Musical Wars
Dom/sub, bondage, vampire clans

Chapter 1

Xander woke to the warmth of the bed he now shared with Spike, his lover's arm still curled around his naked waist.  He had to admit that he felt more whole than he had in recent memory.  The voice—which he now could recognize as his own personal demon—had withdrawn into a happy curl in the back of his brain.  He felt the demon purring at the feeling of *master's* arm wrapped around him, but the feeling was distant enough that he didn't start an actual auditory rumble himself.

"Mornin' pet.  Bit early, yet," Spike murmured from behind him.

"Yeah, I just feel like I've slept for a week," he admitted as he squirmed a little. For the time that he stayed with Cassidy, he had been half-asleep, locked within his own mind as the demon ran the show, and now he itched to get back to actually living.  Speaking of which…

“So what comes next?”  he asked Spike.  The silence held for a long time, and he wondered if Spike had gone back to sleep on him.  He turned all the way around so that he lay on his side facing Spike instead of spooning with him.  Blue eyes watched him before Spike turned onto his back and turned his gaze at the ceiling.

“France maybe, haven’t been to China for a while, pet.  Have some good memories of that place,” Spike finally answered without moving from his place on the bed, one arm under Xander and the other curled under his own head. Xander relaxed into the loose embrace, draping one of his own arms over Spike’s chest.

“Um, I was kinda thinking of things like how do I tell my mother I’ve suddenly taken up with a man…although the whole vamp thing does seem to trump the whole man thing—not that I'm planning to tell her about the vamp thing," he hurried to say, horrified at even the passing thought of having either of those conversations with his mother.

“What?  You plannin’ on staying here?”  Spike turned his head and cocked a single eyebrow.

“I sure hadn’t considered the option of picking up and moving to China.”

“Didn’t say move, luv.  Could just travel through, see the sights.”  Spike’s eyes returned to the ceiling, but he could feel the sudden tension in Spike’s muscles.

“And I’m suddenly feeling like this is a little more than just a passing thought.”  Xander studied Spike's face, the avoidance of eye contact and the subtle tensing of Spike's chest beneath his own hand.

“Might be.  Just don’t want to be round here too long, not good for the health.”  The nonchalant tone contrasted with the tense twitching of various muscles.

“Angel?”  When Spike looked over in alarm, Xander rushed to explain his thinking.  “I heard how that asshole talks to you.  He’s probably a decent person to Cordelia ‘cause she sure seems to be pretty loyal, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t a real jerk to us.”  Xander didn’t miss the narrowing of the eyes at the word ‘us.’

“Don’t like my sire, pet?”

“Don’t like that he doesn’t seem to like you,” Xander explained honestly.

“Yeah, these’s that.  More interested in gettin’ you away before the fireworks, luv.”

“Fireworks?”  At his confusion, Spike rolled his eyes and let out a sigh.

“Oi, you’re smarter than this, pet.  You know full well there’s goin’ to be trouble.”

“I think you’re overestimating me, Spike,” he laughed, but the look in Spike’s eye stopped his laugh in less than a second.  The vampire’s eyes flashed gold and his eyebrows had lowered in a classic look of annoyance bordering on homicide.  “Um, Spike?”  he asked, suddenly unsure in the face of such an unexpected response.

“I’ve heard how you’ve talked about yourself, pet, and it stops now,” Spike ordered, his voice low and soft and indescribably commanding.

“I don’t kn—”

“Stop,” Spike cut him off mid-word.  “You talk in your sleep, pet.  Night after…that,” here Spike waved absent-mindedly toward the far end of the room where Xander remembered spending an evening chained to the wall by an angry Spike, “Night after that you talked all night.  Laughed at first.  You couldn’t shut up even in your sleep, pet.”  Spike stopped and tightened the arm around him, grabbing him in both arms and pulling him into a tight embrace that left him resting on Spike’s chest, breathless.  “Then I heard what ya said, what ya thought of yourself--won’t have it.  No one insults my pet,” Spike ended with a declaration; his tone of voice showed his willingness to enforce the proclamation.

“Spike, you don’t und—”

“I *do* understand, pet.  You fought vampires at night, fought your own demon every wakin’ minute, and you still kept it together.”

“Not very damn together, Spike.  I barely graduated.  I’ve never held a job more than five weeks.”  He could feel the tears start; he never cried in front of people.  Alone he turned into the mighty manly water works, but he never cried in front of people and now he struggled to hold it all in, to not show Spike how truly weak he was.

“Sh, pet.  It’s all right.”  Spike simply held on, a cool hand now rubbing up and down his backbone in a gesture that suddenly set the tears free.

“God, I’m pathetic,” he finally hiccupped out. 

“Bloody hell, pet.  You’ve survived ten times more than most people.  You survived what my Dru didn’t—you fought the demon inside your soul and won.”  Those words turned the tears off as quickly and the comforting hand had released them.

“You believe that?” Xander asked, unable to believe that Spike had compared him to the late Dru and found him better in any way, shape, or form.  He still remembered the night when Spike had told him that he would never be more than a pet, a human companion who would be protected but always inferior.

“Just don’t ask me to say it again, pet.  I’m evil; I’m not supposed to do this supportive bollocks.”

“Deal.  As long as you’re willing to ignore reality and believe it…” He stopped at the growl that immediately erupted from the chest below his cheek.  “Right, not insulting the vampire’s pet.”

“Right.  Now would ya like to try and tell me why there’s goin’ to be fireworks?  You already know the answer.”  Spike loosened his grip, and Xander returned to his place lying beside Spike.

“Not July yet, so I’m coming up clueless.”

“Think about minions, pet—minions and masters.”  Xander furrowed his brow for a moment before a possible theory began to form, and even the fuzzy edges of the hypothesis he had formed caused his breath to catch in his throat, panic causing the demon buried in his subconscious to suddenly growl its way to life and stir.

“Oh shit, I killed Cassidy,” he whispered.  He almost laughed when he felt the joy and pride from the small piece of demon he had inherited from Cassidy’s bite.  Once the demon had howled for Cassidy and happily groveled on the floor for the now-dead vampire.  Now the demon belonged to Spike so much that it roared with pleasure at the thought of killing Spike’s enemies.  However, he pushed the demon aside with practiced ease, and he felt the demon yield to his prodding.  “And because Cassidy is dead, a lot of minions are running around without a master to control them.”

“Yeah, and Peaches sure didn’t accept any minions, leavin’ them to take shelter on the streets,” Spike added.

“And without a master, they’ll hunt indiscriminately,” he finished, suddenly getting a clear picture of just how dangerous the streets of L.A. would be when the minions found enough courage or suffered enough hunger to return to hunting.

“That’s part of it, pet.  But many of those minions were older—some were even childer of fallen masters.  Ya need childer or other younger masters if you want workers who can do more than eviscerate enemies.”

“How many is ‘some’?” Xander asked nervously, suddenly very afraid of the picture that began to solidify in his imagination.

“From what I saw in his soddin’ little ‘court,’ I’d say at least fifteen or twenty vamps had enough years under ‘em.”  He didn’t even need to ask Spike what ‘enough’ meant; he knew.

“Oh shit.  Fifteen or twenty vamps are going to try and set up as masters,” he whispered in horror.

“Yeah, pet, they are, and then they’ll fight over minions and territory.”

“Oh god, Gunn.”  Spike suddenly growled, and for the first time, Xander felt his demon urge him to yield to Spike, to show his neck and kneel at his master’s feet.  He had to gasp and grab the headboard to prevent his demon from hijacking his body.

“Pet?” Spike had gone from angry at the mention of Xander’s friend to concerned in 0.6 seconds flat.

“I’m fine,” he muttered while he pressed his eyes closed and fought for control.  Always before, the demon wanted something so different from what he wanted so that he could fight the urges, that is until Cassidy captured him and he just gave up and yielded total control to the demon.  Now, the demon wanted Spike and he wanted Spike and he struggled to divert the demon’s desire to submit to his master.  He loved Spike, but he had finally earned the respect he had always wanted, and he wouldn’t give that up just to allow the demon to sit at master’s feet. 

“Luv, you’re not fine; you’re not talkin’.”

“Yeah, the demon just doesn’t like it when we fight,” he explained briefly as he struggled to get his breathing and his heart rate to return to normal.

“You got control then?” Spike asked with his head cocked to one side.

“Yep.  Just having a small psychotic moment—it’ll pass.”  Spike nodded slowly, head still cocked to one side in a concerned expression that he was quickly loving to love on *his* vampire.  Oh yeah, like the voice in his head wasn’t enough, he now had to have delusions that Spike was his; that’s not the way the power ran in this relationship, and he knew it.  It might take longer than he thought to get past this latest piece of psychosis. He finally pulled himself together enough to continue. “We aren’t leaving with a city-wide vampire disaster looming on the horizon.” 

“Little melodramatic, pet.”

“Still not leaving, blondie.”

“And if I said we were?”

“Are you saying that?

“You’re mine, pet. You gave yourself to me.”

“I did, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll do everything you tell me,” Xander responded after a long pause.  He could hear his own demon grumbling unhappily.  Spike appeared equally unhappy if the pinched expression were anything to go by.

“And what does it mean to ya then, mate?”

“Means when push comes to shove, I’ll always pick you,” he hurried to assure both demons, the one muttering in his own chest as well as the gold-eyed one lying on the bed next to him.  “Means I’ll always fight on your side and listen to your advice… and love the feeling of your hand on my skin.”  He added the last as he took Spike’s hand and laid it on his own stomach.  The cool fingers spread out and then began rubbing, and he could feel Xander Jr. begin to take notice, his cock twitching slightly at the feeling.  “Means no one else in the world will ever touch me like this and I’ll never depend on anyone else this much and I’ll never trust anyone else to know who I really am and what I really feel.”

“But no blind obedience.”

“Nope, not really good at the obedience thing.  Not even very good at the following directions thing, so obedience is *way* out of my league.”

“So what do ya expect to do round here, pet?  You want to go find your Gunn, tell him what’s comin’?  He’ll want to know how ya know, pet.”

“Yeah, I figured that one out already.  How much time to we have before all hell breaks lose?”

“A vampire war is not *all* hell, trust me.  Got sent to hell for a month once when one of Dru’s spells went wonky…at least a hell dimension…was a mite bit messier than one little vampire war that most humans won’t even notice.  They’ll just pass it off as one more gang war.”

“Fine, how long until partial hell?”

“Right now, those that’re older are probably tryin’ to set up territory, maybe trying to attract some minions.  They’ll keep quiet for another few days.  May have more vamps hunting on the streets now since minions hunt more without someone to control ‘em.  Once the territories get marked, the vamps’ll start fighting over who owns what.  Could be a day or a week, doubt any longer than that.”  Xander fought to concentrate as Spike hand continued its movement.  "Unless some old master comes in and fights them all into submission," Spike finished, and he could feel himself tremble under Spike's talented hands. 

"Hey, no fair.  You've already had your chance at the naughty touching, and I haven't," Xander pointed out as he captured the hand and brought it up to his lips so that he could kiss the pads of the fingers before releasing it. Slowly he raised himself and slipped one leg over Spike's body so that he crouched over the vampire and looked down at the amused blue eyes.  The demon in his head shifted uncomfortably, and Xander shoved at it unmercifully before returning his attention to Spike.

"I don't have to be fair, pet.  I'm evil."

"Be quietly evil, please," he whispered into Spike's ear as he reached out and took an earlobe between his teeth and nipped before moving down to suck and lick at Spike's neck.  He could feel Spike's erection begin growing next to his own, the two cocks nestled together between their bodies.  He moved his mouth down to a collarbone, exploring it from the neck out to the shoulder.  Remembering how he felt when under Spike, he pulled back slightly and blew across the still damp skin.  He felt Spike tremble, and he couldn't resist nipping again as the skin under him shivered.  From the movement he felt below, he guessed it was a good twitch.

Sliding down the slim body, he turned his attention to one nipple, the darker skin already hardened and wrinkled into a point.  He ran his tongue around the edge of the nipple before closing his mouth over the skin and sucking.  The body under him bucked, and he simply transferred his mouth to the second nipple while he used his fingers to alternately stroke and pinch the first.  When he raised his head, he found himself straddling a demon in full game face. 

He reached up, curious, and ran his thumb over the ridges on Spike's forehead.  He had expected the skin to be tougher or thicker, but it wasn't.  The soft skin followed the ridges that had formed under the skin, and he followed these formations with his thumb, aware that Spike now squirmed beneath him.  A sudden image of Ferengi oo-max flashed through his mind and he felt a giggle slip out.

"Oi, not proper to giggle when you're feelin' up your lover, pet."

"I just…" Xander laughed again, but at least this time it came out a snort rather than a giggle, slightly more manly.  "I had an image of a Ferengi getting his ears stroked," he admitted.  Spike simply rolled his eyes as he slipped back into his human face.

"Bloody hell, why do I get all the loons?"

"Hey, you made the bumps go away!"  he complained, frustrated that he hadn't gotten to finish his exploration.

"You laughed at 'em, luv.  That just evil, and *not* in a good way." 

"Bring them back and I'll do something to make it up to them," he promised in a low voice as he moved up and brought his tongue out to touch the bridge of Spike's nose.  Almost instantly, he could feel the skin wrinkle under his tongue.  He ran his tongue up the ridges, feeling it bounce over every bump as he worked his way back to the brow ridges, which he now explored.  Again, after he had left each damp patch behind him, he would pull back and blow over the skin, and each time, he could feel the resulting tremor in the body under him. 

When he had explored every inch, he moved down to the mouth, but he felt strangely hesitant; he'd never before initiated a kiss with a man, he always responded to what the other wanted.  True, he could count the number of kisses on one hand: the men at the club and Spike last night.  However, he didn't quite know how to approach such an intimate act, and he certainly didn't know how to do with a partner whose fangs could easily damage him. Spike must have felt the hesitation because he moved for the first time, slipping a hand behind his head and pulling him into that mouth.  He felt their lips connect, and he instantly opened, giving Spike access to his whole mouth even as he gingerly stretched out his tongue and explored the new shapes: the sharp little front teeth, the long fangs on the top, the still dull teeth on the bottom. Exploration over, he turned to truly kissing his lover, his lips brushing over Spike's lips; using his teeth to gently nip Spike's lower lip, his tongue wrapping around Spike's fang until he could feel the prick of the point. 

When he had teased until he though he would die, he started sliding down Spike's body, kissing and nipping as he moved in on his target.  However, when faced with Spike's cock, he suddenly froze, completely unsure of how to approach such an act.  He could feel his own heartbeat speed up as he considered the fact that here he was, with no practical experience at all, in bed with a 120 demon who had probably had more lovers in his life than Xander had ever known people.  God, what if he screwed this up?  What if he just sucked at it?  What if he couldn't suck at it?  What if he didn't like sucking at it? He tried hard to control his breathing, but he knew he had failed when he felt Spike's hand at his head.

"It’s okay, pet. I don't expect anythin' here," Spike crooned with a soft caress to his hair.

"It's not…” he didn't know how to finish.

"Not what?" Spike asked with infinite patience, not even complaining about the hard cock with a single drop of milky-white pre-cum slowly sliding down the shaft.

"I don't know what…" he stopped again.  God, how pathetic of a lover was he?  Surely Spike could find someone who didn't hyperventilate at the thought of being intimate.  Could probably even find someone who knew what the hell he was doing.

"'S'all right.  Just touch it," Spike suggested.  "Run your finger up it."  He reached out and did what Spike said, running through the pre-cum drop as he trailed two fingers up and down the shaft.  Remember the older man from the bar, he slowly lifted two damp fingers to his mouth and sucked off the fluid.  From the way Spike gasped for breath, he guessed that he had done right.

"Touch the head, pet."  He did just that.  He played with the folds of skin that surrounded the head, pulling them up to play with the unfamiliar foreskin.  When he let go, the foreskin slipped back down, the head barely poking out.  He ran a finger around the slit of the head and felt his own cock twitch in sympathetic joy as Spike threw back his head and gasped for breath.  "Go on, pet," Spike encouraged him in a shaky voice, and he suddenly felt empowered—he could make a 120 year old demon gasp for breath that he didn't need.  With that encouragement, he lowered his head and slipped his tongue along the slit.  The pre-cum, salty and slightly fishy, tasted much stronger now that he took it from its source, licking along the head and shaft to recover the fluid.  Taking a deep breath, he slipped his mouth over the head and twirled his tongue around the end as he began sucking.

"Bloody hell," gasped a voice under him, and he felt a hand grab his wrist, pushing his hand to the base of Spike's penis.  "Press here," Spike ordered and he felt his fingers pressed into Spike's flesh. "Otherwise, we're gonna be done right quick."  He would have smiled at the thought of making Spike lose control, but his mouth had other work.  He slid his mouth up and down the shaft, letting his tongue play, wiggling over the line that ran down the underside of Spike's cock and to his balls.  He pulled back his head and worked his tongue under the edge of the foreskin, pulling it gently to make room for his exploration.  He slid down again and sucked as hard as he could.  It was almost like it didn't matter what he did, Spike still gasped and squirmed. 

Opening his mouth as wide as he could, he sucked in as much air as possible through his mouth, causing the cold air to rush by Spike's damp skin, and the vampire bucked so hard that he found himself gagging as the cock hit the back of his throat.  He knew that many people could relax enough to deep throat, but either Spike was larger than normal or his own throat was smaller than normal because there was no way he could get that down.  Instead he pulled back slightly as he tried to control his gagging.  Spike must not have noticed because he continued to rock his hips up, so Xander simply closed his fist around the base of Spike's cock and squeezed so that the entire length couldn't slip in too far and choke him. 

Then he relaxed and let Spike thrust while he worked his tongue around whichever part of Spike's anatomy he could reach at the time, careful to make sure that he didn't get caught in the foreskin as Spike thrust up more and more powerfully.  He released the fingers Spike had positioned as he felt the muscles tremble under him, and with one final thrust, he felt his mouth fill with the strong taste of semen.  He gasped, and then started coughing wildly as he felt the fluid trickle into his lungs.  Pulling his head to the side and still coughing, he closed his hand around Spike's shaft tightly as Spike continued to slam his hips up as one spurt followed another.  Soon, the movement stilled, and he released Spike to concentrate on his own pathetic attempts to breath. 

"Alright, pet?" Spike asked as he finally managed to catch his breath and cough out the irritating fluid.

"Yeah, less than impressive end, there," he gestured toward the bed as he felt embarrassment color his cheeks.

"Not complainin'," Spike commented mildly, "but doesn't seem like we're finished yet."  He suddenly felt himself flipped onto his back and his own cock surrounded by a slightly warmer than room temperature mouth.  He reached down to grab Spike's head, to touch, to do something, but Spike caught his hands in his own and pressed them into the mattress on either side of his hips even while sliding all the way down on Xander's cock, Xander struggled not to thrust up as a squeezing sensation milked his cock before Spike slowly pulled back with a delicious suction. 

He struggled to free himself and respond to the onslaught of pleasure, but his hands remained pinned to the bed, and Spike lay on his legs, immobilizing them completely.  All he could do was squirm as Spike deliberately and slowly alternated between sucking as a talented tongue explored the head of his cock and deep throating as powerful muscles massaged the shaft.  He cried out and gave up on control, thrusting wildly, but Spike pinned him to the bed and the little movement he managed simply caused the slender figure to move up and down with him.  Spike laughed, even with a cock in his mouth, and remained in control as he slid up and down more quickly now.  Xander screamed as he felt his balls tighten and his leg muscles begin to tremble; he arched off the bed and gasped for breath as he shot one spurt after another, each neatly caught in Spike's mouth and swallowed without choking, sputtering or gagging. 

Wow.  Just wow.  He couldn't even form other words as Spike slid up and pulled him into an embrace.  Yep, wow covered it.  He only wished he could have offered Spike such a good time, but he could hardly be expected to compete with 120 years of experience.  Experience that could leave a person with no words in the brain other than wow.

"Wow," he finally said out loud.  Spike chuckled.

"Pet, you are a treat.  Got half a mind to chain you here and keep ya in my bed all the time."  The two lay there, tangled in each other's limbs until he felt his bladder begin to complain about the lack of attention.

“Well that was a nice diversion, but it still seems to me that we have to get back to real life, starting with a pottie break."

“Real life’s overrated, pet.” Spike mumbled without moving.

“Yeah, but the longer I’m away, the more difficult it’s going to be to explain.”

“Not dark yet.”

“Not vampire yet.  I mean,” he stumbled when he realized what he had said, “not vampire ever, not going there, never, like not ever.”

“Know what ‘never’ means, pet. Demon got away from ya there?”

“Yeah, I think so.  Either that or I just opened my mouth before consulting with my brain.  I do that,” he muttered.

“Noticed once or twice,” Spike agreed without rancor as he rolled over onto his stomach, facing away.  “Goin’ to Gunn’s then?”  Xander heard the tremor in Spike’s voice, and he wondered how much control it took for Spike to say that without pinning him to the bed and chaining him to the wall. 

“Have to talk to my mother, Spike.”  He didn’t miss the fact that Spike suddenly relaxed, the contours of his body eased so that Spike’s back, which had been a roadmap of muscles leading from bone to bone, smoothed out into an expanse of pale skin.  “I won’t talk to Gunn without you there,” he promised.

“What ya going to tell your mum?”

“God, I figure I’ll figure that out when I get there.”  Spike turned his head and raised one eyebrow in amusement.

“So you’re just going to blither and hope she figures out the main points?” Spike teased.

“Ha-ha, Mr. Evil Dead.  Do you want me to meet you back here?”

“No, don’t come here alone.”  Spike must have noticed the hurt and confusion because a slim hand reached out and caressed brown curls.  “You can't watch out for critters followin' ya 'cause you don’t have vamp senses, least-wise not most of the time.  I don’t want some stray vamp followin’ ya back here.  I can meet you at your mum’s or you can get to the club before dark and I’ll meet ya there.”

“Um, club.  I don’t really feel up to a really long conversation with my mom.  I’m still trying to figure out how to break the whole gay thing, so I’m thinking that I’m just going for the whole moving out thing.  I’ll get my stuff, so I’ll probably have two or three bags.”

“Bloody hell, you’d better not bring any of those god-awful clothes of yours.  If ya don’t have decent kit, I’ll buy ya more.”

“Is that an order, master?”  Xander allowed his head to drop and he looked at Spike from beneath his eyelids.  He watched as the rim of Spike's eyes glittered gold.

“Bloody hell yes, your clothes give me a headache,” Spike grumbled.  "If you show up with one flower, I'll shred your whole bleedin' wardrobe."

"Deal," he laughed.  If giving up his wardrobe made Spike happy, he'd do it.  Besides, if he didn't fight about the clothes, he thought he might have a better chance with the music because he was not going to listen to punk music all the time, even if it was beginning to grow on him.  He slid off the bed and headed for the bathroom as he mentally reviewed the contents of his room at home.  Yep, Spike was about to meet his collection of country music greats.


Chapter 2

Xander slipped into the apartment a good hour before his mother would come home and two hours before sunset.   The apartment felt strangely empty to him, as though he had never lived there, but he pushed those thoughts aside as he grabbed a couple of bags and went into the room that had been his since the night when he and his mother had snuck out of their last apartment without paying the rent--two weeks after his father had left them without a word or enough money to pay the monthly bills.  

The music collection and trinkets of his childhood went into the suitcase first.  If he ran out of room, he had no doubt that Spike really would buy him new clothes, but the pictures and comics that had given him an escape from life during his early years--those were irreplaceable.  He packed the comic book he won from Jesse, the pictures from his life in Sunnydale, his country music CD's and cassettes.  He used to have more, but his father had once "punished" him by breaking every single one of his CD's one at a time.  He'd had to save a lot of allowances just to replace his favorites.

He felt the demon's anger rise to the surface of his mind, and he struggled to push it back.  Four years he had fought with the demon, but now it just seemed so much harder.  He almost wished he had waited until Spike could come because his demon seemed so much more controllable around Spike; without Spike he was back to the constant struggle that had become such a part of his life that he didn't even realized how much effort it took.  Obviously he wasn't strong enough to dominate the demon in any permanent or meaningful sense, so what did that have to say about his long-term mental health, he wondered as he sorted his clothes.  Wearable jeans, underwear, and plain shirts in one small pile in a knapsack.  Rummage sale rejects, Hawaiian prints, and just plain ugly went into the large pile on the bed.

When Spike got tired of him, would he even be able to control the demon anymore?  Would he become prey to whatever vampire discovered his secret?  His own mind formed an image, and the horror caused him to actually drop the load of underwear in his arms.  The demon's answer seemed pretty clear:  Angel.  If Spike didn’t want him, the other master from Spike's line would claim him.  The demon started pushing, bringing forward thoughts of Angel's broad shoulders in that sleeveless t-shirt at the theater, the sight of the large vampire forcing Spike to submit in the dark, the knowledge that Angel was so much older than Spike.  Yeah, the demon didn't have a problem with the thought of Angel, but Xander fought back.  Angel had rejected Spike; Angel had hurt and abandoned Spike.  Angel wasn't worthy.  Angel couldn't always control himself if the stories of Angelus in Sunnydale were anything to go by.  That made him weak.  He focused on the thought of Angel torn between the demon and the soul until his own demon finally relented and retreated.  He bent over to pick up the dropped underwear as he felt a shiver run through his body-either the demon's desire or his own revulsion, he wasn't sure which.

Luckily, his mother interrupted his internal conflict with a happy shout.

"Xander!" his mom shouted happily before standing frozen in the doorway to his room.  He could see her eyes harden as she took in his activity.  "Alexander," she began again, far more cautiously, "it's so nice to have you home.  I expected you to come home a few days ago."

"Yeah, I didn't mean to worry you," he sheepishly offered as he tried to mentally add up the number of days.  Let's see—two days sleeping in Spike's lair, two or three days captured by Cassidy, the night demon-bar hopping.  So not of the good.  Okay, he could bluff his way though this.  "Things were so messed up in…" he totally blanked on his cover story for a moment before it came back to him.  "San Diego that I had to stay there a few extra days to straighten things up because they were really screwed up…with inventory."  He just shut up the minute he realized that he had blown his chance to get away without drama.  His mother had her stony look that made it clear that short of physical violence he wasn't getting out without a lecture.

"Really?   I thought you said you were going to San Francisco." The fists on the hips, squared off don't-challenge-mother posture told him how absolutely screwed he was.

"Okay, I was in town," he admitted before she could trick the truth out of him.  "There was a problem with a competitor and I had to check out a few places.  I just didn't want to have to drag myself back here."

"And you were staying with…"

"A friend," he offered, but he flinched at the uncertainty in his own voice.

"Right, a friend who has invited you to stay a few extra days, perhaps?" He watched as his mother gestured toward the bed, the open duffle bag, the suitcase waiting on the floor.

"Um, a friend who asked me to move in?" he responded warily, just waiting for the maternal eruption.

"A week!"  his mother screeched, her voice stabbing into his brain.  "You're moving in with someone after a week!"  The fists left the hips now so that the arms could get in a good swing as she paced, partially in the room and partially in the hallway.  Finally she stopped and glared at him.  "I thought I raised you better than to fall for this big-city shit about free love and moving in with each other.  God, is she pregnant, Xander?"

"What?  Ah, no.  Just…no," 

"And you're using protection?  God, please tell me you're using protection every time because you do not want your life ruined by getting some girl pregnant."

"Geez, Mom, I *so* don't think there's ever going to be risk of that," Xander snorted and then froze at his mother suddenly shocked expression.

"Xander?" she asked, her voice suddenly cautious, as though afraid he would bolt for the door, which was actually pretty perceptive of her since he really was eyeing the space between her body and the door frame and estimating whether or not he could run for it.  "Xander, is there something you want to talk about?"

"I, um…well…uh….no?" 

"Oh god, you're gay," he mother suddenly stepped into the room and sat heavily on the edge of the bed.  "I should have known considering some of the girls you brought home.  That Gretta girl had more testosterone in her than your father."

"Gabi," he correctly quietly.  He couldn't exactly deny it, but he sure hadn't planned on this conversation tonight.

"God, please tell me he's not that pushy,” his mother asked, her hand running absent-mindedly through her graying hair.

"Surprisingly, no."

"Surprisingly?" his mother snapped back, picking up on the word and brandishing it like a weapon.  "Why 'surprisingly'?  What kind of man are you seeing?" she demanded.

"He's nice," he quickly declared.  "He's a very kind man."  Oh god, please don't ever let Spike find out about *that* comment or he would never live it down; however, he didn't think proclaiming Spike's evilness would win points with his mother.  "He has his own place downtown, a nice one bedroom with its own laundry.  You'd like him."

"And you're using protection, right?"

"Mom, I'm not having the 'safe-sex' talk with you," he squirmed as he tried hard to keep any thought of sex as far away from any thought of his mother as possible.  The two just did not ever need to exist in the same place at the same time.

"Oh good lord, you're blushing to even think about it.  Did you have the guts to talk to your boyfriend about this or are you just trusting luck to protect you from your own stupidity?  If you can't be responsible enough to talk about this like an adult, you have no business doing anything with another man until you grow up.  So, did you use protection or not?"  Xander stood beside his dresser, pressing himself into the wall as he tried to remind himself that his mother was speaking out of fear and shock.  Tried to remind the growling demon in his head of that too.

"I can take care of myself, Mom," he chided gently.  "He's a good man, and I'm fine."  Of course, he actually doubted each of the three statements to varying degrees, but he really didn't need to worry his mother with details.

"Then tell me you weren't stupid enough to risk dying just so you could get your rocks off."  Xander almost choked at the crass expression coming out of his mother's mouth.

"Mom," he began a little louder this time.  "I'm not talking to you about my sex life.  Please trust me when I say I know what I’m doing."  He tried hard not to look guilty or sheepish or confused despite the fact that he felt all three.  He watched as the anger drained out of his mother as though some psychic plug had been pulled.

"Tell me that he's good to you," she whispered, tears clear in her eyes as she looked up at him.  He went over and sat next to her on the bed. 

"He is.  He makes me happier than I've been since we moved here."

"Please, Xander, please tell me he makes you happier than you've ever been because you've had too damn little happiness in your life." He could hear his mother's voice crack as the tears started now.  He couldn't remember the last time he had seen his mother cry; she didn't even cry when his father, in a rare mood for a physical fight, had backhanded her into the coffee pot.  Brown stains had decorated the wall of the kitchen until they had moved out of that house in Sunnydale looking for a better life. 

"He does, Mom; he honestly does," he promised her as he put an arm around her shoulders.   "Maybe we can come over for my birthday on Thursday," he found himself offering.

"Right," his mother snapped out of it as if they had been discussing nothing more emotional than the weather.  She quickly swiped the back of her hand across her face as she stood up.  "Thursday will be the big birthday bash.  I'm getting off work an hour or two early, so the three of us can order pizza and get some movies."

"Um, I can't make it until dark," he objected.   At his mother's curious look, he continued.  "I still have work, Mom.  I just started, so I can't just take off early like some people.  In fact, I have to finish packing and get my butt to work before dark," he finished as he look at the sun hovering just above nearby roofs.  "I wanted to talk with you, but I didn't think you'd be home this late."

"So you're leaving?" she asked, and he tried not to hear how small her voice was.

"I have to get to work," he explained.  "I'll call; this time I won't forget," he promised. 

"Don't let him forget how special you are," she whispered as she smoothed his hair away from his face before turning to leave the room.  "And if you want your father to know, you'll just have to tell him yourself because I am not going to talk to that asshole about this.  If I do, you'll be bailing me out of jail for homicide.  Your father is a closed-minded Neanderthal," she announced briskly as she walked out of his room and into the bathroom. 

He heard the door shut and the lock turn before the water started.  Recognizing the dismissal, he decided to head to the club and see if he still had a job.  Oh god, he had forgotten to even ask Spike if he could keep his job.  The demon mewled in distress as Xander stamped down on it and decided that he was going to keep his damn job whether the pushy vampire liked it or not.  Unless of course he had already lost the job.  He picked up his two bags and headed for the door.  When he stood at the apartment's front door, he looked down at the key in his hand.  With a sigh, he turned the lock on the doorknob, put the key on the counter, and then closed the door behind him.  No going back he decided.

Xander arrived at Safari mere minutes before opening.  Half-dressed men rushed by him as he slipped in the back door by the freezer and slipped into the kitchen, hoping to find T.  Instead a large man with long hair pulled up under a fishnet cap worked in the kitchen.

"Um, have you seen T?" he asked as he pressed himself up against the prep table so that he didn't get in the way of the stream of people rushing back and forth and put the bags on the floor before carefully maneuvering them so they were half under the prep table and not in anyone's way.

"Out front," the man snapped before he grabbed a sheet from the oven and began loading trays. 

"Move it sweetcheeks," ordered a familiar voice, and he turned to see a short Hispanic stripper sneering at him.  "You back to get your final check after walking out?"  Xander finally put a name with the face:  Luis.  He was about to respond when a deep, familiar voice interrupted him before he could begin.

"Hey, hey!  It's the much-missed food runner," Charlie quipped as he stole a potato skin out from under the cook's nose.  When the cook glared, Charlie gave a small laugh and winked at the man.  "You know you love me, Ross."  Charlie turned back to him.  "So, you running away from home, then?" Xander nervously shifted the two bags with his feet. 

"Um, meeting someone here," he admitted.

"Well you go, boy.  Shy little virgin one night, moving in with the beau a week later.  Knew you had it in you," Charlie used a shoulder to push into him.  "Course this means that I don't get my shot at you, but I can wait.  When you get tired of this new man in your life, you come on back to your first crush, deal?" Charlie asked with a wink, and Xander found himself blushing and choking on air as he tried to come back with a response to that.   Charlie just laughed as he started for the floor in the Tarzan outfit.  "Drop the bags in my dressing room."  He called as he walked out the kitchen.

"Suck up," Luis snarled as he grabbed a tray of food and headed for the floor.  Xander picked up the bags and headed for the back so that he could put them away before facing the rest of the club. It wasn't until he had reached Charlie's dressing room and stowed the bags in the small bathroom that he realized that Xander Jr. hadn't even reacted.  He could still look at Charlie and recognize a near-god of a man, but he wasn't the man Xander Jr. wanted.  Nope, Xander Jr. was more into lithe and blond.  Shaking his head at how much life could change in a week, Xander went out onto the quickly filling floor and looked for T.

"My god, darlin', it's about time you got your ass back here," sang out a voice as soon as he stepped into the hallway.  Charlie had obviously snitched on him.

"T," he responded happily and then realized that he really didn't know what else to say.

"Oh, you're not getting out of it that easy, you start spilling before I call Gunn and the guys and have them sit on you till you fess up," T threatened while opening a door and gesturing for him to follow.  Inside he found T already perched on the edge of a well-worn desk with various stacks of paperwork waiting patiently.

"Um, I don't know where to start," he finally admitted as he dropped into one of the two metal folding chairs. 

"This vamp hunting thing, was this just cover so you could run off with your boy?" T asked in a more serious tone than he had ever heard the man use.  Serious with just a hint of anger.


"Well then?" T asked after a long silence.

"Spike and I didn't…I mean, we obviously did, but not until after.  Oh shit."  Xander couldn't even get his thoughts together enough to figure out how to tell the story without revealing too much.  He closed his eyes, took a breath, and shoved his demon as far back as he could before he started again.  "Spike wanted to kill a vamp named Cassidy--the same vamp who was in charge of the nest where Frederick got killed.  We've been hunting him.  Spike knows how to hunt vamps better than anyone I've ever seen, and I helped him find places, including the place Frederick died.  We got attacked, I got hurt, Cassidy got dead, Spike got me somewhere safe, and now I'm back."  Yep, enough truth to sound true, but not so much truth to get himself kicked out or Spike staked.

"And the bags?" T asked, this time in a far more mild tone.

"Well after the whole killing thing, we sorta, ya know."  He blushed and then looked up when T started laughing.

"Shit, darlin', I always thought that once you found someone you'd lose that innocent charm, but you've still got the stuff to make a man's heart beat faster."  T stood and clapped him on the shoulder before heading for the door.  "I'm glad you came back; some of the regulars been askin' about you.  In that outfit you'll clean up in tips again tonight."  Huh?  Xander looked down and realized that he had dressed in club-wear with a deep sapphire blue shirt tucked into tight black jeans.  He hadn't even paid attention to what he had pulled out when Spike had opened the armoire and pointed to a shelf with clothes that would fit him. 

"I don't know if Spike…" he stopped at T's suddenly suspicious expression.  "T?"

"Oh cutie, please don't tell me you've fallen in with some man who'll tell you what to do every minute of the day."

"No," he quickly responded; he didn't need to have T's sympathy.  "I told Spike I'd meet him here and I don't know when he'll show up," he finished weakly.  T's expression remained suspicious, but the man slowly nodded. 

"That's okay, you can work until he shows up.  When you leave, just give me a head's up, okay?  So, *are* you going to keep working?"

"Don't really know yet, might be too busy," Xander added the last when he saw the worry and disappointment in T's eyes.  Shit, he'd only met the man a week ago, his disapproval shouldn't matter so damn much, but it did.  He never wanted T to know just how much he needed Spike and Spike's approval. 

"Well, you let me know.  Going to be some mighty disappointed folks around here if you don't."  T quietly pointed out while opening the office door for Xander to leave first.    He didn't have any idea what to say to T that would be both true and stop the look of pity and worry. 

"I'm happy," he finally settled on.

"Good for you sweetie," T said as he closed the office door and ushered him back to the kitchen.  "You just make sure that you do what's right for you."  Xander only wished he knew what that would be; it was hard to tell with both his own thoughts and his demon rattling around.  How could he have assumed the demon was simply his own dark thoughts for all those years? 

"Ross, this is Xander; he'll be running food when he isn't dropping it on the floor," T introduced him with a wink. 

"Um, hi Ross," he smiled to the heavily tattooed white man who looked him up and down appraisingly.

"He the one who got the front stirred up last week?" Ross asked T without interrupting his visual inspection.  Xander shifted uncomfortably under the gaze.

"Yep, one and the same."

"Well try not to drop so much of my food," Ross commented as he turned his back to them in order to work with something in the sink.  T simply laughed.

"From Ross that's the seal of approval," T whispered as he picked up a tray of chip-bowls and handed it to Xander.  "He's a little like your Luther, except *he* isn't an asshole," T confided.  Xander had to laugh at the thought of the tall, well-muscled scarred Luther being anything like the short, heavy, tattooed Ross.  Then he felt himself pushed back out onto the floor of Safari, the food islands lit by colored lights and Charlie slinking down the raised runway as hands reached through the bars and caressed legs and thighs and even occasionally grope under the loin-cloth when the customer's arms were long enough.  He stood mesmerized by the sight of Charlie's dance for a moment until he felt a warm hand on his arm.

"Oh, I have missed you," a man with salt and pepper hair commented as he moved in.  He could feel his face growing warm as he recognized the man who had fed him his own semen less than a week earlier.  "Such a lovely boy," the man commented as his hand moved down to the waist and began to pull the shirt out from jeans.

"I, ah, have to get this food out," Xander stuttered.  The man laughed and then slid a bill down the front of Xander's jeans before quickly sliding a hand across his bare stomach under the shirt. 

"Just a welcome back," the man assured him before laughing again and then returning to a small group standing a few feet away.    Xander slipped away toward one of the far food islands. 

"Yell if you need me," a deep voice behind him offered, and he nearly dropped his tray in surprise.  He turned to see the black-vested Carlos standing there. 

