17 Dream-track

Prompt: 78 - Emancipation

Wednesday night

Willy's was a bust. Spike hadn't been seen there for almost a week and Willy swore he didn't know where he lived. Although he did, with some persuasion, remember where he had last heard Spike's car was stored. The Fish Tank drew an equal blank. For all it's rough appearance, it turned out to be a predominantly human bar and, by Angel's judgement, the clientele were neither rough enough, nor respectable enough to attract Spike. A visit to the lock-up garage where, as Willy predicted, Spike's car was hidden also provided no clues. There was no guard or attendant on duty for Angel to threaten for more information, not even an office he could break into and ransack for an address. He spent the whole night keeping watch from a roof top across the street, just in case Spike returned, but to no avail. And a second night was too much time to waste - the chances that Spike would come back for anything were too slim. However, the knowledge that Spike was still in town was both worrying and perversely comforting. It didn't get him any closer to finding Xander though. Reviewing his actions to date Angel realised that he didn't have a single clue, which left only the final option of aimlessly trolling the streets.

That day his sleep was shallow and his dreams confused, Jeb tormented him with words of blame and regret. 'I wanted you,' he said, as he ran a hand down Angel's naked chest. 'I would have been everything you dreamed of.' He curled his fingers, digging his nails into the delicate skin under Angel's arm pit and dragging them across and down to his stomach, leaving thin trails of bright red welling from ragged cuts, which he bent down and licked away. He looked back up and gazed into Angel's eyes. 'I still can be,' he whispered. The words held both promise and threat and Angel realised that he couldn't move, his wrists tied tightly to the bed frame above his head. So tightly that they were going numb, as if he still had a circulation that could be cut off. Darla peered down at him from behind Jeb's shoulder and smiled, her eyes mocking. Jeb keened and arched back, his head falling to her breast as she ran her hands up his arms, just before she gently cupped his face and with a vicious twist, snapped his neck. Jeb's body fell forward onto Angel's chest. 'No!' he cried, 'it wasn't like that!' He reached out clasping the body to him, as it faded away into insubstantial mist. 'Fucked that one up, didn't you?' Spike observed, his bleached hair glowing in the moonlight and his pale face somehow illuminated from below while the rest of his body, shrouded in his leather coat, merged with the night. Jeb opened his eyes and gazed mournfully up at Spike from the long, dead grass at Angel's feet. 'You love me, don't you?' he whispered, his eyes fixed on Spike's face. 'You'll love me forever.' Spike slung his arm around Jeb's shoulder and they stood together, looking down at Angel with identical expressions of disgusted pity. Then they turned and walked away across the moor, twin patches of darkness sharply outlined against the harvest moon, merging into one and fading away in a shimmer of wavering shadow. Angel looked over at Dru on her motorcycle. 'Can we catch them?' he asked. Her smile was sad and she shook her head. 'Not for a hundred years,' she replied. 'But we can try.' The wind whipped at his face and Dru's laugh echoed in his ears. 'You killed me,' she observed in a conversational tone, as if she was offering him no more than the time of day. 'You took me, claimed me, owned me and never freed me. I always wondered why you did that.' With a sob, he reached for her, but she danced out of range. 'I'm sorry,' he cried. 'Sorry enough?' she asked. Then she smiled like a tiger and twisted like a snake. 'No, not sorry enough,' she sang. 'Not nearly sorry enough. Not yet. But don't take too long, lover, I haven't got as much time as you.' When Angel woke, the tracks of dried tears were tight on his skin, pulling at the corners of his eyes.

Thursday evening

He called it patrolling, but he knew that he was way off his game. His feet were heavy and his movements felt sluggish from lack of proper sleep. The occasional flurry of movement caught his attention from the corner of his eye, but even those he investigated proved to be nothing by the time he reached the spot. His heart just wasn't in it tonight. The worry about Xander and the problem of Spike occupied his thoughts to the exclusion of any more mundane vampire hunt.

Xander had still not been home; his room was untouched from when Angel had first checked on Monday, so he walked the streets, hoping for a miracle that would lead him to Spike. He tried the empty factories that he'd noted in his first few weeks, those that weren't already occupied by small bands of sireless minions, and the boarded up shops in back streets, but found no sign of Spike.

After an hour of fruitlessly wracking his brain for any alternative options he found himself in the park, looking down at a dead homeless guy, who seemed to reproach him with his fixed and glassy gaze, and he realised that he needed to do something. A quick touch to the face confirmed that the body was still warm and he'd missed the chance to save another life. With a shrug of regret, Angel hurried away, just in case the police happened to be out patrolling too. 'Once more along Main Street,' he thought, 'to the ATM, then the hospital. I just need something to eat. There's nothing really wrong with me, nothing that a good meal won't solve. After that, Restfield and maybe check out the Funeral Home. Even if Spike's not around, there may be someone who knows where he is.' With that decided, he sped up his pace and headed back into town. If those places turned up nothing, he'd go back to the factories.

For a price, his contact at the hospital provided him with two packets of blood, fresh from the bank. He had them ready, almost as if he'd been expecting Angel to show up. And Angel drank it cold, as soon as he got outside, too eager to wait, or to go home and heat it up. As always, the surge of power was thrilling and for a moment he felt almost dizzy with it, but once the buzz faded a little, he felt able to resume his patrol with clearer eyes and a renewed determination to find someone who could give him a new lead. Part of him kept hoping he was wrong, but it was four nights since Xander had been home.

It was nearing 1am by this time and the town was quiet, but Angel strode on, searching for any movement. With most of the humans off the street there was less chance in finding a minion out and about, but there was always a chance. Most experienced vampires in a suburbia like this ate early, or waited for the nightshift to knock off work nearer dawn and, if necessary, he would wait that long. It wasn't as if he had anything else to do.

As he turned the corner into Main Street he thought he spotted movement near the alley next to The Sun Cinema. It looked like Xander, it looked like Jeb, and he broke into a run.

Skidding to a halt at the alley mouth he peered into the darkness. Slowly he edged forwards, step by step, cautiously hopeful, until he could see the blank wall at the end. The alley was empty, but he could have sworn he'd seen... He shook his head, frowning, wondering if he was hallucinating. There was no way it could have been Xander, not in those clothes. And if it was, where was he now? He turned and made his way back to the street, not noticing the fire escape ladder hidden in a dark corner of the building.

