Breaking Free


by
StillRose




Part Thirty-Four

“Anything?” Spike asked Wesley as the other man scanned the dead colony. Another day of travel had brought the crew of The DeSoto back to Wash.

“Nooothing,” Wesley slowly said as he read the scanning equipment’s readings.

“Percy?” Spike prompted with the irritating nickname and arched eyebrow.

“There are some anomalous energy readings,” Wesley once again spoke slowly as he studied the scanner.

“And that means wot?”

“I’m not sure. The energy readings aren’t inconsistent with what I would expect….”

“But?”

“Well,” Wes began to explain with a heavy sigh as he turned from his equipment to look at Spike. “I would expect the results to reflect more ‘activity’ since we were here last. Mother Nature has had more time to work meaning scavengers will have moved into the colony.”

“And that would account for the anomalies?

“Possibly.”

“Council then?”

“Uncertain.”

“Raiders?”

Wes sighed again, “Nothing really indicates the situation on Wash has changed. However there are anomalies which could indicate….”

“Scanner interference which would mean….”

“Council forces,” Wes finished.

“Detect any ships?” Spike asked.

Wes once again turned back to study his scanning equipment and answered, “No.”

“Listen up kiddies,” Spike said into the ship communicator broadcasting his voice to the DeSoto’s crew, “we may or may not have company below. It’s undetermined. So everyone stay frosty and expect trouble.”

“We still wanna do this boss?” Gunn’s voice answered.

“No we don’t ‘wanna’ do this,” Spike growled, irritated and at the situation, “But we are ‘gonna’. Peaches needs answers and we’re going ta get’em to him. Now, Wes, Faith, Gunn and Xander you’re with me planetside.”

“Spike…” came Fred’s quick reply.

“Fred,” Spike cut her short, “if we’ve got company down there then we got trouble. Trouble means The DeSoto’s got to be ready to make a quick exit. I don’t trust anyone else but you with that task.”

There was a moment of silence before Fred replied, “Aye! Aye! Sir!”

Spike smiled, “Be good and maybe I’ll get you that new drive compressor you’ve been asking for.”

Fred’s giggle came through the communicators loud and clear.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


The crew, sans Fred, gathered in the cargo hold.

“Here,” Gunn said as he shoved a respirator mask into Xander’s hands.

“This mean we're going steady?” Xander asked as he studied the mask.

Gunn growled.

“No, ya git,” Spike said as he took matching mask from Gunn. “There’s a lot of long unburied dead out there. Sometimes Biogen senses work for ya and sometimes….”

“Eww!” Xander said as he mentally go the sometimes they work against you.

“Don’t feel too special,” Faith said as she donned hers.

Some part of Xander wanted to smile at the affectionate exchange but what lay beyond the DeSoto’s bay doors didn’t allow much room for levity.

“I’m not gonna be left out,” Gunn said as he too donned a mask. Xander arched a brow.

“Decay breeds disease,” Wes explained as he adjusted his mask. “Plain old ordinary humans could pick up a rather nasty, if not deadly, virus or bacterial infection.”

“Once again I say, ‘Ewwww,’” replied Xander as he finally donned his mask.

“Ya ready for this?” Spike asked. Somehow, Xander knew it was for his benefit. Xander nodded.

“Locked and loaded,” replied Gunn.

“I was born ready,” quipped Faith.

“This sooner we complete this task,” Wes said, “the sooner we can leave.”

“Open sesame, Fred,” Spike ordered.

Xander expected the horrors of the massacred colony to be spread out before him when the DeSoto’s doors opened. Instead he was met with a cool breeze and a sunny meadow.

“Colony’s a short hike beyond the tree line,” Spike explained. “Move out!”

Xander fell in line behind Spike. Wes was behind Xander while Faith and Gunn spread out behind everyone else. Marching through the meadow was surreal to Xander. The DeSoto’s crew moved quickly and silently with a deadly purpose. Yet, all around them the meadow was bright, beautiful and inviting. Xander heard birds chirping from the trees and could even spot them if he tried.

It was the stench that first alerted Xander to the wrongness of the place. Despite the mask, Xander couldn’t help but detect a foul sickly odor that automatically twisted his stomach.

“Breathe through it, pet,” Spike voice whispered on the breeze. If Xander hadn’t been a Biogen, he wouldn’t have heard it. Xander wanted to reply but the odor increased in intensity and it was all he could do to breathe while not throwing up.

“Ya will get used to it,” Spike said again quietly.

How can anyone get “used to” this? Xander mentally screamed. A fine sheen broke out on his forehead but he kept his composure even when the group cleared the tree line and entered the colony. Bodies were sprawled on the ground and the smell of decomposition hung thick in the air.

“If ya get sick,” Gunn’s said softly, “don’t do it in the mask.”

Spike held up his hand and made the quick impatient gesture for “QUIET!”

Xander turned his pale face toward Gunn and nodded in thanks. Spike signaled for the crew to spread out though he himself stuck close to Xander.

Xander had seen death but he hadn’t seen decay. Bodies of men, women and children lay sprawled in the streets. Their bodies were distended with protruding eyes and swollen tongues. They were an unnatural rainbow of colors ranging in putrid hues of red, green and black. In obscene mockeries of death, men on their backs looked to have erections.

“Part of the process of decomposition,” Spike explained very quietly as he noted Xander’s horrified gaze. Xander turned his head only to be sickened by the sight of the flies and other insects feasting on open flesh.

Xander desperately wanted to swallow but he was afraid if he did he’d choke. Spike put his hand on Xander’s shoulder.

“Don’t think about it, pet,” Spike said again softly. Xander nodded.

Once again Spike motioned for them to move. Xander walked forward and tried to focus his mind on the task at hand.

Can’t forget they're human yet can’t think of them that way either, Xander thought as he let his eyes wander looking for clues to who was responsible for this carnage.  It was obvious some had died quickly while others had crawled, stumbled and even begged for life before dying.

