Beautiful Broken

Story by Lit Gal

Illustrations by Velvet Virago
......Illustrations are hidden under cover tiles, but they are not work safe.

Xander/Spike: Slavery, Non-con, D/s, Hurt/Comfort, Reference to past torture, Bondage
......NC-17 (not kidding, stop now if you're easily squicked)



Chapter 1:--Newly edited for grammar... thanks Fiona

Xander twitched his shoulder muscle again, trying to relieve the cramp that threatened at the edge of his awareness, but he knew better than to do any more than this small movement. Nope, lots of people had called him stupid, but he wasn’t that stupid. He twitched again, pulling his bound hands slightly away from his back to try to stretch a little, but when the boots in front of him turned toward him, Xander immediately stilled.

Nope, not doing anything here. See me doing nothing, Xander prayed as he knelt on the low bench with the other merchandise: eyes down, back straight, wrists bound, and chest out. Yep, rule-followin’ Xan the man just following the rules. The man next to him bumped into him, and Xander didn’t even turn his gaze from the floor in front of him when the man suddenly erupted into screaming. He didn’t need to see the end of the guard’s stick pressing into the flesh, electricity holding the body captive and rigid as the victim screamed. Nope, he didn’t need to see that, because he had felt it often enough.

And right about... Xander waited. Now. The smell of urine assaulted his nose, but that was why they had been placed on the bench, so that their decorated and perfumed bodies wouldn’t be soiled with the urine of terrified slaves. Xander thought it was funny that the others were so scared, because before his habit of talking had been beaten out of him, he’d learned that most hadn’t even known about demons before being captured into this loverly little business. They could still have the illusion that if they obeyed and spread their legs and played good little house pet, they might survive. Xander knew better.

Xander had seen human bodies turned inside out and eaten and ripped apart and their eyes pulled out and their hearts pulled out and their legs pulled off. He hadn’t shared any of this, but he knew what life as a demon’s slave would be like, and he knew tha,t whether he fought or not, it would end the same. The only difference was how much pain he could spare himself by obeying.

A hand closed on his shoulder, and following that non-verbal signal, Xander stepped off the bench and began to follow his trainer to the ring. The last sale was being dragged off-stage by his collar and leash. His own trainer showed off by leaving Xander’s leash dangling down in front where the chain banged into his cock with every step. Of course, Xander could prevent that by walking without the slight twist to his hips, but he’d learned well that when he walked he had to make the small decorative chains at his hips twist about his legs invitingly. So Xander twisted and ignored the heavy chain bouncing around his genitals. He kept his eyes firmly down, in part because of the training which now made it uncomfortable for him to look up, and in part because the huge number of demons in the seats around him made him feel like the last hot dog at a baseball game.

When his trainer stopped, Xander knelt with his knees apart, his shoulders back and his eyes down. The Korloth trainer snapped his fingers and gave Xander a tap with his foot, and Xander obediently turned ninety degrees right, so that he now faced the main audience. A tap with the long training cane at the neck, and Xander immediately folded, his forehead to the dusty ground and his butt resting on his legs. He felt a knife at his wrists before his bonds were cleanly sliced, but he continued to hold his hands in position, his right hand firmly grasping his left wrist.

A tap on his butt and Xander resumed the first position. A snap and two taps with a foot and Xander turned his back to the audience, still holding position. Xander could hear the whispers of the audience members grow louder, but he didn’t care if he did look stupid out here performing like a trained dog. Okay, he cared; he just didn’t care as much as he cared about that cane not coming down on his back to lay his skin open. If Korloth demons weren’t good at healing magic, Xander would have been covered in scars, because he had learned the hard way just how little his defiance mattered. You argued and you just got tied into position and beaten.

The tip of the cane pressed into the crack of Xander’s ass, and he quietly assumed the most humiliating of the positions, legs apart, arms on the ground, head resting on arms and ass waving in the air for everyone to see. He felt the cane slide into him, and he breathed out and relaxed to try to ease the passage of the intruder. His trainer pushed it in far enough for it to stick up in the air like a flagpole before he walked away. Xander could hear his footsteps fade, but he knew the consequences of looking up or moving in any way that would make that dreaded cane sway. Keep the cane steady: that was his only goal. The audience’s whispers increased and now the auctioneer began his business.

“We do our business not in the mundane humans you could pick up on the street, but in the exotic, the half-breeds, the magically talented, the unusual, and today’s sweet boy here is quite a pick. Leshar has always been known for his excellent training, and this time he set himself a challenge. He has taken a demon-hunter and turned him into your own pleasure slave.” Xander listened with half an ear, most of his brain focused on not moving the cane. Leshar--Xander had never before known his trainer’s name, and somehow Leshar just didn’t sound evil enough for a demon that had done the things to Xander that Leshar had done.

“But, ladies and gentlemen, he was not only a demon-hunter, but a minion of the Slayer herself. He fought next to her against the Master of Aurelius and Angelus and a dozen other demons who used to grace our ranks. But, for the right price, this little demon-killer will kneel at your feet and beg to bring you pleasure.” Xander tried not to let the words bother him; hell, he tried not even to listen, but now so many questions had been answered. For six months he had wondered: why him? Six months he had cursed his luck. Six months he had assumed this was all some mistake from which Buffy would save him, but now he knew. He’d been taken and obviously magically shielded so that some demon could get pleasure out of beating him to death for helping Buffy. Perfect.

“And Leshar has saved you a real treat, ladies and gentlemen. Leshar has not trained this slave to the most vital of slave duties.” Xander felt a scaly hand at his hip, but he didn’t flinch at all. Leshar had taken a good five months to beat out that flinch response, and now Xander’s body didn’t even consider flinching, no matter what touched him--a hand, a hot poker, a feather, a knife. He could stand still while someone traced patterns in his back with a hot knife, and boy wasn’t that just something to brag about.

“Leshar has never entered this beautiful slave with anything larger than the cane, so you will have the pleasure of opening this beauty yourself.” The crowd’s murmurs significantly grew. Xander felt the cane being withdrawn, but he held position, even as the cane whistled and came down on his back, opening a line of fire.

“Leshar does produce quality material,” the auctioneer said with glee. A tap on the butt and Xander returned to position one. A snap and two taps with a foot and he turned back to face the audience, still in position.

“As you can see, the boy is trained with your standard commands, including the five kneeling positions, heeling, four punishment positions; and he can use his mouth to provide any number of pleasures.”

Xander felt a finger at his mouth, and he did whatever he did when anything touched his mouth: he opened and took it in as he used his tongue to caress and began to suck.

“Oh yes, I give you my word, he can provide enthusiastic entertainment.” The audience laughed, but Xander continued on his assigned task until the finger withdrew. The cane touched his stomach, and Xander went to hands and knees, allowing his head to hang down. He felt the weight of the slender auctioneer settle in as he took a seat.

“So, what is my first bid for this morsel?” A hand grabbed his hair and pulled his head up so quickly that Xander barely had time to close his eyes to avoid looking at the audience.

“1,500,” came a rough voice.

“An insult!” replied the auctioneer in a shocked voice. “Six months of training--longer than any other slave provided by Leshar, a history of fighting with the Slayer, an untouched hole to drive into, an obedient pet to sit by your side. $1,500 is an insult.” The hand released his hair, so Xander dropped his head back down, trying to block out the whole ordeal and focus on his hopes for the future: quick death, avoidance of pain, maybe a nice blanket to curl up under at night. Yep, never say he hadn’t held on to his dreams.





“$2,750.” A series of bids came from across the audience with no prompting from the auctioneer.

“Well, obviously this crowd doesn’t understand your value,” the auctioneer crooned in a soothing voice as he ran a hand through Xander’s hair. Xander amused himself by mentally reviewing all the things he could say -- well, things he could say if he weren’t a slave. He’d start with, ‘my value tends to be tied to the cost of donuts.’ Oh, he had it, he’d announce, ‘Replacing the broken walkie-talkie, $10 at Wal-mart. Mucking up a love spell, $500 in property damage. The Xander who caused it all, priceless.’

The weight disappeared from his back and a touch on his shoulder brought him to his feet ready to follow, but then the auctioneer simply stood, so Xander began to sink back down, confused.

“No, no, my boy. You stand right there.”

Xander straightened his knees and kept his eyes on the ground.

“These people need to appreciate what a prize you are, so you are going to give them a demonstration.”

A door opened to the side, and Xander could hear chains rattling, hardly surprising at a slave auction. The sound approached, now paired with a fierce growling and the shuffling of many feet. Xander wondered what was going on, since he hadn’t seen anything other than well-trained humans or mostly humans in the slave pens, but something wasn’t going down without a fight. A stake unexpectedly appeared within his vision, thrust toward him by the auctioneer’s hand.

“Here’s the evening’s entertainment. This fledge was turned so his sire could torture the human he used to be. This slave once hunted vampires. So, we’re going to have a little contest.”

Xander watched as the auctioneer took Xander’s hand and placed the stake in it, curling the fingers around the smooth wood.

“If the human kills the vampire, you are going to pay the proper amount for having such a wonderful treat kneeling at your feet. If the vampire kills the human, Leshar is out a lot of time and money and the fledge goes free.”

A snap and two taps turned Xander and he put his back to the audience without comment. It was not as if anyone wanted his comment anyway, but Xander suddenly realized that he’d been granted an easy out. All he had to do was let the vampire kill him, and this would all be over. Of course, that meant one more vampire running around the world, but he’d long ago realized that vampires were going to be there until the end of time, so what difference did that make?

Determined to follow through on his suicide, Xander almost missed the order to fight, but the part of his brain that had developed to always listen to his Master’s orders brought up his eyes before he had even fully processed the command.

The minute he saw the game-faced Riley snarling at him in a crouch, Xander knew he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t allow Riley, with his knowledge of the military, to help the demon community. He couldn’t let the man Buffy loved live like this. Oh shit, who was he kidding? He just couldn’t lie down and die for Captain Cardboard. The man might have stolen the heart of the woman Xander still secretly adored -- and betrayed that same woman and proved himself clueless on so many occasions that Xander’s soldier memories begged to write him up -- but he’d be damned if Riley Finn was going to kill him.

Xander stood with his feet heavily planted even as Riley crouched and judged his weaknesses. When Riley lunged, Xander gasped and fell back a step, luring the fledge into the one weakness every fledge had: arrogance. Of course, Riley’s memories and training probably didn’t hurt his confidence either.

The fledge smiled and lunged forward again; and again, Xander plastered a scared look on his face as he fell back another step; and then the fledge charged, eager to kill the prey and claim his freedom. Xander simply stood, and before Riley could notice the change in tactics, he had speared himself by charging right into Xander’s stake ... and Xander had a close-up for Riley’s last expression: profound confusion. Then the vampire turned to dust, and Xander knelt, laying the stake far enough away that he couldn’t easily reach it as he went into position.

“Ladies and gentlemen, wasn’t that an interesting display. Here we thought we were providing a challenge, since that fledge took out three of the minions sent to capture him, but our little demon-hunter made short work of him.”

Xander held position, not even doubting what the next part of the show would entail, but taking out Riley Finn almost made it worth it. Yep, life was like one giant math class, with him the loser who couldn’t figure out how to add. Maybe even a math class with clowns. Oh yeah, and this auctioneer was definitely in the running for biggest clown, he thought as he waited for the tap.

The auctioneer walked toward the audience, and made two definite taps on the floor. Xander rose and quickly walked to where the auctioneer had tapped and lay down on his stomach, his arms straight out from his shoulders and his legs spread. Yep, math class with clowns and giant bug ladies… that was about as much fun as his life, he thought, as he heard the auctioneer walk around his body. He kept his forehead to the ground as his trainer had taught him.

“Such obedience should be rewarded, but we certainly can’t allow this slave to think that he can kill his betters without consequence, so what shall be his reward and what shall be his punishment?” the auctioneer called out.

Xander listened to the various suggestions, both with dread that creatures with such blood-thirst might buy him and with relief that no one would injure him that badly at the point of sale. Nope, that kind of life-threatening injury would come later, he thought to himself as the auctioneer announced the reward and the punishment. Oh goodie. Xander just loved it when they played stupid fuck-with-the-human mind games.

Xander rose to his hands and knees and crawled over to the implements spread on the floor. He knew full well that, if he chose the lighter instruments, he would simply be hit more, so he closed his lips around the bullwhip, careful not to leave teeth marks since he wasn’t sure whether that spell could restore his teeth again. Xander crawled back to the auctioneer and laid the whip at his feet before going back into position with his head between the auctioneer’s feet.

“Please, Master,” Xander begged in a soft, demon-approved voice. “Please punish me for thinking myself worthy of such a fight. Please remind me that I’m just a slave and must live for my Master’s pleasure. Please, hurt me and make me bleed so I remember my place. Please make sure that I always know that I must accept that my superiors have control over every part of me.”

Xander pulled out the sentences from memory; he had a whole mental library of such phrases that he could spew out without even hearing himself talk. Yeah, punish, right. They liked torturing him, so torture him they would, he thought, as his voice continued -- completely separate from his thoughts. When the whip came down on his back, he carefully made sure to keep his voice even as he begged for more. Eventually the whip stopped, and Xander resumed his preferred silence.

Three taps on the floor and Xander turned presenting his front while taking the same spread-eagle position. This time he closed his eyes since he couldn’t actually lower his gaze like this.

“Oh, such immediate and happy obedience,” the auctioneer pointed out, and Xander’s mental snort reverberated through his mind, although he remained perfectly still. A touch on his stomach sent him to his hands and knees.

“Can’t you just see this beauty begging for your whip, your cock, your horn, your claw?” the auctioneer asked, and then Xander heard a single tap. He glanced out of the corner of his eye to spot the position of the tap against the side wall of the stage before standing and walking to the spot. He placed his hands on the wall, spread his legs, arched his back, stuck his butt out and dropped his head. He could feel the auctioneer’s hand running on the inside of his thigh, but there really wasn’t much he could do about it.

“Oh, I am half tempted to purchase such a treat myself. Look at the arch of that back, the perfect stillness of his body, and ladies and gentlemen, I am telling you that his muscles are perfectly formed under this lovely skin. Those of you who took time to check out the merchandise before the opening bell can attest to that. So, let’s start bidding again.”

“10,000,” a voice called, and the crowd gasped.

In his head, Xander looked at the buyer askance and demanded, ‘What the hell are you thinking?’ On stage, Xander waited patiently.






Came a flurry of voices even as the auctioneer’s hand wandered around the inside of his thigh. The crowd grew quiet. Xander felt the touch at his shoulder, and he turned to follow the auctioneer to the front of center stage, sinking down into position when the auctioneer stopped.

“Look at this darling boy. Surely someone will pay more for the privilege of owning such a trophy: a minion of one Slayer, a demon-hunter, the mate of a second Slayer.”

The last words caused a new flurry of whispers that almost covered the sound of a snap and two touches, but Xander obediently turned. And yep, the pervert was touching him right in the crack, so Xander folded into the correct position, a position that gave every demon in the place a close-up view of his ass.

“Oh, yes, surely that’s worth more,” the auctioneer cooed in a voice that Xander really just wanted to point out sounded like a stoned Mary Poppins.

“12,000,” a voice called into the silence. The auctioneer’s cane now began to run up and down Xander’s crack suggestively, and Xander considered the irony of becoming a sex object under these circumstances, after dreaming of being one for most of his teen years.

$12,100,” a second voice finally called.

“Are we sure we want to pass up such perfection, ladies and gentlemen?” the auctioneer asked, but the room remained silent. “Going once…Going—”

“$15,000,” called a familiar British voice, and for the first time in months, Xander had to catch himself before actively disobeying an order. He came so close to turning to look that he could feel his own heart race in fear even thinking of the punishment he would earn for such disobedience.

“Finally, a demon who knows quality. William the Bloody of the Order of Aurelius has no doubt come to purchase some vengeance for the death of the patriarch of their order. Oh, if no one else will bid, I fear this beautiful body will be torn and broken quite beyond repair. Anyone?” the auctioneer appealed to the audience. “Going once….Going twice…and,” the auctioneer paused dramatically. “Gone.”

The crowd instantly resumed their interrupted conversations, not caring about the life that had been sold and uninterested now that the entertainment had ended.

“Oh my boy, I have so enjoyed playing with you, and I do wish I could have found you a better Master,” the auctioneer commented with an affectionate caress of a buttock, but Xander ignored the words since they didn’t require a response from him.

So, Fangless had bought him, which could mean that Buffy sent him and he was about to go home -- which left him rather unemotional since he didn’t even know how to be that person anymore. Hell, truthfully he didn’t know if that person even existed.

He’d seen plenty of slaves come and go in his trainer’s stable. He’d seen lots of humans break under the whip, and he highly suspected that he was broken. Of course, he’d been broken before his trainer had taken him, but now the break was just a little more obvious, as was proven by the fact that he still knelt in position, waiting for Spike to tell him he could move.

He had never realized how silently the vampire could move until he could smell the leather and cigarette smell of Spike without ever having heard his footsteps. A hand touched his shoulder, and he gracefully rose and followed behind Spike, careful to make sure that his hip chains twirled elegantly, but at least the whole banging the cock wasn’t a problem, since his main chain was wrapped tightly around Spike’s fist.

Spike led him away from the purchasing ring to an area with tables, where he took a seat. Xander sank to his knees beside his new Master. Oh, he only had about three thousand questions, starting with whether the vampire still had a chip and whether he’d just been purchased or rescued, but in the end, the vampire’s answer didn’t matter, since he would follow Spike even if Spike threatened to torture and kill him. The alternative would be to get returned to his trainer, and he’d seen what happened to those who got returned.

“Listen up, ya wanker,” Spike said with a whack to his head, and Xander immediately folded into the down position, butt on his heels, head down and hands on his thighs. He also wondered why exactly Spike thought he had to remind a slave to listen, but then, the vampire never was the sharpest crayon in the box.

Xander had spent all of high school not listening, but after 6 months of training, he couldn’t help but listen for that one voice that had the power of life and death, and he kept reminding himself that his one all-important voice was now Spike, who had become his Master. Spike remained silent for quite a while now, but the voice continued.

“Ya mind me or I’ll stripe your back for ya,” he said in a hissing voice, and again with the obvious. Slaves hardly needed to be told that they had to obey or face punishment, but the vampire’s threat to hurt him did tend to suggest that the whole chip thing wasn’t a problem any more; and wasn’t that just lovely. The auctioneer might have suspected Spike of revenge for the Master, but Xander remembered any number of insults that Spike would want to avenge now that he had the chip out. Oh well, it wasn’t like Xander hadn’t expected to end up dead, and now he got to die at the hand of someone he knew, which made it oddly comforting. Life really did just keep throwing him the curves.

Of course, he didn’t say any of this to Spike; he simply knelt silent and obedient at his Master’s feet, waiting to see whether his Master would beat and rape him in public or take their grudge to a more private setting


Chapter 2:-- Newly edited for grammar... thanks Fiona

Spike must have wandered around the complex a dozen times, going from the male slave pens to the female slave pens to the exotics, which included a number of lesser demons. 

He ordered human blood from one booth and pretzels from a second, and Xander followed silently. 

This was the first time his trainer wasn’t watching, and Xander found that somewhat disturbing. He had entertained any number of customers even if they weren’t allowed to use his ass, and he always knew his trainer was there either to punish or to protect; but now he had to rely on Spike, and considering Spike’s attention span, that wasn’t exactly comforting. 

Of course, the fact that Spike hated him didn’t help, so Xander worked hard to show his training and not earn any more pain than Spike already had planned for him. 

Eventually, Spike grew tired and headed to the far side of the complex, and Xander was beginning to suspect that they were in some sort of closed mall. Soon the slavers’ booths and organ sellers gave way to closed doors and narrow hallways. 

“Home sweet home,” Spike announced as he opened a door to a simple room: double bed, short dresser, one easy chair, two straight-back chairs beside a small table, two other doors other than the entrance. Spike had dropped the chain leash, so Xander went into a standard kneel. 

Spike puttered for a while. “Putter” was really the best word Xander could come up with, considering that Spike moved his coat from the table to the dresser to the chair and then back to the table. Of course, Xander watched this only in subtle glances, the type allowed a slave in privacy, so that the slave could better learn to serve. However, Xander had a problem, because he couldn’t learn where to put the coat away if Spike couldn’t make up his hyperactive, pea-sized brain about where it went.

“Got ta get this over with, so get your arse up on the bed.”

Xander obeyed immediately, getting up on the bed and going into formal position in the middle.

Spike didn’t have to sound so miserable. Obviously, Xander wasn’t going to enjoy his rape, but the least Spike could do was enjoy the moment, instead of acting as though he were making some great sacrifice. After all, if he didn’t want to use Xander sexually, he could just go for a quick whipping and then let his slave get some sleep. Spike reached over and unhooked the hip chain, tossing it on the bedside table.

“Can’t exactly bugger ya like that, idiot. Do what ya did at the auction.”

Great, ambiguous orders with lots of chances for Xander to screw up and earn punishment. He knew there was a reason he hated the vampire. The minute that thought popped up, Xander stomped on it, pounded it into submission. Spike was Master now and he would think good thoughts of Master, at least while Master was in the room. Doing anything else just led to slip ups and beatings, so he mentally chanted ‘Spike is Master, Spike is right, Spike can do no wrong,’ as he slipped into the Floor position, forehead on the bed, butt on his heels.

“Not that one, git, the one with your butt up in the air.”

‘Spike is Master, Spike is right, Spike can do no wrong’ he chanted even harder as some corner of his mind tried to tell him that Spike was a moron. He silently slid into the Present position with his knees spread, his butt up in the air and his face on the bed.

“Never thought I’d live to see Droopy Harris quiet,” Spike said, as he moved around. The sounds suggested he was undressing. “’Course, I can’t really call ya Droopy Britches any more, seein’ as how ya lost the britches.”

Spike returned to the bed and slapped a hip, but Xander simply waited. He had expected a severe punishment for misunderstanding Master’s order, but Spike left it at the one slap and crawled onto the bed, if the tilting of the mattress was any indication.

“So, ya haven’t been buggered yet, huh?” Spike asked, but it sounded like one of those questions you didn’t answer rather than a direct question requiring answer, so he kept silent as a slick finger entered him. 

The slick surprised him and the finger surprised him; he had expected something far drier and larger based on his observations of others’ training sessions. His trainer had a habit of leaving the sleeping cages open and facing the main training arena so that the humans could benefit from watching others’ mistakes. In fact, it was a standing order that he watch others’ training, which left very little time for sleep, but Xander had learned to sort of break his mind in half with half watching some screaming teenager getting dry-raped and the other half napping.

He breathed evenly and willed his muscles to accept the invasion. Spike quickly added a second finger, and Xander had to actually concentrate now. 

He had certainly suffered far greater pain. Far, far greater. Far, far, far greater, and Xander stopped there because he couldn’t repeat the word far often enough to encompass the truth. 

But the very fact that Spike, whom he had tied to a chair and insulted and fought, was about to take the very last bit of Xander Harris, made him struggle to keep position. The training won, and Xander held position and relaxed around the two fingers, at which point a third joined in and Xander felt the burn as Spike moved in, far too quickly for comfort, but far more slowly than Xander ever expected. Slaves didn’t really expect comfort, after all.

The third finger hadn’t been in more than a few seconds when it pulled out, and Xander waited as Spike shifted before pressing against his barely opened hole. Spike pushed in, and Xander focused on breathing, even as he reminded himself of things he had endured that made this downright pleasurable. Okay, not pleasurable in that he got any pleasure out of it, but pleasurable in that he was feeling a significant lack of pain. 

Spike pushed in, and Xander’s position with his arms on the bed and his head down allowed him to accept Spike’s cock without moving. Once Spike was in, he stopped, and Xander accepted the fact that the last part of him was gone. This was his life now, and this was his function.

Spike thrust in and out several times before freezing in place. 

Xander mentally checked himself to make sure he hadn’t broken any rules. He was holding in position, he wasn’t making any noises or using internal muscles to fight against Spike’s intrusion. He was doing good, so why was Spike stopping?

“Can’t bloody do this without some participation,” Spike snarled. 

Xander’s trainer might have used fingers and small rods, but Xander had learned how to move and writhe with great relish. All Spike had to do was order it. 

Xander waited for the order. 

Instead, the two of them remained frozen on the bed, joined in the most intimate of ways. 

“Deaf git,” Spike said, with a harder hit to the hip. “Bloody move,” he snapped, and Xander took that as the order even if the words were wrong. 

He thrust himself back, skewering himself on Spike’s cock, and he must have caught Spike off guard because the vampire grunted and fell back. Xander pulled forward again, stopping when he felt just the tip of Spike’s cock still in him. He might have caught Spike off guard, which actually amused him considering Spike had given the order, but now the body behind him drove into him again, and Xander squirmed invitingly.

When Spike pulled back, Xander forced himself back again, and now their coupling became a contest. Could Spike drive forward before Xander drove himself back onto Spike’s body? Could Spike withdraw before Xander pulled himself forward? From the avid growling, Xander guessed that Spike was enjoying himself, and suddenly a heavy weight fell on his back and pain drove into his neck, even as Xander bent his head to the side to give Spike access. Spike gave two more short thrusts even while drinking, and Xander could feel fluid rushing into him even as he felt fluid rushing out of him, and just about the time that he expected to die, Spike pulled out of both ends, flopping over onto his back on the bed.

Xander quickly moved down to clean Spike, taking one lick at the vampire’s cock before a hand caught his chain and stopped him.

“Considerin’ where that’s been, ya might not want to do that,” Spike commented, and Xander mentally snorted so loudly that for a moment he feared that the sound might have actually escaped into the world. The thought didn’t bother Xander at all; in fact, considering where his mouth had been, maybe Spike should worry about having it around his cock. 

Nevertheless, his Master had stopped him, so Xander quietly slipped off the bed as trained, going into position next to the bed.

“Didn’t feel ya finish,” Spike commented, and the vampire rolled to the side of the bed, but Xander held position, his limp and uninterested cock dangling between his legs.

“Oi, ya didn’t even get started,” Spike said in a clear complaint. 

No, really? Xander found himself saying in his head. He was so sorry for not being more enthusiastic about his rape. Of course, if Spike had ordered it, he would have gotten hard, he would have even reached completion, but the vampire had to order it, and Xander felt his resentment of Spike’s complaint rise high enough to threaten his training, and he forced the thought back. Spike was Master; Spike was right. Xander hadn’t done it right. 

Xander felt the guilt now rise, and he struggled to turn that into acceptance. Of course he hadn’t done it right, he was just a worthless slave, and he would never be as good as his Master. He had to work harder to please his Masters. 

In absence of an order, Xander concentrated on keeping his form perfect, his body relaxed and motionless.

Spike got up off the bed and started pacing, lighting a cigarette, Xander realized, as he heard the snick of the familiar lighter. Soon he smelled the cigarette smoke he always associated with Spike. Cigarette and leather. Well, now cigarette, leather, and sex, Xander mused, as he smelled vampire on his own body, the remains of the rape still dripping from him onto the bare floor.

“Oi, I can’t bloody relax with your sorry arse in the room,” Spike complained, and Xander knelt. 

Really, what did the vampire expect him to do? Pop up and say, ‘hey, that’s okay, I’ll just head down to the Bronze and play some pool’? And Spike accused him of being stupid? Pot and kettle, pot and kettle. 

Spike stomped across the room toward a second door Xander had noticed when they first came in, and Xander found himself praying it was a bathroom. He really should have peed on the floor of the back room when he had the chance, because this was getting annoying. 

“In,” Spike ordered, and Xander flowed to his feet and walked into the closet without comment, sinking into first position once fully inside. “Go to bloody sleep,” Spike ordered and slammed the door. 

Xander held position for several minutes, not disobedient as much as trying to figure out how to follow that order. For six months he had dreamed of sleeping outside of a sleeping cage, but now that he faced the reality, he had no idea what rules applied. Okay, if he backed into the corner and spread his knees, he could certainly continue kneeling, but he would never be able to both sleep and keep his hands at his back without the cage’s restraints.

So, he could disobey Spike’s order to sleep or he could break position. Xander scooted closer to the wall and settled his butt down on his heels with his knees slightly spread. Instead of putting his hands at the small of his back, he curled them in front and lay his head down on them. 

On one hand, he was more comfortable than he’d been in a long time, on the other, his stomach rebelled at the thought he wasn’t in proper position. Out of position was a bad, bad place to be, but on the other hand, his bladder’s complaints easily outweighed any other problems, and on the other hand he just wanted to beat Spike about the ears for not giving him clearer directions, and realizing that he had run out of hands a couple of “other hands” earlier, Xander fell asleep.


“What the soddin’ hell do you think you’re doin’?” demanded an angry voice, and Xander was awake immediately. No stretching, complaining ‘please mom five more minutes’ for him. Nope: the voice called and he was awake, but today’s voice seemed mighty pissed. And pissed might be a good word for it, Xander realized, as he smelled the urine.

A small voice suggested he slide into position, but he knew the consequences for hiding an error were worse than the consequences for the error, so he maintained his current kneel with his hip leaning against the wall far out of alignment and his arms curled in front of him making a pillow for his head. All his weight fell on one knee, and he realized that he couldn’t feel his one leg, but he could feel the itchiness of cold urine against his arms. Focusing on Spike’s knees, he never realized knees could seem so angry, but Spike’s knees were almost vibrating, and Xander braced himself for a serious beating.

“Get out of there,” Spike ordered, and Xander struggled to rise, his one knee that had taken his weight all night buckling even as Xander struggled to bring his body under control. He quickly crawled out of the closet, brushing past Spike's twitching leg. Once he reached Spike's side, he tucked his legs under him, but his cramping leg spasmed. Xander avoided crying out, but the muscle pushed him forward so his palms slapped the ground and his leg seared with agony. Xander struggled up into position, almost crying with the need to show Spike he could do better. 

He forced himself to put weight on the sore leg and straighten out into a formal kneel. The returning blood flow turned his lower leg into a series of prickling pains with one giant cramp causing a burning pain to rip down his leg. Oh god if he could only straighten it and get the muscle stretched, he might be able to stop the pain. But he knew he had already earned himself enough trouble, so he stayed in position, struggling not to allow the muscle cramp to pull his leg up.

“What the bloody hell do you…” Spike started yelling, but he stopped suddenly and only then did Xander realize he was trembling. 

The fear of the punishment and the lack of true sleep and the pain of his leg had combined to overcome his conditioning, and Xander instantly concentrated on stilling his body and bringing it back under control. Oh god, he had to show Spike he could be a good slave. He couldn’t face being returned; he couldn’t face the punishment that would being returned would result in.

Xander felt his body respond despite the hunger and fear and thirst and pain, because he had lived with those things so long they didn’t rule him. He kept telling himself that as he held position at Spike’s feet, praying for the vampire to keep him. Xander knew he had failed, and he would take any punishment, but the only way he had to tell Spike was to hold position and prove himself.

The longer Spike stayed silent, the more Xander suspected that he wasn’t going to earn mercy. He was tempted to tilt his neck and invite death, but he knew he didn’t have that choice either, so he told himself to just accept whatever Spike did. Accept, because that’s what slaves did. 

A hand pulled him up, and Xander struggled to follow the guiding touch, but his leg cramped, and he could only limp ungracefully, knowing that with every step he failed his Master more. 

Spike led him into the bathroom and turned on the shower, shoving him under the cold water before the vampire grabbed a towel and put it in the sink to get it wet.

“Bloody hell, wash your filthy arse,” Spike snapped, and Xander hurried to grab soap and the cloth, unfamiliar with doing this for himself. The water made his shivering return, and he stopped for a moment to bring it under control before continuing to wash the sweat and stale urine off his body. He also happily peed, the yellow flowing down the drain. Spike wasn’t a big one for human functions, so Xander decided to pee whenever he could.

“Oi, ya stupid bugger,” Spike snarled when he returned to the bathroom.

Xander stilled, caught between wanting to go into a punishment position to show his regret and wanting to continue washing as ordered. He hadn’t decided yet when a hand reached in the shower for the temperature knob, moving toward the middle so that the water turned pleasantly warm. 

Spike stormed out of the room again, and Xander finished his work quickly. He really wanted to drink some of the wonderful water running over his body, but if his Master wanted him to have water, he would have given it, so Xander resisted the urge to disobey. Not sure whether he was supposed to get out or wait, Xander eventually settled for turning off the water and kneeling in the shower stall, his hair dripping onto the shower floor one plop at a time.

“Get your arse out here,” yelled a familiar voice, and Xander rose and went to his Master, kneeling down with his head on the ground by Spike’s foot and his hands held behind his back properly.

“What the soddin’ hell were ya thinkin’, peein’ on the floor like some child, with the toilet not twenty feet away? Ya knew where it was, ’cause I watched you checkin’ every corner of the room when we walked in.”

Xander just waited for Spike to shut up and start the punishment. He didn’t need the vampire to remind him that once upon a time he could open doors and he could decide to use a toilet, and he could talk to people and tell them he needed to use the bathroom. So, as far as he was concerned, the vampire could just shut up and get the whipping over with, because he didn’t need to hear it.

“Wot, not got anythin’ ta say about that, wanker?”

Xander considered a respectful ‘No, Master,’ but the tone sounded rhetorical and he didn’t need to buy any more trouble. 

“Bloody hell, you really don’t have anythin’ ta say, do ya?” Spike’s tone had gone from murderous to sarcastic, but Xander simply waited for the order to move into position. He hoped the vampire would whip his backside, because he hated the stomach whippings; they made it so difficult to hold proper position when kneeling to the floor or even kneeling down. Didn’t really matter what he wanted, though.

Spike just snorted and left the room, so Xander waited. The vampire obviously wanted to consider his options while showering, and while Xander hated waiting for punishment—it always ended up being so much worse—he knew that Spike would have to come up with a proper punishment for such bad behavior, especially considering this was Xander’s first full day with him.

When Spike came out of the shower, he banged around the room, cursing and slamming drawers. Normally,Xander would have spent his first morning surreptitiously watching his Master so that he could learn to serve, but Xander held the formal position with his forehead to the cold wood floor as Spike tended to himself. 

Inside, Xander railed, because he would never be able to prove his value as a slave if Spike didn’t punish him and then let him do his work, but outside he remained passive, awaiting his Master’s decision. When Spike finished, Xander heard heavy steps stop right behind him, but instead of the sharp crack of a whip, he only felt Spike’s hand reach under him to grab his leash chain before the vampire stormed out of their rooms, his slave in tow.

Xander followed silently, even though he could have screamed once he noticed their direction. He wanted to throw himself at Spike’s feet and promise to do better, promise to follow the rules, promise anything just to not go back to his trainer. He’d seen what happened to the slaves who got returned, and Xander had to order himself to just accept. Accept and survive. That’s all that mattered and if Spike chose to return him now that he’d gotten his rape and revenge, Xander didn’t have the right to beg anything else from the vampire. 

Of course, Spike might not know just how much revenge he was getting, Xander mused. The stupid vampire might just think his trainer would shove him back into the sale, but Xander knew better.

They reached an area defined by a red line on the ground, and various humans lined the wall, a few chained in provocative positions, but most in perfect kneeling forms. The other booths had proudly displayed humans in chains and cages, terrified and only partially trained, but Xander’s trainer always told visitors that he wouldn’t sell a slave until it had broken so thoroughly that it would kneel in position, silent and respectful until it dropped dead. 

“Yes, can I help you?” asked a familiar voice, and Xander sank to his knees at his Master’s feet, careful to keep perfect form under the eyes of his trainer.

“Are you that one that trained ’im?” Spike asked, with a jerk to the chain

Xander mentally chanted his little acceptance mantra louder, loud enough to drown the feelings of rejection and pain. He wasn’t enough: not good enough, not sexy enough, not smart enough or fast enough or obedient enough to even keep a Master. Slaves like him ended up with trainers; slaves like him ended up being the example used to train more obedient humans. Xander had no doubt just how much suffering he was about to endure.

“Did he displease?” asked that voice, and Xander focused on his breathing, making himself the perfect example of obedience in the hopes of taking one or two lashes off the end of the beating he was about to get. God, he only hoped it would just be a beating.

“No, just never really had one like this before,” Spike said, even as he stepped in front of Xander, and the very act of stepping between him and the trainer, in Xander’s mind, put Spike at the center of his universe. 

The trainer laughed. “He’s yours, vampire. I’m not about to punish someone else’s slave, but if you’re returning him for displeasing you, I can’t give a full refund considering I can smell you in him. No longer the pretty little virgin, is he?”

Xander kept his eyes focused on the back of Spike’s knees. Just focus on Spike, he told himself.

“He’s mine, and he’ll soddin’ stay mine. Just don’t know how ta take care of a human like this, and I can’t even bloody touch him without him tuckin’ himself into some new position.” 

The trainer truly laughed at that. “You have no idea how much effort it took to get him to respond, and now he has a Master who’s annoyed. How ironic.”

Xander went back to his inner dialogue, now that he realized Spike wasn’t returning him. Yep. Ironic, like him begging for Spike’s protection. Ironic, like Xander Harris being called pretty. Ironic, like his own encounter with Faith, which came damn close to rape, being used to up his value so that someone else would pay even more money for the privilege of raping him again.

“Just show me the commands so I can soddin’ well avoid them when I’m tryin’ ta enjoy my pet,” Spike snarled, and the trainer’s laugh drew suddenly thin. 

Xander tried not to enjoy the sound of his trainer’s discomfort, because he couldn’t afford such disrespectful thoughts, but he couldn’t suppress all the enjoyment.

“May I?” his trainer asked, and Xander felt the chain being handed over without looking up. 

He shifted so that he now knelt at his trainer’s feel. 

“First Position,” his trainer explained as he began pointing out Xander’s posture. Once he had completed a complete critique of Xander’s form, Xander felt the tap at his head, and he went into the down position. His trainer then explained the rules and forms for that position, explaining the verbal and the tap commands. His trainer continued with each position, each time making sure Spike knew the signs of laziness or poor form that deserved punishment. Xander fell into the rhythm of following the taps, allowing his mind to wander as his body performed the familiar forms, the taps interspersed with rewarding rubs or corrective swats where earned.

Spike clearly didn’t have his chip, and yet the vampire was showing a real lack of interest in the whole torture thing. Xander didn’t get it. And if Spike didn’t know how to care for a trained slave, why was he at a closed auction for trained slaves? 

And considering that last he’d seen Spike, the vampire had been stealing five dollar bills out of wallets at Scoobie meetings, where the hell did he get enough to buy a slave? And what about the others? Were the Initiative still making problems? Because finding Riley turned into a vampire did suggest that all was not right in Sunnydale. 

He followed his trainer in response to a shoulder touch, actually disturbed by the lack of swinging chains, because without them, his perfect rolling gait couldn’t be judged. His trainer must have agreed, because he ordered Xander to stand as he fastened a new chain low around his hips, the side chains dangling from his hip to his knee. This time, when his trainer took off walking, Xander flowed after him, the light chains dancing in a perfect pattern as Xander showed off his walk. 

See, Spike? No need to return the slave. Look at the pretty walk.

His trainer returned to Spike, and Xander sank to his knees. When the trainer held out the chain and Spike took it, wrapping the end around his fist as if he would never let go, Xander really had to control his tears of relief as he shifted into position at Spike’s feet.

“Let’s see you put him through his paces,” the trainer’s voice suggested, and Xander felt the first meaningful command from Spike. He focused everything into making his form perfect, remembering the small corrections from his trainer earlier. This was his only way of showing his gratitude and relief, and he wanted Spike to know, so he poured everything into keeping his back straight, his hips aligned, and his shoulders back as he went from position to position. 

When Spike started the heel walk, Xander kept his pace perfectly even, making the chains wrap around his legs and then spring back without any jarring or tangling. Spike stopped and Xander slid into position, feeling a light sweat from both the stress of being perfect and the length of the session.

“So as long as I don’t tap him, he’ll sit still for my touch?” Spike asked, even as a slim hand reached down and ran though Xander’s thick hair. The caress was clearly not a tap, so Xander remained in place, allowing his Master to touch as he wished, and for the first time feeling safe that he was obeying Master and Master appreciated his obedience.

“I’ve found he reacts quite well to touch as reward. Other animals may require food rewards, but the giving or the withholding of touch is particularly effective with your boy,” his trainer explained, with the fond voice one normally used for a well-behaved dog. 

“And what about carin’ for him? Been a while since I’ve been human myself.”

“He’s a pretty easy one to take care of. I usually feed him once a day and give him water in the morning and at night.”

Xander felt the hand in his hair tighten, and Xander wondered what Spike wanted, but in the absence of a command, he remained in position.

“And sleepin’?” Spike asked, and Xander understood Spike’s concern. He’d been really angry, and Xander couldn’t blame him.

“He’s adapted to the sleeping cage. Did he give you trouble last night? Because I’m sure he remembers his lessons on the foolishness of fighting the cage.” The trainer’s voice took on dark tones, but Xander comforted himself with the fact that the trainer no longer had power over him. He was Spike’s, so he only needed to please Spike.

“Oi, don’t have a cage and he didn’t sleep very well last night,” Spike said ambiguously, and Xander found himself grateful that the vampire didn’t tell his trainer how poorly he had performed, what with the whole being out of position. Peeing on himself didn’t really bother him, but he didn’t want his trainer to think that he didn’t respect his Master, and breaking position would certainly be a sign of disrespect.

“I’m sure he didn’t sleep well, then,” his trainer said knowingly. “They are animals of habit, and I doubt he even knew what to do without a cage.” 

Xander really resented the fact that his trainer understood him so well. 

“I have his old cage here, and I’d be happy to sell it for a very reasonable price.” The trainer started to walk away, and Spike followed, a touch on the shoulder keeping Xander in close heel even without the chain still clutched in Spike’s fist. Xander wasn’t surprised when the trainer led them from the booth to the back area where slave cages lined the wall. Xander could tell from the sounds that his trainer had taken down a cage and placed it on the floor even though he wouldn't dream of looking up at his betters.

“Tap the top of the cage and give him the command ‘in’,” the trainer suggested.

“Mate, there is no way in soddin’ hell he’s goin’ ta fit in that,” Spike said, and Xander found his inner voice laughing and cheering Spike on. Obviously, Xander knew he’d fit, but the first time he had been faced with that cage, he had said almost exactly the same words.

“This is *his* cage. He’s slept in here for the last six months, and I assure you he fits just fine.”

Spike must have doubted his trainer’s words, because there was a long pause before Xander heard the metallic tap on the cage and his Master’s command.

“In,” Spike said, and Xander turned so that his back was to the cage before folding into the ‘floor’ position. With his hands behind his back, he wormed his way into the cage butt first, folding his torso tightly down onto his knees as he wiggled back.

“Now you always want to make sure you keep an eye on them as they impale themselves. Some will try to squeeze in under the rod, and they can actually hurt themselves.”

“Impale?” Spike asked in a strange voice, and Xander could hear him step up even as Xander continued working his way back into the cage, the rod at the back sliding into his hole so that he couldn’t wiggle from side to side at all. 

“Wot the...?” he heard the shock in the vampire’s voice, and he wondered how Spike was going to react to the cage’s way of keeping his front half equally still. 

Xander pressed back until he could feel his feet slip into the slot at the back and the bars press into his buttocks. Xander felt the brackets close over his ankles and then the wrist strap looped around his wrists and pulled his arms tight to the top of the cage.

When the trainer appeared in his vision with the oddly deformed t-shaped bar, Xander opened his mouth and swallowed as the thin bar slid down his throat, until a chin support slipped under his chin, and the rubber mouth form slipped under his front teeth. At this point, the thicker bar snapped into place on the front of the cage, and his trainer easily lifted the cage to a table, leaving Xander to wonder if all demons were stronger than humans. Xander couldn’t move any part of his body except fingers and toes, and since he’d once seen the fingers cut off a slave who refused to stop flexing his hands, he’d learned not to move those either.

Xander relaxed as the tight cage made sure that his body stayed in position, no matter what. So many days when he’d been forced to spend hours practicing perfect positions, Xander had actually longed for the cage, where he could let himself sag and rest. In some ways, the cage had become his safe place, since the rod down his throat prevented him from making any sound or even moving his head in the slightest, and so often it was his unguarded whispered words or his shrugs or his snorts of disgust that had gotten him beaten. The cage let him relax and gave him permission to not fight, because fighting was impossible.

Xander’s orders included actively watching anything taking place when he was caged, and for the first time, he could really look up into Spike’s face. And boy, didn’t Spike look shocked, which amused Xander, considering that Spike had tortured people with railroad spikes. Heck, the whole sticking hot pokers into Angel thing far outweighed a bit of cramped sleeping.

“This type of cage is perfect, because the open front allows you to reach in for either punishment or reward, and the tight fit actually helps the animal, because he can relax and doesn’t have to worry about holding position,” his trainer explained in a solicitous lecture mode. “You always want to make sure that the sides are tight enough that you can’t fit more than a single finger between the bars and their skin, but don’t make the sides so tight that the animal’s flesh bulges out between the bars, that’s just cruel.”

And again with the irony, Xander thought to himself as he lay curled in a cage with rods shoved in either end holding him perfectly still. Yeah, don’t want to be cruel to the poor little ‘animals,’ Xander thought, but he simply watched as Spike’s hand reached out and touched his cheek tentatively, which surprised him because he’d never seen Spike as a particularly tentative person.

“In untrained slaves, getting the front on can be quite difficult, but with a sweet thing like your boy, it’s fairly easy. He knows to keep his head in position and swallows to help the rod slide into place. You try.”

Xander opened his mouth wider so the mouth piece could easily slide out with the rod, and then his trainer handed the contraption to Spike. 

Spike looked at the thing for a minute before stepping up. 

Xander opened his mouth as the rod entered, but his trainer stopped Spike, giving him advice about angles and positioning even as Xander knelt in his cage with his mouth gaping, only the tip of the rod inside his mouth and drool gathering at the corner of his mouth.

By the time Spike had learned enough to close the front piece, locking the sides of the bar into place, Xander could feel the drool dripping from the corners of his mouth.

“Messy animals.” His trainer made a disapproving noise as he absently wiped the corners of Xander’s mouth. 

“Yeah, well that’s how they are, innit?” Spike commented as he slid the bar out again. 

Xander thought Spike would practice, but the vampire set it to the side and unbuckled his ankles and wrists before giving him a sharp tap on the top of his head. 

Xander happily squirmed forward, eager to reach Spike’s side, especially since the order had been for kneel down, the most comfortable of the poses. 

By the time Xander reached Spike’s side, he could almost feel Spike’s aggravation through his skin, and Xander trembled with fear that he wasn’t fast enough, that Spike would withdraw his protection and give him back to his trainer.

Instead, Spike just stormed awaym without even a touch on Xander’s shoulder or picking up the leash, leaving Xander motionless on the floor, waiting. 

Xander could hear his trainer clucking disapprovingly, and he panicked that he had missed a command, but he couldn’t remember a tap or a command to heel, so he stayed in place, quietly dying. That and quietly killing Spike for leaving him behindn in this place with this demon. And quietly hoping that Spike would come back for him, and when he reached a point that he found himself praying for Fangless to come get him, he knew that his suspicion about being broken was more fact than suspicion, but he couldn’t really change that now. 

An aggravated voice yelled, “Bloody hell, heel,” and Xander immediately stood as gracefully as possible and trotted in the direction of his Master’s voice, his chains merrily swinging. 

He found Spike smoking just outside his trainer’s booth, and Xander went to his knees at Spike’s feet.

“Six bloody months in that,” Spike said, and Xander remained motionless while thinking things like, ‘Well, duh. Did you think someone kidnapped me in order to set me up in a penthouse apartment with a couple of Playboy bunnies?’

Xander felt a touch at his head, and he went into kneel down position right before the touch returned, this time a firmer caress, clearly less a command than a Master enjoying the feel of his slave.

“Know we had a bad night of it,” Spike started, and Xander resisted the urge to roll his eyes. 

Or at least, felt the urge, even though the desire was faint enough to not really provide much resistance. 

“Not sure about that thing though. Tell me, do ya want me ta get it?” Spike asked, and Xander’s mind instantly went into overdrive. He was a slave, he didn’t have the right to want anything, but he was a slave and he had to answer his Master’s questions. The Xander Harris part of him wanted to scream at the vampire, while the rest of his brain chased itself and tried to figure out which command to violate. He wondered which would come with less punishment.

He hadn’t figured out how to answer that when he heard Spike sigh and felt the hand withdrawing. He knew he had failed; he had waited too long and disappointed his Master. Locked into position, he didn’t know how to show Spike he was sorry except by keeping his posture.

“Guess ya can’t answer that. My decision as your Master, huh? Have ta say, when I saw you trot out on stage, I didn’t think you’d take this so serious, mate.”

Spike stopped talking, and Xander waited. 

“Tell ya what. I want to do whatever will keep ya from goin’ as nutty as Dru, so if you answer no, I’ll assume that you can learn how ta sleep without last night’s problems. If you answer yes, I’ll assume that you’re comfortable sleeping in the cage and can’t really deal with learnin’ a new rule right now.”

Xander thought about that. His Master didn’t want problems in the morning, but he also didn’t want Xander to start acting crazy, no matter that Xander suspected he already was crazy. So Spike wanted to know how to best make sure his slave would behave.

“So, do I go back and buy that thing?” Spike asked quietly.

“Yes please, Master,” Xander whispered, and realized that these were his first words to his Master. 

From Spike’s silence, he suspected that he had chosen wrong, and nearly twisted in pain at the thought he had failed some test. But Spike simply touched his shoulder and started back for his trainer’s room, Xander following at heel.

Chapter 3: -- Thanks to Fiona for the grammar and the encouragement with the rewrite.

Spike ended up leaving Xander in a corner of the back room while he and the trainer talked at great length, and Xander concentrated on keeping his form perfect and his muscles relaxed and his breathing even as he considered what they might be saying. Xander could hear a lot of motion as his trainer’s footsteps walked from one shelf to another, but whatever they planned for Xander, they didn’t share with him, and Xander knew better than to try to catch a glance. 

Instead, he focused on being the perfect slave, his trainer’s presence reminding him of his place even more than the collar welded around his neck, more than the chain, more than the tattoo inside his cheek, more than his naked kneeling body. The very sound of his trainer’s footsteps made him focus, concentrate on making sure every cell in his body obeyed.

Soon enough, he heard Spike say, “Heel,” as he headed out of the room without even pausing.

Xander stood and hurried after Spike, the sound of his trainer still clucking disapprovingly behind him. Spike didn’t have a cage, so maybe they hadn’t agreed on a price. 

A part of Xander, a big part of Xander, was relieved. Nothing reminded him of his status more than sleeping in that cage. Another part of him was absolutely terrified. What if he couldn’t do it? What if he was so broken that he couldn’t ever exist without that cage? What did it say about him that he had actually asked for the cage, and god, could he just take that request back now please? Spike was probably laughing at what a loser Droopy had turned out to be. He reached his place just a step behind Spike and he concentrated on making sure every motion was correct: arms motionless, hips swinging, and eyes down.

Spike led them back to the main area where he’d bought blood yesterday, and Xander went to his knees as Spike walked up to a counter.

“Human food, and some water,” Spike demanded once footsteps approached. Now that Spike had mentioned food, Xander realized how hungry he actually was. He hadn’t been fed the day before because his trainer probably did want to risk Xander being ill with nervousness.

“Got the kind with dried meat and the kind without, which ya want?” asked a bored voice that could have been a teenager working at Hotdog on a Stick rather than selling concessions at an illegal demon-run slave auction.

“With,” Spike said, and Xander found himself surprised. He remembered the thrill of feeding Spike animal blood even knowing the vampire hated it. Guess that just proved Spike was a better person… creature… than he was. 

Then Spike strode away toward a table, and Xander almost stayed behind. He hadn’t been given either touch or command, but if he stayed here, he’d get in the way of a whole lot of demons who would probably get pretty aggravated. So, with his stomach clenching so hard as to eliminate not only hunger but the ability to eat, and with his heart pounding, he rose and followed Spike to the table.

When Spike sat, Xander didn’t go into the Position kneel. He went to the Floor kneel with his body under the table and his head on the floor in front of Spike’s foot. It was stupid, he kept telling himself, but if this had been some sort of test that Spike and his trainer had devised, he would prefer to be punished right away rather than be punished for breaking his kneel and then punished for trying to hide it, too.

“Oi, this some sort of eatin’ thing you’re doin’?” Spike asked.

“No, Master,” Xander replied, and he heard the heavy frustrated sigh above him.

“Okay, let’s try this again, wanker. What are ya doin’ down there?”

Xander considered the shortest and most effective way to answer. He’d often earned punishment for boring his trainer by using too many words.

“I broke the rules, Master.”

Instead of getting praised for admitting his wrong and using as few words as possible, he got another aggravated sigh from his Master.

“Wot did ya do wrong?” Spike asked, and from the thickening of the accent and the clipped tones, Xander guessed that he was about to find out what type of punishment Spike could deal out.

“I broke kneel without a command, Master.” Xander explained. 


“Forgot ta tell ya ta heel, didn’t I?” Spike said in a thoughtful, almost amused tone.

“Yes, Master.”

“Good thing my slave has the sense ta follow even when I do forget him,” and for a moment, Xander couldn’t even process that information. 

He didn’t get praised for breaking rules, he got punished. He always got punished. If he followed the rules, he got petted and praised and fed. If he broke the rules, no matter what the reason, he got punished. He knew he’d be punished when he followed, but he would rather have had Spike punish him than have some demon attack him for being in the way.

Xander felt the snap on his butt and he swung immediately into the Position kneel beside Spike.

“You were afraid I’d punish ya,” Spike said calmly, even though Xander knew his Master well enough to hear the anger underneath. It wasn’t a question, so Xander just waited.

“Bloody hell, what does it take to get you ta talk?” Spike demanded to the air.

Xander knew the question wasn’t *really* for him, so he made his voice as soft as possible so that Spike could easily ignore him if he wanted. “A question, Master.”

Spike was silent for so long that Xander wondered if the vampire had even heard him, then a wide slave bowl with water appeared on the floor. 

“Go on, then drink,” Spike ordered, and Xander lowered his mouth to the bowl, his chin in the water as he pulled the wonderful fluid into his mouth. He drank in big gulps until the water was so low he couldn’t reach any more. When he returned to position, water dripped off his chin and onto his chest.

“Bloody right you’re messy when you’ve been taught ta act like that,” Spike complained, but Xander was beginning to remember that Spike just complained; it didn’t mean he was in trouble or that Spike was mad.

“So, were ya afraid I would punish ya?”

“Yes, Master.” Xander replied as he realized Spike had heard his previous comment.

“Why didn’t ya smell of fear then?”

Xander considered his answer, really not sure how to phrase it or how much Spike was asking to know. “Smelling of fear is against the rules, Master, ” he settled on.

“So ya were punished for being afraid,” Spike clarified... but responses – or in this case anything seeking a response – must be phrased as a question, Xander thought with amusement as he recalled watching Jeopardy with Jesse and Willow. Old memory, one he hasn’t thought of much, so it’s still bright and fresh. Another frustrated sigh.

“Were ya punished for bein’ afraid?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Oi, it’s like tryin’ ta get information out of a soddin’ Magic 8 ball: Yes, no, maybe,” Spike snarled. “HOW were ya punished, pet?”

Xander sorted through the various memories of his punishments for that sin. Oh, his trainer had always told him what sin he was being punished for, and Xander sought some sort of common element that would allow him to answer without boring Spike with a long list of all the punishments. 

He must have taken too long, though, because Spike suddenly said. “No, don’t tell me. I don’t want to bloody know.” Xander could relate. He often wished he could go back to not knowing a lot of things. 

Spike thrust a bowl at Xander, and Xander’s hands flew up to take it before he realized what it was. The bowl had lumps of greenish food Xander knew to be the rice/vegetable mix he normally ate, only this time there were chunks of white and brown meat in there too. Xander sat with the bowl in his hands without moving.

“What? Aren’t ya hungry?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Soddin’ hell, I wonder how much of this is the trainin’ and how much of this is you findin’ a new way to annoy the piss out of me now that ya can’t use all the hot water,” Spike snapped. “Is that a yes you aren’t hungry or a yes you are?” Spike must have caught himself, though, because he continued before giving Xander a chance to reply. “No, forget that. Xander, are you hungry?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Then why aren’t you eatin’?” Spike’s voice now had the carefully controlled tones of someone who clearly wanted to explode.

“I don’t know the rules for eating like this,” Xander admitted, and some part of him cringed at just how pathetic *that* sounded. 

“You should come with a bleedin’ instruction manual,” Spike muttered. “How do you eat, annoyin’ slave of mine?”

“It depends on whether I’ve been obedient or not, Master.”

From Spike’s tone, he knew which one Spike would go for. Funny, his trainer would have punished him for breaking kneel and rewarded him for controlling his mouth. Spike seemed likely to do the opposite, so Xander waited for the question. 

A hand ran through his hair, tugging a curl gently before Spike asked. “You’ve been obedient, pet. So how do ya eat when you’ve been good?”

Xander was so surprised he almost gave the wrong answer. God, just when you thought you had Spike figured out, the vamp threw a curve. Too many years of living with Drusilla was Xander’s best guess.

“My trainer feeds me from his hand,” Xander said, and only his training kept him in place as Spike growled loudly enough that he surely had gone into game face.

“Manipulative, overbearing, arrogant little piss-ant,” Spike muttered harshly even as he took the bowl back from Xander, who immediately returned to position. Xander assumed Spike wasn’t describing him.

A sharp rap on the head sent him to the Down position, and Spike’s hand immediately soothed the spot, either because the vampire had realized how hard he’d hit or because he liked the feel of Xander’s hair, didn’t really make a difference to Xander since he just enjoyed the touch. He didn’t get hit while being petted. 

A piece of food appeared in front of Xander, and he reached forward to take the food from Spike’s hand as he’d been trained. He used his tongue to slip the food to the side of his mouth while he sucked on the fingers, licking them and nibbling on them for several seconds before pulling back and chewing his food.

When he swallowed, Spike’s hand was there immediately, and Xander repeated the process, running his tongue down to the first knuckle and sucking before pulling back. The third and fourth and fifth pieces went that way, and on the sixth piece, Xander heard Spike moan. 

Spike continued to feed him, and Xander continued his careful attention to the fingers that brought him food until finally he swallowed and a piece didn’t appear. Xander waited and, in the stillness, he could now hear Spike breathing heavily. When he risked a quick look, the vampire’s hand was locked on the edge of the table.

“Pet, ya keep doin’ that and I’m goin’ ta find somethin’ else for ya ta put your lips on,” Spike warned, and Xander marveled again at how clueless the vampire could be. That wasn’t an order to stop, and threatening to make a slave perform oral sex wasn’t exactly a threat. Hell, even if it were a threat, Xander would follow his training until ordered to stop. 

It was strange, because he was getting the feeling that Spike wouldn’t hold it against him if he stood up and took the chair opposite him at the table, but the very thought of doing anything so outrageous made Xander so frightened that he temporarily lost track of where he was and even lost track of himself, making it seem as if time had jumped and fingers appeared from nowhere.

Xander reached forward, took the food and tucked it to the side as he continued his ministrations. He knew that the food was nearly gone now, so he wouldn’t mind Spike demanding some payment. A piece of meat appeared, and Xander had only just started his attention to the fingers that fed him when they jerked back and Xander saw movement from the corner of his eye. He quickly chewed and swallowed so his mouth would be empty.

“You want ta play with somethin’, put your lips here,” Spike ordered, and Xander saw that he had pulled his cock out. It was not as though other demons weren’t taking advantage of their slaves in public, nor did it matter whether he approved or not, so Xander slipped under the table and put his lips on Spike’s cock. Then he did what he did when anything touched his mouth, he took it into his mouth and worshiped it. Most of the time, he was just the mouth that some demon pushed into, but Spike was leaning back, so Xander got to really use his skills. He sucked at the head gently, hearing Spike’s breathing roughen and feeling the leg muscles against his arm tighten in pleasure. He increased the pressure, taking more into his mouth a little bit at a time, teasing as much as pleasuring. When he pulled back, he made a guess based on his knowledge of vampires and nibbled the head gently. Spike hissed, and Xander thought he’d made a mistake until Spike spoke.

“Bloody hell, yes. Look up at me, pet.”

Xander tilted to look up at Spike’s face even as he licked up the underside, using his tongue to press into the sensitive vein, and now Spike threw his head back, openly panting as Xander took the now dripping cock into his mouth, manipulating the foreskin with his tongue. Spike looked down at him with yellowed eyes, and Xander realized that he was making the vampire lose control. Spike shifted forward in his seat, and Xander braced himself for thrusting. Spike did push forward into him until Xander’s nose was buried in dark blonde curls, and Xander swallowed, watching in fascination as Spike clutched the table and hissed again. Xander waited for Spike to pull out and start thrusting, but about the same time he started getting lightheaded from lack of air, it occurred to him Spike had just shifted forward so that Xander would have more room to work.

Hoping that he’d guessed right, Xander pulled back and gasped through his nose as he worked on the head before sliding back down into the curls with a fresh lungful of air. 

He swallowed again, and suddenly the vampire was coming. Xander held position, pulling back when Spike started to soften, but keeping the cock in his mouth and swallowing as Spike continued to spurt. 

Finally Spike slumped in the chair, and Xander stopped, knowing how his cock became painful right afterwards... not that he'd had a lot of experience with that lately. But Spike had specifically ordered Xander to keep his lips on Spike’s cock and to look up at him, so Xander did just that. He kept his mouth around the softened cock that shrunk until Xander ended up nose deep in curls, and he kept looking up at Spike.

“Good slave there,” suggested a thick rough voice.

“Yeah, wot of it?” Spike demanded, but his voice sounded far more drowsy than threatening.

Xander scooted forward a little so that he could more easily hold position between Spike’s legs.

“How much?”

“You’ve got ta be kiddin’.”

Xander watched one of Spike’s eyes open and consider the stranger with guarded surprise. Xander only wished he could see the demon making the offer. 

“I just bought him; not for sale,” Spike snapped wearily.

“All humans for sale. How much?”

“Mate,” Spike said, and now the trademark threat was back in his tone. “I paid $15,000 for him two days ago and I haven’t even had time to enjoy him.”

“I pay $16,000.”

“Let me try this again mate.” Game faced snarl from an aggravated vamp, very scary. “I’m a vamp, we’re possessive, and if ya look at my pet again I’ll break both your legs.”

The demon made a rumbling noise and lumbered off before Spike looked down. 

Xander continued gazing upwards, his mouth around Spike’s now totally soft cock as he breathed air filtered through Spike’s musky hair.

“Now I know you’re not really Xander Harris,” Spike said with a strange strain in his voice. “Droopy Harris would have castrated me by now.”

Xander waited patiently as Spike reached down and started running fingers through his hair.

Funny thing, Xander remembered feeling so threatened by Spike and so afraid of his own occasional surges of interest in certain males that he probably would have bitten off Spike’s cock before performing oral sex in public. Of course, Xander Harris didn’t know the real meaning of pain and didn’t understand that sometimes it was better to give up and go along rather than be forced to give up and then punished for not going along in the first place.

Xander the slave knew these things all too well, so not only did he wait with his mouth full of Spike, but he enjoyed waiting because Spike had given him an order, so he could follow the order and know he wasn’t doing badly. The hand running through his hair didn’t hurt either. 

Eventually, though, Spike tapped his head and Xander swung around and went into the Down position with his knees spread, his butt on his heels and his hands resting comfortably. For his trainer, the Down kneel was a rare treat, the formal Position kneel his standard, and Xander would give Spike a blow job a day just to repay that simple change that had given his kneecaps a chance to stop aching.

Spike zipped up and stood up to leave, taking a couple of steps before calling “heel,” but Xander had already started to rise and follow his Master toward the slave pens.

A dozen times Spike pointed to a spot and ordered, “Down” before going to talk to some slaver in hushed tones. If Xander hadn’t suspected Spike of some sort of scheme before, he certainly did now. At each dealer’s place, Spike would talk to demon after demon without satisfaction, growing increasingly frustrated and then angry and finally just seemingly worn out. By the time they had visited every booth and watched two slave auctions, one of female humans with magical talents and one of female humans with supposed powers as seers, Spike looked much the way Xander remembered him after the chip first went in. 

Part of Xander worried that Spike was plotting against the Scoobies; it would certainly explain why Spike didn’t want him to hear. That part of him breathed a sigh of relief at not knowing, because he would never be able to break training enough to betray his Master, and knowing the plot without being able to warn Buffy would all but kill him. Another part of him worried about Spike, about how much pain the vampire clearly felt over whatever wasn’t going right. The demons he talked to hadn’t give him the answer he wanted. 

Eventually Spike led him back to the concessions area, where Spike got a second bowl of water and offered Xander more food, even though Xander declined. With much slower steps than in the morning, Spike headed back towards his room, Xander following silently with so many questions in his head that he feared little thought bubbles must be forming over him like in cartoons.

When they reached the room, Xander saw the package waiting outside the door and he didn’t comment as Spike pulled the covered cage into the room.

“Go do your human stuff,” Spike ordered with a wave toward the bathroom, and Xander silently thanked God and his Master that Spike had remembered. He was using the toilet when the voice yelled, “and leave those hip chains in there.”

Xander finished, removed the hip chains and walked back out to the bedroom, where he went into position next to the bed. He wanted his Master to know that he wouldn’t fight or complain if Spike wished to use him again. 

Spike didn’t make a move to do anything. He just smoked.

“Time for bed; this whole soddin’ auction’s over tomorrow and we can go bloody home,” Spike finally announced, and Xander heard the fizz of a cigarette being put out. 

He knelt, waiting for the command, but Spike didn’t give it. Xander knelt by the bed and Spike stood by the cage and the room went silent. Xander finally heard the tap.


Xander rose and placed his back to the cage before going into the Floor position and working his way back into it. When he felt the rod in back touch his hole, he thought he heard Spike growl, but he couldn’t really come up with a reason, considering how the vampire must enjoy the sight of his former captor now so actively participating in his own caging. Xander pressed back until he felt the bars on his butt. Spike quickly slipped on the ankle brackets and then slid loops around Xander’s wrists. Xander hadn’t even realized Spike had fastened the loops because they were so loose, too loose to allow him to truly relax his arms without danger of breaking position.

“So, that all right then?” Spike asked, and Xander tilted between honesty and pleasing his Master. 

“No, Master,” he finally answered.

“What, somethin’ wrong?”

Xander watched Spike squat down in front of him. “Yes, Master.” Xander replied.

“Oi, we are not playin’ twenty soddin’ questions,” Spike huffed, and Xander had to mentally laugh at the vampire’s impatience. 

After all, Xander wasn’t intentionally annoying Spike, that was simply a pleasant side effect of the training. Spike had to actually ask a question that called for a specific answer. 

“What’s wrong?” Spike finally asked.

“The wrist restraints are too loose, Master,” Xander said cautiously, afraid it might be taken for criticism. 

Instead, Spike reached up and tightened them without comment, holding Xander’s arms tight against the top of the cage.

“Anythin’ else ya need ta say?” Spike asked, the front piece dangling from his hand.

“No, Master. Thank you, Master,” Xander said, taking the liberty of adding the last part even though he didn’t have permission to ad lib. 

Spike held up the front part, and Xander held position, swallowing as Spike pushed forward far more slowly than his trainer ever had. Eventually, the throat rod was in and Xander’s chin rested on the chin guard. Spike locked the two sides of the front piece and then picked up the cage.

Xander expected to be put in the closet; instead Spike put him on the dresser. 

After pushing the one big chair into position next to the dresser, Spike perched on the arm of the chair and reached in to pet his hair. Xander watched with curiosity.

“This is the only time you’ll bloody look at me without gettin’ ordered to,” Spike said, as though reading Xander’s confusion. 

Xander certainly enjoyed the feeling of fingers running through his hair with the occasional stroke on his cheek with the back of Spike’s fingers. Xander blinked slowly, truly wanting to close his eyes and enjoy the attention, but too well trained to do so.

“Sometimes when I look in your eyes, I can still see ya. Back at that wanker’s place, I saw your amusement. So, what amused ya more, the shock on my face or the fear on that wanker’s face every time I growled?” Spike asked, and Xander blinked a couple of times before really processing that statement. Spike had noticed?

“Ya know, that wanker really is a cowardly little arse. Mind you, a popular cowardly little arse that I don’t dare kill here, but then, most bullies are cowards.”

Xander looked at Spike and wondered what had happened to his Master: the overbearing, pushy, mouthy, arrogant, hyperactive vampire. The gentle stroking continued even as Spike spoke, so Xander had to assume that Spike wasn’t angry about the fact that he still did the whole thinking thing in his own head. 

Actually, he did more thinking now than before he became a slave. Well, he didn't do more thinking, he supposed, but he thought about different things. Before, when he thought, he focused on things like Buffy's chest in her white tank top and Cordelia's chest in her cheerleader outfit and, god forgive him, Willow's chest in her pink sweater. Yeah, she was like a sister and that made it all kinds of wrong, but he thought it. Now days he thought more about things like how much could a soul endure before shattering into tiny bits and how much he missed Willow's laugh and how many people he'd hurt. He thought about Larry's bullying and Wendell's obsession with spiders. He even thought about Spike's cry of 'You were my Yoda' echoing though the school halls. Thinking was the only thing he could do without permission, and even then he had to make sure his trainer didn’t notice.

“Wanker thinks he broke ya down into an animal, but you’re still bloody in there, aren’t ya? Still remember the night you took me to your basement. Ya stunk of terror, havin’ a Master vampire in your house and havin’ ta invite me in. Don’t think I would have survived if I didn’t have your terror ta keep me feelin’ like a vamp. But even with all that fear, ya still refused to show it.”

Spike’s hand now gently kneaded his neck muscles, and Xander allowed himself to enjoy the touch, since he couldn’t move his head or neck even a centimeter with the front rod holding him in place. 

“Six bloody months.”

Spike’s hand pulled back right before Spike punched the wall.

“Ya know the rotten thing?” Spike asked and Xander just blinked in reply. 

Hello, gagged by a rubber mouth piece with a rod down his throat, not really the time to ask him questions. 

“Rotten thing is, I wasn’t even bloody lookin’ for ya. I figured ya got eaten and figured good for whatever had eaten ya.”

Xander just blinked again. Of course Spike hadn’t cared. Hell, he’d been the one to consistently vote ‘kill the vamp,’ so why was Spike doing an Angel angst-a-thon?

“You’re not impressed with my confession,” Spike said as he turned back, but Xander just blinked again. Was Spike talking to himself with Xander providing the excuse, or did the vamp know him well enough to actually guess his thoughts, to understand expressions that Xander thought he had purged from his face? The hand returned to his hair.

“Would’ve wanted ya dead, but I never wanted ya like this. I’ve seen Angelus break people, but even Angelus couldn’t have broken ya like this, pet.”

Xander could have told Spike that. Hell, he could even tell Spike the moment when it happened, when he broke and stopped being Xander Harris. It wasn’t worth punching a wall over, though. He wasn’t worth punching a wall over, and his life had gotten a whole lot less painful and a whole lot more predictable since he had broken, so he couldn’t even bring himself to regret breaking.

“Bloody well don’t even know what to do with ya like this.”

Okay, that got his attention. Xander blinked as he considered that Spike didn’t want him like this. Xander realized with regret that he really didn’t have any other way to be, so Spike could keep him, sell him, or kill him, but he couldn’t ever have back the person who used to be Xander Harris. Not that Spike could have gotten anything out of Xander Harris other than an insult and a stake. Spike stood up with a snort of disgust and flicked the lights off with considerably more effort than the switch required. 

Realizing that their ‘conversation’ was over, Xander closed his eyes and fell immediately to sleep.


A touch woke him in the morning, and Xander’s eyes flew open. He should have woken at his Master’s first movement, but he had slept until Spike had walked over to pet him. 

If Xander hadn’t been caged, he would have gone to Floor position over that rule violation, but Spike just continued to pet him, so Xander decided that Spike hadn’t minded. The soft caresses and the fact that he had gotten more sleep than he normally got in three nights left Xander happily sated, and he blinked at Spike, wondering what the vampire thought when he looked at Xander so tightly caged, the bar gagging the very mouth that Spike had threatened to gag at least a hundred times. 

Xander remembered when his trainer’s minions had dragged him into the training room, dropping his body on the concrete before ripping off the blindfold. Even gagged, Xander had screamed at the sight of a dozen or so humans crated and caged and set on shelves like boxes in a storeroom. 

He’d started retching then, the sight of those passive eyes horrifying him more than anything he’d ever seen, more than giant bugs or Angelus’ torture on Giles’ body or even the sight of an inside out swimmer. 

They’d ripped the gag off, and he’d vomited his last free meal on the floor and all over himself as he tried to avoid looking at all those slowly blinking eyes.

Was that what Spike saw, the horror of it? 

