17 Sacred Choice

Spike stalked past the rows of supplies for the human members of his court, all neatly organized by Clem's cousin by shape and size. Everything from huge canisters of peanuts to cans of soda and V-8 lined the shelves, partially obscuring the room in back, probably because the Clonach demon didn't like looking at the recipients of Spike's punishments.

Dalton had been down here once after she'd nearly gotten Xander and Riley killed by following Spike's orders to the letter, leaving the pets in a bad spot when the other side zigged instead of zagging. She'd learned better. His oldest lieutenant had become a lieutenant by surviving two weeks of punishment that had dusted the other three minions chained next to him. Once he'd had Falif of the Oden Tal against the wall after the woman had insisted on taking the punishment for one of her women who had failed badly.

The woman had balls of steel, volunteering to go under a vampire's whip. But it was that or allow her younger kin to be whipped for flat out stupidity or have the entire clan leave Spike's territory. Spike provided more than a place for them to bring young escapees from their world; he provided the muscle and magic users to go to war against their men when they would cross the portal and try to reclaim their women.

But now, Angel was down here, the dim light from the hall spilling through the shelves to make an uneven lattice of light on the stone floor. His boots ringing against the concrete, Spike walked to the end of the shelf and leaned on it so he could stare at the vampire who had tortured him and mentored him and helped define the vampire who he had become.

Three people had created Spike, and he wasn't so pathetically weak that he had to deny their power over him. Angelus had been the first.

"Enough with the games, Spike," Angel growled. He was naked, his wrists and ankles chained to the floor near the center of the room so he had a choice of sitting or kneeling, and right now he was sitting cross-legged. His muscles stood out in thin ropes against his bones, the skin stretched over them. He needed to feed, but then Angel had gotten good at denying his hunger these days.

"What game is that, mate?" Spike asked as he grabbed a chair from next to the wall and set it in the middle of the cavernous room before straddling it backwards. Resting his arms on the high back, he waited to see Angel's reaction. Funny, after a year of being chipped, Spike had grown good at reading every nuance of human behavior, of knowing every thought. He'd been predator and prey to humans and their souls, and he'd learned to read every twitch so that not even Angelus with all his preference for psychological games could do as well. Spike understood souls.

And Spike knew Angelus. He'd lived under the vampire's lust and whip. He'd learned to predict when Angelus was likely to go off onto a rage and when he would throw an arm around young William's shoulders and bond over their maleness in a court ruled by women. When Angelus had been lost to the madness of Acathla, Spike had read Angel's every move and countered each.

But Angel, this combination of soul and vampire, was as strange as any being Spike had ever seen.

"You let Dalton chain me, to prove that I'm not important enough for your personal attention, and then you starve me and leave me down here forgotten for two weeks. You take Fred away from me just to prove you can. I taught you these games Spike," Angel said as he slowly shook his head. "You're still just trying to follow in my footsteps."

Spike leaned back and just considered that statement. Five years ago, he would have risen to the bait. Now the accusation was just ridiculous. Angelus had never looked beyond the traditional childer and minions for power. Terror was his favorite weapon. Oh, Spike understood terror and never failed to use it on the vampire members of his court, but if he hadn't stepped out of Angelus' footsteps, he never would have included Clonach or Oden Tal or witches in his court. The more interesting point here was whether Angel really believed he had so much influence over the vampire Spike had become.

Spike stood and slowly circled, studying Angel's emaciated body. Stepping closer, he ran a hand over Angel's shoulders. A muscle twitched, but Angel didn't try to fight the gentle caress. "How do you think this is going to end?" Spike asked softly.

"You'll try to break me," Angel said softly enough. "I won't fight you with Cordelia and Fred in the middle, Spike. You don't have to do this." Angel yanked on his wrist chains, making them rattle.

"Cordelia and Fred?" Spike asked as he completed his circle and stood in front of Angel. Cordelia needed protection about as much as a porcupine, and Fred… she had a strength to her that made Spike honestly consider turning her. If he could guarantee that she'd retain that determined core and keen intellect, he'd do it in a second, but turnings could be strange. While he would love to have an immortal and immoral Fred, he didn't want some stupid minion with her face and none of her talent. But how interesting that Angel was worried about the two pieces who least needed protecting and not worried at all about his most vulnerable member.

