Title:  Not Just Another Vampire
Sequel to:  Not Just Another Human
Author:  Kay
Email:  kaygrr@hotmail.com
Feedback:  Please?  Because watching a grown girl cry is just pathetic.
Website:  ssfdu.tripod.com/kay/journal.htm (love for Sandy)
Archive:  Just let me know, eh?
Fandom:  Buffy, Angel
Pairings:  Xander/Angel, Wesley/Doyle
Rating:  NC-17
Disclaimer:  Mine?  What? *These*?  No, they’re Mutant Enemy’s.  They just
followed me home and wouldn’t leave until I played with them.
Spoilers:  None, really.  I’m merrily prancing through AU Territory here.
Summery:  Xander and Angel look into some strange disappearances occurring
in the demon community of Los Angeles and in the course of doing so
encounter old friends and enemies both.

This story is a sequel to “Not Just Another Human”, which spent a good
portion of its life being called “Xander in LA”.  You don’t have to read
that story to understand this one...but if you do want to read it, it’s at

http://ssfdu.tripod.com/kay/journal.htm .

If you don’t, here’s what you missed:
After the Harvest at the Bronze, Xander is unable to deal with killing Jesse
and he flees to LA.  Six years later, he is working as a bartender at a
demon bar while taking classes at a community college.  He encounters Angel,
Cordelia and Doyle and they end up working together to foil an evil plan
hatched by Wolfram and Hart.  During the course of this, the entire
Sunnydale gang arrives and there are reunions and confrontations as Angel
and Xander fall in love...as do Wesley and Doyle.  The evil plans are
thwarted, the Sunnydale Gang departs, and Angel and Xander are left to
explore their new relationship.
If you want details on all the smutty fun they have...hey, I gave you the
link <g>

One more brief note...all of you who share the guilty pleasure of Van Damme
films, you will no doubt recognize an element of this story.  I just
couldn’t help myself.

Part One/?

Pushing the door of The Other Side open, Angel smiled as the familiar wall
of noise enveloped him.  Always popular, the bar was crowded and he had to
shoulder his way past demons of every species as he made his way to the main
bar in the back.  He nodded at the acquaintances he passed, but he didn’t
stop to talk to anyone.  He had something more important than idle chit chat
to attend to.  There was a thicker than usual layer of people surrounding
the bar and it took some judicious use of his strength to make his way
through.  Finally pushing his way through the first line of beings at the
bar, he leaned against the darkly polished wood and stared, taking in the
sight that had attracted the crowd.

A Flengroth demon leaned half over the bar, a look of fierce concentration
screwing its features into a mass of scaly wrinkles.  Facing him, Xander
lounged behind the bar, arms crossed over his chest as he worked his jaw
furiously.  He stared steadily at the Flengroth, not paying any attention to
the conversations taking place all around them or the money changing hands
as beings of all species watched.  A few more moments passed and then Xander
leaned forward with careless graces and spat onto the bar.

Angel couldn’t help himself; he joined the crowd in leaning forward, eager
to catch sight of what Xander had been doing.  He blinked when he realized
what he was seeing:  two cherry stems, each with a tight, neat knot in its
center.

The Flengroth spat on the bar as well, but what it produced was far less
impressive:  one cherry stem with a knot and a second  that was bent but not
tied.  The crowd broke out in a hum of conversation and money changed hands
for a final time as bets were settled.  The demon growled out a short,
despondent-sounding phrase.

“Hey, don’t say that.”  Xander reached out and patted the Flengroth’s
shoulder.  “You’re getting a lot better.  Pretty soon you’re going to have
me beat.”

The demon looked at him hopefully and said something that sounded like a
question.  Angel didn’t recognize the language, but Xander didn’t seem to
have any trouble understanding.

The bartender nodded encouragingly.  “Look how much better you’re doing from
last week!  A little more practice and I’m going to be asking you for
pointers.”  With a final pat, Xander straightened and turned his attention
to Angel.  His smile transformed into a lazy grin.  “Howdy stranger.”  He
leaned across the bar and grasped a fistful of Angel’s shirt and he jerked
him close.  “I missed you.”  He pressed his lips to Angel’s in a consuming
kiss.

Angel responded eagerly, half-pulling Xander over the bar in his need to get
closer.  He’d been without Xander for too long and needed to feel him close,
wanted to learn his taste all over again.  Not nearly sated, Angel forced
himself to lean back and break the kiss.  “When do you get off?”

“About thirty seconds after we get home.”  Xander licked the tip of Angel’s
nose.

“That’s not what I meant,” Angel laughed.  “When is your shift over?”

In answer, Xander swung himself over the bar.  Glancing over toward the back
office he called, “Tark!  I’m heading out.”  No reply came, but a
multi-limbed demon took Xander’s place.  On the way to the door, Xander
grabbed a fairly humanoid creature’s arm and cleared his throat.  The demon
grinned and handed him a decent-sized wad of bills.

“You bet on yourself?” Angel murmured in a low voice.

“No one ever said fun and profit were mutually exclusive concepts.”  Xander
pushed the door open and led the way outside.  He and Angel had to stand
aside to allow a pair of demons access to the door.  Xander called one of
them by name.  “Gilb!  Have you had any word from your brother?”

The hulking Rika demon shook its head ponderously.  “Nothing.  Three weeks
and nothing.  It doesn’t look good.”

“Don’t give up hope.”

Gilb shook his head again.  “There isn’t much left.”  He walked through the
door, clearing unwilling to hear any words of cheer.  Xander sighed but made
no move to go after the demon.  Instead, he leaned into Angel, staying close
to him as they walked.

The night air still held summer warmth granted by the recently set sun.
Angel was grateful for it, for all of summer.  Summer meant Xander wasn’t
taking classes, so he had more time to spend with Angel.  He’d return to
college in the fall to continue to pursue his degree in criminology, but for
the next few months he was working with Angel Investigations instead.  He
was also training replacement bartenders at The Other Side to free up even
more time.  Angel knew Xander needed more time to pursue his desire to be an
investigator in order to better counter Wolfram and Hart’s dark influence on
the world, but he also believed that Xander also wanted to spend more time
with him and it was that belief that sent a pulse of warmth through him
every time he considered it.

Reaching down to entwine his fingers around Xander’s he asked, “What was
that about back there?”

Returning Angel’s gentle squeeze, Xander shook his head.  “I’m not sure.
Gilb’s brother went missing a few weeks ago.  He wasn’t the sort to just
disappear.  You know Rikas; they look like they snap spines as a hobby, but
their focus is on clan and family, not wreaking havoc.  Fontl wouldn’t have
just disappeared.  The clan has been scraping by lately; the economic
downturn has been hard on the non-humans, too.  No way he’d abandon them.
It would go against everything that makes him a Rika.”

“An accident, a fight...”  Humans could disappear without a trace in this
city.  The same thing could happen to demons.

“Most likely,” Xander said reluctantly.  “But Fontl’s not the first one to
go missing.  The guys at the Other Side have begun missing relatives in the
past few months.  It could just be coincidence, but I don’t like it.  It’s
giving me a wigguns.”

Angel wrapped an arm around Xander.  “I’ll start asking around, get Doyle
and Wesley looking into it and asking their sources if they’ve heard
anything.”

“Thank you.  I think I’m going to visit the brothers soon, see if they’ve
heard anything while doing their work.”  Xander walked silently for a few
minutes, obviously lost in thought.  After a little while he shook himself
free of his somber mood and returned to the present, moving closer to Angel.

Angel was aware of some of the attention they received as they walked.  Some
of the glances cast their way were appreciative, some were disgusted, but
all of them were silent for which Angel was grateful.  The night and the
area of town afforded them the freedom to act as they pleased without any
obvious repercussions.

They soon reached the office and Xander pushed the door open, obviously
feeling as home there as Angel did.  Angel followed his lover inside toward
the sound of voices raised in laughter.

Wesley and Doyle stood facing each other on opposite sides of Cordelia’s
desk.  Doyle held a handful of bills, while Wesley leaned forward with his
hands planted on the desk.  Xander paused in the doorway to watch them and
Angel joined him, pressing up close behind the dark-haired man to better
feel his heat.

Wesley cocked his head to the side.  “Half of that money is mine.”  His
voice was low, his tone eminently reasonable.

Doyle shook his head.   “As I remember it, I was the one taking all the
risks and placing all the bets.  You didn’t put any of your money on the
line.”

Wesley opened his mouth as if to reply, then feinted movement to the left
before quickly running around the desk to the right.  Doyle failed to fall
for the ruse and dodged right, and the two men wound up facing each other
once more, having just reversed their positions.  “I was the one throwing
the darts,” Wesley protested.  “You were betting on me.  I deserve that
money!”

Waving the money back and forth tauntingly, Doyle sneered at him.  “You’re
just jealous because I thought of it and you didn’t.”

Xander tsked loudly.  “Gambling.  You two are fighting over the ill-gotten
gains of gambling.  You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

Angel reached down and rubbed his hand over the bulge of money in Xander’s
front jeans pocket.  “You-”  A hard elbow to his ribs cut off what he was
about to say and left him laughing quietly as he watched Doyle and Wesley
continue to play.  He was glad Wesley had stayed in Los Angeles, and not
just for Doyle’s sake.  While he was glad to see his friend happy, he was
also pleased to have gained Wesley’s knowledge and insight for their efforts
on behalf of The Powers That Be.  The Englishman had never formally moved to
the city; after meeting Doyle, he’d never returned to Sunnydale and his
belongings had slowly followed him in hurried visits back to the Hellmouth
as he needed them.

Xander raised his voice over Angel’s chuckles.  “Doyle, you’d better be
careful waving that money around.”

The Irishman glanced over at him.  “No need to worry; Cordy’s not coming
back tonight.”  He only took his eyes off Wesley for a moment, but it was a
moment too long.  The former Watcher scrambled around the desk and grabbed
Doyle, pulling the other man tight against his body and wrenching a fair
portion of the bills from his grasp.  “Noooo!”  Doyle squirmed, trying to
escape and reclaim his money, but it was too late.  Wesley laughed and held
him closer, kissing him.

Angel raised his hands and stroked them over Xander’s shoulders.  “You
should be ashamed of yourself.  Scolding them after using that poor
Flengroth to make some money gambling yourself.”

Wesley looked up.  “You were gambling with a Flengroth?  Do you speak the
language?”

“I don’t even try,” Xander laughed.  “The one I know understands English and
I understand Flengrothan, so we manage to communicate.”

“What’s so difficult about speaking Flengrothan?”  Angel had learned a
variety of demon languages over the years and they were rarely more
difficult to speak than human dialect.

“Flengroths have two tongues,” Doyle said.  “That makes it damn difficult
for those of us less blessed in that department to speak the language.”

Angel’s hands spasmed on Xander’s shoulder.  Two tongues?  And Xander had
still beaten him?  He pushed Xander the rest of the way into the office in
order to clear the doorway.  “I think you two should take the rest of the
night off,” he said.

“What?”  Doyle shook his head.  “I know things have been a bit dry in the
vision department, but we can still help out here.”

“No, you really can’t.”  Two tongues?  “Take the night off.  Go spend your
winnings.”

Wesley smirked, but there was understanding and laughter in his gaze.
“We’ll take that night off,” he said.  He released Doyle as the half-demon
nodded in agreement.

Doyle glanced down at Cordelia’s desk.  “Don’t forget that book Cordy
borrowed.”  When Wesley glanced at the desk, Doyle took advantage of his
distraction to snatch back the money his lover had taken.  Without looking
back he ran out of the office, mocking laughter trailing behind him.  Wesley
drew himself up with immense dignity for a moment, then gave in and chased
after Doyle, his grin utterly unapologetic.

Xander watched them go, turning to face Angel as he did so.  “What was all
that about?”

Angel didn’t bother with a verbal answer.  He reached out and cupped
Xander’s face with one hand, drawing him into a deep kiss.  His tongue
sought out its maddening, clever partner and Xander responded with growing
urgency, pushing himself closer to Angel as his hands skimmed down over
Angel’s hips to pull him in and deepen the kiss.

The vampire tore himself away long enough to lock the office door and then
he was back with Xander, hands roaming restlessly over his lover’s body as
they slowly made their way downstairs.  Angel returned again and again to
Xander’s mouth, fascinated and fiercely aroused by the smooth play of tongue
over tongue.  Once in the bedroom they undressed hurriedly, neither wishing
to draw this out in an unneccesary attempt at seduction.

Xander pushed Angel backwards onto the bed and crawled on top of him,
claiming his mouth once more.  Angel murmured his pleasure as he held the
hot body close against his own, sweat beginning to pool between them.
Xander broke the kiss over Angel’s objections and laved his way down Angel’s
neck.  The vampire arched into the touch, straining upward to feel more of
the wet tongue that traced intricate patterns over skin that was then scored
by sharp teeth.  When Xander’s knowing tongue circled his nipple Angel cried
out, surrendering to his lover’s manipulations without regret, begging for
more of his touch.  Xander indulged him until his word degenerated into
mindless sounds of pleasure and then the wet warmth was moving down his
body, painting trails of heat across his stomach.  Angel spread his legs
eagerly, unable to conceal his desire for what was to come.  Xander didn’t
disappoint him; his lips enclosed the head of Angel’s hardness, agile tongue
flickering gently over the tip in a maddeningly teasing touch.  Angel
unashamedly increased his begging as clever hands stroked over his thighs
and then back to his balls, their every movement successful in heightening
his arousal.  Xander gradually moved down Angel’s erection, slowly taking in
more of his flesh as he increased both the suction and the movement of his
tongue.  Unable to resist any longer, Angel cried out as his came, Xander’s
name a plea and a prayer on his lips.

He pulled Xander up until he could reach him once more and kissed him again,
needing the closeness to continue.  The younger man returned the kiss with
growing urgency, thrusting his own erection against the smooth flesh of
Angel’s stomach in search of his own release.  Angel slipped a hand down and
between them and encircled Xander’s erection with his fist, easily finding
the rhythm he knew would please his lover most.  Xander shout that
accompanied his orgasm was lost in Angel’s mouth as he refused to end the
kiss until long after Xander had relaxed against him.

As they both calmed and grew quiet, Angel became aware of gentle vibrations
shaking the warm body blanketing his own.  Xander was laughing.  “What?”

Dark eyes gleamed full of mischief as they stared down at him.  “If I’d
known that a couple of cherry stems would do that to you, I would have shown
you that trick a long time ago.”  The laughter rose up in him again and
Angel tried to smother it with a kiss, knowing that it would do no good but
not really caring, not so long as he held Xander in his arms.
 
 
 
 

Xander adjusted his sunglasses in the light of the late afternoon summer
sun, pausing across the street from the monastery where he’d used to live.
He studied the thick walls that stood impervious to the passage of time.
They were unchanged, as strong and secure as they’d been when they were home
to him.  Nodding to himself, he crossed the street and walked to a small
gate in an unassuming corner.  He pulled out a key and opened the gate,
shivering a little as he passed through the powerful wards that acted as
magical guardians of the ancient building.

The faintest whisper of footsteps was the only warning he had before the
voice spoke behind him.  “Alexander.  What brings you back here like a thief
in the night?”

“Like a visitor in broad daylight,” Xander said, turning around.  “Brother
Thom.  Kill any intruders lately?”

“It’s been a bit of a dry spell,” the armed monk said mournfully.  He eyed
Xander speculatively.  “It looks to be turning around, though.”

Xander laughed.  “And I was just thinking to myself that I missed living
here.  How have things been?”

“Quieter since you’ve been gone.”  Brother Thom shrugged.  “Our work
continues.  Our guardianship endures.”

Xander nodded.  “Is Pop in?”

“The Abbot is in his study.”  The monk grinned.  “Go have fun trying to goad
him into apoplexy.”

With a small wave Xander continued on his journey into the heart of the
monastery complex.  He made his way to the Abbot’s office, pausing briefly
to speak to the men he encountered on his way.  This place had been his home
for years, these men his family.  He visited often, but he always felt
behind in visiting and catching up.  At the door to the office, Xander
announced himself with a quick knock before opening the door.  “You got a
minute, Pop?”

The silver-haired man behind the desk sighed heavily.  “One of these days
I’m going to have a lock put on that door.  Seat yourself, Alexander, since
you’ve already let yourself in.”

Xander deliberately flopped into the chair as gracelessly as possible.  The
abbot didn’t disappoint him; the older man sighed once more.  “And to what
do I owe the wondrous pleasure of your visit?”

Growing serious, Xander leaned forward, his elbows on his knees.  “I’m not
sure.  It could be nothing, or it could be something quite serious.”  He
quickly explained the situation he’d described to Angel the night before,
that demons had begun to disappear without any apparent cause.  “It could
just be coincidence,” he concluded.

“Or it could be the first warnings of something dark beginning to stir.”
The abbot nodded sharply.  “Thank you for bringing this to my attention.
I’ll spread the word and we’ll start listening for news of this immediately.
  I’ll make sure you stay informed.”

