Ulterior Motives


Part Thirty-Nine

Xander sighed wearily; the train was finally pulling into the station at Las Vegas. Arrangements had been made on the way for them to get from the station to the residence. He was exhausted and cranky. Spike was cranky, fading into pissed. All in all, no one was very happy.

After chivying all the lesser personnel onto transport, Xander pushed an equally exhausted Spike into their personal SUV and told Bud to take them home. Bud nodded to Tara and climbed in the driver’s seat.

Xander wrapped himself around Spike and announced, “If anyone wakes me before we're home, I'll murder them,” then fell asleep. Spike just put his head on Xander's shoulder and went to sleep, too.

The drive took most of an hour, mostly due to traffic. Bud grumbled about the way tourists drove; Tara just dozed on his shoulder.

Bud drove into the underground garage and announced, “Home at last! Thank goodness.”

Tara mumbled something and then sat up, sighing and wiping her cheek. She'd drooled on Bud, not that he minded.

He got out and opened the back door. Poking either Spike or Xander to wake them up wasn't a good idea, so he called their names alternately until Spike opened one gold-tinged eye.


“We're here. Home again.” Bud laughed as Spike scrambled out of the SUV, Xander on his heels.

Xander rubbed sleep out of his eyes and stretched. “Oh, man, am I glad to be home. I want to walk in my gardens and check my shop, but first, I want MY bed. No matter how comfy, it's just not the same. Come on, Spike, let's go.”

Spike just chuckled a bit and followed Xander in. He was glad to be home, too.

They bathed, ate something, and retired to bed, exhausted by all the traveling, excitement, and especially by the last two days.


Timmins woke early enough that he could make preparations for breakfast, ready to put it together in minutes, so he settled in for a nice cuppa before starting. He heard Xander's footsteps the second he left the bed.

At first he thought Xander was just going to the loo, he never could bring himself to think of it as a bathroom, to him the loo and a bathing chamber were two distinctly different things. He heard the steps turn into the hall so he started making Xander some coffee.

“I'd like to do that, if you don't mind.” Xander took the tamper from Timmins' hand and finished tamping the charge. Timmins gave way without comment knowing that Xander found the process of making coffee soothing. By the set of Xander's shoulders, Timmins could tell that Xander was still tense, very tense.

Xander settled at the table with his coffee and watched Timmins as he sliced, diced, and chopped. Omelets were in the making: cheese, tomatoes, onions, ham, and something he didn't recognize, but he was sure it would be good. Timmins never turned out anything but the best.

While he waited for Spike to get up, Xander fidgeted; he felt... off balance was the best he could come up with. It was making him cranky.

“Timmins, how soon will it be breakfast? I'm really hungry.” Xander played with his coffee cup.

Timmins was busy with his chopping and didn't look up. “As soon as Master Spike is up. Everything is ready; all I have to do is finish this little bit. It won't take me but a few minutes to finish up. Would you like a side of bacon?”

Xander nodded then said, “Yes, that'd be nice. Look, I'm starving. I'm going to go poke Spike; start cooking.”

Timmins looked at Xander for a moment. He really looked on edge. Suddenly he felt as if someone had slid an ice cube down his spine; when was the last time Xander had had Spike's blood? He couldn't remember; in all the travel and excitement they'd forgotten about it. Now Xander was beginning to suffer from withdrawal. This was very bad.

Xander left the room before Timmins could say anything. Timmins just got a new scalpel from a small box and a shot glass from the cupboard.

Xander burst into the bedroom and made it to the bed in two strides. “Spike! Up! I'm starving and you're...” He didn't finish as Spike grabbed him and dragged him into the bed.

“Ok, Ok! I'm up. Noisy brat.” Spike pulled away from Xander a bit, gave him a sharply assessing look and demanded, “Are you alright? You don't look right.”

Xander rolled off Spike and stood up, rubbing his hands up and down his arms, shoulder to elbow and back again. “I... I'm really, really hungry and kinda jumpy. Maybe it's just too much excitement for too many days, but... I feel like that one cup of coffee was really a whole pot of espresso.” He gave Spike a slightly panicked look. “And I'm feeling worse by the second. What's wrong?”

Spike nearly levitated out of the bed. “Tell me all the symptoms! Now!”

Xander grabbed at Spike to keep both of them from tumbling to the floor. “Easy! Damn, I feel shaky, really hungry, nervous... I'd swear I was on drug withdrawal, but you know I don't do drugs.”

Spike growled harshly, “Fuck, I'm such an idiot. Come on.”

Xander submitted to being dragged out of the room with only a, “Hey!” in protest. Spike hauled him to the kitchen yelling for Timmins.

Timmins just handed Spike the scalpel and glass. Xander blinked once then sighed, “I'm an idiot. I should have remembered.”

Spike cut his wrist and started to hold it over the glass; Xander just took hold of Spike's arm and hand and, after a glance at Spike for permission, brought it to his mouth. He sucked gently, afraid to hurt Spike, and felt the warm blood flood his mouth. He swallowed, sucked again and felt relief of symptoms he hadn't realized were there. He took a third swallow then felt Spike gently pull away a bit. He released his grip and leaned back against the counter. He felt so much better already that he couldn't understand how he'd gotten so bad without realizing.

Spike smiled at him. “Better, luv? Fuck me for a fool. I completely forgot about giving you blood. How could I be so stupid? 'M sorry. Timmins, why didn't you remind me?”

Timmins hung his head, expecting punishment. “I forgot as well. I'm very sorry, Master; shall I await you in the garage?”

Xander opened his mouth to ask why then shut it again when he realized what Timmins expected. “Well, we'll both meet you, because I forgot, too.”

Spike just swatted Timmins in the head. “There! Punishment! Now, where the hell is my breakfast?”

“It'll be ready in a trice. Toast or crumpet? You should put something on.”

Spike shrugged. “Whatever there is.” He headed down the hall to get his robe.

Timmins nodded once. “Toast it is, then.”

Spike returned and settled in his chair. He turned to Xander, and said, “Well, the last week was fun... not. I'm looking at a quick visit to...”

He didn't get any farther because Xander exploded from his chair and grabbed him. Knocking aside a small tea cart, he slammed Spike against the wall. “No! No visits to anywhere. We're staying right here in Las Vegas for the foreseeable future. Got me?” He banged Spike against the wall again to emphasize his statement.

Spike winced; Xander was a lot stronger than he should be, especially since he had missed Master's blood for a week. “Ow! Yes, luv, I got you.” Xander put Spike down. “Didn't need to be so rough. I was going to say that I was looking at a quick visit to Peaches, but never mind. Calm down. We'll stay right here.”

Xander plopped down in his chair, obviously upset. “Well, I hope so. I never, never, want to go through something like that damn progression again. I was nearly sick with worry, or so hyped on nerves my skin crawled. Never, ever again. If we visit anyone, it'll be a surprise. New Orleans wasn't too bad, but both Chicago and New York set my teeth on edge. I managed to keep it together, but it was really a near run thing.”

Spike rubbed the back of his head, which was still a bit tender. “Oh. Well, we'll stay close to home for the next decade or so. Didn't realize you hated it so much. Sorry.”

Xander sighed and rubbed his face. “Sorry about roughing you up.”

Spike snorted, “If that's what you call roughing someone up, you're a poof.”

Xander just laughed at Spike and shrugged, “But I'm a manly poof.” He turned to Timmins. “Where's my food? Hungry poofter here.”

Timmins snorted turned to the stove top and announced. “Two minutes. Don't break anymore furniture.”

Spike smirked at Xander. “Probably won't. Another of the symptoms of blood withdrawal is an uncertain temper and moodiness.”

Xander just crossed his arms over his chest and grunted. He decided to just let them tease; if he got too cranky, Timmins was liable to burn the omelets and he was hungry.

“And sulking.” Timmins plopped a plate in front of Xander with a smirk. “Here, you get the first one.

Xander grinned and dug in. He felt better after blood and that small stress relief. He felt a bit bad about roughing Spike up, but Spike was a big vampire and could protect himself, especially with Xander there to watch his back. Besides, he was well aware that; to Spike, it could be regarded as foreplay.

Spike accepted his omelet and started to eat. He nibbled at a bit of onion then sighed and put his fork down. He shoved his plate over to Xander, saying that he wasn't really hungry. Xander slid Spike's omelet onto his plate and continued eating.

Before Xander was done they heard Giles' voice from the main room. Spike started to yell back, but Timmins frowned at him in a repressive way so he just let Timmins do his job and bring Giles into the kitchen.

Giles settled in a chair, accepted a cup of tea, and watched for a moment. Xander was still stuffing his face while Spike looked on with a fond expression on his face. He wondered if Spike even realized it was there.

“Well, delightful tea, Timmins. Master Spike.” Spike grimaced. “Don't make that face. I just wanted to know if you wanted a verbal report or a written one, or both.”

Spike held out his cup and Timmins refreshed it. Spike sipped his tea for a moment while Giles waited patiently. “I think verbal now with a written one for the records. By the way, how's reorganizing the record keeping going?”

Giles smirked in a very un-librarian-like way. “Not bad, not bad at all. After I let Ripper out on a few stubborn sorts. The casinos under your protection are doing quite well. The court has been quiet and well behaved, as has the major part of the populace. There are a few rumbles here and there, but nothing to put a finger on. We'll have to wait until the situation ripens a bit. A few of your subjects have asked about Xander specifically. He's very well liked by most and actually feared by those that don't like him. As a Dextera, he's better than any other in the US.

“So, to sum up. All’s quiet on the Western Front.” Giles smiled. “The reworking of the record keeping system is going well. And you don't even need to hold court; I took a bit of a liberty and set up a system of petitions. If someone has a problem, they fill out a petition. The petition is reviewed by me; since Xander has finished all his requirements, I don't have much to do so it's no imposition. I then either bump it up to Xander, or solve it myself. If Xander can't solve it, it comes to you. Is that alright?”

Spike nodded, eyes sparkling. “That's fine. Good idea. Question. What requirements; boy graduated high school. Fairly low grades true, but he did get a diploma.”

Giles' look of satisfaction made Spike raise an eyebrow. “He has a better grade on a GED and an Associates Degree in Business Administration. I'd like to see him go on to get a BS in something.”

“Sneaky bastard, aren't you.” Spike grinned at Giles in undisguised pleasure. Xander just mumbled something around his last mouthful of omelet. “What, luv?”

Xander swallowed then said, “I knew something was up when you threw all those tests at me at once. No one needs that many progress tests. Why'd you do that?” Xander held up a hand when Giles started to protest. “I'm not mad, just curious.”

“Oh, well. You do have a terrible case of test anxiety. I just told you they were progress tests so you wouldn't get nervous. You did very well on your GED, a very commendable 97%. And your practice set was nearly perfect. I didn't grade that, I sent it off. The graders were impressed.”

Xander preened a bit, but Spike gave Giles a blank look. “What's a practice set?”

“Accounting. It's where you get a mess of stuff and have to turn it into books for a business. Hated it. And you were no help.”

“Is that what that mess of little jibblets of paper was? I was wondering what it was doing all over your desk. Never touched it, I swear. I'm not sure who messed it up. No fun trying to sort it all out.”

Xander made a face. Timmins just sighed. “I believe that was the young one I took on. She's only supposed to dust and sweep, leaves me more time for more important things. Like gossip, and don't laugh. How do you think I know what I do? But she saw fit to dust your desk, against my explicit orders. I apologize.”

Xander shrugged. “Good practice anyway. It's not going to be the last time my desk gets disarranged by someone. So, I did get a good grade on it and that's all that counts. But...” He turned to Giles. “My education is over. I swear, never more. I learned how to learn, which is more important than anything else. I do want to keep up with some of my reading, but Spike is going to pick out my books for a while, unless there's something that you think I just have to read.” He smiled at Giles and stood up. “I'm going to go on the prowl, take a look around, check in at a few places, that sort of thing. Spike? Wanna come along?”

Spike grinned, a feral and scary sort of thing. “Sure, why not? Give the places a once over, scare the opposition. Yeah?”

Xander grinned. “You got it.”

Giles got a completely vicious look on his face and stood up too. “I'm coming, too. I'm sick of being the nice guy.”

Xander blinked then exclaimed, “Oh, goodie, Ripper's coming out to play.”