"You won't fight? You making a promise?" Spike asked curiously. Angel looked up at him, and Spike just cocked an eyebrow at him, wondering how far this streak of complacency went. Angel didn't answer, but he shifted around, the chains clinking softly as he shifted to his knees and then leaned forward so that he was resting on his elbows.

Spike had seen his boy take that same ass-up position a thousand times, usually with a cheeky grin or a coy flirtiness or with that curly tail of his whisking back and forth in excitement. Now Angel spread his legs, making it entirely too clear how far he was willing to go. Reaching down, Spike ran a fingernail over Angel's exposed arse, pressing until a thin streak of blood appeared in a wavering line.

"The cocky bastard who refused to take his place at the Master's feet is going to play submissive for me?" Spike asked in surprise. Given time, he could have broken Angel so that his sire begged for his cock, but this strange submission with no fight felt wrong somehow. Spike considered the vulnerable body in front of him. Angel's muscles were tight, his back arched uncomfortably even though his chains gave him enough slack to maneuver into this submissive stance rather easily.

"What you've done here is impressive. I won't deny that," Angel said slowly. "And if you feel a need to show your power over me, I'll do what I need to, whatever you ask me to. But you will eventually get tired of Cordelia and Fred. Just let me be here to take them back to L.A. when you get tired of them." Angel's voice was oddly devoid of emotion.

"So, if I called Xander in here, you'd kneel for him, you'd suck his cock and bend over so he could plow into your ass because I told you to?"

Angel flinched, but then he set his jaw. "You stopped Willow, so play whatever games you think you need to play," he said stoically.

Spike couldn't help it. He started laughing. A gentle chuckle gave way to a roar that made his sides ache as he finally stumbled back a step and dropped down into the chair. Angel stared at him with a barely contained fury, but Spike just could not stop laughing long enough to care. Pulling helplessly against the chains, he ended up shifting around so he could sit on the cold floor. Every muscle was tight and ready to fight, but with those chains, he didn't have much chance of that.

"Bloody hell, Peaches. You're developing a fucking Christ complex. Wot? You think it's your lot to suffer? You putting me in the role of Judas? You aren't that fucking important, luv. Get over yourself."

"You're the one playing games, boy," Angel snarled. Spike got up so fast that his chair skittered away. Spike closed the distance between them and backhanded Angel so hard that he slammed into the floor, the scent of blood seeping into the air as his lip bled sluggishly. Angel lay on the floor looking up at him silently.

"Not your boy, anymore, Angelus," Spike said as he crouched down and stared at the vampire who had been his mentor.

"I'm not him," Angel said, but his voice was soft.

"If that were true, you wouldn't have been able to let the vampire instincts take over when you came to the Darkside club for me," Spike pointed out. He ran a hand over Angel's shoulder, feeling the muscles bunch futilely. "Soul might keep a lid on the instincts, but they're there. So, is that why you want to be a real boy so very badly?"

Angel turned his gaze to the far wall and didn't answer.

Spike stood and dug in his pockets for a cigarette. It was a stalling technique, and Angel would recognize that, but Spike really wasn't sure where to go from here. With his Dalton or even one of the humans from the stable who acted up, the solution was so pathetically obvious. Angel wasn't. Walking over to the far side of the room, Spike righted the chair he'd just kicked aside.

"I wasn't down here because I had other business to take care of, and you could bloody well wait," Spike said as he sat and took a long drag on his cigarette. Angel watched him suspiciously. "I was gone for two bloody weeks, mate. Had a fucking Mohra setting up shop, but havin' a seer is a right handy way to flush out the riff-raff."

"Cordelia?" Angel pushed himself back up to a seated position, his chained wrists hiding his tackle, and Spike wondered if that was a subconscious fear poking its head up or if it was just the easiest place to let his hands rest. "Is she okay?" Angel asked desperately.

Spike cocked his head at Angel. "About as good as she was in L.A.," Spike shrugged. He had Tara working on the problem, and he had a Pockla coming in next week, but she wasn't good. Problem was that Angel sighed in relief and nodded his head as if Spike had just said something reassuring.

"Is Fred okay?"

"Fred's in bloody heaven, mate. Keeps babbling on about numbers that make no sense to me, but she has the Order's new techno-mage atwitter. Keep havin' to warn her to keep some of that intelligence under wraps since we don't want to give all our secrets away. She's practically ready to burst waiting for Dalton to finish training Aeth up right and proper because I told her that Aeth is the only one safe for her to tell everything to. That's one who won't be leaving my court again." Spike smiled in amusement at Fred's antics. "She asks about you."

