Dawn opened the portal back to the Hyperion, glaring at the people giving them a shocked look as she led the very injured and bloody naked Xander out of Hell. "Yes, it's us," she said bitterly. "Fucking get me some bandages, some clean ass water, and then get me Faith. That's all I fucking want from you people." She looked at Xander. "It'll hurt some," she whispered, trying to keep him calm. He shrugged and stumbled up the stairs with her help. His now silver hair was down to his waist and covering some of the worst of the injuries. Some of them were making her ill but she would not trust anyone else in that town to treat him. She got him into the bathroom, running the shower until it was body temperature. He was fevered and she realized this. "In you get," she whispered. He looked at her. "Just water, not the holy water he used on you," she promised, cupping some in her palm so he could test it with a finger. She braced him, letting him climb in himself. She heard a door open and pulled her silver dagger, heading out to decapitate someone. She found Gunn standing there and glared at him. "Unless you're here to help, get the fuck out. He doesn't need people like you."
"I was against this," he reminded her. "I'm the one who called Faith." He handed over the supplies box, giving her a look. "Will he be okay?"
"He spent nine months in hell being tortured, raped, beaten, and he died twice. He took massive doses of radiation from crossing over there that way and even more from the open portal the demon Wesley gave him to kept open so *some* people could get their kicks. What do you think?" she asked coldly, heading in to help him. He was standing under the water, letting the blood run off him. She winced, some of those were horrible injuries. She knew a healing spell, but it probably wouldn't get all of them. "Xander, I know magic around you will make you hurt, but I learned a healing spell," she offered.
"Later," he mumbled, eyes closed. He stiffened when he heard the door.
Dawn glared into the other room. "Angel. Out!" He didn't move so she threw the dagger at him, hitting him in the shoulder. "Out! You of all people should understand!"
"I came to see if I could help," he said, wincing as he pulled out the dagger and put it on the dresser next to him. "I can help him."
"By what? Telling him he deserved it because you were stupid enough to open a portal to hell that only your blood could cure?" she asked bitterly. "I don't care if you do think he deserves it. I will call vengeance down on everyone who stood there and watched, including you. Get out." He nodded, leaving her alone.
"Anya would be mad," Xander said in a little kid's voice. He suddenly sat down and she rushed to help him, making him look at her. "Am I in heaven?" he asked.
She shook her head, letting the tears come. "No, sweetheart, you're not in heaven. You're back in LA and as soon as you're healthy enough I'm taking you somewhere away from these people." He gave her such a trusting look. "Let's try to get some of this stopped, okay?" He nodded, letting her help him stand up. "Okay," she said, grabbing the sponge. "I'm going to do my best not to hurt you further."
He gave a bitter laugh. "All I know is pain. A little more won't matter."
She nodded, wetting the sponge so she could dab at the torn back. She felt the magic going off and tried to shield him but he still screamed and flinched. "Shh," she promised. "That was help coming. Faith!" she yelled. Faith and Ethan came in. "Help me."
"Fuck me," Faith breathed, looking at him. "Oh, Gods, Xander," she said, starting to cry. She stripped off her jacket and shoes, getting in there with him to help. "Shh, Faith is here and I'm gonna protect you as best I can. No bitchy little thing is getting anywhere near you."
Ethan came in with a small beaker of steaming stuff. "I made this. It's a healing potion." Xander stepped away from him. He handed it to Dawn and reached in, touching his marks on Xander. "I am here to help," he said plainly. "I made you something to heal some of the wounds. I'll be very careful to keep magic away from you while you're healing, and as soon as you're well enough you're coming back to my house with Faith and Dawn." Xander mouthed something, making him look defeated. "I'm Ethan, Xander. The one who kept you from being possessed again." The boy shook his head. "I know, I failed to protect you this time, but I will help you heal. If I had *any* idea, I would have stopped this," he vowed. "Janus and the Powers are working together to help you. They are so pissed at the people who did this to you. Let us help."
Xander looked at Faith. "Who're you?" he asked in that same little kid's voice.
"I'm Faith, Xander."
"I don't have that."
She hung her head for a moment then looked at him. "You'll remember me, just remember I've changed," she instructed. "Ethan, I'll need a lot of bandages. Some of this is sick and oozing." He nodded, going to get them what they needed. "Dawn, we'll feed that to him soon. Go strip the bed of everything but a bottom and a top sheet. Angel can buy a new fucking mattress if he bleeds on it." She nodded, putting down the potion to do so. "Xander, I'm going to try and get some of the crusty shit off you. Tell me if I hurt you."
"Pain," he said, looking at her.
She nodded. "Tell me if I hurt you worse. I know you're in pain." He nodded, putting his forehead against the wall, letting her work without saying anything. "You've got to be overloaded," she said soothingly. "Don't worry, we're gonna help you come back to yourself and help you get even with the people who let this happen to you. I won't let this one go. The sick bastard needs to die horribly. Then be brought back and done again for the next set of injuries. And so help me Gods, if B comes in being all holy then I'm going to kick her ass. I'm going to kick all their asses." He whimpered and she gently stroked some bruised flesh, all he had that wasn't torn. "Shh, I'd never hurt you. Anyone who does I will hurt back." He gave her a look. "Xander, can I trim your hair for you?" He nodded, letting her get out and grab some scissors. She came back and slowly trimmed his hair back to about an inch high. She tossed the hair and the scissors out onto the bathroom floor. "There, that's got to help some," she told him, stroking over the short, soft hairs. It was silver now, glowing in the muted light in the bathroom. "Want me to wash what's left?" He looked at her and nodded again, giving her a trusting look.
