“Really, they’re in there somewhere. I swear.”


Spike dug deeper into the cardboard box.


“Don’t see ‘em, Pet. So tell me again why you’ve got to have these particular boots tonight?”


“Because my sneakers are scented with eau de Vorgost,” Xander said wryly. “And we’ve got to go to Giles’, and when they all jump on you for that Vorgost head thing, I’d just as soon let you suffer alone.”


Spike snorted.


“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. Don’t 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 Xander’s grab, he flipped open the catch and grinned at the contents. “Found the goody box, didn’t 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, haven’t we? You’re more creative than I give you credit for.” He pulled out a vibrator, holding it up and raising his eyebrows. “Always figured I’d try one of these someday.”


“They’re Anya’s toys,” Xander said weakly, blushing even more darkly.


Spike smirked, but privately he didn’t 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 wouldn’t let her – I mean, we weren’t – I didn’t – “


Didn’t 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 Spike’s goal. “Willow is polite enough not to dig through my private belongings.


“Polite,” Spike sniffed dismissively. “Nosy’s 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. We’ve got to leave for Giles’ in a few minutes, and I’m 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 Xander’s “better” shoes – he wouldn’t 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 I’ve 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.


“Got ‘em!”


“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.


“That’ll do. C’mere, 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 we’re gonna miss Giles’ little tea party.” Or I’m going to be tempted to go for something you’re not ready for yet.


To his delight, Xander actually considered the tradeoff for some moments before sighing and agreeing that they’d better call a halt while they still could. Progress. Just wait, Pet. I’m gonna have you telling Giles what he can do with his bloody summonses.


They walked, since the girls still had the car. Spike wasn’t entirely thrilled about that. He was ready, willing and able to protect Xander from any non-human nasties that might bother them, but there wasn’t 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 he’d see about fixing that car, and in the meantime they’d 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 Xander’s 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 Spike’s 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 wasn’t 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 everybody’s face wasn’t altogether unusual, although Spike would’ve expected a bit more relaxation considering that he’d 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.


“Xander – “


Willow interrupted him.


“Xander, a man from the sheriff’s department came by today,” she said, her face flushed. “He wanted to serve some papers from the court, only he wouldn’t let me sign for them, he wanted somebody older, so we had to come over here and have Giles sign for them. I’m 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 you’re being sued,” he said quietly. “By your parents. I’d really like some explanation of this, Xander, and of why Willow told me I wasn’t to give the gentleman your address.”


Xander ignored the question, taking the papers and scanning over them. Spike read over his shoulder, surreptitiously giving Xander’s arm a supportive squeeze.


“They’re 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 didn’t list it.”


“There’s no way,” Willow said hotly. “I packed every single thing up myself. There wasn’t one paperclip in there that wasn’t 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 wouldn’t want anything of theirs – “


“Let’s 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 didn’t know where you were – and why you don’t 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 Xander’s 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 moment’s 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 don’t 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. “I’ll give you one more clue, though, on top of the ones you’ve already got and should’ve gotten yourself over the past few years: Xander didn’t 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 don’t mean – surely – “


“I’m here to tell you I bloody well do mean,” Spike said, meeting Giles’ eyes squarely. “And I’ll 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. “Xander’s old enough to decide that, and he’s decided. You don’t 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, she’d – she’d – “


“She’d go over there directly and break them into eight-six separate little pieces,” Spike said, shrugging. And she’s not to do that. Not until I get this bleeding chip out of my head. And the Harrises are mine. Nobody else’s. Mine.


“I suppose there’s 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.”


Giles hesitated.


“I don’t know if I can agree to keep this to myself,” he said slowly. “But I’ll consider it, and in the meantime I’ll 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 Watcher’s 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 they’re at my door, see? Just when I’d found myself a nice quiet place. And then they come busting in, and most likely the whelp gets hurt too. He’s going to get a post office box for his mail, and there’s 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. He’d see to the lawsuit himself; or rather, he’d see to someone who could see to it. He might be harmless to humans, but he still had connections. He wasn’t really worried about that. What worried him was the stunned and shattered expression on Xander’s 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 couldn’t 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. “There’s 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 shouldn’t take long for us to get the other one.”


Xander and Spike exchanged glances. Frankly, Spike didn’t 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 would’ve 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 you’re ready to take on a Vorgost?” Spike said, leaning casually against Giles’ desk despite the Watcher’s glare.


“Vorgost?” Buffy repeated, smiling brightly. “Wow. You know what it is. Wonder how come you didn’t mention that before.”


“Dunno, Sweetums,” Spike said, smiling back just as brightly. “Could’ve 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, didn’t 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.”


“I’m sorry too,” Willow piped up, looking truly contrite, unlike the Slayer. “I shouldn’t have let Buffy order before you two got here, and if we’d waited like we should have, there wouldn’t have been any garlic bread, so there wouldn’t have been a problem at all. So I guess it’s 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 there’s anybody in this room whose fault it’s not, it is so you,” he grinned, and Spike was thankful to Red once again, for at least putting a crack in Xander’s 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 hadn’t identified the creature, and while I know I’ve come across references to ‘Vorgosts’ once or twice, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen any in-depth information.”


Spike shrugged.


