Things That Go Bump in the Night

Description: This story begins after the end of the Highlander Series--the alternate Archangel ending being used, and in BtVS it begins after college, Spike is chipped, Xander is with Anya, Riley has left, but Dawn has yet to show up. The pairings are as follows.
pre-slash Richie/Methos

Disclaimer: All things Highlander belong to Panzer, Rysher, and Davis. All things Buffy and Angel belong to Mutant Enemy Productions and Joss Whedon. Nothing belongs to me. I write purely for entertainment purposes -- no copyright infringement intended. No money has been, nor will it be made.

Warnings: This story contains adult themes, including violence and explicit sex (both het and slash). If any of this is not your cup of tea, or you are not old enough in your geographic location, please do not read.

Things That Go Bump in the Night
Kiristeen ke Alaya


**Welcome to Sunnydale,** Methos thought as he entered the official city limits of the small California town. It sounded delightful, although the welcome sign looked like it had seen better days. He slowed the SUV to a crawl, making time to take a good look around him. The town appeared to be a typical small town. It seemed perfect -- nice, quiet, peaceful. There was nothing like the slower pace of a place like this for figuring out what to do next.

He couldn't stop the deep, heartfelt sigh that escaped him. He didn't bother trying, really. It felt right; kind of like he was pushing his old life back along with the air he blew out of his lungs. He smirked. Maybe he'd go a completely different route this time. Maybe he'd adopt a rich persona. It would be nice not to have to worry about how much money he was spending for a change.

He laughed then. He knew he probably wouldn't go that route. It drew much public attention. He didn't like lots of attention. Being a student again was probably a no go, though. Even he got burned out on learning sometimes.

Of course, as always, he had several he could choose from, each complete with paper trails already laid. He could take the next couple of months to decide which he wanted--who he wanted to be for the next couple of decades. For now, however, all he wanted to do was relax, and Sunnydale seemed the ideal place to do that in. All he needed to find tonight was a place to stay until he found himself a temporary apartment.

He grinned as a motel came up on his right, but grimaced as he pulled into the parking lot. It was a dump. There was no doubt about that. Of course, that meant there would also be no doubt that he could afford it--whatever persona he decided on by the time he got to the office. He knew being this ambivalent was dangerous. Last minute choices were the best way to make mistakes, big mistakes--mistakes that led to missing body parts.

That was why he was here in the middle-of-nowheresville. He wasn't ready to give up being Adam Pierson. Unfortunately, regardless of his wishes, that life was over. The only part of it left worth saving was Joe. MacLeod was nowhere to be found. The Immortal had hidden so well even the Watchers couldn't find him. Richie had taken off long before, not handling the odd changes in his mentor well at all. The boy had, had to many bad experiences when Duncan started acting strangely. Methos hadn't blamed the kid one bit when he'd said goodbye to them all and taken off for parts unknown.

Methos couldn't help but trace the changes back to Ahriman. The Highlander simply hadn't been the same since he'd almost killed Richie because of the arse's mind tricks. **And that's all they were!** he thought vehemently, **Tricks. Demons don't exist.**

Demons were things frightened people came up with to explain things they didn't understand--things that scared them. Demon was the name given to Immortals when they were discovered by mortals who couldn't, or wouldn't, take the time to understand them. In all his 5,000 plus years he'd never seen anything that even remotely convinced him that demons really existed.

Methos knew Joe kept track of the young Immortal's whereabouts, but he'd never asked. He often wondered, though, how Richie was faring.

Methos shook his head as he slid out of the car, slamming the door behind him. He shouldn't be dwelling on this now, so long after Duncan defeated the enemy that called himself Ahriman. He sighed heavily as he made his way to the glass door of the office. He supposed it was only natural that his mind kept going back to that, despite his firm belief that living in the here and now was always best, and that the past belonged right where it was -- the past.

It had been the beginning of the end for the camaraderie that had existed between those who belonged to 'Duncan's clan' -- willingly or unwillingly. Duncan had withdrawn into himself little by little, each encounter he'd had afterward serving only to make him more sullen and angry.

That had affected them all in little ways, drawing the tight
-knit group farther and farther apart. And despite the advance warning, it had still taken him by surprise when everything had ended.

Of course, he could still be Adam Pierson, if he really wanted to. He knew that. Unfortunately, Adam didn't have enough years left to bother going to the trouble of building a whole new life for him. Besides, Methos rationalized, he was too closely associated with the Watchers to risk one of that secret society realizing that Adam wasn't growing older. He could always dye in some grey hairs, but he well knew from past experience what a pain in the ass *that* was to maintain.

He shook himself out of his thoughts as he approached the registration desk. It wasn't as if any of this had to be decided tonight. He had time. He had time to forget that for once in over 5,000 years he'd been part of a group of Immortals that acted like family, instead of enemies -- bitching and squabbling included. When tempers flared it didn't end with one of them minus a head -- although there *had* been a couple of close calls.

There'd been only one other time he'd come even close, and that--well that time was something he didn't like to think about. It wasn't exactly a time he was proud of. For the next couple of weeks -- at least -- he fully intended to forget about Immortals, Watchers, lost chances, *and* new identities. He was on vacation from . . . everything.

"Can I help you?"

"Yes," Methos answered gamely, politely ignoring the odor wafting across the dusty counter, coming from the unkempt, and dirty desk clerk, the three or four days worth of stubble on the man's face, and the hairy beer belly that peeked out from beneath a tank top that was at least one size too small. "I'd like a room for one, please," he continued, quickly changing his mind from his original plan of staying a week. "For one night."

The desk clerk nodded, pulling out a 3 by 5 card and shoving it across the counter toward Methos. "Fill this out," he said shortly, "and I'll get you your key."

A few minutes, a couple of terse exchanges, and money passing hands later, Mtehos headed out towards the room he had just rented under the name Max Winters. He just hoped the clerk's appearance wasn't an accurate representation of his room -- though common sense told him it probably was.

He shuddered as his worst suspicions were confirmed. The room was -- well, it was bad. He certainly wouldn't want to come back to it drunk. He might not survive the experience. The peeling, off-white paint revealed a neon green beneath it. He looked a little closer. Maybe it was white paint. The 'off' looked more like nicotine staining -- *old* nicotine staining. Everything was covered in more than one layer of dust. In fact it looked like it hadn't seen a rag in at least a year.

The carpet was torn in places, stained with substances Methos didn't care to speculate about, and the air itself carried with it an scent he was equally sure he didn't want to identify.

"Well, Max, old buddy, you've slept in worse places. Hell, you've *lived* in worse places." Methos scanned the room again, hoping maybe something had improved. "But it certainly hasn't been recently."

He shrugged it off. It would simply give him good reason to find a place that much more quickly. If worse came to worse, this town probably had another cheap motel -- one that wasn't quite as bad. Tonight, however, he was going to shower. He was going to go out, and he was going to forget. He snorted. **As if!**

Grabbing only the necessities, he headed for the bathroom, cringing when the door sounded like it was going to fall off its hinges. He let out a sigh of relief when it held.

"Bloody hell!"

He blinked twice. He had to. No, it hadn't changed. Mildew really was growing in almost every crook and cranny, as well as in all the cracks that lined the floor and walls. He didn't even bother to look up. It even looked like -- no, he wasn't getting close enought to find out for sure -- there was *moss* growing in the corners, and along the window sill. With no more than a quick glance at the toilet, he decided he wasn't going to lift the lid to check its condition.

He turned on one heel, stuffed his things back into his bag, and without taking the time to zip it up; he walked out. He didn't even bother to glance backward as he drove off. No camaflage was worth staying at a place like that.

Chapter One

**The Bronze, unique name,** Methos thought as he pulled open the door to the club the corner store clerk had recommended. Although he still wasn't quite sure about the woman's parting 'be careful'. He'd almost asked her what she meant, but had decided at the last moment that it wasn't worth the time spent. While he was the last person to judge by appearance alone, the blue spikes in her hair, the safety pins piercing her ears, nose, and eyebrows, as well as the black lipstick, gave him reason to believe he just might be wasting his time trying to figure out what she'd meant. He shuddered to think what else might be pierced that way.

He glanced around the semi-darkened interior of the club. At first glance it seemed much like any other club he'd ever been in. He easily made his way toward the bar through the light early evening crowd, hoping they might actually stock a decent beer.

Paying only scant attention to the bartender when he arrived, Methos ordered a beer.


Methos blinked, surprised by the request. Five thousand bloody years old and he was getting carded. He didn't look *that* young just because he was letting his hair grow longer . . . did he? He chuckled and dug out his wallet. He supposed it could be worse. If they'd had these laws a mere couple hundred years ago, he'd never have been able to buy a drink.

That was definitely one of the many good things to come out of the increasing longevity of the mortals around him. He now looked older than he used to. It wasn't because he'd changed. It was because others took longer to grow up and grow old.

Depending on his hair length and assorted accessories, he could look anywhere from his early twenties to his middle thirties. There was a time, however, that people thought he was younger than young Ryan looked.

The hulking bartender stared at his driver's license for several long moments, taking time to glance at him several times before nodding grudgingly, and reaching for the beer Methos had requested.

"Tell me something. Did you really think I looked too young to buy a beer?" Methos asked skeptically as he accepted the chilled bottle.

The bartender shrugged uncaringly. "You never know in this place," was all he said before moving on to the next customer.

Watching the huge man continue down the row of customers, Methos wondered at the odd phrasing. That was the second person today to say something that seemed really out of place. Finally, however, he shrugged it off as a quirk of the two people, and returned to his own disquieted thoughts. He threw back several swallows of the beer, questioning why his mind was suddenly insisting on raking over the past. It really wasn't like him.

The thing was, even with as much thought as he'd given it, he still wasn't sure what to think of the whole Ahriman mess. He in no way believed Ahriman was a demon. That went without saying. But he was equally certain-after the fact-that MacLeod hadn't just been seeing things, hallucinating. Though, it had seemed like it at first. Someone had wanted MacLeod destroyed, someone with a lot of power. They had chosen to make Mac see things that weren't real. Now, *that* was something he could believe. He'd seen various kinds of mind power many times -- Cassandra being only one.

That was far more believable than Ahriman being a creature of hell -- a true demon. He didn't believe in those. He certainly carried enough personal ones around with him; he didn't need to go creating physicals ones as well.

They, this someone whom he doubted he had a real name for, had almost succeeded in their plan to destroy The Highlander. If Mac had actually killed Richie that day, he wouldn't have been the only one destroyed. Joe regarded Richie in much the same way Mac did -- as a son. Well, it was rather a moot point. Mac hadn't, and there was no sense in dreading what hadn't happened. That made about as much sense as trying to change the past-none.

Methos signaled the bartender for a second beer as he swiveled the stool around so he could see the open floor of the club. He definitely wanted something to distract him from his morbid thoughts.

There weren't many people here yet, though he supposed it was a bit early, the sun just now setting and all. Of course, that's why he'd come here now. He wasn't here to interact with the people who closed the place down -- the hardcore drinkers. No, he had come here for something different than that -- something he didn't want to do in his normal stomping grounds. A corner of his mouth quirked upward. It was too high profile -- too attention getting.

Looking around this place and its patrons, however, he was fast becoming relatively certain he wouldn't find it here. The place was quickly filling up. Unfortunately, it seemed most of them were teenagers, or near enough to it that it didn't matter. He hadn't expected that in a place that served alcohol. At least now he understood why he'd been carded.

With a disappointed sigh, he downed the last of his second beer, and tossed a couple of bills on the polished bar top. Even with the fact that basically everyone in the world was significantly younger than he was; he wasn't in the mood to play 'guess who is old enough'. While risk was a part of life, he had no intention of making *that* mistake.

He was about to leave when a man entered, striding across the room with a casual arrogance that caught Methos' attention. He looked young, but exuded blatant power and a raw sexuality that was enticing.

**Predator,** was Methos' instant thought. His first instinct being to draw in on himself, he rounded his shoulders forward and slouched back against the bar, drawing the cloak of a young student around himself like a protective shield. Frowning, even as he did it, he wondered why he'd reacted that way. The man wasn't an Immortal, so could pose no true threat to him. Given that, his reaction confused him.

He surreptitiously watched the blond approach as he tried to figure out what it was about the man that had triggered his defensive response. Cocking an eyebrow when the man was close enough for him to see details, he noted the slicked-back hair was obviously bleached -- very bleached.

Too bad someone coming to this place probably wouldn't be a man who wanted to play, Methos thought as he assessed the slender man approaching the bar. Despite his youth, there was something about him that spoke of experience. Methos smirked at himself as he suddenly realized he was no longer making any move to leave, and instead was continuing to covertly survey the man.

The blond had made no stops, talked to no one, hadn't even bothered to look around. But despite the fact that the slender man hadn't looked his way either, something told Methos the other man was very much aware of him. It was as if by simply walking into the room, he'd already assessed everyone there, Methos included, and dismissed them as unimportant.

It was rather unsettling feeling, Methos was surprised to discover. He was used to going unnoticed. It wasn't that, that bothered him. He'd purposely cultivated the ability to fade into the background-to appear harmless. No, it was the impression he had that had he bothered to pull himself up to his full height, and let everything he was show, the blond's reaction would have been exactly the same.

He couldn't say where the impression had come from, but he'd learned to trust his instincts a long time ago. This man, Immortal or not, was dangerous. Methos' better sense was telling him to get up and walk away. He turned around and signaled for a third beer. He smirked again. Sometimes a little danger was a good thing, he thought, safe danger. He almost laughed aloud at the contradiction in his thoughts. Was there *really* anything that could be called 'safe danger'?

A quiet chuckle sounded beside him as both his and the blond's beers arrived, and Methos turned toward the man. "Care to share what you find amusing?" he asked, intrigued despite his better judgement.

A smirk spread across the man's pale face as the blond cocked his head to look directly at Methos for the first time. "Like what you see, do you?" he asked, his British accent filled with light laughter.

Startled, Methos straightened and pulled a quick draw on his beer to cover the sudden adrenaline shot flushing through him. He could remember the last time someone had so easily seen through him. Oh, yes, this man was dangerous. This was a man who could ferret out secrets.

"What makes you say that?" he short back with a smirk of his own. His assurance faltered again, however, when the blond beside him burst into surprising, open laughter. This one would take careful handling, he thought. There was absolutely no doubt about that.

Taking a deep breath the blond leaned toward him, the smirk back in place, his grey eyes filled with mirth. "Let's just say I'm . . . observant."

"Really?" Methos asked drily. **I couldn't tell.** He thrust out his hand. "Adam Pierson."

**What happened to Max Winters?**

The blond's eyes narrowed thoughtfully, and his lips curled downward just a touch, but he met Methos' hand with his own.


Methos gasped as the cold fingers curled around his, and the smirk returned.

"You know what they say, don't you?"

"About?" Methos asked.

"Cold hands."

"Warm heart."

"You're alright, mate," Spike replied, and Methos was left with the distinct impression that he'd just passed a test. "The next round's on me."

Methos hesitated only briefly. Despite his earlier doubt he'd find it, this was exactly what he'd come here for. He just hadn't expected to find it this quickly, nor had he expected to find someone who could actually add that tinge of fear that added so much . . . spice to an encounter. "Sounds good to me," he responded, saluting Spike with his beer before taking a healthy swig.

Spike's eyes narrowed ever so slightly--again, and Methos broke eye contact, glancing down at his drink. And *that* definitely surprised him. The man beside him was exuding danger the way that most men gave off the scent of cologne, and it was at once enticing and intimidating.

There weren't many who could actually begin to intimidate Methos. In fact, aside from Kronos -- well, if he were being completely honest, and Kalas -- there hadn't been anyone in literal ages.

**Maybe this isn't such a good idea,** Methos thought with just a touch of nervousness. **I should have gone with my first instincts. I know it.**

"So, what brings you to Sunnyhell?"

**Sunny*hell*? Interesting phrase choice.** He looked back up, trying to decide between finding out why Spike seemed to dislike the town, and finding a graceful way to back out of this as yet unstated arrangement, but discovered Spike was no longer even looking at him. He frowned. Could the man have lost interest *that* quickly?

"Oh, bloody hell!" Spike exclaimed explosively, jumping up from his barstool angrily.

Methos turned his head to follow Spike's line of sight, but couldn't see anything that could possibly have upset the man. He appeared to be glaring at a small group of teenagers who'd just entered, but that didn't make any sense. Methos certainly couldn't see anything about them that was out of the ordinary.

"I'm outta here," Spike said suddenly, returning his intense gaze back to Methos. "You hungry?"

"Yes, actually," Methos replied, most of his mind still busy trying to figure out just what had Spike so upset, "but--"

"Come on, then," Spike interrupted, striding toward the door without giving Methos the chance to saying anything more.

"Bloody hell," Methos muttered beneath his breath, unconsciously echoing Spike. He stayed where he was, not moving, watching as Spike passed the group of teenagers and shared a glare with the petite blonde girl. Curiosity piqued, Methos rose and slowly followed.

Stepping out into the cool night air, Methos paused, searching the area for any sign of Spike. This night could be very fun, assuming he was reading the other man correctly -- not entirely safe or responsible, but definitely fun.

"Had trouble deciding whether or not to follow, did ya?'"

Methos jumped and spun around, nearly dropping into a fighting stance. He fought his instant irritation at the smirk that bloomed across Spike's pale face. "You move very quietly," he said, instead of answering.

The smirk grew. "Comes with the territory, pet."