"Carlos, hey," he said as he braced the tray on one hip so he could straighten up the bowls.

"Some things never change," Carlos laughed as he walked a few feet away and turned to watch.  Yep, some things never changed; here he was straight off killing one master vampire and bedding another and people still assumed he couldn't take care of himself.  He sighed.  Oh well, at least they cared enough to watch out for him even if it was annoying.

The next two hours passed with a minimum of trouble.  Xander ran food, customers felt Xander up, Xander watched for Spike.  Yep, he didn't figure the trouble would start until Spike actually showed up, which he had expected much earlier.  Part of him wanted to retreat to the back room and wait for Spike in privacy, but another part of him reveled in the fact that he was acting without permission.  Yeah, where were all the psychiatrists when you needed them?

Xander had been caught by a man sitting at a table when he felt the tingle down his backbone.  Spike?  Vampire?  He turned his head, trying to spot the source of the tingle, but he had limited mobility at the time.  In trying to get to a far food station, he had walked near a booth, and hand had slipped between his legs, and the occupant of the booth now sat hugging one leg as he smiled up.  Xander sighed tried again to pull free, but the man had a good hold.  He might be able to pull the man out of his seat, but he couldn't pull loose without his hands, which just now balanced a tray half-full of the dreaded potato skins.

"I do have work to do," he pointed out reasonably, but the man held on and exchanged a knowing look with his friend at the table.

"You shoulda seen him lasht week," the man slightly slurred to his friend.  "Hottest thing ever."

"Please, let go,” Xander asked as he started looking around; he caught Carlos' eye and the bouncer started moving in.  The drunk must have seen the cavalry arriving because his second hand held up a bill, proving that he was a tipping customer in addition to being a grabby jerk.  The second hand slipped up under the loose front hem of Xander's shirt and then he felt fingers pushing down into his jeans.  The drunk smiled and shifted his arm up so that it circled the thigh just below Xander's crotch.  Xander had to shift his legs apart to keep his balance, feeling annoyed with the liberties the man was talking.  The other customers had settled for quick grabs at the ass, caresses of the silk shirt, and darting thrusts into the jeans with money in hand.  Xander had enjoyed the attention even if Xander Jr. had been less than enthused.  But now, he just waited until the hand withdrew from his jeans and then he tried to step back again.  The arm around his leg simply tightened as the drunk leered up salaciously.

"Oi, hands off," came a familiar voice.  Xander jumped, his leg still trapped, and managed to lose two bowls off the edge of the tray before righting it.   The bowls landed with a thunk on the floor as grease and potato bit splattered.  He groaned and turned his head to see Spike directly behind him, a cool arm quickly sliding his waist

"Spike," he whispered, unsure whether he was happy for the rescue or terrified of the vampire finding him with a drunk attached to his pants.  He really didn't want to get every grabby man in the place killed, and he suddenly realized that Spike was quite capable of doing just that.  His heart sped up as the panic set in.

"Okay, time to let the server get back to work," Carlos' voice interrupted.

"Back off, git," Spike snarled, and the arm around his leg disappeared as the drunk and his friend slipped away, not wanting to get in the middle.  Xander put the tray down on the table so that his hands would be free--not that he could do much if Spike started anything.

"Let go or I'll toss you out on your ass."

"Like to see ya try, mate."

"Spike, don't.  He's just trying to look out for me," Xander interrupted when he felt the body behind him tense and start to bounce slightly.  Oh yeah, bouncy Spike equals trouble.  "Carlos, head bouncer on Xander-protectage duty, meet Spike."  He felt Spike step forward, and then he found himself suddenly thrust behind Spike, watching while Carlos and Spike tried to glare each other down.

"You the one who gave Xander a hard time last week?" Carlos asked with a growl in his voice that came impressively near to the real thing.

"You the git who walked off and left him alone?"  Xander could feel the hostility getting quickly out of hand.

"Spike, he's the one who got me out of the crowd after you left.  Carlos, Spike's the one who protected me from the guy who killed Frederick."  As he watched the two consider each other, he just wished Cordelia would walk in.  That woman managed to make Spike and Angel play nice, or at least fairly nice, and he really needed to discover her secret weapon. 

"Didn't seem to be protectin' Xander from that wanker," Spike snarled.

"I was coming to stop the guy when I spotted you.  Last time you were more trouble than a friendly drunk," Carlos snapped back.   The two stood, unmoving.

"Reckon I was," Spike suddenly turned amiable, and he held out a hand.  After a brief look of confusion that Xander could identify with, Carlos took the hand.

"Nice to meet you," Carlos managed even while looking to him with a confused expression.  Xander shrugged; he couldn't explain the vampire's mood swings any more than Carlos.

"Right, need to talk to my pet, here," Spike announced, turning a back to Carlos. He shrugged again as Carlos looked to him before moving off a distance to watch.  He simply he knelt down to recover the lost food. 

"Well this seems familiar," Spike commented as he crouched down to bounce in front of him, one arm leaning on the table.  Xander bent his head, his heart still pounding with the fear that Spike would be angry, angry with him and with the various men who had touched him.  Stupid.  How could have risked so many lives just to prove something to himself.  And T, he suddenly realized.  He didn't want T to think of him as some weak thing that did whatever his boyfriend told him.  Boyfriend?  No, master really was closer to the truth.  "Pet?"

"Yeah?" he answered without lifting his head.  He pulled the last potato skin into the bowl and knelt there, cleaning his hands on his towel.

"You alright, pet?"  He risked a quick look up and saw the head cocked to one side and the eyebrows lowered in clear confusion.


"Right," Spike snarked sarcastically.  "Anytime you can give one word answers, ya aren't fine.  Can't read minds, luv, so you better start talkin'."

"Don't get mad at them," he asked in a small voice, continuing to rub his hands on the towel even though he had already gotten them clean.

"Who’s that, luv?  The wanker who grabbed at ya?" 

"Yeah," he whispered.

"You thought I'd eat them for doing that, didn't ya?"  The bouncing stopped, and he felt Spike's hand close around his arm.  "That's it, innit?"

"Well, yeah," he admitted, looking up at Spike in the low light of the club. 

"If he'd hurt ya, he'd have died a slow and painful death," Spike admitted.  "But he didn’t."

"I thought, with the touching…" Xander felt his heart begin to truly race as his demon squirmed, wanting to throw itself at master's feet and beg forgiveness.  Spike looked at him for a long time, a strangely neutral expression on his face.  Spike finally pulled him close and whispered in his ear.

"If you want to work here, it’s all right with me.  Like people seein' what they can't have.  Like showin' you off and then watchin' people lust after ya, knowin' that you only lust after me." Spike added a lick from the collar to the ear, and he felt himself shiver as Xander Jr. suddenly came to life.  "Cassidy showed ya off, making ya go starkers so they'd all see what they couldn't have."  A second lick and he closed his eyes and shifted so that he could press himself into Spike's firm body. 

Now Spike pulled him up so that they stood next to the booth.  Spike positioned him so that he faced the club with Spike standing behind him.  He watched out of half-closed eyes with his head tilted so that Spike could continue exploring his neck.  The vampire obliged by sliding a hand under his shirt and closing his lips over the place where neck and shoulder met; he felt the suction and squirmed under the attention, barely registering the customers who had turned to watch.  "But don't ya think we should take care of the vamp feedin' on the customers before we continue this?"  Xander continued to writhe against the hard body behind him until the words finally penetrated the lust.

"Vamp?" he squeaked.  Spike laughed.


Chapter 3

"Yeah, business first, then?  Need to drive this wanker off since I don't really want vamps hangin' out round ya." Spike commented as he continued nipping at Xander's neck.

Xander scanned the crowd; he didn't see anyone suspicious, but if Spike said a vamp was out there feeding on the crowd, he didn't doubt it for a minute. 

"I've gotta…" he gasped as Spike nipped particularly hard at his shoulder.  Xander Jr. gave a simultaneous twitch of his own.  "I've gotta tell T," he finally gasped out.

"Right, I'll wait here then." Spike let go so suddenly that he found himself struggling to keep his balance.  He turned to glare.  "What?" Spike asked innocently although the corner of the mouth twitched twice.

"Evil vampire," he hissed as he tried to rearrange his jeans so he could walk.  Now Spike openly smirked.  He gathered up his food and made for the bar as fast as he could with Xander Jr. pressing against the zipper.  He felt hands reaching for him, but he side-stepped and spun out of reach all the way to the bar where T worked one end.  When he dropped the tray on the bar and leaned over to get T's attention, he felt hands slip inside his shirt.  He looked back to see an older man in a plaid shirt smiling, but in the background he could also see Spike leaning against a wall, watching.  He had an evil thought, and his demon whole-heartedly approved of the game.

He slowly wiggled his butt as the hand under the shirt slid down to the jeans.  Spike's eyebrow shot up, but otherwise he remained motionless.  Xander could see that T would still be another minute, so he deliberately smiled at Mr. Plaid and pushed back.  The hand now slid all the way in the jeans, and he could feel fingers exploring down the crack.  He kept his eyes on Spike, and now he could see the lights of the club reflecting softly in eyes that probably had gold in them now.  As fingers reached the puckered goal, he shivered and then reached up to touch Mr. Plaid's cheek.  "No more," he whispered, and he could see the disappointment as the man sadly smiled his acceptance.  The hand withdrew for a moment and then returned with the dry feel of paper against skin as the man slid a tip in equally far.  Xander had a sudden image of getting a paper cut and having to explain it to the doctor, and he had to stifle a laugh just as T came up.

"You leaving us then?" T asked with a nod toward Spike.

"Actually, you have a vamp hunting in here."  T's eyes suddenly narrowed as he inspected the crowd.  "Spike and I are going to go see if we can't get it out and stake it," he quickly added.  When T shot him a disapproving look, he amended it.  "Fine, Spike will get it outside and stake it while I watch from a safe distance."

"Darling, you watch your back."

"Hard to do that what with the eyes being in the front an all," he quipped, but the worried expression in T's face made him stop.  "I'll watch Spike's back, and I trust Spike to watch mine."

"More than you trust Gunn?"  T asked sadly.  He had to really think about that.  A week ago he would have followed Gunn to hell, but how would Gunn take the knowledge that he wasn't entirely human?  How would Gunn react to his coming out of the closet. Hell, how would Gunn take him sleeping with *any* vampire, male or female?

"Spike can protect me better than Gunn can," he finally told T before returning to Spike's side.  The trip back across the club proved a little easier without his hands full, but he still had to sidestep several interested customers.

"Not nice, pet." Spike said when he arrived.  For a minute he thought Spike was talking about his comment regarding Gunn, but then he remembered Mr. Plaid.  Spike took his arm and started walking him toward the far end of the dance floor.

"Yeah, well it's your fault for getting everyone worked up with a floor show before sending me through the crowd alone."

"Nearly came over, threw you on the bar, and claimed you right and proper for everyone to see."  Xander Jr. jerked to life so suddenly and painfully in the confines of the jeans that he physically tripped, but Spike simply reached out and pulled him close before he could hit anything.  "Like that thought, do ya?"  Xander wished he could come back with some witty comment, but even his babble abandoned him in the face of the mental image Spike had created.  Spike laughed.

"There's the wanker now," Spike said as he nodded toward a tall thin black man with actual red hair who had his limbs tangled around a hunky line-backer type.  He watched at the vamp laughed at something and then kissed the man on the lips before nuzzling into the man's neck.  He would have cried out a warning right there, except Spike held him back. Caught between wanting to save the man and following Spike, he physically swayed, and Spike's arm tightened around his waist. 

"Ya don't want to interrupt him right now, luv.  Dinner might not survive it."  Before he could ask what Spike meant, the vampire raised his head, still showing human features and planted another kiss on the man's lips.  The man had a dazed, happy expression, and the vamp backed him toward a wall, where he left him leaning.  With a glance in their direction, the vamp started for the door.  He felt himself pushed along as Spike followed.  Once out in the night, he couldn't see the vamp anywhere, but Spike didn't hesitate as he moved north up the street and toward a closed and boarded up gas station. 

"He's there," Spike commented as they came to a halt outside the station.  They stood there for several minutes.

"Aren't we going in, I mean, it's a little hard to stake a vamp if you don’t actually go in."

"Who said anythin' about staking?"  Spike turned to him with a confused expression-the eyebrows drawn down so that the wrinkled form an upside-down V on his forehead.

"You said we were going to get rid of him, that's how you get rid of a vampire."  Spike simply snorted at that, but then the conversation stopped when a tall, red-haired vampire stepped out from behind the station.  Spike grew suddenly still, and he felt himself for the second time thrust behind his lover.  The vampire's hair curled in tight coils and he walked with a gangly stride that suggested youth. 

"Wha' ya want den?" called the other vamp, and he could see each of the vampires subtly shifting their bodies.  Spike took a step forward and raised his head as if he was sniffing the air.  The other vamp shifted to the side, closer to the gas station, and showed his demon features.

"Want ya' away from what's mine," Spike finally announced.

"He be yers?" the vamp asked, and Xander found himself trying not to laugh at the competing accents.

"Yeah, mate, he is."

"Yer a master, can smell ya.  Knew I's run into one'a ya's sometime or ruther.  If ya want, I's fittin' to move on.  'Bout time to anyways."

"Just don't want ya near my pet.  You got control enough to feed without killin', so I don't mind ya in the area or even in the club, but ya smell my pet, and you'd better clear out, mate.  Got it?"  The other vamp suddenly lost his demon features and dropped his head. 

"Raht, Ah won’t go neah him,” the vampire agreed.  Spike stood there glaring for a few seconds and before turning and sweeping Xander away down the street. 

"That's it?" he asked, indignant.  "You want to go vamp hunting and we end up nicely asking the vamp not to kill anyone.  At least I think that's what you asked.  I swear, I thought I had trouble with English what with the constant D's and all, but I'm not entirely sure you guys know how to actually speak English."


"Don't 'Pet' me," he groaned softly when he realized his mistake, “I mean, don't go saying 'Pet' at me, AND don't actually pet me right now; I'm mad.  That vamp was hunting in T's club, and you didn't do anything."  He felt himself pulled toward a parked car.  Spike jumped up on the hood and pulled him into an embrace between his legs before covering his mouth with a cool hand.

"Pet, do ya want T and the customers in there safe?" Spike asked seriously before removing the hand.

"Of course I do."

"And do ya trust me to keep you happy and safe?" Spike asked as strong arms settled in at the small of his back, pulling him in closer.

"Well, yeah."  He had to admit that he actually did trust Spike, he just sometimes wondered how much of that trust came from the demon in his head and how much came from his own thoughts, not that he had always picked the best people to love or trust.

"So do ya trust me to keep your soddin' club safe?"

"Okay, we have a problem there, because that club is just a buffet for you, and you can't convince me of anything else, blondie," he pointed out.

"Bloody right, they could all get eaten tomorrow and I wouldn't care, but you would, so I'll keep those gits alive just to avoid the emotional scene you'd throw if ya found them all dead."

"You'd actually protect them?  They're like walking meals on wheels to you, without the wheels part, but still.  Why would you do that?"  Spike simply snorted.

"Not sayin' more emotionally supportive crap tonight, don't want my reputation to be completely buggered, but that vamp is old, older than most and old enough to have control.  If he's huntin' in there, it'll keep most of the others out."

"He's a master?"

"Bleedin' hell no, a master would’ve fought for his territory.  He's old enough to be, has to be at least fifty, but without someone to teach him, he'll just be a really old minion."  Spike fell silent for a long time.  "Surprised he can feed without killin', that's usually a master's trick."

"So with him draining a few pints here and there…"

"It takes the club off the huntin' list for other vamps," Spike finished.

"My hero," he purred agreeably as he pushed into the embrace, pushing his own hip into Spike's groin.

"Bloody hell, don't go spreadin' that bollocks around or I really won't have a reputation.  And if you keep up with the teasin', you're goin' to get tied to the bed and ravaged."  Xander Jr. had his oh-so-predictable response to that threat, and Spike laughed, his eyes ringed in gold.  "Oh, yeah.  You're mine."

"Yep," he agreed amiably.  Times like this when Spike acted like one of the good guys, it was just so easy to say.

"Well, let's grab some dinner before we have to go and see Peaches," Spike announced and the mood evaporated. 

"Dinner as in Italian?" he asked hopefully, even though he knew the answer.

"Wouldn't mind a Luigi or a Leonardo," Spike agreed and Xander groaned. 

"I was thinking pizza," he argued as Spike jumped off the car and started back toward the club. 

"Let's get your kit and drop it off first, right?"  It didn't escape him that Spike totally avoided the conversation, but he couldn't ask a lion to go vegetarian, and he couldn't ask a vampire to give up blood.  He did wonder why Spike so adamantly refused to do what the other vamp did and drink just a little. 

Xander followed and made the right noises at Ross, the only person he ran into as he dashed through the kitchen to grab his bags before meeting Spike out back with the motorcycle.  Once the bags were stowed, Spike turned the bike toward a part of town full of junkies and whores, and within minutes of parking the bike, he had pinpointed a small man who robbed two different street-people while they watched.

"He bad enough for ya?" Spike asked with a nod.

"You can't think I'm going to give you permission to kill someone.  Oh, no.  So not going there, Spike."

"That’s all right pet.  I know he's bad enough.  Can smell the blood on him from here, even with all the soap he used to wash it off.  Probably forgot to clean his boots, most of 'em miss them."

"You mean he killed someone?" Xander turned in horror to watch the young man laugh as he grabbed a bottle of alcohol from some older man and then chased the older man down the street.

"Evil don't just come with the demon package, luv," Spike announced before he started walking toward the mugger.  Xander followed at some distance, trying to ignore it when Spike maneuvered his prey into an alley and slid his dagger into the man's neck before   drinking deeply and making little happy sucking noises.  Ew.  When had he started thinking of sucking noises as happy?  He severely chastised his demon before returning to ignoring the whole scene.

"Right then, suppose it's time to face Peaches, pet."  Xander watched as Spike calmly licked the blood off the knife as they walked down the street.

"Aren't you afraid of someone seeing that and assuming you're some sort of serial killer?" he asked as he glanced nervously around at the pedestrians.

"First rule of the night:  people ignore anythin' they can't explain away.  A hundred years ago, I'd of worried.  Now, people see what they want.  Long as they don't have hard proof, they make up all sorts of excuses."  Spike finished the cleaning job and replaced the knife, tucking it into a duster pocket.  "S'why I use a knife, don't pay to leave proof laying around with teeth marks in them."

"Is that why you won't leave people alive…because they'd see proof?"

"Don't go there, pet."  Spike reached the motorcycle and quickly mounted.

"Don't go where, Spike?  Don't talk about why you kill?"  He stood on the sidewalk, determined to have the conversation.  If the minion in the club could feed without killing, he didn't understand why Spike couldn't as well.

"Xander," Spike's voice drew the name out into a clear warning.

"Spike," he returned in the same tone of voice.

"Enough," Spike bellowed in a deep, loud tone, and Xander felt his knees go out from under him.  A couple on the street turned to look in shock as he neatly collapsed to the ground in a heap.  The echoes of Spike's cry chased each other through his brain, and he struggled to clear his ears enough to even hear the distant voices.  The demon struggled against his control, and he squeezed his eyes shut as he silently hummed Rubber Duckie. Thank god for his arsenal of Sesame Street songs because he had worked through four or five before he trusted himself to open his eyes. 

"Spike?" he called softly before he realized that he lay in the vampire's lap with a cool hand smoothing the hair away from his face.

"You’re all right, pet.  Be just fine in a bit.  Just had a spill, that's all."  He could hear the slight panic in Spike's voice, and he looked around for what might have caused the fear, but he only saw the faces of curious bystanders who whispered to each other and watched with meaningful expressions.

"Spike?" he called again, confused.

"Are you sure you don’t want an ambulance?" a man with a cell phone asked, and Xander waited for the guy to get told off, but it didn’t happen.

"Thanks mate, but he'll be fine.  Goin' to hospital won't help epilepsy."  He reached out and took one of Spike's hands so that the vampire looked down at him.

"What happened?" he asked.

"Just a spell, that's all.  We'll get you back on your feet and you'll be right as rain."  Xander felt himself pulled up as Spike stood so that he now leaned back against Spike.  He tentatively put some weight on his legs and felt a wave of relief when his legs held without buckling.  "Let's go sit," Spike said, and he felt himself guided toward a nearby bench.  Now that the invalid had gotten scraped off the sidewalk, the crowd slowly dispersed and they were left on the bench without any observers.

"What the hell was that, Spike?"

"Bloody hell, I don't know.  That shouldn't have happened." Spike watched him silently for several seconds.  "Tell me exactly what it felt like from your side."

"You yelled," he began, and he could see Spike flinch at the words.  "I felt this moment of pure panic so strong that my knees just sort of stopped working and I started going down.  I wanted to get back up, but I could feel the demon struggling, struggling harder than it has since the day I took control back and killed Cassidy.  Eventually the demon stopped struggling, and I that's when I opened my eyes.

"Bloody hell," Spike repeated.

"Why?  What did it look like from out here?"

"You just soddin' collapsed without a sound."

"Oh god, maybe the demon has done some sort of damage to my brain.  Shit, I don't have so many spare brain cells that I can afford to have a demon randomly frying them."

"Shhh.  That's not it, pet."

"If ya have a theory, I'd love to hear it because I've left freaked out behind days ago and I'm quickly approaching the land of blind panic."

"It shouldn't have happened, didn't mean to cause that."

"Whoa, what did you cause it and how do we make sure you never cause it again because that was just plain unpleasant."

"Used sire's voice," Spike began softly, as though he were admitting some great sin.

"I missed out on vampire anatomy and psychology in school, you know.  Kept trying to get the principal to add it as an elective, but they insisted that I should take physics instead.  Vampire anatomy would have been more useful."  When Spike only looked at him with a guilty expression, he abandoned jokes for the direct route.  "I have no idea what that means, Spike."

"Sire's voice keeps fledges in line.  When they hear it, they soddin' well stop whatever nonsense they're doin' and follow their sire's commands."

"And your sire's voice dropped me to the ground?  Can I vote for you never using that again?  Shit, that's just totally not fair."  Xander leaned back against the building feeling the cool bricks through the thin shirt material.  He had never felt so entirely helpless; Spike could control him with a single word, leave him twitching on the ground with the demon raging in his mind.  Shit.  Why hadn't he staked Spike when he had the chance?  Oh yeah, he'd never had a chance.  And he'd fallen for the bastard.  Life would be much simpler if he hadn't fallen for the bastard, but he'd fallen so hard that he didn't think he could get back up even if he wanted to.

"But it shouldn't have worked," Spike objected.  "Wouldn't have used it on you on purpose." 

"Um, if that's not working, I really don't want to know what sire's voice does when it does work.  I felt like a kitten grabbed by the back of the neck.  Not that I'm kittenish because I'm a man, so I'm more like a manly thing, a bear or a lion or something: a completely helpless bear all curled up and quivering, but a bear nonetheless."  He opened one eye to glare at Spike, but the vampire simply watched the traffic.

"That's just it luv, that's exactly what happens to a fledge.  But pets don't have enough of the demon in them to react like that.  Pets just get uncomfortable.  Occasionally I've seen pets lose control of their bladder, but I've never seen one react like a fledge."

"You thought I might pee myself?"  Xander opened both eyes and looked over toward Spike in horror.  "And ya know what? I'm starting to get a real inferiority complex about this whole pet thing.  If either you or Angel point out one more way that I'm doing this pet thing wrong, someone is not getting any more sex…unless it's Angel, him I'll just stake."  Spike laughed. 

"I like the way you do things, so I'm not complainin'."

"Good, so can we go home?"  Xander had regained control of all his limbs, but he still felt shaken up by the revelation that someone had that much power over him.  Of course his demon was stupidly happy, damn thing would be happy to lay on the floor under Spike's feet. 

"Sorry, luv.  Have to go see Peaches, don't we?"

"Um, no?"  That earned another one of Spike's laughs.

"Well that's the condition he put on us hangin' around.  This is his turf, and I won't fight him over it.  Means we either have to go make nice with the pouf or get out of L.A."

"Shit, I thought when I took up with a vampire that I didn't have to deal with the in-laws."

"Yeah, well wouldn't mind skipping town and leavin' the nancy-boy wonderin' where we went."

"Um, so not okay with the leaving town part, Spike.  At least not now."

"So, we see Peaches."

"No chance you could drop me off at home?" he asked hopefully as he pushed himself up onto his feet.

"Bloody well wish I could, but the wanker wants to see that I haven't been torturin' you.  Has it in his mind he has to save every bleedin' soul that crosses his path, even the ones that don't need him."  Xander grumbled, but he followed Spike to the bike and got on, shoving the helmet over his head before leaning into the strong body in front of him. 

When they stopped at a normal-looking office, Xander had to smile.  He expected some grand mansion with gargoyles or maybe an abandoned building with heavy velvet curtains lined with dust.  Instead they got a perfectly normal little office with "Angel Investigation" painted on a sign at the front.

"A vampire detective agency?" he asked skeptically.

"Yeah, Peaches does do his own thing," Spike agreed as the two of them went into the office.

"Man, where the hell have you been hiding your ass?" demanded an angry voice as soon as the door came open.  He could feel Spike shifting into game face behind him before he could even react.  He watched as the speaker's eyes snapped open and the man reached for a stake.

"Gunn, I can explain," he insisted as he stepped between his friend and his vampire.


Chapter 4

"Xander, duck," Gunn yelled as he brought his stake up.  He would have ignored the request, only he felt himself physically thrown to one side as Spike first flung him to a nearby couch and then planted himself in front of that couch, loudly growling.

"Son of a …" Gunn started, and then he lunged.  Without even a sound, Spike grabbed the arm, twisted it and sent the rest of Gunn sailing toward the door.  Spike might have continued the move to its logical conclusion with Gunn's arm ripped from his body, except Xander threw himself on Spike's back pulling at the vampire and throwing off his balance.

"Sit," Spike roared, and Xander felt his legs moving without his permission.

"Fuck, Spike, stop!"  He yelled from the couch once he realized he no longer had the option to physically intervene.

"William," roared a new voice, and Spike stopped with Gunn trapped face first on the wall and his arm, still clutching the stake, twisted up behind his back.  "Let him go," Angel roared again as he walked into the room.  He could see Spike's arm tremble, but Spike simply turned his game face to Angel without releasing the now squirming Gunn.

"What's this, then, Peaches?  Always figured you'd have at me yourself when you wanted me dust."  At these words, Xander froze.  Never in his life had he felt so panicked, so desperate.  He looked around for a weapon he could use because he sure wasn't letting Angel kill Spike without a fight.

"William, that's not what this is about," Angel insisted, holding his hands up in a gesture of surrender.  Xander didn't stop looking for that weapon; lamp, good as an impromptu club; coffee pot, break for cutting edges. Oh great, he was considering taking on a centuries old vampire with a lamp, no wonder everyone thought he needed protection.

"Better start talkin' if ya don't want your toy broken," Spike snarled as he twisted Gunn's arm up higher.  He could hear Gunn gasp.

"Spike, please," he quietly begged.

"Quiet, pet.  Won't hurt 'em as long as Peaches starts talkin'.  Course, if he don't, might just have to rip the wanker's arm off and beat him to death with it," Spike pointed out cheerfully.  He watched as Gunn grew suddenly still, and he could just imagine the fear going through Gunn's mind; it wasn't that long ago that Spike had him pinned to the ground in a parking lot and he thought that he was going to die.  Not a pleasant experience.

"William, let Gunn go and we'll talk."

"Right, just like he tried to talk when I first walked in?  Nope, never trust an enemy enough to let go of the leverage, you taught me that, Peaches, remember?"

"You don't need leverage, William.  We just want to talk,” Xander watched as Angel took a step toward Spike, but Spike simply growled his response.  Angel took a step back, but he could see how Angel had actually inched toward him.  He opened his mouth to warn Spike, but the younger vampire was not so easily fooled.

"Ya take one more step toward Xander, and I'll tear the human into dog food sized pieces."  Spike warned.  "Pet, get over here."  Xander slid down the couch so that when he stood he was as far from Angel as possible.  He quickly darted to Spike so that they were just a few feet from the front door.  Please God just let them get out without anyone getting killed.   Funny how he prayed so much more now that he hung out with the evil undead.

"Spike, please, just let Gunn go," he tried again, but Spike's growl only deepened.

"You want to talk, go ahead," Spike suddenly spun Gunn around and launched him toward Angel.  Gunn hit Angel and nearly took both of them to the ground. 

"That's right, you better let me go 'cause I'm gonna tear you apart for what you did to my boy."

"Gunn," Xander stepped forward, but Spike's arm and Gunn cold stare both effectively stopped him.

"Don't," Gunn warned him.  "Didn't save Alonna and won't save you."  Gunn shifted into an attack pose, and Angel put a hand on Gunn's shoulder, a hand Gunn quickly shook off.  "You gonna claim he's got a soul too?  Maybe there's some big souled monster convention in town I don't know about."

"Ain't got no soddin' soul," Spike objected quickly, and Gunn turned to glare at him. 

"Then I ain't got no problem dusting you for turnin' my boy," Gunn raised the stake, and Angel put a hand on his wrist.

"Xander isn't a vampire," Angel calmly declared, and Xander could see the suspicion, the hope, the fear all cross Gunn's face like a series of veils dropped down over his features.

"Gunn, I'm not.  I'm still the same Xan-man demon-magnet as always," he tried to laugh, but the noise came out sounding more strangled than anything else.

"No, you're *not*.  The Xander I knew didn't hide from me behind a filthy monster."  Xander stood, immobilized by those words as surely as if Gunn had paralyzed him.

"Oi, watch your tongue, wanker, or ya might well lose it."


"Don't soddin' preach to me, Peaches."

"Well if he ain't a vamp, someone better start explaining or I will find a place to stick this stake."

"Gunn, you don't need…"

"Bloody hell, just try and stick it here, I'll bugger ya with it before I tear out…"


"I'll show you how my boys and I dust vamps." 

The words washed over Xander, the voices overlapping, shouting, intersecting until the words themselves disappeared under the general tone of hostility and promised pain.  He leaned back against the wall as he watched Angel hold Gunn back with one arm while trying to keep his body between Gunn and Spike.  Shit.  He felt the terror rise as he realized that someone was about to die, and he wasn't going to like any possible outcome.  The two vamps each continually squared off, Spike's head tilted up slightly in a posture he associated with Spike searching for some scent.  Angel still wore his human face, but flashes of gold in brown eyes revealed his anger.  Oh yeah, imminent bloodshed, and here he stood utterly and entirely helpless to stop it.

"Oh.  My.  God," a female voice yelled from the open office door.  He watched as Spike instantly stepped back to stand between him and the door as Cordelia walked in and slammed the door loud enough to stop all yelling.  "We have a lease people!  A lease that says we will not disturb the neighbors by screaming in the middle of the night."  Cordelia stood with her hands on her hips, a small bag dangling from one wrist. 

"You, blondie, lose the fangs before you scare off the paying clients," she ordered as she darted a finger toward Spike.  "And you mister don't have the money to get blood cleaned out of the carpet, so you better chill out," she declared as the finger turned to Angel.  "And I don't even know who you are, but if you know what's good for you, you WILL NOT come in here waving stakes and threatening murder," she finished with the long finger pointed right at Gunn.

"You tell 'em," Spike cheered even as the fangs and wrinkles disappeared.

"This *another* vampire?  If this is a nest, I know what my boys like to do with nests."

"Oh get over yourself," Cordelia snapped as she walked to the desk and leaned over to pull out a cross.  "Do we need to pass this around?" she asked as she waved the ornately carved wooden crucifix.

"I'll pass," Angel said as he retreated to the wall opposite Spike.  Xander held up his hand.

"Toss it here, Cordelia."  The cross made a nice arc through the air and he caught it before holding it up for Gunn to see.  "No smoke, no burning," he pointed out as he waved it.

"Watch it, pet" Spike complained as the cross came too close to him.

"Sorry."  He tossed the cross back to Cordelia and risked a quick glance at Gunn.  The man stood in the middle of the room with an expression that made him fear Gunn for the first time in his life.  He wondered if this was the look Gunn gave vampires before turning them to dust. 

"I'm really not a vamp," he promised.  "Probably look like one cause of the whole clothes thing, but really that's just cause Spike hates the flowers and surf themed shirts even more than Luther.  Of course Luther only complains while Spike tends to shred them when I'm not looking.  It's kinda like the whole 'your mother dresses you funny' thing only with a vampire instead of a mother and the whole dressing well thing…" He let his voice trail off when Gunn's expression didn't change.

"You always hang out with vampires, cheerleader?" Gunn cocked his head toward Cordelia.  "What?  You have death wish?"

"Oh, please.  Angel is about as dangerous as a houseplant," she insisted as she walked over to the couch and sat down, placing herself between Spike and Angel and within three feet of Gunn. 

"And that one, you trust that one too?" Gunn demanded with a nod toward Spike.  He tried not to show how much it hurt that Gunn wanted someone else's opinion and didn't even give him a chance to explain.

"Not as far as I can throw him," Cordelia scoffed.  "But Angel and Xander can handle him."

"You trying to tell me you don't mind being in the same room with that monster, a monster who's probably thinking about how much he'd like to tear your throat out right now?"  Gunn kept his eyes on Spike.

"Oh, please.  Melodramatic much?" she rolled her eyes.  "Spike, are you thinking about tearing my throat out?" she asked with such perfect calm that Xander found himself wishing he could have watched this goddess emerge from the self-involved girl he had known in high school.

"Not really, luv.  Thinkin' about tearin' out the wanker's throat, but I wouldn't do that to you."  Spike dug in his duster and came up with cigarettes.  When he lit one and leaned back, Xander realized that he hadn't seen this casually violent and detached Spike since before his capture by Cassidy. 

"There, you see?" Cordelia challenged Gunn.

"If Peaches ever cuts ya loose, I'll probably just turn ya.  You'd make a beauty of a vampire," Spike finished with a leer as he took a deep drag on his cigarette.

"Okay, and now we're back with the disturbing compliments, Spike.  Can't you ever give someone a compliment that doesn't lead to nightmares and expensive therapy?" Xander asked with a disgusted face.

"Hey, at least he gives compliments," Cordelia countered.  "Angel over there, you almost have to throw yourself at him to even get him to notice new shoes." 

"Yeah, well Spike gives compliments that would make Mengele proud.  He once told me that my hair was so nice that his Drusilla would have kept my body around to pet until I started stinking up the lair."

"Ew," Cordelia's nose wrinkled up in disgust until she had managed a fairly good impression of a vampire game face minus fangs.  "Okay, you win that round."

"You're all nuts," Gunn declared as he retreated to the fourth wall and sat on Cordelia's desk, stake still in hand.

 "Can we talk now?" Angel asked from his position near the door leading to the back.

"Came here to talk, Peaches.  Your boy over there started something he couldn't finish."

"I ain't nobody's boy, especially not some vampire's," Gunn started standing again, and Xander jumped in before all hell broke loose again.

"Gunn, what did you mean about Alonna?  What happened?" he asked, fear making his voice tremble.  Gunn met his eyes for a moment, and then he sank back down on the desk, his anger buried under pain.

"She got vamped," he whispered, and Xander felt his legs get suddenly weak.  He reached out for the arm of the couch, and he felt Cordelia's hands guide him down to sit with her.

"Oh god, Gunn, I'm so sorry.  I should've been there."  Xander felt his heart break for the beautiful woman he thought of as a sister. 

"Too many vamps on the streets, we couldn't cover everybody," Gunn said in a voice as flat and emotionless as a robot, but he knew Gunn, he knew how Gunn hid his own heart, and he knew Gunn's pain.  "Angel here saved most of the crew, but we lost Trey too."

"Oh god."  Xander couldn't come up with any other words.  How many people would die before this war was over.  "It's my fault," he finally whispered into the silence that had fallen on the room.  "I killed Cassidy; it's my fault."

"*You* killed Cassidy?" Angel asked in surprise, and he could see the vampire looking from him to Spike.  He really couldn't blame Angel for doubting it; he wasn't exactly prime vampire hunter material.

"Who's Cassidy?" Gunn broke in.  "What kinda trouble you in, Xander?"

"Cassidy's the wanker who kidnapped Xander, the same vampire who commanded most of those fledges that've given you gits so much trouble. You're ready to bloody well throw him to the wolves when he's been fighting to protect ya," Spike walked to the open door and flicked his cigarette outside. 

"You took out a vamp?  Way to go, Xander.  Why didn't you call for backup?"

"Oh, and you and Spike would've worked together so well, what with the bonding and the sharing and the love," Xander snapped.  "Oh God, I'm sorry Gunn," he quickly added as he saw the expression of shock on Gunn's face.

"So you runnin' with him then?"  Gunn demanded. 

"Shit, can we start at the beginning?" Xander asked as he leaned his head back against the couch and looked at the ceiling.  "I really think I'm going to need someone to put all this in easy to understand bits using small words.  Might even need a few Cliff's notes." 

Three pots of coffee later, Xander leaned against Spike on the couch as Gunn sat expressionless at the desk and Angel sat in a folding chair with an expression of intense indigestion.  Of course Angel always looked like he had indigestion, so it might not have been a reaction to the night's revelations. 

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph," Cordelia swore from her end of the couch.  "I think *I* need the Cliff's notes version."  Xander just chuckled; he had lived most of it, and he still felt like he couldn't get his mind around it.

"So let me get this straight.  When Luther and I saved your sorry ass from Cassidy, the blood put this piece of demon in ya?"  Xander nodded.  "And when your buddy there smelled you, he grabbed you 'cause he thought you were with Cassidy?"  Spike raised his cigarette in affirmation, either that or he had just flipped Gunn off.   "And you two idiots were so busy fighting out back in an alley that you let Cassidy take off with my boy?"  Angel's expression went from indigestion to constipation, and this time Spike's two fingers didn't even hold a cigarette as they flicked upwards.  Gunn glared at both vampires for a moment before continuing.

"And when Angel wouldn't move fast enough, Spike tried to take on Cassidy's entire army alone?"  Xander found himself smiling at that thought.  Yes, disturbed that Spike had nearly gotten himself killed but still smiling.  "But Xander, whose little inner demon tried to turn him into Cassidy's slave, killed Cassidy."  Xander felt Spike's arm slip around his waist and tighten.  Gunn's eyes narrowed, but Gunn simply continued with his checklist of events.  "And now hundreds of vamps with appetites and no self control are running around L.A.?" Xander's flinch must have been confirmation enough because Gunn continued.  "So, Xander still has a piece of demon, but now that demon enslaves him to bleach-head."

"Oi," Spike loudly interrupted.  "Ya can still end up dinner if ya don't watch yourself."

"William," Angel warned.

"Won't listen to that rot," Spike snarled.  "Won't listen to it, and I won't have him sayin' it to Xander."

"Yeah, right, like you give a rat's ass what's best for Xander." Gunn snorted.  "So next question, how do we get the demon outta Xander?"  The words barely passed Gunn's lips when Spike, in full game face stood and stepped in front of Gunn.

"Touch him and I'll rip your guts out and string 'em around your neck before ya die."

"William," Angel said again, and Xander wondered if the older vampire actually knew how to say anything else when it came to Spike.

"Time out," Xander added.  "Maybe someone better ask me what I want."