Of course, in his case, most of the horror came from the fact that he knew he was going to be one of those caged bodies, but he’d vowed to fight; he’d vowed that his eyes would always burn with hatred. 

He’d lied. He curled relaxed in his cage and enjoyed the feeling of his Master’s hand in his hair as he blinked passive eyes. He didn’t have to do anything: not please or obey or even fight because, in the cage, there was nothing but accepting.

“Someone woke up in a good mood today,” Spike commented as his hand went from Xander’s hair down to Xander’s shoulder. “Almost hate ta take ya out, with that expression on your face.”

If Xander hadn’t been gagged by the front piece, he would have offered to stay caged as long as Spike kept petting him. Okay, he wouldn’t have said it, but he would have thought it loudly, and the realization that he felt so strongly about Spike made Xander mentally roll his eyes at himself even as he continued blinking at Spike. 

Nice. He had to go and get all emotionally tangled up just because Spike hadn’t whipped him or seriously hurt him. God, give Xander a couple of kind pets and he’d follow you anywhere. 

Of course, he always had been that way, hadn’t he? Cordelia kissed him and he followed her like a puppy. Willow looked his way and he went trotting after her. Anya announced that she wanted orgasms, and yep, there went Xander Harris trotting after the next person to give him attention.

And of course this time he was getting himself attached to a creature who didn’t really care back.

Xander had lived with Spike and fought with Spike long enough to know that the vampire had a fear of being alone, so having a slave who couldn’t leave probably appealed to him, but he also knew that Spike got bored with his play toys fairly quickly, so Xander didn’t expect this to be a long-term commitment. He’d be lucky if Spike didn’t lose him in a poker game the first month, but he decided to take all the happy moments he could before that happened, and when happy moments included Spike petting him as he was locked in a cage so small he couldn’t physically move a centimeter, life had really taken a detour.

Spike soon grew tired of the petting and lifted the cage to the floor before pulling out the front piece and releasing the restraints. 

Xander scooted forward out of the cage and knelt at Spike’s feet as the vampire remained uncharacteristically still.

“So, time for a shower,” Spike finally announced as he turned, and Xander sprang to life, eager to show that he knew how to perform his duties after the disaster that had been yesterday morning. 

By the time Spike reached the bathroom a minute later, Xander had the shower running at the temperature he knew Spike liked from having lived with him in the basement, a towel draped on the counter and soap and washcloth in his hands as he knelt on the floor of the shower waiting. Spike stood leaning on the doorway, and Xander grabbed furtive looks. He had to admit that Spike had a beautiful body with long lean muscles gathered just under the smooth pale skin. Xander had washed any number of demons, but he rarely liked the body he washed. This time he actually found himself looking forward to his duty.

“Bloody hell. I’m goin’ ta get staked over this, just know it,” Spike complained, and Xander froze, aware that his Master was unhappy but not really sure how to proceed. “Not my soddin’ fault the boy’s trained; be right cruel to leave him kneeling with no way to show his Master what a good little slave he is.” Part of Xander cheered that Spike finally got it, that maybe Spike would give him a chance to do what he was supposed to do. Another part snorted at the vampire’s ability to make excuses. Right, he mentally said in a sarcastic and drawn-out tone. He’d like to see Spike try that line on Buffy, even if it was true. He could imagine Buffy’s face and Giles’ furious glasses cleaning. So, Spike was in danger of being staked, huh? That meant he still worked with Buffy, and maybe Buffy didn’t even know Spike had his chip out. Maybe this was all a big conspiracy where Spike could finally take out the slayer who had bested him over and over.

As Spike stepped in, Xander stood, careful to keep his eyes to the ground as he carefully washed every part of Spike, reaching under to the armpits, sliding his hand between the vampire’s legs, lifting the vampire’s cock. The whole time he amused himself with a fantasy of saving his beautiful slayer at the very point when she realized that Spike had tricked her. She’d cry out for Angel, and then realizing that Angel had abandoned her, she would call for Xander, and he’d appear just in time as Spike bent down to drain her. Of course he knew he wouldn’t do it, if Spike and Buffy actually went at each other he would probably sit in the corner and go quietly mad, but it still made for a nice fantasy, Xander mused as he lifted each of his Master’s feet to carefully wash between toes and on the bottom. When he finished, he noticed that Spike’s cock had become fully engorged, and Xander went into position, his back straight and his mouth only an inch from Spike’s cock as he waited for the order.

And he waited.

…….And he waited.

God, did he have to spell it out for Spike? Why didn’t he just give the order so that Xander could finish washing the Master and then they could get on with whatever Spike had planned. Of course the vampire might want to take Xander on the bed, so maybe that explained the delay. Xander simply waited impassively for Spike’s decision.

“Wish I could bloody ask what you’re thinkin’.” Spike complained, and Xander wondered why the vampire couldn’t. It’s not like Spike had rules to follow. Hell, it’s not like Spike followed rules even when he had rules to follow. There was another silence broken only by the sound of the water hitting the plastic sides of the shower stall.

“Got a new rule for ya,” Spike said, and Xander waited. He hoped the rule wasn’t a hard one; hard rules like never smelling of fear always came with lots of punishment. He would have shivered in dread from that memory, but the lesson about not fidgeting, shivering, shaking or twitching had come even harder. “Any time I get hard looking at that body of yours, you have to get hard too. When I come, you come. You understand?” Spike demanded.

“Yes, Master,” Xander agreed.

“Explain the rule, then.”

“When you are hard from looking at me, I must get hard. When you come, I come.” Xander realized with horror that he was already breaking the rule, so he called up the image of Buffy at the beach in her green bikini, the one he used whenever his trainer ordered him to get hard. Instantly his cock started to swell, and he knew he had done well when Spike’s finger reached down to trace along his jaw.

“Go on then,” Spike ordered, and Xander instantly slid his mouth around Spike’s cock, licking and sucking on the head with great enthusiasm as he used his tongue to push the foreskin back. “Bloody hell, Xan. Never knew you’d be so beautiful on your knees or that your mouth would feel so bloody good around me. If I’d known, I would’ve taken ya when my wanker of a sire offered ya,” Spike remarked before the vampire subsided into groans. Xander tightened his right hand around his left wrist to keep his arms in position, but he could feel his own erection now bobbing, and Xander had never imagined it meant so much for the person he was servicing to give him a compliment. If Spike thought this was good, Xander resolved to show the vampire just how good he could really be.

Xander took a deep breath, and then he slid all the way down on Spike’s cock, swallowing over and over to massage the shaft and head even as he reached with his tongue to tease Spike’s balls. Xander kept the cock in his throat until a need to breathe forced him to pull back. Playing with the head of Spike’s cock and sucking passionately, Xander waited until he felt the cock twitch, and then he drove himself down on it again, swallowing, pulling back, driving down, swallowing, pulling back, and then the expected came, and hands grabbed Xander’s head as Spike drove his cock into Xander’s relaxed throat one, two, three, four times before coming, Xander’s own release came even as Spike’s cock still twitched inside his throat, but eventually Spike pulled back, and Xander gulped the air, finally noticing that he had gripped his left wrist a little too tightly, actually digging his own fingers into the soft underside. He loosened his grip and concentrated on relaxing the muscles that had involuntarily stiffened with his own erection and release.

“Such an obedient pet,” Spike said in a contented voice, and Xander knelt quietly as he tried to separate Spike’s use of “pet” from his trainer’s. His trainer always called him an animal or a pet or just “it,” but he’d heard Spike refer to Drusilla as “pet,” and he’d even caught him calling Willow “pet” once. Then again, he wasn’t Drusilla or Willow, so maybe Spike meant “pet” in the animal sort of way, but he was going to assume it was an affectionate nickname and put it away as one of his happy memories. It seemed like his good memories were almost getting worn out from him having to retreat into them so often. The details fading so that he couldn’t remember Larry’s face or picture Wendell the spider-geek or visualize the park where he would play hide and seek with Jesse and Willow.

He waited until Spike recovered from the orgasm and stretched before standing and picking up the shampoo. He wordlessly slipped behind Spike, ignoring the cocked eyebrow so that he could finish properly by washing his Master’s hair. Xander finished by rinsing his Master and would have followed him out to dry him, but Spike waved him off, So Xander sank to his knees and waited.

“Wash yourself, and take care of your human business, including water. Don’t want ta have ta worry about rememberin’ ta water you every mornin’ so take care of it yourself,” Spike ordered as he roughly dried himself off. Xander stood even while Spike whistled to himself and fixed his hair by touch. Xander tried to keep his eyes down, but he kept looking out of the corner of his eye to make sure he was washing correctly. As often as he washed others, he hadn’t been allowed to touch his own body for so long that he felt somehow disconnected from it. However Spike ignored him utterly, so he soon finished and stepped out to use the toilet. After Spike had left, Xander considered how to deal with the water problem.

He didn’t have a bowl, so he couldn’t drink the way he had been trained, but Xander had an order to follow so he considered his alternatives. The shower would get him wet again and he wanted to be at least somewhat dry when they went out. He could fill the sink and drink properly, but something in his mind told him Spike wouldn’t like that. Spike had called him messy when he drank properly. After a moment’s hesitation, Xander turned on the sink, turned his head sideways and slurped the flowing water the way he had drunk from the hose as a child.

Once he had his fill, he went into the main room, and slid to his knees at his Master’s feet. Spike’s hand immediately went to his hair, but it wasn’t a tap, so Xander kept in the upright Position kneel. Spike’s other hand went to the bedside table and Xander kept his eyes down even as he heard the slide of chain against wood. Had he upset Spike?

“Talked ta your trainer,” Spike announced as if Xander hadn’t been in the corner waiting during the discussion and Xander internally smiled as Spike growled the last word. Externally, Xander waited. His trainer often hobbled him by chaining his feet to his cock so Xander would learn to slow down and take smaller more graceful steps. Maybe his trainer had seen him hurrying after Spike and had suggested a day in hobbles to remind him how to walk. Xander resolved to spend his day being more cautious with his gait although he didn’t really expect to be able to forget with chains reminding him of every step. He waited for the taps that would order him to the floor.

“Plan on ignorin’ most of his rot. When he told me how he’d leave ya in position until you physically couldn’t hold it anymore and then whipped ya for slumpin’, it was all I could do not ta eat the bastard.” Spike snarled, and then he started to mutter angrily, “Makin’ ya think ya deserved it…wanker.” Xander suspected that Spike wanted him to understand that Spike would only punish for real offenses, and Xander did believe that. Angelus was the torturing bastard, and while Spike had always had a reputation for the extreme, it hadn’t escaped Xander’s notice that Spike’s torturing was always done at Angelus’ side and left to himself he quietly ate without the whole torture thing. Xander knew that he deserved whatever Spike gave him, and he only hoped that the vampire hurried up because he was starting to worry about things far worse than hobbles.

“But he made sense when he said I needed ta tell ya why I did things, what pleased me and what didn’t.” Yep, here came the punishment. Xander found himself both resentful of the fact that he knelt at Spike’s feet waiting to be punished like a child and grateful that his trainer had convinced Spike to explain the reasons for the punishment. Xander listened carefully so that he could change his behavior to serve Spike. Spike sat on the bed in silence until the very lack of knowing what was coming started bringing up more and more extreme possibilities in Xander’s mind. Finally Spike took a deep breath.

“Wanker said ya would see me decoratin’ ya as a reward, a way of showin’ that I liked something ya did,” Spike said the words slowly and carefully as though unwilling to even speak the words, and Xander tried to figure out what was bothering Spike.

“Would ya like it if I decorated ya?” Spike finally asked.

“Yes, Master,” Xander agreed, and he would. His trainer would sometimes allow him to wear a decoration for a day to remind Xander of something he had done well. In many ways, it was like being petted all day. He remembered the time that a demon had praised Xander’s ability to bathe and pleasure him. Xander had hated the act, but his trainer had been so pleased at Xander’s ability to perform without reservation that he had fastened two long trailing chains in his hair so that Xander could feel their weight and their cool links running down his back and across his buttocks like a caress. He very much liked being decorated. He was never punished while he wore decorations, and the other slaves would often look at him with envy, just like he envied them when they earned decorations.

“Turn around pet,” Spike ordered. “Hands in front of you.” Xander obeyed and he felt fingers at his collar, hooking something to it. “This is for followin’ me even when I acted like a git and forgot ta give the command,” Spike said, and Xander felt loops of chain settle in on his back, the lowest brushing against his butt and the higher one falling just under his shoulder blades. “This is for this mornin’, the whole soddin’ thing from wakin’ up happy ta you wantin’ ta please me.” Xander kept his eyes down, but he felt the leather cuff around his left arm as Spike tightened the laces in back, allowing the trailing leather tails to brush the back of his arm down to his elbow. “And this is for the water. Knew you’d struggle with what ta do when I didn’t tell ya how ta water yourself, and ya figured out a solution on your own.” Xander felt the second leather cuff tighten around his right arm.

“Stand up, pet.” Xander stood and with every movement he could feel the gentle touches across his back and arms. Even knowing that Spike had to be laughing at him, Xander couldn’t help but smile to himself. When Spike bought him, he’d never expected to survive, and so every moment of pleasure was a treasure he clung to. Even if Spike was evil and chipless, Xander knew he’d follow the vampire anywhere. Cool hands were suddenly at his waist attaching the waist chain low on his hips with the dangling hip chains hanging on the outside of each leg. Since his eyes were lowered, he could see that the chain wasn’t his normal one from last night but a decorated version with black links and small red stones at the end of the hip chains.

“Go ta the mirror in the bathroom and check it out pet,” Spike ordered, so Xander walked into the bathroom and turned his back to the glass. The two loops on his back swooped down from the collar, the small black links dark against his skin which hadn’t seem much sunlight lately. In the middle of each loop, two links hung down with a red teardrop shaped stone hanging at the bottom so that one teardrop rested just above the crease of his butt and one rested on his backbone just above the small of his back where his hands rested when kneeling. The armbands were black with braided laces trailing down, and the new black hip chains swung when he walked, making little flashes of red light dance around the room.

Okay, so he obviously belonged to a vampire now with the whole black and red theme, but Xander loved the feel of them against his skin. He loved what each one meant. He reached up and fingered the cuff on his right arm. He’d earned it by making a decision, and yes it was stupid that the decision had been on how to drink water and yes it was stupid to think that he had momentarily panicked in the face of such unclear orders, and yes it was even more stupid that drinking from the faucet had caused him such nervousness, but he’d earned the cuff doing it, and the cuff wasn’t stupid.

Xander left the bathroom carefully keeping his arms still so that his leather traces and back chains didn’t move at all and his hips slightly swinging to get a pattern going with the hip chains. When he reached the bed, he slipped down into the Floor position.

“Oi, not this again. Just bloody say what you’re thinkin’.”

“Thank you, Master. They’re beautiful.” Xander heard Spike snatch a quick breath and then he felt the tap on his butt pulling him up into the straight backed full kneel.

“You and I are gettin’ in too deep here,” Spike said, and Xander waited. “Pet, look at me.” Xander looked up into clear blue eyes. “Ya really are mine, aren’t ya?” Spike asked, but the answer was so obvious that Xander didn’t think he had to answer. “Right,” Spike suddenly shook off the mood with a twitch of his shoulders as he stood and grabbed his duster.

“Do your cleanin’ and I’ll be back,” Spike left, and Xander noticed that he was alone for the first time in six months. For a moment he remained kneeling, staring at the door, but then he realized that when Spike came back he’d expect Xander’s work to be done. Xander hurried to the corner where Spike had tossed the box of extras from his trainer. Ignoring everything else, Xander grabbed the spray cleaner and paper towels so that he could disinfect his cage and clean the thick pad on the bottom that always got sweaty and dirty. He carefully cleaned the rods, well aware of the damage any breeding bacteria could cause, and when he was finished he snapped the front piece in place and returned the cleaner and unused paper towels before going back to a kneel.

The door soon swung open. “Ya done?” Spike called without looking in.

“Yes, Master.”

“Good, got chores before we leave.” Spike didn’t give any order, but the weight of the chains on his back told him the right thing to do, so Xander rose to follow without waiting for a command.

Spike hurried down the aisle of vendors who were closing down booths and packing up merchandise, both equipment and unsold slaves. Many of the demons now had humans in tow, most held on short leashes, and Xander knew that Spike was showing an incredible amount of faith by allowing Xander to walk without being leashed. Of course that meant that his heavy chain leash banged at his cock when he walked, but that was a small discomfort compared with the pleasure of following without being jerked around by his neck like the little blonde girl being nearly dragged down the aisle by a M'Fashnik demon who didn’t seem willing to let her catch her balance and follow using her own two feet. Spike walked quickly to the back aisle, and Xander hurried behind, careful to walk perfectly because so many dangling decorations would make any flaw in his posture or walk immediately visible.

Spike stopped, and Xander went to his knees, breathing heavy with the effort to keep up without breaking his stride.

“This place should be able to do it,” Spike said as he walked in, and Xander followed, wishing he could look up at the vendor’s sign and secretly cursing Spike’s ability to speak without actually saying anything. His trainer had been right; some people were just plain annoying when they talked, and Spike was running at the top of his list. When Spike walked up to the counter, Xander went back to his knees as a huge scaled demon brought his hand down on the counter.

“What ya need?” he rumbled.

“Get this,” Spike grabbed the heavy chain hanging from Xander’s collar, “off him.” The demon walked around the counter from the sounds of it, and Xander waited patiently while a hooked claw snagged a link on the chain and pulled it taut.

“Easy enough. Five dollars.”

“Done,” Spike said, and then the leash was tightening and pulling, but Spike hadn’t given a command, so Xander resisted the pull and kept position as best as he could. Just when he thought that the demon would either break his neck or pull him over, the pressure stopped.

“He trained to voice?” the demon asked in a tone that was either growling or laughing, Xander couldn’t decide which.

“Wot?” Spike asked.

“Trained to one voice? Is he trained to only follow his owner’s voice or touch?”

“Oh, don’t rightly know. Pet, are you trained to voice?” Spike asked and Xander would have slapped Spike upside the back of the head if he could. Gee, Spike he thought to himself, thanks for asking before the big demon almost pulled my head off. Instead he kept his eyes lowered and his voice soft as he answered.

“Yes, Master.” No duh, Master. What? Did you think I just wanted a quick game of tug of war, Master?

“Right,” Spike said knowingly. “Follow the demon then, pet.”

“Yes, Master.” Xander rose and stepped up next to the demon as the demon definitely laughed and took him to a machine near the back of the shop. When the demon stopped, Xander went into his kneel.

“This cuts the chain, cub. It won’t hurt you, but if you fight, it may cut you. Do I need to tie you so you don’t get cut?”

“No, sir,” Xander answered as he waited for the grinder to cut the chain. Soon, Xander had little tiny burn marks on his chest from the machine throwing off bits of metal during the cutting, but the heavy chain was gone. The demon led him back and as soon as they got near Spike, Xander left the demon’s side and returned to kneel at Spike’s feet.

“Thanks, mate,” Spike said and rustling paper suggested that money had changed hands. “So, ya ready to go home, pet?” Spike asked, and Xander froze for just a half second before rising to follow Spike who had started out the door.

“Pet?” Spike stopped and asked, and Xander went back to his knees wishing that the vampire would make up his mind about whether or not they were leaving. But he waited patiently for for Spike to ask a question the he could actually answer.

“Did somethin’ bother ya?” Spike asked.

“Yes, Master,” Xander replied, wondering how long it would take for Spike to stop falling into that trap. Suddenly Xander realized that he was thinking this way about his Master, a Master who had shown him a lot of kindness. Xander told himself to stop with the snark thoughts. If he couldn’t control his thoughts and if he became disobedient, he had no doubt that Spike would get his money back out of Xander’s hide, decorations or no decorations. Luckily his Master still had some patience.

“Pet, what is bothering you?”

Xander stopped and thought about a way to explain it. “I’m afraid of going outside,” he said.


“I’m afraid I’m going to run,” Xander replied knowing that his trainer would have whipped him until his back bled for a comment like that. He hoped Spike wouldn’t, but he wouldn’t blame him if he did.

“Do you want to run?” Spike asked, but then cancelled his question almost immediately. “No, never mind. We’ve been down this path before and already established that you don’t want things.” Spike stood silent for several seconds, Xander wondering if the vampire was coming up with punishments or if Spike would put him in his cage until they reached Spike’s home. That’s how he’d been brought to the sale, stacked in a pile with a dozen others, their cages tied one on top of another and a tarp thrown over them before they’d been hauled here by truck.

“Pet, tell me why you might run,” Spike finally settled on.

“I should run; it’s what I would have done before,” Xander said, and he desperately wanted to defend himself from what was a very damning statement, but he held his tongue and if Spike decided to punish him, he would accept it for saying something so terrible.

“But that’s not all,” Spike guessed. After a few seconds of hesitation, Spike ordered, “Tell me why you might not run.” Xander realized that the vampire was giving him a chance to explain himself.

“I feel safe with you and want to stay with you, Master,” Xander honestly replied, and boy wasn’t that just sweet. He had officially just lost his Scooby card he realized.

“So ya want ta stay, but ya feel guilty that ya don’t want ta fight,” Spike summarized, and Xander realized that Spike did understand. Spike turned and re-entered the store, and Xander hurried to his side, kneeling again as the big demon came up to them.

“Heard him,” the demon said without apology or shame. “He’s a good animal.” Xander decided that even if his biology teacher had explained in detail why humans were animals, he was really tired of hearing it.

“Yeah,” Spike’s hand dropped to Xander’s head, and Xander enjoyed the feeling of Spike’s touch, especially after he’d said something terrible enough to earn punishment. “So, I need somethin’ ta help him with this guilt problem. I’m thinking hobbles, somethin’ ta slow him down in either black or red.” Xander internally groaned that his fear from this morning was coming true, but he had told the truth, and he could certainly survive a day or two hobbled. The heavy demon shifted from place to place and Spike took a step forward to lean on the counter, so Xander knee walked to keep himself at Spike’s side. After a few minutes, the demon dragged back and Xander heard a number of things clinking and thudding on the counter.

“This is a nice model, the rod on the bottom makes walking possible but uncomfortable.”

“Not practical. Don’t want bruising on the bottom of the foot.”

“This then?”

“Mate, that’s bloody ugly. Don’t want that on my slave. How’s this one work?”

“Oh, a lovely model. This loop goes over the animal’s genitals so that each step can produce either a little or a lot of pulling on the cock and balls. It keeps them walking slowly and carefully.”

“Yeah, and one trip and you’ve just lost any chance of breedin’ ‘em. I’ve been around my pet long enough that I don’t trust him not to trip.” Xander would have complained about that if he’d been asked. In six months he’d learned to keep track of his body in ways that he’d never even considered, and he no longer tripped through cemeteries staking vampires by falling on them. Of course he’d actually only done that once, so he’d never known why Spike had insisted on telling that story to every demon in Sunnydale.

“This just restricts movement without changing their pace.”

“Attaches to the legs?”

“It would be a lovely addition to his other chains. Very decorative.” Xander really just wanted to point out that he wasn’t a Christmas tree or a dog or a living doll to be dressed up, but since he wasn’t supposed to have wants anymore he amused himself dressing up Spike’s naked body in some of the chains he’d seen on the various slaves walking the mall. Yep, he could imagine Spike looking pretty good in those outfits, and what the hell was he doing mentally playing with a naked Spike. He played with naked Buffy, not naked Spike. Luckily an order cut that little panic attack off.

“Stand up,” Spike ordered, and Xander obeyed as Spike knelt down and attached black cuffs to his legs just above the knees and to his ankles. He could feel Spike adjusting the size with some sort of inner strap before each cuff made an audible click. The black chains ran from knee to knee and from ankle to ankle with decorative chains running down the inside of his legs. Oh yeah, the vampire was having way too much fun playing dress up. Spike gave Xander a slap on the butt and Xander folded into the Position kneel with his knees apart and the chains were perfectly taut.

“We’ll take ‘em,” Spike said and more money changed hands as Xander realized that his concern about running had been solved. He could take normal steps, but he certainly couldn’t run he decided as he followed Spike out the door, carefully keeping his hip chains flowing even as he tried to keep his step short enough to not strain his hobble chains and remain totally still in his upper body so that his back chains and cuff traces didn’t move and who the hell ever thought walking could require so much concentration? Spike must have ordered someone to clean out the room because they headed right out of the quickly closing mall and into the crowded parking lot. For the first time in six months, Xander saw stars and a sliver moon and the distant lights of the city and oh my freaking god he was naked and chained and walking like a harem boy in heat in the middle of a fricken city. Xander took that moment of panic and reminded himself that he didn’t really have a choice. He was Spike’s slave so he couldn’t get in trouble for anything other than displeasing Spike. So, public nudity laws and public humiliation be damned, he was following his Master.

Xander almost laughed when Spike led his $15,000 slave with the expensive decorations to the same old DeSoto with half-painted windows. Spike opened the front passenger door, and Xander considered his options. The hobble kept him from getting in normally, not that he had the nerve to sit in a chair anyway, so he went in head first and used his hands to pull himself into a very messy kneel on the passenger side seat. By the time Spike walked around, Xander had settled himself on the floor kneeling with his back to the dash and his eyes focused on the passenger seat.

“So, you ready to go see Joyce?” Spike asked cheerfully as he got in, but Xander recognized that the question was purely rhetorical, and really he wished it wasn’t because…Joyce?? Spike was taking him to see Joyce?? What about Buffy and Giles and Willow, any of them might be at least somewhat prepared for a brainwashed and totally nut-case type Xander, but Joyce? Personally, Xander didn’t really want any woman to see him chained and sitting at Spike’s feet, so his silent vote had gone to Giles. The man could keep a secret like nobody’s business and he could just imagine the look on Giles’ face when Spike showed up with an obedient Xander at heel. That would make the embarrassment actually worth it. But Joyce? Why the hell would Spike go to Joyce?

As Spike started the car, punk music started and Xander realized that he wasn’t going to get any answers so he would just have to wait and find out when they got there. He tried tucking his hands behind his back, but he really couldn’t with the dash, so he tried pulling them in front to rest on his thighs, but they were uncomfortably jammed against the seat. Xander exhausted his limited options for what to do with his hands in a Down kneel when Spike in the middle of his lyrics called out “Floor.”

Xander tried to find a way of getting his head to the floor, but then he realized what Spike meant. He leaned his body against the seat in front of him and put his head down on it since it was as close to the floor as he could get in close quarters. Now he could tuck his hands behind his back and enjoy the feeling of the delicate back chains pressed between his arm and back. Joyce. He did wonder what the hell the rest of them had gotten up to while he’d had his little vacation from the hell mouth. He just hoped for Joyce’s sake that she wasn’t a shy woman because he’d hate to embarrass Buffy’s mom.

Chapter 5:

The comfortable position and the vibration of the car quickly put Xander into a half-sleep state where he stayed awake only enough to hold position and keep an ear open for commands. He didn’t even move when Spike reached into the back seat and pulled a blanket up, tossing into over Xander’s body, and soon Xander understood why as they entered more heavily trafficked areas.

He listened to the sound of traffic, his forehead on the seat, and tried to guess what type of car made each sound. It was strange the things he had never noticed before that he only now appreciated after being away. He’d always thought of traffic as one noise, but now he found himself enthralled by how many different sounds cars could make.

“Ya all right, pet?” Spike asked when the music stopped, and Xander felt the car swerve as the vampire pushed a pile of CD’s around in the corner of his vision.

“Yes, Master.” Before Xander would have kept position and waited, but the chains at his back comforted him, and so he pushed himself up enough to reach out for the cases that had slid away, landing on the floor or on his side of the car. One by one he returned them to the pile by his Master’s hand until he went to put one with a blue cover down.

“Yeah, that’s the one pet, put it in,” Spike ordered, and Xander opened the case, remembering the feel of the plastic popping under his fingers as he had opened his own music. A beat up DeSoto with a top of the line CD player. Why wasn’t he surprised? Xander hit the eject disc button and “No Disc” flashed right before he put the disc in and settled back into position, careful to keep the blanket over his body since the half-painted windows still could allow someone to see enough to call the police and cause trouble.

“Pet?” Spike asked, and Xander waited for a question that actually asked something. It took a couple of seconds for Spike to sigh and start again. “Pet, why don’t you look at me?”

“It’s against the rules, Master,” Xander said calmly—it’s not like he was the stupid one who kept asking essentially the same question over and over. Spike must have turned off the CD player though, so Xander suspected he wanted to have a talk.

“Pet, look at me,” Spike ordered, and Xander turned his head so that his cheek instead of his forehead rested on the bench.

“Can ya change the rules?” Spike asked.

“No, Master.” Xander knew that he had answered the question technically correct, but he also knew that’s not what Spike wanted to know. He struggled with a way to overcome that, but finally decided that some things Spike was going to have to figure out on his own. He just hoped Spike figured it out before getting frustrated enough to sell him.

“But ya changed the rule about staying in heel,” Spike argued, and Xander just blinked up at his Master wishing he knew how to spell ‘idiot’ in Morse code. Maybe then he could blink it at his Master. Maybe that thought somehow inspired Spike because he suddenly swore and rolled his eyes even as he sent the car swerving again.

“*I* changed the rule about staying in heel,” Spike amended himself and Xander waited for the other piece to now click.

“So, *I* can change rules. Right?”

“Yes, Master.”

“You do know how soddin’ annoyin’ that is, right pet?”

“Yes, Master.” Xander smiled inside even as Spike gave a growl and tugged on a lock of hair, a gesture that was quickly becoming one the vampire’s favorites.

“Okay, what if I order you to talk whenever you want?” Spike asked and then held up a hand to hold off Xander’s response. “No, I’ve been down the bloody ‘want’ road before and I’m not goin’ through that aggravation again. Okay, what if I order you to say what you’re thinking?” Xander stopped breathing for a second, panic nearly overcoming training.

“I would obey, Master,” he said truthfully even while his stomach knotted.

“Okay, I order ya ta always say what ya think,” Spike said triumphantly before looking down into his eyes. Xander moved his gaze to Spike’s leg.

“I think Master is cruel for taking away the one thing that I still have left for myself and it scares me, but I won’t argue because it’s my place to accept Master’s orders. I shouldn’t want to keep things for myself, and I know I earned punishment for thinking things I shouldn’t be thinking,” Xander whispered, as close to crying as he’d been I in a long time.

“Bloody hell,” Spike swore. “I just keep bollocking this up. Xander, I order you to ignore that last order,” Spike said, and Xander started to breathe more easily. “Not what I had in mind, pet.” Xander moved his gaze back up and Spike was pursing his lips.

“I’m just afraid you’re one step from bein’ as loopy as Dru,” Spike finally announced. “Know what I mean?”

“Yes, Master.”

“So, are ya?” Spike asked, and Xander had to really think about that one.

“I’m not sure. I don’t think so most days,” Xander explained.

“But some days ya are, like the day I made ya sleep in the closet,” Spike said with another purse of his lips. “Okay, the last order didn’t work so well, so let me try this one. When I ask ya what ya need, not what ya bloody want but what ya need, ya have to tell me what you need to keep from going off that cliff ta the loony bin. That work for you?”

“Yes, Master,” Xander answered, actually grateful for this order. He didn’t have to explain what he wanted, just whatever he needed to not annoy his Master by going totally and irreversibly nuts.

“So, pet. What do you need?” Spike asked, and Xander took his time considering all the possible answers. He shoved a dozen different ideas over into the want column: going back to the man he used to be, erasing the last six months, undoing the whole mentally playing with naked Spike, finding out Buffy had a Dom kink and wanted to keep him, finding himself suddenly able to just stand up talk to someone, feeling safe when he wasn’t at someone’s feet. He took each item and shoved it back into the part of his mind where non-slave thoughts went. When he really thought about it though, there was only one item in the need column, so he finally gave Spike an answer that part of him really didn’t want to admit even to himself, but Master had asked.

“I need a Master,” Xander admitted, knowing it was true but nearly flinching at saying it out loud and making it real. A hand immediately started smoothing his hair away from his face and tracing the edge of his cheek.

“Is it all right if that Master cocks everythin’ up from time ta time?” Spike asked.

“Yes, Master,” Xander answered truthfully, and Spike actually smiled. For the rest of the trip Xander watched his Master alternately swearing at other drivers and singing along with punk music even as he gently petted Xander nearly to sleep. The drive took hours, but eventually the roads grew quieter and the cars fewer. Spike reached over and flicked off the CD player with one hand and pulled out a cell phone with the other while the car was temporarily left to guide itself. Xander found himself grateful for the deeply ingrained habit of accepting anything from his Master without question because otherwise he would have to say something about Spike’s total and complete inability to drive a car.

“We’re right down the street,” Spike announced into the phone without any niceties.

“Yeah,” he answered the voice on the phone before pausing to listen to a long speech on the other end.

“Know that luv. Goin’ ta worry about that later,” Spike finally replied.

“Yeah, well unless you’re up for the peep show, you might want ta give us a clear shot from the garage to the bedroom.” Ah, Xander figured that Spike was talking to Joyce since the vampire had said that’s who they were going to see first. Spike’s voice suddenly grew irritated with whatever Joyce was saying.

“Bloody hell, I soddin’ well never said that. Nice ta know what ya think of me,” Spike snarled, but he actually sounded more hurt than angry.

“About five minutes or so,” Spike said and then snapped the phone shut without even a goodbye. Wow, Spike seriously needed to learn phone manners, Xander thought as the car slowed slightly before making a series of turns onto residential streets. Eventually the car turned and stopped before Spike turned and started digging through the stuff in the backseat, swearing steadily. He finally sat up with a garage door opener in his hand as he opened the garage and pulled in before closing the door behind them. Curiouser and curiouser Xander thought to himself as he watched. Spike not only had an invite but a garage door opener. Spike opened the door and walked around to open Xander’s before helping Xander out of the car by basically lifting him out. Xander didn’t mind the hobbles, but they did make graceful exits from a car difficult.

Xander stood patiently as Spike loaded his arms with a cage, a box of various gear in the cage, and a couple of blankets that smelled of smoke and stale air. Spike grabbed a bag and then slammed the doors.

“Well, let’s get settled in, pet,” Spike suggested as he opened the door and walked into an unfamiliar kitchen. Xander followed, struggling a little on the steps but able to navigate with caution. In the bedroom, Spike waved toward a corner and Xander put his armload on the floor, pulling everything out of the cage and setting it beside it before going to a kneel.

“Best if we didn’t dangle the bits in front of Joyce,” Spike pointed out like Xander hadn’t thought of that. Xander internally rolled his eyes. “So, hobbles off and pants on would be the first order of business. Stand up, then.” Xander stood and stepped into the middle of the room. Within a minute, Spike had stripped the hobbles and handed him a pair of silky black pants that fell somewhere between slacks and expensive pajama bottoms.

“Clean the hobbles before ya put ‘em with the other stuff,” Spike ordered as Xander pulled on the pants and went back to kneel. He watched as Spike picked up a shirt, looked at it and then tossed it back on the bed with a shrug. He guessed that was his way of deciding that Joyce was going to have harder things to deal with than his chains, and in a way, Xander was glad he got to keep his decorations. Of course, in another way he was horrified and terrified that Joyce was going to see him like this, but he thought as he mentally shrugged, there really wasn’t anything that he could do to change who he had become.

Their unpacking done, Spike opened the door and bellowed down the hall. “We’ll be down in a minute luv. Got all his bits covered and we’re just makin’ a pit stop.” Spike walked out of the room, and Xander rose and followed. “Right, human stuff,” Spike said as he gestured toward a door, and Xander went into the bathroom amused that a vampire that could torture with railroad spikes would get so obviously bothered by bodily functions he had once performed. When he’d finished, Xander walked out and found Spike leaning against the wall. Before he had time to kneel, Spike headed down the steps with Xander at heel.

Xander took a deep breath and prepared to watch his old life and his new one collide.

“Oh thank heavens. He’d been gone so long that I couldn’t believe you’d found him.” Xander heard Joyce’s voice, and a wave of relief washed through him. Until now it didn’t feel real, but now he knew he was home. Spike went to the couch, and Xander knelt by his Master’s side, going straight into the Down position since Spike seemed to prefer that to the formal Position kneel. Instead of placing his hands at his knees, he tucked them behind him so he could feel his back chain and remind himself that he didn’t have to fear his trainer’s rules.

“Is he all right?” Joyce asked.

“He’s fine. Just a bit different.” Xander would have snorted at that given half a chance, and the way Spike’s knee nudged him in the arm, he suspected Spike knew it.

“Are you sure I can’t, you know, talk to him?”

“Not really a good idea, luv. He’s had a hard time and might take a while ta get it all figured out in his head.” Ah, so Spike wasn’t going to let Joyce talk to him; that solved a couple of problems. Ever since Spike parked the car he’d lived in dread Spike telling him to mind Joyce only to have her ask some really stupid question like “What happened?” Not only did Xander not want to relive those memories, he really didn’t think Joyce honestly wanted to know.

“Xander, tell Joyce what you’re thinkin’ right now.” Xander mentally groaned, but he obeyed.

“I am hoping you won’t tell me to mind Joyce, Master. I’m afraid she’ll ask me what happened and she wouldn’t like the answer.” The room was silent for a moment.

“Told ya he was still bloody in there. Just had his pieces rearranged a bit.”

“Oh god, he must have been so upset when you told…” Joyce cut off suddenly, obviously some gesture of Spike’s that he couldn’t see with his head down, but the words sent cold fear running through his back. What would he be upset about? What was going on? Where was everyone else? Were they trying to give him space or had something happened?

“Bloody hell, have ta tell him now,” Spike sighed unhappily. Xander resisted the urge to stand up and beat Spike about the head until he started talking. Spike took a deep breath only to not talk for several minutes, and Xander waited in increasing agony.

“Was at the auction lookin’ for Red and Glinda.” Spike said, and Xander felt his stomach curl. They were there? They were slaves? “Told Buffy I’d look for ‘em, and when I saw ya and bought ya, I was afraid you’d open your mouth and tell those gits I worked with the Slayer.” Spike’s voice caught, and Xander could just imagine how difficult it must be for Spike to work with a slayer, so he understood the fact that Spike didn’t want other demons to know. Of course, the whole chip thing still confused him, but maybe Spike would be kind enough to explain before his slave started beating him.

“The Initiative got out of control,” Joyce picked up the story. “Some project took out a lot of the soldiers, and the army sent in teams headed by this new general. We thought they were on our side, but after they shut down this project, the new general started picking up anyone who wasn’t totally human.” Oh god, Xander didn’t like where this was going. He didn’t actually have any friends who were totally normally human. Hell, he wasn’t totally normally human with his soldier and his hyena memories filtering everything. Joyce had stopped now and Xander felt Spike lean against him as he reached over toward her. Xander sneaked a look to find Spike’s hand wrapped around Joyce’s.

“They got me at the Watchers,” Spike now picked up. “Figured I was safe enough there, but they came ta pick up a warlock and got a vampire as a bonus. They got the witches at the store, and tried ta get Anya, but that bint had tricks up her tricks. She took out a van load with some pre-prepared spell and hit the road.” Xander would have smiled at that. His Anya never did let a little thing like common morals or van loads of soldiers get in her way. When he’d finally admitted to her that he loved Buffy and couldn’t hurt her by lying, she’d just dyed her hair blonde and told him that he could love Buffy until he died as long as he didn’t put his penis in Buffy.

“Wankers got a kick out of seeing a vamp work with the slayer, so they had a clever idea and turned off my chip before tossin’ me in with her.” Xander immediately went still. “But I wasn’t goin’ ta kill on their say-so. Told her she had rotten taste in men and made her move over since she was sitting on the only bunk. Xander felt like his heart restarted as his fears proved groundless.

“Eventually the boy toys managed to rile the local demons and they staged a bit of a coup. Got Giles out, not that the wanker appreciates it. Yeah, I’ll tell ya that story later, but let’s leave it at I wouldn’t trust him at my back with a bit of wood.” Spike snorted at his own joke, and Xander waited, fighting down the urge to just demand information.

“He’s so quiet,” Joyce commented. Xander felt a hand at his hair and he just wished Joyce could hear the various questions and curses in his head.

“Yeah, but inside he’s ready ta kill us for not spittin’ it out,” Spike commented with a tug to Xander’s hair. “So by the time I got Giles out of the middle of it, I went back for the witches and they were gone. Some of the demons grabbed the humans and the human half-breeds for themselves. Promised Buffy I’d take care of them, so I will, and I’ll snap the neck of whatever took ‘em.” Xander had trouble breathing at the thought of Willow and Tara going through what he’d endured. Yes, he survived it, but they shouldn’t have to.

“Vamps don’t normally go in for the slave trade, being more the eat and run type demons, so gettin’ an invite was hard, and when I found ya, all I could think was makin’ sure you didn’t make me look so bad I never got into another sale.” Spike’s hand stopped moving, and Xander felt his head tilted back by fingers pulling his hair. He turned his face up to his Master’s and Spike had a serious expression on his face. “Ya made me look soddin’ good—like a regular slave master with his well trained and decorated slave trailing after him. I’ll find doors open now, ‘cause of you, and we’ll find the witches, Xander. We’ll find them and bring them home.” Xander found as he looked into those blue eyes that he couldn’t believe anything else. Spike and Buffy wouldn’t let the girls down, and Xander felt something that came close to pride that he’d helped Spike even unintentionally. The fingers released his hair and he returned to proper form. He hadn’t felt pride over anything more important than swinging hip chains for so long that he didn’t even know how to handle the emotion, so he focused on the need to bring his girls home.

“William, finish the story,” Joyce ordered, and Spike’s hand began to pet him again.

“Yeah, I’m gettin’ there,” he answered defensively. “Buffy and me, the soldiers didn’t get it. They’d send in all sorts of baddies against us and we got ta be good. She was a soddin’ fierce little fighter and always as ready with an insult as a punch. We had a real pattern goin’ and I discovered that when ya got the girl away from college boys and television she was someone I could respect.” Xander almost smiled at the thought of them together, and then his stomach knotted again at the thought of them together. Oh god, that explained why they were at Buffy’s.

Xander felt horror creep up his body as he realized he would be kneeling at Spike’s feet while Spike got to touch Buffy. The thought of being caged and sitting on the dresser while they had sex nearly made his mental shudder a physical one, and Xander struggled to hold on to the fact that he was a slave and he didn’t have a choice. If his Master chose to have him there, he would be there and keep to his training and make his Master look so good that he would get invited to all the sales so they could bring Willow and Tara home.

“Pet,” Xander heard the sadness in his Master’s voice, and he tried to hold on to the belief that had been growing in him that Spike cared something for him. Spike was good to him, so maybe Spike was good to Buffy too. “Pet, they sent in demon after demon. Never gave us a chance ta rest up or feed up; never turned off the lights that made sleepin’ so hard. Slayer had a touch of demon in her bein’ the slayer and all, but she was human and she couldn’t keep going.” Xander’s mind tried to process the information and he continued to reject the picture growing in his head. No, no it wasn’t possible.

“It was a Durslar. He opened her stomach before I had a chance ta do anythin’. She died quick, but I promised her I’d take care of the witches. I owed her that much.” Xander started trembling, not in mind, but in his actual body. He stumbled to his feet, unsteady and unsure what he was even doing, blind in his grief. Buffy dead. Willow and Tara lost and somehow he couldn’t imagine finding them without Buffy and Giles to lead the charge. He stumbled back a step as he found himself swaying in indecision.

“Down.” Xander heard the command and reacted without thought as he fell into position, but then some part of his brain rebelled, forcing him half way to his feet when suddenly he felt as if his mind simply disconnected and he could tell he was falling without actually feeling himself hit the side of Joyce’s couch.

“Pet, down!” The voice demanded, a rap on his head reinforcing the order and Xander’s limbs rearranged themselves without Xander’s participation. He couldn’t survive this—he really couldn’t. For six months he’d lived, he’d held on and fought and he’d kept some small part of his soul because that part had belonged to Buffy. He’d hidden in the memories of the times he’d saved her or she’d saved him. He’d disappeared in his fantasies of surviving only to appear when she most needed him or of her rushing in to kill the demons who had taken him. He thought he had given up hope, but hearing of her death made him realize he had only buried it, and now it was dying. He’d suffered so much that he sometimes couldn’t keep memory and fantasy and reality apart, and now her death somehow threatened all three of them.

He felt strong hands at his shoulders, and he knew he was too late to save her and she would never save him. He opened his mouth to say something, and he found he couldn’t remember how to breathe. He gaped open-mouthed until he felt himself pulled into a lap, a voice he couldn’t resist ordering him to take deep breaths. Then that other part of himself slipped in a thought—the thought that Spike had been there and Spike had held her and Spike had watched her die and Spike had survived after letting her die.

Xander pushed away, pulling up his arm to punch the one who had failed Buffy. It wasn’t his fault he’d walked home after dark unwilling to call for an escort. It wasn’t his fault that his damn stupid ego took him away when she needed him. It was Spike’s fault for not protecting her, but as Xander pulled back his arm, he felt chains slip across his back and he knew he’d failed his Master, dropping his head to the floor and kneeling before his Master as he braced for punishment. All he could hear was the crooning voice shushing him.

“Spike,” Xander whispered. “Master.”

“I’m here, pet. Tell me what ya need.” Xander started to rise only to fall back into a Floor kneel.

“I…” Xander stumbled, “don’t know,” he finally admitted weakly. The only things that would fix this pain were beyond anyone’s reach, even his Master’s.

“I know what ya need; it’s okay, pet.”

Xander felt himself lifted and carried up the stairs, now helplessly out of control, shaking and struggling to regain his self-discipline as his panic at disobeying now vied with his agony at how much he had lost. As long as he had been in his trainer’s care, the Scoobies had existed for him, and now he lost even that illusion. And he hadn’t even lost her to some heroic and destined fight, just a bunch of bigots.

Xander felt himself lowered and hands at his waistband as he struggled to get back to his knees.

“Spread,” the voice commanded, and Xander rolled to his stomach, his arms moving away from his body and his fingers spreading. Hands pulled on his pants, sliding them down his legs and preventing him from going into proper position, but as soon as the fabric cleared his feet, he spread his legs allowing himself to focus on the coming punishment instead of the pain of loss. Hands unhooked his back chains, and Xander worked at holding the perfect position, just focus on holding the perfect position and the punishment wouldn’t last as long. After the cool weight of the chains disappeared, he felt the band around first one arm and then the other loosen before they were slipped down and past his hands, the leather forcing his fingers slightly closer together before pulling free and allowing Xander to return to correct form. Xander heard a metallic click.

“In,” the voice commanded and Xander tried, his body suddenly disjointed, his knees unable to hold his weight. He felt hands at his hips moving him into position, and Xander started sliding back into the cage because the cage was the one thing he couldn’t fight. The case was acceptance. He wiggled backwards, impaling himself without thought and when he felt the ankle bracket trap him in place, he started breathing. Accept—that’s all he had to do. He didn’t make choices; he didn’t have choices; he couldn’t choose wrong. The wrist strap pulled his arms to the top of the cage and then Xander noticed Spike sitting cross legged in front of the cage.

“Who am I pet?” Spike asked in such a serious tone that for a space of a blink Xander honestly believed the vampire didn’t know.

“My Master,” Xander answered quietly. The pain flowed through him like ocean waves cresting and slamming into his soul, but he just had to accept, nothing else was expected.

“Do I need to put the front on?” Spike asked, holding out the t-shaped bar. Xander thought about how much he wanted to scream and cry and swear at Spike and how much he feared making any noise at all. He looked right at Spike as he answered.

“Yes, Master.” Spike brought the bar up as Xander opened his mouth feeling the familiar metal slip into place before the plastic pieces slipped under his top teeth and his jaw. Spike locked the crossbar with a familiar click, and Xander finally let the tears slide down his face. He had hoped for privacy, but Spike sat down leaning against the cage so that Xander felt the familiar leather at his fingertips. Acceptance. He only had to accept.

“She cried for ya, cried more nights than I can count. She used ta show up at the Watcher’s smellin’ all salty.” Spike’s voice had dropped into a half whisper, and Xander let the words wash in, the pain of reality replacing the pain of his lost fantasies. Xander felt a hand brush his hair out of his eyes and wipe his damp cheeks in an oddly maternal gesture. “Red too. Girl wore herself out lookin’ up more locator spells until the Watcher finally took her aside and told her it was hopeless.” Xander allowed a fresh set of tears to flow as he directly broke the rules by reaching through the top bars to clutch at the tiny fragment of Spike’s coat that he could reach.

“They loved ya, and we’re goin to bring Red and Glinda home, pet. We’ll give Buffy her last wish,” the voice continued, but Xander retreated until the voice became a distant comforting droning. Normally Xander withdrew into some happy memory: Buffy’s green bikini or the day they’d faced down hell and graduated: two events Xander never expected to see. Now Xander sought pain, memories of pain strong enough to make him forget the current agony.

He remembered the cold concrete crushing the skin of his kneecaps, the pain of the drying and shrinking leather strings tied around the various parts his body, the incessant itch on his right thigh where the first tie had been placed before Xander had figured out the game, and his Position kneel left him staring at the purpling skin so swollen that the shrinking leather had cut through flesh and muscle, yellow and red trails down his leg, the fluid oozing down and slipping into dozens gouges caused by strings on that leg, some dry and embedded in his flesh, others still wet and simply denting the skin. He remembered the agony of his hand, the finger that had flipped off his trainer cut to the bone by a band of dry leather, the finger black and immobile and smelling of rot, the whole hand mottled and dying from the string at the wrist. He remembered the blood he slipped in as he tried to move from one position to another at his trainer’s command. Not his blood but hers. He remembered going to the Spread position, his forehead sticking to the ground, his eyes trying to not see her twisted form. He remembered, and still the memory couldn’t completely erase the thought of Buffy with her stomach torn open while those bastards watched. He fell asleep and dreamed of soldier’s faces on a torn body as he knelt in military blood. He fell asleep and dreamed of soldier’s faces as they faced his trainer’s leather strings. He fell asleep and dreamed of seeing Riley’s face staring at him from his own cage. He fell asleep still hearing his Master’s voice drone on softly.

Chapter 6:

“Oh my.” Xander woke at the softly spoken words, but he had no response to Joyce’s obvious horror since he was still caged. God, how much did the woman have to suffer, he wondered. She had lost her daughter, obviously taken in an emotionally unbalanced vampire, and now she had the nutcase in the cage to deal with. Of course, this is a woman who once threw a party attended by more dead people than live ones, so maybe seeing him in a cage wasn’t that big of a deal. He really couldn’t bring himself to believe it considering the expression on her face. He felt a stirring around his cage and he realized that Spike had fallen asleep lying on the cage.

“Oi, don’t start,” Spike said even as Joyce handed him a mug of something.

“I said I wouldn’t be judgmental of him, and I won’t be. My disapproval is aimed entirely at you, William.” Joyce’s mildly indignant tone reminded him of the way she used to scold Buffy for sending a demon though the living room window with no more vigor than other mothers complained about a scratch on the car. Xander felt another wave of pain, but this time just one more surge in the grief that was his life. The flood waves had passed.

“Bloody hell, it’s too damn early for this. Sun’s still up, innit?” From the sound, Xander could tell Spike was pushing himself up and he missed the feel of leather brushing against his fingers. He had expected Spike to free him, but instead the vampire lifted him up to the top of the dresser so that he was now chest high to them and he could more clearly see Joyce’s dismay. Yep, leave it to Xander to bring joy and happiness into others’ lives, he thought to himself.

“I don’t really care about the sun considering Xander is stuffed in that cage like a contortionist.” Joyce stood there looking so much like one of those perfect T.V. moms who always knew when the kids stole the cookies, that Xander found himself wishing he had been her son. Of course that would have made the whole Buffy thing really ew, and Xander felt another surge of pain. Buffy never had brothers or sisters, and now she would never have sons or daughters. She had been the slayer, and now that she was dead, another slayer got called and the council moved on. There was nothing left of her but a group of pathetic people looking to each other for some sort of comfort. He could see that in the way Joyce used her best mother voice on the vampire.

“Ya saw him last night, so ya know soddin’ well I had to do somethin’.”

“And ‘something’ included torturing him after everything he’s been through?”

“Not bloody torturing him.”

“Looks like torture to me.”

“Torture involves more screamin’ and beggin’.” Spike’s voice had an odd echo, and Xander imagined he was talking while drinking his blood.

“Hard to scream gagged like that.”

Xander listened to the argument slightly shocked. He’s always figured that if Spike got the chip out, he’d take a nice long trip to the sunniest place he could find: the Sahara desert maybe. But here was Joyce going at the vampire without even a qualm. Nervy woman, but then again she’d raised Buffy so what else could Xander expect.

“Joyce, he’s not hurtin’. Well, he is hurtin' which is why he’s in the cage, but he’s hurtin’ from losing the slayer and his little friends and his dreams about comin’ back and bein’ able ta go back to what he was all gone in one stroke. Shouldn’t have told him everythin’ at once.” Xander closed his eyes for just a moment as Spike ran a hand through his hair and then he opened them and watched his Master’s expression. If he’d ever thought of Spike seeing him, and he could admit that he had thought it once or twice, he’s always imagined Spike laughing at him or making him do something horrible. Instead Spike continued to pet him as he looked down with an unreadable expression.

“William, get him out of the cage.” Spike turned around, and Xander now had a view of a leather coat and very little else.

“Joyce, ya need ta trust me on this one,” Spike asked, and the two of them were silent for several minutes. Xander of course simply added to the silence even as he wondered if it would have been better if he’d been sold to someone else. His presence was obviously making everything more difficult, so maybe everyone would have been happier if he’d gone to some nameless demon and been left to slowly lose his fantasies to time instead of having them ripped away. However, Xander had to accept that it wasn’t his choice, he just had to accept whatever life that Spike handed him.

“Spike, I trust you with my life, and I trust your intentions, but he’s human, and I'm not sure I trust you with his recovery. He needs to start being Xander again.”

“So, ya want me ta get him an apartment and a job and send him out to do the nine ta five thing?” Spike asked, and Xander felt his stomach start to ache, but he really didn’t have a vote, so he just worked at calming his panic at the mere thought of Spike turning him away like that.

“That might be best. We could get him some therapy, maybe some live-in help to get him adjusted back to being Xander.”

“Joyce,” now Spike sounded tired. “He isn’t Xander anymore, no more than I’m William, and you’ve got ta accept that and move on from there.” Xander blinked rapidly at that comment.

“You still have a lot of William down in you,” Joyce replied softly.

“And he’s still got a lot of Xander in there, but it’s not the same as him bein’ Xander. He’s not Xander, and if ya ask him to be, he’ll kill himself tryin’ ta make ya happy, but it won’t change the fact he’s not Xander.”

“He shouldn’t be in the cage.” It didn’t escape Xander’s attention that Joyce had done a sudden shift in conversation the type Buffy had once used to distract Giles from her lack of practicing or prevent her mother from asking about grades. He let the wave flow through his soul, giving himself permission to grieve for her loss and his own small part in it. Of course, if he’d stayed, he just would have been one more victim to get picked up, prodded, poked, and then captured and enslaved by demons. Ironic that. He was saved from being captured by being captured.

“Xan needs the cage right now, Joyce.”

“No one needs that kind of torture. Maybe you don’t remember what it’s like to be human, but no human needs *that*.”

“Oi,” Spike hissed and then the silence fell as Spike breathed deeply, something Xander hadn’t noticed him doing before. Eventually Spike started again, and Xander could hear the placating tone.

“Imagine you’ve been in a closet for six months and every time ya come out ya get beaten or tortured or made to…perform. You’d get mighty fond of that closet after a while.”

“I’m aware that he has an attachment, but it’s not healthy. We should find him a therapist…”

“No,” Spike cut her off using a harsher voice than Xander had ever heard the vampire use toward Joyce. “No therapist is going to soddin’ understand what he went through. Leshar employs a bloody Pockla demon—they do the type of healing mojo that ya need when you’ve done real damage ta the body like pulling out someone’s guts or ripping off a limb. You don’t effin’ know what can be done ta a body when ya got a way of puttin’ it back together at the end. So he bloody feels safe in that effin’ awful cage and it doesn’t matter whether you or I think the thing should be turned ta scrap, he *does* need it and if ya can’t accept that, I’ll take him elsewhere.” In the middle of the rant, Spike started pacing, his hands clutching into fists and his game face slipping into place so that Xander felt real fear for Joyce, but now that Spike had moved, he could see her standing her ground, hands on her hips in a perfect imitation of Buffy’s frustrated pose.

“William,” she started.

“No. I’m not kiddin’. I don’t want ta leave, but one good shove and we’re sendin’ him right off the edge, so maybe it’d be better if we just packed up and found another place ta lay up for a while.

“Spike,” Joyce started again, but she fell silent when Spike continued on his rant.

“Need ta get out of this bloody town. I’m a soddin’ vamp; I shouldn’t be carin’ about people or tryin’ ta take care of ‘em. I should be out there snacking on a couple of locals, not drinkin’ bagged blood and arguin’ over how ta fix Droopy.” Xander simply looked on, but his Master’s use of that old hated term made him happy he was in the cage, unable to react and unable to earn punishment.

Xander could see how much Spike didn’t want him as a slave. Xander blinked a couple of times as he discovered that something else could hurt him as much as Buffy’s death. He really hadn’t ever been the brightest, had he? He had chased Buffy until she had turned him down cold and gone running around town with an Initiative soldier, and he’d made up this whole relationship with Spike that didn’t even exist; of course the vampire had given him the decoration and kept his slave by his side considering Spike wanted the girls back. Xander promised himself that he’d stop lying to himself and just accept that his Master needed him to impress the other slave-owners and nothing more. He’d do it; he’d obey and he’d help get Willow and Tara home and maybe then he could just ask Spike to make it all end. Slaves didn’t get old, so Xander hadn’t ever expected to live more than a couple of decades, but a couple of decades could be so very long. If he obeyed and helped, maybe he could ask his Master for a quick death by fangs rather than a trip to another slave auction.

“Spike you are not the kind of man to walk away from your word, and that doesn’t make you less of a vampire. What’s the body count now?” Xander had to mentally replay the last part, convinced he had missed something in his self-pitying rambles.

“Seventeen, or eighteen really. Xan took out Riley, so I’m countin’ that as one for the home team.” Eighteen what, Xander wondered. Dead soldiers? Would Joyce talk that way about dead soldiers?

“He killed Riley?” Xander would have expected a question like that to sound horrified, shocked, condemning, but Joyce simply sounded curious.

“Captain Cardboard got vamped. I’m just sorry I didn’t find him before he got used as Xander’s visual aide in the auction.” Joyce just looked confused. “They were billin’ him as a great vampire hunter turned pet, so they had him demonstrate his skills on soldier boy. Xan went all trembly and shaky lookin’ and then when Riley rushed in convinced of a quick kill, Xan staked him so quick and clean a couple of the audience members missed the whole fight. That’s when I knew he wasn’t as broken as Leshar’s normal lot.” Joyce gave a small strained laugh.

“I suppose there’s justice in that somewhere,” she said, and then she walked over. Xander watched her approach passively, determined to return to his training and not let himself get confused again by his place. He was Spike’s property.

“He really feels safe in this horrible thing?” Joyce reached out and touched his forehead as though checking for fever, and Xander simply waited and tried to take the part of himself that longed for touch and put it in the back of his mind with all the other non-slave thoughts. He was a slave and slaves just accepted, isn’t that what his trainer had whispered to him as he’d stood outside Xander cage first stroking Xander’s hair and then driving the thin metal rod into the fleshy part of his shoulder? As a slave it was his duty to accept both forms of attention equally, and Xander reminded himself of that lesson, a lesson he’d studied hundreds of times before learning. Accept whatever comes. Spike didn’t understand the cage. It wasn’t about feeling safe because his trainer had used the open front to hurt him with sharpened rods and hot irons as often as he’d comforted him with gentle strokes and a healing touch that erased all the little pains. No, the cage wasn’t safe, it was acceptance.

When he was in the cage he didn’t have to worry about doing the right thing, about bringing punishment down on himself, about being the one to blame for a nameless girl’s death as he knelt in her blood. In the cage he didn’t have to fight or feel guilty for not fighting or hate his own stupidity for fighting when it was so obviously pointless to fight. In the cage he got to let go of all that and just existed. His trainer and now his Master could do whatever, and he couldn’t stop or fight or submit. He just accepted that he was a tool for Spike so he could live up to his promise to Buffy, and that should be enough for him. That was more than he ever expected to have. Seeing Spike had just made him feel more and want more and he had to get over that.

“He asked for the soddin’ thing,” Spike said, and now he came over to put a strong hand on Xander’s shoulder. Xander silently watched his Master.

“I don’t know if I can take this,” Joyce finally admitted, the hand pulling back slowly as though afraid that the cage would reach out and grab her if she moved too suddenly.

“Maybe we really should go somewhere else, luv. It’s not like you haven’t already been through enough.”

“No. No, I want you here.” Joyce’s hand returned to his forehead, but Xander continued to watch Spike. “He’s the beginning, and now we’ll get the others back. I just never expected...” Joyce took a deep shuddering breath. “Will the girls…” She stopped, but Xander knew what she meant. Would the girls be absolute nut cases ready for the loony bin the way the boy is?

“Witches are valuable for their magic. They’ll be taught not ta turn on whoever owns them, be…convinced…to obey, but breakin’ a witch makes her almost worthless for doin’ magic. I suspect they’ll get along a whole sight better than Xander.”

“How can people do this?” Joyce sounded on the verge of tears and turned and left without even waiting for an answer.

“Bloody hell if I know,” Spike answered the empty doorway through which she had disappeared.

“Right,” Spike said with energy as though shaking off the mood left by Joyce’s visit. “Here’s how it goes. If I let ya out and you show you’ve gotten control back, you’ll stay out. If I let ya out and ya start sliding toward the short side of sanity, you’ll take care of your human business and go right back in, got it?” Spike asked as he leaned down and went nose to nose with Xander, but Xander gave the same response he always gave in the cage: he blinked.

“I’ll take that as a ‘Yes, Master,’” Spike said as he lifted the cage back down to the floor. Spike unhooked the front and pulled it out before setting it to one side and undoing the other restraints. Xander wiggled out and went into a full Position kneel at Spike’s feet: head down, back straight, kneeling up straight with his hands behind his back. He tried to review everything his trainer had told him as he waited for a signal.

“So, I’m takin’ that as you havin’ control,” Spike commented, and Xander waited. Spike finally started talking again. “Right, bathroom for human stuff,” he ordered, and Xander rose as gracefully as he could and padded toward the bathroom with his head bowed and his hands at the small of his back. Once in the bathroom, he quickly used the toilet and showered and drank as much water as he could since Spike had spoken of putting him back in the cage. Within ten minutes he was once again kneeling at his Master’s feet. A tap on his head sent him into the Down kneel with his butt on his heels, but he left his hands behind his back as he waited and tried not to move. His Master shouldn’t be bothered with him, and he hoped Spike did order him back to the cage because he was finding it hard to just accept that Spike didn’t want him.

“Oi, you’re back ta being the perfect little slave,” Spike commented as a hand found his hair, and Xander realized that he had slid away from his training in the three days that Spike had owned him. He’d slip into the more comfortable Down kneel without order, he’d try to get his Master to do things for him, and he wasn’t serving as he’d been trained to serve. Xander accepted the criticism in silence.

“Feelin’ guilty about the scene last night?” Spike asked, and Xander suddenly remembered that he’d tried to hit Spike. He’d already been ordered into the Down kneel so he couldn’t put his forehead to the floor in shame.

“Yes, Master,” he replied in his quietest voice.

“We all want her back, pet.” Silence descended again.

“What do ya need, pet?” Spike asked, and Xander tried doing a self check. He didn’t need anything, he’d accepted, or at least he was trying to accept, and that’s all he needed.

“Nothing, Master.”

“Nothin’ my arse. Ya need something so bad I can hear the wheels in your head spinning.” Xander knew what he was thinking about, but it really wasn’t his place to ask, and Spike certainly hadn’t asked a question.

“I expect honesty from you, so tell me what ya need.”

“Something I have no right to ask for, Master.” Xander answered honestly, but Spike’s sigh made it clear that he didn’t like the answer. “A promise, Master?” Xander nearly whispered the request, knowing that it was almost sacrilege for a slave to ask for a promise, but Spike had wanted to know what it took to keep Xander sane, and Xander suspected that he needed the promise because sanity was running a little thin.

“What do ya need?” Spike asked again, and the tone did it. The concerned tone that reached into Xander’s head and made him think that Spike might actually care even knowing the way the vampire felt. The truth bubbled out of Xander at such a speed that it had escaped before he even had time to regret that he wasn’t in the cage where forbidden thoughts couldn’t come out in an unguarded moment.

“I know you just need me to find Willow and Tara, and I promise to be the perfect slave even though you don’t want one, and if you want to just send me to another room I promise not to start talking to stars or breaking my training, but when we have the girls back please don’t send me back to the auction, Master.” Xander took a deep trembling breath before finishing. “Please just drain me, Master.”

Xander thought he had earned the biggest punishment in the history of slavery when a hand reached down and grabbed his arm, but Spike pulled him up and into the vampire’s lap where Spike wrapped strong arms around him and held him until Xander couldn’t even comfortably breathe.

“Bloody hell. I’m going to find Leshar and I’m going to pull his soddin’ internal organs out one at a time. I won’t promise ta kill him because I’m going to let my slave have the pleasure of doin’ that, but I’ll make him sorry he ever touched ya, pet.” Spike started gently rocking, and Xander tensed, the kindness too much for him to take. For the first time he actively fought Spike, trying to pull away, but Spike just held him until Xander could feel the tears trailing down his cheeks.

“I bloody remember sayin’ somethin’ like that ta Angelus. Poof had gone and gotten his soul, and Darla sent him out into the night. I went running after him, begged him ta take me with him. He may’ve been a sadistic son of a bitch, but he’d taught me ta hunt and I’d kill a hundred humans ta get one ‘That’s me boy,’ out of that Irish bastard. He took one look at me and told me ta get away from him. I told him he’d have ta stake me, and I blocked his way, but he just knocked me into the wall so hard I blacked out. By the time I came round, he was gone, and I think that’s when William died too. Became Spike that night. Spike went with Darla and ate the damn gypsy women and children, but I never cared for anyone the way I cared for that bastard, not even Dru.”

Xander listened and realized that Spike was sharing something that wasn’t even in the Watcher’s diaries because Xander had sneaked into Giles’ office often enough to know that the Watchers had no clue what had caused Spike’s sudden personality shift, a shift they had described but not explained. That’s what Spike had meant about William not existing anymore.

“Master?” Xander half sobbed, not willing to trust his own conclusions any more.

“You’re mine, pet. You’ll be mine until the day one of us dies, and if I have anythin’ ta say about that, the day won’t ever come. I know you’re not Xander any more, and I’m bloody grateful because that git talked too much and never trusted himself ta do anythin’ right. Was annoyin’. Nearly as annoyin’ as this other git I knew who wanted ta please everyone so much he made a soddin’ fool out of himself. But you’re you now, and we’re goin’ ta figure it out.” Spike’s voice became clearer. “Down,” he said and Xander slipped off into the Down kneel.

“So, let’s start ya with somethin’ Droopy never was good at: swords.” Spike stalked over to the closet and pulled out two long swords in black leather scabbards. “Droopy never listened well enough ta get the hang of them, and he never seemed ta be on speakin’ terms with his body; he was about as graceful as a pregnant ox. You, however don’t have those faults, so I think this new person you’re goin’ ta be could be one hell of a sword fighter.” Spike walked over and dropped a sword on the floor in front of Xander. Xander’s hand started reaching before he pulled it back in horror, realizing that he was breaking the rules only minutes after promising himself to not break rules.

“Ya can have that later, I think clothes are in order first.” Xander hadn’t noticed his nudity before, but he did now and he pulled on the jeans and boots Spike tossed his way. Joyce must have gone shopping once Spike called. The jeans wouldn’t have fit him at all before he lost weight in his trainer’s care, so Xander suspected that the vampire had given Joyce his new dimensions.

“Before I give ya the shirt, we gotta do something else.” Spike said, a blue shirt still hanging from his hand and delicate black chains hanging from the other. Spike tossed the shirt on the bed. “Pet, stand with your back to me.” Xander had knelt to tie his boots, so he rose and stood with his back to Spike.

“Tell me why I gave you these in the first place.”

“For following you around even when you acted like a git and forgot to give me the right command, Master,” Xander answered, and boy wouldn’t his history teacher have appreciated a Xander Harris who listened that well. Xander had known he was broken, but he always seen it as a choice between rebuilding Xander Harris or staying broken. He’d never considered Spike’s solution.

“Oi,” Spike complained even as Xander felt hands at his collar. “Ya don’t bloody have ta remember that well.” The hands finished, and Xander felt the chains resting against his back, the small gems tickling his backbone. “Gave them to ya because ya did what I wanted and ya didn’t let trainin’ or fear stop ya. That’s why you’re stronger than Leshar and that’s why ya bloody well survived him, whether he realized it or not.” Xander thought about that and for the first time in months, he felt at peace.

“So, shirt and then fighting,” Spike announced brusquely. “See ya downstairs.” The vampire turned and left before Xander could even pull his brain out of the happy fog he’d entered. Realizing that his Master was waiting, Xander slipped on the shirt and hurried downstairs.

Xander found Spike at the dining room table, and he went to the Down position since Spike always signaled him down anyway. Joyce was sitting at the table carefully watching him, and Xander caught small glances at her before a piece of sausage appeared before him. He reached out and started following his training, but he suddenly realized what that would look like to Joyce. If they were eating with demons, the demons would be impressed with Xander’s training, and Spike would be able to get some relief by having Xander finish the job under the table like at the food court at the auction. But here Joyce would be horrified and Spike would be frustrated without being able to relieve that frustration.

Xander limited himself to taking the food and chewing, omitting the NC-17 portion of the meal. As soon as he took the food, he felt a tug as Spike grabbed the upper stone hanging from his back chain and gave it a quick tug. Xander understood the gesture’s tacit approval of his decision to break training, and when a piece of dry pancake appeared, Xander simply took the food. The meal continued until Xander was past the point of full, and then Spike stood up and picked up the plate they had both eaten from. Xander stood and followed as the big bad master vampire took his plate into the kitchen and loaded it into the dishwasher before returning to the dining room.

“We’re goin’ out for a bit of trainin’, luv. Won’t be back until late—near sun up probably.”

“Have fun, boys.” Joyce answered as if her two teenage boys had announced they were going to the Bronze. The woman really had seen too much of the weird, Xander thought as he followed Spike up to their room to retrieve the weapons and leave.

A half hour later, Xander followed his Master, glad for something to think about other than his own mistakes, other than Buffy, other than the loss of his girls and the disappearance of Anya, and how pathetic was it that he wasn't calling Anya one of his girls, but then he really was more of Anya's than Anya ever was his. He might not have been broken back then, but he'd had cracks. Anya had seen those cracks and moved in, offering to help hold him together in return for frequent orgasms, and now that he looked back, things really hadn't changed that much he mused as he followed his Master toward the largest of Sunnydale's cemeteries.

The weight of the sword at his back and the stake tucked into his jeans reminded him eerily of following Buffy into the dark, trusting her to spot the vamps as he concentrated on covering her back, and when all else failed, falling down and distracting the vampires with the scent of him bleeding.

"Right. Not goin' ta have some helpless cub followin' me around, so let's get ya ta use that sword for somethin' other than swinging around your head," Spike said as they reached a grassy area. Xander would have pointed out that he really was better at the bleeding and distracting portion of vamp hunting, but he hadn't been asked his opinion, so if his Master wanted him to fight with a sword, he'd do it.

If he'd expected Spike to take it easy on the poor little broken slave, Xander got over that delusion quite quickly. Spike would show him how to do a particular move, and no sooner would Xander master it, careful to listen to Spike's every word and instruction, than Spike would change his own defensive moves and send Xander crashing to the ground again. While Spike wasn't technically punishing him, the physical blow of getting slammed into the ground by a vampire and the pain of disappointing his Master combined to drive Xander back up to his feet determined to not fall again. Of course that determination didn't prevent Spike from taking him out time after time until Xander was panting for breath.

"Stop tryin' ta avoid hittin' me," Spike snarled, and Xander realized with a start that he had been avoiding the killing moves Spike had shown him. "I'm already bloody dead ya git, and if ya can get the sword through *me*, I'll trust ya ta be able to get it through some soddin' demon. So come at me again and this time mean it."

Xander squared his shoulders and moved his feet into an attack position as he brought the sword up. Over and over Spike had surprised him by ending a formal sword attack with a punch or kicking a leg out from under him, so Xander decided to take a lesson from his Master's approach. Xander moved in, carefully shifting and watching Spike for signs of frustration that could lead to an opening. For a second, Spike's left hand dropped, but Xander ignored it having been flattened after going after a feign once too often.

