Gravity and Suffering

Author: Drake Tepes <daemondrake[at]>

Summary: No good deed goes untortured. After stopping a group of demons, Xander finds himself in a personal hell.

Rating: R

Spoilers: End of Buffy & Angel. Post-UF for the XO.

Disclaimer: I don't own Jack… hell, don't even know Jack. Yes, that joke was painful for me too. So painful in fact that none of you who hold the rights to these characters will sue me, right? I mean, obviously that joke demonstrates I've suffered enough.

Author's Notes: Hi all, it's Drake again. Note the not naming of the XO? Why not? Suspense, I hope. Though I think before long some of you may recognize it and then it's rather pointless, but I do want to try. Also, I want to state before you read this that I do, in fact, like Xander. Really I do. Honest. It just may not seem that way for awhile. To anyone waiting on a sequel to "Dark Times: In The Age", it is being written but it's muse ran off and the muse for this story came by. This story is very much a WIP, no where near done and I'm doing something a bit different and posting it without me having it all done. So parts may take awhile.

Okay, I need to majorly thank Mark, again, for being my beta and helping to keep my facts straight and the story coherent. One last thing, credit to Louie Says for helping to inspire the title.

Feedback: Yes, please. I'll sit up and beg and even roll over for it.


Xander had arrived in Johannesburg a week ago, just a week, and already the shit had hit the fan. After arriving, getting used to the heat was his first priority. Held sent Andrew a fish, hoping it would get the annoying man to leave him alone and had let the others know he was well. He still wasn't used to the heat that was present even at night, so he was already covered in sweat even before the fight had begun.

The fact that he had interrupted five vampires and three unknown, but large, demons who were in the middle of a ceremony -- and the thought that he might not have interrupted them -- sent a chill down his spine. He'd just been walking around whatever small city he had traveled to that night as he was constantly on the move and never quite sure where he was, loaded with holy water, a cross and a couple of stakes, when he heard low chanting. Surprisingly, it was in a language he didn't recognize, because though he knew fluently only English, his time as a Scooby made him familiar with the sounds of all the normal ritualistic languages.

His eye fell upon the unmoving figure of a young woman, with hair almost the same shade of red as Willow's. The cuts on her bare torso and wrists accounted for the blood used to form the circle that surrounded the demons. Bile rose in his throat as he looked at the girl, and for just a moment saw Willow's face. Anger burned inside of him, prompting him to act immediately, damn the consequences.

Xander charged in quickly, managing to take out two of the vamps before anyone was alerted and then another in the immediate confusion. The demons stopped their chanting just after the third vampire was dust in the wind and for a moment Xander thought he'd managed to stop the ceremony. Then he noticed a shimmer in the air and saw what he assumed had to be a portal. Seeing the three demons move toward it, Xander threw one of his two stakes at the demon and winced internally as it went into the demon's left eye, killing it.

The momentary mental wince allowed one of the two remaining vampiress to tackle him as the other and the demons went through the portal. Rolling on the ground, Xander was thankful for the holy water as it's bottle burst in his pants pocket. The glass shards in his thigh hurt, but the holy water seeping through to the groin of the vampire distracted it long enough for Xander to drive his remaining stake through it's heart.

Standing up and wincing at the pain in his thigh, Xander looked at the portal trying to decide what to do next. Pulling out his cell phone, he was glad to see he had full contact. Hitting the memory button for Giles' number, his shoulders sank as he got voice mail. "Giles, this is Xander. I just interrupted a ceremony by some vamps and these brown demons, six and a half feet tall, muscled with tattoos carved on them. There's a dead one where I am. One vampire and two of the demons made it through a portal they were opening. Nothing's come through so far, I'm thinking they have to meet whatever they were wanting on the other side. I'm going to go through and try and stop them, so I'm glad this is voice mail so you can't talk me out of this. I'm going to leave my cell on, so if you don't hear from me have Willow do her mojo and find my phone and see if you can find a way to get me back. And if I don't… You've been like a father to me Giles, you all mean a lot to me. Let everyone know I love them. I wish I had time to say more but the portal is shrinking. My love to all, see you on the flip-side and don't forget the Twinkies!"

