Xander reached out in the dark, blindly seeking Liam’s small and clammy hand. He flinched when Liam grabbed on to his bruised hand with a strong grip.
“Daddy,” the little boy whispered.
“Shhh, Honey,” Xander moved his hand up over the boy’s tense back and ran his fingers through Liam’s dirty unruly hair, “It’s okay.”
“No,” Liam simply answered and Xander found it hard to argue. It was a lie and they both knew it. Nothing was okay.
Kathy shifted in Xander’s arms and mumbled in her sleep and sucked on her thumb. Xander tried to find a more comfortable position but the floor of the van was cold and hard.
The sound of steps outside made Xander sit up straighter and pull Liam closer. The door to the back of the van was unlocked and opened. Xander blinked at the light coming from the flashlight Angelus was pointing at them.
“Look what I found,” the vampire said and threw the light at Liam. The flashlight clattered against the metal of the floor and Liam uncertainly reached out and picked it up. It was a Batman flashlight with the superhero’s logo printed all over the black plastic. Xander did his best not to think about the toy’s former owner.
“Wakey wakey, Kathy,” Angelus pulled the blinking child out of Xander’s hands and only years of practice prevented Xander from snatching her back, “Let’s go see your new room,” Angelus said and bounced the little girl in his arms, “It has pretty pink curtains and teddy bears on every shelf.”
“They need to eat,” Xander said tentatively and crawled out of the van, making sure that Liam was following him. The boy allowed Xander to help him jump down on to the ground.
“There’s food in the house,” the vampire smiled at Kathy and then turned his attention to Xander, “Fred is just straightening a few things out.”
Liam grabbed onto Xander’s leg and held the flashlight close to his chest. Xander looked around and noticed the farmhouse behind the van. The house looked strangely eerie in the colliding light from the house itself and the van‘s headlights. A doghouse standing to the left of the house had an unmoving form sticking out of the small doorway and Xander looked away, swallowing the bile he felt rising in his throat.
The front door of the house opened and Fred walked out into the cold night air and looked over at them. She gracefully walked across the big driveway and stood close to Angelus and whispered in her sire’s ear.
“Good,” Angelus said, “Drive the van into the barn over there and check out the area. And don’t kill anyone,” he ordered, “We won’t be staying here long but that doesn’t mean I want the people around here to notice us too soon.”
“Daddy,” Liam said and looked up at Xander, “I’m hungry.”
“Then let’s go eat, boy,” Angelus started walking around the van and over to the farmhouse.
Xander knew the second Liam saw the dead dog sticking out of the doghouse. The boy’s small fingers tightened around his own and a small muffled outburst made him look down at his son.
“The doggy,” Liam whispered.
“Don’t look, Liam,” Xander said and lifted the shivering child up into his arms, “Just don’t look.”
“Daddy,” Kathy said from her position in her father’s arms and waved happily at them.
Xander managed to smile and let his hand rest on Liam’s head as the boy pressed his face against Xander’s neck, his small lips moving as he kept mumbling about “the little doggy.”
The front door opened into a big hallway. It seemed as if all the lights in the house were on and Xander closed his eyes momentarily in an attempt to adjust to the bright room.
“Is their…can I go put them in their room?” Xander asked and made sure not to look at Angelus too long. The vampire’s temper was volatile at the best of times and Xander didn’t want to give him an excuse for another beating.
“Fred cleaned it up, nothing there but furniture,” Angelus answered and then kissed Kathy’s cheek, “And toys,” Angelus laughed and the girl giggled but then looked uncertainly at Xander.
“They need to eat before they sleep, Angelus,” Xander said and took a fast step back when Angelus whirled around and glared at him. Liam’s arms felt like steel bars around Xander’s neck, desperately holding on and still hiding his face against Xander’s neck. Kathy gave a little frightened yelp.
“Take them upstairs,” Angelus said, “Second door on the left.”
Xander nodded and put a very reluctant Liam down and took Kathy from Angelus’ arms. The vampire grabbed Xander by the shoulder and moved closer, “I’ll send Fred up with some food and you get them fed and to bed fast. This place has a nice big bed in the master bedroom and I’d like to try it out,” Angelus pressed his cool lips hard against Xander’s and then shoved him in the direction of the stairs.
Xander waited for Liam to cross the hallway and reach the stairs before he started the slow walk upstairs, waiting for the tired little boy every few steps.
A crumbled body on the landing made Xander stop and Liam stood very still next to him. It was a woman. Her big blue eyes staring wide-eyed up at the ceiling, the blood spattered on the wall behind her still slowly dripping down onto the green carpet on the stairs.
“Don’t look, Liam,” Xander whispered and pressed Kathy’s face against his chest praying she hadn’t seen anything, “Keep walking,” he continued, “Just keep walking.”
