**Get out of this house! I never want to see your face again!**
**Dad, wait! Please--**
"That's where you used to live?" Gunn asked. He nodded toward the house, with it's peeling paint and weed-choked lawn. There was a broken down car in the driveway that Xander assumed belonged to his Uncle Rory, and the old '78 Chevy belonging to his Dad. This being a Saturday morning, the only thing missing was his Dad and Uncle, under the hood of the wreck, arguing over how to get it running again, while the local Sixties station blared in the background.
"Yeah, home sweet home," Xander said, flippantly.
Xander was taking Lindsey and Gunn on "The Walking Tour of Sunnyhell." Nothing had changed, barring the damage from a few disasters like a giant demon-snake trying to eat the graduating class. Or maybe if there were changes, he just wasn't seeing them, the way the residents seemed to not-notice every thing around them, like the burned out school.
"Didn't get to see much of the town, the last time I was here," Lindsey said with a slight grin.
"You've been here? When?"
"Spike brought me down here, to provide a little legal-ese to um...convince Xan's parents to sign the Emancipated Minor papers," Lindseysaid. "It was...quite the experience."
It had amazed Xander, when Lindsey and Spike had called him during their "visit," how much of a fight his father had put up, over the papers. There was a kind of a logical disconnection, to verbally disown your own child, then turn around and refuse to sign the papers that would make it a legal fact. But, no one had ever accused his Dad of being logical. "It was kind of 'Bad Vamp, Worse Lawyer,'" Xander said. He could laugh about it now, but at the time, his emotions had been on a roller coaster ride throughout the entire ordeal. It had finally taken a phone call from him, before his Dad would sign the papers...and the less he thought about that conversation, the better.
Lindsey snickered. "I pretty much thought Spike was going to go back on his word not to kill anyone when your Dad made some of his comments..."
Xander grinned. "It was all Spike could talk about, for weeks after." What had *really* been strange though, had been how that little trip had been something of a bonding experience for the vamp and the then-lawyer. They had left more or less as enemies, and had come back as...well, not friends, but something similar. *Bosom rivals? Best opponents?*
Gunn looked sidelong at Xander and Lindsey. "Do I even want to know?"
Xander shook his head. "Nope, trust me on this."
"So, looks like any family reunions are probably off then, right?"
"Probably," Xander agreed with a grin. "Though, it'd be tempting, to just go up there, and say 'hi'!"
"What's next on the tour?" Gunn asked.
"The old highschool, and some of the cemetaries, then we'll swing by the Magic Shop." Xander replied.
"Shopping trip?" Lindsey asked hopefully. Xander nodded.
"Yeah, also, I want to talk with Buffy about maybe letting us patrol with her."
It was almost noon when they arrived at the Magic Shop. Buffy was behind the counter, and Willow was at one of the nearby tables reading a large, leather bound book with gilt edged pages. Both looked up as he, Lindsey and Gunn entered. Willow was frowning, and Buffy...looked as nervous as he still felt. "Hey guys," he said, trying for casual, and almost making it. He knew that there would be more questions today--there would almost have to be. He looked to Lindsey. "You got the shopping list, right?"
Lindsey nodded. "Sure," he said, and moved off into the stacks.
"Shopping list?" Buffy asked.
"Long string of books with Hebrew and Latin titles," Xander explained. "Lindsey's a sorcerer."
"Oh," Buffy said, and looked uncomfortable, and even more nervous. If Buffy looked nervous, it looked like Willow was about to fly apart from sheer tension.
*Okay, chances are, they compared notes after dinner, and they really don't like what they've seen,* Xander thought, and for a moment, had a sudden urge to just turn around and leave. He wasn't making any effort to hide his relationship with Spike, but he also didn't want to have to explain it...justify it. "I was wondering if we could patrol with you tonight, Buffy...Gunn's been wanting to see a Slayer in action," Xander said.
Gunn nodded. "Yeah, what do you guys usually run into around here... town looks pretty quiet."
Buffy shrugged. "Vamps mostly, demons trying to open the Hellmouth... the usual apocalypse stuff, you?"
"Not so much with the apocalypse stuff, lots of demons, some vamps." Gunn shot her his patented "you're shitting me," look. "You do a lot of demons? I thought you were a specialist or something... *Vampire* Slayer," he said, in a challenging voice.
