he walked the length of that exposed form.

When the knife reached the midpoint between Leshar's chained neck and the puckered navel, Leshar grabbed for it, but Spike danced back with a malicious laugh, holding the knife high. Xander ended up jumping back too, the sudden movement making him start and tighten his grip on his own precious Sol.

"Not so big now, are ya?" Spike taunted, moving in to run the knife from Leshar's knee up the length of the inner thigh, leaving a thin trail of dull red behind.

"Half-breed," Leshar snapped in return, but somehow his voice, which had always been hard-wired to Xander's fear center, had lost the terror-inducing edge.

"If I gave a tinker's damn 'bout your opinion, I might care what ya have to say." Spike pressed the knife into the flesh a little harder so that gravity pulled a trickle of burgundy-grey blood down the curve of Leshar's leg. Xander stared in shock as Leshar kicked his leg, flicking drops of blood around the room.

"Can't have ya makin' a mess, mate." Spike backed up to the wall and pulled a coil of coarse rope off a hook. Xander watched in silence as Spike grabbed Leshar's wildly thrashing leg, hugging it until he could line it up with the leg of the sawhorse and start winding the rope around both at once. Before it even occurred to Xander to offer his help or object or just comment on how he felt like he'd fallen into an alternate reality, Spike had finished. Both Leshar's legs were lashed to the cross braces. The trainer now lay open and exposed.

"Right, time for some fun now." Spike had put his knife on the floor, and now he picked it up as he circled his prey. Leshar was again strangely silent. His arms were still free, but his hands gripped the wooden horse so tightly that his knuckles were turning white.

"Boy, you know if he does this, my employer will hunt him down. You'll end up back in a stable labeled a dangerous beast. You know what happens to dangerous beasts," Leshar rolled his eyes to the side so that he focused on Xander, and Xander could feel his legs tremble. He did know what happened to dangerous beasts. Vampires weren't the only demons to use humans in their reproductive cycle; in fact, Xander was about 90% sure that the guys who made the Alien movies knew about demons, and ending up a demon egg carrier wasn't a big career goal of his.

"Go for help, boy. Save yourself," Leshar ordered in that soft tone of voice that made his words sound so reasonable, but Xander didn't even consider them. He had no idea whether Leshar was telling the truth about getting hunted down, but he would take that risk to stand by Spike.

Xander smiled at his former trainer. "I won't ever betray Spike," he said quietly, meaning every word. An expression of frustration flashed across Leshar's face before pain twisted his features and his mouth opened in a soundless scream. Stepping back quickly, Xander looked down to find that Spike had worked the edge of the knife under one of the scales on Leshar's ball sac.

The knife twisted farther, pushing the scale up and away from the demon's body until Xander could hear the popping sounds as skin and scale separated. Leshar's back arched up off the sawhorse, and finally a thin thread of sound came from the tortured trainer's mouth.

"That must hurt like a right bitch," Spike offered as he flicked his wrist and the scale ripped free and slid across the wooden floor. Leshar found his voice and began screaming curses in languages that Xander couldn't hope to understand, but Spike simply slid the knife under another scale. In the past, Xander had seen those scales rise in desire, the ball sac bulging out between the spaces warning of Leshar's coming ejaculation, but now Spike had to fight to get the scale up, and Xander could see Leshar's stomach muscles rippling as his body fought the pain.

"Kel'shnak dorta vo woqual ta'alatch," Leshar growled as he flailed his arm in a futile attempt to grab at Spike.

"Don't really think that's goin' to happen, mate," Spike answered as he continued to slowly lift the scale, Leshar's scream rising as the scale rose. A sharp snap like a breaking pencil ended Leshar's scream and now the demon's strained breathing echoed off the wooden walls.