Dawn came back, already down to her bra and underwear. "Let me, Faith, work on his back. I don't want to identify some of that stuff or see it again." She picked up the shampoo, letting him sniff it. "I'm going to put this on your head to make it clean and smell nice, okay?" He nodded, giving her that same trusting look. "Good boy, Xander," she said, giving him a smile.
"Is this another time they're making me pretty for his pleasure?" he asked.
"No, sweetheart, the demon's not getting anywhere near you again," Dawn promised. "There are no more demons around you. Not even Angel." Xander looked confused. "You're back on the human realm," she told him, hoping he understood. "You're safe. You're away from him. You're never going back."
"He can never hurt you again," Faith told him. He still had that confused look. "We'll get through to him soon," she told Dawn.
Dawn nodded, biting her lip as she worked on his hair. She let it rinse, giving him a smile as he splashed at the bubbles. "That's a good boy, Xander." She looked at Xander's front, taking the sponge to rip in half, working on that part of him.
"Want help?" Fred asked from the doorway. The women looked at her. "I wasn't here, I would have stopped it. I helped you find out how to stop him," she reminded them. "This is bad. This is really bad."
"That's an understatement," Dawn told her but she got out of the way, letting her see the injuries. Fred got sick.
Xander looked at her. "I did that for a while. After a while, you get used to it," he told her, sounding like he was dreaming. "The pain it there forever and eventually you get used to it." He shook his head and moaned, making the women steady him.
"Shh, Xan, let us clean you," Faith whispered in his ear. "We want to get that shit off you so you can get better. You're safe now."
He looked at her. "Do I know you?"
She nodded. "You do. You'll know soon." She looked at Fred as she cleaned up after herself. "We'll need something to help clean him up," she instructed. "Some of this crap has been on here for months."
Fred's face lit up. "I have something. It's an oatmeal soap. It's very soft and supposed to help skin heal from dryness. Would that help?" Dawn shrugged and nodded. "Dawn, do you need attention too? I'll take you if you do."
Dawn gritted her teeth. "I'm fine for now, Fred. Thank you." She nodded, going to get the gentle soap for them.
"D?" Faith asked.
"I had to bargain to get him free. I'm fine," she said firmly. Faith gave her a look. "After he's better. I'm not that badly injured." Faith nodded, taking the soap when Fred came back. "Fred, can you get him some broth? I want to get some fluids into him."
"I can. We've got an electric tea kettle and some powdered bullion," she offered.
"That'd be great," Dawn agreed, giving her a small smile. She had helped them. She had been the one to tell them what Wesley had done and how Willow had helped to supposedly save the world. The demon uprising was solved in another way because the sacrifice Wesley had made of Xander hadn't turned out the way he had wanted. Faith had cured it when she had come in to find out why Fred had called sobbing in the middle of the night. Dawn looked at Faith. "Were you in Cleveland?" she asked. Faith nodded. "Was my sister?"
"Yeah, B was," Faith admitted. "So was *she*." Dawn nodded. "How long do we have?"
"Maybe a week," Dawn admitted, working on a stubborn spot. "What gets this shit off?"
"I'm not sure," Faith admitted. "I've got a few spots like that too." She looked at Dawn. "We may have to scrape or something."
"Fire," Xander whispered. "He cleaned me in it once or twice when he was messy." He looked at them, looking clueless. "Dawn? Faith?" He looked at them, then down at himself, starting to get hysterical. Dawn hugged him but he shoved her. "No! What happened!"
"Shh," Faith whispered, holding him against her chest. "We're getting you clean, we're not the cause." He let out a hysterical laugh. "Shh, it's okay. I'm here and Dawn got you free. Ethan's made you a potion to help heal that stuff." She reached over and helped Dawn up. "You're safe now."
"Safety is an illusion," he laughed. "He'll come back!" Faith pushed him against the wall, holding him there before he could hurt them. "We're not safe, he'll be back!"
"He won't," Dawn said firmly. "We have a deal in place," she told him, stopping him cold. He whimpered. "He will not come back. If he does, I have the right of destruction and I will use it if I can, and if not, Faith will, Xander." He pulled her closer, holding her tightly. "Shh, babe, let us help you." He nodded, holding her as tightly as he could. "We've got to get you clean, Xan, let us," she prompted.
"Some of it won't come off," he told her. "He had to use fire."
"Then it'll fall off," Faith decided. "I'm not burning you to get gunk off your skin. There's got to be something that'll work." She dabbed at some of the wounds on his back, making him cry out. "I know, Xander. Let me work, okay? Then we'll give you the nice healing potion and wrap you up like a mummy, then put you to bed."
"Am I going to live with Ampata or will I have my own box thingy?" he asked seriously.
"No box thingy needed," Faith said firmly, going back to her dabbing. He flinched away from her. "I'm sorry, Xander, let me try to clean some more of it. I don't want to hurt you," she promised. "Dawn, can you hold him? These ...marks have stuff in them too." Dawn nodded, hugging Xander to her. After a minute he hugged her back, making Faith tear up and work harder to help him. No one should be able to do this to a thinking being!
Ethan came back in the morning, holding a small vial. "It's a stronger healing potion," he told the girls, making them nod. He walked over, looking at the mass of bandages. "I've got enough to heal about three bad spots. Where should I start?"
