Spike tightened his grip on the squirming megrib, grimacing.  He wished the witches would bloody well hurry it up.  The scaly little creature he was holding was damn near boneless and hard to keep a grip on, and it had plenty of teeth, most of which it was using to try to chew Spike’s thumb off.

But the megrib was a good catch.  The creatures were fairly stupid, and it wouldn’t realize it had a magical tracing spell on it.  They weren’t exceptionally fast, so it wouldn’t be too hard to keep up with it.  Better yet, they were hive creatures and had a strong instinct to return to their nest, so this one was likely to scamper straight off back to its portal as soon as it was released.

The others were ready, carrying enough weaponry to deal with just about anything.  The Tooth was locked in a box at the moment, lying just outside the circle inside which Willow and Tara chanted.  The box and the girls were being guarded by Xander, Giles, and an uncomfortable-looking Buffy who was paying rather more attention to the group’s latest and most surprising addition – Angel.

Angel had shown up on Spike and Xander’s doorstep a few hours after sunset the night before – and with rotten timing, Spike thought.  He and Xander had finished supper, and Xander had had the bright idea of banana splits for dessert.  He’d then driven Spike into a near frenzy by licking chocolate syrup off his spoon, sucking whipped cream off his fingers, and nibbling away at the banana in a lascivious way that had Spike in game face and damned near creaming in his trousers.  He’d barely shown enough restraint to let Xander finish his ice cream – well, all right, most of his ice cream – before clearing the table with a sweep of one arm and tossing his Consort on top of it, intent on reminding both of them just what else Xander’s hot mouth – and his ass – was good for, when a firm knock on the door had interrupted them.  A knock that had turned out to be Angel, suitcases in hand.   

“Sorry,” Angel had shrugged, grinning as he took in Xander’s flush, Spike’s game face, and their obvious arousal – not to mention the mess on the kitchen floor.  “Cordy had a vision that you and Xander would be needing me here.”

“Couldn’t have stayed somewhere else?” Spike had grumbled, but his heart hadn’t been in the complaint.  Inwardly, he’d been both astonished and alarmed – astonished and gratified that Angel had come for him and Xander, not for Buffy; alarmed because the guarded expression on Angel’s face told Spike that Angel wasn’t telling exactly what the vision was.  Not yet, at any rate.

“Pretty bold question for somebody who’s living in my building,” Angel had said mildly, and Spike really couldn’t argue with that; besides, Angel had been decent enough when they’d showed up in LA, after all. 

So Spike had grudgingly cleared out his old room, which had been Angel’s to begin with, and he and Xander stayed in “Xander’s” room with the waterbed, which was where they generally slept anyway.  A call to Giles had prompted an emergency meeting of the Scoobies, and the tracking spell timetable had been set for tonight.  And Angel had been remarkably unforthcoming about whatever Cordelia had seen, which made Spike distinctly suspicious.  ‘A bad fight’ was, to Spike’s way of thinking, vague even for a prophecy.

He’d gotten even more suspicious tonight before they’d come to the park.  He’d offered Angel some of his cemetery-harvest blood supply to tank up, and Angel, to Spike’s vast surprise, had accepted, even though some of the blood was human.  Angel had even agreed that securely packing the remaining bottles in a carrying sack, just in case this fight was “the big one” might be a good precaution.  But even stranger was what had come next.

Spike and Xander had made it a habit of exchanging blood before going out on patrols.  It gave both of them a fighting edge, and if either of them were hurt, they’d heal faster.  But when Spike had leaned in toward Xander’s throat, Angel had stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.

“Best wait,” the older vampire advised.  “We’re going to be sitting around the cemetery for a while with the spell.  The blood will do both of you more good closer to when things might get gritty.”

Well, that was true, but it was pretty strange for Angel to be pointing it out – and even stranger for him to suggest Spike and Xander exchanging blood anywhere in Buffy’s vicinity.  Spike hadn’t said anything, but it was on his mind.  And Angel was on edge, that was plain enough to see.

