Aftermath

by
Imaginary Images




Chapter Eleven



They waited for Illyria to return from one of her regular walkabouts, and Xander made her promise that she wouldn't leave Dawn alone again while they checked out the club. He would have made Spike talk to the strange blue god-king, but the crazy vamp was still in a snit and not speaking to her.

They left half an hour later, following Dawn's directions to the club. Xander tried to keep a carefully hidden eye on Spike, not wanting to make the injured vampire feel coddled. However, he eventually noticed the limp Spike tried to hide, so he asked, "You feeling ok, Spike? Howís the leg?"

"Itís doing ok, but I swear it feels like this limp is never going to go away." Spike looked up and noticed that it was starting to rain. He stopped and turned towards Xander.

"Mate?"

Xander started to walk faster as he remembered that particular detail as well. "Yeah, I see it too. Come on, Gimpy. Hurry it up!"

An hour later the big nasty had been slain, right in front of Heatherís Hot House just like the vision had shown. The whole scene was exactly the same--the sounds, the smells, the demon. While Spike couldnít quite run or kick yet, he certainly could hit, scratch, bite, and, of course, curse. Xander also helped by using a two by four, slowing the creature down just a little. It looked quite a bit like a Wookie and was just as big. At first Xander hesitated. He didnít want to hurt a Wookie, after all. However, when he saw it was trying to use Spike as a toothpick, he gamely whacked it in the head a few times. Spike finally managed to crawl up the creature's back and snap its neck, all the while cursing up a storm and in his vamp face. He also managed to scare the hell out of the couple being saved.

Since the victims didnít seem to have enough sense to run when they had the chance, Spike used the opportunity to chew them out after he climbed off the dead beast.

"Iím surprised you two have survived this long. When you have the opportunity, you run, ya tossers. You donít stand around and stare, like the helpless gits you are!" The couple cowered in fear, as Spike was still, unconsciously, wearing his vamp face.

"Spike, come on. Theyíre fine. Leave them alone. We should get back." Xander tried to draw Spike away from the frightened couple, a little wisp of a man and a pudgy older woman, who was crying hysterically. "Why donít you folks get on home before something else crawls out of the woodwork and tries to eat you?" Despite the words, the message was delivered in a calm tone. This made Xander appear at least a little more sane than Spike. Xanderís rational suggestion finally drove the couple to action. They ran away as fast as possible.

Spikeís limp was even worse than before the fight, and he looked exhausted. This made the walk home quite a bit slower than the trek out. Xander put an arm around Spike's waist, taking some of his weight, while Spike wrapped an arm around Xander's neck, leaning on the boy for support. They staggered the rest of the way home this way in the pouring rain, giving Spikeís bum leg a rest.

When they headed to bed that morning, Spike once again plopped down onto Xanderís mattress. Neither said a word when Spike crawled under the covers and wrapped himself tightly around Xander, before they fell asleep.

The next evening Spike and Xander once again sat on the roof, and lounged together on a blanket against the short wall that went around the edge. It seemed to be the only place they could go and be undisturbed for any length of time. While they had spent most of the day in bed, wrapped around each other, everyone else had spent quiet time alone in different parts of the building.

Xander gave Spike a questioning look. "Do you think Dawnís getting impatient to go out patrolling yet?"

"Yeah, but I figure sheíll wait a couple more days before bugging me to go. Tryiní to stay in my good graces, she is."

They sat in silence for a few minutes before Xander took Spikeís hand in his. He stroked his thumb over Spikeís knuckles before he finally asked, "I know Iím going to sound like a total girl here, but what about us? Um, whatís going on here?"

Spike gave it some thought before he answered. "Not quite sure, pet, but that feels nice." Xander tried to pull his hand away in embarrassment, but Spike held firm. "Now, now, donít go gettiní all shy on me."

"Spike, I have to say this. Iíve never doneÖwellÖanything with a guy, let alone a vampire. I have no clue what Iím doing here, or if I should even be doing it."

"Parts are all the same Harris. Human parts, vamp parts. Iíd say the parts on two blokes interlock just as well, if not better, than male and female parts do, or whatever it was your demon girl used to say. As far as whether you should or shouldnít, I canít answer that. Just go with what feels right, I sípose."

"Can we not mention Anya? She could unman me with a single word, never good for the ego." Xander took a deep breath, then spoke so softly that Spike almost didnít hear him. "Iíd rather not think about being unmanned when Iím thinking about something so manly as wanting to kiss you."

