Actions

Work Header

Anywhen

Chapter Text

Giles tapped the arms of his glasses thoughtfully on the side of the table.
"Hmm. I see. Yes, well, I concur then. I will see what I can organize from
my end." He listened for a few minutes. "Very well, I will notify you when
my representatives are ready to leave. No, no, I don't think they need to
know. A pleasure."

He frowned thoughtfully before turning back to his children. Well, young
adults now, he reminded himself. They lounged about the "research area" of
the shop, all in various poses representing 'we are so not listening in to
your telephone conversation'. Except Spike, who was sprawled easily in a
corner of the sofa watching the Watcher intently, and obviously listening
to every word. When Giles met his eyes the vampire shrugged and gave one of
his patented 'hey, I'm evil' smiles.

Xander, who was  sitting on the floor, leaning up against the sofa
Spike sat on, caught the exchange between Giles and his housemate. "So,
G-man," ignoring  the man's wince, "Do you want to tell us what that was
all about?"  He considered Spike's smirk for a minute. "Or shall I just
torture it out of Spike instead?" He laughed his best B-grade villian laugh.

Spike genially flipped Xander off and breathed, "Oh, give it to me, baby,"
in his best porno voice.

Xander snorted and opened his mouth to retort and was whapped lightly on
the arm by Buffy. "Don't start. You two. I swear having you sharing the
same apartment is.....is.....I can't think of anything bad enough to describe
you." She folded her arms and mock glared. "And ewww." That was addressed
purely to Spike who smirked back.

Giles waited, enjoying the friendly by-play between Slayer and the Slayer
of Slayers. Friends. Only on the Hellmouth, he had decided when he had
looked around and discovered he had acquired another adopted child. Hadn't
that given the Watchers Council the wiggins, to use Buffy's term.
Especially when the Ripper, let out to play, had threatened the council
with dire retribution if their goons were even scented near the vampire.
Sometimes  the Ripper was a reputation to be savored.

When the attention of the Scoobies was all back on him Giles
spoke. " It would seem that the Tome of Imarka is still available. To us.
Not the Council, or at least certain elements of it. Its current keeper is
willing to let us purchase it. He is, however, unwilling to consign it to
the postal service." Giles paused. "So some of us will have to go to
England and collect it." He sat on an available chair and waited for the
reactions.

Buffy bounced in her seat, hand in the air. "Me, me, oh, pick me,
please," she chanted. Tara and Willow looked at each other then turned
identical pleading faces on Giles.  Xander's face was hopeful, chocolate
eyes gleaming with excitement. Spike looked interested but not particularly
excited.

"I thought perhaps Xander and..." Giles voice trailed off. He had been
going to suggest Tara but on the sofa Spike had imperceptibly stiffened.
Giles didn't think any of the others had noticed. If he hadn't deliberately
been watching Spike he would have missed it himself. Since being accepted
by the group Giles had observed that Spike displayed a great deal of
protectiveness towards the others. Protectivness and a well -hidden
possessiveness.

The possessiveness had disturbed Giles  until he realized that he was
thinking of the vampire and his interactions with the others in human
terms. But Spike wasn't human, for all that he was humanized, and that was
something they all often forgot. Spike was a vampire, and Giles had finally
decided that Spike was reacting as if they all were his own menage of
fledglings or childer. Chosen by him, needing his protection and simply
*his* and he seemed to have an extra dose of possession and protection
reserved for Xander. God only knew what was going to happen when the lad
started dating again, given Spike's aggressive reaction to a boy interested
in Dawn. All in all, the whole situation would make an interesting addition
to his Watchers Council reports, if he'd cared to make it. Giles picked up
the thread again. "...Spike." The vampire relaxed, satisfied.

Buffy pouted. "I never get to go anywhere." She sighed and held up her hand
to forestall a comment from Giles. "I know, I know. I have responsibilities
here." Dawn reached over and gave her a sympathetic hug, which the Slayer
returned. Willow and Tara shrugged off their disappointment and began to
make excited sightseeing  plans for the 'boys'.

As they babbled about art galleries and museums Xander groaned and rolled
his eyes at Spike who returned the look with a pained one of his own. "The
sooner we're gone the better, whelp."

Giles nodded. "I'll make the flight bookings and accommodation plans for
you tomorrow."

"Ahh, thanks but no, Rupes. If I've gotta travel freight I'll make my own
arrangements. I can deal with accommodation m'self too. Know a couple 'o
places we can stay. All you need t'do is find the dosh for the fares." He
shot the Watcher his patented evil but still completly cash-strapped smirk.

Chapter Text

The motel room was dull, dull, dull, and right at this time, Xander
thought, so was the company. Xander looked sideways at Spike, lying on the
opposite bed. The vampire had been uncharacteristically quiet, thoughtful
almost, for the past hour, and it was starting to wear on Xander's nerves.
Finally he could stand it no longer and he leaned over and poked the blonde.

"Hey."
Spike looked up at him, a frown marring his smooth forehead. "What?"

"You're doing the best impression of Angel since...well, since the great
brooding one himself. Spit it out and stop spoiling my happy glow. We're
going to England!" He bounced on the end of the bed in childish glee.

Spike sighed and stretched his arms above his head. "Well, you see, pet,
it's this airline I've booked us on. Now the Watcher's ok and I trust Buffy
with yo-" Spike caught himself hoping the boy wouldn't notice his near
slip, "-Dawns life, so she's ok too."

"Not too ok, I hope. Willow was supposed to have gotten rid of the remnants
of that 'thy will be done' spell." Wish my will could be done though, he thought
as he admired the pale flesh in the gap between tee and jeans.

Spike gave him a hard look. He hated to be reminded that little spelled
moment in his life. "Yeah, well...Look, I don't want details 'o this
airline gettin' back to the Council. Which is why I did it all m'self. It's
kinda special, this company."

"Special." Xander raised his eyebrow, a trick he'd learnt from Spike.

"Look, the company's owned by vampires and run for the benefit of us
supernatural types. If it gets back to the thrice-damned council ...you see?"

 

"All right, Spike. Won't say a word. Happy?"

Spike nodded, pleased. He really hadn't doubted the whelp. Xander saw the
world's shades of grey. Now for the hard part. "There's somethin' else."

"What?"

"Well, it's a demon airline, innit. Humans don't tend to travel on it, you
know."

"So this means I'm travelling freight? There had better be chocolate in this."

"Xander, the only type of humans that travel are matespetsandlovers." Spike
mumbled the sentence out in a rush.

"Huh, repeat for those of us not supernaturally enhanced?"

Spike sighed. "The only humans allowed are mates, pets and lovers."

Xander blinked and blinked again, face blank as he processed the
implications of the statement. Mates, pets or lovers, mates, pets or
lovers, danced cheerfully through his stunned and not-exactly objecting mind.

Spike was continuing on "-believe we're mates. You an' I smell all wrong.
And there's no way you can fake the submissiveness of a pet."

Xander grasped the point, not hard given that his inner cheerleader was
kicking up her legs singing 'go go go'.

"So, we're going to have to pretend to be lovers?"

Admitting to Anya that he liked guys and wanted to call off the engagement
had been hard. Recovering from the head injury after she hit him with a
saucepan at a Scoobie meeting had been painful. And eventually he'd managed
to get over the embarrassment caused by her two full-page colour ads in
the local paper. Saved him telling anybody else, he supposed.

All in all, he told himself, it could have been a lot worse. He'd broken up
with a vengeance demon, after all. And it had been kind of nice, after the
saucepan incident, to see William the Bloody in a protective fury because
"the damn demon bint" had injured one of his humans. Well, hear of it
anyway, as he'd been unconscious at the time.

The whole saucepan incident had gained him an undead housemate too. Spike,
with hard stares and growls at Anya, had supervised her moving out. He had
also declared that Xander needed someone to keep an eye on him, so he was
moving in-just in case Anya tried anything else he said-and did anyone have
a problem with that? Buffy had protested the idea, but only on the grounds
that together they'd think of more original ways to drive her insane. Which
they'd done; it was their duty as her friend after, all.

This, however, was beyond 'don't hurt my humans.' This was wet dreams
material. Pity it wasn't real, because in real life sexy blond Master
Vampires weren't lovers with brown-haired ordinary mortals.

Spike watched the boy, waiting for him to explode angrily. He knew he
should have told Xander earlier but frankly hadn't known how to bring it
up. Some humans were funny about the whole sex with the undead issue. The
whole friends -with- bloody- humans situation still felt so fragile. He
often found himself hesitating rather than acting as his nature dictated
because he .....well, because he didn't want to lose the whole bloody pack
of them because he did something stupid.

Spike's whole nature was based on want/take/mine. Take the boy, and how
Spike wished he could. Xander had been pushing pheromones and lustful looks
in his direction since way before the demon bint, but his views on vampire
lovers were well known. Nature said take, the boy is yours after all.
Newly-learnt human interaction rules said (in a Gilsey sort of voice),
"Well, technically he isn't yours; he's human, not Childe, remember?" and
"It wouldn't go down so well with the others if you jumped his bones at the
next meeting." So he'd put his impulses on hold and discovered that
friendship was interesting. Frustrating granted, but interesting all the same.

Xander studied the vampire's face, pretty sure the vampire was waiting for
him to get mad. " It's OK, Spike. I don't mind. If you think your
reputation can stand being linked to the Doughnut Boy." Xander leered
dramatically at Spike. "C'mon lover boy. Better make sure you’re all packed."

Chapter Text

Xander had grown steadily quieter as they made their way through the
private terminal to the departure lounge. To a Hellmouth-trained eye the
place was designed for vampires. Everything from the underground shuttle
drop off to the departure lounge and boarding tunnel was designed to shield
the passengers from the sun.

"Do only vampires travel on this airline?"

"Nah, pretty much any demon that wouldn't survive or look right on a normal
flight uses 'em," Spike said casually.

"Umm, there's not going to be any trouble over me, is there?" Xander worked
hard to keep the nervousness out of his voice.

"Nope, told 'em I'm bringin' my human. You just act as normal, it'll be
fine. Except the part where it's normal for you t' stake vamps. Might not go
down well with th' flight crew." Spike was actually pretty pleased with
Xander. His boy was holding up fine. Nervous, only to be expected really,
but there was no scent of fear. It pleased him that the whelp was adaptable.

Check-in was easily accomplished and there was only a short wait in the
lounge before the flight was announced. A couple of the other passengers
had looked askance at a human in their midst but none seemed prepared to
take issue with a protective Master Vampire standing close. Very close. And
the said Master Vampire had suddenly developed a habit of petting and
stroking Xander on the arm or cheek or shoulder or back. It was a nice
habit Xander decided, one he could live with in fact.

"Welcome aboard VIT Airways. My name is Mandy," smiled the pretty
dark-haired vampire stewardess as she led them to their first class seats.

"I hope you have a comfortable flight. Once we are airborne I'll come
and get your drinks and meal orders." Spike nodded and made sure that he
got the aisle seat, seating himself between Xander and the rest of the passengers.
Mandy then sashayed away to help the next pair of passengers, an older
vampire and her Childe.

"VIT Airways?" Xander looked at Spike for an explanation.

"Vampires In Transit Airways. Someone had a sense o' humor."

The seats were comfy, with lots of room for Xander's long legs, even with
his backpack of snacks stuffed under the seat in front. The corporate
magazine was an eye-opener; who knew that wights made such good stockbrokers?

Once in flight Mandy returned to take their orders. "I'll have J.D and
he'll have ginger ale."

"And would you like A+ or O- for your meal, or will you be dining fresh?"
She shot a meaningful look at Xander. Who squeaked, slightly.

Spike ignored the look. "A+ will be fine."

"The main meals on this trip are beef steak and vegetables or stirfried
chicken. Will you be partaking?"

"Yeah, I could go for the beef steak. What about you, Xan?"

"Umm, the chicken, I think. Can I get some chips or peanuts or chocolate in
the meantime?" Xander flashed a wide smile at the stewardess, who looked at
Spike with confusion on her face.

"It's all right, love, get 'im what he wants. You can even
speak to him directly."

The stewardess' confused look deepened but she nodded tentatively.

Spike choked back a chuckle. This had the potential to be fun. He'd never
had a human as companion before and he found himself  looking forward to
how others would react to a human who considered himself Spike's friend and
equal.

Consider the stewardess. She was currently trying to help Xander select a
DVD to watch, looking at him and talking to him while trying to convey the
impression that she wasn't, just in case Spike took offense. Xander
babbletalked to her about great movies and books, apparently unaware of any
breaches of vampire etiquette he was making, treating the vampire
stewardess as he would a human one.

Xander finally allowed Mandy to escape and settled back in his seat with a
sigh. "Well, that was fun. So, do we keep on playing 'confuse the other
vamps'?"

Not as gormless as you appear to be, pet, thought Spike. Aloud he replied,
"So you did read some of those books of Giles' then?"

Xander flashed a wicked grin "Yep"

"Gonna tell me which ones?"

"Nope."