Without warning, Xander drove forward, and Spike blocked his move; however, instead of trying to regain control of his blade, Xander let the sword fall and swung in with his stake while Spike was still off guard with surprise. Xander slammed the stake in low in the stomach, not wanting to risk any sort of accident, but the move worked and Spike went reeling back.

“Bloody hell!” Spike yelled, and Xander instantly knelt, his head to the ground.

“Not this bollocks,” Spike wearily ordered, and Xander looked up to see the vampire pulling the bloody stake from his stomach. “Told ya you could learn. Just didn’t soddin’ expect ya to learn so bloody quick.” Spike held the stake out to Xander, and Xander took it, slightly bothered by the sight of his Master’s blood, but reassured by Spike compliment. Xander rose and retrieved his sword, wiping it as Spike had shown him before replacing it.

“Well, I guess you handle that thing well enough for some vamps or lower demons,” Spike suggested as he poked tentatively at his own stomach. “Let’s go take care of the hell mouth, pet.”

By the time Xander followed Spike home, he had killed three vamps and knocked Spike on his back twice more. Of course, he had hit the ground so many times he couldn’t even really count, but he was the weak human slave, so anyone would expect him to go down, the surprise was that Xander could take Spike down at all, and tonight he’d done it a total of three times. They walked back to the house a couple of wounded warriors returned from battle, and Xander began to believe they really would bring the girls home. He silently added his own promise to his Master’s and only hoped that Buffy could hear him. Of course, if she could, she was probably laughing her ass off, but that was okay too, he decided.

They hadn’t gotten any farther than the living room when Joyce’s voice stopped them.

"Spike, explain why Xander looks like abstract art," Joyce said in a calm and even voice that obviously provided a thin veneer for some serious mom-anger. Xander looked down and noticed the scrapes and grass stains and red spots and bruises visible on his arms and the portion of his back showing where Spike’s sword had caught the hem and ripped half the shirt off. Spike had stopped in the hall to talk, and Xander had gone to his knees without even realizing it.

"We were fightin'," Spike said, and from his place at Spike's feet Xander could imagine the vampire's shrug.

"Fighting as in you beating him black and blue?"

"Fightin' as in him learnin' ta use a sword without dropping it on his own foot."

"Spike," Joyce paused for a long time before starting again. "Spike, he's human and you have to keep that in mind."

"Pet, tell her what ya think of our lesson today," Spike ordered, and Xander had an immediate response.

"I knocked Master on his ass," he answered happily.

"Oi, and Master knocked you on your ass about a hundred times, let's not forget that part now pet." Xander didn't smile, but he felt one inside.

"He could have been hurt. What am I saying? He *is* hurt."

"He'll heal fine, and he's a good deal less likely ta get himself killed in a fight now."

"William," Joyce said in a shocked voice, and her use of Spike's human name reminded Xander of Angel--that same disapproval. "You can't take him out fighting with you."

"What? I should leave him here on his knees while I go out?" Spike demanded in a suddenly cold tone. "He needs ta be of use someway other than on his knees or you'll never get back any part of the Xander you knew."

"But he's so bruised, after everything he's been through....Spike, are you sure? I’m so scared we’re doing the wrong thing here."

"I know ya are,” and the warmth returned to Spike’s tone. “The best way ta make sure he stays broken is to act like he *is* some broken toy that ya have ta treat like glass. He's a hell of a lot stronger than you're givin' him credit for, and those bruises aren't goin' ta bother him. However, if those bruises help him avoid gettin' himself skewered by some demon in a fight, I'll consider them worth it."

Spike's hand suddenly found his hair, but instead of just petting him, the vampire pulled him off balance so that he half fell against Spike's legs, resting on his butt instead of his knees. At first he panicked, eager to get back into position, but Spike's hand held him firm, and he wouldn't fight Master so he eventually settled into the new position even though it was uncomfortable for him to be so casually leaning against his Master' s leg. As soon as Xander relaxed, he felt Spike's hand release his head and begin stroking his hair. Xander stayed where his Master put him, sitting on the floor with his legs to one side and his head leaning against his Master's thigh.


"No 'buts.' He's mine, and I'm not going to turn him into little tiny pieces of broken bits because I'm tryin' ta ignore what happened or treat him like he's not one soddin' strong little bastard who deep down won't give up no matter what. Besides, I'll give him a touch of my blood tonight, and it'll only take a day for those ta heal up."

"I would suggest you stay home tomorrow then. If Giles is out on patrol and sees Xander looking like that...." Joyce didn't finish, but Xander could feel the tension in the room.

"Yeah, I know, luv." Spike finally answered, and Xander wondered what had happened that they weren't telling him. He tried not to think about what would be so horrible that they would hide it even after telling him about Buffy. "It looks like you're stuck with us tomorrow."

"I can live with that," Joyce answered with such tenderness that Xander was surprised. Spike had always been close to Joyce, talking to the woman about his frustrations and love life even when he'd been the big bad to everyone else, but now they shared a comfortable silence and a language of half-spoken sentences that spoke of a deep sense of family. Xander wondered at how much could change in just six months. Without another word, Spike headed for the stairs, and Xander rose to follow. The windows were still dark, but they'd been out for a long time, and Xander was loose, his muscles well stretched and limber, his body aching but not the way a beating would leave him aching. This was the well-earned soreness of a tough training session, and Xander appreciated every ache. He appreciated that Spike trusted him to take care of himself and didn't look at him like a tortured puppy. He appreciated that Spike had given him something to think about other than the pain in his heart.

Spike threw open the door to their room, not bothering to close it since Joyce’s room was in the other end of the house, and Xander decided to repay his Master for everything his Master had done to help him.


Chapter 7

Xander silently slipped his clothes off as soon as they got in the door, neatly folding them and dropping them to the ground before Spike had taken off more than his duster, tossing it to the dresser where it hung haphazardly. Xander ignored that for now and went to his Master, who now had his t-shirt half over his head, and he dropped to his knees in front of Spike.

"Bloody hell," Spike cursed, and Xander guessed that he had startled the vampire, which he took as a compliment since it meant that Spike trusted him enough to not keep constant track of his slave using vamp senses. Kneeling down, he started working on Spike's boots, untying and loosening the laces so that he could pull them off.

"You don't have to do that, ya know," Spike said, and Xander answered even though it wasn't technically a question.

"I know, Master." He gave a gentle tug on Spike's leg, and he felt his Master's hand on his own shoulder, using him for balance as Spike lifted his foot for Xander to pull off the boot. Xander repeated the process with the other boot and then put the two shoes beside the dresser where he'd placed his own shoes. He guessed that Spike wasn't really bothered when he returned to kneel at his Master's feet and found that Spike had stopped undressing himself, waiting for Xander to return and finish.

Xander obliged by unfastening his Master's jeans and pulling them down over the long, lean, strong legs before folding the jeans and setting them aside.

"Would Master like a massage?" Xander asked in his best allure-voice. Yep, Droopy Harris might not have known a thing about seduction since most of his encounters involved a woman grunting "you" and then throwing him down, but the person he was now knew how to tilt his body to tempt. Spike was silent for so long that Xander risked looking up, and he found curious blue eyes studying him.

"Yeah, it'd be nice," Spike finally answered as he went to the bed and lay down. Xander almost ran to the bathroom where he'd seen the non-scented lotion and ran back, halting at the doorway as he caught sight of that beautiful long, lean body laid out on the bed, so trusting as to not even check what Xander had in his hands. Xander realized that for the first time serving wasn't going to be about accepting but enjoying. Enjoying the access he had to the vampire's body and thoughts; enjoying how much he got to see the real Spike and knowing that Joyce and possibly Drusilla were probably the only other people who saw Spike like this, with pieces of William shining through. Enjoying the fact that he was going to bring pleasure to Spike who had turned away from his own nature to honor a promise to a slayer.

Xander started at Spike's feet, warming the lotion in his hands before he began to work the bottoms of the feet, pressing his thumb in hard to release the tension. He carefully worshipped each foot, not because of the fear of being punished but because this was his gift to his Master. Xander then worked his way up the legs one at a time, alternating long deep strokes pressing into the muscle with lighter circular patterns traced on the skin with the heel of his hand. When Xander reached Spike's butt, he smiled at the idea of how he would have reacted a year ago, but now he gave the muscles under each cheek the attention they deserved, kneading the flesh until he could feel the muscle relax under his touch.

He worked his way up Spike's back, listening to the happy sighs in order to judge when to press harder and when to turn his touches into lighter teasing strokes. Running his hands down the back, he marveled at how he could feel each muscle as it ran from one bone to another, strong, thick cords beneath the smooth skin. He concentrated on each muscle group individually: first right shoulder and then right mid-back and then right low back before moving on to the left side. He straddled Spike, pressing his own naked legs against Spike's body as he moved on to massage Spike's hand, paying attention to each finger before working up the arm to the shoulder, and by now, Xander noticed that Spike was totally limp beneath him, moving only in response to Xander's hands as he gave little moaning breaths. Xander finished and retreated to the side of the bed where he sat rather than going to his knees.

"Would Master like to turn over so his slave can finish?" Xander asked huskily and was rewarded with another groan.

"Can't bloody move," Spike complained even as he disproved his own words by rolling and resettling in the middle of the bed. Xander saw the evidence of his Master's interest, and his own body started responding as ordered as he felt his own sexual desire slowly growing. Xander started at the feet again, rubbing each briefly before moving up the front of the legs, massaging the large thigh muscles until Spike's cock bobbed happily. He bypassed it though and continued up Spike's body, working on the shoulders and the arms and the chiseled chest. His fingers ached, but he continued until every part of Spike except his cock lay totally relaxed beneath Xander.

Xander knew of only one thing that he could offer his Master that he had never offered anyone else, so he moved back slightly, straddling the vampire's body and pressing back until he felt Spike's cock touch his crease. Then he settled, his own cock now full and heavy even as he felt Spike's touching at his tender entrance. The last time Xander hadn't really enjoyed it, but his Master had certainly enjoyed himself, and it hadn't really hurt, so Xander wanted to offer it again because he wanted Spike to know how much Xander appreciated what he had done.

Spike slowly offered a smile as his eyes drifted open.

"Seems like someone is rediscoverin' the whole concept of 'want'," Spike suggested with a salacious leer, and Xander smiled back. He did want; he wanted to make Spike happy. "Seems kind of sad that all your pretties are on your back where I can’t appreciate them up here," Spike said thoughtfully. "Except this pretty, this one is placed just right for playin' with." At this Spike started absent-mindedly stroking Xander, tickling around the head of his cock until Xander really had to concentrate to follow the rules and not come.

"Go get the box, pet," Spike ordered, and Xander wordlessly got off and went for the box of equipment Spike had purchased with the cage. He brought it to Spike's side and crawled back on. Spike dug through the box one handed, searching by touch until he came up with black cuffs connected by a black chain. "Hands out, pet." At Spike's order, Xander held out his hands and watched as Spike adjusted the cuffs to his size before snapping the two halves of the clasp together with a click. The cuffs were wide and comfortable, lined in leather, and Xander quietly tested their strength by pulling as he let his hands fall back down in front of his body. Spike laughed.

"Go on then, pull all ya want but ya aren't goin' ta break them, pet." Xander ducked his head and instantly stopped, embarrassed to have been caught, but Spike's hand just reached out to grab the six inch chain between the cuffs. "You're mine, pet, not lettin' go." Xander felt his body react to the statement, the sexual tension in his body tightening until he nearly gasped in need. Spike pulled the chain down, and he lowered himself to Spike’s chest, shifting his body down so that his head landed on Spike shoulder, his hands trapped between their bodies. He felt Spike's second hand move around to his back and begin tracing his back chains, pressing the links into Xander's skin, and Xander shivered at the touch. Luckily Spike correctly interpreted the movement because he just laughed and continued playing.

"Ought ta get ya somethin' up front, somethin' I can play with. Maybe some nipple rings." Xander really couldn't have controlled the tremor that went through his body even if his trainer had been standing beside the bed. "Would ya like that?"

"Yes, Master."

"Would ya tell me if ya didn't?" Spike asked, suddenly serious. Xander had to stop and really think about that. He knew what answer his Master wanted, but he wouldn't give an answer that wasn't true. Finally he decided.

"Yes, Master."

“Took ya long enough ta decide, but at least I know you’re takin’ the question seriously.” Spike just lay holding him so long that Xander would have thought the vampire had fallen asleep except for the hand that kept moving on his back, sometimes playing with the chains and sometimes stroking the skin below. Xander would have been uncomfortable with his own lack of involvement except with this hands chained and Spike holding the chain he really couldn’t be expected to follow his training. Suddenly a hand slapped his thigh. “Up,” Spike ordered as he released his grip on the chains and Xander quickly got off and stood by the bed.

“First time didn’t count,” Spike said as he sat up and looked through the box more purposefully now. Xander wanted to snort at that thought since he’d been there and he was fairly sure it did count. If Spike hadn’t enjoyed the experience, Xander wouldn’t be offering it again, but it wasn’t his place to contradict his Master, at least not out loud. Spike pulled out the matching hobbles and Xander stood still as Spike chained his legs. The hobbles were long enough for Spike to still use him, but Xander did have to resist a snort that the vampire seemed so fond of his chains. When Spike kept digging, Xander started worrying about how creative the vampire would get, but Spike just came up with his armbands.

The vamp patted the bed next to him, and Xander sat down with this back to Spike as his Master completely unlaced the armbands in order to get them around Xander’s arm since Xander’s hands were cuffed. When the hip chain came out next, Xander really did have to stop himself from rolling his eyes. He’d offered to let his Master shag him as Spike would say, and instead Spike was playing dress up—not that he needed to “offer” himself to Spike since he really would have put his butt up in the air at a single word, but he just now noticed that Spike had never given that word. Well, at least not after that first day.

“Up,” Spike said, and Xander stood. He’d never had so many things on him at once, and the minute he stood, the firm grip of the leather around his limbs and the teasing touches of the trailing chains, and the cool caress of the hip chains swinging around his thighs made him gasp as he tried not to come right there.

“One more, but this is just for tonight. Ya haven’t earned it for keeps yet.” Spike pulled out a decoration with three red stones going from small to large suspended in a two foot chain made of tiny black links. Spike wrapped the end around the collar and fastened it so that the smallest stone rested just below his collarbone, the middle hung roughly between his nipples and the largest dangled right around his belly button. Xander had two thoughts. One, he looked like a cheap whore from a dirty novel cover. Two: if he moved around too much with all these light chains teasing him with their feather touches and the leather wrapping around him with comforting tightness that he was going to come all over Joyce’s floor.

Spike walked over and stood at the doorway to their room. “Out,” he said, and Xander paused for just a brief moment, a small ray of panic as he considered Joyce seeing him like this. He couldn’t even claim to care about modesty any more, but he didn’t want to cause more trouble between Spike and Joyce. He went out as ordered and in the hallway, he went to his knees. Since Spike had dressed him as a proper slave, Xander went into the proper Position kneel with his back straight and his head tilted down as he felt Spike walk around him.

“Walk ta the end of the hall and back,” Spike ordered, and Xander rose to obey, focusing on his posture in order to show the decoration off. The small decorative chain along the inside of his leg slid with every movement, making his cock ache in need, and the swinging hip chains bounced against his flesh so that he wanted to just grab himself and start playing sock puppet of love right there, but he’d been given an order, so he got to the end of the hall, turned and walked back with his back straight and his chains flowing against his body.

“Ya got no idea how beautiful ya are, do ya?” Spike asked. Xander didn’t answer as he turned and lowered into a kneel again.

Spike tapped the wall, and Xander was surprised to be ordered into a punishment position, but he moved silently, feet well back from the wall and spread until the hobble chains stretched tight. He couldn’t spread his hands properly either, but he put them at shoulder level as he leaned toward the wall arching his back and pushing out his butt for whatever punishment his Master chose to give him. Xander knew that a Master didn’t need a reason for punishment, a Master had a right to punish a slave at any time, and he dropped his head in acceptance of that fact. He just hadn’t expected Spike to take advantage of that right, and he had never been punished when decorated. The confusion and the uncertainty took a toll on his cock as he started to soften, and he tried to focus on the feeling of his decorations against his hot skin in order to keep himself hard and not break a rule.

He stood there for a few seconds, his hip chains slowly stilling until they dangled under him from the angle of his lean. Then he felt something at his backside, and a wet finger trailed down his crease. When the finger worked its way up into him with very little resistance, Xander expected something larger to ender. Instead, the finger continued to work in and out in a parody of sex. Xander enjoyed the feeling of the gentle touch, even if it was in a rather personal place to get petted, and then Spike other hand went back to playing with various chains.

“Ya seem ta be getting a little soft, there,” Spike commented, and Xander tried to focus on his orders, but now the fear of punishment and disappointing his Master added to the mix and Xander found himself fighting his body. Without warning, Spike slipped to his own knees in front of Xander, and suddenly a mouth was on Xander’s cock, a tongue running round the head of his cock, tracing the edge where the head and the shaft met, a hand was playing with the small decorative chains that ran down the inside of his leg as part of his hobbles, and the finger which had gone right back inside of Xander now pressed in on a spot Xander had never known existed. If he had, he sure wouldn’t have been using a sock.

“Oh god,” Xander breathed and would have gone complete limp in fear from speaking out when in a punishment position, but Spike’s mouth kept moving and sucking and licking, and Spike’s finger kept pressing into that happy spot up inside him, and Spike’s hand pulled at his hobbles, making the leather pull against his skin, and Xander was spending entirely too much energy trying not to come. He didn’t have any left over for panic and limpness. Then all sensation stopped.

“Ya back in the mood then?” Spike asked as he stood, and Xander looked up to find himself nose to nose with his Master who stood between his arms. Xander panted. “That a yes then?” Spike asked as a single eyebrow twitched.

“Yes, Master,” Xander gasped, and Spike laughed before ducking out from between Xander’s arms.

“So, ya like the toys, pet?” Spike asked as he stood behind Xander and wrapped a finger around the front chain.

“Yes, Master.” Xander looked down at the graceful line of chain and stone that matched his back chains and wondered what his Master wanted before it would become his. Funny, he never expected to call anything “his” again, and now that he had a chance, instead of desiring a Playstation or wondering where his Babylon 5 collectibles had gone since his disappearance, he was coveting a slave’s decoration. Of course, the decoration was actually less stupid that the Babylon 5 stuff he decided as he watched the hall lights shine in the in jewels’ cut surfaces.

“Glad ya like, pet. You’re wearing about $80,000 worth of crystal there, and I figure when you put that with the $15,000 I paid for you, we both better enjoy them.” Xander stood frozen and staring at the decoration hanging from his neck. $80,000? Where the hell had *Spike* gotten $80,000?

“Of course, part of the enjoyment is the thought of Angel gettin’ that bill and chokin’ on it.” Xander couldn’t help it; he turned his head to look at his insane Master. Spike reached up and brushed hair from Xander’s face.

“That place where I found the Gem of Amara, had lots of pretties in it. I’m not stupid enough ta sell things that might have mojo on ‘em to just any demon who might want ta go openin’ the hell mouth. That’s the only reason I didn’t go back for the stuff before, so Peaches and I have a deal. He checks out the treasure and hocks it for me, and in return he gets ta keep an eye on my spendin’.” Spike paused at that. “At least he thinks he sees all my spendin’,” Spike said with a smile and a shrug. “Bought those on one of the accounts he manages figurin’ he needed some annoyin’, and as soon as we get the witches back, we can go annoy in person, pet.” Xander suddenly had an image of himself in full slave chains prancing in front of the sexless vampire and he couldn’t contain the snort.

“That’s my boy,” Spike said with a smile and a slap on a bare butt. “Go get on the bed, Present kneel, and we’ll make it count this time.” Xander moved quickly to the bed, both relieved to have escaped punishment and relieved he was going to get some relief from a cock that now stuck straight out and dripped. He’d never been so horny in his life. Xander moved into position on the bed, his head resting on is chained arms as he looked down at his trailing black chain and red gem decoration. He reminded himself not to call it a necklace because he was not a girly man. Obviously the bottom in this relationship as he waited with his butt up in the air and his back chains up around his neck since his head was down, but that didn’t make him girly. The chains were long enough for him to spread into proper position, but he noticed that he could actually relax more since he could count on the chains to prevent him from going into a painful near splits.

The finger returned, and Xander pressed back slightly, eager for the finger to find that spot from earlier. And this time, the expected second finger did come. The pressure was still there, but this time, Xander didn’t feel any pain at all as he breathed and tried not to make a mess on the bed. Spike now stroked him with two fingers as Xander felt the bed dip and cool flesh press into his backside. Xander felt gentle strokes at his butt and his thighs, a hand tugging at his hobble chain before moving on to a stomach and a back. When the roving hand reached up and pulled at a nipple, Xander gave a half aborted hump before settling again.

The third finger entered, and the roaming hand now pulled the other nipple, but Xander was prepared and he managed to control his body and give his Master access without either pulling away or pushing into the various touches. At least that’s what he did until a finger ran up the underside of his cock, and then Xander gave a full buck, and when he tried to go back to position, he felt a large, blunt pressure at his hole. For a moment he remained horribly out of position with his back arched in an effort to push himself into Spike’s touch, and then Xander slowly returned to proper posture, each slow movement causing him to press back onto Spike until he could feel his opening yield as Spike’s cock started to enter him.

The last time it had been merely bearable, but now Xander found having the head of Spike’s cock in him horrible frustrating. He knew there was a happy spot in there if only Spike would push in deeper, but Xander held position and waited. He didn’t wait patiently, but he waited.

“Keep goin’ when you’re ready,” Spike said, and Xander realized that his Master was giving him the chance to control the speed. Without a moment’s doubt, Xander pushed back in one full thrust, eager to feel Spike’s cock against his newly discovered happy spot, and considering that a finger had caused him to ache with need, Xander wasn’t surprised when Spike cock left his writhing in an effort to not come before his Master. What did surprise him was the feeling of having Spike all the way in him. Last time it had been a pressure bordering on pain and definitely uncomfortable. This time he felt only a pleasant pressure like the happy feeling from eating a really large meal and knowing that you couldn’t eat another bite. He felt a fullness that made him feel….right.

“You’re mine now, pet. Before I just did what I had to because I thought ya were Droopy, and I wanted ta get him under control before he went and ran his mouth, but now I know who ya really are and this is me claimin’ ya. Won’t ever be anyone for ya but me, pet.” Xander listened to the words and he totally believed them. When Spike started sliding in and out, Xander squirmed as Spike’s cock drove into him, pressing against that spot and driving Xander to press back ever more eager to get his Master in him. Finally, Spike growled his pleasure, and Xander tilted his head to one side, expecting the bite. In a flash, Xander felt the sting of the bite and then an incredible warmth at his neck even as Spike continued with short hard thrusts that forced Xander’s legs apart and made him grateful for the hobbles that kept him from falling. Xander gasped his own pain of delayed orgasm and then he felt Spike come in him and the vampire stiffen. Xander cried out his own release and nearly fell to the bed when Spike pulled out his fangs.

“Oh pet, you’re a keeper,” Spike whispered, and a hand at Xander’s stomach pulled him over so that he was on his side on the bed with Spike spooned up behind him.

Xander lay sated next to Spike, but as the minutes passed, his discomfort grew almost exponentially. He could feel the shifting in himself because he had never before offered himself; he had simply done as ordered. He had never before enjoyed himself; he had reacted to his own fantasies. This time, however, he hadn't thought of Buffy and that bikini or Anya and her way of wrapping her limbs around him after sex. He'd actually thought of the demon in whose bed he lay. He had watched Spike's beautiful form and writhed not because he'd been ordered but because his body demanded movement under such an assault of pleasure.

He felt Spike shift beside him, and he couldn't stay in the bed any longer even knowing what his Master wanted. He couldn't stay in the bed *because* his Master wanted him to stay. Spike had been right about him always fighting, and now Xander realized just how much he wanted to just give in. He wanted to give the last piece of himself to Spike, and he didn't know what he'd have left if he did that, so he slid off to the end of the bed and knelt. He knew that Spike was probably asleep, and he would probably be on his knees all night, but Xander just couldn't do anything else.

"Bloody hell." Xander heard the tired aggravation in Spike's voice, and he flinched. He really didn't mean to be so much trouble, but he just didn't have it in him to get back into bed. If he did, the last part of him would belong to Spike, and he just couldn’t do that. He was supposed to fight, not take the last bit of free will he possessed and hand it over to someone else, to relinquish his right to be free in exchange for his right to kneel at someone’s feet forever—not that kneeling was a right. He would have noticed that right in history class if anyone had ever brought it up, but kneeling wasn’t a right, it was a degradation, and he shouldn’t want it and he did want it and oh how good the cage looked right now. But Xander continued kneeling.

“Fine.” Spike dragged himself out of bed and gestured for Xander to stand before removing the various chains. When Spike practically threw the chains at the box, Xander flinched again and then followed Spike over to the cage still on the floor from that morning. Spike rapped the thing a good deal harder than necessary, causing a resounding metal noise as he said, “In.” Xander moved into position, not even able to make eye contact with Spike. God, he really was pathetic; no wonder he frustrated Spike, and Xander sent a quick prayer of thanks to Drusilla. After all, the crazy vampire had given Spike the patience to deal with the crazy human.

Xander slid into position, wincing a little when he began impaling himself on the back rod just because the cold metal ruined the feeling that Spike had left with his own stroking thrusts. The ankle bracket locked his legs into place, the rod stilling any motion in his back half and Xander realized that a little part of him really didn’t want to sleep this way: cramped up, unable to move when the inevitable itches nagged him, his arms bent up behind his back. At that point the wrist strap snaked in between the bars and looped around his arms, pulling them up against the top bars more tightly than Spike normally tied them.

Xander opened his mouth to….what? Maybe protest the tightness of the wrist straps, maybe say he’d changed his mind, maybe to just sit open mouthed as he tried to form words that weren’t part of his vocabulary any more. It didn’t matter because as soon as he opened, Spike slid the front piece in, the front rod sliding down his throat and silencing him before he could react. He made a small wheezing noise by breathing out though his noise, but with his mouth stuffed full of plastic, he really couldn’t do anything else. Obviously it wasn’t enough to get Spike’s attention because the vampire wandered out of the bedroom still muttering. Xander watched Spike leave with wide eyes, really not wanting to be left alone and so helpless, but he didn’t have the power to protest as Spike turned off the hall light throwing Xander into darkness. He listened as the bathroom door opened and then after a couple of minutes closed, hoping Spike would come back, but he only heard footsteps disappearing down the hall steps.

Chapter 8:

Xander woke to the sight of Spike puttering around the room. At one point he would have expected himself to wake the minute Spike came in, but he hadn’t slept most of the night. He’d stayed up trying to see if Spike would come back, but the curtains had lightened with diffused sunlight as the morning came. He had waited until his eyes had been heavy with tears and sleep and he had finally fallen asleep when the windows on one side of the room had faded while the windows on the other side had brightened with the late afternoon sun. Now, Xander felt the weariness in his body and for the first time realized that fatigue had been his normal state for so long that he hadn’t even realized how much better he’d felt since Spike bought him. Well, until right now, anyway.

He understood why Spike had stormed out; the vampire thought the cage meant safety, and he could just imagine how angry Spike must be. However, Spike didn’t seem angry; he just puttered around the room reading from a paper and digging in the closet and generally not even reacting to last night’s joyful coupling or last night’s horrible end. By the time Spike noticed him, Xander had almost convinced himself that Spike was punishing him for asking to be put in cage by leaving him in the cage.

"There ya are, pet; thought ya might be sick you're sleepin' so long, but I guess I just wore ya out," Spike commented as he came over to the cage. Spike unlatched the front before taking off the restraints so that Xander could wiggle out, and Xander didn't think he'd ever been so happy to get out of his cage.

He knelt at Spike's feet and tried to stretch sore muscles without being obvious about it. But why should he care? Spike wouldn’t punish him…probably. Would Spike even care if he did stretch? Xander started a more extensive stretch and then aborted it before he could do more than twitch. His head suspected that he could get away with it, but his body—including his stomach—tightened and threatened all out revolt if he even tried. There was just too much fear involved with breaking the training, no matter how much a part of him wanted to. Okay, on to the next problem: how to talk to Spike. Whether or not Spike showed it, Xander knew that he didn’t take rejection well, and he didn’t want to repay Spike’s patience by hurting him. Xander opened his mouth but couldn’t come up with any way to start a conversation. He remembered that at one point words had come easy, too easy. He’d babbled like an idiot…an idiot in heat…in idiot in heat and on speed. Okay, so he’d established that Droopy Harris had a limited success with words, but at least he knew how to start a conversation without kneeling open-mouthed with no words coming out.

“Plannin’ on sayin’ somethin’ or are ya practicin’ ta be a fish come Halloween?” Spike’s words shocked him back to the present. Okay, that was a question, so now he could respond. Xander struggled to form words short enough to not trigger the queasy feeling he got when he talked too much but that would actually say something important.

“I’m sorry, Master.” Xander settled on, kneeling unhappily even as Spike’s hand found his head and tugged a curl in a familiar gesture before ruffling his hair.

“Nothin’ for ya to be sorry about. I wish I’d kept my temper, but seein’ ya in that cage makes me think of how much I want to kill that wanker, Leshar. But ya gave me somethin’ wonderful last night, and I appreciate that.” Spike walked over to the bed and crooked a beckoning finger toward Xander. Rather than stand, Xander knee walked the short distance and went to the Down kneel still facing Spike. Poor enough form to horrify his trainer, but still formal enough to keep him from having an all-out panic attack.

“It isn’t…I didn’t…” Words failed Xander and he was left trying to explain what he himself couldn’t really answer. Spike’s hand left his head, and then Xander felt a hand under his chin lifting his head so that he would make eye contact with those bright, curious eyes of his Master.

“Pet, why *did* you ask for the cage last night? Were you afraid?” Xander struggled with that answer. If he said yes, Spike would make some assumptions that weren’t true. If he said no, he was lying.

“I’m not afraid of you, Master.”

“But you’re afraid of somethin’,” Spike confirmed for him. “Leshar?”

“No, Master,” Xander immediately answered. “You’d break every bone in his body.” Xander wasn’t exaggerating either; he saw Spike’s fury reflected in his face every time the vampire even mentioned Leshar.

“Soddin’ right,” Spike laughed unpleasantly and fell silent as though enjoying some thought. He finally stretched his head first one way and then the other before continuing. “Somethin’ else then. What?” Spike’s question left Xander questioning himself and trying to sort out the training from the Xander thoughts.

“Myself,” Xander almost whispered. Because Spike was hold his chin up, he got to see the shock on the vampire’s face.

“All right, I’ll admit that ya have me on that one, pet. Why are you afraid of yourself?” Xander opened his mouth to explain, but he found himself so utterly without words or explanation that he felt on the edge of tears. God, what was wrong with him, he wondered. He’d never been the type to cry even when the worst happened, so why did he suddenly feel so totally overwhelmed? He felt a hand at his arm, and he followed his Master’s hand guiding him to lean against the bed in front of him and his Master’s leg beside him. Spike pulled him closer, and Xander dared to risk sliding his right arm over Spike’s lap so that he leaned his whole right side against Spike’s legs and found some part of himself wishing that Spike wasn’t wearing jeans and another part of himself doing the whole self-flagellation thing for even thinking that. Ignoring the competing voices, Xander knelt up slightly so that he could put his head down on Spike’s lap as well as drape his right arm over it.

“Why are you afraid of yourself, pet?” Spike asked again, and now one of Xander’s little voices quailed in fear at the realization that he hadn’t answered Spike’s question.

“I can’t keep fighting.” Xander whispered the answer as he looked at Spike’s belly button. He didn’t know why it was so fascinating, but he just couldn’t stop staring at the small pucker.

“What are you fighting, pet?”

“Myself.” He heard a sigh from above.

“What are ya fightin’ about in there?” Spike gave a gentle rap on Xander’s head.

“Giving up.”

“You’re makin’ more sense than Dru, but it’s gettin’ ta be a close call. Just tell me that one of the gits fighting up here,” a quick tug on a lock of hair, “isn’t listenin’ ta the stars.” Xander laughed.

“No, no stars talking to me yet,” he promised.

“So, one side of ya wants ta give up. What does that side want, pet?” Xander thought about his answer for so long that he was sure Spike must have gotten frustrated, but the vampire just sat on the bed and stroked his hair.

“That side just wants to not fight because I’m so tired. I just want to give up and let someone else take over without spending all my energy fighting them inside.” Spike simply nodded knowingly, and Xander wondered how much his broken pieces resembled William’s broken pieces.

“And the other side, what’s it want?”

“It’s afraid that if I stop fighting inside, I won’t have anything at all left. I can’t give up fighting without just plain giving up.”

Spike went still. "Ya don't have ta give anythin' up," Spike said, but Xander knew the truth. His Droopy Harris voice counseled a whole round of babbling about founding fathers and freedom and the constitution and the lack of a right to give up. Another part wanted to just agree with Master, but Xander sorted through all those thoughts to explain himself. After several minutes of silence, he spoke.

"I don't know how to stop fighting, and I'm afraid that if I don't fight, I'll lose the last of me." Xander had to take a deep breath because he had gotten out of the habit of talking and breathing at the same time. It was definitely more than Xander had said all at once in a long time, and Xander realized that he had turned into Oz, which wasn't that bad considering that Oz was kind of cool.

"Ya think I'd take that away from ya?" Spike asked but his voice was curious rather than accusatory. Would Spike take it? He thought he knew the vampire well enough to say no, but he was truly afraid he would give himself away, and he didn't even know how to explain that.

"I've wanted to give up for so long," he settled on.

"And now ya don't know how to stop fightin' without dyin’ inside," Spike summarized, and Xander was amazed that the vampire could explain Xander's mind better than Xander.

"Yes, Master."

"Just because ya stop fightin' the need ta be loved and the need ta be touched doesn't mean that ya give up the right ta fight forever. Ya can't push everyone out forever without turnin' into one mean bastard," Spike commented. Silence ruled the room again, and Xander thought about those words.

"If I found the witches and then decided ta go out and celebrate by killin' a convent full of nuns, one of Angelus' favorite pastimes, would ya go along with me?" Xander looked at Spike sharply, wondering if his Master was somehow testing him, checking his loyalty. Xander gave a truthful answer.

"I don't know, Master."

"Oi, that's the trainin' talkin' now. You'd grab a piece of wood and shove it up my arse," Spike said with a laugh. Xander thought about that and realized that while he probably wouldn't kill Spike, a stake in the ass wasn't out of the question.

"Probably, Master," he responded with a shrug.

"So, if ya stop fightin' yourself and let yourself fall asleep in my arms, will ya care less about those soddin' nuns?" Care less? No, Xander knew that he would hate the blood and death just as much. Do less? Maybe. If he let himself fall in love, and oh my god he had not just thought the "l" word about Spike. Xander sent up a thankful prayer that he had learned to do his babbling in his head. But back to the subject, if he fell in "like" with Spike, he feared he would do less.

"No, Master, but I might not do the right thing anymore."

"Not possible, pet. You were born doin' the right thing, and all the crap that's been loaded on ya since hasn't changed that. If ya learn ta let go of the pain and take some happiness out of life, you're still going ta be the White Knight. 'Course, knowing that means I have ta cut down on the nuns in my diet." Xander snorted. He'd read the Watchers' diaries enough to know that Angelus went for nuns and Spike went for strong usually violent men that would give him a good fight before going down. It was probably the reason why Spike at 120 years had scored two slayers and Angelus at twice that number of years had scored a big zero.

"Tell ya what," Spike said when the silence continued. "Let's take this one step at a time. You tell me somethin' that you've got locked up in there...something that you're fightin' ta keep in because it hurt or because ya want the pain for yourself and then I'll tell you something. That way you can learn to give up a little bit at a time and maybe see that ya won’t be a different person for lettin’ some of the pain out and takin’ some comfort." Xander considered that even as Spike’s hand kept petting him.

He thought about giving Spike something that he could give up easily like the time the client had ripped his guts open much like the way Buffy had died. His trainer had banned the demon and then held back the bleeding with is own magic until the Pockla healer could come to do the major healing. He thought about explaining how the trainer had forced him into the cage that first day when he'd kept telling himself to hold on until Buffy came. In the end, though he had to trust someone to help him out of this pain he couldn’t escape, and Spike seemed to be the only candidate running. Well, Joyce would certainly want to help, but he knew Spike was right about her just damaging him more, and he really didn’t want to think about Giles after all the weird vibage. So, he took a deep breath and decided to share the pain that he truly had kept for himself.

"She was blonde," Xander said. His words made no sense, and even he knew it as he struggled to get his thoughts together, but Spike remained silent, a hand gently petting Xander like usual. "I had fought until my trainer put these leather strings on me." Xander stopped, not even sure how to explain that part.

"Wet?" Spike asked, and Xander nodded, relieved to not have to explain the process. "They did that back during the Opium Wars in China," Spike said all matter-of-fact, and somehow that made it better. "How many?" Spike asked when the silence continued far beyond a normal pause.

"Hundreds," Xander shrugged. That wasn't the hard part; that wasn't the part he was trying to gather his thoughts to even be able to explain. "I was kneeling with them on and trying to ignore the pain because he just kept adding more when I disobeyed. Then the minions brought in a girl." Xander closed his eyes and imagined her face: round cheeks, bright blue eyes, pale lashes and brows that disappeared into her fair skin.

"They freed her legs and she tried running. I didn't even know I'd stood up." Xander struggled to get air into his lungs. "She saw me and ran toward me, cowering behind me." Xander remembered as the trainer stepped up and Xander had moved to block, sidestepping into the trainer's path. "I tried to help," Xander whispered and now he could feel himself start to shake, but Spike only leaned over him, pressing him down into the vampire’s legs even while laying on his back, and Xander gripped Spike’s legs like a drowning man.

"The trainer dragged her out from behind me by her hair. Said he wouldn't have my training ruined because I had developed an attachment to another animal." Xander didn't even have words for the next part, but he continued because now that he had started this, he couldn't keep the memory inside any more. "The trainer ripped her stomach open and dropped her body. He ordered me to kneel in her blood as she still sobbed and twitched." Xander didn't want to admit the next part, but he did. "I obeyed,” he moaned.

"So ya think if ya don't fight every step of the way you'll do it again?" Spike asked.

"I know I'd do it again," Xander said miserably. He couldn't see himself as strong knowing what he'd done and remembering the feel of her warm blood as he’d gone from one position to another in that red lake.

"Ya didn't give up, ya just did what ya had to. If ya hadn't, more would've died and ya know it." Spike reassured him, and Xander felt the small sobs shake his body even though he didn't make a sound.

"Not the worst," Xander said as he buried his head even farther into Spike's leg. "When he put me in the cage that night, he cut off the leather and called the Pockla to fix me, and then he stood by my cage petting me, telling me how perfect I was." Xander took the last knife in his heart and took a deep breath before sharing it with Spike. "I was grateful I was in the cage because I didn't have to push him off and I could just enjoy being petted like the animal he called me." Xander felt the guilt rip through him as he admitted his sins, and he had to appreciate the irony of a soulless demon hugging him as he hid himself in the demon’s lap.

"So ya figure that enjoyin' attention was wrong then so it has ta be wrong all the time," Spike said, and Xander realized that he had felt exactly like that. Every stroke in his hair had reminded him of being in the cage and being soothed by the monster who had killed the girl. “You tried ta help that girl, and there isn’t one human in a thousand that would do that. I saw Angelus take the wet leather ta humans, and most would have killed their own mothers ta get it off, and there you are fightin’ ta help someone. Bloody hell, that’s not a story ta be ashamed of, pet.” Xander listened to the words, but they didn’t sink into his soul, the just fluttered on the surface unable to reach the pain.

"So, do ya think I’m like that, do ya think my touches are dirty and make ya into an animal?" Spike asked as he sat up and the sudden lack of that embrace felt like an incredible loss.

"No, Master," he insisted vehemently.

"Then feeling safe and happy with me isn't like that." Spike pointed out.

"I know, Master," Xander replied unhappily, not sure how to get over a certainty that existed not in his head but in his heart.

"Well, we'll work on that then. Ya gave up some of the pain, and time will come that ya let some comfort take its place. But fair's fair. You told me yours and now I'll tell ya mine." Spike took a deep breath, and Xander was surprised to hear the tremor in even the vampire's breath.

"Buffy didn't die the way I always told Joyce. Couldn't face the slayer's mother knowin' what I did, so I told her how the demon killed her." Xander froze, unwilling to even think about what that statement implied. He'd expected to hear something since Spike had given his word but not this. He didn’t think he was ready to hear this, yet he couldn’t move as he waited for the worst.

"The Dursler, he wasn't kind enough ta rip out her stomach. He got her pinned and he slipped in a claw and started pullin' her insides out through this little hole in her stomach. She screamed like I've never heard a human scream before, and I've got my own history of torturin' humans." Spike took another deep breath, and Xander waited for the explanation, hoping that he wouldn't have to hate Spike when the vampire was done.

"By the time I'd killed the demon chewin' on my leg, she had her intestines hangin' ta the floor and the Durslar was watchin' her writhe. Ripped his effin' head off." Xander stole a quick look, and Spike had gone into game face with a look of pure hatred twisting his features. "Didn't help her none, and we both knew the score. If she'd gone to hospital, they could've cleaned her up and sewed her back together, but the Inititive loved tyin' her down and watchin' her slayer powers heal her--used ta record how long it for her bruises ta fade and her bones ta knit."

Xander tried hard not to be ill. He had suffered, but throughout he had known that he was in the hands of demons who saw him not as a thinking creature but as an animal. But Buffy had been in the hands of humans, and they had done to her the same sorts of inhuman things. He carefully kept his body still as he waited to hear how Buffy had died strapped to some gurney while scientists measured the length of intestines pulled out against the length of time she lived.

"She knew she was done for and she told me that she and I had ta protect the others.” Spike voice took on a tone that existed somewhere between frustration and respect. “Locked in a white room with her soddin’ blood slowly seeping out around her intestines, and all she thought about was saving the witches and that git Giles. She told me that we were the fighters; it was our job." Spike paused, obviously not wanting to tell the rest of the story. "She said we had ta keep up our strength." Xander suddenly understood where the story was going.

"Told me I had ta get my strength back because I was going to have ta be the one ta get the others out. Told me I needed her strength." Xander could picture the scene with Buffy wracked with pain, but the guilt of dying still outweighing that pain as she begged Spike to take the only thing she still had to offer. He could imagine her fear that Spike might not follow through on his promise, her fear that it was too late for the others, the fear that Spike wouldn't survive even with her sacrifice. Xander had time to consider all the possibilities because Spike had gone silent. The vampire slowly slipped back into human features before continuing with a calmer tone of voice.

"Made me promise, made me promise ta get the others out if there was any way to do it. Told me she didn't care if I killed every soldier in the soddin' place if I would just get the others ta safety, and I promised her. I promised her and then I sank my teeth into her neck and took my third slayer. Her blood was so strong and I was so hungry that I got bloody drunk off her, but I kept right on draining her as I felt her heart stop." Spike was silent, and Xander had no words of comfort. He knew the pain of causing another's death, but he didn't know what it was like to kill someone he respected. He knew how Spike liked to touch, and how Buffy needed touch even when she wouldn't admit it. He imagined the two of them on the one bunk quietly touching knees or giving a congratulatory slap on the back after killing a demon.

He felt his own pain vanish under Buffy’s pain and under Spike’s pain and the next time someone tried to tell him Spike was evil, he was going to beat the crap out of them because something evil could never suffer as much as Spike was obviously suffering right now. As a demon he should have bragged to everyone he met about taking a third slayer, and instead he sat in Buffy’s mother’s house and admitted it with shame in his face.

"After she was gone, I made another promise; I promised ta kill every one of those soldier boys and scientists I could find. I remember every one of their scents, and I've tried to track down the ones who got out." A thought rose to Xander's mind.

"Riley?" he asked.

"Begged him, I did.” Flash of game face. “The first time she was hurt bad enough ta take her out and play Frankenstein, I begged him ta go to Angel. Knew my wanker of a sire wouldn't come for me, but he'd have ripped the Initiative apart for the slayer. Riley just walked away. The worst part though is that he wanted ta make the call; he smelled of fear and sour hatred every time he came near and saw some new bruise on her, but he never did anythin' about it." Xander remembered the look on Riley's face when he had turned to dust, and Xander's only regret was that he hadn't had the time or the strength kill Riley the way he'd deserved to die.

Xander looked into Spike's now human features, and he could see the guilt, an expression he hadn't ever seen on Spike before and he suspected that he was looking into the eyes of one of those William fragments.

"Don't tell Joyce," Xander whispered, the audacity of telling his Master what to do vied with the knowledge that Spike needed some reassurance. "Buffy wouldn't want her to know." Xander felt Spike’s muscles slowly loosen as he half lay in the vampire’s lap and he suddenly realized that Spike needed the contact as much as he did, as much as Buffy had once needed it.

"Thought of just runnin' when the Initiative went down, but I'd made her a promise, and chip or no, I'll soddin well put the Scoobies back together if it's the last thing I do."

"*We'll* do it, Master," and Xander suddenly realized that the idea of submitting to Spike didn't scare him nearly as much. In her own way, Buffy had submitted, giving her strength to Spike when she wasn't strong enough to fight on her own any more. She presented the pieces of herself that were left to Spike and trusted him to do the right thing. Like Buffy, he knew he was broken and couldn't go on fighting by himself, and like Buffy, he suddenly knew that if he gave what was left of himself to Spike, he could trust Spike to do the right thing. Of course, if Spike took up nun-eating he would still stake his Master in the ass, but he could worry about that later.

"Yeah we will, pet. We'll get the witches back and then I'll go find Leshar and take out my aggression on him." Xander smiled at the mental picture of Spike using some of his more enthusiastic tortures on Leshar. He doubted that Leshar would hold up as well as he himself had for those six months. Of course, he doubted Leshar would have six months to find out considering Spike's notorious lack of patience. “ ‘Course we won’t convince anyone with those marks of yours, so drink up, pet.” Spike cut the pad of his thumb with a tooth and held out the bleeding digit. If Xander had a choice, he would have rejected the offering, but he reminded himself that he had agreed in this own mind to trust Spike and submit, so he reached out and brought the bleeding thumb to his mouth as he grimaced. The first taste changed all that. Yes, Xander could taste blood with its heavy metal flavor, but the blood was also spicy and zingy—not in taste as much as in feeling, like pop rocks, and Xander suddenly remembered he loved pop rocks.

"Oi, enough blood and enough sap. Get in the bathroom and do your human stuff," Spike gruffly ordered with a slap to Xander's back, and Xander quickly rose and trotted off toward the bathroom already missing the taste. At the door he stopped and looked back; Spike noticed him after just a moment.

"Pet?" Spike asked.

"Can we?" Xander stopped, not sure if he was ready, but unwilling to wait any longer.

"Can we what?" Spike asked with a tilt to his head.

"Can we get rid of it?" Xander asked with a small glance toward the sleeping cage.

"Bloody hell yes. Steamroller, car crusher or sledgehammer, don't matter ta me, but we bloody well will get rid of it," Spike agreed enthusiastically. “And if ya find yourself scared of givin’ up, we can find somethin’ that makes me less nauseous.” Xander had to wonder that a vampire known for torture by railroad stake could be bothered by a cage, but he shrugged and went off to get ready for the day.

Xander returned to the room a half hour later clean and well watered as he sank to his knees in front of his Master. He could feel something shift inside as he waited not with the slave’s indifferent patience but with curiosity. Clothes might mean fighting, and slave chains were quickly, in his mind, becoming associated with sex, but Spike had laid on the bed jeans, a t-shirt and both the red decorative chains.

“Go on then,” Spike said as he gestured toward the jeans, and Xander quickly dressed. Before he could kneel, he felt Spike’s hands at his collar behind him.

“What are they for, pet?” Spike asked.

“Doing what you want me to do and not what the training tells me to do,” Xander replied solemnly.

“And for bein’ strong enough ta fight the trainin’ and do what I want ya ta do,” Spike pointed out and suddenly the chains swung free against his back. “Now are ya sure about the cage?” Spike asked, and Xander had to swallow before he could even nod. God, he was scared of losing that, and how stupid did that make him feel?

“Then this,” Spike held up the long single chain with the three red crystals, “is for letting go of that pain.” Spike fastened it to the front of his collar before tossing him a shirt and walking out without another word. Xander finished dressing and followed Spike down the stairs and settled himself at Spike’s feet for breakfast.

A couple of hours later, Spike brought them back from training at the park. This time, Spike had kept the training to practicing forms, Xander suspected so that the bruises could heal. Xander really had never expected to get such a good master, and considering how he had treated the vampire when he had the power, he was starting to think that he hadn’t always been as good as he liked to consider himself.

They walked in the door and found Joyce waiting in the living room.

“You’re up late, luv,” Spike said.

“Couldn’t sleep. Are you going out to the clubs?” Joyce asked with a weary sigh.

“No, tomorrow. I didn’t realize he’d be so marked up from the trainin’, and I’m trying ta get the slavers ta see me as one of their type, so we’ll wait a day.”

“Slavers don’t beat the slaves?” Joyce asked, clearly confused, but now that Xander thought about it, he’d never been bruised when he was sent to work; bruises were for the training room.

“Oh, they beat ‘em, but they like to show them off as pretty decorations, and marks don’t do that, so a good slaver will brag about breaking a slave without ever leaving a mark on the outside. Of course, most do beat the slaves in private, but they wouldn’t take them out like that.”

“This whole business makes me ill.”

“Me too, luv, and considering I *am* an evil demon, that’s goin’ a ways.”

“So, Trivial Pursuit?” Joyce asked as though the sudden change in topic from human slavery to game board made sense.

“If ya make hot chocolate with the little marshmallows,” Spike wheedled as he went to the couch and sort of sprawled over it. Xander went to his knees.

“I’ll get the hot chocolate, and you can do the popcorn,” Joyce agreed.

“Oi, what’s the use of havin’ a slave if ya have ta make your own popcorn? Xan can manage the popcorn duty and I’ll sit here appreciatin’ bein’ waited on like a Master vampire should be.” Spike and Joyce exchanged some look Xander didn’t understand, and then Spike gave him a slap on the shoulder. “Go on then.”

Xander stood and followed Joyce into the kitchen where she pulled the milk out of the fridge before pointing to a cupboard.

“It’s in there,” she offered as she pulled down three cups before pouring the milk into a pan.

“You know,” she said even as she kept her eyes on the pan. Xander knew because he kept taking quick looks to see whether she would look at him disgusted by his willingness to obey. “Spike sent you in here so we could talk.” Xander *did* know that, but he wasn’t sure about Joyce’s reasons for pointing it out.

“Is being with Spike the right thing for you?” Joyce asked even as she turned around and pinned him with a demanding glare. Suddenly Xander remembered Buffy’s warnings about her mother’s ability to stare anyone into submission. Not that getting him to submit was any great feat these days.

“Yes, it is,” he answered simply, and she seemed to take that answer because she turned back around and returned to stirring the milk as Xander put the popcorn in the microwave. He reached over and snagged the butter knowing how Spike liked to add extra butter on the top even when it was the ultra-greasy movie style popcorn.

“Good,” Joyce finally answered. “Because he was getting so close to giving up that I was afraid I was going to lose him to the sun. When he first came, I checked his room every morning to make sure he was still flesh and bone because he’s the only one who took Buffy’s death as hard as I did, and we’ve gotten used to leaning on each other. Finding you has given him hope I haven’t seen for a long time.” Xander tried to process that information, but it didn’t make sense.

“Xander, do you know when all this happened?” Joyce turned and asked.


“About three weeks after you disappeared. They were in that place for two months, and in the three months since that place went down, Spike hasn’t been able to make any headway. He only got into that auction this week because he killed a demon with an invite. He doesn’t have a lot of patience, and until you came, he was quickly losing hope.” Joyce poured chocolate into the pan and Xander pulled the popcorn out of the microwave and dumped it into a bowl before shoving the butter in to melt.

“Know that he needs you, and not just as a way to convince the slavers to let him in their club,” Joyce said as she poured into the mugs and headed out of the kitchen. Xander quickly followed, but in the living room, Joyce ignored him as though she hadn’t just turned his reality inside out. He looked at his Master who leaned back in a posture of insolence and indifference.

Putting the popcorn down, Xander went to his knees at Spike's feet and waited for the vampire to reach for him and three...two... Spike jumped the gun by threading his fingers into his hair and pulling his slave into a lean before Xander had mentally reached "one." Xander settled down with his butt on the floor, trying to get used to the feel of sitting down even as he leaned against Spike's leg and watched Joyce set out the trivial pursuit board. Okay, how weird was this, he wondered as he put an arm around Spike’s leg and rested his head on Spike’s thigh. If life would stay like this, he could handle slavery no problem, he thought as he realized he wasn’t in conflict within himself.

They laid the pieces out efficiently as though this were a common activity.

“So, what did Noxa say?” Spike asked.

“Hard to tell with his accent. Without you to translate, I catch about one in every three words.”

“Oi, he must’ve said something worth repeating.”

“Something about human bodies breaking ridiculously easy.”

“Ya couldn’t understand anythin’ else?” Spike said incredulously.

“Frighteningly enough, I understand him better than most human doctors I’ve had. He says the tumor’s gone and I can go back to work in a week if there’s no more pain.” Xander sat up at that comment.

“It’s all right, pet,” Spike assured him, and Xander let himself sink back into Spike’s thigh even though he looked at Joyce with wide eyes.

“I was having headaches, and Spike said I smelled wrong—which is actually very disturbing—but anyway, my doctors insisted nothing was wrong and gave me some pain medicine for headaches.”

“Wankers,” Spike interjected at this point, and Xander wondered whether the wankers in question were still alive.

“Anyway, Spike took me to a place just outside L.A., a place run by a demon.”

“Best around,” Spike added.

“What he’s not telling you,” Joyce said with an amused and fond expression toward Spike, “is that Noxa is essentially a veterinarian specializing in human pets. He won’t tell me that directly, but trust me, they totally see me as Spike’s pet as opposed to the woman who makes him wash dishes if he leaves blood drying in the mugs.”

“That’s what a soddin’ dishwasher’s for.”

“If you can find a dishwasher capable of handling dry blood, I’ll stop complaining. Until then, you’re the dishwasher when it comes to bloody mugs.”

“Oi, just roll the dice,” Spike growled, and Xander smiled that Joyce had so obviously won the argument, and he also smiled at the image of a master vampire ordered to do dishes by a slayer’s mother. Xander had nearly fallen asleep to the sound of their voices reading questions and complaining about the game, the answers, the way the questions were phrased. Okay, actually Spike was doing most of the complaining, but Joyce certainly held her own as Xander napped on Spike’s thigh, and life was good.

“Should have a demon category!” Spike objected when he missed another Sports & Leisure question.

“Just because you’re getting soundly trounced by a human less than half your age…” Joyce let the sentence dangle.

“Yeah, but you couldn’t tell me the cost of a Suvolte egg or how to defeat the Tor or how to recognize a Polgara.”

“Oh, please, no one can answer those.” Joyce pointed out.

“Willin’ ta bet my pet here can. Do you know a Polgara when ya see one, pet?” Spike asked, and Xander answered from that lazy half-asleep place he’d entered.

“Tough skin, horrible penises that taste like mold.” Xander responded absent-mindedly. Then he realized that Joyce was looking at him in shock and horror, and oh god, he was blaming that temporary loss of vocal control on Droopy Harris bits because he certainly knew better. God, he wasn’t ever going to be safe for decent company, was he? He looked up to see Spike gazing at him with an expression of amusement and concern.

“Sorry, Master,” Xander muttered.

“Ya do know how ta kill the mood, don’t ya?” Spike asked roughly, but the hand ruffling his hair belied the gruffness of the tone.

“Oh, god. I can’t do this. I can’t sit here and do nothing knowing how much he’s suffered.” Joyce dropped the dice on the board and ignored the numbers.

“Ya aren’t doin’ nothin’, luv. I’ll take care of Xander and he’s getting’ better, but he’s always goin’ ta remember what’s happened. Nothing we do now will ever make the past go away, and those memories are just part of him now.” Joyce’s eyes locked onto Xander, and Xander gazed back calmly during Spike’s speech. At the end, Joyce walked over and went to her knees in front of him.

“Xander, I’ve never seen you like this, please tell me you’re still in there and you’re going to be okay.” She sounded ready to cry, and Xander found himself surprised. He had never been close to Buffy’s mom, but now he shoved aside the training and reached out for her hand.

“I’m okay. I’m not the same, but I’m okay,” he managed before the panic started building. She just gripped his hand as she looked into his eyes.

“I just hope you can convince Giles of that,” Joyce said sadly without moving.

“Oi, don’t go bringin’ that git into it,” Spike snarled.

“Can’t help it. Angel called today to say that for $100,000 you had better have brought back both girls and Jimmy Hoffa.” Spike just snorted.


“I told him you brought Xander home,” Joyce said quietly, and Xander continued to maintain eye contact with her while she stared at him as though searching for some answer.

“Don’t bloody say it,” Spike warned.

“He said you have until tomorrow night to tell Giles or he’s going to call Giles himself.”

“That bloody inconsiderate Poof. Slack-jawed, over-gelled poncy git. That wanker walked away leavin’ me ta try and fix things, and now he calls and tell me what ta do.” Xander nearly fell as Spike stood up so quickly and violently that Xander had to put a hand down on the floor to keep his balance.

“William,” Joyce said, mother voice coming to the fore as she stood and went to Spike.

“No, I don’t bloody have ta take this.”

“He’s going to find out. If he finds out from some other demon or from seeing the two of you out beating each other senseless with your man-games, it’s going to be worse.”

“It’s going to be bloody messy no matter how it happens,” Spike pointed out as he now leaned against the far wall lighting a cigarette.

“Yeah, it is, but no messier than anything else around here for the last six months.”

“True, luv,” Spike conceded, and Xander suspected that tomorrow they were going to go see Giles, and he would finally find out what had happened between them. From Spike’s expression he wasn’t sure he wanted to go.

Chapter 9:

Xander woke the next day not in the cage but in an actual bed. True, he had freaked out a little, growing increasingly uncomfortable and uneasy until Spike had turned a half closed eye to him and asked him if he wanted the cage. Xander hadn’t, but he also didn’t know how to be in a bed anymore. After listening to Xander’s denial, Spike had looked at him for a long time, silent and tilting his head to the side as Xander tried not to squirm, but he literally didn’t know what to do with his limbs. His legs would curl up under him, tight up against his butt, but without restraints to hold them, they would eventually relax and move down the bed until Xander realized they were relaxed and pull them up again, leading to a great deal of fidgeting and a vampire still awake as the first rays of morning caused a glow in the windows.

At that point, Xander didn’t *want* the cage, but if Spike had asked him to go into the cage, he would have with great relief. When an obviously tired Spike had crawled out of bed and headed for the closet, Xander had sighed with the knowledge that he had annoyed his Master enough to go back in the cage, which he totally understood considering he couldn’t stop fidgeting, and even worse, he feared he had lost his front decoration. Instead of the cage, however, Spike came out of the closet with a set of chains and leather cuffs.

That explained his current predicament. He was chained to the bed with very little slack, his arms attached to the headboard and his legs chained to the footboard, and his body stretched not tightly but at least snugly. The restraints he liked, they gave him a reason to stay still and kept him from wondering what he was *supposed* to do. The problem was that Spike in his sleep had rolled over and now lay half on top of Xander, one of the vampire’s legs thrown protectively over his own and a vampire arm carelessly tossed over his chest and the vampire’s face fitting perfectly where head and shoulder met, leaving vampire hair to tickle at his sensitive cheek and nose.

Xander lay under his Master’s perfectly still body and tried not to sneeze and wake Spike. Eventually though biology overcame both training and desire and Xander sneezed as his own breathing moved Spike’s hair closer to his nose.

“Oi, gettin’ human snot on me!” complained an unhappy voice, but Xander recognized the teasing tone.

“Sorry, Master,” he replied unconvincingly.

“Yeah, yeah. Soddin’ humans with their endless drippin’ and leakin’.” Spike grumbled on about the general worthlessness of the human body as he crawled out of bed and went searching. Xander had a sudden thought and just hoped that Spike wasn’t searching for the key. Soon enough, a naked Spike came out of the closet holding up a key ring like a long-lost relic in the hand of an archeologist.

“Found it,” he announced triumphantly and Xander bit his tongue to prevent himself from saying something rude to his Master. Spike walked back to the bed and sat down, but he didn’t reach for the cuffs. Xander watched without comment as Spike reached out and ran a hand up his chest, stopping to rub a nipple. Xander would have liked to get hard, but his Master wasn’t hard so he held his own body in check.

“How about a little game?” Spike asked, and Xander looked at his Master for some sign of Spike’s mood. The vampire reached down and unlocked Xander’s ankles before moving Xander’s legs apart and kneeling between them on the bed.

“One rule, pet,” Spike said, and Xander listened as Spike leaned down, putting his hands on either side of Xander’s head. “Don’t get hard,” Spike whispered quietly but in such a serious tone that Xander resolved to obey no matter what. Spike lowered his body onto Xander and began with a kiss. A real kiss, the type of kiss Xander hadn’t felt in six months as Spike used his tongue to invade Xander’s mouth and Xander felt lips move against his lips. Spike’s weight rested comfortingly along the whole length of his body, and he flexed his arms to better feel the tight restraints trapping his wrists.

Part of him wanted to buck up into that strong body, to feel the increased pressure and friction as he humped into his Master’s body, but another part of him wanted to show his worthiness and obedience, so Xander stayed still and unmoving as Spike’s mouth plundered his own with savage hunger. Eventually Spike pulled back, and Xander openly stared up into those brilliant blue eyes as Spike sniffed the air and smiled knowingly.

When Spike started moving down, tasting a spot of skin here, sucking a nipple there, nibbling everywhere, Xander nearly screamed. Xander kept his arms tight against the restraints and concentrated on his tense shoulders as he felt his Master work his way down toward Xander’s still limp cock, but Xander didn’t know how much longer it would stay limp at this point.

Without warning, he felt a mouth surround his flaccid cock and he started mentally chanting to keep his body under control. He considered calling up one of his more unpleasant memories, but that just seemed wrong when in bed with Spike, so he held on and gritted his teeth as he tried to remember his tenth grade teacher trying to show him how to get the quadratic formula, and then Willow trying to teaching him how to come up with the quadratic formula, and even Giles taking a shot at it. The memory of that frustration should surely undo all the pleasure he felt as blood kept trying to gather in his cock which twitched but didn’t engorge in his Master’s mouth.

“Stubborn git,” Spike said with a smile as he finally sat up, and Xander gasped in relief from not having to fight his body’s need to react to such stimulation. However, Spike hadn’t finished yet; he reached up and grabbed a pillow before ordering Xander to lift his hips. When Spike stuffed the pillow under his hips, Xander had the feeling something else was about to get stuffed, and he fought back another surge of lust at that thought.

Sure enough, Spike retrieved a tube from the nightstand drawer and settled in between Xander’s sprawled legs. Xander closed his eyes and started his little silent chant as he felt a finger invade his body, wiggling in a way that just invited Xander to wiggle back, but Xander had an order and he would follow it no matter how much Spike tortured him. And Xander was beginning to think it torture as well because a second finger now joined him, stretching him in a way that made him shiver with blissful expectation and breathe through the agony of keeping himself soft.

Spike added a third finger and then brushed the prostate, and Xander’s cock immediately responded before Xander could fight it back down to a more calm state although certainly not completely flaccid any more. Xander just hoped that the slightly swollen and enlarged member qualified as soft in his Master’s eyes because he didn’t think he could do any better with his Master’s fingers still in him.

Xander had his eyes closed, so when Spike took his legs and swung them up into the air, Xander gasped in surprised and opened his eyes to see his own legs slung over Spike’s shoulders as Spike poised to thrust in. The look in Spike’s face and the feeling as his Master made the first thrust in rubbing the prostate the whole way totally undid Xander and every bit of blood he possessed flowed in to his cock which immediately swelled to a size and hardness hitherto unknown to man.

Xander gasped, caught between the agony of failing his Master and the vision of his Master’s smiling, triumphant face as Spike finally forced a reaction so strong as to be out of Xander’s control. Xander felt a shifting so immense that if he hadn’t been chained he would have grabbed the sheets to steady himself; however, the shift existed only in his mind. He suddenly understood the game and understood that by failing to follow orders he’d done the right thing. He felt Spike thrust in again, and he wrapped his legs around Spike’s body and braced his palms against the head board as their coupling drove him steadily up the bed.

Spike started slow and easy, but the minute Xander’s legs wrapped around him, Xander could feel the vampire quickly lose control himself and start thrusting in powerfully before finally coming with a growl. Xander’s own release followed close behind as he came all over his own stomach and chest. Spike slid out and lay to the side of Xander who now had sperm on and in him but could do nothing since he was still chained to the bed by his wrists, and he couldn’t imagine a better place to be. When Spike opened his eyes again several minutes later, he had an amused expression.

“Took ya bloody long enough. I’m the one who’s dead, pet, but you were doing a fine impression of a dead man there for a while.”

“Following orders, Master.”

“Remind me not ta play that game again; it’s hard on the ego to think I can’t even make a bloody human hard after 120 years of sexual experience.” Xander would have worried about having actually hurt Spike’s feelings only the vampire had such an amused expression with one eyebrow cocked up higher than the other that Xander just smiled in response. “Go do human stuff,” Spike ordered as he unlocked the wrist cuffs and Xander hurried out of bed to go wash so they could get started with their day.

The day started normally with Spike showering in another bathroom as Xander did his morning absolutions, and for the first time, Xander wondered why Spike didn’t join him showering, but he shrugged off the little nagging voice and dried off before wandering into the bedroom where Spike had laid out street clothes.

“Pet, we’re leavin’ the decorations at home today,” Spike said carefully, and Xander suddenly worried about having done something wrong. Spike must have noticed because he hurried to explain. “Giles is a little touchy about things like that, so we’re leavin’ them here so he doesn’t have somethin’ ta complain about.” Spike paused. “Although he’ll likely complain anyway.” Xander dressed in the jeans and button up shirt Spike gave him before adding boots and the various weapons that Spike had told him to carry. A lightweight coat hiding his veritable armory went on last. Xander took a deep breath and told himself that not following orders was good as he prepared to do something he hadn’t done in nearly six months.

“What happened with Giles?” Xander asked as he slipped the coat in place and prepared to follow Spike downstairs for their early meal before going out. Joyce always fixed their first meal and they would eat it together. The late meal would consist of some sandwich Spike would make as they tried not to make too much noise and wake Joyce, and Xander realized that they were quickly falling into a familiar pattern that was becoming “family” to him.

Spike sighed and continued down the stairs, Xander follow at heel. Xander could smell the chicken fried steak from the front hall, and he smiled at the choice. He’d gone so long without real meat that Joyce could plop uncooked ground beef in front of him and he’d be happy, but her wonderful cooking did not go unappreciated, and Xander noticed that Spike tended to eat his fill as well, although Xander did wonder how Spike got rid of all the food he took in.

“Good morning,” Joyce cheerfully offered as she came out of the kitchen carrying food.

“Not bloody likely. Soon as this day’s over, it’ll be good.” Spike grumbled at he sat, and Xander knelt down beside the chair, watching the two talk curiously.

“Boy asked about Giles,” Spike said as he cut into the meat on the plate and then held out a chunk for Xander to take.

“What did you tell him?”

“What am I supposed to say? That the git is an ungrateful bastard who soddin’ well annoys me so bad my fangs itch with the need ta eat him?” Spike actually sounded angry at that, and Xander looked up to see Spike’s game face, but the fork that now held mashed potatoes waited steadily and Xander continued eating assuming that if Spike really were angry enough to actually kill Giles, the vampire would be angrily pacing or breaking things. Joyce sighed.

“You two are going to have to talk this out some time.”

“Not bloody my fault,” Spike insisted sounding all the world like a five year old.

“Xander,” Xander looked up surprised because Joyce didn’t talk to him very often. “When the Initiative got invaded, Spike’s cell was near Giles’, so he found Giles rather quickly, but he couldn’t protect Giles from all the angry demons that were raging through the complex.” Knowing about Buffy’s actual death, Xander imagined that Spike must have been desperate to protect the Watcher. He still didn’t see any reason for homicidal itching.

“Well, Spike made a choice. In order to protect Rupert, Spike claimed him.” Xander’s eyes went big as he stared up at his Master even while he continued to eat. Claim bites were easily smelled by other demons, so Xander could understand the logic, but claim bites marked a human a slave, as property, much like the tattoo on the inside of Xander’s cheek marked him as property. The difference was that no demon could smell the tattoo, but most demons that got anywhere near Giles would instantly smell that mark and assume that Giles belonged to Spike. Xander wasn’t stupid either; he knew full well that Giles did a lot of business with demons through the Magic Shop.

Xander looked over to Joyce and wondered if the woman had any idea how big this would be. The Watchers in England surely would have heard rumors of Spike claiming a watcher for himself. “And I’m afraid I didn’t help matters,” Joyce continued sadly.

“Oi, don’t even put any of his bloody issues on yourself, luv. You were sick and ya needed a doctor who didn’t pat ya on the head and send ya home. Ya needed a doctor who’d take my word that something smelled wrong, and that means ya needed a demon doctor,” Spike instantly argued.

“Yes, but when word got around that you’d taken the slayer’s mother to a doctor for human pets, I don’t think that made Rupert feel any better about the interest you were talking in Buffy’s life.”

“He’s a bloody idjit. He doesn’t understand, and he doesn’t bloody want to understand. I could tell other demons ta stay away from him, and they’d do it. No demon gets between a vampire and a claimed human, but I haven’t and he can’t even bloody see that I’m not tryin’ ta use the claim against him.”

“I know, but he’s suffering from Buffy’s loss and after what the Initiative did to him, I can understand him hating something that makes him feel less free or less…” Joyce struggled for a word. “Less powerful, I guess. He was always such a powerful influence in Buffy’s life and now he’s lost her and he’s lost this belief that he could protect the children, and in the eyes of the demon community, he’s lost his own independence. Rupert is just making you the center for his anger over all of it.”

“He’s makin’ himself a bloody nuisance, and if he upsets my Xander, I’ll…” Spike stopped, and when Xander looked up he saw Joyce standing with one hand on a hip with a mother look that clearly promised a good grounding and a week of dishes. Xander almost choked on the steak as he tried not to laugh at a Master Vampire stopped in his tracks by a mother-glare. “I’ll soddin’ knock him upside his head and drop him off at the nearest hospital,” Spike finally compromised. Joyce didn’t look happy, but the hand came off the hip at least.

Xander finished eating in silence since the two adults seemed to have used up their conversation. When they’d finished, Xander followed Spike out the door even as the vampire called to Joyce to make arrangements with Giles to meet at a cemetery near the watcher’s house.

Xander followed Spike through town silently, aware that Spike’s mood darkened with every step closer to the cemetery until finally they entered the gates.

“Xander! Good lord, you’re actually alive.” Xander heard Giles call from a little way off to the side, and he looked to see a rather haggard looking Giles come toward them with an unshaven face and a wrinkled shirt.

“What? Ya think I lied about findin’ him? Ya think Joyce lied?” Spike demanded, and Xander could see Giles flinch, a hand going into a pocket where Xander suspected a stake with Spike’s name waited. He shifted his own position so that he was closer to Spike, not that Spike actually needed help, but maybe he could keep them from killing each other.

“I am perfectly aware of your ability to lie, and I am unsure about the influence you now hold over Joyce, so I did have my doubts,” Giles commented, but Xander noticed that Giles didn’t stop looking at him.

“Xander, are you all right?” Giles asked and then Xander understood the man’s concern. Droopy Harris would have already blurted out the whole story in one long run-on sentence.

“All right might be too strong,” Xander admitted as he tried to reassure Giles, hoping that he could help these two not kill each other. “But better.” Giles’ cold expression didn’t soften.

“Xander do you remember how much you hated Spike? Do you remember how Spike nearly killed you when he wanted Willow to do that spell? Do you remember Spike capturing you that one Halloween?”

“Oi, old news, mate. Things have changed and you need to move on,” Spike growled, but Giles just continued, his focus totally on Xander until Xander felt like trying to hide behind Spike. He would have actually moved if he hadn’t feared it would push Giles over the edge to violence.

“You know those feelings were real, so how can you trust Spike now with the chip out?” Giles asked, and now Spike stepped forward with a growl that Giles ignored as he continued. “Somewhere deep down, you know that you aren't thinking straight. You've been scared for so long that you're just clinging to the first person who shows you any kindness, and that's normal, Xander. What you're feeling is normal, but it's not real.”

At that Spike moved forward with the clear intention of ending Giles’ speech, only his forward momentum ended when a large dark figure tackled him from the side. Xander’s hand instantly pulled his sword as he stepped up to identify the attacker as Angel. The two vampires clung to each other, each trying to get a strong enough hold to pin the other, and Xander raised his sword. He couldn’t kill his Master’s sire without some sort of directions, but he could sure injure Angel and leave him vulnerable to counter attack. Xander was about to launch his attack, when Spike’s voice called out “Down!”

