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Part 6

Lindsey focused on tuning his guitar. It didn't need it but it gave him something to do while he considered what to sing. He had long since lost his fear of tough crowds, not that he could recall ever playing one that held the level of animosity currently directed at him. He wondered how soon after his arrival that the spies from the firm had passed along the news. Or, perhaps they had know he was coming before he arrived - there had been a great many hungry young turks pursuing junior partner status when he had left.

Then there was Lorne's nagging habit of always questioning why he chose a particular piece. Maybe he should deliberately break with his bluesy standards... or keep the sliding chords of a blues ballad and wrap it around an unexpected song? That might work. Lindsey hid his smirk behind his shaggy hair as he bent over his guitar - he knew just the song to make the sanctimonious vampire uncomfortable.

Lifting his head he sang in clear and seductive voice,

"The day rolls in,
the night rolls out
Desire rules without a doubt
The heart beats fast, you salivate
And when you come it won't be late
I guess by now you got the score
A little taste you want it more
From San Antonio to Marrakesh
Yeah when the night comes
Every body's gotta have

Lindsey watched his audiences reaction. Angel, who had been standing close to where Cordelia sat, stepped back. His Childe ,though, slipped silently behind Xander, who had moved to sit next to the witch Willow when Lorne had gathered them for the readings. Her girlfriend had reached out to clasp her hand as the music started.

Linsey continued,

"The prince of lust has met his match
The witch has brewed her baddest batch
His sword is sharp and hard as stone
Her cauldron begs for one more bone
And so my love, this story's told
>From modern times to days of old
From Boston Mass. to Bangladesh
Yeah, when the night comes
Everybody got to have
Flesh" [1]

Spike leaned forward over the back of the divan and buried his gameface in the crook of Xander's neck. Lindsey knew he murmured something after inhaling deeply but couldn't hear what. Whatever it was it caused a leering
grin to cross the human's face. Lindsey watched Xander tilt his head back into a deep kiss. Spike stroked back the thick dark hair of his human and trailed his slim pale fingers down his heavily muscled neck pushing back the shirt collar. That was when Lindsey saw it, vivid and white against the warmly tanned skin - a scar. A mark - Consort? No, impossible. Even if Spike were as unconventional as his Sire, no Master would tolerate the brash
self-assurance this human radiated, especially not in front of another vampire. As unbelievable a concept as it was, they had to be mated.

Lindsey hadn't realized he had finished until they began to applaud. He had been too wrapped up in the snatches of information he had picked up from watching his audience. Not that the fact that Riley had some subtle - or not so subtle - dependence on his quiet friend was news. But watching them had yielded a depth to their nonverbal communication that belied what he had thought was a new relationship. Cordelia, it seemed, was well aware of Angel's growing attraction to her and also seemed to genuinely regret how much stress it caused the gloomy corpse. Lindsey had realized when Xander had crossed to the divan that he had a gun in the waistband of his jeans at the small of his back and now he was sure Xander also had a weapon in his left boot, but couldn't tell what it was. The fact that Spike was jealous wasn't news but Lindsey was amused to note the vampire leveled that possessive, threatening glare which he had turned on Lindsey at nearly everyone else, as well.


Angel watched as his friends and guests fawned over Lindsey's sensuous, bluesy rendition of a pop ballad. Even Cordy seemed to forget that the whole purpose of the performance was so that Lorne could interpret the ex-lawyer's role, if any, in the prophesy. For all they knew, Cordy's vision's sole purpose was to save the Lindsey's worthless skin. Lorne seemed lost in thought. Angel wanted to know what Lorne had picked up but didn't want to disturb him if he was still receiving information. Besides that, he had other worries - Spike and Xander looked ready to rip each other's clothes off and the scent of their arousal was making it impossible to think.

Angel growled softly. Cordelia and Wes didn't seem to notice him, but Willow's girlfriend turned wise eyes on him and then darted that gaze around the room, as if seeking the source of his displeasure. Spike buried a
snicker in Xander's neck. Xander cocked his head, only partly to give Spike better access. He shot Angel a suspicious look, quickly hidden behind a grin, but not before Angel was reminded of the scent of holy water he had caught when the boy - no, young man - had first approached him. Angel knew that the water pistol, conveniently strapped at the base of Xander's back, wasn't for him or his infamous Childe, and worried that the pressure of guarding the Hellmouth was making the human paranoid. Surely, he thought, Xander could relax here.

Angel had hated how Xander constantly suspected his motives and actions, even before he had lost his soul. Now, watching the dark-eyed young man turn laughing eyes on William the Bloody, Angel realized that just as Xander had been willing to trust him to take care of Dawn and the witches if the human hadn't survived their skirmish with the Initiative, Angel could trust this quick-minded, wary survivor to protect his family if something were to happen to him.

Almost as if Xander heard his thoughts he looked up at him. Angel was pinned by the open laughing look of pure enjoyment. Gone was the forced grin that was second nature to the hyperactive human when hiding anything, replaced by open amusement. Xander nudged Spike into a sprawling position between he and Willow and turned his attention to Lorne

"Honey, if an expensive blond hasn't grabbed you yet, you might want to run now," Lorne mused as he slowly paced near the musician.

"Angel, does this guy come with a translator? 'Cause Giles is easier to understand," Xander drawled.

"Yeah, Peaches, and our Watcher is better than yours with prophesies, too," Spike chimed in.

"Hush!" Willow slapped Spike's knee and Angel wondered if she had been aiming for Xander.

"Anything else?" Angel asked, quietly as Lorne's red eyes met his.

"Just, music, a lot of music... a vague sense of a woman... nothing dramatic, no apocalypse, no... none of the things I saw when you were trying to decide whether to leave the firm," he whispered the last to Lindsey and
trailed his fingers gently through the musician's shaggy hair.

Willow looked up. Tara had just whispered something to her that even Angel hadn't heard with his enhanced senses. The redhead turned a guarded look on Lindsey and said, with a look of resolve that still had shades of the babbling fifteen-year-old Angel had first met. "Lindsey? If you don't mind my asking? Ah, how come your hand doesn't have an aura?"


Spike had heard odder tales than the lawyer's explanation of his evil hand, but he didn't like the idea of this law firm. If they had gone to all the trouble of bringing Darla back and having her turned, Angel was in the middle of an all out war, whether he admitted it to himself or not. Spike had no intention of letting his mate or their 'pack' get caught in the crossfire. Peaches was going to get a piece of his mind if that scrap of skin held anything that could hurt what was his.

"Er, Angel... we don't have to listen to you sing, do we? 'Cause, hey, been warned," Xander sounded like he was joking but Spike recognized the real panic in his eyes. Spike knew that this Xander-babble was being used to
distract the others from his mate's very real stage fright. Xander may have turned the tale of the talent show into an amusing bedtime story for Spike, but he had ended it with 'and that is why I'll never set foot in front of an audience again'.

"You know," Xander added, "Spike does a killer rendition of 'I Wanna Be Sedated'." [2]

Spike smirked as his mate pushed him forward, or at least tried to - a vampire made a hell of an immovable object. The witches were giggling at Xander's babble. He heard Red ask her honey to sing, but doubted that the
shy one would be willing to in front of all these strangers, but decided that he'd like to hear her some movie night when it was just the four of them.

Spike wanted a better look at the skin that the Watcher had shown him. He hadn't had time to do more than glance at the notes before he'd caught this musician of Angel's trying to make time with Xander. But, he'd realized that, judging by the age and material used to make up the scroll, he didn't want anything it foretold happening while his humans were visiting.

"Er, what about you, Pet? How about you sing for us?" Spike grabbed his struggling mate and manhandled him to the center of the room. He loved to watch the wheels turn behind those intelligent eyes. He knew Xander would maneuver out of singing and wanted to see how.

Gasping for air over his laughter Xander said, "Because I have a voice that would bend metal, peel paint and sends bats reeling for miles."

"Who told you that? I like when you sing, luv. Just your choice of material I find disturbing." Spike held on, both to keep Xander from bolting and to ensure the boy didn't slip to the floor since he was still laughing.

"Willow. Which, talk about glass houses..." Xander snickered as Willow whirled on him with her mouth open to protest.

"Willow has a lovely voice," Tara said clearly and firmly. Xander and Willow traded smiles, having once again caused Tara to step out of her shell.

"I want to hear Cordy sing 'Oh, Lord, Won't You Buy Me A Mercedes Benz', Xander smirked at his new target. [3]

"As opposed to Sid Vicious does Frank Sinatra?" she shot back, rolling her eyes.

Spike wondered if Angel's impassive expression as he watched the banter had to do with the vague impressions that the demon Seer friend of his had voiced, or merely indicated the Poof had no idea what they were talking
about. You would think with all the hours he devoted to brooding he could have turned on a telly or a radio in the last fifty years, Spike mused. Spike magnanimously let Xander slide down onto the couch again, back between the witch and the brunette. Xander had promised delicious things if Spike made and effort to get along with Cordelia.

It turned out that no one wanted to take the stage. Some claimed lack of talent but it was more likely none of them wanted to be read. Cordelia was reassuring the witches that they would stop by Lorne's place the next night and have a go at the real thing. She seemed to be bubbling over with plans and Spike got the feeling that the Seer missed her old mates.


