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The Choice
by Esmeralda

Part One-Eleven Part Twelve Part Thirteen Part Fourteen Part Fifteen

 

Part Twelve  



Angel 'felt' Buffy before he heard the gentle knock on the door. Laying
his book aside he looked up - into a pair of anxious green eyes. Before 
he could say anything, Doyle jumped to his feet.

"I should go, yeah ?" said the young man. "Make myself scarce ?" 

"Stay," said Angel softly.

Doyle hesitated, then gave a slight nod and sat back down. 

Angel touched the young man's shoulder as he walked past, letting his
fingers reach around to ruffle the soft hair at the nape of Doyle's neck.
Doyle smiled and caught his fingers, kissing them lightly before letting
them go. Angel crossed the room and opened the door. 

Buffy was waiting on the front step. Her face wore an uneasy expression
that Angel was sure was mirrored on his.

"Hi." Her voice was tight and clipped. Not a happy sounding Buffy. Then
again, she'd probably come back from a slaying-free picnic to listen to an
account of her friends being attacked by a foul smelling demon.

"Hi," he replied awkwardly, "come in."

"Thanks." She followed him inside the mansion. She noticed Doyle and
offered the young man a brief smile. 

Doyle returned it nervously.

With the pleasantries over she turned to face Angel. "Willow told me
what happened. What sort of demon was it ?"

"Grosga," he told her. "They're carrion feeders. We haven't been able to
uncover any previous records of attacks on living humans."

Buffy pursed her lips thoughtfully. "So...what, you're thinking this is the
work of our mysterious magic user ? But then why Willow and Xander.
Why not send it after me. Or you ?"

"The greater threat." Angel filled in her unspoken thought. He shook his
head. "I'm not sure. I'm not even sure he was behind it."

"I don't believe in coincidences," she said firmly. "Maybe he gave it the
wrong set of instructions. Perhaps it thought Willow *was* me."

"Or maybe his plan is to target your friends first," Angel suggested
grimly.

Buffy's mouth tightened. "Not gonna happen," she said quickly, "because
I intend to find this guy and take him out before he hurts any one."

"We'll be more effective if we work together," said Angel. 

She hesitated. "All right," she said finally. "Do you have anything ?"

Angel glanced across at Doyle, who shrugged. "No," he admitted, "but I
have a few sources I can try, they might give us a lead."

Buffy looked impatient. "Fine. Well, why don't you work on that. I'll 
keep looking around. Perhaps our mystery guest will show himself."

"Be careful," Angel cautioned. "Your abilities won't give you much of an
edge against sorcery. If you find him, don't try to tackle him on your
own."

"I can take care of myself," she responded defensively.

"I know you can," said Angel gently. "Just humour me, okay ? Call if you
find out anything."

She smiled slowly. "Okay." She shook her head. "I swear, sometimes
you're worse than my Mom and Giles put together."

Angel smiled back ruefully, acknowledging his tendency to be a bit of a
mother-hen. 

"I should probably go," said Buffy moving toward the door. "Giles has
got his research hat on. He wants me to call 'punctually' every hour, in
case he's come up with anything."

"Buffy, wait." Angel took a step forward. "I....I need to tell you
something."

She waited expectantly.

Angel glanced at Doyle, who looked like he was ready to bolt. "Not
here," he said gently. "Let's go outside." 

Doyle visibly sagged in relief.

Buffy shot her ex-lover a confused look as she followed him out into the
garden. He led her to the far wall, where discarded stoneworks provided
somewhere to sit. As soon as the sun had set he and Doyle had buried the
Grosgna demon as best as they could. Buffy prodded at the lumpy mound
with a sandalled toe. Her actions exposed a tuft of matted hair and a waft
of unpleasant odour. Her nose wrinkled, and she tried to cover it back up.

"Buffy, please. Would you....I mean can you sit down. Please ?" 

She reacted instantly to the pain in his voice, turning back to face him.
"Angel, what is it ? What's wrong ?"

Angel looked at her. "Buffy...this is hard..."

"Is it Xander ?" Her face tightened.

"What ? *No*, this has nothing to do with Xander," he assured her. 

She didn't look reassured.

"Please," he patted the stone slab beside him, "sit down. You're moving
around too much. It.....it makes it hard to think..."

Her expression softened and she sat down on the broken plinth beside
him. 

He regarded her sadly. "Please believe me, Buffy. I didn't do any of this
with the intention of hurting you. I....I've never wanted that."

"I know," she said softly.

"It's just things have...changed."

She nodded warily. 

"You're at college. You're studying and...you have Riley." As the young
man's name left his lips, Angel felt Buffy stiffen. He kept his gaze locked

on the ruined garden. Moonlight washed over the broken statues, bathing
their worn and wearied forms in wisps of silver and shadowy blue. He
focused on a slender sculptured nymph as he asked, "Do you love him ?"

There was a slight pause, then a soft. "Yes."

"I'm glad," said Angel quickly. "I mean, I'm happy for you. It's good that
you've moved on...That your life has new...things in it. Good things-"

She interrupted him "-Angel, you're babbling. Just *tell* me what's 
wrong ?"

Angel turned to look at her. "Nothing's wrong. I'm trying to tell you that
things have changed for me too." 

"Changed ?" she echoed.

He pushed himself past the point of no return. "I'm....I'm in love."

Her eyes suddenly grew very wide. 

Angel took advantage of the stunned silence, and the rest tumbled out in
a muddled rush. "I'minlovewithDoyle."

Buffy still just stared.

"There's more," he added. "It might be hard for you to hear, but-"

"-you're in love with....*Doyle* ?" she interjected faintly. Her eyes had a

glazed look.

Angel watched her worriedly. "Yes," he said simply.

"But....but he's....he's a man ?"

Angel's mouth twitched slightly; confirming her startled statement with
another simple, "Yes."

Buffy leapt to her feet. "That's it !" she cried, throwing her hands up in
a
gesture of surrender. "I've *sooo* had it with this."

Angel frowned.

She turned on him. "First Will, then Xander, now *you* ? This is some
sort of crazy world, right ? One of those 'other dimension' thingies. That
has to be it."

Angel shook his head gently. "I can't speak for Willow or Xander, but I
think perhaps Giles has let slip some facts regarding my kind."

"Your kind ?"

He gave her a look. "Vampires."

She appeared slightly embarrassed. "Oh. Right."

"We....we don't exactly have gender preferences." He fidgeted beneath
her penetrating stare, adding almost to himself, "Or any other kind...."

"So...you're saying you...."

"Vampires take male and female lovers," said Angel baldly, "of almost
any species."

Buffy flushed. "So...you....I mean...you've...."

"Yes."

Her flush deepened.

"Does that bother you ?" he asked gently.

She answered a touch too quickly,"*No*." There was an uncomfortable
pause before she added, "Okay, maybe just a little. But only because it
seems so...strange."

Angel sighed. "I'm sorry. I don't think I can make it any less strange for
you, Buffy. It's just how things are." 

Her eyebrows suddenly lifted."*All* vampires ?" she asked.

He nodded and her gaze darted toward the house. He grimaced, guessing
that her thoughts had turned to Spike - most definitely *not* a subject he
wanted to get into. He was trying to think of a way to deflect her interest
when her eyes narrowed, and she pinned him with a steely gaze.

"Aren't we forgetting something ?" she asked coldly. "Rather a *big*
something. You can say it's none of my business, but I'm afraid I'll have
to disagree; since I'm the one watching my back when you switch teams."

The pain etched upon her face was more than matched by the sorrow in
his expression. "It won't happen," he told her quietly.

She gave an indelicate snort. "Oh, please. We tried that route remember.
As I recall, it wasn't a big success. Now you're trying to tell me that
you've suddenly found some sort of unlimited self-control ?"

He couldn't look at her. "I don't have to."

She frowned. "You don't have to what ?"

Dark eyes slowly lifted to meet puzzled hazel orbs. "I don't have
to...abstain," he croaked. "I....I changed my curse."

"*W-What ?*"

"I changed it, I can't lose my soul...not...that way."

The pain of denial clashed with a desperate fury. "You *changed* it ?
*What* ? You just got bored and swapped it for something more user-
friendly ? *Tell me.* Tell me how this works, Angel, because I don't get 
it."

"I....I discovered I could alter it. I reworked the original curse, so I
won't
lose my soul if....."

"-You get lucky ?" she finished bitterly. Her voice was hollow, drained 
of emotion, as she continued, "So, this...'idea'. It just came to you ? Or
wasn't it worth the effort before ?"

The silent question poisoned the air between them ~ 'wasn't *I* worth the
effort ?

