Xander looked at the vamp who
only a night before had been threatened within an inch of his unlife if he
ever came near Xander again. Now Spike calmly guided him toward the waiting
“Xander, meet Q; Q, meet my pet who if you put one fang on I’ll pull every tooth out of your head before I dust ya.”
“Yes, master,” the red-haired vampire replied, his head tucked down as he looked out the side of his eye.
“Q? Like in Star Trek?” Xander looked the thin body, the hesitant movements, and lowered head and couldn’t imagine a being more unlike Q.
“Naw, me new master, he call me dat.” Xander turned to Spike and repeated his question.
“Oi, looks like a Q-tip, don’t he: all thin and fuzzy headed.”
“Geez, offensive much?” He turned to the vampire even while he stayed close to Spike. “What’s your name?”
“Ajani,” answered the vamp in a soft voice, head still bent.
“Close enough. Not like it matters,” Spike shrugged, and he felt the arm start encouraging him down the street, away from their lair. He could see the red-haired vampire following behind at a safe distance. Without another word, Spike guided them to an old warehouse with a side door lying on the cracked concrete. When they walked in, Xander had to squint to see in the dim light filtering in through the dusty windows.
“Pet, pull up your vision,” Spike said, and he looked over at the vampire in undisguised exasperation.
"Yeah, like that's gonna help," he snorted, and suddenly he felt himself lifted and thrown back against the wall of the warehouse with enough force to drive the air from his lungs.
"Do as you're soddin' told and use your true vision," Spike snarled in full-game face with an arm trapping Xander to the wall. He froze, shocked into silence by the unexpected tension in Spike's body. He could feel the shifting inside his thoughts, and he listened when he felt an invisible presence council him to look down, to submit. He dropped his eyes and suddenly the warehouse was bathed in a soft reddish-brown light. Glancing up at Spike without fully lifting his eyes, he watched as Spike fell back into human face.
"That's it, pet," Spike nodded encouragingly and stepped back, and he realized that no lights had come on; he had switched into his glowy-eyed man persona. Okay, still need a better name for that, he mused as he watched Spike walk over to Ajani.
"Fight well enough against minions, but they're soddin' stupid little beasts. Ya have to learn to fight somethin' with a little more intelligence. So, ground rules." He had only half listened to Spike lecturing Ajani, fascinated with the amount of detail he could see in the dim light. A growl brought his attention back to Spike immediately. "Ground rules," Spike repeated with a sharp glare.
"Pet, you can do your best to dust Ajani. If he's too slow to protect himself when you've only had one day of trainin' with me, he deserves to die." Xander looked at the other vamp in alarm. Yes, he hunted vampires. Yes, he had staked vampires. No, he really wasn't okay with killing a vampire he had been introduced to. Besides, Spike couldn't possibly mean for him to fight another vampire. He wasn't the fighter; he was the sidekick.
"Q, you can hit my pet, hurt him if he's careless, knock him on his arse if he lets ya. Ya cannot kill him, cripple him, seriously injure him, or bite him. If ya break even one a those, you'll beg me for death before ya actually turn to dust and I walk through your remains like the piece of nothin' ya are." Ajani only dipped his head in acceptance of the rules, but Xander couldn't help gasping at the threat, all too aware that Spike would carry through without a bit of hesitation.
"So soddin' have at it," Spike said as he stepped back. Xander took one look at Ajani before the vampire leapt for him, both hands held as if to grab him by the neck. Xander grabbed the vamp's right arm and shoved it to the side so that he would have a clear shot for his elbow to drive into Ajani's side. He completed the move, but then lost his balance, sending him to one knee. He heard Ajani scramble on the concrete floor, and he pulled the knife from his boot as he turned to face the vampire's second attack.
This time Ajani moved in more slowly, circling like a predator scenting wounded prey, which actually wasn't far off reality, Xander thought to himself as he turned to keep Ajani in sight without showing the pain he felt in his left knee where he had hit the concrete just a little too hard. Without a sound, Ajani darted forward and tried for a punch, and Xander stepped to the side and back a half step so that Ajani had to reach farther than he expected. In a flash, Xander brought the knife down and cut through the exposed flesh. The scent of blood awakened his own demon even more, and he could feel a tingling hunger that left him both desiring just a taste of the blood and nauseated at the thought. Ajani hissed some unfamiliar word--context suggested a curse--before beginning to circle again.
Xander thought he might hold his own until Ajani began a series of fast, light strikes on right side, which increasingly pushed him back on his left leg. He heard himself snarl as Ajani forced him to pull back onto his injured knee for the fourth time. This time he spun around and kicked viciously at the vampire's legs. He didn't move fast enough, and while he was still off-balance, Ajani drove forward and slammed him to the ground. Xander felt his head hit the concrete, the unfamiliar vampire pinning him down, and he growled his frustration as an uncontrollable rage grew in his chest. With a roar, he threw Ajani back and jumped for him without any thought for strategy or defense, knife forgotten on the floor. Ajani instantly slipped into game face and grabbed at him even as he grabbed for the vampire's throat.
"Stop It," roared a voice that instantly left Xander crouching on the ground, still feeling an overwhelming urge to kill Ajani who had retreated, but also feeling an even more overwhelming urge to stop and wait.
"Pet, ya need to calm down," Spike said, and he felt fingers run through his hair until his thoughts had cleared enough for him to regain control of his limbs. He looked up and saw Spike holding out his knife. He took it and carefully slid it back into its sheath as he stretched out his legs and sat on the floor. "Let that leg heal a bit; I'll take it from here," Spike ordered, and Xander could feel a cold tingle in his knee even as Spike gestured for Ajani to follow him a few feet away where they had room to spar.
It made Xander feel a little better to watch the two vampires spar. From the sidelines, he could see Ajani's speed and grace, which made him feel better about getting his ass kicked. He also felt better after seeing Ajani get slammed to the ground more often than he could count. Every time the vampire simply got up without complaint and returned to attack Spike. Long after Xander's knee felt better and his butt had started going to sleep, Spike called an end to the session.
Spike came over and squatted in front of him, fingers going over the knee before standing again and holding out a hand to help him up. Xander accepted the assistance and stood leaning against Spike even though he didn't need the support.
"Both of ya are goin' to have to control the anger; you let yourself get angry durin' a fight, and you'll find yourself dead. But ya both did well today." Xander felt the familiar warmth that Spike's compliments always brought, but he almost smiled at Ajani's reaction. The vampire's back suddenly straightened, and he looked directly at Spike for a moment before dropping his head again.
"'Dank ya, massah," he whispered joyfully. Xander almost laughed at how alike the two vampires could be. Each had an accent that became nearly indecipherable when emotional.
"Where ya from, Ajani?" He could feel Spike tense at the question, obviously unhappy, but he didn't say anything so Xander ignored the signs. Ajani looked first at him and then at Spike before answering.
"Naw Orlins," he said.
"Born in California, myself. Going to be nineteen in a couple of days, but I'm guessing you're a little older."
"1887," Ajani answered the unasked question and then returned his gaze to the floor.
"Oi, time for us to get to our lairs before the sun gets us," Spike commented and all three left the warehouse.
"Tomorrow, same time," Spike ordered, and then Xander felt himself firmly guided away while Ajani stood by warehouse, unmoving.
"Tomorrow for what?" Xander asked as they hurried down the street. He couldn't see any morning light, but from the way Spike rushed, he suspected they were out later than normal.
"Tryin' to give him what 'e needs to be a master. Didn't know he was that old, but I knew he's old enough to be a master if has someone to teach him how to control himself."
"If you're trying to help him, why did you keep tearing him down because I have to tell you that, from experience, that's not a pleasant experience," Xander pointed out as he remembered Gabi with her various insults and Pamee with her forays into public humiliation.
"Vamps aren't the same. If I went up to 'im and said that I thought he's strong enough to hold the city, he'd ignore me; his demon's got no reason to respect me."
"But if you dominate his demon, prove that you're stronger and wiser and *then* tell him to take charge, he'll listen," Xander guessed as they reached the outer gate to the truck yard.
