From Out of Nowhere


by
Sukiblue



Part 8
Always On The Run



“You okay, pet?”

Xander slowly opened his eyes and turned to look at a concerned face.

“Yeah.  It’s weird, but yeah.  I should be really wigged by all this, but I’m not.  Apparently I have this powerful gift -- I made a storm, for Christ’s sakes, without even knowing it -- but I feel kinda calm about the whole thing.” Xander shrugged and smiled. “I’m not worried.”

“No? I thought you’d be in a flap by now.  Red’s meditation techniques must be spot on.”

“It isn’t that.  I just feel…” Xander looked thoughtful for a few moments before he continued. “I just feel strong.  I know that I can face this.  Wanna know why?”

Spike stroked a strand of hair away from Xander’s face. “Why, luv?” he asked, gently.

“Because I got you guys.  Okay, so half my friends aren’t talking to me, but I know it’s only because they care, right?  If they didn’t care then they wouldn’t bother not talking to me.  Did that make sense? Anyway, I’ve got all of you to help me, especially you.  There’s no need to be scared or freaked.”

Spike was totally taken aback.  He expected at least a small freak-out from Xander. “Baby, you don’t ever have to be scared with me around.  You know I’ll take care of you.  But why the sudden turn around?”

Xander shrugged again. “Dunno. I guess…Willow’s here and she still loves me.  Angel’s here and I know he cares too.  I understand now that I need to give him time, he’s going through stuff, but I can be there for him and I know that he’ll be there for me.  Doyle too.”

Spike interrupted before Xander could say anything else.  He had to ask him a question and he had to ask him now.  Angel had asked them to move to LA while they sorted out what to do about Xander’s power and the Initiative problem.  Spike had accepted, but he needed to get Xander’s consent.  He was nervous.  He so wanted to spend time with his Sire, make up more time for all the lost years, but he needed Xander to be happy about it.  He wanted Xander there by his side.  If Xander didn’t want to go, then he wouldn’t go either.  Although, with the Initiative sniffing around, Spike had half a mind to drag Xander to LA by the scruff of his neck, whether he liked it or not.

“Pet…Angel…” Spike took a moment to attempt a puppy dog style expression. “Angel wants us to go back to LA with him.  Not forever, but…just until a few things are sorted.  Angel really wants to help you; he wants to help both of us.”

Xander nodded. “I know he does.  But what about our house? We can’t just leave…”

“It’s not a permanent move, Xan.  We’re not safe here, not while there's a risk that the Initiative knows about us.  And LA is a much better place to sort you and your gifty wotsit out.”

“I guess that make sense.  Promise it’s not permanent, though, because I don’t think I’m ready to fly the nest just yet.”

“Promise, luv.  Wouldn’t lie to you.”

“I know.” Xander took a deep breath and smiled. “Okay.  Let’s do it.”

Spike eyes widened. “You sure?”

“Just said, didn’t I?”

“Yeah,” Spike breathed. “You did.”

“Shall we tell Angel it’s a yes?”

Spike pulled Xander to his feet and kissed him, letting his gratitude and happiness flow into his boy with a brush of lips and a soft swirl of tongue. “Let's.  Peaches!” Spike shouted over his shoulder.

As Angel turned to his Childe, a question hanging on his lips, they heard the first sounds.


~*~*~*~*~


The soldiers moved silently towards the house.  At least thirty men were assembled in a perimeter around the property with more on their way.  Hostile 17 was not going to get away.  He was too precious, too important.  And by the looks of things, they were really going to score tonight.  Two Hostiles and one possible. Hell, there were a few possibles.  Riley had gotten the order to capture and retain any persons, demon or otherwise, from inside the house.  It was all above board. He would take them all.

The soldiers moved into position and waited.  The second order came a moment later.


~*~*~*~*~


Angel turned sharply to the window.  The Initiative.  They were coming. He whirled back around to face his childe, his face a picture of demon fury.  “Spike! The Initiative!”

“Fuck!”

Xander made a grab for Willow and Tara, pulling them towards the kitchen and the back door. “C’mon! We gotta get out.”

Spike stopped them, blocking the entrance to the kitchen. “Pet, no.  I can hear them; they’re already out the back.”

“What?! So what are we going to do?”

Spike looked pleadingly at Angel.  Angel looked back with same expression.  They could hear the soldiers moving all around the house.  They were trapped.

“Zap ‘em, pet.”

Xander was confused. “Huh?”

Zap ‘em. You know, do the lightning thing.”

“I can’t.  I don’t know how! Willow, you zap them.”

“I’m not sure that I can.”

Tara gave her a look that said she didn’t believe it. Willow was perfectly capable, but her confidence had taken a knock recently.  It seemed that Xander wasn’t the only one getting a hard time from a certain watcher.

“Sweetie,” she said. “Maybe we could do a barrier?”

“That sounds great!” Xander shouted with more enthusiasm than an excited tiger cub.

Willow frowned.  “I don’t think that it's a good idea.  We can stop them from getting in, but then what?  They’ll still be outside. How do we get out?”

“Good point,” Xander said as he paced up and down the room.  

A rumble sounded from the night sky and everyone looked at Xander,

“What!? I didn’t! ...I may have.  I didn’t mean to.”

Willow smiled.  She had an idea.  She grabbed Xander's and Tara’s hands. “Join hands,” she said. “And when I say run, get to the car.”

Tara took Xander’s hand and nodded.  She knew exactly what her lover was planning.  Willow was going to harness power from both Tara and Xander and use it to fight the soldiers.  Tara wasn’t sure exactly what Willow would do but, whatever it was, it would be enough to buy them some time.

Doyle, Angel and Spike watched as the two witches stood in their small circle with Xander.  If it had been anyone other than Willow, Spike would not have allowed them to pull Xander into whatever it was they were doing.  But he trusted her; Tara, too.  He had no doubt that they would not put Xander in danger.

“What about him?” Doyle whispered, motioning to the unconscious soldier.

Spike’s face said that he was tempted to kill him.  He shot an annoyed look at his lover. Damn boyfriend.  Damn humans and their bloody guilt.

“The ball’s in your court, Spike,” Angel said. “It’s your call.”

Spike huffed.  “We take him.  Xander will throw a paddy if I kill him and, besides, he might prove useful.”

Angel and Doyle nodded in agreement.

A wind crept up and swirled around the small circle.  Xander and Tara gasped and Willow’s eyes shot open as she drew their magical energy into herself and blasted it back out in a massive shock wave.

The wave expanded at a thunderous rate and, with a whoosh, it blasted through the house and through the soldiers, knocking them away.

Willow dropped her friends' hands and stepped back. “Run.”


~*~*~*~*~


It happened so fast.  Looking back, it would be unlikely that any of them would remember which one of them got out first, which one got out last, which one got to the car first.  Who it was that shouted random cries of “Quickly!” and “Go, go!” they would never remember.  

It was sheer panic.

The soldiers had been knocked a clear thirty foot from the house but, as soon as their backs had hit the ground, they were struggling to get up.

They piled into the car, breath rasping with panic.  Xander got in the driver's seat, turning on the ignition with shaking hands.

That was when they noticed.

“Where the bloody hell is Angel!?”

“Oh goddess, he must still be inside!” Willow screeched.

Xander looked to the window of the house. “He is inside,” he said, seeing the shadow of his friend backed against the window.

The soldiers at the front of the house had got to their feet and they charged towards the car, their guns rising for battle.  In the rear view mirror, Xander spotted an army troop carrier coming into view.  Xander shifted the car into gear and put the pedal to the floor.

“Xander! What the fuck!? Turn the fuck back!”

“No.”

“What do you mean, no? We can’t bloody leave Angel behind!”

“Got something else on my mind, now.”

“Eh?”

“Behind us.  They’re following.”

Spike turned around in his seat and swore. “Fuck.  Now what?” Spike pointed at his lover. “If you say Devil’s Dyke, I’ll be very unhappy.”

“Don’t worry, guys.  Let me assist.”

Willow rolled the back window down and leant out.  She pointed two fingers at the Initiative vehicle and spoke.  “DEMOROR!”

Red lightning shot from her fingers and engulfed the truck, stopping it in its tracks.

“Willow!” Xander shouted. “What did you just do?!”

“Nothing!” Willow cried, defensively. “Just a little something to keep them immobile for a while.  It will wear off soon.”

“Nice one, Red.  Xan, turn back.”

“No.  We are going to Buffy’s.”

“No,” Spike repeated. “We are going back to get Angel.”

“No.  We are going to get Buffy.  Then we will go and get Angel.”

“We have to go back and get Angel now!!”

Spike tried to grab the steering wheel but was discouraged by a madly slapping hand.

“Spike! Get off! You’re going to make us crash!”