“Likewise.”  Xander stood up.  “I’m going to get going, but I’ll stay in
touch.”

“Do that.”  The seated man smiled at him.  “It’s always good to see you,
son.”

“Hey, I missed you too, Pop.”  Xander grinned in a deliberately insolent
fashion.

The abbot shook his head.  “It’s always good to see you go, as well.”

Xander laughed as he left the room.  It wasn’t anything close to apoplexy,
but at least he’d managed to liven up the abbot’s day.  As he left the
monastery, he glanced up at the dark sky.  Night had taken nearly complete
hold of the city.  He hurried his pace as he moved through the streets,
eager to return to the office of Angel Investigations.  He found that he
felt happiest and most complete when he was with Angel.  He had fallen in
love, fallen hard and helplessly and he didn’t mind a bit.  Angel’s every
look and touch told him that the other man had fallen just as hard.  Xander
knew better than to try to resist or reason with love.  He gave into it and
revelled in it, intensely grateful that he had the chance to feel so
powerfully.

He opened the door to Angel Investigations, humming happily as he did so.
He poked his head into the office first, seeking his lover there.  He cut
off his humming abruptly when he saw Doyle sitting on the office couch,
cradling his head in his hands.  “Vision?” he asked quietly, moving quickly
to the Irishman’s side.

“The damn aspirins are taking forever to kick in,” Doyle complained,
squinting as he looked up.  “There are a gang of vampires feeding off
transients in Laurent’s Court.  Wesley and Angel armed up and headed out; I
was waiting for you.”

“Is your head all right for you to come with me?”  Xander ran through an
inventory of weapons in his head; he’d need to duck downstairs into his
bedroom to pick up his preferred stakes before they headed out.  He never
went out unarmed but he wasn’t quite ready for a battle.

“I need to take my pain out on someone.”  Doyle grimaced as he dry-swallowed
a handful of aspirin.  “These vampires are perfect candidates.”  He followed
Xander downstairs and accepted the offer of several stakes and a long knife.
  “What about you?”

Xander raised his modified cross-stakes.  “I’m good with these.”  He also
had his pair of handguns so he was more than ready to go.  He and Doyle set
off on foot; Laurnet’s Court was only a few blocks away and foot travel was
the fastest way to get there.  He and Doyle sprinted down the dark streets,
dodging through the other pedestrians with practiced skill.

By the time they reached the court, most of the fight was already over.
Wesley shoved his last attacker away and Doyle ran forward to stake the
vampire in the back, dispatching him with uncharacteristic viciousness.
Xander understood the urge to protect loved ones; he felt it himself.  He
more than trusted Angel to take care of himself, so he approached the
dwindling fray a little more slowly in order to better observe it.  Angel
was toying with the two remaining vamps facing him, amusing himself while he
delayed killing them.  There was more fighting going on off in the distance
but Angel was utterly unconcerned with it so Xander knew whatever it was it
couldn’t be serious.  He stopped and watched Angel fight, admiring the
animal grace of his lover as the dark-clad man slowly finished off one of
his opponents.  The other vampire gave up on having a chance of killing
Angel, or even surviving his battle with him, and so turned and ran.  Xander
stepped forward and smashed the fleeing demon across the face with a cross,
sending him crashing to the ground clutching at his seared face in agony.
Xander ended the creature’s pain, quickly reversing the cross and staking it
in a single decisive move.

As soon as the vampires were reduced to dust and memory, Xander approached
Angel.  “Did you have fun with play time?”

Angel grinned at him.  “Yes.  Too bad you didn’t show up in time to join
in.”

Xander moved even closer, invading Angel’s space.  “I didn’t want to
interrupt your fun.”

“You could never be an interruption,” Angel said, leaning down to claim a
kiss.  Xander gave it to him willingly, glad to be with Angel once more.  As
he leaned back, he glanced around, again checking the surrounding area once
more to keep tabs on all the activity surrounding them.  Doyle and Wesley
were wrapped around each other, making up for lost time and staging a
reunion all at once.  Even as Xander watched, the two of them snuck off down
a side alley.  Someday Xander was going to make them explain their
fascination with sex in public places.

Not right now, though.  They were already busy.

The sounds of fighting died down in the near distance as well.  “Who else
was in on this party?”

“Someone I’d like you to meet,” Angel said, stealing another kiss.  “I met
him a while ago and he’s doing good work.”  Standing close beside Xander,
Angel started to walk toward where the sounds of fighting had come from.

Xander forced himself into silence.  He knew this area of town and knew who
Angel was likely talking about.  Angel seemed genuinely excited though, and
Xander didn’t want to ruin that for him.  Anyway, he might be wrong.  No
need to ruin Angel’s good mood without being sure.  Still, he hung back just
a little, letting Angel lead.

Angel raised a hand.  “Gunn!  Is everything under control here?”

“Yeah, man.  Everything’s cool.  We took care of our share of the blood
suckers.”  Gunn stepped out of the darkness, looking just as Xander
remembered, loose-limbed and deadly, flat determination in his eyes.  “How’d
things go on your end?”

“We took care of our share.”  Angel glanced about, looking for Xander.
“Gunn, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.  I want you to tell him what
you told me.”

There wasn’t anyway to put it off, so Xander stepped forward.  He made no
move to offer his hand to the other man.  “Hey, Gunn.  How’s it hanging?”

Gunn’s hands instinctively dipped inside his clothing, searching for
weapons.  “You!  What the hell are you doing here?”

Xander couldn’t keep the smile off his face.  Angel was damn adorable when
he was completely confused.
 
 
 
 
 

Angel blinked.  He knew he needed to say something, to react to the
situation, but he couldn’t quite wrap his mind around what was happening and
that confusion was holding him prisoner in his motionless state.

Gunn stepped forward aggressively.  “What the hell are you doing here?” he
repeated.  “Shouldn’t you be running away like the rest of your coward
friends?  The ones that didn’t get dusted, I mean.”

Xander grinned widely as though greeting a good friend.  “You’re looking
good.  Have you been working out?”

“Nothing like that,” Gunn said.  “Just keeping busy by making sure the
vampire scum level in this city stays nice and low.”

Laughing as though he’d just heard a terrific joke, Xander shook his head.
“That’s just great.  It’s great that you’re keeping busy and having a good
time while doing it.”

Angel blinked again.  He’d had no idea that Xander and Gunn knew each other.
  Neither had ever mentioned the other.  He had wanted to introduce them,
sure that they’d get along, that they’d have so much in common - humans
living in a demon-dominated world - that they’d be fast comrades and
probably even friends.

Gunn turned on Angel.  “What are you doing with this guy, Angel?  Christ,
you said you were one of the good guys.”

Angel blinked again since he didn’t have any words yet.

It worked; Gunn kept talking.  “He’s a traitor to humans.  He hangs out with
demons instead of human beings and he protects them.  Doesn’t give a shit
about the normal people they’re going to hurt, so long as his freaky little
friends can run around and prey on the humans.

Angel tried blinking in Xander’s direction.

Xander took obvious pity on him.  “Gunn and his posse were working their
magic in the Nahrnan neighborhood to the east of The Other Side.  You’ve
been there - it’s full of the Nahrnan grouping of subspecies - the Vrols,
Ritas, Morikwers.”

Angel nodded.  He knew both the neighborhood and the demons Xander was
talking about.  Large and intimidating, they could be quite frightening for
uninformed humans to encounter, but they posed no threat unless they
themselves were threatened.  They had no interest in humans, preferring to
keep to themselves as much as possible.

Xander continued his story.  “Gunn and his friends were a little overly
impressed by the size of the demons and thought they had to do something to
protect all the humans that don’t live in the neighborhood from the
non-humans who actually live there.  I organized a bit of, um, education for
them and convinced them to concentrate their vigilante efforts elsewhere.”

“You friggin-”  Gunn took another step forward.

The implicit threat in the movement was enough to finally snap Angel out of
his paralysis.  He stepped between Xander and Gunn and stiff-armed the angry
man in the chest.  “Hold it.  I don’t care what problems you’ve had in the
past.  Xander *is* one of the good guys.  He’s been working with me for
months now and he’s always fought for life for the innocent - human or not.”

Gunn shook his head disbelievingly and took a few step backs to talk to a
member of his crew.  While Angel watched him, Xander moved close to Angel
and spoke directly into his ear, breath warm against his skin.  “You’re
going to be sleeping alone tonight.”

Angel turned to look at him fully.  “What?”  He’d had plans for tonight!
Plans in which Xander played an integral role, actually, and he wasn’t ready
to give them up.

“I don’t fuck coworkers.”  Xander’s tone was light but his face was utterly
solemn.  “I have been known to work with my lovers, but I most definitely do
not have sex with mere coworkers.”  Stepping deliberately away from Angel,
Xander drifted over toward the alley into which Doyle and Wesley had
disappeared, standing casual look out for them.

Swearing under his breath, Angel cursed himself in as many languages as he
could.  He was a fool.  Xander had always been completely up front about
himself, not hiding any aspect of his personality.  The same had held true
for his sexuality.  He’d made no secret of his interest in Angel, was
comfortable with himself and his desires.  He obviously expected the same
level of honesty from Angel.  By introducing Xander as a coworker, Angel had
denied the most important level of their relationship and Xander wasn’t
going let it slide.

Angel felt shame wash over him and hated it, but knew that he deserved to
feel it.  He’d tried to shove Xander in a closet, ignoring everything he
knew about his lover in order to save himself from having to do any
explaining to a person he was just beginning to know.  Angel looked over at
Xander, taking in the confident set to his shoulders, the lean grace and
power of him.  There was no way he was going to allow himself to fuck this
up.  He glanced over at Gunn and watched as the tall young man dismissed the
gathered members of his posse, apparently planning to stay behind and talk
to Angel.  Angel caught Gunn’s look and held up his hand, asking him to wait
just a moment.  Not waiting for Gunn’s assent, he turned and walked over to
Xander.

“I’m a fool,” he said roughly, then grasped Xander’s upper arms and pulled
him close, kissing him in a fervent request for forgiveness.

Xander responded quickly, crowding against him and fighting him for control
of the kiss.  Finally Xander pulled away, breathing hard.  “You’re a fool,”
he agreed, eyes glittering with lust.  “But your my fool.”

Angel smiled in relief.

Xander licked the underside of his jaw.  “You’re the fool who’s going to get
fucked through the mattress when we get home,” he added.

A quiet oath from behind him let Angel know that Gunn had overheard that
last remark.  Xander grinned at him unrepentantly.  Sighing but knowing
better than try to get the last word with his lover, Angel turned to face
Gunn.  Reaching back to thread his fingers through Xander’s, Angel raised an
eyebrow.  “Could you tell Xander what you told me?”

Gunn blinked.

Angel took pity on him, knowing what he was going through.  “About the
people who talked to your friend,” he prompted.

Gunn blinked again, then visibly gathered himself.  “Yeah.  A group of men
approached one of my guys a few days back, asking him questions about
hunting vampires.”

Xander took a step forward, his interest in teasing Angel fading.  “More
vigilantes?”

Shooting him a dirty look, Gunn shook his head.  “No.  The way Trip
described it, they sounded like hunters, almost.  Like it was some kind of
game or a challenge.  We didn’t have too much time to talk about it, since I
was heading out here to clean up the area.”

Angel glanced down at his hand; Xander’s grip had tightened on it suddenly.
“I want to talk to your friend.”

“I know where he hangs.  Let’s go.”

Angel took a step forward but was reined in by Xander’s grip on his hand.
Xander nodded over toward the alley.  “We’ll be just a few minutes.”
Releasing Angel’s hand, the dark-eyed man took a few steps backwards.

“What are you hiding?” Gunn asked, staring off toward the alley.

Angel listened hard and realized that he’d tuned out the rhythmic panting
issuing softly from the darkened area.  He stepped in front of Gunn.  “Just
some friends of ours.  They’ll be joining us shortly.”

“They’ll be coming soon,” Xander added brightly.

Shaking his head, Gunn walked off a few steps, glancing back distrustfully
at Xander.

Angel walked over to stand beside his lover.  “Coming soon?” he murmured.

“You’re just jealous you didn’t think of it first.”  Xander crossed his arms
challengingly.

Angel reached out and cupped his hands under Xander’s elbows.  “I’m sorry,”
he said seriously.  “I acted like an ass.”

“You did, but you’re forgiven.”  Xander leaned into his touch.  “I’ve gotten
too used to being myself.  I can’t change or hide who I am.  I won’t
apologize for myself or for who I love.”

Angel bent down and kissed him gently.  “You don’t have to,” he said
quietly.  “I love you.”

Stumbling footsteps distracted Angel from continued groveling, but he had
every intention of showing Xander how very sorry he was.  For the moment he
let the issue the rest, turning to watch as Doyle and Wesley made their way
out of the alley.  Both of them were badly rumpled, clothing slightly askew
and hair mussed.

Shaking his head, Xander stepped forward and straightened Wesley’s shirt
before running a smoothing hand over Doyle’s hair.  “I don’t understand it.
I know for a fact that you two have an apartment.  I’ve been there.  I’ve
seen it.  You’ve got a bed and a comfy couch and a good-sized kitchen table.
  Why the alley?”

Wesley smacked Xander’s hands away from Doyle’s face.  “Perhaps you should
try it sometime and find out for yourself.”

Retreating from Xander’s speculative look, Angel turned to face Gunn.
“We’re ready.  Where did you say your friend was going to be?”
 
 
 
 
 
 

“You don’t have to walk with us,” Doyle said.  “You can’t be so frightened
 

of that Gunn guy that he’s making you stay back here.”
 
 
 
 

“What are you talking about?” Xander asked, startled out of his thoughts by
Doyle’s question.

“I saw you glaring at Angel up there.”

Xander grinned at him.  “I wasn’t glaring at him.  I was glaring at his
coat.  I don’t know why he wears those damn things.  They’re very dramatic,
but they’re too long.  They completely block any decent view of his ass.”

Doyle shook his head.  “Then why are you walking back here?  If you were up
there you could cop a feel.”

“Nah.  I’ll let him play with his friend without me around for a little
while longer.”  Xander looked back up at where Angel was walking with Gunn.
He wasn’t afraid of Gunn.  He knew that Gunn pretty much despised him, but
he didn’t let that bother him.  He wasn’t running for any popularity
contests.  He knew that his presence would hinder Angel’s conversation with
the other man and he didn’t want to get in the way.  Gunn’s information
could be valuable, but that wasn’t his strongest motivation.  It was obvious
that Angel liked the man and Xander didn’t want his past history with Gunn
to get in the way of the friendship they had.

Gunn wasn’t a bad guy.  Xander could appreciate what the man was trying do;
the poorer neighborhoods could suffer badly from the actions of the more
aggressive and violent demons.  Vampires especially could turn a rough part
of town into their personal killing ground.  Xander believed that Gunn took
his dedication for keeping humans safe a few steps too far, though.  The man
was well on his way to developing a “if it ain’t human, kill it” attitude
and that was the sort of outlook that could get a lot of innocent beings
killed.

Angel and Gunn ducked inside a non-descript building.  As Xander drew
closer, he could feel the driving beat of a bass rhythm.  He glanced over at
Wesley and laughed.  He couldn’t wait to see the Englishman’s reaction to a
club filled with the pounding beat of current rap hits.  For that matter, he
couldn’t wait to see Angel’s reaction, too.  He hurried his pace and entered
the club, knowing Doyle and Wesley would be close behind.

The night had hardly begun, so the club was far from full.  Xander moved
easily past the few people out on the dance floor, walking toward a table in
the back where he could see Angel.  Gunn was speaking to another young black
man who was seated in the back nursing a beer.  Angel was standing beside
Gunn.  Keeping his mouth shut and ignoring Gunn’s dismissive glance, Xander
stood next to Angel.

Turning his shoulder away from Xander, Gunn focused on the seated man.
“Trip, man, tell these guys what you told me about the guys looking for
advice on killing vampires.”

Trip cocked his head to the side.  “Sure thing.  About a week back I was
walking up and down Nolan Avenue with a few of my boys, just doing a patrol
to make sure none of the vamps we’d run off had come back.  We’re minding
our own business and these four white guys came up to us.  They don’t match
the area, don’t fit in.  They’re older and their clothes said they were
money.”  He took a long pull on his beer.  “At first we thought they might
be vamps - why the hell else would white folks be in our neighborhood, you
know?  But then one of them points at the stake I had and says he had some
questions and it might be profitable if we had some answers.  I told him to
start talking.  He tells me that he and his friends were doing some hunting
of ‘a rather exotic variety’.  He hints around for a little bit and then
comes out and admits they’re hunting demons.  At first I thought they might
be playing us, you know?  But he doesn’t start laughing or anything so I
started listening.  He finally stops being cute and flat out says what he
wants:  he and his friends want to take on some kind of super vamp that no
one’s been able to kill.  We tell them what we know about killing vamps and
they leave.”