The humans slipped off to their respective beds at around three thirty. Spike settled down at the wide conference table in the makeshift library, with a tumbler of Angel's best whiskey. He waited until the allegedly ex Watcher headed up to bed, not sure he wanted his gift with languages in their bleeding archives. Wesley had chosen to stay over rather than drive home after consuming too much of the aforementioned whiskey. Spike sensed Xander padding barefoot down the thickly carpeted stairs. He had hoped to slink into their room before daybreak, keeping his mate none the wiser about this prophesy nonsense. Briefly, he considered trying to distract the boy with Angel's laughably shoddy shelving units; those alone should have Xander reaching for a tape measure and drawing up plans.

"I love a man with a brain," Xander teased as he slid behind Spike, who was perched on the edge of a straight-backed chair and scowling at a tattered scroll. Xander wrapped his arm around his distracted lover's waist for a quick squeeze before trailing his hands back and up to the vampire's shoulders. Kneading the hard, corded muscles he asked, "I don't want to know what that's made of, do I?

"Relax, Pet - s'not human." Spike's voice was shaded with a tired smile.

"But that is skin, right?" Xander's hesitant gesture toward the document fell short of physical contact, perhaps because of the dubious material that the prophesy was written on or because that Spike had been handling it as if it were made of cobwebs.

"Yeah. Vamp. Lasts longer than just about anything they used to record on in the day this was created. Not as indestructible as stone tables, but the ink doesn't fade." Spike said, leaning back into the warm, strong hands and closed his eyes in pleasure.

"How? I mean... wouldn't the vamp... dust when... How did they keep the skin?" Xander stopped his loving ministrations and cocked his head to see clearly into Spike's eyes, looking innocent and adorably confused.

Spike quickly weighed the enjoyment he got from making Xander go 'ewww' against an uncomfortable desire to keep those eyes wide and naive. But Xander wasn't naive, not with being Hellmouth born and bred and if he
weren't as knackered as Spike, he would have pieced it together by now. Rather than letting his mate either work it out on his own or worse, go ask Angel, Spike said. "Simple, luv. You just tattoo your words on the vamp,
remove his skin, then dust him."

Instead of an 'ewww', Xander shuddered and looked quickly into his lover's eyes. Spike was still amazed to see the flare of protective passion flash across Xander's warm brown eyes. Never mind that he was the Big Bad, never
mind that he was a soulless, chipless, evil undead killer, Xander still reacted to any threat to Spike as if he could somehow protect the vampire from the world. Oddly enough, when it was just the two of them and Xander
wrapped Spike in his warmth - like now - Spike believed he could.

"Maybe he volunteered, so that the information would be saved longer... maybe he wasn't dusted?" In an instant, Spike's fierce warrior was a boy, asking to be told that the world wasn't the cruel, self-serving place it was, and Spike actually considered feeding him that lie.

"Xan, luv, this... this prophesy, it was laid down by the Powers that Be, eh? The same ones Angel gets his marching orders from - the same ones who call the Slayer. You think they just let this bastard," Spike nodded at the skin, "loose? Dusting him would have been the compassionate thing to do, compared to keeping him around as a renewable supply of paper." Spike softened his words by soothingly stroking the side of Xander's troubled
face. "'Sides, was an evil undead bastard - don't you go jumping teams on me, Pet. You're allowed to take my side 'cause we're shagging, but I don't want you to turn all 'vampires're people too' on me."

"Umm.." Xander blushed and chuckled, "not going to be an issue."

"Any luck?" Wesley asked. He came through door while reading a fax, obviously he hadn't gone to bed, . When he looked up at the men sharing the chair he backpedaled, "Er... that is.."

Xander laughed and Spike groused, "Too much luck. Like all Ephratian this shit has layers and layers of meanings. Trouble is there's no way to know how the illusions and metaphors have changed... Shakespeare and Springsteen are both written in English but translations have to take into account the cultural nuances and social mores of each writer."

Wesley stopped still, his eyes narrowed as Spike's accent has shifted. He cocked his head and started to ask a question but Spike hummed briefly as he looked at Xander and sang, "The street's alive as secret debts are paid, Contacts made, they vanished unseen, Kids flash guitars just like switch-blades hustling for the record machine, The hungry and the hunted explode into rock'n'roll bands, That face off against each other out in the street down in Jungleland." [4] Spike pulled Xander's arms around him and leaned back to enjoy Wesley's confusion.

"You were actually able to read it? In its original text?" Wesley stepped up to the table and picked up the notebook in which Spike had been mapping out his translation.

"Reading it's no problem, understanding it..." Spike shrugged and Xander squeezed tighter. His enjoyment of Wesley's open-mouthed amazement outweighed his previous caution. Even Rupert didn't know just how much time he had whiled away while babysitting Dru in learning various demonic tongues. This one belonged to his Sire and he would just have to trust Angel to keep any contact he still had with the Watchers to a minimum.

Spike had heard Angel's soft tread on the stairs up from his basement lair and was please to feel Xander tense behind him. Wesley, however, jumped slightly when the dark vampire spoke.

"Any luck?" Angel leaned against the door frame. He had evidently only come up to check on the prophesy research. He was barefoot and wore only loose silk drawstring pajama bottoms.

"Got you a better translation." Spike sighed, running his hands back though his hair and leaning into Xander. "Not sure it makes any more sense what with all the bleeding symbolic crap."

"It might make more sense if someone," Xander emphasized just who someone was by sinking his teeth into the muscle over Spike's collarbone, "fed and got some sleep."

"You've a one track mind, Pet. Like that about you, I do." Spike offered a tired leer and nuzzled Xander's neck. "What say we leave Peaches to pull his over-moussed hair out over this shit and have ourselves a nap?"

"Spike, I could spend all night on this - you know I can't read Ephratian," Angel said while puzzling over Spike's notes.

As Xander was dragging Spike over to the stairs, Spike called back. "S'not like you were gonna do anything but wank, Soulboy."

Angel growled.

"Did he just do Lurch?" Xander asked.

"Pet, Peaches wouldn't know the Addams Family if one of them bit him in is ass." Spike snickered.

"Well, that's a disturbing image." Xander said, and the two left taking the disconcerting scent of arousal with them.


[1] Flesh - Aerosmith

[2] I Wanna Be Sedated - Ramones

[3] Oh, Lord, Won't You Buy Me A Mercedes Benz - Janis Joplin

[4] Jungleland - Bruce Springsteen

Part seven

Lilah schooled her expression. It could be fatal to let the Diva know she was more trouble than she was worth. The plan was going to hell. They hadn't budgeted for this contingency. A routine security check had found the remains of Glorificus' two Anubian guards. She had beheaded one and impaled the other on his own sword. She hadn't even fed on the minions. The earliest prediction of her destabilizing to the point where she would need to feed was six months, which would have been plenty of time to carry out the firm's plans.

Acquiring such exotic attendants was expensive. The firm had plans to house a supply of disposable humans when the need arose but the preliminary reports Lilah's assistant had drawn up, based upon finding Glory naked in the arboretum shrieking that 'heads would roll' was not good. There had to be some way to distance herself from his disaster.

Lilah walked into the richly appointed suite. There was no sign that it was on an upper floor of the firm's office building. It looked like any five-star hotel - provided that hotel offered an extremely exotic catering menu. The room was banked with flowers, large vases overflowing with lilies. Silver sparkled in dainty serving dishes, an ornate tea service and ice buckets stocked with bottles of champagne and beaded with water droplets. Glory was the jewel in this opulent setting. She lay naked on her stomach on the white silk divan while a small blue Noxxian kneaded her back by walking in place on it.

"I'm bored," the Goddess spat out as soon as Lilah entered.

"You have only to ask and it will be provided, most magnificent one," Lilah smiled, deeply grateful that telepathy wasn't one of this bitch's powers.


Spike had got up to see Dawn off and to make sure that the this Stephanie and her mother were still human. Instead of getting to go back and snuggle with his warm sleeping mate he had ended up going with the Poof to shake down some snitch about one of his bleeding-heart cases.

The walk back through the sewers had been filled with awkward silences and feeble attempts to talk while avoiding the sensitive subjects like Dru, the past, Xander and the future. Spike had to forcibly remind himself that dusting his Sire would get him in dutch with Red and the Nibblet, if not Xander. They emerged in the catacomb of the hotel's single-level parking garage. On the far side from the gated tunnel entrance, past closely spaced support pillars, was a heavy bag and free standing weights. From the scent of sweat, Gunn and Xander had been passing time down here.

Spike and Angel walked toward the indistinct sound of voices. They slowed their strides simultaneously at the sound of the young men's conversation.

"...she trusted me to make everything all right - I let her down. She should never have been involved with the fight." Gunn's voice was raw with suppressed emotions. As Angel and Spike peered around the pillar they saw Xander and Gunn sitting on the floor, their backs against a wall passing a bottle of green liquid back and forth.

"You didn't know - no one can. That friend of mine - the one I told you about - if he had known what was out there, I don't know that he would have been any more careful... hell, I don't know if he would have fought the good fight or hid under the bed. Jessie was always a hell of a lot smarter than me. But I do know that if he had been asked before....before it h.. happened... he would have told me to stop him from hurting anyone."

"But that doesn't make it easier," Gunn said. His voice was toneless and battle-weary and he shared a knowing look with Xander.

"No. Not one little bit." Xander swallowed hard. He said, "I was fifteen when Giles told me... 'that's not your friend, that's what killed him' but even then I knew that that wasn't the whole truth... sure there was something else, something... dark and hungry looking out of his eyes, but part of Jessie was there too - at least some part of him. I knew that. Maybe not his soul, but something that made him Jessie and not the guy down the street... that was what made me hesitate, made me unable to..." Xander cleared his thoat. "That's what haunts my dreams too. The look in his eyes, so familiar and so different. My hesitation could have gotten Cordy killed, or me. If he hadn't been shoved..." Xander handed the bottle back to Gunn.

