Part Thirteen

Angel drove the car through the empty streets and the atmosphere was just about the opposite of the previous night, not that Angel seemed any happier now. In fact the great broody one seemed even more aggravated as he slammed the car around corners and hit the brakes way harder than necessary at every red light. Spike just sat silently in the front seat with his arms crossed, and I sat in the back seat behind him equally silent. Yep, the Xan-man could in fact be quiet, when I was angry enough. And talking about myself in third person borders on pathetic.

I put up my hand to brace myself against the seat as Angel hit the brakes again, this time next to a dark playground where moonlight on the empty swings and monkey bars cast strange blue shadows. I looked around for anything that might be a den of demons. Nada.

"Okay you two, out," Angel ordered as he opened his car door and slid out before slamming it shut a whole lot harder than the door really needed in order to close properly. I didn't bother with the passenger side door since that would have meant getting near Spike. I sorta crawled over to the driver's side and threw a leg over the side of the car to get out. Angel had already walked around to the passenger side, so I followed him, and why was I here again? The middle of some demon city with Spike and Angel was not sounding like much fun. I really couldn't figure out which part of my brain had voted for going on this little jaunt.

"Right, where are the demons?" Spike asked briskly as he started walking into the park, and he just looked smaller without the leather coat. Instead he had on black jeans that looked poured on and a black t-shirt. It actually would have been good camouflage in the dark except for his shocking white-blond hair.

"Right now the only demons I care about are you two," Angel said through tight lips, and it took me a couple of seconds to realize that I was one of the two demons. Still didn't sound right.

"Bloody hell, Peaches, just keep your nose out of it."

"No, I don't think so. I'm not liking this new Xander much, and I’m liking you even less, boy."

"Can't say I care," I snapped at the same time that Spike gave Angel a two fingered salute. Angel just sighed, but at least Spike stopped and leaned against the ladder portion of a tall slide.

"What happened between last night and now?" Angel demanded as he crossed his arms. Spike pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket, and I started wishing I smoked, well not in the smelling of smoke part of smoking, not that Spike smelled *bad* when he smelled of smoke, and I had just lost my train of thought again.

"Xander?" Angel demanded and I narrowed my eyes at him as the darkness suddenly became much less dark through my demon eyes. If Angel wanted to talk to Spike about that fine, but he wasn't in my pack. I didn't have to answer him. "What is wrong with you?" Angel asked as he stepped closer to me, and I sidestepped away from the car and brought my hands up close to my waist.

"Oh for god's sake, I'm not about to attack you," Angel sighed heavily and turned back toward Spike. I dropped my hands to the side and leaned a hip against the car as I waited to see Spike brought to task by his sire. I suppose this was going to be the one advantage of having the two of them keeping their clan ties: watching Angel torture Spike. Of course I got myself so distracted that I didn't actually notice Angel's attack until strong arms wrapped around my upper body, trapping my arms next to my side which is what I had been trying to avoid in the first place.

I snarled at Angel, but he just manhandled me away from the car and toward the park, glaring down at me in game face as I struggled against his grip as he held me in a bear hug, which huggage from Angel… so not okay with that.

"Stay out of this Spike," Angel ordered harshly, and I assumed Spike had made some move, but I was a little busy to stop and actually check since I was trying to wiggle my way free.

"Since you won't talk this out like a human being, I guess I'm having this discussion with your demon," Angel said and his teeth made his voice unfamiliar, foreign, and waaaay too close. Angel bent his head down and I realized what he was going for. Oh no. Not submitting. Really, really not submitting to Angel. I did the only thing I could; I bit Angel's arm as hard as I could, which was really hard. I could feel the silk of his shirt catching in my teeth and taste the zing of vampire blood through the awful chemical tang of his fabric softener, but Angel completely ignored me.

I struggled harder as I felt the teeth go into my neck. And I brought up my knee as hard as I could. Angel grunted his pain and went to his knees, dragging me down with him. And now I really started squirming because DAMN, that bite hurt. Angel pushed me the rest of the way to the ground, and I could feel one particular rock digging into my shoulder blade and I squirmed. He pressed me into the cold damp ground, and I tried to bring my knee up again, but I just didn’t have the right angle. My leg just sort of flopped ineffectively. Oh, I could get my heel around to kick at the back of Angel's calves, but it didn't seem to do any good at all. Changing tactics, I tried to strain to one side and flip us, and that just got me a sore shoulder as Angel bit in even harder. Fine, it was time to pull out the big guns.

"Damn it Angel, if you want to know why I never liked you, this would be it. Hello, you're supposed to be the good guy as in you don't go around biting people any more, or did Spike actually manage to make you happy enough for a return visit of our favorite psycho?"

Okay, I don't know why it never occurred to me before, but Angel and Spike probably meant sex and add that to their sudden new interest in sticking together and the biting and then you come to the “holy fucking shit” portion of the evening. I bucked up as hard as I could and struggled to get my arms free, but I couldn't do more than wiggle uselessly under Angel's body pinning me to the soft ground. And really the pinning worried me a lot less than the biting which felt like he was taking my throat out, and hey, if we were talking Angelus, throat ripping was a very real possibility. I wiggled harder.

Ironically, with the demon upgrade I could smell my own fear. Something else that was new: I could feel a strange, nameless compulsion rising up. It's like when I have a really, really intense craving for chocolate. I had this really bad case of the flu when I was a kid, and I *knew* I shouldn't eat anything, knew in the “projectile vomiting” kind of knew. But I had found my mother's stash of old Halloween candy, and that chocolate just called me like I had absolutely no self-control. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep it down, I knew I was going to be sorry, but I just couldn't NOT eat that damn chocolate. I felt that feeling rising up only magnified by about a thousand. The need to tilt my head and acknowledge Angel's strength just pissed me off.

"Buffy is so going to stake your sorry ass, you pathetic excuse for a vampire," I hissed as I doubled my efforts. Simple math fact: zero times two still equals zero, so I still didn't get anywhere. See, I can do math. I felt myself stilling, and I forced my body into fighting again, struggling this time to dig my heels into the ground and push myself away from those teeth that had clamped onto my neck. The zero times anything rule still applied because I made zero progress there, too. I panted with the effort of fighting: both fighting the vampire currently attached to my neck and fighting with my own need to not fight. It would just be so much easier to submit, but I couldn't. Spike… maybe. Angel… not a chance in every hell Giles had ever described.

Eventually I let my body go limp and settled for trying to rein in my hyena instincts. I just had to hold on and fool Angel into cutting this little exercise in demon dominance short. Wait him out. Let him get off and then run like hell. Just wait. I focused on trying to breathe, my gasping breath whistling through my teeth which I kept clamped as I tried to hold on, not submit, wait him out. Angel growled and dug his teeth a little deeper and the dam broke. The air flowed out of me in a giant sigh as I went limp and tilted my head to give Angel access to my neck, and god I hated vampires. In particular, I hated one over gelled, know-it-all, manipulative son-of-a-bitch who bit down a fraction more making me flinch before he pulled his teeth out.

I felt the tongue on my neck, and I shuddered, but I also couldn't do anything. Two or three swipes and Angel stood up, which left him conveniently standing over me looking down. He held his hand out, and I half rolled to my side before getting up on my own. I moved away to the monkey bars, and how convenient… monkey bars, butt monkey. Now if we just had schmuck bars for Angel we'd be all set.

I stood mostly facing away, but I couldn't help but keep an eye on Angel as he wiped blood off his lips with something that looked like disgust. Ya know, the only thing worse than having some vampire use you as a midnight snack is having a vampire use you as a midnight snack and then not like your blood. It's ungrateful. And kind of insulting.

"Now, I'm not going to take any more from either of you. Is that clear?" Angel demanded. I don't know what Spike did, but I just broke eye contact and looked at the ground. I didn't want to look at the ground, but my eyes just kind of did that on their own.

"Now, Xander. You're starting. Exactly why did you go from trying to jump Spike to trying to kill him?" I held out. Oh, I wanted to say something, but the very fact that Angel was asking also made me want to say something rude about Ireland and stupid European football which is really soccer because football is a man's game with lots of tackling and broken bones. So, I settled for saying nothing. I knew I was dealing with Angel when my silence got a sigh and not a bone-crushing backhand.

"Xander, so help me I am running on my last nerve here so you either start talking, or I will drive you back to Giles and let him deal with your demonic mood swings." I considered my options, but Angel was right. I wasn’t controlling my emotions and I really didn't want the others to see that. Giles would start with the polishing and then Willow would give me those big watery eyes, and I simply had no defense against the power of Willow-eyes. And I didn’t even want to think about how Buffy would react; my wrists were still sore from the last time.

"He submitted to you," I said grudgingly. I still couldn’t bring myself to look at either of them.

"Bloody wanker had me by the neck, slayer'd stake me if I actually damaged her pet vampire," Spike said with disgust in his voice.

"Boy," Angel growled and then Spike gave a rather rude response back which I think is physically impossible because sheep are actually not… no don't go there I ordered my brain as I considered the logistics of Spike's comment.

"Xander, I took over siring him from Drusilla. My demon is older and stronger." Angel was calm, and I was kind of hating how my demon seemed to be nodding inside. It made sense, but I didn’t have to like it.

"Older, mate- not stronger. You have about a hundred years of drinking soddin' rat while I was dining on the good stuff. Killed my way Europe after you left, drank socialites and left their corpses in the alleys of Prague." And that would be the cocky Spike talking, and no I don’t want to think about Spike in terms of cocky, and yes I’m babbling to myself again. God.

"I thought we settled this earlier tonight, Spike. If you need another lesson, *boy*, I will be happy to give you a rematch." Spike fell silent, which for Spike was speaking volumes.