Without hesitation, Xander sank into a down kneel laying his sword by his side so that he could properly position his hands as he watched the vampire change tactics into a more aggressive punch and kick style. Angel fell back, and Spike pressed his advantage only to find that Angel had feigned. As Angel swung his childe around with a hold on his neck, Xander stood and picked up his sword in time to see Angel press a stake to Spike’s heart.

“Down!” Spike called at the same time Angel said, “Don’t do it.” He realized that he could never get to Spike in time as he squirmed ineffectively with his arm twisted up behind his back and a wood stake pressed to his chest. Without any better options, Xander sank back down to his knees.

“You bloody wanker,” Spike hissed still in game face.

“You were going to kill Giles,” Angel replied, and Xander flinched as Angel pressed the stake a little deeper.

“I was goin’ ta soddin’ attack him and slap him stupid, or stupider in his case.”

“Don’t press your luck boy,” Angel warned, and Xander could see Spike’s body arch up as Angel twisted the arm and pressed the stake’s point into the flesh.

“Don’t you dare do it in front of Xander you bloody useless lump of dead flesh,” Spike hissed, and Xander felt his heart ripped out as he realized what Spike meant. Ignoring orders, he stood, sword in hand and moved so that his back wasn’t to Giles as he took up a defensive position.

“Xander, since I've been looking for the girls, I've done a lot of research. I'm sure that you think I'm trying to take you away from Spike, and I'm sure you think he's doing the right thing, but you’re suffering from Stockholm syndrome,” Giles explained in a voice that he normally used for the crazy old lady who always bought ginseng from the Magic Shop. Giles held up his hands in a surrender pose as he stepped closer, and Xander adjusted his stance.

“He’s sufferin’ from the effin’ slaver’s trainin’ and from your interference,” Spike snapped.

“William,” Angel warned and Xander watched as Spike stilled in his sire’s grip, obviously outmatched by the larger and older vampire.

“Not in front of him,” Spike said again in a weary and much softer voice, and this time he dropped out of his game face.

“I don’t want to stake you, William. Whatever your reasons, you’ve done the right thing by Joyce and I know you’re trying to help Xander.”

“He’d doing Xander irreparable harm,” Giles interrupted, and now Xander couldn’t ignore the verbal attacks.

“He saved me and he’s helped more than you could have,” Xander said. “You gave up; you told Willow to give up.” Xander had said more than he intended and he could see as his words sunk in. Giles went from shocked to guilty to angry to some sort of emotion that Xander couldn’t identify. When the glasses remained in place throughout, Xander realized that Giles had certainly changed as well.

“Xander, I know that’s not you talking. You have to find your real feelings or you're going to be stuck a slave your whole life, and Buffy would have wanted more for you. You can’t stay with Spike.”

“William, order him to follow Giles home,” Angel demanded and the hiss Spike made revealed his opinions about that. “If you don’t, I will kill you in order to get him away from you. Even if you don’t mean to hurt him, Giles is right—he needs to be with people who can help him in ways you can’t.”

“He bloody well needs me,” Spike growled.

“He feels that way because survivors with Stockholm Syndrome take their terror and the small kindnesses that they see their captors showing them and they build it into a relationship that doesn't exist. His feeling right now aren’t real, they’re his attempt to deal with the fear of being purchased by you.” Xander watched Spike’s eyes flicker over to him, and he could only hope his Master didn’t listen to Giles’ explanation.

“I’ll make this simple, William. You either order him to follow Giles, or I’ll turn you to dust right here so he knows you won’t be coming for him again.” Xander watched his Master’s eyes meet his before Spike’s gaze slipped down to the ground in front of him, and Xander almost cried in fear because he knew his Master’s next words, and he didn’t know if he could survive them.

“Pet, go with Giles,” Spike ordered, and Xander’s body trembled with the need to follow the order and the need to ignore it. The sound of Giles moving drew his attention away from Spike.

“I know you can't answer right now; I know how hard this is, but you can get through this and I'll be here the whole way. You just need some time and some space to feel safe and you can overcome these feelings. I promise to help,” Giles said as he took one more step closer.

“I can’t,” Xander hoarsely offered as an apology to either Giles or his Master or both.

“Xander, I will turn him to dust if you can’t let go of him any other way,” Angel said so calmly that Xander knew he was telling the truth. He lowered his sword and didn’t argue when Giles stepped up and took it away from him. Xander looked over toward Spike who refused to even meet his gaze.

“Let him go now,” Xander pleaded.

“As soon as Giles has time to get you home, I’ll release him. He’s my family, Xander. I really don’t want him dead, but I can’t let him hurt you by misunderstanding what you really need.” Xander dropped his gaze, realizing that he had lost so when Giles reached out a hand, Xander didn’t fight. He fell into step with Giles even as the man kept a tight grip on his arm, and he prayed that Angel was good for his word because if Xander had just caused his Master’s death, he knew he wouldn’t survive the guilt.


Chapter 10

Xander walked into Giles’ apartment without commenting. He didn’t complain about the fingers digging into his arm or even the far greater pain of not knowing whether or not Angel would actually kill Spike. He tried to turn off that part of him that felt like it had a right to question and scream and rage because when he had tried to defend himself and his Master, Giles and Angel had been perfectly clear about just how many rights he had and what punishment would follow disobedience. So he stood inside the door with his arms hanging limply, trying to figure out what to do. With his trainer he would have gone into a full Position kneel. With Spike he would have gone into the more comfortable Down kneel. With Giles he really had no clue what he was doing so he stood there feeling like the naked guy in the middle of math class, which he had done once during that whole nightmares come alive nightmare, and that really wasn’t a good memory.

Giles practically stormed the kitchen, throwing his coat at the couch which it hit and then slithered down. When Spike did that, Xander would quietly replace it without even thinking about it, but now he stared at the crumpled garment in fascination. Finally a sharp voice yelled from the kitchen.

“For God’s sake, Xander sit down!” Xander wondered at the disappearance of Giles’ comforting voice, but he slid to the ground without complaint, crossing his legs Indian style rather than kneeling, which he suspected wouldn’t amuse the watcher. He continued to stare at that fallen coat, and he finally figured out what bothered him so. Spike threw his coat and occasionally Oz tossed his coat, but Xander had never seen Giles do anything other than carefully arrange a coat on a chair back or even hang the thing up.

“Oh Xander, I’m sorry.” Xander looked up to see Giles gazing at him in pity, and he dropped his gaze to the floor.

“Xander, you can look at me; that’s fine,” Giles told him as the older man knelt down on one knee. “Xander did Spike tell you to keep your eyes down?”

“No!” Xander vehemently insisted as he looked up at Giles in shock. “Spike helped me look up at people again.” Xander mentally begged Giles to understand how important Spike had been to him. Looking back, he could see how different he was from just days earlier. His trainer would consider him horribly ruined.

“Xander, by giving you these little kindnesses, Spike is just confusing you more, creating feelings in you that aren't yours,” Giles said, dashing any hope of Xander being able to talk his way out of this. Anything good he said would just be evidence of Spike evilness, so Xander resolved to just stay quiet. He really didn’t have anything to say that Giles wanted to hear anyway. Hell, part of the man had to like the fact that he wasn’t getting called G-man and annoyed by television references he didn’t understand. Xander thought about the four of them sitting around the table in the old library, but the thought of Buffy just made his heart ache, and the knowledge that he couldn’t help find the girls made him truly want to cry. He’d gone from useless to useful only for a quick blow job to actually useful fighting and kneeling at his Master’s side right back to useless again. The Xander version of the Cycle of Life.

He felt a pull on his arm and he stood as Giles pulled him up and guided him toward the couch. When Xander felt himself pushed toward the piece of furniture, he felt the panic rising, a part of his brain wailing about punishments that he logically knew wouldn’t happen but that he couldn’t escape in his memories. He didn’t sit on furniture. Ever. Not any more. Until now. Xander felt the cushion under him and he tasted a hint of Joyce’s cooking as his meal attempted to back up. He fought his revulsion down with practiced ease, but he couldn’t control the cold shivers of fear that traced his backbone. Giles pulled up a chair so that it was inches from the couch and Xander eventually controlled himself well enough to make eye contact with Giles, his fear retreating to a corner where it could howl without interfering with the rest of the mind.

“Xander? Do you ever want to just go off? Do you hate yourself or want to go out and destroy something?” Giles had such a serious tone of voice that Xander almost laughed. Did he want to go off? Constantly. At his trainer, at himself, at the world in general. And then he’d get scared because he wanted to go off and if he did, he’d be punished. Except he’d gone off on Spike, and he remembered the vampire falling asleep on top of his cage that night, a hand dangling down in front of his face as if reassuring him that Spike was there. But Spike wasn’t here now, and what was Giles thinking? He didn’t even answer that question, leaving it to Giles to figure that one out on his own. After a long silence, Giles continued.

“Do you feel like you *need* Spike to keep you under control?” What? Was Giles playing twenty questions now? He sounded like the tag line for an after school special: ‘Do you ever find yourself thinking about suicide?’ asks a bubbly teenage actress who’s just played the depressed teenage student on the verge of killing herself. The image made something click, and Xander realized that Giles was asking questions off some sort of list. A quiz like the girls used to do on the internet where if you answered enough questions one way or the other, the website told you that you were nuts. Hell, he didn’t need a quiz to know that. Giles’ heavy sigh broke his concentration. He looked up to see the watcher cleaning his glasses slowly.

“I know you won't answer me, Xander, but if the answer is yes, you're in some serious trouble here and you won't be able to fix this on your own.” Xander bit his tongue to avoid pointing out that he hadn’t been trying to do it on his own, Spike had been helping. However, he didn’t think that would have impressed Giles in the least. When Xander remained silent, Giles stood and walked over to one of the trunks that Xander had watched him open countless times to retrieve some weapon for Buffy. A little voice reminded Xander about the pain weapons could cause on flesh, but Xander’s logical mind dismissed the nagging whispers. He realized that Giles and Angel held a far more serious punishment over his head, and he reminded himself to just submit to them. If that’s what it took to save Spike, he owed that much and more, and if he had to tear out his own heart in order to survive submitting, he’d do that too. So he sat and waited.

Giles still muttered as he dug around in a trunk, and Xander huddled on the couch, pulling his knees up in front of him so that he didn't anger Giles again by sitting on the floor even though he wanted to so badly that he nearly trembled, but he knew wanting things was wrong. He focused on eliminating that ‘want’ thought as he laid his cheek down on his knee. The watcher stacked up a pile of various tools and weapons to the side of the trunk until he stood up with a long handled cutter in his hands.

"That collar is a symbol of slavery, Xander, and you are no longer anyone's slave." Giles walked toward him, and Xander started to breathe heavily as Giles words triggered older words that now lived in that frightened part of his mind that now started shrieking.

"If you are not anyone's slave, then you are not of use," the trainer had said as he approached the small man. Xander had expected this one to break inside a week, but the fierce little man with his dark brown eyes and coffee colored skin had held out. He had survived the strings until the trainer had cut off the worst ones and called in the healer before the damage was irreversible. He had mouthed off until the trainer had cruelly gagged him whenever he was out of the cage. He had refused to learn his kneeling positions, choosing to endure the whip and rejecting any offers of kindness from the trainer.

Trapped within his own cage and voiceless or kneeling silently in correct form on the side of the training arena, Xander had watched it all with a split mind: cheering the man's determination and jeering at the pointlessness of the gesture. The man now lay tied into a Spread position, face down on the cold floor with his limbs stretched out, but instead of stretching his fingers out, the man had them clutched into fists. The trainer suddenly turned and tapped three cages, issuing a curt "In." Xander and the other two slaves who were holding position immediately rose and went to their respective cages, Xander momentarily grateful that he was only allowed to look at the floor in front of his feet because when he was caged and met the eyes of this nameless little warrior, the man glared at him with accusatory eyes and damning expressions. Xander already knew he was damned though, so he didn't know why the man bothered damning him.

Xander and the others worked themselves into the cages, and the trainer checked each of them before sliding the front piece in and then putting them on the shelf. Xander then watched the trainer call for a cutter, and a minion hurried in carrying a red handled tool. The slave on the floor had his cheek to the floor instead of his forehead as was proper, and the gag made his cheeks bulge out on either side of the leather strap that bisected his cheek and locked on at the back of his neck. Xander had worn that for three days before learning to shut up just from the agony of his distended jaw muscles. This man had worn the gag for…Xander had no idea, but a really, really, really long time. Rebellious white ringed eyes scanned the cages with revulsion before going back to scream the man's silent hatred of the trainer.

The trainer knelt down on the floor, running a soft hand along the length of the man's body, an owner's gesture of kindness intended to soothe a distraught animal.

"This is your last chance my pet," the trainer warned. "If you're not of use, there is no reason for me to protect you." The gentle caresses continued, but the man tilted his head up toward the trainer breaking position even farther while his eyes transmitted his agony and his resistance.

"I am sorry my beautiful little creature," the trainer said with such sorrow that Xander could imagine that the trainer truly was sorry to lose the nameless man, but then the trainer brought the tool down and clipped through the collar at his neck. Since the collar was a solid metal circle, he had to make two clips before he could pull the two halves away from that dark neck, which showed a rainbow of bruises even on the black skin. Now the slave put his head down, forehead to the concrete and eyes closed as the hands relaxed, but Xander could tell it was in relief and not obedience.

The trainer walked away, and the minions moved in. They had short tusk-like fangs on their lower jaws, and the minions' mouths fell open at the sight. Xander remembered soundlessly screaming as they ate, but the cages ensured that no screams other than the former slave's own interrupted the minions' meal. Xander continued to stare until he could no longer gasp in enough air through his nose and he passed out. His next memory had been of waking with his trainer making calming noises and brushing his hair out of his face. Part of Xander had screamed at being touched by the monster, and part of him had shivered him fear and pulled so far back into his own mind that he didn't feel like his body belonged to him any more, and part hated himself because that man had died fighting the way Xander should have and an ever-growing part of him had found pleasure in his trainer's hand knowing that if he pleased and obeyed his trainer would protect him from the minions.

By now Xander felt the bolt cutters at his neck as Giles cursed and struggled to cut through the heavy metal. He didn't move, as though moving would bring him to the minions' attention even though he told himself there were no minions around. The minions were the past; Giles and his stupid assumptions were the present. Giles slipped and the bolt cutters went skimming by the back of Xander's head, one of the handles hitting him hard enough to make him see white flashes, and for a moment, he was grateful because it gave him something to focus on other than the gibbering voice in his head that whispered of minions and cages and whips and fangs.

He focused on that pain so much that he didn't hear Angel come in. He felt a cool hand pushing down his head and he thought that his Master had returned, but he tilted his head slightly to the side to see Angel bent over him.

"He's fine. It's a small cut,” Angel announced, and Xander realized that the handle had split the skin.

"Oh thank heavens. I don't know if I can do this," Giles said in a tired voice, and Xander heard glass clinking on glass.

"I'll get the collar off," Angel offered, but Xander suspected that Giles' comment had less to do with the thick metal and more to do with life in general. When the bolt cutters closed over the metal again, Xander tried not to flinch away.

"I'll be done in a second, Xander," Angel offered and then with two heavy clunks, the collar was cut into pieces and off his neck. Part of Xander longed to reach up and touch the calloused skin, and another part of him wanted to ignore the curious feeling of air around his collar line. All of Xander worried about how many parts he seemed to have developed lately, only Xander already knew he was near the twist and quickly going 'round it, so arguing with himself just seemed a normal step toward total insanity.

“I could call up a vengeance spell that would liquefy the slavers’ entrails right now,” Giles said as he reappeared in the living room with a glass of amber fluid. Xander could smell the alcohol and it made his nose itch.

“Probably not a healthy solution,” Angel said although Xander watched the vampire’s expression twist into something decidedly unpleasant at the mention of the slavers.

“Yes, quite. Right now we need to focus on Xander. We need to find a way to bring him back after being so broken.” Giles pulled the chair that had been in front of the couch back to it’s original position, setting his drink down on a side table and looking at Angel who had retreated to stand against the far wall. Xander noticed that neither of them so much as looked at him.

He hugged his legs tighter and reminded himself to submit even though he wanted to tell both of them off. What right did they have to act like he was somehow dirty and not even look at him, but the minute that anger rose, Xander pushed it back down because deep down he knew that he was broken and dirty and the only thing he could do now was save Spike from Angel’s anger. So he would go along with whatever they decided for him until Spike could come and stake Angel because that’s the only way he would get to go back to his Master, and knowing Spike’s history with Angelus, he doubted Spike could or would ever do that. So this was his life now.

“He’s not totally broken.” Angel finally said into the heavy silence.

“Look at him. He won’t talk, he won’t even bloody move,” Giles waved a hand in his direction and yelled before taking a deep breath. “Maybe the council has some resources to…” Xander’s stomach certainly did jump at the though of being given to some nameless council members considering how they treated Kendra and Faith.

“He’s not broken,” Angel repeated. “Leshar couldn’t have held him the whole time or he would be a mindless slave by now, but despite what you think, Xander isn’t totally broken; he’s still in there.”

“I would hate to see your version of broken then,” Giles answered dryly, and Xander flashed on an image of Dru playing with dolls or William chasing after his sire and master only to get backhanded into a wall.

“I had to threaten him to get him to obey Spike’s order. If he was broken, he would have obeyed without question.” Xander thought about all the ways Angel was wrong. He’d spent every night since disappearing in a sleeping cage, and before the auction, had never left Leshar’s building. He *was* totally broken and just a week earlier would have followed orders without a second thought. Okay, he would have thought second things, but he would have followed orders without revealing that he was even thinking at all. And he hadn’t surrendered to obey Spike’s order, he’d surrendered to keep Angel from killing Spike. But hey, no one asked for his opinion, so he just continued to sit on the couch and order his hands to remain on his legs and not touch his naked neck.

“But he did obey Spike, didn’t he? He bloody knelt on order.” For a second Xander lost the thread of reality and resented the fact that Giles had ignored him, but then it occurred to him that he hadn’t actually said anything out loud.

"Spike is honestly trying to help here and while I can't even guess at his motive..."

"His motive is patently clear,” Giles said while slamming his glass down on the table hard enough that Xander expected to hear the sound of breaking glass.

"I understand why you think..."

"Damnable Christ! You do not understand anything. You do not understand that William the Bloody slammed me up against a wall and tore into my throat without any warning. You cannot understand what *that* felt like after months in an Initiative cell." Xander didn't say anything, but he did wonder how an Initiative cell ranked up against his cage. But then again, Giles had always been one to see things from his own point of view, and now Xander could see that easier than he could before. Losing Jesse didn't rate more than a pat on the back, but losing Ms. Calendar led to months of angst and this weird insistence that her spirit was still around. Xander watched as Giles' hand went reflexively to his neck.

"He didn't kill you," Angel pointed out rather ineffectively if the glare on Giles' face was any indication.

"No, he simply announced to the world that he considers me his property and then he paraded Joyce around in a slaver's medical facility and then he shows up with Xander following him and acting like the perfect little slave. I hardly think it difficult to connect these dots." Xander could almost see the logic, except for the fact that it was totally illogical. Spike had nothing to do with his own capture, and Joyce needed help. “Spike is following his own agenda as always, and you are simply refusing to see the truth, choosing instead to act like a total git.” Giles stopped as if surprised at his own rage.

"He hasn't gone back to killing since Buffy..." Angel stopped, and the two men shared such similar expressions of pain that Xander wanted to reach out and comfort them, except of course for the whole kidnapping him away from Spike and making him miserable thing. That didn’t really make them comfort worthy.

"Indeed. Buffy. And whose word do we have that her death was at the hands of the Initiative?" Giles asked darkly. "Riley told me that they had put Buffy and Spike together in a testing room, and while Spike had restrained himself to spite the Initiative up until the last time Riley was able to contact me, I suspect that a vampire's hunger would overcome that resistance rather quickly." Xander watched from his own position on the couch, and Angel had a flash of guilt that Xander never would have noticed before. He wondered if he was thinking of his own inability to resist Buffy sexually or Angelus’ inability to resist the temptation to break William. Maybe both.

Xander was really starting to appreciate this being quiet thing; he was finding people far more likely to forget he was there and talk openly. Which was actually very different from having people ignore him and then avoid talking about anything too important around him. Of course, Droopy Harris would have simply taken that moment of vulnerability on Angel's face and used it to torment the vampire. Now he resolved to take that moment and try and twist the vampire around to his way of thinking.

"Giles," Angel said in a placating voice.

"No, it's bloody not understandable *or* all right, so if you use those phrases on me again you overbearing souled excuse for a vampire, I will personally stake you." Xander jumped slightly at the threat, and then quickly pulled himself back together into a ball on the couch as he realized that these two were obviously just repeating an argument they’d had many times before. Wow, Joyce shacking up with William the Bloody while Giles and Angel did the buddy fighting routine. He was gone six months and the world fell apart

"For god's sake, Xander, you *are* allowed to move, so *move*," Giles pointed out, his voice slightly slurred, and Xander flew from the couch to the wall, standing against it as he carefully watched the two men react with startled faces. He couldn't imagine Giles actually hitting him, but he remembered how different his father became after losing his job and starting to drink, and, he kept reminding himself, he had to prove that he could obey them so that Angel didn’t go back and kill Spike to sever their connection as slave and Master. He could let go; he would let go. His jaw tightened in fear and loss, but those things didn’t matter. What mattered was proving that he wasn’t Spike’s slave so Angel didn’t kill Spike.

“Maybe I’d better settle Xander in for the night,” Angel suggested, and Xander glanced toward the still dark windows. Let’s see, he woke up, had sex, ate, went to meet Giles, and then came here. He hadn’t been awake for more than a few hours, but he didn’t argue. Maybe if they left him alone he could curl up in his memory of waking up under Spike, a memory which he now expected to, on most days, replace his memory of Buffy and her green bikini. He could lose himself in the sight and feel and smell of his Master, in the taste of his mouth when Spike kissed him, in the sound of Spike’s laughter and the memory of his smile. Yep, time to put Xander away so he could find some peace where the little voice in the back of his head didn’t take the feel of jeans against his skin and invent the ghost sensation of a minion’s tooth grazing flesh.

“Maybe that’d be best,” Giles agreed as he used the arms on the chair to push himself up before retrieving his glass from the table. Angel started walking toward him, and at the last minute simply gestured toward a hall. Xander started down the short corridor and Angel’s voice directed him.

“On the left.” Xander opened the door to a perfectly normal spare room and his stomach tried another gymnastic maneuver with the whole climbing of the throat. Xander didn’t want to think of being alone on the single bed with the tall dresser and the bookshelves, but he simply stood in the middle of the room and waited. He heard the door close and thought for a moment that Angel had simply locked him in the room leaving him to figure the rest out, but the vampire walked into sight and sat down on the bed.

“Down,” Angel commanded, and Xander hesitated for a brief moment out of surprise until his little voice screeched so loud that he dropped to his knees, spreading his legs and putting his arms behind his back as he lowered his head. “Oh, Xander,” Angel sighed, and Xander realized that he’d failed the test. He started trembling.

“Please,” he finally choked out past the fear and the training. “It wasn’t Spike, don’t kill him.” Xander struggled to control the trembling before it progressed to outright sobbing and begging which never worked, and probably wouldn’t impress Angel.

“Xander,” Angel started and then stopped. Xander waited in agony. “I know Spike didn’t teach you these things.” Xander started breathing again since the words sounded like a reassurance. Of course, reassurance always came with the petting, but he didn’t expect that. He didn’t even really want that. He just wanted to curl up inside himself and think of Spike, but he couldn’t because Angel might try to test him again. If he couldn’t show them that he was getting better, they might blame Spike. And somewhere that logic didn’t sound right, but Xander couldn’t figure out the problem.

“Xander, did Spike tell you about William?”

“Yes…” Xander said uncertainly. He wasn’t sure what to call Angel.

"I don't know how much Spike has told you," Angel began uncomfortably, and Xander would have laughed if he could have found his voice. The vampire who had tortured William into splitting his personality was worried about what a human slave thought of him, and Xander found that uniquely amusing. He struggled to contain giggles that he half suspected were hysterical.

"I’m not sure what type of relationship you have..." Xander resisted the urge to look up in confusion. He knew full well that Angel knew full well that he had slept with Spike because even the shower wouldn’t have removed the smell, so the whole conversation was a little strange. Spike was his Master; he and Spike had sex. What’s to not know?

"He no doubt wants to fix you, that always was his favorite escape mechanism. If he focused on someone else he wouldn't think about..." Angel stopped, unable to finish the sentence without either incriminating himself or bringing up unwelcome memories, Xander wasn't sure which. However, Xander remembered how casually Spike had dismissed the leather strings torture. He remembered the way Spike had looked when he talked about William breaking, Xander remembered the sort of tortures demons liked to use, and he knew enough about demons in general and Angelus in specific that he could fill in the missing blanks just fine. Of course nothing Angel had said took the form of a question so he just knelt and surreptitiously watched Angel as the vampire now stood up and started nervously pacing.

"William wants to help you take his route, but William's response included rejecting himself and his whole past." Angel took a breath as he obviously tried to organize his thoughts. "Do you want to stop being Xander Harris?" Angel finally demanded. Xander thought about that. He knew he wanted to stop being Droopy Harris with the babbling and the insecurities and the constant feeling like he was dangling on the edge of every group on the verge of being rejected. But Xander Harris had things he liked: a real determination and an ability to think through a problem and some strength that allowed him to keep some part of himself away from the slavers. He finally answered.


"Spike's advice is going to destroy you, Xander. It's easy enough for a vampire to reject the human part of himself, but a human can't do that." Xander tilted his head slightly as he considered Angel’s words. Maybe that's why he took the name Angelus and destroyed his human past. Maybe Darla broke him, which would leave Joyce the only sane member of the group since Xander suspected that Giles was well on his way to breaking himself.

“And what’s more, this isn’t real for Spike either.” Angel sat back down and Xander now gave the vampire his full attention. “Spike has always gone from one obsession to another. In the beginning, maybe as a way to escape my attentions, but he still does it.” Xander took a deep breath, trying to overcome his fear in order to defend himself and his Master.

“Xander?” Angel asked. Xander suspected that the word was the closest he was going to come to getting permission to speak. He used his observations before and thought carefully for the words that would dig into Angel the deepest.

“You broke William when you walked away, but now you’re making Spike walk away from me,” Xander fired his biggest missile and watched the sour expression on Angel’s face as the vampire considered those words.

“Xander I don’t want you to get hurt,” Angel said, “but the fact is that Spike’s attentions will eventually turn somewhere else. Dru turned him, and yet when he saw how I wanted Buffy, he obsessed over her until Dru left him over it. He has no blood bond with you, and I know it feels like he’s the most devoted…Master….in the world, but when his obsession turns again, you’re going to be left alone or possibly even turned.” Xander thought about those words and most of him clung to the belief that Spike did care as he taught Xander to break with rules with a smile. Eventually, Angel continued.

“Even if he doesn’t lose interest in you, he’ll still turn you because he won’t give up on an obsession, and letting you get old and die just isn’t in his character. Xander, you need to break away from Spike for your sake and for his.” Xander looked up at the idea that he had to give up for Spike, and Angel leaned down so they looked directly into each other’s eyes. “You can’t watch his back and protect him the way a mate could, and if Spike doesn’t have you, he’ll find a mate, maybe even go back to Drusilla. That’d be better for both of you,” Angel said before standing up.

“The door and the window have alarms, so you can’t open them from the inside without Giles knowing, and if you go missing, either Giles or I will go straight to Spike,” Angel said in clear warning, and Xander dropped his head in submission, recognizing the threat as genuine. “So stay here and think about what I said, Xander.” The door closed and Xander decided that he really didn’t like this no talking stuff because it just gave people who normally didn’t talk entirely too much time to talk.

Droopy Harris might have been an idiot, but he would have told Angel to shut up before the broody vampire had managed to say things that had sunk barbs into Xander’s soul. He had so wanted to lose himself in the memory of Spike’s touch, but now he shied away from that image because he didn’t want to think about his Master’s face and search the remembered angles for evidence of obsession. He wanted to believe that Spike wanted him, not just someone to obsess over. Of course, he’d be willing to accept that place in his Master’s life if Angel hadn’t added the closing words. Drusilla was stronger, Xander realized. Any vampire would be stronger. He dismissed his thoughts abruptly as he stood to look around the room.

Xander faced the bed with suspicion. He found himself desperate for his Master's chains and his Master's body holding him down and making him feel safe and at this point he even felt desperate for the cage. Instead, he was faced with the most frightening thing in the world: choices.

Knowing that he would never get any sleep at all on the bed, Xander stripped off his clothes and looked at the space between the dresser and the corner. It was small, but he was used to sleeping in small places, and as he sat down and arranged his limbs in the small corner, the solid surfaces to gave him a sense of boundary and border that he had lost when he had left Spike struggling in Angel's grip. He felt the presence of tears warm his eyes and he took deep breaths to try and calm himself, but as he squirmed around, he knew that he would never be able to relax enough to actually sleep, and he really suspected that he was going to need his rest. Eyeing the bed thoughtfully, he considered options and possible punishments even though a big part of him gave a mighty eye roll and pointed out that Giles' idea of punishment was making him alphabetize books.

Making his decision, Xander went over and pulled the blanket off the bed, folding it neatly and putting it on the floor next to the door. Then he took the top sheet with him back to the corner where he tangled his arms around in the cotton fabric and then hid his work under a drape of fabric. Now if he just could scoot forward onto the trailing edge of the sheet.... Xander lifted up and used his heel to pull the end of the sheet under him both keeping the itchy carpet off his backside and pulling his arms down. He hoped that if Giles came in, the man would assume that he had tangled himself in the sheet overnight. In reality, he had bound his arms firmly enough that he could now relax and have them trapped tightly against him, but if he squirmed too much, he would pop free. He didn't squirm. Carefully nestling himself down on the floor with his back to the dresser and his knees scrunched up against the wall so that he could barely move in the cramped space with his arms bound, he settled down for a poor night's sleep

Chapter 11:

Xander heard the door open and he cracked his eyes to see that the room was still dark, the window a black hole, and Giles outlined by the light from the hallway. Xander kept his eyes open only enough to watch Giles sway, one hand against the door frame keeping him upright. He didn't know what Giles wanted from him, so he stayed quiet, tangled in his sheet and cramped into his corner. After all, if he was asleep, Giles couldn't blame him for doing something wrong.

Giles stumbled forward, putting out a hand to catch himself on the empty bed, before his head swung from side to side. Soon enough Giles' view settled on Xander's corner, and Xander closed his eyes and just hoped to be left alone because now that Giles was watching, he realized how truly stupid he must look. Instead he heard the bed creak. The room went silent for so long that Xander risked taking a peek to see if Giles had fallen asleep, but the man sat of the edge of the bed staring at him and Xander struggled to stay still and keep his breathing even. He sooooo didn't have the energy to deal with Giles and wasn't sure he would ever be ready for this conversation. But Giles just continued to sit and look.

"I bloody failed at everything. You're right, you know. I did tell Willow to stop; I suppose Spike told you that." For a second, Xander worried that Giles knew he was awake, but when the watcher continued to gently rock on the bed, Xander realized that the watcher was talking to himself, or rather he was talking to what he thought was an asleep Xander. "William the Bloody Idiot brings you home when I wasn't even looking, and now I'm failing you again."

Part of Xander wanted to comfort the man whose cracking voice and slurred words carried a pain that Xander couldn't even understand. Another part of Xander wanted to scream out that Giles *was* failing him so the watcher should let him go home. He compromised and did nothing.

"Bloody can't even run the store without my suppliers and half my customers checking with Spike behind my back. One word from him, and they'll stop doing business with Spike's properly claimed and marked slave, and then I really won't have anything, but don't worry, Xander. Even if Spike shuts down the Magic Box, I'm not giving you back. I won't sell you to make life easier. I won't fail you like that. I'll just... damnable Christ, I don't know what we'll do, but we'll do something." Giles words came out in spurts with awkward pauses in the middle of sentences and painful half-sobs brought on by drink and an illusion of privacy. Xander listened to the bed creak again and he watched through his eyelashes as Giles stumbled out of the room again, closing the door rather loudly on his way out.

Xander lay tangled on the floor and for the first time he realized that Giles was a guy. Well, he had always known that Giles was a guy in that he wasn't a girl, but somehow he had always expected Giles to be better than the rest of them. Giles was supposed to have the answers and Giles was supposed to fix it when Xander went and cast a spell over all the women in town and Giles was supposed to be able to train a slayer and have a job and sit and listen to their adolescent problems. He somehow never really thought of Giles as *just* a guy who was clearly falling apart on his own. Of course, Xander also realized that this version of Giles who didn't have the answers and sought them in the bottom of a bottle could never help him, so he wasn't sure where that left him.

If Angel was right, Spike didn't really want him but rather he just needed something to focus on other than himself. Even more importantly, Spike needed to obsess over someone who could be an equal partner instead of accepting Spike's affections without being able to repay them. Xander's heart tore at the idea that he wasn't enough, but Angel's words pointed out a truth he couldn't just ignore. Giles clearly didn't have the resources to take care of another nutcase since he seemed so close to the edge himself. He suspected that if he stayed here, he was going to slide off the deep end and possibly take Giles with him. Joyce...well Joyce had a right to some normalcy, and nut-boy wasn't normal. She needed to get her life and her health back. Besides, Joyce meant Spike, and he didn't think Angel would let him get near Spike again. Sometimes he felt like Angel was really just trying to protect Spike by getting the crazy human away from him, and other times Xander felt like he was Angel’s excuse for wanting to hurt Spike. In the darkest corner of his mind he wondered if Angel would use him as an excuse to stake Spike.

So, that left Angel. Xander tried not to shiver at the idea of belonging to the broody one. He imagined a future where he was left in a corner out of sight. He tried not to think about what it would mean to never be touched again. But listing all the options really did leave him with the suspicion that he was about to move to L.A. Now that he had made himself totally miserable, Xander allowed himself to sink into the memory of being chained to the bed under Spike's body, and as he drifted back to sleep, whether the expression was love or obsession didn't matter any more because it was the closest to thing to happiness that Xander ever expected to feel again.

Xander woke up gasping for air as the feeling of the carpet under his back somehow translated into the feeling of the whip as his trainer had let it rest against his naked skin just before it cut into his flesh. The sheets had come loose and Xander flailed his arms, slamming the top of his one forearm into the edge of the dresser so hard that he almost cried out, but instead he closed his eyes and tried to gather his wits as he figured out where he was. He crawled out of the corner and noticed that his sheet was damp with sweat, but his clothes were gone, so he wrapped it around his waist, ignoring the musky scent of fear that rose to his nose as he did so.

At the door, he hesitated. Angel had threatened go after Spike if he disobeyed, but he didn't know whether the rule about opening the door from the inside meant not opening the door to try and escape or not opening the door at all. He could hear someone banging around in the front rooms, so if he opened the door, they couldn't possibly think he was trying to escape, but Angel had said to not open the door, and his bladder was starting to demand that he either find a bathroom or pee on Giles' carpet, and Xander stood immobilized as he tried to sort through the choices and the voices in his head.

Finally, with his hand trembling, he raised his fist and knocked on the door. The metal on metal sounds stopped and Xander stepped back as he waited for the door to open.

"Xander? Do you need something?" Giles asked as he opened the door. Xander actually did snort in disgust before he could control himself, and horror encompassed him as he realized what he had done. He carefully schooled his voice before he answered the question.

"I need the bathroom," Xander said quietly as he tried to control any other flashes of emotion.

"It's right down the hall, Xander. You know where it is," Giles said, and thanks G-man for rubbing in the fact that he had obviously just done something else wrong if the frustrated expression and clipped tones in Giles’ voice meant anything. Xander ducked his head down and found himself missing his trainer who at least explained the rules. Xander had gotten quite good at escaping punishment, but without saying any of this, he gathered the sheet and started to walk past Giles.

“Xander, the sheet…” Giles began, and Xander immediately pulled the sheet off and dropped it on the floor. Right, his clothes were gone, he shouldn’t have tried to fashion new ones. “Xander, I didn’t mean. Oh good lord, go to the bathroom and I’ll get your clothes.”

Dismissed at last, Xander hurried to the bathroom before he accidentally peed on the floor. Once he had pushed the door shut and stood in front of the toilet, Xander struggled to get his brain straightened out. Of course Giles hadn’t wanted the sheet. God, he had just flashed Giles, and while he could admit to harboring an evil flashage thought or two in high school, the librarian had never been a target of that fantasy.

Okay, so what had Giles wanted? What had he done wrong? Xander turned on the water and started drinking from the faucet since his brain had no obvious answer. His brain had no answers on a lot of issues lately, but Xander just reminded himself to submit. That’s all he really had to do in order to make everyone happy. Giles would know that he had taken him away from Spike. Angel would know that Spike wasn’t burdened with Xander. Either that or Angel would know he was safe from Spike—he couldn’t figure that out. Spike would go and find a strong, powerful vampire mate to obsess over. The girls…” Xander stood up with water dripping off his lips as the pain of that washed over him. But it wasn’t his choice, he reminded himself. He wasn’t in the saving business any more and if Giles and Angel ruined Spike’s best chance of getting the girls back, he didn’t have the power to stop that.

“Xander, I’ve brought you clothes. I washed them,” Giles called from outside the door, and after a brief pause, Xander opened the door just wide enough for Giles to pass the clothing in to him. Xander held the clothes in his hands and wondered whether he was supposed to shower or dress now. Xander thought about everything he knew about Giles and decided to shower.

By the time he left the bathroom he could smell the remains of bacon and eggs, no doubt the source of the cooking sounds. He stepped nervously to the edge of the kitchen and waited.

“Xander, you startled me,” Giles said as he turned to put a pan away and nearly dropped it. Xander just ducked his head and avoided making eye contact. Big sigh at that, but Xander really didn’t know what else to do. “Xander, sit down and I’ll get you breakfast.” Xander momentarily cheered at the thought of bacon and eggs, but then he faced the table and came to the confusion over the word sit. He must have stared at the table too long because Giles called from the kitchen. “Just sit in any chair, Xander.” Okay so that solved the floor versus chair issue Xander thought as he took the chair farthest from the kitchen. He had missed his second meal last night so he really was hungry.

Giles came out with a bowl and put it down. Oatmeal. Xander reminded himself not to make a face.

“This is the kind with cinnamon and sugar. I’m sure you’ll like it.” Giles put a spoon down beside the bowl before going back to the kitchen for a glass of milk. Xander stared at the food helplessly. He couldn’t bring himself to admit the problem to Giles, but every time he even thought of picking up the spoon or the glass his stomach knotted so badly that he couldn’t even consider eating.

Xander sat at the table just looking at the bowl, and suddenly he couldn't even find the energy to care any more. Not like it mattered, just sit and stay out of Giles' way and don't give Giles and Spike a reason to kill each other because he didn't want either of them dead. Xander had stared at the bowl for so long that he flinched in surprise when Giles bumped him.

"Sorry. Just taking the bowl since you're not hungry," Giles offered, and Xander watched the food disappear without comment. Yep, he was just a pathetic man who's not hungry, he mused as he felt his stomach rumble. He'd gotten used to regular meals with Spike, and now missing two meals bothered him more than it used to.

"Do you want to watch T.V.?" Giles asked as he knelt down next to Xander's chair, and Xander wanted to give him an answer, but he had no idea what he wanted anymore. He wasn't sure he even knew what he needed. Besides, what he wanted or needed didn't matter since he couldn't have it anyway.

"Okay, maybe we can just go sit in the living room and talk." Xander took that as an order, so he followed Giles the three or four steps to the living room and then stood nervously, unsure how to handle himself when faced with actual furniture. Honestly, he'd rather stand.

Giles sat on one end of the couch and gestured toward the other end with a wave. Xander closed his eyes for a moment as he sought some inner strength before he walked over and sat on the couch, pulling his knees up in front of him.

"Xander I'm not going to try and pretend to know the answers; we're just going to have to work this through together. I've called the council, and they're sending a specialist to talk to you....It would help if you actually talked," Giles' voice had that familiar, sarcastic tone on the last sentence, but it wasn't a question so Xander waited.

"Right now my guess is that you're angry with me for taking you away from Spike, and I understand that. I'm not angry with you for wanting Spike," Giles commented, and Xander all but snorted his disbelief. Giles was all about taking things away from Spike, and Xander could see that even if Giles couldn't. "This feeling of connection you have with Spike comes from your fear." Giles paused.

"Xander, you don't have to tell me these things, but I want you to answer in your own mind." Giles took a deep breath.

"When you were with the slavers, were you afraid for your life?" Well duh, Giles. Fear was more constant than breathing in the training area.

"Were you afraid of Spike?" That took more thought. He certainly expected Spike to beat and rape him, but he hadn't been afraid of that. Even during the rape he hadn't been afraid, and looking back, he now understood that Spike had done it to protect his cover as a slave buyer since the no demon would believe that Spike would buy a slave and then not use him. Spike himself hadn't really wanted to have sex, and he had thought Xander enjoyed the experience. So, not only had he never feared Spike, but he really never had a reason to fear Spike.

"Were you hurt badly?" No, Giles. Trainers made suggestions and rewarded good behavior with sugar cubes. How the hell did the watcher think they turned humans into good obedient little slaves? Xander repressed an urge to berat Giles up side the head.

"Do you feel badly about yourself, doubt yourself?" Xander didn't even have to think on that one. He knew that he'd lost any good sense he might have once had, which is why he truly didn't trust his own judgment. So, back to the 'no duh' answer here.

"Does Spike do little things that make you think he likes you?" Xander didn't limit Spike's kindness to little things. Let's see, Spike was teaching him how to fight and gave him decorations and praised him for making his own decisions even about stupid little things and held him so that he didn't feel afraid. Yeah, Spike had cared for him with more kindness than Xander had a right to expect after the whole tying Spike to the chair thing.

"Xander these are symptoms of Stockholm syndrome. It's really quite common even in human hostage situations. You need to hold onto some sort of hope, so you take any gesture on the part of the captor as an act of kindness and proof that the captor likes you and won't kill you. It's a way of controlling you." Xander thought of his trainer's hand smoothing back his hair while he was in the cage and he understood the logic. He had felt a weird sort of loyalty to his trainer even while he was terrified of the demon.

"Spike likes controlling people, especially the people who once saw him brought down by the Initiative. For him, it's better than seeing us dead," Xander thought about that, but it didn't fit what he'd seen of Spike. It didn't fit with Spike losing at Trivial Pursuit and having to rinse his own mugs.

"Spike isn't really being kind to you; he's using kindness to get you to accept him as your Master, and you'll never be free if you don't recognize the pattern and stop turning to Spike as your protection," Giles finished and then he leaned back on the couch. Xander sat on the far end of the sofa and considered Giles' words. He really didn't have anything else to do in the oppressive silence that fell over the room. Could Spike be trying to make Xander's slave status permanent? Xander considered and admitted that it might be true. Spike had been essentially alone since Drusilla had left, and Spike might want a lover that he could control more easily than Drusilla, but that didn't really bother Xander. If Spike wanted to keep him, Xander wouldn't argue, except for the whole Angel argument about Spike needing a better partner than Xander, which was also true. Xander's mind was saved from imminent burn out from running in circles by the sound of the doorbell.

"Stay there," Giles said with the first clear orders Xander had heard yet. It calmed his nerves to have a nice clear direction as Giles went to open the door. When the blond woman pushed her way in without even a word, Xander wasn't sure who was more surprised at Joyce's appearance, him or Giles.

"Joyce?" Giles asked in confusion.

"Oh thank god you and Angel haven't gone and done something stupid," Joyce said, and Xander just continued to watch her as her eyes went from him to Giles.

"Yes, of course, heaven forbid we do something foolish like move in with a vampire," Giles said dryly as he closed the door. "Please, Joyce, do come in and sit down." Of course, Giles said that as Joyce settled in at the far end of the couch, and Xander had to restrain himself from moving. He just wasn't sure whether he wanted to move away or move toward. He wasn't sure what he wanted, truth be told, so he just sat and watched.

"Xander, are you all right?" Joyce asked, and Xander just blinked back, unable to even form an answer.

"As you can see, he is *not* all right, and I have no intention of allowing Spike to continue abusing him." Giles took his own seat on a chair.

"I never saw Spike do anything abusive," Joyce protested, but Giles just rolled his eyes in contempt. This was almost as good as watching a fight at home, Xander thought to himself. The drinking, the contempt, the mutual frustration and blame, he was feeling right at home now.

"Xander, what happened to your arm?" Xander looked over toward Joyce at the sound of his name and then he looked down where the skin was swollen and red with small drops of dried blood on the surface.

"I hit it," Xander commented unemotionally.

"Seems like there's more abuse here than with Spike," Joyce snapped back sharply and Giles quickly protested.

"The boy has always been clumsy. He must have slipped."

"The *boy* isn't clumsy at all now. Xander, how did you hurt your arm?"

"I hit the dresser."

"*Why* did you hit the dresser?"

"I had a nightmare."

"About what?" Xander could tell from the tone of voice that Joyce expected him to break at any moment; she talked as if he were a three-year-old victim of sexual abuse, but at least she actually talked *with* him.

"Trainer's whip," he answered truthfully.

Giles now interrupted. "Oh, Xander. Why didn't you tell me?" Xander resisted the urge to point out that Giles hadn't asked.

"You have no clue what you're doing here, do you?" Joyce asked as she turned to face Giles. "Xander, down," Joyce gently ordered as she pointed to a spot next to her, and Xander's anxieties which had ratcheted up to into fear land all dissipated at the clear order. He slipped off the couch and knelt next to Joyce, leaning against her leg in an incorrect position that would have earned him a whipping in his trainer's presence. “He needs Spike,” Joyce pointed out.

"I've researched this condition thoroughly, and I am well aware of the psychological dependence he has formed with Spike." Boy, Giles had his snotty English school teacher voice out now. At that point, Xander’s stomach chose to make its displeasure know with a low rumbling noise.

"Xander, are you hungry?" Joyce asked.

"Yes,” Xander answered, grateful that someone had asked.

"I fixed him breakfast, Joyce, so if he's hungry he had every opportunity to eat."

"I guessing he didn't," Joyce objected. "Did you put the food down in front of him or feed him?"

"I am not going to feed him as though he were a baby," Giles scoffed, and Xander pressed himself into Joyce's leg. He'd never felt so stupid in all his life, not even when Giles had ripped into him about falling asleep on Oz watch. Joyce's hand found his hair and gently stroked it.

"Rupert Giles, if you can't see the damage you're doing, you need to pull your head out of either your bottle or your ass." Xander physically jerked at that comment, totally unprepared for such a condemnation out of Buffy's mom of all people. Maybe she'd been hanging around Spike a little too much.

"Well, I..."

"Don't even finish that because if you start explaining why you had a reason to insult Xander like that, you aren't going to like my response. He is *not* a baby; he is an incredibly strong young man who has suffered and who has been tortured so much that he can't pick up his own food. It's not about being a baby, and if you had done nearly as much research as you claim, you'd know that."

"I certainly am aware of the behavioral conditioning aspects of torture; I just hadn't thought that the slavers would have..." Giles stopped, and Xander watched the glasses come off in that familiar gesture of frustration and loss.

"You aren't aware of entirely too much, and you're going to destroy Xander before you figure it all out," Joyce pointed out in a coldly logical tone of voice. "Spike understands more about the slavers and more about a broken human psyche."

"Joyce, he's better off here," Giles said in a voice only slightly tinged with desperation and pleading.

"Really? Because the last time I saw him, he was happy and sleeping in a bed and occasionally making inappropriate off-hand remarks that made him blush when he realized he'd said them. I'd say that he was better off then."

"Spike is turning Xander into his slave; I won't have that," Giles suddenly snapped in a voice far more Ripper than Giles.

"Rupert," Joyce said quietly. "Xander has been a slave for so long that he doesn't know how to be what you're trying to force him to be. He isn't our old Xander anymore even if he has managed to hold on to parts of himself through that horrific training."

"And you're taking Spike's word for this, just like you're taking Spike's word for Buffy's death." Giles' anger practically flowed from his body in waves, and Joyce leaned back away from him with a sigh.

"I held William though *his* nightmares, and I know exactly how my daughter died." Xander looked up at Joyce both surprised and horrified. She knew about Spike's made up story right? He looked into her eyes as she gazed down on him and stroked the hair back out of his eyes. "I know exactly how my daughter died," she repeated, "and I don't blame William at all." Xander felt tears start to fill his eyes, and Joyce simply wiped his eyes with the back of her finger.

"So you're taking Spike's side again," Giles snapped, breaking the silent communication Xander had found with Joyce.

"I'm taking Xander's side now. I took the side of the truth then." Joyce wasn't angry or babbling or desperate: she was calm and reasonable and infinitely motherly.

"You cannot condone what Spike has done here!"

"Spike hasn't done anything except help Xander recover, and now I'm seeing much of that recovery lost. Rupert, he would tease Spike and smile and fall asleep in the living room and make all these facial expressions that told me exactly what he was thinking, and now he's gone back to square one. You can't keep him."

"I have to protect him," Giles said, and even Xander could hear the note of desperation.

"You're killing him. If you want to protect him, let him leave."

"I just can't…"

"Rupert, I swear....I might not take an ax to your head like I did with William, but I'm starting to think that I have a frying pan with your name on it. You need to worry about your own mental health and maybe then you can have a relationship with Xander. Right now, we're leaving. Come on Xander." Joyce stood and immediately started walking toward the door. Xander bounced in nervousness on the floor once or twice: his growing awareness of his own unhealthy need for his Master warring with that raw, undeniable need, and then he sprang up and followed Joyce closely at heel.

"Joyce Summers," Giles demanded just as Joyce opened the door, and Xander didn't move as Joyce turned around to face Giles again.

"No, Rupert. You are not responsible for saving everyone, and you need to save yourself right now. You and Angel stay away from Xander and stay away from my house." She turned and walked out, and Xander followed still in bare feet, leaving the door open behind him. When Joyce opened the car door, he hesitated only a bare second before deciding that sitting on the seat was better than being left behind as a nut-case, so he clenched his teeth and sat down as Joyce slammed the door and walked around to the driver's side.

"You do know that will make them stay away for about 10 minutes, right?" Joyce asked as she started the car and backed out of the driveway.

"Yep," Xander answered as his stomach started to unknot at the thought that he would be going back to his Master. Of course, Angel and Giles has made their mark, and he couldn't let himself believe that Spike would keep him forever or even that it would be healthy for either of them to stay together, but he could help find his girls, and then he could be with Spike until the vampire lost interest or turned him. He pushed aside thoughts of the future and resolved to focus on remembering every good moment in case Spike took the leaving option. As a slave, he was actually quite good at ignoring the future, so he used that skill and just focused on the memory of his Master's arms around him—a feeling he had given up on feeling again.

Chapter 12:

Joyce pulled into the garage next to the DeSoto, and Xander got out of the car on his own, following her into the kitchen.

“About soddin’ time,” Spike exclaimed and then stopped. “Thought you were just goin’ ta have a look-see, luv,” Spike finished, and Xander dropped his head. Wasn’t Spike happy to see him? Why did he even care that Spike wasn’t happy to see him? An unfamiliar confusion milled around in Xander’s brain making it hard for him to decide what he felt.

“I couldn’t leave him there,” Joyce commented, and Xander just stood inside the doorway without knowing what to do.

“Pet, come here,” Spike ordered and Xander walked over to him and stood in front of Spike who still sat at the small kitchen table smoking, and if the ashtray was any indication, chain smoking. Because Spike was sitting, Xander could watch the vampire’s confused expression as he stood above Spike looking down. After a couple of seconds, Spike snapped Xander’s butt with a finger, and Xander slowly lowered himself into the Position kneel as ordered, but the whole time, he thought of Giles’ words, that there was something wrong with him for doing this, and he remembered what he’d thought of the vampire back when Spike had been tied to his chair in the Basement of Doom.

Why didn’t he just get up and tell Spike that he didn’t want to be this pathetic man who had to kneel at someone else’s feet? Probably because he did want to; he could feel the tension flow out of him the minute he settled into his kneel. He straightened his back a little and spread his knees to get into perfect form, and the knowledge that he was following orders untied a band from around his heart, and Xander nearly cried with frustration that kneeling was the only thing that made the constant undercurrent of pain and fear go away. No wonder Giles was worried about him; he was pathetic.

Xander kept his head down and waited. Sure enough, Spike tapped him on the head, and Xander sunk into the Down kneel, relaxing as Spike ran fingers though his hair. Spike’s hand brushed the back of his head and Xander flinched.

“Bloody hell,” Spike cursed. “Pet, are you hurt?”

“Yes, Master.” Xander knelt and just hoped that Spike didn’t do anything too drastic. Spike waited several seconds before continuing.

“What happened?”

“Giles accidentally hit me, Master.” Xander hoped his one word addition to the truth would calm Spike, but it was Joyce who gasped at his words.

“When did this happen?” Spike’s voice remained entirely calm.

“Last night, Master.”

“And we’re back to soddin’ twenty questions. Pet, just tell me the story.” Spike’s hand pulled Xander’s chin up until Xander ended up looking into Spike’s eyes, but that almost made it worse because Xander could see the Master who had tried to help him, but he could also see the pathetic excuse for a vampire who had crawled to the Slayer for help, a slayer Spike had killed, but then Joyce didn’t blame him, so Xander didn’t have a right to either. And Xander was back to mentally chasing his own tail. Suddenly Spike quirked an eyebrow at him and said in a louder voice, “Pet, I told you to tell me the story.” Xander’s eyes dropped instinctively to Spike’s stomach as he felt a wave of fear roll though him. He’d failed; he hadn’t obeyed. He rushed to talk.

“Giles tried to cut off my collar but the bolt cutters slipped and he hit me in the head with the handle of the bolt cutters.” Xander finished and waited for Spike’s response. He didn’t have long to wait.

“And the wanker still went ahead and cut the collar off, that bloody, inconsiderate, effin’ pathetic…”

“William,” Joyce said in a warning tone of voice and Spike stopped.

“Yeah, I know, luv. It just grates me that he does this after all we’ve done to cover for his sorry ass what with me killing the beasties and you covering for him when demons come complainin’ to me about his screw ups at the store as if my claim meant I actually care what the wanker does.”

“We both know he’s suffering, and we just need to keep him away from Xander. And as far as that goes, I don’t mind doing customer service for Giles considering it’s your money I’m spending.” Xander watched out of the corner of his eye as Joyce put a conspiratorial hand on Spike’s shoulder. So Giles was falling apart so badly that Spike and Joyce were covering for him? Xander thought back to the man who had stumbled drunk into his room. He never would have expected Giles to fall apart so thoroughly, but having seen that, he knew they were telling the truth. Giles feared Spike would shut down his store, but Spike was obviously using his new wealth and his position in the demon community as Giles’ “master” to keep Giles in business. Joyce finally continued. “He’s hurting, and he’s trying to protect Xander at all costs.”

“Yeah, well the cost is goin’ ta be the boy’s sanity if Giles doesn’t back off,” Spike said.

“First things first,” Joyce declared matter-of-factly. “Feed Xander and then we’ll consider our options.”

“Only one option, luv: the boy and I are heading out to find the girls before the sun goes down and Peaches has a chance to come after us.”

“I know.” Joyce said sadly, and Xander wondered why the woman suddenly sounded so tired.

“If the pouf starts playin’ dirty with the monthly money, you have the other accounts, right?” Spike asked as he stood, leaving Xander kneeling on the floor and feeling a little like the family dog as the two of them made cooking noises behind him.

“I have the numbers in the safe,” Joyce agreed. Xander listened as they moved in silence, and he realized that they truly were a weird sort of family. A weird family that was trying to take care of Giles and now wanted to take care of him. Part of Xander wanted to fall into that warmth, but part of him threw up one doubt after another.

What if this was just a response to the torture and he didn’t really care for Spike like he thought he did? He thought of the relief and fondness he felt for his trainer, and then he thought of Spike. Were those feelings the same? What if his feelings were real, but Angel was right about Spike just needing someone else to obsess over. Maybe Spike didn’t really want *him* as much as he wanted *someone*, and if that was the case, his Master might eventually replace him. If he gave the last piece of himself to Spike and then Spike left him, he had no doubt about just how long he would last. But when Angel caught Spike, his Master had just wanted to protect him, so maybe Angel was wrong. But then again, Xander didn’t know if any of his thinking had any logic left at all after six months in Leshar’s loving care. Xander mentally snorted at his own joke.

Xander followed when Spike left the kitchen carrying two plates, Joyce behind him carrying two glasses and a sports bottle. When Spike sat down, Xander fell into a Position kneel at his side, head bent. Part of him felt so completely right, and part of him felt so completely guilty for feeling so completely right, but Xander pushed that part back as he ate pieces of fried chicken from his master’s fingers. The sports bottle held down at an angle was a surprise, but Xander took it in his mouth and drank. The cold milk was the best thing he’d ever tasted and he drank with relish as Spike ran a careful hand through his hair, avoiding the sore spot on the back of his head.

All too soon Joyce left and Spike led him upstairs where the vampire started packing. He was shoving a frightening amount of stuff from the closet into two duffle bags, but Xander’s position kneeling by the bed didn’t allow him to see what exactly Spike was taking. Suddenly a small bag flew through the air and hit Xander on the chest softly before falling to the ground in front of him.

“Go get the CD’s out of the car, pet,” Spike ordered, and Xander stood up to go do as ordered when a voice stopped him in the doorway. “Xander?” He turned to look at his Master with lowered eyes. “Do we need to take the cage?” Spike asked with no more emotion than if he’d remarked on the weather. Xander thought about it, and honestly he wanted the cage about as much as he had ever wanted the cage. In the cage he didn’t have to worry about whose voice to trust. In the cage he couldn’t make a wrong decision. In the cage, his thoughts didn’t circle like vultures ready to rip him apart. In the cage he could let all that go, but he also remembered his horror when he first saw those impassive faces blinking at him from the trainer’s shelves, and he took a deep breath trying to steady his nerves.

“No, Master,” he answered, listening to his own voice crack with detached disgust for his own weakness. Xander waited to be dismissed, but Spike just sat on the floor with a half full duffle bag looking at him with a head cocked to one side.

“Right, go on, then,” Spike finally said, and Xander trotted downstairs with his small bag in hand. Xander was head first in the passenger side of the car when the garage door opened, and he sat up so suddenly that he hit the back of his already injured head, sucking in a breath of air as he ignored the pain in favor of the panic at the wide sunny street now clear through the open door. Joyce had parked a panel van on the street, and now she walked toward him. Xander pulled the bag closer to his chest and backed up a couple of steps.

“I need to move the DeSoto,” Joyce said softly as she got closer to the garage. Xander backed up a few more steps until he reached the kitchen door where he stood immobile and silent. Okay, this shouldn’t be such a big deal. It was only Joyce; it was only a view of an open street. However, Xander had to admit that the view of the open street nearly sent him running in fear: the normal looking houses painted white and yellow and brown. He could imagine how they must look at night with the yellowing street lights spreading islands that speciously promised safety.

Xander had been in one of those islands when the van had stopped. Asking for directions. Such a damn human thing to do. Why had he stepped up? He could hear the door sliding, metal scraping against metal as he stupidly stood there trying to figure it all out. Stupid. A hand touched his arm in the darkness, and Xander turned and sprinted into the house like he should have six months earlier. He ran up the stairs and didn’t even know where he was; he felt strong hands holding his arms, and he could see those bottom tusks, and he pulled back in terror and then the hands tightened and he knew what would follow. He dropped to the floor unwilling to live through it again, but he felt only a weight on his back, no claws ripping, no pain. The weight stayed on him as Xander sobbed and then he could hear words.

“Shh, pet. ‘S’all right. Wankers are gone and if I ever see ‘em again, I’ll rip ‘em to bloody shreds for ya,” a voice promised, and Xander slowly realized that the bag of CD’s was pressing uncomfortably into his chest and the weight was Spike’s own body draped over his. A lamp lay broken on the floor, and Xander felt a pain at his foot. Xander took a deep breath and tried to ignore the voice that told him he really was as insane as Dru ever dreamed of being. Maybe Dru would want him if Spike ever got tired of him.

“Ya back with us now?” Spike asked, and Xander only nodded. Spike must have believed him though because the vampire got up and Xander quickly slipped into the Floor kneel, humiliated by his own lack of control and humiliated by his need to humiliate himself by kneeling on the floor to a Master who obviously had not gotten his money’s worth out of his purchase. He pressed his forehead into the carpet and tried to get his breathing and heart rate back to normal. Panicking wasn’t allowed; fear wasn’t allowed. Slaves just accepted, but he wasn’t a slave a small voice said, sounding just like Giles.

Spike’s hand ran up and down his back, the shirt making the gesture feel dull and distant.

“He’s bleeding,” Joyce commented, and Xander’s best guess was his foot, but he stayed in place not having been given a command to move, and part of him just wanted to fall into the pattern of obedience. It hurt less.

“Where?” Spike asked, and Joyce must have pointed or gestured because Xander didn’t hear an answer; he just heard Spike getting up and moving around. Footsteps walked away and then quickly returned. He felt his foot lifted, and he balanced on one knee as something cool and wet washed his foot. He felt a firm leg press into his hip, obviously offering some support, but Xander pulled farther away, ignoring the protest from his kneecap.

“Here, let me,” Spike said, and the angle of the pressure on his foot shifted, and something firmer and smoother now soothed the sore foot.

“Spike, that is borderline disgusting,” Joyce said, but there was no answer as the soothing touch continued to ease the pain before widening out to stroke the arch of the foot next to the cut. Finally the touch stopped and Spike answered.

“Wot? Not goin’ ta waste good blood,” Spike snarked, and Xander could practically imagine the smirk. He had to imagine the smirk since his forehead was still on the ground, his hands clenched behind his back and his one knee starting to ache from holding too much of his body weight. Whoever held his foot released it, and Xander tucked the now comforted limb back under him without breaking position. “Besides, the saliva will make it heal faster,” Spike finished and Xander figured out what Spike had done.

“Just don’t ever offer to lick my brain,” Joyce said dryly and then her footsteps retreated, leaving Xander with his Master, his memories, and his embarrassment.

“What was it pet?” Spike asked, and Xander wasn’t sure what Spike meant so he remained silent. “What scared ya?” Damn, Xander really didn’t want to admit this…he should be able to retain some dignity, he thought as he knelt with his head to the floor in front of a vampire he had once called the ‘Impotent One.’ Right, dignity be damned.

“The street and the houses, Master,” Xander admitted mortified at his own patheticness.

“Street didn’t scare ya, pet, just reminded ya of somethin’. What really scared ya?”

“The thought of being taken, Master.” Xander felt a little better now. That was something worthy of fear; white picket houses and a street…not so much.

“Won’t let it soddin’ happen,” Spike insisted, and Xander felt the tap at his head, so he pulled himself up into a more comfortable kneel. “Bloody well won’t let anyone take ya,” Spike promised, and then Xander felt himself being pulled into the vampire’s lap. Xander wanted to melt into the embrace and let himself feel safe, but part of him whispered that Spike wouldn’t let anyone else take him because Spike himself had already made a claim. He wasn’t free and safe, he was Spike’s. Xander lay stiffly in Spike’s lap until Spike released him and gave him a thump on the butt.

Xander went into a kneel, and Spike retrieved the bags, including the CD bag that he stuffed into one of the duffels that already looked ready to burst.

“Time ta get out of Dodge before the sheriff shows up,” Spike said as he headed out the door. Xander followed through rooms darkened by sun-proof shades. In the garage, the side panel of the van was open, and Xander had a flash of panic, but then Spike tossed in the bags, and a strong hand was on his arm anchoring him to the present and holding all those fears at bay. Of course, the hand didn’t stop other fears from creeping in at the edges.

Once they were in the back, Joyce pulled a thick curtain between the driver’s compartment and the back, leaving only the weak light coming through the heavily shielded back window so that they were in a sort of late twilight even as Joyce backed the van out into the daylight. Xander stood awkwardly as the van bumped and rocked, unsure about whether to sit on the bench along the side or kneel at his Master’s feet or throw himself out the van door. Van door actually sounded good because the other two actions had too much symbolic significance.

“Down,” Spike ordered, and Xander almost sighed in relief that the decision had been made for him. He knelt down beside his master.

"Xander? What do you need?" Spike asked seriously.

"I..." Xander's words failed him again as he knelt by his Master's side. He needed to feel okay about kneeling at his Master's side. He needed to feel like he wasn't somehow ruining his Master's life by being here. He needed to know that what he was feeling was all him and not some screwy, freaky psychosis that he would one day wake up from and die from embarrassment. He needed to feel like he wasn't falling apart.

Spike suddenly knelt next to him, a cool hand cupping his cheek and forcing him to look right into his Master's blue-blue eyes. Spike knelt there silent and waiting and finally Xander took a breath to answer.

"I need a Master," Xander whispered.

"Ya have a Master, Xander," Spike countered. Xander drew another breath, not really wanting to go deeper than that, but he suspected that his Master wasn't going to let him get away with less than honesty.

"I need to feel okay about having a Master," he offered, giving Spike part of the ugliness inside that had poisoned his peace of mind.

"And ya aren't now?" Spike asked.

"No, Master."

"Why not, pet?" Xander took a deep breath.

"I'm afraid that I'll wake up and hate myself for being like this," Xander admitted.

"Oi, that's Giles talkin'." As Xander watched in fascination, the gold sparks appeared in the blue of Spike's eyes. Part of him feared for Giles' safety, and part of him pointed out that if Spike truly had any intention of hurting Giles he could have done so already. Xander just waited, slightly uncomfortable as he knelt on the floor of the van.

"Position," Spike unexpectedly said, and Xander stared at his master for a second before his brain processed the order and he knelt up into them more formal stance.

"Butt up," Spike ordered, and Xander looked up in shock. Spike had never given that order and he wondered if the vampire was about to punish him for his doubts. Xander stood and spread his legs as far as possible before bending at the waist, keeping his knees straight and bracing his hands on the floor. The position left his butt up in the air, and left him very little balance or control, most of which Xander used just to keep from falling over from the small movements of the van over potholes. Spike stood and Xander could hear him walking around to his backside. Xander saw Spike's boots through his own legs since his head hung limply toward the floor.

"What do ya need, pet?" Spike asked again.

"I don't know," Xander answered, and he heard the crack of a hand against his butt before he felt the dull thudding ache of the slap. He'd been hurt ten thousand times worse, but it shocked him that Spike would do it, and so he indignantly stood up. He felt a hand at his back and then Xander knew how badly he had failed his Master, he dropped back down into position and started trembling at the thought that if he couldn’t' be a good slave, Spike might not want him. He couldn't face Giles again, and if he ended up with Angel, he would just kill himself. Death would be better than life being ignored in a corner.

"What do ya want right now?" Spike demanded, and the "want" word circled ominously even as Xander tried to answer his Master. "What does my White Knight want?" Spike demanded again, and Xander ignored the worms squiggling in his stomach at the thought of admitting to having a want.

"I want to get the girls back, Master," Xander answered. The hand that had spanked him now rubbed the same cheek, soothing away the already disappearing ache.

"And why am I takin' ya with me?"

"To convince them you're a slaver, Master."

"And will a slave that hesitates impress them?"

"No, Master."

"Then why are you hesitatin' pet?" Spike asked, the hand still on his butt.

"I don't know, Master." The hand disappeared and then returned to swat the opposite cheek even harder. "I'm afraid, Master," Xander admitted, and he tried to stand again, but he fell back down into position before Spike could do or say anything. He figured he already had enough trouble, and he didn't know what Spike would do now that Spike had started using his authority as a Master. Xander thought back to Angel's words about obsession, and he feared Spike for the first time. What if this was just obsession? What if he gave Spike the last part of himself and then Spike left him? What if he wasn’t enough for Spike?

"What are ya afraid of, pet?" Spike asked and again the hand that had slapped his butt now rubbed circles. Xander had endured pain that made this level of punishment seem more affectionate than brutal, but tears now welled in his eyes from either the slaps or from what Spike was forcing him to admit or from the fears that he still held in his heart.

"I'm afraid..." Xander hesitated, unsure of what part of himself to reveal, and Spike’s hand stilled on his backside, Xander suspected as some sort of subtle warning.

"I'm afraid that I'll fail Willow and Tara, Master."

"Ya can't fail them. All ya have to do is please me, and the rescuin' part is on me, pet. I'll find them and I'll get them out, so you don't have to be afraid of lettin' anyone down."

"I'm afraid I've already let everyone down." Xander breathed out roughly, feeling a need to cry on the edge of his awareness. It wasn’t out of pain, Xander knew that, but he felt as if saying the fear out loud made it real.

"Bloody hell, you're worse than the watcher for doin' the guilt thing, pet. How have you let anyone down?"

"I didn't stay strong. Giles is right about me being messed up because on some days I wanted my trainer's attention...most days," Xander whispered the last two words so softly that he wasn't sure Spike even heard them, but at least he'd let it out.

"The watcher with all his research still doesn't know his arse from a hole in the ground. That's not messed up, that's bloody normal. I used ta do all sorts of stupid things just to get Angelus' attention. I knew he'd beat me bloody, but afterwards he'd hold me or bugger me into next week, so the pain was worth knowing that he wanted me too. Still sometimes have trouble seeing the souled broody-boy and not thinking of my sire. So you wanted the trainer's attention, no soddin' wonder. The wonder is that you held on to so much of yourself, pet, so no more thinkin' of yourself as less than strong. I wouldn't bloody have you at my feet if ya weren't strong." Spike stood silent, and then Xander cringed as he heard the question again. "What else are ya afraid of, pet?" Xander wondered if Spike was going to keep it up until Xander didn't have any secrets left.

"You, Master," Xander finally whispered.

"Bloody hell." Xander felt himself pulled out of position as Spike wrapped arms around his middle and pulled him backwards until he practically fell on Spike, and then Spike arranged his limbs so the he was curled in Spike's lap. Most of him wanted to just press himself into a little ball and hide in Spike's lap forever, but another part of himself was repeating a thousand names from the past: Sissy, Wimp, Pansy, Girly-boy. The "little ball" vote won only because Spike's arms wrapped around him so tightly that he couldn't possibly escape.

"I don’t ever want your fear, pet. Wanted ya to talk, and I knew you were fightin' yourself, rippin' yourself up inside. Wanted ta push down the part of ya that thinks he has to carry everything by himself; that strategy’ll leave ya as nutty as Giles." Spike now gently rocked, and Xander had the image of Spike doing this with Drusilla, rocking her when she started slipping 'round the bend. And then the words sunk in, and Xander considered them. He wouldn't have told Spike those things without some "persuasion," and he did feel better...

"Thank you, Master," Xander muttered.

“For what? For scarin’ ya as bad as the ponce and the git did?”

"I needed to say it, Master. I couldn’t have said it otherwise." Spike stopped rocking.

"I bloody need to know," he finally said in a serious tone of voice, "do ya want to stay with me?" Before Xander could answer, Spike continued talking. "I know ya have all these bloody parts inside bangin' against each other, and ya have ta find a way to make all the parts move in the same general direction or you're goin' ta soddin’ rip yourself to shreds, but there's more than one way to pull the pieces together, pet. Do ya want to be okay with this?" Spike tightened his arms until Xander couldn't move. Xander thought about the question. Only one answer got his girls back, so he laid his head down on Spike's shoulder.

"Yes, Master." A voice inside his head jeered him for his weakness, for his willingness to cling to a killer, but Xander shushed that part of himself as he tried to just enjoy the feeling of safety. Maybe Spike would even give him another collar, he thought.

They sat there on the floor of the van tangled in each other's limbs until the van finally pulled to the side of the road and stopped. Xander was more than half asleep, and when Joyce pulled back the curtain, he blinked rapidly to wake up as she looked down on them with an expression Xander hadn't seen since he was a young child being looked down on by his own mother. A flash of guilt ran through him. Did his own mother even know that he had gone missing? Had anyone told his mother that he was back? Xander mentally shrugged; it had been a long time since she had looked at him like this.

"We're here," Joyce said, and it must have meant something to Spike because he got up, setting Xander on his feet with ease.

"Right. The other car here?"

"Yep, right where we left it. The sun will be down in about an hour, so you should be able to leave then."

"Not soddin' waitin'. Peaches is goin' to be lookin' for blood, he made that clear after the git took Xander away last night. So, Xander can drive north until the sun's gone down." Xander looked back at his Master in horror before looking at Joyce who had a similar expression on her own face.

"Spike, do you really think that's a good idea?"

"Wot? He's got a license, which is more than I have. He'll take the 99 up towards Sacramento. If ya need us, you have the cell number?"

"In the basement safe," Joyce agreed. "I always thought you were a little paranoid for taking so many precautions, but now I'm grateful."