"You were fifteen?" Gunn said.

"So was he." Xander said

Gunn passed the almost-empty bottle back and asked, "You really think that there's something there - beside the demon - in all vamps?"

"There has to be, man - Angel's proof of that." Xander said

"Huh?" Gunn looked at Xander like he doubted the young man's sanity.

"Look. I should probably just shut up - more than anyone, I don't want to add to your pain. I know how it haunts you - it doesn't ever really stop and I so don't want to make things worse..."

"No. I get it. It's okay, I really want to know what you think." Gunn said.

"Angel - the souled version, he's really into paying for his sins, right?" Xander said.

"Yeah, I guess once an 18th-century Catholic always an 18th-century Catholic - he's real big on penance." Gunn said.

"Whatever. So, if he, all of him, was evicted out of the body during the bad old days....what's he got to repent? All that death, all that mayhem, that's someone else's sin - the demon, the powers that be, Darla; doesn't matter who, just that he wasn't there. If he wasn't even there, how could he be responsible?" Xander drained the bottle of sports drink and idly spun the plastic bottle on a fingertip.

As Gunn thought deeply, Spike watched Angel's reactions to the conversation. His face had been unguarded as the two humans speculated about the nature of souls and conscience. Gunn slowly asked, "You don't like Angel, do you?"

"Deadboy?" Xander smiled and shook his head. "Don't let this get out, but he's okay - he's really grown up."

Gunn's open laughter rang and hid Spike's snicker at the incredulous look that flashed across Angel's face. Gunn gasped for air and said, "But, Cordy said..."

"Dude, I was fifteen - this tall, buff guy was stepping out of the shadows, spouting cryptic comments and stealing all the attention, of course I hated him. He looks the same as he does now when he was stalking Buffy. Buffy was exactly the same age as Dawn is now when she came to Sunnydale. That would be like you making a play for Dawn. Which, by the way, I would so kick you ass for - we clear? That was gross even before I found out he had a couple centuries on Joyce and lacked a pulse... To tell the truth, once I found out about the vampire shit he could have been a saint and ... you know? He got to have friends, he got the girl, he got a shot at redemption and Jessie got swept up off the dance floor and tossed out with the trash." Xander tossed the empty bottle, banked it off the wall and the rim of a waste can. It echoed hollowly in the silence.

Angel turned away and bolted back toward the entrance to the tunnels. Spike grabbed him by the shoulder just before he reached it, turning him around and shoved him against the wall. "He's entitled to an opinion - he lived through that." Spike's hissed words were accompanied by a baleful yellow-eyed glare.

"D... don't you think I know that?" Angel choked. "If I had just stood up to Darla..."

"You? Couldn't have happened, not then. When you were able you did. Souled or unsouled, you dusting her was the most surprising thing you ever did, Peaches. Still have trouble believing it. You were always so whipped," Spike said.

"You know... she's..." he said.

"Yeah, Dru said something semi-coherent regarding that. Just... don't say anything near Xander, eh? Last thing I need is him saddling up a posse of his minions to go hunt the bitch," Spike leaned against the wall beside Angel. He lit up a smoke and before pocketing the pack offer one to his Sire. To his surprise the older vampire accepted.

After a moment of listening to each other simulate breathing as they recycled the smoke, Angel said, "Xander has minions?"


That evening, Angel looked down to hide his amused smirk at his Childe's impatient fidgeting. They stood in the garish illumination of the West Hollywood strip outside a nondescript door nestled between a dance club and a sex shop. Rather Angel stood, Spike paced and smoked, alternately checking his watch and scanning the street in the direction from which the others were expected. Graham and Riley had gone into the unmarked door of the restaurant with Lindsey only a few moments ago. Angel waited outside, not
liking Cordelia to be walking in this neighborhood even with Xander and the witches. Spike was with him in hopes of seeing Xander sooner.

The witches had kidnapped Xander out of bed four hours ago. As soon as Dawn had been picked up by her friend, Cordelia had mapped out her power-shopping plan and dragged off Willow and her girlfriend. They had returned that afternoon to drop off packages and enslave Xander as bag-boy/valet to give them all a chance to catch up on gossip. Spike had slept two more hours and then started bouncing off the walls and driving everyone in the hotel crazy as he bitched about everything except his Xanderless state.

The red-gold glow of the nearby shop caressed the sharp angles of his Childe's face, making soft shadows and darkened his unnatural hair color to some semblance of its original shade. Spike truly was a work of art. In flesh and form he outshone any of Angel's feeble attempts at art or creation. No mere drawing had ever captured the fierce beauty or violent tenderness that was this being. All the effort Angelus had heaped upon Drusilla's torment, or expended in teaching his cruel Penn were but a shadow of the jewel his mad daughter had plucked from the refuse in that London alley. Here was a demon unbridled by ritual or hierarchy, who had achieved infamy in a scant hundred years, even though he had been turned by a
madwoman - hardly more than a fledgling herself. Spike had from the beginning only paid attention to the rules so he would know what to break. Clawing his way to Master status before most fledges would be trusted to hunt on their own Spike had made a name for himself before he had seen his first decade. Angel shook his head. It was so easy to forget. To see the childlike impatience which he displayed now or the pout he used when manipulating Xander and to forget that here stood - or rather lounged - a legend . Spike had, in the space of Angel's contemplation, moved from kicking the tire of some parked BMW to sitting on its hood and leaning back against its windshield. A scuffed Doc Martin rested in front of him and a casually draped arm on his knee. He finished his cigarette, blowing the smoke out in an exasperated sigh as he tossed it into the street. A steely blue-eyed glare was turned on Angel and Spike's lips narrowed dangerously.

Fortunately for Angel, before Spike could relieve his boredom by beginning a round of Sire bashing, Cordelia's laugher drifted over the night sounds, heralding the arrival of the shoppers. Looking down the strip he spotted the four of them about a block away, strolling leisurely. The witches had their heads together sharing some secret. Cordelia, showing more tanned flesh than she covered in a red halter-topped sundress, was flashing her brilliant smile, obviously amused by something Xander had said. Angel smiled at the sight of them. The fact that they had live though half of what they had was amazing but the fact that they had come though it and could still enjoy life was a miracle. A day didn't go by when he didn't worry about Cordelia. When it had been just her and Doyle with him, Angel had always believed that she could walk away at anytime and be safe. Now that she had inherited the visions, the Powers That Be had effectively bound them together in the fight against evil. He hated that her fragile body was subjected to the pain that had knocked a half demon off his feet and he hated that her all-too-brief mortal existence was being spent in such a frightening and dangerous manner. She had nothing to atone for, yet she was with him every step of the way in his struggle for redemption.

She looked ahead and spotted him. Her face lit up and Angel felt an answering smile stretch across his face. He had come too close to losing her in Pylea. Since their return and Buffy's death they had been dancing around each other in sparring sessions and during late night research. Wesley seemed to think he was still trying to make up for the Darla debacle but Gunn had been shooting nervous glances at both of them, obviously due to the Angelus factor of his curse.

Xander seemed also to sense the change in his companion as he broke off his monologue with a knowing smirk. Xander looked down so Angel couldn't see what expression followed. The young man's hair was getting long and obscured most of his face when his head was tilted forward. His rolling gait had little of the bouncing stride that Angel remembered of the boy. His long legs were wrapped in a pair of black jeans and he wore a gauze shirt open at the neck and with its long sleeves rolled up his forearms. No, these were
not the kids Angel remembered from their sophomore year in high school - they were adults. Adults who had been tempered by adversity and grief. It was no wonder that they were turning heads as they moved effortlessly through the gathering club crowd.

Being West Hollywood, it wasn't at all unusual when a strange man, after watching Xander walk past, approached him and started talking. Spike went past in a blur and Angel pounced and put him into a head lock. Cordelia, who had been watching Angel, started to laugh and nudged the witches before pointing. Xander was blinking in confusion. His attention was on the young man attempting to pick him up and so remained oblivious to the source of his friends amusement. It apparently never occurred to Xander that he was being chatted up since he looked even more baffled when his new friend stepped closer.

Angel marveled that the brilliant mind, which was able to organize a civilian militia against both the forces of darkness and the secret government agency attempting racial cleansing had never served Harris well
in interpersonal relationships. Xander seemed to have a blind spot concerning his personal magnetism. It apparently never occurred to him that random strangers found him attractive.

"I'm not going to kill him, you tosser. Let me go, before..." Angel released Spike mid-threat. It was odd that he felt he could take his psychotic Childe at his word but he did.

Covering the distance between the two groups in a flash, Spike pulled Xander back flush against his chest and growled, "Mine!"

Xander turned his head slightly to look at Spike, and then turned back to the man he had been speaking to. He blinked, smiled, shrugged and said, "His."


The Hagan demons who owned and ran the restaurant had been contacts of Doyle. Angel had returned their half-human granddaughter to them after a local wizard had abducted her for dubious purposes. They were an excellent connection to the more mundane portion of the demon community. They had operated a safe-haven tavern on this site in one form or another over the past one hundred and fifty years.

Cordelia got the wide-eyed reaction from her friends she had apparently wanted. The witches were absorbed in the details of the decor and Xander was fascinated by the green flames on the open grill. After a baffled glance at the menu, Xander had whispered to Spike, "Order me something that isn't human, but won't kill me." The witches had followed his lead, only amending their request to include no meat. Wesley arrived late, having managed to persuade Fred to venture out as a sort of trial run for her excursion with Cordy and Dawn the next day. Gunn had bowed out but was planning to meet them later at Lorne's.

