Spike followed Angel up the stairs, past the office floor and on up to the roof. When they got through the roof door, Angel turned toward Spike, and Spike held up a hand.
Hang on a mo, he said wryly. Ill save you the trouble. He jumped backward violently, slamming his back into the wall. Spike! What the ell are you thinking? Spike mimicked, then returned to his own sarcastic drawl. Well, ello, Angel, pleasure to see you too. He glanced at Angel. Am I off to the right start here?
Angel said nothing, but the corners of his lips barely twitched.
Shall I go on? Spike said patiently. Right, then. He whammed back against the wall again, then jolted his body back and forth as if somebody was shaking him. Spike! What the ell am I going to do with you? Dunno, Peaches, time was Id have had a suggestion or two.
Angel shook his head, rolling his eyes.
Spike, Spike growled. If youre gonna bash me around, will you at least stop callin me that?
Angel sighed patiently. Fine, he said. Ill call you Spike if youll limit yourself to Angel. No Peaches or Nancy-boy or pouf or any of the other hundred or so insults I generally have to put up with.
Spike scowled. Forget it, he said.
Fine. Angel leaned back against the wall. So tell me whats going on with Xander, Will, before I start making assumptions.
What about the whelp? Spike said, stalling.
Angel sighed again. Will, I can smell you all over him, even in his blood. Id think you were making a Consort of him if it werent for two things one, you cant make a Consort in your condition; and two, I cant imagine you caring enough for any mortal or little enough for your own life to become involved with one, much less one of the Slayers friends.
Shows what you know, Spike muttered under his breath, but of course Angel heard him, and Spike bit back a curse as the older Vampires eyebrows shot up. Damn all, he wasnt used to being around vampires anymore. He was used to half-deaf mortals, around whom he didnt have to be nearly so careful what he said.
Is there something youd like to tell me, Will? Angel said quietly.
Not especially, Spike said ruefully. All right, then, so the whelp and I are doin the nasty. What of it?
And? Angel said patiently.
And what? Spike said gruffly.
Angel met his eyes squarely. Have you fed from him?
Spike sighed, but there was no point in lying, not really. Well . . . a time or two.
And youve given him your blood, Angel said flatly. Spike shrugged. There was no point denying that, either. Well, since you cant bite him or rape him, I have to assume its consensual, Angel said quietly.
Spike smirked. At the very least, he said. Loud an enthusiastic might fit better.
Angel snorted, an incongruous sound coming from him; it reminded Spike uncomfortably of his Angelus days.
I think thats more information than I needed, Will, he said. I take it none of the others know?
The witches know some of it, at least, he said.
Didnt arrive in a dustpan, did I? Spike retorted.
Ahhhh. Angel looked troubled. What the hell were you thinking, Will?
That you wouldnt tell her, Spike said sourly.
Not that. Angel turned eyes more worried than angry on Spike. Do you realize what youve done to him? Functionally hes your Consort but you havent marked him. Youve made him the most attractive kill for any vampire who sees or more appropriately smells him. His bloods the equivalent of Beluga caviar. More hes a Consort with no claim, no protection on him. Are you trying to get him killed?
Spike bit his lip, suddenly worried. He hadnt thought of that. And it wasnt as though vampires were exactly scarce around Sunnydale, either.
I think youd better tell me the whole story, Angel said quietly. From the beginning.
Spike wrinkled his nose.
Isnt all my story to tell, he said reluctantly.
Will, youve brought him into our circle, Angel said patiently. That means it is your story to tell. You know that.
Spike hesitated, startled by Angel acknowledging the bond between Sire, Childe and Consort. Traditionally, Angel was right.
Right, then, Spike said resignedly. But he wont like that I told you.
Angel nodded gravely, and Spike told Angel everything from discovering Xander in the cemetery up to the decision that he and Xander would come to LA. That way he could safely omit mentioning the stop at the construction site and the neutralization of his chip, but without trying to outright lie to Angel something he could probably never get away with. Angel listened without comment, although he frowned darkly at several points namely the references to Xanders parents and, to Spikes surprise, the account of Buffys actions. Finally Spike stopped.
Thats the lot, he said. Going to slam me around a bit now?
Angel barely smiled, shaking his head.
No, he said. I have a couple of questions, though. Angel reached out and cupped Spikes chin firmly, turning Spike to face him. Look me in the eye, Will, and tell me you really care about Xander. That you really want to make him your Consort. With all that implies.
Spike swallowed but met Angels eyes squarely.
Yeah, he said hoarsely. I knew what I was doing, and I meant it. I . . . promise.
Angel searched Spikes eyes for a moment longer, then nodded.
All right, then, he said. Thats good enough for me.
It is? Spike said, surprised.
Yes. Angel smiled slightly. You lie pretty much at will, but your promise has always meant something. And you know better than to lie to me. For a moment, there was a distinctly Angelus-like glint in his eye; far from making Spike feel intimidated, he was almost reassured. Somehow it was good to know that his Sire hadnt changed entirely. Come on, lets go back downstairs before Xander decides Im torturing you and comes up with a stake to dust me. Wed better haul the books out and get to work.
What about Xander? Spike asked warily.
What about him? Angel shrugged. I dont know. Ill have to think about it. Im worried about him walking around with the vampire equivalent of Hey, gourmet meal available here, come and get it tattooed across his forehead, and Im worried about you when not if, Will, when the Slayer and the others find out whats going on between you.
Spike mustered a grin and thumped his chest.
Kevlar vest, he said. Xan got it for me.
Angel raised an eyebrow, but his eyes were sad.
You thought Id stake you?
