Twilight Time by Shadow

Chapter 17

Spike followed Angel up the stairs, past the office floor and on up to the roof. When they got through the roof door, Angel turned toward Spike, and Spike held up a hand.

“Hang on a mo,” he said wryly. “I’ll save you the trouble.” He jumped backward violently, slamming his back into the wall. “’Spike! What the ‘ell are you thinking?’” Spike mimicked, then returned to his own sarcastic drawl. “Well, ‘ello, Angel, pleasure to see you too.” He glanced at Angel. “Am I off to the right start here?”

Angel said nothing, but the corners of his lips barely twitched.

“Shall I go on?” Spike said patiently. “Right, then.” He whammed back against the wall again, then jolted his body back and forth as if somebody was shaking him. “’Spike! What the ‘ell am I going to do with you?’ Dunno, Peaches, time was I’d have had a suggestion or two.”

Angel shook his head, rolling his eyes.

“Will – “

“Spike,” Spike growled. “If you’re gonna bash me around, will you at least stop callin’ me that?”

Angel sighed patiently. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll call you Spike if you’ll limit yourself to ‘Angel’. No ‘Peaches’ or ‘Nancy-boy’ or ‘pouf’ or any of the other hundred or so insults I generally have to put up with.”

Spike scowled. “Forget it,” he said.

“Fine.” Angel leaned back against the wall. “So tell me what’s going on with Xander, Will, before I start making assumptions.”

“What about the whelp?” Spike said, stalling.

Angel sighed again. “Will, I can smell you all over him, even in his blood. I’d think you were making a Consort of him if it weren’t for two things – one, you can’t make a Consort in your condition; and two, I can’t imagine you caring enough for any mortal – or little enough for your own life – to become involved with one, much less one of the Slayer’s friends.”

“Shows what you know,” Spike muttered under his breath, but of course Angel heard him, and Spike bit back a curse as the older Vampire’s eyebrows shot up. Damn all, he wasn’t used to being around vampires anymore. He was used to half-deaf mortals, around whom he didn’t have to be nearly so careful what he said.

“Is there something you’d like to tell me, Will?” Angel said quietly.

“Not especially,” Spike said ruefully. “All right, then, so the whelp and I are doin’ the nasty. What of it?”

“And?” Angel said patiently.

“And what?” Spike said gruffly.

Angel met his eyes squarely. “Have you fed from him?”

Spike sighed, but there was no point in lying, not really. “Well . . . a time or two.”

“And you’ve given him your blood,” Angel said flatly. Spike shrugged. There was no point denying that, either. “Well, since you can’t bite him or rape him, I have to assume it’s consensual,” Angel said quietly.

Spike smirked. “At the very least,” he said. “’Loud an’ enthusiastic’ might fit better.”

Angel snorted, an incongruous sound coming from him; it reminded Spike uncomfortably of his Angelus days.

“I think that’s more information than I needed, Will,” he said. “I take it none of the others know?”

Spike shrugged.

“The witches know some of it, at least,” he said.

Angel frowned.


“Didn’t arrive in a dustpan, did I?” Spike retorted.

“Ahhhh.” Angel looked troubled. “What the hell were you thinking, Will?”

“That you wouldn’t tell her,” Spike said sourly.

“Not that.” Angel turned eyes more worried than angry on Spike. “Do you realize what you’ve done to him? Functionally he’s your Consort – but you haven’t marked him. You’ve made him the most attractive kill for any vampire who sees – or more appropriately smells – him. His blood’s the equivalent of Beluga caviar. More – he’s a Consort with no claim, no protection on him. Are you trying to get him killed?”

Spike bit his lip, suddenly worried. He hadn’t thought of that. And it wasn’t as though vampires were exactly scarce around Sunnydale, either.

“I think you’d better tell me the whole story,” Angel said quietly. “From the beginning.”

Spike wrinkled his nose.

“Isn’t all my story to tell,” he said reluctantly.

“Will, you’ve brought him into our circle,” Angel said patiently. “That means it is your story to tell. You know that.”

Spike hesitated, startled by Angel acknowledging the bond between Sire, Childe and Consort. Traditionally, Angel was right.

“Right, then,” Spike said resignedly. “But he won’t like that I told you.”

Angel nodded gravely, and Spike told Angel everything from discovering Xander in the cemetery up to the decision that he and Xander would come to LA. That way he could safely omit mentioning the stop at the construction site and the neutralization of his chip, but without trying to outright lie to Angel – something he could probably never get away with. Angel listened without comment, although he frowned darkly at several points – namely the references to Xander’s parents and, to Spike’s surprise, the account of Buffy’s actions. Finally Spike stopped.

“That’s the lot,” he said. “Going to slam me around a bit now?”

Angel barely smiled, shaking his head.

“No,” he said. “I have a couple of questions, though.” Angel reached out and cupped Spike’s chin firmly, turning Spike to face him. “Look me in the eye, Will, and tell me you really care about Xander. That you really want to make him your Consort. With all that implies.”

Spike swallowed but met Angel’s eyes squarely.

“Yeah,” he said hoarsely. “I knew what I was doing, and I meant it. I . . . promise.”

Angel searched Spike’s eyes for a moment longer, then nodded.

“All right, then,” he said. “That’s good enough for me.”

“It is?” Spike said, surprised.

“Yes.” Angel smiled slightly. “You lie pretty much at will, but your promise has always meant something. And you know better than to lie to me.” For a moment, there was a distinctly Angelus-like glint in his eye; far from making Spike feel intimidated, he was almost reassured. Somehow it was good to know that his Sire hadn’t changed entirely. “Come on, let’s go back downstairs before Xander decides I’m torturing you and comes up with a stake to dust me. We’d better haul the books out and get to work.”

“What about Xander?” Spike asked warily.

“What about him?” Angel shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it. I’m worried about him walking around with the vampire equivalent of ‘Hey, gourmet meal available here, come and get it’ tattooed across his forehead, and I’m worried about you when – not if, Will, when – the Slayer and the others find out what’s going on between you.”

Spike mustered a grin and thumped his chest.

“Kevlar vest,” he said. “Xan got it for me.”

Angel raised an eyebrow, but his eyes were sad.

“You thought I’d stake you?”

Spike snorted.

“Not hardly. What I thought was that the whelp would nag me all night if I didn’t wear it.” Suddenly Spike wanted – needed – to mend this breach with Angel, and he knew only one way to do it. “Listen, Peaches, one more thing before we go down there, okay?”

Angel nodded and settled back against the wall again.

“All right.”

Spike braced himself.

“Xander asked me the other night what I’d do if I could get rid of the chip. We talked about it for a while.”

This time both eyebrows jumped.

“Why would you be discussing that?”

“’Cause the whelp said he might know a way to get rid of it.” Spike waited, ready to run. He was prepared for the hard gaze that seemed to bore through his eyes and into his mind.

“And what conclusions did you come to?” Angel said levelly.

“Well – “ Spike hesitated. “The whelp made a couple of good points. I mean, if I went back to the way I was before, I’d lose him – be putting him in the middle, sort of, between the bad guy and his friends. So we hashed it out a bit and finally I told him – promised, all right? – that if I could get rid of the chip, I wouldn’t kill any humans – even Buffy – except in self-defense or defense of him, or if he gave me the go-ahead.”

All expression vanished from Angel’s face; then he shook his head slowly.

“My god,” he whispered. “You’re really in love with him, aren’t you?”

Spike grimaced.

“Guess so,” he said gruffly.

Angel chuckled. Then he was silent for a long moment.

“So,” Angel said at last, very quietly. “When did you get the chip out?”

Spike froze.

“Wha- -- “

Angel sighed patiently.

“Will, you knew I’d have serious reservations about you and Xander, you knew I’d have even more serious reservations about you running around chipless. Therefore you wouldn’t have told me unless you’d already done it and were afraid I’d find out eventually anyway; you just wanted to convince me first that I wouldn’t have to hunt you down.”

Spike scowled.

“Wasn’t like that,” he protested. He ducked his head. “Just wanted to, you know, tell you. Preferably without having to run for my life afterward.”

Angel chuckled.

“As I said,” he said. “So when?”

Spike sighed.

“Tonight,” he said. “Wasn’t like a plot or nothing – not on my part, anyway.” Grudgingly he told Angel about the construction site and the magnet. “So, see, I didn’t even know what he was doing,” Spike finished awkwardly.

“Obviously neither did Xander,” Angel said under his breath. He shook his head, fastening Spike with a probing gaze. “And you intend to keep your promises?”

“Told you that already,” Spike said irritably. “Got to, don’t I, if I want to keep ‘im?”

“Good.” Angel cupped Spike’s chin again, holding him firmly. “Because you know if you hurt Buffy or the others I’d have to come after you. I don’t want to do that, Will.” Angel’s voice was soft but intense. “I don’t want to have to.”

Spike met that gaze, shaken by the emotion in it. Slowly, deliberately, he tilted his head back, baring his throat. He heard Angel’s slight gasp.

“Will, I – “

“Please?” Spike whispered, hoping Angel would understand. Right now, right this moment, torn between freedom and fear, between love and instinct, he didn’t need a friend; he needed his Sire.

A moment later night-cool lips touched his throat, strong hand cupping the side of his head, and Spike closed his eyes at the sweet pain as Angel’s fangs penetrated. Angel didn’t take much; this was a gesture, not feeding. Almost immediately the skin of Angel’s inner wrist touched Spike’s lips, and he bit without hesitation, following Angel’s example and barely tasting the fiery nectar of his Sire’s blood. Angel couldn’t spare much, after all; Spike could tell from the taste that he’d been on shoddy rations – cow blood, yet, which was a step down tastewise from Chateau de Swine. But that small taste was enough to close the circle, reaffirm the bond between them.

They both pulled back, gazing at each other almost shyly.

“You’ve been feeding well,” Angel said softly. “Should I be concerned? Xander looked healthy enough.”

Spike grinned.

“Been patrolling a lot,” he said. “The chip only kept me from hurting humans, after all. Xan just gives me a bit to top off, that’s all.”

Angel smiled wryly.

“Trust you to turn even working for the Slayer to your own advantage,” he said, chuckling. “Will – I’m trusting your promises, because we both know what will happen if you break them. But I’m telling you this both as your Sire and your friend – mark Xander soon. With what’s going on in Sunnydale, he’ll need that protection.”

“I’d like to do it here,” Spike said, feeling suddenly shy again.

The smile vanished from Angel’s face.

“You mean – traditionally?” the older vampire said.

Spike nodded.

“Not – you know, the whole thing,” he said awkwardly. “But the important part.”