Xander saw one woman whose face was no longer present from a blast to the head. Xander couldn’t help but be drawn to her for a closer look. He face was gone, but he could still make out around her corpse a halo of red hair which was too close to the same shade as Willow’s.

Xander bent down over the body. It was too late to do anything for her and yet all he could think of was Willow

Xander wanted to cover the body, to give her some respect in death but he had nothing.

I will find out who did this to you, Xander vowed. Xander forced himself to take a long look at the woman, committing her to memory. Xander took note of the jagged gouges on her arms. The marks could have been wounds obtained while trying to fight. Xander examined the woman more closely and noticed that there appeared to be something in the woman’s right hand.

Xander reached out to pull the woman’s fingers open when Spike’s hand closed around Xander wrist.

“Put this on first,” Spike softly ordered as he held out a latex glove to Xander. Xander nodded and took the glove. Quickly he worked it on over his hand and then cautiously Xander began to touch the woman’s hand.

Bile coated the back of Xander’s throat as the woman’s flesh slid and gave way to Xander’s gentle touch. The flesh was more than malleable and Xander couldn’t help but wonder if it would completely pull away from the bone before he had finished opening the woman’s grip.

“You’re doin’ fine, pet,” Spike reassured Xander. Xander kept his focus on opening the woman’s hand without doing any more damage to her body. Finally, he worked her fingers open and in the palm of her hand was a silver button in the form of a wolf’s head.

Xander and Spike hissed in unison. The silver button was familiar to Biogen and Council a like.

“Raiders!” Xander softly swore.

Spike tapped his communicator three times, summoning Wes, Faith and Gunn. Xander stood up from his crouch and took another closer look at the button. It didn’t give him any more answers; only questions.

“Raiders don’t slaughter,” Xander whispered to Spike. “They enslave….rob…this…this….”

“Doesn’t add up,” Spike finished as the rest of the crew gathered round Xander and Spike.

“Spike?” Wes asked softly.

Xander turned and showed the button to his crewmates.

“Raiders!” Gunn spat as he recognized what Xander held.

“Fu…,” Faith began and then vowed. “They’re dead.”

“Why?” Wes asked. “Is this a setup? Could someone be trying to make us think…”

“Boy found it the woman’s death grip,” Spike interrupted. “More like Raiders did the setup.”

“For what purp…?” Wes began when he was interrupted by Spike’s gesture for “QUIET.”

The crew looked to Spike as he tilted his head as if listening. Xander concentrated and then his eyes went wide as he heard the faint familiar hum of a Council communicator on standby.

“Fall back now!” Spike ordered as he brought his weapon up. Immediately the dead colony was once again alive with violence and chaos as shots were fired from behind the not so quiet buildings at the fleeing DeSoto crew.

Gunn, Faith and Spike returned fire. Xander tried to bring up his own weapon but couldn’t. What if it’s Buffy or Willow Xander asked. Instead he pocketed the glove and silver button while trying to use his body as cover. Spike was bringing up the rear in full game face firing with deadly accuracy.

Please, Xander prayed, don’t let Buffy or Willow be here. Don’t let Spike…

Xander’s thoughts were interrupted as a spray of blood hit him on the face mask and Wes crumpled before him!

“WEESSS!” Faith screamed and dropped her weapon to immediately turn and scoop up her fallen watcher. Gunn was frantically trying to fire to give the Regent and Watcher cover.

Spike and Gunn aren’t going to be enough! Xander thought as he brought up his own weapon and began to return fire. He didn’t aim to kill only to pin down his foes. Xander concentrated on joining with Gunn to give cover. Xander’s world narrowed to two concepts, retreat and fire.

In what seemed liked forever and yet in only moments the retreating crew made it to the tree line.

“Fred,” Faith shouted into her communicator. “Bring the DeSoto in hot to the tree lines. Man down and company’s on fire.”

“Man…” Fred began to ask.

“Bring the bloody ship in!” Spike’s voice ordered over the communicator. Only then did Xander realize Spike wasn’t with them in the tree line.  Xander whirled to look behind him.

Spike was still several meters behind them and still giving cover. Yet, Xander could see Council forces beginning to move in to cut off Spike’s retreat.

“SPIKE!” Xander yelled and tried to run back to his lover.

A hand grabbed Xander’s arm and pulled him back.

“He said retreat,” Gunn snarled.

Xander jerked his arm away from Gunn and growled, “They’re cutting him off!”

Gunn’s eyes went wide behind his mask and then he moved forward as if to join Xander.

“We don’t have time for this!” yelled Faith. “Wes is hit and it’s bad. We need to move toward the ship.”

Gunn and Xander turned to look at Faith. The normally unflappable regent had tears streaming down her face as she had her hands pressed firm on Wes’s bleeding stomach wound.

“If we don’t get him to the ship soon, he’ll die,” she sobbed.

A strangled cry rang out from the direction of the colony. Xander didn’t need to look to know it was Spike, but he did anyway. Spike was hit and down on the ground with Council forces surrounding him.

“Spike…” Xander whimpered in horror as he began to move. Once again Gunn’s hand stopped him.

“He wouldn’t want you…”

“Fuck that!” Xander snarled. “It’s Spike! We can’t just leave him!”

“Xander,” Faith cried as she held the unconscious Wes.

Xander looked at his three crewmates. Ghods! I can’t just leave him! Xander thought and then tore of his mask. He used the image of Spike down and surrounded by hostile force to keep from doubling over with the smell of the decaying carnage back at the colony site.

“Xan…” once again Gunn started.

“I’m going to get him back,” Xander snarled as he began tearing at the bottom of his shirt.

“We don’t have time…,” Faith argued and then turned toward the tree line where they could see The DeSoto coming into a hover with the cargo bay doors open.

“In position,” Fred’s voice rang out over the communicators while the ramp from the cargo was being lowered.

Xander tore a strip off his shirt and then began to wrap and tie it off around his left eye.

“Xander,” Faith began again, “what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to get him back,” Xander said as he dropped his weapon and pulled the glove with silver button out of his pocket.