“Then turn the bloody car around.”

“NO! Listen to me, Spike.  We can’t go back.  There are too many of them.  We need Buffy.”

“And while we’re getting Buffy, they take him back to their lair.  And then what? You gonna go knock on their door and ask nicely if Angel can come out to play?”

“Don’t be an asshole, Spike.  You know we can’t go back.  We don’t have any weapons and there are only five of us.  There had to be thirty of more soldiers back there.  That’s too many.  They’d win, Spike.  They’d win and they would take you and probably kill the rest of us.  Is that what you want?”

“No! Fuck, no.  I just can’t stand the thought of running away and leaving Angel behind.”

Xander pulled the car over, their destination reached.

“Spike, we are not running away and we are not leaving Angel behind.  We are retreating to gather resources, make a plan, recruit the Slayer, break into the Initiative, rescue Angel and burn the place to the fucking ground.”

Xander got out of the car and slammed the door.

Spike was quite impressed.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander banged more loudly than was humanly possible on Buffy’s door.  When there was no reply, he banged loudly enough to wake the gods.

“I said, none today, thank you…Oh, Xander…everybody…?”

“Can we come in? Thanks,” Xander said, answering his own question and barging straight into the house.

“Guys? What’s going on?”

“The Initiative,” Willow said, her voice low and full of dread. “They got Angel.”

Buffy grabbed an axe that was bigger than she was. “Tell me.”

“They surrounded our house.  They must have been waiting for the storm to die down and when Xan made it disappear, they came.  And they got Angel.”

“Oh my gods.  Angel,” Buffy whispered. “We have to get him. Now.  There’s more weapons in the trunk, guys.  Load up…Xander? You made a storm disappear?”

Xander beamed. “I sure did.”

“It’s a long story, Slayer,” Spike interrupted. “Let’s just get moving.  We can swap stories later.”

“Hang on.  Where exactly are we going?” Doyle asked. “Where is this Initiative place?”

Xander looked sympathetically at his new friend.  Doyle hid it well, but Xander could see the fear that lay coiled up inside the man.

“It’s not far,” he said.

“Hold up, pet.  How the fuck do you know where the Initiative base is?”

“I don’t.  But it can’t be far.  There are soldiers everywhere you look so I would say that the base is fairly central.”

“While I appreciate your optimism, man, that really doesn’t narrow it down much,” Doyle said, his panic increasing by the second.

“Irish has a point.  Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it! I fucking told you we shouldn’t have left!” Spike shouted, pointing at Xander. “We’ve fucking lost him! How could I have been so stupid? How could you have been so stupid?”

“Hey!”

“Guys, calm down, please! There has to be a way to find them,” Buffy insisted.

“There is,” Xander replied firmly. “Graham would know, right?”

“I hate to burst your bubble, lover, but Graham is out for the count.  He won’t be talking anytime soon.”

Spike repressed a growl and turned away from Xander.  He was feeling so many things, and he was unsure how to react to them.  He knew they couldn’t have helped Angel.  Somewhere in the panic to get away, he had been left behind.  The poof had probably been trying to save them.  But still, he couldn’t help but be mad at Xander.  His lover had been so determined, so sure, so confident that they should get out of there and leave Angel behind.  It angered Spike that Xander would desert his family so easily.

Spike turned back to his lover and was stunned to see the expression of anger reflected on his face.

“Spike, we’ll talk later about how you think I’d abandon Angel at a moment's notice, but right now we need to concentrate on saving him.”

“I didn’t say…”

“You didn’t have to.”

Spike looked at his feet and an awkward silence followed.

“Erm…not meaning to spoil the wonderful silent tension but, Xander, what are we going to do?” Doyle asked.

“Well, he’s hurt, right? So we should take him to the hospital.”

Doyle thought about it.  “But he was one of the soldiers, yes?” He looked at the others for confirmation.  When Spike nodded, he continued. “Why exactly would we help him?”

“If we take him to the hospital, then the doctors can fix him.  When he’s fixed, he can talk and when he can talk, he can tell us where the base is.”

Doyle shrugged and looked at the others. “I guess there aren’t too many other options.”

Xander headed back towards the door. “Exactly. Let’s go, then.”

“Pet…?”

“Let’s just go, Spike, we’re wasting time.”


~*~*~*~*~


Spike and Xander walked down a hospital corridor, peering in doors as they went.  Their friends were in different corridors on different floors.  It seemed that no matter how much you growled at a receptionist, she wasn’t going to tell you where a patient had been moved to.  

The receptionist had been suspicious of the group from the start.  It might have had something to do with Spike dumping Graham’s body on the reception desk and growling “Fix the bastard,” but they weren’t sure. It may also have been Doyle’s loud declaration of, “If he doesn’t talk, I’ll ram a hospital chair so far up his ass he’ll have visitors sitting on his tongue for a week.”

Spike opened and closed the door to a private room.

“Nope…Xan?”

Xander copied him with another door.

“Nope…What?”

“Xan…?”

“Just spit it out, Spike.”

“I’m sorry.”

Xander nearly choked.  He’d told Spike to spit it out, not vomit it up.

“Um, you realise what you just said? Are you okay? Have you got a fever? Are goblins and fairies about to fly away with you?”

Spike turned to his smiling lover and felt his own face develop into a tiny grin.

“It was just that…”

“I know.  I understand.  I just need to know one thing.  Did you really think that I would deliberately leave Angel behind?”

“Course not.”

“Someone had to make the decision, Spike, and that someone couldn’t have been you.  Angel is your Sire.  You couldn’t have left him anymore that you could have left me.  I had to make the decision quickly and stick to it.  Someone needed to say out loud that we had to leave Angel behind.  If no-one had said it, then we would have stayed; we would have fought for him and they would have caught us all. At least this way, we have a chance.”

Spike nodded. “I understand. I was just upset.  Didn’t mean to take it out on you.  Swear it.  Never hurt you. I know you been through a lot.  I’m sorry.”

“Hey, there’s that word again.  Must be becoming an addiction.”

Spike pulled his lover closer and ghosted his lips over Xander’s neck.

“Don’t go telling anyone, pet.”

“Or what?”

“Or I won’t bite you ever again.”

“I’ll never tell a soul.”

Xander kissed Spike deeply before pulling out of his embrace and walking to another door.  He opened it, looked inside and shut the door again.

“Nope.”


~*~*~*~*~


Doyle glanced at his watch.  It had been hours since Angel had been taken and Doyle was just about on the edge of his sanity.  It was the waiting that was killing him, too much time spent walking up and down faceless white corridors, just searching.  And even when they found Graham, would he be awake, yet?  Would he talk? And if he did talk, then what?  By all accounts, the Initiative base was likely to be a huge impenetrable institution.  How the hell were they going to get in?

Doyle looked up at the sound of a growl and spotted Spike making a dive towards a hospital room.  Xander was only just managing to hold him back.  

“Is this it?” Doyle shouted, running towards the two men. “Is he here?”

“Yup. He’s in there,” Xander puffed out as he struggled to keep a hold on his enraged lover. “But you’d better hurry before he dies of a heart attack.”

Doyle hurried into the room.  Graham was sitting up in his bed, his eyes wide with terror.

“Right, you miserable bastard,” Doyle all but shouted.  “Tell me where your men have taken Angel.”

“I-I have no idea.”

“Bollocks!” Spike shouted from the doorway. “You’ve taken him to the same place that you took me!”

“Well then, you should know where that is,” Graham pointed out.

“I don’t bloody remember, do I? I was drugged up to the eyeballs.  Xan, let go of me!”

Spike continued to struggle in Xander’s arms.  His boy had gotten surprisingly strong these past few weeks.  He wondered if Xander was aware of it.

“Not letting you go unless you promise not to touch Graham.”

“Bloody hell, Xander!”

“Promise me!”

“Alright, alright, I bloody promise.  But if he gives me any lip, I’ll rip that frazzled arm off and feed it to him.”

“Deal,” Xander said, releasing Spike from his death grip.

Spike opened his mouth to speak, but Xander silenced him with a look.

“Let me try, guys. Yeah?”

Doyle and Spike looked at each other.  This Graham guy was seemingly in love with Xander, so if anyone was going to be able to get him to talk it was Xander himself.

They nodded and Xander approached the bed, sitting on the side and gazing at Graham's burnt arm.

“Does it hurt?” he asked

Graham nodded.

“I’m not sure why you've been following me.  I’m not sure why you think you have some sort of say in my life.  I know you helped me a while back and I am grateful.  However, I can’t help but think that you're somehow responsible for this current mess.  So, to make up for it, you need to tell me where your buddies have taken my friend and you need to tell me now.”

