Thanks for all of the positive responses!


"If you want, I'll pretend you won this argument. Then tomorrow you can tell me you changed your mind."
- Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game


"Mom?" Xander called weakly.

The soft hum of electrical equipment was the only reply.

"Hello?" he called again.

His eyelids were gummy and stuck together. It was hard to force them open.

The light was blinding and painful.

A white room. White walls. A white ceiling with white lights. Medical equipment. A thin white blanket over his legs. White electrodes attached to his too pale chest. Bound to the cool table by white straps.

Xander felt weak and disoriented. His head throbbed, his vision was blurry and his limbs were leaden and unresponsive to his commands to fight against the straps.

"Hello?" He called out in a slightly stronger voice. "Is anyone there?"

Great. Just freaking great. And his nose itched, too.

A tall metal pole attached to the side of his bed supported three bags of liquid, two clear and one amber. The combined solution ran down into a needle on his right arm. A second, half-filled bag of yellow fluid hung suspended at the side of his bed.

His keen senses also suggested that he was wearing an adult diaper. That needed to be changed.

He tested his strength against the straps again, gratified at his limbs' attempted movement even if they failed to break the thick material.

His chest was secured to the bed but his head and neck were free to thrash about futilely. Xander spent a minute or two industriously attempting to give himself whiplash before stopping to catch his breath. His herculean efforts had managed to irritate the skin under the straps.

The surrounding equipment didn't reveal much. Names of suppliers that might or might not be common. Saline concentrations (lactated? was this some kind of horrific transgender experiment?). The stereotypical oscillating line on a nearby monitor revealed that his heart was indeed still beating.

He couldn't find a call button to summon a nurse for assistance.

"Hello?" he called again. "Anyone home?"

He waited for a response then called some more. Followed by more thrashing against the straps. The cycle repeated itself many, many times.

Time passed. How much he couldn't have accurately said. It might have only been a couple of hours but felt like much longer.

A lot went through his head during that time. Should he act angry, or confident, or scared? What did his abductor want? Who and what was his abductor? When and how had he been abducted? Did his friends know? Was help coming and when would it arrive?

He was angry and scared and helpless.

In the end, he decided that every minute that his still-beating heart remained in his chest and out of the stomach of a Thuggee cultist was an extra minute that his friends had to come to his rescue. So it was a disappointment when the ambient temperature of the room abruptly began to drop and the halogen lights began to flicker.

Xander didn't bother thrashing. The eternity of waiting had proven that he wasn't going to break free of the straps or somehow wiggle loose.

The waves on the heart monitor did grow a lot more frequent however. "Buffy!" he shouted. "Giles! Anyone, help!"

The flickering lights outside of the room abruptly went dark, leaving the frosted glass of the door black.

The temperature had dropped enough that Xander's rapid breathing was turning into a obscuring cloud.

"Buffy!" he shouted again. "Wills! I'm in here!"

Shadows moved within the flickering, strobe-like light. Nebulous, indistinct and ominous. There was a pressure in the air that pressed down on his chest, driving the chill down into his lungs and through his veins. The heart monitor screeched a small, tinny warning before abruptly going dark.

The doorknob turned.

The door swung open slowly, tendrils of an obscuring thick mist weaving their way through the narrow space.

The flickering lights went completely out.

Freezing, nearly naked, blind and staked out buffet-style for whatever loomed above him in the darkness, Xander was shocked that he managed to make the laugh past his lips. "Talk about dumb. Are you always so stupid or is today a special occasion?"

He snorted and shook his head. "Thinking just isn't your strong suit, is it? You've heard of the current Vampire Slayer, right? The Slayer that came back from the dead to dust the Master, sent Angelus to hell, and chased William the Blood and Drusilla running. The Slayer that blew up the "invincible" Judge and destroyed an ascended, pure-blooded demon a couple of weeks ago. The Slayer that's spent the last three years mowing through every demon, vamp, witch and poltergeist that's been stupid enough to stick its head in her territory. And you just kidnapped the guy responsible for supplying her with coffee and doughnuts. You just abducted the friend who stood between her and Angelus when she was in the hospital, the guy who went into the Master's lair with her and the buddy she watched the latest Star Wars film with last month."

Xander laughed again. "As far as death wishes go, yours is the one that just ran naked through the streets of Oakland waving a sign saying "God bless the KKK.""

Xander laid back down. "She's coming. And eventually she always wins. Obviously, I'm stuck here. So it's up to you what condition she'll find me in when she arrives. Now try to scrounge up a pair of brain cells to rub together and get out of here."

He laid in the silent darkness, forcing his breathing to remain slow and even, straining his senses for any sign of the intruder.

The silence stretched. Then kept stretching.

Finally, the door clicked shut.

The lights and medical equipment flickered then came back on. The heart monitor screeched angrily before grudgingly quieting back down. The lights in the hall came back on. A warm breeze flooded into the room through the corner vent, driving away the arctic chill.

I can't believe that worked. Xander took a couple of deep shaky breaths. Maybe I actually will live long enough to see the cavalry come charging in.

How long is Buffy going to take? How long until someone even realizes that I'm missing? When he'd left Sunnydale he'd promised Willow he'd call her that night... or the next day if he was busy.

How long ago had he been kidnapped? What time was it now? What day was it? He'd been hurt often enough to know how badly drugs screwed with his sense of time.

Speaking of drugs, he thought as a faint whirring coming from the box on the I.V. pole. His vision began to grow blurry.

"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do. I'm half crazy, all for the love of you. It won't be a stylish marriage. I can't afford a carriage." Xander sang, the words slurring and becoming nearly incomprehensible. "But you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two..."