Really, theyre in there somewhere. I swear.
Spike dug deeper into the cardboard box.
Dont see em, Pet. So tell me again why youve got to have these particular boots tonight?
Because my sneakers are scented with eau de Vorgost, Xander said wryly. And weve got to go to Giles, and when they all jump on you for that Vorgost head thing, Id just as soon let you suffer alone.
Thanks, Pet. Still no boots, but He found a hinged wooden box, about the size of a shoe box. Hmmm, what have we here?
Uh no boots there. Really. Dont worry about that, Xander said hastily, diving for the box. Spike grinned and held it out of reach.
Hmmm, looks interesting, Pet, he said innocently. Now whatever could it aha! Evading Xanders grab, he flipped open the catch and grinned at the contents. Found the goody box, didnt I?
Oh, fuck, Xander mumbled, turning cranberry red.
That seems to be the general idea, Spike chuckled. My, my, Pet. Got quite the assortment here, havent we? Youre more creative than I give you credit for. He pulled out a vibrator, holding it up and raising his eyebrows. Always figured Id try one of these someday.
Theyre Anyas toys, Xander said weakly, blushing even more darkly.
Spike smirked, but privately he didnt doubt that for a minute.
Never tried em on you? he guessed.
Xander was doing the avoid-the-gaze thing again, which Spike took to be a warning sign.
She wanted to, Xander said, busying himself with the crate he was looking through. But I wouldnt let her I mean, we werent I didnt
Didnt trust her that much, Spike finished mentally. He chuckled. Bet Red and her girlfriend got an eyeful when they packed these up.
Hah! Xander eagerly seized on the change of subject, which had been Spikes goal. Willow is polite enough not to dig through my private belongings.
Polite, Spike sniffed dismissively. Nosys more fun. He waggled the vibrator, grinning lecherously. Wanna play, hmmmmm?
Spike Xander, now totally crimson with embarrassment, threw a pillow at him. Come on. Weve got to leave for Giles in a few minutes, and Im still bootless.
Spike took pity on Xander and put the vibrator back in the box, closing the catch although he tossed the box onto the bed, winking at Xander, instead of tucking it back in the crate. He found Xanders better shoes he wouldnt go so far as to call them good and held them up.
How bout these, Pet?
Uh-uh, Xander said, shaking his head. What if we go out on patrol again and I get some kind of noxious slime all over them? Those are my last semi-good shoes, and Ive got to start job hunting again.
Spike grumbled but dived back into the stack of not-yet-unpacked boxes, crowing triumphantly when he located the desired boots.
All right! Xander said relievedly, but once again Spike evaded his reach. Awww what now?
Spike dangled the boots temptingly.
What do I get for em? he asked smugly.
Uhhh big kiss? Xander suggested shyly.
Hmm. With tongue? Spike bargained.
With tongue, Xander agreed, blushing again, but this time it was a happy sort of blush.
Spike pretended to consider.
Thatll do. Cmere, Pet.
Xander went willingly. Spike pulled him close, exploring that luscious mouth at considerable length, rejoicing that Xander seemed ever so much more comfortable with him today. Whether it was that tasty bit of dryhumping in the closet the night before, or finally being able to tell someone else his deep, dark secret, there was a new relaxation in Xander as he let Spike plumb his mouth, a new confidence as he wrapped his arms around the vampire, stroking his back as they kissed. Finally, reluctantly, Spike pulled away.
Nuff, Pet, he said a little shakily. Bloody hell, that mouth. Any more of that and were gonna miss Giles little tea party. Or Im going to be tempted to go for something youre not ready for yet.
To his delight, Xander actually considered the tradeoff for some moments before sighing and agreeing that theyd better call a halt while they still could. Progress. Just wait, Pet. Im gonna have you telling Giles what he can do with his bloody summonses.
They walked, since the girls still had the car. Spike wasnt entirely thrilled about that. He was ready, willing and able to protect Xander from any non-human nasties that might bother them, but there wasnt much either he or Xander could do if a big gang of those Initiative blokes jumped out of the bushes. And he had little doubt that Xander would get himself hurt or killed trying to defend Spike in that case. Well, tomorrow hed see about fixing that car, and in the meantime theyd just stay in well-lit public areas and get to Giles as quickly as ever they could, even though he had no particular desire to go there. Oh, well, at least the impending row with Buffy should be amusing.