**Comes with *what* territory?** Methos thought in confusion. **And what's with the 'pet' bit? That went out ages ago.** "Right," Methos replied, watching Spike uneasily, when what he really wanted to know was what the hell it was about this guy that had so many of his internal alarms going off. He snorted mentally. That and why he was ignoring all of those alarms.

"Having trouble figuring out what's different, aren't you?"

Methos frowned. This evening was getting stranger and stranger. Lots of little puzzle pieces were being thrown his way, but every one of them seemed to belong to a different bloody puzzle. It was almost as if this Spike was throwing down a challenge to figure out who he was. Now, Methos was not adverse to a little . . . nervousness in his life, but he wasn't particularly fond of confusion. "Something like that," he said slowly, "but I have to admit that it's beginning to seem like I've come into a joke just in time to hear the punch line, and am feeling quite left out as to why it's so funny."

Spike laughed again. "Like I said before; you're all right," he offered, but didn't clear up any of Methos' confusion. Then, dropping a hand to the small of his back, Spike guided him away from The Bronze.

Methos allowed it, for now, having assumed within the first few minutes of this encounter that Spike would want the 'controlling' role. He could be wrong of course, and that would be okay too, but he really doubted he'd misread that. Spike seemed to be on the extreme end of the spectrum known as Alpha male.


Dinner went quickly, despite the fact that Spike seemed to play with his food more than actually eat it. Half way through, Methos still wasn't sure whether to be uneasy or to simply enjoy the cryptic and often biting humor Spike threw his way. By the time they'd finished, and the plates were cleared away, he was leaning more toward simply enjoying the company of the unusual man.

It wasn't often that someone so eluded his ability to understand, but Spike was doing just that. It was just one more thing that added to his attraction. There was something decidedly different about Spike, something that defied definition. It not only captured Methos' attention, it intrigued him no end. No, that wasn't enough; it excited him. In fact, everything added together to leave him nearly breathless.

Spike was one contradiction after another. One minute he was mouthing off with a wit that could cut as surely as the Ivanhoe hidden beneath Methos' duster, the next he would show a flash of vulnerability, loneliness, that struck a chord inside Methos. In yet the next moment, danger fairly oozed off of Spike in palpable waves, and Methos was left wondering which was the real Spike.

"You ready to head out?" Spike asked as Methos finished the last of his coffee.

Methos nodded, and they both rose, Spike tossing money down on top of the bill. He could feel Spike moving just inches behind him as they headed for the door, and as soon as it had shut behind them Spike's hand returned to the small of his back, subtly guiding his movements--now playing merry havoc with his senses. As with everything else tonight, it had been a long time since he'd been this off balance, this unsure of exactly what would happen next. Even with Kronos' unexpected appearance in Seacouver, he hadn't felt this unsure. No, then, he'd gone into manipulation mode as soon as it he'd realized to was too late to run.

Methos suddenly shuddered at the comparison, wondering if he had finally gone insane. What else could explain his choosing to remain with a man he mentally compared, even briefly, to the worst nightmare of his very long life? He was playing with fire. He knew that with every fiber of his being, but decided in that instant that he wasn't going to let it interfere. If he got burned, he'd recover.

"So," Methos asked suddenly, as much to distract himself as to break the silence that had grown up between them, "I take it you don't get along with that group at The Bronze. . . ."

"You could say that," Spike snorted. "They've been a right bloody thorn in my side, they have."


"Yeah, that Buffy, though, gotta admit she's one hell of a fighter. Holds her own, she does."

**Fighter?** "Buffy? Oh, the blonde?" Methos guessed.

"Yeah, the blonde. She's a right scrappy one."

"You like her," Methos said quietly.

"Hell no!" Spike shouted, then instantly lowered his voice. "Gotta respect her though. And I admit, though I'll deny it if you ever manage to mention it to her, I feel safer bein' on the same side as her, than I ever did bein' on the opposite."

**Same side?" Methos thought in even more confusion. **The same side of what?** "Same side?" Methos asked, echoing his own thoughts, before he could censor his words.

"Now that's a long story, Pet."

"And what's with the 'pet' bit?" Methos asked instead of what he *really* wanted to ask. He knew all about long stories, and about not necessarily wanting them out in the open. 'It's a long story,' equalled 'I don't want to talk about it'.

Spike shrugged easily. "Just a habit. Don't mean nuthin' by it." Slipping his hand further around Methos' waist and pulling him closer, Spike lowered his voice to a whisper, his lips now mere inches from Methos' ear. "Unless you want it to mean something more."

A shiver sped down Methos' spine, but before he could do anything, or even consider how he wanted to respond to that oblique offer, Spike pulled away, leaving only that hand laying lightly on his back. Now, however, it had changed to something intimate, something erotic, and Methos found himself having trouble concentrating on anything else. Instead of wondering if he'd lost his mind, he now wondered how long it would take him to warm that hand up.

Chapter Two

Spike reveled in the feel of the man beneath his hand, the lean hard body he could feel gave off the distinct impression of being far less fragile than the average human. Then there was Adam's scent; it drove him to distraction. There was something unusual in it, something outside his experience. It wasn't the smell of demon of any kind, of that he was certain, but he really didn't think it was fully human either. It was . . . different. It was exciting.

The blood he could smell pumping below the surface of Adam's skin called to him, and it too was at odds with the submissive manner of the human. It whispered of age and experience. It veritably shouted of power and intoxication, and Spike longed to lose himself in the man's taste.

Glancing over at Adam, he blatantly studied the young man's profile, the very youth he saw there another puzzle piece directly contradicting what his instincts told him.

The very strength of the muscles that played across the back beneath his palm told a tale of long hours of rigorous training, and while he could never hope to compete with the inherent strength of a vampire, the quiet tension there told Spike that this was a man used to being in control--of himself and everything around him.

This was not a man he would kill. If he still had the option, this was a man he would turn. The potential for violence fairly vibrated off Adam, no matter what face the human was trying to show, and it shouted to the demon in Spike.

**Bleedin' chip!**

In the end, all he knew for certain was that tonight would be an experience he would *never* forget. He didn't often go for guys, women usually holding so much more intrigue for him. Adam was different, though. He intended to discover every secret he knew Adam was hiding. And he *was* hiding secrets. Spike knew that as surely as he knew his own name.

"If I'd realized it would be this far," Methos said quietly, interrupting Spike's train of thought, "I'd have suggested we use my car."

"It's not far now, pet," Spike responded, purposely adding a husky purr to his words. He delighted in the shiver that traveled the body under his hand, the scent of aroused fear tantalizing his taste buds, nearly causing his fangs to descend. It had been *so* long since anyone had feared him, even the slight amount radiating from Adam. He fought the urge. Most people didn't react well to a vampire's true face.

**Well, duh!**

He doubted this tourist to the Pacific Coast's own hellmouth would be any different. In fact, he doubted Adam even realized there was anything odd about this apparently sleepy little town. Speaking of which. . . .

"You never did tell me what brings you to Sunnydale."

"Just passing through, doing a bit of traveling," Adam replied with a slight shrug, then gave him a speculative look. "What about you? If I'm any judge, you don't like it here."

"Can't seem to stay away," Spike replied with a smirk. "No matter how many times I leave, something keeps drawing me back."

"Your hometown?"

"Hell, no!" Spike exclaimed, then shrugged. "Thankfully. Actually, I'm from London, originally."

Adam's eyes widened suddenly as he looked around, causing Spike's mouth to quirk upward again. He almost laughed. He hadn't had this much fun since before he'd been chipped by the friggin Initiative.

"Seems like we've left residences behind," Adam said after a moment, his voice just a touch breathy. "There doesn't seem to be much around here."

"I like the solitude," Spike replied. Then feeling Adam slow slightly and stiffen, he stopped, pulling the human against him. "Don't worry," he said with a wink and a purposely crooked smile. "I won't do anything you don't want me to do."

"That's what they all say," Adam replied lightly, but Spike could smell the growing indecision and concern behind the easy words. While it was obvious the man wasn't *really* afraid of him, Adam *was* growing concerned.

Cursing the chip once again, Spike leaned back just far enough to look Adam in the eyes. He didn't know what exactly had cause the increase in wariness, suspecting it was more than just the surrounding terrain, but he didn't want it to grow to the point where Adam would call a halt to the evening's festivities.

Relaxing his face into a soft smile, one he used to reserve only for Dru, he used it to sharpen his challenge to the man's pride. "Well, if you're afraid of being alone with the big bad, we can always go to your place. Have you checked in anywhere? Or are you staying long enough to have an apartment?"

Adam visibly hesitated, and feeling as though he were holding his breath while he waited for Adam's response, Spike watched as the man completely discarded the challenge as unimportant. Would Adam trust him?

**No,** was Spike's instant thought. **He won't.** The real question, however, was would he continue? Would he settle for a compromise, or would the human back off completely?

**Bloody hell! I hope he doesn't back off!**

Spike's eyes half closed, watching Adam's throat bob as the human swallowed nervously, and he fairly ached to lean down and taste the pale flesh there. "You tempt me, Pet," he couldn't help whispering hoarsely. "You tempt me as no one has in a long time." His voice was closer to a plea than he liked, but he forced himself to ignore that.

He trailed his fingertips over Adam's cheekbone, down to the red lips that taunted him. Slowly, ever so slowly, he leaned forward until his lips rested against the pulse point of Adam's vulnerable throat. Opening his mouth, he lightly grazed his blunt, human teeth across Adam's jugular, flicking his tongue out to tease the sensitive flesh.

Adam dropped his head back, baring his throat, and Spike groaned, the bare expanse almost more than he could stand. Adam trembled again, only this time it was accompanied by the sweet scent of renewed arousal. Spike growled low in his chest. "So, what's it gonna be, Pet," he whispered, grinning against Adam's warm skin, "your place or mine?"

Adam swallowed, his breath quickening. He raised one hand, and lightly trailed it up Spike's arm. "Oh," he replied huskily, relaxing against Spike, "I think yours will do just fine."

Spike wasn't sure what had tipped Adam's decision in his direction, but it certainly hadn't been trust. Adam didn't trust him. The man fairly vibrated with distrust. That, however, simply made the man's surrender all that much more exquisite. Inhaling deeply, he savored the flavor of the man in his arms, and pulled him closer against him. Capturing Adam's mouth in a bruising kiss, he skillfully played his lips over the human's, his tongue thrusting forward demanding entry.

Adam's mouth parted willingly under his, the human's tongue pliantly dancing with his, eagerly matching his forceful claiming. The human moaned softly against his mouth, the vibrations of the sound tantalizing him. Spike pulled back as suddenly as he had begun, but kept his arm firmly around Adam's waist as he quickened the pace of their earlier leisurely stroll. He wanted to get home now.

Chapter Three

Willow looked up suddenly from the paper she'd been furiously scribbling on. "I think I've done it!" she exclaimed excitedly.

"Really?" Tara asked, uncrossing her legs and sliding off the bed to join Willow at the table. "How did you cancel out the happiness clause without creating a hole in the curse?"

"Actually, it was really rather simple," Willow said, grinning ear to ear. "Well, once I figured out what the problem was," she continued sheepishly, pointing out the changes she'd made.

Tara nodded, her own shy smile growing as she read through Willow's altered incantation. "That might actually work." Tara frowned suddenly. "What's this?"

"It's part of the anchoring," Willow replied, eagerly warming to her subject. "Once the soul has been called, it binds the demon and the soul together. As long as one is present, the other will be as well."

Tara shook her head slowly. "Yeah, it might," she admitted, "but I'm not so sure that's exactly what it will do, or at least that's not *all* it will do."

"Sure it will," Willow insisted, pointing to the third line of her changes. "See here?"

"Yes, I see it, and it's really quite clever," Tara said, smiling encouragingly. "I'm j-just not sure it's going to have the effect you want."

Tara's insistence beginning to worry her, Willow bit her lip in consternation, and carefully reread her changes. Finally she looked back up. "What do you think it will do?"

Tara shrugged uncertainly. "I'm not sure really. It's obviously soul related, but it just seems a little . . . open ended--you know?" Her voiced trailed off for a moment. "T-then again, it may do exactly what you want it to." She looked up at Willow suddenly, her eyes wide and startled. "You're not going to try it on Angel are you?" she asked, horror filling her voice.

"No!" Willow exclaimed, shaking her head. "I'd never do that, not until after I know for sure it would work. No, I'm going to try it on someone that if it fails, it won't make any difference. I don't want to cause any new problems."


Willow smiled. "He doesn't have a soul, but he's not dangerous, well, not anymore anyway."

Tara gasped and stuttered out her reply. "S-S-Spike?!"

"Yep," Willow nodded, "he's perfect for it."

"He's g-gonna be so p-pissed."

"No, he won't," Willow insisted. "If it works, he'll be better off than he is now, what with the chip and all, and if it doesn't, he'll never know the difference."

"Huh? Why would he be better off? He's not dangerous to humans now, but he doesn't feel the w-weight of all the evil things he's done. If you're successful, he will."

"But don't you see," Willow pleaded, "right now, he's like a wild animal caged inside his own mind. Sooner or later that could drive him crazy. He's definitely not happy about it. He even tried to kill himself once."

"He did?"

Willow nodded. "It was really disturbing. I mean, to see someone who was usually *so* sure of himself, *that* depressed, was just unbelievable."

Tara visibly hesitated, then spoke almost too quietly to hear. "You're planning on doing this now?"

"Oh, no," Willow replied instantly. "I'll double check the part that has you worried first, but I do want to do this tonight, if at all possible."

Tara nodded slowly, somewhat eased by Willow's assertion that she wouldn't do it without making sure first.


Spike steered him toward an old iron wrought gate, and Methos' eyebrows shot upward in surprise. "Do you always take short cuts through cemeteries?" he asked drily. Most people weren't on as friendly terms with the places as Immortals were.

Spike stopped, turned around, and faced him squarely, an odd expression on his face. "Are you going to be demanding explanations all night," he asked, placing a finger across Methos' lips, "or are you going to relax and enjoy yourself?"

Methos head the challenge, as well as a hint of impatience in Spike's voice, and knew it was a line being drawn. He had a choice, he could get answers, or he could enjoy more . . . earthy pleasures. If he could check his curiosity at the door, so to speak, he could enjoy the thrill of the danger he could sense hidden below Spike's casual mask.

Needing to know 'everything' was vastly overrated, he decided suddenly. So, shoving aside his need to understand, he grinned. "Lead on," he said, lowering his voice to a husky whisper. If he still wanted answers, there was always tomorrow to ask the questions.

Spike grinned triumphantly at him, whirled around on one foot and strode off. "Come on, then," he called out.

Methos didn't immediately follow, instead, he watched. Spike didn't walk off as much as stalk -- rather like a panther on the prowl, Methos thought. Belatedly he started forward, still eyeing the form in front of him. He could almost see the sleek muscles as they worked in concert to create Spike's graceful, cat-like moves. Oh, yes, tonight should be one he wouldn't forget anytime soon.

Ahead of him, Spike ducked around the corner of a crypt, and slipped into the shadows. Methos hurried to catch up, not wanting to lose sight of Spike for longer than necessary. While he normally enjoyed the very protective nature of holy ground, cemeteries included, tonight he shivered. Something about this place was making him jumpy, reminding him of ages past, when the night was something to be feared. Snorting at himself, he supposed it was simply all a part of the mood.

Following the well-worn path beside the stone crypt, Methos froze half way around the building, the sounds of a fight bringing his head around sharply. He could hear no sound of metal on metal, nor could he sense an Immortal signature. He took an automatic step forward before stopping again as the night suddenly descended into an unnatural silence. Almost immediately the feeling of being watched returned, and he quickly resumed moving along the path.

"Damn!" he muttered softly, chastising himself. "Looking over my shoulder in a cemetery at night--how much more cliche can I get?"

Round the front, Methos still saw no sign of the man he was supposed to be with, and he frowned as he looked around. **What's next? Vampires?** he thought, instantly shaking his head at letting his imagination run away with him. He was letting the oddities of the night spook him.

Hands landed on his shoulders, and Methos jumped, his heart leaping as a throaty chuckle sounded behind him. "Bloody hell, Spike! You startled the life out of me!" he grouched.

Spike's chuckle sounded again, low and warm. "Not quite, Pet," he said quietly, humor dancing along his words. Before Methos could turn to face the other man, Spike's arms slipped around his waist, pulling him close. Behind him, Spike tensed for a split second, but relaxed before he pulled back, leaving Methos wondering what had momentarily bothered him.

"After you," Spike said, before Methos could ask, indicating the open doorway into the crypt. "Don't let the outside fool you."

**A crypt?** Methos thought in protest. **What was it I thought earlier about vampires?** This was getting just a little *too* strange. **What the hell,** he thought suddenly. He'd already gone this far, why not see the whole show? He stepped forward and into the dark, dusty room. Okay, he'd seen worse places--today, even--but maybe he should suggest--

"Not much to look at, I admit," Spike said, once again interrupting Methos' thoughts. Slipping past him, the blond continued, "but it's home sweet home.

Methos watched in silence as Spike moved deeper into th room, wondering exactly how he could suggest an alternate place politely, when Spike stopped at what appeared to be a trapdoor.

Opening it easily, Spike looked back toward Methos. "It's much more homey downstairs," he said. "Oh, and as much as I admire a man who's smart enough to go around this quaint little town of horrors armed to the teeth, I'd appreciate it if you left the arsenal you've got hidden under that coat of yours up here." Having said that, he shrugged out of his out leather duster and draped it neatly over the solitary chair.

