“Explain again why we’re doing this,” Xander grunted, heaving another piece of masonry aside. “’Cause, you know what, this bears an uncomfortable resemblance to my job, except I’m not getting paid.”


Spike chuckled.


“Got a hunch you’re gonna like the pay just fine,” he smirked.


“Oh, yeah?” Xander straightened, wiping the back of a grimy wrist across a pre-grimed forehead. He grinned too. “You know, this kind of thing doesn’t exactly put me in the mood, if you get my drift. And despite my little electromagnet excursion, I don’t really have a thing for doing it in dirty, rubble-strewn, dangerous places.” He glanced around uneasily. “Especially nasty dark tunnels under Sunnydale, where evil things are known to lurk.”


Spike grinned broadly.


“Yep, and you came down here with one of ‘em, didn’t you? The original Big Bad, fit an’ back to full fighting trim, thanks to you. And fully able to protect my Consort, thanks very much.”


Xander blushed and looked vaguely pleased.


“Yeah, well . . . maybe you could use some of that Big Bad vampiric strength to help me move some of these rocks, okay?”


Working would mean giving up Spike’s prime Xander-watching position, where he’d been taking full advantage of the opportunity to watch the tight jeans stretch across that gorgeous arse, plus admiring the sweaty and gorgeous musculature Xander had regained since he’d taken up construction again, but he supposed it was only fair that he pitch in. After all, he’d been the one to pile up the tunnel-plug of stones and masonry Xander was trying to clear a way through right now, and some of those were damned big chunks of rock. Spike wondered whether Xander realized that he was working at approximately Slayer-level strength and endurance, construction job muscles notwithstanding.


“Not much further, Pet,” Spike said encouragingly, joining in. “We’ll be through in a few minutes.”


“So what’s past this mess?” Xander panted.


“Crypt of a sorcerer named Dorissant,” Spike said. “Last known holder of the Tooth of Ryla.”


Xander stopped, staring at Spike.


“And you knew it was here all along?” he said blankly.


“What, the spear thingy?” Spike said, shaking his head. “Nope. The crypt, though, yeah, I knew about it. Got the Gem of Amara out of it.”


“So you’ve seen this Tooth of Ryla?” Xander said.


“Said no, didn’t I?” Spike said patiently. “Didn’t even know what the bloody thing was, until Angel told me.”


“But how could you not?” Xander asked, scowling. “I mean, you were there in the tomb. How could you not see it?”


Spike smirked.


“Barely found the Gem of Amara,” he chuckled. “Place is a bit . . . hmmm, cluttered, I’ll say.”


“What, lots of rubble to dig through?” Xander said, grimacing.


“Something like that,” Spike grinned. “May have to sift through a few rocks, but won’t be nothing this size.”


Xander gave Spike a wary look and got back to work. At last they’d cleared a narrow opening – not nearly big or stable enough to crawl through safely, but enough that Spike could wedge a timber in and get good enough leverage to create a small avalanche of rubble, opening a much larger gap. Spike gave it a good poke with his timber to make sure it was stable, but nothing else fell.


“Through there?” Xander said dubiously, coughing at the dust they’d raised.


“Through there and then up,” Spike said. “Had to come in through the floor. I’ll give you a leg up.”


They crawled through the opening, fumbling with their flashlights as they clambered through, Spike having more difficulty (despite his smaller stature) because of the backpack he’d borrowed from Xander and was now wearing. The floor beyond the gap was thick with debris and they stumbled, cursing, down the short tunnel before they came to the gap above them.


“Right, then,” Spike said, lacing his fingers to form a step for Xander. “Hop up, I’ll give you a boost.”


“Ummmm . . . “ Xander glanced up uncertainly into the space above them, and it suddenly occurred to Spike that there might be something up there – something nasty. “Ummmm . . . you’re lighter.”


“Good thought,” Spike said. “Give us a leg, then.”


Vampiric strength and agility meant that he could boost himself up from Xander’s cupped hands without giving the whelp too much of his weight; he grabbed the edges of the opening and pulled himself up, then glanced around quickly, senses on the alert. Nothing – nothing living or undead, at least. Spike grinned and reached down.


“Come on up, Pet,” he said. “Pass up the torches first.”