"Xander, just tell us what you were thinking. Primals aren't vampires even if we have a lot of the same basic instincts." Again with the calm, reasonable voice. Stupid vampire.

"You can't be in two packs," I pointed out, and then it dawned on me. Angel had just claimed me away from my pack. I felt my knees go weak and I sat down on one of the lower bars.

"You thought that by submitting to me he was rejecting you," Angel said. I just looked at him. I didn’t want to say it out loud.

"Oi, boy's not that stupid. My unlife is bad enough without you comin' in and pretending to be sire. You bloody walked out on me once and I'll stake myself before I ever trust you again.” Spike actually sounded… pissed?“ When I get this chip out, I'll take my boy and go somewhere so you can't come chargin' in and playing the high and mighty 'I am sire' bit."

Whoa. Didn't see that one coming. I just stared at Spike as I considered what he was declaring. He submitted to his sire but he rejected his sire and that wasn't normal. Or actually, maybe it was. Hell, I wasn't a vampire, and maybe I'd done a little too much assuming.

"I'm thinking that now I'm really confused," I admitted.

"You bloody thought I'd pick the brooding pouf over you?" Spike asked, and his tone of voice shifted from angry to worried almost immediately. I opened my mouth, but I really couldn't find anything to say to that.

"I have to go see some demons. You two work this out, and I don't care how as long it takes as you promise to never tell me the details," Angel said as he turned his back and walked to the car.

"But what did this… " I struggled to find a word that described what had just happed between me and Angel. "What do you want?" I finally settled on. Angel stood with his hand on his open car door looking right at me.

"Xander, I don't want anything. You and Willow and Buffy and even Giles became my clan when you gave me something to fight for, when you gave me a reason to climb out of the gutter." Angel's voice cracked slightly on Buffy's name, but other than that he presented the same unemotional face that he always showed. Only now, demon instincts in me understood Angel's declaration as being the deepest emotion a demon could hold.

"You were my family even if I was too scared and maybe even too jealous to ever really push my way in. *You* were the only one who never saw that, Xander. You were so busy being insecure and angry and quite frankly childish that you didn't see anything except what you wanted. So as far as I'm concerned, nothing's changed. You are still part of my clan the way you have been since you broke into my apartment with that cross and that absolute conviction that you were going to stand with Buffy even if it got you killed." Angel got in the car and started the heavy roaring motor. "And you still annoy the shit out of me," he added, yelling a bit over the engine noise as he put the car into gear and started down the street.

I sat with the monkey bar rung nearly cutting off circulation and with my neck still throbbing. Wow. I had really fucked that one up. I hadn't ever screwed up this bad, except for the time when I was doing the whole kissing on Willow thing when Cordy saw us or the time that I tried to rape Buffy or possibly the time I drove the whole female population insane with that love spell, and I was just going to stop thinking there because I had really screwed up a lot more than one person should.

I tilted my head a bit so I could see Spike who watched me with undisguised shock.

"We need to talk, pet. You really thought I was pickin' the pouf?" Spike stepped closer, and I stood up and got to the side of the monkey bars. Already been chewed on my one vampire tonight, and I was not keen to make it two.

"Well… yeah."

"Moron," Spike said as he took another pull at his cigarette and leaned against the far side of the monkey bars.

"Yeah, well excuse me, I'm kinda new at the whole demon thing. And that is *still* not sounding right," I complained.

"Wot?" Spike cocked his head to the side and words like cute and flawless and sexy floated up, and yeah, Spike would kill me if he knew I even thought words like cute when I saw him. Didn't stop me from thinking them.

"I spent the last four years fighting demons. It just doesn't sound right to call myself one. I feel like I should be grabbing an ax and chasing myself down the street although I was actually the one who usually ran from demons so that should probably be me grabbing an ax and running from myself down the street."



"Thought you got back with your mates and had second thoughts about declarin' an interest in me." He sounded casual, but his eyes were burning into mine. I shivered.

"Oh, I had second, third, and fourth thoughts because Buffy, she is so going to kill both of us. But all those thoughts aside, I still am interested in you. Not even fear of Willow eyes and slayer fury could change that." And oh god, was I starting to blush? Great.

"Red does have a pout on her, doesn't she?" I looked over and Spike had this odd wistful look on his face, and given my knowledge of the Evil Undead, that was not a comforting expression.

"Spike?" I demanded in a tone that promised much pain and no sex if he didn't cough up the information.

"What? I just always thought I'd get to have Red as my own. If Angel and Slutty hadn't stopped me, the minute she did her love spell, I'd have made her my first childe." He’d actually mustered a look of hurt innocence in his sexy blue eyes.

"Of all the… I'm telling you how much I care about you, and your answer is to tell me how much you want to kill my best friend? Please tell me you see a problem here." Spike just got an obstinate expression on his face.

"Always had a soft spot for Red, but it doesn't change how much I want you. Besides, I said I'd turn her, not kill her. Why the hell do you think I took *you* with me that night? I certainly didn't need you to do the spell, but I thought you two would make a vicious pair of childer for me to take home to my plum."

"I don't even have words for how wrong that is," I spluttered.

"What? To want to have you with me? I planned on taking you as my childe so we could hunt together through the centuries. Course now that you're a demon, I figure I don't even have to turn ya. Makes it safer if one of us can go out in the sun." And how wrong is it that my demon was agreeing with him on the last part, there?

"Why did I have to fall for the psychopath?" I asked the stars, but unlike Drusilla, I couldn't hear their answer, which was probably of the good. I had enough problems without adding that one. And funny enough, there was this little part of me that practically danced at the thought that Spike wanted me, even without the hyena he'd wanted me. "Wait, I thought you hated me," I pointed out as the memory of those horrible weeks in the basement assaulted me.

"Hated that you refused to bloody submit, hated those soddin' names you called me." I looked over in surprise, but he just gazed back calmly, and boy had I gotten that one wrong.

"I called you those names to try and make my hyena stop yapping about wanting you. I figured *you* hated *me*, so I needed to make her back off."

"And now? That hyena of yours still yappin'?" Spike took another step forward, and I pulled up my fists and squared off my feet. I was not going down easy. At least, not again. In fact, if I had my way, I wasn't the one going down at all.

"Nope." I watched confusion flash across his features and smiled.

"Hyena's gone, or rather part of me. There is no what she wants versus what I want."

"So, we just have one matter to work out then," Spike said with a lascivious grin.

"Actually, two," I corrected him. "First, promise me that you will never go after Willow."

"She'd make a beautiful vampire; she's got depths of darkness and a love of chaos hidden in that little body." That wistful expression went across Spike's face again, and just ew. The guy I lusted after should not be lusting after Willow because that was just wrong. The thought of Willow and Spike in a bed crossed my mind, and I shuddered at the thought of that red hair against a pillow lying next to Spike's pale arm as he leaned over her and my own hand reaching across…. Oh no no no no no. Just no. Focus damn it, I ordered my libido, which hadn't actually hijacked the brain since tenth grade.

"And you're never, ever going to set it free," I demanded as I pulled myself out of that fantasy. No thinking of naked Willow because that way just led to despair and destruction, and with her new powers and recent gayhood, possibly shriveled genitals.

"Fair enough. Red and even Glinda have a free pass no matter what happens, even if Slutty comes after me again. So, on to matter number two," Spike stepped closer and that wicked grin, the hint of tongue, the sliver of white teeth, the smell of desire and the bulge in his jeans left me breathless and damn near brainless. Luckily I still had one or two grey cells on the job.

"Right, matter number two would be the Initiative soldiers moving this way," I pointed out as I sniffed the peculiar stench of gun oil and testosterone in the air.

Part Fourteen

"Bloody hell," Spike snarled, turning his face into the breeze. And I saw the moment when he caught the scent because his face took on this feral sneer/snarl that would have scared the crap out of me if he had pointed that face at me.

"I'm thinking running would be of the good," I suggested.

"Right." Without another word, Spike dashed across the park away from the street and away from the sound of human footsteps, and I followed behind, allowing my instincts to take over, since me and running usually resulted in much stumbling and falling. With the hyena instincts pulled up, I could feel my body contact the earth and then push off again in one graceful motion. At first Spike held back, turning his head to several times, but he quickly noticed that I could keep up, and he put on a burst of speed that forced me to push myself to keep up.

We dashed across the baseball diamond attached to the park and then through the stand of trees behind it. I twisted my hips to maneuver around the obstacles; my night vision helped me duck under branches that would have decapitated me before. Then Spike's feet were suddenly at my eye level and I put out my hands as I sort of collided with a brick wall hidden by the trees. Note to self: not even hyena instincts can totally overcome Harris clumsiness.

I stepped back to get a better angle and then jumped for the top of the wall. My fingertips caught the edge and then cool hands grabbed my wrists and Spike hauled me up, my feet scrambling for purchase. For one second as I reached the top, my body pressed into his and we stood face to face. He let go of my arms, and I couldn't help it; I leaned forward so that my lips just barely touched his. I don't know what I expected, but the back of his knuckles gently brushing my cheek surprised me so that I actually pulled back and looked into those brilliant blue eyes. In the distance, I could hear heavy footsteps on the hard packed dirt of the baseball field, but the trees still gave us some shelter.

"Bloody tease," Spike whispered with his hand still on my cheek and I just smiled. Then the magic of the moment passed and he jumped down and started running with me close behind. Spike practically flew up a chain link fence and I gathered my legs under me, leaping most of the distance before using my arms to practically throw myself over the rest of the fence, and hey, that was actually cool because I know I couldn’t have done that before.

