Breaking Free


Part Four

Xander mentally shook himself free of the remnants of his flashback as Spike guided him through connecting corridors and down a level. Way to go Xan-man, he thought. Just let the psycho killer know what a mental defect you are. No doubt he’ll use that to play in all the latest fun torture games.

“Watch yer step,” Spike ordered as Xander stumbled on the stairs leading down.

“Right,” Xander replied, “Cuz we wouldn’t want me to break my neck before you break my neck.”

Whelp’s getting back to normal, Spike thought as he tightened his hold on Xander’s arm keeping the boy safely close to him as they continued to go down the stairs.

“Well, you wouldn’t want to disappoint me would ya?” Spike said.

“Only every moment I’m alive,” Xander smoothly provoked his enemy.

“Is stupidity a required course at the Council Academy?” Spike asked as they reached the bottom of the stairs and he jerked Xander face-to-game face with him.

“No, I’m just naturally gifted,” Xander answered without thinking. Oh that was smooth! Xander mentally kicked himself.

Spike looked stunned for a moment and then laughed. “Of that I have no doubt, pet.”

Once again Xander found himself jerked forward though another corridor and then through a hatchway that opened up into a large room which was obviously the mess area. Several people were already seated there; the large black man Xander had previously identified as Gunn, Wesley and a thin woman with bright sunny eyes and long thick brown hair.

The woman got up from the table and almost seemed to bounce over to the doorway. She held out her hand while beaming a warm smile at Xander.

“Hi! I’m Fred,” she began, “short for Winifred Burkle, but everyone calls me Fred. It’s really nice to meet you, Xander, can I call you Xander? Nothing personal, but we don’t recognize Council rank on the DeSoto, makes Spike cranky. Speaking of which I’m really glad Spike didn’t space you.”

Xander blinked. I may have just been out babbled, he thought.

“Uh,” Xander started and tilted a shoulder forward in response to Fred’s offered hand.

“Oh right!” Fred blushed. “Sorry, forgot. Just not used to having prisoners aboard.”

Fred reached out and hooked an arm through Xander’s arm. Fred tugged at Xander’s arm and shot Spike a look. Spike released his hold and allowed Fred to guide Xander to a chair next to where she had been sitting. It was a little too close to the traitor Wesley for Xander’s comfort.

“Don’t undo his hands, luv,” Spike said as he took his own chair across from Xander.

“Right, cuz my table manners have been classified as code three weapons,” Xander said.

Fred laughed nervously. Spike and Xander just glared across the table at each other.

“Well, Spike,” Fred finally said, “he has to eat or at least drink something.”

“No, I’m good,” Xander said. No way do I want anything. Anything leads to a full bladder. A full bladder leads to…, Xander gleefully derailed that uncomfortable and humiliating train of thought.

“Xander,” Wes interjected into the exchange, “what were you doing aboard The Snyder?”
“Enough with the pleasantries, right down to business, eh Wes?” Xander replied as he faced the former Watcher.

“Well, yes,” answered Wesley. “I see no point in delaying the inevitable.”

“You’re obviously not sitting where I am, are you?” Xander answered.

“Harris, Wes asked you a question,” Spike warned.

“And what? You think I’m really going to answer?”  Xander swerved his gaze back to the blonde Biogen captain.

“Xander, it would be better if you would just answer the question,” said Wesley.

“And if you weren’t such a traitor…” Xander let the insult hang.

“Give me five minutes alone with him, Wes,” Gunn sneered from somewhere behind Xander. “In six minutes he’ll have an attitude change and a whole lot of answers.”

“In six minutes,” Xander smoothly replied, “you’ll only have a lot of blood and other icky stuff on your boots, which will be devilishly hard to get out, but I promise you will have no answers.”

Spike watched the exchange. Where was the fear the boy had in the bathroom? What brought it on? Xander was scared now, but he wasn’t panicked. He’s heart rate was elevated but steady. His breathing was even and he wasn’t perspiring above normal. What makes this boy tick? Spike wondered.

“Give it a rest,” Faith voice entered the room before she did. “Ya know Xander, Wes. He may be nothing more than a glorified errand boy, but he’s a loyal errand boy.”

Xander’s focused whipped over to Faith. How you broke Jesse’s heart! Xander silently snarled as he watched her enter the room.

Faith felt the animosity directed her way and looked at Xander. What’s eatin him? she thought.

“Xan,” she acknowledged.

“Faith,” Xander cooly replied.

“What’s the word, gorgeous?” Spike asked noting the odd tension.

“Angel wants us to take the med supplies to…,” Faith paused for a moment and then continued, “…to one of the out lying colonies. I’ll give the coordinates to Wes later.”

“Ah c’mon, Faith,” Xander goaded. “Thought we were doing a community share here?”

Faith smiled; the one Xander used to associate with a killing strike. “If we’re sharing here, Xan, maybe you can tell me why Jesse wasn’t with you on this little mission. Not like B, to send you out without someone who can help you tie your shoe laces.”

Xander snarled and jumped to his feet knocking over his chair. Gunn moved forward instantly and grabbed Xander’s shoulders.

“You don’t fuckin speak his name!”

Faith eyes narrowed. Ok, that wasn’t the response I was going for, she thought. There’s something there.

“Why’s that? Brings back fun memories,” Faith purred.

Xander struggled under Gunn’s grasp. “He hated you. You fuckin used him and he hated you!”

Hated? Faith noted. What’s with the past tense? She was starting to get a bad feeling about this.

“Hated, huh,” Faith replied as she moved closer to Xander. “Sounds like he got over me.”

“Yeah, he did,” Xander spat. “He died.”

Faith paled for a moment. Oh Jesse! Oh Xander!

“Killed by one of your new pals,” Xander continued to explain. “Ripped apart by a fucking soulless Biogen!”

Spike’s eyes narrowed at the exchange. Xander’s heart rate was racing again.

“Xander,” Faith said quietly, “I’m so sor….”

“Don’t say it,” Xander interrupted. “I’ve heard enough of your lies. I don’t care to hear one more.”

“Harris,” Spike said quietly, “sit back down.”

Xander rolled his eye back over to look at Spike. There was no reading the Biogen. Gunn pushed down on Xander’s shoulders. Xander sat down in the chair Wes righted.

“Finish your report, luv,” Spike said to Faith.

“Angel wants the weapons back on Hyperion.”

Hyperion! Xander noted through his pain and anger. Hyperion was the Mecca of Biogens! Its Angel’s base of operations, if I can somehow stay alive, get coordinates to Hyperion and somehow escape…well for one I wouldn’t be Xander Harris. However, it would be quite a blow to the Biogens!

“What about Harris?” Spike asked.

“Well you know what Angel would prefer,” Faith replied. “However, he notes that this is your ship so he’s leaving it up to you.’

Spike looked back again at the boy. “Suggestions?”

“Space ‘im,” growled Gunn.

“Charles!” exclaimed Fred.

Wes smiled at Fred. “I don’t think we have to do anything as extreme. We could perhaps leave him at a Council relay station. He could activate a distress beacon and there would be enough supplies and life support to last until help arrived.”

