In Xander's limited experience of reading, most adventure books followed a formula. The heroes go through many hardships. On their quests they are met by evil witches, dragons, and greedy wizards, and then, just to make life more miserable for the poor honorable heroes, bad weather.
This adventure hadn't quite turned out like he expected. For one, the weather was beautiful. He judged it around seventy five degrees with a small enough breeze to cool him down once he started hiking. The blue cloudless sky stretched endlessly for miles. The scent of flowers and trees filled his nostrils. For all intents and purposes, this should have been a perfect day.
Which came to his second reason that things weren't turn out like they were supposed to. Angel. Never in all the stories he'd read had the hero suffered from the indignity of losing all control of his body due to sexual need. Yes, occasionally the hero would drink too much or be drugged, but to beg shamelessly for another man to fuck him? Not in this life.
Wanting to hate Angel, he refused to speak to the vampire man he was beginning to think of as his friend. His best friend, after Willow. And yet, every time Angel moved in his steadfast graceful way, Xander was reminded how those strong hands held him tight and brought him to screaming ecstasy the night before.
Right now, the object of his thoughts stood away from him, already having finished packing his gear, and was now messing with the straps of his backpack, facing away from him. No doubt trying to avoid his glare. Neither of them was talking to each other, not after this morning, when he, full of shame and memories, accused Angel of raping him.
Only to realize afterwards when Angel's face turned ashen how wrong his accusations were, but it was too late. His apologies fell on deaf ears and even Zeli refused to listen to him. She didn't understand how used and scared he felt. Last night he would have sworn anything just to have Angel touch him again. It stripped away all his fears and made him desire the one person he couldn't have and now desired. There was no way he could hold his head up at school if everyone found out that he was gay. It was one thing for people to know his father hit him, but all the other stuff; he'd rather die than have anyone else find out.
Xander finished cinching the straps of his backpack. His bedroll stuck out at the top in a messy lopsided manner, not at all like Angel's neatly rolled and centered bedroll. Angel's pale face had returned to normal color, still pale, but with a little bit of blood darkening his cheeks. The normally calm and patient eyes refused to look at him, almost making him feel guilty.
Zeli didn't help. She was crouched next to Angel's legs, rubbing her scaly side against his tan leather pants. She was purring in satisfaction, much like he did most of last night. Blushing at the thought, he turned and looked out over the cliff and into the valley, facing away from Angel. Yesterday he wasn't in a position to truly appreciate the view before he'd fallen. A bit of stupidity on his part trying to see how far up he was. Not wanting to break the silence, Xander continued his lookout, waiting for Angel to finish.
"Xander, are you ready to go?" When Angel finally spoke, the loudness of his voice in the utter silence of this world startled him and he flinched.
Before he had time to admonish Angel for startling him, those very hands he'd thought so hard about earlier, gripped his shoulder and spun him around, his feet tangled with the pack at his feet and he clutched at Angel's arms for balance. Before he knew it he was squashed to Angel's chest as the older man pulled him into an embrace, probably the only way Angel kept them both from falling on their asses. However, they both jumped apart as soon as they realized they weren't going to fall.
Xander could barely look at Angel, too embarrassed. He kept remembering last night, and how he cried out for that whole body. So engrossed with his own thoughts he almost didn't catch what Angel was saying. "God, Xan, what type of man do you think I am? You don't have to flinch at the sound of my voice. I'll promise never to touch you again if it would stop you from being scared of me..."
At Angel's defeated entreaty, guilt overwhelmed Xander, making him more than irritable. "For Christ's sake, Angel, snap out of it! If you hadn't startled me...I was thinking about something else and your loud voice startled me. That's all. You didn't hurt me last night, I don't think I'd ever come so many times in one night. Now forget everything I said this morning. God, we can't tip toe around each other for the next decade! I just want to forget that last night ever happened!" Xander paused for a moment catching his breath. "And for another thing. I am not and never will be, afraid of you. So, you can get that thought right out of your head. I'm a man and this man isn't afraid of anything!"
Okay so he lied, he was afraid a lot, but damned if he'd let Angel think so. While Angel stood staring at him with his mouth open attempting to reply, he brushed past him and fetched Zeli who was sunning herself on the large boulder sticking out from the mountain side. Completely missing the huge grin that spread itself across Angel's face.
When he turned around again with an annoying wiggling dragon, the grin was gone and Angel looked perfectly studious, like usual.
"So, how do you plan on carrying her?" Angel asked after his fifth attempt of stuffing Zeli into his backpack. He thought he cleared out enough room for her, but she refused to stick her head back into the pouch and he couldn't set his bedroll on top. Surprisingly, she didn't speak to him again, only for the first moment or two of contact, did he hear her mind voice. She reminded him of an annoying puppy, but with sharper claws.
With an annoyed scowl, he glared at Angel, the cause of all his misery. "Well do you have any bright ideas, Watson?"
"Well, Sherlock, you could try and let her walk." Sarcasm and humor flavored Angel's voice.
"Look just try not to do me any favors, I'm still sore from last night, and I'm not in the mood. Besides, I don't think she can walk far distances yet, and I can't carry her with only one good arm. I need to find someway to take her with us." Xander said hopelessly as the pack tipped over and Zeli escaped her small prison scampering back across the clearing as bold as Cordelia at her finest.
Giving lie to his very last statement, Zeli moved remarkably fast. Her red tail waved back and forth and her wings folded back to her sides, giving her a lumbering gait. Occasionally, her wings unfolded to help her keep balance, but other than that, she kept them close to her side.
"Maybe we can take turns...?" Angel offered, obviously trying not to laugh.
Seeing the humor, Xander smiled. "Yeah, well I see what you mean. If she gets too tired to walk, we can take turns carrying her, I suppose."
"Well then let's go," Angel said looking towards the trail they had to go down, the sun was rising quickly now and if they didn't start moving they'd be hiking during the hottest part of the day.
Xander threw everything back into his pack and Angel helped him set it on his back, which kind of irked him, but he doubted he could have lifted the pack with only one hand. So he accepted the help with his usual lack of grace, and grumbled a barely audible thank you under his breath before yelling at Zeli to come on.
He paused to make sure she was coming before heading down the trail. She followed more closely behind Angel's feet, the little traitor, but he didn't feel like going slow. Not with Angel following so closely behind him, he could almost feel those brown eyes boring into the back of his skull.
What if he's staring at my ass? His leather pants fit too tightly and he'd seen the way Angel looked him over before they left the dirt hole village. All of a sudden he was grateful that his backpack was too large, every time he took a step he could feel it bouncing against his ass, annoying at first, but if it hid his butt from Angel's view he wouldn't complain like he did for the first two days. Xander spared a glance back over his shoulder to see what Angel was doing and was relieved that Angel was concentrating on the ground and not him.
The hike was much quicker downhill than going up, and a lot easier. This time he wasn't huffing and puffing when they stopped for a water break, one hour later.
"Angel, where are Anorak and A'Rin supposed to meet us?"
Angel shaded his eyes with his hands trying to see further down the mountainside before speaking. "I'm not sure. They said they were going to go far enough to give us more privacy, maybe three or four miles, five at most. We'll meet them eventually. They wouldn't abandon the red dragon."
With that, Angel poured a tiny amount of water into the palm of his hands and knelt next to Zeli. She lumbered over to him, her tail swishing side to side, and licked the water from Angel's palm. Angel poured more until she lost interest and lay down, rolling over onto her back. She reminded him more and more of a dog each minute. As if sensing his thoughts she scrambled back to her clawed feet.
Jerking his head up, Xander scanned his eyes down the trail, needing to know who was yelling for them. Two small figures stood at the bottom of the trail waving at them with both arms. They were too far away to recognize, but he figured it was A'Rin and Anorak. Smiling he waved his arms back.
"What are you doing, Xan? You should be more wary. We don't know for sure that they are friends or foes..." Angel interjected, quickly wiping his wet hand on his pant leg, and retying the opening to his leather water bag, like he'd been doing it for years.
"Oh come on, who else could they be, Santa Claus and the Seven Reindeer? Lighten up for Christ's sake."
This time he didn't even bother to check to see if Zeli was following, before heading down the hill. A moment later Angel caught up with him, his face set in stone, little Zeli slinking behind Angel's heels. Her blue eyes glaring at him occasionally.
As a matter of fact, A'Rin and Anorak were waiting for them to navigate the sometimes steep trail. They sat on their backpacks playing what looked like...dice?
"A'Rin!" He yelled as he got closer. Finally a friendly face!
The blond hair teenager jumped up and ran to him, smiling. Normally Xander didn't care for backslapping and hugging guys, but A'Rin was small for a guy and he didn't have to worry about any hearty slaps designed to rearrange his innards. They let go of each other and he stepped back smiling, all too aware of the heavy brown pack resting on his shoulders.
"Let me drop this before we talk," Xander suggested the first coherent sentence he said to his friend in two minutes. Xander made a pointed effort to ignore Angel and Anorak standing a few feet away from him.
Shrugging and lifting his shoulders at the same time rid of him of his unwelcome burden. Xander didn't care where it fell. He quickly slung his arm around A'Rin's shoulders and lead the other teen away from the older men, who always seemed to be judging him.
He led them close to the cliff, enjoying the view. Anorak and A'Rin camped in a rather large clearing fifty-foot wide and thirty feet long. Closest to the drop off, there were only rocks and stubby trees with sharp branches. The clearing had tall yellowish grass. Hay grass. It reached Angel's leather covered thighs. The ex-vampire was staring at him. They weren't so far away; he could see those brown eyes, trying to figure him out.
"So did I miss anything?" He asked once they were far enough away, ignoring Zeli's presence at his feet. She didn't like the tall grass he could sense through their tenuous bond.
Pulling away A'Rin grinned up at him before kicking a rock down the side of a cliff. "Not really. We've been waiting for you to arrive all morning. Anorak and I were playing Rajok to see if we would wait another hour before climbing back up to fetch you. So how was last night?" The knowing tone in his voice made Xander wince.
Avoiding the question he bent over and scooped Zeli up in his arms. Her legs kicked and scratched, her tail was rather strong, he thought, after it whacked his side.
"This is Zeli." He introduced, holding her out to A'Rin for him to touch her head. Her reddish scales were kind of cool.
"Xander!" A'Rin yelled, his eyes widening with shock. Then before he had a chance to react, the younger boy snatched Zeli out of his hands.
"What do you think she is, a pet dog?" Her clawed feet kicked in the air some more before A'Rin set her on the ground, where she ran to the safety of Angel's legs.
Sighing, Xander looked back at his new friend. His pale face was pinched with anger, "What?" He asked innocently and shrugged his shoulders. It sometimes worked.
