Chapter 9: Jack


When Xander walked into the kitchen *I hope wolves like Chinese. Maybe I should have tried that Ethiopian place...or maybe I should learn to cook* Spike was already awake, dressed and sitting at the table, cigarette in hand and mug of blood in front of him. He looked extremely unhappy.

"Hey, what's up?" Xander asked, stroking his hand across Spike's shoulders as he came into the kitchen.

"Bloody witch and the Watcher came by - nattered at the wolf until he bolted."

"What?" Xander knew he'd seen Oz's van outside. "Where'd he go?"

"Out," Spike gestured towards the door - the bluff - and Xander cautiously parted the blinds to look out. Oz was nowhere to be seen.

"I don't - "

"You wouldn't, pet. He went all wolfy. Red seems ta bring it out in him."

"Oh." Xander slumped down in a chair, watching Spike, who stabbed the cigarette out with unnecessary force then toyed with the mug of blood in front of him.

"What's the matter, Spike?"

"Hmmm? Oh - just... Those two. Really fucked with the wolfling. Went on and on about comin' here an' how I can't be trusted and how you been actin' weird and what did the soldiers an' the doctors do..." Spike stopped abruptly and lit another cigarette but didn't smoke it - held it in his fingers and watched the smoke. Xander figured that the last question - what the soldiers and doctors had done - was what was bothering Spike the most. The vampire certainly didn't care one bit about being 'trustworthy', and any opportunity to separate Xander from the Slayer and her gang would only make Spike happy, not all... *Is he...mad? More like - brooding. Huh. Angel Jr. Better not say THAT out loud* Xander smirked at the thought, then sobered. He got up and got the bag of Chinese food from the counter and grabbed some plates out of the cabinet.

"Well, they'll know better next time. Nobody got - hurt, did they?"

"Nah, more's the pity." Spike lifted his head, nostrils flaring. "Wolfling's back." A moment later, there was a scratching at the door, and Spike retreated to the bedroom while Xander opened the kitchen door. Honeyed light flooded in and Oz with it, russet fur glowing in the light. The wolf sniffed at Xander's work-stained jeans then trotted into the bedroom, claws clicking on the hardwood floor. Xander shut the door, and a moment later giggled when he heard Spike's voice.

"Oi! Get off! That's bloody cold!" Spike came back into the kitchen, wiping his cheek with his hand and shooting a disgusted look back towards the bedroom.

"Damn mongrel," he muttered, but his bad mood seemed to have lifted and he dug into the bag of Chinese with gusto. Xander went over to the sink to wash his hands, and then got a soda out of the 'fridge. When he turned back to the table, Oz was there, back in human form; flannel pants and thermal shirt, barefoot, his henna-washed hair sticking up in spikes and a grin on his face.

"Oz. You look better. Soda?"

"Sure." Oz sat down, watching Spike open boxes in his search for dumplings. Xander pushed his unopened soda across the table and got another one for himself and a beer for Spike.

"So - feeling better, I guess. Did you have a good run?" Xander gestured out towards the bluff and the sea, and Oz opened his soda, lapping at the drops that spilled over the edge.

"Yeah. It was nice. Guess I'll have to apologize to Giles and Willow later - " Spike snorted, pouring soy sauce and then blood over his plateful of rice, dumplings, sweet and sour chicken, and egg rolls.

"Don't owe them fuck-all, mate. They should'a known better. Tell 'em keep their poxy questions and leave you be." He stuffed a dumpling in his mouth and chewed, eyes golden, and Oz shot Xander a look.

"Well, that's an option too." Oz said as he and Xander filled their own plates. For a while there were only the sounds of eating and drinking. The sun crept below the horizon and the kitchen got darker, and Xander lit two new candles for the table and opened the door, letting the cool ocean breeze blow into the house. Spike, finishing first, shoved back from the table a little bit and lit a cigarette, smoking slowly, eyes on the distant, heaving sea.

"S'nice, bein' by the sea like this. Me an' Dru had a house in Casablanca, near the Medina. Used to sit up on the roof, right before sunrise and watch the sea... Dru loved to go down to the beach, lay in the sand when it was still warm from the day..." He drank his beer, lost in thought, and Oz leaned his chin on his hand, watching him.

