Never Send A Psychotic
To Do A Lunatic's Job


by Saber ShadowKitten






Part Four



"Giles, we're--" Willow Rosenberg began as she, Tara, and Oz entered the Watcher's brownstone.

"I know it's after three in the bloody morning there!" Giles exclaimed into the phone. "I wouldn't be calling if it wasn't important!"

"Giles, have you seen my jacket?" Xander yelled down the stairs. "I can't find it!"

"It's Boys Night Out, Buffy," Spike snapped at a Ficus tree. "Unless you have something dangling between your legs that I don't know about, You. Can't. Go."

"--here," Willow finished weakly. She sent Tara an amused smile. "Looks like everything's normal to me."

"Me, too," Tara said, echoing the grin.

Xander came thundering down the stairs, shoving his arms into his leather jacket. "Got it. Let's go," he said, heading straight for Willow and Tara.

"Bye," Oz said to the girls with a fangy smile. He turned around and headed back out the front door, pulling his dark green ball cap over his shaggy hair.

"Ladies," Xander purred, bypassing them to follow the werewolf.

"Stay," Spike ordered the Ficus tree, and with a swish of his duster stalked out of the house. He slammed the front door behind him.

"Pillock," Giles snarled as he hung up the phone with more vehemence than usual. He looked over at Willow and Tara and waved them into the living room.

"Trouble?" Willow asked, making herself comfortable on the blue couch. Miss Kitty jumped up on the arm and rubbed against Willow's braided red hair. Willow scratched her under the chin. Willow missed Miss Kitty. She'd miss Miss Kitty more, though, if Oz had eaten her like he'd threatened.

"I'm not sure yet," Giles blew out a breath of air, removed his glasses, and rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. "I was trying to verify the information, but no one seems to be speaking with me."

"You sounded worried," Tara said from where she perched on the edge of the recliner. "On- on the phone. Earlier, I mean."

"I am worried," Giles confessed, sinking down at the other end of the couch from Willow. "If what I learned is true, it could have devastating effects on us all."

In her mind, Willow heard ominous music to accompany Giles's ominous statement. But, considering Giles said something similar every other week or so, she was pretty sick of hearing the same 'dun-dun-duuuunnnn' over and over again. Her brain needed to learn a new tune.

"I take it that it's not something we can just sic Spike after, huh?" the twenty-nine year old redhead questioned.

Giles shook his head. "I am afraid that Spike would be no use against the Council of Watchers."

Willow's eyes widened and she heard Tara gasp. "The Council? Giles, back-story, now please," Willow said.

"Cordelia phoned me earlier this evening," Giles began. "It seems they've intercepted a message involving the Council's plans to rid the world of demons."

The foreboding concerto in Willow's mind came screeching to a halt. She frowned. "But isn't that a good thing? Demons, bad; no demons, yay?"

"It would seem that way, Willow, but it's not true," Giles said. He leaned forward, sliding his glasses back on. "There is a delicate balance between the demon and the living worlds. An ecosystem, if you will. Without one, the other cannot survive."

"Then why do we fight?" Willow asked, trying to see the logic from another perspective. She fought evil because she wanted people to have a chance to live happy, full lives, and she would continue to fight no matter what. But she was curious as to the grand scheme of things.

"We fight because, if we don't, the world would be overrun by demons," Giles explained. "The balance would then be off--"

"And no one would be alive," Tara finished. She put her hand on Willow's knee. "Plus, not all demons are bad. Like Spike, a-a-and Xander."

Giles snorted indelicately. "You don't have to live with them," he muttered under his breath.

Willow smiled at his comment and brushed Miss Kitty away from her. "So, what's the plan?"

"I'd like you to go on the computer and see if you can enter the Council's files," Giles said. "We're looking for any information regarding whether or not this rumor is true."

"I'm on it," Willow said, rising from the couch and heading over to the computer desk in the corner of the living room.

"While Willow is doing that, I shall continue to try and get in touch with my colleagues overseas," Giles said, returning to the phone. "Tara, if you'd please start searching for possible spells the Council could alter to actually accomplish their goal."

Willow was already logged onto the Internet by the time Tara headed for the bookshelf and Giles returned to the telephone. The Watcher had long ago gotten a cable modem for the computer, making research more quick and efficient for the redhead. Once Giles had resigned himself to the fact that purchasing a computer to aid the Slayer -- Buffy, Before, and now, Spike -- was a good idea, he'd spared no expense and kept it upgraded as the years passed.

Willow pulled up her "Favorites" folder, hoping no one erased her link to the official Council of Watchers site. Amazingly, the Council had joined the twenty-first century, though it posed as a fantasy/horror literary club. The last time Willow had used the computer, her Favorites had been replaced by links to porn sites -- the kind that required passwords to enter. Not that she'd tried to enter them. Nope, not her. Xander was the naughty culprit that time. Or maybe Spike. Or Giles.

An image of an Internet-surfing Giles, with face flushed red and glasses fogged, appeared in Willow's mind. Eep! No, no, no!, she scolded herself, her face as bright as her hair. Giles does not have sex! Giles doesn't even think about having sex! So what if he was a handsome, single bachelor in his fifties? He was Giles. Giles was their father, kind of. More than their real dads were, at least.

