Chapter 14: Reckoning

                Spike woke around two when Oz dropped something heavy in the living room.  He lay on his back for a minute, wondering if he wanted to get up or not.  Oz quietly cursing decided for him *what in bloody hell is he doin' out there?*  and he pulled on the first jeans that came to hand - an old pair of Xanders so worn and washed they were like felt.  He stumbled out to the kitchen and dug around for a pot to heat water for tea.  *Need to get a kettle.  Next time I'm out... *   He found his smokes on the counter and got one out - lit it, inhaling deeply.   He leaned there, watching Oz push through the door with a box that rattled - tapes, cd's, and even some vinyl, sticking over the top.

                "Hey, Spike.  Sorry 'bout the noise."

                "No problem, mate.  What're you doin'?"

                "I had some stuff stored with Devon and...he needed me to move it, so...   Thought I'd go through it, see what I wanted to keep." Oz put the box down on the kitchen table and stood there, looking at Spike.    "Got a job."

                "Yeah?"

                "Yeah.  Spike - Need to talk to you a minute."  Spike blinked at him.

                "Aren't we?"

                "Well, yeah, but - in a serious kinda way.  You mind?"  Spike ran his hands back through his hair and glanced at the pot.   *Not boiling yet*

                "Sure, mate.  No problem."  He slumped into a chair and started going through Oz's music, making a pile of 'heard' and 'haven't heard'.  Oz watched him, leaning on the edge of the table.

                "Saw Devon last night."

                "Yeah, so Xander said.  So you just said."  Spike looked up at him - noticed that Oz looked tired.  "You mind handing me that, wolfling?"  Spike gestured at the ashtray near Oz's hands, and Oz pushed it across to him, finally settling into a chair himself.

                "Yeah.  Devon.  He's - got something going - since I left.  Kinda took the band off in a new direction and...well, I'd kinda planned on staying with him but now, I don't think so."

                "Huh."  Spike squinted through smoke at a .45 Grave cd, trying to remember if he'd heard it before.  Decided he hadn't and put it in the 'haven't' stack.

                "Xander said - I could stay here.  Remember, the night you guys got me out?  And I think...for a while...I'd like to take him up on that."

                "Right.  What does any of this have to do with me, wolf?"  Spike stubbed out his cigarette and looked at the pot again.  *Still not boiling.  Did I turn the damn stove on?*

                "Well - this is your house too, Spike.  Need to ask you - if it's ok with you."  Spike looked at him, startled. 

                *My house?  This is Xander's house.  I don't... * 

                *He's scared*  the demon whispered, and Spike realized it was so. 

                *What of?  That I'll tell him bugger off...?   Why?* 

                "This is Xander's house, mate, an' if he says stay, you can stay.  I don't -"  care, he was going to say, but something in Oz's expression made him stop for a moment.  *It's that pack thing.  Belonging...   DO I want him here?*   Spike looked at Oz, scenting his distress - really looking at him.  He was still thin-looking; from traveling maybe, or from *nightmares* and his eyes were shadowed in his face.  He was nearly as pale as Spike himself.  *Needs this.  I don't mind - we don't*

                "I don't mind havin' you, mate.   You're good company an' you can help keep the gang off Xander's back.  Stay as long as you like."   *Oh, that's relief, that is.  Wonder what else is goin' on here?*  Oz grinned at him, standing back up.

                "Thanks, Spike.  I'm gonna finish up with my boxes."  He turned and went back outside, and Spike realized that his hands were shaking a little.   *He'll know*  Spike shifted in his chair - got up and got another cigarette and turned the burner up to 'high' on the stove.  *So what if he knows?  Xander has to know...even if he's not saying...and wolfling was here when Jack fixed it.  He knows...everything already*   Spike glared at the pot.  He actually wasn't sure if Xander knew - knew that Spike slipped out of bed and house in the middle of the night, two a.m., a little later.  To hunt.  To put the fear of William the Bloody back into the local demonic population.  To feed.  He'd told Xander not to buy anymore blood - no point in wasting his money - and hadn't touched what was in the 'fridge since he'd gotten back.  Xander didn't seem to notice - or if he did, he didn't comment.  It made Spike uneasy.  He was just waiting for something to happen.  For Xander to decide he couldn't handle it or couldn't allow it or... 

                *Something.  Has to say something, and then…* 

                *He wants us.  Wants the claim* 

                *He doesn't know what the claim IS* 

                *Didn't TELL him!  Want him - need him*   Spike snarled silently at the demon.  He hated to admit it, but he was afraid.  He knew that despite his explanation, he hadn't told Xander everything about the claim spell.  He was pretty sure that when he did, Xander would reconsider. 

                *Still a white-hat.  Still one of them...can't really want this* 

                *We hear him!  Wants it* 

                *Maybe*    Spike pushed the thoughts away - pushed them down somewhere with Angel and Dru and the nightmares he was still having. 

                *Teeth and claws.  You can't trap this forever*  

                *Sod off*

                The water boiled at last and Spike made tea - got his bottle of whiskey out of the cabinet and added a healthy slug to the cup, frowning.  He sat and drank it and looked at music and the next time Oz came inside he asked which one Oz liked best out of the 'haven't heard' stack, and in a while they were listening to a band called The Brandos and talking about Oz's new job.  Oz had stacked five or six largish boxes in the living room - one holding a particularly nice sound system - and Spike carried the music out there and watched Oz go through his stuff.  A lot of the cassettes had suffered in storage - too much heat or damp, and they would hardly play.  Soon there was a large discard pile, and Oz was sorting a box full of loose wires, jacks, empty jewel cases, random tools and guitar strings when he found the bag of marijuana.  Spike settled cross-legged on the floor and began to roll a joint, just listening to the music and watching Oz work.  *Wonder what Xander'll say.  Don't know if he thought the wolf would really move in.  Wonder if he

wants... *                           

                The pot was good, and Spike and Oz smoked and talked about music - smoked and looked through Oz's books, and finally just smoked; sprawled on their backs on the floor, listening to a live recording of some Chinese band Oz had brought back from Tibet. 