"Right, you tell bleach-head here the facts of life, Xander."  He could see Spike's head tilt, the posture of uncertainty familiar even from the back since Spike refused to turn away from Gunn.  He knew Gunn's expression equally well, that look of calm self assurance when he held the winning hand in a poker game or set off a vampire trap.  He opened his mouth and nothing came out; how could he say anything knowing that he had to cut off one half of his life or the other.  The demon made its choice clear, but he couldn't say the words.

"Can we even get the demon out?" Cordelia saved him by asking.  He heard Spike growl, but Cordelia ignored it, and after a brief glare, Angel did too.

"Normally there is a spell, but I'm not sure this is a normal case.  There've been a couple of…abnormalities." 

"Yeah, ya know, sorta tired of hearing how abnormal I am, especially from a vampire with a soul," Xander pointed out.  Time for him to make a decision.  "Gunn, I appreciate everything you've done, and we can still be friends and hunt together, but I can't walk out on Spike.  He saved…"

"I saved your sorry ass more than he ever did, and I'd never turn around and use you like a slave or a quick dinner." He could see Gunn's hand tighten on the stake, the knuckles paling on his dark hand.

"That's not what we have; that's not how it is between us…" Xander struggled.  He wanted to just crack a joke and make it all go away, but he knew he couldn't do that.  "He understands the part of me that's the demon, and I think Angel's right, after four years this isn't a normal case of possession."  He sighed and tried again.  "You never knew me without the demon.  It's part of who I am and Spike understands…"

"No, I understand you perfectly well. You made your choice now live with it…or don't.  I guess that's your problem now."  Gunn slid the stake back into the back of his jeans and then held his open palms up as he walked past Spike on his way to the door.  "Next time, all truces are off.  I catch any vampires on my turf, and I'll dust them.  And whitebread," Gunn turned to look him in the eye, "We aren't friends, so don't come looking to hang out with the real vampire hunters."  Gunn disappeared out the door, and he tried not to cry or scream or beat his head against the wall.  He felt Cordelia's hand on his back.

"And don't you be gettin' any ideas about the mojo, either," Spike growled as he turned on Cordelia.

"Oh please, give it a rest.  You're going to wear your face out at this rate," Cordelia sighed.  "I just thought if there wasn't a cure, Gunn might be a little more forgiving."  Spike's game face faded back into human features, and he started digging in the duster.

"Whether he wants help or not, we've got to do something," Angel sighed.  "They're kids in the middle of a vampire war."

"So, stakes and swords all around?" Cordelia asked cheerfully.  "I can call Doyle, you can call that weird little demon who owes you money, and the six of us can go start making dust."

"Oi, not goin’ to solve anythin' that way," Spike interrupted.  "Need to have a master strong enough to hold the minions in check and chase off any newcomers," he finished as he lit a cigarette.

"And I suppose you think you're strong enough to take the job?" Angel growled.

"Bloody right I am, but I don't want the soddin' job.  Came here to kill Cassidy, and I'm not goin' to get tied down to some piece of turf."  Spike blew his smoke toward Angel and the older vampire narrowed his eyes in annoyance.

"This isn't a game, William.  You try to set up as the master here, and I will stake you."

"Listen ya nancy-boy, I told ya I don't want the job, so you can take your threats and shuv them up your oversized arse."

"Boys!" Cordelia snapped and both vampires stopped to look at her.  "Play nice," she absent-mindedly ordered.

"Ya have to find someone to be master here, Peaches.  Either that or ya have to take the job yourself."

"That's not how I work," Angel opened the door to the inner office.  "I kill vampires, and I'll hunt down there until I kill all of Cassidy's minions."  Angel disappeared into the inner office without giving anyone a chance to respond.

"Wanker," Spike hissed.

"If by that you mean totally unfashionable and unreasonable, I agree."  Cordelia nodded.

"Really, I thought the translation was broody, overbearing, and overly willing to use threats when completely unnecessary," Xander added to the banter even though he thought his heart would break.  If Cordelia could accept Spike for his sake, why couldn't Gunn?  Four years he had fought beside Gunn, and yet a girl he hadn't seen since his freshman year of high school stood by him while Gunn walked out. 

"Think 'wanker' covers all that," Spike confirmed.  "Time to go, pet."  He felt a hand on his arm as Spike gently pulled him up and out the door. 

"Be seein' ya ducks," Spike called to Cordelia as they reached the door, but he couldn't find the energy to do anything other than follow Spike's lead.  On the motorcycle and again with the freakish careful driving.  Back to the lot where Spike unlocked the door without a word.  Down into the safety of the lair and he finally felt like he could breath.

"'S'all right, pet," Spike offered as he felt a hand guide him toward the bed and sit him down.  Delicate fingers pulled apart the boot laces and then pulled the boots off his feet.  He watched as slender hands worked the buttons of the shirt before pulling it off.

"He walked out on me," he whispered.

"'S'all right," a soft voice repeated.  "We'll get a hot bath and a bit of sleep, and things'll look better, pet."

"I thought you'd be celebrating, you know, what with the not having me talk about Gunn all the time and all."  Spike stopped at that, and he watched the vampire settle down on the floor in front of the bed.  Spike put a hand on either side of his face, the cool fingers pulling the warmth from his hot skin.

"Wanted you to turn to me and not him, but I never wanted ya to hurt like this."  Spike's blue eyes locked onto his own.  "Could bloody well gut him for doin' this to ya."

"Not worth it."

"You're always worth it, pet."  The hands left his face and continued to undress him, unbuttoning and unzipping the pants. 

"If Angel just kills, more masters'll come, trying to take charge of all these minions, won't they?"

"Yeah, pet, they will.  Bloody pouf's forgotten how to be a vampire, forgotten how they think.  The way he's doin' it, he can fight for the next decade and he'll just keep the population down without ever gettin' them under control."

"God, my mother lives in that neighborhood, Mr. Evans down at the comic book store and Mrs. Walker who paid me to watch her cats.  How am I supposed to walk away from all those people?  How can I stand back and let them all face this without trying to help?"

"Don't worry, luv."  He realized Spike had finished undressing him, but the vampire only helped him lay down before pulling up the covers.  "Just rest and I'll get the bath."

"Angel's going to get them killed," he groaned.

"Not goin' to happen, pet.  We're goin' to set up some vamp as the master for L.A., whether Peaches likes it or not.


Chapter 5

When he woke in the morning, he tried to turn off that part of his brain that constantly tried to analyze everything; he didn’t want to think about how much it hurt that one more person had walked away from him.  With Gunn turning on him, he probably couldn’t set foot in Safari again, so he could add T and Carlos and Charlie to that list too.  Damn, that list was getting entirely too long. 

He felt the arm draped over his back, and he wondered how long it would be before he added one more name to that list.  He blinked to keep the threatening tears from dropping.  The thought of losing Spike tore at something so deep in his soul that he couldn’t imagine surviving it.  The good news was that he probably wouldn’t survive it.  What had Spike once told him?  Something about turning or even killing but not mentally breaking him?  At least he knew he wouldn’t have to survive this pain of always being left behind since Spike's departure would probably be the last straw for his already teetering mental balance.  Gunn certainly wouldn’t care--he’d said that last night, hadn’t he.

“Pet?” inquired a sleepy voice.

“Just thinking about how many people want me dead,” he cheerfully replied even though cheer was the last thing in his heart.

“Oi, no one wants ya dead pet.”  Xander stopped and thought about that.  Spike was probably right about that, but no one really wanted him alive, either.

“Just feeling sorry for myself here, sorry.  I'll try to keep the pity volume down.”

“Ya had a hard night, pet, not totally unwarranted.”

“Unwarranted?  Since when do you talk all collegey?”  He turned to look into pure blue eyes.

“Oi, not an idiot, and neither are you.” Spike pointed out.

“Nope, I just play one on T.V.”  Spike’s eyebrow rose at that comment.

“And when, exactly did you play the idjit?”

“Um, last night.  I just stood there helpless while you and Gunn went after each other.”

“Really?  I seem to remember a certain git jumpin’ right in the middle until ordered back.”

“Yeah, exactly.  I accomplished exactly zero, and then Angel threatened you, and I was left considering a table lamp as a weapon.  Shit, I’m worthless.  Most of my fighting moves come straight from Itchy and Scratchy.”  He turned over so that he lay staring at the ceiling. Spike’s arm withdrew at the movement, but now the strong, lean hand pressed in on his chest.

“Not worthless,” Spike said with a nearly growling ferocity.

“I sure felt it in that room.  I wanted to rip Angel apart, but I sat there utterly helpless and wondered if I was going to have to watch you turned to dust.”

“Peaches couldn’t do it, pet--even if he does want to sometimes.”

“But if he did, I’d just stand there,” he quickly pointed out, and Spike’s silence spoke volumes.  He could feel the demon squirm; the demon didn’t want *master* to think him worthless, but Xander just pointed out to the voice in his head that if he didn’t make Spike see truth, someone was going to get hurt, probably Spike himself.  Hell not even Gunn ever trusted him to be a fighter.  No, he was more of the demon bait, sidekick type than a fighter.  Isn’t that what Gunn meant with the whole, ‘don’t come trying to hang out with the *real* vampire hunters’ comment?

“Don’t believe that,” Spike finally declared, blue eyes refusing to release his gaze.  “Think you’d fight through hell with me.”

“I’d try, Spike, I really would,” he wanted to drop his eyes in shame, but he couldn’t seem to escape the ice-blue gaze.  “But trying isn’t doing, and no matter how much I tried, I’d never be able to do.  Just don’t count on me in a fight, Spike.”

“Why would ya even say that pet?  Ya took out two vamps in the theater and killin’ Cassidy the way ya did took more moxy than that wanker Gunn has.”

“No,” he closed his eyes in frustration. Why couldn’t Spike understand?  “I’ve never been able to fight; you can’t count on me, Spike.”

“Oi, don’t talk bollocks.”

“I don’t want you to die, please, if you count on me, I’ll just get you killed.”

“Bloody hell, are we back to Frederick? Not your fault.”

“Just don’t count on me,” he whispered his new mantra.

“Mind if I ask a question or two before ya condemn yourself to the home for the worthless and forgotten?” Spike asked with a touch of annoyance in his voice.  “How much trainin’ you got in fightin’?”

“I train with the guys,” he defended himself.

“Right, how many times a week is that?”

“They’re always training--god, probably four or five times a week.”

“Don’t give a shite about how often they train, how often did you get up, weapon in hand, and practice a move?”  Xander blushed. 

“A couple times a month,” he admitted.

“Right, thought so.”

“The guys, they just knew I wasn’t big with the fighting.  I mean, I did manage to drop a stake in the middle of staking a vampire.  Haven’t really inspired trust what with the amazingly lower than average fighting skills.”

“Already said that wasn’t you, pet.  The demon wanted a master and tried to keep ya from dustin’ the candidates.  Not a problem now because that demon in ya better soddin’ well know who his master is now and stake any poachin' vamps.”  He could feel the happy turning in his mind, like a dog circling a favorite spot before lying down, and he couldn’t help but smile.

“He likes that,” Xander confessed.

“Wot?” Spike asked, the reversed V wrinkle apparent in his brow as he pulled his eyebrows together in confusion.

“The demon, he likes you telling him who his master is.”

“He tell ya that?” Spike asked, his voice sharp enough for Xander to look up in concern.

“No, not in words; I can just feel him.”

“Ya feel him without him fightin’ or pushin’ ya to do something?”  Oh shit, here came the abnormal speech again, he could tell from the way Spike tilted his head to one side with one eyebrow higher than the other. 

“Spike,” he said in a tone that carried a clear warning.  “Remember what I said about the whole not getting sex thing?”

“Oi, not fair, you didn’t stake Peaches,” Spike returned with a quick laugh.

“If I’d had a stake, I would have considered it.”

“Bloody hell, you didn’t even have a stake?”  Spike’s eyes grew wide at that.

“Um, I left it in my bag?”  At that, Spike froze, his eyes wide, for a good minute.  Slowly he closed his eyes and shook his head in obvious disbelief.

“Lesson one: Remember your soddin’ weapons," he said in a voice half pleading and half exasperated.  Spike practically jumped out of bed, flipped on the overhead light, and stalked over to the far end of the room.

“Geez, warn a guy,” Xander complained as the sudden light stung his eyes.  He squinted in order to watch naked, bouncing Spike standing in the shadows of the empty far end of the room.

“Oi, come on, then.  Let’s see if ya can dump me on my arse,” Spike said as he made a come hither gesture with both hands.

“We’re naked!” Xander nearly squeaked. “Not that naked is bad in and of itself, but…we’re naked.  And the odds of me knocking you down are right up there with Voyagers' writers having the nerve to show Paris and Chokotay having hot monkey sex on the bridge.”

“I'm going to ignore the whole lustin' over other men for your sake, but as for the naked part, think I noticed.  Enemies don’t always give ya time to get ready.  ‘Sides, the Greeks wrestled starkers all the time.  Now get your arse over here and let’s see what you got.”  Xander rose from the bed and fought the urge to pull the sheet around his waist.  He tentatively approached Spike, and stopped about four feet away.

“Okay, I’m going to come at ya with a right punch, what are ya goin’ to do?”  Spike bounced in clear pleasure at the fight to come.

“Fall down and bleed?” Xander used his best pleading eyes to escape the humiliation that was to come.

“Oi, enough of that.”  Spike stepped forward and moved in slow motion with his right arm coming up in a slow arc.  Xander started backing up, his eyes darting around for something to use as a defensive weapon.

“Lesson two: don’t back up, pet.  In a real fight, ya never know what’s behind ya, and ya don’t want to back yourself into a corner.  So try again.” 

“Okay, I guess I have to either block or duck,” he said as Spike stepped up and repeated the move.  He tried ducking, leaving Spike standing over him.  He quickly realized that he had limited options and even less ability to move away from an attack from above.

“Funny, that usually works with vampires,” he laughed when Spike put hands on his shoulders effectively trapping him on the ground.  He struggled for a few brief seconds before settling down on his haunches, waiting for Spike to let him up.

“With fledges or minions, maybe.  They sometimes get in a blood rage when they fight, can’t soddin’ see anything except the next big enemy they want to gut—tend to miss the smaller targets.  That’s good to keep in mind if ya know they’re fledges, but don’t trust every vampire to fight like that.”  Spike pulled back his hands, and Xander stood. 

“I guess that leaves blocking,” he mused as Spike took the stance again.  This time he raised his left arm so that Spike’s slow-motion swing hit his arm instead of his body.  Spike’s left hand then came up and grabbed his hair, pulling him into a close hug, head pulled to one side in order to expose the throat.  Spike nipped at the vulnerable throat before letting go.

“And we’re back to my original suggestion that I bleed,” he quipped as he watched Spike take the stance again. 

“Don’t put yourself between my arms…well leastwise not when we’re sparrin’,” Spike quickly amended himself.  He studied Spike’s posture carefully before stepping forward so that Spike would start another attack.  This time he grabbed the attacking arm and pushed it so that it went past him and he ended up standing by Spike’s right shoulder with both of Spike’s arms pushed to the side.  He knew that the vampire could easily counterattack, but it still felt good to earn the look of approval in Spike’s eyes.

“That’s it, now ya can hit the exposed kidney,” Spike said.  “Let’s try that a mite faster, and this time try for a hit of your own.”  The session went on with Spike modeling one attack after another while he tried different defenses.  Spike peppered the workout with commands:

“Don’t try to knock me down, pet.  Try to get me off balance, move at the last minute so that I have to reach too far to hit ya…. Stop fightin’ like you’re tryin’ to win a bleedin’ video game.  Doesn’t matter if ya hit me a thousand times and I only get in one hit, if my one hit kills ya, I bloody well won…. The closer ya stay, the less room I have to swing hard enough to knock ya on your arse; keep close and to the side of your enemy.”

Xander fought until he felt sweat dripping down his body despite the fact that he knew the basement tended to be rather chilly.  Spike moved in for an attack from the rear, and he waited as Spike had taught him, playing dumb so that he could catch the attacker off guard.  When he felt Spike’s presence directly behind him, he stepped to the left, toward the center of the room, even as he spun with a fist already throwing a fast punch.  After all, as Spike pointed out, it's better to knock a friend on his arse than risk letting an enemy get the first hit. 

Rather than feeling his punch connect as it had the previous three times they’d practiced this move, he felt a firm grip close over his wrist as he felt himself tugged into the vampire’s embrace so that his back was pressed up against Spike’s front.  Following earlier instructions, he pulled up his legs and so that the weight of his body would pull the attacker off guard, but Spike simply held more tightly until he struggled to breath.  Suddenly he felt a presence at his backside, and he felt Spike drawing heavy, unneeded breaths. 

Almost instantly, he felt his own cock twitch in anticipation.  He could hear Spike sniffing at his neck, and without hesitation, he dropped his head to one side so that Spike could scent his throat.  With a low growl ringing in his ear, he felt himself half dragged, half carried over to the bed and thrown like a doll so that he hit the bed and bounced, struggling to catch himself before he bounced off the other side.  Spike tore open the door to the cabinet with inhuman speed, and before he could truly regain his balance from being thrown, he felt Spike pounce on him like a tiger landing on a mouse.  Okay, not the manliest image, but he certainly felt rather mouse-like with Spike straddling him in full game face.

"Mine," Spike snarled, and he could feel an answering growl reverberate in his own chest.  Without warning, Spike drove fangs into Xander neck, piercing the skin with such speed that he didn't even have time to react. He arched his back in pleasure and wrapped his arms around the strong shoulders, but Spike pulled out with little licks and kisses to the two tiny wounds.

"Oi, not this time.  Time for me to explore my prezzie, after all, ya gave yourself to me and I haven't taken time to properly inspect ya."  Spike held up the leather restraints he had used once before, and Xander trembled.  He felt his skin tighten as Spike fastened a heavy padded cuff around each wrist before buckling them together.  When he looked from his now restrained hands to Spike, he could see hunger in the vampire's eyes. 

"Goin' to make sure I know every inch," Spike promised and then he felt his hands pulled up toward the headboard as Spike pulled the attached leather lead through the slats of the heavy wood and tied it off.  Oh yeah, Xander Jr. had earned full points for participation, he thought as he felt a drop of moisture hit his stomach.

"Spike," he hoarsely whispered as he wrapped his own legs around Spike's legs, pulling the vampire down onto his erection and gaining for one precious moment the friction and pressure he needed. 

"Oi, my turn to explore, pet," Spike complained as he pulled himself free.  Xander trembled when he felt the restraint close around his ankle before Spike disappeared at the end of the bed, probably tying the restraint to the leg of the bed.  Spike reappeared on the other side and he felt his left leg similarly restricted so that he now lay on the bed with his legs opened, completely helpless.  He panted, trying to get in enough air, and he could feel the demon in his mind stirring to life, inching forward as Spike took control. 

He looked at Spike, waiting for the feel of those hands, but the vampire simply stood there at the side of the bed watching, his own erection hard against his stomach.  Suddenly, Xander felt self conscious, certain that he must look like a fool tied like this, but Spike was at his side instantly.

"Sh, pet, let me have my fun then, right?"  Xander felt a hand slide over his chest, the sweat from the training making the passage slick.  The hand continued down to his right hip where he instinctively jerked, but the restraints held tight and he couldn't move more than an inch in any direction.  Spike chuckled.

"Go on, then.  Pull away, but you aren't goin' anywhere until I say," Spike whispered as he leaned over Xander's chest.  Xander shivered at the feeling of helplessness as Spike slid down and sat cross-legged at the foot of the bed between his own legs.  Again with the staring.  He just wished he could read Spike's mind at times like these.  He pulled against his bonds, but he couldn't move, and Spike wouldn't move.  After a good two or three minutes, Spike reached out and ran a gentle hand up the outside of his thighs, and he could feel every nerve come alive at the touch.  Unable to reciprocate or object or even shift, he couldn't do anything except feel as Spike's hands crept up to his hips and then down the inside of his thighs, causing him to buck even harder as every nerve in him demanded that he act.

He felt ready to rip the headboard off the bed when he felt the tongue on the inside of his knee: tasting, kissing, and finally a sharp dragging sensation across his skin.  The movement traveled upwards until a sharp sting and drawing sensation on the inside of his right thigh made him cry out in pleasure, pulling wildly while his cock twitched in sympathy with his bucking body.  He called out for Spike to let him go so that he could grab the vampire and return the passionate exploration, but Spike continued unhurried and Xander could do nothing but experience every moment.  Spike ran a sharp tooth down the length of his right leg, causing every nerve in his body to fire as he writhed and pulled against the bonds.

His fists clenched helplessly as he felt Spike's fangs descend again into the soft flesh on the outside of his left leg, two little pinpricks that became volcanoes of lust when Spike sucked a slow mouthful of blood out of them.  Then he felt the licks and kisses over the spot as Spike moved downward toward his feet.  He didn't know what he expected, but the feeling of strong thumbs pressing into the balls of his left foot surprised him.  Spike held the pressure in place for a moment before working down into the arch with firm strokes.  Every inch of his body suddenly relaxed as if Spike had total control of his nerves.  Well, almost every inch:  Xander Jr. still bobbed madly.  Spike then repeated the process on his right foot, and he decided that even if Spike untied him, he would never be able to move from the bed again. 

He unexpectedly gasped, sure that he would pass out from lack of oxygen when Spike's mouth closed in on his nipple without warning, the sensitive skin instantly puckering at the touch.  He could feel a sharp tooth teasing the edge and he struggled, but even he didn't know whether he wanted to escape the fang or throw himself onto it.  He felt Spike's weight pin him to the bed, and he closed his eyes in an effort to avoid screaming in frustration.  He wanted to come so bad that he could hardly breathe.  Just when he hoped Spike's wandering hands might finally touch his cock, all sensation disappeared.

When Spike left the bed, he wanted to cry, but he couldn't find enough air in his lungs to do more than whimper.  He heard a soft chuckle, but Spike didn't immediately return.  As strong hands settled in over his hips, he prayed for a quick end to the teasing torture, but instead, he felt himself rolled.  He hadn't even realized his legs had been freed, but now Spike flipped him as easily as a child.  It took a few seconds for Xander Jr. to actually get through to the brain with the distress signals as his cock was trapped between his body and the mattress leading him to struggle up onto his knees.

A finger snaked down and gave his cock a quick stroke causing him to whine in frustration and try to hump, but he found himself urged back down.  He struggled for a minute before he realized that Spike had positioned pillows to keep him from crushing himself.  Allowing Spike to push him back down, he couldn't resist a whimper when he felt his leg pulled straight and restrained again.  Spike returned to the other leg, securing it as well so that now he found himself helpless.   He felt the mattress dip as Spike sat next to him.

"Bloody beautiful," he heard Spike whisper as he felt hands slide across his back, strong fingers kneading his shoulders even as a tongue darted over the expanse of his back.  "Not a bit of fear in your smell, pet,"  Two points of fire descended on his right flank, and he screamed and thrashed as he felt a burning lust spread from his flank outward until it encompassed his whole body.

"You're mine, pet.  Never goin’ to let ya go," Spike murmured when he finished his traditional licks and kisses on the skin he had just bitten. "Don't care what ya think, you're mine and I don't walk away from what's mine."  He felt Spike's body sink onto his own back.  "Never goin' walk away, never goin' let anyone take ya; never going to let ya leave," Spike promised in his ear as fingers ran through his hair, and he couldn’t' do anything to move away from those words.  He could feel a tear run over the bridge of his nose to fall on the pillow.  "Mine," Spike muttered slightly louder this time.  He could feel his cock twitch with every repetition of the word.  "Mine," Spike muttered again, almost as if he knew the lust that single word could inspire.  He began to twitch and struggle against both the bonds and the weight as the need to come built up in him like a fire.  "Mine," Spike said again before rolling off the bed altogether. 

Suddenly, he succeeded when he pulled at his bonds, his right leg freed moments before his left.  He began to madly hump, but he had only managed one mighty thrust before he felt himself flipped again.

"Not bloody polite to finish before your partner, pet," Spike commented airily even though his own cock was hard and dripping and erect and quickly turning a deep red.  Xander dared a single peak at his own cock, and the sight slightly frightened him.  He had no idea that his cock could turn such a dark color, but then he had never teased himself to near insanity before either.

He watched as Spike settled in between his legs with a bottle in hand.

"Relax, pet," Spike murmured, and he felt slick, cool fingers circle his hole before the first one darted in.  He planted his feet flat on the bed and pushed up in invitation, unable to even form the words despite mentally screaming 'hurry up.'

"Oi, someone's ready," Spike laughed, and he felt Spike's second finger enter almost immediately. This time the fingers brushed his prostate, and the tingling, tickling sensation made him jump and curse.  The third finger and then a fourth, the last one stinging a little until he could relax into the feeling.  "Goin' to show ya how a vamp does it," Spike promised, and then the fingers disappeared as Spike finished preparing himself before tossing the bottle to the side.  He watched as Spike knelt and then lifted his butt so that Spike could slide under.  His butt was supported by Spike's knees, and now Spike grabbed his feet and held them up as he felt Spike thrust into him in one push and begin slamming into him immediately. 

He grabbed the headboard to keep from being pushed up the mattress by the force of Spike's drives, each one running the full length of the prostate, leaving him trembling and screaming.  He desperately wanted to reach down and grab his own cock, but Spike simply drove in harder and harder until Xander was sure he would die from lack of coming.  He felt Spike's trembling muscles announce the beginning of the vampire's ejaculation, and without a thought, he dropped his head to one side, pulling his arm out as far as he could while still tied.  Spike's gold eyes met his a mere moment before his legs fell to the bed and he felt Spike's weight drop onto him, Spike's fangs penetrate him.  Spike gave two more pushes and then came even while he began to feed, causing a fiery lust that started at both ends and flowed back and forth through Xander's body.  Even pinned under Spike he managed his own thrust into Spike's sweat soaked body and he felt his own orgasm explode between them. 

Spike pulled out and then lay half on, half off him, purring softly.  He could feel a purr from his own chest as he lay there and thought about the promises Spike had whispered.  He didn't want to doubt, but he had trusted so many people, and so few had ever returned that faithfulness.  He had always thought that Willow would trust him, but then she started with her secrets and without Jesse, she turned from him.  Then he thought Gunn would stand by him through anything, but now that was gone, so what right did Spike have to ask him to risk that kind of pain again?  How could he let himself believe this would be forever?  He felt his own purr falter, but a thought from within circled: 'Trust Master.'  His purr again matched Spike's as he lay, his arms still tied to the bed.

"Could stay here forever, luv," Spike finally said, the words stopping the purr in both of them.

"I think those human bodily functions you hate so much would get in the way," Xander pointed out.  "In fact, when are you planning on letting me up?" he asked with a yank at his still tied hands.

"Never?" Spike asked with a quirk of an eyebrow even as he stood up.

"Spike?" he called as the vampire left the room.  He looked up at the various buckles and straps.  Given long enough, he probably could free himself, but it would take a heck of a long time and probably result in damaged lips from trying to work the buckles loose.  Finally Spike reappeared with two towels. 

"What? Don't trust me to take care of your needs?" He watched as Spike settled in on the bed and started cleaning his body with the warm, damp towel.  "Could keep ya down here forever, ya know.  Not even Peaches knows where this place is."

"Yeah, but then I'd get all moldy from not getting aired out properly and humans start to stink after a while when left in small spaces," he laughed as Spike dropped the first towel on the floor and started drying him with the second one.  Spike looked at him with serious blue eyes.  "And that wasn't a joke, was it?" Xander asked as he looked into those stunning eyes that could both hide every thought Spike had or reveal them all in perfect detail.

"Don't like ya gettin' hurt," Spike admitted.

"And I don't like to get hurt, but I'm not going to hide from the world," he quickly answered.  If Spike decided that he was too fragile to allow out of the lair, he realized that he really had very little choice in the matter.  "If you think I have low self-esteem now, wait and see what happens when everyone I know gets killed while my lover keeps me locked in a safe little room because he doesn't trust me."

"I trust ya," Spike objected.

"You trust me not to turn on you, but do you trust me to survive out there?" Xander asked as he nodded toward the stairs.

"Yeah, trust ya to do that too," Spike finally agreed, but Xander could see the hesitation in Spike's blue eyes even as he untied the leather lead and unbuckled the two cuffs.

"You know the old saying, 'That which does not kill me makes me stronger.'"

"You're plenty strong, pet, I just worry about whether you know it."  The serious voice suddenly transitioned into Spike's normal snark without even a transition moment between.  "Alright, get your arse up because sunset's in thirty or forty minutes, and you've got a job to get to."

"Um, Spike, I don't think that's such a good job since Gunn's probably talked to them."

"Bollocks, they respect ya and want ya around, so ya aren't goin' to walk away assuming they'd reject ya.  If they don't want ya, we can always kill them later."

"Okay, please tell me you're joking," Xander demanded as he went to the cabinet to replace the restraints and get himself clothing from his diminishing pile.

"Whatever ya want luv," Spike said as he disappeared through the hallway door.  Xander threw the clothes for today on the bed as he opened his bag to put away the few clothes he had salvaged from home.  Looking at the second bag, he darted a quick look toward the closed hallway door before he executed his plan.  He'd teach the vampire to tease the human, he thought with a laugh as he quickly opened all the CD cases on the shelf and carefully replaced each CD with one of his own: Garth Brooks, Patsy Cline, Tim McGraw, C.W. McCall.  He even replaced the CD in the stereo with one of his "Best Of" collections. Taking the stack of punk music, he carefully nestled the disks inside his clothes on one of the cabinet shelves.  He smiled in anticipation.


Chapter 6

“Spike, I’m not sure this is such a great idea, what with the whole he probably knows you’re a vampire and he’ll try to stake you when we walk though that door thing.” Xander said as they stood in the shadows of twilight looking at the club door.  The club opened in thirty minutes, but the street was still quiet.

“Oi, can take care of myself,” Spike snorted

“Yeah, I don’t doubt that, but I don’t want you taking care of yourself to result in T having massive arterial bleeding.”

“I won’t kill your little friends, luv; now move your arse before ya get yourself fired and put an end to this discussion.”

“I just know I’m going to regret this,” Xander complained as he considered the doors of the club.

“That’s rich coming from someone who used to dress like a soddin’ game show reject.”

“Sticks and stones,” he chanted in response as he pushed open the doors to the club.  He nodded at the black-vested doorman who gave a quizzical glance toward Spike.  Xander reached back and felt Spike's hand slip inside of his, and the bouncer wordlessly stepped aside and allowed them to pass.  Inside, the same tired-looking men cleaned the same tables; the same grey-haired bartender wrote in the same ledger; and the same old Mexican man wandered from one island of greenery to another watering the same plants. Somehow he had expected some sort of response, but maybe Gunn hadn’t gotten around to telling T yet.  Suddenly that thought terrified him more than facing an angry T. 

“Darlin’, you need to get your ass in gear and get back to that kitchen,” shouted a voice from under the bar.

“T?” he called.  The man appeared with a bandana wrapped around his head and a wrench in his hand.

“Damn beer tap won’t work right.  What the hell are all these gay men doin’ drinking beer anyway?” T swore as he put the wrench on the bar.  The nearby bartended simply grunted.

“Can I, ah, talk to you?  That is, if you’re not busy or anything because I don’t want to interrupt if you’re busy just so that we can, um, talk ‘cause we can talk later…if you’re busy.”

“Good lord, the boy’s started babbling,” T laughed, but it sounded more nervous than genuine.  “I am busy, but if you need to talk, you just go on and do it.”

“I was hoping for some privacy.” Xander sneaked a look over to the bartender who now looked up with one eyebrow raised in a strangely Spike-like gesture.

“If you and your vamp need privacy, rent one of the back rooms because there are some things that even I get squicked by,” the bartender wryly commented.  Xander felt the bottom drop out of his stomach as the world suddenly tilted on its axis, south becoming north and east turning west. 

“I, uh,” he froze, unable to even create babble to fill such an awkward moment.

“Ta mate, don’t think you’d object if ya saw us in action. Boy’s a bloody treat to watch all squirmin’ and moanin’,” Spike quipped back.

“Oh. God. No.  There will be no discussion of my sex life in any way, shape, or form.  No, no, no, and once more for emphasis, NO.”

“Kinda limits our topics, pet,” Spike said as he stepped up and leaned on the bar.  “Don’t think your mates really want to hear ‘bout the time Angelus and I dropped in on this weddin’ to give the couple our regards and have a spot to drink.” 

He looked at Spike leaning against the bar and for one moment he could see what others must see--the cold and calculating eyes scanning every inch of the club and every person in it, the casual discussion of blood and death, the tense and coiled muscles clearly ready to spring at any provocation.  Shit, no wonder Gunn thought he’d lost either his mind or his humanity, but then he blinked, and he recognized the tenseness as Spike’s worry for him, and he suspected that the reference to the wedding murders was more a warning than anything else.  If they knew better than to attack Spike, then Spike wouldn’t need to kill them.  He remembered that at one time he had wondered if Spike had some sort of multiple personality disorder, but now he thought of the cold killer and the loving partner as inseparable parts of the same personality.

“Subtle, but then compared to the only other vampire I’ve met, you actually do pass for subtle,” T remarked quietly while clearly trying to edge away.  For that matter, the bartender had grown very fond of his ledger, gazing at it as if the meaning of life could be found within the columns of numbers.

“Not like most vamps,” Spike agreed, and Xander could only groan.

“When did I fall into the Twilight Zone?” he asked no one in particular.  “Once upon a time I had a nice simple life--hunted a few vamps, got fired by a few jobs, failed a few math tests, got used as bait now and again.  Now I have weirdness.”  He watched T’s face slowly settle into a smile.  “I assume Gunn called?”

“More like ranted,” T confirmed.  “Came in several hours ago, just before we headed home this morning, so Pete and I were the only ones who got the pleasure of listening to him rage for nearly an hour.”  T jabbed a thumb toward the bartender who nodded at the introduction.

“And you don’t mind?” Xander hated how needy and small his voice sounded, but faced with the chance of regaining some part of his life, he felt an overwhelming need to do so.

“Won’t go that far, darlin’,” T commented.  “You bet your sweet ass I mind you hooking up with a vamp, but it’s your life, and I trust you haven’t completely lost your mind.”  T’s words sent him both sailing and crashing.  T trusted him and that meant more than he could possibly express, but at the same time, T trusted him after knowing him a week and Gunn didn’t. Of course, maybe that *was* the explanation.  Maybe T trusted him because he hadn’t known him long enough to know what a screw up he truly was.  “And I’m also trusting that your vamp isn’t going to start snacking on the customers.  I’m having a hard time keeping the club going as it is; if people start disappearing outta here, I’m never going to turn a profit.”

“Oi, not some fledge to go snackin’ on the locals without bein’ careful.”

“Can I assume that ‘being careful’ in this case means not eating any locals inside my club?” T turned and directly addressed Spike for the first time.

“Deal, mate,” Spike said solemnly.

“I think I’ve lost what little mind I started with,” T complained as he held out a hand over the bar.  Spike took the extended hand and shook it without even a touch of sarcasm.  “And I’m assuming what Gunn said about you enslaving Xander is a load of crap.”

“Yeah, mate, it is.” Spike agreed.

“I just don’t get it,” Xander said softly.  “Why can you and Cordelia accept this and Gunn can’t?”

“Don’t matter, pet,” Spike said softly.

“I’ve known Gunn for eleven years,” T started, and Xander turned to him, hoping for some sort of explanation.  “He doesn’t take to change; he wants the world to follow his rules.  Can be a bit of closed-minded bastard, truth be told.”  Xander had never thought of Gunn in such terms, but hearing T say it without anger or bitterness made him wonder if the man could be right.  “He’s hurt because he lost his sister and the man he thought of as a little brother all in a couple of days.”

“He didn’t lose me,” Xander insisted, trying to ignore the suddenly sour expression on Spike’s face.  It occurred to him that Spike probably still wanted to spread Gunn’s guts all over south L.A.

“For Gunn, you’re either totally in his corner and you do what he wants you to do or you’re against him.  And sweetie, it doesn’t help that he’s never seen you and Spike together.”

“Oh, he saw us together alright,” he responded, remembering Gunn’s glare when he had slipped an arm around Spike the previous evening.

“From what I hear, he got a front row seat for you standing up for Spike,” T said hesitantly.  He paused, obviously struggling to find words.  “I saw you together last night, before I knew you had taken the concept of unsafe sex to new heights.  I saw how you looked at Spike, and I saw how Spike looked at you.  The look I saw had a whole lot of mutual lust and affection, but not the evil that Gunn described.”   T sighed deeply.  “I guess I can handle having a vampire bouncer around.”

“Oi, don’t work for ya, so don’t push it,” Spike warned.  T only laughed, his voice still a little thin to sound entirely natural.

“I had to have a bouncer watch out for Xander; he tended to attract a lot of attention.  Whether you’re pulling a paycheck from me or not, I suspect that you’re taking over that job,” T pointed out.  Spike had stood up defiantly at the thought of taking a job from a human, but now that he understood T’s logic, he settled back into his nonchalant lean against the bar.

“Takin’ care of the boy’s my job,” he confirmed.

“Figured.  So, do you drink?  I mean the alcoholic type of drinking because that was not an invitation for another story.”

“Wouldn’t mind a JD,” Spike said with a smirk when T lost his composure.

“Drinks on the house as long as you don’t drink anyone in the house,” T said as he picked up the wrench and disappeared under the bar again.  “And you get your ass into the kitchen before Ross comes out here and yells at me for holding up his assistant,” T ordered from under the bar. Xander took one look at Pete who continued to count bottles and write numbers in columns and Spike who leaned back against the bar and watched the workers as if he had nothing better to do.  Hoping that the truce held, he headed for the kitchen to load nut and chip bowls while Ross fixed the snacks that required cooking.

When Xander took food to the farthest stations before the club opened, he could see Spike motionless at the bar, a drink now balanced in one hand.  When the club doors opened and the first few customers wandered in, he watched Spike standing in the middle of the milling customers.  When the strippers started on the runway and the customers started catching random feels with quick darts inside his jeans, Spike's eyes never left him from the time he walked out of the kitchen to the time he walked back through the doors. 

At first he tried to keep an eye on Spike, hoping that some random human wouldn't hit on him or vomit on him or do something else worthy of dying, but after a while the crowds thickened and he found himself concentrating on the food.  He had almost forgotten his silent watcher when he felt a strong arm wind around his waist.  He turned to convince some random drunk to let him go, but he found himself face to face with Spike.

"Got to go take care of some business, pet," Spike announced.

"Business as in…?"

"Business as in doing some vamp shoppin'.  Need to check out the possible candidates for kingship," Spike explained with a small laugh.  "Not going to go eat any soddin' girl scouts.  Just want to let Carlos know to keep an eye on ya."

"I don't need babysitting, Spike."

"Pet, I'm not leavin' ya without someone to back you up."  He could tell from the serious look in Spike's eyes that he had just reached the end of his metaphorical leash.  "So we're goin' to go talk to Carlos."  He felt the arm firmly guide him toward the side where Carlos stood watching over the crowd.  As they walked up, he saw Carlos' surprised expression as Spike stopped inches away from the bouncer.

"Need to do some business, thought I'd ask ya to keep an eye on Xander, here."

"Sure," Carlos sounded hesitant; however, Carlos' eyes then widened in fear and surprise.  When he looked at Spike, he could see yellow eyes flashing in the dim light.

"Shit, Spike," Xander complained, “Not exactly low profile."

"Xander?" Carlos asked, obviously confused.