Apparently sometime during the morning shopping Cordelia and the witches had decided that they were going to get Xander on stage. He was currently not having any luck using puppy eyes to try and persuade Spike to defend him, or at least take his place.


Lilah was working late, having ordered in sushi. She was just biting into the spicy salmon when Gavin popped his head in without knocking. She loathed the little upstart. He had the nerve to imagine he was her rival. The manipulative bastard played the role of a sycophant but his ambition hung around him like a bad smell. He was young and ruthless but he was no Lindsey McDonald.

"I don't recall us having an appointment..." Lilah started.

"We don't. Just thought you could use my help," Gavin interjected smoothly.

Given his penchant to help himself to everything including the credit for others work Lilah didn't think that that was likely. "I really don't think you have the security clearance to help with any of my projects, Gavin."

Recognizing the frosty dismissal for what it was Gavin smiled and started to leave, but added just before closing the door, "Of course, Ma'am. I just thought you should know your project just hurled a Noxxian out of the forty eighth-floor window."

Part 8

They lingered over dinner. It seemed more intimate wedged around the table in the back booth than the long table had the night before. Though their number wasn't diminished much the conversation flowed more around the large circular table. Cordelia didn't seem to mind Lindsey coaxing Fred into the conversation as much, although Wes was keeping a sharp eye on the ex-lawyer. Willow had pointedly not sat next to Riley but overheard the young man apologizing to Spike. Hearing him admit to Hostile 17 that Xander had been right and that Spike's intervention, regardless of the motivation, had saved his life went a long way to dissuading her from the whole shovel concept. Although, she reflected, she would like to know what he had been referring to when he mentioned something regarding the 'fake stake'. Unfortunately,
that conversation had ended upon Xander returning from the men's room.

Lorne's club was close enough for them to walk to in the warm summer night. Cordy had said something about the neighborhood being dangerous but judging how Angel was shadowing her Willow was willing to bet she couldn't be safer. Squeezing Tara's hand and sharing a smile, she tried to put her concerns about Angel's curse out of her mind. She tried to appreciate a rare slaying-free night without an apocalypse to abort where she could just show off her girlfriend and relax with her favorite people.

Wes took Fred back to the Hyperion. He was going to join them later. Fred had had her fill of crowds and chose to call it a night rather than go with them to meet Gunn at the karaoke bar. She offered to wait for Stephanie 's mom to drop off Dawn and make sure she was safe.

Walking down into Caritas was like stepping into some old movie, except everything wasn't in black and white. Actually, Willow thought it was quite colorful; not only the decor but the patrons were vivid and memorable. There was a six-armed woman with two mouths singing close harmony with herself to "Mama He's Crazy" on stage . Lorne's attention was on the performer but a sleek, silver, androgynous demon, slightly taller than Xander, greeted them at the door and silently, with a nod, escorted them to a reserved section with three tables pushed together.

Angel took their order up to the bar. Cordy whispered to Willow that he had an ulterior motive and was bypassing the waiter so that he could check with one of his informants. It was nice that she and Cordelia had outgrown their... well, it hadn't been a rivalry. Willow was just relieved that now that all the forced structure of high school was gone that she and Cordy could treat each other like adults. The harder part was admitting she had been as much to blame for the roles they played as Cordy. Willow knew she had let her geeky insecurity trap her in the role of research girl. It had been so easy then to blame Cordelia for putting her there instead of admitting that being homework helper and book study girl had made her feel
safe in their very scary high school - even before they knew about the Hellmouth. When she thought back to her reaction to Xander and Cordy dating she realized she had been the one who was obsessed with labels and panicked when Cordy had stepped out of the stereotype. Deep down she had known she would never lose Xander's friendship but had told herself that was why she had reacted so badly. The truth was uglier. She hadn't been ready to take off her mask and if Cordy was willing to admit that there was more to Queen C than a vain, shallow beauty queen, people might have wanted Willow to look behind the computer nerd on the honor roll.

Shopping with the bitch queen of Sunnydale had been eye-opening. Cordy had known every resale shop and bargain basement in the metro area. She could assess the store with a glance and had pulled them out of a couple before Willow had seen more than the inside of the door. But she had found a lovely jacket for Tara in the perfect color.

Willow was a little in awe of how independent Cordy was. She couldn't have imagined doing what Cordy had done. The thought of picking up and relocating to a different city, getting an apartment alone . Well, sure, there was Dennis, she thought, which was probably nice when you heard a noise in the middle of the night, but Cordy paid all the bills. It seemed so grown up, more so than it had when Xander had gotten his own place. Willow was kind of dreading graduation, and not just due to crispy mayor flashbacks. If they kept up their course load, what with all the summer work, she and Tara would be graduating in the spring. She wasn't sure she was ready to start interviewing and, gasp, working. Tara read her mind, like always, and squeezed her hand under the table.

Cordy had been full of tips that, oddly enough, no longer sounded like put-downs. She had found several plain silk knit tees in Willow's size. When Willow pointed out that they weren't her style Cordelia said, "They're washable silk. First, silk wears like iron and the colors do not fade like cotton. Second, these have no style, they're a staple ,like flour. You build your style around them. You can wear them with jeans or a skirt and go casual or under a suit jacket. You should start building a professional wardrobe now, slowly, so you get just what you want. You'll need at least a week or two's worth of clothing to start a job, and the chances of your first paycheck covering it are slim. Use your accessories to personalize your style. You buy if an item meets three requirements and only then; if the fit is perfect, if the color is flattering and if it has classic lines. Nothing dates clothing faster than froufrous. Trust me, it kills me to think how much I spent on trendy crap that I can't wear because it's so out of style."

Cordy had sighed wistfully over lattes before they headed back to the hotel to get Xander. Tara had been talking about an internship she had applied for in a holistic healing center just outside Sunnydale. Willow didn't know what had surprised her more, Tara pausing mid-story and saying to Cordelia, "You can always go part time," or Cordy's sad headshake. It was easy to forget how well Cordy had done in school - she had always hidden her intelligence - and college, although always treated as a given, had been more of a social event in the brunette's plans .

Cordy sighed again now as looked around for Angel and their drinks. She had only ordered a mineral water and Willow wondered if she were impatient for its arrival because she wanted to take something for her headache. Tara seemed to have warmed to the outgoing brunette and in an uncharacteristic burst of stubbornness, while they had shopped, had refused to take one more step until Cordelia sat down and rested. Cordy had tried to brush it off, but had finally admitted how much pain the visions were causing her and how scared she was.

Just as Cordy started to stand, Spike said, "You stay with your mates, Princess, I'll find the bloody tosser." He stood in his seat, which was behind the table and against he wall, and vaulted the table in a powerful
jump. Landing perfectly in the aisle he bowed to the smattering of applause and crossed the crowed lounge, heading for the bar.


Buffy was wide-eyed with panic. After running out the strange room into a richly paneled corridor, she found herself at the far end of a hallway lined with locked doors. She wrapped the sheet tighter around herself and forced the lock on the closest door. It was an office. The room she had been in before seemed like a private home or a hotel, but once she had reached the corridor it had seemed like the same building she had tried to get out of before. She didn't remember anything about her last escape attempt after
reaching the ground floor. Failing to find a door which lead out she had just reached the point where she was going to throw something though one of the thick glass-like walls and suddenly, bam, she was laying naked while a little blue demon gibbered and jumped up and down on her back. The door opened on a dim spacious office with a wide view of the L. A. skyline. As she frantically bolted to the phone on the desk, she thought about the demon who had been with her when she appeared in the room. She wondered if he had
teleported her from the atrium to that room and if there were any more of the little blue creatures. She hadn't meant to hurl him through one of the windows, just to get him off her. Of course, it could be lucky she had slayed him before he spit something icky or stabbed her with some hidden poison. Maybe he worked for the big dog-headed guys with the swords.

She dialed home and was startled to hear that the line was no longer in service. As she wondered what had happened to the sword she had taken from the guard demons, her eyes strayed to a page-a-day calendar on the desk. August 31, 2001. Shit. Giles, she thought, I have to find Giles. There was no answer at Giles' home number and the magic shop line was busy. Willow wouldn't still be in the same dorm room, and then she thought, Xander. Buffy dialed the familiar number and almost screamed when his machine picked up after three rings. What the hell was the etiquette for this? Should she say 'Hi, not dead. Yeah, I know its been like, six months, but could you come get me? I'm in some demon-infested high rise in downtown L. A. and I really need a ride home - and a shower 'cause some creepy blue guy had his toes on me.' No, that would send him into full-out babble mode when he got the message. Speaking of message, this was just weird. Xander's voice said, "This is the Xand-man. If you want anything to do with Luther Construction, contact Abby at the site during normal business hours. If you need anything to do with the COTH," and there was an awkward pause, "er, gaming group, contact Jonothan at the magic box or his pager. If you want Spike, too bad, he's mine. But feel free to leave a message anyway. We'll be out of town until September 7th. Oh, and if you're planning on robbing my place, my best friend's a witch and you'll be turned into a potted plant, which won't get watered because, hey, I'm going to L. A."

She started to dial the magic shop's number again only to morph into Glorificus. Glory shrieked as she tore the sheet from her body. The receiver of the phone crushed under the power of her delicate fist. When she jumped up and down, the floor of the building shook. She shoved the desk and it crashed halfway through the opposite wall. She whirled as Lilah entered the office, "You. Said. He. Was. Gone!"


Spike sidled up to Angel and said, "Pet, you should have sent the drinks on over, your little girl smells of pain."