He was walking towards the gates of Greenacre Cemetery when he saw him next, on the other side of the railings, stepping into an open patch of moonlight. Angel caught his breath and Jeb stood still, looking back at him. Then he seemed to shrug and turned away, disappearing into the bushes next to the path. Angel ran to the entrance, grabbing the edge of the open gate to swing himself around without slowing down. But when he reached the spot there was no sign that anybody had been there, no footprints, no broken twigs in the bushes, just the rich, musty smell of damp earth and the scurry of small creatures in the undergrowth. He searched the whole cemetery without finding anything, not even a recently disturbed grave.

By 2.30, he was back in the factory district, and this time he thought he caught a glimpse of Jeb entering a shadowed doorway. Again he ran, but when he reached it he found the door firmly locked. Raising his foot, he put all his force behind the blow and kicked. It shuddered. A second kick and the jam began to splinter around the catch. A third and the door crashed inwards. Inside was a narrow staircase and Angel scrambled up, into a wide space full of heavy duty shelving stacked with crates on pallets. A portable pallet lifter was parked near the top of the stairs and the place was silent and empty. He searched it anyway, but found nothing. That fact didn't surprise him.

For the rest of the night he continued to doubt his sanity as he kept catching glimpses of that familiar figure, dressed in loose and shapeless trousers and a heavy coat tied at the waist with rope. It really was Jeb, but that was impossible, and each time he ran after his hallucination, he found nothing.

As dawn threatened, he finally caught a break. He was back on Main Street when a slim young looking vampire walked out, right in front of him. He grabbed her by the hair and dragged her to him, bringing his stake up to press against her chest, above the heart. "Talk," he demanded. "Where's Spike?"

She grabbed at his wrist, trying to force the stake away and he had to exert all his strength to hold it still. "Who?" she gasped. "I don't know any Spike."

"Short. Thin. English. Mouthy. White hair," he growled.

"Oh, him, yes, I've seen him," she cried. "If I tell you, you'll let me go?"

"Maybe. Tell me anyway."

"I just saw him. He was heading up Crawford Street. I don't know where he was going. Please let me go?"

Angel considered her words. She was frightened enough to be telling the truth. She could probably sense his age and didn't know how weak he was. "Relax," he said. Obediently she dropped her hands away from his arm. Angel smiled into her shoulder and plunged the stake through her ribcage. "I only said 'maybe'," he observed as he stepped back from the dust. Slipping the stake back into his pocket, he wiped a few traces of ash off his coat and trousers. 'Crawford Street, eh?' he thought. 'Okay, a bit more classy than I would have expected of Spike, but there aren't many houses up there. It shouldn't be too difficult to track down which one he's taken over. Looking up at the sky he confirmed that there was no time now to follow up the lead, but come nightfall he'd find the bastard and he'd get a few answers to his questions. Weak he may be, but Spike was his grand childe and that gave him an advantage that he intended to make full use of.

18 Gazumped

Prompt: 79 - Marigold


Angel dodged around the last corner, just as the sun broke the horizon, and made his way through the underground garage to his apartment. He was exhausted for some reason, although he hadn't done very much during the night. The vampire he'd slain hadn't put up a fight, although that didn't diminish the rush he'd got from the kill.

Simply relieved to be able to at last get off his feet, he didn't bother with another meal, just stripped off his clothes as he walked across the room. Sleep came easily. No sooner had he crawled into his bed, than he felt himself sink into the deep heaviness of relaxation and his last conscious thought was a smug sense of satisfaction that at least he'd be able to tackle Spike after a good day's rest.

Angel dreamed. He was back in that rundown bar in Mexico in the 20s, facing Boone. The woman Boone was sweet on stood cowering against the wall as they fought, and Boone just wouldn't shut up. 'You want to be human so much?' he taunted. 'That must really piss you off.' Angel shook his head to clear it after a blow that nearly laid him flat. 'It's sad, the things a soul will do to a demon who's not supposed to have one.' Boone said as he glanced around at the crowds of peasants with candles and flowers, celebrating the Day of the Dead. 'Look, they're commemorating your passing,' he observed. 'I'll be sure to spread marigolds over your ashes.'

The scene kaleidoscoped and he was standing watching the sunrise and feeling the warmth suffuse his body. He walked across a meadow to a small brook and dipped his hands in the water to drink. His heart beat strongly in his chest and he knew such joy, for such a brief moment as his soul expanded, taking possession of every inch of him. It didn't last, as he knew it couldn't. Even as he gloried in the knowledge that he was alive, his hand began to crumble into ash and Dru's face appeared, floating like Ophelia in the water below him. 'Why do you think I have to lose you, my dear?' she asked. 'Don't you know yet what you are?' She laughed as her body began to crumble. 'You think it's so important, that soul? You think it makes you almost human? Oh, my poor, poor fool. You don't know what you are.'

Jeb's voice was soft. "Master Angelus?" he whispered. Angel turned his head on his pillow and opened his eyes. "Master Angelus? I didne want t' leave ye." His lips were not moving, but the words were clear in the small room, echoing as if they came at him from all sides. Jeb approached the bed tentatively, eyes cast down and hidden behind thick lashes. Somewhere off to the side was a source of dim light, which caught the movement of his hands as he undid the rope holding closed his heavy, oiled wool coat. With a shift of his shoulders it fell to the floor, exposing his naked chest. His pale hands shifted to the belt holding up his loose canvas trousers and they fell too, leaving him to step out of them and towards Angel's bed. "Please, sir," he said "will ye not let us gi' ye some peace?"

Some part of Angel knew then that he was dreaming and he lifted his left arm, but whether to ward off the apparition, or pull it to him, he wasn't certain. It made no difference, anyway, because Jeb crawled up onto the bed and crouched over Angel's feet, on his hands and knees. He lowered his head, rested his cheek against the blankets covering Angel's shins and pressing forward, stroked his face up Angel's leg, coming to a halt at his groin, where he nuzzled, like a small creature in search of mother's milk. Angel made some small noise of protest, even as his hand came down to the back of Jeb's head, combing and gripping strands of the thick hair. He'd washed that hair himself, before he took Jeb to his bed, laughing at Jeb's protests when the soap came too close to his eyes. "Nay, be still," Jeb whispered, burrowing his face into Angel's groin through the bedding. "Dint y'reckon y'deserve it? Doin' reet as y'are." He ran one hand up Angel's side and Angel watched it approach, spellbound in the dim light. Jeb's fingers gripped the edge of the sheet, where it lay across Angel's chest, and drew it down towards him, until he was able to apply his lips directly to the crease at the top of Angel's leg, rubbing his chin against Angel's cock, which twitched slightly in an effort to respond. The touch was soft and cool and although his mouth was busy, his voice was still clear. "I's not some sackless boy who mun be protected." Jeb's right hand smoothed down the outside of Angel's thigh, pushing the sheets further and he began to mouth the sensitive skin on the inside. Angel groaned as the memories of a stolen week and a stolen life overcame him and his hips jerked. And finally, Jeb's mouth closed over his shaft and he began to suck. "Tis too lat fer that," he whispered, and in this dream state, it didn't seem strange to Angel that Jeb could both service him and talk, at the same time. "Remember how t'stars skimmered so bright t'night 'fore ye flit'ed? Night 'fore I lost ye? It were like heaven, Angelus." Angel shivered and again his hips jerked with desire, causing Jeb's head to bob up, almost dislodging him from his task. "I know y'dint mean me t'dee," he said, even as he swallowed Angel's cock again and Angel grabbed at a handful of hair. "I know I wasn' bait t'ye." Jeb tilted his head and looked up at Angel from beneath his lashes. His eyes were dark and...