"His back," Faith said. "It's in strips and there are places where the bones are showing and damaged," she said, turning pale. She forced herself not to get sick. "I gave Dawn an ounce of your healing potion," she admitted.
He looked at her, then at Dawn. "What sort of deal did you make?"
"That if he could find my blood, he could keep what he found," she admitted. "He got six drops." Ethan's face hardened. "He can't use them."
"No, he can't," he agreed. "Are you all right?"
"Just mental," she told him. He sighed and nodded, turning the boy over carefully. He peeled off the bandages, looking sickened. "We got as much as we could off. Some of that stuff wasn't coming off even with some light nail scratching."
"Xander said the thing cleaned him with fire a few times," Faith told him.
Ethan nodded. "He probably had to. That is sperm." They both ran to get sick. He stroked Xander's short hair. "I will avenge this wrong," he promised. "The demon will die and so will the twat downstairs." He dropped two drops onto his back, watching as the skin started to regrow. Then he turned the boy back over, removing the bandages around his hips and groin, dropping another few drops onto it. The sickening injury there was healed as well. He looked at the boy's stomach and chest. The removal of the bandages across his back had loosened these and he was bleeding heavily from a few. One, over his heart, was making him ill. He poured the rest there, watching as it was absorbed into the muscles. He checked, there was still some healing needed. Mostly whip marks it looked like. Small, irritating, painful things. He looked over as the women came back. "I talked to Ripper. He thinks the boy's tainted by this. Miss Summers has taken that to mean he's now demonic. Ripper isn't contradicting her." Dawn's face hardened. "We have three days. We need him able to remember who he is by then."
Faith nodded. "He was lucid once in the shower and once while we bandaged him." She came over to look at him, shuddering at the injuries. "Ethan, can't you heal that?" she asked, pointing at the remaining injury on his penis. "That's got to hurt."
"It does," he agreed. "I can feel his pain. When I warded and protected him from chaos, it linked us."
"Those pain surges and the bleeding you were doing," Faith said, looking at him in awe. He had done this for him? "You love him," she stated.
"I have. He was so innocent and pure. It was rousing in many ways." He stood up, giving her a kiss. "I would never be able to keep him, Faith, but I have tried to protect him since he asked me personally."
"Still, you dig him," she told him.
He nodded, giving her a sad smile. "Yes, and he had a small infatuation for me. I doubt he'll ever be able to touch another male again after this. That leaves me out." He gave her a gentle kiss. "Thank you for understanding."
"I had a lot of time to think. Xander came to me to help me when everything started and I brushed him off. He's the only one who did it because he wanted to help *me*. No matter that he did hope it would make B notice him, he did it because he thought I needed it. I will help him because he helped me. He wrote me while I was in the can. Every week. Telling me what was going on, keeping me sane and focused." He hugged her. "How could they do this to him?"
"Wesley was a stupid ass who panicked," Ethan soothed. "He thought only a higher demon could stop the uprising because it was so massive. For that, he needed a pure sacrifice, which the boy wasn't. Then he phrased his request inappropriately. It made him immortal," he said bitterly. "A warrior for eternity for the Light."
"He should be the poster boy for 'this is why you don't bargain with demons," Dawn said as she came out of the bathroom. Ethan opened his arm, letting her come over to get a hug of her own. "I was very careful when I did what I had to do."
"I'm sure you were, Dawn. You are always very careful." He gave her an extra squeeze, making her moan. "I'll make you some healing potion when I make his." He looked toward the door as it opened, glaring at the man standing there. "What?" he demanded.
"He's still bleeding, I can smell it," Angel said quietly. "I'd like to help."
"How? By watching through that nifty portal while he was hurt so brutally?" Dawn snapped. He flinched. "The only thing you're capable of doing for him is leaving him alone and keeping my sister the fuck away from him when she shows up, Willow as well. As soon as we can move him, we are." Angel nodded, leaving them alone. "Fucking parasites," she ground out. She got free, going to have a magical explosion in the bathroom. Her rage was pumping her magic up and she needed to release it so she could help Xander.
Xander was awake and aware his third morning, but he wasn't totally there. Faith had gotten him up and into some boxer shorts so nothing would rub against his injuries. She had even gotten him into some pants and a light t-shirt over his bandages. He was prone to having bouts of hysterical laughter for no reason and he was prone to staring at something no one could see. Faith had him up and moving.
Dawn was helping him bathe still, making sure he didn't take another wire brush to himself again like he had the night before. He was still injured and moving slowly, but he was starting to move better. Dawn looked at Faith, who was frowning. "What?" she asked quietly.
"There's more than one slayer nearby," she hissed. She stood up. "Xander, I want you to stay up here," she instructed. He looked at her, then nodded slowly. "Thanks." She walked out, locking the door behind her before walking down the stairs. Fred was screaming at Buffy and the two junior slayers she had brought, but Willow was managing to move around her. "Freeze," she said, backhanding Willow. "You do not get near him. He's still injured from what you did."
"I had to!" Willow shrieked, getting up to face off with her. "I didn't want to, but I had to! It was the only way to save everyone!"
"Wrong. I fixed it. There was another way," Faith said coldly. "You hurt him worse than anyone I've ever seen. If he survives mentally, I'd be shocked." She looked at Buffy and the two juniors. "Leave, girls." They looked toward Buffy. "Now. This is not your fight. They sacrificed a friend to a demon for no reason. If Buffy brought you, she lied. Xander's human and badly injured. He's got almost no skin that wasn't bruised or ripped when he came back. Even his scalp and stomach. He has injuries I can't even imagine what the cause was." They went pale and backed away from Buffy. "You two touch Xander over *my* dead body," she told Buffy.