"That's the thing about bein' impulsive, luv, ya gotta have back up plans for when things blow up in your face," Spike answered with a laugh.

"Well you keep Xander safe, and avoid daylight," Joyce ordered and then she stepped forward and hugged Spike. Xander hadn't yet gotten over that sight when he found himself wrapped in Joyce's arms, and he tentatively raised one hand to give a small hug back. When she pulled back, her eyes were bright, and she stepped away quickly. "Right, I'll take the Volkswagen back to the house, and I'll see you two when you have the girls in tow. Joyce fled.

“So, pet, ya have the wheel,” Spike said with a wave toward the front of the van.


Xander drove until night fell, and then he pulled off the side of the road so that Spike could take the wheel. His hands shook and the steering wheel was covered in sweat, but Spike had ordered him to drive, so drive he did. Unfortunately, with the sun beating in the front windows, Spike couldn’t sit up in front and tell him when to change lanes or how to handle the car that kept braking in front of him or which lane to get in or how fast to drive. Xander felt on the edge of his control when the setting sun finally allowed him to fill the last half of his master’s orders shouted through the curtain: to pull off in a rest stop once the sun went down.

“Master?” Xander called from the front and the curtain was shoved back as Spike threw himself into the passenger side door and looked out.

“Made bloody good time, we’ll get there in a couple of hours,” Spike offered without any further explanation about where “there” was. Xander breathed a sigh at having done it right and not wrecked the van or gotten them lost or gotten them stopped by the cops, but he just sat silent, not sure what he should actually do now.

“So, ya need the bathroom then?” Spike asked as he nodded toward the public restrooms. Xander considered his bladder and then the long walk to the public toilet with strangers wandering around cars filled with frighteningly normal children who yelled random insults to siblings. “Could do with a bit of a stretch myself,” Spike said as he opened the van door and started for the bathrooms. Xander snatched the keys out of the ignition and darted after Spike. Alone at night in a van was a little more than Xander was prepared to face.

“Ya need the bathroom, pet?” Spike asked quietly once Xander caught up and Xander looked at all the children dashing around the picnic tables, freed from the confines of the car while their parents took aspirin and argued about who had to drive the next stretch of road.

“Yes,” Xander said, intentionally keeping his voice low and biting his tongue to avoid saying ‘Master’ in public. Xander flinched as he waited for a reaction, but Spike didn’t comment; he just continued to walk to the bathroom where he leaned against the outside wall and made it clear that he would wait. Part of Xander felt like thanking Spike, preferably by falling to his knees. Another part insisted on saying upright in public and just a tiny bit of him resented the fact that Spike stood there as if Xander couldn’t be trusted to go to the bathroom alone.

Xander finished quickly, bothered by the strangeness of being in a public bathroom with people whose biggest concerns included whether to buy a new car or keep fixing the junker that sucked up money in repair bills. He hurried back to Spike who stood watching a pair of bikers who were setting up camp at a table recently abandoned by a family. Xander looked at Spike, trying to decipher the strange expression, but the moment passed and Spike flicked away his cigarette as he started back for the van.

“You want ta drive then?” Spike asked, and Xander didn’t even hesitate in his answer.

“No, Master.” Oh shit, the father in the blue shirt had heard that and was now ushering his young impressionable children away from the weirdoes. Xander ducked his head in embarrassment. Spike ignored the father and his slave as he strode back to the van and jumped into the driver’s seat. Xander quickly scampered into the passenger side and then sat there in a near panic over sitting in the seat, especially when there was a nice wide space between the seats where he could kneel.

“Keys?” Spike asked and Xander handed them over without comment. Spike started the van and then began pulling out seemingly without looking. “What ya thinkin’, pet?” Spike asked, and Xander had to really stop and think about the answer. His thoughts weren’t as clear as they used to be, not that his thoughts were ever crystal clear, not like Willow’s, and Xander felt a stab of gilt and pain. He pushed away the pain and focused on his master’s question.

“I don’t know what to do, Master.” Xander admitted.

“Are we talkin’ metaphysical, meaning of life rot here, or are we talkin’ about where you’re supposed to sit in the van?”

“Um, the second, Master,” Xander admitted.

“Okay, Some part of ya says ta sit in the seat or else ya wouldn’t be sittin’ there. Why the seat?”

“Because I have just as much right to sit here as you,” Xander snapped defensively, and then he almost stopped breathing in fear. What the hell had he said that for?

“You’re right pet, you have every right ta sit in the seat, so why are ya feeling bad about it?”

“Because part of me says I should be kneeling,” Xander answered as he tried to get some sort of grip before he totally lost his mind. Of course, he might actually be a little too late for that.

“Why? What does the kneelin’ mean, pet?” Spike asked, and Xander looked over, convinced that his Master had just lost what little mind the vampire had to begin with, kicked once too often in the head maybe.

“Kneeling…I mean it’s just…it’s what a slave does.”

“Right, it’s expected. How often do I live by what other people expect?”

“Never, Master?” Xander guessed. The bleached blonde had always made his own path, usually by rejecting every known rule to do exactly what he wanted exactly when he wanted to.

“Exactly. Kneelin’ makes the master feel big and mighty, and I don’t bloody need your help there, and kneelin’ reminds the slave of who has the power. But pet, any power I have is because you trust me ta help ya. If you wanted, you could’ve refused to go with Joyce, and Giles would’ve protected ya. Bloody hell, the pouf would give ya every cent of mine he controls. But ya came back to me.” Xander thought about that. He had made a choice of sorts, but he wasn’t sure what choice he’d made. He just knew he couldn’t stay with Giles without both of them sliding off the cliff to insanity.

“Pet, why’d ya come back?”

“To keep from going insane and taking Giles with me,” Xander quickly replied.

“Too bloody late for the watcher, but I won’t let ya go slidin’ off. Ya came back because I’m older and despite my habit of making bloody stupid mistakes, I’m a hell of a lot wiser than you. So my power doesn’t come from you kneelin’ at my feet; it comes from us both knowin’ that I have the answers you need.” Spike paused a long time before continuing, “But knowin’ I’m tryin’ ta help means ya have ta let go and trust me, pet. Obeyin’ is not optional.”

Xander thought about that as Spike maneuvered the van through ever heavier traffic, cutting off cars with frightening regularity and making obscene gestures out the window until Xander was quite sure someone was going to shoot them. He thought about what Spike said, and in one way he found it comforting: the thought that Spike knew what he was doing and could fix things. He wanted to give in to that feeling and feel safe in Spike’s care. On the other hand, he found a corner of his psyche resenting Spike even more. The vampire was suggesting that Xander needed Spike and was metaphorically on his knees even if he didn’t have to physically prostrate himself.

Xander hadn’t come up with any conclusions more helpful than a realization that he was totally and completely screwed when Spike pulled the van up to a dark warehouse before fumbling around on the dash for a garage door opener. Once Spike had gotten the garage door open, he pulled into the totally black cavern.

“Home Sweet Home,” Spike announced.

“What is it with you and warehouses?” Xander asked, so caught up in his own internal debate that he didn’t edit himself in time. Xander froze, but Spike just chuckled. The sound of the garage door sliding shut left Xander trembling in his seat and he grasped the edge of his seat and focused on Spike.

“I would point out it’s cheap, but I think we’ve established that I no longer worry about money. Funny, really. Angelus was always the one who worried about having money to indulge in human luxuries when stealin’ them wasn’t practical. Dru and me, we just took what we wanted and worried about the angry mobs later. Now I can soddin’ buy what I want, and it actually ruins some of the fun.” Spike opened the van door so that the van’s tiny compartment light created dark shadows in the large and echoing space.

“Stay there a bit,” Spike said, and Xander was relieved because he didn’t want to go out into that darkness. In six months he had lived in the light with the bright overhead fixtures never going off, and now the darkness scared him. It was like he didn’t know what was coming, so he couldn’t prepare. Xander waited until Spike threw a breaker or a set of lights or something because the whole place lit up at once.

A tiny kitchen and living area at one end didn’t even make a dent in all the empty space with concrete floors and exposed girders. Spike could have hidden a whole fleet of vans in the space, but instead Xander could only see a motorcycle and a very simple, unassuming Ford Taurus. Shit, Spike hadn’t been kidding about the being prepared part, Xander thought.

“So, this is home for the next three days,” Spike announced as he crooked a finger, and Xander hurried to follow, slamming the van door behind him.

“Pet, you know we have a problem with going back into the slaver’s auctions, right?” Xander thought about it for several seconds before answer.

“Yes, Master,” he replied guiltily.

“Bloody hell, Xan. You don’t get to feel guilty about it; Giles and Angel did the mucking up this time, but here’s the thing, you don’t have ta think of this as real, okay?” Xander just looked at Spike in confusion. What wasn’t real?

“Pet, if ya have a question, ya gotta ask it. Bein’ around Dru so long gives me an advantage, but I can’t bloody read minds.”

“What isn’t real, Master?” Xander asked.

“What we’re goin’ ta do here, pet. When I put the hip chains on ya, it’s about play actin’. You play act the perfect slave, and I play act the part of a typical Master, and together we get the girls back. But when we’re like this, just talking, I don’t expect ya to be the typical slave because I sure as hell won’t be the typical master,” Spike explained. Xander listened, confused, and suddenly he realized that he hadn’t gone to his knees. He quickly lowered himself even as he tried to figure out what Spike’s words meant. Didn’t he belong to Spike? Didn’t Spike want him? So, the hip chains meant he would act like Spike was his master, but he didn’t have a collar, and it sounded like Spike was telling him that when they found the girls, Spike wouldn’t be his master any more.

Xander sorted through all the possible meanings and all his varied reactions before settling on one question.

“Don’t you want me, Master?” Xander asked. Okay, that came out far needier than he had intended, especially since a chunk of him didn’t want the vampire to want him. A good sized portion of him wanted him to stop wanting the vampire so damn badly that it hurt. Giles’ suggestion about counseling might not be such a bad idea, he decided.

“Bloody hell yes, I want you, but I don’t want you pullin’ yourself apart, and I can see that ya aren’t givin’ yourself to me this time.” This time? Xander tried to figure out what Spike meant by that, and then it occurred to him. When Spike had gone to Leshar for help, back when Xander thought he was going to be given back, Spike had publicly claimed him, and Xander had been relieved, joyous—hell, he was thrilled. He had given everything to try and make Spike happy after that, well…with the one exception of trying to deck him after finding out Buffy was dead. But overall, he had given himself to Spike.

Now he didn’t feel that wholeness. He could feel Giles’ and Angel’s judgments pulling on him and he just couldn’t let go. Of course, he also couldn’t walk away from Spike. The thought of facing a job or a home or a life without Spike left him so terrified that he couldn’t even see straight. He’d always leaned on someone else, given his strength to someone else to use. That led him first to Cordie and then Anya. And Buffy. He still wanted Buffy; she had been so good and so sure that he could have trusted her and would have happily died to protect her, but the slavers hadn’t given him that chance. Buffy gone, Giles losing it, Willow missing, Anya probably vengeancy again. He had nowhere to turn and the thought of losing Spike made his stomach twist in pain.

He realized that Spike had started talking again and he struggled to focus in and prove that he was obedient, not that he needed to be obedient, and not that there was anything wrong with being obedient. Or not being obedient. Whatever.

“But even if ya can’t give yourself to me, we have to learn to work together as a team to get the girls back. So, we’re going to do some practice, but it’s just play actin’, Xan. You learn to follow me the way you did at the last auction, and we’ll start gettin’ in with the demons who have the top of the line merchandise. So, don’t go tearin’ yourself up over this. Just let that part of yourself that’s fightin’ so hard remember that we’re fightin’ together to get the girls back; we aren’t fightin’ each other.

Xander considered that as Spike gave his first order.

“Strip.” Xander hesitated, but he told himself that he was fighting to get the girls back, not even Angel would find fault with that, so Xander quickly slipped off his shirt and undid his pants before sliding out of them and folding them to put them to one side. Once more he knelt, this time naked, and to part of him this felt familiar.

“Stay,” Spike ordered as he walked back toward the van. Xander could hear the various thuds as Spike threw stuff around recklessly, but when he came back, he carried a handful of chains that he dropped on top of Xander’s neatly folded clothes.

“Right, we’re goin’ ta let that little mistake pass since ya didn’t have your hip chains on yet, but tell me what mistake ya made that would have landed us both in trouble at the slaver’s auction.”

“I hesitated, Master,” Xander answered, allowing himself to fall into the pattern without guilt. After all, he was play acting to get the girls back. He kept telling himself that even as all the anxiety and stress and fear slowly eroded under the pressure to obey. Nothing was strong enough to override the near-instinctive need to obey.

“And what would have happened if ya had hesitated in the auction house, pet?”

“I would have been seen as a disobedient slave; you would have been seen as a poor master.”

“Worse than that, pet. We both might have come under suspicion for tryin’ ta crash their party. What happens if they think that we’re tryin’ ta spring some of the merchandise?”

“They’d kill us,” Xander suddenly realized how much Spike was trusting him not to screw this up, and the fear levels rocketed.

“Oi, ya have to start gettin’ your smell back now, pet? Not the best timin’.”

“I can’t do this, Master,” Xander whispered, and he heard the heavy slap before he felt the sting on his upper back. It was a slap with a hand, but it stopped him, and he checked his position in his kneel, spreading the legs a little farther, and gripping his left wrist with his right hand firmly.

“Did you have permission to speak?” Spike asked.

“No, Master,” Xander answered, the rules and forms coming back to him as he titled his head downward in shame.

“And do you have permission to be afraid?’ Spike asked.

“No, Master.”

“Bloody insult to me. If you think a few slavers could take out part of the Scourge of Europe and the Slayer of Slayers, ya aren’t thinkin’ straight. You focus on me and nothin’ else, ya hear me?”

“Yes, Master,” Xander let himself relax into the part. He needed to be the slave for this to work. All he had to do was be the obedient slave and trust Spike to do the rest, and boy that was a lot harder to do than to think, Xander mused.

“Stand up,” Spike ordered, and Xander gracefully stood, his hands still clutched at his back and his head down.

“What do these chains mean?”

“They mean I must obey every command without hesitating,” Xander replied immediately, remembering Spike’s words. Spike attached the delicate chain around Xander’s hips and the familiar weight helped him focus on his job and not on all the ways this could go wrong. After all, if they got caught, Spike would be staked, but he would go back to the slave pens, and that was not something he was willing to do. He wouldn’t even consider going near a slaver if he didn’t need to find Willow and Tara.

Spike remained kneeling and now fastened the leather and chain hobbles, forcing Xander’s legs together a little bit. The heavy leather cuffs clicked shut around each thigh and around the ankles, and Xander felt the helplessness rise up, but he let himself believe that Spike would protect him.

“What are these for, pet?” Spike asked as he gave a gentle tug on the chain running from thigh to thigh. Xander remembered the day Spike bought them.

“To keep me from running, Master,” he answered. A stinging slap warmed his thigh.

“Wrong, pet. I never thought for a moment you would run. Now tell me what these are for.” The slap certainly didn’t compare with anything his trainer had done, but Xander also didn’t want to earn any more than necessary. He thought about his answer for a moment.

“For when I don’t trust myself,” Xander finally answered, remembering his confession in the slaver’s auction where Spike had bought him.

“Exactly. If ya can’t trust yourself, ya tell me, and I’ll help ya through it, but if ya don’t let me help ya, you’re goin’ ta end up nuttier than Rupert: that is assumin’ that ya don’t get us killed first.” Xander spread his legs a little, straining the chains between his thighs and his ankles as he thought about that. Spike was trusting him not to screw up, so it seemed fair to trust back. Of course, Spike wasn’t the one now physically incapable of running, Xander’s favorite survival skill. Luckily, Xander’s body had gotten back into the slave mentality quicker than his mind because his body remained motionless as Spike stood and walked around him, stroking a butt here and a stomach there and a thigh in between. Xander kept his eyes down as he waited for his Master’s inspection to end.

“Ya have a problem, pet.” The tone sounded like a question, but Xander bit his tongue and avoided another stinging slap just in time. Slaves only answered direct questions. Xander breathed out heavily as he tried to get himself back to the point where obeying was automatic. Spike continued circling after stopping right after he made his comment, no doubt to see if Xander would slip. A tiny bit of Xander resented that manipulation, but that same part understood the need to get back into character. He didn’t intend on blowing their cover, and he knew Spike was too good of a liar to ever mess up that badly, so Xander told himself to just trust.

“Ya don’t have a collar.” Xander felt the tap on his butt, and he folded into the formal Position kneel with his back straight, his upper legs making a ninety degree angle with his lower legs and his head bowed. “Head up,” Spike ordered, and Xander complied, closing his eyes so that he wouldn’t look right at his master. He felt something cold and slithery around his neck.

“Why are your eyes closed?”

“It’s the rule, Master.”

“Not any more. If I tell ya I want your head up, ya look up.” Xander opened his eyes, and Spike reached around and unhooked something, pulling a silver chain from around his neck and showing it to him before reattaching it.

“Now pet, we can finish our work.” Spike said as he reached down to the pile again. “What are these for?” Xander felt the cool slide of his back chains against skin and he reminded himself not to give the snotty version.

“For doing what you would want me to do even without a specific command, Master,” Xander used his softest tones, the feel of the weighted stones reminding him that Spike not only trusted him but valued him enough to spend so much money on him.

“Exactly, pet. Ya have a brain and I expect ya to use it. Don’t need a dog following me around,” Spike ruffled his hair, and Xander let himself fall into the feeling of contentment at having pleased his master.

“And what’s this for?” Spike asked even as he bent over and tightened a leather cuff around Xander’s left arm.

“For figuring out a solution on my own,” Xander said, remembering drinking out of the sink faucet. An unexpected stinging slap on his hip made him gasp and rock slightly. A second slap came down, but this time Xander didn’t react.

“What was the first one for, pet?” Spike asked.

“I don’t know, Master,” Xander held himself steady, not sure whether Spike would punish him for not knowing. It was funny, the slaps were nothing compared to other punishments, he still shivered at the memory of the leather strings or the trainer’s knives, but he wanted to avoid them even more than he had the more severe tortures.

“It’s all right ta not know, just say ya don’t,” Spike reassured him, and Xander relaxed a little, still trying to figure out what had set Spike off. “Pet, I gave ya the right cuff for findin’ your own solution. What did I give ya the left cuff for?”

“I don’t know, Master.”

“I’ll tell ya this time, but don’t forget again,” Spike said, and Xander felt that need to please uncurl in his stomach as Spike gave him a task he could do. He mentally promised to never forget the left cuff’s meaning again….just as soon as Spike told him. “It’s for bein’ happy with yourself, being happy and tryin’ ta make me happy.” Xander now remembered the morning when he had woken in the cage to find Spike petting him. He remembered how good it had felt to not fight or argue but to be in his cage and enjoying Spike’s caresses. But now he imagined Giles in that room, looking on as Xander happily submitted to the cage and enjoyed Spike’s attention. Giles would have picked up the nearest wooden object and killed Spike.

“So, pet, why the second one?” Xander pulled his mind back to the present and reminded himself that he couldn’t afford to let himself slip. He couldn’t, and Spike couldn’t, and the girls couldn’t afford it either.

“I reacted to punishment, Master,” Xander replied. He’d known the minute he’d gasped that he would get another punishment, and he actually felt a wave of relief at knowing this answer.

“Right. So ya know the meanin’ of this one already,” Spike said as he tightened the right cuff on Xander’s upper arm, and Xander relaxed his muscles so that Spike could lace the cuff tight. When the vampire stood up, he held a single strand of black chain with three red crystals.

“Most important one, what’s this for, pet?” Spike asked. Xander thought of the best way of explaining his most important decoration, and the one he’d worked hardest to earn.

“For letting you help me with the pain, Master,” Xander finally said, and a cool hand didn’t just stroke his face, it also pulled him off balance so that he found himself leaning against his Master’s hip.

“Soddin’ right. Can’t none of us carry this pain alone, pet. Rupert’s goin’ under from the pain and won’t let anyone help him, and the pouf has lost track of himself and his life so much that he can’t see what’s right in front of him. Soddin’ idiots. Don’t want ya walkin’ down that path, pet.” Xander was released right before strong fingers played with the front of his collar, attaching the dangling stones. Xander felt the weight of the chains and the tightness of the leather bands and hobbles, and he let himself concentrate on those until he found a peace of mind he’d lost since seeing Giles again.

“Right, ya ready ta get into the role, pet?” Spike asked.

“Yes, Master,” Xander focused on the decoration as he thought about the fact that Spike had said they’d be here three days and then they could go look for the girls.

“Right, let’s work on heeling.” Spike walked away toward the van, and Xander rose to follow. His first step was pulled up short by the hobbles making his hip chains snap back unpleasantly and leaving his back chains swaying. Xander tried not to sigh in frustration as he realized how much work he needed to do. After all, slaves didn’t get frustrated, and Spike’s comments about his odor returning meant that he had to have this perfect if he wanted to fool demon noses.

Chapter 14:

Xander walked the length of the warehouse carefully, not that he could do it any other way given his current predicament. After a full night of having his slave follow at heel, Spike on day two had resorted to more drastic measures to help Xander regain his graceful gait. The worst part, Xander thought as he reached the end and turned to walk back across the warehouse again, the worst part was that he himself had suggested this. Spike had despaired ever getting Xander’s gait back to its sensual swing and Xander had pointed out the hobbles in a tangle of slave gear Spike had bought from his trainer. So now Xander wore not his beautiful leather hobbles, but the more functional training hobbles.

As Xander’s concentration dropped, he took too large a step, and the chain running from his ankle cuff through the strap just below his knee and up to the loop around his cock and balls tightened, pulling at him hard enough to make him wince, and walk slower. Xander heard a yardstick slap across a counter on the other side of the cavernous room, and he knew his Master had seen that mistake as well.

Xander turned off his worries. Of course the part of him that had made fun of him for standing still as a vampire had hobbled him to his own genitals still made little comments in the back of his mind, but he reminded himself that this was the only way to get the girls back, and then he shoved those thoughts as far back as he could because those weren’t slave thoughts. He needed to be the slave, so he concentrated on moving the hip chains as he walked with minimal damage to his manly bits and tried to keep the decorations on his upper body perfectly still.

For the seventh or eighth time that night he managed to find the rhythm, one that depended on letting go of the guilt and worry just as much as focusing on the body. He found it and slipped into that perfect slave stride and felt that moment of pride in showing off his perfection, and then he heard Spike rattling around in another corner of the warehouse, and he fell out of the rhythm just as quickly and gave himself a painful jerk. Whatever Spike was doing, he was still paying attention because he could hear the yardstick slap against the concrete with a sharp report. Another sound of something shattering interrupted his gait and another slap of the yardstick reminded him he had an audience.

Xander reached the far side of the path his master had set for him when he felt the hand at his back and he jerked, causing his hobble chain to jerk him. If Spike had set the things as tight has his trainer had, he would have pulled his own balls off by now.

“Oi, your not supposed ta be jumpy, ‘specially not when I’m the one doing the touching.” Xander didn’t respond, but he simple lowered himself into the Position kneel grateful both for the break from the constant walking and for the chance to give the chain some slack. He held his hands behind his back despite the irritating urge to loosen the noose around his genitals or at least rub away some of the soreness.

“Knees,” Spike ordered, and Xander immediately shifted into a hands and knees position, his legs spread slightly and his head hanging. He felt Spike’s hand on his backside and he seriously hoped that Spike intended on doing something because sex would mean freedom from the hobbles. Instead Spike started with the talking, and Xander resisted an urge to roll his eyes at the vampire’s ability to talk…and talk…and talk.

“How many mistakes, pet?” he asked, and Xander thought back on the number of slaps he’d heard with the yardstick.

“Eleven, Master.”

“And did ya pull the hobbles every time?” Xander hadn’t, actually once he had somehow gotten distracted trying to figure what Spike had been doing wandering from the kitchen to a far corner and back again. He’d stopped until the slap of the yardstick had gotten him moving again.

“No, Master.”

“How many times then?”

“Ten, Master.” Xander had no sooner said that then a hand descended on his backside leaving a stinging handprint behind.

“How did ya earn that, pet?”

“By walking wrong, Master.”

“Nope,” Spike said with three more slaps in quick succession. “Can’t say I care about how ya walk as long as ya don’t trip on me with a stake like that poor bugger back in Sunnydale. Damn funniest thing I’ve seen in 120 years. Nope, I’d give ya eleven swats if that was the case and you’re only gettin’ ten. So how did ya earn these?” Two more slaps fell on Xander’s backside before he answered.

“I don’t know, Master,” Xander said as he reminded himself that he’d felt actual real physical pain, and this wasn’t it. He also reminded himself that he was not so emotionally attached that he cared about disappointing Spike. He was failing on both counts because somehow a small slap from Spike hurt him worse than the bullwhip in the hands of his trainer.

“Good answer, pet. If ya don’t know an answer, you can always just tell me that ya don’t know. I’ll take one off the end for givin’ the right answer.” Spike landed three more blows, and Xander could feel the stinging heat in his butt. “Those are for hurtin’ yourself. Ya know how to let go and get into this, but ya won’t let yourself. Ya keep pullin’ yourself back out of the moment and ya gotta let go and just trust me.” Xander listened and he realized that he was pulling himself back out of the moment, but he didn’t miss the irony of Spike hurting him because he’d hurt himself. Not really his choice though since he was the slave.

“Floor,” Spike commanded, and Xander put his forehead to the ground, his hands behind his back and his knees pulled up under his body. He could hear Spike circling and he tilted his head slightly toward the sound. “Lay out.” Xander flipped onto his back with his arms and legs spread, the hobbles pulled tight but not more than an uncomfortable irritation. “Butt up.” Xander rose and spread his feet as far as he could while bracing his hands on the floor in an awkward position that both left his dangling bits…well, dangling and stretched the hobble chains. Xander could still hear Spike circling and he wondered what the vampire was up to.

“Stand up, pet,” Spike ordered, and Xander stood. “Ya need ta trust me, pet. Ya didn’t fight Leshar because most of ya didn’t bloody care any more, and I want ya to care, so we have to find a new way for ya to give up the fightin’.” Xander didn’t like the sound of that, but he didn’t have a vote on the issue, and quite frankly, given a vote he would probably still go along since Spike was the only viable option for saving the girls. His pride had already taken such a beating, that a little more humiliation didn’t even seem worth noticing.

But then again, if this really wasn’t such a big deal, why couldn’t he get back into the swing? As things stood, he would never pass as one of Leshar’s slaves and the rapid loss of his training would mark Spike as either incompetent or as someone trying to break slave training, and given the nature of the slave business as Xander had seen it, neither judgment would be good for either Spike or Xander. This was a small group of collectors who considered humans to be animals to buy and trade, show off and sell, display like a classic car and brag about like a well trained show dog. This was a jealous and close group with the same demons showing up at Leshar’s club over and over. Most demons could grab a human themselves, but Leshar and the other slavers appealed to the very small group who wanted well trained humans to use like domestic pets/toys/slaves.

“So, we’re tryin’ a new game.” Xander realized he had mentally wandered off again only when he heard Spike’s voice. God he was screwed. Spike tapped him on the shoulder in a clear command to heel before he headed over to where he’d been working all day.

Xander followed Spike to the far side of the warehouse, and even in the low light, Xander could see the glittering pieces of glass on the floor...or rather, all over the floor. When Spike stopped at the edge of the sparkling field, Xander knelt and considered the sheer size of the littered area and the scent of alcohol from the broken glass and he wondered how long Spike had holed himself up here after getting out of the Initiative. Or maybe it was after Dru left him, just before he'd made his encore appearance in Sunnydale. Whatever the reason, the sheer volume of broken liquor bottles spoke of pain and a not so healthy reaction to it. Not for the first time, Xander found himself wondering just how close Spike and Buffy had gotten before her death.

"So, pet. Are ya ready?" Xander wanted to ask ready for what, but that wasn't a proper response. He looked at the path winding through the broken glass, the trail marked by a strange combination of items that looked like beads and unpopped popcorn kernels and possibly even little chunks of cut up electrical cords, although he wasn't sure on that last one. He looked at the clear path in confusion and gave the only possible answer.

"Yes, Master."

"Good, 'cause ya have ta learn to trust me, pet. I won't let ya get hurt, and I won't even let ya hurt yourself, but I can only do that if ya trust me." Xander knelt at Spike's side, wondering what the vampire was going on about, but then he felt the material on his face, the material settling over his eyes and tightening. Xander's heartbeat started pounding, but he took a few deep breaths to calm himself as his Master blindfolded him. Spike hooked something to his collar, the clasp thicker than the connections for his decorations so that he could feel the cold metal clasp pressing against his neck, and then he felt the pressure on his collar. Xander stood without complaint, taking a tentative step toward that maze of glass that would rip his feet to shreds with one wrong move.

After three steps, he felt something under his foot, and he pulled back in fear, but the leash didn't loosen, and he eventually figured out that the things under his foot irritated and annoyed, but they didn't cut. When the leash pulled him forward again, Xander slowly moved his second foot into the maze, again encountering the annoying debris under foot. Xander took a deep breath and reminded himself that Spike had no reason to hurt him. Well, no reason other than the vampire/human thing, but Spike seemed strangely non-lethal for a vampire these days. And there was the whole basement chair tying incident, but he thought Spike had probably gotten his own back with the cage. The leash started to tighten again, and as Xander lifted his foot, he could feel the things that had stuck to his foot falling off as he raised his leg. He stepped into the maze hesitantly.

Spike might not really want a slave around, after all the vampire had bought him to keep him quiet, Xander had no doubt of that. But he had proved himself, and Spike had started teaching him how to fight, which wouldn't make sense unless the vampire planned to keep him, so permanently maiming him didn’t seem very smart, not that Spike always went with the smart plan. The angle of the leash changed, and Xander took a step in the new direction of the pull.

His foot felt the uneven floor and he struggled with himself, knowing he had to put his foot down and struggling against the fear that he would feel the cut of glass. The leash remained taut but didn't pull as he finished his step.

"Hands," Spike said firmly, and Xander realized that his hands had come up front as if to balance himself. He put his hands behind his back, grasping his left wrist with his right hand. The leash pulled in a totally different direction, and Xander turned to follow, stepping forward with only slightly less hesitation, but again his foot only encountered the dull and annoying debris of the safe trail. He heard glass crunch under shoes as the leash pulled him forward again, and the sound of crushing glass froze him in place. While he expected some sort of motivation--a slap, a whip, a threat--instead the pressure on his collar remained firm but steady. Xander took several minutes to get a hold on his fear and then he followed Spike's lead, stepping forward into the darkness.

Again, his feet found the path and this time the leash pulled on without giving him a chance to stop. Xander followed the pull tentatively and then the direction of the pull changed even as the crunching glass sound continued ahead and to the right. Xander turned his head to the side, toward the sound of Spike walking over the glass shards.

"No, pet." Spike said, and Xander returned to face the direction of the leash's pull. By the time five minutes had passed, Xander finally followed the pull without question, trusting that Spike would never lead him into the glass around him. Just about the time he finally believed that in his heart he felt his hip chains banging around his knees and his back chains rattling against each other. Xander stopped in the middle of a step, and the leash went slack.

"Pet?" Spike asked.

"I'm sorry, Master," Xander answered, wanting to go to his knees, but aware that blindfolded he ran a real risk of kneeling into glass, something he’d rather avoid.

"You're doing fine. What ya apologizing for?" Spike sounded honestly confused, and Xander wished he could see Spike's face.

"I didn't..." he hesitated. "I didn't trust you," Xander admitted.

"Bloody hell, gave ya reason enough ta not trust me, so I'm not surprised. Fact is that when ya trusted me at the auction I was soddin' shocked. Didn't quite understand and don't feel particularly good about the way I handled ya that first night or so." Xander thought about that first night in the closet, and he felt like he was the one who should apologize; however, he had no permission to speak so he stayed silent and trusted Spike to understand.

"So, ya ready to keep goin'?" Spike asked.

"Yes, Master." This time when Xander stepped out, he concentrated on his stride, keeping his chains flowing and taking the delicate steps that wouldn't cause the hobbles to pull on his genitals. Feeling the air moving across his sweaty body, he took several deep breaths and just relaxed into following the leash with increasingly confident steps. Suddenly the leash stopped pulling and Xander stood still as he felt the leather from the leash fall down and brush against his chest. A small flash of panic interrupted his new found calm, but he reminded himself that Spike was still there as he heard the footsteps retreat through the glass.

"Forward," Spike's voice commanded from a distance, and Xander took a small step forward and stopped.

"Oi, didn't tell ya ta stop, pet. Now walk forward." Xander took a deep breath and took as small as steps as possible as he walked through the maze blind and without a hand to guide him.

"Stop." Xander happily stopped and then he heard the snap. "Right," the voice ordered, and Xander turned 90 degrees right as he'd been trained. "Forward," Spike said and Xander started walking again. By the time Spike called it quits on the maze, Xander was easily negotiating the path, trusting Spike's voice to guide him as he walked with a strut that made his hip chains flow around his legs. When Xander felt the bare concrete floor under his feet, he expected Spike to take off his blindfold, but instead the vampire's hand took the leash and led Xander back toward the living area.

"So, who are ya fightin' now?" Spike asked as Xander followed the leash's pull with swinging hips and a bowed head.

"The slavers, Master," Xander responded without hesitation. He felt that easy obedience slide over him like a comfortable cloak, but he accepted its weight because he was fighting to rescue the girls. He obeyed the pull on his collar; he bent his head submissively. However, he also understood that this was play acting and he found his inner actor. Too bad that this desire to get into his part hadn't existed back when he'd done the whole Greek tragedy thing on talent night, but better late than never.

He was actually proud of himself for the act he was putting on. He was, however, man enough to admit that he was a little hurt by Spike's lack of praise, not that he needed to be praised for learning to mindlessly follow again, but still. Praise was of the good. Someone really needed to tell the vampire who owned him that. Xander stopped when the leash stopped pulling and went to his knees before his mind had even processed the fact that they had stopped.

"Right, so what happens when ya do good, pet?" Spike asked.

"I don't know, Master." Xander felt his heart speed up some. He hoped for something really good since just following his master back to a table without a specific order got him the back chains. He couldn't even imagine what this breakthrough was worth.

"Ya get a reward, pet,” Xander felt something at his lips, and he opened his mouth to the taste of chocolate, the rich milk chocolate with the caramel in the middle. The kind that broke into squares, and Xander thought he had reached heaven. He ate and then opened his mouth before even feeling the touch at his lips, Spike held out the chocolate, and this time Xander remembered his training, pulling both the chocolate and the fingers into his mouth as he sucked and licked those sticky fingers before pulling back to enjoy the chocolate square. The blindfold meant that he didn’t know whether Spike planned on giving him more, so when he had finished, he didn’t open his mouth. Instead he waited until he felt the touch at his lips before opening his mouth. Again, the chocolate went to the side of his mouth while he licked and sucked and explored the fingers that had delivered the heavenly food. Xander continued until the fingers failed to return, and then he couldn’t help a little whine of complaint. Spike laughed.

“Ya can take a boy away from his chocolate, but ya can’t take the love of chocolate outta the boy,” Spike joked, and then Xander felt the pull of the leash, and he stood, feeling Spike unhook his decorations and then loosen the loop around his genitals before taking off the cuffs on his legs and ankles. It had been a long day of training in positions and practicing his walk and travelling the maze which had taken a couple of years off his life, so he was ready for his collar to be locked to the foot of the bed so he could curl up on the floor with a pillow and sleep, except Spike eased him backwards towards the bed. Xander was surprised, but he allowed himself to fall onto the bed backwards and then strong hands moved him up toward the head of the bed and he followed their silent commands by cooperating with squirming motions that helped work him up into position.

Then he felt Spike’s long body press down onto his, and Xander became aware of Spike’s hard erection, and his own cock swelled in response. Okay, for someone who wasn’t gay, that felt much more like genuine interest than a programmed response to a command, but Xander figured he had a right to appreciate Spike’s attention since the vampire actually was the gentlest love interest he’d ever had. Bug lady tried to eat him. Ampata tried to suck the life out of him, Faith threw him down, rode him, and then tried to choke the life out of him, and Cordie had sucked the manhood out of him, and Anya had sensed his already straining cracks and had moved right in to suck the fight out of him and turn him into her living experiment in human sexuality. Yep, Spike the vampire, Scourge of Europe and Slayer of Slayers, William the Bloody who raped beside Angelus himself was the gentlest, kindest love interest of his life and boy didn’t that just suggest that he needed to trust someone else because he wasn’t that trustworthy when it came to running his own life.

Xander almost groaned when Spike slid off to the side, lying on the bed next to him, and Xander wondered if Spike was going to chain him in the bed this time. Oh god, Spike didn’t expect him to just sleep without the chains, did he, and he had not just thought that. Xander started to groan at his own patheticness, but then he reminded himself to trust Spike no matter where Spike had him sleep.

“So, pet, ya showed real trust today, proud of ya,” Spike said. “Couldn’t have been easy trustin’ a vampire, and ya did it for the girls. Ya got bigger knackers than Angelus ever did; he’d run at the first sign of trouble and save his own hide, never mind who he left hangin’ in the lurch, or hangin’ in the chains for that matter.” Xander lay on the bed and enjoyed the semi-normal moment of sharing.

“So, I figured since you let me do the steerin’ before, I’d let you do it now.” Xander lay on the bed and tried to decipher that comment. Steer what? Xander was so tired that he certainly had no interest in driving anywhere and the first chocolate in six months had left him feeling satisfied and ready for sleep. Then Spike picked up his hand and placed it on an unmoving and muscled chest. “Ya can do what ya like, pet,” Spike offered, and the little ding-ding-ding bell went off in Xander head. Oh, he got to steer that. Xander reached up to take off his blindfold, and a hand intercepted his own.

“No pet, leave that on. You can do whatever ya like, and remember that ya can’t hurt me. You do what ya need to and I won’t hold it against ya because you gave me something important tonight, and I know that. So, you take what ya need back ta feel okay with this.” Xander froze, unable to figure out what Spike meant for a moment, and then it occurred to him. He almost laughed, and in a way he felt a strange sort of relief to know that Spike wasn’t perfect because as much as the vampire always seemed to understand him, this time Spike didn’t get him at all.

When Angelus had broken William, he could imagine the anger and the frustration the younger vampire must have felt considering that Spike came out of that break. Now that Xander had taken the step to actually submit to Spike, willingly and without fear of being returned to Leshar, Spike was offering the thing that he had wanted from Angelus: a chance at revenge. Xander felt his stomach actually knot at the idea that Spike was willing to lie there and let Xander get out his frustrations, especially since he only had one frustration right now. Of course, Spike had said he could do anything.

Xander allowed his hand to slowly start moving across Spike’s chest, feeling the muscles twitch under his fingers as he encountered the bumpy nipple. He allowed his fingers to explore its shape as he felt the skin harden and constrict under his attention. Xander left the one nipple and allowed his fingers to travel over to the second one, not wanting it to feel left out. He lowered his mouth to where he thought Spike’s mouth should be and gently kissed, hitting either the cheek or the chin, but when he went to kiss again, he found his lips meeting Spike’s briefly before he pulled back and began to earnestly explore.

His hands ran up to Spike’s face and he used his thumb to explore the scar interrupting Spike’s eyebrow, and then suddenly the contours changed under his fingers and he found his fingers running over the thickened brows and wrinkled nose.

Xander moved to straddle Spike and he felt his own cock brush against Spike’s and he imagined the sight of them lying side by side. Remembering how Spike had curled up against his body heat when they had slept in the same bed, Xander lowered his body onto Spike and slowly started moving, arching his back as he rubbed slowly, using small motions of his body against Spike’s, and he could hear a growl start from beneath him. Xander dipped his head down and stole a kiss using the sound as his guide for finding Spike’s mouth, and he was rewarded with the feeling of Spike’s lips parting under his own allowing his tongue to explore the demon teeth.

Xander now started to work his way down the body one inch at a time, kissing the smooth skin, stroking the strong sides, sucking the nipples, and nipping at Spike’s skin as he worked his way down to his final destination. The blindfold meant that he needed some sort of guidance to his goal, so he trailed his tongue across Spike’s belly button, through the curled hair and to his final prize where he licked up one side before taking just the head of Spike’s cock in his mouth, gently sucking as he ran his tongue around the end which now protruded from the foreskin. Spike wanted to know what Xander needed, and so Xander showed him by slowly sliding up and down on Spike, each time taking more and more of the vampire into his mouth until he could feel the cock hit the back of the throat and then he pushed down hard, taking the whole member in and swallowing around it.

If his mouth hadn’t been so full, Xander would have smiled as Spike suddenly lost control and bucked up into him, growling fiercely. When Xander pulled back to breathe, he felt Spike spring up and Xander lost contact with Spike’s body, the blindfold leaving him confused as he felt the bed tilting with Spike’s weight. Before he knew what had happened, the vampire had grabbed him by the waist and physically flipped him so that he lay on his side with his legs facing the head of the bed and then Xander felt the twitching member at his lips and he opened to take his prize. He had just started sucking at the head in preparation for deep throating when when he felt a mouth on his own cock, and his hand flew out to brace himself, his grip finding Spike’s hip as he tried to not forget his own task, but Spike’s cock was definitely getting ignored.

Xander started moving his tongue around Spike’s cock head when Spike pulled back and blew on Xander’s cock, and the sensation of cold quickly followed by Spike’s warm mouth nearly made Xander come, especially since he knew that Spike’s warmth was really just his own body heat absorbed by the vampire. He redoubled his own efforts knowing that he couldn’t hold off long if Spike used his full talents. Xander pulled back and wet his own finger before reaching around Spike’s leg to touch the sensitive raised entrance which he rubbed with his slick finger before working just the tip in.

He pushed his finger in just as he took Spike all the way into his mouth so that he could feel Spike’s balls against his nose even though the blindfold prevented him from enjoying the sight. He was at a bad angle, but he pushed his finger in toward Spike’s prostate even as Spike started massaging Xander’s balls. Xander had to pause to catch his breath, gasping through his nose as he pulled back a little, and then he deep throated and swallowed and found Spike’s elusive little bump, and suddenly Spike’s mouth came off his cock and Spike growled his completion and bit into Xander’s thigh. Xander had been fighting to keep from coming before his Master, so he had no problem falling over the cliff himself, but the feeling of heat and the strange, sensual itch radiating out from the bite and engulfing his cock left him gasping and bucking, so lost to his own orgasm that more of Spike’s come ended up hitting his face that getting neatly swallowed. When he finally formed words again, his response was rather limited.

“Gah,” he managed.

“Oi, I’ll meet that ‘Gah’ and raise ya a ‘Bloody hell,’” Spike replied in a dazed voice. Xander felt himself pulled up and Spike yanked off the blindfold, leaving Xander blinking from the sudden light and the lack of blood to his brain after every bit he owned had just taken a vacation in his cock.

“Ya surprised me, pet,” Spike said with clear blue eyes that seemed more amused that annoyed by Xander’s unexpected reaction. Xander resolved to surprise Spike very, very, very often if this was going to be the vampire’s response. He waited silently for a question, letting himself relax into Spike’s embrace and laying his head down on Spike’s shoulder.

“So, ya aren’t mad?” Spike asked as he lay down, pulling Xander down on top of him.

“No, Master,” Xander honestly replied.

“Think we’re leavin’ a day early, pet. I want ta find the girls, and I’m thinkin’ ya could fool Leshar himself.” Xander doubted that, but he hadn’t been asked for an opinion, so he settled in and closed his eyes. Spike had a plan, and if everything blew up, Xander suspected that he’d have a plan to cover the plan, so wasn’t going to worry.

“Are you feelin’ ready, pet?” Spike asked. Xander tried to find an answer that would fit how he was feeling, but the ‘yes, no’ format of the question made it hard. Spike must have guessed his difficulty.

“What are ya feelin’, pet?” Spike changed his question to.

“I think Leshar would be horrified at my behavior because I’m not the mindless slave he trained, but not everyone at the auction said kind things about him when they walked by us in the booth. I think some of the other trainers will think I am trained even better than Leshar could manage, and that’s going to impress them. I don’t know if I’m ready, but if you say I am, I trust your judgment because I do want to go after the girls,” Xander said. Spike was silent for a long time.

“Yeah, pet. We’re ready. That’s the longest bloody sentence you’ve said yet, and ya even managed a ‘want’ in there.” Spike said and the vampire’s arm tightened around Xander’s back. “So tomorrow we head to the Sacramento auction and we try ta figure out which collectors trade in witches. Xander fell asleep dreaming of auctions and soldiers and Spike eating Riley even if Giles’ comments had make Xander suspect that Riley had tried to help even if he had failed. Riley hadn’t protected the girls and now Xander and Spike were going to fix the soldier’s mistake.

Chapter 15:

Xander stretched as he pulled himself out of sleep. Day three of the Sacramento slave auction and show and boy didn’t that sound entirely too mundane in a car show kind of way. Xander slipped out of the bed where Spike sprawled from one side to the other and retrieved his Master’s clothes from the floor of their room. Only fair considering that he had tossed them to the floor the night before. Xander put the clothes in the bottom drawer of the dresser with the other dirty clothes and pulled a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt out of the closet where he’d put the clean clothes after pulling them out of the duffel and folding them. He considered the cigarettes in the duster, but the last two mornings he’d laid the cigarettes and the lighter out on the dresser only to have Spike ignore them until they were ready to leave, and then he shoved the items back in those same pockets, so Xander decided to skip that part. His own decorations he untangled and placed on the top of the dresser where Spike could easily reach.

The room ready for Spike, so he slipped into the bathroom to take care of his own needs. He’d wake Spike after that. Xander rushed through his shower, eager to wake Spike so they could start making the rounds. Today’s agenda included getting the collar Spike had ordered from the same dealer who’d sold Spike the black hobbles and making the rounds of the slave pens. The last two dealers were expected in today, and Xander still had hope that they would find the girls. He lathered his hair and stuck his head under the shower to rinse. And if the girls weren’t here, Spike was certainly getting the attention he needed to get in with the big boys.

The first time a slaver had asked to use Xander to breed several females, Xander had nearly broken his training with hysterical laughter, but Spike had brushed off several offers now, and Xander was beginning to understand that the total geek who couldn’t get a date most of his high school years now had a future in prostitution…might have something to do with getting rid of his old wardrobe. Not that he would do the whole stud for hire thing, or rather not that Spike would. Spike had a habit of growling at people who suggested it. Xander found it a little cute, but then Xander suspected that he had lost his mind. Now clean and watered from the sink, Xander crept back into the main room and considered his possible approaches.

Since the night at the warehouse, Spike had left Xander to be the sexual aggressor, and Xander had risen to the challenge. He had woke that following day to find himself sleeping in Spike’s arms, not chained on the floor in an attempt to get them both back in the slave/Master mood, not cramped and skewered in a cage, not even stretched out and chained to the bed. Nope, sleeping with a vampire sprawled over him.

He had admitted—with a little prompting—that he felt strange about taking control when Spike was the master, but Spike had made it clear that he appreciated having a lover who didn’t beat him to get in the mood or walk away when he was in the middle of the act. Xander didn’t have to ask who did what to Spike, but he did find a little part of himself wishing Angel would find them because the more Spike let slip, the more Xander wanted to shove a stake up the elder vampire’s ass. But he would have time for torture thoughts later, Xander mused as he circled the bed. He was amazed that Spike could sleep through his slave openly circling and admiring a bare ass sticking up in the air, but Spike had explained that once the demon accepted Xander, the demon didn’t register Xander’s presence as dangerous, and Xander had found that short of yelling for help or dropping large objects, he didn’t have to worry about waking Spike. It gave him time to plan.

Deciding on his approach, he straddled Spike’s body and moved his hands to the bare shoulders where he started by pressing the heel of his hand into Spikes’ muscles, massaging away any tenseness with firm, long strokes before moving to work the pads of his thumbs in circular motions down Spike’s backbone. The vampire remained motionless, but Xander knew he was awake and faking sleep. In fact, the motionless body gave him away because Xander had learned that Spike as always in motion even in his sleep, always shifting a limb or moving his head or twitching a foot. So the only time he saw a motionless Spike was when Spike tried feigning sleep.

Xander worked his hands down to Spike’s ass, feeling the firm round flesh before beginning to actually massage. Xander waited until he could feel Spike relaxing, and then the dipped his head down and closed his mouth around Spike’s puckered bud, sucking gently and moving his tongue around the outside of the entrance. Spike gave up all pretense as he spread his legs and exclaimed loudly.

“Bloody hell,” he cursed, and Xander smiled in his own imagination even if his mouth really was too busy at the time. He reached down with a hand and started tickling Spike’s balls from the backside only to have the vampire start to wiggle invitingly under him. Xander increased both his suction and the pressure he applied with his tongue, slipping the strong muscle inside Spike’s body and trying to get as far in as possible given the tight fit. Of course Spike squirming didn’t help. Xander reached farther under and touched the full cock hidden underneath that strong, pale body, but he found himself suddenly faced with the cock as Spike flipped with inhuman speed. Xander didn’t waste any time but descended on the organ with relish, taking the head in his mouth and using his tongue to play with that wonderful foreskin. He felt Spike’s hands reach for him, but he simply put his own hands around the wrists that were trying to explore his body, and Spike stilled. Xander started to work more of the cock now, sliding down and then on the upstroke, running his tongue along the top of the cock head along that spot that always made Spike moan and tremble.

Entirely too soon for Xander’s taste Spike stiffened and came with a low growl, and Xander’s own cock finished without any additional help, so attuned to it’s master’s release, that Xander couldn’t have held back his own orgasm if he tried.

“Bloody nice way to wake up,” Spike said, and then Xander felt himself pulled up into an embrace. He cooperated with the arms that enfolded him by putting his head on Spike’s shoulder, both his legs draped over Spike’s left leg. “Feelin’ good about today, pet. We’re gettin’ close.”

Xander didn’t answer, but he did agree. At the last auction they had been left alone, but now various demons walked up to them and started conversations. Xander knew that part of it was his own outrageous behavior. He strutted down the corridors in Spike’s wake with his hip chains twirling and his decorations gleaming without a leash or even his master’s attention keeping him at heel. Other slavers certainly had humans that they kept close as pets, but Xander realized that very few humans weren’t chained to their masters’ sides, and very few had the grace of a pleasure slave without having the various hobbles and foot gear that enforced that motion.

Of course the other part was Spike, who most of the slavers seemed to want to take to. The Initiative had taken a few major players in the small slaving community, and then the destruction of the Initiative had sent a number of former members of the U.S. military into the various slaver camps. Spike had a bit of a reputation for having two encounters with the Initiative and surviving both. Several demons had even looked curiously at his head after learning that the human made chip remained inside. So, even if the girls didn’t turn up today, Xander was starting to get the feeling that success was right at hand.

Eventually Spike sighed and pushed him to one side, and Xander slid off the bed and to his knees as Spike went to shower. He’d discovered that Spike wasn’t comfortable having Xander tend him in the shower, so Xander waited. When Spike appeared still wet from the shower with a towel hung low round his hips, Xander went into the Position kneel and knelt as high as he could with his back straight as Spike attached one decoration after another, each time quizzing Xander as to the meaning. It did amuse Xander that he walked around essentially naked and it still took Spike longer to get him ready that to dress himself.

Xander stood when it was time for the black hobbles and Spike locked them into place and gave Xander’s butt a quick slap before snagging the clean clothes and dressing himself in a matter of a couple of minutes. Xander went and got Spike’s boots, kneeling and presenting them so that Spike could fasten them himself. Xander considered Spike little peculiarities and wondered why certain services seemed to bother Spike, but he was the slave, so when he found Spike uncomfortable with his slave kneeling and lacing his boots, his slave backed off.

“Ready, pet?” Spike asked as he stood and grabbed his duster. Xander rose from his kneel and walked to Spike’s side as Spike walked out into the hallway.

The rooms were in an area crowded enough that Xander had to keep his hips still to avoid hitting anyone with his dangling hip chains, but when they reached the wide corridors of the shops and booths, Xander started his strut with his hands behind his back and his upper body decorations hanging serenely while his hips chains bounced in perfect rhythm and his hobbles rattled without ever making him break stride. Xander hoped they would go by Leshar again because he enjoyed annoying his former trainer with his furtive glances and small smiles and taunting wiggle while he was kneeling. He enjoyed how much those things excited Spike even more. He’d found a new goal, and it included sexually frustrating Spike until the vampire took him back to the room and let Xander have his way with the vampire or ordering Xander to service him in the middle of the food court. Xander was happy either way.

A disturbance clogged the corridor as people stopped to watch a growing conflict, and Xander stepped closer to Spike and moved to his left side so that the vampire was between him and trouble.

“Soddin’ idiot,” Spike said, and for a half second Xander was afraid Spike meant him, and then he saw the vampire nod at a tall, bulky demon that seemed ready to eat a blue skinned female demon with a pair of curving horns and a curving body to match. Xander feared that the woman would get broken in half, but she just smiled mysteriously and shrugged her shoulders at the bellowing giant. “Bloke’s goin’ ta get his own intestines fed to him if he messes with a shurl,” Spike offered as he continued toward their destination, and Xander trotted along after him, curious but knowing that he would have to wait until they got back to their rooms to ask.

The arrived at the booth Spike was seeking, and the same demon blacksmith who had cut off Xander’s heavy leash and sold Spike the hobbles he now wore stood at the entrance.

“Problem?” the demon asked with a nod toward the corridor. Xander sunk to his knees still close enough to touch Spike.

“Idiot asked for a shurl tattoo and didn’t like what he got,” Spike replied, and just then Xander felt a pain in his back as a heavy weight came down on him, and he crumpled to the floor even as he felt a body above him struggle to its feet. Xander hadn’t even gotten to his own feet when he felt an unfamiliar hand pull him back away from the sight of his master in game face ripping into the tall demon that had just harassed the shurl. Xander pulled wildly toward Spike, but the hand on his arm responded by shaking him until his teeth chattered. He turned and found the blacksmith had a hold of him.

“Kneel, boy. Your master can take out a piedre demon without your help.” Xander suddenly realized the ridiculousness of him rushing in to rescue Spike, and he sunk down in a formal kneel, waiting for Spike to finish and give him some sort of order. The blacksmith demon released his arm to allow him to kneel, but then it stood with a thick leg on either side of Xander so that the back of Xander’s head was even with the demon’s crotch, and the others who had come to watch the match kept a distance so that Xander could actually focus on Spike’s fight.

“You … ever… bloody… touch… my… slave…again…and….I’ll…gut…you,” Spike announced, each word punctuated by a punch into the demon’s back as the thing slumped over a half wall either unconscious or dead. Xander would have assumed that talking to the demon meant it was still alive except for the fact that Xander had seen Spike go off on tirades against far too many dead creatures to make that assumption.

A small humanish demon came up, but Spike threw it off like a rag doll when it grabbed his arm. Xander thought that Spike would tear the demon’s head off, but suddenly the blue-skinned shurl with an amused expression and a head tilt exaggerated by those horns appeared and slid between Spike and the demon with the misfortune of tripping over Xander. Actually, Xander almost felt bad since he doubted the demon had meant to step on someone else’s slave. Xander found his own thoughts scattered when he watched Spike fall back away from the shurl as though burned with holy water. Xander had seen Spike go running in against baddies of the week that populated his nightmares, and yet this one small demon sent him backing away.

The crowd quickly dispersed now that the actual violence was over and Xander waited as Spike continued to warily watch the shurl who now glided away with a gait that reminded Xander of Drusilla. Xander heard a chuckle above him, and Spike turned yellow eyes in their direction. The blacksmith backed away at the same time that Xander decided to go to his Master. He stood and crossed the short distance to Spike and was about to kneel again when he found himself bodily picked up and laid stomach down across the half wall. Before he could ask what the hell Spike was doing, Xander figured it out on his own. Gentle hands swept his back and down his legs. The back chains were swept to one side and his arms inspected. Only then did Spike lift him off the half wall and repeat the process on the front. Xander kept his head down, but he felt a little like a five year old whose mother had stopped to wash his face with spit. Out of the corner of his eyes he could see other demons and slaves watching as Spike examined him in detail before giving him a tap on the head to send in into the Down kneel.

“Ya alright pet?” Spike asked.

“Yes, Master.” Considering he spent his life naked, he really was surprised to find out how much embarrassment he still had given the right circumstances. He could feel the warmth of his blush.

“Bastard bruised ya. Remind me ta give you some of my blood tonight, pet.”

“Yes, Master.” Xander was relieved when Spike stood and walked over to the blacksmith demon who still chuckled although much more softly once Spike approached.

“Thought I was going to inherit a slave when that shurl got involved.” Spike growled.

“Not bloody stupid enough ta tangle with mojo. Spend a hundred years with a vampire seer, and I know what kinda damage she could do when she set her mind to it; not goin’ ta get into it with a soddin’ shurl demon.”

“As angry as you were, I didn’t think you’d have enough control to stop. But I have to say I’m impressed with your animal. He could have been hurt, yet his only thought was to reach your side. He’s a good creature, and I’m pleased to see that the rumors that you wanted revenge were just rumors started by those who don’t like your kind.” The demon turned and went back into his booth area, and Spike followed. Xander trailed after.

“This is my best black mage steel.” He held up a collar that looked like a thick black necklace with open links and a textured pattern on the metal. Spike took the flexible collar and inspected it while Xander remained kneeling. He’d heard Spike order the collar and he hadn’t said anything, but he worried about what Giles would say when he saw it. The mage steel couldn’t be cut, so Giles and Angel would never take his collar again, but he wouldn’t ever be able to get it off. Even if he decided he wanted to live alone, he would wear the collar for the rest of his life. Xander might have panicked, but looking at the object now, he realized that it would pass as jewelry for the outside world. The demon continued talking.

“So, did you see what the shurl had done to inspire the lad’s original outburst?” he asked Spike. Spike removed the various decorations before unhooking Xander’s temporary collar even as he answered.

“Image of a broken tower. You’d think that these morons would learn to not trust a shurl, especially since their work can’t be taken off again.

“That depends on your definition of trust, I suppose,” the demon replied as took out a variety of tools. He patted the wood counter, and Xander took a quick look to his master who nodded before standing up and getting on the counter. A firm hand encouraged him to lie down, and he did as he felt the cool metal at his neck. A finger reached under his neck and pulled the circle around before the blacksmith started making gestures that Xander knew were binding magic to seal the collar. Spike had explained the magic of the collar in great detail. “I trust a shurl to speak the truth, but you have to want to see the truth when you ask for one of their marks.”

“I lived with a seer, and the only thing I learned was that the truth soddin’ changes dependin’ on who ya ask and the stars sometimes don’t know what they’re bloody talkin’ about.” The blacksmith chuckled as he finished his work.

“I can’t argue that, vampire; I tend to avoid seers.” Xander felt a slap on his leg and he opened his eyes and got down off the table at a gesture from Spike. “Of course I tended to avoid vampires on the assumption that they were all uncontrolled appetite and no sense. Obviously you’ve proved me wrong,” the demon commented. “And if you ever want to sell your animal, talk to me. I’ll give you a fair price and I’ll take care of such a loyal beast.”

“Not bloody likely,” Spike fingers suddenly moved far more quickly as he reattached various decorations.

“Well if you change your mind, I work all the gatherings,” the demon shrugged, and Xander knelt at Spike’s feet, grateful that he didn’t have to worry about Spike needing money considering the variety of offers Spike kept getting.

Spike left without another word and Xander followed. This collar was lighter than his old slave collar. The air could still move around it and it was loose enough that he could probably fit a couple of fingers under it. He would have to wait until they got back to the room to check that. However, the collar was heavier that the temporary one Spike had used on him. That had been so light Xander often forgot that he was even wearing the silver chain. Xander wouldn’t forget this collar soon because the black links weighted two or three times more, but even more of the weird making was the fact that this collar didn’t come off, wouldn’t come off. Spike had paid a small fortune for a collar that neither slave nor master could ever removed. Xander itched to touch it and look at it in a mirror, but he suppressed his urge as he walked the slave pens behind Spike, the vampire checking the newly arriving merchandise and repeating his story about wanting two or three witches for breeding with his new animal. Xander just tried to ignore that they were leaving the frightened and chained humans that weren’t Tara and Willow.

Eventually the pens had been checked and the clock warned that it was time to meet with two slavers to discuss buying some humans. Xander waited until Spike had finished talking to a trainer before speaking.

“Master?” he called quietly, and he could see through his lowered gaze, the trainer whip around as if to correct him, but he was Spike’s.

“Yeah, Xan? What is it?”

“It’s time to meet with Ulsha and Ty.”

“Oi, bloody forgot them, and Ty’s supposed ta have access to some nice stock.” Spike’s hand ruffling his hair told Xander and the unfamiliar trainer that Xander had done the right thing, and then Spike started for the food court. Xander followed at heel with his slave strut in full swing and his gaze down even as eyes followed the two of them as they traveled the full length of the partitioned off warehouse to reach the food court. Spike put money in his hand and then went to meet his contacts. Xander knelt at the side of a booth that offered the right variety, waiting for a break in business. The first time Xander had done this, someone had tried to label him an unclaimed slave and Xander had practically run back to Spike, but now the food court patrons had grown used to the sight of an unchained human…okay, relatively unchained human…getting the food. When the counter was empty, an employee leaned over and Xander put the money up on the surface without looking up and without standing.

“A serving of warm blood, a serving of slave ration with meat, and a bowl of pretzels,” Xander asked. The first two items always remained the same, but Xander chose a different treat each day, supposedly on the orders of his master. When the order came, Xander stood and nodded his head in thanks before taking the food to the table where Spike sat talking. Sliding into his position at Spike’s feet, he waited patiently.

“I have heard a lot about this animal of yours,” one of the demons said, and Xander took several glances out the side of his eye without being able to find any clue that this wasn’t a human. Maybe it was a human, but Xander doubted it. He’d only seen humans as slaves.

“He’s a treat ta own. Obedient and respectful,” Spike agreed.

“I heard he’s one of Leshar’s. Leshar does produce obedient animals.”

“Yeah, well it took me soddin’ too much bloody work ta get rid of some of Leshar’s trainin’. If ya want a doll that doesn’t move unless you move it, humans make some of those. Seen ‘em on the internet. When I first got my pet, he would pee himself with a toilet twenty feet away, and he wouldn’t react sexually without an order.” Spike raised his cup of blood.

“Yes, his methods are rather striking, but I’ve always heard that Leshar’s slaves couldn’t be retrained,” the one who fit Spike’s description of Ulsha said with obvious interest.

“Well my pet’s somethin’ special, though I have to admit that he’s a good deal easier to work with now that Leshar took some of the piss outta him.”

“You knew him before?”

“Oh yeah. Slayer and I tried ta kill each other more times than I can count, and he was always chargin’ in the middle tryin’ ta protect her. He killed more of my minions than any other human in 100 years of makin’ minions.” Xander listened to the conversation internally laughing at how Spike could so easily blend truth and fiction. Listening to his words, he could almost believe them since they came so close to reality.

“And Leshar turned the vampire hunter into a vampire pet. That would explain the price you paid; you made quite an impression on a number of people,” the human-looking Ty said with a smile.

“Couldn’t pass up the chance ta own him, could I? Not ta mention the fact that Leshar left him unopened, so I got the pleasure of driving into a body that hadn’t ever been used, and won’t ever be used by anyone else.”

“And some people claim vampires can’t appreciate trained slaves,” Ty said and Xander knew that Spike wouldn’t have missed that slanted look toward Ulsha.

“Oh my boy here converted me even though I have worked ta undo some of Leshar’s more idiotic commands,” Spike said with remarkable patience.

“Such as?” Xander felt a foot tap him on the butt, and he went into the Present kneel with his back and upper legs perfectly straight. He kept his eyes down, giving him a perfect view of Spike’s hand as it wrapped around his cock.

“Thinkin’ of givin’ ya a decoration here, somethin’ ta remind ya how much ya please me with the way ya swallow my cock and the way you spread your legs so pretty. Would ya like somethin’ wrapped around ya lettin’ ya know how much ya please your Master?” Spike opened his hand so that Xander’s cock lay on the flat of his palm. Xander struggled to keep his breathing even and his body obedient, but Spike’s other hand tweaked his back chains, and despite his every effort, his cock gave a respectable twitch. Spike laughed.

“When I got him, he couldn’t do anythin’, not even smell of fear or lust or twitch that cock of his without an order, but now he knows my touch and I like the fact that no matter how much he tries and how good he is, he can never stop his body from wanting his Master.” Xander wondered how the other demons were taking Spike’s speech because the table had fallen into silence. Spike withdrew his hand, and Xander concentrated on keeping the blood out of his cock as he brought his desire under control. Spike touched the crease of his ass, a command he rarely used, but Xander immediately switched into the Present kneel with his legs spread wide, his butt pushed up in the air pointed at Spike and his forehead on the ground with his arms on either side. Spike simply rubbed Xander’s backside absent-mindedly.

“Of course, I never could have trained him this well. When I knew him, he would have died fighting before kneeling like this.” Xander totally and 100% agreed with Spike; if Spike had tried to force him to do this, he would have fought until Spike killed him. With Leshar that wasn’t an option. “That’s why I’m shopping for trained slaves, my boy has spoiled me.” A foot tapped his head, and Xander sat up in the more familiar Down kneel.

“Here, boy,” Spike said, and Xander saw the vampire take his cock out of his pants. Xander immediately moved to between Spike’s legs, taking the cock in his mouth as he felt his own cock harden in anticipation. He knew exactly what Spike was doing, so he tried his best to impress not just Spike but the other demons as he nibbled down the side of the cock and then soothed skin with long licks.

“Want ta find a couple of females for him, breed them and bring up the cubs ta know servin’.” Spike groaned as Xander nuzzled under his cock, using a nose to push the heavy member up even as he turned his head to the side and started worshiping the balls underneath. “Lord knows their father could teach them a trick or two.” Spike gasped, and Xander laughed in his head at his own ability to distract. If Spike wasn’t such an experienced liar, he would have totally forgotten every lie he’d ever created by now.

“You don’t get to come, boy,” Spike ordered, and Xander muffled his own groan by sinking on Spike’s cock and groaning loudly to create the vibrations that caused Spike’s leg muscles to downright quiver.

“I’m surprised you didn’t buy from Leshar,” one of the demons commented.

“Told ya, want a little more involvement than he leaves his normal slave showin’.” Xander could tell Spike had gone into game face, and he moved in for the grand finale. Xander took Spike’s entire cock in his mouth and started swallowing. Sure enough Spike’s legs stiffened and then the vampire gave a short thrust forward as he started coming. Xander thought he heard appreciative noises from a couple of the demons sitting around them, but he couldn’t be sure. Xander had to pull back and breathe before Spike had totally finished, so he kept the head of the cock in his mouth and drank the semen as it came out, refusing to relinquish Spike’s cock even as it softened, instead following it back to its source as he rested the side of his face against Spike’s thigh with Spike’s entire now-soft cock in his mouth. He breathed deeply through his nose after having his air cut off by the deep throating, but the smell of Spike, that musky, yeasty smell that clung to the curled hairs pressing into his lips and nose, made him feel safe and protected. He gazed up into Spike’s face and saw the vampire looking down at him fondly even as a hand began to stroke his hair.

“Beautifully trained,” a demon commented.

“Actually, that’s how he acts when he shows me he’s broken Leshar’s training. Leshar would have the master give every single order, the slave sit unmoving until given a set of directions. I told my boy I wanted him to figure out ways to please me, and this is his favorite. Have to say I’m rather fond of it as well,” Spike said as he continued petting Xander’s hair, and Xander realized that he wasn’t moving soon. Not really a problem for him since he was exactly where he wanted to be, showing Spike how much he appreciated everything the vampire had given him even while helping Spike rescue Willow and Tara. Yep, couldn’t find a better place he thought with his entire mind as he breathed deeply to stave off a sneeze as one of Spike’s curls invaded his nose, and he sternly reminded his still hard cock that it couldn’t come.

“Besides, Leshar doesn’t have what I want. I want the cubs to have some magic, and since my boy’s talents don’t include magical abilities, I need two or three witches. Well trained, of course, and hopefully with a little life left in ‘em. Since I want breeders, nothing over 25 and pure human. I don’t like the taste of half-breeds.” Xander waited, praying that one of these demons would have someone to offer. Of course, Xander hated it when the demons offered the wrong girl and Spike walked away leaving some trembling human kneeling at the feet of a demon, but Xander didn’t really have a choice so he tried to remind himself he couldn’t save everyone. In a very real sense, he couldn’t even save himself, but he’d given up the goal of being saved and exchanged it for the safety of kneeling at Spike’s feet.

“Lirowaus might have a few that would fit your needs. He doesn’t sell at the auctions, but I might convince him to give you a private show.” Ulsha offered.

“Never heard of him,” Spike said seemingly without interest, but Xander knew he had to be excited. So many dead ends and now a new lead.

“He has strong ideas about training slaves; he certainly doesn’t hold with Leshar’s methods, but he might approve of you.” Ulsha explained, and Xander wondered how this demon differed from the hundreds of slavers at the auctions.

“What sort of strong ideas? I don’t fancy getting some slave with no will left or some mind that’s been magically wiped,” Spike sounded almost uninterested, but Xander knew better. Ty laughed.

“You won’t find that at Lirowaus’. His slaves have plenty of life left, but his training techniques ensure that they are very tractable. And he specializes in witches and half-breeds. He should have some stock he’s willing to sell for the kind of money you’ve been spending lately.” Xander would have done a Scoobie dance at the thought of a lead on a collector of witches, but that would have meant giving up his prize, and he didn’t think the Scoobie dance would go over really well with a room of demons.

“I’d appreciate it, mate. I’d like a nice strong line of slaves using my boy here.”

“I can see why with beauty and training like that,” Ulsha responded before pausing. “I hadn’t noticed before, but now that you’ve said something I do realize Leshar’s animals are rather bland on the nose, but your boy smells….content.” Xander felt the fingers in his hair curl around a lock and tug it playfully as Spike looked down again. Xander gazed up into blue eyes and Spike slowly smiled.

“Yeah, and when ya find a pet whose favorite place is hangin’ off your cock, ya know you have a keeper,” Spike said with another playful tug at a lock of hair, but Xander didn’t care if Spike was teasing him. After all, he could always get Spike back later. Oh heck, why wait that long when he had a perfectly good opportunity here? Xander wormed his tongue between Spike’s foreskin and the head of his cock, gently sucking and teasing as he looked up into eyes that went from blue to gold.

“Yes, rather, but I do have another appointment,” Ty commented in an amused voice.

“As do I, but I shall call Lirowaus to ask about merchandise,” Ulsha agreed. Xander could hear both demons stand, and so he was prepared when Spike stood, easily rising to his knees and sucking harder to keep from releasing his prize. The demons now openly laughed, and Spike gave his head a pop, bringing him to the side in a Down kneel as the vampire tucked himself back in.

“Git,” Spike growled with another pop to the head, and Xander did his best to look the part of an innocent slave while laughing inside. They were going to find the girls, Xander just knew it.

Chapter 16

Xander knelt in the front seat of the car, resting his upper body on the seat and folding his hands under his chin while he watched Spike. The car was an expensive import but simple and unassuming; it fit the image of Spike as an up and coming slaver who didn’t want to attract too much attention.

“Are you sure, pet?” Spike asked again for the umpteenth time. “I could leave ya with Joyce while I check out this wanker.”

“Yes and no, Master,” Xander said, knowing that it would annoy Spike.

“Bloody hell. Yes to which part and no to which part?” Spike asked, and Xander pulled the blanket up over his shoulders just in case a random driver happened to look in.

“Yes I’m sure. Your invitation asked you to bring me, and without me you may not be able to get in and look for the girls. No I don’t want to go stay with Joyce because I want to help Willow and Tara as much as you do,” Xander clarified.

“Makes me nervous ta go to his private estate,” Spike said, and Xander knew the feeling. He also knew that Lirowaus was their best lead, and he knew Spike agreed with that assessment or they wouldn’t now be turning onto a narrow gravel road off a main road north of Sacramento. Spike didn’t say anything else, and so Xander rode in silence, watching out the back window as the car passed tall trees that shadowed the road. He hoped that Lirowaus’ paved the drive up next to his house because his slave outfit didn’t include shoes and he really didn’t want to walk or even god-forbid kneel on the gravel and pine cone trail Spike was navigating with the car.

The car took a sharp turn and then skidded to a stop; Xander could hear gravel thrown up against the car as Spike braked.

“Soddin’ stupid place for a bloody gate,” Spike announced as he opened the door to get out, and Xander just put his head down so that his cheek rested on his hands. Obviously they’d found the place, so Xander waited for Spike to deal with the guard or the gate code or the call box or whatever mechanism Spike used to gain entrance to Lirowaus’ estate. Xander didn’t know, and Spike hadn’t offered the information. Soon enough Spike got back in the car and slammed his door even as he put the car into gear. Xander looked up questioningly.

