An Enthralling Surprise

By Saber ShadowKitten
And Now For Something Completely Different 12

August 15, 2000

What surprised Xander the most wasn't the crossbow aimed at him by Cordelia, nor was it turning to find Wesley standing behind him holding a battle axe. It also wasn't Angel suddenly grabbing Spike, slamming him down over the small kitchen table and pressing a stake hard against his back, all of which happened within seconds of Spike and Xander crossing the threshold to the tiny break room.

No, it was what Spike exclaimed that had Xander's brows touching his hairline and wondering if he'd snipped one-too-many wires in Spike's head.

"Angel, what the bloody hell are you doing?! You're hurting yourself!"

The break room was minuscule. A four-person folding table and chairs sat in the center of the ugly green linoleum flooring. A single sink and cabinet set, a water cooler, and a mini-refrigerator lined one wall. The overhead lights were shut off, leaving the only source of light to be the under-cabinet strip that was perfect for Xander's overly sensitive eyes.

To Cordelia's credit, she never shifted her gaze from Xander and her hold on the crossbow never wavered at Spike's completely unexpected response. She was standing in front of the sink and across from the door, her perfectly manicured fingers keeping the projectile weapon level with Xander's chest. Xander was suitably impressed, but then he remembered that Cordelia had always been one of the toughest of the old gang of Slayer helpers. Most definitely tougher than he'd been.

Behind him, Wesley also seemed to be in control, which was at odds with how Xander remembered him. The way Wesley held himself and his weapon du jour screamed confidence. The bumbling fool was not evident as far as Xander could metaphorically see.

Angel, though, reacted to Spike's exclamation of concern in a manner that caused Xander to choke back a snort of laughter. The expression on Angel's face was one Xander had never seen before -- complete befuddlement. Angel looked like a parent trying to understand the instructions to an 'easy-to-assemble' toy.

"I... I'm not hurt," Angel lied, although his grip on Spike had loosened.

"I saw you get a right good kickin, you dumb toff, and I can smell the blood," Spike said. "Stop being a soddin' martyr and let go so you can get patched up."

Xander would give anything to be able to look inside Spike's head again to see what the hell was going on with his companion. However, since imbuing Spike's body with an electric-like shield, to him Spike appeared to be a solid bright white figure.

Since Xander couldn't see anything, he surmised that he'd reduced Spike's hostility a little too much. Spike was supposed to dislike Angel as much as Xander did, maybe more. But from the way Spike had been acting since they'd spotted Angel fighting that demon...

Angel released Spike and stepped back. He gestured to Cordelia, who lowered the crossbow. Spike straightened, adjusted his duster, and frowned at Angel. "What'd you do that for anyway?" he asked sulkily.

"To let you know not to try anything funny," Angel said in a hard voice. The stake disappeared back up his sleeve and he winced.

Spike yanked out a chair and pointed to it. "Sit. I know I saw a first aid kit earlier."

"He dropped it when you threw yourself at him like a scared little brat," Cordelia informed him.

"Here it is," Wesley said, scooting around Xander holding a first aid kit in place of the axe. Xander was impressed. He hadn't even heard Wesley move to retrieve the kit until he spoke.

"Since when did you start caring?" Angel asked when Spike snatched the kit from Wesley and began rooting through it. Angel sat warily on the edge of the pulled out chair.

"I don't," Spike answered. "Shirt off."

Angel gave Spike a skeptical look. "You've got to be kidding."

"Just do it, Angel," Xander finally spoke up. "Spike's a real pain in the ass when he doesn't get his way. Then again, he's a pain in the ass all the time, so I guess it's not that big of a deal."

"Lick my hole, wanker," Spike scowled.

"Okay, first, eew," Cordelia said with a disgusted look. "That's probably the grossest thing I've heard in a while."

"How about 'suck my curlies'?" Spike asked with an evil grin.

"I stand corrected," Cordelia responded dryly. She turned her gaze to Xander. "And secondly, why the heck are you with this foul-mouthed asshole?"

Xander's lips twitched as he suppressed a smile.

"I trust Angel when he says you're not a vampire," Cordelia went on. "But that doesn't explain this," she gestured between him and Spike, "bizarreness."

"Spike won't hurt you, if that's what you're wondering," Xander said.

