Chapter 23: Council

Chapter 23: Council

Xander stood in the doorway to the bathroom, watching Spike in the tub. The setting sun was going down in a cloudless sky and the garnet light, filtered through sky-blue blinds, made the steamy air seem dyed a pale amber-violet. Several candles burned on the long shelf Xander had put up behind the tub, gilding every reflective surface and making Spike's skin seem the color of honeyed cream. His dark brows and lashes were almost startling - lupine and feral in contrast to the watered-silk skin.

*Beautiful vampire mine* Spike's eyes opened - in the tinted light, they seemed to glow - and he smiled, small and soft.

*Join me* Xander pushed away from the door-jamb and slowly undressed, watching Spike watch him, feeling languorous and half-asleep in the warmth and steam. He slid into the tub opposite Spike, settling his feet on either side of Spike's hips and pulling the vampire's feet into his lap. The old claw-foot tub was huge - big enough for Xander to stretch out comfortably, big enough for the two of them to curl together. The water shimmered with an iridescent sheen, and Xander felt the oil slicking his skin. A Christmas gift from Tara. She'd blended clove, ginger, and eucalyptus oils for Spike, and it seemed to only intensify the already delicious natural scent that Xander loved. The water was steaming hot, and Xander leaned back and sighed deeply, relaxing completely for the first time all day. He held Spike's feet in his hands - began a lazy massage, thumbs rubbing and pressing in circles into the high arches. Spike slipped a little lower into the water, his eyes half-shut, the purr rumbling up softly out of his chest.

"Good day, love?"

"All right day. Just - nervous. Manny let me off early. He - knows about the Council."

"Mmmm? How's that?"

"Demon grapevine, he said." Xander pressed his fingers into the tops of Spike's feet - felt the thin bones there, and the strong tendons.

"That's all right, then," Spike murmured, *oh nice, love you pet just there*

In the kitchen, faintly, Xander could hear Oz saying something, and Derio saying something back. Derio was Oz's - well, boyfriend sounded stupid - Oz's new friend; the guy Oz had been not-at-home with for the past month or more. Xander smiled to himself. Derio was in a band that seemed to mostly be known via the Internet, and they sold their CD's online, at a website one of the band-members had designed. His 'real world' job. They'd gotten the gig at the Bronze for a place to practice with audience feedback, and work out the kinks in their newest stuff before they made another CD. Spike and Xander had gone down to play pool and listen last Friday. The music was - odd. A collection of 'old-timey' songs from the Appalachian mountains and - according to Spike - the Highlands of Scotland, and a sort of 'island' music that was a mix of salsa and plena. New, different, and received fairly enthusiastically by most of the Bronze crowd. The last song of the night, and Derio quietly announcing into the microphone that it was 'in honor of new friends'. Then they tore into The Clash's London Calling, making Spike grin and let loose a piercing whistle at the end; high praise indeed, for Spike and the Bronze. Oz had come wandering down from the sound booth, and brought Derio over. About three inches taller then Oz, lean and brown with long, thin, dark-brown dreadlocks and a lilting accent. He was from Puerto Rico, and he knew what the Hellmouth was, and Xander and Spike had liked him almost immediately. Oz had just sat and smiled, back to his silent self more than ever, a quiet pulse of contentment and affection in the link.

"How'd you meet?" Glance between them, green eyes and black sharing amusement.

"I was leaving late, and this girl comes up all - sex-say, and suddenly -" another amused glance at Oz - "Suddenly she's all 'grrrr'." And he puts his fingers to his mouth, mock fangs, like the old madman in that Monty Python movie.

*Vampire*

"And I'm - terrified, naturally - and I don't have any kind of weapon except for my fiddle and I'm NOT smashing THAT over her head or, you know, whatever... Then all of a sudden there's Oz and he -" snort of laughter, "he has the bigger 'grrrr' and she's dust." Oz grins - shrugs.

"I lost it a little."

"You were stalking me!"

"Just wanted your autograph." And they're leaning together, laughing, and there's *good* in the link and *happy*. Spike and Xander can't help but approve.

Now Derio was out in the kitchen, tuning his guitar while Oz made dinner, and after a moment he started to play and sing softly. Xander liked his voice - a rather hoarse baritone - and it floated in quietly to them, accompanied by the cascading notes of the guitar. That sort of Spanish-sounding music that Xander had no name for but found he liked very much.

"So...'Derio'?"

"My mother named me Desiderio. 'Spike'?"

"Absolutely nothing to do with my mother."