And Ripper did come out. Xander blinked at Giles who was wearing threadbare, nearly white jeans, and a dark blue t-shirt with a plaid flannel shirt over it. He was wearing scuffed motorcycle boots and carrying a leather jacket over his shoulder. But the thing that struck him the most was the well used shoulder holster of dark brown leather and olive cotton strapping he was wearing. Spike just grinned.

Xander pointed to a side table near the door. “You can have anything there except my Berettas.” Giles nodded and turned to examine the offerings critically. “There's a couple of nice knives there, too. I can give you sheaths for them, just pick and I'll send Timmins.”

Giles nodded absently, not looking up from his choice of arm, which he was stripping down in a very workman-like manner.

“You implying that my kit is less than clean?” Xander's tone of voice was light. “I'll have you know that Timmins cleans them after I have.” Giles shot him a sharp glance; Xander smirked back. Timmins just cleared his throat and looked embarrassed.

Spike burst out laughing and leaned against a small table to keep from falling down. “Timmins, shame on you.” Spike forced himself to stop laughing. “But, ta ever so.”

Xander just stuck his tongue out at Spike.

When Giles was finished selecting weapons, Timmins brought him the appropriate harness and they were on their way.

Xander seemed to have a mental list of the places he wanted to check on. Spike hadn't paid much attention to Xander's activities, only asking once in a while if he needed any help. He always said that he didn't, so Spike had let him do his thing. Now he was beginning to wish he'd paid more attention.

The first place they visited was a small diner, Spike wasn't even sure it counted as a 'protectorate', but Xander seemed to think it worthy of his attention. They eased in, looking like grim death on two feet. Only Spike heard a whispered, “Scourge of America in the house.”

The owner smiled at Xander as the trio eased in. Spike sauntered up to a booth and settled with his back to the counter. Xander leaned against the wall beside him and Giles turned a chair around and straddled it at the open end of the booth. The owner scuttled up with menus and water.

“Master Xander, please sit. There's no threat here.” He seemed to dance in one place for a moment then turned to Spike, exclaiming, “High Master Spike, so nice to have you here. Information? Or just checking? Would you like a nice virgin? If so, I'll see what I can do.”

Giles rolled his eyes. Spike flicked his eyes from Giles to the owner then turned his gaze to the table top. Giles eased off the chair and turned, grabbing the owner by the front of his shirt; Ripper snarled, “Don't want a bloody virgin, information, or anything else. Master Xander wanted to come by, talk to him,” then he slammed the man against the wall next to Xander and sat back down.

Xander sighed, rubbed his face, and told the owner, whose name he'd never bothered to learn, “Wasn't the smartest move I've seen. You been bothered lately?”

The nameless owner shuddered, shook his head, and asked, “Who's the... the other guy?”

“ Rupert Giles, Ripper, but I wouldn't recommend calling him that. He's a friend, advisor, and confidant. Do not get on his wrong side. He's fairly easygoing until you piss him off, then he'll tie your guts in a knot. Like macramé. If you hear anything I should know, you know how to get in touch. Timmins will be around.”

“Yes, sir, sorry, sir, my pleasure, sir.” And with that the owner scurried back into his office and shut the door.

Xander gave Giles a quirk of his eyebrow then announced, “He's a little weasel, worse than Willy, but his info is top notch. Now that I've touched base with him, we can leave.” He headed for the door, tossing over his shoulder, “Never, ever eat here. Ever.”

Xander put his arm around Spike as they walked to the next stop. He liked the UnderCity, Las Vegas was 'up' 24/7, but the sun made it hard to get from one casino to another, for the UV challenged at least. The UnderCity was exactly that, under the city of Las Vegas. It had its own casinos, restaurants and clubs, streets, alleys, and homes. They were walking down its equivalent of the Street of Lights.

Xander was obviously on the prowl, just showing himself off, letting people know he was back. Spike strutted along beside him, smirking proudly. Giles didn't do badly himself, slouching and snarling like a pro.

After a block of showing off, Xander nodded across the street and said, “In there. Casino that's been having some trouble with old-style takeover attempts. We need to show ourselves to prove that we actually intend to protect our turf. It's a pain, but with Spike actually here, maybe it'll stick this time.”

Spike looked around at the casino. It was small and a bit tattered around the edges, but it was clean and full. “Ok, why is this particular little place that important?”

Xander sighed and eyed Spike for a moment. “Toe, door. Ring a bell?”

Spike shook his head. “No need to get snarky, luv, just askin'.”

Xander glared around in general disfavor. “Sorry. It's just that I kinda like the old lady owner. Mrs. Dawson is a nice person and I don't like someone bullying her. And, if you let them take this place over, you'll have trouble with them forever. Kinda like to nip this in the bud.”

Giles agreed, saying softly, “If you let them take one place because it's small and not really worth the trouble, they'll get the idea that you're scared of them and there'll be no end to it. It'll mean war. We don't need that.”

Spike thought about that for a moment. “I like a nice bit of violence as much as the next vamp, but I don't want innocent tourists and business people caught in the cross fire. So,” he rubbed his hands together, “what do we do?”

Xander made a moue of distaste. “We go on the strut and wait. They'll show, rather quickly, I think.”

Giles nodded. “Good strategy. Put them on the offensive which puts them in the wrong, no matter what they do. How do you want to work this?''

Xander thought for a moment. “Like I said, go on the prowl. Just walk around like we're observing the operation. Strut it a little. Maybe try out a few machines. You'll do that while Spike and I observe, like we're checking to see if the machines are honest. What do you think?”

“Sounds like a plan to me.” Giles glanced around, noting the exits without even thinking about it.

As they wandered up and down the aisles, Giles dropped a coin in a machine from time to time; Spike cocked his head at the first one and announced, “Sounds good to me, no buzzing or other funny noises. Honest machines, or I miss my guess. Floors are clean, too. Anything?” He glanced at Xander who looked around then shook his head. Spike sighed and grumbled, “Looks like it's going to be a long evening.”

It turned out, however, that it wasn't. There was trouble within thirty minutes.

It started with a small disturbance near the entry, just some drunk making an ass of himself, but several gamblers nearby got up and moved. Then, somehow, one of the slot machines got knocked over.

Xander stood up at that and moved to a better vantage point. He watched for a moment then moved in to eject the trouble makers.

They refused to be ejected, announcing that they 'had rights'. Xander simply grabbed the biggest one and tossed him bodily into the street, instructing the approaching security man to keep him out.

It only took Xander a few minutes to take care of his business; Spike stayed out of it enjoying the show. Giles observed carefully; his Watcher instincts had him gathering data for a critique later.

Xander turned to check on the group that had turned over the slot and was blocked by an older security man who'd just come into the picture. “Ok, Ok, you two young guys let the pros handle this.” Xander gave him a disbelieving gape then backed off. Spike just snorted and let the 'pros' get their asses handed to them.

Xander watched, leaning on Spike, as the two groups of vandals joined forces and had the three available security men whipped in less than thirty seconds. Spike had to wonder if they were 100% human, or some sort of half-breed. After consideration, he decided some sort of half-breed; any human wouldn't have made it down here.

While all this was happening the casino never missed a beat; people closest to the fight got up and moved deeper into the casino while others left to find someplace else to lose their money. Xander watched this with disapproval; this was what ruined a business Rumors that they couldn't keep the casino safe would halve business in no time at all.

They realized that all the disturbance in the front of the casino was a smoke screen for the infiltration of a more serious threat to the casino. The group was comprised of six 'people' for lack of a better word. Three humans, two human-like demons and a Garkl.

The group headed directly for the cash room. Xander caught a glimpse of them out of the corner of his eye and started right after them with Spike and Giles on his heels. By the time they got into the back hall where they were attempting to break in the heavily shielded steel door, the door was well on its way to scrap. The Garkl, which actually resembled a five foot long pill bug, was reared up on it and battering it with several of its legs.

Xander eyed it for a moment then just took the fire axe off the wall and handed it to Spike. “Need this?”

“Ta ever so, luv.” Spike took the axe and attacked the Garkl at once. One blow attracted the demon’s attention and got it to turn toward Spike. Spike back peddled to get enough room to maneuver and realized that the demon was a lot faster than he'd expected. And that its carapace made it very hard, hard to kill something with armor. He snarled and hacked at it again.

Giles stood back a bit, intending to just pick off the weak ones, but he saw that Spike was having trouble with the Garkl. He realized that Spike was going to try to hack his way through the carapace, but the easiest way to kill one was to flip it over and attack its soft underbelly. He knew that Spike, with his straight forward attack style, would never think of that so he called out, “Spike, flip it over! Its belly is soft!”

Spike nodded his understanding and jammed the axe under the demon and flipped it over. Not only was it easier to attack, but it was relatively defenseless as it couldn't seem to gain any purchase to flip itself back upright. It didn't take him long to finish the demon off, rather messily; that slime was never coming out of the carpeting.

While Spike was dealing with the Garkl, Giles found himself faced with a runner. The demon, or half-breed, Giles wasn't sure which, was near human in appearance, but its skin had a blue-grey cast that was impossible in a human. It was average in every way, average height, average weight, average average. It took Giles on with a confidence that was misplaced and terminal. Giles knifed it through the heart before it knew what hit it. The demon fell down and Giles danced away from its flailing limbs.

Xander, meanwhile, hadn't bothered with such niceties as warning his opponents that he was there; instead he pulled his gladius from its place between his shoulder-blades and cut his first 'man' down without a flinch. The other demon ran, right into Giles, Xander forgot about him and turned on the humans next. One ran, right into Spike, who just grabbed him and held him, the next one tried to fight Xander, pulling a K-bar which made Xander laugh.

“Man, do not bring a toothpick to a sword fight.” Xander backed off enough to let the man surrender if he wanted; evidently he didn't as he poked at Xander with the knife. The result was that he died on Xander's sword, a small whimper the only sign that he had. The third man surrendered, begging Xander not to hurt him. Xander glanced at Spike who just gave a tiny shake of his head. Xander let the man live.

Spike took stock of the mess; there was a dead Garkl, a dead not-human, two dead humans and two prisoners to deal with. Xander turned to Giles for help.

“Ok, what now? You're the one that's good at cleaning up messes like this.” He ignored Spike's rather indignant, “Excuse me?” and waited.

Giles grinned in a wholly un-Giles like fashion and shrugged, “Let the casino deal. We need to take these two back to the Residence and ask some rather pointed questions. Who's behind this attempted takeover and where are they doing their hiring? Things like that. Let's go.”

Xander sighed. “You take care of that. Call someone. I've got a couple or three more places I need to make an appearance in. Spike?”

Spike nodded. “Giles, security here can help you keep trace of them...” He jerked his thumb at the prisoners. “We'll finish Xander's checkup.” Giles just nodded. “Well, luv, where to next?”

Xander insisted that they hang around until Bud showed up with some help for Giles, which didn't take as long as Spike had expected. Ten minutes later, they were on their way again.

The next two places they visited were clubs, one a strip joint where Spike leered at all the dancers and got nothing back. Xander talked to an older woman in the back of the club for a few minutes then dragged Spike out, not that Spike complained any.

The other place was a mahjong parlor, of all things; the demons it seemed were very interested in both mahjong and dominoes. The parlor was well lit, clean, and roomy, with wide aisles between the tables, very wide aisles. Xander explained that some of the demons who patronized this place were big. Spike glanced around and saw at least four demon types that couldn't have been seen on the streets above ground without causing a panic. Here, no one even glanced at them.

They were stopped at the back, just outside the hall leading to the office, by a fussy man who refused them entry as the 'Lady' was waiting for Master Spike and his Dextera. When Spike told him who they were, he refused to believe them as they were too young to be so important. Spike snarled, “Vampire here. Older than you by at least ninety years.”

Xander sighed, this happened all the time. He didn't look his actual age of just barely twenty, unless he made a point of glowering at people. He was actually getting a bit tired of it all and his temper was suffering for it. He wondered vaguely how Spike put up with it, but decided that his reputation preceded him and smoothed the way. He never realized that his own reputation was beginning to be known.

Mr. Fussy told them to wait a moment and disappeared into the hall. He returned moments later and announced that the Lady would see them. Spike snarled at him and shouldered him aside, Xander glowered, making the man cringe, and followed.

The Lady didn't have any other name than that; she was old, Chinese, and small. Spike bowed over her hand in a fashion that made her smile. Xander refrained from such behaviors, knowing that he'd look stilted.

“Sit, sit. Did that stupid man anger you with his foolishness?”