Xander’s voice was soft and sweet, but his eyes looked coldly upon the soldier.  This was not a time for begging and pleading and no time for torture.  He quickly reached out and snared Graham’s neck, pushing his head into an awkward angle.

Xander whispered in a tone that would have been pleasant if it wasn’t for the threat of death. “One chance. That is all that I’m prepared to give you.  One chance to tell me the location of the base before I snap your neck.”

Spike gazed at his lover.  He couldn't help the hardening in his jeans at the sight of his lovely boy.  Darkness, sunshine, power, his.

Graham told them everything.


~*~*~*~*~


“Why am I getting the feeling that this is too easy?” Buffy asked.

“Um, because it is too easy?” Willow suggested.

Xander fidgeted as they went down in the lift. “These pants are too tight,” he complained, pulling at the stolen army kit.

“They look fine from where I’m standing,” Spike smirked.  Concentrating on the curves of Xander’s ass was much easier than thinking about what the Initiative had probably done to his Sire already.

“Spike, stop ogling Xander and tell me how we intend to find Angel.  This base must be miles wide.”

“I don’t reckon it’ll be a problem, Slayer.  Once I catch his scent, I’ll be able to track him.”

“Like a sniffer dog?” Xander asked with a grin. “Auuwww, doggy Spike.”

“Shut it, luv, or you’ll be walking around the base pantless,” Spike threatened.

“And I’m shutting up now.”

The lift continued to drop and an uneasy silence took the place of the uneasy joking.  The base was big and it would be full of soldiers.  The chances of them finding Angel and making it back out all in one piece was slim.  Just a few of them against hundreds of soldiers? It was crazy.  It was stupid.  But it had to be done.  They had to try.

Graham had pointed them in the direction of the frat house and explained roughly the layout of the base.  He had given them information such as shift changes, security codes and blind spots.  All they had to do was trust that Graham was telling the truth.  Spike suspected that he was.  The guy was obsessed with Xander to the point where he probably thought that he was in love with him.  Spike doubted that he would give false information and put Xander’s life in danger.

So far, the plan had worked well.  Giles was waiting outside with the van while the rest of them had stormed the frat house, not giving the few occupants time to even register that trouble had hit them.  The soldiers had been knocked out and their rooms raided for military attire.

The lift ‘binged’ and stopped.

“Here we go.”


~*~*~*~*~


Spike sniffed the air and stared intently around him.

“Anything?” Xander asked.

“Fuck, yes.  He’s this way.  You lot wait here.”

Xander grabbed Spike’s arm before he could move away. “Wait! Don’t you think this is all a bit easy?”

“Yes.”

“Well?”

“Well, what?”

“What if they are…?”

Xander’s worries were cut off by a blood curdling scream in the distance.

“That’s always a puzzle.”

“What is, pet?”

“When you hear screaming, do you run away or go towards it?”

Spike shrugged and Xander continued. “Well, my brain says run away.  But since when have I ever listened to my brain?”

“Good point, luv.”

“Hey!”

“You said it.  Stay here, all of you. Let me check things out. Be right back.”

Spike stalked off down the corridor, throwing a warning glare to the others to stay put.

As he rounded a corner, he passed numerous locked metal doors.  His vampire hearing picked up a jumble of whimpers, cries and screams.  But the worst thing was the putrid smell of old blood and infection. The stench crawled up his nostrils and tugged at his brain.  He felt like being sick.  What the fuck were they doing to these creatures?  

Spike cursed.  The smell was interfering with his ability to find his Sire.  The air was alive with so many scents, he couldn’t isolate just one.

Carefully, Spike approached one of the doors and peered inside the little window at the top.  He didn’t expect to find Angel, but he was looking for some help.

“Evening.”

“SCRARBLIBUB!”

“Language, mate. That ain’t polite.  Need a spot of help.  Looking for a vampire. Tall, dark, nice body, large head, irritatingly quiet?”

“SCRUB-LUB BEBUB?”

“Yeah, that’s him. Broody fellow.”

“SCRUB-NUBBER NOG-BUG GUGGER?”

“Oh, I bleach it myself, thanks for asking. Now, about this vampire…?”

“SCIBBUB BOB BOB BOB BOBBER?”

“Clairol born blonde crème hair lightener. I order from Sallybeauty.com.  Really quick delivery.  It actually lifts the natural colour but keeps it in line with my natural tones and highlights…” Spike stopped and shook his head.  “Now, this vampire, have you seen him?  Or smelt him? He reeks to high heaven of blinkin’ ckOne.”

“SCUUUUB. FUB FOB DIB DOB DUB. FUBBLE DOBBLE DUB. GIGGER BOG GUG.”

“Cheers, mate. Really appreciate your help…”

“HUBBUB GUBBORD GUD?”

“Err, don’t think so. I’m not in the habit or carrying worming tablets about. Thanks again.”

Spike stepped away from the little window before the creature could ask him any more crazy questions.  He took a left at the end of the corridor and counted along the doors.

One

Two

Three

Fourth on the left.

“Angel…”

“Spike? Oh, no, you didn’t?”

“Didn’t what…?”

“Get out…”

“Angel…”

“Shut up, Childe! Are you alone? Did you bring anyone?”

“I brought the entire Sunnydale school choir. What do you think? Course I’m not alone. Can you see Xan letting me in ‘ere without him?!”

“Get out, all of you.  It's a trap.”

Spike was already trying the code Graham had given them in the tiny keypad at the side of the door.  He cursed when the code kept failing.

“Ain’t leaving without you, Peaches.”

“You have to.  They tested my blood.  They know we’re connected.  They knew you would come.  You have to get out.”

Spike ignored him and continued to punch numbers into the keypad.

“They knew you had Graham and they knew he would give you information.  They’ve been waiting.”

Spike gave up trying to be nice to the keypad and hit it instead.

“Where are they, then? If they’ve been waiting, where are they?”

“Where is Xander?” Angel asked

Spike indicated with his head. “Back there.”

“Then there’s your answer.  They want him, Spike.  They’ve been watching and they want him too.”

“Fucking hell.”


~*~*~*~*~


Panic ripped through Spike’s body as he sprinted back down the corridor to where he'd left his lover and their friends.

They were gone.

“Hostile 17.  What a wonderful surprise.”

“Riley.”

“The one and only.”

“Where are they? I’ll kill you.”

“Will you, now? A little difficult with all these weapons pointed at your head.”

“Won’t take me a tick to snap your neck, cunt.  I guarantee you’ll be dead before I drop.”

“Maybe.  But if I die…well, let’s just say that Xander will feel the brunt.”

“If you hurt him…”

“We’ll do what we like.  But if you’d like to see him…”

“I’d like.” Spike spat out.

“Take him!” Riley ordered the soldiers.

Two men went to grab Spike by his duster and haul him away.

“Oi! Watch the leather! Just point, I’ll go.”

The men nodded and led him away.


~*~*~*~*~


Spike was led into a small room.  It wasn’t what he expected.  All done out with ivory-cream walls and black leather seats, it was actually rather cosy.  He was pointed in the direction of a plump leather armchair and ordered to sit.

“Blood?” he was asked.

“No, ta, watching my figure.”

The orderly snorted and left the room.  

Spike was left with two soldiers at each side of the chair.  He took a moment to take in the rest of his surroundings.

The room was similar to what you might expect to find in a doctor's office.  Very plush, a few well placed plants and some nice works of art on the walls.  Not a place he thought he would end up in.

“Ah, admiring the paintings, I see.  I would tell you about them but I doubt you understand anything about art.”

“Try me.”

“Okay that one is ‘The Haymakers’.  A beautiful piece by…”

“George Stubbs.  First shown at the London Royal Academy of Arts in 1786.  The original looked like an oil painting, but it was in fact crafted from pottery and painted with glass.  It was a radical idea, one which even got Wedgewood involved.  Fell on its arse, though. The bloody thing looked too much like it was painted in oil. Not good. Oil paintings weren’t considered fine art. Stubbs is better known for his anatomical studies and his paintings of dogs.  Not my thing, though.  A lot of ‘hunt’ depictions.  Never did like fox huntin’.  Wanna tell me about the other paintings?”

The man was torn between surprise and irritation. “We’ll move on, Mr…?”

“Bloody.”

The doctor coughed. “Well, Mr Bloody, why do you think you’re here?”

“For a manicure?”

“There is no need for insolence, Mr Bloody.  It was a perfectly simple question.”

“You answer it, then, if it’s so sodding simple.”

“Very well.  In our attempts to recapture you, you have been observed.  We notice that your chip is not working.  We want to know why.  We notice that you have taken a human mate.  We want to know why.  You work within the Slayer's circle.  We want to know why.”