Buffy's eyes narrowed, then she smiled brightly. "Gee, I'll have to use that argument the next time a Junak tried to take my head off with a battle-ax...*not*."
Gunn grinned. "Yeah, they aren't much for reasonable conversation, are they? So, if you don't mind my asking, just what *is* a Slayer?" Gunn nodded to Xander. "Xander was a bit light on the details, when he was goin' over that."
Xander snorted. "Because you were more or less radiating 'unimpressed.'"
Gunn shrugged, unconcerned. "Yeah, well, you just said she was this chick that killed vampires. Takes more than that to impress me, me and my friends do that, *without* super powers." Again with the challenging look, sparks seemed to fly from Buffy's eyes at the comment, or at the challenge.
Meanwhile, Willow was giving him little "come here, come here" gestures, the worried look on her face growing more intense. Xander was torn between going over to Willow and talking to her before she exploded, or monitoring the escalating "discussion" between Gunn and Buffy, but only for a moment. He exchanged a quick glance with Gunn, then followed after Willow. She led him into a back room that turned out to be Buffy's training room, where she stood there looking at him with big green eyes, biting her lower lip. "Willow, what's wrong?" He asked.
She took a deep breath. "Xan, w-we've been friends for like ever, and I know you did what you thought was best in letting us think you died, but I still think of you as my best friend, and I can't help being worried about you. So even though it's none of my business..." She trailed off, and looked up at him nervously.
Xander fought the smile that was fighting to curl up the corners of his mouth. He'd almost forgotten what Willow-babble sounded like. "Yes?" He said, trying not to smile.
"Well, I worry. You know I worry, right?" She looked at him, obviously expecting a response, so he nodded. "...And I've always worried when I thought you might be in trouble, and I don't know that you *are* in trouble now, so I have to do the best friend thing and check, 'cause best friends care about each other, and I just couldn't live with myself if I didn't." Willow paused to take a breath, and before Xander could say anything to reassure her, she was off again. "I mean, if you were in trouble,and I didn't ask, and it turned out that you needed my help, and I'd never offered 'cause I didn't know cause I didn't ask. So I'm asking--" She peered up at him uncertainly.
Conflicted, again. Willow was concerned, and that's all it was, worry, and fear for him. But in some way, it was also fear *of* him, how he might react, maybe. *Have I really changed that much?* So much so, that his best friend was looking as if she thought he might yell at her? Xander smiled, in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. "Asking if I need help?" He asked, as if he didn't quite understand all the underlying issues that practically screamed at him between the lines of Willow's speech. "With what?"
Willow fidgeted. "With, well, anything..." She trailed off, and bit her lip. "Are you...okay?"
*That* of course, was the real question, hidden under all the babbling. *Are you okay?* Which was code for anything from "are we still friends?" to the more obvious "are you sure you don't need my help?" Xander nodded. "Yeah, I'm okay," he paused. "Are you?" *Am I looking for her approval? Or just her understanding?*
Willow looked relieved, but still uncertain. "Sorta....Maybe." Her gaze flicked downward, then up. "You're sure? With everything?" There was a very faint blush creeping up her cheeks, and Xander had no doubt in his mind what aspects of his relationship with Spike had been uncovered. "I mean...I know how he looked at you last night, and the way you looked at him, but...Spike?" The concerned, confused look was back in full force.
Xander had to swallow the laugh that was threatening to escape. "Oh," he said with an expression of feigned enlightenment. "You wanted to know about *Spike*....or, *me* and Spike."
Willow fidgeted more. "Umm...both?" She asked, somehow seeming both timid and determined at the same time...*and who does *that* remind me of?* Xander thought. The hair was red and straight, not black, but there was something in the way Willow acted that reminded him more than a little of Fred.
"Are you...is everything okay in Xander land?" Willow continued. "I mean, Spike was always, 'grrr big bad, here!'" She said, roughly approximating Spike's accent. "Only, now he...isn't, but he was before ...but you um...care about him, and that's of the good, right?"