“Bloody hell,” Spike growled, switching the megrib to his other hand and shaking his sore thumb.  Couldn’t the bloody witches chant any faster?

Then they stopped, and Willow pointed to the megrib in Spike’s grasp.  The creature yelped and glowed briefly, then went back to trying to chew Spike’s hand off.

“Okay, that should do it,” Willow said, stepping carefully out of the circle.  “Tara and I can track it magically as long as we’re on the same plane.  So we’ll have to stay close, because once it goes through a portal, we’ll stop getting any location sense from it.”

“Then it’s best to be prepared and move quickly,” Giles said.  He indicated the weapons laid out on a blanket.  “We have no way of knowing what manner of beings we may encounter as we follow, or what their vulnerabilities are.  Therefore I recommend that each of us carry a variety of defenses.”

“Don’t half agree with that,” Spike mumbled sourly. 

“Except for Willow, of course,” Giles added hastily.  “As she’ll be wielding the Tooth of Ryla, she should stay out of other battles and prepare for the main conflict.”

Spike shrugged, grabbing a couple of weapons from the blanket, awkwardly with only one hand.  Besides the mace, axe and gold-plated sword he was picking up, he had several daggers of various metals already hidden about his person, a few wooden stakes and a couple of his trademark railroad spikes.  Between metal, wood and vampiric strength, he was as well prepared as he was going to get.  He noticed that Angel picked up a pretty good load of hardware himself.  He made sure Xander had a good assortment, as well as the barricade potion Leng Chi had given them – a strategic move on Spike’s part.  If Xander was sticking close to Willow, ready to use the potion, then he wouldn’t be in the thick of any combat.  He’d far rather Xander had stayed home to guard Dawn, who had been universally forbidden to accompany them – her fighting skills were so far behind the others that she’d more of a liability than otherwise – but if Spike couldn’t keep Xander out of it entirely, at least he could keep his Consort out of the worst of it.

Spike was about to turn away when Angel caught his eye.  The older vampire gave Spike a significant look, then tilted his head at Xander.

Right, then.  Well, now was as good a time as any, while the others were distracted picking out weapons.  Spike shoved the megrib into Angel’s hands, then pulled Xander behind a crypt.

“Fancy a taste of the red, luv?” he whispered in Xander’s ear.

Xander nodded tersely.

“Spike . . . what’s going on?” he whispered back.  “Angel knows something, doesn’t he?”

“Looks like it,” Spike admitted.  “I’ll hang back a bit with him, see if I can’t pry a few more details out of him.  Meanwhile – “  He cupped Xander’s cheek, tracing the full lower lip with the tip of his thumb.  “C’mere, Pet.”

Xander came willingly, jamming the heel of his hand into his mouth to stifle his moan when Spike’s fangs sank into his skin.  Spike drank as much as he dared, then bit into his own wrist, pressing it to Xander’s lips even as he used the small amount his own blood on his tongue to close and heal the bite marks on Xander’s throat.  Xander drank for a moment, then kissed Spike fiercely, both of them shuddering at the taste of their mingled blood.

“God,” Xander gasped.  “Can we stay here and fuck like weasels while the rest of them settle this Tiger in Red guy?”

Spike sighed, knowing Xander didn’t mean it, more was the pity.

“Wish we could, luv,” he whispered.  He chuckled and wiped a red smear from the corner of Xander’s mouth.  “Sloppy eater.”

“Hey, the best things in life are messy.”  Then Xander’s amusement faded.  “Spike . . . if something goes wrong, you know . . . “

If something goes wrong,” Spike said flatly, “I’m turning you, and Red will stick your soul on tight.  Don’t bother arguing, it’s all ready.  Checked when we got here, she’s got that orb thing with her, she’s got the spell down pat and we’ve got a backpack full of blood if we need it.”  He cupped Xander’s cheek in one hand.  “Either way, you’re waking up in my arms tomorrow.   Only question is whether your morning cuppa will be Kenya Black or Sunnydale Red.  You’re mine, not giving you up.  Got that?”