“Bloody tall fence, pet.” Spike said without emotion, but Xander knew the vampire was worried; however, he didn’t see the cause for concern. Of course a slaver would have high gates considering that the humans probably escaped every once in a while. Xander remembered the huge broad-shouldered man who’d managed to jerk his leash away from Leshar’s minion and make a run for it. The locked doors stopped him until the minions could get control of him again and leash his genitals to his ankles so tightly that the man could only move by pulling himself along by his arms or by allowing the demons to drag him by his collar over the concrete—his naked skin rubbing off layer by layer as he kept curled in a ball to prevent his genitals from getting ripped out by the root.

The car came to a stop, and Xander could tell from the sound of the tires that they were on pavement. He pushed the blanket back since the only people around expected him to play the dutiful slave, so when Spike opened the door, Xander slid out feet first and quickly went to his knees beside his Master.

“Ah, my guest has arrived!” called a jovial voice, and Xander kept his gaze down so that he only caught glimpses of the demon that approached as Spike slammed the passenger side car door. Two thick legs well within the range of human, but he really couldn’t see much else without breaking form.

“Thanks for the invite, mate,” Spike answered as he started to move forward, and Xander rose to follow, kneeling again when Spike stopped. That time he had seen thick purplish-brown hands and a business suit. Considering that demons thought of humans as mere animals, they sure took advantage of human culture, Xander mused. He wondered what they all wore before humans invented the loom.

“I am always glad to entertain a new member of our little elite community. You have certainly made an impression on a great number of those at this last auction.” The genial tone and the gruff voice seemed friendly enough, and Xander started to relax as Spike now followed Lirowaus into the house, Xander rising to follow at heel.

“Seems like my boy did most of the impression makin’. Was a mite bit surprised that you insisted on me bringin’ him.” Spike jumped right to the part of the invitation that had bothered both of them the most.

“Yes, I realize I was a little aggressive in the invitation,” Lirowaus commented. Xander listened with half his attention as he kept glancing from side to side at the opulence and wealth: Asian rugs, crystal vases, carved wood furniture. “I admit that I was leery of selling to a vampire.”

“Not just any vampire,” Spike pointed out, and Xander could hear the smirk.

“No, I have rather discovered that. However, I am not like Leshar, and I do not sell my animals to trainers that I cannot trust. I have worked with and care about every one of my slaves and I will not sell one only to find that it has been used as food.” Lirowaus led them to a parlor where Spike sat in an embroidered chair, perched on the edge like a bird about to swoop down. Xander knelt obediently beside him.

“Not plannin’ on eatin’ em.”

“But you do eat people.”

“Yeah, but ya eat the ones on the street; trained pets like my Xander aren’t for eating,” Xander felt the hand in his hair and he leaned into the touch, perfectly willing to play the part of loving and devoted slave in order to prove Spike’s worthiness to buy this man’s stock, especially since both Ulsha and the blacksmith confirmed that Lirowaus dealt almost exclusively in witches.

“He is as lovely as I have heard. Leshar’s animals are usually quite ruined for those of us who don’t care for mindless drones incapable of thought, so hearing that you have managed to retrain one of his prize possessions is remarkable.”

“Not that hard,” Spike said with the bored tone of a dog breeder, but Xander could tell that he was annoyed. Spike killed humans, and Xander didn’t doubt that Spike still killed for food at least some of the time now that he had the chip out, but Spike had never rejected his human past or disdained humans in general like most vampires. “Showed the boy some honest affection and worked with him a bit.”

“You’re far too modest. I purchased one of Leshar’s once, and while the animal performed well and provided my witches with a large number of very attractive cubs, he was never anything other than a piece of furniture, a tool to use and then put away.” Xander thought of how close he came to that fate himself and he leaned farther into Spike. After all, Lirowaus didn’t seem the kind to mind a slave showing affection.

“Ya don’t use that wanker Leshar’s methods, so how do ya train ‘em?” Spike asked, and Xander tried hard not to show too much interest in the answer. The idea of someone breaking Willow or Tara made him worry so much that he had to intentionally distance himself from his own feelings in order to avoid the inevitable fear smell if he let himself consider the possibilities.

“Oh, I don’t share my training methods with just anyone, so I’ll make you a deal. You share a training technique you use, and I’ll share one of mine.” The room went silent for several moments, and Xander had the sudden image of rams on those nature shows butting heads. Lirowaus certainly had the horns if Spike didn’t, but really the thought came as the two men sat silent, each trying to out “alpha male” the other. Xander risked a glance at Lirowaus with his eight horns in two neat rows on the top of his head and the three smaller horns along each jaw. The demon looked fierce, but if it came down to actual head butting as opposed to this mutual posturing, Xander would still bet on Spike to win.

Spike finally spoke. “Trick is to get him ta trust without the fear. So, if ya give him a hard task, something that scares him, and then help him through it, he’ll learn ta trust.” Lirowaus gave a large puffing sound.

“Oh, excellent Master Spike. Yes, you are very much in my vein of thought when it comes to training; I shall have to try that technique. Personally my foundation is to appeal to the beasts’ logic. I put them in bonding groups of two or three and let them form attachments. Then the group as a whole earns rewards for good behavior or punishment for bad. They are social beast who will do things for the other members of the bonding group that they would not do for themselves.”

“I imagine that would work, and since I’m looking for two or three witches ta start my own breeding group, I can use that easy enough,” Spike said casually.

“Yes, I had heard that you wanted to get into breeding, and with a stud like that I can hardly blame you for trying to get some of your money back on his cubs, but I do wonder if you’re prepared to deal with witches. They can be very difficult to train without ruining their magical abilities, and one must be very careful in their handling.”

“Oi, I’m not some newly risen fledge that doesn’t know how ta handle humans,” Spike said in an offended voice, and Lirowaus began to chuckle.

“No, you are not. I’ve asked my servant Rocim to bring some of my stock through although you do understand that the price will be quite high. I actually make more from those who buy magical spells than I do from those who purchase the cubs.”

“If ya can show me witches that I want ta buy, I have the money.”

“No doubt. Your expenditures on your slave have become quite infamous in a rather short amount of time.” Out of the corner of his eye, Xander caught Lirowaus gesturing, and a heavy wood door at the far end of the room opened to allow a tall lanky girl to enter and kneel in the middle of the room. Xander noticed that she didn’t keep her head down, and while her clothes were skimpy, they did cover her important bits. While checking her condition to get a better idea of how Willow would have been treated if she was here, he could also see her staring at him with unabashed horror.

“Stand and turn, girl,” Lirowaus ordered, and the girl stood on legs that even Xander could see tremble.

“Seems skittish,” Spike complained.

“Yes, well your pup went from Leshar to you, so he no doubt perceived his sale as advantageous. My stock no doubt fears being stripped and kept kneeling at your feet. If they knew you were a vampire…” Xander saw Lirowaus shrug, but he was more interested in the girl who at the word vampire had retreated all the way to the door her legs now trembling so hard that Xander was reminded of a cartoon character with knocking knees.

“She’s got no reason ta worry; don’t like her looks,” Spike said with a snort. “Want females that bloody look female.”

“Ah, the next might interest you then.” Xander watched a slightly older woman with more curves come in the room as the lanky one left. Spike had dismissed each with one excuse after another when the latest arrival caught Xander’s attention so that he actually raised his head rather than catching quick glances.

Xander knelt silently even while his heart soared at the sight of familiar red hair, but he knew better than to react. He schooled his feelings into an expression of neutrality, but he did lean into Spike’s leg, seeking strength from his Master. He felt Spike’s hand on his head and he tried to focus on that physical feeling so that he didn’t get overwhelmed by the need to grab Willow and run. Not that he could run in hobbles, but the desire still existed.

“This one is really quite powerful. I would have considered her too dangerous for keeping, but her attachment to her bonding unit is quite strong. In fact, I bought her with the other witch, and she is quite tractable when the other animal is in danger. Lirowaus waved his hand, and Willow went down to her knees, but she still stared daggers at Lirowaus between worriedly studying Xander.

“Xander?” she called, and Xander could feel Spike’s had go still. He could practically hear the cursing in the vampire’s head. Xander would have been angrier, but he understood that a couple of months of slavery could really damage the common sense. He just mentally willed Willow to remember that Spike had stayed true to the Scoobies up to the Initiative’s attack. Okay, true might be a strong word, but he hoped she would catch on to the fact that this was a rescue and play along.

“She knows you r animal.” Lirowaus commented, obviously surprised.

“Yeah, they grew up together. I suppose you’d call them a bonding group, but Leshar grabbed my pet for training before the Initiative grabbed up this one and her mate.

“Well, I do hate to see a bonding group split, but I’m not sure you can handle this one, she has been quite a difficult one to bring to heel, so to speak.”

“Can handle her just fine,” Spike said in a tense tone. “Captured her once even, but she bollocked up my spell and I just left her behind when I left, wasn’t impressed with her mojo.” Xander realized that Spike had entered the negotiating phase when he heard the vampire insult Willow’s talents. Lirowaus must have assumed the same.

“Oh, but she has vast untapped potential. She could become one of my strongest magic casters, and will when she gets tired of seeing her lovely friend rot away in a bare stone cell.”

“If she hasn’t given in by now mate, she isn’t likely to,” Spike snorted. “Maybe it’s time ta let someone else try trainin’ her.”

“And here I had heard that you wanted trained females. She is far from trained; she is only now presentable,” Lirowaus commented as he waved a hand in the direction of the kneeling witch. Xander kept his eyes focused on the floor right in front of Willow as he tried not to panic or ruin this chance.

“She’s trained well enough ta know her place, I can do the rest.”

“For a vampire with exactly one slave, you are rather confident.”

“I’m rather good, mate. Now how much? Oh, and I’ll take her bonding group too, that’ll give me some leverage to work with.”

“Don’t you want to try her out? Have her perform a spell or a sexual act?” Lirowaus asked.

“Ya have a reputation for selling quality, so I assume she’s quality. How much?”

“So impatient.” Lirowaus waved an arm and Willow slowly rose and backed away to the door, so slow in her movements that Rocim reached out and pulled her back through the doors into the corridor. “I am curious about your sudden interest in breeding, and I don’t like to sell my animals to just anyone, so indulge me in a few questions.”

“I’m here ta buy slaves, not play soddin’ twenty questions.” Spike rose and Xander stood beside him, his head bowed but able to get a good look at Lirowaus’ face for the first time. The purplish skin and horned head didn’t scare him as much as the narrow eyes and the unpleasant expression on the face of a demon who had sounded friendly up until a moment ago.

“I won’t sell my animals to be abused by some half-breed,” Lirowaus said with obvious contempt. “So explain exactly why you developed this sudden interest in such fine breeding stock or leave my house.”

“You’re not the only one sellin’ witches, so if ya don’t know how ta treat a customer, I’ll bloody leave,” Spike turned to leave, and Xander experienced a moment of panic, but he reminded himself to trust Spike and trust Spike’s promise to save Willow and Tara. With that thought, Xander followed behind as Spike headed for the door. Spike had no sooner opened the door when pandemonium struck.

Because Xander had his head down, his first warning was Spike backing into him, sending him stumbling back and then falling as the hobbles prevented him from regaining his balance. Three demons leapt into the room, all the same type as Lirowaus himself and all armed. Spike quickly dealt with the first, breaking his leg with a quick kick, and Xander scrambled to his feet awkwardly as he grabbed a lamp and swung at the demon whose back was to him. The lamp shattered and Xander was about to make use of the sharp-edged remains when strong hands grabbed him from behind and ripped the impromptu weapon from his hand.

Xander silently struggled with his own attacker until he was lifted and physically thrown over a table and onto a couch. He tried to spring back to his feet, but he found that his attacker was Lirowaus himself who simply sat on Xander, immobilizing his body while trapping Xander’s wrists in one strong hand. The human like shape of the hands had short inhuman claws and inhuman strength because no matter how much Xander struggled, he was trapped. He watched as two more demons joined the fight. In addition to the one Spike had lamed, a second lay on the ground with a neck twisted viciously to the side. However that left three armed demons who had backed Spike into a corner. Xander watched Spike come charging out, obviously trying to get into a better position to defend himself, but one of the demons had some sort of stun gun, and Xander listened to the crackling as the electricity ran into Spike.

He bucked up against the body imprisoning him as he watched Spike’s mouth open in a silent scream as his body twisted. The sound of electricity ended, and Spike collapsed even as the other two demons jumped in and started punching. Xander’s attempt at escape failed to do anything, and he watched as the three remaining demons pulled back. He could see Spike’s deformed outline on the ground, and he knew the vampire had suffered some serious injuries; he just hoped the lack of dust meant that Spike would recover.

He bucked up again and realized that the pathetic whining noise he could hear was coming from him. If Lirowaus hadn’t been sitting on him and forcing most of the air out of him, he would probably be screaming, but now he tried to get control of himself. He had to help Spike, that’s what mattered.

“Shhh, little pup. You’re okay, no one’s going to hurt you,” Lirowaus said softly, and Xander could feel the demon’s free hand stroking his leg. Xander felt his stomach start to rebel, and he turned his head to the side as he started bringing up his lunch. Lirowaus quickly moved, and Xander found himself draped over the demon’s leg, his head spewing his meal near Lirowaus’ foot while a cool scaled hand held his wrists at the small of his back. Xander vomited until he was sure he was going to start bringing up internal organs, and the feeling of a hand running through his hair just made him want to keep vomiting until he actually managed that feat.

“Take the half-breed away,” Lirowaus ordered, and Xander started trembling as he realized that half-breed referred to Spike. Demons moved in the room and then Xander found himself set back on the floor as Lirowaus freed him.

“It’s okay, pup. I’m not Leshar; I’m not going to hurt you.” Xander kept his eyes on the ground as he struggled to breathe.

“Master Spike,” he finally managed.

“No, he’s not your master anymore, pup. I am,” Lirowaus informed him in a tone that was obviously meant to soothe even though Xander felt anything but soothed. “You’re obviously upset. I’ll have Rocim take you to your room.” Lirowaus called and the nearly human looking Rocim appeared with a pair of restraints in one hand and a leash in the other. Xander watched in horror all too aware of the fact that he had no choices in the matter. Rocim walked closer, and Xander couldn’t keep his body still. He crab walked away from Lirowaus and turned and made an awkward dash for a corner, awkward because the hobbles pulled each step short and Xander didn’t really think getting to a corner would help, but with a demon between him and each door, it was the best he could think of.

“Now, pup, behave or you’ll be punished. It’s quite simple here. You do what you’re told and you’ll get rewards: a nicer room, a television, a nice big bath and lots of free time to use it. But if you don’t behave, there will be consequences for that.” Xander didn’t need Lirowaus to tell him about consequences; he already knew about disobedient slaves, but he just couldn’t stand still while he was taken again. The corner had a bookcase along one side and Xander picked up a piece of stone artwork to use as a weapon even as Rocim advanced.

“Do that and you’ll be punished, pup,” Lirowaus warned. Xander flashed on the sight of a slave with her back laid open to the bone by whip marks, and he swung. The stone contacted Rocim, but the human looking demon wasn’t very damn human because the stone cracked and Xander felt the shock of impact in his arm so strongly that his one arm went numb and he dropped the sculpture. Rocim grabbed his outstretched arm, and Xander brought up his other hand to push the demon away. Rocim calmly tucked one of Xander’s wrists under his arm and fastened the leather straps around one wrist before then finishing the job with locking buckles around his second wrist.

Xander still brought up his shackled wrists to try and hold off the inevitable, but the leash went on his collar and Rocim dragged him out of the corner.

“Oh I had wanted to be reasonable, but it’s clear that you need to understand the consequences of your actions,” Lirowaus said with the same sort of mock affection Leshar had used. Xander fought ineffectually as he was dragged out the door through which the girls had gone. These hallways were plain, adorned only with rings set into the wall at regular intervals. Xander grabbed one of the rings and when Rocim tried to pull him off, Xander fell to the ground and kicked with all his might, using his feet together as he lay on his back. Unfortunately his feet were an even poorer weapon than the stone statue and Xander only managed to bruise himself before being pulled over Rocim’s shoulder and carried down a narrow flight of stairs.

The stopped outside a black door and Rocim dropped him to the floor, standing on Xander’s hobble chain to prevent another round of kicking. Lirowaus now stepped up and unlocked the door before kneeling down next to Xander.

“Understand pup that I never wanted to show you this room and I will never show it to you again as long as you obey. This room is only for those who try to escape or who attack their handlers.” Xander closed his eyes and slumped in defeat. He didn’t need to see where he was being taken; he already knew. Hands lifted him and he didn’t fight, but instead he lay limp in Rocim’s grasp as the demon positioned him. He stood while he was bent at the waist over something smooth and curved, his feet locked to the floor before his arms were pulled down on the opposite side. Xander opened his eyes to find himself stomach down on something that looked like a wide horse, like gymnasts jumped over. He let his head droop, and then Lirowaus wandered into his sight with a whip in hand.

Lirowaus knelt down and Xander found himself fascinated by the tiny differences in size of the demon’s various horns. The horns right above either eyebrow were tiny, the horn behind that slightly larger and the horn behind that larger yet. However the fourth horn, the one right on the top of Lirowaus’ bald purple head was significantly thicker and longer, standing out from the other horns. Xander thought back to his biology teacher explaining evolution and he wondered why the horns would have developed that way.

“My poor little pup. Tell me why you’re here, pup,” Lirowaus demanded.

“I tried to help my Master,” Xander answered honestly.

“*I* am your master, and I will protect you,” Lirowaus said. “You’re here for attacking Rocim and trying to escape from me,” Lirowaus corrected him.

“Spike is my Master,” Xander insisted looking right into Lirowaus’ eyes.

“Spike is dead,” Lirowaus replied as he unfurled the whip and stood. After that Xander didn’t feel anything. He could hear the whip falling against his back, but all he could feel was a tearing at his guts as one tear after another dripped to the floor at the thought of his Master dead.

Chapter 17:

Xander heard the door scrape open for the third or fourth time, but he just lay on the stone floor of the cell where Rocim had brought him after the whipping and ignored the food he could still smell from his corner. That plate had appeared with the second or third sound of scraping door over stone. The first plate of food had been something dry and odorless, but the more recent food smelled of meat juices and something fruity that almost pulled him out of his self-imposed oblivion. Almost. He vaguely heard footsteps and then a hand was on his hair. Xander imagined how it felt to have Spike’s hand running through his hair and he could almost see that amused expression when Spike smiled in a way to make his cheekbones stand out and pushed his lips out. Xander almost smiled, but then his imaginary master’s face twisted in horror and his mouth opened in a silent scream and he turned to dust. Xander’s heart pounded and he gasped to get enough air. The hand withdrew from his head, and his open eyes couldn’t distinguish who had been touching him, not that it mattered.

Xander felt a pull on his neck, but that was okay, it wasn't really his neck now, was it? Someone else owned it, and Xander really did hope that whoever owned it just broke it and got it over with. With Spike dust, a broken neck really was the best he could hope for now, so he just retreated farther into his own mind as the pulling became more insistent, and the rest of his body started registering in with individual pains.

He found the memory of the night he had first laid under Spike, when Spike's hair had tickled his nose and he concentrated on that thought until he could feel his nose twitch in sympathy. He remembered how it felt to have Spike asleep on top of him, the peacefulness and the security. A part of him tried to rise up and point out that the peacefulness had been wrong and the security had been a lie, but Xander quickly shuffled those thoughts off to the side. He had been happy there, and it wasn't about just the slavers either. He'd been cracked and lopsided before Leshar had broken him, and now he just couldn't be bothered with putting the pieces back together.

The body registered a fall and impact, so Xander guessed that he'd been dropped, but he kept his eyes closed as he thought about that morning from his memory. The way Spike had crept up his body like a lion stalking prey, and yet Xander had felt safe. Spike wasn't Leshar, Spike wasn't Giles, Spike wasn't his father or his Uncle Cheese or Angel.

Uncle Cheese. He hadn't thought of Uncle Cheese in....well certainly not in the last six months at least. He'd gone years without even remembering this favorite uncle--his mother's youngest brother--who walked around with a knife, using the sharp edge and his thumb to slice off pieces of yellow cheese. At five that had fascinated him, and he and his cousin Rigby had followed their young uncle around begging for slices. Then that birthday party came, and the clown, and the crying, and Xander remembered Uncle Cheese taking him to a back room to comfort him.

Xander had been too young to understand that exploring hand as anything other that comfort, but when his father had opened the door, he had seen the fury in his father's eyes. After that he'd had a problem with clowns and cheese for a long time. It hadn't been long before he'd forgotten the uncle that had driven the wedge between him and his father, making the man's every expression to his son full of disgust and scorn. Xander hadn't even known why his father seemed to hate him until the soldier memories that Halloween. When his own memories had returned at the end of the spell, all his memories returned. After that he could barely even meet his father's eyes. When he'd casually mentioned Uncle Cheese, hoping that the memories were some magically induced delusion, his mother had broken down in tears and fled to her room. Uncle Cheese would have hurt him, as an adult, Xander knew that; however, the man never had the chance. It was his parents who had hurt him the most.

And now? Now everyone looked at him with his father's eyes: Giles, Angel, even Joyce. Spike had been the only one to not care about all that, but now that Spike was gone, he'd be dirty and ruined forever. Xander really did have any hopes beyond that of a quick death, but he knew that as a slave even that wasn't really an option. He lived at someone else's mercy.

Spike never looked at him like he was broken, and now that his Master was dead, he let go of all the pieces and just stopped trying to even pretend. Voices. He mentally shrugged. It didn't matter any more. When a hand grabbed his arm, Xander could only feel Spike's touch against his bare skin as the vampire had taught him to enjoy disobeying a rule.

The voices became more insistent and wormed their way into his memory, but he intentionally ignored them. He wanted to stay inside. He watched as Spike sat up straddling his chained body, smiling slyly and tilting his head. Spike opened his mouth to speak.

"I'll bloody rip your innards ta pieces ya rottin' piece of Fyarl dung." Okay, that was a surprise. Xander tried to pull back into the real memory, pushing away this strange apparition that had appeared in the place of his memory-Master.

"Don't matter if ya dust me or not, my sire'll rip this soddin' place apart ta get the boy back, and my only regret will be not seein' ya beg for mercy. Angelus is still in there mate, and if ya touch him, you'll find out how little difference there is between Angel and Angelus." Xander *knew* that wasn't from his memories. He struggled, panicked that he couldn't find reality when he started looking for it, but then the voice returned.

"Ya cowardly git. Let me down and I'll show ya a response," Xander concentrated on the voice and as he tried to fight his way to consciousness, he could feel his sore arms, his throbbing neck that made swallowing difficult, his scraped, and his bruised back and chest. All in all, he was a lot less damaged than he’d expected. He’d gotten worse fighting with Buffy. Xander started to scramble back from the voices, only stopping when he felt the chain at his neck tighten.

"Xander?" he heard Spike call, and he turned toward the voice, but he had trouble focusing his eyes. When he saw Spike, pale and streaked with blood standing on his toes in the middle of the stone room, shackled to the ceiling by his wrists, Xander nearly wept. He couldn't tell whether the emotion was pain from seeing his Master chained or pleasure at seeing him undusty and whole.

"Massrrr?" Xander managed, his throat feeling raw and torn. He suspected that he had been screaming sometime in the recent past.. Lirowaus' voice now interrupted the reunion.

"The slave isn't as dead as he would pretend. I do congratulate you, vampire, on creating such a loyal slave, but maybe now that he is responding, we can see how far that loyalty goes.

"Bloody leave him alone," Spike warned with a growl.

"And you are in no position to bargain considering you are facing your own death. He is a valuable animal, and I have tried to avoid these measures, but between you and Leshar, his training has been damaging. He will accept me as a master or he will be of no use to me." Those words sent Xander's mind back to the small man lying on his trainer's floor, the minions waiting to tear into the human flesh, to rip hunks off the man's legs and the body twitched within its bonds and the man's screams came through the gag. Xander remembered the smell of blood and the happy grunts of the minions as they worked their way up, but Xander pushed that back, unwilling to fall apart now.

He was going to die, he could live with that. Okay, bad choice of words, but Xander couldn't feel sorry about his death. He looked up at Spike and pulled his body into a kneel, wanting the vampire to know that he was sorry. He had attracted Lirowaus' attention. He was responsible for his master's death. He couldn't hold back tears at that, and so tears he wouldn't shed for himself slowly fell.

"Completely ruined. The animal has been so abused that he has lost all reason, quite incapable of logically understanding his position." Xander focused on Spike during Lirowaus' little speech, and Spike looked at him sadly, even with the fangs and ridges distorting his expression. He was surprised that Spike wasn't angrier about their upcoming deaths. "So I thought I would let you see the results of your training. I would have treated him well if it weren't for the damage you've done, and now you can die with the slave you have so ruined for me." Xander felt an overwhelming horror at the thought of seeing Spike die.

"Nego-ate," Xander offered roughly in a broken voice. Lirowaus turned to face him and Xander looked up, knowing that he was about to sell his soul and break some last part of himself.

"The animal suprises me again."

"Let him bloody go you effin bastard." Lirowaus laughed.

"Oh, I don't think so; I want to hear this negotiation he offers now." Lirowaus waved a hand, and Xander felt a glass brought up to his lips and he spluttered out as much liquid as he managed to swallow, but the cold fluid did soothe his throat.

"So, let's hear your offer, little one," Lirowaus said once the minion had taken the glass away.

"Let Spike go," Xander said, unwilling to say out loud what he would do in return. He knew what he was offering and Lirowaus did too.

"Bloody hell, no," Spike protested, and Xander flinched at going against his master, but Spike had taught him that sometimes it was right to break the rules.

"Ah, the pup does have some reasoning left, but not much if he thinks I will release the vampire. What exactly will Master Spike do if I release him, pup?" Xander didn't even need to think about that.

"Kill you," Xander responded. Lirowaus laughed.

"Yes indeed, little one, he will try. I very much doubt the vampire can get away with it, but he will try. So, if you want to negotiate, that is a very poor opening request." Xander dropped his head, not really wanting anything else. Nothing else mattered, and if he couldn't have that, he would rather die that sell himself and lose the last part of himself by willingly submitting. Leshar had forced his submission; Spike had accepted it without ever asking for that final part, but Lirowaus' request would take something valuable that Xander had held onto though the last six months. He felt a rough hand under his chin.

"Surely there is *something* else you'd like pup."

"When I get my hands on ya, I'm going to pull your intestines out so far that they'll stretch all the way back ta Sacramento. I'm goin' ta pull your beatin' heart out of your body," Spike snarled so fiercely that Xander was reminded of Spike at the church, willing to kill Angel in order to save Dru. Xander remained silent and waited for the end now that his last attempt had failed.

"Come now, pup. Your former master is being unreasonable, but if you truly want to save him, surely you can come up with a better offer than that." Xander looked at Lirowaus and then looked out of the corner of his eye as Spike madly jerked in his chains, trickles of blood from his wrists wandering down pale arms. His jaw still firmly clenched in Lirowaus hand, he opened his mouth, but couldn't seem to find words.

"You have to make the offer, that's my rule," Lirowaus cheerfully prompted him.

"Make him comfortable, keep him safe," Xander whispered, knowing that he was losing not only the Master he wanted but a big part of himself too.

"And what will you offer me in return, little one?" Lirowaus asked.

"I'll obey."

"And?" Lirowaus asked.

"I'll submit without fighting." Xander spoke the words, and he could feel some part of himself die. He really was pathetic. He was a slave and he didn't deserve any better than slavery. Xander just hoped Angel never did find him. Let Angel save Spike, it was too late for him.

"Ah, will you be the good, obedient animal from the auction?" Lirowaus asked.

"Yes, master," Xander choked out, struggling to get himself under control. He had no right to feel pain or guilt or this horrible tearing loss that threatened to take his breath. He ignored his injures and forced himself up onto both knees, correcting his form.

"You're soddin' dead," Spike hissed, and Xander didn't even react. He had given up Spike, and Spike would never want him back after this betrayal. Spike would never want him back after what Lirowaus would make him do, Xander knew that, and some part of him didn't care.

"Oh, I think we shall both live long healthy lives," Lirowaus responded to Spike. "I shall have to find you better accommodations since my little pup specified comfortable and safe. Some place in the dungeons that we can wire for television and that horrible music you are so famous for enjoying. I live up to my promises, and I made the boy a promise."

Xander felt Lirowaus' hand move through his hair, but he held position even when he wanted to withdraw in disgust. He just wanted to be out of the room because he didn't want to see Spike's face; he didn't want to see Spike's condemnation. Lirowaus turned to walk out of the room, and Xander stood to follow, hands held at the small of his back and head down. Now that he stood, he could feel the weakness in his legs that spoke of too little food and the soreness that suggested too long lying on a stone floor, but he ignored them as he followed his new master.

Xander followed mindlessly through the functional slave corridors and the increasingly luxurious hallways of the upper floors, each step away from Spike ripping at his guts like no pain he had ever know. Soon enough Lirowaus opened a heavy wood door and gestured for Xander to go first. Taking a deep breath, Xander stepped in and told himself to endure and submit and give Spike time to escape or for someone to rescue them. Of course Spike in his paranoia hadn’t told anyone where they had gone just in case Angel had shown up asking questions, but sooner or later Joyce might get worried and check at the warehouse. That would at least point to the Sacramento show, and maybe from there Angel could track them. Xander just repeated his prayer that Angel took Spike and left because Xander no longer wanted rescue…he just wanted to find that bit of oblivion he had earlier discovered.

Xander had already knelt next to the door when Lirowaus came in and gestured toward the oversized bed. Xander walked over and got on it without comment.

As Xander knelt on the bed, he tried to conjure the memory of Spike touching him, holding him, making him feel safe, but when he tried to pull up that memory, he just imagined Spike looking at him with his father's eyes: condemning him for letting this happen. So he switched to the image of Buffy in that green bikini, but now even she turned to him with eyes full of disgust for someone who would lie there quietly while waiting for a demon to rape him. Xander's memories provided one image after another: Jesse telling him he was nothing more than a shadow, Giles disgusted with him for being afraid of the couch, Angel's expression when he'd had to rescue Xander from Faith, Joyce's horror at seeing him in the cage. They all knew how weak he was, and now Xander had to face it too. His memories had always been his refuge, but now they rejected him. He forced himself to ignore the memories and instead focus on the dry hand that now touched his back.

"Well, little one, which of my cocks shall I use. The small one would do you less damage, but I can imagine how the large one would feel buried in you. Generally I do prefer the female animals since they can accommodate both, but what shall I do with you?" Xander heard the demand for an answer in Lirowaus' tone of voice.

"Whatever pleases you, master," he answered neutrally as he knelt on the bed even as Lirowaus crawled onto the mattress behind him.

"Yes, that is your purpose, isn't it?"

"Yes, master."

"And I want a slave who is a little more participatory tonight, so on your knees." Xander dropped to a hands and knees position on the bed just as he felt the wetness at his entrance. He reminded himself that he was a slave to be used as his master saw fit and he relaxed as much as possible.

"Move back onto me, my pup," Lirowaus ordered, and Xander started pushing his ass backwards. When he felt one of Lirowaus' cocks at his hole, he took a deep breath and kept pushing steadily, impaling himself on the narrow head that quickly widened to a significant girth.

"That's my good boy," Lirowaus praised and petted him once he had pushed back as far as possible, the base of the cock stretching him impossibly wide and a second member, nearly as large as Xander's arm came up under Xander and brushed against his own flaccid cock. Xander's hanging head gave him a clear view of the impressive size, and Xander wondered whether he could actually die from an encounter with the larger penis. He would have hoped for an affirmative answer, only he guessed that his death would be followed by Spike's death, and he couldn't betray the vampire that way. Not a second time anyway. So he would survive. Xander started to pull off for another thrust when Lirowaus grabbed him by his decorative back chains and held him still.

“Not so well trained after all,” Lirowaus clucked at him. “That’s alright, I can teach you what you need, little one.” Xander remained motionless and waited for the orders. “Lesson one, move the base of my penis to give me pleasure.” Xander felt hands at his hips start rocking him from side to side, making the cock strain and press at the sides of his own entrance until he felt enough discomfort to qualify as outright pain. But it didn’t matter.

When the hands released him, he continued to rock and from the noises behind him, he suspected he was doing it right. “Oh yes. A regular pattern is best, but the harder you can press to each side, the better, pup.” Lirowaus groaned happily. “Now up and down,” he ordered and Xander stopped the painful motion and started using his back and legs to push up and then fall down, rocking Lirowaus’ cock and straining the ring of muscle on his own body until it practically screamed. “Now make a regular pattern with both motions,” Lirowaus instructed, and Xander turned off any logical part of his brain as he simply complied.

Right – Left – Right – Left – Up – Down - Right – Left – Right – Left – Up – Down

Xander had moved for longer than he expected when he noticed that the second cock that he could see hang below their bodies started to shrink, and that was not what he expected from any sexual encounter, but he simply continued his movements without comment.

Right – Left – Right – Left – Up – Down - Right – Left – Right – Left – Up – Down

Xander started feeling a pressure growing in his body, a pressure that built until he was gasping from the feeling of something in him pressing and straining. Xander lost the rhythm for a moment.

“It’s okay, my lovely boy. So few can do it so well their first time,” Lirowaus reassured him, and Xander just closed his eyes in shame, not that Lirowaus could tell from above. “You’ve done so well that you’ve moved the fluid up into the active cock,” Lirowaus told him. “Now you have to make the cock release. Pull forward, pup.” Xander started to pull forward, but the thing in him held him in an inescapable grasp. He stopped only to feel a sharp slap on his butt.

“You need more effort than that or we’re going to be here for a long time, my little pup. All that fluid needs to be worked out to the end and then brought out, so you’ll need to pull. Rock forward and back and each time the cock will get a little looser until you loosen it up enough for the fluid to release. Either that or fail and the cock will stay lodged in you until the fluid drains back down in a day or two.” Xander resisted the urge to shudder at the thought of being attached to the demon for that long.

He pulled forward and he couldn’t feel anything loosen. In fact, he felt like he was trying to pull himself off a marble fist. He let himself relax back before pulling forward harder this time. A happy grunt from behind told him he was on the right track, but the pain in his now throbbing body objected vigorously to the movement. He paused, but a slap hard enough to jar his teeth got him moving again, each pull forward causing the persistent ache to crest into a significant pain. Xander felt the pain recede each time he pulled now, and he wondered if he was getting used to it or whether the cock was in fact loosening up as Lirowaus had promised.

The thought of getting off the impaling organ gave Xander renewed energy and he pulled forward harder, ignoring his own pain even as Lirowaus moaned in pleasure. He’d given three or four violent jerks forward that nearly pulled out his intestines when suddenly he felt himself falling forward, but Lirowaus gripped him even as the penis inside his body suddenly deflated and his intestines protested an influx of liquid that left him gasping with its sheer volume.

“Rocim,” Lirowaus yelled, and Xander held the Present position even as he wanted nothing more than to run away and hide in a corner of the room. He’d thought he had lost everything to Leshar, and now he knew different. Now that he had given this part of himself to another, he knew that he truly had nothing left. He rested his forehead on his arms and just wished Lirowaus away so he could…could what? Xander realized he could do nothing, not recover, not forget, not ignore. This was going to be his life for the next ten or twenty years, until he was too old to be admired, and then he would be put down like an unwanted dog. An unwanted pup he mentally corrected himself.

He heard Rocim come in and suddenly a heavy belt went around his middle. He didn’t bother to look. Lirowaus pulled out and Xander’s aching body tried to shrink back into shape, but then something not as large as Lirowaus but larger than a pleasantly sized vampire cock slid into him, trapping all the demon’s liquid inside even as Xander felt hands reaching under him and a strap going from the front of the belt through his legs and them up to the back of the belt. Right before the click of a lock sounded, the strap pushed the large plug up and into Xander, trapping what felt like gallons of demon ejaculate up inside him and triggering horrible diarrhea-type cramps. Xander bit his tongue as he tried to ignore what was being done to his body. It’s not like it was his body anymore anyway, so he shouldn’t care.

“As your body absorbs this, you will stop stinking of vampire,” Lirowaus explained with a firm slap on the still raised ass, and Xander closed his eyes against tears. “What do you say to your master, pup?”

“Thank you, master,” Xander said clearly and without either sarcasm or emotion.

“Not acceptable. If you want me to keep my end of our bargain, you will keep yours. Now what do you say?” Lirowaus sounded aggravated, and Xander took a deep breath before composing his reply.

“Thank you for teaching me how to please you master. I am grateful that you find me worthy of your time. Thank you for sharing pleasure with me and for giving me the gift of your smell. You are too kind to me,” Xander said, realizing that if Lirowaus did get tired of him that he and Spike would both die. That helped Xander put a little enthusiasm into his answer this time. It must have been enough because Lirowaus rubbed his ass, and Xander found himself strangely relieved because the act didn’t give him comfort the way Leshar’s touch often had. Lirowaus’ touch didn’t make him feel anything…possibly because Xander was finding it harder and hard *to* feel anything at all. Well, except the stomach cramps, those he was feeling.

Somehow Xander still felt like he was trapped on his master’s body, and he wondered why he had tried to hard; it didn’t matter. He was Lirowaus’ and he would always be Lirowaus’. Whether he was held by a hand on his head or a command or a chain or a cock, it was all the same. Realizing that he had finished his assigned task, Xander slowly moved off to the side, raising himself over Lirowaus’ thick leg and letting himself down to the stone floor where he knelt and waited for an order to set him into motion again.

“I don’t know what you have learned from that Leshar and the vampire, but you hardly have to abandon my bed after such pleasurable service,” Lirowaus said, and Xander tried to figure out if there was an order in there. He heard a chuffing sound that he didn’t recognize. “Obedience does not mean that you cannot enjoy the pleasures of my company, little one. Get back up here.” Xander heard the order and he stood and knelt on the bed, keeping his back straight and his hands behind his back as his spread legs displayed his uninterested cock.

“Do you want me to play with this, little one?” Lirowaus asked and a clawed finger held up his limp penis.

“No, master,” Xander said. He didn’t have wants, and if he did, Lirowaus’ touches would not make the list.

“Hmm. Do you not seek pleasure? I find that most humans are quite eager to take their own pleasures, so what pleasures you?” Xander struggled to find that answer somewhere in his mind, but he felt like he was somehow slipping out of his own body and his own mind. He shuffled through memories that weren’t his and he sought words that suddenly didn’t make sense to him.

“I give you pleasure, master” Xander finally answered.

“What a unique prize. I shall have to breed you often and see if your offspring are as special. If I could breed this sweetness of yours into my stock, I would have the most desirable humans around. Perhaps I’ll breed you to some of the witches as your old master wanted. But you’ve pleased me, so do you seek any other reward?”

“Spike,” Xander said, remembering that he was someone important.

“What about him?” Lirowaus’ voice suddenly had a note of caution and displeasure.

“Keep him safe,” Xander asked in a whisper realizing that he’d displeased his master by speaking his former master’s name.

“You have already earned that reward. Don’t you want any other?” Lirowaus asked curiously, and Xander kept his eyes down as he answered.

“No, master.”

“So, you would serve me this way every night for no other reward than making me happy and keeping your former master safe?” Xander thought the answer was rather obvious, but he answered anyway.

“Yes, master.”

“Oh, yes. I would love to see your sweetness in the eyes of a dozen cubs,” Lirowaus murmured and Xander felt the hand return to his hair. “Since you choose no reward on your own, I’ll choose for you: you’ll sleep with me tonight,” Lirowaus announced as he practically bounced out of bed and headed for a nearby room. Xander didn’t feel a need to pee, and he couldn’t possibly use the bathroom despite his intestinal cramping, so he moved down to the spot Lirowaus had abandoned at the foot of the bed and curled up, wishing for a floor, his cage, his true Master’s bed.

Xander felt the tears start at that last one, but he had given that up, and now that he would smell of Lirowaus, he would never earn that back again. He should be grateful that Lirowaus allowed him in his bed, and he kept telling himself to appreciate and be grateful as he lay trying to find a comfortable position that didn’t aggravate the cramps or the huge intrusion into his ass. After all, once Lirowaus returned, he didn’t want to disturb his new master with unnecessary tossing and turning.

Chapter 18:

Xander stirred when the bed under him moved, triggering cramps that had kept him awake most of the night.

“Rocim, get him cleaned up for the day,” Lirowaus commanded, and Xander slipped off the bed and walked to Rocim without being ordered. The small demon sniffed at him disgustedly and Xander wondered if he was offended by some lingering Eau de Spike or whether Rocim didn’t like a human smelling like Lirowaus. Xander figured it didn’t matter as long as he finally got to go to the bathroom. He followed quietly with his guts cramping badly enough to make him want to drop to the ground.

Luckily Rocim unlocked the belt contraption and allowed Xander to use the bathroom first before washing, drying, and decorating Lirowaus’ newest slave. Xander hadn’t realized what a ceremony Spike had made of the decorations until he felt Rocim’s coldly efficient hands attaching his decorations without comment. The back chains and the long front chain with his three stones, his black hobbles and his leather arm bands. In Spike's care these felt sensual, now it made Xander feel somehow less human to be so casually treated even though the treatment really was an improvement on Leshar’s, so Xander couldn’t figure out why it was bothering him so damn much.

Rocim grabbed him by an arm and pulled him back into Lirowaus’ room.

“He still smells of vampire, lord,” Rocim announced, and Xander found his earlier question answered.

“Well we do know how to fix that,” Lirowaus commented and then looked at Xander who knelt on the floor watching in furtive glances. “But I do not want that belt ruining his appearance. Find another means of securing the plug until such time as he stops smelling like that half-breed.” Rocim turned and left without comment, and when Xander heard the Present command and Lirowaus patted the bed, Xander went into position numbly, knowing what his master planned.

Xander floated in and out of awareness as he set his body to motion following his master’s commands. He didn’t really actually register anything until a flood running into his guts made him groan, and then the only response was the withdrawal of Lirowaus’ cock and the insertion of the wide plug that strained his muscles. On command, Xander knelt up into the Position kneel and when he clasped his hands behind him, he felt the leather cuffs clicking into place. He briefly considered pointing out that he had no reason to fight so the cuffs weren’t necessary, but he didn’t really care enough to bother. Only when Rocim’s hand grabbed his genitals did he really pay attention, and he watched as the minion fastened a wide black leather loop around his cock and balls tight enough to be aggravating but loose enough to not really bother him too much. Rocim picked up the trailing chain and put it between Xander’s legs and pushed up on the plug before pulling at his wrist cuffs.

Xander suspected the set up, but for curiosity’s sake he pulled his hands up, and the chain pulled his genitals down a corresponding distance. Well at least it wasn’t the thick wire loop of the training hobbles, Xander thought as his cock gave a dull ache of complaint. Lirowaus seemed to approve of the solution because a large clawed finger ran along Xander’s cuffed wrists and then the flat of Lirowaus’ hand rested on Xander’s hip as Xander held position.

“What a good pup. I think I may have that tongue pierced. I can see you with a chain around here,” Lirowaus said as he ran a nail across Xander’s cheek from the corner of each side of his mouth around the back of Xander’s head. Lirowaus gave him a slap on the butt and then got off the bed. “Come on then.”

Xander padded after his master silently with his head down. He ate out of a bowl at his master’s feet. He dripped water from his chin which he couldn’t wipe when he drank water. He followed Lirowaus from one room to another, and he didn’t even look at the other slaves who came and went. Xander barely noticed when a day disappeared…. or two…. or three…. or four days.

When day five came with its inevitable demand for sexual performance, Lirowaus didn’t put the plug in and Xander knew that the last trace of Spike had been driven out of his body by the sheer volume of Lirowaus’ come, and now he had nothing left of Spike because no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t hide in the memory of his former Master. Xander knew it was because he had disobeyed Spike, and he wondered if he had ruined some plan of Spike’s by not trusting him. That thought sometimes nagged him as he sat at his new master’s feet with his hands locked behind him because Lirowaus liked the look. More days passed marked only by their unremarkable sameness.

Xander knelt by Lirowaus in the study when Rocim appeared in the doorway.

“Lord, Ulsha is here,” the small demon announced and then disappeared back around the corner. Lirowaus turned in his chair and rose to meet his guest, and Xander angled his body so that he kept in proper form.

“Ulsha, how wonderful of you to visit,” Lirowaus exclaimed as the demon from the Sacramento slave auction appeared in the doorway.

“Yes, I heard you had a new acquisition, and I thought I would stop and see for myself.” Xander remained motionless, barely listening to the conversation as the two men touched briefly before taking seats, Xander kneeling beside his master silently.

“So, since you have a new human to show off, will you go to the Vegas auction?” The humanish demon asked without any sort of small talk at all. Lirowaus laughed.

“I am considering. He is such a sweet animal; he never asks for anything and he can provide incredible pleasure. I don’t believe in the sort of training Leshar provides, but this sweet thing has suggested a new approach for my training.”

“Oh, really? I would be interested in discussing any procedure that you think might result in such quiet obedience.” Ulsha leaned forward and Xander found himself having his first emotion of the day: fury. Ulsha had sent them here; he had set them up. Xander wanted to take the creature and tear his guts open but just like a wave that crashes through only to dissipate on the shore, Xander’s fury collapsed into despair as he realized he would never have that chance. His only option was to kneel at his master’s feet and hope that Spike found a way out.

“Yes, he really is a treat. And so many of my slaves will whine and negotiate for more and more time with their bonding group, but my lovely pup here is happy to stay at my feet all day. I’m quite taken with him.”

“And I can see why.” There was a lull in the conversation. “So, he performs well?” Xander knew what was following, and when Lirowaus pulled his first cock out of his pants, Xander moved obediently into position, licking along the length and nipping the sides in preparation. He’d learned to not think of anything during this act because any fantasy or memory he conjured just mutated into the face of some person he had once known condemning him. So he thought of nothing as he finally took the head in his mouth and swallowed the length. The end of the cock was so small it easily fit, but he also knew that it would soon become large enough to lock him in place until he could finish the job, so he breathed deeply knowing what was coming and sunk his teeth into the base of the cock even as he moved his head from side to side to stimulate it. Sure enough, the cock began growing slowly, the shaft in his throat expanding until he struggled to breathe as the organ did its job and expanded to fit the available space. Xander then started jerking back as hard as he could to the sound of Lirowaus grunting. Before long a hand tangled in his hair and tightened as his master held him still.

“You’re distracting me, boy. Pleasure later, guests now.” Xander froze with his mouth wedged open and his throat tight enough that he struggled to breathe, but the choice wasn’t his so he closed his eyes and scooted his knees closer so that he didn’t wear out his back while waiting. Lirowaus continued to pet him and then resumed the conversation as though he didn’t have a slave attached to him.

“I even offered to put him with a bonding group thinking that it would provide leverage for later, but he declined, and he is willing to work without any further incentive than pleasing me.” Xander knew that to be a lie, but given his current situation, he wasn’t likely to tell anyone. He felt a line of drool start out of the corner of his mouth.

“So he serves for no rewards. Doesn’t that contradict your whole theory of training?” Ulsha pointed out. Lirowaus made an unhappy noise.

“He has a reward, but it is one reward that serves to keep him obedient permanently. Obviously I wish to experiment some with this method, but I am hoping to develop some new training techniques based on my experiences with my beautiful pup, and I’m also planning on breeding him.”

“Private breedings only? I have several healthy females that are ready to breed. The last breeder I used was a total failure; all of his cubs were horribly near sighted and quite frankly rather unattractive. Of the six cubs he bred, I put all but one down.”

Xander tried to ignore the words, but the word ‘cubs’ wormed its way into his imagination, and he saw Weird Wendell with his spiders and his big glasses who had a crush on Willow back in first grade. Imagining these demons so casually killing children like that left Xander glad for the intrusion in his mouth because it kept him from screaming his frustration. He pulled air through his nose and tried not to think of his own children so casually handled because he knew it would happen. It would happen because he wasn’t ever going to be strong enough to stop it. Xander put a stop to all his thoughts and focused on this image of white static that he found he could use to focus his mind away from all the ugliness.

“I’m telling you, the stock would be better if we killed all the plastic surgeons in California. It’s quite frustrating to find, train and breed stock only to find out that the traits you liked weren’t natural to begin with.” Lirowaus made a disgusted noise, and Xander amused himself with thoughts of that piece of irony. Disgusting was the slave trade. Disgusting was Lirowaus thinking he could treat people like animals, and the whole concept of having children for this man made Xander more ill than anything he had done so far, but slave-choiceless-choiceless-slave. He knew the kind of drugs they used to force breedings.

Hell, disgusting was a person who would betray his rescuer and instead give himself away to something as disgusting as Lirowaus. Disgusting was willingly kneeling with a demon’s penis lodged in your throat. Yep, Xander imagined Giles’ face if the watcher could see him now, and he knew the definition of disgusting. Plastic surgery didn’t even rate on the same scale. Xander knew he should feel something at those thoughts…rage, frustration, anger, fear, embarrassment. The only thing he felt was the soreness in his throat as he struggled to pull air in past the obstruction. Then the white static moved in over his mind without him even trying to summon it.

“Well I imagine that once you’ve shown that those looks are genetic, you’ll get lots of offers. If his temperament transfers to the cubs you’re going to have to keep him well fed just to keep up with all the breeding offers. That vampire who was showing him around really made quite an impression.” Xander opened his eyes at the mention of Spike, but the only thing he saw was Lirowaus’ stomach, and he knew he had no claim on the vampire any more so he closed his eyes and went back to focusing on the breathing. God he wanted to pull, but he wouldn’t disobey because he was the slave: the pathetic creature on his knees. He was just the animal they discussed breeding with all the interest of horse breeders.

“I have trouble understanding why a vampire was ever allowed into an auction. They are utterly disgusting, violent half-breeds who have no business buying stock. Their only interest in humans is either eating them or creating more half-breeds out of them.”

“William the Bloody is a rather unique case. I don’t know how he got into the first auction, but a number of people offered invitations to the Sacramento show because they wished to make an offer on your newest slave or they wished to purchase breeding rights. I am surprised he parted with that little animal; how much did you have to pay?” Lirowaus laughed, and Xander noticed a spot on his knee where he was kneeling on something sharp: a pebble maybe. The pain helped him focus away from Lirowaus so he pressed down harder.

“I don’t purchase animals from vampires.” Lirowaus announced haughtily. “However I wasn’t about to leave such a superior animal with a vampire either.”

“You killed him,” Ulsha said in a tone that sounded admiring.

“I removed him from the field,” Lirowaus corrected. Xander focused on his knee. “He will never touch my pup again. Pup, look at me,” Xander opened his eyes as commanded and squirmed to look up with his head so firmly locked in place. However, the tilted angle actually did free his nose from the smell of Kailiff demon so that he could catch fresh air. Lirowaus a finger along either cheek, tracing their bulging shape and looking down with an expression of fond possessiveness. “No one will ever touch you again without my permission. You are mine and I will take care of you.” Lirowaus promised. Xander just blinked up at his master with tired eyes. “Now show me your gratitude.”

Xander immediately bit down, and Lirowaus happily squirmed as Xander started yanking back for all he was worth, abusing his muscles that cried for oxygen they weren’t receiving. He had learned the pattern of biting and yanking that worked best, and now he applied those skills as he felt Lirowaus’ cock burst in near record time. As the fluid flowed, Xander pressed in toward Lirowaus’ crotch so that the long penis would remain in his neck and prevent the necessity of actually tasting and swallowing the watery, bitter fluid.

When Xander felt his stomach fill with liquid and Lirowaus’ penis totally deflate, he nearly collapsed to the floor at Lirowaus’ feet, the vigorous physical activity combined with the lack of oxygen to leave him panting.

“Such an enthusiastic animal. I do hope he passes these traits on to his cubs,” Ulsha commented. “I would love to have a couple of female cubs with equal enthusiasm and stamina.”

“I assure you, he has had no alterations. He is simply the best human I’ve ever owned.” Xander felt that same poking sensation in his cheek and he shifted his head back, suddenly spotting the paperclip buried in the carpet. Xander flashed back to a conversation from a couple of lifetimes ago: a conversation between Spike and his former self.

Spike: Don’t know why you don’t bloody use chains. I’m getting rope burn here, wanker.

Droopy: Yeah, right. If you’re asking for chains, I’m not stupid enough to use them.

Spike: This comin’ from a git stupid enough ta call himself a bloody ‘nummy treat’ in front of a vampire. I reckon your stupidity is already on record.

Droopy: Chipped vampire, I said it in front of a chipped vampire as in a declawed cat, a toothless lion, a pathetic old excuse for a demon that can’t eat any more.

Spike: When I get this chip out…

Droopy: Yeah, yeah. Death, mayhem, murder…I’ve heard this, but I’m not walking all the way over to Giles’ place to get you chains, especially if you want chains. You can probably pick the locks or something.

Spike: Bloody right. Spend enough time with Angelus and you learn to do interesting things with paperclips.

Now that Xander thought about it, he wondered if paperclips even existed back during Angelus’ time. Xander listened to the two demons above him discussing his physical attributes and he took the paperclip in his teeth, pulling it free from the carpet fibers and slipping it between his lower teeth and his cheek. He had no idea what to do with it now that he had hidden it, but just the act of hiding the small piece of metal from his master somehow comforted him.

Xander must have missed some part of the conversation because the two demons had stood and Xander hurried to stand at his master’s side, his hands cuffed behind him, his hip chains tangled from lying on the floor, and his head lowered in submission.

“Is he quite well?”

“Humans are always coming down with some illness. I’ll have my healer look at him,” Lirowaus answered and Xander realized they were talking about him. Xander almost snorted in laughter. Not quite well didn’t even cover it. He was nauseous, tired, and sore; his muscles still trembled, his throat hurt, and he honestly wanted to die. Physically he was about a thousand percent better than when Leshar had owned him, but he just couldn’t keep fighting any more.

Ulsha must have taken Lirowaus at his word because they walked out talking, and Xander stayed at heel, his knees trembling. Once Ulsha had driven away, Xander followed his master back into the house, kneeling when Lirowaus dropped into his favorite chair. Lirowaus reached down and started untangling Xander’s various decorative chains.

"You are not performing as well for me as you did for that vampire. Your performance will improve or I will assume you have violated your end of the bargain. “Xander knew what that would mean, but suddenly he had a goal of his own. He used the one word Lirowaus' slaves were always allowed to use without permission.

"Negotiate," he offered. Lirowaus froze in the middle of smoothing out a hip chain.

"You do surprise me, pup. Every time I think I can predict your behavior, you change." Xander waited for permission to continue with his proposal. "So, you think that being affectionate should fall outside your already standing agreement? Be careful, little one. I don't think you want to say anything that suggests you aren't honoring our contract." Xander considered his words; he had already given away his compliance.

"I will act affectionate if you let me say goodbye to Spike," Xander offered, nearly choking on the name.

"You will be affectionate from now on?" Lirowaus asked.

"From now on, as long as I can say a proper goodbye and service him one last time." Xander avoided the verbs all together since he couldn't promise to 'be' affectionate and he knew he would just anger his master to emphasize the 'act' affectionate part.

"I do not want the hassle of trying to get rid of that smell a second time, so you will not have his bodily fluids inside my property," Lirowaus insisted, and Xander nodded. As much as he really did want to finish the act properly, he didn't want another deodorizing treatment from his current master. They hurt.

"Rocim!" The human-looking minion appeared at the door instantly. Xander wondered if the man hovered on the other side of the door constantly. He flashed on an image of Rocim brushing his teeth standing at the door waiting to serve. Loser.

"Rocim, take the vampire to the first chamber and prepare him accordingly," Lirowaus ordered. Xander could feel his muscles start to shake. Prepare him? What had he done? Xander tried to look unconcerned since it was his attachment to Spike that angered Lirowaus the most.

"You have made this deal, will you now honor it, my pretty little one?"

"Yes, master." Xander pursed his lips and felt the paperclip press into his gums. He would honor it. He would act affectionate and be the best slave Lirowaus could ever want if he could just give Spike the chance to get away.

"Well then, in three days we shall either go to the Las Vegas auction and show the others your dedication to me, or I shall be disappointed and we will discuss renegotiating our contract." Xander knew what he would do; he'd already proven his willingness to do anything, and now he would prove it, not for Lirowaus but for Spike.

Rocim appeared in the doorway far sooner than Xander expected. "He's ready," the servant announced. Xander knelt nearly shaking in anticipation as Rocim hooked a leash to his collar. With the leash in place, Xander shifted over to Rocim's side and waited for only a second before Rocim started out of the room and Xander rose to follow. Xander walked the slave corridors for only the second time, and when they reached a plain door like any other heavy door in the hallway, Rocim ordered, "Floor."

Xander obediently folded his body and put his forehead to the ground as he felt the chain leash drop to the floor with a rattling, clinking sound. A metallic creak and then a scraping of door over stone and Xander could feel the changing air currents as the door opened. He itched to sit up and look in that door, but he remained kneeling next to the wall out of sight.

"Enjoying your new accommodations, vampire?" Rocim asked in a mocking tone, and Xander could feel the responding growl reverberate in his bones.

"What happened ta Xander?"

"What makes you think that anything has happened to Master Lirowaus' newest favorite?"

"Oh, I don't know...maybe because ya pulled me out of that room ta hang me up in here. Or is that wanker Lirowaus goin' back on his word?" Xander could hear chains clanging and he longed to look up, but he kept his forehead to the floor, unwilling to ruin this chance with disobedience even as he ran his tongue over the paperclip. God, please don't let Spike have just been making things up again, he quickly prayed, wondering if God listened to prayers for vampires.

"Lirowaus always keeps his word, but Xander has renegotiated." Xander could hear a sigh, and he cringed. That bastard Rocim was making it sound like Xander had given up on Spike. Well, he had given up on Spike in that he knew Spike would never want him after this, but he hadn't given up as in letting Lirowaus kill Spike.

"Bloody right, told ya that ya couldn't use me against him forever, so just get it bloody over with."

"Oh, vampire. You underestimate the damage you did to the animal. Even Master Lirowaus understands that you are the only bonding group the human will ever accept." Xander heard steps and then a hand picked up his leash and gave him a tug. Xander rose and followed silently, examining the rough stones beneath his bare feet rather than look at Spike whose eyes had to be full of condemnation. Why did he think he could do this, appear in front of Spike stinking of Lirowaus and broken far worse than Leshar had managed? Why did he think one little piece of metal would make a difference? He heard Spike's low rolling growl and he cringed. The growl stopped.

"Xan?" a voice called, and Xander tried to imprint that tone, the tone that he could no longer summon from his memories. "Pet?" Xander struggled not to cry at that word, so close to Lirowaus' word for him and yet so totally different. Leshar had even called him 'pet', but only Spike's word seemed leashed to his heart so that the sound of it pulled the pain of loss and the knowledge of his own betrayal to the surface.

"Master Lirowaus and I leave for a show in three days," Xander said quietly, the longest sentence he'd said in days, but he hoped that Spike heard the unsaid words: Security would change in three days, staff would be disrupted in three days, the vampire had a chance to escape in three days. Xander risked a glance up and Spike watched him with his arms chained to the ceiling, his legs spread and chained to the floor, stripped naked and staring with a head cocked to one side. Xander only hoped that the expression was one of forgiveness because he couldn't quite decipher it.

Xander expected Rocim to drop the leash, but instead the handler walked forward with Xander at heel. Rocim stopped near Spike and gestured Xander forward. Pulling the bit of metal out of his cheek, Xander stepped up and kissed Spike, pressing his lips to his Master's lips and wishing he could run his shackled hands through Spike's mussed hair. Now that he was closer, he could see the color in Spike's cheeks and see the strong bones and muscles that had already healed. He could smell the cigarettes and he knew that his sacrifice had bought these things for Spike. Then he gave Spike the only thing he could. He opened his mouth and tilted his head to the side to seal his lips over Spike's, hiding the transfer as he pushed the paperclip into Spike's mouth. The vampire never even twitched, but Xander could feel an agile tongue pull the paperclip in and slide it into the vampire's cheek. Xander pulled back and looked into those blue eyes just once. Since his memories had failed him, he hadn't been able to even imagine that color blue.

Knowing that he would never see those eyes again, Xander lowered himself to the floor, and pressed his head into the hollow where Spike's leg and hip met, smelling his Master and imagining the time when other demons could smell that on him. He nuzzled the flesh, trying to pretend away Rocim and the chains that held Spike, and imagined them in Joyce's hallway. He ran his cheek along Spike's hip and stomach, just brushing his former Master's cock, and he could feel the responding shudder in Spike's body, the chains rattling some with the movement.

He felt the smooth, cool skin under his cheek, and he allowed himself to relax as the memories finally returned with the touch. Spike touching him and holding him. Spike sleeping on top of his cage, rising in the morning with sore groans but never abandoning him. Spike buying him from the auction and saving him...for a while at least. He’d had nearly two weeks of joy that he hadn't expected or deserved, and now he was back on the only path that had been open to him since the day that van had pulled up to him under the street lamp. Xander licked along the side of Spike's now growing cock, enjoying the predictable response and soft texture.

Spike had given him everything in those two weeks, and Xander had responded by betraying him and allowing someone else to defile him. He remembered how Spike said that he didn't want a weak slave kneeling at his feet. Xander tried to exile that memory by taking the cock in his mouth, tonguing the foreskin and teasing the top of the cockhead. Spike had liked the fact that he was capable of still being strong even after Leshar, but he also knew that he wasn't strong any more. He was just a liability now because he couldn't even imagine fighting by Spike‘s side the way he had when they had slept those days at Joyce's place. The last piece of Droopy Harris was broken, and now he truly belonged to Lirowaus. Xander pushed his tongue out and deep throated Spike, running his tongue along the vein as he took the cock into his throat and swallowed. He could feel Spike convulse, but he didn't want it to be over that soon so he pulled back.

He sucked the head, letting the tip pop in and out of his mouth with corresponding groans from Spike. Then he released Spike altogether, determined to make this last time memorable enough to last him for the next couple of decades, fully expecting his other Spike-memories to fade. Those were of Master Spike, and he had no claim on Master Spike, but this was prisoner-Spike, and he resolved to create a single memory that made the rest worthwhile. Lowering his head, he nuzzled under Spike's now full-sized cock and licked across his balls, blowing air right after so that the hairs shivered as the skin contracted. He repeated this maneuver several times until Spike was making incoherent noises and then he scooted to a place directly between Spike's legs.

Wishing again that his hands were free, Xander licked and kissed his way back to Spike's hole, teasing the sensitive skin with the same lick-blow technique. But when he reached the actual entrance, he switched to a swirling motion. His tongue ached now, unused to performing this type of service any more. Lirowaus' preferences didn't run to this slow torment, but Xander ignored the pain as he closed his mouth over the entrance and gently sucked as he pushed his tongue against the tight muscle. Suddenly he could feel Spike's muscles loosen, and Xander pushed his tongue in, reaching as far as he could. The taste was musky and slightly sharp, a stronger version of the smell he loved, and he continued with his in and out strokes until he feared that Spike would come just from that action.

Knowing that his sore tongue and mouth couldn't perform well for much longer, and not even knowing how long he had now teased and tormented Spike who writhed in his chains, Xander moved back to the front and took the hard cock in his mouth. His own cock strained against his stomach, but Xander knew he would have release with Spike, so he ignored the ache between his own legs.

Xander played with the head of the cock and looked up for one last look when Spike suddenly stiffened. Xander knew he should pull back; he couldn't disobey Lirowaus, but he found himself immobilized by the sight of Spike with his head thrown back in pleasure. Just as he got his first real taste of Spike, Rocim yanked the leash and Xander found himself jerked away as Spike's seed arced through the air and landed on the ground. Xander's own cock twitched with a need to join his Master in that final act, but Xander realized that Spike wasn't his Master and this was nothing more than a farewell act...a scam to give Spike one chance.

Xander lowered his eyes to the floor and rearranged himself into a formal kneel as his own cock now deflated without release. Xander didn't look up into Spike's eyes, but closed his own eyes and remembered that look of confusion--much better than the condemnation he knew he'd see now. In three days he would be off to Las Vegas, and hopefully when they returned, Lirowaus would discover that Spike had escaped. Maybe Spike could even get the girls out or call Angel to get the girls out. Xander had seen Willow twice when she had been called to do spells. She had looked at him with such anguish and pity that he knew he wasn't worth saving, but she was. She still glared daggers at Lirowaus and performed only the most basic magic to keep her and Tara fed and relatively safe. She was strong.

Xander felt the tug at his leash and he rose to follow. At the doorway he stopped despite Rocim's continued pressure.

"Good-bye, Spike," Xander said without turning around. He sent up a second prayer that God would find it within his mercy to look after just one demon and then he walked away from his Master for the second time, this time for good.


Chapter 19:

Xander willingly crawled into bed with Lirowaus, sliding between the demon's legs and curling up with his head on the demon's hip instead of retreating to the footboard. He'd long ago stopped thinking about anything other than Spike's escape. He imagined scenarios where Spike drove the paperclip into a guard's neck and scenarios where he picked a lock. He created fantasies where Spike used the paperclip to short circuit a high tech locking mechanism, and where Spike used mattress padding, toothpaste, and the paperclip to create some sort of MacGyver-worthy bomb. Xander trusted Spike to take advantage of some opening when the security loosened in three days, but he knew that Lirowaus would then move the rest of the stock, so he knew he'd never see Spike again.

He rubbed his cheek against Lirowaus' hip invitingly, and Lirowaus reached down and petted him.

"Such a beautiful pup. If I'd known you would be this affectionate, I would have allowed you to say goodbye to your master long ago. Are you upholding your end of the bargain, or is this something else?" Xander considered his answer as those rough hands caressed his head.

"Something else, master."

"And what is that, my little pup?" Lirowaus asked with a laugh. Xander guessed that the demon was amused for the same reason Spike had been, his lack of detail on any answer.

"Spike isn't my master; I'll never see him again. You're all I have," Xander answered honestly. At one point it would have broken his heart to admit that part of him needed Lirowaus' approval and affection, but he was so broken already that it just didn't matter any more. He just curled up and used his fingers to explore a spot on Lirowaus' leg. Since he slept with this hands shackled it was all he could reach.

"Ah, so my pup has accepted the truth?"

"Yes, master."

"That should make me eager for your services, but even demons need rest. You've made me quite sore in the most pleasant of ways," Lirowaus commented with a huffing noise. Xander didn't point out that he was just as happy for the break. He might long for a touch in his hair so that he could close his eyes and pretend, but he couldn't bring himself to want that attention. He just hoped that the universe was kind enough to kill him before he started wanting that because he knew the day would come. He closed his eyes and laid his head on Lirowaus' inner thigh knowing that he'd probably survive many, many years. The universe had never liked him well enough to do him any favors. Accepting that he had found his place, as miserable as it might be, Xander fell asleep only to be brutally awakened just a couple of hours later.

Xander woke to find the bed tilting under him. Just as he opened his eyes, Lirowaus exited the bed with such speed that Xander became tangled in his master’s limbs and fell from the bed with him. He struggled to get his feet under him, but the hobbles limited his motion so that he fell face-first onto Lirowaus' stomach, causing a mighty exhale but no other protest even as Xander righted himself. When Xander finally got his knees under him, he found a game-faced Spike snarling at a Lirowaus who heaved great breaths as he squirmed on the floor. One demon hand curled into the area rug, gathering the fabric in a fist so that all the wrinkles lay like rays of light from a sun. The other hand grappled at his own thick neck.

"Bet that hurts like bitch," Spike said as he casually backed up and leaned against the wall. Xander secretly rejoiced to see Spike free and yet worried about why Spike had come to Lirowaus' room. Why wasn't Spike going for help? Hadn't Spike gotten his warning to wait three days? Had Spike seen him sleeping curled up between Lirowaus' legs? Xander couldn’t seem to get his brain sorted out as different fears and different hopes got hopelessly tangled in his brain.

"That's the thing about Kailiff demons, crush their necks and they keep on breathin' but the talkin's kinda done for. Bloody handy." Spike smiled, and Xander pushed back into the bed a bit at the sight of the sadistic joy.

"Of course, the soundproofin' helps. Lets me do this." Spike picked up a floor lamp and stomped down on the base to break it off so he had a fairly functional staff. Then he swung that staff like a bat right into Lirowaus' head. Xander started breathing heavy at the sight of his new master's body slamming into the wall before sliding down. The demon's hand braced himself on the floor as legs flailed in an attempt to rise while the other hand continued to clutch at the throat that had been incapacitated with the first blow.

"Soddin' wanker. Ya aren't good enough ta touch him anyway, but ya bloody knew he was mine." Spike swung again and this time Lirowaus' head bounced off the wall and rebounded so that he hit the staff a second time on the recoil. Xander watched the still attached shade vibrate in response to the violence

"I" ... kick to stomach ... "bloody"... kick to knee which bends unnaturally ... "wish" ... punch down into the back ... "I" ... second punch and Lirowaus starts crawling away ... "had" ... kick sends him crashing through a small table ... "time" ... Spike drives a piece of broken table leg through a flailing arm ... "to" ... the impromptu staff pierces the stomach and nails Lirowaus to the floor... "do" ... a hand wraps around that top penis ... "this" ... penis and body part ways, Spike drops the bloody member on Lirowaus' twisted face ... "right" ... Spike grabs either side of Lirowaus' neck and snaps it so that even Xander on the other side of the room can hear the cracking bones.

Spike stood panting unnecessary air as he stood over Lirowaus' broken body, and Xander remained frozen in place. He watched as Spike turned and started walking slowly toward him. Xander felt the tears gather, but he didn't know why. It was over. His new master was dead and now Spike knew how he had allowed Lirowaus to…. Xander’s mind shut down before he could finish his thought, but he knew he’d done more than Spike’s demon could allow. He’d curled up in Lirowaus’ lap. Xander knew that Spike's demon would never take him back after that kind of betrayal.

He’d known there was no going back when he’d first made the deal, and while Spike coming here was a surprise, Xander wondered if the universe liked him well enough to just give him the favor of a quick end. He didn’t dare ask for more. Okay, he could ask for more: a quick end and Spike’s escape. Well, a quick death, Spike’s escape and a rescue for his girls, but he could trust Spike to live up to his word; Spike would save them.

Spike stopped in front of him, and Xander kept his eyes on the floor, trusting that Spike would make his end quick. How funny to expect mercy from a demon, especially one that had just enjoyed such blatant violence. A hand touched him, and Xander tried not to flinch. Tried and failed, but the hand didn't grab or twist, it stroked his hair gently.

“You can’t…” Xander stopped, unable to say out loud the words that had haunted him throughout his time with Lirowaus, so he didn’t; he just begged. “Please, Spike. Please, just let it be over.” Xander kept his gaze down.

“It *is* over, luv. It’s over and you’re safe.” Xander thought about that word, and he didn’t think he would ever understand that word again. He wasn’t safe, he had all these thoughts and memories in his mind that stabbed at him, and Spike couldn’t ever fix that.

“No,” he argued. “It’s not. Please, just let it be over." If he went on, he would have to remember and Xander wasn't strong enough for that. "I want to go with Buffy,” Xander explained, unable to say more than that. The hand on his head stopped.

“Bloody hell no. Xan, you can’t ask me to do that again. I bloody loved the Slayer and feeling her heart stop under me was the closest thing to dying I’ve felt in 120 years. I bloody died twice, I can’t go through it again.” Xander thought about that and thought of those broken liquor bottles in that empty warehouse and then the vampire knelt next to him so close that Xander couldn't escape seeing Spike out of the corner of his eye.

“Leave me,” Xander offered. "Just get the girls out." He understood Spike’s pain, and he could find another way. He would find another way rather than put Spike through that again.

“Not on your soddin’ life, and more importantly, not on mine. I’ll be bloody dust before I’ll leave you. I’m your Master and you’ll come with me.” Xander felt arms suddenly wrap around him and pull him into an embrace, but Xander couldn't respond. His hands were still shackled just like Lirowaus liked.

“Not any more,” Xander said softly, aware that he didn’t belong to anyone anymore. Lirowaus had taken him from Spike, forced him to betray Spike, and now he had no master. He knew what that meant.

“You’re mine, and you’ll stop bein’ mine when I bloody say so and not before you soddin’ stubborn git. I’ll effin’ chain ya to wall and make ya stay with me 'cause you take orders from me.” Xander felt tears really flow at that comment, not out of fear but out of a desire to have that happen, but it couldn’t. What had Spike once told him? Spike had said that he wouldn’t have a weak slave, and Xander had proven to be as weak as they come.

“I betrayed you,” Xander said in a stronger voice. “I betrayed you and disobeyed and gave myself to someone else. So weak; so dirty…” Xander stopped when his breathing became erratic and threatened to release the sobs that he held inside his chest only by a force of will.