“Spike wouldn’t…,” Gunn began to argue and once again grabbed Xander’s arm. Xander jerked it away.

“I’m getting him BACK!” Xander hissed and then shoved the silver button into Gunn’s empty hand. “You two get Wes back to the ship and then get the hell out of here. Give the button to Angel.”

“Xander you can’t…,” Faith said.

“I’m not leaving him,” Xander cut her off.

“He wouldn’t wa….”

“He wouldn’t leave m…any of us,” Xander once again interrupted Faith. Then he looked her calmly in the eye. “Faith, you have to get out of here.”

“This isn’t going to work,” Faith argued.

Xander reached out and touched Faith’s face and gently wiped a tear away. “I promise you, on Jesse’s memory, I’ll bring him back. NOW GO!”

Faith held Xander’s focus for a moment before turning to Gunn and ordering, “Cover us!”

As if one, Faith and Gunn moved out. Faith hoisted Wesley over her shoulder and began running towards the ship. Gunn sent a brief look of solidarity to Xander and then followed Faith. Xander turned and headed back towards the colony with his hands up.

It didn’t take long for Xander to hear the ramp of The DeSoto lifting and the bay doors closing. Nor did it take long for Xander to be surrounded by Council forces.

“Don’t shoot!” Xander yelled. “Lt. Alexander LaVelle Harris! Thank ghods you found me!  Not that you lost me but I’m definitely of the needing….”

“Shut up,” one of the soldiers ordered. Xander noted the man’s uniform. It was Sergeant Forrest Gates. Xander knew he served with Riley.

“Gates!” Xander yelled. “My hero! Is Captain Riley here?”

Gates narrowed his eye and answered, “Back at the colony with the Biogen.”

“You got Sp..Bloody?” Xander asked. “You kill the bastard?”

“Nah,” Bates said. “You know those things aren’t so easy to kill.”

Xander fought to keep his relief from showing and said, “Good! I want him alive and to stand trial back on Council prime.”

“Well what you want and what you get depends on Riley,” Forrest replied. “Now keep your hands up and move out.”

Forrest indicated with the wave of his gun for Xander to continue to move back to the colony. Xander moved and tried not to twitch at the knowledge of all the loaded and aimed guns point at his back. If they open fire at this range, Xander thought, I’ll be a humpty dumpty Xan-man with a lot of out of work nanites.

Xander tried to keep his mind focused on Spike. Frantically he searched the area in front of him until he spotted his lover. Spike was a bloody, but alive, restrained mess on his knees in front of Riley. Xander hissed.

“You say somethin’?” Gates asked as he shoved the point of his gun into Xander’s left armpit.

“Fuckin’ William the Bloody,” Xander spat. “Heartless Biogen scum!”

Gates withdrew the gun and said, “Keep moving.”

Riley looked up and noted the men approaching and so did Spike. Spike began snarling and straining at the reinforced cuffs holding his arms back. Xander could see signs of a few blast wounds already on the mend. Spike’s mask was also missing and his face looked bruised and swollen.

“Harris!” Riley grunted as Xander and his escort approached.

“Captain!” Xander addressed Riley.

“Xan…,” Spike began and was cut short by Riley’s boot to Spike’s face.

No flinchage! Xander reminded himself as he forced himself to not react or to slide into game face. So don’t have the numbers right now!

“What are you doing here?” Riley asked Xander.

“Was sorta escaping,” Xander replied. Riley arched an eyebrow. “Angel sent The DeSoto  out here…”

“They responsible for this massacre?” Riley snapped.

Xander shook his head. “No, they just got here. We're supposed to pick up a shipment or something. I’m not really sure. Bloody and his crew not being big with information to the Council prisoner and celeb hostage.”

Riley motioned Xander closer by him and Spike. “Prisoner huh?”

Xander nodded. Spike snarled but otherwise didn’t say anything. Don’t go all bossy and blow this, Xander silently urged but did not look at Spike. Xander kept his eyes focused on Riley.

“And you escaped?” Riley asked.

“Yeah…you clipped one of them. While they were busying hauling his near carcass up I bailed out,” Xander was interrupted by another round of Spike rage and resistance. Riley kicked him again and aimed his gun towards Spike. Xander quickly reached out and grabbed the weapon.

“No!” Xander screamed. Riley jerked the weapon from Xander’s grasp and pointed it at Xander.

“Why not?” asked Riley.

“I want him to stand trial!”

“Things don’t get trials,” Riley replied.

“They do when they kidnap and torture the Regent’s friend and donut boy!” Xander said desperate to pull some sort of leverage with Riley without threatening Riley’s positron.

Spike went still and silent at Xander’s accusation of “kidnap and torture.” Xander didn’t risk the chance of sending a comforting glance to his lover. Instead he kept his eye fixed on Riley.

“What happened to your eye patch?” Riley asked.

“Bastard took it first day he had me,” Xander smoothly replied, recognizing the tactic as one designed to throw Xander off guard. “Liked to look and poke at it and that’s not just a metaphor.”

Riley grunted. “Spies had it you and William here were close.”

“Yeah, well it’s hard to be far apart when you're chained to the end of his bed,” Xander replied ignoring the snickering around him.

Riley smiled without mirth and said, “Heard you weren’t exactly having a problem with that?”

Without missing a beat, but praying Spike would understand, Xander replied, “I did what I had to to survive. You don’t think I’d willingly submit to that do you?”

Riley arched an eyebrow.

Remember your promise, Xander silently begged Spike without looking at him.

“That,” Xander said as he pointed without looking at Spike, “is beneath me!”

Then before Xander could see the look on Spike’s face he delivered his own kick to it. The force of Xander’s kick sent Spike reeling and falling backwards to the ground and unconscious.





Part Thirty-Five

Faith wasn’t sure how they cleared the Wash colony and the Council forces. Faith’s focus had been Wesley and the steady amount of blood pumping out of his abdomen. She remembered stumbling into their makeshift medbay screaming for Fred.