"No!" Angel cried, dragging Jeb's mouth away from his cock. "Stop!" He pulled the boy towards him until his arm had enough leverage, then flung him away, so he tumbled off the bed and crashed onto his back on the floor.

Sitting up, Angel scrubbed his hands over his face and through this hair. He looked down at the figure sprawled on the mat. "Xander?" he asked, hoping against hope that he was still dreaming.

Xander growled, his mouth contorting with frustrated rage and his eyes glowing yellow, even as his features shifted, with a crunching sound, and a vampire was glaring back into Angel's horrified face.

A movement near the foot of the bed caused Angel to drag his eyes away from his greatest failure and Spike stepped into view from the kitchen. "Hmm, shame that," he observed. "Was looking reet promising there, it were." He walked over to Xander and placed a restraining hand on his shoulder, glancing down at his childe. "Better get ye kegs back on, love," he advised. "Looks like this one's played out." Turning to Angel and nodding towards Angel's half hard state, he added, "Though if I was you, I'd be a mite insulted by that."

Angel grabbed the blanket and pulled it back up, clutching it to his chest until Spike's growing smirk made him realise how that must look and he let it fall to his lap. "How did you get in here?" he demanded.

Spike turned Angel's reading chair around so it faced the bed and sat down. "Sewer access, mate." He shrugged with a smirk, "Plus, I know where you live..." He paused. "Exist, anyway." His voice became thoughtful and he cocked his head. "I'm not sure 'live' is the right word. What do you think?"

Sulkily, Xander rolled over and reached for his trousers and coat, standing up to pull them on, leaving the coat unbelted. He moved to stand behind Spike, but Spike snagged him around the waist, pulling him down to sit on the arm of the chair, leaning against Spike's shoulder.

Wrapping the sheet around his waist, Angel swung his legs out of bed, so he was sitting with his feet on the floor, and rested his forearms on his thighs. They stared at each other across four feet of furry rug. Eventually Spike broke the silence. "Wasn't meant to wear off that fast," he observed.

"What wasn't?"

"The drug. Was supposed to keep you under while Xander here had his wicked way with you." He gave Xander an affectionate squeeze and leered up at him. "And he can be very wicked, can't you, pet?" Xander smirked back.

"What drug?" Angel asked, feeling, as he so often did these days, that his life was escaping his control.

"The drug in the blood you bought." Spike explained, speaking slowly and clearly, as if Angel where being particularly dense. "At the hospital? Nigel Mears? Your 'contact'? Ringing any bells?"

"You paid him," Angel stated, flatly.

"Well, yeah!" Spike's smile was feral. "Not much point in doing anything else. Couldn't sell you the blood if he was dead, now could he?" Angel ran his hands over his face, trying to clear his head. "That would be the last of it, beginning to wear off," Spike added. "Did some killing tonight, did you? Got the endorphins pumping?" Angel looked up sharply. "Yeah," Spike continued. "That'd do it. Counteracts the effects. Should've thought of that. But, watching you for the last few weeks, didn't think you were likely to take on anyone who could actually fight back." He grinned cheerfully. "You'll be a bit groggy for a few more hours, but it'll be worn off by evening."

Angel looked at his grandchilde and his great-grandchilde, sitting together and felt himself slump in defeat. "What did you expect to gain from this charade, Spike?" he asked.

Spike looked offended, if Angel chose to believe his expression. "Just wanted to give you a present," he said, his tone aggrieved. "Remind you of the good times. Remind you where you belong. Drug's supposed to free you, give you some home truths from the old subconscious and release your deepest desires. You always had a soft spot for Jeb, thought you'd enjoy meeting the new version."

"That's not Jeb," Angel snapped, just as Xander said, "Hey!"

Spike gave Xander another squeeze, tipping him over to sprawl across Spike's lap. Smiling down at the indignant face, he tapped Xander lightly on the nose. "No you're not Jeb," he agreed. "But you look like him. The spitting image." He considered his childe. "Well, except for the eyes," he added, ruffling Xander's hair, playfully.

Xander crossly swiped his hair out of his face, but he didn't move off Spike's knee. Instead, he reached up one hand and stroked it down Spike's cheek and neck, a gesture so tender and full of trust, on both their parts, that Angel felt a sharp pang of jealousy. "You killed Xander," he said, stating the obvious in an attempt to dispel the mood and regain his indignation.

"Yeah," Spike agreed, obviously not picking up on Angel's intentions. "Isn't he beautiful?" Xander purred and nuzzled his face into Spike's neck, which sent a vivid sense memory of his attempted seduction through Angel's chest and into his groin. Spike's arms closed around his childe. Looking up, Spike grinned at Angel. "So it didn't work," he said. "But I'm not complaining. I got me a lovely childe from the deal. Would never have thought of turning him, if I hadn't seen you panting after him. Remind me to thank you for that, one day." He pushed at Xander to make him stand up and heaved himself out of the chair. "We'll leave you with that thought," he said, sauntering towards the door. "Come on, pet. Time we were off home." He looked over his shoulder at Angel. "We're at 3, Torres Heights, if you want to find us," he added, as he opened the door. "See you soon." And with that, they were gone.

Angel dropped his head in his hands and tried to will away the memory of a lean young body and the adoring look in a young vampire's eyes as he gazed up at his sire.

Translations of dialect words:
us - often used to mean the singular 'me' or 'I'
sackless - simple-minded
mun- must
lat - late
ye flit'ed - you left
skimmer - to shine brightly, to sparkle
dee - die
bait - food
I think the rest are obvious from the context, but let me know if there are any that aren't.

The title is a British word that refers to a situation where a verbal agreement of sale is withdrawn by the seller, because they have received a better offer.

19 The made man

Prompt: 80 - Rule Number Seven


"Rule one?" Spike asked.

"Keep an eye on Angelus."


"Lay low. Don't attract attention."

"Right! Number three?"

