The smell of bacon and eggs cooking slowly enticed Xander out of his light slumber, that and the overhead light in the room. It felt like he had slept forever. Everytime he started to wake up the memories rushed at him uncontrollably. Sleep was the only way to forget. He rolled, intending to go back to sleep on his stomach with his head burrowed into the black pillowcase. He was going to kill the person who left the light on.
Sharp pain stabbed up through his arm. Shit! He moved his arm out from under the pillow. He'd only rested his head on it for a minute. His wrist continued to throb and his fingers were tingling and kind of feeling numb. He used his other hand to push himself up to a kneeling position. The boxers slid down low on his hips. Oh that hurt. His body felt so sore. If in his dreams he doubted what happened to him then in his waking moments his body reminded him every time he moved. Mostly the pain was centered on his wrist and his ass, but his arm muscles felt sore as well, probably from struggling against the handcuffs. He could tell his back was bruised but he'd had worse beatings. All in all he was a mess.
Angel. Of all the people to see his shame and rescue him, why did it have to be Angel? The one guy he tormented on a regular basis saved him. He stared down at his hands trying not to see how cut up his wrists were, but already trying to come up with excuses. He wondered if fishing lines left these types of scratches. Or maybe that he had really kinky sex with a college girl? Nope, no one would believe that one.
"Xander, are you alright?" Angel's voice was closer now. He guessed he would have to look at the guy at some point.
"Yeah I'm fine." His voice felt thick and he was trying so hard not to cry. Tears welled up in his eyes. Don't cry. Don't cry. Don't cry. Men don't cry. Angel is going to think I'm a ... His mind went blank. What did Angel think of him now? The vampire saw everything. His mind shied away from the memory. He needed to stop thinking about last night; otherwise, he would start crying.
"I scheduled a appointment for you at the hospital. Luckily they have nighttime shifts here. I can take you in."
Xander lifted his head and quickly found Angel half-naked standing by a chest of draws picking out clothes for two people. He looked down at his naked knees and arms. Yep he needed clothes before he went anywhere. He didn't know if the state penitentiary took guys without clothes? "So you're turning me in?"
Angel shoved the draw close and turned around abruptly. His eyes narrowed and Xander flinched back. Angel looked really angry. "Why would you think I would turn you in?"
"I'm a minor! And to get back at me for all the times I insulted and mocked you! I don't know?" Xander stopped talking feeling that he said too much. He carelessly sat down on the bed Indian style Shit! Why did he keep doing this? He tried not to show how much he hurt himself by bitting his lip. He wouldn't be surprised if he was bleeding.
After he settled into a more comfortable position he stared back at Angel who was just standing there holding neatly folded clothes in his arms. He started to feel bad, like maybe he might have hurt Angel's feelings. Normally he didn't care about stuff like that, but this was the guy who saved his life. Why didn't he say something? He couldn't stand Angel's steady and calm stare!
"Why else are you taking me to the hospital? Once the doctors find out that I was raped they'll send police to my house and find out that my dad is dead. I'll be blamed for it! Shit Angel I don't want to go to prison. I'm only sixteen!" Xander blurted out almost hysterically.
Finally Angel moved. He set the clothes down on the dresser top and moved to sit on the edge of the bed. Xander fell into Angel's arms crying. Xander couldn't believe he was crying all over a guy, let alone a 200 year old vampire, but he couldn't stop. No one ever held him before, not in years anyway, ever since his mom left actually. He didn't really notice the difference in Angel's skin temperature until he started calming down. His head rested against Angel's naked chest, but he couldn't feel or hear a heartbeat. Angel looked so human but he felt alien. Angel's broad chest made his own slenderness more pronounced. He felt like a child, but this time tucked against someone who was safe, a rock.
What was he thinking! Angel didn't like him! They hated each other. Didn't they? He slowly worked his uninjured arm up between his and Angel's chest and gently pushed back. Angel tightened his grip on Xander's waist. He winced and Angel quickly moved his arms so they weren't rubbing against the welts on Xander's back. "Xander, I made the appointment because you're wrist is broken. You don't want your wrist to heal wrong, do you?"