Spike raised one eyebrow while Xander just shrugged. “Not really. I'm just getting tired of everyone taking one look at me and thinking I'm too young. I was never too young.” Xander scowled at Spike. “Even Master Spike knows that.”

Spike just sighed. “Luv, there will always be those who never see beyond outward appearances. Get used to it.”

“No. Sooner or later, I'll be older. Then I'll get the respect I've earned.” Xander missed Spike's sad grimace.

Lady took all this in with a blank expression. “So, we have no trouble here since you spoke to a few people. The only information I can offer you is that the present takeover attempt is by some youngling with no sense. Someone who has watched too many old movies. I will keep my ear out for a name.”

Xander nodded, thanked her, and let Spike take care of niceties while he thought. He startled slightly when Spike touched him and said it was time to leave.

“Sorry, mind wandered. We going home now?” Xander dropped into step beside Spike.

“Unless there's somewhere else you want to go, yeah.” Spike sauntered out the door and back into the street. They both noticed that every being on the street gave them plenty of room, even going so far as to step into the gutter to get out of their way. Spike smirked, Xander marveled.

They got back home near 4am, or about dusk their time.

Timmins met them at the door with, of all things, bathrobes.

“The bath is drawn, bubbles and all. Go get in before they're all gone. Master Xander, you first, I'd like a word with Master Spike.” He turned to Spike. “If you don't mind that is.”

“Don't mind, but what's all this about?” Xander took his robe and headed for the bath that was calling his name.

Timmins grinned at Spike. “Bud has taken Miss Tara to his tribe. He wanted to wait until you got back, but his mother insisted. He left a letter for both of you. Now... what are your intentions toward Young Master Xander? Do you want him as Consort, or are you content for him to remain a companion forever?”

Spike gave Timmins a cool, assessing once over, eyebrow firmly raised. “Consort, of course, it's my ultimate goal. My ulterior motive, if you will.”

“Then you better start convincing him he's your equal or you'll never succeed.”

Spike blinked once, very slowly. “I believe you're right. So... how do I start?”

Timmins shrugged; he was not about to suggest anything. “You'll know, if you just think about it for a while.” He smiled. “Good luck, Master. He's well worth whatever you have to do. Now, shoo, before the water cools off and the bubbles disappear.”

Spike went, dropping clothing as he did so, the robe over his arm.

Xander was settled in the tub, covered in bubbles and sulks. Spike slid into the tub so that they were 'head-to-tail'.

“You Ok, pet?”

Xander sighed heavily and leaned his head on the edge of the tub, looking blindly at the ceiling.

“Kinda not. I'm tired of all this, ‘you're so young’ shit. I'm not young, never really have been. With my dad and a hellmouth...” He shrugged, making the water slop out onto the floor. “Just... I... I want to make you proud, but I'm afraid I never will.” He slid down in the tub until the water touched his chin.

Spike realized that it was now or never. He knew what to do, the thing that no one had ever done for him. “Damn. Mouthy as I am, I'm really bad at this sort of thing so don't interrupt me, Ok?” Xander scooted up a bit and nodded. “I'm proud of you. Really very proud. You managed to maintain your dignity even as your bloody friends tore it down at every opportunity. You took being turned into a thrall in stride, even when you were scared to death. Don't deny it, pet, the nose knows. You accepted the harshest training without complaint and came back for more. You're an accepted warrior in a tribe that's well known for killing off the weak. I'm so proud of you, I could bust something. I could go on and on, but I think you get the drift.” Spike had to smile at Xander's pole-axed expression. “Now, finish washing up and let's get to the good stuff.”

Xander smirked a bit while Spike rushed him through the rest of his bath. They managed to get water everywhere. Timmins was going to have some mopping up to do. Spike was pretty sure he wouldn't mind.

Xander flopped onto the bed with a sigh. “Ok, fun time. Nice.”

Spike sat on the edge of the bed. He needed to decide if he really wanted to do this; he decided that he did, more than anything,

“Yeah, pet, fun time.”

Xander frowned up at him. “I thought you weren't going to call me that anymore. Give everyone the wrong impression.”

“Fuck 'em. If they say something out of like, rip out their tongue. That'll make things clear. Scooch over.”

Xander snickered at Spike’s use of such slang. “Where'd you hear that word?”

“Um... not sure, 1950's southwest somewhere. Dru said it was dashing.”

Xander rolled his head on the pillow. “Oh, Dru. Is she still around?”

Spike shook his head, “Don't know, don't care. She's not on my radar anymore. Got the slick?”

Xander gave up. Spike had avoided any conversation about Dru, Angel, or Buffy since he couldn't remember when. He, Xander, didn't really mind.

“Slick.” Xander handed Spike the tube with a flourish.

Spike took it and settled beside Xander. He reached over and palmed the hardness he knew was there, making Xander moan softly. “Nice, pet. Love how responsive you are. Horny?”

Xander gave a little whimper before replying, “I'm always horny around you. All you have to do is look at me the right way. Purr for me. Even just curl your tongue in a certain way.” Spike ran his thumb over Xander's glans and watched as a pearl of pre-come beaded up. “Oh, yeah, like that.”

Spike smiled to himself; his boy was nothing if not predictable.

“Like that, do you?” Xander just whined a bit as Spike stopped moving his hand. “Patience, luv, don't want you going off too soon, now do we?”

“Yes, we do. You know what my recovery time is, right?” Xander rolled toward Spike, reaching for his hand. “More, move. Now.”

Spike laughed and complied. Xander moaned and spurted all over his chest and stomach. Spike didn't give him time to recover; he bent over him and began to lick, cleaning every bit of the spend off Xander, who squirmed a bit, but sighed and clutched the sheets to keep from bolting off the bed.

“Oh, man. That was so good. But... you... you didn't...”

“Get my end away? Not ready, yet.” He leaned back against the pillows. “You ever top?”

Xander laughed gently. “No, since I never thought I was gay. Why?”

Spike took a deep breath and said gently. “Want you to fuck me. Really.” Xander turned a started expression into a frown.

“You sure? Won't it... um... not what I would have thought a High Master would want.”

“That's just it, pet. 'S not. But I don't care. If they find out, it doesn't make any difference. You're going to be my Consort. That means we're equals. We take turns. See?”

Xander thought about that for a moment. “I think so. But... I don't know what I'm doing. What if I hurt you?”

Spike snorted. “Vampire here. Like a little pain, sometimes.”

Xander rolled to face Spike. “I know. But... it's different. I don't want to hurt you by accident. If you want to be hurt, that's something else. I don't want it to be because I'm clumsy. Understand?”

Spike laughed softly. “Only you. Yeah, I understand. I'll help you. Don't worry. Come on now.”

Xander rolled on top of Spike, kissing his nose. “Can't come now. Just did. So, what do I do first?”

Spike showed Xander what to do with the lube; they repositioned themselves and Xander eased one finger into him. “Like that? This Ok?”

Spike moved restlessly. “Yeah, but go faster.”

“If it hurts, tell me. I know you haven't... um.”

“Caught, pet, just think baseball.” Spike groaned as Xander slipped another finger in him and pushed. “Oh, yeah. Another.”

Xander didn't question, he just added another finger and slid it in and out. Spike’s opening fluttered and relaxed. Xander hoped he was doing it right, Spike seemed to think so. He relaxed and started to enjoy what he was doing, too.

Spike finally whimpered, reached between them to touch Xander. “Mount me. Now.”

He rolled onto his back and pulled his legs up to his chest, opening himself for Xander. Xander stopped a moment to look, gazing on the white body below him. “So beautiful.” Spike snorted. “You are. All white and strong, skin like silk, and... enough poetry. Kiss?”

Spike laughed as Xander did a push up then dropped down to kiss him. After a very satisfying kiss, Xander gripped himself and using one hand to hold himself up and the other to guide himself, he put the tip of his erection against Spike and pushed. He slid in a bit, the heavy head popping through Spike's guardian muscle with ease. Spike moaned again as Xander pushed harder and slid in more.

“Yeah, that's it. Good, so good.” Spike's whisper set Xander off completely and he started to rock in and out stabbing for Spike's sweet spot.

He knew when he'd found it as Spike gave a hiss of pleasure. Xander aimed as best he could and hit that spot with every stroke. Spike's moans turned to groans and Xander heard the sheet rip. He continued to drive into the slick hotness that was Spike until he felt himself lose what thread of control he'd managed to maintain. He came, jerking and trembling. Spike's roar of completion left nothing to Xander's imagination. Xander dropped onto Spike, panting then rolled off him to settle at his side.

When he got his breath back he asked, “Good?”

“Mind blowin' abso-fuckin'-lutely.” Spike settled more comfortably. “Sleep now.”

Xander got up instead and fetched two washcloths and several towels. “Here, wash off or we'll be all sticky. And here's a towel so we don't have to sleep on a wet spot.”

They washed and tossed the still wet cloths and towels on the floor. Xander spread the last towel on the wet spot and they fell asleep in each other's arms.


Timmins woke them the next morning.

“Master Xander, please wake up. There's a phone call for you from England.”

Xander grumbled and stuck his hand out for the phone. “Gimmie. Coffee?”

“At once, sir.”

Timmins retreated to his kitchen wondering if letting him take that call was a good idea. He wasn't sure how either Master Spike or Master Xander felt about 'that red-headed witch'. He sighed and started making coffee.

Xander put the phone to his ear, reached over to poke Spike, but found that he was awake. Spike took his hand and just held it.

“Xander! Xander, it's Willow. I know you're probably still pissed at me, but just listen. There's a new Master of California in Las Vegas and he has a really, really kick ass Dextera. Stay away from them. I've... well, I did a tarot reading for you, and I'm not really sure what it means. You're going to undergo a great change. And...”

Xander whistled shrilly to get Willow to shut up. His polite, “Willow. Easy, Willow,” had been completely ignored.

Willow shut up, her ears ringing.

“I told you no more mojo.”

Willow said softly, “I didn't think tarot would count.”

“Did you put any magic into the reading?” Xander made his voice stern which made Spike shiver.

“Yes.” Tiny, little voice.

“Then it counts. However, to set your mind at ease. Spike's the new High Master of the territory which includes all of Nevada. I'm his Dextera. Thanks for the compliment by the way. I didn't know I was kick-ass. Now. No more mojo. Love ya, Wills. Bye.” And he hung up.

Spike looked startled, which was interesting as he also had a major case of bed-head.

Xander tried to smooth the locks down. “You look like a demented dandelion. Yeah, I hung up on her. I love her like a sister, but I told her no mojo and she just called in a panic about a tarot reading she did. Not talkin' to her, just for that.” Timmins stuck a cup of coffee under his nose. “Mmmmm. Thanks. If she calls again, ask her what she wants. If she's worked any mojo for me, don't put her through.”

Timmins just grunted his agreement; he couldn't understand why the silly girl wouldn't bow to Xander's stated desire for no magic to be worked on or for him. It seemed that his hopes for a reconciliation would be put off again. He sighed and went to fix breakfast.

Breakfast was an orgy of silliness with Spike insisting on feeding Xander. Xander tried to bite his fingers and was told, “No biting, you know it'll only turn me on and we'll never get anything done.” Xander had burst into laughter and they'd finished at a leisurely pace.

After breakfast, Xander stilled his nerves and gently tugged Spike into his office. Spike's office was just across the hall, but Xander felt more comfortable in this one.

“Spike, enough with the dancing around. Ok? What do you really want with me? You're always on about your ulterior motives, but now I really need to know what they are. I'm in love with you and I want to stay with you. Last night gave me the idea that you're intending to have me as more than a thrall and Dextera. So, give with the info.”

Spike sighed and rubbed his face. “Ok, it's really simple. Angel left, Dru left, came back, left again, several times. Buffy... she's not what I need. I'm lonely. I want a real companion, someone who's worthy to stand at my side for... a really long time. It's you... unless you run.”

Xander blinked for a moment. “Oh, Ok. I was wondering what you were up to. That's nice and more or less what I've been thinking for the last while. I'll stay. I was going to beg to stay if you tried to turn me out. But last night...” Xander got a dreamy expression on his face. “That was something special. Very, very special. I want to stay, please. But... how could I go? The spell?”

Spike shook his head. “Spell’s faded, or I miss my guess. If not completely gone, it's well on its way. And good riddance. I want you to stay because you want to. I'll get that...” Spike reached for Xander's collar.