Too soon and too late it seemed Fred ran into the bay, stumbling when The DeSoto was rocked by Council fire. Faith remembered Fred shoving her away from Wesley and screaming at Faith to go help Gunn. Faith hadn’t wanted to leave Wesley. A hard slap had sent Faith reeling and brought her focus to Fred.

“GO HELP GUNN!” Fred had screamed and then turned to begin to work on the too pale Wesley.

Faith didn’t remember getting to the bridge. She didn’t remember taking over piloting the DeSoto while Gunn worked on returning fire. Faith just remembered thinking, Wesley’s eyes are blue, not his lips. Lips aren’t blue.

Faith didn’t know whether it had been days or rotations since their hasty retreat. What she did know was that she was tired. She sat in the galley staring at her bloodstained hands while Gunn poured her a proto-fizz.

“Drink it,” Gunn ordered. “Even Regents can go into shock.”

Faith nodded and took a sip. The bubbles irritated her sore throat. Had she screamed that much or did tears do that to you?

“Fred said she’d be here in a few to give us an update,” Gunn said.

Was that good news or bad news? Faith wondered. Isn’t SOP for bad news to be delivered in person?

“Faith,” Gunn tried again to bring the Regent back to the present, “Wes is strong.”

“There was so much blood,” Faith whispered.

“We can’t lose it now, girl,” Gunn tried again. “Spike…”

“Spike’s gone!” Faith cried finally meeting Gunn’s gaze.

“And Xander’s gonna bring him back!”

“And you believe that?” Faith laughed bitterly.

“Yes,” Gunn said simply, “and so do you.”

There was a faint knock on the galley archway. Gunn and Faith swiveled their attention to Fred who was entering the galley.

“I could use one of those, Charles,” Fred said as she nodded her chin in the direction of Faith’s proto-fizz.

Gunn got up and poured Fred a glass of the fizzy liquid. Fred sat down next to Faith. Gunn sat back down on the other side of the table opposite “his” girls. Gunn slid the asked for drink over to Fred.

“Thank you,” Fred said before she took a drink. She could feel the tension radiating off of Faith. Fred wasn’t trying to be cruel in not immediately updating Faith and Charles on Wesley’s status, but she’d just had her hands inside a man she knew loved her and she needed a moment to compose herself.

A moment, that ain’t too much to ask for, Fred thought, is it?

“Fred?” Faith quietly urged.

Fred sighed. “I have him stabilized…for now.”

Faith and Gunn released a sigh of their own.

“I won’t lie to you,” Fred continued. “It’s not good.”

“How bad?” Gunn asked.

“He was hit from front to back on the left side. I think his left kidney is gone and so is the spleen.  Bone fragments from the shattered eleventh rib appear to have lodged themselves in the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine…”

Faith choked back a cry.

“The abdominal aorta was hit. I’ve managed to seal it and the other bleeders. I’ve cleaned out the abdominal cavity as much as I dare….”

“Is he gonna make it?” Gunn asked.

“Not if we wait until we reach Hyperion to get him proper medical care,” Fred said.

“You have him stabilized?” Faith asked.

Fred nodded, “It’s taken almost our entire blood and plasma standby, but yeah I think I do. I also have him sedated, but he needs professional care now.”

“What’s the closest friendly colony with that kind of juice?” Gunn asked.

“Inara,” Faith replied.

Fred nodded. “They should have the facilities to treat him there. They might even be able to treat the spine. The sooner they can get the fragments out and start the SC therapy, the sooner he has a chance of being able to walk again.”

“There’s a chance of that?” Gunn asked.

Fred smiled grimly, “Well it’s not Biogen science, but stem cell therapy has been around for some time. If we can get a graft started on his spine soon his chances are good.”

None of the remaining DeSoto crew articulated what they were thinking. On Hyperion they had the ability to ensure Wesley’s full recovery, but if they waited to get him there he might not make it at all.

“We’re going to Inara,” Faith said as she stood up to head for the bridge. “Fred, stay with Wes. Let me know if anything changes. Gunn, find out who we can trust on the colony. I don’t think we can risk sending a message to Angel right now, but we’ll want to get word to him as soon as we can.”

Fred and Gunn nodded. Faith tried to smile and then left for the bridge. She still hadn’t thought to wash the blood from her hands.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


“My poor, Spike,”  the soft voice drifted into Spike’s consciousness. Spike blinked into the pressing and surrounding darkness.

“Bugger off,” Spike spat as he struggled against the wrist restraints that held him to a hard and cold metal wall.

“They’ve put my Spike in the corner and taken his toys away,”  the voice spoke again.

Spike furrowed his brow; the voice was feminine and familiar.

“Some vid tricks will get you Jack and shite,“ Spike snarled while slipping into game face. “And Jack just took a big crapper before heading out the airlock.”

The voice giggled and a light began to slowly filter in front of Spike slowly revealing the tall and willowy form of a thin pale young woman with dark eyes and darker hair. She reached out a hand to gently trace the hard edge of Spike’s cheek.

“Dru,” Spike whispered in a broken sigh momentarily forgetting his circumstances.

The woman smiled and leaned down close to Spike so her lips hovered above his.

“My poor William, Dru softly breathed across Spike’s lips.

“Yer not real,” Spike said in another broken whisper and let his face resume it's natural form.

“Was I ever?” Dru asked.

“Go away, luv,” Spike said as he turned his face away from his haunted apparition.

“Not before you remember your promise,” Dru said.

“Promise?”  Spike looked back at Dru.

“Ms. Edith said you can’t come to tea,” Dru started to say in a sing song voice as she almost seemed to float away from Spike. “We have no biscuits.”

Spike dropped his head forward. They got the nutters part right, he thought.

“I’m not serving the bad boys either," Dru pouted. “I’ll not dance or pour for them when they hurt my Spike so.”

Spike looked up at Dru. How did she…?

Dru smiled, “You never hid your thoughts from me, not even when they were naughty, naughty thoughts.”

“Dru?”  Spike asked again dreading and yet hoping for her answer.

The woman smiled again and then began to twirl around. The light followed and seemed to only illuminate her.