"Buffy...I didn't know loving you would cost me my soul. When I did, I
knew I had to let you go, but it...it was more than that. It wasn't just
the
curse." Tears roughened his voice. "You know there was more than that.
It...it was wrong between us. You're the Slayer-"

"Stop it !" she shouted. "Just....just stop saying tha-that. All I
ever..hear is
'you're the Slayer, Buffy. 'It's your destiny, Buffy.' 'It's your duty,
Buffy'.
I'm *so* sick of it. Now you're blaming *me* for all this-"

"-I'm not blaming any one," he cut in quickly, "least of all you. All I
meant was it could never have worked - a Slayer and a vampire ?" He
stared at her, willing her to understand.

She shook her head, tears brimming in her eyes. "No...no, that's not true.
I...I loved you."

He stood and reached for her. She flinched away."Oh, Buffy," his voice
was thick with pain, "I loved you too. More than you'll ever know."

"I just wanted to be with you," she said in a small voice. A tear spilled
down her cheek.

"I know... I..I wanted that to," he whispered hoarsely.

"But not any more ?"

Angel closed his eyes briefly. When he reopened them his own tears ran
freely down his face. "I still love you, Buffy. I always will. Just....just
not
in the same way." 

"It's not fair," she protested, "if I weren't the Slayer-"

"-we'd never have met." He reached for her again, this time she allowed
it. He tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "And I can't be sorry
for that. Maybe that's selfish of me-"

She shook her head, as her breath hitched on a tiny sob. "N-no...it's not.
I
feel the same."

They shared a sad, teary-eyed smile. 

"Will you be all right ?" he asked softly.

She nodded and sniffled. "It's just so hard. This feels so...final. Like
I'm
really losing you..."

He wiped a glistening tear off one smooth cheek. "You're not losing me,
Buffy. I'm still here for you, I always will be." 

She just studied him silently. 

Something in her eyes reminded Angel that despite her youth, she was
the Slayer, with an understanding that could reach beyond her mortal
years. 

"No," she whispered, "I'm not losing you. You were never really mine."

There really wasn't any more to be said.

When she touched his face he allowed her fingers to guide him closer. As
he leaned down, she reached up and kissed him ~ tenderly, chastely. Her
voice was soft as breath against his skin. "Be happy."

Fighting back fresh tears he nodded. "You too."

He watched her leave, knowing she was right. They were finally saying
goodbye.

*************************************************

Angel felt....numb. That was the only way he could describe this strange,
hollow sensation. He was vaguely aware of going back inside, stumbling
dazedly over to the couch, sitting down next to his lover. He leaned into
the young man as Doyle's arms came up around him. Angel was grateful.
He didn't want to talk, or think, or even move. He just wanted this close,
wordless comfort....and Doyle understood.

He felt the young man's lips press against his hair - the arms around him
tightening
gently. Angel closed his eyes and let himself be loved.

Part Thirteen  


As a result of some rather vigorous fooling around, Xander was out for
the count when Buffy arrived. A noise stirred him from his slumber. He
returned to wakefulness to find himself alone under the sheets. Unsettled,
he rolled over and sat up.

The fire had long since gone out, leaving only a few glowing embers in
the grate. Despite the darkness, Xander had no difficulty discerning the
shadowy figure of his lover moving around by the back wall. He rubbed
his eyes sleepily. "What are you doing ?"

"Sssh," Spike hissed. "Keep it down, demon-boy's still next door."

"So ?"

"So, I don't want him opening his bloody gob to grass me up."

Xander didn't like the sound of that. He wiggled down to the end of 
the bed, perching on the edge with the blankets bunched around his legs. 
Fully awake, he realised what Spike was doing. The vampire was prising
the boards off one of the large windows. It was taking some effort, since
Spike was clearly attempting to be sneaky about it, as opposed to simply
tearing them free.

"I'm thinking there's a reason why you're doing this," said Xander, "and
I'm guessing it's probably not a romantic urge to watch the sun rise over
the garden."

"I'm going out," Spike muttered without turning around.

"Don't we have a front door for that ?"

"Ha, bloody ha." 

"You don't want Angel knowing," Xander guessed. He felt a cold lump
settle in his belly as he recalled Spike's earlier complaints about lack of
fresh blood supplies. He quickly snatched up his jeans and wriggled 
into them, before padding across the room to his lover. "Where are you
planning on going ?" He tried to sound nonchalant but Spike must have
caught the worry in his voice. 

The vampire lay the board he was holding aside and turned round to face
Xander. "Relax, pet. I'm not nipping out for a snack. I just thought I'd
pay Willy a visit." He shrugged. "Save Peaches some work by wringing
something useful out of the little git."

Xander looked unconvinced. "That's very...ah...thoughtful of you. Which
begs the question - why ?"

"I'm wounded, pet." Spike's lips formed a mock pout.

"Yeah, whatever," said Xander, not buying it for a minute. "Now spill.
Why ?"

"Because, genius. The sooner we get this soddin' mess cleared up the
sooner we can get back to L.A and get us fixed up with a place." Spike
stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Xander's waist. "That'd 
be good wouldn't it. Just you, me....a big bath tub." He nuzzled Xander's
neck lightly.

Xander didn't take much convincing. "Okay let's go."

Spike released him hurriedly. "Oh no, pet. You're stay here."

"Not a chance."

Spike's expression telegraphed his displeasure.

Xander didn't back down. "Either I come, or I might accidently raise my
voice and alert Angel and Doyle to your little escapade."

Spike hissed. "All right," he conceded. " 'Ere, take this." He handed
Xander a flick knife. 

Xander took it. The blade felt cold and alien in his hand. He slipped it
into his back pocket; then he helped his lover move the last few boards.
Spike hit the rotten frame with his fist, snapping the wood, and together
they wrested it free, leaving a gap large enough to climb through. Spike
slipped out with unrestrained eagerness, Xander followed with a touch
more reservation.

The pair crept away from the house. Spike paused when they came to
Angel's car. 

Xander grabbed his lover's sleeve and tugged on it. "Come on."

"It'd be quicker than walking."

"We don't have the keys," Xander hissed. He yanked Spike's sleeve again.
It was hopeless - like trying to move an iceberg with his bare hands. 

"Don't need 'em," said Spike with a wolfish grin.

Xander shook his head vehemently. "Oh no. We are *not* stealing
Angel's car. No way."

Spike frowned, then shrugged and walked away, leaving Xander to hurry
after him. 

**************************************************

The road into town was deserted. Spike seemed inordinately pleased to
be out and about as he harried Xander, hurrying the youth toward the
distant lights. Xander was pleased to see his lover in such high spirits,
but his own good mood was tempered by worry. The Initiative were still
in town, and according to Buffy, still gunning for Spike. Since the latter 
was no longer crippled by the implant, any confrontation promised to be
bloody.

"Cheer up for Chrissakes," said Spike. "You're acting like his royal
broodiness."

"Sorry," Xander mumbled.

Spike lay an arm around his shoulders as they walked through the streets.
"What's the matter, pet ?"

Xander looked at him. "I don't know," he replied honestly. "I guess I just
don't fancy running into Riley and his pals again."

Spike squeezed his shoulder lightly. "Then we'll nip to Willy's and nip
home again sharpish. No need to have a run in with any one."

Xander arched an eyebrow at his lover. "Don't tell me you're not spoiling
for a fight."

Spike grinned. "Maybe I am, but cracking open Willy's ugly face should
suffice, for now."

"You really don't like him much do you ?"

Spike snorted. "And you do ?"

"Well, no...but-"

"-then you won't mind me freshnin' up my skills on him, will you."

"Skills ?" Xander looked at his lover uncertainly.

"It's been a while since I really 'ad a go at a human. I've got rusty,"
Spike
grumbled. Then his smile came back, wide and vicious. "See, it's like any
talent, luv. You have to work at it to keep it fresh."

"Uh huh," said Xander. He was faintly troubled that he *wasn't* troubled 
by Spike's words. Shouldn't he be concerned that Spike clearly regarded
torturing humans as something of a 'gift'. Perhaps he'd just have to accept
this casual disregard as another of those 'changes'. For now he buried the
thought, concentrating all his energies on keeping one eye on Spike and the
other on possible dangers.

Xander wasn't the only one being keen and alert. Spike was hyped up, but 
by no means unaware of the risks they were taking - hence his reluctance to
take the whelp along. However, he'd been going stir crazy cooped up for so
long. First shut up in Angel's apartment. Then the car journey, suffering
the
unrelenting sodding agony of his Sire's musical preferences. After that
hours
stuck in the mansion, not a place of happy memories; though he'd done his
best to redress the balance. He cast an eye toward his lover; the youth
looked rattled. There again, considering the stuff he'd had to deal with in
the
past twenty four hours, it was hardly surprising. 

Spike had been nervous of telling Xander the truth, knowing how badly the
boy had reacted in the past to suggestions that he was 'changing' in any
way.
Xander's relatively calm acceptance had stunned and delighted him. Oh, he
knew that beneath the calm there were ripples of panic - he could feel
them,
but the most important thing was Xander's willingness to pursue this. 