The doctor sat in the chair adjacent to Spike’s. “In your own time, Mr Bloody,” he said, pointing a remote control at a wide black screen on the wall.  With a click and a whirl the screen lifted to reveal a glass window to the next room.  Xander.

Spike lost his mind.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander stared up at the ceiling and tried to stay calm.  Freaking out and making a fuss was not going to help his situation.  

After waiting no more than a few moments after Spike had left, they had been gassed.  A tactic to knock out the Slayer, he’d guessed.  The gas had been enough to knock them to their knees and the soldiers had quickly pounced and dragged them off separately.  It had happened so quickly that Xander hadn’t had time to panic.  White walls and fluorescent ceiling lights had passed by in a blur as he was dragged down the corridor and into an equally white room.  With little struggle, he had been lifted into some sort of trolley, stuck with a needle and left.

Xander blinked a few times and tried to clear his head.  He was alone.  He looked around and tried to get his bearings.  The room was bare apart from the trolley he was on, a large mirror to his right and a small table to his left.  The table contained several objects, but they were obscured by a light blue cloth that was draped over the top.  It gave him a very bad feeling.  He tried to get up, needing to see if there was anything behind him, perhaps an open door with a large flashing ‘Exit’ sign.  But he couldn’t move.  His wrists and ankles were tied to the trolley with what felt like leather straps.  

All he could do was wait.

A door clicked behind him and a man in a long white coat appeared by his side.

No waiting needed, apparently.

The doctor (one would reasonably assume) pulled a pair of cream-coloured rubber gloves out of his pocket and put them on.

“Um, not meaning to be nosy, here, but what’s with the rubber?” Xander asked nervously. “Not planning any, um…examinations, internal or otherwise, are you?”

The doctor ignored him and pulled back the cloth on the table.

“Whoa! What you gonna do with those?” Xander asked, fearfully eyeing up the selection of what seemed like torture instruments. “’Cos if you’re thinking of sticking me with any of them, I’d advise against it.  I’m allergic and, erm, the allergy tends to become infectious. What are you gonna do with that? Don’t do that. Please don’t do that. Ow! What did I just say? Have you no respect? Why did…why did…? Hmm. What was I saying? Is…it…dark in here?”


~*~*~*~*~


“Now, I suggest that you cooperate, Mr Bloody.”

Spike calmed down from his furious fit and pressed his hands against the window, growling under his breath.  Xander was alone and strapped, unconscious, to a trolley.  Spike studied his face.  He looked peaceful.  No signs of distress and not a mark on him.

“He is unhurt, if that’s what you are wondering.”

“I can see that.  If he was hurt you would be missing your tongue by now.”

“I’d be very careful with your threats, Mr Bloody.  He is unhurt at the moment, but I could change that.”

Spike spun in full gameface to face the doctor. “If you fucking touch him I’ll tear you all to pieces.”

“All I’m asking for is information.  I see by your reaction that you very attached to this human.  I simply want to know why.”

“What’s it to you?”

“Just interested.  It’s my job to research and understand other species.  You are lovers, yes?”

“So you already know. Why are you asking me?”

“I don’t understand your reluctance to talk to me.”

“Oh, I don’t know.  Perhaps because you have my lover strapped to a fucking trolley?  Let him go and I’ll talk. Whatever.”

“Not good enough.  Do you feed from him? Is that the basis of your relationship?”

“No, it fucking ain’t!”

“Interesting.  So what is the basis of your relationship?”

“We’re lovers, boyfriends, whatever you wanna call it.”

“So, have you drunk from him?”

Spike hesitated a moment too long and the doctor continued. “How much? Do you need to drink from him? Perhaps you…exchange blood?”

Spike knew exactly what the doctor was getting at.  He was trying to find out if Xander was a consort.  Consorts were a bit of mystery outside of vampire circles. Sure, many humans knew that a consort was a vampire’s mate, but because they were so few and far between, no-one had any real understanding about what was involved in a consort mating.  Over the centuries, vampires had been very careful to keep claiming secrets exactly that. Secret. So secret, in fact, that even most vampires were unclear on some of the details.  Spike himself was very unclear on how Xander would develop as a consort.  His lover had shown many vampire signs -- hissing, yellowed eyes, even fangs.  And there were other effects too.  Xander was stronger, faster and, on a couple of occasions, had even managed to communicate with him telepathically.  What other effects were on their way, no-one was sure.  And now, with this strange gift from Isis, Xander was very special indeed.

Spike was seriously worried.  How long was it going to take for the Initiative to confirm that Xander was different? He had to get him out.

Something caught his eye from Xander’s room and he turned just in time to see a doctor enter.

“Who the fuck is that?”

“Don’t worry.  He won’t hurt your mate…anymore than necessary.  We just need to do a few tests.”

“What tests?  I don’t agree.”

“You don’t have a choice, Mr Bloody.”

Spike turned back to Xander and watched as the doctor stuck a needle into Xander’s arm.

“Just making sure he’s all human,” the doctor said with a smirk.

“You fuckers are gonna pay for this.”

The doctor ignored him and sat back in one of the chairs.

“Let’s just watch, shall we? Get a feel for what will be coming if you don’t talk.”

Spike glanced around and checked out his options.  His chances of gutting the doctor were slim, he would be tazered in a second.  He turned back just in time to see a second syringe sink into Xander’s veins.  He watched with a silent snarl as Xander’s eyes flickered back open and he turned his head towards the window.

Hold on, pet.  I’ll come for you.  Just hold on.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander winced at the pain of another needle in his arm.  He turned his head towards the large mirror and opened his eyes.

…on…  …come for… Just hold on.

“Spike?”

Another pain in his arm and Xander whipped his head back around, wishing he hadn’t when the room spun.

“Hey! How many times are going to stick me, huh? I’m not a pincushion, you know! Hey, you can put that away…OW!”

Xander watched in horror as the doctor put down the last syringe full of blood and picked up a scalpel.  He strained at his ties and fought to keep himself from hyperventilating.  As the doctor reached for his face, Xander closed his eyes and turned away, sickness building up in his throat at the thought of what was coming.  The doctor pressed down hard on his jaw, keeping his head pressed tightly to the side.  As the scalpel made contact with his throat, Xander bit back the urge to scream.  The scalpel scratched at his skin for just a few seconds before it retreated and his head was released.  Xander watched warily as the doctor wiped off the scalpel into a small plastic dish.  The doctor placed a lid on the dish and picked up a large swab.

“Open your mouth.”

“Oh, so you do speak.”

“Open your mouth.”

“Or you’ll do what?”

“I don’t think you want to find that out, Mr Harris.  Just remember that we have your friends.”

Xander narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth.

“Very sensible.”

Xander’s temper snapped at the doctor’s patronising tone.  All his life, he had been talked down to, treated like dirt and made to feel so stupid.  Who was this man to bring those feelings back? Stupid Initiative robot.  As the doctor leant in with the swab, Xander hocked up something nasty from his throat and spat it in the doctor’s face. “I don’t do sensible,” he snarled.

The doctor stumbled back against the table in surprise.

“You’ll do what you like to my friends whether I cooperate or not, so fuck you.  Go on, stick your fingers inside my mouth and see where it gets you!”

The doctor wiped his face with a cloth and filled a syringe.

“Nooo! You can’t do that! That isn’t fair.” Xander thrashed against his ties, counting on his consort status to give him strength. “I’m warning you.  Don’t come any closer, or…”

Three things happened at once.  Xander released one arm, striking the doctor and knocking him flat.  A loud explosion rattled in the distance and the lights went out.


~*~*~*~*~


Spike chuckled and clapped his hands together as he watcher Xander spit in the doctor’s face.

“That’s my boy!” he cheered.

Spike watched on as his lover exchanged silent words with the doctor.

“What’s that? What’s in that?” he asked angrily.

“Just something to subdue him.  It will make the process much simpler, as he is obviously not cooperating.  Don’t worry.  It won’t hurt him.”

“Bollocks, it won’t.  Don’t fucking believe you…”

“I’m afraid you have no choice, Mr Bloody.  We need to perform a certain amount of tests on your lover…What…?”

Spike and the doctor watched as Xander struck out. The lights went out and the room shook from the vibrations of a distant explosion.

Spike seized his chance.  He could easily see in the darkness.  His captors could not.  With an almost cat-like pounce, he dived onto the sentry soldiers and snapped their necks with little effort.  The smarmy doctor tried to sneak past, aware that, without his burly protectors, he was well and truly fucked.

“No you don’t, doctor do-nothin’.  You’re coming with me.”

If the doctor could have seen the look on Spike’s face he would have pissed himself.

“Y-you are making a big mistake, here.  You won’t get far…”

“I will get as far as I want to go…and you are going to help me.”

Spike dragged the doctor out of the room and into the corridor.  He found that the door to Xander’s room was open and he dragged the doctor inside.