"Ready to take on the Council, then?" Spike asked him, and Xander moved his hands up a little, to circle the slender ankles and dig in with his knuckles, Spike's feet pushing into his chest.

"Ready as I'll ever be. I wish they weren't coming here -" Xander was working slowly up Spike's calves, and Spike's purr echoed in the bath, rumbling undertone to the music - to Derio's lulling voice.

"We live in the hills and travel at night

Invisible lives in the visible light...

You might hear a sound with the fall of the sun

It's the beat of heart, the pound of a drum...

We are here, we are No Man

Disappeared, we are No Man..."

"Well, they won't stay long. We'll tell them what they want to hear, get them back where they belong. Don't need those wankers here, mucking about, poking into things. Dawn, Spike meant, and Xander nodded. They'd made a pact, all the Scoobies. Dawn was out of this - out of all of this. They knew nothing about a key, they knew nothing about what Glory wanted. They would not, ever, bring her to the attention of the Council. She's ours, Spike had said, scowling. They don't touch her. Buffy - who had become thinner, whose eyes had taken on a haunted look - had sat at the table at the Magic Box and cried for a moment, after their pact. Thin wrists gripped in white-knuckled hands, head bowed. Then she'd looked up at them and whispered thank you, and they had all seen the easing, just a little, of the terrible burden she had carried since Joyce had died.

"Turned away, in our own lands

We are here, we'll never go away...

Some men are kings, and some work the mines

A few have it all, getting' more all the time

They come with a gift, and then with a gun

You learn how to serve or you learn how to run..."

Spike gently pulled his feet away - tucked his legs under himself and then was gliding through the water, coming to rest on Xander's chest. His hip fitted into the curve of Xander's hip - his thigh between Xander's thighs.

*Love you safe here family*

*Safe here always* Xander pulled him close - arms around his ribs, cheek against wet hair, and they lay together; rumbling purr, slow heartbeat, Xander's fingers doing a slow glide up Spike's back, Spike's hand moving in small circles over Xander's ribs.

"We are the shadows that won't go away

Ghosts of the past the future someday..."

Derio had gone, right after dinner, giving Oz a slow kiss and a smoldering look that promised...all sorts of things.

*Want* in the link, and Spike smirking into his whiskey.

*Good?*

"The best," Oz said, and went to tidy away some things, so his 'personal stuff' wasn't on view for the Council toadies.

"We gotta get a bigger house," Xander muttered to himself, shoving an untidy stack of CD's up against the bookshelf. "Manny's got a couple houses, 'bout a mile from here. We should go look at them."

"By the sea?" Spike asked, and Xander pulled a crumpled pack of smokes out of the couch - tossed them to the vampire.

"Yeah - just north of here a ways. Two storeys instead of one. Not a lot bigger as far as the rooms, but more of 'em."

"That'd be nice," Oz murmured, and then turned and pelted Spike with a handful of laundry as Spike sent a rather vivid image of Oz and Derio doing -

"Spike! Are you thinking about other men?"

"Just the one other," Spike leered at Xander, balling up Oz's jeans and t-shirts and hurling them through the bedroom door.

*Bad vampire.*

*Always.* A car was coming down the street, and Xander looked out the screen-door, frowning.

"I think that's them."

*Protect pack OUTSIDERS* from Spike, and Xander walked over to him, resting his hand gently on the small of Spike's back - scratching lightly.

"Let's be calm, yeah?" he said softly, and Spike snorted. It was kind of strange, the antagonism Spike felt towards the Council. He had taken Xander's worry over Dawn - over Giles and Buffy - to heart, and for the moment at least, the entire Scooby gang was his pack. And he was pissed. Oz kicked his duffle into the far corner and settled onto the couch, eyes darkening momentarily.

"Hope they don't get stupid," Oz muttered.

*Calm, safe, pack is safe...love you*

"We'll be all right, pet," Spike said, answering Xander's thoughts, and he leaned against the doorjamb to the kitchen, lighting a cigarette, serious now. The car stopped behind Oz's van and four people got out. Three men in dark suits and shiny shoes, one woman, also suited, her hair in a severe bun and clutching a clipboard. They looked curiously around them at the neighborhood; a few people on their porches, mostly TV's on behind the curtains. They walked up to the front door and peered inside. Xander knew the two lamps in the living room didn't provide much illumination - they were good mostly for reading - and he also knew that when the three of them looked out at the group, their eyes sparked eldritch fire in the low light. There were gasps and a moment of whispered conversation, and then one of the men - dark-haired and frowning - knocked on the screen door.