Xander smiled faintly.

“Got it,” he said.

“Right, then.”  Spike led Xander back to the others, reluctantly stepping slightly apart.  “Your mission, should you choose to accept it – “

Buffy snorted.

“Spike, Tom Cruise he’s not.”

Spike fought down the urge to snarl.  Barely.  But he did smirk when Angel turned a distinctly disapproving frown on Buffy.

“Your mission,” Spike repeated, “is to hang back and make damned sure Red gets to do her thing with the Tooth of Ryla.  If we run into this rakshasa git, first priority’s to use that potion, lay a barrier around her and you – “

“Why me?” Xander frowned.

“Because your second priority will be fighting off anything else that gets past us,” Angel said.  “Hopefully nothing will, but if anything does, it’ll be close fighting.  You want to be able to concentrate on what you’re doing – protecting Willow – not trying to dodge Ravyadha or any magic he can throw at the same time.”

“Point,” Xander agreed.

“Spike, Buffy and I are the front line,” Angel said.  “No offense, Xander, but we’re the fastest and the strongest, best able to take the brunt of the fighting.”

Spike elbowed Xander sharply before the whelp could make some argument.  No point in mentioning Xander’s speed and strength to the others until they had to.

“But your job is still the important one,” Angel continued.  “Making sure that Willow gets her shot off with the Tooth when it’s time.  Giles and Tara will be at the back too, helping with any magic that’s appropriate, but – “

“And I,” a new voice said, “will fill in as rather a second line of defense, I would think.”

Spike turned to look, then grinned.  Last he’d seen Wesley Wyndham-Price, he’d been a thin, tweed-jacketed toff with a tendency to whine and snipe.  This fellow dressed in black leather, a crossbow slung at one shoulder and several stakes in his belt, had some wiry muscle and a determined air, and moved like somebody who could give a demon some trouble in a fight.

“Wesley!”  Angel scowled.  “What the hell – how did you find us, anyway?”

“Cordelia had another vision,” Wesley said.  He glanced at Spike and Xander, then back to Angel.  “And Dawn, who is quite irritated with the lot of you, I might add, kindly gave me directions.  Angel, might I have a word?”

Now Spike was very uneasy as Angel and Wesley moved aside, speaking in hushed tones that Spike couldn’t quite make out despite his best efforts.  Wesley started to hand Angel a small bundle, but Angel shook his head, speaking more loudly.

“No, you keep it, it’ll be safer with you if there’s any real fighting going on,” he said.  “Stay out of the thick of it, will you?  Please?”

Wesley muttered something impatiently, but Spike was more interested in the look on Angel’s face, and that tone.  Hmmm.  So Peaches had a bit of a fancy for the ex-Watcher!  Well, couldn’t blame him, Wyndham-Price was looking a good deal more shaggable these days.  Not that Angel would ever do it, curse and all, but still.  Could get amusing.

“Are we leaving yet?” Buffy said impatiently.  “Any important vision-type info to relay, or are we chasing this nasty little scaly thing sometime tonight?”

“Sorry,” Angel said, walking back to the group with Wesley.  “Cordelia saw us chasing a Nasperus demon through a tunnel.”

Spike grimaced.  Nasperus demons were no fun at all – strong and fast, yes, but not that hard to kill otherwise, no special invulnerabilities.  Problem was, their blood was the foulest-smelling stuff in existence, the scent lingered damn near forever, and it was easy to get splattered during a fight.

“Um, I don’t know if this will help,” Xander said.  “But I’ve got a bunch of those disposable plastic rain ponchos in my trunk.  I keep them around in case I’m on a job site and it starts to rain.  They might help, you know, keep the splatter off.”

Spike shook his head, grinning.