"Somethin' like that. He's got to learn to fight back, stand up for himself and demand respect or he'll never survive. To do that, he has to stand up against a strong enough master to feel strong himself." Spike dug in his duster pockets for the key as Xander watched the edges of the buildings start to glow with the first warnings of daylight. Once the door opened, Xander hurried down the stairs, waiting until Spike finished locking up and came down the stairs.
"Course pet, there's a good chance he's goin' to get himself killed before claimin' any territory. Don't get too attached to him," Spike suggested as the leather duster flew to the chair. "Goin' to get more sheets." Spike hit the play button as he walked through the hallway door and disappeared. Xander had settled himself into the chair, enjoying the smell of Spike and leather when the first strains of "Sixteen Tons" started coming out of the stereo.
Xander was happily singing along, "St. Peter don'cha call me, cause I can't go; I owe my soul to the company store" when Spike appeared, a look of absolute horror on his face.
"Bloody hell, no," Spike entreated as he tossed sheets on the bed and went to the stereo.
"What? It's political commentary, about the workers during the great depression who got exploited by industry," he said, proud of himself for keeping a straight face. Spike opened one CD case after another, uttering a string of curses that he hadn't heard since Spike and Angel had tried to talk in the back of Thopis. He didn't even know most of the words that Spike muttered in his general direction.
"Where the hell is my bloody music 'cause if you damage one a those CD's, you're goin' be tied to that bed for a month." Spike confronted him with narrowed eyes, but Spike didn't go to turn off the CD, even when the track changed to "King of the Road," and Spike visibly flinched. Xander simply shrugged and waved a hand in the general direction of the room.
"I'm sure they're somewhere."
"Bleedin' git," Spike looked around the room for a minute before disappearing into the hallway again. Xander tried not to laugh at the sound of curses and the sound of rough ceramic dragging as Spike must have checked toilet tanks. Spike finally reappeared at the hallway door, his eyes flashing gold.
“Get your arse in the bath and clean up; ya smell of sweat,” Spike snarled, but Xander couldn’t resist laughing a little as he darted past, listening to Spike still cursing. Luckily, he had enough tip money in his pocket to replace all the CD’s even if he came back to find all his country music in shiny little jagged pieces. Worth it, he snickered to himself.
By the time Spike joined him in the bath, sliding into the hot water and settling between his legs, the vampire had settled into annoyed mutters.
“Daft git,” Spike grumbled, but Xander picked up a washcloth and reached around to start cleaning the vampire’s chest and arms, causing the vampire to lean back and sigh in pleasure.
“Duck your head under,” he suggested, and Spike immediate bent down to get his hair wet. When the blonde head reappeared, with the spikes now damp and sagging, Xander grabbed some shampoo and started running his fingers through the soggy spines, rubbing until the hard locks dissolved and the hair turned soft and silky. With a single whispered word, he got Spike to dunk his head again, and then he worked in the conditioner, his hands sliding over the now slick curls while Spike simply lay in his arms spineless and sighing.
“Bloody hell, Dru never did that,” he finally moaned with a graceful stretch.
“That a yes vote on the hair washing?” Xander asked with a small chuckle; he couldn’t believe that he could make the ancient creature so happy with such a small act.
“Hell yes.” Without warning, Spike twisted around to face him, nose to nose. Xander held his breath as he watched Spike slowly sink, a leer on his face. A moment after Spike disappeared under the water, Xander felt the suction on his cock, and his hand flew to the side of the tub where he clung like a man about to fall off a cliff. His knuckles turned white and he gasped with pleasure as a tongue played with the underside of his cock, leaving him gasping and desperate to buck, but unwilling to hurt Spike like that. Instead, he fought every muscle and nerve and instinct in his body to remain still as Spike swallowed his entire cock, working his throat muscles until Xander literally screamed. All too soon, Xander felt his own balls draw up as he started coming. He threw his head back onto the edge of the tub and lay there, still twitching and wheezing when Spike reappeared with a lascivious grin.
"Hmm, like some help there?" Xander asked as he reached for Spike's cock, but Spike intercepted his hand, pulling it so that Xander would instead embrace the vampire as Spike leaned in for a deep kiss.
"Too late," Spike whispered. "You're just so bloody perfect I finished off with you," Spike admitted as he stood, showing a near-flaccid cock. While Spike went about drying himself, Xander ducked his head under the water to hide the smell of tears that he knew Spike could scent so easily. Grabbing the shampoo, he drained the water even as he washed his own hair. He knew that he hadn't been exactly spectacular last time, but he had never expected Spike to reject him like that. Spike would rather give himself a hand job than let Xander try again. He rubbed the shampoo over his face to hide the tears he tried to hold back. Of course, Spike had certainly enjoyed their earlier activities, so maybe that's what Spike needed from him; he could do that. Hell, he enjoyed that, but he couldn’t deny the aching pain that Spike didn’t want any more than that from him. He'd do anything to make Spike happy just to keep the vampire around for a bit longer.
Xander finished rinsing under one of the shower heads, grabbed a towel to dry off, and then tossed his towel into the corner as usual before grabbing the robe Spike had started leaving at the edge of the shower room. He looked at the robe and realized how many habits the vampire must have changed to have him there; obviously Spike liked something about him, and maybe that could be enough for him. If he was never anything more than a pet for Spike to use, then Spike would still stay with him, and anything that kept Spike in his life was acceptable.
Wrapping himself in the warm terrycloth, he wandered into the main room to see how many CD pieces he had to pick up. The bed looked the same, rumpled sheets on the bed with the clean sheets in a pile on the edge. His country music cases lay in the corner undisturbed, Pasty Cline balanced on top of C.W. McCall. A pile of dirty clothes guarded one corner and not a CD shard to be seen. Xander narrowed his eyes. For a moment he stood there, confused, but then he realized what Spike had done. He felt a small smile sneak onto his face as he looked around the room. So, the vampire wanted to play, huh?
“Soddin’ hell,” said a voice behind him. “Need to turn a minion or two.”
“Whoa, what??” he yelped, playful mood gone.
“Look at this place, need someone to clean,” Spike said casually as he walked over and dropped into the chair naked as the day he was born, his head moving to the sound of a punk singer screaming indecipherable lyrics.
“Not a reason to kill someone,” he quickly pointed out, but Spike simply gave him a confused look.
“Not goin’ to kill them, just turn ‘em.”
“Oh boy, sometimes I just need to remind myself you really are a demon,” he answered, still slightly shaken at the thought of Spike killing someone just so he didn’t have to do housework.
“You kept the place clean by yourself, so let’s assume the extra mess is my fault. Simple solution: I’ll clean up after myself.” He looked at Spike’s incredulous expression and he couldn’t help but think of his mother. And his mother had been right to doubt his promises because no matter how much he promised, he usually did forget to actually do any actual house work. But then again, his mother had never threatened to kill anyone if he didn’t do housework, unless you counted a few idle threats to kill him, so he had a whole new level of motivation.
“You?” Spike said in a skeptical voice that again reminded him of his mother, but considering what they had just done in the bath, he took that comparison and repressed it in the darkest corner of his mind.
“Yes, me,” he answered with some frustration. Geez, it was usually polite to actually wait until someone broke his word before sounding so cynical. “Unlock the doors where you keep the cleaning stuff, and I’ll do my share.”
“Pet,” Spike said softly, “those doors have been unlocked since I got ya back from Cassidy.”
“Oh.” Xander looked at the hallway door behind him for a moment before curiosity overcame him and he just had to go see.
The first door on the left swung open to reveal shelves, tons of shelves. Looking closer, he realized the shelves at the back had old ration boxes, dusty army blankets, and forgotten tins of lord knows what. The shelves at the front had torn open bundles of black jeans, stacks of soft shirts that tilted wildly, piles of sheets still in their plastic containers scattered across boxes of rations, and silk shirts hung from the corners of the shelves, obviously Spike’s version of a closet. The only thing he could think was how many new places he now had to search for his CD’s.