Xander worked at suppressing the flood of images and terror the thought of a relay station triggered. I can’t do that again, he silently panicked.

Once again Spike noted the boy’s elevated hear rate and this time the quickened breathing. Why do I care? He wondered.

“Faith?” Spike asked.

“Well,” Faith began to answer. This isn’t going to win me any popularity points, she thought before finishing. “I think we should sell him on one of the underground markets run by the Raiders.”

“What?!” shouted Fred and Wesley.

Xander just stared at Faith.

“Listen,” Faith continued, “Xander’s important to B and he’s important to Willow. By now they know he was taken prisoner. They’ll be looking for him. We kill him; we only fire them up for blood. We strand him, they find him too soon and they might be able to get a bead on us. We sell him, we make a small bit of credit and B and Willow’s efforts will be spent looking into the Raider’s markets and tracking him down.”

“And that keeps the Council’s two best weapons off us for awhile and gets them tied up in the Raider problem,” Gunn acknowledged the plan with a smile.

“You take the cake you know Faith? You really should have been called Faithless, or Freak or perhaps just Heartless,” Xander snarled. “Death’s not good enough for you. No, you think slavery’s a better option? I’m glad Jesse is dead. He thought it was bad when you betrayed the Council. If he could see you now he’d probably want to castrate himself rather than have the memory of sleeping with such a….”

“Sombody shut him, up,” Spike ordered as he saw the pain behind Faith’s eyes at Xander’s vicious verbal attack.

“Gladly,” Gunn muttered as clamped a hand over Xander’s mouth. Xander struggled and bit at Gunn’s hand.

“Somebody get me a rag or something before I kill ‘im!” Gunn snarled in pain but didn’t release his hold on Xander’s mouth.

Surprisingly, to Xander, it was Fred who rushed to answer Gunn’s order and brought back a rag and a long strip of cloth from the nearby galley. Gunn released his hold.

“Get your filthy hands…!” was all Xander had time to shout before Gunn stuffed a rag into Xander’s open mouth and then secured it by tying the cloth around it and the back of Xander’s head.

With Xander gagged Gunn stepped back.

“Let me look at that, Charles,” Fred said as she took Gunn’s hand and examined where Xander had bit him. “It’s not too bad. I’ll get the med kit and spray a dermal seal on it.”

So much for making use of her ‘soft touch,’ Xander silently fumed as Fred quickly trotted off to get the med kit to treat Gunn’s hand.

“What are you going to do, Spike?” Wes silently asked after the commotion had settled.

Spike wished he was on Hyperion so he could have a gasper. However, smoking on a ship was bleedin’ suicidal. He sighed and looked back at the whelp. Harris was flushed with anger; his chocolate eye was bright and darting back and forth. A lock of his thick dark hair curled down over his forehead.

The boy was a git, a prat, and a pillock! He was annoying, mouthy and disruptive. He fascinated Spike and Spike was always hard pressed to turn away from a bit of shiny.

“I’m going to keep him,” Spike answered.

The room grew quiet as the crew and prisoner focused their attention on the bemused captain.

“Spike?” Wes was the first to break the silence.

“I’m going to claim him as Captain’s mate,” Spike answered. Xander’s eye widened and he desperately tried to shout something through his gag.

I’d rather serve a Raider! Strand me on a station! Space me! Xander thought.

“Whoa, Spike…” Faith began.

“It’s simple. We keep Harris on the DeSoto, then her Royal Cow won’t know where to look. She can assume we still have him, and if she does, she comes after us leaving Hyperion and the outlying colonies loyal to us alone.”

“And we become a constant target,” Faith said.

“We can deal with it,” replied Gunn. Spike smiled. He really liked his gunner.

“That’s not the point,” Faith said. “How many missions is Angel going to be able to send us on if the Council and B are constantly looking for us?”

“The ones where he doesn’t have to worry about the Council dustin’ the DeSoto. The Regent won’t take that chance as long as her favorite errand boy is on board.”

“But why Captain’s mate?” asked Wesley.

“Simple,” Spike sneered while piercing Xander’s panicked gaze with his. “The Council took away my Dru; my first Captain’s Mate. They can give me another one. Regent’s pet becomes my pet. Only fair.”

“Angel’s not going to like this,” interjected Fred.

“Angel left it up to me didn’t he? He’ll deal,” Spike said as he stood up and headed for the hatchway effectively signaling the end of discussion on the matter." Gunn, Fred, you take Harris to my cabin and get him collared. I’ll go make my own report to the grand poobah poofter.”

Xander was practically lifted from his seat and once again he was manhandled; this time by Gunn.

“C’mon,” Gunn growled. “Don’t give me any trouble because Spike didn’t say you had to be awake when I got you to the cabin. I’ll meet you at the Captain’s, Fred.”

Xander didn’t fight. The last thing I want is to be asleep in Spike’s cabin, Xander thought trying not to think about what else he didn’t want to be in Spike’s cabin. Instead Xander tried to focus on how they got to the cabin and to add the route into his internal mapping of the ship.

Gunn led Xander through another serious of corridors and eventually stopped at another hatchway. Gunn turned the knob and opened the hatch. He shoved Xander inside. This was the largest room outside the cargo bay Xander had seen yet. Xander observed that it must be pretty spacious given its relative size and the size of the DeSoto. There appeared to be at least two rooms, in fact. The room Xander had been shoved into first was some sort of sitting or living area.

“Keep moving,” Gunn growled and pointed Xander toward the hatchway on the far end of the room. Xander kept moving, not willing to provoke Gunn.

Xander rethought his strategy when he realized Gunn had directed him straight into the bedroom area. There was a medium size bed that took up most of the space in the room, a dresser and another small hatchway. Xander assumed the other hatchway might lead to some sort of private bathroom.

Gunn pushed Xander. Xander resisted. Gunn pushed harder and Xander went stumbling into the room and falling on top of the Spike’s bed. Oh joy, Xander thought. More lessons in humiliation and degradation!

“Gunn?” Xander heard Fred call out from the other room.

“In here,” Gunn replied and stepped farther into the room making space for Fred.

“What are we doing in here?”  Fred asked.

Soft and naïve, Xander thought as he rolled over to face his captors.

“He’s Captain’s mate,” crooned Gunn, “where else would he be?”

“Charles,” Fred sighed and chastised but didn’t object.

Soft, naïve, and yet unquestioningly loyal, Xander reminded himself.

“Fred here,” Gunn began as he moved forward and once again grabbed Xander by the shoulders from behind. “She’s going to put a special collar on you. You fight or give her any grief and I’m going to make you hurt and hurt bad. Then I’ll still have her put the collar on you. Understand?”

Xander nodded. Let’s just get this next round of ‘humiliate the helpless one-eyed guy’ done and over with, he thought.

“This isn’t going to hurt you or anything,” Fred said as she moved forward and secured a smooth green and metal collar around Xander’s neck. “Well at least if you don’t hurt anyone else.”

What’s that supposed to mean? Xander thought. He didn’t have too much time to ponder the question before he felt Gunn grabbing him once more, this time under Xander’s arms, and dragging him up toward the headboard. Xander heard a loud click near his collar as Gunn attached it to something. Suddenly Xander found himself restrained to the bed by his neck.