Xander felt a cold chill run up his spine.  A super vamp?  The only
extraordinary vampire Xander knew was Angel.  Xander didn’t like the thought
of people hunting down Angel.  It made him feel shivery and worried and mad
as hell.  “Did they give you any details about the super vamp?”

“Hey, a vamp’s a vamp.”  Gunn glanced over at Angel.  “Present company,” he
muttered.

Trip glanced between Gunn and Angel a few times, then shook his head.  “They
didn’t get into it too much, but they let a few things slip.  The thing’s
supposed to be smart and clever as hell, which makes him damn dangerous.
One of them said he looked like a punk and another said he wasn’t American.
I think they said he was English.”

His sigh of relief quickly transforming into laughter, Xander leaned lightly
against Angel.  “JD.  Those idiots are trying to kill JD.”

Angel groaned quietly.  “What the hell is he doing back in town?”

Gunn looked up sharply.  “You two know the super vamp?”

Nodding, Angel said, “Unfortunately.  Both of us have known him for a while.
  If we’re right, it’s no wonder people have been having trouble killing
him.  He’s even more dangerous than he is irritating and the last thing this
city needs is for people to be provoking him by hunting him.”  Angel looked
over at Xander.  “You’ve seen him more recently than I have.  Do you have
any idea where he might be?”

“In this city?  He could be anywhere.”  Xander pulled out his cell phone.
“I’ll give him a call.”

“You said you don’t know where he is.”

Xander laughed fondly at him.  “We’ve got to put you into a class or
something.  There are all these new-fangled modern devices you have to learn
about.  I’m going to page him.”

“Spike has a pager?”

“Half of the brothers at the monastery have pagers, Angel.  I gave it to him
a couple years ago.  It’s a better way to get a hold of him then waiting for
him to try to sneak up on me.”  Xander dialed the familiar number quickly,
not bothering to leave a message.  If JD were in town he’d be calling back
as soon as he saw the number that had tried to reach him.  As he tucked his
phone away, he bounced a little on the balls of his feet.  If there was
something deadly and strange happening in the city, JD was going to be right
in the middle of it.  He hoped that talking to the vampire would help him
understand what was going on in the demon community.  Maybe he could get a
lead on the demons who had gone missing.

He glanced up to see Wesley and Doyle hanging back a bit.  Both of them were
looking a bit pained, Wesley noticeably.  “You’re digging this, right?”

Wesley shot him a sour look but didn’t bother to reply.  Doyle cocked his
head to the side.  “So what’s the plan, then?”

“We wait for JD to call me back.”  Xander shifted his weight back and forth
in time to the rhythm.  “We could always pass the time by hitting the dance
floor.”

Thrusting his fingers up in the air in an entirely British gesture, Wesley
turned his back on him and headed for the bar.  With a pleased smirk, Doyle
followed him.

Xander returned the gesture, then turned around to look hopefully at Angel.
“What do you say?  Feel like getting your freak on?”  He didn’t let Angel’s
blank stare faze him.  “Get jiggy with it?”

Angel turned tail and fled, walking quickly after Wesley and Doyle.

Sighing forlornly as he was abandoned, Xander turned to stare at Gunn.  “How
about-”

“Don’t even ask.”  Gunn sat down at Trip’s table, resolutely ignoring
Xander.

Admitting defeat, Xander headed for the bar, joining the others for a drink.
  He grinned quietly into his beer.  He was in an underground, predominately
African-American club with three of the whitest men on the planet.  Despite
that, Gunn hadn’t hesitated at all to bring them to one of his hang-outs.
He didn’t like the man’s attitude, but he had to admit Gunn was good to his
friends and allies.

Leaning comfortably against Angel, Xander amused himself by watching Doyle
and Wesley *not* make out.  Their natural inclination in a public place was
to be all over each other and they were obviously struggling with the
impulse now, leaning in towards one another and then springing apart as they
remembered they were in full view of a roomful of strangers.

He was distracted from his entertainment by Gunn’s arrival.  Still
relentlessly cheerful, Xander cocked his head over toward the bar.  “What’s
your poison?”

Gunn eyed him warily, then said, “Beer’s fine.”

Xander quickly ordered a drink and handed it over.  “How have your people
been?  Mostly safe?”

“Do you really give a shit?”  Gunn shook his head.  “Hang on.  That wasn’t
called for.  Yeah.  Things are all right.  No losses this month.”

Covering his surprise with a genuine smile, Xander nodded.  “Good.  That’s
good to hear.”

Gunn took a long drink.  “So you work for Angel now?”

Xander laughed.  “Hell, no.  This cheap bastard couldn’t pay me enough.  I
work with him so I can learn the ropes.  I’m interested in investigative
work.”

“How’d you two meet?”

Xander didn’t need to be smashed in the face with an olive branch to
recognize a peace offering.  He told Gunn the highlights of his meeting of
Angel and their battle with Wolfram and Hart.  He didn’t share the more
intimate details.  As much fun as trying to make Angel blush was, he decided
to spare his lover.  This time.

He was distracted from trying to come up with a milder form of torture with
which to torment Angel by the ringing of his cell phone.  He glanced
irritably at the pumping speakers of the club’s sound system; it was going
to be a bitch to be heard over them.

Gunn reached out and grabbed his shoulder.  “There’s a back room.  Come on.”

Xander allowed himself to be hustled into a private room with everyone else
trailing behind him.  The driving rhythm of the dance music was reduced to a
faint thumping.  “Thank you,” he said, before answering his phone.  “JD,
this had better be you.”

//Did you miss me, pet?//  JD’s voice, low and warm and complete with dirty
chuckle.

Picturing the smirk the other man’s face, Xander put a sneer into his voice
as he answered.  “Hell, no.  You know better than that.  I’m calling because
rumor has it that you’re in my city.”  He caught Angel’s look as his lover
mouthed ‘my city’.  Xander stuck his tongue out at him and continued
taunting JD.  “You know better than to be in *my* city without contacting
me.”

//You missed me,// JD said with comfortable arrogance.

“I think the peroxide you use has finally eaten its way down into your
brain.  Where are you?”

//Ooh.  Eager.  I like that.//

“I’d threaten you, but that would just turn you on more.  Where the hell are
you?”

//Marriott on Grand.  Only the best for you, pet.//

Feeling Angel’s eyes upon him, Xander couldn’t resist.  “Honeymoon suite?”
Angel’s gaze hardened, right on schedule.

//Heart-shaped bed and satin sheets,// JD promised.

“What room?”

//313, pet.  Hurry.//

Xander hung up the phone and put it away.  Grinning at Angel’s irritation,
he walked backwards toward the door.  “Who wants to go get some answers?”
 
 
 
 
 

Angel discovered that he was hurrying his steps once more and again he had
to make a conscious effort to slow himself down.  As incredible as it was,
he was actually looking forward to seeing Spike.  It was the anticipation of
finally being able to well and truly screw with the blond vampire’s head
that goaded him forward.  It had been years since he’d seen Spike, but he
owed him for decades of frustration and irritation.

There was just one shadow hanging over his plans.  He moved closer to Xander
as they walked.  “So what was that on the phone?”

Xander’s expression was just a shade too innocent.  “A conversation?”

“It was a little too flirtatious to be just a conversation.”

“Oh, that.”

Angel didn’t dignify that with a response.  He nudged Xander, waiting for an
answer.

The dark-eyed man grinned up at him.  “It’s a game, Angel.  He baits me, I
bait him, he makes a move toward a convenient neck, I hit him with a two by
four.”  He leaned against Angel briefly as they walked.  “I should warn you
that it only gets worse when we’re in the same room.  Something about JD
drops my maturity level right back to junior high.”

“Tell me about it,” Angel sympathized.  He usually let Spike transform him
into a squabbling child with very little resistance.

“Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.”  Xander raised up to his tiptoes for a
moment and nipped at Angel’s earlobe.  “I don’t want you having a reason to
want to punish me.”  His expression had changed radically; it was anything
but innocent.

“Don’t worry about it,” Angel said comfortingly.  He reached down to slap
his lover’s ass sharply.  “I’ve never needed a reason before, have I?”

“Hey hey hey!”  Doyle’s voice over rode any response Xander might have made.
  “You two settle down.  Save that for the bedroom.”

“Or a convenient alleyway?” Xander shot back.  He subsided though, walking
quietly beside Angel as they neared the hotel.  Angel was grateful for the
extra few moments to think.  He and Spike had faced off years ago in
Sunnydale but they’d had no contact since.  Spike and Drusilla had
disappeared off the map and Angel had been more than happy to allow them to
do so, as long as it meant he wasn’t going to have worry about them any
more.  He grinned a little.  If he had to see Spike again, then he was glad
he was going to have the chance to fuck with his mind first.

It was the least he could do, considering everything Spike had done for him.

“So who is this vamp?” Gunn asked.  “And what the hell is his name?  JD?
Spike?”

“His name is Spike.  JD is Xander’s name for him.”  Angel shook his head.
“There’s no good way to describe him.  You’ll see him for yourself soon
enough.  Just be sure to keep in mind that he’s dangerous, more dangerous
than any vampire you’ve faced.”

“And we’re going to him for help?”  Gunn stared at him incredulously.

“I know.  Trust me, I know it’s a risk but right now he’s our best bet of
finding out what the hell old rich white men are doing hunting vampires.”
Angel knew Xander was hoping that Spike would also hold the key to the
question of where the missing demons in The Other Side’s neighborhood had
gone.  He knew it was a long shot, but he held the same hope.  Spike usually
knew more than what was good for him.

Angel led the way into a side door of the hotel.  As they approached Room
313, Xander gently shouldered his way ahead of him.  “Allow me.  It’ll be
more fun this way.”

Angel nodded and held out his arm so that Wesley, Doyle and Gunn stopped
with him as well.  He backed up a few feet for good measure.

Xander knocked on the door.  He waited a few moments, then knocked again.
“Damn it, JD...”

“Door’s open, pet!”  A voice, muffled but clearly Spike’s, sounded through
the door.  “I’m waiting for you.”

Shaking his head, Xander opened the door and entered, leaving the door
cracked behind him.  Angel listened hard, not wanting to miss a word that
was said.

The sound of Xander’s footsteps came to an abrupt halt.  “You promised me
the honeymoon suite.”

“I lied,” Spike said comfortably.  “More fool you if you believed me.”
Angel heard Spike move across the room, approaching Xander.  “You’re looking
good, pet.  Better than I remembered.”

“And you...you reek!”  Xander coughed.  “Christ, I’d say you smelled like
something that died except, well...”  His words dissolved into laughter.
“Don’t come any closer.  What the hell happened to you?”

“Hey, I have reason for the reeking.  I had to take a detour through some
dumpsters earlier tonight.  At least I have an excuse, though.  What about
you, hmm, pet?  What’s your excuse for smelling like -”  Spike’s voice was
cut off with shocking abruptness.

Here it came.

“Angel,” Spike hissed.  “You smell like Angel.”

Doyle looked alarmed, but Angel shook his head.  Xander’s heart rate hadn’t
increased; there was no scent of fear coming from his lover.

“Whoa,” Xander said.  “Put the pointy face away.  There’s no need for that.”

On the other hand, sometimes Xander was braver than was really good for him.
  Angel quickly walked in the door with the others following him.  He caught
the bare end of the change as Spike slipped back into human guise.  The
utter bafflement and confusion on the blond man’s face was beautiful to
behold.  For the first time in decades, he saw Spike well and truly knocked
out of his unflappable poise.

Of course, Spike being Spike, it didn’t take long for him to put a good face
on things and act as thought he had recovered his composure.  “Angel.
Lovely to see you again.  I’ll rip your innards out as soon as I’m done with
Xander.”  His gaze was flat with cold dislike and restrained violence.

“Play nicely, Spike.  If you hurt Angel, I’ll be very put out.  I’ll
probably be forced to escort you out of town in an ashtray.”  Xander leaned
back against Angel.  “I’m rather attached to him.”

Spike turned around and walked toward the bathroom.  “I didn’t know to
expect company.  Excuse me while I freshen up.”  He played at being relaxed,
but Angel could hear the tension in his voice.  Spike was retreating and
taking a few moments to collect himself.  Angel was willing to grant him
that.  Spike wasn’t going to come up with a brilliant plan of vengeance and
death in the shower.

Xander turned around and faced Angel.  “Didn’t take you long to come in.”

“Didn’t take long for you to goad Spike into gameface.”  Angel wrapped his
arms around Xander’s waist.

“That?” Xander shrugged dismissively.  “That doesn’t take any effort.  You
learn a couple of buttons and you push’em.  Easy.”

“Easy,” Angel repeated, pressing a few of Xander’s buttons by lowering his
head and inhaling Xander’s scent at his the nape of his neck.  He smirked
when he felt his lover shiver against him.  “I like easy.”

Wearing an expression of mock outrage, Xander gently stepped out of Angel’s
hold and walked over to the small set of drawers and started going through
them.  Angel exchanged a confused look with Wesley - the Englishman looked
just as lost as Angel felt.  “What are you looking for?”

Xander stood up with an armful of clothes.  “Spike didn’t take anything into
the bathroom.  Do you want him to come out naked looking for something to
wear?”

Angel gave him a shove toward the barely-closed bathroom door.  “Hurry.”

“Please,” Wesley chimed in.

Gunn shook his head.  “I don’t get it.  That’s the guy everyone’s going nuts
over?  I don’t think he weighs a hundred pounds soaking wet.”

Reaching out to touch Gunn gently on his arm, Angel caught his gaze.  “Don’t
let him fool you.  He’s playing with Xander and he might even pretend to
behave for the rest of us, but he is a remorseless killer who feels no pity.
  He enjoys killing, revels in cruelty, and he’s damn good at torture and
death.”

Xander returned from the bathroom, catching the end of Angel’s comments.
“He cheats at poker and he’s got sticky fingers, too.  Don’t let how he acts
make you feel any sense of security.  Everything he does with me is a game.
I can’t tell you the rules to it and there’s no way you’d be able to play.”

Gunn lifted his chin defiantly.  “Sure about that?”

“You’re a good man, Gunn.  I don’t want to get into this kind of contest
with you.  There’s no way you’ll win and then we’ll all end up losing.”
Xander stared at Gunn until the other man reluctantly nodded.

Angel repressed a sigh of relief.  He understood the kind of pride that
could drive a man and had feared Gunn might give in to it.  Add in the fact
that Spike was a vampire, an enemy Gunn had given his life over to defeating
and the challenge of taking on Spike might have been irresistible.  The fact
that Gunn was able to let it go revealed  how much he was maturing, how much
he had grown up even in the short time Angel had known him.

The sound of the water cut off in the bathroom.  Angel readied himself.
Spike was going to emerge soon and the blond man would no doubt be ready to
go on the attack.  Angel doubted things would deteriorate into violence.
Spike’s curiosity and relationship with Xander would reign in his usually
unstoppable homicidal drive.

Spike strutted out of the bathroom, his hair damp and his bare feet pale
against the dark rug.  “Christ, this is the least interesting party I’ve
ever seen.  Who the hell are these losers?”

Ignoring the others’ offense, Xander casually introduced them.  “Where are
my manners?  This is Wesley and Doyle.  They work with Angel.  That’s Gunn;
he’s in a similar line of work.  Guys, this is JD.”

Wesley nodded warily, and Doyle half-raised a hand in greeting.  Gunn kept
his hands folded over his chest.  “We’ve met.”

“Have we?”  Spike cocked his head to the side.  “I don’t often meet humans
twice.”  Not giving the glowering man any more attention, he looked back at
Xander.  “Have you had enough time to come up with some answers for me,
pet?”

Angel bristled a little at the fond nickname, but subsided when Xander
elbowed him sharply in the side.

Acting as though he hadn’t just had to shut Angel up, Xander met Spike’s
gaze evenly.  “I don’t like what’s happening right now in this city.  I
haven’t been able to get any answers yet, but I think you know what I need.”

Smirk twisting the lines of his mouth, Spike shifted his attention to Angel.
  “You need my help.”

“Yes,” Xander agreed.

“No, pet.  I already heard you say that.  I want to hear Angel say it.”

Instinct drove Angel forward a step; habit told him it was time to teach
Spike his place once more and to use the most bloody method he knew.  A
sharp elbow brought him up short once more.  Glowering at Xander, Angel
rubbed his sore ribs.  “We do need help,” he admitted.  “Some demons have
begun to go missing in the wrong neighborhoods, where things should be
quiet.  We hadn’t heard anything more than that, until we got word that
there were people in town hunting a vampire with a history of peroxide
abuse.”

Spike sneered back at him.  “Don’t worry about those people.  They won’t be
hunting much of anything anymore.”

