Scourge of the New World


Part One

Xander quietly crushed the Watcher's windpipe. He lay the corpse down without bothering to feed. He smirked at the idea that stupidity could be ingested. The bastards knew this was the Hellmouth. They had terminated the Slayer themselves and yet with all their training they were fatally sloppy. He moved like fog, drifting along the darkened streets, silent and deadly.

Pulling out his keys, he let himself in through the back door of the magic shop. He heard a heartbeat in the office and hoped it was who he thought it was. Shifting to gameface to see better in the dark, he crossed to the weapons cabinet and lifted up an elegant stiletto. Tucking the knife into his sleeve, he headed toward the office, resuming his human features as he rounded the corner.

Quentin Travers was on the phone. Xander could hear both sides of the conversation. Travers was assuring his superiors in England that he had the situation well in hand. Xander waited, his stillness making him all but invisible as the Watcher wrapped up his call. Travers' laptop was up and running and Xander could see several files open in various windows.

"No, I see no reason to risk the new Slayer here. The witch assures me that the town is safe." He took no notice of Xander as he paged through one of Giles' books. Xander knew Giles had pulled all the information on Dawn long before he had suddenly developed the urge to go back to England. Now that he knew that they hadn't been abandoned willingly, that Giles had been manipulated by one of Willow's spells into leaving before he could find out just how far gone she was, Xander could forgive his former mentor. Which, he thought, was oddly out of character for the vampires Xander had known while alive, and something he intended to look into if he had the time.

Travers looked up and Xander gave him a big goofy grin and bounced a little as if he was excited or nervous. Travers scowled and said, "One of the locals is here to report, we should be done here soon." He ended his call and sighed as if regretting having to deal with 'the boy'. "Where is Ms. Rosenberg? I have my people combing this town for her. She was supposed to bring the girl. I can't guarantee the child's safety if-" He looked down in shock at the red stain that blossomed around the knife in his chest.

Xander paid little attention to the gasping human as he turned the computer to face him and started to set the defaults on the computer to bypass the passwords Travers had already entered. He absently moved the phone away from the weakly reaching fingers and started to pack up Travers' files and notes.

"What?" Travers spit blood as he tried to get his words out. "I don't... the Key?"

"Key? What key?" Xander smirked and felt a desire to torment and enjoy the suffering of the prey that far outweighed the bloodlust that had been coursing through him.

Technically, he was a fledge, and somewhere in the back of his mind, the part of him that delighted in the scent of fear and blood that surrounded him thought it odd that he had so much control over his actions. His first night should have been mostly instinct. That same instinct that told him it wasn't normal for him to rise alone and that he should seek his maker wondered why he insisted on killing all the Watchers in mundane ways, which prevented him from feeding but left no sign that a vampire had done the deed. Yet, the part that was sickened by the gleeful desire to torture pointed out that he had things to do. Distasteful things, that there was no one else left to do; killing this human was just one of them.

"Oh, Willow convinced you she was going to help, huh? Not smart. You guys have been studying this crap for what? Generations? She was only twenty-one. Sure she was powerful, but really naive. I would have thought you could have spotted it... but maybe you did. Did you think her addiction to magic would make her easier to manipulate? Wouldn't the smart thing to do have been to find out just what a wicked witch she was before writing her off as a junkie? She stood toe-to-toe with Glorificus; did you really think those by-the-book spell-casters of yours were going to pull anything over on my Wills?"

"She'll never get away with this." Interesting last words for the man responsible for Buffy's death, Xander thought. Whether Giles had intentionally told them something about Dawn or if Willow's mind manipulation had made it happen, the Watchers had suddenly developed and interest in the Key. Buffy had held strong and denied any memory of what the Key was, claiming her time in Heaven had erased the memory. Willow and Xander had stuck to their story that Buffy had died without telling them.

Or, rather, Xander had. Apparently, Willow had cut a deal with the Watchers. Xander had been shattered when he found out. It could have simply been the fact that Willow would effectively sell Dawn for power, or it could have been her killing Anya to get to Dawn, but he had finally realized that he had no choice but to stop her.

Ironically, Xander had cornered Willow in the old library. Or maybe not so ironically, since Willow's deal with the Watchers was only a stall to distract them long enough for her to use Dawn's death and the power of the Hellmouth to accomplish her real goal-to resurrect Tara.

Xander had found Anya's shattered, dying body in this very shop. She had cried, told him she loved him and insisted that he leave her, leave her to die alone and run to safety. He had left her. He had run through the tunnels, straight to the old high school, somehow knowing that that was where it would end-in the place it had all started. Before rounding the last turn in the crumbling hallway he cut a hole in his baggy pants and tucked his last chance out of sight. Upon entering, he had begged Willow, tears streaming freely down his face. He hadn't cried like that in his life, not for Jesse, not for Joyce, not even for Buffy. Willow had thought he was crying for Anya, but he was crying for himself and for Willow and for all the love they had had and how much they had meant to each other. She hadn't understood.

He had just stood there on the dilapidated stairs that had lead up from the entrance whispering, "Please, I can't, I can't." She had cupped his wet cheek in her palm and said she understood, said that he shouldn't worry, that she would make everything all right.

But she really hadn't understood-she thought that he meant that he couldn't bring himself to kill her. What he had meant was he couldn't bear to let her become a monster-more than what she had become already. He would never forgive himself if he had let his Willow, who was obviously completely enslaved by the power that coursed through her, become unstoppable. He owed it to her to stop her. And thanks to Anya's words, he knew how. Anya had said that she had found the spell that Willow had cast to protect herself. Anya said that the witches in old fairy tales really couldn't remove their hearts but that this spell walled off Willow's heart and made her almost immortal and that only a weapon coated with the heart's blood of someone who truly loved her could now kill her.

Hugging her close he had sobbed, "Please, I'm you, always have. God, Wills..." His last words were a gasp. He had reached for the weapon before he hugged her. He didn't even remember what it was called. He only knew that it had a retractable blade. Not long enough for a sword, only about eighteen inches and slender like an ice pick. It was simple really: squeeze the handle and the blade popped out; release the pressure and it retracts completely. He couldn't remember how many times Giles had taken it from him, admonishing him that it wasn't a toy.

No, it wasn't. One squeeze had sent it through Willow's slender chest and out the other side, far enough into him to pierce his heart, the blind luck of the Zeppo granting this last boon of a perfect shot. He hadn't realized he had released the pressure on the spring mechanism. The blade retracted. His blood, which coated it, had passed back through her body, infusing the heart she had no longer wanted after losing Tara. Her startled green eyes were the last thing he saw. He had assumed that they would be the last thing he ever saw.

Shouldering the now-packed computer case, he hefted Travers' corpse over the other shoulder and bent to pick up the briefcase. Vampire strength; another thing to get used to, along with friends smelling like food. He left the store via the tunnel he had traveled the night before. He wondered what the Watchers had done with Anya's body and regretted not having asked Travers before he died.

He took the offshoot to the remains of Spike's old crypt and spared a thought for the snarky blonde. He knew Dawn had talked to him since Buffy's death and figured if he was going to dump this problem in Deadboy's lap he might get a chance to talk to the Big Bad about some of his questions regarding being a vampire.

On second thought, seeing as Spike had run home to Sire when Buffy had broken up with him, maybe it wouldn't be a good idea to visit. He and Angel had a bad case of the I-hate-you's and his tentative friendship with Spike had been on the skids since the whole 'Oh, yeah. We resurrected Buffy. Didn't we mention we were going to do that?' deal.

Moving out of the crypt and through the cemetery, Xander made his way to the crematorium. He knocked at the back door and could smell the human checking the peephole before opening the door. Dawn was still wide-eyed and trembling, like she had been when he rose from the dead. At least she wasn't catatonic like she had seemed when he approached her earlier that night. It was hard to believe he had been dead ­ really dead ­ by this time last night. Xander checked his watch; it was two-thirty when he popped Quentin Travers into the oven, and Xander figured if he pushed it he could get Dawn safely away from the Hellmouth before sunrise. He could have the computer and what information he had on the Watchers in LA tomorrow night, by two hours after sunset.

* * * * *

Part Two

Although he had been in LA by an hour after sunset, Xander spent considerable time laying false trails and casing the old hotel. It was nearly 2:00 AM when he slipped into the darkened hotel. He crossed the lobby and set the laptop and briefcase on the desk. He could hear no humans and had seen Spike and Angel leave over an hour ago. He had waited to see if any movement or lights indicated another occupant but felt safe venturing in after seeing no signs.

He had just powered up the computer and was starting to write a note when he looked up at the wary young man... er, vampire, who was watching from about six feet in front of him. Xander felt his nostrils flare at the intruder but not the tingle that indicated he had shifted to game face. The vampire was young; at least, he seemed to lack the control needed to hold his human face. The moonlight from the single window gave more than enough illumination to showcase the flashing yellow eyes shifting to a violet-blue and back again, over and over. If he could have been sure of the dark blonde's reaction, Xander would have laughed. As it was he smirked, more amazed that he could find anything amusing given the past forty-eight hours rather than giving in to his darker desires to torment this fledge.

Funny that, he thought, where do I get off thinking of him as a fledge? Given that this was probably that lawyer guy Cordelia had said Angel turned, he had been a vampire for almost a year now. Un-souled and un-chipped, Angel allegedly kept this Lindsey guy on a short leash.

"You must be Lindsey, Cordy's mentioned you," Xander said, focusing the bulk of his attention on opening particularly nasty files on the laptop, but sparing just enough to track the Lindsey's response.

Lindsey, who had just about looked ready to bark out some questions such as 'who the hell are you' before Xander spoke, was now a study in confusion. He bit back whatever words he had been about to say and his eyes went wide before a crafty look, which spoke as much of lawyer as it did of demon, crossed his face. He started twice to speak and then leaning against one the door frame drawled, "You seem to have me at a disadvantage."

"Don't I though?" Xander smirked. He was shocked. He knew he was a vampire; had even spent the day pondering his condition with a priest. Not the kind that doused you with holy water, but one who had known him before he died. Fate had been kind to this good Episcopalian boy and on his road trip after senior year and had arranged for a fortunate flat to land him at a Buddhist monastery along one of the prettiest stretches of coastline in California. Xander had spent two weeks with the monks without a phone to contact a garage. He had had the option to leave during the first week when a visitor had arrived and offered him a lift to the nearest town. Instead he had settled for ordering a new tire and waiting for it to be delivered. Dawn would go out of her mind if he left her there too long, but the monks would keep her safe.

Lindsey didn't look pleased by his answer and took a fighting stance. Xander knew he couldn't start slapping Deadboy's Childe around if he expected help unraveling Travers' Machiavellian plots. He also didn't want to risk damaging the laptop. He was oddly unconcerned about this older vampire being stronger. He tucked that thought back with all the other things he intended to think about if he lived, er...well, whatever, long enough.

"Lindsey," Angel said. His voice, drifting from the hotel's entrance, had definite Sire overtones.

Xander cocked his head. Lindsey, of course, had run to his Sire in a blur. Xander stepped away from the desk, but no closer to the door. But from his new angle, he could see out of the office's doorway into the lobby. Angel embraced his Childe, raking his fingers though Lindsey's longish hair and exposing the younger vamp's throat. The powerfully built brunet buried his face in his Childe's neck, seeming to inhale his scent.

Xander felt pangs of sorrow, longing and jealousy. He had no one. No Sire had waited eagerly for him to open his eyes. No one was there for him to turn to when the world seen through his demon eyes was raucous and confusing. A tickling in the back of his brain said someone should have been there, to teach him to hunt and protect him until he was strong enough to survive on his own. He had yet to feed. It wasn't that he needed someone to show him how -- he was after all Hellmouth born and bred -- rather he had been too busy.

He had risen where he had died, next to Willow's cold corpse. He was struck first by his own stillness. The steady, insistent rhythm that had coursed through his body his entire life was silenced. No gurgles in his stomach, no gas in his bowels, even the soft whoosh of his breath had ceased. Not so for the bundle of noise huddled behind a toppled bookshelf. Dawn's body had made all the vibrant sounds of life and she smelled amazing.

He hadn't pounced on her but crept over to the whimpering girl. Later, when he had time to ponder during his Watcher hunt, he had figured that maybe the reason he hadn't risen with hunger burning out all thought was because he hadn't been drained. The small puncture in his chest had bled little, since the powerful heart had stopped beating almost instantly. He remembered how he had died and the events leading up to his, well, technically, suicide. He hadn't been drained but somehow he was a vampire.