"He's tainted!" Buffy told her. "No matter what the reason, he's tainted! He'd want us to help him!"
"After you didn't stop his best friend from giving him to the thing that hurt him?" she asked, crossing her arms over her chest. "You get near him through my dead body, Buffy Summers. And if you get through me, then you'd better be prepared to kill your sister too."
"And me," Fred agreed. Angel tried to grab her but she kicked him in the nuts, making him groan and fall to the floor. "You go away. You watched and smirked," she told him. "You're still an evil bastard." She glared at Buffy and moved to stand behind Faith. That way Faith wouldn't hit her when she went after Buffy and Willow. "We got in more bandages, Faith," she said quietly. "Gunn has them."
"Yay. I'll go do a bandage change in a minute," Faith told her. "Leave, Buffy, before we have to go at it again."
"Yes, do leave," Ethan agreed as he came down the stairs. "Faith, any magic around the boy will reopen his wounds, but I will kick her ass if you want."
"No, I won't let Xander be hurt more," she said, glancing at him. Willow tried to rush her so she kicked her in the middle of the chest, knocking her to the ground gasping. "Nice try," she said firmly. "Do it again. Let's see if I can break all your ribs."
"Stop it!" Gunn yelled. "They're his *friends*. Maybe if they see him, they'll understand."
"If he sees them he may run out and get killed," Ethan told him. "Are you up to finding him and saving him?" Gunn went pale. "I didn't think so. And yet, he was considering you to be family. How charming." He glared at Buffy. "You are not getting near him. Nor will Miss Rosenburg. She caused it, I have no doubt she will harm him more. As will you," he sneered. "You should go back to Ripper's side and let him feed you more platitudes." She stiffened, glaring at him. "Now, girl, before you pass on."
Cordelia came out of nowhere, looking at them. "Stop it," she said, and her voice carried the command to all of them. "Buffy, Willow, Angel. As warriors for the Powers, you have failed miserably. You have unbalanced the universe, giving evil a big legup across the saddle of world domination. You hurt one of the few white warriors. How could you?" She glared at Willow. Then at Angel. "The Powers would like to speak to the both of you. Go see the Oracles, now." She looked at Ethan, Faith, and Dawn. "Protect him. He is important. Janus and the Powers are working together."
"Even if he wasn't, not even Janus could pull me away from him," Ethan told her. She nodded and disappeared, going back to her higher plane.
Buffy gaped. "What was that?"
"Cordelia ascended," Fred told her. "Did you ignore that friend too?" She stomped past Faith, going to get the bandages so she would have something to do. Before she became homicidal. She did understand, as much as anyone could. She walked up the stairs, knocking politely. "It's me. I've got more bandages," she called. "There's a standoff downstairs." Dawn opened the door, walking past her. "I'll sit with him, Dawn, I promise he'll be fine with me." She walked in and shut the door, bending to stroke Xander's bruised forehead. "Shh, it's Fred," she told the sleeping body. "I'll do what I can to help you, Xander. I liked you before. You were neat and this was wrong. If I see Wesley, I'm going to kick his butt for you."
Dawn walked down the stairs, looking past her sister. She pulled out his dagger and slit her thumb, casting the blood down onto the floor with a silent chant. A portal opened. "Go home," she ordered. Willow backed away from her. "That's right, *I* saved Xander. Go home, Rosenburg. Before we duel." Willow shook her head, staring at her.
"After we had to save you from people making you do this, you do it now for show?" Buffy sneered.
Dawn hopped over the railing, grabbing her sister and shoving her through, kicking her on the ass as she went sailing through. "No, I'm not doing it for fun. I'm doing it because it needs to be done. Sort of like stabbing you while you sleep, sister dear." She looked at Willow. "You too. Now. Don't make me compel you." Willow backed away and Dawn readied a spell, but Willow moved herself away. Dawn let the portal close and ran up the stairs, finding Fred unconscious and Xander gone, with Willow laying on the bed in a puddle of blood. "Good, hopefully you die," she sneered, helping Fred up. "Where is he?"
She shrugged. "I don't know," she admitted. She patted herself down. "I had my mini- crossbow on me," she said, her eyes wide. "It's gone."
"Xander has it, he's good with them," Dawn soothed, taking her down the stairs. "Faith, Ethan, he ran off," she announced. "If anyone wants to save Willow, she's bleeding from her own knife." She handed Fred to Ethan. "He has a crossbow."
Ethan looked up. "Is he going to be safe?" he whispered. He suddenly smiled and looked at Dawn. "He will be finding a new protector within an hour," he told her. "Janus said so. Ripper prayed it be so to keep him away from me."
"Yippee, will this new protector be able to help him heal?" Faith asked. He looked at her and nodded. "How do we know?"
"He's injured himself."