The casual declaration that he’d killed a group of humans clearly unsettled
Gunn.  The young man shifted his weight from one foot to the other, but he
didn’t say anything.  Angel noticed and reminded himself to talk to Gunn
later and thank him.

“How did you end up being hunted?”  Xander’s question distracted Spike from
his staring contest with Angel.  “It isn’t possible that you’ve been more
annoying than usual.”

Spike didn’t react at all to the sniping.  “No, nothing like that.  It’s not
personal.  It’s a game, a challenge.  Some lawyer wanks here in town set it
up with me a few weeks ago.  So far, they’ve lost quite a few hunters and
even more money, and I’m still around.”

Lawyer wanks.  “Wolfram and Hart,” Angel said quietly, and even he could
hear the hatred in his own voice.

“That’s them.  They offered me a deal.  They pay me money, I let some fools
try to hunt me, I hunt the hunters, and the lawyers give me more money for
the next group of idiots that will come through once they’ve given up on
finding the first group.”

“So they approached you, right?”  As he spoke, Doyle maintained a careful
distance from Spike.  He’d heard enough stories about Spike to be wary.
Angel approved; he’d prefer it if everyone, including Xander, avoided Spike
as much as possible.  They needed his information, but that didn’t mean
Angel had to like the situation.

Spike raised his chin.  “That’s right.  They heard of me.”  He grinned.
“They wanted the best.”

“Yeah, but all bragging aside, it was your choice to participate.  They
offered you money and you had the option of turning them down and walking
away.”  Doyle looked over at Xander.  “You’re thinking that something like
this might have happened to the demons that have gone missing, aren’t you?”

“Look at the demons who’ve gone missing:  the last was a Rika.  You know
them - family means everything to them.  No way would one of them just
wander off and go missing.  But with the economy down and jobs getting
scarce, Fontl just might make a bargain with Wolfram and Hart, thinking that
at last he’d found a way to bring in some cash.  Rikas look tough, but
they’re not built for combat.  A group of armed hunters would have no
trouble taking one down.”  Xander shifted angrily.  “Damn those suit-wearing
fucks.  Damn them.”

Angel reached out and placed his hands on Xander’s shoulders, massaging them
firmly.  “We don’t have any proof.”

“It feels right,” Xander insisted.

“It does,” Angel agreed.  “It’s right up their slimy, filthy alley.”

“I wonder if the other demons’ participation was voluntary,” Wesley mused.

“Don’t know,” Spike said.  “Don’t care.”

Angel knew that they weren’t going to get anything more accomplished here.
It was time to head back to the office and outline their findings, organize
their thoughts, and plan their next moves.

It was also time to get the hell away from Spike.  The blond vampire’s
questionable charm had begun to wear thin.

Before he had a chance to speak, Xander stole his words from him.  “We
should get back to the office.  I can contact my source at Wolfram and Hart
and we’ll get a battle plan laid out.”

“Ooh, a chance to see the great Angel in action.”  Spike’s blue eyes were
dark with amusement.  “How can I resist?  Can I come and watch?”  He went so
far as to bat his eyes at Xander.  “Please, pet?”

Angel looked over at Xander.  He considered batting his eyes at his lover
but couldn’t quite make himself do it.  He did his best to plead with his
eyes though.

It did no good.  Grinning like a fiend, Xander kept his gaze on Angel as he
answered.  “Sure, Spike.  Come on.”

Oh, Xander was going to pay.  Angel was going to have to carefully plan his
vengeance.  This called for something special.
 
 
 
 
 

“Happy Meal on legs.”
 
 
 
 

“Glorified zombie.”
 
 
 
 

“Overly chatty monkey.”
 
 
 
 

“Billy Idol wannabe”.  Xander knew that his argument with JD had degenerated
 

into name-calling, but he was having a difficult time making himself stop.
He’d grown up an only child and he was enjoying the senseless bickering that
he’d missed out on.

It was also annoying the shit out of everyone else, which he was taking as
an unexpected bonus.  It wasn’t often that he could manage to irrritate
everyone all at once.  Wesley’s expression had taken on lines of
long-suffering and Doyle was blatantly watching the clock.  Gunn was still
there, not wanting to leave until he knew everything they did, but he was
leaning against the doorframe, ready to bolt as soon as he was satisfied.
And Angel...if Angel snapped one more pencil in half, he was going to have
to move on to the pens and they didn’t need that kind of mess in the office.
  Cordelia would hit the roof and none of them really wanted to listen to
her reaction when she found that mess.

He watched in relief as Angel threw the pencil down on the desk.  “All
right,” the vampire said.  “We know Wolfram and Hart are our prime suspects.
  Doyle, use your contacts to find out if there have been extra humans in
the demonic neighborhoods looking for nonhumans who need work.  Xander, put
out the word at The Other Side, too.  We want to make sure that if Wolfram
and Hart are looking for more demons to be hunted that they don’t find
anyone willing to take them up on the offer.”

Wesley glanced over at JD.  “Perhaps Spike should also cease to work for
them, so we can dry up the supply completely.”

“Hey!” JD objected.  “This is a sweet deal.  I’m making good money.”

“So are Wolfram and Hart,” Wesley pointed out.

JD turned to look appealingly at Xander.  “Please Xan?  I’ll starve in the
streets.”

“You’re not going to be doing anything in the streets,” Xander said.  “I
want you to find another hotel room and lay low.  No phone calls, no going
out, and no more money.”

“I’ll starve!”

Xander shook his head.  “You’ve never starved in LA before.  You’re not
going to start now.  I’ll have blood delivered to you from the usual place.
You’ve reactivated your tab, right?”

JD glanced away and muttered something in a low voice.

“What was that?”  Xander took a step closer.

“I haven’t been there yet.”  JD glared up at him defensively.  “What?  They
were hunting me.  That made them fair game.”

Xander sighed heavily and picked up a newspaper from Angel’s desk.  He
rolled it up tightly and in a single smooth movement turned to smack JD in
the head with it.  “No!  You don’t get to kill in my city!”

“They were hunting me!”

Xander hit him again.  “Makes no difference.  Rules are rules.  You don’t
get to kill.”

JD sulked but didn’t say anything more.  Xander still kept a hold of the
newspaper...just in case.  He glanced over at Angel and was pleased to see
his lover fighting a small smile.  With a plan laid out, JD under marginal
control, and tensions lessened among his companions, Angel would no doubt
feel more in control and that would relax him.

Shifting his weight, Gunn leaned forward a bit.  “You’ve got a source inside
the lawyer’s place?” he asked Xander.  “How’re you going to get in contact
with him?”

Xander pulled out his cell phone.  “Same way I always do.  I leave him a
message on his voicemail, and he’ll meet me two days later at Berkhout’s.”
He sighed as Angel sat up straight.  He could see the argument coming
already.

“You’re not going back there.”

“It’s the only way.  I don’t have any other way to meet him and keep his
bosses from finding out that he’s slipping me information.  I’m not going to
risk his life.  He’s done too much for me, for us.  I won’t do it.”

“Then I’ll go with you this time.”  Angel’s chin jutted forward stubbornly.

“No way.  If you go in there, we’ll be lucky to get out without having to
carve our way through people looking to get a piece of you.  Your presence
will be noted, Wolfram and Hart will hear of it, and we’ll just end up
endangering my contact again.”  He watched Angel lean back into his chair,
the relaxation signaling that his lover was going to acquiesce, at least for
the moment.  Satisfied that they were going to come to an agreement they
could both live with, Xander pulled out his cell phone and called his
contact at Wolfram and Hart.  Lindsey never answered at his home number, so
Xander was certain of being able to leave a message.  He waited for the
beep, then deliberately pitched his voice an octave lower than usual.  “Hey,
Linds.  I got to thinking about you the other day.  I got into some rough
action with a pair of Lerders and I wasn’t walking real well the morning
after.  Remember how you’d leave me?  Sore and bruised and so damn satisfied
that I wore the pain like a goddamn sorority girl wears her boyfriend’s
jacket.  Someday I’m going to have to hunt you down and see if we can’t have
some fun again.”  He ended the call quickly and put his phone away.  He
looked up and found Angel staring at him.  “What?”  He looked around the
room and found that he was the focus of stares from everyone.  “What?”

“Naughty, naughty pet,” JD said in a tone of admiration.

“What the hell was that?” Gunn asked, eyes a bit wild.

Xander looked back over at Angel and sighed.  “That was me getting a hold of
my contact at Wolfram and Hart.  It’s a cover, a way to hide the real reason
we meet.”

“Uh-huh.”  JD’s voice dripped sarcasm and disbelief, and he raised a scarred
eyebrow at Angel suggestively.

Xander hit him with the newspaper again.  Keeping the fragile weapon handy,
he walked around Angel’s desk and perched on the arm of his chair.  “You can
have Wesley cast the spell Willow used last time, if you like.  That way you
can keep an eye on me while I work.”

Angel nodded gratefully.  “I’d rather be with you, but if you’re certain...”

“There’s no way you can come.  No way.”

“The spell will help then.”  Angel pushed himself up a little and Xander met
him half way for a brief kiss.  He’d hated having the spell cast on him in
secret, but he trusted Wesley to use the spell properly and he could endure
the invasion of privacy if it would comfort his lover.

“Oh, Christ.  Give us some warning before you do that.”  JD accompanied his
objection with a series of retching sounds.

Xander waved the newspaper threateningly.  “You, go and find a new hotel.
Call me and tell me where you are and stay there.”  He sobered.  “This is
important, JD.”

JD nodded.  “I’ll be in touch, pet.”  He walked out the door, obviously
enjoying watching Gunn move out of the way as he passed through the doorway.

Gunn moved back into the doorway.  “I’ll be in touch, too,” he said.

“We’ll keep you posted,” Angel promised.  Xander kept his mouth shut.  He
didn’t want to do anything to ruin the fragile peace he and Gunn had forged.
  A careless comment might be enough to rupture it, so he was going to leave
well enough alone for tonight.  He raised a hand in farewell and Gunn was
gone.

Doyle raised his hands over his head in a luxurious stretch.  “Christ, back
to walking the streets, searching for clues and running myself into the
ground.”

Xander laughed out loud.  “What are you talking about?  You’re going to
wander from bar to bar, buying people drinks and getting half-sloshed
yourself.  This is your favorite kind of research to do.”  He looked over at
Wesley.  “You can do that far-viewing spell that Willow did when she was in
town, right?”

With a casual shrug, Wesley gathered his things together.  “It’s an
elementary spell.  Very popular among the young.  I’ll only perform it if
you give me permission.”

“Do it,” Xander said.  “It’ll keep the great worrier here under control
while I’m gone.”

“Warrior,” Angel objected.  “Great warrior.”

“Potato, potahto,” Xander teased.  Leaning back against Angel’s broad chest,
he yawned.  “Go home and rest up for your exhausting bout of drinking
tomorrow.”

“Hey!  That’s ‘intensive investigation’,” Doyle corrected.  “And that’s why
I get paid the big bucks.”

Xander glared at him suspiciously.  “You get paid?”

Wesley clapped a hand over Doyle’s mouth to forestall whatever reply he
might have made.  “We will talk to you tomorrow and let you know what we
find.”

“Be safe,” Angel cautioned.

“Always,” Wesley promised.  He pulled Doyle out of the room.

Xander settled back against Angel, enjoying the simple feeling of being
close to the man he loved.  “It’s a start,” he said quietly.  Disappearances
in the demon community unsettled him.  Non-humans had it rough in a city
dominated by humans and Wolfram and Hart took advantage of that, killing
members of a community that had offered Xander unexpected friendship and
sanctuary.  He couldn’t sit by and just ignore what was happening.  He was
going to stop it and make the lawyers pay for the lives they had destroyed.

“It’s a start,” Angel agreed, arms sliding around Xander’s middle.  “And
pretty soon it will be a finish.”

Xander believed him.  Angel spoke with utter confidence, as though he was
certain they’d be able to make a difference and stop the actions of evil in
the world.  It was just one more reason that Xander had fallen so hard and
couldn’t help loving him.
 
 
 
 
 

Angel paced the length of his office again, unable to control the restless
 

anxiety that propelled him back and forth across the room.  “How much
longer?”

Wesley looked up at him, irritation clear in his eyes.  “It depends.  Do you
intend to allow me concentrate?  Or are you going to ask me for a progress
report every thirty seconds?”

“How much time will it add if I ask every thirty seconds?”  Angel managed to
hold himself still for a moment and then began pacing once more.

Wesley drew in a deep breath, but before he could reply Doyle interposed,
placing himself between the two of them.  “He’s just worried about Xander,”
the Irishman said quietly.  “You knew he was going to be like this.”

“True,” Wesley agreed.  “But I didn’t know he was going to be *this* much
like this.”

Gunn watched all this warily from a distant corner of the room.  He was
obviously nervous about being so close to a spell in progress, but he’d kept
firm to his decision to stay involved in the case.  “How much more do you
have to do?”

“Not much more.”  Wesley rubbed a soft cloth over a large mirror that he had
placed on Angel’s desk.  “It’s a rudimentary spell.  I prefer to be
thorough, even in the most simple magics.”

Cordelia rolled her eyes and moved to stand closer to Gunn in the corner.
“Just let me know when you’re done, all right?”

Wesley didn’t even look at her.  “I didn’t know you were so eager to watch
Xander dance again.”

Cordelia looked quickly over at Angel.  “I am not!”

“Well, I am,” Spike said.  “Hurry it up, will you?”

“Why exactly are you here again?” Cordelia asked.  “I thought you were
supposed to stay in your room like a good little vampire.”

“And miss this?  You’ve lost what used to pass for your mind.”  He looked
over at Angel.  “It’s been a while since I’ve got to see him in action.  I’m
looking forward to it.”

Angel forced himself not to react.  Spike was just needling him again.
Xander had told him when they first met how he knew Spike; the dark-eyed
young man had bonded with the vampire over a few drinks as they commiserated
about their recent break-ups.  It was an unexpected friendship, but it had
never gone beyond friendship.  Spike could insinuate whatever he wanted;
Angel knew the truth.  Besides, Angel knew why Spike had broken his promise
to Xander and shown up at the office.  The blond vampire was worried about
the human.  Berkhout’s was one of the most dangerous places in the city and
Xander very literally took his life in his hands every time he went there.

As much as he might wish his lover didn’t have to go to Berkhout’s, they
still didn’t have enough information to be sure that Wolfram and Hart were
behind the disappearances in the demon community.  They needed the
information from Xander’s contact before they would be certain of what had
happened and what course of action they should take.  Doyle had spent the
past two days dragging Wesley from one bar to the next, spreading the word
of what they suspected and searching for any confirmation they could find,
for any demon who might have been approached but had turned down the offer.
They had succeeded in warning the non-humans away from lawyers who claimed
to be giving away high paying jobs.  If Wolfram and Hart went out looking
for more prey for their hunts, they were going to be disappointed.
Unfortunately, the two men hadn’t found anyone who had been offered a job or
could give them a solid lead to another being who had.  Xander had passed on
their findings to the brothers at the monastery, but the monks had also come
up with nothing.

Which led them back to Xander going to Berkhout’s.

“Finished,” Wesley said.

Angel didn’t run over to the mirror.  He walked very quickly, but he most
definitely didn’t run.  Spike was there almost as quickly and the other soon
followed, gathering around the desk so they could all see clearly.

Cordelia looked down at her reflection, smiling briefly at herself.  “Great,
Wesley.  You did a real nice job of polishing the mirror.”

Wesley gestured carelessly at the desk and darkness boiled across the
surface of the mirror.  He smirked a little when Cordelia and Gunn both
jumped in surprise.

Completely ignoring all the by-play, Angel stared hard into the mirror,
willing the image to clear.  The darkness gradually lessened and the scene
resolved itself into sense.  A figure walked down a dark corridor and
emerged into light.  Xander passed out of a hallway into the main room of
Berkhout’s.

“Oh my, pet,” Spike murmured appreciatively.

Without lifting his eyes from the mirror, Angel reached out and smacked
Spike across the back of the head.  While he didn’t want to hear Spike’s
comments he had to agree with them.  Xander was wearing Angel’s favorite
pair of leather pants.  He liked them so much, Xander was rarely able to
wear them out of the bedroom.  Somehow, the young man just never quite made
it through the door.  Xander had added a tight green t-shirt and boots to
the pants.  He looked completely edible.

Arms swinging loosely from his shoulders, Xander strode into the bar,
pausing briefly to survey the dance floor that lay between himself and the
bar before joining the writhing mass of bodies that gyrated to the inhuman
music pumping through the speakers.  Moving to the beat as though there was
nothing in the room except himself and the rhythm, Xander danced with
everyone and no one.  He swayed easily through the crowd, resisting every
effort by admirers to hold his attention and keep him in one place.  He
eventually reached the edges of the crowd so he would be visible to the
people at the bar and those sitting at the tables at the borders of the
dance floor.