When they arrived, Spike saw Xanders car parked out front but not in the same place, which, Spike hoped, meant it was running soundly enough to get them home. The porch step was scrupulously clean and looked recently scrubbed, and smelled of ammonia. Spike and Xander exchanged mischeivous glances before they knocked.
Buffy answered the door, but to Spikes surprise she barely glared at him, only moving aside to let them into the house.
Giles needs to talk to you, she said briefly, glancing at Xander. Xander gave Spike a worried look and stepped in.
Spike wasnt encouraged by what he saw. The rest of the Scoobies were arranged as usual on the couch and chairs; Giles was leaning against his desk, sipping what smelled, to Spike, to be scotch. Even the expression of foreboding on everybodys face wasnt altogether unusual, although Spike wouldve expected a bit more relaxation considering that hed already killed the bloody monster.
What was unusual was the way every eye in the room immediately jumped to Xander, then skittered away again, as if the others were embarrassed. Giles took a deep breath.
Willow interrupted him.
Xander, a man from the sheriffs department came by today, she said, her face flushed. He wanted to serve some papers from the court, only he wouldnt let me sign for them, he wanted somebody older, so we had to come over here and have Giles sign for them. Im sorry, I
Papers? Xander said, his brow furrowing. What kind of . . . papers?
Giles picked up a folded document from his desk, sighing pensively.
It appears youre being sued, he said quietly. By your parents. Id really like some explanation of this, Xander, and of why Willow told me I wasnt to give the gentleman your address.
Xander ignored the question, taking the papers and scanning over them. Spike read over his shoulder, surreptitiously giving Xanders arm a supportive squeeze.
Theyre suing me for breaking a lease agreement! Xander said disbelievingly. WHAT lease agreement?
And running out on rent due, Spike added, pointing to the next paragraph. Also conversion of property.
What fucking property? Xander said blankly. My clothes? What?
Dunno, Pet, Spike said, shrugging. They didnt list it.
Theres no way, Willow said hotly. I packed every single thing up myself. There wasnt one paperclip in there that wasnt your clothes, your toiletries, or stuff I know you bought yourself.
Spike remembered the wooden box and smirked, wondering how thorough Willow had gotten in her sorting.
Anyway, I knew you wouldnt want anything of theirs
Lets back up just a moment, please, Giles interrupted, glancing at Willow, who blushed and retreated to the sofa with Tara. I was certainly never given the impression that your parents didnt know where you were and why you dont wish others to know where you are now. Or why you would have moved under such circumstances to give rise to a lawsuit.
Spike saw Xanders face flush, watched him flail for some kind of explanation. Spike thought fast.
Like to talk to you just a minute, he said to Giles, as casually as he could manage. In private.
Giles glanced at Spike enquiringly, then nodded after a moments hesitation, following the vampire into the den. Spike listened a moment, then opened the door, confronting Buffy.
Back off, he said simply. Giles can tell you all in a minute. And dont pester the whelp. He slammed the door, grinning as he heard the thump and the yelp on the other side, even though it cost him a brief spear of pain from the chip in his brain.
Right, Giles said patiently. Would you care to tell me what this is all about?
Not really my secret to tell, Spike said, shrugging. Ill give you one more clue, though, on top of the ones youve already got and shouldve gotten yourself over the past few years: Xander didnt get those bruises rescuing me. Now go on. Apply that famous Watcher deduction.
He watched Giles, watched the expressions flit across his face, watch the slow realization dawn. Then the horror.
Oh, God, Giles whispered. You dont mean surely
Im here to tell you I bloody well do mean, Spike said, meeting Giles eyes squarely. And Ill tell you what else. Willow and Tara know or guess and now you know, and nobody else. Got it? Nobody else.
But Giles swallowed convulsively. But we should report
No thank you, Spike said flatly. Xanders old enough to decide that, and hes decided. You dont have to like his reasons, or know em. Spike himself had a sneaking suspicion that one of those reasons had something to do with police investigations into his past home life . . . and the presence of his uncle. Besides, what do you expect the Slayer would do if she knew?