"Pet, donít believe that bollocks about men who kiss other men being anything less than manly." Spike put his free arm around Xander, pulled him in close and put his chin on top of Xanderís head. Xander, in turn, put his arms around Spikeís waist.

Xander mumbled from underneath Spikeís chin. "Hey, I totally support gay pride, ya know. Iíve just never done anything like this before."

"Neither have I, mate. Well, except that one timeÖ" Spikeís voice trailed off.

Pulling his head out from under Spikeís chin, Xander looked him right in the eye. "Spike, just shut up already, and kiss me before I chicken out, ok?"

"Yeah. I think I can do that." Spike leaned over and with only the slightest pressure, kissed Xander. It was sweet and chaste. He didnít want to scare Xander. He was gun shy enough already. Spike was completely surprised when Xander opened his mouth and brought his tongue into play, as he also brought one hand up to gently cup the side of Spikeís face. Spike let his tongue meet Xanderís and deepened the kiss for an extremely intense moment before he pulled away slowly.

Breathless, Xander looked at Spike in wonder and said, "Wow."

Spike leaned in until their foreheads touched. "Yeah, pet. Wow."





Chapter Twelve







Some of the visions were easy. Xander would instantly recognize a landmark or building and the Slayers would go slay. Others were harder to figure out and had to be repeated by Spike several times until Xander saw what he needed to see. Because the visions stressed both of them out as they tried to learn and adapt to this new duty, they hadnít yet revisited the kiss that night on the rooftop, or even mentioned it really. They did continue to sleep together in the same bed, though, but they didnít discuss their sleeping arrangements either.

While Spike didnít have visions every night, they had started to happen with a frightening regularity. The nightmare portions did seem to have stopped, which was a relief to both of them. Spike slowly learned that he should wake up Xander whenever he had vision rather than wait until the morning after. One particularly vague vision took Xander two days to figure out and was also the first and LAST time that Spike tried to wait until the next day to share it. Xander had nearly bitten his head off about it, and Spike never wanted to repeat that scene.

They were at the table after a potluck breakfast, when Spike brought up his vision from the night before. "Pet, I had another one of those visions last night."

"And youíre just telling me now, because why?" Xander went from half awake, to completely livid in a heartbeat. "I mean, maybe I didnít ask for this, but it seems like itís damn important. This is not something you can tell me when you bother to get around to it! Sure, just ignore me. Guess you donít need me, after all." Spike suspected he was upset about a little more than just the vision. Not going there right now, though. Not in front of all these birds, anyway.

Illyria stood in her usual spot in the corner, ignoring them all. Dawn and Di knew to keep quiet as soon as the argument started. They sat there awkwardly, both pretended not to notice the conversation going on around them. They became totally absorbed with the burnt pop tarts Dawn had attempted to warm on the camping stove.

Unfortunately, Charly, either ignorant, or uncaring of the sudden tension, chose to get involved. "Really, Spike. If you canít do it right, maybe theyíll find someone who can." The look on her face plainly said she didnít think he was worthy of the task.

Giving her a gaze filled with loathing, Spike let fly. "Look, you silly bint. This is none of your concern. This is between me and the boy. Got it? Youíd best keep your nose out of things."

Xander snapped at Spike. "Spike, thatís enough. Cut the he-man bullshit." For a brief moment, Charly thought sheíd finally gotten Xanderís attention when he seemed to defend her. Her smug look quickly turned sour, when Xander turned on her. "Charly, heís right. This is stuff we have to work out. Trust me when I say that we have dealt with each other for a long time now. This is just how we work crap out."

"What? He gets to fuck up on the job? Call me names? Heís a menace to society! Youíre just going to take his crap?" Charly crossed her arms and stared at Xander, as she waited for answers.

Xander stood up and turned away from the table for a second as he tried to calm down. When he turned back he spoke directly to Charly in a tone that was deadly serious. "Understand this, Charly. You have no idea what Spike was like when he actually was a menace to society. I do. Now, heís mostly just annoying. Heís not fucking up on the job. Weíre just working out the ground rules. We really have no clue what weíre doing here. As for names, he simply calls Ďem like he sees Ďem. Iím not his keeper. Trust me when I say I canít shut him up. Iíve tried. And right now, I donít really want to."