"Times might be when you'll have play by the rules." Spike's tone was serious.

"Yeah, I know. I'll do it and deal as necessary. Let me know when it's
necessary." Xander looked across the aisle at the older vampire and her
Childe. "Vampire hearing is very sharp, or so I'm told." The Childe's eyes
widened and he looked at the floor. "Aren't there rules for listening in on
a conversation?"

Spike shot the youngster a considering look. Very young and definitely not
in full control yet. He radiated embarrassment at having been caught by a
human. "Ahh, he's young yet. I'll cut him some slack. Just so long as he's
not listening later, when I take you to the bathroom, undo your pants and
run my tongue ..."

Xander clamped his hand over Spike's wickedly grinning mouth and glared at
the laughing blue eyes as a red flush stained his skin. "Not necessary or
nice." He growled as he removed his hand.

"Oh pet, you're such a delight to tease and you've nearly got the growl
down perfect."

Xander stuck  his tongue out at Spike, who returned the gesture and they
both settled back for the long flight.

Chapter Text

Xander found he enjoyed flying more than he had expected. Mandy had kept
him supplied with DVDs-first class was great- and he'd enjoyed challenging
her notions of what a vampire's lover should and shouldn't do. Even if he
wasn't actually a vampire's lover. He was surprised that he was having a
good time, given he was in an enclosed metal box with demons of assorted
types, most of whom would consider him a good meal.

Spike had been there to tease and be teased by, and they'd watched several
of their favourite movies together. No popcorn, though. Spike had continued
the gentle petting and stroking he'd begun in the terminal but he'd added
wickedly suggestive remarks to his repertoire. At times it seemed it was a
contest to see who he could embarrass the most, Xander or the Childe in the
opposite seat.

The Childe's Sire had glared at Spike once, when a particularly outrageous
suggestion had left her Childe squirming uncomfortably in his seat, but
otherwise seemed disinclined to take offence.

Xander fell asleep somewhere over the Atlantic and woke to find himself
cuddling the vampire. He'd wedged himself in the corner with Spike leaning
against his chest. His chin rested on Spike's head. Both his arms encircled
the vampire, who was holding Xander's arms in place with his own. Someone
had covered them both with a blanket, making a snug little place for them
both. It was nice, if a little uncomfortable, and though his arms had
fallen asleep, Xander was loath to release the other man. Glancing over, he
saw the Childe settled in a similar embrace with his Sire. The Sire, who
had carefully avoided looking at Xander during the trip, sensed his gaze
and looked over at him and smiled in sympathy. "Circulation's a bitch,
isn't it?" she whispered.

VIT must have had some clout somewhere. Customs was carried out in the
terminal by officials who were not at all concerned about the species of
traveller they dealt with. Xander's official was a nice looking brunette who
took his passport with a welcoming grin and an appreciative eye. "Welcome
to England. Anything to declare?"

"I'm human," declared Xander with a grin, opening his backpack for
inspection and giving an equally appreciative look of his own.
The official chuckled, opened his mouth to speak and then caught a glimpse
of Spike over Xander's shoulder. The vampire just stared intently at the
official, no snarl, no snarky comments, and Xander found himself suddenly
processed and let loose upon an unsuspecting country. Spike was processed
equally quickly but the official looked very green by the time Spike was
finished.

If Xander noticed Spike's little show he chose to ignore it in favour of
waving goodbye to Mandy and bouncing off to collect their duffel bags.

Spike sauntered over at a slower rate, pleased; he didn't often do subtle
but that had worked rather nicely. The official wouldn't be looking at
Xander when they returned and Spike hadn't had to worry about chip zaps
because he ripped the blighter's throat out. Now, into their cab-one of the
Blackline companies of course-and then on to their boarding house.
Preferably before the fast-approaching dawn. Now where was the whelp?

Xander was standing in front of a soda machine looking disappointed.

"What's th' matter, pet?"

"They're all the same as home." There was a touch of a tired, childish
whine in Xander's voice. "I was expecting things to be-well, to be different."

"Wait till t'night, pet. I'll find you some proper English chocolate."
Spike slid his arm around Xander's waist, surprised when the boy leaned
into him. "We'll go to Trafalgar Square and then take the tube and see the
Tower of London by night. Then you'll know things are different. Ok?"

"Ok. Sorry. Tired and I just realised how far from home I am. Furthest I've
ever been and there's still Coke."

"C'mon, I've ordered a cab. They're a Blackline company like VIT but I
still don't want t' take a chance on th' dawn." Arm still around Xander he
led him to the taxi rank where their cab waited.

Chapter Text

The cabby was cheerfully garrulous and to Xander quite incomprehensible.
Which didn't stop Xander from nodding enthusiastically as the cabbie gave
them a running commentary on points of interest during their trip to the
boarding house.

The straight-spined middle aged manageress who met them at the boarding
house door reminded Xander of his spinster aunt. Her hair was pulled back
into an iron-grey bun and she had an authoritative voice and dark quelling
eyes. "Welcome to The Haven. Please follow me to reception."

Spike and Xander hefted their duffels and obediently followed behind.
"Vampire?" asked Xander in an awed whisper. The woman had presence enough
to quiet a whole roomful of Spikes.

"Nah. Renfield, human servant." He studied the woman. "At least, I think that's what she is."

Xander gave a nod , "Errrgh, bugs! Bad place, bad place.” He shuddered but waved off Spikes concerned look. “She looks like my dads aunt. I was terrified of her.”

"Renfield I may be but I still have all my faculties, including hearing, intact." The woman turned to study Spike. "A very old 'Renfield'," she added, "from even before that dreadful writer. Master's Servant or just Servant is preferred. Courtesy has gone out of fashion over the years."

Xander made a stammering apology and elbowed Spike until he muttered an
apology of his own. A dark brow arched in surprise as the vampire was
corrected by his human. She resumed her walk to the desk and Spike signed
them in and was given the key.

"As a courtesy to this house," and by her tone it was an order, "we request
that you not hunt within a two mile radius and that you refrain from
brining prey back. If you are in need then fresh human blood may be ordered
from the kitchen, along with human-style food." She paused and let her lips
curl into a smile at Xander's visible look of relief.

"You will be quite safe here." This was addressed to Xander in a
surprisingly friendly tone. "This house has Free Zone status and no breach
of the peace is tolerated. The Master of the house has gone to her rest but
perhaps you will see her tonight. Up the stairs and to your right is your
room. Good day." She stood behind he desk and watched as they climbed the
stairs.

"How the hell did you find this place? I mean, it's not exactly where I
expected William the Bloody to stay on a trip. I was expecting an old pub
in the bad end of town, not my aunt."

Spike growled at the boy's teasing. "I asked, a mate, all right?" At
Xander's pointed look he continued. "Not a Sunnyhell vamp. A mate over
'ere. One, I might add who thinks I'm orchestrating a brilliant plan to
undermine the Slayer." This was said with a touch of pride.
Xander stopped his climb up the stairs.
Spike gave an exasperated sigh. "What? Evil, here remember. He came up with that 'imself anyway. Who am I to correct 'im? Besides," he added in an embarrassed tone, "I wanted somewhere safe for you to be." He focused on the top of the stairs and missed the pleased look that passed over Xander's face.

Their room was sombre, black and red in the best vampire style. Heavy
drapes covered the windows and two overstuffed wing-backed chairs were
drawn up either side of an unlit fireplace. Xander was amused to note that
even in a vampire boarding house there were little complementary chocolates
on the pillows and bottles of shampoo and conditioner in the tiny bathroom.
There was even the obligatory sewing kit and shoe polish.

Xander turned his attention to the bed. The one bed. A big bed, granted,
but, and Xander counted again just to make sure, only one bed.

"I get dibs on the shower," said Spike. "Who'd think sittin' for so long
I'd leave you feeling so nasty." He slipped off his duster, laying it
carefully across a chair and started to unbutton his shirt.

"Yeah," replied Xander faintly, still thinking of the bed and trying not to
notice the less-clothes-by-the-minute vampire next to him.

Spike frowned. What was wrong with the boy? He was staring at the bed as if
he'd never seen one before.

The bed. Oh yeah. That.

"Only one bed, so..." Xander looked over at the bare-chested  vampire who
was sauntering towards the bathroom door, undoing the top button of his
jeans as he went. Xander's mouth went dry. It wasn't like he hadn't seen
Spike's chest before, but this was different. He'd never seen the other man
half-naked after being flirted with, petted by and snuggling up to him for
twelve hours or so.

"Gah!" Xander shook his head and continued his question. "Who's sleeping on
the floor?"

Spike paused in the doorway, looked back over his shoulder, scarred eyebrow
raised. "Well, pet, It's not gonna be me." He undid another button, stepped
into the bathroom and kicked the door shut behind him.

Xander was left with the image of smooth-muscled back and a tightness in
his jeans.

In the bathroom Spike caught the scent of Xander's arousal  and
nearly opened the door and hauled the human in with him .
Spike let out a low grumbling growl and leaned back against the bathroom
door, enjoying the brush of fingers through denim on his erection as he
finished undoing his jeans.

Bending over to pull off his boots, he considered the boy. He fancied
Spike, that much was obvious. Standing, Spike slid his jeans over his slim
hips and stepped out, padding over to the shower. Turning on the water and
stepping in, he made a decision. Xander fancied him and obviously wasn't
too adverse to the vampire touching him. Perhaps enough trust had been
built to get over the sleeping with the undead thing.

Spike nodded, decision made; all he  had to do was step up the petting.
Seduce the boy. Yeah. Then Xander would be right where he should be, in
Spike's bed and *his*.  He didn't think the rest of his human menage would
react too badly if he claimed the boy for himself.

Claiming. Mmmm.  One hand slid down to gently caress his balls and the
other began to lazily draw his foreskin over the head of his cock.

In the room, Xander sat on the end of the bed. The one bed. Arrghh. He
jumped up and began to pace between the bed and the door, considering
Spike. Item one: one severely sexy blond. Item two: ordinary brown-haired
mortal. Item three: pretense that felt less and less pretend. Item four: no
chocolate. Well, that one was easily remedied. Xander delved into his pack
and pulled out a few Hershey bars and sprawled on the bed.

He considered the crushes in his life. Angel was sexy in a
please-don't-open-your-mouth-and-start-with-the-angst-again kind of way.
Angelus had been way sexier, but he'd also been completely and
uncontrollably evil. Cordelia; sexy and dangerous, untrusting. Faith; sexy
and dangerous, untrustworthy. Hmm, starting to see a trend here. Xander
chewed thoughtfully on another bar. Anya; sexy and dangerous, trusting
(sorry Anya). And Spike; sexy and dangerous and trustworthy. At least for
the humans he had decided were his. Glad I got that settled. I like
dangerous things (well duh). Now does this dangerous thing like me. Well
aside from the whole 'my humans, mine' gig he's got going. Wonder if the
others have noticed that.

Spike, towel wrapped around his waist, emerged from the bathroom and
wandered across the room. "Your turn, mate." Xander rolled off the bed,
grabbed his sweats and bathroom gear and tried very hard not to look at the
pale chest in front of him. Nice pale chest, with lickable droplets of
water running down it. Bathroom now, Xander told himself. Don't stop to
lick the vampire. No, not even a little taste. Xander disappeared into the
steam-filled room.

After he'd finished towelling himself off, enjoying the memory of Xander's
considering look before he'd high-tailed it off to the bathroom, Spike
pulled on a pair of blue silk boxers and was ready for bed. Now to wait on
Xander.

Spike was sitting in one of the wing-backed chairs when Xander emerged from
the bathroom, faded grey sweats riding low on his hips. He stepped in the
direction of the other chair, hesitated and then he headed towards the
bed.  He gathered up the wrapper remnants of chocolate-think-time and
dumped them on the bedside dresser. "I'm for sleep." He climbed in and
pulled the covers up to his chin, waiting to see what Spike would do.

The blond man smirked and rose out of the chair. There had almost been a
challenge there. "Me too, except you're on my side." Xander gave him a
wide-eyed look. Spike strolled gracefully to the bed and stood looking down
at Xander. He traced a finger along Xander's jaw and across the curve of
his ear. Xander closed his eyes and shivered. "But since it's your first
night away an' all, you can have it. We'll just swap ...positions tomorrow
night."
He removed his teasing finger, walked around to the other side and slid in.
"G'night, pet."

"Good night, blondie." Xander replied sleepily.

Chapter Text

Xander was somehow unsurprised when he woke draped over Spike. "Mmmm," he
mumbled and lifted his head off the chest it was resting on.

Amused blue eyes looked down on him. "Tried to shift you a couple 'o times, pet. You do grab on tight. Not that I'm complainin', mind."

"Ummm," Xander blinked sleepy eyes, "shouldn't you be cold or something?"

A sharp bark of laughter. "You never cease to surprise me, Xander. I'm expectin' indignant and you give me body temperature. 'O course I'm warmish, I've been snuggling up to you all day. Very nice it is, too." He gently rocked his groin against Xander's  thigh. "Mmmm, indeed. Good?" The sleepy chocolate eyes blinked again.