Xander laughed. "I missed you Wills, you know that?" Willow smiled shyly at him, and he suddenly, desperately wanted to hug her. Instead, he smiled. "I care about him, he...took care of me," Xander said softly. "Things were looking scary in Xanderland for a while, but then they got better, okay?"
Willow nodded, accepting what he said, without asking for further details, then she frowned, a very stern, and determined sort of frown. "But if anything happens, you'll tell me, right?" She asked. "And no more disappearing tricks!"
"No more disappearing tricks," he said, and this time, he *did* hug her, and with no hesitation on her part, she hugged him back. Tightly, like she was afraid that he *would* disappear again, if she didn't hang on to him.
They stood like that, arms wrapped around each other for several minutes, before Willow pulled away slightly, to look up at him with another worried frown. "Um...another question?"
Willow looked nervous. "He...wasn't munching on the locals, was he?"
**Haven't killed anyone lately, pet.**
"For the first few weeks," Xander said softly. "I honestly couldn't tell you. I don't remember."
Willow looked sad. "And...later?"
"Later, he said he wasn't killing, that he was looking," he paused, "looking for people...who wanted to be bitten."
"L-like Riley?" Willow asked hesitantly. Xander couldn't place the name for a moment--then remembered. Riley Finn, member of the organization that had cut open Spike's head, and implanted the chip. Kendra's boyfriend, now dead...heart attack or something. *Too bad, would have liked to have a "talk" with him, about the chip.*
"Yeah, like Riley."
Willow nodded. "Oh, okay. I... I didn't think... I mean, you being dark avenger and all, I didn't think he would, um, act like... well, like someone you would have to stop." She paused, and looked up at him for a moment.
Xander grinned. "I wasn't 'dark avenger' at the time," he laughed." And don't let Linds or Gunn hear you say that, or I'll never hear the end of it." He bit his lip, then took a deep breath before continuing. "I wasn't anything more than a fucked up kid. Spike was--" Xander shook his head. "I don't know *why* Spike was actually volunteering not to kill...just that he was..."
**I'm not killing...I won't.**
**Made a promise, and I keep my promises.**
"You really love him, don't you?" It was more of a statement, than a question, as she looked up at him with a small smile.
Xander grinned. "Yeah. Even if half the time, I have to kick his ass."
The full Willowsmile bloomed on her face, as she hugged him again. "Oh, I'm so happy for you!" Not quite a squeal, but close, Xander laughed, and hugged her back.
"So you're okay with the evil undead boyfriend?" Xander asked, grinning so hard his cheek muscles were starting to ache. "Cool. The gang usually won't even admit that they actually *like* him."
Willow looked up at him, amused. "I didn't say that--yet. I need to talk to him first." She moved away, and went over to the wall next to the door, picking up a large shovel she had apparently left there earlier. "Where can I find him?" She asked, with a determined gleam in her eye.
For a moment, the only thought in Xander's head was *Huh?* Then he grinned wickedly. "Ummm...Wills? No offense, but I'm the only one that disciplines my boyfriend--okay?"
She gave him a peel-the-paint glare. "It's just a visual prop--for now. He is *way* overdue for the shovel talk." Then she blushed, as she realized what he'd just said.
Xander smirked. "Ummm...Wills? Spike's already gotten the shovel speech times three...Lins, Doyle and Kate have all taken their turns," Xander explained, still smirking. Then, with an evil look in his eye, he said, "...and even without that, he's already spent a month chained to the bed, while we...discussed the direction our relationship should go in...
Willow blushed more brightly. "I...think that was maybe more than I needed to know," she said quickly. Still flushing, she bravely squared her shoulder, looking him right in the eye, still determined to do her duty as a friend. "...And if he's already had it 3 times, then once more won't hurt."
"Yes, but you won't be the one hearing him whine about it for a week after ward," Xander said reasonably--the reasonable tone that would have warned Lindsey, Doyle or Kate that Xander was up to something, but Willow didn't hear it. "I'd have to do something...drastic to get him to stop," Xander said,innocently, and pretended to think about it. "On second thought, go ahead." Xander smiled malevolently.
Willow somehow managed to blush even redder. "Um...right. So where--?"
"Our hotel room," Xander said with a malevolent purr. "However, he isn't really isn't able to answer the door, I could give you the key-card though," he offered sweetly.