"Alexander Harris?" he asked, squinting in at them, and Xander went reluctantly to unhook the door. He rather pointedly didn't ask them in, and they sidled inside, looking disapprovingly at the candles lit in the kitchen; the incense smoking before the small stone Buddha and other items Oz had gathered on one shelf. Two of the men brandished loaded crossbows, concentrating nervously on Spike. The other had a cross, and the woman fiddled with the clipboard, sending odd looks toward the vampire.

*What the fuck?*

*No idea, pet. Fucking WEAPONS!*

"You're - Alexander?" the woman asked, looking at her papers.

"Harris, yeah." Xander said, standing with arms crossed in the middle of the living room.

"And - this is...Daniel Osbourne?" A short nod from Oz. "And...a-and William the Bloody." The woman sounded a little breathless and suddenly the link was flooded with *laughter* and Spike tipped his head to one side, looking at the Watcher through a thin ribbon of smoke.

"Heard of me then, have you?" The woman gulped - smiled.

"I - I did my thesis on you Wi - uh, Mr..."

"Spike'll do, pet. Your thesis. Isn't that neat." *Got a fan.* Spike took a long pull on his cigarette - stalked forward, doing that head down, pantherish glide that made Xander's stomach tighten in arousal and want. He bent down a little and stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray on the end table - leaned on the back of the couch. Xander knew - flash through the link - that the tips of Spike's fingers had brushed across Oz's neck.

*Pack pack pack* from Oz, the wolf unsettled and as pissed as Spike's demon.

*Outsiders* from the hyena, and Xander moved around the coffee table - settled on the couch next to Oz.

*MINE protect mine* from Spike, fierce and furious.

"I can't - can't believe that you, S-spike, are actually helping the Slayer. I had rather thought you'd be trying to kill her."

Spike shrugged, watching the woman. Xander - the hyena - could smell their nerves and fear - could smell something suspiciously like arousal coming off the woman.

"Not your business, really, what I'm doing." Spike pulled another cigarette out of the pack in his pocket - lit it and blew smoke at the huddled group of Watchers.

"I don't like you coming into my house with weapons," Xander said, and the woman's eyes darted over to him. "So hurry up and ask your questions - I'm not gonna wait around all night."

"You won't be doing your friend any favors, with an attitude like that," one of the men snapped, and Spike snorted. But it was Oz that answered, his eyes gone black.

"I can't imagine any attitude that would help Buffy, when it comes to you and your questions," he said softly, and the woman looked over her clipboard.

"That's the werewolf," she whispered, and *KILL IT* from the hyena.

*MINE* from Spike, who snarled at the group. They flinched, and one of the crossbows creaked as the man holding it tightened his grip convulsively.

"You'd better watch yourself," Xander snapped. "Ask your questions."

"So - a werewolf, the Slayer of Slayers, and a...carpenter. Just how do you help the Slayer, Mr. Harris?" The dark-haired man's lip curled in a sneer as he looked at Xander - looked and dismissed. A growl was ratcheting up in Spike's chest and Xander grinned coldly at the man and let the hyena out a bit more, knowing his eyes flared green in the dimness.

*Calm love calm, calm* "I whittle a mean stake," he said softly, and the man stared at him, unable to look away from Xander's flat, inhuman gaze.

"Exactly what - do you do, to help the Slayer?" The woman Watcher, nervous behind her clipboard and sensible glasses.

"Whatever needs doing. It's the bloody Hellmouth - every soddin' demon with half a plan and half a brain thinks they can come in here and open it up. There's practically a queue, some nights. We just keep the riff-raff to a minimum." *Bloody stupid bastards* The imagery Spike sent with that was...vivid, and Xander clamped down hard on a surge of bloodlust from the hyena. Oz was rigid beside him, his eyes black and the link thrumming with anger. It was getting a bit -

*Not calm, oh fuck. CALM, Spike, stop that, safe, we're safe, Oz, calm* Xander took a deep breath - looked blandly up at the Council members.

"Listen - I don't know what you think you're going to find out here. A lot of demons are attracted to the Hellmouth and we help Buffy take care of it. That's all. Oz and I grew up here - we lost friends here. We'll do whatever it takes to make it safe. And Spike...has his own reasons for being here. He doesn't want the Hellmouth open any more than we do."

"I find that hard to believe." That watcher again - the dark-haired man with the sneer in his voice - and Spike grinned at him, his eyes golden and narrow.