Charly jumped from her chair, which fell back with a clatter. She looked like she was about to pop a gasket, or punch Xander in the face. Di stepped in. "Címon Charly, letís go kill some demons. Let it go. Everyoneís just blowing off steam. Itís no big deal." Di almost literally dragged Charly from the room.

A heavy silence hung in the air along with the smell of the burnt breakfast. Finally, Dawn, who had wisely stayed out of the entire mess, stood up and gestured at Illyria. "Come on, Illyria. Weíre outta here." The two walked out without another word.

Spike looked down at his hands, as he fiddled with his lighter, to avoid looking at Xander. "Look, Iím sorry. Iíve been trying to figure this all out. I just thought that most of these visions are giving us a little leeway time wise, and you looked beat when we crashed this morning. Maybe the bintÖCharly, is right, though. Maybe I am fucking this up."

"Youíre not, Spike. Just from now on, wake me up, ok? Arenít we in this together? Besides, we might not always have that much of a cushion." Xander put his hands on his head, like he was holding his brains in and took a deep breath. Then he rubbed the area around the empty eye socket, like he was getting a headache. "Look, why donít you tell me about it now?" Spike had a feeling Xander was leaving a lot more unsaid, but decided not to pursue it. One crisis at a time. However the boy wants to handle this is fine with me.

Two days later and they still hadnít solved the vision. Spike and Xander were on the couch. Xander had his hand on Spikeís wrist as he grilled Spike about the dream for about the tenth time. "Tell me again. Show me what you saw."

"Bloody hell, Iíve shown you and shown you. I donít know what you bloody hope to see!" Pissed, Spike tried to pull his hand away.

"No, you donít. If we have to do this, weíre going to do it. Just tell me again."

"Fucking hell. Fine. I see stars, red and gold columns, handprints and footprints. I see bloody awful dragons. There are old movie posters and a Pagoda, maybe? I sound loonier than bloody Dru, here. Happy now?"

Xander had gone over the scanty details again and again since Spike had first shown him. Suddenly, it clicked as he got a crystal clear, panoramic view. Xander jumped up with a triumphant shout, and knocked his bottled water to the floor. "Yes! Thatís it. I know where that is! Itís Mann's Chinese Theatre."

Xander and Spike handled this one alone as the vision only shown a few vamps. It turned out to be a small nest and was excellent practice for Spike to get back into the swing of things. Spike kept a close eye on Xander, but it really wasnít necessary. If anything, having only one eye made the young man more aware and cautious of his own moves. Though, Spike couldnít stop being hyper aware of Xanderís moves, too. He liked watching him fight. Xander dusted three of the vamps himself, without much effort. Obviously, training with the slayers helped more than he thinks. Impressive. Heís certainly improved from the Sunnydale days.

After theyíd dusted the last of them, they walked to the screen at the front of the theater. Spike mused about the past. "Dru and I were here in 1927 when King of Kingís debuted. It was called Graumanís Chinese Theatre then. Boy, did we have a blast that night! All those drunken socialites."

Xander poked around in the trash that littered the floor with his toe. "Spike, I donít really need to hear your tales of murder and mayhem."

"Not bragging Ďbout that. Just saying this place has a lot of history, and I happened to be a part of it." Spike sounded put out.

Xander explored some more. "I guess thatís true. We should probably put out all of these candles and lanterns. Iíd hate to see this place accidentally burn down. You never know. Maybe LA can recover from this, someday." He said in an almost hopeful tone.

Spike walked up behind Xander and put his arms around the boy. "Maybe it will. Seems to be part of what weíre doing here, helping the city." He nuzzled the back of Xanderís neck, much like he had in bed. "You know, I didnít ignore you. I really was just trying to figure some stuff out."

As he leaned back against Spike, Xander asked, "We talking about us or the visions?"

"Both, maybe." Spike put his chin on Xanderís shoulder and just stood there in silence for awhile, as they watched the candles throw flickering shadows on the walls.

"Did you figure anything out?" Xander put his hands over Spikeís hands, which were clasped in front of Xanderís stomach.

"That I did." Spike turned Xander around and pushed him down into a chair in the front row. He knelt between the boyís legs and put his hands on Xanderís chest, so he could feel the dull thub-dub of his heartbeat. "I figured out that I really want to kiss you again."

"I think that can be arranged." Xander leaned forward and kissed Spike for all he was worth. This kiss wasnít chaste, or sweet. This kiss was hungry, hard and passionate.