Willow gasped, and stared at him in orror. "Umnothat'sokayI'llwaittillhegetsheretonight!" She said in high-speed babble mode.
Xander gave his friend a wide eyed, innocent look. "What? He's *asleep* The guy sleeps like a log.
Willow's eyes narrowed in a "you are *so* dead" glare. Xander continued to look innocent, giving her his most charming smile. "Now, speaking of Spike, I'd like to ask Giles a few questions concerning chains and bath tubs..."
Willow hrumphed, and put the shovel down. "You just make sure he has the chance to talk to me tonight," she said. "I think Giles is in his office."
"I will," Xander said, grinning, and left in search of the Watcher's office. It wasn't hard to find, since the door was open, with a hidden grin, Xander wondered if Giles had been listening in on his and Willow's conversation, or on the discussion still going on between Gunn and Buffy. From what he could hear of it, Gunn and the Slayer were now talking about weapons. Giles was sitting at his desk drinking tea, and reading--not some huge dusty tome though, instead, he was reading *The Onion Girl.* Xander entered the room. "Hey Giles."
Giles looked up from his book, and smiled. "Xander."
"Had a little talk with Willow," Xander said casually. "Is there anything you wanted to know?"
"Ah, yes. I thought she might talk to you," Giles said in an unruffled tone. "I didn't believe her fears were well-founded, but..." Giles shrugged.
"Yeah, If I were in her place, I'd be asking questions too," Xander said, the smirked. "Is there anything *I* should know? Like about bath tubs? And chains?"
Giles continued to look unruffled, but there was a slight hesitation to his voice. "Er...yes, I did in fact keep Spike chained up in the bathtub."
Xander grinned. "I know, he complained about it for a week." He let the faintest leer come into his voice as he said it. Instead of getting ruffled, Giles looked amused. "But that isn't the main reason I'm here," Xander said in a more serious tone.
"Which would be?" Giles asked curiously.
Xander took a breath. "I want to see him. I want to see Angelus."
The anticipation was killing him.
**I'm really beginning to get that "pain is beautiful" thing, Angelus.**
Angelus sat curled in his corner of the cell, forehead pressed against his knees. The cell was in the basement of what appeared to be a magic shop. The work that had gone into this set was amazing. Cement beneath his bare feet, and cinderblock at his back. The musty smell of herbs, of magic, of books, the details of the bookcase that concealed the cage. Every thing just *perfect* and real in appearance, and endowed with an authenticity that was incredible. *Practice makes perfect, after all,* Angelus thought.
He wondered what the story was this time. He'd been told that Xander was dead...that usually meant that he'd return by the third act, as a vampire. Sometimes though, it only meant that Xander committed suicide. Which was it though?
When Xander was alive, he usually turned up, at the latest, by the end of the first. If human, Xander usually died, at the hands of Drusilla or Spike. If a vampire, Xander stalked, tortured and murdered everyone he cared about. If Xander had committed suicide, one of Xander's friends would kill him. No matter *what* happened though, Angelus would awaken in a room with no walls, hanging from a ceiling that wasn't there or strapped to a table, while Xander--as a vampire--tortured him.
Variations on a theme, repeated over and over again, with some Oscar winning performances from the demons who forced him through these endless scenarios. He would awaken on the floor in the mansion, not far from where Acathla had stood, mind empty of thought, operating on instinct and reflex until he was found and captured by "Buffy," her friends, or both. There would be a period of adjustment, where the doppelganger-demons would attempt to convince him of the reality of the illusion...then the illusion would slowly begin to crumble, and he'd end up where he started.
**Well, well, well...finally found a way to shut the boy up. Isn't it a wonder, Dru?**
*This time it's different, everything has changed. Surely this could not be hell!* Liam's voice was hopeful.
Angelus sneered. "You say that every damned time. And you're always wrong," he said aloud, addressing the opposite corner of the cell. There was no one there, Liam was a purely internal presence, but Angelus liked to pretend that the soul was a seperate, external being.
*This time I am certain of it!*
"As you were every other time," Angelus said mockingly. "And every other time, you were wrong, wrong, *wrong*."