Arms held out from his sides, Spike turned in a slow circle until he was once again facing Methos. "I'm unarmed, as you can see," he quipped with another smirk that Methos could barely see in the dim light provided by the moon. Before he could respond, either negatively or positively, however, Spike jumped, neatly dropping himself to the hidden underground level, disappearing from sight.

Startled, Methos let out a strangle, "Spike!" and jumped forward instinctively. The darkness below him lit up just as he reached the opening, and he shook his head upon seeing an unharmed, still smirking Spike looking up at him patiently--from a a good twelve feet below.

**It's doable,** Methos thought uneasily, suddenly feeling like a young boy being dared to jump down from a tree limb that was just a little too high for comfort. **If I swung down and grabbed the ledge on my way, that'd leave only about a five foot drop,** he thought assessively. The only other concern he had was leaving his sword up here. He didn't mind the other stuff so much. His sword
, though. . . .

"Come on, then," Spike urged after Methos hadn't moved for several minutes. "Your stuff will be right as rain up there. No one will bother it."

**I've heard *that* before.** Calling himself six kinds of idiot, Methos shucked his coat, and laying it carefully out on the stone floor, he sat at the edge of the hold and dropped his legs over the edge. Then, quickly, before he could think better of it, he slipped off the side, twisting to grab hold as he dropped. Taking a deep breath, he let go, preparing to roll as he hit bottom.

He never hit. He gasped in surprise when Spike caught him effortlessly around the ribs and easily lowered him the rest of the way to the floor.

Spike's smirk grew.

**Doesn't the man have any other expression?**

"Didn't think I'd catch you, did you?"

Methos shook his head. "No, I can't say as that though even crossed my mind," he replied honestly.

Letting out a full laugh, Spike jerked him close. "I'm stronger than I look."

"I'll say," Methos muttered just before Spike's mouth descended to his, cutting off anything else he might have said. Methos leaned into the kiss, reveling in the uniquely cool feel of Spike's mouth. **Cool?** He reached up, cupping Spike's jaw, and pulled the man even closer--until their bodies were fully pressed against one another. Gasping as the hands that gripped his waist tightened further, and lifted him until his feet no longer touched the ground. Even more surprising was that Spike's arms held him steady and firm, without even a single trace of a tremble.

As soon as Spike began moving, Methos instinctively tightened his grip, but didn't stop his soft moan as the casual display of strength sent unexpected flashes of liquid fire from his gut straight to his groin. Gasping in surprise, he jerked his head back, suddenly unable to catch his breath.

"Yes, Pet, *feel* it," Spike murmured, his voice a hoarse purr as his lips descended to tantalize Methos' neck, trailing moist cool kisses from right below his earlobe all the way down to his shoulder.

Just as Methos felt the bed bump into the back of his legs, Spike sent him down gently, and he dropped his head to the side--all the better to allow Spike free access to his throat. Methos shivered as the man holding him growled low in his chest. Completely intoxicated with the unique feel of the man holding him, Methos could do nothing more than ride the feelings. Then, suddenly, Methos was left feeling bereft as Spike let go.

He immediately reached out to pull Spike back, but was stopped when his sweater, quickly followed by his shirt, was roughly pulled over his head. The cold night air raised instant goosebumps across his skin, the sudden extra stimulation hardening his nipples instantly.

Spike ducked down, and lightly grasping one taut nipple, rolled it gently between his teeth, then soothing it with slow circles of his tongue. It was *so* cold against his now overheated flesh. **Does he suck ice cubes all day, or what?** came Methos' incredulous thought.

With hands that wouldn't stop trembling, Methos reached out and slid the unbuttoned red shirt off Spike's shoulders. It fell unheeded to the ground when Spike stepped back. Methos' eyes fluttered open just as Spike's hands returned, only to find himself being tossed backward onto the bed. Unable to stop the sound, he let out a startled yelp at the unexpected movement.

Hovering above him, Spike leered at the sound, quickly jerking his black T-shirt over his head and tossing it to the side. As Methos watched, his breath held in anticipation, Spike knelt on the end of the bed and slowly crawled his way up toward Methos.

Methos' eyes widened, and his tongue darted out to wet lips gone dry. **Gods! The man can *prowl* while crawling!** His breath caught in his throat again as the image of being the prey in a deadly hunt came insistently to mind. His heart beating loudly in his chest, he watched as Spike's tongue mimicked his own, darting out and tracing a slow, sensual path over his lips. Then he stopped thinking altogether as Spike's head dipped down, and a talented mouth nipped and licked its way up from his abdomen, finding and teasing nerve-endings Methos had long forgotten he possessed.

He moaned as that same mouth continued its path, stopping to slowly torment both nipples to a nearly painful tightness. He ran his hands over Spike's shoulders and down his arms, caressing what skin he could reach. When that was no longer enough, Methos grabbed tightly onto the muscular arms and pulled Spike toward him. "Come here," he demanded hoarsely.

Spike willingly complied, and Methos ran his hands down the bared expanse of Spike's back, down past his waist and over the jeans-covered ass. Pulling Spike closer, he gasped as the younger man went straight for his throat, lathing every inch with slow moist breaths, nimble lips and tongue. He shivered at the light grazing of teeth across the pulse points of his neck.

**Gods, the man has neck fetish!** Methos thought happily as his body turned to liquid under the other's ministrations. **That's okay, though," he thought. "So do I.** Other thoughts tried to surface -- strange thoughts, but his body's demands kept pushing them aside. Who cared if this man was different in odd ways? Not him, not as long as he kept up . . . **gasp** . . . that!

Methos gave up trying to think and let himself simply feel -- feel the man's skin under his callused fingers and palms as he learned every contour of the lean hard body above his -- feel the man's hands on *his* body -- working the buckle to his belt, and sliding his jeans off. Methos arched up as Spike's mouth followed the path of his hands, and he swore softly as Spike moved out of range, leaving him unable to reciprocate any of the touches.

Even before he could finish thinking of sitting up, however; Spike placed a hand squarely in the middle of his chest, fingers splayed, and kept him firmly where he was. Frustration was instantly swept aside, though, as Spike's lips slipped around the head of his cock. And a moment later, as he was fully surrounded by the moist, cool mouth, leaving him gasping for breath again, his fingers rhythmically clenched and unclenched through the blond's hair.

"Gods!" Methos gasped out, nearly incoherent. His perceptions narrowed sharply until all he could sense was the slow glide of moist caresses, the tongue curling around him, the teeth that lightly grazed across the ridge below the head of his cock, just before the mouth plunged back down to completely engulf him once again. Up slowly, again, down swiftly; Spike alternated strong suction and light licks, driving Methos to the edge -- and keeping him there.

Again and again, Spike repeated his actions, never settling into any specific rhythm.

Clenching his teeth against a whimper, Methos pulled at Spike's shoulder. "Spike," he whispered. The whimper he'd been holding back escaped when Spike complied, and released him. The smile on the man's face as he settled beside Methos was enough to tell the Immortal that he'd been heard, but he ignored it, his own smile growing. He was finally going to get his chance to taste the man beside him. It was *his* turn to torment and tease.

Leaning down, he did just that, paying close attention to the same places Spike had labored over. He grinned when Spike tilted his chin up, just slightly, and Methos closed his lips over the jugular, sucking hard. He stiffened slightly as an odd thought tried to flitter through his mind. Something was wrong. He just needed a moment. . . .

Spike, however, had other ideas. With a sound that seemed a cross between a growl and a purr, Spike rolled them over until his body lay across Methos' pinning him effectively. "No thinking allowed," Spike taunted quietly into the Immortal's ear before pulling back and quickly divesting himself of his pants.

Within seconds Spike was back, his hands once again teasing and seductive, his mouth never lingering in any one spot. Methos again gave himself over to the other man, there would be time later to give -- and to think. When a slick finger slipped between his legs to tease around his entrance, Methos gasped. **When did he grab lube?** was his last coherent thought.

Chapter Four

"Yep, that's it," Willow declared proudly, holding out the carefully rewritten slip of paper.

Tara smiled and took it, reading it carefully. "That does s-sound more like what you want," she admitted.

"So, you agree with me? You think it'll work?"

"Yes, I think so," Tara responded, dipping her head to read the spell again, this time even more slowly. "I c-can't see anything wrong with it," she said when she was finished, "and I certainly don't think it can do any harm if, for some reason, it doesn't."

Willow grinned in delight. "Well, then, let's do it!" she exclaimed, jumping up and head straight for her Wicca chest.

"What? Now?"

"Yes, now," Willow answered her head hidden behind the lid of her chest.


Methos arched up as a third finger breached him, and joining the others began slowly thrusting in and out, scissoring carefully. He panted as the searching, stretching fingers repeatedly brushed over his prostate, sending surge after surge of pleasure through him.

He moaned, this time more loudly, dancing on the knife's edge of pleasure, never quite reaching that elusive crest. "Fuck!" he shouted as Spike drew back, leaving feeling empty. "Now, Spike!"

Spike moved quickly, settling between Methos' spread legs, pulling the Immortal up onto his thighs.

Methos sighed in anticipation when the blunt tip of Spike's cock brushed against his opening. He tried to move down, but Spike held him firmly in place, pushing forward to enter him at a pace entirely too slow for Methos' need.

Forcing his eyes open, he glared at the man torturing him with slow pleasure. "Just *do* it!" he demanded.

Eyes half closed, Spike shook his head, continuing his frustratingly slow slide into Methos body, until finally--*finally*, he was seated all the way inside, his balls nestled against Methos' arse.

Spike pulled back almost as slowly, until he barely remained inside. Only then did his grip on Methos' hips lessen, and as he thrust forward in one fluid movement, Methos arched toward him, his hips meeting Spikes' thrust for thrust, low pants and breathy moans the only sounds either man made.

In perfect rhythm both men increased the tempo of their movements, and slowly the heat built in Methos until it was a raging fire. Then, suddenly, almost unexpectedly he was there. He reached that precipice and shouted out in climax, his muscles clenching around Spike, his seed spilling between them.

Above him, eyes closed, his head thrown back in ecstasy, Spike buried himself twice more, then arched as his own orgasm shuddered through him.

Breathing heavily, willing his racing heart to slow, Methos watched Spike, somewhat surprised when the other man continued to support himself on his arms. He reached up and pulled, encouraging Spike to relax. With a lazy half smile, Spike eased himself out, gasping once against the additional friction on overly sensitive flesh.

"Your heart races like music in my ears," Spike whispered as he lowered himself to lie beside Methos. "It brings an intoxicating flush of blood to your skin."

Methos blinked, started to reply, but snapped his mouth shut when he realized he *had* no reply to that. Of course, if he wasn't still basking in post orgasmic mindlessness, he might actually have had one. He met Spike's gaze instead. His eyes would have to speak for him now. He gasped in startlement, however, as he watched the eyes that met his flicker from icy blue to golden and back again.

It took him a second or two to form the words. "Wow, I've, uh, never seen that before," he commented mildly, raising one finger to trace directly below one of Spike's eyes. **And that's saying more than you know,** he thought privately.

"Also comes with the territory, Pet," Spike replied infuriatingly.

Methos frowned, pulling back. "And *speaking* of--"

Spike placed a gentle finger across Adam's lips, cutting off the rest of his quiet protest. It was time. "Shh," he murmured, lifting one of the human's hands and placing it flat against his chest. He watched the hazel eyes for just a moment, then allowed his demon to emerge.

Adam's eyes widened with disbelieving comprehension and his mouth, once, twice, but made no sound.

The sweet scent of confused, instinctual fear filled Spike's senses, and for just a moment he luxuriated in it, letting it wash over him in waves. It had been *so* bloody long. Then, just as Adam began to struggle, he pulled the human back against him, leaning forward until his mouth was mere inches from Adam's ear. "Have I done *anything* to hurt you tonight?" he questioned, wishing that he could have. His voice, though, was soft and breathy, seductively asking for trust where none should ever be given.

Adam stilled immediately, going seemingly lax within his tight embrace, but Spike could still feel the tense expectation thrumming through Adam's body. "No," the human answered finally, "you haven't."

Spike grinned ferally, glad Adam couldn't see his face. "then trust me a little longer," he whispered. Waiting only long enough to be sure Adam wasn't suddenly going to try and bolt, he tilted his head to the side just slightly, and nuzzled along the human's neck, doing nothing more than gently playing. He suckled lightly, letting his tongue and fangs touch only barely, never allowing himself to break the delicate skin he was tasting. He kept it up until Adam was once again panting, until the human relaxed enough to press back against him, until the remaining hint of uncertainty turned to fearful excitement and anticipation.

Then, and only then, he smiled. Repeating over and over in his mind, **I'm not going to hurt. I'm not going to kill,** Spike eased his razor sharp fangs through warm flesh and into the heady delight of Adam's carotid artery. **Yes!** his mind cried out, his eyes closing in nearly orgasmic ecstasy. **It worked!!**


"Let the soul and demon be bound," Willow and Tara chanted in unison.


Swallowing quickly as Adam's life's blood pumped itself into his mouth, Spike's taste buds reeled. Never had he *ever* tasted blood such as this. It was far sweeter than the sweetest wine, more intoxicating than the strongest alcohol. This was *definitely* no ordinary human.


"Let the binding forever be sound."


He never wanted to stop. He wanted to drink until there was nothing left to coax from the lifeless body. But no sooner hand thought coursed through his mind than the chip inside his skull twinged. He winced at the painful reminder and it was all he could do not to jerk away, heedless of the flesh he would be ripping in the process.

Withdrawing his fangs as carefully as he'd sunk them in, he lapped up the remaining drops of blood, rearing his head back in surprise as tiny blue sparks danced across the small holes he'd left.


"So mote it be."


His eyes widened as he watched the twin wounds seal over, fading to months old scars. "You're not quite human, either," he said very, very softly, "are you, Pet?"


"So mote it be."


"Mmm?" Adam murmured, "that was . . . incredible." He tensed a second later. "What?" he asked sharply, struggling to sit upright.

This time Spike allowed it, his curiosity overcoming his need to hold.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Adam denied, scrambling for the edge of the bed.

Spike's hand shot out and jerked Adam back. "Blood doesn't lie, Ducks . . . unlike you," he said. Trapping Adam against him once again, with an arm firmly around the human's waist, Spike continued. "I knew there was something different about you from the moment I stepped into The Bronze tonight. I just didn't know what it was. All of my senses told me one thing, yet *you* told me another. Spike paused, inhaling deeply, savoring Adam's smell. It was filled with sex and something else.

"Your scent screams deadly, yet your body language tells of meekness. Your blood smells, and tastes, of age and violence, yet your face and body speak of youth." He paused again, tilting his head to the side as he turned the now trembling Adam to face him. "Need I go on?"

"No, you don't," Adam replied, letting out a shaky breath. "You *do* realize that your voice should be registered as a deadly weapon?" he asked.

Spike laughed, recognizing the stalling tactic for what it was, and the tension between the two dropped considerably. "I've been told that . . . once or twice," he replied, then waited patiently as several different emotions flickered through Adam, not a one of which reached his face or his eyes.

He leaned forward as Adam opened his mouth to respond, then lurched backward as blinding pain shot through his body in agonizing waves. At first he thought the chip had finally malfunction, and just the tiniest amount of panic shot through him like an adrenaline rush. He was only peripherally aware of having grabbed his lover, or of the fact that they both landed on the floor, Adam on top of him as darkness descended on him.


As the last words of the spell were uttered, a gust of wind swept around the two witches and every carefully placed candle blew out, instantly plunging the pair into complete darkness.

"Do you think it worked?" Willow whispered tiredly.

Tara shrugged. "Time will tell," she replied.

"Maybe we should pay him a visit--just to see," Willow suggested as she began cleaning up their supplies.

Tara's eyes widened and she shook her violently. "Oh, n-no. I'm not going."

Willow froze. "But, if it worked, he's gonna need someone there," she protested. "He's going to need help."

Tara swallowed convulsively. "And if it didn't? How are y-you going to explain w-why you're there?"

Willow frowned, pulling her lower lip between her teeth uncertainly. "I hadn't thought of that," she said, then shrugged, her features firming. She'd cast the spell, now she had to make sure everything was all right. Well, she knew it was all right. Even Tara had said the spell should work. But then, there was her and her spells. Something always seemed to be going wrong--even when she did everything right. "I'll think of something on the way there," she said, jumping up.

In a tense silence, the two girls quickly finished putting everything back where it belonged. Willow took a hesitant step toward the door after they'd finished, then looked back over her shoulder at Tara, her eyes pleading. She really could use the moral support. She'd never been able to completely relax around Spike--with the blatant except of when he was tied up, and she was surrounded by her Scooby friends.

Tara shook her head once. It was a short, jerky motion. "I can't," she whispered, nearly inaudibly. "I just . . . c-can't."

Willow frowned at the broken sound of Tara's reply, and turning around completely to face her lover, she took three tiny steps forward. "What's wrong, Tara? Why 'can't' you go?" she asked gently.

Tara raised her head, hesitantly meeting Willow's gaze. "I'm . . . afraid of him."

Willow eased herself down to sit next to Tara, who'd sank down onto the end of the bed, and gently took her into her arms.

Tara gripped her tightly, burying her face in Willow's neck.

Rocking Tara slowly, it was several moments before Willow spoke. "Why?" Willow began, then interrupted herself. "I mean, yeah, he's definitely fear-worthy--or he was. The things he's done. . . ." Willow's voice trailed off as she shuddered, suddenly remembering the things she'd read, as well as the day Spike had kidnapped her and Xander.

Spike had gone as far as to threaten to shove a broken whiskey bottle through her face . . . and when he'd made that comment--"I haven't had a woman in weeks.'--she'd thought she was going to lose the previous week's breakfast with the fear that had rushed through her. "But he's chipped now. He *can't hurt people--just other demons."