Xander closed the connection and hid his phone where it was unlikely to be found by any passersby.

With one last breath, Xander jumped through the portal.

Chapter 1

The landing on the other side of the portal was rough, and as Xander blinked in the sudden harsh sunlight he also tried to get some dust out of his eye. Blinking clear he could see a scorch mark and dust where he landed, and thanked whoever was listening for small favors. Casting his gaze about, he immediately knew he wasn't in his own dimension as none of the local flora remotely looked like that of Earth. Also, he noticed one of the two demons coming for him, now holding a rather large sword.

Standing quickly, he ignored the irritating tingle of pain he felt throughout his body and backed away as he tried to find the other demon. As he looked he was hit hard in the back of his head, knocking off his eye patch and him to the ground in front of the demon. Looking back he saw the other demon coming at him, seeming to laugh in it's language at him. It threw it's sword hard into the ground point first and came at Xander.

"Oh this can't be good," Xander said as he scrambled to his feet in pain, only to be met with the demons' claws across his chest, shredding his shirt and adding new scars to his chest. He stepped back and held an arm over his chest and jerked back when the demon clawed at his face, limiting it's damage to a cut over his remaining eye.

He tried to blink away the blood that was now pouring over his eye when his right knee exploded in pain and he fell to the ground. Through the red curtain of blood he could make out his leg now bending the wrong way, his knee snapped backwards. He surprised himself by not screaming, but by trying to back away. Inside though, he was berating himself. He'd thrown himself into something foolish again, only this time he was going to die far away from his friends and they'd never know what happened. Another disappearance, like so many of the people he knew growing up.

Xander made out the demon's hand coming at his neck and grabbed the stake he'd so far not had a chance to use and slammed it as hard as he could into it's palm. The demon reared back and screamed, seemingly shaking the planet as Xander tried to scoot away from it. With a roar the demon kicked Xander hard in the chest. It's clawed foot scoring long cuts on his chest and ripping the shirt completely from him, as the force sent Xander flying through the air a good ten feet to land at the base of a small bush.

Xander could feel the pain acutely, every nerve in his body was hurting and he wanted to scream so badly, but he didn't. He'd felt something pop and break in that hit, and he was having trouble breathing. He'd made peace with death a long time ago, but internally he vowed not to go out without a fight. Grasping blindly, as his vision was heavily blurred by the blood, both hands found on either side of him what felt like medium sized branches. Ignoring the pain he felt when he grabbed each of them, as what must have been sticks or sharp edges on the branches dug hard into his wrist, he waited to perform one last act of defiance, which he backed up by flipping the bird at the demon as it rushed him.

Quickly putting his good leg under him, he timed his blow just right. As the demon reached him, he surged up quickly, shoving the branch in his left hand toward the demons eyes while he slashed with the one in his right at the demons neck. Knowing it was futile and he was about to die, he smiled grimly through his bloodied vision, his face then turning to shock at what he saw happen. Whatever he held, they certainly weren't branches. The thing in his left hand easily speared the demons' eye and the one in his right completely took it's head off. Maybe these demons just has tissue paper necks, but whatever it was, Xander was still alive and it wasn't.

The roar from the other demon made Xander hop in its direction to see it. This one had its sword held high, not even masking it's intention to bisect Xander. With a quick prayer that the saviors he held in his hands would save him again, Xander braced himself the best he could. As the demon got close, time seemed slow as the demon began its downswing. Xander moved his left arm up, hoping to block with what he'd found but not expecting to live, but hoping that the slash he was aiming with his right hand at the demons' midsection might score enough damage to prevent it from completing it's plan.

Unfortunately for Xander, his plan worked too well. The thing he held in his left hand met the steel of the demons sword, the sword was cut in two as it met the amazingly sharp edge, sending it's tip out of alignment to cut part of Xander's scalp open. The rest of the blade continued down, even as Xander's right hand slash cut the demon cleanly in two at the waist. But the slash from what remained of the demons blade hit Xander in the chest, even as his good leg gave out, and cut him from sternum to navel. Xander's falling at the same time was the only thing that kept all of his insides from being split in two.