“Bloody brilliant,” he said softly.

“Whatever,” Buffy said, rolling her eyes.  “Leaving soon?”

“Well, guess Her Buffyness doesn’t want one,” Spike said.  “But I do.”

Xander fetched the little plastic squares and handed them out to everyone.  Buffy shoved hers in a pocket, and Willow and Tara decided to keep theirs folded until they needed them, lest the poncho interfere with spellcasting, but everyone else put theirs on as a precaution, and to Buffy’s great satisfaction, Angel released the megrib, which scuttled directly for one of the crypts.

No one was surprised to find a passage in the crypt that led down into a tunnel under the cemetery.

“Bloody place is riddled,” Spike grumbled, although he’d had plenty of opportunities to be grateful for Sunnydale’s subterranean tunnel system.

“Sometimes it seems there’s more traffic under Sunnydale’s streets than on them,” Giles agreed.  He gave Spike a wary glance.  “I suppose you and Angel are taking the lead?”

“And me,” Buffy said firmly.

“Actually, it makes rather more sense for Spike and Angel to act as scouts and range slightly ahead,” Wesley said.  “Considering that they can move more quietly than we, and the advantage of their vision in the dark will be lost if they’re back here in range of our lights, which you also require, Buffy.”

Buffy scowled, but Angel ignored her, giving Spike a brief nod and moving to the front of the group.  Spike gave Xander a last glance, then moved up to join his Sire.  Right now there was no difficulty following the megrib; its scuttling could be plainly heard, and besides, the tunnel was straight right now, no forks or intersections.

Spike set a fast pace, glancing at Angel to make sure the older vampire kept up.  When they were well ahead of the others, Spike murmured, “Well, out with it, then.”

Angel glanced at him warily.

“Out with what?”

“The prom queen’s bra size, what d’you think?” Spike snarled.  “The vision, that’s what.  It’s got something to do with me an’ Xan, and I want to know what it is.”

Angel hesitated.

“Spike, it was a vision,” he said.  “These visions are vague, confusing – and what Cordelia does see is filtered through her perceptions, her interpretations.  Most of them make no sense to her or to us.  At best, they’re a warning, a pointing device, a hint.”

“That’s no answer,” Spike growled.

"It wasn’t meant to be,” Angel said, a slight edge to his hushed voice.  “Spike . . . anything that Cordelia saw that I felt would be of any benefit to you, I’ve told you.  Sometimes partial knowledge is worse than none.  I need you to trust me on this.”

Spike swallowed, forcing the words of his question out.

“Just answer me one question – Sire,” he said pointedly.  “Is Xander going to die?  Or me?”

Angel stopped and gazed into Spike’s eyes.

“Will, Cordy’s vision didn’t tell me that anyone would die,” he said.  “It did tell me that you’re in danger, both of you – all of you.  Based on that vision, I chose to be here.  Leave it at that, Will, and trust me.”

Spike scowled, but he didn’t know what argument he could make – or, in fact, if he should make one.  Angel was right in that visions were tricky things, clouded by perceptions, skewed by their vagueness, most often understandable only after the fact.  He’d certainly had enough experience with Dru’s ramblings to know that it wasn’t often a Seer got much more than a chaotic jumble of pictures and a sense of warning.  If Angel knew anything more – and Spike still had the uneasy feeling that he did – what he told Spike would be even less reliable, having passed through the warping lens of not only Cordelia Chase’s interpretations, but Angel’s own.  She hadn’t seen Xander’s death, or Spike’s; that was the important thing.

In the silence of the tunnel, the footsteps of the approaching Scoobies might as well have been the clamor of a pack of Dolthars in rut, and Spike realized he could barely hear the megrib now, far ahead of him.  With a last growl, he turned and strode ahead, sensing rather than hearing Angel moving along rapidly beside him.  Knowing that Angel was holding out on him, desperate for a distraction, Spike spoke again, barely in a whisper but loud enough for vampiric hearing.