“My poor Spike all alone in the dark without his toys or his kitten for comfort.”

“Kitten?”

Dru stopped twirling around and then returned to hover over Spike.

“Remember your promise, Spike.”

Dru once again ran her hand gently over Spike’s face. “Remember your promise. Remember your kitten?”

Wot the bloody hell is she talking about? Spike wondered.

“Dru, luv, if there was something I’ve forgotten,” Spike said, “Some memory I forgot to honor or promise made….”

“Spike,”  Dru interrupted in the voice she used to use to correct a naughty child, “I’m your Dark Princess and you have never disappointed me.”

“I don’t understand, luv,” Spike said.

Dru once again backed away and began to twirl in the darkness.

“He’s dark eyed and light hearted,” Dru began to sing song, “He rolls over and purrs sweetly but his claws are sharp!”

Dru curled her fingers and pantomimed clawing at the darkness.

‘Dark eyed’ and his claws are sharp? Spike thought and then he jerked hard against his restraints and focused his gaze on Dru.

“Xander?”

“Oh he’s a sweet kitten!” Dru said as she laughed, twirled and clapped her hands. “He keeps my Spike warm and in smiles.”

“What about Xander?” Spike asked desperately.

Dru stopped spinning and drifted back to Spike.  “Remember your promise,” she said.

My bloody promise? Spike thought. What is she talking about?

Then once again Spike jerked against his restraints as realization surged through him almost painfully.

“I love him, Dru,”  Spike said in a stronger voice then he’d yet used. “That hasn’t changed.”

Dru smiled then and pressed a soft kiss to Spike’s lips. The kiss was sweet and swift. It left something in Spike a little more broken and yet a little more restored.

“Then make sure you keep your promise,”  Dru smiled. “Make sure….”

“My promise?” Spike started to interrupt only to have Dru lay a long silencing finger over his lips.

“Blue for your eyes,” Dru continued, “and kitten brown for him. Silver for shining in the dark and for showing him how precious he is.”

“Dru?”

“Remember, my Spike,” Dru said softly. “Good kittens need collars to remind them that no matter where they stray or how lost they get, they have a home.”

Spike stilled for a moment marveling in Dru’s touch and what she was telling him. For a moment Spike was lost in the letting go and the hanging on; then he smiled.

“I suspect he does,” Spike said.

Dru smiled in return before once again spinning away and clapping her hands.

“He’ll take good care of you, Spike,” Dru said as she danced in circles, “He’ll be sweet, soft and warm. He’ll be yours but like all good kittens he’ll also be his.”

“Wouldn’t want it any other way,” Spike smiled again.

“Make him purr, Spike,” Dru said as she continued to twirl. Then the light which had been illuminating Dru began to flicker and fade.

“Make him purr and he’ll make you smile,” Dru’s fading voice continued to sing song until the light and her form were completely gone.

“I will,” Spike promised.

Pain suddenly flared through Spike’s being and he felt his whole body arch in response.

“Will what, Seventeen?” A harsh voice demanded as another bout of pain raced from Spike’s skull and down his spine. “Be a good Biogen?”

When the next surge of pain coursed through Spike his stomach revolted in protest. Bile erupted from Spike’s mouth and spilled down his chest.

“I guess you forgot how much pain the chip can produce, eh?” the voice asked as hard knuckles rasped against something metallic lodged in a tender and raw spot on the side of Spike’s head.

Spike felt his wrists released and he fell forward face first onto the floor.

“We will just have to remind you, Seventeen,” the voice spat as a swift kick was delivered into Spike’s side.

“Lesson one; we can hurt you all we want,” the voice said as two more swift kicks were pounded into Spike’s lower back.

“But you?” the voice said, “Well that’s lesson number two. You. Can’t. HURT. US!”

This time the succession of kicks punctuating the voice’s last four words were aimed at Spike’s face. 

Why’s it always in the bloody face? Spike briefly wondered before he once again surrendered into unconsciousness.





Part Thirty-Six

Xander paced outside the Snyder’s bridge. Riley was reporting in to Buffy, again, before Xander would finally have a chance to talk with her and Willow. Xander hissed and felt the ball of writhing emotions well up. For a moment, Xander’s vision started to tilt “golden.”

Careful, Xan-man, Xander silently admonished, showing off the ‘new and improved’ Xander features won’t do Spike any good other than get him a new roommate and it’s well known the guest accommodations suck.

Xander took a deep breath. His emotions were high and conflicted. On the one hand he was anxious to talk with Willow and Buffy; anxious to know they were all right and to let them know he was all right. He had missed them.

Yet Xander was terrified. Spike was alone, unarmed and thoroughly in enemy territory. Worse then enemy territory, Xander thought, he’s in Council custody under Riley’s command.

“Fuck!” Xander muttered as he continued his pacing. How long does it take for Riley to make a second report?

Riley had reported in immediately once he had brought Xander and Spike aboard. Xander flinched at the memories of Spike’s beaten and bloodied face. I helped in that! Xander bit the inside of his cheek to keep from crying. I hurt Spike!

Then Xander clenched his fists and thought: He’s probably in worse shape now!  Xander knew what happened to captured Biogens. Hell at one time he might have been all on board the brutal train. Back when I believed the Council lies, Xander thought.

Some part of Xander desperately wanted to believe that Riley wasn’t another victim of the same propaganda, but Xander knew better. He’d already seen the look in Riley’s eye when he’d kicked Spike.

Riley would have never fallen for Caleb’s line, Xander thought and for the first time that thought didn’t bring a flush of shame to Xander’s face. Xander snorted.

I may have been a naïve fool to trust Caleb, Xander thought, but I wasn’t a fellow sadist. Better to be a one-eyed freak than a heartless bastard!

For a moment Xander briefly smiled as he could almost hear Spike’s voice calling him a “daft git” at Xander’s near moment of inner rambling profundity.

“Spike,” Xander closed his eyes and barely whispered, “Hang on, you bossy blond menace.”