He walked along the shelves, pushing ration boxes onto the floor as he cleared space to stack shirts and jeans and sheets and towels neatly on the shelves, each item on its own shelf; his mother would be proud. In reality, he just wanted to find his CD’s. Once he had straightened the front shelves, he walked around the back shelves, running his hand behind boxes, trying to find the missing disks. When he finally gave up the search, he left, rubbing his running nose which protested the dust even as he went to the second room.
Opening this door, he stopped in the doorway, utterly shocked. A row of antique washers and dryers sat next to a brand new set, still sitting in the middle of the room unattached to anything. That didn’t shock him. The mountains of towels, old sheets, and dirty clothes shocked him.
“Holy dirty laundry, batman.” Xander heard the door open behind him.
“Took ya long enough,” Spike leaned against the door jam with a smirk on his face.
“Yeah, yeah. Do you have some sort of dirty clothes fetish I don’t know about?” he asked looking around in dismay.
“Never thought a that—might be worth a try, luv.” Spike’s arm suddenly lifted him and dropped him in the middle of the sheets and towels before the vampire sprawled over him.
“I’m never going to find my CD’s, am I?” he asked in despair as Spike laughed.
“Oi, not the one who went and started this.”
“And why do you have all this damn laundry? It must have taken years to get his much.”
“Only ‘bout six months.”
“And what exactly are you planning on doing with it all?”
“Dump it in the sewers. Can always steal more, can’t I, pet.”
“To steal your word, ‘Oi.’”
“Nothin’ wrong with that, pet.”
“Yeah, for an amoral demon, probably not high on the list of evil sins. For an ordinary mortals, stealing’s one of those things that you try to avoid.” He watched Spike’s features turn from amusement to a seriousness he didn’t normally see.
“Bleedin’ hell, sometimes I just need to remind myself you really are a human,” Spike said in imitation of his own earlier words, and he felt slim cool fingers brush over his forehead.
“Any chance of hooking up the washer and dryer? I’m willing to actually do the wash, and I can’t believe I actually just said that…I must be possessed.” Spike laughed.
“Yeah, I was plannin’ on turning a minion and having them do the cleanin’ but then I decided to keep a lower profile ‘til I’d found Cassidy. I don’t do soddin’ laundry myself, but if ya don’t want any minions around, I’ll get rid of some a this old stuff so ya don’t have so much to wash and then connect the machines.”
“Before you start dumping this stuff, just answer one question.”
“Are my CD’s in here?” He turned his best pleading look to Spike, but the vampire simply laughed and got up.
“I’m evil, pet. Not likely to tell the truth, am I?” Xander sighed in frustration and lay his head back down on the pile under him.
“I’m never going to find Patsy,” he groused as Spike left the room, still chuckling. By the time he had decided to give up on finding the CD’s in the pile, Spike had fallen asleep on the bed, sprawled on his stomach with his arms and legs thrown across the length of the bed. He looked around the main room for a moment before starting to straighten up. He pushed the empty country music CD cases into a single pile and stacked them on the shelf under the stereo. He picked up the dirty laundry and folded it, putting it in a corner to wait until Spike hooked up the washer and dryer. He noticed that Spike had changed the sheets, tossing the dirty ones into a corner. Since the storeroom had no shortage of sheets, he took the bundle and tossed it on the mountain Spike had promised to throw away.
Giving up, he crawled into bed, feeling Spike quickly shift to curl up around him.
Morning came with slightly stiff
muscles and the sound of British cursing. Xander sat up in bed and
looked around at the room, hoping for some inspiration, but he couldn’t see
any good hiding places. Crawling out of bed, he opened the cabinet
and grabbed clean clothes before heading to the bathroom for his morning
ritual. By the time he had gotten ready for his day, Spike had reappeared
in the main room, his hair still in soft waves and his jeans dirty.
“Soddin’ things are in,” Spike said as he hit play on the stereo and Xander could see the smug expression on Spike’s face as he started singing along with the punk rock.
“You throw the old laundry away, and I’ll keep the new laundry clean.”
“Deal. I’ll start dumpin’ it; need to get it far enough away that it can't be tracked.” Spike disappeared though the hallway door again, leaving Xander still considering possible hiding places for those missing CD's
Xander suddenly found himself looking at the CD cases on the shelf. The evil vampire had obviously hidden his music in the last place he would look, especially since he hadn’t found it yet. As he looked at the cases on the shelf, he had a sudden suspicion. Dashing over to the shelf, he grabbed Garth Brooks and snapped open the case. He looked in at the black and white CD and smiled. Evil vampire. Reaching up for the Dead Kennedys, he quickly slipped Garth Brooks into the case before dropping the punk CD on the bed.
Working quickly, he switched all the CD’s on the shelf even while the song on the stereo continued to scream. When he had a stack of punk music, he darted into the storage room and scanned the shelf for the plastic bags he had seen earlier. Grabbing one, he dashed back into the room and put the CD’s inside. And now for something to hide the package inside. With a smile, he grabbed a black pair of jeans and folded them with the CD's inside.
"Ready, pet?" Spike asked as he reappeared. He walked over and turned off the CD player. "Need to get goin'."
"Almost. I can't find my knife." Xander tried to focus on looking innocent.
"Oi, you and your soddin' weapons."
"I'm still looking through stuff out here," Xander said with a pleading look. For nearly a minute Spike simply glared back before rolling his eyes.
"Fine, I'll bloody look in the other rooms." As soon as Spike left, Xander grabbed the last punk CD out of the stereo and slipped in Patsy Cline before adding to his hidden stash.
"Spike, I found it," Xander yelled as he took his knife out from under the pillow and slipped it into his boot. When Spike returned he had a definitely annoyed expression.
"Goin' to pin your bloody weapons to ya," Spike complained, but Xander simply grabbed the jeans without a word. At Spike's raised eyebrow he shrugged.
"I owe Mike a pair of jeans. Last week this vamp I didn't know pinned me up against a wall and made me come in my jeans." From the smile on Spike’s face, he remembered.
"Right, enough talkin' time to start moving."
"Why the hurry? I can't believe you care this much about my punctuality at work."
"I don't. However, got some work of my own to do."
"What exactly are you up to?" By this time they had reached the top of the stairs and Spike stopped to lock the gate.
"If Q wants to take power, he's got to take it; I'm just backin' him up."
"He really didn't seem like a take over the world type of demon to me, Spike. He seemed more like a 'if you leave me alone, I'll leave you alone' type." Xander followed Spike to the motorcycle, but he didn't get on right away. "Maybe he just doesn't want to take over the city." Spike looked over, one eyebrow lifted in an expression that merged amusement and disbelief.
"Some demons live like that," Spike acknowledge without starting the motorcycle. Xander swung up behind him and pushed up against the vampire. It really was the best way not to fall off given Spike's driving. "Vamps are different, though," Spike continued after a long moment. "Vamps need to know their place, who they're above and who they're below. Not really comfortable without that. When Q was on his own, he didn't fit anywhere, but now he knows he's under me and with some promptin', he's happy enough to be over all the soddin' minions we can collect."
"But doesn't that make the minions under you?" he asked, suddenly unsure about belonging to a vampire who controlled an army of undead. Cool idea for a movie of the week, not such a cool idea for real life since armies required provisions. Yeah, like calling them provisions would ease his conscience about vampires' source of their essential daily vitamins and minerals.
"If I fought for him, yeah. But I just sorta sit back and advise, help him spot the weak masters to pick off, take out a few key players. Leave the battles to him and his minions 'cause if he can't take a few pansy-arsed minions and decade old childer, he deserves to die."
"Funny enough, I think I'd be sorry if he died, and god, aren't I supposed to be cheering for the other side here?"
"If it makes ya feel any better, dozens of vamps a night are goin' down in these fights; won't be much of an army left by the time, and if Ajani's smart, he'll keep it small to avoid Peaches." Spike kick started the motorcycle and Xander had to raise his voice.
"Hey, you called him 'Ajani'."
"The git looks like he might survive, guess he deserved to be called whatever he wants." At that, they sped down the street, dodging through cars and even up on the sidewalk once as Spike avoided rush hour traffic.
Xander arrived at the club just as the doors opened, in other words, late. Rushing past the bouncers, he went to make a dash for the kitchen when a cool hand stopped him.