Maybe his lack of draining was what had enabled him to focus on not eating Dawn and instead get her to safety. Originally, he had taken her to the crematorium only to dispose of Willow's body, but had found it deserted for the weekend and had had her wait there while he hunted down the Watchers. He needed to know what to do with her now, but any plans would have to wait until he could figure out if Travers' bunch were operating with or without full Council sanction.

He wished he dared call Giles, but couldn't risk it. Dumping it on Deadboy had been a coward's solution, but he was tired. Dead tired, he thought with dark humor. He didn't want to have this responsibility. He was only a little more than forty-eight hours old, he should be being petted and fussed over by his Sire. A growl of frustration escaped Xander before he could bite it back. Angel looked up in shock. Before the souled vampire could speak, Spike bounded across the room saying, "Xander?"

Xander couldn't believe he hadn't seen the blonde lurking behind his Sire. He shook his head in disgust. He made a lousy vampire-that was a mistake he wouldn't have made as a human. Knowing that they had left together, he should have looked for the blonde the minute he saw Angel. He was going to get himself dusted. Hanging his head in shame, Xander missed the awed look Spike sported as he cautiously approached him.

"Aren't you the prettiest thing?" Spike said in a teasing voice. He extended his hand and gently lifted Xander's chin to get a better look at him. "Let's see what a nummy treat you..." Spike trailed off seeing the tear-filled brown eyes. Xander tried to speak. His mouth worked but no word came. He felt his eyes itch but not the familiar tingle of shifting to game face. The next thing he knew Spike had pulled him forward into his strong arms and was rumbling out, "There, there, Pet. S'all right, you're home now. Tell Spike everything." Xander felt the weight slip from his shoulders. He grasped onto Spike like a drowning man.

Part Three

Xander. This was Xander. Lindsey turned in the safety of his Sire's arms to see the dark, smirking vampire who had slipped into his refuge like a ghost. Xander, who had caused the Slayer to send his Sire to hell; Xander who Cordy had dated and who had been fighting alongside the Slayer since he was fifteen; Xander, who had lived with his brother when he had been chipped. He wondered if Spike had told the humans that they had had the chip removed. Seeing his vicious older brother, who only deferred to his Sire after a prolonged battle, cooing to the young vamp was disconcerting. Spike had seemed surprised to find out Xander had been turned. This enigmatic stranger appeared to be alone. If he had been turned since Spike had rejoined them then why did he feel so much more powerful than Lindsey?

Lindsey turned his head to gauge his Sire's reaction to this scene. Angel seemed as shocked as Spike by Xander's presence and his state of undeath. Lindsey was rather proud of his aristocratic heritage. Aside from being the youngest member of the Aurelian line, he was the first Childe Angel had taken in over one hundred years. That fact and the frequency that his beloved Sire shared his old and powerful blood with him should have made him a match for any vamp turned in recent decades. It certainly should have given him the clear advantage over this intruder, yet when they had sized each other up in the manner of their kind he had felt Xander vibrate with the power of a Master.

Lindsey looked past the power to the human Xander had been. He ran appraising eyes over the broad shoulders and long legs. Xander was built much like his Sire, and even had the same deep brown eyes. Lindsey watched Spike guiding the younger vampire to a sofa in the lobby. His brother ran lean and wiry, like Lindsey. The first time he had met Spike, the older vamp had drawled, "Well, Peaches, the soul hasn't changed your taste much. He even has blue eyes."

Lindsey had immediately felt like a cheap imitation and worried that his Sire had turned him because of his estrangement with his favorite Childe. He had whimpered in fear of losing his beloved Sire, now that the genuine article was available. So when he had been wrapped lovingly in strong arms, he was surprised that it was a deep-voiced British accent that had purred, "Ignore me luv, I'm a bad rude man. Just trying to get a rise out of Sire. Jealous of you, is all. You and me, we're going to have wicked fun." And they had. Despite their rocky beginning they had become great, well, if not friends, then partners in crime. His older brother's favorite game was 'Let's Loosen Up the Poof.' Spike showed amazing creativity in ways to drive their Sire batty, but had as little patience as a fledge when putting his plans into action.

Angel stepped forward, clasping Lindsey's hand as the younger vampire trailed cautiously behind. Angel sat in an armchair near the sofa and Lindsey, rather than let go of his Sire's hand, perched on the chair's arm. "Xander," Angel said. "Tell me what happened."

Spike glared, yellow eyes almost glowing in the dim lobby. He pulled the younger vampire to his chest, stroking his thick dark hair. "Back off, Peaches. He just fucking died. Bloody hell!"

Lindsey trembled. Spike was always aggressive with their Sire, but this felt different. His brother rarely exerted his Master status, preferring to let Angel take the burden of day-to-day decisions. As long as Spike had his whiskey, his smokes, his Passions and a pint of the good stuff every now and then, he was a surprisingly agreeable demon. But the look he was giving Angel told Lindsey that the Big Bad was back, at least as far as this alluring stranger was concerned.

"It's okay," Xander mumbled into Spike's chest. He lifted his head; his demon visage was ridged at a sharper angle than the Aurelian line and gave him an exotic appearance. Lindsey was impressed as this intruder calmed his volatile brother. Xander rested his forehead on Spike's, and as he shifted back to his human mask, Spike shifted along with him. "I didn't exactly show up to catch up on old times, but well, thanks. It's been a really crappy week, you know?"

Lindsey realized that Xander was embarrassed to have sought refuge in Spike's arms. Granted, for one vamp to do that for another was usually an acknowledgement of dominance, but surely one as young as Xander wasn't worried about status? Lindsey had the status of his Sire, and would as long as he remained in his nest. Spike had made his own reputation, which had started quite a few pissing contests between the two Masters, regardless of the fact that Spike had reaffirmed his Childe bond by seeking Angel's protection while chipped. Xander had only accepted the comfort Spike had offered, not asked for Spike's protection. Besides, Lindsey was sure that this Xander guy had been human when the Slayer's sister had called Spike to tell him she had been killed. The words were leaving Lindsey's mouth as soon as they flit through his mind, heedless of Angel squeezing his hand to warn that it was an inappropriate question. "Where's your Sire?"

Xander blinked. Lindsey wished he could enjoy the other vampire's confusion. He would have, moments before his Sire arrived when the smirking intruder had been all but laughing at him. But now, he regretted his words, not just because he had displeased his Sire by speaking without thinking. The lost look in the young vamp's eyes spoke of pain and confusion but was quickly replaced by resolve. The former lawyer wondered just what had happened to the man to make him so accepting of his fate.

Xander shrugged and said, "Don't know. Don't really have the luxury to care right now." He turned his attention from Lindsey to Angel, "Listen, Deadboy, the shit isn't just hitting the fan, it's fouled all the intake valves and we are plummeting from thirty thousand feet."

"Huh?" Angel turned his confused look from Xander to Spike, as if asking the blond to translate. Spike wrapped himself even tighter around Xander and nuzzled his neck purring.

"Ah...oh, that's nice. Wait, shit, fan. Dawn called about Buffy, right?" At Angel's pained nod Xander continued, "Well, the Watchers, or at least some members of the Watchers set up that car accident."

"What?" Angel was up and pacing. Spike was back in game face and snarling and spitting like a cat. Lindsey cowered in the chair that Angel had recently vacated, unsure of what was going to happen.

"Angel!" Xander stood. One hand still gripped tightly to Spike, but the other grabbed Angel's shoulder as he started past and spun him to face the still human-looking Xander. "Point made. You're upset, I get it. Guess what? I just started. I need you... you. Not the guy who sucks the world into hell, not the guy who stalks and kills everyone associated with his latest obsession-although keep him around, 'cause once the guy who does the whole vamp detective gig sorts through the paper trail these losers left, I might want him to go hunting with me."

Spike laughed and stood. Still holding Xander's hand, he wrapped his arms around the young vamp and hugged him close. Xander shut his eyes briefly and leaned his head back on Spike's shoulder. "I have to tell you both some... things. If you react like, well, like you're going to want to, I'll never make it through. Can we pretend you're the Scourge of Europe and you don't care about all this... at least until I get it out?"

Angel nodded and said, "I'm sorry Xander, I..."

"I loved her too," Xander murmured. Spike pulled him back down, practically into his lap. Angel, instead of going back to his seat, sat close on Xander's other side. "The Watchers came again-you remember, like last time?" He looked to Spike, who just nodded. "Buffy wasn't too happy, but they were talking about paying her a Watcher's salary, sorta to be her own Watcher and write up reports of... well, slaying. It was too good to be true, we should have known. She was excited about being able to go back to school, maybe finish her degree. We started to suspect something when they were so focused on the Glory thing, or more accurately, focused on the Key. I couldn't follow most of it, and didn't try. Wills paid attention though. The Watchers were all gung ho about the ability to lower the walls between worlds... it didn't matter, I mean, it's Dawn, you know? Buffy wasn't going to give her up. I don't know if Willow told them about Dawn-I have a computer and some files I got from their leader and well, so far I haven't found anything yet."

Again he looked to Spike before continuing. Lindsey was surprised to see silent tears fall from Xander's eyes. "Willow changed after you left, it was... losing Tara like that. I think she blamed herself. I think she believed that with magic she could have saved her. She's been researching nonstop. Buffy and I, we figured that Wills just wanted to help and this was her way of staying on the team. Anya knew, though. She warned us, but we dismissed it. I read some stuff in there," he nodded toward the computer, "the Watchers thought Willow was going to give them the Key in exchange for them taking her and Dawn away from the Hellmouth. She only told them that because she didn't want them to realize she had her own plans for the Key."

"The Watchers think they can use it to release Avatars from other dimensions who will fight evil without the Slayer's nasty habit of disobeying orders and asking questions. Willow figured she could use the key to resurrect Tara ­ or pull another Tara from another world, I had trouble following. Anya found out. She still socializes... er, socialized with some of the demonic entities that Willow summoned to get information on how to perform the ritual. I was setting up a safe haven for Dawn, some place we could stash her and us if necessary, to be safe from the Watchers and Willow, but I was too late. I found Anya. Willow had slammed her against the wall repeatedly with her mind until An was so battered that Dawn crawled out of hiding to beg Willow to stop. She took Dawn to the Hellmouth and was going to... I had to ... I loved Willow. You have to believe I would never have killed her if I thought that there was any other way..."

Lindsey was stunned. Only his Sire showed this kind of remorse. The dark-haired young vamp being petted by Spike and Angel was wiping his tears. His Sire spoke to the vamp as if he were one of his Childer. "Xander? Shhh, of course you wouldn't..." Angel turned pleading eyes on Spike.

"There, there. You worshipped, Red. Peaches and I know you would no more hurt her than the Slayer, or the Nibblet. Sorry about your girl. Always had a soft spot for our Anyanka. She knew you did all you could. You were her Viking, she thought you hung the moon; but don't be deceived you don't see your first millennium if you're naive. She knew the risks, she chose to side with you and the white hats. Speaks well of her loyalties. You taught her that, luv; not by your words but by how you lived." Spike ran his hand in soothing circles on Xander's stomach. Xander's eyes were drooping and he leaned back against the older vampire. "Now, Peaches and his pet-you met our Lindsey? Right. They're going to look through the files and I'm going to put you to bed. But first...Xander? When did you die, luv? Dawn didn't say anything and we spoke just Wednesday."

"Uhm..." Xander's voice was thick and dreamy as if he were already sleeping. "Two nights ago, when I killed Willow."

Angel, who had moved to the desk with Lindsey, whirled around. Spike held up his free hand and stopped his rush back to the pair. Lindsey was stunned. He had spent his first week begging for sex and blood. Angel had had to chain him to keep him from attacking everyone. He had only been calm when his Sire was claiming him. He had so many questions, and by the look on Angel's face his Sire didn't have the answer.

Spike lowered his hand back to Xander's hair. After several slow strokes of his fingers through the dark locks Spike asked, "You stopped Red and then what?"

"I died. We died together. Had to. Anya said... Anya found the spell... Willow couldn't be killed, not with magic... not with anything, except the blood of someone who loved her... had to be heart's blood. My heart's blood. The blade... it didn't hurt. I thought it would. It hurt worse to see the look in her eyes, so like Jesse's. Did you say something about bed?" Xander cuddled up against Spike and snuggled into his chest.

Angel crossed silently and knelt by the exhausted fledge. "Xander?" Angel's voice was hushed and he looked from Spike's shocked blue eyes to Xander's almost-sleeping form. "Xander, if Willow died... who gave you back your soul?"