"Just thought I'd just let him know the stakes before I left him watchin' over my pet," Spike said softly enough that only Carlos and Xander could hear, but the tone left no doubt about his seriousness.

"Okay, we have to talk about this unnecessary random threats thing," Xander said as he stepped between Spike and Carlos, hoping none of the nearby customers had noticed the strange events or stranger conversation.

"Holy shit, Xander, what have you gotten into?" Carlos asked in an equally low voice.

"Oi, none of your business," Spike quickly retorted.  "Just need ya to look out for him while I'm out.  Trust you lot, your people have a reputation for standin' by their word, but I want to make sure ya know the score."

"Spike?  What are you talking about?" Xander asked as he looked in confusion from the smug expression on Spike's face to the embarrassment on Carlos'.

"He's a demon, pet.  Can smell him.  He's a Largis."

"A quarter Largis," Carlos quickly interrupted, and Xander found himself staring wide-eyed at the bouncer.  "Don't really have much to do with that part of the family, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't spread this around."  Carlos' eyes darted around the room in a good imitation of panic, an expression Xander had never associated with the calm bouncer.

"No skin off me, mate.  You keep Xander safe, and I'll put ya on the ‘don't kill, maim, or publicly humiliate list’."

"I don't know if…" Carlos began.

"Course if he gets hurt, I'll make ya sorry ya were ever born."  Xander felt a cold tingling down his backbone when he heard the tone of Spike's words and then the vampire turned in a swirl of black leather and disappeared into the crowd.  He turned to glance at Carlos who still stood as if shocked into immobility.

"Guess you're with me tonight," Carlos shrugged and then waved a hand suggesting that they both get to work.

The rest of the shift went by in a normal stream of gropes, embraces, and drunk men taking food from his tray while making obscene remarks.  If Carlos stayed a little closer than normal, he wasn’t going to say anything.  No matter how long he looked, he couldn’t see anything other than human.  He noticed that in return Carlos spent a lot of time watching him with a guarded, worried expression that either meant that the man questioned his sanity for hooking up with Spike or suspected that Spike wouldn’t keep his secret.

“Got to take a bathroom break.” Carlos suddenly appeared at his right side, and Xander shifted the tray of empty bowls to one side with quiet efficiency.

“Go on, then.  I’ll be fine.  Just gonna get some more pizza squares out,” he replied off-handedly as he scanned the crowd:  Well-dressed possible tippers in the far north end; rowdy twenty-somethings to avoid near the bar, and snotty Luis dancing down the runway.

“Oh, I don’t even think so. If I’m off the floor, you’re off the floor,” Carlos said a tone sharper than he had ever heard the other man use. 

“Not a child here; I’ll be fine.”

“Last time you said that you ended up getting targeted by a vampire,” Carlos pointed out with a pained expression.

“Yeah, but now that vampire is off somewhere playing his little vampire games, so all’s well.”  Xander nearly had to shout to be heard over the music Luis used for his dance number.  He only hoped that no one was really listening to their conversation.

“And that vampire’s your master now, and he’ll skin me alive if something happens to you, quite literally.” Carlos stepped closer, and he could feel the man’s body heat as Carlos reached out put a strong hand on his arm, pulling him gently toward the back.  With a sigh at how little control he seemed to have over his own life, Xander followed.  In the kitchen, he dropped the tray on the prep table before following Carlos back to the hallway with the bathroom.

“I’ll wait right here,” he promised as he leaned on the wall outside the bathroom.  From the suspicious look Carlos gave him, for one moment he feared that Carlos would make him come in the bathroom.  He leaned back against the wall and gave Carlos his best ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ glare until Carlos finally went into the bathroom alone.

“So, am I allowed back on the floor now?” Xander demanded sarcastically when Carlos reappeared a minute or two later.  He watched Carlos’ expression go from shock to frustration to profound sadness.

“Xander, I’m so sorry,” Carlos said sadly.

“For what?” Xander knew that he sometimes did the whole spacing out and not noticing thing, but he honestly couldn’t think of any reason why Carlos had to apologize to him.

“If I’d been out there when he spotted you, I might have kept this from happening.” Carlos waved a hand in the air indicating the whole general situation.  He suddenly realized what Carlos had assumed.

“Carlos, I’ve had a vampire mark for four years--since a vamp named Cassidy marked me.  Spike just sort of moved in and took over.”

“But…then why were you here?”

“Oh man, long story, longer than I really want to go into now, but I will say this—if Spike hadn’t stepped in, some other vamp eventually would have, so I can’t say I’m sorry it was Spike who made a move.”

“But Xander,” Carlos interrupted, “you’ve become a marked human, a pet.  You’ll never have the freedom to make your own choices again.”  Xander leaned back and thought about how to answer Carlos truthfully while still making him understand.

“I know I don’t have certain choices,” he began uncertainly.  “But Spike isn’t Cassidy.  He doesn’t keep me sitting at his feet with no chance to do what I want.”  He stopped when he saw the doubt clear in Carlos’ face.  “It’s like…I told Spike that I felt worthless in a fight, and if he had given me a choice, I would have kept feeling worthless and just avoided fighting, but he didn’t give me a choice, and so I learned some moves I’m really proud of.”

“So he’s a good master?” Carlos asked uncertainly, still looking at him as if he had lost his mind.  Well, he didn’t have a good grasp on it to begin with, so if he lost it, there wouldn’t be much difference.

“I wouldn’t call him ‘master’ exactly,” he replied, grimacing at the term.

“And what would you call him?”

“The vampire who tells me what to do, where to go and what to wear?” Xander responded with a crooked smile.  "But that’s okay because he gives some really cool presents.”  Xander bent down and reached into his boot.  When they had been ready to leave, Spike had handed him this and knelt down to show him how to wear it without having it irritate his foot.  Now he pulled the silver dagger out of the sheath inside his boot.  Carlos gave a whistle.

“That’s demon work--a beautiful weapon,” Carlos said appreciatively as he held out a hand for the weapon.  Xander surrendered it and watched as Carlos turned the blade to examine the edge.  He whistled again.

“Yeah, Spike didn’t like the fact that I kinda forgot my weapon when we went to see Angel,” he confessed.

“Angel?” Carlos asked absent-mindedly even while continue to admire the blade with its intricate etching.

“His sire or his sire’s sire-something like that.”

“He introduced you to his line?” Carlos’ head snapped up in with near comical speed.

“He took me to see Angel.”  Xander took back the blade that Carlos held out and replaced it in his boot.

“He’s not a normal vamp, that’s for sure.” Carlos sighed heavily.  “Normally a vamp will keep his pets away from older or stronger vamps rather than risk having the pets taken away.”

“Yeah, Angel and I had that conversation. I sorta offered to stake him if he even tried to do that.”  He remembered the look on Angel’s face when Spike had carried him out of Cassidy’s lair.   Carlos nearly choked on his own laughter.

“Only you,” he finally coughed out. 

“Yep, I’m one of a kind,” Xander agreed.  “So, is little ol' me allowed back on the floor now?”

“Don’t mock me,” Carlos said with a teasing cuff to the back of the head.  “If I let one hair get pulled out of your head, your Spike really will turn me inside out and leave my body in pieces.”

“And I so wish I thought you were joking,” Xander replied, but he realized that Carlos wasn’t joking.  Maybe Carlos’ paranoia was a little justified since Spike wouldn’t have any trouble killing the bouncer.  Maybe he should be a little more sympathetic and accept Carlos’ overly protective attitude. 

“Come on, back to work,” Carlos said as he headed for the kitchen ahead of Xander.

Four hours later, Xander stood in the empty, dirty club and handed Carlos his share of the nightly tips before pocketing the rest.  Carlos accepted the money warily while watching Spike lean against the bar with a glass of alcohol in hand. 

“You really don’t have to,” Carlos said for the second time as he held the money without putting it away.

“All the performers tip the bouncers, T just said I should just tip you directly when you spend the evening pulling drunks off me.”

“It’s alright,” Spike said as he walked up.  “Largis don’t take money for their work, pet; think it’s crass.”  Spike said quietly, and Xander felt the arm slip into its normal place against his lower back.

“But I’m not offerin’ money, and what you and Xander work out, that’s between you, mate.”  He watched as Carlos’ eyes narrowed in consideration.  Finally the hand disappeared into his jeans as Carlos pocketed his share.

“Deal,” he said to Spike.

“Come on then, pet.  Nice night for some action, innit?”

“Oh shit, I think that depends on the action,” Xander complained without malice.  He felt the familiar arm guide him out the door and he stopped dead when he saw the figure waiting.  A tall, thin, red-hair black man leaned against a street lamp.


Chapter 7

Xander looked at the vamp who only a night before had been threatened within an inch of his unlife if he ever came near Xander again. Now Spike calmly guided him toward the waiting figure.

“Xander, meet Q; Q, meet my pet who if you put one fang on I’ll pull every tooth out of your head before I dust ya.”

“Yes, master,” the red-haired vampire replied, his head tucked down as he looked out the side of his eye.

“Q?  Like in Star Trek?”  Xander looked the thin body, the hesitant movements, and lowered head and couldn’t imagine a being more unlike Q.

“Naw, me new master, he call me dat.”  Xander turned to Spike and repeated his question.


“Oi, looks like a Q-tip, don’t he:  all thin and fuzzy headed.”

“Geez, offensive much?”  He turned to the vampire even while he stayed close to Spike.  “What’s your name?”

“Ajani,” answered the vamp in a soft voice, head still bent.

“Close enough.  Not like it matters,” Spike shrugged, and he felt the arm start encouraging him down the street, away from their lair.  He could see the red-haired vampire following behind at a safe distance.  Without another word, Spike guided them to an old warehouse with a side door lying on the cracked concrete.  When they walked in, Xander had to squint to see in the dim light filtering in through the dusty windows.

“Pet, pull up your vision,” Spike said, and he looked over at the vampire in undisguised exasperation.

"Yeah, like that's gonna help," he snorted, and suddenly he felt himself lifted and thrown back against the wall of the warehouse with enough force to drive the air from his lungs.

"Do as you're soddin' told and use your true vision," Spike snarled in full-game face with an arm trapping Xander to the wall.  He froze, shocked into silence by the unexpected tension in Spike's body.  He could feel the shifting inside his thoughts, and he listened when he felt an invisible presence council him to look down, to submit.  He dropped his eyes and suddenly the warehouse was bathed in a soft reddish-brown light.  Glancing up at Spike without fully lifting his eyes, he watched as Spike fell back into human face.

"That's it, pet," Spike nodded encouragingly and stepped back, and he realized that no lights had come on; he had switched into his glowy-eyed man persona.  Okay, still need a better name for that, he mused as he watched Spike walk over to Ajani. 

"Fight well enough against minions, but they're soddin' stupid little beasts.  Ya have to learn to fight somethin' with a little more intelligence.  So, ground rules."  He had only half listened to Spike lecturing Ajani, fascinated with the amount of detail he could see in the dim light.  A growl brought his attention back to Spike immediately.  "Ground rules," Spike repeated with a sharp glare. 

"Pet, you can do your best to dust Ajani.  If he's too slow to protect himself when you've only had one day of trainin' with me, he deserves to die."  Xander looked at the other vamp in alarm. Yes, he hunted vampires.  Yes, he had staked vampires.  No, he really wasn't okay with killing a vampire he had been introduced to.  Besides, Spike couldn't possibly mean for him to fight another vampire.  He wasn't the fighter; he was the sidekick.

"Q, you can hit my pet, hurt him if he's careless, knock him on his arse if he lets ya.  Ya cannot kill him, cripple him, seriously injure him, or bite him.  If ya break even one a those, you'll beg me for death before ya actually turn to dust and I walk through your remains like the piece of nothin' ya are."  Ajani only dipped his head in acceptance of the rules, but Xander couldn't help gasping at the threat, all too aware that Spike would carry through without a bit of hesitation.

"So soddin' have at it," Spike said as he stepped back.  Xander took one look at Ajani before the vampire leapt for him, both hands held as if to grab him by the neck.  Xander grabbed the vamp's right arm and shoved it to the side so that he would have a clear shot for his elbow to drive into Ajani's side.  He completed the move, but then lost his balance, sending him to one knee.  He heard Ajani scramble on the concrete floor, and he pulled the knife from his boot as he turned to face the vampire's second attack. 

This time Ajani moved in more slowly, circling like a predator scenting wounded prey, which actually wasn't far off reality, Xander thought to himself as he turned to keep Ajani in sight without showing the pain he felt in his left knee where he had hit the concrete just a little too hard.  Without a sound, Ajani darted forward and tried for a punch, and Xander stepped to the side and back a half step so that Ajani had to reach farther than he expected.  In a flash, Xander brought the knife down and cut through the exposed flesh.  The scent of blood awakened his own demon even more, and he could feel a tingling hunger that left him both desiring just a taste of the blood and nauseated at the thought.  Ajani hissed some unfamiliar word--context suggested a curse--before beginning to circle again.

Xander thought he might hold his own until Ajani began a series of fast, light strikes on right side, which increasingly pushed him back on his left leg.  He heard himself snarl as Ajani forced him to pull back onto his injured knee for the fourth time.  This time he spun around and kicked viciously at the vampire's legs.  He didn't move fast enough, and while he was still off-balance, Ajani drove forward and slammed him to the ground.  Xander felt his head hit the concrete, the unfamiliar vampire pinning him down, and he growled his frustration as an uncontrollable rage grew in his chest.  With a roar, he threw Ajani back and jumped for him without any thought for strategy or defense, knife forgotten on the floor.  Ajani instantly slipped into game face and grabbed at him even as he grabbed for the vampire's throat.

"Stop It," roared a voice that instantly left Xander crouching on the ground, still feeling an overwhelming urge to kill Ajani who had retreated, but also feeling an even more overwhelming urge to stop and wait.

"Pet, ya need to calm down," Spike said, and he felt fingers run through his hair until his thoughts had cleared enough for him to regain control of his limbs.  He looked up and saw Spike holding out his knife.  He took it and carefully slid it back into its sheath as he stretched out his legs and sat on the floor.  "Let that leg heal a bit; I'll take it from here," Spike ordered, and Xander could feel a cold tingle in his knee even as Spike gestured for Ajani to follow him a few feet away where they had room to spar.

It made Xander feel a little better to watch the two vampires spar.  From the sidelines, he could see Ajani's speed and grace, which made him feel better about getting his ass kicked.  He also felt better after seeing Ajani get slammed to the ground more often than he could count.  Every time the vampire simply got up without complaint and returned to attack Spike.  Long after Xander's knee felt better and his butt had started going to sleep, Spike called an end to the session.

Spike came over and squatted in front of him, fingers going over the knee before standing again and holding out a hand to help him up.  Xander accepted the assistance and stood leaning against Spike even though he didn't need the support.

"Both of ya are goin' to have to control the anger; you let yourself get angry durin' a fight, and you'll find yourself dead.  But ya both did well today."  Xander felt the familiar warmth that Spike's compliments always brought, but he almost smiled at Ajani's reaction.  The vampire's back suddenly straightened, and he looked directly at Spike for a moment before dropping his head again.

"'Dank ya, massah," he whispered joyfully.  Xander almost laughed at how alike the two vampires could be.  Each had an accent that became nearly indecipherable when emotional.

"Where ya from, Ajani?"  He could feel Spike tense at the question, obviously unhappy, but he didn't say anything so Xander ignored the signs.  Ajani looked first at him and then at Spike before answering.

"Naw Orlins," he said.

"Born in California, myself.  Going to be nineteen in a couple of days, but I'm guessing you're a little older."

"1887," Ajani answered the unasked question and then returned his gaze to the floor.

"Oi, time for us to get to our lairs before the sun gets us," Spike commented and all three left the warehouse. 

"Tomorrow, same time," Spike ordered, and then Xander felt himself firmly guided away while Ajani stood by warehouse, unmoving.

"Tomorrow for what?" Xander asked as they hurried down the street.  He couldn't see any morning light, but from the way Spike rushed, he suspected they were out later than normal.

"Tryin' to give him what 'e needs to be a master.  Didn't know he was that old, but I knew he's old enough to be a master if has someone to teach him how to control himself."

"If you're trying to help him, why did you keep tearing him down because I have to tell you that, from experience, that's not a pleasant experience," Xander pointed out as he remembered Gabi with her various insults and Pamee with her forays into public humiliation.

"Vamps aren't the same. If I went up to 'im and said that I thought he's strong enough to hold the city, he'd ignore me; his demon's got no reason to respect me."

"But if you dominate his demon, prove that you're stronger and wiser and *then* tell him to take charge, he'll listen," Xander guessed as they reached the outer gate to the truck yard.

"Somethin' like that.  He's got to learn to fight back, stand up for himself and demand respect or he'll never survive.  To do that, he has to stand up against a strong enough master to feel strong himself." Spike dug in his duster pockets for the key as Xander watched the edges of the buildings start to glow with the first warnings of daylight.  Once the door opened, Xander hurried down the stairs, waiting until Spike finished locking up and came down the stairs.

"Course pet, there's a good chance he's goin' to get himself killed before claimin' any territory.  Don't get too attached to him," Spike suggested as the leather duster flew to the chair.  "Goin' to get more sheets."  Spike hit the play button as he walked through the hallway door and disappeared.  Xander had settled himself into the chair, enjoying the smell of Spike and leather when the first strains of "Sixteen Tons" started coming out of the stereo. 

Xander was happily singing along, "St. Peter don'cha call me, cause I can't go; I owe my soul to the company store" when Spike appeared, a look of absolute horror on his face.

"Bloody hell, no," Spike entreated as he tossed sheets on the bed and went to the stereo.

"What?  It's political commentary, about the workers during the great depression who got exploited by industry," he said, proud of himself for keeping a straight face.  Spike opened one CD case after another, uttering a string of curses that he hadn't heard since Spike and Angel had tried to talk in the back of Thopis.  He didn't even know most of the words that Spike muttered in his general direction.

"Where the hell is my bloody music 'cause if you damage one a those CD's, you're goin' be tied to that bed for a month." Spike confronted him with narrowed eyes, but Spike didn't go to turn off the CD, even when the track changed to "King of the Road," and Spike visibly flinched.  Xander simply shrugged and waved a hand in the general direction of the room.

"I'm sure they're somewhere."

"Bleedin' git," Spike looked around the room for a minute before disappearing into the hallway again.  Xander tried not to laugh at the sound of curses and the sound of rough ceramic dragging as Spike must have checked toilet tanks.  Spike finally reappeared at the hallway door, his eyes flashing gold.

“Get your arse in the bath and clean up; ya smell of sweat,” Spike snarled, but Xander couldn’t resist laughing a little as he darted past, listening to Spike still cursing.  Luckily, he had enough tip money in his pocket to replace all the CD’s even if he came back to find all his country music in shiny little jagged pieces.  Worth it, he snickered to himself.

By the time Spike joined him in the bath, sliding into the hot water and settling between his legs, the vampire had settled into annoyed mutters.

“Daft git,” Spike grumbled, but Xander picked up a washcloth and reached around to start cleaning the vampire’s chest and arms, causing the vampire to lean back and sigh in pleasure. 

“Duck your head under,” he suggested, and Spike immediate bent down to get his hair wet.  When the blond head reappeared, with the spikes now damp and sagging, Xander grabbed some shampoo and started running his fingers through the soggy spines, rubbing until the hard locks dissolved and the hair turned soft and silky.  With a single whispered word, he got Spike to dunk his head again, and then he worked in the conditioner, his hands sliding over the now slick curls while Spike simply lay in his arms spineless and sighing. 

 “Bloody hell, Dru never did that,” he finally moaned with a graceful stretch. 

 “That a yes vote on the hair washing?” Xander asked with a small chuckle; he couldn’t believe that he could make the ancient creature so happy with such a small act.

 “Hell yes.”  Without warning, Spike twisted around to face him, nose to nose.  Xander held his breath as he watched Spike slowly sink, a leer on his face.  A moment after Spike disappeared under the water, Xander felt the suction on his cock, and his hand flew to the side of the tub where he clung like a man about to fall off a cliff.  His knuckles turned white and he gasped with pleasure as a tongue played with the underside of his cock, leaving him gasping and desperate to buck, but unwilling to hurt Spike like that.  Instead, he fought every muscle and nerve and instinct in his body to remain still as Spike swallowed his entire cock, working his throat muscles until Xander literally screamed.  All too soon, Xander felt his own balls draw up as he started coming.  He threw his head back onto the edge of the tub and lay there, still twitching and wheezing when Spike reappeared with a lascivious grin.

"Hmm, like some help there?" Xander asked as he reached for Spike's cock, but Spike intercepted his hand, pulling it so that Xander would instead embrace the vampire as Spike leaned in for a deep kiss.

"Too late," Spike whispered. "You're just so bloody perfect I finished off with you," Spike admitted as he stood, showing a near-flaccid cock.  While Spike went about drying himself, Xander ducked his head under the water to hide the smell of tears that he knew Spike could scent so easily.  Grabbing the shampoo, he drained the water even as he washed his own hair.  He knew that he hadn't been exactly spectacular last time, but he had never expected Spike to reject him like that.  Spike would rather give himself a hand job than let Xander try again.  He rubbed the shampoo over his face to hide the tears he tried to hold back.  Of course, Spike had certainly enjoyed their earlier activities, so maybe that's what Spike needed from him; he could do that.  Hell, he enjoyed that, but he couldn’t deny the aching pain that Spike didn’t want any more than that from him.  He'd do anything to make Spike happy just to keep the vampire around for a bit longer. 

Xander finished rinsing under one of the shower heads, grabbed a towel to dry off, and then tossed his towel into the corner as usual before grabbing the robe Spike had started leaving at the edge of the shower room.  He looked at the robe and realized how many habits the vampire must have changed to have him there; obviously Spike liked something about him, and maybe that could be enough for him.  If he was never anything more than a pet for Spike to use, then Spike would still stay with him, and anything that kept Spike in his life was acceptable. 

Wrapping himself in the warm terrycloth, he wandered into the main room to see how many CD pieces he had to pick up.  The bed looked the same, rumpled sheets on the bed with the clean sheets in a pile on the edge.  His country music cases lay in the corner undisturbed, Pasty Cline balanced on top of C.W. McCall.  A pile of dirty clothes guarded one corner and not a CD shard to be seen.  Xander narrowed his eyes. For a moment he stood there, confused, but then he realized what Spike had done. He felt a small smile sneak onto his face as he looked around the room.  So, the vampire wanted to play, huh?

“Soddin’ hell,” said a voice behind him.  “Need to turn a minion or two.”

“Whoa, what??” he yelped, playful mood gone.

 “Look at this place, need someone to clean,” Spike said casually as he walked over and dropped into the chair naked as the day he was born, his head moving to the sound of a punk singer screaming indecipherable lyrics.

“Not a reason to kill someone,” he quickly pointed out, but Spike simply gave him a confused look.

“Not goin’ to kill them, just turn ‘em.” 

“Oh boy, sometimes I just need to remind myself you really are a demon,” he answered, still slightly shaken at the thought of Spike killing someone just so he didn’t have to do housework.

“You kept the place clean by yourself, so let’s assume the extra mess is my fault.  Simple solution: I’ll clean up after myself.”  He looked at Spike’s incredulous expression and he couldn’t help but think of his mother.  And his mother had been right to doubt his promises because no matter how much he promised, he usually did forget to actually do any actual house work.  But then again, his mother had never threatened to kill anyone if he didn’t do housework, unless you counted a few idle threats to kill him, so he had a whole new level of motivation.

“You?” Spike said in a skeptical voice that again reminded him of his mother, but considering what they had just done in the bath, he took that comparison and repressed it in the darkest corner of his mind. 

“Yes, me,” he answered with some frustration.  Geez, it was usually polite to actually wait until someone broke his word before sounding so cynical.  “Unlock the doors where you keep the cleaning stuff, and I’ll do my share.”

“Pet,” Spike said softly, “those doors have been unlocked since I got ya back from Cassidy.”

 “Oh.”  Xander looked at the hallway door behind him for a moment before curiosity overcame him and he just had to go see. 

The first door on the left swung open to reveal shelves, tons of shelves.  Looking closer, he realized the shelves at the back had old ration boxes, dusty army blankets, and forgotten tins of lord knows what.  The shelves at the front had torn open bundles of black jeans, stacks of soft shirts that tilted wildly, piles of sheets still in their plastic containers scattered across boxes of rations, and silk shirts hung from the corners of the shelves, obviously Spike’s version of a closet.  The only thing he could think was how many new places he now had to search for his CD’s.

He walked along the shelves, pushing ration boxes onto the floor as he cleared space to stack shirts and jeans and sheets and towels neatly on the shelves, each item on its own shelf; his mother would be proud.  In reality, he just wanted to find his CD’s.  Once he had straightened the front shelves, he walked around the back shelves, running his hand behind boxes, trying to find the missing disks.  When he finally gave up the search, he left, rubbing his running nose which protested the dust even as he went to the second room.

Opening this door, he stopped in the doorway, utterly shocked.  A row of antique washers and dryers sat next to a brand new set, still sitting in the middle of the room unattached to anything.  That didn’t shock him.  The mountains of towels, old sheets, and dirty clothes shocked him.

“Holy dirty laundry, batman.”  Xander heard the door open behind him. 

“Took ya long enough,” Spike leaned against the door jam with a smirk on his face. 

“Yeah, yeah. Do you have some sort of dirty clothes fetish I don’t know about?” he asked looking around in dismay.

“Never thought a that—might be worth a try, luv.”  Spike’s arm suddenly lifted him and dropped him in the middle of the sheets and towels before the vampire sprawled over him. 

“I’m never going to find my CD’s, am I?” he asked in despair as Spike laughed.

“Oi, not the one who went and started this.” 

“And why do you have all this damn laundry?  It must have taken years to get his much.”

“Only ‘bout six months.”

 “And what exactly are you planning on doing with it all?”

“Dump it in the sewers.  Can always steal more, can’t I, pet.”

“To steal your word, ‘Oi.’”

“Nothin’ wrong with that, pet.”

“Yeah, for an amoral demon, probably not high on the list of evil sins.  For an ordinary mortals, stealing’s one of those things that you try to avoid.”  He watched Spike’s features turn from amusement to a seriousness he didn’t normally see.

“Bleedin’ hell, sometimes I just need to remind myself you really are a human,” Spike said in imitation of his own earlier words, and he felt slim cool fingers brush over his forehead.

“Any chance of hooking up the washer and dryer?  I’m willing to actually do the wash, and I can’t believe I actually just said that…I must be possessed.”  Spike laughed.

“Yeah, I was plannin’ on turning a minion and having them do the cleanin’ but then I decided to keep a lower profile ‘til I’d found Cassidy.  I don’t do soddin’ laundry myself, but if ya don’t want any minions around, I’ll get rid of some a this old stuff so ya don’t have so much to wash and then connect the machines.”

“Before you start dumping this stuff, just answer one question.”

“Anythin’ pet.”

“Are my CD’s in here?”  He turned his best pleading look to Spike, but the vampire simply laughed and got up.

“I’m evil, pet.  Not likely to tell the truth, am I?”  Xander sighed in frustration and lay his head back down on the pile under him.

“I’m never going to find Patsy,” he groused as Spike left the room, still chuckling.  By the time he had decided to give up on finding the CD’s in the pile, Spike had fallen asleep on the bed, sprawled on his stomach with his arms and legs thrown across the length of the bed.  He looked around the main room for a moment before starting to straighten up.  He pushed the empty country music CD cases into a single pile and stacked them on the shelf under the stereo.  He picked up the dirty laundry and folded it, putting it in a corner to wait until Spike hooked up the washer and dryer.  He noticed that Spike had changed the sheets, tossing the dirty ones into a corner.  Since the storeroom had no shortage of sheets, he took the bundle and tossed it on the mountain Spike had promised to throw away.

Giving up, he crawled into bed, feeling Spike quickly shift to curl up around him. 


Chapter 8

Morning came with slightly stiff muscles and the sound of British cursing.  Xander sat up in bed and looked around at the room, hoping for some inspiration, but he couldn’t see any good hiding places.  Crawling out of bed, he opened the cabinet and grabbed clean clothes before heading to the bathroom for his morning ritual.  By the time he had gotten ready for his day, Spike had reappeared in the main room, his hair still in soft waves and his jeans dirty.

“Soddin’ things are in,” Spike said as he hit play on the stereo and Xander could see the smug expression on Spike’s face as he started singing along with the punk rock. 

“You throw the old laundry away, and I’ll keep the new laundry clean.”

“Deal.  I’ll start dumpin’ it; need to get it far enough away that it can't be tracked.”  Spike disappeared though the hallway door again, leaving Xander still considering possible hiding places for those missing CD's

Xander suddenly found himself looking at the CD cases on the shelf.  The evil vampire had obviously hidden his music in the last place he would look, especially since he hadn’t found it yet.  As he looked at the cases on the shelf, he had a sudden suspicion.  Dashing over to the shelf, he grabbed Garth Brooks and snapped open the case.  He looked in at the black and white CD and smiled.  Evil vampire.  Reaching up for the Dead Kennedys, he quickly slipped Garth Brooks into the case before dropping the punk CD on the bed. 

Working quickly, he switched all the CD’s on the shelf even while the song on the stereo continued to scream.  When he had a stack of punk music, he darted into the storage room and scanned the shelf for the plastic bags he had seen earlier.  Grabbing one, he dashed back into the room and put the CD’s inside.  And now for something to hide the package inside.  With a smile, he grabbed a black pair of jeans and folded them with the CD's inside.

"Ready, pet?" Spike asked as he reappeared.  He walked over and turned off the CD player.  "Need to get goin'."

"Almost.  I can't find my knife." Xander tried to focus on looking innocent.

"Oi, you and your soddin' weapons." 

"I'm still looking through stuff out here," Xander said with a pleading look.  For nearly a minute Spike simply glared back before rolling his eyes.

"Fine, I'll bloody look in the other rooms."  As soon as Spike left, Xander grabbed the last punk CD out of the stereo and slipped in Patsy Cline before adding to his hidden stash.

"Spike, I found it," Xander yelled as he took his knife out from under the pillow and slipped it into his boot.  When Spike returned he had a definitely annoyed expression.

"Goin' to pin your bloody weapons to ya,"  Spike complained, but Xander simply grabbed the jeans without a word.  At Spike's raised eyebrow he shrugged.

"I owe Mike a pair of jeans.  Last week this vamp I didn't know pinned me up against a wall and made me come in my jeans."  From the smile on Spike’s face, he remembered.

"Right, enough talkin' time to start moving."

"Why the hurry?  I can't believe you care this much about my punctuality at work."

"I don't.  However, got some work of my own to do."

"What exactly are you up to?" By this time they had reached the top of the stairs and Spike stopped to lock the gate.

"If Q wants to take power, he's got to take it; I'm just backin' him up."

"He really didn't seem like a take over the world type of demon to me, Spike.  He seemed more like a 'if you leave me alone, I'll leave you alone' type."  Xander followed Spike to the motorcycle, but he didn't get on right away.  "Maybe he just doesn't want to take over the city."  Spike looked over, one eyebrow lifted in an expression that merged amusement and disbelief.

"Some demons live like that," Spike acknowledge without starting the motorcycle.  Xander swung up behind him and pushed up against the vampire.  It really was the best way not to fall off given Spike's driving.  "Vamps are different, though," Spike continued after a long moment.  "Vamps need to know their place, who they're above and who they're below.  Not really comfortable without that.  When Q was on his own, he didn't fit anywhere, but now he knows he's under me and with some promptin', he's happy enough to be over all the soddin' minions we can collect."

"But doesn't that make the minions under you?" he asked, suddenly unsure about belonging to a vampire who controlled an army of undead. Cool idea for a movie of the week, not such a cool idea for real life since armies required provisions.  Yeah, like calling them provisions would ease his conscience about vampires' source of their essential daily vitamins and minerals.

"If I fought for him, yeah.  But I just sorta sit back and advise, help him spot the weak masters to pick off, take out a few key players.  Leave the battles to him and his minions 'cause if he can't take a few pansy-arsed minions and decade old childer, he deserves to die."

"Funny enough, I think I'd be sorry if he died, and god, aren't I supposed to be cheering for the other side here?"

"If it makes ya feel any better, dozens of vamps a night are goin' down in these fights; won't be much of an army left by the time, and if Ajani's smart, he'll keep it small to avoid Peaches."  Spike kick started the motorcycle and Xander had to raise his voice.

"Hey, you called him 'Ajani'."

"The git looks like he might survive, guess he deserved to be called whatever he wants."  At that, they sped down the street, dodging through cars and even up on the sidewalk once as Spike avoided rush hour traffic. 

Xander arrived at the club just as the doors opened, in other words, late.  Rushing past the bouncers, he went to make a dash for the kitchen when a cool hand stopped him.

"We find Carlos first, pet."  Spike turned, scanning the half-full club until finally zeroed in on something that Xander could only assume to be Carlos since the club lights weren't bright enough for him to really see anything.  Spike urged him toward the south wall, and he followed Spike's touch blindly until he finally spotted the bouncer leaning against a table talking to someone.  When they got there, Carlos looked up with a cautious smile.

"Spike," he nodded toward the vampire.

"Mate," Spike replied indifferently.  "Got him from here?"  Xander couldn't control his need to roll his eyes at being discussed while standing inches away.

"Yeah," Carlos confirmed with his tight smile. 

"Right then,” Spike turned, and Xander could tell from the expression that he had something on his mind.

"Spike?" he asked suspiciously.

"Didn't say good mornin' to ya, pet.  Thought I'd say a proper goodbye."  Xander watched as the yellow rings appeared around Spike's eyes, and he started backing up until he bumped into the half wall.  Spike stalked closer and put a hand on either side of Xander's waist, leaning against the wall.  Oh yeah, familiar territory here, Xander thought as he cursed himself for reminding Spike about their first meeting.  The vampire obviously wanted an encore, and he braced himself to not embarrass himself this time by coming in his jeans.

"Wot?  Don't ya want to give me a proper send off?" Spike asked in feigned innocence, looking strangely innocent for a hundred year old serial killer.  Spike leaned in for a kiss, and he met the lips half way, pressing forward as Spike's tongue invaded, explored, demanded and took, Spike himself slowly leaning forward until he could feel himself pressed back into the half wall. 

He felt one of Spike's hands move up to cradle the back of his head and pull him forward, away from the wall.  He followed willingly.  Just when he began to feel light-headed from either lust or lack of air, his lips were freed, and a mouth descended on his scar just as a slim hand slipped down the back of his jeans.   Xander gasped and lunged forward, trying to get some friction against his cock, and not caring who saw his mounting lust.

He could hear Spike chuckle without lifting his head, the slim fingers now playing with the sensitive skin between his cheeks, and he shifted his legs apart to give Spike more room to work in the tight confines.  His own hands locked onto Spike's shoulders as Xander Jr. sent so many signals to his brain that he feared he would collapse.  Now the hand disappeared from his neck, and pulled his one arm free, twisting it up behind his back and forcing his body into the vampire, trapping him against the cool body.  The suction at his shoulder stopped just before a quick lick and nip left him whimpering and clawing one handed at Spike's back, but Spike stepped back and held him up by one arm as Xander felt himself sway unsteadily.  

With an evil smile, Spike turned and left with saying over his shoulder, "Serves ya right for teasin'."

Xander groaned as he looked around and saw the lustful eyes considering him and his temporary inability to walk.  Well at least he'd earn enough in CD's to replace any that Spike broke once he discovered his own had left the lair.  Suddenly terrified, Xander looked around and found the jeans on the floor where he dropped them.  Oh lord, if those CD's had broken, he would be seriously sorry.  He tried to bend down to pick it up, but groaned again as the tight jeans and his engorged cock conspired to prevent the motion.

"Let me," offered a voice, and he watched a balding man stoop down to retrieve the package.  When the man stood up, Xander smiled his thanks and held out his hand.

"Payment first," the man demanded as he held the jeans behind his back.  Realizing that Spike had set him up for a very difficult start to his shift, he just smiled and held his arms out in a clear gesture that the man had access.  The man moved in, putting the jeans, and Xander noticed the CD's as well, on the half wall before leaning his own body into Xander's in an imitation of Spike's position.  Xander braced his hands against the half wall as he felt the man's hand slip down the front of his jeans, the fingers sliding in until they found the slightly moist head, rubbing along the slit until Xander had to bite the inside of his cheek to prevent himself from coming.  Something in his head, oh who was he kidding, the baby vampire in his head told him he couldn't come for someone else no matter what Xander Jr. wanted. 

The light rubbing continued until Xander threw back his head and gasped as he thrust up against the willing fingers.  Then he felt a hand pull his head back down as he was kissed roughly and a second hand slipped into the back of his jeans with the familiar warm feeling of paper money.  When he opened his eyes, he found the balding man gone, his tip presumably down the back of Xander jeans, and a much taller and more muscular replacement kissing him. He tried to catch his breath, but the man quickly braced his knee against the wall, forcing Xander up onto his toes if he wanted to avoid crushing his balls.  He tried scooting his feet closer together, but the thick knee prevented him from coming even close to closing his legs, leaving him vulnerable, trapped, and unable to come in a room full of hungry strangers.  

Xander really thought Spike had gone too far this time, so he looked around for Carlos, determined to get a rescue.  He quickly spotted Carlos still standing by the same table, but the Largis demon bouncer simply shrugged and gave him a little wicked smile.  Seeing that the bouncer wasn't going to interfere, Mr. Tall and Muscled pressed his knee up a little higher, and Xander blushed when he heard himself make a very unmanly squeak.  Tall and Muscled reached forward and pinched one of his nipples, harder than Spike ever had, and he tried to jerk back but couldn't with the wall behind him.

"Hey," he protested, his voice breaking in the middle, so he tried again with a deeper tone. "Hey, don't…” he didn’t get any farther when the fingers on his nipple tightened, leaving him gasping and looking to an impassive Carlos for help.  Tall and Muscled leaned forward without moving the knee and kissed him again, teeth nipping at his tongue and lips even as the man trapping him chuckled.  He felt another set of hands pull his right arm away from the wall, and he pulled away from the aggressive mouth, nearly bending himself backwards over the half wall, his hair tangling with the plants.

"Hey now," he complained again as a blue-shirted Hispanic man held his wrist and ran warm fingers up and down his arm.

"You mind, man?" Blue Shirt asked, but the question went to Tall and Muscled whose knee disappeared for a moment, but before Xander could react, Tall and Muscled had placed a left knee into his crotch, trapping him even while moving to the side so the second man could move in.  The second man smiled and trailed a hand up Xander's arm and down his chest, a five dollar bill threaded between his fingers.  He watched, helpless, as the man's fingers disappeared down the front of his jeans, leaving the money just over his left hip before the fingers moved in to tease Xander Jr. who already ached with a need to come.  The man ran a fingernail lightly over the sensitive skin, and Xander could feel his whole body shake with the familiar feeling that announced that he was about to embarrass himself again, but this time his cock simply refused to take the last step, his semen remained trapped, and his cock throbbed.

Blue Shirt smiled his gratitude to Mr. Tall and Muscled, and hey didn't he get any gratitude since it was his body being used here?  Of course Spike who had set up the show for this purpose and Carlos who refused to step in might also deserve some gratitude he thought as he shot the bouncer another dirty glare.  The pressure on his balls intensified and he returned his attention to Tall and Muscled who looked annoyed at being ignored, but no problem because he couldn't ignore the man now.  No matter how he struggled to lift onto his toes, his balls were pressed up into him from the imprisoning knee. 