"I can't believe what I just saw. These are sacred creatures. You aren't supposed to manhandle them." A'Rin probably didn't know this but he looked like a girl when he set his hands on his hips and scolded him.
Trying not to laugh or smile, he faced the ground and mumbled, "I'm sorry. I didn't know. Will you forgive me?"
"Yeah sure, whatever. Look, Angel is waving at us we better go back."
Jerking his head up, Xander glanced around, he hadn't realized that they'd wondered off so far. Which is hard to do on a small plateau. Jogging they reached the older guys within moments.
"Come on, we've had enough break time this morning. The wedding is in two days time," Anorak announced and slung his backpack over his shoulder. Angel was already ready to go and started walking towards the next trail heading downhill Zeli trailed along.
Swearing, he and A'Rin scrambled for their packs and got them on. Previous experience told them that Angel and Anorak were not going to wait. They never did catch up during the rest of the day's hike.
Much to his annoyance they returned just in time for the wedding. Everyone and their grandmothers were gathered at the north gate, one big crowd of dirty peasants, albeit they were wearing their Sunday best. The noise reached him long before he could make out individual faces. Then the smell of food cooking hit his nostrils, and he didn't care that he was sweating and dirty from two days of hard hiking. He needed food! Angel and Anorak were like the energizer bunnies they kept walking and walking, and they didn't look half as exhausted as A'Rin and him felt.
Wiping the sweat from his brow, he started to notice the banners and other signs of festivity taking place within the village. Garland decorated the North Gate; people were eating, and laughing. The children were playing intricate games with a few adults supervising, a regular village bar-b-q. Very optimistic people, to start the celebration without the guest of honor, he thought glancing down at Zeli. She didn't appear tired either as she stayed close to Angel's heels.
Elija was waiting for them, a ring of flowers on his head; as a matter of fact everyone had flowers on their heads. Must be a marriage custom, he thought, worried at the large crowd of men, women, and children running towards him to find out if they succeeded.
Angel kept walking, ignoring the crowd, until he came to a stop in front of Elija, the mayor of Hasting Field, Burke, and a richly dressed man in dark blue velvet and matching hose. The rich man was watching everything with barely a flicker of interest, until they came to rest upon him. A slow appreciative smile broke out on the man's face and his two bodyguards relaxed just a tad bit. Their knuckles gained more blood as they loosened their death grip on their sword hilts. Their black eyes settled on him and he felt a chill creep up his spine.
He started whistling and stared at the spot above the man's head, the endless blue sky stretching on beyond the horizon. He hoped that by the time he looked back again the man's attention would be elsewhere, like on a girl. What was it with him? Did he have a sign on his ass saying, "Likes Dick"?
"Men! I'm so glad you've succeeded. All the other teams returned empty handed." Burke, exclaimed and started clapping Anorak on the back, then moved on to A'Rin almost knocking his friend over. When it looked like it was going to be his turn, Xander quickly scooted out of the way and picked up Zeli, her startled whine surprised him, but there was no way he'd let the two hundred pound Mayor pound him on the back. The mayor Burke make a great line back for the Dallas Cowboys.
"Look! This is Zeli!" Xander said thrusting the dragon into the Mayor's face. The older man yelped and stumbled backwards. Into the black clothed guards, who reacted like they were being attacked.
"Xander!" All three of his companions yelled at the same time. At the same time Zeli scratched his arm and it was all he could do to not drop her. Fumbling and swearing with pain he got her to the ground without hurting her. Hissing she scrambled back to Angel's side, one day's work of bribing her with food completely wasted. Brushing his hand through his now longer hair, he stood back up to face the Mayor and apologize. Instead he came face to face with the man in blue. His eyes pierced through him in rather uncomfortable way, like he was prey or something. The sun glinted off the man's golden hair. He must have been at least thirty, ancient really.
"I don't recognize you. Who are you?" The man in blue demanded.
"Name's Xander, and you are?" Xander answered with a nervous laugh. Wondering why everyone had stopped talking, some woman fainted.
"Lord Blain Hollowgrove, at your service." Then to the shock of everyone there, and his amusement, the man bowed. Like someone in the Three Musketeers. When he stood up he was smiling. "I see you're the one who caught the dragon?" Then he pointed towards her red scaly body wrapped around Angel's foot.
"Yeah I caught her all right, but she likes Angel better." Xander answered, disgruntled with his supposed bondmate.
Angel kept his eyes cool and distant, like it was his job, which only increased blue eye's curiosity about a man named after a heavenly being. Lord Blair, no Blain, stared at Angel just as intently, probably judging the girl catching competition. Both men were rather handsome, but only in that he wouldn't mind having a body like Angel or Lord Blain's.
Turning, Xander whispered to A'Rin, "Who is this guy? He looks like a pansy."
He thought he was quiet enough but suddenly those eyes where on him again. Gulping, Xander smiled weakly. "So when does the party start?"
Standing as far away from him as possible Mayor Burke cleared his throat a few times, while someone else called for silence. By the time the older man was ready to speak everyone was silent even the children.
"The sacred hunt has been completed this year and fertility shall be guaranteed. As proclaimed by royal decree, any that become bondmates of the sacred Red Dragon shall be granted lordship of their bondmate's region. Everyone this is the new Lord of North Cliffs, Xander!" Everyone started screaming and cheering. A'Rin was jumping up and down just as much as the girls.
So standing there at the entrance of Hasting Field, sweating and starving, Mayor Burke, quickly placed a flower wreath over his head and hastily backed away. And he became a Lord of the Realm, for a country he didn't even know the name of.
Someone started playing what sounded like a bagpipe and all the young men went and found the nearest woman and pulled her into a dance, that eventually moved everyone from outside the gates to the middle of town. A pretty girl with brown hair and smiling eyes tugged his arm and he let her lead him. Within moments he'd forgotten all about Angel, Zeli, and the disturbing Lord Blain.
The town square had food tables set up in a square, some tables had drinks. He noticed them after his dance partner pleaded exhaustion. It wasn't until then that he noticed that it was dark outside and he still hadn't eaten since lunch. Not knowing why, but having so much fun, he pulled the girl into his arms and kissed her on the lips. She laughed and pushed him away and led him to the food table, where he gobbled three chicken legs, a rack of ribs, and drank too many cups of, spiked fruit punch.
His stomach felt full for the first time in days. The food made him sleepy, and he had no idea how to find his way back to the Elija's home. Xander spent a few minutes trying to find Angel but his friend melted in the darkness too well. The evening was dying down but no one left. Finding a seat, next to an older woman he sat next to her. She patted his knee. "It's been a long time since a dragon has blessed a wedding." She said slowly and in a grandmotherly tone of voice.
"So when is the wedding going to happen? It's late." Xander asked because she seemed more willing to answer his questions.
Patting his knee again she stood up and gripped her cane, he hadn't noticed that. "There's not enough time to explain young man. Your part is coming soon. Just be patient." With that she hobbled off, dancers parting for her.
He must have dozed off because when he opened his eyes again, the dancing had stopped and a large bonfire was lit in the exact middle of the town square and a platform was raised in front of the fire. A couple stood on it with a man in the middle. It looked like a traditional Christian ceremony, until Elija strode up the stairs carrying Zeli.
Worry over her safety brought him out of his lethargic mood. Then he saw him, Angel, coming his way with the Anorak. Angel was dressed in a white gown that almost touched the ground. They both looked too serious to have been partying all night. They probably sat and talked over a cup of ale, instead of dancing.
"Xan, can you stand up. There's something you need to do." Angel asked kneeling next to him. When did he end up on the ground?
"He drank too much." Anorak muttered to Angel, which was completely untrue. When he tried to say so, a wave of dizziness overcame him and he swayed. Angel grabbed him and hauled him to his feet. He clung to Angel's broad shoulders. His cast felt extremely heavy.
"We don't have much time so we better hurry. I didn't think it would take so long to find him." Angel and Anorak continued to speak as if he wasn't there which was fine because then he didn't have to think.
"His cast can't get wet..." Angel muttered from far away.
The sensation of being dragged caused him to start giggling hysterically, but that stopped once Angel paused and lifted him, while someone wrapped a thick cloth around his cast. Wondering what was happening, Xander was completely unprepared for the shove that knocked him into a horse trough. He fought to escape once the cold snapped him back to reality, but hands kept shoving him under. Someone kept a grip on his broken wrist, keeping it above the water. "God damn it! What are you doing?" He yelled and then choked as his head went under, again.
Then the hands quickly lifted him out and while he tottered around barely able to stand, a small group of men stripped off his wet leather boots, followed by his clothing which clung to him, annoyingly. Only then, did they start drying him. Still damp they pulled a white garment over his head, and made sure it fell to his feet before stepping back and letting Angel take over. He was too cold to feel embarrassed.
"Come on it's almost time for Lord Xander to make his appearance." A'Rin exclaimed loudly. No doubt still hyped up on happy juice fruit punch.
"Where are we going?" Xander asked trying to dig his bare feet in the hard packed dirt, but was too drunk to be effective. When no one answered he tried again. "Am I supposed to be the virgin sacrifice?" It made perfect sense he was wearing a white flowing dress.
The men laughed and he heard Angel say under his breath. "You are certainly not a virgin."
It wasn't until they were back in the square did he start to become suspicious. While he was passed out the villagers set up a platform and moved a sturdy wooden table on top of it. "Stop! Wait!" This time he really did want to stop and struggled more violently. Wrenching his arms painfully in the men's steel grips. Compressing his lips, he managed to somehow not beg for his life, as the hands tightened on his upper arms and continued to drag him towards what looked like the sacrificial alter. Maybe Angel was taking this chance to kill him, for all the cruel jabs he'd made over the past three days.
"Everything will be fine, don't worry." Angel whispered and stroked his back soothingly, walking right behind him up the stairs.
The stairs would have been too difficult to navigate by himself but with the help of four men he was on the stage kneeling to the right of the bride within seconds. Angel knelt to the left of the best man. And the men melted off the stage. Zeli scampered over to him, and plopped her head on his lap.
One hour passed in a dazed confusion for him, as he tried to think of all the reasons why he would be required to stay on the stage. "Do you, Angel, take Lord Xander to be your handfasted husband until a year and a day, at which point you'll renew your vows or go your separate ways?" At Angel's yes, the priest turned towards him. The same was asked of him, and although he planned on yelling no and kept thinking, just say no, just say no, a whispered yes came out instead. Horrified he planned on recanting but the priest already moved on to taking the young couple's vows. After the priest pronounced them wedded everyone started cheering. The vibrations convinced him that if they didn't stop soon the platform would collapse. It didn't.