                Xander walked in, bringing wood and sweat and *sweet* smell with him, dropping his tool belt at the door.  Spike twisted over onto his belly and grinned at him, feeling the familiar shivery heat of arousal stir in him as he looked at his boy.  *Mine.  I'll tell him - tell him about the claim.  He - has to want it.  Can't leave us...love, want you*   Xander blinked - grinned at him and walked over, kneeling down beside Spike and kissing the top of his head.

                "'Lo, Spike.  Oz.  What's all this?"

                "Xander.  Hey.  It's my stuff from storage.  Want some?"   Oz gestured with the roach he was holding and Xander nodded, reaching for it and taking a long drag.

                "Thanks.  So, you gonna stay, Oz?"   Xander croaked, holding his breath, and Oz just stared at him.  Spike started laughing, rolling onto his back again and putting his head on Xander's thigh, laughing at the surprised expression on Oz's face, and at Xander's grimace as he let out his breath and coughed.

                "Yeah - I - I was hoping I could stay.  Thanks."  Oz took the roach and held it gingerly, his fingers close to the coal.  Spike reached up and pulled Xander down to him, kissing him, tasting smoke and sweet, iced tea and *mmmm...just him.  My boy...want*    Xander slid his hands along Spike's shoulders and chest - finally sat back, smiling, his tongue going out to lick his lips.

                "Need a drink.  You want something?"

                "Yeah - got any a those beers left, pet?"

                "I'll see."  Xander stood up slowly and then fished in his pocket.  "Hey, before I forget - Oz, here."  Xander tossed something jingly to Oz - dropped a similarly noisy thing on Spike's chest.  Spike grabbed it - held up a key ring with four keys on it.   The keys were color-coded.  He looked up at Xander, who was grinning down at him.

                "Ok - blue is front door, red is kitchen door, and green is bathroom door.  And Spike - against my better judgment, the big key is to my truck."  Spike examined the keys, knowing that he was grinning like an idiot, but not caring.  He looked back up at Xander.

                "Thanks love," he said, and Xander just laughed.

                "What is it with this house and doors, man?"  Oz asked, attaching the smaller ring to his own rather spare set.

                "I dunno," Xander said, making his way around boxes and piles of things to the kitchen.  "But, like Spike said, that bathroom door comes in handy on exploding-demon nights.   So...are you gonna set your stereo up Oz?  'Cause I'm thinkin' it's way better then the old boom box here."

                "Sure.  I've got a bookshelf at my folk's, I'll get it tomorrow, we'll get all this - "  he waved his hand around at the mess.  "Get all this squared away."

                "Cool."  Xander went into the kitchen and Spike could hear him opening a beer - getting a glass from the cabinet and opening the 'fridge, pouring something.   Spike just lay on the floor, listening to the mortal's heartbeat, the keys clutched in his hand.   Listening as the steady ta-tum suddenly jumped, beating a little faster.

                "Spike?"

                "Yeah?"

                "This...blood.  It's like - old.  Can you still drink it?"  Xander's voice sounded...  *is he mad?*   Spike wanted to say something...reassuring.  But his brain was working  at half speed, and the long afternoon of talking in circles and talking about everything and nothing with Oz had made him feel...safe. 

                "Nah, s'no good, pet.  Just throw it away, eh?  I'll find me a nice chica later, something spicy... "

Dead silence from the kitchen, and the link, that had been quietly percolating with affection and arousal went absolutely dead.  Spike froze where he was - didn't move, didn't think.  Oz had gone stiffly silent as well, eyes locked on a book. 

                *Love...*  Spike heard Xander's heart speed up even more - heard his breathing go ragged, and Spike finally shook off his paralysis and jumped up, darting into the kitchen, letting the keys drop.  Xander was standing by the 'fridge, glass of water in one hand, the two packets of blood in the other.  Staring at the blood.

                "Xander, pet... "

                "N-no, Spike, it's ok.  It's - "   Xander turned and dropped the packets into the trash and then leaned against the counter, staring at Spike.  His hands were shaking, and set his water down with a chattering clink on the counter.    *No, no, don't love, please...oh gods, what do I... *

                "Spike.  It's ok.  I'm - I'm being... "   Xander stopped and rubbed his hands over his face - looked up at Spike and gave him a small smile.   But his eyes were wide and wet, and Spike felt his hands clench - felt his nails split his palms.

                "C'mere,"  Xander whispered, and held his arms out.  *But... *   Spike hesitated, confused.  Then he stepped up close and burrowed into the familiar warmth and scent, the reassuring thud and rush of heart and blood.  And the link finally opened again, full of *love*  but there was an undercurrent of *fear sorrow*  that made Spike pull away a little, looking closely at Xander in the warm golden light that glowed through the blinds.

                "Love - tell me.  What do you...I'm sorry, love -"

                "No, Spike, don't.  I'm not - I'm not upset about...what you said.  About you - going and finding someone…   I mean, I am, but..."  Xander leaned his forehead on Spike's, arms tightening around his waist, and Spike wanted to crush him close - kiss him until he couldn't breathe, never  let him up or out or away from him.  He tried not to hug Xander too tightly, aware he could hurt him.  *Love you, love you...never let you go...pet, please*   Xander leaned back, and Spike looked at him - looked into his dark eyes, searching for *forgive* something. 

                "Tell me, pet.  Tell me what you mean."  Xander nodded - wetted his lips.

                "I'm - it's what I said, Spike.  I don't care that you're hunting.  And I should.  I'm supposed to be a good guy - supposed to be, you know, helping the Slayer keep the world free of evil.  Or at least Sunnydale.  And all I care about is that you don't k-kill me or mine.  That you leave the gang alone.  And that girl at the coffee shop and that guy that sold us the clothes...   I'm - I'm such a fuckin' hypocrite and I don't even care..."  Xander stopped, taking a shuddering breath, and Spike could hear his heart pounding so fast, could smell the fear and the misery coming off him.  He pushed his fingers back through Xander's hair, so gently, kissing his cheeks and his lips, telling him *love you love you*  every way that he could.