“Charles,” Fred once again chastised. “Is that really necessary?”

“I’m taking no chances with him loose in Spikes cabin,” Gunn replied.

“He’s bound and gagged and collared. What harm can he do?” Fred asked.

“He’s Council, Fred,” Gunn replied and started to undo Xander’s shirt and pat him down.

“Now what are you doing?” Fred asked.

Oh give it up, Fred, Xander thought. We obviously have many many more rounds of "humiliate and degrade" to play before we move into the bonus "utter debasement" round.

“Making sure he has no weapons hidden anywhere,” Gunn replied as he now moved and patted down Xander’s legs and ankles. Gunn then removed Xander’s shoes and stowed them away.

Right, there goes those hidden explosives in my heels, Xander wished and rolled his eye.

“But Charles he can’t hurt anybody now,” Fred argued.

Gunn made another sweep of patting down Xander’s body before hovering over his face. Gunn’s eyes narrowed as he examined Xander’s patch. Xander’s breath hitched.

No fuckin’ way! That’s far enough muscle boy! Xander silently dismayed.

Gunn ignored the fear and outrage in Xander’s right eye and lifted the patch over the left eye to see the sunken and collapsed eyelid. Xander screamed in anguished shock, turned his head and bucked for all he was worth.

“Charles, stop it!” Fred ordered in an astonishingly commanding voice.

“Fred, it’s my job to protect this ship,” Gunn said as he backed off his hold on Xander, “and the lives of its crew. I need to search him for anything that might harm us or Spike. I need to be thorough in that search and that means looking everywhere I’d hide something.”

“Then let me do it,” Fred said quietly.

“Fred…,” Gunn began to argue.

“Charles, move,” Fred ordered.

Gunn moved away from Xander and Fred moved forward to hover over Xander. Xander wearily met her gaze. Not you too, Fred, Xander thought.

“Xander,” Fred said softly as looked him in the eye and began to stroke the sweat matted hair on Xander’s forehead. “I’m sorry. I really am but Charles needs to make sure you aren’t a threat. I know you aren’t.”

There went the last of my ego, Xander tried to snark to himself.

“But we need to check,” Fred continued. “I don’t want to hurt you and I don’t want you to be afraid. I’m just going examine your left eye; that’s all. Once I do that we’re done. Charles and I will leave you alone. Ok?”

Xander held Fred’s gaze. He couldn’t see any deceit there and at this point he was tired, successfully humiliated and the offer of being left alone sounded almost heavenly. Xander closed his good eye and once again gave the barest and stiffest of nods.

Xander felt Fred lift his patch and then very gently lift his useless eyelid. She held the flesh back only for a second and then released it. Quickly she lowered his patch and then Xander felt the press of cool soft lips to his forehead.

“Thank you, Xander,” Fred said and then moved away from him. “We’re done here, Charles.”

“Fred,” Xander heard Gunn begin to protest.

“We’re done,” Fred said again firmly. “Anything else you’d do wouldn’t be about protecting the ship and you know it.”

Xander heard a pause and then heard Fred quietly say, “Gunn, he’s not one of those who attacked your home or killed your sister.”

“How do you know?” Xander heard the choked reply.

“I just do. It’s not in him and if you want to be sure, ask Faith,” Fred answered.

Then Xander heard the sound of bodies moving and a hatch door closing. Xander opened his eye. He was alone as promised.

Xander lay back. He could turn his head but he couldn’t lift it. He was lying on his bound hands which were just starting to become numb from the strangled circulation. Xander twisted his body as far as the collar restraint would let him and eased the pressure on his hands. Xander’s shirt was still undone letting the ships circulating air reach his skin and chill him.

A small tear began to slide down from the corner of Xander’s right eye. Oh Jesse, Willow, Xander thought. I’m missing you guys so much and I’m so in over my head here.

The events of the day began to catch up to Xander and felt his body give over to the need for rest. Xander’s right eye slowly closed and he fell asleep.

Part Five

Several hours later Spike leaned against the arch of the hatchway and stared at the young man asleep on his bed. Xander lay breathing deeply and was turned as much on his side as the collar restraint would allow him. His legs were scissored and looking like they were the only part of him that was comfortable; they were the only part of him unbound. Xander’s hands were still tied and twisted behind him.

There was a slight stirring in Spike’s groin at the sight. Spike arched his eyebrows. That’s unexpected, he thought, must be gaggin’ for it.

Still, there was something about the boy and Spike was feeling something he hadn’t felt in a long time, not since Dr…. Spiked stopped his thoughts. Angel’s been good enough for my occasional snoggin’ and shaggin’ needs. No need ta break wot ain’t broke.

Spike moved forward into the room. Xander’s right eyelid lifted.  There was no sign of sleep induced grogginess in the gaze that caught Spike’s. Spike paused and studied the gaze. Harris is afraid, nervous, and angry but he isn’t with terror like he was in the loo earlier.

“What a nummy-treat we have here,” Spike smiled and taunted.

Spike didn’t need to be psychic to read the “Fuck you!” in Xander’s eye. Spike moved forward and sat down on the bed. Xander rolled completely on his back: it was as far from Spike as he could get.

Xander longed to grit his teeth as Spike played with his open shirt, but the gag prevented it. All Xander could do is shoot hateful looks at his tormentor.

“See Charlie boy here has searched ya,” Spike observed and then let loose of Xander’s shirt tails to finger the collar around Xander’s neck. “Guess you’ll be wantin’ an explanation about this?”

Oh goody, Xander thought, here’s the part where I get to learn to call you ‘Master’ and the speech about how I’ll learn to love my collar.

“Here’s the crunch,” Spike began, “this collar is an ingenious little brainchild of Fred’s.”

Fred? Xander thought.

“It’s a modification on the chip technology they used to use on us Biogens,” Spike continued.

Chip technology? What was the psycho sociopath rattling on about now? Xander wondered.

“Now, here are the rules and they are very simple. You don’t go anywhere you aren’t supposed to go and you don’t try and hurt any of the crew and this collar remains just a annoying bit of bling,” Spike paused for effect and to make sure the boy was listening to him. “You break the rules and this collar will send so much pain into your brain that you’ll think that’s all you ever were and will ever be. Understand?”

Xander narrowed his eyes and studied his captor. Was he serious?  Xander silently asked. Xander nodded his head.

“Right then, it also takes a special tool to remove it and you don’t have it. So don’t waste your time trying to get it off,” Spike said. “For now my cabin’s the only place you are authorized to be so don’t attempt to leave it.”

Spike then leaned over Xander and unclipped the collar from the bed. “Roll over,” he then ordered.

Xander hesitated; he didn’t want Spike to be out of sight.

“Harris, roll over ya git,” Spike growled. Xander rolled over and was mentally and painfully relieved to feel his hands untied. Blood rushed back into his hands and Xander couldn’t bite back the whimper at the needlelike sensation. However, Xander refused to lie there on his stomach unable to watch what Spike would do next so he flipped himself back over to his back, sat up and then cradled his hands close to him.