He could feel the fury that wasn't his, imagined that the soul within was trembling with suppressed rage. Smirked. Baiting Liam was as good a way to pass the time between torments as any, since there was no one else to talk to, or argue with. He pretended that Liam was sitting in the opposite corner, glaring at him. Angelus' mental image of Liam was much younger than the demon remembered being--about thirteen, with hair that flopped into his eyes, escaping it's neat tail. White linen shirt, black trousers, and coat.
*Every other time,* the apparition ground out between clenched teeth, *Buffy forgave us, *this* time, she can barely look at us.*
Angelus snorted. "They're always changing something, why not that?"
Liam glared. *Every time, it started as some sort of wish fulfillment...before they break us. What wishes are fulfilled *this* time?*
"They aren't fulfilling your wishes?" Angelus snickered. "Let's see, they aren't fulfilling your wishes. Which leads you to believe that it's real. Which fulfills your wish that this be real," Angelus paused meaningfully. "Idiot. Fool. Simpleton."
Liam laughed, or maybe sobbed, tilting his head against the wall of the cell. The pain and grief on the boy's face was more real than his surroundings. Angelus felt the tightness in his own chest, and the watery sting of his tears. An unwilling sob escaped, before he could stop it. "Stop it! Stop it, damn you!" Angelus growled, jumping up to his feet to stand over Liam. Liam only laughed, a slight hysterical edge to his voice.
*Already damned. This is hell, after all.*
Angelus growled again, and wiped at his tear-stained face. "So you admit this is hell?" He asked.
*I don't know,* Liam said, looking up at Angelus. *It...feels so real, this time.* A half-mad, hollow laugh. *This hell is certainly more creative than anything invented by the Church!*
"Hell can be obvious, and it can be subtle, but one thing is certain, it's eternal," Angelus said in a low voice. "They'll never let us go."
Liam closed his eyes. "Never," Liam whispered aloud, his voice full of despair. "Never let us go."
The wave of anguish that hit then was crippling. With a low cry, Angelus sank to his knees, and curled up into a shivering ball at Liam's feet. He was in the room again. The room to where he was always taken, after the demons became bored with their game. The room where one of the last of his victims took his revenge, over and over again. Where everything was simple, and he didn't have to think, just feel. "Stop...stop it!" Angelus shouted. "Please..."
**The pain got good to you, didn't it, Angelus? Just like you said it would to me...**
Angelus became aware, eventually, of the sounds of footsteps on the stairs. Giles. And someone else, both quietly talking. Familiar voice.
*He's here. It's him...* Liam whispered.
*So he's alive after all,* Angelus thought. *Or they've changed the plot.* This Xander was a few years older than the one that was usually casted, a young man who was nearly Angelus' size, though not quite as big across the shoulders. His hair was longer than he remembered it being, and he wore a earring in his left ear, and a mustache. He was too bronzed by the sun to be a vampire, and not submissive enough to be a pet.
*Not submissive at all,* Liam thought, eyeing the grim young man.
"Just a variation on a theme," Angelus said aloud.
"So, what's the story?" Xander asked, his eyes never leaving Angelus' face.
"He's...not completely coherent, much of the time," The Giles demon said to Xander, with a trace of hesitation in his tone. "He talks to himself, or they talk to each other..."
Xander looked toward Giles. "They?"
"They," Giles said, and then paused. "He...appears to have acquired some sort of...dissociative disorder, perhaps as a result of a-a demon and a soul residing within the same body for such a long subjective time, in...hell." Giles explained.
*This is boring.*
*Don't start anything!*
Angelus smirked at Liam. "I'll do what I please, boy," he said aloud. He rose to his feet, approaching the bars of the cage. "Isn't that right, Xander?" He said in a low, purring voice. Xander's only reaction was a minute tensing of his shoulders, a narrowing of his eyes, and the faintest trace of discomfort. *Not the vampire, but not the pet,* Angelus thought, confused and annoyed by the change in casting. Where did they get *this* result, out of all possible variations? He could smell Spike on this Xander--perhaps Spike had beaten a spine into him? Spike was the sort of person who would be amused by an aggressive slave, but why not simply turn him?
"I wouldn't go there, if I were you, Angelus," Xander said quietly. "You really don't want to piss me off."