Angel whipped his head around to look at Cordelia. Before he could start over to her Lorne said, "Torsten, honey, chop chop. Can't have our guests wasting away now." The silent silver demon bowed with a smirk and carried a try far too large and heavy for a human to lift over to the VIP area. "So, muffin," Lorne addressed Angel, "just here to wow the out-of-town family or looking for info on that prophesy you mentioned?"

"Actually, I was wondering if you had heard anything on that story that Bennie was telling when I got here?" Angel said.

"What about how a 120 lb blueberry splattered on to the pavement outside of everybody's favorite evil law firm? Granted, Noxxians tend toward the lighter side of darkness, but anyone working upstairs would have been screened. Still, not their usual way to dispose of the hired help. Why?" Lorne lounged against the bar as he spoke and lifted his wrist to shoulder level. He held his empty hand in the shape of a glass and didn't so much as glance at it. After a moment his red eyes narrowed and he turned his head just as Torsten returned and slipped a Sea Breeze into his waiting hand. The smirk was back as the silver demon slipped behind the bar.

Ignoring the bartender, Lorne said to Spike, "That's a lovely necklace. I don't recognize the stone, what is it?"

"Silicon," Spike said flatly, draining his glass and nodding to Torsten for a refill.

Angel was torn. He wanted to find out what Lorne had heard about the incident over at Wolfram and Hart, but he wanted Cordelia to enjoy her time with her friends. She had always been surrounded by people in Sunnydale, and though she had made quite a few acquaintances during her arduous auditions, the nature of their work isolated her almost as much his demon did Angel. He wanted her to have a chance to just be a normal young woman visiting with her old chums and not drag her into yet another life-or-death situation. Surely whatever was going on could wait until the Scoobies returned to Sunnydale. Spike was obviously not happy about being reminded about the chip, although he had been frighteningly reasonable about Angel taking in two of the commandoes who had captured him. Angel suspected that Spike was keeping close tabs on him to make sure that his humans didn't get dragged into any local animosity centered around the agency.

After how well the dinner had gone last night he hadn't been prepared for Willow shifting from foot to foot out side the door to his suite early in the morning. She had followed him back to his office, saying much but communicating little. Angel had just considered sending for Xander to translate when Wes came down from one of the guest rooms still wet from his morning shower. It was all Angel could do not to physically restrain the Brit from giving the already bouncing Willow coffee before they sat down to sort through Willow's news.

After a few more minutes of beating around the bush and apologizing and explaining it was just second nature, not that she didn't trust Angel, but as she had clarified, Xander had fast and firm rules about a secure perimeter, Willow had whispered, "You have bugs."

"Well, it's an old hotel. We have a service, I could call..." Angel had been at a loss as to why this would shake the girl up so until he had seen Wesley's eyes widen and then look suspiciously around the office.

"No, oh, well, we cleaned it's just I thought you should know... It was just a little spell, I could set up something stronger and leave you... well, kind of the magical equivalent of a virus scan, er... I figured you didn't know, what with them being of a techno-magic blend, " she had added hurriedly.

"Listening devices, Angel. She found..." Wes turned a questioning look on Willow.

"Mostly listening, lucky you're a vampire... Oh, not lucky for you, but... well, if you had more mirrors around there would have been visual access as well as sound. Someone went to a lot of trouble... Is everything okay? Is there anything I can do? Angel, are you in trouble? It's just if it's dangerous... We'll all help of course, but Xan will freak if we don't relocate Dawn. He's got this wicked maternal thing going and Spike will pull you apart if you keep him in the dark... He was like that even before we lost Buffy," she said with a wince. She still tiptoed around Buffy's name where he was concerned.

Watching his impatient Childe scowl into his drink, Angel remembered how good it had felt to have Spike at his side when he had gone to check some sources as to where the listening devices had come from and how they might have been set up. The thought that they might have been there ever since their trip to Pylea was disconcerting. Leaning back on the bar, Angel was treated to the sight of Xander slipping through the crowd and heading for the bar. In Angel's opinion Xander's hair was getting far too long to leave loose. Overlong and scruffy, it had dried in soft waves that were only partly out of the collar of the white gauze shirt he had slipped over a black tank top. Paired with dark black jeans the ensemble little resembled the bright primary colors Xander had preferred when Angel knew him.

"Hey, Deadboy, all this partying cutting into your brooding schedule?" Well, he might look different but it was the same old Xander. He let Angel buy him a beer and groped Spike before heading over to chat with Lorne and be introduced to the bartender of the week.

Angel had only intended to make small talk and had meant the remark as a compliment when he had commented on how much Xander had changed. Spike growled at him and said, "Would you lay off! Know him? You don't know him - you never knew any of them - all you ever saw was her. Which is typically blind of you - they're so much of who she was."

He had loved Buffy but the Scoobies held him forever frozen in their minds as her angst-ridden vampire boyfriend. He would take it from humans but not from someone who should know him better. "Don't bring this back to Buffy..."

"I'm not, but you were so obsessed with her you never saw him. Do you remember coming back to the mansion and raging about the Slayer's white knight, that night he thwarted you at the hospital? You went on and on, told me all about the time he forced his way into your lair, the smell of fear rolling off him, and shamed you into helping the Slayer fight the Master," Spike said.

Angel was almost relieved. Of course, Spike would see all things in how they related to Xander. He wasn't blind to the way Willow had been watching him and Cordelia. He was glad Spike had not felt the need to make public everyone's concerns about his sex life and the state of his soul. So he was more than willing to let Spike say his piece, even if his impetuous Childe would insist on painting him as the villain to Xander's shining example. "I never said shamed..."

"Oh, no - not the might Angelus. Cor, I can just see it; a skinny, scared kid with nothing but a wooden cross and stones twice the size of yours..." Spike turned and leaned next to him, smirking and obviously enjoying
whatever mental images his twisted imagination was providing.

"Your point?" Angel tried to sound bored but was having trouble suppressing an answering smirk.

"Did you see him, really? Angelus, he was fifteen when you were too 'afraid' - wasn't that what you told the Slayer? - to go with her to hunt her lost friend in the tunnels under the cemetery." Spike's voice had softened from his usual derisive tone. Shades of William's original accent colored it and he seemed serious.

"He told you?" Had Buffy shared that conversation with her friends? He wondered. It wasn't one of his proudest moments. He had still been deluding himself that he could remain in the shadows and merely point her in the right direction. Buffy may have been reluctant to embrace her destiny as the Slayer, but Angel had needed to be dragged, fighting it all the way, to the path of redemption.

"Willow," Spike said with a shrug and set his empty glass down on the bar. "Fifteen and he went down into the tunnels with Buffy to find his friend and you the big strong vampire...

"Spike - " Angel said. This was neither the time nor the place for them to get into this.

"Fifteen when he had to dust the same friend to save that cheerleader of yours," Spike continued.

"Spike - " Angel knew it was futile. Spike was relentless. If Angel didn't stay and listen the blond would be shouting it from the top of a table soon.

"Sixteen when he bullied you into taking a stand against the Master. Seventeen when he decided to spare Buffy the decision and tried to keep her from knowing she was killing someone she loved. Eighteen when he led tots he used to play with into battle against an ascending demon. Nineteen when he stormed the Initiative and risked his life and his sanity in that soul-melding spell. Twenty when he stood against a hellgod without a prayer. Did you ever see? Any of them? They were kids. He's not yet twenty-one and you were following his orders in that dust-up back in the Dale," Spike finished in that oddly vulnerable voice.

His humans, Angel thought, William the Bloody has indeed claimed the Slayer's team as his own. Angel shook his head with rueful acceptance and then realized something Spike had just said, "He's not twenty-one? Spike, I just gave him beer."

"Relax, you pillock. October. Hey, you didn't give me beer," Spike chuckled.

Angel smiled back, oddly glad to have his Childe at his side. "Spike...You want a beer?"


Part 9

The crackling blue light that had surrounded Glorificus when she ransacked the atrium had shorted out much of their monitoring equipment. It was bad enough that they now had to see the goddess to know what she was up to, but this inconvenience left them amazingly vulnerable to their own people. The last thing they needed was some enterprising snake, like McDonald had been, getting his hands on sensitive material. Speaking of snake, Murrow slipped into Lilah Morgan's office unannounced.

Linwood Murrow rarely came to the thirty-sixth floor. It was the highest of the junior partner floors and Lilah had been awarded a coveted spot there shortly after Lindsey had jumped ship. Security was now the only staff present besides Lilah, and a few industrious sycophants. That last little temper tantrum Glorificus had thrown had damaged the structural integrity of the forty-eighth floor and caused malfunctions in both the main and one of the backup electrical systems. Combined with the damage from her previous attempt to amuse herself, upper management had ordered the building evacuated. They had cited concerns for the safety of the staff as their reason, as if the well-being of the janitorial staff was of great importance. Murrow himself would be more concerned with the apparent breakdown in security. Now that all the monitors were dark, he had ordered foot patrols but must be concerned with who would police the security staff. The opportunities for internal espionage were endless, and must seem a little too convenient to management if Linwood was checking up on her at this hour.

"As I recall, your budget for this project didn't mention destroying the building," he said.

"Linwood." Lilah acknowledged his presence, but was rubbing the bridge of her nose and resting both elbows heavily on her desk. "Power's a tricky thing." She lifted her head from her hand and glared at him. "She wants to see the ritual. She said we screwed up. She's sure 'he' is back."

