spike/xander, the prisons we make
The Prisons We Make, 1/18
Title: The Prisons We Make
Chapter: 1 of 18
Disclaimer: I'm not Joss
Warnings: angst, slash, violence, slavery, dub-con
Summary: It's over a decade since Sunnydale collapsed, and Xander is doing time. A fellow prisoner mentions a vampire he once saw displayed at a tourist trap. Freedom doesn't come easy.
AN: This fic is complete and I'll post a chapter a day. Enormous thanks to beta hello_spikey and her very helpful comments! And also enormous thanks to sentine , who has provided three amazing banners! I couldn't possibly pick just one, so I'll be rotating them. As always, your comments are what keep my muse alive!
He’d managed to go a remarkably long period without doing serious time. But then not all cops were as blind as Sunnydale’s finest, and a dead Regotz demon looks pretty much like a dead human, and he’d found himself doing five to ten. It was bad, although not as bad as he’d feared. At least he didn’t have to worry about dropping the soap. He might not have been the biggest guy in the pen, but his accumulation of scars was impressive to even the most hardcore gangsters, and his missing eye, while giving him a slight disadvantage in a fight, also made him look genuinely bad-ass. Besides, these were only humans he was surrounded by and he’d faced worse, and his demeanor said so. His demeanor also likely revealed that he wasn’t all that attached to life—didn’t especially want to die, at least not enough to make any efforts in that direction, but wouldn’t hesitate to do really serious battle if it came to it. The others mostly left him alone, and that was just dandy with him.
He spent his spare time—and really, all of it was spare nowadays—working out in the gym. Together with the uninspiring prison food and his lack of commissary funds, the result was that he’d built himself a body trim at the waist and tight with muscle at the chest and arms. When he wasn’t in the gym, and he wasn’t at his job disassembling defunct electronics, he read. He’d never been a reader in his younger days, but in recent years he’d learned that it passed the time nicely when he was sitting in bus stations or alone in a motel room with only basic cable on the fuzzy tv. It took him away, too, so that for an hour or three he could forget he was locked up like an animal in a cage, and that when he got out his prospects would be even dimmer than when he went in.
He had one sort-of friend in the prison, a half-breed Vashen demon passing for human. Xander had recognized him for what he was right away—the guy was big as a house and his features slightly skewed, as if they were reflected in a warped mirror—but he’d known the breed was mostly harmless. They’d both been relieved to have someone with whom they could talk about the real world, the world where all sorts of creatures roamed, without being dragged away to Atascedero or ending up in some government lab. The Vashen’s name was Brandt and he brewed pruno in his cell. He’d trade Xander a paper cupful for a cigarette Xander had obtained one way or another, and they’d sit on Brandt’s bunk and bullshit for hours, until Xander’s mouth was filled with the taste of rotted fruit and his head was buzzing like a swarm of bees.
The other prisoners left Brandt alone, too. He could take out the biggest of them with a single swing of his fist, and the two times he’d been shanked he’d spent the night in his own bunk, bandaged and snoring peacefully away, while his assailants saw nothing but the inside of the hospital for several weeks.
Xander and Brandt stayed out of the other inmates’ business. They didn’t care who was selling which drugs or who was claiming which gang. Brandt’s skin was sort of a grayish tan, and he could have passed for Mexican or black, while Xander had overheard rumors that he himself was Indian.
Brandt was serving three to five for armed robbery. He had mostly kept his nose clean, he said, but then he’d lost his job at a furniture warehouse when the place went out of business, and he couldn’t find another that paid well enough to feed him and put a roof over his head, and it was awfully hard trying to scrape by when you didn’t even officially exist. So he bought a gun off a friend of a friend and waved it at a frightened teenager behind the counter at Burger King. He walked out the door with five hundred bucks in his pocket, too pleased with himself to notice the sheriff’s deputy idling in the drive-through.
Brandt was a good enough sort, but he wasn’t especially bright.
“When I get outta here,” he told Xander, “I’m gonna go to Canada. Up near Edmonton there’s a town where half the people there are Vashens, or mixes like me. I got some cousins there, I think. I’m gonna head there and I’ll bet I can find a job. Maybe even a girl. I might wanna settle down, have some kids.”
“Sounds nice,” Xander lied. He couldn’t imagine himself settling down anywhere, under any circumstances.
“How ‘bout you? Whatta you gonna do when they spring you?”
Xander had an answer prepared. “I’m going to head to Boise, where my Uncle Rory lives. He won’t speak to me now, but I think once I’m out I can talk him into a job. He owns a construction company.” It was all a complete lie. Rory had been dead for a half dozen years and had never owned anything in his life except a string of beat-up cars.
“Yeah? You know how to build stuff?”
“Sure. I’ve hammered together some boards before.”
Brandt nodded solemnly. “That’d be a good job, I bet.”
“Yeah. It would.”
At night Xander lay on his lumpy mattress, the sounds of snoring and farting and crying and rutting stealing into his brain, and tried to pretend he was somewhere else. He’d allow his hand to creep under the covers, under the waistband of his scratchy prison-issue boxers, and he’d jerk off quietly, not wanting his cellmates to hear him. While he jacked he imagined bodies, some curvy and soft, some straight and hard, but never faces or voices. Never anyone he knew.
Xander had just hit the three-year mark. To celebrate, Brandt gave him all the pruno he could drink and they played Go Fish and War with Xander’s pack of dingy cards. “I been thinking about Canada again,” Brandt said.
