Chapter 7: Debt

                Xander dragged himself, groaning, to work the next two days.  He wanted nothing more than to stay home with Spike, but he knew he couldn't.  On Wednesday he was actually secretly grateful that there'd been some sort of screw-up *By them and not us, thank god*  that made work almost impossible.  The required supplies were wrong - and not enough - and damaged for fuck's sake, and Manny was looking daggers at the delivery guys who could only shrug and shuffle around, unable to fix the problem themselves but bearing the brunt of  it.  Eventually - around eleven - Manny just threw his hands into the air and sent everyone home.   Xander stayed an extra hour, helping Manny get the right stuff organized for the next day, checking the site, getting the delivery guys packed up and out of there.  He felt Manny's frustration but relished the idea of being home with Spike instead.  Two more days until the weekend, so this would be a nice break.  He drove home, humming along with Aerosmith on the radio.  Once there he moved as quietly as he could, leaving his boots and tool belt by the door, walking barefoot to the bedroom.  Spike was curled into Xander's side of the bed, buried in covers, and Xander started to smile before he realized something wasn't quite...right.  Instead of the normal near-motionless figure Xander had gotten used to, Spike was twitching and writhing in his sleep, small sounds of unhappiness coming out of him.    Xander moved to the bed, crouching down next to him and reaching out hesitantly to stroke the tangled blond hair.

                "Spike?" he whispered, and the vampire twisted away, giving voice to a moaning, keening cry that made the hair stand up on Xander's neck.  He smoothed the vampire's hair again, then moved his hand to Spike's shoulder, shaking him gently.

                "Spike - wake up," he said, a little louder.  And then - a blur, pain - and Xander found himself rolling hard into the dresser, thud of his back and shoulder into the wood, sharp ache in his jaw.  Dazed, he looked up at Spike who was...  *Where the hell is he?  Ok, what the fuck - I touched his shoulder,  he  jerked away - HIT me, then...*   A sound caught his attention, and he scrambled up onto the bed and over, and saw Spike.  Tight against the wall, hands around his head, moaning in agony now.  *Oh fuck, oh DAMNIT, that damn thing...  He hit me, having a nightmare - fucking thing...   Sorry, Spike, sorry, sorry, should have ...*   Xander stopped himself from reaching out again, watching Spike.  The vampire was silent now, but still huddled - half asleep maybe.  He didn't seem to realize where he was.

                "Spike?  Hey, Spike.  Wake up, ok?  You're safe...safe at home... "  Xander couldn't help himself - he reached out again, touching the bowed head, and Spike moved fast, away, scrabbling into the corner and getting trapped between the wall and the bed, panic wrenching a sound from him, inarticulate, terrified.  Spike's head rapped the wall sharply and he froze, eyes open finally, staring around him wildly.  "W-won't," he whispered, and then seemed to see Xander, and he frowned.

                "Xan ..."

                "Spike, wake up now - you're safe here - home, ok?  It's just you and me here, Spike - you hear me?  You awake?"  Xander didn't move, and Spike scrubbed his hands over his face, pushing them back through his disordered hair, head down for a minute, shaking.

                "Come on, Spike, come back up here, let me warm you up," Xander said, and Spike looked at him - really looked this time, and finally, finally he moved, unfolding from his huddle and moving shakily up onto the bed.  Xander pulled the quilt free and wrapped it around them both, trapping the heat in with them, pulling Spike half into his lap and just holding him, stroking his back and murmuring softly to him.

                "It's alright love, no one but us, won't let anything hurt you, it's alright, I've got you, just you and me love, safe, you're safe..."  Spike's arms were almost painfully tight around Xanders' ribs, his face in Xanders' neck and soft pants of breath still coming from him.  Xander felt the trembling body gradually still, and he kissed the messy hair, Spike's forehead; stroked his shoulders and back and hugged him tight.  Suddenly Spike jerked away, blue eyes frantic and wide.

                "I hit you - Xander, fuck, I - "

                "It's all right.  Didn't hurt much.  I startled you, it's ok..."  Xander soothed, but Spike was trying to get away from him, pushing him back.

                "It's not all right!  Bloody hell, I could have - "

                "You didn't.  You won't.  It's OK.  Spike - look at me!”  Xander managed to grab Spike's hands in one of his, put his other to the vampire's cheek, stilling him, making the blue eyes meet his own.  Spike's mouth trembled, then firmed, and he ducked his head.

                "I could hurt you.  Xander, I can't - "

                "It was just a nightmare, Spike.  You didn't do anything on purpose.  You have those a lot?"  Xander gently chaffed the chilled hands between his own, and Spike sighed and leaned his shoulder into Xander's chest, resting his head on the boy's shoulder.

                "Sometimes.   They're just...just the soldiers, you know?"

                "The Initiative?  I thought..."  Xander stopped and bit his lip, and Spike looked up at him.

                "Thought what, pet?" 

                "I...just thought...they did that, put that thing in you, and you escaped...    I... I'm just being stupid." 

                "Xander - "  Spike sat up, looking straight into the mortal's eyes, frowning.  "You're not stupid.  Tell me."  Xander looked away, then sighed. 

                "It's not like that - thing - isn't enough to give you nightmares, but I guess I just thought...that's all they did.  You know?  And...it's not, is it?"  Now Spike looked away, not willing to admit to exactly what had happened, not willing to admit how much the soldiers - the scientists - had scared him.  Still scared him.  Xander could see it in his eyes, in the rigid set of his shoulders.  *Oh god, WHAT did they do to him, something awful, nothing scares him, but here he is having nightmares, damnit, DAMNIT...*

                "Fuck.  I should have known.  Bastards.  I'm gonna do something to Riley, I'm gonna..."

