Making Them Pay


Part Seven

Spike stomped his way through the dark house to the back bedroom, throwing his duster on the bed as he passed, and into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him and pushing in the lock. He knew he was acting like a surly child but he couldn't seem to help himself.

Pacing the bathroom he mentally ticked off what he’d accomplished since his artificial leash had conked out. One, childish tricks played on the white hats. Two, pretty good progress in turning Xander into the perfect little plaything. Three, acquired a place to live that wasn’t a decaying crypt or a moldy basement. Four… Well, there was no four.

He hadn’t done one single thing that he’d dreamt about all those months under the control of the fucking chip. Hell, he was even using his own money to finance what was beginning to look an awful lot like respectability

It was wrong. All wrong and he knew it. That fact was driven forcefully home when he'd gone to the bar to pick up the ink for tonight's trick and some loudmouth demon had drunkenly pointed out that Spike’s spine had gone missing, causing Spike to rip his spine out.

He didn’t want to admit the demon had been right. He wasn’t right. Spike just didn’t do this sort of thing. Ever. Except, he admitted to himself, for love.

But he wasn’t in love with anyone. Sure, he liked Xander well enough, but love? No. He was through with that emotion. For a while, anyway.

Growling with frustration, Spike paced even faster and rejected the thought that popped into his head whenever he tried to make sense of his behavior; that, somewhere along the way, he'd come to like the now familiar confines of Sunnydale and some of the people in it. That, without Dru, there was no reason not to settle somewhere for a while and here was as good as any place. Maybe better, it being the Hellmouth and all.

There was a knock at the bathroom door that he ignored and continued pacing.

"Dammit, Spike, I have to pee!” Xander pounded on the door once more and then moved away, presumably to use the other bathroom.

If he’d had anything substantial to throw, he’d have been doing it, but shampoo bottles and toothpaste tubes didn’t make the satisfying shattering sound he was looking for. The mirror was a possibility but it would mean losing his damage deposit.

As soon as he completed the thought, he growled and smashed the mirror as hard as he could. Evil vampires did not give a shit about damage deposits.

“Bloody pathetic wanker!” He held his injured left hand out at arms length and admired the lines of blood making their way down his wrist and forearm. It felt good to do what he wanted without thinking about the consequences.

Spike blinked hard, a smile slowly forming on his face. “I can do whatever I want.” He tried the thought on for size and blinked again. “I want to play, I can play. I want to settle in and milk this town gentle like, I can. Nobody tells me what to do anymore. Not the bloody Slayer and certainly not other demons.” He nodded his head and his smile turned cruel. “And I know just where to start.”

Xander waited not so patiently in the living room, wincing when he heard the mirror go. He’d tried to sit still on the couch and pretend that everything was fine. After a few minutes, he shoved himself to his feet and went to the front window, pushing the drapes slightly aside to stare out at the deserted street.

He flicked the curtain closed again when he heard the bathroom door open and tried to prepare for the worst. Spike had been in a foul mood all day and, if he was smashing mirrors, it evidently hadn’t gotten much better.

When the vampire exited the darkened hallway he was wearing a look Xander didn’t like at all. He hadn’t seen it in a while but Xander knew that look meant someone was going to die tonight and Xander could only hope it wouldn’t be him.

Spike stopped a foot from Xander, arms crossed, and stared into his eyes for what seemed like a long time, saying nothing. Xander felt he was being weighed or judged or something equally serious and life altering. After several minutes, Spike backed up a few steps, arms falling loosely to his sides. It was then Xander noticed the blood dripping off Spike’s left hand and onto the carpet.

“You’re getting blood on the…”

Spike flung his hand out, splattering droplets of red against the walls. “Fuck the carpet.”

Xander’s eyes widened a little and he clamped his mouth shut. The silence stretched and Spike began licking the rivulets of blood from his hand before they made it inside the cuff of his duster. Wasn’t that supposed to be gross? Xander stayed very, very still and quiet, completely unable to stop watching that flicking tongue.

After more immeasurable time, Spike sauntered forward, slowly backing Xander against the wall. When Xander’s head bounced off the red speckled surface, Spike put his hands flat against the wall at Xander’s shoulders and moved his face in close.