"Sounds nice. When were you in Morocco?"

"Hmmm? Oh - right after the Blitz started. We stayed there 'bout a year. Then came over here for a while. It got...thin, down there, during the war." His eyes were dark, and Xander wondered if these memories were painful because of Dru, or because of something else. Oz just seemed enraptured, ready to listen all night.

"New York was better - we had fun there. Hell's Kitchen, Greenwich Village, Chinatown..." Spike glanced up at Oz - at Xander, and smiled. "Even got a bloody gang named after us..."

"Oh right! The Capeman murders!" Oz said, and Xander shot him a look.


"Gangs and stuff - the Vampires and the...Nordics."

"How do you know this stuff?" Xander asked, getting up and gathering plates. Oz shrugged, stuffing empty cartons into the bag they'd arrived in.

"I did a lot of reading, locked up in the cage at the library. Sometimes - you guys were kinda late, getting there."

Xander paused, thinking about it. "Yeah. I guess we were. Kinda sucked for you, huh?" Oz shrugged again, getting up and pushing the bag into the trash can.

"No big deal." He yawned, stretching - froze in mid-stretch and backed away from the door. At the same moment Spike was on his feet and growling, the demon's eyes flaring yellow fire in the candle-glow. Oz seemed to waver, eyes going black, his teeth lengthening, and then human again, looking back and forth between the door and Spike.

"What is it - " Oz whispered, moving closer to Spike, shivering.

"It's - him...that..." Spike snarled, back tight against the wall, and Xander felt almost sick, his heart was pounding so hard.

*Jack? Is it Jack? What the hell is he? Why are they so freaked out?*

*This could have been a major miscalculation, Harris* the soldier grumbled. Xander wiped his hands on his jeans and walked slowly towards the door. The hyena didn't seem to notice whatever it was that had set the others off. Xander could feel the power, but it didn't seem to threaten or frighten. there, like a subtle smoke. He stood in the doorway, looking out over the porch, into the dense shadow of the eucalyptus that stood near the stairs. Beyond was grass dotted with low bushes, and the bluff; a sharp edge of darkness against a sky silvered with moonlight. Something - moved. And then Jack was there, at the foot of the stairs, grinning up at Xander. Xander jerked back, startled. The bloodied and torn denim jacket was gone, replaced by a leather bomber jacket so cracked and worn it looked like it had survived a kamikaze flight. The jeans and undershirt were the same, the sneakers still patched with duct tape.

"Xander," Jack said, voice low, and his eyes sparked red through the tangled hair.

"Jack." Xander whispered. He backed away as Jack climbed the steps, and from behind Xander rose a sing-song wail, a hideous sound. It was Spike, and Xander crossed to him, unsure if he should touch him, or even speak to him at this point. The hyena reacted to that, a shiver deep down. *Hunting... Circle the pack...pack...* Oz was crouched down, panting, his eyes black and his clawed hands digging into the floor, splintering it. Spike was head down, ready to spring - although Xander couldn't tell if he'd attack or run.

"Spike? It's ok, Spike. Calm down. You're kinda freakin' me out. Spike?" Jack stood in the doorway, his leather knapsack over his shoulder.

"Fuck. Spike? Oz? Can you guys..." Xander put his hand out and tentatively took hold of Spike's shoulder. The vampire was shaking, his body tight as a bow-string, and Xander gently rubbed his shoulder, creeping his hand slowly to the back of Spike's neck and rubbing, trying to get Spike to relax a little. The vampire hissed, snapping at him, but his hand shot out and grabbed Xander's arm, trying to get Xander behind him. In a minute Xander knew the vampire's grip was going to hurt both of them, and he tried to pull away. Spike yanked, and then was on his knees, clutching his head, still growling but panting in agony now, shuddering from nerves and pain and fright. Oz abruptly reverted to his fully human state and shot a lop-sided grin at Xander.

"We're both a little wigged, man. Let's get him up." Xander nodded and put a hand under Spike's arm, as did Oz, and they both hauled the vampire up. Spike staggered a step and slumped into a chair, and Xander hastily stepped between him and Jack, who was still in the doorway, watching them. Jack walked to the table and slung his knapsack on it, and lowered himself into a chair.