Spike watched the boy trying to work out the pain in his hands while trying to work back in the normal feeling. “Here,” he said gruffly as he grabbed one hand and began to massage it.

Xander tried to hiss but the gag prevented it. The massage was painful but oddly helpful. Xander used his other hand to clumsily work the binding cloth over his head and then used his tongue to push the wadded material out of his mouth.

“Anks,” Xander croaked as Spike released the first hand and grabbed the next hand to repeat the procedure.

“Well you can’t be much of CM without your hands, can ya?” Spike replied needing to cover his unexplainable desire to help Xander.

Xander blanched. Right, silly me forgot there is no act of kindness among monsters just self-serving agendas.

Xander jerked his hand away from Spike and glared at him. “I got it from here.”

Stubborn little piker ain’t he? Spike suppressed a smile.

“Right,” Spike said, stood up and moved over to the dresser. He rummaged through a few drawers. Might have some of Angel’s garm hanging around, Spike thought as he rummaged, my kit will never fit the whelp.

Xander continued to rub and massage his hands as he watched Spike search. What’s he looking for? Xander wondered nervously.

“Here we are,” Spike said as he stood up and turned around with a handful of clothes. “Might be a bit big but this’ll fit ya better than my stuff.”

“I got clothes, Captain Crazy,” Xander replied as he edged himself to the other side of the bed and away from Spike. He wasn’t about to wonder whose clothes Spike held.

“No, pet,” Spike said, “You got a uniform…a Council uniform and you won’t be wearing it and any tracers it might have on my ship.”

“Fine, let me off at the nearest Council loyal colony and problem solved,” Xander replied as he stood up on the far side of the bed.

“Pet...,” Spike began again.

“News flash, I’m not a cat or a dog; I’m something you can never hope to be a pure human,” Xander interrupted, “not a pet.”

“Pet,” Spike emphasized the word, “try to use that tiny brain of yours to understand you’re mine now and you’ll no longer need that uniform. Now strip.”

“And you try and use whatever organic mass that passes as your brain to understand that I am Lt. Alexander LaVelle Harris of the Council Initiative and I will….”

“Harris, you can either take your clothes off now or I can do it for you,” Spike growled.

Xander stared at Spike. Memories of what happened in the bathroom came back to Xander and a) he knew Spike wasn’t kidding and b) he so wasn’t up for another round of hands-on humiliation.

“You know,” Xander said as he turned his back to Spike and began stripping, “some day soon Buffy is going to find me and she is so going to kick your ass.”

Spike lay Angel’s old clothes on the bed and sat down. He really hadn’t intended to watch Harris strip. Spike really had only wanted to get rid of that cursed Council uniform, but once again he found himself fascinated by the boy; man in front of him.

Harris had a nice full build with firm muscles. He was taller and had more mass then Spike. Sometimes he moved like he wasn’t comfortable in that solid body and sometimes, like at the moment, he moved with a seductive grace. Bet he only moves like that when he’s not thinking about what he’s doing, Spike mused.

Spike watched with interest as Xander slipped his pants down over his ass. Nice tight arse, Spike noted even with the boxers in place. ”Trolley’s too,” Spike ordered.

“Oh, you’ve found out the Council’s secret weapon,” Xander sneered as he jerked down his boxers, “Bugged underwear.”

“Right then,” Spike said from his perch on the bed when the whelp was nude. “Now if ya want ya can get a shower.”

Xander turned his head over his shoulder to look at Spike. Spike pointed at the smaller hatchway in the bedroom.

A shower, Xander thought with longing. It was appealing. But what’s the catch?

“You won’t have water for long and I wouldn’t call it hot, but it’ll get ya clean,” Spike said.

Xander cupped himself and began moving around the bed as best he could while keeping his back to Spike. Not going to give him a floor show, Xander vowed.

Spike rolled his eyes. “No need to be shy, Harris. Already had a meet and greet with your bishop and cobblers.”

“Thanks for the stroll down memory lane,” Xander grunted.

“Anytime, pet,” Spike smiled. When Xander got to the hatchway Spike spoke again, “Oh and pet?”

“Spike?” Xander paused and answered through gritted teeth.

“I hope your Buffy does come lookin’ for ya. It’d be nice to bag my third Regent.”

Xander whirled around to look at Spike and slammed his hands against the hatchway, “In your dreams you demented degenerate!”

Spike only smiled as he made a casual sweep with his gaze down the length of Xander’s fully exposed body. Xander’s whole body flushed in anger and embarrassment.

You might as well just have strings attached, Xander derided himself, as easily as you let him play you.

“Fucking soulless Biogen!” Xander said before he turned around and marched into the small bathroom.

Spike laughed. If nothing else, Spike thought, the boy is entertaining. Then Spike stood up and gathered Xander’s discarded uniform and snagged the shoes Gunn had stowed. Fred was waiting to check the kit out for tracers before he had her put them through the reclamation process.

Then Spike thought he’d stop off at the galley and pick up something to bring back to the cabin. Not sure when the boy ate or drank last but I know it wasn’t several hours ago with the rest of the crew, Spike observed.

Spike made a final visual inspection of the cabin and then paused to listen to what Xander was doing. Spike heard muttered curses and the water running. Spike smiled again and then left the cabin.


Spike hadn’t been lying when he said the water wouldn’t last long. Xander barely had time to rinse the soap and grime off before the water cut out. Still, Xander was grateful to be clean and to do something mundane. His emotions and thoughts had been running all over the place since The Snyder had come under attack.

Showering had given Xander not only the opportunity to wash the stink of fear from himself but also to try and center his thoughts. Ok, Xan-man, Xander mentally coached as he flipped the dryers on to so he could dry, let’s analyze the situation. Crew and passengers of The Snyder are presumably safe. I’m not going to be spaced but to be Captain’s mate to one of the most notorious bloodthirsty Biogens in Council history. So far Xan-man I’d say you’re…well probably doomed to die a painful and ugly death. Situation’s a little better than normal.

Xander flipped the dryers off, put his patch back in place and moved to the bathroom door. He peered into the bedroom. There was no sign of Spike. Hey! I finally won one today! Xander mentally cheered as he stepped into the bedroom and got dressed.

The black pants were a bit too wide in the waist and a bit too long in the leg but they did have a drawstring. Xander drew the string tight, tied it and then rolled the pant cuffs. The shirt was long-sleeved, tan and non-descript save for the v-neckline. It too was a bit big on Xander, but the loose fit was comfortable.

Xander looked around the room. He really could use a brush.

“Spike, could use a brush!” Xander called. There was no answer.

Hmm, well then. Guess  that means I gotta snoop, Xander reasoned.  Quickly he began rummaging through the bedroom drawers. Mostly he found more clothes. How many black pants and red shirts does a nutter need? Xander wondered.

In the back of the bottom drawer Xander found a doll. It had a lacy white dress and a bow in its long black ringlets. Spikey likes to play with dolls? He’s more of whack-job than I thought! Xander stuffed the doll back where he found it and shut the drawer.

The next place to search was the sitting area. There wasn’t much to search. There was a couch, a low table, a small wardrobe and a bar. Xander looked through the wardrobe: it contained a lone long black coat. Next, Xander searched the bar and found a pack of gaspers and various bottles of alcohol.