This 'project' was Murrow's folly. Lilah was just unfortunate enough to have won the prize of working for him. It had made sense when they considered reining in the energy that had been released when Glory lost her corporeal form in this realm. For the goddess, it was surely more appealing to have sentience and cognizance. It would enable her to once again start building power, and in time perhaps lower the right wall, to if not to get back to her own world, to at least get to another which had more powerful beings to feed on. All the firm's precogs had been adamant that they would need her ability to punch into other dimensions sometime within the next six months. But Lilah was beginning to doubt that the building would still be standing by then.

"We can't allow that. She'll know..." Murrow said, as he crossed to the sidebar to help himself to the liquor Lilah kept for clients.

"I know that! We followed the ritual to the letter, but somehow she'll be able to tell that the sacrifice didn't work. Instead of a vampire as her corporeal form we ended up with a pile of dust," Lilah said. "No matter what we show her on paper she will know... I'm surprised she hasn't figured it out already."

"Are you sure she hasn't? She's not acting rationally." Linwood stopped in front of the window; whether to contemplate his reflection or watch the lights of the city, Lilah didn't know. Now, he was worrying about what the Diva knew. He couldn't have worried about this before they had sucked her back into their world with a death sentence hanging over her head? Which, without a host to ground her consciousness, was just a matter of time.

"Did she ever act rationally? I'm even more uncomfortable with the six-month window now that I've met her. Until her energy begins to dissipate due to
the lack of a host, she is damn near invincible." Lilah rose to pour herself a drink.

"Not so - she was defeated somehow. Has she elaborated on what stopped her
from opening the portal?" He turned away from his reflection and looked at Lilah with dawning hope.

"She blames 'him', by which I gather her host screwed the pooch," Lilah said. Swirling the amber liquid in the short tumbler and wishing for ice, she added, "I wouldn't count on that kind of luck a second time."


Lindsey was having trouble dividing his attention between the soft-spoken witch he was conversing with and the rest of the activities going on at their table. There was a time he would not only have been able to do both with ease, but also monitor the rest of the club and mentally review his agenda for an early morning meeting. He was woefully out of practice. At least he hoped he was; the alternative was that the skills he had developed during his tenure at Wolfram and Hart only worked on evil lawyers. Mentally he groaned as he realized he was starting to use their bizarre turns of phrase in his internal monologues. He needed a drink.

Lindsey noticed Gunn struggling not to snort soda through his nose. Gunn and Xander shared an odd camaraderie. From first impressions, the young men appeared to have little in common - one from the an inner city neighborhood blighted by both crime and predators of the less mundane variety, the other from a sleepy little town and a clearly middle class background. One killed vampires, and the other slept with one. Yet they shared a blunt manner and love of the fight.

Both Xander and Gunn were making an effort to draw Miller and Finn into their conversation. Neither of Angel's newest employees possessed Xander's natural ability as a storyteller, but both listened with interest as he was recounting some tale of a beautiful Incan princess - who he had apparently dated in high school. Lindsey thought about mentioning that the last of the Incan princesses had perished hundreds of years ago, but figured if some exchange student had told him she was a princess it wasn't his place to disillusion the young man. His mind boggled, however, as he wondered how the young man had moved from a princess and Miss Cordelia Chase to the infamous William the Bloody.

Realizing he had lost track of the conversation, Tara said to Lindsey, just as Xander paused for breath, "You're making this all much more complicated than it is." Her girlfriend gaped at her and Xander grinned, mid-story.

"Pardon?" Lindsey was uncomfortably aware that he was now the focus of everyone's attention.

"You're trying to figure all this out, right? Who knows who and what it all means? We're friends. I know that the people you used to work for... they wouldn't understand, but I think you can. We're not as sinister as you think. We're just friends." Tara ended by lowering her lashes, and then looking up and shrugging. Willow smiled at her and squeezed her hand.

Xander, whose smile had grown while she spoke and seemed in danger of splitting his face said, "Cordy? You wanna give it a shot?"

Lindsey was, if anything, more confused. The stunning brunette flashed everyone one her bright smiles, including him. She continued to grin, albeit shark-like as she turned her attention fully on him. Her eyes were dancing with amusement and she folded her hands in front of her on the table. "Well, let's see." She winked at Xander. "You'll stop me if I mess up, right? Of course you will."

Xander leaned back, still smiling, and Miller and Finn leaned forward in anticipation of Cordelia's explanation.

"First, Willow fell for Xander, then Xander fell for Buffy, who fell for Angel, who fell right back at her. Then Xander fell for me, naturally, and Tara fell for Willow, who fell back, and Buffy fell for Riley, who fell back too. Then Spike fell for Xander, who apparently lost his mind and any sense of self-preservation and jumped him. And Riley fell for Graham, ditto, because apparently there's something in the water. And being that this is Hellmouth 90210, Lorne will eventually fall for Gunn, and Wesley, poor soul, will most likely end up with you." She smirked and looked over to Xander and said, "I intentionally left out the werewolf and the vengeance demon and the psycho-bitch-Slayer. Oh, and Xander's near-death adventures with Bug-Woman and Incan Mummy Girl."

That remark had Lindsey rethinking just how many of Xander's tall tales were true.

"And Dru," Willow said, smiling at Spike, who came up behind Xander and rested his hands on his mate's broad shoulders.

"I'm pretending that there is no Dru," Cordelia said. Turning her attention to Xander, she frowned with real concern and added, "You know, when she finds out you stole her honey... she's not going to be offering to turn you and telling you your face is a poem. She'll drain you."

"What?" Spike growl. Lindsey winced as he saw how tightly the vamp gripped his mate's shoulders.

"Er..." Xander said, "I told you about that, right?"


Dawn sank into one of the lobby chairs. Fred laughed at her exaggerated exhaustion. She liked Fred. The girl - well, Dawn knew she was a young woman, but she seemed closer to her age than Willow and Xander - was almost a cross between Willow and Tara. She would babble on like Willow about stuff Dawn could barely follow and then abruptly blush and stutter like Tara. She was glad Cordy was bringing her with them tomorrow; it would mean they wouldn't have to act like grown-ups all the time.

Stephanie's mom had been relieved to find an adult, or adult-like, person to leave Dawn with, as she was in a hurry to return to Sunnydale. Fred did most of the listening as they went upstairs and started to get ready for bed. Dawn gave her a fast-forward version of the day.

Dawn went into her room and changed into her favorite pajama bottoms. They were pink and had little yellow fortune cookies on them. Truthfully, they had been Buffy's, but Dawn remembered buying them on that last trip to Old Navy the girls had gone on with Joyce. She and Fred laughed when they met in the bathroom that their rooms shared, since they both wore the same pink Victoria Secret's tee shirt that said 'Angel' in silver script.

They were laughing too hard to brush their teeth as Dawn made up an impromptu cheer that ended with "Go, Brood-boy!" Suddenly, Fred wasn't laughing. She crouched down in the small space between the sink and the toilet, her wide eyes frantically scanning the room. "What's wrong?" Dawn whispered, hunching down herself. Year of experience, or at least invented memories of experience, taught her to always assume everything was dangerous.

"Someone's here," Fred whispered back.

Dawn started to listen then could almost hear Xander's voice saying, 'run if you can, but if you can't, hide - then figure out what's after you.' She looked at Fred and said, "Come on."


Xander inhaled deeply. The air felt cooler after the stuffy club. He was glad that they had decided to take a walk to talk in private. They weren't fighting, not really. Spike had stalked ahead of him but Xander figured he was just enjoying the drama. They hardly ever fought. Snarked? All the time. Bickered? Sure, just another form of foreplay. With Anya, he had always expected her to someday start acting human, to get with the program. But, Spike? Yeah, right. Xander smiled to himself. His thumbs were hitched in the back pockets of his jeans, a distinct disadvantage over baggy cargos, into which he could have shoved his hands in the pockets.

He noticed Spike unobtrusively looking into the windows of the shops they passed. Since the blonde was deprived of the privilege of seeing himself, Xander figured it was his way to make sure Xander kept his attention on his allegedly pissed-off lover. Not exactly a hardship, seeing that the one downfall of having Spike up close and personal as much as he was, was that Xander didn't get nearly enough chances to check out that ass. Well, if you didn't count all the quality naked time they spent.

Xander ambled along, not looking the least bit contrite for supposedly making time with another vamp. He hoped Spike was doing the fake-angry stalk in the direction of the hotel; it had been a long day. Several of the shops were open, which freaked him out since it was after midnight. Not just the mini-mart but a massage parlor, a movie house, and a tattoo and piercing emporium.

Xander paused to examine the colorful anime designs in the window. He had only meant to glance but some of the drawings were amazingly detailed.

"Not getting any of that kiddie stuff, are you?" Spike purred in his ear and slid his arms around Xander's waist. Obviously, short-attention-span boy had decided to forget how offended he had been that Xander hadn't shared the story of his encounter with Drusilla. "Should get a spike, luv, one dripping with blood."

"I have a Spike and if I wanted you dripping with blood I'd open a vein," Xander murmured and leaned back into Spike's arms.

After Spike was able to pull his attention away from Xander's neck, he seemed as fascinated by the photos and drawings as Xander. "Let's go in, Pet."

"No, no," Xander said, shaking his head and digging in his heels. "I know you. You'll kiss me until my brains leak out my ears and I'll end up doing something stupid."

"Xander." Spike nibbled on Xander's ear lobe, sucking the tiny bit of flesh between his blunt teeth.

"Umph," Xander gasped and clarified, "Spike, I am morally opposed to paying people to hurt me."

"Er?" Spike pulled his face away and gave Xander a questioning look.

"Needles, ergo oww," Xander said.

"How about me?" Spike asked, cocking his head.