"Gotta keep the humans fat an' happy, don't I? Demon blood...isn't to my liking." Spike ground out his second cigarette, eyeing the Watchers thoughtfully. The man stared for a moment - blanched absolutely white.

"We were led to believe that...the Initiative had...leashed you."

*Oh shit.* Spike was on the man before Xander could get to his feet - hand knocking aside the crossbow and grabbing the man around the neck. His other hand darted out and snatched the second crossbow out of the other Watcher's hand. He flung it away from him, and it crashed to the floor and slid, into the kitchen. The second watcher leaped back, gasping. The one wielding the cross was frozen, mouth working in a soundless 'oh', and the woman looked as if she might be ill. Spike shook the Watcher in his grip, lifting him off his feet, and the man writhed, gagging.

"Guess you were led wrong, you fuck." Spike hissed, fangs bared.

*Spike - don't, calm, CALM love, can't kill him* Oz was grinning, showing the wolf's long teeth and curling tongue, and the hyena yipped in excitement, wanting blood.

"You'd better go now. I don't think we want to answer any more questions," Xander said softly. *Please love put him down* Spike growled into the man's face - gave him a final shake and dropped him. The man whooped in a rasping breath - coughed painfully, rubbing his throat. There were livid marks coming up already, and the woman clucked sympathetically over them, wide-eyed.

"Right. Get the fuck out of Xander's house, now, and I'll try to remember not to pull your spines out through your fuckin' stomachs next time I see you." Spike's fierce gaze raked over them all and he retreated slowly, kicking the other crossbow after the first and coming to rest at the back of the couch again. This time he made no bones about reaching out and running his fingers through Xander's hair - letting his other hand rest on Oz's shoulder. The Watchers stared and shuffled, murmuring.

"We really do need to ask -" the woman started, and Xander interrupted her, scowling.

"You don't need to ask anything. We told you what we do - we help. There isn't any more to it. I don't know what the hell you people think you're doing - this Glory is a major bad-ass and you're playing Twenty Questions! Just tell Buffy what she needs to know so we can kill her! It's like you want her to fail! She's all that stands between you and the damn Hellmouth and you're playing games!" Xander ground his teeth in frustration, wishing he hadn't yelled, but these people were so damn stupid and so damn arrogant and self-righteous he wanted to crack their heads together. Spike was growling, the demon still foremost, and Oz had gone a bit wolfier - claws extending blackly from his fingertips. He was growling, too, and the link was *rage* and *mine* and *pack*, awash with bloodlust and the instinct to drive the invaders away - or kill them. The Watchers huddle had tightened a bit, and they were staring at Spike - at Oz - at him, and he knew his eyes were the hyena's still. He wondered if anything else changed, when he was that pissed.

"If the Slayer isn't up to task of -"

"Damnit! She died once, defending this place! She's survived because she's not afraid to ask for help - because Giles is smart enough to know when one person alone is just suicide! It's his job to keep her alive, and it's her job to kick ass, and I don't know what you think has suddenly changed, but if you people don't stop screwing around you're gonna get us all killed! Just get out of here - go back to Travers and tell him whatever the hell you want but tell Giles and Buffy what they need to know!"

"That's up to Mr. Travers." The woman looked at Xander for a long moment - gave a small nod and capped her pen. "Nigel - I think it best that we go." The man Spike had half-strangled gave his throat a last rub and straightened his tie.

"Lydia -"

"My discretion, Nigel, and I don't think we have any more questions that will get us useful answers." Lydia tucked her clipboard under her arm - gave Spike one last, lingering look. "Spike - may I - may I ask just one question? May I ask - your Sire -" A surge of rage through the link, and Xander stood up fast, as did Oz. *Calm calm, almost done, CALM.*

"No more questions. Get out." Lydia bit her lip, her eyes pleading with Xander - then she sagged, defeated, and the Watchers shuffled out. Xander crossed the living room and latched the screen-door; closed and locked the inner door and then turned around and leaned there, shutting his eyes for just a moment. Feeling Spike as the vampire crossed the room to him.

"Bloody fools," Spike grumbled, human again, slipping his arms around Xander and tugging him into a hard embrace. After a moment they went back over to the couch and Xander flopped down next to Oz - huffed out a breath as Spike sprawled across his lap; head on Oz's thigh and grabbing Xander's hand, lacing their fingers together and resting them on his chest.

"That could have gone better," Xander said, and Oz leaned into his shoulder, human now as well.