On his back, Xander's eye looked through the red tint at a beautiful sky with a sun a bit larger than home. He ordered his thoughts, and told all his friends in his head goodbye. Hoping somehow they'd know how much he loved them, he resigned himself to his fate. It was then that a hideous face blocked the view of the sky. It may have once been somewhat human, but now it lacked a nose or lips. Massive scars and tattoos dominated the demonic face that looked down on him. Somehow he felt it was smiling at him, as he felt it grab his arms and begin to drag him. He gave out a mental curse, before he passed out. It seemed that while he resigned himself to fate, fate had other plans.

Chapter 2

Pain. His universe consisted of one sensation, of one fundamental truth of existence. Pain. Every fiber of his being, every cell of his body, all that he knew, rang with pain. He couldn't even scream. Who he was no longer existed. All that he had known before ceased. All that there was now was pain.

The human mind is a wondrous and unknown entity. It's self-preservation instincts beyond anything we can believe. To block memories that would harm the person. To deal with issues subconsciously for the benefit of the waking mind. So many wondrous things. All to survive. To survive the pain, Xander's brain did what it needed to survive.

Memories cannot be truly erased, merely blocked. And inside Xander's mind lived all the memories of a soldier who was trained to ignore pain. The mind ravaged the memories it held of the soldier, taking parts of it and immediately enacting the ability to push aside the pain that was lessening its grip on sanity. Once the sensation of pain was diminished, even only as slight as was possible, the mind awakened.


Xander's eye opened to the vision of a cave-like ceiling. Trying to sit up he found his arms and legs were immobilized. Raising his head at least, he could see his arms and legs encased in clear, vaguely crystalline blobs for lack of a better term. Around his arms were coiled what looked like snakes.

His eye picked up that his right knee was properly set and long slits were made in the skin there, opening it up. He could see something moving in the opening and was glad he couldn't feel it, it might not hurt but he doubted the sensation of something moving inside of him would be pleasant. Then on to his chest, where he had basically been gutted, he saw small creatures, looking like demented crosses between leeches, maggots and spiders going over the previously opened wound. They seemed to be eating the blood, fresh and dried, and, with a twist to his stomach Xander noted, excreting a substance over the wound.

He then felt a skittering on his head and did his best to look at his forehead. He was rewarded for this by seeing another of the creatures on his forehead. This definitely wasn't what Xander wanted to find when he first woke up. His body was becoming acclimated to the pain, but still letting him have some tactile sensation. It was then he felt a squirming movement in his left eye socket, not the movement of the other creatures. This one seemed to be rolling around, as best as Xander could feel.

Squashing the competing urges to scream and throw up, Xander lay on his back and was still. Whatever had him was apparently trying to heal him. That was good, unless they wanted a healthy sacrifice, he thought to himself. He knew he'd stopped the demons and he'd already said his goodbyes and made his peace, whatever happened now he'd deal with it as it came.

At this thought he heard a rustle of movement coming from his feet and raised his head to look. Another of the creatures he saw before passing out was there, though this one's head reminded him of Medusa as it seemed to writhe slowly, and the creature, Xander noticed what looked like breasts so he dubbed it a she, she had a right hand with snake-like fingers too. With a broad, ill sitting smile the woman walked up to where his head was raised, trailing the fingers of her left hand on his body and tracing a few of the numerous scars on his chest. He barely saw the movement as one of the fingers on her right hand shot out at him, hitting his neck. He then fell unconscious once more.


The one who had originally found Xander entered the room where the female was checking the creatures moving along Xander's prone body. Motioning toward Xander's scarred chest he asked the woman something in their own language. With a nod of her writhing head she ran her vaguely serpentine fingers over his scars and spoke back. The man again spoke, and the woman moved to Xander's head, peeled back his left eyelid and pulled out a small red caterpillar type creature and bade the man to come look at the socket which was now exposed, and raw. With a nod, the man moved back as the woman now dropped five small white pupae in the socket and smeared a clear gel over the eyelid, which immediately hardened, sealing it.