Spike’s strength was more than equal to the task of pulling Xander up, but the awkward angle and the irregular edge of the opening made it difficult, and it took a few moments for them to get it figured out. At last Xander scooted back from the edge, panting hard.


“Well, that was fun,” Xander wheezed sarcastically. “Pass me a flashlight, will you? I can’t see a thing up here.”


Spike mutely handed Xander a flashlight, grinning and waiting as the whelp shone the beam around the room. Five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . .


“Oh – my – GOD!”


Spike snickered.


“Dreadful lot of trash, eh, Pet?”


Xander’s mouth moved, but for several long moments no words came out as the flashlight beam was played back and forth, back and forth over the mounds of treasure on the slab.


At last, Xander mumbled weakly, “You should’ve warned me.”


“Didn’t want to get your hopes up, Pet,” Spike admitted. “Thought it might’ve caved in and we couldn’t get to it – couple of these underground tunnels did collapse. Couple other vampires knew about the place, too, including that bleeding Harmony bitch. For all I knew, somebody might’ve cleaned the place out.”


“Why didn’t you take it?” Xander said numbly. “When you were here before, I mean.”


Spike shrugged.


“Think like a vampire, Pet,” he said. “I was after the Gem of Amara. Think of it – me, invincible, invulnerable, no need to worry about stakes or sunlight or that lot. Had that, I could have bloody anything I wanted.”


“But it didn’t work that way,” Xander pointed out. “Buffy beat you even with the ring.”


“Yeah.” Spike grimaced. “What a disappointment. Well, anyway, Pet, you’ve got to remember that money don’t mean all that much to a vampire, ‘cept ones like Angel who want to buy or rent buildings, mingle with mortals, all that. Wanted smokes, I nicked ‘em. If I wanted a car, I took it. Dru and I kept to the underground like most vampires do. Didn’t need money for much, which was one reason I never bothered to get my stuff back from Angel. Once I got the damned chip, though – “ Spike grimaced. “Wasn’t so good to live down around the other nightsiders. Which meant things like a place to live and so on, and I had to be careful what I nicked, ‘cause I was more visible. Not to mention a whole lot easier to kill. Now – “ He shrugged again, slightly depressed. The downside of having a mortal Consort who was also a friend – well, all right, associate of the Slayer, meant that Spike had to do most of his acquisitions and dealings in the legal, mortal way. Bloody pain in the arse it was, sometimes, too. Take the whole business about the lawsuit, for example. Time was, he’d have simply popped over of an evening, snatched the Harrises, and spent an enjoyable few nights torturing them to death, which would’ve been ever so much simpler. Not to mention more fun.


“So anyway,” Spike continued, “I figured if the place was still accessible and if the loot was still here, we could both use the extra cash.”


Xander swallowed convulsively.


“But doesn’t it, er, belong to somebody?” he asked in a small voice.


“Yup, sure does,” Spike grinned. “Belongs to us now.” He rolled his eyes at Xander’s dubious expression. “Pet, nobody but the Watchers have even heard of Dorissant, and even they didn’t know where his tomb was. Either it’s ours or it’s nobody’s. Or the first lucky git who stumbles over it gets rich. Which was me anyway, if you think about it.” He took off the backpack and pulled several sturdy canvas sacks out of it. “Now load up and let’s see if we can’t find the Tooth of Ryla buried somewhere under all this mess. Unless you’re going to have a crisis of conscience over taking that, too”


“Uh . . . point,” Xander admitted, hesitating one split second longer before he grabbed a sack. He carried the sack over to the slab and stared. “Uh, Spike? We’re not going to be able to carry all of this out, are we?”


“Not in one trip,” Spike corrected. “Haven’t got enough sacks, and besides, all that weight in the car boot, the rear end would drag. So we’ll be picky. Go for the coins first, they’ll be easiest to sell. ‘Sides, might be smart to check the jeweled stuff for magic, so I’ll box it up separate. Meanwhile, let’s just clear away so we can look.”


“Look for what?” Xander said, his eyes glazed as he stared at the treasure.


“The Tooth of Ryla, remember, Pet?” Spike reminded him amusedly. “What we came here for?”