Angel closed his eyes for a moment as though he were in pain. "Spike, I meant what I said. Keep them safe, and I'll do what you want. If you want to give me to Dalton or Xander, I'll try... I really will." Angel didn't even bother to open his eyes, and Spike just couldn't avoid thinking that Peaches really had gone 'round the twist at some point.

"You'll fail if you try to submit to those two," Spike said simply. Angel was having a hard enough time submitting to him, and he was the stronger vampire at this point.

"Then what do you want from me?" Angel growled as he looked up finally. Spike raised an eyebrow and Angel let his gaze fall back down to the floor.

"Pulling your head out of your arse would be a first step," Spike said bluntly. Angel pulled on the chain but didn't say anything. "Cordelia and Fred have value and both are a good deal stronger than you seem to give them credit for. Takes a special sort to survive years of slavery without yielding for even one minute," Spike pointed out. He watched, but Angel only stilled, his muscles tight. "She survived long before you came playing white knight, and she would have gone right on surviving. Sooner or later, she would have gotten her numbers to work, and she would have come home a self-taught techno-mage who had outsmarted a whole fucking planet of slavers. If you think she's weak, you have that head of yours so far up your arse that you're never going to be able to pull it out."

Angel looked up and frowned. Spike rolled his eyes as he just focused on smoking for a minute. Obviously, Angel really had lost all touch with reality.

"Cordelia's dying," Spike announced in the silence. Angel exploded into motion. He tried to get up, only to have the chain stop him short and for a few seconds, he madly fought the restraints.

"If you hurt her..." Angel snarled through his fangs as he glared at Spike with yellow eyes.

"You'll what? Glare at me? You're not in any position to tell me what to do, and you bloody well lost your right to try and defend her when you stopped giving a rat's arse about her."

For a second, Angel froze, every muscle straining silently as his body became a statue. "I'll kill you. I'll dust you, Spike," Angel vowed, his muscles straining against the chain until Spike could hear the magicked metal groan under the force.

"I haven't touched her. Well... except for the time I had to carry her upstairs because her vision left her so weak that a kitten could have soddin' killed her if it had the mind to."

"What?" Angel dropped out of his true face, the human mask slipping back in place, and Spike nearly laughed at the confusion on it.

"The visions are killing her, mate. Doctors say she's suffering brain damage, and if it keeps up, they're guessing she's going to end up in a coma." Spike shrugged and dropped his cigarette to the floor, crushing it casually. "To me, she's a useful piece. I might go look for a seer of my own after seeing how handy she is. I have to admit that until I had her in court, when I thought about seers, I thought about my Dru. Her visions were never what you'd call helpful," Spike said as he stood and pushed the chair back against the wall. "But Cordelia has targeted the Mohra and a group of Polgara tryin' to set up shop. She even got the head's up on a number of minions poaching on the edges of my territory." Spike smiled at what had happened to those gits. "I sent Victor and some minions to babysit while Xander and Riley dealt with the idiots. Word got around pretty fast that anyone stupid enough to touch my territory is going to get staked or run off by a fucking human pet. It's humiliating," Spike said with a smirk, "for them."

"But Cordelia?" Angel asked, horror and uncertainty in his voice.

"Bloody hell, what the fuck do you care?" Spike asked. "You had her livin' on her own. She drove away a man she bloody well loved because she didn't want him watchin' her die. She's trying to protect you from the truth. She's not yours or you'd be taking better care of her... noticing that she's always taking pills and starting to put her life in order so she can die."

"She isn't..." Angel stopped, and Spike sneered as the truth finally seemed to be sinking into Angel's thick skull. "The filing," Angel almost whispered. "She tried to teach me how to do the filing. She ended up teaching Wesley her system."

"Because she didn't want to make your life inconvenient when she went and dropped dead," Spike pointed out with a derisive snort. At one point, nothing happened in Darla's court without Angelus knowing. He knew every minion, every horse, every jewel and every feud in the family, and now he was thick as pig shit when something was sitting right in front of him. Spike crossed his arms and waited as the truth did more damage to Angel's ego in two minutes than the chains had in two weeks.

Eventually Angel looked up at Spike with wide eyes that reflected a self-loathing deeper than any Spike had ever seen. When he'd first started training up his Xander, he'd seen self-hatred and pain so great that the boy was willing to submit to his greatest enemy just to escape it, but not even his boy could match this pain that seemed to swallow Angel. "I'll do anything if you'll help her. Anything, Spike."