"No crisis of conscience at all in paying someone to hurt you. Let's go." Xander grabbed Spike's hand and pulled him into the shop.


Six months. Lilah stared out the window. Linwood, of course, had called it a night after dumping the Diva back into her lap. Home to his wife, fifteen years younger than he was supposed to be, and a perfectly groomed trophy picked from the cream of the debs ten years ago. Susan resembled his physical age now and would most likely be traded in within the next five years. He'd do the same with the next one, provided he stayed in the good graces of the firm. Disposability like that was one of the reasons Lilah willingly squandered her Friday nights pursuing her career. Sure, she was just as likely to get thrown to the wolves here, but at least then it would be the result of her own actions and not on the whim of some creature like Linwood.

Glory was unstable. Quite the understatement, but it needed to be addressed. Lilah had spent the better part of the evening - when not playing nanny, guard, press secretary and gofer for the Diva - reviewing the projected time frame of the degeneration of the goddess' cognitive processes. Their best guess when the planned host disintegrated from the influx of power had been a full year before she would have to be put in receivership. If the recent incidents were any indication, they would be lucky to keep her lucid for the full six months.

It was time to hedge her bets. Lilah moved purposefully to her desk and pulled her rolodex up on her computer. She began to sort through her contacts, looking for another way to open a portal.


Xander held Spike at arm's length as he examined his new piercing. The harsh fluorescent lights accentuated his lover's extreme pallor. The two bars which now bracketed Spike's scarred brow seemed jarring and new. Spike had opted for niobium barbells because he could get the cool matte black, so that they wouldn't reflect any light while on patrols. They did look good, and Spike hadn't even flinched when they had been inserted. Xander had shut his eyes and flinched in anticipation - twice. Spike had assured him it didn't hurt and had done his best to talk Xander into piercing a nipple. Xander tried to imagine wearing something as obvious as Spike's piercing to the site and couldn't. He just didn't have Spike's brazenness, which he figured must be necessary to carry off this look without appearing to be a total zeppo. Of course, he could always get a less-visible piercing, like Spike wanted, if he got extremely drunk.

"S'not permanent," Spike whispered into his silent contemplation. "I can take it out anytime and it'll heal right up."

"No, I like it." Xander blushed at the thought of the hemostats that had pinched Spike's brow at a more intimate and easily concealable spot. "I think it's sexy. Can't wait until Dawn sees it. Er... Back me up here, Dawn is not piercing anything until she is sixteen - come on, say it with me."

Spike chuckled and leaned into a kiss, pulling Xander into his arms. The staff was apparently immune to PDAs among their clients and didn't so much as glance over from their own private conversation at the two men kissing.

They stepped out onto the night sidewalk as Xander was once again vetoing the idea of getting 'the property of Spike' tattooed on his ass. Spike pretended to pout and Xander pretended to believe it was real.

A short distance from the brightly lit strip of stores they passed a small park. Xander jumped up onto the retaining wall and walked its narrow waist-high ledge and Spike followed beside him on the sidewalk. Their conversation veered from their impressions of the fang gang and plans on what to do while in L.A., to the politics of the Hellmouth and whether or not Giles would think they were checking up on him if they called home.

Not unsurprisingly, the subject of Angel and Angelus came up. "So... How does that work?" Xander asked, and abruptly sat down on the end of the wall.

"Huh?" was Spike's coherent reply, which Xander thought was understandable, since the vampire had probably assumed that he tripped and been preparing to catch him.

"Well..." Xander looked up at Spike. "If I understand it, Darla gets dusted, the lawyers from hell suck her back into her human form... not any human form, but Darla-the-hooker from way back, currently dying of VD, but she's alive. Why? I mean, why not take any random girl and have the demon formerly know as Darla inhabit that corpse?"

"Wouldn't have been the same. Definitely wouldn't have had the same pull on Peaches." Spike scuffed his Docs and didn't meet Xander's eyes. The vampire had been shocked that Xander knew about Darla, but Cordy had spilled that when she came to Sunnydale. Xander was more concerned with Spike and his reaction to the conversation. Spike often proclaimed that he was evil and that he was a demon, but he rarely talked about what that meant to him. Most of the time Xander was okay with that - it wasn't like he went on and on about what being human meant. But then, Spike had an idea of what being human was - Xander didn't want to remain completely in the dark about the most important being in his life.

"Do... do you remember?" Xander felt himself blush and pulled Spike closer by his belt loops. Spike now stood between his knees, but was still doing the bashful examination of his boots. "I know you remember being William, or rather, remember what William knew and felt before he died... but... do you remember a time before you were a vampire? The part of you that makes you a vampire... your demon, does that part remember a time before... I'm not saying this right..."

"No, Pet, I understand," Spike whispered and buried his face in Xander's hair, still not meeting his eyes. "It's... part of me. I mean, the memories don't fade, they're just... this would be easier if you had ever done hallucinogens."

"What?" Xander pulled away with a startled laugh. Even in the dim light he could see how intense Spike's eyes were. He reached up and fisted the loose blond locks, pulling his lover down for a kiss. "Translate, please," he murmured.

"See.. when I look at you like this... well, you look eminently fuckable, but pretty much how you would have looked to me when I was human. When I shift to my true face, what you lot call my game face, I see other stuff; heat, movement, even a bit of mage sight - just enough to tell if someone is sporting a glamour or whatnot. But I know how to interpret between the two types of sight, so I would recognize a photo of someone with my human eyes, even if in person I had only seen them with my demon eyes. But... in the before... I had... different senses, different ways of processing the input and I was in another realm with other physical laws."

"Hell?" Xander whispered.

"One of them... there's a lot of hell dimensions, luv. Some are horrific, others are like... the world of perpetual Tuesday," Spike said and smirked.

"Eek," Xander said. He lifted his face to kiss his lover and groaned, not because of the pleasant grope Spike was initiating, but because his phone vibrated.

"If that's one of your fucking Children..." Spike growled.

Xander glanced at the number and keyed the phone on. "Dawn?"

Part 10

Wesley was deep in a conversation with a Noxxian when Lorne stopped by their tiny out-of-the way table. "Lovely, you better get ready to leave. I have a feeling your party is clearing out. You have trouble at home."

Wes apologized to his companion in the being's native tongue and laid a number of bills on the table, more than necessary to cover the drinks they had shared. He followed Lorne over to where Cordelia was still sitting with Lindsey and the witches. Wes felt eyes tracking their movement and turned to see Miller nudge Finn and nod to Gunn over by the bar. The three men moved with purpose and demons stepped out of their way as they too converged on the Seer. Angel appeared swiftly, standing behind Cordelia's chair, looking both concerned and protective.

"Fred called, you have uninvited guest. She was scared and not too clear, but she's not alone. She handed the phone to Dawn. Dawn said they would hide and that Spike and Xander were en route," Lorne said.

Almost as one they headed for the door. Lorne stopped Cordelia with a touch on the elbow. "I know everything will be fine, but call and let me know that, all right?"

"Sure. Of course, if Spike gets a hold of anyone going near Dawn, I am so billing him for the cost of cleaning." She smiled, but her eyes were worried.


Dawn added Xander to the mental tally of Scooby traits that Fred possessed. They had scampered up a cordoned off stairway to the more derelict levels of the hotel. Not content to just find an out-of-the-way closet and wait for rescue, Fred was setting traps. Quietly, she would scan a room and grab an object and then move to the next room. She had chosen a corner suite as their hide-out. Now Fred struggled to lift an old-fashioned fire extinguisher half as big as she was up almost to ceiling height.

"If you tell me what to do, I'll help," Dawn whispered.

Fred jumped as if she had zoned to some place inside her where she was alone in this. Dawn watched her swallow and wondered if she were trying to remember how to talk.

Unfortunately, once she focused on Dawn she not only would tell her what to lift or tie off, but ramble on in a disjointed whisper about the physical principles behind the traps they were rigging. She sounded a bit like Willow when she was thinking of combining two or more spells and somewhat like Xander when he was arming and assigning patrols. Either way, it was TMI and making Dawn more nervous.

Dawn was just glad they had managed two calls before the battery on her cell phone died. Xander was going to kill her if he found out she had drained most of it during the fashion show, IMing Stephanie, who had sat next to her.


The look on the vampire's face was one of shocked confusion as his companion suddenly dissipated in a cloud of ash for no apparent reason. Unbelievably, a human pushed him back against the black Mercedes they had requisitioned from the firm to come check on the hotel. Gavin had told them that the listening devices had all suddenly cut out in the early hours. Given the chaos that had plagued the security division, he wasn't surprised. This was supposed to be a routine mission, just wait outside while the sweepers went through and checked and replaced the bugs. If it hadn't been another vampire's lair the firm wouldn't have bothered to send vamps as look-outs.

The dark eyes of the human that held a gun to his throat were hard and crazed. The vamp knew all the faces of Angel's people, and this wasn't one of them. Must be one of the vigilantes that worked with Charles Gunn. The vamp almost smiled in anticipation - he was going to have a snack. The gun turned until it was just under his chin, pointing up toward his brain. Sure he was strong enough to toss this human a good twenty feet, but if the guy got off a shot, would he want to survive with a big hole in his head?

"It's a squirt gun, moron. Filled with holy water," the human said levelly. That was disturbing, the vamp thought. That, and the obvious lack of fear in the human's scent. "How many?" The gun began to burn against his neck and the vamp realized that if the human pulled the trigger he would be dust. "How many others? What's your mission? Make it quick or I go find out myself, and you'll join your friend."