Angel was silent for a long moment.

“All right,” he said at last, heavily. “If Xander agrees. He might not, you know.”

Spike nodded again.

“Can’t know till I ask him,” he said, shrugging.

“Right, then,” Angel said, shaking his head. “Back downstairs, and back to the business at hand. You can talk to Xander later.”

They found Xander perched uneasily on the sofa, beer in hand, eyes riveted on the stairway door. He let out an audible sigh of relief when the two vampires turned.

“Everything okay?” Xander asked hesitantly. “No limbs missing, no fangs pulled out by the roots, no imminent dustage?”

“So far, so good,” Spike said, sitting down beside Xander and draping an arm around his shoulders. “So, Peaches, where d’you think we should start looking to find out who or what this Tiger in Red thing is?”

“I don’t need to look,” Angel said, shaking his head. “I know what he is. And who.”

“Wow,” Xander said, blinking. “He’s a vampire?”

“No. Worse,” Angel said bluntly. “He’s a rakshasa. A very old, very powerful rakshasa.”

Spike whistled low.


“What’s a rakshasa?” Xander asked worriedly. “Sounds of the bad.”

“Ancient Hindu demon,” Spike told him. “Fucking nasty bugger, too. Like Leng Chi said, they don’t exist all the way in this world – half in and half out, rather – so ordinary weapons and mojo don’t even faze ‘em. Worse, though – they’re high-order demons. Most low-order demons are like Vorgosts or such – they’ve got strength, claws, teeth, maybe some special physical or even magical attacks, and that’s the lot. Usually not very intelligent either. Mid-order demons like vampires are intelligent, less vulnerable and more powerful. Rakshasas are different. They’re physically strong, intelligent, damn near impossible to kill, and they’re powerful fucking sorcerers to boot – able to use mojo from their plane and ours too.” He turned to Angel. “But who’s this particular one, and what the hell’s he want with Sunnydale?”

Chapter 18

Xander still looked dazed as Spike pushed him down to the airbed, and Spike grinned – still buzzing on the euphoria of the bite, with the blood of two master vampires running through his system, Xander was enjoying a high few mortals ever experienced. Spike pulled Xander’s head back and kissed him hard, deeply, laving away the smears of blood around his lips, plumbing his mouth for the mingled taste of Angel’s blood and his own. The combination, overlaid by the flavor of his Consort – YES!!! MY CONSORT!! – was intoxicating.

It was a few seconds before Xander regained enough sense to participate in the kiss; then his lips answered hungrily, and hot hands clutched frantically, almost desperately, at Spike, pulling at his shirt, fumbling unproductively at his jeans.

“Shhh, easy, Pet,” Spike chuckled. “No need to get impatient.” He stripped off his shirt.

Xander was still pulling at the buttons of his jeans, his hands shaking too hard to do any good.

“Want you,” he insisted. The raw need in those warm chocolate eyes made Spike’s hands shake more than a little, too, as he brushed Xander’s fingers away and stripped off his jeans as fast as he could, sending Xander’s jeans flying across the room after them. Spike wasn’t particularly surprised to find that Xander wasn’t wearing any boxers, considering that the whelp had apparently been prepared to be ravished right there at the construction site.

And speaking of prepared –

“Got any of the slick stuff?” Spike murmured, stripping off Xander’s socks and sending them after his jeans.

“Ummm – you just threw it across the room in my jeans pocket,” Xander said sheepishly. He licked his lips. “Are you gonna – “

“Ohhhhh, yeah,” Spike said firmly, getting up just long enough to snag the discarded jeans, rummage through the pockets, and return with his prize – the small bottle of lube. “Tonight you’re mine, Pet. Every way.” It wasn’t a question; right now Spike honestly didn’t know what he’d do if his Consort refused.

Judging from the dilation of Xander’s pupils, the flush on his skin, and the rapid pounding of his heart, refusal was the last thing on his mind.

“All yours,” Xander agreed hoarsely. “It’s about time.”

“Damn right,” Spike muttered. He yanked Xander’s legs apart and pushed his knees up almost roughly, squeezed some of the syrupy lubricant onto his fingers, and went straight for the gold. Xander yelped in startlement as Spike’s finger slid into him with no preliminaries whatsoever, but he wasn’t protesting and he didn’t tense up, and for Spike that was good enough. He knew he was moving too fast but couldn’t manage to stop himself; he tried to make up for haste with lube, getting the stuff damned near everywhere in his rush.

Two fingers went in with ease as Xander was practically sopping with lube and thankfully not tensing up at all, because Spike knew he was so far gone that any sign of resistance on Xander’s part might very well have banished what little self-control Spike had left.

Three fingers, and that was more of a stretch. Xander winced slightly but made no protest, and when Spike glanced up, the trust in those eyes was enough to beat some measure of sanity back into Spike. It wasn’t an idealistic, innocent trust – I know you could never hurt me – but a sort of resigned, world-weary trust – I know you won’t hurt me worse than I can bear. And that was enough to almost break Spike’s unbeating heart, enough to take some of the edge off his urgency.

“I’ll be as gentle as I can, Pet,” Spike whispered, knowing he was in game face right now, still as always astonished that this never seemed to frighten his Consort.

“I know,” Xander whispered back with that awful too-adult trust, one hand coming up to trace gently the ridges of Spike’s game face. “Don’t worry, I can stand it if you – “

And that, apparently, was just the right thing to say to flip raw need over into indignant pride.

“Stand it?” Spike growled, twisting his fingers around to find Xander’s prostate and working it firmly; Xander cried out and arched upwards, shoving himself down on Spike’s impaling fingers. “Stand it?” Spike shoved his fingers deep one last time, satisfied at the ease with which they moved. He withdrew his fingers, drizzled a bit more lube over his erection, and slid into his Consort as smoothly and easily as a hot knife cut through butter.

“Stand it?” Spike said again, gazing down into Xander’s wide, stunned eyes. “Not by half, Pet.” He thrust slowly into the tight, hot depths, angling to rub firmly over Xander’s prostate. “With me you don’t stand it.” He thrust again, earning a deep moan. Xander was trembling all over, his mouth open in a silent Oh! of wonder. “With me you moan for it. With me you beg for it.” Thrusting harder now that he knew Xander could take it, that Xander wanted it. Xander was clutching frantically at his shoulders, breath coming in harsh little gasps in time with the thrusts, his whole body shaking, hard cock rubbing precome over Spike’s belly. Spike could already feel Xander’s balls drawing up, but then he hadn’t expected this to be a long one – they’d both worked themselves up too much for it.

Spike clasped his hands behind Xander’s back and suddenly, without warning, flipped Xander upright with vampiric strength. Xander cried out in amazed pleasure as the new position drove him down on Spike’s erection. Almost – almost –

“With me,” Spike murmured against the sweaty skin of Xander’s throat, “you bloody fucking scream for it.”

And bit.

Xander did scream then, a raw helpless overloaded scream of pleasurable pain and painfully intense pleasure, and the hot liquid spurted out of him at cock and throat, and the taste of Xander’s pleasure-rich blood and the excruciating molten contractions of his body in climax pulled Spike over the edge with him. No temptation whatsoever to drink too deep – his bond with Xander was so complete, the satisfaction Xander gave him so overwhelmingly intense that a little was all Spike could bear, and he barely managed the last few hard thrusts deep into the tight heat enclosing him as a sharp ecstatic spear of unexpected pain transfixed him and he came, howling against Xander’s skin.

He managed to get one arm free in time to catch them as they fell over, and they flopped back on the air mattress, Spike not breathing, Xander breathing hard enough for both of them. Spike felt a vague pleasant echo of the sensation that had pushed him over into climax, and he reached up and touched his shoulder, his eyebrows shooting up as he felt the moisture and fading soreness. He glanced at his red-tipped fingers, then looked over at Xander. There was a suspicious hint of red on his lips.

Spike gaped.

“You bit me!” he said.

Xander panted some more, but his eyes were twinkling. The bite on Xander’s throat was already almost gone, thanks to the fair amount of vampire blood running through his veins at the moment.

“Turnabout’s fair play,” he gasped.

“But – you bit me!” Spike repeated blankly. He grinned. “Sodding hell, whelp, you bit me!”

“Am I hearing protestage?” Xander said, a little anxiously.

“Fuck, no!” Spike rolled over on his side, propping himself up on an elbow and grinning down at Xander. “Will you do it again next time?”

“Unless one of us is pointed the wrong way,” Xander grinned back. “C’mere. I want cuddles.”

Spike sighed exaggeratedly.

“Vampires don’t cuddle,” he grumbled, cuddling.

“Okay, I want to share skin surface,” Xander said patiently. He yawned.

“Oh, well, I can do that,” Spike said, mollified. He snagged the blanket, pulled it over them. “Catch a nap, Pet. Got a feeling that when the British git turns up a clue, won’t be much sleepy time for a while.”

Spike dozed for a while, wrapped cozily around his Consort, but he was neither as short on sleep nor as easily physically exhausted as his mortal. Satisfied that Xander was sleeping soundly, Spike slipped out of bed and out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him. Angel was sitting at the table, making notes as he paged through a thick book.

“Find anything?” Spike asked, wandering over.

“Mm-hmm.” Angel glanced up and raised his eyebrows. “You’re a mess. You’re also naked.”

Spike smirked.

“Comes with the whole sex package, Peaches,” he chuckled. “Or has it been so long you’ve forgotten?”

Angel gave him a sharp look and Spike shrugged apologetically, backing off. Ordinarily he’d enjoy needling his Sire, but he was trying to mend fences with Angel, after all, and the older vampire had been rather nice about the whole marking thing. Even if he was being a bloody stiff about everything else.

“Go take a shower, Will,” Angel said mildly. “Frankly I don’t want to sit around here smelling sex and blood, if you don’t mind.”

“Sorry,” Spike said softly, meaning it now. Come to think of it, Angel’s curse wasn’t so very different than his chip. Worse, even. Spike could work around the chip. Wasn’t much Angel could do with the curse in the way of loopholes. Pity, too. He wished Angel and Buffy could get together. They’d probably both be a lot easier to put up with if they got their end down now and again.

Spike drew himself a bath and settled in with a sigh of contentment. Full tummy, new Consort, warm bath and that lovely melting just-shagged feeling. Life – or undeath, rather – just didn’t get much better.

When he emerged from the bath, he cheerfully borrowed Angel’s bathrobe and returned to the kitchen, grabbing a beer from the refrigerator and sitting down at the table.

“So what’ve you got?”