A rush of blood flamed into his cheeks. It made perfect sense. Of course he needed to get a cast or something for his wrist. He wanted to say he didn't care but he couldn't speak.
Angel seemed to know this and continued speaking. "You'll be okay, Xander. Come on I made breakfast for you." Angel tenderly let go of Xander, making sure his arms didn't run across any of the cuts on Xander's back.
He stood up and moved to the dresser. He randomly picked out which pair of blue jeans Xander would wear and threw them on the bed. "Which shirt do you want?" Angel held up first a blue silk button up shirt and then a white silk button up shirt.
"I'll take the blue."
Angel tossed the clothes on the bed. "Hurry up and get dressed. Your food is getting cold and we have to be at the hospital by seven, which gives us about one hour."
Xander stared at Angel surprised. Angel knew how to cook? So the eggs and bacon are real. Angel smiled softly, turned and walked out the door closing it behind him. Wonder what he was smiling about, he thought as he got off the bed and started dressing, careful not to hurt his wrist any more than necessary.
"Your wrist will be just fine Mr. Harris as long as you don't go sky diving or bungee jumping until it heals. You really should be more careful the next time you play tennis." The intake nurse rambled, her blue eyes glued to his companion. Angel stood next to him while the nurse finished checking his vital signs. He swung his legs against the hospital examination table. He hated hospitals. The smell and all the sick children made him feel ill. His mother used to bring him here every time his father would beat him too badly.
His wrist still throbbed painfully and of course, he was still waiting for the doctor or whomever it was that made casts to see him. He glared at the nurse. She didn't notice. Good thing she didn't need to take his blood. She barely listened to his heart and she took her sweet time checking his blood pressure. Angel of course didn't notice the slightly pudgy middle age woman making calf eyes at him. Instead he smiled at her, told jokes, and generally kept her off guard.
"Okay I'm finished. You can put on your shoes and go wait in the waiting room. The doctor will see you in a few minutes." Translated. In a couple of hours someone will remember you and see you.
He buttoned his T-shirt and quickly slipped his shoes back on his feet. Angel stood at the door and waited for him. They walked back to the waiting room in silence. There were perhaps fifty people in the large open room. No one paid attention to him and Angel as they walked by, just two regular teenage boys. Baywatch was playing on one TV, and CNN was on another TV. However many people were reading through stacks of magazines and a few other people brought novels to read. He should have thought of that, not novels, but maybe if he had some comics. He had tons of comics in his closet at home. Helping Buffy took up most of his free time, so he hadn't finished reading all of them yet. He didn't say anything to Angel until they were sitting down as far away as possible from anyone else.
"You sure do have a way with the ladies, Angel." He grumpily picked up a Newsweek Magazine. A picture of Bill Clinton graced the cover. He threw it back on the end table and picked up the magazine under it. Entertainment Magazine was okay. He tried to flip it open with one hand but the pages just flopped all the way around and he was holding it by the cover. He put his legs together and sat up straighter and used his legs as a table. He was flipping through the pages trying to find an interesting article when Angel snatched the magazine out of his hands.
"Hey!" He tried grabbing the magazine back. Angel kept it out of his reach.
"I want to talk to you Xander. I'll give it back once I'm done. Will you stop that!" Angel's arm came up and swatted at his hands.
Xander started laughing. They were acting like children. Angel was smiling too. "Okay Angel what do you want to say?"
Angel's smile faded slowly. He didn't speak until he had on his serious face. "First off I don't "have a way with ladies." I don't know if you know this but you have bruises and whip marks on your back and bruises on your chest. That nurse skipped parts in her exam because I was distracting her. She didn't even notice the scabs on your wrists when you rolled up your sleeve. You are still a minor Xander and all of the marks on your body are signs of abuse. I was trying to protect you. I don't normally flirt with every woman I come across if that is what you were thinking."