Spike thought it was nice to wake up with him. That was ...nice, thought Xander  but much too much to process this early. Or late, as the case probably was. Of course, processing would be much easier if the warmish one wasn't distracting him with languid caresses from his neck to the small of  his back. Spike rocked his groin again and Xander closed his eyes and thrust gently against Spike in return. Ohhh yeah. Good. Wait, not good. Undead. Yes, but, undead who likes you, protective, remember? Friend.

Xander pushed himself up, his arms either side of the vampire. Tilting his head, he considered the face below him. Then he dipped his head and gently brushed his lips across Spike's. It was a soft touch, not even a taste. Then he sat up in the bed, ran a finger along one sharp cheekbone, swung his legs out of the bed and headed over to his duffel bag.

"Awww. That was just starting t' get interestin'." Spike raised himself up on one elbow, wondering if his boy was going to panic. "Didn't pick you for a snuggle-up-and-leave-'em-type."

"No, but I am a want-to-take-this-slowly type. If this is a this and not just some sort of vampire ownership thing? In my life, kissing friends is always a disaster, as proven by the Cordy and Willow debacle."

The vampire frowned. "Back up a minute there.  We'll come back  to the kissing a friend part, with practical demonstration later." He look very pleased at the thought. "Vampire ownership thing?"

"I really started hitting Giles's books after Dawn bought that Ryan guy to meet us."

"Spineless prick. Not good enough for my Dawn."

"I don't think spineless is really applicable when a guy you've just been introduced to starts growling at you. And getting facial ridges. And starts grabbing his head in pain. On top of the big bad sister routine Buffy did. Didn't Dawn mention to you that her social life was ruined after that?"

"Might have said something about that." The vampire was actually embarrassed. He hated to have his nibblet cross at him even when it was over her protection

"Well, that was the most obvious time, but you do it one way or another over all of us. I know why Brendan at the video store won't smile at me any more when I go in."

"Cross with me, pet?" Spike raised his eyebrow .

"I was, he's cute." Xander ignored the little rumbling growl rising from the vampire. "But I sort of understood why you did it. We're friends, all of us."  It wasn't a question but Xander waited for the vampires nod before continuing. "You are still a vampire, though."

Spike slipped into gameface and flashed his fangs.

Xander grinned. "Stating the obvious, I know."

Spike  returned the grin, allowing his gameface to fade away, wondering where his boy was going with this. He'd obviously been thinking a lot about the nature of vampire relations. Which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what he'd read.

"We might be friends, but you're still going to react to us in a vampire sort of way, so you are protective and possessive. Sort of like a Sire and his menage."

Spike didn't even try to deny it. "Have the others figured it out?"

"Giles, maybe Willow. Given what I've been reading, you do understand I'm worried that this," Xander waved his hands between them, "could just be a Sire/Childe thing, in a human and vampire sort of way. Sire hormones kicking in-do vampires have hormones? Do you want this with the rest? And that is a so an-I-don't -want-to-go-there-thought. I mean, I know it's normal for vampires. "
Looking for a distraction, Xander delved into his bag, pulling out jeans and a T-shirt.  He frowned at the shirt he pulled out and rummaged again, pulling some more tees out. "I don't remember packing these. In fact I don't remember owning these." He waved the handful at Spike who didn't even have the grace to look shamefaced. "Your fault? Of course it's your fault."

"Well, the witches an' Buffy helped. My idea. Look, pet, I like you, a lot. I admit to the possessiveness thing since I've got that for the lot of you, comes with the territory really, but the wanting, well, that's just  you." I want to own you, pet. Claim you. Mark you. Mine.
"See me shaggin' the Slayer? Without the aid of the remnants of a 'thy will be done' spell, that is. I don't think so. See me with the nibblet or Giles? Not in this lifetime. The witches, well, mebbe, and don't tell me you hadn't thought o' that yourself. I may well regard you lot as my menage but I know the difference. I mean, I know I have t'  persuade you lot to do what I want 'stead of just tellin' you."

"So it's definitely only me." Xander didn't realised how intent his face was, staring at the vampire waiting for an answer.

"Didn't I just say so, Xander?" He watched the sun come out over the boy's face and realisied he liked the feeling of having put it there. Shit, I have got it bad. His voice dropped to a caress. "Sooo, pet, can we talk about the kissing a friend part."

Xander took half a step the seductively smiling vampire. Then shook his head. "Nope, Mr. gonna-take-it-slow-if-it-kills-you guy here." His face took on a serious cast. "I'm glad it's just me. You don't know how I felt, reading, wondering, hoping that I wouldn't have to share. I want to take this slow, figure it out."

"Humans." Spike gave an exasperated sigh and sat up in the bed. The blankets pooled around his hips. Aroused blue eyes tinged with gold looked back at  Xander and a pink tongue delicately licked his lips.  "It'll be damned good between us, pet. Wanna make you moan. Did I tell you I like the way you arch your back when I stroke your spine?"

Don't jump the vampire, don't reach out and touch the vampire and maybe it would help if you didn't look at the vampire right now. Xander's eyes, in defiance of his brain, continued to wander over the vampire's chest.

Spike followed Xander's eye movements. "You could touch me, maybe even
lick my chest. Start about here and," he slid a finger just below the blankets and lazily trailed it up to circle around his nipple, "finish here."

"Gah." Xander's eyes were glazed and he was seriously considering stepping over to the bed. Just for a taste. He licked his lips. He was rewarded with a focused gold gaze and a rumbling growlpurr and Spike crouching on the bed ready to leap.

Ok, so that works. Note to self, when you're ready to be ravished by your friend-cum-housemate try that again. Now what? "Slowly Spike, chip, remember? Don't hurt yourself." He walked over to the bed, worried now that Spike might try something that would set the chip off. He cradled the pale face in his hands. "Can we take it slow?" He watched  the eyes fade back to blue.

"You want me. I can smell it."

He can smell it. Well, so much for not letting him know. "Well yeah, I think we're well past denial point here. And before you start smirking, you want me too." Xander's inner cheerleader was having a ball. Well past high kicks, she was doing mid-air splits. Sometimes sexy blond vamps did want ordinary brown-haired mortals.

"Wanting aside, I have a really bad history. I had a friend Jesse. I liked him in an 'oh my god, what is happening to me' way. Then he got turned and I staked him. Accidentally,  but the result was the same. I kissed Willow and you know what a disaster that was. Let's not forget praying mantis woman, mummy girl, or me trying to rape Buffy because the hyena inhabiting me at the time thought she was the perfect mate. Ok, so I actually couldn't have, let's hear it for Slayer strength, but there's another example of my bad luck with sex and friends."

Spike looked into chocolate-warm eyes and sighed. He supposed he could understand what Xander needed. Faded memories of the human-who'd-been-William reminded him that uncertainty was a normal state of mind for a human at the beginning of anything strange. So, still *his*, just not his lover, and Xander was now aware of what Spike wanted and he hadn't run or denied his own response. Slow was not no.

Spike stroked his smooth cheek against the palms that cradled his head. "Vampires do want/take you know, but obviously I'm adaptable. Slow it is, but that isn't to say I won't try to change your mind, slowly. Go get dressed. Oh and pet, don't shower."

Xander let his fingers linger for a moment as he let go of Spike's head. "Thanks, Spike."  Then he wrinkled his nose "Yuck. Why?"

"Right now you smell of me. Haven't been in London for a few years an' I don't know the power structure. Other demons 'll scent me on you and probably leave you alone. Reinforces my claim." He looked Xander up and down. "Mine."

"Not yet." Xander replied firmly as he gathered his clothes and gear and headed for the bathroom to change.

Chapter Text

After his momentous morning Xander was feeling hungry. Horny too, but there wasn't much he could about that with Mr. Supernatural senses in the main room. 

When Xander emerged from the bathroom shaved but unwashed, he found Spike
already dressed and lounging in one of the chairs. He was wearing his familiar boots, black jeans and duster. In concession to the London weather he was wearing a dark red shirt over his plain black tee.

"I like that," Spike said with an appreciative leer.

"It's too tight."

"Nah, just about right,  I reckon." Spike's look was admiring. The white tee sat nicely over Xander's work-firmed chest and stomach. "Unfortunately you'll need to wear this. It's a little cool out." He tossed Xander a green cable knit sweater.

Xander studied it. "I don't remember this one either."

"Red chose it. Thought you might get cold. Me, I'd rather just see you in the tee. Need to get you a tighter pair of jeans. Maybe a leather jacket." The vampire nodded his head decisively.

Xander's stomach chose that moment to growl, which distracted him from an image of  Spike naked except for the battered duster. He began to pull on his new sweater.

"Right, first we eat, then we pick up the book. Then we have a date at the Tower and then Whitechapel at night. I can show you where The Ripper was."

"Giles?" Xander's voice was muffled as he pulled the sweater over his head.

"No, Jack. Jack the Ripper, twit." Spike's tone was affectionate. "Bloody murder. Police baffled. Unsolved mystery. Peaches always reckoned he was a vamp." Spike strolled over to the door.

"What ever happened to moonlight and roses? Such romance."

"Well I think it is. Romantic, I mean. Better than dead roses any day. C'mon." Spike let Xander through the door, ghosting a pale hand over the denim-clad behind as his boy passed through.

"Vampire romance didn't get much of a mention in Giles's book. With that as an example I can see why."

Spike paused at the top of the stair . With Xander a step below he was the taller for a change. He ran a soft finger down the side of Xander's neck. "Pet, vampires don't need to do romantic, we are romantic-tortured, angsting, undead souls that we are." He flung his other am up dramatically and pressed the back of his hand to his forehead, wearing his most Angelesque expression, and waited to see if his pet would bite.

Xander turned and  gave Spike an incredulous look, then laughed . "Yeah, right, bleach boy. Angel maybe; you, nah. You don't have the patience to work up a good angst. And you do torture, not tortured."

"But I can fake it for the punters if I've a mind." Spike suddenly looked serious and  spoke in a softer voice, his finger curling round to the pulse at Xander's neck. There had been no laughter when Xander mentioned torture. "Chip, remember? I can't hurt you. Wouldn't want to, that way. Blood will come into this though, eventually. I'm still a vampire."

Xander looked into the serious and worried blue eyes on level with his own. "Oddly enough," he slipped his arms around the vampire's waist, "I hadn't even considered that you might hurt us. I don't know what you'll do when the chip comes out, probably don't want too know, either. Yours, mine, ours, remember. As for the blood, I know. Research boy, here." He squeezed and inhaled the scent of Spike and leather. "I still have to think about that. Now, let's eat before the beast in my stomach rises and engulfs us all." Xander kept  one arm around Spikes waist though, as they headed down the stairs.

Servant was behind the reception desk when they  descended. But for a change of clothes she may have been there all day. "Good evening, gentlemen. I trust you slept well." She wore a long  black dress of an old-fashioned style, with a long draped skirt and silver buttons on the bodice. White lace at the wrist and throat accentuated the dress' severity.

"Yes, thank you, umm Ma- Umm, Servant." replied Xander

Servant gave a small approving smile. "A buffet meal has been served in the dining room. It contains human-appropriate food. It may be best, however, to check with the maid before trying anything you do not recognise." She turned to Spike. "I am afraid that all blood provided here is of the bagged variety. It is as fresh as possible."

Spike spoke. "Your mistress, is she up yet?"

The thin dark brow arched consideringly. "She has risen but at present is absent. Do you have a message you wish me to convey?"

"When  she's available I'd like t' chat with her. Catch up on the London scene."

"I shall inform her of your request. If you will please follow me." She glided out from behind her desk, her movements stately and graceful. She led them to an open arch way and indicated that they should proceed her in.

Spike made sure he entered ahead of Xander, eyes taking in the room, assessing possible threats to himself and his own, Free Zone be buggered. Detecting no immediate threat  he reflexed slightly. Only one other vamp in the room, young and no threat at all.

The dining room was not large but it was elegant. White-covered tables were set with old silverware that reflected light from the chandelier.  Servant showed them to a table. "As many of our guests keep different hours, our buffet is a mixture of breakfast and dinner. Please serve yourself as you choose. The maid, Etita, will help you with any requests you may have."

Xander looked around at the other guests seated in the room. A Fyarl demon in a business suit sat at one table frowning at a lap top screen. A family of delicate-looking green somethings sat opposite. The father? was reprimanding his son? who was trying to eat and play his Gameboy at the same time. A Risa demon was sharing a table with a blond human-looking man.

"Right, let's get some nosh."

The two made their way to the buffet, Spike veering off towards a small, glass-door fridge and a microwave. While Spike busied himself with blood
selection Xander surveyed the food. Where to start? Toast, eggs, bacon and fried tomatoes. Not bad for a  start. Xander poked tentatively at some small blackish things. Not mushrooms. "What are you?" he wondered out loud.

"They are Gedrish eyeballs, marinated and poached. They are safe for humans but an acquired taste."