“Wesley called me back with the reference I needed.” Angel flipped back a few pages. “The Tooth of Ryla isn’t a tooth, in fact. It’s a magical ceremonial short spear carved from bone and tipped with adrantium alloy from the nether planes. Supposedly it can kill any creature of either plane – “

“Vampires?” Spike said, scowling.

“I don’t know, Will,” Angel said patiently. “It said ‘kill’, so your guess is as good as mine. Anyway, supposedly it can only be wielded by a human pure of soul.”

“So did this Andreas the Black qualify?” Spike asked interestedly.

“Apparently not,” Angel said. “He took the Tooth in battle, but when he attempted to use it, the record says he fell victim to the Tooth’s curse and died horribly.”

“What kind of curse?” Spike asked impatiently. “Died horribly how?”

“Will, I’m telling you what I’ve found,” Angel said, not so patiently this time. “Do you want to know, or do you want to look it up yourself?”

Spike shrugged.

“Sorry,” he said, getting up to fetch another beer. “Died horribly. So what then?”

“Andreas’ daughter Padma took up the Tooth and used it to fight off an arch-demon,” Angel told him. “Apparently she met the ‘pure soul’ qualification. Later, however, she was killed and the Tooth taken by an evil sorcerer, Dorissant. And that’s the last reference I’ve found to the Tooth of Ryla.”

Spike turned around slowly.

“Did you say Dorissant?”

“Yes.” Angel looked up at Spike. “You’ve heard of him?”

Spike sighed.

“You could say that,” he said. “I was in his bloody crypt.”

Angel’s eyebrows shot up.

“You were?”

“Remember the Gem of Amara?” Spike said.

Angel’s lips thinned.

“I’m not likely to forget it,” he said shortly.

“Right.” Spike shrugged. “Well, I got it out of his crypt. It’s under Sunnydale – surprise, surprise. Another smart bloke who wanted to tap into the power of the Hellmouth.”

“What else was in there?” Angel asked, frowning.

“Oh, bunch of junk,” Spike said, an idea forming in his mind. “I sealed it up again after I got what I wanted. I could find it again, I suppose.”

Angel got up and reached for the phone.

“I’ll call Giles,” he said. “You can tell them where to look, and – “

“No!” Spike said sharply.

Angel stopped.


“I’ll get it myself,” Spike said flatly. “Don’t want them in on it yet. To get there, they’ve got to go through several passages I’d just as soon keep a secret, if you don’t mind. Let them work on this Ravyadha git, find out what they can about him and where he might be – you can call and give them all that information if you want. Last I heard, the witches had an idea for tracking nasties back to the portals. Let them take care of that end of it and I’ll work on this Tooth. The weapon won’t do no good without a bad guy to use it on.”

Angel looked over at Spike sadly.

“Spike, if Xander’s the one chosen to do this, you can’t protect him from it,” he said gently.

“D’you think I don’t know that?” Spike snapped, then sighed. He wasn’t surprised to find out that Angel knew what he was thinking. The pouf had probably felt the same way, knowing that Buffy was going out and risking her life every night.

“I know that,” Spike repeated, keeping a firm grip on his voice. “But if I can see to it that he survives it, all right, then I will.”

“I know.” Angel gave Spike the barest hint of a smile. “I’ve always admired that in you. You’re so damned loyal. Even at the worst of what I did to you, you never even tried to betray me. Even as Angelus, that always shocked the hell out of me.”

Spike glanced away, clenching his jaws. He had a good memory. He could still feel the slice of Angelus’ whips on his back. “Such a loyal little puppy. I can beat you, and fuck you, and make you lick the mud off my boot, and you’ll still come crawling back for more, won’t you? Come here, doggy. Crawl for it. Beg for it.” He hated those memories, hated how angry and humiliated and aroused they made him feel all over again.

“Will.” Spike glanced down to see Angel’s fingers covering the back of his hand. He looked up into dark sad eyes. “You know how sorry I am about – “

“Bloody hell, don’t say it,” Spike exploded, shaking his head and yanking his hand out from under Angel’s. “You just don’t understand, do you? Nothing to forgive. You were – you’re my Sire. I was your Childe. You did what you wanted with me. That’s the way it worked. When I got fed up enough with it and powerful enough to do something about it, I took off on me own with Dru, and that’s the way that works. I could deal with that a lot better than this poncy broody bit you do now. If I held it against you, you think you’d be alive now? Fuck, no. I’d’ve stuck a stake through you instead of a few pokers.”

Angel frowned, but his eyes were twinkling.

“So you’re telling me that you tortured me instead of killing me because you were still loyal to me?” Angel said slowly, the corners of his mouth twitching.

Spike snorted.

“Not by half, Peaches,” he said. “I tortured you because you had something I wanted, and ‘cause it felt bloody good to give you a taste of your own – well, Angelus’ medicine, we’ll say. And ‘cause I was bloody angry that you weren’t even my Sire anymore, seemed like. But I never meant it to be permanent, any more than you meant to kill me back in the old days.” He shrugged. “And I’m not apologizing for it, either, if that’s what you’re waiting for. I’d do it again if it would get me the Gem of Amara, so I could take Xander for picnics on the beach.” He sighed. “’Course, Xander wouldn’t let me do it anyway, so it’s all kind of pointless, hmmm?”

Angel smiled.

“You know what the difference is, Will? This time I’d give it to you.” He raised an eyebrow at Spike’s astonishment. “Why so surprised? You promised Xander. I can tell you mean to keep that promise. You’re no more of a danger to the world in the daylight than you’d be at night.”

Spike sat back, shaking his head, grinning reluctantly.

“You know, Peaches, you still do have the oddest way of looking at things.”

“Speaking of looking,” Angel said, indicating with a tilt of his head.

Spike looked, and chuckled. Xander had just emerged from their room, rumpled, more asleep than awake – and naked. The mortal shambled across the floor in the general direction of the bathroom.

“Hi, Spike. Hi, Angel,” Xander mumbled.

Then he froze, and Spike could see the realization hit him. Spike grinned. He had no idea the whelp could blush so . . . extensively. Hurriedly Xander grabbed the first thing he could use as a covering – one of the shields Angel had hung up on the brick pillar.

“Uh – hi, Spike,” Xander quavered. “Hi, uh, Angel.”

“Morning, Pet,” Spike said cheerfully. “Go take a shower, why don’t you?”

“Um, yeah,” Xander stammered desperately. “Shower is good. Shower is good – “ He started to turn, then reconsidered. He sidled sideways like a crab into the bathroom. A moment later his hand emerged, depositing the shield against the wall. Then the door closed again.

Spike chuckled; to his amusement, Angel was smiling also.

“Spike, may I ask just one question?” Angel said, sitting back in his chair. “I admit, the curiosity has been killing me. How the hell did you manage to feed on him when the chip wouldn’t let you bite him?”

Spike gazed at Angel consideringly. Poor blighter – he had even less likelihood of getting his end down than Spike had had with the bloody chip. Spike didn’t doubt that Angel could shag somebody if he wanted, as long as it wasn’t “true happiness.” He also had no doubt that Angel would never take the chance. Under other circumstances Spike might’ve offered him at least a blowjob for old times’ sake. As things stood, though, Spike was about as likely to offer as Angel was to accept – in other words, not at all.

Well, at least I could give him the material for a good wank, Spike thought smugly.

“Cut ‘imself for me,” Spike said, licking his lips. “Bought this knife – you should see it, fuckin’ beautiful, black handle, nice sharp blade. Cut all the buttons off his shirt, one by one, just teasing me with it, letting me smell the arousal pouring off ‘im.”

Angel said nothing, but his eyes had darkened and his nostrils were flared. Spike fought down a snicker.

“Cut ‘is own boxers off, too,” Spike continued. “Then when ‘e was naked, run that sharp blade all over his skin, over his lips, down over his body, making little cuts here and there, all the places I wanted to taste the most. An’ then I went over there an’ licked it off, drop by drop, all that hot, sweet, horny teenage blood. An’ then we shagged like weasels, of course.”

He smirked in satisfaction. Angel was frozen as if he’d turned to stone, his eyes gleaming gold, his features half shifted to his game face, his hands clutching white-knuckled at the arms of his chair.

Spike stood, stretching luxuriantly.

“So – that answer your question, Peaches?” he said lightly over his shoulder.

“W-where are you going?” Angel asked, his voice unsteady.

Spike hesitated at the bathroom door, as if considering.

“Think I fancy a shower,” he said innocently.

“You just had a shower,” Angel said hoarsely.

Spike grinned.

“So I did,” he said saucily, closing the bathroom door behind him. He figured that the least he could do at a time like this was give the Broody One a spot of privacy, ‘cause he knew that zipper would be coming down in under thirty seconds.

Of course, the fact that he was now in the bathroom three feet away from a wet, soapy, slippery Xander had nothing to do with it. Just an added bonus, say.

He was naked and in the shower in under ten seconds. Xander, who had his head under the shower spray, yelped when Spike’s cool hand grabbed his ass.

“Spike!” Xander glowered at Spike, but the glower lost some of its effect due to the pretty damned respectable hardon the boy was sporting. Regular railspike, that one.

And Spike had always been good with spikes.

“Morning, Pet,” Spike purred, pulling Xander against him and kissing the breath out of him. It worked. When he pulled back, the lust-glazed expression had pretty much replaced the outrage.

“Morning,” Xander gasped unsteadily. Water was running down in his eyes, but he didn’t appear to care too much.

“Feel all right?” Spike said, indulging in another grope of Xander’s arse. He could see where he’d marked Xander – not a proper scar, just a discoloration. But any vampire would recognize it. Hopefully Buffy and the others wouldn’t.

“Yeah.” Xander blushed. “I thought I’d be, you know, sore or something. But I’m not. At all. Anywhere.”

Spike smirked.

“Pet, you had a bellyfull of vampire blood,” he said. “Good thing for your first time, probably. Long drive back to Sunnydale if your arse is too sore to sit.”

“Back – “ Xander apparently fought his way back from arousal enough to work out the implications of Spike’s statement. “We’re going back? Angel found what we need?”

“Yup. Good thing the ponce is good for something these days,” Spike chuckled. “We know who, we know what and how; now all we need is where. So Angel’s gonna fill Giles in about what we’re up against, and come sunset, you and I are gonna have a look for this Tooth of Ryla.”

“You know where it is?” Xander said hopefully.

Spike shook his head.

“I know where it might be,” he corrected. “If it’s not there, then maybe there’ll be a clue as to where to look next.” He grimaced; this conversation wasn’t exactly what he’d had in mind when he stepped into the shower. “Look, Pet, is this really what you want to be doing right now? Talking about demon fighting?”