"No soul, just me. Sorry," Xander said.

"Who was the first human you saw when you rose?" Angel asked.

"Dawnie. She was so scared. She had been hiding, too afraid to move all day with Willow and I laying only about twelve feet from her." Xander said.

"Without your soul, you would have fed on her," Angel explained.

"Um.. no, sorry, you're wrong." Angel bristled and Spike chuckled. Xander rubbed his face against that vibrating chest and said, "Fledges don't attack 'cause they're evil, they attack 'cause they're hungry. I wasn't drained. I hadn't lost much blood at all. Dawn smelled like food, but contrary to what Spike says, just because there is food doesn't mean I always eat. Unless you were thinking of sending out for pizza, then I'm in."

Lindsey had never heard that theory, but he had never heard of someone being turned and not losing blood. "Sire? How can someone be turned without being drained?"

Part Four

Spike stroked Xander's hair as the fledge all but slept in his arms. The cool silky locks passed over his fingertips like water. He wasn't the same young man Spike had left behind when the Slayer sent him packing. The lack of pulse was only a recent addition to his transformation. He'd lost weight, for one thing, and he was dressed for B&E in muted grays. His body still had the muscles earned by hard labor, but his eyes were anxious and his easy grin was sadly absent. Spike had always thought Xander, with his suppressed rage and dark humor, would make a lovely vamp. He was beautiful, all right, but the Poof was right-this was Xander, not some demonic version of him. When he had first raised the boy's face and looked into his tear-filled eyes, after being startled by a bright green flash of light in those very eyes, he had assumed Red had slapped a soul on the poor bastard. But Xander didn't rise until after he had offed the witch, so who had worked the mojo on the boy and why?

Angel's pet had asked a good question. How did someone get turned without being drained? Spike had only known of one case of a human rising as a vampire without the normal ritual, and interestingly enough, it was a similar case. Now to speak up, or wait and see what explanation Peaches gave his pet?

"I don't know, Lindsey. I've never heard of someone rising who hadn't been turned by draining them." Angel sat back down and brooded over Xander. Spike watched the wheels slowly turn in his Sire's over-gelled brain and wondered if Bat-vamp could bring himself to look to Spike for an answer. Xander sat up, he pulled out of Spike's embrace and scowled at no one in particular. "Xander?" Angel persisted. "Are you sure there were no vampires around when you died? Could one have fed on you after you lost consciousness?"

"And just left Dawn there untouched?" Now Xander's scowl was directed at Angel and Spike chuckled. "Not the Sunnydale vamps. Maybe the ones in LA are different, but back on the Hellmouth that ain't how it happens. Listen, Angel, if you want answers, fine-but time is essential here. I have to know Dawnie is safe. Once we deal with this," he gestured toward the computer, "you can delve into my blatant improbability to your undead heart's content."

Spike stood, pulling Xander up with him. "No one understands paper trails and computers better than our Lindsey." Spike noticed Angel's Childe preen with pleasure at his compliment. "You leave him and Peaches to sort though this. I'll put you down, and watch while you sleep. Trust Spike, luv, I remember how it was when my senses first kicked into high gear. You won't need to start at every little noise with the Big Bad beside you."

Angel looked as if he would protest, but then smiled and nodded. Spike took Xander upstairs to the room he used. If Spike needed any evidence that his Xander was functioning on willpower alone, he had only to note how Xander lifted his arms above his head as soon as Spike started to pull up his tee shirt. Xander let Spike undress him as if he were a child. The young man showed no awkwardness-it was as if someone always stripped him down and put him to bed.

Spike mused over how much had happened the young man. Buffy's death from such a mundane thing as a car accident, Rupert being called out of the country. Watching Anya die. Anya and Xander had been growing closer over the past year. They were dating but not living together, like before their disastrous wedding. True to form, Xander never stopped loving anyone. Buffy would forever remain his ideal woman. He still loved Cordelia like a sister. His heart had remained Anya's even when she was casting it aside one week and calling it back the next. And Willow, even when he lost so much to her selfishness, even when he had been force to kill her, he still loved her with everything he was, until his dying breath and beyond.

Once Spike had Xander tucked in, he shucked his own clothes and crawled in next to him. Xander lay next to Spike, on his side, carefully not touching his host. Heavy-lidded brown eyes blinked and Spike could almost see the request. He considered making Xander ask; as it would solidify the tenuous hold he seemed to have on the Sireless fledge. But it wasn't just a newly born demon looking out of those eyes, it was Xander. Willful and unpredictable, Xander was far too likely never to ask and Spike had no intention of sleeping apart.

"C'mere." Spike opened his arms. To his surprise, Xander held back, his eyes wide and frightened.

"For tonight, or for always?" Xander whispered.

Spike wanted the beauty by his side and in his bed, but he knew that the human had never pursued men and had just lost his lover. The last thing Spike wanted after Dru and the Slayer was someone else to use him and toss him aside. But Xander, he was loyalty incarnate. This one would stay and stand with him, if he didn't frighten him off. Spike has seen those intelligent brown eyes gauging the hierarchy and power structure when he was asking Angel for help and accepting Spike's comfort. A souled Xander wouldn't submit and would be at the least an equal in any relationship. He had already proved himself more in control and powerful than any fledge Spike had ever seen. So, the question was, how did he answer Xander without scaring him off?

"Not trying to claim you, pet. I know all this supernatural vampire shit is too much for your tired mind. Just because you let me hold you, won't mean you're submissive or obligated..." he trailed off. Wrong words-somehow he'd hurt the boy and he hadn't been trying, this time. What had he said? Could Xander actually want him? Not just someone to take care of him or at least offer mutual support, but want Spike? Seeing those eyes fill with tears Spike no longer gave Xander a choice but pulled him flush against him. The feel of all that hard naked flesh brought forth his game face. "Xander, luv, what's wrong? Tell me."

"I... I ache. God Spike, I'm so empty, so alone. No one wanted me. Lindsey's right; what the hell is wrong with me? It's bad enough I'm a vampire, but shit... I feel like the only kid whose parents never showed up for parent/teacher night. Oh wait... that was me, too." Xander rubbed his face against Spike's neck and it was all the blonde could do to make listening noises and not jump him. He would take it slow; let Xander set the pace.

"Shhh, I want you. Wish you were mine. You want me, luv? Not to shag-course we can do that-but as a Sire. I'll claim you, in every way and dust anyone who tries to take you from me. But it has to be your choice." Spike rolled them over so that he looked down into Xander's now-yellow eyes.

Those eyes flashed green again and Xander rolled them both over the other way until he was on top. "Don't..." he choked out past the tears, "don't you dare offer that if you just pity me. I'd rather have no one than someone who doesn't want me."

In a flash Spike was back on top. "Want you. Always wanted you. Don't pity no one. Can't. I'm a demon, no soul, no chip. I want you, but you have to want this. Won't let you go, ever."

"I'm so lost. I can't do this alone." Xander made no attempt to throw Spike off, instead, he reached up and began stroking the over-bleached hair. "I want... Sire. Please, Sire." He bared his unscarred throat to Spike.

Spike slowly lowered his head. He licked along the firm muscles of the younger vampire's shoulder and neck. With infinite care he pierced the flesh. There was a world of difference between feeding from another vamp and feeding from a human. The blood moved as if by magic without the rhythm of a heart. Who knows, Spike thought, maybe it is magic, never having pondered the physiology of vampires.

He drank deeply, surprised at what a heady elixir Xander had flowing in his recently dead veins. Spike already knew who had sired his Childe. It wasn't a look or a scent. Spike knew Xander better than anyone left alive and he knew only one vampire had every managed to get past the young man's often tested luck and the fiercely protective females who had surrounded him. But now was not the time to share that bit of news.

Pulling back, he paused to enjoy the lust-dazed look in Xander's eyes. He licked Xander's parted lips and passed the first taste of blood into his Childe's mouth. Xander moaned into the contact. Whimpering, the fledge plundered his Sire's mouth. Briefly, Spike considered biting his own wrist to feed his Childe the way he would if he were turning him, but the boy was already in gameface and he wanted to be the first thing Xander used his fangs on. "Your turn, luv," Spike whispered.

Xander seemed to shake off his daze. "Huh?" He looked at Spike, confusion evident, and slipping toward panic. Rolling until they were side by side, Spike stroked his hair and pulled Xander into position over his own neck. "But-" Xander whispered into Spike's neck.

Evidently some behaviors were ingrained in the species, or else the boy had read way too many of the Watcher's books. True, it was a gesture more often shared by equals and mates than by Childer and Sires, but Spike wanted this, the rules be damned. "S'all right, luv. You're mine. I want you to... ahhh," Spike's moan transformed into a hiss as Xander bit deeply and began to rub against his Sire's body in time to his first swallows of blood.

Xander's hands slid tentatively over Spike's stomach and lower, to trail fingers through the coarse hair leading downward, Spike bucked his hips and lifted up into that cautious touch. Let that bleeding ponce try to claim Spike's boy. He would dust him so hard the wanker's Sire would feel it.

Part Five

Angel marveled as he watched his youngest Childe play the keyboard of the computer as if it were a concert piano. Lindsey was pure twenty-first century. His schooling may have made him as comfortable with dusty old tomes as Wesley, but the fledge never cast aside his high-tech air. It didn't matter whether he was naked or sheathed in worn jeans and battered cowboy boots, Lindsey was a modern man. Or rather, vampire. Angel realized that his quiet pride in his boy was slipping to brooding and if Spike weren't fully occupied with Xander he would be poking fun at him. For that matter, if Lindsey looked up from whatever files were fascinating him, he would shed the unconscious confidence he assumed when using his pre-death talents and transform into an insecure fledgling.

Angel knew that Lindsey was aware of his misgivings about what he had done in turning him. Intellectually, Lindsey knew that his Sire was souled and thus brooded over raising him as a demon and the possible consequences of that action, but instinct screamed that he was displeasing his Sire and was a bad Childe. Angel worried that the mixed signals he gave, first the pleasure he took in his Childe and his obvious attachment and then the regret that Lindsey was now a vampire because of him, were stunting his Childe's development.

Seeing Xander and Lindsey together he now understood the snatches of conversation he had often overheard as mothers discussed their children. He had never understood their interest in when the others children had talked, walked or sat up by themselves. Lindsey was fast approaching his second year and Xander had only seen his second night. Was it the unusual circumstances of Xander's death that made him so strong and independent or was it the equally unusual ones of Lindsey's that made him so needy?

Although Angel would prefer that Lindsey were still alive, he couldn't help but shudder at the thought of how that night could have ended. Moving behind the chair where his boy sat illuminated by the glow of the screen, Angel stroked back Lindsey's dark blonde hair and cupped his boy's chin. Dragging Lindsey's attention away from the screen he smiled down at his Childe. "Need anything, precious?"

"Just you, Sire," Lindsey moved his head from side to side, pushing back against Angel.

"You'll always have me, beloved. What I meant was, have you fed?" Angel laughed at the confused, torn look that crossed his Childe's face. "I'll bring you something," he whispered and stroked Lindsey's cheek before heading to the refrigerator to fix him some blood. After heating it, Angel cut his finger and spiked the meal with a few drops of his own blood. He had never let Lindsey feed from a human, but tried to compensate by seeing that his boy thrived in other ways. "Have you found anything?" he asked as he handed Lindsey the mug.

"It looks like this guy was staging a coup." Lindsey shifted his features to feed and Angel stroked his ridged brow. After finishing, Lindsey nuzzled into his Sire's touch and continued, "It's a little worse than we hoped but not as bad as we feared. His actions were unsanctioned. The bulk of the Watcher's Council have no idea that he was planning to do away with the Slayer program, or at least make it obsolete. This guy," Lindsey shook his head and gestured toward the computer, "He was a real megalomaniac. The Slayer standing up to him and telling him she didn't need him, that he needed her, sent him over the edge. It shattered his illusion that he was in control and he was willing to do anything to get that control back. He started recruiting. They're mostly young Watchers, would-be social engineers, who think they know how to live everyone's life for them. You know, the 'if we just had complete power over every aspect of your lives we could make the world a utopia' crowd. He had most of them with him in Sunnydale. The names of the others are in here, it's fairly up-to-date. But the ones who survivedŠ there's no way of knowing how much they know, and they could start recruiting on their own."

"The hotel is still secure?" Angel asked, lost in thought.