The two beings continued to talk over the unconscious body, the woman often pointing out parts of Xander's body and explaining something to the man. After minutes of this discussion, something the woman said had the man reaching for his ear, only to stop at the woman's shaking head. Another discussion, somewhat heated then with gestures from the man. The woman said something with finality to it, and the man left the room. The woman tilted Xander's head back then and dropped a handful of small black creatures in his mouth, then held it shut until he involuntarily swallowed.

Chapter 3

Xander awoke to the freedom of being able to move his arms and legs. Going with his first impulse he ran his fingers across the long nasty scar that now bisected his upper body, and noticed that the pain wasn't as unbearable there as he'd thought. The pain that was burning throughout his body, however, was quite noticeable. It took most of his will power to push it aside enough to think, focus and move. He again thanked whatever let him retain that piece of the soldier's life and training, to push the pain to a place where it wouldn't interfere. And marveled that what he had thought was a private would have been taught that.

Testing his leg while lying down, he again noticed less pain than he expected and was pleased to note his skin was again closed, though scarred. Bending the knee carefully and rotating it, he found that he had good movement, and sat up to gently put pressure on it against the floor where he had a place to land back on. With tentative moves and easing, he managed to stand and note that he could walk. He couldn't even detect a limp in his walk.

He was getting ready to leave the room when he noticed something odd with his left eye, the lid seemed to be sealed shut. As he'd moved now, he'd also felt something moving behind his eyelid, but not like the other day. Try as he might, he couldn't get his eyelid up. Feeling it, he could now tell something like crazy glue was over it, holding it closed.

The woman reentered the room as he was feeling around his eyelid and the substance holding it shut. None-too-kindly, the woman slapped his hand away and spoke to him as she checked him over with her weird hand. Nodding as she checked, the serpents in her hair licked the air and looked at Xander interestingly.

"Um, hi. I appreciate you patching me up but is there any chance you could tell me where I am?" Xander asked the woman, who looked at him blankly. Continuing, Xander tried again. "Maybe who you are? Who the other guy was? What the hell is crawling in my eye socket!?" The last bit said loudly.

The woman spoke to him in her own language and stuck a finger in her ear and looked at him again before shaking her head. It was when one part of her serpent hair got too close to his nose that Xander remembered that he had snakes on his arms before the woman knocked him out. Looking at his arms he noticed them still coiled around his arms. Not quite sleeping but thankfully not writhing on his arms either. He tried to pull one off without any progress; it was like they were metal works of art wrapped around his arms.

Finally the woman finished poking him, to which Xander was glad, when she called outside of the room. The same large creature, a male Xander assumed, entered the room and started speaking to Xander in the same language. Staring blankly at the man Xander just gave up, realizing he wasn't going to be able to speak with the demons. When Xander said as much to the demon, it seemed to just stare at him before gripping him behind the head and leading him out of the room.

It was during the dragging that Xander became acutely aware that the man was wearing only a loincloth and a snake on his right arm. Once they left the room Xander was standing in an open area on the planet he'd landed on. The sun was high and the heat coming down was not quite as bad as Africa had been. Xander saw others like the two creatures he met. Some farming, it seemed. Children, also scarred but to a much lesser extent, were around. Some watched him and Xander could tell they didn't like what they saw in the least. One even yelled some comment that the man replied to forcefully, backing him off.

Looking around, a nagging feeling settled in Xander that he recognized this species of demon. He could remember reading their description, but nothing came to mind. Try as he might, nothing came to him. Lost in the frustration, Xander didn't notice the man coming to halt in front of him until he was already there.

Xander watched as the man flexed his right arm and the snake uncoiled and slid down his arm until it's head was at his wrist and its body was stretched out full length, taut and hardened. Xander watched amazedly as the man sliced downward with the snake, cutting completely through a stone beside him. It was then that Xander realized that the branches he'd used in a pain filled haze had actually been the snakes. The man motioned Xander to watch as he ran a finger along the snakes' head in a certain way that made the snake go limp in his hand, another way and the snake stiffened again and then another way which had the snake coil up the man's arm.