"You won't shoot? Promise?" The vamp looked into the hard eyes of the human and wondered if he were dead either way.

"You have my word; if you tell me the truth, I won't shoot," the human said.

"Three. Technicians. They're to check the basement, the lobby and the two floors above it. This is just a security sweep. We," the vamp thought quickly, "we're part of a service. The owner hires us to monitor his security system."

"Any other sentries?" The human didn't blink at the lie, and the vamp hoped he bought it.

"No," the vamp said.

"What's the all-clear sign?" the human asked.

"What?" the vamp asked.

"How do you let who... ordered the sweep know that everything is fine?" the human asked.

"I file a report with my superior... Why do you need to know?" The vamp felt the stake and realized he was about to meet his partner's fate.

The last sound he heard before oblivion was a deep accented voice say, "Well, Pet, you kept your promise. You didn't shoot him."


Cordelia floored the gas pedal before taking the car out of park. Angel, of course, had dashed off to his car before the rest of them had made it out of the club. Gunn, Graham and Riley had run down the block to where Gunn's truck was parked and she had gotten Wes and the witches. Wes had parked Cordelia's car around the back of the club after taking Fred home. It seemed to take forever for the four of them to get in her little Neon. She swung out onto the main drag, cursing her father and missing the shiny red sports car she had had in high school. She knew Angel would get there first but hoped they would get there before the boys; the witches had the best shot at keeping down the body count. Fred might annoy her at times, but no one was hurting Cordelia Chase's family.

She saw a light change ahead and cut illegally through a gas station and out the other side, swinging back onto the street beyond of the paused traffic. Wes was braced in the front passenger side, hanging on to the 'oh shit' handle. The witches slid around the back seat, into each other and the doors. Cordelia spared a brief thought to the packages in the trunk and ran the next light.


Lilah waited for the elevator, then on a whim walked to the security station on that floor. She hoped that the guards had checked on Glorificus recently and she wouldn't have to risk a visit. She slowed as she heard voices arguing. Gavin was hissing out orders to one of the guards to send someone to check on his people.

"Well, well, you have people now? You are moving up in the world. What are you doing here Gavin? You're not on the list of people cleared to be in the building," Lilah said. She briefly turned her attention to the three security guards, who rapidly found some other place to be under her calculating stare.

"There... was a break down in communication. I was merely seeing that security continued to monitor an important project," he covered smoothly.

Lilah longed to make this obsequious boy sweat. How dare he think he could play in her league? Did he really thing she was as gullible as his last boss? His machinations had earned him a promotion but he had no idea the kind of players he was up against - she could work with that. Come to think of it, he might make the perfect fall guy when the Diva project went down the toilet. Now to just find out what kind of trouble he was up to on his own.

"Unfortunately for you, this kind of break in communications is fatal. I have the authority to have you executed for being here during a lockdown," Lilah said smoothly.

"What?" Gavin lost some of his oily smoothness as he looked around to see if they were alone.

"Don't even think about it," Lilah interrupted his train of thought. "What have you screwed up? I'm not having the senior partners find out I let a bumpkin like you stumble around a supposedly secure site."

"I haven't 'screwed up' anything. I sent a patrol over to sweep the Hyperion. Surveillance cut out this morning," he said.

"Surveillance?" Lilah hissed. "By whose authority did you plant surveillance equipment around Angel? This hasn't been sanctioned. You're going to end up as spare parts if 'your people' implicate Wolfram and Hart in any illegal activity. Angel is far too important for the likes of you to deal with - "

"MacDonald is back. He's staying in the hotel," Gavin said.

"What? Damn it! How long have you known?" Lilah glared.

"Less than twenty-four hours..." Gavin gulped at the look.

"And it never occurred to you that that might have something to do with your surveillance cutting out?" Lilah said.


Angel expected to see many things after finding the abandoned car out front, surrounded by the scent of holy water and two piles of dust. Two humans in black coveralls dangling upside-down from leg irons attached to the frame of the chandelier wasn't one of them. The chain that lifted and lowered the chandelier had been adjusted so that the human's faces hung at eye level. He knew the shackles would support their weight, having been designed to hold him, should it be necessary. However, he had his doubts about the ceiling joists of the old hotel, as his enhanced hearing picked up the ominous creaking from above.

The sound of scuffling from the stairway leading down to the parking garage and gym drew his attention away from the flailing humans. Xander manhandled his captive up the stairs and sent him sprawling onto the floor of the lobby. "Hey! Deadboy! Just in time for the fun. Let's make popcorn."

"Xander..." Angel's attention jarred once again, although he didn't take it entirely off of the wild-eyed young man, to the sound of Fred and Dawn coming down the stairs. They were helping Spike walk, one under each shoulder. Fred was apologizing at a rapid rate and Dawn was begging Spike not to kill Fred because Dawn liked her.

Xander's captive made the mistake of trying to stand, only to have one of Xander's large feet placed in the center of his back and push him flat onto the floor again. Xander ignored the man's cry as he was stepped on and crossed to his mate. "What happened?" Xander lead Spike to a couch and sent Dawn to get blood.

It was Fred, who came over to clutch Angel's arm, that broke his stunned speechlessness. "I'm so sorry I hurt your Childe, Angel. Really. I didn't mean to... well, it worked, the trap, and I meant that, but I didn't want that... not that I didn't want it to work, but I wanted it to work on whoever was here and well, he was here but he wasn't... I may have used to much centrifugal force..."

"We hid upstairs," Dawn clarified, as she sat on Spike's other side and offered him a mug of blood. "Fred and I made traps, she's real smart," Dawn directed the last comment to Xander, who merely nodded and stroked Spike's now-healing skull. "We rigged this real heavy fire thingy to fall when the door opened, um... a dead weight, right?" She looked at Fred, who nodded and scooted a bit further behind Angel. "It worked, but the bad guys never made it up that far, only Spike did. It fell, caught him square in the chest and sent him about twelve feet through the air to land head first in a plaster wall, which, by the way, is now pretty much toast."

"At least you didn't damage your piercing," Xander whispered, brushing his lips against his lover's hair.

"You got pierced? Oh, that's so cool! I want one!" Dawn said, just now noticing it.

"No, not until you're sixteen," Spike and Xander said together.


Cordy pulled to a stop next to Angel's convertible just as Gunn's truck pulled up behind the Mercedes. When the two groups emerged from their respective vehicles, they looked at each other over the piles of dust and realized two things. One, all the lights in the lobby were on, and two, neither of them had grabbed Lindsey when they left the bar.

Together they filed through the main entrance, only to interrupt a fight between Angel and Xander over whether or not to add the third intruder to the chandelier. Dawn was sitting next to Spike, dabbing at his hair and remarking that she hoped the blood wouldn't ruin his new color. Fred walked out of the kitchen with an enormous pink bowl filled with popcorn, thus silencing Angel and Xander.

"Now there's a woman who knows how to think in a crisis," Xander said, relieving Fred of her burden and joining Spike and Dawn on the couch. "If we haven't told you," he added to Dawn, "we're very happy you got those calls out." She smiled and traded him her bowl of bloody water and her damp cloth for the popcorn.

Tara and Willow hugged Dawn and took her up to bed to debrief her on her day with Stephanie and make sure she was really as okay as she said she was. Cordy called Lorne, both to let him know Fred and Dawn were safe and to make sure he still had Lindsey. He did, and Gunn went to retrieve him, hopefully before Angel realized he had been misplaced.

Gavin drove by the Hyperion. The company car was parked out front and the services van was down the block. The place was lit up like a Christmas tree, but no one was outside. He let two security guards out and they each drove one of the vehicles away. Once the lawyer was sure no one had seen them leave, he followed. He wondered if he would be able to pad the Diva project with the cost of the missing team. Judging from the ash on the Mercedes, Lilah was not going to be happy.


Xander yawned hugely. Angel had lowered the chandelier so that the intruders were on the floor, but had left the leg irons on them and still attached to the frame of the chandelier. He looked at Spike, who rolled his eyes. He could almost read Spike's mind. The fun was over. Angel wouldn't let them even scare humans. If it had been back in Sunnydale, Xander would have wrung out every last scrap of information out of them. He knew that whoever they worked for would terminate them, whether they talked or not, and if someone was out there gunning for him or his he wanted to know about it. But this was Angel's town and Angel's enemy; as long as his people weren't the target he would let Angel handle it. It wasn't like they would be here that long.

It was too late to pack up the girls and head for Sunnydale without risking getting stuck on the road at sunrise. Not to mention, Dawn's life would be utterly ruined if she didn't see designer boy tomorrow.

But unless Deadboy leveled with them tomorrow, they were out of here at sunset. Willow should be able to keep a magical eye on Dawn while she did the town with Cordy. They should be safe in public places, at least with the witches keeping an eye on them, magically speaking.

Xander figured Angel needed some privacy to talk this over with the fang gang. He wanted to hash this out with Spike; more than anyone, Xander trusted Spike's instincts when it came to protecting Dawn. They needed to talk, and Xander needed his lover's cool strong arms around him to help soothe the adrenaline that was still rushing through his system from this near miss. He caught Spike's eye and felt that odd vertigo that sometimes hit when they seemed to be almost one entity. He knew with utter certainty that Spike wanted to talk as well.

"Well, thanks for dinner. You got a real interesting town here, Deadboy. We're going to turn in. Good night," Xander said.

"Xander?" Cordelia said. "You're just going to bed?" She gestured to their captives.

Xander shrugged. "Not really our business, is it? Say good night, Spike."

"Good night, Spike," Spike said dutifully, winking at Fred as he went past.


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