                "No, Xander."  Spike took Xander's face gently in his hands, leaned in and kissed him, lingeringly. 

"Anything done to those fuckin' bastards is done by me, right?  You don't get your hands dirty with them, not ever.  Not you."  They kissed again, and Xander hugged him close. 

                *Fuck that, Harris.  We'll settle 'em, you'll see*   The hyena growled in agreement, and Xander had to fight the urge to laugh aloud.  He wondered if everyone had multiple personalities urging them to homicide.

                "What're you doin' home, anyway?   It's not that bloody late, is it?"

                "Screw up at the site - delivery all wrong and we couldn't do any work, so Manny sent us home.  Which is good, because I get to get back in bed with this sexy blonde..."  Xander pushed Spike flat, kissing him, neck and chest and shoulders, and Spike pulled at his clothes, trying to strip him.

                "Get 'em off, pet, gonna fuck you..."  Xander flung the quilt away and stripped, letting Spike take control, letting him vent his stress with kisses and bites, long licks and strong, mobile hands.  Despite his initial frenzy, Spike entered Xander in a slow, controlled glide, and then simply lay over him, rocking slowly, kissing him again and again.  They lay in near silence, the only sounds panting breaths, small sighs, low moans of pleasure. 

                *Ohhh, want this forever, want him forever...no more nightmares, I'll fix that, I will...*

                "Sspike, love you..."  Xander whispered, and the vampire gasped, surging against him, hands burrowed under his shoulders and holding him like the most precious of things.

                "Love you, pet, love you..."  Xander felt himself trembling on the edge of orgasm, nearly there, and he turned his head, exposing his throat, silently urging Spike to take him.  Spike made a low sound, desperate need, and he leaned down and let the demon out.   The fangs slid effortlessly home in Xander's neck and Xander shuddered, writhing.    As Spike took the first sip of his blood Xander arched into silent, trembling orgasm, gasping, pulling Spike as close as he could.  Spike drank, small mouthfuls, two and then three and then he pulled away, gliding his tongue over the marks, and Xander whimpered.  A hazy thought swam through his brain, and he nuzzled in close to Spike - kissed and then bit gently on the vampire's neck - bit harder when he felt Spike shiver, and then hard as he could, tasting Spike's skin and... *blood, that's blood, oh*   Spike was coming, thrusting into him, calling his name in a broken voice.   Gradually, they were still again, and Xander felt as if he'd run a marathon.  His whole body tingled, and he was pleasantly limp.  He licked his lips, tasting metal and salt and...something rich, delicious.

                "Spike!"

                "Hrmmm?  Xan, what?"  Spike mumbled, drowsy and unmoving.

                "I bit you!"

                "Know that, love.  Was good."  Xander pushed at him, making him lean up, and Spike looked down at him, eyes half-shut.   "What, pet?"

                "I mean, there's blood - I drew blood."

                "Yeah?  You - ok with it?  I mean, wasn't too bad, was it?"  Xander ran his tongue over his lips, then he grinned. 

                "Nope.  It was - great.  Tingly.  Tasted...good.   Huh.  Never thought I'd say that.   I didn't hurt you, did I?"  Xander eyed the bite - messier then what Spike had done to him, slightly swollen.   It looked sore.

                "No worries, pet.  Had lots worse in the throes of passion.  It was just right."  Spike dipped his head down and licked over his own mark on Xander's shoulder, and Xander shivered.  It was like lightning and fire going through him, sharp and hot, shivery.  It made arousal stir in him, and a fierce want.  He tightened his arms around Spike and they both lay there, unwilling to move.  Spike gradually fell asleep again, it being the middle of his night, and Xander shifted him a little and managed to get the quilt up over the both of them.  Then he, too, drifted - dozing on and off, waking again and again to kiss or caress the silken, milky skin.  *Love, this is love, love him. ..how can he love me?  Don't care how... just want him, need him...don't care...  I'll take what he'll give me, for however long...don't care...*

               

                Xander drifted for a couple of hours, but eventually he had to get up and decided to take a shower.  Afterwards, he dressed in faded jeans and an old, holey sweater.  He looked at Spike, lying loosely curled in the bed, and reached out and smoothed the pale hair with one hand.  Then he carefully took the blue jay feather from its place in the edge of the mirror over the dresser.  It was tucked in just above the picture of Spike that Drusilla had taken, and Xander touched the photo, smiling softly.  Then he slipped out of the bedroom and through the kitchen, and went outside.  The sun was hovering a hand-span above the sea,  the light thick and still, a bloody amber.  Xander hesitated, then walked down the steps and stood in the grass.  He looked at the feather, and then shut his eyes, taking a deep breath.  He pictured Jack in his mind; mop of black hair, coat of velvet or leaves or denim - wicked smile, eyes like coals.  *Jack.  I need you.  You said you'd come whenever I called - I'm calling.  Calling in the debt.  Jack Green ...*  The feather seemed to tremble in his fingers and he opened his eyes.  A sudden wind - cool, salt-tanged - gusted up from the west and straight into Xander's face.  The feather spun free of his fingers and flew up, corkscrewing higher and higher until it seemed to wink out of sight in the darkening sky.  The wind ebbed - faded away altogether - and Xander shivered.  Jack was coming.

                He went back inside to find Spike just coming out of the bedroom, naked, looking slightly apprehensive.  

                "Hey, Spike."