"I sweep it every day, whether we've left it or not." Lindsey looked up at his Sire. Angel again felt guilty that the defiant young man whom he had reluctantly begun to respect had been reduced to requiring his constant approval. Lindsey had none of Spike's desire to prove himself. Without being egged on by his brother he never seemed to consider a move without first seeking Angel's consent. Spike had been a godsend, not a term Angel had ever expected to use with his wayward Childe. He had teased and tempted Lindsey into frequent mischief and although they drove Angel to distraction, such escapades were necessary to appease the needs of Lindsey's demon.

"Move all this. Work out of the lounge off our room. I don't want any of this here when we're open for business." Angel kept absently stroking Lindsey's hair. The habit had become unconscious as the practice soothed both Sire and Childe.

"You don't trust the others? Is it Wesley?" Lindsey stood, somehow managing to keep contact with his Sire while beginning to implement his orders.

"Hmm? Oh, no. Well, I hadn't considered that. I'm pretty sure that Wes has severed all contact with the organization, but... Let's just say that for the time being, what they don't know can't hurt them." Angel tilted Lindsey face to his and softly kissed his Childe. "You keep working; I'll be up before dawn."

"Is everything all right, Sire?" Lindsey asked.

"Yes, Childe. You've given me much to consider. I'll join you before bed. Continue your research, and remember, you are not to worry about anything, precious," Angel said.

Lindsey made short work of packing up what Xander had brought, and his own notes. He went up the stairs with a backward glance to his Sire. Angel smiled and nodded to his boy and received a relieved smile in return. Pouring himself a whiskey, Angel sat in the darkened lobby. He positioned himself on the sofa that Spike had earlier comforted Xander on so that he could watch both the main stairs up to the rooms and the hotel's entrance.

This could get ugly, he thought. Angel was reluctant to risk his Childe in a war with the Watchers. Either of his Childer, although as always, Spike would do what he pleased. Xander was right, of course; Buffy's sister must be protected. But Angel didn't think that annihilating anyone who might possibly try to harm her was necessarily the best solution. Although the reaction was pure Xander; vampire or not, Xander had always fought more to protect the people he loved than out of a need to atone or desire to fight for the Powers That Be.

And what of the Powers That Be? Why hadn't Cordy received a vision regarding any of this? Were they in favor of the Watcher's plan to invoke the power of Avatars? Having seen the destruction that such extensions of various Gods left in their wake, Angel found it hard to believe that these rogue Watchers could be naive enough to think that they could control or predict the actions of such beings. Keeping them safely walled away in their own dimensions, like all the greater demons were; seemed in the best interests of humanity as a whole.

Xander was another mystery. Spike knew something-Angel could tell by the smirk his Childe had worn. Angel had at first wondered if Spike had managed it somehow, but felt no pull of blood to blood. Once he had seen Xander's gameface he had known that the boy was not of the Aurelian line, although he did seem of a far purer strain of blood than the flotsam that prowled around the Hellmouth.

Xander seemed to think once no one remained who knew about Dawn that the girl would be safe. Granted, being that the fledge's age was measured in hours instead of years, what he had accomplished was remarkable.

Obviously, Xander hadn't thought past keeping Dawn alive. What did the vampire plan to do with a human teenager? Adopt her? The girl had a father somewhere, although that would be the first place that they would look for her. For that matter, where had Xander stashed her? How safe was she? Xander was loyal to a fault, but Angel didn't remember him being known for his brains. Come to think of it, how had a born follower like Harris suddenly developed the capacity to make and implement the strategies he had used to get here? One freshly turned fledge against fifteen Watchers, one of whom had been a Watcher for longer than the boy had lived? Xander should have ended up dust, or caged for one of the test they put their Slayers through.

Angel swirled the amber liquid and watched the ice melt. His Childer were already involved. Spike had practically crawled inside Xander as he clung to him and Lindsey was worrying the Watcher puzzle with that lightning-quick mind of his. Neither of his boys were known to let go of something once they grabbed hold. Angel smiled at that thought.

He liked having them both under his roof. Few Masters could hold a Childe of Spike's obvious power and status. Only he knew Spike remained by choice rather than any form of dominance by his Sire, but the perceived ownership kept Angelus quite content. His demon had always been concerned about appearances. One of the reasons Angel had lived in abject poverty for so long had been to punish his demon. That could have been the reason Angelus treated Spike so badly when he had lost his soul. With so many years of shame to make up for, his demon had tried to regain his status by humbling his poor crippled boy. Lately, in most part thanks to Lorne, but in some ways due to Spike's unerringly accurate jabs, Angel had realized that it wasn't his job to punish Angelus. Angelus had only been embracing his nature. Angel was only responsible for his own atonement. As a result, he and his demon were at peace with each other for the first time since they had been forced to co-exist.

Angel was jarred out of his memories as Lindsey appeared at the top of the stairs. Barefoot and bare-chested he slipped out of the shadows in only his worn jeans. Remaining upstairs, he had followed the letter of Angel's command, but was showing uncharacteristic independence by coming to fetch his Sire. Angel hid his smile as he drained the last watery remains of his drink. Lindsey's whisper carried down into the shadowy lobby, "Sire, come to bed."

Angel bolted up the stairs. He had his laughing Childe over his shoulder and was in their room before Lindsey could gasp out a word. Tossing Lindsey onto their bed Angel pounced on him, pinning him to the mattress and grinning down at his beautiful boy. "Love you, Sire," Lindsey said as Angel covered his mouth with his own. He set about wearing his Childe out, wanting him to sleep at least until Spike and Xander rose for the day. Xander had looked as if he might collapse and Angel knew that Spike had no intention of leaving that one's side.

Once he had Lindsey sticky and sated, curled against him in sleep, Angel went back to pondering the possible consequences of taking on the Watchers. His thoughts kept twisting back to the golden boy in his bed. Following the line of Lindsey's thigh and the dip of his lower back, Angel had no intention of letting anyone harm his Childe.

It had been too close. They had danced around each other from their first meeting. Always testing, pushing, pissing on the bushes like a couple of junkyard dogs, as Cordelia had so elegantly put it. Angel had thought he had the lawyer out of his system. After everything-taking Lindsey's hand-the mess that was Darla had driven them further apart. Finally, that night at the body bank, even when he had seen horror and desperation in Lindsey's eyes, Angel was unwilling to believe that Lindsey wouldn't be sucked back into Wolfram and Hart's clutches. He had told himself that the only reason he went over to Lindsey's was to make sure he was really leaving town. Seeing the pickup packed and Lindsey's guitar case in the front seat, Angel had figured that it was final, that only an exchange of veiled threats remained.

The lack of Lindsey at the truck hadn't bothered the vampire. He assumed the man was still packing. It was when he saw the guitar sitting in the seat, unattended, near the open truck window, that he had bolted to the apartment.

He had quickly climbed to the balcony and as before, when Darla had lived there, found he needed no invitation to enter. Seeing Darla lift her laughing face from Lindsey's bleeding neck had spurred both Angel and Angelus into action. It was bad enough that the bitch had slept with Lindsey when the boy obviously belonged to Angel, but to have fed from him, to the point that he would die long before a transfusion could be arranged, ignited a bloodlust in his demon at this presumptuous fledge. How dare she? She may have been his resurrected Sire, but she was only Dru's newly-risen Childe, and yet she was flaunting her defiance of Angelus, now oldest of the Aurelian line?

It could have all gone so differently; if he hadn't ripped off one of the posters from the bed and driven it though her chest; if she hadn't scattered in a cloud of ash over her dying lover. If Lindsey hadn't smiled and said, "Always the hero. Guess even you can't win them all. Kinda glad I got to see you lose one."

Angel had crouched over the young man. He didn't know if his tears were of frustration or grief, but Lindsey said in that breathless voice, "Well...I really did get to see everything-you, crying for me..."

Lindsey hadn't had the strength to say any more but his eyes were laughing. That amused look changed to shocked hope when Angel had hissed, "Mine." He hadn't intended to lower his mouth to the flowing blood and was suffering regrets already as he bit his own wrist and held it to Lindsey's mouth. But that hadn't stopped him from lying beside the man as he died.

Afterward, he cleaned up the mess and put Lindsey in his truck. Once back at the hotel he had chained his Childe's body and secured the room. Going back to Lindsey's building he had fetched his convertible and parked it out front. Using tarps, he hid Lindsey's truck in the back of the hotel's old basement garage and called in a large order for blood. It couldn't have happened at a worse time. He was still in the doghouse over Darla's unmentioned visits and his odd behavior.

He had managed to keep his secret for almost a week. Gunn had wanted to stake them both. Wesley had morphed into a Watcher, and asked all the wrong questions at the worst time. Cordelia, though, had handled it well. Her only concern, which of course she voiced loudly and with as large an audience as possible, was if all the loud messy sex was going to make him lose his soul. Angel's reply, that the only risk to his soul was that Cordelia's tactlessness might push him to strangle her, had actually been met with laughter from both Wesley and Gunn.

The humans had been uneasy around his soulless Childe though, he and Lindsey kept mostly upstairs during the day. Spike's arrival had made Lindsey look like a model of restraint and led Cordelia to start referring to them as Angel's good Childe and Angelus' bad one.

He had spent many a night since claiming Lindsey wondering how his life would have been different if Darla had succeeded in killing the human, or worse, turning him as her Childe. Could he have dusted Lindsey if he were Darla's? Could he have faced them both together if she had returned with the boy? He didn't like to think of sleeping alone without his precious Childe. Was there a reality where Lindsey had driven off, alive and well, without giving up his life to one of the Masters who had used him in their power struggle? It didn't bear thinking about. He was here now and that was what mattered.

Thoughts of Darla led him back to Xander. Darla was the only fledge he had ever heard of who had risen with the power and independence of a Master. Granted, she had spent almost four hundred years as a vampire and the knowledge had seemed to carry over once she was turned, but she had forgotten that she was just a fledge, raised by a fractured Sire. She hadn't been strong enough to stand against Angel in a physical fight. That had never been true of the Sire who had turned him. Surprisingly, Angelus had approved of dusting Darla, not only because he saw Lindsey as his, but because this weak being had no right to pretend to be his Sire.

Surely, this wasn't the case with Xander. Angel planned to have a word with Spike as soon as those two rose.

Part Six

Xander rolled over. Spike had claimed him, called him Childe and promised forever. Of course, Xander realized forever could end with daybreak. Life had been dangerous and he had no illusions that death would be different. But he wasn't alone now, and he wouldn't be until either he or the brash blond were dust. Spike was sneaky, manipulative, volatile and completely self-serving, but he was also devoted and tender when he chose to be. If, instead of laying next to the Big Bad, Xander had been surrounded by Buffy, Tara, Anya and Willow and, as they were wont to do during late night research sessions, one of them had said, 'If you had to choose a Sire-from all the vamps we have met-who would you choose?', he would have picked Spike.

Of course none of those after slaying speculations had involved sex and drinking each other's blood -- not that it hadn't occasionally crossed his smut ridden mind, but he would never have voiced his Spike and Angel suspicions to Buffy. Besides she would never have gotten the Yoda reference. Yoda wasn't who came to mind when he remembered Spike's softly whispered and immediately fulfilled promises to make him feel better. Apparently blood and sex were cure-alls for vampires, maybe that was why he was so accepting of such new and unexpected turn of events.

Feeling lost and alone was one thing but diving into bed with Spike? Was it like this for all vamps? Would he respond with the same unbridled lust if anyone bit him or was it a Sire thing? Xander wondered as he tried to push his tongue between his fangs and his molars. He wished he had a reflection or Willow to tell him what he looked like. He sighed. He couldn't believe that they were all dead. Giles and Cordy were now the sole living Scoobies. He couldn't believe he was laying here with Spike. He kept expecting Anya to burst into the room. Of course he didn't know if he thought she would be yelling at him for not grieving properly or for not exacting enough vengeance on Willow, or for not inviting her to join them. God, he missed Anya.

Pulling himself up onto his elbows, Xander drank in the sight of his perfect Sire. Spike's body was clothed only in dim light from the small amount of sunshine coming though the gap in the curtains. His demon vision was able to see the light breeze from that open window caress the almost invisible body hair on that flawless skin.

His Sire. He pondered whether the Snoopy dance would be beneath the dignity of a Childe of William the Bloody. Truth was, he knew little about the proper behavior of vampires, other than the whole 'suck the world into hell' theme that seemed prevalent. He desperately wanted to please his Sire, but he had things to do. He hoped Spike didn't want to destroy the world. He had a vague memory of Buffy explaining that Spike professed to like the world-something about McDonalds.

