“You know what this place needs?”
“Hey-yeah!” Xander squirmed excitedly. “But no, that’s not what I was gonna’ say. It needs a big screen T.V. on the ceiling. That would be so cool. You know? So you could just pop in ‘Debbie Does Dallas’ or something when you need to rest. All sex-all the time.”
After a pause, Andrew spoke up. “You mean like with J.R. and Sue Ellen?”
Xander groaned. Andrew’s obsession with pop culture obviously didn’t extend to classic porn. “No, you big freak. Never mind.”
Xander stretched languidly on the enormous bed. Draped in blue velvet (and didn’t Andrew sing a few lines of that ditty upon first seeing it) it occupied most of the room in which the two dutiful Scoobies now waited.
“I’m hungry,” Andrew whined.
Xander could relate, but he would not be letting on. He had an image to maintain. A battered, broken-hearted, one-eyed, scabby, and rather itchy image, but an image none the less. He asked himself for the millionth time in his twenty-two long years how he got himself in this mess. Demon magnet, butt monkey, visually challenged and now, possibly, gigolo? Wait, wasn’t a gigolo supposed to get gold chains and Richard Gere’s deadpan smolder? He’d been gypped.
It was all Ethan Rayne’s fault. Damn British bastard. Xander had been perfectly content with the way things were going up until yesterday. The large farmhouse that Giles had purchased and Xander had renovated (well, instructed Willow and the slayers to renovate-they of the extraordinary depth perception) had happily housed them for several months. Only an hour from Cleveland-and a small, yet powerful Hellmouth-word had begun to spread and slayers had begun to trickle in. Buffy’s small band of Slayerettes rose to the challenge. No longer relegated to the rank of sidekick, Xander grinned with the knowledge that he was a…well…what would he be called? Not really a Watcher-he wasn’t nearly British enough for that-but something…special.
Then came that heavy knocking at the door and the sure knowledge that whoever stood on the other side would only bring trouble. He remembered that knock four Thanksgivings ago. He’d been in a sweaty, syphilis stupor when Captain Peroxide had graced their presence in supplication for the first, but not the last, time. Then again, from a certain perspective, that hadn’t turned out…No, he wouldn’t let his mind go to that place. Too new. Too raw. Better to think of the here and now. Don’t dwell on the past. What’s done is done. Don’t cry over spilt milk. All that stuff you were supposed to say when something so huge has happened that you can’t put an image of it in your mind for fear of weeping with abandon until your remaining eye swells shut. Or maybe that was just his experience.
“I wish we had some Doritos.” Actual tears were only moments away. Xander could tell the signs by now.
“Yeah, that’s sexy, Andrew. ‘Please Mistress, can we have some Doritos? We had to stop with the Boinkfest to load up on salty snacks.’ ” Xander rolled his eye.
“You know, Xander, I don’t see you contributing much to this situation. You’re just lying there. Maybe…I’ll just tell the Mistress that you had a headache and that’s why there aren’t, um, Happy Sounds coming from this room.”
Xander gritted his teeth. “There aren’t any Happy Sounds because no one in here is HAPPY!” They’d been in the room for nearly an hour. The illusive Mistress was taking her time. He shifted and felt himself slide a little on what he imagined were satin sheets beneath the velvet. Could his night get any weirder?
“The Mistress has information. You want it. That’s all I’ll tell you.”
Xander watched Giles’ eyes squint with irritation. He knew the ex-Watcher was very close to committing bodily injury against his old chum. As it was, he chose to sip demurely on his cup of tea. Andrew shifted uncomfortably on the small couch next to Willow. Dawn was perched on the arm, twirling hair through her fingers. No one spoke for several moments, then Ethan finally broke.
“-About the Hellmouth. And a certain organization that may be trying to open it. And that is really all I’m going to tell you.” Ethan sat fuming in the tall wingback chair reserved for guests they wanted to make especially uncomfortable.
“I must ask…,” Giles began, and then a rather humorous smile broke his façade. “Why in the world would you even imagine that we would take anything you have to say seriously?”
“I have this on good authority.” Giles snorted. “I’m just trying save my own skin, Ripper-“ Ethan began to defend himself. In less than a moment, Giles was across the small study that served as a meeting room. One arm propped his body against the back of the chair. The other gripped the dark haired man’s throat. His face was red with barely controlled anger, but his voice was even.
“I have told you many times, Ethan, that you may not call me that anymore. Now, I think we’ve heard all we need to hear. Please. Leave.”
Giles released the man’s neck-now purple and beginning to bruise. He stepped back and removed his glasses, polishing them meticulously.
Ethan rose to his feet. As the tall man approached the door he paused, considering. Turning, he slipped his hand into his front pocket and tossed an object at Giles. The usually stoic man cringed instinctively as something shiny struck the bookshelf where his chest had been moments before.
“A gift, Rupert. Just in case you reconsider…and just a thought, but I’d send the boy.” He nodded to Xander. “I’m afraid you or your dark friend would not be as welcome there.” This last comment was addressed to Robin, who bristled. “Oh, it’s not your color, I can assure you. It’s just that the Mistress wouldn’t be as fond of your unique stature as they would be of your one-eyed co-worker.”
“Hey!” Xander protested at the eye comment, then, “HEY!!!” as he realized that in some way he wasn’t quite sure of, he was being insulted. “I’ll have you know, buddy, that I have a fine stature! I’m athletic and sturdy. I’m like a mighty oak. A…big one.”
“Oh, I’m sure that you are.” Ethan raised his eyebrows suggestively, then turned and made his way to the door. “I’ll show myself out.”
Andrew was the first to scramble to the spot on the carpet where Ethan’s “gift” lay.
“Don’t touch it!” Faith reprimanded sharply, but Andrew already had the small charm in his hand. He dropped it, instantly imagining the flesh on his hand melting or boils forming under a hex from the scary Englishman. Willow joined him on the carpet. She studied the object for a moment and then picked it up.
“Don’t touch it!” Andrew squealed, unintentionally mimicking Faith.
“Relax Andrew. It’s not magical.” She tossed it lightly in her hand and passed it over to Giles who squinted at it intently.
“So what is it?” Dawn asked impatiently.
“It appears to be a key. It’s very old…” Giles began pacing in front of his books, trying to remember the significance of the tiny trinket. Robin stood up.
“What do you think it opens, Rupert? A door? A lock?” Robin asked.
“It’s really small. Maybe it opens a locket or a book?” Willow suggested.
“Oh, like Marcia’s diary. You know, the one they bought her after Dezi Arnaz…Junior…” Andrew trailed off when he noticed The Look. Xander had to admit that the guy was getting pretty good at identifying The Look and shutting up accordingly. It was a lesson he had learned himself.
Giles didn’t even notice. “If I’m not mistaken, this key opens neither a door nor a lock. If it is what I think it is, I believe it’s the possession of the object itself that holds significance. Good lord. I hadn’t realized that these were still circulating. Do you see these two symbols?” The gang eagerly leaned in to examine the key.
“Hey, get your elbow out of my armpit!” Andrew complained as Rona moved in front of him.
“Get it out yourself,” she challenged, raising a single eyebrow. Andrew gulped and moved to let Rona go in front of him.
“I do believe Ethan may have been telling the truth about the Mistress; in part anyway.” Giles plucked a thin, plum colored book from the shelf and thumbed quickly through the pages. “Yes, the palm and serpent are generally accepted as her sign. Whether this key is authentic or not remains to be seen.”
“Even if it is hers, Ethan could be-well, probably is-lying.” It was the first time Buffy had spoken since Ethan had arrived and it startled Xander. It appeared to startle Giles as well.
“Yes, yes. Of course. You’re probably right.”
“Then again, if some big beasty is planning on opening the Hellmouth, I’d-we would-probably like a little ‘heads-up.’ “
“Of course. We’ll want to be prepared when, if, there is a threat to…ahem...the Hellmouth.” Silently, Xander cringed and wondered when the enormous white elephant called Sunnydale was going to finally trudge back to where it came from. Hum...Elephants were from Africa, right? Any trudging would have to be on a boat, of course. An elephant couldn’t trudge across the ocean alone. How would it breathe? Would it dog paddle? Then would you call it elephant paddling?
“Exqueeze me? What?” Damn elephant tangent.
“I said that if Ethan is correct about the key, then we must assume he is also correct about sending you, Xander, as its messenger.”
“You really wanna listen to that guy?” Xander was horrified.
Buffy stood up. “I’ll go. I could use a little action.”
“Thank you for your offer, Buffy, really, but-“
“See, even Buffy thinks I’m the last person you should be sending on a mission.”
“Look, Xander, I’m loathe to send you into what is almost certainly a trap but whether Ethan’s motives are pure or not, part of his story does appear to be correct and I think it behooves us to examine all of our options. Now, for some reason, Ethan felt you would be the best conduit for this reconnaissance. Perhaps the Mistress respects youth, or fears the mystic. Whatever the reason, I do suggest we research further before sending you into the lion’s den.”
Giles began picking books from his shelves and making notes as the Scoobies settled in to their now-familiar spots for research.
Research first and virtually death-defying mission later. “ At least some things will never change,” Xander thought to himself.
“Okay, my turn. Ginger or Maryanne?”
Xander pondered that one. “See, I know I’m supposed to choose Maryanne ‘cuz she’s all sweet and ‘girl next door’, but you gotta give credit to the tramp, you know?”
“Yeah…I liked the professor.” Andrew looked wistful for a moment. Xander raised an eyebrow at the blond boy. “Uh, I mean Maryanne.”
“My turn. Scully or Xena?”
“Xander, I can’t answer. It’s, like, asking me to choose which limb to cut off. It’s a Sophie’s Choice.”
“Fair enough.” Xander rubbed a tender spot on his chest where tape had ripped the hair clean off. His stomach was beginning to become an issue. “You know, for being a Porn Palace and all, they really should have some seductive snacks or something.”
“Like strawberries and champagne,” Andrew volunteered. Xander stared at him. “Hey, I’m a happenin’ guy, well versed in the art of seduction…and I saw Pretty Woman fourteen times.”