                "You do care, love, or you wouldn't -"

                "No - hush.  Don't say anything, Spike.  I care - but I guess...  I guess I don't care enough.  I'm not going to ask you to - stop.  I'm not.  That would be...  I dunno what it would be.  It feels wrong.  I told you - I expect you to be a vampire, and that's... part of it.  I wish you could just - travel to the other side of the planet every night and hunt in Budapest or something, but that's wrong, too.  I just don't - "   Xander stopped again and this time he was crying, silently, and Spike held him close, rubbing his hands over Xander's back, shaking.  *Fuck, should have said, should have…  Don't know if it's enough, please let it be enough...love, don't leave me please, please*   Something of that got through, because Xander sent it back, fierce and desperate *love you mine*  and lifted his head, wiping at moisture, sniffing.

                "How can I not care?  I should feel - I should feel h-horrified or - or disgusted.   Something.   And I don't know what to do about it."  Spike kissed where the tears had been, tasting salt and *sorrow* with a flicker of his tongue.

                "Maybe you don't need to do anything."  It was Oz, standing in the doorway to the living room, hands tightly folded together and eyes wary.  Spike felt a growl in his chest, getting louder, and pushed it back.  The wolfling was *family* and he could say - whatever he liked.

                "Wha'dya mean, Oz?"  Xander whispered, voice thick with tears.

                "I'm not trying to - justify - anything.  But.  From what Giles has said, about the Slayer's history and everything - all these things, all these demons and vampires and...well, werewolves...we've all been around as long as humans - longer, even.  So maybe death by vampire or - whatever - is part of life, just like...any other kind.  I mean - we all die eventually, and dead is dead.  It's all natural because it happens to everybody.  So maybe - Spike's just doing what he has to do, and it doesn't mean anything, really.  Doesn't have to mean he's evil, doesn't make you...guilty by association.  You can't stop him, Xander.  Not even with the love thing."  Xander stared at Oz for a minute, bewildered, then laughed a little.

                "The love thing, Oz?  Tell me what that is, please, 'cause I don't think I've tried it."

                "You haven't.  But you might.   It's that 'if you really loved me you would' thing.  You know?"

                "Oh.  That."  Xander looked at Spike, and Spike felt a tiny surge of  *sorrow* and Xander touched Spike's lips, fingertips as warm as sunlight.

                "I dunno.  Maybe I would have.  But that - never works.  Things don't work like that."

                "Right.  They don't.  I can't tell you what to feel, Xander.  But...you're in love with a vampire.  And he's in love with a human.  You might never be - easy - with this.  But it's just - what he is.  What you both are.   Don't let this...make you hate yourself…or him.  He's only a monster if you make him one."  Oz looked at them for a long moment, and there was some emotion in him, so strong that Spike could hear his heart pounding.  But the werewolf took a hard, deep breath and then he turned and went back into the living room, turning on the lone lamp and settling back to sorting his things.  Spike waited, while Xander thought about what Oz had said - while Xander ran his hands over Spike's chest and arms, *learning me, knowing me* and finally looked at him, eye to eye.

                "I love you, Spike.  No matter what.  Maybe it is - justification.  But this place - everyone knows, what goes on here.  We've seen it all our lives and we take our chances.    I love you.  I won't stop you and I won't...I won't try to make you feel guilty - "  Spike couldn't help it - he laughed softly, pulling Xander close.

                "Love - I've been alive for 140 years.  I haven't felt real bloody guilt since the night Dru turned me.  And maybe I should, poncey, soul-having bastard that I am.  But I don't.  I won't hurt your mates, Xander.  I'll try not to hurt the Slayer, but she can't seem to stop herself from attacking me and I'm bloody well not gonna let her stake me.  I can promise you that."  Spike pushed his fingers through Xander's hair - pulled him close for a soft kiss, and then pulled away, looking straight into the wide, anxious eyes opposite his own.   "But anyone and anything that hurts you - tries to hurt you - is the walking dead.  And the Initiative, love, is gonna learn what a Master vampire can do.  You couldn't stop me if you tried.  But - when I hunt, love…I don't even have to kill 'em.  I…haven't been."  Xander looked up at him, his eyes searching, the link full of *love truth please*

                "You haven't?"  Xander whispered, and Spike felt a wave of relief so strong he closed his eyes for a moment.

                "No love.  *Truth*  I promised you, remember?  Won't put anymore deaths on you.  Not ones that you'd…regret.   I'm not a fledge, too stupid to control himself.  Or Angelus, always wanting to - break things.  I take what I need from three or four - leave 'em where they're safe.  It's not hard."  *I chose this.   I gave him this.  I'm stronger then the demon, stronger then Angelus - stronger then they know*   Spike stretched up to kiss again, savoring the warmth.   "Love you, Xander, love you more than...more than anything."  *mine mine for always love you*

                "Yeah.  For always.  Thank you, love - for doing that for me."  Xander drew him close, kissing back, and Spike let the familiar surge of lust and love, tenderness and fierce, possessive joy wash over him - catch him up and fling him, dizzy, into the ether.  He knew only Xander's warmth - his scent and taste - felt only his skin like finest suede, soft and sun-touched and surging with life.   *Mine my boy my love...never leave me never let me hurt you, love don't*

                "Won't hurt me, Spike.  You won't.  But... "   Xander looked at him, frowning, and *listen listen* came through, loud and clear.  "You be careful, Spike.  If Buffy finds out about you - about the chip - you know what she'll do.  And Giles will probably help her.   I don't want to run away, but I won't let her touch you, and if it means we leave Sunnydale - leave California - we will.  But you be careful, and be smart - don't make me worry about you all the time, ok?"  *MINE your mine never leave*

                "I'll be careful, love.  Promise.   You'd…really leave here?" 

"If I had to."   Xander's gaze was serious - a little troubled, and Spike smoothed the sable-dark hair back, and hugged him close.  They just stood together, arms tight and cheeks touching, eyes closed.  Until the phone rang and Spike jumped, cursing.  Xander shuffled over to the phone and Spike didn't let him go - kissed his neck and deliberately nibbled at the mostly-healed mark he'd made, grinning when Xander gasped a little.

                "Spike!" he hissed, covering the receiver and trying to glare at the vampire behind him.