“Can I trust you?”

“Um…” Xander swallowed and tried again. “What are you going to do?” He hadn’t felt this intimidated by a vampire since Angel put him in a headlock and dragged him through the school hallway.

The vampire shook his head and tutted, “Don’t matter. Can I trust you to keep your word?”

Yep, someone was definitely going to die tonight and there wasn’t anything he could do about it except try to limit the possible damage. Xander took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I’ll keep my word if you keep yours.”

Spike stared at him for several more long minutes and then nodded. “Good boy.” He leaned forward and plundered Xander’s mouth until the human wrenched his head sideways for air. “I’ll be gone two, three days. But if I’m not back by Monday, go see Richard on Tuesday.” With that, he stepped back, whirled around and was out the kitchen door and into the garage before Xander could even think about asking for more details.

After the garage door slid back down, Xander pushed away from the wall, eyes fixing on the ruined carpet. He stared at the almost perfectly round stains and tried to think of a way to keep it all from going to hell without breaking his word.

In the end, he settled for rummaging under the kitchen sink for cleaning supplies and hoping he wasn’t dooming the world by trusting Spike to keep his word.

Xander slept until almost eight Friday morning after having finally admitted that Spike was not returning and going to bed about four thirty a.m. Four hours of sleep did not make a happy Xander and he decided that there was no reason he had to hang around the house and wait.

He thought about going to look for Spike but he had no real idea of where to start. He could try Richard but if nothing happened and Spike came home when he said he would the vampire would know that Xander hadn’t trusted him. By the time he was finished with his coffee and cereal, he knew there had to be something else he could do besides sit around and just hope for the best. That had never been his way and he wasn’t going to start now.

Finally, he sucked it up and called Willow. He hadn’t spoken to her in the weeks since he called to hear about the demon skunk and there was really no reason why she shouldn’t just hang up on him.

It went better than he’d thought it would and she agreed to meet him at the Espresso Pump later that afternoon. The only condition she’d had was that Xander would actually talk to her instead of getting angry or clamming up if she asked anything about Spike.

He promised to try only because he really wanted to talk and he’d realized that he really, really missed her.

For the rest of the morning he dozed on the couch in front of the television. Every time he woke up he listened for any sign that Spike was back but, of course, he wasn’t. By the time he had to go get ready to leave, he was back to imagining the worst case scenarios that all ended with a lot a people dead and Buffy staking Spike or worse, having to do it himself.

The bus trip across town took nearly an hour and Xander used that time to think about what he was going to say to Willow. He decided he wasn’t going to get into any details about what he and Spike did in bed, that the chip was non-functional (he’d given his word on that and he wasn’t going to break it) or that his relationship with the vampire had started with blackmail, but he knew if he wanted her advice, he was going to have to tell her pretty much everything else. He just hoped she wouldn’t notice the missing pieces of the story and weasel it out of him anyway. Because if anyone could, it was Willow.

A scary thought.

She was already at a window table when he arrived although he was nearly twenty minutes early. She stood when she saw him and Xander let out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding when she smiled and opened her arms for a hug.

She pulled him in tight and Xander found himself relaxing against her and hugging back. When she pulled away she looked his face over carefully. “It’s really good to see you, Xander.”

Xander hugged her again quickly and then pulled away, suddenly feeling very awkward. He plopped down in his chair and immediately began shredding a paper napkin that had come with Willow’s coffee. He gathered himself as Willow took her seat across from him and blurted out, “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too.”

“I’m sorry the most.” He put down the napkin and finally met her eyes. “I shouldn’t have just cut you guys out like that. I knew you had your own lives and I had no right to get upset about that.”

“Hey.” Willow reached across the table and took Xander’s hands in hers. “Let’s take this one thing at a time, okay?”

Xander nodded and let Willow do what she did best; be the brain and the one that could make sense of things.

“And you don’t know where he went?” Willow sipped her second cup of coffee and Xander wondered how long it would be before she was bouncing off the walls. “He didn’t give you any hints at all?”