Xander opened his eyes and resumed pacing again. What the hell is taking so long? he wondered.

During Riley’s first report Xander had been given a cursory examination by the ship’s doctor. Xander had refused anything more then a check of vital signs, insisting he only wanted to be examined by his doctor, Tara Maclay. Xander had known it would piss Riley off, but for the first time Xander wasn’t afraid of invoking his Council connections to get what he wanted.

“I’m only going through the humiliation of a thorough exam once,” Xander had argued, “and I want it to be done not only by a friend but by the best.”

No one would argue that not only was Dr. Maclay one of the best physicians she was also a close friend of Xander’s being married to the Council’s chief Cyber-mage Willow. Riley’s men had grumbled, but after a brief examination by the Snyder’s doctor, Xander had been given a replacement eye-patch and sent on his way. Xander waited until he was alone to put on the new patch.

Being sent on his way had meant being escorted to a small cabin where Xander had been allowed to shower and change into a provided Council uniform. Xander had taken a few minutes before leaving his cabin to study his reflection in the small mirror.

The uniformed Xander in the mirror had long hair, a sharper edge to his features and a more confident stance then the one before Xander had met Spike. Xander looked out of place. The Council soldier image didn’t fit him anymore.

Xander had tugged at the collar of his uniform and itched to strip it off and throw it away along with the useless eye-patch.  However, he knew he had to play the role now for Spike.

Xander had taken a small comfort in noting that his hair was longer than regulation. Not going to cut it, Xander vowed. Gonna let Spike gloat and stroke this shaggy mop to his arrogant heart’s content once we’re safely together again.

Then Xander had smiled and exited his cabin. He’d ordered his “escorts” to take him to the bridge. Of course that had to be cleared by Riley and of course that hadn’t been exactly a well received “request” but it turned out that Riley really had no choice as Buffy had asked to speak with Xander as soon as he was ready.

So now Xander was ready and pacing outside the bridge while Riley filed another report. Once again Xander felt his vision blur and his face “itched.” Once again Xander took another deep breath.

“Harris!” Riley’s voice boomed as the bridge doors flew open.  Xander jumped.

“The Prime Regent is ready to speak with you,” Riley said.

Jerk, Xander thought as he nodded and fought the urge to roll his eyes as he entered the bridge. Riley pointed at a chair in front of the communication console.

“The Regent has asked we clear the bridge while she interviews you,” Riley said with barely suppressed anger. Then with a quick gesture at his crew Riley left the bridge. His crew quickly followed.

Xander took a deep breath and stepped forward to slide into the chair.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


“Xander!” Willow’s joyful cry reached Xander’s ears before his butt met the seat of the chair.

“Xander,” Buffy’s breathless voice followed quickly behind Willow’s.

“Wills,..Buf,” Xander said as he tried to focus past his blurred vision to see “his girls.”

“Xan, don’t cry,” Willow said as a tear drop trailed down her cheek.

“Cry?” Xander asked as he sniffled and brushed his hand over his right eye. “Who’s cryin? Just allergies here. Must be Riley’s cologne.”

Buffy laughed and wiped her own eyes.

“One of Willow’s ‘relaxing’ incenses on this end,” Buffy said.

“X..Xander, it’s good to s..s..see you,” whispered Tara who quickly appeared behind Willow. “You ok?”

“Never better,” Xander answered.

“I am relieved to hear that, Xander,” the Watcher’s crisp and accented voice said as Giles appeared behind Buffy. “We all look forward to your quick and safe return.”

“Thanks, G-man,” Xander smoothly replied keeping the chill he felt twisting in his gut absent from his response. How could you be part of the lies? Xander thought. How could you hide the truth? How could you lie to US?

“How many times have I asked you not to call…,” Giles began and then paused to study Xander. “Are you ok?”

Xander flashed a smile. “I’m fine. Just a little overwhelmed, not to mention suffering from Cheesey Twists withdrawal.”

Once again Xander’s girls laughed. Giles took off his glasses and rubbed at the lenses with his handkerchief.

“W..we..well once I check you out,” Tara said, “I’ll be sure to au..authorize a chocolate and snack food filled w..welcome home p..p…party,”

“Right!” Buffy agreed. “No one goes home without eating major quantities of poundage inducing junk food!”

“Good Lord," Giles said as he reseated his glassed on his nose. “We might as well surrender now. None of the Regents will be left in fighting condition.”

Xander faked another smile.

“Don’t worry about that,” Buffy growled. “After what they did to Xander there won’t be any Biogens left to surrender to.”

“Buf…”

“No Xander!” Buffy cut him off. “What they did to you is unforgivable.”

What did they know? Xander wondered. What did their spies tell them?

“I’m alive, Buffy,” Xander said.

“Xander,” Willow said. “What they did does not go unpunished or unforgotten.”

Xander hid a wince as he could almost feel Willow’s cyber implants cackling with energy.

“Wills, it wasn’t that b…”

“By your own admission you said you were tortured!”

This time Xander’s wince showed. He had said that he’d been tortured to Riley and no doubt the tinman had reported that to Buffy. Xander’s gut twisted more. He couldn’t talk with Buffy and Willow now. He couldn’t talk to them when he and Spike were still on Riley’s ship.

This is going to have to be a face to face angst fest, Xander thought.

“X…Xander, are you a..all right?” Tara asked.

“I’m fine,” Xander sighed. “I just…Can we talk about all this when I get back?”

“Absolutely!” Willow quickly said as she pantomimed zipping her lips.

“I understand,” Buffy said, “but we do have to talk about one thing before then.”

“Sp..William the bloody?” Xander asked not missing Giles’s narrowed look at Xander’s near misstep.

Buffy nodded. “I understand that you want to bring him back here?”

“Yes,” Xander said.

“For…trial?”

Xander nodded.

“Xander, Biogens don’t get a trial. You know that,” Giles said.

“They’re things,” Buffy spat.

“Right,” Xander choked. “I just…well…Xan-man scrambled. It’s just that…Bloody is Angel’s right hand…”

“Which means I want to interrogate him,” Buffy said, “personally. Not give him a trial.”

