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. “I’ll 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 I’d have had a suggestion or two.”


Angel shook his head, rolling his eyes.


“Will – “


Spike,” Spike growled. “If you’re gonna bash me around, will you at least stop callin’ me that?”


Angel sighed patiently. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll call you Spike if you’ll 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 what’s 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. I’d think you were making a Consort of him if it weren’t for two things – one, you can’t make a Consort in your condition; and two, I can’t imagine you caring enough for any mortal – or little enough for your own life – to become involved with one, much less one of the Slayer’s 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 Vampire’s eyebrows shot up. Damn all, he wasn’t used to being around vampires anymore. He was used to half-deaf mortals, around whom he didn’t have to be nearly so careful what he said.


“Is there something you’d 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 you’ve given him your blood,” Angel said flatly. Spike shrugged. There was no point denying that, either. “Well, since you can’t bite him or rape him, I have to assume it’s 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 that’s more information than I needed, Will,” he said. “I take it none of the others know?”


Spike shrugged.


“The witches know some of it, at least,” he said.


Angel frowned.




“Didn’t arrive in a dustpan, did I?” Spike retorted.


“Ahhhh.” Angel looked troubled. “What the hell were you thinking, Will?”


“That you wouldn’t tell her,” Spike said sourly.


“Not that.” Angel turned eyes more worried than angry on Spike. “Do you realize what you’ve done to him? Functionally he’s your Consort – but you haven’t marked him. You’ve made him the most attractive kill for any vampire who sees – or more appropriately smells – him. His blood’s the equivalent of Beluga caviar. More – he’s a Consort with no claim, no protection on him. Are you trying to get him killed?”


Spike bit his lip, suddenly worried. He hadn’t thought of that. And it wasn’t as though vampires were exactly scarce around Sunnydale, either.


“I think you’d better tell me the whole story,” Angel said quietly. “From the beginning.”


Spike wrinkled his nose.


“Isn’t all my story to tell,” he said reluctantly.


“Will, you’ve 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 won’t 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 Xander’s parents and, to Spike’s surprise, the account of Buffy’s actions. Finally Spike stopped.


“That’s 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 Spike’s 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 Angel’s eyes squarely.


“Yeah,” he said hoarsely. “I knew what I was doing, and I meant it. I . . . promise.”


Angel searched Spike’s eyes for a moment longer, then nodded.


“All right, then,” he said. “That’s 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 hadn’t changed entirely. “Come on, let’s go back downstairs before Xander decides I’m torturing you and comes up with a stake to dust me. We’d better haul the books out and get to work.”


“What about Xander?” Spike asked warily.


“What about him?” Angel shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it. I’m worried about him walking around with the vampire equivalent of ‘Hey, gourmet meal available here, come and get it’ tattooed across his forehead, and I’m worried about you when – not if, Will, when – the Slayer and the others find out what’s 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 I’d stake you?”


Spike snorted.


“Not hardly. What I thought was that the whelp would nag me all night if I didn’t 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.


“All right.”


Spike braced himself.


“Xander asked me the other night what I’d 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, I’d 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 wouldn’t 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 Angel’s face; then he shook his head slowly.


“My god,” he whispered. “You’re really in love with him, aren’t you?”


Spike grimaced.


“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?”


Spike froze.


“Wha- -- “


Angel sighed patiently.


“Will, you knew I’d have serious reservations about you and Xander, you knew I’d have even more serious reservations about you running around chipless. Therefore you wouldn’t have told me unless you’d already done it and were afraid I’d find out eventually anyway; you just wanted to convince me first that I wouldn’t have to hunt you down.”


Spike scowled.


“Wasn’t like that,” he protested. He ducked his head. “Just wanted to, you know, tell you. Preferably without having to run for my life afterward.”


Angel chuckled.


“As I said,” he said. “So when?”


Spike sighed.


“Tonight,” he said. “Wasn’t like a plot or nothing – not on my part, anyway.” Grudgingly he told Angel about the construction site and the magnet. “So, see, I didn’t 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, don’t I, if I want to keep ‘im?”


“Good.” Angel cupped Spike’s chin again, holding him firmly. “Because you know if you hurt Buffy or the others I’d have to come after you. I don’t want to do that, Will.” Angel’s voice was soft but intense. “I don’t 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 Angel’s slight gasp.


“Will, I – “


“Please?” Spike whispered, hoping Angel would understand. Right now, right this moment, torn between freedom and fear, between love and instinct, he didn’t 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 Angel’s fangs penetrated. Angel didn’t take much; this was a gesture, not feeding. Almost immediately the skin of Angel’s inner wrist touched Spike’s lips, and he bit without hesitation, following Angel’s example and barely tasting the fiery nectar of his Sire’s blood. Angel couldn’t spare much, after all; Spike could tell from the taste that he’d 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.


“You’ve been feeding well,” Angel said softly. “Should I be concerned? Xander looked healthy enough.”


Spike grinned.


“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, that’s all.”


Angel smiled wryly.


“Trust you to turn even working for the Slayer to your own advantage,” he said, chuckling. “Will – I’m trusting your promises, because we both know what will happen if you break them. But I’m telling you this both as your Sire and your friend – mark Xander soon. With what’s going on in Sunnydale, he’ll need that protection.”


“I’d like to do it here,” Spike said, feeling suddenly shy again.


The smile vanished from Angel’s face.


“You mean – traditionally?” the older vampire said.


Spike nodded.


“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.


“Can’t 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 d’you think we should start looking to find out who or what this Tiger in Red thing is?”


“I don’t need to look,” Angel said, shaking his head. “I know what he is. And who.”


“Wow,” Xander said, blinking. “He’s a vampire?”


“No. Worse,” Angel said bluntly. “He’s a rakshasa. A very old, very powerful rakshasa.”


Spike whistled low.




“What’s a rakshasa?” Xander asked worriedly. “Sounds of the bad.”


“Ancient Hindu demon,” Spike told him. “Fucking nasty bugger, too. Like Leng Chi said, they don’t exist all the way in this world – half in and half out, rather – so ordinary weapons and mojo don’t even faze ‘em. Worse, though – they’re high-order demons. Most low-order demons are like Vorgosts or such – they’ve got strength, claws, teeth, maybe some special physical or even magical attacks, and that’s the lot. Usually not very intelligent either. Mid-order demons like vampires are intelligent, less vulnerable and more powerful. Rakshasas are different. They’re physically strong, intelligent, damn near impossible to kill, and they’re powerful fucking sorcerers to boot – able to use mojo from their plane and ours too.” He turned to Angel. “But who’s this particular one, and what the hell’s he want with Sunnydale?”