She’d taken in everything he’d told her with surprising calm. The only thing that had raised her ire had been when Xander confessed to the tricks he and Spike had been playing but, in the end, she said she kinda understood. They’d even talked about the things that had led to Xander’s estrangement from the gang. Willow had apologized profusely for Xander feeling left out and Xander apologized for taking everything so personally. Now they moved on to the topic that had prompted Xander to call her in the first place.

“I’m still not really clear on why you’re so worried.” She held up her hand. “No, I get that you guys are together and everything and then he goes off and doesn’t tell you where. I get that. But you say you didn’t have a fight but that he’d been acting strange. Are you afraid he’s going to cheat on you or something? That kind of strange?”

“No.” Xander thought about it a minute. “Well, yes and no. I mean, I don’t really care if he cheats because it’s not really cheating. We’re not married or anything. It’s not about sex, Willow, it’s about what he’s doing that he wouldn’t tell me. I just don’t know what to think.”

“Oh.” She nodded and then scrunched up her face. “Is that why you’re with him? The sex? Because that would be totally okay but you just didn’t seem like you’d... What I mean is, you always seemed to have to care about someone before you’d...” Willow abruptly stopped talking and rolled her eyes. “Save me from myself, please?”

Xander chuckled and reached over to squeeze her hand. “I don’t love him, if that’s what you’re asking. We’ve been having a pretty good time together and I think I like him most of time but...” He sighed. “It’s kinda complicated. It’s not just about sex but it’s not about love, either. Maybe something in between? How’s that?”

“We don’t have to do the, ‘since when are you gay’ talk, do we?”

“Please, no. Let’s just accept that both of us are occasionally kinda gay and move on, shall we?”

“Fine. So, do you think the reason he didn’t tell you where he’s going is because it’s going to be bad for other people or maybe do something to himself? Help me out here ‘cause I’m not sure what I should be looking for.”

Xander shrugged and spread his hands. “To be honest with you, now that I’ve talked it out, it doesn’t seem so dire. I’m probably just overreacting because we haven’t really been apart since we got together.” Actually, he’d just realized that there was no way Willow could understand the potential seriousness of the situation without knowing about the chip and killer look in Spike’s eyes when he’d left. “He probably just wanted some time away to do vampire stuff or something.”

“Well, not real vampire stuff, right? ‘Cause the chip and all. Right?”

Xander stared directly into Willow’s eyes, took a deep breath and lied. “Right.” He waited to see how that went over with her and, when she didn’t blink, he added, “Like I was telling you before, there’s a pretty big demon community that flies below the radar and he knows a lot of them. He probably just had enough of hanging with a lame human and went to be demoney with them for a few days. It is Spike we’re talking about and he’s never been one to follow many rules of relationships.”

Willow studied him for, what seemed to Xander, an eternity. Finally, she nodded and took another sip of her coffee. “If it’s something else, you know you can tell me.”

It wasn’t really a question but Xander answered anyway. “Yeah. I remember that now. Thanks.”

The mostly serious stuff over with, Xander and Willow fell into gossiping about the goings on with the others and she soon had Xander howling with laughter at her description of Buffy’s trip through the dorm ventilation system in search of the demon skunk and both of their efforts to get rid of the smell.

“It’s not funny, Xander!” He could tell Willow wasn’t truly upset anymore. But at the time, well, he was just glad he wasn’t anywhere near either woman then. “Even after several de-smellings, Giles insisted on all our meetings being outside for a week. Poor Tara couldn’t get away from it but she didn’t complain. And Joyce kept insisting that a mouse must have died inside the wall of the house. We finally had to tell her what was going on.”

“Stop. Really. You’re killing me.” Xander clutched his stomach and just smiled at the other people around that were glaring at him. “I take it Giles hasn’t discovered his books yet?”

“No. And that was a really mean thing to do, Alexander Harris!” Willow made stern face and then clapped her hands. “Hey, why don’t we go over there right now? Do you remember any specific book titles?”

“Probably, but Willow, I don’t think that’s a very good idea.” Xander wasn’t quite ready to deal with anyone else and the thought of encountering Buffy right now made him sober quickly. “In fact, I should probably be getting back.”

“Oh, come on!”

“No, really. I’ve really enjoyed seeing you again but I don’t want to have to take the bus after dark.” Suddenly, he was really regretting telling Willow anything about what was going on. She was sure to tell Buffy and who knew if she’d take it all as well as Willow?