I followed Spike into what appeared to be some sort of factory area with a number of smaller buildings connected by overhead ductwork, and now I could hear the bootsteps on the concrete behind us. They paused at the fence and I could hear the rattling as we gained a lot of ground. But once the soldiers cleared the fence, they immediately began running toward us. Damn, they must be tracking Spike's body heat, or lack of it rather.

Spike put on a huge burst of speed that left my lungs aching and my muscles burning for oxygen. When he dropped down into some sort of delivery bay, I was ready to admit defeat and ask him to slow down. Before I could catch my breath, Spike had opened a manhole cover into the pitch-black sewers. Oh yeah, let's just see whether the soldier boys have stones or pebbles in their pants.

I opened my sense of smell to check out the darkness, and almost gagged from the smell of sewer, but hey at least that was all I smelled. Taking one last deep breath of fresh air, I dropped down into the darkness. I landed with a splash and had to catch myself with one hand on the ground, which meant that most of me went in the sewer water as Spike pulled the manhole cover closed from the top of the ladder he was perched on. Ladder. Right, probably should have used that. I tried to catch my breath as Spike dropped from the ladder and started down the sewer. I wanted to ask if he was picking a direction at random or if he had some sort of plan, but I just couldn’t get enough breath. Besides the stench, the air was strangely warm, which probably wasn’t helping with the stinkage.

Spike jogged down the sewer for several minutes before taking a sudden turn to the right down a narrower tunnel, one where I had to duck my head a little and the little spikes on his head brushed against the grime on the ceiling. Trusting that Spike wasn't just running blind, I followed as the temperature kept rising until I could feel sweat forming at my waistband and the back of my neck.

Up ahead I could see a dim light, and then the smooth concrete gave way to rough rock as the tunnel widened out into a dimly lit cave.

"Um, where the hell are we?" I asked as Spike jumped down a couple of feet into a pond.

"Hellmouth makes all sorts of interesting caves under the town, and most of 'em are prime demon real estate," Spike answered as I jumped down and nearly jumped back out again. The water was hot, like Jacuzzi kind of hot. I scurried after Spike before I started cooking.

"Oi, duck down and get that muck off ya before you come up," Spike groused, and I looked down at my favorite Babylon 5 t-shirt which now had big blotches of discoloration. Oh hell, it was my only shirt since the Initiative had so thoughtfully moved me only without telling me where my stuff was. A single shirt I'd left at Willow's and a pair of jeans borrowed from Angel were the sum total of my worldly possessions and now I was down one shirt. Life sucks, and not the good kind of suckage either.

"Um, yuck," I offered as I backed up a step and ducked under, doing my best to scrub my shirt clean, because even Clorox has a limit, and I doubt they've tested the stuff against sewer water and demon goo. Not a big laundry concern because most people just avoid those things. Well, they avoid sewers, and they'd avoid demon goo if they actually believed in demons, which would require that they give up denial land, and people were way too fond of denial land. I should know seeing as how I was the king of it at one time.

"I think your head needs a quick dunk, too," I pointed out helpfully when I came up the second time. Yep, time to get out of the water before I started turning red as a boiled lobster. Soldier boys definitely weren't going to track the temperature of anyone in this steam bath, if they’d even made it into the sewer, which I doubted.

"Fucking hell," Spike swore when his fingers explored his hair and found the muck. I laughed as he waded back in and did a quick job on his own head before coming back out dripping and muttering. And here I thought Angel was the one who was touchiest about his hair.

"Right, we need to get back to Buffy," I pointed out.

"Yeah, hate to say it, but we do." Spike started walking toward one of the tunnels leading off the cavern.

The tunnel led to the back alley of Willy's place, and Spike pulled himself up out of the sewers and retucked his t-shirt into his jeans as if looking good was his only concern. And quite frankly after he had run his fingers through his hair, he did look good- one of the advantages of years of practice in not being able to use a mirror, no doubt. I doubted that I had gotten through the run quite as stylishly. It really wasn't good for the ego when dead people consistently looked better than you. Oh hell, who was I kidding, the dead people I hung out with always looked hot. Not fair.

"Right, just time for a drink before we head back to the slayer's," Spike declared as he strode around to the front of the building before I'd had a chance to do more than open my mouth.

"Spike, this is so not a good idea," I said as I dashed around the side of the building just in time to see him open the door.

"Don't be a ninny," he suggested before disappearing inside, and I followed.

"Hey, no, we don't need any trouble tonight," Willy said as I stepped inside, and I could see Spike cock his head to the side in confusion even though he had his back to me.

"I'm just here to collect my vampire and leave," I said sweetly.

"Well just do it without breaking any more furniture. You owe me for last night." Despite what he was saying, I couldn’t help but notice that Willy’s hands were still up in a submissive “hey, no trouble” gesture. I admit it, the hyena in me felt kind of smug.

"I don't owe you anything, I told you to take it off the other guys," I pointed out testily. I had, right? I reviewed the night, and yep, I may have lost my shoes, but I had clearly remembered to tell Willy to charge the dead guy. The one who’d been dissolving into stinky grey ooze as I left.

"Oh yeah, maybe I should have taken it off the two dead vamps whose money turned to dust the minute you staked them, or maybe I should have gotten my arm burned down to the bone trying to pick a wallet out of the remains of a Yinth. Not likely." Willy’s hands were flat on the bar now, and he really didn’t look very happy. Sheesh, where had he picked up a backbone on sale.

"A Yinth?" Spike turned to me with eyebrows halfway to his hairline. Behind him I saw two shapes move out of the shadows: two familiar shapes. They should be familiar what with the four arms and the thick bodies and the glowing eyes, and boy did they look pissed. Okay, that would be Willy's source of confidence I realize as it dawned on my Willy had just sold me out as the local Yinth killer.

"You killed the tribe father," one grumbled unhappily and I started backing away, which seemed like a Zeppo thing to do until I realized that Spike was backing up with me. The things kept walking closer and the closer they got, the bigger they looked.

"Pet?" Spike said quietly from right in front of me, and we had both now backed to the door.

"Yeah?" I asked, hoping he had some wise advice.

"Run." Oh yeah, I could do that. I turned and fled down the street towards Giles' apartment, and I could hear Spike right behind me. Luckily the two tree-sized demons following couldn't run nearly as well as the Initiative guys because we seemed to be alone by the time we slowed to a job as we neared Giles' place. It was obviously one of those nights where nothing was going to go right, and I should know seeing as how I've had so damn many.

I rang the bell on Giles door, which swung open to a very cranky-looking Giles.

"Where the hell have you two been?" demanded an angry voice, and I looked over Giles' shoulder to see Buffy with her hands on her hips in full pissed off mode.

"Oh, just running for our lives from the Initiative soldiers, that's all," I answered as I walked by Giles and walked over to the empty couch before collapsing.

"Right, which is the polite way of sayin' back the hell off, Slayer," Spike snarked as he followed me in, throwing himself next to me on the couch. Not quite touching.

"Spike," Angel warned with just the name and a nasty tone of voice. If Angel started that whole parental unit using your name as a curse thing in front of others, I was so pulling all his hair out, submitting or no submitting. I squirmed a little as I realized how uncomfortable that made me. Okay, so I would insult his hair, I decided. Yep, if Spike could submit and then make fun of the hair, I could too. Right now Spike was suspiciously quiet.

"Damn it Angel, I told you it was a mistake leaving them out there. This is my town and my friend and my… " Buffy paused. "Okay, Spike isn't my anything, and I'd be perfectly happy if he disappeared, but the point is you can't come in here and pull this 'I know everything' crap. Things have changed." Oh wow, I looked over at Angel to see his reaction, and part of me felt like cheering on the Angel torture, while another part of me felt like defending the pack from the pack, and I was beginning to think I was on the road to turning out as nutty as Dru.

"You've made the changes perfectly clear, Buffy," Angel said calmly. Too calmly because that was a creepy sort of calm. I looked over at Spike who was sitting up with an excited expression, and oh yes, this was bad. Spike tended to get excited by things like decapitation and evisceration. I figured I’d better say something, anything, to try and defuse the situation.

"Buffy, we're fine, and besides, I'm not going to live in fear of the Initiative. Well, they won't be around much longer hopefully, so that's one reason, but I'm not some helpless sidekick who's going to hide just because there are big bad baddies out there," I pointed out without standing. My legs were still a little too wobbly for that, but at least I could breathe.

"Until we take care of the Initiative…" Buffy started with her own 'I know everything' voice, but Spike cut her off before she could finish.

"Boy's lying through his teeth, which I normally find admirable, but the Initiative only started the chase. A pair of Yinth demons trying to kill us finished it." Spike sounded pretty damn perky, like he’d enjoyed the chase as much as he liked bragging about it. Which I kind of got, actually. Feeling the hyena strength and grace as I ran was… well, it felt amazing. Still didn't change the fact he had ratted me out and I glared my displeasure at him, displeasure which seemed roll right off him as he gave me a self-satisfied grin. Bastard.

“Yinth? What? Are you sure?" Giles broke in at that point, and there really were too many alphas in this room, I thought as I sighed and gave Spike the dirtiest look I could manage. Great, now I had Buffy AND Giles ripping into me.

"Nice one, fangless. Got anything else you plan on spilling?"

They're soddin' dangerous, and you pretending like it doesn't matter just makes you loonier than Dru." Spike snarled back before turning to the others. "He killed one in a bar fight at Willy's last night and now the wanker's kids are out to eat him." Oh yes, I could feel the heat of anger growing as I glared at Spike. Oh I was so not going to let this slide.

"Listen Deadboy Junior, I don't need you to run and tattle just because you got your panties in a bunch."