"Would you give up your quest to be human?" Spike asked curiously.

Angel looked away. "I won't ever be human, Spike. Wesley was wrong; I gave that up."


"I turned Darla and Dru loose on humans," Angel said softly.

Spike nodded. He'd heard that story already. When Darla and Dru had shown up in his court, Darla had told everyone who would listen about her great massacre. Of course, she didn't recognize that the Oden Tal had very little respect for anyone who attacked weaker creatures and the minions couldn't understand a master vampire bragging about killing happy meals. Spike only bragged when he killed something that was actually big enough or bad enough to brag about killing... like a Mohra or slayer or a fucking hellgod.

She had thought his court would flock to her, and when they didn't... when she had to face Spike in battle, he'd turned her to dust. Then he'd sent Dru away screaming, two minions dragging her out with orders to escort her out of the territory and guard her wherever she went just as long as it wasn't anywhere near Sunnydale or L.A. When they'd been dragging her out, she had been reaching for him, screaming about the bloody stars and traps and coming darkness and beautifully dark babies born in endless night. That was his Dru—nutters to the end. She had taught him about need and viciousness. She'd formed his admiration for strength by being strong. So many fools only saw her strange affectations and assumed she was weak. She feasted on their entrails. But, like Angel, her power over who he had become was a relic of the past.

"Not seein' your point, pet," Spike said when the silence had gone on for far too long.

"I got my humanity back once. I was useless and I asked the Powers to reverse the spell. I just thought..." Angel stopped as he closed his eyes and struggled with some thought that made his vampire features flash to the fore. "Maybe I should just leave," he finished softly.

Spike raised his eyebrows. "You givin' me your humans?"

"You've already taken them," Angel said with a humorless laugh.

"It's just like you... fight as hard as you can and then just give up when you think you can't win," a voice said from the door, and Spike was amused at Angel's startled jerk against the chains. Git hadn't even heard his Xander come in even though the human heart was pounding loudly enough for a vampire to hear the faint echo against the stone walls. Xander stood there in the jeans and the black t-shirt he wore when he left the court, but he was barefoot. A heavy sword was strapped to his hip, and the heel of his hand rested on the hilt. His thick black collar and the black neck of the shirt made the white scarring all over his shoulder stand out in stark relief.

Spike held his hand out and Xander immediately came to him, kneeling and tilting his head in submission without a moment's hesitation. "Master," Xander said happily as he pressed a shoulder against Spike's leg.

Spike let his fingers tangle in Xander's soft hair as he studied Angel. All emotions had vanished from his face.

"That it, mate?" Spike asked. "Are you so worried about losing that you won't even fight?" Spike cocked his head at the vampire who had once terrified and inspired him, at one-fourth of the Scourge of Europe, at the favorite childe of Darla of the line of Heinrich. He looked suddenly small. "Is that why you left Buffy to fight a hellgod by herself?" Spike asked, and a small flinch told Spike just how close he was to the truth. "Is that why you're willing to submit to me?" Spike asked, suddenly angry that it was some twist of Angelus' mind and not Spike's power that might have given him the power. Leaving Xander kneeling, he walked over and grabbed Angel's chin, pulling it up and forcing Angel to kneel up. "Well?"

"What do you want me to say?" Angel asked as he glared up at Spike. His sire was not gracious in submission.

"Would you go arse-up right now and let Xander fuck you?" Spike demanded. Angel's gaze flickered over to Xander, and Spike could just imagine the look on Xander's face. However, right now, he didn't have time to let himself enjoy the irony of Xander's disgust at getting to fuck Angel. His boy would do as ordered.

Angel's attention returned to Spike. "Yes," he said tightly. Spike tightened his fist, digging fingers into the sides of Angel's jaw. "Master," Angel added unhappily.

"Why?" Spike demanded.

Angel frowned at him.

"Pet, go get me a stake," Spike ordered without turning. Xander's footsteps scrambled on the stone floor, and Angel fisted his hands but remained silent. Before long, Xander came hurrying back, offering Spike a beautifully carved stake with a series of runes running down the length.

Angel's body had gone slack as he stopped fighting the chains. He knelt with his eyes focused on nothing. With his stake in hand and Xander's warm hand resting on his back, Spike faced his sire. "Are you ready to be dust?" he demanded.