When the man motioned to him, Xander tried it on both snakes and watched amazed as both went limp. The man nodded in approval and motioned for Xander to lay them both down on a table, where he deposited his own snake. The man then picked up two long sticks and tossed him one. Looking it over, Xander equated it to being like a thick yardstick. It was roughly the same length and width as a yardstick, but had a small, sharp ridge running down opposite sides of the shaft.

Xander was still looking it over when the man motioned him to follow. He noticed they'd entered a small clearing in the village, as Xander decided to call it. With no time to react, understand or even form more than a mental "Oh shit", the demon charged him.

Chapter 4

In the room once more, Xander sat and rubbed the sealed slashes on his arms and gave a glance at those now adorning his chest. No sci-fi or fantasy he'd read or watched ever prepared him for this situation. Xander had done his best to defend himself when the man attacked with the stick, and managed to deflect a few blows but was still cut up badly. Meanwhile he hadn't even managed to touch the man with his counterattacks, and he had the impression the guy was holding back.

They'd sparred, at least that's how Xander saw it, for what felt like two hours. Xander's watch had died a quick and shattered death when he tried to deflect a blow and ended up taking it at the wrist. Once the sparring was done, Xander pointed to himself and spoke his own name, in hopes of conveying it to the creature. The 'man' had spoken what sounded like "Shunmy Vorek", then pointed at Xander and said "Xandurr."

Once the introduction was done, Shooey, as Xander decided to call him, led him over to a small creature and squeezed it, receiving a... goo from it for the trouble. Taking the substance, he rubbed it off his hand over one of Xander's cuts and motioned for him to continue. Seeing that the goo was stopping the bleeding, Xander quickly applied it to all his open wounds and thanked Shooey, despite how badly the wounds now burned. Shooey didn't seem to understand. They both retrieved their snakes, Xander only doing so at Shooey's insistence.

Shooey led him out into a field where others of his kind were working, and quickly showed him what to do, before leaving him to tend to the... whatever they were. It wasn't easy work, each one needed to be tended to individually. Bare-chested and in jeans so tattered they had become ratty shorts, Xander toiled in the hot sun for hours.

Finally all the workers were called back in, including Xander who was now ready to drop. Shooey led him back to his room and gave him tubers and some recently deceased meat to eat as well as fresh water. After eating everything down and ignoring some of the taste he looked around for someplace to answer the call of Mother Nature. Seeing something that at least vaguely resembled a chamber pot, he hoped for the best and used it before lying back on the slab he'd woken up on. So tired was he from the day he didn't have the energy to think of an escape. Just a moment to send a prayer out for his friends safety, and he was asleep.

Chapter 5

The next day began much earlier since he'd already shown he was able to work. It began with Xander checking the wounds from the day before. The cuts didn't hurt as much today and the pain easily faded into the background haze he'd been experiencing since his arrival. The visible marks had sealed, but his chest, arms and legs were covered in lines that looked to fade no more. New scars would now and forever crisscross his body, and he knew he must have more on his back as well.

Shooey gathered him early from his room and led him to a group of Shooey's people. Pointing at the group Shooey shoved Xander toward them and left. It wasn't the nicest of company to be left in, as several of those gathered glared hatefully at him. A couple looked confused by his presence and said something that sounded like it was about his eye. At least that's what part of the word they whispered sounded like in English.

The work his group was tasked with was carrying rather heavy… things. "Things," Xander muttered to himself. "I'm tired of calling everything a thing. Thing this, creature that. The language thing… UGH, this language barrier is pissing me off. Couldn't my torturers at least have the decency to speak my language and gloat?" Xander's mutterings earned him glares from those near enough to hear him. One even went so far as to trip Xander, sending him falling forward and slamming his chest hard against the object he was carrying. Having the feeling that stopping to catch his breath would be a bad idea, he got back up and resumed carrying the thing. The pain from two ribs he'd bruised faded into the haze that he was becoming used to.