“What, Xander? What just happened?” Now Willow was studying him again and Xander fidgeted under her gaze. “Does Spike have some rule about you being out without his permission or something?”

The question startled Xander and he wondered what she suspected but wasn’t saying. “No, not really.” Close enough to the truth. “Can you do me a favor?”

“You know I will. What?”

“When you tell Buffy about seeing me, could you, maybe, not tell her anything that will send her after me or Spike? Just until you see how she reacts to stuff.”

“She’s not mad at you, Xander. And she misses you as much as I do. You should really go see her. Giles, too.”

“I will. Just. Not right now.” At least not until he figured out what Spike was up to. “And you can tell both of them I’m not mad at them anymore either. It’s just that Buffy was really, really unhappy about the me and Spike stuff and, hey, stake-happy Slayer, and I don’t want to give her any more reasons to think something weird is going on.” Xander attempted to keep his voice even when he said, “And it’s not weird, Willow, it’s my life now.”

“It doesn’t have to be, if you don’t want it to, right?”

It was a test that Xander hadn’t seen coming and, at that moment, he really wanted to tell her everything and find a way to fix it. Except then he remembered that he’d promised to keep his word if Spike would keep his and the consequences of telling weren’t something he was willing to risk. “It’s what I want, Willow.” He thought he was becoming a pretty good liar even though it really wasn’t a total a lie anymore. He did like his life now. Except for the part where Spike was probably off doing something fatal to someone right now and he had to sit here and lie to his best friend about it.

“Okay. Well.” She fussed with napkin for a few second and then smiled at him again. “How about I call you later and tell you how things went with Giles?”

Xander smiled back and decided he really loved Willow a lot. “That would be great. Let me give you my number.”

“I have it.”

“How?” He was sure that none of them knew where he lived.

“Caller ID from when you called the first time. I just didn’t think you wanted us calling you or anything. I mean, you never said it would be okay.”

“I’m a jerk, Willow, but, as of now, you are welcome to call the house whenever you want. Um… Assuming he comes back at some point, I don’t think Spike will hang up on you or anything.” He thought for a minute but couldn’t remember Spike ever saying he couldn’t talk to his friends whenever he wanted, he just couldn’t tell them the particulars of their deal. “And if he does, just call back.”

Willow gave him a strange look but nodded her agreement. “Are you sure you have to go?”

“Yeah” He got up and found himself in another Willow hug. “I really am sorry, you know?”

“It’s over, Xander.” She pulled back, leaned over to pick up her backpack and then motioned for him to walk ahead of her. She linked her arm in his as soon as they were on the street. “I get the feeling we’re not going to be going on double dates or anything but do you think it would be okay if we saw each other at least once a week from now on?”

Xander knew he couldn’t promise anything until he’d talked to Spike so he just shrugged and said, “We’ll see how it goes.”

“Okay.” They were at the bus stop and could see the bus coming toward them but Willow seemed reluctant to leave. When the doors of the bus wheezed open, Willow hugged him hard one more time and then backed away. “I’ll call in a little while.”

“Bye.” Xander stepped on the bus, put his money in the till and waved to Willow through the window.

He hadn’t solved his problem but he felt a lot more positive about everything. For all he knew, he hadn’t been lying when he’d told Willow that Spike was probably just visiting some demon friends.

Part Eight

There was a crack as the arm he was holding broke and Spike smiled and waited patiently until the owner of the arm stopped screaming. “Want to change your answer yet?” When the demon just sneered, Spike grabbed hold of another arm. “Only got three left there, Jeff, and I can do this all night.”

“You can break all my arms but it won’t change anything. You’ll never get anything from me.” The words sounded wet and rough through the busted nose and cracked jaw. “Everyone knows about you and we aren’t going to take this kind of shit from you.”

Spike shrugged and twisted the arm behind the demon’s back. He hadn’t seen any of the ‘we’ Jeff was talking about when he was beating the demon from one side of the bar to the other. “Last chance before another one goes.” He exerted upward pressure while his eyes swept the room. Nobody else seemed willing to challenge him yet, but they were definitely paying attention.  