“So . . . what’s the story with you and the Watcher, eh?”

A brief startled pause.

“He’s not a Watcher anymore,” Angel whispered back.

Spike rolled his eyes.

“Word games again,” he retorted.  “Bloke might think you were trying not to answer a simple question.”

Soft sigh.

“Then here’s a simple answer:  Nothing,” Angel said patiently. 

Spike snorted.

“’Nothing’,” he mocked.  “Could smell his pheromones from yards away.  He know you’ve got feelings for him?”

Angel gave Spike an icy glance.

“Will, this is none of your concern,” he said flatly.

“It is,” Spike growled back.  “Same reason as Xander’s yours.”

Angel walked on in silence for several moments, then said in a low voice, “He knows.”

Spike raised his eyebrows.  “And?”

Angel scowled at him.

“There’s the small matter of the curse,” he said.  “Or had that slipped your mind?”

Spike sighed.

“Sucks,” he admitted.  “Ever tempted to risk it?”

“Not at all,” Angel said flatly.  “If I lost my soul again, you know the first person Angelus would go after.”

Spike nodded, feeling an unwilling pang of sympathy.

“The ones you – Angel, with soul – cared about the most,” he said.  He shook his head.  “Got to look into that curse next, I guess.”

“Leave it alone, Will,” Angel said flatly.  “There’s nothing you can do.”

“Might surprise you,” Spike said lightly, then moved close, barely whispering.  “Xander’s got the Push.  Wanted you to know, just in case anything happens to me.”

Angel stopped again, staring at Spike.

“My God,” he whispered.  “Are you sure?”

Spike nodded.

“Red knows too, and she’d keep an eye on him – but you, I know you’d protect him,” Spike said awkwardly.

“My God,” Angels said again, shaking his head slowly.  “Maybe that’s . . . “  His voice trailed off.

“That’s what?” Spike pressed.

“What I felt when I tasted his blood,” Angel said quickly, but Spike thought that wasn’t what he’d originally started to say, and that gave him a very, very bad feeling.

Immediately Angel started ahead again.

“We’re going to lose the megrib,” he said shortly.

“Right,” Spike said, turning his attention back to the tunnel ahead of them.  Angel obviously wasn’t going to tell him whatever else Cordy had seen, which left Spike two options – stop here and now and make a scene trying to get it out of him, losing the megrib and aborting the chase and gambling that that choice wouldn’t only make things worse, or trust him and go on.  Either choice could mean disaster.  But that was the trouble with visions – a little incomplete knowledge could steer you wrong as easily as it could steer you right.

But he knew which Xander would choose, and in the end that was what kept Spike silent, moving stealthily along beside Angel.

From the air currents, Spike could feel that the tunnel branched ahead, and he glanced at Angel and got a terse nod in return.  They moved more cautiously, all their senses expanded.

The tunnel split into four smaller branches.  Spike and Angel didn’t hesitate, tracking the megrib’s movement through the northward tunnel.  Spike hung back just long enough to signal the others which direction to take, then sped ahead to rejoin Angel.  They moved quickly now, but a faint humming sound from ahead, just within the range of Spike’s hearing, brought them both to a halt.

“Portal,” Angel whispered.

Spike nodded and listened.  No movement except the megrib, not even the breath or heartbeats of rats or other small tunnel dwellers.  Something else had been feeding down here.

Something hungry.

Spike more than half expected an ambush nonetheless, but there was none.  The tunnel ended in a dead end, a pile of collapsed rock.  And, of course, the portal.  It hung there in the air, shimmering, humming faintly.  Spike and Angel came into view of it just as the megrib squirmed over the edge of it and vanished.

“Bloody hell,” Spike said, both relieved and somehow frustrated at the same time.  No ambush, no battle, no Ravyadha, nothing.  Just this left-behind portal.