Angel didn't answer, but he certainly didn't try to defend himself when Spike slowly pressed the stake against Angel's naked chest. The chains gave him enough slack to knock the stake away, but he didn't. Behind Spike, Xander sucked in his breath and fisted Spike's duster.

"Master Spike?" an uncertain voice called from the door. Ah, so his timid little mouse had finally taken the bait. The mouse cleared his throat. "Perhaps I should just take Angel and leave. We've clearly overstayed our welcome." Wesley inched into the room, terror spreading like the scent of jasmine as the man pumped out pheromones that would have every minion in the house flocking to him if Dalton didn't have them busy enough.

Xander backed away silently, watching with wide eyes. Oh, Spike had no doubt that the boy would clasp Spike's knees and plead if Spike went to kill Wesley, but his boy had enough faith to not assume that's how Spike planned to handle this bit of disrespect. Wesley, on the other hand, appeared about ready to faint, so he was quite clearly expecting death.

"Look who came to save your sorry arse," Spike said with amusement. Angel twisted and shoved his chained hands up to try and knock the stake out of Spike's hand. Spike leaped backwards and Wesley took two fast steps forward before Xander intercepted him with sword drawn. Xander pressed the edge of his sword against Wesley's stomach, and the git backed up, his eyes still focused on Angel. Once Wesley was against the wall, Xander put his sword up and retreated back to the other wall. Spike smirked.

"Oh, so now you have a little life to you," he told Angel with some amusement as he tossed the stake at Xander who caught it and tucked it in his waistband. This time when Spike walked near, Angel was coiled and ready to fight.

"Do it, and I'll drain him in front of you and leave you with his rotting body," Spike warned. Angel glanced over at Wesley and then made a conscious effort to relax. Spike moved in his hand resting on Angel's shoulder. "Peaches here thinks that if he fucks up, he deserves to die. I'm pretty sure he thinks you lot would be better off with me because I don't have my head up my arse the way he does," Spike told Wesley who looked about as pale as Cordelia after a vision.

"Angel?" Wesley asked.

Angel let his head droop. "Just let him go, Spike, please."

"You keep making the mistake of thinking you have a choice here," Spike said cheerfully. Wesley's terror did smell bloody delicious. Pulling a key out, Spike reached over and unchained Angel's ankles first. As he unlocked Angel's wrists, he watched for the attack he knew would come. It didn't matter how much Angel played at submitting, he wasn't built for it. He never did submit to the Master and his relationship with Darla had been all about which could outmaneuver the other. There never was a true submission there even if Darla had played every trick to keep her boy at her side.

Spike backed away slowly, and Wesley's eyes were bouncing from one of them to another as if he were watching a bloody tennis match. If they didn't finish this fast, the man was going to have a heart attack. For a minute, Angel stood naked and seemingly defeated as he inched backwards. With a frown he looked from Xander to Wesley. If he was looking for help from that quarter, he was going to be disappointed. Spike had no doubt about Xander's loyalty and Xander could handle Wesley if the man tried to get involved.

"How many times are you going to make me submit, William?" Angel asked with a derisive sneer. From another vampire, that would have been cause for immediate dusting. Spike didn't need the submission at all, though, and they both knew that. This was all for Angel's benefit.

Spike danced in and tapped Angel's chest, shoving him back against the wall. When he darted in again, Angel threw a punch that landed on Spike's shoulder. It didn't have the strength behind it that it did even two weeks ago at the hotel, but it still make Spike spin around to avoid having to stumble back. He used the spin to land a kick on Angel's back, sending him flying forward.

"Angel!" Wesley called out, and Xander was there pressing the man to the wall. Then Spike was on Angel's back, pinning him down, and this time, Angel didn't even try to fight. He tilted his head to the side in submission, and Spike bit deeply without taking any blood. Reaching down, Spike unfastened his jeans and thrust into Angel with no preparation. Angel growled but didn't move as he tore, and Spike felt the slow flow of blood around his cock as he fucked Angel. Rather than fight, Angel spread his legs a little farther and arched his back. Spike obligingly angled his thrusts to hit Angel's prostate, and Angel growled his pleasure.