                "Xander...been outside?"  Spike came over to him and kissed him, hands on Xander's hips.

                "Yeah - it's nice out.  You hungry?"  Spike nodded - kissed him again.

                "Gonna take a shower, pet."

                "Ok.  I'm gonna make some...spaghetti or something.  Won't take long ."

                "Hmmmm."  Spike smiled, burrowing into Xander's neck for a moment, taking a deep breath. 

"You smell nice."  He broke away and headed for the bathroom, and Xander watched him walk out, making the appropriate wolf-whistle.  Spike laughed.

                By the time Spike was done showering, Xander had sauce heated on the stove and the pasta boiling.  A mug-full of blood sat in the microwave, ready to be heated.  He lit the big candle they had on the kitchen table and leaned against the counter, watching the pasta.  He felt it again - that strange little tingle.  *Jack.  Wonder when he'll get here.*   Xander stirred the pasta and got a glass of milk.  Tonight - movies, or maybe there was a match on the TV that Spike wanted to watch.  Or maybe...they would talk.  Or not.   Xander didn't want to tell Spike what he was planning.

                *What're the odds this'll work, Harris?  You have to tell him.*

                *Don't want to.   I want to talk to Jack first*

                *Not nice, Harris.*

                Xander turned the radio on, to drown out the soldier, and listened to piano and horns and the rich voice he was slowly coming to recognize - Louis Armstrong. 

                "Give me your lips for just a moment... And my imagination will make that moment live ...

                Give me what you alone can give... A kiss to build a dream on..."

                Xander was starting to like this music.  It was all Manny ever played, these soft songs and tunes from the 'war years' as he called them, and they lent a certain calm to the site that could sometimes be utter chaos.  Xander stirred the pasta again and decided it was done.  He hunted out the lid to the pot and carefully dumped the water, only spilling a little pasta down the drain.

                "There has to be a better way," Xander muttered.  He was sure there was, he just couldn't remember what his mom had done.  Hanging out in the kitchen when she had done her sporadic cooking had not been a good idea.

                "Better way for what, pet?" Spikes voice, sand and honey, and Xander flashed him a quick smile. 

                "Oh, this whole draining thing.  I'm sure there's a better way but, you know, I don't come from a long line of chefs or anything." 

                " 'Course there's a better way, love. " Spike said, and shot Xander a truly lascivious look, flashing his fangs.  Xander made an exaggerated 'ha ha' laugh, and  Spike shrugged, grinning, passing  through to the living room for his cigarettes.  He'd only pulled on his jeans, and there were still drops of water glittering on his back.  Xander watched him walk past *Ah, fuck.  How m'I supposed to concentrate on food when I've got THAT sitting across from me?*

                "Can't help you, pet.  Never done much cooking, me."

                "Why doesn't that surprise me?" Xander called after him.  He put the pasta pot back on the stove, turned the burners off and got out plates.  He heard Spike's Zippo flick open, and watched through the pass through as he lit the half-dozen candles they kept in the living room.   Then Spike lit his cigarette and came back, trailing smoke, to start his blood heating while Xander got a plateful of food and sat down.  Then stood back up to grab bread and butter and his milk.  After a minute Spike joined him, and they ate and drank in companionable silence, listening to Les Brown and Duke Ellington, Buddy Holly and June Christy.  Spike drank his human blood - he tended to space six or so pints out during the course of the day -  but then heated up a cupful of the stuff from the butchers to pour over his spaghetti.   Xander just watched in amusement as he sucked up noodles, making a mess.

                "Jeez, you're not so much 'Creature of the Night' as 'Pig of the Night'.  Have a paper towel."  Spike snatched the towel and wiped at his mouth, then reached over and took Xander's bread-and-butter.

                "Hey!"

                "That's what you get for makin' derogatory comments about my oral skills."  Spike looked up at him from under long lashes, eyebrow cocked, and Xander choked a little on his mouthful.  He knew exactly what 'oral skills' Spike was alluding to.

                "Speaking of 'oral skills'..."

                "Yeah, love ?"  Spike murmured, and Xander felt his cock stirring .  *How does he do that, drop his voice down so low, make it so...damn...hot*

                "Uhhh..."  Spike smirked at him, and Xander sat bolt upright as he felt a lean, wriggling foot insinuate itself into his crotch and stroke his growing erection.

                "You were sayin' somethin', Xanderrr,?" Spike purred, and Xander closed his eyes, taking a long breath. 

                "Mmmm..."  Spike's other foot was suddenly there, rubbing and kneading in concert with the first, and Xander let his fork clatter to the plate and just slumped back in his chair.  *No point in trying to talk...*

                Xander was just beginning to wonder - in a hazy, half-coherent way - about how to get his jeans off without losing contact with Spike when the feet pulled away.  Xander opened his eyes to see Spike sitting straight up, looking towards the door.

                "Wha - "

                "Somebody's here."  Xander's heart skipped in his chest, and he sat up as well, his mouth going dry and his erection subsiding unhappily.

                "Do you know - who it is?"  Spike cocked his head to the side, listening, then relaxed fractionally.

                "Watcher and Red and the blonde.  Red's...cryin'."  Xander looked at him and Spike nodded, pushing back his chair.  "Damn," Xander muttered, getting up as well, and Spike caught his arm, pulling him close for a quick kiss. 

                "I'll finish with you later," he murmured, and Xander snagged him back for one more kiss, deep and hard, before turning to the front door.  Just as he reached it, someone knocked, and Xander could hear Giles' voice, saying something.  He undid the chain and opened the door, and Giles, Willow and Tara looked in at him; Willow pale and teary, Tara just pale, and Giles thin-lipped in anger or fear.