Buffy? Giles looked startled. Why, shed shed
Shed go over there directly and break them into eight-six separate little pieces, Spike said, shrugging. And shes not to do that. Not until I get this bleeding chip out of my head. And the Harrises are mine. Nobody elses. Mine.
I suppose theres that, Giles said reluctantly. But I really think I should talk to Xander about this.
I really think that seeing as the lot of you have managed to turn a blind eye for the past few years, you should manage to keep doing it, Spike said sarcastically. If Xander wants your bloody help, he knows where you live. In the meantime, if you want to do something for Xander, let it go.
I dont know if I can agree to keep this to myself, he said slowly. But Ill consider it, and in the meantime Ill see what I can think of regarding the lawsuit.
You do that, Spike said sourly. Well, he supposed it was the best he was going to get. He grabbed the Watchers arm, opened the door and pulled Giles back out with him.
and then those Initiative gits ring on the Harrises door, looking all nice and official-like, Spike said, as if continuing, and the Harrises tell em where we are, and then next thing you know theyre at my door, see? Just when Id found myself a nice quiet place. And then they come busting in, and most likely the whelp gets hurt too. Hes going to get a post office box for his mail, and theres no need for anybody to put it about just where he is, see?
Yes, well, that makes sense, Giles said hastily, although he looked rather taken aback. I suppose that for the present, Xander can use this as his permanent mailing address for legal purposes.
Works for me, Spike said, shrugging. Great. Let the Watcher deal with the delivery boys. Hed see to the lawsuit himself; or rather, hed see to someone who could see to it. He might be harmless to humans, but he still had connections. He wasnt really worried about that. What worried him was the stunned and shattered expression on Xanders face as he stared at the papers, and the fact that here and now, in front of the Slayer and the Watcher and the rest, Spike couldnt do much about it.
Suddenly Xander stuffed the envelope into his pocket and the all-too-familiar Xander-mask dropped into place, the Zeppo here, ignore me mask.
Well later for that, he said cheerfully. So, apart from my family woes, what creepy mission awaits the Scoobies tonight?
Not much, Buffy said casually, although she gave Xander a rather suspicious look. We just need to go out and kill the other three-clawed creepy-crawlie.
Xander froze and Spike groaned inwardly.
O-other? Xander said slowly. Theres another one?
Yeah, unless the one Spikey killed managed to regrow its head and march to the other end of the park to leave tracks and pieces of a disemboweled policeman all over the place, Buffy said sarcastically. But we figured that since the Great White Hopeless managed the first one so easily, it shouldnt take long for us to get the other one.
Xander and Spike exchanged glances. Frankly, Spike didnt give a shit if Buffy or Giles got pounded and/or ripped to pieces by an angry Vorgost. But Willow and Tara and Dawn would be with them. Now, they had the advantage of being able to see, which wouldve been nice when Spike had fought the huge demonic beast. On the other hand, only Buffy had better-than-human strength and reflexes, and the rest of them
So you think youre ready to take on a Vorgost? Spike said, leaning casually against Giles desk despite the Watchers glare.
Vorgost? Buffy repeated, smiling brightly. Wow. You know what it is. Wonder how come you didnt mention that before.
Dunno, Sweetums, Spike said, smiling back just as brightly. Couldve had something to do with a mouthful of garlic sprayed in my face. Trifle distracting to a vampire, you know.
Yes, and I believe you had something to say about that, didnt you, Buffy? Giles said firmly.
Buffy rolled her eyes and sighed.
Have to? she pleaded. Fangless is being exceptionally assholish this evening.
Buffy, Giles said implacably.
Buffy sighed again.
Sorry, she said grudgingly. For the garlic thing, I mean. Spraying you in the face with garlic breath was maybe a little excessive for threatened pizza desecration.
Im sorry too, Willow piped up, looking truly contrite, unlike the Slayer. I shouldnt have let Buffy order before you two got here, and if wed waited like we should have, there wouldnt have been any garlic bread, so there wouldnt have been a problem at all. So I guess its all kind of my fault, she concluded miserably.
