Angel watched them walk off, kept his eyes on them and tried not to think about how wrong this was. How he felt it ripping at his soul to even think about helping Spike, but Spike was part of his family. A family he’d established as a vampire, but still his family. He couldn’t very well ignore that even if he wanted too.
There were too many problems though. Too many people that could get hurt and he knew that lying to Buffy was just something he was going to have to do. It didn’t make him feel good, but it was what needed to be done.
“So… family reunion.”
Angel turned around and saw Jesse standing there, arms across his chest and an angry look on his face.
“Great.” Angel muttered.
This was not what he needed.
He knew that Xander was Jesse’s friend. Had pieced that much together from conversations he had picked up and he knew that this didn’t bode well for his keeping everything a secret.
“Something like that.” Angel said.
Jesse glared at him.
“Look, you may have everyone else fooled, but you don’t have me fooled. And when Buffy finds out about this… your dust, buddy.” Jesse said.
“You have no idea what’s going on here.”
“I know that that dude you were just talking to, that dude that walked off with one of my best friends, is named Spike. And that Spike is this William the Bloody character you warned us about just a few weeks ago.”
“It’s different. You wouldn’t understand.” Angel said in his most menacing tone.
Jesse barely flinched.
“Really, then why don’t you explain it to me, because I certainly don’t get it.”
Angel rolled his eyes and tried to look unaffected. The truth was, he wasn’t. He was definitely affected. If Jesse followed through with his threat to tell Buffy, and there was no reason he wouldn’t, things would go down hill faster than Angel had anticipated.
He’d hoped to be able to get Spike and possibly Xander if Spike put up a fight about it, out of Sunnydale. He’d hoped that he could at least manage that much and it looked like he wasn’t even going to be able to accomplish that.
“I… I can only tell you what I know.” Angel said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jesse asked.
“If you want to know about Xander… I don’t know about that. And even if I did, it’d be his story to tell.” Angel said.
Jesse was silent for a few moments, looked as though he were thinking and Angel waited impatiently for him to figure out what he wanted to know.
“It’s not just me, you know. You’re gonna have to tell Buffy and Giles and Willow. Especially if it’s about old and new vampires.”
“You’re right. I am. So… you gonna let me tell it or are you gonna run off to Buffy and tell her your half assed version of events.”
Jesse looked shocked and it probably had something to do with the way Angel was talking to him. Or quite possibly the fact that Angel was talking at all.
“You’re really gonna tell her… tell all of us.”
He saw no other way. It wasn’t that he wanted to tell them, but he figured if he spun it his way, maybe he’d be able to buy some time.
And he had to tell Buffy. She would get caught up in this and he’d seen what happened to Slayers who got caught up in vampire wars. It wasn’t a pretty sight. He didn’t want Buffy to end up that way, even if things had been a little icy between them.
“Sure, let’s get it over with.”
“So… this Florentina gang. They sound kind of… harsh.” Xander said.
They don’t go back to the hotel. Xander could tell by the look on Spike’s face, that utter concentration and worry, that this new war that’s brewing is going to be a dozy. Mainly he’s been thinking about what Angelus said about Spike having a hit out on his head.
He knew that, on some level he knew that Spike was probably marked and the only reason that the vampires he had been with hadn’t tried anything was because Joe’s bosses had major clout.
But really, it was only a matter of time before they did attack and that made Xander jumpy. There wasn’t much in Xander’s life that made him jumpy considering what he did for a living, but the thought of vampires, the Anointed One, going after Spike made Xander want to throw up.
“They are.” Spike said as he looked out of the window.
They got a place in the Sunnydale Motel. It wasn’t exactly the classiest place in the world, but Xander guessed it would do. Certainly looked more festive than the hotel.
“So… what’s gonna happen.”
Spike looked away from the window. Stared directly at Xander before he pulled out a cigarette and his lighter. Lit it easily and took a few puffs before he spoke up.
“I have no idea. But it would seem a war is on the way.” Spike said.
“I gathered that much. So… this could get ugly.”
“I could get a lot more than ugly, pet. This could get down right vicious. You’re lucky to never have been through one of these things.”
“I think Joe said there was one a few years ago.”
“Minor spats. Factions of minions that the big Orders couldn’t careless about. If they fought and killed each other off, well, no great loss.”
“But this does involve Orders.”
“The older Master vamps aren’t going to let a bunch of fledglings think they can take over. Especially on a Hellmouth. Your Slayer friend is going to be in a heap of trouble. No doubt Angel’ll help sort that out.”
“He’s a good guy.” Xander said.
He remembered vaguely hearing Jesse mention something about an Angel. Someone Buffy was dating, but he hadn’t been paying much attention at the time no matter how weird a Slayer dating a vampire was.