"So. Xander. You called, I came. I see you have...companions."

"Uh. Yeah." Xander pulled a third chair over close to Spike and sat in it, letting his thigh press up against Spike's under the table, keeping his hand on Spike's shoulder. Oz settled into the last chair, looking frankly curious, still shivering just a little.

"This is Spike - "

"William the Bloody," Jack said, and Spike's head came up, game-face again, fangs bared.

"I knew of you in Europe, oh...around 1895. So - you're here. And with Xander."

"What are you," Spike said, and his voice was flat calm. Utterly devoid of expression and deadly quiet. It made Xander flinch, but Jack laughed, and made a motion with his hand, and suddenly he was in the tatty velvet jacket, feathers in his hair, and his eyes glowed. Oz gasped, eyes going wide, and Spike sat upright, glaring at the man.

"What did you - " Xander wondered wildly for a moment if Jack had given them all that power of seeing.

"I just let them see me as you do - took away the glamour. Now do you know, vampire?"

"I know. Leave Xander be. Cancel your debt." Jack laughed again, and settled himself back in the chair. Xander gaped at Spike. *What the hell? What the FUCK is going on...* Xander almost spoke but then waited, wanting to know what Jack would say.

"Why would I do that? I owe him - he only has to ask. No strings."

"There's always strings with your kind." Spike dug his fingers into the table, his fingernails leaving gouges. Xander winced. *Maybe I should have seen Jack alone, first. Fuck*

"No strings this time." Jack cocked his head a little, then stretched his arm out across the table, palm up.

"Try it - test me. You know you can." Jack stared at Spike, utterly serious now, and Spike stared back. Jack reached with his other hand and put his fingernail to his wrist, and slit the skin with an easy flick. The blood welled up immediately, darkly glittering, and Spike and Oz both scented it, nostrils flaring. Xander even thought he detected something - a dark, earthy scent, old and powerful.

"No strings. Just a debt paid." Jack leaned forward, bringing his arm even closer, and Spike reached out and gathered the welling of blood onto his finger and touched it to his tongue. Spike shut his eyes, shivering all over, and licked all the blood away in a single, sensuous move. His hand dropped to Xander's thigh under the table and gripped it tightly. And he laughed.

"Fuck, mate. Wouldn't have to eat for a month, if I got one of you." Spike was grinning now, suddenly relaxed, and Xander couldn't keep quiet anymore.

"Oookay, I would really like to know what's going on here. And why I wasn't nearly as - wigged out as you guys were. Care to explain? Jack? Spike?" He looked from one to the other, and Jack smiled again, seriousness gone. He licked the blood on his wrist and the cut vanished, healed.

"You have another of those beers, Xander? The last one was pretty good."

"Sure..." Xander stood up and got two - hesitated, and grabbed two cold ones out of the 'fridge. He put the imported beers down for Spike and Jack and the others for himself and Oz. Oz smiled faintly.

"Ok. Somebody talk." Xander opened his beer and drank, waiting, pressing his thigh and calf against Spike's, itching to do more but not wanting to distract anyone from explaining what was going on.

"You tell, Grandfather. Not my place." Spike smirked, drinking his beer, and Jack raised an eyebrow.


"Suits you, mate." Spike leaned back, casual, but his thigh trembled against Xanders' under the table.

"Huh." Jack drank as well, then set the bottle down and looked at Oz, then Xander.

"You children have heard fairy stories, I'm sure. Leprechauns and will-o-the-wisps and all manner of...otherworldly things."

"Hellmouth. Pretty much got 'otherworldly' comin' out of our ears here." Xander said, watching Jack watch him.

"That's so. Salt?" Xander rose silently, got the salt, set it down, then sat back down, eyes still fixed on Jack. Jack poured salt out into his palm - funneled it into his beer and licked the rest away.

"Well, they are real too, those things. The little folk. The fair folk. Bogarts and the Banshee and all manner of...creature. The Seelie Court. And the UnSeelie, as well."

"And the tithe to hell, eh Sidhe?" Spike's eyes were narrow, watching Jack, and Jack smirked at him.