"No it couldn't. They aren't here to help, they're here to judge," Oz murmured, *pack* and *protect*, and Xander sighed.

"Yeah, I guess so. I just don't wanna - screw Buffy up."

"They can't just - get rid of her. And even if they decide to bring some other Slayer in here, it's not like the Watcher or Red - any of you - would switch sides." Spike's eyes were still demon-gold, and the *rage* was still in the link, but *pack* was there, too, encompassing Dawn and Tara, Willow and Giles...including Buffy, and for the second time since the Watchers had arrived, Xander contemplated this new development with awe.

"Spike - why...why this, now?" Mirroring the vampire's emotions back to him through the link - to Oz as well, including him in the question. Spike looked - troubled. He rubbed his head a little on Oz's thigh - squeezed Xander's fingers a little tighter.

"They're your family, pet. They're yours. Even if Red scares you a bit and the Slayer pisses you off - you love 'em, and you...want to protect them. I can't..." Spike was silent for a moment, thinking, then he sighed. "I hated Darla. Miserable bitch. But I couldn't...hurt her. Couldn't have left her to be hurt. It's just... It's family, it's - " *Pack nest always blood and need and yoursmineyours the same the same.* Xander and Oz contemplated that, silent, while the gold slowly faded from Spike's eyes and the link subsided to a low hum of contentment.

"But Angel's out of that, now." Xander said softly. Spike bared his teeth, silent snarl, and the demon gleefully sent out an image of a hot poker connecting with Angel's ribs.

"Oh, back in the day I felt the same, but he cut himself out. And that soul of his - won't let him back in." *Not family*

"Ok. I get that. I'm...thanks."

"Doesn't mean I won't knock the Slayer on her ass if she gets uppity," Spike said, but Xander just smiled, because it was hard to take that threat to heart when the vampire making it was snuggling into his lap, a rusty purr underscoring every word.

Two nerve-wracking days later, and most of them were at the Magic Box, waiting for the Council members to arrive - waiting for Buffy. Dawn was safely tucked away with Clem down in Spike's old crypt, enjoying what Clem had called 'Movie and Chip Taste-Test Night'. Clem looked as floppy and harmless as a basset-hound, but Spike had taken him and Buffy aside and told Clem to take a few swings at the Slayer. And Buffy had been surprised and impressed by the strength under the harmless-looking exterior.

Now they waited for the 'final review' or whatever it was, and Spike thought that one more session with the dried-up Watchers would send him screaming into the night - or into them. A little bloody mayhem would settle him nicely. Or... Spike dropped his cigarette in a half-empty cup of cold tea and sidled over to where Xander was leaning on the table, talking softly to Willow and Tara. Blue jeans and an old green thermal shirt that fight snugly across his broad, muscled back, and Spike couldn't resist. He got up close behind Xander - slid his fingers around Xander's waist and up under the shirt. Xander shivered in surprise and glanced back at him, laughter in his eyes.

*Love you better stop that.*

*Wanna fight - wanna fuck. Got time...* Brief flash of the workout room - Xander up against the wall and jeans open - and Xander stood up fast. Spike grinned and took advantage, slipping his hands further up under the shirt to Xander's chest - pulling him back so that they were pressed together.

*Want you*

*Oh...fuck...Spike!* Xander jumped at the delicate prickle of fangs over the claim mark, and Spike almost moaned aloud at the rush of arousal and want - the heady scent of clean sweat and clean wood and *sweet, hot...mmmmm* Willow was staring, open-mouthed, and Spike grinned at her - winked. She started - flushed bright red and turned away, bending busily over a pile of ratty parchment. Beside her, Tara was equally flushed, but she had a small smile on her face and mischief in her eyes. Spike saw her hand slip under the table, towards Willow, and almost laughed when Willow jumped again and stared at the blonde witch. Spike rubbed his fingertips gently across one of Xander's nipples - let his other hand slide lower, dipping just below the waist of his jeans. Xander made a tiny whimpering sound, his head falling back onto Spike's shoulder. Spike pressed his lips to the hinge of Xander's jaw - nibbled there. *Smell so good, so hot, WANT -*

"Spike! Xander! I really don't think that we need this sort of - display - when the Council arrive." The Watcher was striding out of the back room, frowning, hand going automatically to his glasses, and Xander twitched in Spike's arms - pulled feebly at the hem of his shirt, which had ridden half up his rib-cage. Anya trailed unhappily behind the Watcher. The Council made her nervous.