Xander was not surprised. “Oooh! Chocolate syrup! And whipped cream, too.”
“Yeah! And filet mignon.” Andrew was getting into this game.
“Hum, you know what I would like?”
“Very funny. No, some of Giles’ scotch. You know, that good stuff he keeps in cabinet that we pretend isn’t there until after he goes to bed?” Xander rubbed his hands devilishly.
“Oh, yeah! That would be cool…”
Andrew stretched out on the bed, hanging his feet off the end.
“Okay, new one. Spiderman or Batman?” Xander asked.
“Keaton or Kilmer?”
Andrew was horrified. “Doesn’t matter? How can you say that…?”
“Tell me again, why do I have to wear a wire?” Xander itched uncomfortably as Dawn added another piece of tape to his chest.
Giles explained.“Because, Xander, we want to be able to monitor the situation. If Ethan has a trap set for us, we’ll be able to get in and get you out of there before you are put in any danger. Now listen to me. I want you to be very careful. All of my research indicates that Ethan was telling the truth, but the Mistress is a very old and very powerful being. You must be cautious. In and out. Find out what she knows, then leave. That’s it. Have you got it?”
“Yeah, Giles. I think I can remember ‘get in’ and ‘go’.”
Dawn stood and stretched her legs. “Well, the wires should hold up. Just don’t get them wet.”
“Because I was planning on showering with them?” Xander teased. Dawn threw a roll of medical tape at him but he dodged it easily. “And the one-eyed man wins again!” Xander made an attempt at a noogie but Dawn sidestepped him and picked up her supplies before she raced out of the room.
Giles and Xander were alone. The silence hung heavy in the air. Giles obviously had something to say and that rarely turned out well.
“Oh no. Not the Xander Speech. What is it this time? ‘Xander, we think you may have a mystic STD?’ or ‘Xander, your girlfriend is a liver-eating demon?’ or-“
“I think you should take Andrew with you.”
“Um, could I take the liver-eating demon instead?”
“I’m serious, Xander. Look, I know Andrew can have his moments, but he respects you a great deal and I think it would be good for him if he could contribute in some way-you know, make him feel useful.”
“If you want him to help out, then let him polish the weapons, Giles. Don’t send him on a reconnaissance mission that might get me killed!”
“Xander, I think you’re being overly dramatic.”
“Maybe I am, but that guy is just so…”
“I think it would be good for you two to spend some time together.”
“Absolutely not! No way.” Xander was firm, firm, firm. If he had to go on this mission, no way was that geek going to sidekick him. “I’ll take Dawn or one of the slayers. Anyone else.”
“Can I be honest, Xander?” Giles removed his glasses and began rubbing them absently. “You’ve done remarkably well here. Guiding, leading. I’m very proud of you. But I observe you at times and I see pain. I know that pain you’re feeling. I felt it myself when Jenny was taken and I see it mirrored in that young man’s face. You’ve experienced great loss. We all have. But you may have found the one person for whom Anya’s death was as painful as it was for you. You-you need each other, Xander, and if you weren’t so-so pigheaded, you might see that. Can you do that? Can you admit that there might be others in as much pain as you?”
Xander remained shamefully silent.
“Mr. T or Gary Busey?”
“Steel cage or just the ropes?”
“Um…just the ropes.”
“Mr. T now or Mr. T circa A-team?”
“Hum…tough one…I’d still have to vote for the man with the teeth. You gotta’ give odds to the guy who could actually remove your skin with his choppers. ”
“Oh, yeah. Good point.” Andrew began flipping tiny balls of toilet paper into the ice bucket at the end of the bed.
“Hey, four out of five. Not bad.”
“Thanks. I usually do it with playing cards, but…”
“You must have had some really exciting weekends, Andrew.”
“It’s not so bad.” Andrew retrieved the tiny balls as Xander checked his watch. “How long?”
“Well, how long do we have to wait until we give up and decide that she’s just never coming to see us?”
“I don’t know. Another hour?”
“Okay…my turn for Celebrity Deathmatch…steel cage suspended over the arena…Jerry Springer or Gary Busey?”
“Oh Springer. Without a doubt…”
Buffy opened the freezer and pulled two frozen waffles from its frosty interior. She shut the door with a slam. Xander was pouring juice into large tumblers that advertised Biff’s B-B-Q as the best ribs in town. After several greasy meals, neither Buffy nor Xander could say that they agreed with the claim.
“So I told him, ‘Just because you live here doesn’t mean you can use my gel without asking.’ I mean, what kind of country does he think this is? Some kind of…of…gel-taking-allowing…country?’ Or something that makes a little more sense and sounds twice as threatening. And that’s not the first time he’s taken stuff without asking. He took one of Robin’s beers last week. You have no idea how much sweet-talking it took to keep that guy from burning Andrew’s X-men collection.”
“You just have to know how to deal with him, Buff. He’s not so bad. Its just time you learned that that guy has no boundaries. I swear I caught him wearing Anya’s coat the other day. I mean, it’s a girl’s coat. You would think, ‘Hello? Gay factor?” but he just doesn’t care. I mean, it’s just a-just a coat.” Xander’s voice hitched slightly, catching him off-guard. “I mean, it’s hers, but he really shouldn’t-shouldn’t be…shouldn’t be doing that.” He picked up a glass of juice and gulped it swiftly, not meeting Buffy’s eyes.
Buffy took a deep breath. “Look, I’ve been seriously thinking about something. I think we need to ask him to leave. He isn’t helping at all and he keeps making a nuisance of himself. He has no consideration for other people and that guy only brings death and destruction to everyone he sees. I think I’m going to talk to Giles about sending him someplace where he’ll annoy less. Maybe Giles can find someone who will see his redeeming features, because I’m sorry but I just don’t.” She narrowed her eyes and gritted her teeth with resolve. She had been complaining about the blond boy for nearly fifteen minutes and Xander couldn’t take it any more. Sure, the guy was a pain in the ass, but he had-he’d…
“Leave him alone, Buffy.”
“I said, leave him alone.” He slammed the tumbler on the table, sloshing citrusy goodness on the counter. His eye was blazing with defensiveness. “You hate the guy. I got that. But you know, he also contributed a lot-contributes a lot that you don’t know about, okay? He’s smart and he’s loyal. Sure, he’s not always loyal to the right people and okay, he killed his best friend but he’s trying to make things right and…and he…” Damn. Xander could feel tears burning and tried to blink them back. “He was good to Anya. She died saving his life and she…she would want him here. So I guess I want him here.”
Buffy was sipping her juice and gazing steadily at the ranting young man.
“I don’t ask for much around here, but I’m asking for this. And if you really insist on sending him away…then…then you’re not the person I thought you were. Andrew doesn’t deserve to get ‘voted off’ because he used your hair care product without permission. And what kind of person would make that decision and then pawn it off on Giles to tell him? I mean, that’s just so…so…cruel…and you’re never cruel, Buffy. Cordelia maybe, but not you. This whole conversation is ridiculous. It’s so…so…”
Buffy allowed a Cheshire smile to graze her lips.
“…so freaking much a set-up that I can’t believe I fell for it,” Xander sighed.
The waffles popped out of the toaster and Buffy leaned across her friend to get them. “Giles told me he was having some trouble convincing you to let Andrew go with you today.”
“No, Xander. Just let me say this and then you can finish your breakfast. I’m not usually one to defend the guy but everything you said is true. Isn’t that enough? Giles asked you, I’m asking you, and if we’re being honest…I think Anya would like you to let him do this. Xander, he fought by her side. Why isn’t he good enough to fight beside yours?”
Xander’s heart was beating steadily in his chest. Buffy’s words had begun to sink in. He sighed in resignation. Damn conscience.
“Tell Dawn that we’ll need another wire. But let it be known now that if I have to hear his Voyager vs. Next Generation debate, I’m holding you personally responsible.”
“See, because she’s a woman. I mean, could you see Picard doing that? That’s all I’m saying.” Andrew was silent, having made his point. “So…who do you think would win in a fight-Willow or Faith?”
“You can’t ask me that question. Willow is my best friend-“
“And Faith would kick her ass, right?”
“-before Willow could say ‘abracadabra.’ “
They sat in a comfortable silence. Xander took an opportunity to appraise the other young man. Andrew had gotten taller in the last year. Stronger. He was still, well, Andrew. But given the right incentive, he could probably take on a small Lothor demon. Or maybe Dawn. Well, maybe one of the new Slayers. A really new one…that was suffering from mono.
“How long now?”
“Almost three hours.” Xander’s stomach growled loudly.
“I KNEW IT! You’re hungry, too!!! I knew it wasn’t just me! And you sat there and told me it was just me and that is so unfair!”
“Quit whining, you damn baby. Yes, I’m hungry, okay? But complaining isn’t going to get us anything to eat. Getting the hell out of here and to a clean, yet efficient Burger King is going to get us something to eat. Now, quit talking about it because you’re just making it worse.”
They sat listening to their stomachs growling in unison.
The Bordello sat on a corner not usually frequented by humans. Located on a dimensional crossroads, it could only be accessed by reciting an incantation and burning an offering-in this case, Dawn’s strawberry incense. Much begging had gone into getting it-resulting in the promise of one chick-flick and a milkshake from Giles.
“I’m really good at demon languages, Xander. You should be the one holding the Stinky Sticks.”
“It’s English, you doofus, and I don’t trust you with anything demon-related, okay?”
Xander was referring to his former construction site where the guys still called Buffy ‘That crazy girl with the nice ass.” Andrew’s crushed face brought a shameful blush to Xander’s.
“You know, ‘cuz of the demons you sent to Buffy….” Somehow, Xander wasn’t making things better with his big fat mouth. He was ashamed when he realized that Giles was probably listening to him hurt Andrew at that very moment. “Just-just hold that and don’t drop it.”
He began the incantation found in the book Giles had given him. The deserted street corner housed an abandoned grocery store and not much else. When they were finished, they waited expectantly.