Xander put his hand on Spike's. “Leave it. I like it. Something I can see and feel that helps me remember that you want me. Not some pretty picture of what you think I ought to be like. Just plain old Xander, with the silly grin and the over protective vibe. Me.”

Spike nearly fell into his arms. “Not just silly Xander. Brave, strong, on my side. Smart, beautiful man. I always thought there was more to you than any of them saw. I was sure it wouldn't take much to find it. Then Red dumped you into my arms like a load of laundry. Ulterior motives, I've got plenty.”

Xander hugged Spike. “Good, 'cause I've got some of my own. We need to sit and discuss this like intelligent men. I need to know exactly what you're up to so I can either help or get out of the way.”

They spent a while frankly necking and Xander nearly got himself taken right on his desk. He managed to put Spike off by simply saying, “No, not now. We have to get this sorted. We'll have plenty of time later. Right?”

So Spike explained that he wanted to make Xander his Consort as well as his right hand. Xander agreed to this, but reminded Spike that he was going to die sooner or later.

“Well, pet, as to that. You're getting enough of my blood that you'll live a good long time, probably twice as long as your natural life span. But I was... there's a way to turn you without you losing your soul. Tara found it in one of Giles' books. Giles was really surprised to find it. We were looking for an orb, but they're really hard to find. So, when do you want to do this?”

Xander thought carefully for a few moments while Spike squirmed in his chair. “You're sure about the soul?” Spike nodded. “In about ten years then.”

Spike's jaw dropped. “Wa'? Ten years! Why not as soon as we find an orb? What are you up to?” Xander was pleased to see that Spike was neither accusatory nor particularly angry, more disappointed and curious.

“In ten years I'll be thirty. I'll look about that age, too. Right now, I look eighteen, maybe. I'm twenty. You look about the same. Neither one of us gets the respect we deserve, unless someone recognizes you. So, I figure we wait until I look a bit tougher.”

“You are tough. Really tough.” Spike was indignant on Xander's behalf.

“I know that. You know that. But didn't you hear that bunch last night? Ridiculous. I'm sick of it already. I'll be killing people over a glance in a hundred years. I don't know how you put up with it.”

“Usually kill the blighter. But... it's your turning. I'll wait. Maybe.” Spike smiled. It lit up his face like a thousand candles.

“You'll wait because you know I'm right. When do you want to tell Giles, Timmins, and the others?”

“We'll have a commitment party where I formally declare you my Claimed and Companion and tell them then.”

Xander threw back his head and laughed, a full-bellied, joy-filled sound that echoed down the hall. “You're really making a display of this.” Timmins started planning.

“Yes, I am. Want everyone to know what's up. Can't weasel out on me that way.”

Xander pulled Spike into a hug. “Not weaseling, not a chance. But, any excuse to party. Right? Who are we inviting?”

Spike grinned. “Leave it up to Timmins; he'll know who should be there and all that.”


Timmins kept the invitees to close friends and family. This meant that he invited Giles, Tara, and Bud, who happily accepted. Buffy and Riley got invites, but declined. Angel was invited as Sire as well as Cordelia and the rest of the LA crew, but there was some sort of crisis there and they sent regrets. Tom Dalton, all Xander's trainers, and the Masters of the Territories received invitations, too. All the High Masters declined, as expected, but sent presents. Between one thing and another, there were invited twenty attendees and the whole court. Timmins was ecstatic, planning a banquet for nearly two hundred humans, vampires, and demons.

It seemed a bit anticlimactic after their progression, but they all enjoyed it anyway.

Timmins had a buffet set up so that everyone, demon, human, or vampire, had something good to eat. Many of the vampires had followed their master and would eat human foods. A lot of the demons did, too. Anything that wasn't safe for some of the guests to eat was color-coded. Timmins was very organized that way.

Spike settled at their table and eyed his plate happily. There were the usual cheese puffs, salmon mousse on a cracker, anchovy toast, and so on being served. There were also some very unusual things like sheep's eyeballs in aspic; he'd given that one a pass. Xander had muttered under his breath, “No, hell no, no way in hell, no,” and shuddered slightly. Spike had had to agree with him.

After they all stuffed themselves shamelessly, Spike called for the dancers to come in.

There were six of them, all human, all flexible in the way of belly dancers everywhere. Spike leaned back, put his arm around Xander and enjoyed. Xander watched with interest, their muscular control was impressive. He wondered if he could imitate any of their moves, then decided that he didn't need to. Spike loved him just the way he was. He fiddled with his collar idly; Spike noticed and smirked to himself.

The next entertainment was a juggler. This demon wasn't anywhere near human in appearance. He had six tentacles and juggled all sorts of things in time to music. He walked around the edge of the dance floor, juggling balls, knives, spoons, goblets, and a few things Xander didn't recognize. He finally bowed and disappeared behind a curtain only to return a moment later with two dozen torches which he juggled in patterns that left retinal images of stars, hearts, pentagrams and squiggles. He collected his torches, bowed and left again.

Music started up and the tables were moved back against the walls, about half of them disappearing in the process. A small orchestra appeared on a dais in front of the curtained door and began to play. Xander never had understood why the court dances always started out with music from the 80's, the 1880's. But it quickly moved from minuet through ballroom and on to more modern stuff.

Those who didn't dance gathered amongst the tables and visited. Even though they'd just eaten about 45 minutes before, drinks and hors d'oeuvres were circulated. Xander liked the tiny blini with caviar and the shrimp pâté on toast. Spike just enjoyed the sight of his lover enjoying food and conversation. Minions and fledges bowed and scraped to them. Masters and High Masters from Spike’s Territory, and Spike’s underlings, bowed politely and asked after their health, the events of the Procession, and in general made nice.

After two hours of this Spike was ready to make the announcement. The music suited everyone so it took a few moments to clear the dance floor.

“Alright, you lot, shut it. I'm about to make the announcement.” The hall quieted. “Thanks. Now... I'm here to announce that I have taken a formal Claimed Companion. My Dextera, Xander Harris, is now also my Companion. He will become my Consort in due time. You will respect him as you respect me. Xander.”

Xander approached Spike. He knelt and offered Spike his sword, saying clearly, “I, Alexander Harris, do offer you my sword, my heart, my soul, and my body, to do with as you please.”

Spike just touched the grip, realizing the significance of Xander offering his tachi instead of the gladius. “I, William James Pitt, also known as William the Bloody, do accept your sword to my defense, your heart to treasure, your soul to love, and your body to shelter. Rise and be recognized.”

Xander stood and Spike touched his shoulder to turn him to face their audience. The cheering went on for several seconds. When it quieted Spike turned to Xander. “You're no longer a thrall so that collar is an insult. I know you treasure it, so we'll put it aside instead of destroying it. Timmins.”

Timmins stepped forward with one hand out stretched for Xander's coat. Xander pulled it off and handed it over. No one remarked on the fact that he was wearing a standard shoulder harness with a Beretta and three magazines standard mounted.

Spike loosened Xander's tie and unbuttoned his shirt enough to get to the collar. Xander stood still, chin tilted up while Spike bent the collar enough to ease it off.

Xander examined the circle of metal that he'd been wearing for almost two years now. It had been chosen with care, blessed, cursed and imbued with every protection that Spike could think of. He felt a bit naked without it.

To replace it, Spike produced a thick, heavy chain of platinum and gold. Xander knew that it was even more powerful than the torc. He lifted his chin even more to allow Spike to fasten it around his neck. Then Spike held out his hand again. Timmins handed him a thick bracelet deeply engraved with runes and symbols even older, all intended to protect Xander from everything from an apocalypse to the common cold. It snapped shut around Xander's right wrist with a soft click. Timmins nodded his satisfaction and everyone in the room cheered.

When they quieted, Spike just told them to go back to their drinking, which they did.

Spike and Xander slipped away to celebrate their joining in private.

Part Forty

Everyone in the room watched the two men as they ambled through. The older one looked to be a distinguished thirty-something. His broad shoulders and narrow waist showed that he took good care of himself. His powerful chest stretched his silk shirt just enough. A few of the observers had the good sense to wonder why he was wearing a jacket in Las Vegas in July; the rest just stared. He moved with a grace that belied his bulk, his motions quick and smooth, like a martial artist.

The younger, shorter man was just as impressive in his own way. Where the larger man was leonine, the younger was more like a leopard. He moved with a cat-like grace that was mesmerizing. His stark white hair and slender figure were a great contrast to his companion’s dark bulk.

They were obviously on the prowl, but for what? No one could tell. They stopped from time to time to talk to people, smiling and chatting animatedly. They smiled at each other with obvious love and affection. In this year of 2030, people were finally getting used to same sex couples, especially here in Las Vegas which was a mecca for them. Nevada had legalized same sex marriages in 2015.


Spike looked over his shoulder at Xander and smiled, “We're going to have to check with Madam Angelica later. She's all in a dither about something.”

Xander shrugged slightly, his massive shoulders moving gently under his jacket. “Why? We hired her to plan this circus; she should plan.”

Spike had learned a great deal of patience in the last twenty-two years, so he just poked Xander and announced, “Yeah, but she needs some idea of what we want. She's never done a Turning before, you know.”

Xander laughed, bright and hearty. “You're right. So... I don't care one way or the other. You decide what you want. Might talk to Tara about what she needs so she can stick my soul on.”

“Don't need to, gave her carte blanche to get whatever she needs. I'm going to text Madam Angelica right now and ask her to send us a list of all the questions she needs answered. We should have done this at the start, but... we got side tracked by that, what was it?”

“A Woofler demon. Sounds a lot more benign than he turned out to be. From the name, you'd expect it to be something on the line of a big dog.” Xander watched as Spike typed out his text, admiring, not for the first time, Spike's elegant hands and long slender fingers.

Spike finished his text and snorted, “Looked more like a Wookie with quills to me. Nasty thing. And it smelled like...”

Xander laughed softly. “It smelled like it'd been dead for a month. Gross.”

Spike nodded his agreement, looking around the room with sharp eyes. Xander also examined the room, his gaze automatically going the other way around. Neither one of them saw anything out of order, so by silent agreement, they headed for the exit.

As they walked they discussed where they should go next. Xander was all for going to Under Wynn while Spike wanted to go to the newer Under Capri. Xander finally got his way by pouting; even after all the years together, he could still get his way with 'the lip'. Spike gave way with good grace though, as he really didn't care where they went, as long as they hit all the places on their schedule.

“You want to go up to the surface?” Xander glanced at his watch. “It's after dark.”

“No, take too much time. We'll just stroll the boulevard.” Spike nodded to the doorman and glanced back at Xander. “It's really beginning to take shape, isn't it?”

Xander glanced over Spike's shoulder; he was about to walk into a man. “Spike? Watch out.”

Spike turned and exclaimed, “Well, excuse me.”

The man just looked at him for a moment then tried to shove him out of the way. Spike refused to be shoved. Xander loomed behind him, hand in his pocket. The doorman eased away to get out of the line of fire.

Spike just looked at the man with a mild expression on his face. “I said, excuse me. That means 'get out of my bloody way, pillock.'” Spike never raised his voice, but the man stepped out of the way with a shiver. He wasn't sure who this was, but he was very glad that the blond man seemed in a good mood.

“Sorry, sorry. Didn't know who you are.” Xander just loomed a bit more with a slightly raised eyebrow and a Mona Lisa-like smile. “Is your boy always that ...”

Xander laughed softly. “I'm his boy. Move.” The man moved, never realizing that he was lucky to keep his tongue.

As they moved into the boulevard, Spike looked over his shoulder at Xander. At forty, he was barely showing his age, a bit of silver at his temples made him dignified, a lot of muscle and a cold, inflexible expression made him frightening. His aura of competence and confidence was becoming. He was all business, until he smiled. That smile lit up his face like a welcoming sun. Everyone in the Court vied for one of those smiles.

“Problem, luv?”

Xander smiled, beaming at Spike without a care. “Nope, just move along, nothing to see here.”

“Star Wars quotes? You are in a good mood.” Spike turned to amble along the sidewalk, cocky strut carrying him along more quickly than it appeared. Xander admired his ass, mourning that duster again. The faithful coat was finally retired when a side seam had given away and Spike had refused to have another made. He's simply said that he'd outgrown it.

Xander missed that coat.

As they walked they were greeted by all sorts, from demons and vampires, werewolves and humans, to things indescribable by those labels. Xander nodded to some, scowled at others; Spike nodded to those that Xander nodded to and ignored the rest.