                "Hello?  Hey, Giles.  Right now?  Oh...damn.  Ok.  Gimmie - half an hour, I just got home, I need to shower...  Ok.  Bye."

                "The gang need you, Xander?"

                "Something bad happened - Riley heard it on his radio.  I guess - Adam got one of the soldiers.  Tortured him.  We have to go over there.  We've really got to get this...thing.  You up for this, Oz?"

                "Sure.  Gotta find my shoes..." 

                  Spike felt the tiniest stirring of fear - tromped ruthlessly down on it and killed it.  *It'll be fine.  I got some stuff to tell them and...Xander knows.  He knows.  It'll be fine*    He let Xander go, to shower and change, and he followed a moment later to put on his black, armoring himself against the gang - against the slurs and the snark, knowing he had to be in total control.    If he let slip the demon - he could lose everything.  *Won't do that.  Won't lose this - won't lose my boy.  And...don't want to hurt the wolf.  Family.  This is my family now.  Mine to protect - my town to control.*   He went out to the living room and picked up his keys - held them tight in his fist like a talisman against all bad things.   *William the Bloody, and I won't fuck this up* 

 

                The atmosphere at Giles' apartment was subdued.  Buffy and Riley were on the couch holding hands, but they were both tense.  Willow was at her laptop *She's like computer nerd extraordinaire, these days*  and Tara was next to her, looking uncomfortable, hiding behind her hair.  Giles was tight-lipped when they walked in, his eyes darting from Xander to Oz and narrowing when he saw Spike.  *don't don't don't*  Xander thought, and Spike went silently to his place on the steps, pulling his duster around him.   Anya was in the corner of the couch opposite Buffy and Riley, but she didn't meet Xander's eyes when he looked at her.

                "Giles - what's up?"

                "Please sit down, Xander.  And Oz, you as well.  This is for Riley to tell."  Xander and Oz settled on the stools by the breakfast bar, and Giles leaned next to them, arms crossed, frowning.  Willow looked up from her computer and smiled weakly at them, making a little wave at Xander and Oz.  Tara just smiled, but her eyes were dark.   Riley glanced at them - sent a venomous look at Spike.

                "Why does that - hostile - have to be here?"

                "He's supposed to be helping us, Riley.  To stop Adam."  Xander was amazed at Buffy's quiet tone.  Amazed that she'd spoken up for Spike.  Riley looked at her angrily.

                "Help how?  Do you really trust him?  I don't understand why -"

                "Riley - please.   Just - let it go, ok?  Tell us - what happened.  Xander and Oz don't even know what happened yet."  Buffy sounded - tired.  Riley scrubbed his hands back through his hair - clasped his fingers together between his knees, ignoring Buffy's abortive move to take his hand again.

                "I kept a radio from the Initiative - I've been listening to it, mostly to steer clear of patrols..."  Riley looked at Xander and Oz - looked down again, mouth grim.  "Today, early this morning, I heard - up in Breakers' Wood, near Adam's cave.  They found...Mason.  He was - on my team.  He was tortured.  Adam tortured him and killed him."  Riley shuddered, and Buffy reached hesitantly to touch his shoulder.  He looked at her and sighed, and she hugged him, eyes brimming with unshed tears.  Xander sat frozen on the stool.  Thinking.  *His duster.  All...bloody.  And his Docs.  The blood on the door.  Oh fuck.*   Xander looked up at Spike, who was staring straight at Riley, eyes glowing gold.  His face was a mask of utter hate, and Xander suddenly pushed *SPIKE!*  as hard and loud as he could.  Spike flinched and jerked his head around to look at him.   His expression softened and his eyes were human again.  He nodded once at Xander.

                "So - he's moved from demons to humans.  What's the plan then?  What are we doing?"  Xander asked, remembering the demon carcass they'd found in the woods; Adam's first experiment.  Amazed that his voice sounded so…normal.  Giles glanced over at him and then rose, going to stand behind Willow and Tara.

                "I've asked Willow to see what the coroners' report says - see if there's anything at all there to help us understand this.  And I want to hear from Spike, as well.  Have you had any success in contacting him, Spike?"  Xander felt himself tense as Spike stood up, a slight smirk curling up the corner of the vampire's mouth, his whole being screaming 'Big Bad'.  Guaranteed to piss off at least half the room.

                "You're in luck, mate.  Talked to him last night.  Seems he's got some kind of - ultimate soddin' plan.  Wants the Slayer and her gang to set-to with the soldier boys and the demons and provide him with - how did he put it?  Oh yeah.  All the bloody spare parts he needs."  Spike's smile was tight and malicious and Xander could practically feel Buffy switching into Slayer mode from across the room.  Riley was on his feet, and Giles was scowling.  Buffy stalked over to Spike and got up in his face, and Spike just stood there, looking down at her, never once losing the smile.

                "You'd better be telling us the truth, Spike.  And you'd better have something for us, because otherwise I'll be more then happy to let Riley work out some frustration on your undead ass."  Spike hissed, and even in his human face, it was a shivery sound.  There was a small gasping noise from Willow, and Xander glanced over to see her holding Tara's hand, both of the witches wide-eyed and ready to *Fuck, they're ready to do some kind of magic here and who fucking knows what the hell it might be - Tara might get it right but Willow is freaking out and she could send us all to Siberia or something*   

                "Keep your toy soldier away from me, Slayer.  I dunno if I could tear out his heart before this fucking chip knocked me down, but I'd be bloody willing to try.  You don't want another dead soldier on your hands, do you?"  Buffy aimed a ferocious punch at him and Spike mostly dodged it, falling into a loose stance, ready to fight.   A little blood trickled down from where Buffy's ring had cut the skin over his cheekbone.  *Stop!  Back off, damnit!*   Xander felt like he was going to fly apart - he was so tense his muscles were shaking, and he desperately wanted to intervene somehow - to stop this.  Beside him, he could feel Oz trembling, and he tried to calm himself down, as well.  Nothing articulate was coming through the link, it was * HATE * and Xander gasped at the intensity of it - at the almost painful need for violence - for blood - rolling off  Spike in waves.