Tara pulled back, meeting Willow's gaze for just a moment. "Yeah, but how long will that l-last? Y-you're the computer expert here. How l-long do you think it will be before that chip f-fails?"

Willow cupped Tara's face in her hands, softly tilting her face back up. "I don't know, Tara, but I'd be willing to bet it'll be a good long time."

"Long enough?" Tara asked with a tilt of her head. "N-never mind. I suppose it isn't r-really important. It's just that . . . you k-know as well as I do that vampires go after the people the know first. I just don't want him to have reason, *any* reason, to think of me with it *does* fail." Tara paused, then slumped. "You probably think I'm a coward."

"No!" Willow exclaimed loudly, only just preventing herself from jumping up.

"Y-you understand then," Tara asked hopefully. "You understand why I can't go?"

Willow nodded. She really did understand. She sympathized even. "Yes, I do. Don't you know, that's one of the reasons I wanted to try this spell out on Spike. This wasn't just for Angel, you know. If it was, I could have cast it on any old vampire. I did this because of Spike, too. And no, I don't think you're a coward for it, either. A coward would have left town, or at the very least, avoided me after she learned what I get involved with on a regular basis."

Tara gave her a watery, hopeful smile. "Really?" she asked.


Chapter Five

Doyle suddenly curled over the table, his fist pushed against his temple. **Damn it! Why now?** Eyes clenched tightly closed, he flinched as each wave of pain accompanied the mind flashes. Peripherally, he was aware of Cordelia's hand lying comfortingly on his arm, but could spare no attention to it. she was saying something . . . something soothing he was sure, but it made no more sense to him right now than the gibberish one spoke to a crying infant.

As quickly as it hit, the vision ended, the sudden relief from most of the mind numbing pain almost as shocking as the pain itself. Of course, the fact that his head still pounded certainly wasn't helping any. The small glass Cordelia placed into his hand, however, was *very* welcome. He gave her a shaky half-smile as he immediately downed the shot.

"Bad one?" she asked softly.

Doyle shook his head carefully. "Par for the course, really." He rose slowly, using his hand to brace himself against the table. "As much as I *really* want ta continue this evenin', we need ta get ta Angel," he informed her.

One corner of Cordelia's mouth twitched upward. "Of course," she replied dryly. "Life would be too easy if it didn't include the need to rush to someone *else's* defense."

Doyle brought his head up sharply, regretting the quick move instantly. All he saw, however, was amused, if slightly irritated, acceptance. He sighed in relief.

He held out his arm as Cordelia rose, and smiled when she curled her fingers around the crook of his elbow. "Aw, Princess, you know life would be boring without these all too frequent crises."

She laughed lightly. "I think I could handle boring for a while," she retorted.

"Me too, Princess, me too."

Cordelia remained silent while Doyle paid for the dinner they'd only managed to eat half of, not speaking until they were outside. "So, what did you see?"

"Spike," Doyle replied shortly, remembering with rising Irish ire the last time they'd run across Angel's Childe.

Cordelia shuddered, he could feel it travel through the hand that still touched him. "Damn!" Cordelia swore. "What is he up to *now*?"

"Attacking someone--A redhead, name of Willow."

"Willow!?" Cordelia exclaimed loudly.

Doyle froze at the sound of horrified shock in Cordelia's voice. "You know her?" he asked, his concern overcoming even the residual pounding in his head.

"Yeah," she replied absently, digging in her purse. "She's a witch."

"Now, Cordelia, that's not--"

Cordelia rolled her eyes. "I didn't mean that figuratively, as in like a witch with a b, although I did used to think so. I meant it literally, as in, she's a Wicca."

"Oh," Doyle replied. "Do you think she can hold him off?"

Cordelia shrugged, pulling out her cell phone and sliding into the car as Doyle held the door open. "I'm not sure," she said absently, already dialing. "I have no idea how much she's learned since I left. She did dust one vampire using a pencil, though."

"A pencil?"

Nodding, Cordelia laughed. "Yep, spelled it from across the room, and *whoosh*, pretty as you please, it flew straight into the vamp's back--nothing left but dust."

**A pencil.** He had to give the girl credit. He'd have never even thought of using a pencil, magic or no magic. He hurried around to the driver side and quickly hopped into the car. "Who are you calling?" he asked as he started the engine.

"Angel," she replied. "We're going to Sunnydale."



Spike struggled back to awareness, his head pounding. He frowned as he tried to remember the last time he'd actually passed out from something other than alcohol; he couldn't. He carefully opened his eyes, but the light sent piercing stabs of pain through his already aching head. He slammed them shut again without having seen so much as a bloody thing. He groaned softly. He felt as though the chip were punishing him for trying to kill the entire boy's tabernacle choir!

"Bloody hell," he moaned softly, rolling off the body he'd just realized lay beneath him. "Just cut off my head and spare me the misery," he whined, then lay there, unwilling to move farther as he willed the agonizing pain to subside. What confused him was it wasn't just his head that ached. It felt like he'd gone the full nine rounds with a demon twice his strength, and lost. Only thing was, the sadist had left him alive to regret it.

An echoing moan next to him brought his attention back to his surroundings, and he cautiously opened his eyes again. He immediately wished he hadn't, although the light didn't bother him as much this time. *That* was not who he had brought home tonight. He blinked twice, but nothing changed. The man in front of him, slowly sitting up, though as slender as Adam, had bleach blonde hair--much as he pictured his own.

He frowned. **Wait a minute!** he thought in confused outrage. **didn't I land on bottom?** He looked down at his body, wanting nothing more than to reassure himself that things were as they should be. What he saw had the opposite effect. This was *not* his body. That was not to say it was unfamiliar to him, it just wasn't *his*.

His eyes narrowed as rage consumed him. **What did that bloody wanker do to me?** spike rose, stumbling, and feeling very much as though balance were a foreign concept. He didn't feel right at all. In fact, everything felt very, very wrong. Each step he took left him feeling like he was almost falling.

He stopped, fear shuddering through him. His heart racing, it felt as though . . . **Heart?!** He swallowed convulsively, his hand reaching toward his own neck. Placing two shaky fingers against the pulse point, a wave of dizziness assaulted him, bringing him to his knees as he felt the telltale, 'thump, thump' of an active pulse.

He dropped his head between his knees, fighting against blacking out, his vision narrowing to the tiniest pinpoints of light before he managed to semi-calm his panic. He could bloody *hear* the blood. The 'whoosh, whoosh' as it sped past his eardrums drowned out all other sounds. His surroundings, even, were secondary to it. His pain was secondary to it. Even his rage receded before the sound he hadn't heard in over a hundred years.

Moments, or perhaps it was hours later; he had less than no idea, a startled gasp brought his head up, and he found himself staring into icy blue eyes that looked as horrified as he felt.

"What did you do to me?" they demanded in unison.

The silence that followed their angry, fear-filled outcries was deafening. Both of them sat there staring, warily disbelieving that the other had nothing to do with the utterly unbelievable situation they found themselves in.

"I must be dreaming," Adam murmured.

"Well, let me out of your dream then," Spike retorted angrily. "I don't want to be here." Then suddenly his eyes widened, and his mouth fell open. He could no more have stopped it than he could have blocked out the sound of his new heartbeat.

"What?!" Adam demanded.

"That bloody witch!" he exclaimed, blocking out the oddity of hearing someone else speaking with his voice. "I'll kill her! I don't care if . . . Wait! The chip's in your head now." An evil smile forming, Spike jumped up, stumbling to his feet and strode awkwardly toward the trap door. He took a deep breath as the oddity of his gait struck him once again, but continued forward. This had *definite* possibilities.

"Wait!" Adam cried out behind him. "What chip?"

"No," Spike replied shortly. "I'm gonna kill that bloody witch. There's nothing to stop me now."

He stopped directly under the exit, after grabbing his pants and duster. "Except for one thing," he continued sullenly, and glaring at the opening that was far too high about him, now.

A low growl sounded behind him. He turned slowly, pants half on, the blood pumping through his body turning to ice. **Fuck!**

He held up a placating hand, and began slowly back up as Adam, in demon form, stalked forward. "Calm done there, mate. You need to control. You don't want to try and hurt me," Spike said calmly. **And I sure as hell don't want my throat ripped out.** "Believe me, you'll regret it."

"I'll regret it?" Adam questioned, a sinister smirk curving his lips upward. "Oh, I don't think so."

Spike backed up until he found himself against the stone wall, dodging as he saw a fist headed straight for him. He wasn't fast enough. He cried out in pain, first as a fist connected with his nose, then again as he head connected with the wall behind him.

The howl of pain coming from his attacker, however, snapped his eyes open, and it was not without a large sense of vindictiveness that he spoke. "Told you," he gasped, letting himself slide down the wall.

He kept a wary eye on Adam, as the human turned vampire panted, holding his head against the pain Spike knew from personal experience was beyond excruciating.

"What the . . . bloody hell . . . was *that*?" Adam asked in between huge gasps of air.

"*That* was the bloody fricken chip in your head telling you that you've been a very naughty vampire," Spike answered, resentment dripping from his words. Though, he had to admit, he was actually glad it was there now. Somehow, he didn't think Adam had been thinking about turning him, and he didn't particularly want to end up dead today.


"I'm sure you've figured out that, somehow, we've switched bodies."

"I kinda figured *that* part out when I opened my eyes to find myself looking at, well, myself," Adam spat angrily, jumping up and grabbing his own clothes. He didn't want to deal with this mess . . . this insanity, nude.

"Yes, well, mate, you need to calm down," Spike replied, wondering when the hell *he* had been assigned the roll of peacekeeper, then added with an ironic laugh, "your demon is showing."

Silence once again fell between them, and Spike continued watching as Adam tried to reign in the emotions that had to be near the boiling point. Fascination took over as he wondered whether or not Adam would actually *be* able to control the demon nature well enough to return to a human visage so soon. He really doubted it, however.

Adam was, in essence, despite the fact that he wore a master vampire's body, a fledgling. Most fledglings couldn't wear a human face for some time after rising. Of course, that varied greatly from individual to individual.

As Spike fought a grin, Adam reached up with trembling hands to touch the face he wore. Spike's grin turned into a full smirk at the horror he saw in the golden eyes when the prominent ridges of a vampire's true face were felt.

"I told you your demon was showing," he said quietly, completely ignoring the twinge of discomfort he suddenly felt.

"How do I get rid of it?"

Spike shrugged. "Control your anger, and you control it."

Adam nodded and sank to the ground, assuming what was obviously a meditative position.

Spike's mouth dropped open when, after just a few moments, Adam calmed completely and his face smoothed out, reverting to its human form.

"Cor, luv!" Spike breathed in amazement. "You'd make one hell of a vampire!"

Adam slowly opened his eyes. "Thank . . . I think." He regarded Spike steadily. "You didn't think I could do it, do you?" he asked finally.

Spike shook his head. "No, I didn't. Truth be told, you *shouldn't* have been able to."

Then it was Adam's turn to smirk. "There's more to me than meets the eye."

Spike laughed, and for the first time since coming to, let the anger slide completely away. "Oh, I already *knew* that," he said, then looked down at himself. "We're gonna have to switch clothes, you know. My pants won't fit your body."

Holding the pants he held in front of him, Adam nodded in agreement. "These are too long."

They silently switched, both of them opting to go 'commando'.

Spike had no sooner finished buttoning his newly acquired jeans when Adam's head jerked up suddenly.


"Someone's here," Adam hissed, glaring at Spike. "I thought you said my stuff would be safe."

"It should have been," Spike insisted. "No one ever comes here."

"Spike? Are you in here?"

"Willow," Spike whispered fiercely, his anger returning full force. "It's Willow."

Adam frowned. "The person you think is responsible for . . . this?"

Spike nodded. "Answer her. She'll think you're me."

He was answered, not with Adam calling out to Willow, but rather with a growl as Adam brushed past him, leaping up toward the trap door. "No!" he shouted as Adam disappeared above him. "Bloody hell," he muttered. "Just my luck, he figured out my body quicker than I've figured out his!" Quickly looking around for any means that would allow him to reach the exit unaided, his gaze fell on the sturdy table.

Struggling to pull the table--that was far heavier than he seemed to remember it being--far enough over, Spike groaned at the twin yells from above him. Willow's fear-filled one was quickly followed by Adam's pain-filled one. "I coulda warned you, but would you listen?" He shook his head, but really couldn't condemn the man. How many times had *he* tried to bypass the pain before it had sunk in that it simply wasn't possible.

"Willow!" he called out as he climbed up onto the table. "Don't kill the bastard. It isn't Spike!" **I am!**

Spike sighed just before jumping to catch the floor of the crypt. **Besides, I want to be a vampire again, and I don't fancy going through the bloody fledgling stage to do it!**

Chapter Six

Willow darted wary looks between the two males facing her in Spike's crypt. Spike was silent now, though she had to admit that when he'd lunged at her, she'd been absolutely certain she'd really screwed up this time, and he was going to kill her.

"I *knew* it was you, Willow," the dark haired stranger accused angrily. "What is it with you and trying to bloody screw up my unlife?"

Blinking in confusion, Willow slowly backed up. "Do I know you? How do you know who I . . . Wait! Y-you're a vampire?" As quickly as that, the stake in one of her hands was offset by a cross in the other. She just wished she could stop shaking. Her stance would definitely be more impressive if she wasn't suddenly scared out of her mind.

"No, Willow, I *was* a vampire!"

**What?** She turned to look hopefully at Spike. He'd backed himself behind the sarcophagus, and hadn't said a word since he'd tried to attack. Something was wrong with him, and she just knew it was her fault. She frowned. He didn't look sorry or scared . . . **Yeah right. Spike. Scared of *you*. Dream on.** But he was way too silent. "Spike? What's going on here?"

"I'm over here, *Pet*."

Willow shook her head. "No, that's not right." She'd seen a lot of things here on the hellmouth, but she wasn't taking *this* at face value. No way. "I may not be the w-wisest person in the world, but I'm *not* gullible, Spike," she said growing angry. No way was Spike, and whoever his friend was, going to pull this one over on her.

"Spike," Spike hissed, much to her astonishment, "if she could do this to us, maybe it's not such a good idea to piss her off."

Willow and the dark haired man both turned incredulous looks toward Spike.

"Well, lookee who's gotten hold of their temper. Weren't you the one who was just scrambling up here to wreak havoc?"

Spike glared at his friend, and Willow took advantage of that distraction to begin inching back toward the still open door of the crypt.

"Maybe I'm actually using my brain. She's probably the only one who can reverse what she's done to the two of us."

Willow froze. "Okay," she said uneasily, "that's *definitely* not the Spike *I* know. Wait a minute. Do *what* to the two of you?" She turned back toward the still nameless man. "I didn't do *anything* to you," she said firmly, then darted a quick look back at Spike. "Did I?"

"You most certainly did," Spike replied dryly. "I suppose I should remember my manners and introduce myself," he continued, his voice dripping with sarcasm as he stepped around the sarcophagus and toward her.

"I-introduce yourself?" Willow asked nervously, several mental images of what Spike could mean flashing through her mind. "W-what do you mean by that?"

"Exactly what I said," Spike replied with exaggerated politeness, going so far as to bow to her. "I'm Adam--Adam Pierson, and *you*, I take it, are Willow?"

She nodded uneasily, and despite her earlier assurances to herself, clasped the hand held out in front of her. "Goddess," she breathed, "what have I done *now*?"

The dark haired man--Spike, if she were to believe the two of them--took two quick steps toward her, his features distorted in plainly visible anger, then froze, his fists clenching at his sides. He took three deep breaths, letting each of them out very slowly.

"Spike?" Willow asked uncertainly.

"Yeah, *Pet*," he hissed, the nickname filled with venom. "Now, just what did you do tonight? And don't tell me nothing," he continued, taking one more step closer, "your being here, now, kind of makes that an obvious lie, ducks."

Willow shook her head vehemently. "Not this. I didn't do this!"

Spike took another step forward, glaring down at her.

She swallowed convulsively. **Dumb Willow, really dumb. You shouldn't have let him get so close.** "I swear!"

A growl from Sp-Adam made her jump, and she let of a scared squeak.

"This is getting us nowhere," Adam spat angrily, suddenly tensing, visibly holding himself back.

It was odd watching Spike's body echo what Spike had done just moments before--freaky, actually. Willow watched, half in fascination, half in horror, as Adam fought to control Spike's demon face. "I'm s-sorry," she whispered.

"Change us back," Spike demanded, "now!"

"I d-don't know how," Willow protested, her eyes never leaving Adam's changing ones. "I'll have to figure out what went wrong first."

Adam slumped, looking utterly defeated, and Willow couldn't help but feel even worse. She hadn't meant to hurt anyone. She'd only wanted to help. "I'm so sorry," she repeated.

"Well, ducks, that doesn't do us much good, does it?"


Angel sat in the back of Cordelia's car, and between feeling fear for Willow's safety and anger at Spike, he was feeling grateful he was already dead. Cordelia's driving was something to be feared. He certainly didn't envy Doyle's front row view. The thing was, he wasn't certain just why the switch in drivers had taken place. When they'd pulled up in front of Angel investigations, Doyle had been driving.

"What *exactly* did you see, Doyle?" he asked finally, again, actually.

Cordelia sighed. He ignored her.

Doyle turned, his face set in resignation. "Like I told ya that last three times you asked--all I saw was Spike attacking a red haired female. It looked like it was in a crypt of some sort. I got the name Willow.