The spell’s focus was completely fixed on Xander, but other people in the
bar were visible in the mirror as the young man moved around the room.
Angel couldn’t take his eyes off Xander but he was remotely aware of Doyle
stiffening.  “That’s him,” the half-demon said.  “At the table for one.  Lin
- Xander’s contact is there.”  Angel could barely bring himself to nod.  He
knew Gunn was leaning closer to the mirror as though he couldn’t quite
believe what he was seeing.  Cordelia’s hand had crept up to cover her mouth
and she was strangely silent as she watched.  Angel was barely aware of any
of this:  all his attention was focussed upon his lover.

Xander’s travels over the dance floor came to an end.  He seemed to be
utterly taken with the song that played at that moment.  Head tilted back,
Xander gave himself over to the rhythm, swaying and moving to the beat as he
lost himself in the music.  A light sheen of sweat made his skin glow and
his expression was one of pure hedonistic pleasure.  When the song came to
an end Xander remained where he was, his body easily moving to match the new
beat that pound through the club.

The brown-eyed man didn’t not go unnoticed.  As his motions became more and
more uninhibited, the beings watching him moved closer.  The boldest
admirers were a pair of vampires who circled Xander possessively.  They soon
intimidated the other watchers into backing away and leaving the human to
their attentions.

Angel fought down the urge to growl at the sight, but managed to restrain
himself.  He looked very carefully at the vampires, though.  There was no
law that said he wouldn’t meet them later on and have the opportunity to
teach them the danger of moving in on territory that they should have
recognized as his.

Xander allowed the attention from the vampires, dancing willingly with them
and ignoring the other beings that watched him.  He leaned back into the
vampire behind him, writhing wantonly against the other man’s body.  This
attention paid to the vampire behind Xander seemed to inflame the one that
faced him, and the second vampire grabbed Xander, pulling him forward and
running his hands over Xander’s body possessively.  The brown-eyed man went
with the flow, the seductive rhythm of the music still holding him firmly in
its grip as he yielded utterly to his partner’s wishes.  The vampire behind
Xander growled and shifted into its demon guise before reaching out and
grabbing Xander’s arm to pull him away from the other demon.  Xander
continued to go with the flow, ignoring the growing tension that surrounded
him.  As the song continued, Xander tilted his head back once more, exposing
the long line of his neck to the hungry gaze of the creatures watching him.
Both vampires moved in on him at the same time, bristling with anger as they
faced each other, resenting the competition for the fuckable, edible man.

The music changed once more and the beat that filled the club became even
more frenetic and driving.  Xander reacted immediately, adding a shimmy to
his hips that had to raise the temperature in the bar by ten degrees.  It
proved to be the breaking point for the vampires.  Each made a move to grab
Xander, but before either could make contact, each then shifted its
attention to the other.  Growling audibly, the vampires squared off, ready
to do battle for the prey they both desired.  Xander didn’t seem to be even
marginally aware of the potential for violence that surrounded him; he
danced on, eyes closed as he responded to the music alone.  His movements
placed him between the two  staring vampires at the moment the two creatures
rushed each other.  Xander was thrown aside in the sudden scuffle, as were
several other near-by dancers.

Angel clenched his fists.  There was no way he could do anything about what
was happening, but seeing his lover in danger was arousing ever protective
instinct he had.  He leaned forward and watched Xander carefully.  His lover
seemed completely surprised by the shove that sent him stumbling off the
dance floor.  Xander’s arms windmilled wildly as he fell, all his natural
grace leaving him as he crashed into a table.  Angel knew the other man’s
body as well as he knew his own.  He wasn’t fooled by the way Xander fell.
He’d seen the dark-haired man aim himself directly toward Lindsey’s table;
he’d also seen Xander control his fall so to avoid injury to himself or the
man on whom he landed.  No matter how oblivious his lover acted, he was in
full control of the situation.

Xander lay in a crumpled heap for a moment, limbs entwined with Lindsey’s
where they had fallen to the floor.  He stirred slowly, blinking as he
stared down at the man sprawled underneath him.  A smirk twisting his lips,
Xander settled down on top of Lindsey.  “Hello, lover,” he said.  “Fancy
meeting you here.”

Lindsey scowled back at him.  “What the hell have you done?”  He craned his
neck to look past Xander and see the brawl that was beginning to rage on the
dance floor.

“Nothing.”  Xander wriggled a little.  “Besides, you should be more
concerned about what I’m going to do.”  His hands crept inside of Lindsey’s
clothing.

The scowl slid off of Lindsey’s face and his head fell back to the floor.
“God,” he muttered.  “I forgotten how good you were...unhhh.”  His words
broke off into a groan of pure lust.

Angel took his hands off the desk.  If he tightened his grip any more on the
lip of the desk he was going to break chunks of it off in his fists.  He
locked his hands together behind his back.  He wasn’t going to drive over to
Berkhout’s and tear out Lindsey’s spine.  He was going to obey Xander’s
wishes and remain at the office.

He’d just hunt Lindsey down later and eviscerate him then.

Xander lowered his head and nuzzled at Lindsey’s neck.  His hands slid lower
and Lindsey’s groans became more wanton as he arched up into Xander’s touch.
  Before things could get more out of hand, scaled fingers descended upon
Xander’s shoulders.

A massive Werth demon wearing a shirt that said “Staff” hauled Xander up to
his feet.  “Time to head home,” it rumbled.

“You’re kicking me out?” Xander asked, surprise clear on his features.

“For you’re own safety, yeah.”  The Werth nodded over toward the spreading
brawl.  “If you stay here you’re going to get torn apart and that would just
be a damn tragedy.”  The bouncer steered Xander over to a half-hidden side
exit.  “You can meet up with your boyfriend some other time.”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” Xander said petulantly, pouting up at the demon.

“Whatever he is.  You can meet him later.”  The Werth gently pushed Xander
out the door.  “Don’t come back for a few days, all right?  Let those guys
calm down a bit.”

Xander continued to sulk until the door closed behind him, leaving him out
on the street.  As soon as he was no longer in the club, the pout slid off
his face and he was all business once again.  He strode down the street with
a long, distance eating gait.

Wesley shifted his weight.  “Well.  He’s left Berkhout’s, so I suppose this
spell is no longer needed.”  He raised his hand to dissolve the spell.

Angel wasn’t aware of moving until his hand encircled Wesley’s wrist.
“Leave it.”

“He’s a big boy,” Doyle said gently.  “I’m sure he can handle the walk
home.”

“Leave it?”  Angel managed to make it into a question.

Wesley’s nod was utterly understanding.  “I can leave it up for a while
longer.”  He backed away from the mirror, slipping his wrist out of Angel’s
grasp.  Doyle followed him.

Gunn cleared his throat several times before he managed to speak.  “So when
is he going to get the information?”

“He’s got it.  It was given to him at the club.”  Cordelia shook her head.
“Geeky Xander Harris...I still can’t believe it.”

“Geeky?  Xander, geeky?”  Gunn cocked his head to the side.

She smiled up at him all brazen attitude and confidence.  “Give me a ride
home and I’ll tell you all about it.”

Gunn grinned back at her.  “You’ve got yourself a deal.”  He glanced over at
Angel.  “Angel, man, I will catch up with you soon.”

Angel nodded quickly, but his attention was pulled irresistible back to the
mirror.  Xander was just walking down the street, lean and handsome and
wonderfully alive.  Angel couldn’t look away.  He loved that man, loved his
body and his soul and the very life that filled him.  He wanted to protect
him and hold him and to fight beside him always.  As much as he detested The
Powers’ deliberately obtuse methods, he would be forever grateful to them
for leading him to Xander.

He watched Xander walk down the street that led to the office, talking on
his cell phone as he passed the familiar territory.  Even knowing that
Xander was only minutes away couldn’t move him; he stayed at the mirror
until he heard the door to the office open.  That sound was the only thing
that freed him from his need to watch the mirror, the only thing that
allowed him turn from the desk at last.

He turned to face the stairs and watched as Xander walked down them, long
legs encased in leather, t-shirt hugging his frame in a loving grip.  Xander
grinned at everyone in the room.  “Got it,” he said with satisfaction.
“Well, actually, almost got it.  He slipped me a note about where I can pick
up the complete layout of Wolfram and Hart’s plans for the huntings.  One of
the brothers is going to pick it up for me tomorrow, just to help preserve
Lindsey’s cover.  We’ll have it all tomorrow afternoon.”

“Wonderful,” Wesley said.  “That is wonderful.  Did you by any chance
learn-”

Angel growled.  He could smell Xander, smell the familiar scent of stale
sweat and smoke that was so much a part of a bar.  He could also smell the
vampires who had touched Xander.

He could smell Lindsey.

Wesley’s words broke off into a stammered statement of good-bye as he
dragged Doyle out of the building.  “Yes.  Well, tomorrow is soon enough,
and ah, we’ll see you, ah, tomorrow.  Ah, yes.  Good night and ah, good
night.”

Spike looked back and forth between Angel and Xander.  “Stage looks to be
set for Act Two now.  Can you wait until I heat up some popcorn?”

“JD, I don’t have time to kill you right now.”  Xander’s voice was low,
thick.  He didn’t look away from Angel’s gaze for even a moment.  “Go home
like a good vampire and I’ll stake you tomorrow, all right?”

Spike grinned nastily, but he headed for the door.  “I’ll want all the
details tomorrow, pet.”

Xander’s only reply was a raised finger.

Angel didn’t acknowledge anyone’s leave-taking.  All his attention was
focused on Xander, on the scents that invaded his lover’s skin, profaning
the pure scent of Xander.  He stalked forward, circling the dark-eyed man as
he catalogued the foreign odors that upset him.

“Angel?” Xander asked, holding himself very still.

“You smell of them,” Angel murmured quietly.  “Their touch, on your skin.”

“I’ll shower.”  Xander moved only his head, keeping Angel in his line of
sight at all times.

“But then you won’t smell of me,” Angel said.

“There is a way to fix that, too.”  Xander raised his eyebrow invitingly.

Angel didn’t need any further encouragement.  He wrapped his arms around
Xander, lifting him from the floor and carrying him over to the desk.  He
sealed his mouth to Xander’s, reveling in the familiar wet warmth.  He sat
his lover on the desk so he could free his hands, raising them to grasp the
collar of his shirt.  He tugged sharply, tearing the fabric from Xander’s
body and tossing the fragments to the ground.  He was reluctant to remove
his mouth from Xander’s, but his need to have his lover naked overruled his
wish to explore every part of his mouth.  He dropped to his knees, pulling
away Xander’s boots and throwing them into a corner.  He surged back to his
feet and pulled Xander off the desk so he could get as his pants.  He was
more careful with the leather, not wanting to damage the pants during their
removal.  As he worked the snug garment off Xander, he turned his lover
around to make it easier to slide it over his hips.  The discovery that
Xander was wearing nothing under the pants only served to fuel his urgency.

A sharp gasp from Xander had him pressed up against his lover immediately.
“What?”

Xander pointed down at the desk, his finger tip bare millimeters above the
surface of the mirror.  “Wes didn’t dissolve the spell?”  He stared down at
the image of himself and Angel displayed within the mirror.

“I guess I chased them out before he got the chance.”  Angel was having a
hard time looking away from the mirror.  He’d never seen himself beside
Xander, never realized how well they fit together.  He pressed himself more
closely against the warm body before him, the heat of Xander’s skin seeping
through his clothes.  He slid his hands up Xander’s chest, rubbing his
fingers over a waiting nipple.  Xander moaned, arching into the touch, but
his gaze remained locked on the mirror.  The dark-eyed man’s breathing grew
hoarser as he continued to watch.

Angel couldn’t deny being affected himself.  To touch Xander and see the
reaction in two different ways gave him a heady feeling of power.  He
removed his own clothing quickly, eager to be skin to skin with his lover.
He ground himself against the smooth skin of his lover’s ass and both
watched and felt Xander’s reaction.  “Lube,” he murmured.

“My pants,” Xander said, pushing back against him.  “Pocket.”

Grateful for vampiric speed, Angel retrieved the slender tube and returned
to his lover.  He prepared Xander quickly, not able to draw the experience
out.  The thought of teasing his lover was a pleasing one, but he was unable
to wait.  Xander pushed back against his invading fingers, swearing at him
and urging him to move faster.  The sounds of his lover’s gasps and pleas,
the feel of his heat and the sight of Xander submitting so willingly to his
desire caused Angel’s vision to blur with lust.  He slicked lube over his
own hardness and then pressed forward, nuzzling Xander’s neck as he sheathed
himself in gripping heat.  For a moment he held himself utterly still,
reveling in the sensation of being united with Xander.

Fingers splayed on the edges of the mirror, Xander shoved himself backwards,
wrenching a gasp from Angel as he found himself buried even more deeply
within his lover.  “Need you,” Xander said.  “Need you now.”

Unable to refuse him anything, Angel splayed his fingers over Xander’s and
thrust himself forward.  He watched in the mirror as their bodies moved in
frenetic harmony, seeing their joining as he felt it, the experience
enhanced and almost doubled.  Xander was equally effected as he drove
himself back against Angel, sweat slicking his skin as his need grew.  Angel
wrapped one arm around Xander’s waist and moved his other hand to his
lover’s erection, using his heightened strength to support his weight as he
stroked Xander’s hardness and continued the harsh pace of his own thrusts.
Xander tilted his head to the side, offering up his neck as his heart rate
sky-rocketed.  Angel didn’t need to think; instinct pushed him to draw his
tongue over the smooth skin of Xander’s neck, tasting the salt on his skin
before sinking his teeth into the over-heated skin.  Blood filled his mouth
with the taste of life, the taste of lust, the taste of love.  The taste of
Xander.

Angel came hard, retaining enough awareness to tighten his grip on Xander’s
erection, moving his hand just so to push Xander over the edge into orgasm.
Xander’s come spattered over the mirror’s surface, obscuring the image of
them.  Angel withdrew from Xander, turning his lover in his arms and kissing
him deeply.  “Mine,” he murmured.

“Yours,” Xander agreed, moving contentedly against Angel.  He made a face.
“I’m sticky.  I need a shower.”

“I’ll join you.”  Angel lowered his head and licked at Xander’s neck,
running his tongue over the healing bite mark.

“Join me?” Xander asked.  “Or give me a tongue bath?”

“A bit of both, I think.”

Xander laughed.  “Sounds good to me.”  He pulled Angel’s head back up so
they were facing each other.  He kissed Angel gently.  “Jealous much?”

“All your fault,” Angel countered.  “You shouldn’t have worked so hard at
teasing Lindsey.”

“I wasn’t teasing Lindsey.”  Xander stepped away from Angel and walked
toward the bathroom.  “I was teasing you.”

That little dig deserved retaliation.  Angel started after his lover.

Xander spoke again.  “Don’t forget to grab that mirror.  We don’t want Doyle
or Cordelia to show up for work tomorrow and get more of a show than usual.”

Swearing softly, Angel turned around and picked up the mirror.  He’d have to
hide it in the bedroom until he could get Wesley to break the spell.
Although really, there was no rush on that.  They had more important things
to worry about right now.  He’d get back to Wesley about it later.

Right now, he had a shower to get to.
 
 
 
 
 

Xander leaned against the doorframe, blinking in the sunlight as he watched
 

the pair of monks walk away from the office.  “Thank you again,” he called.
 

“Come visit us again anytime you’ve been working on your bottle-making
techniques.  I’m always more then happy to be your willing test subject.”
He held up a half-empty bottle of wine to demonstrate his thanks.

Brother Thom half-turned and raised his hand in farewell.  “But of course
you are, Alexander.  We will also come see you when we’ve developed new
sermons and prayers.  You will no doubt enjoy sampling those as well.”

“So long as I have this wine, I’m sure we’ll work something out.”  Xander
waved good-bye once more.  The big farewell scene was for the benefit of
anyone who might be watching the monks.  Brothers Thom and Marcus had
brought the information that Lindsey had hidden to them, with a few bottles
of wine to act as a cover for the reason for their visit.

Before he could return inside, he caught sight of two people approaching
from the opposite direction.  He stayed in the doorway, grinning lazily at
Doyle and Wesley as they walked down the street.  “Coming in a bit late,
aren’t you, gentlemen?”

“Wesley wanted to be here at dawn, but I convinced him to push it back until
now.”  Doyle leered at Xander.  “As much fun as watching you and Angel
grapple on the floor is, it does tend to make it difficult to talk to you.
All that grunting makes it damn hard to understand what you’re trying to
say, much less get your attention.”

Xander leaned to the side to allow the two men to pass him.  As he moved to
follow them, he winced as his body gave him a muted reminder of his actions
last night.  It was a good reminder, driving home how much he loved Angel,
including everything he and Angel did.  The grin that crossed his face felt
smug on his lips.

Wesley caught both the grin and the wince.  “It seems you had a good time
last night.”

Trying his best to look innocent, Xander shook his head.  “What are you
talking about?  I pulled a muscle last night dancing.”