Spike looked so peaceful, and had obviously worn himself out pleasuring his new Childe. Xander was reluctant to disturb his sleeping Sire, but the beast that was his stomach had stirred and if he didn't move away from this tempting display he might breach some vampire etiquette. Xander knew Sires and Childer exchanged blood and not just at turning. The memory of the previous night was making him hard again. But, he figured chomping on a guy while he slept was a 'no-no'. Quickly pulling on his jeans and Spike's tee shirt, he slipped out of the bedroom.

He didn't realize how silently he moved as he went down the stairs. He was too busy watching a powerful black human practice firing a crossbow at a target on the far wall. Wesley was in the office and the computer Xander had stolen was not in sight. Xander suffered a brief bout of panic before convincing himself to trust that Angel would take care of the evidence he had brought. The humans smelled yummy and Xander quickly crossed to the refrigerator he had spotted the night before behind the old registration counter. He knew from living with Spike that blood went off quick and assumed that if Angel had something to nosh it would be stashed here.

Neither human turned their attention from their separate tasks as Xander opened the fridge and took out a jar of blood. It didn't smell nearly as good as they did, but did smell vaguely familiar. Pouring some in a coffee cup, he replaced the jar and tentatively sipped the cold liquid. It didn't even resemble what he had savored from his Sire's veins the night before. Hell, Xander thought, even Herbie had tasted better. Thoughts of Herbie rattled around his head as Xander grimaced and took another sip. Pig's blood; that was what was familiar. There had to be an alternative. Maybe if he mixed it with something... milk? No, that would just turn it pink... hot chocolate? That had possibilities. He would ask Spike when he got up.

"Xander? What are you doing here?" Cordy came in out of the pale morning sunlight and crossed to him. The men turned around, startled by his presence. She hugged him and said, "I'm so sorry about Buffy, again. Is everything okay?"

"God Cordy, you smell good... I... ah... I mean you look good. Beautiful. Were you always this gorgeous?" So much for the whole smooth vampire shtick, Xander thought.

"Xander?" Angel came down the stairs cautiously. Xander wondered at his wary expression. "I didn't think you would be up for hours, is everything all right?"

"Yeah, well, as okay as it's gonna get until we clear up... stuff. I just got hungry and thought I'd hunt up some food." Xander let go of Cordelia, only to be slammed into the wall by a growling, game faced Angel.

"Angel, what the hell are you doing?" Cordelia kicked the vamp in the shin and the tall black man turned the crossbow on them.

Wesley seemed to shake himself out of the stunned silence he had been in since Cordelia had arrived and said, "Really Angel, put the boy down."

"Mine!" Spike launched himself headlong down the stairs. He pushed the humans both left and right before grabbing Angel by the hair and using his momentum to drive them both to the floor.

"Hey! Guys!" Xander looked to Cordelia, but she looked as confused as he felt. Angel and Spike were growling and waling on each other like a cross between WWF and Wild Kingdom. The guy with the crossbow still held he weapon but had pointed it at the ceiling and Wesley was blinking in the doorway. Disgusted, Xander crossed to the coffee maker and removed the nearly full pot. Walking over to the ball of demonic testosterone, he emptied its contents on both of them.

Howling, they separated, only to both glare at him as if he had lost his mind. "First," he said before they could yell at him, "you'll both heal. Second, have you lost your minds? What the hell was that about? The humans are laughing at you. Some Master vampires you are! I can't believe I came to you for help."

Angel gaped, first at his ruined sweater and then at the angry fledge. "I was protecting Cordelia."

"From what? And who said I needed protecting? That didn't look like protecting, that was you and Xander fighting it out for top dog as usual, only this time he didn't do anything." Cordelia strode over until she was in Angel's face, hands on hips and eyes flashing. Xander watched as all the others took a step back and left Angel to his fate. "Don't help," she said turning her back on him, "it never helps when you help."

"Xander's mine. You have a problem with him you come to me, you prancing fairy. I don't want you laying a finger on him until you clear it with me." Spike seemed completely unconcerned at the damage the coffee might have done to his clothes or his body.

Cordelia rounded on the blonde and said, "What the hell does that mean? No one is laying a finger on Xander no matter who says so."

"How could you think I would hurt Cordy? I would never hurt her she's pac... a Scooby. You, I may dust, but she's perfectly safe. What brought this on? You seemed relatively sane last night-for you, anyway." Xander leaned back against the counter, looking far too human. His tan still spoke of days spent in the sunlight and his eyes held confusion and an innocence that no demon could counterfeit.

"You said you came down to hunt," Angel said. He removed his sweater and looked as if he would have walked straight out to the dry-cleaners, if the sun hadn't been shining.

"I'm not you! I wouldn't eat Cordelia..." Xander said, but stopped as the woman in question blushed violently and turned an outraged look on him. "Cordy," he sputtered, "he's not talking about the utility closet, he's talking about me draining you. You know," he let his demonic features ripple forth and then shifted back to human, "as in the whole 'I vant to drink your blood' thing."

"Oh, God!" She stepped back, tears started to form. "You bastard!" She turned back to Spike. "He's yours? You did this? You killed him? You are so dead!" The crossbow was immediately on Spike, and Angel quickly restrained Cordelia from attacking his Childe.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Xander held up his hands and moved in front of Spike. "Let's not do anything permanent, okay? How about the humans sit over there and the vamps over here? Cordy, Spike did not kill me. Guys, we have so much more to worry about than the pathetic life and tragic death of Xander Harris."

Xander pushed Spike further away from the humans and Wesley took charge by suggesting they all be reasonable. He even smiled when Xander muttered something about there being a first time for everything.

And so Xander went through it all again. Wesley seemed particularly interested in Travers' role, never having liked the man. Lindsey silently entered and perched on the arm of Angel's chair about halfway through the rehash.

"Let me get this straight," Cordelia said. "You're a vampire, but you have no desire to kill people."

"I have a lot of desire," Xander growled. "I had desire to kill people long before becoming a vampire, Cordy."

"Yeah, yeah, but you're not going to kill people," she said.

"Ah.. no, I'm going to kill lots of people," Xander said. Angel growled and Xander asked, "What? You want me to lie to her? Angel, in a little more than two days I have a body count in the double digits-that's only normal in a Bruce Willis movie. I will kill anyone or anything that threatens my pack... um, the people I care about."

"But you do care?" Wesley interjected.

"Yeah, well, not for you, of course. I never liked you, but for Cordy, sure. I'll rip the arms off of anyone who tries to hurt her," Xander said.

"That's so sweet-in a completely insane way. I love you too, Xan." Cordelia smiled, then saw Wesley's incredulous look and said, "What?"

"You are, you know? Completely whacked. Charles Gunn, by the way." Angel looked as if he couldn't have been more surprised if Gunn had shifted to game face. All the man had done was offer Xander his hand to shake.

"Xander. Want to swap incredibly embarrassing Cordelia stories?" Xander gave Gunn a broad grin, shook his hand and enjoyed Angel's discomfort.

Part Seven

Later, Spike had taken Xander back up to their room. The blonde didn't even mention the coffee incident, but Xander was still worried. Xander crawled across the wide bed on all fours. He stopped and butted his head against the blonde, who stood scowling at the television. Spike clicked the set off and turned to smile at him. "S'matter, Pet? You still hungry?"

"Not for that crap. Is there anyway to hide the taste?" Xander rubbed his face against Spike's stomach and tugged on his belt loops, hoping to get him into the bed.

"We could go hunting, luv. For real. Get us something hot and fresh." Xander closed his eyes, reveling for a moment in the feel of Spike's strong fingers combing through his hair.

When he opened them, he felt pinned by those incredibly blue eyes. His Sire was studying him. He wondered what Spike saw, and if he approved. He desperately wanted to be the Childe Spike deserved, but had a feeling he would fail miserably. "Is there a handbook or any kind of instructions?" He hoped his eyes said how serious he was.

"What, on hunting?" Spike didn't break that intense gaze, and pushing him back onto the bed, crawled on top of him.

"On everything. How to avoid crap like in the lobby. What not to say and do to piss off your Sire. The things that are expected of me and what will happen if I fuck up." Xander bit his lip and wondered if Spike were regretting his claim.

"What happened in the lobby was fun. You say and do whatever you want. Maybe your Sire likes to be pissed off occasionally-makes thing entertaining. I expect you to be Xander. If you fuck up, I'll let you know and you can do it again until I tell you you got it right or you tell me to piss off. How's that, Pet? You want me to put it in writing?" Spike leaned down to take over the task of biting Xander's lip.

"I love you, Sire." Xander whispered.

"Well of course you do, Pet. You're my Childe, right?" Spike buried his smirk in Xander neck and waited until Xander started to plea before sinking his fangs in for another taste.

* * * * *

Too soon, a knock on the door interrupted their play. Spike shouted, "Fuck off." He knew it wouldn't stop the Poof, but wanted to give Xander his undivided attention. Besides, although he had peeled off the tight black tee, he hadn't gotten started on Xander's worn jeans.

The door opened and Angel stood glowering at Spike. He put his hands in his pockets, having changed to a clean dark sweater, and sighed. Spike wondered if he were brooding over the off-white, hand-knit Irish import that was probably soaking in his bathtub at that moment, or over Xander's undeclared war on the Watchers. Angel surprised Spike by saying, "Xander, I'm sorry. Please understand, normally vampires-any vampire, not just one as young as you-would have attacked the first available food source; in this case, one of the humans downstairs. It's not that you're evil... well, yes it is, or rather you should be... To be honest, you don't make sense, not your existence or your actions."

"Okay, that's fair, I guess..." Xander said while stroking his growling Sire. Spike didn't like Angel telling Xander he didn't make sense. There was nothing wrong with his Childe. Xander was just as willful and sarcastic as ever. Spike had wanted to scoop him up and ravish him when he had been scolding Angel for his behavior. His boy was still smarter and more fun than the Poof had ever been.

As Spike nuzzled Xander's bare neck in response to his boy's rumbling purr, he heard Lindsey's soft tread before the fledge said, "I called Lorne. He said he'd come by."

"Good," Angel said, "maybe he can pick up something I'm missing." Angel stepped into the room and crossed to the bed. He sat next to Spike and continued, "Unless you'd like to volunteer something?" He paused, clearly not buying Spike's innocent look. "You're not being a very good Sire if you plan on leaving Xander in the dark about who turned him."

Before Spike could growl out anything his beautiful boy whispered, "You know? Why.." Which was unfair-using his pretty Childe, whose big brown eyes already had Spike tightly wrapped. Well, he always had been love's bitch, but now he had someone worthy of his devotion.

"Shhh, love. Shhh, you're mine, no one is taking you. Not the Poof and not that cheap gypsy tosser..." Spike saw his Sire's eyes go wide and wary at the word gypsy, but Xander's confused look was what silenced him.

Xander blinked, started to speak, closed his mouth and turned his attention inward. After a moment of silence he shook his head focused on Spike and said, "Huh?"

"Come on, Pet. You're not near as dozy as you pretend to be. Who's the only vamp ever fed from you? Who's the only one whose blood you tasted?" Spike pulled Xander into a seated position. Xander came bonelessly as his attention was once again turned inward. Spike wrapped his Childe in his arms and pulled him into his lap.

While Xander attempted to put two and two together, Angel lifted an eyebrow and cocked his head. Lindsey crept close to his Sire, his face plainly showing curiosity. Xander returned that same look to Angel, turned to his Sire and blinked, looked to the window open-mouthed. Looking back at Spike he said, "Okay, you got me. Who? Spike, I never fed from a vamp and the only time I got bit was when Dracula..."

Blink, blink, blink. Spike watched Xander closely. It was never a good sign when Xander's babble ceased. He felt a tremble pass through his Childe and made a soothing rumbling noise. Spike was concerned at the small whine that escaped his pet. Xander's resilience was almost legendary on the Hellmouth but for the first time since this oddly self-assured fledge appeared he began to show fear. It was a desperate whisper that escaped when Xander said, "No. He's gone. Buffy dusted him... No." Xander buried his face against Spike but his soft, "Not him, please, not him," was clear to his adopted family.

Lindsey whimpered and curled on the corner of the bed, laying his head against Angel's back. Angel reached over and rubbed soothing circles on Xander's back. Spike could tell Angel was still confused but turned his attention to his Childe, "Xan, shh, Pet, shhh, luv... Sire's here."

"Spike?" Angel had apparently found his voice. "Are you saying Xander is Dracula's Childe?"

"Mine! My Childe," Spike hissed while clutching Xander to him. "Sire, I demand you acknowledge my claim. He is Aurelian now. Xander is mine!"