The image of Naughty Giles was replaced by a much more calming image of Papa Giles. Of Giles, once upon a time, looking at Buffy in exasperation. Of Giles smiling proudly when Willow received her Master's degree in Computer Science. Of Giles being cross with Xander for using an extremely rare book as a tv-dinner tray-table. Of Giles comforting a teary Spike, who'd fallen down the stairs by doing exactly as Giles had repeatedly told him not to, and of Giles not saying 'I told you so' to the vampire.

Willow smiled at the last picture in her mind. It had been so nice of Giles to take Spike in. The blond vampire that had returned from that horrid, awful laboratory wasn't the same vampire who'd disappeared. Spike had been friendly, Before (as they called the period of time prior to Buffy's death), but he'd been cool and aloof. The only person he truly got along with was Buffy, and even their relationship wasn't hearts and flowers.

Now, though, Spike was a kitten. A walking, talking, purring, cuddly, playful kitty-cat that also happened to be a bit mentally unstable. He was still all male, though, Willow thought with a naughty sparkle in her eye. All lean and yummy-looking. She'd debated once or twice... okay, ten or fifteen times, about asking Tara if she wanted to invite that sexy piece of flesh to their bed. But that was before she and Tara had taken Oz in, and before Oz had taken Willow... over and over and over. Then Willow had asked, "What about Tara?", and Oz had promptly screwed her partner to the mattress, when what Willow had wondered was in terms of their relationship...

Blushing again, Willow forced her attention back on her task. Wolfy-loving was beyond super to even think about, but it wouldn't help them solve the new Scooby mystery.

*****

"A nest," Oz's rumbling voice rolled across the opening in the roof to the two vampires crouched on the other side. The half-wolfed man's black gaze roamed over the room beneath them. "Big one."

"What I want to know is: why 'nest'?" Xander asked in a whisper. "It's a pack of wolves and a pride of lions, but a nest of vampires. Oh, how vicious. Makes me think of kerchiefs and knitting needles and complaints of not being able to keep their eggs warm."

"Don't know, pet," Spike said quietly, shifting his weight to gain a better view into the old cemetery church. "You'll have to ask the Watcher that one."

"What's the plan?" Oz asked, returning to the subject at hand. He raised his eyes and looked at his packmates: the puppy and the cur.

Oz's pack consisted of six members: him, the alpha, the pack leader; his mate and her bitch; the puppy; the old one; and the cur. Normally, the cur would have been culled from the pack, left alone to die. The cur was a weakness that could lead to harm for the others. The old one still ran strong and needn't be protected, but the cur was one that required a careful eye. He would have been outed from the pack, but the human part of Daniel 'Oz' Osborne recognized Spike as kin who'd been through the same hell he'd been through and was to be safeguarded at all cost.

The human part of Oz also thought 'pack' was a pretty cool group label, too. Much better than 'nest.'

"I wish Buffy were here," the half-wolf heard Spike murmur. Oz knew the blond wasn't just referring to the real Buffy, but the imaginary one, as well. "The world is a scary place," Spike had once told him, "and Buffy keeps me safe from all the nasties out there." Spike felt that his back was being guarded with her around, even though now she was nothing more than a product of a damaged mind and had no tangibility.

"The plan is for us to go down there and kick some undead booty," Xander said, rubbing his hands together. "I have a hankerin' to see if these nesting vamps can fly."

A slow smile crawled across Spike's face, and his blue eyes twinkled as he met Oz's gaze. "I have an idea..."

*****

The church door crashed open with a well-placed kick, and Spike carried Xander over the threshold, their mouths glued together like they truly were a newly married couple. Oz took up position in the doorway and crossed his arms over his stocky chest.

The vampires in the old church all turned towards the intrusion. Oz estimated there were about twenty-five of them. Not even enough to work up a sweat.

Spike was a quarter of the way inside before he stopped walking and broke the overly hungry kiss. He smiled tenderly at Xander, then seemed to notice the other vampires and acted properly shocked. "Er, hello."

"Oh, honey, it's perfect," Xander said in breathy delight as Spike lowered him to his feet. "An orgy on my wedding night. What more could a girl want?"

"Anything for you, baby," Spike purred, and received an enthusiastic buss on the cheek from the giggling Xander.

Oz winced: Xander giggles, not for sensitive ears.

A heavy-set vampire stepped forward, scowl on his human face. "What is going on here?"

Must be the leader, Oz thought. One side of his fanged mouth quirked. He wouldn't be leader for long.

"Me and my pookey just got maaaried," Xander cooed, running his finger under Spike's chin. He pouted at the leader. "Aren't you going to say congratulations?"

"Right. Congrats," the leader said. "Now, get out, or your honeymoon is going to be real short. This is private property, and you guys are trespassing."

Xander gasped, then turned large eyes and a trembling lower lip on Spike. "No honeymoon?"

"Look what you did!" Spike gathered Xander in his arms, brushing the back of the brunette's short hair. The older vampire glared at the leader. "You made my baby boy cry."

Xander sniffed loudly. Oz rolled his eyes. Sometimes his two packmates were such hams.

Three bulky vampires joined the leader, each wearing a jacket from UC Sunnydale. From where Oz was standing, he could just make out tiny gold boxing gloves stitched into the material of the red coats. He chuckled softly to himself. Boxers. They'd be changing their briefs when Spike was done with them.

"It's okay, princess," Spike comforted, brushing a kiss on Xander's forehead. "You'll get your honeymoon, just as soon as I take care of the mean ol' men."

