Sometimes, when the hotel was quiet and Angelus had left for the night, Xander would hear Liam laugh. It always sounded as if it came as a surprise to the little boy. As if he wasn’t used to the sound himself.
On those nights Xander would get up and move closer to the locked door. He would press his ear against the grain of the wood and listen.
More often he could hear the angry wails coming from the baby girl or Liam crying softly outside the locked door .On those nights, Xander would curl up on his mattress and pull the blanket over his head and pretend he couldn’t hear them.
“Can I see them now?” Xander slowly sat up on the mattress. He made sure to keep his eyes on the floor.
“Hmmm?” Angelus pulled on his pants, “I’ll have Spike bring them in.”
“Thank you,” Xander looked up at the vampire towering over him.
Angelus crouched down in front of Xander, “I’ll send Fred out to get you some food,” he chuckled when Xander’s stomach growled its interest.
Angelus cradled Xander’s face in his hands and swiped the calloused thumbs across the human’s cheekbones. For a second Xander saw a flicker of something gentle in Angelus’ eyes. But once he blinked it was gone and Angelus stood up.
Pulling the still buttoned shirt over his head and adjusting it, Angelus unlocked the door with the key hanging in a chain around his neck and walked out.
Xander heard the key turn in the keyhole again and started getting ready for the visit he worked so hard to earn.
A noise from the door made Xander look up. He checked the room again, one last time, to make sure the tainted mattress was covered by the threadbare grey blanket and that the old bloodstain on the floor was hidden by the old multicolored throw rug.
“You calm down now,” Spike growled softly from behind the door, affection clear in the vampire’s voice.
“Daddy,” a small voice demanded.
The door finally opened and Liam was the first to burst into the room. The toddler reached Xander in the blink of an eye and put his arms around Xander’s neck and pressed wet warm lips against his father’s cheek.
“Shhh,” Spike hushed the whimpering baby in his arms. The little girl’s hand clutched at the vampire’s shirt but then she slowly seemed to calm down. The sudden noise from her brother had woken her up.
“Hi, Sweetheart,” Xander breathed into Liam’s hair and hugged the child close.
Spike passed the almost sleeping baby to Xander’s arms. She moved a little when Xander kissed her small brow. She wrinkled her nose and then stretched, her arms reaching out for Xander‘s shirt. Liam sat down on the floor next to them and kept a hand on Xander’s leg as if the boy was afraid he would disappear.
“She looks good,” Xander said, “Still a little thin,” he held the baby’s small hand in his own.
“Finally convinced the bastard to feed her more,” Spike said and sat down on the floor next to Xander. The human flinched instinctively when Spike raised a hand to brush a lock of dark hair away from Xander’s face.
“Sorry,” Xander mumbled and deliberately sat very still. Spike just sighed and moved his hand down to stroke the infant’s cheek.
“I think…” Spike began but then bit his lower lip uncertainly. It was so out of character for the vampire that Xander turned and looked straight at him, “Angelus is getting careless,” the blond continued, “He’s overconfident and he leaves the hotel for longer and longer each night.”
“It’s too dangerous,” Xander shook his head and put his free arm around Liam, “He’ll find us and it’ll only make things worse. You know that.”
“I wouldn’t try to get you out first,” Spike whispered, “Just Gunn and Wesley.”
“What about the kids?” Xander asked and suddenly realized he didn’t want to know.
“I can’t take them with me right now,” Spike reluctantly continued, “If it’s just me, Gunn and Wesley…Angelus will be angry. He’ll probably try to find us but we won’t be his main concern.”
Xander could feel his mouth go dry, “Don’t leave me,” he begged, “Don’t leave us behind.”
“We’ll come back for you,” Spike promised and tilted his head until his forehead touched Xander’s, “If we can get to Sunnydale and maybe help Buffy find a way to…”
“Aren’t we all so very friendly?” a mocking voice from the doorway asked and Xander looked up.
Fred walked into the room with a large paper bag in her hand.
“Just leave the food and get the fuck out,” Spike snarled as he moved from his crouched position, in front of Xander, and over to where Fred stood. She hissed at him and slammed the paper bag against Spike’s chest.
“Just remember that Angelus listens to me,” she said and looked over at Xander. Liam made a quiet but clearly distressed sound and Xander pulled the little boy closer.
“Do you have to leave already?” Xander asked and pulled the blanket over his sleeping children.
“They can sleep in here tonight,” Spike opened the door before he turned around and looked at Xander, “You need anything else?” he scanned the bare room.
“I don’t want to get you in trouble,” Xander said and snuggled closer to a mildly snoring Kathy.
“Right,” Spike stepped into the hallway, closed the door and locked it behind him, leaving Xander alone with his children for the first time in months.
He woke up to the sound of Kathy whimpering in protest. Sitting up on the mattress, being careful not to jostle the sleeping children he tried to see into the dark of the room.
“Get off the mattress,” the angry voice startled him. Xander pushed himself away from the mattress and the warmth of the sleeping children. He scooted over the floor until his back hit the wooden chair, standing in the middle of the room.
“I’m sorry,” Xander apologized, not sure what he had done wrong.
“You’re coming with me,” Angelus whispered and caught Xander by surprise when he suddenly grabbed the human’s upper arm and started dragging him across the floor.
“Angelus” Xander begged, trying not to wake the children.
“Shut up,” the light was turned on and Xander blinked against the sudden glare of the naked bulb in the ceiling. He looked over his shoulder at Liam’s frightened eyes looking from Angelus to him in fear.
“Daddy?” Liam asked, his voice trembling.
“You want him to see it?” Angelus hissed in Xander’s left ear, his large hand already clenched.