"Don't go leading anyone back to the house."


"Keep the house clean."

"Yeah, I don't want to be bringing Dru back to bodies all over the place." He glared at Xander. "Okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, okay. Sheesh."

Spike's mouth twisted into a reluctant smile, but his voice stayed firm. "Five?" he asked.

"Make sure to be in at least an hour before dawn. I can't believe I've got a curfew."

"Oi, less cheek, or I'll ground you too." Xander looked up, but relaxed again when he saw that Spike was still smiling. "Six?" Spike continued.

Nodding his head from side to side, like a toy dog in the back window of a car, Xander adopted a sing song voice. "If Angelus comes round, be polite and accommodating." Spike's sharp clip round the ear made him continue more sulkily. "Not that he will. He's hardly left his den for the last three nights."

"He might. And if he does, it'll be because he can't resist you, so play along and give him anything he wants, okay?"

"Yeah, okay. Be nice to Angelus. Check!"

Spike put an arm around Xander and gave him a hug. "Good boy. Seven?"

Xander bowed his head into Spike's shoulder wracking his brains, fruitlessly, until it clicked. He looked up sharply. "Hey! There isn't a seven," he said indignantly.

Spike laughed and dropped a kiss on Xander's forehead. "You're right, there isn't." He turned to pick up his duster, swinging it around as he expertly inserted his left arm into its sleeve.

He was arrested as his other arm groped for the opening to the right sleeve by Xander's next words: "But you are coming back, right?"

Turning around, he regarded his childe. "Don't be such a needy blighter, " he ordered as he shoved his arm in and pulled the coat over his shoulders. As he twitched the collar straight he obviously saw that that wasn't enough to reassure Xander, because he sighed again. "Yes, I'm coming back. Angelus is here. Dru needs him. I'm coming back. Satisfied?"

Happy again, Xander launched himself at his sire, jumping into his arms, wrapping his legs around Spike's hips and his arms around Spike's neck. Spike staggered under the impact, but he was laughing too. "Alright, calm down. I'll not leave you. I'm not like some fly-by-nights, who'll desert their kin on a whim." He kissed Xander again, on the mouth this time. Xander tried to continue the kiss, but Spike pulled away, slackening the grip of his arms, so Xander slipped back down to stand in front of him. "I'll be two nights. Three, max. Then I'll introduce you to your grandsire. You just behave yourself, while I'm gone. Okay?"

"Okay." Xander fingered the lapel of Spike's duster. "This is a really cool coat. Can I have one?"

Taking a step back, Spike glanced down at himself. "Yeah, leather does give a bloke a bit of an edge." He raised his left hand, stroking it down Xander's cheek. "Tell you what: when we get back, we'll go out, just you and me. And we'll find you one and get it for you." His voice became sterner. "But only if you're good. I'm trusting you here, okay?"

With a sense of pride, Xander nodded eagerly. "Okay. I promise. I'll be good." Off Spike's look, he added, "And careful. Good and careful. Careful and good. Promise."

He tried to ignore the sinking sensation he felt, as he stood at the window watching Spike pull the gate closed behind him.

Thursday evening

Pacing the length of the living room, back and forth, casting regular glances at the window, Xander wasn't sure if he was worried, or fuming with anger. 'Two nights, he said! Three at most! But even if Sunday doesn't count, he should've been back yesterday!' Just to be certain, he ticked the nights off on his fingers. 'Sunday night to get there. Monday to sort out whatever he needed to sort out. That's one. Tuesday to get back. Or Wednesday, if whatever his business was took longer than one night. He should be back! So where is he?' Another glare at the window; it looked darker. He checked the alarm clock he'd brought out from the bedroom. Yes! 'Finally!' Rushing over to the door, he pulled it open and looked out. Suddenly cautious, he edged out onto the porch. He'd never left the house quite this early before, but he'd not slept well and had woken long before the alarm had told him he must. Plus, he was starving, having finished off the woman Spike left for him, the night before, so certain that Spike would be back when he got home from keeping watch over Angelus' movements.

It had been a boring week. He'd done as he was told - set the alarm for seven o'clock each evening, to give himself plenty of time to wash and eat before making his way, as soon as it was dark, to the rooftop across the street from Angelus' apartment building. Each evening it had been a relief when Angelus got his lazy ass in gear and came out, because lying on a roof top for hours on end, watching the entrance to the garage and the manhole that was Angelus' access to the sewers, just inside it, was not Xander's idea of fun. Not that trailing around town after the guy was much better. Angelus wasn't doing anything, just wandering around, not even killing things and certainly not hunting. On Tuesday night there had been that slight excitement, when he chased a few kids away from the park, but it didn't amount to anything. He didn't get into any fights. Which, when Xander thought about it afresh was probably a relief, because he was pretty sure Spike would expect him to go to the rescue and he wasn't too sure how good he'd be at that whole deal, since he didn't know how well he could fight yet. He felt stronger than he remembered Xander being and it was true he could jump higher and run for longer, but facing other vampires, who also had those abilities and had had time to practice with them? No, maybe it was as well Angelus was doing no more than skulking around the graveyards and peering into crypts.

But right now he was starving, because last night he'd allowed himself a bigger meal than usual. He'd even remembered rule four and taken the body out and dumped it, before heading over to Angelus' place. Craning his neck he checked the sky beyond the porch. 'Yep, safe enough. Time to find something to eat, before another night of one sided tag. And if Spike wasn't coming back... Xander shook himself, he'd be back! He'd promised! But it was a bit of a thrill, to be actually going out on a hunt by himself.

Walking down towards Crawford Street, Xander pondered hunting grounds. The Bronze seemed like the best bet. He'd blend in there and be more likely to see someone who thought they knew him. Not that Xander had ever had any luck with the girls. He considered that memory. Not that he'd ever tried. Bronze it was then. And Angelus' apartment was nearby, so it wouldn't even be a detour, not really.

He didn't have any money on him to pay the cover charge, so he took up position near a dark loading bay and a pile of empty pallets, about a hundred yards from the club and nearer to the entrance to the alley. Leaning up against the wall, as if he was waiting for someone, he watched the evening's party goers straggle passed. A group of girls walked by, giggling, and didn't even spare him a glance, but he needed someone on their own if he was to do this right. Spike hadn't had much time to teach him how to hunt, but he knew enough to know that a human scream was nearly as effective a weapon as a stake. He shifted slightly as the sound of a single pair of footsteps reached him and turned his head towards the mouth of the alley. Male, slim, young. Xander strained his eyes as he slowly stood upright. 'Ah, yes. Now what was his name? Wayne? Warren? Scott? Yes, that was it, Scott Hope.' Stepping away from the wall and into the middle of the path, Xander hunched his shoulders. "Hey, man," he called, swinging his hand in a half formed wave. "Umm, you're Scott, right?"