“That’s all right,” Willow said as the rest of the group approached.  “We didn’t really expect Ravyadha to open a portal to let things out, and then just stand there beside it forever.  This works just fine.”

“Like to know how,” Spike said disgustedly.

“This is the terminus of the portal, not its origination,” Giles said.  “The etheric emanations are coming from the portal, not being drawn into it.”

“Whatever,” Spike said irritably.  “Want to put that in English?”

“What Giles is saying,” Angel said, “is that this portal was cast from the other side.”

“So this Ravyadha guy’s on the other side of the portal?” Xander said nervously, patting his pockets, checking his weapons.

“Highly doubtful,” Wesley said, shaking his head.  “As Willow said, if Ravyadha is casting this portal merely to allow creatures from the nether planes to emerge into Sunnydale, there is obviously no reason for him to remain once he’s opened the portal.  Right now we’re rather close to the Hellmouth, which is probably what’s powering this portal.  That way he can set it and leave it open so all manner of demons can come through as they please.”

“So what good does getting this far do us, then?” Buffy said impatiently.  “All this fuss for nothing!”

“It’s not that bad,” Tara said softly.  “Now that we have a portal actually cast by Ravyadha – if we assume he cast it – then we have his magical signature.  We can track that, sort of the same way we tracked the megrib.”

Xander wrinkled his nose, looking, Spike thought, endearingly puzzled.

“But there’s nothing to follow,” he said.

“The portals,” Wesley said, nodding.  “Ravyadha created a portal from the megrib’s home plane to here; therefore he had to have traveled there.  From the other side of the portal, it should be possible to track, by the magical signature, the location of the portal he used to go there, and if that portal is still open – “

“That’s a lot of ifs,” Angel said, shaking his head.

“Yeah, and here’s another one,” Spike said sourly.  “What if we pop nicely through this portal, and even if the plane on the other side is even habitable for us, and if something doesn’t bite our heads off the second we go through, and if it’s not just a trap, what if that portal we’re looking for isn’t open anymore, and while we’re poncing about over there this one closes while we’re over there and we’re stranded?  Hmmmm?”

Willow stepped forward and ran her hands around the portal edge, almost touching it.

“The portal spell is still strong,” she said.  “It hasn’t degraded much since it was cast.  I don’t think it’s going to collapse anytime soon.  I mean, it’s been open long enough for the megrib to come out, to be chased around and caught by us, for Tara and me to cast our spell, and for us all to get here.  If the Hellmouth is powering it, it should maintain itself for at least a several hours more.”

“And megribs require a similar atmosphere to our own,” Wesley said.  “However, as a precaution, I would suggest sending Spike or Angel through first, since they are not only more tolerant of a hostile environment, but our strongest fighters in case there is danger on the other side.”

Spike snorted.

“Right, good ol’ Spike, best cannon fodder the Scoobies ever had,” he said bitingly.  “Toss him in and see what bites, eh?”

“At least you’d be of some use for a change,” Buffy snarled.  “Look, never mind them.  I’ll go through.”  She would have, too, but for Angel’s firm grip on her arm.

“Thanks, Buffy,” Angel said rather coolly.  “But I think I’m better with Spike for this.  One of us will come back to tell you what’s on the other side.”

Angel’s words did what no amount of Watcher logic could.  Spike felt a brief glow of pride.  His Sire needed him, wanted him to fight by his side.

That was good enough.  Almost.

Spike stepped forward with Angel, but glanced back over his shoulder.

“All right, all right,” he snarled.  “I’m going.  But you owe me, Watcher, and don’t you forget it.”

If he’d needed to breathe, he’d have held his breath as he stepped through the portal.

It wasn’t Spike’s first portal, but he’d never enjoyed passing through one before, and this one was no exception.  His stomach gave a big lurch, his ears rang and his sense of balance skewed; it took a moment for his reflexes and his vision to catch up.  He stumbled, flailed and grabbed a handful of Angel’s leather coat, then steadied, relieved at the strong grip that clasped his shoulder.