The maid had come up beside Xander as he studied the food.

"Ahhh, are they a taste worth acquiring?" Xander poked them again, trying not to look too ill at the thought of poached eyeballs.

"I couldn't say, Sir." Her eyes were downcast, not looking at Xander as she spoke.

"Well, I'm not going to test them, then. Do you think you could look at me when you talk?"

She cast a hesitant look sideways. "I'm supposed to follow vampire protocol for lovers and pets." She said with a  small grin at the end of the sentence. "Servant is very strict about courtesy to our guests and personal safety."

"Yeah, she scares me too. Look, you're not a vampire."

"No." the tone was indignant. "I'm half Gilsha."

"So if he doesn't mind," Xander waved a hand vaguely in Spike's direction, "and I don't mind, can you at least look at me directly? Besides, he's my lover, not my owner."

Etita smiled again, head raised just a little. "For most vampires it's the same thing."

"They do have possessive down pat, don't they?" They shared amused smiles.

Spike strolled back, a mug of  nicely heated blood in his hand. Beside Xander Etita stiffened, eyes focused firmly downwards.

"Not tryin' t' seduce the help are you, pet?  Not that kind of place." Spike studied the bint. Demon bred, just the sort always attracted to his pet. He suppressed a growl. The boy wouldn't like it if he started snarling at everyone that looked at him. The damn Renfield wouldn't like him growling at the staff either and he was unsure enough of her to be wary.

Xander looked at Spike's  face. Was that a hint of jealousy frosting the blue eyes? "Nah, just subverting the locals."

"Best not to, love, The Master of this place mightn't like it. Playin' by the rules, remember? You don't want to get 'er into trouble."

"Will it?" Xander shot a concerned look at the girl.

"Possibly."

"Sorry." A sigh. "Mates, lovers or pets. It's not a sociable life, is it? Thanks," he said to Etita. He bore his laden plate back to the table. He'd automatically collected more than he needed since Spike's breakfast habits consisted of  freshly warmed blood and whatever he could steal from Xander's plate. Xander counted to ten in his head and grinned. Right on schedule Spike swiped a forkful of scrambled eggs . Xander didn't even wince when it was dunked in blood before being consumed. He did wonder when this had become normal for him.

Spike swallowed his mouthful of stolen food. "Pet, you know there are certain ways minions, like 'er , are supposed to behave. It keeps their mortality rate from misunderstandings, down if nothing else. Not that I don't trust you, well sorta."

Xander gave the vampire a dark look at that and fended off the next fork incursion. "Only sorta, well thanks."

"Vampiric nature and all. Evil folks, we don't do trust in general so that's why there're  the formal codes of behaviour. Some times, some places, it's ok to ignore the rules, an' sometimes obeyin' 'em keeps others safe. Understand?" Spike liberated a piece of bacon while Xander considered.

"Safe from you?"

"She looked at you and smiled with you. Given that vampires have trust issues, how do you think I would have reacted if I hadn't been me?" Spike leaned across the table and traced his finger down Xanders cheek to his mouth, whispering his fingers across the curve of his lips.

"Hurt her?" Xander lightly kissed the finger as it brushed over his lips.

"And maybe you too, 'cause generally vampire's don't really trust their lovers. The rules help keep wholesale slaughter down. Not that slaughter is a bad thing, properly done." He smirked at Xander's ewwww face. "Ain't you, pet, trust you as much as I can, but its part o'the nature, you know. "

Xander nodded. He had some questions about mates versus lovers because apparently they weren't at all the same thing. He opened his mouth to ask the most pressing question bubbling in his mind when a new vampire entered the dining room.

Xander saw her, a petite red head with clear green eyes, not much more than sixteen when she'd been turned. She should have been sweet, with curls and freckles. Instead she exuded an aura of age and menace.

Spike felt her, like fingernails on a black board. Vampire, old yet wrong somehow. "Shit." He breathed and  twisted sideways in his seat to look..

"Spike." Xander put hand on his arm. "What is it?"

"It," said the new vampire not unamusedly. "would be the Mistress of this house. I am the Master Elena."

Spike sniffed, nostrils flaring, trying to establish what it was about this vampire that set his senses off. A glance at the  youngster seated with the Risa demon showed no reaction from him. A proximity thing then, perhaps? He tensed and allowed his facial ridges to shadow his forehead, not threatening the other Master, but letting her know he was prepared to defend himself or Xander as needed.

The red-headed vampire raised one brow at Spike's wariness but didn't seem inclined to comment on it. . "You left a message requesting my presence."

Spike shot Xander a look. His pet had kept his hand on his arm and looked to be bursting with questions but he kept quiet, waiting to follow Spike's lead. Spike wanted to send him away but knew the whelp would not go. Always was too brave for his own good.

Elena looked  from Xander to Spike. "Here and now, in this place, I have no intention of dishonouring your claim." Her words had a formal ring.

Spike narrowed his eyes for a second "All right then." After a few seconds the fingernails feeling had reduced but it nagged at him. What the hell was she?

The redhead smiled. "Not one for the formality, are you? Most Masters would insist on the whole rigmarole." She pulled up another chair and settled at the table. "You wanted the latest London intelligence?"

Spike nodded, still a little distracted. "Haven't been 'ere in a long time. Expect the power structure has changed?"

Elena shook her head. "I doubt it. No Master of the city, nothing new there. London itself doesn't seem to allow it. The Gilded Chair remains empty and is likely to stay that way. There is the  usual hierarchical politicking. I don't get involved in that, so all my information is second-hand." She smiled a very nasty grin. "If you're not here long that shouldn't bother you. The only restricted feeding zone is around Holland Park. That belongs to Master Wolfgang and his menage. You want to feed there, you do the whole court and permission ritual. Otherwise, there are no real feeding territories as such. There's a demon boss who has territory in the East End. Don't bother hisminions and they won't bother you."

Spike was surprised; nothing really had changed since his last visit.

"Inner London suffers from a plague of unowned fledglings, made and released. Some of them have formed Blood Gangs. They shouldn't be an issue, but keep an eye on your boy." She turned her head and looked at Xander. Xander knew he was supposed to duck his head but instead  he looked at her, meeting her eyes squarely. They were old eyes, cold and predatory. They assessed him unblinkingly. "Your pup has courage."

She returned her gaze to Spike who was growling threateningly. "Hush. I promised not to dishonour your claim. Best be marking him soon. Or turn him-he looks very tasty." She returned to business. " Docklands belongs to the Scourge. Sensible vamps don't go there alone. So far that's the only territory they have and not for much longer-word is the Masters Council have decided to do something about them. The Scourge have it in for vamps and they tried to take Master Phillipe and his court. Stupid speciest bastards. Thats about it, really. Questions?" She leaned back in
her seat.

"Nah, names have changed but otherwise it's all th' same. 'Cept the Scourge, really didn't think that had spread this far." She shrugged and Spike continued to study her, almost tasting the familiar wrongness of her, finally understanding what made him so uncomfortable. "Bugger me. You're a freakin' turned Slayer, aren't you?"

"Perceptive of you, or else I'm not masking as well as I should be."

"Well, I've had a little Slayer experience. I know how they should feel." Spike replied modestly.

Xander raised his eyebrows at that and mouthed 'feel' with a well-attempted leer tacked on.

'Bloody spell' Spike mouthed back with a mock glare.

"William the Bloody. Two Slayers at the last count." She seemed neither impressed nor unimpressed, merely stating a fact, ignoring the byplay between human and vampire.

Xander reviewed his admittedly small knowledge of turned Slayers, not that many Slayers ever got turned. Apparently most vampires had an instinctive understanding that turning a Slayer was a Bad Thing. Kill them, drain them and bathe in their blood but don't turn them. In general they were quite insane and powerful enough that their first kill was usually the idiot who made them. But if she had been a Slayer then that meant that possibly Servant.. "Oh! Don't tell me Servant was your Watcher?" He blurted out without meaning to. His face was ashen at the thought of Giles in thrall
for eternity.

The cold, old eyes fixed him unblinkingly. "If you don't want the answer, don't ask the question., pup." She tilted her head to one side, watching even more colour drain from the boys face as he processed that answer of sorts. She smiled, pleased. "Do you really want the answer, human child?" She snorted softly when Xander shook his head. "I didn't think so."

"Leave 'im alone, Mistress of the house. Mine." Spike's tone was mild but his eyes were possessive.

The green eyed vampire turned her attention back to Spike. Blue eyes clashed with green. Elana was old and powerful but in the end, it was the green eyes that looked  away from the determined blue.

Elena laughed clear and bright. "Obviously yours, and safe enough here. I apologise, pup and forget my duty as Hostess." She rose from the table. "The maid shall see to your wants. Perhaps, pup we shall talk later. A human aligned to a vampire, worried about a mere Watcher?  I smell a story."  The Master of The Haven stalked away.

Xander shuddered.

Chapter Text

Back in the room, Xander threw himself backwards on the bed, forearm over his eyes. "Would Buffy have turned us or made us Renfields if Drac had succeeded?"

"After she'd dusted the arrogant prick? Yeah, I reckon." Spike moved to sit on the edge of the bed. "You guys tied her to life, reckon that which makes a Slayer, a Slayer would have wanted you lot, too, even after Buffy was gone and the demon was in 'er place." He reached out a hand and gently squeezed Xander's knee. "Dunno nuthin' about this bint. Never heard of 'er, but she must have been a strong Slayer in life to be this old now."
His hand started a gentle stroking up and down Xander's thigh. "Seems she's balanced out the conflict between the Slayer and the demon. Not that she's sane by any means, but she seems saner than any turned Slayer I ever heard of. Wouldn't be holdin' a Free Zone if she was a complete loony."

Spike used his other hand to pull Xander's arm away from his eyes, staring down into the worried brown depths. "Don't borrow trouble. It didn't happen then, doubt it ever will. Buffy's too strong. She's been tempted and overcame it." It was probably too soon to offer a make-it-all-better-shag but maybe a kiss wasn't entirely out of line. He bent his head down and caught Xander's lips with his own. He intended to make the touching brief and comforting but Xander's mouth opened beneath his and Spike deepened the kiss, cool lips lost in the blood-heat of the  mouth beneath him.

Somebody moaned, hell, two somebodies moaned as tongues tasted and traced the curves of each other.

Panting, Xander pulled away slightly and Spike lightly growled his displeasure into the curve of Xander's neck.

"Gotta breathe, Spike." Xander drew in a lungful of air. "It's a quirk I have. Ohhhhh." He gasped out his hard-won air as Spike gently nibbled behind his ear and began to trace kisses along his jaw back to his mouth.

"Got your wind back, pet?" Spike waited for Xander's nod and then dove back for another kiss.

Xanders fingers tangled themselves into the gel-stiff hair, forcing a firmer pressure. Ohh, this was much better than he had imagined.

"Umm." Xander followed Spike's head as he raised it, bestowing light kisses on the tempting curve before dropping his head back to the bed. The fingers locked in theblond hair loosened, stroking across shoulders before ghosting down Spike's back and around to rest against his chest.

"Well, pet." Spike's blue eyes were passion-rimmed with gold. "Want to go on? Make use of this lovely big bed?" He wasn't expecting a positive response, his boy could be pretty determined once he set his mind but, hell, a vampire could always hope.

Xander considered. His reasons for taking it slow were still valid but right now, with Spike above him, gold-blue eyes fixed on his mouth, it was hard and he was tempted to just go with the sensations the vampire created in him. "Book," he offered uncertainly, then his voice strengthened. "We have to get the book for Giles and besides, I never put out before the first date, especially if it's a potentially ewww date." He fluttered his eye-lashes girlishly at Spike and smiled.

The vampire rolled his eyes. "Dating now, are we?" His voice dropped to a seductive purr. "Vampire ways are so very much faster." I have got to find out what you've been reading, pet, he thought, enjoying the dilation of Xander's eyes at the mention of vampire ways. He stroked his hands down Xander's body, bringing them to rest on Xander's hips. He slipped his hands under his boy's hips and faster than Xander could react, raised him and set him on his feet, circling his arms around his boy's waist, buried his face in his neck, smelling himself on Xander, realising that he liked that very much.

Turning Xander in his arms, Spike pushed him gently in the direction of his daypack and stepped over to the wing-back chair to retrieve his battered duster from where he had flung it. "C'mon, then whelp. Sooner we're gone, sooner we have the date, then the sooner we see about you puttin' out a little." He grinned at Xander's blush and followed his pet to the door.

Xander couldn't bring himself to look at Servant behind her counter as they left the boarding house and stepped out into the evening crowds.

Xander bounced beside Spike as they walked to their station, the vampire's aura of barely contained, cheerful violence cutting them an easy path through the streets. "This is so great, so old," he said stopping and pointing to a building dark with age, "then suddenly, whammo, newness," and he grinned at himself in a plate glass window.

"Yeah, its a funny town."

"Ha ha or peculiar?"