Not hardly. What I thought was that the whelp would nag me all night if I didnt wear it. Suddenly Spike wanted needed to mend this breach with Angel, and he knew only one way to do it. Listen, Peaches, one more thing before we go down there, okay?
Angel nodded and settled back against the wall again.
Spike braced himself.
Xander asked me the other night what Id do if I could get rid of the chip. We talked about it for a while.
This time both eyebrows jumped.
Why would you be discussing that?
Cause the whelp said he might know a way to get rid of it. Spike waited, ready to run. He was prepared for the hard gaze that seemed to bore through his eyes and into his mind.
And what conclusions did you come to? Angel said levelly.
Well Spike hesitated. The whelp made a couple of good points. I mean, if I went back to the way I was before, Id lose him be putting him in the middle, sort of, between the bad guy and his friends. So we hashed it out a bit and finally I told him promised, all right? that if I could get rid of the chip, I wouldnt kill any humans even Buffy except in self-defense or defense of him, or if he gave me the go-ahead.
All expression vanished from Angels face; then he shook his head slowly.
My god, he whispered. Youre really in love with him, arent you?
Guess so, he said gruffly.
Angel chuckled. Then he was silent for a long moment.
So, Angel said at last, very quietly. When did you get the chip out?
Angel sighed patiently.
Will, you knew Id have serious reservations about you and Xander, you knew Id have even more serious reservations about you running around chipless. Therefore you wouldnt have told me unless youd already done it and were afraid Id find out eventually anyway; you just wanted to convince me first that I wouldnt have to hunt you down.
Wasnt like that, he protested. He ducked his head. Just wanted to, you know, tell you. Preferably without having to run for my life afterward.
As I said, he said. So when?
Tonight, he said. Wasnt like a plot or nothing not on my part, anyway. Grudgingly he told Angel about the construction site and the magnet. So, see, I didnt even know what he was doing, Spike finished awkwardly.
Obviously neither did Xander, Angel said under his breath. He shook his head, fastening Spike with a probing gaze. And you intend to keep your promises?
Told you that already, Spike said irritably. Got to, dont I, if I want to keep im?
Good. Angel cupped Spikes chin again, holding him firmly. Because you know if you hurt Buffy or the others Id have to come after you. I dont want to do that, Will. Angels voice was soft but intense. I dont want to have to.
Spike met that gaze, shaken by the emotion in it. Slowly, deliberately, he tilted his head back, baring his throat. He heard Angels slight gasp.
Please? Spike whispered, hoping Angel would understand. Right now, right this moment, torn between freedom and fear, between love and instinct, he didnt need a friend; he needed his Sire.
A moment later night-cool lips touched his throat, strong hand cupping the side of his head, and Spike closed his eyes at the sweet pain as Angels fangs penetrated. Angel didnt take much; this was a gesture, not feeding. Almost immediately the skin of Angels inner wrist touched Spikes lips, and he bit without hesitation, following Angels example and barely tasting the fiery nectar of his Sires blood. Angel couldnt spare much, after all; Spike could tell from the taste that hed been on shoddy rations cow blood, yet, which was a step down tastewise from Chateau de Swine. But that small taste was enough to close the circle, reaffirm the bond between them.
They both pulled back, gazing at each other almost shyly.
Youve been feeding well, Angel said softly. Should I be concerned? Xander looked healthy enough.
Been patrolling a lot, he said. The chip only kept me from hurting humans, after all. Xan just gives me a bit to top off, thats all.
Angel smiled wryly.
Trust you to turn even working for the Slayer to your own advantage, he said, chuckling. Will Im trusting your promises, because we both know what will happen if you break them. But Im telling you this both as your Sire and your friend mark Xander soon. With whats going on in Sunnydale, hell need that protection.
Id like to do it here, Spike said, feeling suddenly shy again.
The smile vanished from Angels face.
You mean traditionally? the older vampire said.
Not you know, the whole thing, he said awkwardly. But the important part.
Angel was silent for a long moment.
All right, he said at last, heavily. If Xander agrees. He might not, you know.
Spike nodded again.
Cant know till I ask him, he said, shrugging.
Right, then, Angel said, shaking his head. Back downstairs, and back to the business at hand. You can talk to Xander later.
They found Xander perched uneasily on the sofa, beer in hand, eyes riveted on the stairway door. He let out an audible sigh of relief when the two vampires turned.
Everything okay? Xander asked hesitantly. No limbs missing, no fangs pulled out by the roots, no imminent dustage?
So far, so good, Spike said, sitting down beside Xander and draping an arm around his shoulders. So, Peaches, where dyou think we should start looking to find out who or what this Tiger in Red thing is?
I dont need to look, Angel said, shaking his head. I know what he is. And who.
Wow, Xander said, blinking. Hes a vampire?
No. Worse, Angel said bluntly. Hes a rakshasa. A very old, very powerful rakshasa.
Spike whistled low.
Whats a rakshasa? Xander asked worriedly. Sounds of the bad.
Ancient Hindu demon, Spike told him. Fucking nasty bugger, too. Like Leng Chi said, they dont exist all the way in this world half in and half out, rather so ordinary weapons and mojo dont even faze em. Worse, though theyre high-order demons. Most low-order demons are like Vorgosts or such theyve got strength, claws, teeth, maybe some special physical or even magical attacks, and thats the lot. Usually not very intelligent either. Mid-order demons like vampires are intelligent, less vulnerable and more powerful. Rakshasas are different. Theyre physically strong, intelligent, damn near impossible to kill, and theyre powerful fucking sorcerers to boot able to use mojo from their plane and ours too. He turned to Angel. But whos this particular one, and what the hells he want with Sunnydale?