"You'd know about hell, wouldn't you, vampire? But yes, the tithe to hell, for some, sometimes. It's all...negotiable." He waved his hand in a vague gesture, and drank another mouthful of beer.

"Well, the Seelie Court is home to the queen and king - sometimes they're called Titania and Oberon. They're the Fair Folk." He grinned at Spike, his eyes going narrow. "I'm not."

Xander felt a chill go through him at that, but Oz had a strange look on his face.

"Elves, you mean? Fairy?" Jack grimaced.

"Those words are...let's use the vampire's, shall we? Sidhe. Yes."

"Shee," Oz echoed. Xander was staring.


"Yeah, those folk. Only this one won't be fixin' your shoe or cleanin' your house, pet. Or gettin' up to lighthearted romps in the woods with maidens and boys. This kind - "

"Let's leave that where it lies, shall we?" Jack interrupted. "As for your - companions'

reactions... Well, we're quite a bit older then demons and werewolves. They tend to react badly to their elders." Spike snorted, and Jack grinned at him. "Humans, on the other hand... There are, shall we say... complications, in our dealings. We're no threat to you unless you let us be. Now, vampire." Jack switched his gaze from Xander back to Spike. "You tasted - you know I'm not lying, or trying to trick Xander. And I have no claim over you or the wolf. So let's be...friends?" Jack looked at Spike from under lowered lashes and Xander felt a tremor go through the vampire, and Spike hissed, eyes flashing gold.

"Let's be gettin' on with it, mate." Spike drained the last of his beer, setting the bottle down deliberately, carefully, and Jack copied him.

"Let's, then." Jack looked at Xander, solemn now, his eyes glowing even without the seeing.

"I owe you a debt, you called me to you to pay it. Name your price." Xander felt Jack's power slide over him - surround him - like an invisible smoke. It made the hairs rise on the back of neck. He gasped in a sharp breath, and Oz did the same. Spike just growled, low, and Xander could feel it tremor through his body.

"Can you - can you see what's inside Spike? That...thing." Jack cocked his head, looking at Spike, the power coming off him in almost tangible waves now. He recoiled, his face flashing for an instant into something else - not the homeless man, or the man in the velvet coat. Something...far darker.

"What. Is. That." he grated out, and Xander exhaled sharply.

"You can see it? It's...a computer chip. This military group - they captured him. Opened up his head and stuck that thing in there. It hurts him if he tries to hurt any human - if he...tries to feed." Xander watched Jack - watched a look of revulsion cross his face, and then speculation.


"Yeah. The government. They had Oz, too - tortured him." Jack ran an appraising eye over Oz, who looked back, his gaze mild, his fingers laced tightly together on the table-top.

"But the wolf is free of...things. Little spiders, pumping venom."

"Yeah. Just a spot of the old Spanish Inquisition for the wolfling," Spike muttered.

"I can see it. I'm thinking you want me to do...something...with that."

"Yeah. I do. I want...want Spike to be able to defend himself. To feed. I want that thing out of him." Jack looked at him, then back at Spike, tapping his fingers on the table-top.

"I can...break it. Getting it out would - well, it's not possible. But it's just - elements. I can manipulate those. And this is a good night for it."

"Why is that?" Oz asked, and Jack shot an amused look at him.

"It's Ostara - the Equinox. Night and day, the same length. A good night for things to be put back into balance." He looked at Spike again, and the grin came back, wide and rather feral, the eyes sparking red behind his mane of hair. "It's gonna hurt like fuck," he said. Spike laughed.

"I'd be disappointed if it didn't, mate." He stood up, bouncing just a little on the balls of his bare feet. "Where d'ya want me?"

"Wait - hurt?" Xander stood also, looming over Jack. "Why do you have to hurt him?"

"Some things hurt, Xander. He'll be alright. Vampires, they're tough. And he'll be himself again. Which is what you want. Right?" Jack looked up at him, all innocent except for the hell-shot red of his eyes, and Xander felt a surge of fear go through him. *Oh damn, Spike's right, he has power and to spare and what if he - what if he fucks him up, what if he...fuck, FUCK*


"It's alright, love. I tasted his truth. He won't trick you. But don't ever count on that again. Let's get this done, Sidhe."

