Disclaimer: Neither Stargates nor Buffy the Vampire Slayer belong to me. I claim no ownership of them and recognize that they belong to the various people and companies who own them. I do this solely for my own enjoyment and, should our interests mesh, the enjoyment of others. I have made no money off of this and do not ever plan to. Anything that even looks vaguely familiar (such as brand names, culture references, etc) also does not belong to me.
Series: Return to the Blood Lands
Story: Welcome to the Keep
Xander woke up with a soft moan, feeling not so much a human being but rather a battered collection of hurts and pains. He felt like there were permanent impressions of branches all over his body but that was better than the screaming pain he was in before. And while his body was not too happy with him at the moment but at least the bed he was on was mildly comfortable.
He sat up quickly, grunting when the motion pulled on muscles not ready to be pulled on. He tentatively spread out his hand over his ribs, poking and prodding. He was pleased that, despite some lingering complaints from bruises, his ribs didn’t appear to be broken anymore. He hadn’t noticed it before but Drusilla’s gift must have healed him before it was burnt out.
But his arm was still broken, wrapped rather thickly in what Xander assumed was meant to hold the bone together. There was a residual uncomfortable ache everywhere else, and he did mean EVERYWHERE else. There wasn’t a single part of his body that had been spared during the violent fall.
But he was ALIVE. That meant something, right?
“You’re awake.” The voice came out of nowhere all of a sudden. Xander flinched minutely and, when he saw who the speaker was, had a silly compulsion to pull his sheets up around his neck. Underneath all of the heavy bandaging, he was bare as the day he was born. And it wasn’t a pretty sight. He was more purple and yellow than he was his own skin color. “I thought you might not live that first night.”
The interloper was a girl, which made his nakedness even more of an issue, and a pretty one, which meant Xander was wishing the ground would open up and swallow him right about that moment. Something about her sweet face reminded him, oddly, of Anya, but physical similarities were few.
He relaxed a little bit when he realized her gaze was clinical, and that she only really saw his wounds and not his naked ass. She fussed a little bit with the gauze-like material wrapped around his neck but seemed satisfied with what she was seeing. Xander guessed that she was the one who took care of him. He suddenly felt guilty when his first thought after was colored with, rather than gratefulness, suspicion. Why did she take care of him?
“How long have I been here?” Xander ventured to ask after several minutes of silence. She looked up. While she didn’t smile, there was a slight softening around her eyes that Xander reacted positively to. Then she touched his knee and all he knew was pain, pain, and more pain. From the frown on her face, he guessed she was Not Happy about that, but he was understandably less considerate at that point. Girl or not, if she touched his knee again, he wouldn’t be responsible for his actions.
“Several days now.” She said, backing away as Xander fought not to scream. He griped the blankets in his good hand as he fought through the pain. It slowly eased back, just a bit, which made it bearable. “Today makes it the fourth day since I found you.” She poured him a cup of tea and pushed it towards him. It smelt of ginger and Christmas. He wanted to throw it at her. “You escaped from the Wraith.”
“They have ways, you know.” He gazed at her with a face made ashen with pain. His lips pressed in a tight line as he leaned over to grab the cup. It was pleasantly warm between his hands and, for once, tea didn’t taste too bad. Didn’t mean he was converted though. Coffee would always have a place in his heart. He was still mad at her too. “They will find me.”
“The Wraith signal mechanism has already been removed from your body and shut off.” It was news to him that there even WAS a signal mechanism but it wasn’t the first time he had something in him without him being aware of its presence. He found himself to be more accepting of it than he would have normally. The tea was THAT good. Maybe he could forgive her a little. “That was the first thing I did, even before patching your wounds.”
“How did you take it out?” From her pants, she pulled out a long and wicked looking knife. From the way that the light gleamed off the edge, he would bet good money that it was sharp too, the kind of sharp where you’re not aware of it cutting you until whole minutes after the fact. “Oh. Glad I was asleep, then.” Owie…
“What is your name, Keeper?” Xander stared at her stupidly. It was the first time someone had asked. He had always just TOLD and then demanded and heckled and pushed for a name in return. He felt kind of giddy and lost (and lame, for FEELING giddy and lost) because of this but, if asked, probably couldn’t explain why.
It didn’t even occur to him to ask her how she knew he was a Keeper. At the moment, it just seemed obvious. He would rationalize later on that it was because she saw his arm. Even though he would learn that not everyone could recognize the signs of a Keeper (though most knew about them through stories), he would never question why Sora knew. Some part of him NEEDED her to know.
It was a festering wound, this need to be acknowledged. Xander couldn’t even blame it on the Keep. He had dealt with it his entire life, rather amicably, if he said so himself. Sometimes it made him do stupid things, sometimes it won him the greatest friends. Other times, it became a perfect excuse to avoid the truth in all of its inconvenient and tenacious glory.