Angelus smirked. He was getting to this doppelganger, he could sense the sudden spike of adrenalin that must be rushing through Xander's veins. He lunged forward quickly, just to see if he could make the doppelganger jump. Instead of cringing, or flinching, Xander grabbed Angelus' arm, and hauled it forward, causing the vampire to slam into the bars of the cage. Angelus grunted in pain as Xander twisted the arm against the bars of the cage, pulled a palm-sized cross out of his pocket, and pressed it against the inner arm, over the elbow. Angelus howled, more in outrage than pain. He tried to pull loose, but couldn't quite manage the leverage.
"Xander!" The Giles doppelganger said, in a horrified sounding voice.
"You don't pull that kind of shit with me, Angelus," Xander snarled, pressing harder against smoking, frying flesh. "I am *not* afraid of you." Xander growled and released Angelus' arm.
Angelus scuttled back, mind momentarily blank with panic. The white room, already? Was it the human Xander's turn to torment him now? Why was Giles still here? He looked around wildly for Liam. Liam was still in the corner of the cell, the corner farthest from the bars of the cage. Was this a new part of the game? He was usually alone in the white room, except for Xander. He pressed against the back wall of the cage. Watched. Waited.
The Giles-demon's hand was on Xander's shoulder. "Xander, he's not in his right mind--"
Xander shook the hand off, transferring his glare from Angelus, to the other demon. "He wasn't in his right mind before," Xander said coldly. "There is no way in *hell* I'm going to let him get away with trying to intimidate me."
The Giles-demon frowned. "I understand the necessity of... restraining his behavior," he said in a placating tone. "Usually though, a harsh word is quite sufficient."
Xander laughed, a slight, hysterical edge to his voice. "A harsh word from me? Not very effective, trust me on this." Angelus could hear the rasp of Xander's breath, the thudding of his heartbeat. But what had been arrousing a thousand years ago, now left a bile taste in the back of his throat. His arm throbbed with pain, and he cradled it against his chest, not taking his eyes off of Xander. This wasn't the boy, and it wasn't the vampire--had they voted on which it would be, and it came out as a tie?
"Xander?" The Giles-demon asked, sounding concerned and a little wary.
"I'm fine," Xander said, though there was a shakiness to his voice. "Bad mental place." He shook his head. "I need to get back upstairs and think...I've seen what I needed to see," Xander turned, and started back up the stairs. After a moment, Giles followed after.
Leaving Angelus alone. "No," he whispered, too quietly for the two retreating doppelgangers to hear. "Not alone, never alone."
"You're turning into a good little whore, boy. I like how you drop right down when I tell you to get on your knees."
Boy was talking about the moon. Or Drusilla. Soft mutterings as he drifted in and out of sleep in the back seat of the car. Xander thought the moon was following them, that she was looking for them. Drusilla or the moon, and maybe one was the other, in the boy's head, maybe he'd taken a look too deep into Dru's eyes and had fallen all the way to the bottom.
Maybe his wits had crumbled to dust along with Dru--and don't think about that. Don't think about Dru being dead. Don't think of a box full of ash presented to the Slayer as if it were the ashes of her best friend. Don't think about the stricken madness in her eyes as she clutched the rosewood box to her chest. Turn and run from the berserker scream, which chased him down the hall, and to the car. Get in get in get in and get out.
Running down dust choked hallways, breath burning in his throat lungs. (But he didn't need to breathe.) Heart hammering in his chest (why was his heart beating?) Scrabbling and pounding on doors and finding every one of them locked, trying to get to Xander, before it was too late. He came to the last room, at the end of the hall, and stumbled in. Dru, crooning some mad song as she choked the life from Xander.
"Dru! No, don't!" Spike shouted, and half fell out of bed.
The cell phone was ringing. Shuddering, Spike rolled over, reached for his duster, and fished the cell phone out of a pocket. "Hello? William Boyd speaking--" he began, after hitting the talk button.
"He thinks he's still in Hell." Xander's voice on the other end of the line was strained.
Spike growled softly, immediately identifying that "he" as Angelus. Spike rolled onto his back. "Yeah, so? He's a nutter, and whatever happened to him that broke him? He deserved." Spike glanced at the clock. It was just an hour after noon. "So, Giles filled you in?"
"Giles took me down to see him," Xander said flatly.