“Something like that. Got himself cursed with a soul after drinking some bad blood. Fights with the white hats now.”
“So why’s he warning you about this war?”
Spike’s hand stopped midway to his mouth, cigarette dangling precariously and Xander watched as some ash fell to the ground.
“Maybe he’s trying to make up for how bad of a Sire he was. Maybe he still feels that pull. That’s all on him.” Spike said.
“Do you care… that he cares, I mean?”
Xander tried for casual, but it came out sounding forced and he knew Spike knew what he was not saying by the stupid grin on his face.
“I’ve heard stories about Sire’s and their Childes, Spike. I’m not stupid.”
“So Angelus and I used to roll around in the hay. He’s not that vamp anymore and I’m certainly not that vamp anymore.”
Xander nodded. He felt stupid for even thinking about it, but he remembers the stories all too well. Vampire talk about how Master vampires made their minions bow down and do stupid things. Xander assumed that it was probably the same for Childes, but he couldn’t be too sure.
Of course Spike had just confirmed it, so there went that bit of denial.
It bothered him. For some stupid reason it bothered him and he hated the irrational feeling that went allowing with that bothered feeling.
He loved Spike, of that he was certain and he was pretty positive that Spike loved him back. Even if he didn’t think he was good enough and Xander wanted to the chance to show Spike that he was good enough.
This war that was brewing might present a problem though.
“Okay, forget I even mentioned it. It’s stupid.”
Spike sighed. Put his cigarette out on the beside table and walked over to Xander, deliberate and purposeful. Wrapped his arms around Xander’s waist and leaned down to kiss his neck.
“It’s not stupid. If you wanted to know, you should have just asked.”
“I don’t really want to know.”
“I figured that much. Still…”
“Look, is it so wrong of me to be jealous. I know in the face of all the problems that we have presented in front of us right now, it’s probably the stupidest thing on the face of this Earth, but… I’m a teenager here.”
He has avoided reminding Spike of that because it seemed like such a hot button issue. Another reason why Spike wasn’t good enough for him, so he never brought it up. But he felt like he had to justify himself somehow.
Spike just smiled at him. Leaned down and kissed him on the lips, soft and inviting and cool and Xander leaned into it just a little bit before Spike pulled back.
“I know what you mean. All those people out there… in your world that get to touch you…”
“You get to touch me.” Xander said a little breathy.
“That I do, luv. But them… they get to see you where you belong. I keep you in the shadows.”
“Maybe I like the shadows. Maybe the shadows is where I belong.”
Spike frowned, but said nothing. Leaned back in for another kiss and Xander let him have it. Kissed back with intensity and fire and everything he had to prove and it still didn’t feel like enough.
“It’s best you know everything.” Spike whispered against his lips.
“So… tell me.”
Spike took an unneeded breath and started to talk.
“Okay, just so we’re clear. There’s a war brewing between vampires.” Buffy said.
Angel gritted his teeth and shook his head. It wasn’t like the concept was so hard to grasp. Not all vampires liked other vampires, but he let that pass. Buffy hadn’t had the training that all other Slayers before her had had and Angel thought that was one of the reasons she made such an effective Slayer.
She used her emotions, which was something most Slayers had been taught to get rid of by the time of their calling. Still, the fact that she, and everyone else except for maybe Giles, didn’t seem to be getting what he was saying was a little unnerving.
“It’s complicated vampire lore, but the gist of it is that there are factions among vampires. Clans if you will and in those clans there are separate types of vampires. You have your leader, which is the oldest among all the Masters. Then you have your Masters who are usually the right hand men to the leader.”
Angel sighed and pushed his fingers against his eyes. It was hard to break down centuries of vampire lore down to the simple basics.
“Masters can make minions or Childes. Minions are foot soldiers, but Childes get groomed to become Masters. It’s been this way for centuries.”
“Sort of like a vampire feudal system.” Willow said.
“Exactly like that.” Angel answered.
“Why the breakdown now? Why after all these years?” Buffy asked.
“Because the minions are overpowering. Making more minions that are just as strong and stupid as they are. No real order to anything they do and the Master vampires are dying out.” Angel said.
“Hence the Order of Florentina getting involved.” Giles said.
“Yeah, they don’t like that the Anointed One is leading a rebel faction of minions to the head of the class.” Angel said.
“But the Anointed One… he’s part of your clan right. I mean he was sired by the Master… wasn’t he?” Willow asked.
“Not really, Wills. The Master was still looked in his little bubble underground. He sent out his guys to do his bidding.” Buffy said.
Angel looked at her, confusion clear on his face. He hadn’t expected her to make that leap on her own, mainly because it was taking all of them a long time to grasp the concept of vampire wars.