"Outside would be best, I think." Jack rose and went, and Spike followed. Xander stood in the kitchen, staring after them until Oz stood also and came and put his hand on Xander's shoulder.

"It'll be ok, Xander. But man, you owe me a story." Xander stared down at Oz and a hysterical giggle escaped him. He clapped his hand over his mouth but another bubbled out before he could calm himself.

"Fuck, Oz, I...I just want Spike to be - to not be afraid anymore. Fuck I hope this works." They both just looked at each other for a minute, and then they went outside as well.

Jack was sitting on the ground about ten yards away from the house. Spike was lying on the ground in front of him, on his back. His hands were clenched into fists, and he was staring upwards, face rigid. His eyes kept flickering to gold, and Xander wanted to sit with him; hold his hand, touch his shoulder, kiss him. But he didn't think Jack would let him do that, so he went down the stairs and across the grass, Oz beside him, and settled cross-legged a few feet away.

"All right then?" Jack asked. Xander nodded, and Jack closed his eyes. His hands rose from his lap and settled lightly on Spike's head, where the chip was. He began to make a soft sound in his throat - like humming - but it was deep and strange, wild-sounding. It made Xander shiver, and beside him Oz fidgeted, growling. Green sparks and lines began to fade up out of the grass all around Jack. They hovered over him, swirling and dancing, tracing the lines of his body until he was encased in a shifting, transparent shroud. His fingers seemed to sink ever so slightly into Spike's skull, and Spike went rigid, his eyes and mouth opening wide. He gasped in a breath, and started to scream, but the light swirled around his face, covering it, going into his mouth, and all Xander heard was a thready whine that seemed to go on and on. Jack was frowning, still humming, his wrists making tiny movements, and his fingers sunk further away. Xander ground his teeth together, a helpless, sick feeling twisting his gut; he was gasping for breath, his fingers twisting in the grass. That sound - the sound Spike was making - seemed to shiver through him like nails on a blackboard. It hurt, somehow, down in his bones. He felt Oz's hand touch his knee, gripping, and he realized he was crying. Spike's fingers had dug into the dirt, knuckle deep, and he was arched like a bow, his body straining off the grass. Suddenly the light around Jack flickered to yellow - white - and was gone, leaving Xander and Oz blinking, half blind. Spike's body sagged in sudden release and his head lolled, eyes shut. He was unconscious. Jack was bowed over, gasping, and Xander struggled up, crawling on his knees to Spike and pulling at him. He sat back, cradling Spike's head on his thighs, stroking his fingers through the stiff hair. Laying his palm on Spike's cheek he realized it was wet with tears.

"Is it - what did you do? Is he going to wake up?" Xander wiped at his own face, brushing off moisture. Jack pushed himself upright, and he was haggard, drawn. Whatever he did to himself to look like a homeless man - the glamour - was working erratically. The real Jack kept showing in flashes and fits, making Xander dizzy.

"I broke it. It was only silica and metal. A spider with golden legs and a crystalline body, sending out pain along its web. Crouching there..." Jack coughed, wiping his mouth, and looked down at Spike. "I made it draw its legs in - made them knot. Changed it. It's nothing but a bead of gold and glass now. It would make a pretty charm." Jack smirked, then his eyes rolled up in his head and he fell back onto the grass. Xander just stared at him, then down at Spike. The vampire was motionless. He looked to be made of salt in the cool slant of the moonlight, his brows like slashes of ink, his hair glowing. He was unearthly and utterly beautiful and Xander leaned down and kissed him, breathing his scent of leather and smoke, blood and spice. He heard Oz moving closer, and looked up to see him settling near by, eyes wide and amazed.

"Xander. That was..."

"Yeah. Do you you think Spike needs blood?" Xander pulled Spike up a little higher on his thighs, wrapping his arms around him, Spike's head on his chest.

"I dunno. Let's wait a minute and see." Oz glanced over at Jack, who was still shivering in and out of focus. The green light was back, much subdued, and it crawled over Jack like thin worms, weaving a veil that seemed to anchor him to the ground. Xander turned away from Jack to Spike, stroking his hand over and over the vampire's hair.

