Author: Lit Gal
Concrit: PLEASE!! E-mail or in LJ response
Rating: NC-17 (hard NC-17)
Disclaimer: They're owned by people who don't know how to play with them.
Warnings: slavery, non-con, D/s, HC, reference to past torture, bondage.
Icon from the wonderful, talented Velvet_Virago
Summary: The End.
Thanks to EVERYONE who commented. You have no idea how nice that is, even if it's only a simple "loved this chapter"...and in alpha order to avoid offending...
ImaginaryImages for beta work and lots of brainstorming
Othercat whose comments on Giles' character changed the Giles, Spike stuff
Shakatany for the crapload of nom's
Sharvie for beta'ing and reassuring me through rough chapters.
Stonering for her post-posting beta'ing
Velvet Virago for the art and the beta'ing and the encouragement
Revisit all of Velvet's work HERE
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. Okay...blue 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?”
“Did you chase the slavers away?” Xander thought hard about that one but he did eventually have to agree.
“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?”
“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.