Xander looked around himself in pleasure; they'd worked hard to make Under Las Vegas a safe place. And it was safe now. After several years of ball busting on his part and a few very unpleasant public executions on Spike's, they'd finally 'tamed the beast'.

Oh, there were a few every year that tried to invade their territory or move in on another clan's area, but he and Spike either handled it themselves or sent Bud and Tara. Xander grinned at nothing much, making a whore nearly faint when she saw. Bud and Tara's wedding had been a thing of beauty, and terror.

Bud's entire tribe had shown up for it, including his mother. Bud's tribe, it turned out, was matriarchal. Accordingly, Tara was the head of their family, not Bud, although neither one of them seemed to care much.

But Bud's mother did care, and the ceremony had been astonishing, to say the least. Tara had to buy Bud from his mother. She gave twenty horses, ten cows, and dozens of geese, chickens, and turkeys. All symbolic. Xander had carved until his fingers bled, so had every other wood carver they could find. All the carvings had to be done in thirty days, blessed by Tara in a special ceremony and approved by Spike, as Tara's liege lord.

Xander smiled in remembrance; the ceremony had been something else. Bud had been brought in by his father, tied with a silken rope and laden with his dowry. Spike had managed not to laugh like a loon, until later. Bud's dowry had consisted of yards of gold chain all of it draped around him in softly jingling loops. Tara had taken the rope from her, now, mother-in-law and waved a hand. The rope had transformed into a drift of sweet smelling smoke and wafted away. The dancing, feasting, drinking, and fighting had lasted for four days. That had been nearly twenty years ago now.

A movement attracted Xander's eye. It was Giles, coming out of his favorite restaurant. Xander sent the now rather elderly man a nod. Giles had stayed with Spike’s court as an advisor, confidant, negotiator, and friend since he'd come aboard to tutor Xander. He and Tom were room mates and still offered Xander help as needed for his dyslexia; problems were few and far between now. Xander bumped shoulders with him companionably as Giles fell in step.

“Where are you going?” Despite his age, Giles' steps were firm and vigorous.

“Up to Longhaven’s, just checking things out. See and be seen. Want to come?”

Giles shook his head, every evidence of regret on his face. “I promised Madam Angelica that I'd help her; Timmins is proving to be a bit difficult. She offends him with her attitude and he retaliates by... cold shoulder doesn't begin to describe it. I do believe that Master Timmins is offended that you hired that woman in.”

Spike, overhearing the conversation, announced, “Well, how's he going to have time to do all the planning and take care of us, too? Doesn't make sense. I don't want him exhausted before the ceremony; he's got an important part to play in it. And so do you, git, so don't go wearing yourself out, either.”

Giles smiled at 'his boys' and shook his head. “Rest assured that I shall be well rested before the ceremony. But that is one of the reasons I promised to help her. That harridan is... not as organized as I'd wish. She doesn't seem to be able to handle some of the demands put on her by the variety of guests invited. She's actually more trouble than she's worth. Timmins could do it himself, if he wasn't lumbered up with keeping the Residence in order.”

Xander bit his lip for a moment then took his phone out of his pocket and quick-dialed. “Timmins? Yeah, tell Madam that she's fired and make it stick. Then, you take over the arrangements for my Turning. Get Tom to run the Residence, he needs something to do besides teach those classes.”

Tom Dalton had been teaching classes in the stables for years since Sunnydale had fallen into that sinkhole and he had chosen to spend more time with Giles. However, the quality of the occupants had changed over time and most of the stable were now at least high school graduates. He was beginning to feel a bit on the useless side; now he just helped out around the Residence. It was getting big enough that Timmins really needed a hand. Spike was also trying to convince him to return as a Secondus.

Xander snapped his phone shut in a 'that takes care of that' way that made Giles smile. Xander had definitely matured from the goofy, clumsy boy he'd been at eighteen.

Giles started to reconsider Xander's invitation, but realized that if Timmins actually managed to get rid of Madam, he was going to need help. He regretfully told Spike that he was going back to the Residence to help Timmins. Xander patted him on the back, smiled again, and said, “That's Ok. We probably won't need you tonight; there's not a lot of anything we're doing except 'strut and gawk', you know, see and be seen? Only ruder. Not much negotiating in our near future.”

Giles started to say something, but Xander poked Spike who just flapped a hand and said, “If we need you, we'll call you. Make an early night of it, go home, get some rest, and back Timmins up if needed. Shoo!”

So Giles let himself be persuaded and headed back home.

Spike and Xander ambled on, looking in windows and leering at whores, male and female. Spike glanced around, taking a bit more in. “We need to reduce the number of whores around; there's too many and they're too obvious. Lots of people still don't want them around the kiddies.”

Xander took his own count. “I think you're right. I'll have a little talk with a few people.”

“And, by people, I'm sure you include demons.” Spike curled his tongue behind his teeth for a moment, making Xander smirk.

“I do. I find the appellation 'sentient being' PC and ridiculous. If it's intelligent and has feelings, it's people. So don't start.” It was a long standing argument between them and Xander was getting tired of it.

Spike gave Xander one sharp glance and decided that his chain rattling was beginning to go too far and dropped the subject, forever.

“Ok, whatever you say, luv. Are we going to see any one of consequence at the Wynn?”

Xander, realizing exactly what Spike was up to, replied, “Not that I'm aware of. I'm hoping to catch the General Manager out of his office for a bit of a chat. I just want to touch bases with him to check if he's satisfied with the quality of our service.”

Spike nodded, dodged a drunk without thinking about it and announced, “I swear, if he's not happy, I'm going to eat him. He's the one that complains constantly about the security, right?”

Xander shook his head. “No, that was the last guy. This guy was hired, transferred in, something, about two months ago. You've never met him. That's the other reason I wanted you to come with. You need to meet this one. He's actually not really bad, as twitchy accountant types go.”

Spike didn't bother to try to hide his relief. “Oh, that's good then. After we're done there, we going home?”

Xander glowered at a thug who was eyeing them from the nearby alleyway. “Spike, we need to have some enforcers do another sweep, I didn't like the way that guy in the alley was acting.”

Spike glanced at the alley and saw the man, or was he a demon? Sometimes there was no way to tell. “Let Bud know. You might want to go along with the team this time.”

“Can't. I'll be out of it for at least two days you said. The sweep needs to be done tonight or tomorrow. I won't have time. I'll go the next time.”

“Ok. That'll have to do, won't it?” Spike couldn't help his grin; he was as excited as he'd ever been. Xander was going to be totally his, forever. He couldn't wait.

“You're going to have to wait until the proper time. Tara has to make all her preparations and Giles needs to get rid of Madam before she drives Timmins to eat her. I really hope he doesn't.”

Spike frowned. “Xander, you know Timmins won't eat her; he's been visiting the stables for a long time now. Besides, I'm sure he knows she'd only make him sick.”

Xander laughed heartily at that. All the upper echelon Masters in Spike's court visited the stables now. Spike had finally gotten tired of dealing with local law enforcement asking him to help find the serial killer. He'd dusted a couple of the more stubborn ones and set up suck houses in which the lower minions, fledges and childer mostly, could get blood and actually make money at it. It kept them from making sloppy kills, leaving corpses lying around, and generally scaring the tourists.

They arrived at the Wynn without fanfare, but were recognized at once and shown to a private room for a consultation with the new manager.

While they waited, they were served an assortment of snacks and a drink, very high roller treatment. Spike poked at a lump of something then turned up his nose. “Stinky cheese! Not good. He does know I'm a vampire, right?”

Xander, who didn't like limburger, either, just shrugged. “I think he does. He knows you're the Master of California, so he should.” He sniffed then plucked a different treat off the tray at his elbow. “Here, try this. It doesn't stink. I think it's potted shrimp.”

Spike accepted the treat, ate it, and nodded his approval. “Not bad. Wonder what that wanker is up to? We're waiting too long.” Spike fidgeted, glancing around the room quickly. “I don't like this.”

Xander, who had a good idea what as up, just patted him on his frantically jiggling leg and said, soothingly, “Take it easy. I think he just heard about our little 'party' and is trying to get the catering. Like he will.” Xander's snort showed his opinion of that idea. “Timmins would have our guts for garters, if we even thought of picking so much as a pillow. Ease off.”

Spike accepted that explanation and settled back to nibble and sip, waiting for their host to show up. Xander relaxed, too, and smiled genially at the server when he came in with a cup of cappuccino with whipped cream on top. He thanked the man and sipped in silence until the General Manager himself showed up. He greeted Xander by name and glanced at Spike, dismissing him as too young. He remarked in that horrible jovial tone that people like him assumed, “And where's Master Spike?” He nudged Xander with an elbow in a familiar way that made Spike grit his teeth. “You sly dog, you, you said he'd be here.”

Xander just nodded in Spike's direction. “Master Spike, may I introduce Mister Frederic Longhaven, General Manager?”

“Yeah, guess so.” Spike eyed the man's hand for a moment then settled back in his seat. He never shook hands with humans until he knew them. Xander had given up trying long ago. The Master of California could be a very stubborn vampire when he wanted.

Mr. Longhaven quickly realized that Spike wasn't going to shake his hand, but he didn't get offended; he was used to having customers refuse his hand. At least Master Spike hadn't sneered at him, so he just got on with it.

“I'm sorry to keep you waiting, but there was a bit of difficulty in the third floor casino. It's all taken care of and now we can sit down and have a nice visit.” He settled in a chair, carefully pinching up the crease in his trousers and shooting his cuffs. He thought it made him look elegant; it really made him look fussy. Xander had learned from Timmins that the truly elegant man, like Beau Brummel, left his rooms perfect and assumed that he was perfect all day.

“I hope it wasn't something that requires our intervention?” Xander made as if to stand up, but Mr. Longhaven flapped one hand at him, patting him back into his chair.

“No, no. Some high roller got offended because he thought he should have the Imperial Suite, but he never spends that much money. He's comped into one of the Executive Suites and happy to have it. Especially after we told him that his behavior could get him blackballed all over Vegas. No one has the right to smack my hostesses, no matter how much money they spend. He is now aware of that, due to one of your people. She's a very nice lady, most of the time, until it's time not to be nice; then she's very convincing.”

Spike sipped his drink then remarked in a voice so bland that even Xander might have been fooled. “I'm glad you approve of our services. However, we do not provide our people to deal with unhappy high rollers. They're only provided to deal with demon related problems. Get me?”

Mr. Longhaven nodded. “Oh, yes, of course I do. But, I think, in this case, it was permissible as the high roller in question was a V'noth. Very unpleasant being. Didn't want to listen to me because I'm human.” Spike nodded more genial now. “How are the snacks?”

Xander swallowed a shrimp toast and said, “Very nice. Very good quality. Big enough to taste, but not so big as to be more than a mouthful.”

Mr. Longhaven smirked a bit. “Thank you. I understand that you're having an event. I was hoping to get the catering contract for it. If you feel we're worthy, of course.” His smooth face betrayed his eagerness by just the slightest degree.

“I see. Well, I'm sorry to disappoint, but it's a Turning you see. I wouldn't want the Turnee to eat a server. Maybe some other time.” Spike’s expression of slight sorrow was put on at best. Xander wasn't fooled for a second, but Mr Longhaven seemed to take it a face value.

“A Turning? I'm not sure I understand.” As a General Manager, Mr Longhaven was fairly cognizant of a number of odd ceremonies, but he'd never heard of this one.

“I'm turning Xander.” At the human's lost expression he explained, “Into a vampire. He's going to become my formal Consort, not that he hasn't been all these years, but it's time to make it formal and permanent. He's going to start his unlife as a Master vampire and my Consort. So we're not having many humans around. Only those he already knows and is friends with. People that have been with us for years. See?”

“I think I do. Well, congratulations?” His questioning tone insulted Spike a bit, but Xander just put a hand on his shoulder.

“Thank you. I know you don't understand, but I'm very happy. We'll be together until one of us is dust and the other greets the sun. It's nice.” Xander's glowing happiness made Mr Longhaven smile. Spike fairly beamed himself.

“I see. It would put a bit of a wet blanket on the proceedings if the celebrant ate a server. Bad form and all that. Right?”

Spike nodded with a smirk. “Only too true. If you're satisfied with the security arrangements and that's all, we'll be taking our leave. The snacks were very nice and we'll keep you in mind for future events.” Spike finished the last of his drink and stood up. Xander stood as well and moved to stand at his shoulder. “Stop looming, luv.” Xander just chuckled.