Xander snorted before Spike could; the mortal sat down on the edge of the sofa to give Willow a one-armed hug.
Willow, if theres anybody in this room whose fault its not, it is so you, he grinned, and Spike was thankful to Red once again, for at least putting a crack in Xanders bad mood, although he could see that the mask was still in place.
Anyway, Xander continued, in character and right on cue, what might be good now is if Spike filled everybody in on Vorgosts, maybe?
Yes, that might be wise, Giles agreed. I still hadnt identified the creature, and while I know Ive come across references to Vorgosts once or twice, I dont believe Ive ever seen any in-depth information.
Big, clawed, six legs, scales, lots of teeth, he said. Generally theyre fairly slow-moving, but they can strike fast if they want and jump, he added. Bloody strong, 360-degree vision. Hmmm, what else?
Any known vulnerabilities? Giles prompted hopefully.
Oh, yeah, that, Spike said. He glanced at Willow. Wouldnt bother with the mojo, Red, he said. Theyre pretty much immune. Steel and lead dont bother em and magical weapons dont help. Wood, iron, stone or your bare hands, thats about it. To kill em you either have to take off the head or damage the brain. And theres only three vulnerable spots right behind and under the ears, the throat just under the chin, and guess what? eyes. He glanced at Xander and sighed.
Oh, one other thing, he said. The one I got was a male. Usually theyre solitary. If theres another in the park, that means its a female and its nesting, cause thats the only time youll have a pair. Female Vorgosts are a bit larger than the males and twice as nasty. Plus youll have to cut open the female and see if shes dropped her eggs yet. If she has, youll want to find the eggs and smash em.
Buffy raised an eyebrow.
If these things are so tough, how come weve never heard of them before? she challenged. And why arent they in Giles books?
Easy, Pet, Spike shrugged. Arent usually found aboveground. Hardly ever found even belowground Ive only seen one once before, but Ive heard. Bad news, Pet theyre hellspawn, native to the nether planes.
And thats bad news why? Buffy asked, turning to Giles, but it was Xander who answered.
Bad news because if theyre native to the nether planes, he said, then theres got to be a hole open through which they got from there to here, right? And bad news also because if theyre normally underground nasties, theres a reason theyre living in Sunnydales park. Like, theres something even nastier underground, making it a bad place to nest.
Spike stifled a proud smile with great difficulty. Thats the way, Pet! Show em those Xander Harris smarts. Let em know just how badly theyve underestimated you.
Willow turned to Giles.
Xanders right, she said. The Hellmouth couldnt have opened again, could it?
No, I doubt we could have missed that, Giles said drily. However, its always possible for smaller portals to be opened, permanently or temporarily. If those Vorgosts came through it, that would seem to indicate that the portal was open for some time or still is. The presence of such a portal most likely means one of two things
A powerful demon, Xander suggested. Or a powerful spellcaster.
Giles looked faintly surprised; Spike didnt know whether to feel annoyed by that surprised expression or proud of Xander. He settled on pride with a small side order of annoyance.
Yes, Giles admitted. There are other possibilities, of course an old portal inadvertently triggered, some powerful magical item misused, or merely an accidental upsurge in magical energy. But none of those would make the underground passages so uncomfortable that the Vorgosts would be forced aboveground.
Sounds like a challenge for research people, Buffy said, shrugging. It seems to me like the now job is Vorgost slayage, before eggs hatch or whatever.
Yeah, better to kill one Vorgost tonight than ten next week, Willow agreed, nodding vigorously. Then she looked anxious. Ummmm . . . Spike, do you know how long it takes their eggs to hatch?
Sorry, Red, never nest-sat for any of em, he said. Doubt if it would be this soon though. A thought struck him, and he added, Eggs havent hatched yet if theyre leaving their victims all strewn about. If there was young to feed, theyd take all the bits back to the nest.
Oh. Thats good then, Willow said relievedly, then wrinkled her nose. Uh. Relatively speaking, I mean. Then I guess Buffys right, we should go out and take care of it. Then she hesitated. I dont suppose it would let us just send it home?