“Are you all right?”

Angel was shouting, and for a minute, Spike didn’t understand why; then his ears registered the howling wind an instant before Spike’s eyes filled with flying grit.

“Bloody fucking hell,” Spike swore, knuckling his eyes.  “How the hell are we supposed to find anything in a fucking windstorm?”  He got most of the grit out, not that it was much help; beyond sandy soil under his feet and a few scrubby plants nearby, he couldn’t see anything else through the gritty wind.

“We’ll need Willow and Tara’s spell to track anything through this,” Angel shouted, nearly in Spike’s ear.  “Step back through and get the others.  I’ll guard the portal from this side.”

Spike stepped back through eagerly, then belatedly remembered the effects of the portal.  He steadied himself on the wall on the other side, fighting for a moment to hold down the last thing he’d swallowed – Xander’s blood, and that was too precious to lose.  After a couple seconds he won the battle with his stomach and looked up at the waiting humans.

“Safe enough,” he said briefly.  “Bloody sandstorm on the other side, though, so if you’ve got a kerchief, better tie it over your nose and mouth.  And you witches, better have your spell ready.  Won’t be no pentagrams and runes on the ground over there.”

A hurried consultation, a brief chant, and Willow and Tara created a vial of some liquid which, hopefully, would serve as a sort of compass to other portals cast by the same magician on a sort of ‘warmer, colder’ basis – the best they could do under the circumstances.  Spike was already getting edgy – he didn’t like leaving Angel over there alone, but he joined with Giles in vetoing Buffy passing through to guard the portal with the older vampire.  Spike had very little doubt that she’d merely go charging off into the storm looking for something to kill, and while he wouldn’t have minded Buffy getting lost or killed on some nether plane, Xander would probably get hurt when he insisted on stumbling around looking for her.  At last Spike couldn’t wait; he tied his pocket handkerchief over his lower face and hopped back through the portal, glad of the chance to recover his equilibrium before the others, especially Buffy, came through.  He stepped into the sandstorm –

-- and into battle.

As Spike pulled out his axe, he spared a disgusted thought for his own stupidity.

Megrib.  Hive creatures.  Homing instinct.  All very nice for tracking.

Until you tracked right into their hive.

One megrib was nothing.  They were stupid creatures, not too fast, not that hard to kill.  One megrib was nothing.

Ten or twelve dozen, on the other hand, were rather more of a problem.

Angel was already nearly covered with the scaly creatures despite vampiric speed in plucking them away and vampiric strength in crushing them and flinging them aside.  Spike swung his axe for a while, then abandoned it for Angel’s approach – two hands were definitely better than one for this job.

Then there was shouting around him, and someone plucked a megrib away just as it was about to crawl down the neck of Spike’s shirt.  Spike spun around and met the twinkling eyes of a kerchief-masked Xander, who had seized the nasty little creature in the jaws of an unexpected but effective weapon – a large pair of pliers.  Human hands weren’t strong enough to hold the squirmy creatures, but the pliers worked nicely.

“Ta, luv,” Spike shouted over the wind, grabbing a megrib which was crawling up Xander’s legs.  “Bloody brilliant, that!”

“What’s a builder without his tools?” Xander yelled back, and then he whirled around, whacking the selfsame pliers down on a megrib crawling toward Willow.

For several minutes there was nothing but grit, and wind, and megribs, and trying to hit the little demons instead of each other; then Willow was shouting something and striding off into the wind, and the others were following, and Spike shrugged, squashed a last megrib under his boot, and fell in too.  He hoped Willow’s glowing vial worked, but either way, wasn’t much point in staying where they were.  He only hoped that if they needed to, they could find their way back.  He didn’t fancy getting stuck in the nether planes, especially this one.

On the other hand, Spike thought, walking close behind Xander, there were worse things than a nice brisk fight and a stint following that arse . . .

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