                "Willow - you ok?"  Xander stepped back, ushering them in, and saw Spike in the doorway of the living room *Thank god he grabbed a shirt* cigarette in his mouth, fingers dipping into his jeans for his lighter.  Willow and Tara sat on the couch, huddled together, and Giles stood near the bookshelves, arms folded, looking around at the candle-lit room with an expression of bafflement.  Xander perched on the couch arm.

                "Xander!  What happened to your face!"  Willow's eyes were huge and she reached towards his jaw.

                "Huh?"  *Spike - nightmare - remember?  Must have bruised*  "Oh - I kinda forgot.  New kid on the site, he got a little clumsy with a board.  No big deal.  Now tell me Willow - what's the matter?  What's happened?"

                "It's Oz - "  Willow started, voice shaky, just as Giles said, "Don't light that in here, Spike."  Xander looked over at Spike, who lit his cigarette and snapped his Zippo shut, glaring at Giles. 

                "Giles," Xander said, turning to the older man *calm, stay calm*  "this is my house.  He can smoke in here if he likes." Giles stared at him, eyes narrowing slightly behind his glasses, and then he looked away.

                "Very well."

                "Go on Willow, what about Oz.  Is he back?"

                "He - he came back yesterday.  We were up all night talking, Xander, just - talking, and...and he's been in Tibet, he met these monks and they showed him - showed him how to control the wolf.  It was wonderful, Xander!  We were outside under the full moon and he wasn't going all grrr and everything. 

B-but then, today at school he - "  Willow stopped, gulping, and Xander felt ice in his belly. 

                "He what, Wills?  Tell me."  Xander slid off the couch and crouched at the girls' feet.  It was Tara who spoke, her voice barely above a whisper.

                "I-i-it was me.  He s-sssaw me and thought - I w-was W-willow, he said hhe could s-smell her,  and then he - ch-changed.  He told me to  r-rrun, and I did but he ch-chased me."  She swallowed, looking at Willow, who gripped her hand and nodded, rubbing at tear-streaked cheeks.

                "I r-ran into this cl-cl-classroom and then these - ss-soldiers came - "

                "Bloody hell, " from Spike, who started pacing.

                "Soldiers?  The Initiative?  They grabbed Oz?"

                "Th-they shot him w-with a d-dart gun - I t-t-tried to t-tell them - "

                "It's ok, Tara, it's not your fault they didn't listen."  Willow took Tara's hand and squeezed it gently, then looked at Xander, her eyes wide and red-rimmed, terrified and angry.

                "They just dragged him away, Xander!  And he isn't dangerous any more, he can control it, he showed me!  Riley told Buffy - one of the soldiers got killed last night by some big demon or something and they think it was Oz but it wasn't!  We were together all night, he was telling me about his trip - "

                "Ok, Willow, it's ok.  I believe you if you say he didn't do it...where's Riley? "

                "We don't know! " Willow wailed, and Tara clutched her hand.  "We've been driving around trying to find any of them - any of the soldiers.    Do you think he'll make them let Oz go?  I mean, once they see it's Oz?"  Willow's eyes were full of hope, but Xander shook his head.

                "We can't count on Riley for anything, Willow - he's one of them.   What about Buffy?"

                "She is also trying to find Riley.  She was going to go on campus and see if any of the soldiers were about.  But they all seem to have - vanished, tonight."  Giles spoke up from behind him, and Xander stood up, turning to look at him.  "We may have to force our way into the Initiative headquarters."

                "Damnit.  How long - I mean, how long has she been trying?  Shouldn't she have - "  The phone rang *thank god*  and Xander walked fast to it, snatching it up.

                "Buffy?"

                "I can't find anybody, Xander.   We're going to have to go in there - "

                "Ok.  Listen - head back to Giles' house.  We'll meet you there, figure something out.  What about Riley?"  Buffy hesitated, and Xander felt the ice in his belly getting bigger, making him feel slightly sick.

                "I can't get him, Xander.  He's not - answering.  Just - get to Giles' house fast, ok?"

                "Ok.  See you there."

                "See you.  Xander...thanks."

                "Sure, Buff.  No problem."  Xander hung up, turning to face Willow.  Willow and Tara had stood up, clutching anxiously at each other, and Giles was rubbing his forehead.

                "What'd she say?  Can she find anybody?"

                "She can't, Willow.  We're gonna meet her at Giles' house, figure out - how to get in there."  Xander stepped up closer to her - put his hand out and gently touched her cheek.  "It's gonna be ok, Willow.  We'll figure this out.  We'll get Oz out."  Willow smiled shakily at him, gripping Tara's hand, and Xander turned to Giles.

                "Will you take the girls back to your house?  I'll follow in a minute - "

                "We'll follow, Harris."  Xander snapped his head around to stare at Spike, who was leaning nonchalantly on the doorway, cigarette in his hand.  But Xander could see the tension around his eyes - could see the slight shake of his hand that he tried to disguise by rolling the cigarette, lifting it to his mouth.

                "What?  No, no we,  Spike.  No way."

                "Xander - "

                "He's not going, Giles -"

                "Harris."  Spike said, and his voice was cold and level and dead calm.  Xander narrowed his eyes at him.  Spike made a jerk of his head, indicating the kitchen, and pushed away from the doorjamb, walking to the kitchen door.   Xander followed, fists clenched. *No, no, NO, Spike, not gonna let you get near there, not gonna risk you, I'm NOT... *

                "Spike - " he hissed, the minute he was close, and Spike shot a quick glance over Xander's shoulder at the girls and Giles.