"We find Carlos first, pet." Spike turned, scanning the half-full club until finally zeroed in on something that Xander could only assume to be Carlos since the club lights weren't bright enough for him to really see anything. Spike urged him toward the south wall, and he followed Spike's touch blindly until he finally spotted the bouncer leaning against a table talking to someone. When they got there, Carlos looked up with a cautious smile.
"Spike," he nodded toward the vampire.
"Mate," Spike replied indifferently. "Got him from here?" Xander couldn't control his need to roll his eyes at being discussed while standing inches away.
"Yeah," Carlos confirmed with his tight smile.
"Right then,” Spike turned, and Xander could tell from the expression that he had something on his mind.
"Spike?" he asked suspiciously.
"Didn't say good mornin' to ya, pet. Thought I'd say a proper goodbye." Xander watched as the yellow rings appeared around Spike's eyes, and he started backing up until he bumped into the half wall. Spike stalked closer and put a hand on either side of Xander's waist, leaning against the wall. Oh yeah, familiar territory here, Xander thought as he cursed himself for reminding Spike about their first meeting. The vampire obviously wanted an encore, and he braced himself to not embarrass himself this time by coming in his jeans.
"Wot? Don't ya want to give me a proper send off?" Spike asked in feigned innocence, looking strangely innocent for a hundred year old serial killer. Spike leaned in for a kiss, and he met the lips half way, pressing forward as Spike's tongue invaded, explored, demanded and took, Spike himself slowly leaning forward until he could feel himself pressed back into the half wall.
He felt one of Spike's hands move up to cradle the back of his head and pull him forward, away from the wall. He followed willingly. Just when he began to feel light-headed from either lust or lack of air, his lips were freed, and a mouth descended on his scar just as a slim hand slipped down the back of his jeans. Xander gasped and lunged forward, trying to get some friction against his cock, and not caring who saw his mounting lust.
He could hear Spike chuckle without lifting his head, the slim fingers now playing with the sensitive skin between his cheeks, and he shifted his legs apart to give Spike more room to work in the tight confines. His own hands locked onto Spike's shoulders as Xander Jr. sent so many signals to his brain that he feared he would collapse. Now the hand disappeared from his neck, and pulled his one arm free, twisting it up behind his back and forcing his body into the vampire, trapping him against the cool body. The suction at his shoulder stopped just before a quick lick and nip left him whimpering and clawing one handed at Spike's back, but Spike stepped back and held him up by one arm as Xander felt himself sway unsteadily.
With an evil smile, Spike turned and left with saying over his shoulder, "Serves ya right for teasin'."
Xander groaned as he looked around and saw the lustful eyes considering him and his temporary inability to walk. Well at least he'd earn enough in CD's to replace any that Spike broke once he discovered his own had left the lair. Suddenly terrified, Xander looked around and found the jeans on the floor where he dropped them. Oh lord, if those CD's had broken, he would be seriously sorry. He tried to bend down to pick it up, but groaned again as the tight jeans and his engorged cock conspired to prevent the motion.
"Let me," offered a voice, and he watched a balding man stoop down to retrieve the package. When the man stood up, Xander smiled his thanks and held out his hand.
"Payment first," the man demanded as he held the jeans behind his back. Realizing that Spike had set him up for a very difficult start to his shift, he just smiled and held his arms out in a clear gesture that the man had access. The man moved in, putting the jeans, and Xander noticed the CD's as well, on the half wall before leaning his own body into Xander's in an imitation of Spike's position. Xander braced his hands against the half wall as he felt the man's hand slip down the front of his jeans, the fingers sliding in until they found the slightly moist head, rubbing along the slit until Xander had to bite the inside of his cheek to prevent himself from coming. Something in his head, oh who was he kidding, the baby vampire in his head told him he couldn't come for someone else no matter what Xander Jr. wanted.
The light rubbing continued until Xander threw back his head and gasped as he thrust up against the willing fingers. Then he felt a hand pull his head back down as he was kissed roughly and a second hand slipped into the back of his jeans with the familiar warm feeling of paper money. When he opened his eyes, he found the balding man gone, his tip presumably down the back of Xander jeans, and a much taller and more muscular replacement kissing him. He tried to catch his breath, but the man quickly braced his knee against the wall, forcing Xander up onto his toes if he wanted to avoid crushing his balls. He tried scooting his feet closer together, but the thick knee prevented him from coming even close to closing his legs, leaving him vulnerable, trapped, and unable to come in a room full of hungry strangers.
Xander really thought Spike had gone too far this time, so he looked around for Carlos, determined to get a rescue. He quickly spotted Carlos still standing by the same table, but the Largis demon bouncer simply shrugged and gave him a little wicked smile. Seeing that the bouncer wasn't going to interfere, Mr. Tall and Muscled pressed his knee up a little higher, and Xander blushed when he heard himself make a very unmanly squeak. Tall and Muscled reached forward and pinched one of his nipples, harder than Spike ever had, and he tried to jerk back but couldn't with the wall behind him.
"Hey," he protested, his voice breaking in the middle, so he tried again with a deeper tone. "Hey, don't…” he didn’t get any farther when the fingers on his nipple tightened, leaving him gasping and looking to an impassive Carlos for help. Tall and Muscled leaned forward without moving the knee and kissed him again, teeth nipping at his tongue and lips even as the man trapping him chuckled. He felt another set of hands pull his right arm away from the wall, and he pulled away from the aggressive mouth, nearly bending himself backwards over the half wall, his hair tangling with the plants.
"Hey now," he complained again as a blue-shirted Hispanic man held his wrist and ran warm fingers up and down his arm.
"You mind, man?" Blue Shirt asked, but the question went to Tall and Muscled whose knee disappeared for a moment, but before Xander could react, Tall and Muscled had placed a left knee into his crotch, trapping him even while moving to the side so the second man could move in. The second man smiled and trailed a hand up Xander's arm and down his chest, a five dollar bill threaded between his fingers. He watched, helpless, as the man's fingers disappeared down the front of his jeans, leaving the money just over his left hip before the fingers moved in to tease Xander Jr. who already ached with a need to come. The man ran a fingernail lightly over the sensitive skin, and Xander could feel his whole body shake with the familiar feeling that announced that he was about to embarrass himself again, but this time his cock simply refused to take the last step, his semen remained trapped, and his cock throbbed.
Blue Shirt smiled his gratitude to Mr. Tall and Muscled, and hey didn't he get any gratitude since it was his body being used here? Of course Spike who had set up the show for this purpose and Carlos who refused to step in might also deserve some gratitude he thought as he shot the bouncer another dirty glare. The pressure on his balls intensified and he returned his attention to Tall and Muscled who looked annoyed at being ignored, but no problem because he couldn't ignore the man now. No matter how he struggled to lift onto his toes, his balls were pressed up into him from the imprisoning knee.
"Please, enough now," Xander asked, but Tall and Muscled simply smiled and wrapped a thick hand around his left wrist, pulling the hand up to the top of the half wall and pinning it there so that Xander had no hope of freeing himself, and obviously no chance of rescue since Carlos had just nodded off another bouncer who had come to break up the party. He started considering breaking Spike's CD's himself when an older blonde man moved in and ran a warm hand down his chest, soothing the sore nipple.
The man looked into Xander's eyes for a minute, and then both hands came to his chest, slowly unbuttoning his shirt. Xander opened his mouth to protest, but the knee at his crotch pushed up, and he froze. Carlos would never let him get seriously hurt, but the man would obviously let him do some suffering, so he decided not to see how far that went. He closed his mouth and allowed the blonde man to unbutton his shirt and push it back before running his hand through the hair gathered on his stomach and disappearing into his jeans. He wasn't surprised when the man's hand followed the line of hair down into the jeans, his fingers teasing his already engorged cock head until Xander lowered himself onto the knee slightly just so that the pain would keep Xander Jr. in line. The blonde man smiled and slipped his own bill into his jeans.