Spike sat up abruptly. "He *what*!?" He started looking around for his clothes, currently scattered around the room, and a across the bed. There was an alley in back of the hotel with enough shade to keep him covered until he reached a manhole. From there, it'd be a quick run through the sewers to the cellar of the Magic Box. "I'll *kill* the bastard!" He shouted, trying to pull on his pants with the phone cradled between cheek and shoulder. "I'll effing kill him!"
"Spike, I asked him to take me down."
"You *what?!* Are you insane?" He stood up and fastened his pants, then somehow managed to put his shirt on while still shouting into the phone. "What did that nutter say to you? Did he hurt you? Are you all right?"
"Spike, calm down. I needed to see him."
"No, you bloody well didn't!" Spike growled back.
There was a stifled laugh on the other end of the line. "It's sort of in the job requirement, Spike...parole officer, remember?"
"Well maybe I think he belongs on death row!" Spike growled.
Silence. Just the sound of Xander breathing. Spike swallowed, wondering if he'd gone too far, said too much. "Xan?" He asked tentatively, after a few minutes had gone by.
"You think I wouldn't rather see him dead?" Xander asked.
"I think you should just kill him and be done with it."
Silence, then. "I can't do that, Spike."
"Why *not*?" Spike demanded, and growled again, raking a hand through his hair. "Never mind, I've heard it before," he said when Xander started to tell him. "Angelus is mentioned in some moldy prophecy, and the lawyers definitely want to get in on that. Angelus has a destiny as a Champion, an' Whistler doesn't want Angelus offed, even if he *told you* that you could kill him, if you thought you had to...been there, done that, didn't buy the t-shirt." With that, he ended the call, and turned off the cell phone before shoving it into his pocket.
After a thirty minute trip through the sewers, he entered the Magic Box's cellar. He was about to head up the stairs when he heard a low, nasty chuckle from the cage. He turned toward the cage, growling. "What're you laughing about, wanker?"
Angelus was crouched in a corner of the cage, smirking. "Saw your little pet today. He cleans up nice, doesn't he? You need to teach him a little more discipline though, that was always your weak point."
"He's got plenty of discipline. You're still around, aren't you?" Spike snarled. "Now me, I'd rather stake you and be done with it, so why don't you just shut the fuck up while you're ahead?"
Angelus laughed quietly, and stood, approaching the bars of his cage. "Always liked to play the big man, didn't you?" He sniffed, and the smirk grew even more evil. "I can smell him on you. Is he as sweet a fuck as I remember?"
"You have no idea, Angelus. He likes to play rough, and I like the way he plays," Spike said with a evil smirk. Inwardly, he was seething. No way in hell was he going to let the bastard push his buttons, not if he could help it.
Angelus flinched, his face going all soft, and regretful. "God above, hasn't he been through enough?"
"You should know, you put him through it," Spike shot back. The "Liam" portion of Angelus' fractured mind was totally unlike the rake Darla used to tell stories about. Younger. Softer somehow. Giles' theory was that the soul had been so traumatized by what had happened to it, that it had regressed to a much younger age, in an effort to distance itself from the demon. Spike's theory was that it was an elaborate con. Make the humans feel sorry for poor Liam, tormented by big bad Angelus. Make them pity Liam, who'd been a drunkard and a rake for most of his short life.
Angelus smirked, "Liam" replaced by the demon. "I know, and the way this play is going, I may yet have another taste of him."
"Xan wouldn't fuck you if you begged him to." Spike shook his head, disgusted. "And why the hell am I talking to you, anyway?" He turned and started up the stairs.
Angelus laughed. "Fool, what made you think that it would be me doing the begging? I always loved the sound of his begging. Just think, you've given me the opportunity to break him all over again."
"Not going to happen, Angelus," Spike said, half turning and leaning against the rail. "Sometimes I wonder what's going on in that twisted up head of yours. But mostly? I don't care." He headed up the stairs. Angelus howled, and ran at the bars, but whatever he was screaming was cut off by the sound proofing spell Red had set up before Spike had gotten half way up the stairs.