Xander ran his fingers through his hair. He really didn’t know what he was looking for but he knew he should be looking for something. He should be trying something. What would Jesse do? Xander wondered.

He looked at the hatchway leading out to the corridor. How do I really know this collar isn’t just some trick? Could it really be that bad? Xander weighed his options. He just couldn’t sit here and wait for Spike to come back and…well Xander didn’t even want to think about what Spike could do when he came back.

With more confidence than Xander felt he rushed to the hatch, turned the knob, flung the hatch open and stepped into the hall. Pain flared from the collar up Xander’s neck to his head and then danced its way down every nerve firing every neuron along the way.

Xander toppled into the corridor his body convulsing and his stomach retching. Pain was all Xander knew.


Spike was sauntering through the corridors on his way back from the mess when the smell hit him; retch and bile!

“Bloody hell,” Spike growled as he took off at a run down the corridor toward his cabin. He found the whelp convulsing in the corridor. Spike dropped the package he was carrying and quickly scooped the boy up.

“Stupid. Stubborn. Git!” Spike continued to growl as he carried the young man into the sitting area and placed him on the couch. Spike turned Xander’s head to the side in case he continued to retch and then rushed to the bathroom.

He returned to the sitting area with a cold wet cloth and to find Xander moaning but no longer convulsing or vomiting.

“Easy mate,” Spike said as he began to wipe Xander’s face with the cool cloth.

“Jesse?” Xander whimpered.

“Nope, just your friendly ‘fuckin soulless Biogen,’” Spike answered softly as he continued to clean Xander.

“Spike!” Xander weakly exclaimed and tried to sit-up.

Spike gently pushed Xander back down on the couch.

“Stay,” Spike gently ordered before he went back to the small bathroom to rinse and rewet the rag.

On his return, Spike found Xander surprisingly compliant with Spike’s last order. Spike gently lifted Xander’s head and shoulders before sitting down on the couch. He spread Xander over his lap and then quickly removed Xander’s patch.

“No,” Xander struggled.

“Shush,” Spike said and brushed Xander’s weak protest aside. “In two hundred years I think I’ve seen worse ‘n this.”

Then Spike draped the cool wet cloth over Xander’s eyes before beginning to gently and alternately massage Xander’s temples and neck.

“Oh,” Xander sighed as Spikes long and strong fingers eased the bunched muscles and tendons.

“Better?” smiled Spike.


“Thought I told you you weren’t authorized for anywhere but here in the cabin.”

“Didn’t believe you.”

It was Spike’s turn to sigh, “Xander, wouldn’t lie to you about something like that.”

“But you would lie to me?” Xander asked catching Spike’s use of words.

“”M a Biogen and you’re Council.”

The room lapsed into silence as both men internally acknowledged their enemy status but accepted the gentle momentary truce. Long moments passed as Spike ministered to Xander and Xander let him.

“How’d you know what to do?” Xander asked as his nature caught up with him.

“Told ya, collar’s based on the same chip technology the Council used on us Biogens,” Spike replied while still massaging Xander’s neck. “’Cept I think it hits you pure humans harder. You not havin the benefit of Biogen nanonites to aid in recovery.”

“You once had this,” Xander paused trying to keep the disbelief out of his voice, “this chip?”

“Not sumthin I like to remember,” Spike said.

“This happened to you?”

“Said it’s not sumthin I like to think about,” Spike said as he shifted Xander and got up from the couch.

“I’ve never heard of any ‘chips’ used by the Council,” Xander said as he rolled up into a seated position and removed the cloth from his eyes. He quickly looked for his patch which he found sprawled on the arm of the couch. Xander reached out and put it back in place.

“Course ya haven’t,” Spike said as he moved over to the bar and poured himself a drink. “Makes a better story if Biogens suddenly went starkers and started killin’ for no reason.”

“Oh right,” Xander said, “this is the song and dance where you tell me Biogens had no choice. You were just rebelling against your evil and cruel masters and ‘oops’ sorry about all the blood and gore along the way.”

Spike downed his drink before turning around to look at Xander.

“You really are a good Council boy aren’t you Harris?”

“If you mean I don’t listen to Biogen lies? You’re right, I don’t.”

“You never wonder why Wes and Faith left? You ever wonder why some pure human colonies aren’t loyal to Council?”

“Illegal wealth and power will always tempt some people.”

Spike laughed. “Look around Harris, this look like the lap of luxury here?”

“They say Angel’s got all the Biogen’s illegal wealth stashed on Hyperion and doles it out to the colonies that will support him.”

“Who’s they Harris?”

Xander almost replied “the Council,” before he realized it was the answer Spike was trying to prompt from him. Damnit, Xan-man! Xander internally chastised, when are you going to learn not to listen to them? They will only twist everything up until you start to believe them and then you KNOW what happens next.

“I’m tired,” Xander said and stood up on shaky legs.

“Right,” Spike sneered. “Shower cycle probably hasn’t reset itself but you can clean up in the sink. Better strip off the shirt and throw it in the cleaner. Should be done in the morning.”

Xander nodded and headed for the bathroom. Spike watched him go. I really should strand him or sell him, Spike thought but he knew he wouldn’t. Spike moved away from the bar and got the bundle from the galley out of the corridor and set it down on the table in the sitting area.

Boy can clean it up in the morning, Spike thought. Start him off with his CM duties.

Spike headed for the bedroom. A shirtless Xander was just coming out of the bathroom. Spike felt that stirring in his groin again. Really bad idea, Spike thought.

“C’mere,” Spike said as he reached under the end of the bed and withdrew a length of chain with soft cuff attached to the end.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Xander rolled his eye as he stared at the chain.

“Oi! Do I sound like I’m winding-up?” Spike answered as he held out the cuff.

Let’s get this over with, Xander thought; his body too tired to fight any more. Cautiously Xander moved over to Spike.

“Now I don’t have to lose any sleep fetching you out of the hall,” Spike said as he bent down and secured the cuff to Xander’s ankle.

“The cuff and the collar clip? The only way you can keep a CM is through restraints?” Xander retorted.

Spike stood up in game face and grabbed Xander.
“Had to have ‘em for when my first Captain’s mate had bad spells. Council made her barmier than you!”

Spike gave Xander a quick shake and then let him go. Then Spike swiftly undressed and climbed into the bed while Xander tried to process Spike’s angry words.

“Lights!” Spike growled and the room was plunged into darkness.

“You can either sleep on the floor at the end of the bed or you can sleep with me,” Spike barked. “But I can’t promise your Council virtue and sensibilities will be safe! After all, I’m a soulless Biogen who only knows murder and mayhem.”

Xander stood for a long while in the dark at the foot of the bed listening to Spike breathe. When it sounded like Captain Criminal was asleep Xander sat down on the floor at the end of the bed and pondered his first day aboard the DeSoto and what his duties as Spike’s CM would be.

Part Six

Consciousness crept back slowly for Xander. The area around his left eye was tender from where he’d slept with his patch on all night. Xander blinked his right eye and tried to get his bearings. Apparently, some time during the night he’d stretched out on the floor and fallen asleep. Just as apparent was that at some point Spike had gotten up and covered Xander with a blanket.