“Uh – “ Xander began, then gulped when Spike’s hand firmly grasped his suddenly renewed erection. “No?”

“Damn right.” Spike grabbed the soap and proceeded to turn Xander’s body into warm, slippery playground.

Hot water, hot slippery flesh – Spike was in heaven. Xander turned, threw his arms around Spike and pulled him in close, grabbing two handfuls of Spike’s ass and licking up and down the length of his throat. Spike moaned, his erection throbbing against Xander’s soapy belly. Then Xander bit down hard on the side of Spike’s throat, just there under his ear, and that was it – Spike howled and came, too surprised by the sudden attack to even attempt to slow things down and make them a little more reciprocal.

Xander held Spike close until the vampire got his legs back under him, so to speak. Spike chuckled ruefully, nuzzling the wet neck, overjoyed when Xander didn’t flinch.

“You’re bloody wicked, Pet,” he murmured against Xander’s ear.

“Yeah, well, how virtuous can a guy be if he takes up with a vampire?” Xander chuckled back. “Besides, I like getting you out of control. It’s fun.”

“Oh, yeah?” Spike pulled back, grinning mischievously. “Fun for me too, Pet.”

“Uh-oh,” Xander said, looking not at all scared. “Looks like I’m in for it.”

“Could be,” Spike chuckled. He took Xander’s hands, guiding them up to the showerhead. “Hold on there. No letting go, hear me?”

“Or what?” Xander joked, his eyes sparkling with arousal. “You’ll break out the handcuffs?”

Spike smirked.

“In time, Pet,” he said simply, watching the heat flare in Xander’s eyes. Ooooh, got a kink, eh, Pet? Going to have fun with that one! “In time.”

Before Xander could respond, Spike dropped to his knees in the shower, and whatever reply Xander might have made was dropped in favor of a low moan of arousal. The shower had washed most of the soap away, but a little of Spike’s semen remained, and Spike fastidiously licked Xander’s belly clean to the music of Xander’s whimpers. The whimpers turned into a hoarse scream as Spike lowered his head and abruptly took Xander’s cock into his mouth, sucking it deep.

Xander’s body shook violently, and Spike would have smiled if he hadn’t had his mouth full. He was about to show his Consort one of the advantages of having an undead lover who didn’t have to breathe. He slid one hand back behind Xander, exploring down the wet crease of his buttocks, finding that hot little pucker with his fingertip. Xander moaned piteously, trying to simultaneously shove forward into Spike’s mouth and back against that teasing finger.

Well, he was about to get the best of both worlds.

Without warning, Spike swallowed Xander’s cock – all the way to the root – at the same time as he pushed one finger, slowly and carefully but not particularly gently, into Xander’s ass.

Xander yelped and froze, trembling violently. Spike knew the un-lubed finger had to sting a bit, but he’d been careful, and the erection in his mouth hadn’t faltered in the slightest. Using the fingers of his free hand, he cupped Xander’s balls, tugging lightly at them, and worked his throat muscles around the stiff erection, even as his fingertip found and firmly massaged Xander’s prostate.

“Sp-sp-Spike – “ Xander gasped, shuddering under the sensual assault. “Umm – gonna – gonna – “

Come? Not by half, Spike thought, and he would have chuckled had not his mouth – and throat – been full. When Xander’s balls started to draw up preparatory to giving up their load, Spike tugged down – not hard enough to hurt much, but enough that the discomfort pulled Xander back from the edge just a bit.

And, just for good measure, he worked another finger into his Consort’s ass.

Xander was whimpering nonstop now, jittering back and forth between the fingers massaging his prostate and the deep suction of Spike’s mouth and throat – with another tug to his balls every time he got too close to coming. Spike kept it up until he could hear desperation in Xander’s moans; then he released Xander’s balls, rubbed his prostate hard, and swallowed.

Xander shrieked, “SPIIIIIIIIIIIIKE!” at the top of his lungs, tensed every muscle in his body (nearly squeezing Spike’s fingers off at the knuckle), shot what felt like a gallon of semen down Spike’s throat, and abruptly passed out.

Only quick reflexes and a certain amount of forethought saved Spike from a broken neck that would have put a hell of a crimp in the next few days’ love life. He released Xander’s waning cock just in time and caught the mortal as he collapsed.

There wasn’t much to clean up – Spike had done a pretty damned good job in the tongue-bath department, if he did say so himself – so Spike turned off the shower and carried his Consort out, grabbing Angel’s robe as he passed and more or less draping Xander with it. Couldn’t have his mortal Consort catching a cold or something, after all. He grabbed a towel, too, but after that his hands were full and opening the bathroom door was a bit tricky. As he walked through the apartment, he saw Angel sitting on the couch, looking dazed and suspiciously rumpled. Spike sniffed the air and grinned broadly.

“Enjoy the soundtrack, Peaches?” Spike chuckled as he walked past. Angel mumbled something, not meeting Spike’s eyes, and Spike nobly resisted the urge to taunt the older vampire further. After all, his own nothing-but-a-wank days weren’t all that far behind him.

Xander was stirring by the time Spike laid him gently down on the air mattress, kicking the bedding out of the way – he didn’t care if it got wet, but unlike Spike and Xander, the sheets needed a wash – and he opened his eyes as Spike gently toweled him dry.

“Spike?” Xander croaked weakly.

“Got it in one, Pet,” Spike grinned.

“Ummmm . . . why’s my throat hurt?” he rasped.

“Probably ‘cause you screamed yourself hoarse,” Spike chuckled. He patted himself more or less dry with the towel and flopped down beside the damp warmth of his Consort.

“Ummmm . . . and why’s my ass sore?” Xander asked.

Spike chuckled.

“Got to work on that memory problem, Pet,” he said. He waggled the offending fingers in front of Xander’s face, his grin widening at Xander’s sudden blush. “Figured I’d give you a little something to remember it by this time.”

“Gee, thanks,” Xander rasped wryly.

“Don’t mention it,” Spike grinned. “Now if you’ve quite finished your impromptu nap, Pet, I’d suggest you get up and put some clothes on, and if you want, you can doze all the way back to Sunnydale.”

“We’re going back? Now?” Xander repeated, more alert.

“Sun’s just down,” Spike told him. “Much as I’d like to continue our holiday, if we’re gonna get into this thing, best get to it.”

Xander sat up and reached for his clothes.

“And when we get back to Sunnydale?” he asked. “What then?”

Spike grinned.

“Why, Pet, I’m gonna take you somewhere where we can pick out rings.”

Chapter 19

“Explain again why we’re doing this,” Xander grunted, heaving another piece of masonry aside. “’Cause, you know what, this bears an uncomfortable resemblance to my job, except I’m not getting paid.”

Spike chuckled.

“Got a hunch you’re gonna like the pay just fine,” he smirked.

“Oh, yeah?” Xander straightened, wiping the back of a grimy wrist across a pre-grimed forehead. He grinned too. “You know, this kind of thing doesn’t exactly put me in the mood, if you get my drift. And despite my little electromagnet excursion, I don’t really have a thing for doing it in dirty, rubble-strewn, dangerous places.” He glanced around uneasily. “Especially nasty dark tunnels under Sunnydale, where evil things are known to lurk.”

Spike grinned broadly.

“Yep, and you came down here with one of ‘em, didn’t you? The original Big Bad, fit an’ back to full fighting trim, thanks to you. And fully able to protect my Consort, thanks very much.”

Xander blushed and looked vaguely pleased.

“Yeah, well . . . maybe you could use some of that Big Bad vampiric strength to help me move some of these rocks, okay?”

Working would mean giving up Spike’s prime Xander-watching position, where he’d been taking full advantage of the opportunity to watch the tight jeans stretch across that gorgeous arse, plus admiring the sweaty and gorgeous musculature Xander had regained since he’d taken up construction again, but he supposed it was only fair that he pitch in. After all, he’d been the one to pile up the tunnel-plug of stones and masonry Xander was trying to clear a way through right now, and some of those were damned big chunks of rock. Spike wondered whether Xander realized that he was working at approximately Slayer-level strength and endurance, construction job muscles notwithstanding.

“Not much further, Pet,” Spike said encouragingly, joining in. “We’ll be through in a few minutes.”

“So what’s past this mess?” Xander panted.

“Crypt of a sorcerer named Dorissant,” Spike said. “Last known holder of the Tooth of Ryla.”

Xander stopped, staring at Spike.

“And you knew it was here all along?” he said blankly.

“What, the spear thingy?” Spike said, shaking his head. “Nope. The crypt, though, yeah, I knew about it. Got the Gem of Amara out of it.”

“So you’ve seen this Tooth of Ryla?” Xander said.

“Said no, didn’t I?” Spike said patiently. “Didn’t even know what the bloody thing was, until Angel told me.”

“But how could you not?” Xander asked, scowling. “I mean, you were there in the tomb. How could you not see it?”

Spike smirked.

“Barely found the Gem of Amara,” he chuckled. “Place is a bit . . . hmmm, cluttered, I’ll say.”

“What, lots of rubble to dig through?” Xander said, grimacing.

“Something like that,” Spike grinned. “May have to sift through a few rocks, but won’t be nothing this size.”

Xander gave Spike a wary look and got back to work. At last they’d cleared a narrow opening – not nearly big or stable enough to crawl through safely, but enough that Spike could wedge a timber in and get good enough leverage to create a small avalanche of rubble, opening a much larger gap. Spike gave it a good poke with his timber to make sure it was stable, but nothing else fell.

“Through there?” Xander said dubiously, coughing at the dust they’d raised.

“Through there and then up,” Spike said. “Had to come in through the floor. I’ll give you a leg up.”

They crawled through the opening, fumbling with their flashlights as they clambered through, Spike having more difficulty (despite his smaller stature) because of the backpack he’d borrowed from Xander and was now wearing. The floor beyond the gap was thick with debris and they stumbled, cursing, down the short tunnel before they came to the gap above them.

“Right, then,” Spike said, lacing his fingers to form a step for Xander. “Hop up, I’ll give you a boost.”

“Ummmm . . . “ Xander glanced up uncertainly into the space above them, and it suddenly occurred to Spike that there might be something up there – something nasty. “Ummmm . . . you’re lighter.”

“Good thought,” Spike said. “Give us a leg, then.”

Vampiric strength and agility meant that he could boost himself up from Xander’s cupped hands without giving the whelp too much of his weight; he grabbed the edges of the opening and pulled himself up, then glanced around quickly, senses on the alert. Nothing – nothing living or undead, at least. Spike grinned and reached down.

“Come on up, Pet,” he said. “Pass up the torches first.”