"Bugger! Bloody thing broke. Well, guess I'll just have to be more careful next time," Spike complained, and Xander could see the bloody edge of the broken scale—the base of the scale still protecting the most sensitive skin. Spike slipped the knife in again and started prying more carefully this time, his knife point rocking gently as he worked it under the scale, and the blood starting to run as the knife pierced the ball sac. Leshar's scream blasted Xander's ears as he watched the helpless body twist under Spike's attentions.

"Spike?" Xander stepped forward, carefully avoiding the small network of tributaries fed by Leshar's blood.

"Yeah, pet? You want a run at this?" Spike pulled his knife back and again Leshar's scream of agony turned into the heavy gasps for air.

"Can I?" Xander asked as he raised the golden blade of his own knife.

"Course you can, pet." Spike stepped back and cocked his head in an expression of perfect confusion as Xander stepped up. Leshar's eyes remained closed but Xander rested the cold blade against a shoulder and those flashing yellow eyes opened and looked at him.

"You're still just a slave… the slave I created so your Master could enjoy your loyalty," Leshar snarled weakly.

"No, I'm more than just a slave," Xander replied. "But you're evil, and evil things have to die before they can do more evil." Without giving Spike a chance to protest, Xander drew his knife across Leshar's neck, nearly severing it as he gave his former trainer the cleanest death he could.

"Bloody fuckin' hell, what the fuck you do that for?" Spike swore in one long breath as he jumped to the side to avoid the spray of blood that spewed out of the body in a series of decreasing arcs. Xander looked up at Spike, a part of his mind still babbling in fear at having displeased the Master.

"White knights kill the bad guys, they don't rip their genitals off one piece at a time," Xander said with a shrug as he waited with his knife lowered. He could see Spike's frustration and anger in every line of the vampire's body. "If you're going to punish me for this, could we maybe go somewhere that we're a little less likely to get captured again, because I'm thinking I've reached my lifetime quota for getting captured."

"If I'm… what?" Spike's tight shoulders and stiff back melted into the curves of confusion.

"You aren't going to, you know, get mad about me ruining your fun?"

"Bloody hell, yes I'm mad," Spike instantly snapped, and maybe not all the anger had melted. "But I'm not askin' ya to change for me any more than you're askin' me to change for you."

"So, no punishment?" Xander asked hopefully, giving Spike his best wide-eyed and hopeful expression.

"No. Just not goin' to be happy with ya for a while. I paid his boss a pretty penny for the right to torture him, and now you've gone and bloody killed him."

"So, his boss isn't coming after us. No more revenge? No more big slaver conspiracies?"

"I had a bit more revenge in mind, but someone's gone all noble on me," Spike said as he rolled his eyes and nodded toward the still corpse tied to the sawhorse. "But I'm soddin' well hopin' for no more conspiracies even if I'm not willin' to hold my breath." Spike started walking toward him, and Xander could feel relief loosening all his muscles.

"But, wait," Xander suddenly said as Spike picked up Leshar's torn shirt and then took his Sol knife and started cleaning it. "You don't have to breathe."

"I know that, brat; it's an expression, innit?"

"Bad expression for a vampire," Xander pointed out as he took his now cleaned knife and slid it back into its place at his thigh.

"Not really. Certain person I know can get me breathin' every time he tries," Spike said with one of his naughty grins, one arm slipping around Xander's shoulder and guiding him back out toward the car.

"I can, can't I?"

"After what you did in there… not any time soon, you can't," Spike replied dryly.

"That sounds like a challenge, Master," Xander answered, Leshar and the last year forgotten as he considered that he just might have enough of his mind intact to deal with a child and the child's insane mother and maybe even Giles and Willow.

"Brat," Spike repeated as they reached the car.

"Your brat."

"Always, pet. Goin' to have forever, you and me."

"Promise?" Xander asked softly.

"Yeah, I promise," Spike answered, and even though Xander knew it was a lie because not even Spike could control forever, he knew his vampire would move entire hell dimensions to make it true for as long as possible, and maybe that was enough.

The End

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