“You’re bloody well the strongest bastard I’ve ever met. Giles would’ve gone off his trolley by now, and most people, well they would’ve given up long ago. But you traded your own safety to try and get the girls back, and what ya traded for me…” Spike went silent for a moment. The hand that had embraced him now ran through his hair and pushed his head into Spike’s firm chest. Xander let himself lean into that strong body and pretend for a moment that he was worthy.

“Never would’ve asked ya for that, pet. I know what ya gave up for me, and you’re still the most beautiful human I’ve ever seen. I don’t care if ya talk to stars for the rest of your soddin’ life, I’ll be here and you won’t talk about givin’ up because the bastard I know wouldn’t back down from a Chaos demon if the only weapon he had was a toothpick.”

“But I did,” Xander didn’t even try to stop the tears that flowed down his cheek only to be absorbed by Spike’s shirt. “I backed down. I can’t live with that.”

“You bloody well never did. You charged in and saved my arse after I failed ya. It was my job to protect you, and I didn't. I may have bollocked this up once, but I'm not about to make things worse by leavin' ya. Not in this lifetime.” Spike paused. “Xander?”

“Don’t call me that,” Xander interrupted, “That’s not who I am.”

“Fine, stupid name anyway, but whatever name ya go by, you’re mine and you’ll stay mine, pet.” Xander didn’t really agree as much as run out of energy to fight any more.

"Right, time to go." Xander felt fingers at his wrists, pulling and prodding until his wrists fell apart. Xander brought his hands in front of him just to look at them. They seemed foreign to him after all this time, and he could feel the pull in his shoulders since his body had grown so accustomed to keeping his hands behind his back that holding them out front stretched unused muscles.

Then he felt Spike bodily pick him up and put him on the side of the bed and Xander wondered if Spike wanted to put his own scent on his slave, and Xander didn't argue until he considered where they were and what would happen if anyone caught Spike. Then he started to squirm, but Spike only pushed him back on the bed and sat on his chest as fingers played with his hobbles. But the hobbles only came off when Rocim bathed him. Xander struggled to make some sort of sense of his quickly changing world when he suddenly felt cool air over skin that had grown accustomed to being encased with leather.

"Not goin' to have you hobbled when we may have to make a run for it." Spike said, and Xander slowly worked out the logic in his mind. Spike got off of him, and Xander sat up and kept his eyes on the floor as Spike stood beside him...he knew Spike was watching and was probably smelling him too. He felt dirty to carry another demon's smell, but he was dirty, so the corrupting smell was only appropriate. He felt the tap at his shoulder, and he rose to follow without even thinking. Hell, he didn't think he had enough energy left to think, he thought as he followed Spike at heel.

Spike pulled the bedroom door open, and Rocim stood there, a hand raised to knock and a look of surprise and horror on his face. Spike didn't wait for Rocim's reaction; he reached out and grabbed the minion by his shirt-front and dragged him into the room, slamming the bedroom door shut again.

"Master Lirowaus," Rocim chattered as he saw the mangled lump of flesh and blood with the broken lamp tilting slightly but held upright by the body. The shade on the lamp had managed to stay on through the fighting, and for some reason, the tilting white shade on the tilting brass lamp buried in the bleeding demon body amused Xander. It just seemed so damn illogical. A laugh started as a small tremor down his backbone, but it quickly developed into a sound somewhere between snorting and giggling.

Eventually Xander realized that the other two occupants of the room weren't nearly as amused as he, and he glanced up to see Rocim staring forlornly at his fallen master and Spike staring at him, the vampire's head cocked to one side with an expression that looked suspiciously like concern.

When Xander met Spike's eye, Spike gave a small shake of his head like trying to clear something and then he turned to glance at the body that had captured Xander’s attention.

“Suppose it *is* funny, innit?” Spike said. “Bastard learned his lesson.” Spike’s words both made the sight somehow funnier, and yet they allowed Xander to get control of himself as Spike turned his attention to their captive.

"But how...You were chained," Rocim stuttered.

"You lot may not have underestimated me with chains and guards, but you sure as hell underestimated Xander, and you obviously don’t know the power of the paperclip," Spike said with a cruel laugh.

"So listen up, mate. You're goin' to help us find two witches or you're goin' to end up lookin' just like that." Xander turned to look at Rocim when the man didn't answer and he found that the man hadn't moved. He still stared at his fallen master with his mouth open and a blank, stupid expression on his face. Spike put both hands on Rocim's chest and pushed him back into the wall. Rocim didn't react. Spike shifted into game face and snarled. Rocim didn't react. Spike backed up a step, his expression almost amused in the way he sucked in his cheeks, leaving his cheekbones as sharp knives under suddenly cruel eyes.

Spike stepped close again, only this time he put two fingers right in front of Rocim's eyes. "Ya want to help us 'cause Lirowaus told ya to. He'll be pleased if ya make us happy, mate," Spike said in a suddenly soft tone of voice. "After all, I'm a buyer, came to buy some witches...isn't that right?"

"Yes, witches," Rocim replied tonelessly, and from his position to the side of the drama, Xander could see Spike's triumphant smirk.

"Yeah, witches, so where are the two witches I bought...the redhead with the attitude and her little chum?"

"Witches?" Rocim now seemed to stir a little his eyes moving from Spike's fingers up to Spike's eyes.

"The soddin' witches. Where. Are. They?" Spike asked a little more firmly, moving his fingers up to intercept Rocim's gaze and then moving them gently side to side.

"The red one objected too much. She argued. She got sent ahead. Master will sell her."

"And her chum? Her bonding group?"

"Sell them together." Xander heard Rocim's words, spoken in a dreamy half-voice, and he could feel panic unfurl in his soul. Willow fighting. He remembered that. Her shrill voice and her eyes flashing black. He remembered her demanding Lirowaus give him to the girls. Oh god. Lirowaus' threatening voice and a flash of spells. Lirowaus had asked if he wanted a bonding group, and he had said no. Now those memories widened to include Willow's shocked expression, her tears. Oh god. It was his fault again. Xander struggled to breathe and lost the ability to even track the conversation as Spike continued to work with Rocim. Why hadn't he died back with Leshar? All he had to do was go with the girls and Willow would have shut up, Willow and Tara would have still been here waiting for rescue. But he'd ruined that too.

He felt the tap at his shoulder and for the second time his body rose to follow Spike even though his mind hadn't yet caught up with the order. Hell, he didn’t remember even going to his knees, but now he had an order and he followed as Rocim absent-mindedly led them through a series of hallways and into the main corridor where they had first come into the house.

“But the witches…” Rocim objected when they reached the door.

“Right, got to pick them up, don’t we? Tell the guard at the door to bring a car around,” Spike whispered as a more demonish-looking demon watched them approach. Xander moved so close to Spike that the vampire’s coat brushed against him and when did Spike have a chance to get his coat? What… did the vampire go coat…revenge…rescue? That was a strange set of priorities. Xander then realized that he was standing so close that Spike wouldn’t be able to swing a fist, so he stepped back as Rocim went forward to give the order. The door-demon stepped outside, and Rocim turned with a confused expression. Spike started the finger bit again.

“Pet?” Spike called, and Xander waited. “You’re going to have to drive the car. I need to stay with lackey boy until the last second.” Xander stared at Spike horrified, but he certainly didn’t have a response. Spike must have noticed the terror though.

“Xander, ya drive better than I do, and I need to focus here. I’ve never been as good with this as Dru; hell, I wouldn’t be able to hold him at all except that he’s already so broken and shocked that he’s open to it. You just get in the car, start it, and put it in gear. The minute I get in, hit the accelerator as hard as ya can.” Xander mentally reviewed all the steps he would have to take in order to complete that order.

“Yes, Master,” Xander agreed as he mentally practiced the maneuver. He didn’t bother going to his knees since speed might be required.

“But Master Lirowaus,” Rocim asked in a child-like voice just as the door-demon drove the car up the long drive.

“Will be very pleased that you’ve made a customer happy,” Spike finished the minion’s sentence. “I’ve bought the witches and now I’ll go pick them up. Paid good money for that pair, and Lirowaus wants to get rid of ‘em.”

“The red one makes trouble.” Rocim happily agreed with the voice of a three year old.

“And you’re doing well ta help get rid of them. Lirowaus will be pleased,” Spike assured him in a voice normally reserved for Dru soothing. Xander didn’t hear any more because Spike had waved toward the car and Xander recognized the implied order. Moving just as he’d mentally practiced, he walked toward the car, his bare feet padding over the cold concrete as he walked under the moonlight.

“Hey, isn’t he the master’s pet?” a voice called out just as Xander walked by the door-demon, and Xander just kept moving and kept his head down.

“Run!” Xander heard his master’s cry and he took off for the car just as he felt a demon claw touch his arm. He slipped a bit as he ran around the back end of the car to get to the driver’s side, realizing just a little too late that he should have dived through the passenger side, but in his mind he had practiced walking around the back of the car calmly, so that’s what he did…only without the walking part…or the calm part.

Xander pulled the door open expecting at any minute to be pulled to the ground and tied up, but he managed to pull the door open and slide into the seat, turning the key as he jammed his foot down on the brake in order to slam the car into gear. Only then did Xander look to see Spike fighting both Rocim and the larger door demon. Spike pulled a roundhouse kick on the large demon and Xander moved the gear select from first to reverse as he hit the gas, slamming the back of the car into the demon who then slammed into the side of the house.

Spike grabbed for the car door and threw himself into the passenger side just as Xander put the car into forward and hit the accelerator. For a moment the car remained motionless as the tires spun, but then the tread grabbed the pavement throwing the car forward as Xander watched demons pour out of the house. Only then did it occur to him that they had just abandoned dozens of humans to slavery, but he focused on keeping the car on the path as Spike hurled insults at the demons, their mothers, and their whole demonic family trees.

“Spike?” Xander begged/demanded as he turned a corner and saw the gates. Stop, swerve, crash: he couldn’t make a decision like that. His heart pounded in fear, but then Spike’s voice called out.

“Keep bloody going!” Xander pressed down hard on the accelerator now that the path was straight and hit the gates so hard that he could feel his whole body jerk with the car which skidded sideways, the front bumper caught on the metalwork even if the gate had come open several feet.

“Back up!” Spike ordered, and Xander threw the car into reverse and hit the gas until the tires squealed the car pulled free. Even as Spike ordered him forward he was putting the car back into gear and hitting the accelerator as the car broke through to freedom, the gravel of the public road wildly pinging into the underside of the car as Xander navigated the turns which appeared only when his headlights would suddenly reveal a tree right in front of the vehicle. Xander could feel the sweat down the back of his neck, his butt sticking to the seat uncomfortably so that every time he moved his skin pulled against the leather upholstery. He concentrated on his driving to the exclusion of all else until a voice pierced his awareness.

“…not following. Pet, it’s alright; you can just slow down. We’re about to reach the highway, pet. Ya have to slow down now.” Xander pulled his foot from the accelerator immediately, and he could hear the roaring engine quiet into a purr as the pinging pebbles thrown up from the road slowed to a few individual ricochets.

The car continued to slow as Xander steered without pressing either pedal. Eventually the car stopped in the middle of the road and Spike reached over and turned the car off.

“Right then, no more drivin’ for you for a while. Mind you, that was a nice bit dodgin’ back there.” Xander heard a car door open and felt a hand pull him towards the passenger side. Suddenly so tired that he just wanted to sleep, Xander cooperated, sliding as best as he could with sweat soaked skin over leather and pulling up his legs to clear the gear shift on the floor. The hand released him when he reached the far side of the car, but Xander kept moving even as the door slammed shut. He turned so that he could slide to his knees on the passenger side floor.

The driver side door opened and Spike threw his duster in before getting in himself. Xander started shivering now, his damp skin and the night air combining to steal his warmth, and suddenly he felt a weight over his shoulders. He opened his eyes, wondering when he had closed them, and he looked at the dangling arm of Spike’s duster where the vampire had draped it over his back. Arranging the coat so that it was closer to his face and he could breathe in the leather smell, Xander lay his head down on the seat and closed his eyes, ignoring the vibrations as the car started moving down the road again.

Chapter 20:

Xander grew steadily colder and he pulled the duster around his chilled body. He had woken several times as various aches registered and now he woke as Spike pulled the car off the freeway and over a couple of potholes. Xander didn't bother looking out the windows. He just felt numb. A second jet of warm air found his face as Spike redirected another heating vent even as he pulled the car to a stop.

"Pet?" Spike asked.

"Yes?" Xander answered wearily.

"Pet, I have to leave for a minute." Xander wondered how long a minute would be, but he didn't have a right to ask, and he could only hope this wasn't Spike's way of leaving him permanently, not that he'd blame the vampire. He waited for Spike to turn the car off and leave.

"Pet?" This time he didn't answer. If Spike was telling the truth, he wanted Spike to leave so he could come back. If Spike was leaving now that he had come to his senses and realized his slave was too damaged, well then Xander just wanted to be alone so he could cry. He uncurled his fingers from the coat and dreaded the loss of that protection even as he started to push it off his back and toward Spike. A hand landed on his shoulder and held him still. "Xander?" Spike called again, and Xander looked up into blue eyes.

"Xander, you need the warmth from the coat and the heater, but I don't want to leave the car unlocked and running. If I lock you in here with the keys, will you unlock the door for me when I come back?"

"Yes," Xander answered automatically. Spike reached over, and Xander could feel a slightly warm hand against his own face. The hand reached down and Spike put a finger under the black links that made Xander's collar.

"Who put this on you, pet?" Spike asked firmly as he pulled the collar just tight enough that Xander felt it.

"You did."

"And who bought you?"

"You did."

"Who do you belong to?" Xander hesitated at that. He had given himself to Lirowaus, but Lirowaus was dead.

“No one.” Spike sighed, and Xander flinched as he realized that he had displeased again.

“If I gave away the pouf’s precious hotel, sold it right from under his fat arse, who would still legally own the hotel, pet?”

Xander answered easily. “Angel.”

“Right,” Spike smiled triumphantly and Xander could feel his body respond, tension seeping from him as he realized he’d answered right.

“And who owned ya before we went into that wanker’s place?”

“You did,” Xander said quietly, not wanting to remind himself of what he had given up, but another part of his brain nagged at him. He pulled his brows together and tried to figure out what was nagging at him.

“Go on. Say it.” Spike ordered. Xander remained silent as he tried to awaken some part of his brain that kept trying to point something out. Finally the pieces clicked together. Spike had put the collar on him before he'd given himself away, so he never had the power to give himself away. He considered his answer before giving it.

"I belong to you, Master. I couldn’t give myself away because I didn’t own myself." Xander felt the pain in his soul release its hold even as his back and neck checked in with their respective agonies. He was Spike’s, and that should bother him, but it didn’t. What did bother him was that he had allowed someone else to touch him when he belonged to Spike, and Xander’s logical brain sent up flares over that thought, but Xander didn’t take time to process them; he just relaxed into the seat.

As long as he was Spike’s, he could relax because Spike would take care of things…even if the vampire’s version of taking care meant draining him. Considering that he stunk of another demon’s come and thus constantly reminded Spike that he’d had his property stolen right out from under him, he still expected Spike’s patience to snap right before Xander’s neck followed suit. It didn’t scare him or worry him, he just expected it.

"Right. And will you open the door when I get back?" Spike asked again.

"Yes, Master," Xander answered.

"I'll be right back, but I've got to get something." With that Spike swept out of the car and slammed the door with a click of the lock. Xander reached a hand out to finger the leather of the coat Spike had left with him. He pulled it closer as the seconds became minutes and Xander found himself battling his fears. He was Spike’s. Spike wouldn’t leave him. Spike might erase the humiliation of being captured by killing the evidence—namely him—but Spike wouldn’t leave him. Xander was practically chanting that out loud by the time Spike rapped at the window.

Xander hit the unlock button and felt the rush of cold night air as Spike got in again. Xander looked up sleepily and even in the brief flare of light as the door opened he could see that Spike was darker, pinker. That meant someone was dead, and Xander struggled to remember why that was wrong. Failing in his attempts to gather his thoughts, Xander fell asleep again just as a hand began stroking his hair gently.

Xander didn’t wake again until the car stopped in front of an unmarked brick building, and the grey in the sky warned of the coming dawn. When Xander felt the passenger side door open, he struggled to rise and step to his Master’s side, but his legs screamed in pain, and tears instantly ran down his cheeks. He could hear Spike making some sort of soothing noise and then he was wrapped in the coat and picked up. They went through a locked door after Spike used a cell phone to call someone and get them buzzed in, and Xander had insisted he could stand.

Spike let him down during the phone call, but one preternaturally strong arm stayed around his waist, and even through the agony, Xander realized that he was so pathetic that Spike was holding most of his weight. Once inside, Xander continued to “stand” by his Master while Spike supported him. A variety of demons and humans waited within, but a small human-looking being rushed up. Xander tried to focus on his impossibly red hair in order to combat the pain. Only the leather strings had equaled this, and Xander ignored Spike’s curt exchange. Xander wanted to sit…hell, he wanted to lie down and die, but Spike just started walking toward the far end where the redhead had gone through a door. Before they reached their destination, the door slammed open again.

“Oh my, someone has been getting himself into quite a bit of trouble.” A blue demon with thick arms and legs shuffled over even as he bellowed in a deep voice that penetrated Xander’s haze. Xander felt a finger touch his cheek just as he flinched back away, his neck and back and shoulders protesting loudly even as he groaned into Spike’s supporting shoulder.

“Had a car accident; think he’s got whiplash and his heart’s beatin’ too bloody fast.” Spike said, and now Xander realized that Spike was worried about him, which led to thoughts that something was really wrong with him.

“Hmm. Limbs cool, elevated heart rate…bring him in,” the demon gestured, and Xander allowed Spike to mostly carry him into a small room where Spike helped him up onto the table. Something was wrong with the room, but Xander couldn’t figure out what… heck, Xander couldn’t seem to figure out a lot of things right now. A hand wrapped around his wrist, and Xander almost panicked, but Spike’s arm encircled his shoulders and the smell of leather surrounded him. “Yes, humans are terribly fragile. Lay him on his stomach please.” Xander was still trying to figure those words out when an arm lowered him to the table and started pulling the coat off him. Xander grasped the coat refusing to let go, somehow convinced that if he lost the coat he’d lose something horribly important; he just didn’t know what. Words were exchanged, and then the coat was pushed up as Xander was turned to his stomach.

Xander tried not to think about all the things that could happen to him in this position, and the coat now draped over his face as a dry finger poked various parts of back. He inhaled the leather smell just as he felt the tremors start, and then many hands were on him, pulling him up, and Xander couldn’t help it, he started to struggle with muscles that screamed in pain and a feeling like the air had turned to pudding so that he had to push through it.

“Sh, pet. I’m right here, not goin’ anywhere,” Xander heard the words and he clung to the speaker even though his mind couldn’t seem to settle on who was speaking: friend, enemy, ally, master, safety, viciousness. A dozen thoughts chased themselves in his head and he couldn’t grab one. Fragments of conversations floated by as he felt the sharp pain in his arm. He thought Spike was feeding, only that caused a wonderful burning, pulling, sexy feeling, and this just hurt.

“…neurogenic shock…”

“I gave him some of my blood…”

“Little over two hours….”


“…cold…car heater.”

Xander let himself drift off to sleep without putting all the pieces together.

Xander’s next awareness was of stiff sheets. Then he noticed that his hand was on a very rough blanket. The sensation of tubes up his nose and restraints around his right arm appeared simultaneously, and Xander’s eyes sprang open as he looked down at an arm immobilized by a board and bristling with tubes and needles. He started breathing heavily as he tried to figure out what had been real and what had been fantasy, and then he noticed his cheek. It rested against something warm and smooth and soft. With the tubes in, he couldn’t really smell, but the sight of Spike’s duster folded and tucked under his head told him everything he needed to know. When everything else had fallen apart, including his sanity, Spike had been there. Xander started to shift as a pain in his neck gathered strength, and a blond head appeared in front of him.

“How are ya?” Spike asked. Xander considered his possible answers and the horrible places he could have woken up, like waking up finding himself still attached to Lirowaus, the demon’s penis engorged and lodged inside Xander’s body while he lay helpless, too tired to even pull himself off. Yep, he’d been much worse in his life.

“Fine, Master,” he answered as he tried not to move and set off another wave of pain.

“You’re bloody well not fine,” Spike snapped, and Xander flinched. “It’s alright, pet.” Spike quickly assured him. “Remember back when that fledge knocked ya head first into the tombstone?” Xander almost nodded and the pain stopped him.

“Yes, Master.”

“Compared to that, do you feel physically better, about the same, worse, or much worse?”

“Much worse, Master,” Xander answered honestly.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. I’ll be right back.” Xander didn’t have time to protest being left alone because Spike was gone and Xander hurt too much to shift around to look for him. Before he even had time to mentally complain, Spike was back, another demon in tow.

“Well?” Spike demanded even as he sat on the edge of the bed and pulled Xander into his lap. The movement caused incredible pain, but the comfort of being in Spike’s lap made it more than worth it.

“Moderate shock, some muscular damage, no doubt from the car accident, some anal abrasions, not unusual for a human who has serviced a Kailiff demon. Human bodies really are quite remarkable at healing, which is good considering how easily they break,” the doctor laughed, and Xander didn’t think it was a nice laugh at all.

“Will he bloody heal?” Xander lay curled in Spike’s lap and almost laughed. Healing was way beyond him. He knew he wouldn’t ever heal, but he guessed that Spike meant physically.

“Oh, certainly. The shock was the most severe problem, and the fluids have stabilized him. I would recommend leaving him on the drip and keeping him warm; with those two treatments, he’ll be right as rain. Now the pain is really another issue. He’ll heal on his own just fine, and if you don’t want to pay for treatment, you’re not doing him any long term damage at all.”

“I’m not leavin’ him to suffer,” Spike growled, and the doctor must have made the same assumption Xander did: Spike was out of patience.

“We can administer human drugs to reduce the pain and inflammation or for a significantly larger fee have a healer perform a restorative ceremony.” Xander was amazed that the doctor actually did know how to give a direct answer.

“Get the healer,” Spike said, and Xander felt clever fingers playing with locks of hair. Xander just curled up and pushed aside a thousand worries that floated beneath the surface like depth charges ready to sink his psyche as he took deep breaths and just tried to center himself on Spike’s presence.

“Pet, ya alright?” Spike asked, and Xander did a self-check: curled in a fetal position with his right arm sticking out awkwardly, clinging to Spike’s coat with his left hand as though it was a child’s blankie, and on the verge of crying. Yep, real manly.

“No, Master,” he finally offered.

“Meant the mental part, pet,”

“I know, Master,” Xander answered honestly. “Though physically I hurt too.”

“Yeah, well the physical part I’m not bloody surprised. Remind me not ta let you play bumper cars with a Lexus again, but the healer will be here in a bit. So, what’s not right with the mental part?” Xander thought about the many things not right mentally.

“I got the girls sent away,” Xander settled on.

“You bloody well did not. Lirowaus did that, and he soddin’ paid for it too.” Spike interrupted him. Xander remained silent because he could still remember the look of betrayal on Willow’s face when he had turned down the offer to move into a room with her and Tara. Spike snorted into the silence. “You’re not buyin’ that are ya?” he asked.

“No, Master.”

“Bloody hell. You don’t control the universe pet; you couldn’t have kept Lirowaus from sendin’ her away.”

“But, Master, she argued with him over me. She tried to attack him with a spell only he had some sort of counter-spell,” Xander pointed out, the memories coming more clearly now that he could string his thoughts together coherently.

“And she would have fought over somethin’ else if you hadn’t been there. Red’s not one to take things quietly; the bint took on Angelus, and the only other human I know who ever did that without payin’ the price was you.” Xander felt a hand on his leg, and the twinges of pain didn’t diminish his comfort in feeling that touch. “Both of ya are stronger than ya give yourselves credit for,” Spike offered.

Xander allowed himself to be resettled back into the bed as the healer appeared, dressed in bones and feathers with a long staff that seemed to be covered in rat skulls, though he could be wrong about that. She certainly seemed mystical enough, Xander thought as he lay back, his head on the duster which was in Spike’s lap. The healer chanted and rattled and hummed until Xander finally fell back asleep.

“William,” a deep voice said. And Xander opened his eyes feeling actually human, which considering he was in a hospital that considered humans inferior might not be the best way of expressing the physical wholeness he felt. Of course it didn’t hurt that he was still in Spike’s lap. The voice though…that voice really didn’t belong here.

“Bloody hell, aren’t you supposed to be gettin’ those witches out of Lirowaus’ place? Thought savin’ humans was part of your whole redemption gig,” Spike complained without moving from the bed.

“Giles and the others are handling that. However, I got a tip that you’d brought Xander here, so I thought I would talk to you before Giles got the same tip.”

“You sent Giles? It’s not like I care about the wanker, but I’m surprised you’re lettin’ him go on the rescue…or did he pull his head out of his arse?” Angel took a single step into the small room and stopped.

“Seeing Xander gave him something worth fighting his way out of the bottle for. He’s determined to bring Xander home and destroy whatever gets in his way. But I think we need to discuss this elsewhere.” Angel’s glance landed on Xander, who suddenly felt like the five-year-old dismissed from his elders’ discussions.

“No, we bloody don’t. I leave and Xan is goin’ to go thinkin’ the worst, and I won’t worry him like that.” Spike’s hand tightened on his shoulder and Xander was grateful for both the hand, and for the healer who had taken away the pain that hand would have caused earlier.

“Is he better?” Angel asked.

“Why don’t you ask him?”

“I’m asking you, William. I don’t trust this attachment you’ve formed; you never liked Xander.” A few days earlier, this might have upset Xander, but now he could both see the truth in the words and see that Angel was trying to drive a wedge between them.

“I bloody hated parts of Droopy Harris, but Xan’s mine, and whether you trust me or not he’s stayin’ mine.”

“He’s the same person, and this strategy of trying to get him to separate who he was and who he is now…it isn’t healthy for a human.”

“Not healthy is havin’ people who make ya feel like you’re less just because you’re different. You two just about destroyed him, and you’ll stay out of my soddin’ way now.”

“So he’s better?” Angel asked again.

“Pet, are ya better now than you were in Sunnydale?”

“No, Master.”

“And I’d say his willingness to admit that means he’s better, but we’ve had a rough spot or two since we left.” Xander watched Angel’s eyes narrow suspiciously as he stepped farther into the room.

“He smells of Kailiff demon. What have you done, William?” Angel’s eyes now glinted with gold and Xander pushed back into Spike’s embrace even as part of him suggested that he move so that Spike can move quickly. “Did you let that slaver….”

“Course not, and don’t even suggest it. Got caught unawares, and the boy traded himself to keep me safe. He did something you and Darla and even Dru never did for me; he put me bloody first, and because of that, I’ll put him bloody first, even over you Angelus, so don’t come in here and try to play sire. I’ll knock ya on your fat arse.”

“William, if you really care…”

“And if you finish that by saying ‘let him go,’ I’ll make you eat that god-awful shirt. Do yourself a favor, Peaches; don’t wear yellow. I know how to take care of ‘im better than you lot.”

“I…” Angel got no farther because Xander decided enough was enough. He trusted Spike; he belonged to Spike, and he was just coming to accept that he might even want to belong to Spike, but he didn’t have to listen to Deadboy.

“No.” Xander said in a steady voice.

“Xander, I know you’re really confused, and I understand what you’ve been through…”

“No,” Xander said again. “I’ve been blaming myself since I was five. People have looked at me like I had somehow failed, and I got very good at doing the failing, but that’s not how Spike looks at me. He trusted me to go into Lirowaus’ with him. I helped him get into the slave auctions. I’m going to help get the girls back. Leave us alone, Deadboy.” Xander took a deep breath, not knowing if he’d just gone entirely too far, but he could feel Spike’s arms tighten in a quick hug.

“Wot he said,” Spike insisted. “The two of us might be the ones that always get left behind, but we bloody well have each other. Now, if I can get him well enough to tell you off, I can take care of him just fine, so sod off, sire.” Xander watched as Angel’s face showed minute traces of emotion. The anger and the frustration were easy to spot, but half a dozen others slid across his features until finally he sighed heavily.

“Spike, if you turn him or hurt him, I’ll have to track you down.”

“Not your bloody business, but I don’t plan on either.” Angel nodded at that answer and turned back toward the door.

“I’ll try to keep Giles off your trail, but he’s heard that the next auction is in Nevada, and it won’t take him long to find out where.”

“Like I said, not afraid of that wanker,” Spike insisted.

“You should be. He’s been more Ripper than Giles in the past few days, and if he finds you, it’s not going to be pleasant.” The two vampires locked gazes with each other and Xander wished he could read minds. He knew full well that Angel had avoided staking both Spike and Drusilla back when Spike had been evil. Okay, back when Spike had been more evil, but now the expression hinted at a depth that Xander couldn’t touch. Finally Angel turned to leave.

“Thanks, mate,” Spike said as Angel opened the door. Angel stood frozen with the door open and his back to them, silent and still for several seconds as though considering some profound response, but then he left without another word. Silence filled the emptiness that even Xander could feel in the older vampire’s absence.

“You love him,” Xander whispered. He remembered feeling relief around Leshar, but he couldn’t imagine loving the person who had broken him.

“Yeah, pet. Problem is that Angelus didn’t just break me, he helped put me back together after.” Xander didn’t answer, but he understood. He knew how easy it was to love the person who reached into that pit of desolation and despair and offered a way out. He completely understood that emotion.

Chapter 21:

Xander sat on the edge of the bed and waited for Spike to tell him what to do. The doctor had cleared him as physically healthy and had even commented that the stench of Kailiff should be gone in a day or two—apparently their scent doesn’t last long, which would explain the need for Lirowaus to go to such lengths. It was a good metaphor for slavery, Xander thought. He had figured out that the stronger the master, the less brutal that master had to be. Leshar hadn’t controlled the slaves nearly as well as Xander had once thought; after three masters he could see that. He broke his slaves so they had no desire to live, but he couldn’t truly control them. Lirowaus’ technique had certainly controlled him, but if Spike had escaped, Xander would have fought back. He wasn’t controlled by Lirowaus, but by the leverage Lirowaus held over him. Spike—now Spike was another story. Xander knew that he belonged to Spike, and he knew that Giles would have a heart attack if he heard Xander say that, but he couldn’t change reality. He just didn’t have the energy to fight back when slipping into his place at Spike’s side was so much easier. Xander wondered if that made him weak. He felt weak.

Spike reappeared in the room after following the doctor out, and Xander let his eyes fall to the floor.

“Oi, don’t start this bollocks again,” Spike said wearily as he picked up the coat, and Xander raised his eyes knowing that his Master wanted him to. Spike met his eye for a moment and just froze. “Bloody hell. Wish I hadn’t killed Lirowaus.” Xander must have looked surprised because Spike continued. “Stop lookin’ at me like ya expect me to walk over and knock ya senseless. If I’d known that the bastard had put ya back so far, I wouldn’t have let him off so easy.” Xander thought of Lirowaus’ body twisted and impaled. That was easy? He resolved to never piss Spike off, but outwardly he limited himself to just sitting and waiting.

“So, ya comin’ or stayin’ here?” Spike asked, and Xander took that as an order, slipping off the hospital bed and going to his Master’s side. He was about to go into a kneel when Spike breezed out the door, and Xander trailed after him like one of those baby geese that trailed mindlessly after its mother. Not that geese were mindless, just sort of stupid, which fit him just fine, Xander decided. His father had always said he didn’t have the sense God gave a goose.

Xander had expected to go outside to the car, but Spike strode down an unfamiliar hall, other demons and humans hurrying to get out of the way and Xander rushed to keep up. They eventually came out into a garage, and Xander recognized the Lexus. Actually, it was a little hard to miss with the front end bashed in, dirt and scratches covering the bottom half, and a cracked front window. Looking at the decrepit car, Xander wondered how he had survived a crash that had done so much damage, but apparently both he and the car were still running. Spike opened the passenger door, and Xander would have slipped to his knees inside, but Spike’s hand fell on his arm, stopping him instantly. He turned to look at his Master.

“We’re drivin’ through Sacramento today. Got ta pick up one or two things and transfer some money. We need ta keep a low profile.” Xander couldn’t figure out what Spike meant until the vampire handed over the coat. Xander slipped the familiar leather on and sat in the car seat, quashing the tremors of fear sent up by that part of his mind that had all the Leshar training, a part that now shared space with the Lirowaus training. He decided that next time he met a demon whose name started with “L” he was going to run screaming for the hills. It was like on Highlander- Xander often wondered why Duncan didn’t just shoot and then behead any immortal with a name starting with K. It would have saved him a lot of trouble. Xander looked out the window as Spike pulled onto the darkened streets, watching the people who strolled the sidewalks and the flashing signs promising “hot babes.”

Xander pulled the coat closer, arranging the collar high around his neck despite the fact that he was a little warm. He enjoyed the scent of the leather, and he closed his eyes and held onto the moment. He couldn’t see his future past rescuing the girls, and he guessed that was okay too. He had betrayed his Master in a terrible way, and he vacillated between a belief that Spike would hand him over to Giles or drain him. He suspected the latter because Spike didn’t like giving up his toys. In a way, Xander was relieved since a lifetime of Giles making him feel…well, making him feel like the loser he truly was…that really was too much to consider. But Xander knew that he would pay for what he had done with Lirowaus; he should have fought and put his faith in Spike to save them. Looking back, the answer seemed so simple.

“What are you thinkin’ about over there? I can hear your brain turning from here.” Spike took a corner fast and Xander resisted the urge to brace himself on the dash. He really did prefer Spike’s driving when he couldn’t actually see the cars they came inches from hitting.

“About how I failed, Master,” Xander answered honestly.

“Bloody hell, you are one stubborn git. I thought Angelus had cornered the market in refusing ta let go of an idea, but when you get something stuck in that head of yours, God or the devil can’t shake it loose. You. Did. Not. Do. Anythin’. Wrong.”

“But, Master, I should have trusted you to fix it.”

Spike didn’t answer as he pulled into another underground parking garage, and Xander was glad he didn’t have to argue about it. He’d screwed up, and now he just wanted to forget it; of course, he couldn’t forget because he knew punishment would eventually come, but he could push it to the back of his mind if his Master didn’t keep asking him about it.

Spike parked and got out. For a moment Xander sat in the damaged car, not sure what to do, but the decorations that Spike had fastened back onto his permanent collar poked him into action. The little crystals from his back chains pressed into his flesh and reminded him that the first “Spike” rule he’d learned was to follow without command, so Xander got out and hurried after his master, his bare feet making funny echoing padding sounds in the fairly small garage.

Xander stood and clutched Spike’s coat around him as Spike talked to a green demon about transportation and clothing and money and weapons and attendance at the Vegas show and whether Angel had been asking around, and a dozen other things that Xander sort of tuned out. He snapped back to attention when Spike caught a set of keys and started for stairs that disappeared down into the darkness. Xander followed, putting a hand out to touch Spike's back so that he could keep up in the dark. The sound of a door opening came right before an overhead light flicked on, illuminating a simple room with concrete walls. Four doors lined one wall, and Spike quickly went over and checked behind the two unlocked doors before unlocking the two exits and examining the darkness behind them. Then he locked and double checked the exits.

Xander had gone to his knees just inside the door and he watched curiously. Spike was getting paranoid. Of course Spike had good cause to be paranoid. Xander started mentally adding up their list of enemies: Giles, Lirowaus’ men, Ulsha, probably Ty, the guy who tripped at him during the last auction, possibly Angel. Xander decided to stop before he made himself paranoid.

"So, are you ready to discuss this, pet?" Spike walked over and held out his hand. Xander stared up blankly until it occurred to him that he was still wearing his master's coat. He shrugged out of the coat and handed it up. Spike tossed the coat at a chair that sat next to a scarred and dented desk. Xander resisted the urge to get up and straighten the coat, but Spike didn't seem in the mood right now.

"So, what do ya think ya should have done?"

"Obeyed you and waited for you to act, Master," Xander answered immediately.

"And what did ya do that was wrong?" Xander risked a confused glance up at his Master since that seemed to be the same question.

"I shouldn't have disobeyed when you told me to not make the bargain. I shouldn't have let Lirowaus touch me. I should have put my trust in you to fix things."

"And I bloody well did fix things, but I couldn’t have done it without you. What did I teach ya about disobeying?"

"That sometimes it's the right way to please you, Master," Xander answered, remembering that rule and that lesson as he'd been tied to the bed.

"Right. I don’t need a bloody slave who waits for me ta do everythin’ for them.” Xander flinched as he realized that’s all he ever would be…a pet, a slave that followed around and waited for a command or waited for the Master to fix things. Wasn’t that what he was doing now? Expecting Spike to fix him? For the first time he wished that Joyce had left him with Giles and Angel. He knew that Angel would have taken him back to LA, and then he wouldn’t have been a burden on anyone: not Giles and not Spike. Well, he would be a burden on Angel, but that didn’t really bother him much. Angel deserved the aggravation.

“Pet, do ya understand what I mean?” Spike asked as he picked up a bottle from a table next to the bed. Viciously untwisting the cap, he took a deep swig and Xander could smell the sharp scent of alcohol.

“Yes, Master,” Xander replied calmly. It was a little too late now to worry about the fact that he wasn’t the type of slave Spike wanted.

“Bloody hell, you don’t understand or you wouldn’t look like a puppy about ta be put down.” Xander flinched at the word puppy as a memory surfaced of a rough hand holding his cock and joking about it being such a good leash since the pretty puppy didn’t seem to use it for anything else.

“Xan,” Spike’s voice demanded attention, and Xander looked at his Master. “Xan, ya have more guts than most, and you didn’t do anythin’ wrong in that house.”

“I let him…” Xander stopped, unable to finish the sentence.

“Come here," Spike ordered, and Xander stood and walked to the bed before going into a Down kneel at Spike's feet.

"Ya bloody well didn’t let him do anything; I did,” Spike caressed his cheek, and Xander closed his eyes and just enjoyed the comfort. Suddenly the hand withdrew, and Spike took the bottle he had been drinking from and threw it against the wall with such force that it shattered into a thousand pieces. Xander flinched away from the sound. “I bloody made the decision to trust the wanker, and I bloody failed you just like I failed Dru and my mum and everyone else. Only difference is they had the good sense ta tell me how I’d failed and you sit there and take all the blame on yourself.”

Xander remained in place, blinking with wide eyes as he watched Spike practically throw himself across the room, grab the chair, and send it flying into the wall so that it collapsed into a heap of broken wood and leather, and Xander almost panicked at the thought of the coat being damaged. He had to curb an urge to rush over and check to see if the coat had suffered any permanent harm.

“I bloody rushed in there when I should’ve called Peaches, but I had to prove to him I could do what he couldn’t…what Giles couldn’t. Some days I’m as soddin’ pathetic as William ever was.” Xander remained motionless, both frightened of attracting Spike’s attention given his current mood and trying hard not to think about what Spike was saying. As long as Spike knew what to do and how to handle things, Xander could abandon himself to Spike and not worry. He didn’t want to worry. He wanted to believe Spike had everything under control, and Xander suddenly realized how screwed up he was to believe Spike was the one with everything figured out. After all, he was the hyperactive twit who got the gem of Amara and still managed to get his ass kicked by Buffy. Spike still paced with short vicious steps. A thought occurred to Xander, and he had an overwhelming urge to know the truth.

“Master?” Xander called quietly.

“And now you probably expect me ta whip ya for not just sittin’ back and lettin’ us both get killed, and I can’t bloody do that. Might make ya feel better ta get punished so you can go on from there, but it wasn’t your bloody fault. And I have no problem using the whip if ya really have screwed up and I have no problem using it in play if it helps ya let out some of that inner pain, but I can’t bloody punish ya for my mistake, and I can’t seem to get you over this soddin’ idea.”


“Worse than Angelus and his bloody nuns. Man had a grudge against one and he just couldn’t let the idea go.”

“Master?” Spike finally seemed to hear him.


“What did you do with the paperclip, Master?” Xander asked. He had to know if he'd made the right choice. He'd disobeyed Spike and disobeyed Lirowaus, and he didn't even know if it made a difference or if he was just deluding himself. Spike stopped pacing and in a flash appeared beside him.

“Bloody hell, never told ya, did I? They had me chained to a wall in a cell. Every time they’d come into the cell, they’d have one guard at the door and another bringing stuff in…food, cigarettes, books. Had remotes for a TV and a radio too. Lirowaus held up his end, but with the chain locked to the wall, I couldn’t get to the door and fight my way out, and when they did take the chain off, they’d shackle me first. So, I used that paperclip ta pick the lock. Told ya a few years with Angelus would teach ya a trick or two.”

“I remembered, Master,” Xander agreed.

“That’s why you brought the paperclip?” Spike asked, head cocked to one side.

“Yes, Master.”

“Funny that you’d be the one who listened to me considering that we never liked each other back then. But anyway, I picked the lock and hid the open end of the chain. When they opened the door ta bring dinner in kickin’ and screamin’, I waited until they were distracted before I charged them. Since they thought I was chained, they weren’t prepared and I fed on the two guards." Spike's voice grew curious. "Don’t remember what happened to the girl.” Xander didn’t say anything, but he still wondered why the vampire had come for him. He was the living proof of Spike’s mistake, and Spike still came for him.

“Can hear your wheels turning, pet,” Spike said as he sat back on the bed, this time with amusement in his voice. Xander recognized the order even if it wasn’t stated like an order.

“Why did you come for me, Master?”

"Bloody told you it wasn’t your fault."

"But, Master, why did you come for me?"

"Why wouldn’t I come for you?" Spike sounded confused, but that tone quickly changed into something more fierce. "You’re mine, pet." Xander couldn't let himself believe that answer; he just knew that it would have been easier for Spike to walk away. He looked up to find Spike looking at him with a suspicious expression.

“Pet, tell me who didn’t come for you,” Spike demanded, and Xander just looked at him confused.

“No one, Master.”

“Don’t lie, pet. I won’t punish you for things that aren’t your fault, but I will bloody punish you for lying. So tell me who didn’t come for you.” Xander remained quiet and tried to either think of an answer that wasn’t a lie or wait for Spike to get tired and walk away.

“Pet, answer me.”

“No one, Master,” Xander tried again.

“Bloody hell, your heart rate jumped both times you said that, and even you don’t believe the answer or you’d be proclaiming your innocence, so I’m givin’ ya one last chance pet, and then I’m goin’ to insist. Who didn’t come for ya?”

"Master," Xander started sliding backwards on his knees, but a strong finger reached out and snagged his collar. Xander stopped.

"Who didn't come for ya that you'd believe I'd walk away? You're goin' to tell me, pet, because I'm not lettin' this one go." Xander froze in place, unwilling to pull away from that grip, but equally unable to move forward. "Stand up, pet." Xander rose to his feet still uncertain about Spike's mood, and when Spike started removing decorations, Xander tried hard to control the rising panic that crowded into his mind.

Xander wasn't surprised to feel the tap on the knees that ordered him into a punishment position. He wanted to go into position, but some part of his brain protested. If he could get that protest up to his mouth, he knew he could probably talk Spike out of punishment, but he couldn't form the words.

"Now's not the time to decide to disobey, pet. Butt up." Xander allowed the automatic part of his brain take over as he stepped away from the bed and spread his legs out. Leaning forward, he put his hands directly on the floor so that his butt stuck up in the air and his cock and balls hung down. A slim hand rested on his butt, and Spike asked again. "Pet, last chance...I won't have ya comparing me to whatever you're hiding in that mind of yours, so who left ya behind?"

Xander started breathing heavier in anticipation of the punishment, but he didn't answer. While he expected to feel Spike's hand on his backside, instead he felt nothing as Spike walked away. The sound of a door opening and closing almost sent Xander out of position, but he could still hear Spike's footsteps, so he let himself relax into the awkward position.

The first blow hit hard enough and with so little warning that only Spike's supporting hand braced against his back kept him from falling over. As it was, Xander tried to stand out of sheer shock, only to find that same hand holding him firmly down as the low thudding pain with a second strike against his backside. Xander knew the sharp, stinging, cutting pain of the whip and cane, but this was duller, wider, deeper, and a third strike convinced Xander that he had to come up with an answer that his Master liked.

"Master," Xander gasped out, the pain translating into a suddenly warm butt.

"Ready to talk, pet?" Spike asked. "Who left ya behind?" Xander didn't answer right away, and a fourth hit made him squirm under his master's hand.

"Jesse," Xander quietly gasped.

"How'd he leave ya?" Xander felt something made of leather brush his back, and he guessed that Spike had put his implement in the hand that held him down because Spike's other hand now ran over the bruised skin, and Xander could feel the vampire's cool touch draining the heat from him.

"He died. Darla turned him and I accidentally staked him," Xander answered without delay.

"That's not leavin' ya pet, and you're not stupid enough to confuse the two, so you have another answer down in that brain of yours." Xander felt a tear escape and run across his forehead as his head hung down. He didn't want to disappoint his Master, but he didn't have another answer. The trailing tails of the still unseen object flowed across his back as Spike raised it again. Xander tensed as he waited for the blow to fall, and it did, but this time against the back of his legs so that Xander could now see the leather flogger. The unexpected angle of the strike nearly sent him off balance again, but Spike easily held him in place.

"You're comparin' me to someone in that brain of yours, and expectin' me to walk out on ya because of it. I won't have ya thinkin' that, and I won't have ya tryin' ta carry this pain on your own, so if ya expect to sit down in the near future, you’d best come up with a better answer than that." Xander watched the flogger fly toward the back of his thighs again and the blow sent him onto his toes as his thighs joined his butt in sending tingly, hot signals up to his brain in the aftermath of the blow.

"My father," Xander yelped as he watched the flogger pull back for another hit. The pain certainly didn't bother him, but each strike reminded him that he was again failing. The flogger stopped mid-strike so that only a couple of leather tails brushed against his hot legs, then it disappeared from sight and Xander again felt it resting against his back as Spike used the hand that had struck him to now soothe the skin.

"How'd he leave ya, pet? He was still there when I lived with ya." Xander tried to come up with an answer. He honestly didn't know why he'd said that, but now an image of Uncle Cheese rose to the surface. So that's what he said.

"Uncle Cheese."

"Is that supposed ta make sense pet? You goin' light headed there?" Xander did feel a little light headed from standing head down so long, but he felt even more light headed when Spike pulled him back onto the bed, and wrapped strong arms about him from behind so that Xander couldn't move. The blanket under his butt made his inflamed skin itch, but Xander didn't complain as he tried to sort his own thoughts.

"I was six and Uncle Cheese took me in a room..."

"Uncle Cheese? You lot have a real knack for stupid names."

"Says a guy named Spike," Xander snarked back before he engaged the thinking part of his brain and he froze as he realized he had insulted his Master, who just happened to have a flogger next to him. Spike just laughed.

"Right, pax on the names then, tell me what happened in that room." Xander had no idea about the 'pax' part, but he answered the second half of the question.

"He touched me, wanted me to touch him." Xander stopped when he heard a growl from behind him, but when the sound disappeared, he took a deep breath and continued. "He didn't do anything... not really. But Dad walked in and he..." Xander stopped. So much of this didn't make sense. "It wasn't what he did... He stopped looking at me like I was his son." Xander finally blurted out. "Mom hated that she lost her favorite brother and adults shouted at each other and Dad never played ball with me again." Xander knew that probably sounded pathetic, but Spike's arms just tightened.

"When Angel came crawlin' home with the soul, I tried ta impress him or piss him off or get him to do somethin' ta see me. Killed my first slayer to impress him, and all he had eyes for was Darla. Made me want ta walk in the sun. Felt like I'd lost the only thing that made sense, and if Drusilla hadn't needed me, I might've done it. Felt like I'd bollocked it all up."

"But you hadn't, Master. The gypsies did that, not that I have a problem with that because souled Angel is really annoying in a skulking in the shadows kind of way but far less likely to brutally kill random civilians." Xander babbled, and hey, when did he start babbling again he wondered? Okay, no more babbling he decided when he saw the amused expression on his Master’s face.

"Like I care about soddin' random humans," Spike snorted, and Xander didn't comment but he felt a twitch of guilt that he didn't comment. "But I blamed myself and I had to learn to stop doin' that. Not your fault."

"But it felt like he blamed me anyway, Master," Xander said softly.

"Yeah, well am I your soddin' father?" Xander couldn't suppress a shudder of horror at the mere thought.

"No, Master."

"And have I ever left ya behind?"

"No, Master."

"Then get this through your head ya loon: you're mine, and you will bloody well stay mine. I don't walk away from what belongs ta me, and there's no way I'll ever walk away from ya. If ya screw up, I may heat your backside, but I won't leave ya behind ever." Xander leaned back into that embrace and he suddenly felt secure. Little pieces rearranged themselves as Xander truly believed for the first time that Spike would always be there for him, and he felt himself rebuild something vital using Spike as the foundation.

"So, did anyone else leave ya, pet?" Spike asked, and Xander found his thoughts much clearer somehow.

"Willow. I thought she'd always be my best friend, but she started telling Buffy things she didn't even trust me with. I think that's why I started lusting after her... because I didn't want to lose her all together."

"Red just went through a phase where she needed women friends." Xander couldn't help it, even with the flogger lying right beside them on the bed he started giggling. Spike didn't even reach for it.

"Oi, what ya on about now?"

"Willow's phase for needing women is lasting a little longer than I expected, Master."

"Suppose it did. Glinda's a good match for her though, so that's alright. Don't really think Droopy Harris would have been as good of a match." Arms released Xander as Spike slid off the bed and went after the duster, pulling it out of the splinters of the broken chair.

"He probably wouldn't have been, Master," Xander agreed.

"He? So, ya don't think you're the old Droopy Harris anymore, do ya? What's the big difference?" Spike dropped the coat on the desk and Xander stood up from the bed.

"Droopy Harris wasn't gay," he pointed out as his own interest started to show.

"And you are?" Spike cocked an eyebrow up and smiled in an expression that came close to being a smirk.

"Yes, Master." Xander started walking toward his Master, swinging his hips as though he had hip chains, and he could see Spike's eyes instantly turn gold. Xander reached his Master and ran his hands under Spike's t-shirt and the expression went from a near smirk to an out and out smirk complete with even sharper that usual cheekbones. Spike leaned in as Xander pulled off the t-shirt, and when Xander felt a cool finger trace over his still warm ass, he felt a shiver run the length of his body.

"Brings all the blood to the surface, makes it feel good after," Spike whispered and Xander had another full body tremor as a talented finger ran up the warm skin of the back of his thigh. Refusing to be distracted, Xander moved in on Spike's belt even has he buried his head in the crook of the vampire's neck. Xander nuzzled the sensitive skin as he pulled the belt free and worked on the button and zipper.

Once Xander had those open, he reached in for the cock hidden within, the prize that he had dreamed of while Lirowaus had.... Xander halted those thoughts, exiled them as he ran a finger over the slit at the end, feeling Spike now shivering with need. Xander stepped back while holding on to Spike's open jeans, Spike's cock visible in the opening. Now Xander could see the demon features and he pulled his Master towards him using his hold on the jeans.

“Pushy, or pull-y rather,” Spike complained, but Xander could hear the pleasure so he continued pulling his Master right back to the bed.

“Teach me something, Master,” Xander asked as he started pushing Spike’s jeans down. Only then did he realize that he had essentially hobbled his master because of the heavy boots, but Spike just laughed and sat down heavily on the bed.

“Ya always did do things a little back-asswards, pet.”

“Yes, Master,” Xander agreed with a smile as he knelt down to take off Spike’s boots and then pulled the jeans all the way off. Honestly, he couldn’t argue because he often did do things the wrong way around, but he got by. When he folded the jeans and put them to one side, Spike snagged his hand and pulled him to his feet so that he stood between Spike’s legs looking down at his Master.

“Ya want to learn a new one, pet?” Xander didn’t answer as Spike’s hand reached between his legs and forced them apart a little. “Pocket of the jeans,” Spike said huskily, and Xander held out his hand where he had already retrieved the lube that he had found while folding the jeans. Spike smiled and then took and opened the lube, covering two fingers before forcing Xander’s legs even farther apart. Xander tried keeping his hands at his back as proper for a slave, but as Spike reached up and slipped a finger inside to stroke the prostate, Xander lost his balance, reaching out for his Master’s shoulder to balance himself, and when Spike smiled triumphantly, he put his other hand on Spike’s shoulder and widened his feet even more as Spike slipped a second finger in, Spike’s free arm now wrapping around his body and stroking the tender skin of his butt and upper legs. Xander trembled in anticipation and his long uninterested cock swelled.

“Read this one in a book; never let people tell ya that you can’t learn anything from a book, pet.” Spike pulled the pillows behind him so that he was relaxing back on the bed and he wiggled a ‘come hither’ finger to Xander who happily climbed on top. Xander had ridden Spike before so he happily straddled his Master and started lowering himself down onto Spike. Just as he was about to push up and start the action, Spike reached out and caught both of his wrists.

“Hold on ta my shoulders, right up close to the neck,” Spike said with his yellowed eyes gleaming lustily, and Xander swallowed as he did just that at the same time that Spike pulled on his legs, straightening them out so that Xander had no leverage at all and was impaled in such a way that he would never be able to lift himself.

“Here’s where it gets interestin’, pet,” Spike said, and the vampire lifted Xander’s right leg up to Spike’s shoulder followed shortly after by the left leg so that Xander was forced back with his legs sticking straight up into the air on either side of Spike’s head. His grip on Spike’s shoulders the only thing that kept him from falling backwards, but his legs being lifted pushed him down so hard on Spike’s lap that he could feel the vampire’s cock pushed deeper into him than ever. Xander squirmed happily, which was really the extent of his ability to move without falling.

“Funny thing is that humans came up with this and unless you have a very small woman sitting on a very large man, it just doesn’t work. Lucky for us, I’m not human,” Spike said with a predatory leer full of fangs and immediately after, Spike bucked upward. Xander could feel Spike’s cock force itself even farther into him as Spike’s cock and the warm skin of his ass took all his weight and pushed him up into the air. Xander gasped at the feeling of fullness and his cock twitched and demanded release. Only then Spike dropped back down onto the bed milliseconds before Xander came down, impaling himself as gravity took its toll and pulled him onto Spike’s cock as he gasped for air from the rush of sensation his nerves were all sending at once.. The force of the drive and the depth of Spike’s cock and the tender skin of his butt and legs coming into contact with Spike’s own naked groin had Xander squirming and moaning in no time as he considered the advantage of having a vampire lover. Spike bucked upward over and over until Xander found himself begging his Master to come. His own cock leaked a few drops of precum and bounced against his stomach with each supernaturally strong thrust up that sent him several inches into the air.

“Please, Master. Please come. Oh for god’s sake just come,” Xander begged, knowing that if Spike didn’t come soon that his cock could possibly explode. Hell, his cock *would* explode, and he would die the happiest man alive, even if he would be slightly embarrassed to die still impaled on Spike's cock.

“Oi, no patience at all. Could do this all night,” Spike said with a leer, and Xander groaned at the thought. However Xander couldn’t form any words of protest as he threw his head back and moaned as another buck pushed Spike’s cock against his prostate. Then Xander felt Spike stiffen and release, and Xander’s own release followed immediately, his sperm shooting onto his own face as his cock ejaculated for the first time in… Xander couldn’t’ even count the days. Spike laughed as Xander’s face dripped white, and then another spasm sent sperm onto the vampire. When Spike laughed even harder, Xander felt something slide into place in his own psyche.

“Messy git.” Spike chucked as he lowered Xander’s legs and helped Xander up.

“You made me do it, Master,” Xander returned as he flexed his butt muscles and felt the comfortable stretching without the horrible soreness that had always followed….nope, not thinking it.

“Yeah, well it’s still your mess, so you can bloody clean it up,” Spike groused. Xander laughed as Spike gave him a playful slap on the back of the head and got out of bed. Then Xander realized what Spike was offering. He’d made a mess *on* his Master, and now his Master would let him clean it. Even before Lirowaus, Spike rarely let Xander bathe him, and now Xander sprang off the bed and hurried past Spike who hadn’t taken more than a step toward the bathroom; Xander wanted to start the shower so that the water to be just right when his master got there.


Chapter 22:

As they walked into the casino, Xander wondered why he hadn’t taken Spike up on the offer to let him stay with Joyce, well that and he wondered how the demons got away with being so obvious. Spike had dressed Xander in leather flaps- black trimmed with red, no surprise there- that hung from the front and the back of Xander’s hip chains to barely cover the most vital areas. Even so, as they walked through the main room with the various dealers and gamblers and tourists, Xander was still very obviously a decorated and collared slave following at heel behind his master, and he wasn’t the only one. Humanoid demons with tiny horns or blue skin or neck gills had human slaves at heel or even on a leash, and no one really paid attention.

Well, almost no one. Xander amended that thought as he spotted the three blue-haired ladies gaping with open mouths near the front entrance. Surprisingly, they weren’t exactly in a hurry to leave either. One clutched at her friend’s arm and pointed, and Xander followed the finger with his gaze until he saw them: a tailed female demon leaned against the bar and at her feet knelt a well-muscled human slave, his hands held at the small of his back and his loincloth threatening to abandon its duty as an obvious erection pushed from underneath. His mistress’s tail flicking along his chest obviously wasn’t helping the man with his threatening wardrobe malfunction. The sight stirred Xander as well, but not for the same reasons as the ladies who seemed on the verge of hyperventilating out of either lust or horror, possibly both. That was a slave strong enough to defend his mistress; a slave strong enough to fight at Spike’s side, Xander considered as he concentrated on staying as close to his own Master as possible without causing either of them to trip.

What did those ladies think, anyway, he wondered. He’d grown used to the fact that the citizens of Sunnydale became a bit jaded living on the Hellmouth, but these ladies should be running and screaming from the sight of so many demons, not gawking at a nearly naked slave- even if the slave in question looked like an extra from some gladiator movie. Then again, people had an incredible ability to explain the inexplicable, and they probably thought they’d stumbled into a convention of kinky make-up artists and special effects techs. And really…the waitresses didn’t wear much more than the slaves, so maybe he didn’t look too outrageous given the setting.

Spike headed straight for the elevators and Xander stayed close behind, kneeling beside Spike as they waited for the elevators and wondering how many of the people wandering past them to the bathrooms knew what was going on and how many thought they were just a kinky gay couple. Then it occurred to Xander that what they had done last night and the night before and that morning in the shower…that kinda made them a kinky gay couple. God, he’d thought Anya was insatiable, but she had nothing on the Spike & Xander Show, all porn all day and all night. Xander just wondered why the constant sex bothered him with Anya when he really didn’t have a problem with it coming from Spike. He hoped that if Anya had gone all vengeancy again she never found out that he liked sex with Spike more because Spike had definitely gotten him to try kinky stuff that he had given a blunt ‘no’ when Anya had asked.

The elevator dinged its arrival and Xander stood and followed Spike inside, kneeling between his master and the wall of the elevator. As two demons without slaves entered the car after them, Xander could feel his heart rate increase as panic threaded its way through his awareness, but suddenly Spike leaned into him so that Xander could feel the leather of the vampire’s coat press against his arm, and Xander leaned back gratefully. The silent promise of protection calmed his heart even as it triggered his guilt. The elevator doors slid open onto the lower levels, and the traditional noises of a slave auction and show assaulted Xander’s senses.

Spike strode confidently out into the crowd, and Xander followed behind, keeping his eyes on the ground when he saw that many of the demons stopped to look at him. He kept repeating his internal mantra—Spike wouldn’t leave him, Spike wouldn’t leave him. He repeated it, keeping most of his mind busy with that affirmation while he allowed his training to move his body automatically. Spike walked; he stayed at heel. Spike stopped, he knelt gracefully. Spike cursed out some demon; Xander tried his best not to absolutely panic and go bolting out of the room. When that impulse occurred, Xander knew he was in trouble.

As Spike finished a conversation with a large grey demon, Xander leaned into Spike’s leg hard enough for Spike to know that it wasn’t an accident. When Spike ignored him and started walking back into the crowd, Xander felt his heart pound nearly out of his chest and only the fear that some other demon would grab him sent him scrambling after his Master. Oh yeah, he might have worked through his fear of abandonment, but based on his current state of near-heart attack, he wasn’t over the fear of being kidnapped.

Of course, he had actual reasons for that fear: Leshar, bug-lady teacher, Angel’s offer to share him with Spike, Spike’s whole “love spell” incident, the zombie trio, Faith, Lirowaus, and a dozen demon brothel clients that he really wasn’t going to think about. Yep, he had issues with supernatural creatures, and he certainly still had that in common with Droopy Harris. Hell, even Anya’s appearance in and subsequent hijacking of his life fit the pattern. Xander focused on these thoughts so that he wouldn’t focus on the demons that turned and watched him while he walked in his Master’s wake. Still, when Spike found a quiet bench in a side hall leading to the back staff area, Xander could have blessed his master as he lowered himself to his knees in the relative quiet. Of course blessing a vampire might not be the best reward. He wondered briefly whether a priest’s blessing could actually hurt his Master, and then he realized that he had missed a question.

“I’m sorry, Master. I didn’t hear the question,” he admitted red-faced.

“Noticed. Ya doin’ alright, then?”

“No, Master.”

“Tell me what’s wrong, pet.”

“I keep imagining that all the demons are looking at me,” Xander said even though it sounded arrogant, even to his own ears.

“They are. You’re a beautiful slave, and when Lirowaus took ya, he made sure to tell the whole community. Now he’s dead and I’m showin’ up with you at heel. People are lookin’ at you because you’re bloody beautiful to watch, and because they’re soddin’ dyin’ to know what in the bloody hell happened.” Xander thought about that for several seconds. “Besides, when they looked at ya last auction all you did was swing your hips more,” Spike pointed out. “So, try tellin’ me what’s really wrong.”

“I’m afraid one will try to take me,” Xander finally admitted after several moments of weighing the possibility that he would offend his Master by implying that he couldn’t protect his slave, against the fact that he really didn’t want to lie. Hell, he was the one who had leaned into Spike to try and silently ask for help. “Not that I don’t trust you to protect me, because I do, but I’m behind you.” Xander stopped when he realized he was on the verge of babble. Actually, he’d been on the verge since walking through the rear entrance to the casino, but now he was on the verge of actually babbling his babble.

Xander had dropped his eyes to Spike’s knee and he watched the creases in the denim and tried not to think about how pathetic he was. The on his knees with his legs spread, butt resting against his heels with his palms resting on his thighs part…that didn’t bother him. But being afraid to walk behind his master in a crowd made him feel even lower than Cordelia’s insults had, and he never thought he could feel lower than that. But then a hand cupped his chin and pulled his head up so that he looked into his Master’s bright blue eyes.

“I told ya to let me help when you couldn’t do it alone, and I’m proud of you. It’s bloody hard to admit when ya need help,” Spike said and then he started sifting through pockets in his duster. “Here it is,” Spike finally exclaimed, and Xander watched Spike pull out a long length of the same black mage steel that made his collar. He watched as Spike attached one end of the thin chain to the collar before standing with the other end in hand.

“An elephant couldn’t break this stuff, pet. No one takes you without me knowing,” Spike promised before starting back toward the crowd of demons and slaves who flowed by in the main corridor. Xander rose to follow, and as he watched the leash swaying and felt its slight weight, he actually did feel better as he followed a little farther back, far enough that he could get a proper swing going with his hip chains.

Only seconds before they reached their destination, Xander noticed that they were headed for the cubicle where the shurl demon had set up shop. Xander went to his knees when Spike stopped, and the woman moved toward them in a graceful sideways walk, her curving horns tilted to one side as she considered them, and Xander watched out of the corner of his eye as a slow smile overtook her features.

“Can I help you?” she asked in a voice that danced from low deep tones to bright musical ones within four words. Xander caught glances at her out of the corner of his eye.

“Yeah, lookin’ for a tattoo.”

“I did assume that.” She glanced first at Spike and then she looked at Xander for so long that he found himself mesmerized by her eyes: swirls of greens and blues and reds and yellows that took on strange patterns.

“How much, then, to do the boy?” Xander almost choked on his own tongue. Spike had warned him to steer clear of the shurl because they were seers, and after the fight at the last auction he’d explained how they tattooed a person’s inner truth on their skin. The strongest masters reveled in having their inner strength displayed on their chests or arms, but many a demon had found their inner weakness displayed for all to see in indelible ink.

“Won’t tattoo the unwilling,” she replied, and Xander risked a quick look up. She pounced on his mistake by kneeling down in front of him so quickly that he couldn’t respond.

“Do you see yourself?” she asked seriously, and in the absence of a mirror, Xander looked at her confused for a moment before he dropped his head submissively.

“No, miss,” he replied.

“No, you do not.” She stood and looked from the slave to the Master, and Xander expected that they were on the verge of being dismissed from the booth. He could feel Spike’s leg twitching with nervous energy beside him.

“Right, the boy don’t see himself, I could’ve told you that. That’s why I’m bringin’ him here, innit? You show him what he has inside.” Xander thought about that, and wondered if he would have an image of a bug with its wings torn off tattooed into his hide. Maybe a bird with a wing so mangled that a bone protruded from the feathers.

“Do you want it?” the shurl asked, and it took Xander a moment to realize that she was speaking to him. He considered his feelings before answering.

“If Master wants it,” Xander admitted. He couldn’t say he really cared.

“I will only do the tattoo if you both want it, for I will not tolerate an angry vampire seeking revenge for my image.” She waved a bluish-green arm and flipped her head so that her hair flew back and her horns made a circle in the air.

“Not going to bloody hold anything against you, so just do the soddin’ thing,” Spike demanded and Xander waited through another long silence.

“I cannot do his without also showing yours.”

“Wot? My truth tattooed on him? Thought you lot wouldn’t paint anything except a person’s own truth?”

“Two and two sacred,” she said reverently.

“Bloody hell, don’t start talking ‘bout stars or I’m out of here.” The shurl laughed at that.

“Two,” she tapped on Spike’s chest- “and two” -Xander felt her tap on his own head- “four.”

“Right, so ya goin’ ta do the work or not?” Xander thought about the demon’s words a little more carefully. Spike was two – William and Spike, and now she said Xander was two. Suddenly she laughed and turned back toward them after showing them her ridged back as a response to Spike’s comment.

“The boy knows truth,” she joyfully sang in her ringing tones. “Sacred four within two.”

“So, do ya know whether or not she’s doin’ the tattoo, pet?” Spike asked.

“No, Master.” Suddenly the demon moved closer and cocked her head at Spike before she started laughing.

“The young one deceives. He knows the sacred; four in two—one.” Assuming that the demon meant that Spike actually did understand, Xander looked up at his Master with questioning eyes.

“Oi, it’s shurl nonsense. They see the number four as sacred, and when two pair of soulmates find each other, they see the foursome as a sacred union,” Spike explained.

“Yes. Four two one,” the shurl commented as if that made sense. Xander waited for someone to actually translate that.

“You have four minds in two bodies, but you are one and will always be one. I cannot tell one truth without the other because you are four and you are two and you are one.” Xander considered her words and he looked up at Spike in wonder. Could Spike feel that way after he’d been so weak around the vampire?

“Yeah, if she wants to call it some holy nonsense, she can, don’t care, but I do know that we are a pair. Only person I came as close to carin’ about this much was Dru, and she soddin’ treated me like dirt when she remembered to treat me like anythin’ at all.” Xander felt Spike’s hand cup the back of his head, and he leaned into the vampire’s leg.

“You are his center,” she told Spike. “He seeks you always.” The shurl wandered around the room, seemingly without purpose as she touched various object on the shelves. “I will show him,” she said in a conspiratorial tone, “show him and you.” Xander watched as Spike fixed the demon with a suspicious gaze, but Xander found himself suddenly pulled to his feet by the deceptively strong woman and guided to a chair that reclined back, Spike pulled along by the leash wrapped around his hand, which he refused to let go.

“Truth requires pain always,” she said, and Spike stepped up.

“Maybe we shouldn’t do this, come on, pet.” Spike reached out to take Xander’s hand, but Xander resisted and Spike stopped almost immediately.

“Xander, what are ya thinkin’?” Spike asked.

“I want to know.” Xander said as he focused on his Master’s stomach, unable to meet his eyes. “I have to know what’s inside and whether I’m…” Xander struggled to find a word. He knew he was broken, but he wanted to know if the pieces could ever be put back together again.

“Still repairable still strong,” the shurl interrupted his attempts to find words. “But do not say I told you first.” She winked a large swirling eye and Xander remembered Spike explaining that a shurl would never reveal anything about the image beforehand. He looked at her amused expression and realized that she was breaking one of her people’s rules, but her face somehow expressed both extreme age and a slight disdain for all rules, including her own people’s rules.

“Ya sure about the pain part, pet?” Spike asked, and Xander nodded.

“Just…stay?” he asked, feeling like a five-year-old clinging to his mother.

“Shove over then,” Spike ordered, and Xander found himself sharing the reclining chair with Spike who first settled himself in, jamming his own body into the space intended for only one person, and then pulling Xander on top so that he lay more on Spike than on the couch. Suddenly the shurl appeared with a tray of paints and an array of brushes. She set up next to the couch without commenting on the seating arrangements and settled down to work.

She hummed a wordless tune as she took a brush and dipped it in red ink before laying it against the skin over Xander’s heart. At first it felt like the time Willow had taken her water colors to him, but then the shurl demon’s hum became louder and her free hand made motions in the air, and Xander’s skin suddenly felt as if it was being slowly stripped.

The pain eased as she tossed the first brush on a counter and picked up another brush and dipped it in black. Her free hand never stopped motioning and her voice never stopped its hum-chant, and now the sensation of having skin stripped turned into a burning as the new paint touched his skin. Xander tried to jerk away from the pain, but he couldn’t move as the black brush flew to the nearby counter and she picked up another and dipped it in brown. Xander gasped for air and threw his head back as the pain continued, and he felt Spike’s cheek against his own, Spike’s hands entwined with his own, Spike’s body supporting him.

Then he understood that Spike was giving him what Giles and Angel and even Buffy never had. Spike was giving him the truth, and if it turned out that he carried the image of a broken and bleeding rat being dragged off by Spike’s demon, it would be the truth and he could handle it. Spike wanted him to know himself, and he could do that. For Spike, he *would* do that; he’d survived Lirowaus, and as long as Spike never left him, he could survive looking at himself. So he tried to relax between the layers of ink, to take shelter in the comforting touches of his Master as the shurl painted on the layers, and gestured with nimble fingers that moved so fast that Xander couldn’t see the pattern formed beneath. Grey, a touch of yellow, a touch of green, silver: he watched the shurl apply color after color as he laid his head in the crook of Spike’s neck and tried to just breathe through the agony.

“For the healing now,” the shurl finally said as she put her paints to one side and picked up a white cream. She smoothed it over the skin of his chest, the left side directly above the heart, and when Xander looked down to see the image, he could only see the white cream blending with either red paint or, more likely given the pain, his own blood. The now-pink substance covered the pattern and the shurl continued to chant as the cream slowly stopped burning and now turned cool.

Xander’s breathing returned to normal, and the shurl pulled back as she grabbed a towel and in a single swipe removed the mess and revealed a stylized “Sx” pattern. The “S” was a black snake banded in red and the “x” was a bird, a hawk if Xander remembered biology class. He gasped at the grace and beauty and strength of both parts of the tattoo. The upper half of the “x” was the bird’s wings and head; the bottom half was the bird’s long tail feathers on one side, and the bird’s thick legs reaching down toward the snake’s tail on the other. The bird wore a silver chain round its neck and Xander reflexively reached up and touched his own black collar. Xander bent down and looked close to find that the hawk, which was half the size of the snake, still had his talons buried deep in the snake. He could feel Spike under him, shifting in order to get a better look.

“Right, I’d be the snake then, what with the tempting people and bein’ evil and all.”

“They were symbols of wisdom and healing first,” the shurl said with a smirk that rivaled Spike’s own, and Xander realized she was teasing him about being a little less than evil. Xander slipped off the table and knelt as Spike stood up. Xander suddenly found himself wondering if Spike would have become typical vampire concerned about little more than feeding and shagging if Angelus hadn’t broken him and allowed all those William-shaped human bits to remain, even as Spike became the demon his sire demanded. Spike handed over the money, and Xander decided that the answer didn’t really matter because Spike was Spike, and he belonged to Spike. Looking down at the hawk’s sharp claws clutching the snake, he realized that Spike belonged to him too.

Spike started to walk out, and Xander rose to follow, still enjoying the rhythmic swing of the leash still held in Spike’s hand at one end and clipped to his collar on the other. The shurl’s voice followed them as they returned to the main corridor even more crowded with demons of various sizes and shapes.

“But hawks must have talons, vampire, remember that,” she shouted as she came to stand at the entrance to her booth.