They nodded, exchanged leaving pleasantries, and removed themselves from the room before Mr. Longhaven could hold them up anymore.

The ride up in the elevator had been escorted, but the ride down was spent in what Spike referred to as snogging. Xander liked snogging very much.


Timmins had taken great pleasure in sending the arrogant and foolish Madam Angelica on her way. He'd called in Giles and Tom and sat down with them to make plans. They'd had their heads together for the last hour. It hadn't taken them long to divide up the responsibilities; Giles was contact, Timmins general manager, and Tom was responsible for the crews. They had delegated all arrangements for the actual ceremony to Tara with Bud as her deputy and it was done.

Timmins issued general orders, Giles contacted the people to do the work and negotiated the deals, and Tom organized the work crews who did all the setting up, construction, and cleaning. Tara had already found all the items necessary to make sure that Xander kept his loving soul and knew the ritual by heart. Bud was delegated to making sure that all the items were where they were supposed to be and made their way into Tara's hands at the proper time.

Spike and Xander took one look at the room and agreed that it was perfect.

It wasn't as big as you'd expect, but it was plenty big enough for all the participants. Spike had been a bit disgruntled to realize that Bud and Tara had to be right in the room to perform the ritual. This made sense, but it also precluded some of the activities that Spike had planned; these went by the wayside at once. Spike was more concerned with keeping Xander's soul than he was with getting his 'end away' as he put it.

The total number of people that 'had' to be there wound up being seven. Spike and Xander, of course, Tara, Bud, Giles, Timmins, and Tom, as the anchors and celebrant for the ritual. That was all that Spike was allowing in the room, but the rest of the Court would be waiting in the throne room to greet Xander when he rose. No matter how long that took.

The room contained a huge bed in the middle of a pentagram, five candle stands with five candles in each one, one at each point of the pentagram, a small brazier and cushion near the foot of the bed and not much else. The bed was covered with the finest linen sheets and feather pillows abounded. The duvet was silk and filled with goose down. Everything was in shades of clay and chocolate brown, Xander's favorite colors. Timmins had included a few small accent pillows of turquoise and scarlet. Spike approved the arrangements after a glance at Tara. She nodded, smiling at this evidence of how much Xander was loved. The only other furniture in the room was chairs for each of the other participants. Spike would stay on the bed with Xander, holding him until he rose.


Xander paced, he was nervous and it showed. Spike was nervous, too, evidenced by him smoking around Xander. The ashtray full of butts was proof of how nervous he was.

Tara checked her preparations for the last time, told Bud to empty the ashtray, start the brazier, and light her stand of candles. Bud prepared to do as he was told.

Giles settled at his assigned point of the pentagram as did Timmins and Tom. Bud took the small brass lighter with its attached snuffer that Tara handed him. He held it steady as Tara lit it and blessed it, and lit her candles. He then went to each of the others and lit their lighter from his. He then went to his position and stood behind his candelabra, but inside the pentagram.

Tara turned to Spike and nodded, “We're ready.” She looked down at the Orb of Thessla and smiled in satisfaction. They'd searched for one for some time, but finally had to give up. She'd learned all the spells and incantations and made one herself.

Spike turned to Xander. “Ready, luv?”

Xander looked into Spike's eyes and replied, “As I'll ever be.”

“You sure?” Spike's anxious look made Xander rub Spike's cheek with one hand.

“You've been asking me that for the last ten years. Yes, I'm sure, so bite me already.” Xander eased out of Spike's grip and lay down, turning his head to give Spike access to his neck.

“Alright.” Spike shifted around until Xander was half on his chest, half on the bed with his head on Spike's shoulder. “Much better. More comfy?”

“Yes. Get on with it.”

“Pushy git.” Spike realized that they'd fooled around long enough; Tara's chant was reaching the point where he was supposed to start draining Xander. Spike licked Xander's neck; his saliva would ease any pain. He changed and bit carefully into Xander's neck. Xander didn't even whimper. It never hurt when Spike bit him. Like the dentist always said, “Just a little pinch.”

Tara continued to chant. Spike gently bled Xander; he didn't want to draw too hard and make Xander light headed. He wanted to ease Xander to sleep so he wouldn't be afraid. Xander sighed and settled against Spike, squirming to get more comfortable. Bud lit all the candles on his candelabra.

Xander sighed again and Spike stopped drinking to ask, “Xander, you doing Ok?”

“Yeah, just feeling a bit cold.”

Timmins lit his candelabra. Tara continued to chant, the Orb began to glow.

Spike returned to Xander's neck after covering him carefully with the duvet. He began to rub one hand over Xander's chest as he continued to drink. Xander's complexion paled.

Tom lit his candelabra. Tara's chant reached its first stopping point and she began the first set of ritual gestures, the Orb's glow became even brighter.

Xander slipped into unconsciousness and fell limp in Spike's arms. Tara began to chant again and Giles lit the last candelabra.

Tara threw herbs and spices into her brazier and settled back to watch the Orb which was so bright now that it was hard to look straight at. Tara looked at Spike and Xander, but kept the Orb in the corner of her eye.

Spike felt Xander's heart stutter, thud one last time and still. Xander's loyal, loving heart had stilled. Spike shuddered and stopped drinking. He arranged Xander more comfortably, easing his arm from around his shoulders and laying him back on the pillows. Tara added spices to the brazier and smiled, the Orb shattered into bits. The light from the shattered Orb shot from in front of Tara straight to Xander's chest and melded with him.

Spike didn't need Tara's, “Now!” to know that it was time. He held out his arm, Bud moved forward to cut him deeply enough that the blood flowed. Spike pressed his wrist to Xander's mouth and Giles came to lean over them, stroking Xander's throat to force him to swallow. This was the crucial time; Xander had to be forced to swallow enough blood to revive him. Xander swallowed convulsively, once. Then he swallowed again, and again.

Spike nearly cried, the relief was that great. Xander was going to Turn. And he was going to be one of the most powerful vampires ever. He would retain his wonderful, kind and loving soul. He was going to feed on nothing but Spike's blood for the month until he was 'weaned', until he was strong enough to hunt, but he never would. He would feed exclusively from Spike, Timmins, Tom, and Giles until he could be trusted to feed without killing.

Giles was the first to realize that Xander needed to be pulled off Spike before he drained him. “Spike! Xander has to stop. He'll go too far. He's killing you.”

Spike laughed, “No, can't kill me. Won't dust me, either.” Spike dug his fingers and thumb into Xander's jaw right at the joint. He opened his mouth and Spike pulled his wrist out. It took a moment and a bit of talking from Spike to get Xander to lie back down.

When he did, he relapsed into unconsciousness, still and now cold. Spike and Timmins arranged him as comfortably as they could, with Bud and Tom helping. Giles and Tara turned to snuff the candles and extinguish the brazier. They all then settled in their chairs to watch and wait.


Spike glanced at his watch. It had been three hours since Xander had 'passed'; it felt like much longer. He looked around. Tara was cuddled up to Bud, dozing after her labors in the ritual. Bud was rubbing her back and whispering in her ear. Timmins had taken up a place beside the bed after healing Spike's wrist with a couple of long licks. He hadn't moved since. Tom was sitting in his chair, but didn't look as if he'd relaxed an iota. Giles was also sitting in his chair, his eyes suspiciously red. He didn't seem to be able to quit polishing his glasses.

Xander twitched; Spike grabbed him. He shouldn't be Rising yet, but he was. Timmins hovered. If Xander Rose as they hoped, he'd be just like Human Xander; if he didn't, no one was sure what would happen.

They waited, and waited. Finally, Xander decided to make his feelings known.

“Ow! Spike! I'm hungry. You didn't say I'd be so hungry. It hurts!”

Spike nearly fell off the bed he was so surprised. He quickly gathered himself together. “Here, luv, feed.” He offered his wrist to Xander.

Xander clutched at him for a moment then controlled himself with an iron will. “No. First, you have to tell me what to do. I don't want to hurt you.”

Spike laughed with joy. That was his Xander all over. “Alright. Just let your fangs drop. Think about it for a second and it'll just happen. I'm surprised that you haven't vamped already.”

Xander concentrated for a moment and his eyes changed from their usual chocolate brown to brilliant amber, his brow furrowed into ridges, and his fangs appeared. He was magnificent as a vampire. And so gentle as he delicately bit into Spike's wrist. Spike didn't even blink as Xander's fangs pierced his flesh.

“Good, very nice, luv. Easy, not so fast, you'll make yourself ill.”

Xander stopped sucking so hard. He mumbled, “Sorry.” around Spike's wrist.

“Don't talk with your mouth full.” Spike's admonishment was automatic.

Giles goggled for a moment then broke into slightly hysterical laughter. Tara joined him, more in relief that Xander was still Xander than anything else. Timmins and Tom both just smirked with pride. Their boys were going to be fine.

Xander fed from Spike and fell back to sleep again. Spike accepted the wrist Timmins offered and drank then sent Timmins off to the stable to feed himself. Tom settled back in his chair and picked up a book. He started to read in a soft, clear voice. This was one of the things that Xander loved, so they did it for him even though he was asleep.

Spike drowsed, watching his little family from slitted eyes. Tara was a delight: kind, gentle and sweet, but fierce when she needed to be. Bud was his war shield. Timmins and Tom were his factotums, always there, always ready to do whatever he needed. And Xander, his beautiful mate. His Consort, his eternal companion.

They all rested and listened to Tom read until Timmins came back from the stables then Spike drank from Tom and sent him to feed. Spike knew that Xander would wake again, as hungry as the last time.

Just as Spike was beginning to wonder, Xander woke again.

“I'm still starving. Spike? Did anyone think to tell the Court that I've Risen?” Xander glowered at Giles then Bud. Both had the good grace to look a bit shamefaced.

Giles stood up. “No, but I'll go tell them all now, shall I?”

Spike petted Xander. “Yeah, you better, I guess.”

Giles left and they soon heard a riotous cheering from the courtrooms. Everyone, it seemed, was celebrating Xander's Rise as a vampire.


Xander fed from Spike again, but it was Giles who offered his wrist to Spike.

Spike gazed levelly at Giles for a moment. “You sure?”

“I am. I want to help you feed Xander. I want him to be as powerful as possible. I know I'm old, but I'm still strong.”

Spike snorted. “You talk like you're ancient. You're only, what? Fifty- something?” Spike didn't wait for Giles to scoff that he was nearer to seventy; he just delicately bit into the ex-Watcher's wrist and drank, being careful not to take too much. “There. Sit down now, you'll likely be a bit light-headed for a moment. Timmins, bring him some juice or something.”

Timmins just handed Giles a glass of orange juice and a couple of shortbread triangles from the tray he'd returned with.“Here, your favorites.”

Giles thanked Timmins and settled back to nibble and sip.

Xander smiled at them both from his nest in Spike's arms then looked up at Spike. “I'm tired of laying around. Can we go out yet?”

“Sure, luv, anything you want. Want to run? Feel strong enough?”

Xander scoffed gently at the thought that he might be weak. “Sure. Come on, let's go.”

Xander eased off the bed, not wanting to stand up too quickly and have Spike demand that he return to the bed.

Xander stood grinning in what he thought of as his war face while Spike sorted himself out. He, Spike, was tangled in the duvet and sheets and swearing a blue streak as he untangled himself. Timmins left him to it, hiding his face so Spike wouldn't see him smiling.

“Oi! I don't need to see your face to know you're laughing at me. Yuk it up, you. Just for that I'll not let you run with us.”

Timmins just snorted, knowing full well that Xander wanted both Tom and him to run with him. They'd discussed it behind Spike's back. They were all going, just in case something went wrong on the run. The First Hunt was something special in the old days, not so much now, but they wanted to have a real old-fashioned First Hunt for Xander. No one had had one in over two hundred years.

So, Spike led Xander out of the Residence by a back way followed by Timmins and Tom. Bud stayed behind with a grimace.

Giles, noticing the face, asked, “Aren't you going? I thought you and Xander were War-mates.”

“We are, but there's no way I can keep up with five Master vampires. It's just not possible.”

Giles looked at Bud blankly. “Five masters? Timmins is a master and so is Tom, Spike is a high master, who else is going?”

Bud shook his head. “Angel, as Spike’s Sire. And Xander's a Master. He arose as one. He's never been buried, never had anything but Master's blood, and he still has his soul. Do you have any idea how powerful he's going to be?”