“Yeah. How nice it would be to live someplace where I could be honest about who I am, and not worry about getting killed or put in a zoo.”
“I don’t think they put demons in zoos, pal.”
“Sure they do!” Brandt put down a ten to Xander’s five and took them both. “I saw a demon zoo once.”
Xander supposed it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility. He’d seen stranger things. “Really?” he said mildly.
“Yep. It was in California, out in the desert. Next to that big stinky lake, whattaya call it?”
“The Salton Sea?” Xander took Brandt’s three with his eight.
“Yeah, that’s it. I was working in LA at the time and had a delivery to make down there. I stopped for lunch on the way back and there was this place, right behind the liquor store. Walker’s World of Wonders, it was called. You hadda pay ten bucks to get inside.”
“What the hell were you doing paying to get into a demon zoo, Brandt?”
Brandt shrugged, a movement like boulders shifting. “Dunno. I guess it was, whattaya call it. Mortared curiosity.”
“Morbid,” Xander muttered and put down a king.
“They had a lotta things in there. Some of ‘em were dead, stuffed, you know? I think a lotta those were fakes. And they had some things floating in jars, too. But then there were these cages, and there were real, live demons in those cages. A couple of Frgmrsh, a Polgara, some other things I don’t remember…oh, and a vampire.”
“They had a vamp in a cage?”
“Uh-huh.” They both put down aces and then had a war, which Brandt won with a seven over a six. “I remember that one, because he looked pretty much like a human at first. But you could pay five bucks to feed him, and I did, ‘cause I never saw no vamp eat before. I put my money in the machine and his face went all bumpy, with yellow eyes and sharp teeth, and the machine dropped a rat into his cage. He drained it pretty quick. I think he was hungry.”
“Yeah,” Xander said. “Vamps generally are.” He finished off the cup of pruno, not able to suppress a shudder as he swallowed.
“He was pretty skinny. I kinda felt sorry for him and I wanted to feed him again, but I was outta cash. So then his face changed again, and just like that he looked like a plain old naked guy with blue eyes and a scar on one eyebrow.”
Xander had always thought it was just a saying, that hearts didn’t really skip a beat when someone was surprised. Now he knew better. “A scar?” he squeaked.
Brandt gave him a puzzled look. “Yeah. Right here.” He pointed at where his left eyebrow would be, if his face wasn’t entirely hairless.
“Was he—Did he have an English accent?”
Brandt’s frown deepened. “I dunno. I didn’t hear him say nothin’. I didn’t even know vamps could talk. He’s the only one I ever seen.”
Brandt won another hand while Xander tried to clear his head. “What did he look like?”
“I told you—lumpy face, fangs—“
“No. I mean when he looked human.”
“Oh.” Brandt’s great brow wrinkled in concentration. “Well, skinny, blue eyes, scar, like I said. He wasn’t very tall. His hair was long, light brown, kinda curly. He was really well-hung. Do all vamps have big dicks?”
“Um, I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
“Well, he did. He looked about, I dunno, maybe thirty? But I guess he coulda been three hundred and thirty, right? ‘Cause vamps don’t age.” Brandt sounded unhappy about this. Vashens had a life-span of only about fifty years. Then he shrugged. “He was pretty. Nice cheekbones.”
After that, Xander drank as much pruno as he could, as fast as possible. It was a mistake, he knew. He ended up staggering back to his cell and puking into the toilet, then spending the rest of the evening with the world spinning sickeningly around him.
By the next morning, he’d chosen to forget the previous night’s conversation. He woke up at six and ate his plasticky eggs and cardboard toast and drank his weak coffee, then stood all day in the workshop, blankly pulling circuit boards out of old computers. He had a tasteless cheese sandwich and chips for lunch with more of that awful coffee. And then he ran around the track for an hour before taking a quick communal shower and downing some watery soup, burned hamburger, and lumpy pudding.
Repeat ad infinitum.
Only occasionally, in the depths of sleep, did he think about Spike, perhaps trapped somewhere in his cage just as Xander was trapped in his.
He got out almost six months early. The prison was overcrowded and there was a lawsuit, so they had to let out some of the murderers and rapists and thieves to make room for the drug addicts.
Xander walked out the heavy metal doors and across the parking lot, gravel crunching under his feet. He was wearing jeans, a brown sweatshirt, a tan jacket and tennis shoes, and he carried a small bag containing the rest of his belongings: a change of clothes, a few toiletries, a couple paperbacks. He’d left the cards with Brandt, who still had a few months to serve. Xander had two hundred dollars gate money in his wallet and an expired California driver’s license. Up in the sky, gray clouds were fitfully spitting miserly little flakes of snow. They landed on his eyelashes and melted on his shoulder. Some slipped under the collar of his thin coat, chilling his neck.
The prison bus was idling, waiting for him and a half-dozen other newly freed men. They climbed on board and Xander could almost smell the reek of their relief and nervousness. Nobody spoke as the bus took them into town.
At the convenience store next to the tiny bus station, Xander bought a pack of Twinkies and a bottle of Coke. The clerk, an enormous woman with short blonde hair and hectic red circles on each cheek, gave him a disdainful look as he paid. She might be a cashier at a mini-mart in a nowhere town, but at least she wasn’t an ex-con.
Aside from the prison bus, only one bus stopped in this town, once heading east and once heading west. Xander looked over the fares and the list of stops before stepping forward to the clerk. “Westbound, please,” he said to the guy.
The guy didn’t bother to look up at him. “How far?”
“All the way to the end of the line.”