Andrew stretched and rolled his head in boredom. “Well, that was just…lame.”
“Shut up, Andrew. We just need to give it time. Giles said…wait! Did you see that?”
The ripe fresh-rain smell of ozone began to permeate the air, though the sky was clear and the sidewalk dry. The shift came with sudden force and Xander found himself rubbing his eye.
“Did the grocery store turn into a big, white house or am I holding the incense too close? 'Cause this one time, Warren told me this stuff was patchouli, but-“
“-Shut up, Andrew. I think it worked.”
“It’s easy. Barry White.”
“The guy from The Brady Bunch?”
“That’s Barry Williams, you musical degenerate. Barry White? ‘Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Baby’?”
“Oh, that guy. Yeah, I guess he’d sing good make-out songs.”
“What about you?”
“Uh, yeah. You’re the only other one in the room. Who do you think would have good make-out songs?”
Andrew considered it for a moment.
“Hmmm….Wicked Game. A classic. Good choice.” At Xander’s approving nod, Andrew grinned. “You know, for being a brothel, they should really have some mood music, too. I mean, no food, no music. This place doesn’t really inspire the lovin’.”
“I know. It’s kind of boring. But I’m actually having an okay time. Is that weird?” Andrew shifted in embarrassment. Xander looked at his ex-fiancé’s friend and found himself saying something that surprised him.
“It’s not weird. I’m having a good time, too.”
The two men approached the large white mansion with trepidation. Lush gardens and a small trickling spring had replaced the cracked pavement and abandoned grocery carts that had stood there moments before. As they drew closer to the ornate red door, they noticed something more than a little peculiar.
“There’s no doorknob. How do you open the door?” Andrew’s voice was tense. Apparently, he hadn’t thought too much about the actual meeting with demons and potential fighting that might ensue when he had agreed to go on this mission. Then again, how could he have said no when Mr. Giles had begged him, citing his expert knowledge of demon languages as an asset Xander would be unable to do without?
“I don’t know. Do you think there’s a secret knock or something?” Xander was perplexed. They stood at the front door for nearly ten minutes trying to decide what to do.
“Maybe we should just go home.”
“We’re NOT going home, you big wussie.”
“I’m not a wussie. I’m logical, okay?”
“You ARE a wussie and coming all this way just to turn around is NOT logical.”
“Just shut up!” Andrew whined, then shoved Xander lightly.
“You shut up!” Xander shoved back harder.
“Knock it off!” Andrew cried and pushed back and the two began to wrestle in a display of manliness that Xander thought rivaled the last time he and Harmony had fought. With one huge shove, Andrew tumbled toward the red door and found himself falling through to the other side…
“So you agree? Really?”
“Yeah, I mean, if you had gotten married right then, you two would have been miserable. She knew that, I think. She just didn’t want to admit it out loud. Once you’ve said something out loud…you can’t take it back. Ever. Believe me. I know.”
Xander let his mind dwell on that for a moment, then changed the subject.
“So…Demon languages. Giles tells me you’re really good with them. How did that come about?”
Andrew was silent for a while. “Actually, it was my brother, Tucker, that got me started with demon languages. He’s pretty good at ‘em. Well, some of ‘em. Not as good as me, but good. It’s sort of the only thing I’m better at. Not that that would matter to anyone. I mean, what would I tell my parents? ‘Tucker got into MIT on a full-ride scholarship, but I can speak six different dialects of Hintab in my sleep.’ Kind of doesn’t seem as impressive, you know?”
“Sounds pretty impressive to me.”
“Sibling rivalry. I get it. I mean, I don’t get it on account of being an only child, but I think I understand.”
“Could we just change the subject?”
“Sure, um…” Xander racked his brain for something to say. “So…was Mexico fun? Did you learn any Spanish?”
Andrew sat rigidly against the headboard. “Yeah, it was a barrel of monkeys, Xander. I hope I can help kill another one of your friends so I can go back and hide there in exile again.” His voice dripped sarcasm and Xander found himself cringing. “Maybe we just shouldn’t say anything for a while.”
Silently, they waited for the Mistress to release them from the embarrassed tension that had settled in the room.
“Do you have a key?”
The demon growled through the thin sheen of slime coating its lips. It was nearly eight feet tall and looked capable of reducing both men to a smear on the wall if given the chance. Xander had no idea what he was saying, but Andrew seemed to understand.
“He wants to see the key, Xander.” Andrew smiled nervously at the demon. He was rewarded with what appeared to be a lecherous grin. In horror, Andrew averted his eyes.
Xander searched his deep pockets for the key. There was a moment of panic when Xander mistook a Chapstick for the key, but then his fingers clasped the cool metal and he withdrew it triumphantly. The demon took the key and nodded his approval, gesturing toward a hallway that led away from the spacious entryway they now stood in.
The ceiling was high and covered with gold engravings. The floors and walls were white and a large arrangement of unidentifiable flowers stood on an expensive table in the middle of the entryway, each stem reaching nearly six feet above Xander’s head.
“For a ‘house of ill repute’,” Xander whispered, “this place is definitely high-class.”
Andrew and Xander made their way slowly down the long corridor. Lined with doors, they could hear few sounds coming from them.
“Do you think it’s a good thing that there aren’t scary sounds or should we be nervous because there are scary sounds and this place is just noise-proof?” Andrew asked.
“Just be quiet and keep walking, little man.”
Not sure what they were looking for, they continued down the hall, finally stopping when they reached an intersection and a large demon stepped before them, instructing them in English.
“Remove your clothing.”
“I’m sorry, what did you say?” Xander was suddenly very aware of the wires taped to their chests. “We just want to speak to the Mistress. We were told by someone she knows that she might be able to tell us something. We aren’t here for-“
“Remove your clothing.”
“Um, sir? Hey! Uh, my name is Andrew and I’m a big fan of the Kimtet-uh, you’re Kimtet, right?” The demon stood staring at the babbling youth. “Well, uh, I know your people are, uh, peace-loving and that you don’t usually use violence to, uh-“
“No one sees the Mistress without checking with me first. Remove your clothing or leave.”
The two Scoobies exchanged glances. Through unspoken agreement, they left their shirts until last, but when they found themselves standing in only t-shirts and underwear, the Kimtet demon tapped his clawed foot expectantly. Taking note of all possible exits, Xander slowly pulled his t-shirt over his head. Andrew did the same. The demon took in the electronic equipment without blinking.
“You are not permitted to bring objects of pleasure into The House. Anything you would like will be provided here for you. I must ask you to let me remove those.” The demon gestured to the wire and moved to peal it off of Andrew.
“You don’t understand. These aren’t objects of pleasure, Mr. Demon Kimtet, sir,” Xander began to babble. “These are…uh.” Words escaped him. Andrew’s eyes squinted at him. What was he doing? How could he explain that the wires snaking around his chest were electronic surveillance equipment intended to potentially bring down some of the patrons of this establishment? “Okay. Yeah, they’re mini-vibrators. Sure.” Andrew sighed with relief and Xander had only a moment to wonder when the tables had turned and Andrew had become the slightly cooler, confident one before his wire was grasped and the demon ripped it from his chest.
“Ow!!!” Xander screamed. In the places where the tape had been, Xander found himself staring at bare, hairless skin. Andrew squealed as the Kimtet removed his wire as well.
“I apologize if I have hurt you. You may redress. If you like.” The demon smiled coyly at the guys and Xander felt uneasy. There was definitely something strange going on-other than the whole Demon Whorehouse thing. He had the sneaking suspicion that the Kimtet was psychic. And maybe gay. A big, gay, psychic, demon. The hits just kept on coming.
“When you are finished, you may go to Room 14. The Mistress will see you when you have been approved.” The demon smiled wistfully as he walked off.
Xander was speechless and Andrew’s mouth hung lax. They scrambled quickly into their clothes. As Andrew pulled his Babylon 5 shirt over his head, Xander began searching the hallway for Room 14. Each door had a different number but they didn’t seem at all sequential. 26 was next to 7. 13 next to 128. In addition, each door was painted a different color. Dark pink for door 11. Rich wine red for 43.
“What do you think he meant by ‘approved.’ “ Andrew asked.
“Dunno. Maybe they need a credit check first.”
“He didn’t ask for our names.”
“Well, the Mistress will probably be by in a couple of minutes to ‘approve’ us then, I guess.” Xander was still searching for the correct room. 23…67…4…
“But he said we would have to be approved before we see the Mistress--Oh! Room 14!”
“Maybe he was confused.” Xander grasped the thankfully tangible doorknob and opened the dark blue door.
“I’m sorry, you know. I didn’t mean to hit a sore spot.”
“It’s no biggie. Let’s just forget it.” Andrew was staring at a scar on the back of his hand rubbing it roughly.
“I don’t know. Giles says that sometime it’s better to-“
“Just shut the fuck up, Xander!” The ferocity in the smaller guy’s voice silenced Xander instantly. The two men’s rapid breathing echoed through the room. After a few minutes, Xander spoke.
“Wow, Andrew…that was really….manly.”
“You think so?”
“Thanks.” He tilted his head. “I was trying for a sort of Pacino thing…”
“Scarface or The Godfather?”
“It was close.”
“Oh, yeah.” Xander smiled at the blond boy. Andrew was about to say something when Xander stopped him.
“Did you hear that?”
“Squeaking? Kind of like wheels on a gurney? God, I hope ‘approved’ doesn’t have anything to do with a freaky medical exam.” The two Scoobies strained to hear any sound that might be coming from the front door. After several moments, they relaxed.
“Maybe it was nothing, Xander. Just-“
The door was opening.
“I just had a thought. What if ‘approved’ means, you know, um…You know?” Andrew was blushing furiously.
“Membership to the small but elite club known as “People Xander Has Slept With?”
“Yeah,” Andrew gulped nervously.
“Don’t worry. It couldn’t. Look at this room. It doesn’t have anything besides a bed to be, um, conducive to that kind of thing. No condoms. No lube. No chance in hell. Feel better?”
“Actually, many demon species don’t require additional lubricant because of the natural viscosity of-uh, shutting up now.”