                Spike glanced over at him and like that, the link went dead.  Spike straightened out of his crouch and shot a look of pure amusement at Riley, and then Buffy. 

"You lot never learn.  Can't get anything out of me if I'm laid up, can you.  And this Adam - he thinks I'm so useful.  Can't begin to tell you how pleased he was to see me."  He stalked over to the table and drew something out of an inner pocket - tossed it down next to Willow's computer.  Floppy discs, four or five, unmarked.  Willow looked at them as if they might be poisonous, and then reached tentatively for one.  Spike reached up and felt his cheek - looked at the blood on his fingers and casually licked it away, ignoring Willow's flinch, Buffy's noise of disgust.

                "Frankentron had 'em up in that cave - has a bunch of stuff.  He talks more then the Watcher, here, so while he was gassin' on 'bout his master plan I nicked 'em."  Spike looked down at Willow, who unconsciously moved a little closer to Tara. 

                "Well - w-what's on them?  I mean - are they schematics or - or the directions for how to build your own Adam or what?"

                "Well now, that's your job, innit Red?  You're the computer expert.   You tell us."  Spike sauntered into Giles' kitchen and opened the 'fridge.  "Oi, Watcher!  You're supposed to have a little treat in here for me, wasn't that the deal?"

                "The deal was for you to find us something we could use.  Until Willow can look these discs over, we don't know what you've brought.  For all we know it could be the kitchen supplies inventory or something equally useless.  You'll have to wait."  Spike slammed the 'fridge shut, making it rock on its feet.  He came around the kitchen corner fast and snarled straight into Giles' face, demon flickering out and away almost faster then the eye could follow.  Giles flinched back hard, and Buffy practically leaped across the room, snatching a handful of duster and yanking Spike back.

                "That's it, Spike - you don't threaten anyone here - get out!"  Buffy had a stake in her hand, poised to attack, and Riley was behind her, furious.  Spike shifted again, demon and then human, head down and eyes flickering over everyone in the room.  *calm please Spike*   

                "Guys…"  Xander said, wondering what in hell to say next.      

                "Guess you don't care how many G.I. Joe's buy it, eh Slayer?  So long as your toy is safe."

                "Shut.  Up."

                "Hey - here's the coroners' report.  Buffy, you wanna - wanna read it?"  Willow's voice was high-pitched with anxiety, and she looked from Buffy to Spike and back again, clearly unhappy.   Anya got up off the couch and came over, casually walking between Buffy and Spike.

                "I'll read it, Willow.  I'm sure this Adam doesn't have anything up on me, but I'm always happy to check on someone's technique."

                "Anya -"  Giles glared at her, and Buffy rolled her eyes, taking a step back.  "Buffy, please - just try to ignore him.  He can't actually hurt me; let him bluster all he likes,"  Giles said, looking over Willow's shoulder.   Spike smirked at Anya, skirting around Buffy and Riley and heading back to the stairs.  Xander thought he might pass out.  *My god.  That was SO not careful.  We are going to have a LONG talk.  Fuck, I think I need a...drink or something.  Thank god for Anya*   Xander caught Anya's eye and smiled, and she smiled back, raising her eyebrows.  *She knew EXACTLY what she was doing.  You go, girl.  Christ.  I actually said that.  Thought it.  Whatever*   Xander got up and went into the kitchen. 

                "Giles, you mind if I get a glass of water?"

                "Hmmm?"  Giles turned away from the laptop and peered at Xander.  "Oh no, of course not.  Please help yourself.  Everyone, please..."  Giles turned back, squinting at the screen, glancing at Anya in irritation as the ex-demon scrolled too fast down the page.  Xander filled a glass at the tap and leaned against the sink, drinking and watching Spike.  Spike seemed to be having a fight with himself - he was glancing around the room, muttering, his fingers rolling and fiddling with a cigarette.  He glanced up at Xander and then away, and *love you* washed through Xander, strong and warm.  Xander smiled - emptied his glass and rinsed it; put it in the dish rack.

                "Wow - he really got inventive there."  Anya said suddenly, pointing to something on the screen, and Tara made a choking noise and got up.  Riley was back on the couch, Buffy hovering indecisively over him.

                "What - what does it say, Giles?" Buffy asked, and Giles took off his glasses, giving them a brief polish before shooing Willow away from her chair.

                "It says - first of all - he was dead for two days when they found him.  He - was - partially flayed and had many slash wounds and...puncture wounds.  And...  "  Giles sighed, rubbing his forehead.  "He was...nailed up to a tree." 

                "Fuck!" from Riley, muffled behind his fists, and Buffy flinched, putting her hand on his shoulder. 

                "It doesn't actually say the cause of death, though," Anya said, peering at the screen.

                "What do you mean?  It's obvious, isn't it?"  Buffy's mouth was tight, her eyes dark.  Anya shrugged.

                "Well, not really.  People can survive a lot of torture.  All of these wounds - they might have killed him, but most of them weren't enough to do it.  I wonder why it's not in here."  She scrolled the screen again, frowning, and Willow looked thoughtful.

                "Well, they - they don't know who did it - I mean, they don't know it's Adam.  Maybe they think it's a - serial killer or something, and they're, you know, withholding key evidence so they can catch him.  Or...something like that."  Willow reached over and tapped something, closing the screen.

                "I'm really very sorry, Riley," Giles murmured, and he stood up and came into the kitchen, picking up his tea kettle and filling it, staring blankly into space, not noticing Xander at all.   Xander looked over at Spike - saw something flicker across his face before being wiped away, the faintly amused smirk settling into place. 

                *He did it.  That night - after Angel came - he went out and ... found this guy.   And...fuck.  He put one of those nails in Angel*    Xander swallowed hard, then pushed it away - pushed it all away.            *Knew he was going to do this.  Can't STOP him from doing this.  He still - dreams.  I know he does.  They hurt him, and he's...reciprocating.  It's what he DOES*

                 *Deal with it, Harris.  In for a penny... * 

                *Oh fuck you.  I know, I know.  Fuck*  Xander went back to his seat, watching as Willow fed one of the discs into the computer,  and Tara went over to Buffy, smiling softly, putting her hand gently on Buffy's arm.  Riley had gotten up and was standing looking out the window, his back rigid.  Spike... watched them all, his eyes glittering in the dimness.  Lucifer or Gabriel, Xander couldn't tell.  *An angel with one wing dipped in blood.  That's him - so perfect, and so...   He tortured that man and came home to me and I...love him...anyway.  God.*    Next to him, Oz was looking studiously at his hands.  When Xander took in a hard breath, Oz looked up, his eyes dark, his face set.  He looked - angry, almost. 