"Really, and why is that?" Cordelia said. "Did he suddenly develop a case of soul-itis?"

"Are you going to take your shirt off, or am I gonna rip it off for you?" Spike said to Angel with an impatient pluck at Angel's shoulder.

"No, he definitely doesn't have a soul," Xander replied with a smirk. "I'd probably stake him if he was all gloom and doom."

"I believe Cordelia is wondering, as I myself am wondering, why you and Spike are together," Wesley said.

"Count me in on that wondering," Angel said, smacking Spike's hands away from the buttons on his shirt.

"That's easy, Spike is--" Xander cut himself off when he realized he was about to say something he hadn't wanted known. "Uh... Spike is..."

"Spike is standing right here," Spike said, smacking Angel's hands away in turn and deftly working the buttons on the shirt. "And Spike managed to get himself enthralled to the boy."

"Enthralled?" Cordelia and Wesley said simultaneously.

"Are you serious?" Angel asked, studying Spike.

"Happens to the best of us, precious," Spike lied. He pushed Angel's shirt off his shoulders and frowned at the mottled bruises and cuts and the broken ribs poking through the pale flesh. "You don't go halfway when you get your arse kicked, do you?"

"So Xander controls you?" Wesley inquired, although he continued looking at Xander.

Xander shrugged, but kept a small smile on his face. He had no clue what "enthralled" meant, so he'd have to follow Spike's lead. Oh joy.

"Enough that I'm not going to make a late night snack out of any of you," Spike answered as he removed the peroxide and a cloth from the first aid kit. "Xander has this despicable desire to keep humans intact and I'm only allowed to defend myself against them."

Spike dumped a bunch of peroxide on the cloth, set the bottle down, and bent over Angel. "I don't know how you do it, mate," he commented as he swiped the cloth over Angel's chest, earning a hiss. "Cold animal blood bites."

"The microwave was a wonderful invention," Angel ground out between clenched teeth.

"I'm impressed, Xander," Wesley said. "However did you manage to enthrall him? I was under the impression that you weren't versed in the black arts."

"Accident," Xander replied simply.

"Wait, I don't understand." Cordelia folded her arms and leaned back against the sink. "Explain, please."

"Please? Cordy, I didn't know you knew that word," Xander mocked with a playful smile. Cordelia scowled at him.

"Enthrall is a basic spell for a high-level magick user," Wesley explained. "The spell causes the chosen one to be under the caster's control. The spell is usually cast by a magick user wanting a slave to do the tedious chores of day-to-day living or other tasks. Some are enthralled only to be used as bodyguards. The higher the level of the caster, the more victims he or she can have enthralled at one time."

"The mechanics don't matter," Spike said, dropping his bloody cloth on the scarred surface of the table. He removed a wrap bandage from the first aid kit. "I'm the entrallee, he's the effin' enthraller, and this is gonna hurt like a bitch."

With the tacked on warning, Spike none-too-gently pushed Angel's ribs back into his body and quickly wrapped the bandage around Angel's middle. Angel grunted in pain, but made no other sound as Spike finished taping him up.

"There you go, luv, all better." Spike lightly patted the white bandage and straightened.

"Uh, thanks," Angel said, pulling his shirt back over his shoulders with a grimace. Spike nodded and began to put the first aid things away.

Silence prevailed in the break room, punctuated only by the click of the lock on the first aid kit. Xander shifted uncomfortably, his gaze going from person to person in the room. Was this how it was going to be when they got to Sunnydale? Questions and lies and not fun quietness?

"Well, I guess we should take off," Xander began, automatically taking out his sunglasses and slipping them on his nose. Once they were in place, he felt ten-times better, like the dark lenses were a protective barrier between him and the world. "It's been a thrill..."

"No, wait, coffee," Angel said quickly. "You haven't had any coffee."

"I'm surprised you want to poison them by offering my coffee," Cordelia said caustically.

Angel looked embarrassed and Spike chuckled. Spike glanced over at Xander. "What do you say, Xander? Do we sit a spell?"

Xander heard the almost inaudible note of hopefulness in Spike's voice. He would seriously have to grill him once they were alone. But for now... "We'll stay. I want to taste this lethal concoction of Cordelia's. See if it lives up to its reputation."