"Peculiar, mostly. It's a convergence point for a lotta Ley lines an' it's got a lot of old power sites too, some new built on the old. There's Dimensional doors and portals, too. Pro'bly why Giles didn't want both the witchkittens here on their own, till they get a bit more control. It's a temptation, this city, for those that work the mojo, with all that power lyin' around waitin' to be tapped."

Xander frowned. "Like a Hellmouth?"

"Yes an' no. Stuff just as bad, an' some good stuff too. Dependin' on how you define good. C'mon."

Spike resumed his stride along the street Xander falling in step next to him. The boy was obviously enjoying himself, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. Spike admired his boy's ability to take pleasure and humour from the moment he was in.

A large group of goths walked down the street towards them. Spike determinedly strode through the middle of the group, forcing them to scatter. "Wannabe's," he mumbled to himself with a smirk. A tallish girl stood for an instant in front of him before moving gracefully to the side. Spike turned and watched her as she walked down the street.

Xander's eyes followed her also, not liking the fact that Spike was paying attention to another. My vampire, grr. He sent dark, evil, Xander-thoughts in her direction. What do you know, possessessivness is a communicable condition, he thought with an internal grin. The group reformed and walked past the plate glass window and Xander saw that the tall girl lacked a reflection. "Don't the others notice?"

"Nah, just like being Hellmouth blind, London is. Where's this station supposed to be?"

"Over there." Xander grabbed Spike's arm and hauled him across the road. Once in the tunnel Xander stoped in front of the Underground map. "Look at
these names," he said. "They're so English. It's great. Chalk Farm. How do you farm chalk?  Shepards Bush, Convent Garden, Blackfriars and Swiss Cottage. Is there really a swiss cottage at Swiss Cottage? Cause I'm thinking brown-eyed cows, cuckoo clocks and mmm, chocolate."

"No, no and you've 'ad enough this evening. No circus at Piccadilly, either."

Xander gave Spike a hard look. "I know that." He whopped Spike lightly on the arm. "We need to get off at Chancery Lane." They proceeded down the tunnel, bought tickets and caught the train just before it left. A very crowded train, with standing room only and not much of that.

Spike didn't like being crowded by humans and being this close to so many in a confined place was distracting. He wasn't some untutored fledge who'd vamp out in the company of so much prey but he was uncomfortable. To distract himself he pressed close to Xander's back, inhaling the musky scent mixed with his own.

Well, that was effective, Spike thought as his blood-hunger was replaced by an altogether different need. Not that some biting and blood didn't play a part in his after-I-get-the-damn-chip-out plans for Xander. He rumbled contentedly in his chest and snaked an iron-hard arm around Xander's waist, pulling him back against his chest. The motion of the train set up a nice rocking rhythm of his groin against Xander's ass. Lovely. He could feel human eyes on him, disapproving of such blatancy but he was William the Bloody. He didn't give a shit.

Xander leaned his head back against Spikes shoulder and whispered in his ear. "What are you doing?" Not that he minded, really, the motion of the train was moving Spike in  interesting ways against him and he liked that. He'd also been well and truly inoculated against the embarrassment factor after Anya, so the sharp looks didn't sting him much either.

Spike considered. He wasn't cuddling because he was a Master Vampire and Master Vampires don't cuddle. "I'm supportin' you against the motion of the train."

"Ahh, cuddling." He felt Spike chuckle into his neck which sent all kinds of shivers down his spine.

 

The shop was set in a quiet back street. Its windows were dusty and through them Spike and Xander could see shelves full of books and clutter. An old-fashioned wooden sign hung over the door. It read Lomax's Books, with a bright-scaled long tongued creature intertwined with the letters. The green-painted door way was scratched all around with strange symbols and signs. Spike nodded when he saw them. "Got good protection, this place," he told Xander approvingly

Xander looked around for a security camera.

Spike watched him for a moment. "Not human security, whelp, supernatural protection. Each one o' those signs is the mark of a Master Vampire or Demon who considers this place under their protection. Even that reclusive bastard Wolfgang is on there." He pointed to small angular shape in the right hand corner. "That's the Watcher's Council sigil. Reckon I'm gonna hate this guy. Absolute neutrality breeds smugness." He stepped up the worn grey-stone step and reached over to open the door and discovered that it was already partially open..

"Better come in th' rest o' the way but keep your 'ands where I can see 'em," said a soft female voice from inside the shop. The voice was pitched low, but loud enough to be heard. Spike and Xander looked at each other. Scents from the shop wafted over Spike. Two non-humans, fear, anger and blood. Oh, and a cat.

Spike swore softly as  he made sure Xander was behind him, protected by his body, then he opened the door and stepped inside. At the bottom of a wrought-iron circular staircase sat a young female demon. With spiky red and green hair, torn jeans and a long-sleeved shirt she was human enough to look at, except for her eyes, large, violet and slit like a cat's. She faced the door with a crossbow held expertly at the ready.
Spike growled, allowing his game face to come to the fore. The bolt was a demon hunter's wet dream. Obviously designed to stop a variety of demons, it was made of
rowan inset with hawthorn and silver. Silver-tipped too, with a variety of religious symbols decorating its side. It would have been enough to give most supernatural nasties a pause. It certainly had vampire-stopping power.

Xander paled and before Spike realised what he was doing he had slipped in front of the vampire. "Hey," he said holding up his hands. "Caution is real good in these troubled times but this makes for a little bit of concern on the customer relations side of things. We are customers. Expected customers even. I think. I hope." He put on his goofiest, most harmless smile whilst trying to stay in front of the game-faced vampire that wanted to stand in front of him. "We're here to pick up a parcel for Mr Rupert Giles." He studied the demon girl's face. Nope, no recognition in the violet eyes. No
shooting yet of growling vampire or harmless human, either, so they were ahead of the game so far.

An old voice from a room behind the girl called, "Easy, Katie. Who are they?"

Xander answered, "Xander Harris and Spike. Mr Rupert Giles was supposed to let you know we were coming."

"Gran'pa! One o' them's  a vamp. Not a local, either."

"Yes, yes. Mr Giles said his representatives would be unusual. Bloody unique for a Watcher, I'd say. Thought he was joking when he said he was sending a young man and a vampire. A vampire who would be William the Bloody. Had your Sire in here once."
The voice moved out from the room. It belonged to an extremely tall and extraordinarily thin elderly man. No, not a man, Xander realised, looking closer. His eyes were purple and slit like the girl's. He was also holding an icepack to a sizeable lump on his head. "Looking for copies of Bunnicula she was, her and some doll. Miss Jane or Elspeth or something. For a tea party, apparently."

He moved further into room and sank onto the chair behind a battered desk piled with books. Xander half turned from facing the girl to look at the older demon. Spike kept all his attention  firmly on the girl and her crossbow and slipped deliberately in front of Xander again.

"Most nerve-wracking customer I've had for a while." The demon continued. "Not sure if she understood what the sigils meant or if, from moment to moment, she even cared. I'm Lomax, by the way. Katie, put it down. I'm fairly sure these are the gentlemen Mr Giles sent and if not, well, you can kill them later." Katie pouted and lowered the weapon.

Behind Xander Spike relaxed a little. The little female demon's aim had been very firm.

Chapter Text

Xander studied the book-cluttered interior of the store. His Hellmouth
radar said no trouble currently, barring Katie picking up the crossbow
again. Which was a possibility, Xander decided, given the glares Spike was
sending in the demon girl's direction. Spike didn't like crossbows, and
certainly didn't like them pointed at him when he'd done nothing in
particular to deserve it.

  Xander sighed and grabbed the back of the vampire's duster and pulled him
backwards into his arms. Circling his arms around Spike's waist, he rested
his chin on Spike's shoulder and looked towards Lomax. It was strange to
feel the vampire stiffen in surprise at the unexpected contact and then
almost imperceptibly relax into the embrace. Xander's private little study
into Spike 101 was rapidly coming to the conclusion that the vampire was a
cuddler, Big Bad or not.

"So," said Xander to Lomax, "it's obvious you've had some kind of trouble.
Is there-"

"Yeah, yeah, can see that you've got difficulties an' all," Spike
interrupted Xander, before he could make his well-meaning offer to help.
Damned if he was losing any time with Xander over Somebody Else's Problem.
"Nasty bump, should get it looked at. So how about you give us our package
an' we'll be on our way, out o' your hair." He looked expectantly at the
bookseller. "Thanks," he added as an afterthought.

Lomax looked awkwardly at the pair and opened his mouth to speak.

Spike read the look successfully and pulled himself out of Xander's arms
and began to pace. "You," he said, fixing the old demon with a cold
blue-eyed stare, "are going to tell us that our book has been stolen,
aren't you?" Lomax nodded.

Spike turned and continued his pacing back towards Xander. "I knew it,
Spike's luck strikes again." The vampire turned again pacing back towards
Lomax. "Here I am, plannin' a nice evenin' in Whitechapel with ..with my
own, so of course the bloody book gets stolen." He turned again and paced
back to stand in front of Xander.

"Ohh, the Ripper. Cool," Katie's voice interrupted the rant from her place
on the stairs. From the stair above a large, fluffy grey  cat stepped down
and oozed deliberately onto  her lap.

The vampire ignored her and stood in front of Xander, arms folded and a
scowl on his face. The Tome, while not a major work of magic, had a spell
Giles thought he might be able to adapt to help mask Dawn.

"Have you contacted the police?" Xander reached out and stroked the
vampire's chest. No rumbling purr but at least the vampire wasn't mad
enough to launch himself at Lomax.

"Not a bad idea, pet." Spike nodded. "Let the Bill deal with it an' we can
have our date." He watched Xander's face. "He's shaking his head isn't he?
Supernatural types, then. Bugger."

Spike turned back to face Lomax. "Call in some markers," and he waved his
hands towards the door.

"I'm afraid that in this instance they would be useless where I suspect the
book has gone. If it's any consolation, I don't think the Tome of Imarka
was the object of this little smash and grab. I think it got stolen because
it and a few other books, also stolen, had been left on my desk with
another book I was packing up for delivery to its purchaser." A brief look
of embarrassment crossed Lomax's face. "The Tome may turn up again in the
book market." A long thin tongue flicked briefly over dry lips. "Possibly
even here," he added obliquely
.

"Peachy, that is. Not only is our book stolen, it was stolen by accident!
Rupes is gonna dance for joy. So what illustrious company was our little
tome  keeping?"

The look of embarrassment returned and stayed. "It on the desk with an
original Winnie the Pooh, The Lives and Habits of Tharll Demons and The
Vespertilio Invulnerabilis."

Spike's gaze became cold, gold and hard. His voice started soft as if he
couldn't quiet believe his ears. "'Vespertilio Invulnerabilis! The 'abest
iterum'. The bloody freakin' Gone Again." Spike's voice rose to a roar.
"The thrice damned Gone Again. And you didn't expect something like this to
'appen. Oh, I am gonna to rip you to shreds and dance on the bloody pieces."

Now Xander decided the vampire was mad enough to launch himself at Lomax
and since a staked vampire wasn't on his agenda of fun vacation things, he
grabbed the vampire again, pulling him bodily against him, surprised when
the vampire allowed it. "Crossbow, Spike!" Xander hissed in the vampire's
ear. "I can't put out to a pile of dust." A glance at Katie told him that
she had reached for the crossbow at the vampire's threat, dislodging the
cat in the process.

Grumbling and swearing, the vampire subsided into Xander's arms, shooting
poisonous looks at the bookseller.

"Ok," said Xander, when he was sure Spike was going to stay in his arms and
not attempt any stake worthy acts. He looked up at Katie, who was looking
at the-subdued-by-a-human vampire in mild fascination. She caught his eye
and put the crossbow down and allowed the purring cat to resume his place.

"So, what's this Gone Again?"

"It's a book."

"No," corrected Lomax in a pedantic tone, "it's a grimoire."

"Yeah, pretty bloody grim for the vampire that uses it."

Xander looked from one to the other. "Hello, question still not answered here."

Lomax took on a lecturing tone. "It is The Vampire Invulnerable. It's a
book of spells that are supposed to confer invulnerability upon a vampire."

"It's a bloody bear trap for vampires. Cursed, it is."

"While I admit that historically speaking."

"Historically speaking," snapped Spike, "every vampire that's tried to use
the Vespertilio Invulnerabilis has ended up a pile of ashes with the book
sitting in the middle, or sometimes no book, just the ashes. That damn book
has been lost or apparently destroyed more times than that ponce Dracula.
It always turns up again. Oh, and it gets stolen," the vampire raised a
cynical eyebrow in Lomax's direction, "frequently."

"Very rarely in company, however, and usually it stays in non-vampire hands
longer than the five hours I had it." Lomax rubbed his bump gingerly. "I am
glad that it wasn't one of the more spectacular leave-takings in the
grimoire's history. I am sorry for the loss of your tome. It was
unexpected. I will recompense you for it."

Spike shrugged, a little mollified by the apology, temper easing in
Xander's warm embrace. "Who's the suicidal fool giving invulnerability a
try this time?" Spike sounded genuinely interested in the answer.

