Although Angel allowed himself to be momentarily distracted by Spike’s antics, he hadn’t forgotten his plans for the day. He would find out more about this Lucian and what his involvement was with the Xander situation.
The problem was that dealing with other master vampires was tricky business. Especially one who, from all accounts, was nearly as powerful as Angel. Vampire politics prevented him from waging an all-out war without some proof and, even then, he might be risking too much to go on the offensive at this point.
He needed more information. Oz was helpful with his thoughts the night before but in reality they hadn’t come up with anything new. Angel felt that if only he could get to the bottom of the spell, this whole mystery would unravel and he would find the answers he needed.
Angel had made his plans for the day and he and Spike were just heading out when Oz joined them. The wolf had the same smug expression as his childe.
“Angel, I was thinking this morning about everything you told me. There’s another piece of this puzzle that we may be able to focus on. Your original vision of Xander. You said it was different. Have you ever found out how or why?” Oz looked from Angel to Spike and saw that neither vampire had sought answers to the vision.
He continued. “It just seems strange to me that this one vision is different from all the others. It makes me wonder if it wasn’t an actual vision at all. Maybe someone else was involved.”
Spike looked at Angel, waiting for his reaction. In all the excitement that followed, he hadn’t really thought any more about the uniqueness of his vision of Xander. It took Oz pointing out the difference to them to bring the vision back to mind.
Angel lost himself for a moment, replaying that first sight of Xander, struggling against demons, chained down, and felt his anger spiral out of control. No one else, except for Spike, had ever inspired such deep reactions. “I think you’re right. Dammit! How could I have dismissed the vision? I’ve never had one like it before and I just let it go.” He slammed his fist down on the desk in frustration.
And now, Xander was lying upstairs, nearly dead, terrified, and all because of a vision. Oz could smell Angel’s distress, and could see the anger building. “Angel, you can’t change what happened. Now you just have to find a way to make it right. I’m going to go check on Xander.”
As Oz left the room, leaving Spike to deal with his frustrated Sire, Angel slammed his fist down on the desk. “Damn it, Spike. How am I supposed to find out about a vision that happened months ago? I can’t even get more information on the legitimate ones I have.”
Spike braved Angel’s wrath and stepped closer, circling the desk until he could lean over and place his face near Angel’s. “We'll figure this out,” Spike said quietly. “Xander’s one of ours. We protect what’s ours, Sire.”
Angel reached out and gripped Spike’s head, pulling him closer and slamming their mouths together. His childe always knew what he needed to hear and this reminder brought him back to focus. He released Spike’s head, pulling lips apart reluctantly. “Spike, set up a meeting with Lucian’s group. I want answers and he seems to be the one who has them.”
Spike nodded. “Yes, Sire.” He turned and walked from the room, needing to seek out Xander as well. And once again, Angel was alone, struggling to find answers, desperate to find a way to make things right once again.
When Oz reached Xander’s room, he found his friend sleeping fitfully, tossing and turning with his dreams. His pained noises were enough to set Oz’s wolf into protect mode and he jumped onto the bed, pulling Xander close to him, offering what comfort he could.
Xander jerked awake when he felt arms close around him. He immediately knew it wasn’t Angel or Spike. He turned and looked up into Oz’s familiar face and felt safe, watched over by this man, this wolf.
Oz pressed a tender kiss to Xander’s forehead, before sliding their bodies around, leaving himself propped against the headboard and Xander curled over his chest. Xander held on tight, settling into the warmth of Oz’s body before drifting to sleep again.
The door opened just as Xander dozed off and Oz looked up, a growl at the ready, to find Spike staring at them. Oz could tell that Spike was pissed at finding Xander snuggled up to him again but instead of starting the same old fight, he pressed a finger over his lips indicating that Spike keep quiet.
Spike frowned, but then Oz patted the bed next to him and Spike made his way over. He climbed in next to the wolf, settling beside him with his back against the headboard as well.
Oz gave Spike a sexy little grin, their earlier fun far from forgotten. Spike let his anger go and returned the look with an arched brow of his own. Oz looked down at Xander before meeting Spike’s gaze again. “Nightmares.” He whispered the words, knowing Spike would understand.