Giles' stunned expression told its own tale. “Yes, actually, I do. Rather frightening, isn't it?”

“No. It's Xander.” Bud wasn't a bit worried about it. Xander was too good a person to give him any concern about his power.


Xander slipped out the back door of the Residence and into the wide alley, followed by a grinning Spike, Timmins, and Tom. Tom checked the end of the alley to see that it was clear; they didn't want fledges and such trying to follow them. This was Xander's Rising Run.

Spike grinned and hopped from foot to foot. Timmins nodded to him and they were off, running from the alley way into the crowded boulevards of Under Las Vegas. As they ran, they dodged beings, people of all kinds and sizes. They all just got out of the way as best they could. Everyone knew about Xander's Turning, but only a very few were invited even to court.

One of the invitees was Angel, who joined them on Xander's Run when they reached where they’d agreed he would wait. He gazed at Spike for a moment then ran closer when Spike nodded to him. Spike hadn't objected to his being included in the 'after party'. Buffy, Cordelia, and Willow were waiting back at the Residence with the rest of the court.

They ran through the under city for an hour, cutting back and forth across the streets and up to the surface, jumping from roof to roof in a display of insane, steely nerve and fierce strength.

Spike finally signaled that it was time to return home to greet the Court; it was getting late and he didn't want Xander to be too tired. He also wanted to feed him again.

It took only moments to return, via the front door this time, and make a grand entrance into the formal courtroom. Spike had resisted having such a thing for years, but Xander, Giles, and Timmins had finally worn him down.

It was a magnificent room, well appointed and brightly lit. Timmins had unashamedly plagiarized the layout of the Grand Throne Room of the Russian Winter Palace.

They were met in the anteroom by minions who helped all the Runners into clean clothing. All the Runners were dressed into similar clothing, button down shirts, vests, trousers, and heavy boots. Their coats were long-tailed dusters, similar to Spike's old faithful coat. Timmins and Tom were both dressed in the house colors of dark green with gold accents. Angel and Spike were both dressed in black and Xander in his trademark dark brown and bronze. Spike caught a look in the vampire-friendly mirrored wall and laughed.

“Here,” He grabbed Angel by one arm and pulled him to Xander's side. He stepped in front of them then grinned in an absolutely terrifying way as Timmins flanked them on one side while Tom took the other. Angel smirked, looking a great deal more like Angelus while Tom just glanced at Timmins and nodded.

They made their entrance, striding down the aisle left for them and mounting the dais. Spike held up his hand for silence, smiled at Buffy, Willow, and Cordelia who were standing near the foot of the first step then announced, “He is here. He has Risen as a Master. I present my Consort, Alexander Harris. All hail!”

Xander vamped and glared at the court. Buffy shivered under the impact of his presence. Willow squeaked softly; she hadn't seen Xander since that disastrous spell more than twenty years ago. She'd kept up a correspondence with him, but since the British Magical Council refused to allow her to leave the compound, they hadn't seen each other. She'd only managed to get permission to come due to Spike's intervention. Cordelia, as Angel's personal assistant, had seen Xander on a regular basis and they'd settled their differences long ago.

All the occupants of the room cheered heartily and applauded. Xander stepped to the edge of the dais to accept their homage and looked out proudly.

“Thank you, thank you. I'm very happy to see everyone here. Refreshments are going to be circulated in a few moments. Enjoy.” He turned to his friends. “We'll retire now. Spike? I'm tired already. Should I be?”

Spike turned to lead the way into the back of the dais, headed for the exit there. “Yeah, you're still settling into your new life. I'll feed you again then we can visit with everyone for a while.”

His glance over his shoulder brought everyone to follow him into the back room. This room was a good size as it was used as a retiring room, dressing room, and private meeting room. There were several seating arrangements which were fluid and easily rearranged at need. Now there were several chairs and couches arranged around a large central table with side tables for all the chairs and at both ends of the couches. A hostess service was placed on the low central table; it consisted of a coffee pot, tea pot, sugar and creamer, as well as a large samovar for hot water. Timmins frowned; he'd specifically said that here was to be chocolate as well. He stepped over to a door, whispered for a moment then returned.

“I apologize, the servers are catering staff, not our people since they’re all celebrating. They forgot the chocolate, as well as cups, saucers, and spoons. I don't know how they thought we'd drink without that. But never mind. Shall I be mother?”

Cordelia snorted at that Briticism, but settled in a chair. She was elegantly turned out, as usual, in Dior, Gucci, and Prada. Willow looked very nice in a pant suit from Harrods, but Buffy looked exquisite in a simple linen suit, obviously tailored to her, and to a practiced eye hiding a multitude of what Xander called 'sins'.

Timmins moved his chair nearer the various pots and Tom prepared to hand cups around; as soon as they arrived.

A sharp knock at the door brought chocolate, cups, and other forgotten paraphernalia. Timmins gave the server a sharp look, but relaxed when he realized that she was simply that, a server. He did, however, intend to have a few words with someone later. Not Tom, as he'd been there when the orders were issued.

After serving everyone, Tom settled with his cup and just waited.

It didn't take long. Buffy started it, of course, “Ok, Xander, how do you really feel?”

Xander grinned, vamped, and roared. He sounded like a cross between a male lion and a leopard. “Great! Really, really great.”

Buffy just smiled and went back to her coffee, satisfied that 'her' Xander was still the same person he'd always been.

Willow just eeped and gulped at her tea, burning her mouth in the process. She was glad to be here, but well aware that her relationship with Xander had been permanently destroyed all those years ago, when she'd cast a spell she knew Xander didn't want. In her arrogance, she'd thought she knew better than anyone what was good. She now knew better, too late.

Cordelia gave Willow a knowing look then turned to Spike. “Ok, this is all well and good. But when are you going to Claim him? Just asking; Angel and I shouldn't be gone from LA too long.”

Spike just smirked at a grinning Xander. “Well, actually, I claimed him years ago, when I made him my Consort. But we're going to have a ceremony night after tomorrow night. I trust you'll manage to stay that long.”

Angel snorted. “Cordy, miss a marriage?” The lady in question gave him a dirty look. “I don't think so. We'll stay for that then we really must get back. Spike, can I call on you for some support in the next month? I might need it, might not.” Cordelia gave him a swat on the shoulder. He ducked belatedly, exclaiming, “What?” in an indignant tone.

“Ceremony. Rising? Idiot, you don't talk business during an occasion like this. It's not like it's some meet and greet cocktail party.” Cordelia pinned Angel with a glare to rival Spike's.

Angel managed to look both indignant and contrite. “Sorry. Spike?”

Spike just hugged Xander and said, “We'll talk about it later for details, but I don't see any reason why not.”

Xander just sighed and started nodding off. Spike chuckled in an indulgent way and announced. “I'm taking sleepy head back to quarters and feeding him. Stay as long as you like. Timmins, see to things, will you?” Spike dragged Xander to his feet without waiting for an answer. They were half way out the door before the humans registered what he'd said. Timmins just nodded and offered Cordelia more tea.

Cordelia waited until there was no chance of Spike hearing then turned to Timmins. “Ok mister, answer time. Claimed, Companion. What the hell? Talk.” She settled back and waited.

“Very well. I see that no one really understands this at all. Master Xander was made Claimed Companion back in the early days. He's now a vampire so he's a Claimed Consort. That will be announced at the 'marriage' feast. He was a Companion because Master Spike declared him one and their relationship was exclusive, that's all that takes. But a Claimed is one who has had the Master’s blood. A Consort is the next step and very, very rarely a human has that honor. Master Spike and Master Xander agreed to wait to have a Turning until Master Xander looked older. Old enough that he didn't have to worry about... er...showing ID? That's what he said, at any rate.

He is now a very powerful vampire, Risen as a Master in fact. And he's only going to get more powerful as time goes on. I'd say that the two of them, Master Spike and Master Xander, are already nearly undefeatable. I'd rather stay on their good side and I'm... very old.” He smirked at Angel and poured himself more tea. Angel just looked like he'd swallowed a bug.

Cordelia simpered at Angel, Willow looked sad, and Buffy just looked interested. She'd long ago gotten used to the whole idea of Xander and Spike and had called on them several times for help. She'd gotten either them or trusted lieutenants. She was happy either way

“So, you think Xander's going to be powerful?” She held out her cup for more coffee.

Timmins poured and nodded. “As we've already said. He Rose much sooner than expected, that's a sign of a powerful vampire. And he's getting nothing but Master's blood. He's been taking about an ounce a day since he was thralled.” Willow winced. “He's at least three times as powerful as a man his size, or was. Now that he's Risen and getting that much Master's blood... well, he's going to make some of the old gods look lame.” Buffy just grinned in a rather odd way.

“I see. Well, that's good.” She sipped her coffee, settling back in her seat.

The conversation turned to other things.


Giles met Spike at the door of their bedroom and helped him get Xander undressed and into bed again.

“How's he doing?”

Spike grinned happily. “Fine. He's still adjusting so he'll be sleepy for a couple of days yet. He'll be really awake just about in time for the Claiming.” Giles put Xander's clothing on a chair and sighed. “You look all in, go get some sleep. I won't let you miss anything important. Timmins will take care of the guests, and Tom will keep everything else in line. Shoo.”

Giles went with a sigh of relief.

Spike crawled into the bed with Xander after stripping and dumping his things on top of Xander's. Timmins would take care of all of it later. Xander took his feeding quickly and dropped off completely. Spike fell asleep, holding Xander in his arms, as he had done for twenty years now.

Xander slept for most of the rest of the day and woke at his usual time of 5 pm.

“Spike. Hey, wake up. I'm hungry.” Xander shook Spike by the shoulder.

“I'm awake. You want human food or blood?”

Xander snickered at Spike. “You've got bed head. Bad.” Spike just swatted him. “Hey! Spousal abuse, I tell ya. Um... both, I think.”

“Ok, luv, I'll poke Timmins.”

Xander snorted. “I can smell it too, you know. Come on, shower, dress, food.” Xander crawled out of bed and headed for the shower. “Can I have O-pos on my pancakes?”

Spike shook his head. “No, you're having nothing but my blood until further notice.”

“Oh, Ok. You going to be Ok? That's a lot of blood for you to give. What's it turning out to be, a pint every twenty-four hours?”

“About that, it's all you'll need until you’re ready for human blood. But I can replenish from the stable any time I need to. Timmins brought in over twenty new people over the last six months.”

Xander did some mental math. “Ok. That's cool then. So now, feed me.”

Spike just laughed. “Xander, luv, you make me so happy. Come on, I'll feed you.”

So Spike fed Xander from his wrist again. Xander fed gently and licked so the bite mark healed.

Timmins stuck his head in the door just as Xander finished. “Breakfast is ready. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, orange juice, and coffee. You think you'll like it?”

Xander thought about it for a moment. Spike still had taste, so he liked human food. Angel, on the other hand, could neither smell nor taste it; he didn't bother.

Spike dragged Xander down the hall after Timmins, in a hurry to find out if Xander still could taste.

It turned out that he could taste; his moan of ecstasy over pecan pancakes with peach syrup, maple-cured bacon, and cream scrambled eggs proved that. Spike dug in, too, and between the three of them they soon cleaned all the platters and Xander was after his second cup of coffee when Giles ambled in still wearing sweat pants and a ratty t-shirt.

“Hey! Leave some for me. Pig!” Giles realize what had happened and his eyes brightened with joy. “You can taste! Great heavens above.... but that's still no reason to bogart the last of the coffee.”

Xander laughed and started another pot. “Here, Mr. Cranky Pants, you can have this one. I'll wait. I've already had one.”

Giles accepted the coffee with a sigh of pleasure and sipped. “Well, how do you feel? And I want details. Details, I tell you. Must... I'm going to be the first Watcher... or anyone for that matter who has any true information on a Turning.”

Xander settled to answer all Giles' questions. They spent the next two hours in conversation, with Spike adding comments from time to time.

Timmins finally sent Giles to check on Buffy and Cordelia who, surprisingly enough, were now very good friends. They were up and had left to go shopping. Willow was gone, slipping out to return to England with as little fuss as possible. Tara had spent some time with her then told her to be out of Vegas as soon as she could manage it. It seemed that she was just a foolish as ever. Bud had seen her to the airport and onto her plane.

Xander realized that, while he felt sad that he wasn't friends with Willow anymore, he really couldn't say he missed her that much. He was happy with the friends he had.