“Oh! Right.” Xander cleared his throat, blushing furiously. “I just got a little – um – overwhelmed, I guess.”


Spike smirked.


“Got greedy, more like,” he said affectionately. “Don’t worry, Pet, I like that in a man. Come on, load ‘em up, only use these, all right?” He tossed a pair of heavy leather gloves to Xander.


Xander pulled the gloves on obediently, but gave Spike a questioning glance.


“Light’s none too good in here,” Spike reminded him. “And this was an evil sorcerer, you know. I’m thinking traps, poisoned needles and the like.”


Xander swallowed convulsively and glanced around. He picked up a broken bowl from the floor and used it, not his gloved hand, to gingerly rake treasure aside. Spike grinned, handed Xander the long-handled tongs he’d brought for just that purpose, and moved to set up the lights he’d brought.


Nearly an hour and several heavy bags later, there was no sign of the Tooth of Ryla, and Spike had to admit that he couldn’t see where it might be hidden. Making Xander retreat to the edge of the hole in the floor in case of traps or curses or whatever, he’d opened Dorissant’s sarcophagus for a peek at the gent himself. There was plenty of bone to be seen, but nothing that looked like a spear. There was, however, a moldering journal, and Spike took it, along with some rather decent jewelry the sorcerer had been buried with. The journal was in Latin, which Spike could in fact read – he’d had a classical education, thank you very much! – but he was pretty damned rusty and would have to sit around for hours with a Latin dictionary, so he’d shove it off on Giles instead.


Spike poked through Dorissant’s burial jewelry distrustfully. If there was going to be a nasty curse on anything, it would be this stuff. Maybe he’d be wiser to leave it. Pity, though, looked like –


Something struck him and he carefully picked up the ring he’d taken from the crumbling remains of Dorissant’s right hand. It was made of solid gold, no gemstones, but there was a raised design on the flat bed at the top. And that design looked rather familiar, didn’t it?


“Eh, Pet?” Spike held up the ring. “Where’ve I seen that design, eh?”


“How would I – “ Xander squinted. “Oh, that? Right there.” He pointed to the small altar which had been set up at the opposite end of the chamber. The same design was set in a bas-relief on the wall.


“Hmmm.” Spike walked over and inspected the design, exploring it carefully with his fingertips. Nothing of interest.


“Hey, Spike?” Xander had wandered over to watch; now he pointed to the altar directly below the relief. The same design was inlaid in the top of the altar – with a tiny indentation at the center.


Spike fit the ring top into the indentation, grinning as the altar slid aside – then the grin froze as the bas-relief slid aside too.


“Down!” he yelled, flinging himself at Xander and bearing them both to the ground, Spike on top. Just in time, too – an almost silent whishhhhh was the only announcement they received as a dozen razor-tipped metal bolts shot out from the wall, flying across the room to embed solidly in the opposite wall.


A moment passed; Xander grunted and tried to push Spike off him, but Spike held him down firmly. The vampire’s paranoia paid off; a moment later a second volley of bolts shot across the room. Then a third.


Spike waited through several more volleys, until he heard the mechanism click on empty chambers. Even then, he said firmly in Xander’s ear, “Stay down till I say,” and fumbled for a large chunk of rock. He raised up just enough to jam the stone firmly into the recess where the bas-relief had slid aside, blocking most of the holes, just as a precaution, before he peered into the gap in the floor that had once been covered by the altar.


“Thought you was a smart git, eh, Dorissant?” Spike chuckled. He wasn’t taking any chances; he crawled back to the slab for Xander’s tongs and used them to lift the Tooth of Ryla out of the vault. Angel had said it was a short spear, but Spike was surprised – it was only about three feet long, with a razor-sharp tip, a shaft of ornately carved bone inlaid with gold and a few gemstones, and a feather or two tied to it. That was all. Somehow he’d expected . . . more.


“Wow, is that it?” Xander said in a hushed voice, reaching for the short spear.


“No!” Spike snapped, shaking his head when Xander froze. “Listen, luv, there’s some kind of curse on this thing. Don’t want it to bite you, do we? Get me a sack, there’s a good whelp.”