He did. Spike reached over Oz and gently pulled Xander over the wolf’s lap until he was settled in between them. He slid down, gesturing for Oz to do the same, and they curled around the sleeping man, letting him draw comfort from their combined strength.
Spike let his hand drift to Oz’s hip and quietly explored whatever bits he could reach. He liked how responsive Oz was to his touch. It was fun hearing his breath quicken and little growls of pleasure escape when Spike found a sensitive spot.
Finally Oz couldn’t take the teasing anymore and slapped his hand down over Spike’s. “Stop it or we’re going to wake him up.” Oz hissed out the words, still trying to be quiet.
“He’s already awake.” Xander opened his eyes to see Oz’s reaction to his words. The wolf was shocked. Xander chuckled but stopped Spike’s hand from moving away.
“You don’t have to stop. I wish I could do it myself.” Xander’s eyes shifted down, taking in his emaciated form.
“Nothing to stop you here, pet.” Spike knew that Xander was very self-conscious but needed him to know that no matter what, Spike still wanted him. He pressed his cock into Xander’s back, letting him feel how hard he was.
Xander reached out a hand and tentatively laid it on Oz’s chest. Oz groaned and pushed himself closer to Xander, letting his body speak for him. Xander looked over his shoulder at Spike, seeing the sexy grin there, and he smiled back.
Spike leaned down and pressed his lips quickly to Xander’s before looking into his eyes. “Let’s have a little fun with the wolf, shall we?”
Spike pulled Oz up and stripped his shirt off. Xander was still lying between them, watching every move. Spike looked down at him while pulling his own shirt off and they lay down again around Xander, waiting for him to make the next move.
Xander was scared. He wanted Spike. He wanted Oz. But he was still scared and he hated feeling so helpless. He looked up at Spike and let his fear show, knowing his vampire would help him, would know what he needed.
Spike pulled Oz over until he was sprawled half over Xander. He kissed the wolf, with eyes open and watching Xander. Oz let himself be handled, knowing that Spike knew Xander and his desires better than he did.
Oz felt Xander’s hand reach up and stroke his arm, feeling the strength there and teasing the muscles with soft teasing touches. Spike was still devouring his mouth and he felt himself being pushed down, his head getting closer and closer to Xander.
Spike pulled away, leaving Oz’s lips wet and swollen before offering them to Xander. Xander lifted his head and captured Oz’s lips with his own. He let out a little sigh of pleasure as their tongue’s met and tangled.
Spike watched them kissing for a moment before pulling them apart and moving his own lips to Oz’s nipple. He bit down, causing Oz to growl low in his chest and then he felt Xander shift and capture its twin between his own teeth.
Oz was quivering with desire, his body taut and aching. Spike released his tender skin with a pop and looked over at Xander. Xander gave one last lick to the tight nub before attaching his mouth to Spike’s, gathering the taste of his vampire in his mouth.
Spike reached over to Oz and pulled him in closer. The three mouths met in a tangle of lips and tongues until finally Xander fell away, gasping for breath. Spike kept hold of Oz and watched Xander. “Having fun, pet?”
Xander nodded, mute. He wanted to feel again, to remember these sensations. He wanted to be loved, to be touched, to feel safe. He just hadn’t imagined Oz would be involved.
Neither had Angel. Deciding to check on Xander and see what the other two were up to, Angel had headed up the stairs. He could smell their arousal before he reached the top. He slammed into the room, expecting to yell at Oz and Spike for fooling around while Xander was sleeping, only to see Xander’s smiling face with his lips swollen from kisses.
All eyes turned to him and Xander blushed and looked away. Angel let out a soft growl that drew Xander’s eyes back to his. He held out his hand to Angel. “Angel.” He whispered the word, wanting his other lover there as well. Needing him by his side as his body reawakened to the pleasures of touch.
Spike grabbed Oz and pulled him over Xander’s body to his other side as Angel moved forward to the bed and filled the now empty spot at Xander’s side. He pressed himself tightly against the thin body, drinking in the feel of his claimed one.
Angel pressed his forehead to Xander’s and looked into his eyes. “I’ve missed touching you, holding you.”
“I’ve missed that, too.” Xander reached a hand up and held onto the back of Angel’s head, keeping them pressed together. They stayed that way, foreheads touching, bodies pressed together until Spike moved Oz back beside Xander and they all slid in next to each other.