                "Oz?"  Xander whispered.

                "Don't hate yourself, Xander.  Accept it or don't, but don't take it on yourself."  Xander stared at him - glanced back at Spike and then nodded.

                "I'd do the same myself, if I could," Oz murmured, and Xander looked at him in surprise before turning his attention back to Willow, who was saying something about the discs.

                "They're encrypted.  It'll take a while for me to break this."

                "You c-can do it, Willow," Tara said softly, and Willow smiled at her. 

                "Yeah - just give me a day or so, Giles, and I'll - I'll have the code.  I think.  I think I will."

                "Alright, Willow.  Thank you."  Giles went over to his table, picking up a book and laying it down again, frustrated.  "In the meantime, we need to do some research.  There have to be some spells we can use to stop Adam.  Since conventional weapons don't seem to hurt him, and he's...stronger then you, Buffy, we need something very powerful.  If you could do a spell while you were fighting..."  Giles stopped, at a loss, taking off his glasses and rubbing his forehead.

                "Super Slayer, with all the combined powers of the SuperFriends!"  Xander said in his best 'Saturday Morning Cartoon' voice.   Spike was shredding a cigarette all over Giles' stairs, frowning.

                "What was that?"  Giles asked.

 

                A half-hour later they had the basics of a plan.  Anya, Tara and Giles were going to prepare the spell; Willow was going to concentrate on the discs.  Buffy was going to get Riley back to his place and do a campus patrol, and Giles had asked Xander and Oz to patrol in town.  And 'oh yes, do take Spike with you', with an irritated glance at the shreds of paper and tobacco on the stairs.   Spike was practically vibrating with poorly-contained tension and he was up and out the door before Xander and Oz could even say their goodbyes.  The link was a roil of agitation and anger, and Xander was starting to get jumpy himself.  He smiled and waved at Buffy and Riley, who were back on the couch and fairly oblivious.  Anya had stepped outside after Spike for some 'fresh air'.   Xander gave Willow a quick hug.

                "Are you ok, Xander?"  Willow asked, her hand lingering on his forearm.

                "Sure Wills.  Why?" 

                "Well, vampire living at your house and he seems kinda - edgy?"

                "Oh."  Xander looked at Willow, wondering what, exactly, to say.  He decided he'd go for 'mostly the truth' and see how that worked.  "Well, he's actually not all that edgy when we're home.  It's just, you know - "  Xander made a gesture around the room, encompassing Giles and Riley and Buffy.  "He's not happy to be around Riley, and he and Buffy never got along, and Giles makes him crazy, so...coming here is kinda hard."

                "Well sure, but - we're helping him, Xander - protecting him and - and feeding him.    He should try to be - grateful."  Xander snapped his mouth shut before he said anything.  What waited on the tip of his tongue was unkind in the extreme.  He took a deep breath and looked over at Tara, who was frowning.

                "He's not grateful, Willow, because he was kidnapped and maimed.  And when he comes here he gets his life threatened and he gets told that if he dies it won't actually matter to anyone.  You try and be all smiles and puppies with that in your face.  He's helping us, and he doesn't actually have to, so maybe you guys should just lay off him."  Willow was wide-eyed now, and she looked like she might actually cry - or smack him.  Tara stepped up close to her and took her hand.

                "W-we are kinda hhard on him, Willow.  He d-didn't aa-actually hurt anybody, he j-just ... got growly."

                "Tara!  But he- he threatened Giles!"

                "No, Wills, he didn't.  He - growled at him.  Buffy threatened him.  As usual.  I'm actually kind of suprised he even turned those discs over to us.  And Giles should have kept up his end of the deal."  Xander looked at Willows' shocked, disbelieving face and shook his head.

                "He's trying, Willow, he really is - we get along fine at home.   No need to worry about me, ok?  How's things at school?  Are your classes fun?"  Willow gave him a hard look but allowed herself to be distracted, and after a few minutes of conversation about professors and papers, they were both a little calmer.   The feelings coming through the link had calmed, as well - in fact, Xander had the distinct feeling that Spike was laughing.

                "Ok, gotta go.  Good luck with the spell thing, you guys."  Oz was already slipping out the door, and Xander waved to the room in general and followed.  Anya was sitting outside on the steps with Spike, sharing a cigarette.  Xander stared for a second and then grinned and walked over.    As soon as he was close enough, Spike reached out and grabbed him, pulling him down onto the step just below him and wrapping his arms around Xander's shoulders.  The vampire rubbed his cheek against Xander's hair, kissing the top of his head.    For some reason, Xander didn't feel a moment's hesitation in letting Anya know exactly what was going on between him and Spike.  Oz lingered by the door, head cocked as if listening.

                "Spike - that was so not careful in there."  Xander felt Spike smirk into his hair and he leaned back into him, curling his hands around Spike's calves.  "Anya - thanks."

                "Sure Xander.   I've decided that if we aren't going to be orgasm friends we can be just regular friends.  Besides, the not-quite-humans in this group have to stick together." 

                "Yeah?  Ok.  Ummm.  But - I'm all human, Anya."  Anya looked at him, a small smile on her face.

                "You're having orgasms with a vampire, Xander.  That makes you different no matter what."  Spike finished the cigarette and flicked the butt away into the shadows.

                "I really need to go stomp somthin' into the ground, mate.  How about you and the wolf meet me at my old crypt?  I'll bet I can find something to dismember on the way."  Xander twisted a little, looking up at the vampire.

                "Are you sure?  I mean - the Initiative is still out there - what if they're patrolling?"