When the hottest part of the day came around Shooey pulled him out of his work group and they returned to the clearing in the village. Again they both removed the snakes before Shooey grabbed the sticks, what Xander decided must be training sticks to fill in for the snakes, and tossed one to Xander. Gripping his stick, he ignored the slight pain holding it caused. Xander set his feet shoulder length apart and slightly bent his knees as he waited for the attack.

After the previous days spar, Xander had assumed Shooey would attack him straight away, instead he was circling him this time, outside of Xander's reach. As Shooey began to move out of Xander's view, forcing him to move, Shooey struck as Xander was moving to keep his eye on him. Working the blind spot, Shooey struck Xander's left leg as he was moving it backward to reorient himself. This unbalanced Xander and forced him to slam his leg down to keep from falling, a momentary lapse that let Shooey get two quick slashes in, across his left thigh and shoulder.

Xander moved back out of range and settled his feet now for quicker movements rather than bracing for a powerful slash. Shooey stabbed at Xander's right side, prompting Xander to shift his body to one side and use his stick to force Shooey away from him, a move Xander had seen work in numerous action movies. What those movies failed to show, however, was that when you perform that move, it leaves you open to a solid punch to the head -- at least, it does if you have a blind spot that shields your opponents lunging left arm from view.

The punch nearly caused Xander to lose consciousness, but he struggled through and watched Shooey's shadow until he thought Shooey was preparing another slash. Moving back as quickly as he could, he avoided the slash that would have hit the back of his neck and sent him to another wake-up in his room. Grabbing his stick with both hands he swung like a batter toward Shooey's midsection as he was pulling back from the failed slash. Shooey moved quickly back out of the way and batted Xander's stick away with his own. Undeterred and now wanting badly to at least land one hit on Shooey, Xander moved forward to slash at Shooey's right leg even as he was slashed along his right shoulder. Ignoring that pain he did his slash only for Shooey to step casually back and let the stick slide less than an inch in front of his kneecap.

Shooey did another quick strike and fire blossomed along Xander's collarbone and sent him falling forward. Trying a last ditch move he slashed upwards as he fell, aiming for Shooey's groin. So intent was he on trying to get that one strike in that he failed to notice Shooey's foot before it hit his face. He barely registered it before he was again unconscious.

Shooey looked down at Xander's body and nodded. Xander hadn't scored a hit on him, but as Shooey looked down he did spot one thing amiss. The loincloth he was wearing was slashed. The sight caused something akin to a chuckle from his hideous visage as he reached down and picked Xander's body up.

Chapter 6

When Xander came to it was nighttime. He ate and then used the facilities, such as they were. He was surprised when he tried to open his door to go outside. "Okay, door's unlocked, assuming this funky place can be locked, and I'm unguarded. Either they're classic idiot villains or there isn't anywhere I can go. Oh how I hope they're idiots," Xander said under his breath as he snuck out.

It was a moonless night, but through the clear night sky Xander could make out two distinct planets. After a moment, his eye adjusted enough that he thought he could walk safely, an illusion that was quickly shattered when he fell flat on his face. His fall saved him from discovery. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed movement that he quickly identified as some of the villagers. It didn't look like a lover's stroll, so he guessed they were sentries. Xander noted their direction and took off the other way, leading him right into the field where he'd spent an afternoon with funky plants.

He'd found out the hard way exactly how sharp the leaves at their base were while he was working with them. He'd added a few new scars around his ankles. They came up to his chest and had dark red flowers on them. He'd watched with interest as one had apparently matured and was harvested. He saw them take the flower off and take out a yellow bulb then hollow it out with some type of knife. From the bulb came what looked like a glowing sunstone. Now as Xander made his way through the stalks he tried to remember where he saw one that looked like the one they'd opened the day before, assuming that's how they were ripe. Finding what he was looking for, he ripped it off its' stalk on his way through the field. A moment later he was out of the field with only a dozen or so bloody streaks on his legs from the leaves.