Xander sat up, threw the blanket off, removed his patch and rubbed his face.

“Spike?” Xander called as he laid his patch on the bed.

There was no answer. Xander stood up. Apparently Spike must have also unlocked the cuff because Xander’s leg was free.

“Spike?” Xander called again as he looked in the bathroom for the Biogen before looking in the sitting area. Spike wasn’t in either of the other rooms.

Xander did notice a bundle on the small table. He moved forward and opened the bundle. There was some processed fruit packets and some crackers inside. There also appeared to be a metal carafe.

Xander opened the carafe and sniffed. It smelled like a proto-fizz. Xander tipped the carafe and took a drink. It’s a bit flat now, he thought, but it’s a proto-fizz.

It didn’t take long for the protein laced drink to hit Xander’s system and remind him he was hungry and a little more than thirsty. Well at least Captain Peroxide doesn’t mean to starve me, Xander thought as he sat down and made a meal of the fruit packets, crackers and the protein drink which would not only give him the nutrients he needed but re-hydrate him as well.

The meal was short but satisfying. Xander looked around for a reclamation bin to throw away the empty packets. It didn’t take him long to find it and then to finish tidying up the sitting area. I’m not doing this for Spike, Xander reasoned. Apparently this is the only place I get to go and I don’t want it to be any more of the unpleasant than it has to be.

Xander used that same internal reasoning as he folded up the blanket and tidied up the bedroom. As Xander was rinsing the carafe out in the bathroom he heard a knock on the hatch in the sitting area. Knocking’s far to civilized for Spike, Xander thought as he grabbed his shirt from the cleaner and donned it before heading back to the sitting area.

There was another knock before could open the hatch. Wes and the smell of disinfectant were on the other side of the hatch. Xander flushed realizing somebody else must have cleaned up the mess he’d made the night before.

“Xander?” Wes said.

Xander looked up to meet Wes’s gaze. Wes was good at schooling his features but not good enough to hide the flinch when he saw Xander’s misshapen eye.

“Ah, sorry,” Xander paled, muttered and turned his head so his bad eye was less visible. “Forgot to grab my patch.”

“Not all, Xander,” Wesley hurriedly apologized, “I shouldn’t have…I mean…well its….”

“Wesley,” Xander interrupted, “what do you want?”

“Oh, yes! Spike has asked me to bring you to the mess.”

“I’m not authorized to leave the cabin.”

“Spike had Fred extend your authorization to include the cabin, a route to the mess and the mess itself.”

“You’ll forgive me Wes if I don’t find myself ready to risk a massive brain meltdown on your word alone?” Xander pierced Wesley with his one good eye.

“Yes, well I suppose that does make sense from your point of view,” Wes conceded. “Though, however you feel about me or what I have done, it does not make me fool enough to invite you out of Spike’s cabin and into harm thus earning Spike’s distinct disapproval.”

“Afraid of your killer Captain, Wes?” Xander sneered.

“No, just loyal.”

Xander laughed. “May you show him the same loyalty you showed the Council.”

“And may the Council become half as worthy of loyalty as Spike,” Wes countered. “Now, shall we trade barbs and witticisms all day or will you accompany me to the mess?”

Do I really have a choice? Xander thought.

“Give me a moment,” Xander said as he retreated from the doorway. Quickly Xander trotted back to the bedroom and grabbed his eye patch. Swiftly he brushed through his hair once again with his fingers before putting the irritating patch back into place. Then Xander picked up the metal carafe from the bathroom.

“Accompany me on,” Xander said as he came back to the hatch where Wesley waited. Xander was more than a little nervous to step into the corridor; painful memories from the night before twisted his gut. However, Xander was determined not to show fear in front of Wesley and so quickly he stepped through the hatchway and joined Wes on the other side. Xander secured the door and the men move down the corridor.

“Remember this route, Xander,” Wes said as he led Xander though the ship. “This is the only route right now for which you are authorized to travel from Spike’s cabin to the mess.”

“So there’s more than one route to take?” Xander asked.

“Remember this route, Xander,” Wesley simply answered.

It didn’t the two men long to reach the mess. Once again it seemed the rest of the crew was there.

“So the sleeping prince joins us,” muttered Gunn.

“Gunn, with you as an inspiration, how could I fail to rise and shine?” replied Xander.

Gunn moved toward Xander and stopped when Spike raised his hand.

“Leave him, Charlie. Whelp did a round with the collar last night.”

“Xander!” Fred exclaimed as she rushed over to him. “Are you ok? The collar’s neural feedback can be very hard on us plain old ordinary humans.”

Fred was reaching to examine Xander’s good eye. Xander wasn’t sure whether struggling would be considered trying to hurt her so he just let her examine him. The look-over was swift as Fred looked up and down in his good eye and then felt the muscles in his neck.

“Any residual pain?” Fred asked.

“Only to my pride,” Xander smiled.

“Good,” Fred smiled in return. “Just don’t make it a habit to trigger the response, please. I haven’t really established what the long term effect might be to prolonged or frequent firings on pure humans.”

“Glad to see Xan-man can be of use to science,” Xander sneered at Spike, “as a guinea pig.”

“Oh, but it’s not like that...,” Fred quickly tried to explain.

“Oi give it a rest Harris. As long as you behave you should be fine,” Spike said as he pointed at an empty chair across the table from him indicating Xander should sit.

“This round two of all about Xander?” the prisoner asked as he sat down and put the carafe he’d been carrying down on the table.

“Nope,” Faith replied. “This is a crew meeting.”

“And I’m here why?”

“You’re CM, pet,” Spike replied. “You have a stake in some crew meetings.”

“Right,” said Xander.

“Everyone on this ship pulls their weight,” Faith said, “and you’re no exception.”

“I think you're over looking the detail where I don’t exactly want to be part of your little club,” said Xander.

“Could make it so the only place you’re authorized to be is the hatch,” Spike purred.

Xander glared at Spike as he remembered the small closet like room he’d been shoved into shortly after arriving on the DeSoto.

“So,” Faith continued, “we’ve been discussing what you can do on the ship aside from taking care of Spike.”

“Excuse me?” asked a startled Xander.

“That’s what a CM does, pet. Takes care of the Captain,” Spike smiled. Sleep did the boy good, Spike observed. His heart rate’s good and so’s his color.

“You’re in charge of Spike’s personal needs,” Gunn leered. “whatever it takes to keep the Captain happy, Council boy, that’s your job. And I hear he can be real demanding.”

“Charles,” admonished Fred.

“Too much for you, eh Gunn?” Xander jeered back at the black man.

Spike suppressed a smile. That’s it Harris, give as good as ya get.

“Gentlemen,” Wesley interrupted, “really, Xander, CM doesn’t have to be more than the Captain’s personal valet. You keep his quarters tidy, bring him meals if necessary, and run errands.”

Right, Wes, cuz personal valets always sleep chained to the end of their boss’s bed, Xander silently argued.

“Same gig you had, Xander,” Faith said, “just a different boss.”