You could ask it, Pet, but Id stand well back or youd find yourself inspecting its tonsils, he said.
Like I said, Buffy said impatiently. Slayage. Prompt slayage.
Cant argue you there, Spike said, although he exchanged a worried glance with Xander, knowing the mortal was thinking the same thing he was. The male Vorgost had almost made vampire hash out of Spike. The female was larger and faster and, especially if she had eggs to defend, meaner.
Then I guess wed better get going, Xander said, standing up.
Whats this we shit, kemo sabe? Buffy said, raising an eyebrow. Youre cracked rib boy, remember? If Spikey could manage one of these things all on his own, we can manage just fine.
Are you going? Xander asked Spike.
Guess I will, he said more casually than he felt. Bet I can take that Vorgost down fastern her. Anyway, I can use the exercise. He didnt particularly care if Buffy became Vorgost chow well, actually, he did, simply because he was still counting on bone-breaking day someday but Willow or Tara might just as easily fall prey if the Vorgost was faster than their spells, and if they were hurt or injured, Xander would never forgive himself for concealing the real difficulty of the previous Vorgost fight.
If you guys are all going, then Im going, Xander said firmly.
Spike was dismayed; hed really hoped the others would out-and-out forbid Xander to accompany them on such a risky hunt. Shit. Now his downplaying of the fight was working against him. That, or they just didnt care all that much about Xanders condition.
Dont imagine theres much point, he said, trying to convey his warning to Xander with his eyes. Dont think pelting the Vorgost with donuts will do much good.
Spike! Willow protested. Thats mean.
Spike rolled his eyes.
Your point being? he said sarcastically. Evil soulless vampire, remember?
Im going, he said flatly, but Spike could see a hint of hurt deep down in the brown eyes, and now he wished like hell hed picked a different line of attack to get Xander to stay behind. It was just possible that after receiving the lawsuit from his parents, Xander possibly wasnt in the best frame of mind for even a fake insult.
The others didnt even grace Spike with an argument. Spike shrugged unhappily in response to the Watchers reproachful gaze, and followed the others out the door.
The argument at Giles house took more time than it took for their hunt to go to hell in a handcart.
Giles had looked through his armory. There wasnt much that could pass the Vorgosts defenses. He had one obsidian knife, an antique stone handaxe, and a quiver of flint-tipped arrows which Spike very much doubted anybody was going to hit with. Willow and Tara declined any of the weapons, saying that even if they couldnt use their magic on the Vorgost directly, theyd try something indirect rather than rely on their weak fighting skills. Giles had kept the bow and arrows, Dawn had taken the knife, and Xander took the handaxe. Spike had given Buffy one of his iron railroad spikes, privately hoping shed get close enough to the Vorgosts mouth to try to use it. Spike had grabbed a conventional steel axe.
Thought you said that wouldnt work, Buffy said suspiciously.
Wont on the Vorgost, Spike returned. He didnt bother to explain. But later, at the park, he picked out a stout sapling and cut it down, quickly stripping off the branches and cutting one end to a point. Letting the others fan out ahead of them, Spike dropped back to hand Xander the makeshift spear.
Keep that, he said briefly. If you have to, jam it in the Vorgosts mouth. Wont hurt it, but itll slow it down some, at least.
Xander took the spear.
Thanks, he murmured. Good idea. He hesitated. You didnt have to say that. About the donuts, I mean.
Didnt mean it, you know that, Spike said softly. He glanced sideways at Xander, scowling. Dont you?
Xander said nothing for a long time. Then, at last:
I know you didnt mean it. Barely whispered. But maybe its true anyway.
Youre worth the lot of them, he said.
But you didnt want me to hunt with you, Xander whispered, hurt. I helped before, didnt I?
You did, Spike agreed. Only this time when the Slayer does something stupid, she might just get you killed. Stay back, all right? Be ready to get the witches out when the Slayer fucks it up.
Hed been right.
Thered been no trouble tracking the Vorgost down. Gravid Vorgosts didnt hide their nests, they defended them. Buffy and the others simply followed the trail of body parts to a rooted-up hollow in a glade.
And into a trap.