Breaking for a grove of trees a good fifty yards from the edge of the field, Xander made his best time and kept quiet. Once under the canopy of the strange trees virtually all light was gone. Groping blindly, he managed to husk the bulb and grasp the sunstone. He had to blink as it lit up, showing him the area. It dimmed immediately and his eye had a chance to adjust. Just as he wished it would get a bit brighter like it had before, it did as he thought. "Either I'm losing it or you're the next step of evolution for the Clapper," Xander muttered to it, before realizing what he was speaking to. A minute of just thinking at it to dim and brighten confirmed that it was following his thoughts.

Picking his way through the undergrowth Xander shone the light around looking for a nice tall tree that he might be able to climb. He'd walked roughly twenty feet in before he found one to his liking. Wishing he had something to hang his light on, he settled for holding it in his mouth and hoping it was non-toxic. He'd nearly fallen twice, and choked once, by the time he gotten to the canopy. Winding himself about the tree, he saw that he'd managed to climb one of the tallest ones in the forest. The feeling of accomplishment lasted only a moment before he registered what he saw. Looking out he could see no signs of civilization, other than the village he'd come from and what appeared to be another village only larger. The layout and homes looked the same and there looked to be some sort of path linking the two villages that he could only barely make out from his position.

His mind was processing this, how truly lost he was, when he saw it. A quick decision and Xander was falling toward the ground as lightning arced along the tops of the trees and down toward the ground. Barely avoiding he ran his way back to where he entered the forest, listening for thunder that never came. He exited the canopy of trees and gasped for breath. He was surprised to see the sky still clear, but he could still smell ozone in the air. Sitting himself down and breathing, he pushed aside the thoughts of the lightning for a moment. Pulling his knees to his chest he looked out into the dark clearing and thought.

His choices were limited now. It seemed these creatures were the only inhabitants, or at least the closest ones to him, on the planet. He went over the options he now had. He considered hiding in the forests until his friends rescued him, but the brief time in the forest disinclined him of that idea. He had no idea of the local fauna. He had no idea what to expect. Also, now, there was no place for him to run. He had been hoping for some way out of the village. Some way he could live outside of it. Instead his trip had driven home to him how far out of his depth he was. His desire to escape had been squashed by the fact he now doubted how he'd survive out in the woods, as he could now hear the lightning even in the clear skies.

He was basically being beaten in the village so far, but, he admitted to himself, not as much as they could be doing. He'd seen what they had, what the snakes could do and he was nowhere near as good as Shooey. He could take Xander out faster than Xander could eat a Twinkie. If they kept on the pace that had been set the last two days he'd been awake, then Xander thought he could manage it. A part of him realized that Shooey was training him for something. The pain he was dealing with, both the constant irritating buzz he'd had since he'd gotten on this planet, and the wounds he'd been dealt were making their presence felt as he thought. Nagging pains and itches.

He couldn't believe he was actually going back to the village. But for now, it offered some protection and food. He was willing to pay the price for that in blood, it wouldn't be long before he was rescued he knew.

As Xander returned his back was turned to the forest where a hand moved back a cloak's hood and Shooey's head was revealed, the rest of him still hidden. With a nod and returning the hood over his head, Shooey followed Xander back to his room.

Chapter 7

Shooey's foot pushing him firmly against the ground was the first thing Xander registered when he awoke. The next he registered, at the same time scream issued out of his throat, was Shooey cutting into his back. He felt long swirling slices being made in his back, close together. Then a more horrifying sensation came to be as Shooey grasped the strip of skin between the cuts and pulled, removing a long strip of flesh from Xander's back.

His foot still immobilizing Xander, Shooey cut off the remnants of Xander's jeans and underwear and ripped them roughly off his body. In the process Xander's wallet and the sunstone that Xander had gotten the night before fell out in front of Shooey, who picked up the sunstone. Shooey took his foot off Xander and waited the moment it took for the scream to end. When Xander stopped he sat up on the floor carefully, keeping his back off the wall and keeping his hands covering his newly exposed self. Shooey motioned to Xander's bed where there was a loincloth as well as a full-length cloak of some type.