“Who’s that?!” Xander asked in alarm, his eyes squinting in the darkness.

“Me, pet.”

Spike threw the doctor into the corner and pointed. “Move and you’re dead.”

“Who’s that?!”

“Some bloke that will soon wish he hadn’t been born.  You, alright, luv? They hurt you?”

“No, I’m okay.  Can you help me with these? I can’t see what I’m doing.”

Xander had managed to loosen the other tie at his wrist and wriggle out of it, but the ties at his feet were too tight and stiff and in the darkness he couldn’t work out how they unfastened.  

Spike tugged at the leather straps and started to loosen them.  They were very strong, even for him, and he glanced at the one that Xander had managed to snap by himself.  It had been literally torn in two.  This was another example of Xander’s growing consort strength and, yet again, he wondered if Xander was even aware of it.  

“Nice move, by the way.  You really clocked that dick-head.”

“Yeah, well, he was arrogant.  You know when you just feel that someone is looking down on you?  He asked for it.”

“Bloody right.  The explosion was well timed.  You do that on purpose?”

“Me? I didn’t do it,” Xander said as he eased his foot out of one strap. “It must have been Buffy.  Or maybe Willow?”

“Maybe.  Witch is bloody powerful.  Let's just hope it was one of them and not sommit else that we gotta deal with.”

Spike pulled Xander’s foot out of the last strap and helped him to his feet.  Xander swayed a little and made a grab for Spike’s shoulder.

“Shit.”

“Xan?” Spike asked, supporting his lover with both hands. “What’s up?”

“Feel…woozy.  They took lots of my blood.”

Spike knew what the answer was.  Feed his consort.  Replace his lost blood.  But he couldn’t.  Not with that damned Initiative doctor watching.

“Take it easy, luv.  Just walk slow and…here, chew on this,” Spike said, producing a largish bar of chocolate.

Xander raised his eyebrows and took the offered chocolate.

“For emergencies, pet.”

“What sort of emergencies involve chocolate?”

“Emergencies like this.  Right.  Doc? Get on your feet and take me to the other vampire you got stashed away.  And don’t play ignorant.  You know who I mean.”

The doctor got up and led the way, Spike falling in close behind, tugging Xander along.

“Stay close, Xan.”

“Do I get a choice?”

“What do you think?”


~*~*~*~*~


“I knew I should never have trusted you.”

“Then why did you, Buffy?”

“Was this your plan all along? To get to my friends.”

“Not at all.  I was genuinely interested in you.  A slayer.  Slayer strengths.  I can only imagine what you’d be like in bed.  A little inexperienced, perhaps, but plenty of stamina.  The discovery that one of your friends was the missing Hostile was just a bonus.”

“You’re a pig, Riley.”

The soldier shrugged.

“If that is your opinion, that’s fine.  But what I want to know is, why you are harbouring a vampire?”

“None of your business.”

“Does it not concern you that one of your friends is close with a Hostile.”

“None of your business.”

“Come on, Buffy.  Don’t tell me that it doesn’t worry you. Don’t tell me that your friend hasn’t changed since he started bedding Hostile 17.  I’ve got to say, I didn’t know him before and I don’t know him now. But I’d put money on it, that he’s changing.  Am I  right?”

“…None of your business.”

“Xander seems like a pretty good guy.  Usually fucks the un-dead in the middle of a cemetery, does he?”

Buffy faltered with shock and confusion. “No! He…It’s none of…”

“My business, I know, I know.  I’m just saying, is all.”

Buffy looked at the floor and tried to think.  Had Xander changed? Even if he had, he was happy, wasn’t he? But then there was that ritual thing with Angel.  Had Xander really wanted that?  Xander hated Angel, then suddenly he liked him and had sex with him.  Buffy angered slightly and tried to push the feelings away.  She had forgiven Xander for sleeping with Angel behind her back.  But still, Xander sleeping with Spike, in love with Spike, living with Spike? It had happened so suddenly and they had all accepted it so easily.

“Why am I here?” she asked suddenly.

“I have a proposition for you.”

“What proposition?”

“Work for us.”

“I work alone.”

“Think about it, Buffy.  We do the same job.  Protecting people.”

“Don’t you dare compare what I do to…this,” Buffy said, gesturing around her.  "You capture innocent demons and experiment on them.  You don’t care about the people.  You only care about money and science and pain.”

“And what do you care about? You're the Slayer, you should kill whatever crosses your path.  Yet, you allow a vampire to not only cross your path but enter your circle.”

“I have my reasons and I don’t kill whatever crosses my path!”

“Then you have failed.  You’re not a Slayer.  You are a spoiled little girl that likes to play at being a Slayer.”

“What the hell do you know?”

“More than you. Anyway, that isn’t the point.  Back to my proposition.  Work for us and I’ll let your friends go.  Except for the Hostile and we’ll have to keep his pet for a while longer, for his own good, of course.  But the girls and your other friend? They can leave.”

“If I work with you. Now why would you want that, if I’m just a spoiled little girl?”

Before Riley could answer, the room flashed brighter than the sun and they were thrown to the floor with a terrific crash.  Buffy clamped her eyes shut tight and she felt scorching heat soar above her.


~*~*~*~*~


Willow paced. “We have to do something!”

“I know, sweetie, and we will, but…”

“But what!? There are no buts.  I’m not going to sit here…pace here, while my friends are in danger. I can’t just do nothing.”

“I don’t expect you to do nothing…”

“Then what? What am I supposed to do?”

“Just stop and think.  That is all I’m asking.  Don’t just throw some random spell in the air.  We don’t know where everyone is.  We don’t know what effect it will have on everyone.”

“You’re right.  I’m sorry, Tara.  I just don’t know what to do.  What if…? Xander.  Buff…Everyone.  What if something has happened to them?  What about Spike and Angel? What if they kill them?”

“Sweetie, please, don’t get upset…”

“I can’t help it! What if…?”

The witches clung suddenly to each other as the room shook, the lights went out and the air was filled with the sound of an explosion.


~*~*~*~*~


Angel slumped against the wall and held his head in his hands.  It had been some time since he had warned his childe away.  He hoped that they had all seen sense and got out safely.  Unlikely.  Spike would never leave him, not anymore.  None of them would.  That only meant one thing.  They had been caught.  He prayed to no god in particular that they were all still alive.

Although he didn’t love Buffy anymore, he still cared very deeply for her and the thought that she could have died trying to save her friends tore at his insides.  She may be a little spoiled, big headed, a bit ignorant, bloody-minded and selfish, but she would die for her friends without a second thought.  And that wasn’t because she was the Slayer.  It was who she was.

Angel’s thoughts turned to Doyle.  He hadn’t really been seeing him for that long, although, looking back, he’d had feelings for the man since day one.  Now, admitting that was very weird.  Especially when you consider that Doyle had reminded him of Xander at first.  Mouthy, way too cheerful and annoyingly sarcastic.  Plus, they both had a certain darkness to them, like an untold secret lying in wait.  Angel had asked Doyle about his past only once.  His reaction hadn’t been good.  Angel had decided that he wouldn’t push.  Doyle would tell when he was ready.

Another new problem niggled behind his skull.  Angel growled and pushed it further to the back of his mind.  It could wait.  He rubbed his temple at the growing headache and growled again.

Angel understood Xander's and Spike’s frustration.  All they wanted was a relatively normal life together and that was what he wanted for him and Doyle.  He would always be in the ‘Demon’ business, but that was okay.  There were risks, but that was okay too, that was his life.  But running from one disaster to another like this was beyond a joke.  He wanted to go back to LA with Doyle, Xander and Spike.  He wanted to rest.

That was it. That was enough.  The shit stopped now.

Angel stood and marched to the door.  No-matter what, the Initiative was going to see what a Master Vampire was made of.

The lights failed and a low rumble resounded around him.  An explosion.  The door to his cell clicked and unlocked and Angel stepped into the corridor.


~*~*~*~*~


Doyle backed up into a corner.  His breathing was rapid and heavy and he was starting to see stars. “I said back off, man.”

“Come, come, it’s just a needle.  You’ll barely feel a thing.”

“Yeah? Stick it in yourself, then.”

“Please, let’s not make this any harder…”

“Than it has to be.  Yeah, yeah, I heard that one.  Cheers for the cheesy line.  You’re still not gonna stick that thing in me.”

“I’m afraid I have to.  Orders.”

“And I suppose you always follow orders, do you? What are you, a man or a mouse?”

“I’m a man that is fast losing patience.  You will get back on the trolley and let me take these blood samples.  I don’t understand how you got free in the first place.  If you don’t comply, then I will call security…”

“Go ahead, then.  See if I care.  But I will have to kick some ass.”