“Big, clawed, six legs, scales, lots of teeth,” he said. “Generally they’re 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. “Wouldn’t bother with the mojo, Red,” he said. “They’re pretty much immune. Steel and lead don’t bother ‘em and magical weapons don’t help. Wood, iron, stone or your bare hands, that’s about it. To kill ‘em you either have to take off the head or damage the brain. And there’s 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 they’re solitary. If there’s another in the park, that means it’s a female and it’s nesting, ‘cause that’s the only time you’ll have a pair. Female Vorgosts are a bit larger than the males and twice as nasty. Plus you’ll have to cut open the female and see if she’s dropped her eggs yet. If she has, you’ll want to find the eggs and smash ‘em.”


Buffy raised an eyebrow.


“If these things are so tough, how come we’ve never heard of them before?” she challenged. “And why aren’t they in Giles’ books?”


“Easy, Pet,” Spike shrugged. “Aren’t usually found aboveground. Hardly ever found even belowground – I’ve only seen one once before, but I’ve heard. Bad news, Pet – they’re hellspawn, native to the nether planes.”


“And that’s bad news why?” Buffy asked, turning to Giles, but it was Xander who answered.


“Bad news because if they’re native to the nether planes,” he said, “then there’s got to be a hole open through which they got from there to here, right? And bad news also because if they’re normally underground nasties, there’s a reason they’re living in Sunnydale’s park. Like, there’s something even nastier underground, making it a bad place to nest.”


Spike stifled a proud smile with great difficulty. That’s the way, Pet! Show ‘em those Xander Harris smarts. Let ‘em know just how badly they’ve underestimated you.


Willow turned to Giles.


“Xander’s right,” she said. “The Hellmouth couldn’t have opened again, could it?”


“No, I doubt we could have missed that,” Giles said drily. “However, it’s 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 didn’t 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?”


Spike shrugged.


“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 haven’t hatched yet if they’re leaving their victims all strewn about. If there was young to feed, they’d take all the bits back to the nest.”


“Oh. That’s good then,” Willow said relievedly, then wrinkled her nose. “Uh. Relatively speaking, I mean. Then I guess Buffy’s right, we should go out and take care of it.” Then she hesitated. “I don’t suppose it would let us just send it home?”


Spike smirked.


“You could ask it, Pet, but I’d stand well back or you’d find yourself inspecting its tonsils,” he said.


“Like I said,” Buffy said impatiently. “Slayage. Prompt slayage.”


“Can’t 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 we’d better get going,” Xander said, standing up.


“What’s this ‘we’ shit, kemo sabe?” Buffy said, raising an eyebrow. “You’re 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.


Spike shrugged.


“Guess I will,” he said more casually than he felt. “Bet I can take that Vorgost down faster’n her. Anyway, I can use the exercise.” He didn’t 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 I’m going,” Xander said firmly.


Spike was dismayed; he’d 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 didn’t care all that much about Xander’s condition.


“Don’t imagine there’s much point,” he said, trying to convey his warning to Xander with his eyes. “Don’t think pelting the Vorgost with donuts will do much good.”


“Spike!” Willow protested. “That’s mean.”


Spike rolled his eyes.


“Your point being?” he said sarcastically. “Evil soulless vampire, remember?”


Xander shrugged.


“I’m going,” he said flatly, but Spike could see a hint of hurt deep down in the brown eyes, and now he wished like hell he’d 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 wasn’t in the best frame of mind for even a fake insult.


The others didn’t even grace Spike with an argument. Spike shrugged unhappily in response to the Watcher’s 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 wasn’t much that could pass the Vorgost’s 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 couldn’t use their magic on the Vorgost directly, they’d 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 she’d get close enough to the Vorgost’s mouth to try to use it. Spike had grabbed a conventional steel axe.


“Thought you said that wouldn’t work,” Buffy said suspiciously.


“Won’t – on the Vorgost,” Spike returned. He didn’t 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 Vorgost’s mouth. Won’t hurt it, but it’ll slow it down some, at least.”


Xander took the spear.


“Thanks,” he murmured. “Good idea.” He hesitated. “You didn’t have to say that. About the donuts, I mean.”


“Didn’t mean it, you know that,” Spike said softly. He glanced sideways at Xander, scowling. “Don’t you?”


Xander said nothing for a long time. Then, at last:


“I know you didn’t mean it.” Barely whispered. “But maybe it’s true anyway.”


Spike snorted.


“You’re worth the lot of them,” he said.


“But you didn’t want me to hunt with you,” Xander whispered, hurt. “I helped before, didn’t 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.”


Not if.


He’d been right.


There’d been no trouble tracking the Vorgost down. Gravid Vorgosts didn’t 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 hadn’t known that Vorgosts could climb trees. He should’ve figured it out. They lived underground; they climbed rocks, so why not trees? But he hadn’t figured it out, not until the Vorgost dropped out of the tree above them.


The Scoobies did their best, Spike had to admit. Buffy’s 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 couldn’t get near the creature’s vulnerable head. Even Slayer strength couldn’t drive the iron spike through the Vorgost’s scaly hide. Willow and Tara were tiring, Buffy was showing signs of fatigue, but the Vorgost wasn’t 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 he’d 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 Vorgost’s 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 didn’t 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.


That’s my brilliant Pet!


With all his strength, Spike wrenched the Vorgost’s head back as it leaped forward. Back, back he pulled as the creature came down –


-- and abruptly the sharp pointed wooden end of Xander’s spear emerged from the top of the Vorgost’s head, half an inch from Spike’s 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 Vorgost’s corpse and saw Xander’s 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. “Wouldn’t 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 she’d 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.”


Pause. Sniff.


“Shower,” they both said at the same time.


Email: Shadow