Never Send A Psychotic
To Do A Lunatic's Job


by Saber ShadowKitten


Part Nine



Oxford, England



Oxford, England. Home of one of the greatest universities in the world -- or so said the two who'd schooled there.

"It looks the same," Giles commented as he drove down St. Giles St., in the center of Oxford, Oxfordshire, England. "Over thirty years have passed, and it feels like I never left."

"Thirty," Spike snorted from behind him. "Try over one hundred and thirty. The only thing different are the motors."

The rented van that carried the eight jet-lagged travelers was tight with all their luggage, but they managed to make the drive from Heathrow to Oxford without trouble. Willow navigated from the passenger seat, reading her scribbled directions by penlight. It was close to 3:00 a.m., local time, and the group wanted nothing more than to reach the Oxford Moat House and sleep.

"You went to school, Spike?" Xander asked in amazement.

Spike socked him in the arm. "Yes, I went to university, tosser. I'll have you know, I graduated with a First."

"Wow," Willow said, looking back at him with awe and pride. "That's like graduating magna cum laude. That's wonderful, Spike. How come you never told us you were a smarty-pants?"

"Who is scarier, pet: Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?"

"Point," Oz said.

"You should have seen him," Angel spoke up, his voice full of dark laughter. "Glasses perched on the end of his nose, fluffed hair, smart clothing -- the perfect dandy."

"Sod off, Angel," Spike grumbled, scrunching down in the seat.

Angel smirked. "And weren't you still living with your mother when Drusilla found you?"

Spike gestured rudely in response.

"He had poems in his head," Drusilla spoke up from the very back. "Beautiful words from a beautiful man. It made my tongue tingle, and the cat played the harp on the hay. Do you remember, my sweet silvery Spike?"

"I remember," he mumbled. "And not one word from you, Slayer."

"What was your major, Spike?" Willow asked, in an obvious attempt to stop the teasing. "Did they call it a major back then?"

"Course of study," Giles supplied.

"Literature and Poetry," Spike answered the redhead. He turned and glared over his shoulder at Angel. "What else would a bloody dandy be learned in?"

"Interesting," Lilah murmured from her place at Drusilla's side.

"Giles, what about you?" Willow said quickly.

"Languages and Mythology," Giles replied. "It was the same course of study of all pre-Watchers." He smiled sheepishly. "Unlike Spike, however, I did not receive my degrees with honors."

"That's right," Xander said. "That was your 'No, Officer, I wasn't having sex with Ethan Rayne, Frank Zappa, and a sheep, and that blue cloud isn't what you think it is' stage."

"I am offended," Giles said stiffly. "I have never had relations with a sheep."

"Notice how he doesn't deny the rest of it," Xander said in a stage whisper.

"Hey, Wes was a Watcher," Cordelia said. "Does that mean he went to Oxford, too?"

"Most likely," Giles replied.

"Oh! Here's our turn," Willow said, closing the conversation as she pointed out the window.

Giles navigated the van up the lane to the Oxford Moat House and pulled to a stop in the drive. The weary group climbed out of the back of the vehicle and gathered their baggage, while Willow and Giles went inside to check them in.

"I thought it would be more... English," Cordelia said, looking up at the Moat House. "Instead, it's like we never left L.A."

"According to the info Wills pulled up on the computer, this place has a mini-golf course, a gym, a heated indoor swimming pool, a sauna, a solarium -- whatever that is, a game room, and a beauty clinic," Xander said. He turned to Cordelia. "Maybe they can help you get rid of those bags under your eyes."

"And maybe they can get you a whole new face," Cordelia sniffed, then marched inside. Xander grinned, picked up his bag, and followed her.

"Rupert was right," Spike sighed, looking around. "No moat." He addressed the air to his left. "Guess you're safe from a dunking."

"C'mon, Spike," Oz directed, as he headed for the entry to the Moat House. Drusilla and Lilah, both luggage-less, whispered conspiratorially as they went inside.

Spike glanced at Angel as the blond grabbed the rest of the bags. "That Lilah chit," he said. "She okay to be with Dru?"

"I'm more afraid for Dru than I am for Lilah," Angel replied.

"That's what I meant," Spike said in a quiet, serious tone.