                "No worries, mate."  Spike reached into a pocket and held up a hand-held radio.  "Soldier-boy had it in his jacket.  I'll know where they are."  Xander just stared for a moment, then he nodded.  *Better they get Riley then Spike.  They probably won't torture Riley.*

                * Although, if they did...*   Xander pushed that not surprisingly soldier-generated thought away and focused on Spike again.

                "Ok.  You know how to work it?"

                "Sure."  Spike leaned down and kissed him, hard and deep and *love* and then he was up, moving fast.  In a few seconds he was gone.  Xander blinked after him, then stood up as well.

                "Guess we'd better go, Oz.  Anya - I'm glad you're - well, I'm glad we can be friends."

                "Me too."  Anya held her hand up and Xander pulled her to her feet.  "You were my first friend here, Xander, when I lost my powers.  And you guys - "  she gestured to include Oz, "you guys treat me like...I'm one of you.  I can tell that the rest don't really like me."  Xander opened his mouth to protest, then closed it again.

                "Yeah.  You're probably right.  But give them a chance, ok Anya?  They're just - human, you know?  They really are good people - good friends."  Anya smiled at him - smiled over at Oz.

                "I'm with Spike, you know?  I like this world, even if it is hard to get along without my powers.  Although dog racing is very strange.  So I'll do what I can to help with the Hellmouth stuff.  I don't want Sunnydale to be sucked into a hell dimension - some of them are pretty horrible.  There's one that's always Tuesday.  Can you imagine?  Besides, there are many ways of making money and having orgasms that I haven't even explored yet."  Anya smiled and headed back inside.  Xander and Oz walked up the steps and out into the parking lot, making their way to Xander's truck.

                "Everybody was pretty excited in there, when we left," Oz said, and Xander glanced back towards Giles' apartment.

                "Yeah?  What about?"

                "About Spike - about you.  Guess that whole performance tonight kinda - got 'em riled up.  And of course you taking sides... "  Oz didn't finish, but Xander knew exactly what he meant.  He unlocked the truck door and slid in - reached over and unlocked Oz's door.

                "Well, too bad.  I'm not gonna even pretend to join the 'I hate Spike' club just to make them happy.  They're wrong, and I don't mind pointing it out.   I'm done with being the get-along guy."  Oz shrugged, not saying anything, and Xander drove out of the parking lot, thinking.  Very faintly, he could feel something from Spike - it felt gleeful and...hungry, somehow, and Xander wondered if he were fighting something.  Or feeding.  Xander looked over at Oz, who was staring out the window, one leg pulled up to his chest.

                "Oz?  Did you mean it?  About...killing that soldier?  Any soldier?"  Oz looked over at him, then back out the window, his fingers tapping absently on his shin.

                "Yeah, I did.  I feel like I want to.  If we were out patrolling, and we found a soldier...I don't know exactly what I'd do but I...feel...like I'd like to hurt him.  I don't know."  Oz sighed, and rested his chin on his knee.  "They wanted me to be an animal, Xander.  They wanted me to be some mindless, evil thing.  Something it was ok to hurt and hate.  When I - changed - when I was human... they wouldn't look at me.  They pretended I wasn't even there - talked like I couldn't hear them or...couldn't understand them.  They made me an animal so they could do whatever they wanted to me.  They - hurt me - so I'd change back. "  Oz's eyes had gone dark, and he seemed to curl in on himself, tucking down.  "When I found out I was a werewolf, and even when I might have killed someone - you guys all...  You treated me like a human, and you worked to figure it out - to fix it.  They just - wanted me to be a hostile.  They didn't care that I was mostly Oz."  Oz's fingers had tightened on his leg, knuckles white, and after a moment Xander reached hesitantly over and put his hand on Oz's rigid shoulder.

                "I'm sorry, Oz.  I'm so sorry."  He let his hand rest there a moment - squeezed the tensed muscle and let go.  The rest of the ride to the cemetery was silent, but it wasn't a bad silence.  Oz finally relaxed a little.

                "I guess that's three of us that know now.  You think Anya will keep the secret?"  Xander blinked, surprised.  He hadn't really even considered it.

                "I - dunno.  I hope.  I'm not really ready to face that, right now.  Not when everything is so... "

                "Yeah...  I think she will.  She gets stuff more then everybody thinks.  I think she just likes to... keep people off balance."

                "I think you're right."  Xander found a place to park that wasn't too conspicuous and they walked in silence towards Spike's crypt - exchanged alarmed glances and started to run when they heard the sounds of fighting.  They rounded the Robinson memorial and skidded to a stop.  Spike was fighting three fledges - and if the gleeful, fang-edged smile on his face meant anything, he was enjoying himself.  Xander and Oz settled on convenient tombstones and watched.  Spike's movements were liquid, graceful - and vicious, and Xander flinched a little at the blooming streaks and splotches of blood that were rapidly appearing on the clothes of all three of the fledges.  Xander couldn't tell if Spike was using his hands or a weapon - wasn't sure he wanted to know. 

                *Fuck.  Glad he's on my side.  He's...scary.* 

                *Ours.  Never hurt us*    Xander wondered what made the hyena so certain of everything.  It was nice to have that kind of confidence somewhere inside himself, but a little weird when it vied with his own insecurities.   Spike noticed them and in a flurry of moves faster then Xander could track, all three fledges were dust, eddying down to the ground in swirling clouds.  Spike tossed his stake into the air and caught it - tucked it away.  Xander noticed a knife in his other hand - realized it was the straight razor that Spike carried.  *Is that better or worse then hands? *  Xander shivered a little at the thought of that surgically sharp blade slicing into flesh. 

                "All relaxed and ready to patrol, then?"  Xander asked, standing up as Spike sauntered over, tucking the razor away.  The demon features sank away, giving over to the human ones and Spike swept Xander up in a hard embrace, kissing him with an intensity that took Xander's breath away.  The mortal pressed as close as he could to the hard, cool body, feeling the sizzle of desire start in his belly.  *Want you love you want*  and Spike groaned into his mouth, groin to groin and hardness to hardness.  Xander finally pulled away, smiling, conscious of Oz and where they were.