“Wait!” Jeff sagged against the bar in front of him and tugged at his arm. Apparently he’d finally realized that no one was going to help him. “Tell me again what you want.”

“Ten percent of profits and I set your prices. Any cheating and you answer to me.” It was a good idea and Spike couldn’t figure why he hadn’t thought of it when he actually needed the money. “And I’ll know, you can count on that.”

“One percent.”

Spike let the demon go and took a half step back. Finally they were getting somewhere. “Seven.”

“Five. Five is more than fair since you won’t actually be doing any of the work.” Jeff cradled his broken arm and tried to adjust his broken jaw with a third arm. “But you have to let there be competitive pricing or there’s no point.”

Spike pretended to consider it for a minute and then nodded his head. He’d been prepared to go down to three percent, but this was even better. “Fine. Five percent. But there’s a difference between competitive and rip-off. Everything goes through me from now on.” He swayed forward a little, bringing his face a few inches closer to Jeff. “Got it?”

“Yeah, yeah, I got it.” Jeff straightened further and tried to fix his rumpled clothes.

“Good. Be back here Wednesday with your books. And while you’re at it, spread the word to anyone who isn’t here tonight.” Spike turned to face the room and methodically met each patron’s eyes. “The rest of you will also be here with your books on Wednesday. We’ll talk terms then. Anybody got a problem with that?”

There were a few murmurs in the room but everyone shook their heads and dropped their eyes. Spike nodded in satisfaction and grinned. “Just to show there’s no hard feelings, I’m buying everyone a drink.”

Jeff and a few other demons scowled but didn’t turn down the drink. Spike grabbed one of the first drinks poured, knocked it back quickly and shoved a wad of bills at the bartender. “This should take care of the drinks and any damage.” The bartender just nodded and slipped the money off the bar.

In the chaos caused by everyone trying to get to their drinks, Spike slipped out unnoticed. He still had more work to do before everything was in place.

Friday night passed uneventfully for Xander. He heard from Willow and they had a guilty laugh about Giles’ reaction to his empty books and talked a little more before hanging up. He watched the three local news channels intently, switching from one to the next to the next as soon as he heard the beginning of each story. Of course there wouldn’t be any stories about vampire attacks but he’d learned to read between the lines. There were a few things that definitely said ‘supernatural’ but nothing he could even remotely relate to Spike. Unless his diabolical plan was to break into several homes and rearrange the furniture or cause electrical disturbances out by the salvage yard.

That either meant Spike was keeping his word or that he was doing his killing out of town. He could only hope it was the first one.

He heard from Willow again Saturday afternoon and she told him Giles’ books were once again visible to him and that he probably shouldn’t contact the ex-Watcher for at least a week. He hadn’t been planning to but at least now he didn’t need to give Willow another excuse for not doing it. She also told him that Buffy was not amused to find out who had been behind the skunk prank but that she still wanted to see Xander, if only to rip him a new one. Yeah, like he was going to call her up for that.

By Saturday night, Xander had lost a lot of his anxiety and had moved toward anger. And was actually pretty bored. Ordering numerous pay-per-view porno movies took some of the edge off his anger and the boredom and gave him a different kind of satisfaction knowing that Spike was going to get the bill at some point.

By Sunday afternoon he was almost literally climbing the walls. He hadn’t been alone this long, ever, and it was starting to get to him. He decided that if Spike hadn’t shown by midnight on Sunday, he was going to go to Richard a day early, first thing Monday.

With that plan in mind, Xander turned in early Sunday night, all the while cursing Spike for the evil shithead he was and vowing slow torture when the vampire finally came home.

Spike hit the garage door opener and stifled a yawn. It was only about an hour until dawn and he was more than ready for some sleep. It had been a long four nights but it all seemed to be coming together perfectly. Now he just had to convince Xander that it wasn’t too terribly evil.

As he closed the kitchen door behind him, he was slightly surprised that Xander wasn’t still awake. For a moment he worried that he might have left but when he approached the hall he could hear the human’s slow heartbeat. Hadn’t just bedded down then.

Spike tossed his duster on the armchair next to the bed and headed for the bathroom. He felt scummy after all the driving, beating and trolling he’d done.