Spike wasn't sure what his reaction would have been had the boy refused to
co-operate any further. He'd told Xander once that he wouldn't give him up
and that still stood. Xander was his, more now than ever. When he'd told
the
whelp he was close to the point of no return, he hadn't actually said *how*
close. The truth was, he wasn't one hundred percent sure himself. He'd
never
done this before. Until Xander, he'd never met any one he'd wanted to share
this kind of connection with. 

What he did know was at the moment he was more attuned to the changes
than Xander - his senses being accustomed to the preternatural. He could 
detect the boy's emotions. When they were strong he didn't even have to
try,
they virtually reached out to him. Now he was beginning to learn the subtle
nuances. It wasn't telepathy as such, there were no words, just feelings. A
kind of empathy. It was unnerving. It was also fucking amazing and he was
revelling in it. He'd experimented during bath time and had nearly passed
out as Xander's emotional responses to their love-making flooded into him. 

If Spike had one key weakness, one flaw he would admit to, it was that he
hated to be alone. He'd been there, done that: alive and undead. It sucked
either way. This....this was like being inside someone else's skin. He
could
feel what Xander felt, and he could project his own feelings, even if
Xander
wasn't as yet able to understand. It abolished the loneliness he'd felt for
too
long. He'd claimed Xander as his - and he'd been claimed in return. 

He almost whooped with the sheer giddy thrill of it, suppressing the urge
to
kill something. Would Xander mind if he just bruised one of Willy's patrons
a bit ? Demons were fair game weren't they ? The night teased his senses,
enticing him to savagery. Its voiceless summoning a lure no human could
understand. He watched the youth by his side and wondered if the whelp
could ?

He stopped suddenly. Cupping the boy's startled face between his hands
Spike kissed him soundly. Xander uttered an undignified squeak, and then
kissed him back. 

"Wh-what was that for ?" Xander asked somewhat breathlessly.

Spike brushed his finger across a moist bottom lip. "Just because," he
murmured cryptically.

Xander frowned. "You're acting seriously weird."

Spike smiled and kissed him again, lightly this time. "Come on, let's go
scare the crap out of Willy."

Xander gave him a puzzled smile in return and nodded. "Okay, but let's try
this without *too much* bodily violence. He won't give us anything if he's
unconscious."

"Spoil sport," said Spike.

Xander just gave him a look as they entered the bar.

*******************************************

Xander was relieved the place was quiet, though on the previous occasions
he'd been here, it hadn't exactly been heaving. Spike strode straight up to
the
bar and offered the bartender a toothsome smile. Xander had to smother a
grin at the way Willy turned several shades paler than his usual unhealthy
hue.

"S-Spike, didn't know you were in town."

"And why would that interest you ?" Spike asked coldly.

"Me-me ? Interested ? No...no...you mishear me, man. I...I wouldn't be. 

I meaaaaaan !" He words ended on a painfilled cry when Spike reached
across the bar and grabbed the man's ear, twisting it viciously. 

Xander winced.

"Ow...ow...ow...What'av I done ? Owwww !"

"Shut up," Spike snarled. "You and me are gonna find a nice quiet place to
chat. Out back should do fine." He signalled that Xander should lead the
way.

Willy continued to yelp and whimper as Spike dragged him out from behind
the bar. No one paid the pair any notice. Xander lead the way warily into
the
back. It was narrow and cramped, stacked with boxes and smelling of beer
and less pleasant things. Spike released Willy and shoved him into a stack
of crates. "I want to know who else is new in town," the vampire hissed.
"And don't be giving me any useless tattle, or I'll shove your head through
this wall."

"I don-" Willy's protest of ignorance was cut short when Spike back handed
him across the face. As his head snapped back with the force of the blow
the
man's eyes widened in terror. "You .... you...."

Spike lowered his face to the trembling bartender's, shifting into his
vampiric visage. Gold eyes glittered maniacally. "Yeah, Willy. I'm *whole*
again. Which is more than I can say for you, if you don't open your fuckin'
mouth and give me something."

Xander had never seen a human being crumple quite so dramatically. 
The man that stared up at them both was almost catatonic with fear. Spike 

displayed a lethal smile, and stroked a long, pale finger down a grey,
stubbly
cheek. "Come on, Willy. Tell me what you know and maybe, just maybe,
you'll crawl out of here with all four limbs attached." 

"I....I..."

"Think carefully, Willy. It's been a long time since I tasted a fresh
human."
Spike wrinkled his nose in disgust. "Course, you're not exactly fresh." He
smashed an empty bottle, making both humans jump. He brought the jagged
end close to Willy's throat. "Still, at the end of the day, blood is blood
and I
never turn down the offer of a free meal."

"No," Willy squawked, drawing back. Spike grabbed his hair and forced
him forward onto the broken glass, a bead of red appeared as his Adams
apple convulsed. "Al....All right," he gasped, "but I...I don't know much."
Spike growled and he added hurriedly, "Someone said there was unusual
stuff going on at the old school."

"Unusual stuff ?" Xander echoed.

Spike dug the bottle a little deeper. Willy cringed and closed his eyes.
"Answer him," Spike snapped. "What stuff ?"

"I-I don't ...know," Willy whined. "Honest, I keep my head down. I don't go
asking people their business."

Spike drew the bottle away. "No, you don't do you, Willy. You're just
another fuckin' innocent bystander; watching while someone else gets it in
the fuckin' face."

Willy's frightened eyes widened as he realised what the vampire was
alluding to. "No....no," he begged. "I couldn't do nothing, they would have
killed me."

Spike smiled nastily. "Yeah, they would 'ave." He leaned down and patted
the bartender on top of his greasy head. "Where as me, I'm just gonna hurt
you a bit." He shrugged. "Or maybe a lot."

Willy went from pale to green in less than a second. Shocked eyes turned to
Xander, pleading silently for help.

"Oh don't mind him," said Spike rolling up his sleeves, "he's with me."

Xander turned away as the first blow connected with a sickening thud.
Several more followed in rapid succession and the bartender slid to the
floor. Spike went to kick the groaning man but Xander held him back.

"Enough, we've got what we needed."

Spike looked at his lover, seeing neither approval or disapproval in the
dark 
gaze. He relaxed. "Right, back home then." As he turned to go, he snatched
another bottle from the shelf. Opening it he sniffed it, took a swig, and
then
poured the rest over the body at his feet. He was tempted to add his
lighter
to the mix, but Xander was waiting impatiently. and Spike decided that even
if Willy was a snivelling wretch, he had his uses - he ran a well stocked
bar
for one thing. Stepping over the blood and booze drenched figure he joined
his lover, and they left. 

A Lume demon leaned back in her seat, watching as Willy hauled himself
out from the back room. The demon took one look at his battered face and
sighed, wondering how long she'd have to wait before she could get another
drink.

*****************************************************

Xander watched his lover lick the blood of his hands and shivered. He was
disturbed by Spike's savagery....but he was also aroused by it. Right now
he
wanted nothing more than to throw Spike up against a wall and take him. A
fact that had him more than a little freaked. S&M had never been his scene,
so why was he finding his jeans uncomfortably tight ?

Spike looked at him. "It's not the violence, pet."

"What ?" Xander was startled.

"You aren't being turned on by me mashing Willy's face," said Spike moving
closer. He grabbed Xander's hand and placed it against his groin. 

Xander's fingers twitched as he felt the hardness pressing against the
tight
black denim.

"Blood and violence makes me hot," Spike purred. "That's what you're
picking up, and it's getting you hot too."

Xander tried to wrap his head around what Spike was saying - no easy 
task with his hand laid on top of the vampire's semi-hard flesh. "So...I'm,
what ? Getting a rush from this because *you're* getting a rush from it ?"

"That's pretty much it, pet," Spike agreed nuzzling Xander's throat.

Xander gasped softly as Spike's fangs dragged lightly down his skin.
"How.....how does that work ?"

"We're connected, pet. I feel what you feel. You get the same buzz from
me."

Xander stiffened and pushed Spike away. "You can read my thoughts ?"

Spike regarded him patiently. "Not thoughts, luv. Just what you feel.
Here-"
he touched Xander's head. "Here-" his heart. "And here-" he put his hand on
Xander's groin and squeezed gently.

Xander jumped. "Oh." His thoughts fluttered wildly as he tried to reel them
in. Spike could sense his feelings...and he could sense Spike's. This went
way, *way* beyond weird. He was snapped out of his dazed musing by the
cold fingers that slipped inside his coat - untucking his shirt and dancing
across his belly. "Oh..mmm," he murmured. God he felt hot. Chilled lips
crushed his and he gave himself up to their onslaught. 

The sound of a bin lid crashing to the ground made them both whirl around.
It was only a cat foraging for scraps. Spike hissed at it and the animal
sped
away terrified. 

Xander managed to regain his wits - enough to remember that he had an
aversion to making out in cold, dank, dark alleyways. "Come on. I want to
go home."