“I don’t want to know how you learned that. Just, sit down and don’t talk. We’ll wait…”
After fifteen minutes had passed, Andrew began to grow restless with the silence. If he was honest with himself, Xander was itching to talk as well.
“You know, “ Xander began, “…it wouldn’t matter if ‘approved’ meant Boinkfest or not, because they don’t know what goes on in here.”
“I guess that’s true.” Andrew seemed relieved, then excited. “Maybe we are supposed to be, uh, going to the ‘happy place’. And all we have to do is wait a little while longer and then maybe they will think we, you know, and we’ll be approved anyway!”
“Andrew. You can say the word. It’s just sex.” Where did that come from? Xander could still remember countless times he’d mumbled and choked talking about sex with Willow and Buffy. Why did it seem like he was suddenly a suave guy in this place? Maybe it was Andrew. Next to him, anyone would look smooth.
“Right. Right, I know that. Just sex. I can say that. Sex. See? So…we just wait?”
“Yep. We wait.”
The door was pushed forward as a large silver cart was wheeled in. The two demons attending it eyed the young men with interest. The taller of the two-if he could be called tall at only four feet-moved forward and spoke.
“Naz-her reheit. Abund ca laher reley tehat.”
Andrew looked confused. “Wein tet laher reley bitun? Hin shiref morher.” He paused and then added, “Hen wilhelm morani peta re’elet? Du morani pentua?”
The demon turned to his companion happily, repeating what Andrew had said. Enthused, the second demon stepped forward and began speaking excitedly.
“Arundi paru formiti puntaba wilfom. Vigo wilfom.”
Andrew squirmed with delight and responded. Xander watched this exchange with mounting confusion.
Finally, Andrew turned to Xander with awe. “They’re Elonian! Mr. Giles will be so thrilled when I tell him. There are only a few Elonian still-“
“What are they saying, Andrew?”
“Oh, they said they have brought the things we requested.”
“What things? We didn’t request anything.”
“Hold on, I’ll check.” Andrew turned to the demon attendants. “Paz, dieteras per tom’at kerlor? No dieteras?”
If Xander didn’t know any better, he would swear the demons were blushing. They whispered between themselves, as if trying to decide something. Finally, they seemed to come to an agreement. The smaller Elonian addressed Andrew and spoke rapidly. The boy looked confused but tried to follow what the little man was saying. He nodded. He listened. He nodded again. He listened again. He then paled and began choking. Xander moved quickly to his side, as the Elonian left, tittering quietly between themselves. Xander slapped Andrew on the back until the youth stumbled away, red-faced and heaving.
“What is it? Are you okay? What’s going on?”
He gestured to the silver cart still standing in the room. It was fitted with two large shelves, each holding several large covered domes. Xander lifted the largest dome from the cart, expecting dead rats or a bomb. On the silver platter rested a cut crystal decanter. Very old and obviously expensive, it appeared to contain scotch. Xander sniffed it. Yep, definitely scotch. He lifted another dome and then another. Strawberries, champagne, whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and filet mignon! His stomach growled. Oh dear lord! Doritos! He dove in, happily munching the yummy snacks.
“It’s about time that they fed us. Damn, I was starving! Hey, Andrew, get over and eat some of this. I’ve been thinking, have you noticed how every demon we’ve met here so far has been male? I mean, no women at all. You’d think that with this being a bordello and all, there would be women, but no.”
Andrew was regaining his composure. “Uh, Xander?”
“Yeah? Oh, you know, Angel told me about this place in L.A. that hires demon chicks and--Oh, look! There’s more down here.” The young man squatted on the floor, ready to lift the lids from the smaller platters.
“Xander…don’t you get it?”
“Get what?” he replied from the floor. Suddenly, the room was filled with music. The rich sound of Barry White echoed in the enclosed space.
“For the love of Goddess, Xander. Please don’t tell me I’m the brains of this operation?”
Xander lifted the lid on the first platter on the bottom shelf and dropped it to the ground with a clang. Lube. Lubricant. A lubricating product. Useful in the act of…of…
“AUGH!!!!!” Realization dawned on Xander and he choked on a mouthful of chips.
“Finally. I thought I was the only one riding this train of thought. What are we going to do? They can totally see us!”
Xander took in several panicked breaths. “What exactly did the Elonian say???”
“They said that the Mistress can see us-everyone here-and that she thought we could use this stuff. Oh, and that the Mistress would talk with us after, uh, we, uh, sex--”
“--Let’s just get the hell out of here!” Xander began grasping at the blue door. Locked. He ran his fingers around the edges, looking for a hinge to remove, anything, but he could find no way to break out.
“No can do!” Andrew was getting hysterical again. “They said that once you get in, you can’t get out except through the Mistress. The front door is a one-way deal. And you can’t navigate in here because every door just leads to a room or a passageway but that only the Mistress knows what order to take them in and I think I’m starting to hyperventilate again!!!!” Andrew began the large choking gasps once more.
Xander quickly poured a large tumbler of scotch.
“That.” gasp, “Doesn’t.” gasp, “Help.” gasp, “Hyper-“ gasp, “-ventilation.”
“No but it does help panic attacks.” Xander tossed back his drink in two large gulps and refilled it. “Why couldn’t Giles have sent that hot French slayer with me? Or that one that doesn’t wear any underwear? This is crazy. There is no way that-I mean, come on!!!”
Andrew edged his way to the cart and poured himself a glass of champagne and began to chug-a-lug. He winced as he swallowed and then began choking again.
“Jeesh, Andrew, will I have to start calling you Choking Boy after this?-Uh, don’t answer that.” Xander blushed furiously as he clapped Andrew on the back again.
“I’m fine. Pour me some more,” he challenged with false bravado.
“OK, one more glass, and then we’re going to have a good long talk about how the hell we’re going to get out of this mess.”
“Whatever we say, she’s just watching and listening, Xander. She’ll know whatever we decide.”
“True…but…there has to be a way to keep our conversation private. If we whisper, or if…”
“…if we hide!” Andrew jumped onto the bed and began scrambling for the bedspread.
“Um, what are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing? I’m making a fort.”
“Burying a Scooby Snack is what it looks like, but I’ll just stand here and enjoy the insanity.”
“Come on, Xan. Didn’t you ever read X-men under your covers after your mom told you to go to bed?”
“Actually, I don’t think she worried much about that. I was usually the one putting her to bed. But Willow and I used to read Hardy Boys in a tent in her backyard in the summer. I guess it was sort of Scoobie Boot Camp when you think about it.” Xander kicked off his shoes and pulled back the covers, preparing to huddle. As afterthought, he grabbed the scotch. And the platter of steak. And…well heck. He wheeled the cart next to the bed and then climbed in. “Now think, Andrew,” he said as they pulled the bedspread over his head and dug into the food. The velvet was thick but the light in the room was powerful and a weak glow managed to diffuse through the fabric, casting odd shadows on the two young men. “Think hard. How are we going to escape?”
“And he hasn’t checked back in? No, no message.” Giles hung up the phone.
“Ethan left.” Buffy didn’t bother to form it as a question.
“It would appear so, yes. I don’t think we should jump to any conclusions, though.”
“Don’t jump to conclusions? Giles, we lost contact with Xander over three hours ago. What if he’s hurt? What if it was all a trap and Ethan is just using him for something? Maybe he’s trying to open the Hellmouth himself. Did you think of that?”
“Buffy, I am as concerned as you are, but we must remain calm. Our surveillance up until we lost contact leads me to believe that Xander and Andrew did, in fact, manage to make it into The House. All we have to do is follow their footsteps and we’re sure to find them again.”
“If we’re not too late.”
“My god, Buffy. When did you get so pessimistic?”
“Sorry, Giles. End of the world kind of does that to a girl.”
“Yes, but the world didn’t end, Buffy. A fact you seem to forget every day.” His eyes locked with his beloved Slayer and for a moment, he felt understanding in her glance.
She sighed. “So. We find them.”
“No thanks. I’ve had enough. Doritos?”
“Um…yes please.” Andrew accepted the bowl Xander passed him and popped a chip in his mouth. He followed it with a swig from the nearly-empty champagne bottle.
Xander sat straight up under the crumpled bedspread. “So, who’s up for charging the door?”
“I thought we decided that it was a big ‘no-no’ on the charging?” Andrew whispered loudly.
Xander answered with his own whispered shout. “No, we said it was ‘no’ on the faking a seizure and knocking out the guards.”
“'cause that only works in the movies.”
“Right, and we decided that seducing the guards might work if there were any guards to seduce and if it weren’t, you know, counterproductive to our problem.”
“And we couldn’t drug anyone because we have no drugs-“
“And no one to give the drugs to if we had them, so…I ask again, who’s up for charging the door?”
Andrew raised his had like he used to in Mr. Linet’s trig class. Mr. Linet...he had thick glasses that made his eyes look like he was teaching through a fishbowl. That’s why Warren had started calling him Mr. Limpet. Ha. Don Knotts. Funny guy. Hum…yeah…funny….
“I think I’m drunk, Xandre,” he slurred.
“Xandre? What am I, French?”
“XAN-DER. Geez. So sensitive. You’re worse than Anya. I mean you call her Anyanka once and you never live…it...” He took another swig from his bottle.
Xander felt the tears rise, unbidden. “Yeah…” He sniffed, grateful for the near-dark conditions. “….don’t worry. I did it myself a couple of times and she can-could get pretty feisty about it.”
They sat, silently drifting in their own thoughts.
“I’m sorry, Xander.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t save her.”
Andrew’s words hit him like a powerful fist and Xander struggled to find the right thing to say. He was breathing through his mouth now, willing the tears to go back to the cold, hard place that he’d locked them away months before.
“It wasn’t-it wasn’t your job to save her. It was your job to save the world. And as far as I’m concerned, you did that.” He took another drink from the tumbler that hung loosely in his hand.
“That’s sweet, Xander. A load of crap, but sweet.”
“It’s not crap.”