"Spike, c'mon, we gotta -" *Love you want you not NOW* and a brief image of the Watchers, gaping and scribbling notes. Spike took a last, lingering taste of the skin on Xander's neck - slid his hands free and turned the human around.

"Sure? We could slip downstairs..." Spike nuzzled his cheek into Xander's - caught the open mouth with his own and spent a leisurely minute or so just kissing his boy. Xander's hands clutched at his t-shirt and Spike pulled their hips together, slow pressure and grind, ignoring the Watcher, ignoring the Witches, catching a very soft *beautiful* from Oz, who was sitting up in the loft, feet dangling. Taste of sweet tea, of chocolate, of blood, when Spike let the demon emerge for a moment. Then the bell over the door jangled, and the Watchers were crowding in, and Spike pulled slowly away, eyes on Xander. His boy was a little dazed - a lot aroused - and the dark eyes stared into his, promising...

*Bad vampire. Gonna get you.*

*Promise?*

*Oh yeah.*

"Rupert! You intimated that - that this vampire had allied himself with your group, but you never said - " The head Watcher - Travers - spluttered in offended outrage and Spike smirked at him and caught Xander's hand - hauled him up the wrought-iron stairs to sit by Oz. Oz grinned and passed a crossbow over to Spike - another to Xander and resettled his on his hip. Two of them were the crossbows the Watchers had left behind at Xander's house. They'd decided to take no chances with this crowd, especially after their own pet Watcher had suggested that one of them might be a magic-user of some sort. Down at the table, Willow and Tara casually linked hands - put certain books and papers at the ready. They were armed, as well. Anya leaned beside the display of swords behind the counter, glaring at the cross-wielding Watcher who tried to join her.

"Employees only, buddy," she snapped. Giles watched the Council members spread out over the shop - frowned when Travers looked at a book and shook his head.

"There have been a number of developments just recently, Travers, that I did not think -"

"Rupert -" Travers held up his hand, looking disappointed and a little indulgent. "I understand that the Hellmouth is a - different - sort of place, and that your Slayer is not as disciplined or as - steady - as we could hope, but really. Something like this?" Travers gestured upwards towards them and Spike felt the snarl lift his lip - growled very low. Xander was looking narrow-eyed at the man as he continued his pontifical and condescending speech, fingers tight on the stock of his crossbow.

*Bastard*

*Kill him?* Xander snorted and he finally looked away - pushed his thigh up tight against Spike's, heat soaking into Spike's leg through two layers of denim.

"Maybe my finger can just slip a little." Xander whispered.

"Look funny if we all three slipped," Oz whispered from Spike's other side, and Spike had to chuckle softly.

*GOOD boys, mine, get 'em* Spike urged, knowing it wouldn't happen but wishing, nonetheless. Xander sighed and leaned into him a little more, propping his crossbow against his shoulder. Travers had settled like a toad into a chair across from the witches, and Giles stood by the display counter, nervously polishing his glasses. The other Watchers were standing about in various poses of supercilious detachment. Lydia was once again engrossed in her clipboard, but she continuously cast sly glances towards Spike. He caught her eye once and winked, demon-gold and grinning, and she gasped and hastily turned her back. Spike laughed in the link, and Xander poked him.

*Don't scare 'em.*

*Wankers.*

"Your Slayer is twenty minutes late, Rupert. Is this review actually important to her, or is she indulging in some sort of -" Travers was interrupted by the jangle of the door bell and everyone looked up to see Buffy, sword in hand, walk slowly into the shop.

"Buffy! Was there trouble?" Giles hurried forward and Buffy gave him a calm, almost dazed look.

"Oh, yeah. Trouble. A knight, if you can believe it. Armor and everything." Buffy looked down at the sword in her hand - hefted it - turning it so the light ran down its polished length. Spike scented no blood on her or the sword - just sweat and fatigue and fading fear - growing anger.

"Well, since you seem unhurt, we may begin the review -" Travers jumped as Buffy brought the sword down hard on the table. The other Watchers stiffened in surprise. Spike grinned.

*Slayer's pissed.*

"No. No review. No questions I can't answer and no hoops I can't jump through. And no interruptions." Buffy added, glaring at the Watcher Spike had half-strangled. He subsided unhappily, closing his mouth. Buffy paced away from the table. "Did you know, Glory came to my house today?" An electric current seemed to run through the Scoobies at that - Spike growled again, remembering the blonde cow who had smelled wrong and felt wrong and had tossed him aside with a strength he'd never encountered.