Spike looked peevish, but he nodded, his face slipping back into its smooth
human planes. He reached for Xander's hand and brought it up to his lips,
kissing it in an oddly chivalrous manner. The heat in his gaze made Xander
feel light headed. "We finish this when we get back."

Xander nodded mutely.

As they walked to the end of the alley they heard another noise. At first
Xander assumed it was the cat, displaying foolhardy courage. Unfortunately
it wasn't. Xander stiffened <Oh, fuck. This was *not* good.> 

At the mouth of the alley stood a familiar and unwelcome figure - Forrest,
and he wasn't alone. Three others, with the same rigid military bearing
stood
with him. They were in plain clothes but Xander knew that didn't mean they
were off duty. He also had a good idea what they were carrying inside those
lumpy looking hold-alls. He took an involuntary step back and then froze as
a wall of white hot rage hit him. 

Confused, he blinked sharply and automatically glanced at Spike. The
vampire was in his true aspect, lips furled back, long fangs exposed. Gold
eyes burned with fury. Xander knew then what he was feeling, the fear was
his own - the rage was pure Spike. This was bad, this was very bad. He had
to do something before there was a massacre. With a wild yell he grabbed a
nearby bin and as the soldiers reached inside their bags for their weapons
he
threw it. He knocked two of them off their feet and sent the other two
diving
out of the way. 

Without waiting to see what was on offer for an encore, Xander grabbed his
lover and yanked hard. "Come on !" There was no mistaking the panic in his
voice and Spike responded to it. With a savage growl the vampire raced out
of the alley, dragging Xander with him.

Bad became worse when a jeep did a sharp u-turn and gave chase. Forrest
and his companions were also back on their feet and in pursuit; though they
stood no chance of catching their quarry. Spike and Xander fled through the
streets with preternatural speed, not caring who saw, wanting only to get
away. Forrest and the others were quickly left behind. The jeep however,
was gaining ground.

Spike stopped as they sped past one street. Turning back he tugged Xander
into it. Half way down, a young man was preparing to put on his motorcycle
helmet - he never knew what hit him. Spike snatched the red and white
helmet out of the man's hands and swung it up into his face. The young man
collapsed to the concrete. Spike tossed the helmet away and rifled the
man's
pockets with practiced ease, withdrawing the ignition key with a hiss of
satisfaction.

"What are you doing ? !" Xander yelled, watching the jeep's approach with
growing alarm.

"Shut up and get on." Spike was already swinging his leg over the bike.

Xander hesitated and then jumped up behind him. "Do you even know how
to ride one of these things." His answer was a maniacal laugh as Spike
struck up the engine and with a sudden lurch the bike sped forward. Xander
buried his face against his lover's back as the wind whipped at him,
stealing
the air from his lungs. <Oh god. I'm going to die> he thought, as Spike
shot
up onto the sidewalk and narrowly avoided colliding with bench.

He didn't relax even when it became apparent that Spike knew what he was
doing. His lover's lack of fear did nothing to decrease his own. After all,
he
had things to consider - like probable certain gruesome death if he came
off
at this speed. He grit his teeth and held on as Spike spun the bike around
with a flourish and zoomed back the way they had come - toward the jeep.
Xander looked over his lover's shoulder in time to see the vehicle's lights
bearing down on them.

"Spike !" His cry was plucked away by the wind. Xander closed his eyes and
prayed to whatever god hadn't yet deserted him. He felt the bike lean and
swerve and heard a crash - the sound of glass and grinding metal. Surprised
to find he wasn't dead, Xander opened his eyes. The jeep was no longer in
front of them. He glanced back over his shoulder and his eyes widened. The
jeep was stationary in the centre of the junction. Shattered glass was
strewn
across the road; only some of it came from the jeep's broken headlight. The
rest came from the unfortunate car that was now attached to the bull bars
at
the front.

As Xander watched an aggrieved looking man leapt out of the crumpled car
and began kicking the jeep. The soldiers piled out, an onlooker came to 
join in, and chaos ensued. Xander turned back with a grin. Though his
amusement faded rapidly as he saw what was in front of them. Before he
could open his mouth to yell, Spike opened up the throttle and aimed the
bike toward the soldiers running up the street. Xander saw their
expressions
shift from stunned confusion, to fear and anger, in a split second. He
grimaced as the bike plunged into the group - sending men spinning like
skittles. Forrest was forced to scramble up a street lamp, while another
rolled under a parked car.

With a whoop and a wave of his fist, Spike turned the bike and headed out
of town. 

******************************************************

They didn't stop until they were half way up the road toward the mansion, 
and the lights of Sunnydale were glittering points below. 

Spike pulled up along the road side. He twisted round to look at his
passenger. "You all right ?"

"Oh, I'm perfect," Xander ground out through gritted teeth. He thumped his
lover. "What the *hell* were you doing ? What happened to keeping a low
profile ? What happened to nipping into town and then nipping home again,
without picking a fight ?"

"Hey, I didn't start it. Them tossers would have shot us. Would you have
preferred that ?"

Xander muttered something unintelligible.

Spike tried to look suitably chastened. He couldn't quite pull it off but
it was
a game attempt. "Look, there's no real harm done. I didn't kill the
bastards."

"No but Angel is going to kill us," Xander pointed out
.

Spike shrugged. "So, we don't tell him."

Xander gave him a look. "Well you'd better think of a good excuse for why
we've got this bike, because I think this is him now."

Spike looked back round and swore as he watched the black car winding 
its way down the road toward them. "Right, okay. You....you just keep your
gob shut. I'll handle this."

"Be my guest," said Xander. Then the youth's smile turned wicked. Leaning
forward he managed to nip Spike's ear lightly with his teeth. "The thing
with
the bike and the goons ?" he whispered. "Nicely done." 

Spike looked back at him startled but didn't get a chance to say anything
as
Angel pulled up along side them, his expression dour. Spike offered his
Sire
a breezy smile and racked his brain for an excuse. Doyle's mouth twitched
in amusement and Spike tried to ignore the pull of bright green eyes. He
cursed. "Okay, so we had a little trouble. Them bastards deserved it and I
found out something, " he added defensively. He heard Xander groan and
felt the young man's head drop against his back.

"What happened ?" Angel asked bluntly.

Spike pursed his lips in displeasure and looked out across the town as he
muttered. "We had a run in with them soldier gits. We had to make a break
for it."

"Did they recognize you specifically ?"

Spike shrugged. "Yeah, probably."

Doyle cursed. "Well this is gonna make things interestin'."

Angel just glared silently at his errant offspring. 

Spike shifted on his seat. "Well what d'you expect. I was fuckin' bored,"
he
growled. "I got the information you wanted, didn't I ? Summat's going on at
the brat's old school."

Angel's glower didn't lift but he nodded. "Get rid of the bike and get in."

Spike was surprised by the invitation.

Xander voiced his question out loud. "We can come ?"

Angel regarded the youth with a more gentle version of his glower. "Yes
you can come. I'm not planning on letting either of you out of my sight."

Xander sheepishly clambered off the bike and into the back of the car. 

Doyle shot the boy a sympathetic look; letting Xander know he understood
it was hard to stay out of trouble when Spike was your romantic other half.

Spike shoved the bike off the road and into the scrub, then leapt in next
to
his lover. "Where we off then ?"

"You said the school," said Angel flatly. "So we'll check that out first."

Spike grinned and threw an arm around his lover's shoulder's. Xander shot
him a look of fond exasperation and snuggled up against him. 

Angel drove back into Sunnydale. All the while wondering if it wouldn't
have been far wiser to have simply manacled the pair to the mansion wall. 

Part Fourteen  



Evidently the Initiative were adept at clearing up after themselves as the
town
was quiet upon their return, with no sign of the earlier mayhem. Angel
ordered Spike and Xander to keep their heads down as he drove over to the
school. He parked around the side of the burnt out building.

Xander followed the others as they walked across the grass to the front
entrance. He scanned the boarded-up windows nervously. It all seemed
quiet. They stopped outside the door and a minor disagreement erupted.
Angel wanted to go in and look around alone; Doyle was having none of it.
While Spike was still spoiling for a fight and wasn't about to sit around
while his Sire had all the fun. 

Xander joined in when it looked like he might be the only one made to wait
outside. He pointed out that with the Initiative and god knows what else
wandering around, it might be better if they all stayed together. A
familiar
furrow formed between Angel's eyes, which said the vampire was less than
pleased. However, he conceded the point Xander was making and the four
entered the school.

The darkened corridors were coated with smut and grime; the whole place
stank - a mixture of melted plastic and charred brick and wood. Xander 
was pleased he could see in the darkness, but was less happy that his new
improved senses included a better sense of smell. The burnt odours caught
in the back of his throat and made him cough.

"Shurrup," Spike hissed, waving him quiet.