"Oh, Pet. You are somethiní else." Spike mumbled through their connected lips as he roughly pulled the boy toward him with both hands. At the same time, Xander wrapped his legs around Spikeís waist and locked his ankles. In short order, they were thrusting against each other as much as they could in such an odd position. Xanderís ass was barely on the seat and Spike was on his knees. Spikeís hands clutched at Xanderís arms while Xander had a hand on each side of Spikeís face, as he brushed over the hollows of Spikeís cheeks with his thumbs. They didnít break the kiss until Xander felt Spike stiffen. At first Xander thought Spike had gotten off even through two layers of denim and while in such an awkward position. He opened his eye and pulled back in surprise as he watched Spike slam his left hand back in an odd backwards roundhouse swing, staking the vamp that had tried to sneak up on them.

When the dust settled, Xander freaked out. "Oh, Shit! Where the hell did he come from? I thought we got them all. Was he watching us? If he was, thatís just gross, damn dusty pervert. And, where the hell did you just pull that stake from?"

Spike simply pointed toward the back of the theater, up at the opera boxes. "I think we may not be quite done here yet." With a lascivious wink he added. "I always have a stake handy."

"Crap. I donít think I can walk." Xander got up from the seat, he moved stiffly, and tried to adjust himself in jeans that felt too tight.

"Me either, mate, but I think we need to finish this up so we can get back home. Bit is gonna be worried."

With a grin, Xander replied, "Yep, letís finish these vamps off and get the hell out of here." He took Spikeís hand and helped him to his feet.





Chapter Thirteen







For all intents and purposes, they officially came out to the entire group when Spike had his first vision while awake. They had been playing "I could really go forÖ" because they all knew better than to play, "I wish forÖ" Xander and the girls wanted obvious things like a cold beer, a hot bath, etc. Even Illyria watched in interest although she did not participate. When Spike took his turn, he was in the middle of an extended tirade about his destroyed duster when his eyes suddenly went blank. He slumped forward, and his voice trailed off to nothing. Xander caught him and eased him to the floor as Spike fell from the chair. Xander held Spike in his lap as the vampire lay there, limp and unresponsive.

As he gently stroked Spikeís face, Xander kept up a quiet stream of conversation. "Címon, Spike. You gotta wake up now. Itís ok. Youíre all right. Címon, buddy."

Dawn knelt down beside them and tried to ask what was wrong while everyone else looked on in shocked silence. She leaned back, startled, when Spike started to sing. His eyes were closed, and he picked up in mid verse.

Ö St. Louie down to Missouri
Oklahoma City looks oh so pretty
You'll see Amarillo and Gallup, New Mexico
Flagstaff, Arizona don't forget Winona
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernadino

Would you get hip to this kindly tip
And go take that California trip
Get your kicks on Route 66


As Spikeís voice trailed off at the end of the song, Xanderís own face blanked out. When Spike opened his eyes, shaky and spent, he hugged Xander. Finally, Xander blinked and looked up.

Dawn was still kneeling beside them, a very scared look on her face.
"Whoa, guys. What the hell was that?"

Xander stroked the side of Spikeís face again and quietly asked, "Spike, buddy. You ok?"

Spike looked up at Xander and whispered back, "Yeah, a bit knackered, though." Spike put his hand on top of the one that was still against his cheek.

Xander spoke in a stage whisper. "Theyíre all watching us arenít they?"

Spike whispered back in the same exaggerated whisper. "Yeah, they are. Wanna give Ďem a show?" Xander just shook his head. Spike gave a mock pout as he sat up and asked, "Did you get that? The vision?"

"Not sure. Got the song, saw a plaque, oh and a dinerÖoh, wait. I know where that is!"

"Would one of you two answer me! Are you guys alright?" Dawn looked more relieved now, but not very happy to be ignored.

"Weíre ok, Bit. Just didnít realize I was going to get these things while I was awake. Was a bit different."

Impatiently, Xander gave orders to the group. "Guys, weíve have to go, now. I think this means the situationís urgent. I saw a demon that looked like some mutant cross between Jabba the Hut and Martha Stewart. I couldnít tell which side was scarier." He shuddered at the thought. "Anyway, it was inside an empty diner. The clock on the wall said 9:30. It was dark out and was surrounded by corpses. I think it has some lobster-like minions that want to drag victims back to its lair for it to eat later. I saw a bunch of people being dragged down the street. Weíve got to go now." Xander dragged Spike to his feet. Not sure if a waking vision was going to be any different from one that Spike normally slept through, he quickly went over Spikeís body with his hands, to be sure he was all right.