"Oh, a youngster. Barely reached Master status. But he has money, wants
power, and won't listen to wiser heads. One of Master Phillipe's get. One
of his usual, all beauty and no brains. It was actually quite easy to find,
once I started looking." Lomax shrugged, "Almost too easy. Once he took
delivery I was going to wait, with scholarly interest you understand, for the result."
Lomax grinned wolfishly revealing rows of sharp, pointed teeth. "There has
been some fascinating phenomena involved with the book, historically speaking."

"Oh, yes, the Great Fire of London was fun for young and old."

Xander spoke before the vampire could work up his temper again. "So even
though nobody has ever succeeded with this spell, vampires keep on trying?
Sheesh, you'd think they'd learn."

"We're a stubborn demon, pet, when we want somethin' bad enough, an' it's a
great temptation, y' know, to walk in the sun again."

Xander squeezed the vampire in sympathy and looked at Lomax. "This is all
very interesting and certainly explains the why. Now, we need to figure out
the how, as in how we get our tome back. You did say you had a suspicion
about where it had gone, didn't you?"

Lomax sighed and reached into his pocket. "The thugs dropped this on their
way out the back." He pulled something out.

Xander stared at the hand, which seemed empty. He blinked and caught a
flash of metal but when he looked directly at the hand there was still,
quite persistently, nothing there. His eyes slid sideways to look up at
Katie and the cat. Slitted eyes, purple and green watched him intently. He
could feel himself forgetting about the flash he thought he'd seen. It was
unimportant. Firmly he made himself look back, staring at the hand until
suddenly, as if it had always been there on Lomax's palm, was a 't'-shaped
piece of metal.

Spike also stared at the piece of metal. A faint, familiar, half-remembered scent rose from it. "Bugger me gently. London Below?"

Chapter Text

Spike took the strangely shaped piece of metal from Lomax's hand. He turned
it over several times, smoothing his fingers over the edges. Thinking.
"What is it, Spike?" Xander's voice slipped into his thoughts.

  "You can see it, then, pet?" Somehow he was not surprised. His
Hellmouth-bred boy had no faculty for magic; he seemed to twist it somehow,
and sometimes that was good thing. Ordinary humans and most demon kind
wouldn't have seen the opener or would have forgotten it as soon as they
did. "It's an opener. Folk from the underside use 'em to open sewer covers
and some tunnel doors."

Spike stepped out of Xander's arms and passed the opener to him. "You know
about  London Below? Yet you exist in Above?" he said to Lomax's nonplused
expression.

"You exist solidly Above yourself. Yet you seem to know Below also." Lomax
spread his hands helplessly. "Apparently, we are close enough to being part
of the underside to allow us to trade, without us actually slipping through
to London Below and being forgotten by London Above. We never remember
faces, and just snatches of conversation. But a barter is made and we just
*know* our customer was from the underside. Don't ask me why, I don't know.
This shop has always had ties with the underside. A halfway-there house, I
suppose. Some interesting things come up from there, and once they've been
bartered, paid for I suppose, they exist in London Above as if they always
did." Lomax shrugged.

"The Vespertilio Invulnerabilis has gone Below. The
Childe of Phillipe's will have already forgotten about it. So will almost
everyone else in the world above. Your Tome, too, I'm afraid. If you try to
talk about it, people will forget."

Katie put in helpfully, "A  foot 'old in one world and a toe 'old in th'
other, we have. But undersiders can't do this sort o' thing."

"Apparently they can, Katie." Lomax rubbed his head for emphasis.

"But I thought there were rules or somethin'." Her sentence ended on a
slight, tired whine and she cuddled the cat close. "A spell o' some kind
that didn't let 'em do this sorta thing."

"It's a geas," Spike said absently, watching Xander examine the opener.

"Oh, I thought that was some kind of bird-head like a flamingo with the
legs of a sumo wrestler." Xander looked up from his examination of the
opener at Katie's chuckle of recognition. To Spike's blank look he added,
"What? Discworld? Terry Pratchett?." At Spike's continued non-recognition
he shook his head and sighed, "A geas is a kind of compulsion, yes?"

"Yeah, a compulsion on Above not to see or remember Below. Leastways that's
how it was described t' me. You're right though, girl, there are rules
about this sorta thing an' they're not the kind easily broke."

Spike seemed to come to a decision. "Right then. You don't mind if we 'ang
onto this?" He pointed to the opener in Xander's hand. Xander tossed it to
Spike, who dropped it in his duster pocket. "If I turn up the Gone Again,
I'm leavin' it where it lies." He nodded politely to Katie, or possibly the
cat, and stalked out the door, a thoughtful look still on his face.

Xander, with a quick goodbye for Katie and Lomax, followed the swirl of
black out the door and onto the street. The vampire waited for him outside,
his thoughtful look replaced by a mildly lavicious one. "So, 'bout you
puttin' out? I'm sure I heard it mentioned in there, somewhere." His smile
was completely suggestive.

"That was my patented distract-the-vampire-from-getting-staked babble.
True, though, can't put out to a pile of dust. The thought is just ewww,
and so not hygenic. I can't believe you let me, distract you, I mean. You
sounded pretty firm about the whole dancing on the bloody pieces bit, and
again with the ewww." Xander grinned widely, pleased that he, a mere
mortal, had more than a little power over the blond predator in front of
him. I promise to only use my power for good-his inner cheerleader wore a
slutty smile-really good, he thought, feeling himself tighten in his jeans.

Spike, feeling the sudden increase in pheromones, stepped into Xander's
personal space, close enough to touch but not doing so, his eyes focused on
Xander's lips. He loved the heat from the living body, the indrawn breath,
and if he could just hold out a moment more then maybe Xannder would take
the initiative, and score one for the vampire!  This was addictive, the
sensation of  Xander's mouth on his, warm and mobile and tasting of
chocolate. The scent of aroused human filled his nostrils and Spike found
himself wondering where the nearest flat surface was.

The sound of clapping pulled them apart. Katie in the doorway, turning the
sign from open to closed, had paused to watch the impromptu show. Xander
blushed, pulled away, bowed flamboyantly in her direction, grabbed Spike's
hand and began to tow him in the direction of the underground station,
muttering about timing.

Spike merely grinned triumphantly and allowed himself to be towed away.
"You weren't embarrassed on the train, pet."

"I didn't know anybody there and then I wasn't contemplating-"

  Xander's sentence finished on a mumble but vampire hearing caught the
last and Spike's grin became even wider and definitely indecent..

The train was almost empty this time. Spike had allowed Xander to retain
possession of his hand. He liked feeling their joined hands resting on
Xander's thigh. It was a sign that as much as he owned the boy the boy
also, just maybe,owned him.

"So tell me about it."

Spike didn't have to ask about what. "We'd come back t' London, well after
Prague, a bit afore we came to Sunnyhell. Dru was real strange. Odd." At
Xander's lifted eyebrow he continued. "Odder than usual, then. Fey. She
kept seein' people, she said. Odd smelling' people. I put it down to 'er
fancies, like the singin' stars."

Spike paused, remembering. "One night, she started stalking somethin', a
brown mouse girl, she said. I couldn't see anythin' but Dru was off and
away. She hunted it through the back streets and stinkin' alleys. I figured
to humour her and followed along. Finally Dru corners it in a dead end. See
how it trembles, Spike she said, and I said, yeah, wondering when we could
go look for a real meal."

  "Dru looked at me," Spike shook his head, " no, right through me. Bring
'er to me, Spike, she said. I didn't know what to do, there was nuthin'
there. Tea parties with Miss Edith were one thing, but invisible people?
Dru pulled herself up an' there was steel in her eyes and suddenly she was
all hard edges. Then she comes over all Sire. Hell, usually she couldn't
remember who made who. Lying to *me*, Spike she says in Sire voice. It hits
you here, Sire voice." Spike thumped his chest. "Then she backhanded me
into the wall and ordered me to see.  I saw stars an' they were swearin',
not singin'. I also saw a tangle-haired girl in a homespun brown dress and
I saw her disappear through a door that I could o' sworn weren't there before."

"London Below?"

"Oh, yeah."

"And?"

"We followed her, o' course, Dru weren't to be put off. Down steps and
through doors, under the city. We went through the last door, could smell
the girl an' others on the other side. Smoke an' fires and cooking meat.
She belonged to a tribe of th' underside. The Rat Speakers. They were
respectful an' polite to us, once we'd promised to leave them an' theirs
alone. We visited awhile, saw some stuff. Not even a quarter o' what's down
there. It's." Spike paused, not sure how to describe London Below, "It's
pockets of times and places and people that have just slipped between the
cracks of our reality. Stuff that people used to believe in that found a
new home an' a veritable lost dogs home of the mythological. Heard there
was even an Angel down there." Spike shuddered. "Once you're there, though,
you're there for good, pretty much. Not many get both Above and Below. A
few do; some demon kind, and special 'umans. Most betweeners pick out a
pretty precarious existence, not belongin' to one or th' other. Reckon one
day Lomax's will slip through too. Above don't generally see you or hear
you, or if they do they forget, real quick. I didn't want that so I made
Dru leave before it 'appened to us."

Xander leaned over and  poked Spike with his finger. "Yep, still real." He
squeezed the hand he held. "Very real."

"Below, well, they can't hurt those in Above or steal anything but food, or
so I understood.  It's the geas. I dunno how it works. Mojo is Peaches'
field. Maybe demons get a bit o leeway in remembering and seeing 'cause
we're already supernatural. 'Cept that most demons are affected same as
most 'umans-they're blind to it. Dru remembered, though, and 'cause she
did, I guess I did too. Babbled about it in 'er fancies. Without 'er,  I'd
almost forgotten, myself, 'till I smelt the opener. You're a Hellmouth
child. Gotta count for something in the weirdness stakes; maybe that's why
you could see and remember."

 

Back in the room, Xander phoned Giles to try and explain their problem, a
difficult conversation because Giles remembered that he'd sent them to
London for a book but couldn't remember which book. While he spoke, Xander
watched the vampire in fascination. He loaded all the complimentary stuff
into Xander's backpack-shampoo, shoe polish and soap, and then he began to
throw in Xander's emergency supply of chocolate. Looking from Xander to the
bag with a frown, he retrieved a few bars and placed them deliberately on
the bedside table. That warmed and chilled Xander all at once. On one hand,
the vampire cared enough to make sure he had chocolate; on the other,
Xander knew it meant that  he wasn't expected to go along with the vampire.

  He finished up his frustrating call to  Giles. The vampire had finished
his haphazard packing and stood in front of Xander's chair, waiting for the
conversation to end.

Spike shrugged the pack onto his back. "Right then, pet. That's all done.
I'll be."

"No."

"No, what?" The expression the vampire's eyes was determined.

"Look, let's just pretend we had the argument and I won. Less stress all
around."

"I want you safe."

"Define safe, Spike. You're going to leave me in a boarding house with a
loony ex-Slayer who wants to chat about mere Watchers."

"You will be safe here, her word on it. Rules, remember?"

" 'Here and now, in this place,'" Xander quoted, "fills me with such
confidence. What if I go outside? Are all bets off? Or am I supposed to
wait here in this room like a good little pet?" Xander crossed his arms and
quirked an eyebrow at Spike, not angry, yet, but interested in the
vampire's reply. It would tell him a lot about exactly how the vampire
regarded Xander's  place in his life.

"Not a pet. Not a minion. Not ever." The vampire's eyes were oddly soft.
"Mine to protect. I want you safe." There was a note of frustration in his
voice. Vampiric childer would obey, but his humans were contrary and so
often got in above their heads. Especially Xander.

"I'd feel safer with you." Xander offered, pleased with the vampire's
reply. "It can't be worse than patrol at home. You deal with the
supernatural and I'll deal with the humans. So, will I need my flashlight?"

Spike studied Xander's resolved face, different than Willow's but no less
determined. "Yeah, pack th' flashlight. Might work, might not, technology's
dicey down there, but we can barter th' bits. Stay close t' me. Here's
hoping Hellmouth-bred'll count for demon bred with the geas. I don't want t' lose you, Xander."

Chapter Text

Spike led Xander through the back streets of London, through a pub and out the pub’s back door, which opened onto a rubbish-littered alley. They walked down the alley, stepping around the refuse until they came to an old wooden door set in the wall. Spike sniffed the door. “Smells about right,” he mumbled and pulled it open. It opened onto a rickety landing with fragile-looking steps that led down to an empty room with a pile of old rags in the corner. No other doorways in sight.

“Shit!” swore the vampire in frustration. “I can smell it but I can’t see it, ‘cept out of the corner of my eye. Look straight on an’ it’s gone.” He growled softly, thinking. “Right then, pet. I’ve tried subtle, an’ the way I went afore, now we’re going for direct. C’mon, we’re going to catch a train.” He turned and stalked out the door.