Spike pulled his fangs from Angel's shoulder and roared out his orgasm. Pinning Angel's shoulders to the floor, Spike scanned the room, every predator's instinct on high. Wesley looked like he might be in shock as he just started with a slack-jawed expression; however, Xander caught his eye and slowly slid forward, his neck bared as he edged toward them. The moment Xander was within range, Spike reached out and grabbed his boy, crushing Xander to his chest and ripping the shirt off before he sunk fangs into Xander's neck and drank the familiar blood so full of love and submission.

This was why Angel and even Wesley were worth so much of his time. The court and the power were aphrodisiacs. He'd discovered that he was happier proving his strength rather than his wickedness. He liked his mixed race court full of powerful warriors who didn't want his job and vampires who were too confused about how he managed the court to even dream of challenging him. He liked Tara and Falif following him, trusting him. But he'd discovered all that by accident after he found that the love and submission of his boy was quite enough to make unlife worth living... even before he'd gotten rid of the chip, even before his court or his childe or his power.

Spike pulled back, his demon singing at the taste of blood, and Xander's eyes were closed in bliss as he leaned in, his neck still bared, now with a new, deep bite mark on the scarred skin. Tearing Xander's jeans off and pulling out the plug, Spike grabbed his boy and pinned him with his back against the wall. Xander's arms went wide, fingers clawing for some purchase as Spike lifted his legs so that Xander was bent in two, his ankles caught over Spike's shoulders. Without any preparation, Spike thrust in.

Xander gave a strangled cry as he threw his head back and promptly smacked his own head into the wall. Spike chuckled and Xander just squirmed in need, his tail whipping against Spike's legs. When Spike reached down and unclipped the chastity cage, Xander started panting, but bent in half and pinned against the stone, Xander couldn't do anything else. Spike braced his hands on Xander's hips and began thrusting and lifting as he pounded into his boy. Xander made a low strangled scream and lost control, orgasming so hard that white splattered his own chin as Spike kept thrusting into him.

Finally Spike came again, and for a second, he leaned all his weight into Xander, resting as he slowly returned his focus to the room behind him. Spike easily lifted Xander, making sure his boy had both his feet under him before taking a step back. Even with the help, Xander slowly sank to the ground with a blissed out expression the moment Spike let him go. Having power meant being able to move pieces into position, and it was time his great bog-trotting sire moved. Killing Angel was likely to cause too many cracks in his own power base.

Spike tucked himself in and focused on Wesley who had gone from deathly white to brilliant red. His eyes were still focused on Angel who had curled in on himself on the floor.

Walking over, Spike threw his arm around Wesley's shoulders, and the man jumped as though he hadn't seen Spike coming. "Angel there thinks that if he makes a mistake you lot won't forgive him. Or maybe he just thinks he'll get you killed. I can't really say since it doesn't make much sense to me. Maybe he thinks you'll just up and leave if you figure out he's not perfect and he can't protect you from everything," Spike pointed out cheerfully as he pulled Wesley closer to Angel. "So, now that you've seen that your hero has feet of clay, do you plan on leaving him?" Spike asked curiously.

"What? Of course not," Wesley stammered. Angel didn't even look at them.

"I won't even hold it against you, mate. I'll give you bus fare back to L.A. and my word that Cordelia and Fred can follow when they want."

"But not Angel?" Wesley asked with a frown.

Spike laughed and pushed at Angel's hip with a foot. "Are you getting the point here, mate? Doesn't matter if you fuck up. They'll still be yours. That's the difference between humans and minions that you still don't seem to gettin'. I fuck up now just as much as back when I was a fledge, but Xander and Dawn and Tara never hold it against me. I stopped Willow from stealing Tara's power and then thought she'd just give up and start playing nice. Bloody stupid of me. If my court were only vampires, that would've had tongues wagging. But Dalton is more human than not and the humans and Clonachs didn't even dream of blaming me and the Oden Tal..." Spike still couldn't quite figure their reaction. "They have some religious rot about choice, so they thought I did the right thing letting Willow get out of hand. Can't say I'm agreeing with 'em, but it's nice knowing that my court isn't going to turn on me just because I fuck up."

Angel rolled to one side and looked up at Spike, and now the pain was all on the surface, etched into every line so that Angel looked about fifty years old. He looked at Spike and Wesley in confusion.

"Did you know," Spike asked Wesley, "that he gave up on being human, and he thinks he can't be forgiven for letting the gits at Wolfram and Hart get killed?"

"We talked about that," Wesley said to Angel with a frown, "and while I didn't agree with your actions, given the provocation, I don't blame you. Or, I do blame you, but I think that most anyone would have reacted much the same. I myself offered to sell out my slayer and Giles the first time I was captured by a demon, so I hardly have a lot of room to criticize."