Spike’s strength was more than equal to the task of pulling Xander up, but the awkward angle and the irregular edge of the opening made it difficult, and it took a few moments for them to get it figured out. At last Xander scooted back from the edge, panting hard.

“Well, that was fun,” Xander wheezed sarcastically. “Pass me a flashlight, will you? I can’t see a thing up here.”

Spike mutely handed Xander a flashlight, grinning and waiting as the whelp shone the beam around the room. Five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . .

“Oh – my – GOD!”

Spike snickered.

“Dreadful lot of trash, eh, Pet?”

Xander’s mouth moved, but for several long moments no words came out as the flashlight beam was played back and forth, back and forth over the mounds of treasure on the slab.

At last, Xander mumbled weakly, “You should’ve warned me.”

“Didn’t want to get your hopes up, Pet,” Spike admitted. “Thought it might’ve caved in and we couldn’t get to it – couple of these underground tunnels did collapse. Couple other vampires knew about the place, too, including that bleeding Harmony bitch. For all I knew, somebody might’ve cleaned the place out.”

“Why didn’t you take it?” Xander said numbly. “When you were here before, I mean.”

Spike shrugged.

“Think like a vampire, Pet,” he said. “I was after the Gem of Amara. Think of it – me, invincible, invulnerable, no need to worry about stakes or sunlight or that lot. Had that, I could have bloody anything I wanted.”

“But it didn’t work that way,” Xander pointed out. “Buffy beat you even with the ring.”

“Yeah.” Spike grimaced. “What a disappointment. Well, anyway, Pet, you’ve got to remember that money don’t mean all that much to a vampire, ‘cept ones like Angel who want to buy or rent buildings, mingle with mortals, all that. Wanted smokes, I nicked ‘em. If I wanted a car, I took it. Dru and I kept to the underground like most vampires do. Didn’t need money for much, which was one reason I never bothered to get my stuff back from Angel. Once I got the damned chip, though – “ Spike grimaced. “Wasn’t so good to live down around the other nightsiders. Which meant things like a place to live and so on, and I had to be careful what I nicked, ‘cause I was more visible. Not to mention a whole lot easier to kill. Now – “ He shrugged again, slightly depressed. The downside of having a mortal Consort who was also a friend – well, all right, associate of the Slayer, meant that Spike had to do most of his acquisitions and dealings in the legal, mortal way. Bloody pain in the arse it was, sometimes, too. Take the whole business about the lawsuit, for example. Time was, he’d have simply popped over of an evening, snatched the Harrises, and spent an enjoyable few nights torturing them to death, which would’ve been ever so much simpler. Not to mention more fun.

“So anyway,” Spike continued, “I figured if the place was still accessible and if the loot was still here, we could both use the extra cash.”

Xander swallowed convulsively.

“But doesn’t it, er, belong to somebody?” he asked in a small voice.

“Yup, sure does,” Spike grinned. “Belongs to us now.” He rolled his eyes at Xander’s dubious expression. “Pet, nobody but the Watchers have even heard of Dorissant, and even they didn’t know where his tomb was. Either it’s ours or it’s nobody’s. Or the first lucky git who stumbles over it gets rich. Which was me anyway, if you think about it.” He took off the backpack and pulled several sturdy canvas sacks out of it. “Now load up and let’s see if we can’t find the Tooth of Ryla buried somewhere under all this mess. Unless you’re going to have a crisis of conscience over taking that, too”

“Uh . . . point,” Xander admitted, hesitating one split second longer before he grabbed a sack. He carried the sack over to the slab and stared. “Uh, Spike? We’re not going to be able to carry all of this out, are we?”

“Not in one trip,” Spike corrected. “Haven’t got enough sacks, and besides, all that weight in the car boot, the rear end would drag. So we’ll be picky. Go for the coins first, they’ll be easiest to sell. ‘Sides, might be smart to check the jeweled stuff for magic, so I’ll box it up separate. Meanwhile, let’s just clear away so we can look.”

“Look for what?” Xander said, his eyes glazed as he stared at the treasure.

“The Tooth of Ryla, remember, Pet?” Spike reminded him amusedly. “What we came here for?”

“Oh! Right.” Xander cleared his throat, blushing furiously. “I just got a little – um – overwhelmed, I guess.”

Spike smirked.

“Got greedy, more like,” he said affectionately. “Don’t worry, Pet, I like that in a man. Come on, load ‘em up, only use these, all right?” He tossed a pair of heavy leather gloves to Xander.

Xander pulled the gloves on obediently, but gave Spike a questioning glance.

“Light’s none too good in here,” Spike reminded him. “And this was an evil sorcerer, you know. I’m thinking traps, poisoned needles and the like.”

Xander swallowed convulsively and glanced around. He picked up a broken bowl from the floor and used it, not his gloved hand, to gingerly rake treasure aside. Spike grinned, handed Xander the long-handled tongs he’d brought for just that purpose, and moved to set up the lights he’d brought.

Nearly an hour and several heavy bags later, there was no sign of the Tooth of Ryla, and Spike had to admit that he couldn’t see where it might be hidden. Making Xander retreat to the edge of the hole in the floor in case of traps or curses or whatever, he’d opened Dorissant’s sarcophagus for a peek at the gent himself. There was plenty of bone to be seen, but nothing that looked like a spear. There was, however, a moldering journal, and Spike took it, along with some rather decent jewelry the sorcerer had been buried with. The journal was in Latin, which Spike could in fact read – he’d had a classical education, thank you very much! – but he was pretty damned rusty and would have to sit around for hours with a Latin dictionary, so he’d shove it off on Giles instead.

Spike poked through Dorissant’s burial jewelry distrustfully. If there was going to be a nasty curse on anything, it would be this stuff. Maybe he’d be wiser to leave it. Pity, though, looked like –

Something struck him and he carefully picked up the ring he’d taken from the crumbling remains of Dorissant’s right hand. It was made of solid gold, no gemstones, but there was a raised design on the flat bed at the top. And that design looked rather familiar, didn’t it?

“Eh, Pet?” Spike held up the ring. “Where’ve I seen that design, eh?”

“How would I – “ Xander squinted. “Oh, that? Right there.” He pointed to the small altar which had been set up at the opposite end of the chamber. The same design was set in a bas-relief on the wall.

“Hmmm.” Spike walked over and inspected the design, exploring it carefully with his fingertips. Nothing of interest.

“Hey, Spike?” Xander had wandered over to watch; now he pointed to the altar directly below the relief. The same design was inlaid in the top of the altar – with a tiny indentation at the center.

Spike fit the ring top into the indentation, grinning as the altar slid aside – then the grin froze as the bas-relief slid aside too.

“Down!” he yelled, flinging himself at Xander and bearing them both to the ground, Spike on top. Just in time, too – an almost silent whishhhhh was the only announcement they received as a dozen razor-tipped metal bolts shot out from the wall, flying across the room to embed solidly in the opposite wall.

A moment passed; Xander grunted and tried to push Spike off him, but Spike held him down firmly. The vampire’s paranoia paid off; a moment later a second volley of bolts shot across the room. Then a third.

Spike waited through several more volleys, until he heard the mechanism click on empty chambers. Even then, he said firmly in Xander’s ear, “Stay down till I say,” and fumbled for a large chunk of rock. He raised up just enough to jam the stone firmly into the recess where the bas-relief had slid aside, blocking most of the holes, just as a precaution, before he peered into the gap in the floor that had once been covered by the altar.

“Thought you was a smart git, eh, Dorissant?” Spike chuckled. He wasn’t taking any chances; he crawled back to the slab for Xander’s tongs and used them to lift the Tooth of Ryla out of the vault. Angel had said it was a short spear, but Spike was surprised – it was only about three feet long, with a razor-sharp tip, a shaft of ornately carved bone inlaid with gold and a few gemstones, and a feather or two tied to it. That was all. Somehow he’d expected . . . more.

“Wow, is that it?” Xander said in a hushed voice, reaching for the short spear.

“No!” Spike snapped, shaking his head when Xander froze. “Listen, luv, there’s some kind of curse on this thing. Don’t want it to bite you, do we? Get me a sack, there’s a good whelp.”

He wrapped the Tooth thickly in rags before tying it into the sack. Just in case, he’d put the sack into a box as soon as he got it outside. He glanced into the vault again, hoping for more treasure, but there was nothing but a small book bound in leather. Spike used the tongs to fish the book out and absently shoved it into one of the treasure sacks.

“Right, then,” he said, glancing at the sacks. “Let’s get the first load home.”

They got two loads home. When they went back for the third load, they found the tomb swarming with Gessa demons who were busy looting the place. Spike had no inclination whatsoever to put himself and his Consort up against thirty or forty venomous, acid-spitting overgrown baboons. Xander protested feebly as they retreated, but Spike remained unyielding, dragging Xander back out to the car.

“Never mind it, Pet,” he said comfortingly. “It’s just money.”

“Just money?” Xander repeated indignantly. “Spike, you’ve been undead too long. Besides, it wasn’t just money. It was a whole lot of money.”

“Doesn’t matter, we got most of the good stuff,” Spike said, shrugging. “Most of the gold and jewels and anything that looked like it could possibly be magical. What’re you worried about? We hauled out enough goodies to buy and sell that Bill Gates bloke.”

Xander swallowed, flushing.

“That’s right,” he said numbly. “You’re rich.”

“We’re rich,” Spike corrected. “You helped me bag it up and carry it out, didn’t you?”

Xander blinked.

“Uh . . . I guess.”

“Well, there you are,” Spike said. “Come on, let’s go home and clean up a bit. It’s too late to take the Tooth over to Giles. We’ll do that tomorrow night.” He could see that Xander was tired from all the digging. Besides, he had a few things he wanted to take care of.

“So, Pet, want to stay in and shag tomorrow?” he asked casually as he drove.

Xander frowned at him.

“Uh, Spike? Got to work tomorrow.”

Spike scowled and thought back. Went to LA Friday evening. Spent Friday night at Angel’s, came home Saturday evening late but didn’t get anything further done because Xander was exhausted and because they realized they didn’t have picks and shovels at Spike’s place and it was too late to go get any. Got the necessary tools on Sunday and dug into the crypt –

“Ah, bollocks,” he said disgustedly. “Our first weekend with you as my Consort and me with no bleedin’ chip in me head, and we spent the whole fuckin’ time working.”

Xander snickered.

“Don’t suppose you’d want to just quit that job now?” Spike suggested hopefully. “Stay home and live the life of leisure? You’re rich, after all.”