Xander cast his eyes one last time around the basement. For a moment he thought he saw movement in the rags. He watched a couple of seconds more, frowning into the shadows and a rat scuttled across the floor and into a corner. When no more movement was forthcoming he turned to follow the vampire back down the alley.

In the basement, in the corner, the bundle of rags shifted and stood, becoming a handsome, dark-skinned man wearing a many-pocketed long coat. “A vampire and his human seeking ingress to London Below. How very fascinating. What do you think?” He addressed his comments to the rat, sitting on its haunches in the corner.

The rat chittered a moment and the man nodded in agreement. “Yes, definitely worth something and worth keeping an eye on, too. I shall leave you to your hunt. Good evening,” He turned and opened the oak-panelled door in the wall and stepped through.

Xander followed Spike on the underground from station to station. Blackfriars, Victoria, then Covent Garden. Spike seemed most interested in the beggars and street performers that decorated the stations. He studied them all intently before turning away.

Finally, at Temple station, he seemed to find what he was looking for-a saxophone-playing musician with shoulder-length brown hair and an impressive forked beard.

Spike stepped in front of him and stared, until the musician, distracted by the intent blue gaze, stopped playing. “Hello,” smiled Spike. “I’m lookin’ for the Earl’s Court. Might you have a timetable?”

“I’m not a bloody conductor. The timetable’s over there,” and he waved in the direction of the wall behind Xander.

Spike smiled again, “P’rhaps I didn’t make myself clear. I want the Earl’s Court. Not the station.”

Xander, confused, wondered at the distinction. Earl’s Court was a station along the route. They’d already been there for, Pete’s sake.

The musician’s eyes opened wide. “I dunno what you mean.”

“C’mon, mate. You stink of London Below.” Spike allowed his facial ridges and fangs to show, all the while singing a litany in his head. “Not gonna hurt the human. Not gonna hurt the human.”

“Shit!” the musician threw himself back against the wall, hand fumbling in his pocket.

Spike growled out, “Keep that cross in your pocket. Yes, I can feel it from here. Just tell me where the Earl’s Court is next due an’ I won’t be your problem anymore.”

“You’re not from Below.” Firmly stated.

“No, but I’ve been there and need t’ get back. Can’t get in any other way. Tell me an’ I won’t ‘urt you. No better yet, tell me an’ let the court deal with me.”

The busker seemed to like that idea and slowly, in a very non-threatening manner, removed his hand from his pocket. Crossless. He reached into a vest pocket and pulled out a tattered timetable. “Coming through Temple platform #2 in about ten minutes. Stand two paces out from the Coke machine. They’ll stop.”

He waved the timetable at Xander. “Can’t take the upworlder, he’ll never see.”

Spike gave a genuine chuckle, game face sliding away, and said in a voice of quiet pride. “Him? Born and bred on a Hellmouth, that one. London Below will be nothing.”

The musician shrugged. “Now go away and be somebody else’s problem. Oh, and mind the Gap.” The last was said a touch maliciously.

Spike nodded and allowed Xander to precede him down the tunnel. Xander looked back over his shoulder at the busily-packing up musician. “Betweener?”

“Yep.”

Platform #2, two paces out from the Coke machine, and Xander was just going with the flow, trusting Spike to know what he was doing even if it sounded completely Drucilla-ville. Spike had been firmer than an English nanny about going near the edge though. Things lived in the Gap, he said.

An empty train wheezed to a stop at the station, the door of the third car down stopping directly in front of Spike. Xander idly glanced at the interior of the train. Dully lit by emergency lights, it looked like it needed a cleaning.

Spike’s attention was firmly on the door in front of him and he stepped up and knocked twice on the door. The doors slid open a handspan and from within a firm yet elderly voice demanded “Who knocks?”

Xander jumped backwards and looked at the car again. Through the windows he could see a dim empty carriage in need of cleaning. Through the gap in the door he could see a narrow-eyed elderly face and behind that darkness lit by flickering …firelight? He was also sure that he could see movement, people moving beyond the owner of the querulous voice. He stepped closer, trying to make out shapes. Then he looked up and down the platform to see if anybody else had noticed. Nobody else on the platform seemed even notice that there was a train there at all.

Spike stepped closer to the door and allowed his game face to slide over. “Master Vampire William the Bloody and,” Spike hesitated, “and Consort request an audience with his Grace, the Earl.”

“What assurances can you give as to the safety of this Court, Master William the Bloody?”

“My word as a Master Vampire.”

A snort, not unamused, was the response. “A Master Vampire’s word can be flexible when they’re hungry or enraged. Will you swear on the life of your Consort?”

Spike looked back at Xander, expecting a barrage of questions. The boy looked back, calm trust in his eyes. Then he nodded. Spike nodded back, warmed by the unquestioning trust. “I swear by his life. If anything harms him, however, then I will paint the underside with the blood of this court.”

“Your oath is accepted. Master Vampire and Consort, please enter. Welcome to London Below”

Chapter Text

It was, Xander realized with surprised delight, a medieval court. Well,
what you'd get if you stuffed a medieval court into the car of a train. A
thick carpet of rushes covered the floor, torches attached to the wall gave
off a flickering light, large shaggy dogs lolled in front of open
fire-places, chickens dodged out from under people's feet, and four ancient
armsmen in equally elderly tabards expertly and steadily divided their
attention and crossbows between himself and Spike.

Xander half turned in order to take in more of the car, staring at the
faded tapestries that covered many of the doors and windows. Outside on the
platform the other commuters continued to look through the train as if it
didn't even register on their consciousness. Xander wondered how something
as big as a train could be blanked from their minds.

Faded grey ladies-in-waiting, who had, in Xander's opinion, been waiting
far too long to be wearing such a revealing style of renaissance dress,
gasped and drew into a huddle at Spike's fanged and ridged visage, their
tapestry and the seated minstrel entirely forgotten.

The herald, at least as old as the guards, indicated that they should
remain where they were as he stepped further down to the other end of the
car to a large figure slumped on a throne raised up on a dais.

The train lurched forward and both Spike and Xander rocked slightly,
catching themselves on the leather handholds that dangled from the roof,
being careful not to grab the ones that were being used to hang rabbits and
pheasants from.

As Spike steadied himself, he could feel Xander's excitement. He could
appreciate it but didn't share it, being more concerned about their safety.
He'd smelt no demon-kind on or about the train, which was why he'd lied
about Xander's status.

Humans, with their limited senses, would be unable to pick up the subtle
changes that came with being a Consort that most demons would. To humans it
was just a title and Xander would be accorded the respect it entailed. It
also indicated that Spike was sincere in his stated intention to refrain
from visiting general, lovely carnage upon the court since it was generally
believed, in the Underside at least, that no Master would ever place his
consort in harm's way on a whim. But, if it all went arse-up,only humans
aboard meant that he would be helpless to protect Xander. Shit, he hated
politics.

In the continued absence of carnage, ravishment, or threat on Spike's part,
the ladies-in-waiting-too-long had returned to their tapestry, interspersed
with titters and giggles directed at the two. One lady, only slightly less
faded than the rest and very much bolder, was studying the still happily
bemused and oblivious Xander with a rather predatory look.

Spike met her eyes. She had steel, he had to admit, because she didn't
flinch from his yellow-eyed stare. He stepped behind Xander, pulling him
flush with his body and deliberately ran his fangs in a caress up Xander's
neck. It felt as good to his sensitive canines as it obviously did to
Xander, judging by his indrawn breath and the sweet way he arched his back,
buttocks pressing against the front of Spike's jeans.

"Ssspike!" whispered Xander, "No fair." He reached a hand behind himself
and ran it in a firm stroke from Spike's hip, down his thigh.

"Just establishing territory, love." The demoiselle dropped her eyes and
fanned a suddenly flushed face with her hands. The minstrel, lute
forgotten, looked suddenly wistful.

Spike ignored a "Harrumph" from the returned herald in favour of another
caress, down Xander's neck this time, wishing the boy wasn't wearing a
sweater so that he could nip hard on his neck just about...remembering the
thrice-blasted chip bought him firmly back to the business at hand. Setting
Xander reluctantly away from him with a two-handed caress across that tasty
behind, he looked at the herald and tilted his head enquiringly.

"I shall announce you to the Earl. Please follow me." He led them to the
bottom of the dais. On the battered wooden throne was an equally battered
figure, an elderly, scarred face, one eye closed and the other covered by a
brown leather patch. A bronze coronet sat askew on his head and he wore a
brown fur coat. Incongruously, poking out from below the coat were the
bottoms of a pair of blue pin-striped pyjamas, and the toes of fluffy brown
slippers jutted out from under the large wolf -hound sprawled across the
Earl's feet. Faded tapestries hung behind the dais, depicting the old man
in better, younger days, swinging a sword and generally being bold and
glorious.

The herald sighed and stepped up to the dais and again gently began to
re-awaken the Earl. A cough and a spluttter and the Earl awoke and opened
his eye, casting a watery blue gaze about. "Wha. What?" he mumbled.

"Visitors, your Grace. Master Vampire William the Bloody and Consort."

"What, speak up man! Stop whispering."

The herald repeated himself at a louder volume closer to the Earl's ear.

"A bloodsucker, a damn bloodsucker in my court. Fetch me my crossbow, man!"
The old man's voice ended on a bellow. The herald sighed again and began to
whisper urgently in the Earl's ear. The Earl began to settle himself back
in his throne.

"A Master Vampire, that's different then. Times were you couldn't move for cocky young fledges. Why I remember when..." He stopped, eye looking into the past rather than at the two before him.

"Well, bring 'em forward, then. Protocol, an' all that."

Chapter Text

Spike and Xander were motioned to the front of the dais. Spike stepped forward with Xander half a step behind and to Spike's left. Spike's bow was smooth and precise, respectful without in any way indicating that he was inferior in rank to the Earl. The watchful wolfhound growled warningly and Spike retuned the growl with interest. On a command from the Earl the dog subsided but continued to watch the vampire carefully. Identity and species established, Spike allowed his game-face to slip away.

Xander, much less practiced in bowing, stepped forward and managed to follow Spike's lead without disgracing himself before standing back in his position behind Spike's shoulder, waiting to follow the vampire's lead, desperately curious about what the vampire had planned. Remembering, ruefully, a few seconds later, that Master Vampire or not, careful forward planning was not something that Spike did often or well.

"Harrum," mumbled the Earl, seemingly at a loss for something to say. "I've hunted a few o' your kind in my time, Master Vampire. Always gave me a damn good run." His look at Spike was challenging.

"That's all right," replied Spike, unconcerned, "I've hunted a few o' your kind in my day."

A single shaggy eyebrow rose. "Drinking the blood of a vampire never lived up to the expectation." A gnarled finger rose to caress the eye patch.

"Never does, your Grace, believe me."

The old man leaned back in his chair and chuckled, "Oh, Master William, very good. Didn't get what you expected out o' bein' turned, eh? Still, you pays your penny and takes your chance, or so I'm told. Looking to establish territory in the underside, then?" The eye fixed on Spike unblinkingly, suddenly less vague and watery.

Spike shook his head. "I have no intention of re-establishing my court here. I need access to the underside and it seemed only polite to pay my respects."

The old man snorted. "Well thought out, Master Vampire. If I acknowledge your presence here, the rest of the Underside will be available to you. However, I could just drop you off at Blackfriars in London Above and that would be the end of your little adventure. So what do you want in the Underside, Master William?"

Spike considered. The Earl was generally temporally unfocused, or so rumour all those years ago had held. It seemed they'd chosen a day when he was firmly in the present in which to make their visit. That meant platitudes and a quick escape were out. The Earl had been a cunning and brilliant general in his day and tonight shadows of that man were firmly present.

 

The truth then, or part of it at least. There would be no sympathy for a vampire or a childe of a vampire's menage here. The peoples of London Below knew exactly what kind of nasties, beasts and boggarts existed in the shadows. But trade was trade, be it with demon-kind or the sewer-folk.

"It's true, your Grace, I needed quick access to the Underside. Something of importance to the safety of one of my menage has been lost here. I had hoped to track information as to where it had gone. I had thought of trading some goods for access and directions to the next Floating Market." He swung Xander's backpack off his shoulder and patted it for emphasis.

The Earl turned to his herald. "Hear that, Halvard, they've lost something." His tone was delighted and his single eye calculating. "I don't think trade for goods will be necessary. Follow me please, Master and Consort."

He heaved his bulk upwards, dislodging the wolfhound on his feet, shuffling forward and stepping carefully down the steps of the dais. Spike and Xander stepped up behind him, followed by their crossbow-bearing guards. Pulling back one of the tapestries revealed a door. Not the style of door that traditionally linked two cars as Xander half expected, but instead an impressive, oaken door with a gargoyle-faced doorknocker in the middle.

The Earl banged the knocker three times." Three's always the charm," he mumbled to Halvard, "but I wish to 'ell tha' door'd stay the same." He turned back to Spike and Xander. "Hurry up, step lively, mind your heads."