The doctor tried to call security.  No words ever left his mouth as the room shook violently and he was thrown face down on the floor.

Doyle gripped the sides of the walls and slowly slid down as the room continued to shake from the force of the blast.  The lights were out and silence descended.


~*~*~*~*~


“Spike? Something isn’t right.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

“It’s so quiet.  Why aren’t there any alarms going?”

“Dunno.  Whatever that blast was, it must have knocked out all the power.  Oi, you! Don’t you have back-up power?” Spike asked the doctor.

“Yes, of course,” the doctor snapped.

Xander growled under his breath at the man’s tone.  Rude and sarcastic. “So where is it, then? Why are we still in the dark?”

“I would imagine that the emergency generator is damaged in some way.”

“No shit, Sherlock. Stupid twat.”

“Really could do with some light, here.  Having some trouble.”

“Don’t worry, pet.  I got you.  Won’t let you trip. Oi, you! Got any torches lying about?”

“In the storage cupboards.”

“Where?”

“There's one coming up.”

Spike nodded in the darkness and felt Xander move in closer.

“Spike,” Xander whispered.  “How comes he can see and I can’t?”

“Good question,” Spike whispered back. “Stay close to me, pet.  Don’t get near him.”

“You got it.”

“Here,” the doctor said suddenly. “One of the cupboards.”  The doctor opened it and went inside.  He dragged out a large black box and swung open the lid.

“Step back,” Spike barked.

The doctor moved several paces back and Spike fished out a large torch. “There you go, luv.”

“Thanks.  How much further is Angel?”

Spike turned to his hostage to answer the question.

“Just around the corner.”

“Lead the way.  Stay in front.  Don’t turn around.”

The doctor nodded and headed off.


~*~*~*~*~


“Where is he?” Spike demanded.

“I don’t know.  The power cut has opened all the cells.  He must have left.”

“Fuck! How the hell are going to find everyone, Spike? What's going on?”

“Don’t know, pet.  I suggest we head for the surface.  Get the fuck out.”

“What about the others? We can’t leave them!”

“Calm down, luv.  We ain’t gonna leave them.  But I bet your ass that they’ll have the same idea as us.  Get up and get out.  Bet we’ll meet them up there.”

“And what if we don’t?”

“Then we go back.  There'll be more of us.  Bound to bump into a few of ‘em.”

A roar and scream soared down the corridor and all three men jumped.

“Right.  Back this way.”  

Spike grabbed Xander’s arm and pulled him back down the corridor. “You,” he called to the doctor. “Fuck off.”


~*~*~*~*~


Angel entered a room, the smell of his ex-lover rife in the air.  He stopped dead in his tracks.  Buffy was not there.  Her scent still lingered, proving that she had only recently left.  Angel looked to the corner, an aroma of evil pulling him in.

Riley.

The soldier was on his knees, his head bowed in a stunned posture.

“Well, well.  Lookey what we have here.” Angel ran a hand over a fast fading bruise on his cheek as he spoke. “It was just lovely meeting you earlier.  I really appreciated the welcome.” Angel bent down and dragged Riley to his feet. “Where is Buffy?”

Angel knew he shouldn’t risk it.  The back of his head was throbbing like a bitch and his vision was a swirl of rainbow patterns.  But this was one of the bastards that had chipped Spike.  He had to pay.

Riley swayed and blinked, his senses slowly returning. “I don’t know.  She was just here.”

“I know that.  I can smell her.  I can smell her blood.  If you’ve hurt her, I’ll fucking kill you.” Angel tightened his grip on Riley’s throat and lifted him into the air. No pain

“I-I…didn’t…I-I…didn’t.”

“Not so brave now, are you?  Now you haven’t got your Initiative fuck buddies to back you up.”

“F-Fuck…Y-You!”

“Come now.  Is that anyway to talk to a Master Vampire?” Angel threw the soldier against the wall. “I have to find my friends, now, but there's something I must quickly do first.  You see, I want you to pay for what you did to my Childe; that chip was some piece of work.  I also don’t want you following us around right now.  Bad for our escape chances. So…”

Angel bent down and grabbed Riley’s leg at the shin and knee. “Good luck with the impending riot and, as they say in the theatre, break a leg.”

Angel gritted his teeth and yanked Riley’s leg at the most unnatural angle possible.  The loud snap was only blocked out by the soldier’s high pitched screech.

“And if you break the other leg during this fun filled demon riot, don’t come running to me.”

Angel left the room and sighed heavily with relief.  No pain.  What the fuck?


~*~*~*~*~


“Wait! Spike…”

“What? C’mon, pet.  Bloody demons are coming.  Don’t wanna get ripped limb from bloody limb.”

Xander released his arm from Spike’s grip and trailed off into a seemingly empty room.

“Doyle! Shit, man, are you okay?”

Doyle sat up with help from Xander and rubbed at his head.

“Err, yeah, definite migraine on its way and I could really do with booking two weeks in the Caribbean, but, apart from that, yeah, just dandy.  You alright?”

Xander helped Doyle to stand before he answered the question. “Oh, I’m fine.  Maybe a little woozy.  They took a lot of my blood.”  

“That sucks, man.”

“Mmm, don’t suppose you’ve seen the others?”

“Nope.  They took me off separately.  What the hell is going on here?”

“Some kind of explosion, mate,” Spike explained. “Dunno what caused it.  All the bloody power’s out, though.  Demon free for all.”

“Sounds like a bundle of fun and laughs.  Angel?”

Xander shook his head. “Sorry.  He wasn’t in his cell.  We’re making our way to the surface.  We think he’ll probably do the same.”

“Why?” Doyle asked.

“’Cos going the other way would be bloody suicide.  That’s where all the demon lab rats are, all running around enjoying their new found freedom.  Which reminds me, we’d better stop yapping and start moving before they work out how to get up here.”

Doyle nodded, his pain for Angel hidden behind a jovial smile. “Good plan. Lead the way?”

Spike nodded back.  Just like Xander, he thought.  Just like Xander.


~*~*~*~*~


Willow and Tara huddled together and listened to the shrieks and roars that came from below them.  They moved slowly along the dark corridors, hands clutching and tracing the smooth walls.

“They’re getting closer,” Tara said, with a shaky voice.

“Don’t worry; I’m sure we’re nearly there.  Do you think we’re nearly there?”

“Sure, sweetie.”

“I mean, we found stairs, we climbed.  Logic tells us that we must be nearer the surface.  Do you think the others made it?  Oh, I mean made it before us, not made it…”

“Sweetie, calm down…”

“I can’t calm down.  Ability to calm down has been completely lost, gone, like it was never here…”

Another huge explosion rattled from below them and both girls jumped.  The corridor shook them from side to side, spilling them across the floor and smashing them into the walls.  They struggled to their knees and held tightly to the a corner of a wall, waiting and riding out the lessening tremors.

As the corridor stilled, there was a bang from behind them, and what sounded like a thousand roars, cheers and screams of terror filled the air.  Willow and Tara spun around and their eyes widened as demons of all shapes and sizes rounded the corner.  Some tall, some small, some wide, some thin.  All very pissed off.

“Tara…”

“I know, run.”


~*~*~*~*~


Spike kept a tight grip on his lover and Doyle as they rode out the last of the shocks.

“What was that?!” Xander asked.

“They're coming.”

“Soldiers?!”

“No, pet.  Well, maybe.  The other demons, I can hear them.”

Xander listened intently, trying to pick up any indication of approaching demons.  He stood a little straighter and gasped quietly when he realised that he could hear them too. “We have to go back,” he said, determinedly.

“No bloody way!”

“Spike, think about it.  Our friends could be down there.  We have to help them.”

“Our friends could all be waiting outside, ready to…”

Spiked locked eyes with his lover and huffed.  Xander was going to fight him all the way on this.  And there was no point in even suggesting that Xander wait here.  His lover would be having none of it. And besides, he didn’t want to let Xander out of his sight, not here.

“I’m going to take that huff as an annoyed yes.”

“Yes,” Spike said, pointing a firm finger at him, “but you do exactly what I say, you hear me? Don’t go running ahead.  Don’t lag behind and, most importantly, don’t bloody throw yourself into any sodding fights.”

Xander saluted. “Got it.”

Spike rolled his eyes and turned to Doyle.  “Coming?”

“Lead the way.”


~*~*~*~*~


Buffy wandered the dark corridors.  Her brain barely registered the fact that she couldn’t see a thing.  Bright, luminous colours danced before her eyes and it was all she could do to keep her one good arm attached to the wall.