Angel nodded, sighing himself. What had made his Childe go back to Sunnydale? As far as he knew, Spike hated that town almost as much as he hated his Sire. Until Cordelia had called to tell him to pack for this trip, Angel he would have been willing to swear that nothing would have dragged Spike back there.

"What the hell is he up to?" Angel asked, more of himself than of his companions.

Doyle rolled his eyes. "Probably the same thing any vampire wants, well, exceptin' you, of course."

Angel shook his head. "No. Spike almost never does anything without a plan," he replied, then somewhat unwillingly a corner of his mouth quirked upward. "Of course, he almost never has the patience to see it through properly. That has always been--" Nearly growling, angel shook himself out of his reverie. "He would not attack one of Buffy's friends *just* for a meal. Without some kind of plan, it would be suicide--and he *knows* that."

Angel did chuckle then. "Buffy's kicked his ass more than once."

Doyle nodded at him, and Cordelia snickered. Both men turned to look at her.

"What? I was just thinking that one of those times was even when he was 'invincible'." She giggled again. "She managed to 'kick his ass' *while* he was wearing the Ring of Amara. How else could she have gotten it from him?"

Both men chuckled, before Doyle dissolved into fits of laughter. If Angel had been in a more offensive mood, he would have described the sounds as giggles.

"I admit it was funny Doyle, but it wasn't *that* funny," Cordelia said giving the Irishman an odd look.

"I was just thinking."

"About?" Angel asked, intrigued.

"His face. I'd be willing to bet it *really* pissed him off."

And for several precious moments the fear of earlier was temporarily forgotten as laughter reigned.


Giles set down his tea and continued putting up the dishes. Tonight had been a quiet night, the kind that occurred all too rarely here in Sunnydale. The hellmouth usually saw to that. He sighed softly as the last dish was put away, and taking his tea, he wandered into the living room, looking forward to a night filled with the simple pleasure of reading *just* to read.

There was no impending apocalypse to research, no new demons to figure out how to kill, no new *anything* to prevent him from relaxing. He sighed again as he sank down into his favorite chair. In a word, he was bored--bored out of his bloody mind.

The quick staccato knocking on his door brought him up and out of his chair instantly, both worry and relief warring for prominence. He was at the door in seconds, pulling it open. He frowned.

"I think I'd rather be bored," he said tonelessly.

"May we come in, Giles?" Angel asked.

Giles hesitated.

"It's important."

"It always is," Giles replied dryly as he stepped back and waved angel inside. He was followed by a man Giles didn't know and, to his surprise, Cordelia chase. "Cordelia! It *is* a pleasure to see you."

Cordelia flashed a brilliant smile at him. "Thank you, Giles," she replied, moving into the room. "I wasn't sure how everyone would react to my being here."

"Well, I certainly cannot speak for everyone, but I, for one, am happy to see you again--and apparently doing *very* well for yourself." Closing the door behind his unexpected guests, Giles raised a questioning eyebrow. "You said it was important, Angel?"

Angel nodded. "Where's Willow?"

Giles' eyes narrowed. "Why?"

"She's in danger."

"And you would know this because?"

The young man spoke up. "I saw Spike attacking her in a vision."

**Ah,** Giles thought, *Doyle, Angel's seer.** "Well, I really don't know why you would have. Spike cannot hurt her. Howev--"

"What?" exclaimed three very loud, very incredulous voices.

Giles snorted. "That's right, I forgot you don't know what happened."

Angel frowned. "What do you mean, 'what happened'? And why aren't you more concerned about Willow's safety? Don't you care?"

"How dare you!" Giles snapped, angered beyond reason by Angel's challenge. "Of course I care!" he continued, crossing toward the phone. Stabbing the numbers quickly, he dialed Buffy and Willow's dorm room, preventing himself from saying more to Angel by only the thinnest threads of control.

It took him only a couple of moments to ascertain that Willow was not home. Buffy, of course, was not either. She was most likely out on patrol.

"She's not home," he said, leaving a quick message on their machine. He paused only a moment before calling Xander. At minimum, the young man would probably know Tara's number. That was something Giles had yet to learn.

"Hello, you're talkin' to the Xand Man."

"Xander, do you know where Willow is tonight?"

"Hey, G-man, she's probably at Tara's. I know she mentioned that she would be earlier today. Why? What's up?"

"It's probably nothing to worry about. Doyle, Angel's associate had a vision of her getting attacked by Spike."

"What!?" Xander exclaimed loudly, and Giles quickly pulled the phone away from his ear.

"Xander! Calm down. Call Tara's place, and if Willow is there, tell her to stay in tonight, please. Just in case there's something to this, Spike's never had an invite into Tara's that I know of."

"You got it, G-man. Then, I'm gonna--"

"Then, you're going to get over here," Giles interrupted, "nothing else. We don't know exactly what's going on yet."

Xander grumbled loudly for a couple of seconds before reluctantly agreeing, and Giles gratefully replaced the receiver.

He turned to find Cordelia directly behind him, glaring at him. He frowned again.

"Do you mind explaining a bit more about just why you don't *seem*, and I stress *seem*, more concerned about this?" she asked quietly. "Last I heard, Spike was still on the Scooby's top ten hit list."

Giles' eyebrows rose to his hairline. For Cordelia that was tact at its best. "Yes, quite. If you'll take a seat?" he requested. "This will take a bit."

Cordelia nodded, joining the two males already on the couch.

Taking a deep breath Giles began a quick, edited, explanation of the Initiative, and continuing on to the chip that had been placed by them in Spike's head. His three guests sat through it silently, each with ever-changing expressions that varied from disbelief and shock at the beginning, to settle somewhere between discomfort and outright horror near the end.


Angel stared out the window, his emotions and thoughts in utter chaos. On the one hand, he was grateful he didn't have to worry about needing to stake Spike, and not needing to worry about who the younger vampire was hurting. On the other hand, the very thought of *anyone* being subjected to that kind of invasive experimentation, Spike included, left him feeling repulsed and slightly sick to his stomach.

The part of him that ruled his base instincts, the demonic part, howled at that outrage, and it was all he could do not to begin tearing the room apart piece by piece. When the silence behind him drew on long enough that it began to unnerve even him, Angel turned slowly to face the others. Some of what he saw surprised him.

Doyle's slightly green look he could understand. The Irishman might hate Spike with every fiber of his being, but these 'people' had targeted demons, and, according to Giles' explanation, they hadn't cared about whether or not the demons in question had actually been evil.

It was Cordelia's reaction he didn't understand. She looked faintly horrified, and, if he was any judge, appalled. Doyle was beside her, slowly rubbing her back, but she paid him no attention, staring resolutely across the room at -- nothing.

He quickly crossed to the couch, kneeling down in front of her. "Cordelia?" he asked softly.

She looked up at him, and he was surprised, yet again, to see a trace of tears in her eyes. His confusion must have shown, because she gave him a crooked, watery half-smile that faded all too quickly.

"It's no secret that I don't like spike," she said softly, shaking her head. When she continued a faint hint of sour amusement could be heard. "In fact, it's probably very safe to say I hate the son of a bitch."

Angel nodded, that's what confused him.

"But this? This, I wouldn't wish on anyone. It would be far more humane to simply kill him. This is . . . torture." Cordelia paused, as if searching for the exact words to express what she was feeling. "This is like putting raw meat just outside the cage of a hungry wolf -- and then not letting him have any. It . . . it's just . . . not right."

A strangled sound behind him made Angel turn toward the watcher. Giles had the oddest expression of . . . shock on his face.

"Yeah, I know Giles, I bet you never expected to hear *those* kinds of words come out of *my* mouth."

Giles blinked, quickly pulling his glasses off. "No, I'm sorry to say, I didn't," he said quietly, cleaning his lenses. "It shames me to admit that I never saw past your. . . ." Giles trailed off, obviously unable to find a tactful way to continue.

Cordelia laughed easily. "My shallow exterior?" she offered, quickly continuing as Giles' face reddened and he scrambled to put his glasses back on. "Don't worry. I know exactly what I was, *and* what I am. You weren't supposed to see anything else."

Before anyone else could respond, however, the front door burst open, causing everyone in the room to jump.

"G-man, Willow's not over at Tara's. Tara said she was going to visit Spike!" Xander's eyes widened slightly, but he made no comment on the surprising people in Giles' apartment.

"Shit," Damn," and "Oh, dear," exploded from three different mouths as each of them jumped into action, grabbing convenient weapons and jackets.

Xander bounced on his toes, waiting impatiently by the door. As they approached, finally ready, he spun around and reopened the door. "If spike has already attacked her, I am *so* going to stake his ass!" he muttered fiercely.

"What? Huh? Who has Spike attacked? He can't attack anyone--can he?" Buffy asked breathlessly, at the same moment Xander yelled, startled by her sudden appearance in front of him.

"Willow," he said shortly, slipping past the stunned slayer.

"Willow?" she squeaked, her arm darting out and grabbing Xander's, bring him to a sudden halt. "What are you talking about?"

Angel sighed. They didn't have time for this.

"I'm talking ab--"

"We're wasting time," Angel interrupted Xander, slipping past the two of them.

"A-Angel?" Buffy stammered.

He winced, but continued forward. There would have to be time enough later for that. Willow needed them now. Then he froze, resisting the impulse to blink to make sure he was seeing what he was seeing. Willow, Spike, and a man he didn't recognize were striding down the side walk toward them, bickering angrily. What was strange about it, no one was attacking anyone else, and the angry words were just that -- words.

Buffy darted around him, and before he could react she was racing toward the unlikely trio.

"No!" Willow shouted, diving in between Spike and Buffy. "Don't. I did a really bad thing. Well, it was actually supposed to be a good thing, but it went all wrong, and now Spike isn't Spike, he's Adam, and Adam is Spike. And I don't know how I did it. So, if you kill Spike, you're really killing Adam, and that would mean I killed Adam, and he's innocent. Please, don't kill Adam, Buffy. I don't think I could live with myself."

Watching the scene unfold, Angel felt frozen in place. In front of Willow, Buffy blinked twice, and he heard a faint, confused, "Huh?" come from her.

"I'll second that, Wills," Xander called out from behind him. "Could you repeat that--in slow english, for those us coming into this in the last act?"

"Yes, please," Giles concurred.

Angel couldn't help but agree. Willow's babble hadn't made much sense.

Willow took a deep breath, but the dark haired man stepped forward and spoke first.

"*Willow* here, apparently cast some kind of spell. She hasn't told us what kind of spell yet," he said, directing a deadly glare at Willow, "but the gist of the matter is this; Adam," he waved vaguely in Spike's direction, "and I have switched bodies."

"Dear Lord!"

"And you believe this, Willow?" Xander asked harshly.

"N-not at first, Xander, no. But I do now." Willow looked to be near panic, and Angel almost stepped forward.

"How can you be sure?" Buffy asked softly, stalling Angel where he was.

"I just am," Willow replied. "Besides, we can cast a truth spell, and--"

"Truth spell?" Spike asked derisively.

Angel frowned. It certainly hadn't sounded like Spike. Besides, Spike wouldn't be downplaying the power of spells. He took a step nearer, and his eyes widened. It didn't *smell* exactly like him either. It was him, but there was something very . . . off also--something added.

Willow, having obviously put up with too many of 'Spike's?' put downs, spun around to face the blond. "Shut up! Yes, I said truth spell. Maybe you should open your eyes and see that just maybe you don't know *everything* there is to know."

'Spike, **No, Adam'.** Angel shook his head minutely. 'Adam' took an overly controlled step forward. "I have *never* claimed to know everything -- far from it, in fact. However, you cannot expect me to simply continue to--"

"Yes, I can!" Willow shouted.

"Alright, everyone. No one's been hurt, yet. Perhaps we should take this in off the street?" Angel suggested.

The stranger who smelled oddly familiar, **Spike?** stiffened and suddenly whipped his head toward Angel. "Bloody hell, Peaches," the man groaned. "When did *you* get into town?"

**Now *that* sounds like Spike.**

Chapter Seven

Methos almost slammed the book shut, but restrained himself enough to limit his sudden tantrum to shoving his chair backwards as he shot up out of it. When it hit the floor everyone around him jumped. "Sorry," he mumbled, pacing toward a window. He couldn't concentrate. He couldn't even sit still, and it was driving him nuts. Everything inside of him was such a jumbled mess, his emotions running rampant, and he couldn't seem to control *any* of them.

The sounds and scents that assailed him constantly were nearly overwhelming in their intensity. He'd never experienced anything like it. He could hear the individual heart beats of everyone in the room. They sounded like a drum line with each drummer playing to his own tempo and rhythm. He could also note the one exception, other than himself. He could *smell* an . . . oddness to some of the people here--most of them in fact. It told him which ones were entirely 'normal'--human, and which were not.

The witches gave off a hint of electricity. Giles did also, and Methos suspected the Watcher was also a practitioner of the mystical arts. However, the three of them smelled human. Though, how he knew that theirs was the human scent was beyond him. Xander and Cordelia, on the other hand, he was almost certain they were human. Of course, what with no one else being normal, he did not have any way to really judge.

Angel gave off his own unique scent and feel. There was a . . . pull there, a powerful draw. He didn't understand it, and didn't like it. He fought it. Buffy, he snorted. Buffy was unique, too, and it was all he could do not to react violently to everything he sensed of her. He felt an intense hatred toward her that he couldn't ever remembering feeling so soon after meeting someone who'd done him no wrong. It scared him.

If he really thought about it, though, he supposed it made sense--in a freaky, twilight zone kind of way, Vampire slayer : vampire, voila, natural enemies. Instincts were powerful motivators.

Even the seer, Doyle smelled . . . different. He didn't know what it was, but he suspected the Irishman was more than met the eye. And when he turned his newfound senses on his own body, on Spike, he began to understand why the vampire had originally been drawn to him above everyone else in that club.

As an Immortal he'd gotten used to sensing quickenings. He couldn't do that now--at least he didn't think so--but, well, he'd never been all that narcissistic, but in Spike's vampire body, he was powerfully drawn to the only Immortal in the room. Unfortunately, some of the urges he was having would have made 'Death' proud. He tried to shake those off.

Unfortunately, that wasn't all. He could bloody *smell* the emotions permeating the room. He'd heard emotions spoken of as being tangible things, in fact, like everyone, he'd done it, but this was over the top. Confusion, concern, anger, fear; he could taste them all. Each one had its own unique scent, most of which he couldn't put a name to. They all blended together in his nostrils and on his tongue. They were a . . . heady combination.

He could smell Willow's sorrow and shame. They hung over her like a thick fog, and they tasted of thyme--bitter. He could taste her friend, Tara's, fear. It was a sweet scent, sweet and warm. The slayer's anger tasted of spicy, hot cinnamon. Gods! He was shaking in reaction to her.

The worst of it all, though, was his own anger. No, that was the wrong word. It wasn't strong enough. Rage; that was the word he wanted. Rage railed inside him, seething like some rabid, uncontrolled beast. It was calling to parts of himself that he'd kept buried for more than a millennia. It excited and repulsed him at the same time.

It called him to the hunt. It called him to violence again--violence for the sake of violence. The rage wanted the blood to flow, and it wasn't particular whose blood he shed. He held himself in place, staring rigidly out the window, refusing to even look at anyone, trying to shut off the overwhelming flow of information coming from his other senses. He wanted, no, needed to shut himself off from the hateful desires growing inside himself.

It all took him back in time, flashing images of that long suppressed reign of terror. It made the rage inside him howl with unholy glee. It turned his stomach.

A hand on his shoulder made him jump, but thankfully wrenched him out of the painful series of flashbacks. "Spike."

"How are you holdin up, mate?"

Methos shook his head, not trusting himself to answer aloud.



"Feeling out of control?"

Another nod, more emphatic.

"Right, then. I'll be right back. I've got an idea about how to help with that."


Knowing he probably shouldn't, he listened closely to Spike's retreat. He listened as Spike approached Angel. Spike whispered, but he could hear what was said, nevertheless.


"What do you want, Spike?" Angel snapped.

Methos heard Spike's heart rate shoot up, smelled the sudden anger Spike tried to control, as well as something else, a deep hurt, a sense of betrayal Spike almost managed to control.

"It's about Adam, you ponce," Spike hissed angrily, barely keeping his voice to a whisper. "So, just shut up and listen."

Methos tuned out the rest of the conversation, focusing instead on Cordelia. He felt uncomfortable continuing to listen in. There was history between Spike and Angel, and he suspected it was very personal. Besides, he really wanted to figure out what it was about her that was different. A sudden thought occurred to him, and he *almost* turned around to stare at her. He'd have to ask Spike later, when they were alone.

"Spike, Adam, and I are going out for a bit," Angel said suddenly to the room at large.

Methos spun around in surprise, to find that Doyle and Cordelia had risen. Both appeared to be hesitant about Angel's announcement. He *really* didn't think going out like this was such a good idea, either.

"I'm n-not sure that's such a good idea, Angel," Giles' offered tentatively. "I'm sure Adam is having--"

"It's a *very* good idea, Giles, for the exact reason you were going to use against the trip," Angel interrupted, glancing significantly at his LA companions, who both nodded and resumed their seats without voicing a single concern. It seemed they, at least, trusted Angel's judgement. "He needs to blow off some steam."

Giles' eyes widened, and the Watcher darted a look toward him. "Oh, right, quite. I--"

"I'll go with you," Buffy offered, jumping up out of her seat.


"No," Angel responded instantly, "that's not a good idea, Buffy."