“I bloody knew that already,” Spike barely whispered, but Xander could still hear her laugh in response behind him. With the leash in place, Xander felt more confident, and his near nudity and his decorated body encouraged him to show off just a little as Spike drove a wedge through the crowd by storming through without regard to who he offended. Xander expected they would now return to their room, which Spike had said would be a windowless suite on the third floor, but Spike led them deeper in until they reached a shop with familiar hobbles and leather and chains hanging in the front, and Xander decided that when he found slave auctions familiar he really did have problems. However, he wasn’t at all surprised as he knelt next to Spike to see the thick legs of the blacksmith.

“Look here, back on a leash again?” the blacksmith asked in an amused, booming voice. Of course his voice always boomed, but the amusement was rather new. “If he needs some re-training, Leshar’s here.” Xander knelt silently and focused on not showing the revulsion he felt at his trainer’s name, especially since that trainer would certainly consider him in need of retraining.

“Not likely. He’s trained well enough, but had a bit of a tight spot and I just want to make sure I keep him by my side.”

“Ah, Lirowaus,” the blacksmith said knowingly. “He normally doesn’t come to the sales, and he actually sent stock for the first time in years. However, I suspect that he only signed up to come in order to display his new slave in the show.” Xander focused on the blacksmith’s finely carved leather shoes as something to entertain his mind, so he almost missed the comment. The thought of performing in a show for Lirowaus sent a shiver down Xander’s back that he couldn’t control.

“So will you display him?” the blacksmith asked.

“Give it some thought,” Spike said, and Xander hoped the noncommittal answer actually meant ‘no’ even though he’d do his best if Spike wanted to sign him up. “Right now I thought I’d come for some merchandise I saw here last time.”

“We do have a wide range. I know you haven’t bought any gags or head gear, would that interest you?”

“Bloody hell no,” Spike snapped, and Xander watched the blacksmith’s feet retreat a step and shuffle once or twice. “Pettin’ him is a good part of the pleasure, and I don’t want things strapped around his head.” Xander felt a hand ruffle his curls and he held form even as he enjoyed the touch. “Besides I had somethin’ specific in mind. I saw last time you had a solluna knife set.”

“Oh yes, you are a man who knows quality merchandise.” The blacksmith shuffled away and soon the feet returned to Xander’s line of sight, but the actual merchandise being discussed was too high for him to see.

“That genuine?” Spike asked.

“Made by Gunsha himself, silver-edged curved blade on the luna knife with F’yarl inscriptions that curse your enemies’ entrails. The second is an iron-edged sol knife—straight blade with Rikad blessings on your knife arm.”

Xander wished he could see the blades, but he couldn’t even follow the rest of the conversation since Spike started speaking in a demon language and the blacksmith replied in that same tongue. Xander noticed that Spike had done that several times now, but he figured that Spike would fill him in once they reached their room. Right now he just knelt at Spike’s side and took advantage of his lowered gaze to stare at the tattoo.

The coloring on the bird was so remarkable that he could see each detail, the sun reflecting off individual feathers, the fierce gaze of the hawk, the talons stretching out and holding the snake’s tail. The silver chain lay on the dark feathers but didn’t ruffle them at all, even in mid-flight. The bird looked so formidable that Xander had trouble believing that somewhere inside he had this strength, but Spike had told him that shurls never compromised their vision.

“Stand up, pet.” Spike’s words brought him out of his haze and he gracefully rose to his feet. Before he could really get into position, he found Spike’s leg between his, pushing his feet apart, and Xander obligingly spread his legs while still keeping his gaze down. That position allowed Xander to watch as Spike fastened a leather sheath to his left leg, straps and buckles wrapping around his leg just below the hip and then again mid thigh. Then a curved and carved silver blade appeared in his vision.

“What does silver kill?” Spike demanded. Xander thought back to the time they’d stayed at Joyce’s house. Spike had taught him more about demon hunting in a couple of days than Giles had taught him in four years. Well, either that or his time as a slave had helped him learn how to listen better so that he actually listened when Spike talked as opposed to all those times that he had ignored Giles. Xander contemplated the implications for public schools. Install a Leshar type demon to administer discipline, and the students would suddenly discover a passion for learning never seen before. Xander flashed on an image of Larry in a cage as Principal Snyder lectured him on respect with Leshar in the background. Anyway, Xander knew the answer.

“Werewolves, Slod demon and Kungai if you strike the eyes, Master.” Xander felt the approving hand at his head at the same time that he heard the sputtering of the blacksmith.

“You cannot mean to allow a slave…”

“Oi, my slave; I’ll bloody allow whatever I want.”

“But he was a vampire hunter,” the blacksmith loudly protested, and Xander wondered if the demon would be comforted by the story of him falling on a vampire or of him being tossed like a rag doll by a newly risen fledge. Yep, he really hadn’t been much of a vampire hunter before, but under Spike’s instruction, he had developed a couple of nice moves. Xander hoped that the gift of the knife meant that Spike would teach him more. Maybe Spike would even teach him enough to make the shurl’s tattoo believable because right now he didn’t feel much like a fierce hawk.

Something brushed his right thigh, and Xander looked down to see Spike attaching a second sheath high on his leg; this one ran straight down his leg. Spike held a dull grey blade with dot-like inscriptions down the center of the blade.

“What do ya use an iron blade for?”

“Polgara demons and Goran if you then keep the head away from the rest of the clan,” Xander immediately answered. He knew that there were probably other demons as well, but he knew very little about killing demons other than what Spike had taught him in two days. The hand continued to pet him, and he knew he had gotten the answer right

“Vampire, you are not one to worry about others’ impressions,” the blacksmith said, and Spike just snorted. “And you must have great faith in your training to trust him with such things.”

“Trust him more than anyone else in my life, so the next demon that tries ta take my pet might have a surprise,” Spike said in a cruel tone, and Xander wondered if that meant what he thought it meant. “Pet, if any of these wankers try to take you, I want you to bloody gut them, got it?” Yep, that’s exactly what Spike meant, and Xander realized that by giving the order in front of the blacksmith, within an hour most of the slavers would know about it.

“Yes, Master,” Xander answered happily and then Spike swept out of the booth, and Xander followed before the leash could draw taut.

Walking through the crowds, Xander wondered what others saw. His black arm cuffs with their trailing laces reminded him to keep his arms still as he followed behind the only vampire slaver. He had the black mage collar with the matching decorations, the red stones on his back hanging off the lowest point of the draped chains, and the three stones hung down his front off the single chain, and as he walked he kept these steady even while swinging his hips to make the delicate chains rhythmically bounce off his legs in time with his gait, small red stones winking on the end of each hip chain. His long leash physically tied him to his Master, but he stayed close enough at heel to make the connection unnecessary for anything other than his own mental health. And now, added to these symbols of a pampered slave were two scabbards in black leather with silver etching, each containing a deadly knife designed to kill demons. Add in one very colorful, flashy shurl tattoo and he had to think that people were noticing.

Xander followed Spike past a number of booths and into the area where the slave shows attracted large crowds. Xander had heard Leshar and the others at the brothel discussing the shows and how much more valuable slaves were once they had won a few titles. Considering that valuable slaves got bred more often, a task Xander abhorred, he had always hoped to avoid these displays of slave training. Xander kept close to Spike even while he watched a ribboned girl slave walk the circle while trying to keep the perfect gait to make the lower ribbons dance while keeping her upper ribbons stationary. Xander could see she was never going to make it because she had a look of utter concentration: Xander knew that keeping the gait was a matter of getting into the swing and letting go. Xander just hoped that the blond girl didn’t have a master that would beat her when that concentration broke.

Spike wound his way through the crowd, and Xander followed, his eyes focused on the floor in front of him, so when Spike stopped, Xander went to his knees without even wondering the cause of their sudden stoppage right in the middle of the walkway. He did briefly hope no one tripped on him again, but then concerns about his own safety from clumsy demons disappeared as Spike’s hand caught him under the chin and lifted his head.

The red hair caught his attention first. Unfortunately that red hair also drew his attention to the second most noticeable feature: a bridle. Willow knelt naked on a bench, her mouth held open by a bit, and each end of the bit ending in a circle. A strap attached to the circle on either end and then around the back of her head holding it in place, a second strap attached to either circle and then went under her chin, and a strap attached to either circle extended in front of Willow like a pair of reins, and these reins where tied off to a bar high enough that Willow’s head was tilted up slightly so that she looked over the heads of the crowd. He guessed that her arms were tied because her feet were, and from the considerable drool slowly winding its way down her body like a slow moving worm, she must have been there for a while. When he could pull his eyes away, he saw Tara kneeling next to her in exactly the same position.

The girls had attracted quite a crowd, and Xander even thought he saw Ulsha and Ty near the girls although he couldn’t be sure. Spike started walking again, and Xander stood and followed despite an overwhelming urge to rush in there. He was doubly grateful for the leash that reminded him that not all things were possible. If he rushed in now he’d just screw everything up again, and so he reminded himself to trust Spike and follow Spike’s lead. Of course, if he had a chance to use his bright new pretties…. Xander’s thoughts wandered into a mental playground full of gutted monsters and decapitated Kailiff demons.

He hated that the girls were suffering. He’d been in those bits often enough to know how they hurt, and his guts twisted at the thought. First your jaw started aching from being open so long, and you would try to ease that by flexing the jaw muscles, biting down on the bit, but the metal bit would just make the teeth start to ache which would make the jaw ache even more, and it turned into a cycle of self induced pain and muscle spasms, and he longed to rip the thing off Willow’s head. Wearing that gear, she certainly wouldn’t be casting any spells.

Xander followed at heel back to the elevators, and he leaned as hard as he dare against his Master’s leg to ask for permission to speak. The only thing he gained was a comment from a Pylean that Spike had an affectionate bull. While being called a bull was actually slightly less offensive than being called an animal, Xander decided to simply wait until they were in their room.

They rode up the elevator, and Xander meekly trailed down a hall that obviously only catered to demons because here the slaves were naked and several were only partially trained as their masters dragged them to private rooms. Xander’s stomach knotted even more tightly as he thought about what was happening in those private rooms.

Finally Spike led them to a room where he swiped the card to open the door to a suite far more luxurious than their previous two auctions. Of course, all the accommodations were far better. Once the door closed behind them, Xander knelt next to the door.

“Master?” he asked, trying to organize his thoughts so that he didn’t sound accusatory.

“Yeah, pet?” Spike dropped the leash to the floor and threw his duster. Xander got up to retrieve the coat from the floor and lay it across an upholstered chair with big yellow Hawaiian flowers on a puke green background. And still it was better than the rooms at the other two auctions. Spike had left the front room to go into the bedroom, and Xander followed, going to his knees inside the bedroom door as he gathered his thoughts before speaking, an action that really told him how much he had changed from his Droopy Harris days.

“Master, why aren’t we staying near the girls?” Nice…not accusatory and very respectful.

“Not all the demons down there like me. One camp thinks I had a right to take out Lirowaus since he took my property. Another is just glad he’s gone because he tended to hoard witches instead of selling and trading like other slavers, but a big group wants me gone, pet. Ulsha and Ty are in that group, and Ulsha now has all Lirowaus’ stock.”

“Ulsha owns the girls,” Xander translated.

“Bloody right, and they soddin’ hate me, so if I’m down there too near for too long…” Spike let his words trail off.

“They’ll know you’re interested and they’ll take the girls out of the auction.” Xander finished. “Master,” he added on at the end as an after thought.

“Right. So I don’t show any interest or bid until the last minute when no one has time ta try and take them away.”

“Can’t you pretend to be interesting in buying another human, Master?”

“Pet, the slavers know I want witches, and those are the only two witches in that area. Can’t take the risk.” Xander understood, he really did, but he also didn’t want to give up on staying near enough to intervene if everything went to hell in a handbasket. Life had just gone to hell to many times lately; he had a gut level feeling that something was about to explode.

“Master, let me enter the show,” Xander finally asked.

“Bloody hell, no.” Spike whirled around in full game face, and Xander would have retreated if he wasn’t already kneeling with his back to a wall, but then he reminded himself that Spike wouldn’t hurt him…well, not unless he needed it anyway.

“I’m sorry, Master,” Xander quickly responded, and Spike practically threw himself to his knees next to Xander.

“Not you I’m angry with, pet. I just don’t want them near you, and if you’re showing, I can’t keep them away from ya.”

“I know, Master, and I don’t want to do most of the shows, but the endurance show is near enough to the girls for you to be able to see all three of us,” Xander suggested in a whisper. He didn’t want to make Spike angry, but he wouldn’t just forget it either.

“Xander, you don’t soddin’ have to do this, we’ll buy them at the witch auction in three days, and then I’ll take the lot of you home.”

“And if something happens? What if we’re up here when Ulsha makes a private sale?” Xander demanded in a stronger tone. He was right and he knew it this time.

“Then we’ll bloody track them down again, but I don’t want to risk you.”

“I’m the hawk, Master. I won’t let them take me away again.” Xander looked up into Spike’s yellow eyes and touched the demon’s cheek. “Please, Master.”

“Bloody hell, if they harm one hair on you, I’ll rip that auction apart even if it means we have to look for the girls for the next twenty years.” Spike dropped back into his human features, and Xander shivered as he felt the flesh transform under his fingers.

“I can do this Master, and I’ll do it well.”

“Don’t bloody care if you do all that slave rot well, you do the things I want ya to do, and I couldn’t care less about their show.”

“But I’ll do well, Master. I’ll do well and we’ll stay down there to watch the girls.”

“Given your track record with these demons, I think I’ll be watching you,” Spike said in a clear complaint, but he headed out and grabbed his coat. Xander picked up his trailing leash and handed it to Spike who wrapped it around his fist before heading back out the door. Xander wished he could ignore the feeling that something bad was coming even as he tried to ignore the fact that his tattoo was starting to itch.

Chapter 23:

Xander followed Spike down into the slave auction again, and he tried to focus hard on his Master rather than the shows. Leshar had trained him well to perform at the shows, and at the auction where Spike had found him, he had performed in three events. Two of those events he would happily perform again to stay near the girls, and the third he *knew* Spike would never let him near...well, not without a whole lot of holy water and many dead demons. And none of the demons here were foolish enough to mess with Spike's property after the whole Lirowaus incident, he hoped.

Spike headed straight for one of the largest competition circles—the Gait Circle, and Xander silently took his place in line behind several other kneeling slaves. Of course, the other slaves had their leashes attached to the wait pole while Xander had his Master still hovering over him, but Xander really didn't mind the difference. He also didn't mind the wait. From his position, he could sneak a few small glances, and when the crowd surged in a certain direction, he could see the girls still on display. Well aware that Spike could hear and see better than he could, and aware that too much interest in the girls would just bring trouble, Xander passed the minutes trying to slow his breathing and get into the right frame of mind for the competition.

A short, petite woman in her thirties or so stood, and Xander could see the grace in every motion of her body. He wondered how long she had been a slave as the handler for the competition attached ribbons to her naked body. Her arms and legs, her neck and waist, her wrists and ankles, her hips: over a dozen yellow ribbons in a fabric so delicate that it would break with very little effort and so light that the tails nearly floated. The assistant handler finished his task, and the woman stepped up as the last slave left the ring in a lather of sweat and trailing blue ribbons. The main handler in the middle of the ring stood by a large center pole out from which came a thinner pole that rotated around that center pole. He stood taller than a human and kept one tentacle on the rotating pole which he now swung around to the woman. The assistant took a yellow ribbon and attached the ribbon to the very end of the swinging arm before tying the dangling bit of ribbon to the woman's collar. If she pulled against the collar or didn't keep up with the swinging arm, the ribbon would break and she would be eliminated from the contest.

Mr. Tentacle in the center started walking around the center pole slowly, but the length of the rotating arm had the woman walking at a brisk clip. Xander watched out of the corner of his eye, and he had to admire her form. The ribbons on her arms and waist trailed out directly behind her while the ribbons tied to her hips and legs danced as she sashayed in a display of excellent slave training. She kept her head tilted up so that she didn't accidentally break the ribbon with her chin and she didn't even register the occasional smacks that the main handler inflicted with a long training rod carried in two of his free tentacles. She had circled several times when the assistant provided the first obstacle: a set of blocks set just a little too close together for easy navigation. Xander watched the woman spot the structure and begin to shorten her gait without slowing or disturbing her ribbons. By the time she actually reached the blocks, she nimbly stepped between the blocks and kept her rhythm without difficulty.

The handler took her through the blocks once more before the assistant pulled them off and replaced them with a tray of some substance. Xander always hated this one. The stuff was slick, and the bottom of the tray had no traction, so it forced you to keep all of your weight perfectly balanced or else fall on your ass. Leshar had been so unimpressed with Xander's performance on this obstacle that he had made a special track using this slick crap just for Xander, and then he had worked him using the breeding leash. Xander's groin hurt from just the memory. Time after time he'd slipped, and most of his weight fell on the steel loops around the very top of his legs in the indentation where leg met hip, but the third loop around the base of his genitals had taken enough of a hit to hurt like a son of a bitch. Worst of all was that the thin steel cord around his legs that inflicted a crippling bruising that left his legs almost unusable by the time he learned to keep his balance. But hey, Leshar had managed to find a way to teach Droopy Harris some grace when walking, so Xander had to be a little impressed.

The woman handled it with far greater ease. She tiptoed her way through without incident three times before that obstacle was removed. The next obstacle was speed, and Xander could see she had a problem here. As Mr. Tentacle picked up speed, pushing the rotating arm fast enough to make the woman pant, her short legs left her taking the occasional running step to avoid breaking the ribbon at her collar, but each jarring step sent her upper ribbons dancing and then the training rod would come down on her back. She had gone around the circuit twice and was obviously gasping for air when the training rod came down on her back and she stumbled.

The collar ribbon broke, and she immediately went into the Floor kneel with her forehead down on the sand of the competition circle. Xander could see her back heave as she gasped for air, and the ribbons on her legs had popped when she knelt, but the ribbon tying her hands together and the arm ribbons still draped down against her skin as a Pylean demon came into the ring to collect her. At the same time, the second handler motioned to them, and Xander felt Spike tug his collar. He rose and stood with his legs spread and his head down. While the handler attached a series of green ribbons to his body, he watched the woman who had just broken the ribbon, and he wondered what her master would do to her in private.

When Xander had practiced, the end always came with a whipping for failing whatever task he had failed, but the Pylean simply snapped a leash to her collar and gave a tug. The woman rose and followed without showing any trace of emotion. Maybe her master didn't whip her for mistakes. Or maybe she was so used to being treated like a show horse that it didn't bother her anymore if he did. Xander just reminded himself that Spike didn't think of him as an animal, and the fact that one of the ribbons was tied to each of his knife handles just about proved that. If they wanted a show then he’d give them one, Xander thought as the assistant handler tied a green ribbon to his collar, but that didn't make him an animal.

Xander gripped his left wrist tightly to make sure that he didn't accidentally break the wrist ribbon and then he stepped confidently forward at the slightest tug to his collar. The ribbon attached to his collar--the one being used to lead him--was the one in greatest danger of breaking, so Xander focused on that and let his body get into the rhythm. He'd never thought that Spike's obsession with decorating him would come in so handy, but Xander realized that he had grown so used to swinging his hip chains while keeping his back chains steady that this rolling gait was now as natural as walking...more natural, actually, since he used to have trouble with walking without falling down, and now he followed the handler's lead without any difficulty. He strode confidently around the ring and with each rotation found himself facing the girls. He could see Willow pull back against her bridle as a demon petted her hair, and Xander stifled an urge to gut that demon by focusing on his own obstacles.

He handled the blocks by stepping *on* every other block, which caused a bit of laughter in the crowd, but the handler's training rod didn't come down on his back. Xander wondered whether that meant that the handler approved of his approach or whether he just didn't want to hit Spike's property. Either way, Xander appreciated the lack of random discipline as he walked through the slick tray without more than one or two heart-stopping moments. The speed test didn't tax Xander at all. With his long stride, he kept up the pace with no more than a little heavy breathing. In fact, he liked this one since he could go back to watching his girls.

Xander watched the assistant handler push a number of upright boards out into the circle and when he came around again, he prepared to avoid the chest level obstacle by simply moving a little bit to the inside. It would mean that he would have no slack on the lead ribbon, but he thought he could make it. Just as he shifted in, the handler yelled.


Xander had no time to correct and go to the outside, so he decided to disobey rather than try to correct himself and break the ribbon. Just as he cleared the first board on the left, he felt the training rod come down hard enough to leave a stinging line across his shoulders. The trainer yelled again.


This time Xander detoured to the outside and cleared the second board. Now that he knew the game, he cleared the third board easily as he followed the handler's direction to go left. As Xander travelled the circle, he wondered if Spike was controlling his temper, but then he was at the board again and didn't have time to think as he followed the handler's directions. This time the handler switched to "Outside" and "Inside" and Xander earned himself another swat with the training rod when he didn’t adjust fast enough.

The assistant trainer pulled the boards back, and Xander felt the tug at his collar warn him to pick up the pace. This time the center handler pushed Xander for all he was worth, and Xander strode the circle at a pace that made his arm ribbons fly behind him as he started breathing heavily, but he kept his walking motion even as he did it far faster and with a far longer stride than normal. After three more turns at a pace that left Xander's chest heaving, the handler slowed, and Xander could see another obstacle pushed out in front of him.

He almost groaned. He hated the stairs both because of the near impossibility of keeping his ribbons from being disturbed and because the lack of up and down movement of the circling bar meant that he had to bend as he climbed in order to avoid breaking the ribbon. Xander had only practiced this move a few times because Leshar had essentially given up on it. Xander looked at the small stairs and tried to prepare his pace. Three steps, so he couldn't take two at a time without having to break his stride and earning an extra swat, so he decided to just take small steps and then step off the far end and just take the swat since he couldn't possibly keep his ribbons correctly moving while jumping down a couple of feet.

Xander took the three steps without incident, but as he stepped off the far side of the stairs, he felt the heat of the training rod against his upper thigh. He struggled to get his pace back, and his ribbons jerked wildly as the training rod came down again. Xander got back into his gait and then approached the stairs again. He repeated his tactic, but this time the training rod hit even harder and Xander lost his balance. As he fell forward, he instinctively put out his hands breaking both his wrist ribbon and the lead ribbon at the same time.

Xander immediately pulled his hands to the small of his back and went into a Floor kneel, forehead pressed into the sand. He felt the ribbons on his legs tighten and pop as his muscles flexed in the kneel, and the edges tickled his skin as he knelt perfectly still and waited for Spike to come claim him. For a moment he resisted an urge to do a Scooby dance. Oh yeah, he could do this crap better than any of their beaten-down slaves. Of course the fact that he was actually thinking this while kneeling with his head to the ground, waiting for Spike to put him back on a leash? Xander couldn’t help but be just a little amused. A tap on his head and he sat up into the Down kneel as Spike fastened the leash to his collar and started pulling the ribbons off him before leading him out of the circle.

Xander had noticed on his various circles that the number of demons watching had grown, and now the two of them were approached by a wide range of these demons wanting to talk. Given Spike’s usual impatience with all slavers, Xander expected his Master to push through the crowd, but Spike found a bench to sit on while he did a Spike version of small talk: noncommittal grunts, a variety of eyebrow movements, and occasional British curses. Xander knelt by his side still trying to catch his breath, and when a human-looking demon handed Spike a towel, Spike briskly rubbed Xander down.

“Going to breed?” a horned demon asked.

“Thought I might. He cost quite a bit.” Spike gave a non-answer answer, and Xander just barely avoided a full body shiver.

“I’d pay $200 per cover for my best three girls,” another offered.

“I’ll keep that in mind, mate.” Xander felt a tap on his butt and he rose into a Position kneel while Spike toweled off the sweat that had gathered on the back of his thighs and the back of his calves.

“Lirowaus did say he was the sweetest-tempered animal he’d ever owned,” a third offered, and Spike growled and tossed the now damp towel on the ground. The tiny demon who couldn’t have stood more than four feet squeaked and retreated, but Xander was surprised at how quickly the vampire calmed down and thanked a thin tentacled demon who had complimented Spike for Xander’s performance. Xander resisted the urge to point out that he had done the hard work.

“But to arm him…” a voice near the back said, barely loud enough for Xander to hear, but he had no doubt that Spike had caught the complaint.

“And ordering the boy to attack demons, too,” clucked a yellowish horned demoness standing not four feet away. Xander held his breath as Spike flashed into game face and stood up. The demoness might have been brave while Spike was seated and showing his human face, but the sight of Spike’s demonic face and demonic temper had the female backing up rapidly, causing a small ripple of nervous laughter in the crowd.

Xander expected that Spike had just run out of patience, but the hyper vampire just settled back on the bench discussing who had how many female slaves and who wanted slaves bred. Xander thought back to Blayne who had bragged about all his sexual conquests right before getting picked up by bug-teacher for being a virgin. If Xander did half the breeding that Spike was being offered, Xander would have tales to make Blayne’s exaggerations look subtle, and Xander found himself incredibly grateful that he had a Master who wouldn’t do that to him. Xander leaned into Spike’s leg, and his Master’s hand ruffled his long hair even as Spike continued to chat with various demons about breeding humans and human diseases.

Eventually the various demons figured out that Spike wasn’t going to start a fight with the occasional hecklers who made loud comments about Spike from the back of the crowd. They also figured out that Spike wasn’t going to sell Xander’s services at the show or set up definite appointments for later. When the crowd dissipated into the general flow of traffic, Spike sighed and stood up, and Xander followed close behind. As they walked closer to Willow and Tara, Xander stole more glances, and just once he locked gazes with Willow who had a wild-eyed look that suggested that she was having bad, bad thoughts. Xander didn’t blame her consider the bridle locked around her head. However, Spike took a sudden left turn, and Xander found himself walking away from her, hoping that she understood why they couldn’t just take her and go home. Spike stopped at a ring where two slaves were engaged in a pushing fight.

Xander recognized the one as the gladiator from upstairs in the main room. His owner, the tailed demoness, stood behind him holding a breeding leash loosely. The other slave, who stood even taller but was less muscular, wore a breeding leash held by a demon with big curving horns. He looked a little like a F’yarl, but with smaller horns and more human-like features, a description that Xander was sure the demon wouldn’t appreciate.

Leshar hadn’t entered him in this type of wrestling contest or trained him to wrestle. And when Xander had been at the auction with Leshar, he hadn’t really noticed anything other than where he put his feet. The two times Spike had brought him to auctions, Spike had avoided the show areas, and so Xander had never gotten to see most of the contests. The sexual shows held no interest for him although they drew large crowds just to their right, but this pseudo wrestling match was actually kind of interesting. The beefy guy owned by the demoness braced himself by putting one foot behind him as he crouched down. Taller guy owned by the horned demon couldn’t hunker down as well because of his long legs, but he tried to compensate by spreading his legs a little more. Xander would have worried about his exposed genitals if he were Taller Guy, but either grabbing a guy’s parts was an illegal move or Beefy Guy had ethics, because Beefy grabbed for a knee instead. Taller Guy must have been ready for that because he lifted the knee in question. Beefy Guy was thrown off balance since he had obviously been prepared for a struggle to get the knee up. Taller Guy pushed his advantage by shoving his opponent in the chest, and Beefy Guy’s knee hit the mat. Immediately both owners pulled on the leashes, and the two wrestlers were pulled apart rather painfully. Taller guy had been leaning in for another attack, and Xander could see his face contort as the breeding leash pulled him backwards. His master gave him a quick hit on the butt and the slave went into his kneel. Beefy Guy had gone straight into a kneel from his fallen position, and a third demon spoke some words before both slaves stood up and left the circle, to be replaced by two more slaves.

Xander actually would have stayed and surreptitiously watched through the hair that hung over his eyes when he bowed his head, but Spike moved on and Xander moved with him. The crowds were so thick here that Xander couldn’t even get a glimpse of the girls through the bodies and he had to stop swinging his hips to avoid hitting another pedestrian and causing a problem. Spike stepped over a boundary to another competition ring, and Xander followed, looking up to see the pedestals and the kneeling slaves. Xander might have groaned if there hadn’t been dozens of demons with superhuman hearing nearby. As it was, Xander knelt and waited. At least Spike was entering him in the shows he’d done before, and how did Spike know what shows he’d done?

Xander thought back. He hadn’t ever told his Master about it. Xander thought about the crowds that had gone by him last time he’d done this, and he wondered whether Spike had been in them. Had Spike seen his pathetic performance in the gait circle when Leshar had taken the training rod from the main handler and given Xander a neat line of red welts going down his back before attaching the leash, and taking him back to his cage to await his sale the next day? Xander remembered that the whipping had been a relief because Leshar had taken so long to claim him that Xander was afraid his trainer had abandoned him to the crowd. Had Spike seen that bit of humiliation? Xander felt himself blushing, not from memory but at the thought that Spike might have seen it. At least he’d redeemed himself in the gait circle, and he had always done well on the kneeling pedestals.

When their time came, Xander climbed the short stairs to a pedestal before the circle handler pulled the stairs away. Xander raised himself into a perfect Position kneel, the slightly corrugated surface of the pedestal bugging him but he knew from last time that he could quickly tune out that mild pain. The pedestal left him just a bit taller than usual, so Xander could see most of the demons around him even with his head lowered, and the handler now appeared with the cubes. Each cube was a one-inch perfectly smooth torture device. Okay, the torture was secondary, but Xander had to remind every muscle to stay in form at the handler placed a cube on either calf, a cube on either shoulder, a cube on the top of his head and boy wasn’t Xander happy for thick curly hair, and a cube on the top of his right hand where he gripped his left wrist at the small of his back.

The cubes were so smooth that the slightest movement would send them sliding off his body, so Xander concentrated on staying still, allowing himself to retreat into his mind. Only ‘allow’ didn’t seem to be the verb of the day; ‘force’ was more like it. Xander knew that if he could just switch his brain off, he could kneel without twitching for hours, but every time he tried to retreat into that place of no thoughts, he would have thoughts. And without that ability to switch off, Xander noticed the wavy metal beneath him that made his kneecaps ache. He noticed the various demons who walked past discussing his physical attributes at great length, and who knew demons were so fond of thick hair? Most of them didn’t have hair, but then again, maybe that’s why they liked thick hair on their slaves. He noticed the ones who stopped to check out the property as the rules allowed as long as they didn’t do something to make Xander move.

The handler hovered near the five slaves on pedestals currently showing, and Spike stood four or five feet away, no doubt prepared to kill any demon who went too far. However, the rules allowed these passing demons to cup his balls and weigh them by hand. The rules allowed them to hold his cock and discuss his genitals with their friends as though he were a dog. The rules allowed rough and clawed and slimy and cold and tentacled appendages to run across his chest and feel his musculature. Xander could feel the cube on his hand shift and he reminded himself that they had to stay there for the girls even as he felt the cube shift again. At this rate, Xander was going to have a shamefully short round. And yep, there went the cube clinking off onto the pedestal before making a humiliating ringing sound. Xander didn’t even look up at Spike as the stairs were pushed against the pedestal. The four other slaves who had been in position when Xander climbed the stairs were all still in position as Xander climbed down. Xander went into a Floor kneel as Spike walked up.

“Someone’s not happy with his first round,” the handler laughed as Xander felt Spike’s hands at his collar.

“Just hasn’t done it for a while. Should’ve practiced some, but he’ll get back in the swing.” Xander really wished he could see Spike’s face, but he hadn’t gotten a signal or a tug on the leash so he stayed on the floor.

“So, you’re going for the second round?” Xander could understand the handler’s surprise. No owner wanted to be embarrassed by having a slave perform so badly, and Xander knew that those who wanted Spike out of the auction had a little more ammunition now. Xander was just grateful that he had done so well in the gait ring. No one could say that Spike hadn’t kept up his training there.

“Yeah, mark him and I’ll take him on a short walk to work out his legs.” Xander felt the pen at his back, writing a humiliating number on his back, right where his chains would hang when he stood again. He only hoped that the chains obscured the number. With his luck, probably not. Xander felt the tug and he rose to follow his Master. As they walked, Xander could hear the snorts and chuckles behind him, but Spike ignored the looks that even Xander could see with his bowed head. Spike led him to another short hallway and they stood close to a service door. Xander tried going to his knees, but Spike’s hand on his arm stopped him. He stood and waited for the lecture that he knew he deserved. He was putting the girls in danger by giving ammunition to Spike’s enemies. He was embarrassing himself and his Master. He was screwing up, which kind of proved that despite Giles’ fears, he did still have Droopy Harris in him somewhere.

“Pet, what’s wrong?” The worry in his Master’s voice almost released the tears that threatened.

“I just… I can’t let go,” Xander couldn’t find better words, but he knew those words didn’t explain the problem.

“When I saw ya do this before I bought ya, you stayed up there hours without even twitchin’. I got bloody bored watchin’ you, so what’s different now?”

“I can’t stop thinking, noticing….things.” Xander didn’t want Spike to know how the hands bothered him or Spike would take them right back up to the room, but Xander wanted to stay until Ulsha put the girls away for the night and there was less chance for a private sale.

“What things are ya noticing, pet?” Yep, count on his Master to zoom right in on the one thing Xander didn’t want to say. Stupid, observant vampire.

“The demons talking about me,” Xander dropped his voice to a whisper, “touching me.” Xander saw the fierce look in Spike’s eye and he rushed to say his piece before Spike made a command and Xander was stuck following it. “But I want to stay down here, and I know I’m safe with you there, but I can’t just turn off and ignore everything like I used to.” Spike was silent, but at least the fierce look had been replaced with something more thoughtful.

“So ya used to think of nothing at all?”

“Yep. Buddhists would have been jealous of how I could do the whole ‘nothingness’ thing…or is that Zen who try to reach nothingness?”

“Bloody surprised you listened well enough in school to even remember the religions’ names, pet.”

“They had this cartoon…” Xander started, and when Spike’s eyebrow shot up in an amused expression, Xander broke off. “And I’m just stopping there,” he finished.

“Pet, this time when you go up, I want ya to focus on me. I’ll stay right in your line of sight; it’s a good place for me to listen for the witches anyway. So I’ll focus on the witches, and you focus on me.” Xander thought about it, and it was a better solution than focusing on the various demons touching him.

“Yes, Master,” Xander answered with relief, and Spike turned and started back for the pedestals without another word. When they reached the show circle again, Xander could see a large number of demons had gathered, among them the yellow demoness who had earlier criticized Spike. Xander realized they were there to see him fail, but Spike walked by without comment. Xander climbed the pedestal again and went into his second show positions—a Down kneel with his hands palm down on his thighs. Cubes went on the back of his hands and his head and his shoulders and then the timing began.

Xander could see each of the demons approaching him, and when the first scaly hand went immediately for his cock, he forced his eyes away from the hated fondling and looked for Spike. Spike leaned against a pole and wore an expression of indifference, but Xander could see the truth in the hands that now lit a cigarette. The sharp motions as Spike flicked open that old lighter and the flick of his wrist as he tossed it in the air before catching it and shoving it into a pocket. Xander never realized how much Spike said with his hands. Now, Spike’s hands screamed “hands off” even as Spike’s face remained a mask of calm. Xander smiled a little at the thought that Spike was even more bothered by those roaming hands than he was.

Xander thought back on their time together since Spike first picked up that heavy chain Leshar kept locked to his neck, and Xander couldn’t help but be amazed at the changes in both of them. Spike no longer gave orders without paying attention to how Xander reacted to the orders, a lesson Giles and Angel certainly needed to learn. But Xander realized he had changed too. He had failed miserably, and yet Spike hadn’t punished him. Even more importantly, Xander hadn’t expected punishment: a lecture, yes; punishment, no.

On the far edge of his awareness, Xander noticed as another slave broke position and sent a cube tinkling down. Xander remained focused on Spike’s impatient movements. Someone had told him not to smoke, and after a vicious but unsuccessful staring contest, Spike had put out his cigarette and turned to other forms of distraction. Right now he had Xander’s leash in hand, and he twirled the doubled-over chain with such speed that other demons avoided a six foot radius around Spike. At auction number one, Spike had shocked them by paying way too much for a slave. At auction number two, Spike had beaten the crap out of some clumsy demon who managed to fall over that slave. At auction number three, any demon who walked near Spike risked decapitation. Xander listened to another set of cubes go tinkling as he considered that Spike wasn’t going to get many more invites at this rate.

Xander let himself drift into a haze where he only saw Spike, who was clearly dying of boredom. Demons had begun to approach him, and Xander could tell that Spike struggled with an urge to rip off heads in frustration. He could see it in the way that Spike flexed his fingers and didn’t make eye contact with the various slavers speaking to him. A number of them laughed, and the corners of Spike’s mouth turned upward in an expression that might be mistaken for a smile, but was actually much closer to the constipated expression Spike got when someone mentioned Lirowaus. Heck, maybe someone did mention Lirowaus. Another tinkling sound.

The tailed demoness who owned Beefy Guy came along, and with a wave, she sent her slave pushing into the crowd as she flowed in the wake he created. Xander couldn’t believe that a slave would physically shove demons like that, but the man went through the crowd like a linebacker. Xander watched as Spike’s lips pulled together and his cheekbones sharpened: Spike’s trademark look of amusement. Beefy Guy went to his knees near Spike, and Xander felt a momentary flash of jealously. A set of cubes went tinkling and for a moment Xander worried it was his set, but the handler pushed the stairs up to the pedestal next to him, and a petite black-haired woman climbed down and knelt on the floor as she waited for her missing master to show up and claim her. Her skin was so dark that the handler wrote her time in white pen: four hours, nineteen minutes.

The time surprised Xander because the woman had been led to the pedestal after he had taken his place. As Xander checked in with his body, he was suddenly aware of his aching knees and empty stomach and full bladder and cramping muscles, and oh god was that ever a huge mistake. Xander knew he couldn’t hold position for long now that his body had managed to make its unhappiness known, so he focused on ignoring the pain until Spike finished with the tailed demoness; he seemed to like her. He’d chased the other demons off to talk just to her, and Xander didn’t want to interrupt that.

Xander watched as the demoness took a seat on her slave’s back, petting his shoulder as he held a hands and knees position, and Spike nodded in agreement to something she said. Xander grimaced in pain as his kneecap sent up a flare just as Spike looked over to him, and the vampire went instantly stiff. Xander wondered if someone or something threatening was near, but he didn’t have long to wait as Spike practically charged across the wide corridor with his coat flapping. When Xander had a flash of Superman and his cape superimposed over the image, he knew he was near the end of his endurance and just getting punch drunk. The next tinkle came with the feel of the cube from his head sliding down his back. Spike didn’t go and threaten anyone or chase anyone away as Xander expected; he came right to Xander.

The stairs appeared next to Xander’s pedestal, and Xander struggled to unfold his legs. His first foot touched the stair and then strong hands at his waist took most of his weight as he unfolded himself and noticed the thick indentations on his knees from kneeling on the rough surface. He climbed down with Spike’s help, and when he tried to go into a proper kneel, he found himself held up in Spike’s embrace.

“Well that was a significantly better showing,” the handler remarked as he wrote a number on Xander’s back while Spike held him upright. Pins and needles coursed through Xander’s lower legs and he buried his face in the crook of Spike’s neck as he felt one strong arm around his waist holding him close, and the other petting his hair.

“You’re right, he’s a good slave,” a female voice remarked, and Xander didn’t even bother to look. He couldn’t have cared if someone paid him to. He just wanted his lower legs to rejoin the rest of his body.

“Mite overenthusiastic at times,” Spike replied, and Xander made a small snorting sound against Spike’s neck. He knew enough of Spike’s history to know that his Master could outdo him in both over-enthusiasm and obsessiveness. Spike’s only response was a small tug at his hair.

From the sound of footsteps, Xander guessed that the demoness had left and then he found himself half-walked and half carried back to that service hall where Spike lowered him to the floor and pulled his legs out straight so the blood could return to the abused limbs.

“The girls?” Xander immediately asked in a hushed tone.

“Put away for the night, could hear locks closing on a cage so I think they’re done for the day. Ulsha turned down three different private sales, so he’s expecting the witches to bring big money, and they probably will. Red’s got big mojo, and Glinda has more control over her magic than any ten witches. She can do some delicate spells that a less controlled witch like Red couldn’t even attempt.” Xander looked at Spike curiously. How could he know that? Luckily for him, Spike was still doing his mind-reading act.

“Been listening to the slavers discuss the girls, and quite a few of them can feel the magic coming off a witch. These slavers are experts, so I tend to believe ‘em, especially when they don’t know I’m listening.” Xander chuckled a little at that even as Spike’s massaging hands brought blood into his lower legs, and with the blood came more pain. Xander groaned.

“Worth it,” Xander said through clenched teeth as the pain started to lessen.

“Let’s get you up to the room. No more shows for you until tomorrow,” Spike said, and Xander used his Master’s arm to pull himself up, glad that he wasn’t going to have to fight in order to enter tomorrow’s competitions. There were still a number of non-sexual events he could enter so they could stay in the area, and Spike was obviously able to keep tabs on the girls, so Xander would be down here tomorrow just in case Ulsha got an offer he couldn’t refuse. In that case, he and Spike could follow the purchasing demon and make an irresistible offer of their own.

Xander touched the hilt of the curved dagger and almost hoped that did happen. Seeing the girls tied like that and knowing that they were sleeping in a cage made Xander itch to find out just how sharp his fancy new magical knives truly were.

“Got one last stop before we go upstairs. Seems there’s been a capture in the last day or so, someone snooping around various hotel basements.” Xander’s head snapped up at that, but then Spike was attaching the leash and Xander went back into position with his head bowed even as he wondered whether Spike meant what he thought Spike meant.

Spike took off into the crowd and Xander followed, his hips swinging a little less than usual both because of his sore legs and because of his fear about just who had been captured. He could think of a couple of answers that would horrify him, but Spike remained silent on the issue, and Xander knew to wait until they were in private to talk. When Spike came to a halt near the sound of shuffling and clanking, Xander knelt next to his Master, ignoring the complaint from his knees as he watched in horror. Yep, Giles. Giles stripped naked and chained with the whole lower half of his face covered by some sort of gag. His legs were chained with enough slack to allow for correct position, and his hands weren’t chained together, but rather a chain leash was attached to each arm with a demon behind him holding the leads. Giles was wildly pulling back away from the trainer who held the leash attached to his neck even as the black-skinned demon pulled him forward and repeated the command “Down.”

Xander flashed back to his first lesson with a score of minions on hand to force his body into the required positions and hold him there; one demon hand always held his cock as a convenient way to get a stubborn slave to go to his knees. Another’s favorite hand hold had been Xander’s cheek with a thumb inside Xander’s mouth while the rest of the demon’s large hand curled around the back of his head so that his mouth was pulled painfully back. This trainer had another approach; a second slave in the ring went into the correct position and a handler standing behind him stroked the slave’s hair and put a treat in his mouth. The handler behind Giles who held the arm leashes cracked the training rod across Giles’ back so hard that Xander flinched at the sound.

Then Giles looked over and Xander saw the moment when the Watcher spotted him. The man’s shoulders slumped, and Xander ached to go in there and tell Giles that he was fine. But he couldn’t, and the main trainer gave another command, one that Leshar didn’t teach. “Curl.”

The second slave went on his back and opened his legs, pulling them up to his chest and curling an arm around the back of each knee. This time the trained slave’s handler stroked the sensitive skin between the balls and the anus, making comforting sounds even while Giles redoubled his efforts despite the fact that it was impossible to escape. Xander felt tears rise as he realized how much the Initiative had destroyed. If they hadn’t mishandled the demon community or if they hadn’t killed Buffy, this would have all been so much easier to fix. But now Spike walked away, and Xander rose to follow without a comforting word for the man who had been more of a father to him than his own father. But then, what comfort could he offer? With all those demons around he couldn’t say anything and as cowardly as it was, he was grateful that Spike led them back towards their room.

They walked in silence and when they finally reached the room and shut the door behind them, the words almost burst out of Xander.

“Master, what the hell are we going to do now?”

“Hirset plans ta demonstrate his training methods on the Watcher so he won’t be sellin’ the soddin’ idiot. We’re goin’ to have to do something I really wanted to avoid.” Spike said unhappily as he dropped the leash and tossed his coat at the chair. Xander followed behind and picked up the coat and smoothed it out before draping it over the chair. He followed as Spike shed clothing, picking it up as he waited for Spike to finish his thought. He could tell from the soft growling sound that Spike had more to say.

“Goin’ to have to call my sire, aren’t I now?” he complained as he ripped the laces loose on his boots before dropping them and storming into the bathroom, slamming the door after him. Xander understood that sometimes Spike needed some space, but he silently cursed his Master for not letting him use the damn bathroom before locking himself in it. Xander walked out and considered the sink above the little microwave. It wasn't that bad yet, so he put away Spike’s discarded clothing before going out to the main room to watch television.

Tossing a couch cushion on the floor, he sat cross-legged and picked up the remote as he considered just how screwed they were. Hundreds if not thousands of demons, many of them hostile to Spike. The girls weren’t scheduled for sale for two more days, and Xander didn’t even want to consider what two days of training would do to Giles. Angel, who had a bad habit of being fatalistic and making plans that involved acceptable losses. The image of Larry and Harmony floated into his memory and he pushed them aside. Oh yeah…this wasn’t going to end well. Xander reached up and scratched his tattoo.

Chapter 24:

Xander made the bed as he listened to Spike, still naked from his shower, argue on the phone. The minute he had realized that his very first ex was on the other end, he could have told Spike it wouldn’t work unless Spike could get to LA and physically threaten the woman’s clothing.

“You brainless tart…” Spike started, but then broke off as Xander could actually hear Cordelia screeching something from across the room. He calmly smoothed the sheets and pulled the blanket up. “He’s me bloody sire, so I don’t care what he soddin’ told ya, use what little brain you have ta give me his bloody number!” Spike went into game face as he yelled that, and Xander walked around to pull the blanket up on the other side.

Spike had been so upset when they woke that he had insisted on showering alone. The first time they had showered together, Xander had still been Leshar’s in many ways, and he had aroused Spike because that’s what he had been trained to do. He’d knelt waiting for the order to finish, an order Spike gave to avoid having blue balls all day; however, Spike had never let Xander wash him again because that trained sexual behavior had bothered Spike. Now that Xander reacted out of lust and not training, they had rediscovered shower sex with a passion. Xander had grown to very much appreciate the vampiric strength that allowed them to try some downright outrageous positions. However, the thought of having to call Angel had put Spike in a horrible mood, and then not being able to reach Angel put him in an even worse mood. So no shower sex today, to Xander’s silent chagrin.

“Fine then, just tell my bloody sire that if he doesn’t get his fat arse in gear, the effin’ Watcher’s never goin’ to survive.” Spike slammed down the phone and muttered about dismembering cheerleaders as Xander finished making the bed. Xander walked over to the dresser where his weapons and decorations lay, and he trailed a finger down the silver engraving on the carved knife. Spike had given him lessons last night, and Xander longed to feel the leather scabbards against his skin, he wanted to walk among the demons knowing that he could kill them with a blade that would cut through skin and muscle and bone. Of course, if things went well, he wouldn’t ever have to use the blade, and that would be of the good considering his whole staking-by-falling history. Of course that wasn’t him anymore, was it?

Xander turned and watched Spike shred a helpless pad of paper that had been sitting next to the phone.

“Won’t risk you and I won’t risk the witches, not when we’re this bloody close. The soddin’ wanker got himself into this and he can get his own arse out of it.” Spike’s words may have rejected any responsibility, but the shredded paper spoke of Spike’s sense of guilt. Xander considered it from Spike’s point of view; Spike had promised Buffy that he would take care of the survivors, Spike had financially supported Giles’ store by refunding disgruntled customers, and now another demon had taken Giles. Xander considered getting on the phone himself, but he knew that he had even less chance convincing Cordelia than Spike did. He couldn’t really help with their current problems, but he could certainly help his Master. He picked up his hip chains, now with the added modesty flaps that were anything but modest. He worked the fastenings for the flaps loose from the hip chains before pulling the decorative chain around his own hips. It felt strange to attach them himself, and he didn’t have the ankle chimes that Leshar used to tie around his ankles when he danced, but he could do this.

Xander strutted toward the chair where Spike sat, fixing his Master with a smouldering look. Master needed distracting, and Xander was just the slave to do it. Xander swung his hips wider, first throwing his weight to the right and rocking his hips slowly once, twice before throwing his weight to the left and repeating the movement. The glittering gems on the end of his hip chains swished back and forth, thudding against his legs much higher than usual as his body moved to the non-existent music. Xander swiveled so that Spike would see his back and added a sensuous arm movement that made the muscles on his back ripple. Xander glanced over his shoulder and saw Spike’s gaze locked onto his body, but the blue eyes spoke of control, and Xander wanted Spike to lose control, for just a while.

Still moving in his silent dance, his fingers tracing patterns in the air, Xander moved back to the dresser and slid down on the corner suggestively, using it like a stripper’s pole. Flecks of gold swirled in Spike’s eyes… he was close to the edge, but Xander wanted it all. His eyes fell on the solluna blades, and Xander pulled the grey knife out of its sheath and held it flat to his chest as he danced. Xander had never tried this, and he knew these knives to have a supernaturally sharp edge, so he barely touched the blade to his skin as he danced. A thin red line appeared down his chest. The knife was so sharp that Xander didn’t even feel the cut, but Spike was feeling something. Xander looked over to find Spike in ridges and yellow eyes, his head tilted up slightly as his nose flared. Xander drew a second red line down his chest and then ran his hands up the sticky fluid before turning his back and slowly slipping his now-wet finger into his own waiting hole.

Blood, Xander discovered, did not a good lubricant make, but it sufficed and Xander was very used to Spike, so he slipped the second finger in without too much difficulty. Xander turned back to face Spike as he continued to undulate and prepare himself even as he used the blade to scratch up each thigh. Working his way back to the dresser he lay the knife down even as he felt the drops of blood slide down his chest. He danced to the side of the bed without removing his own fingers, which actually took a lot of flexibility, and Xander picked up the lube as he made a show of preparing himself fully. Xander was beginning to wonder what it took to make Spike lose control, which was funny considering Spike was the one they had all assumed had no self-control, but when Xander turned his back to Spike in order to put the lube back, he found himself suddenly lifted and thrown onto his back, on the bed, with Spike over him.

Spike growled loudly, and Xander rolled his hips in both invitation and a mock attempt at escape. Spike growled again and lowered his mouth to Xander’s chest where he began to lap and suck the blood. Xander bucked for real now. This was supposed to be ‘tease the vampire’ time, but as Spike worked his way down Xander’s body, Xander writhed in helpless desire. Spike licked him clean of all the blood before sitting up on the bed with a smirk.

“Not enough ta feed a real vampire,” Spike insisted as he settled down between Xander’s knees. Xander spread his legs and tilted his head to the side in invitation, which left Spike looking very smug. He didn’t say a word; he pulled Xander’s legs up and sank all the way in with one solid thrust, and Xander gasped at the sudden feeling of fullness and sexual energy as his prostate sent happy messages to his cock. Xander squirmed and reached for Spike, and then he found himself nearly bent in half as Spike pulled his legs up and then bent down to bite Xander’s exposed neck. Xander clutched at Spike’s back as the vampire thrust in time with his sucking so that Xander’s body turned into one giant impending orgasm reaching from his neck to his ass. He was so lost in pleasure that he was about to forget the ‘Master coming first’ rule when a cool hand slipped in and squeezed the base of his cock.

Now Xander really started bucking with need. Each of Spike’s powerful thrusts matched with a draw at his neck and each made him need to come with such urgency that he reared up and tried to dislodge the hand gripping his cock, preventing his release. Screw the training, Xander needed to finish now, but no matter how he wiggled, he couldn’t move the hand that trapped the orgasm. The thrusting just grew harder and Xander grabbed the back of Spike’s head, pulling him even closer as Xander’s body slammed upwards in a bid for freedom.

Finally gasping for air, Xander reached up and locked his teeth onto Spike’s neck so hard that he could taste the zing of vampire blood on his tongue. Spike groaned and instantly thrust in hard and started coming. The hand let go, and Xander followed his Master’s release. Xander dropped his head back to the pillow, freeing Spike’s neck, and he could feel Spike sliding out of both ends of his body as he straightened out. Looking down he realized that he was going to have to take another shower, and this time the hip chains were going in with him.

“Feeling better, Master?” Xander asked Spike, who still hovered over him, panting unnecessary breaths.

“Bloody hell, feel great,” Spike said with a slap to Xander’s hip. “You need a shower, though.” Xander looked at himself and then at Spike.

“You too,” he offered suggestively. Vamp biology was a very handy thing, and Xander didn’t need to come every time; he just enjoyed knowing that he could make his Master lose all control, a power he’d never held over another lover. Truthfully, he wouldn’t be able to come for a while after the force of that orgasm.

“We’ll never get down there if we do that, Xan.” Xander considered the truth of that, and pushed Spike to the side.

“Me first, Master,” Xander grinned as he headed for the bathroom. Spike laughed, but Xander wasn’t kidding; Spike wasn’t the one dripping assorted bodily fluids.

By the time they were in the elevator, Xander felt a little guilty about the distraction sex. What if the girls were gone? What if something had happened to Giles? When they reached the basement, Spike walked past Hirset’s booth without stopping, so Xander only caught a glimpse into that area. New trainers had taken up positions, but Giles and the other slave remained. Each looked exhausted, and Giles knelt on the floor with his head hanging, either attempting a position or just too tired to take up any other posture. Xander felt the tug at his collar and he realized that he had fallen badly out of heel. He hurried after Spike who charged through the crowd in obvious aggravation. Xander breathed a sigh of relief when he caught sight of the girls already tied back into position, and he really shouldn’t feel relief at that horrible sight, but he did. The idea that they might have been sold had troubled his sleep, and he knew he had to make a regular marathon of the kneeling pedestals or Spike would have to find another show or competition for Xander.

Xander approached the pedestals and climbed the stairs to one of the two empty positions. He folded himself into the Floor position with his forehead pressed to the pedestal, and almost immediately he knew he was in trouble. The buckles for the knife sheaths dug into his skin even as the handler put a cube on the back of his head, down his backbone and on each of his arms. Usually this was the easiest kneel and in past shows Xander had nearly gone to sleep in this position, but now he was forced to send little messages to his legs to ignore the pain. Oh well, if worse came to worst, Spike could have him chained on the display wall. It would mean a lot more touching, but it would keep them in the area.

Knowing that he couldn’t retreat into nothingness, Xander distracted himself from the irritating pain in his thighs by imagining what he would do to Ulsha given the chance. He thought of the girls as they were displayed for passing demons and his heart pounded faster. Then his thoughts pounced on Hirset—he’d earned a place in Xander’s revenge fantasies for leaving Giles slumped on the floor naked and chained. Xander had created such a nice little torture scene that he didn’t realize that the screaming he heard was coming from the auction, until he felt himself pulled off his pedestal and looked up to find Spike in game face.

“What’s happening?” Xander looked around in confusion as demons scattered and slaves cowered. An explosion from the food court area gave Xander a pretty good idea of what was going on, and then Spike started hauling him toward the sounds.

Understanding Spike’s intentions without a word, Xander pushed himself closer to his Master. Spike released his arm and concentrated on pushing through the crowds of demons that ran from the area. Smoke now curled around the ceiling and Xander hoped that Spike remembered that the people he wanted to rescue needed air. He also hoped that Angel remembered that humans breathed oxygen, because he really didn’t doubt that Angel was the one insane enough to attack an entire hotel full of slavers. Okay, a hotel mostly full of slavers, plus a few blue-haired ladies that had stumbled in and decided to stay.

A hand reached from behind and grabbed Xander’s arm, and Xander pulled his silver knife and sliced the demon’s arm open before he even noticed that it was Leshar. Leshar growled as Xander turned and swung again, aiming for a vulnerable stomach, but his trainer fell back into the crowd and disappeared, and that’s when Xander realized he had lost Spike.

Cursing himself and holding the knife close to his forearm, Xander fought his way forward towards the girls and hoped to meet Spike there. When he got closer, he could see that Ulsha and Ty had abandoned them in the panic to evacuate the building. The girls were still tied in place and bucking against the bonds so wildly that he could see blood at the corners of Willow’s mouth. Xander swung and cut the lines tying the girls in place before pulling them back farther into the booth and away from the crowd.

“I can’t use the knife, it cuts through skin and I might slip,” Xander explained as he sheathed his knife. “Do you know if Ulsha keeps cutters?” he asked, and Tara nodded toward the back. Xander calculated the risk of leaving them against that of taking the extra time to drag them into the back. Making a decision, he darted into the back and yanked open drawers. With slave tack from three drawers dumped on the floor along with the drawers themselves, Xander finally found the scissors in drawer number four and ran back to the girls. The heavy shear-like blades easily cut the bonds at their hands and feet, but the blades refused to go through the leather of their bridles. Xander’s forearm muscles stood out in long cords as he applied every bit of strength he had, but he couldn’t get the blades to close and Tara’s hand on his arm stopped him. She had found a pen and wrote on her hand.

“Magic, can’t cut.”

“Shit,” Xander swore and Willow nodded even as tears spilled down her cheeks. Xander stood and looked frantically for Spike. He didn’t want to run out the main exit; they would be three expensive, unaccompanied slaves in the middle of a group of demons who had just lost valuable merchandise, but he didn’t want to stay here too long with the smoke starting to creep down. Xander considered working his way farther in toward Giles and, he suspected, Angel. Just then a demon wrapped a tentacle around his arm and pulled him into the corridor. The thing hissed in some language that Xander didn’t know, and he used his free hand to grab his straight knife and drive it into the creature’s guts, pushing the knife upwards and finding very little resistance as a sticky substance started running down his arm.

The tentacle around his wrist tightened as a beak-like mouth clicked furiously, and Xander changed tactics as he pulled his arm free and brought the knife down on the tentacle, slicing it cleanly from the body. Xander swung the knife again, but the demon moved out of the way with one half of his body while the other half flowed around to the other side and grabbed Xander’s knife hand. Rather than fight the demon’s strength, Xander pulled his silver curved knife with his other hand, and this time went for the one recognizable feature: the beak. As Xander surprised the demon by pushing toward it instead of pulling back, he brought the knife down on the beak and prayed that his Master had been right about how tough these blades were. The knife hit its target, and Xander nearly lost the blade as it cut down into the beak causing the demon to rear back, pulling its remaining tentacles around its face and nearly dragging the knife out of Xander’s hand as the curve of the blade stuck fast in the remaining beak. Xander held on and jerked up to pull the knife free, and he was rewarded with a handful of silver knife and stinky orange goo. Xander realized that a number of demons now looked his way and Xander ducked back into the booth.

“We have company, we’ve gotta move. We’re going to go in further and hopefully meet up with Spike and Angel. If not, we’ll take an employee exit where we’re a little less likely to get tucked under some slaver’s arm and hauled out of here.” Xander pulled on Willow’s arm, but the bridled witch refused to move. When Xander looked over in confusion, Willow gestured toward herself with one hand while wrapping her other hand around her knees which she had pulled up to her chest.

“What?” Xander tried to keep his voice calm despite his growing panic. Ulsha and Ty were cowards, but other demons might risk the fire for three valuable slaves. Xander’s fight had been entirely too public, and he wanted to move *now*. Tara reached over and showed him her hand with a single word written under the earlier comments. Xander stared at the hand unable to even process the request. Thinking back on his time with Lirowaus, he knew the girls had been treated much differently, even treated like thinking creatures who had some dignity, but his was so far from Xander’s experiences, that he couldn’t even form an argument. Besides, arguing would just attract more attention and probably take more time, Xander dashed back into the back and grabbed a few blankets before snagging some leashes off the floor where he had dumped them while searching for scissors. When the leashes tangled, Xander just pulled all the equipment to the front with a curse.

He tossed each girl a blanket and fidgeted as they quickly wrapped themselves in the blankets and then used the leather leads to tie their makeshift clothing in place. Xander watched the smoke level drop until it was nearly at their heads, and then checked to see that the girls were ready before he gripped the silver blade and dashed for a partially demolished slave pen—a box-like structure where busy masters could leave their slaves for a while. When he stopped and turned, the girls slid in behind him and Xander checked to see if any of the few remaining demons were paying attention to them. guy in the corner, two Pyleans by the kneeling platforms and the F’yarl-looking dude. Oh shit. Xander gestured to the girls before he took off again, this time aiming for a food booth where Spike had gotten his blood. If he could just get their bridles off, the girls would be quite a force, but Xander didn’t trust his skills, and he didn’t want to maim their faces.

Xander’s dash for the food booth stopped short when a thick-necked demon with chin horns stepped in front of him. Xander swung the blade immediately, and the demon fell back, obviously surprised. The demon then reached forward to grab Xander, and Xander fell back into a defensive position. A couple of slashes proved to the demon that Xander wasn’t easy prey, and Xander groaned as the demon waved in the two Pyleans. Pulling out his second blade, Xander moved on the first demon before reinforcements could arrive. The knives cut with such ease that the demon’s attempts to block Xander resulted in several arm wounds, but then Xander lost the curved blade as the demon extended a bone spur unexpectedly and used it to snag the knife. The demon lost his bone spur, but Xander’s loss of a knife crippled him and he knew it.

He lunged forward with his remaining blade, missing his mark entirely right before he had to shift to fend off the Pyleans who joined the fight. One rushed him on the right, and Xander knew he was about to go down. Hopefully the girls would use the distraction to get to Angel and Spike. Then two figures flew out and hit the Pyleans from the side. Willow and Tara couldn’t really damage the Pyleans with their bare hands, but Xander took advantage of the situation by quickly cutting off the head of the demon who had turned to capture Tara. When Xander turned, he noticed that Mr. Thick Neck had retreated, leaving just one Pylean in the increasingly murky air. Xander stabbed forward and at the last minute, the demon swerved, pulling Willow with him, and Xander couldn’t physically stop his arm as he watched the knife plunge into his best friend. Her eyes went wide and her lips pulled back in a scream she couldn’t utter through the bridle and Xander pulled back the knife as the blood started to flow.

Maybe it was something in Xander’s face, he didn’t know, but the Pylean took one look at Xander and fled the scene. Xander dropped his beautiful knife to the floor and gathered Willow in his arms as a wave of panic and desperation hit him hard enough to leave him gasping. She was bleeding her life away, and Xander pressed his hand against her stomach in some memory of a first aid class, but Willow only gurgled in pain and he pulled his hand away covered in her blood. Oh god no. Not again. He couldn’t survive this guilt again.

Another memory came to his mind, and Xander scooped Willow up in his arms as he hurried down the middle of the aisle, not caring anymore who saw him. Some little part of him hoped some demon would drag him away now that he was unarmed because then he wouldn’t have to watch Willow die; he wouldn’t have to know that his stupid idea didn’t work. He was putting his faith into finding the tattoo shop, finding the jar of healing cream and having the healing cream work on a wound so large, and Xander knew that was entirely too much faith for him to put in the universe. The universe had stopped giving him favors a long time ago, but he still half-ran and half-stumbled through the smoke, Willow’s slender body clasped tight in his arms. He prayed as he ran that the universe would just give him this one big favor in return for all his little or not-little requests it had ignored in the past.

Xander spotted the familiar aqua and green fabric walls as he lurched through the door. Based on the rest of the auction, Xander had expected a ruined mess, but the shurl sat on her tattoo bench as though waiting for them.

“My hawk brings friends,” she sang happily as she jumped off the table and came over. Xander might have protested as she took Willow’s now unconscious body, but he needed someone else to make the decisions right now; he’d done his best and he knew it just wasn’t enough. He backed away and bumped into Tara who stood behind him. She couldn’t talk, but Xander imagined he could see horror and pain and anger in those wide eyes, and he didn’t blame her.

“Hawk lost his talons,” the shurl said disapprovingly as she came back to take the magical knives from Tara. Xander wondered why she bothered; he wouldn’t ever touch them again. Xander slowly sank to his knees and leaned against the inner wall of the booth as he chanted “Not again, not like Jesse, not again” as if the universe cared about his wants and his pain. Part of him made the excuse that the air was cleaner down here, but Xander knew that he didn’t ever want to get up again. He didn’t even care who found him because he just couldn’t move. Xander watched as the shurl demon gestured over Willow. She didn’t use the cream but instead pulled the blanket away to reveal the bloody mess below and then poured a thick yellow substance over Willow.

Xander started as a hand touched his hair, and he looked up to find Spike gazing down on him; Xander just scooted forward as Spike knelt down so that he could bury his face in Spike’s lap and cry. He could feel the magic in the room, but he could also see the pained and twisted expression on the shurl’s face. It wasn’t working, and Xander didn’t want to see the final moments. A hand rubbed his back causing his back chains to slide over his skin, and Xander clutched the leg under him as the sobs now came.

“What happened?” Xander heard Angel’s voice, and he wondered how the universe could hate one person so much. Would everyone be here to watch Willow die—to see how he’d killed her?

“Good lord,” another familiar voice answered, and yep, the universe had completed its mission. Xander held on to Spike tighter.

“Xander saved us,” offered a female voice without the usual stutter but with a definite slur that suggested a seriously sore mouth. Xander considered Tara’s wording—he considered Tara’s lie. “The fire?”

“Angel brought smoke bombs,” Giles said distractedly. “Is Willow going to be…” Giles let his voice trail off, and Xander turned his head so that his cheek rested on Spike’s thigh. Giles was wrapped in Spike’s duster, and Xander tried not to stare at the unexpected sight of Giles wearing leather, with beard stubble and red skin where the gag had irritated his face.

He moved his eyes over to the tattooing bench where the shurl still worked her hands over a body that now twitched. Twitching was good. Twitching was very good, Xander thought as he watched Willow start to move. Angel walked over and used the silver knife to flick through the straps of the leather bridle and pull the bit out before Willow could wake, and he almost didn’t make it as her eyes opened before Angel could step back.

Willow’s first reaction was to squeal and grab for her blanket. Her second reaction was a resounding, “EEUWWWW.” Xander choked out another sob as he realized that she was safe.

“Shhh, pet. It’s alright.” Spike continued rubbing his back comfortingly, and Xander resigned himself to the fact that now they all knew just how pathetic he could be.

“Oh Xander, goddess, I thought we’d lost you.” Willow got up from the chair and came over and knelt down, bloody blanket and all. She reached up to touch his face, and Xander cupped his own hand over hers so that she couldn’t let go. They stared at each other, both with eyes full of tears.

“I thought I’d killed you,” Xander whispered.

“You saved us,” Willow said and Xander choked on another sob. “We would have been taken by one of those demons and you defended us. If you hadn’t stabbed them...” Willow shuddered and looked over to Tara.

“He cut us loose and he s-stabbed these demons who came at us, even a Recul demon.” Xander wondered which demon that was, but the gasp from Giles suggested Reculs were especially tough, so maybe the thick-necked guy.

“But I stabbed you,” Xander protested.

“The demon threw me at you; you couldn’t have stopped,” Willow said, her hand still cupped against his wet cheek. Spike started standing and Xander found himself without a lap to hide in as Spike pulled him to his feet. Willow stood up and stepped back, and Xander could tell from her expression that she was trying to make sense of Spike’s comforting words and Spike’s protective embrace. Something had changed, only she couldn’t seem to process the what or the how.

“I saw you were goin’ for the girls, and I trusted you to take care of ‘em while I got Giles. You cut them down, right?”

“Yes, Master,” Xander agreed. His sins had come later.

“Did ya fight to protect them?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Did you chase the slavers away?” Xander thought hard about that one but he did eventually have to agree.

“Yes, Master.”

“Did you remember the shurl’s healing powers?”

“Eventually, Master,” Xander answered as he thought of pressing his hand into Willow’s stomach as he tried to stop the bleeding, instead he’d only hurt her more.

“The answer is yes, pet,” Spike warned him in a tone that suggested swats if he didn’t answer straight.

“Yes, Master,” Xander corrected himself, not really wanting to get spanked in front of everyone he knew…everyone he knew, plus one unflappable shurl demon. The air was starting to clear and she was calmly packing her equipment as if the auction hadn’t just been raided and set on fire.

“Did you get Willow here?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Pet, look at me.” Xander looked up into Spike’s blue eyes and he could see his Master’s determination. “Hirset wanted to hurt the Watcher because I’d claimed him. Findin’ him out there alone meant he’d either escaped or I turned him out, and Hirset wanted me to make my claim so that he could kill Giles and put me in my place. I had to get there and stop him, and I trusted you to take care of the girls. I made a promise to Buffy, and I trusted you to keep that promise for me.”

“You fought bravely, and you managed to save the girls, for which I am eternally grateful,” Giles added even as he clutched the leather coat around himself. “While I certainly still have my doubts about Spike’s motives, I do know that what you went through in the several months is beyond my understanding.” Xander felt his heart unknot at the realization that Giles wouldn’t try to fight Spike. Xander looked over to Angel to see if he would offer some words of support. Instead Angel concentrated on the two knives that he held—Xander’s knives.

“Give those here,” Spike demanded as he held out a hand to Angel. Angel turned over the knives carefully. Spike turned his back on his sire, and raised a questioning brow at Xander. “Lost something, pet?”

“Hawks are excellent hunters,” the shurl chipped in at that point as she examined a brush with the concentration of an appraiser studying a piece of art. Xander wondered what the brush had done to deserve such attention.

“You gave *Xander* solluna knives?” Angel demanded as Xander reached out and touched a beautiful blade.

“Bloody right. Like the lady said, a hawk has to have talons; they’re fighters.” Xander didn’t object as Spike slipped the knives back into their scabbards.

“A hawk?” Giles asked, and Xander stepped out from behind Spike—mostly naked, decorated, and armed. He looked right at Giles and proudly ran his thumb over the tattoo. He might not be the hawk yet, but it was in him and he trusted Spike to help him find that part of himself.

“What…?” Giles stepped forward squinting and the shurl suddenly appeared between them.

“Only truths, I mark. I see, he sees, now you see too.” She pointed a finger at Giles and then went back to packing equipment, leaving Giles looking a little more pale and shaky.

“Indeed, shurl truth marks, quite a stupid thing to risk.” And yep, there was the fatherly Giles that Xander knew and loved, complaining about his kids.

“It’s time for us to leave before these slavers can rally a counterattack,” Angel insisted, and Xander suspected that the older vampire just wanted Giles away from Spike before their truce disintegrated. Angel herded the girls and Giles out, but Xander didn’t move. Willow’s head reappeared in the doorway.

“Xander, come on,” Willow insisted. Xander looked over to Spike.

“We have our own way out, Red. You and Glinda go along with the pouf.” Willow stood unmoving as she looked from one to the other.

“Xander, you don’t have to stay here,” she said carefully, and Xander could hear all the unspoken accusations. He didn’t answer because he didn’t even know how to answer.

“Xan’s with me, Red.”

“You can’t speak for him,” Willow sharply answered; the shurl demon clucked in either amusement or disapproval.

“He does speak for me, Wills,” Xander said softly as he looked first at the ground in distress and then finally at Willow. She needed to see his determination. Spike was his Master, and he wasn’t going to apologize or make excuses.

“Come home with us, Xander; we’ll figure this out.” Xander looked in her eyes and saw a softer, gentler version of Giles’ mistake. She wanted to be the one to ‘fix’ him, only her version of ‘fixing’ would include trying to turn him back into Droopy Harris, and that’s not who he was anymore.

“I’ve already figured this out, Wills. I don’t belong with you any more, and I can’t go with you. I’m sorry.” Willow appeared to be on the verge of either tears or screaming when Tara appeared and slipped a hand around Willow’s waist.

“He’s not our Xander,” Tara said softly with a sad smile for Xander, and Xander looked at Tara in surprise. Willow fairly sputtered her surprise as she tried to form a dozen different words at once, but Tara simply continued.

“His aura, it isn’t Xander, or it isn’t the same Xander; it’s someone new with some of the same patterns, but new colors and new patterns beside the old ones. We have to leave now.” Xander watched as Willow looked from Tara to Xander and then finally let herself be pulled away from the door. Tara glanced back with one final smile even as she walked out, and Spike followed as far as the garbage strewn hallway, Xander close at heel.

“Glinda, Red?” Spike called, and the witches as well as Angel and Giles turned. At the far end of the hall, Xander could see people gathered, a black man handing out blankets as makeshift clothing. “Doesn’t mean you can’t get to know each other again.” Xander watched as both disappointment and hope crossed Willow’s face. He really could still remember all the moments of their life together, he just knew he wouldn’t do the things Droopy Harris had once done. He wasn’t the person whose memories he possessed, but then his Master had the same conundrum—his Master was William the Poet and William the Bloody and Spike and his Master. It made Xander feel downright sane. The others turned to leave without comment, and Xander stepped forward so that he was next to his now coatless master. He slipped to his knees and leaned in, and Spike’s hand found his hair and petted him as they watched the others walk away.

“Right, time ta leave before the lackwits show up again,” Spike said as he sniffed disapprovingly and headed for one of those ubiquitous side hallways. Xander stood with a smile. He almost hoped the lackwits did show up because he and his Master would show them a thing or two about training a slave. Xan rested the palms of his hands on the knife handles his Master had taught him to use as he swung his hip chains and followed at heel behind his Master.

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