“Is that what you Americans are calling now?”  Wesley shook his head.  “And
isn’t a little early to be indulging in wine?”

“I’m not indulging; I’m *tasting*.  The brothers are working on their
bottling techniques.  They’ve learned a few tricks from the enclave of
Lurile demons in the southern part the city and they’re trying them out.”

“You’re acting as sommelier for them?”  Wesley asked.

Doyle shook his head.  “I can’t get into all that spitting.”

Xander forced his expression to be utterly blank.  “Spitting?”

“Yes.  In a proper wine tasting, you’re supposed to...” Wesley caught on to
Xander’s act.  He shot him a disgusted look.  “If I wasn’t so afraid of your
boyfriend, I’d turn you into something small and easy to crush under one’s
heel.”

“Yeah, well, if I wasn’t so scared of *your* boyfriend, I’d tell him all
about that torrid night of passion that we shared back in Sunnydale, when
you -”  Xander ducked the playful punch Doyle threw at him.  “Come on.  My
scarier half is waiting downstairs.”

“My, my,” Doyle said.  “He couldn’t even make it up the stairs?”

Xander gave up.  He wasn’t up to this level of sparring, not on the amount
of sleep he’d not had the night before.  He led the way down the stairs to
where Angel sat on the couch, re-reading the packet of letters that the
monks had left along with the wine.  He sank down easily onto the couch,
leaning into Angel’s bulk as he glanced over the papers once more over his
lover’s shoulder.  “Any thoughts?”

“Mm.”  Angel turned his head and nuzzled at Xander’s neck.  “But none that I
can act on now that we have company.”

“Everyone’s a comedian today.”  Despite his grousing, Xander didn’t hesitate
to steal a kiss.  “I was talking about the information.”

“Oh, that.”  Angel smiled at him, the expression lighting up his face before
he became serious once more.  “I think we’re on the right track, and that
we’ve already taken the major step that were needed.”

“For those of us who haven’t had the chance to read the papers, would you
mind sharing with us those steps?”  Wesley and Doyle settled in on the other
couch.

“We actually had most of it right.”  Angel handed the papers over to Wesley.
  “Wolfram and Hart have been branching out into entertainment.  They’ve
been advertising among the wealthy and unscrupulous, offering them the
chance to experience a truly unique form of ‘extreme hunting’.  At the same
time, they’ve been recruiting among the demons in the city, looking for
beings willing to be hunted.  They make the offer sound like the demons
might have a chance of actually surviving the hunt and promise them generous
rewards if they do.  In reality, no demon has ever survived the hunt.”

“Except JD,” Xander said.  “He’s an anomaly, but Wolfram and Hart have been
using even that their advantage, describing him as the ultimate challenge
and upping the price for the privilege of hunting him and eventually being
killed by him.”

“Clever bastards,” Doyle said.  “So how are we going to stop them?  I think
we’ve gotten to a good start by spreading the word about what’s going on in
the community.”

“Exactly,” Angel agreed.  “That’s going to go a long way in drying up the
supply of demons who will play willing victim to them.  And now that we’ve
got Spike under wraps, they are going to go out of business.”

Xander nodded.  “I’m definitely going to go along with that.  Outright
confrontation with them is still not a viable option.  If they get
desperate, we’re going to be destroyed and so will be anything unlucky
enough to be in a ten mile radius of us.  We can attack their venture,
though, and drive them out of business in this area.”

Before they could discuss the matter further, Angel raised his head and
looked up at the ceiling.  “Cordelia’s here.  And I think she brought
company.”

At that same moment, banging commenced from the floor.  Angel glared down at
it.  “That had better not be Spike.”

Xander stood up and walked over the hatch-way.  “Maybe I’d better get it,
then.”  He unlocked and lifted the latch, then stepped back to give it room.
  The hatch swung open with a bang.

“Christ, it took you long enough to open up,” JD said, levering himself up
and into the room.

Bowing floridly, Xander offered him a hand up.  “I’m so sorry, your
Highness.  I forgot that it was my task in life to wait attendance upon your
every whim.”

“That’s all right, pet,” JD said in his most irritatingly condescending
tone.  “Just don’t let it happen again.”

Xander let go of the vampire, laughing as the thinner man stumbled a little
as he struggled to regain his balance.  “Close the door behind you.”

Sulking, JD turned around and locked the latch behind him.  He flopped down
onto a chair.  “So have we learned anything?  Or will Xander be whoring
himself out again tonight?”

Xander grabbed a magazine off the table, rolled it up, and smacked JD over
the head with it.  “We’ve got all the information we need.  We’re just
coming up with a plan, now.”

“We’re all doomed,” JD mourned.

Xander hit him again.

Before the violence could escalate, Cordelia and Gunn exited the elevator.
Cordelia slowed down when she saw JD.  “What are you still doing here?”

“That’s what I’m wondering,” JD said.  “I can’t take staying cooped up in
that hotel room much longer.”

“You’ve already watched all the porn movies they offer?” Xander asked.

“Twice.”  JD grinned nastily at Cordelia.  “And my wrist is getting sore.”

The magazine caught JD across the face that time.  “If you can’t behave, you
can go sit back in your hotel room and jerk off until your wrist breaks.
You will play nicely or you won’t be allowed to play at all.”  Xander waited
until JD gave him a reluctant nod.  JD’s peculiar brand of humor wasn’t
going to help anything.  It was fine for when he and JD were alone; then
they could spend hours trying to out-nasty each other.  Right now, they had
more important things to do.  The sniping and the playing could come later.

Nodding over toward the chairs that remained open, Xander tried a smile out
on Gunn.  “Why don’t you two take a seat and we’ll catch you up on what
we’ve find out?”  His smile grew as Gunn and Cordelia both sat down.  He sat
down beside Angel and listened as his lover laid out the information Lindsey
had given them, as well as the steps they had already taken to counteract
the lawyers.

Gunn leaned forward when Angel was finished, resting his elbows on his
knees.  “So why exactly are we going to dancing around these guys instead of
going for a full on attack?”

“It would be a lot like standing in front of tank and throwing bananas at
it,” Cordelia said.  “Yeah, you’d gunk it up, but it in the end it still
runs right over you.”

Gunn held himself very still for a moment, then grinned and nodded.  “Got
it.  So we’re playing this like guerillas, then?”

“Exactly.”  Xander nudged Angel stealthily.  He hadn’t missed how easy Gunn
and Cordy were in each other’s presence, or how Gunn was willing to take
teasing from her that he wouldn’t accept from any of them.  He didn’t know
if anything could come of this, but it would be interesting to find out.
Angel nudged him back very gently.

Pulling his mind back to business, Xander spoke again.  “We might be able to
stop them from finding anymore willing victims, but that doesn’t mean that
they won’t resort to hunting unwilling demons.”  That possibility worried
him.  It was the sort of thing that could trigger a war between the species
and that was the absolute last thing he’d ever want to see happen.

Doyle shook his head emphatically.  “We can’t let that happen.”

“You’ve taken away their only willing prey,” JD said.  “So how can you stop
them?”

“I think you might actually be the key,” Xander said.

Wesley sat up so fast he dropped the sheaf of papers to the floor.  “Yes!
Yes, that could be exactly it.  Spike, you usually killed those who hunted
you, correct?”  After JD nodded, Wesley nodded in satisfaction.  “Perfect.
Then we just make the consequences of hunting demons so dire that they
outweigh any potential thrill that the hunt can provide.”

JD raised an eyebrow.  “I thought that’s what I was doing?”

“Not on a wide enough scale to make any true difference to their business,”
Xander countered.  “So you ate the real gung-ho thrill seekers.  That still
left all the less adventurous ones out there, paying money and killing
demons.  We’ve got to make sure that every single deal they make goes sour,
that every customer walks away dissatisfied.”

“Who says they have to walk away, pet?”

Xander raised the magazine threateningly.  “I say.  Stupid humans are still
humans and that means they are off the menu.  Besides, there are other ways
to have fun with them beside eating them.”  He wiggled his eyebrows up and
down.

JD stared at him for a moment and then began to laugh.  Xander joined him,
the anticipation of the havoc they could wreak more than he could contain.

This was going to be *fun*.
 
 
 
 
 

Working shouldn’t be this much fun.  Angel was convinced of that.  They had
 

to be doing something wrong, but since The Powers hadn’t called them on it
yet, they were going to keep doing it.  As long as Doyle stayed vision-free,
they could stay this course and continue to enjoy themselves.  Angel crowded
into Xander a little, peering around the corner to get a better view of what
was happening.

Cordelia screamed again, her crying echoing in the small space, cringing
back against the brick wall of the alley as she held a small bottle of
pepper spray in front of her as a futile shield.  “Someone help, please!”

Spike snarled and took a step closer to her, vamped out with golden eyes
gleaming demonically in dark.  Doyle circled behind him, sporting the green
skin and spikes that were the legacy of his Bracchan heritage.  They moved
closer and closer to Cordelia, menace clear in their gazes and movements.

Elbowing Angel in a request for more room, Xander raised his walkie-talkie
to his lips.  “Where are they?”

Angel rolled his eyes.  “Aren’t you going to say ‘over’?”  He’d lost the
argument over whether or not they needed walkie talkies.  Xander, Spike, and
*Gunn* had teamed up against him, declaring that they had to have the
gadgets if they were going to be able to coordinate their movements
perfectly.

Xander elbowed him again.  “Over,” he said defiantly.

The walkie talkie crackled in his hands.  //They’re running towards the
alley,// Gunn said.  //Fools are going to walk right into the trap and not
suspect a thing.//  There was a pause and then, //Over//.

Angel banged his head gently against the wall.  They trying to make him
crazy.  It was some kind of plot they had to discuss while he wasn’t paying
attention.  Unfortunately, he had to put up with it for the sake of the
larger plan.  Everyone had come together to accomplish the common goal of
driving Wolfram and Hart out of the hunting business.  Xander had given
Spike permission to contact the law firm and place himself at their disposal
once more.  The lawyers had leapt upon his offer of working for them; their
intense interest in him indicated that Doyle and Xander’s efforts in the
non-human community had worked.  If Wolfram and Hart were desperately glad
to have Spike working for them again, then they must not have been able to
find anyone to replace him.  There would be no more unsuspecting demon
victims, fooled into giving up their lives by the slick deceptions of the
lawyers.

Placing Spike back into circulation guaranteed that Angel and the others
would know exactly what the hunters would be after.  By following Spike,
they had been able to identify the hunters.  All they had needed to do then
was lay the trap; by having Spike and another obvious demon seem to threaten
Cordelia, they were guaranteed to draw the hunters completely out into the
open.  It was a small-scale operation.  Xander’s friends from The Other Side
had volunteered to help, as had the monks, but Angel and the others had
decided to keep it in the family, so to speak.  The fewer targets they gave
to Wolfram and Hart, the better.

The walkie-talkie crackled in Xander’s hands.  //Here they come,// Gunn said
shortly.

A group of four men entered the alley, dressed in dark clothing and carrying
weapons; long-barreled guns and poorly concealed knives from what Angel
could see.  They paused at the mouth of the alley, taking in the scene
Spike, Doyle and Cordelia had created for them, and then they entered it
completely.  One of them took the lead as they ran forward, pulling his gun
out into the open and shouting at Spike.  “Leave that girl alone!”

Spike and Doyle turned around to face the humans.  “All right,” Spike said
equably.  “Mind if we tear out your innards instead, then?”

The leading hunter raised his weapon.  “You’ll never get the chance.  Time
for you to die, monster.”

“Christ, you Americans all sound like poorly written action movies.  Can’t
you ever think of anything original to say?”  Wesley stepped into the mouth
of the alley with Gunn following close behind.  A quickly muttered spell had
cast illusions over the three human males, making them look like demons.
Wesley had chosen to make himself appear Bracchan, while Gunn and Xander
were unidentifiable but equally fierce in fake horns and scaled skin.

“That’s our cue.”  Xander hopped off their perch and stretched.  Angel
followed him, shifting into game face as he did so.  Xander grinned at him.
“I want the one in the plaid shirt.  He’s hunting demons in LA and he’s
wearing plaid?”  He shook his head.  “That guy is mine.”  He ran to the
alley, blocking off the other end.

Angel allowed himself to smile.  His fangs would twist the expression into
something threatening, so he didn’t have to stop himself from enjoying this.

The hunters had begun to shift nervously, moving so they faced outward in a
circle.  One monster had become two monsters had become four monsters had
become six.  This wasn’t what they had bargained for, wasn’t the deal they’d
bought in to.

Angel took a step forward.  They couldn’t let these guys catch their
balance.  They had to keep up the pressure and make sure the humans
continued to just react, rather than allowing them to begin to think.  “Look
what we’ve found.  Another group of hunters.”

Xander shook his head.  “Another order of takeout,” he corrected.  He bared
his teeth, and Wesley’s illusion filled his mouth with dripping fangs.  It
was strange; Angel could see the illusion, but at the same time he could see
the man he loved underneath.  The hunters saw only a blood thirty monster,
while Angel could also see a young man struggling with to contain the
laughter that filled his eyes.

One of the hunters raised his gun.  “Back off.”

“Christ, didn’t they tell you anything before they took your money?”  Angel
took another step forward.  “Bullets won’t do you any good against
vampires.”  He shifted his weight slightly, aligning his body with Xander’s.
  He didn’t plan on giving these men a chance to use their weapons, but if
by some strange fluke one of them got a shot off, the bullet was going to
have to go through him before it could reach Xander.

Spike’s cruel laughter echoed through the alley way.  “They tell them, but
these idiots never listen.  It just makes them easier to kill.”

“I’m getting tired of killing these guys,” Gunn said.

“So you’re not going to help us rip them apart?” Doyle asked.

“Oh, no.  I’m definitely down for some carnage.  These guys are going to
die.  But what about the next group?  And the group after that?  One of
these days those lawyers are going to accidentally sell a package to a human
with a minimum amount of brains.  He’s going to run around with his buddies
and they might actually hurt someone.”

“So what do you think we should do?” Wesley asked.

“News about these hunting trips has to be travelling somehow.  I’m thinking
it’s word of mouth.  One guy hears about it from one of his rich ass friends
and decides that he’s gotta try it, too.”

Xander nodded enthusiastically.  “I see where you’re going with this.  I bet
word of mouth would spread about retribution, too.”

“Retribution?” blurted one of the hunters.
“I wonder how much these assholes would like to be hunted?” Doyle asked.

“I wonder how much they’d like to have their children hunted?” Spike
countered.  “What do you want to bet they were stupid enough to carry
wallets so we’ll know right where to find their families?”

All of the humans paled and two clapped hands over bulging pockets.  Angel
laughed aloud.  They actually were that stupid.  He glanced at his lover.
Xander was grinning like a maniac, which only made his illusion face appear
more demonic.  Angel cocked his head to the side.  “So we kill these fools,
then go look up their families?”

“We might be able to make some good money on this,” Xander mused.  “If
they’re so eager to hunt us, maybe we can find some people in our
neighborhood who’d be willing to shell out some money for the chance to hunt
them back.”

Spike perked up.  “Would we charge them for each member of the family, or
just one bulk rate for the whole thing?”  The tone in his voice was
completely heartless and utterly mercenary.

It was more than the would be hunters could stand.  Desperation clear on
their faces, they gripped their weapons tighter, each one glancing about
rapidly, searching for a way to escape.

Angel didn’t want anyone to get hurt.  This whole scene was about scaring
these idiots so badly that they’d never consider returning to Los Angeles,
so badly that they spread the word about staying away from the city and away
from Wolfram and Hart to all of their over-wealthy friends.  He moved in on
them a bit, circling as he did so in order to open up an escape route for
them.  Xander picked up on what he was doing immediately and circled in the
opposite direction, widening the way for them.

The hunters didn’t move.  Fear held them too strongly in its grip and they
were paralyzed with it.  Angel sighed and caught Gunn’s eyes.  He jerked his
chin toward the hunters.  Gunn grinned at him and then lunged forward, going
low.  That was all it took to break the humans’ nerve.  As a group they ran
for the exit to the alley, a mad scramble for escape that had nothing to do
with dignity and everything to do with terror.

As the sound of running footsteps faded, Spike and Xander started to laugh,
mild giggles that became chuckles that became wild guffaws.  Leaning against
each other, they laughed helplessly, barely noticing when Wesley dismissed
the illusion that surrounded the humans with a quick gesture.

Shaking her head, Cordelia glared in the direction the hunters had fled.
“They totally abandoned me.  They ran away and left me to be killed!”  She
raised her middle finger toward the entrance.  “Cowards!”  She turned around
and watched Xander and Spike laugh.  “Next time, I want to be a demon.  You
guys get to have all the fun.”

“But then who will be the victim?” Xander asked.

“Are you saying I have to be the victim because I’m a woman?”  Cordelia’s
voice was dangerous.