Angel caught up his Childe and new grandChilde in a loose hug. Lindsey looked like he wanted to bolt out of fear but seemed reluctant to leave as he watched from wide-eyed from his corner of the bed. Holding Spike's gaze with his own golden-eyed gaze, Angel said, "Mine. You're mine and all you claim are under my protection. Come what may from this time forward your Childe is of the Aurelian line."

Spike bared his neck and Angel sank his fangs into his Childe. Lindsey moved forward at the sight of the blood but froze as Xander glared at him, his eyes glowing green. "Easy, luv," Spike said, running his fingers though Xander's hair. "Listen to Sire. Angel's going to feed on you. You mind him, now. When he's through, our Lindsey is going to take a taste. You behave-I tell you when you can bite someone."

* * * * *

Angel moved forward and blanketed Xander's body as he yielded and lay on his back. If anyone had told him he would end up claiming Xander Harris as a member of the Aurelian bloodline he would have thought they were insane. Angelus would have kept the boy as a minion. To be honest, he couldn't imagine, at his best or worst, that the snarky boy would have made such a formidable vampire. Darla had always said that the bloodline made the fledge but that the man made the Master.

Xander had been trembling ever since he had put name to the vampire that had been responsible for his rising. Surely, Xander knew that he would never have risen if Dracula had been dusted before he died. Or did he? Giles had concentrated so much on teaching them how to slay; had he even thought to prepare the children for this possible consequence of failure? Given the years this young man had spent throwing his fragile life against impossible odds, the real stunner in his story was that only one vampire had ever tasted that hot mortal blood.

Brushing lightly against Xander's supine body, Angel pressed into him, before burying his face in that thick hair. Xander reeked of Spike's scent just as the room smelled of sex and blood. Turning his head, Angel watched as Lindsey licked the remains of blood from the bite he had made on Spike's neck. Spike's gaze was riveted on Xander. Angel lifted his face until he was a scant inch from Xander's oddly panting game face. He traced the exotic lines of Xander's brow with his lips and trailed down to his neck.

Biting deeply, he was hit by the potency of Xander's blood. It was true. Only a Sire rumored to be over nine hundred years old could have passed on this blood. Given Xander's striking independence and strength of will, it was easy to believe those rumors. There were other tales about the infamous vampire, including speculation that he jealously guarded his bloodline creating only minions. Angel had never heard of a Childe of Dracula. True, the Watchers believed that his wives were his Childer, but vampires knew those thralls to be only minions, and lowly ones at that. Dracula not only created no Childer, but dusted any minion who attempted to escape his influence. It was unlike that old one to leave a loose end like this. He would have to get the whole story from Spike. He felt Xander come, still in his jeans, and rolled over until the fledge was on top. Turning Xander in his arms he looked first to Spike for a nod of permission and then beckoned Lindsey to come taste his new nephew.

* * * * *

Lindsey stopped, wide-eyed. Surely his Sire didn't expect him to feed from this volatile vamp with the glowing green eyes? Apparently, he did. Pushing aside the thought that his Sire was out of his mind, Lindsey started to walk forward on the mattress using his knees. He was stopped by a low growl from Xander. Angel showed no strain in his forearm, which was clamped across Xander's chest, but Lindsey knew how strong his Sire was. Angel's other hand appeared to be carding through those thick dark lock in an attempt to sooth the nervous young vampire, although Lindsey suspected that it was more likely due to what a convenient handle the hair would provide if Xander suddenly lunged for him. Intellectually, Lindsey knew he could survive being tied up in his own intestines, but he was reluctant to test that ability. There were advantages to having a souled Sire-an infrequent exposure to non-consensual pain was one of them.

"Lindsey." Angel's voice was soft, but Lindsey was well aware that he was dangerously close to disobeying his Sire. He weighed his options; running wasn't one of them. It was obviously important to whatever family structure Angel was establishing here that he feed off of Xander before Xander fed from him. Unfortunately for Lindsey, Xander knew that Lindsey wouldn't have had a chance in hell of enforcing this statement of dominance without his Sire's backing-perhaps without both their Sires.

Memories of one of the many documentaries he watched to while away the daylight hours saved him further reprimand from his Sire. Lindsey crouched down on all fours. Carefully keeping his head lower than Xander's he crept forward slowly. This felt right somehow, along with the added advantage of protecting his vulnerable underbelly. Once he was almost flush with the growling fledge, Lindsey tentatively started to lick Xander's chin and mouth. Almost immediately the green light left Xander's eyes and the low menacing growl ceased. He shifted out of his gameface and turned wary brown eyes on Lindsey. Just as he began to return Lindsey's kisses; Xander surprised him by nipping at Lindsey's lips with his blunt human teeth.

Lindsey registered a wicked teasing light in Xander's eyes and felt himself pulled flush against his new nephew. Still pinned in Angel's arms, Xander had grasped Lindsey's torso within his long legs and now held him firmly against him. Before Lindsey could begin to struggle he felt Spike begin to chuckle as he rubbed soothing circles on his back. "Now, Xan, behave," Spike rumbled in an amused voice that did nothing to drown out Angel's warning growl. Xander laughed, a short high bark of a sound, and the tension broke. Lindsey placed his palms flat on his Sire's strong thighs as Xander lifted his chin to expose his alluring throat. Lindsey moaned into his bite and whimpered as he was all-too-soon gently tugged away by his older brother.

He didn't remember much after that. Xander's spicy blood was a heady mix, especially coupled with his second taste of Spike's. The next thing Lindsey knew, he was being lain back down by his Sire in their bed with no memory of how he had obtained the delicious tingling bite on his inner thigh. The healing mark on his wrist was Spike's -- he remembered the sense of power from the time Spike had acknowledged him as clan--but someone had obviously broken tradition. Oddly enough, his usually over-possessive Sire seemed more pensive than angry, so Lindsey decide to enjoy the intoxicating feeling and curled up next to him while he brooded. The rhythm of Angel's fingers running through his hair lulled Lindsey into a light sleep.

* * * * *

Later, when he felt more clear-headed, Lindsey sat up and nuzzled his Sire's neck. He had questions, and often his ignorance could be used to pull Angel out of brood mode. "Sire?"

"Yes, Childe," Angel whispered with a smile. He cupped Lindsey's face in his broad palm and kissed him softly.

"Why was it so important that I feed from Xander before he fed from me?" Lindsey knew it probably had to do with some vampire pecking order, but found that if he didn't occasionally make his Sire spell out the basics, he would never find out for sure. Lindsey preferred to be absolutely certain of the rules, and Angel assumed that he knew so much from either his time with Wolfram & Hart or from whatever innate knowledge fledges rose with, that he often neglected the basics.

"Because I said so," Angel replied.

"Which, of course, is also why the Earth goes around the Sun," Lindsey smirked. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to," he said in a more serious tone, "I just don't want to embarrass or disappoint you in the future if this is something you expect me to understand. I don't, not completely, otherwise I wouldn't have asked."

Angel smiled and pulled Lindsey into his lap. They sat a moment as Angel rested against the headboard of the bed and stared into space. After gathering his thoughts he said, "Since I am the eldest of our bloodline, acknowledging Xander as Aurelian took only my claiming. Sharing blood between us however, strengthens the bond, and the more members accept him, the stronger Xander's tie to our line. Now, vampires rarely accept someone not of their line, but every Childe must be presented to the head of the line and accepted. Even if Spike had turned Xander, he would have been mine to dust, if I thought he was unworthy of our bloodline. The Master wanted Darla to dust Dru after I had turned her; it was only after her visions proved accurate that he admitted we should allow her to exist. As you obviously guessed, the order of who feeds from whom first is a matter of strength and dominance. If Childer of the line are close in age, like you and Xander, they usually battle for the right to feed first. When Spike was five he defeated a Childe of Luke's who was almost one hundred years old. It earned him quite a reputation."

"That must have been hard for an old vamp to let a fledge drink first," Lindsey whisper holding Angel's arms tight around him. At times like this, he wondered if he were a disappointment to his infamous Sire.

Angel, with his fingers on Lindsey's chin, carefully turned him to meet his sad gaze, "Luke dusted him. He wouldn't have a Childe who could be beaten by a fledge, no matter how ruthless that fledge was. Never forget, we're demons-compassion is something that doesn't exist in most clans."

Tears made Lindsey's eyes glisten, but none fell. "I'm sorry, Sire," he whispered.

"No.. What? Childe, you have nothing to be sorry for. You are a constant source of joy to me." Angel held his boy tighter.

"I don't have a soul... I never will, I only do what is right to please you... I know I don't have compassion; I only care if the humans live or die based on how it relates to you... but I do love you, Sire. I try to let your soul guide me..." Lindsey buried his face in Angel's neck as his whisper broke with a sob.

Angel wrestled Lindsey until he was flat on his back. He loomed over him and leaned down to lick the tears off his face. Soon his boy was purring into his touch. Lindsey adored how his Sire chose to take his mind off of things, but after his was sated and lay looking into those bottomless eyes he asked, "Do you wish I was more like Spike? That I could have forced Xander to yield, without you restraining him?"

"You are perfect. I only want you to be Lindsey." Angel pulled Lindsey flush with his own sticky body. "It only mattered that Xander submit to you after I had stated that he would. If I had backed down when he started that growling, I would have to fight him every step in the future. Trust me, it's an alpha male thing." Angel actually laughed and buried his face in Lindsey's hair. Lindsey loved to hear his Sire laugh. Angel did it so infrequently. Mostly the quiet man expressed his amusement with a smirk or at most a soft snicker; the occasional open laughs were a rare treat. He sighed into his Sire's touch and started to doze again.

Part Eight

Spike chased his boy through the derelict floors of the hotel's upper levels. Xander was fast and silent, except for that occasional barking laugh that mostly sounded just before the fledge pounced out of the shadows. Xander might have brought an odd set of morals with him from his human existence, but somewhere the boy had acquired a gift for the art of the chase. Oh, to hunt with his boy! Humans would never provide his pet with any entertainment. He and the boy had to hunt demons-the bigger the better.

That might be best, Spike thought. His new Childe seemed to be the only vamp, besides Angel, who divided prey into the ones he liked and wouldn't kill and the ones he hunted. If his whispered pillow talk was anything to go by Xander's desire to hunt wasn't fueled by hunger like any sensible vampire but by a need to feel safe and keep his loved ones safe. A normal fledge would have trusted his Sire to keep him safe, but, expecting the Harris good fortune, Xander seemed to be waiting for Spike to be taken from him. Silly boy, Spike almost snorted, which would have destroyed his silent stalking of his Childe. As if one deluded, backwoods leech who seduced his prey, rather than hunting like a real vamp, were up to crossing the Scourge of EuropeŠ no wait, the Scourge of Los AngelesŠ no the Scourge of the New World, yes, much better. Lindsey was no slouch in close quarters combat, not with a year of big brother's coaching under his belt and Peaches would peel that Gypsy trickster like a grape if he endangered his precious boy. Spike looked forward to crossing Xander's ex-Sire.

Spike wondered at Xander's restraint. Xander had meant it when he said he had no intention of harming Cordelia. Spike had been surprised at how Xander had held his human guise, only flashing his fangs and brow ridges to emphasis a point and yet maintaining his composure during close physical proximity to food. Xander hadn't seemed to register any fervor when the older vampires had squared off for a spot of violence and had even seemed embarrassed by their behavior. Later back in their room when Spike had suggested hunting Xander had exhibited neither the squeamishness Spike expected from a soul nor the bloodlust associated with a newly risen vampire. Spike was at a loss. He had no idea what made boy tick, but he liked it.

Xander's emotions were a wonder as well. His grief at losing Buffy and Anya and even Willow had be real and physical; he seemed to experience the events as he spoke of them. His scent had shifted from abject despair to rage, but not bloodlust, when he spoke of stalking the Watcher around Sunnydale. Like a primitive tribe member or an animal he lived the story or relived it, experiencing the emotions all over again as he spoke, but once finished was able to put away such consuming reactions.

Xander had told his Sire everything, away from any judgments Angel may have lobbed at him for his acts of violence. Oh, he had told his new grandSire that he killed the Watchers and how many, but not the blow-by-blow particulars his Sire had received. Xander had detailed with military precision each victim, their part in Travers' scheme and how he had killed them. That a fledge could hold off the drive to sink fangs into flesh had been unbelievable but the fact that Xander chose not to drink their blood was flabbergasting.