"Where is it, Xander?" Charly asked, as she and Di grabbed weapons.

Distracted while he simultaneously planned the assault and made sure Spike was ok, Xander missed Charlyís question.

"Dammit, Xander. Let go of your boy toy for a second and tell us where it is!"

"Sorry. Route 66 ends in Santa Monica, right at the Santa Monica Pier. Thereís a diner right near there. Itís only a little south of here. We should be able to get there in time, if we hurry." He looked at his watch. "Címon, itís 8:35 now."

Based on Xanderís descriptions of both the big demon and his estimate of the number of its pincher-handed sidekicks, they all went. Spike wasnít keen on Dawn going, but she promised to stick to Illyria like glue. Illyria made no comment, but agreed to keep Dawn safe.

Xander borrowed a term from Stephen King for the minions and had dubbed them Lobstrosities before they even got to the Pier. The fight went to hell almost as soon as it began. The plan had been for the Slayers to get in and kill the leader, the thought the minions would then be easier to handle with their leader out of the picture. This proved to be a mistake. The leader wasnít so much the leader as the baby lobstrosity maker, much like the queen in Alien. She sat on nest of literally hundreds of mini-lobstrosities, it was a gruesome sight. They couldnít even get near Queen Martha, as Dawn called her, who theyíd first spied on from afar, with binoculars. While the baby lobstrosities looked dangerous, the adults looked absolutely lethal, with pinchers that could probably slice through a personís neck like butter.

When they had charged the diner, Illyria maneuvered closer to the Ďqueení than anyone, but got a faceful of some caustic substance for her trouble. Dawn crawled under the fight and dragged the semi-conscious Illyria out of the way. Spike was tossed by several of the minions against the industrial sized gas stove in the kitchen. He went down with a loud crunch of several ribs. It was Xanderís turn to play rescuer, and he dragged Spike out of the melee. The stove gave Di an idea, and while she screamed for everybody to get out, she kicked at the gas line that connected it to the wall until it broke. As she ran out behind everyone, she lit and tossed several small Molotov Cocktails back into the diner. Sheíd taken to carrying these homemade concoctions around with her wherever she went. They had barely cleared the building before the place blew sky high. The concussion knocked them all to the ground.

In the end, Spike had several broken ribs, Di had singed her own eyebrows, Charly hurt her ankle, Xander had a fairly large cut over his good eye and Illyria had several nasty burns on her face.

This time, when they bedded down, it was Xander who wrapped himself, with extreme care, around Spike.





Chapter Fourteen







The gang sat tight for a few days, as they recovered from the battle at the diner. Illyriaís face healed fairly quickly, but Charlyís ankle injury seemed to linger. There wasnít much they could do for it, except let her rest. She limped severely whenever she tried to walk on it. Spike had insisted on bandaging the cut over Xanderís eye himself, even though his ribs protested the effort. Luckily, Spike had no visions during this time of recuperation.

Spike woke early one day as Dawn crawled into the empty mattress Spike and Xander no longer used. Trying to be quiet, he dislodged himself from Xander, who had been lying with his head on Spikeís back, and crawled in with her. Dawn put her head on Spikeís chest and gave him a soft hug, to not squeeze his ribs too hard.

"Bit. Whatís up? I can practically hear your brain working." Spike stroked her hair as he whispered to Dawn.

"I was just thinking about Buffy," She mumbled into his chest as she spoke.

"You miss your sis?"

Dawn paused before she responded. "Not exactly. I mean, yes, I miss her, but I was thinking about you and her."

"Oh."

"I mean, do you still love her? How come you never told her you were alive?"

Spike squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose with his free hand. "Bit. I do love her. Always will, but Iím not ĎIn loveí with her anymoreÖ" His voice faded away.

"Talk to me, Spike. Iím not a kid anymore."

"Yeah, Bit. I know that. Letís see if I can explain. If I told your sis I was back, sheíd have felt obligated to see me. I know she doesnít love me the same way, but sheíd have tried anyway, because of everything that happened and everything we said. She shouldnít feel obligated. She doesnít deserve that, and I donít want her like that anymore, either. A slayer and a vamp just isnít going to work, I see that now. Besides, so much of what I did before was because of her. I didnít expect to come back. Since I did, though, I realized that whatever path I follow from here on out, I have to follow it because itís right, not just to impress someone. And I canít do something simply to satisfy myself. Otherwise, it would take any meaning away from what I did back there. Took me almost this entire last year to figure that out. I know that normally, Iím not the most selfless of blokes, but I need to change that. I need to do the right thing. Does that make any sense at all?"