“No,” Xander shook his head and looked back at Liam, “It’s okay. Just go back to sleep,” he struggled to keep his balance and followed Angelus out of the room.
The hallway was only partly lit as Angelus dragged Xander down it. “I told Spike to let them eat with you,” the growl made cold sweat break out all over Xander’s body, “And what does he do? He disobeys me, again.”
“I asked,” Xander tried to explain, “I asked if they could sleep…” his explanation was cut short by the fist slamming against his mouth.
“You don’t get to ask,” Angelus hauled him up, pressing him against one of the many doors lining the hallway, “I tell you what to do and you do it.”
“Why do you keep making me angry?” Angelus sounded honestly puzzled, “You could have anything you want. If only you could behave.”
Xander stood as if frozen in place. Afraid to even breathe.
“Why can‘t you just…” Angelus pulled him closer, their lips inches apart. Angelus snarled when Xander wouldn‘t look at him, “Have it your way then! You’re here for my entertainment,” a cool hand snaked its way under Xander’s dirty t--shirt and Angelus pressed his face against Xander’s neck, breathing in his scent.
“God, you stink,” the words were sneered seconds before Xander found himself in a heap on the floor at Angelus’ feet.
He woke up sitting in a shower stall, cool water streaming down from the showerhead. He was fully clothed and the soaked fabric seemed to weigh him down. His face hurt where Angelus’ fist had connected. Xander reached up and turned the water off. For a few seconds he just sat there, eyes closed, trying to control his breathing despite the shivers running through his body.
Bracing his hand against the tiled wall, he got on his feet and slowly walked over to the door. It was locked. Xander looked around the bathroom. It was small and had to be one of the bathrooms that came with the smaller hotel rooms.
Sitting down on the closed toilet lid, he tried to remember what had happened but it was all so hazy. Xander started pulling his cold and wet shirt off. The cotton clinging to his bruised skin. He let the threadbare shirt fall wetly to the floor where, almost immediately, a pool started forming. Standing up on shaking legs he managed to get the striped pajama pants off as well. He left the stained boxer shorts on. He sat back down and cringed when the damp boxers were pressed against his skin.
Xander leant forward, resting his elbows on his knees, and ran his hands through his hair forcing drops of water to run down his back.
Yelling, coming from somewhere on the lower levels of the hotel, made him stand up. Xander walked over to the door and pressed his ear against it. He could hear Angelus’ voice booming through the corridors. Then silence. Xander had learned early on that silence could be deceptive. Silence meant trouble.
He slowly stepped away from the door his eyes glued to it.
And then all hell broke loose.
Screaming, pain filled and angry, filled the hotel. The sound of running feet coming closer made him search the room for any potential weapon. Something scraped against the door and Xander found himself wishing he’d kept his clothes on. Anything to make him feel less exposed, less vulnerable.
The door opened and Liam was pushed through. The toddle awkwardly trying to hold on to the silent baby in his arms. Xander crossed the small room in a few steps and knelt down in front of his son. He carefully took the baby out of the trembling boy’s arms and got up.
“Stay inside,” Fred told him from the doorway, her hand already pulling the door shut and locking it behind her, before Xander had a chance to answer.
“Come here,” Xander guided Liam into the shower stall.
“We just need to be quiet,” Xander murmured. He pulled the little blanket wrapped around Kathy away and looked down at the baby. She stared right back at him. Her eyes big but her face a mask, as if she was a doll, “Hey, Kathy,” he said and cuddled her closer to his bare chest.
A shiver ran through her and she started screaming at the top of her lungs. The sound reverberated against the walls in the bathroom.
The yelling had stopped and Xander sat blocking Liam’s view of the door, protecting the sleeping boy as well as he could. Nothing had happened yet. The silence felt like a thick strangling blanket making it impossible for him to anticipate what might happen next. Kathy made small hiccupy noises, her hands still held tightly on to the blanket she was wrapped in.
Xander tried to stay awake but finally dozed off.
He woke up to the sight of Angelus leaning against the now open door. The vampire’s dark blue shirt soaked through with blood. The crimson fluid dripped from his throat where a huge gash kept seeping blood. Angelus rested his forehead against the door for a second before he slowly moved further into the bathroom.
Xander could feel Liam’s small hands pressing against his sides. The little boy was trying to hide behind his father and his breath ghosted moistly against Xander’s naked skin.
“Traitor,” Angelus croaked. Xander could see the tendons in the vampire’s neck move in the bleeding mess. “I should have dusted his pathetic ass the night Dru brought him back to our lair. Stupid…” Angelus’ stream of words was cut off by a deep rattling cough, “Stupid little insecure brat. Head full of useless poetry,” Angelus laughed hoarsely. He had to reach out and press his hand against the tiled wall just to stay on his feet.
“Is…” Xander started but fell silent the second Angelus looked at him.
“Did you think he could save you?” Angelus pushed away from the wall and Liam made a small noise. The boy’s sharp fingernails pressed so hard into Xander’s skin that he flinched.
“No,” Xander shook his head and patted Kathy on the back. The infant was moving restlessly against his chest, “No, Angelus. No.”
“I,” Angelus stumbled the last few short steps and fell to his knees, both his hands going up to his neck as another spurt of viscous blood streamed from the wound. Angelus bowed his head causing the blood to fall to the floor in front of Xander, “I can’t…“ he murmured. “We…I need you, Xander.”
“Angel?” Xander reached out a trembling hand and touched the vampire’s blood spattered cheek.
“I can’t let you go,” Angelus said, his teeth red with blood, “Don’t you see, Xander? I just can’t let you go.”
“I know,” Xander whispered and stroked Angelus’ hair, “I know.”