A knock on the white painted door made Xander almost jump out of his skin before it opened and revealed a grinning Fred. She threw a bag of bread and a plastic jar of peanut butter that lost its lid when it hid the floor. The lid rolled in under a white and pink painted dresser.
“Feed them,” she simply ordered and walked down the hallway, leaving the door open and giving Xander and the kids a view of a bloody handprint on the wall just outside the pink colored room.
Xander hurried over to the white door and closed it. He bent down and picked up the food and walked back to the small bed with its My Little Pony bedspread. Kathy and Liam were both sitting on it, Kathy with a purple stuffed bear in her hands.
“It’ll be nice to get something to eat,” Xander said with a false brightness he knew the children saw right through. He opened the bag of bread and took out several slices before he stuck his finger into the jar of peanut butter and used it to spread the sticky substance onto the bread. He handed Liam the first sandwich and then repeated the process.
Kathy hummed happily when she took her sandwich and bit into it, “Yummy,” she smiled messily at Xander and he laughed quietly and made a sandwich for himself. He just managed to eat half of it before he noticed how both children were practically sleeping while sitting up.
“Let’s get you out of that clothes,” Xander said and started undressing Kathy. Liam, with great difficulty, pulled his own socks off and then started to fumble at the dirty jeans he was wearing when the door burst open.
Angelus walked into the room and looked from the still half-dressed children to Xander, “Didn’t I tell you to make it fast?” he growled at Xander.
“T-they just finished eating,” Xander said, grabbed the blanket with sticky fingers and pulled it over Kathy’s shivering form. Liam had stopped fumbling with his jeans and anxiously watched Angelus walk into the room. The vampire looked around as if seeing the room for the first time, taking in the pink curtains, the pictures of a happy smiling little girl on the walls and the teddy bears that seemed to take up every available surface.
“Get over here,” Angelus said and Xander scrambled across the room and stood in front of Angelus making sure he stood between the vampire and the children on the bed. Angelus grabbed Xander by the neck and pulled him close, his fingers leaving red marks on the human’s pale skin. Xander only had time to gasp before Angelus kissed him so hard Xander’s lip split and blood started running down his chin.
“No,” Xander mumbled against Angelus’ lips and then louder when the vampire gave him a chance to breathe, “Not in front of the children,” he begged and looked over his shoulder at Liam and Kathy. The girl was clutching at her older brother’s shoulder, seeking protection the little boy couldn’t give. “Please,” Xander turned his attention to Angelus, “Not in here.”
“Get your ass to the bedroom,” Angelus pushed Xander out the door and the human tripped over his own feet. Angelus laughed, “Clumsy bitch,” his voice filled the house and Xander got up and let Angelus herd him down the short hall and into what could only be the master bedroom. In the corner a dead man was propped against the wall, his tongue peeking out from blue lips.
“Get undressed,” Angelus demanded and started unbuttoning his own shirt.
It had been fast and painful. It wasn’t always but Xander preferred it to the times when Angelus would make him like it. Those times where the vampire would make it good and make Xander moan and beg, always felt worse than when Angelus simply pushed him facedown on a mattress and forced him.
But what came after was always the same and Xander swallowed in fear as Angelus nuzzled his throat with soft lips before scraping his fangs over the claim mark. Xander shivered and Angelus chuckled deep down in his chest.
“We’ll only stay here a few days,” Angelus whispered against Xander’s neck and licked the claim mark slowly, “Just a few days and then we’ll go to New York to deal with some business.”
“Can…can I take the kids outside tomorrow?” Xander cautiously asked, “They could…use some fresh air and maybe they could play.”
“No,” Angelus easily replied and Xander knew better than to argue, “I still can’t be sure Willow isn’t trying to track us. Even with the spell that last shaman cast on you I’m still not sure…” Angelus ground his hips against Xander’s, “You’ll stay indoors.”
Xander just nodded but stopped immediately when he felt Angelus’ fangs break the skin on his neck and slowly, always so painfully slow, sink into his flesh.
Xander’s fingers constricted on Angelus’ shoulders and the vampire chuckled again, causing a weird feeling to spread across Xander’s skin and into his body as the blood was forced to change direction. He could feel his heart pumping in a vain attempt to stop the unnatural flow of his blood.
He felt himself grow faint and pushed against Angelus’ shoulder with a weak hand, “The baby,” Xander mumbled, “Don’t…you’re hurting the baby.”
Angelus used his knees to push Xander’s thighs further apart and find a more comfortable position but didn’t seem to hear Xander’s weak voice.
“Please, you’ll hurt the baby,” Xander heard his own far-away voice beg just before he fainted.