"Please, enough now," Xander asked, but Tall and Muscled simply smiled and wrapped a thick hand around his left wrist, pulling the hand up to the top of the half wall and pinning it there so that Xander had no hope of freeing himself, and obviously no chance of rescue since Carlos had just nodded off another bouncer who had come to break up the party.  He started considering breaking Spike's CD's himself when an older blond man moved in and ran a warm hand down his chest, soothing the sore nipple. 

The man looked into Xander's eyes for a minute, and then both hands came to his chest, slowly unbuttoning his shirt.  Xander opened his mouth to protest, but the knee at his crotch pushed up, and he froze.  Carlos would never let him get seriously hurt, but the man would obviously let him do some suffering, so he decided not to see how far that went.  He closed his mouth and allowed the blond man to unbutton his shirt and push it back before running his hand through the hair gathered on his stomach and disappearing into his jeans.  He wasn't surprised when the man's hand followed the line of hair down into the jeans, his fingers teasing his already engorged cock head until Xander lowered himself onto the knee slightly just so that the pain would keep Xander Jr. in line.  The blond man smiled and slipped his own bill into his jeans.

Xander looked up at the crowd and saw how many customers stood around, and whimpered, but that only brought on another low rumbling laugh from Tall and Muscled who, Xander decided, must have been a relative of Spike's in a previous life because they had the same evil sense of humor.  Xander braced himself as another customer moved in.  He had no idea how long he stood there, trapped as man after man rubbed the slit of his cock; caressed the head; slid cum-slicked fingers down the shaft; stroked, rubbed, bit, or sucked his nipples; and pressed into him.  The only constant was Tall and Muscled who massaged his left shoulder, imprisoned his left arm, and tortured his balls.  Schizophrenic much? 

Suddenly, the man pulled him forward off the wall, his shirt still hanging open and now half hanging off his right arm.  The man's one hand slid down the back of his jeans even as the other twisted his arm up and pushed him into the man's embrace.  For a moment all he could think about was the relief of having his balls released, but then his vulnerability frightened him and he tried to pull back. 

"Spread those legs or this is going to hurt even worse," the man roughly whispered in his ear and think fingers forced themselves farther down the back of his jeans.  Xander had almost reached the point of panic when a familiar voice came from inches away.

"Let him go or I'll redecorate with your blood before tossing you out on your ass." Carlos said in such a calm and business-like manner that the man didn't respond for a couple of seconds, and then the invading hand retreated and he felt his arm fall free.

"Just having some fun.  Boy knows how to play or he would have come long ago," Tall and Muscled smirked, and Xander could only lean back against the wall and watch as Carlos stared the man down and then stood guard as Xander buttoned up his shirt.

"Yeah, thanks for the rescue there," he sarcastically snapped.  The words came out a little harsher than he intended, but he had wanted help earlier.

"Your master set you up for that; I wasn't going to interfere." 

"Not my master," Xander grumbled as he tried to adjust his jeans and found them so full of money that he simply exposed his manly bits to death by paper cut.  Glancing around and realizing that he had too much of an audience to get away with any subtle action, he simply stuck his hand down his own jeans and rearranged the tips to avoid an embarrassing hospital visit.  Oh god, his mother was still listed as next of kin. What would she say to the doctor who explained this injury?

"Okay, the vampire who tells you where to go, what to wear and who to talk to set you up for that," Carlos amended himself with a slight sigh of either frustration or amusement.  Xander was too busy trying to relax enough to walk to actually pay attention to the difference.

"I think I'm dying," he complained as he picked up the jeans and CD's.  He tried to walk to the back with his head held high, but he knew full well that he did more of a waddle.  Dignity be damned when the equipment is in danger of exploding.  He got into the back, and Ross turned, a snarl on his face as he clearly prepared to tell off his missing helper. Obviously he looked worse than he suspected because Ross first stopped dead, his expression of annoyance chiseled into frozen flesh, and then the man began to laugh.  Really laugh.  Xander hadn't known the man long enough to tell him off, so he restricted himself to a dirty glare as he shuffled past half naked dancers to the bathroom.

In the bathroom, he quickly stripped off his jeans and recovered a nice stack of bills before he turned to the task of relieving other needs.  He leaned against the tile and remembered his first day when the sight of Charlie in that loin cloth caused his side trip, but now his mind focused on only one man as he stroked himself.  He had expected to finish in one or two strokes, but he continued, his orgasm building ever closer to the edge, but no matter how hard he tried he couldn't seem to fall over that precipice into release.  He could feel his fear grow as he realized that something was wrong. The demon in his mind began to circle in distress at his distress, and he pushed it to once side and he concentrated on imagining Spike's hand touching him.  The image aroused him, but in his current condition, that wasn't really of the good.  He stood, still leaning against the tile, as a slow panic grew.  A knock on the door interrupted his horror.

"Xander, I've got something for you," Carlos called from the other side.  Xander walked over so that he would be hidden from the door, and cracked it open.  Carlos stood there with a bin of ice and a thin towel.

"Thought you might need these." He took the bin, still confused, and Carlos pulled the door shut.  Of course he knew exactly what he needed it for, he thought as he ran cold water into the bin, allowing the ice to turn it frigid before dunking the towel in the water, but how could Carlos know about his problem?  He took a deep breath, looked at the towel floating in the ice water, and cursed Spike before using the towel on his own genitals. 

Xander Jr. silently shrieked with pain and quickly shriveled, leaving his overly full and still sore balls looking even larger now that every drop of blood had retreated from his cock.  Now he leaned against the wall to keep from shrieking out loud and bringing the entire staff to witness his humiliation.  He gave his genitals one last swipe before dumping the water and redressing.  The impressive pile of bills on the counter got divided into two neat piles and then deposited one in each front pocket before he opened the door to a serious Carlos.

"You okay?" he asked.

"Yeah, totally new problem, has never happened before because, ya know, the plumbing works just fine, temporary problem."  Carlos watched with an amused expression, not answering so Xander just continued.  "Totally temporary in the probably won't ever happen again…definitely won't ever happen again type way temporary." Xander stood silent for a moment, refusing to look at Carlos.  "Okay, I have to know.  How did you know?  What?  Could you hear me with your demony hearing?  Smell me?  What?"

"You really don't know, do you?" Carlos asked.

"Okay, I think that's pretty obvious.  Normally, if you assume I just don't know, you'll probably be right."

"Pets can't come without their m…the vampires who tell them what to do, where to go and who to talk to."

"You mean that son of a bitch knew what would happen?" Xander asked, imagining all sorts of vampire tortures: holy water, sun lamp, crucifix tattoo.

"Says a lot about Spike that you didn't know," Carlos reflected.

"Yeah, says he's sadistic," he nearly shouted, and at that moment, a couple of dancers walked by the entrance to the hallway, giggling.  Xander leaned his head back against the wall.  Great, now everyone at work would think he was some sort of pain slut.  Yep, purgatory and hell combined couldn't come up with worse tortures.

"Actually, I was thinking that maybe I didn't have to worry so much about you."  His expression must have clued Carlos in on how much sense that statement didn't make to him because the bouncer continued without prompting.  "Vamps control pets through emotions; they use the demon to amplify strong emotions until the pet can't think straight or fight back.  Most use fear, leaving a pet trembling on the ground and afraid to do anything without a specific command."  Xander opened his mouth to protest the implication, but Carlos waved him off.

"Yeah, I figured out that couldn't be the case pretty quick. But, and this was a real concern for me, some vamps use lust instead.  Get a pet all worked up and then deny him or her the right to come.  Eventually it leaves the human even more disabled than the one controlled by fear."

"You thought Spike was manipulating me through my deep and entirely normal for a human teenager lust," he guessed.

"Yeah. But if you didn't know this would happen, he's obviously never denied you before."

"True, and if he doesn't want to take up smoking in a more personal and immolation-by-lover type way, he won't ever do it again," Xander complained as he felt his genitals still throbbing.  "I need to drop these off in a locker," he said as he started walking toward the employee area, trying to get his gait back to normal.

Once he had locked up his jeans and the CD's, he headed back for a tray of food.  Ross started laughing again the minute he walked in the room.  Ignoring the heavy guffaws aimed his way, Xander grabbed the prepared tray of pizza squares and headed out to feed the masses, Carlos close behind. 

The first food run he made included multiple gropes, one proposition, two rescues from Carlos and one very ookie feeling.  The second trip included even more gropes, one rescue and three ookie feelings.  By the third trip, Xander knew for sure that he recognized the sand rubbing his backbone feeling, and he pulled Carlos to the side.

"We have vamps on the dance floor," he whispered.

"Oh shit." Carlos froze for a second, and then the bouncer's instincts kicked in.

"Tell T first, and then we'll get the number for those vamp hunters who saved him last time."  Carlos moved to put the plan into action, but Xander held him back.

"Those vamp hunters are human.  They aren't going to know who to stake, and I used to train with them so I can tell you that the training never covered trying to fight with a hundred humans in the middle."  Xander knew the only possible solution, he just hated saying it. He considered possibilities.  He didn't have Spike's number.  Ajani was a big no.  The vamp might not kill humans for food, but he wouldn't protect humans either.  Besides, he was probably with Spike anyway.  He looked at the floor, mentally searching for any other answer, but when he looked up, he could see Carlos' tacit demand for an alternative. 

"We have to call Angel," he said calmly.  Oh boy, Spike wasn't going to like this one.


Chapter 9


Within a couple of seconds, Xander found himself ushered into T's office, a telephone book thrust into his hands. Carlos then took up sentry at the door as if expecting rogue vampires to burst through any second.

He dialed the phone with trembling fingers, his demon shifting uncomfortably. He felt like just shouting at the thing, but generally preferred to avoid looking like a complete and total loon. The phone on the other end stopped ringing, and a male voice answered.

“Angel Investigation, helpin’ the hopeless,” the voice didn’t sound like Angel—far too cheerful, but he could hear Cordelia’s offended squeal at the greeting, so he clearly had the right place. Irish accent fit too, even though he’d never heard Angel speak with so much lilt.

“Angel?” he asked tentatively.

“Not likely,” the voice laughed. “Doyle here, how canna help ya?”

“Um, is Angel there?” 

“Not right at the moment, but I’ll take a message if ye want.”

“Yeah…I mean, no. Can I talk to Cordelia?” he finally settled on. He could hear indistinct voices in the background, and then the familiar voice came through the phone.

“Cordelia Chase here,” sang the melodious tones.

“Just me, Cordelia, Xander.” 

“Oh,” the voice quickly dropped into a near bored expression. “You left Angel even more depressed than usual, which is a bit of an achievement. He hasn’t even commented on my new jacket. Must've dropped like a dozen hints, too.” Xander smiled, he could almost imagine her doing her nails just like in 7th grade with that first year teacher they had managed to drive out of the profession.

“We’ve got a problem down at Safari. I’m not sure, but I think there are several vamps in the crowd.” He waited for a response, but the phone was silent for several seconds.

“Think? If there are no ridges and screaming people, it’s a little hard to tell, even for us professionals.” Cordelia tried to keep the tone equally light and carefree, but he could hear the undertones of worry in her voice.

“Yeah, it’s kinda one of those things. My little piece of demon keeps raising the alarm, so I know something not human’s out on the floor.”

“Probably just indigestion.” Cordelia quipped, but he could hear a pencil madly scratching across paper. He couldn’t decide if she was being sweet by trying not to worry him or offensive by trying to hide things. The Cordelia he knew in school would have meant it as an insult, but this new Cordelia? He wasn’t so sure. 

“We really need Angel here,” he interrupted her writing and he could hear a frustrated sigh. Could almost hear her eyes rolling. 

“We as in ‘me and Spike’ or we as in ‘me and whoever else is here and when Spike shows up he’s going to go all postal on Angel again’?”

“Um, the second,” Xander admitted. “Spike left about an hour ago, and I don’t know how to reach him. I don’t know who else to call.”

“We’ll pick up Angel at the butcher and come straight down. You just sit put and stay in the back.” Cordelia ordered in a voice that obviously expected immediate obedience. Damn, Spike was right about her making a good vampire. He didn’t bother arguing even though he had no intention of running from a fight.

“Thanks, Cordelia.”

“Whatever…it’s our job,” Cordelia dismissed his thanks and hung up the phone without another word. Yep, that was the Cordelia Chase he knew and no longer hated.

“They on their way then?” Carlos asked from his position next to the door.

“Yeah. They’re coming.” He walked over to lean again the wall next to Carlos. His demon stalked through his mind like a predator seeking the scent of blood, and he pushed it back again. Aggressive little bugger today, he thought to himself, but then Carlos’ words brought him back to reality.

“Xander, you made your call, so let’s just leave.” He could feel Carlos’ hand tightening on his arm, and he shrugged it off, unwilling to be ordered around like a child. True, he wasn’t the best in a fight, but he could hold his own and he would be a lot more prepared than most of the walking happy meals on the dance floor.

“I’m not leaving them. What if Angel doesn’t get here before they start pulling people out? Na-uh. Not going.” Xander turned to out of the office and he felt a strong arm pull him back, pushing him up against the wall.

“You are *not* going out there,” Carlos insisted, and for the first time he could see the inhuman blood reflected in Carlos’ face, the skin blushing with blue.

“What? Are you going to play slaver? Thought you didn’t like those games?” He could see Carlos flinch from the accusation, releasing him from the wall.

“Xander,” Carlos began in a low, pleading voice. That made him stop where nothing else had, but he wasn’t going to give up all control over his life, not yet, not ever. "Take this," Carlos pressed a stake into his hand.

"This regulation for a bouncer?" he asked as Carlos pulled a second stake from the back of his pants and tucked it into the front.

"I seem to spend an uncomfortable amount of time hanging out with a vampire and his pet, of course I carry wood. Are you sure you won't just wait here?" Carlos pleaded.

“Going now,” he cheerfully announced as he left the room. He walked down the hall onto the main floor, his shadow close enough behind that he could hear the bouncer’s footsteps. He made his way to the bar and Carlos must have signaled T because the man came out from behind the bar almost immediately and met them by the kitchen door where the music was only slightly less deafening.

"Vamp problem," Carlos said.

"Oh sweet Jesus, no," T closed his eyes in obvious despair before putting on a face that looked remarkably like the resolve face his best friend back in Sunnydale used to use. "Okay, do we need to call Gunn?"

"Gunn can't tell a human from a vamp; we need someone who can," Xander pointed out, trying to make sure that T understood the logic and didn't assume that he just wanted to avoid calling his former friend. "We need someone who can spot them, and that means we need a vamp."

"I only know one vamp on a first name basis, and I don't see him around." T waved toward the crowd.

"He's busy," Xander admitted. "But Angel is coming."

"Angel?" T turned a confused expression first to him and then to Carlos. Carlos simply shrugged.

"Angel has a soul; he runs a supernatural detective agency, and yes I do know how completely corny that sounds, but I can't help it. He doesn't kill at all, doesn't even really like Spike because Spike won't give up killing. He'll do the right thing," Xander pleaded with T to believe that he knew what he was talking about. If T called Gunn, the crew would just lose more people.

"Are you sure about him?" T asked, concern and fear and anger all tangled in his expression.

"Yeah, I am," Xander responded.

"Good enough for me," T said. "So, I assume closing the club would be bad."

"Not for the vamps, it'd let them pick off the humans one at a time," Carlos pointed out. "Best if we just wait." So the three of them moved to the corner of the bar where they stood watching the crowd and waiting for the disaster to strike. It felt like hours, but Xander's watch suggested that only about fifteen minutes had passed before the shit hit the proverbial fan.

“Oh shit,” T swore as the first scream pierced the air. Xander looked toward the sound, but a tingling in his skull cautioned him and he turned in time to see a short little man standing three feet away vamp out.

“Xander!” Carlos cried out, but he had already brought up his stake, driving it forward so fast that the vampire didn’t have time to do anything other than look surprised, the expression turned into a dust sculpture for one second before the body floated to the ground. He turned, his attention back to the floor, ignoring the hand that pulled him as he planted himself beside the kitchen door. 

“Shit, the customers,” T cried, and Xander realized that the club had become a cattle pen, trapping the humans into a small confined, confused space where the vamps could feed amid the panic. Reaching out, he grabbed a wide-eyed Hispanic man wearing clothes so tight that they outlined his stomach bulge. He pulled the man toward the kitchen door before shoving him through and yelling to T.

“Keep them back there.” He reached out and grabbed another man, the demon stirred, but Xander could tell that it wanted to kill the prey; it didn’t feel threatened. He assumed that meant human and he shoved the man toward the back. He hadn’t gotten any farther before the demon in his mind howled, and he looked up to see Angel standing at the doorway holding an axe. Cordelia, stake in hand, stood on one side of him and the green-eyed man he vaguely remembered from Cassidy’s lair stood on the other. He made eye contact with Angel for a moment before he continued his impromptu inspection and evacuation process. 

He had refined the process, grabbing arms and flinging bodies towards Carlos when he touched an arm that made his demon growl and snap within his mind. Pulling back, he braced himself for the yellow eyes that turned to lock in on him. He brought up the stake and started a lunge, but the vamp fell back and to one side. Xander refused to fall for the same trap he had laid for Ajani, so he aborted and withdrew, circling some and watching the vamp move. The vamp stabbed at him with a clawed hand, and he grabbed the outstretched wrist and yanked, pulling the vamp off balance before driving the stake into its heart. The ash flew to the ground with the momentum of a falling body.

Xander exulted in his kill. Either that or the demon did, but damn it felt good. He shook his head to refocus and re-start his evacuations; he turned to find Carlos. The man had stepped forward, standing barely two feet behind him with wide, amazed eyes. Yep, he crowed to himself, he did that, he shocked the big, bad bouncer. 

“Get ‘em outta here,” he shouted at he pushed a human toward Carlos. Carlos simply thrust the man toward the kitchen door, but he must have gotten the idea, because he scrambled toward safety.

“Not leaving you,” Carlos shouted over the screams, and Xander didn’t take time to argue as he pushed forward. A tingle behind him, and he turned to see Carlos’ stake stab into a vamp, reducing it to dust. He glanced back and saw T now standing guard at the door with several crosses, so he slid farther into the crowd, Carlos at his back, as he pushed the humans toward the door to safety and searched for more enemies. 

A third vamp turned to dust before it could turn its eyes to him, and he continued, the demon voice in his mind bellowing in triumph. Strong. Worthy. It roared. Xander wasn’t sure he’d go that far, but he certainly didn’t feel like the sidekick loser. He wasn’t the second-string vamp bait. He didn’t have to hide behind the real vampire-hunters.

He sunk into his internal monologue…dialogue? Was it a dialogue if the two people involved lived in the same brain? Maybe he’d have to go find his junior English teacher and ask. The crowd had thinned to a few milling people, and he felt the tingle of vampire. 

He quickly spun, driving the stake forward and throwing his weight behind it only to find his hand diverted so that the stake sunk into flesh and his own body was pulled forward into a hard embrace. His demon panicked, and Xander did the same, pulling back wildly without even affecting the huge vampire. He unexpectedly felt the vamp stumble forward, and he pulled up his legs, taking advantage of the moment to throw the vamp off balance. He felt them both head for the ground, and he tucked his legs closer, hoping to have a chance to drive home a few well aimed kicks once on the ground. 

“Xander, enough!” he heard a deep voice yell, and he wrenched himself out of that tight embrace only to look over at Angel, on the floor, a stake embedded in his abdomen. Wow, he had really missed the heart on that one. He struggled to his feet, and he looked for Carlos. The bouncer stood not more that a couple feet away, blue-flushed skin and a broken stool in his hands as he struggled with the green-eyed friend of Angel hanging on his arm and Cordelia clinging to his back, her legs wrapped around his middle. Carlos looked ready to topple under the weight, and Xander shouted.

“Carlos, it’s okay; they’re the ones we called.” Xander knew that Carlos had heard when the bouncer lowered the stool and the strange man before returning to a more human skin tone. Cordelia still perched on him as though getting a piggy back ride. He looked around and realized that the five of them were alone in a room full of broken furniture and a couple of broken human bodies. Ugh.

“You can get off me now, girl,” Carlos pointed out, and he watched as Cordelia untangled herself and slid to the ground.

“Not nice to stake other people’s vamps,” she criticized, and Xander could feel the wrongness in the statement. His demon complained about the human girl claiming a powerful old master, the master of his line, Xander suddenly realized. He studied Angel and the fear of the older vamp remained, but he could also feel the demon’s grudging deference to the head of the line.

“Sorry about that,” Xander said with a wave toward the stake that Angel had pulled out of his own stomach with a grunt.

“You’ve been training with William,” Angel replied, and it took a half-second for him to translate the proper sounding ‘William’ into his own oh-so-improper Spike. 

“Well, yeah.” He decided to leave Ajani out of the discussion. Some things Angel just didn’t need to know. Angel looked at him strangely, and he feared the vampire could hear the omission.

“Let’s talk,” Angel reached out for his arm, and suddenly Carlos stood between them.

“He’ll stay here,” Carlos insisted, blocking Xander’s view of Angel.

“Isn’t that his choice?” Angel asked, the threat in his voice clear in the slight growl.

“Carlos, it’s okay.” Xander put his hand on Carlos’ arm to soothe the obviously angry man. “Angel has a soul; he’s not like other vamps,” he assured the fuming bouncer who now appeared to be bathed in a blue light, even though all the colored lights had gone off and the brights had been turned on shortly after the attacked started. 

“Stay back,” Carlos insisted, pushing Xander farther behind his own large body.

“Don’t push him around.” Around Carlos’ body he could see Angel step up, the brown eyes twinkling with yellow in an expression he had never see on Spike because Spike had usually vamped out long before getting that angry.

“Whoa, back off there guys,” he tried in his best imitation of Cordelia. And when you had to imitate a cheerleader to seem manlier, that really was reaching the bottom of the barrel. Unfortunately the real Cordelia chose this moment to decide to mind her own business, leaning against a table and examining a finger for either a splinter or a broken nail, he couldn’t tell which.

“Xander,” Carlos said in a warning tone, but he had endured enough coddling for the day.

“No, Carlos. Angel is a giant pain in the arse, as Spike would say, well actually Spike would be more likely to say giant Pouf or Peaches or Hair-boy, but you get the general picture.” Xander stepped out around Carlos, dodging the arm that tried to pull him back into protective custody. His demon lurched forward, making Xander gasp for air for just a second before he settled himself and his demon with a firm mental push.

Carlos looked ready to argue, but he felt a cool hand on his arm pulling him behind the vampire.

“Decision made,” Angel snapped and then pushed him toward the back room. When T appeared at the door with his armory of crosses, Xander stepped forward.

“T, get everyone out; it’s safe now.”

“Sweetie, you may feel safe around vamps, but I sure don’t. Why don’t you come with us?” he asked with a glance toward his large guard.

“Angel’s cool, well not cool as in he dresses cool but cool as in he won’t eat anyone type cool.” Xander bit his tongue, ordering it to stop babbling, but some things never changed. 

“Sure,” T said slowly, and he could see Angel flinch under the disbelief. “Come on gentlemen, the tour of the kitchen is over and the criminals are gone, so we need to get outta here,” Xander watched at the tall thin man waved the terrified customers out the door like a parade marshal. The only time T even showed the stress came when he saw his broken club. He stopped, his eyes moving from one corner to another, and then he shrugged. “Can always go back to tending bar,” he sighed. 

When the customers and employees had abandoned the building, Angel gestured him into the back, away from three pairs of curious eyes. Once in back, Xander leaned against the prep table and waited for the lecture to come. He knew what to expect…what business did he have trying to fight…he was just a weak human…his demon wasn’t normal…he shouldn’t be with Spike…Spike couldn’t be trusted. He buried himself in his inner conversation so deeply that it took quite a while before he realized that Angel wasn’t talking. In fact, the dark vampire simply leaned against a wall, his arms crossed, and his eyes focused on Xander. 

Angel sighed, and Xander suppressed an urge to laugh. He knew he couldn’t carry a conversation, but he was just an eighteen year old loser; here was a 250 year old vampire with social skills even lower that Xander's own. 

“You wanted something?” Xander finally asked.

“Spike’s not treating you like a pet, is he?” Angel asked, serious brown eyes searching for some answer Xander didn’t understand. He shrugged an answer.

“He isn’t treating me like Cassidy did, but then Cassidy’s dust, so he isn’t treating me like anything these days.”

“This isn’t a joke.”

“It’s my life, which implies it is a joke, actually.” Xander watched the frustration growing on Angel’s features, and he wondered if he should tone it down with the older vampire. He really didn’t know him that well.

“He could hurt you,” Angel stated, the ‘he’ in the sentence unspoken but clear.

“He could,” Xander agreed, feeling a need to be honest. “But he treats me better than my own parents do.”

“He’s a demon.”

“So are you.”

“A soul-less demon,” Angel amended himself, and Xander didn’t have a response to that. He stood there and examined his nails.

“You don’t know what he’s really like.” Angel finally announced into the silence, and Xander looked up at that accusation. How many times had he heard his own father claimed to know what was best for him because Xander didn't really understand the way the world worked?

“I have an idea; I’m really not as stupid as I look. I know about his whole penchant for grooms although really that’s your fault since you always went for the brides.” He didn’t even feel guilty about the pained expression; after all Angel was trying to get him to leave Spike. “I know about dragging people back to the lair so that Dru could play with them both before and after they died, and can I just say ewww here. I know how he kills; I know where his name comes from; I see what he is.”

“And do you see how much you’ve changed?” Angel stepped forward this time. “Do you see what you’ve become in one week? How much of you will be left in another week or a month or a year?” 

“You don’t know who I was a week ago or even four years ago before Cassidy.”

“I’ve talked to Gunn; I have a pretty good idea who you were a week ago, and the man Gunn described is not the same man I saw out there on that floor.”

“Gunn? What, did he tell you what a loser I was? He describe how I got Frederick killed? He tell the story about how I dropped the stake when I tried to dust that old-man vamp? That’s one of his favorites.” Xander hadn’t realized how much he resented being the center of the crew’s jokes until Angel’s words. When he had been part of that family, it felt like brotherly ribbing. Now it felt like a betrayal. Gunn had told this man, this vampire, all about his failures. He didn’t want Angel to look at him as the loser.

“He told me you were a moral man who would do anything to protect his friends, to protect innocents.” Angel had frozen in the middle of the room as if he didn’t know what to do with himself. The hands finally crossed over his chest. 

“I haven’t changed that much then,” he replied with a wave toward the dance floor. “Carlos begged me to leave, but I wouldn’t walk away from this.”

“But the man Gunn described wasn't fighting out there on the floor tonight.”

“So we’re back to the whole it can't be me if I'm not a big loser thing. I *can* take care of myself.”

“You can’t, not against Spike. I can protect you.”

“Don’t really feeling like trading up, thanks,” Xander replied even though he doubted that Angel would be a step up. The man seriously needed Prozac and he could imagine hating him if he spent any amount of time around him.

“I could get you a ticket to some place where vamps wouldn’t be likely to find you, where you could be independent. Montana maybe, went through there once and didn’t find a vamp in the whole state.”

“I don’t need saving,” Xander insisted, and Angel stopped talking, focusing on Xander until Xander felt the demon squirm and he glared back.

“You really aren’t a normal pet,” Angel sighed.

“Hey! Getting sick of the complaints. In fact, I seem to remember telling someone that I would stake you next time you called me strange. ‘Course I kinda did stake you so maybe we can call it even.” Xander fought an urge to retreat behind the table as Angel stepped up to him, getting in his personal space and looking down at him imperiously.

“And if I said you were leaving tonight?” Angel asked, his eyes flashing yellow.

“I’d answer, ‘Over your dust,’ Deadboy, so let’s not go there.” Angel instantly retreated, turning away and leaning against the tile wall. “Just because you hate Spike doesn’t mean he’s all evil, and being that he’s a soulless demon that sounds really stupid, but it isn’t nearly as stupid as you might think.”

“I don’t hate William. I hate what I did to him.”

“You mean the whole sire-punishing-torture thing or the whole getting a soul and abandoning him to Darla thing?” Angel’s head snapped around and Xander caught his breath at the pain and fury he saw reflected for one instant before the calm and emotionless mask returned.

“He told you.”

“Yeah, some.”

“Then you know why he hates me. Even after Dru turned him he had humanity left in him, and that infuriated me. I turned him into the monster he is today, and don’t ever forget that he is a monster who has tortured and raped and enjoyed every minute.”

“He has that in him, but he’s more than that.”

“I wish I could believe you. There are days I wish I had William back.” Xander saw the pain and loss in Angel’s eyes, and he wished he knew the words to fix it because he recognized the expression of hopelessness. He’d seen it in the mirror often enough before Spike. A thought came to him. 

“Wait here,” he asked as he dashed for his locker and spun the lock open. Reaching inside the folded jeans, he pulled out the stack of CD’s and then locked his locker again. When he got back to the kitchen he pushed the stack of silver disks into a confused Angel’s hand. “Spike and I have a bit of a musical war going on, don’t really agree on the definition of good music,” he explained, but the confused look only grew deeper. “If you could hold on to these, it’ll drive Spike crazy trying to find them. Just please, promise you won’t scratch them until he comes for them.” Angel looked down at the bundle of discs for several seconds before he gave Xander a calculating stare. 

“I’ll keep them safe," he promised. "So, you don’t like pointless screaming either?”

“No, not really." He paused as the meaning of that settled in. "How do you know his musical tastes?”

“He’s my childe; I may have checked on him once or twice,” Angel admitted with a shrug, and Xander could see the ache in Angel’s eyes. He felt sympathy for a vampire trapped between a demon and a soul, but he also feared how much damage Angel could do if he decided to seriously interfere with their relationship.

"Then you know he's not a monster, not like the vamps out there," Xander waved toward the dance floor.

"I know Spike forms attachments. I know what he's willing to do to keep those attachments. It doesn't mean you're safe." Angel took a deep breath, strange habit for creatures that didn't need oxygen, but he supposed that even 200 years of being dead couldn't break some habits. 

"I've never been safe, and I probably won't ever be, but being with Spike doesn't feel nearly as dangerous as some things I've done…like in 11th grade, I goosed Mrs. Kerpel when we were on this field trip. That was pretty darn dangerous."

"I don't trust him."

"Then talk to him; don't just issue random threats, show him that the Angelus who cared about him is still down in there somewhere."

"That's not it." Angel fell silent, but this time Xander had the good sense to wait, feeling like Angel had more to say and he just needed time to say it. Finally the vampire started again. "Angelus hated him for being too human, too soft, too weak. Angelus humiliated him, took everything away from him and drove him to become harder. Angelus created Spike." Angel closed his eyes and turned away, and this time Xander stepped closer. Part of him wanted to reach out and put a comforting hand on the vampire's arm, but his own demon railed against that so he just stood closer. 

"And I hated him too at first. When I was turned, I destroyed my family; he tried to save what was left of his. I obliterated everything in my path; he tried to create this fairy-tale relationship with Dru." Angel stopped, but Xander could see the problem.

"You were jealous of him," he guessed, and the silence confirmed it. He got the feeling Angel didn't normally talk to people, so he couldn't imagine why the vampire had chosen him to confide in.

"I know how different Spike is, but I also know how dangerous he is. Stay with me," Angel turned and Xander felt himself pulled toward those dark eyes, but the memory of ice-blue eyes sparking with an evil sort of happiness interceded, and he backed up.

"I can't. I want Spike." For a moment, he feared that Angel would continue, but he simply nodded. 

"If you need me…" Angel allowed the words to trail off, but a crash and string of curses interrupted them.

Xander exchanged a quick look with Angel before dashing for the door, the tall vampire just behind him. He froze the instant he entered the main room, the sight of Spike in full game face holding Carlos against a wall and suspended above the floor stopping him cold. He felt a hand on his shoulder either because he had stopped too fast and startled Angel or because the older vampire wanted to offer comfort or protection. At that point, Xander nearly asked for protection because when Spike's eyes turned on him, he could feel his heart falter and his chest tighten.

"That wot ya call protectin' 'im?" Spike demanded in an accent so thick as to be nearly indecipherable. Carlos didn't respond, probably because of the hand around his neck, and Xander rushed forward.

"Spike, everything's fine, really, you can let him go now." He had nearly closed the distance between them when Spike's growl stopped him and he froze as Spike tilted his head up, glaring at him. Spike dropped Carlos and slowly circled. He turned to look at Angel for some sort of explanation, but the older vampire had moved over to his two friends, using his body as a shield. On the third circle, Spike moved in and grabbed him by the back of the neck, and Xander yielded without argument, allowing the vampire to pull him in close. 

"Ya poachin' now, Peaches? If we aren't respectin' each other's territory, I wouldn't mind doin' some poachin' of my own." Xander couldn't see since Spike had pulled him into his body so that his head was buried in Spike's shoulder, the hand held him there, but from Cordelia's gasp and Angel's growl, he could just imagine the look Spike had just given Cordelia.

"William," Angel snarled.

"Sod off," Spike snapped, and then he felt himself being propelled through the empty club to the door and the familiar motorcycle. When Spike got on, he climbed on behind even though he knew that this time he had screwed up, and the demon in him warned of punishment to come.


Chapter 10


Xander silently slipped down the stairs, well aware of the angry vampire following behind. At the bottom, he went to the chair and waited silently. When he looked over at the stereo, he flinched. Oh god, he only hoped that Spike didn’t try to listen to music tonight. The last time Spike had been this angry, the vampire had watched television, so he could only hope. Right now, the vampire in question was rattling around in the armoire, which Xander had to suspect was a bad thing.

“Strip,” came the order, and Xander jumped when the harsh voice broke the silence. With trembling fingers, he slowly removed his shirt before toeing off his boots and pulling off his pants. Then he sat in the chair trying not to shake in the chilled basement air.

Spike pulled chains out of the armoire before heading back to the dimly lit far end of the room. Xander shivered, but he stood and followed without complaint. When Spike turned and fastened manacles around his wrists, he waited silently. He trusted Spike not to hurt him too badly, and, he reminded himself, he had once told the vampire that he’d rather be punished and get it over with rather than endure Spike’s attitude. So, when Spike pulled his hands up and chained the manacles to a ring in the concrete, he didn’t comment; he simply tried to stand back far enough to not press up against the cold concrete, but close enough to not strain his arms.

He could hear Spike moving around behind him, and he tried not to tense his muscles; he knew from his time with Cassidy that it would only hurt more if he did.

“Pet, tell me what you did wrong today,” Spike asked in a tone that sounded far more reasonable than the circumstances would suggest.

“I called Angel?” he guessed in an unsure voice, but then he grew more forceful with his next statement. “But I couldn’t just let those vamps feed on the customers.”

“Don’t give a shit about the other customers,” Spike quickly pointed out in an annoyed tone. Care about you not gettin’ killed. So tell me what ya did wrong.” Xander stopped and thought about that for a moment; obviously calling Angel wasn’t the million dollar answer. Unfortunately, he couldn’t come up with another answer to give. He stood mute until he felt the bite of a whip across his back. He knew Spike hadn’t used his full strength, but the force still sent him forward into the concrete with a cry.

“Asked ya a question,” came a voice that grew more displeased with each moment.

“I don’t know the answer. What do you want me to say?” Xander begged. He could feel the stirring in his mind that spoke of an unhappy demon, but he didn’t know how to make either demon happy.

“Ya do know. What happened today that ya know I wouldn’t allow?”

“I got in the middle of the fight,” he rushed to say before the whip could return. The speed of the answer didn’t matter because he felt the whip land one, two, three, four, five times. He gasped for breath and braced his hands on the cold wall to keep from crashing into it, but he also realized that Spike hadn’t broken skin or criss-crossed the lashes. Could be worse, and oh god, when did his life get so out of control that being chained by a vampire in a secret lair and whipped didn't phase him? Spike stopped at five.

“Yeah, and what else, pet?” He tried looking at the day from a vampire’s perspective, and he could feel his inner guest sending up reminders. Okay, when had his inner vamp been upset? Not at the fight; god, the thing had loved the fight whether Spike approved or not. Then it came to him, the moment when his inner voice had cringed.

“I shouldn’t have talked to Angel; I shouldn’t have gone into the back room with him,” he offered.

“And why not?” He had to think about his answer again, but again his mind provided an answer.

“If he tried to take me, he could turn the demon.” He didn’t honestly think Angel would do that, but he understood the animosity between the two vampires. After all, Angel didn't exactly love Spike, so he could see Spike's point of view. Oh god. Angel. Soul. If Angel thought he could ‘save’ Xander, he might do it just to keep him away from his soulless childe. And if Angel did turn his demon, Spike might not be able to turn it back; Angel was the older vampire. “Oh shit,” he breathed suddenly understanding the danger he had put himself in. Even if Angel did only want to help, he could have taken him away from Spike.

The whip landed again, and again Xander felt himself pushed into the concrete, his cheek resting on the cold surface for a moment before he forced himself back onto his feet. These strikes fell slower and harder. Each one turned into a line of fire before the next one landed. Ten hits. Xander truly struggled to breathe now.

“And what ‘bout Carlos?” Spike asked, and he had to sort out the thoughts and emotions running through his brain before he could correctly translate that threat.

“Oh god, I put him in danger. Spike, no, please,” he truly begged now. “He told me to leave the club; he begged me to call Gunn and then leave with him. Please don’t hurt him.”

“Left ya in his care, came back to find ya with another vamp. That’s not taking care a my pet, that’s failin’ in his job.” He could hear Spike pacing, but he didn’t have the strength to turn. He simply leaned his forehead into the concrete and pleaded.

“Spike, I’ll give up the job. I’m off until next Thursday anyway, so I can call T and tell him I can’t come back. We could even leave town, just please don’t hurt him.” Xander offered everything he could think to offer in return for Carlos’ life. Never before had he felt so helpless or so scared, not even in the beginning when he thought Spike would kill him.

“Not that easy, pet.”

“Spike, he tried. He really tried to keep me out of it, and he stayed by my side the whole time; he even faced off with Angel. Please, don’t hurt him.”

“He’s got to pay. He’s Largis; he knows what failure means.”

“He’s human, humans are allowed to screw up,” he countered, panic robbing his mouth of moisture and his body of strength. Oh god, would he hang here until Spike went out and killed Carlos? “Please, Spike. Please don’t.” He couldn’t come up with any other words, and he realized that his arrogance and his lack of eloquence had condemned Carlos to death. The pacing stopped and he held his breath, praying for some reprieve. 

“Would've rewarded him if he’d looked out for ya. Had a weapon picked out as tribute.”

“He did look out for me; he kept me alive when I went sailing into the middle of a vamp fight.” Xander knew the words would more than likely bring about another whipping, but he preferred that to causing Carlos’ death. Instead of the whip, a cool hand landed on his shoulder.

“Not goin’ to forgive that easy. When I find him, we’ll see if I can forgive at all.” He watched as Spike reached up for the chain and unlocked it, but instead of leading him back to the living portion of the room, Spike simply chained his hands lower so that he could sit on the ground. He did, ignoring the cold that seeped in from the concrete. Then, with a swirl of leather, Spike left and Xander was left to think about how many ways he had royally screwed up. 