Angel went to put his hand on Spike's shoulder, saw Oz glaring at him, and quickly dropped it. "Um, Drusilla's fine," he said. "I, uh, think Lilah really likes her."

Spike nodded, a worried frown marring his silver nail-polish-streaked face as he looked towards the Moat House. "I'm allowed to be a worry-wort," he commented. "You still worry about TDAH here."

"Who?" Angel gave Spike a puzzled glance. It was slightly unnerving to hear the blond holding a conversation with no one. It was more unnerving to know that Spike thought he was holding a conversation with Buffy.

Spike grinned at him. "TDAH -- Tall, Dark, and Handsome. That's what the Slayer calls you." He feigned to the right, as if ducking a punch. "I like my version better -- Tall, Dumb, and Hard-Up."

"Spike. Now," Oz called again.

Spike winked at Angel and headed for the door. Angel stood there for a moment, wondering which version of TDAH was more accurate. Then he realized that by wondering about it, he had answered his own question.

Shaking his dark head, he double-checked that the van was secure and went inside.

*****

Willow had managed to put everyone on the same floor in the hotel. Giles and Xander were next door to Spike, Cordelia chose the room across from the blond vampire, and Angel was next door to her. Willow and Oz had a room further up the gold-wallpapered hallway, and Lilah and Drusilla were tucked into the last room on the floor.

Angel eyes followed the amoeba pattern on the second floor hallway carpeting. The pattern was nauseating, actually, and he wouldn't be surprised if some of the amoeba splotches were really vomit stains... and he was way too tired to be wandering the halls in search of an ice machine. However, he really wanted ice in his scotch. Besides, if he didn't have his scotch, he wouldn't get any sleep and he'd be wandering the halls anyway.

Having traversed one length of the hall from his room, Angel headed back in the other direction. It would figure that the ice machine would be in the opposite direction from where he'd chosen to go. It was probably just three doors down from his room, too.

Angel's steps slowed when he saw that Spike's door was partially open. The dark-haired vampire had thought that everyone had turned in for the night. Curious, he lurked closer to the open door until he could see and hear inside.

*****

"There you are," Giles examined Spike's upturned face a final time, "Varnish free."

"Ta, Rupes," Spike said, accepting the towel Giles handed to him to dry his wet face.

Giles capped the nail-polish remover and rinsed the soapy washrag in the sink. Hanging the once-white rag over the towel bar, he picked up the plastic bottle of remover and ushered Spike out of the bathroom. "To bed with you," the greying man ordered, shutting off the bathroom light. He turned the lock on the door and pulled it shut behind him, effectively preventing Spike from entering the bathroom unless he broke the door down. The front desk had assured the Watcher that they had the means to unlock the door again.

Spike climbed into the double bed, pulled the blankets over him, and grabbed a faded black shirt from the night-stand. Giles picked up the travel alarm clock and set it for after the sun went down. "Remember not to leave the room--"

"--Until the alarm goes off," Spike said along with him. Blue eyes rolled. "I know, Rupert. You tell me the same bloody thing every day."

"Humor me," Giles said. He had learned from experience that if he didn't tell Spike every night to wait for the alarm, the blond would not remember, and Giles would have to doctor a sun-burnt vampire after Spike had gone directly for the cat sunning herself in front of the big picture window. Heavy draperies hadn't helped; Spike would simply push them aside to reach Miss Kitty for his daily purring competition.

There was no cat at the hotel, but Giles wasn't going to chance Spike wandering outside during the day because he was bored. The blond vampire knew the difference between night and day, and that the sunlight severely hurt him, but, at home, the draw of the competition was too great.

"I'm right next door if you need me," Giles said, setting the clock down. He frowned. "Or perhaps it would be better if I stayed in here--"

"Rupert, I'm deranged, not five-years-old," Spike interrupted. "Stop treating me like I am. You don't at home."

Giles sighed, removed his glasses, and wearily rubbed his eyes. "I have been overdoing it, haven't I," he stated.

"Yeah, you have," Spike said, propping himself up on his elbows. "As have Oz and Xander. I'm not a fragile doll that needs to be kept in bubble-wrap. So I'm not as smart as I once was, and I'm immature at times. I'm still a far cry from being a second Dru." He smiled slightly. "Besides, I don't see you treating Xan like a child, and he's worse than I am sometimes."