"Yeah, Spike. It does. Iím glad. Iím proud of you." Dawnís eyes held a bit of an evil gleam as she looked up at Spike.

"Whatís that look for, Bit?"

"Nothing."

"Thatís not a Ďnothingí look, Bit." Spikeís look was stern but his voice was soft.

"I guess youíve moved on, then?" She asked, a little too innocently.

Spike responded with a chuckle. "Yeah, Bit. Itís probably safe to say that Iíve definitely moved on."

Neither noticed that Xander had woken up and heard the entire whispered conversation. He thought about what heíd just heard. I guess ex-bleach boy really has changed. Xander dozed back off with a happy little smile on his face, as Spike and Dawnís conversation turned to some extended gossip about this young watcher she was crushing on.





Chapter Fifteen







Di crashed into the building, dragging a vamp, who squirmed in her grip. As she entered, Xander and Dawn stood up from the table, where theyíd been playing cards with Charly. Charly remained seated. Her injured ankle was propped on a chair. Spike was spread out on the couch, where heíd been nursing his injured ribs, and wished for some telly.

Di pushed the vamp over towards Illyria, who had been doing her usual impression of a potted plant, as she stood in the corner. "I found this, sneaking around the alley out back. He keeps insisting he needs to speak to Illyria." Di looked at Illyria, who stepped out of her corner.

The vamp, a small, slimy, and rather rat-ish looking guy, spoke up. "Yeah, I was sent by Tydok to speak to Illyria. I demand you give me safe passage or my master will not be pleased!" He puffed his chest out as he delivered his speech.

Spike slowly sat up and looked less than pleased. "Blue, you going to explain how this found us? And why does he remind me of Andrew?"

Not the brightest of vampires, the vamp volunteered the information without being asked. "I followed the girls the other night." He pointed at Dawn and Di. "But they were good. I lost them a few buildings over. Iíve been looking for them ever since. I canít go back until my message has been delivered."

Illyria walked up to the vampire, picked him up by the scruff of the neck and thundered, "What do you want, half breed?"

"Hey there, easy! Iím just a messenger here. Donít ruin the merchandise, your Highness."

As she gave him a shake that almost broke his neck, Illyria repeated herself. "I wonít ask again. What do you want?"

"Ow, ow. Ok, Tydok wants to meet with you. He wants to renegotiate. Heís tired of you picking off his minions."

While the rest of the group just watched in shocked silence, Illyria responded, "That is acceptable. Tell your boss I will arrange to meet with him."

Finished, she dropped the vamp. He hopped up and tried to scuttle out the door. "Ok, Iíll just be leaving now." The vamp turned to run, but before he made it to the door, a stake flew across the room, and he exploded into a cloud of dust.

"Canít have anyone knowing where we are. Ainít that right, Blue?" Spike clapped his hands together after throwing the stake.

Dawn, Di and Xander, recovered from their shocked silence, and started to talk over one another.

"Who the hell was that? What the hell is going on?" Xander looked confused.

"Youíve been meeting with Tydok?" Dawn figured it out a little faster.

Di looked at Spike. "He did sound like Andrew, didnít he?"

"Everybody just sit down, I think Blue here has some things sheíd like to share with us, ainít that right?" Spike gave Illyria a pointed look.

"Iíve been negotiating with the one called Tydok." Illyria looked uncomfortable with this revelation and started pacing back and forth in frustration.

Charly spoke up. "Why not just kill him?"

"Do not question me. I do not answer to you."

"Blue, please. Talk to us. We want to trust you, but you gotta admit youíve been acting a tad odd, lately."

"I do not need your trust. I need nothing from lower beings so far beneath my notice. Itís her. Sheís making me do this, to care." She spat the words out with anger.

For probably the first time ever, Spike addressed Illyria by her name. "Illyria, come here. Sit down, and tell us what youíve been up to, please."

Xander chimed in as well. "Yeah, maybe if we all know whatís going on, we can help. Iím sure thereís something we can do. This involves us as well."

Illyria looked torn. "I do not understand. I mock you. I ridicule you, but yet you keep coming back for more. Are you all lacking in some brain capacity?"

"Blue, listen to Fred, to the shell. She understood these things. She and I were friends. Think about what that means."