Methos tuned out the resulting argument, following a wave of hurt from Buffy, and he suddenly wanted nothing more than to be out of that stuffy room with all those people and their fears and their pounding hearts. He barely noticed the hand that grabbed his arm and pulled him toward the door. It was Spike that's all he knew or cared. He swallowed heavily, tensing, however, when Angel stepped to his other side, and didn't manage to relax until the door closed behind the three of them.

And suddenly he felt like he could breathe again, the tightness in his chest loosening finally.

The three of them strode away into the night. Methos had no idea where they were going, but frankly, he didn't really care. His insides hummed with excitement instead of feeling like he was going to come apart at the seams, mirroring what he could feel coming from the men on either side of him.

"Thank you," he said finally.

"Drowning in there?" Angel asked quietly, as if afraid to startle him.

Letting out an explosive breath, Methos nodded again. "Yes, that's it exactly." He paused, trying to form his thoughts into words, something he hadn't understood while in the midst of it all finally coming into focus. "They all obviously care about each other," he said slowly, "but I don't see how they can function as a group. There's such an underlying sense of hurt, and . . . betrayal. It was nearly suffocating."

Methos snapped his head around to stare at Angel when he suddenly smelled immense guilt flood the vampire.

"That's a long, sordid story, Adam. Most of that stems from our sudden appearance here, well, mine mostly."

At the hurt he could hear in Angel's voice, Methos stifled his own innate curiosity, as well as a sudden urge to poke at what was obviously a painful wound. Instead, he turned his attention elsewhere. "Where, exactly, are we going?" he asked eyeing their surroundings. He supposed cemeteries may be cliche for vampires, but these two certainly seemed to gravitate toward them.

"We're here," Angel replied. "This is part of Buffy's normal patrol route, and since we're out, I figured this would be as any for what we need. Do you know how to fight?"

Frowning, Methos nodded warily. "You could say I have a passing familiarity with it. And what patrol route?"

Angel grinned, and when Methos turned to look at Spike, he wore a nearly matching one.

"What's going on?"

"We're going to help you relieve some excess tension," Spike announced, fairly bouncing on his toes.

"Correction," Angel interrupted, "I am. You're human now, Spike. He can't hit you. Or did you forget that already?"

"Hit him? I don't plan on hitting anyone," Methos protested, looking back and forth between the two of them. He didn't particularly want to hit Spike, anyway. Well, yes he did. He wanted to do a lot more than just hit, but he wasn't going to. "I thought we came out here to prevent that kind of thing."

Spike's face fell. "Bloody hell! Yeah, I had forgotten."

Methos tried again. "Would someone care to explain to *me* what's going on here?"

It took only a few minutes of Angel's patient explanation for Methos to capitulate. It *did* make sense after all. He moved away from Spike, requesting he go climb a tree or something equally inaccessible.

"I'm not hiding up a tree like some bleedin nancy boy!" Spike exclaimed in outrage. "Besides, even if you do try anything. You'll hit the ground in pain long before I will."

Methos winced, instantly recalling the moment he'd attacked Spike at the crypt, and later when he'd lunged at poor Willow. He had to admit, the pain was an effective deterrent.

Returning his attention to Angel, he was startled to note that the vampire had changed forms, his face ridged and his eyes golden. Methos swallowed and allowed his control to relax as he slipped his coat from his shoulders. It was strange feeling his face morph, and he couldn't resist the urge to reach up and trace the changes.

"Can I assume that the concept of fair fighting is a non-issue?" he asked, smirking at Angel.

Angel grinned right back at him and nodded once. "As long as the fight stays barehanded, anything goes."

Methos acknowledged Angel's single condition with a quick nod and dropped into fighting stance. It still felt awkward, but having spent the last several hours in this shorter, stronger body, he felt more able to hold his own. His extra years of experience ought to hold him in good stead. He frowned as he suddenly realized he had no idea how old Angel was, or Spike for that matter, and for a fraction of a second he wondered whether it was as impolite to ask a vampire as it was to ask an Immortal.

Then he was too busy defending himself as Angel faked a lunge, kicking his feet out from under him instead. Startled at finding himself suddenly on the ground, Methos rolled to his feet, and came up wearing a feral grin. This, he decided, was going to be fun.

Chapter Eight

"Do you think Adam will be okay with those two?" Xander asked. "They've been gone an awfully long time."

"Angel's with them," Buffy replied automatically, at the same time as Doyle and Cordelia's, "Angel will take care of him."

Giles looked up from his continued breakdown of Willow's altered spell. The first half had been easy to get through. It had been relatively unchanged from the original gypsy curse. Willow's tinkering in the second half made it more slow going. He had to admit, however, that what Willow had done was quite ingenious. Actually binding the soul directly to the demon was novel.

Not that he was going to tell her that, not at this time anyway. In fact, he wasn't going to say anything, until he knew why it hadn't worked. So far, as far as he could tell, it should have. Some of her wording was a little too flowery. Though it shouldn't have interfered, he would have to speak to her about that tendency.

Ignoring Buffy's response, Xander looked incredulously at Cordelia. "You're saying you *trust* Angel, Cordy?"

Giles frowned, wondering if he should interfere in what could turn into a rather nasty argument. The problem was, he didn't really know which side of the argument he'd end up on. He did not trust Angel, he probably never would completely.

"Yes, Xander, I do. He's saved my life," Cordelia responded tartly, straightening in her seat and turning her full attention on her ex-boyfriend, then suddenly dropped her gaze before continuing softly. "In more ways than one."

Giles cleared his throat. He'd heard a sadness in Cordelia's voice that he hadn't ever expected to hear there, and wanted to get everyone's attention off of the girl before anyone one of them, good intentions aside, could pry into what had put it there. He suspected Cordelia's time in LA, before running into Angel hadn't gone like she'd expected it to.

"Willow, according to this, it should have worked. O-Of course, I still need to check it more thoroughly, to s-see if there's anything I missed, but . . . " He sighed, letting his voice trail off, he *hated* it when he stuttered. "Are you absolutely certain this is exactly what you said and did?"

Willow nodded enthusiastically, and when the two of them glanced toward Tara, she confirmed it with a quick wordless nod.

"So something else had to have interfered," Giles continued thoughtfully. "Where was Spike, and what was he doing at the time you cast the spell?"

"I-I don't know," Willow replied. "Well, he was in the crypt, at least he was when I got there afterward--they both were. I have no idea what they were doing, though."

That was apparently the only variable, but it could be a big one. He just hoped . . . "Where in the crypt were they when you got there, Willow?"

She frowned at him. "They were below it, actually."

Giles groaned, reluctantly dropping his gaze from Willow's. If what he suspected was right, tonight was about to get a lot more . . . interesting, and he *really* didn't want to get into this stuff. "Well, we're at an impasse. We're going to have to wait until they get back to go any further."

Everyone turned to look at him, and waited expectantly--except Buffy.

"Why?" she asked.

"Because, Buffy, Willow's spell should have worked, exactly the way she wanted it to," he replied reluctantly, mentally groaning again when Willow smiled broadly.

"Really?" she asked, then interrupted herself. "Well, of course it should have. We went over it several times ourselves before we cast it."

Giles nodded once. "The only variable we haven't ascertained is what Spike and/or Adam were doing just previous to and during your spell casting. It's the only thing I can think of, barring a second spell casting, that might have interfered." He thought he'd actually prefer that. Even not knowing what the spell was would be preferable to the other scenario. Unfortunately, Willow shot him down. She shook her head.

"No, I felt no secondary magics interfering with the casting. Not like what happened when Ethan turned you into a Fyarl demon."

"You were a Fyarl demon?" Doyle asked in surprise.

"Yes," Giles replied uncomfortably. "That, however, is a tad off subject at the moment."

"It should have worked," Willow whispered gleefully, whirling toward Tara, and effectively drawing the attention away from himself. Giles was quite relieved. "I did it!"

Tara nodded, a shy smile gracing her face.

"Willow," Giles admonished firmly.

The young witch's enthusiasm dimmed instantly, but she could quite wipe the smile completely off her face.

Xander frowned over at him, and Giles could practically hear the wheels turning in the young man's mind. "I'm the first to admit that I don't know squat about magic, but if it *should* have worked," he asked, "why didn't it? Or was this what you were actually trying for?"

"Xander!" Willow exclaimed hotly. "Of course it wasn't!"

"Sorry, Wills," Xander apologized, "but he said it was written right."

"Um, yeah," Buffy put in tentatively, "that's got me stumped too."

Giles cast a glance around the room. Everyone looked confused, that is, except for the LA contingent. They both wore smirks as they looked at him to continue. **Oh, heaven forbid, one of them actually explain this,** he thought drily.

Straightening, and refusing to actually look at anyone, Giles pulled his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Willow and Tara were not the only participants in the spell," he explained patiently. "Spike and Adam could also have affect the spell's outcome, depending on what they were doing at the time. There are a couple of things they could have been doing that might have adversely affected the spell."

Willow frowned. "But how?" she asked, confused. "Unless they were . . . oh!" Willow blushed, and ducked her head quickly.

Xander made a mewling sound of disgust, and Doyle and Cordelia laughed.

Giles simply felt relieved. He wouldn't have to explain it.

"Unless they were what?" Buffy asked.

Giles snapped his gaze toward his slayer. Surely she could truly be in the dark? Looking at her confused expression, one that was growing impatient, Giles sighed. She could be. How she'd gotten to be this age and still be this naive was beyond his understanding. "Th-there are actually t-two different c-circumstances I can think of, off hand, that would precipitate an alteration of the spell. If the two of them introduced b-blood into the mix, for one."

Buffy waved airily. "Well that's out," she said. "Spike can't bite. What's the other?"

Everyone stared at her.

"Buffy," Doyle said, "from what I understand of the way the chip functions, and I admit my understanding is limited, it is possible that there are . . . loopholes."

Buffy's nose wrinkled up. "You mean like, if Adam voluntarily cut himself or something?"

"That is one possibility," Giles confirmed, almost laughing at Buffy's comical expression that vividly portrayed the words this group used so frequently . . . "Ewww".

"On that rather disturbing not," Buffy said, jumping up from her seat, "I think I'm going out to patrol. Giles, do you want me to come back here after?"

"No," Giles shook his head, "It's already one o'clock. Go ahead and take a short patrol and get some sleep."

Buffy nodded. "Okay, see you tomorrow then."

They all watched her leave, no one saying anything until long after the front door had closed behind her.

"Giles," Willow asked softly. "If you're right . . . about either one, how much trouble is that going to be?"

Giles turned to face the budding witch, reluctantly replacing his glasses. Hopefully, he could get through this discussion without blushing. *That* he could do without having to live down. "If we are indeed talking about blood magic, or s-sex magic, this mess is definitely far more sticky than otherwise,--"

A groan sounded from Xander.

Giles frowned, half turning toward the boy, but he finished speaking as if he hadn't been interrupted. "--Both are very powerful magics. In fact, I can say unequivocally, that if either are involved, it's going to be very difficult to reverse, *if* it's possible at all."

Willow whimpered. "They're *not* going to like that."

Cordelia and Doyle shared a glance, but it was Cordelia who spoke. " *That's putting it mildly," she said softly.

"Yes, quite," Giles replied, reaching for the spell. "Now, if it were simply Spike's blood that had been spilled, the only affect I could see would be to make the spell more, or less, effective. Since that's not what happened, I believe we can eliminate that from our list of problems, at least as a solo event."

Willow nodded, quietly agreeing.

"I can see why it would make it more powerful," Doyle stated, rising to join them at the table. "What I don't understand is how the addition of blood letting would weaken the spell."

"Well," Giles replied, "since it would be blood stolen by the demon, it could strengthen the demon's hold on the body, and thereby lessening the soul's hold. Now if it were Adam's blood, whether via Spike's bite or other means, there's no telling what affect it might have."

Silence followed while the spell was once again the focus of their attention.

"I've got it," Willow exclaimed. "Well, maybe," she amended. "If the blood exchange happened during the binding of the soul, it's possible that Adam's soul being 'closer', was the one bound to Spike's demon, instead of Spike's called soul."

"Yes, it's possible," Giles acknowledged.

"But then, what happened to Spike's soul?" Xander asked.

"Adam," came the response from both witches and Giles.

"Oh, right," Xander replied sheepishly, "of course."

"What about sex," Cordelia asked bluntly.

Everyone turned to look at her expectantly.

"What about it?" Giles asked.

"Oh, please!" Cordelia protested. "Surely it's obvious. Adam wasn't there because he didn't have anywhere else to stay. And if his blood was the only thing Spike wanted, he wouldn't have taken Adam down to his private area." Cordelia shrugged. "I doubt he would even have taken him back to the crypt."

"Well, princess, I have to agree with you on the second half of that," Doyle said leaning forward, "but I don't follow why you say the first. It's very possible he didn't have any other place to stay."

Cordelia shook her head.

"Leave it to Cordy to know who does and doesn't have money," Xander said, his grin taking any sting out of his comment.

"Of course," Cordelia replied instantly, flashing him a broad smile, "it's a Chase survival trait."

"So explain it to the rest of us peons," Doyle encouraged.

"It's the way he was dressed, well, and the way he held himself."

"Go on," Giles urged, curiosity making him take his turn at encouragement.

"He may not have been wearing Armani," Cordelia informed them, "In fact, as you all could tell, he was dressed quite casually. But the clothes, no matter how casual, were of excellent quality. The sweater, was older . . . comfortable, but the shirt poking out from beneath it was not. The jeans he wore were nearly new, just old enough to be broken in."

"That doesn't exclude the possibility that he had a recent reversal of fortune," Xander cut in. "It can happen to anyone."

"Of course it can," Cordelia responded. "That's where we look at how he holds himself," she continued blithely. "I'm sure you all noticed how he . . . kinda slumped, and looking relaxed? Well, aside from the whole fear and anger issues he's got going right now."

Several nods greeted her question.

"Well, that's when he knows people are watching. A couple of times I saw that slip away. The way he held himself then, there was a casual, comfortable arrogance that says, 'I know who I am'." There is *way* more to that man than meets the eye."

Giles looked at her skeptically.

"It was only flashes, mind you. It was as if he kept catching himself doing it. In fact, I'd be willing to bet the facade *never* slips when he's had a less 'rock my world' day. That man is rich, very rich. He just doesn't want people to know it."

Doyle's eyebrows raised. "She's right," he said suddenly, ducking a little when he suddenly had everyone's attention. "Do you know *anyone* who could be as relaxed as he *appears* to be after the day he's had?"

"So," Cordelia concluded, convinced she had proven her point, "either they had sex or were going to have sex."

Giles frowned thoughtfully. "We can hope they were interrupted."

"No," Doyle disagreed. "Neither one of them was sexually frustrated."

"Well," Xander interrupted with a look of distaste, "that was just too much information."

"Unfortunately, I have to disagree," Giles said, grimacing. "It's needed information. However much we may wish we didn't need to know it."

Chapter Nine

Buffy silently made her way through the dark Sunnydale streets. She had already completed one route, and although Giles had told her to only do a short patrol, she wasn't quite ready to go home. More than one thing tonight had thrown her a curve--Angel being in town only one of them. Of course, that *always* did. It didn't matter that she'd found someone new. She'd never really been in love with Riley--something she'd realized far too late. It wasn't even that she wanted Angel back, not anymore, not really. It was more that she wanted what they used to have. That was what she missed--really missed.

Usually it was something that was only in the back of her mind, but whenever Angel showed up out of the blue, it made the wanting come back full force. She wanted to be in love, really in love -- so in love that no obstacles seemed too great to overcome.

However, if it had just been that, she could have dealt. She had before. This thing with Adam and Spike, though, that was just way weirding her out. It wasn't as though she'd never figured out the whole guy/guy thing. After all, there'd been Larry in high school. And now there was Willow, who had the whole girl/girl thing going. No, that wasn't what bothered her. What bothered her was how *not* repulsive she found it.

Buffy was almost thankful for the sounds of fighting that broke her out of her circular thoughts. Darting forward, she ducked under and around tree limbs, skidding to a full stop as the combatants suddenly came into view. What she saw, certainly wasn't what she'd expected. Two men were squared off against each other . . . with swords. Her eyes widened in surprise as she inched forward. As far as she could tell they weren't vampires, certainly, neither showed a vampire face.

She bided her time, trying to figure a way to break into the fight without getting herself or either one of the killed. As she watched, she realized neither one of the men *seemed* at all demonic, but she'd been wrong about that before. Unlike with vampires, if they didn't look obviously demonic in origin, it was difficult to tell. But fighting with swords -- in what sure-as-hell looked to be deadly earnest? That didn't seem like a very 'human' pastime.

Continuing to ease her way forward, trying not to gain the attention of either man, she had to admire the fluid grace with which both men moved. They were quite obviously both expert swordsmen. She just hoped one of them was on the side of good. She'd love to learn more about sword work. Giles was good enough at it, she supposed, but he wasn't in the same league with either of these men.

She barely prevented a gasp as the redhead's sword skewered the other man through the chest, and the defeated man fell to his knees.

"There can be only one."

As the redhead spoke, his sword raised as if to slice through the fallen man's neck, Buffy leapt forward, letting fly with a powerful kick to his jaw that sent the young man flying. She winced as he landed about 12 feet away. If he *was* human, she thought, she'd probably just broken his jaw.

Quickly setting aside her commiseration, she hurried toward the first man, stopping at his side long enough to to determine that Red's sword had slipped through a rib, stabbing him through the heart, before sweeping up his sword. Then, she hurried toward the man she'd dubbed 'Red'.

By the time she neared Red, he was already stirring. It took him only a second to jump to his feet and drop into an impressive fighting stance, gaining his balance about the same moment she picked up his dropped sword.