                "Mmmm.  Not relaxed at all, pet."  Spike kissed down his throat and nibbled at the bite mark.  "Fix that soon enough."

                "Hmm, yeah -"   Spike stiffened suddenly, and pushed Xander away, head up and scenting, the demon back in seconds.  He stalked over to his old crypt and kicked the door in, then disappeared inside.

A moment later he came out, cradling a limp body.  It was a girl - nobody Xander knew - college age.  Her clothes were torn, and her throat, and she lolled in Spike's arms, eyes glassy, her lips blue-tinged and smeared with blood.  Oz moved towards them, his hand going out to the girl.

                "Is she alive?"  Xander whispered, and Spike looked down at her.

                "For about another minute.  She's bled out, pet."

                "We gotta - gotta get her to -"

                "Xander."  Spike's tone stopped him - his look.  He looked - disgusted.

                "What?  Spike, we have to -"

                "No, love.  She's bled out.  She's fed.  She'll be a fledge by tomorrow."  Oz's hand dropped, and he stepped away.

                "What do we do?" Oz asked, quiet, and Spike looked back at the girl.

                "Gits.  They could barely fend for themselves and they're turnin' whatever comes their way.  I'm surprised it even worked.  The blood's thin, around here.  Too many minions makin' minions..."

                "Spike," Xander said, and Spike stopped talking and looked at him.   "What do we do with her?"

                "Usual.  She's turned enough, a stake'll finish it."  Spike lay her down on the ground - dipped his hand into his coat and found his stake.  A moment later the girl *brown hair, dolls' eyes, tan skin* was gone and Spike was brushing at his duster.  Xander sighed, and looked over at Oz.

                "Guess we'd better patrol, huh."  Oz nodded, looking at the space where the girl had been.  

                "Yeah - go from here over to the Bronze and back?"

                "Ok."  Spike had gone back into the crypt and now he emerged, stuffing something into his pocket.  "What'cha got, Spike?"

                "Oh, they had a bit a dosh lyin' about - might as well take it.  Ready, then?"

                "Yeah.  Ready."  Xander fell into step with Oz, and Spike slipped his arm around Xander's waist, tugging him close.

                "She was already gone, love.  Nothing you could do.  Don't fret, eh?"  Xander looked over at him - saw dark eyes and so-perfect face - felt *love you safe* like a warm breeze through his soul.  He nodded, and they walked in silence for a while, the only sound the steady whisper of static from the Initiative radio Spike had somewhere in his duster.  Xander felt questions crowding behind his teeth - knew he had to ask some of them - one of them - or scream.  He took a deep breath, and felt Spike's fingers tighten for a moment on his waist.

                "You're gonna ask about that soldier, aren't you pet."  Spike said, and his voice was low - tense -and there was a brief skitter of *fear* from the link, then nothing.

                "Yeah."  Xander sighed - stopped walking and turned, resting his hands on Spike's shoulders.  "What killed him, Spike?"  Spike's own hands had gone to Xander's hips, and they tightened there for a moment.  Spike's blue eyes were half-lidded, speculative.  As if weighing his response. 

                *Truth*  Xander thought, and Spike nodded slowly.

                "Put one a those nails into him - through his skull.  Right where...  Well, you know were."  Xander held Spike's gaze as long as he could, then he glanced away, shivering.  Oz was sidling back, step by step.

                "Oz.  It's ok.  You need to be here, too.  You've kind of - thrown in with us, you're - pack.  It's ok."  Oz nodded and settled on a tilting tombstone, stake idly turning in his hands.   Xander took a hard breath and turned back to Spike, the link oddly silent.  He tentatively sent *love you* and got a flood back; relief, fear, anger, love.  Xander kneaded Spike's shoulders through the duster, the leather creaking softly.  "Ok.  You got one - did something really nasty to him.  Are - are the rest going to be like that?"

                "Probably."  Spike looked at him, and reached up to touch Xander's lips, so gently.  "But maybe not.  I was - when I found him, that soldier - he almost had me.  Those damn tazer things of theirs, they're wicked, love.  But I got him, in the end, and I was gonna - was gonna nail him up and leave him, is all.   I've never really been one for...   But I - started remembering."  Spike shivered suddenly, and Oz shifted on his macabre seat, tense.

                "Remembering what, love?"  Spike took in a hard breath and glanced over at Oz.

                "Just - what they did.  I kinda...got lost, for a bit.  An' then he was dead."  Spike slid his fingers up under Xander's shirt, caressing his back.  "I don't like to lose control like that.  It...scares me.  I never did that before."  Xander kissed him gently, just slowly re-learning the cool cave of his mouth; smoke and spice, and *blood*  Xander pulled away, and looked at him.  *Truth, remember?  Vampire-truth.  And werewolf-truth.  They both want to kill what hurt them.   The hyena does - some part of me...does.*

                "Ok.  Fuck, Spike.  I know you have to do this.   I love you.  Be careful.  If he'd gotten you with that tazer…" 

                "All right, pet.  All right."  *need you mine love you*  A long moment of silence, just being close, then Xander gave Spike a last kiss and pulled back.

                "You too, Oz.  Be careful.  I don't know what your - plans are, regarding the Initiative, but you don't get to play John Wayne either."  Oz nodded at him, a small smile on his lips.  "Now it's time to save the city of Sunnydale from inept evil and smelly demons.  You game?"   Xander asked, grinning at Spike and the demon grinned back.  Oz howled, the sound strange and shivery coming out of his human mouth.  Spike roared, a cry that boomed and echoed away across the cemetery.  Faintly, something roared back, and Spike laughed.

                "Our next kill awaits, gentlemen."  They grinned at each other and started towards the sound, an easy lope, elbows and shoulders brushing occasionally.  Oz shifted into the wolf a little so he could make wolf-on-the-hunt sounds; yips and snarls that Spike answered.

                *Hunt!*  The hyena was ecstatic, and from somewhere, a memory welled up, and Xander lifted his chin and made the whooping, nerve-scraping ululation of the hyena.  *Pack.  Finally*  He looked over at Spike - at Oz, at supernatural creatures who were...   *Family*  came from Spike, and Xander whooped again.  *Family*