When the priest held up his hands the crowd fell silent. "Now to bless these two couples with fertility the Sacred Red Dragon shall come forth." Zeli came to the priest with no help from him. "When Marta has twins, one shall be given to Lord Xander and his handfasted husband Lord Angel, to raise as their own, until the time they part or when death shall separate them. No child will be raised by one parent this decree is set by the Gods and so it shall be." No one said anything, even though he knew his mouth was hanging open. Angel didn't look surprised kneeling opposite of him also in a flowing white gown.
Stooping down the priest picked up Zeli and spoke to her in a strange language. She seemed to understand because a few moments later he set her down again. Ambling over to Marta she knelt in front of the woman until the Priest got on his knees as well. "Hold out your hand, Marta, and you shall have a fruitful marriage."
The pretty girl held out her hand and barely flinched when the dragon's teeth bit in, injecting her with its venom. When it was his turn, Xander tried to talk his way out of it. "Wait. She already bit me once, doesn't that count?"
Giving him a placating look, the Priest said, "It's tradition." And grabbed his hand so Zeli could bite him. It stung for a moment before he felt the warmth spreading up his arm. Just like last time. Xander thought with despair and anger towards Angel.
Neither Angel nor Dangok complained about this part of the ritual.
Once they were all infected, the Priest stood up and announced. "All women who are not fertile please come to me." He entered the crowd with Zeli in his arms and women flocked to his side.
Xander watched in a daze as Dangok crawled to his wife and kissed her, before lifting her up to the alter and following her body with his. Blushing and mortified, he glanced away from the couple not wanting to see them stripping off their white robes. He couldn't see anyone in the crowd because of the torchlight surrounding the platform, but he knew there was no way he was going to have sex in front of all these people.
"Xan, please look at me." Angel begged, now kneeling in front of him.
Oh God please let Angel be reasonable. Shaking his head and glaring at Angel, he exclaimed, probably too loudly. "We need to find someplace private! I can't do this in front of people!" Xander was honestly distressed at the thought of anyone seeing him naked. Wearing the Speedo on the swim team was bad enough...
Before Xander knew what hit him, Angel had him stretched out on the wooden platform and landed on top of him. Their erections pressed together. "I'll explain everything later but this is their custom. Marta and Dangok will not be married unless we complete the ceremony, which includes public sex. Under the sky and the whole damn village."
Those where the last words either of them spoke, because by then the dragon's venom made it impossible to think of anything, except Angel's kisses.
Barking dogs and the laughter of children pulled Xander up from his nightmarish dreams. The sun hung midway to the top of the sky and it shone right into his blurry eyes. Trying to turn over, he discovered just how heavy Angel's arm really was. It rested on the curve of his side. Their makeshift blanket, the previously discarded white robe, had fallen to their hips.
He remembered Angel pulling it over them before he passed out, exhausted from mind-blowing sex and too much drink. Now he could feel Angel's all too warm chest pressed against his back. He should have felt disgusted when his hairy legs rubbed against Angel's, but he wasn't. Instead, he slid them again to see if it would wake the dead weight half draped over him.
Closing his eyes, Xander tried to ignore how the sun made rings behind his eyes lids and turned everything pinkish red, and tried to fall back asleep. It didn't work. Sighing, discontent with his lack of sleep and the soreness between his ass, he threw off the arm and sat up, clutching the robe to his chest. Other such couples lay in the town square, most of them were men and women, but a few women lay together as well as men with men. Shaking his head did not dispel the image. Dangok and Marta were still asleep on the altar. Not so well hidden by their ceremonial robes. Blushing to the roots of his hair, Xander tried to figure out how to get out of the square without anyone seeing him.
A discarded robe lay a few feet away from him and he managed to snag it with his foot and pull it close enough for him to slip it over his head. Angel continued to sleep; only now he was on his stomach his impressively muscled, broad back displayed. Jealousy was a familiar emotion and it stabbed into him again. Why did he have to be so scrawny, while Angel had a body gods would fight over? It just wasn't fair. He ignored his inner voice nagging him, telling him he loved every minute of Angel possessing his body.
Movement from the corner of his eyes distracted him from figuring out how to pull the robe all the way down without lifting the robe he was hiding under. It was Lord Blain from yesterday. This time instead of a blue outfit the man was decked out in green. A startling contrast to all the browns and other earth tone colors in the village.
A quick knowing smirk, a tip of Lord Blain's head, and a wink, was all it took for the memories to overcrowd his brain. His father used to look at him like that. Guilt and shame over his actions last night and two nights ago overtook his body and he started shaking. He felt like he'd been raped all over again. Frantic to get out of there, he turned around to grab the rest of the robe out from under Angel's hip.
Instead he saw Angel watching him. "Are you okay?" Angel asked sitting up, his naked muscles gleamed in the mid morning sunlight. His hair however looked like Frankenstein's creation.
Blinking back tears Xander sat Indian style and put his hands to his eyes, resting his elbows on his knees. Childish posture he knew. But with enough time he'd regain control of his emotions and suppress them again. His body ached from the long hike yesterday and another night of sex with Angel, and the weird position didn't help, any.
Most of the times he avoided thinking about anything that made him feel uncomfortable, which was probably why he'd always been able to maintain his cocky attitude, even when everyone else panicked. However this whole acid trip was starting to wear away at his armor. A warm hand on his shoulder, patting him, almost broke his control. He so wanted to lean into Angel's arms and cry.
They must have sat in silence for fifteen minutes before he was in control enough to unfurl his body. More couples were waking up by the minute. Most of them stayed on the ground relaxing and holding each other. Angel hadn't moved from his position at his shoulder this whole time.
"Are you okay?" Angel asked, again for the hundredth time. It seemed like that was all Angel ever asked him.
"I'll be fine. I need to get out of here." He whispered almost too ashamed to look at Angel. Last night he remembered screaming for Angel to fuck him harder. How do you look at someone in the eyes after that? When someone answered that question for him, he'd give that person all the money he had.
Xander doubted Angel and he would ever feel comfortable with each other ever again. Starting to feel angry at the situation, he stood up and smoothed out the robe with his one good hand, making sure all of it was touching the ground before turning towards Angel. "I want an explanation for last night." He demanded fighting the irrational urge to grab Angel's hair and yank, just to get that calm expression off his face.
Were they even still friends? They were so different from each other.
Still, Angel was the kindest person he'd ever met. Not once did Angel really make fun of him.
Sighing, Angel stood up, buck-naked and smoothed out the robe they'd been sleeping under. Once he'd found the right holes in the garment he slipped it on over his head. "Come on, we'll go to Elija's house." Angel led him out of the Square. Xander's legs were still shaky from the intense hike yesterday and all the drinking he'd done, but he managed to keep up. Few people were awake and working. The baker was setting bread and pastries out on the table in front of his shop. None of the shops had windows. The houses had windows, but no glass, just wooden shutters.
Lord Blain was leaning against the wall of Elija's tavern/inn/meeting hall apparently waiting for them. His two bodyguards were no where to be seen.
Xander avoided the man's gaze and quickly stepped into the dark dwelling. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust. He heard Angel speaking to the lord, but the thick stone muffled the words. It didn't really matter because Angel didn't take long at all. Within moments they were ensconced in the small room that only had one bed. Before they left on the mini-quest it didn't matter as much that they shared the bed, but now it felt like a big deal. Sitting on the edge, Xander hung his head wearily, too depressed to think.
"Xander, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing." Xander answered back starting to feel his emotions return. Which was good he hated feeling dead inside.
"Doesn't sound like nothing to me." Angel leaned against the wall opposite the bed, still too close for comfort.
The room really was small. Xander wondered how they managed to fit the bed into it.
"Well, let me think. What can possibly be wrong?" Xander said sarcastically, adding as much spite in his tone as possible. Gleeful inside when Angel's face reddened with anger. Maybe he could goad the all too nice ex-vamp to hit him. Maybe then he wouldn't be the only one feeling so horrible inside.
"Did you want me to list everything, or just the ones for last night?" Not waiting for Angel to answer he continued. "I think I'll start with just last night. I don't even know where to start really. I thought you were going to kill me! And instead now I think we're married! I don't even want to discuss the marriage night, if it can be called that..." Xander called Angel every filthy name he could remember and made up some of his own. Telling him how much last night disgusted him and that he wished he'd never seen Angel. Then as a final insult he opened his big mouth and pushed the ever so calm ex-evil vampire over the edge. "You're nothing but a perverted rapist!"
Throughout the entire triad, Angel's face paled until gradually he was dead white, but now it seemed like all the blood in Angel's body was rushing to his head. He'd never seen Angel so angry and he wondered if he'd made a mistake. Xander wanted to back away but there was no where to go. Even though he expected Angel to react in some way, there was no way he could have prepared for the force of Angel jumping on him and throwing him back on the bed. He bounced hard before the heavy body landed on top of his forcing all the air from his lungs.
His fists failed at Angel's chest but he couldn't get much force behind any of his punches, even with his cast. The room was filled with panting and curses as they fought against each other, until one of Angel's hands grabbed his hair and titled his head back painfully hard, effectively stopping all of Xander's movement. Another hand captured both of his wrists and held them above his head. "So you think I'm a rapists do you?" Angel panted angrily all sanity gone. "I hope you like what you've asked for."
The hand left his hair and he could feel Angel jerking the robe up his thighs. He tried using his legs to kick Angel, but the man was able to thrust his knees between his thighs and there was nothing he could do as he felt the cool air settle on his naked thighs. By now Xander was past all pretenses of staying cool. He sobbed and struggled against the iron grip holding him captive.
"Angel. Stop! Please! I didn't mean any of it."
But those hands continued to lift the robe until the material was bunched up at his hips. It only took a moment for Angel to lift his robe and settle between his legs again. Xander opened his mouth to yell for help, not caring anymore what people thought as long as someone would stop this from happening to him. A thick finger forced it's way into him and at the same time Angel's mouth covered his own. Silencing him. The finger left as quickly as it entered him. He felt the head of Angel's shaft at his opening and he tensed. Whimpers filled the small room and it took him a moment to realize they were his. He closed his eyes and tried to shut out everything, even as Angel tried to force his way into him. God please someone help?
Maybe God heard, because suddenly Angel's warm body lifted off his and with a growl Angel released his hands. Not knowing what to expect anymore, he held still and tried to stop his hyperventilating and tears.
"God damn you, Xander!" Angel cursed and punched the bedspread next to his head. He'd never heard Angel speak in that tone of voice to anyone and it frightened him.
Then with the slam of a door Angel was gone.
Turning on his side he started sobbing his whole body shaking. The robe was still bunched up around his hips and he slowly worked it back down to at least his thighs. I wish I could take back the last hour, he thought fervently, knowing just how close he came to pushing Angel over the edge. Another sob broke out from his tightly clenched jaw and he pounded the bedspread with his unbroken wrist. Hoping that somehow he'd break another bone. Self-hatred really sucked.