She’d ridden out the second explosion curled up in a protective ball.  Her senses were shaken and, for a few terrifying moments, she couldn’t remember why she was here, or even where here was.  As the tremors had eased, memories came slowing dripping back and for just a moment she felt bad that she’d left Riley lying unconscious or maybe even dead.  She shook the feelings away.  This was no time to worry about some treacherous soldier.  She had to help her friends.  It was her duty.  

Another scream sounded in the air.  Too close.  Buffy stopped to try and get her bearings.  Was she even moving in the right direction?  Well, she was moving away from the shouts and screams, so yeah, it had to be right.  It just had to be.

Excitable voices trailed down the corridor.  Two vampires rounded the corner and stopped dead. “Is that the Slayer?”

Buffy slowly turned to face the two fledglings. “No, I’m Dolly Parton.  I had lots more plastic surgery and a major breast reduction.  Wanna hear a round of Jolene?”

One of the fledges laughed and turned to his companion. “That’s funny…Who’s Dolly Parton?”

His companion hit him.

“Well, well, Slayer.  How the mighty have fallen.  What did you do to end up here?” The fledge had a quick think before he altered his question. “So, I’m guessing that you’re working with these bastards, then?”

Buffy straightened up, trying to look a lot less injured than she was. “Not that it's any of your business, but no, not a chance in hell I’d work for these idiots.”

“What’s that, Slayer?  Not going soft on us, are you?”

“No, I’d still stake you soon as look at you.  But I work alone.  No-one tells me how, who or when to slay.”

“Good for you,” chirped the first fledge, before his companion hit him again. “Hey! I wish you'd stop hitting me.”

“Why?”

“Because…because it hurts my feelings.”

The other fledge rolled his eyes and put his hands on his hips. “Oh, sheesh.”

“Well, it’s true.  You’re always hitting me or putting me down and you never laugh at my jokes.”

“That’s because they’re not funny.”

The fledgling’s bottom lip quivered.  “I try so hard for you.  Really I do.  But I-I…I think it’s time we went our separate ways.”

“What are you saying?”

Buffy painfully crossed her arms and listened with interest. When did everybody suddenly turn gay?!

The tearful fledge continued. “I’m saying that I think we should break up.  I’m sorry, Cid, but I just don’t love you anymore.  You’ve hurt me too much.”

“Johnny? Johnny, don’t do this, I love you…It’s just that …I get so tense.  I don’t mean to hurt you.  Ever since Sire left us for that West Virginian bitch, I’ve felt like I’ve had to look after you, be the strong one.”

Johnny pointed firmly at his own chest. “I’m strong too, you know.  Okay, so maybe I’m not much in the brains department, but I still have feelings…”

Buffy slowly backed up.  Both vampires had started to cry.  Perfect time to slowly slip away. They were only fledges, but if she didn’t have to fight them, then she wouldn’t.  Best save her strength for something potentially nastier.  She crept around the corner and limped away. What was going on? What caused the explosion? And where were all the soldiers?


~*~*~*~*~


“Where do you think all the soldiers are?” Xander asked.

“Probably down below.”

Xander scrunched up his nose.  “I wouldn’t like to be in their position.  There’s a lotta loose demons down there.”

“That’s their problem, luv.  Just be hopeful that the demons finished some of them off for us. Wait!”

Spike stopped suddenly and listened to two approaching heartbeats.

“What is it?” Doyle asked.

“People. Humans.  Coming this way.”

Spike stalked forward, motioning for Doyle and Xander to stay back.

Doyle and Xander gave each other a ‘Fuck that’ look and began to move slowly forward.

“Soldiers?” Xander asked.

Spike pulled a long blade from a hidden pocket before he answered. “Could be,” he whispered.  

Spike stopped at the corner and waved frantically for Xander and Doyle to do as they were told.  His finally held up one hand to them and silently counted back from three.

Three.

Two.

One.

Spike changed into his killing face, leapt around the corner and roared as loudly and menacingly as possible.

Xander and Doyle flinched as two high pitched screams rose into the air and Spike’s roar turned into a round of cursing.

“Bloody hell! Oi! Ow! Hey! Don’t…OI! Watch the bloody hair!”

“Spike?”

Xander recognised the voice as Willow’s and, smiling, he pulled Doyle around the corner.  Ignoring his grumbling lover, he swept his best friend into his arms. “Wills,” he mumbled into her hair.

“Xander! You’re okay. You are okay? Course you are. Are you?”

“I’m fine. You? Tara?”

“We’re good.  Just want to get out of this place.  Have you seen the others? Buffy? What about Angel? Do we know where they took him? Is he okay? Where is he?”

“Slow down, Willow.  We haven’t seen them yet.  We don’t know where they’ve taken Buffy and Angel isn’t where they left him.  Which we’re taking as a good sign. We’re looking for them now, then making a run for it.”

“Right, so I take it you haven’t run into the poof or missy Slayer down that way.  Let's backtrack, take that other turning. Might need to find a few more flash lights while we’re at it.”

“Check,” Xander chirped, grabbing Spike’s hand and pulling him back the way they had come. “Come on, you guys. Last one to find a friend has to do a forfeit.”

Spike smiled at his lover’s cheerfulness.  It was strange how Xander could keep chirping even when things seemed so dire.  It was such a different Xander to the one that he had held in his arms only nights ago, rocking him and holding him while he poured out all the grisly details of what his father had done to him.  Spike hated it when Xander didn’t smile.  As much as the boy’s silly jokes drove him nuts, he still longed to hear them. A babbling Xander was normally a happy Xander, or a nervous Xander or…well, let's just say that a babbling Xander wasn’t usually a miserable Xander.


~*~*~*~*~


They ran down the corridor, Spike egging them to go faster.  The escaped demons were fast closing in and they desperately needed to find Angel and get the fuck out.  Spike was sure that he and Angel would be relatively okay, maybe even Doyle, but Xander and the witches could have problems.  Vampires and many of the demon breeds hated humans at the best of times, but a bunch of hyped-up vamps and demons that had just escaped from death and torture were quite likely to take out a human in a heartbeat.  Spike hoped that maybe Xander’s consort status would stand him in good stead.  Unlikely.  It was more likely to get the both of them in deeper trouble.

Spike stopped suddenly. “Wait!”

“Would you stop doing that?!” Xander cried.

“Angel,” Spike breathed.

“He’s here?”

“Yeah, I can smell him.”

Spike curled his lip up in a snarl and Xander winced as the hand that held his clenched way too tightly.  Xander was almost too afraid to ask.

“Is he…is he okay? Can you smell…?”

“Wait here…”

“Not a chance,” Xander cut in.

Spike frowned and stalked ahead. “Then just stay back.  This might get ugly.”

Spike rounded the corner and was nearly sick at the stench of his Sire’s blood mixed with that of other demon and human blood.

The sight that greeted him made him wish that he’d knocked his lover unconscious and left him back a ways.  This was no sight for any human.

Blood.

The ceiling.  The floor.  The walls.  Blood drenched everything and everyone.  

Bodies.

Human.  Vampire.  Demon.  Angel.

“NOOOOO!” The demon inside Spike broke free and he roared into the chaos of fighting, screaming and dying bodies.  He leapt into the fray and snapped the neck of the first demon that blocked his path to his Sire.  Three more vampires jumped towards him but Spike made short work of them, kicking one away and landing a vicious blow into its exposed back.  Spike smiled at the sickening crack before repeating the effective procedure on the next two vampires.  He turned to his fallen Sire and bared his teeth at the horned creature that was bent over him, lapping at the blood flowing from Angel’s chest.

“Worst mistake you ever made, mate.”

Xander stood and watched, completely frozen by the carnage in front of him.

So much blood.

He just caught the sound of his lover’s voice and turned in time to see him pounce on a strange horned, grey coloured creature and drag him away. His eyes drifted downwards and his jaw dropped at the sight of Angel’s battered body.

The sight kicked him into action and he swooped through the crowd of battling demons, dropping to his knees at Angel’s side. “Angel? Are you okay?” he asked, hovering his hands inches over Angel’s chest. “Gods, please be alive.  You’re not dust so I’m taking that as a good sign.”

Xander looked at Angel’s pale colour and remembered what had happened when they had wrecked the car at Devil's Dyke.  Angel needed blood.  Xander didn’t hesitate.  He pulled a knife from his boot and ripped open his wrist.  When at first Angel didn’t respond, Xander became irritated.

“C’mon, Deadboy.  You know you want it.  C’mon,” he urged. “And don’t take all day; bleeding to death, here.”

Hearing a small familiar, uneasy chuckle, Angel forced his senses into operation.  The scent of familiar blood lulled him forward and he took Xander’s wrist into his mouth, drinking eagerly.