“Uh, it’s Xander.” He said quietly, avoiding her gaze for a moment before he looked up again, a helpless victim of his own curiosity.
“Hello, Xander.” For the first time, she smiled. She had a pretty smile. “My name is Sora. You are on the planet Aromos. Do you remember anything?”
“I remember… a lot of things I wished I didn’t.” Sora nodded seriously, as if she understood. Strangely enough, Xander believed she did. There was a certain sort of gravity in her being that spoke of too many lessons learned at too young of an age. Xander remembered Kendra with a surprising pang. He didn’t get to know the slayer too well but he knew enough to know her life was that of learning, fighting, and slaying. There was no room for fun. The severity of her lifestyle was more of a hindrance to her than it was an advantage.
“Do you remember how you got here?”
“Stargate. I had the address.” He said slowly. Xander rubbed his forehead with his good hand. He remembered it being night. He remembered it was cold. There was a puddle of water, the stargate… what happened at the Keep? He fell from the wall, so many stories down but he survived. And then those glowy things dragged him to the gate. He went through and… “I… walked away from the gate?” He couldn’t exactly remember. There was a path and the sounds of wild animals, but that was all he remembered.
“I found you some ways away from the stargate.” Sora took the empty cup from his hand before it slipped off of his lap. Huh. He had forgotten it was even there. She put the cup on the nearby table and then turned back. “You are lucky I often check there. You might have died, otherwise.”
There was something quietly chiding in her voice. Xander smiled absently. In what he lacked in mothering from an actual mother, he made up for in mothering from other girls. In fact, he was pretty sure that the only female who had never treated him like a maternal surrogate was Cordelia. He thanked the heavens for that, because the idea of Cordy as a mother was downright terrifying. She’d make a good step mom, though. She had the evil enough to do it.
Wait, wasn’t he getting off track? His head was a little fuzzy. Oh, right…
“Why do you check the stargate?” Xander asked, genuinely curious. “I thought the smart thing to do would be to stay the hell away from it.” Syera had said once that all villages were far away from the gate, even the cultures that often used the gate to trade with others. The distance at least gave them time to hear the Wraith coming, at which time they probably ran like hell. Xander knew he would, next time he saw a Wraith ship.
“Perhaps if you’re the type to run away from your enemy.” Hit the nail on the head there, sister. Running is what Xanders do best. Sora seemed to straighten a little at his unconscious smirk, something like pride stiffening her spine. “I’m someone who likes to meet them head on.”
“Yeah, but it’s the WRAITH.” That was stupid. Even he knew that. Sora shook her head, but didn’t follow the thread of that conversation. Xander felt like he was losing the thread of the conversation himself. Why did he feel so sleepy? He just woke up.
“Why did you choose this planet?” Sora prodded him, literally, when his eyes started to close. He was sleepy. Back off, lady. You’re pretty but not enough to stay up for.
“It was the only address that I knew.” Xander answered slowly, rubbing a hand over his face. His headache was gone. In fact, most of his aches were already gone. He yawned behind his hand, trying to answer at the same time. “A …friend of mine lived here.”
“How unusual, that you only know one address. Many travelers know at least twenty by heart.” She was fishing for something. Xander wanted to tell her that there were no fish in this particular pond but lost the thought almost as quickly as he had made it.
“My home planet doesn’t have a stargate.” He said quietly. There was truth in the lie. Or was there a lie in the truth? Same difference. “Honestly, I learned about it just a few months ago. Still seems kind of… impossible.” The impossible had brought him to hell. It only seemed appropriate that the impossible bring him out, right? Made sense to him.
Xander had a thought. He tried to sit up but the attempt was wasted. It felt like his torso weighed several tons. His eyes seemed to weigh even more, closing on him even while he fought to keep them open. His body was floating on a cloud of numbness. It was nice. It was wrong.
“Hey, you drugged me.” He accused, sounding hurt.
“I did.” Sora admitted, pulling the blankets back over him. “I apologize.”
“ ‘S okay… woozy, but good.” Xander smiled stupidly at her, thinking she was awfully pretty. Again. Not Buffy-pretty, but somewhere in the ballpark. Too pretty to have that sad look on her face. “Feeling NO pain.”
“Stay here tonight. You are safe. I will bring you food and drink when you wake up again.” She seemed to fuss a little more with his blankets, making sure he was completely covered. Sora looked up, seeing his half-open eyes trained towards her in unwilling suspicion. She smiled. “All you must focus on is sleeping and healing.”
“I can… do that.” Xander mumbled, his eyes falling shut. “’Specially the sleeping part.”