His target slowed down, but continued to walk towards the club, and Xander. "Yeah?" he replied, cautiously. "Do I know you?"

"Xander. We had English together last year."

"Oh, oh yeah, sure, Xander." Scott's shoulders relaxed and Xander grinned inwardly at the advantage his host's looser status gave him. Being underestimated could be useful. Scott had stopped a few feet from him and was looking at him questioningly.

"Oh umm, listen, I was just wondering..." Xander edged a little closer, causing Scott to take an unthinking step back towards the loading bay. "I was wondering..."

Scott continued to back away. He seemed to have picked up some sense of threat because he looked up and down the alley, searching. "There's no one there," Xander said. "Just us."

"What are you talking about?" Scott asked, his voice sounding slightly strangled, so it came out higher than before. "Are you coming on to me?" he asked, trying to smile, to pass it off as a joke if that proved necessary.

Xander shook his head. "Nah, you are so not my type." He gave a small sniff and felt a smile begin to stretch his lips. "But it seems like I might be yours. What do you say?" he asked, edging them both back further towards the shadows.

"What are you doing?" Scott's voice was now beginning to rise in volume too, as alarm coloured it.

Xander lifted his arms and rammed his hands into Scott's chest, causing him to fly back and crash into the pallets, from where he bounced off to collapse to the ground on his back. "Huh!" Xander said, staring down at his hands, then up at the body lying awkwardly sprawled on the floor. "Cool." He pounced on his meal, before Scott could even think about getting back on his feet. Pinning him down with the weight of his body, Xander grabbed a handful of hair and pulled Scott's head back, exposing his neck, and bit. Scott gave one strangled scream and his legs thrashed, but Xander shifted his weight back and clamped his feet down over Scott's ankles. From there it was easy. Scott's right hand grasped at Xander's hair, while the other groped blindly around on the ground next to him, as Xander sealed his lips around the wound and began to suck.

It didn't take long, first the struggling grew weaker, then, gradually, the heart began to falter, until it too stopped. Shortly after that even Xander's powerful throat muscles couldn't drag any more goodness from the body and he pushed himself up onto his hands and knees. He was glutted on the power of his first full meal. Life coursed through him and he felt like his body should be glowing with the strength of it.

He looked down at his chest, just to make sure. No glow, but there was a pretty big bloodstain on his t-shirt. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and that came away stained too. Thinking quickly, he rolled the body over and stripped it of the leather jacket it was wearing. Not as good as Spike's coat, but good enough for now. Using the hem of Scott's shirt, Xander wiped most of the blood from his mouth, then he got to his feet, pulled the jacket on, zipped it up and bent to drag the body further into the darkness of the loading bay. Finally satisfied that it wouldn't be found immediately, he wandered out into the alley again. 'Better get over to Angelus',' he thought, 'for another exciting night of follow the ancestor.'

He had just turned into Main Street when a voice called out to him, "Hey! Xander!" He looked around and saw Jesse waving at him as he sprinted across the road. He came to a halt, right in front of Xander, bouncing slightly with suppressed excitement. "Watcha' doing?" he asked. "Ya heading to the Bronze?"

"Er, no, I just left." What an amazing coincidence, bumping into Jesse, right now. A plan began to form in Xander's brain.

Jesse's face twisted, "Man," he asked. "What the fuck happened to you? You get a bloody nose?" He smirked slightly. "Did ya step on Larry's foot, or, uh, spill his drink?" He looked past Xander, towards the alley. "Are they following you?"

Xander tugged at the collar of his jacket and Jesse's eyes widened. "That's blood on your shirt. Oh, dude, are you really hurt? Come on, we've gotta get outta here. I'm gonna take you to the hospital." He reached out to grab Xander as Xander feinted a stagger.

Allowing his left arm to be hauled over Jesse's shoulder, Xander murmured, "Home. Just get me home."

"No, man, Hospital! Just hang in there, okay? I'll get you there. How bad is it? That looks like a lotta blood."

"It's just a small cut. Won't even need stitches. I just need to wash up and put a plaster on it. I'm okay."

"You are not okay, on an epic scale. Come on. This way. Lean on me."

Calculating the best route, Xander submitted. "Okay. Hospital. Through Matthew's, yeah? It's quicker."

They set off, Xander allowing Jesse to take his weight. "Sure thing. Just hang on in there," Jesse begged. Shifting the grip he had on Xander's left hand, he grunted. "You still with me, man? You're hand's kinda cold and clammy, don't go into shock, okay. 'Cause I really don't know what I should do." Xander gave a pained grunt and Jesse steered them through the gates of St Matthew's cemetery.

Once they were well inside the gates, out of sight of the road, Xander straightened up, pulling away from Jesse. "I am so glad I bumped into you," he said, taking advantage of Jesse's surprise to grab him and pull him into his arms.

Remembering how well it had worked on his dinner, Xander hooked a foot around Jesse's leg and pushed forward, tripping them both so they fell, with him landing on top, forcing the air out of Jesse's lungs with a pained 'Umph!" He struck, before Jesse could draw another breath to protest, sinking his fangs into Jesse's neck. There was no tearing hunger this time, so he was able to take more care, concentrating on the change in suction needed as Jesse's heart did less of the work for him. Once Jesse stopped trying to fight, he pulled away, tore into his own wrist and forced the bleeding wound against Jesse's mouth. Jesse choked once, swallowed and then his lips closed around the cut and he began to suck. Xander thought about what Spike had told him about his own turning and dipped his head back to Jesse's neck, to complete the process.

It seemed to take longer to kill Jesse than it did to drain Scott dry, but eventually his body went limp and his mouth fell away from Xander's wrist. Xander rolled off him and looked around as he got back to his feet. The next question was, where to take him? Home was the obvious answer, but how to get there? Briefly Xander wondered if he hadn't been a bit impatient. He could probably have lured Jesse back to the house, if he'd been thinking more clearly. Well, there was no point in regrets, he crouched down and hauled Jesse's body over his shoulder, like a sack of potatoes, and set off through the cemetery, away from the hospital and towards the woods which would bring him out at the top of Crawford Street, from where he could probably cut through some of the wide grounds of the big houses, onto Torres. He suddenly realised he was really tired. Thank fuck, he'd managed to find a good meal before trying this. It might not have worked otherwise.