"You two are sickening," the leader made a disgusted face. "You're vampires, for cripes sake. Act like it."

"Actually," Spike began, releasing Xander, who straightened to his full, imposing height. "We're vampire slayers, but, if you insist..."

Xander took a single step back and stuck his hands into his jeans pockets. Spike put up his fists, the backs of his hands to the four vampires in a mockery of a fighting stance. He wiggled his ass, and Xander whistled appreciatively. Spike glanced over his shoulder, waggled his brows, then returned his focus to the leader. "Can we hurry this up?" the blond prompted. "I wanna shag my darling pillow-biter."

"Stop, you're making me blush," Xander teased.

"Don't say that I didn't give you a chance," the leader told Spike, gesturing to one of the boxers. The olive-skinned, black-haired man walked up to Spike with his fists raised properly, a smug smile on his ridged face.

Oz prepared himself. His job was to make sure no vampires escaped the old church. And they'd all be desperate to escape once Spike went into action.

Spike thumbed his nose and began to bounce. "Right, then," the blond said. "Let's get crackin'."

The olive-skinned boxer took the first swing without warning. Spike jerked back, the other vampire's knuckles brushing the tip of the blond's chin. Spike stopped bouncing immediately, dropped his fists, and stared at the boxer in shock. "You almost hit me!" he exclaimed.

"And this time, there'll be no 'almost'," the boxer stated, his fist already on a path to Spike's face.

Spike's reflexes kicked in and his right arm swung up in a block. The other vampire cried out in shock and pain as his wrist shattered. Then he flew backwards across the church, crashed into the remains of an altar, and laid there in an unconscious heap.

"Neat. They fly," Xander commented. "Maybe 'nest' is appropriate."

The leader growled and gestured, and a second boxer ran towards Spike. Spike's left fist shot out faster than the naked eye could see, and a sickening crunch echoed in the church.

Spike glanced at his hand, then licked the blood-coated knuckles. He made a face and glared at the vampire on the ground. "Steroids, blech. Don't you know those can kill you?"

The boxer twitched in response, a crater where his mouth and nose had been.

The third boxer approached more carefully. Spike stood still, his hands at his sides. He tilted his head to one side and watched the other man with curiosity. A tiny smile appeared on the blond's face, and he thumped his breastbone twice before spreading his arms wide. "One hit, mate, that's all you're getting," he said.

Dread flashed across the beefy vampire's face, but was quickly replaced by angry resolve. The boxer positioned himself, pulled his arm back, and took a hard swing. His fist connected with Spike's chest. The boxer cried out as the bones in his hand were broken to pieces.

Spike didn't so much as blink.

"What are you?" the leader asked in astonished fear.

"I told you..." Spike pivoted into a high round kick, his Doc connecting with the injured boxer's cheek.

A vampire standing at the side of the church caught the boxer's head before it disintegrated to ash.

"...I'm Spike, the Vampire Slayer," Spike finished with a smile.

Instant chaos.

The vampires roared and scattered, some going after Spike and Xander, others fleeing towards the door. Oz snarled at the first vamps to the door, his sharp canines glinting in the candlelight illuminating the church. The stench of fear filled the half-wolf's nostrils, giving him an instant high. Vampires had an aversion to werebeasts, because the vamps knew they were the weaker species. The much, much weaker.

Oz's claws ripped and tore at the flesh of the vampires as they tried to get past him. The scent of blood was cloying, and it inflamed the wolf side of Oz even further. He was getting hungry.

Spike was destroying vampires left and right, leaving piles of blood and bones and ash in his wake. Xander was also holding his own. The puppy had sprinted for the other exit and was staking those that had fled in that direction. He was the least powerful of the three slayers, but he had twelve years of experience under his belt, with ten of those years spent as a mortal fighting to survive in a supernatural world.

Within minutes, the nest of vampires was no more. Oz crouched and ripped the arm off one of the unconscious, injured vampires at his feet. It tasted like chicken.

Happily munching, Oz watched Xander roam the room, staking the fallen vampires. When the brunette reached him and his pile of vampires in the doorway, he offered his packmate a bite. "Er, no," Xander shook his head, "I may be amoral, but I'm not a cannibal."

Oz shrugged. "Your loss."

"Spike, Oz is being disgusting," Xander whined, turning to the blond vampire, who joined them. "Make him stop."

Spike frowned down at Oz. "Wouldn't that taste better with a beer?"

Xander swatted Spike on the back of the head. Spike gave the brunette a deadly look, and Xander began backing away, his hands up in a placating gesture. "I didn't mean to swat you."

"But you did," Spike pointed out. He started stalking after Xander like the younger vampire was his prey.

"Yeah, I did," Xander said. "But I'm evil. I do things like that."

"Not to your sire, you don't," Spike stated. "Stop moving."

Xander stopped and swallowed. "Would it help if I apologized in a groveling manner?"

Spike stopped in front of Xander and gave him a wicked grin. "Your mouth will be too occupied to grovel."

Oz tossed the arm over his shoulder and pulled off the second one, keeping an eye on his packmates as they played. Spike was right, he could use a beer. And some pepper.

*****

"Buffy, we're back," Spike said as he, Xander, and Oz entered the brownstone. The blond looked around the living room for the Slayer. Willow, Tara, Giles. No Buffy. Panic seized him, and he hurried towards the kitchen, calling her name again. "Buffy!"