“Spike?” Movement from the bed and then the bedside light snapped on.

“Yeah, pet, I’m back.” He switched directions and headed for the bed, strangely happy to see the young man.

“You sonofabitch!” Xander sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes which kinda ruined the effect Spike thought he was going for. “We are so going to have words over this.”

Spike raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Sure. Just let me shower away the gunk and I’m all yours.” He again changed direction and headed for the bathroom.

When he came out of the bathroom Xander was sitting cross-legged on the bed, a cup of coffee in his hands, frown firmly on his face. When Spike reached the bed he snatched the coffee out of Xander’s hands and placed it on the bedside table before crawling on the bed, pulling the human down with him and rolling on top of him.

“Hi, honey, I’m home. You have a kiss for daddy?”

“That’s just disturbing. And you’re not going to distract me by being naked.” Xander’s frown turned into an actual scowl. “Did you kill anyone?”

Spike rolled his eyes and put his chin down on Xander’s chest. “Do demons count?”

“No humans?”


Spike felt Xander relax under him and he pushed himself up on his elbows so he could better see the human’s face. “Is that what you were worried about?”

“Well, duh, Spike. When you left here Thursday you were acting kinda crazy. What did you think I’d think you were doing?”

Spike shrugged and settled himself more comfortably on top of Xander, once more feeling the tiredness wash over him. “Was just setting up some stuff. I’ll tell you ‘bout it tomorrow.”

“It’s already tomorrow.” Xander fell silent for several minutes and Spike began relaxing toward sleep. But before he could go completely under, Xander said, in nearly a whisper, “I talked to Willow.”

“Tell her everything?”


“’s okay then. Talk later, sleep now.”

“I’m not tired now. I slept all night.”

Spike waited for the human to push him off but after a few seconds Xander simply adjusted Spike’s weight to a more comfortable position and then lay still. Within a few minutes Spike was soundly asleep.

Noon and the evil undead still wasn’t awake. Xander had stayed in bed for almost an hour until he was sure Spike wouldn’t wake when he slipped out of bed. He stopped stirring the macaroni that would soon be his cheesy lunch and wondered if he should ever admit to having that knowledge. He shook his head to clear it of the seeming nonsense that seemed to have replaced the more serious thoughts he should have been thinking.

Like what Spike could have possibly been ‘setting up’. Or why he so easily believed the vampire when he said he hadn’t killed anyone. Sometimes he wondered where the real Xander went. Or, more worrying, if this weird life he’d stumbled into had brought out the real Xander.

“What is that revolting smell?”

Xander jumped and a little of the milk he was adding to the cheese splashed onto the burner. Now that was a revolting smell. “Macaroni and cheese.”

“Throw it away. It’s disgusting.” Spike was curling his lip and staring pointedly at the pan on the stove. “I mean it, Xander.”

Xander sighed and took the pan over to the sink and turned on the water. He dumped the almost finished macaroni and cheese into the sink and turned on the disposal. “And good afternoon to you, too.”

Spike flipped him off, filled and turned on the kettle. While it was heating he rummaged through the refrigerator for a few seconds before pulling a bag of blood out. “Call Wilbur and ask him to send a new batch, would you? Most of this has gone off.”

Wilbur was Spike’s current blood supplier. As far as he could tell, Wilbur was completely human and only slightly less scary than a demon. To hear Spike tell it, Wilbur had fingers in pies all over town but he wasn’t a long term kinda guy. Wilbur was a true opportunist and getting rich quick by finding special things that people, or demons, needed and making sure he was the only game in town until he saw that people were catching on to ways to go around him. Then he left town, not caring if someone else took over since his bank account had grown and there was another opportunity waiting just down the road. Right now, human blood and organs were his specialty.

Xander had freaked out the first time he’d seen the bags with Sunnydale Blood Bank tags on them. Then he’d looked closer and seen they’d all been marked as unacceptable for various reasons. He’d questioned Spike about who else would be buying the blood but the vampire had brushed him off. Xander didn’t ask about the organs because he really didn’t want to know who it was that removed them from the dead at the morgue or what reasons demons would buy them.

By the time he’d finished his phone call to Wilbur, Spike was finished with his blood and on his first cup of coffee. He seemed awake, so Xander sat down opposite him at the table. “Are you going to tell me now?”