Xander shot his lover an apologetic look and tried to choke back the tickle
in his throat; as was so often the case it only made it worse. Grimacing he
followed the others as they moved quietly down the corridor. He quickly
noticed that both Angel and Spike seemed bothered by something. Angel
whispered what it was the two vampires were sensing.

"Someone's set up a cloaking spell."

"Cloaking ?" Xander frowned. "You mean like to make them invisible ?"

Angel shook his head. "No, it just masks their presence. We'll be able to
see
them, we just can't smell or hear them."

"How'd'ya know ?" Doyle asked.

Spike gave an exaggerated shudder. "You can feel it. Like havin' bloody
spiders crawlin' up your spine."

Xander stopped and closed his eyes, trying to extend his awareness -
curious
to see if he could pick up this 'spidery tingle'. His eyes shot open when
he
did. "I felt it !" he exclaimed in a whisper.

Spike smiled encouragingly. Angel nodded. Doyle looked startled.

Xander shivered. It really did feel like spiders - huge hairy tarantulas
scampering up and down his back. Spike touched his arm to get his
attention.

"Now you've got it, don't try an' shut it off. It'll act like a warning.
When the
gits are close it'll feel worse."

"I can't feel anything," Doyle complained.

"You're not a vampire," Angel explained. "Cloaking spells don't work well
against us. Just stay close."

They set off again, moving slowly and warily - alert for any sound, or sign
of danger. They covered the ground floor first; their search revealed
nothing
until they entered the gym.

"Woah, someone's been a busy little sorcerer," Xander whispered. The
entire floor was covered in symbols - most painted in black, a few were
formed from scattered dust. They extended up two of the walls, and even
along some of the burnt benches. Spike grabbed him when he would have
stepped forward. Angel regarded him gravely.

"Don't tread on any," Angel warned. "You don't want to experience what
some of these will do to you."

"D-do ?" Xander looked down in alarm. A green triangle with a number of
strange squiggles lay inches from his sneaker. "What do you mean *do* ?"

Spike answered him, waving his arm to encompass the room. "Spells, luv.
Living, breathing spells. Some'll turn you inside out. Some'll send a demon
to devour you. Some'll just suck you straight down into Hell."

"I'm thinkin' this is to keep us out of 'ere then, yeah ?" asked Doyle.

"Maybe," said Angel.

"That, or they was just doodlin'," said Spike with a dismissive shrug.

"Great," Xander mumbled. "We're after an obsessive scribbler." He glanced
at a sticky red smear and screwed his face up in disgust. "Please tell me
that
isn't human blood ?"

Spike glanced at the dark red writing; then looked at Xander.

Xander exhaled heavily. "Okay," he admitted. "I.....I knew it was." He 
was disturbed at how easily he had known the writing's source. Guessing it
*might* be blood was one thing. *Knowing* it was human blood, because
he could smell it, was something else entirely. He'd wanted Spike to tell
him
he was wrong. So much for that wish.

"What do we do now ?" he asked.

"We keep looking," said Angel simply. 

They back-tracked away from the gym hall and into the corridors - heading
toward the library. Xander guessed a Hellmouth was probably as good a
place as any to look for an evil sorcerer. Which brought another question
to
mind. "What do we do when we find this guy ?" he whispered.

Angel held open his coat to reveal a pair of daggers carried in a thin
leather
harness, strapped around his chest. One had a sickle shaped blade; the
other 
was split into three prongs - the middle fork being slightly longer. 

"They're Vashia daggers," Angel explained closing his coat.

"And they'll stop this guy ?" Xander asked.

"Oh, yeah," said Doyle. "They'll do the trick all right."

Spike just grinned savagely.

Xander opened his mouth to ask something else, but fell abruptly silent 

as the crawling sensation down his spine suddenly intensified. He looked
around in alarm and yelled a warning as the first of the demons appeared.

They came from all directions. Scuttling across the ceiling, leaping out of
doorways. Rushing down the corridor. There was no direction to run, so the
four did the only thing they could - they stood and fought. Spike and Angel
shifted quickly into their true aspects, gold eyes glittering fiercely as
they
faced off their attackers. Doyle also didn't waste any time switching to
his
stronger demon form.

Xander simply let his anger lead him. He felt a surge of satisfaction when
his fist connected with a pig-like snout, sending the creature crashing
back
through a doorway. However, in the confusion of the fight no one noticed,
least of all him, that he was being led away from the rest of the group.
His
antagonists drew him further down the corridor. Until, as they reached the
end, three rushed him at once, picking him up and carrying him off.

Xander shouted in alarm and unknowingly sent out a wave of panic that had
Spike's head snapping round to look for him. Despite his frantic struggles
he
was carried away. They took him down beneath the library, where finally he
was set back on his feet. Angry, scared and somewhat disorientated he spun
and punched the closet kidnapper in the gut. The demon growled but backed
away as a cloaked figure stepped forward out of the shadows.

Xander had heard the expression 'blood freezing in the veins'; it suddenly
felt a little too accurate. His entire body felt bathed in ice - inside and
out.
As the figure reached out for him he tried to scramble back, two demons
held him firm. Xander blinked sharply as his gaze fell on the hand near his
face. It was very pale, the skin almost translucent. In contrast the long,
painted nails were a rich, dark purple, the colour of an overripe plum.

Transfixed he watched the hand withdrew to the hood of the cloak. As it
slowly drew it back, Xander felt a terrified whimper claw its way up from
his chest. <No....Oh god, no....> 

When the hand caressed his cheek, he closed his eyes and turned his face
away.


Chapter XVI

Spike was enjoying the fight, though his pleasure was slightly tainted. He
was concerned for his lover. In between trading kicks and punches he did
his best to keep an eye on the boy. However, he momentarily lost sight of
him as he chased his prey into a classroom. Having snapped the creatures
spine he hurried back out, just as a wall of fear crashed over him.

<*Xander*> He whirled around frantically, but the boy had vanished. Spike
suppressed the rage and panic that threatened to choke him. Shoving away a
nearby demon he concentrated on the link that bound him to his lover. With
a snarl he turned and raced down the corridor to the library. His Sire
would
just have to manage alone.

He was met by two Kinalaa demons who he despatched in short order. As
he dropped down under the library a third tried to rush him - Spike tore
off
its head. Releasing the corpse with a grunt of disgust he looked up, and
froze.

"Drusilla ?"

His beloved smiled at him, her dark eyes bright with madness.

"Oh, sweet, Spike. My sweet Spike. Have you come to join my little party ?"

Spike was too stunned to answer her question. His alarmed gaze took in the
tableau before him. Drusilla, in a diaphanous white dress, looking like
some
sort of demented spirit as her deadly nails stroked the smooth, bare throat
of
his lover. Xander - rigid with fear, barely even blinking as one nail
scored a
deep red line into his skin.

Spike gathered his wits. "Drusilla, baby. What are you doing down here, 
luv ? There's a nasty man about. It's not safe for you here. Come on, let's
go
outside. Daddy's waiting."

Her reply was a peal of laughter.

Spike frowned. "What is , princess. What have you done ?"

She smiled beatifically. "I've been a clever girl," she told him proudly.
"I
found a lovely book, with lots of lovely spells in it. I've been
practicing,
shall I show you-"

"*No*." It came out a little more sharply than he'd intended and he
softened
his voice quickly as her pretty mouth twisted into a displeased pout.
"Look,
baby. Why don't you come and show Daddy what you've learned. He's into
all that hocus pocus, mumbo jumbo. You know me, pet. I don't get much of
a buzz from all that book stuff."

"Oooh, but you'll like this one," she said with a gleeful smile. "It's a
very
special spell. I made it all by myself. Aren't you proud of me ?"

"Very." He tried to sound sincere. If he was less than convincing she
didn't
seem to notice.

Her tone turned conspiratorial as she whispered. "I'm going to get the
Slayer. I'm going to bring the bad ones and they're were going to tear her
all
to pieces."

Xander twitched. Spike warned him with his eyes and the boy remained
still. "Well...that's...er....good, pet. I'm real happy for you."

She gave a happy sigh. "I knew you would be, cos you're my sweet aren't
you."

"Always, pet," Spike promised, trying to ignore the look in Xander's eyes.
He
took a step closer and held out his hand. "Come on, luv. Let's go tell
Daddy
your plan. He'll want to know all about it."

Still with her hand on Xander's throat, she stepped forward. Then she
stopped and stepped back again. "He's yours," she whispered.

"What ?" Spike watched his insane love warily.

Drusilla slowly turned her head toward Xander and inhaled him delicately.
"I knew he was yours. I've been having dreams. The dreams told me."

"That's clever of you, pet," said Spike encouragingly. He was worried by
the
faraway look on her face. He knew that look only too well, and it had never
boded well for anyone.

"It was clever of me wasn't it," said Drusilla brightly. She closed her
fingers
around Xander's throat. The youth's face tightened in panic. 

