I am not Joss.


The sliver of light (door) reappears and I shrink back into my corner. I do not like it when there is light in my room. I used to cry for it cry like a baby but now I hate it because usually light means I will be hurt.

"Xan - Xander, are you alright?"

It is that dream again the one where sss... somebody who... (Spike!) where somebody takes me out of here and I am never hurt anymore. I hate this dream I hate it because it is always a lie even now when his hands finally feel real against my purple skin.

"Oh, love, what did he do to you?"

I can not help myself I look at him. At somebody I am not supposed to remember even in my dreams because HE will take him away if HE catches me thinking his name. I do not know how HE knows but HE knows HE always knows and I press back into the corner in... in... (Fear, you're afraid, and Spike can help you out, go to him!) I am not supposed to think of him.

"Do you like it? Haven't done as good a job since Dru, if I do say so myself."

HE is here again just like always never safe when the sliver of light (door) appears.

"You sick bastard. You wanted me! Why the hell would you do this to him!?"

HE is facing off with sss... someone I must not think of. I can see HIS malice black snakes dripping with blood coiled around me coiled around my throat. Someone I must not think of hates back at HIM with red snakes with sharp venomous fangs hissing. One of the red snakes is fighting with the black snake on my throat and I think I want the red snake to win but I do not want either snake any snake to bite me not unless I will be dead after and not hurting.

"Spike, William, I was making him a present for you. Yes, I wanted you. Now I know why you didn't want me - I wasn't crazy enough. I could never be crazy enough, could I? Not like sweet Dru - and our boy there."

I know why I knew all along. HE hates everything but especially sss... (Spike, his name is Spike, damnit!) someone I must not remember who used to love me once.

"He's not yours! You don't get to touch him, Angelus!"

Foolish you should not tell HIM something is not allowed HE makes the rules. This is a rule HE already knew this is a rule HE already broke.

"I don't? Oops."

The red snake strikes out at the black snake all writhing and spitting juices. I try to melt into the shadows inside the walls I have done it before there is not much room but there is enough to stay out of the way while I am murdered again.

"You fucker! I'll kill you!"

I think that this is not a dream because in the dreams I hate HE can never land a blow on the one I must not think of and in the bad dreams it is the other way around. Now HE is hurting him and he is hurting HIM right back and I know that my life hangs in the balance. Live or die it is the choice of the winner I hope they choose die. Pixies are coming into the room pixies with red hair they want to go to me but they have a white thing for HIM watch it twist and writhe away from the black snakes they twist and writhe away from the white. (HE has Spike by the throat! Do something!)

"Daddy! Come play with your good boy!"

My voice is high and terrified oh god oh god oh god I can not hide if I draw HIS attention not if I do it on purpose. HE is looking at me the black snake around my throat hisses in my ear and I choke but this is important. HE has tried to kill the knight that lives in my stomach but at the most HE only ever chained it and the soldier that lives in my collarbones taught it how to use chains as weapons sometimes. HE is looking at me and all HIS snakes too for a moment long enough for one of the pixies to prick HIM with a sewing needle.

"Love, no!"

The red snakes are drowning in water from his eyes but the water seems to only make HIS black snakes stronger. It is wrong all wrong but at least the grinning bloody black snakes are grinning at him and me and do not seem to see the pixies. If HE decides to use me to make him hurt maybe he and the pixies can escape. HE ties him to the bed so that he can watch and some of the red snakes rise up again even as more water falls from his eyes but not high enough to drown me even as I sink my head to the floor. My legs do not work not anymore if they ever did because I tried to run away too many times. HE still chains them feet spread apart on the end of the bed because HE does not like to work at spreading me open. I look at him he is sad and I try to disappear into the bed because the walls are too far away. Before HE can take his pants off the pixies finish their sewing and then turn into demons red and scaly and bite HIS flesh and make HIM fall to the ground in pain. I just lay still because I do not know what is going on I do not want to make HIM mad then the air begins to tingle and people step through a hole and then run into my room.

"Took you birds long enough. Decided to cut it close to the wire, did you?"

The red snakes are not hissing much anymore, except at HIM on the floor behind me. The black snakes are dying no not dying but being covered smothered by the white thing sewn onto HIM.

"We came as fast as we could! It's only been a minute!"

I can hear HIM on the ground behind me struggling to sit up. I do not understand why they will not run HE is dangerous HE will make them hurt HE will make me hurt again.

"It's been three bloody hours! And if you'd been a second slower with that spell... look, just let me up so I can stake that bastard and we can go home."

He is going to make HIM go away? I am going away from here and I will not be hurt anymore?

"Spike! You can't stake Angel!"

There is a woman made of gold and the white thing the pixie demons brought for HIM reaches out for her even as HIS black blood snakes lunge at her and the white thing tries to stop them and the snakes try to stop it. She is probably not a goddess but I do not know what else she could be. There is also a girl with red hair and somehow I know that she is the mother of the pixie demons that are still biting HIS flesh. The red-haired mother can see me and I try harder to hide in the bed.