“Wow. I guess I am, aren’t I?” Xander said softly. Then he sighed. “Spike, I know this sounds bizarre, but I don’t really want to quit. I mean, this is like the first time I’ve ever been really good at something. It’s kind of neat, watching something get built and knowing I was part of it, that I did a good job, you know, and this building gets finished partly because of me.”

Spike sighed too.

“Yeah, well, the color and the muscle looks good on you, can’t argue that,” he said, shrugging. He couldn’t imagine wanting to work if he didn’t have to, but then, Xander had never gotten much of what he wanted in life. It was a bother, certainly, but actually it was the work with Buffy & Co. that was the main pain in the arse. It put Xander’s life constantly in danger and kept him busy nights when he ought to be home shagging with Spike, not to mention forcing them both to spend evenings in Bitchy’s company or listening to boring Watcher-style lectures.

His other objection to Xander’s job was a little harder to put into words, and he was pretty sure Xander wouldn’t understand anyway. Xander was his Consort. Spike was the vampire; Xander was the mortal. The vampire provided for the Consort, took care of him and protected him. The Consort provided sex, blood, and companionship, and let the vampire take care of him and pamper him. That was the way things worked. On the other hand, Spike was pretty sure that Xander wouldn’t fancy being Spike’s kept boy, at least not right now. Maybe once he got to start enjoying all his newfound wealth, breaking his back all day on a construction site would look a little less appealing. At least a quiet word to Lissik could probably guarantee Xander a choice part-time job when he was ready to cut down on his hours a bit.

“Besides,” Xander said, oblivious to Spike’s train of thought, “If I don’t have a job, people are going to start wondering where I’m getting my money. People like the IRS, for example. And then they start asking a bunch of questions about why my boyfriend, like, legally doesn’t exist, and so on.”

Spike scowled.

“Never thought of that,” he said unwillingly. Damn. Now that he had encumbrances like deeds and bank accounts and so on, it would probably be a good idea to establish an identity. He hadn’t the faintest idea of how to go about doing that; fortunately, though, he knew plenty of people who did that sort of thing. And now he wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable about asking Angel for advice, either.

“Anyway, I’ve got to be in early,” Xander said apologetically.

“Well, if you’ve got to, you’ve got to,” Spike grumbled, but mentally he shrugged. At least he could put the time to good use.

“So . . . “ Xander blushed. “Do you mind if I just grab a quick shower and go to bed? I mean, to sleep?”

Spike rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, I figured that was what you were getting to,” he said irritably. “Go on, then. You’re worn to the quick anyway.” He didn’t point out that a small taste of Spike’s blood would’ve given Xander all his energy back and then some; if the whelp wasn’t in the mood, he wasn’t in the mood, and their relationship was still too new for Spike to push. He wasn’t going to be one more person who used Xander.

That thought dissolved Spike’s annoyance instantly, and he pulled Xander close, kissing him softly.

“Get some rest, Pet,” he whispered, stroking Xander’s hair. “’Cause I’m gonna wear you out tomorrow night, and that’s a promise.”

Xander swallowed hard.

“Uh . . . maybe I’m not so tired after all?” he ventured, blinking dazedly at Spike.

Spike smirked.

“Maybe not now,” he said. “But I don’t want you shooting yourself with a nail gun tomorrow ‘cause you’re all dozey. Go on, off with you.”

Xander sighed but trotted off to the bathroom. Spike checked his watch. 11 p.m. A bit late in human terms, but who cared. Spike waited until he heard the shower start, then punched Willow’s dorm room number into the phone.

“Buffy?” the witch answered, and Spike scowled.

“Not hardly,” he said.

“Oh, sorry, Spike,” Willow said sheepishly. “I was expecting Buffy to call.” Then she paused. “Is everything okay? Is Xander – “

“Xander’s in the shower,” Spike said. “Look, I need a favor.”

Another pause, then, warily, “What kind of favor?”

“Need you to ditch class and come over tomorrow early. Alone.”

A much longer pause this time.

“Ummm . . . Spike, what’s this about?” Willow said slowly.

Spike sighed irritably.

“Nothing bad, all right? Just private. I need you to check some stuff for me, see if there’s any mojo on it, and I need to talk to you – it’s about Xander. And you’ve got to keep your mouth shut about all of it.”

“Um, Spike, how come you want me to come over while Xander’s at work?” Willow said worriedly. “I mean, are you saying I can’t even tell Xander – “

“Some of it, all right?” Spike growled. “Look, I’ll explain it tomorrow, and you can make your own decision about telling him, all right?”

Lengthy silence. Then, “All right. I guess I can do that.”

When he’d said goodbye to Willow and hung up, Spike sighed and wandered into the kitchen to heat himself a mug of blood, grimacing at the taste. He’d gotten spoiled lately on park forage and wonderful little chasers of Xander blood. But he’d drunk up the last of his private reserve while he was in LA and he hadn’t had any opportunity to go out and get more, so it was back to Miss Piggy until he could replenish his stock. Bloody HELL I hate animal blood.

Two warm arms slid around his waist from behind and a damp chest pressed against his back.

“Care for a little dessert?” Xander murmured.

Spike turned in Xander’s arms, licking once up the side of Xander’s throat.

“Mmmm, don’t see as I could refuse that, Pet,” he whispered. “You sure?”

“What kind of Consort would I be if I let my man get by on pig’s blood?” Xander said, shivering as Spike licked his throat again.

Without another word, Spike let his game face emerge and sank his fangs into Xander’s throat – a safe distance from the vein, but more roughly than he’d intended. He shuddered as, instead of protesting, Xander moaned, his arms tightening convulsively around Spike. The bond between them flared open, and Spike could feel it all – Xander’s pleasure, the slight sharp edge of pain and the pleasure Xander took in that too, Xander’s weariness and the slight nagging ache in his lower back where he’d strained it moving rubble, Xander’s shocked wonderment at the thought that kept sneaking up on him – All that money! We’re rich! – but overlaying everything, that intense, wide-eyed wondering love that washed over and through Spike in warm insistent waves, richer and sweeter than any blood he’d ever tasted. Spike moaned and drank a little more, as much of that intensity as he could bear, then unwillingly withdrew his mouth and pulled back to gaze into Xander’s stunned eyes.

Xander raised a shaking hand to cup Spike’s cheek, running his thumb around Spike’s lips to wipe away the smears of blood.

“I never knew – “ Xander swallowed hard. “I make you feel like that?”

Spike turned his head slightly to capture Xander’s thumb, licking away the blood.

“That and more,” he said hoarsely. He frowned at Xander’s slight pallor.

“What?” Xander said, licking his lips in a way that made Spike shiver.

“Got a little carried away,” Spike admitted reluctantly. “Hang on a mo, Pet.” It was too hard to release Xander, so he kept hold of his hand, pulling the mortal with him to the bedroom.

Spike yanked off his shirt – it was ruined anyway, torn in his crawl through rubble – and pulled open the drawer of the nightstand, taking out the beautiful box that held their knife. For a moment he simply caressed the blade with a fingertip, loving the sharp beauty of it, glad that even now that he could bite his Consort properly, the blade would always have its special place in their relationship. He glanced at Xander, grinning wickedly to see the mortal’s eyes riveted to the knife, cheeks flushed, pupils dilated . . . mmmm, good memories here.

“Want somethin’, Pet?” Spike said in that low, sultry voice that always made Xander shiver. He traced the tip of the knife across the smooth skin of his chest: Silver against white skin threaded with pale blue veins, pale pink nipples. “See somethin’ you like, hmmmm?”

Xander swallowed convulsively, his eyes darting up to Spike’s, then back down to the hypnotically moving knife blade.

Spike relented immediately; Xander was tired, and he did have to work, and Spike really didn’t want to wait anyway. A flick of his wrist and ruby droplets welled up, spilled over, made crimson trails down his pale skin.

Xander moaned and didn’t wait for an invitation; then it was Spike’s turn to moan as fiery hot lips and tongue claimed his skin. Xander didn’t get much; it was only a few moments before the cut healed, but Spike knew it was enough. To Spike’s surprise (and delight), however, Xander didn’t straighten up; instead, he dropped to his knees and ripped open Spike’s pants, and, before Spike could say a word (and that word might have been anything in the world but “no”), gulped him down.

Spike yelped in surprise, then moaned in astonished pleasure. Bloody hell, whelp’s getting good at this!! What the hell’s he been doing, practicing on bananas?

Then: It damn well better just be bananas!

Then: Oh, what the fuck do I care what or who he’s been practicing on if he learned how to do that with his tongue? Oh, that’s wicked, Pet, snuck up on me with the fingers, you did –

Any subsequent thoughts or sounds emanating from Spike for the next few minutes would not have made sense if translated into English or any other human language. However, if translated into Grgesh, one of few demonic languages Spike in fact did not know, the closest possible translation would have been: “Oh, plastic the jujube curtain wax before spelunking the marmalade!”

Spike’s knees gave out before he had quite finished spelunking the marmalade, and he collapsed, thankfully onto the bed, also thankfully without breaking his Consort’s neck in the process. Xander thoughtfully licked up any escaped moisture, drawing a pitiful whimpering moan from the boneless vampire, and crawled up on the bed beside him.

Once Spike retrieved his brain from whatever dimension it had traveled to, he glanced over at Xander and grinned shakily.

“Give me half a mo to repossess my body, Pet,” he croaked, “and I’ll be over to return the favor.”

“Erm, no need.“ Xander waggled his fingers, showing Spike the evidence of what the mortal’s free hand had been up to while his mouth had been busy sucking Spike’s brains out through his cock. “But you can lick my fingers if you like.”

Spike liked. By the time he’d finished, Xander was snoring. Spike grinned, set the alarm clock, and curled up with his Consort.

Got to see about getting something better than pig’s blood, even if I have to have the whelp nip by Willy’s on his way home. With all the Tooth of Ryla shit, who knows when I’ll have time to go hunting again? Right, got to get some proper blood in. Need toothpaste, too, and lube, and dish soap . . .

And why the hell do I have a craving for toast with marmalade just now?

Chapter 20

“Oh, Goddess,” Willow whispered, staring.

And well she might stare. Spike, of course, had seen the full extent of Dorissant’s treasure in the crypt, but that had been heaped in piles in a dark crypt and his mind had been on other things at the time. Here, now, spread out over the floor of his flat, even the subset that he and Xander had managed to carry away looked like a bloody lot of goodies.

“Dreadful pile, isn’t it?” Spike chuckled, pleased.

“Oh, my.” Willow turned troubled eyes to Spike. “Did you, um, steal this stuff? Because not that I’m accusing you or anything, even though I know you’re evil and all and stealing is kind of what evil people do, but I mean, I don’t want Xander to end up in jail or anything.”