Spike hesitated. He could try and get the jump on her, but his Dru was
quick
and strong. She could tear the whelp's throat out before he got near. He
held
back.

"The dreams told me what to do," she continued nodding sagely. "I didn't
want to at first, but they said I must, and now I know they're right."

"Right ?" Spike tried to move a little closer. He kept talking to distract
her.
"Right about what, pet ? What did the dreams tell you ? Have they been
hurtin' you again ?"

She shook her head, ebony tresses dancing around her pale face. "No. They
didn't hurt me. They were nice dreams. Nice, nicey, nice," she chanted in a
sing-song voice. Then she stopped and looked at him. Her tone became 
girlish "I have to say goodbye now."

"Goodbye ?" he echoed stupidly.

She took a step back, tugging Xander with her. "Say goodbye," she ordered
the youth. Scared and stunned, Xander stayed silent. "Say it," she hissed.

"G-goodbye," the youth stammered.

She smiled in satisfaction. Then she jumped back.

Spike gave a howl as he realised her intent. He dived forward a fraction
too
late - as she and Xander disappeared into the Hellmouth. He slid across the
floor and gazed down into the opening. What he saw was almost enough to
make his heart start beating again.

Somehow during their descent the two had become disentangled. Now they
hung, side by side, clinging to the wall. Spike's gaze narrowed as he took
in
the precarious nature of their positions. Xander's fingers clutched
desperately at a rock jutting out of the earth. While his poor, deranged
princess had dug her talons into the crumbling earth itself.

Spike drew his knife from his boot and without a thought he clambered
down after them. Trying not to dislodge any stones or soil, he used the
serrated blade to secure his descent, stabbing it into the sides to give
him
something to hold onto. Two pairs of dark eyes watched him. Spike heard
his lover suck in a sharp breath, as the rock Xander was clinging to moved.
Spike quickened his pace. He could see that both were beginning to lose
their purchase on the crumbling walls. 

He'd almost reached them....almost...

....When Xander gave a cry as the rock slid out of the soil. The boy
scrabbled
furiously for a fresh handhold, sinking his fingers into the dirt. A
heartbeat
after, Dru lost her grip. One hand succeeded in digging back in; the other
failed. She swung, hampered by her long skirts as her dainty feet tried to
wedge themselves against the sides.

Spike tried to move faster, struggling to keep from falling. He reached
them
already knowing the choice that lay before him. He couldn't save them both.
He couldn't help them both up, and he wouldn't have time to take one to the
surface and then make his way back for the other. They couldn't hold on any
longer, one of them was going to fall into Hell.

Spike made sure the knife blade was buried deep and his boots were
wedged firm. Then he lowered his hand. "Take it," he said softly. He
watched the dark eyes widen and read the hesitation there. "For fucks sake,
Xander luv !" he cried hoarsely. "Take my fuckin' hand." He gave a shudder
of relief as the boy moved, reaching up to grasp his outstretched fingers.

Spike could barely bring himself to look upon his poor princess, dreading
her look of betrayal. However, as his eyes met hers he saw only puzzlement
and then a strange sort of understanding. She smiled, one of those rare
sweet
smiles, free of her usual wild insanity. 

Then she fell.

Spike closed his eyes, but the image was already burned into his brain.
Like
a broken butterfly she tumbled, dark hair and pale skirts tangled together.
He felt a shard of pain slice through his unbeating heart as he listened to
the
sound of her soft tinkling laughter. <Forgive me, Princess.> It grew
fainter
and fainter. He opened his eyes and watched as she disappeared from sight.

The weight pulling on his arm brought him back to his senses. Gritting his
teeth, he began to climb. One-handed he struggled upward, carrying his
precious burden. As he reached the top welcome hands reached down to
him, and a bruised and bloodied Angel helped him up. An equally battered
Doyle stood by the vampire's side.

"What the hell happened ?" the young man asked.

Angel unwittingly released his hold on the younger vampire - only to start
forward as Spike crumpled to the ground. However, Xander was already
there. Dropping down beside his lover, he wound his arms tight around the
trembling figure. Spike collapsed against the youth, burying his face
against
the warm chest, keening softly. Mourning the love he'd lost, and reassuring
himself of the love he had saved. 

Gradually he became aware the boy was whispering something over and
over. 

".....I can't believe you chose me. You chose me.....I can't believe you
chose
me...."

Spike drew back and wiped the youth's dirt and tear stained cheeks.
"Idiot,"
he whispered. "There never was no choice." His gaze was sad but peaceful
as he kissed stunned lips softly. 

He meant it. Drusilla was his princess, his dark goddess, his ripe plum. He

loved her to eternity, and he owed her more than a thousand life times
could
repay.

But Xander........Xander was his existence. He couldn't have let the young
man fall. He could cut out his own heart more easily.

No, there had been no choice, and he felt no sense of regret. Only a deep,
aching sorrow for the woman who had been his guide, his companion, and
his lover for more than a century. 

He looked past the boy in his arms to the bewildered pair standing behind
them. "It was Dru," he said simply. His voice cracking slightly on the
name. 

Angel closed his eyes as an expression of pain and guilt crossed his face.
Slowly, he sank to his knees. Doyle looked confused but he knelt, laying a
comforting hand on his lover's back. 

Spike turned to look back at the jagged opening. Golden eyes glittered with
tears as
he threw back his head and howled his grief.

Part Fifteen


Shocked, Angel sank to the floor. The sound of Spike's anguish tore 
through his unbeating heart, and he clenched his fists - fingernails
cutting
bloody crescents into his palms. He thought of the innocent young woman
whose life he had destroyed, and of the beautiful vampiress who had once
shared his bed. He quickly closed down the tide of grief and focused on his
youngest childe. Spike had at last fallen silent, and Angel forced himself
to
meet the tormented gaze.

"Do you think she's really gone ?" Spike whispered.

Angel knew what Spike was asking. He shared close links with those he'd
sired. He had felt Penn's passing and he should feel Drusilla's loss, but
he
felt nothing. It was as if her existence had simply been erased. "I...I
don't
know," he admitted honestly. 

Spike nodded sadly and stumbled to his feet. Xander remained glued to his
side and Spike was clearly grateful for the support. 

They stayed long enough to ensure that Drusilla's spells could no longer be
carried into fruition - carefully obliterating markings and breaking
magical
charms. They found a book, wrapped in a red silk stole, and brought it away
with them. Angel rang Giles to let him know the situation was resolved, and
that a clean-up operation would be required to remove the gym's minefield
of spells.

Spike allowed himself to be steered toward the car, but once he was sat in
it, he became churlish. "I wanna drink," he growled.

Angel turned round to face him. "Spike, I don't think-"

Spike fixed him with a baleful stare. "-Why don't you just fuck off. I
don't
need you fuckin' preaching at me." 

Angel fell silent. 

Spike continued, his voice hoarse with pain. "You just don't get it, do you

She...she's gone...and I...I...." Wide gold eyes hardened as Spike visibly
tried
to pull himself together. "So you can quit with the moralizing crap, cos
I'm
gonna have a fuckin' drink. I'm gonna poison myself with the pissin'
stuff."

Angel regarded him thoughtfully, then he nodded, softly adding, "We'll pick
something up on the way home." 

"Home ?" Doyle asked. "You mean L.A ?"

Angel nodded wearily. "Yeah, I've had enough of this town. Unless anyone
has any objections ?"

Doyle quickly shook his head. Spike was staring stubbornly out the side
window and didn't answer. Xander only glanced away from his lover long
enough to whisper a soft, "No, I'm ready to go home."

"Good," said Angel quietly. "Home it is."

*************************************************

They returned briefly to the mansion, disconnected the generator, threw
their belongings in the boot, and headed out of town. Angel surmised as
long as they didn't make too many stops, they'd be back before sunrise. 
They pulled up outside a twenty-four hour liquor store, a block from the
apartment, with time to spare.

He reached over the seat and hauled Spike back when the other vampire
would have got out. "Stay," he ordered. "Doyle can get it." He glanced at
Doyle, silently asking if that was okay. The last thing they wanted was a
bloodless store-owner and Spike was in just that sort of mood.

Doyle caught on quickly. "Oh, yeah, sure. No problem. What'd'ya want ?"

Spike gave a semi-hysterical laugh. "The whole fuckin' shop should do it,
and see if he's hidin' any of the good stuff out the back. Absinth would be
good." He looked at Xander. "Enough of that'll make you go blind. Course,
it tastes like crap, but it does the job."

Xander looked worried. Angel tried to reassure the boy with a slight shake
of his head. He'd seen Spike in this mood many times before. The younger
vampire would drink himself comatose and collapse for a few days, then be
back to his normal sarcastic self. Though he wasn't sure how much alcohol
it would take to burn the grief out of Spike's system this time.

He unwound a thick roll of notes and after a moments thought gave them all
to Doyle. "Just tell him to fill up a few boxes. Whisky, brandy, anything."