"Buffy... I don't think Xander chained himself up like that. I don't... I don't think he..."

The goddess and the mother can both see me now water pours from their eyes too and now it is high enough to drown me. The goddess sprouts snakes of her own, red snakes to match his but hers are streaked with gold. Two of the demons turn back into pixies and look at me with sad eyes like the mother. The mother unchains him but before he can follow his snakes to HIM the goddess puts her hand on him he looks at her but she does not let him up until he nods. The mother unchains my ankles and my legs fall closed and she covers me with a blanket that does not smell like anything except clean sheep wool.

"You and Xander go first, Spike. Giles is waiting with Dr. Emerson."

He picks me up and I almost think I can feel again feel his arm under my legs. The hole in the air is still there down the stairs in the house outside my room I do not want to go out there I do not I do not but we are going out anyway and even though I am afraid so scared I open my eyes because I do not want HIM to cut my eyelids off.

"Shh, Xan, love, it's alright. They can't hurt you anymore."

His name was Eli he is dead her name was Christi she is dead his name was Yraal he is dead his name was Evan he is dead his name was Laurent he is dead her name was Eva she is dead and on and on they are all dead will I be dead too can I? The one who I must not remember carries me through the hole in the air and my skin tingles like hundreds of bugs are kissing it. Then we are inside a new house a house from my dreams the dreams I used to hate but now I think they were meant to be good dreams.

"Is that Xander? Oh, god. How did he manage to do that to him so quickly?"

There is a man here with water coming from his eyes. He has an owl sitting on his shoulder but it is blinking sleepy at the two of us it does not want to eat the red snakes that are hissing back into the hole in the sky.

"Time's wierd there. I think for him it was years. Girls said Doc Emerson's here?"

The owl wakes up even as brown snakes crawl out of his sleeves I have seen these snakes before they hold their poison for a long long time.

"Yes, this way. Can... can he walk?"

There is a man here wearing white with metal tools that do not shine with blood. He has no snakes but the one on his shirt twisting around a pole with wings and that is only a picture.

"Don't think so. Think... I think that bastard paralyzed him."

The one I must not remember sounds like he has been screaming for at least one hour but he has not been because I would remember that. Now I am lying in a new bed a soft bed but this one does not smell like sex and pain and I am barely afraid although I must fight to stay awake there are lights on I must stay awake. The man in the white coat uses a sharp on my arm but it does not bleed for long before he stops it. Then there are two or three more sharps and then I have to fight even harder to stay awake I remember this game.

"Pet, what's wrong? What are you scared of?"

I try to say: I am not allowed to fall asleep when there are lights on in my room. Is this my room? Can the lights turn off please? But what I say is different.

"Not 'llowed... lights! My room? Lights please?"

The one I must not remember looks sad and so does the man with the owl on his shoulder. The owl-man tells me to close my eye and strokes my face like he loves me while the other one goes to the door and turns off the light. Now I can sleep and since it finally came true I do not have to dream anymore and even if I do I do not have to worry if I accidentally remember his name.


It has been four days since we brought Xander back from the dimension Angelus had him stashed in. I know for a fact that I haven't slept for more than three and a half hours straight since, and that was when Buffy got Doc Emerson to drug me. I suppose she was worried about me, or maybe she just wanted to get Angel out of the house without me knowing where she was taking him. Either way we're still not speaking, although since she had Angel's blood on her knuckles and murder in her eyes this morning, perhaps I'll forgive her.

Xander is paralyzed from the waist down. I didn't cry when Doc Emerson told me, because I'd already wasted all my tears when he told me he had to put him on a saline drip and a feeding tube because of how malnourished he was, and when Rupert told me some bastard Angelus was working with cursed Xander with visions from Balance. Killing him with visions the human body wasn't meant to take wasn't enough for Angelus - he had to force my Xander, my bloody White Knight to see what would need to happen if his girls fight their hardest for good.

'Course, I knew why. Fuck, I am why - if I'd just bloody gone to Angelus when his soul went walkabout, I could've kept him entertained until Red tagged it back on. I could've handled it, fragile soul of my own or not. Damn Xander and his infectious nobility. Damn Xander and his persuasive kisses. So I told him to get lost and leave us alone, and he snatched Xander from me and set out to make another Dru.

He succeeded beyond his own wildest dreams, I think. Xan... Xan sees things that aren't really there - not stars but snakes and pixies and bugs and the like. He's got his own version of Miss Edith, too - it's a toy hyena he stole from one of the Slayers, one of the girls he found in some African city-slum. She said he could have it, anyway, and I've bought her a new one since. He calls it Tor. He also said he's got a chained-up knight living in his stomach and a soldier in his collarbones - Willow said something about posessions in High School, and then something else about fish. Don't know about that - Xan doesn't like fish much, never did.