"Which means he'll be bringing out Xander's protective instincts," Dawn said, suddenly smiling when she heard the message. She looked at Faith and nodded. "He'll be fine. We've got bigger problems. To you, vengeance goes." Faith nodded. "Have Ethan help you. He claimed protection years ago. It is his duty to help you and do what he can on his own." Faith nodded, taking Ethan's hand. "Fred, unfortunately the Powers want you here," she said, looking at her. Then she looked at Gunn, Angel, and Connor. "You three are in varying shades of deep shit. Connor, did you enjoy watching?" He shook his head. "Are you sure?" He nodded quickly. "Then you are to accompany your father to the Oracles. They have an assignment for you far from his care." Connor nodded, looking firm until he glanced at his father, then he showed absolute hate. "Gunn, you were to be his reward. How do you like that?" Gunn backed away from her. "You three are to visit the Oracles." She opened a portal with their help, sucking them through. "Wesley is to be dealt with by Xander himself," she told Faith and Ethan. "We can harass and make miserable but his final death is up to Xander to do. Willow's will be much the same, though not by his hand. They would not do that to him. His protectors will see to it." She shook her head, looking at them. "And I am to follow my nature. If it happens that I stay on the side of good, then I do. If I don't, then I won't. The Light is suffering greatly because of Wesley. They're bleeding from a fatal wound. Faith, go take charge from my whore of a sister. Kick her pregnant ass out of your way if you have to." Faith looked stunned. "They said so." She created another portal, sending them back to Giles' new shop. She closed it and looked at Fred. "You will have to because you are one of the last warriors left," she told her. "It will be hard and you will not feel protected. If Wesley hadn't done this, Xander would have provided the next generation's warriors to take yours and my place." She walked away, heading into the night to try and track Xander. She wanted to know who this new guardian was.
Xander walked into a warehouse, looking around fearfully. He could feel all sorts of demons but something in this place was calling out to him. He didn't know what it was but it felt pure. It felt clean. Maybe it could clean him, make him whole again. He heard people and panicked, backing into the shadows, but something was prompting him. He had to hurry to the voices before something worse happened. He winced as a shot went off, going running. He knocked into the person with the gun, picking it up and shooting it without thinking about it. He looked at the man kneeling on the floor, now bleeding from a wound on his ankle. "Hey," he said softly, like he would talk to an animal. "Hey, are you alive?" The man looked at him. Xander walked closer slowly. "You can't stay here. Something bad is coming. They smell the blood." He could hear them coming for his blood, could feel their taint. He picked up the man's hat, then him by the bound arms, leading him off. "I know it's hard, but pain is life," he told him. "Pain happens and we just have to go on with it."
"Know something about it?" the man grunted.
Xander let out a hysterical laugh. "Yeah, I do," he admitted. He could feel himself bleeding again. He knew there was a cheap motel around there somewhere and he had stolen Fred's wallet. She had money. He found it and got them checked in, taking the extra towels. He got the man unbound and laying flat on the bed, then went to get him some water. He needed to drink, Dawn made him do a lot of that. He hoped she was okay, she was going against the monsters by herself now because he couldn't protect her anymore. He limped back out, helping the man with his injury. "Shh," he whispered, hearing someone outside their door. He picked up the gun, heading over to look. Then he grimaced and let the curtains drop. "It's not a good person."
"It's all right, kid," the man on the bed told him. He looked at the stranger. He had short silver hair. He was badly bruised, he could see it in the room's weak light. He was limping. "Are you all right?" Xander shook his head. "Do you need to see someone? I think I should."
"I know how to fix those," Xander promised, limping over to help him. "I've healed wounds before." He dabbed at the graze, clearing off the blood. "I know it hurts. I'll go get pills soon."
"Get liquor, it helps more," he offered. He moved with a groan of pain. "Who are you?" he asked, tipping the boy's face up. He wasn't that old, even though he did have silver hair. "What's your name?"
Xander looked into his eyes. "I'm not sure anymore," he said. "I don't like my old one."
The man grimaced. "Okay, what was your old name?"
"Xander." Xander nodded. "Why don't you like it?" The boy stood up, going to get him some more water. "Xander, what happened to you?" Xander let out another panicked laugh and he had to keep him from running. He wasn't in any shape. "Hey, I need you to stay," he said, knowing the kid needed help badly.
Xander's eyes lit up. "You need me to help you? Okay, I can do that," he agreed, starting to smile. "I'm a good helper, no matter what they say." He looked at the gun, then tossed it beside the tv, bending to help him out of his jacket, shirt, and tie. "You're still injured, I can smell the blood. I promise, I'd never hurt you that way," he said when he saw the cautious look. "I won't. Even if I could." He saw the bruises and winced, going out to get some ice from the machine. He got some extra towels too. The manager gave him a funny look but had seen some of his bruises so figured it was for him. "Thank you," he said quietly, heading back to help this person. He needed him to help. He could do that. Doing that would make him forget for a while. He came back into the room, finding the man unloading the gun. "I'd never use it on you. You're injured," he told him, coming over to make and use the ice packs. He used one on his own forehead, it was throbbing with the pain.
"Kid." The man tipped his face up. "Let me see." Xander moved the ice pack, looking at him. "Xander, what happened to you?"
"What sort of bad guy?"
"Big one. Prince of Hell sort," he babbled. "He won't come back, Faith said he wouldn't come back so you don't have to worry about that." Jigen shut him up by putting a hand over his mouth. He gave him a look so the hand was removed. "It's all right, I can protect you. I'm good at it."
"I'm sure you are," the man agreed. He winced when he moved. "I think I've got a bruised rib."
"Those hurt," Xander agreed. "I've had those." The man looked at him. "It's all right. They heal after a few weeks. I've had a few of them. And a concussion and a broken arm and a few other injuries over the years."
"Did your boyfriend beat you?" the man asked.