Xander felt like sinking into the earth, not sure he wanted this kind of conversation with another guy. Why did Angel always blow everything he said out of proportion? He mumbled under his breath, "Its okay Angel. I understand. I was just beginning to worry that instead of going for young sixteen year old girls, your tastes changed to middle-aged pudgy women."
He smiled at his own quip and glanced over at Angel to see the old vampire's reaction. Angel was shaking his head but he was smiling. "You wish Xander. I know you had a crush on Buffy. You would like to see me with a middle aged woman, wouldn't you?"
"Yeah well it would clear the playing field for me." He felt his smile fading. He never had much luck with girls anyway. Buffy never gave him a second glance.
"Xander Harris. Dr. Wakefield is ready to see you. Please come to the front desk." A female voice called out over the PA system.
Wow that was the shortest wait he ever had. He shrugged his shoulders and stood up. They walked back to the front desk. A young doctor stood by the counter flipping through his medical records. He looked up at the sound of their approach. Nodding his head toward Xander's wrist wrapped in a white cotton material he said, "Mr. Harris I presume?"
"Yep that's me." Xander answered holding up his arm with the broken wrist.
"Follow me then."
"Don't take too many Xander."
Xander placed his bottled Dr. Pepper between his thighs and closed the prescription bottle. "I can't help it Angel, my wrist is killing me. Is it okay if I go to bed when we get back to your apartment? I'm kind of tired."
He leaned his head against the window of Angel's car. He didn't know Angel owned a car until Angel led him to a parking lot two blocks away from the underground apartment.
"Yeah sure. How does the cast feel?"
"How do you think? My arm itches!"
"At least your wrist will heal correctly."
"Small comfort. You probably never had a broken bone in your life."
"No, I broke my finger when I was a kid. My mom set it for me, and gave me a whipping for playing instead of working. I'm just glad it healed correctly. Medicine back then was more likely to kill you than help you. Or at least for the poor that's how it was."
Xander didn't know how to answer so he kept silent. For a minute he forgot that Angel was over 200 years old.
Angel didn't speak until after he parked the car and they were halfway back to Angel's apartment. "I only have one bed. You don't mind sharing with me again do you?"
What type of question was that? He didn't want to sleep on the couch and he didn't want Angel to sleep on the couch either. Hell he didn't care; he just wanted to sleep. His eyes felt like they were burning. This happened every time he cried. "Whatever, its your room. Just don't role over on me." He mumbled.
Angel stopped walking and grabbed his arm. His voice sounded strained. "Xander what is your problem? I'm trying to help. Please work with me here."
Xander shook off Angel's arm rather easily. "Angel I'm tired. Please just give me a break. I need to sleep."
"Okay I'm sorry. I need to talk to you. It's important but it can wait until tomorrow morning. I forget how frail mortals are. Come on lets get back to my apartment. While you were sleeping earlier I bought some food. You should probably eat something before going to bed." Angel started walking again.
"What type of food did you get?"
"Twinkies beat fruit roll-ups any day of the week. Especially the new fruit roll-ups, they taste like plastic. But Twinkies are consistent. They taste the same now as they did when I was in fifth grade. Plus they are small and taste good..."
Angel laughed and reached into his black overcoat for his keys. "Xan stop. I'll take your word on it. I haven't even tasted any of the foods you've been talking about! I just went to the store and started buying stuff. I hope you know what to do with what I bought."
He opened the door and stopped in his tracks. Xander bumped into his back. "A warning next time would be nice."
"Xan run. Now!" Angel slammed the door shut and Xander stumbled back over his feet in surprise at the sudden movement. Angel grabbed his arm and dragged him upright and to the stairs. A dark shadowy figure appeared at the top of the stairs.
Angel paused briefly before running the opposite direction down another corridor. Xander's head started throbbing as Angel's grip on his hand tightened. He tried to force his legs to keep up with Angel's longer stride and superhuman speed. He was quickly losing strength running as fast as possible to keep up.