Spike snorted.

“Sorry, Red, came by this lot more or less honestly,” he said, grimacing. “Dug it up from an old tomb. Same place where, I might add, I got this.” He picked up a wooden box and handed it to Willow. “There’s your Tooth of Ryla, double-bagged and boxed, satisfaction not guaranteed.”

“You found it!” Willow took the box eagerly and started to open it.

“Uh-uh,” Spike cautioned. “Take it over to the Watcher’s house and then get it out if you want. I don’t want nothin’ to do with the bloody thing. And be careful, don’t touch it, supposed to be a curse on it if the wrong person tries to use it. Wanted to give it to you, because it’s safer transporting it by day, I suppose. Anyway, the damn thing calls for somebody pure of soul, and I don’t quite qualify, so I’d just as soon keep my distance from the bloody thing.” And keep Xander away from it too.

“Oh. Okay.” Willow put the box down carefully out of the way. Involuntarily she glanced back at the gold. “I guess if it’s okay for us to take the Tooth of Ryla, it must be okay for you to take the treasure, right? I mean legally, unless there’s some family of Dorissant around . . . “ Her voice trailed off; then she sighed and shook her head. “So . . . what did you want me to check?”

Spike shrugged and indicated the treasure spread out over the floor with a wave of his hand.

“All of it?” Willow asked, appalled.

“No, just half, then Xander and I only have a 50/50 chance of being turned into goldfish by anything we touch,” Spike said sarcastically. “I like the suspense. Yeah, all of it. Got it spread out thin,” he said helpfully. “Don’t fret, obviously I can pay you for it.”

Willow flushed.

“Spike, I didn’t come over here to get paid,” she said. “I came over here because you said – “ She stopped, remembering. “You said you wanted to talk to me about Xander. Can we do that first? Because I’m not much good at spells when my mind’s on something else, and I guess I’ve been kind of distracted lately, because some of my spells haven’t gone too well, so it’s probably a good idea to, um, get the worries out of my mind first.”

“Yeah, well, that’s what I wanted to tell you about,” Spike said, sighing. “In a way. See, I know why your spells aren’t working tip-top, and probably why Buffy’s getting the snot kicked out of her more often. And it’s probably because of Xander.”

Willow frowned.

“You mean we’ve been, um, jinxed or something because of Xander?” she said, very slowly. “Or are you trying to say we’ve been jinxed by Xander?” Her frown deepened. “Because if you think I’d think that even for a minute – “

Spike shook his head.

“No, Xander ain’t jinxed you or cursed you or anything else,” he said patiently. “He just – hmmm. Just hasn’t stopped it.”

Willow blinked.

“Um, Spike – “

“Hang on.” Spike raised a hand. “See, here’s how it is. When Leng Chi told me about the Tooth of Ryla, he told me something about Xander, too. Told me the whelp had a powerful gift, but an unselfish one. Didn’t know what he meant, didn’t think about it much either, until – “ Spike hesitated. He wasn’t about to tell Willow about the chip being disabled, and that meant he couldn’t tell Willow about biting Xander, either. “Well, anyway, I figured it out while I was at Angel’s place.”

“Xander’s got a gift?” Willow repeated softly.

“Oh, yeah,” Spike nodded. “Powerful one, too. Nowadays they call it synergy. Back in my day we just called it ‘the Push’.” He thought for a moment. “Ever heard about perpetual motion?”

“Well, of course,” Willow said patiently. “It’s impossible. Without magic, I mean,” she added thoughtfully. “I suppose with the right spell – “

“It’s impossible because every system loses just a little tad of energy each time it goes round,” Spike interrupted. “But what if there was something putting that little bit of energy back into the system? Or even more energy?”

“Then perpetual motion would exist,” Willow said puzzledly. “I mean, actually the system would work better – faster, whatever.”

“Right.” Spike fished in his pocket, pulled out a coin and flipped it. “Call it.”

“Um, heads?” Willow said confusedly.

Spike slapped the coin on the back of his hand and showed it to Willow.

“Tails,” he said. “But it wouldn’t take much to make it come up heads. Suppose somebody could give it just that little, tiny push that it needs at just the right moment.”

“You mean like telekinesis?” Willow said slowly.

Spike shook his head.

“Nope, Red. Bigger than that,” he said wryly. “Much bigger. People with the Push don’t push matter. They push reality. Luck, if you’d rather. That’s how you usually know ‘em. Either they’re really, really lucky – big winners at the gambling tables, if they drop their bread it always lands butter side up, always a hansom available on a rainy day – or they’ve got the worst damned luck of anyone in the world, ‘cause they bring it down on themselves. Pushing at their luck the wrong way.”

Willow was silent; Spike could almost see the gears turning. Then she gasped in realization.

“You mean Xander’s been . . . pushing . . . us?” she whispered.

“Oh, yeah,” Spike said, nodding. “Your spells work better, Buffy fights better, Giles stumbles across the right passage in the right book, Tara just happens to remember the right spell, the monster’s just half a second too slow . . . you can take it from there.”

“And we’re not doing so well because he’s not there?” Willow suggested.

“Maybe.” Spike shrugged. “I think it goes further than that, though. You lot had done better other times when the whelp wasn’t around. I think – “ He looked at Willow, shrugging. There was simply no way of saying it without hurting her feelings. “Think he feels like an outcast now. Like he’s not with you lot anymore.”

Willow paled.

“Because Buffy hit him?” she whispered.

Spike rolled his eyes.

“No, not ‘because Buffy hit him,’” he said sarcastically. “Although that may’ve been the last straw. Buffy’s just being her usual bitchy self, and Xander’s gotten bloody tired of it, to my way of thinking.” Or, more likely, because Xander loved Spike and was more upset by the last assaults aimed at him. “Think what’s got him bothered is you all took her side instead of his.”

“But we didn’t!” Willow protested hotly. “We told her – “

“Listen to yourself,” Spike snarled. “You told her. ‘Oh, Buffy, that’s not nice.’ ‘Oh, Buffy, you shouldn’t have done that.’ ‘Naughty, naughty Slayer.’ But nobody stopped her, did they? Nobody took her to task for it. So does she stop? Not hardly. And you lot just keep on with her, business as usual. Nobody’s ever stood their ground for him.” Nobody had ever stood their ground for Spike, either, until Xander, but he didn’t say that. The mere thought of Xander coming between Buffy and Spike, taking the blow meant for the vampire, still stunned him. “You’re willing to put up with whatever she does ‘cause she’s the bloody fucking Slayer. Well, fine. You got your precious slayer. But you may just have to do without your poor little good luck charm from now on.”

“But Xander wouldn’t let us – “ Willow scowled. “This is what you didn’t want me telling Xander, isn’t it? But why? Because you know he’d help us anyway, even if he feels – “ Willow flushed miserably. “You know.”

“No, I expect you not to tell him ‘cause you’re supposedly his friend,” Spike said patiently. “You’re not thinking, Red. Try using that brain of yours for half a mo. Suppose you tell Xander. Hell, tell ‘em all, why not? Fine. Xander’s got a gift. He’s not God, you know. He pushes reality, he doesn’t flat-out control it. So what happens the first time Buffy gets knocked across the park anyway?”

Willow paused. Then she went white.

“She blames Xander,” she said in a shaky voice.

“And Xander?” Spike prompts.

“Blames himself,” Willow finished, barely audibly.

“And what happens if despite the best good-wishing he could do, one of you lot gets killed?” Spike said triumphantly.

Willow pressed shaking fingers over her mouth, looking at Spike with wide, full eyes.

“Oh, Goddess,” she whispered. “Xander would think it was all his fault. You’re right, I can’t tell him. I can’t tell anyone, not even Tara.” A tear spilled over, rolled down her pale cheek. “I wish you hadn’t told me.”

“Had to,” Spike said simply. “Somebody besides me’s got to know, just in case I get dusted someday.”

“Why?” Willow said softly. “Why does anyone need to know? Isn’t it better if nobody does?”

Spike sighed.

“Still not thinking,” he chided. “Xander. Pushes. Reality. Try again now.”

“You mean – “ Willow hesitated. “You mean that if he could push it one way, he could push it the other, too?”

“There you go,” Spike said, nodding. “Pushing’s like any gift – you can use it to help, or to hurt. Now, don’t get me wrong, Red. There’s nothing in Xander that would make him use it to hurt others – believe me, I know,” Spike added wryly. “If he was that sort, Angel would’ve long since been dust, and me too, most likely. But I think maybe there’s been times he’s turned it on himself.”

He could see the moment Willow realized what he meant, the expression of horror in her eyes.

“His parents?” she barely whispered.

“Maybe,” Spike said cautiously. “I rather doubt it, but anything’s possible if he felt worthless enough. Nah, I was thinking more the way he’s such a bloody demon magnet – pulling them to him instead of you all, say. Or Buffy hitting him instead of me. See what I mean?”

“Oh.” Willow looked slightly reassured. “So . . . he wouldn’t use it to hurt anybody – “ Then she glanced at Spike. “But what if, say, he was turned? What then?”

Spike grimaced.

“Then I figure you’d probably better have your soul-sticking spell close at hand,” he said, sighing. He very much doubted that Xander would ever consciously use his power against his friends even if he knew about it, and even if he was turned, but subconsciously was another matter entirely. Spike had very few illusions about the self-control of a fledgling vampire in the first flush of his new existence. Spike himself had spent the first few weeks of his unlife joyfully getting even with everyone he’d ever been even slightly pissed at, starting with the gits who’d ridiculed his poetry and all the way down the list to the lady down the street who’d splashed him with dishwater she’d flung out the window; in retrospect, he had to admit (although not without a certain satisfaction at the memories) that perhaps he’d gone just a bit overboard in the transition from William the Poet to William the Bloody.

“You mean that Buffy might have to – we might have to – to stake him?” Willow asked, her voice trembling.

“Not unless you plan on going through me first,” Spike growled. Then he cleared his throat. “Look, Red. I don’t have any plans on turning Xander – “ anytime in the immediate future “ – and if it should happen somehow by accident, you just be ready, all right? Ready with your spell, I mean. ‘Cause with this kind of power, you know, I’m not all that sure you or Buffy or anybody else could do him. Wouldn’t take all that much of a push to defend himself, see? And you notice that despite his lousy luck in always being at the wrong place at the wrong time with some big badass monster, the whelp’s still alive when even the Slayer’s died once already.”

“Oh.” Willow blinked thoughtfully, and Spike hoped like hell she’d bought what he said. The last thing on earth he needed was somebody deciding that Xander might be, or become, too dangerous to live. He’d chosen Willow as the least likely member of the Scoobies to come to that conclusion.