Xander shook his head. "No, I don't have one of those. I would have but then *he* came and now I don't have anyone. They want to kill me." He blinked then shook his head. "You need to drink," he said, forcing himself not to think about that. The man took the water, sipping it for him. "Good. That'll help more than anything but pills."
"You know a good dealer?"
"There's probably at least one in this place," Xander admitted. "I can ask." He got up before the man could stop him, going out to look at the other rooms. He walked to an open door, tapping gently when he saw a hooker in there. "My friend has broken ribs." She gaped at him. "Do you know someone who might have something for that? And where the nearest liquor store is?"
The woman came out, touching his bruises. "Sweetheart, I know someone who can help both of you," she promised, giving him a gentle kiss. "Give me ten minutes. What room are you in?"
Xander pulled out the wallet, looking inside it. She took the ten dollar bill in the back and he held up his room key. "Thank you." She nodded, letting him go.
She walked back into her room, calling her dealer. "Phil, I've just seen the most horribly bruised boy. He looks like his pimp beat him. He made up a story about his friend having bruised ribs, asked me if I knew someone." She fluffed out her hair. "Yeah, he's fully broke. No, his face is one big bruise, sweetie. Even his forehead and scalp." She winced at his swearing. "Please? Consider it a good thing for a brother on the street." She laughed. "Thanks. Yeah, we're in the usual place." She hung up, going out to wait on him, tucking the ten into her bra as a tip for her doing the good deed. "Life is hard out here, but that's one thing I hope never to have to go through," she muttered, lighting a cigarette. Her dealer showed up and she led him to the room, letting him meet the boy.
Phil looked at him. "I've seen you," he noted. Xander looked clueless. "You went to Radio's." Xander nodded, blinking at him. "I didn't know you worked." He caught sight of the man on the bed and winced. Everyone knew the man with the hat. His boss would owe him, even if he didn't like his job. "Never mind, boy. I'll give you a freebie this time. Next time, you pay for it." He handed over a small baggie of pills. "The blue ones are for pain. The red for sleeping, the white for bad pain. Take one of those yourself." He noticed the boy was bleeding onto the floor. "You might want to see someone about that."
The hooker turned him around and looked down his shirt, then went to get sick. "Oh, God. It's worse than that movie where the guy ate the brain!" she complained.
The dealer walked in, taking Xander into the bathroom. "You clean yourself up, take one of the white pills," he ordered gently. Xander nodded, taking one then, then going to clean up. He looked at the man on the bed. "I'm Raul, but Honey out there calls me Phil." The man on the bed nodded, knowing what was going on. "You gonna need more than that?"
"Anything good in that bag?"
"Some demerol. A few sleeping pills. A few valium. I mostly work the club boys these days." He looked at the injury. "He's done good so far." He nodded toward the bathroom. "He's sick."
"I noticed the limping."
"His back made Honey puke and she's got a cast iron stomach," he told him, heading for the door. "Need anything else?"
"A convenient liquor delivery," the man said dryly, smirking at him. "Thanks. We do owe you."
"Hey, pain-free makes the world go 'round. I understand that." He left, going to call a buddy of his who had some liquor stashed. That guy was famous! His boss was even more so! They may have a small ticket out of the streets. Wait until his supplier heard who he had treated.
The man on the bed got up, heading for the bathroom as quietly as he could limp. He wanted to check the boy out himself. Something wasn't adding up. This wasn't some street kid. This wasn't a rent boy. The fact the boy had been carrying a crossbow confused him, and he had seemed so comfortable with the gun, but he was injured and panicking. He did not understand this in the least. He cracked open the bathroom door, wincing when he saw the boy's back. He took the pill bag, deciding to hold it for now. That kid needed them more than he did. What had done that! Some of that wasn't from a whip or any weapon he knew. That boy had been tortured, not hurt by his boyfriend. He laid back down with a small moan of pain. He took one of the lesser pain pills, enjoying it a lot. His back didn't hurt from the beating he took. He picked up the phone, dialing his phone card from memory then his best friend's cellphone. "I'm living," he announced. He listened to the relaxed chuckle. "I'm having some problems. Wire me some cash to LA? Yeah, the usual is fine." He looked toward the bathroom. "I have no idea. I just got a mystery dumped in my lap." He snorted. "No, he doesn't have tits. Yeah, a him." He groaned as he shifted. "I'll live. The kid saved me." He listened for a moment more then he heard the shower shut off. "I'll check in with you later in the week," he said, hanging up.
The boy came out of the bathroom, looking at him. "Are you okay? I heard you groan."
"I did, but I was shifting," he said. "You okay?"
"I can't feel a thing," Xander admitted. "Not anymore." He moved the damp ice packs over, placing them where they could radiate up to help the bruising. "Try to keep that on. It helps me when I've had to patrol." He went back into the bathroom, looking at himself. He winced, but he knew what had caused this. The pain was less now, he could put it behind himself. He closed his eyes, communing with the voices in his head. One of them took the memories back into it's darker corner with him. He was left with the realization of what had happened and how bad he was injured. He could deal with this. He stood up straighter, finding his own mental footing again. He could help that man then disappear. He needed him, that was all that mattered. Someone had driven him into that warehouse for a reason. Maybe he was his reward for surviving. Or maybe he could help him leave this town. He would do anything to go somewhere else and start over. He went back to check on him, answering the door. "Yes?" he asked.