"Yeah, well if you hadn't been a complete an’ utter git the other night, this wouldn't be a problem. Are you off your rocker taking on a Yinth demon on your own? Ya coulda been killed." Spike turned toward me with quickly yellowing eyes.

"I took care of it on my own, so you can just mind your own business. No one has to look after me," I snarled back and shifted on the couch. Spike needed to learn that I was the dangerous one; I was the demon to avoid pissing off. And hey, calling myself a demon actually sounds kinda cool there.

"It *is* my business if you get yourself killed, you little ponce, and if you go pickin' fights with Yinth demons, you obviously do need a keeper." Spike declared, and I could hear the possessive tone in his declaration. He stood, and I leapt to my feet ready for the attack. Oh yeah. It was time to settle this once and for all.

"Guys, maybe we could just all calm down," Willow suggested even as my eyes went into demon mode and my cock went into full lust alert. I could smell Spike's desire and it only fed my own as I slid away from the couch so I would have more freedom of movement. The remains of the smashed coffee table had been cleared away, so there was plenty of room between the two couches for me to force Spike to submit. I whined happily at the thought of pinning Spike to the carpet and feeling his body helpless and squirming under mine.

"Uh, Angel, Buffy, some help please?" I heard a voice say from some distance, but really I was too focused on Spike to process the meaning. Spike was in game face with that sexy leer that made me want to nail him to the nearest surface. Voices continued in the background and a little nagging voice started nagging about something, which is what nagging voices generally did, but I focused on my opponent to the exclusion of all else. Let the pack take care of whatever had Willow's voice raising an entire octave in concern.

Suddenly a blonde form darted between us, and I saw the stake come up. I lunged forward grabbing for Buffy's stake arm, but someone grabbed me from behind, sending me crashing to the floor as my feet got tangled in something. I struggled to push hands off me, but every time I got one pair of hands off me another seemed to grab me. Normally, getting grabbed by girls in random body parts would sound good, but I was growling in frustration as I tried to pull free. I could hear Spike hissing somewhere and I shoved one of the people grabbing at me away as I turned to try and reach him.

"Enough," roared a voice that left me ducking to the floor defensively before my conscious brain could even process. Okay, that would be Angel. One very pissed Angel. And damn, why was my neck throbbing again?

I looked around and Willow was sitting on the floor next to the second couch looking dazed. I was face down in the carpet for the second time now only this time Tara had her arms wrapped around my waist and was practically laying on me. Spike was pushed up against the wall, held there by Angel with one arm while Angel's other hand held Buffy's wrist where she held a stake, and oh yeah, that was her “stake first, ask questions later” face. Oh god, I had almost lost him. I should have protected him, and instead I almost got him killed. I shivered in fear at the sight of Spike moments from turning to dust in front of me, and I had never been so happy to have Angel in my pack.

I turned toward the kitchen and Giles stood with his crossbow, looking ready to shoot Angel. Of course, it didn't actually take much to make Giles reach for the crossbow when Angel was in the room, but this time he somehow looked way more ready to use it. Funny, I'd been in the room the whole time so how did I manage to miss so much?

"I thought I told you two to take care of this," Angel said wearily, and I was pretty sure I knew the two he was talking to, and it sure didn't include Buffy. Angel slowly backed away while Buffy and Spike both held their positions, glaring hotly at each other, the not good kinda hot. Not that there *was* a good kinda hot when Buffy and Spike glarage was concerned because ew.

"Ah, Tara, you mind getting off me?" I asked in my best sheepish voice. I didn't actually feel sheepish, but I thought it was the voice most likely to get her off me.

"Are you going to g-go after Spike or Buffy?" Tara asked hesitantly, her arms still locked tight around me.

"I promise to be good," I said with my best doofus smile, the one that usually convinced teachers that asking me the answer was just a monumental waste of their time and proof that the American education system was failing. She got up slowly and then retreated to Willow's side, and oh shit. It suddenly occurred to me that I had either pushed or hit Willow, and there was just a special brand of hell for Willow hurtage.

"Willow, I'm really sorry," I said as I stood up, but she wouldn’t even look at me as she moved up to the couch and sat in Tara's arms. God, why did I have to keep fucking things up?

"Buffy, let's just sit down and talk," Angel said soothingly, his body still hovering protectively close to both Buffy and Spike even though he had let both of them go.

"And again, I'm reminding you this is my town," Buffy pointed out without lowering her stake, and Giles kept his crossbow aimed at Angel, who was remarkably calm for a vampire getting threatened by pointy bits of wood. Spike wasn't taking it as well as he snarled and showed his fangs in a more typical reaction. Wow, not feeling the love in this room.

"Buffy, please," I asked quietly.

"Xander, I am still waiting for an answer," Giles said, and this was suddenly starting to feel like one of my nightmares. The really bad ones where you go to math class to find a test and you don't remember any of the symbols on the page, and the teacher asks you something only you don't have any idea what she asked you, and then you find yourself naked. I glanced down just to double check since this *was* a Hellmouth. Yep, still with the wearing of clothes. Dirty clothes. Dirty, stinky clothes. Dirty, stinky clothes that were all I owned in the world.

"Um, what was the question?" I asked.

"What happened to your neck?" Oh shit. I shot a look over to Angel who had a stony look on his face and then back to Giles who looked ready to pull the trigger, and with their history, I didn't think it was really beyond Giles to actually do it now that Buffy didn't seem to need Angel. And strangely this bothered me.

I slowly moved between Giles and Angel. "This isn't what it looks like," I said carefully. Yep, me standing up for Angel, not what I thought I would do when I woke up in Buffy's basement with a spider crawling on my arm. Then again, maybe the spider should have been some sort of omen because today was just not going well. Actually, I'd had better days inside the Initiative. Almost.

"It looks like one or the other of them bit you, and rather hard at that," Giles commented dryly.

"Okay, maybe this <i>is</i> what it looks like, but not for the reasons you think," I amended myself and Giles narrowed his eyes. "Look, Angel and I had a little fight. I bit him, he bit me, we decided to call a truce in the ‘Angel kicked my ass and told me to stop acting like a spoiled brat’ kind of way."

"Oh goddess." Well, at least that got Willow to look at me again.

"Angel, what the hell are you even thinking? I can understand that kind of stupidity out of your bleached brat… I would have staked him, but I would have understood. What the hell are you even thinking?" I turned around and Buffy had squared off against Angel. She had dropped her stake hand to her hip and glared at Angel who only looked at her sadly.

"Hey, remember the ‘whole accepting me like I am now’ thing from the park?" I interrupted.

"I am accepting you in the not biting you kind of way, Xander. Angel, however, doesn't seem to accepting you nearly as well."

"Believe me, there was no grudge involved. This was…" I stopped because I suddenly understood why Angel was always so quiet. How the hell did I explain this one to her? "This was two demons who really needed to beat up on each other." I finished weakly. She turned to look at me with incredulous eyes. "Did that sound as pathetic to you as it did to me?" I asked with a small smile.

"Yep," she answered.

"Look, I'm not holding a grudge for the biting, Angel's not holding a grudge for the four years of me being a jerk, and maybe we can all just put the weapons down. We have a boyfriend to get out of the Initiative." I turned back to smile at Giles when my brain finally processed what I'd just said. I turned back to Buffy quickly. "Your boyfriend, not my boyfriend, not that I would have a problem with having a boyfriend because hey, big supporter of the whole gay experience here. Not that I've had one. Gay experience, I mean." Buffy started smiling, and I heard Willow's little snuff of laugher behind me, the type of noise she made when she was trying to be polite and not laugh at me to my face, which was one of the reasons I loved her because I knew full well sometimes I deserved to be laughed at.

"Yes, well if Xander is through NOT outing himself, we do have plans to make." I turned around and Giles had lowered the crossbow, even though he still had a tight grip on it. "So, did you make contact with the Tarhul demons, or was your mission a complete failure?" Giles asked Angel so calmly that a person who didn't know better would think that Giles was actually calm. Yep, back to normal with my screwed-up little pack.

"They're willing to help. We just have to get the charges." Angel looked at me and I gave a quick thumbs up as I headed back for the couch.

"No problemo. Military security sucks. I stole from them even before the hyena."

"You know, Oz thought you were pretty cool for that," Willow added from the couch as an olive branch, probably for laughing at me.

"Right, so now we need an actual plan to go with the explosions.” And that was our Giles, all business now that he had a normal non relationshippy problem to solve. When he became a watcher, I wonder if he knew he was going to be adopting such a weird group of people. I have to think that as much as he tried to protect us and as much as he loved us in his own uptight, repressed English way, he would have run the other way screaming if he'd had any clue at all. “Girls, I assume the coven can handle calling up the water levels?"

"No problemo," Willow echoed my words and gave me a small smile. "Floods, fire, killer winds, easy stuff." I was starting to think Spike was right about Willow having a little too much love of dark and chaotic, but I pushed that thought aside as we sat down as one dysfunctional family to plan the destruction of the Initiative and their dimension/space portal thingy.

Part Fifteen

Okay, the invasion scene is always supposed to be the big exciting part of the movie with bad guys leaping out from behind closed doors and gun fights and huge battles. So, the question of the day, or night rather, was why was I bored stupid? Ironically enough, it was turning out to be the most boring night in a long time. Well, since before the whole Initiative thing started, and truthfully it felt like *years* since all this crap had started.

Follow Angel, bump hips with Spike who kept walking entirely too close, follow Angel, open a sealed security glass wall for a demon Angel calls safe, follow Angel, briefly run a finger down the soft skin inside of Spike's arm making him shiver, follow Angel, ignore the cool hand sliding across my back up under my shirt, follow Angel. Seeing a pattern?