                "Xander, love, I know a way in.  A - back door, like.  How I got out last time."  Spike kept his voice low and even, but his pupils were dilated so far his eyes seemed black.

                "NO, Spike.  You can't - I won't risk you getting caught again.  Who fuckin' knows what they'll do this time - "

                "I'm going with you, Xander.  You're not going in there with just the Slayer - she never watches out for you.  I know how to get in, I'll help you.  You just - keep 'em off me, ok?  I trust you, Xander."  Surreptitiously, he put his hand on Xander's chest, rubbing a small circle there.

                "Spike...fuck..."  Xander wanted to hit something.  In frustration, he grabbed up the dirty dishes, jamming them into the sink and then leaning there, gripping the sink-edge in a death grip.

                "Xander - we need to hurry."  Giles from the living room, his hand on Willow's shoulder, his face set and angry.

                "Damnit.  Ok.  OK.  But Spike - "  Xander spun around to face him, anger and helplessness and fear plain on his face.  He dropped his voice down low again.  "You don't take any chances - keep close to me and just - damnit." 

                "I got it, mate.  You too.  C'mon now, you're makin' the Watcher nervous."  Spike stared back at him, his facade perfectly calm and emotionless, and Xander shook his head.

                "Yeah.  Ok.  Will you - get the candles in the other room, please?"

                "No problem, pet."  He went away into the living room, and Xander stood there a minute, trying to collect himself.  *What about Jack?*   

                "Damnit," he whispered, thinking frantically.  He undid the chain on the kitchen door and made sure the deadbolt was unlocked.  Then he grabbed a clean plate and fork and put them on the table with one of Spike's beers.  The bread was already on the table and Xander stared at it for a moment.   The candle was in a glass jar...  *should be safe...   Salt!*    "Right," he muttered, grabbing the salt off the stove and putting it with the bread.  Should do it.  *Please be here when we get back.  Jack - you're welcome here, please wait for us...*

                "Ready mate?"  Spike called, and Xander hurried through to him, catching the vampire's puzzled look.

                "Tell you later," he whispered, grabbing his keys out of Spike's hand.   He hastily stuffed his feet into the work boots he'd left by the door, not bothering to do up the laces.   Spike already has his own boots and the duster on, cigarette clenched in his teeth.   Giles and the girls were on the porch, and they walked quickly to the vehicles. 

                "Uh, Xander ?  What's with all the candles in there?"  Willow was looking at him strangely as Giles unlocked his car.  Tara seemed to be smiling behind her hair.

                "What?  Oh - uh, saves on the electric, you know?  'Sides, I like it better."

                "Oh.  Sure.  Electric." Willow nodded as Tara tugged her into Giles' car.  Giles backed out and drove away, tires squealing slightly, and Spike and Xander got into Xander's truck.  As Xander pushed the key into the ignition, Spike grabbed him and pulled him into a hard, passionate kiss, stealing his breath and squeezing his ribs painfully tight. 

                "Love you, love you," Spike gasped, and Xander kissed him back. 

                "Love you. Damnit, I hate this.  Don't get hurt, Spike, don't let them near you, run if you have to, just..."

                "It'll be ok, love.  Promise."  Xander looked into the wide eyes, the sharply planed face so close to his own.  *Beautiful, he's so beautiful...can't lose him...*

                "Ok, Spike.  Ok."  They drove in silence, Spike's hand resting on his on the gear-shift.

 

 

                *Fuck.  Hate this place.  Stinks.  Rotten blood and death and disinfectant and fear...*  Spike clenched his teeth, forcing himself to stride - to strut - behind the Slayer and Xander.  No way was he going to show any fear - any weakness.   He was a Master in his own right, and military hardware or no, he would not cringe or cower.  Ever.  *Even in this bloody soldier get-up.  "Evil olive", my arse.*

 Up ahead,  Buffy kicked her way into a room and a moment later emerged with an older, paunchy soldier - obviously an officer. 

                "Riley's in the brig.   We'll get him first."  Buffy looked determined, and Spike didn't miss Xander rolling his eyes.    Spike could clearly see the sweat on Xander's face, the lines of tension around his mouth.  *Stay calm, pet.  We'll be in and out in no time.  Get Red's wolf and gone.  Calm, yeah.  Need a bloody smoke*   Spike felt his pockets for cigarettes and then cursed when he realized he'd left them in his duster.  Xander glanced over at him and he shrugged, scowling.   The officer - Colonel somebody - directed Buffy down a side corridor and they waited there while she ghosted around the corner, intent on getting her soldier-boy.  *Stupid bitch.  Should get the wolf and go.  Captain Cardboard can get his own arse out of this - these are his mates.  If she left him here maybe they'd execute him.  Save us all some trouble*    The Colonel shifted nervously and Xander poked him with his rifle, looking ready to blow.

                "So what'd this Riley do, eh?  Why'd you lock him up?" Spike asked, trying to distract Xander, make him ease up.

                "He betrayed his command," the Colonel said stiffly, eyeing Spike with poorly concealed distaste.

                "What's that mean?" Xander asked, looking down the corridor where Buffy had gone.   The Colonel looked Xander up and down, frowning.

                "He tried to help an HST escape.   That's a court-martialing offence.  Why are you helping these hostiles, son?"  The Colonel sounded as if he were making an effort to be paternal towards Xander, and the demon reacted instantly.   Spike snarled, vamping out and lunging at the Colonel, who jerked away into the wall.  Spike got up close to him, snapping his fangs in his face.