"We were told to give this to Jigen," the Crypt, by his bandana, said, handing over a large plastic bag. "Who're you?"
"Xander. Thank you. Anything else?"
"Nah. Tell him we've got his back if he needs it. Come to us if he needs stuff."
"I need my gun back," Jigen called.
"It's in the bag, hatman. Along with some ammo. Old school works well?" he asked, smirking at him.
"Every shot," he agreed. "You'll hear from me again." The Crypt nodded and walked away. "Close the door, Xander." Xander did so, bringing him the bag. "Thanks. Sorry about that."
"Hey, they were nice to you. They're never nice to me. They think I'm some pampered white boy." He sat down with a wince of pain, looking around the room. "Can I do anything else to help you feel better?" he asked.
Jigen looked at him, then shook his head. "I'm good. Thanks. Take another white pill, it'll help that." Xander frowned. "I mean it. It'll help."
"I'm fine. I haven't felt pain in months." The man looked at him, mouth slightly open. "Really. I haven't." He opened the bag, handing over the fifth of scotch and two of the cans of soda. "Can I have this one? Or I can always go use the machine outside."
"No, go ahead, I drink my with ice, not soda," he noted. The boy grinned and popped the can, gulping it down. He opened the fifth and took a long swig from the bottle. "So, tell me about yourself," he said when the silence got to be pressing. Xander looked at him. "What's your full name?"
"Xander." He grinned sadly. "I'm not exactly myself, sorry. Usually I'm much more of a goofball." He took another long drink. "I'm nearly local. I'm not the man everyone thinks I am." He heard a noise outside and grabbed the gun, slapping the clip back into it and cocking it like he was used to such a thing. "Stay here. That's not a good sound." He grabbed the crossbow as well, heading out onto the walkway.
Something jumped toward him. Jigen could see it through the thin curtains. Then it disappeared in a whoosh. The boy came back and closed and locked the door. "What was that?"
"Vampire," he said simply, sitting down again. He checked the gun, putting on the safety. "They're not really that nice. I don't want to deal with them right now."
"Hey, I understand," Jigen told him, not understanding a damn bit but this boy obviously had some skills.
The next morning, Jigen took Xander with him when he went to pick up his money at a Western Union, taking him to help him get bandages and necessary stuff. He was growing on him. The boy was chatty and babbled when he was nervous, but there was something underneath there. The boy had some sort of experience that was shining out at him. He reminded him of a young Lupin, only less smarmy. He even took the boy with him when he went to get some clean clothes. He looked at the fitter, then at the boy, who was touching some fabrics. "Put him into something better than that," he ordered. Xander looked at him. "You think you could help me back home?"
"Is home far away from here?"
"Yeah, far, far away."
"Then I'm all for it," Xander said firmly. He and Jigen locked eyes. "What?" he asked finally.
"Trying to figure you out, kid." He shrugged, then winced. "Put him into something nice. Something serious but nice." The fitter nodded, hurrying Xander into the changing area. They were in there a long time and he was starting to wonder, but figured it was about the bandages.
Xander looked at the man trying to fit him. He touched the pendant showing. "I've seen that mark somewhere." The man stiffened and looked at him. "Who are you?" he asked.
"I'm Cyril," he said softly. "I work with certain people who are like you."
"Talented," he corrected. "You now have gifts." Xander let out a snort. "You do, young man." He touched him on the arm, an unbandaged and bruise-free area. "You have powers now, I do not know from what source. I was sent to talk to you about training them."
"I'd rather forget I have them," he said firmly. "They'll make me break down and I won't do that anymore." Cyril gave him a nervous look. "I'm glad someone's happy with their gifts, dude, but it's not me. I don't want to think about how I got them." He looked down at his bandaged chest. "I was worse."
Cyril nodded. "We heard. The talk said you were bleeding copiously." He pulled down a dark blue jacket and Xander gave him a look. "He said serious."
"Lighter than navy, please? I'm a nice guy, not some stringer for the mafia."
The man laughed. "And you're with Jigen?"
Xander nodded. "I found him, I'm taking care of him."
"Then I'm happy for you. If you ever need us, we are in Cairo. Remember that and remember we are all around. If you need us, yell."
"Like I did for Ethan?"
"Exactly," he agreed.
Xander looked at him. "Are you like the X-Men?"
Cyril chuckled, shaking his head. "Not exactly. We're all underground, though I have heard that comparison before. I will send someone to you later to help with your healing. Will you allow it?"
"I'm all for not needing the pills."
"Then I shall do that." He got the boy dressed in a medium blue suit and a black shirt with a black tie. "How's that?" he asked. Xander nodded, letting him lead him out even though he was tugging at the tie. "How is that?" Cyril asked Jigen.
"I like it," he admitted. "Quit that. You'll get used to it." Xander looked at him. "If you're with me, you've got to look the part, kid." Xander nodded. "We'll take this and that. Where can I get my old one cleaned?"
"There's a good dry cleaner around the corner. They've got a same day service." He took the cash, checking them out. He came back with a card. "Give this to her, you'll get a small discount."
"I'm always up for a discount," Jigen agreed, smirking at him. "Thank you. Come on, kid." Xander walked after him, turning to wave and smile at the fitter. "You'll be fine." Xander grinned at him but he was still trying to fuss with the tie. "Quit that," he chided. "Give it a few minutes, you'll be fine."
Xander sighed. "If you say so." They walked into the dry cleaner and the woman gave Xander a wide-eyed look. He gave her a clueless look. She composed herself, taking the card and his old suit. Xander paused behind. "What?" he asked.