“‘Yeah, well…’ what? I don’t just hand out compliments willy-nilly, Andrew. She liked you. She respected you. What can I say? She was a horrible judge of character.” Andrew looked quickly at him and Xander amended his statement. “Usually.”
The blond boy smiled. “Most people didn’t ‘get’ her, did they?”
“No, but most people are idiots. They don’t see things right in front of them. But not Anya. She ‘got’ people. She ‘got’ you. Go figure.”
“I-I found her coat the other day,” Andrew admitted with great effort, as if it were an enormous burden he had been carrying for years. “I think she gave it to Becky or one of the eastern European slayers and they just left it-left it hanging in a closet for months after... Didn’t even wear it. Isn’t that sad? It’s like, the only thing left of her is hidden in this musty closet that no one can look at. No one will see how amazing she was. Or, uh, I guess how amazing her…coat was.” He cocked his head, trying to straighten the analogy in his head. “You know, Xander, I think, she was the only friend I had that didn’t want anything from me in return. No chem homework, no money, no demon assassins. She just treated me like a person. I haven’t been treated that way since…well…a long time.” Great crocodile tears began falling from Andrew’s eyes. They pooled at his chin and dripped lazily onto his lap.
“Hey there. Come on. We treat you like a person over at Slayer Incorporated. I mean, we’re drowning in estrogen over there, but…”
“It should have been me.”
“I was ready for it to be me. It was fair.”
“Yes, Xander, and you know it!”
Andrew’s tears had stopped for the moment to be replaced with a drunken, irrational fury that shook his small frame. Xander licked his lips, trying to compose himself.
“Look, I don’t know what you think I know that you know…Dammit! I’ve had too much to drink and can’t form a clear sentence, but I can form a clear thought and right now, I know that she was supposed to die that day and you were supposed to live.”
“Yes. If for no other reason than because I never would have made it past that guy with the key if you hadn’t been here. I wouldn’t have been able to talk to the Elonian. Hell, I wouldn’t have even made it through the front door. I’d still be standing on the porch wondering where the doorknob was.” He had no idea why it was so important right then to convince the boy of his own self-worth, especially when Xander himself had contributed to more than a little Andrew-bashing on his own, but something told him that he should.
“That’s three reasons.”
“See?” Xander smiled. Andrew just looked sad. “See?” he repeated and nudged him with his shoulder.
“And look where that got you.” Andrew was breathing heavily through his mouth. “I’m so miserable.” He confessed. “So damn miserable I can hardly breathe, Xander. It’s like-it’s like every day is just an effort to make it through to the next one.”
Xander snorted bitterly. “Welcome to my world, Andrew. It’s a dark, bleak, place but sometimes, there are Twinkies and mental games of Pin-The-Tail-On-Rona.”
Finally, a smile that dissolved into a laugh. Comparing Andrew’s smile to the sun coming out from behind the clouds was stupid and trite and yet Xander could think of no better metaphor. And see, that was the thing about metaphors. They were tricky. They made you wax poetic and feel mushy. They skewed your vision until all you saw were puppy dogs and rainbows. He entirely blamed his cheesy metaphor for the unthinkable thing he did next. Xander slipped his left hand against a wet cheek and, leaning forward, pressed his lips against Andrew’s. It wasn’t a long kiss. It wasn’t even particularly romantic, but when it was done, Xander found himself strangely breathless. He sat staring through the dimness at the other young man for what felt like hours but what was probably, okay, he’d had a lot to drink so maybe it was hours. Finally, Andrew spoke.
“You kissed me.”
“It seemed like the thing to do?” He looked down at his kneecaps. Fascinating thing, knees…
“Um-hum…Well, it was...nice.”
“Good. It was…nice for me, too.”
God he was lame! ‘nice for me, too?’ Was he thirteen? “And where did this sudden thundering in my chest come from? Do you see a heard of rhinos nearby?” Was what he wanted to ask, but didn’t. It was nothing like kissing Anya. A whole lot of nothing. Wait, not ‘nothing’ like zilch, zero, zip. There was definitely ‘something’ but a something he didn’t usually feel. Augh! Now he was babbling to himself. Scotch! That’s it. Must be the scotch. Alcohol. Don’t let friends drive drunk. Or attempt to give therapy sessions drunk. It could only lead to strange and bizarre acts like turning into a cavewoman, or wearing a lampshade on your head, or kissing Andrew… or letting Andrew kiss you…oh god…
Andrew was leaning toward him. This was it. Xander knew this was the time to put an end to things. To tell the Dungeon Master that he had had way too much to drink and they should be thinking of ways to get out of this mess instead of huddling under the covers stealing forbidden smoochies. It wasn’t Andrew’s fault, after all. Xander was quite good at finding the most inappropriate time to kiss the most inappropriate people. Willow? Cordelia? Faith? Any time now he should tell him to stop…any time now…yet he couldn’t bring himself to move and when their lips met for a second time, Xander couldn’t help noticing how his lips were soft and warm and tasted sweetly of champagne and salty tears. He held perfectly still, unsure of what to do. Finally, he pulled away.
“I can’t. I mean I shouldn’t.”
Andrew was breathing heavily now, too. “Shouldn’t what?”
“Shouldn’t…um…” Damn. He had no idea what was going on. He tried to clear his head. This was weird. Definitely weird. He wasn’t gay. He’d had sex. With women. Lots of women. Okay, two, but hey, end of the world. It wasn’t really conducive to picking up chicks. “The world’s gonna’ end. Let’s have sex.” Oh, wait. That might have worked. Damn. Always a day late and a dollar short and he was being kissed again…
Xander was dimly aware that Doritos were probably not the best choice for pre-makeout snacking, but he didn’t spend a long time thinking about it. Um…lips. Lips and teeth…teeth biting at his lower lip and…oh!…that was nice…His head was swimming and a surprising heat was building in his groin. Hummm…thank you scotch….happy elixir of love…and hey, it wasn’t like Giles was hearing any of this, since they…um…lost their wires hours ago…and…umm….hands tugging at his hair and…he couldn’t keep kneeling here like a dork…there were…woah, that was nice…things for him…to do…Oh! Biting on the ears…that was…ummmm…nice…very nice…damn, Xander, use a synonym…But there was nothing he could think of. The mouth on his neck was so…so…
Okay, he was definitely going to have to either stop or chip in at some point. He gulped and took a deep breath of stale air. The fabric of the bedcover was pulling against his hair and he was almost uncomfortably hot but he found himself helpless to stop. Raising both hands to Andrew’s face, he pulled his mouth to his and began placing nervous kisses over his lips. Before long, a tongue snaked out and licked tentatively at his. He didn’t resist and Andrew pressed his mouth more firmly on Xander’s, letting his tongue explore.
Sweaty hands were pulling at his shirt and then running softly over his exposed belly. Palms explored his chest and then pinched lightly at his nipples. Xander moaned softly and leaned in further. Hands were sliding up his chest and under his arms and then working his shirt-trying to get it off. He found himself raising his arms over his head, pressing against the thin satin sheet that still domed over them. As Andrew pulled it over his head, Xander’s shirt caught briefly over his ears. He suddenly remembered his mom pulling off his Incredible Hulk t-shirt when he was seven, demanding that it be washed because six days in a row was just too long to wear the same shirt. Surprisingly comforting memory. And then the shirt was gone and he was shivering even though it was warm and stuffy under the sheet. Then, a tongue lapping at his nipple; suckling and biting and -ohgod!
He ran his hands through shaggy blond waves and pulled hard. Xander felt a moan at his chest and a tongue trailing across to his other nipple. He ran his hands down the back of Andrew’s neck, across the expanse of his thin back-plucking at the t-shirt that covered it. It was moving easily under his hand, up the body crouching below him. Tongue moving back reluctantly and the shirt was being pulled over blond hair and their mouths found each other again. Desperate now, kissing with abandon, the two young men clung fiercely to each other, bruising their mouths and leaving small, red indentations on fair skin where fingertips were clenching. Afraid to let go but desperate for more, Xander ran his hands across a smooth chest and down to Andrew’s belly.
Xander felt the tiny cube of pain he’d been carrying for months start to melt a little. Too much pain. Too much loss. More than one person should ever have to endure. For the first time, Xander wondered about Andrew’s loss. He knew it couldn’t be as deep as his. As profound as his. That’s why he’d told Giles that he wouldn’t take him, wasn’t it? If he was honest? Andrew hadn’t “earned” it. Hadn’t earned Xander's respect with twenty-two years of pain and sacrifice and missed chances. “You feel ignored? Try going to bed when you’re nine without your pajama bottoms ‘cause the belt actually left blisters this time. Trouble with girls? Try losing your virginity and almost your life on the same night. So ya wanna’ be a god? Watch one up close as she reins death and destruction on you and the ones you love. Your best friend died? Been there, done that, got the souvenir gift mug. When you’ve lost your best friends, their moms, their lovers, classmates and co-workers, fiancées and friends, then you talk to me about loss. Talk to me about pain when you’re wearing an eyepatch, desperate to scratch a phantom itch in a place that doesn’t exist anymore. Then, THEN maybe I’ll call you worthy.” But that was dissolving. It was dissolving and Xander couldn’t stop it. Didn’t want to stop it.
Andrew pulled back, eyes confused, watching tears seep quietly down Xander’s cheeks. He didn’t hesitate and began licking softly at the trickling path, working his way down his face. With a small sob that sounded pitiful even to his own ears, Xander let him continue his ministrations. Andrew kissed his way to the edge of his jaw and then down his throat. Across his chest and down his belly, then he felt confident hands working on his jeans and he didn’t care. Damn, he didn’t care. Because when you have an itch, you scratch it, when someone offers you money, you take it, and when you’re hurting and horny, you take whatever pleasure you get and hopefully give some, too. That made him think of his first time with Anya and he had to smile. Smile or cry. He hadn’t decided yet and-oh! Ohholyheck! Hands sliding under the waistband of his jeans and boxers simultaneously. Clenching his ass and pressing kisses against the fabric covering his thighs. He strained to see in the dwindling light. It was getting late and the sun was setting through the tiny window they had earlier deemed too small to crawl through. Xander could see soft hair and a smooth expanse of white skin. His knees were becoming sore from kneeling but he didn’t want to move for fear Andrew would stop. Stop doing what Xander hadn’t realized he so desperately needed.