Friday evening

Xander sat on the floor next to Jesse's body, laid out on the same rug he'd woken on, just over a week ago. It was early evening and Xander considered going and getting a meal from the girl he'd got stored in the pantry. Getting her had meant going out again last night, but once he'd got Jesse back to the house and into his bed, he'd realised that the turning had taken more out of him than he'd realised and he'd had to go back out to hunt again. He'd grabbed the first human he saw, jumping out of the trees and knocking her over the head with a rock, bringing her back and tying her up, before taking enough to keep her unconscious.

For once it had actually been a relief to find that Spike still hadn't come home while he was out. And he still wasn't back, but that wasn't what was stopping Xander leaving now. There was a feeling stirring in his gut and he wondered if Spike had felt this too. Whether Spike had sat vigil over him, for the three days he said it took for Xander to wake. He stroked his hand through Jesse's hair and bent down, taking the slack lips in a gentle kiss. Now they could be together. Now Jesse wouldn't reject him, wouldn't stiffen up and roll away when Xander wanted to kiss him. Now he could have Jesse, like Spike had him. He could love him and hold him and teach him how to feed and Spike could teach them both how to hunt. And if Spike's sire didn't let Spike come back, then Xander would still have Jesse. They could learn together.

He rolled back onto his butt in surprise, as the lips under his moved, staring in awe as Jesse's body jerked, twitched and sat upright, like a wooden board hinged in the middle. Jesse looked around, his eyes glowing yellow in the dim light of the room. "Xander?" he asked, then more hesitantly, "Sire?"

"Wow," Xander exclaimed. "You're awake. Already. I thought it was supposed to take days."

Jesse's expression became smug. "You did, did you?" he asked. "I was always faster than you, man."

"I don't care," Xander interrupted, before Jesse could say anything in his confusion, that Xander would have to pick him up on. "I'm just glad to see it worked." He leant forward to kiss Jesse again, but Jesse turned his head, looking around the room and Xander's lips collided with his cheek.

"Faster, smarter and stronger," Jesse mused. "Where are we anyway?"

Nonplussed Xander replied, while he tried to get a handle on the conversation, "Torres Heights."

"Off Crawford?"


"Great! That's where Cordelia lives." Jesse jumped to his feet and crossed to the door, turning with his hand on the knob. "Thanks, buddy," he said as he pulled the door open and stepped out. "I feel great!" And he walked out into the night, leaving Xander still sitting on the floor, too shocked to move.

20 When the cat's away

Prompt: 81 - Grovel

Friday night

An hour later, Xander had progressed from shocked, through depressed and was building towards angry. He'd moved from the floor to the couch, but he hadn't managed to figure out what to do next. He ought to go out and find Jesse. He ought to go and watch Angelus' place and follow him when he left. He ought to figure out what he was going to tell Spike, if Spike ever came back. Instead, he was sitting, numb and confused with his brain refusing to co-operate with any of the things he ought to be doing. And underneath it all, was a feeling of intense frustration and annoyance, a deep seated resentment at Jesse's attitude.

A faint noise outside caused him to look up, but the initial hope that it was Spike returning was dashed when the door opened to usher Jesse back into the living room. Xander jumped to his feet and was across the room in seconds. He grabbed the lapels of Jesse's jacket as he drove him back into the wall. "Where have you been?"

Jesse didn't seem to notice Xander's tone, didn't seem to notice that Xander was furious with him. Or maybe he didn't care. His mouth was turned down in a frown that looked remarkably like a pout. "Cordy's left, already," he said. "She's gone to Paris."

Stepping back, Xander let his hands fall away but Jesse stayed where he was, slumped against the wall. "How do you know they've gone?" Xander asked.

With a shrug, Jesse raised his face to Xander, his expression woebegone. "You think I haven't been keeping count? But I just lost a whole day! Why'd you have to wait so long? If I'd woken up one night earlier, I'd have been able to get her and turn her. She'd have been mine!"

Xander reached out again, his hand hovering above Jesse's shoulder, before he pulled it back. "And what if I didn't want her?" he asked. "Did you even think of that?"

Jesse shook his head. "No. I wanted her, so I thought you'd be okay with it."

In the face of such longing, Xander wasn't sure what to say. The anger was still there, but so was the desire to make Jesse happy, to have what he'd wanted when he saw Jesse in the street and decided to make him. He thought about the boy Jesse'd been and the way he'd stalked Cordelia for the last few weeks. She wasn't so bad, for a girl. It was just her air of superiority that had put Xander off, he thought. She hadn't interested him, but she'd been important to Jesse. "Yeah, well, maybe," he offered. "We'll not know now, will we? Anyway, she'll be back in a month." With an internal shrug, he dismissed Cordelia Chase from his mind and returned to the source of his own concerns. "But it didn't take you this long to check her house. Where've you been?"

Brightening at the reminder that maybe all he had to do was wait, Jesse answered, "I went to The Bronze. I thought she might be there, since she wasn't at home." A slow smile spread across his face and he straightened up. "I ran into that Harmony bitch." The smile turned into a grin. "Man, you should have seen her. She wouldn't spare a glance for the old Jesse, but me? I walked in and she was panting. I so rule!"

Stepping away from the wall, Jesse began to pace and his voice shifted again. "I got her outside, but a whole gang of vampires turned up and I had to run." He looked over. "They were huge and there were at least ten of them. They took Harmony off me and I hadn't even finished with her." There was the beginning of a whine now and it seemed that the injustice of the theft had completely overwhelmed his previous heartbreak. "They said I had no right here. What did they mean by that?"

It was Xander's turn to shake his head. "I don't know. Spike, my sire, hasn't had a chance to tell me much yet." He thought about it. "Maybe there's different hunting grounds for different gangs," he suggested. "Maybe you strayed into another gang's territory?"

"But how would I know?" The whine transformed into frustrated anger. "I only just woke up. You're supposed to know this stuff. How long have you been around? A month? A week? What?"

"Er, just over a week. But I've been busy. Spike wanted me to do something and he was concentrating on that." In an effort to provide Jesse some hope that things would get better, he offered, "Spike will know if there's gangs. He'll explain it. When he gets back."

"Spike, Spike, Spike. I don't want to hear about Spike! I don't care about Spike!" Xander rocked back in shock at such sentiments, feeling an involuntary growl forming in his throat, but Jesse didn't seem to notice because he continued, "And even if there are gangs, we still need to eat." He resumed his pacing, staring at the carpet under his feet and ignoring Xander. "So we need to go somewhere they don't own." He looked up. "How about your parent's place? Or mine? We could get enough to last a week from mine."