Xan's paralyzed. Fuck, it's just now hitting me what that means. My Xan, stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of his bloody life - or unlife, if I turn him. We were planning to, if Red could find some kind of spell to stick his soul on permanent-like before some Hellmouth nasty got him. She had a few decent leads. Now, though, I don't know. I still love him, still want forever with him if he'll have me, but I can't imagine him wanting forever as a crippled mad seer. Don't know if I can watch him die, though, waste away like so much nothing. There's no other options with those visions. Turn him or watch him die. I don't know what to do.

Better stop feeling sorry for him and me, though. He says water comes from our eyes and gets near high enough to drown him.

Sometimes he looks at me like he wishes it would drown him.

Fuck! I hate this! Dru never wanted to die - danced out into sunlight a few times, or made tea with Holy Water, but she didn't do that all the time. Most of the time I don't think she even realized she was doing it - maybe it's the same way with Xan. I don't know. Fuck it, I haven't a clue what I'm doing at all.

I want to go to him - I want to hold him and reassure him that he'll never be hurt again, and reassure myself that he's safe. But he needs his sleep and Angelus - fucking Angelus! - taught, trained him not to sleep if there was a light on, even if he was drugged or just plain exhausted.

Willow walks by and looks at me with pity or maybe sympathy. I'm crying again. I don't know what to do - I feel so helpless, I-

There is a thud from Xander's room, and Willow and I run to it. The door bursts open in front of me thanks to her and I leap through, ready to defend my Xan from-

There's no one there. The bed is empty and for a moment I panic until Willow lets out a little gasp. Xander has pulled himself out of bed and is dragging himself over to the wall. The look on his face makes my chest hurt, as though I can't breathe, instead of don't. He looks just like he used to, when faced with an unshakeable prophecy, or some unbreakable curse directed at one of his girls. For a moment, I think that maybe, just maybe Angelus didn't destroy my beautiful Xander; maybe, just maybe I can save him, bring him back.

Then he sees the light in his room, and drops his head to the ground - perfectly submissive, expecting punishment for not already being in the corner on the floor. My heart turns to lead and I stifle a sob. My Xander - turned into this.

Willow touches my sleeve and whispers that someone needs to get the doctor so he can reattach the IV Xander pulled out. I tell her I'll stay with Xan. She nods but hesitates before she goes; by the time she heads out, I'm already sitting in the corner myself, Xander in my lap and - I hope - sitting comfortably.

"Xan, it's alright. You won't be hurt again," I whisper. "Xander, love, don't be scared."

"I was not in my corner. That is bad. I broke the rules." Despite the fear pouring off of him, Xander's voice is steady, matter-of-fact, using that strange syntax he's learned under Angelus' fist. His voice drops to a whisper that could be mistaken for seductive, if it weren't for the fear. "Punish me? Make me a good boy again?"

"Xander," I manage to choke out. "You are a good boy. The best. You didn't break any rules."

"Yes I did," Xander says, desperation entering his voice. "I can list them, if you want. Daddy likes it when I list them - I can list them for you - just do not... Please?"

"Please what, Xan?"

Even with my enhanced senses, I have to strain to hear his answer. "Please do not give me back to Daddy?"

I hold him tight, tight enough that I might leave bruises if I'm not careful. "Won't," I say. "He won't ever even look at you again."

He settles for a moment. "I am sorry that I broke the rules," he says eventually.

"You didn't. You don't have to..." I pause. Angelus taught him these damn rules, about how to act, how to talk, how to eat and sleep - his entire life was defined by rules for years. Dru didn't move on her own for a good year after Darla kicked us out, after Angelus got cursed. If I take his rules away, what's left to keep my Xander from shattering? What's to keep him from dropping away into a place no one can find him? "There's different rules now," I say instead.

Xander considers this for a moment, his fear fluctuating - he's wondering what the new rules might be, what they might mean. "I am... not a very smart boy. Daddy said I am very stupid."

"Daddy's stupid," I snap, and regret it. He's afraid, now. "Sorry, love."

"Is that a rule?"

"No, love. It's just something that makes me mad, but not at you."

"I am not very good at learning the rules," Xander says. His voice and posture are... resigned, defeated.

Now I understand.

"Xan, it's alright if you don't know all the new rules right away. I'll help you learn them." I can't help myself - I touch his face, rub my thumb along the cheekbone right underneath the empty eye socket. I used to be the only one he'd trust to do this. Now he... he doesn't flinch but his fear tells me he wants to. I want to punch Angelus again.

"Your snakes want to bite Daddy," Xander says. I nod. I'm fairly certain they do. "Why?"

"Because he hurt you," I say. "Because I want to make sure nobody ever hurts you again. Because I love you."

And now Xander is crying, and burying his face in my shirt, and softly, but getting louder every second, he's saying my name.