“All right,” she said slowly at last. “I understand. I guess.”

“Good. And in the meantime, you lot had better decide whether you want him with you, or whether you want to keep letting Buffy run roughshod over him,” Spike said in a hard voice. “’Cause I’m here to tell you, you’re not getting both. Either you’re his friends, or Xander’s not the only one you’ve got to worry about.”

Willow sighed unhappily.

“I know,” she said. “I know we’ve – “ Then she glanced up sharply. “What do you think you can do, I mean with the chip in you?”

Ah, FUCK. Forgot about that.

“Grab Xander and run like bloody hell,” Spike said promptly. “Or get help. You know what? Angel wasn’t none too pleased at the way I’ve been treated, and he and Xander hit it off pretty good, too. Think he’d have something to say in the matter, don’t you, him and his lot?”

“Oh.” Willow took a deep breath. “I’m going to have to think about this for a while, okay? But I won’t tell anybody.”

Spike shrugged.

“Good enough.” He knew Willow would work it out in her own time, and he had a fair notion that he could trust her with Xander’s safety. “Just one thing, all right?”


“I know it’s tempting, but don’t try any spells on him, to bind him or restrict him or whatnot,” Spike said quietly, grinning to himself when Willow flushed guiltily. “Don’t know how the mojo would work on his kind. Remember the last spell that was tried on him? Way I hear it, had every female creature in Sunnydale drooling over him. And that was one he wanted to work.”

Willow swallowed hard.

“That’s true,” she said, as if to herself. “Oh, dear.” She took a steadying breath. “All right. I won’t try anything, either – not now, at least. So, um, your treasure . . . “ She eyed the mess on the floor with some dismay.

“Not just mine,” Spike pointed out. “It’s half Xander’s.”

Willow blinked in astonishment.

“It is?”

“Why not?” Spike shrugged. “He helped me go after it. So. Want to make sure it’s safe for us?”

Willow sighed.


It took six separate spells to cover all the treasure laid out on the carpet. Willow, to her credit, only pointed out once that it would have made things a lot easier if she could have called Tara to come and help. Spike used tongs to pick up the few pieces that glowed when the spell was cast, separating them out into a small pile at one side.

“I guess that’s all,” Willow said, wiping a thin film of sweat from her forehead. “Unless there’s some kind of poison or powder on the stuff – “

“Ran the hose over the lot of it,” Spike said, jerking his head toward the door leading to the building above.

“Oh. Well, then, I guess it’s safe,” Willow said. She glanced at the small pile. “Only I don’t know what the magic is on those.”

“’S all right, I’ve got friends in low places,” Spike chuckled. “Unless you know some way to find out, short of trial and error?”

“Uh – “ Willow raised her eyebrows. “Take pictures and look through the research books?”

“Hmmm. Not a bad idea,” Spike admitted. He went to the bedroom and fetched the Polaroid camera. “Just remember, nobody knows about this except you.”

Willow grimaced but didn’t argue, and when Spike laid the magical pieces out flat, carefully using the tongs, Willow snapped pictures of each piece, front and back. She tucked the pictures into her bag of magical supplies, carefully hidden inside the notebook where she jotted down spells and notes.

“I’ll see what I can find out,” she promised. “And I won’t tell anyone anything . . . for now,” she added.

Spike nodded.

“Good enough,” he said simply. He knew Willow didn’t trust him, and that was fine; he didn’t completely trust her either. But she was definitely his pick of the Scoobies, and certainly more trustworthy than any of the nightside sorcerors he knew. He scooped up a pair of emerald earrings and dropped them in Willow’s hand. “Here. Thanks. Look good with your hair, they will.”

Willow stared blankly at the earrings, then flushed.

“I didn’t do this to get paid,” she said indignantly, but she didn’t drop the earrings.

“And those ain’t the pay, so don’t get flustered,” Spike chuckled. “Here – “ He grabbed a pretty sapphire drop necklace and handed it to her. “You can give that to your lady. This is your pay.” He handed Willow the leather-bound book he’d found in the alcove with the Tooth of Ryla. He’d had a look; the thing was plainly a spellbook, no use to him.

Willow, however, gasped in delight when she opened it and saw the magical symbols.

“Oh, Goddess, thank you!” she murmured, paging through the book. “Where did you get this?”

“In Dorissant’s tomb, stuck in with the Tooth of Ryla,” he said. “I’d be careful using those, Red. Could be Dorissant’s, since it was in his tomb, or could be that Padma bird’s, either one.”

“Yes, we’ll be careful,” Willow murmured, tucking the jewelry absently in her pocket, still thumbing through the book as she headed for the door.

“A-hem,” Spike said, waiting until Willow looked up. He gestured at the box holding the Tooth of Ryla, raising one eyebrow.

“Oh.” Willow flushed embarrassedly. “Sorry. Bye, Spike.” She reluctantly put the book in her purse and picked up the box, then stopped at the door. “Ummm . . . Giles was expecting you to drop this off tonight, so I think he wants everybody there.”

Spike stifled a growl. The last thing he wanted was to go to that meeting tonight, and he didn’t particularly want Xander there either. But Xander would demand to go, and that meant Spike went too.

“Right,” he said reluctantly. “We’ll be there after sunset.” He gave Willow a warning scowl. “But any more nonsense from Her Buffyness, and you can consider the Tiger in Red your problem, not ours. And I mean that.”

He did, too, but he knew it was an empty threat. Xander would never abandon the Scoobies, no matter how they mistreated him; he certainly had never done it up to that point. Willow probably knew it too, because she looked not the least bit intimidated as she carried everything out the door. Spike sighed, dreading that evening, and, as was his way, buried his worry in action.

Angel had had a safe set in one wall of the basement, but considering that Spike had known about it while Angel had still lived here, that meant others probably knew about it too. Therefore Spike made hiding places of his own. It took most of the afternoon and a hell of a lot of exertion and two crowbars, but at last Spike had made a couple of well-hidden hollows to hold the treasure. That would have to do until he could liquidate some of it. He’d have to talk to Xander about that. There was probably no “legal” means of cashing the stuff in without getting in trouble. Spike knew several reliable fences, but they charged stiff fees. That didn’t bother Spike, but he worried that confronted with a haul of this size, they might get greedy – or boastful. That left the risky option of storing most of the stuff for a while, and selling it off little by little – or, he realized, one other choice, tricky but not beyond his ability to control. He smiled at the thought. It could well serve several other purposes. Yes, just might work . . . especially if Xander would play along.

He had just time enough to straighten the place up and pop a TV dinner in the oven for Xander, not willing to rely on Scooby pizza dinners this time, before Xander got home, tired, sweaty and covered with plaster dust.

Xander groaned, mustered a weary grin when Spike handed him a cold soda, and swallowed half the contents of the can before taking a breath.

“God, what a lousy day,” Xander sighed, shuddering as the cold of the drink finally registered. “Hey, how come you never hand me a beer?”

Spike snickered.

“’Cause you’ll just gripe,” he said. “’Spike, how come the beer’s not cold?’ Well, ‘cause it’s British beer, that’s why, and it’s not supposed to be cold. So until you learn to properly appreciate a proper brew, you either get pop or that watery piss you Yanks call beer.”

“Shower, food, then mindless TV and maybe hot sex?” Xander suggested, even though he moved toward the bathroom with a stiffness that indicated he’d had a tough day indeed.

Spike sighed.

“Shower, food, then over to Giles’ house,” he said sourly. “Forgot about the Tooth thingy, Pet?”

“Oh, shit. That.” Xander sighed.

“Yeah. That,” Spike agreed, just as unenthusiastically. “Come on, Pet, best get it over with.”

“I guess.” Xander trudged to the bathroom, then turned and gazed into Spike’s eyes. “But if Buffy so much as lays a finger on you, Spike, or pulls any shit like she did with the pizza, I’m not kidding, we’re out of there and the goddamned Slayer can handle the fucking Tiger in Red all by herself, for all I care.”

“Suits me, Pet,” Spike said promptly, although he knew Xander would never abandon Willow, no matter what he might think of Buffy. Still, it shook him to think that Xander would put up with whatever Buffy might choose to throw at him, yet at least consider walking out for Spike’s sake.

Spike’s musing made him miss Xander undressing; when he stuck his head in the bathroom door, Xander was already in the shower. Spike sighed and wandered back out to the living room. If he got in the shower with Xander now, they wouldn’t make it to the meeting tonight.

He sat down on the sofa and lit a cigarette, absently flicking the switch on the air purifier he’d placed on the end table. He rarely smoked anymore. Xander often came home from work with throat and lungs irritated by concrete or plaster dust, despite the filter masks they wore on the job site when necessary; Spike wasn’t prepared to add smoke irritation to Xander’s discomforts. Besides, it was Spike’s responsibility to keep his Consort healthy, and giving the whelp lung cancer was not what Spike had in mind. If Xander could get lung cancer while taking regular doses of Spike’s blood, that is. Spike wasn’t prepared to take that chance. But tonight, thinking about that damned spear, he needed a smoke. And a drink. Or a whole lot of drinks.

Spike sighed and leaned his head on one hand, then frowned as a gleam caught his eye. What the bloody hell -- He leaned over and grimaced, picking up the ring that had rolled slightly under the couch. It was a beautiful thing, a strand of yellow gold twisted with a strand of jet black adrantium, inlaid flat in a wide band of white gold. It must have rolled under the couch when Spike was spreading out the treasure for Willow to check. He set it aside on the end table; he’d put it away with the rest later. Right now, he’d just heard the shower cut off, and he was not missing his chance to watch a naked Xander walk from the bathroom to the bedroom.

Xander emerged, beautifully damp and tousled, right on cue, and Spike leered as his mortal walked into the bedroom. Spike hesitated, then followed him in.

“Feeling all right?” he asked, noticing that Xander was still holding himself a little stiffly.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Xander said as he pulled a clean pair of jeans and a sweater from the closet. “Just bent the wrong way when I was helping one of the guys carry a stack of drywall, that’s all. Shower felt good on it, though.”

Spike plucked the sweater out of Xander’s hand.

“Know what’ll make it feel better, Pet,” he said softly, bending his head to kiss Xander’s throat.

Xander shivered, but he was already cupping the back of Spike’s head, drawing the vampire’s mouth to his skin.

“Won’t we be late?” he protested weakly.

Spike grinned and reached for their knife, opening his shirt and cutting a thin line into the skin of his chest, urging his Consort close to taste the blood that would heal him.

“Punctuality,” Spike purred, “is vastly overrated.”