He wrapped the Tooth thickly in rags before tying it into the sack. Just in case, he’d put the sack into a box as soon as he got it outside. He glanced into the vault again, hoping for more treasure, but there was nothing but a small book bound in leather. Spike used the tongs to fish the book out and absently shoved it into one of the treasure sacks.


“Right, then,” he said, glancing at the sacks. “Let’s get the first load home.”


They got two loads home. When they went back for the third load, they found the tomb swarming with Gessa demons who were busy looting the place. Spike had no inclination whatsoever to put himself and his Consort up against thirty or forty venomous, acid-spitting overgrown baboons. Xander protested feebly as they retreated, but Spike remained unyielding, dragging Xander back out to the car.


“Never mind it, Pet,” he said comfortingly. “It’s just money.”


Just money?” Xander repeated indignantly. “Spike, you’ve been undead too long. Besides, it wasn’t just money. It was a whole lot of money.”


“Doesn’t matter, we got most of the good stuff,” Spike said, shrugging. “Most of the gold and jewels and anything that looked like it could possibly be magical. What’re you worried about? We hauled out enough goodies to buy and sell that Bill Gates bloke.”


Xander swallowed, flushing.


“That’s right,” he said numbly. “You’re rich.”


We’re rich,” Spike corrected. “You helped me bag it up and carry it out, didn’t you?”


Xander blinked.


“Uh . . . I guess.”


“Well, there you are,” Spike said. “Come on, let’s go home and clean up a bit. It’s too late to take the Tooth over to Giles. We’ll do that tomorrow night.” He could see that Xander was tired from all the digging. Besides, he had a few things he wanted to take care of.


“So, Pet, want to stay in and shag tomorrow?” he asked casually as he drove.


Xander frowned at him.


“Uh, Spike? Got to work tomorrow.”


Spike scowled and thought back. Went to LA Friday evening. Spent Friday night at Angel’s, came home Saturday evening late but didn’t get anything further done because Xander was exhausted and because they realized they didn’t have picks and shovels at Spike’s place and it was too late to go get any. Got the necessary tools on Sunday and dug into the crypt –


“Ah, bollocks,” he said disgustedly. “Our first weekend with you as my Consort and me with no bleedin’ chip in me head, and we spent the whole fuckin’ time working.”


Xander snickered.


“Don’t suppose you’d want to just quit that job now?” Spike suggested hopefully. “Stay home and live the life of leisure? You’re rich, after all.”


“Wow. I guess I am, aren’t I?” Xander said softly. Then he sighed. “Spike, I know this sounds bizarre, but I don’t really want to quit. I mean, this is like the first time I’ve ever been really good at something. It’s kind of neat, watching something get built and knowing I was part of it, that I did a good job, you know, and this building gets finished partly because of me.”


Spike sighed too.


“Yeah, well, the color and the muscle looks good on you, can’t argue that,” he said, shrugging. He couldn’t imagine wanting to work if he didn’t have to, but then, Xander had never gotten much of what he wanted in life. It was a bother, certainly, but actually it was the work with Buffy & Co. that was the main pain in the arse. It put Xander’s life constantly in danger and kept him busy nights when he ought to be home shagging with Spike, not to mention forcing them both to spend evenings in Bitchy’s company or listening to boring Watcher-style lectures.


His other objection to Xander’s job was a little harder to put into words, and he was pretty sure Xander wouldn’t understand anyway. Xander was his Consort. Spike was the vampire; Xander was the mortal. The vampire provided for the Consort, took care of him and protected him. The Consort provided sex, blood, and companionship, and let the vampire take care of him and pamper him. That was the way things worked. On the other hand, Spike was pretty sure that Xander wouldn’t fancy being Spike’s kept boy, at least not right now. Maybe once he got to start enjoying all his newfound wealth, breaking his back all day on a construction site would look a little less appealing. At least a quiet word to Lissik could probably guarantee Xander a choice part-time job when he was ready to cut down on his hours a bit.


“Besides,” Xander said, oblivious to Spike’s train of thought, “If I don’t have a job, people are going to start wondering where I’m getting my money. People like the IRS, for example. And then they start asking a bunch of questions about why my boyfriend, like, legally doesn’t exist, and so on.”


Spike scowled.