Xander looked up at the crowd and saw how many customers stood around, and whimpered, but that only brought on another low rumbling laugh from Tall and Muscled who, Xander decided, must have been a relative of Spike's in a previous life because they had the same evil sense of humor. Xander braced himself as another customer moved in. He had no idea how long he stood there, trapped as man after man rubbed the slit of his cock; caressed the head; slid cum-slicked fingers down the shaft; stroked, rubbed, bit, or sucked his nipples; and pressed into him. The only constant was Tall and Muscled who massaged his left shoulder, imprisoned his left arm, and tortured his balls. Schizophrenic much?
Suddenly, the man pulled him forward off the wall, his shirt still hanging open and now half hanging off his right arm. The man's one hand slid down the back of his jeans even as the other twisted his arm up and pushed him into the man's embrace. For a moment all he could think about was the relief of having his balls released, but then his vulnerability frightened him and he tried to pull back.
"Spread those legs or this is going to hurt even worse," the man roughly whispered in his ear and think fingers forced themselves farther down the back of his jeans. Xander had almost reached the point of panic when a familiar voice came from inches away.
"Let him go or I'll redecorate with your blood before tossing you out on your ass." Carlos said in such a calm and business-like manner that the man didn't respond for a couple of seconds, and then the invading hand retreated and he felt his arm fall free.
"Just having some fun. Boy knows how to play or he would have come long ago," Tall and Muscled smirked, and Xander could only lean back against the wall and watch as Carlos stared the man down and then stood guard as Xander buttoned up his shirt.
"Yeah, thanks for the rescue there," he sarcastically snapped. The words came out a little harsher than he intended, but he had wanted help earlier.
"Your master set you up for that; I wasn't going to interfere."
"Not my master," Xander grumbled as he tried to adjust his jeans and found them so full of money that he simply exposed his manly bits to death by paper cut. Glancing around and realizing that he had too much of an audience to get away with any subtle action, he simply stuck his hand down his own jeans and rearranged the tips to avoid an embarrassing hospital visit. Oh god, his mother was still listed as next of kin. What would she say to the doctor who explained this injury?
"Okay, the vampire who tells you where to go, what to wear and who to talk to set you up for that," Carlos amended himself with a slight sigh of either frustration or amusement. Xander was too busy trying to relax enough to walk to actually pay attention to the difference.
"I think I'm dying," he complained as he picked up the jeans and CD's. He tried to walk to the back with his head held high, but he knew full well that he did more of a waddle. Dignity be damned when the equipment is in danger of exploding. He got into the back, and Ross turned, a snarl on his face as he clearly prepared to tell off his missing helper. Obviously he looked worse than he suspected because Ross first stopped dead, his expression of annoyance chiseled into frozen flesh, and then the man began to laugh. Really laugh. Xander hadn't known the man long enough to tell him off, so he restricted himself to a dirty glare as he shuffled past half naked dancers to the bathroom.
In the bathroom, he quickly stripped off his jeans and recovered a nice stack of bills before he turned to the task of relieving other needs. He leaned against the tile and remembered his first day when the sight of Charlie in that loin cloth caused his side trip, but now his mind focused on only one man as he stroked himself. He had expected to finish in one or two strokes, but he continued, his orgasm building ever closer to the edge, but no matter how hard he tried he couldn't seem to fall over that precipice into release. He could feel his fear grow as he realized that something was wrong. The demon in his mind began to circle in distress at his distress, and he pushed it to once side and he concentrated on imagining Spike's hand touching him. The image aroused him, but in his current condition, that wasn't really of the good. He stood, still leaning against the tile, as a slow panic grew. A knock on the door interrupted his horror.
"Xander, I've got something for you," Carlos called from the other side. Xander walked over so that he would be hidden from the door, and cracked it open. Carlos stood there with a bin of ice and a thin towel.
"Thought you might need these." He took the bin, still confused, and Carlos pulled the door shut. Of course he knew exactly what he needed it for, he thought as he ran cold water into the bin, allowing the ice to turn it frigid before dunking the towel in the water, but how could Carlos know about his problem? He took a deep breath, looked at the towel floating in the ice water, and cursed Spike before using the towel on his own genitals.
Xander Jr. silently shrieked with pain and quickly shriveled, leaving his overly full and still sore balls looking even larger now that every drop of blood had retreated from his cock. Now he leaned against the wall to keep from shrieking out loud and bringing the entire staff to witness his humiliation. He gave his genitals one last swipe before dumping the water and redressing. The impressive pile of bills on the counter got divided into two neat piles and then deposited one in each front pocket before he opened the door to a serious Carlos.
"You okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, totally new problem, has never happened before because, ya know, the plumbing works just fine, temporary problem." Carlos watched with an amused expression, not answering so Xander just continued. "Totally temporary in the probably won't ever happen again…definitely won't ever happen again type way temporary." Xander stood silent for a moment, refusing to look at Carlos. "Okay, I have to know. How did you know? What? Could you hear me with your demony hearing? Smell me? What?"
"You really don't know, do you?" Carlos asked.
"Okay, I think that's pretty obvious. Normally, if you assume I just don't know, you'll probably be right."
"Pets can't come without their m…the vampires who tell them what to do, where to go and who to talk to."
"You mean that son of a bitch knew what would happen?" Xander asked, imagining all sorts of vampire tortures: holy water, sun lamp, crucifix tattoo.
"Says a lot about Spike that you didn't know," Carlos reflected.
"Yeah, says he's sadistic," he nearly shouted, and at that moment, a couple of dancers walked by the entrance to the hallway, giggling. Xander leaned his head back against the wall. Great, now everyone at work would think he was some sort of pain slut. Yep, purgatory and hell combined couldn't come up with worse tortures.
"Actually, I was thinking that maybe I didn't have to worry so much about you." His expression must have clued Carlos in on how much sense that statement didn't make to him because the bouncer continued without prompting. "Vamps control pets through emotions; they use the demon to amplify strong emotions until the pet can't think straight or fight back. Most use fear, leaving a pet trembling on the ground and afraid to do anything without a specific command." Xander opened his mouth to protest the implication, but Carlos waved him off.
"Yeah, I figured out that couldn't be the case pretty quick. But, and this was a real concern for me, some vamps use lust instead. Get a pet all worked up and then deny him or her the right to come. Eventually it leaves the human even more disabled than the one controlled by fear."
"You thought Spike was manipulating me through my deep and entirely normal for a human teenager lust," he guessed.
"Yeah. But if you didn't know this would happen, he's obviously never denied you before."
"True, and if he doesn't want to take up smoking in a more personal and immolation-by-lover type way, he won't ever do it again," Xander complained as he felt his genitals still throbbing. "I need to drop these off in a locker," he said as he started walking toward the employee area, trying to get his gait back to normal.
Once he had locked up his jeans and the CD, he headed back for a tray of food. Ross started laughing again the minute he walked in the room. Ignoring the heavy guffaws aimed his way, Xander grabbed the prepared tray of pizza squares and headed out to feed the masses, Carlos close behind.
The first food run he made included multiple gropes, one proposition, two rescues from Carlos and one very ookie feeling. The second trip included even more gropes, one rescue and three ookie feelings. By the third trip, Xander knew for sure that he recognized the sand rubbing his backbone feeling, and he pulled Carlos to the side.
"We have vamps on the dance floor," he whispered.
"Oh shit." Carlos froze for a second, and then the bouncer's instincts kicked in.
"Tell T first, and then we'll get the number for those vamp hunters who saved him last time." Carlos moved to put the plan into action, but Xander held him back.
"Those vamp hunters are human. They aren't going to know who to stake, and I used to train with them so I can tell you that the training never covered trying to fight with a hundred humans in the middle." Xander knew the only possible solution, he just hated saying it. He considered possibilities. He didn't have Spike's number. Ajani was a big no. The vamp might not kill humans for food, but he wouldn't protect humans either. Besides, he was probably with Spike anyway. He looked at the floor, mentally searching for any other answer, but when he looked up, he could see Carlos' tacit demand for an alternative.
"We have to call Angel," he said calmly. Oh boy, Spike wasn't going to like this one.