Spike returned much quicker than he expected. He figured Carlos had more sense than he did, so he assumed the man would have taken off for parts unknown, but Spike couldn't have been gone for more than an hour or two when he heard the door open. When Spike appeared and dropped his coat on the chair, Xander had to hug his legs just to keep teeth from chattering with cold. He knew how badly he'd messed up, so he really expected to be left in the cold, but Spike came over and unlocked the chain from the wall, pulling him to the bathroom and waiting while he took care of his human bodily functions. Oh yeah, this didn't bode well he told himself when he came out to find Spike still waiting. He washed up quickly, listening to the chains rattle against the ceramic of the sink basin as he rubbed his hands. When he finished, he turned to face Spike who simply grabbed the chain and walked out to the bed where he fastened the chain to the wall with about six feet of slack.

He just wanted the answer to one question, but he didn't know how to ask it, so he quietly sat on the bed and watched as Spike dug through duster pockets until he came up with a cigarette. Oh yeah, still pissed vamp. Suddenly Spike's coat rang, and Spike pulled out a cell phone and tossed it at Xander so fast that he had trouble catching it with the heavy weight hanging on his hands. He opened the phone while still keeping his eyes on Spike.


"You alright, Xander?" He heard Carlos' voice and he almost cried. Probably would have except he had cried so hard when Spike left that he didn't have any damn tears left in the reservoir. 

"Carlos?" he asked, almost scared to believe that Spike would have spared the man.

"Yeah, a little sore but still here."

"Oh god, I'm so sorry. I shoulda listened to you, but I just went all alpha male stupid there for a while and I really wish I could just take it all back 'cause you totally didn't deserve whatever Spike did to make you sore, which was probably a whole lot less than he wanted to do what with the whole talking thing you're still doing, for which I'm very grateful…"

"Xander," shouted the voice on the other end. "God, breathe." Carlos' voice took on a more concerned tone. "I assume you're okay," he asked almost tentatively.

"Yeah, mostly. Didn't lose any skin cells I really need or anything. Can't say I didn't have it coming, but I'll be damned if I'll actually admit to having it coming since that would be unmanly."

"Unmanly?" Carlos asked, this time obviously amused.

"It's in the man-code. We never admit when we're wrong," Xander explained seriously, and this time Carlos laughed outright.

"I assume you're really okay then."

"Yeah, but I somehow doubt I'll make work on Thursday," he admitted as he peeked over at Spike. The vampire had on his 'bloody right' look, so he took that as confirmation that his working days were over, at least until Spike trusted him far enough to let him off a leash.

"You injured?" The concerned tone returned in Carlos' voice.

"Nope, just don't expect to be unchained by Thursday," he admitted with a shrug. Why he shrugged, he couldn't say since Carlos obviously didn't see, but the man must have heard his nonchalant attitude in his voice.

"Well, don’t say I didn't warn you. Just try to talk him into letting you call T. Boss man is going to kill me for this."

"Yeah, but at least T only kills metaphorically; Spike tends to take the whole death threat thing a little too seriously," Xander pointed out as he watched the vampire standing by the armoire smoking furiously.

"Tell me about it. I'm hoping my demon blood will help my backside heal up a little faster or else I'm going to be taking a few days off myself. You take care, Xander."

"Yeah, will do," Xander promised before he hit the disconnect button and lay the phone on the bed.

"Thank you," he softly offered. The demon in his head goaded him, but he couldn't quite figure out what it wanted. Spike stood there unmoving except for the cigarette that moved from his mouth to his side to the ashtray in the cabinet. Mouth. Side. Cabinet. Oh yeah, it was going to be a long night. Mouth. Side. Cabinet. He was almost relieved when Spike broke the pattern to light a new cigarette. 

"Spike, please?" he held up his hands with the chain. He knew that the demon begged to be closer to Spike, and he couldn’t do that from the bed. 

"Ya can't need the loo again so quick," Spike said without moving even his head.

"I don't. I just need…" Xander stopped, not sure what he needed, but sure he couldn't do it from the bed, well at least not without Spike here. Spike put out the cigarette and came to stand by the bed, but Xander kept his eyes lowered. He found himself scooting off the bed before he realized what he was doing, but he followed his instinct and slid down to his knees at Spike's feet. 

Part of him railed against such a dehumanizing act, but another part of him insisted on following through. He felt humiliation warming his cheeks, but he couldn't decide if he was humiliated by kneeling at Spike's feet or humiliated for disappointing Spike so badly. He lowered himself until he felt his forehead touch Spike's feet.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, sure the vampire could hear him, but Spike didn't comment, and he remained frozen, waiting for Spike's response. He knelt there for several minutes before he heard Spike's reply, and only then did he realize that he had held his breath, leaving him slightly dizzy and happy he was already on the floor.

"Don't want an apology. Want to know I can trust ya."

"It was stupid. I wasn't thinking of Angel as a vampire. I won't do it again." Xander surprised himself by stopping there; no babbling, no begging.

"Need ya safe. Can't trust ya to go out on your own if I don't know you'll be safe."

"I'll be safe, promise." That must have been the wrong answer because Xander felt himself being pulled up to face an angry Spike. One glance and he sent his eyes back down to the ground.

"No, ya won't. You value every life except your own." He didn't answer the charge since he really didn't have an answer. "Bloody hell, I've got to have the last selfless human in the whole bleedin' world as my pet. Not bloody fair." Spike released his arms, and he sunk back down to his knees.

"Spike," he whispered, still not sure what he needed, but trusting that Spike understood his instincts better than he did.

"Ya think ya had enough already. Ya think you deserve back in my good graces?" Spike asked, and the pieces suddenly made sense. Yep that's what he wanted, Xander decided. Life was really too complicated when the different parts of your brain didn't communicate well. Hell, his one brain didn't always work well, and this did seem like a case of too many cooks in the kitchen.

"Please," he reached out a hand towards Spike's leg, but something froze a centimeter away from the fabric of Spike's jeans. He held his hand there for some time, before moving his hand back to his own thigh. The cold of the concrete made his knees ache, but he remained kneeling, unwilling to give up the chance that Spike might just forgive him.

"Oi, balmy git, get off the floor," Spike finally ordered, and Xander struggled to rise, his legs not willing to cooperate for a moment as the concrete had limited the blood flow. He felt Spike's arm slip around his waist and lift him to the bed.

"Please," Xander asked again and he let his fingertips touch Spike's arm.

"Ya even know what you're askin'?" Spike asked, his expression suddenly amused. Xander had to think about that for a minute.

"Not exactly. Kinda playing by ear here, but I faked my way through so many book reports, I figured I have this covered," he finally admitted. 

"It's a vamp thing. When ya anger the master, ya have to make it up to him."

"Oh god, please don't tell me you made up with Angel because there are some things I am just not prepared to hear." Xander's eyes crept up as high as Spike's chest before the demon demanded he stop.

"Usually just brought him a screamin' girl or two." Spike shrugged.

"And yet again your idea of comforting is less than effective." Xander flinched at the discomfort in his own mind.

"Ya hurt, pet?"

"Nope, just an unhappy demon voice that wants to show his master he's sorry before cracking more jokes." He looked up into clear blue eyes that shone with a fierce possessiveness he hadn't seen before. The demon cried for him to drop his eyes, so he did and then he felt the cool fingers work through his hair.

"Go on, then," Spike said, and he reached out for the vampire's arm, touching it lightly for a second time. This time Spike reached down and used a key to unlock the chains.

"I don't…I'm not…" Xander stopped, unsure of how to do this. "I know I’m not very good, maybe you just want to…" Oh boy, that was smooth, Xander thought to himself. 

"You're just fine, pet," Spike offered as he walked around the bed to lie down.

"I know…I couldn't even… You finished yourself off to avoid…" Oh god, he really couldn't say this out loud without losing what little self-esteem he had managed to collect.

"Ya thought I didn't want ya to touch me?" Spike guessed, and Xander could only silently nod. "Some days you're as loony as Dru," Spike sighed. "Been decades since I felt a warm body under me. Never have felt a warm, willing human. So, I finished a mite earlier than I planned, and we're not goin' to discuss it any more." Xander didn't know whether Spike was telling the truth or trying to give him a way to save face, but it didn’t matter. Either way meant that Spike cared about his feelings, and that's what mattered to him.

"I can do better," Xander promised as he reached over and undid the button on Spike's jeans. "If you want, you can use the chains," he suggested, wincing at the uncertainty in his own voice. Either that, or he was wincing at actually publicly admitting that he found the restraints sexy as hell. He slipped the zipper down on Spike's jeans.

"Oi, you're supposed to be makin' it up to me. Means you get to do the work this time," He looked up to see if Spike was teasing him, but the vampire looked back with crystal blue eyes as Spike lifted his hips. Xander pulled the jeans down and tossed them off the bed, looking at the naked perfection below him. He could quickly become addicted to this body, he decided as he looked at sharp collarbones and hip bones showing through the layers of sinewy muscle. 

Thoughts floated up to his consciousness, and either the demon had few suggestions or Xander had just discovered that he was a bit of a perv. Of course, it didn’t really matter since the demon was part of him; no matter where the thoughts came from, they were part of him now. He ran a finger down the middle of Spike's chest down all the way to the soft cock, exploring the loose skin and sliding his hand up and down, amazed at the unfamiliar movement beneath his palm. 

As Spike's cock stiffened and grew, Xander released it and leaned over, groaning slightly when the pull at his back aggravated the lash marks, but he didn't let it stop him from lowering his mouth to Spike's neck, nuzzling into the soft skin and running a tongue along the muscle before biting down sharply. Spike made a groan of his own, and Xander took that as encouragement, repeating the maneuver before kissing along the chest down to the nipple where he took the flesh between his teeth and sucked. Definite reaction from Spike. 

Remembering what Spike had said about a warm body, he lowered his weight onto Spike's recumbent form, resting his knees on the outside of the slim vampire, leaving their cocks touching as Xander returned to worshiping Spike's neck. He knew he had succeeded when the vampiric ridges appeared and Spike looked at him through yellowed eyes. He reached up and explored the features with his tongue, this time not bothering to be as gentle but instead nipping once or twice, each time causing the body under him to respond passionately. 

Wordlessly, he stood and went to the cabinet where he pulled out the oil, and he could see Spike's raised eyebrow, but Xander simply straddled the vampire's thighs, turning his back to the vampire so that Spike could watch as Xander oiled his own finger and then reached around to open himself up. As quickly as possible, he added a second finger, the stinging in his back providing more pain that the quick preparation. Knowing he had to be stretched for the coming event, he created a tight triangle with his three middle fingers, forcing them past the complaining ring of muscle that couldn't quite compete with the complaining damaged skin on his back that definitely disapproved of the awkward bending. Would a vampire consider the whip marks sexy? Have to ask later, he thought to himself.

As soon as he had inserted the third finger, he worked to separate and straighten the fingers, widening the hole. He could hear Spike taking unneeded breaths behind him, either because of the show or because he anticipated Xander's next move. He removed his fingers and turned, lowering his mouth to Spike's cock even as he reached back to finish the stretching. The one arm holding all his weight trembled, but he continued, teasing and sucking and nipping at the head of Spike's cock before lowering himself until he could feel the cock touching the back of his throat. Pouring more oil into his palm, he smoothed the oil onto the stiff organ and then he shifted upward. He tried to impale himself but he couldn't seem to get the angle right. After two tries, he would have given up except he felt slim fingers suddenly holding the cock and a firm touch at his waist guiding him.

With guidance, he managed to sink onto the shaft, his legs trembling with the effort to go slow enough to avoid really hurting himself. He looked down and saw Spike's ridged features, and suddenly the familiar reddish brown filter slipped over his vision, the dark corners of the room suddenly appearing in perfect detail. He felt Spike start below him, and he looked down to see the wide eyes of his master watching. 

Lifting himself up, he used his inner muscles to squeeze briefly before reaching the apex, relaxing slightly to avoid damage and then allowing himself to basically fall onto Spike. The vampire moaned, and Xander repeated the procedure. On the third lift, he reached out and grabbed Spike's nipple, pulling sharply as he fell onto Spike's cock, and this time he could feel Spike's hips rise to meet him, the vampire unable to remain still. Xander rose up again, this time tightening his inner muscles as he fell, and suddenly Spike thrust up so hard that he was lifted from the bed.

"Turn," Spike hissed. It took a second or two for Xander to catch up to the vampire's meaning, but then he lifted half way off and carefully rotated so that his back was to Spike when he thrust down. Steel arms grabbed at him, and he dropped his head to one side as he felt Spike sit up. Instantly, two points of fire burnt his neck and he could feel Spike make short powerful thrusts as the vampire came, but the cock remained hard, and Xander remembered Spike's words about staying hard as long as he wanted. Sitting in the vampire's lap trapped between Spike's cock and his fangs with strong arms wrapped around him, Xander couldn't help hoping that Spike wanted to stay hard a long time. He dropped his head back onto Spike's shoulder, relaxing into the grip.

Spike wasn't feeding anymore, but the fangs didn't withdraw. In fact, the only movement came from one hand of Spike's which now wandered over his body. For the first time, he noticed how his own cock begged for release, dripping pre-cum down the shaft. Spike's fingers traced up the milky substance and then the fingers approached Xander's mouth. He didn't hesitate but simply opened his mouth and began to run his tongue over the slim fingers even as he sucked enthusiastically. Spike growled, but from the twitching of Spike's cock still inside him, he guessed it was a good growl and he responded by tightening his inner muscles, massaging the intruder. The hand retreated, gathering more pre-cum, but this time Xander watched as Spike detached from his neck and began sucking the fluid from his own fingers.

"So, ya think you're forgiven then?" Spike asked.

"Please," he muttered, his head still resting on Spike's shoulder, his neck still exposed. Of course, none of that made him feel as fundamentally helpless as the fact that an ancient creature with supernatural strength held him impaled on a cock.

"You're stayin' with me, by my side 'til I tell ya otherwise."


"You're stayin' away from Peaches or I'll leave stripes on your back that won't ever fade away."


"You'll bloody well use that brain for something other than holdin' up your hair next time you get in a tight spot. You'll remember that your life's worth just as much as some soddin' moron on the street?"

"Yes." He felt a cool hand close around his cock, and he tried to thrust, but the angle and his own position trapped on Spike's cock made that impossible. 

"Don't ya trust me to take care of ya?" Spike asked, his breath tickling Xander's ear, and he realized what Spike wanted. Spike wanted his trust, his willingness to allow Spike to take care of things. After Spike had spared Carlos, he would trust the vampire in anything. Spike had rejected his own instinct and his own fury because he wanted to take care of Xander, so Xander found he could trust this to Spike as well. He stilled and tried to control his breathing as Spike slowly moved his hand up and down the shaft, using his own pre-cum to lubricate the motion. Spike's fangs slid back into the channels they had carved just moments ago, and Xander found that he really couldn't move without causing a dozen little sore points, so he simply surrendered into the embrace. It only took four or five strokes before he felt himself come, his muscles twitching, his ass tightening almost painfully as he came, and then the feeling of Spike twitching within him as the vampire either ejaculated or had a dry orgasm. He felt lightheaded as Spike lowered him to the bed.

"Sleep, and heal up that back," Spike ordered as he curled up behind.

"Yes sir," Xander said and his vision suddenly returned to normal color, the sharpness of the edges and the details in the darkness just gone. Well, if that was how they were going to end their fights, he just might not mind being such a screw up he thought as he drifted off to sleep.


Chapter 11

Xander woke with cool limbs tangled around his own and blue eyes watching him.   For several seconds he lay there unmoving as Spike simply watched him.

“Mornin’, pet,” Spike finally said, and Xander realized that the vampire was waiting for some sort of explosion.  Well, he would have to keep waiting because in the cold light of day he realized that Spike had a right to be upset and that his back had already healed, so clearly the vampire had not hit him nearly as hard as it had seemed like the night before.  He was actually more pissed about Spike getting the Safari clients worked up and then leaving him.

“Morning,” he answered.

“Your back’s healed up,” Spike commented. 

“Yep,” he answered, and then the long silence revealed Spike’s true meaning.  “You didn’t expect it to heal-you wanted the marks to stay a while,” he said quietly.

“Wanted you to have somethin’ to remember, something to make sure that you didn’t make the same mistake a second time.”

“Won’t do it again,” Xander said and then dropped his gaze.  He had thought when they went to bed that all was forgiven but obviously not.  He froze on the bed, waiting for Spike’s next move, but Spike simply pulled himself up so that he sat leaning against the headboard and waited.  After a couple of minutes, Xander slipped out of the bed and went to the cabinet.  He bent down and grabbed something off the shelf he normally didn’t even like to look at, and he went back to the bed where Spike waited with a raised eyebrow.  He handed the whip to Spike.

“It’s okay, really,” Xander tried not to let his hands shake as he remembered the pain from last night, but he had told the truth when he’d once said he’d rather have Spike get it out of his system than stay mad. 

“Ya want me to?” Spike asked curiously.

“Want, no.  Definitely no.  Rather take a trig test nude type no.  But it’s better than having you mad at me.”

“Not mad, pet. Ya made it right with me.”  Xander hadn’t realized how upset his demon was until Spike said those words and the creature calmed down and stopped circling uneasily.

“But you wanted the punishment to last longer.” Xander said.

“When I had ya up on the wall, yeah.  Expected it to last a couple of days even with you healin’ up faster than a human.  But I also didn’t expect that you’d understand the concept of makin’ up with your master.”

“So you don’t want…” Xander gestured helplessly toward the whip Spike had laid on the bed.

“Once a master forgives, punishment’s over.  No goin’ back.  Fact is, pet, it works out better anyway since I really don’t want you cringin’ around with a sore back.  I’m surprised is all.”

“So is this another one of those how weird I am moments?  Cause the whole no sex rule is now back in play since I actually did stake Angel.”

“Wot?” Boy that got Spike’s attention.  The vampire sat straight up on the bed, yellow eyes locked on his own.

“He kinda came up behind me during the fight, but he’s a little faster than the average vamp, so I ended up staking him in the stomach.”  For a moment, Xander wondered if Spike were angry, his blank face and motionless yellow eyes focused on him.  Then Spike began to laugh.

“Bloody hell, if the pouf’s stupid enough to walk up to somebody durin’ a fight, he deserves a stomach ache, but what in the bloody hell did he say to ya for doin’ it?”  Spike leaned forward eagerly, and Xander found himself responding to the pure delight in Spike’s face.

“Well didn’t really say much except something along the lines of ‘Stop it.’  Of course, at the time he was rolling on the floor.”  Spike’s eyebrows nearly disappeared into his hairline, and Xander hurried to explain.  “Carlos decked him from behind with a stool or something, so when I felt this vamp who had grabbed me start stumbling, I pulled up my feet and threw all of my weight on him, sending us both to the ground before I even noticed it was Angel.”

“Oi, glad now I didn’t kill the soddin’ Largis demon.  That must have been a treat.”

“Yep, kinda fun,” he admitted.  “It felt nice not to be the bumbling idiot for a change.”

“Ya aren’t an idiot; thought we had this discussion already.”

“I’m not insulting the pet, Spike.  I’m simply pointing out that when it comes to fighting I take after the Keystone Cops more than Kung Fu.”

“Pet, ya took down a 250 year old vamp.  Don’t know any other humans who ever did that single handed, so I’m thinkin’ you need to change that attitude of yours.”

“I didn’t really take him down,” he pointed out but Spike’s uplifted hand stopped him.

“Oi!” he snapped.  “Not goin’ turn into some bloody poof always makin’ supportive comments, so bloody well take the compliment and shut up.”  Spike swung out of bed, and Xander sat there, shocked and not really knowing how to deal with Spike’s version of emotionally supportive. Strangely enough, it actually *was* more emotionally supportive than his parents. He smiled and picked up the whip to put it away.  While he had the cabinet door open he looked at the pile of his clothes.  He had no idea how to dress or even if he should bother getting dressed. 

He sat on the bed naked and wondered what his life would be like without a job.  True, his job had only been three nights a week and like most of his other jobs, he had lost it before he really even got used to being there, but what was he supposed to do all day while Spike was out doing his ‘vampire things’?  He went into the bathroom and found the familiar towel thrown over the sink, so he finished his morning duties and took a quick shower.

Surely Spike wouldn’t want him along while he and Ajani took out Cassidy’s minions, so that left him locked in the lair, hopefully just locked in now that Spike trusted him because the chains were not nearly as fun when Spike wasn’t there, and oh god, he had not just thought of chains and fun in the same thought.  Nope.  Na uh.  He was not going to admit that even to himself. 

Chains bad, he chanted as he dried off and opened the laundry room to toss in the towel.  Well, if nothing else, he could do laundry; Spike never used a towel more than once, and he was picking the habit himself.  Oh god, he was turning into a housewife.  A kinky housewife.  Xander tried to mentally scrub the image out of his mind as he walked into the main room.

“Oi, hurry up, pet,” Spike complained as he came in the room.

“What?  Where are we going?”  He reached in for a faded pair of jeans and a plain white t-shirt.  When Spike growled, he tossed the t-shirt to one side and grabbed a button up greenish-blue one instead.

“Ya get hit in the head too hard last night?  Told ya, helpin’ Q.”

 “Ajani,” Xander corrected absent-mindedly.  “You’re taking me with you?”

“Yeah, punishment's over.”

 “I know that.  I just thought you wouldn’t want me tagging along.”

 “Ya fight better than Q, why wouldn’t I take you?” Xander turned in surprise to look at Spike’s confused face as he buttoned up his shirt. 

"Hate to break it to ya, Fangface, but Ajani kicked my ass last time I took him on."

"Oi, where the bloody hell were you fightin'? In the fight I watched, ya got in a good hit, and then surprised yourself so bad ya lost your balance.  Then, injured leg and all, ya tried to hide the injury and still managed to get in a couple of good hits.  Ya might a killed the git if you'd had a stake."

"Really?  I was good?"  Xander thought back to that night, the pain of his leg, the feeling of being a wounded animal circled by a predator.  He tried to reconcile his memory with the fight Spike described.

"Up until you completely lost your mind and charged him like some bloody mindless minion.  Now, get your boots on and don't forget your soddin' weapons this time; I feel like dusting some fledges."  Spike walked away without another glance, heading up the stairs and out the door which stood open, allowing the lights from the parking lot to shine in.  Xander pulled on his boots, tucked his knife into the one boot and a stake into the back of his jeans.  A large crucifix from his days of hunting with Gunn went in one pocket, and he snapped off the lights as he went up to join Spike.

Xander was surprised they didn’t take the motorcycle, well, at least until he saw Ajani and two strange vamps sitting on a low brick wall outside a car repair shop.  He tried to suppress the shivers he felt as they walked closer to the three waiting vamps.  Logically he knew that the three in front of him were far less dangerous than the one walking next to him, but logic had very little to do with his feelings of revulsion at the two dirty, subservient minions milling around a far more confident-looking Ajani.

“Master Spike.” Ajani inclined his head as they walked up, but he didn’t project the obsequious cowering he’d shown the last time.

“Q,” Spike acknowledged, and Xander felt a cool hand reach out and pull him closer.  Feeling a little like a toddler whose mother doesn’t want him to wander too far, he had to suppress the urge to shake off the hand.  Instead he reminded himself that the alternative was being chained in a basement, and he inched closer to Spike.  The inner demon obviously approved because it sent little thoughts of relief and safety up through his mind.  He quickly nodded at Ajani and then returned to studying the minions.  Pretty standard cronies, really the only surprise had been Ajani bringing them. 
Xander didn’t realize he'd been released until he noticed that Spike had started walking again, and he had to quickly trot to catch up.

The five of them walked in silence for some time, and Xander wondered at his own sanity for walking in the middle of a pack of killers that considered humans food.  The minions would certainly attack him given a chance, and Ajani probably would.  Funny enough, the 120 year old serial killer stood between him and certain death, and he just had to mentally laugh at that irony. 

No wonder he’d nearly flunked out of school; his teachers always expected him to understand stupid examples of irony with hairbrushes and watches.  If his English teacher had asked him about the irony of seeking protection from a serial killer he might have made better grades.

He realized he was mentally babbling, but he couldn’t come up with any other diversions as they walked through increasingly run down neighborhoods.  He realized that they were only blocks outside of Gunn’s territory, and he prayed that they didn’t turn east. 

“Through dere,” Ajani said and he gestured toward a store front.  It didn’t have any of the signs Xander associated with vampires—no broken windows or boarded up doors or even any signs that the building was abandoned.  The front window of the store advertised a special on computer repair, and a cardboard sign hanging in the door announced that the shop was closed.

“Right.  Need to check it out,” Xander stood so close to Spike that he could feel the vampire tense up.  He glanced over at Spike in time to see him glaring with yellow eyes at the two minions now standing by a giant trash bin.  He suddenly understood Spike’s dilemma. 

Spike and Ajani needed to check out the lair, and minions couldn’t be trusted to do it, especially if these minions had been Ajani’s for as short a period a time as he suspected.  The weak demons would be easily turned, so they couldn’t be trusted around another master unless Ajani were present.  And as minions, their ability to act stealthily was limited at best. Of course, as a human he would have alerted every vampire around with his smell and heartbeat, so he needed to stay outside too.  Spike wanted to stay with him and protect him from the minions but he also wanted to go into the building and investigate the lair.  He wanted to object to being treated like an invalid except he really did worry about being alone with two possibly hungry minions and he didn’t want to challenge Spike in front of the other vampires.  He suspected it might prove deadly.

“Master?” he asked, making sure he said it loud enough for Ajani and the minions to hear.

“Yeah, pet?” Spike’s eyebrow did a quick twitch, but other than that he kept a neutral expression.

“The minions aren’t yours, master.  If they bother me should I disable them or dust them?”  Xander did his best to look innocent.  One of the minions growled, and Xander’s vision went red as his demon responded to the threat with a growl of his own.  He turned, determined to stare down the minion, and the vamp flinched back.  When the second minion also dropped his gaze, Xander felt the world shift as the blues and greens returned and the world once again looked slightly out of focus as was normal for human eyes.

“Try not to dust Q’s property, pet, but if they give ya trouble, do what you think best,” Spike shrugged and then made a jump for a second story window sill.  Xander had to give a low appreciative whistle for the athletic prowess as Spike easily pulled himself up.  Ajani gave him a strange look and then leapt for the sill as Spike pulled up onto a ledge and moved over to a second window.  Ajani made it, but only by one hand and he had to swing himself to get a second hand on the sill and then scramble with his feet against the wall trying to pull up.  Yep, Xander thought to himself, his vampire was definitely better.

He turned away from the building, suddenly much more interested in keeping the two minions in sight.  When he looked over, one growled at him, and Xander panicked for a second before he felt the rising growl from his own chest.  So, his demon recommended bluffing?  He could do that.

“Back off blood breath,” he snapped, and the second minion’s eyes now snapped over to him.

“Human,” minion one growled.

“Well no duh.” He rolled his eyes.  “Vampire,” he announced, pointing a finger at the complaining minion.

Vampire number two dropped his gaze again, but vampire number one now slithered forward, fangs bared in a National Geographic sort of way. 

The vampire stopped about four feet away, and Xander leaned back against the wall even as he reached back in his waistband for a stake.  Without backing up or losing eye contact, he looked at the vampire without flinching.

“You are so bucking to be dusted ‘cause one more step and your buddy’s gonna be washing your remains out of his hair--or not.  He doesn’t look big on personal hygiene.”  He watched as the minion opened his mouth to reply only to close it and back off to stand with his friend.  Co-minion?  Whatever.

He hadn’t let go of the stake at the small of his back when a familiar figure reappeared at a second story window and dropped down.  Xander felt a moment of panic that Ajani had returned without Spike, but he reminded himself that Spike could take care of himself far better than Ajani and would easily sacrifice the younger vampire to save his own hide.  And wow, betraying allies should really not be a comforting thought.

“Ajani,” he said with a quick tilt of his head.  He may not want to challenge the vampire, especially in front of minions, but he also wanted it clear that he didn’t feel any particular loyalty toward him either.  He liked Ajani, but that wouldn’t keep him from staking the vamp.  Ajani looked at him for nearly a minute—a minute during which Xander grew increasing uncomfortable until the vampire finally turned his attention to his minions.

“This massah’s out, so we be waitin’ for him.”

“And Spike?” Xander asked, half expecting Ajani to see the question as a challenge, but Ajani answered without emotion.

“Guardin' de sewah, too many minions for us both to stay and he wants de massah dead fore the minions done get riled.”  Xander could understand that vamp logic.  If the minions start doing their mindlessly destroying minion thing, the poor little human in the middle could very well get hurt.  Probably didn’t trust Ajani to take care of whatever prep work needed to get done.   

Then something else occurred to him.  Spike had left him with three vampires, and he suddenly knew that Spike was trusting him to take care of himself.  It was more than Gunn ever did, but then again with his little passenger hitting the brakes in the middle of fights, he couldn’t really blame Gunn for thinking of him as a total screw up not even worth training.  He just wished Gunn had looked past that to see whatever had make a century old vampire trust him.

He leaned back against a chain link fence, feeling the cold thick wire digging into his back.  Okay, he just needed to wait for Spike.  He could do that.  He shifted against the fence.  No problem waiting.  He was the mighty waitin' man.  How long could this new master take to get back anyway?  He’d just wait for Spike.  Oh who was he kidding; he couldn’t stand the quiet.

“So, Ajani, do you ever remember your life, I mean the life before you got… um… well… vamped.”  Wow--that really came out bad.  Hopefully asking about life before undeath wasn’t some sort of vampire taboo.  Ajani turned and considered him with a curiously blank expression.  “Don’t remember?” Xander finally asked just to fill the silence.

“Jes’ been awhiles since I thought about it, but I kin ‘member ever moment.”  Ajani moved toward the street so that Xander found himself between the two minions standing next to the dumpster and Ajani who stood watching the street from the edge of the alley.

“So you still know who you were?  You remember dying?”  He shifted slightly so that he leaned against the building and could keep an eye on the minions even while talking to Ajani.  He might be stupid, but even he wasn’t *that* stupid.

"Sho enough.  Went to a stomps ovah in de next county to meet up wid a woman, met a vamp instead.  Fore I knew it, I b’longs to the vamp, and I follow him north.  Fuhgot m’self for a while truth be told."

Xander thought about that, well, to be more accurate, he tried to decipher the vampire’s thick accent.  He’d gone to a ‘stomps?’ Well he wanted to meet up with a woman, so party maybe.  Yep, Gunn and the crew had staked more than their share of vamps at parties, maybe because people were just so willing to invite anyone in during a party.  But Ajani had forgotten himself?  He obviously remembered now, so what had changed?  He briefly considered the possibility of vampire psychology classes just to try and understand his life, but Ajani continued talking.

“I ‘members dis one time, these white folks eased up on a group of boys day aftah a squall.  Lynched ‘im all.  Three bodies swingin’ jes’ cause dey’s worked up over some niggah who’d passed one a dey’s tests—de type dey used to keep us from votin’.”

“Holy shit,” Xander responded.  Sure he’d studied the violence and racial killings in the south, but he was standing with a man who’d watched friends get hanged because white people were angry about a black person casting a vote.  Ajani was like a living textbook, or an unliving textbook anyway.

He looked at Ajani’s face and wondered if the vampire still cared about those three dead boys.  Yeah, if he met three boys now he’d probably catch a snack and would kill them without regret, but did he still remember being a human and watching innocent people die?  Did he remember caring?  Ajani continued after a brief pause as if the vampire couldn’t stop talking now that someone was listening.

“B’longin’ to a vamp didn’t seem too bad.  My massah, when some older vamp ketch him and dust him, I’s a bit lost.  De other vamp, he don't wan' me”

Xander couldn’t come up with a more intelligent response than “huh.”  Ajani seemed to have finished because he wandered back toward his minions.  Xander watched him thinking again how little he had understood on those nights when he had followed Gunn.  A blond head suddenly appeared in the window, and Spike leaned down holding out a hand.  Without even questioning, Xander jumped up and grabbed for the outreached hand.  He felt Spike’s grip lock onto his wrist and pull him steadily upward until his feet landed on the window sill.  He ducked down and crawled into the building without talking, moving to one side while Ajani made the jump and then reached down to help his minions.

Spike stood to the side and gestured Ajani over to him, and the two talked before Ajani gestured to his two minions and started out the door.  Xander waited as Spike walked over to him and watched the three leave.

“We gonna help?”

“Not if we can bloody help it; it’s Ajani’s job to take them out, innit?”  Spike walked up and stood at the door and Xander moved in just behind him.

“Then why are we here?”

“Already took out a couple of older vamps, one was childer for sure.  Now it’s time for him to take charge and take over the soddin’ nest.  Can’t do that for him.”

“And if he gets killed?”

“Then we find another vamp to make master.  Only doin’ this to get the minions off the streets and back under control, pet.  Don’t really care of Q bloody gets himself killed or not.”  Xander knew that Spike was telling the truth, but he had grown to like the red-haired vampire and he really didn’t want to see him killed.  On the other hand, he could see that if Ajani didn’t fight for himself, he would never hold power and never demand obedience from his minions. 

“I really hope it doesn’t come to that,” Xander said, and Spike instantly jerked around and glared at him.  It only took Xander a half-second to process that look.

“I like him in a totally human don’t really want to see him dead type way and not in any sort of feeling loyalty or wanting to serve him type way.”  He watched Spike’s features go from infuriated to amused in a blink.

“Don’t know how to take ya half the time,” Spike acknowledged.

“Yeah, don’t know what my own brain is doing three-fourths of the time, so no problem.”  They stood in silence for several minutes, and Xander had almost reached the limits of his ability to stay quiet.

“Ajani’s done, pet.”

“Done as in finished or done as in done for?”

“Oi, think I’m daft enough to still be here if he’d lost?”  He had to admit Spike had a point.  He also had to admit that he was relieved that Ajani instead of the other homicidal monster had won.  If Gunn could see him now, he’d probably run a stake right through his heart.

“Come on then,” Spike called, and he realized that Spike had started down the stairs.  He hurried to catch up, passing through several doors and passing Ajani’s two minions at the entrance to the basement stairs before descending into the main lair. 

The vampires had obviously chosen this building for its huge basement, which looked like most lairs he’d seen—a little cleaner than normal, but not the cozy retreat Spike kept or the sheer decadence of Cassidy’s warehouse.  This place had a little trash scattered across the floor, old newspapers and tossed clothing.  The furniture was clearly picked from the garbage, and a half dead human hung from chains on one wall.  Xander looked closer at the hanging human.

Xander almost froze at the sight of a black man hanging from chains: bruised, clothes half torn away, eyes closed, neck torn and seeping blood.  It's not that he'd never seen a human half dead in a vampire lair before, it's just that he never expected the half dead victim to be Gunn.


Chapter 12

"Oh God, it's Gunn." Xander grabbed Spike's arm hard enough that the vampire growled softly.
"Oi, watch the leather."  He knew that Spike recognized the hanging prisoner because his eyes never left the injured man.  Obviously Spike hadn't forgotten their last meeting, but Xander wasn't about to let one little homicidal vampire stop him from helping Gunn.  He started forward, but Spike's hand snagged him and pulled him back.

"I'm helping Gunn," Xander gave a good impression of a snarl as he tried to pull free, but when his various tugs didn't help, he had to admit defeat and allow Spike to pull him back to the vampire's side where Spike's arms wrapped around Xander's waist.

"We had this discussion this mornin' pet.  Your life is worth just as much and if ya go around riskin' yourself, I really will put bloody stripes on your back and chain you in the lair," Spike hissed into his ear, and Xander didn't doubt the veracity of the statement for one minute.

"I can't walk away," he whispered back, desperate and afraid Spike would make him leave, and Gunn clearly couldn't save himself because he hadn't even raised his head at the noise.

"Soddin' white hats, always think they have to save the bloody world.  Some days I think you and Peaches deserve each other," Spike sighed into his ear even as his eyes darted around the room.  Minions still crouched on the floor toward the corners, and Ajani randomly walked from group to group, sometimes staking and sometimes biting into necks and sometimes running a hand through some fledge's hair.

"No one's eatin' him right now, pet.  We wait."

"Just tell Ajani to hand him over."

"Said we wait, pet.  I'm not tryin' to get your mate killed, but I’m about to put a bloody leash around your neck."  He looked into Spike's eyes and saw that he had exceeded any patience the vampire may have once possessed.  Dropping his gaze and biting his lip to keep from saying something stupid, he followed as Spike walked closer to Gunn.

Xander watched vampire after vampire walked past Gunn, ignoring the suffering human, for which he was uniquely grateful.  As he followed Spike over towards Ajani, he lived in fear that one of the vampires would grab Gunn and finish draining him, or even worse, turn him.  Xander looked toward Ajani who had settled into a chair and prayed that the young master had enough minions to keep him happy because he couldn’t live with himself if he allowed Gunn to get vamped.  Ajani now sat in a relatively decent armchair, obviously the nicest in the basement, and Spike walked over and perched on the edge of an old oak table. 

He nearly jumped at the sound of Spike’s soft growl, and when he turned from Gunn’s half-naked form to Spike, he could see the aggravation in the vampire’s eyes.  Spike’s eyes darted toward the floor and then to the room of vampires, but he simply gave Spike his best confused look, not hard considering his confusion. 

Spike’s hand darted out and snagged his shirt, pulling him closer and, he finally figured out, pushing him down.  Dropping to his knees as he had at the demon bars, Xander tried to play the part of the good little pet without staring at Gunn.  Nearly 40 minions clustered in small groups, several near Ajani’s chair, and Xander knew that even Spike couldn’t fight his way through this crowd.

“Massah Spike,” Ajani called, but Spike continued lighting his cigarette without acknowledging the call.  He took a couple of deep pulls on the cigarette and released a cloud of smoke before responding.

“Yeah, mate?”

“I owes ya, Massah Spike.  Me court, it’ll always be open to ya.”  Xander watched the minions shift uncomfortably at that news.  Several pairs of eyes turned to consider them, and Xander dropped his gaze to the floor to avoid accidentally triggering some fight in the increasingly tense atmosphere.

“No problem, mate,” Spike said, and Xander glanced up to see minion eyes bounce from Spike to Ajani.  “Just need one favor.”  Spike stopped to continue pulling on his cigarette, seemingly unconcerned by the minions that now shifted nervously and the gold tint in Ajani’s eyes.  Spike continued to smoke for several minutes as the tension built. 

“The human there, he thinks my pet owes him somethin’.  Challenged me in front of my sire before runnin’ out like a coward.”  Xander felt cold fear flowing down his back as Spike nodded toward Gunn.  Oh god, please don’t let Spike kill Gunn.  Xander glanced toward the motionless man.  Glancing back, he could see both Ajani and Spike watching Gunn with undisguised disgust.

“I’s happy to give him to ya,” Ajani waved a hand, and two minions moved in on Gunn, freeing his hands and allowing his body to fall to the ground.

“Oi, don’t want him dead before I can kill him,” Spike complained, and the minions picked Gunn up more carefully and brought him over to Spike, laying him out so that his bruised body rested inches away from Spike’s foot.  Xander struggled not to reach out and check for a pulse because the body lay motionless and he couldn’t even be sure Gunn was breathing.

“Dat all, Massah Spike?”  He spared Ajani a glance and he could see the vampire leaning forward in his chair, his eyes flashing gold and his body poised for a fight.

“Yeah, mate.  Mind the warnin’ about my sire, though.  He’s a wanker who’ll stake ya as soon as look at ya.”  Spike reached down and pulled Gunn’s arm, dragging the body high enough for Spike to tuck an arm around Gunn’s waist so that Gunn’s head dangled near the floor and his feet drug along the concrete.  Xander stood behind Spike, wanting to reach out for Gunn but not wanting to risk the man’s life. 