“Never thought of that,” he said unwillingly. Damn. Now that he had encumbrances like deeds and bank accounts and so on, it would probably be a good idea to establish an identity. He hadn’t the faintest idea of how to go about doing that; fortunately, though, he knew plenty of people who did that sort of thing. And now he wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable about asking Angel for advice, either.


“Anyway, I’ve got to be in early,” Xander said apologetically.


“Well, if you’ve got to, you’ve got to,” Spike grumbled, but mentally he shrugged. At least he could put the time to good use.


“So . . . “ Xander blushed. “Do you mind if I just grab a quick shower and go to bed? I mean, to sleep?”


Spike rolled his eyes.


“Yeah, I figured that was what you were getting to,” he said irritably. “Go on, then. You’re worn to the quick anyway.” He didn’t point out that a small taste of Spike’s blood would’ve given Xander all his energy back and then some; if the whelp wasn’t in the mood, he wasn’t in the mood, and their relationship was still too new for Spike to push. He wasn’t going to be one more person who used Xander.


That thought dissolved Spike’s annoyance instantly, and he pulled Xander close, kissing him softly.


“Get some rest, Pet,” he whispered, stroking Xander’s hair. “’Cause I’m gonna wear you out tomorrow night, and that’s a promise.”


Xander swallowed hard.


“Uh . . . maybe I’m not so tired after all?” he ventured, blinking dazedly at Spike.


Spike smirked.


“Maybe not now,” he said. “But I don’t want you shooting yourself with a nail gun tomorrow ‘cause you’re all dozey. Go on, off with you.”


Xander sighed but trotted off to the bathroom. Spike checked his watch. 11 p.m. A bit late in human terms, but who cared. Spike waited until he heard the shower start, then punched Willow’s dorm room number into the phone.


“Buffy?” the witch answered, and Spike scowled.


“Not hardly,” he said.


“Oh, sorry, Spike,” Willow said sheepishly. “I was expecting Buffy to call.” Then she paused. “Is everything okay? Is Xander – “


“Xander’s in the shower,” Spike said. “Look, I need a favor.”


Another pause, then, warily, “What kind of favor?”


“Need you to ditch class and come over tomorrow early. Alone.”


A much longer pause this time.


“Ummm . . . Spike, what’s this about?” Willow said slowly.


Spike sighed irritably.


“Nothing bad, all right? Just private. I need you to check some stuff for me, see if there’s any mojo on it, and I need to talk to you – it’s about Xander. And you’ve got to keep your mouth shut about all of it.”


“Um, Spike, how come you want me to come over while Xander’s at work?” Willow said worriedly. “I mean, are you saying I can’t even tell Xander – “


“Some of it, all right?” Spike growled. “Look, I’ll explain it tomorrow, and you can make your own decision about telling him, all right?”


Lengthy silence. Then, “All right. I guess I can do that.”


When he’d said goodbye to Willow and hung up, Spike sighed and wandered into the kitchen to heat himself a mug of blood, grimacing at the taste. He’d gotten spoiled lately on park forage and wonderful little chasers of Xander blood. But he’d drunk up the last of his private reserve while he was in LA and he hadn’t had any opportunity to go out and get more, so it was back to Miss Piggy until he could replenish his stock. Bloody HELL I hate animal blood.


Two warm arms slid around his waist from behind and a damp chest pressed against his back.


“Care for a little dessert?” Xander murmured.


Spike turned in Xander’s arms, licking once up the side of Xander’s throat.


“Mmmm, don’t see as I could refuse that, Pet,” he whispered. “You sure?”


“What kind of Consort would I be if I let my man get by on pig’s blood?” Xander said, shivering as Spike licked his throat again.


Without another word, Spike let his game face emerge and sank his fangs into Xander’s throat – a safe distance from the vein, but more roughly than he’d intended. He shuddered as, instead of protesting, Xander moaned, his arms tightening convulsively around Spike. The bond between them flared open, and Spike could feel it all – Xander’s pleasure, the slight sharp edge of pain and the pleasure Xander took in that too, Xander’s weariness and the slight nagging ache in his lower back where he’d strained it moving rubble, Xander’s shocked wonderment at the thought that kept sneaking up on him – All that money! We’re rich! – but overlaying everything, that intense, wide-eyed wondering love that washed over and through Spike in warm insistent waves, richer and sweeter than any blood he’d ever tasted. Spike moaned and drank a little more, as much of that intensity as he could bear, then unwillingly withdrew his mouth and pulled back to gaze into Xander’s stunned eyes.