This time when Angel abruptly stopped Xander plowed into the vampire and knocked them both down.
A hooded figure glided toward and stood over them while they tried standing up without stepping on each other. A deep voice rumbled, "Angelus. It's been too long."
Xander stood behind Angel his hands clutching Angel's coat nervously. Every instinct in his body screamed danger but he couldn't abandon Angel. He'd never seen the vampire so frightened.
"Zalazarus. What do you want?" Angel's asked, his voice steady and strong. Xander could feel the slight tremors shaking Angel's frame.
"What I always wanted Angelus. You. It's unfortunate that you had to run out on our deal. I hear you had some trouble with gypsies. Nevermind you're punishment is going to be the same and your cute little friend will pay for your sins as well. Really Angelus consorting with innocents now. What's up?"
"Look Zalazarus, really it wasn't my fault. The deal wouldn't have worked out anyway. The gypsies returned my soul. My name is Angel now. You can punish me but please let Xander go. He has no knowledge of our past dealings."
Xander's knees trembled when the hooded figure moved closer. He couldn't see what was beneath the hood but he could only imagine the worst. It reached out a black gloved hand and touched Angel's check. The vampire flinched back almost head-butting him.
"You're right Angel. I'll have to devise another means of punishment. Unfortunately after the war with angels we aren't allowed to damage individuals with souls unless they have failed a test deemed fair by both parties."
"But you said you were going to harm Xander! How can I take your word?"
"I lied about the mortal. I could have made him my slave and not harm a single hair on his head. I save my punishments for demons like you."
"What's the test?" Angel demanded.
Xander flinched back when the dark gloved hand reached around Angel and grabbed his arm. He squeaked and tried pulling back from the cold burning hand. He felt tears sting his eyes as the pain increased. His arm felt numb and the coldness was spreading to his chest. Time slowed. Angel's mouth slowly opened and he heard in a long drawn out TV like exaggeration, "Let him go." He sank to his knees in front of the black clothed demon. The floor fluctuated. Tiny grains of concrete swirled around and around. Even his mouth stretching to grin felt like a momentous occasion. How could it not, when it took forever?
Suddenly everything fast forwarded and he slammed back into his body. His head spun and noise filled his ears. He shut his eyes. Too fast. The world was moving too quickly. He could feel the earth moving. Why didn't he ever notice?
"Xander are you alright?" Angel's concerned voice felt too loud in his ears.
I think so; I never felt anything like that, what happened Angel? Is what he thought but by the time it reached his mouth, it came out as, "Ugh."
"Yeah you'll be fine." Angel whispered, before returning his attention to Zalazarus, "What type of quest are you talking about?"
"Oh of the greatest kind. I think you'll both enjoy this challenge. It's a medieval world, with knights, dragons, damsels in distress, magic, evil wizards, and terrible spells."
"And you want us to what?"
"Find the Stone Rose and return it to the Anthal royal throne room. You don't have to place it anywhere. Just get it inside the throne room. You have one year to accomplish this mission, and it is possible. To make it harder for you, in this world you'll be human. But because of the powers that be, you'll both receive some kind of talent when you get there or on the way over there. I'm not sure which. I've never run into this kind of problem in punishing deal breakers before. If you complete your quest, your life will return to normal and you'll never see me again. However, if you fail, you're soul will be taken away I'll spend a couple years torturing you and then we'll spend a long time torturing your dear friend, Xander. And then maybe I'll allow him to die. Or maybe I'll let you kill him. Pick up your friend. This will only take a moment."
Xander tried listening to everything the demon said but his mind kept slipping away. He hung onto Angel's neck with his unbroken wrist. "Wait! What's wrong with Xander? Will he be okay?"
"Oh yes, regular humans can't withstand the transition from one world to the other unless their senses are muddled. He should be fine in a day or so. Now shut up and let me concentrate. You don't want me to accidentally send you to a fire world do you?"
Xander heard strange chanting and then his world fell down.
continued in The Baby Red Dragon