"What about him bein' clueless about Cordelia's illness?" Spike asked as he nudged Wesley.

"I didn't know myself. Given that I have spent more time with her recently, I am arguably far more to blame."

"Then tell him what you are angry with him for," Spike said. Either his little mouse took the bait or this was going to get bloody messy. Wesley looked at him for a second and then swallowed.

"I don't know what you mean."

Spike grabbed Wesley's neck, tightening just hard enough to warn the man. Xander was suddenly standing beside him, that warm hand at his back. Yeah, Xander would stand by him, even if he popped Wesley's head like a tick, but it would hurt Xander if he did that. Besides, it would just make it all the harder to get Angel to stop acting like a fucking nob. Instead Spike just waited for Wesley to come up with a better answer.

"I was angry that he left us to try and handle all of this on our own, as if we were unimportant to his cause," Wesley blurted as he grabbed at Spike's wrist in desperation.

Spike smiled down at Angel who still had that stupidly confused look on his face. "You're so busy trying to keep your humans far enough away to keep them safe that you don't see how much damage you're doing. You're bloody stupid Angel. So, if you want to know what I want, it's this... pull your head out of your arse before you get yourself killed. Like it or not, we're the same clan with adjoining territories. What we do reflects on each other. Our courts know each other. My Xander went to you when he was in trouble. You called me when you couldn't handle Willow. I'll either have you functioning or I'll put you on a leash like a fucking pet and keep you close enough that you can't do any more harm. But if you want to play at being a master, you need to start by paying attention to the people who call you master."

Angel still didn't have any words, but at least he wasn't hiding his emotions behind that blank look he seemed to have on his face all the time. "Now, be a good boy and go back and chain one ankle to the floor," Spike ordered.

At first, he didn't think Angel was going to obey, but then he pushed himself up. His knees were scraped and raw, and a thin trail of blood leaked down the back of his legs. Walking over, he reached down and locked a cuff around his ankle.

"First lesson, Peaches. If you're too bloody weak to protect your humans, someone's going to take 'em away from you. So, you'll start feeding and you won't leave here until you're strong enough to fight your way past Dalton. She's not exactly a natural, but she's quick to learn all the best ways to cheat in a fight," Spike said with a smirk. Angel's emotions started to vanish behind that façade of his.

"And since I'm not having you wear my stable out, you can use your own humans. Wesley, Cordelia and Fred should be enough to start with."

Angel was already shaking his head. "I can't."

"You will or you'll be in here for a bloody long time," Spike warned with a growl. Angel stopped and really looked at him.

"I mean, I can't because I don't have enough control, Spike. I'm not you. I'll kill them if I try that." Angel sounded supremely aggravated at having to admit that.

"Oh." Spike cocked his head and considered Angel. He was starving. Spike hadn't killed Xander when he'd been starving or stoned on god's blood, but Angel never allowed himself to love his humans the way Spike loved Xander. Spike walked over to his sire and tilted his neck, inviting Angel to take enough blood to take the edge off the starvation.

"Limited time offer, mate," Spike warned when Angel just stared at him for a second. Spike held his breath as familiar hands caught him around the waist and pulled him close before fangs sank into his neck. He wasn't the fledge who lived for those rare moments when Angelus would share blood anymore, but this still felt good. After Angel had fed for a while, Spike went to step back, only to find Angel's arms locked tightly around him. Spike had to reach up and force his thumb into Angel's neck to force him to stop feeding. With a shake of his head, Angel pulled away from the pain, and Spike stepped back to see Angel gamefaced and nearly feral, his mouth red with blood.

"Wesley," Spike said as he turned to the other man. "You don't come down here without me, not you or the others, is that clear?"

"Of course, Master Spike," Wesley agreed, and right now Spike actually thought he might have a bigger problem with getting Wesley to offer his blood at all. "Come on," Spike said as he held out his hand. Wesley swallowed and glanced over at Xander before he straightened his back and stepped forward resolutely.

"Wesley, you don't have to," Angel said weakly.