Two hours later, Xander left his room. He knew his eyes were still red rimmed but he needed food and new clothes, in no particular order. Apologizing to Angel was last on his list of priorities. Yeah, he could admit that he provoked Angel into almost raping him. If he'd been Angel, he'd probably have blasted the guy for saying half of what he yelled at Angel.
The inn was quiet, and a few muffled voices came from the common room. Lord Blain and his men were the only ones there. Sitting in the corner around a square tabletop, whispering to each other. That stopped once one of the guards saw him standing there in the doorway.
Turning in his chair, Lord Blain smiled broadly. "Lord Xander! Good afternoon! Come join us! We were just talking about you." The sound of Blain's voice grated on his ears.
He just wanted to find himself a secluded corner to wallow in his misery. All his energy for lying and maintaining his happy front was sweated out of him yesterday. Then fucked out by Angel. Xander could hear his mother's voice in his mind. Always be polite. You don't want to embarrass me now do you? No, mom, he answered her.
Plastering a smile on his face, Xander walked across the room. "What's up?" he asked sitting down on the chair the guard pulled from the other table.
"Here, have a drink first." Blain offered him his beer and he was too thirsty to refuse.
Without waiting he took two big gulps and sat the mug back down. "This is good." His long sleeves dragged on the table, but he didn't care if the white material got dirty so he kept his elbows on the table and continued to sip the beer out of the rather large cup.
"I'm glad you like it. I always order this drink when I stop by on business." Lord Blain was smiling at him again.
"So what were you talking about?" He had to ask.
"Did you want to join my guard? With your new rank, you are now entitled to a horse, a place at my table, and new clothing. My men also receive a yearly stipend. You'll be trained to combat and may have a squire. If you pass all the tests you can become a knight of the realm." The two guards where leaning back in their chairs looking rather bored by this, but for Xander his imagination was already running away with him.
He could see himself on top a horse, riding to the rescue of some beautiful bombshell, like Cordelia, and killing a horrible beast with his sword. At which point she'd beg him to make love with her...
Of course he watched Highlander and practiced some sword movements with a broom, every now and then, but these guys were really offering to train him how to fight. Picturing Cordelia on her knees thanking him for saving her life made up his mind. "Sure, I'd love to. Where do I sign up?" The men looked confused but Lord Blain shook his head.
"All you have to do is swear fealty to me and be ready to leave tomorrow morning."
That made him pause but only for a moment. "Does Angel have to come with me?"
"No, he doesn't."
Xander didn't trust Lord Blain's smile. Taking another sip of beer before he replied gave him more time to think. Unfortunately, all he could come up with was, "I'll have to ask Angel. Can I give you my answer tomorrow morning?"
The other men drew in the breaths, and their eyes rounded, obviously shocked. Restraining the temptation to ask, "What?" he took another gulp of beer. Except for the tightening of Lord Blain's jaw, the other man didn't react.
"Yes, of course, you must discuss this with your handfasted husband first. I was just under the impression that you were in charge."
If he hadn't drunk so much, Xander was positive those words might have made him angry. Lifting the mug for another drink, he noticed it was empty, drained the whole mug in less than five minutes, he set it down with a thump. "Here, I'll get you another one," Lord Blain said and handed him another mug of beer.
Wondering if drinking so much was a good idea, briefly crossed his mind, but all he had to do was remember how helpless he'd felt under Angel's hands, and he knew he needed a drink.
Six hours later, he was leaning against the side of the Elija's inn, barfing his guts out. His stomach cramped and he groaned. Why did this have to hurt so much? "Xander?"
It was lord Blain, checking on him no doubt. "Over here!" he called out before another wave of nausea hit him. He made sure not to throw up on his bare feet, but it was hard when the walls kept moving away from him.
"Good grief, I'll make sure not to give you so much alcohol next time." Strong hands gripped his upper arms and pulled him up. "Come with me. You can't go inside looking like that." He stumbled along beside the taller and older man, trying to stay upright. Lord Blain kept one hand on his arm, but stayed far away as possible.
"Men, get him cleaned and bring him to my room." Lord Blain sounded almost disgusted, but maybe he was just hearing things. With a shove, he was falling into one of black clothed guards. They snickered in amusement and disgust. Shame ate at his stomach. These men were laughing at him and he was too damn drunk to even walk on his own.
They dragged him to the stables. "Don't wet the cast," Xander said drunkenly remembering the horse trough from last night. The water was freezing, but it got him clean and his head cleared up just a little bit more. A heavy blanket was wrapped around his shoulders. The sun was still in the sky and the light hurt his eyes. He closed them and let the other men continue to support his weight. Xander knew he must have looked pathetic, but he was in too much pain to care.
Inside the inn, the men didn't stop in the main room like he expected. Instead they started climbing stairs. "Shit." He heard one of the guards curse.
"What's wrong?" He mumbled; barely conscious that they'd stopped.
"It's your husband, Xander." Angel said coldly.
"Look we were just bringing him upstairs because..." The guard floundered.
"I'll take him off your hands then. Thank you." Angel's cold tone almost penetrated his drink-fogged brain. The blanket slid to the stairwell, and he pulled out of guard's hands to get it. He hadn't counted on the floor moving as well. Pin-wheeling his arms Xander just managed to stay on his feet long enough for someone to grab him around the waist. As he was dragged upstairs again, he saw two identical expressions of dismay on the guard's faces. He started laughing loudly and hysterically. The blanket trailed behind his feet, moping up all the water he was dripping onto the wooden floor.
Angel was carrying him like he was a dead body. Xander realized, and started laughing again. Suddenly everything was funny again. Seeing Angel's expression after they were back in their room set him off again and he almost fell down on the bed laughing too hard to stand upright. But Angel caught him. "Oh no you don't. You're clothes aren't going to soak my bed!"
Luckily, he was too drunk to mind how roughly Angel stripped the sodden white dress from his body. He tossed it into the corner and used the semi dry blanket to rub his body down. The material hurt his skin. "Ouch! That hurts!" Xander complained and punched at Angel's face, but missed and fell face first onto the bed.
"How much did you drink?" Angel demanded from above him.
Groaning, Xander tried throwing his leg up onto the bed and couldn't understand why he kept hitting the footboard, instead. "Damn it, Xander? What were you thinking?" Those large hands gripped his waist and pulled him back up to his feet until Angel's chest was pressed against his back. He felt rather naked with his bare back pressed against Angel's shirt. A chuckle left his lips when he realized that he was naked.
Feeling sleepier, he murmured, "Didn't drink much."
The sensation of being carried comforted him and he nuzzled his head into Angel's shoulder. Then everything turned black.
It was dark outside when he woke up. Only a small headache throbbed behind his eyes to remind him of his drinking spree. The window was open and he could see the moon still high in the sky. He automatically, looked at his wrist to find out the time, but remembered that he'd left his watch in Angel's bathroom the evening they left for the doctors.
So there was no way for him to see what time it was. He was sleeping against the wall and a rather warm body. Angel was on his back breathing slowly and deeply, his broad chest naked. Their sheet was barely hanging over Angel's hips. Looking around for the rest of the sheet he found it all on his side of the bed against the wall. Yep, he was a sheet stealer.
He tried lying down and sleeping again, but he felt too wired. He must have passed out extremely early last night to be this awake now. His resolve to stay still didn't last long. He was so bored. Seeing a pile of clothes on the dresser made up Xander's mind. Quietly so as not to wake Angel, he carefully sat up and climbed over the older man. Goosebumps to rose all over his body, down his legs, arms, chest, once a stray breeze from the open window brushed across him.
Quickly tossing Angel's white shirt over his head he grabbed the pants and the smaller of the two boots from the corner and headed out of the room. None of the doors had locks he noticed. Once he closed the door, he hastily pulled on the pants and sat down to don the boots. Angel's pants slid down to his hips, but he didn't really care, because no one was up at this hour anyway. He just needed to go for a walk.
Stepping outside the dark inn he cautiously made his way out of town. He needed to get away from all the houses that looked the same. There were no streetlights to guide him, so he stayed on the hard packed dirt road. The half full moon was enough light. Stars glittered brilliantly in the night sky and his breath caught in awe. The wind rustled the leaves of trees and he shivered with more than a little fear, suddenly he felt like Ichabod Crane, from the Sleepy Hollow stories, afraid of the dark and the headless horseman.
Xander must have walked for a mile before he noticed how far away he was from the village. Sighing he turned to go back. This walk really helped him clear his mind. Hell, he never did ask what had become of poor Zeli. Maybe seeing her tomorrow would cheer him up. Angel was definitely not going to forgive him for drinking so much. For the most part he tried not to think. The wind was growing stronger by the time he entered the village, and clouds had covered the bright moon, making it harder for him to distinguish one building from the other.
It was kind of creepy, the silence. When he first heard the voices it took him a moment to realize that they were really people outside, and not the phantom voices of his imagination. Not wanting anyone to stop and talk to him he quickly moved into the shadow of a nearby house and knelt down.
Then he saw them, two clocked men standing between two buildings in the business section of town, if you could consider four huts businesses that is. He couldn't make out any features; they like him were also hiding in the shadows. He wished he knew what the men were discussing.
"You betrayed us all for the last time." One of the men said loudly. A glint of light flickered in the other's hand before it stabbed into the one who spoke too loudly. Gagging the man doubled over clutching his bleeding stomach even as the other man jerked the knife free and walked behind the now kneeling man. Without a pause, the victor drew the knife across the man's throat.
Xander flinched at the sight of the man's murder, but stayed still, too afraid to draw attention to himself. It didn't seem to matter though. The man lifted his head and started sniffing the air, like a dog. And Xander saw impossible red eyes fixated on him. His muscles tensed, more than ready to run, if the man stepped anywhere near him. Instead, the man turned his back to him, bent down and picked up the man he'd just murdered, and dragged him into the alley.
Not wanting to stick around for the murder to become curious as to who was hiding in the shadows. Xander jumped to his feet and sprinted for the inn. He didn't stop running until he was back in his bedroom and set the heavy chair in front of the door. Sitting down on the chair he put his head in his hands and wondered for the thousandth time, how did he get into these messes?
Birds singing, and the bright sunlight shining through the window, woke Xander up the next morning. The space next to him on the bed was empty, and Angel wasn't in the room. A neatly folded pair of clothing were now on the desk and the chair was back were it belonged. The clothes looked familiar. Scrapping in the corner scared him for a moment, but then he saw a red tail. "Zeli?" he asked out loud, even though the priest told him she could read his mind.