The bright side is that means eventually they’ll have to give me authorization to more of the ship and that’s gotta be a plus, somehow, Xander mused.

“So other than Spike’s ‘go fer’ what do you want me to do?” Xander asked.

“KP,” Spike said.


“You’ll be in charge of the mess,” Spike continued.

“You want me to cook?”

“Well there’s really not much to it,” Fred said. “Most of the food is already processed and just needs to be re-hydrated or heated.”

“You just need to be sure it’s ready to go for the morning, lunch and dinner mess chimes,” Faith said, “and clean up afterwards.”

 “I’m a lieutenant in the Council Initiative, not a mess cook,” Xander growled.

“No, pet, you’re my CM and a member of this crew,” Spike growled back.

“I’m a prisoner of war,” Xander glared at Spike.

“Biogens don’t take prisoners,” Spike said, “Isn’t that what the Council says?”

“Looks like I’m an exception.”

“Harris,” Spike said as he stood up and leaned over the table into Xander’s personal space, “do you really want to be treated like a prisoner of war? Ask yourself, how does the Council treat its prisoners?”

Xander swallowed and stared back at Spike. He really couldn’t answer the question about how the Council treated its prisoners. Buffy, as Regent prime, rarely took any and Willow didn’t discuss the few times she’d been called in to help with an interrogation. Jesse hadn’t talked much about it either just saying it was work more suited to bastards like Riley.

“So,” Xander finally said, “when’s the next chime?”

Spike sat back down and smiled. There’s hope for you, Harris, he thought and for some reason that thought caused quite a stir in Spike.


Fred worked with Xander for most of the day acquainting him with the galley and the mess as well as fitting him with a ship’s communicator that would not only let him communicate with the others but would act as a chronometer.

By the time the dinner time chime had pinged, Xander had food and the mess ready for the rest of the crew. Fred had been right, it wasn’t that hard to prepare anything but Xander was surprised at how well his efforts were regarded.

Most everyone took a moment to compliment him on the food preparations.

“Nice to have a meal ready on time for a change,“ Faith had said. Xander hadn’t acknowledged her comment but he couldn’t help feel a little a something at the praise. It had been a long time since he’d been praised by anyone for anything; not since Jesse had died.

Xander had also been surprised to see Spike wolf down a substantial portion of the meal.

“Wot?” Spike had asked when he caught Xander staring at him. “You really think Biogens drink blood?”

Xander had flushed and sputtered as the rest of the crew laughed.

“Biogens do require a more than normal amount of nutrients and a larger quantity of protein,” had explained Fred, “but they don’t really live on blood.”

“Though probably could if we had too,” had said Spike.

“I’m sure those nanonites would make use of whatever could pass through your digestive system,” Fred had said, “but eventually without the proper combination of nutrients you would develop problems.”

“And that’s why you are my favorite bird, Fred,” Spike had smiled. “I know you’ll keep me fit as a butcher’s dog.”

Fred had blushed.

“Yo, Xander” Gunn had chimed in, “don’t forget to leave a snack out for the late shift.”

“Please do,” Faith had said. “Never fails, the nights Gunn has no snack is the nights we have red alerts and mysterious bogies.”

The crew had laughed some more at that but Xander made sure he left some sort of snack out for Gunn; though it was all processed vegetables. No one said I had to leave a tasty snack, Xander had thought.

After dinner, Xander had cleaned the galley and the mess. He also followed Fred’s suggestion and did some prep work for the “morning” chime. Surprisingly tired, Xander had made his way through the corridors vaguely wondering what fun and games waited for him back in Spike’s cabin.

Xander meandered the corridors on the route leading back to the cabin. He really wasn’t in a hurry but he also had no place else to go. Finally, he reached the hatch door to Spike’s cabin. Do I knock or just go right in? Xander wondered.

“Oi, get in here, git,” Spike’s voice could be heard through the door. Damn Biogen senses, Xander thought as he opened the door and went inside.

Spike was seated at the couch drinking out of a glass from the bar. He was reviewing something on his personal display unit.

“Think the shower cycle’s reset by now,” Spike said without looking at Xander.

Xander nodded and headed back to the bedroom. He was in a quandary. Xander really wanted the shower after the work he’d done and he really needed to put his clothes in the cleaner; but then he had nothing else to wear.  No way do I want to give that deviant another show, Xander thought.

Xander sighed and stripped. He’d think of something; the appeal of a shower was just too strong.

Once again Xander was disappointed with the length of the shower cycle; but not the effects. He felt a little more alert and a lot more capable of dealing with Spike. Xander stepped back into the bedroom and looked at his clothes. Xander really didn’t relish the thought of putting on the soiled garments after just getting clean and he really wanted to put them in the cleaners so they’d be ready for the morning. But what do I wear in the mean time? Xander questioned.

Xander’s gaze settled on the folded blanket he’d placed at the end of the bed that morning. Better than nothing, Xander thought. Quickly Xander fashioned the blanket into a toga around him and then deposited his clothes in the cleaner unit.

“Now what?” Xander muttered.

“Xander,” Spike called. “You wanna…” Spike started before bursting into laughter. He was standing in the hatchway between the sitting area and the bedroom. What was the whelp doing in that getup? Spike mused.

“Do I wanna what?” Xander said through gritted teeth as he flushed.

“Well I was going to ask if you wanted a drink?” Spike finally said.

“I’m fine,” Xander said stiffly.

“Look, whelp, I’m sorry but the getup is rather amusing.”

“Really, Captain Yahoo? Guess you wanted me to prance around nude some more? Make you feel real big and bad like a proper Biogen? Make the human feel small and insignificant? I know the psych drill,” Xander snarled.

Spike couldn’t deny that he wanted to see the boy nude again. But what was the boy talking about? I gave him some kit… and then Spike understood.

“Pet, I’m sorry…”

“Don’t call me that!” Xander interrupted.

“Xan, look I forgot you only had the one set of garm to wear. I wasn’t tryin ta make it so you had to prance around in your birthday suit.”

Xander looked at Spike. It didn’t look like Spike was lying. Yeah, cuz I’m so good at knowing when Biogens are lying, Xander derided himself, aren’t I Jesse?

“C’mon Xan. Was really just gonna offer ya a top off, yeah?” Spike said with his best smile.

“Do I really have a choice?” Xander said disdainfully.

“Yes,” Spike said honestly.

The two stared at each other for a moment and then Xander nodded. Too wound up to sleep now, he reasoned. Xander moved forward and Spike turned and headed back into the sitting area.

“Cop a squat,” Spike said as he headed to the bar.

Xander sat on the couch. He noticed the personal display unit on the small table. Quickly Xander cast a glance at Spike.

“What’s yer poison?” Spike said. “Whiskey or whiskey?”

“Eh, whiskey,” Xander said as he leaned over and tried to read what was on the unit.

“Oxnard,” Spike said as he poured two drinks.

“What?” Xander said.

“Onxard-7, that’s where we're headed,” Spike answered as he turned around and brought the drinks back to the couch and offered one to Xander. “That’s what’s on the unit.”

Xander flushed. Bet Jesse wouldn’t have gotten caught, Xander said.

“No sense you not knowing and I can’t blame you for snooping. Is wot I woulda done.”