It was as if Jesse's words released a desire that Xander hadn't known he'd been nurturing and suddenly he was excited too. "No, we'll save yours. We'll do mine!" Grabbing his leather jacket and pulling it on, he caught Jesse by the shoulders, turned him around and started bundling him towards the door, when a sudden thought made him stop short. "Wait!" he said, letting his arms drop to his sides. "Problemo amigo. Big fucking problemo. Spike said something about this - we can't get into a house unless we're invited." He watched Jesse gaze around the room. "A house where humans live," he explained. "There's some sort of barrier. They have to invite us in. Demons are different, no barrier on a demon's house."

"Invite us? That sounds crazy. Have you tested it?"

Xander shook his head. "I know we can get into a demon's house, but we never tried to get into a human one."

"So you don't actually know it's true?"

"Er, no, but Spike said it was. And if it is, it'll totally screw us if we're stuck outside and can't get in."

"Yeah," Jesse agreed, thoughtfully. "So what d'we do?" He turned away from Xander and went back to pacing the floor. "I know," he announced, "I knock on the door and get invited in to wait for you."

"And I'm stuck outside, while you have all the fun?" Xander retorted. "I don't think so."

"Got a better plan?"

Grabbing Jesse's arm, Xander pulled him outside. "I'll think of one, on the way."


Crouching by the trunk of his dad's car, Xander watched as Jesse climbed the porch steps and knocked on the door. It was not yet eleven, so Xander doubted they were in bed, but it seemed to take forever before his mom answered. It was quiet on the street so Xander could hear the conversation clearly. "Hi, Mrs Harris." Jesse said, sounding perfectly cheerful and normal. "Is Xander in?"

Xander couldn't see anything from where he was hiding, but he heard the shocked surprise in her voice when she answered, "He's not with you?"

"No, I haven't seen him for a few days. That's why I got a bit worried. Are you sure he's not in? Can I come in and see?"

Her reply wasn't very encouraging for Jesse's lame idea. "Wait there," she ordered. She must have turned away, because her voice echoed differently, but it was loud enough so Xander could still hear what she shouted. "Tony! Jesse McNally's here. He's looking for Xander."

There was silence for a moment, then Jesse tried again. "Maybe he came home and you didn't notice? Maybe he's in his room, right now? Could I go and have a look?"

His mom didn't answer and when Xander peered cautiously around the end of the car he realised that she'd left Jesse on the porch, while she went to talk to his dad. Jesse had his hands up and seemed to be pressing against something in the empty doorway, but he suddenly dropped them back to his sides and stood up straight and respectful. Xander pulled his head back behind the car as his dad appeared. "Jesse?" His dad asked. "Are you saying that Xander's not staying at your place?"

"No, Mr Harris. I came to see if he was alright. I haven't seen him for a coupla days. I was just saying to Mrs Harris, that maybe he's in his room..."

"He's not in his room," his dad interrupted. His words were slightly slurred, but he appeared to be sobering fast. "When did you last see him, exactly?"

This plan sucked, there was no way it was going to work. Xander began to crawl backwards, as Jesse started to splutter out some story about last seeing Xander in the park on Wednesday, until he reached the sidewalk and the cover provided by next door's shrubbery, then he stood up. Taking an unnecessary but steadying deep breath, Xander walked into their view and started towards them "Hey, Jesse," he called.

His dad pulled the door wider and peered over Jesse's shoulder. "Xander," he yelled. "Where've you been?"

Before Xander could answer, his dad was pulled aside and his mom reappeared, echoing her husband as she exclaimed, "Xander! There you are! Where've you been? I've been worried sick. Come here, this minute!"

Hopefully that was enough of an invitation, because although Jesse had turned around and was watching Xander approach, he wasn't saying anything more to persuade them to let him in. "What's up, mom?" he asked.

"Xander Harris, come inside this minute!" As Xander reached the doorway, Jesse moved aside and that apparently caught her attention, because she added more quietly, "Jesse's here, looking for you. Now come inside both of you, I don't want to stand here holding the door all night and we don't need to have this conversation in front of the neighbours." She turned back to Jesse. "In fact, if you don't mind, dear, I think it would be best if you went home now. Xander and I need to talk." To Xander she added, "You could have phoned, if you were staying with one of your friends."

Taking the last step, across the threshold, Xander cast a glance at Jesse over his shoulder and grinned, but his face was under control when he turned back. "Sorry, mom," he said, trying to sound contrite.

"Yes, well, come on in." Now that her momentary alarm for his safety was past, she appeared to forget about it. "You've missed supper," she said, "but there might be some pizza left, in the kitchen."

With a jerk of his head to Jesse, Xander smiled at his mom and followed his dad into the living room. "I'm sure we'll find something," he agreed.


Saturday evening

Xander shoved Jesse's head off his shoulder as the faint tickling sensation he had come to recognise in the back of his mind signalled that the sun was setting. He looked around the room as he got to his feet and fastened his jeans. Jesse was curled up on the couch, where they'd fallen asleep watching TV. His mom's body was lying like a broken action figure, propped up in the corner and there was a small pool of smeared blood at her side. Looked like Jesse hadn't managed to finish that meal. Eyes bigger than his stomach, as she used to say. And his dad... he glanced around and smiled, yes, his dad was lying on the floor in the doorway, where Xander had finally brought him down by jumping on his back.

Turning back to the couch, Xander dragged Jesse to his feet and held him upright. "Rise and shine," he said, giving him a shake.

Jesse's eyes cracked open. "Oh, man, I'm still full. My belly's bloated." He allowed his body to slump as he relaxed his stomach muscles and ran a hand over the resultant bulge. "See?"

With a laugh, Xander let him go, giving him a shove so he fell back onto the couch and bounced gently a couple of times. "We need to head home," he said.

Jesse opened one eye and peered up at him. "What time is it?" he asked.

"Sunset. Come on. I'm going to see if there's anything I want from my old room. Get yourself together. We are so out of here."

He walked away, stepping over his dad's body and down the hall to his old bedroom. Jesse's voice followed him. "Why would you want anything?" he called. Xander ignored him.

But looking around the room, he had to admit there wasn't really anything here he wanted. The memories were too strong and they weren't the sort he wanted to treasure and keep. He wandered around anyway, turning over the comics scattered across the bed, picking up the shirt tossed over the back of the chair and dropping it again. He stopped for a moment and regarded the photos of Willow and Jesse and himself on the desk and thought about turning Willow. Except Jesse was not quite how he expected and, he realised with a shock, not quite what he wanted. They'd shared a few fumbled kisses and Jesse had cuddled up to him willingly enough. He'd even fallen asleep with his hand still around Xander's dick, but there'd been a passivity about him that had left Xander feeling vaguely frustrated, in spite of the fact that Jesse had brought him off. And he hadn't seemed to care that Xander didn't return the compliment. It was like he'd done it because it was expected of him. He didn't gasp and moan, like he had in Xander's imaginings. He didn't actually feel like Jesse. It was odd.