"Spike, wake up now. Jack did it, he fixed it. Come on Spike, open your eyes and look at me, love. Spike...wake up...please, Spike..." Xander could hear the tremble in his voice, and he tried to calm himself, taking deep breaths. He hugged Spike to him as tightly as he could. He felt Oz's hand on his back, rubbing lightly. *Spike, please, please. You've got to wake up, love…* The cool body in his arms jerked suddenly, and Xander lifted his head, looking down. Spike twisted weakly in his grip, squinting his eyes tight, and a low moan came out of him.

"Spike! Hey, you ok? Spike - love - talk to me..."

"Bloody hell," Spike said. His voice was a thread, broken and rasping, and he winced and tried to swallow. "Need a drink, mate," he mumbled, and Oz scrambled up and went into the house. He came out a few seconds later with a beer - his or Xander's, it was half-empty. He knelt down and put it in Spike's hand. Xander propped him upright and Spike took a long drink, rubbing his throat.

"Ah...fuck. That was fuckin' horrible." Xander wondered if he meant the experience or the beer. His voice wasn't much better, be he seemed able to talk a little easier. "Ohh, my head..." Spike opened his eyes finally, and Xander felt a moment of panic when they tracked on nothing at all, dazed. Then his gaze sharpened, and Spike looked up at him.

"Did it work, pet?"

"I - I dunno. Jack seemed to think it did. I guess - you'll have to test it." Xander helped Spike to sit up all the way and the vampire groaned and held his head. Oz went back into the house, and Xander heard him rummaging around. Spike just huddled there, rubbing his temples, and Xander held him, kissing his shoulder, his hair, rubbing small circles at the small of his back. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the light web fade from around Jack, and he too, struggled to sit up, looking unhappy and rubbing his forehead. Oz came back outside with a mug and handed it down to Xander.

"Figured he might need a little - help him knock the pain back." Xander sniffed - found blood. Spike was already blindly groping for the mug, so he held it for him, easing it up to his mouth. Spike drained it rapidly and then sat for a minute, waiting. Xander laid the mug aside in the grass and kissed Spike's temple.

"Better now? Can you get up, do you think?" Spike straightened abruptly, and Xander saw his mouth curling in a smile.

"Oh yeah. Better. Thanks, mate." Spike nodded to Oz, who nodded back. "So, did it work, Sidhe?" Spike asked, climbing slowly to his feet, leaning on Xander. Jack was still sitting, hunched, and he squinted up at the three of them and then held out a hand. Spike leaned and hauled him upright with a jerk, and Jack yelped.

"Fuck it, vampire, have a care! I reckon it worked. This miserable place - makes it harder to do things. You should test it. " Jack stumbled past them and into the house, and after a moment the other three followed, Spike leaning on Xander and Oz snatching up the bloody mug from the grass.

"Sit down and have a little more blood first, Spike."

"Aye, blood, and put this in." Jack was slumped in a chair, rooting through his knapsack. He pulled a bulbous brown clay bottle out. It was stoppered and tied much like the little pot of salve had been, and Jack picked at the coarse twine, undoing it with shaking fingers. Xander guided Spike back to his own chair, then sank down gratefully as Oz fixed another packet of blood. Jack finally got the twine off and uncorked the bottle, and a scent wafted out - sharp and alcoholic but overlayed with a warm smell of honey and almonds and something like clean, green grass. It was heady and delicious, and Xander's mouth watered for it. Spike's head came up, nostrils flared, and Jack smirked at him.

"Ever had any, vampire?" he rasped, and Spike shook his head. "In for a treat, then." Oz put the mug of blood on the table and Jack poured a generous dollop of the stuff into it. It was dark gold, and seemed to glow in the candle light.

"Some all round - get more cups, eh?" Jack said, and Xander pointed to the right cabinet for Oz, who got three glasses down and settled finally into his chair.

"What is it?" Oz whispered, and Jack laughed.

"It's the nectar of the gods, wolf. It's...blood of virgins and honey from the rock, it's manna and moonlight and all manner of things: Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South "

Jack grinned at them, pouring a measure into each glass - more for himself, Xander noticed, but didn't really care. Jack set the bottle back on the table and picked up his glass - raised it a few inches, his expression going solemn for a moment.