"I'm right here, blind boy," Buffy said, appearing in the kitchen doorway. "So, what'cha kill?"

Spike slumped in relief when he saw her, then brightened almost immediately. She was dressed in red and black, his favorite colors. In fact, it was his favorite outfit: tight red leather trousers, tight black v-neck sweater, and black ankle boots. Her blond hair was loose around her shoulders, slightly curled.

"We cleared out a nest of vampires," Spike told her, reaching out to capture a lock of her hair. His fingers closed on nothing, and a deep frown of confusion marred his brow. "Then we went to the Bronze and had a beer."

"Sounds like Boys Night Out was fun," Buffy said, smiling at him.

"Spike?" Giles called. "Would you join us, please?"

Buffy walked around Spike, towards the living room, and the blond vampire followed her. He sat at his normal place on the couch, with the Slayer perched on the arm beside him. Xander assumed his usual position at Spike's feet, curling an arm around the older vampire's legs and resting his dark head on Spike's knee. Spike heard a faint rumbling purr coming from the boy.

"What's going on?" Oz asked from the floor. He had taken a similar position as Xander, leaning against Willow's skirt-clad legs. The redhead ran her fingers through the half-wolf's shaggy hair. Oz's eyes were slitted in contentment.

"Trouble with a capital 'C. O. W,'" Willow replied.

"Cow?" Xander said, confused. "Moo-cow cow?"

"Not 'cow,'" Willow said. "'C. O. W.' -- the Council of Watchers."

"They're not coming here, are they?" Oz said, a threatening note in his rumbling voice.

"No," Giles said. "But I would actually prefer it if they were."

"That's not a good sign," Buffy commented.

"No, it's not," Spike agreed. Giles looked questioningly at him. "What did they do this time?"

"They found a way to make demons extinct," Tara answered. She gave Oz a worried look from her place on the couch. "And- and that includes werewolves."

Oz growled loudly, and Willow tried to soothe him. Spike pursed his lips as he met Buffy's wide eyes, and he felt Xander's arm tighten around his legs. He reached out and put a comforting hand on the back of the younger vampire's neck.

"Panicking now won't do us any good," Giles stated when Oz quieted. "There is still time to stop the Council, as long as we keep our heads."

"And take theirs," Buffy added angrily. "Stupid Watchers."

Spike never had any problems with the Council of Watchers and their fight against evil, but he agreed with Buffy. This was just bloody stupid of them. Even he knew there were good, helpful demons in the world.

"I take it you have a plan," Xander said. "Please tell me you have a plan. I died once already, and I really don't want to do it again."

"We have a plan," Willow said. "Sort of. Well, the beginnings of a plan. It's more of a pre-plan than a plan-plan."

"Here is what we know," Giles began. He leaned forward on the edge of his seat and idly wiped his glasses with a handkerchief. "On November 28th, there will be a lunar eclipse of a Blue Moon, one of the rarest of lunar phenomenon. It is on that date when the Council shall go forth with this insanity."

Giles fell silent. After a moment, Buffy said, "That's it? That's what we know?"

The silence continued. Spike took it as a bad sign. He put his hand, palm up, on the arm of the couch beside Buffy, and she laid her tiny hand over his. He tried to close his fingers around her palm, but instead his hand started twitching.

"I take it by the lack of verbage, that's it," Xander said. "We have a date, and possibly a time, nothing more."

"I'm- I'm afraid so," Giles said.

"Great," Xander groaned. "I finally get Allison Krause's phone number, and now I'm gonna die. Unlife isn't fair."

"Allison?" Oz looked impressed. "Cool."

"So, Rupert, I know you have some idea in that brill mind of yours," Spike said, watching his hand spasm. "How are we going to pull this rabbit out of our arses?"

Giles slid on his glasses and looked at Spike's hand. "Tomorrow night, we are going to Los Angeles," he said, removing a mini-toolkit from his breast pocket. "There we will collect, er, Angel and his team, and continue on to England."

"We figured the Council headquarters is where the main event is going to take place," Willow said. "If not, that's where they'd be talking about it the most, and we can find out where from there. Hee, I rhymed... which is not important. Um, we may be able to find out what spell they're using, too, so we can stop it."

Spike winced when Giles punctured his palm with a box cutter and slit his skin. Blood poured from his hand onto the white handkerchief the Watcher held beneath it. "Who's all going?" he asked.

"You, myself," Giles began, separating the folds of skin with the edge of the box cutter. "Oz, Willow, and Xander."

"What about Tara?" Oz said.

"I'm going to watch the store," Tara said, referring to The Magic Box. "And feed Miss Kitty and water the plants, and- and stuff."

The box cutter was replaced by a sixteenth-inch Phillips screwdriver, and Giles carefully tightened a connection wire in Spike's hand. The blond vampire stared gloomily at the metal phalanges entwined with muscle and sinew that had been hidden beneath his skin. That particular electrical connection had always given him a problem, ever since he, Buffy, and Oz had escaped from the laboratory.

"We'd better go home, then," Oz said, rising from the floor. Spike smirked, hearing the unspoken: "So I can give Tara a right good seein' to, so she remembers who she belongs to while we're gone." All right, Spike thought, that was normally more than the wolfman would ever say at one time, but who knew what went on inside his mind? There could be grand orations going on in there.