Her head popped around the corner of the bed and she waddled over to him. A'Rin described her gait as looping, or gliding. He didn't care, to him, she waddled. Her head reached the mattress top and he easily picked her up with one arm and set her on the bed. He lay back down and stared at the ceiling, still wondering what he should do about what he saw last night. "What do you think, Zeli? Should I tell Angel or keep this to myself?" Her blue eyes blinked at him but no words of wisdom went from her mind to his. She curled into a ball, and rested her head on her claws right on Angel's side of the bed.
"I wish you could talk to me." Xander said and petted her scaly back. Flopping back onto the bed, he pushed the covers back to the end of the bed, not caring that he was buck-naked. It was too warm to wear clothing. He'd almost drifted off to sleep again, when he heard footsteps outside the door. At first he thought they were going to pass by, but then he remembered that this room was at the end of the hall.
He was scrambling for the sheet when Angel opened the door and entered their room. Zeli scrambled to her feet and jumped off the bed. "What is Zeli doing on the bed?" Angel asked just as Xander finished pulling the blanket back over his hips.
"I didn't know you had any rules against pets on the bed," Xander answered, finally meeting Angel's eyes.
Angel didn't say anything, but a muscle in his jaw moved. Then leaning over putting his face as close as possible to his, Angel stated slowly. "Get dressed and get downstairs. We need to talk." Once the door closed, he got dressed, and brushed his hand through his hair. He didn't have a comb. Leaving Zeli in the room, he bounded down the stairs.
Angel was sitting at a table with Lord Blain and just one of the lord's guards. Xander felt uncomfortable staring at the potential murderer. Angel didn't smile in greeting, but Lord Blain's smile more than made up for it. "Hello, Lord Xander, you're looking much better."
"Nothing like a good night's rest. So what happened to your other guard? I thought you always had two at all times?" Xander asked, non-too subtly, watching for Lord Blain's reaction.
There was none, although he did pause before answering. "I sent him on business. Why don't you sit down? You must be starving. Elija says breakfast is almost done."
Xander didn't really want to sit with Angel and Lord Blain, but couldn't find a good excuse to escape before Angel's hand grabbed his wrist and pulled. "Yes, Xander, please sit."
He sat down in the chair closest to Angel and rubbed his wrist. "Shit, Angel, what's your problem?"
Knuckles whitening from clenching his mug of coffee, Angel's brown eyes glared at him, furious for some reason. Was Angel still upset about yesterday?
"Lord Xander, I recommend you not to talk to your husband for now, he may very well punch you." Elija's voice was a welcome one. Their ally was carrying a few plates of eggs and ham, and started to set them down on the rickety wooden table.
"What do you mean husband? I'm not really married to him am I?" Xander cried out horrified. He'd thought it was a joke when Angel called him his husband. Everyone's eyes in the rooms turned to stare at him, so he hid his head in his arms.
"Xander, you are going too far." Angel said, his tone tight and clipped. Barely restraining the urge to smack him if he judged correctly.
"You mean you haven't told him anything yet?" Elija shook his head, and headed back for the bar. Saying, "Boys" over and over again.
"Haven't told me what?" He demanded raising his head, facing Angel.
"We'll discuss this later, Xander. Now shut up. Lord Blain has to tell you something."
A hard kick to his shin stopped his protest. Xander turned his attention to the otherwise silent man. Lord Blain pushed a paper over to him. It wasn't exactly print or regular notebook paper, but the neatly written words were easy enough to read.
I, Lord Xander Harris, give myself into Lord Blain of Hollowgrove's, safekeeping until I come of age in two years, despite my handfasted husband's prior claim.
Lord Xander Lavelle Harris
His signature was barely legible. He could barely make out the X or H but it was definitely his handwriting. Feeling betrayed and not remembering signing any such paper, he looked up at Lord Blain and then back at Angel who was glaring at the older lord. "What does this mean?" he croaked. His throat suddenly too dry.
The broad grin spreading across Lord Blain's face sickened him. "It means, dear boy, that until you turn eighteen you and the baby dragon shall be my wards. I told you yesterday that I'd take care of you and I shall. You and the baby dragon shall repopulate my lands, and in return I shall have you trained in the art of war."
Swallowing, he asked, "Is Angel allowed to come with me?" His chest tightened, and he knew if Lord Blain said no, he'd start hyperventilating.
Grudgingly Lord Blain answered. "Yes, Angel may come, he'll have to train as well." Lord Blain obviously sounded disappointed that Angel might decide to stick with his new spouse.
"So, this is why you're so pissed off at me?" Xander asked in a whisper, staring at his hands on the tabletop. One covered by a light spatter of hair, the other a white dirt stained cast that had no signatures from friends on it.
"Yes. But we'll discuss it later." Angel continued to glare at Lord Blain.
"I don't remember signing that paper." He protested loudly, and thumped the table. "It can't be legal. Can it?"
Jaw tightening, Lord Blain stood up not having touched any of his food. He snatched the paper from his hand and quickly rolled it. "This document is very legal, and if you don't obey me, I have complete authority to see you punished. Next time I wouldn't drink so much, Xander. Now because I had to send my guardsman on business, you have a one-day grace period until we leave. The baby red dragon is also coming with us. Tomorrow morning we are leaving with you willingly or tied over my horse. Now good day, gentlemen, I have business to take care of." With that parting, Lord Blain quickly left the inn, his one bodyguard trailing behind inconspicuously.
They sat in silence for over a minute. Angel's jaw clenching quite interestingly every twenty seconds. Xander didn't dare say a word. But he knew what Angel must be thinking, how were they suppose to accomplish their quest if they were forced to stay at Lord Blain's castle?
He had to apologize for getting them into this mess, even if the overgrown lout didn't appreciate it. Taking a deep breath, he blurted, "I'm sorry." Then before Angel could hit him or say anything he jumped up from his chair, scraping the top of his thighs against the heavy wood, and bolted for their room. Before he threw up.
Zeli was sitting on the bed when he barged into his room and stripped off his hot heavy clothing. Flinging himself on the bed next to Zeli caused the whole bed to bounce. A second later the door opened again and Angel was standing there, watching him. Xander covered his eyes with his one good arm to block out the light, or to keep from crying, he couldn't tell.
"I know I screwed up, Angel, please don't say anything."
The bed dipped next to him and he uncovered his eyes long enough to see Angel lying next to him. Zeli scooted over to his other side. Xander tapped his feet against the wooden foot board, anxiously waiting for Angel to start yelling at him for screwing up.
"This can't go on, Xan." Angel said, his voice near his ear. "I'm angry at Lord Blain, not you." A gentle hand patted his stomach.
Lifting his arm, hardly daring to believe Angel's words, all he had to do was look at those dark serious eyes, and he knew Angel was speaking the truth. That's when the tears started. Xander never was loud when he did cry; too many beatings took care of that. He turned on his side and touched his forehead to Angel's chest and let the tears fall. His fists clutched at Angel's shirt. Not wanting to let go.
They must have stayed there an hour before Xander's face cooled down and his breathing returned to normal. He'd started hyperventilating. It sometimes happened when he cried too hard. It took another twenty minutes before he could breath properly again.
"Angel, I need answers. So much is happening and your not letting me in on any of it." The calmness in his voice surprised him.
"What do you want to know? Where do I start?"
"The beginning usually works for me. Why the hell are we here? What did you do to piss off that demon?"
"You really want to know?" Angel asked his tone astonished.
"Yes, I really want to know." Sarcasm was so easy to fall back on.
Angel ignored him, his eyes staring at some point over his head, to distant memories most likely. "It happened about 150 years ago before I regained my soul. I was rather young for a vampire, and still with Darla. I did some awful things to people during those years. Well, we moved on to England from Ireland, and we started our bloody mayhem in London. I think that month we were only killing children. Zalazarus may seem evil to you, but in actuality he's neutral, which makes him even more terrifying. You never know what might set him off. He came to me at Darla's townhouse one night. And made me promise not to kill any more children for the next month. He almost killed me that night, but I swore not to just in time. Three weeks later Darla found the gypsy girl. I didn't even remember Zalazarus when I fed on her. Nor did I think of the girl as a child. But the demon did. Not long after the girl's death, I had my soul and I think that messed up Zalazarus's homing device. I don't know why it took him so long to find me? So now I'm an oath breaker and I pulled you into this mess."
"What a mess it's turning into." Xander couldn't help muttering under his breath.
Angel sighed and flopped back on his back. "Any other questions?"
"Are we really handfasted married? What does that mean? And what's the importance of Zeli?" Xander asked with a small shudder of remembrance of the wedding night.
"In this land, yes we are technically not married, because of the nature of the dragon hunt, and the pairing of two men, they only require a handfasting, just in case the two men really are interested in women. A year and a day from now, we can stay together and everyone would consider us married or if you moved into a different house that meant we decided to annul the handfasted marriage. I'm trying to explain it the way Elija told me. Ireland and Scotland had similar customs. The difference is that here only men may handfast to see if a marriage will work. Now, the baby red dragons are the only reason this country still has a population. Their bite releases a hormone into the blood stream that makes women and men fertile. A couple hundred years ago there was a magic war and the side effect was wide spread sterility. Over time more and more people were able to have children without the dragon's help, but because of the dragon's vital role they are honored above all other animals in the kingdom."
"Wow, Elijah sure talks a lot."
"I had to catch him half drunk before he would answer any of my questions." Angel retorted with a small laugh, which died very quickly, his eyes serious again.
"I have to apologize to you for yesterday. For almost raping you...I...I should have had more self control, but after that wedding night, I'd never felt happier and for you to think I had raped you, really pissed me off."
Xander turned towards Angel and tried to think of the best way to explain how helpless he'd felt when those men stripped his clothing, dressed him, and presented him in front of an alter to be "deflowered" in front of the whole village. Well the other woman bride was there as well... "I thought those men were going to sacrifice me but then instead they had Zeli bite me, even when I told the priest no. I didn't like the total capitulation the first time, what made you think I'd like it the second time? I had no control and no one would tell me what was happening...I guess I had to blame someone, and you were the one who stayed with me the whole night." He didn't hide the bitterness in his tone.
"I think I see what you mean. I would have told you, but I knew you would run away and we needed the help of the village. Also there never did seem to be a right moment. You were having so much fun dancing with the girls. If I told you that in four hours we were going to be handfasted, it would have ruined what little fun you did have." Angel said moving his hand slowly up and down Xander's hip, almost hypnotically.
"I don't understand! Did we have to handfast? Why didn't they tell us about this before we left?" Xander got off the bed and started pacing the small floor space.
"I asked Elija and he'd assumed someone else had already told us. When they said you had to handfast, my heart almost stopped until I realized they meant you had to marry me. And don't try to play off the whole handfasting business, they take it very seriously here. As far as anyone is concerned, we are married for a year and a day. I'm not sorry about what happened either time. You're so passionate, Xan, and beautiful. Yesterday I was so frustrated and there you were looking so beautiful in that too large robe. I'm still not used to being human again; when I was a vampire I had emotions but nothing like this. I have to learn control again. You however drive me to distraction."