Illyria stood frozen for a several minutes as she internally debated. Eventually, she sat on the couch next to Spike. "Iíve been negotiating with Tydok. It makes logistical sense to have him as an ally instead of just eliminating him. Controlling such a large area would be difficult with our limited resources, but if we had an ally who canÖ" Her voice trailed off.

Xander piped up at that. "Oh, I get it. The more people we have on our side, the easier it makes things, especially when we come up head to head with Angel."

"While I can stand on my own against these factions, I know that you cannot. There is something else, though." Ilyria paused. "This is strictly her. She has forced these memories into my mind, and I cannot seem to get rid of them."

Xander sat down on the other side of Illyria. He took her hand and spoke softly. "Maybe if you just tell us, youíll feel better."

At first, Illyria ruffled. "How dare you touch me!"

She tried to pull her hand away, but Xander held on and just looked at her kindly. "Look, I understand what itís like to have two different sides at war inside you. Believe me when I say that Iíve been there, done that. Just donít ask me about the pig."

After Illyria looked straight into Xanderís eye for a beat, she finally spoke. "Very well. SheÖFred, hid many books away in that hotel, The Hyperion. She didnít trust the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart. There may be some answers in those books, answers to help Angel get his soul back. She remembers a few details, but sheíd need to see the books to be sure."

Dawn was ready to go that instant. "Well, what are we waiting for?"

"You would never survive, you impudent child."

Wisely, Dawn just ignored the jibe. "Gonna tell us why?"

Spike looked like a light bulb had gone off over his head. "Because, the hotel sits right smack dab in the middle of Tydokís territory. Isnít that right, Blue?"

"That is correct half-breedÖSpike. In fact, he is using the hotel as his headquarters. Only when we can move freely, with no suspicion, can we retrieve the books. There are several, and they are most powerful. If Tydok finds them, he and his group could cause much damage using the magic they contain. For now, the books are safely hidden. We cannot simply ask for them either. They will surely realize their importance."

Xander talked to himself as he thought it through. "So, we want to make nice with the big Bull so heíll help us control things, ie: Angel, but we also want to get friendly with him so we can gain access to those books. Books that may or may not have answers to help Angel. Hmm."

"Tydok will not be duped by an open show of friendship. He does not operate that way. Thatís why I have had to fight to show my worthiness to the likes of him, to make him want us as allies. I have had to work at making him respect me when I should be able to simply think it and have my will be done." Illyria actually shuddered at the thought of lowering herself to such levels.

"Well, Blue, Iím still pissed about you leaving the Bit on her own, but I see youíve worked hard at trying to accomplish something here. Youíve been more productive than us, Iíd wager."

"I do not need your approval."

"Give it a rest, Blue."

Looking very Fred-like for a moment, Illyria tossed her hair over her shoulder, before heading back to her corner, to ignore them all once again.

As he helped Spike to lie down later, Xander was still thinking about the newest revelations. "So, sheís been going out by herself and fighting this guyís minions?"

With a groan, Spike tried to get comfortable. "Donít worry about Blue. Sheís an ex-God King. Sheís kicked my arse numerous times."

"The Big Blue Smurf kicked the Big Badís ass?!" Xander laughed as he crawled into bed beside Spike.

"Oi, thatís not funny." Spike tried to pout, but just wasnít up to it. "Címere."

"I donít want to hurt your ribs." Xander hesitated.

"You wonít hurt me. ĎSides, Iíll sleep better."

Xander gave in and slid over until his head was on Spikeís chest. "Make sure you tell me if it hurts." He seemed to enjoy the feel of Spikeís cool, smooth skin. Xander caressed Spikeís stomach with his fingers.

"Will do. Now quit yer yappiní and go to sleep."

"Yes, Master."

Spike froze at hearing the word, master. Oh, Christ, he has no idea what that does to me.

"Spike? You ok? Did I say something wrong?" Xander looked up at Spike, trying to determine what was wrong.

"No, mate. Itís alright. Just be careful using that word around me, unless you want to get jumped."

"You liked that, did ya?" Xander teased. "Master." He drawled the word out.

Spike tried to roll and grab Xander but his ribs put a quick stop to any fun and games. "Oi, ya git. Stop it. I canít."

Xander leaned up and gave Spike a soft kiss, which Spike gladly reciprocated. "Sorry, Spike. Going to sleep now, I swear."

"Night, Xander."








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