Xander raised a shaking hand to cup Spike’s cheek, running his thumb around Spike’s lips to wipe away the smears of blood.


“I never knew – “ Xander swallowed hard. “I make you feel like that?”


Spike turned his head slightly to capture Xander’s thumb, licking away the blood.


“That and more,” he said hoarsely. He frowned at Xander’s slight pallor.


“What?” Xander said, licking his lips in a way that made Spike shiver.


“Got a little carried away,” Spike admitted reluctantly. “Hang on a mo, Pet.” It was too hard to release Xander, so he kept hold of his hand, pulling the mortal with him to the bedroom.


Spike yanked off his shirt – it was ruined anyway, torn in his crawl through rubble – and pulled open the drawer of the nightstand, taking out the beautiful box that held their knife. For a moment he simply caressed the blade with a fingertip, loving the sharp beauty of it, glad that even now that he could bite his Consort properly, the blade would always have its special place in their relationship. He glanced at Xander, grinning wickedly to see the mortal’s eyes riveted to the knife, cheeks flushed, pupils dilated . . . mmmm, good memories here.


“Want somethin’, Pet?” Spike said in that low, sultry voice that always made Xander shiver. He traced the tip of the knife across the smooth skin of his chest: Silver against white skin threaded with pale blue veins, pale pink nipples. “See somethin’ you like, hmmmm?”


Xander swallowed convulsively, his eyes darting up to Spike’s, then back down to the hypnotically moving knife blade.


Spike relented immediately; Xander was tired, and he did have to work, and Spike really didn’t want to wait anyway. A flick of his wrist and ruby droplets welled up, spilled over, made crimson trails down his pale skin.


Xander moaned and didn’t wait for an invitation; then it was Spike’s turn to moan as fiery hot lips and tongue claimed his skin. Xander didn’t get much; it was only a few moments before the cut healed, but Spike knew it was enough. To Spike’s surprise (and delight), however, Xander didn’t straighten up; instead, he dropped to his knees and ripped open Spike’s pants, and, before Spike could say a word (and that word might have been anything in the world but “no”), gulped him down.


Spike yelped in surprise, then moaned in astonished pleasure. Bloody hell, whelp’s getting good at this!! What the hell’s he been doing, practicing on bananas?


Then: It damn well better just be bananas!


Then: Oh, what the fuck do I care what or who he’s been practicing on if he learned how to do that with his tongue? Oh, that’s wicked, Pet, snuck up on me with the fingers, you did –


Any subsequent thoughts or sounds emanating from Spike for the next few minutes would not have made sense if translated into English or any other human language. However, if translated into Grgesh, one of few demonic languages Spike in fact did not know, the closest possible translation would have been: “Oh, plastic the jujube curtain wax before spelunking the marmalade!”


Spike’s knees gave out before he had quite finished spelunking the marmalade, and he collapsed, thankfully onto the bed, also thankfully without breaking his Consort’s neck in the process. Xander thoughtfully licked up any escaped moisture, drawing a pitiful whimpering moan from the boneless vampire, and crawled up on the bed beside him.


Once Spike retrieved his brain from whatever dimension it had traveled to, he glanced over at Xander and grinned shakily.


“Give me half a mo to repossess my body, Pet,” he croaked, “and I’ll be over to return the favor.”


“Erm, no need.“ Xander waggled his fingers, showing Spike the evidence of what the mortal’s free hand had been up to while his mouth had been busy sucking Spike’s brains out through his cock. “But you can lick my fingers if you like.”


Spike liked. By the time he’d finished, Xander was snoring. Spike grinned, set the alarm clock, and curled up with his Consort.


Got to see about getting something better than pig’s blood, even if I have to have the whelp nip by Willy’s on his way home. With all the Tooth of Ryla shit, who knows when I’ll have time to go hunting again? Right, got to get some proper blood in. Need toothpaste, too, and lube, and dish soap . . .


And why the hell do I have a craving for toast with marmalade just now?


Email: Shadow