"True," Giles agreed, replacing his glasses. "I think I'm simply more worried than usual. We're no longer in Sunnydale, and the danger we are facing this time around is of the human variety. Worse, they're all Watchers, with the knowledge and skill to hurt you, Xander, and Oz."

"There's nothing they can do to hurt me, remember?" Spike thumped his chest. "I'm Steve Austin... without the bad hair. He did get to shag Jamie Summers, though." He grinned wickedly at the unoccupied spot in the bed beside him. "And I shagged Buffy Summers. Any relation, ducks?"

Giles reached out, put his finger against Spike's forehead, and lightly pushed the blond onto the pillow. "Go to sleep, Spike," he said. "We've a lot of ground to cover tomorrow... er, later tonight. And I mean that literally."

"Will you tell my keepers to ease up a bit?" Spike asked. "The Slayer and I want to spend some time with Angel and find out how he's doing." He jerked his thumb towards the unoccupied side of the bed. "She's concerned about what Dru said."

"What did Drusilla say?" Giles asked, a new frown creasing his forehead. Just what he needed, he thought, another vampire to worry about.

"Somethin' about the trotter not believing in redemption anymore," the blond replied. He shrugged. "I don't see why that ever mattered to him. He should be fighting demons for the fun and challenge of it, not some lofty ideal. The only place heaven exists for vampires is in bedding a childe or a mate. The 'real' heaven is just a myth to scare human tots into cleaning their rooms and eating their veggies."

"Interesting viewpoint," Giles commented. "Is that why you have taken up the mantle of the Vampire Slayer? Because it's fun?"

"Nah," Spike grinned, "I do it because precious here'll kick my arse if I don't."

"Ah," was all Giles had to say about that. The Watcher reached for the lamp chain. "Do you have your shirt?"

Spike pulled the faded black shirt from beneath the covers. "Got it."

Giles nodded. They had almost forgotten to bring the shirt along, which would've made for a horrific number of days until Tara shipped it to them. The shirt had once belonged to Buffy and it was Spike's security blanket. He couldn't sleep without it, and Giles had decided to fight one battle at a time when it came to the blond vampire, the most important one being to lay Buffy's 'ghost' to rest.

"Well, goodnight," Giles said, tugging the chain. The room plunged into darkness, but there was enough light coming through the partially open door for him to see his way.

"Goodnight," Spike echoed. "Sleep tight. Watch out, Xander bites."

Giles rolled his eyes and left Spike's room, closing the door firmly behind him.

*****

Angel had been barely able to duck into his room when Giles exited Spike's. The older vampire watched through the peephole as the Watcher used his passkey to open the door to his own room and went inside. Easing the door open, Angel stuck his head out and looked up and down the hallway before venturing into it, empty ice bucket still in hand.

Angel had learned several things by eavesdropping, but only one stood out in his mind: Spike had sex with Buffy.

The dark-haired man stalked down the amoeba'd hallway in search of the illusive ice machine. He really needed that drink now. He couldn't believe that Spike had sex with Buffy. His pure, beautiful, loving, velvety tight, moany little blond. So what if Angel had boned Drusilla off and on for the past ten years? Spike wasn't allowed to even have illicit thoughts about Buffy, let alone get close enough to have sex with her!

It just wasn't fair... both Spike having sex with Buffy, and the fact that the ice machine had been only three doors down.

Angel violently scooped ice into the ice bucket, picturing Spike as he jammed the ice scoop repeatedly into the ice. It didn't matter how delicious Spike had looked dressed in a pair of dark grey boxer-briefs. Or how much the blond reminded Angel of William. Or how hard Spike had made Angel just by walking from the bathroom to the bed. Spike'd had sex with Buffy!

It wasn't until Angel had drank his fifth glass of scotch that he realized he was jealous.

Of Buffy.



Part Ten





"The cartographer has arrived," Willow announced, scurrying into the solarium with a large -- and heavy -- pink bag over her shoulder. "Sorry it took so long. I didn't realize how crowded it would be at the Tourist Information Center."