Hunting Without the Master
Within a couple of seconds,
Xander found himself ushered into T's office, a telephone book thrust into
his hands. Carlos then took up sentry at the door as if expecting rogue
vampires to burst through any second.
He dialed the phone with trembling fingers, his demon shifting uncomfortably. He felt like just shouting at the thing, but generally preferred to avoid looking like a complete and total loon. The phone on the other end stopped ringing, and a male voice answered.
“Angel Investigation, helpin’ the hopeless,” the voice didn’t sound like Angel—far too cheerful, but he could hear Cordelia’s offended squeal at the greeting, so he clearly had the right place. Irish accent fit too, even though he’d never heard Angel speak with so much lilt.
“Angel?” he asked tentatively.
“Not likely,” the voice laughed. “Doyle here, how canna help ya?”
“Um, is Angel there?”
“Not right at the moment, but I’ll take a message if ye want.”
“Yeah…I mean, no. Can I talk to Cordelia?” he finally settled on. He could hear indistinct voices in the background, and then the familiar voice came through the phone.
“Cordelia Chase here,” sang the melodious tones.
“Just me, Cordelia, Xander.”
“Oh,” the voice quickly dropped into a near bored expression. “You left Angel even more depressed than usual, which is a bit of an achievement. He hasn’t even commented on my new jacket. Must've dropped like a dozen hints, too.” Xander smiled, he could almost imagine her doing her nails just like in 7th grade with that first year teacher they had managed to drive out of the profession.
“We’ve got a problem down at Safari. I’m not sure, but I think there are several vamps in the crowd.” He waited for a response, but the phone was silent for several seconds.
“Think? If there are no ridges and screaming people, it’s a little hard to tell, even for us professionals.” Cordelia tried to keep the tone equally light and carefree, but he could hear the undertones of worry in her voice.
“Yeah, it’s kinda one of those things. My little piece of demon keeps raising the alarm, so I know something not human’s out on the floor.”
“Probably just indigestion.” Cordelia quipped, but he could hear a pencil madly scratching across paper. He couldn’t decide if she was being sweet by trying not to worry him or offensive by trying to hide things. The Cordelia he knew in school would have meant it as an insult, but this new Cordelia? He wasn’t so sure.
“We really need Angel here,” he interrupted her writing and he could hear a frustrated sigh. Could almost hear her eyes rolling.
“We as in ‘me and Spike’ or we as in ‘me and whoever else is here and when Spike shows up he’s going to go all postal on Angel again’?”
“Um, the second,” Xander admitted. “Spike left about an hour ago, and I don’t know how to reach him. I don’t know who else to call.”
“We’ll pick up Angel at the butcher and come straight down. You just sit put and stay in the back.” Cordelia ordered in a voice that obviously expected immediate obedience. Damn, Spike was right about her making a good vampire. He didn’t bother arguing even though he had no intention of running from a fight.
“Whatever…it’s our job,” Cordelia dismissed his thanks and hung up the phone without another word. Yep, that was the Cordelia Chase he knew and no longer hated.
“They on their way then?” Carlos asked from his position next to the door.
“Yeah. They’re coming.” He walked over to lean again the wall next to Carlos. His demon stalked through his mind like a predator seeking the scent of blood, and he pushed it back again. Aggressive little bugger today, he thought to himself, but then Carlos’ words brought him back to reality.
“Xander, you made your call, so let’s just leave.” He could feel Carlos’ hand tightening on his arm, and he shrugged it off, unwilling to be ordered around like a child. True, he wasn’t the best in a fight, but he could hold his own and he would be a lot more prepared than most of the walking happy meals on the dance floor.
“I’m not leaving them. What if Angel doesn’t get here before they start pulling people out? Na-uh. Not going.” Xander turned to out of the office and he felt a strong arm pull him back, pushing him up against the wall.
“You are *not* going out there,” Carlos insisted, and for the first time he could see the inhuman blood reflected in Carlos’ face, the skin blushing with blue.
“What? Are you going to play slaver? Thought you didn’t like those games?” He could see Carlos flinch from the accusation, releasing him from the wall.
“Xander,” Carlos began in a low, pleading voice. That made him stop where nothing else had, but he wasn’t going to give up all control over his life, not yet, not ever. "Take this," Carlos pressed a stake into his hand.
"This regulation for a bouncer?" he asked as Carlos pulled a second stake from the back of his pants and tucked it into the front.
"I seem to spend an uncomfortable amount of time hanging out with a vampire and his pet, of course I carry wood. Are you sure you won't just wait here?" Carlos pleaded.
“Going now,” he cheerfully announced as he left the room. He walked down the hall onto the main floor, his shadow close enough behind that he could hear the bouncer’s footsteps. He made his way to the bar and Carlos must have signaled T because the man came out from behind the bar almost immediately and met them by the kitchen door where the music was only slightly less deafening.
"Vamp problem," Carlos said.
"Oh sweet Jesus, no," T closed his eyes in obvious despair before putting on a face that looked remarkably like the resolve face his best friend back in Sunnydale used to use. "Okay, do we need to call Gunn?"
"Gunn can't tell a human from a vamp; we need someone who can," Xander pointed out, trying to make sure that T understood the logic and didn't assume that he just wanted to avoid calling his former friend. "We need someone who can spot them, and that means we need a vamp."
"I only know one vamp on a first name basis, and I don't see him around." T waved toward the crowd.
"He's busy," Xander admitted. "But Angel is coming."
"Angel?" T turned a confused expression first to him and then to Carlos. Carlos simply shrugged.
"Angel has a soul; he runs a supernatural detective agency, and yes I do know how completely corny that sounds, but I can't help it. He doesn't kill at all, doesn't even really like Spike because Spike won't give up killing. He'll do the right thing," Xander pleaded with T to believe that he knew what he was talking about. If T called Gunn, the crew would just lose more people.
"Are you sure about him?" T asked, concern and fear and anger all tangled in his expression.
"Yeah, I am," Xander responded.
"Good enough for me," T said. "So, I assume closing the club would be bad."
"Not for the vamps, it'd let them pick off the humans one at a time," Carlos pointed out. "Best if we just wait." So the three of them moved to the corner of the bar where they stood watching the crowd and waiting for the disaster to strike. It felt like hours, but Xander's watch suggested that only about fifteen minutes had passed before the shit hit the proverbial fan.
“Oh shit,” T swore as the first scream pierced the air. Xander looked toward the sound, but a tingling in his skull cautioned him and he turned in time to see a short little man standing three feet away vamp out.
“Xander!” Carlos cried out, but he had already brought up his stake, driving it forward so fast that the vampire didn’t have time to do anything other than look surprised, the expression turned into a dust sculpture for one second before the body floated to the ground. He turned, his attention back to the floor, ignoring the hand that pulled him as he planted himself beside the kitchen door.
“Shit, the customers,” T cried, and Xander realized that the club had become a cattle pen, trapping the humans into a small confined, confused space where the vamps could feed amid the panic. Reaching out, he grabbed a wide-eyed Hispanic man wearing clothes so tight that they outlined his stomach bulge. He pulled the man toward the kitchen door before shoving him through and yelling to T.
“Keep them back there.” He reached out and grabbed another man, the demon stirred, but Xander could tell that it wanted to kill they prey; it didn’t feel threatened. He assumed that meant human and he shoved the man toward the back. He hadn’t gotten any farther before the demon in his mind howled, and he looked up to see Angel standing at the doorway holding an axe. Cordelia, stake in hand, stood on one side of him and the green-eyed man he vaguely remembered from Cassidy’s lair stood on the other. He made eye contact with Angel for a moment before he continued his impromptu inspection and evacuation process.
He had refined the process, grabbing arms and flinging bodies towards Carlos when he touched an arm that made his demon growl and snap within his mind. Pulling back, he braced himself for the yellow eyes that turned to lock in on him. He brought up the stake and started a lunge, but the vamp fell back and to one side. Xander refused to fall for the same trap he had laid for Ajani, so he aborted and withdrew, circling some and watching the vamp move. The vamp stabbed at him with a clawed hand, and he grabbed the outstretched wrist and yanked, pulling the vamp off balance before driving the stake into its heart. The ash flew to the ground with the momentum of a falling body.