Okay, it wasn't entirely boring, but still. Soldiers gone, emergency lights only dimly illuminating the passages, various demon cries echoing off the concrete. I mean, please. Anyone who watches alien invasion movies knows that something bad has to happen in a setting like this, and yet nothing… nothing… and yes, more nothing. Well, unless you count Spike leaning back against the white concrete wall and slipping a hand down the front of his black jeans with a lascivious grin and yellowed eyes.

"William," Angel hissed as he passed a row of glass-fronted cages containing some pretty big and nasty-looking things. Black skinned snaky things with heads that look like emaciated babies, and just ew. Yeah, not opening those cages.

"Wot?" Spike demanded in his 'righteously indignant' voice. Angel just sighed deeply rather than point out the behavior that was annoying him. Okay, maybe “annoy” was the wrong word since Angel was throwing off nearly as many pheromones as Spike, and Spike was smelling lusty enough that the scent of horny Spike actually overpowered the Gin'tauk demon stench from one unit over.

I walked by him and casually brushed my hip against his groin which stuck out conveniently as he leaned his shoulders against the wall. I shot him a dark look, and he just ran that tongue along the inside of his lower lip creating a ripple effect. And that smell would be my pheromones.

"I told you two to settle this before we came here," Angel said between clenched teeth, sounding just like my father complaining because I hadn't used the bathroom before we got in the car for the annual visit to the in-laws and my stupid, stinky cousin Rigby-Pigby. The idea of Angel making parental noises because I hadn't actually gotten around to the sex what with all the stealing of explosives and planning the destruction of a military base? Oh, that was funny. So funny I started giggling, or chortling rather because as a man I do not giggle.

"Boy's barking mad," Spike complained as he pushed off from the wall and started down the hallway after Angel, but that sexy leer out the side of his eye suggested that he wasn't minding at all.

"Oh come on, he's getting after us for not having sex, tell me that isn't funny," I protested, and Angel seemed to be walking even faster.

"In my day, he used ta get on me for all sorts of things: leaving bodies laying around the house, forgettin' to unchain Dru, letting blood dry on the whips. Can't remember he ever complained about me not gettin' off, though." And now Angel was definitely walking faster, not sparing more than a glance for the demons in each sealed cell we passed. Angel unlocked a few of the doors with a small fetish of the goddess Culsu. Willow had spelled it to open doors since Culsu was the goddess of gates or locks or something. I giggled… or manly-chortled rather when I thought that the small statue of the goddess was a fetish.

"Having fun with your fetish up there?" I called cheerfully as I chased after the two vampire members of my pack.

"He always enjoyed a good fetish, he did, but usually it was somethin' with more leather," Spike replied with a grin over his shoulder as I hurried down the dim halls. I had to hurry with Angel moving so fast that he wasn't even taking time to stop and explain to the few demons he released where the exits were. I got hung up with a mother and daughter with big floppy ears who were obviously too scared to figure out they could track our scent backwards to the Tarhul tunnel. Once I explained that, they took off down the hall at top speed.

"You're welcome," I yelled after them before chasing after Spike and Angel. I was about to launch into a snark on the itsy-bitsy size of Angel's current fetish when both vamps froze. I instantly went into a half crouch with one hand on the floor and the other resting on the wall, my vision clicking over into demon-sepia. I couldn't pick up any vibrations, and I couldn't hear anything, and I couldn't really smell anything under the cloud of demon pheromones in the hallway, but Spike and Angel exchanged wary glances that made the hairs stand up on my arms.

Oh yeah, this would be when some brain-sucking demon from outer space jumped out from some dimly lit hallway, and I so should not have let my guard down on the Hellmouth.

"You smell that?" Angel asked warily

"Yeah, mate, I do." I moved forward slowly despite the fact that part of my brain was screaming things like 'run' and 'flee' and 'please don't eat me.'

"I'll take care of this," Angel said with a strain in his voice that revealed his strong emotion despite the calm tone of voice.

"I don't bloody think so, this one's mine." Spike said as he stepped forward. I took the last few steps to close the distance and reach Spike's side, but Angel's hand stopped Spike so I had to awkwardly stop mid step. That left me pressed right up against Spike, and I really needed to keep my mind on killing because Spike's ass was awfully distracting.

"William, you can't kill him," Angel said firmly, and I was now officially confused. And oh god I was not smelling what I thought I smelled because life was just not this cruel, or it was, but I'd earned a break.

"Why the hell didn't the soldiers take him when they retreated?" I demanded.

"Maybe they like the clod as much as we do," Spike answered with a snort.

"No, no, no, no, no. It is not in my contract to save Riley Finn. The plan is very clear: we blow things up, Buffy saves Riley when the soldiers haul his sorry ass up to the exit."

"Obviously the plan has changed."

"Well I'm not responsible for other people changing the plan. We had a plan, it was a good plan, and I say we stick with it, people." Spike looked at me like I had morphed into Drusilla and I’m almost sure that was an amused expression on Angel's face.

"Right, I'll go get soldier boy," Spike said as he snatched the fetish from Angel and started down the hall.

"And I'll just go with to go with," I answered as I suddenly realized that Spike's new setting on the chip would be rather obvious if I didn't keep his fangs out of Riley's neck. I didn't have to go far before we found the cell with Riley leaning against the wall and standing as close to the glass as he could without getting an electrical jolt to the head. I'd had lots of those; they hurt.

"Xander?" Riley asked with his hopeful tone, totally ignoring Spike.

"That would be a yes," I said as Spike ran the fetish over the door lock. Fetish. I clamped down on another urge to laugh.

"There's an emergency, we have to get out of here," Riley said the minute the glass door opened. He took off down the hall in the direction of the emergency stairs that led to the surface and the rest of his military buddies. I was so tempted to just let him go, but then Buffy would get all huffy if I let the idiot get himself killed.

"Riley!" I called out.

"We need to evacuate, now." Riley must have seen either the look on my face, or Spike’s 'I know something you don't know' smirk because he stopped in the middle of the corridor just as Angel came up behind us. "What's going on?"

"Um, this would be your rescue?"

"Oi, not down here to bloody rescue him; I'm here to blow things up." And right on schedule there was the Angel sigh as a large hand reached between Spike and me to take the little magical statue.

"Blow things…" Riley's voice just trailed off into shocked silence. He took a deep breath. "This is government property. This project is vital to ensuring— " Riley probably would have continued only Angel interrupted as he continued his way down the corridor checking various cages.

"The only thing this project ensures is that you condemn this entire world," he said in that deep implacable, borderline pissed-off voice of his.

"How would you— "

"And your use of an interdimensional portal to raid other worlds and retrieve demons is outrageous," Angel continued. Riley shot me an angry and shocked look, and I just gazed back blankly.

"Don't look at me, I have no idea what he's talking about, but I have to say that I'm siding with Angel, and don't ever ask me to repeat that out loud because I won't do it." Spike gave a short bark of laughter.

"We bloody had this discussion back in L.A. Pep'tuil demons won't go through a portal on their own. Soldier boys are havin' numbered missions. Any of this ringing any bells?" Spike looked at me with his head cocked to the side.

"Um, no?"

"You were too bloody busy feelin' yourself up to pay attention I suppose," Spike accused me with an eyeroll.

"Hey!" I complained, but Riley had started in again, following Angel as the vampire stoically continued his inspection of the cells although he wasn't finding anything he wanted to let go in this part of the Initiative.

"You have no right to interfere with a government operation. We are on a fact-finding mission that may one day save this world."

"You're weakening the interdimensional membrane by opening a portal in the same spot over and over, and I do not even want to know who taught you how to do that because my patience with human stupidity has limits." Angel stopped to stare Riley down, and I could feel the alpha male vibes reverberating off the walls.

"Weakening as in they'll never be able to open another portal?" I said hopefully because that sounded bad even to me. Spike gave a good loud snort this time.

"Bloody hell, at Caritas we talked about the fact that the soddin' idiots were going to tear open a permanent portal and then anything could come waltzin' in here without any trouble at all. Soldier boys are about to succeed in creating an open Hellmouth where even the Master failed."

"Where was I during this discussion?" I asked, totally confused now. I mean, yeah, we were coming in to blow the portal up, and woo hoo for explosions because I really kinda liked blowing things up, but I had somehow missed the whole world in danger discussion, and that wasn't normal, even for me.

"Spike was right; you were busy feeling your own ass," Angel offered in a very un-Angel-like comment.

"And again, I say 'hey!' I was injured and trying to figure out the extent of the damage," I protested when I realized that I *had* sort of tuned them out there for a while when Angel had first come to the club. "Besides, you had the whole vampire-a-vampire thing going on as opposed to the mano-a-mano thing and since I'm not a vampire, I just sort of tuned you out."

"Vampire?" Riley asked, and to his credit, he did drop back into a defensive stance.

"Yeah, that'll help," I said sarcastically as I walked between Riley and Angel on my way to inspect the rest of the cages. "Angel, Riley. Riley, Angel," I called over my shoulder as my way of introducing them. Okay, furry looking thing with big teeth. I'm guessing that's a no. Blue shimmery wispy critter. Oh, who was I kidding, I had no idea whether that was dangerous or not. Luckily Spike was right behind me while Angel and Riley just stood glaring at each other.

"Knowin' those two, they may be a while," Spike said as he opened his hand to show me the statue.

"Nice fetish," I said as I stepped sideways into Spike, pushing my shoulder against his in a deliberate body bump.