Angel's confession made him blush and he didn't know what to say, "It's going to take time to process all this new info." He finally admitted.
"Yeah, but you'll catch on. I'm still kind of angry with you for signing that document. But it may just be a blessing, remember I said we'd need horses. Well Lord Blain is taking us right to the place to find some. We can't stay long, but I'm thinking a week or two should be plenty of time to steal a horse and plan our escape route." Angel babbled on about making allies within Hallowgrove castle or was that keep? But Xander was busy staring out the window watching a few fluffs of clouds drift by, thinking about all the trouble that has already found them in such a short amount of time.
Angel sitting up pulled his thoughts back into his head. "Come on we need to go find Elija and that young married couple."
What did he miss something? Xander quickly hid that he wasn't paying attention by asking another question. Hoping that Angel hadn't already discussed this while he visited the land of white fluffy clouds. "Wait, I can think of reasons to see Elija, but why do we need to see the other people?" Keeping the sheet close to his lower body, Xander knelt up on the bed. Zeli was sitting in the corner thumping her tail against the wooden wall. If what Angel said was true then Zeli would be a very valuable tool to a lord who needed people to move to his lands. Women and men who couldn't have children would flock to him and pay whatever he demanded. Hell, people in his world paid thousands just to adopt babies that weren't even their own, and fertilization clinics were booming.
"Xander, you need to pay closer attention. We need to go find that couple and tell them to keep the extra baby. Most women bitten by the dragon end up having twins. It's this whole strange political system the king worked out years ago. The powerful old nobility didn't want these new "Lords" the dragon hunters to gain any power. So they had them marry other men to prevent them from having families and passing along their family names. However, the priests said they deserved children. So here we are, that couple is honor bound to give us one of their children, but your title will not pass down to the child. It's beside the point because we can't keep the kid not if we plan on returning home. We've wasted enough time as it is. Three weeks if my calculations are correct. Now get dressed."
How did Angel learn all this? Xander felt around for his pants and shirt. He found them at the foot of the bed and shook them out, conscious of Angel's eyes following him. Clutching the clothes to his chest he glared at the ex-vamp leaning against the door. "Do you mind? I can't get dressed with you watching me."
"Oh sorry." Angel turned, fumbled with the latch, and exited the tiny room. Zeli ran to the door and bumped into it with her nose. She mewled pitifully tilting her head up at him.
"Sorry, honey," Xander said softly, patted her briefly, and quickly donned his clothes. Just as he was tying his shoes, the ones from his world, someone knocked on the door.
"Come in," he said before he remembered he had to unlatch the door. Promising to tie his shoes later he got the door open. A'Rin's shy pixie-like face smiled up at him.
Happily surprised he blurted. "Hey, what are you doing here? I thought you would have been hanging out with Anorak. He seems like your type." Stupidly grinning from ear to ear.
"Sometimes I don't understand what you are saying, Lord Xander." A'Rin said, stepping cautiously into the room. He glanced around nervously and looked sort of anxious. Zeli scuttled out of the way and hid under the desk.
"Here, let me finish tying my shoe laces and we can go outside to talk," Xander suggested, sitting on the edge of the bed, bending down to tie his shoes, ignoring A'Rin for the moment.
"I don't want to talk about this outside, Xander," A'Rin said his voice was more timid than usual.
Worried, Xander lifted his head and really looked at his friend. A'Rin was thrumming his fingers against his tan leather clad thighs, tapping his soft soled shoes, and looking everywhere but at him.
"What is it?" Now he was concerned. A'Rin was always so 'joyful'?
Taking that as an invitation to sit down, A'Rin quickly sat down on the bed next to him. Xander turned on the bed to face his friend. "Lord Blain invited me to join his war band," A'Rin said tonelessly.
Xander knew that two days ago, all A'Rin could talk about was joining a real war band and getting away from Hastings Field, his hometown. "I thought you were tired of the regular town militia?" Cautious was the best way to go, in cases like these.
"I am! It's just that yesterday I met Lord Blain and he's disturbing. I can't put my finger on what is wrong with him?" Sky blue eyes stared at him as if trying to confirm his own instincts.
"He is a bit off," Xander agreed, "but he can't be too horrible. Besides he won't even know you're there. He probably has hundreds of guardsmen." His words sounded lame even to him. "Wait, did he say anything odd?"
A'Rin nodded his head slowly his blonde hair glinted with the small movement. "The whole conversion was odd. He kept saying we'd become good friends, but he's the lord?"
Not a good sign.
"I'm sure he's just trying to get to know his troops," Xander said with false enthusiasm. His fake smile died quickly.
Xander almost felt guilty. Pointers for insults is what he should give to A'Rin, not encouragement. Lord Blain's creepy personality will undoubtedly worsen. "So, when do you make your decision?" Xander asked unconsciously biting his lower lip.
"It's already made. He came to my house and my mom was more than willing to let me go. I'm a bastard you know, opportunities like this don't happen often. Everything is ready to go tomorrow morning." He paused, and started to bring his fingers to his mouth, to nervously suck on his thumb maybe? He would never find out because at the last minute, A'Rin blushed and forced his hand back to his lap, where he clenched his fingers into a tight fist. "What's worse is that Anorak is staying behind. He has to stay and help his sister's husband with harvesting. He doesn't have a home of his own yet, so he kind of gets shuffled around, but he doesn't seem to mind. Says it keeps him from getting bored. I'm going to miss him."
"You guys are like best friends aren't you?"
"I would have married him." A'Rin said patiently.
"Oh." Xander forced himself to smile; trying not to feel embarrassed. "Come on let's get some fresh air. You know where the newlyweds live, right?"
He dragged A'Rin from the room and winced when he heard a small thud at the door. But he didn't stop to let Zeli out.
"Xander! We can't leave her in there!" A'Rin protested all the way to the front door of Elija's inn.
"She'll be fine." The sun blinded him shortly, but his eyes adjusted quickly and he spotted Angel easily, talking to the baker? "Come on." Xander led A'Rin over to Angel.
The baker and Angel stopped talking once they saw their approach. "Good, you're here. I was just asking directions to the newlywed's home."
"Marta and Dangak," A'Rin supplied helpfully.
"Hey we don't need directions. A'Rin said he'll take us there himself. He's going with us to Lord Blain's castle." The baker's shop blocked the sunlight from his eyes.
"Sure that'll be fine. Thanks for your help," Angel said absently to A'Rin, before returning his attention to the baker. "Have a good day sir."
They followed A'Rin down the street took a left, then a right, until they were past the town gates. It was a nice day for a walk, which was good, because Marta and Dangak's farm was rather far from town...
Returning much later that day with the sun setting across the grassy hills and the forest trees surrounding the valley casting shadows sent a strange feeling of peace through Xander's chest. The air was a soft breeze against Xander's skin and he enjoyed ever minute away from the town, and Lord Blain's goons. Just him, and the plains of molten gold swaying in the wind. Angel and A'Rin were further ahead, talking about lord knew what.
Their visit with the married couple turned out rather well. They were all smiles and offered food and drink, and they didn't ask how old he was before pouring him what constitutes as beer on this world. Of course they needed help, repairing one side of their barn, so him, Angel, and A'Rin stayed longer and helped fix the rotted beams, by replacing them. Then they stayed for the early dinner Marta made for them. He felt rather proud of himself. He'd never helped rebuild anything.
They made it back just before the village gates closed for the night. The night watchman, a militia man waved them through with a smile and greeting for A'Rin and the dragon hunters. Apparently no one told how he found Zeli; it would seem less heroic.
By the time they saw A'Rin enter his home, and by the time they made it back to their room, having taken thirty minutes to make it past the common dinning room where everyone wanted to congratulate them on their handfasting and catching a dragon, Xander was exhausted. Angel didn't look much better in the dim corridor. Angel lighted a candle once they entered their room. The sight that greeted him made him groan. If it weren't for the fact that the villagers would murder him if he harmed the dragon, Xander might have thrown her out the second story window. The bedsheets were shredded; their new clothes looked like she'd chewed on them and his new boots had no more lacing. If anything was chewable, she chewed on it. Zeli was lying in the middle of their bed, with one of Angel's boots tucked between her claws and was gnawing at the tip; it looked like she'd been at it for awhile.
"Shit," Angel cursed and snatched the boot away from her. "I can't believe you left her in here all day, Xander," Angel said scooping up the dragon and carrying her outside the room.
He followed, dragging his feet. "I forgot," Xander mumbled, wondering where Angel was taking the small bundle of hell.
"Xander, when was the last time you fed her? She's not a toy she needs food. She's your responsibility. So please try not to forget again. Okay."
They went down the back stairwell, and into the kitchen. Elija was chopping vegetables and throwing them into a pot. "Elija, what do dragons eat?" Angel asked.
"I was wondering when you'd show up. I heard her scratching at your door earlier..." Elija responded, and added more vegetables to the pot.
Xander grimaced but didn't speak; sometimes it was best just to not say anything.
Angel glanced at him a question in his eyes, before returning his attention to Elija. "Yeah, well we were gone longer than expected and I don't think leather is in her diet. So I think she might need real food."
Smiling, Elija left the wooden table, opened a cabinet, and pulled out a plate of vegetables and meat. "She'll eat anything you boys can eat. Meat is healthier for dragons though. Raw, is better." He set the plate down on the floor and Zeli, smelling the food, jumped from Angel's arms to the floor landing rather agilely, considering she wobbled everywhere. She sniffed the food before laying on her stomach and picking at the raw meat with her claw. Xander had seen enough and turned to go back upstairs, when Elija's voice stopped him. "I'll keep her for tonight."
"Thank you," Xander said dutifully and continued up the stairs conscious of Angel behind him and the mess in their room.
Angel didn't say anything about the shredded sheets or chewed on clothing, instead he put everything back where it belonged and shook out the sheets. Xander wanted to help, but there was hardly any room in the room for two people to stand in it. "I'm missing one of your shoes, Xander. Hold the candle up higher." Angel's voice was back to being curt.
He raised his arm and said, "Maybe it's under the bed."
Exasperated, Angel got on his knees and reached under the bed, he was too big to see under the bed in such a narrow space. "Ouch shit!" Angel exclaimed and withdrew his arm. His fingers were bleeding the blood dark by candlelight.