Spike was sure it had something to do with the way the fledge slipped from acting so Xanderlike among the humans, and easily accepting of the vampires' ways among the vamps. Angel had given Spike a nasty turn when he had said Xander still had his soul. A souled Xander, in Spike's opinion, would be sobbing and remorseful when not brooding like old Batvamp. Spike liked that Xander was conscious and developed enough to have emotions like grief and love, but didn't want to deal with a deeply depressed human. All in all, Spike was quite pleased with his changeable, somewhat peculiar Childe.

Hearing a bark coming from down the back stairs Spike rushed to see just what or whom Xander had pounced on.

* * * * *

Xander slipped from one shadow to the next. He shrugged into the darkness like a well-worn coat. Even without the distinctive smell of leather, whiskey and tobacco, Spike would have been easy to track. Xander couldn't believe he had never noticed how loud and clompy Spike's boots were. Of course, that could only be because he was undead.

The part of him which purred at Spike's smallest attention was disturbed that although they could sense his Sire the way he had felt and avoided the vampires of Sunnydale, the deep primal pull was not strong the way it should be between Sire and Childe. The part that was exuberance with the feel of running through the maze of corridors and having something to hunt, something they were allowed to bite, did not want to be dwelling on things they couldn't change. The part that tied them together thought that hunting and biting often enough would eventually tie them to his Sire and the problem would go away.

Xander was used to internal monologues and conflicting feelings. He had always thought it was part of growing up and learning to keep the babble inside. Not that the babble always stayed inside, but he had never argued with himself aloud ­ at least in front of anyone. It was different now. Duh, he thought. Part of him desperately wanted to go see Dawnie, to let her know he had found help and that she soon would be safe and couldŠ well, not go back home, but maybe she could come live with him-Sire loved her. Spike, Xander thought, Spike loves her.

Maybe he wasn't such a crappy vamp, Xander thought as he slipped down a level and stalked Spike by the sound of his footsteps above. He had always, reluctantly, liked Spike. Spike seemed to be able to put up with a tremendous amount of shit for the people he loved; Dru, Buffy, Angel. But he had to admit, if just to himself and all the conflicting urges in his head, when he found himself dead and alone, somehow having to keep Dawn safe and clean up the mess, his first thoughts had been to go to Spike, not Angel, or even Giles, for help.

Spike was thorough, goal oriented. His planning sucked but he had a terrific execution. Style. That was what Xander had always admired. Spike had style. Didn't really explain the driving need to lick, suck, bite, every square inch of that lean, compact, muscular body ­ oh, vampire, right.

Xander worried about this new obsession. When 'Spike' had become 'Sire' in his mind it was if he instantly became addicted to seeing that look of pleasure and pride in those riveting blue eyes. He could easily have spent eternity basking in the feel that his Sire approved of him. Spike seemed to think he made a damn fine Childe. He laughed and petted Xander over every mishap, from biting Lindsey in an intimate spot to destroying Angel's favorite sweater. Well that last one was to be expected. Still, Xander remembered he had exasperated the hell out of the blonde when they had lived together and he assumed Spike had mostly tolerated his company to please Buffy, but now Spike only willingly let him out of his sight when they played like this.

A new scent, not human, tickled Xander's nose. Spike kept saying he needn't breath and that the sound would alert other vamps to his location, but the smells. Not breathing them in would be like being blind. The chase/pounce part of him was pleased he could now scent the things that had been missing, just as it reveled in the new strength and speed he had acquired with death, or rather by rising from the dead.

Something had invaded their den. Home, Xander thought, this is home and that isn't one of us. He watched the demon climb the stairs, coming closer, still two floors down. That was the floor Angel had finished. The one where they all slept. His Sire was safe above but Lindsey and Angel were resting a few doors down that corridor. Xander had caught the scent of their coupling as he ran passed earlier. The demon stopped at the top of the flight of stairs and Xander acted swiftly to protect his pack.

Part Nine

As Spike headed toward the staircase he hoped Xander had pounced on Angel. It was easier to get him off of the large vamp than his pretty newest Childe. He liked the fact that Lindsey and Xander seemed comfortable with each other. Still, it was too easy for fledges to get notional. It wouldn't do for either to think of the other as competition. Spike didn't want to lose either of them to some stupid fight for dominance. Especially since he was sure Xander would win and Angel would want to stake him, and then Spike would have to kill Angel and they would lose their cushy accommodations. Spike had had enough crypts for an unlifetime.

It really was time for him to try and get his Childe dressed and presentable, since Angel wanted Lorne to read him. Maybe the green seer had a shot at sorting out what made his boy tick, or at least soothing the Dark Avenger's innumerable worries.

Well, think of the devil, Spike thought as he rounded the corner of the stairway he ran down. It was a lovely sight-his boy, bare except for a pair of threadbare jeans crouched on the chest of the Pylean . "He has red eyes, Sire."

"That he does, Pet," Spike answered, stroking his fingers through Xander's hair as the boy tilted his head one way and then the other as he watched his prey squirm.

Lorne said, "Could you call him off?"

At the same time, Xander said, "Can I have them?"

Spike considered saying yes, just to see how quickly Xander could remove those lovely red baubles. Truth was there wasn't much the Pylean couldn't survive except being hacked into hand-sized pieces or being immolated. 'Course, anything Xander did would hurt like hell, Spike mused. That though wasn't likely to restraint either of them but Angel heavy tread coming up the hall would.

"Spike, control your Childe," Angel sounded weary and it didn't strike Spike as prudent to bait his Sire right now.

"Come on, Pet. You can play with Lorne later. Let Angel have first go," Spike drawled and was pleased by the speed of Xander's response. Xander bounced to his feet and was instantly at his side. Xander snapped his teeth playfully at his Sire in a move the reminded Spike strongly of Dru. "What say we find Lindsey, eh? You show me you can catch him for me."

Xander was off in a blur. As Spike made to follow him down the stairway, Angel growled, "Spike."

"Easy, Peaches. The boy just needs to burn off some energy." Angel continued to glare and Spike shrugged and called out down the stair, "Mind, luv, you just catch him and hold him for me."

* * * * *

Angel leaned against the wall and slid down to sit next to Lorne.

"That's some addition to ye old family, muffin," the demon drawled as he sat up.

Angel shot him a look of exasperation, and then smiled. "He died Thursday night. Give him a week, then he'll really make trouble."

"Think you should go rescue Linds?" Lorne asked.

Angel shook his head, "Spike is actually quite fond of Lindsey and Xander is warming up to him-if his choice of spots to bite is any indication."

"So what's up? I assume that the new boy is what Linds meant when he said you wanted me to take a look at something," Lorne said. Standing, he held out a hand to Angel.

"Yeah, he doesn't make sense. I knew him before he was turned. He was a good kid-stubborn, sarcastic, suicidally loyal, not too bright, but surprisingly perceptive. He showed up here Sireless, fresh from the Hellmouth with a blood vendetta against the Watchers in full swing," Angel said as they continued down the stairway side by side.

"Let me guess, you've decided to keep him." Lorne paused with Angel at the gallery which over looked the lobby. Xander had Lindsey pinned to the sofa and both fledglings were giggling and thrashing against each other. Spike looked on fondly while drinking some of Angel's best whiskey.

"Well, he grows on you," Angel said and exchanged a smile with Spike who looked up and raised his glass in salute.

Angel has sent the humans off after the incident in the lobby. He had explained to Cordy that while Xander appeared to be in control that it would be better if she waited to spend time with he friend. To be truthful, the story of Willow's slide into black magic and her and Xander's subsequent deaths had thrown the resilient young Seer. Wes was digging up what information he could discreetly obtain on the Watchers and Gunn was using normal detective means to try to locate both Mr. Summers and an aunt of Buffy's whom Xander had mentioned who was really a cousin of Joyce's. Xander seemed to think the aunt would be the best place to hide Dawn and remembered Buffy's story about a cousin her age. The girls had been best friends until she had contracted an illness when she was nine. Prior to assuming her role as a Slayer, Buffy had watched helplessly as the unseen monster had drained the life from the daughter of the woman they were searching for. Angel hoped that the spell cast by the monks would kick in and rewrite this woman's memories as well.

Lorne watched Angel's newest grandChilde. He'd never been permitted to see a fledge this young. Even though Lindsey and Lorne had been good friends before Angel had embraced him as his Childe, Angel had kept Lindsey secluded for the first few weeks of his unlife. Most Sires were obsessively possessive of their new offspring and were still immersed in indulging in whatever charms had enticed them to turn the human.

Spike joined the fledglings on the couch and pulled Xander back off of Lindsey to recline against his chest. Xander, unwilling to yield his prize, locked his legs around Lindsey and dragged him forward until Lindsey rested on top of him, his head on Xander chest. Spike chuckled, running his pale fingers though Xander's thick hair. Xander mimicked his Sire's movements and carded Lindsey's tangled locks, eliciting a lazy purr from the ex-lawyer. Lorne had expected any new Childe to be beautiful, and by human standards he was. This Xander had the feel he associated with Childer; a great deal of attention had been taken in his turning, for him to resonate the way he did. Even without having him sing Lorne felt depth to this being. There must be an interesting story of how Angel's Childe had ended up claiming this lost jewel, Lorne thought. He couldn't wait to hear it.

Angel shook his head and shared an indulgent smile with Lorne before leading the way down to the lobby. He took a chair next to the couch and nodded for Lorne to be seated. Lorne chose a loveseat on Angel's right, thinking it would not be prudent to approach the younger members of the family until given permission. A short while later, after introductions had been made, the four vampires took turns retelling the tale to Lorne. "So, what exactly are we trying to figure out?" Lorne asked when they finished.

"Xander doesn't remember much about his Sire." Spike's growl caused Angel to amend his words. "About the vampire who turned him. I was hoping you could do that thing you did with Lisette. If you could help Xander see the details surrounding his encounter with the vampire who turned him, we might be able to figure out how he differs from the average fledgling."

Lorne hesitated. He rarely had people trance down. If the boy... if the vampire were repressing memories it could be his psyche wasn't ready to deal with them. On the other hand if there was another vampire involved, one that Angel was obviously reluctant to name, it just might be best if they found out all they could before he showed up to reclaim his missing Childe. "Well," he said finally, "I'm game."

"Do I have to do anything?" Xander sounded so reasonable as he looked over from his embrace between Spike and Lindsey. Gone were the wild glowing eyes Lorne had looked up into such a short time ago. They were now calm and brown without a sign of blood thirst Lorne would have sworn couldn't be counterfeited.

"Are you comfortable?" Lorne asked. Xander nodded and Lorne said, "Then that's the best spot. Just close your eyes. I want you to picture the events we're going to talk about. If you get upset, concentrate on Spike's arms around you and the feel of your family nearby. If you find things blocked or confused, I want you to concentrate on details-what the air smelled like, any background noises, even the temperature. Ready?" Xander nodded again and if possible became even more boneless in Spike's embrace.

Lorne sang softly; it could have been a dirge or a lullaby. It was difficult to tell when a non-breathing person was relaxed but after a time he spoke. "Tell me the first time you saw this vampire that Angel has questions about," Lorne had lowered his voice to barely above a whisper.

"On patrol with Buffy and Willow; he turned into a bat. That was new. It spooked all of us. We went straight to Giles," Xander said. "LaterŠ didn't want to come home with me 'cause it was bleach day."

"Start there, tell me whatever you remember," Lorne said.

"We were arguing. They had dated or something back in her demon days and she was all oooo, he's so famous, so handsome and I really didn't want to hear it. I... I took Anya to her door but... I didn't stay... I think... I remember heading for my car. I know I had a stake 'cause, Sunnydale. I... there was someone at my car... not him. Four of them, the wives... oh God they smelled... sweet, sickening sweet like a funeral home or... not flowers. Almost like gas? Like at the dentist... I thought they were hypnotizing me like Dru... I remember Giles said... They didn't hypnotizeŠ"

For a moment Xander's voice shook off it dreamy quality and he said, "Sire, you're right cheap gypsy tricks." His focus turned back inward and he continued, "I was groggy and they threw me at his feet. I must have passed out; because it was like one minute I was at the car and the next I was at his castle. I tried to shake my head clear but the smellŠ Of course, none of them breathe so they just keep the gas on... He was acting the king. It was like a stage with him on the throne. He bit...out of sight where Buffy wouldn't see... I ... why didn't I fight him? I just lay there. He was talking, telling me some shit about eternal life and how I would be his... The air was clearing. They must have run out... or maybe a window was open... he pricked his finger and held it out like he was offering me gold. It was one drop of blood. It beaded like a jewel in the moonlight," Xander laughed, that high barking sound as if he had prey in sight.