"The whole town is crowded," Cordelia stated, following the redhead at a more leisurely pace. "I've never seen so much tweed in my life."

"I don't like tweed," Drusilla said. "It gets stuck in my teeth."

"Angel," Cordelia said with irritation. She gestured to Lilah and Drusilla. "Why are they here?"

"Because I asked Lilah to join us," Angel said patiently. "She might have information she's willing to share." Cordelia gave him a skeptical look. "Be quiet and sit down," he grumbled.

The group had chosen to meet in the solarium after sunset. The glass ceiling of the round room let in the bright moonlight. Several stone tables and benches, flowering plants and trees, and torches were scattered around. It was the most romantic war-room Willow had ever seen.

The redhead started pulling maps out of her bag and setting them on one of the stone tables. "I got one of every map available at the Information Center. Did you have any luck at the Real Estate office, Giles?"

"No, they would not release the blueprints to me." Giles lowered his voice and muttered, "Bloody bureaucrats."

"Cordy and I will break in later and get them," Xander volunteered.

"We will?" Cordelia snorted indelicately. "Fat chance, Deadboy."

"How original," Xander said dryly.

Oz had been right, Willow thought, watching as Xander inched closer to Cordelia with every bickered word. Xander had the lusties for Cordelia. Again. Why did it seem right this time, instead of seriously wrong?

Willow felt Oz's warm breath as he helped her remove the bag from her shoulder. Places on her body tingled and answered her own question. Feeling the telltale blush, Willow ducked her head and concentrated on opening the maps.

"If we don't have a blueprint of the place, what're we going to do tonight?" Spike asked, picking up the map of Merton College.

"The plan is the same," Giles said, locating an Oxford street map and spreading it open on the table. "The blueprints for the Council headquarters would have been handy, but are not necessary for the initial stage."

The others gathered around the table, save for Drusilla, who was dancing to a tune only she could hear. Lilah shrugged at Angel's look and focused on the map.

"The Council headquarters is located here," Giles pointed to the map, "near All Souls College in Radcliff Square."

"Fitting," Angel murmured.

"There are several ways into the building, including the front door," Giles continued. "Since I, myself, am a Watcher, that is the way I shall enter."

"Quack, quack," Drusilla suddenly said. "The decoy bobs in the murky waters."

"Er, yes," Giles said. "While I find out what I can, legitimately, Oz and Angel shall plant bugs throughout the building. You'll enter from the water sewer to one of the underground passages from headquarters to the college. If memory serves, there are drainage grates that connect the two."

"Got it," Oz said.

"There might be protective spells on the grates," Giles warned.

"I'll handle it," Angel said. "If Willow can provide some supplies?"

"My cacta is your cacta," Willow replied with a grin.

"In the meantime, while we three are at the Council's headquarters," Giles went on. "Willow, I shall send you to The Turf Tavern. I was going to have Cordelia and Xander accompany you, but since they're going to be otherwise occupied--"

"I'll go with her," Lilah spoke up. All eyes turned to her. "One of my... associates is a regular. Perhaps he's heard something about what the Watchers are planning."

"Does this mean you're officially helping?" Angel asked her.

"I do have a stake in the outcome of this, Angel," Lilah said, her gaze drifting to Drusilla.

"Very well, if you do not disagree, Willow?" Giles asked. Willow shook her head. "All right. The pub is tricky to find. You can only get to it via St. Helen's Passage, which is here," he pointed at the map again, "off of Holywell. I shall sketch out a more precise map for you momentarily."

Giles moved his finger on the map. "Cordelia and Xander shall drop us at Wadham College and they shall take the van to the Town Hall. We will meet here, at The Bear Inn, no later than one-thirty. Are there any questions?"

"Yeah," Spike spoke up. "What do you want the Slayer and I to do?"

Willow saw the bad word Giles mouthed and stifled her giggle. "He can come with us," she suggested.

"He won't blend in, baby," Oz said quietly. The half-wolf looked to Giles. "Spike will have to come with Angel and me."

Giles nodded. "I concur. Only two are necessary to burgle Town Hall... not that I condone such illegal activities."

"Of course not, Giles," Xander said almost by rote.