He honestly thought Spike was saving Gunn, but he couldn’t be sure, and he didn’t want to anger Spike by showing too much concern for his former friend.  So he simply followed as Spike walked up the stairs, Gunn’s head perilously close to each step as Spike climbed.  On the street, Spike tossed his cigarette and got a shoulder under Gunn’s arm.

“Oi, not carryin’ the wanker alone here.”  Xander quickly slipped under Gunn’s other arm and followed Spike’s nodded directions as they walked down the street toward the abandoned basement the crew called home.

“Um, Spike?” he finally worked up the nerve to ask, “Is he going to…. Is he dying?”

“Bloody hell no.  Never did have the luck that soddin’ Irish bastard always seemed to have.   Only luck I ever get’s the bad kind, innit?”  Spike cursed.  He wasn’t quite sure how to answer that so he stayed uncharacteristically silent until he noticed where Spike led them.

“How do you know where the guys hang out, Spike?”

“He hurt ya, pet.  Hurt ya and would a killed ya if he’d had half a chance.”

“Gunn wouldn’t…” he saw the look in Spike’s eye and stopped.  “Okay, he might have, but only in a really not thinking straight in the heat of the moment and thinking I was a demon kinda way.”

“Wouldn’t make ya less dead, pet.”

“And how does this explain your ability to navigate down here?”  Xander suspected he knew where this led, but he really wanted to be wrong.  He’d never wanted to be wrong so much in his life.

“The lot of them are lucky to be alive.  The pillocks don’t cover their trails.”

“And were you planning on doing anything other than looking?”  Xander shifted as he redistributed Gunn’s weight so he could walk more easily.  Luckily in this neighborhood the sight of two men carrying home a drunken friend didn’t even cause turned heads.

“Might of been, but the pouf’s been down here, talkin’ to them and lookin’ out for them.” 

“Whoa, Luther and crew talking to a vampire?  Okay, that’s just a little surprising as in waking up to find the Carolina Panthers winning the Superbowl kinda way." 

Gunn groaned and that ended the conversation.  Of course, Spike’s constant and steady growls mixed with occasional curse words also tended to impair the conversation.  Xander resolved to look up dangleberries, wassock, pilchard, and nit.  Arsewipe and tosser he could pretty well figure out without a dictionary.  Yeah, Spike obviously didn’t like saving Gunn and he could only hope that didn’t reflect on Spike’s desire to kill Gunn.  He was suddenly discovering the benefits of unemployment; maybe his vampire needed a little vampire sitting.

“That’s it,” Xander said as he nodded toward the familiar building.  Why he didn’t know because Spike obviously already knew which building already.  Spike stopped across the street, and Xander had to stop or risk dropping Gunn who now made small groans on a semi-regular basis.  As they stood looking at the building, he found himself wondering just how they could manage this.  After Spike’s confession about the whole spying on the crew thing, he certainly didn’t want to offer Spike an invitation, but he couldn’t carry Gunn by himself.

“Go on then, get a couple of ‘em to do the carryin’.”  Xander felt Gunn’s body pulled away from him as Spike took the weight and freed him to go get help.  He looked at Spike, his face totally blank as if he hadn’t been cursing up a storm earlier.  From his comparison of Gunn’s whole crew to dangleberries on Angel’s arse, he had to guess that the vampire didn’t like any of them, but here he was helping one, hopefully.  He didn’t *think* Spike would take the opportunity to finish Gunn off, but he had to admit it as a possibility.  On the other hand, they couldn’t leave Gunn here and they had to get back to the lair soon, so waiting was out.  Right, facing the guys alone was the plan then.  He took one step and Spike’s voice stopped him.

“They lay one finger on ya, and the lot of ‘em’s dead, make sure they know that, pet,” Spike commented casually as if he hadn’t just threatened murder.  He nodded to Spike and then ducked between cars as he dashed for the familiar entrance.

The basement hadn’t changed, he noticed as he walked in the door.  Guys who’d obviously just returned from hunting repaired weapons while others stretched out on thin bunks.  Casey’s Playstation buddy was Lou this time, and Luther stood staring at something pinned to the wall.  He wasn’t sure how to announce his presence when a voice solved his dilemma.

“Look who the cat drug in,” Luis called out, and Xander forced a smile on his face, a smile that faltered when Luther spun, crossbow in hand.

“Whoa, ya know most people just make excuses to get rid of company,” Xander tried joking as he held up his hands, but he noticed that Luther didn’t move the crossbow and now the other guys were silent, watching the scene.  Gilly took one step forward as if to defend Xander before she stepped back and stood next to Gwen.

“Heard ya changed sides.  Always were a demon magnet, so we shoulda figured you’d end up a demon,” Luther snapped.

“Hey, no more demon now than the day I dropped that plate of pizza on your favorite shirt, and I’m thinking I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that when you’re all Rambo-guy with the weapons.”  Xander shuffled back, his hands still held up in surrender.  He never expected them to welcome him back, but he honestly hadn’t expected violence.  He wondered for a minute if Spike could hear; if so, some of the crew might end up as walking to-go meals.

“What you want?” Luther demanded.

“We were out and about and ran into Gunn hanging around, thought we might bring him home.”  Xander quipped, starting to truly panic at the expression of disgust and hatred in Luther’s eyes.

“Where is he?” 

“Outside with Spike,” Xander answered, and then Luther closed the distance before he had time to react, Luther’s large hand pinning him against the door as the point of the crossbow dug into his stomach.

“This ‘we’ wouldn’t be the vampire you’re hanging with now, would it?” Luther’s voice dropped into a near whisper, and Xander found himself shivering at the sound.

“He got Gunn out of a lair.  He’s guar…” Xander would have said more, but he found himself bodily thrown into the room, Casey and Lou catching him inches before he stepped on the Playstation.  “Hey!”

“Shut up,” Luther said as he gestured for the others to grab weapons.  Xander tried to step forward, but a hand landed on his arm and he turned to see Casey holding him even while the man refused to meet his eyes.  “Come on then,” Luther demanded, and Xander felt himself pushed forward, not a single member of the crew objecting when the shove from either Casey or Lou sent him off balance and struggling not to fall. 

When the group reached the street, Xander almost fainted with relief to see that Gunn now stood beside Spike, the fingers of one dark hand tangled in the chain link fence and the other hand gripping the vampire’s arm.  Spike, as usual, simply looked bored as if nothing in the world was important enough to bother him.

“Gunn, you alright?” Luther called without crossing the street, and Gunn nodded shakily.  Luther motioned for the crew to follow, but Spike’s voice interrupted him.

“Ya don’t need more than two wankers to help him; leave the rest over there,” he ordered with a flash of gold in his eyes. 

Luther took a deep breath as if to argue, but Gunn raised a hand and gave the signal for two members to move forward.  Luther let out his breath in an exaggerated sigh and touched Lou on the shoulder.  Xander found himself pushed forward as Lou grabbed his arm and ‘escorted’ him across the street.  He tried not to show the pain he felt that they wouldn’t even listen to him; he didn’t want Spike to come back and kill them all, so he steeled himself and pretended that it didn’t matter that the guys he had grown to see as some sort of family were using him as a hostage.

As they crossed the street, Xander could see the fatigue in Gunn’s face, and the guys must have seen it—either that or they saw the blood, torn clothes and bruises because Lou’s hand tightened until Xander had to intentionally ignore the pain, and Luther’s hand gripped his shoulder.

“Let Xander go; he and Spike saved me,” Gunn ordered as soon as they crossed.

“Don’t look too saved to me,” Luther pointed out.

“Yeah, well my boy and I gotta have a little talk.” Xander walked over, and Gunn leaned against him heavily, still obviously having trouble walking. “We’re just gonna go down to Culligan’s,” Gunn announced, and Xander found himself helping Gunn stumble down the dirty sidewalk to the stairs Gunn had mentioned.  There he helped Gunn sit.  Looking back, he could see Spike leaning against the fence in a pose that suggested to prey that he didn’t have a care in the world and suggested to Xander that the vampire was inches away from eating someone.  Luther and Lou had taken classic attack positions relative to Spike, but he knew they didn’t have a chance if it actually came to a fight.

“Ya know, we probably shouldn’t leave the sheep guarding the wolf very long.  Not healthy for sheep,” Xander pointed out.

“Is that what we are now?  Sheep?” Gunn snapped, and Xander could see Spike’s eyes suddenly meet his.  Obviously Spike heard that and the odds of getting away without mayhem had dropped.  He turned to look at Gunn.

“I was joking, Gunn.  You know the old saying about foxes and henhouses and sheep and wolves, although now that I’m thinking about it, the fox was guarding the henhouse and the wolves weren’t guarding anything.  They were just doing the whole kinky species cross dressing with the sheep’s clothing so I guess I shouldn’t have used sheep.”
“God, it still sounds so much like you,” Gunn’s voice sounded suddenly tired.

“It is me.”

“That’s what Alonna said.  She wanted me back in her family.”  Xander fell silent, waiting for Gunn to continue, but he didn’t. 

“You mean after she…” he let his voice trail off.  Alonna’s death still hurt him, and he knew Gunn had to be destroyed over it.

“Got vamped?  Yeah.”

“If she was vamped, that wasn’t her.  You know that.”  Xander now sat down on the cold concrete, trying to offer some comfort to the man who Xander had seen as an older brother.

“And you?  How are you any different, man?”

“I always had this demon, well not ‘always’ as in always, but always since I knew you.  The whole blood mixing with the blood—it gives me a touch of something not human, but it doesn’t change who I am.”

“Right.  Sounds a lot like Alonna’s line.”

“Did you talk to Angel?  Didn’t he explain the difference?”

“Yeah, can’t believe I’m takin’ a vamp’s word for anything, but the problem is that Angel says you aren’t like any pet he’s ever seen.  He doesn’t know what you are.”  Gunn gave a dry laugh, and Xander could hear a pain that he had never known in Gunn before.  The man who had always laughed off everything now had a laugh that screamed in pain.

“Great, one more reason to stake Angel,” he quipped.

“What?  Cause he don’t lie about what you’ve become?”  Xander looked over in surprise at the sudden defensiveness in Gunn’s voice. 

“No, because he won’t stop calling me weird, and coming from a vampire with a soul, that’s pretty pot calling the kettle blackish.”

“So your vampire,” Gunn nodded toward Spike who’s stance had relaxed quite a bit in the last minute or so.  “Any soul there?”

“Spike?  Hell no.”

“So he’s evil, and you’re hanging with him.  You can see why I might question your humanity.”  Gunn leaned back against the step, but Xander suspected it had nothing to do with Gunn trusting him and something to do with Gunn being so weak he couldn’t sit up well.

“He’s not evil.” Xander paused, unsure how to explain himself.  “He’s…morally ambigious.”


“Meaning he’ll eat you without thinking twice, but he also has another side, a side he shows when we’re alone.”  Oh god, when had he turned into a girl that he could say a sappy line like that and actually mean it?

“So, it don’t matter who dies as long as you’re getting your end off?”

“Whoa, okay, can we please never say it like that again, and no, I’m not okay with random death and Girl Scout snacks when the snacks are actually the girls.”  Xander rushed to explain.  “Spike doesn’t do that when we’re together, and I’m the first to admit he might if I’m not around, but doesn’t that suggest it might be better for me to stay with him.  You know, saving innocents by putting Spike on a Xander-approved diet?”

“You’re okay with him killing *some* people then.”

“Oh boy, so didn’t intend on going there with you.”

“Well you have now, so you better start talking, boy.”  Xander thought about that line for a long time.  Gunn had always told him what to do, and Xander had never challenged him.  Gunn called him “boy” and “my boy” when Gunn was only a year older, yet Xander had never challenged it.  Was he just really pathetic or could he blame this willingness to get pushed around on his guest?  Either way, he wouldn’t get pushed around any more.

“No, I don’t have to start talking.  I don’t answer to you Gunn, and I don’t think I ever will again.  I don’t want us to be enemies, but maybe I’m figuring out that we can’t be friends.”  Gunn took a sharp breath, and Xander braced himself for the explosion

“Damn it.  You and him, this ain’t right,” Gunn shouted.

“It feels right to me.”  That stopped the conversation cold, and they sat there watching old cars go by on the road.  Finally Gunn sighed.

“And what does the Magic 8 ball say?” Gunn asked in reference to a game they used to play.  They would sit on the stoop, watch some woman walk by and then ask the Magic 8 ball about some sexual act.  Would the red-haired woman in the mini-skirt give Xander a blow job?  Outlook not so good.  Would the short Hispanic woman ride Gunn like a pony?  Try again later.  Xander looked at Gunn, the tired eyes and the slumped shoulders, much of it from sheer blood loss.  He looked over at Luther and Lou still threatening Spike, who now looked mildly amused. The vampire kept shifting slightly, causing the two humans to constantly readjust their own stances.  He’d get tired of that game soon, Xander knew.  He looked at the faces on the far side of the street, most of them closed to him, showing masks of anger or distrust. 

“The magic eight ball says, ‘Definitely yes’.” Xander said softly, “and I never contradict precognizant plastic.”

“If you ever want to come back…” Gunn left the statement unfinished, but Xander knew what he would have to give up to earn the right to start over with Gunn, the right to go back to the beginning and fight for every inch of respect in the group.  He also knew he couldn’t ever do it.  He offered Gunn another option.

“Not enemies?”  he asked.

“I can deal with that,” Gunn replied and he held out his hand.  Xander grabbed Gunn’s forearm, and Gunn clasped his in return.  They sat there on the stoop, and Xander knew they were saying goodbye.  Without another word, he stood and started walking away from Gunn and Luther and Lou, sure that one person behind him would follow.  In less than a block, a familiar arm slipped around his waist.

“Ya alright, pet?”

“No.”  Xander tried not to cry as he walked away from every person who’d ever ditched class with him or covered for him on a test or protected his back in a vamp fight or commiserated with him after a break up.  When his mother had been so lost in the divorce that she talked to her lawyer more than her son, those people had given him a place to go and now every single one of them had turned away from him.  “Spike, make the pain go away,” he whispered hoarsely.

“Let’s get home, and I’ll do that,” Spike promised.

“Just promise me this doesn’t involve killing.” Xander had to ask, he knew Spike’s version of comfort well enough to be suspicious.

“If it’d make ya feel better, I’d torture and kill every one a them pillocks with rusty roofing nails, but seein’ as how that’d probably just make ya nuttier than Dru, we’ll skip the murder and vengeance, and I’ll just make ya forget they ever existed.”  Xander didn’t know if Spike truly had the power do make that happen, but he allowed himself to close his eyes against the threatening tears, and he followed Spike’s lead.


Chapter 13


As soon as they had reached the lair, Xander felt Spike’s arms wrap around him, nimble fingers undoing each button even as a mouth nibbled the claim mark.  Xander let himself lean back into the embrace and believe that he had found a place to belong. 

“Trust me?” Spike asked even as the vampire stripped the shirt and began work on the pants.

“Always,” Xander agreed as he felt himself moved toward the end of the bed.  Spike nipped his scar, and for one moment, he did actually forget Luther and Gunn, of course he also forgot to breathe and lost all of 10th grade there for a minute too, but it was a definite improvement over remembering.  He felt his jeans pulled down pulled down to his ankles, and then hands positioned him on his knees at the end of the bed before disposing of the jeans all together. 

“Stay,” Spike whispered and Xander knelt there, watching as Spike opened the cabinet and retrieved the leather restraints.  The vampire leapt up on the bed and hooked the leather lead to the ceiling before dropping the wrist cuffs so that they dangled slightly above his head.  Xander shivered as he realized what Spike planned.  Spike knelt in front of him, pulling up his hands and locking his wrists into the leather straps before standing again and shortening the lead so that his hands were held comfortably above his head.  Xander could feel himself breathing harder as he knelt with his feet off the bed and his knees supporting his weight as he pulled at the restraints.  Spike walked to the edge of the bed and stepped down, just watching.

“Ya done yet?” Spike asked when he had finally decided that the straps weren’t going to pull loose.  Of course he could stand up and undo the fastenings from the ceiling, but he doubted he’d have time before Spike stopped him.  So he simply waited, his arms flexing slightly against the leash.  “Stay,” Spike ordered again before leaving the room.  Xander had just enough time to worry about how stupid he looked when Spike reappeared carrying a box.

“Goin’ to make you forget,” Spike promised as he opened the box, but Xander couldn’t see the contents.  When Spike reappeared, he saw the black fabric and his eyes went wide.  He trusted Spike with his life; he trusted Spike with his friends’ lives, but there was something primal in his brain that railed against the thought of being blindfolded.  Spike must have heard his heart because a gentle hand ran down his side and around to his stomach.

“Goin’ to make you forget,” Spike repeated as he teased a nipple, and Xander felt himself buck, humping the air and yes, he found himself right back to the thought that he had to look like a fool.  “Oi, you’re thinkin’ too much.”  The black fabric closed in over his eyes before he had a chance to register a complaint.

“Hey, not so okay with the whole blindfold thing.”

“Do ya trust me?” asked that sexy, thick voice, and Xander had to answer with a slightly breathy “yes.”

“Who do ya belong to, pet?” came next, and Xander could hardly believe himself when he whispered, “you.”

“Time to let me make the pain go away,” Spike said, and Xander found himself willing to agree to anything when a talented hand reached down and fondled his balls, one at a time, even as a single slick finger slipped inside and firmly pressed his happy button.  Xander humped the air again, and this time he didn’t care how foolish he looked.  Spike’s fingers repeated the maneuver three or four times before disappearing, and he had to fight an urge to mewl in protest. 

The next thing he felt was cool soft lengths of material rubbing over his back.  When the sensation moved to his chest, Xander could smell the leather and feel the soft texture as strands slipped across his nipples.  He hadn’t yet figured it out when the material disappeared and suddenly his back tingled and heated, and then it became abundantly clear what Spike held.  The whip fell again, the soft strands momentarily stinging before the sensation reduced again to the same tingle and heat.  Xander couldn’t resist thrusting his hips into thin air as the third strike hit, this time warming his butt and falling hard enough to leave him gasping.  The fourth strike hit the back of his thighs, and Xander swallowed a scream, trying to gain some control.

“Go on, then, pet.  Let it out,” Spike said softly, but his tone belied the strength of the fifth strike, a sensation something like coolness immediately followed by warmth that engulfed his right side.  A small sob slipped out, but Xander found himself wishing he could beg for more even while feeling foolish for enjoying such pain.  He could hear Spike walk away, and he bit his tongue to avoid the pleading words that struggled to come out of his mouth.

“Pet, tell me what you need,” Spike voice appeared in his ear.

“I…” Words failed him as he found himself unable to say it.

“Ya want to let go?”  Spike asked, and he could only nod.  “It’s okay to like it, pet.”  Xander heard the words, but he couldn’t get over the thought of what Gunn would say. He knew Gunn couldn’t be part of his life any more, but the thought of the man’s disapproval wrung a small sob from his throat.  “Let go, pet,” Spike counseled, but he fought to slow his breathing and bring his words back under control before he let them fall out into the world.  He heard Spike sigh and a cool hand traced the pattern of heat on his back.

“Sometimes forget just how young ya are.  Don’t really know how to let go, do ya?”  Xander didn’t answer, not really sure what qualified as an answer and unable to judge Spike’s mood with the blindfold in place.  Suddenly lips met lips, and Xander opened to Spike’s exploration, but before he could begin to truly enjoy the contact, Spike’s lips disappeared and something cold and cylindrical slipped into his mouth, pulling his lips back and pinning his tongue to beneath it’s cool, smooth surface.  Xander tried to push it out, but he could feel the strap lock behind his head.  He tried to curse, but his protests came out as moans and grunts without the use of tongue or lips. 

The soft leather of Spike’s whip now returned, the material teasing his cock.  For a moment, the whip stopped and he thrust against it, the leather strands falling around his cock like gentle fingers, and he could feel his need mounting.  The whip moved, and before he had a chance to even stop thrusting toward it, a blow fell on his calves.  Xander screamed into the gag, free to beg for more now that the intruding plastic distorted his words beyond meaning.  The warmth spread upwards, joining the now fading warm from his thighs, and suddenly a flurry of strikes hit his back, the pain edging toward the unhappy side before settling down into a definite happy sort of tingly pain.  And since when did pain have a happy side? 

The answer was driven from his mind, along with everything else when the strikes moved to the front.  The first hit took him just under the rib cage, and Xander screamed again when the fire encompassed the softer skin of his stomach.  The next two hits were softer, each taking in his chest and a nipple.  Xander now squirmed as he tried to push forward into the contact.  He babbled fiercely, but the bit in his mouth destroyed the words, leaving him free to say whatever he wanted, no censure required. 

When the whip strikes stopped, Xander complained into the gag, causing a series of grunts which ended when strong arms circled him from behind and a naked body slipped between the legs that stuck out past the end of the bed, forcing his knees apart.  The hands slipped down and pressed against the inside of the thigh so that he spread even farther, until his inner thigh muscles complained and his arms stretched tight above him.

A strong, slick finger slipped up into him, and he let his arms carry his weight as he all but collapsed under the force of the desire building in him.  A second finger joined the first, and now the two fingers twisted in unison, stretching him quickly enough to cause tremors of pain up his back, but still definitely on the good end of that newly found scale.  Just as the third finger joined the other two, sharp fangs slipped into his hip, bringing two points of fire.  Helpless to do anything other than scream nonsense and writhe, he screamed nonsense and writhed with everything he had.  Once Spike pulled out, he could feel the warm trail of a drop of blood slither down his skin before a tongue pursued the refugee and then laved the wound. 

The fingers pulled out and in the next heartbeat, he felt Spike slide in, arms around his waist pulling him back as the vampire stood behind him.  He felt the familiar sensation of stretching and pulling before he adjusted to Spike’s size, and then each thrust came with the tingling of a fingernail running over skin.  His thigh, his chest his stomach, he never knew where, he only knew that the pleasure of feeling Spike filling him, pushing against his prostrate and possessing him would be countered with the tingling pain of these scratches as he hung, helpless to do anything other than make impotent fists as Spike pounded into him. 

He could feel his whole body alive, every skin cell announcing its presence and warmed by the stimulation, and he yelled, cursed, begged, whined, and demanded in words that the bit broke and turned into animalistic grunts.  Spike sped up now, the scratches replaced by a bruising hard grip on his hips, holding him in place as Spike thrust harder and harder.  Finally, a hand reached around and grasped Xander’s cock just below the head and all movement stopped. 

Willing to do anything to continue this moment where nothing existed except need and passion, Xander thrust forward and then pulled back.  Of course, in pulling back, he impaled himself on the hard, motionless cock behind him.  He again forced himself forward into the hand and then back onto the cock.  He sped up, slamming his body as hard as he could forward and then back until he felt his muscles start trembling, announcing the beginnings of release, and then he felt Spike take over again, hard strokes that pushed him into Spike’s fist over and over until he felt Spike’s release just at the vampire fiercely whispered “Mine” in his ear and plunged fangs into his claim mark, triggering his own release as he felt his cock twitch in Spike hand several times, the pleasure overwhelming everything as he hung limp.

He could feel Spike slip free of his body about the time he pulled out of his neck.  Xander had to admit that Spike had the power to rearrange the world because Xander didn’t think he could even care about apocalypses or Girl Scouts as thoroughly sated as he felt.  Spike lazily licked his claim mark, and he could feel the corresponding tremors go through his body.  Hands tangled with his hair before releasing the gag.

“So, pet, does the club have sewer access?”

“Huh?”  He stretched his lips, grateful that Spike had taken that out.

“The club, ya know, that place where ya use to work, they have sewer access?”

“Don’t really know, why?”

“Thought I’d stop by there and pick up my music,” Spike calmly announced.

“Uh, well…um,” Xander froze.

“Articulate as ever, pet.  Where’d ya leave them?”

“How could you…”

“Oi, ya pressed so tight against me on that motorcycle that I could feel the CD’s even through the jeans.  So, where they at?  Locker?  T’s office?  Better not be with Carlos ‘cause I already cut that wanker slack once.”  Xander thought about asking Spike to take off the blindfold so that he could watch for any homicidal activity, but then he decided he really didn’t want to see his imminent death.

“I gave them to Angel,” he admitted, and the hands that had been roaming over his body froze.

“Oi, you bloody well took that joke about 50,000 leagues to bloody far, ya pillock.”  Spike complained loudly, but the hands resumed their aimless groping, so Xander assumed he wasn’t going to die soon.  “So, ya like the practical jokes?”  Spike hands disappeared, and Xander found himself increasingly worried.

“Spike?” he called without receiving a response.  “It was before we had the …uh….talk about Angel and all,” he defended himself.

“Just remember, ya started this, and you’re makin’ me go to the pouf to get my music back,” Spike said in a slightly scary voice, but the hands that now put something around his waist moved gently. 

“What ya doing?” he asked as he felt the thick material around his waist tighten.

“Gettin’ even,” Spike amicably responded.  He felt cuffs close around his ankles and he could hear some ominous clinking.  He tried to close his legs, not that it would make him any less vulnerable, but it might make him feel less vulnerable.  Strong hands stopped him.  “You’re not goin’ anywhere.”

“Okay, I know I went too far.”  Xander went to stand and release the leash from the ceiling only to find that he couldn’t straighten his legs since some sort of chain connected the ankle cuff to the material at his waist.  Oh shit.  “Spike?” he called hesitantly.

“Wot?  Don’t trust me?” came an amused voice, and Xander just knew that he was going to pay for trying to give Spike a reason to talk to Angel and Angel a chance to talk to Spike without feeling a need to threaten him.  Served him right for getting into a family dispute he thought to himself as hands returned and pushed his knees apart again. 

Xander didn’t fight as Spike arranged him and something slick touched his hole.  He thought Spike was going for round two when the pressure increased until something rigid slipped in and settled with a pop.  He could feel himself stretched, and he could also feel the pressure on his prostate when he moved.  Hands now worked at the front of the waistband and he could feel lengths of something dangling over his genitals before being pulled through his legs and into his crotch.  The tightness irritated him, but didn’t really bother him too much, but it did push the object in his ass farther in, making Xander Jr. struggle to respond even though it was physically impossible for him to react this quickly. Spike worked at the back of the waistband, and Xander suddenly had a pretty good idea what the vampire had done.  He experimentally pushed, straining to get rid of the object lodged inside him and, sure enough, the pressure on his crotch increased, but the objected couldn’t move much at all.

“Isn’t this taking it a little far?” Xander asked as he realized how helpless he was, hobbled, hands secured, a butt plug up inside him and some sort of harness holding it in.  And of course the blindfold, which he found more annoying than all the rest combined. 

“Givin’ my music to my soddin’ sire was going a little far; this is justice,” Spike commented.  Xander opened his mouth to complain again, but the bit slid back into his mouth, and he struggled to push it out before Spike could secure it.  Of course he lost.

“Sewer’s a handy thing, pet.  I’ll go see the pouf, then drop by Ajani’s and see how things are going. Need to make sure he knows I won’t challenge him.”  Spike fell silent for a moment, and Xander couldn’t do anything except tilt his head in the direction he thought Spike stood.  “Havin’ to get that wanker out of there made things a little tense.  Having an older master make demands so quick, it’ll make him think I plan to ask for more.  Might take him a little ‘takin’ over the nest’ gift to show him I’m not looking for anythin’ from him.”  Xander groaned at the thought of being tied up for that long, so he could only hope that Spike was teasing.  Not that he could do anything other than hope of course. 

“Course, don’t want ya to get bored, pet.  Saved this back last time I found your hidin’ place.”  He could hear the familiar sound of the stereo opening and closing before the loud strains of Dead Kennedys assaulted his ears.  If he hadn’t been gagged, he might have told Spike that he didn’t actually mind this particular CD, making it useless as torture. Either way, he didn’t have the choice now as he explored the surface of the gag with the limited movement of his tongue.

“One more surprise, pet,” Spike whispered in his ear and he couldn’t help but jump, which drove the plug farther into his prostate, which caused Xander Jr. to struggle to a sort of quarter mast.  He groaned; his only hope of surviving was to keep still so his prostate didn’t get stimulated.  He had almost forgotten Spike’s words when he felt a hand between his legs and suddenly the plug began to vibrate sending waves of pleasure through his body.  Xander slapped his legs closed as he tried to deepen the sensation, pulling against the restraints and moaning loudly around the gag.  Spike stood with a hand on his lower back for several minutes before the hand delivered one last sharp slap to his butt.

“Oh yeah, don’t tease the master, pet.  I’ve had 120 years to develop tortures.”  Xander could barely even register the words as he squirmed and squeezed his inner muscles in an effort to get more stimulation.  “Have fun,” the vampire laughed as the sound of the hallway door opening and closing told Xander that he was on his own.

By the time he heard the door open again, Xander was beyond all thought.  He had tried pulling his legs up and rubbing against himself, but he couldn’t get the right angle or enough pressure, so he had eventually given up.  It took longer for him to give up trying to control the urge to move, but by the time the door came open, he twisted and squirmed and thrust and didn’t care how it looked.  Almost instantly, he felt a hand at his cock, and he thrust forward wildly even as he felt a hand push the plug up into his body.  He slammed himself forward just twice before he came harder than he ever had in his life.

By the time he had gathered enough brain cells to really pay attention to his surroundings, he lay in a hot bath with Spike washing him.  He couldn’t concentrate enough to form words as the vampire picked him up and dried him before carrying him to bed.  He didn’t even really remember falling asleep.  He only knew he had fallen asleep when he started drifting back up into consciousness feeling incredibly relaxed.  He felt as if he had overslept and Spike was already awake, a hand wandering over his curled body.  Xander lay on his side, and he felt Spike press up behind him, a strong arm curling around his waist.

He sighed as he felt a hand run through his hair before smoothing it away from his face.  Then Spike reached down and pulled his top leg up so the vampire could slip between his legs even as they lay on their sides spooning.  He hadn’t realized that Spike had somehow managed to prepare him already until he felt Spike’s cock slip into him slowly.  Once in, Spike waited a moment before slowly pulling out until only the head remained within in him.  Despite the soreness, Xander felt Spike’s fullness rubbing along his prostate and a shiver of pleasure rolled through him.

He tried to thrust back, but a strong hand held him as Spike slowly moved in and out in a steady rhythm.

“You’re killing me,” Xander gasped as Spike rolled his hips and slid in again slowly.

“Ya don’t smell like your suffering.”  Spike didn’t vary his unhurried pace.  Xander grabbed Spike’s hand from his waist and tangled his own fingers with Spike’s.  He didn’t know what had happened the previous evening, but this slow, soft approach certainly surprised him.  He shuddered again as Spike pushed into him and started two sharp fangs over the claim mark.

“Suffered last night,” Xander half-heartedly complained.  Even though he said the words, he knew that last night had been many things and suffering had not even entered the equation.  In fact the equation seemed to be something along the lines of bondage plus sexy vampire multiplied by sexual frustration equals nearly earth-shattering and coma inducing orgasm.

“Oi, didn’t think ya minded.  Fact, thought I might stage a repeat performance some time.” Xander groaned when Xander Jr. betrayed him by dripping at the very thought.  Damn traitor.  Spike just laughed and continued his slow movements.  Spike’s hand slipped free of Xander’s embrace as Spike reached down to take pity by grabbing Xander’s cock as he speeded up.  The two of them came at nearly the same time, and Xander noticed that Spike didn’t even bite him.  Oh yeah, something’s wrong with his vamp, he thought.  Ajani didn’t have the power to disturb Spike so much, so he made his best guess.

“So, what exactly did Angel say that caused this whole reaction?” Xander asked once he could breathe again.

“The pouf has nothin’ to do with it.” 

“You’re lying, vampire mine.”  Xander rolled over onto his back, wincing slightly at the soreness he discovered.

“‘M evil, pet.  Supposed to lie.”

“You’re about as evil as…” Xander caught the expression on Spike’s face and quickly edited his statement.  “As a tiger.  A big man-eating tiger that rips people’s throats out.”

“Bloody right,” Spike agreed, his expression quickly becoming satisfied.

“Which is still not evil.  Dangerous, not evil,” Xander pointed out, but Spike only glared. “And let’s stick to the subject, namely, what Angel said.”  Spike lay quietly beside him for several minutes.

“He tried to take ya, pet.” Spike finally sighed.

“No he didn’t,” Xander began and then he remembered the dark vampire stepping into his personal space, staring him down.  “Um, okay, maybe he did.”

“Ya didn’t know?” Spike turned gold eyes to him, and he couldn’t avoid hearing the disbelief in Spike’s voice.

“I really didn’t; I thought he was being an ass, that’s all.”

“Bloody hell.”  He waited for Spike to continue, but the vampire simply reached out and pulled him close so that he now lay on his stomach, half on and half off Spike.  Spike’s arms held him tight, so he settled down and wiggled his way to a comfortable position.

“Ya keep that up, and we’ll start up again,” Spike promised with amusement.

“Hey, human here.  You start up again and death by fabulous sex is a very real possibility.  My cock is sore, my backside is sore, and I’m a teenage male complaining that he doesn’t want more sex right now, so an apocalypse must be coming.  And stop changing the subject. What’s up with you and Angel?”

“He told me he tried to take ya.  Told me he told ya to leave me.”

“Oh wow, that couldn’t have been a pleasant conversation.  He does still have all his body parts attached in correct order, right?”

“Oi, not goin’ to dust my sire, that’s Peaches’ style.  ‘Sides, he said that ya wouldn’t budge.  Said ya stayed loyal to me even when he called on the demon in ya.” Spike’s voice sounded strange.
“Okay, Spike, I know I can be a little slow, but why in the world would you ever think I might go to the broody Neanderthal when I want you?”

“He’s my sire, pet.”

“Yeah, covered that, but I’m obviously missing a couple of points because when I try to connect the dots into a picture, I’m coming up with abstract art.”  He could feel Spike’s chest rise and fall as the vampire sighed.

“He’s older and stronger, luv.  A vampire or even a vampire pet should always go to the stronger master.”

Xander couldn’t resist the urge to snort.  “Yeah, right.  Strong in that Cordelia can whip him into place or strong in the whole personality split thing or strong in terms of being jealous of you?  I’m not seeing the whole ‘he’s stronger’ part of this conversation.”

“Jealous!?”  Xander gasped when the arms tightened a little too much and the pressure instantly lessened.  “What’d the tosser say to ya, pet?”

“He said that he didn’t like the fact that after you were turned, you still managed to try and create something where he just went around destroying.”

“Wanker pointed out my faults often enough.  He’d wait ‘til I’d found something I might like, then he’d take it away, laughin’ and callin’ me weak.”  Xander could hear the emotion in the tense voice and heavy accent.

“Angelus may have thought that, but Angel…Angel’s jealous that you control the demon better than he could.  That makes you the stronger person… or demon in this case.”

“He said that?”  Xander lifted his head and looked into Spike’s shocked eyes.

“Yep.  It’s why I gave him the CD’s, so you two would have to talk.”

“Wanker,” Spike complained, but he wasn’t sure whether the insult was meant for him or Angel.   The arms tightened again and Spike possessively declared, “Mine.”  Xander didn’t even have to consider the answer.

“Yours,” he agreed as he lowered his head back to the muscled chest.  “However ‘yours’ has to go to the bathroom.”  He felt the chest rise and fall in another sigh.

“Bloody inconvenient human bodies,” Spike groused even as strong arms released him.  Xander laughed and then headed to the bathroom.  He was brushing his teeth when the unmistakable sound of a trumpet and drums filled the lair.  He finished quickly and went into the main room where Spike had already dressed. 

“New CD?” Xander asked with a nod toward the stereo shelf.  He had to admit he liked the complex notes and the way that first one instrument and then another took main stage. 

“Miles Davis,” Spike agreed.  “Must be one a Angel’s; found it in the pile of CD’s he returned, and I’m not givin’ it back.”

“Pretty good,” Xander commented.

“Heard him in New York in the fifties or sixties, always did like him.  Now get a move on, pet.  We need to get goin’.”  Spike finished lacing up his boots and turned to securing various weapons in his clothes and boots.

“Helping Ajani take down another master?”  Xander asked as he got into the armoire and pulled out clothes for the day.

“Not this time.  We’re going to see Peaches.”  That stopped him in the middle of pulling on his pants, one leg in and one leg raised in the air.  Spike’s snort of laughter got him moving again.  “Talked to Ajani last night; seems like one a Cassidy’s minions got away with most of the mojo Cassidy’d collected.”  Spike shrugged on his duster, and Xander hurried to button up his shirt.  He really did dress faster back when he could throw on a t-shirt and then pull on a button up shirt without buttoning it, but the few t-shirts he’d brought had already disappeared. 

“Oh god, please don’t tell me that means that someone is going to finish that whole enslaving all the vampires scheme,” he said as he sat to pull on his own boots.

“Think so, but Ajani and his minions can’t stop them, and we’re not goin’ in there alone, so, we go to Peaches.”

“What happened to the good old days when vampires just randomly killed?” Xander groaned as he finished and tucked his own weapons away.  “Now it’s all end of the world this, enslave everyone that.”  Despite his jokes, Xander could feel his stomach tense at the thought of someone using magic to enslave Spike or even Angel or Ajani.  Before he’d worried about the power and damage a person could do with an enslaved vampire army.  Now, he worried about the vampires.


Chapter 14

“Ducks,” Spike nodded his head toward Cordelia when they walked through the door to the dim office. 

“Oh, don’t even come in here with that whole innocent act.  If you’re here to hit Angel again, you can just turn your over-bleached ass around and leave, mister.”

“You *hit* Angel,” Xander demanded, but Spike didn’t even have the grace to flinch.

“Wanker deserved it,” Spike smugly insisted.  “But I’ve got to talk to him, so the cheerleader needs to go get him.”

“And you,” Xander did flinch when Cordelia pointed a manicured finger at him.  “Exactly where were you last night?  I expect you to keep his unholy bleachiness in line.”  Xander swallowed and closed his eyes in an effort not to think about where he had been during Spike’s confrontation with his sire.  Spike’s snicker proved that the vampire had no trouble remembering the previous evening.

“Can’t really tell him what to do,” Xander pointed out with a glare to Spike who wouldn’t stop softly laughing. “Besides, I’ve learned my lesson about getting between Spike and Angel.”  Xander didn’t even think about what his words must sound like until he saw the instant worry on Cordelia’s face.

“Xander?  Are you okay?” she asked as she walked around the desk, a stake in hand.

“I’m fine, Cordie.  Just a piece of advice from experience—don’t try to pull a practical joke on a 120 year old vampire.  You won’t win.” He shrugged and Spike’s snicker, which had disappeared at the arrival of the stake, now returned.

“Whatever,” Cordelia waved a dismissive hand in their direction.  “I so don’t need to know what adolescent games you’ve been up to.”

“Who ya talkin’ to?” asked a voice from a back office and the green-eyed man, Doyle, walked out.  “Dinna know we were gettin’ regular visits or we’d a redecorated, maybe something in a nice cross motif,” Doyle commented as he leaned against the doorframe watching them.  Xander really wondered how ugly the confrontation had been the previous evening because everyone seemed on edge.  Well, everyone except Spike who had obviously caused the whole mess.

“We really do need to see Angel,” Xander hurried to say before Spike could offend them any more than he obviously already had.

“If he thinks he can walk in here whenever he wants, he’s gone in the head,” Doyle responded without moving.

“It’s all right,” came a voice from behind Doyle, and the man moved to allow Angel into the room.