"Perhaps I should abandon you until such time as Master Spike puts you on a leash and parades the Powers' great champion around like a trophy," Wesley said sarcastically as he pulled the neck of his shirt down to reveal the curve of his neck. Spike smiled at the man's knackers. Angel would have a nice pet in this one if he just opened his eyes and noticed how very badly Wesley wanted to be one. Victor had already asked for permission to take Wesley as his own. Cheeky, wanting a pet so soon after being promoted to lieutenant, and it did suggest that Victor wasn't going to survive for long, but Spike still found it pathetic that a glorified minion could see what Angel couldn't.

Angel's eyes were focused on Wesley's neck, his fingers twitching. "Some of us are growing old," Wesley complained, and Xander struggled to hide a smile as Angel frowned. The sod needed someone to poke that great ego of his, though, so Spike didn't correct Wesley's manners. With a sigh, Angel moved forward and slipped an arm carefully around Wesley's back as he pulled him close.

"Spike, please..." Angel started.

"I'm not going to let you kill 'im. He's the only one of your humans willing to tell you when you're being stupid, so you bloody well need him more than any of 'em." Spike rolled his eyes at the way Wesley twisted in Angel's grip, staring at Spike in shock before Angel bit him and then Wesley gave a squeal as his eyes went wide for a whole new reason. Not all humans enjoyed the bite, but Spike wasn't exactly surprised that Wesley did.

Spike waited until Angel had fed some before he stepped forward and pushed his thumb into the underside of Angel's jaw. Again, Angel backed off, flinching from the pain, and Xander had to catch Wesley who nearly fell to the ground.

"Wes?" Angel called as he tried to step forward. Spike put a hand on Angel's chest stopping him.

"I'm quite alright. I have often donated blood," Wesley insisted as though the bite was nothing, but Spike could smell the lust. Hell, both were hard and aching, but Wesley and Angel would have to sort that out themselves.

"Pet," Spike said. "Help Wesley back upstairs and make sure Fred doesn't come running down here the minute she finds out I'm allowing visitors. I need to talk to her before she does something particularly stupid that Peaches will brood over for the next century."

"Yes, Master," Xander agreed as he gave Spike a smile that promised a very enthusiastic lover later on. His boy was so ridiculously easy to please. And if Angel got his head screwed on straight, Spike's south border would be secure, so there were a lot of advantages to helping the powers of light or whatever the hell they were supposed to be. Xander supported Wesley who seemed even more uncoordinated than ever as they headed for the stairs.

Once they were gone, Spike turned back to Angel. "Your girls are tough cookies. Got brass knuckles for knackers, Cordelia does, and Fred is a lot like Dru. She hides her strength, but that doesn't make her less strong. But Wesley there..." Spike let his voice trail off and Angel frowned at him.

"His father turned him out, the watchers gave him the boot, his slayer turned on him, and he was an utter failure on his own. He's clinging to you, and he's only as strong as you are. He's like my Xander, luv. If you want to worry about one of your humans, you worry about him. You know, he actually thought I'd leave him behind by himself in that hotel of yours. Scared the shit of him, that did. He actually smelled relieved when I ordered him to follow in Cordelia's car, and the look on his face when he found out I'd ordered Fred to pack his shite..." Spike laughed at that bit of confusion. Wesley was fun to fuck with, that's for sure.

Spike shook his head at the man's utter determination even when he was convinced of his own worthlessness. "He doesn't know what he has to offer, and he's just waiting for you to kick him to the curb the way everyone has. He's about broken, that one, but he's holding it together because he's convinced himself that he belongs to you.

Have some respect for his submission. Then again, if you don't want him, Victor already put in a request to claim him for his own," Spike said with a shrug before he turned his back and headed for the stairs.

Xander had already gotten Wesley to the main floor, and behind him, Angel called out angrily at the thought of another vampire taking Wesley, but Spike ignored that. It was time for Angel to do some thinking on his own. He closed the heavy door and slipped the lock into place with Angel still calling for him to come back and explain himself.

When Spike turned, Falif was there, her arms crossed over her very impressive chest. "Need something, luv?" Spike asked as he started up the stairs. She fell into step right behind him.

"Not at all. I am enjoying watching the viibor."

Spike glanced over his shoulder at her. She smiled. "The sacred forcing of a choice onto one who has lost her path and fallen from the knowledge of choice," she translated for him. Spike raised an eyebrow as he considered just how odd Oden Tal could be.

"Master Spike," she said with a respectful tilt of her head before she turned and headed for the corner of the warehouse she and her women had turned into their home. Shaking his head, Spike headed for his boy. It'd been a long day, and one round of sex was definitely not enough.

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