                "You mean a hostile like this?"  Xander got close to the Colonel on his other side, looking from Spike to the soldier.  "I'm helping because the 'hostile', as you call him, is my friend.  And because I happen to be fucking this one."  The Colonels' eyes bugged, and Spike hissed at him, dropping back into his human face and planting a quick kiss on Xander's mouth.

                "Ta, love," he whispered, and then spun around as Buffy and Riley came around the corner.

                "Let's go," Buffy said.  "He's being held down here."  They quick-marched, silent, Buffy keeping her crossbow trained on the Colonel, her other hand knotted in his shirt.

                *Oh, my boy, you're gonna get a niiice reward for that bit of bravado back there.*  Trailing behind, Spike managed to reach out and let his fingers rest lightly on Xander's wrist for a moment.   Xander shot him a quick grin, and then they were in that place - that corridor.  Glass-fronted cages, with demons and vampires pacing or huddled or snarling from within.  Spike shivered, and the demon roared, fighting to emerge, to rend and destroy.   *Back off, back off, can't do anything, just back off, get the wolf and out...bloody hell, smells the same, looks the same...fuck*   Spike  could feel his fingers denting the stock of the rifle he held.  Xander shot a look of concern at him and then they stopped, because there was the wolfling, huddled and naked, and more soldiers surrounding them, holding their weapons in a confused mess of level and not, obviously unsure of what to do.  Buffy yanked the Colonel closer, holding her crossbow up to his head.  Spike watched as Oz looked up, recognizing Buffy and then Riley, his eyes flicking over to Xander and then coming to a stop on Spike, widening in surprise.  Spike nodded fractionally at him, glancing around again and again at the soldiers.  *Come on, people, come on, the longer we fuck around the more bloody time they've got to figure out how to fuckin'  stop us.  What'll I do if they attack?  If I shoot when Xander does, will this bloody chip know if I hit anyone?  Bloody fucking HELL - what is she babbling about, William Burroughs?  Christ, Slayer, just shut up*   One of the soldiers walked cautiously forward and used his key-card to open the cell door.  Oz stood slowly, the bruises, cuts and burns on his body clearly evident, and Spike heard Xander whisper "fucking bastards”.   Oz walked out, shying away from the soldier, and Riley and Buffy both looked shocked - and embarrassed.   Spike saw how Buffy was looking everywhere but at Oz and finally realized that it was because Oz was naked. 

*Not the time for bloody scruples you miserable...*   Spike took three quick steps up to the soldier who'd opened the door and grabbed his shirt.

                "Get him his clothes, you bastard," he hissed.  Oz had sunk down onto his haunches again, shivering, and Spike crouched down in front of him, watching the soldier go to a locker at the end of the hall, fumbling with the latch.

                "You all right, wolfling?" Spike asked, and Oz rubbed a trembling hand over his face. 

                "All right enough to get out of here,"  Oz whispered.  His voice was a ruined husk, and he winced, swallowing hard. 

                "Soon be free, mate.  Here."   Spike pulled his flask out of his back pocket and unscrewed the top, then handed it to Oz.  Oz sniffed, eyebrows going up, then he took a long drink, grimacing as the alcohol stung his throat.  Spike could see blood on the corners of his lips.

                "F-fuck." Oz coughed a little, and rubbed his hand over his lips.   Spike took the flask back and stood up as the soldier approached with a wad of clothes.  Oz struggled into jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, ill-fitting clothes that were obviously not his.  He didn't bother with the socks or sneakers.  He nodded to Spike and they both went over to Xander.  Xander put his hand on Oz's shoulder, gently, and looked inquiringly at him.  Oz nodded, and Xander stepped back, assured Oz was all right enough for now.  Buffy started backing up, taking the Colonel with her.   They backtracked to a bank of elevators, and Spike felt relief wash over him as they crowded in.  The elevator doors closed on the soldiers furious faces, and they rode up in silence.  The doors opened again in Lowell House, and Spike snarled.  *Should burn this place to the fucking ground*   Oz stepped out quickly, limping, and Xander and Spike followed.  Riley seemed to want to say something to the Colonel, and since the Slayer was staying with him, Spike was happy to go ahead and leave them to it.  They got out of Lowell house fast, making their way across the campus towards where Xander had parked his truck.  Oz staggered, breathing hard, and Spike could smell blood and exhaustion and fear rolling off him - and rage.  The wolf-smell was strong, and Oz kept snapping his teeth, growling a little, obviously fighting for control.  Spike touched  Xanders' arm, gesturing towards a patch of deep shadow.  Xander frowned but followed when Spike took Oz's arm and pulled him into the darkness. 

                "Come down here," Spike whispered, crouching down, and they did.  Oz was shaking hard, hands clenched in the loose folds of the sweatshirt, his eyes utterly black.  Xander looked nervous, and Spike could smell fear from him, and worry.

                "Wolfling - listen mate.  You've got to calm down.  You can't be wolfin' out on me and the boy here.  You're out now - safe, alright?"  Spike reached to touch his shoulder and Oz shivered, gasping.  Xander moved close in on his other side, and slid an arm around Oz, pulling him close.