The wolf and his witches said their goodbyes and tromped out of the house, leaving Giles and the two vampires alone. Giles finished with Spike's hand, folded the flaps of skin back into place, and wrapped it with the blood-soaked handkerchief. "Xander, would you please bandage Spike's hand while I clean up down here?" the Watcher said.

"Sure, Giles," Xander agreed. He stood and lightly smacked Spike on the knee. "C'mon, Spike. I'll let you pick out which band-aid you want."

"Ooh, how about a Rainbow Warriors one?" Buffy said.

"I'm not putting something with rainbows on my hand, Slayer," Spike told her, following Xander towards the stairs. "Especially not little pixies in rainbow costumes."

"What about Superkids?" Buffy asked.

"And not little pixies who wear their knickers outside their tights, either."





Part Five





How could he sleep?, Xander wondered for the fiftieth time. They were on their way to Los Angeles to see people they hadn't seen in four years. People that they'd fought evil with. People they'd grown up with. People they'd groped in a broom closet. Bleyagh.

Spike snuffled, shifted, and continued sleeping. Xander sighed, laying a hand on the blond's thigh, and returned to looking out the window at the passing highway. He still didn't understand how Spike could sleep, considering the people they were going to see didn't know he was half-Slayer, half-lunatic. Or that Oz was half-Oz, half-wolf. Or that Xander was a half-horny vampire.

It had been two years since Xander had become a member of the undead, which, given, was better than being dead-dead. He had a soul, courtesy of the super-witches, but it did come complete with happiness clause. Not that Xander was worried about achieving that moment of true bliss, at least not for a long while. The woman that had made him the happiest man in the universe had left the moment he'd sprouted fangs. A week later, he'd received the divorce papers from Anya in the mail. He hadn't even known vampires could get divorced.

If Xander did manage to break his curse, though, Wonder Willow would simply slap his soul back on him like the good friend she was. That was, if he didn't kill her first. He doubted that would happen, though, not with Spike holding the sire reigns.

Technically, Spike wasn't Xander's sire. Nope, Xander had managed to get munched by a random vampire the day after his twenty-seventh birthday. But before he had been able identify the burning inside him when he'd first awoke, Willow and Tara had returned his soul and Spike had declared himself sire.

Xander looked over at Spike and smiled fondly. Spike had taught him the three F's of vampirism: feeding, fighting, and fucking. Feeding was the easiest: pop a hole in a blood bag or a container of blood, put it in the microwave for 25 seconds, and voila -- dinner was served. Well, unless the hole-part of the instructions had been forgotten; then dinner was exploded all over the interior of the microwave.

Fighting was fun. Xander was so much stronger than he'd been as a human. Quicker. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Well, maybe not that, but he could jump really high, and speeding bullets couldn't kill him.

The last F -- fucking -- was the best. Xander had learned entirely new meanings for the words 'one-night stand', 'foreplay', and 'sir.' He'd also had sex with more partners in the past two years than he'd had the past ten before that... which wasn't too hard to do, considering he'd lost his virginity to one girl, then married the second girl he'd ever slept with.

Another new act in the Xander Sexcapades had been getting it on with another guy. It hadn't mattered that he was souled: the moment Spike had said, "Let's fuck," Little Xander had stood up and saluted. Vampires, Xander had learned, loved sex. He was half-hard practically 24/7. If it had a hole, a vampire fucked it, and that included men, women, and indeterminable... although Xander drew the line at farm animals. He wasn't from Indiana.

According to Spike, sex between sire and childe was second only to sex between mates. There was a bond that was present in both instances that couldn't be duplicated outside those relationships. Xander knew it was true, because he'd felt it. Sex with Spike was like burying himself in a warm, wooly blanket on a rainy fall afternoon, with a box of chocolate-covered cherries within arm's reach. A bit of Heaven for a Hellspawn creature.

Xander wondered what it would be like to have sex with a mate. Of course, he'd first have to get himself a mate before he could find out. It wasn't unheard of for sire and childe to become mates, but Xander knew that wasn't going to happen. He loved Spike, but like a brother. And hello, incestuousness! Maybe he was from Indiana after all.

The van pulled to a stop outside of a five-storey hotel with a faded-stone facade. One of the wings looked to be crumbling and uninhabitable. A convertible, a truck, and a motorcycle were parked along the circular drive.

Xander nudged Spike awake before climbing out of the van. "Wow," he said, staring at the hotel. "Angel has his office in a hotel?"

"Angel owns the hotel," Willow said as she joined him on the sidewalk. "When Cordelia e-mailed the directions, she said Angel used to live here in the 50's and that's why he bought it."

"Probably a guilt thing," Xander said. He took a purposeful breath and started for the double doors. "I'll let them know we're here."

The lobby looked like something out of a movie. Wide open room, Parque black and white tile floor, stone columns, red-carpeted stairs. Xander expected some well-dressed old movie star to come walking through at any moment. Or dance through, like Fred and Ginger.

"I'll be just a second," a voice floated to Xander from the marble registration counter. Xander's dark brows rose as he crossed the lobby. A haunted hotel? Why wasn't he surprised.

Xander leaned against the rounded counter and tried to see over the other side. "Hello?"

"Hi!" The chipper greeting was followed by a familiar female popping up from behind the counter, reminding Xander of a piece of toast. "Welcome to Angel-- Xander!"