Xander swallowed his fear and added, "Well then I think you’d better tell Riley.”

“I have.”

“Buf, you weren’t there when they captured him,” Xander said. “Bloody might not make it….”

“Xander,” Giles said, “Captain Finn has his orders.”

“And accidents happen!” Xander replied.

The Regent and her inner circle fell quiet for a moment. Then Buffy said, “What do you wanna do?”

“Put me in charge of the prisoner.”

Willow gasped and both Buffy and Giles’s faces tightened.

“Xander, I’m..n..not s..sure that’s a g..good idea,” said Tara.

“She’s right," Willow said.

I’m going to have to convince them I hate Spike! Xander thought. C’mon Xan-man, you can do this.

“Buffy,” Xander said in a tone of voice he’d only ever used when talking to the girls about Caleb, “trust me. I need to see he gets back to the ‘Dale. I want him to face you and Wills. And most of all, I want him to know I brought him to you.”

Once again Buffy and the others were silent. Then Giles sighed.

“All right, Xander,“ Buffy said. “I’ll tell Riley that you are in charge of Seventeen.”

Seventeen? Xander wondered and then realized it must be Spike’s prisoner designation.

“Thank you, Buffy,” Xander said. His girls smiled back.

I’ve convinced them, Xander thought. Now I’m going to have to convince Riley.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


After Xander had finished his conversation with the girls he’d had the pleasure of “sending” Riley back into the bridge and once again Xander was left pacing outside the bridge while he waited for Riley to finish speaking with Buffy.  However, it was almost worth it when Riley marched out of the bridge, his face purple with suppressed rage.

Buffy pulled rank on you big time, huh?  Xander thought as he hid his smile.

“Regent Buffy has ordered that you be in charge of Seventeen,” Riley said, his voice clipped and sharp.

Xander nodded.

“I suppose you would like to see the prisoner?”

“Yes.”

Riley leaned deep into Xander’s personal space and stared at his subordinate with high connections.

“This is still my ship, Lt. Harris. I’m responsible for the safety of every man and woman aboard. I don’t trust you. I think you’re compromised and until I think otherwise….”

“Just show me the prisoner,” Xander barked, his return gaze as penetrating as Riley’s.

Riley arched an eyebrow, “Not quite the donut boy you were, huh Harris?”

“You can definitely say I’m a changed man,” Xander smoothly replied keeping his human face firmly in place.

“What’s the fire to see Seventeen?” Riley asked.

“Payback’s a bitch,” Xander once again made his voice as hard as Riley’s.

Riley’s dry laugh surprised Xander.

“No, Harris,” Riley corrected, “Payback’s a virgin…a bitch is too easy.”

Xander swallowed his revulsion and nodded.

“Show me the prisoner,” Xander ordered.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Riley briefed Xander on the way to the Snyder’s brig.

“Sgt. Gates has been assigned to handle the prisoner,” Riley explained.

“Forrest?” Xander asked with a tremor of trepidation.

“Gates can the handle the situation,” Riley answered.

“Xander knew Sgt. Forrest Gates was Riley’s right hand man. Xander also knew Gates’s hatred for Biogens had once rivaled Xander’s.

“What has he done to secure Sp…Seventeen?” Xander asked.

Riley smiled, “You’ll see.”

Hang on, Spike! Xander thought as he feared for Spike’s condition. Hang on!


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Specialist Graham Miller was standing at attention outside the brig’s door when Xander and Riley approached. Graham’s presence was a small comfort to Xander. While Specialist Miller was a loyal soldier and believed in the Council’s cause, Xander had never known him to be cruel. In fact, Xander had always seen Graham as a calm and sane man in the mix of hot headed tinmen like Riley and Forrest.

“Specialist Miller,” Xander acknowledged as he approached the guard.

Miller snapped to attention and saluted Xander. That’s another thing I like about him, Xander thought. He treats me like a Lieutenant and not the Regent’s donut boy.

“Sirs,” Miller said addressing both his senior ranking officers.

“Gates in there with the prisoner?” Riley asked.

“Yes sir!”

“Prisoner secure?” Riley asked.

Miller looked uncomfortable for a moment as if he’d remembered something unpleasant and then he responded, “Yes sir! I believe so sir.”

Once again Xander swallowed his fear and said, “I’d like to see the prisoner.”

Miller looked to Riley for authorization. Riley nodded. Miller turned and entered the code to open the brig door.

“Aren’t you going to inform him about the new or…” Xander began to ask.

Riley put a hand to Xander’s chest and turned sharply to face him.

“When and if you can convince me that placing you in charge of Seventeen won’t put my ship at risk,” Riley hissed.

Xander bit the inside of his cheek and nodded. Riley held Xander in place for a moment more before retreating and letting Xander enter the brig.

Before Xander could register how completely dark the brig was, he noted how disgusting it smelt. There was the smell of stale urine, old sweat, rancid blood, and adrenaline pumped from pain.

“Lights,” Xander gagged even as he kept himself from making the switch to his Biogen enhanced vision.

“Gates,” Riley ordered, “secure yourself.”

“Yes sir,” Gates’s voice drifted from the darkness.

“Lights!” Riley ordered and then the brig was flooded with light. Forrest stood nearby with a set of night goggles in hand. However, Xander didn’t notice. Xander’s focus was firmly placed on the bloody and bruised huddle of flesh on the floor.

“S…SEVENTEEN!” Xander gasped.

At the sound of Xander’s voice Spike opened his swollen eyes. Blood tinged the white around his brilliant blue irises. Spike remained silent and motionless.

“The new chip is in place as ordered, sir,” Gates addressed Riley.

Xander dropped to his haunches and studied Spike further. Indeed he noticed a metallic ring embedded in the right side of Spike’s skull.

“Excellent,” Riley said.

“Is it functioning?” Xander asked keeping the dread from his voice.

“Yes sir!” Gates replied before pressing a button on a wrist device.