"Who are you?" he demanded, wincing as he spoke.

**So much for breaking his jaw," Buffy laughed incredulously. "You're the one who just killed a man, and *I'm* the one holding the swords," she retorted. "I think you just asked my line."

"Richard Ryan," he replied, pulling himself up to his full height. "And *you* have got one helluva kick!"

She grinned, nodding in acknowledgement--though why she was grinning at a killer she didn't know. "Buffy Summers. Who started that fight?" she asked, then rolled her eyes. **That was a really stupid question, Summers.**

"He did."

Buffy nodded. **Right on que.** Of course that was what he'd say. There was no one to refute his assertion. "And I'm just supposed to believe that?"

Richard shrugged. "You asked."

"Point," Buffy conceded with dry amusement, but continued to eye the redhead warily. Closer now, she still detected no hint he was any kind of demon, but she wasn't sure she should trust that. She'd kicked him hard enough to have practically shattered a human's jaw, but he was talking with only the barest hint of discomfort.

"Listen," Richard said suddenly, casting a wary glance at his fallen opponent, "we really should get out of here." He paused, and his eyes narrowed speculatively. "I wouldn't happen to be able to talk you into giving me back my sword . . . would I?"

Buffy's eyebrow shot up and she snorted indelicately.

"I thought as much," he replied, shrugging in defeat. "Well, nice to meet you, but I'm outta here."

Buffy's jaw dropped as Red turned and began walking away. "Not so fast, *Mr.* Ryan."

Richard frowned as he turned back to face her. "What?"

Buffy blinked. She couldn't believe this guy. He'd just killed someone in front of her, and he expected her to simply let him walk away. **Not in *this* lifetime,** she thought, then saw a flicker of . . . something flash across his face. **He doesn't like the situation he's in,** she thought, then her eyes narrowed. **Well, tough.**

"You really think I'm just going to let you go?" she asked him incredulously. "I just watched you kill a man."

"It was a fair fight," Richard protested, while once again an indecipherable expression crossed his face, "one that *he* started."

"So you say," Buffy replied skeptically. "So, I suppose, in that case, you shouldn't have any problem with the police? No warrants out for your arrest, that kind of thing?" Buffy continued, darting a significant glance at the sword she held out -- his sword. "I'll bet you've even got a license to carry this thing."

Richard visibly hesitated.

"I thought as much," Buffy replied drily. "You're coming with me," she continued, using his sword to motion him back the way she'd come.

"And if I refuse?"

Buffy grinned ferally. "Oh, please," she asked, as if she were hoping he would. "It wouldn't be the first time I used a sword. Of course, I freely admit that I'm not as good as you, but then . . . I'm not the one without a sword . . . am I?"

Buffy watched as several emotions played across Richard Ryan's face, mainly frustration with a touch of fear, before his shoulders slumped and he admitted defeat.

"Alright," he replied reluctantly, slowly stepping forward.

Unable to completely keep the grin of triumph off her face, Buffy backed up slightly, allowing Richard to pass her at a safe distance. She wasn't taking any chances, however, that he'd make a try for his sword. After having seen only the tail end of the fight, extra strength or no extra strength, she was under no delusions that she'd be the sure winner if he got hold of one of the swords and decided to fight her decisions.

As he passed her, Richard picked up his pace, moving quickly away from the scene of the fight. She frowned. It was as if he were suddenly very eager to be gone, regardless of whether it was with her. **Why?** she thought. She really didn't like it when she felt she was missing a piece of the puzzle, and that was exactly how she felt now.

An unexpected gasp behind her, had her spinning around. She froze for one precious moment as the dead man came hurtling toward her. At the last second, however, she dove to the side, rolling quickly to her feet. Unfortunately she had to drop one of the swords in order to complete the maneuver.

She cursed inwardly as the not-so-dead man grabbed the sword she'd dropped as he, too, rolled to his feet, once again lunging toward her -- expertly wielding his recovered sword.

Buffy jumped in startlement as Richard shouted behind her.

"Leave her out of it, Renfield!"

**How had he gotten behind her?**

She dodged Renfield's sword swipe, barely, bringing up her borrowed weapon just in time to block his blow.

"Your challenge was to me," Richard called again. "She's not part of this."

**Part of what?!" Buffy thought frantically. **What is this, the Middle Ages? Ritual combat?**

"She interfered," Renfield shouted as he again brought his sword into play. "She made herself a part of it."

**Oh, yeah, like I could let a fight to the death continue.**

She blocked once more, and using her preternatural strength she managed to trap his sword beneath hers. Unfortunately, using a move she'd never seen before, he extracted it far more quickly than she was comfortable with. Suddenly, she darted toward Richard, tossing him his sword before diving out of harm's way. She just hoped she was right in trusting her heart -- that said a man that tried to keep her out of the fight could be trusted.

She shook her head as she righted herself. She couldn't remember the last time she'd taken the sidelines in any kind of fight. It certainly didn't feel right. It made her skin crawl and her feet itch. She watched, hoping she'd made the right decision, and hoping that having beat Renfield once, Red could beat him again.

She wanted to find out what the hell was going on--how a dead man was up and fighting again, and why he'd been killed in the first place -- and was with that 'There can be only one' crap? Only one what?

Richard swung the sword several times, as if re-acquainting himself with it, or perhaps re-loosening his wrist as he stalked forward. "I beat you once, Renfield," he said softly, almost kindly. "You've got this one last chance to walk away."

**Walk away? No way," Buffy thought. **The SOB tried to kill me. He's not going anywhere.**

"You got lucky the first time, Kid."

Buffy watched as Richard shrugged, and the two men faced each other squarely. Her body moved in time with Richard's movements as she tried to follow his steps. She ducked minutely when Renfield came close to scoring, and nearly cheered when Richard grazed Renfield across the chest.

**What the hell am I thinking?** she thought. **I'm cheering a fricken blood sport!**

She winced when Renfield managed to sink his sword into Richard's side, ready to leap forward should he win the second contest. Something inside her said that she'd be *far* better off if Richard won -- slayer or no slayer.

She also kept a wary eye out for other predators -- as soon as she thought of it. The blood already shed by the two men fighting in front of her was bound to attract the unwanted attention of any vampires close by, and she had no intention of getting caught unawares.

A sound to her immediate left snapped her head around, and she instinctively dropped into her own fighting stance, stake in hand before she even had time to think about it. The cat that leapt out startled her into a tiny yelp, but she managed *not* to stake the poor thing as it ran past.

A pain filled, disbelieving cry yanked her attention back to the sword fight just in time to see Richard pull his sword from Renfield's belly. She shuddered, then blinked in shock as Richard brought his sword up and swung again, cleanly severing his opponent's head from his shoulders.

The small part of her that remained separate from the nausea that suddenly rose within her, abstractly noted the suspicious lack of blood from that last, obviously fatal, cut. She took one step forward, but froze as a white mist rose from the decapitated body. It swirled across the ground as if it were alive--as if searching.

She hastily backed away from the creeping, creepy mist, not knowing what it was, and definitely not wanting it to touch her. Suddenly it swept toward Richard. Her heart in her throat as she ducked, then dove behind a tree as the first lightening bolt struck the red headed man squarely in the chest.


Barely daring to peek around the tree she'd hid behind, Buffy waited out the light display, torn between hoping Richard would still be alive when the freaky storm passed, and hoping he wouldn't. That much electricity driven through one body was bound to scramble what brains a person had. It certainly couldn't be considered healthy.

She shook her head as the storm quieted, and the night returned to darkness. They had to be demons, Buffy reasoned. Nothing else could even come close to explaining this!

Which meant, as much as she wanted to, she couldn't trust Richard. He was obviously dangerous. She'd figured *that* out without the lightening show. The question she was unsure of the answer to was . . . who was he dangerous to?

She quickly stepped out of her hiding spot as soon as the very last bolt died away, darting forward to grab Renfield's sword from the ground. Shaking, she half raised it against Richard, who was down on all fours, still recovering.

Richard rose on shaky legs, slowly retrieving his sword from where he'd dropped it.

"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you the same way you killed Mr. Renfield there," Buffy challenged. "I mean it. If there's a reason to spare you, I really want to hear it."

Richard stared at her tiredly. "You admitted it yourself, you're not as good as me," he said, "besides, I *did* try to keep you out of it."

Buffy shook her head. "Sorry, not good enough. You could have any number of reasons for not wanting me to kill him, or him me. As for the other, you can barely stand up. Something tells me you're not up to your usual fighting standards."

"Because I can explain what happened here," Richard offered, trying again.

"As much as that idea appeals to me," Buffy replied carefully, "that just isn't enough for me to risk other people's lives. Besides, how can I be certain you won't simply kill me when you get your strength back?"

Richard shook his head, his frustration clearly visible. He looked down at the sword he held half-mast, his frown deepening. Suddenly he looked back up at Buffy. Meeting her gaze squarely, he tossed the blade half way between them, and took a large, still wobbly step backward. "Because I'm unarmed?" he asked.

Buffy laughed. "If I admit absolutely nothing else tonight," she said with a wry grin, "I definitely have to admit you've got style." Gesturing with her stolen sword, she continued. "Take another step backward. I'll collect that sword of yours, and then we can go to Giles'." Buffy cringed, casting a quick glance at her watch. She just hoped Giles' other 'guests' had retired for the evening. Something about Richard troubled here, but she couldn't put her finger on what it was.

"Giles?" Richard asked, obviously puzzled, "not the police?"

Buffy shook her head. **Not in this lifetime,** she thought vehemently. That was one of the only things she was absolutely sure about; she didn't want to leave him in the hands of Sunnydale's most incompetent -- though she couldn't explain to herself why.

Richard warily did as she asked -- much to her relief -- and as she picked up his blooded blade she added, "I warn you now, however, if I find out you're some evil demon, I *will* kill you."

Richard nodded, obviously stifling a grin. "I can assure you I'm definitely not a demon, and the last time I checked, I wasn't evil." He looked down at himself, grimacing in distaste. "Dirty yes, evil no."

Chapter Ten

Richie followed Buffy Summers to the apartment she said belonged to someone named Giles. They had both lapsed into silence after he'd attempted to explain the very basics of Immortality to her. He hadn't mentioned The Game specifically -- nor about beheading. He was fairly certain he didn't want the person who appeared to be setting herself -- or this Giles -- up as Judge and jury any clues as to how to be executioner as well. It was bad enough he hadn't figured out a way to get his sword back without seriously hurting her.

Rubbing his jaw subconsciously, his eyes narrowed. He wasn't altogether sure he could get it back without getting *himself* hurt. She packed one hell of a punch!

She opened the door and went inside without knocking, motioning him to follow her in. He frowned at the odd way she watched him as he entered the apartment. She was definitely a strange woman. Pretty, he thought, his eyes traveling downward as she turned away, but strange.

"Giles!" she called out as soon as the door shut behind them.

The room was dark and empty, evidently the man she'd thought would still be up at -- he glanced around the room -- three AM, had obviously gone to bed. That was fine with him, it gave him more time to convince Buffy of the need to keep quiet about Immortality. She hadn't listened when he'd first brought it up.

Switching on a lamp, Buffy waved him toward the couch. "Have a seat." As he followed her direction, she spoke again. "Do I have to tie you up?" she asked, "or can I trust you to stay put?"

Shrugging, Richie flashed her a smile. "Well, if you can trust the word of someone you're not sure if you need to tie up, I promise not to run tonight. If I did, then I'd have no chance to ask you *not* to tell this Giles person my secret." He leaned forward, dropping the grin. "No matter how confusing this may seem -- although, you seem to have taken this whole Immortality thing *very* well," he added as an afterthought, continuing after the barest of hesitation. "It really is better if it's kept a secret." He frowned thoughtfully. "Most people don't take this whole thing as well as you have."

**Most people?** Richie thought with sour amusement. **Try, no one I've heard of.**

Buffy laughed quietly. "I bet! But if you're telling me the complete truth, Giles will take it as well as I did."

Richie tried again. "Don't you think it's my secret to keep or tell?"

Buffy began to look pensive, and Richie almost jumped up, hopeful that finally he'd managed to convince her to keep her mouth shut about his Immortality.

"I'll make a deal with you," Buffy said finally. "I'll ask him about Immortality in general, keeping your specific immortality out of it."

"Who is this Giles, anyway? I mean, what makes you think he'll even have *heard* of Immortals? We tend to be pretty secretive about it."

"So I figured," Buffy replied drily. "As for why, let's just say you're not the only one with secrets."

Richie sighed heavily and sank back against the couch, throwing his hands up in frustration. "If he's as smart as you think he is, don't you think he might automatically connect your sudden interest in Immortality to the strange man you've brought home?"

Buffy started, her eyes widening in surprise. "You might be right, she admitted."

Richie's eyes closed in momentary relief. Unfortunately, it was short lived.

"But that's a chance we'll have to take." She said firmly, turning on one heel and disappearing into the hallway before Richie could make a comeback.

** *We'll* have to take?** he thought incredulously. **I sure as hell don't see anyone but *me* taking risks here.** He waited uneasily, watching for her return. Casting several covert glances toward the door, he debated with himself whether staying or leaving would be the best option. He *really* didn't know at this point.

He stood, starting toward the door. He hesitated before reaching it, however. **Damn it!** How did he get himself into these messes? Would leaving simply convince her Immortals *were* evil -- that *he* was evil, as she had asked him earlier?

He thought he heard voices and turned his head to look back at the still dark hallway, lost in thought. She hadn't really seemed to be thrown --that much -- by the concept of Immortals. She seemed quite willing to believe he could be a good person, but concerned that he might not be. He frowned. It was as if she felt she would be responsible if he was evil and she let him go. Why was that, he wondered?

Snapping his head up suddenly, his frown deepened. She'd mentioned secrets, sounding like either she or Giles had secrets. Could 'Giles' be an Immortal? Richie vetoed that quickly. This apartment didn't seem that big. He'd have sensed another Immortal if there had been one here.

At the sound of a door opening, Richie realized the time to leave had passed, and hoping he'd made the correct choice, he returned to the couch, standing in front of it instead of sitting back down.

"--No more or less than anyone else, Buffy," he heard a male voice say -- Giles, he assumed. English, definitely. He'd recognize that accent anywhere. "Some are good, some are not."

Richie took a half-step forward in surprise. So, Giles *had* heard about Immortals, or so it seemed. He wondered where the man had heard of Immortals, or rather more to the point, which one he'd met.

"I have read a couple of references to them, but can't, at the moment, remember in which books."

**Books? A Watcher, maybe? But wouldn't *all* Watcher books refer to Immortals?** More confused than ever, his nervousness growing by leaps and bounds, Richie waited, two questions uppermost in his mind. What kind of non-Watcher books would information about Immortals, and what kind of man would have access to those books.

Horrifying thoughts chased themselves around his mind. His, currently, very active imagination supplying him with all sorts of vivid details regarding secret labs, experimentation, torture--

Buffy stepped into view, flanked by an older man. Surprisingly, two others followed them. **Damn!** Maybe leaving would have been better. This was turning into a circus. The man stared at him assessively for a moment before closing the distance between them and holding out a hand. "Buffy has informed me of the altercation you had. I trust you are all right?" he asked.

Sparing a quick, suspicious glance at Buffy, Richie shook the man's hand, smiling. He surreptitiously trying to get a look at the older man's wrist, not at all sure whether he wanted to see the telltale tattoo or not. "Yes, Sir. I'm fine," he replied, not knowing exactly what Buffy had told him, but hoping it was a safe enough statement to make. "The name's Richie Ryan," he continued, ignoring Buffy's surprised glance.

"Rupert Giles. Please, have a seat, and call me Rupert, so few people do these days," Giles offered hospitably, then turned and headed into the kitchen. "I'm making some tea, would you care for some?"

Buffy rolled her eyes, and Richie almost laughed at her expression. "No, thank you. I've . . . never really liked tea much." Richie wasn't positive, but he thought he heard a muttered, "Of course not, you're American," and again he almost laughed.

"How about a soda?" Buffy asked him.

He nodded, his smile growing. "As long as it won't offend our host," he replied, cocking his head toward the kitchen.

"It won't," she answered, snickering and heading after Rupert. "We finally got him to 'allow' them in his fridge for all of us under thirty."

**Us?** Richie thought, **Is she referring to those two?** He was diverted, however, when Giles began speaking to him again. "You are certain the man was actually dead when you found him, not just unconscious?"

**Ah! So that's what she told him.** He frowned, though. He really didn't want to discuss this at all with all these strangers around.

"Yeah, as a doornail. No pulse," he added.

"And where is he now?" the unknown dark haired man asked. "Oh, sorry, the name's Doyle."

"And since no one is being very polite, I'm Cordelia."

Barely resisting a questioning look toward Buffy, Richie nodded toward the pair, then shrugged. "As far as I know, he's still there."

Giles gave him a funny look, and Richie tried not to wince. Suddenly thrown back to time spent in the principal's office, he knew something about what he'd said bothered Rupert Giles. **And who names a kid *Rupert* anyway? "You don't happen to be a teacher, or anything like that, do you?" he asked suddenly.

Buffy and Cordelia laughed.

Giles looked surprised, but his lips quirked upward. "Librarian, actually."

"That explains it."

"Explains what, exactly?" Giles asked. "Never mind," he continued, interrupting himself. "Let's take this back into the living room, and we can begin by you two telling me the truth this time."

"What?" Buffy asked, startled.