"That's me," Xander smiled widely. "Hello, Cordeli--aaah!"

Cordelia practically hauled him over the counter as she gave him a brief hug. "It's so good to see you!" she exclaimed, releasing him. Then she promptly smacked him on the arm. "Thanks for not calling or writing or IM-ing for however-many-years."

Xander blinked several times and rubbed his arm. "Er... sorry?"

"You'd better be," Cordelia said. She leaned on the counter. "So, tell me, how are you? You look good, which is a surprise. Did Anya dress you?"

Xander's smile returned. The more things changed, the more they stayed the same. "I'm good, I dressed myself, thank you very much, and Anya and I are divorced."

Cordelia's dark eyes widened in sympathy. "Oh, Xander, I'm sorry. Was it a bad divorce? Mine was awful."

"You were married?"

"For a year," Cordelia replied with a nod. Then she scowled. "Then, like an idiot, Matt went and got vamped. I tried to make it work, with Angel's help, but Matt kept trying to kill me. So I divorced him."

"Yeah," Xander said with a fake laugh. "My divorce was similar." He quickly changed the subject. "That's a nice tattoo. Does it work?"

"Xander, come help with the soddin' bags."

Xander turned and saw Spike struggling through the front door, loaded down with the Scooby gang's luggage. The brunette vampire felt his protective anger flare. Spike may have extraordinary strength, but he shouldn't be treated like a damn packhorse. "Who made you take all these?" he growled, taking several bags from his sire.

Spike gave Xander a puzzled look. "Made me take all of what?"

"The luggage," Xander grumbled, leading Spike further into the lobby.

"What about the luggage?"

Xander stopped, put the bags down, and faced Spike. The blond vampire was looking around the lobby in amazement. Xander sighed. Spike had been distracted. Trying to get a direct answer out of him now would be futile.

"Cor, pet, will you look at this place," Spike said in wonder, dropping the luggage in his arms. "'S'bleedin' huge."

"I'll go get Angel and the others," Cordelia called over to Xander. Xander acknowledged her with a nod, and she disappeared through a pair of double doors.

Spike wandered around the lobby, his expression like a little kid's as he examined at everything. Oz, Willow, and Giles entered the hotel, conversing quietly. Xander scowled and stalked over to them. "All right, which one of you turned Spike into a pachyderm?"

"Spike's an elephant?" Willow said, craning her neck to see around the brunette.

"No," Xander put his hands on his hips, "I meant, who made him carry all the bags?"

"He took them himself, Xander," Giles said.

"We told him not to, but he insisted," Willow added. "And you know how he can be if he doesn't get his way."

Xander sighed again and rubbed a hand over his face. Yes, he knew exactly how Spike could be if he didn't get his way, and they so did not need that right now. Not when they were estranged relatives visiting the L.A. family.

"Xander, as I was explaining to Willow and Oz outside," Giles began, his voice lowered. "We all need to keep an extra-careful eye on Spike. He has not been out of Sunnydale since... since...," he struggled for a word, "...since his ordeal, and I'd rather not go chasing him around Los Angeles if it can be avoided."

"Understood, Giles," Xander said. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Spike chattering away with the non-existent Buffy. "What are we going to tell them?" The close-knit friends knew which 'them' Xander was speaking about without question.

"Nothing," Oz grunted, a set expression on his partially furred face.

Great, Xander thought. Oz had assimilated. The wolf was in control, and the wolf fiercely protected what was his. Giles may be the father-figure of their wacky family, but Oz was the leader of the pack. Heh, Xander mentally snorted. Leader of the Pack. Funny.

"We will tell them as little as we have to," Giles said. The Watcher straightened his posture suddenly, looking past Xander's shoulder. "Here they are."

Yep, there they were. Xander stared across the lobby at the group that had gathered by the registration counter. Cordelia, Angel, Wesley, and Gunn. Four practical strangers.

This was going to be such fun.

*****

Hooray, they're here, Angel thought sarcastically as he looked across the lobby. Batten the hatches and hide the women and liquor, the invaders have arrived.

He watched as the four on the stairs moved closer together, Oz stepping slightly in front of the others. Classic protective maneuvering. Angel was surprised that Oz was acting as the alpha, though. If anyone, it should have been Giles. Angel would have to puzzle out why the change in dynamics later.

"Welcome to the Hyperion," Angel said, his softly worded greeting easily carrying across the lobby. "We've prepared rooms for you on the third floor. Would you like to freshen up, first, before we get started?"

He knew he sounded stilted and formal, but he'd promised Wesley he'd be on his best behavior. He'd much rather tell them to shove off and find someplace else to stay. The hotel was his home, damn it. Why couldn't someone talk him out of putting them up?

"Oi! Rupert!" Angel heard shouted from the library. "You've got to see all the bloody books!"

Angel had never seen the old man move so fast. He'd barely identified the voice as Spike's, and Giles was already three-quarters of the way across the lobby. That set Angel instantly on alert. He went to follow Giles into the library, only to find his way suddenly blocked by Oz.

A growling half-wolfed Oz.

Angel stared down at the short man in surprise. "Oz?"

"We'll freshen up, first," Oz said, his lips curled back in a warning snarl, exposing his sharp teeth. "If you don't mind."

What the hell?, Angel wondered, felling his hackles raise. He opened his mouth to tell the werewolf off, when Wesley slid smoothly between them.