Spike hadnt known that Vorgosts could climb trees. He shouldve figured it out. They lived underground; they climbed rocks, so why not trees? But he hadnt figured it out, not until the Vorgost dropped out of the tree above them.
The Scoobies did their best, Spike had to admit. Buffys fast reflexes kept the Vorgost from landing on Dawn, and she kept it distracted long enough for the younger girl to scramble to safety. Unable to strike at the Vorgost directly, Willow and Tara had chanted up bolts of force to fling rocks and even trees over on the Vorgost. That had at least kept it distracted, but it made fighting as hazardous for the human and vampiric fighters as for the demonic beast itself.
Dodging projectiles, Buffy fought desperately but couldnt get near the creatures vulnerable head. Even Slayer strength couldnt drive the iron spike through the Vorgosts scaly hide. Willow and Tara were tiring, Buffy was showing signs of fatigue, but the Vorgost wasnt even breathing hard. Desperately Xander waded into the fray, axe in one hand, spear in the other. Immediately Spike leaped in after him, more terrified than hed ever been in his life.
Spike managed to get in one good jab with a railroad spike, almost but not quite close enough to the brain, before the Vorgost roared in fury and flung them off like so many fleas. Buffy flew through the air, hit a tree and collapsed, unconscious. Dawn was knocked into a thicket by a flying log and Giles dived to her rescue. Willow and Tara leaped to defend Buffy if necessary, but there was no need. The Vorgost had turned on the most visible and available target.
Spike screamed and fought desperately, trying vainly for the Vorgosts eyes, but its head was too far forward; it was all he could do to hang on desperately as it charged. To his consternation, Xander didnt flee as any sensible mortal would have; instead he braced the end of the spear on the ground against his foot, angling the point upwards. Abruptly Spike realized what he was doing.
Thats my brilliant Pet!
With all his strength, Spike wrenched the Vorgosts head back as it leaped forward. Back, back he pulled as the creature came down
-- and abruptly the sharp pointed wooden end of Xanders spear emerged from the top of the Vorgosts head, half an inch from Spikes face.
Carried by its own momentum, the dead Vorgost collapsed forward. Thunk.
For a long moment Spike could only cling where he was, staring at the wooden point in front of his face. Then a horrible thought occurred to him.
Xander! Xander, Pet, where are you, are you
Ummmmf. Down shit! here. Some help would definitely be of the good.
Relief so great that it was tangible, almost painful. Spike slid off the Vorgosts corpse and saw Xanders predicament. He was trapped half under the Vorgost, the prop of his spear all that had kept the massive bulk from collapsing upon him entirely.
Got you, Pet, Spike said. He dragged Xander out from under the Vorgost, then gave the spear a good kick. It broke, allowing the creature to fall. Bloody good thought, that, he said, grinning at Xander. Wouldnt have thought of that myself.
Not doubting that, Buffy said wryly, rubbing a bruise on her forehead as she stepped over to join them. She gave the Vorgost a poke with her toe. Ugh. Dead much? Dawn? Giles? Everybody still living? She gave Spike a dismissive glance. Or whatever.
Er, quite. Giles helped Dawn out of the bush shed fallen in. Did anyone see the nest?
Right over there, Buffy said, pointing to another thicket of bushes. Willow and Tara are in there making scrambled eggs.
In fact Willow emerged from the bushes, Tara close behind. The redhead gasped at the sight of the dead Vorgost.
Buffy! You got it!
All dead, Buffy said cheerfully, not correcting Willow. No more Vorgostlings?
No more, Tara said softly, grimacing as she scuffed greenish goo off her shoes.
Celebration time, Buffy said simply. This calls for much chocolate. And pizza. She led the Scoobies off, back toward Giles house.
Shaken, bruised, and covered in Vorgost ichor, Xander and Spike exchanged glances. They looked after Buffy and the others. They looked back at each other.
Home? Xander said finally. I vote tomato soup. And beer.
Spike grinned. Home. Xander said home.
Home, he agreed. Weetabix and blood. He held out a hand; without hesitation, Xander took it.
Okay, so separate meals, Xander said. He grinned. But I know one thing we both will agree on.
Shower, they both said at the same time.