“We’re going to play Godfather.”

Xander blinked, processed, turned the sentence over in his mind, rearrange the words and then quickly admitted defeat. “What?”

Spike took a long moment to sip his coffee before answering. “Remember that fellow at the bar? Bitchin’ about the price of Garmu’k bile?”

Not remembering anything about bile but wanting Spike to get on with it before his curiosity caused him to explode, Xander just nodded.

“From now on everyone that sells bulk to demons in Sunnydale have to go through us first. We set the prices and decide what can and can’t be sold. If the suppliers cooperate, we won’t destroy their warehouses or kill their children. And, of course, we get a slice of their profits.”

Spike seemed pretty pleased with himself so Xander used tact, instead of howling with laughter and calling him stupid, when he slowly explained, “Spike, you’re supposed to go after the honest, harmless guys for protection money, not the dishonest suppliers. In fact, you’re supposed to be the dishonest supplier.”

The vampire just raised an eyebrow and said mildly, “You been in the mafia before, have you?”

“Well, no. But I’ve seen all the movies and that’s how it’s done. You offer to protect the small business guys in exchange for a fee. Only you’re really protecting them against you. And you tell them where they have to buy stuff for a way too high price. Which is also pretty much you.”

“Got to start somewhere, Harris and it’s a bit different in Sunnydale. There’s been no one in charge here for years now and the big suppliers have gotten lazy and arrogant. Can’t have that. And they’re the one’s with the money not the guys who buy from them. ‘Sides, I don’t want money from those pathetic sods just trying to make a living.”

“You don’t?” Xander was starting to wonder if he’d slipped into an alternate reality or something. “Because that would be wrong?” he asked hopefully.

Spike snorted. “Because those sell-outs are worth more in favors than money. Really, Xander, you need to pay attention.”

“Let me make sure I have this straight.” Xander rubbed his temples hoping that would help everything make sense. “First, the guys that supply the demon businesses are going to let you set their prices and then pay you for the privilege of losing them money. Second, the guys who buy from these suppliers are going to be so grateful that they’ll do unspecified favors for you. And, third, I’m going to be involved in all this somehow.”

“That about sums it up, yeah.”

“You are certifiably insane.”

Spike got up and fixed himself another cup of coffee, sipping it slowly while Xander waited for some further explanation. When it seemed he wouldn’t be getting one he pushed himself away from the table in frustration and went to the sink to wash the pan he’d been using. He scrubbed at the congealed cheese for a few minutes and let the repetitive action calm him. By the time he rinsed the soap off the pan and put it in the drainer, he felt he could keep from beating Spike over the head with something heavy and sat back down at the table.

“Okay, so how do I fit in to this fucked up plan?”

“Like usual, you’ll do whatever I tell you. Right now I want you to get back friendly with the Slayer and her gang.”

This dribble of information was going to be the death of him yet. “Because?”

“I hired some muscle in L.A. and they should be able to take care of most anyone that has a problem with the arrangement. But she’s the final threat. A little whisper in her ear about some evil that needs killin’ won’t work if she don’t trust the source.”

Xander was finally starting to get it. “The source being me, via you?”

“Yeah” Spike leaned forward across the table and grabbed one of Xander’s hands, clearly excited. “It’ll be fun, trust me. Slayer’ll never know she’s doing my dirty work, but we will. That should be good for a few laughs right there. And we make loads of money along the way. The power and privilege that go along with being in charge of all the demon business in Sunnydale is just a bonus.”

“You keep saying ‘we’ and ‘us’, Spike.” It actually didn’t sound that bad. Maybe not as fun as Spike seemed to think it would be but not boring either. And, hey, power and privilege had a nice ring to it. “Other than passing Buffy information I don’t see anything I’d really be able to help with.”

“You’re the proof that the Slayer is a threat. Everyone knows you’re her boy. Or were. Mine now, ain’t you?” Spike waved that away. “There’s lots you’ll be doing, just don’t know the particulars right now.”

Xander let the ‘boy’ and ‘mine’ comments pass with only a shiver down his spine and asked, “So, when are we going to make them an offer they can’t refuse?”


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