"We don't mind at all, do we Angel?" Wesley stepped down on Angel's foot -- hard.

"Ow-ah, no," Angel covered up, glaring at the back of Wesley's head. "Cordelia and Gunn will show you up. Come get me when you're ready. I'll be in my office."

Pivoting on his heel, Angel stalked across the lobby and into his office. He went directly to the liquor cabinet in the corner and poured himself a large glass of scotch.

So, Spike had come, too, Angel thought, downing a good portion of his drink. The last time he'd seen his errant childe had been four years ago, when Angel had returned to Sunnydale for Buffy's funeral.

"To you, Buff," Angel toasted, rasing his glass. He finished off the scotch, then poured himself another. He missed Buffy, but her passing no longer hurt. Time had a funny way of healing even the most vicious wounds.

When Buffy had first gone missing, Angel had been frantic with worry, despite not having had any sort of relationship with her for years. The news of her death had almost killed him. He'd survived, though. He'd grieved for weeks, then walled up his heart so he'd never hurt like that again. Thus far, it had worked.

Angel sank down in the black leather chair and propped his feet on the edge of the desk. "Spike, Spike, Spike," he murmured. The few minutes he'd seen Spike at Giles's house before Buffy's funeral, the blond vampire hadn't even acknowledged Angel's presence. Spike had simply stared off into space, holding one of Buffy's shirts.

Angel knew Spike had worked with Buffy before her death and assumed, since he was here, that he'd continued to help the remaining Slayerettes. Then again, what else could Spike do with that chip in his head? If he still had it, which Angel figured he did because he was still with the others and not a dust pile somewhere.

Did Angel care that Spike had come? No, as long as he didn't annoy Angel, Spike could do the Can-Can naked in the lobby if he wanted.

Hmm, what an interesting picture, Angel thought, a corner of his mouth turning up. The Spike dancing across Angel's brain gained an orange feather boa and three-inch blue platform heels. The amused smirk grew.

A knock at his office door broke into Angel's kinky thoughts and the dark-haired vampire glanced over to see Gunn standing there. "You're being summoned," the African-American said. "The Great Wes-leenie has gathered the flock in the library and 'awaits your esteemed presence.'"

"My 'esteemed presence'?" Angel said with a quirk of his brow.

"That's a direct quote," Gunn told him. "I would've just said to get your fat white ass to the library."

"My ass is not fat," Angel stated as he followed Gunn out of the office.

Gunn snorted. "If you don't believe me, ask the Double D's," he said. He glanced at Angel. "Speaking of, where'd you stash the fanged bitches for the night?"

"They're probably with Lindsey and Lilah," Angel said. "I warned them the others were coming, but didn't say they had to leave." His tone became hard. "This is our home, and I'm not going to let anyone be put out."

Gunn held his hands up. "Chill, boyo. I wasn't the one to suggest they stay here."

No, that was Angel's own fault. He wanted to be able to leave on time tomorrow afternoon, and it was easier if everyone was already gathered in one place.

Angel entered the library behind Gunn and let his gaze wander over the occupants of the richly paneled room. Wesley and Giles were both standing ramrod straight, undoubtably discussing Watcherly things. Willow was curled in a corner of the buttery brown leather couch, paging through an old book. Oz, who was still partially wolfed, was perched on the arm of the couch beside her.

Gunn joined Cordelia and Xander, who were seated at a small round table with a map spread out on the surface. Angel narrowed his eyes. Xander kept glancing at Cordelia with a decidedly hungry look on his face. Angel vowed to tell the boy to keep his mitt's off, and he let his gaze move on to the last occupant of the room -- Spike... who was looking through a kaleidoscope right back at him.

Spike waved. Angel hesitantly waved back. Spike... giggled?

Conversation halted, and the Los Angeles crew stared at Spike. Giles quickly walked over to where the vampire was seated, bent down, and whispered in his ear. Spike lowered the kaleidoscope, nodded, and pretended to zip his lips. Then he reached out to the left and zipped the air.

The behavior would have been totally baffling to Angel if it had actually registered in his mind. But it hadn't. He was too busy staring at Spike's hair.

William.

Spike had hated that name, and Angelus had insisted on calling him that. The older vampire had thought it much more dignified than being named after a dog. Angelus had also liked the name because it ended in a breathy hum, just as William had done when he'd climax, every time they'd made love. William.

"Now that Angel is here, shall we begin?" Wesley's authoritative voice snapped Angel out of his daze. The dark-haired vampire took two steps towards Spike and found his path, once again, blocked, this time by Xander.

Xander had yellow eyes.

Angel didn't think he could take any more surprises. "You're a vampire."

"You're a vampire?" Cordelia gasped.

"Another one?" Gunn groaned. "Man, Angel, don't you know anyone that's human?"

"I'm human," Willow pipped.

"As am I," Giles added. "Now, if we could please dispense with the trivialities, I would like to decide on our plan of action before the plane takes off tomorrow."

Man needed to switch to decaf, Angel thought, dropping the "Xander Is A Vampire" revelation for now and retreating to a shadowy corner of the room. Or Giles needed to get laid, Angel continued thinking. He seemed to be wound tighter than Wes.

Spike suddenly giggled again, and Angel was stunned once more. It wasn't so much a giggle as it was a purely non-jaded laugh, an amused sound that Angel had only ever heard children make.