Xander exulted in his kill. Either that or the demon did, but damn it felt good. He shook his head to refocus and re-start his evacuations; he turned to find Carlos. The man had stepped forward, standing barely two feet behind him with wide, amazed eyes. Yep, he crowed to himself, he did that, he shocked the big, bad bouncer.
“Get ‘em outta here,” he shouted at he pushed a human toward Carlos. Carlos simply thrust the man toward the kitchen door, but he must have gotten the idea, because he scrambled toward safety.
“Not leaving you,” Carlos shouted over the screams, and Xander didn’t take time to argue as he pushed forward. A tingle behind him, and he turned to see Carlos’ stake stab into a vamp, reducing it to dust. He glanced back and saw T now standing guard at the door with several crosses, so he slid farther into the crowd, Carlos at his back, as he pushed the humans toward the door to safety and searched for more enemies.
A third vamp turned to dust before it could turn its eyes to him, and he continued, the demon voice in his mind bellowing in triumph. Strong. Worthy. It roared. Xander wasn’t sure he’d go that far, but he certainly didn’t feel like the sidekick loser. He wasn’t the second-string vamp bait. He didn’t have to hide behind the real vampire-hunters.
He sunk into his internal monologue…dialogue? Was it a dialogue if the two people involved lived in the same brain? Maybe he’d have to go find his junior English teacher and ask. The crowd had thinned to a few milling people, and he felt the tingle of vampire.
He quickly spun, driving the stake forward and throwing his weight behind it only to find his hand diverted so that the stake sunk into flesh and his own body was pulled forward into a hard embrace. His demon panicked, and Xander did the same, pulling back wildly without even affecting the huge vampire. He unexpectedly felt the vamp stumble forward, and he pulled up his legs, taking advantage of the moment to throw the vamp off balance. He felt them both head for the ground, and he tucked his legs closer, hoping to have a chance to drive home a few well aimed kicks once on the ground.
“Xander, enough!” he heard a deep voice yell, and he wrenched himself out of that tight embrace only to look over at Angel, on the floor, a stake embedded in his abdomen. Wow, he had really missed the heart on that one. He struggled to his feet, and he looked for Carlos. The bouncer stood not more that a couple feet away, blue-flushed skin and a broken stool in his hands as he struggled with the green-eyed friend of Angel hanging on his arm and Cordelia clinging to his back, her legs wrapped around his middle. Carlos looked ready to topple under the weight, and Xander shouted.
“Carlos, it’s okay; they’re the ones we called.” Xander knew that Carlos had heard when the bouncer lowered the stool and the strange man before returning to a more human skin tone. Cordelia still perched on him as though getting a piggy back ride. He looked around and realized that the five of them were alone in a room full of broken furniture and a couple of broken human bodies. Ugh.
“You can get off me now, girl,” Carlos pointed out, and he watched as Cordelia untangled herself and slid to the ground.
“Not nice to stake other people’s vamps,” she criticized, and Xander could feel the wrongness in the statement. His demon complained about the human girl claiming a powerful old master, the master of his line, Xander suddenly realized. He studied Angel and the fear of the older vamp remained, but he could also feel the demon’s grudging deference to the head of the line.
“Sorry about that,” Xander said with a wave toward the stake that Angel had pulled out of his own stomach with a grunt.
“You’ve been training with William,” Angel replied, and it took a half-second for him to translate the proper sounding ‘William’ into his own oh-so-improper Spike.
“Well, yeah.” He decided to leave Ajani out of the discussion. Some things Angel just didn’t need to know. Angel looked at him strangely, and he feared the vampire could hear the omission.
“Let’s talk,” Angel reached out for his arm, and suddenly Carlos stood between them.
“He’ll stay here,” Carlos insisted, blocking Xander’s view of Angel.
“Isn’t that his choice?” Angel asked, the threat in his voice clear in the slight growl.
“Carlos, it’s okay.” Xander put his hand on Carlos’ arm to soothe the obviously angry man. “Angel has a soul; he’s not like other vamps,” he assured the fuming bouncer who now appeared to be bathed in a blue light, even though all the colored lights had gone off and the brights had been turned on shortly after the attacked started.
“Stay back,” Carlos insisted, pushing Xander farther behind his own large body.
“Don’t push him around.” Around Carlos’ body he could see Angel step up, the brown eyes twinkling with yellow in an expression he had never see on Spike because Spike had usually vamped out long before getting that angry.
“Whoa, back off there guys,” he tried in his best imitation of Cordelia. And when you had to imitate a cheerleader to seem manlier, that really was reaching the bottom of the barrel. Unfortunately the real Cordelia chose this moment to decide to mind her own business, leaning against a table and examining a finger for either a splinter or a broken nail, he couldn’t tell which.
“Xander,” Carlos said in a warning tone, but he had endured enough coddling for the day.
“No, Carlos. Angel is a giant pain in the arse, as Spike would say, well actually Spike would be more likely to say giant Pouf or Peaches or Hair-boy, but you get the general picture.” Xander stepped out around Carlos, dodging the arm that tried to pull him back into protective custody. His demon lurched forward, making Xander gasp for air for just a second before he settled himself and his demon with a firm mental push.
Carlos looked ready to argue, but he felt a cool hand on his arm pulling him behind the vampire.
“Decision made,” Angel snapped and then pushed him toward the back room. When T appeared at the door with his armory of crosses, Xander stepped forward.
“T, get everyone out; it’s safe now.”
“Sweetie, you may feel safe around vamps, but I sure don’t. Why don’t you come with us?” he asked with a glance toward his large guard.
“Angel’s cool, well not cool as in he dresses cool but cool as in he won’t eat anyone type cool.” Xander bit his tongue, ordering it to stop babbling, but some things never changed.
“Sure,” T said slowly, and he could see Angel flinch under the disbelief. “Come on gentlemen, the tour of the kitchen is over and the criminals are gone, so we need to get outta here,” Xander watched at the tall thin man waved the terrified customers out the door like a parade marshal. The only time T even showed the stress came when he saw his broken club. He stopped, his eyes moving from one corner to another, and then he shrugged. “Can always go back to tending bar,” he sighed.
When the customers and employees had abandoned the building, Angel gestured him into the back, away from three pairs of curious eyes. Once in back, Xander leaned against the prep table and waited for the lecture to come. He knew what to expect…what business did he have trying to fight…he was just a weak human…his demon wasn’t normal…he shouldn’t be with Spike…Spike couldn’t be trusted. He buried himself in his inner conversation so deeply that it took quite a while before he realized that Angel wasn’t talking. In fact, the dark vampire simply leaned against a wall, his arms crossed, and his eyes focused on Xander.
Angel sighed, and Xander suppressed an urge to laugh. He knew he couldn’t carry a conversation, but he was just an eighteen year old loser; here was a 250 year old vampire with social skills even lower that Xander's own.
“You wanted something?” Xander finally asked.
“Spike’s not treating you like a pet, is he?” Angel asked, serious brown eyes searching for some answer Xander didn’t understand. He shrugged an answer.
“He isn’t treating me like Cassidy did, but then Cassidy’s dust, so he isn’t treating me like anything these days.”
“This isn’t a joke.”
“It’s my life, which implies it is a joke, actually.” Xander watched the frustration growing on Angel’s features, and he wondered if he should tone it down with the older vampire. He really didn’t know him that well.
“He could hurt you,” Angel stated, the ‘he’ in the sentence unspoken but clear.
“He could,” Xander agreed, feeling a need to be honest. “But he treats me better than my own parents do.”
“He’s a demon.”
“So are you.”
“A soul-less demon,” Angel amended himself, and Xander didn’t have a response to that. He stood there and examined his nails.
“You don’t know what he’s really like.” Angel finally announced into the silence, and Xander looked up at that accusation. How many times had he heard his own father claimed to know what was best for him because Xander didn't really understand the way the world worked?