"Buffy! What -"

"It's all right, Giles. She just wanted to talk. Kinda like the Council, here. Wanted to tell me that I was a - bug. Insignificant. Kinda like that Knight, too - Knight of Byzantium. He wanted to tell me I was powerless against his Order. Everybody telling me I'm nothing, but yet, here you all are. Waiting on me. That's when I figured it out." Buffy pulled the knitted cap off her head - tossed it down and ran her fingers back through her hair. "It's about power. I've got it." Buffy paused, then strode up to the table - leaned into Travers space, making him flinch back. "And you don't."

"This is beyond insolent -" In one movement, Buffy snatched up the Knight's sword, turned, and threw. The sword slammed into the wall by Nigel's head, point first, spronging faintly. Nigel looked as if he'd swallowed his tongue.

"I'm certain I said 'no interruptions'."

"Oh, well done, Slayer." Spike couldn't keep himself from that, and Buffy sent him a flashing, triumphant glance, then her attention was back on the Watchers.

Xander reached over and squeezed his knee. *Damn. Pissed Slayer is right. She's scary when she's mad.* Spike leaned into Xander's shoulder, wishing he could just lay him back and kiss him - finish what he's started. He let that want into the link, and Xander made a throaty little sound, almost a purr. Spike focused on the Watchers again, letting his fingers burrow under the hem of Xander's shirt, stroking his spine. The Slayer talked on - pointing out the inherent worthlessness of Slayer-less Watchers, and then suddenly she was setting out her demands: all information on Glory - Giles to get his salary back, retroactive, and Spike grinned at Giles' little coughing hint. And her friends to help, no questions asked. Nigel stared around the room, obviously bewildered.

"Not - to get any more weapons thrown at me, but... Aside from Spike - why would you want to drag civilians - children - into this?" Buffy stopped pacing and looked at the man - slowly scanned the room.

"They're not children. They haven't been children for a long time. I've got two powerful witches, a thousand year old Vengeance demon and a werewolf backing me up."

"And Mr. Harris? No special abilities there." Buffy laughed and Spike glared at Lydia.

*Bitch*

"Mr. Harris? He's a better soldier - patroller - killer - than any one of you. He's been in the field and fighting alongside me for four years. He brought me back to life once. He's just chock full of special abilities, the least being he brought William the Bloody into our group." Buffy shot a hard look at Spike, as if daring him to contradict her, and Spike touched two fingers to his brow, tiny salute.

*Guess the Slayer wants my help.*

*Course she does. Wanna?*

*For you...anything.*

"I need an answer from you right now, Quentin. Yes or no?" Buffy leaned on the table, her eyes fierce and unwavering, staring at the older man. Who looked around the room and sighed, and sagged in his chair.

"We have an agreement, Ms. Summers. Everything - whatever you want."

"Yes!" Willow pumped a fist in the air - grinned at Buffy and hugged Tara closer to her. Anya clapped her hands, grinning.

"Ex-demon, by the way people. Ex. One hundred percent human, here. No more excruciating vengeance visited upon totally deserving men." The cross-wielding Watcher edged away from her, looking pale. Beside him, Oz was smiling happily, setting the crossbow down so he, too, could clap. Xander whooped, and Spike slid his hand around, sliding it up Xander's ribs.

"Good on you, Slayer," Spike said, loud enough for Slayer ears to hear, and she grinned, looking at Giles who was solicitously offering Travers a drink.

"Hang on, Giles - we can do that in a minute. First I wanna know...what we're up against. What kind of demon Glory is, and how we're going to take her down." The sounds of celebration faded and everyone turned expectant eyes on Travers. He shifted uneasily in his chair - looked at Giles and then Buffy.

"She's not a demon, Ms. Summers. Glory is - a god."

"Oh," Buffy whispered. Spike looked down at the Watcher, who was silent and frozen. At the Slayer, who had blanched and sat heavily down; at the rest of the Council members, who looked as if they'd rather be anywhere else. Anya was open-mouthed in shock, and the witches were staring at each other, wide-eyed.

*Fear* and *Fuck* in the link, which just about summed it up.

"I think I'll join our Mr. Travers in that drink," Spike muttered.

 

Hours past midnight, and Oz off with Derio somewhere. The sea booming like a heartbeat, wind driving the tree-limbs against the house. Storm coming, and Spike could smell ozone and rain, a day off at least. But closer, and more immediate, he could smell the balsam-scented candles, and cinnamon oil, and *blood oh gods his blood is like cream...Xander...love...pleeease* Spike's hands flexed on the headboard, making it creak.