“Buffy’s right. He’s torn. Technically, he’s a minion. Sired by other minions, most of which were strong, but none of which were Masters, hence making him sort of an abomination.” Angel said.
“So he’s lashing out.” Jesse said.
“In a manner of speaking.” Angel said.
“What does this have to do with Xander?” Jesse asked.
They all looked at him expectantly and Angel sighed. It wasn’t his place to tell the story, not that he knew much. He knew Xander was, for all intents and purposes, a whore for vampires, but he didn’t know how or why are even for how long.
It didn’t even have anything to do with Spike. He’d have probably gotten involved without Spike around. Angel figured that with Spike around, the kid might actually be safer.
“He works for a guy. A guy who… caters to vampires. His bosses… they’ve aligned themselves with the minions. And they have some serious power.” Angel said.
“Caters? What does that mean?” Jesse asked.
“I don’t know much more than that.” Angel said.
“I think your lying.” Jesse said back.
“I’m not lying. You want to know, ask him yourself. All I can tell you is that he’s safe.”
“He’s safe. I saw him walk off with that vampire. That vampire that you were telling us just a few weeks ago was a bad dude. Someone to watch out for. How could he possibly be safe.” Jesse asked.
“Because that vampire wouldn’t let anything happen to him.” Angel growled.
He saw the look on Giles face. Knew that Giles got what he wasn’t saying and he stood up stiffer because of it. Angel didn’t want to be the one to explain to a bunch of kids the human side of the practices between vampires.
It didn’t seem that Giles wanted that honor either.
“Right. I’m going to take your word for it. He’s a vampire.” Jesse said.
“Gotta agree with Jesse hear Angel.” Buffy said.
“I don’t know what else to tell you. If you go messing with Xander right now… you might end up getting him killed.”
This seemed to shock them into silence. He wasn’t sure if they’d believe him, but he knew that Giles would probably be on his side, albeit reluctantly.
“Alright. So what do we do know?” Buffy asked.
“That’s it. You’re just going to give up. What about Xander?” Jesse asked.
“Jesse, there’s not much we can do. He’s not going to tell us where he is… even if he knows, which I don’t think he does. And if he says that our interfering with Xander right now might get him killed then… then I believe him.” Buffy said.
She’d hesitated and Angel knew that she didn’t really believe him. Didn’t really think he was telling the whole truth, but she was willing to gamble until she had all the facts.
“We will confront him, Monday. If that’s okay with you.” Buffy said a bit snidely.
“Go ahead. You’ll be lucky if he tells you anything.”
“We’ll take that risk. Now… what do we do about the Anointed One?”
Angel took a deep breath and looked around the room. Jesse looked angry, Willow looked scared and worried, Buffy looked determined and Giles looked older beyond his years.
“Well… I thought we might do this.”
The Anointed One was furious.
It had been over a month since Spike had escaped and none of his minions had been able to find him. He’d had to have some of the more incompetent ones dusted. He couldn’t believe that they couldn’t track down one single vampire.
He knew it had something to do with the fact that Spike was hiding out at Joe’s. Technically, he couldn’t do anything. He couldn’t even go near Joe’s with any intent to harm the patrons or the employees.
So he was stuck. As long as Spike was hanging around Joe’s and paying for that little whore of his, the Anointed One couldn’t do anything. At least… not by himself.
“You want me to risk our best investment. Just like that. No questions asked.”
The Anointed One smiled. It had taken some string pulling to get Lindsey McDonald, representative for Joe’s littler operation at Wolfram and Hart, down to his lair. The man didn’t look the least bit comfortable, but he hid it well.
“Our interests could met yours.” The Anointed One said.
“Really. We’d be talking about a really large some of cash for us to just look the other way.”
“We’d be willing to pay.”
“You’re talking about massacre here. Massacre of our biggest client. Doesn’t really bode well.”
“This needs to get done. Now, I know that you’re backing us in the coming war…”
“We might not be. Our interest may get… divided.”
“If they did then there’d be no reason for you to worry about Joe anyway. Either way you look at it, Joe gets caught in the crossfire. It’s just a matter if you want to collect before it happens.”
That caught Lindsey’s interest. He looked up and smiled. Sat back in his seat a little and let out a small laugh.
“You really want this guy dead.”
“Him and the kid.”
“Oh now the kid might be the bargaining chip. He could be a very valuable asset to Wolfram and Hart.”
“He is most certainly claimed by Spike by now. If not formally, then informally and Spike would never allow him to get mixed up with you.”
“So we should just caught our loses?”
Lindsey looked up at him with a wide smile on his face. Looked so casually laid back and ease and that made the Anointed One smile.
He looked to be in thought for a few seconds before clasping his hands together.
“Right up your proposal and I’ll be sure to push it through to the Senior Partners.”Chapter 14