Xander sighed, letting the feelings of safety and comfort wash over him. Angel pulled back, glancing at Spike before turning his head and baring his neck. Spike leaned over and bit down, opening a wound before pulling back.
Angel nodded his gratitude before lowering his neck to Xander’s mouth. Xander opened and greedily started pulling in the offering. When Angel finally pulled back, Xander was licking the remaining drops of blood from his lips.
The sight of his pink tongue trailing through Angel’s dark red blood shot a burst of lust through Angel. His claimed one with his blood covering his lips and tongue. It was nearly enough to make Angel lose the tight rein he was keeping on his control.
He leaned in towards Xander, ready to devour his lips again but noticed that Xander’s breathing had changed. Suddenly Xander was gasping for breath, his panicked eyes turning to Angel for help.
Xander’s eyes grew wide as he raised a hand to clutch at his throat. Angel watched, frozen in terror as Xander’s face began to redden and his eyes begged for help. Angel leaned closer to Xander, not knowing what to do. He pulled him up so that Xander was sitting instead of lying but that didn’t help.
Finally, Oz leaned forward and sniffed at Xander’s neck. He pulled back alarmed and moved to Angel to repeat the gesture. He looked at Spike, who looked even more pale than usual.
“Shit, Angel. There’s something wrong with your blood. Shit.” Oz bit into his own wrist, pushing the bleeding wound to Xander. Angel shot out his hand, stopping Oz from giving him the blood. “Is it safe? Will it hurt him?”
“It’s fine. It won’t hurt him, I swear.” Angel released Oz’s wrist and Oz held it to Xander’s mouth. “Angel, help him get it down. He’s got to get something in him to dilute it.”
Angel was spurred to action and began rubbing Xander’s throat, coaxing the powerful wolf blood into him. He looked to Oz who was biting into his other wrist and pressing it to Spike. His childe bit in gratefully, and drew a few deep swallows before pulling away.
Spike had only gotten a small amount of Angel’s blood when he bit into his neck for Xander, but it was enough to confuse him and slow down his reflexes. Now that he had some of Oz’s blood, his mind was quickly clearing.
He jerked towards Xander, ready to help. His breathing was slowly leveling off but as they all watched, he slipped into unconsciousness again. Their howls of rage and terror could be heard throughout the hotel and minions and demons alike came running.
The door flung open and the minions feared the worst as their Master was laying over his claimed one, who was again unconscious. They could smell his fear and rage and as the smells increased, so did their sense of his power. No one would doubt just how far Angel had come since the changes. It was there for all to see and smell.
Once the minions discovered that their Master’s blood had been poisoned, they were all quick to donate to him. The tainted blood all came from their latest shipment and Oz was able to smell enough to determine that Angel was the only one who had fed from it. His minions always kept the freshest for him, a policy that would soon be changing. This time, however, it was beneficial as only Angel’s blood needed to be replaced.
A growling Angel held one steadily dripping wrist over a bowl while he drank deeply from every minion in his control. By the time he was finished, every drop of blood in his body had been replaced. It had taken hours. Angel grew more and more angry as the blood in his body was replaced. He wanted to know who had poisoned them and why. He wanted to know how none of them had sensed it until it was nearly too late.
Angel was done: He wasn’t playing around anymore. He couldn’t think of anyone other than Lucian who would have both the resources and the motive to attack him through his blood supply. If his minions had drunk the blood as well, they would have been in a very weakened position. But worst of all was that Xander had nearly died again and this time someone was going to feel his wrath, vampire politics be damned. He was going to gather his troops, attack Lucian, and find out once and for all what the other vampire knew.
The only problem he could see with the plan was what to do with Xander. Both Spike and Oz were refusing to be left behind. Angel wanted to order Spike to stay, just in case things didn’t go their way and he was killed. Xander would not survive both of their deaths. The claim would take him as soon as they were dust.
Spike’s argument was valid though. In Xander’s weakened condition, he probably wouldn’t survive if either one of them were dusted. Spike figured he should be at Angel’s side where he belonged.
Oz agreed. Both vampires needed as much protection as they could get and if one of them were wounded, there was nothing better than a little werewolf blood to speed healing. Plus, there was no way he was going to be left behind when all this went down. He wanted to know what the hell was going on just as much as Spike and Angel did.