"Pet, you have no idea." Spike smiled lazily, and caught his lower lip between his teeth, and oh god, I think I broke my cock. Spike's smile widened, and I suspected that he had smelled my burst of pheromones because I sure could. He leaned in a little closer. "I am going to lay you stomach first over a tombstone and drive into you until you offer me your neck," Spike whispered hoarsely. His blue eyes glittered wickedly.

"I don't even think so," I whispered back. "I think I'm going to chase you down and sink my teeth into your shoulder until you beg me to fuck you." And where the hell did that come from, with the husky voice and everything? If my time with Anya had taught me nothing else, it had taught me that I could not talk dirty even with her coaching me. Between the blushing and the giggling I’d been sort of hopeless at it. But judging by the way Spike moaned just a little and bit that lip again, it seemed I’d found my dirty-talkin’ groove after all.

"We'll see, pet," Spike said with an even wider smile and he reached up to stroke my cheek. I caught his hand and brought it up to my mouth and then ran my tongue from his wrist to the end of his thumb, nipping at the end, my eyes never leaving his. Spike's lust became so thick that I could almost see as well as smell it as his eyes flashed yellow. I just gave him my best teasing grin and then swaggered down the hallway.

"Just check the cells," Angel yelled in an aggravated tone, and I smiled as I walked away, certain that Spike was in even more pain than I was. We either needed to settle this or we both needed to buy bigger jeans. I could hear Spike unlock a cell behind me, and I dutifully continued to the end of the hall and then leaned against the wall. I watched Spike stalked toward me with every muscle yelling predator in the oh so sexy way he has of moving like flowing water. His eyes darted to each cell, but between each sweeping glance, he would lock that intense gaze on me and I just smiled. Behind him, Angel and Riley had retreated to opposite sides of the corridor where they still glared at each other.

"Do you ever wonder about Buffy's taste in men?" I asked when Spike reached me at the end. He turned around and looked.

"Oi, she can have 'em both. I have what I want." Spike reached out and ran a finger down my zipper, and I had to admit that Angel was right that we really should have taken care of this earlier. Stupid vampire. I hated it when he was right.

"Right. Let's finish this so we can move on to part two of tonight's performance," I suggested with a small growl in my voice.

"Bloody hell, yes." Spike said fervently. He turned away and quickly walked back toward the others. For a second I just had to admire the view, but yeah, we had to get finished. Get innocent demons out, blow up portal room, cast counter spells, fuck Spike. Well actually, the girls would be doing the spells, but the fucking Spike part was going to be all me, and that was motivation enough to get me moving.

"So, first thing's first. Where's my duster?" Spike demanded as he walked right up to Riley and planted himself in front of the soldier. I could see the difference already. When the chip had been at full charge, Spike had been tentative, careful not to get too pushy but instead sort of snipe at the edges. Now he was back, demanding his due, and even if he would get a headache, I had no doubt he could kill. Hopefully the headache would convince him to just not do it too much.

"Spike, we do not have time for this." And there was Angel with his world-famous sighing again.

"If it was your bloody hair gel missin' we'd make time, and I want that coat back," Spike snarked. He had a point: the duster was damn sexy. I had a sudden mental image of him wearing that coat and nothing under it- nope, not going there. Not now, anyway. My jeans were definitely too tight.

"William." And that sounded like Angel's cranky voice.

"Uh, maybe Riley and I could go get the coat since I kinda don't trust you three together in a room," I suggested, and Angel gave me a hurt look.

"It's not a vampire thing; it's an ex-boyfriend thing," I pointed out before he could go all broody about being untrustworthy. Wait… maybe I should have kept that little bit to myself.

"Wait, Angel as in Buffy's ex Angel? He's a vampire?" Riley demanded angrily, and yep, there was Angel's flinch right on time. I shot Spike a look of “help me out here” desperation, and Spike started pushing his sire away and back toward the portal room.

"Right, we'll just be blowin' things up like manly men, and you lot trot off and fetch my coat." Spike actually made a little shooing gesture with his hands, but fortunately it went unnoticed with the two alpha-male-Buffy-boyfriends upping the glareage-level at each other.

"Spike." For a change it was me using his name as a warning. He gave me a wicked smile before the two of them turned away and walked toward the control room.

"Xander, what the hell is going on?"

"Oh, wow, there's a lot to cover. Buffy dated a vampire, I'm currently dating a vampire, and a coven of witches made the water rise, but now they pushed it back down so we can evacuate the non-hostile hostiles." I tried for a cheerful grin.

"But… Xander, you’re in way over your head."

"Probably, but we need to go get the coat. Spike gets a little weird about the duster. So, where would it be?"

"Spike is manipulating you," he argued without moving. I allowed my demon's eyes to shine in the darkness, and dropped the grin.

"He isn't manipulating anyone, Riely. I am what I am and while I'll have this argument with Buffy and Giles and Willow seeing as how they've known me long enough to give me crap, I won't have it with you. We need to get the duster and get back out through the tunnels before Angel and Spike blow this place to little itty bitty smithereens." I stepped closer, and Riley held his ground and met my gaze evenly. I'll give him credit for having balls.

"I won't let them blow this place up."

"You don't have a choice. Besides, ironically enough, those two demons are trying to save this dimension, and all your good intentions have done is put everyone on this planet at risk. So suck it up, soldier, realize that you fucked up, and move on."

"Our scientists would have—"

I cut him off angrily. "Known exactly zippidy doodah about magic, so let's just stop arguing. Look, I know you're not going to believe me or those two, but let's just get the damn coat and then go talk to Buffy and Giles. I assume you'll believe them at least?" I saw Riley falter at last, his eyes darting to the hallway where Spike and Angel had disappeared.

"If they were the bad guys, they would have just eaten you," I pointed out.

"Hostile 17 is chipped," Riley dismissed my words with a small shrug.

"Yeah, well, his sire isn't, and there's no rule that says Angel couldn't tear your throat out and let Spike drink the dripping blood. But Angel didn't do that because as much as it hurts me to admit this, he’s one of the good guys.” I let that sink in a minute. “So, coat?"

"Personal artifacts are on level two," Riley said in a distracted tone of voice.

"Goody. Now, where's level two?"

Part Sixteen

"Riley!" Buffy screeched loud enough to make me flinch. I brushed the dirt out of my hair from where I'd managed to scrape the top of my head on the Tarhul tunnel as we crawled from the Initiative into the cave. I rolled my eyes as they embraced, and shot a look over at Spike who now wore his precious duster, his hands shoved into the pockets as he leaned against the cave wall. Yep, I knew which sight I preferred. I muttered a curse as I stubbed my toe on the box of my own rescued property. I mean, I couldn't let Angel blow up my set of Babylon Five collectibles any more than I'd let him blow up Spike's coat.

"Enemy," the bumpy, greasy looking thing in the cave snapped with this hissing voice before clicking some wicked long teeth.

"Yeah, but not the kind ya get to eat," Spike said, and the Tarhul tipped his head to look at Spike with a swirling green eye.

"Some members of the clan you just keep as far away as possible," Angel added. "But he's Buffy's choice, so you will leave him alone." The Tarhul clicked his teeth several times and I'll be damned if I knew whether that was a promise or a threat or an invitation to shag. Spike and Angel didn't seem upset by it, so I just returned to Spike leerage, ignoring Riley as much as I could.

"What is going on? Your ex is a vampire? Spike and Xander are officially dating? What is- "

"Spike and Xander are what?" Willow gasped as she came into the cave, Tara close behind with three other women I didn't know. Damn, people who hang pictures of witches with long noses and ugly warts had clearly never seen this coven. Woof.

"Xander?" Buffy turned to me, and where I expected anger, resentment, and another round of bash the Zeppo, she actually looked a little amused. "After years of torturing me about how I had no right to love a vampire, *you're* going out with *Spike*? Oh, you will be tortured for this. I see long nights of bad foreign films and Xander torture in your future." Buffy gave me a small smile. The smile didn't quite reach her eyes, but I at least gave her credit for trying to do the supportive thing.

"Oh goddess, you're gay? And dating Spike?" Willow just sounded out of breath. "And when were you planning on telling us, mister?"

"I didn't think they were being particularly subtle, and if you'll excuse me, I don't think I want to be around for their coming out celebration," Angel announced as he started walking toward the mouth of the cave.

"There's going to be a party?" Willow asked brightly, bless her naïve little heart.

"Bloody right there is, and you're more than welcome to join in," Spike said with a grin and a wink in my direction.

"Oh, no. There will be no joining in on the party unless you're planning on having me cut off your party favors," I said right back to Spike with a glare.

"Oh," Willow breathed softly. "Hey. Um, maybe we'll just, you know, make some nice housewarming gifts for you instead."

"And I'm not sure L.A. is far enough away," Angel threw over his shoulder as he walked out of the cave, the Tarhul following close behind still making those clicking sounds with those four scary big front teeth.

"Riley, I need to…" Buffy stopped. "I just have to talk to him," she finished with her best charming look at Riley, and he froze as she pulled away to run after Angel. Yeah, there's a healthy relationship. I actually felt myself sympathizing with Riley. The man had rejected his own pack to side with us, and now the woman he wanted as mate went running after someone else. Ouch. Buffy was not making points with the boyfriend.

"Yeah, well, I think my boy and I have a thing or two to talk about ourselves. Soldier boys taken care of?" Spike asked the girls.

"The coven cast a cconfusion spell. Th-they won't bother you." I looked over and Tara was looking shyly up from under her lashes, but then she gave me a very definite wink. I gave a short laugh that turned into a hyena cackle, and everyone turned to look at me with wide eyes.