"Very well," Giles said. "We'll leave around nine. Until then, do what you will."

Willow felt Oz's hand rubbing a circle on her lower back. She knew exactly what she'd be doing until it was time to leave... or rather, who.

*****

Lilah felt old.

The Turf Tavern was like every English pub she had visited -- old, dark, and smoky. Booths and tables provided seating, the regulation dart board was in the corner, the beer on tap wasn't a watered down American brew, a majority of the patrons could be her children.

"Do you see your friend?" Willow asked as they chose a table close to a group of tweed-clad men.

Lilah glanced around and spotted Carter tucked into a book and a beer. "He's here," she replied. "I'll order our drinks, then speak with him."

"Okey-dokey," Willow agreed. She removed a thin book from her bag. "I'll sit here and look studious while you do that."

To Lilah, Willow looked like she was still in high school, so there were no problems with her blending in. Lilah, on the other hand, felt herself aging ten years every minute. It wasn't as if she was the only older person there, but they were few and far between and it reminded her of every grey hair she'd dyed and every wrinkle marring her skin. It was a good thing her perpetually young lover had stayed at the Moat House or Lilah might've cried.

The goal of the jaunt to the pub was to hopefully overhear a few Watchers discussing their plans to rid the world of demons. From what Giles had told them, Watchers on the whole had a tendency to talk things to death. "What else would you expect from a score of overeducated Brits all trying to one-up each other?" Giles had said. The Turf Tavern had been a popular place amongst the younger Watchers and pre-Watchers before Giles had moved to the United States, and he'd hoped things hadn't changed in the fifteen years he'd been gone from England.

Lilah carried two tall drafts of dark amber beer to Carter's table and, schmoozing-smile in place, she greeted one of her old college friends. "Carter Lancaster, I don't believe it. Fancy meeting you here."

Blond haired and grey eyed, the paunchy Brit looked up from his book, squinted, and grumbled, "Liar. You knew I was here, and you want somethin' from me." He pointed to the chair across from him. "Sit down and spit it out, so I can get back to my book."

Lilah lost the smile and sat. She never could fool Carter. It was a good thing he was loyal, or she'd have to have him killed. "The Council of Watchers," she said quietly. "I want to know about their recent genocidal plans."

Carter tapped the side of his nose, then pointed at the draughts in front of her. "One of those for me, missy?" She passed him one and he took a long swig. "Ahh," he breathed. "Nothin' better than a pint on a cold winter's night."

He set the glass down and peered intently at her. "You want to know what those stupid toffs are up to, eh?"

"More than just the basics," Lilah answered with a nod. "I know the date, time, and the supposed outcome already."

"I've not much to add," Carter said. "Other than Carfax Tower, the tallest structure in Oxford, has been closed to everybody -- even the astronomy students -- during the rarest of lunar phenomenon. Odd coincidence, don't you think?"

"Very," Lilah agreed thoughtfully. "Very much, indeed."

*****

"Will you hurry up?" Cordelia hissed, looking up and down Cornmaker Street to see if they were being watched.

"I could break down the door, your highness, but I thought the object was not to let anyone know we've been here," Xander growled back with impatience as he picked the lock.

"Everyone knows we've been here because you've been trying to pick that stupid lock for an hour!"

"It's been two minutes, Cordelia."

"Shut up and pick!"

Xander stood, sneered at her, and opened the door. "After you, Princess."

Cordelia glared at him before stomping into the Town Hall. She removed a low-beam flashlight from her messenger bag, flicked it on, and kept it pointed down. "Which floor did Giles say Real Estate was on?"

"Second," Xander replied, making sure the door was firmly shut again. He faced Cordelia, his golden eyes glowing in the dim light. "Right next door to the Recorder's Office."

Cordelia silently studied him until he shifted and snapped, "What? Do I have blood on my teeth?"

"No, you don't," Cordelia told him. "And, eew, didn't you brush your fangs after you ate?"

"Yes, I brushed my teeth," Xander huffed, stalking up to her until they were inches apart. He lowered his voice and purred, "I also received a tongue-cleaning from Spike, so no blood left here." He smiled wickedly, his sharp fangs white in the semi-darkness, then turned and headed silently for the stairs.