It didn’t matter, though, because Andrew sat up, then. The sheet pulled at his hair and made it stand up comically. Xander smiled. Andrew smiled, too. Then he grasped Xander’s face and kissed him gently, turning him and pushing him so he was lying correctly against the small mountain of pillows. Andrew dove deeper under the covers and Xander giggled as he touched a ticklish spot.
What. Was. He. Doing? This was Andrew. He heard rustling and sensed Andrew taking off his pants and socks, shoving them of the edge of the bed to plop on the room’s plush carpet. Xander’s pants were coming off now, too, and he remembered that ‘80s movie where Lauren Hutton was a vamp and took off Jim Carrey’s pants and then bit him on the thigh, except Andrew wasn’t a vampire and the only vampires he knew were in LA or-dead. Dead. Well, always dead, but…deader? His chest was burning. Spike. Just the one word. He didn’t even like the guy. Heck, he hated the guy most of the time and yet his loss left another cold burning spot in his chest. Dry ice. That’s what he was made of. So cold he was hot. Xander was choking, burning and-oh….engulfed in pleasure. Small warm mouth on his dick, licking at the leaking tip like a lollipop. Big Xanderpop. That’s what he was. He giggled. Damn scotch. Damn cheesy metaphors. Damn fine mouth you got there, Andrew. How come I didn’t know this about you before? His thoughts were completely jumbled and he didn’t mind. Xander was panting heavily now and could hear shallow breaths just below him as well.
Their musical benefactor had little originality with it’s playlist and Wicked Game came to a close as Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love Babe began for what felt like-and probably was-the 25th time. Andrew took a deep breath and then Xander’s cock was engulfed to the root. Jesusmaryandjoseph! He moaned and arched up, clutching desperately at the thin satin sheet that threatened to slip down and betray their pleasure. Blunt teeth working up and down him, slim fingers kneading his balls and waves of pleasure-oh, geez it felt good-echoed through his body. He wanted it to go on and on but he knew it couldn’t. He grabbed at the headboard-no easy feat over the pillows. He was coming close. He wanted to say something, to shout a warning, but the hands were slipping behind his balls, stroking his sensitive skin and teasing gently at-
“-OhgodAndrew!” The intensity of his orgasm took him by surprise. It rolled over him in waves as he came and came…
Andrew began suckling his cock, licking it clean, and for a few fleeting moments, he wondered if Andrew would care to know that that was something Anya refused to do, even after three years. Sweat was standing out across his body and he panted noisily, unable to move. He took several deep gulps of cool air before he realized the sheet had slipped free and he was exposed.
“Aw, fuck it,” he thought. It was probably the alcohol talking but if the Mistress wanted a free show, he would put on a good one. Xander became aware of Andrew still kneeling between his legs but could not find the energy to sit up. He flapped his hand at the younger man, gesturing for him to join him on the pillows. Andrew obliged and Xander watched as he crawled toward the head of the bed. Instead of settling back against the pillows as Xander hand done, he lay his head on Xander’s chest, curling his small frame up to Xander’s large one. Big blue eyes stared at him, waiting for him to object, to push him to the other side. “This is my side, this is your side.” Like he and Willow had done with their treehouse in the fifth grade in their one and only fight about a boy-Jesse. He’d just moved to Sunnydale and they both wanted to be his friend. Eleven hours and two Hostess Snowballs later, they had agreed to share him.
Xander tucked his arm around the blond boy and pulled him tightly to his chest. His arms seemed to be the only things working at the moment so it was just as well. They lay like that, in companionable silence, for several minutes. Xander was ready to drift off when Andrew shifted next to him, trying to find a more comfortable position. Xander felt something hard pressing against his hip. It took him a minute to figure out what it was, but when he did his cheeks reddened in shame.
“Andrew, you haven’t-“
“It’s okay. I’m good.”
“No, you’ve got a boner the size of Tulsa. That’s not good. Well, it is good-“ Xander grinned devilishly, “-but not if you don’t do anything about it.”
Andrew looked shyly at Xander then turned his head back to the warm chest he was laying against. “I like this. This is good.” Andrew pulled a Miss Kitty Fantastico and nuzzled deeper into Xander’s chest.
Xander was confused. Sure, he might not have any idea what he was doing. He was probably going to regret this in the morning and he might not have been the person most skilled in the ‘love that dare not speak its name’, but even he could tell a come-on when it was offered.
Time for more aggressive action. Xander swallowed nervously and reached over to the cart that still stood near the bed. He had to pull away from Andrew to reach the bottom shelf but returned triumphant with the box of condoms and the tube of lube. Andrew smiled with resignation and rolled to his belly, drawing his knees up and arcing his back. He turned his face away from Xander.
“Where are you?”
“‘m right here,” He mumbled.
“See, your body is right there, but I feel like maybe you are nowhere to be found. Am I wrong?”
Andrew turned his head, confused. “That’s what you want, right? That’s what comes next. I mean, that’s what usually comes next?”
“Well, I wouldn’t know anything about ‘usually’ since I’ve never done this before.”
“Right, I…Right. Geez. Sorry. I didn’t…I mean…I’m not used to…”
Andrew slid flat on the bed and closed his eyes, breathing through his mouth. Xander joined him and stared at the pinched face until the blue eyes finally opened. He lay staring for several minutes before he spoke.
“Andrew, how many times have you done this?”
He shrugged and began playing with a small thread that was sticking out of the smooth sheet.
“Did you and Jonathan-“
“Jonathan was straight.”
The statement was simple. Three words. Yet it carried a mountain of meaning that Xander was just beginning to understand.
“Could we please not talk about this now?”
“You and Warren…?”
“Yes, okay? Yes, I had sex with him. Yes, I let him have sex with me. Yes, sometimes he hurt me and he made me do things that would make my mother cry, okay? I don’t want to talk about it. I think about it all the time, I don’t want to talk about it, too. Every time I do, someone dies.”
Understanding, dark and painful, continued to unfold.
“Anya’s dead! I told her and she’s dead and I know the two things are totally not associated, okay? I know that. I know it, but it doesn’t matter. So please don’t make me talk about it. Besides, it’s over now.”
Andrew pinched his eyes together firmly but when they finally opened, Xander was still watching him quietly.
Thankfully, Andrew let him.
“We want to see the Mistress,” Giles demanded roughly. The tip of his crossbow was a mere six inches from the slimy demon’s face
Buffy widened her stance, preparing for a fight. The demon responded but she could not understand what he was saying. “Tell him we want to talk to Xander,” she commanded, shifting her grip on the broadsword she had carried across the thresholds of The House. The demon was still talking and Giles appeared to understand, though his brow was crinkled with confusion. Finished, the demon clasped his hands behind his back in a military position the humans associated with being ‘at ease.’ Giles turned to the slayer, obviously flustered.
“He says that we need a key.”
“Tell him we had a key and we gave it to our friend.”
“I did tell him that. He didn’t seem to care.”
“Well, tell him that we want to talk to his supervisor.”
“This isn’t the Doublemeat Palace, Buffy. We’re not sending back a cold burger.”
“Giles, we haven’t heard from them in hours. This guy has information. Right now you should be all Mr. Concerned.”
“Of course I am concerned, Buffy, but I’m not going to ‘pick a fight’ with this very large…” The demon was staring intently at them during their conversation. “…gentlemen. We discussed that.”
“We can’t just stand here all day.”
“Well what exactly do you suggest we do?” Giles snapped irritably.
“I don’t know….maybe…make a run for it!” Buffy yelped, hoping the element of surprise would work to her advantage. She began running down the nearest hallway with Giles in tow…
The last rays of the setting sun were gone and the room had grown dark. Xander had begun to doze off when Andrew finally spoke.
“I loved him.”
“Yeah…I told him what was going on, too. I mean, he knew about Warren’s temper and all, but… He protected me for a long time. Maybe he was an enabler ‘cause we didn’t leave, even after Warren lost it, but I didn’t care. He-he used to let me crawl in his bed after Warren left some nights. Nights when Warren was gone, when he’d hit me or…Jonathan could sing-did you know that? And he-he was nice.”
Tears again. Softer this time. Old tears. Old pain.
“You loved him.”
“You were in love with him.”
A soft intake of air. “Maybe.”
“…but Jonathan was straight.”
Xander waited. Somehow, he knew what would come next.
“I killed him.”
“Warren was gone. I was free. And when I saw him again, it was so easy. So easy to slip into the old way. The old roles.”
Xander sat up.
“But don’t you see? That’s why he appeared as Warren, Andrew. He knew how it would effect you.”
“-But I didn’t know. It was only a few weeks and I was in the same place, Xander!” His voice was rising. Xander knew there was more and he willed Andrew to keep going. Andrew took a deep breath. “It will keep happening. He’ll find me again.”
“He will. And I’ll be weak. Weak like before. I killed him, Xander. Warren wanted me to and The First wanted me to and I did it. I didn’t even hesitate. No questions asked. He’ll come back and Jonathan won’t be there to protect me because Jonathan is dead and I killed him…”
Andrew’s thoughts were chaotic, his words poured out like Confusion Soup and it was all Xander could do to keep it straight but he did. Pulling the smaller body to his chest, he stroked the wild tufts of hair and whispered soothing words.
“Warren is gone.”
“The First is gone.”
“What if he-“
“Then you tell him to fuck off because you aren’t that guy anymore. You’re Andrew. You faced an apocalypse. You help run a Slayer Training Camp. You’ve seen Buffy at six a.m. with no makeup and lived to tell about it!” Andrew chuckled against his shoulder and Xander continued to stroke the soft hair. “See? You tell him…you tell him to talk to Buffy first. Tell him to talk to Giles or one of the slayers…” Xander sighed. Too much pain for one person to bear alone. God how he knew the feeling. “You tell him to talk to me, first.”