                "Oz, it's ok.  Spike's right.  Willow said - you learned something from some monks?   Try it - use it.  We've got to get out of here, ok?"  Spike watched as Oz tried to slow his breathing, his eyes wide and still scared, the wolf-scent pouring off him.  He reached blindly and clutched at Spike's sweater and suddenly his face was against Spike's chest and he was crying - gasping, choking sobs that shook his slight frame.  Spike looked up at Xander, meeting the mortal's helpless gaze, then he just folded Oz into his arms, pulling him and Xander both close, holding the shaking, coughing boy to him while Xander crooned something into Oz's ear, rubbing his back, rocking him a little.  The three of them huddled there, long minutes, until finally Oz came out of it.  The dreadful gasps eased off and faded away, and he finally sat back, rubbing at his face; still shaking but the tremors less, now.  His eyes were human again, and he reached out and gently cupped Xander's face in one hand, Spike's in the other.  His hand was cold, sticky with tears, smelling of disinfectant and blood.

                "Th-thanks.  I'm ok now, guys."  His voice was so strained and cracked the Spike winced to hear it, and Xander shushed him immediately.

                " Don't talk, Oz.  It's ok.  Come on, let's get you to Giles' house, ok?  Willow's going out of her mind worrying about you - "  Xander stopped as Oz clutched at him, shaking his head.

                "What, wolfling?" 

                "Can't.  Not there.  Please?"  Spike looked up at Xander, baffled, but Xander looked as if he understood.

                "You don't want to go to Giles' house?"  Oz nodded, his lip trembling, and Xander rubbed his shoulder.

                "Ok.  It's ok.  You can - you can come to my house.  You'll be safe there - Riley doesn't know where I live, and you'll be safe.  OK?"  Oz sighed in relief, nodding.

                "Right then, let's get a bloody move on.  Gotta get away from these bloody soldiers."  They walked faster now, Oz still limping but doing better.  They got to Xander's truck and piled in, Oz in the middle, huddled and miserable.   As they drove slowly off campus, Oz suddenly straightened, pointing.  

                "What is it, Oz?"  Xander asked, slowing even more.  Oz pointed again, and Spike saw a zebra-striped van, parked in the back of a student lot.

                "Oh, hey - your van.  Want to get it?"  Oz nodded, and Xander drove over to it.  Spike thought furiously, wanting to avoid Giles' house as much as Oz did.

                "Xan - listen.  Why don't me an' the wolfling take his van and get home.  You go over to the Watchers an' explain everything.  They'll wanna know what happened, anyway, and  if I try an' tell 'em anything all I'll get is arguments and threats."   Xander sighed, looking at his hands, then up at Spike.

                "Yeah - you're right.  Fuck.  Ok.  Just - be careful.  Don't attract any attention, ok?  'Cause I'm bettin' you don't have a drivers license or an i.d. of any kind."  Xander tried to look stern, but Spike could see the little smile that played around his mouth.

                "Right, mate.  Come on, wolfling, you got an extra key for that?"  They climbed out of the truck and Spike slid his rifle under the seat.    Oz felt under a wheel well for a moment, finally pulling out a spare key in a little magnetic box.  He opened the back door and climbed stiffly in, then handed the key to Spike.  Spike shut the door and walked over to the truck, leaning in Xander's window.  He grabbed a handful of Xander's sweater and pulled him close, kissing him hard; the stress and fright of the evening needed some sort of outlet, and this was as close as he was going to get for now to what he really wanted.  Xander kissed him back just as desperately, and then pulled reluctantly away. 

                "Ok - gotta go.  Want to get home as fast as I can.  You were great in there, Spike.  Did great."

                "Huh.  You too - 'specially tellin' that bloody Colonel we were fuckin'.  Thought he'd drop right there."  Xander laughed, and pulled him in for another kiss, shorter this time.

                "I'm not ashamed of it - any of it.  I'd tell Buffy and the gang tomorrow if I thought I could without getting you killed, but..."

                "I know love, I know."  Spike petted Xander's hair, seeing the worry and sadness cross his face.   *Know you'd claim me from the roof-top, love.  You'd be crazy to do it, but you would...* 

                "Why do you think Riley tried to help?"  Spike shrugged.

                "Dunno.  Maybe he was just tryin' to get some points in with the Slayer.  Don't trust him, no matter what he did."

                "Me neither."  Xander reached and touched Spike's cheek.  "You were brave."  Spike grinned, flash of fangs.

                "You told the Colonel we were shaggin'.  Who's brave now?"  He leaned in and kissed Xander hard, then reluctantly pulled back.                "We'll go straight home - mind you do the same.  Hurry."

                "I'll hurry."   Spike stepped back and Xander drove away, looking back once or twice.  Spike glanced around, then hurriedly got into Oz's van.  It was thick with the wolf-smell, and also with fainter undertones of incense and marijuana, dust and stale bedding and someone - another man.  *Friend of the wolf's, maybe, been in here recently.  Not Red, though.*   Spike started the van and began to drive, and after a moment Oz shuffled up behind him, kneeling in the tangle of bedding and clothes, one hand gripping the back of the driver'' seat for support. 

                "Ok then, mate?"  Spike asked, and Oz made an inarticulate sound, throat working.  He coughed and tried again.

                "Ffflask?" he whispered, and Spike dug it out of his pocket, handing it back to him. 

                "There you are, pet.  Go slow."  Oz nodded and tipped the flask back, taking a small mouthful and wincing as he drank, his throat obviously raw.  He drank a couple more times then offered it to Spike.  The vampire took the flask - weighed it in his hand and then drained it, keeping one eye on the road.  He shoved it back into his pocket and Oz leaned on the seat, eyes half-shut.  Spike drove with uncharacteristic care, not wanting the lackadaisical attentions of the Sunnydale police to notice him tonight.   They were both silent, and Spike was tense until he pulled up in front of the house and parked.   Oz didn't move, half-dazed by the motion of the van, almost asleep.