A mental image of Spike and Xander playing tonsil hockey popped into Cordelia's brain. She blinked. It wasn't as disgusting as she'd thought it would be.

"Wait, does that mean you and Spike are together?" Cordelia asked, hurrying after the brunette vampire.

Xander paused on the steps to allow her to catch up. "He's my sire," he replied.

"And?"

Xander frowned. "And what? That's it."

"So you guys aren't together," Cordelia said.

"No, we're not 'together,'" Xander said as they resumed climbing the stairs. "Why all the sudden interest in my love life?"

Because Xander was sexy and she wanted to jump his bones. Cordelia's eyes widened in horror at her immediate thoughts. She so did not want Xander Harris!

"Cord?" Xander prompted.

"Angel!" Cordelia blurted.

Xander's gold eyes narrowed as he looked at her. "You want to set me up with Angel?"

"No," Cordelia said. "Angel can't stand you. He wants Spike."

"He'd have more chance with me," Xander stated as they reached the second floor. "There's no way in hell I'm letting him near Spike."

Cordelia laughed. "Like you could stop him."

Xander suddenly grabbed her by the arms, pulled her threateningly close, and snarled, "Watch me."

"Ow! Xander, let go," Cordelia ordered. "You're hurting my arms."

Xander released her immediately and took a step back. "Sorry," he said, dragging a hand through his short hair.

"What's your deal?" Cordelia said. "You, Giles, and Oz have been treating Spike like he's a kid, when all he is, is brain damaged. You don't see Angel treating Drusilla like that."

"How do you know he's brain damaged?"

"Oh, please," Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Hello? He talks to Buffy -- who's dead." She looked around for the Real Estate office. "Besides, Angel told me. Spike has psst."

"That's PTSS," Xander said, trailing after her as she headed for the correct office. "We normally don't treat him like a kid, either, but this is the first time he's been out of Sunnydale since Before, and we can't chance the wrong person finding out about his..."

"His what?" Cordelia asked when he didn't finish. She looked back at him, and saw him worrying his lower lip with his fangs. Ouch. Didn't that hurt?

"I can't tell you," Xander said apologetically. He quickly walked past her further into the office. "If I were blueprints, where would I be hiding?" he said as he stopped in front of a large flat filing cabinet, his light tone obviously forced.

"Xander, why--"

"Cordelia, please don't," Xander pleaded, turning towards her. "If you ask me again, I'll tell you, and then Oz will use my finger as a toothpick after Giles lectures me until my ears bleed."

"Why?" Cordelia asked curiously.

"Why will my ears bleed, or why would I tell you?"

"Why would you tell me?" she clarified.

"Because men are stupid, and they'd do anything to impress a girl they liked," Xander answered bluntly.

"Oh," Cordelia said dumbly. Xander liked her?

The butterflies returned in full force, and it felt like they brought some friends, too.

Xander cleared his throat and faced the filing cabinet again. "Let's just find the blueprints and get out of here."

*****

"Rupert Giles, I didn't know you were in England."

"Quentin Travers, I didn't know you were still alive," Giles said as he shook the older man's hand.

Quentin smiled benignly. "Still as feisty as ever, Rupert. Some things never change."

"No, they don't," Giles said, glancing around the foyer of the Council headquarters. "Not even the decorations."

Quentin gestured for Giles to proceed him into a room off the front hall. "So, what brings you here, Rupert? I take it all is well with your Slayer?"

"Buffy's fine," Giles lied, entering the study. "The Hellmouth remains closed and the demon population at a minimum."

"Good, good." Quentin stopped in front of a dark-wood table with several crystal decanters and glasses on it. "Would you care to imbibe with an old man?"

"Certainly," Giles agreed, studying a painting on the wall. To anyone else, it would look like a work of fantasy, but the battle depicted between the armored girl and the serpent dragon had been real. It was his favorite painting that the Council had, and it made him wish he'd had a similar portrait of Buffy in the heat of battle. She had been beautiful when she fought.

"Here you are," Quentin said, coming up beside Giles. Giles took the glass he proffered and sipped its amber contents. The white-haired Watcher nodded to the painting. "The age of technology doesn't hold a candle to the old styles in some instances."