There were two conversations going on up in the shop. One was Buffy and Gunn, talking about weapons and demon slaying in an amiable, challenging manner that made Spike think of a tiger critiquing a lion's hunting style. The other conversation rambled from one topic to another, then settled on Lindsey. "So, you're a sorcerer--and a lawyer? How did that happen?" Willow was asking as Spike reached the head of the stairs. Spike quietly shut the cellar door, but didn't go into the main area. Instead, he stood listening in the hallway.
"It had to do with the law firm I was in," Lindsey said after an uncomfortable pause. "It was a requirement to have at least a working knowledge of the arcane."
"Indeed? And why was that?" Giles asked curiously.
"Wolfram and Heart are lawyers from hell--literally. They specialize in black magic, the black market, the illegal, and the unethical," Xander interjected. "They got a finger in every pot in LA, except maybe actual pot, which I think comes from Berkeley."
"I won't say I didn't know what I was getting into," Lindsey said after a long pause. "I did, but when I realized that I was in over my head--I left."
"That must have been--difficult, if this firm is all that Xander says it is," Giles said in a neutral tone of voice.
"That's putting it mildly, Watcher." Spike said, exiting the hallway, and slouching into one of the chairs. He smirked maliciously. "Seeing as how the reason he ran was because he was a little squeamish about arranging to have some kids killed," he said casually, tilting his chair back, and giving the ex-lawyer a challenging look. Lindsey looked away, jaw tense.
Willow looked horrified. "Kids? Killed?"
"That's Wolfpiss and Heartless for you," Xander said. "These kids had powers--and because there was no way that WH would have been able to control or use them, they decided to use one of their...operatives, I guess you could call her, and have them killed. Lindsey's job would have been to keep her out of prison." Xander gave Spike a *look* and continued. "The agency was just getting started, and we'd already annoyed WH a time or two, when Lindsey showed up, wanting my help." He looked at the ex-lawyer, and made a little gesture, turning the story back over to Lindsey.
"We were able to save the kids, but my boss, Holland, found out about it--"
"And about the same time, found out some things about Xan from yer barrister girlfriend," Spike interjected.
Lindsey flushed angrily. "Lilah was *not* my girlfriend."
"Well you were shag--oof!" Suddenly, the chair was yanked back, and he was spilled onto the floor. Spike shot back up with a growl, then winced in pain as the chip went off.
"If I was, it's none of your goddamn business, Spike," Lindsey snapped back in a low, vicious tone.
"Oh, it's my business all right--seein' as how most of the information she had on Xander came from *your* damn files!" Spike shouted. They might have been alone in the room, from the silence that fell in the store. Buffy and Gunn looked up from their conversation, the only two customers in the store exited hastily, obviously not wanting to be involved with the eruption.
"Old business," Gunn and Xander said simultaneously. Gunn to Buffy, when she started to move toward the table, Xander to Giles and Willow, as he got up and moved away to the table. Spike hardly noticed the Watcher and the witch getting up to follow Xander, he was so focussed on the ex-lawyer.
"That is *not* my fault. How long do you think you could have sat on the information anyway?" Lindsey shot back.
"A whole hell of a lot longer, if you hadn't practically given that bint all the information she needed to find!"
"I did not *give* her the goddamned information. All she had to do was go down to Records, put two and two together, and hack into my computer," Lindsey growled back.
"What was it doin' on your computer in the first place? Tell me you weren't going to use it on Xander. That you weren't gonna try usin' Xan as bait or something to bring Angelus in."
Lindsey's eyes lowered, unconsciously submissive. "I would have. You know I would have--but I didn't, I *couldn't*." Still angry, but softly.
"Only for lack of opportunity," Spike said, but the words lacked heat. The tight coil of anger was begining to loosen. It wasn't Lindsey he was angry at, it was the bastard downstairs, in the cage. What was it called? Transference? *That's it, I've been reading too many of them damn books.*
"*No,*" Lindsey said forcefully, then, in a more soft tone, so that the others couldn't hear, Spike realized. "You know why."
Spike growled, softly. His boy coming home in the morning, smelling of the lawyer. Lindsey asking him if he was afraid of losing Xander, smirking all the while. Challenging him. His boy, months later, smirking while he explained the new rules. "Yeh. I know." He tilted his head. "Truce, before Xan kicks both our asses?"
Lindsey smirked a little. "Truce."