“Well if it i'nt tall, dark, and broody,” Spike commented, and Xander felt himself pulled tighter into Spike’s side.  He resisted an urge to roll his eyes.

“Spike, I thought we agreed to keep our distance?” Angel asked as he moved into the room, taking a position in front of the desk where Cordelia sat and Doyle now leaned.

“Just thought you’d like a heads up, but if ya don’t want my help, I’ll just take my pet and get far enough away that we’ll be safe.”

“What are ya blatherin’ about now?” Doyle asked from his position behind Angel, and Spike released Xander in order to dig in the duster pockets for cigarettes.  Xander retreated to the arm of the sofa nearest the door.

Spike lit his cigarette and stood there, blowing smoke in Angel’s direction while Angel’s expression grew increasingly pained.

“William?” he finally demanded in a half snarl.

“Wot?  Just thought to tell ya that some bloody git got his hand on that mojo that Cassidy’d collected.  Thought you lot took care of that, but I guess good help’s hard to find,” Spike waved toward the desk, and Cordelia gave out an offended squeal.
“Jaysus,” Doyle swore.

 “Where did you hear this?” Angel demanded.

“Oi, you’d a heard too if ya stopped to talk to the fledges instead a pretendin’ ya can kill them all.  One of the older vamps set up shop on the north end, been gatherin’ minions and lettin’ the younger masters kill each other off as he sat back and chatted up those lawyers of Cassidy’s.”  The room fell into silence for several seconds.

“And why *exactly* did this minion trust you with this information?” Angel’s eyes narrowed, and Xander resisted an urge to beat both vampires until they stopped this inane game of who can piss higher.  It was like watching those stupid rams on National Geographic, the ones that rammed their heads together over and over until they proved who had the harder head.

“You really are playin’ on half a deck these days.  The minion trusted me ‘cause I’m a master or have ya forgottin’ how minions act the way you forgot your own childer?”  Xander sat up a little straighter, expecting the blows to start, but Angel wilted like a plucked flower.
“William,” he said in a far more conciliatory tone.

“Don’t bloody go there, Peaches.  Don’t want to have some wanker with mojo strong enough to bring me to heel runnin’ around.  I fought to get free a Darla, and I earned my status, so you can soddin’ help me take him down or not, but ya won’t treat me like some underling who hasn’t earned his place.”  This time the uncomfortable silence stretched far longer with the two vampires staring at each other.  Spike finally ended the stand off by walking to the door and flicking the remains of his cigarette onto the street.

“So, ya in or out?” Spike demanded from the door without turning around, his back to Angel in an expression of either submission or contempt, Xander really couldn’t tell which.  He could practically hear Angel grind his teeth, and that man was lucky he was a vampire; otherwise he might have a serious dental problem.  Angel finally spoke.

“Do you trust this minion?”

“He’s got no reason to lie.  Knows I’ll go back and torture him to death if he does.”  Spike stood motionless, no bouncing, no twitching a cigarette in his hand, no nothing.  The stillness made Xander nervous. 

“Do you know where this place is?”

“Yeah, Peaches, I do.”  Spike turned to face his sire, and now Angel was doing the silent and motionless bit.   This was just entirely too creepy.  He could see Cordelia and Doyle exchanging glances, so he wasn’t the only ones getting major wiggins.

“Cordelia, get the holy water,” Angel quietly ordered.

“You’ve got to be kidding.” Cordelia’s hand shot up to her waist as her eyes narrowed in rebellion.

“Cordelia, please just get the holy water.  Doyle, call Gunn and see if his crew can give us some support later tonight after we’ve checked this place out.”

“Hello?!?!  You’re talking about trusting the vamp that blind-sided you yesterday.  Can anyone here spell trap because I did not survive a hell mouth just to end up a vampire chew toy.”

“Cordelia,” Angel said wearily.

“T-R-A-P.  Pretty simple.”


“Trap.  Ambush.  Snare.  Lure.  Con.”


“Can I get in a word here, Angel?  ‘Cause I’m trying to make a point and I don’t think you’re listening.”

“He’s not lying.” Angel finally just started talking over Cordelia’s complaints, and she fell silent as he continued.  “We have to stop this vampire, and we have to get whatever magical objects he’s using.”

“And we’re trusting *Spike* on this?”  The second hand now rested on her hip giving her the outline of some ancient warrior… or an angry mother.  Scary either way.

“Yes, we are.  Doyle—phone.”  Angel now turned to completely face his own crew, and Doyle reached for the phone.  Cordelia’s hand landed on the handset before Doyle could pick it up and the man looked up at Angel helplessly.  Oh yeah, this wasn’t of the good.

“Gunn’s probably not going to be up to anything other than soft foods after yesterday anyway,” Xander said about three seconds before his brain reminded him that he didn’t really want to get into a discussion with Angel, certainly not in front of Spike who had gone a little extremeish last time he’d talked to Angel, certainly not when the topic included Spike’s whole secret plan with Ajani.

Angel swung back to face him, taking two steps toward their end of the room, and he could hear Spike sigh and shift closer to the couch where he sat.

“And I think I’m going back to the whole not talking thing—I get in less trouble that way,” Xander nervously laughed.

“What did you do to Gunn, William?” Angel spoke to Spike, but his eyes remained focused on Xander until Xander squirmed under the glare.

“Nothing.  Would of happily killed the wanker, but ended up pullin’ him out of a lair instead.  Not going to talk about it.”

“You saved Gunn?” Angel now turned to Spike, confusion pulling his brows into deep furrows.

“Nancy-boy thing to do, but yeah.  I did.  Enough said.”  Xander watched Angel’s eyes travel from him to Spike and back to him.  The vampire reached some sort of conclusion because his forehead smoothed out and he nodded knowingly. 

“He okay?” Xander didn’t realize that Angel was talking to him until Spike nudged him and he looked up to see Angel watching him intently.

“I guess.  He was strong enough to take me on a whole guilt trip, so I’m assuming that means he’ll live.”  He squirmed a bit talking to Angel, and the vampire must have realized it because he backed up a step or two, and Spike returned to his place leaning against the door.

“We’ll check the place out and see if we can handle it with the five of us,” Angel announced.

“Never do like this part of the plan,” Doyle complained but he followed Angel into the back and helped him carry out a large collection of weapons.

When they reached the building in question, Xander found himself agreeing with Doyle.  The place had once been some sort of utility station with thick concrete walls and wire towers and a steel door.  Hell, it might still be a utility station, but God help the utility worker who tried to go in there because vamps slipped in and out of the half-open door with regularity.

“They must have sewer access in there,” Angel commented as he lay on a small hill watching the facility.

“Ya think?” Spike sarcastically snapped back from the convertible.  He hadn’t liked coming in one vehicle with Angel and company, but the older vampire had insisted that Spike’s motorcycle with its missing muffler and throbbing engine was just a little too obvious.  So that left Spike and Xander in back with a very uncomfortable Doyle.  A particularly uncomfortable Doyle once Spike made it clear that he would sit in the middle and Doyle would not be anywhere near *his* Xander.

“Spike,” Angel snarled, but Xander was relieved that the older vampire had returned to using the nickname.  When Angel said “William,” he was reminded of his mother’s angry “Alexander Leville Harris,” and that was so not a good memory. The very sound of his full name still sent his manly bits retreating.

“What’s the plan?” Doyle asked from his position next to Angel, binoculars in hand.

“It better not include me getting down in the dirt with you two,” Cordelia called quietly, but she was also pulling weapons out of the trunk and sorting them by function:  crossbows with the stake throwers, maces with the swords.  Strange girl.  Dirt, no; weapons, yes.

“Right now, we wait and try to get an idea of how many are in there.”

Xander turned to see Spike gesturing to him, and he followed Spike away from the others toward a distant fence.

“Ya stay back in this, pet.  Don’t care what Peaches says, you’re mine and you’ll bloody well listen to me.” Spike didn’t even make eye contract with him, instead the vampire stared toward Angel.

“But what if—”

“Oi, no arguin’.  Peaches and I can take care of ourselves, and if it comes down to you or those two wankers that hang around Peaches, you’re worth more than them.”  Gold eyes flicked toward him before returning to study Angel.  Xander turned to watch the scene that fascinated Spike.  Cordelia leaned on the car flipping through a magazine while Doyle and Angel lay on the grass.

“It’s not really a matter of w—”

“If ya say one more word arguin’, you’ll soddin’ well stay in the lair until this nest is cleared out.  Got it?”  Xander felt his demon moving within him, pushing and urging him to obey.  Of course, he couldn’t really do much to help compared with Spike and Angel, so he nodded his agreement.

“Promise,” Spike ordered.

“You’d take my promise?  What about the whole 'supposed to lie' thing?” Xander asked.

“I’m supposed to lie.  You’re a bloody white hat; you don’t lie.  Not to me, pet.”

“I promise, Spike.”  Xander felt a heaviness in his mind and he wasn’t sure he would be physically able to break that promise.  “So no Ajani tonight at all?”  Xander whispered.

“Nope.”  Spike turned his head as if listening for something but obviously concentrating on Angel more than his current conversation.

“Kinda like him,” Xander commented, and when Spike shot him a disgusted look, he quickly amended his statement. “In a human-friend sort of way which is actually a little disturbing considering he’s a killer and I really shouldn’t like killers, well, except for the obvious…and I am so gonna shut up now.”

“Yeah, well I told ya not to get attached.  Masters from different lines don’t share well, so we won’t be goin’ back.”

“Why?” Xander suddenly feared that Spike might have done something.

“’Cause he’s master enough to not want me around.  ‘Sides, after we take care of this wanker, that only leaves two or three real masters in the city.  Ajani can either make a truce and carve out his own territory or he can try and take the city, don’t really give a rat’s arse one way or the other.”

“But the vampire war…my mother…my friends.”  Xander could hear his voice approaching girly altitudes, but he nearly panicked at the thought of Spike abandoning them and making him abandon them.

“Oi, told ya I’d get the city quiet, and I did.  With only a couple a masters, they’ll settle things traditional-like, so no more marauding minions.”

“Marauding minions,” Xander laughed nervously, “that sounds like a Gilbert and Sullivan musical.”

“Bloody hell, ya really are daft.”  Spike shook his head.  “Right, so let’s see what my wanker of a sire has planned.”  Spike started back toward the rest of the group, and Xander followed.  He appreciated that Spike didn’t want him to get hurt, but when Spike had left him to take care of himself with Ajani’s minions, it had felt so good.  Just knowing that someone didn’t see him as the pathetic one, the loser, the demon-bait oaf made him happy.  Now Spike had with one sentence relegated him back to sidekick land.  Even worse, by forcing the promise out of him, he knew his own demon would fight to enforce it.  Xander stopped obsessing when Spike turned and gave him a confused expression right before reaching the others.

“Pet?” he asked softly.

“I’m fine,” Xander answered quickly and then walked by Spike to lean next to Cordelia.

“Any plan then?” Spike pulled cigarettes out of his duster and started toward Angel.  When he got high enough on the hill, he crouched down so that the guards at the door below wouldn’t see him.

“A friend a mine has access to some city plans.  He’s bringin’ blueprints now,” Doyle offered.  Xander watched as Doyle slid closer to Angel, and he had to suppress a smile.  Everyone else reacted to Spike as if he were a killer, and yes, he actually was a killer, but Xander could see the nervous bounce that revealed his desire to *do* something.  He watched the cigarette and knew that Spike was uncomfortable and trying to put on his ‘Big Bad’ personality.  He listened to the accent thicken and suspected that Spike was upset about the coming fight.  The longer he knew the vampire, the more he understood his moods, but he just wished he could find the button to push to make the vampire trust him.

Xander hadn’t come to any conclusions an hour later when a new car arrived and Doyle met with some man, the two of them leaning over a laptop computer and a pile of blueprints weighted down with small rocks.  He’d had no idea that fighting evil could be so boring and had even resorted to Cordelia’s magazines.  Doyle, Angel, and the new guy talked and pointed while Spike offered a couple of comments that the others obviously dismissed if he was reading body language right.

“Don’t you ever get bored?” Xander asked Cordelia one article about pores and two boyfriend quizzes later.  They had moved to the backseat.

“He pays; I sit,” Cordelia waved a dismissive hand toward Angel as she continued to read. 

“But is it always like this?”

“On good nights, yes.  On bad nights, there’s more slime.”

“Wow, I just thought fighting for truth and justice would be more…interesting.”  Xander threw the magazine down and looked over at the conferencing trio and hovering Spike.

“Is that what you’re fighting for?” Cordelia asked in a suddenly serious tone.

Xander watched Spike animate an argument with a cigarette flick and a quick flash of game face.  Doyle retreated, but the new guy ignored the antics.  He wasn’t near enough to hear, but he placed good odds that Angel had either just called Spike ‘William’ or sighed heavily.  “What?” he finally asked when he realized Cordelia had asked a question.

“Truth and justice, is that what you’re fighting for?” she sighed in obvious frustration at his inattentiveness.  Xander looked over to find Cordelia’s magazine forgotten in her lap and a far too serious expression on her face.


“Interesting choice in partners then,” Cordelia’s gaze slipped over to Spike, but then it returned to pin him to the car seat.

“I’m not gonna sit here and fight with someone who also hangs out with a vampire.”

“Mine has a soul,” she shot back.

“And I’m really sick of hearing that.  Does that somehow change who he is?  He’s still a vampire, you know.”  Xander tried to keep his voice down, but when he glanced over at the group, Spike now stood staring directly at him, ignoring the other three.  Oh yeah, overprotective mode in five…four…three…

“He’s evil,” Cordelia nearly hissed in a good imitation of a vampire herself.  “You can tell yourself whatever you want, but he’s evil.”

“And how exactly would you know that?”

“Sunnydale born here.  I grew up around evil.  I saw what Angel did when his soul went MIA, and it wasn’t pretty.  There were dead fish involved.”  Xander narrowed his eyes in confusion, wondering if he had missed something because he thought she had just said dead fish.

“You’re worried about the fish of the world?”

“I’m worried about how long you can keep Spike on a leash.”

“No leash here.”  He held up his empty hands.

“You really are an idiot, aren’t you?  You know, when I first saw you, I thought about calling Willow.  You know, telling her I’d found you because she really worried when she tried to call you back after your little fight and found out your phone had been disconnected.  But I didn’t know how to explain all these changes in your life: the gay thing, the pet thing, the sleeping with the undead thing.  Now I realize that you haven’t changed at all.  You were a moron then and you’re a moron now.”  Xander sat open-mouthed and speechless as he tried to scrape up enough dignity to even reply.

“You were a bitch then and you’re a bitch now.”  Xander was proud of himself; he didn’t babble, stutter, or cry even though he had an urge to do all three.

“A bitch who tells the truth,” Cordelia instantly announced in a regal tone.  “That vampire would happily eat us, but he plays nice while you’re around.  So what happens when he gets tired of you or you try to find whatever life a *person* like you considers normal?  Hell-lo, he’s going to go binge on the local population because he’s not the cute and fuzzy you seem to think he is.”

“And he’s not what you think either,” Xander growled back.  He struggled to keep his voice low since technically they were still on stake out.  “He isn’t Angel.  He never ate his family.  He never tried to kill every person who knew him as a mortal.  Angelus was a sick bastard who got off on other people’s pain; Spike just *is*, so don’t compare them.”  Wow lame ending on that argument, but then he didn’t really expect to win against Cordelia.

“And how do you think he got that name?  His pathetically outdated hair?”

“I know all about the railway spikes he used,” Xander snapped back, but he had to admit he was disturbed by Spike’s story of torturing people, one he’d heard shared with a demon over a drink while Xander knelt on the floor by the vampire’s side.

“And you’re okay with that?”  Cordelia demanded.  Xander thought of Angel and Spike in the office, facing off with one vampire claiming the mantle of “goodness” and “honor” and the other vampire just wanting the respect of his sire.  Suddenly a piece slipped into place and Xander realized that he was okay with Spike’s past.

“I’m fine with his past because he did that to impress your boss. Angel is his sire, and he wanted to prove that he was just as strong, so if he did things that were evil, I’m blaming Angelus.  As for him being a vampire, deal with it.”

“My god, you really do love him.” Cordelia’s sharp tone mutated into wonder and a soft wistfulness so quickly that Xander felt like he had just jumped realities and landed in a new conversation.

“I…Um…Okay, lost now.  You’re supposed to do the bitchy thing and then I do the whole defensive thing, and don’t go changing the rules on me mid-fight.”

“I still think you’re stupid,” she shrugged, “but you just keep in mind that Spike’s only playing well with others because instead of trying to impress Angelus, he’s trying to impress you.  I suggest that if you ever want to break up you hire a whole lot of bodyguards and give the rest of us enough warning to update our security.”

“And again with the comparing him to Angel.  There’s no comparison.”  Xander stood up and stepped over the side of the car onto gravel path.  He’d expected to find Spike waiting in full game face ready to eat Cordelia.  Instead both vampires and the new guy—car and all—had disappeared.  Doyle leaned against the base of a cable pole, and Xander stomped toward the man.

“Where’s Spike?” he asked when he got close enough to ask without raising his voice.  Alerting the entire nest of vampire’s on the other side of the hill didn’t fit in with their plans…if they’d actually formed a plan yet.

“Spike had an anger management issue; he and Angel went back of the shed there,” Doyle nodded toward an old wood shack, and Xander altered direction without another word. 

What right did Cordelia have to question him?  Her comment about Spike getting tired of him hit a sore spot, but he didn’t think for one minute that she was right about Spike being a sadistic killer like Angelus.  Spike killed to eat, which technically people did too.  Every sick and twisted story Spike told had either Angelus or Darla in it.  Every person he raped had been next to Angelus, and now that Xander thought about it, Spike had described the violence with great detail and joy, but he had described Angelus’ reaction in even more detail.  Spike was a vampire with a demon’s sense of family and love and honor, but that didn’t mean he was a monster…okay, it did mean he was a monster, but that didn’t make him less of a person or maybe just not less of an individual.

Xander was shaking his head at his own mental confusion when he turned the corner of the shed and stopped dead.  Spike’s back was up against a pole, Angel’s body trapping the smaller vampire, which didn’t actually surprise Xander.  The surprise came from Angel’s mouth locked over Spike’s neck, and Spike in full game face buried in Angel’s neck.  The sounds of drinking and moaning were unmistakable and Xander felt himself react to the raw lust he could practically smell. 

Holy shit, what memo had he missed?  Yes, he expected to get replaced eventually, but this was a little more than he was prepared to deal with.  Part of him gasped to breathe through the agony, and another part of him panted at the basic animal desire swirling around him.  He must have made some noise because both vampires stopped, Angel stepping back and dropping into human features so fast that Xander thought for a moment that he hadn’t seen the ridges at all.

“I told you he could handle Cordelia,” Angel said calmly even though he had an even more guilty expression than usual.

“I wouldn’t say handled as much as got verbally ripped apart before retreating,” Xander said as he stepped forward carefully.  If he was about to be rejected and destroyed, he wasn’t sure he wanted to be much closer, but he couldn’t seem to stop his feet.

“With Cordelia, you count yourself successful any time you can walk away from the fight with both your wallet and your manhood in place.”  Okay, Angel told a joke.  He still looked guilty, but he told a joke.  Xander looked over toward Spike, looking for some reassurance, but the blond vampire had turned away, leaning a shoulder against the pole with cigarette smoke rising above his head.

“Um, I’m not sure about the manhood thing,” Xander admitted as he stepped closer.

“I’ll go make a few last minute checks,” Angel answered and then the large vampire actually managed to run toward the car.  Actually, he was probably just running away, but Xander appreciated his ability to make the move look work related.

“Spike?” Xander called, unsure how to handle the moment.  He knew that technically he was the pet and Spike the master, so the vampire probably had a right to go sucking on and lusting after others, but that didn’t make him feel any less inadequate.  God, he had felt like the loser when compared to Luther, so he sure as hell couldn’t compare to Angel.  What if Spike wanted to get rid of him?  He couldn’t blame Spike for preferring Angel, and if he had to, he’s share just to not get left behind.  But what if Spike didn’t want Angel in addition to him, what if Spike wanted Angel instead of him?  And why wasn’t Spike interrupting his internal panic with some sort of comforting comment, even if it was a disturbing sort of comfort.

“Do you want me to leave?” he asked.

“Yeah, be there in a bit, pet.”  Xander’s chest physically hurt so much at that first word, that he almost didn’t hear the rest.

“Will you?” He had to know.  He couldn’t live with this fear.

“Wot?”  Spike turned and he saw the tilted head and funny wrinkle that always appeared when Spike got confused.

“Will you be…” Xander took a deep breath trying to control his breathing, his fear, his pain.  Suddenly strong arms locked around his waist, and he swore he never even saw Spike move.

“’S’all right luv.  It’s a sire thing, a way of makin’ things…” Spike’s words stopped as the vampire struggled to explain something that he obviously hadn’t tried to explain in words before.

“You need to be okay with your sire. I get that,” Xander answered as the pain tightened until he wondered if he could actually die of grief.  “It’s okay, I never expected you to…”

“Oi, we’re makin’ a right mess of this,” Spike complained and Xander could almost pretend to be okay listening to that almost normal voice as strong arms held him.  “Not giving ya up, pet.  You’re mine and ya stay mine.”  The words sunk into his heart, loosening the bands around his chest.

“But you want him,” Xander stated calmly.  Funny because inside he was running around and wailing.

“Want my sire, want one of my sires.  Want to hunt with them or share a warm lover with them.  Want to have a place in the clan, that’s all.”

“And Angel can give you that?” Xander asked.

“Yeah.  Sometimes feels like someone’s crushin’ my soddin’ chest, knowing I’ve been rejected by the whole bloody line.”  Xander knew the feeling.  He may not have a line with a whole hierarchy of vampires to reject him, but the rejection of the one vampire that meant everything to him?  He wasn’t sure he’d survive that.

“It’s okay if you’d rather have him,” Xander whispered because he had to fight to even get the words past his lips.

“If I have to chose, I’ll choose you every time,” Spike said fiercely, and the arms tightened until Xander could feel the circulation cut off.

“He can give you things I can’t; he can give you family.”

“And I’ll rot in Dru’s bloody hell dimension before I let myself in for that grief again,” Spike said, and Xander felt a face nuzzle at his neck.  He happily tilted his head and Spike’s tongue played with the scar.

“I chose you, Xander.  You’re the one I want, and I didn’t mean ya to see that.  That was just a sire’s way of letting childer know things are okay.”

“That’s a vampire *hug*?” Xander asked, unsure if the raw emotion he’s witnessed could really be compared to a hug.

“Sorta.  Doesn’t matter, though because it’s not anything that changes what we have.  Like you once told me, not going to start chasing the broody Neanderthal.  But we gotta take care of this master or both us vampires’ll end up serving some bleedin’ little runt.  Besides, you don’t want your precious Ajani comin’ up here, ‘cause the info Doyle’s buddy brought, it shows some bad mojo goin’ on.”  Xander could hear Spike practically begging him to let it go and let things return to normal.  He smiled.

“The little runt’s mojo isn’t nearly as bad as these two bad-ass vampires I know.”  Xander allowed Spike to guide him back to where the others waited, but he couldn’t pretend away one simple truth that now colored his whole world.  Spike needed something that he couldn’t give him, at least not without giving up his humanity.

Xander knew he was obsessing when Angel covered the attack plan, but then he didn’t really need to listen.  He could sit and watch the others while he thought about things like life and death and families and how screwed he was because he would never be enough for anyone in his life.  Cordelia and Doyle would dust any vampire’s fleeing out of the building. They expected a few fledges might decide to run for it, but most would stay to protect their master.  Spike and Angel would attack from the sewers shortly before sunrise when the vampires were full and tired.  Since most of the minions were young and still undisciplined, both vampires insisted that they could clear out most of the nest with no trouble. 

Of course Spike had been absolutely gleeful once he discovered that Cordelia had packed his new favorite toy:  a flamethrower.  Angel had rolled his eyes and begged Spike to please remember that they were just as flammable as the fledges, but Xander could see how much more friendly the two were now.  It hurt him because it just reminded him what he couldn’t give Spike.  He did have to admire Angel’s crew though.  The plan had no more come out of Angel’s mouth before they started moving into place.  Of course he got the all-important job of guarding the car.  He had to say that in an entire history of being left behind, this excuse was the flimsiest. 

At least that’s what he said that until he discovered himself surrounded by fledges all alone at the convertible.  The first two he easily tricked into overextending themselves, slipping a stake in at the right angle to turn the guys to dust.  The problem came when three of them jumped him at once.  He dealt with blue shirted one in front of him, but that left two others free to grab his arms and wrench the stake from his hand.  He tried going into hand-to-hand combat mode, but that only lasted the three seconds it took the vampire holding his left hand to twist it up behind his back.  Before he could really even think about what a screw up he truly was, he found himself marched down the hill toward Doyle and Cordelia, a knife at his neck and a vampire at each arm.



Chapter 15

He could see Cordelia react first, her hand snapping up to her hip as though she could intimidate the vampires into letting him go. Of course, she did have some practice what with the whole intimidating Angel thing.  His foot caught on a piece of discarded pipe, and he stumbled, the vampire behind him pulling his arm damn near up to his shoulder at the same time the knife at his neck dug in slightly.  He gasped and tried not to stumble again.

He watched as Cordelia pulled on Doyle’s jacket.  The man turned, and Xander could hear his Irish cursing as Cordelia pointed toward his journey down the hill.  Of course they were very near the bottom now, so it wasn’t all that difficult to hear Doyle’s colorful response.  One minion went ahead, and Cordelia and Doyle backed away from the door they supposedly guarded.

“No need for anyone to get hurt here,” Doyle pointed out.  Yeah, right.  Like the minions thought they’d shown up with stakes in hopes of finding a whittling class.  At least Xander now knew that he wasn’t the only to say stupid things under pressure.  The minions didn’t even bother to answer.  The one opened the door and the whole mob, Xander in the middle, entered the giant bunker-like building. 

Xander tried not to choke on the dust and smoke in the air since one really good cough and he could decapitate himself.  He squinted in the dim light before it dawned on him that he had better options.  Ignoring the hands that pushed and pulled him, he closed his eyes in order to concentrate.  When he opened them again, the burning sensation had disappeared and the smoke seemed to vanish in the sharp-edged demon vision.  Of course now the smell of gasoline nearly made him vomit, but at least he wasn’t working blind. 

The minions stopped, and Xander could see Spike and Angel in a corner, fighting like archangels in this book his grandmother had once bought him, and could you go to hell for comparing demons to archangels? 

“Stop,” roared a voice, and the minions all stopped as though they were puppets on strings.  A short round vampire who looked more like an accountant than a master vampire stepped forward with a sword in hand.  Angel shifted to one side holding his own sword, and Spike gave his battle axe a twirl as he took up a position next to his sire.  Xander could tell from the bounce in Spike’s knees that the vampire was enjoying himself.

“Drop your weapons or you’re precious pet will soon be screaming in agony.”  Xander watched as Spike’s eyes scanned the room until meeting his own.

“Yeah, the whole leave me at the car thing didn’t really work out well,” Xander would have shrugged and played it off like nothing except the knife now dug into his throat so he had to strain to look at anything except the ceiling and he couldn’t really shrug with his arm twisted nearly out of the socket.

“Let him go,” Spike snarled, and Angel reached out and put his free hand on Spike’s arm.  Xander knew that he was dead.  No matter what happened, the asshole at his throat was going to kill him. 

“Surrender first,” accountant-vamp ordered.

“You won’t free him either way, so that’s not going to happen.  I’m sorry Xander.”  Xander could see the honest pain in Angel’s eyes, and Spike’s bounce had turned into a deadly crouch.  Yep, this wasn’t ending well.

“It’s okay, I know the score.  Just make sure you take these bastards down for me.”  Xander kept his eyes on Spike even though it required him to tilt his head down just enough for the knife’s point to prod the sensitive skin under his chin.  That pain just didn’t matter any more, but he knew Angel was doing the right thing.  If they dropped their weapons, this master would kill both of them, and Xander could face his own death, but he couldn’t bear to watch Spike dusted.

“I heard you’d gone soft, but maybe I heard wrong.  Kill the pet.”  Xander had trouble telling the exact order of events, but within a couple of seconds, Doyle and Cordelia appeared tossing what appeared to be water balloons.  As he tried to process the image of bright blue and red balloons in the middle of the battle, the balloons started hitting and smoke rolled off vampire arms and faces.  Screams echoes off the concrete walls and he ended up on the ground minus the guards. 

Doyle appeared near Spike and Angel, and Spike dusted two vampires lunging at the human with incredible speed even as the blond vampire moved toward the middle of the room.  Xander realized that Spike was fighting to reach him at the same time he realized that Cordelia had gotten separated.  She fought far better than he ever expected, but she clearly wasn’t holding her own.  He reached for a shard of wood that had fallen to the floor and pulled himself up to go help Cordelia. 

His arm didn’t really work right yet after being twisted so sharply, and his knees felt weak either from fear or from breathing gas and smoke although he did notice that the air was quickly clearing.  Obviously someone had propped open some doors.  He blamed all these circumstances for what happened next. 

Xander grasped the wood and stepped toward Cordelia when a vamp stepped up in front of him.  Xander feigned to the right and then tried to stake from the left, but he had practiced against short weapons, and he couldn’t get around the broken pole the vamp waved as a weapon.  Realizing that the weapon’s long reach made it almost impossible for him to stake the vamp himself, he backed up with his opponent in pursuit hoping to reach Spike who he could hear shouting advice from the other side of the room.  When he felt a strange tingling behind him, he spun and staked a strange vamp trying to get him from behind before turning in time to see his first opponent drive forward with the length of the wooden pole.

Xander watched the impromptu spear slide into his body with the surrealistic feeling that it wasn’t his body.  The grinning vamp jerked the wood back with a wrench, and he could feel himself pulled forward into that grinning face. With arms that had already begun to feel cold, he pulled up his stake and drove it into the vamp’s heart at nearly the same time as the wood pulled free from him, sending him to his knees in a cloud of dust.

He put his hand up to his stomach and felt the warmth around his chilling fingers.  Funny enough, all he could seem to focus on was that the vamp had just ruined one of his favorite shirts.  He would have wanted to be buried in this shirt, but he suspected the blood would never come out, much less the hole torn when the vamp drove the broken pole through his middle.

Around him, the fighting continued, but he slid from his knees to his side, no longer capable of tracking which side was winning.  He could see vampires dissolve into dust, but he could only hope that wasn’t Spike-shaped dust.  Spike.  Shit.  He suddenly realized how hard Spike would take his death; the vampire spent five years getting over his last lover.  But then again, Xander sighed as he felt the pool of blood under him grow, he was no Dru.  Besides, Angel would be there to comfort him.

He had trouble breathing now, his chest hurting with each inhaled breath.  He almost wished he could just die now, just stop the pain. 

“Xander!” he heard shouted from a distance.  “Be alright, pet.”  He couldn’t decide if Spike was asking him a question or giving him an order, but all he cared about was having the vampire’s hand to hold as he died.

“Spike?” he called, his voice weak and thready to even his own ears.  The vampire appeared in his dimming vision, the ridged features and yellow eyes suddenly comforting.

“Bloody hell, no,” Spike whispered and Xander could see the pain and fear even in the vamped out features.  “You bring up the demon,” Spike ordered roughly.  Xander tried to laugh, but he couldn’t get enough air to finish the gesture.

“Don’t work that way, Fangface,” he coughed.

“Don’t you tell me how it works, ya bloody git.  I told ya to pull up yer demon, and you’ll bloody well obey me or I’ll beat ya senseless.”  Xander tried to laugh at the image since a wet noodle would probably do the job at this point, but he felt the stirrings of the demon answering Spike’s call anyway.

“Ya hear me?  You’ll bloody well do as you’re ordered or you’ll be soddin’ sorry.”

“William!”  He heard Angel shout from far away, as though a veil slowly descended over his senses. 

“Stay outta this, Pouf.”  Spike turned again to Xander, “you listen up and get yer sorry arse out ‘ere before I soddin’ beat ya black and blue.” 

Xander could feel the demon moving, and he intentionally stepped back, allowing the demon access to the world.  For the second time in his life, he felt the wind of the demon rushing by him to take control.  Suddenly he watched though someone else’s eyes as the world appeared bathed in reddish light.  He wondered if he would see his eyes if he looked in a mirror now or if vampire eyes would prove as invisible as vampires, leaving his face with two empty sockets according to the mirror.  Wow, he could still mentally babble at the point of death.  Of course, by pulling up the demon Spike had made the pain go away, and maybe that was the point, he mused.  He watched as the demon’s nose twitched in response to some delightful smell.

“Drink,” Spike ordered, and he felt an arm at his lips, the most delightful, richest, warmest taste ever hit his mouth, but it wasn’t his mouth; he simply sat in a dim corner and watched and felt from his self-exile.  Or exile in the self.  Whatever.

“Childe, you will stop,” ordered some deep voice far off in the void.  He couldn’t care as long as that taste remained.  He could feel his own lips close over the source and suck.

“Not turnin’ him, ya idiot.  I’m savin’ ‘im.”

“No human can drink that much.”

“Didn’t drain him first, did I?  Case you’ve forgottin’ how to make a childe, ya gotta drain ‘em first before feedin’ ‘em.”

“If you don’t turn him, you’ll kill him.  Let him go NOW.”  Xander felt the source of the wonderful taste ripped from him, and he could feel the growl in his own chest.  Strange feeling really, like being in the passenger side seat of your own car.  His eyes swung over to glare at Angel, and he didn’t fight the impulse when he felt his own lip lift in a growl.

“Oh my god.  What did you do?” Cordelia shrieked, and he felt his head swing over to her.  She stood in the far corner, which was now empty of vampires except one cringing minion that huddled on the floor.  Cordelia walked over and calmly staked the creature.

“Stay down ‘n let that stomach heal,” a voice ordered, and his eyes swung back toward the sound, unable to turn away.  He inched toward voice, pulling his own body along the floor, once he saw Spike being held back by Angel.

“Boy, what have you been up to?” Angel demanded, and he could see the shock on the older vampire’s face which had fallen back to human features even though Spike’s ridges remained.

“Not anythin’ I’ve done,” Spike argued as he obviously struggled to pull the arm away from his neck.  “He just needs to stay like that ‘til he heals.”  Xander felt his own head cock to one side as he watched the two vampires. 

The demon inside him panicked, confused at why the master of the line and his master would fight.  Xander sent comforting thoughts from his dark corner, now realizing what Spike had done.  Spike had called up the demon so that the demon would heal him.  But the demon complained of the wound.  The wood had struck deep; the wound caused pain, but the demon didn’t want to show weakness, so he remained silent.  Xander sent more comforting thoughts, promised the demon that both vampires would help if they only knew the pain.  He pushed and cajoled and encouraged until he felt the demon let out a whine of pain.

At once, both vampires turned yellowed eyes to him, and Xander could feel the demon struggling to retreat.  The weak were killed, the demon thought at him, but Xander pushed back from his corner.  Trust Spike.  Trust Spike, he sent back as loudly and strongly as possible.  The demon reached out toward Spike, and the blond vampire pushed away from his sire to kneel down and gather him into his lap.  Xander settled, sure that Spike would take care of the upset demon.  He felt his head cradled in Spike’s neck, a wonderful smell tantalizing him, and he could feel the demon hoping.  Hoping for what?  Xander didn’t know what the demon wanted, but he suggested a means for the demon to get his way.  He heard his own voice beg, “Please.”

Spike had been rocking him gently, but the word made him stop.  Xander waited confused while the demon waited impatiently. 

“Go on, then,” Spike commented as he began the rocking again.  Xander could feel himself biting down on the neck, his teeth sliding into the flesh, enjoying the taste of old, rich vampire blood that made the pain go away, made the torn flesh mend.  After feeding, Xander felt his mouth detach and the demon begin to purr as the pain and damage faded under the influence of Spike’s blood.  Suddenly Xander understood.  He sent the thought to the demon, and the demon rumbled back a happy affirmation.  He pushed forward and felt the demon yield and step back so that Xander could whisper the one word that made everything right again.

“Sire,” Xander whispered in Spike’s ear, and he felt Spike tremble.

“Yeah, ‘m here,” Spike agreed, holding even tighter.  Xander retreated again and let the demon have its moment with its sire, knowing that when the time came he would be able to regain control, but for now he was quite happy to wait.  Besides, the demon babbled less than he did, so hopefully he would be smart enough to avoid commenting on the stupid expression on Angel’s face.



Xander finished packing his bag.  Dinner tonight with his mother and then the open road.  He had expected to leave most of his things behind as they hit the road on the motorcycle, but Spike had appeared with an old Desoto, the windows blacked out.  It didn’t look safe to him, but then riding behind Spike on the motorcycle wasn’t exactly safe either.  He reached inside, and could feel the demon happily curled within him, so he went back to packing his duffle.

He remembered the night when everything had fallen into place, and he still didn’t like the answers Spike and Angel came up with to explain the presence of the full grown demon hiding in him.  Spike suggested that Cassidy shared too much blood; Angel countered with the possibility that the lack of other vampires to keep the small piece of demon in his place had caused the demon to grow.  Spike argued that Xander might be one of those people who just naturally corrupted any magic cast on him, including the blood magic used to make a pet; Angel rebutted with the possibility that the magicks that Cassidy had used might have affected the vampire’s blood. 

He had stayed out of the debate until Doyle had suggested that he might have demon blood that interfered, and he had protested at that…well he had until he discovered Doyle’s own heritage, then he just tried to pry his foot out of his mouth.

Cordelia had just calmly walked around the dead master’s alter destroying the magic objects while complaining that she was getting calluses and would never be able to work as a hand model if they didn’t stop worrying about it and help her destroy things.  The only real conclusion Xander came to was that Angel and Spike would never agree.  That and that he did actually carry a full demon.  He still had lots of questions.  Would they eventually merge?  Would he age?  Would he be able to stay in control or would the day come that he found himself locked in his own mind? Unfortunately, no one had the answers, so the three of them would just have to work that out, just Spike, Xander, and baby demon. 

He felt the stirrings at the nickname.  Little demon?  Petite demon?  Mini demon?  Xander really felt the unhappy turnings now, and he laughed.  Diminutive? Tiny?  Miniature?  The demon now made little distraught sounds in his mind, and Xander had to laugh.  Okay, okay, he relented.  His powerful, covert demon.  Maybe even his clandestine, dangerous demon. Wow, he could tease himself he pondered as he laughed again.

“Oi, no goin’ loony on me,” Spike complained as he came down the stairs for another load. 

“Nope, no looniness here.  Just teasing myself.” 

“Not bloody fair, that’s my job, Spike commented with a lewd leer and a cocked eyebrow.

“Oh not even!  We’re supposed to be at my mother’s, and I am *so* not going to turn up with those thoughts on my mind.”

“Move your arse, then.  If I have to put up with human in-laws, I want this evenin’ started and over quick as possible.”  Xander followed Spike up the stairs with duffle in hand.  Everything else had already been thrown into the car.  Thrown with enough force that Xander slightly worried about the CD collection.

“Hey, I have to put up with Angel,” Xander pointed out.

“True enough,” Spike conceded.  “So, any thoughts on where we’re headed?”

Xander waited until Spike had locked the door to their abandoned lair before answering.

“Been thinking of visiting the hell mouth.”  Spike looked at him with his confused, head cocked to one side expression for a couple of seconds before shrugging.

“Wherever, pet.  One hell mouth coming up.  Right after we survive dinner with your mum.”


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