"Angel! Shit! Are you okay?" Xander asked coming into the room to see how badly damaged the fingers were. They where cut across the four largest, more like sliced. Xander grabbed his water bag and poured some of the water on Angel's fingers. The water dripped into their chamber pot. It didn't seem very germ free, but it was the best they could do. The cuts weren't too deep, but they bleed a lot. Angel's expression was closed and his lips compressed. He picked up the already shredded bed sheet, ripped off a thin strip of cotton, and wrapped it around Angel's fingers. It was the only way that he could think of to stop the bleeding. "Here this should help," Xander said wincing at the amount of blood.
"Damn, that hurt," Angel said at last. "Xander, please check to see what exactly is under the bed." Angel carefully set the candleholder on the uneven floorboards before sitting on the edge of the bed to give Xander more room.
"Thanks," Xander muttered and knelt down his sides rubbing close with the wooden desk legs.
The candlelight shone under the bed enough, but he couldn't see anything sharp and pointy, he brought the candle closer, careful to keep the flames from coming close with the mattress. Shadows flickered with dark orange light, and he scooted back bringing the candle with him. It was kind of creepy, he could feel something watching him, and he could almost swear he heard giggling, but dismissed the sound. There were plenty of times where he'd woken up at 3 a.m., swearing the TV was on, but finding out that it was off and everyone was asleep.
Tentatively he stuck his hand under the bed apprehension filling his stomach; it was all he could to do to stick his hand the bed and feel along the wooden floorboards. When his hand encountered a soft object, he flinched and an undignified squeak escaped his lips. An embarrassed flush spread under his skin.
"Xan! Are you all right?" Angel's worried voice came from above him.
Panting he took a moment to answer. "Yeah, I think I found my shoe." He stuck his hand back under and pulled out his shoe. That's when he noticed the glint of metal. Carefully he reached under again and touched the object. It was cold and one side was slick. Using his fingers he rolled it his way. Tossing his shoe with the others he stood up and waited for the object under the bed to come towards him. It rolled out, a slender tube of metal, with bloodstains on it. Bending over he picked it up.
Maybe the metal object rolled into Angel's blood...The faint giggling stopped and he didn't find anything else under the bed except dust bunnies. "I believe that's it, Angel?" Xander said feeling confused.
"Check your boot," Angel suggested, wrapping his fingers in a fresh bandage.
Xander grabbed his boot and dumped it upside down, but nothing fell out, he even put his hand in it, but nothing cut him. "There's nothing here."
"There's got to be. Look under the bed again."
Starting to feel exasperated Xander got back on his knees and checked under the bed again. "Look I'm telling you there is nothing here!" Xander grabbed the candleholder, set it on the desktop, and picked up the metal tube. It was as long as his ring finger but thicker, a thin line of words ran down the length of the tube. He didn't recognize any of the letters. A large hole was drilled near the top of the metal. A person could easily stick a leather string through the hole and hang the metal tube around their neck.
An outrageous idea entered his mind and Xander tried to ignore it. Magic wasn't real...in his world. But in this one anything was possible. Once the idea attached itself to his brain, he couldn't stop wondering what would happen if Angel were to touch the tube again. Not thinking about what he was doing, Xander pressed his hand with the tube against Angel's upper arm. He was unprepared for Angel's quick reaction. His fingers went numb when Angel's fist knocked against his hand, sending the object flying across the room. "Shit!" Angel yelled and clutched his hand to his arm. His features twisted in pain.
"Shit," Xander repeated staring at the blood rapidly staining Angel's borrowed white shirt. Angel's groan snapped him out of his daze. Turning around he quickly found the object and placed it on the desk before moving to help Angel take off the stained shirt. The cut looked harsh against Angel's firm muscular arms. This time he poured the water on a piece of the sheet and used it to dab against the cut. He hadn't pressed it hard against Angel's arm, thank God, and the cut was minor compared to the gashes across Angel's fingers.
"What is that?" Angel asked pointing towards the object lying on their desk.
"How would I know?"
"You seem to know enough to cut me with it."
"Look I was just testing a theory. I'm just confused as to why I can touch this metal thingy and you can't?" Xander picked up the object and rolled it in his hand, trying to remember if he read anything like this in one of the numerous demonology books he'd read.
Not answering Angel stood up holding the ripped sheet to his hand and moved towards the water bag sitting on the table. "I think the bleeding's slowing down." Wincing Angel removed the blood soaked cloth.
Xander turned his head away hating the sight of blood. "So this disgusts you?" Angel asked almost too casually.
He wondered at the tone of Angel's voice, was it disapproval, or curiosity? "Yeah, it does. Can't stand seeing someone bleed."
"Then how the hell do you expect to join this Lord Blain's guard. They fight with swords in case you hadn't realized..."
"God! What is with you! I was drunk okay, besides we don't have time to play around. We need to complete this stupid quest or we are both going to hell, and all you can think about is this...this...insanity," Xander sputtered, too angry to think anymore, let alone add insults.
"Xander, I would think with your experience you would be able to tell when someone was attracted to you. Lord Blain does not have your best interests at heart and yet you just signed yourself to his protection for the next two years. How are we supposed to do what we need to do if his men are chasing us because you ran out on him? Am I suppose to let him fuck you, because let me tell you, Xander, that is all that man wants to do? Is that what you want? While you've been languishing up here, I've been listening and trying to learn more about this world. You need to start thinking with more than your emotions if you want to survive. I can't protect both of us all the time. The people here do not like or trust Lord Blain, but they are too afraid to say anything. That is the type of man who is going to be your "protector" does that make you feel safer?"
By the time Angel had stopped, Xander couldn't stop his body from shaking with fury. He clinched his one good fist, ready to punch Angel, he hated how those brown eyes stared at him so coldly, and he knew what Angel was thinking. Why me? Why am I stuck with such a moron? Xander had to strain his neck to look up at the ex-vamp; they were standing so close to each other, he could feel the body heat radiating off the bigger man. Angel opened his mouth; maybe to take a breath or to speak Xander didn't care. "Shut up, just shut up. I don't want to hear anything you have to say. Maybe I want to fuck Lord Blain, have you ever thought of that? Are you jealous, you seem like the type?" He dropped his voice a level making it huskier, "Maybe I want him to hurt me, feel his body covering mine, possessing me. Like you'll never have me again." Xander twisted his lips into a parody of a smile and backed away. How dare Angel think he was too dumb to realize what Lord Blain wanted from him?
He barely saw Angel's hand come up before it connected with his cheek, the right side of his face immediately went numb, and because he was ready for it, he stayed on his feet. "You think you are so smart. You don't know what you want, so I'll tell you what you are going to do. You're not going to look at another man, woman, sheep, or anything else on this world, again. We have a mission to complete and don't have time for you to whore your way from town to town. And I'm not jealous I just don't want you to make me look bad."
Xander didn't care that he started this argument, he launched himself at Angel and started punching with both arms. His cast thumped into Angel's side, rather viscously, at the same time his knuckles connected with Angel's jawbone. Ignoring the pain, he continued swinging his arms, "Fuck you, Angel! Fuck you!" God why did he let those words hurt so much.
Thinking he was doing okay, he was completely unprepared for Angel's retaliation. Before Xander could back away and run, Angel caught his good wrist in his large hand and slapped him on the same side as before. Xander tasted blood, but he was too angry to care. The steel grip wouldn't let go of him no matter how much he yanked his arm. "Let go of me, asshole!" Xander ordered making sure to put all his hate and resentment into that one command.
"I don't think I like the tone of your voice, Xander. Is this how you talk with all people? Or just the ones you like?"
Xander knew Angel was playing with him, using his superior fighting knowledge to keep him trapped. "No just the ones I hate." He spat out, then brought his knee up. Angel deflected the potentially agonizing blow, catching it on his thigh instead.
Angel grunted and his fist squeezed even more tightly around his wrist, Angel's other hand grabbed his hair. "Ouch. God damn, let go." He complained loudly, tilting his head back as Angel pulled harder.
Instead, of letting go, Angel pulled him even closer until Xander was flush against his hard body, his good wrist twisted up behind his back, painfully. Wincing Xander stood on his toes trying to relieve the pressure. "Is this how you seduce all your girlfriends, or am I just special?" Xander couldn't resist taunting the already angry man vampire. His one of many failings, never knowing when to keep his mouth shut.
"Nope, just the ones who act like whores." Then before Xander could react, Angel spun him around and pushed him onto the bed, face down. Angel's large body fell on top of him, effectively knocking the air from his lungs. Immediately his eyes watered up as he gasped for air. Xander couldn't even croak out any insults. He felt Angel's erection pressed against him and the darker side of him wanted Angel to do it rape him. Make Angel fall off his high and mighty pedestal. But the other side was quaking in fear, except for yesterday Angel had never touched him before in violence, at least not like this. His arm felt like it was going to break if Angel kept jerking it up.
Struggling only excited Angel into further acts of violence. A sharp slap behind his head dazed him. Rough fingers fumbled at the lacing on his leather pants. "Stop." He managed to whisper into the mattress. His cast felt heavy, as it lay next to his head, useless. How did this happen?
A sharp tug and his pants were pulled down his thighs trapping his legs together, he felt sharp teeth bite his shoulders and he shuddered. "Stop," Xander said louder this time, his voice sounded distant. This was way out of hand. Way way out of hand. This wasn't like either of them.
"Shut up." Angel's otherwise calming voice scared the hell out of him.
Angel spread his thighs apart opening his legs as far as possible with his ankles trapped together. Warm leather settled between them, "Move up some." Angel said with another sharp tug on his wrist. Xander tried to scoot up but couldn't. He heard the slap before the pain radiated towards his brain. Angel had spanked him; the next slap was harder than before. Panicking, Xander started crying and managed to move up a few inches, his dick hurt, pressed against the side of the bed. He must have pleased his tormentor because Angel stopped spanking him.
"Angel, you fucking bastard. You like dominating someone who is weaker than you, is that how you get your rocks off?" Xander wanted to shock Angel out of his rage; he was still sore from the 'wedding' night.
This wasn't right. This wasn't right. The thought kept repeating in his head over and over again as Angel bit him again and again, on the neck, shoulder, arm, it didn't matter, every bite hurt. By the time Angel thrust into him, he was in too much agony to feel the initial entry. His sobbing could hardly be heard over the Angel's groans of pleasure.
With every thrust, Angel jerked his arm upwards, but he couldn't scream, the intense pain stole his breath.
Angel finished quickly and lay on his back, breathing hard. Xander's forehead was pressed into the mattress as he tried to suppress his sobs and tears. He wished he were deaf when Angel's breathless whisper reached his ears. "If this is how you want to be treated, Xander? Were you picturing Lord Blain?" Angel didn't wait for his answer. "You are mine, Xander. Don't forget it."