"Um, excuse me?" I said as I cleared my throat with a couple of fake coughs. Right, no growling around people and no laughing around people, either. I stopped as I considered that logic. Oh hell, it's not like they didn't already know I was strange, I might as well give them the full show. I walked slowly toward the mouth of the cave, looking back over my shoulder at Spike. Making sure that his eyes were focused on just me, I gave a deep rumbling growl of invitation. The whine that came out at the end was a complete accident, but then considering how much I wanted him and how long I'd had to wait, a little whining seemed in order.

And then it was as if everyone else in the cave just fell away. All I could see were the eyes that had flashed yellow the minute I growled, and all I could hear was Spike’s soft answering growl. We stood frozen in that stare and then I saw Spike's hand twitch, and I turned and bolted.

The night air slapped against the bare skin of my face and arms and I used every bit of my demon strength to get us far enough away from the gang to finish this in private, because one more interruption and I was going to reconsider my 'avoid killing' policy. Graveyard. It was close, and was as good as anywhere, especially since I wanted to stop running before I totally ran out of breath and energy. I was going to need plenty of both to get my way with him.

I grabbed the iron fence and vaulted to the top of the short four-foot barrier before leaping over the bushes and back down to the soft earth on the far side. I could hear Spike's boots pounding over the concrete sidewalk, and I ran to a tree where I tore off a low hanging limb.

Planting my feet, I stopped and waited, breathing in the night blooming jasmine and my own musky lust and the scent of freshly turned dirt and the faint perfume of roses wilting on tombstone bouquets. Wait, fresh dirt? Oh, god help the fledge that even considered it because I wanted this thing with Spike settled. One of us had to submit before we killed each other and everyone else ended up as collateral damage.

Spike came sailing into the graveyard, clearing the fence and bushes with a single fluid movement that was half leap and half vault with one hand on the top cross rail. His coat flew out behind him, and he landed with a dull thud before starting toward me with his shoulders rolling in that fluid gate that’s peculiar to an excited Spike. He looked like sex on legs.

I dropped into a crouch and held the branch in front of me as I continued to breathe heavily, the scent of Spike's lust now competing with my own.

"Oi, no fair goin' for the wood, pet," Spike complained with an aggravated glance at the branch in my hand. I glanced down, and he sprang. Of course, I had expected him to spring, so I threw myself to the side and used the branch like a bat at his exposed side. It hit with a solid thump, pulling an <i>umph</i> noise from Spike before he grabbed the far end of the branch.

We stood there under the half moon, each holding one end of the branch and slowly circling. I watched the pattern of his feet, judging when he would have the least balance, the least control. When he took another step, I rammed the branch forward, forcing him to push it to one side, away from his body.

He took two stumbling steps back to catch his balance, and I dropped my end of the branch, lunging forward and striking out at his knee. Take out the knees and the prey is helpless. If Spike had tried to stay upright, my kick would have broken his leg. Instead, he allowed himself to go down onto his back in the dew-damp grass and I threw myself down on top, the sight of him nearly sending me blind with need.

Unfortunately, he was as ready for me now as I had been for him earlier. He pulled his legs up with the knees bent and put both boots deep into my stomach, forcing the air out and neatly tossing me to one side. I landed on my arm and instantly sprang up into a defensive crouch. Spike had done the same and now we mirrored each other again.

Spike growled as he moved stealthily with one hand touching the ground as he slid to the side. I returned his growl with one of my own as I settled my knees to the ground and pivoted to keep myself facing Spike. He circled several times while I regained my breath and considered the land for any possible advantage. The trees with their thick branches seemed the best bet, but I didn't dare turn my back long enough to snap a branch and Spike had thrown my weapon from earlier over the fence and all the way out to the street.

Without warning, Spike dashed forward, and I braced myself with my feet and knees in the ground as my hands reached for his shoulders and his reached for mine. His legs were spread wide to try and get leverage as he twisted at my arms to get me to flip. My own legs started sliding in the grass, and I widened my stance as I struggled to keep upright. His attack left us face to face, and I gazed into those yellow eyes and the snarling mouth and I wanted nothing more than to kiss it until those eyes closed in pleasure, but I had to earn that right.

Spike must have felt me slipping because he fisted my shirt in one hand and slid his hand farther down toward my armpit on the other and pushed even harder. Now it took everything I had not to be flipped.

I felt Spike's hands dig into my arms, my borrowed shirt tightening up under my armpit and pressing into my skin as Spike pulled the fabric. And I felt an irresistible urge to straddle that body and hold it down until it turned pliant under my hands. I realized I couldn't hold out forever, my own need for oxygen was proving to be a real disadvantage. So, I didn't just let myself roll, I actively pushed into Spike's grip rolling both of us and then I kept right on rolling until I got back to my original crouch and could retreat several steps as Spike bounced back up onto his feet.

"Bloody obstinate bugger," Spike snarled at me. “I'm going to pin you to the ground and bloody well make you submit," he said, and yes, this would be the verbal portion of tonight's program.

"Not likely. You're doing the submitting here tonight. I'm going to pin you to the ground until you beg me to fuck you," I returned as I launched myself at his legs, lifting his body and slamming him into the tree right behind him. He made a heavy gasping sound that told me I'd gotten in a good hit. I felt Spike's hands grab at the back of my neck and I started pulling back, but my foot caught on something and I stumbled to one knee. Before I could recover, I felt Spike's weight land on my back, an arm bending around my neck tightly.

And yes, that was that chocolate-craving urge to submit creeping up my backbone, and dammit, I was not going down that easy. Spike lay on my back as I knelt on hands and knees. I could feel his strong thighs closing on either side of my hips, and I had to suppress a shiver at the thought of which of Spike's body parts was now pressed up against my backside.

As I struggled to push myself up, Spike's arm tightened around my throat so that I struggled to pull air into my lungs. I didn't have much chance of pulling his arm away before I either passed out from lack of oxygen or lost to my urge to submit, so I let myself collapse onto the grass. Of course I hadn't stopped to consider that falling with Spike's arm around my neck might be of the bad. As I hit the ground, his arm was forced up into my neck, and I started coughing as tears prickled my eyes.

Where I had intended to try and fake submission and slip out of Spike's grip, instead I found myself completely freed as Spike let me go and flipped me over onto my back. Made it easier to see Spike's near-panicked expression on his now very human features.

"Bloody stupid…" Spike seemed to run out of words, which, hey, was actually something I'd never seen before, but right now I had other concerns. I let the tears run as I continued the coughing and choking long after the flash of pain in my neck had passed, and now Spike, who still straddled my legs, pulled me up to a sitting position. I leaned forward more as though trying to catch my breath, and I brought my hand up to rub at my neck, and Spike scooted back so that he straddled my ankles as I supposedly tried to get my breath back.

Spike's hands rested on my thighs, and I moved one hand restlessly as though still struggling with the pain while my left hand stayed near my neck. When my wandering hand came close to Spike's left hand, I snatched his thumb and gave it a brutal twist outward. Spike lunged to the side to try and free his hand, meaning he lunged right off me. As I struggled to my knees, I grabbed that captured thumb with both hands and twisted even harder.

Spike now stumbled to the side, clearly off balance and I half stood, dragging his hand upwards and pushing Spike onto his back. The game face crunched back into place, but I let all of my weight fall into his stomach using just one knee, and now that ridged face registered pain. I felt a brief flash of guilt, but shoved it aside- I just had to get him to submit and then I could spend the rest of my life making sure nothing ever hurt him again.

Spike flailed up with his free hand and grabbed a fistful of my hair to pull me down to him, his teeth gleaming even in the dim moonlight. I let him pull my head closer, but I planted my thumb under his jaw in a very special little spot Oz had once shown me. Spike shook his head to get free of my grip, but he also couldn't bite that way, so I just waited until he stopped and tried to bite me again. He struggled, but I had him trapped at three points- a knee in his stomach, one hand pinned over his head, and his jaw immobilized with that werewolf/Vulcan pressure point thingy. He didn't have a chance. I pressed the spot a little harder, and now Spike was hissing mad. I smiled into his eyes, saying nothing.

Spike let go of my hair and scrabbled at my hand on his jaw, managing to force it away as he strained upwards, snarling. For all his vampiric strength, though, I still had the advantage of position and it was time to end this. With a growl, I reached over like I was going to press into his jaw again, and when he flinched, pulling his head to the side, I struck.

My teeth dug into the side of his neck, in low near the shoulder. I could feel his entire body shiver at the strike, and his muscles tensed as he tried to throw me. His hands became claws tearing at me, and I blindly reached for his arms, struggling before I could get his wrists captured, struggling even more to pin those strong hands to the ground. I lay my weight on him, and he bucked up, squirming and cursing as I continued to dig my teeth into that powerful neck muscle, tasting the tang of vampire blood in my mouth and sucking at the wound.

Spike tried to roll, but I used my knees to brace us and just bit down harder. Spike's struggles weakened, but I just hung on like one of those remora fish that dangles on the underside of a shark because if I got this wrong, Spike was going to be on me before I could recover from another mistake.

Sure enough, Spike started another set of struggles, weaker this time, but the cursing got more interesting. I didn't even have time to listen to his complaints; the need to take and have and own tangled in my brain until I couldn't think of anything but feeling him submit.
The struggles grew weaker again, and then I felt it. Spike's head tilted farther and his whole body went limp, and I felt this intense… pride seemed a strange word, but it was like I was so damn proud of how beautiful and how strong and resilient and loyal he was because he was mine. And now I could smell the sharply sweet scent of submission and I gave a low deep and very, very happy growl.

I whined and licked the wound I had just made and I could feel Spike trembling under me. When I pulled back, he lay on the ground looking at the stars above, but I wanted those eyes on me.