"He was trying to convince me to take it. Like he had to get me over some kind of squeamishness by promising me... oh God, Spike, you should have seen the look in his eyes when I lunged for his throat." Xander's laughter rang though the lobby and seemed to bounce along the high ceiling. "The wives screamed. I guess... they were prepared for me to try and get away but none of them thought blunt human teeth would be a danger. Guess he should have talked to Herbie on that. His blood filled my mouth-I had to swallow or choke. He couldn't push me off with my teeth clamped on like that..." Xander opened his eyes, they flashed green and back to brown, and he turned them on Spike. "When his wives pulled me off a hunk of his flesh came too."

"Good for you, Pet," Spike stroked Xander hair and turned a look on Lorne as if to ask if Xander were in a trance.

"Why? Why did I think he came up to me in the street? I hated myself. I couldn't understand why I gave in so fast... I didn't even seem to fight, just offered to turn over one of my best friends to ... to what, be one of those mindless slaves he surrounds himself with?"

"Couldn't have you remember how much trouble you gave him, could he? Couldn't let a mere human get away with remembering putting him through his paces. You're my good boy. Wasn't expecting a hunter in you was he? Good on you, luv." Spike's voice was low and tender voice as he soothed his Childe.

"Not completely, no." Xander's eyes stayed open but lost focus. "He went ballistic. Dusted one of the wives. He was saying he would have to kill me and that this was going to throw his whole schedule off. The one with the short hair said, 'Can't you kill him after he's brought the Slayer?' and he calmed down. Then he was looming over me in game face. Telling me I was to bring Buffy and that I was his...I'm not his! I never was. Buffy dusted him... Spike?"

"More gypsy parlor tricks, luv. As of the night you rose he had to be still around, that's how it works. He should have felt you rise. Slayer kicked his ass good; worse than that she saw through all his mumbo jumbo. He tucked his tail and ran... take a lot to make him return to the scene of his humiliation," Spike soothed his Childe with words and gentle touches.

"Sire, can he find him? Can he come to try and take Xander from us?" Lindsey had remained wrapped around Xander as he told his tale, but now sat up looking fierce and defiant.

"The more time passes between Xander's rising the weaker the bond will be," Angel explained. "If he had been there and bonded with Xander as a Sire, like you and I, it would be different. He would be able to find Xander anywhere, given enough time. But I have never seen this much time go between the exchange of blood and the actual turning... he might not be aware that Xander rose." Angel turned a speculating look on Spike.

"No one is taking you from us," Spike said fiercely while holding his Childe.

"Xander," Lorne said, rising and moving to sit on the low table in front of the couch, "would you sing for me?"

"Huh?" Xander answered with a confused look and sat up with his Sire still wrapped around him. Lindsey slipped from his grasp and sat on the floor at Angel's feet.

"Just sing," Lorne said.

Xander cocked his head. He looked to Spike and at the blonde's nod started in a slow, almost speaking voice,

"God I feel like hell tonight Tears of rage I cannot fight I'd be the last to help you understand Are you strong enough to be my man? Nothing's true and nothing's right So let me be alone tonight 'Cause you can't change the way I am Are you strong enough to be my man?" [1]

"You're Xander Harris," Lorne said.

"Ah, yeah. We met, remember?" Xander lifted his eyebrow and looked past Lorne to Angel.

"No." Lorne said with more emphasis. "You are Xander."

Xander cocked his head again and said, "Angel, are you paying this guy? 'Cause I gotta say as psychics go-"

"Your soul. It's still there. You are Xander. She kept you. You kept her when all the others were banished. Your body died, but she couldn't follow you where you were supposed to go and she knew the body would rise with a demon. She keeps it in line and you keep her-" Loren stopped abruptly as Xander's eyes flashed an eerie green tint. He leaned back and waited until Spike's soft rumble had chased away the tint and Xander's eyes were back to brown.

"She who?" Angel asked.

Loren started to answer, but Xander whispered, "The hyena? But Giles did a spell. I thought when I didn't killŠ I thought it was gone." His troubled eyes turned inward, like they had when he contemplate who his Sire had been.

"Shhh, luv. You're my lovely wicked boy. Sire's here," Spike whispered and nipped at Xander's ear.

Lorne stood and moved closer to Angel, and watched the oldest vampire for his reaction to his words to Xander. "The two of you bonded. You give her a place to belong. She chose you and she could have moved on with the others but they were gone and she wasn't willing to lose you. The two of you have been together ever since. She never left, not completely. You both might have had to fight the demon for control if you had been turned normally, but since it had no one to look to and she was stronger and yet being stronger deferred to you, so it lets you remain in charge of your inner pack."

"See, you're just fine. Got a few voices in my head myself at times, luv, and Peaches, you should see his demon and his soul arguing over what to wear," Spike said.

"I don't-" Angel started.

"Oh, not out loud, of course," Spike winked at Lindsey who smiled and reached over and gave Xander's hand a reassuring squeeze.

"Now, tell me about this girl. She's family? Your family ­ pack?" Loren asked.

Xander nodded and looked to Spike.

[1] Strong Enough by Sheryl Crow

* * * * *

Xander rolled over onto his back and ran his hand over his forehead and brushed back his sweat dampened hair. He had kicked off the sheet but the air in the room was oppressive. He lifted his head and flipped his pillow to the cooler side. His skin felt sticky and he wondered if a shower would help him get back to sleep or just wake him up more.

The door opened and let in a dim shaft of light. Anya stood in the doorway. Her robe was open reveling a matching long white night gown underneath. As she crossed to the bed she shrugged off the robe before sitting next on the edge of the bed. Her fingers felt cool as she caressed his cheek. He closed his eyes, reveling in the gentle touch of her slim beautiful hand. He had always loved her hands. He breathed in deeply the subtle scent of the 'White Linen' perfume he had given her on her made-up Fourth of July birthday.

Xander opened his eyes, shocked to see Spike's eyes darken with lust just before claiming his mouth in a demanding kiss. Xander sat up and fisted Spike's tee shirt up and over the blonde's head. Drinking in the sight of that hard, whipcord body, he pushed Spike flat onto the bed. He began to pant as he kissed, licked and nibbled his way down the pale chest to the cut six-pack to dip his tongue into Spike's navel.

Spike's cool fingers ran through Xander's thick hair, urging him to finish his journey, but Xander refused to be rushed. Abruptly the direction of the tugging changed. Xander lifted his face from his loving exploration. He gaped as black bled out and Willow's green eyes filled with tears as she gasped, "Xander. How could you?"

Xander jolted awake. Panting for unneeded air he bolted to the bottom corner of the wide bed and huddled blinking, trying to discern reality from dream. He was cold ­ cold and dead. Spike lay in the middle of the bed with Lindsey tucked on one side. Xander's recently vacated spot looked inviting, but he feared falling back into the illusion of life.

"Sire," he whispered without thought as soon has he saw Spike's eyes open.

"What's s'matter, Childe?" Spike's sleep soaked voice rumbled.

"Bad dream," Xander responded without though and bit his lip, wishing he could call back the words. He steeled himself, waiting for derision. What kind of demon had nightmares?

Wordlessly, Spike held open his arms and Xander threw himself into that haven. Spike purred and stroked Xander's back. Xander felt himself go boneless in his arms. He blinked, fighting the pull of sleep.

"Want to tell me?" Spike said.

Xander shook his head and tightened his hold on his Sire. How could he put into words? One instant he was hard and horny, indulging in the sensuousness of his Sire and the affection of his new family and the nextŠ he was there; seeing Wills' startled look as the blade slipped form their bodies' trying to find an unbroken, unbloody spot on his Anya; holding Dawn against his chest as she sobbed out her grief for Buffy once again. The silence settled over them like a blanket, but the soft circles Spike traced on his back let Xander know that whenever his was ready to talk, his Sire was listening.

"Do youŠ?" Xander hesitated, unsure if the Big Bad would appreciate a philosophical discussion as part of post-coital repose.

"Hmmm?" Spike indicated interest and held him tighter.

"Do you think WillŠ she's understand, right? She'd know I still loved her. That I didn't wantŠ" Xander felt tears burning in his eyes and swallowed hard. He was such a crappy vampire.

"Shhh, Xander. She knew. Knew you loved her , knew you'd do anything for her. I'm sure Red, the Red you grew up with, the one still there if you could peel away all the mojo, knew you loved her, knew you loved her enough to know she'd of wanted to be stopped." Spike whispered.

"IfŠ if I had been smarter, or had more time, maybe-" Xander choked out.

"Stop. None of that." Spike lifted Xander's chin gently until their gazes met. " I won't have you tearing yourself apart with might-have-beens. What you did, with what you had, was the best any of us could have done. You gave your life, Childe. Not just to save Dawn, but to save Willow as well. Don't you ever sell that short, Xander. I'm proud of you. We all are. Willow would be too."

"Love you, Sire," Xander whispered, for the moment at peace with his conflicting feelings.

"Love you too, Childe," Spike said. "And, I respect you, Xander, as a warrior in your own right. I'm proud to have you as part of this family."

Xander sighed. He laid his head back on Spike's chest and closed his eyes. Sleep was no longer something to be avoided.

Part Ten

Spike stood in the doorway to Angel's study. Upstairs, away from the offices his humans frequented, his Sire had created a small bubble in time. On the top floor of the old hotel Angel had even managed to install a working fireplace. The polished hardwood floor and antique hand-braided rugs gave the illusion of one of the many country estates they had taken over when they had cut through the French countryside shortly before Angelus got souled. Angel was lounging in one of the rich leather chairs as he glared at the thick floor length drapes that hid the lack of windows.

"Worried about the Watchers?" Spike said, shoving himself off the doorframe and meandering around the room. He felt he had left Angel stew long enough. His demon pal had spent a couple hours up here with him last night while Spike put the boys to bed. Not that wearing out the hyper, horny Xander or the eager, lusty Lindsey was a hardship on any demon, but Angel had yet to share any of his thoughts on Spike's Childe or the unusual state of affairs.

Angel sighed. He looked up at the contrast his thoroughly modern Chide presented against the backdrop of firelight and antiques. If there was anything he was more reluctant to face than a conversation with his irrationally possessive Spike than about Xander, it would be a conversation with both of them about their 'platelet'. Neither of them liked the idea of Dawn being out of their sight but Angel felt that that would be the safest place for the girl.

"Spike. If there is any chance at all that Dawn's identity has been leakedŠ she'll never be safe," Angel stood and crossed to his softly growling Childe. Spike quiet was far more dangerous than when he was loudly blustering.

Intense blue eyes turned toward him and a velvet voice said, "Xan says she's safe where she is for a couple days-that's plenty of time to make sure everyone who knows is dead."

"You can't-" Angel started.

"Me and the boy are heading for the Hellmouth at sunset. No one knows he's dead. I'll stay out of sight. We'll look around. Xander'll call Rupes in England, and ask if the witch and Dawn are with him and then file a missing person on Willow with the Sunnyhell constables ­ his story is she was supposed to meet Travers and never came back. If he runs into any Watchers he'll act like he thinks they took Willow and Dawn to England per some arrangement with Travers." Spike's eyes dared Angel to try and stop him.

"How's he going to explain the missing time? Why did he wait so long to file a report?" Angel asked mostly to stall for time while he tried to think of a good way to stop this madness.

"He was here; came to see if you could find the Nibblet's family-that's to be expected now the Slayer's gone." Spike was beginning to sound like he believed the story himself.

They talked until sunset. When Lindsey and Xander rose for the night the four went over Xander's plan. Angel watched as Lindsey and Xander picked apart all the possible variables and planned for various unlikely occurrences. He was convinced accepting Xander into the clan had been the right thing to do. Just watching Lindsey argue a point or make a decision without looking to his Sire for approval showed marked progress. Perhaps isolating his Childe hadn't been the best decision. True, as the Childe of Angel rather than Angelus, Lindsey would be a target for both those seeking to move up in hierarchy with a status kill and the hired thugs of his former employers, but this interaction with someone other than a ranking Master of his own clan was obviously good for his Childe.

He and Lindsey would stay in LA, and see if they could follow some of Travers' paper trails. Gunn would continue trying to find either Dawn's father or this aunt Xander thought lived up north.

Spike and Xander left for Sunnydale shortly after midnight. Angel still owned property in Sunnydale and they would stay in his old apartment during the days. He was sure Spike had some impressive bolt holes but didn't want to risk rumors moving around the demon community. There was no telling what kind of sources the Watchers had.


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