Then the weight was gone; his hand fell limply from his back, numb and throbbing. His thigh muscles ached and his anus burned, he could feel blood and semen leaking out, a strange sensation, after not feeling for so long. "Stop crying and get undressed. We have to wake up early," Angel ordered as if nothing had happened, as if his rape victim wasn't recovering from the ordeal.
His arms felt too weak to support his weight but he managed to push himself up, undress, and fall into bed Angel pushed him towards the wall and climbed in next to him pulling the dragon chewed sheet up over them. Xander tried to stop his shaking, but it would start up again any time Angel rolled too close to him. It seemed to take forever for Angel to fall asleep; Xander stayed awake too stunned by Angel's violence to sleep. The nagging question in the back of his mind was what had happened? Angel was the most compassionate and even tempered person he had ever met, could this be a side effect of turning human?
Still shaky, Xander quietly sat up and moved over Angel, careful not to dip the bed much. His clothes were on the floor where he let them drop; he grabbed them and swiped the strange metal tube off the desk before leaving the room. The hallway was pitch black but he knew the layout well enough to make it down to the common room. There was a low fire burning in the fireplace. Zeli was lying down in front of it. Elija was sitting next to her on the floor.
The calm peaceful sight was almost too much for him; a sob broke from his chest. Zeli perked her head up and moaned, Elija jumped to his feet and ran towards him. Thinking he was going to be attacked again Xander held out his clothes as if that was going to help him.
"Oh my god, Xander, what happened?" Elija said, staying a few feet away.
"It's nothing, I'm fine." Xander didn't know why he lied; maybe it was just habit.
He moved past Elija and stumbled to the fireplace, he couldn't walk correctly yet, even after years of this shit, it took him some recovery time. Zeli moaned as if in pain and came to his side, he sat down carefully and she rested her head on his leg.
Elija sat down again. "Xander, what happened, and don't feed me the 'I'm fine' bullshit." The older man stared at him with sympathy and a desire to know.
"Angel raped me." Xander blurted and started sobbing again. He rested his head on his knees trying to stay quiet, afraid of waking up the man he thought was his friend.
"Oh god," Elija murmured, sounding very much like Giles at that moment.
"That's not like him at all. Did anything unusual happen?" Elija asked keeping his distance.
"We started arguing," Xander said a few minutes later still crying.
"That's not unusual. Can you think of anything else?"
"We found this in our room." He fumbled with his clothes and pulled out the metal tube. "It cut Angel when it touched him, but it didn't cut me."
It was hard to see the tube with the dim firelight; the metal was too dull to reflect. Elija didn't try to touch the tube, "Where did you find this?" Elija said sounding angry.
Sniffling back the snot trying to run out of his nose, Xander spoke quickly, "It was under our bed. Do you know what it is?" He used the back of his sleeve to whip his nose.
"Unfortunately, this is very evil magic. Move it closer to the fire so I can read the symbols." Elija knelt next to him squinting at the markings on the side. "This was keyed to activate when Angel touched it. I can give you a few guesses as to who put it in your room but you'll only need one."
"But...why? What does it do? He already got what he wanted, we were planning on going with him to his castle."
"He must have had his men hide it there before he knew you would come with him. Before I settled here, I had moved around a lot, trading mostly. You learn much as a trader and I've seen some scary sights, but I hardly ever came across what you are holding now. The two times I saw them they were in the company of assassins. I believe they called them Soul Eaters. An apt name when you realize what they do." Elija paused and carefully stood up, actually starting to look his age. "Let me get some drinks. This may take a while. You should try dressing before someone else comes downstairs."
Flushed and embarrassed he dressed as quickly as possible even with all his muscles sore. Sitting back on the floor took some effort, but it was worth it when Zeli rested her head on his lap again. Her slight purring, punctuated by the occasional hiss of her tongue lapping the air, somehow gave him comfort. Xander played with the piece of metal; it glinted dully in the firelight, almost hypnotic.
Returning with the two cups, Elija navigated his barroom rather well in the near darkness. "Here, it's just water for you."
Xander didn't care what was in the cup he was thirsty, he took his cup from Elija's hand mumbled thanks and started drinking, draining the cup before Elija had the chance to sit down and drink out of his. "Maybe I should have brought an extra cup," the older man commented.
"No, no, it's all right. I feel better," he said before Elija got up and left him here alone with his thoughts. The older man was sitting next to him cross legged. Xander stared at the flames flickering over the logs.
"Well, you have stopped shaking."
Xander couldn't ignore the feeling that Elija was testing him somehow. "Yeah, well there's not much I can do about what happened, except move on." That thought depressed him.
"Why isn't Zeli running away from me?" Xander asked curious at this phenomenon. He continued to stroke her back softly.
A chuckle and snort. "I guess you wouldn't know this, but red dragons are empathic and are especially sensitive when they are young. She senses your pain and knows her presence is calming you. When she is frightened she runs to the calmest person around and normally that is your friend Angel."
"He's not my friend," Xander blurted, interrupting Elija.
"Just let me finish." Elija rebuked and continued, "I would venture to say that your emotions change frequently. I saw you with her briefly and she likes you, it's when you become frightened or panicked that she can't stay near you. Her bond to you is open all the way; she's a baby still. In a few days or weeks, you'll feel her the same way and you'll feel jumpy too when Zeli is startled. I heard this one man took over a year to bond fully with his dragon..."
"You mean I'll feel what she is feeling?"
"You can communicate with her telepathically already, why do you think she knows what you are saying? She doesn't speak English. It just takes time for the words to come. Even at this moment, she is learning your language, smartest dragons in this region. I hear the black dragons are close to the same intelligence, but they are more predatory." Elija stopped and took another sip of his drink.
They sat in silence for a while, before Xander got the nerve to start a conversation he needed to hear, but didn't want to be there for it. "So you were going to tell me about this piece of metal? A soul eater?"
"Yes of course. I'm just trying to think of how to explain it. The person who is targeted has their name carved on it, which is Angel's right now; it doesn't take a person with strong magic to activate the spell, just the right words and the metal tube. When the tube was in Angel's range of four to five feet, it tapped into him and started leaking off his positive energy. But you say you found it under the bed, so he wasn't in too much contact with it until tonight. Did anything weird happen yesterday?" Elija asked not even looking at him.
It made it easier to answer. "Yeah we got in another argument and I called Angel a rapist. He lost it for a minute but before anything really happened, he left." What Xander didn't say was how shaken and terrified the incident had left him, but compared to tonight it was nothing.
"Did he touch the Soul Eater?"
"Yeah tonight, it cut him, but it didn't cut me."
"That's not good. Normally those things cut anyone that touches it, but they aren't activated until the person it has targeted has come in contact. But I think this one was designed so that Angel would hurt you. In fact, it's now controlling you; as long as you keep the Soul Eater, Angel will take all his anger out on you. In a way, this is good because at least he won't go around terrorizing the countryside. But the longer this continues the more it eats, and soon Angel won't have a soul anymore."
"What if I throw it away and never touch it again?" Xander whispered, terrified.
"Soul Eaters have death spells bound in them, to prevent such action, once you lose contact for a certain amount of time the spell activates sending a magic monster to devour your soul and flesh. Yours and Angel's. I wouldn't worry about that though, the magic is going to prevent you from forgetting it, because it loves human suffering. You need a mage to break the spell, and sometime within a month. From what I can tell, Angel is going through a possessive phase and he may not hurt you much. I have a few friends who may be able to help you, but the catch is that you guys are bound by more than the handfasting. If you try leaving him, the magic won't let you get far away, and Angel will find you if you flew a thousand miles away. If he dies before the bond is broken, you'll die as well, because it's feeding off your fear and pain, while it's eating Angel's soul. If you die, Angel dies as well. It's a real piece of work. Anyone caught with a deactivated Soul Eater is executed, no questions asked."
This was too much! Xander scrambled to his feet and stumbled outside, feeling trapped. Like a caged animal. Falling to his knees, he started throwing up, not caring that he was in the walkway. The Soul Eater clutched in his palm, burned.
He had never imagined such a situation. Angel was stronger, faster, and twenty times smarter than his father. That train of thought set his stomach rolling again. He hadn't realized that Elija had followed him until he felt the warm hand on his shoulder, gently patting, offering nothing but comfort.
How could he ever trust Angel again, after tonight and what was undoubtedly going to be the worst weeks of his life? He read the books about Angelus. Harrowing reading, Stephen King would have had a field day studying the soulless vampire. And soon, his kind gentle friend was going to turn into that monster again. That set off another bought of dry heaving. "Hey, take it easy try to relax. I'll talk to Angel tomorrow and tell him what happened. Maybe he can fight it off, just make sure he doesn't touch the Soul Eater again."
"How do you know so much?" he demanded, not caring that his voice sounded ragged from throwing up and the involuntary tears.
"If I told you I would have to kill you."
That almost made him laugh, but he had a feeling that Elija would never answer his questions, so he let it go. Standing up took some effort; the last week had really taken a toll on his strength. His cast felt a hundred pounds heavier and had vomit splattered on it; the door post got rid of most of the mess.
"I'll get you some more water," Elija said disappearing into the back area. Zeli was where he had left her, roasting comfortably in front of the slowly dying fire.
Elija returned with a bowl and a cup. "Here, rinse out your mouth and spit into here. I brought a rag so you can wipe your face, I think you got some in your hair..." Xander spent the next few minutes cleaning himself and trying to fight off the depression threatening to swamp him.
"I have some friends who can help you. Tomorrow I'll send them a message asking for their help. You just need to stay at Lord Blain's Keep until they arrive. You're strong Xander, much stronger than you'll ever know. Try to think of Angel as a different person until he is healed. Your friend Angel would never dream of hurting you, all he could talk about is helping you, and lamenting over pulling you to this world. He really blames himself, so please don't give up hope. If he didn't care so much about you, he wouldn't be so possessive. I have a feeling that Lord Blain didn't plan on that when he hid the Soul Eater in your room. I would bet that he thought you would run into his arms for protection against your husband. Now you better go to bed, because mornings come rather early here, but I think Lord Blain will sleep in, he always does."
Xander didn't want to leave Elija's warm company, but he knew the older man was right. He needed to get enough rest and keep his wits about him.
"I'll take care of Zeli, you go to bed," Elija said and ushered him to the stairs. The walk up the stairs felt like a march to his death, he opened the door quietly grateful it didn't squeak, like most doors. He undressed slowly and climbed over Angel and back to his side of the bed.
"Where were you?" Angel mumbled sleepily.
He stiffened, frightened, not even under the sheets yet. He said the first thing that came to his mind, "Bathroom."
Angel rolled back over and fell back asleep, satisfied with that answer. He sighed, quickly got under the covers and lay down. However, sleep did not come easily, the flashbacks kept him awake. About to drift off, Xander realized he still had the Soul Eater tightly held in the palm of his hand.
To be continued...