Spike slowly and deliberately tore the horn from the demon’s head and delighted in the high pitched wail that sailed from its wide black lips.  When the horn was fully removed, he plunged it into the demon's chest with as much unnecessary force as he could muster.  Spike smiled when he heard the last heavy breath leave the creature. Deserved.  He looked urgently over at Angel and was relieved to see him sitting up and licking at Xander’s wrist.  His almost smile turned suddenly sour as a Biffle demon lunged at his family.

Xander felt it, rather than heard it.  He turned around just in time to see the most disgusting looking demon that he’d ever seen in his life, flinging itself in his direction with teeth bared, muscles clenched and claws unsheathed.  His stomach flipped inside out when he realised that he wasn’t going to be able to get out the way.  He closed his eyes and felt Angel’s arms close around him.

Please, no.

Spike watched, helpless, too far away to reach his lover and Sire. This couldn’t be right? Not like this.  Not now.  Please, no He lurched forward, knowing that he could never reach them in time, but needing to try anyway. A fizzling crack shot through his ears and the corridor was flooded with a multicoloured rush of magical energy.  Spike gasped and fell backwards as the energy seemed push him away.  He crushed his eyes shut against the painful light and listened as torrid screams filled the air.

“Whoa. That was cool!”

Spike’s eyes shot open at the sound of Xander’s excited voice.  

Alive.  

He was still alive. Spike looked around.  Every demon and every soldier was stone cold dead.

Spike stood quickly and ran to his lover, running his hands all over him and scenting for any injury.  Finding none, he pulled Xander close to his chest and squeezed him tightly.  “Never, ever, come that close to dying again.  Got it, brat?”

“Yup, got it. No problem. Did you see the lights? It was kinda pretty. Willow is so cool.”

Spike suppressed the urge to chuckle at his young lover and settled instead for a scowl.  He looked around at the rest of their friends and found them to be all in one piece.  Spike watched silently as Doyle pulled Angel to his feet.

“Angel, my love, what happened here?”

Angel looked down in disgust at the dead soldiers and demons, all of them stopped in their tracks by Willow’s powerful magic, their hearts and brains blacking out the moment they were hit by the multicoloured wisps and swirls from Willow’s soul.

“They overpowered me. Soldiers… Biffle demon got the better of me. Are you okay?” he asked Doyle, scenting and feeling as Spike had done to Xander.

“Yeah, I’m okay.  They didn’t lay a finger. But you…I saw…I thought…”

Doyle desperately sought for words.  He’d thought Angel was dead.  The fact that he wasn’t a pile of dust hadn’t quite reached Doyle’s panicked brain.

“Hey, shhh, sweetheart.  I’m fine, thanks to Xander.” Angel turned his head and smiled gratefully at the teen.

“Oh, jeez,” Buffy cried. “Can we get out of here before you start to sound anymore like a cheesy movie?”

“I’ll second that. C’mon, pet, can’t be much further.”

“Are you sure?” Xander asked, concerned that they were just going around in circles.  One corridor looked very much like another.  He made himself trust that Spike’s senses would notice if they were going round and round.

“Positive.”

“How positive?”

“Very positive.”

“How very positive?”

“Very positive a lot.”

“How very positive a lot?”

“Well, there’s the lift we came down in.  So yeah, pretty sodding positive.”

Xander beamed and ran to the elevator, pushing the call button and nearly bouncing as he waited for it arrive.

“Come on.  Come on.  Come on,” he chanted. “They can fly a man to the moon but they can’t make an elevator move at a half decent speed.  Sucks.  Want out. Come on.”

Finally their carriage arrived and Xander turned back to face the opening doors.

“At last…GUH!”

Xander flinched back violently, ducking behind Spike and Buffy.  From inside the elevator a familiar figure made the same flinching action and followed it up with a “GOOD LORD!!”

Just about everybody else rolled their eyes.

“Nice of you to drop in, watcher.”

“Yes, I dare say,” Giles said, as he checked that his heart was still beating. “Come along then, chop, chop.”

Xander recovered himself and bounced into the elevator. “Great! Royal express elevator to not-so-much hell! Got the van running, G-man?”

“Don’t call me that, Xander, and yes, the van is running.  I trust that my little explosions did the trick?”

“You did that, mate?”

Giles nodded and stood prouder at Spike’s question. “I certainly did.  You can thank me later.”

“Thank you? You could have sodding killed us!”

“Oh, don’t be so overdramatic, Spike.  You’re all alive, aren’t you?”

“Well…”

“Well then. Don’t be such a cry baby.”

“OI!”

Tara interrupted before the argument could escalate to epic proportions. “S-so how did you do it? The explosions, I mean.”

“Well, Tara, to answer your question, I used very careful timing, a few claimed favours and my cunningly sharp intellect.”

“What intellect?” Spike asked, sarcastically.

Giles ignored the comment and continued. “The van is waiting outside.  I suggest we get far away before more trouble arrives.”

“What if they come after us?”

“I think they have enough to worry about right now.  I doubt they’ll be bothering us for a while.  But it is very important that we get you three out of harm's way and back to L.A as soon as possible ... and you, of course, Doyle.”

“I agree,” Angel said sharply.

“Well, in that case, take the van.  Drop off the rest of us at my place and be on your way.  That would be safest.”

“We have to go back to our house first,” Xander said worriedly, pulling at Spike’s coat sleeve.

“No, luv.  It’s best we just go.”

“No! We have to get Isis! We can’t leave without her! I won’t!”

Giles patted Xander’s back affectionately. “I thought you might feel like that, so I took the liberty of fetching her for you.  She’s waiting patiently in the back of the van.”

Xander smiled warmly at Giles and thanked him.  Spike inwardly compared Xander’s expression to that of a child thanking his father for the world’s biggest ice-cream cone. His thoughts drifted to that of Xander’s own father.  

One day.  Just…one day.

Spike growled, earning him a quizzical look from his lover.

“You okay, Spike?”

“Fine, pet.  Don’t worry yourself.  Just thinking about what could have happened back there,” Spike said as he led Xander out of the frat house and towards the van.

“We’re all okay, though, right?  I mean, the others will be okay staying in Sunnydale?”

“Course, luv.  Wouldn’t leave ‘em behind if I thought anything else, eh? Gonna take those Initiative gits a while to clean this mess up.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“Always right, pet. It’s a gift.”

“Stoopid vamp.”


~*~*~*~*~


The drive to L.A was a quiet one.  Not in an awkward silence sort of way, but in a contemplative sort of way.  Doyle spent the journey glad that it was all finally over.  The Initiative were temporarily crippled and they had all gotten away relatively unscathed.  Angel was far from back to his old self and he wondered briefly if the Initiative had made things worse.  He thought about their sex life and how quickly they could get it back on track.  As soon as he’d thought it, he immediately felt guilty.  Sex was not a priority right now.  He just wanted his lover well again, with all thoughts and memories of Angelus’ latest reign well and truly behind them.

Spike watched as Xander petted and stroked Isis.  He looked quietly content and Spike sighed quietly, marvelling at how his lover could have gone through so much this past week, yet could still keep his chin up.  He’d clearly had a lot of practice.  Still, there was a lot of pain under the mask and it wasn’t the sort of pain that could be cured with a good night's sleep and an Advil.  And now there was this added problem of this strange gift that Isis had bestowed.  Where the hell was that going to lead? Still, they had each other.  Whatever was going to happen in the future and whatever had happened in the past, Xander had a real family now, a family to protect, nurture and love him in the way he deserved.

Xander stroked Isis’ back softly and turned to glance quickly at Spike.  He could feel his lover gazing at him so he shot him a quick happy smile before he went back to lavishing his attentions on the little python.  Okay, so a lot of shit had happened this past week and he was sure that there would be more shit to come at some point in the future.  But hey, he could deal.  He had Spike.  They would get through it together.  He had no doubts that they could get though anything as long as they were together.

Angel tried desperately to concentrate on the road, but from time to time he felt his mind slipping towards other issues.  The guilt he felt at Angelus’ return and the carnage he had caused sawed at his spine and ate away at his guts.  The people he had killed, the way he had taken and abused both Spike and Xander and the near abandonment of Doyle disturbed him to hell and back.  Angelus was very possessive of his lovers.   How could he have left him in L.A just to run back to Sunnydale for his Childe and his Childe’s mate?  What had Angelus been thinking? He loved Doyle; at least, he thought he did.  It was admittedly early days, but his demon’s rejection of his lover was still very disturbing.  

But there was one last thing that had happened.  Something that terrified him, yet filled him with the hope that if Angelus ever returned again, he would be unable to take an innocent’s life.  He wondered if he’d guessed correctly.  Had he suffered the same fate as Spike?  His lack of pain when he’d punished Riley gave him uneasy doubts.

Angel casually reached around and touched the back of his head with careful fingers.  Delving beneath his chocolate hair, he lightly traced a line of stitches.

What had they done?




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