Giles gave the blond vampire a scolding look, and Spike grinned. "Well, it's true," Spike said.

"Spike, it's quiet time, remember?" Giles said in a low voice.

Spike scowled. "Don't talk to me like I'm wearing nappies, Rupert."

Giles removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I do apologize," he said. "I am simply tired and wish to get this meeting underway."

"'S'okay, Rup," Spike said. "We'll be quiet," he looked to his left and addressed the air, "right?"

Angel stared at the empty spot Spike had addressed. Did they pick up a ghost when he wasn't looking?

"Here, I'll start," Willow said, closing the tenth century dictionary/thesaurus she was looking at with a thump. Giles sat down on the arm of Spike's chair as the redhead reviewed what the Angel crew had been told over the phone. From the corner, Angel watched as Spike put a hand on Giles's leg and squeezed. Giles glanced down at the blond and gave him a tired, but wholly affectionate, smile.

Angel suddenly had the desire to wipe the smile off the Watcher's face. That was his William in that chair...

Wait, no, Spike. Not William -- Spike. William didn't exist anymore. Just his hair did.

Angel folded his arms over his chest, his lower lip thrust in a pout. Darla was back. Dru was back. Why couldn't William come back, too? They could be a family again. Blood and sex and violence... and guilt and madness and despair.

Didn't he recently say that he hated his soul?

"--Angel?"

"Huh?" Angel blinked and found eight sets of eyes on him. He took a defensive step back further into the shadows. "What?"

"I asked if there was anything you wished to add," Wesley said, grinning knowingly at him.

Why hadn't he killed Wes yet? Angel shook his head. "No, I trust you covered everything."

"Cool," Gunn said, standing. "Then I am outta here. Check ya tomorrow."

"Give me a ride?" Cordelia asked, rising from her seat.

"You got it, pretty lady," Gunn said. "Bye, all."

Cordelia gave Xander a long, pitying look, then left with Gunn. Angel saw Xander clench his jaw, then carefully start to fold the map in front of him.

"Willow and I are going to bed," Oz announced, holding the redhead's hand. "Goodnight."

They left the library, with Wesley right behind them. Angel emerged from the shadows, walked over to where Xander was sitting, and placed his hands on the back of a chair. "Tell me about Oz," he demanded, his tone brooking no argument.

Giles simply looked at him in response.

"Xander?" Angel said.

"Me, vampire. You, vampire. Spike, vampire," Xander grunted. He raised his head, his ridges emphasized by the desk lamp on the table. "That clear things up for you?"

"Xan," Spike said in warning. "Play nice."

Xander stood and abruptly left the room.

Giles sighed, replaced his glasses, and stood. "Come along, Spike. We have a busy day tomorrow."

Spike jumped to his feet, as if someone stuck him with a cattleprod, and pattered behind Giles to the door. He paused there, and looked back at Angel. "You," he pointed with the kaleidoscope, "need to do something with your hair." He waved the kaleidoscope above his head. "Too much up top. The Slayer says it makes you looks like a Chia-pet."

"Spike," Giles called.

"Night, ducks," Spike said to Angel and left the library.

Angel stared dumbly at the space Spike had occupied for a very long time. Then he put hand to his head and self-consciously touched his hair.



*****



"Listen," Drusilla cupped her ear, walking further into the lobby of the Hyperion, close to dawn. "Do you hear it?"

"Hear what?" Lilah asked.

Drusilla faced her lover... such a sweet, sweet lover, all covered in blood... and clapped her hands. "The Lost Boy has come for a visit. Tinkerbell's dust rings as it falls around him."

"Dru, you know I can't hear like you can." Lilah linked her arm through the vampiress's and started for the elevators. "That's why you're so special."

"Yes, I am," Drusilla agreed with a wicked grin. "I see the naughty thoughts dancing about your head."

Lilah leaned closer, her breath warm against Drusilla's cheek. "We'll be dancing for real in a few minutes."

The elevator door opened, and the two women stepped inside. Lilah pushed the button for the fourth floor. The moment the doors closed, Drusilla pushed Lilah up against the green-painted elevator wall and covered the other woman's mouth with her own. Drusilla felt Lilah's hands slide under the long velvet coat she wore, tickling her in a delightful way.

L was for lemons all cut up, Drusilla thought as the elevator dinged and she moved away from Lilah. I was for ice cream, shivery cold. The vampiress led the way down the hall to her room. L was for licking, like big jungle cats. "Meowrrrr," Drusilla pretended to roar.

Lilah laughed softly, pushed open Drusilla's door, and pulled the vampiress inside. Drusilla continued her song in her mind as she shed her coat. A was for Angel... Drusilla gasped and put her hand to her forehead. "A is for Angel..."

Lilah came closer as Drusilla started to sway. "Angel what, Dru?"

"A is for Angel...," Drusilla repeated. She stopped swaying and slowly smiled. "He's found a new old toy to play with, and they're going to make such lovely screams."

"Is that it?" Lilah brushed Drusilla's hair back from her face. "Angel's going to have sex?" The taller woman frowned. "He's not going to lose his soul, is he? If so, I need to call--"

"Shh, shh, shh," Drusilla put her finger over Lilah's lips. "No more talking."

Lilah smiled and nipped the vampiress's finger.

There was no more talking.



Continued