"You are considered a consort," she whispered to him. "Use it wisely. We will be talking soon. When you are healed." He nodded, trotting out the door. She read the message Cyril had put onto the card, sending out a call to their boss. He wouldn't be pleased but the boy had a teacher already. That one dealt with strange stuff. She invoiced the items herself and went to make sure they were done right.
Xander frowned at the knocking on their hotel room door, opening it to find a young woman. "Yes?"
"I was sent to look at your injuries," she said quietly, looking into his eyes. "Cyril sent me." He let her in. She bowed to Jigen. "I was sent to look at your injuries, Great One. May I?"
He gave her a look, then shrugged. "Get us both?"
"Of course. I am a very skilled healer."
"Know Fihad?" he asked. She broke out into a beautiful smile. "I'll take that as a yes. Go for it. Sit, kid." Xander sat, watching as she worked. He started to feel sleepy and looked at her.
"It is necessary. Your bruises will be absorbed," she whispered. "I need longer to work on the boy." He nodded, understanding that, and let himself fall asleep. She turned to look at Xander, who was taking off his shirt. "Consort, I was asked to ask you. Will you honor our silence?"
"Of course," Xander said immediately. "Cut that consort shit out though. I'm not."
She came over, touching a mark on the back of his hand. "You are. This says you are." He frowned and looked at himself. She found the necklace hiding it from him, taking it off for him. He let out a small shriek, and she could tell he was remembering. She put a hand on his head. "Let it be a step removed," she whispered. "Let it be like he was watching it." He looked at her and she gave him a sad smile. "I cannot let someone suffer like that, Consort. You or the Great One." She put a hand onto his face, healing his bruising and doing what she could for his other injuries. She was worn out by the time she was done but he had less than ten percent of his old injuries when she was done. "There," she whispered. "It is better now. Not perfect but it will heal in time." He gave her a hug, returning her energy. "Thank you, Consort. I am Heidi. You can trust those of us with this mark," she said, pulling out her pendant as she sat beside him. He gave her a look and she smiled. "We are criminals, as is the Great One. He is famous, we live in the shadows, supporting those who would be great to keep the balance going." She stroked his cheek, giving him a sad smile. "You unbalanced the world. He should not have done this." He nodded, getting that point. "Come to Cairo in six months. Talk with us when you know what you want to do."
"Who is he?" Xander asked.
"He is Jigen. He is a famous gunman. He is an expert. He sees something in you that is similar. Try not to break his heart if you go back to the light."
He snorted. "They've lost me for good," he told her. She gave him a smile and a gentle kiss. "Thanks."
"You needed and deserved it. Let him teach you. Suck at his knowledge like a baby at a teat. You will find happiness and health with him. Protect him as you would one of your pack." Xander nodded, his eyes closing as she stroked his cheek. She finished knocking him out, then gathered herself together and left. He would not betray them. She was sure of it. He had made his choice. He would need their help some day. He would be great.
Xander woke up to find Jigen looking down at him. "How are you?"
"Fine." He helped the boy back into his tie. "You?"
"Better," he admitted. He looked around the room. "Did you need to do anything else in town? Anything I can help you with?"
"No. You did it for me." He put an arm around the boy's shoulders, seeing the smaller wince. "Need something for that?"
"I'm good," Xander told him. "I don't feel it anymore." Jigen gave him a look. "Really. I don't." He gave him a goofy grin. "Where are you heading to next? Can I really come with you?"
"You'd better. I've fricken' adopted your ass. You've got skills. You're a natural shooter and you've got the slickness that says you'd do the job well. You think you can?" Xander nodded. "You know that means you'd have to *kill* people, right?" Xander nodded. "That doesn't bother you? We're not like a Western. It's a hard life."
Xander laughed. "Hard life? Killing? Shit, that's like home to me," he said firmly. The older man looked at him and he grinned. "You have no idea who you're talking to, man. I'm not the nice little boy most people think. I grew up patrolling for vampires. I'm not great, but I think I've got some skills. If you can help me get better, then we're good. If not, then I'll hitch out of town and find somewhere in Mexico to land. Far away from everything I've ever known."
"I'm not letting you out of my sight," Jigen told him. The boy's face lit up again. "Come on. Let's hit the road."
"Will I get to drink?"
"I do, so it's not much of a problem," he admitted. "It's not a romantic life, remember that." He gathered up their small amount of stuff, heading out to grab his suit from the cleaner, then they left town in a stolen car. Xander was having a ball, he could tell it'd take a few weeks for reality to set in, but this kid could handle it. He knew he could. "Hey, Kid. To make you a good gunman, we'll have to build up a name for you. You wanna stay Xander?"
Xander considered it. "How about Lavelle?" he asked. Jigen looked at him. "It's something I've answered to in the past."
"It's a good, strong name," he agreed. "I can see it on wanted posters."
"Gee, thanks, boss," Xander said with a slimy person grin. "Think I can do a Bonny and Clyde too?"
"Sure, why not. I don't much go for banks. I prefer gems." Xander's mouth fell open. "Yes, me."
"Pretty stuff," he said in awe. "I like pretties. Precious things are good for me. Can you teach me?"
"Sure. We'll find you your own gun. Go ahead and toss that weak little pop gun out the window the next time we go over an overpass." Xander did as told, and the sped on, heading for Texas. What better place to teach the boy to shoot?
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