Dragging himself out of his thoughts, Xander shelved that problem for later and took a last look around the room. From the closet he picked out his other pair of jeans and a fresh t-shirt, then he turned his back on the trappings of his human memories and made his way to the bathroom for a shower.

It was disconcerting not to see himself in the mirror, but he managed to comb his hair by feel and it was good to wash off the grime and splatters of blood from the night before and have clean clothes. They smelt fresh; looked like his mom had done the laundry recently. Then he returned to the living room.

Pausing in the doorway, he contemplated the mess, wondering if he should tidy the bodies away, bury them, maybe. Jesse was up, but he hadn't made any attempt to tidy himself. Xander walked over to his mom and considered her, his head on one side. She didn't look peaceful, just broken. She didn't really look like his mom. Behind him, he heard Jesse wandering around. "We gonna go over to mine next, then?" he asked.

Xander didn't bother to turn around. "No, we're going home. What we do after that, well, it depends. But first we're going home."

"Aww, no, man. Come on. I wanna go see the 'rents"

Looking over his shoulder, Xander glared. "No! I want to go home and check."

"See if your precious Spike's turned up yet? You do that, man, I'm going to see how many of the family missed me."

Ignoring the jeering comment about his sire, Xander crossed the room and grabbed Jesse by the arm. "You'll do what I say, or I'll stake you."

Jesse wrenched his arm free and stumbled back a few paces towards the hallway. "Ha! Not if I get you first."

The crash of the door flying open interrupted the incipient argument and Xander watched, mouth agape, as Spike stormed into the room. Without slowing his step, Spike's left arm lashed out and he back-handed Jesse, sending him flying into the wall. Xander barely had time to take in the sight of him sliding to the floor, where he settled in an ungainly heap, very similar to that of Xander's mom, before Spike was on him. He dithered, not sure if he wanted to throw himself into Spike's arms or run like hell and as a result only managed a few dancing steps to the side, but Spike was too fast anyway. He caught a fist full Xander's hair with his right hand and dragged him forwards, forcing his head down at the same time, until Xander's legs buckled and he collapsed to his knees, sending jarring shocks of pain through his knee caps. Spike planted his right foot on the back of Xander's calf to hold him there and jerked his head back. He loomed over Xander, who gazed up at him through watering eyes. "Where's Angelus?" Spike growled.

"You came back," Xander gasped, too relieved to realise he wasn't answering Spike's question.

"'Course I came back. Where's Angelus?" He gave Xander's hair another tug, pulling his head further back, and Xander screamed, fearing his neck would break.

Apparently realising that Xander couldn't answer if he couldn't get any air into his lungs, Spike relaxed his hold slightly. "Don't make me ask again, pet," he warned.

Drawing a ragged breath, Xander managed to gasp, "He was at home, when I last checked."

Giving Xander a shove, as he let go of Xander's hair, Spike lifted his foot from Xander's leg and planted it squarely in Xander's side, pushing him over and holding him there. "And how long ago was that?" he asked in an overly reasonable voice.

He really should have studied his math better at school, Xander thought, since even the ability to count appeared to have deserted him. "Um, er, yesterday?" he suggested.

"You don't sound too sure of yourself there," Spike observed. "Which night was it you ran into this fool and decided, on a whim, to forget your task and turn him?"

Desperately trying to piece together his last few days, Xander gasped. "That was the next night. I finished what you left in the larder, so I had to go hunting." Spike continued to look at him and Xander's panic increased. "Today's Friday, and that was yesterday. So I saw him yesterday, I mean... it might have been the day before."

Spike stood up and regarded Xander, the expression in his eyes making Xander want to curl up into a ball and hide. "Today's Saturday," Spike corrected. "You came here yesterday. So you haven't seen him since Thursday? Or is it Wednesday? And now he's missing. Well done, pet." He reached down and hauled Xander to his feet, holding on to his upper arm to prevent him pulling away, not that Xander was thinking of doing any such thing, and turned them both to face Jesse.

Jesse cowered back against the wall. 'Grovelled' a voice noted in Xander's head, 'That's the word.' It was a girl's voice, instructing him, but he couldn't place it. Then he did: Cordelia Chase, looming over him, much as Spike had just done, after Mitch Fargo knocked him down in the school hallway.

Spike looked Jesse up and down and gave a 'humph' of disgust. "What part of laying low do you call this?" he asked Xander. "You're too young to turn anyone. But since you did, what the fuck are you doing arguing with it? You don't ever let a minion defy you. Not ever."

Turning in Spike's hold and grasping his upper arm with both hands, Xander clung to him. "He's not a minion, Spike. I made him. He's my childe. And I was just telling him he couldn't go and kill his parents, until we'd been and checked if you were back." A new thought occurred to him. "And you are. And I'm so glad, because I was getting really worried that your sire wouldn't let you come back and I was going to come home, as soon as I got him to tidy himself up. Because I really, really wanted to know you were safe. And how did you find us, anyway?"

Spike turned his head to regard Xander and his gaze softened slightly. "You're my childe, that's how I found you. He's a minion. How long did it take him to wake?"

"Er, he woke up last night." Spike raised an eyebrow. "Um, after one night. But he said he was always faster than me, and he was, because with the long legs, he could always run faster, so I figured..." he trailed off in the face of Spike's continued look.

"Pet," Spike shook his head, almost regretfully, "that's why he isn't a childe. You spent three nights absorbing who and what Xander was. When you woke up, you were confused because you had so much to process." He toed Jesse's leg disdainfully. "This one is just a low level creation. Has the memories, but none of the feeling. You're a childe. My childe. He's cannon fodder." Finally he released Xander's arm and Xander slumped with relief.

Spike in the meantime turned on the spot, taking in the mess. "Still, since he exists, might as well make use of him." He jerked his head at Jesse. "Get up. We're going hunting." And turning back to Xander: "Angelus is gone. He's not home and he's not been there for at least two days, so get your arse into gear, we need to find him, before he gets into any more trouble."

Behind Spike, Jesse scrambled to his feet, but his obvious fear didn't seem to be enough for him to keep his mouth shut. Perhaps it was because Spike was no longer looking at him. "I wanna go see the family," he whined.

Spike turned back and glared. "I don't care if you want to go out and slaughter all the bloody tribes of Israel, first you're coming with me!" He reached out an arm and gave Jesse what appeared to be a gentle tap across the cheek, except that Jesse's head whipped round in reaction to the blow. "And if you do well," he added. "I might just let you live."

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