                "Come on wolfling - got some clothes in here?  Grab your kit and we'll get you a shower, right?  Wash the bloody stink of the place off of you.  Get you somethin' to eat."  Oz blinked at him, then crawled away into the depths of the van, emerging from the back with a paper bag stuffed with a few things.  He wobbled, out on his feet, and Spike shut the van door and guided him up to the house.   Xander kept a spare key under a rock on the front porch, and Spike stooped and got it out, and quickly opened the door.  He helped Oz in, shutting the door - and froze.   *Someone's been in here.  What the bloody hell is it?  Not human...fuck...*  He pushed Oz against the door. 

                "Stay here a minute," he whispered, and moved silently toward the kitchen.  The plate Xander had left had been used - fragments of pasta and smears of sauce were drying on it.  The beer was empty, and there was a piece of paper pinned under the bottle.  Spike peered at it.  There were two words written there, in a slanting, careful script.  "Tomorrow - Jack"  *What the fuck?  That Jack from Oxnard?  What's he doin' here? And what the fuck is he?  Xan-love, what are you doing?*  Spike knew the house was empty except for Oz and himself, but the lingering presence left by this 'Jack' made him uneasy.  He crossed to the kitchen door and turned the deadbolt - set the chain.  *Fuck it.  Gotta get the wolfling sorted*    He went back out to the living room to find Oz crouched against the door, nearly asleep, his bag crumpled in his arms.  Spike crouched down beside him, putting a gentle hand on his shoulder. 

                "Come on mate - let's get you clean, get you something - 'nother drink, maybe.  Come on. It's safe."  Oz peered at him, his eyes flashing green in the dim light of the kitchen candle.  He pushed himself slowly to his feet and let Spike lead him back to the bathroom.  Spike grabbed the matchbook that was in the cabinet drawer and lit the bathroom candles *This is better then the regular lights, anyway...never turned those damn lights off in that place...burned your eyes out after a while...*  He got the shower turned on, making sure it was warm.  Oz stood, dazed and swaying, and Spike shook him a little.

                "Wolfling - wake up.  Can you get undressed?  Come on, pet, that's it..."  He helped Oz shed the borrowed clothes, then guided him into the shower.  The bruises and cuts looked just as bad in the softer candle glow, and Spike felt an unexpected rage well up in him.

                *He's not my friend - he's Red's dog...why do I care?  Maybe 'cause he's hurt...worse then I ever was.  Even the damn Scoobies treated him like he was human.  They never made him an animal - a thing. I KNOW I'm not human - they made sure HE did, too.  Fucking bastards.*  Oz woke up in the shower a little, getting the soap and washing carefully around the cuts.  Spike bundled up the clothes and shoved them into the trash, then heard the phone ringing in the other room. 

                "Gotta get the phone.  You'll be ok, mate?"  Oz nodded at him through the steam, and Spike trotted to the living room and grabbed up the phone.

                "Xander?"

                "Yeah.  You alright?  Oz?"

                "As bloody well as can be expected.  Wolfling's in the shower.  You on your way?"

                "Yeah - I'm outta here.  See you soon."

                "Be careful, love.  Oi, Xander!  Make sure and get my kit - want my coat back!"  Xander laughed.

                "Don't worry 'bout it, Spike - got it covered.  Bye."

                "Right," Spike said, and hung up.  He looked down in distaste at the army-issue sweater he was still wearing and hastily skinned out of  it.  He went into the bedroom and got undressed, kicking the army clothes away from him, shoving his boots under the bed.  He decided to wear a pair of Xander's sweat-pants and one of his old flannel shirts.  He needed the comfort - wanted to be surrounded by Xander's scent, by his presence.   At this point, he didn't care what Oz would think.   He got dressed and went into the kitchen, heating up a first and second mug full of blood, feeling better for it.  The residual shakes and nerves of the night were wearing off, and he finally started to relax.  The shower was still going, so he went back to check on Oz.

                The boy was huddled down in the bottom of the shower, the water running over him, plastering his hair down.  Spike could smell fear still, and utter misery.  He reached in and turned the shower off, and pulled Oz to his feet.

                "Come on, pet - you'll be all right."  He wrapped a towel around the boy, who was shivering, and rubbed briskly, getting him dry, careful over the cuts and scrapes, wincing at the deep bruises.

                "You want me to put somethin' on these?" he asked, and Oz shook his head, clutching at the towel.

                "No - I'll change, later.  Heal faster."

                "Change - go all wolfy?  All right.  Come on and get dressed now."  Spike pulled clothes from the bag - soft flannel pyjama pants and an oversize thermal shirt, thick socks.  Good clothes to sleep in, heal in.   Sleep was what he needed the most, Spike figured, and the whiskey he'd drunk was the best thing he could have had.  Oz dressed slowly, then shuffled out of the bathroom, heading unsteadily for the living room.

                "Want to eat?"  Oz shook his head and sank down onto the couch.  He curled on his side, shaking a little, and Spike pulled the blanket off the back of the couch and spread it over him.  Oz  burrowed under it, pulling it close, his eyes already closing.  Spike took a minute to light a couple of candles, then he settled down onto the couch as well, putting his feet up on the coffee table.   Oz reached out with one hand, groping along the couch,  finally finding Spike's hand and closing his fingers around it.  Spike slumped down on the couch, gently squeezing back, waiting for Xander to get there.