"Mine," I snarled and those brilliant blue eyes snapped to me, but the demon wasn't at the front, and something wasn't smelling right. I sat up so that I could feel his hardness under my butt. "You're mine," I repeated. Didn't really have the brain cells for much more because I was fighting every instinct I had that just wanted to strip him naked and take him, drive into him, claim him. I thought the magnified chocolate craving of submission was bad, but this craving was like… it was like something way, way, way, way more crave-worthy than chocolate. This was Spike-craving, <i>mate</i> craving, and I struggled against that instinct as I smelled the first wisps of fear.

"Bloody hell, get on with it then," he snarled, and no, this wasn't right.

"Mine," I repeated. Yeah, I may have mentioned the lack of speak-capable thought.

"For how long then, mate? How long til you get tired of me?" Spike still lay compliant but now I suddenly understood his need to not be the one submitting. I shook my head as I tried to focus on Spike's problem ahead of my own overwhelming urge to mate. I leaned down and licked the bite as he shivered.

"Forever." I whispered. "If you run, I'll track you to the ends of the earth. You're my pack. But you're more, you're pack mate. My mate. You're mine." I sucked at the wound, getting the taste of vampire blood again as he bucked up, the lust once more drifting off him in waves.

"I stuck by Buffy even when she used me." I sucked harder, and Spike started panting in little needy shallow breaths. "I stuck by Willow and Giles." I went back to small licks. "I'll never give up on you." He gave a shuddering sigh.

"I'm bloody love's bitch. Can't give my loyalty by halves." He looked over at me and I could see the lust and the fear and the hope.

"Me too. But not so much with calling myself a bitch, which is funny because I think I technically am part bitch. Or don't they call female hyenas bitches?" I gave Spike a smile and he rolled his eyes.


"Nope, hyena. And you're pack and you’re mine and I'll never let you go," I said as I started working the buttons of his shirt, moving down his chest and reverently kissing the skin I was exposing. He opened his arms and I pushed his shirt open revealing the perfection that was Spike. I whined in half pleasure, half frustration as I indulged myself by taking his nipple in my mouth and nipping sharply before sucking on the offended flesh. Spike responded with a new burst of pheromones and an involuntary rippling of stomach muscles.

I moved down, nipping the skin just above his belly button as he lay there, spread out like a feast and I was a starving man who damn well needed to eat. I flipped the button on his jeans and slid the zipper down revealing the most beautiful cock in the world, and I gently kissed the head. I started pulling his jeans down, not bothering with the boots but instead letting the jeans hobble him because if I had to wait much longer it was not going to be pretty.

I reached down and unbuttoned my own jeans far faster; in fact, it might have been qualified as ripping them off as I toed out of my sneakers. The release of pressure as I finally got my fly open returned some control and I crawled back up Spike's body.

He was fumbling in one of the duster’s pockets, finally producing a small bottle. "Want?" he asked with a knowing grin as he held it up, and thank god one of us thought to be prepared. I snatched the bottle as I bent over and nipped at his pale neck again, causing another shiver.

"Over," I hoarsely ordered, my voice breaking at the end just like my control was about to. He gave me a small leer and started rolling, shrugging out of his coat and shirt at the same time. His back was a smooth expanse of skin that I wanted to touch and taste and feel moving under me, and I opened the lube quickly, slicking one finger and working it into him as he obediently spread his legs as far as he could. Funny what you can learn on the internet.

I reached inside and felt for that celebrated spot, and yep, I knew just when I found it. Spike threw his head back and arched his back with a hoarse growl, and I pressed again as the little needy sighs from earlier became gasps that imitated life. I could see Spike's legs struggle to open farther, the muscles in his hips and butt surging helplessly against the denim around his calves. When his head dropped back down, he turned it to the side. Now I could see the passion and lust and need in his face.

I pressed the spot again, stroking it more firmly, and when Spike squirmed and pressed back into the touch, I pulled out before pushing in again with two fingers. With my free hand I opened the lube and slicked myself, stroking my cock in the same teasingly slow rhythm I was using to torture Spike. I moaned as he bit his lip, clenching around my fingers and arching his back.

"Not Angelus or Dru. Won't ever leave you. Like you. Liked you back when you were evil. Well, not liked as much as lusted after." I panted as I felt my own need, but I'd make him see that he was important enough to make me control my demon. Oh shit, I hoped I could control the demon because that new burst of lust and desire was about to override any control I might have once had. Gasping, I found the words.

"Strong mate. Survivor. Sexy as hell. If you'd just shown up at the school naked, Buffy would have stood and stared in awe as you killed her. You took care of Dru. Loyal… to pack..." Oh yeah, losing it. Need. Burning need.

"Bloody hell, just fuck me."

"Don't want you to think…" I struggled to catch the tail of my escaping thoughts. What didn't I want him to think?

"Fucking hell. Got it, feeling wanted already, just bloody get on with it." At the challenging tone, I growled and threw myself over Spike's back, snarling and biting at the wound again as his body bucked under me. I pulled back and slammed into his body, growling at the friction and the tightness. I pulled out and thrust in hard again and again.

"Bloody hell yes, fuck me. Fuck me already." I did just that, pounding in so hard that he was forced down to his elbows, his head resting on the ground as I grabbed his hips and held him still. I growled at the scent of submission and lust and musk as my cock throbbed with need. My whole world focused in on slamming into that tight embrace and the scent of desire and the muttered chorus of "yeah" and "fuck me" and "bloody hell, pet," that came from below as I allowed my demon instincts to guide me. I arched so far back that I almost pulled out and then slammed in so hard that I could hear the slap of flesh as my hips hit his ass.

"Fuck, yeah. Harder." I pulled back again and pounded in as hard as I could over and over until the need to come overrode the need to dominate and it started, the orgasm robbing me of all human thought as I growled and dropped my body onto Spike's back and bit his nape even as he cried out his own release. The air filled with the heavy thick scent of come as I gave several more small thrusts.

Spike slumped to the ground with a soft growl that sounded suspiciously purr-like. I just allowed my own body to drape over his, my burning lust dissolving under completion and being replaced with a more subtle if still powerful lust. A lust for what was mine. My mate. My pack. Yeah, gotta find new words for those.

I resolved to look in a thesaurus later because right now I just wanted to curl up with the mate. Sunrise was hours away, so we could avoid Joyce's basement for a bit longer. Certainly no demons were going to come near with the mingled scent of primal and vampire arousal so thick in the air. I wondered if Angel could smell us on the highway as he drove back to L.A.

I slowly rolled to my side and pulled Spike with me so that he was tucked in against my chest, my sweaty skin sticking to his cool back. I curled both arms around his body and held him close.

"Are you okay?" I before slowly licking his neck and shoulder. Yeah, made a bit of a bloody mess there, and that would be my guilt showing up right on schedule.

"Yeah, pet. Perfect now." Silence fell between us at last, and I was happy to just enjoy the moment of relative peace, listening to the cars on the other side of the bushes and a cat prowling through the grass and a fledge on the other side of the cemetery crawling out of a grave. Right, need to come back tomorrow and patrol.

"So, how long were you willin' to wait?" Spike finally asked.


"You wouldn't take what was yours. Waited for me to ask for it instead. How long would ya have waited, pet?"

"Forever," I whispered, moving up to lick his ear. "I'm just thanking god we finally had a night to ourselves. Between the stealing and the planning and the you negotiating with demons along with Broody McHair-gel, I was really starting to think I was going to explode."

"Well, except for Peaches over there on the mausoleum," he answered so casually that for a moment the words didn't register. When they did, I snapped around and looked at the shadowy building where he'd gestured. All I could see was the angel statue with her wings spread over the stone vault.

"Tell me you're joking," I demanded as I turned back to look at Spike. He sucked in his cheeks and gave me a mischievous grin. "Tell me Angel did not just watch me having sex." Spike remained silent, blue eyes twinkling.

"Consider it payment,” he finally said, and still with the casual, damn him.

"For what, biting me?" I heard Spike growl, and I smiled at the possessiveness he still showed even if he hadn't won our little contest.

"Made him promise to sell off some of the old family treasures, give us enough money that we don't end up livin' in the slayer's basement," Spike admitted with a shrug.

"Family treasures?" I asked dubiously. I didn't even want to think about what a vampire would consider a treasure, images of skeletons like out of the old 50s horror movies came to mind. "Is this treasure in the 'only a demon can appreciate that' kind of treasure?"

"The wanker still has some of Darla's jewels. Bint did love anything bright and shiny, which explains her picking up Peaches along the way, well the shiny part anyway seein' as how he isn't always that bright."

"You're shitting me," I accused my beautiful mate. Mate. I repressed an urge to whine happily. Oh hell, who cared. I went ahead and whined into the neck I was currently licking. It suddenly occurred to me that I might have inherited the whole hyena grooming thing because I could lick Spike forever and be blissfully happy.

"Oi, never joke about money or havin' to live in the slayer's house. Bloody bad for my reputation. Mind, he's not givin' us enough to set us up for life."

"You know, I don't even know what to say. But you were just joking about him watching." I said hopefully. "Right? Spike?" Spike just laughed knowingly, until I gave him a little nip on the shoulder. He made a sort of gasp that trailed off into a purr. I smiled and pulled him closer, licking the spot I’d nipped.

"You're just never going to make it easy for me, are you?" I finally asked sadly. Strong fingers reached down and interlaced themselves with mine.

"Never," he whispered as he looked up at me. I looked into those sharp blue eyes, and I couldn't keep the stupid grin off my own face.

"Good." I whispered, and for the first time, I truly, deeply kissed him. Lips pressing hungrily against lips. He moaned into my mouth, and god I loved the Initiative for starting all this. How's that for irony?

The End

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