Angel gave himself forty-eight hours to plan. He wouldn’t have done even that but wanted time to get enough healing blood into Xander to give him a fighting chance if something went wrong. They’d bagged blood as well, just as a precaution.
The Kor’Chuk demons were guarding Xander again. A full escort of minions were accompanying Angel, Spike, and Oz as they delivered Xander into the care of the demon clan. Their assistance had proved invaluable in the past and Angel trusted them to do right by his love.
The hotel was practically deserted when they left. Angel knew if this fight didn’t go his way, there would be nothing for any of them to come back to anyway. They loaded up in vans and SUVs and headed out of town.
Lucian’s compound wasn’t what Angel expected. It was more like a huge estate, a mansion in the hills surrounded by woods and a solid security fence. Not that it would keep out Angel’s army of vampires who were all hungry for vengeance.
Of course they were expected and the guards at the gate took out several minions before they were taken down. Angel didn’t think Lucian expected this much of a show of force. He’d underestimated just how angry Angel was over the threat to Xander. That mistake would cost him dearly.
The minions swarmed the entrance and cleared a path for Angel, Spike, and Oz. Angel walked in the center, flanked by his powerful childe and his newest ally, Xander’s wolf. Angel supposed he should think of him as his wolf now as well. After the show of loyalty Oz had given him, Angel wasn’t letting him go anywhere.
They paused in the entry. Angel roared for Lucian. The voice sent chills down everyone’s backs. Oz growled and allowed himself to partially shift.
Lucian appeared, surrounded by dozens of his own minions. “Angel, how kind of you to stop by. Although this is an incredible breach of etiquette, as I’m sure you know, I’ll not push the matter with the Council. Won’t you come in?”
Spike snarled. The threat of the Council was not one that Spike took lightly. He knew what the consequences would be to both of them should their defiance be taken as an act of war. Still, Spike would fight every damn vampire in existence if it meant keeping Xander safe from this moron and his flunkies.
Angel appeared unfazed. “Lucian, thanks for the invitation but I really could care less. I’m here to find out why the fuck you keep trying to kill my claimed one. You see, the Council is very strict on those policies as well. After this last attack, I consider us at war.” Angel turned to look at Spike. “Spike, remind me of that rule? What was it again? Something about taking revenge for attacks on our property?”
“Right, Sire. You can declare open season on him as Xander’s considered yours. Course, he’s mine, too, so that means we can both go to town on this poser.” Spike flashed to his true face and turned to glare at the other master vampire.
Lucian wasn’t scared. “Angel, I don’t know what you’re talking about. What use would your human be to me? Now that lovely wolf you’ve brought along? He’s one I could take to. Care to negotiate? Because I believe I may have something you want.”
Angel, Spike, and Oz all laughed. Angel pulled Oz to him and the wolf nuzzled into his side before he spoke. “No, Lucian. I don’t think you have anything I want as much as my wolf.”
“Don’t be so sure about that, Angel. I happen to have the answers you’re seeking. What exactly are they worth to you?” He nodded to a nearby minion who left the room quickly. Angel watched him go but he already knew what cards Lucian was holding. He hadn’t played this hand very well.
Angel nodded to Oz who stepped back into the group of minions. They immediately circled him, creating a barrier with their bodies. Lucian noticed the move, but as Angel had anticipated, he assumed Angel was protecting his prize possession.
Vampires were so predictable after all.
The minion returned with a body curled in his arms. Spike quivered with the need to rush forward. Angel didn’t need to hold him back though. He knew the stakes and would play this round just as Angel had planned. It was hard though, harder than anything he’d ever had to do before.
Angel smiled at Lucian but the expression didn’t reflect in his cold eyes. “I’d wondered where she’d gotten off too. So nice of you to look after my wayward childe for me.”
The minion froze, unsure of what the next step was.
Lucian looked over at Angel. “So, what’ll it be? Your childe or the information you seek. She’s awfully valuable but I’m willing to be reasonable. I’ll return your childe and you leave. Or I keep her and tell you what I know about your human pet.”
Angel stepped forward. “There’s really no decision. I choose Drusilla.”
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