"Slainte," he said, and they echoed him, "Slawncha." And drank. The drink was cool on Xander's tongue - and then hot, sparkling with little prickles of mint and cinnamon and cloves. The path it traced to his belly was fiery, and a rush of prickling, delicious heat washed through him. He gasped, his eyes tearing, and Spike threw back his head and howled, laughing. Oz closed his eyes and laughed too, and Xander had to join him. Jack just grinned at them, re-corking the bottle and re-wrapping the twine, his eyes sparking red again, his bomber jacket back.

"Oh, that was good, mate. No wonder you lot don't share." Spike drained the last of his blood and wiped his hand across his mouth. He looked at Xander, eyes sparkling.

"Gotta know, pet. Gotta test this." Xander looked back at him and nodded, holding out his hand. *Please let this work. Fuck. And if it does...he might go. For good*

*Or kill us all, Harris*

*No. Pack. We'll survive* Xander waited, and Spike grasped his hand. The vampire squeezed, tentatively at first, and then harder, and suddenly pain shot through Xander's fingers as they were ground fiercely together.

"Fuck! Ease up!" Xander jerked his hand away, then froze, staring at Spike. Who stared back - who began to laugh, slightly hysterically. He leapt to his feet, knocking his chair back into the wall and roared. The demon lowered his face to them, eyes ablaze.

"I'm free. I'm back. William the Bloody is alive and well." He laughed again, and the lucent golden eyes flashed at them, eerie, otherworldly. Jack rose also, shoving the bottle back into his knapsack and hoisting the knapsack onto his shoulder.

"Then I am done here. This place - drags at me. I'm for the bonny road, me." He turned and began to walk out the door. Spike took a step after him.

"I'll remember this, mate." Jack turned around and looked at him as the demon sank away. Spike's blue eyes were serious, calm and intent, and Jack nodded once.

"You may have to...Spike." He grinned, suddenly jaunty, and strode out the door and away, vanishing like a ghost into the shadow of the eucalyptus. Spike pounced on Xander, pulling him to his feet and kissing him devouringly, deeply. His hands worked up under Xander's shirt and caressed his back and Xander melted into him, tasting the blood and lingering flavor of Jack's drink, breathing deeply of the heady scent that was just Spike. *Oh, love you, love you, please don't let this end...don't leave me, Spike, don't...* Xander finally pulled away and Spike smiled at him - a smile full of love and desire, joy and excitement.

"Love you, pet. Love you so much."

"Love you too, Spike. I'm - I'm glad it worked." Spike's eyes darkened a little, and Xander leaned down and kissed him gently. "I am glad it worked. I love you...nothing's changed that... nothing will." Spike hugged him fiercely and then he was gone, into the bedroom, and Xander knew what he was doing. He slowly sat back down, glancing ruefully at Oz who had sat silent all this while. There was a strange mix of fear and compassion on Oz's face, and he made a little gesture with his hands, shrugging.

Spike came back out of the bedroom, Docs on his feet and practically ran into the living room to grab his duster. He snatched his cigarettes and lighter from the table and lit up, then stood staring down at Xander, his face serious, his eyes alight.

"I have to, pet. I have to know...for sure. And...I just...I bloody well have to."

"I know you do, Spike. I really understand. Just...fuck... Don't make it so I have to identify any bodies tomorrow, ok? I don't think I could stand that." Spike bent and kissed him, hard, his free hand tangling in Xander's hair.

"Promise, love," he whispered. He straightened and looked at Oz. "Keep an eye on him, right mate?" Oz nodded, and with a last look at Xander, Spike was gone. Xander looked down at his hands, noticing he was clenching them so tightly that his fingernails were starting to cut into his palms. Oz got up and got two more beers out of the 'fridge and settled back into his chair.

"You really need to tell me the whole story, Xander. I think we've got all night, don't you?" Xander looked up at Oz and smiled into his calm, green gaze. He nodded and took a small sip of the beer, and began.

"It started probably three years ago - you weren't a Scooby yet. When Spike was at the school that time, the parent-teacher thing? Well, Angel had this really great idea..."






Christina Rosetti - Goblin Market