“I have an idea; I’m really not as stupid as I look. I know about his whole penchant for grooms although really that’s your fault since you always went for the brides.” He didn’t even feel guilty about the pained expression; after all Angel was trying to get him to leave Spike. “I know about dragging people back to the lair so that Dru could play with them both before and after they died, and can I just say ewww here. I know how he kills; I know where his name comes from; I see what he is.”
“And do you see how much you’ve changed?” Angel stepped forward this time. “Do you see what you’ve become in one week? How much of you will be left in another week or a month or a year?”
“You don’t know who I was a week ago or even four years ago before Cassidy.”
“I’ve talked to Gunn; I have a pretty good idea who you were a week ago, and the man Gunn described is not the same man I saw out there on that floor.”
“Gunn? What, did he tell you what a loser I was? He describe how I got Frederick killed? He tell the story about how I dropped the stake when I tried to dust that old-man vamp? That’s one of his favorites.” Xander hadn’t realized how much he resented being the center of the crew’s jokes until Angel’s words. When he had been part of that family, it felt like brotherly ribbing. Now it felt like a betrayal. Gunn had told this man, this vampire, all about his failures. He didn’t want Angel to look at him as the loser.
“He told me you were a moral man who would do anything to protect his friends, to protect innocents.” Angel had frozen in the middle of the room as if he didn’t know what to do with himself. The hands finally crossed over his chest.
“I haven’t changed that much then,” he replied with a wave toward the dance floor. “Carlos begged me to leave, but I wouldn’t walk away from this.”
“But the man Gunn described wasn't fighting out there on the floor tonight.”
“So we’re back to the whole it can't be me if I'm not a big loser thing. I *can* take care of myself.”
“You can’t, not against Spike. I can protect you.”
“Don’t really feeling like trading up, thanks,” Xander replied even though he doubted that Angel would be a step up. The man seriously needed Prozac and he could imagine hating him if he spent any amount of time around him.
“I could get you a ticket to some place where vamps wouldn’t be likely to find you, where you could be independent. Montana maybe, went through there once and didn’t find a vamp in the whole state.”
“I don’t need saving,” Xander insisted, and Angel stopped talking, focusing on Xander until Xander felt the demon squirm and he glared back.
“You really aren’t a normal pet,” Angel sighed.
“Hey! Getting sick of the complaints. In fact, I seem to remember telling someone that I would stake you next time you called me strange. ‘Course I kinda did stake you so maybe we can call it even.” Xander fought an urge to retreat behind the table as Angel stepped up to him, getting in his personal space and looking down at him imperiously.
“And if I said you were leaving tonight?” Angel asked, his eyes flashing yellow.
“I’d answer, ‘Over your dust,’ Deadboy, so let’s not go there.” Angel instantly retreated, turning away and leaning against the tile wall. “Just because you hate Spike doesn’t mean he’s all evil, and being that he’s a soulless demon that sounds really stupid, but it isn’t nearly as stupid as you might think.”
“I don’t hate William. I hate what I did to him.”
“You mean the whole sire-punishing-torture thing or the whole getting a soul and abandoning him to Darla thing?” Angel’s head snapped around and Xander caught his breath at the pain and fury he saw reflected for one instant before the calm and emotionless mask returned.
“He told you.”
“Then you know why he hates me. Even after Dru turned him he had humanity left in him, and that infuriated me. I turned him into the monster he is today, and don’t ever forget that he is a monster who has tortured and raped and enjoyed every minute.”
“He has that in him, but he’s more than that.”
“I wish I could believe you. There are days I wish I had William back.” Xander saw the pain and loss in Angel’s eyes, and he wished he knew the words to fix it because he recognized the expression of hopelessness. He’d seen it in the mirror often enough before Spike. A thought came to him.
“Wait here,” he asked as he dashed for his locker and spun the lock open. Reaching inside the folded jeans, he pulled out the stack of CD’s and then locked his locker again. When he got back to the kitchen he pushed the stack of silver disks into a confused Angel’s hand. “Spike and I have a bit of a musical war going on, don’t really agree on the definition of good music,” he explained, but the confused look only grew deeper. “If you could hold on to these, it’ll drive Spike crazy trying to find them. Just please, promise you won’t scratch them until he comes for them.” Angel looked down at the bundle of discs for several seconds before he gave Xander a calculating stare.
“I’ll keep them safe," he promised. "So, you don’t like pointless screaming either?”
“No, not really." He paused as the meaning of that settled in. "How do you know his musical tastes?”
“He’s my childe; I may have checked on him once or twice,” Angel admitted with a shrug, and Xander could see the ache in Angel’s eyes. He felt sympathy for a vampire trapped between a demon and a soul, but he also feared how much damage Angel could do if he decided to seriously interfere with their relationship.
"Then you know he's not a monster, not like the vamps out there," Xander waved toward the dance floor.
"I know Spike forms attachments. I know what he's willing to do to keep those attachments. It doesn't mean you're safe." Angel took a deep breath, strange habit for creatures that didn't need oxygen, but he supposed that even 200 years of being dead couldn't break some habits.
"I've never been safe, and I probably won't ever be, but being with Spike doesn't feel nearly as dangerous as some things I've done…like in 11th grade, I goosed Mrs. Kerpel when we were on this field trip. That was pretty darn dangerous."
"I don't trust him."
"Then talk to him; don't just issue random threats, show him that the Angelus who cared about him is still down in there somewhere."
"That's not it." Angel fell silent, but this time Xander had the good sense to wait, feeling like Angel had more to say and he just needed time to say it. Finally the vampire started again. "Angelus hated him for being too human, too soft, too weak. Angelus humiliated him, took everything away from him and drove him to become harder. Angelus created Spike." Angel closed his eyes and turned away, and this time Xander stepped closer. Part of him wanted to reach out and put a comforting hand on the vampire's arm, but his own demon railed against that so he just stood closer.
"And I hated him too at first. When I was turned, I destroyed my family; he tried to save what was left of his. I obliterated everything in my path; he tried to create this fairy-tale relationship with Dru." Angel stopped, but Xander could see the problem.
"You were jealous of him," he guessed, and the silence confirmed it. He got the feeling Angel didn't normally talk to people, so he couldn't imagine why the vampire had chosen him to confide in.
"I know how different Spike is, but I also know how dangerous he is. Stay with me," Angel turned and Xander felt himself pulled toward those dark eyes, but the memory of ice-blue eyes sparking with an evil sort of happiness interceded, and he backed up.
"I can't. I want Spike." For a moment, he feared that Angel would continue, but he simply nodded.
"If you need me…" Angel allowed the words to trail off, but a crash and string of curses interrupted them.
Xander exchanged a quick look with Angel before dashing for the door, the tall vampire just behind him. He froze the instant he entered the main room, the sight of Spike in full game face holding Carlos against a wall and suspended above the floor stopping him cold. He felt a hand on his shoulder either because he had stopped too fast and startled Angel or because the older vampire wanted to offer comfort or protection. At that point, Xander nearly asked for protection because when Spike's eyes turned on him, he could feel his heart falter and his chest tighten.
"That wot ya call protectin' 'im?" Spike demanded in an accent so thick as to be nearly indecipherable. Carlos didn't respond, probably because of the hand around his neck, and Xander rushed forward.
"Spike, everything's fine, really, you can let him go now." He had nearly closed the distance between them when Spike's growl stopped him and he froze as Spike tilted his head up, glaring at him. Spike dropped Carlos and slowly circled. He turned to look at Angel for some sort of explanation, but the older vampire had moved over to his two friends, using his body as a shield. On the third circle, Spike moved in and grabbed him by the back of the neck, and Xander yielded without argument, allowing the vampire to pull him in close.
"Ya poachin' now, Peaches? If we aren't respectin' each other's territory, I wouldn't mind doin' some poachin' of my own." Xander couldn't see since Spike had pulled him into his body so that his head was buried in Spike's shoulder, the hand held him there, but from Cordelia's gasp and Angel's growl, he could just imagine the look Spike had just given Cordelia.
"William," Angel snarled.
"Sod off," Spike snapped, and then he felt himself being propelled through the empty club to the door and the familiar motorcycle. When Spike got on, he climbed on behind even though he knew that this time he had screwed up, and the demon in him warned of punishment to come.
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