Over and over he stroked his hair, his back, his face. Was this what Giles meant when he said he thought Xander and Andrew should spend time together? Xander chuckled at the thought. “Please, Xander. Just sleep with the boy. I know it will do you both a world of good.” Andrew looked at him, confused, and Xander related his absurd thought.
“Mr. Giles would never say that,” he laughed and wriggled closer.
“It’s so cute the way you call him Mr. Giles-“ Xander said, then stopped suddenly, caught off guard by the sudden rush of tenderness and genuine affection that washed over him. Ohgodohgodohgod. He wasn't gay. Was not. Was he? Okay, so part of the tree-house jealousy had been due, in some small part, to what he perceived might have been a slight crush on Jesse, but that’s normal! Right? I mean, that wasn’t the only time he’d been jealous. He was jealous of Buffy lots of times-ug! Of Angel, of Angel and Buffy. Jealous of Angel. Yeah, that’s what he meant. Yeah…damn. Who was he kidding? Obviously not Ethan Rayne, that’s for sure.
“‘Unique stature’ my ass!” he fumed with sudden enlightenment.
“Um, Xander? What are you talking about?” He realized his inner monologue had been running for about five minutes. Decision time.
“I said…” He rolled them to their side so they were facing each other on the bed. He pressed soft kisses to the willing mouth, then firmer ones as they were received greedily. “I said…I want you to fuck me up the ass,” he whispered crudely. Crude, he wasn’t used to. Sweet, plaintive begging was more his style, but it had the desired effect. Andrew’s eyes widened and Xander watched as they dilated with desire. The boy gulped nervously and stretched over Xander to claim a condom. He began to roll the larger boy over but Xander protested quietly. “I want to see you.” He had only a dim knowledge of how this worked, but he knew it was better if Andrew wasn’t thinking of Warren for even a moment.
“It’s harder this way, I think…”
“Hum…not hard enough…yet.” Xander began stroking Andrew’s semi-erect penis with slow, languid strokes. Their protective satin sheet had long since been abandoned. Xander lay back and drew Andrew up over his body until he was kneeling with his legs spread over Xander’s face. With a smile, Xander took the hardening member into his mouth. He suckled the head and stroked the shaft until he felt it was sufficiently hard. Grasping the slender hips, he pulled him deep into his mouth, choking a little at the new sensation. Andrew looked concerned and struggled to pull back, but found himself held firmly, pulled forward again and again. Andrew caught the rhythm and before long, Xander’s mind was spinning.
“Fucking my mouth. Andrew is fucking my mouth and I’m very much enjoying it.” Xander watched as the young man rocked slowly, thrusting, then pulling back. His hands clasped over Xander’s and he closed his eyes, smiling with pleasure.
Soon, he slipped free from Xander and began preparing him. Andrew was watching him calmly now and Xander was pleased to note that he didn’t appear worried at all. He simply pushed Xander's feet until they pressed flat against the bed, and reached for a condom and the lube. He rolled the condom on and then, before opening the lube, leaned between Xander’s legs and kissed him tentatively. He moved away and nuzzled his face in Xander’s neck before finally pulling back and opening the tube. Xander watched as he dispensed a generous portion onto his hand. He coated them thoroughly before looking at his friend.
“It’s okay.” Xander whispered and the young man lay his cheek against Xander’s knee. He lowered his eyes and began stroking him with soft lazy strokes. Oh yes. Xander could get used to this. Andrew worked his way gently across Xander’s balls, kneading each one before slipping his hand across the sensitive perineum. A small moan escaped Xander’s lips and, encouraged, Andrew added more lube to his fingers. He pressed timidly at the opening, allowing one finger to breach the entrance.
“Yessss.” It came out something like a hiss and Xander found himself pushing down against the hand involuntarily. Andrew began moving his finger slowly, and Xander moved with the thrusts. Soon, the slow, shallow rhythm was not enough.
“More…please,” he begged. Andrew added a second finger and began the steady thrusts again. There was more lube and soft words. They were quiet at first and Xander could hardly hear them but they got louder.
Xander’s smiled at the endearments. He was ready to share a few of his own when Andrew began to scissor his fingers slightly and-
What had he done? What angel in disguise had he helped to warrant this-ohgod-pleasure? Andrew was stroking it now with each thrust. He added a third finger and Xander winced as he began to work them. When he felt himself relax finally, the pain eased up and it was only that glorious spot being teased again and again and then the fingers were pulled out and he was empty. When his eye could again focus, he watched as Andrew squirted another generous dollop of lube onto his hand. He sat up on his knees and began to coat his dick with smooth, practiced strokes. That spot-that magic spot-had been amazing, but watching Andrew stroke himself wantonly only a few feet away was almost enough to tip Xander over the edge. He watched as Andrew’s head fell back while he coated it, adding another squirt for good measure.
“Are you sure you have enough there, Andrew? After the great Lube Shortage of 1912, they say you should-“
“Shut up, Xander.” Andrew grinned and slapped lightly at his ass with gooey hands.
Prepared, Xander watched as Andrew, knelt and lifted his legs until they pressed on either side of his own slim hips. His erection strained at Xander’s opening. Andrew’s eyes met his and he nodded, desperate to be filled again. Andrew nodded back and pushed forward.
Xander cried out as his entrance was breached.
“Sorry…,” Andrew gasped and started to withdraw. Xander grasped the free hand resting near his own and yanked the boy forward as he thrust his hips up and into him. The pain was incredible, even prepared, but the shudder of pleasure that washed over the other young man’s face more than made up for it. They waited.
“Are you sure? I’ve never done, you know, this part before. I don’t want to hurt you…”
“Please…,” Xander panted with need. “Please just fuck me.” He was aware that he was begging. Begging Andrew of all people, but he didn’t care. Mercifully, Andrew obliged and he began thrusting carefully against him.
Eventually, the strokes became more urgent and then Andrew found that spot. White-hot joy…liquid heat spiraling through his body. Exquisite pleasure and…he grabbed at the sheets, trying to find traction but Andrew was thrusting harder now and faster.
Xander began to slide on the slick bedding. He knew that if he could see himself, he’d have to laugh because, hey, leave it to Xander Harris to try anal sex for the first time on The Worlds Most Slippery Sheets. Recognizing the predicament, Andrew pressed Xander’s legs back to his chest and he found himself traveling the length of the bed and then being rammed up against expensive blue pillows and one very hard headboard. Xander made a mental note to congratulate Andrew on the surprisingly forceful and inventive maneuver. Sweat stood out on the blond man’s forehead. Xander used one hand to clutch at the headboard for dear life. With the other, he tried to grab his own neglected cock. Andrew got there first. Xander covered the smaller hand with his own and together they stroked while Andrew continued to fuck him. Xander watched as the smaller man moaned with delight. Two more strokes and then Xander was coming for the second time that night. Andrew continued to thrust until he, too, was coming. Eyes wide and wet, he cried out at his release. Xander lay prone on the bed, exhausted and sated…
It was difficult for Giles to keep up with Buffy until they rounded the third corner. There they found themselves face to face with an enormous demon. ten feet tall, it positively loomed above Giles and Buffy. The Watcher gasped audibly, but Buffy was unimpressed.
“What are you doing here?” The demon inquired.
“We’re looking for our friends,” Buffy challenged, making eye contact. Or what she hoped was eye contact. His eyes were pretty far up there…
“I cannot help you. Only the Mistress can help you.”
“Then we want to see the Mistress,” Giles demanded.
“No one sees the Mistress without checking with me first.”
“Okay, well…here we are…check us!” Buffy ordered.
“Remove your clothing.”.
“Remove your clothing or I will contact the guard you attempted to evade at the door.”
“‘Attempted’ to evade? I thought we did a pretty good job,” Buffy challenged.
The demon merely looked amused. “Silly young thing. So much knowledge and yet so ignorant. All proceedings in The House are known by the Mistress. You and your companion were known from the moment you walked in, as it was known the moment your partially sightless friend found his path in the arms of the one which he considered his foe. It is by her wish alone that they remain and it is only by her wish alone that you remain.”
“Um, Giles. Are you getting any of this?”
“Not entirely, Buffy.” He addressed the demon. “Are you telling us that we must remove our clothing if we are to leave?”
“I am telling you that you must remove our clothing to be approved by me. The Mistress is a benevolent being, but she has many enemies.”
“I wonder why?” Buffy chortled. “So, you just ask people to strip right here in the hall?”
They sensed acquiescence in the demon’s silence.
“And what then?”
“Then you wait to be approved. These are the rules of The House. The rules are always followed.”
“That’s-that’s just preposterous. I’ll do nothing of the sort.” Giles moved to pass the rangy demon but with one step into the hallway beyond the guard, Giles felt searing pain behind his eyes. He crumpled to the floor, nearly unconscious.
“All proceedings in The House are known by the Mistress.”
Andrew slipped free and moved away. Xander was disappointed at the loss and confused by Andrew’s disappearance until he reappeared sans condom and began licking and kissing his way up Xander’s sweaty thigh.
“How do you do that?” Xander panted.
Andrew laughed. “…lots of sugar…”
He was working his way up Xander’s smooth belly now, licking at the drying cum. As he licked, Xander ran his hands across the soft, mussed hair. He marveled at the differences between Andrew and his last lover. He was way different than Anya. Sex with Anya was always hot and fast and sweaty and very, very sexy, but this was almost painfully intimate and tender and-wait. Waitwaitwait. Did he just call him his lover? When did he jump into a Harlequin Romance novel? And was that what they were? Were they lovers? Does one night make you a lover? Or was Andrew his boyfriend now? What would Willow say? Or Buffy? Ohgod! Buffy would freak! Should that matter? Did it matter? He didn’t think anything would matter too much to Giles because he had the feeling Giles had a few skeletons of his-
“Whatcha’ thinkin’ about?”
Finished with his cleanup job, Andrew settled into his now-familiar spot in the crook of Xander’s arm.
“Nothing, you total girl…,” Xander kidded, pinching Andrew’s side. He yelped and rolled over, pulling Xander into a spooning position. “Just wondering how we’re going to get out of here I guess.”