Spike’s body arched, convulsed and the usually arrogant Biogen let loose a broken scream.

“STOP!” Xander immediately ordered.

Gates looked to Riley. Riley nodded. Gates pressed another button and Spike’s was once again motionless and silent except for his labored breathing. Xander stood up and whirled around.

“Give me the wrist device!” Xander ordered.

Gates once again looked to Riley.

“Not until you prove me to me this isn’t a mistake,” Riley said.

“Captain Finn you have your orders from the Prime Regent herself,” Xander challenged.

“And I told you, Lieutenant Harris, I am not putting my ship and people at risk until I know placing you in charge of Seventeen isn’t a mistake!”

“No one wants to see Seventeen secure more than I,” Xander said, “and NO ONE wants to see him reach the ‘Dale alive more than I.”

“I don’t doubt any of those things,” Riley said. “What I doubt is that you haven’t been compromised by your time with Seventeen and that your motives have less to do with Council loyalties and more to do with what’s best for Seventeen!”

Xander hissed in a rage he let show. “You know NOTHING about my motives, Finn!”

Xander spun around and faced Spike again. Spike’s eyes were still fixed on Xander.

The two lovers stared at each other. Please understand, Xander silently pleaded with his eye, please understand.

“Get him up and into the brig’s shower,” Xander barked, “and I’ll show you exactly what this thing means to me! I’ll give you the proof you want!”

Spike’s eyes widened a bit, but he still remained silent and motionless. Behind Xander, Finn and Gates shared a look. Then Finn nodded. Gates stepped around Xander and grabbed Spike by the back of the neck.

“UP!” Gates ordered as he dragged Spike onto his feet. “Move!”

Gates shoved Spike forward and to another set of doors. Gates swiped his hand over a panel and the doors slid open. He shoved Spike forward hard enough to send the Biogen stumbling into the cold and tiled room.

There was a toilet and sink to one side of the room while there was an open shower on the other side. Along the middle wall was a small bench.

“Strip!” Xander barked.

Spike finally showed some emotion by whirling around and snarling at Xander in game face. Gates punched Spike hard enough to send him to the floor.

“You heard him!” Gates barked.

“Harris,” Finn asked in confusion and surprise.

Xander turned his focus away from Spike and looked at Riley.

“I want my pound of flesh,” Xander replied letting all the hatred he felt for this situation ooze into every syllable. “An eye for an eye.”

Finn’s eyes narrowed. Xander laughed bitterly.

“Not literally, Captain,” Xander said as he stepped into the brig bathroom. “Seventeen, I won’t ask again. Strip!”

Spike stumbled to his feet and stared at Xander. Then slowly as if on automatic pilot he began to peel away his clothes. Xander swallowed bile and began to remove his own clothes.

“This chip will fire if he trie…,” Xander began to ask.

Gates licked his lips and smiled. “You can do whatever you want, sir. The chip will fire if he tries to fight back in any way.”

Xander nodded. “Then get out. This is between S…Seventeen and I.”

Once again Gates looked past Xander and to Riley. Riley raised an eyebrow and then motioned with his chin for Gates to leave.  Gates laughed and then winked at a now nude Spike. Spike snarled and Gates laughed again as he left the bathroom. The door closed behind him.

Xander finished stripping and put his folded clothes on the bench. He was left dressed only in his eye patch. Xander turned and looked at Spike who was still in game face.

“Get in the shower!” Xander ordered.

Spike just stared at Xander. Xander took a deep breath and then charged. He threw Spike’s body up against the wall of the shower and threw his arm over his chest pinning him to the wall.

“When I give you an order,” Xander barked, “I expect you to follow it…Seventeen!”

Spike tried to struggle but pain flared in his head. He snarled back at Xander, “Welcome home COUNCIL BOY!”

Xander hid his flinch and pressed his body full against Spike. Xander’s cock began to swell despite the circumstances. It was pressed against Spike and swelling with need was a natural response to such stimuli.

“Remember that first day aboard the DeSoto?” Xander asked. “Remember what you did and how you asked if I liked knowing what it was like to be a thing?”

Spike growled. Xander shoved him again.

“I understand now, Seventeen. You taught me well and now it’s my turn to teach you a few things so listen up!”

“Get off me!” Spike yelled.

Xander shoved again and tried to plead Spike with his eye. “LISTEN! There’s nothing you do here that isn’t watched. You have no hope! I’m in control and it’s time I teach you a few lessons! I won’t be Riley’s buttmonkey because I was yours! DO! YOU! UNDERSTAND?”

Xander’s breathing was labored and his grasp was strong, but he hoped his eye shone with his love and need for Spike to understand the situation. Spike finally stilled and looked at Xander. He really looked. One brown eye met a fierce yellow and for a moment there was silence.

Then Spike relaxed somewhat and his game face slid away. Slowly he smiled the cocky grin Xander had first learned to hate and then learned to desperately love.

“Ya think ya have the balls ta teach me something, boy?” Spike snarled.

Xander held back a smile of his own but tilted his hips forward to rub his groin rudely into Spike’s. “I’ve been told I have balls of brass!”

Spike snorted which sounded suspiciously like an aborted laugh. Then Spike looked deadly serious at Xander.

“Then go ahead, Council Boy. Show me what ya got!”

“I’ve got something to prove,” Xander snarled and tried to warn Spike.

“Go ahead, luv,” Spike taunted. ”Do your worst.”

Xander snarled. I don’t know if I can do this, Spike! Xander thought even as he roughly spun Spike around and slammed him back into the wall. This time Xander pressed his hard cock into the cleft of Spike’s ass.

“I intend to,” Xander growled.

Spike closed his eyes and swallowed his own fear and old memories. This is Xan! He silently reminded himself. This is my pet. Then Spike relaxed as much as he could allow.

“Then do it,” Spike ground out. “I promise ya…ya won’t hurt me. YOU can’t!”

Xander took a deep breath and then reached around Spike to flick on the shower cycle. Tears will get lost in the spray, Xander thought as he felt his eyes begin to water.




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