Nodding numbly, Doyle took the proffered money and went into the store.
The others waited in silence. Spike kicked the back of Angel's seat until
the
older vampire gave him a warning look. Angel knew Spike was hurting, but
he also knew how to handle his childe. Spike was acting out. It was a cry
for
Angel, or someone, to try and rein him in - and by doing so demonstrate
that
they cared enough to at least attempt to control him.

Angel was both concerned and curious to see how Xander would fit into 
this equation. His worries were eased when Spike turned away from the
window toward Xander, nestling against the youth - who willingly opened
his arms to receive him. Angel met the boy's dark eyes as Xander stroked
the soft blond waves soothingly, and they shared a look of understanding.
Together they would get Spike through this. Angel shuttered his own grief
away. There would be time for him to mourn later. For now his childe was
all that mattered.

Doyle finally came out of the store, staggering slightly under the weight
of a
large cardboard box. Angel decided Spike wasn't going to bolt and got out
to help his lover. 

Doyle exhaled in relief when the vampire took the box off him. "There's
another two comin'. I think we made the fella's night."

Angel had to agree with the young man's assessment as he followed him
back into the store to get the last two boxes. The store owner was wearing
a
huge grin and thanked them enthusively for their trade. Angel deposited the
boxes in the boot and drove back to the apartment. Xander herded a silent
Spike inside while Angel and Doyle unpacked the car.

A short while later they were gathered uncomfortably in the main room.
Spike was sat on the couch, drinking from one bottle while he nestled
another two protectively under his coat. Xander sat beside him, Angel sat
opposite, while Doyle sat on the floor at his lover's feet. All three of
them
watched the younger vampire in sombre silence.

Eventually it got to Spike and he set the bottle down with a snarl. "What ?
!"
he exclaimed bitterly. "A bloke can't have a bloody drink ?" He took one of
the bottles out from under his coat and thrust it at Doyle. "Here, drink to
my
Princess. She....she was the most beautiful woman I ever knew."

Doyle accepted the bottle hesitantly.

"Go on," Spike persisted. "Drink." He handed the other bottle to Angel.
"You can fuckin' drink too. We're gonna toast my baby out in style."

Angel took the bottle and unscrewed the cap. He met Spike's eyes - now 
a shadowed blue - and raised his bottle. "To Dru," he said softly. 

Spike nodded solemnly, and chinked his bottle to Angel's; they both took a
long slug. 

Doyle watched them and then lifted his own bottle. "To Dru," he added. As
he drank he saw a glimmer of approval in Spike's cold eyes.

Spike handed his bottle to Xander. The youth accepted it with trembling
fingers. "To Dru," he whispered, and took a long swallow. The strong liquor
burned his throat and made him splutter. 

Spike waited until the coughing fit had passed, then he leaned forward and
captured Xander's lips in a fierce kiss. "Mine," he hissed as he drew back.

Xander nodded. "Yours," he said hoarsely. Spike took the bottle back and
drank deeply, before pressing his mouth back to Xander's. The kiss was
hard and brutal. Xander tried to soothe his lover's desperate pain with
gentle
strokes of his lips and tongue, and gradually Spike's savage assault became
a
more tender exploration. Salt mingled with the taste of the whisky as tears
ran down Spike's face. Xander cupped the back of his lover's head, rubbing 
softly as he continued the kiss, tasting Spike's grief and giving comfort.

Doyle shivered and took another drink. Angel slid down onto the floor to
sit
beside him, laying an arm around his lover's slender shoulders. He nuzzled
Doyle's neck lightly. Doyle turned into the touch and they shared a whisky
flavoured kiss.

"Love you," Doyle whispered against Angel's lips. 

"Love you back," Angel murmured 

**************************************************

Some hours later they were all sitting on the floor. Xander had discovered
yet another interesting side effect to his 'changing body chemistry'. He
had
apparently developed a high tolerance to alcohol - enabling him to keep 
up with two vampires and a half-demon, or very nearly. Of course he was
drunk, but then so were they. 

Two of the boxes were already empty; no-one seemed inclined to drag the
third out of the kitchen. Spike had passed the tearful stage and the angry
stage - which had cost Angel a rather nice lamp - now he was belligerent,
glowering furiously as he recalled how Angel had 'taken' his precious from
him. 

Angel was duly apologetic, but eventually he lost patience. "It wazn't me
!"
he protested vehemently. Then he thought about it. "Okay...it was me, but I
wouldn't do that now." Angel's voice slurred slightly, as he waved his
empty
bottle for emphasis.

"No ?" Spike asked.

"No," said Angel firmly.

Spike grunted and took another drink.

"Look, fellas, izz...itzt done with. Can't we put the past behind uz ?"
Doyle
pleaded. He'd had enough fighting for one evening - plus the room was
starting to spin.

"What would you know 'bout it ?" Spike snarled, leaning forward.

Xander put a hand on his lover's chest and shoved him back. "Down, boy."
He blinked and shook his head, trying to clear it so he could speak.
"Doyle'z
a good guy, 'member ?" He sank back against the couch and slung an arm
around the half-demon. At some point in the evening he'd moved to sit at
the foot of the couch beside Doyle, while Spike sat at the foot of the
chair
next to Angel.

Spike snorted.

Xander glared at his lover and gave Doyle's shoulders a reassuring squeeze.
"I-ignore him....he'z....he'z just being a brat."

Spike prodded Xander's leg with a booted foot. "Who'you callin' a brat ?"

Xander stuck his tongue out at him. Spike responded in kind and Xander let
out a drunken giggle, as did Doyle.

Spike rolled his eyes. "You're drunk," he accused.

"So am I," said Angel. He sounded surprised, which earned him a snigger
and a pair of near identical giggles.

Spike tried to swat Doyle, who moved out of the way with surprising speed.
Xander gave a small cheer. Spike immediately grabbed his leg, and pulling
off his sneaker, began tickling his foot. Xander gasped and tried to squirm
away. Laughing he kicked out at his lover with his free leg, but Spike
didn't
let go until Doyle poured beer down the back of Spike's collar. Even Angel
sniggered as the younger vampire released Xander with an indignant holler.

Xander managed to sit up with some assistance from Doyle. "Th-thanksz,"
he gasped, trying to catch his breath. He turned his head to grin at the
other
man, just as Doyle turned to do the same. Their foreheads bumped, as did
their noses.......and their lips. It was a clumsy kind of kiss, but it was
a kiss
nonetheless, and they both jerked back as if stung.

Stunned brown eyes stared into equally dazed green ones. <Oh god> Xander
stiffened. Feeling suddenly, terrifyingly, sober, he turned to face Spike.
Instead of the rage or shock he was expecting he saw lust glittering in the
vampire's gold edged gaze. <Huh ?>

"Again," Spike ordered, his voice low and husky.

Twin panicked gazed fell on Angel, both blinked when they found a mirror
of Spike's heated look. 

"A-Angel ?" Xander stammered.

Angel's voice brushed over him, soft as a breath. "Do it, if you want to."

Xander felt like he'd slipped into the twilight zone and his drink-fuddled
senses struggled to work out what the hell was going on. <I kissed Doyle>.
He sucked in a deep, shaky breath. Okay, that wasn't good, but it had been 

a pure accident, so no biggie right ?.....Except Spike seemed to have come
down with a case of spontaneous lust, and Angel's gaze was getting more
intense by the second. Xander decided maybe it was time to consider the
other person involved in this. He turned to face Doyle, warily peering at
the
man from underneath his fringe. 

Doyle's fingers gently brushed the hair out of his eyes. The green eyes
that
met his were warm, the pupils wide and inky black - dilated with desire.

<He wants me...> Xander thought in disbelief. Hesitantly, he brought his
own hand up to touch Doyle's cheek. He felt the slight friction of stubble
covering warm skin. It felt....different, a little strange, but not
unpleasant.
He leaned forward, and when Doyle didn't pull away, he boldly brought 
his lips to touch the other man's. 

Soft, wet heat and whisky. Xander let his mouth glide against Doyle's. He
jumped a little as a tongue sought entrance, but he granted it and pushed
his
own tongue forward to tangle with the half-demon's. <Oh yesss> This was
good. This was better than good, and he twisted his body to get closer. He
felt Doyle's finger's thread through his hair, holding him. A low, rumbling
growl brought him back to his senses <Oh god, what am I doing ?> 

***************************************************

Xander wasn't the only one reeling from the kiss. Doyle couldn't deny he'd
entertained the occasional lecherous thought about those tempting lips, but
lustful daydreams were a world away from blunt reality. Without question
this was better, unbelievably better, as Xander's mouth yielded beneath his
-
hot and honey sweet. Doyle could taste the rich burn of brandy behind the
kiss. He carded his fingers through tangled curls, coaxing the youth
closer.