Richie aped a fish, but was distracted by the sudden feel of an approaching Immortal. Barely managing not to turn until he heard the knock at the door, he wondered if tonight could get any more complicated.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," Giles muttered and headed for the door.

Richie tuned out Doyle and Cordelia, concentrating on Buffy. He'd been upset enough at the, to him, unnecessary talk with Giles, adding two more in was just plain ridiculous.

"Oh, good," Giles said to whoever was at the door, "you're back. And Adam, you appear to be more . . . settled."

**Adam? No, that would be just way too much of a coincidence,** Richie thought. **Surely there's more than one Immortal who happens to go by the name Adam.**

"Yes, actually, I am."

**Okay, not *my* Adam.** Richie waited, on edge, as Giles backed up, ushering the newcomers in.

"Adam!" Richie exclaimed. **Too much of a coincidence?**


Richie blinked and turned toward the *very* blond man. "Do I know you?" he asked.


Richie was in shock. It was all too much to take in at once, and he was reminded -- frighteningly so -- of that fateful day he'd tried to rob an antique store and had, instead, got himself into the middle of an all too real sword fight. **Magic is *real*?**

"Please, tell me this is some elaborate joke," he begged, looking at the man everyone 'called' Spike -- the man he knew as Adam.

"I'm afraid not, Rich," the blond 'Adam' replied gently.

"Hey," Buffy said, a challenging grin on her face, "you aren't taking this very well . . . unlike someone I could name."

Richie's eyes widened. "That's not fair!" he exclaimed.

Buffy burst out laughing. "No, you're right, it isn't, but now you don't look quite so shocky anymore, either."

"What's she talking about?" 'Adam' asked.

Richie ducked, then shrugged. "Nothing much, really. We ran across a strange man with a sword earlier tonight. That's how we met -- me and Buffy, I mean."

"You're all right, though?" Angel asked quietly.

"Yes," she nodded, "it was a rather educational experience, however."

A heavy sigh from Giles had everyone looking in his direction. "I apologize in advance for this, Mr. Ryan, but personally, I'm just tired enough *not* to be overly concerned with the niceties. You are Immortal, correct? And Buffy stumbled across a challenge, yes?"

Richie closed his eyes in frustration. He *so* wanted to turn everything over to Methos--if he really knew which one was Methos/Adam--but knew the older Immortal would *never* forgive him for outting him like that.

"Yeah," he finally, reluctantly, admitted.

Exclamations came from several sources around him, and Richie couldn't say for sure who said what--except for Giles, who managed to get everyone to stop asking questions by the simple expediency of acting like a librarian. Richie shook his head. He really wanted to learn how to do that. There was no one he knew, well except maybe for school principals, who knew how to make everyone feel 12 years old again as well as librarians.

After everyone quieted, Buffy sighed. "Thank God!" she said, then turned to face Giles. "I'm sorry, Giles, but when Richard pointed out that it really was *his* secret to tell or not tell, and when you backed up his claim that Immortals weren't all evil, I kinda had to agree with him. Unfortunately, I never was much of a liar."

Giles' mouth twisted into an amused smirk. "For which I thank the stars on a regular basis, Buffy. And as to the other, I would normally agree whole-heartedly. However, there is so much going on here right now, we really don't have time to pussy foot around, trying to remember what lie was told to whom. For now, why don't you escort Mr. Ryan--"

"Rich or Richie, please."

"--escort Rich to the Sunnydale Inn. I have several questions for Adam and Spike, a few of which are quite personal. I'm sure everyone involved would prefer that they be asked with as few people present as possible."

Buffy jumped up from the couch, startling Richie. "I'm *so* on that, Giles. Personally, I'm just as happy to not be present for *those* questions myself," she said, already heading for the door. "You ready to get some sleep, Richard?"

Frowning in confusion, Richie rose. "Yeah, sure," he replied following slowly. "See you tomorrow, Adam?"

The blond Adam nodded.

"What questions?" he asked Buffy as she opened the door.

Buffy frowned and turned back toward Giles. "So what's he need to know?"

Giles slumped, then looked between him and Adam. "I suppose you'll be staying until things get sorted out for your friend?"

Richie nodded at the same time Adam spoke. "That won't be necessary, Rich."

Shrugging, he faced Adam. He still had a *lot* of trouble convincing himself that Methos aka Adam was inside that body. "I wouldn't feel right leaving until you're yourself again. You never know when you might need . . . help. Besides, I know two different people who would verbally flay me alive if I left while you were in this . . . predicament."

Adam rolled his eyes. "Save me from boy scouts and boy scouts-in-training."

Richie grinned. "I'll tell Joe you said that."

"I wasn't calling *him* a name," 'Adam' replied tartly.

"Oh, and you don't think he's perfectly capable of ripping me a new one if I left you here before everything was back to normal . . . well, as normal as it ever gets?"

A very familiar smirk spread across an unfamiliar mouth. "You've got a point. Okay," Adam sighed, "you can stay."

Richie mock bowed, flourishing one hand out to the side. "Thank you, oh Great One, for giving me permission to stay," he intoned dramatically.

Adam rolled his eyes. "Just get out of here and get some sleep -- Brat!"

**Now *there* is the Methos I remember!** Richie grinned, and turning toward his escort, he held out an arm. "Why don't we get out of here and leave the old fogies to their discussion?"

"Hey!" Cordelia exclaimed. "Watch who you're calling a fogy!"

Buffy laughed and slipped a hand into the crook of his arm as he nodded at Cordelia. "My sincerest apologies, milady," he replied.

All set to go, he grabbed his jacket, then frowned. "Now that this is all out in the open, umm, *way* out in the open, where's my sword?" he asked.

Buffy blushed and darted away. "Sorry 'bout that," she muttered as she disappeared down the hallway."

As he waited in the overly silent room, Richie resisted looking toward Methos for as long as he could. He just *knew* the Old Man was glaring at him. He turned. **Yep.** And for the first time tonight, he was glad of all the extra company. He was sure it was all that was keeping the older Immortal from giving him that height reducing speech about . . . 'you let someone *else* have your sword?'

Buffy returned only moments later, but to Richie it seemed she'd been gone *far* too long. She handed it to him, surprising him when she did so properly. It had even been cleaned, he was thankful to see.

Before he could put it away, however; Angel was on his feet and at his side. **Damn that man can move fast!**

"That looks like an incredible sword," he commented. "May I see it?"

Richie shook his head. "I'd really rather not," he demurred as he carefully placed it inside his jacket. Uncomfortable with all the intense scrutiny, Richie simply wanted his sword put up, and him out of there. "Under normal circumstances, an Immortal doesn't hand off his, or her, sword to anyone. Letting Buffy get a hold of it was, uh, done under very special circumstances."

Angel nodded and backed up a step, disappointment clear in his eyes. "Maybe some other time, then?" he asked.

Richie nodded and quickly escaped out the door before anything else could happen to stall him. He heard Giles speaking to the others before the door shut behind him.

"If that young man is going to be hanging around until we help Adam, he's bound to . . . see things."

Richie froze, turning back to face the closed door. "See things?" he muttered.

"So," Buffy said as she reopened the door a moment later, "we share secrets." She moved quickly to join him, smiling when she stopped by his side. "You wouldn't happen to be willing to train me how to use that pig sticker you've got, would you?"


"Well, now that the side show has ended," Spike bit out, "can we get things back on track here? I want my body back."

Chapter Eleven

Apparently *they*, him and Spike, were the reason the spell had gone awry. He almost grinned. *That* had disgruntled Spike no end. The ex-vampire had so badly wanted to blame the witch for their current problem. Of course, it still *was* her fault, but no one had bothered to mention it to the pouting Spike -- least of all the witch in question.

Then, it being as late as it was, it had been agreed that the discussion and research should be postponed until tomorrow. Neither he nor Spike had been happy about it, but both of them had known continuing with everyone so tired would be next to useless.

What he wanted to know, was what Willow had been trying to achieve with her spell. It hadn't gone unnoticed by him that both times Spike brought it up, the answer had been shunted aside by a quick question asked by someone else. First it had been Cordelia who'd done it, which Methos had written off since the girl seemed rather self-centered, and just the type to think her question more important.

The second time Spike had asked, Doyle was the one who'd diverted the conversation, asking where everyone was going to be staying for the night. Eventually, everyone had agreed that he and Spike should stay together through this, him especially. All he needed was for Spike to have a fatal run-in with another Immortal while they were still like this. He definitely didn't want to be stuck as a vampire for the rest of his existence. It was hard enough to fit in with the mortals around him as an Immortal. He couldn't imagine it being any easier with the additional limitations placed on vampires.

It had come as a complete surprise, given the amount of animosity flowing between the two of them for most of the night, when Angel virtually commandeered Spike, ordering the apparently younger man to stay with him at this run down home.

Spike and Angel had history, that much was painfully obvious, both in their interactions with each other and in how Angel sometimes started to react to him. That their shared history wasn't all pleasant was also very obvious. Methos had spent tonight alternating between amusement and irritation as he watched the two of them. Of course, watching *his* body do the interacting had been an experience he could have done without.

Spike, of course, had protested Angel's order vehemently. Angel hadn't listened. Well, truthfully, he had actually listened to what Spike was saying, he'd just countered every argument the ex-vampire used with one of his own. Then, when that still hadn't gotten Spike to budge, Angel had simply picked him up, flung him over his shoulder, and bodily carried him out of Rupert's flat.

Methos had reluctantly swallowed his own protests at that treatment when all it garnered from those still present was laughter, -- That was *his* body being manhandled like that! -- and followed behind those who were staying with Angel.

He nearly rolled his eyes. This *had* to be the single strangest situation he'd *ever* gotten himself into. He was seeing it, feeling it, living it, and he still wasn't sure he should believe it. He was only sure of one thing, when he finally ran into MacLeod again, he was going to give him a hearty apology for thinking, even for an instant, he was insane when he'd started 'seeing things'. Never again would he be so . . . blase about strange occurrences -- never.

In defense of his disbelief, it hadn't taken him long to figure out this entire group of people was absolutely insane. They had to be. In this modern era of science and technology, two of them were witches, one of them was 'The Slayer' complete with preternatural strength and speed. Two of them were vampires for crying out loud! One was a seer, like Cassandra, though evidently his visions came via horrendous headaches. And to top it all off, they supposedly used to count a werewolf among their number.

And all of them went out nightly to fight against creatures straight out of a child's nightmare. The whole thing definitely left him feeling completely out of sorts and befuddled. He certainly wasn't sure what he was supposed to believe.

And those books! Under other circumstances, Methos would have been fascinated by the ones lining Rupert's shelves and gracing the table in front of everyone, if only for their mythological value. There were a couple there actually written in languages he *didn't* know -- and many of them had seemed ancient.

He had access to books containing works he was sure most of the world had no clue even existed, and the Watchers would have salivated over, and instead of pouring through them, here he was, going quietly out of his mind. With the empirical evidence before him, or surrounding him actually, he had no choice but to believe the unbelievable, but it was . . . frightening, truth be told. What really got to him however, was his breathing, or rather the lack thereof.

The first couple of times he'd realized he wasn't breathing had sent him as close to panic as he'd been in a *very* long time. While his mind understood that this body didn't actually need to breathe . . . it was dead, after all. His heart -- his unbeating heart -- couldn't quite seem to accept it. After all, he *did* need to breathe. Not needing to . . . well, it just wasn't right.

He spun suddenly as someone entered the room in near silence. His unbeating heart jumped and twisted inside him, and it was only by sheer force of will that he was able to stop from launching himself at the intruder.

"Spike," he hissed.

"Yeah." Spike hesitated, then stepped forward. "You doing okay?"

Methos shook his head. "No," he ground out, "I'm not. I'm going slowly insane, actually. But, I could ask you the same question. . . ."

Spike shrugged. "Well enough, I suppose. Pissed off."

Methos snorted. "I hear that. I'm tired of being so angry. I don't like it."

"Well, like we said, that's the demon. Your soul should help with that part. Most of what the demon side of you wants, your soul should be pretty much repulsed by."

"You'd think so, wouldn't you." Silence fell between them as Spike moved up next to him. Neither of them interrupted it for long moments, though Methos could see that Spike was itching to. Finally, he turned toward his companion. "There's a lot you don't know about me."

Spike smirked. "I knew that . . . even before I found out you were Immortal."

"Now that I've been in your shoes a while, I can see why," Methos admitted wryly. "Let's just say that, a very long time ago, I wasn't a very nice person. I would have given any vampire a run for his money in the brutality department."

Spike studied him silently a moment, appraising him. "That would make it more difficult," he replied finally.

"Well, *that's* just about the biggest understatement I've ever heard," Methos retorted nastily.

"Bringing up old memories? Old buried habits?"

Methos nodded, grimacing. He was utterly certain of one thing only. He did not want this conversation to continue as it was -- so, he redirected it. "Angel spoke of 'regaining his soul'. Did he mean that literally? As in something called a soul actually left him when he was turned?"

Spike nodded. "The soul leaves the body at death, the demon takes possession and reanimates the corpse," he replied then frowned, staring pensively out the window.

Methos glanced at him questioningly, then laid a hand on his arm. "You don't seem the broody type," he prompted.

"Yeah, well, your question got me to wondering . . . worrying actually. It seems your soul is still with you, in there with my demon. So what's in here with me?"

Methos opened his mouth to answer, then snapped it shut as he realized he didn't know for sure. He was no expert on souls or demon possession. His memories? But without soul or demon to animate it, why was his body still functioning? Was it only because he was Immortal that this had worked at all? That didn't really answer all the questions though. "Your soul?" he offered questioningly.

"Bloody fucking hell!" he exploded, then his shoulders slumped. "I was afraid you'd say that." he continued more quietly, then spun on one heel and stormed out into the living room.

Methos followed, puzzled, not only by Spike's rather extreme reaction, but his own feeling of upset at the thought of Spike's soul being returned. Why should it bother him? And was it really Spike's soul in there -- if there really was such a thing? Or had they actually traded souls?

Methos shuddered. That *really* didn't bear thinking about.

"What bloody spell was Willow trying for?" Spike demanded of Doyle, stopping only inches from the Irishman.

"Spike, calm down," Angel snapped. "We don't know what the spell was supposed to be."

"Don't tell me to calm down, you bloody wanker!" Spike shouted, waving a hand back toward Methos. "He's got his soul in there. My demon stayed put. So, what the hell do I have in here, huh?"

Angel went silent, his mouth falling open. "Your soul," he whispered several moments later. He swiveled slowly to face Doyle, the only person in the room who had spent time with Willow while the other's had not been present.

Doyle cleared his throat and nodded self-consciously. "After we'd determined that Spike and Adam's actions during the spell casting would be the determining factors of what went wrong," he said, speaking directly to Angel, "we finally began discussing what the spell was meant to do. And apparently," he continued, casting a look toward Spike and Methos, "if they hadn't added sex and blood into the mix, it would have worked."

"What . was . the . spell . supposed . to . do?" Spike demanded again, stepping further into Doyle's personal space.

Methos almost moved forward, wanting to calm Spike down, but really couldn't blame him for being angry. Willow had tried to do something to him, without his permission. Methos knew *he'd* be pissed too, if their positions were reversed. He was angry enough just having gotten caught in the crossfire, so to speak.

"She said she was trying to help," Doyle offered softly. When Spike just glared challengingly, he continued. "It was a permanent soul restoration spell," he finished quickly, stepping backward.

Spike's angry, "The bloody bint, I'll kill her!" and Angel's whispered, "It would have worked?" sounded at the same time.

Methos looked from one person to the next. Everyone was stunned, but he could see Spike was the one about to lose it. He was right.

Spike launched himself toward the door, with Angel and Methos right behind him. Angel reached him first.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"I'm going to see that witch!"

"No you're not," Angel replied, beating Methos to it by a fraction of a second.

"I am too, you bleedin' ponce! That blasted girl's gotta learn to keep her spells to herself."

"I'm sure she has, Spike," Angel replied calmly. "She didn't mean this to happen. I'm sure--"

"Yeah, tell me another one! She didn't mean me and the slayer to bloody near get married either!"

"What?!" resounded loudly from three different directions, and Spike smirked.

"Yeah, the last time she cast a big spell, Giles went blind, Xander literally became a demon magnet, and the slayer and I were all set to get married."

Methos watched as Angel's eyes drew dark and Spike's smirk grew larger. **Angel and Buffy?**

"Yeah," Spike taunted, "took me weeks to get the taste of slayer spit out of my mouth."

Angel's arm swung, his fist connecting to Spike's jaw, sending the ex-vampire across the room. That was when Methos moved again.

"Hey!" he shouted, grabbing hold of Angel's arm, preventing him from going after Spike. "That's my body you're beating up!" Out of the corner of his eye he saw Doyle also move between Angel and Spike.

Angel took a deep breath and stopped trying to move toward the fallen Spike. Methos let go and rushed over to Spike to inspect the damage done to *his* body. Of course, no matter the damage, it would heal, but that was beside the point.

Spike was sitting up by the time Methos reached him, his hand held over his mouth and chin. Methos shuddered as the smell of freshly spilled blood assaulted his nostrils. He pulled back instantly, though part of him wanted nothing more than to lean forward and... His stomach rebelled -- kind of. He swallowed hastily, though he wasn't too sure whether it was to prevent nausea, or drooling.

Doyle strode into view, and reached down toward Spike. "I can help get you fixed up," he offered to Spike.

"Won't be necessary," Spike replied. Standing slowly, he made his way out of the room.

"So," Doyle asked after Spike disappeared, "anyone wanna tell me why he's not brooding about all the bad things he's done, if he's really gotten his soul back?"

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