Spike chivvied Xander back to bed again and they settled in to go over arrangements for the next ceremony.

“I was hoping that Bruce could make it; hear from him yet?” Xander had dispensed with his lessons five years ago, Master Bruce admitting that he couldn't teach Xander anything new. Bruce had taken leave of the Court and settled in LA to teach at a dojo for non-human students. He also took body guarding jobs for visiting dignitaries.

His Israeli counterpart, Yakov, had disappeared a few years ago; word had gotten back that he'd gone on a mission for his country and not made it back. Xander was saddened, but not surprised. Spike found himself strangely saddened as well.

Spike shrugged. “I don't think he's going to make it. He'll probably send some outrageously expensive present to make up for it.”

Xander laughed. “I hope it's a new sword. The one he presented me with finally broke. Really pissed me off. I really, really liked that sword.”

“I know, luv, I've heard nothing but that sword for weeks now. I'm looking for something that will be up to your new strength. Might have to have something made special.”

Xander pouted, he'd loved that sword and carried it from the moment Master Bruce had given it to him.

Spike couldn't help but kiss Xander. “Oh, that lip. Gonna eat it up.” Xander returned Spike's kiss with equal fervor and they spent a while just enjoying a necking session and a few gropes and grabs. Xander responded eagerly, but Spike cooled things off. They'd promised a superstitious Bud and Tara not to do anything until their union had been 'blessed'. Spike grumbled about that on an hourly basis, but they'd promised.

So, instead of the lusty romp between the sheets that they both wanted, Spike fed Xander again and they went back to sleep, counting the hours until their bonding ceremony where Xander would the proclaimed the Claimed Consort of High Master Spike.

Xander wondered vaguely what the other High Masters would send as gifts. He was greedy that way. Spike had completely spoiled him.


Spike and Xander spent the next day and a half alternately sleeping, feeding, and talking. Timmins brought them snacks of the human variety and made them come to table for breakfast and lunch; dinner he served them in bed. They only had dinner once as the ceremony in which Spike was to Claim Xander was on the second night after he Rose.

Spike had to admit that he was as excited as a girl about this one. He wanted every being out there to know Xander was his still. Xander was as excited as Spike and not shy about showing it. He'd picked out rings even. Spike was a bit doubtful about that until he saw them. Solid blocks of titanium had been machined into rings broad enough to cover their finger from joint to webbing, wide enough to be dramatic, narrow enough to be comfortable. The man who'd machined them had also drilled holes which the jeweler had lined in platinum, each hole encased a diamond in a bezel setting. Xander's ring held three half carat diamonds the color of Spike's eyes. Spike's ring held six diamonds as clear and pure as Xander could find. They weren't set in any particular pattern, just scattered rather randomly over the top of the band.

Spike had taken one look and approved heartily. He couldn't wait to have it on his finger and, since titanium lasted practically forever, keep it there for a very long time.

At the appointed hour of 6pm, Spike and Xander dressed in the clothing they'd chosen for this ceremony. Armani seemed appropriate to Timmins and neither Spike nor Xander had argued.

The suits were dark charcoal grey for Spike and a deep burnt umber for Xander; they both wore white, Mandarin-collared shirts. Spike's studs were black pearls and Xander's tiger eye cabochons. They looked every bit the elegant, rich, and powerful men they were.

Timmins made sure that they were perfect then left to take his place among the observers.

Spike looked into Xander's eyes and nodded, “Shall we?”

Xander smirked then replied, “We shall.”

Their entrance into the large throne room was not as dramatic as their last; they just walked through the back door onto the dais and into a lighted space there. Spike waited while those who'd already noticed them poked the ones who hadn't. It didn't take long.

He was pleased to see that Buffy, Angel, Cordelia, Giles, Timmins, and Tom were right at the front almost standing on the first step. He motioned for them to come up, but none of them would move past the third step which was twice as deep as the others. He also noticed representatives from the Masters of the other Territories standing nearby. They held boxes either on a cushion or in their hands. He nodded to them to let them know that he'd seen them.

“Oi! You lot! Quiet.” Spike waited for a moment for the Court to quiet. “Thank you. You're all here to witness as I formally Claim Alexander Harris as my own, and he Claims me. Yes, it's to be a mutual claiming.”

There were gasps from different areas of the Court, but everyone of what Spike referred to as the inner circle, smiled. They had all been expecting something like this.

Xander smiled proudly at the room. Spike had explained it all to him. There hadn't been a mutual claiming of a High Master in more than three hundred years. He laughed, throwing his head back, allowing his unbound hair to ripple in the overhead light.

Spike rubbed his hands together and announced with rather annoying cheerfulness. “Ok, let’s get this show on the road.”

Xander turned to face Spike and took his hand. Slipping the ring on his finger Xander announced in a clear voice. “Always wear this ring as a symbol of my eternal claim. I will be your constant companion for the rest of my days.” He slipped the ring down to the base of Spike's finger then kissed him.

Spike took Xander's hand and slipped the ring onto Xander's finger. “I Claim you as my companion, my love, my other half. Always wear this ring as a symbol of my eternal claim.”

Xander smiled as Spike pushed the ring down his finger to the base. “Yes, are we done now?”

Spike nodded. “Yes, my impatient luv.” He took Xander's hand in his and held them both over his head. “I Claim him!”

Xander echoed Spike's words and actions.

The entire courtroom cheered again.

All the remaining Scoobies approached to hug and congratulate them both. Buffy couldn't resist; she fixed Spike with a mock stern look and said, “Shovel, mister. Just sayin'?” Then grinned at him and turned to Xander with the same warning.

Spike just smirked while Xander gave her his best, 'Who me?' expression.

Buffy hugged them both again then handed them off to Cordelia who also hugged them both. She handed Spike a card with a grin then gave another to Xander. Xander had to smile; they were gift cards for a 'toy' shop that both he and Spike were fond of. They thanked her with matching smirks. She snorted, “Pervs,” and returned to her place, dragging Buffy with her.

Giles just stepped up and shook hands with both of them; he didn't bring a present as his was in their bedroom waiting for them. They both smiled and then let him go back to his place. Timmins and Tom came next, kneeling together to swear their fealty to Xander as they had to Spike, so long ago. Xander was delighted, but had to wipe his eyes with one hand. Spike beamed on the proceedings with undisguised delight. Their swearing done, they both returned to their places, not on the floor, but standing behind the happy couple.

Then it was time for the other Masters’ gifts to be presented.

The representative of the Eastern Seaboard came first; he knelt at Spike and Xander's feet and opened the casket, presenting it for viewing. It contained matching Gucci watches, thin as paper, with leather bands. Xander's watch was obvious as it was larger than Spike's both in face and band. They took the watches from their beds and put them on.

Spike thanked the representative while Xander admired his watch.

The next representative just held a cushion up to Spike on which sat a carved wooden box. When Spike opened it, all there was in it was an envelope. Xander sniffed the air delicately. “That's from New Orleans.”

The representative just smiled; Xander had identified his origin just from smelling the paper.

“Yes, it is. This is from Master Robinson, please.” He extended the cushion to Xander. Spike nodded so Xander picked up the envelope and opened it. It was a certificate for one of New Orleans' grand hotels. A two week all expenses paid vacation and a free pass. A permission from the Master of Louisiana to stay in his Territory.

The representative from the Northern Territory was last, but he didn't seem to mind. He presented Spike and Xander both with thick rectangular boxes. Timmins moved to his side and took one which he offered to Xander; the representative offered the other to Spike. Xander eyed the one Timmins was offering him with a skittish look, but Timmins just grinned and nodded for him to open it. Xander and Spike opened their boxes at the same time.

They contained working antique Tommy Guns, the real article, not reproductions. Spike lifted his out of the box and examined it. “Very nice. Xander?”

Xander just ran a finger down the stock reverently. “Wow. They're the real deal. Very nice.”

Spike re-cased his gun and handed the boxes off to a minion who placed the boxes on a side table along with all the other presents they'd been given.

The representative bowed and returned to his place, a relieved expression on his face.

Xander and Spike accepted a few presents from casinos and other local establishments, but soon Spike had had enough; he announced in a loud voice, “Thank you all for your presents and good wishes. We're leaving now. Good day, night, or what ever.” Xander snickered at this and allowed himself to be hauled through the door, laughing like a loon.


Spike was deliriously happy, happier than he'd been since he'd laid first claim on Xander.

Xander had turned perfectly, soul still firmly stuck on.

Xander was happy too. He'd always thought, somewhere in the back of his mind, that Spike would change his mind.

Spike turned in the door to their bed room and smirked at Xander. “I should carry the bride over the threshold, but ...” He let out a very unmanly shriek when Xander grabbed him.

Xander swept Spike up in his arms and tossed him across the room onto the bed. Spike's vampire reflexes kept this from being a disaster so he landed in the middle of the huge bed, laughing. Xander made it across the room in two bounds and hopped on top of him.

They wrestled a bit then Spike pushed Xander off him. “Orf! We'll ruin these suits and I want to put them up.”

Xander obeyed, stripping out of the suit in record time. He took his suit and Spike's, roughly folded them and dropped them on the closet floor. “There, satisfied?”

“No, but Timmins will be.” Spike crooked his finger in a universal 'come hither' gesture. Xander went to him with a lecherous leer that made Spike laugh.

Spike pulled Xander down onto the bed and rolled over on him, grinding their pelvises together. Xander unashamedly whimpered.

“Oh, don't do that. I'll go off like a two dollar pistol.”

“That's the idea, luv. Vampire now, remember? Reload in two seconds, you will.”

Xander gave up. He'd done without since he'd been turned, and now he knew why Tara had insisted. All he needed was a touch and he'd blow like a volcano. Spike provided that touch by running one finger up his erection from base to tip.

When he was done shuddering, Xander unclenched each muscle individually and mock snarled, “Ass.” Spike just curled his tongue behind his teeth and snickered.

“Now we can take our time. You'll be ready again in a few minutes. An' don't be too pissed.” Spike gestured to himself. He'd exploded, too, so Xander wasn't alone in his eagerness.

Xander couldn't resist Spike; he always said Spike tasted like silk and honey, which made Spike laugh and ask what silk tasted like. Xander had always said, “You.” Now Xander licked his way from the point of Spike's chin to his groin, taking a detour at his navel that had both of them chuckling. Spike liked it when Xander laughed during their time together; it tickled.

Spike enjoyed Xander's attentions until he couldn't stand it anymore; he had to push him away, or come sooner than he wanted. Xander obeyed Spike's gentle push and allowed himself to be maneuvered onto his back. Spike returned his attentions with enthusiasm, making Xander groan softly. Spike turned his head and his twinkling eyes met Xander's. Xander blinked at him for a moment then sighed, “That's so good.”

It didn't take them long to explode again. And again. Then Spike kept Xander on edge until he pinned Spike down and demanded, “Orgasm, now!” Spike obliged.

The night was filled with sighs and moans, tender touches and loving kisses. Xander led Spike from orgasm to orgasm and followed where he was led.

The sheets wound up on the floor. The duvet was draped over the headboard, and neither Spike nor Xander knew where the pillows were.

Xander grumbled, “I'm done. Finita, fucked out.”

Spike snickered, “I know. That last was orgasm number ten.”

Xander pulled away to look at Spike. “Damn, you counted?”

“Of course. Had to make sure you were satisfied.”

“I am. And sated, and any other word that means fucked into the mattress.”

“You don't mean fucked, you mean well loved.”

“That, too.” Xander pulled Spike to rest on his shoulder. “I do... love you. You know?”

“I do. I love you, too. Have for so very long.”

Xander rubbed Spike’s shoulder. “I asked you a question a long time ago. You said to drop it, you'd tell me when the time was right. I think the time is right.”

“Question? OH, oh, that question. About my ulterior motives.” Xander rubbed his cheek against the top of Spike’s head. “I wanted a true companion, someone who would stay with me, love me, have my back. When Willow hexed you into a thrall, I saw the chance to... not mold you or change you, but to help you be everything you showed potential for. And I did everything I knew how to do to get you to return my love. That was my Ulterior Motive.”

Xander just hummed softly then murmured, “Well... you succeeded. I'm here to stay for the long run. Thanks.”

He reached over and tugged the duvet off the headboard and pulled it over them. Spike snuggled against him until they wound up spooning, wrapped in the duvet. Spike heard Xander murmur, “I like Ulterior Motives.” just as he dozed off.

The End

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