"Hmm," Giles agreed non-committally.

"All right, Rupert," Quentin said, moving to take a seat. "Enough with the idle chit-chat. What brings you here?"

"A friend's funeral," Giles lied again, choosing to sit opposite Quentin in a dark green wing-backed chair. "Since I was only in Coventry, I'd thought I'd pay a visit. I haven't been bothered by the Council in years."

"Your regular post to us has kept you bother-free," Quentin said dryly. "As long as we continue to believe the aging Slayer is not shirking her duties, we see no reason to interfere."

"How comforting to know," Giles said.

"Now, Rupert, you know we've given you tremendous leeway in regards to your Slayer," Quentin said.

"She has a name, you know."

"Miss Summers may not be the most conventional of Slayers, but, I have to admit, she is a good one," Quentin said. "It will be a shame to see her death."

Giles narrowed his eyes. "You say that as if it's a given."

"It is...," Quentin smiled, "...someday."

Giles took another sip of his drink instead of throwing it in the other Watcher's face like he wanted to do. He was there to gather information through legitimate channels, not pick a fight with a pompous windbag who couldn't slay a vampire if the vampire was prone and unconscious.

"So," Giles began calmly. "Any new prophecies or findings of late?"

*****

"I can't tell how far," Oz said, squinting down the open manhole into the water sewer. "You?"

"No," Angel replied, setting aside the heavy cover he'd removed from the water sewer entrance. "Best guess: I'd say 15 to 25-feet."

"Instead of debating until the sun comes up, why don't we just find out?" Spike said in exasperation. He stepped to the edge of the sewer opening and grinned at Angel's confused look. "Be right back," the blond said, then jumped into the hole.

"Spike!" Angel exclaimed, dropping to a crouch beside Oz and peering intently into the opening. Why had his idiot childe done that? The bottom could be more than 25-feet down, Angel fretted, and if Spike landed wrong, he could be hurt...

"He's fine," Oz said calmly, earning a part-worried, part-puzzled glance from Angel. The half-wolf shifted and glanced around. They'd found a water sewer entrance behind All Souls College, partially obscured in a grotto. The Council of Watchers headquarters was approximately a city block away, if the sewers ran on a straight grid.

"Giles said I'm supposed to let Spike have at you, secrets and all," Oz said out of the blue. His inky black eyes pierced Angel's dark gaze. "So I'll alter my warning: if you hurt him in any way, I will eat you 'alive.' Understood?"

Angel nodded, but before he could comment, Spike's hands gripped the edge of the open sewer and his head popped up. "S'about 30-feet down and the bottom's slick," the blond reported. "Oz, climb on. I'll take you first, then the Slayer, and then Superpoof." He looked at the empty spot to the right of Angel. "You sure, pet? Thirty-feet isn't much, but I don't want you breaking something."

Spike sighed as Oz swung himself into the hole, holding onto the vampire's shoulders. "Okay, luv, but if you get hurt, I reserve the right to laugh my arse off."

Angel watched Oz, half-listening to the one-sided conversation. What the heck was the wolf doing? Was he going to dangle from Spike's legs and jump? Was there mention of a ladder that Angel missed hearing? Spike had to be standing on something -- no vampire was strong enough to hold himself up like the blond was while another climbed onto him.

"What about you, peaches?" Spike addressed Angel as Oz settled into piggy-back position on the younger vampire's back. "Are you going to jump, or would you like a lift on Air Spike?"

"I'll, uh, jump," Angel replied warily.

Spike nodded. "Count to five," he instructed, then let go of the edge.

Angel felt his stomach drop when the two vanished. He was confused, worried, and irritated that he was confused and worried. How the hell could Spike land safely with Oz attached to his back?, Angel wondered. Why did Spike offer to help him down the same way, when he obviously outweighed the younger vampire by 50-pounds?

Angel glanced around one last time as he counted to five, then jumped into the open hole. He wondered if he'd land on two broken bodies. And if he did land on two broken bodies, he wondered how the hell he'd get them to the surface again.