He had almost forgotten their silent watchers.....until a growl made the
hairs
on the back of his neck stand on end. He released Xander and moved away -
just as Spike pounced, pushing him down onto the floor. Flat on his back he
opened his mouth to apologise, plead, pray...anything....only to have
Spike's
lips clamp down firmly over his.

Cold, smooth, slick and persistent, Doyle didn't stand a chance against
them.
They ravished his mouth with near brutal savagery. He tasted blood and felt
a flare of panic as strong hands gripped his shirt. It faded as the kiss
lost its
violent intensity, and strangely gentle hands drew his shirt up. They
brushed
over his chest, fingers grasping and teasing his nipples making him gasp. A
tongue flickered across his own and then withdrew. 

Doyle lay, breathing raggedly, as Spike sat back. Blue eyes were edged with
gold. They had a wild look about them; one that made Doyle swallow hard
and look to his lover. He blinked at what he saw. Angel was sitting on the
couch behind Xander, he'd drawn the youth between his thighs. Xander was
the image of debauched innocence; his hair tousled, his neck arched back,
exposing his throat. He knelt, his shirt open as Angel's hands roamed over
his torso.

Angel's eyes met Doyle's. Doyle could read the troubled uncertainty in
them.
The underlying question - 'is this all right ?' 

Was it ? Did he even know what he was doing ? He had a vampire sitting on
his lap. Parts of him were undeniably happy - namely those reaping the
benefits of pressure and friction. However, other parts were less certain.

"We don't have to. Not if you don't want to."

The soft voice startled him out of his introspection. He was more surprised
when he realised it came from Spike.

"You want me t'move ?" Spike asked.

Doyle looked into the vampire's face and shook his head. "No."

Spike cocked his head to one side and frowned. "So, you wanna do this ?"

<Did he ?> Doyle felt himself smile and he nodded. "Yes."

Spike grinned. "Good."

Doyle barely had chance to draw a breath before Spike reclaimed his lips in
a searing kiss. The vampire's groin rubbed against his in a quite maddening
manner. He tried to arch up but Spike was heavier than he looked, or maybe
he was just stronger. Either way, Doyle knew he was going to have to let
the
vampire lead this encounter. That was okay with him. He wasn't really sure
where they were heading, so any guidance was more than welcome. 

Spike was still kissing him when someone began to remove his footwear.
Since Spike's hands were roaming underneath his shirt he figured it had to
be either Xander or Angel. Spike finally relinquished his lips, and Doyle
discovered it was both. Feeling somewhat light-headed he found himself
being carefully, but urgently stripped by three eager pairs of hands. The
hands didn't leave once he was naked. They stroked and kneaded skin and
muscle, paying his legs, arms and chest the same diligent attention. 

When lips followed the same path Doyle's moans became whimpers. Warm
fingers wrapped around his erection and he sat up with a cry. His wide eyed
gaze met Xander's - those tempting lips set in a sultry smile. Somehow he
managed to reach out and snare the youth, gathering him close for a deep
kiss. Xander had lost his earlier hesitancy and kissed him back with equal
aggression, his hand still gliding up and down Doyle's flesh.

Doyle was beyond rational thought and reasoned thinking - awash in pure
sensation. Hands seemed to be touching him everywhere. Lips scattered
light kisses across his back and sides. He twitched as he felt sharp fangs
graze his skin. He was wrenched away from Xander by Angel, who knelt
before him. Doyle let his lover plunder his mouth, as he ran his hands over
Angel's chest, teasing the nipples into hard pebbles. He tore his mouth
free
to suckle on them, delighting in Angel's heated moans.

A voice whispered in his ear, a sibilant whisper that made him shiver with
both fear and thrill. "I want you," was all it said.

Doyle licked his way up Angel's chest and bit his lover's throat eliciting
a
deep growl. This time when his eyes met Angel's the latter's had become
golden discs, the pupils wide and fixed. "You want to watch while he fucks
me." It wasn't a question and Doyle didn't attempt to frame it as one.
Desire
and shame warred for dominance on Angel's face. Doyle was having none
of that. He cupped Angel's face gently. "Yes ?"

"Yes," Angel whispered hoarsely. The answer was clearly torn from him.

Green eyes glittered. "Okay." He felt Angel twitch. "I mean it," Doyle
assured him. He took Angel's hand and guided it to where Xander still held
his rigid flesh in an almost lazy grasp. Doyle shuddered as Angel slid his
fingers over the tip, bathing it in glistening precum. "See," he whispered
raggedly, "that's how much I want this."

Spike growled behind him and Doyle felt the younger vampire's erection
poke him in the back. Oh yeah, someone else wanted this too.

Angel's expression was stunned and faintly wondrous. Doyle felt Xander's
hand move away, and he watched as the youth gently guided the vampire
further back. Dark brown eyes regarded him questioningly for a moment,
then turned back to Angel. Xander moved slowly - giving both Angel and
Doyle time to protest or intercede. The youth kissed Angel's lips, and then
moved down to take Angel's erection into his mouth. 

Doyle's hand moved automatically to his own member, stroking it in time to
Xander's bobbing head as Angel thrust slowly into the youth's mouth. Spike
knocked his hand away.

"You save that for me," the vampire growled.

Doyle sank back against Spike, who wrapped his arms around him. They
both watched as Xander fellated Angel, his fingers gripping the vampire's
thighs for support. Angel had collapsed back against the couch, his hands
digging into the cushions. In full game face he panted - letting out a
muted
howl as he came. Xander didn't stop, swallowing every drop of Angel's seed.

Doyle was so hard he thought he might explode. He suddenly found himself 
being thrust forward, up against the couch, his belly hard against the seat
cushions.
He didn't have chance to gather himself before long, slender fingers were
working
some kind of lubricant into him. He was too far gone to care what it was.
He only
knew it felt fantastic and if Spike didn't hurry up and fuck him he *was*
going to come.

Spike hurried. Foreplay was over and done with. Doyle hissed as something
hard and cool breached the tight ring of muscle. He reached out to grasp 
at something - and he found himself caught and held. His lover was at one
side, Xander at the other. They held his hands tight, his arms
outstretched,
as Spike pushed into him.

Their gazes burned - one dark, one gold. He couldn't turn away. He could
feel the pressure - Spike's rigid length stretching and filling him - there
was
no escape from it. He was held fast by the couch, and by the hands that
held
him......and he was so aroused it hurt. He spoke in tongues, he prayed, he 
chanted. Spike nudged his prostrate and he nearly climbed over the couch.

"Oh god."

"Like that, do we ?" Spike's whisper teased him. 

Doyle's reply was a choked sob. If he didn't come soon he was going to 
die he was convinced of it - but he couldn't touch himself. Spike rotated 
his hips and Doyle counted stars. He was in heaven....Though if it should
eventually proved to be Hell, he didn't much care at this moment. Angel
moved closer and Doyle felt his lover's tongue flicker along his shoulder
blade. He purposefully tilted his head to the side, exposing more of his
throat. Angel took his offering and Doyle felt needle sharp fangs sink
through his skin, burrowing deep into his flesh. 

He could smell the rich flood of copper as blood swirled up into the
wounds. The soft sounds of Angel drinking from him. He felt dizzy and hot.
Spike began to quicken the pace and Doyle cried out with each pounding
thrust. He was scarcely aware of Xander leaning back to kiss Spike. All he
knew was the heat in his throat and the heat of friction as Spike tore into
him. The pressure was building to an unbearable level and he wanted to
scream from it. It was too much.....too much......

Angel released his throat and in the same motion sliced open his own wrist
holding it out before Doyle. Their eyes met. Doyle knew what his lover was
asking. He didn't hesitate. Burying his mouth into the ragged wound he used
his lips and tongue to take as much of the rich hot fluid as he could. A
hand
came round to grasp his aching erection and Spike's thrusts were timed with
the swift strokes. 

Doyle bit deep into Angel's arm as he came, muffling his scream. He heard
Spike's howl ring out around them and was dimly aware of the pulse of his
own hot seed flooding out over Xander's fingers. Spike withdrew and he
was drawn back against Angel's chest - his mouth still nuzzling the bloody
gash. 

The younger vampire practically fell onto Xander, driving the youth up
against the couch. He swallowed the youth down to the root and proceeded
to demonstrate how deep throating benefited from a century of experience.
Xander came with a gasp - and the pair collapsed onto the floor, biting at
each other. Pale skin was quickly smeared with blood as blunt teeth and
sharp fangs sliced deep and eager tongues lapped up the sticky fluid.

Doyle licked his own lips cleansing them of the blood he'd consumed and
closed his eyes. Sleep claimed him within seconds and he was unaware of
being gently laid down on the floor, cradled against Angel's chest. The
others fell still a moment later, curled around each other like two
contented
cats. Angel hooked a leg over Spike's. Two pairs of golden eyes met and
shared a look, before they closed and joined their exhausted lover's in
rest.

The silence was broken a heartbeat later by the sound of soft, rumbling
purring..........