Glaring at Shooey Xander spoke, "You couldn't have fucking asked me to change clothes? Use some damn sign language? You had to come in here and cut me open and strip me?" When Xander saw that his words had no effect on Shooey, he let fly a few more curses before he stood up. Unhappy, but seeing no choice, he stopped covering himself and got dressed, putting his wallet in a pocket of the cloak. The loincloth did offer some support as well as some modesty in excess material, in this case leather, hanging over the front and rear. The cloak was a little heavy and seemed to almost pulse. It felt a little like it was massaging his body, and it wore a good bit like a full size duster.

Shooey led the newly dressed Xander out to his morning work, not having given him time to eat. The joy of carrying heavy things for a few hours quickly met Xander. A part of him enjoyed the manual labor, of having something to do and distract him from thinking. The hours passed quickly, and then Shooey was there leading Xander to the clearing. Resisting the urge to strike Shooey from behind with the snakes, Xander followed to his usual place and removed his snakes. Taking his stick he prepared for another sparring match.


Landing hard on his ass Xander quickly rolled to the side to avoid the follow-up slash he thought would come down where he was and tried to stand quickly. Unfortunately for Xander, Shooey hadn't slashed but watched to see what Xander's next move would be. Seeing his roll he anticipated where Xander would stand, which lead to the sticks' tip slashing Xander's left cheek open as the rest of it tore through his flesh and hit his clavicle. A yelp of pain escaped from Xander's throat as he scrambled backwards and using the stick in his right hand barely slapped Shooey's away before it could stab his chest.

Xander aligned his body, keeping his wounded side away from Shooey and wielded the stick single-handedly. Shooey was stronger by far than him and Xander knew at this point he'd already lost. Now he was up for one last act of defiance. He lunged at Shooey and swung the stick, like he'd swing a flyswatter, and hoped Shooey would do as he hoped. Instead of blocking Xander's pathetic swing, Shooey stepped back and swung his stick and hit Xander's in the same direction of Xander's swing. The stick went flying out of Xander's hand and he over balanced, stepping toward Shooey who grabbed him and pulled him back first against him. This actually was what Xander had wanted, as he acted as fast as he could before Shooey could reposition the stick. A sharp kick was aimed at Shooey's right shin at the same time Xander's right elbow struck Shooey's ribs. Continuing, Xander slammed his head back as hard as he could but missed Shooey's chin and ended up banging his head into Shooey's collarbone.

In most beings that would have been enough to precipitate them letting go of whoever they were holding. In Shooey's case he paid little mind to the pain and brought his stick hard across Xander's chest producing a nice long gash that bled freely. Then Shooey slammed his own head against Xander's, dazing him and making him go limp. Dropping Xander he put his stick against Xander's chest until he seemed to come out of it. Raising his arms on the ground, Xander hoped he'd accept it as his giving in. Shooey nodded and walked over to the creature again and motioned for Xander to join him.

Stopping Xander, Shooey used his fingers to open the wound on Xander's collarbone despite Xander's cursing. Using his arm to hold Xander still he poked at it then nodded, and gestured to the creature. Doing as he'd seen Shooey do, Xander grasped the creature and squeezed out some of the goo. Putting it on the deep wounds on his collarbone first he followed up with coating the cut on his chest. He dabbed some over the cut on his cheek, hoping he got it all. Shooey stopped him when he went to get more for the various other small cuts on his body though most had either stopped or slowed their bleeding. Shooey took the creature away and motioned for Xander to put the cloak on.

Shooey led Xander back to the field he'd worked in previously, and tried to escape through the night before. When they got to the edge of the field of plants, where Shooey was leaving him, he was stopped before entering. Reaching into a pouch on his loincloth, Shooey withdrew the sunstone Xander had gotten the night before, now set on some type of leather chord. He placed it over Xander's head and let it set against his chest before leaving. Xander looked down at the stone, and was then very startled when he got a look at the chord. Fingering it a moment, Xander realized where the skin from his back had gone.