"Don't let go, Spike, don't let go," Xander's voice murmured from behind him, soft and steady. And then ice - a pinprick, and then a pulling, aching line of it, and Spike arched, gasping. Xander leaned into him, his cock just pushing into that place, deep as he could get and Spike's straight-razor in his hand, cutting shallow and sharp. Pain that flared to pleasure as Xander's hot mouth followed the blade, licking the blood, teasing the sensitive edges of the cut, and Spike arched again, head down and his legs spread wide, trembling.

"Love please -" His voice was ragged - half gone - and Xander shifted, thrusting once and then twice and then stopping again, his fingers hot and hard around Spike's cock, keeping him from orgasm.

"You were sooo bad, love. Gotta take just a little more..." *Beautiful fuck want you forever taste so good* Xander leaned up, covering Spike with his body, his heat and sweat a stinging wash of ecstasy, his cock like a brand inside, every movement flaring fire as the oil warmed and burned. Hours of this and Spike was shuddering, growling; he could barely think, could barely see, only knew Xander over him and inside him, the ice and fire, pricking sting and steady burn, the rush of pins and needles every time Xander moved in him, pushing at him. Waves of sensation and scent that were so strong - so heady and so delicious. He wanted to thrust back and force Xander to pound into him - he wanted to sink his fangs into the sweet-salt flesh and drink his boy down - he wanted to come, oh fuck yeah, and it was gonna hurt and it was gonna feel so good...

"There - there...mmmmmm." Xander's forearm against his mouth, ladder of slashes up his arm and Spike lapped like a cat, groaning in need and delight. Another cut, spine to lats, another slow lap of tongue - and Spike heard the straight-razor hit the floor - felt Xander's hands on his hips, slippery with blood, hard and tight.

"You ready now? Gonna fuck you..." Xander drew back and slammed in, and Spike screamed, something guttural and hoarse.

*Yes please please now love in me, MAKE me, love love you oh fuckfuckfuck!* Spike couldn't have spoken if he'd tried. His body moved on instinct alone as he writhed and thrust back, wanting more and deeper and crying out when Xander's nails raked his raw back. The pain was white-hot, dizzying, utter rapture and the demon was howling its pleasure even as Spike's throat caught and worked and sent blood-taste to his mouth. Xander's hand on his cock now, pumping ruthlessly, the oil stinging and lashing him on. Xander's other hand in his hair - pulling his head up and back, twisting and then Xander's throat was against his mouth - awkward as fuck but Spike didn't care - couldn't have stopped himself if he'd wanted to. And Xander whimpering, gasping, and:

*Take it take me Spike fuck love you NOW love now* Spike bit, savage - feeling the pain flare in the link; flare white and then fade to red, seething delight as Spike drank the honey-salt of Xander's blood. His body locked into an arched, shuddering bow and finally, finally, coming, and gods it was like nothing he'd felt before, nothing. Distantly, he heard the headboard crack in his fingers and heard Xander cry out - felt the wash of heat in him as Xander came.

Abruptly, his legs gave out, and he lay gasping on the bloody sheets, Xander heavy and hot and wonderful on him - in him still. Spike lay and panted, his body throbbing with aftershocks like pulses of heat and cold, over and over. Xander gasped into his hair, and his hands wormed underneath, holding Spike, turning them both onto their sides.

*My boy lovely boy fuck that was...*

"That was fucking incredible," Xander whispered, and Spike used every last bit of strength he had to turn over, moaning softly at the sudden emptiness when Xander slipped out. Xander lay with his eyes closed, still panting - his mouth and chest and thighs streaked with blood, drying in rusty smears on the sun-gold skin. The bite Spike had made was ragged - sore looking - and Spike leaned in and kissed it, lapping delicately at the blood that still welled there. Xander shivered and moaned.

"Oh god, fuck, Spike..."

"That was amazing, pet, that was...where'd you learn that, eh?" Spike's voice like sand in his throat and Xander cracked one eye open - grinned tiredly.

"From you, of course. Variation on a theme." His eye fell shut, and Spike nuzzled back in - sighed happily into the heat and damp and scent - pulled Xander closer yet, holding him tight.

*Mine always never let you go love you love you.*

*Mmmmmm...always...my vampire MY Spike...love you.*

Outside, the wind dropped and then picked up again, lonely keening across the bluff, and Spike let the purr rumble to life in his chest - let it take them both down into dreamless sleep.

 

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The Brandos - We Are No Man