He led them through to a great library, bigger than the car of the train that was supposed to contain it, with a high, wooden-beamed roof and tall, tall bookshelves. The shelves were full, not only with books but with scrolls and manuscripts, all jumbled together with objects, things Xander could only describe as stuff or possibly junk.

Umbrellas, china figures, tennis rackets and hats. Dolls, some broken and some not, were propped up against a model ship. Dangling from the ears of a stuffed white rabbit were a pair of well used hiking socks. Single playing cards and Scrabble pieces were strewn across a desk. Faded stickers on the desk declared that Librarians Rule, OOK! and that Librarians Do It Between The Covers. Another stated baldly, Hungry? Eat The Rich.

"Knew I was Lord of the Underground didn't you, Master William? Lord of the Bakerloo, the Waterloo and the great Piccadilly line."

Spike nodded.

"I also hold sway over th' Realm of the Lost, don't you know. Perhaps we can deal?"

Xander opened his mouth to speak but Spike shushed him. "Take it we're not talkin' about trade for goods here?"

The old man shook his head. "Favour for a favour, I'm thinking, Master Vampire. It's a rare thing to be owed by one of your kind."

Spike shook his head and frowned. "Your Grace, I will not be in the Underside long. I do not wish myself or my Consort to slip through the cracks, so to speak. I have a menage to protect and a territory to guard. I do not wish to leave myself in debt here; these things have a way of pulling you back."

"Caution, caution. That's good, I like that in a man." The old man turned away from the vampire and began to search, seemingly at random through the shelves. He stopped and frowned at the pair. "Sure it was lost?"

Spike shook his head "Stolen actually."

"Ahh, that explains it. Normally I can put my finger on it, just like that." He clicked his fingers and picked up a faded scroll and unrolled it. Peering closely at it he discarded it in favour of a small leather bound book.

"Stolen is not my realm, you'd have to see others for that genr'ly."

He waved the book in Spike's direction and began to thumb through the pages. "However, you'll definitely find somethin' you lost here."

A meaty index finger stabbed at the page he stopped at. He saw Spike's doubtful face and chuckled. "This one's for free, gesture of good faith 'an all, then. Master's Consort," the Earl addressed Xander, "the shiny, red...," the Earl paused, tasting an unfamiliar word, "...g-string owned by the ex-demoness Anyanka can be found behind your refrigerator."

Xander grimaced. That actually sounded about right; he'd wondered where it had gone. They'd had sex in the kitchen not long before Anya noticed it missing. It wasn't often he'd made her completely lose track of a possession, even temporarily. In the wake of the big Spike-supervised moving-out exercise Anya had accused him of keeping it for a souvenir. She'd kept an exact catalogue of 'mine', 'his' and 'ours' and had taken everything hers and demanded, in cash of course, exactly half the value of everything that had been 'ours'. He often wondered what she was doing now, sad that he'd hurt her but, in the face of the possessive regard now being leveled at him, he wasn't at all sorry.

Spike didn't like the look of half -pleased reminiscence that had settled on his boy's face and he glowered at Xander. Mine. Only mine. He wanted to shag the ex-demoness right out of Xander's memory. He stepped forward and encircled Xander's wrist with his hand, the Earl completely forgotten. "Mine!"

Xander wasn't at all perturbed by the vampire's tone and stare. "What?" he said in a low tone, knowing exactly what had bought this display on. "It's not like I get all glower-like when you talk about Dru. Think I've got more to worry about when she drifts back and starts throwing around Sire-voice, hmmm?"

"That's-"

"That's a discussion for another time, yes? Now let's hear what the Earl's got to say."

The Earl, apparently undisturbed by the small domestic dispute, had retired to a faded yellow sofa where he was engaged in playing with a wooden cup and ball set. When they both turned to look at him he spoke. "Now if if were properly lost -your book, I mean-"

He held up his hand when Spike opened his mouth to demand how he had known it was a book. "Likely I'd be able to tell you exactly where it is and that would be worth an awfully big favour, I think. As it is, I can only give you approximate directions to where it may be. A smaller favour and one that can be discharged with little effort on the way to where you need to be. Do we trade Master William?"

Spike didn't like to bargain sight unseen but even a little information was better than the none they had at present. If it was for anyone but the nibblet.... He sighed. "We can trade, Your Grace."

"Good, good, good." The Earl rubbed his hands together. "I have an idiot nephew. Rather paltry boy. Fancies himself the romantic hero. Not bad with his pig-sticker though, a redeeming feature I suppose. Any rate, got himself drunk 'an killed another equally idiotic young romantic in a brawl. The other youngster was a member of the Ravens Court. I'm not willing to break a heavily-paid-for truce," the Earl paused and rubbed his eye-patch reflectively, "to shelter the young fool, family be buggered in this case. The Baron Raven feels that his young noble got exactly what was due to him but can't stop the noble's equally foolish friends from seeking revenge. Matter of honour and all that. If Ranulf, that's my nephew, I think?" He looked to Halvard for confirmation and Halvard nodded.

The Earl continued, "If the fool can get himself to his affianced folk, they'll take responsibility for 'im. The young nobles aren't going to go up against the Provost Marshall of the Moors Head Gate, 'an once he's through the Gate he's safe enough and well out of the way. Which will be a blessing on the domestic front; the boy's mother is a bit of a shrew." Earl and Herald gave remarkably similar shivers.

"So really all you have to do is collect the fool and his long-suffering bodyguard from the White Chapel an' escort them to the Floating Market at The Bloody Tower. And it's to the Floating Market you need to go. I'm not saying' your book 'll be there but it'll put you on the right path."

He held up his small leather bound book. "There will be a map to guide your way." He bought the book close to his and peered at it. "Possibly a mop or a mob, eye's aren't what they used to be," he mumbled. "No, almost certain it's a map and you'll find it at the Market. Try the bookstalls or Old Bailey." The old man looked slightly apologetic.

The Earl rose and headed over to the sticker-covered desk. After rummaging in the desk a few minutes, he pulled out a pencil and some paper and began to draw. "This map will get you to the White Chapel. I've made sure it's mostly tunnels, Master William but you will have to cross the Streets of London. I don't think it'll be day there for a few hours yet. Halvard will send a pigeon to the White Chapel to let them know you're on your way." The Earl yawned and made his way back to the sofa.

"Halvard, see to them, give them a token for the acolytes. Drop them off where they need to be." The old man settled himself on the sofa, sinking his white-sprinkled red beard onto his chest and heaving a sigh. "The days just seem to get longer. You'll find what you lost, Master William," he mumbled as his eyes closed. Halvard, an oddly tender look on his face gently covered the Earl with a faded old blanket.

Spike sighed, it really wasn't much, except that they knew where the market would be and got themselves guides there into the bargain. Still, they knew that the book was definitely Underside and possibly traceable. He looked at Xander, who shrugged and grinned, obviously not at all perturbed about taking off into the tunnels on a potential wild goose chase.

Chapter Text

"And that's only one o' the reasons you keep away from the Gap, got it?"

Panting Xander nodded his wholehearted agreement and pulled the vampire in close.
"Uh huh, and so you put on this little display deliberately to reinforce the lesson?"

The what-ever-it-it-was-and-do-I-really-want-to-know-what-was-on-the-end-of-that-tentacle had been fast and strong and for a few moments he'd thought he was going to loose the game of tug-o-vamp to it. Behind them, back on the abandoned
station platform where the Earls Court had left them, it screamed and wailed like a denied child. He shuddered, nothing that insubstantial and gossamer-like had any right to be able to grab a creature as strong as a vampire and begin pulling it. He suspected it had let go for it's own reasons, too, rather than because of anything he or Spike had done. Hadn't it seemed to spasm around Spike's leg moments before unwinding to the accompaniment of angry shrieks and moans?

"Bugger and bollocks." The vampire was golden-eyed and furious, "That bloody well 'urt. An' look at me jeans!"

The familiar black was bleached white; drained of colour wherever the tentacle had touched. Xander dropped to his knees and allowed the familiar sound of Spike ranting to wash over him, knowing that no response was really required and, frankly, more worried about possible injury anyway. Spike had dropped his hand to Xander's head and was gently running his fingers through the over-long brown locks. A comforting gesture, and sometimes it surprised Xander how tactile the vampire was. Rolling up the
jeans revealed small purple puckers curving up over the pale muscled calf, mirroring the pattern of bleaching on the jeans. Above him, the rant was winding down. He tentatively ran a finger over the welts. "How's that feel?"

"Stings a little. Guess it didn't like the taste of un-dead flesh, eh pet?"

A slight whine was in the vampire's voice now; he wanted comfort but wasn't going to ask for it.

Xander cocked his head to one side and grinned up at the vampire, then kissed his fingers and ran them lightly over the welts. "No blood. There, is that better?"

The vampire looked down at the smiling, upturned face. The eyes were relieved. Relieved! Relieved that he, Spike, undead bastard and all 'round survivor was ok. A marvel, his boy was. The tanned fingers began to roll the jeans back down, careful not to brush against the welts, and Spike helped Xander to his feet and pulled him close, burying his face in the warmth of the boys neck. With soft bites and nibbles he worked his way up the curve and back down, enjoying the feel of Xander arching into the bites
and pushing against him. He mumbled into the tempting curve, "Ad ibee. Ob Ib ad otton oo.?"

 

"Huh?" Xander pulled the vampire, resisting, away from his current favourite place.

"Glad it was me. What if it 'ad gotten you?"

Xander gave a self-depreciating grin, "I would have screamed like a girl and relied on vampiric strength and speed to come save me." His smile invited Spike to share a joke at his expense.

Spike frowned and gave Xander a just-short-of-zap-worthy shake. "Told you before, I don't like you talkin' bout yourself that way. You fight much better since I took your training in hand. Won't mention the other things I wanna take you in hand for either."

Right on cue came a blush, creeping up and over his boy's face. Lovely. "With defence in mind though-"

Spike stalked over to the back wall where lengths of thin pipe ran down the wall to a long-unused tap. He snapped a length off the wall and presented it to Xander. "You can use this to defend yourself and murmergleeb."

"Huh?"

"Use it to defend yourself and me if game-face doesn't scare them off." the blond said in an embarrassed voice. He continued in a stronger tone, "Remember what I showed you. Hit 'em hard and fast and make sure they stay down. That Queensberry bloke has got a lot to answer for, in my opinion."

"Yes, sensei," replied Xander.

"I mean it. No fair fighting, all right. Don't want you 'urt or worse. Don't want to be attemptin' an emergency turning while we're 'ere, either. The women would have a hissy. Well, three o' them would. Red'd just look at me as if I broke her heart. Not t' mention the chip headaches when I do it." His tone was light, almost joking. He shouldered the pack and took another look at the Earl's map.

"Would you?" Xander's tone was serious.

Gotta work on that impulse control, Spike, thinking before you speak, his Gilsey inner voice remonstrated. Spike tried to keep his voice light. "Dunno really, I like you. Turned, you'd be a demon who remembered being Xander Harris. Not quite the same thing at all but-"

"But?"

"Dunno if I could let you go. Mine." He smiled wryly into concerned chocolate eyes. "Turned, I'd still have something of you, just different. Xander Harris with the brakes off. It has its appeal, but not as much as you, as you are, but-" He shrugged, trying to brush of the importance of the conversation, wishing to hell he'd never started it. "What's the point in worrying? Fangless, remember, prob'ly wouldn't be capable, and any rate, innit a little early in the relationship to be having this conversation?"

"You bought it up. I just wanted to know?...if ?...you really would."

Xander looked the vampire square in the eyes. He wasn't sure if he should be wigged or complimented that Spike had thought about it at all. "What if I asked you never to turn me? No matter what."

Mine! Mine to keep. Mine to hold. There is no choice. Spike knew that saying that out loud wouldn't earn him any cuddles but maybe something of it showed in his eyes because Xander closed his own and swallowed.

He kept them closed for a few moments and Spike began to worry. Always pushing that one step too far he growled angrily to himself.

When Xander opened them there was, to Spikes surprise, resolve and trust in them. "Promise me no, Spike. At least for now, and I can't believe I added that." Xander sighed. "Wait until this?...us?... has had a chance. Hell, it may not work out and you'll be stuck with me for eternity."

"Can't see as how eternity with you'd be a bad thing."

"Yeah, yeah, but I wouldn't be me, you said so. Not really. Would I know? That I wasn't me. Look, seriously freaking here, so nada on the turning, ok? Promise?"

The vampire ran a finger over Xander's lips, stroking back and forward gently. "Wait on th' shaggin', no on th' turnin'." He blew out a puff of air. "I am *so* whipped." His tone was almost an exact imitation of Xander-speak.

Xander ducked his head and looked at Spike from beneath lowered lashes. Not pleading but asking. He caught the tip of the finger on his lips and gave it a soft nip.

"Flirt," accused the vampire. He brightened, "'sides, I'm sure if we really go lookin' then there'll be ways to get you intact for eternity. Intact an' on your back. Or front. Or me on mine, 'm not fussy. Standin' always good or kne..."

"Spike!"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks."

"Just be careful, eh."