“No sense me knowing? Cuz I’m part of the crew?” Xander said and then took a hesitant sniff at the drink. I’m not taking the bastard’s last comment as a compliment! Xander silently swore.

Spike smiled. “Yeah, and we'll be there in a couple of days. You’ll help us unload some of the meds and other gear we’re carrying.”

“You expect me to help you unload stolen Council cargo on a rebelling colony?” Xander said as Spike took a swallow of his drink.

“Yep, figure it’ll do ya some good.”

“Good? Make me a criminal just like you?” Xander took a hesitant swallow and then started to cough.

Spike laughed and resisted the urge to smack the boy on the back.

“Don’t drink much do ya?”

Xander coughed some more and put the drink back down on the table.

“Not so much,” Xander said. Drank a lot when Jesse died. Drank a lot to sleep without nightmares. Drank a lot when they reassigned me away from Buffy and Willow to be a “diplomatic liaison” under Riley’s command, Xander internally listed. Just never drank socially. Never drank without the sole purpose of oblivion.

Spike watched the boy. He didn’t need enhanced senses to see the play of emotions parading across Xander’s face. Spike leaned back on the couch and studied Harris. One firm shoulder and arm were exposed and Spike couldn’t help but remember how the rest of the whelp had looked all nude and flushed the night before.

Wonder who he lays down for? Spike thought. Then Spike remembered the boy had first called him Jesse when he was coming round after the collar. Had he spread for this Jesse?

“You going ta finish that?” Spike asked as he pointed to Xander’s drink.

“Yeah,” Xander said before he slammed the rest of the drink back in one swallow.

Spike arched an eyebrow in surprise.

“Don’t worry,” Xander said a little hoarsely as the alcohol burned its way down his throat. “I won’t ask for seconds. A little goes a long way with me.”

“I’ll be sure to note that,” Spike said failing to keep the seduction out of his voice.

Xander’s eye widened at the tone but he refused to look at Spike. Ok, prisoner of war gig is sounding better.

Spike noted Xander’s elevated hear rate and lack of an interested response. Change of tactics, Spike thought.

“Not trying to make ya a criminal,” Spike said changing tactics as well as topics.

“What?” Xander said taken by surprise.

“Not trying to make ya a criminal,” Spike repeated and took another sip.

“Then what’s the point of me helping? Humiliation?”

“Tell ya what, pet,” Spike said sending a piercing gaze Xander’s direction. “Let’s play a game of questions. For every question I answer, you answer one.”

Xander was suddenly back on the defensive.

“I’m not betraying the Council, Spike.”

“I’m not betraying Angel or the Biogens.”

“Then what’s the point?” Xander asked.

Spike smiled and arched an eyebrow.

Once again with the strings and playin’ the Xan-man!  Xander chided himself. Xander sighed and nodded to Spike. “Better know your adversary. You’re being passive now cuz of the collar and you really haven’t any place to go. But doesn’t mean you aren’t still plotting and planning so the more I get to know you; the better I can anticipate what you might do,” Spike almost believed his own line. “And you gain the same benefit from knowing me and mine.”

Know your enemy, Xander remembered Jesse saying something like that to him.

“So,” Spike paused a moment to think of his opening gambit, “do you wear that patch all the time?”

“No,” Xander said. Once again he was startled by Spike’s change of topics.

“Pet, play fair,” Spike said when it was obvious Xander wasn’t going to say anything else. “One word answers really aren’t in the spirit of the game.”

Xander wanted to argue but his sense of fair play agreed with Spike. You started this, Xander reminded himself. He ignored the part that said Spike had tricked him into this.

“I don’t typically sleep in it or shower with it. It irritates me if I wear it too long,” Xander paused to think of his question. “What’s the point of me helping, Spike?”

Spike hid his smile as he answered,”Seems to me you are awfully good at parroting the Council line. Thought you might like a chance to see a rebel colony for yourself. Draw your own conclusions about why pure humans might join with Biogens.”

“As if you're going to let me see anything or talk to anyone you don’t want me to see,” Xander argued.

“Pet, I guarantee, you’ll see exactly who and what’s there,” Spike smiled and then continued, “so you’ve been wearing it awhile now and I know you slept in it. You’ve gotta need a break. Why don’t you take it off?”

Xander blanched in shock. What is he some kind of mental monstrosity that needs to see the maimed? Xander silently screamed.

Spike noted the boy’s elevated heart rate but remained still and quiet. However, he did arch his eyebrow again.

“I’m not in the habit of showing my…injury to other people,” Xander forced out.

“I’ve already seen it, Xander,” Spike said quietly.

“And what, you feel the sudden need to see it again?” Xander shouted as he stood up and looked down at Spike. “You haven’t had enough violence lately so you need to see the one-eyed freak to get off?”

Shit! Shit! Xander silently panicked as he realized he’d just asked Spike two questions!

“One,” Spike began to answer, “I don’t feel the sudden need to see anything again. I just thought you might be more comfortable with it off. Two, you aren’t a ‘one-eyed freak’ and you’d have to remove more than your patch to get me off.”

Xander gaped at Spike and backed away from the couch. He really didn’t just imply…Xander didn’t finish the question.

“Having said that,” Spike continued, “I’ll forgo my two questions if you do take the bloody patch off.”

Spike could tell the boy was about to panic before he started shaking and the perspiration stood out on his forehead.

“No,” Xander said. I can’t! Please don’t make me, he silently pleaded. Don’t make me show how…how…

“Xander, it’s ok,” Spike said softly. “If you’re more comfortable with it on, I won’t make you take it off.”

Xander couldn’t help the sudden rush of gratitude he felt toward Spike. Spike noted the boy began to calm down.

“Right then,” Spike said, “who’s Jesse?”

Bollocks! Spike thought as he could see the return of Xander’s panic with a vengeance. Spike knew he’d lost any ground he’d just made.

“He was my best friend,” Xander spat out in spite of his rampant emotions, “one time commanding officer, and he’s dead because I trusted…believed a fuckin Biogen! I’m so stupid. You’d think after having my eye gouged out and my friend torn apart I would learn not to talk to, let alone listen to, any of you butchers!”

Xander paused to catch his breath. When would he learn! This game was all about Spike drilling him! There was no benefit in this for Xander!

“But no. Xan-man here? Was always the academically challenged one with run of the mouth disease and you know what? We’re done here Spike! I’m going to bed unless you want to lock me up in the hatch, space me or sell me. Either way I don’t give a shit!”

Xander turned and fled into the bedroom and curled up on the floor at the foot of bed. Spike remained in the sitting room for a long while listening to the boys muffled sobs until they gave way to the heavy breathing of healing sleep.

Spike quietly made his way into the bedroom. Xander was curled up on the floor with the blanket all askew around him. Gently, Spike tucked it around the boy. Then he noted that once again Xander had fallen asleep with the eye patch in place. Oh pet, Spike sighed as he very carefully removed the eye patch and then set it on the dresser.

“Lights,” Spike said very softly and the room fell dark. Silently Spike undressed and got into bed. That night he dreamt of one-eyed beauties, soft words and an old love.

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