Spike had been right, the bottom was slick, and Angel barely kept his balance when he landed. He absorbed the impact of the 30-foot drop with bent knees and a bit of arm-flailing. The only light came from the open manhole far above him, and he shifted into game-face in order to see better. He didn't see the ladder or handholds Spike had used to re-climb to the surface. Instead, he saw Spike's yellow eyes and an amused, fangy smile. The blond held up a white scrap of paper with the number '6' on it. "Graceful dismount, but he didn't stick the landing. I give it a six, Bob."

Oz sniffed the air a little further down the sewer. "Follow me."

They weren't hurt, Angel thought, amazed and even more confused than before. He would feel like Alice who chased the white rabbit down the rabbit hole, only he didn't have the legs for a blue gingham dress.

Spike shoved the scrap of paper into his duster pocket as he started after Oz. "Then you shouldn't have bloody worn 'em, Slayer," he said exasperately to the curved sewer wall. "You knew we'd be tromping through the sewers before we left."

Angel slowly trailed behind the other two, listening to Spike bicker with no one. The curved sewer was moist, muddy, and moldy, with light shining in through grates on the surface every so often. There were several junctions they passed as they headed towards the Council headquarters, dark openings concealing silent predators that Angel could sense watching them, but none attacked.

The unseen ceiling became solid at a fifteen-foot height as they entered a tunnel. The underground passageway must be directly above them now, Angel thought, searching for the grates that Giles had mentioned. If there wasn't a ladder -- which he doubted there would be -- he would have to boost Oz and Spike up, then try to jump the distance to the opening.

Which reminded Angel -- how the hell had Spike climbed back up to the manhole entrance? Did the scientists that changed Oz make the blond vampire part-monkey as well as insane? There was no way he could've jumped the distance -- it was 30-feet! At most, with a running start, a vampire could make it 20-feet, if the wind currents were right.

"This should be it," Oz announced quietly, pointing up at a foot-wide grate at the side of the tunnel. A dull yellow non-bouncing glow came through the slits in the grate, indicating the passage was lighted electrically.

The darkly-clothed half-wolf cocked his head. "I don't hear anyone."

Angel nodded and removed a cloth tie-bag from the pocket of his coat. He opened the bag and removed a smaller Ziplocked bag of redish-colored powder. Taking a pinch of the powder, he threw it as close to the grate as he could, and said, "Thanorun miot!"

The powder flashed bright pink. "Warding spells," Angel said unnecessarily. He passed Oz the red powder and removed another Ziplocked bag from the tie-bag. "I'll try Clercius's General Dispel first and hope we get lucky."

They did get lucky. When Angel repeated the detection spell, the redish powder did nothing. "The Slayer's right," Spike said, a frown on his ridged face. "That was too easy."

"Not necessarily," Angel said, tucking Willow's spellbag way. "Most predators don't carry dispel components with them and would be deterred by the effects of the wards. The opening is also small and difficult to reach, making it a tactical disadvantage. Predators just interested in a quick meal wouldn't go through all the trouble to enter the passage."

Spike and Oz were both staring at him. "What?" the brunette vampire said.

"'Tactical disadvantage'?" Spike snickered.

Oz simply smirked and looked back up at the grate. "It'll be a tight fit," he commented.

"We have to reach it, too," Angel added. "If I boost you both to my shoulders, you should be able to make it."

"I'll make a ladder," Spike said absently. He studied the tunnel around the grate. "Two and a half feet is all that it can be widened, Oz, without causing a sewer-in."

Oz turned to Angel, a hard glint in his eyes. "What you're about to see you can't say a word about to anyone. Not Cordelia, not Wesley, not your shrink, no one."

Angel frowned at the shorter man and was about to respond when he heard a crack and stone crumbling. His gaze whipped to the sound, and he was stunned to find Spike climbing the wall like a monkey... creating his own hand and foot-holds by punching and kicking the sewer wall.

Spike reached the grate in seconds. With one hand, he tapped an area around the grate on the ceiling of the tunnel, while supporting himself on his toes and by the fist he'd planted into the wall. After he finished tapping, he wrapped his hand around the middle slat of the grate and pushed. The grate and a section of the stone around it broke free, and Spike pushed it aside like it weighed nothing before he climbed through the hole.

Oz was halfway up the sewer wall before Angel finally blinked.


Continued