Clapping a hand over Spike’s mouth, Xander shook his head vigorously.  “No.
Absolutely not.  I especially wouldn’t say anything like that to a Sunnydale
survivor.  You’re the best actor among us, though, and I’m not sure any of
the rest of us could keep a straight face like you’ve been able to.”  He
smiled appealingly.  “It wouldn’t look very real if the demons were growling
and snarling and the poor helpless human got an attack of the giggles, would
it?”

Cordelia didn’t look convinced.  “I’m pretty sure you could do it.  Just
remember what it was like for you back in junior high and pretty soon you’ll
be screaming like a little boy all over again.”  She crossed her arms over
her chest and stared at him challengingly.

Angel couldn’t resist asking.  “Junior high?”

“I was a geek,” Xander admitted with an embarrassed half-smile.  “I spent
many a recess screaming like a little boy.”

Gunn laughed out loud.  “Damn.  You really were a nerd?”

“What, you didn’t believe me when I told you about him?” Cordelia demanded.

“I do now,” Gunn said.

Angel caught Xander’s gaze.  His lover was grinning like a madman as Gunn
and Cordelia proceeded to engage in a flirtatious mock argument.  Angel
didn’t know if anything would come of this, but he liked seeing his two
friends enjoy themselves, almost as much as he liked seeing how much Xander
was amused and intrigued by the possibilities.

His laughter now firmly under control, Xander stepped away from Spike,
invading Angel’s space.  “I could be the victim next time.  We should change
the dynamics of the trap to help keep Wolfram and Hart off balance for as
long as possible.”

“It’ll be a week before they have another group ready,” Spike said.  “We’ve
got plenty of time to design a new set-up.”

It was all coming together.  They terrified this batch of hunters, and they
could do it again.  It wouldn’t take long for Wolfram and Hart to be put out
of business, at least in this area.  It wasn’t the war, but at least it was
a battle they could claim for their side.  Pulling Xander into his arms,
Angel stole a quick kiss.  “If you want to be victim, I think we can pull it
off.  Wesley can make Cordelia look like a demon.”  He glanced over at
Wesley for confirmation, just to be sure, but the Englishman was no longer
in the alley.

Neither was Doyle.

Ignoring Xander’s renewed laughter, Angel concentrated on using his hearing
to locate his missing friends.  Muffled pants and subdued groans almost a
block away let him know where they were and what they were doing.  He shook
his head.

“You found them?” Xander asked.

“They’re not far away.”  Angel shook his head.  “Don’t they live about four
miles from here?”

“Hey, at least they left the alley.  They could have just tried hiding
behind the dumpster.”

Angel stopped Xander’s continuing laughter with another kiss.  It wasn’t a
celebratory kiss.  It wasn’t time to celebrate, not quite yet.  They
frightened a single group of would-be hunters into leaving Los Angeles, but
they wouldn’t be the last group to be lured to the city by the oily promises
of Wolfram and Hart.  They hadn’t won, but they had taken the first
important step in stopping the heinous new business the lawyers had
concocted.

That was reason enough to steal a kiss from his lover.
 
 
 
 
 

Xander yawned hugely, leaning back against the rough brick wall of the
 

nearest building.  He’d been working since he was fifteen.  He’d hefted
 

kegs, worked till last call every night for a week, helped reinforce walls
in the monastery when his aid had been useful - it wasn’t as though he
wasn’t used to physical labor.  “Since when is messing with people’s minds
such hard work?”

Squatting down beside him, Gunn shook his head.  “I dunno, man.  You’d think
this would be getting easier over time, but I don’t think it has.”

“Weenies.”  Cordelia danced a little in place.  “This is fun.  I just wish I
could see what I looked like to those idiots.”

Xander glanced at the running sores that mottled the scaled skin of her
demonic appearance.  “No.  Trust me, you don’t.”  Wes had gone a little
overboard with the illusions this time.  “How can you be so energetic?”  He
knew the likely answer.  Cordy had managed to talk her way out of being on
scouting duty *again*.  This time, she had helped Spike menace Doyle while
Xander and Gunn had been scurrying along behind the hunters, keeping an eye
on them and making sure they walked right into the trap that had been set.

“I’m a professional,” she answered airily, flipping her hair back over her
shoulder.  “It’s acting.  It’s what I do best.”

Yielding without further comment, Xander glanced up at the sky.  “That took
way longer than it should have.”  Dawn couldn’t be far off.

“What else were we supposed to do?” Gunn asked.  “Those morons couldn’t
follow a trail for shit.  If they hadn’t figured out how to track Doyle’s
yelling, I was going to start tearing the hair out of Spike’s head and
laying down a better trail myself.”

“You could have tried,” JD said, baring his teeth.  “And you’re right, Xan.
Sun’s coming up soon.”

Xander shoved himself to his feet, accepting Angel’s offered hand
gratefully.  “The Other Side is a few blocks down.  Tark’ll give us shelter
from the sun.”

“And breakfast?” Wesley ask hopefully.

“Even for the mortality-challenged among us.”  Xander grinned at Angel,
still holding his hand.  He loved the fact that Angel didn’t try to move
away or free his hand.  Big tough defeater of evil, holding his boyfriend’s
hand.  Xander kissed Angel briefly, not offering any explanation.  “Come
on,” he said to Gunn and Cordelia.  “You’re all invited.”  He took it as a
victory when they both agreed.  He and Gunn had worked well together over
the past few nights.  He was hopeful that a real friendship would strengthen
between them.

It was only a short walk to the bar.  It was long past closing time, even by
demon standards, so Xander used his key to let them all inside.  “Tark?” he
called.  “Friendlies coming in, looking for sanctuary.”  He breathed in the
familiar scent of The Other Side, cigarette smoke, alcohol and late nights.
This smell had once meant home to him.

Tark emerged from his office with a single eyebrow raised.  “Does this look like
a church?”

“Nope,” Xander said cheerfully.  “It looks like a diner.  What’s on the
breakfast menu?”  He wasn’t intimidated by Tark’s stare, nor by his boss’s
towering size or strange horn in the center of his forehead.  This was the
man who had taken in a scared kid and given him a place to live and work,
given him the time he needed to get his feet back under him and figure out
how to go about living his life.  He could never be afraid of Tark.

Angel visited The Other Side on a regular basis.  He made himself at home,
sitting easily on a stool at the bar.  Doyle and Wesley had also visited the
bar on occasion and joined Angel, JD trailing along behind them.  Cordelia
had never been there before, and of course neither had Gunn.  The two humans
looked around curiously.

“It looks just like a regular bar,” Gunn said.

“Almost,” Cordelia qualified, looking at a few low chairs that had obviously
been built for beings with far more than two legs.

“Is the kitchen still working?” Xander asked, giving Gunn and Cordelia a
chance to look around on their own.

Tark nodded.  “Grefil’s still back there.  I can ask him to see what he can
put together.”

“He doesn’t have to do that.”

The tall demon waved off his concern.  “Forget about it.  You know he loves
having a chance to cook *exotic* dishes.”  He disappeared into the back.

Xander hopped behind the bar and opened up one of the well-stocked
refrigerators hidden behind it.  As he rummaged around, he heard someone
clear their throat.  He glanced at Cordelia.  “Yeah?”

“What did he mean by *exotic*?” she asked.  “I don’t know if I’m up for a
demon’s idea of exotic food.”

He laughed.  “Grefil does all the cooking here.  We don’t serve humans much,
so he thinks normal human fare is exotic.  He’ll probably scramble a few
eggs, maybe get all crazy and throw together some hashbrowns, too.  Relax.
He hasn’t managed to kill me yet.”  Xander turned his attention back to the
refrigerator.  “Aha!”  He pulled out a few bottles of orange juice and a few
of water, placing them on the bar.  A quick search of another fridge gave
him a few bottles of blood as well, which he passed to JD and Angel.  “On
the house, people.  Drink up.”

Xander stayed behind the bar as he sipped his water.  He felt strange being
on the other side of it.  He grinned as the others all gathered at the bar
to claim something to drink.  Scaring the living shit out of people was
thirsty work.

When Tark re-emerged from the back, Xander raised a water bottle toward him
in a silent invitation to join them.  The tall demon slowly walked over and
accepted the bottle with a nod of thanks.  “He’ll be out soon with
breakfast,” he said.

JD tossed back the last of his blood in a swaggering gulp.  “I think this is
the longest you’ve ever gone without threatening me, mate,” he said,
grinning at Tark.

Xander rolled his eyes.  JD just couldn’t leave things be.  For once he and
Tark were managing to ignore the fact that the other existed and silence was
reigning in The Other Side.  Tark had never quite forgiven JD for trying to
eat Xander when they’d first met.  JD had been taught a quick, bloody lesson
both by Xander and the demons that had been with him.  Realizing that JD had
been distracted and off his form because of a break up, and being in a
similar situation himself, Xander had decided not to dust the blond vampire,
but had instead dragged him into The Other Side for drinks and
commiseration.  He’d gotten past their ugly first meeting...but Tark hadn’t.
  His boss tolerated JD’s presence, but he didn’t like him.

Tark sipped his water and didn’t even bother to look over at JD.  “That also
had been the longest you’d ever gone without saying something stupid.”

Laughing, Xander pointed at JD.  “He’s got a point.”

Angel shook his head.  “I think he might have gone longer once.  It was back
in...no, wait.  I’m wrong.  This was definitely the longest.”

Xander laughed harder, ignoring JD’s rude hand gesture.  He levered himself
up and slightly over the bar, stealing a quick kiss from Angel.  “I’ve still
got a room in the back,” he said quietly.  “We can stay until the sun sets.”

“Hey!”  JD left off making faces over the kiss.  “What about me?”

“The front door’s open,” Tark suggested with a negligent wave of his hand.

“There’s also a spare room far away from your office,” Xander reminded him.
“JD, you can stay quiet in there.  Stay.  Quiet.”

“Or there’s the front door,” Tark reminded him.

JD scowled and waved his empty bottle of blood at Xander.  “Fine.  Staying
and quiet coming up...once I’ve been properly fed.”

Xander fetched a second bottle for him, as well as another Angel.  His lover
likely wouldn’t ask for one and Xander didn’t want him to deliberately allow
himself to be undernourished.  A clatter of noise drew his attention to the
doors of the kitchen.  Grefil was done with breakfast.  Jogging quickly over
to the doors, Xander met the Lrabosh demon and helped him with the trays he
was juggling.  The scent of eggs and bacon and toast assailed him and his
stomach growled, reminding him all over again how hungry he was.  As soon as
he and Grefil put the trays down, the others were immediately there,
reaching eagerly for plates and exclaiming over the food that awaited them.

Xander watched in disbelieving amusement as Angel battled for a plate,
snatching it away from Wesley’s fingertips.  He was about to ask about his
lover’s sudden interest in food when Angel slid the plate over to him with a
small smile.  Swallowing down the sarcastic comment that he’d prepared,
Xander took the plate with a nod and a brief caress of Angel’s hand.  He ate
gratefully, warm food replacing the energy that he’d lost while sneaking all
over the city.

He blinked when he’d cleared his plate.  He’d barely started eating and he
was already finished?  He glanced around at the others and saw that even
Cordy had inhaled her food.  They were all finished, or just about.  Xander
laughed out loud.  “Christ, we’re never this wiped out, not even after
clearing out a nest of Percips demons.”

“Nothing’s more exhausting than working with the imbecilic,” JD declared.
“Nothing.”

“What are you talking about?” Gunn asked.  “You didn’t have to chase them
all over the city.”

“Who said I was talking about the hunters?”  JD stared directly at the tall
young man.

Every time Xander thought JD couldn’t get anymore obnoxious, the vampire
went and proved him wrong.  “All right,” Xander said, sliding easily into
the role of peace-keeper, just like he did when he was working the bar and
things began to get ugly.  He grabbed JD’s shoulder and forced him to look
away from Gunn.  “Someone’s obviously up past his bedtime.  I think it’s
time for everyone to call it a day, turn in, and we’ll regroup later
tonight.”  He watched Gunn carefully, waiting for his reaction.

Gunn shook his head slowly, but when he caught Xander’s eye he forced a grin
to his lips.  “Catch you later tonight,” he promised.  “Hey - and good work
today.”

Xander grin was equal parts relief and gratitude.  “Likewise, man.  Next
time I’m playing headgames with the rich and brainless, I want you on my
team.”

Gun laughed, then looked at Cordelia.  “Need a ride home?”

Carefully not looking at any of the men she worked with, Cordelia nodded.
“That would be great.”  The two of them left.

Wesley and Doyle also stood.  “We’ll see you back at the office,” Doyle
said.

“Just be sure the two of you remember to show up,” Xander said.  “You didn’t
get to have your usually alley break tonight.”

Doyle leaned forward, ready to reply, but Wesley dragged him backwards
toward the door.  “Not right now,” said the Englishman.

“There are some very nice alleys on the way back to your place,” Angel
called.

Choking on a giggle, Xander added, “There’s even a cul-de-sac!”  The
departing lovers ignored his last comments, closing the door firmly behind
them.  He turned his attention to JD and concealed a smile as he caught the
vampire nodding a little over his blood.  Superhuman speed and strength
could only compensate so long for night after night of tracking and
frightening.  “C’mon, JD.  Lemme show you your room.”

“Planning on keeping me company, pet?”  JD’s look was decidedly lascivious
as he watched Xander move around from behind the bar..

“I’d love to, but my father would never approve.”  He nodded back over
towards Tark.

The large demon glared mildly at JD.  “You go into your room alone, or else
you go out the front door.  You don’t get any other options.”

“I’m a mite tired, so I’ll take the room option.”

Xander led JD to the bedroom before he could get himself into any more
trouble.  Small, it was windowless and had a bed Xander knew was comfy.  It
would be good enough until nightfall.  “Sleep well.”

“What, no good night kiss?”  JD’s voice was pitched loud enough to be
overheard.

“Bastard.  You keep that up and I’ll have Angel and Tark back here to tuck
you in.”  Shaking his head, he closed the door on the blond man’s smirk and
returned to the bar.  A yawn caught him by surprise and his jaw gaped
hugely.

“Time for bed,” Tark said.  “Your room is just like you left it.”

“Thanks, Dad.”  Xander cocked his head to the side as he looked over at
Angel.  “Are you ready?”

Angel glanced at the dirty dishes.  “Shouldn’t we get these?”

“Don’t worry about it.  The cleaning crew hasn’t come through yet.”  Tark
waved away Angel’s concern.  “Besides, you’re working for this community.  A
free meal and some cleaning up after is far less then you’re owed.”

Sometimes Xander really wished vampires could blush.  He was sure Angel
would be if it was possible.  He reached out and took Angel’s hand.  “Come
on, hero.  Let’s go.”  He led Angel back to the room that was still reserved
for him.

Angel looked at it curiously, taking in the plain walls and low shelves with
a few lonely scattered books on them.  “How long did you live here?”

“A couple of years.  I moved out to the monastery when I started to get
serious about school.  This was a great place to start out, it kept me safe
and sane when I was still getting my feet under me in this city, but it’s a
little noisy for serious studying.”  Xander shook out the top blanket on the
bed.  A full size, so it would  be a close fit.

Not that a close fit was any kind of a problem.

He stripped off his shirt and folded it up, putting it on one of the
shelves.  He slowly stripped down to his briefs, watching in appreciation as
Angel did the same.  Xander climbed into bed, letting Angel get the light.
His lover had vampiric sight, so he could take the risk of crossing the
darkened room.

Once in bed, Angel moved closer to Xander.  Xander wormed his way into his
lover’s arms.  He held his peace, waiting until Angel’s hands had caressed
their way down to his ass.  “Have you seen those TV shows where people are
home visiting their parents and get all weirded out by the thought of doing
something in their childhood bed?”

Angel’s hands froze.  “No, I don’t think I have.”  He cleared his throat.
“Is that what’s happening to you?”

Xander nodded and snuggled closer, being sure to wriggle in all the wrong
places.  “It’s like doing anything at all in this bed would be very, very
wrong.”

Sliding his hands upward, Angel sighed.  “I understand.”

“It’s a good thing I’m a bad boy.”  Xander nipped Angel’s ear.

Angel froze once more, then growled and pinned Xander to the mattress.
“That wasn’t nice.”

“Then punish me,” Xander said, thrusting up against his lover.

Angel tore away at their remaining clothing, dropping the shorts to the
floor and running his hands over Xander’s bare skin in a rough massage.
Xander returned that caresses, cool skin like heaven under his searching
hands.  There was no finesse to this coupling, but Xander didn’t want
finesse.  He wanted Angel, wanted the scent of his lover surrounding him as
all his pale muscled body drove against him, each thrust bringing delicious,
maddening friction as their erections slid against each other.