“The Elodian said the Mistress would come after…we did.”
“Well, we did and I don’t see her.”
“Maybe we should just get some sleep.”
“Sleep does sound of the good right now.”
“Goonight, Johnboy!” They both said and collapsed in a fit of laughter.
“And what exactly does ‘approved’ mean?”
“The mistress is a symbiotic being. She survives on the affection of others. In turn, she provides enlightenment where once there was ignorance. A look at the ‘true’ nature of ourselves, as it were.”
“So…Cliff Notes version, she just pimps out random customers and feeds on their lust until she feels satisfied? What’s the matter? She can’t get her own dates?” Buffy laughed bitterly. “That’s what you mean, right? Because that’s the image I’m getting here.”
“You speak with such contempt of her practice, yet your devotion to the learned one is apparent.” The demon gestured to Giles. “I seen no difference between the Mistress and the relationship you have-or could have. You provide him with protection, he provides you with knowledge. In him you could find comfort, in you he could find passion, and yet you withhold. You cannot avoid what you do not understand. All proceedings in The House are known by the Mistress”
“Yeah, I got that. You’ve said it, like, a million times. I’ve also got a friend with a serious case of brain-freeze and that doesn’t put me in a pro-Mistress place.” Buffy removed Giles’ glasses, cradled his head in her lap. She stroked at the smooth forehead, trying to soothe the tremors that still shuddered through his body.
“And you have entered her House without permission. You have brought no key, threatened the guard, charged down the halls, spoken irreverently to myself, refused to follow basic rules, and attempted to intrude in parts of The House that you have not been invited to enter. I’m afraid you have not put the Mistress in a very-what was the name again?”
“Buffy,” She spat out, helping Giles to a sitting position.
“-have not put the Mistress in a very ‘pro-Buffy’ place either.” The demon paused, listening. “Buffy Summers?”
“Yeah, the Slayer. Ever heard of me?”
“I am told the article ‘the’ may no longer be used when referring to you. Is this correct?” The demon smiled slightly.
“Yeah, well. Whatever. There are lots of us now. Doesn’t matter. We’re getting out of here. You can tell your Mistress that we’re ready to leave, just as soon as she helps us find our friends and tells us what it is we need to know.”
The demon continued listening to the unheard voice. Something akin to fear crossed his face. Finally, he addressed the pair.
“I’m sorry. The Mistress does have information that you would greatly appreciate. Apparently she has attempted to contact you and your associates for some time, but was afraid she was unsuccessful. You see, the Mistress rarely leaves The House and never corporally. She has sent many queries to you, but demon ambassadors are seldom trustworthy when it comes to delivering messages to their enemies and human clientele are rare.” The demon appeared to have finished his invisible conversation. Turning his attention fully to the Slayer and her Watcher, he spoke. “The Mistress would like to know how it was that you came upon this information?”
Giles struggled to stand and Buffy pressed her body against his for support. “Ethan Rayne. He’s a human. Barely.” The Watcher managed a bitter groan.
“I shall communicate this knowledge to The Mistress. She is occupied right now, but will be most pleased to know that her summons has been answered. I will assume then, that you carry on your body no item of threat to my Mistress. You may claim Room 22 until such time as the Mistress is made available.”
Without warning, the Kimtet turned and walked away. Buffy and Giles were left standing in the hallway in confusion.
“Well, what do we do now, Giles?” Buffy asked.
Giles was still reeling from the nasty shock and could only lean weakly against his Slayer’s body. “I think I need to sit down.”
With concern, Buffy began pacing Giles up and down the halls of the White House. It was hard to find Room 22. The crazy doors didn’t have any order to them…
Xander sat cross-legged on the bed, rolling his aching neck in languid circles. The bed was both beautiful and uncomfortable as hell. Andrew was picking absently at the almost-empty bowl of strawberries. Something was troubling him.
“So, if Banshee was actually a guy, why did it look like a girl in the movie?
“I don’t know, Andrew. Maybe that wasn’t actually supposed to be Banshee. I think maybe that was Siryn, Banshee’s daughter…?”
“But I thought she was kidnapped when-“ A well-placed strawberry silenced the young man.
“Enough X-Men. I’m starving for ‘real’ food and tired of being in this room. I just want this Mummy Hand to be over.”
“Sure. So you can go back…and…stuff. Got it.”
“Don’t you want to get out of here?” Xander asked.
“Well sure. I mean, yeah. But…”
“Nothing.” The young man crawled over the rumpled sheets and wrapped thin legs around Xander’s broad back, attempting to press his feet together.
“Oh! An Andrewclamp. That could be interesting.” Xander let his head roll forward as Andrew began kneading the muscles of his back. "Um…very interesting…,” he murmured as the smaller boy hit just the right spot. The two Scoobies had woken with the rising sun and found their patience wearing thin. Despite the night’s activities, the door remained stubbornly locked.
“It’s just…we’ve been in this bed for, like, fifteen hours.”
“And this is of the bad?”
“Um-hum…,” he moaned slightly as Andrew hit another sensitive spot.
“But if we go back-I mean when we go back and all…then it will all be over, you know? And I don’t think I want it to end yet. It’s like…like when you were a kid and Christmas was all months and months of buildup, and then there you were at 7:00 a.m. on Christmas morning with this pile of paper and stuff and it’s all over. The day has barely started, and it’s over. I don’t know. Maybe I’m not making any sense.”
“No, I know what you mean. Of course, for me the annual game of Keep Mom From Passing Out In the Egg Nog So Grandma Doesn’t Find Out was a laugh riot that ran from Christmas until New Years, but I think I get it.” Xander twisted in Andrew’s grasp, pulling him in for a quick but tender kiss, then he sighed. “I don’t know what will happen when we go back. I won’t lie to you. I don’t know. You don’t know. But I do know that there are a lot of things I regret in my life, and don’t regret anything that’s happened in this room and maybe that’s enough. Does that make sense?”
Soft blue eyes regarded him openly. “Yeah. I guess that makes sense.”
“Good, because we could still be here for a long, long while.” Once again, Xander’s stomach stared up its clamorous growl.
“I wish we could get out of here…or at least had some French toast…or some Pop-Tarts!” Andrew called suddenly to the ceiling.
“What are you doing?”
“Ordering room service, I hope.”
“You know…if you’re hungry, Andrew…I have an idea.” Xander leaned to the empty cart and removed a bottle of room-temperature chocolate syrup. Slowly, he began dripping the delicious brown goo over his chest, licking his lips seductively.
“I have chocolate allergies.”
“Oh.” As Xander began to plan how to remove the sticky goop from his chest, Andrew ran his fingers through the chocolate, bringing dripping thumbs to Xander’s mouth where they were licked clean and then dipped again and returned to his waiting mouth.
“Um…I like this game…,” Xander giggled, taking another Andrewfinger onto his tongue.
“So…where do you think the Mistress is? I mean, is she like a doctor, making the rounds and checking in on her patients? Or does she just come knocking like a door-to-door salesman and-“
Andrew stopped as the hairs on the back of his neck began to stand up. Xander was having a similar reaction and both turned to find a shimmering, transparent portal opening near the bed. Through the spatial slit emerged a woman taller than any they had seen before. Donned in a gown of plum colored velvet, she exuded a regality that caused both of the young men to cast their eyes down and wait to be addressed.
“Gentlemen, I perceived that you were eager to leave my House. This pains me, as my guests are usually desirous of staying longer than their allowed time period. Has your stay been…unpleasant?” She gave them an innocent smile.
Xander and Andrew blushed furiously. Uncertain of which naked Scooby she was addressing, both young men shook their head but remained respectfully silent.
“I will try not to take offense at your wordlessness.” she chuckled. “Intimate relations of all types are encouraged here, but those familiar with me know my penchant for men, especially human men. You have been favorably approved, I might add.”
Xander finally found his vocal cords and managed to croak out a weak, “We have a question.”
The Mistress favored him with a gentle smile. “Of course. And you are entitled to one answer. It’s the payment I provide all my clientele. ”
“We came here because we heard a group of demons were going to try to open the Hellmouth and-“ Xander was stopped mid-question by an incredibly long, finger.
“Shushhhh…,” she interrupted. “You have no need to answer that question anymore. Your associates from Sunnydale are here and I will give them the information you need.”
“Um, Mistress, what are you talking about?” Andrew was confused and trying desperately to cover himself with the remains of the sticky blue sheets that lay knotted on the enormous bed.
“One of your Slayers has come. Buffy, I think, and I believe she is with a man named Rupert-poor dear. What a perfectly horrid name. They are waiting to be approved and then they, too, may seek guidance from me.”
“Oh, no no. You don’t understand. Buffy and Giles aren’t like that,” Xander tried to explain. “Giles is like a father to Buffy. They’ll be here forever if that’s what you’re waiting for.”
The Mistress smiled indulgently at the two men twined together on her bed. “It is nothing for you to worry yourself with, loyal boy. But I will tell you this; All things are known to me within the walls of this House. Your friends would not have been permitted to stay, otherwise. I predict that it is only a matter of time before their true relationship becomes known-even to them. Time is one thing that we have in abundance in this House. Now, I believe I was waiting for your question.”
Minds still reeling with unwanted pictures of Buffy, Giles, and bottles of vintage scotch, the two lovers racked their brains for the one Question they could ask the nearly omnipotent woman standing before them.
“An excellent question.”
“Wha--?” They both asked, confused.
“‘All things’, children.” She smiled softly. “And the answer is…contented. And, I might add, very happy. For herself and both of you. Is this answer satisfactory?”
There were no words to express their answer. The two Scoobies merely nodded, their eyes and chests thick with emotion.
“The door has been unlocked. Your exit is 12-56-4-29. Goodbye…and thank you. You were most…filling.” The Mistress stepped to her shimmering arch. Before she shimmered out, however, the regal woman stopped and turned.
“Oh, and one more thing, gentlemen. She says to tell you that “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye is the best make-out song ever.”
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