Angel’s weight pushed him down into the mattress, a comforting mass that
grounded Xander and held him firmly in the moment.  This was the taste of
Angel’s mouth, dark and mysterious and better than anything.  This was scent
of Angel’s hair, expensive shampoo and styling gel that were such a part of
Angel that Xander couldn’t imagine him without them.  This was the sight of
Angel’s face, pale in the dim light with eyes that gleamed faintly golden.
This was the sound of Angel’s pleasured growls, mixing with his own
desperate pants in a rhythm of need and lust.  This was the feeling of
Angel’s tongue swiping again and again over his neck, just where it joined
his shoulder.

Xander tilted his head back and threaded his fingers through Angel’s hair.
“Do it,” he urged.  “Now, Angel.”

He didn’t have to ask again.  Sharp pain burned at the point of the fangs’
entry and he hissed, enjoying the sensation even before the hurt gave way to
pleasure.  Angel was claiming him once more, bonding them once more, making
them one once more.  With a final thrust against his lover Xander came,
fisting his hands in Angel’s hair.  Angel soon followed him into release.

Panting lightly, Xander knew in a few moments he’d get up and do a brief
clean up so they wouldn’t awaken stuck together.  Angel would tease him
about watching bad TV and complain about having his hair man-handled, while
Xander would respond with cracks about needing to join the 21st century and
hair-gel of steel jokes.  He was willing to wait a little while for that to
happen.  In this moment, he was skin to skin with his lover, warm from
loving and held close in arms that felt like they’d never let him go.  Angel
was laving his throat with gentle, greedy strokes of his tongue while
Xander’s fingers traced mindless patterns on his back.  For the moment,
Xander had everything he wanted, everything he needed.  The future could
take care of itself.
 
 
 
 

Angel ignored Cordelia’s restless shifting from side to side, staying
focused instead on the itemized list of bills she’d handed to him.  It was
time to wrap things up by doing a final accounting of the expenses they’d
incurred while shutting down Wolfram and Hart.  The lawyers had stopped
calling Spike a week ago.  They hadn’t given any explanation for their
sudden lack of interest, but then Spike hadn’t needed one.  He’d been a
major player in the reason why Wolfram and Hart couldn’t keep their hunting
expeditions going.

There hadn’t yet been any real repercussions from their interference, and
Angel didn’t expect any.  The hunting hadn’t been a major part of their
business, but it had been one that Angel couldn’t let continue.  Innocents
were being exploited and he was in a position to stop it.  Everyone he
worked with had felt the same way, so he’d had no problem throwing his
support behind Xander in this.  He was relieved that it was over, though.
The nights had been fun but exhausting, and he’d be glad to get back to
whatever plan The Powers had for him.

“Angel?  Some of us have plans for tonight.”

Realizing that his attention had wandered, Angel looked back at Cordelia.
“I’m sorry.  All this looks good.”  He waited for an expression of relief to
cross her face before continuing.  “Well, almost all of it.”

“What are you talking about?”  Cordelia was all wide-eyed confusion.

“There’s just a few things here I don’t quite understand.  Like this charge
here for ‘distractionary footwear’?  And I had no idea it was possible for
‘miscellaneous items’ to cost as much as everything else combined.”

It only took a her a half-second to recover.  “See, and that’s exactly why
*I’m* in charge of accounting.  Did you expect to see a normal expense
sheet?  You’re in denial.  Our business is about as far from normal as you
can get.  Of course our expense sheets are going to be odd.  All you have to
do is sign off on it and we can get these paid and move on with our lives.”
She crossed her arms over her chest.

Angel sighed.  He could spend a half-hour trying to dig his way out of the
pile of bullshit she’d just flung at him.  Or he could let her go and get on
with his plans for the night.  He signed the paper and handed it to her.

“Thanks,” she said brightly, smiling at him before she walked away.

“That was very masterful.”  Xander leaned against the doorway, one eyebrow
raised mockingly.  “It’s certainly easy to tell who’s the boss of this here
company.”

“Yeah, it is.”  Angel folded his hands behind his head.  “But she lets me
sit in the big chair, so really, I’ve got no complaints.”

Xander laughed at him.  “Just so long as you know your place.”  He walked
over and kissed Angel, a quick brush of lips over lips.  “I promised the
Abbot that I’d stopped by after dinner tonight.  He wants to hear more about
what’s been keeping us so busy for the past few weeks.  I’ll be home in an
hour or so.”  He paused.  “Are you sure you don’t want to come along?”

“I’m sure,” Angel said.  “Give him my regards, though.  Next time I’ll make
it for sure.  There’s just a few things I need to wrap up tonight.”

“I’ll pass the message along,” Xander promised.  As he headed for the door
he glanced back over his shoulder.  “Do you know where Cordelia was off to?”

“No.  Home, I thought.”

“Nope.  She’s got a date.”  Xander grinned hugely.  “With Gunn.”  He waggled
his eyebrows up and down and then he was gone.

Angel blinked.  With Gunn?  He wished them luck.  It would certainly be
interesting to see what came of this.  He stood up from behind the desk and
walked back toward the library Wes had set up.  He and Doyle might still be
in the office.  Angel wouldn’t mind getting Wesley’s final thoughts on what
they’d just done.  It was a precarious balance of attack and stalemate
between their camp and Wolfram and Hart and Wesley’s perspective on how that
might have changed would be most welcome.

He’d been a little lost in his thoughts, so he hadn’t really been paying
attention to his surroundings.  That was why the sight that greeted him came
as such a shock.  A tangle of pale limbs writhed on the floor as Doyle
straddled Wesley, bending down to capture the Englishman’s mouth in a
searching kiss.  Muscles shifted under the smooth skin of Doyle’s back as
the Irishman rode his lover’s thrusts.

Angel backed away from the room silently, not wanting to disturb them.  When
they were finished, though, they were going to have a serious talk about sex
in the office.  He had a sneaking suspicion that Wesley and Doyle were
seeking some kind of revenge on him for his teasing the night before, but
there were limits.  He and Xander didn’t have sex in the office - much - and
he expected the same restraint from everyone else.  He had a sudden vision
of Cordelia and Gunn getting in on the game and groaned as he sat down in
his chair once more.  This had to be stopped.

He was working on clearing up some paperwork he’d been ignoring for a few
weeks when he heard the sound of approaching footsteps.  Angel looked up in
time to see Spike enter the office.  “Xander’s not here.”

“I know that.  I came to talk to you.”  Spike sauntered over to the client
chair and sat down, propping his boots up on the desk and pulling out a
cigarette.  “I’m leaving tonight.  Just wanted to make sure that we got a
few things straight before I go.”

Angel had a feeling he knew what was coming but he sill had to ask.
“Straight about what?”

“Xander.”  Spike took a long drag on his cigarette.  “He’s special.  Not
many humans out there that can accept vampires as they are.  Not many humans
out there can live what he has and come out sane and whole.”

“I know that,” Angel said.  “I know Xander.  I love him.”

“Yeah.  I think you might.  I just want to make sure we’re clear on this,
though:  if you ever do anything to hurt him, I’ll kill you.  No games.  No
bullshit.  Just you turning into dust and wafting away in the breeze before
you even know I’ve come for you.”

A bolt of jealousy shot through Angel.  Xander didn’t need Spike walking
around and threatening people for him.  He was an adult.  Besides, he had
Angel to do his threatening for him.  “I’m not going to hurt Xander.  I
couldn’t.  But what does it matter to you?”

Spike pulled his feet off the desk and leaned forward, staring into Angel’s
eyes.  “I don’t need friends.  I don’t want’em.  But Xander is my friend and
I’m not going to lose him.  Not to you.  Not to anything.”

Angel had been threatened by Spike before.  He could usually just shrug it
off, the thick bravado and theatricality to which Spike was given making him
easy to ignore.  This time, Angel believed him.  “It will never come down to
that.  Never.”

After a considering moment, Spike nodded.  “Fine.  Guess I won’t be killing
you, then.”

“Well, that’s good,” Xander said, walking into the room.  “Because I really
wasn’t looking forward to killing you.”  He raised his chin and sniffed
delicately at the air.  “Whoa.  There are nearly toxic levels of
testosterone in here.  What have you two boys been doing?”

“Just saying good-bye,” Spike lied easily.  He stood up and stretched.

“Uh-huh.”  Xander circled Spike with doubt clear on his features.  “Now, try
to remember this time that you do have my cell number memorized, all right?
Every so often I like to find out if you’re still among the non-living.”

“I can do that,” Spike said.  He held out his hand to Xander.  “Be seeing
you around, mate.”  When Xander took his hand, the vampire jerked him
forward abruptly and took his mouth in a deep kiss.  A swift move from
Xander had Spike curled on the ground, hands cradling his groin.

“What the hell were you thinking?” Xander asked.

Spike glared up at him from the floor.  “I was trying to get in a final shot
at the poof before I left.”  He curled up a little more.  “And you ruined
it.”

“So sorry,” Xander said with absolutely no sympathy.  “Next time sneak some
glow in the dark dye in his hair-gel.”

“Hey!” Angel protested.

“Or not,” Xander said with a grin.  “Get up.  I didn’t hit you that hard?”

“So can I hit him?” Angel asked.

Spike scrambled to his feet.  “No.”  His glare faded away and he looked
almost fondly at Xander.  “Be well, pet.”

“You too, JD.  Come back and visit, and don’t make it so long this time.”

With a final rude gesture toward Angel, Spike was gone.

“Did you have to invite him back?” Angel complained.

“Yeah.  If I invite him back, then it’s less of a shock when he shows up.”
Xander perched on the edge of the desk.  “Pop says hello.”

“Everything is ok at the monastery?”

“Oh, yeah.  And he told me that you’re to come next time.”

“Next time,” Angel promised.

Xander looked down at the paper work on the desk.  “You were a busy boy
while I was gone.”

“I didn’t have much of a choice.  I wanted to talk to Wes about a few
things, but he was...otherwise occupied.”  He shook his head at Xander’s
snickers.  “They’re having sex in the office!”

“Are you jealous?”  Xander raised his eyebrows and toyed with the first
button on his shirt.  “We could fix that.”

“No!  Not while they’re still here.”  Angel hadn’t heard them leave yet.
They’d quieted down, but he knew better than to think that meant Doyle and
Wesley were finished.

His first button undone, Xander began to play with the second.  “We could go
downstairs.”  His smile became less amused, more predatory.  “In fact,
that’s what we’re going to do.”

Intrigued by Xander’s attitude, Angel still hesitated.  “The doors...”

“Wes will lock up before he leaves.  Get moving.”

Angel didn’t really want to try to think up anymore excuses, so he got up
and headed for the elevator.  Xander trailed along behind him, not getting
too close but not letting Angel out of his sight, either.  When they reached
the living room, Angel paused, waiting to see what Xander would do next.

The dark-eyed man walked up to him, stopping when he was only a few inches
away.  Holding Angel’s gaze, Xander reached up and laid a warm palm against
the vampire’s cheek, cradling his face.  “I love you.”  There wasn’t
anything special in his voice.  Xander might have been remarking that grass
was green or that water was wet.  He was just stating a fact.

Angel melted.  “I love you, too,” he murmured, turning his face the side and
kissing the palm of Xander’s hand gently.  He allowed himself to be led into
the bedroom, willing to follow wherever his lover went.  When warm hands
tugged at his shirt he shrugged it off, and then returned the favor, baring
Xander’s skin to his gaze.  He kept going, wanting to see all of the other
man.

Xander stepped away before Angel could touch his boxers.  “You first,” the
human insisted.

Not having a problem with giving in, Angel finished stripping until he stood
naked before Xander.  He waited to see what Xander would do next.

“Get down on the bed.”  Xander’s voice was still gentle, his smile still
constant and true.

Angel laid down on the bed and put his hands behind his head, lacing his
fingers together.  He watched Xander patiently, confident that he was going
to love anything that his lover wanted to do.

Xander didn’t move right away.  He stayed at the end of the bed, watching
Angel without saying a word.  Finally he blinked and with a small shake of
his head he walked over to the side of the bed and sat down beside Angel.
He leaned over the vampire, placing one hand on the bed on the other side of
Angel’s body.  He leaned down and bumped his nose against Angel’s, hovering
his lips over his lover’s but refusing to make any contact.  Every time
Angel raised his head in an effort to make contact, Xander avoided his lips.
  Angel tried to sit up and was pushed back down and had the tip of his nose
bitten for his trouble.  Finally, he couldn’t play any longer.  “Please?” he
asked.

Staring down at him consideringly, Xander licked his nose but didn’t kiss
him.

“Pretty please?” Angel tried.

Xander smiled and kissed him deeply, hot wet tongue sweeping through Angel’s
mouth possessively, laying claim with every hard caress.  Angel reached out
for Xander, wanting to pull him down and feel warm muscled skin against his
own.  Xander pulled out of the kiss and slid away from Angel.  “No,” he said
quietly.  “You stay right there.”

“But -”

Xander kissed him into silence.  “You stay right there,” he repeated.

This time Angel obeyed.  If this was what Xander wanted, then Angel could
give it to him.  He relaxed back down onto the bed and waited.

Xander leaned back over Angel and bumped noses with him once more, going
back to the playful teasing he’d started with.  He kissed Angel again,
leaning down far enough to brush his skin over Angel’s in a teasing touch.
He feathered kisses over Angel’s eyes, his cheeks, his forehead and his
chin.

The barely-there touches were slowly driving Angel insane.  He wanted
Xander’s weight on him, wanted to roll him over on the bed and gain some
relief for his growing erection.  Anytime Xander’s lips came near his, Angel
stole frantic kisses from him.

The kisses moved downwards and Xander’s tongue began to sneak out, stealing
tastes of Angel’s skin.  The brief hints of heated warmth were torture, but
Angel didn’t ever want it to stop.  Xander licked and nipped his way down
Angel’s throat, scoring his skin with teeth as he passed over Angel’s Adam’s
apple.  Angel arched up into the touch but Xander refused to linger,
continuing his downward path.  Lavish sucking kisses were bestowed upon
Angel’s nipples and Angel had to grab fistfuls of the sheets in order to
resist grabbing Xander’s head when the dark-haired man continued to move
down.

Xander’s tongued dipped into Angel’s navel a few times and Angel began to
feel hope.  Xander was almost where he wanted him to be most.  He couldn’t
help it; his hips thrust involuntarily.  Xander scraped his teeth over his
hipbone and then continued down Angel’s leg.

The vampire didn’t remember there being anyone else in the room, but he
didn’t think he was the one begging.  He was desperate, but to actually be
begging like that frantic voice he could hear?  That couldn’t be him.

Leaving off his torture, Xander crawled back up Angels’ body, straddling him
on his hands and knees.  “I love you,” Xander said again, kissing Angel
deeply.  He didn’t give Angel a chance to reply.  He swiftly moved back the
way he had come and this time there was no teasing.  Warm lips encircled the
head of his erection.

Angel forced his eyes open.  He watched as Xander slowly took in more and
more of his flesh.  Then Xander’s tongue twisted in exactly the right way
and Angel’s eyes slid shut.  “Please...”  Slick fingers played at his
opening and he spread his legs, welcoming the touch and asking for more.
Xander obliged, sliding a finger inside of him and increasing the suction to
his hardness.  As more fingers were added, Angel lost more and more control,
thrusting back and forth between the clever mouth and maddening fingers that
taunted him.

Xander’s mouth left him and Angel whimpered out a protest.  Xander hushed
him with soft kisses and lifted Angel’s legs so they could wrap around his
waist.  His hardness slowly breached Angel, smoothly joining them in a
single thrust.

Angel gasped, heat and life and *Xander* filling him in a way he still
couldn’t believe that he’d lived without for so long.  His control left him
and he reached for Xander, sliding his hand up sweat-slick arms so he could
feel as much of his lover’s skin as possible.  When a hot hand encircled his
reaction in a firm grip, Angel gave up all pretense of rational thought and
gave himself over utterly to his feelings.  All that mattered to him any
longer was the sweet burn of Xander’s thrusts in and out of him and the
wonderful friction of his hardness against Xander’s palm.  Softly murmured
words of love reached his ears and blended with the gentle sound of skin on
skin, Xander’s gasps and his own strangled noises of pleasures to create a
rhythm of desire that drove him inexorably toward release.  A final thrust
and he was coming, Xander’s name on his lips as his head fell back against
the pillow.  Xander thrust a few more times and then he too found
completion, falling forward to rest against Angel’s chest.

Scattering kisses over Xander’s brow, Angel held him close.  “I love you,”
he said quietly.  “It keeps surprising me how much.”

Xander laughed a little and kissed him back.  “I love you,” he said once
more.  “I can’t imagine not loving you.”

Angel held him closer, treasuring his heat and his life.  This man had
become the center of his life.  Angel wouldn’t have it any other way.  For
the first time, he’d found the place in the world where he truly belonged.
As long as he had Xander’s arms around him, Xander’s laughter to lift him up
and his sense of justice to guide him, Angel knew he’d be able to survive
anything that came his way.

He was finally, truly home.
 
 

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