yanagi_wa (yanagi_wa) wrote in bloodclaim,

Ulterior Motives 32

Finally! Sorry it took me so long.

Title: Ulterior Motives

Chapter: 32/?

Word count: 8459


Disclaimer:Except for the few original characters, all characters in this story are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy, who have kindly allowed me to play with them. These fan fictions were written for fun, not profit. However, this story does belong to me. Please don’t snitch it.

Warnings:Probably a little of everything. Fighting, Spanking, Bondage, Blood, Gore, Bad Language,

Parings: Spike/Xander

Beta: aayesha_r (due to last minute rewriting, all remaining mistakes are mine.)

Xander ordered the parts of the mural that he had marked to be over painted in eggshell. He was checking and cross checking his references carefully. He was going to do the mural himself, and he was going to make sure that it was right.

He hummed softly as he checked his list of colors. He was going to the strip mall he was familiar with. He had to get paints, and he wanted to look at the new Two Cherries tools again. He really had all the tools he needed, but he couldn't help looking. You could never have enough tools.

He turned and nearly ran into Spike. “Damn it! I swear I'm going to put a bell on you.”

Spike grinned, leered really, at Xander. “Where are you going, pet?”

“Hardware store and a quick drop in at a tool store right next door. Wanna come?”

“In more ways than one. But this'll do for now.” Spike gave Xander one of his more lecherous looks, grinning and running his tongue over his teeth.

Xander just grinned back. “Later. I've got plans for later. Can we take bikes? I want to ride that Harley you brought me home on.”

“Sure thing, pet, if you're qualified.”

Xander drooped a bit. “I don't have a license to drive a motorcycle.”

“Don't care about a license, now, do I? Can you ride?” Spike rolled his eyes in aggravation.

“Oh, yeah, I can ride. Uncle Rory taught me. So can we?”

“Sure, I said yes, didn't I?”

They laughed together then headed for the garage. Xander had to smile a bit. He was really looking forward to their ride.

“Oh, before I forget, Yakov said your first class is tomorrow at 4am. Don't be late.”

Xander just shrugged. “Ok. I just hope he doesn't kill me.”

Spike vamped before he even thought about it. “He better....”

Xander held up his hands in a surrender gesture. “Easy, easy. He won't. ‘Don't kill the students; they're payin' for the beans.’”

Spike shook his vampire face away. “Yeah, you're right. But don't say stuff like that; my demon doesn't like it.”

“Really? Why not? It's not like I believe it. He'll be rough on me, but that's fine. Rather a bruise from a friend than a stab from an enemy. Here's the garage; where's my bike?” Xander pushed the door open and stepped into the garage.

Spike followed him in and led the way to where the bikes were parked. They didn't see any attendants and that made Spike growl a bit. Xander hushed him, found the helmets and keys, and handed Spike his.

“Come on, let's go. Yell at the help later. I want to ride, and I need to get to the hardware store before it closes at 9pm.”

Spike looked at his watch and said, “It's going on seven now. Sundown isn't until 7:20 something.”

Xander sighed; the desert wasn't friendly, especially to vampires. Summer was the worst as the sun didn't go down until very late. He knew why they called it 'the city that doesn't sleep', but some days he wished it would. He liked riding a bike. He knew riding doubles with Spike was great, but he wanted to ride partners with him.

“Well, shit. That doesn't give me much time.” Xander started to put his helmet on the seat of the bike.

“Gives us plenty of time.” Spike grinned at Xander then pulled the full face helmet on; he slapped the face shield down, and Xander realized that it was mirrored. Spike pulled on gauntlets and was completely covered from head to toe. His leather pants tucked into his boots, and his jacket was mandarin-collared. It wasn't that unusual to see someone wearing full leathers, even in the desert heat. The night chill made them almost mandatory. And Nevada's helmet law made the full face common.

Xander put his own full face helmet on and mounted up.

They rode out in a staggered side-by-side formation, easing into traffic smoothly. Spike rode behind Xander for two reasons: one, he wanted to make sure Xander really knew what he was doing, and two, he wanted to look at his ass. He managed both without wrecking himself.

Xander led the way, knowing quite well exactly what Spike was doing. He vowed to follow Spike back; why should Spike be the only one to enjoy the view?

They reached the mall, parked the bikes, and ambled under the deep overhang. All the sidewalks were covered due to the hot sun of Nevada and were in heavy shade; in other words, Spike-safe.

“Nice, pet, you like this mall?” Spike pulled his helmet off and looked around.

“Yeah, I do. I used to come here after work, just to walk around and window shop. I found a store that specializes in woodworking tools. They've got some really nice stuff. Um....”

Spike laughed and announced, “You know I moved everything, including your shop.”

“Yeah, I haven't had time to do more than take a look. All that nice wood. Beautiful stuff. I want to work with it, but....”

Spike interrupted Xander, his sharp face bland. “Xander, if you want to do woodworking, just put it in your schedule and make it stick.” He eased one arm around Xander's waist. “Love, you're the boss, unless I say you're not.” He smirked at Xander who smirked back.

“Ok, I see. I think what I'll do is sit down with Mr. Dalton, Mr. Giles, and Master Chen ... oh, and Mr. Ptomkin. I'll have to figure out a schedule that'll allow me to do all the things I want to do as well as what I'm supposed to do. I'll give it to our secretary. Court is going to take a big, big bite out of my time.” Xander gave Spike a rather hopeful look.

“Can't do it. You have to hold your own court, or you'll never have the respect that you need to be my Consort.”

“Your what?” Xander gave Spike a blank look.

“Ask Giles about it. I'm crap at explaining that sort of thing. Where are we going?”

“There.” Xander pointed out the home store and headed that way. “I want paints to fix the mural and some sandpaper then I want to go to the woodworking shop and look at some tools.”

“I thought you had every tool known to man. Isn’t that enough?”

“Never. You speak sacrilege. A man can never have too many tools.”

Spike laughed and followed Xander into the store.

“And how are we going to get all this stuff back on bikes?”

Xander smirked over his shoulder. “They deliver.” He glanced around then pointed. “Over here.”

After he had spent nearly 45 minutes spent in consultation with a clerk, Spike was ready to drag Xander away by the ear. He had matched his colors and ordered his paints, given the man the address for the delivery, and was now picking out brushes and other supplies. Spike was bored. He glanced at his watch; they'd been there over an hour.

“Ready? I'm all done; they'll deliver it in the morning.” Xander grinned at Spike. “Bored, aren't you?”

“Yeah, nearly as interesting as watching the paint dry.”

Xander's fond gaze held Spike in place for a moment then he gave Spike a rather predatory look. “Too bad. I've got a visit to the woodworking store then....” He smirked, something Spike was glad to see he was getting very good at.

“Then what? What? Xander!” Spike glared in disbelief at Xander's retreating back. Xander just laughed and kept walking.

“Oi, evil git, you are. Wait up.” Spike hurried to catch up to Xander who just grinned at him and snagged his hand.

They wandered down the mall, gazing in windows and gossiping about various things. Finally Spike asked, “Hey, where's that store? I thought you said it was right next door.”

“It is... on the other side.” He shrugged when Spike gave him a mock annoyed glare. “I wanted to window shop.”

Spike mumbled something that sounded like, “Buy all the windows you want,” then snickered.

Xander ignored him in favor of looking at wood chisels. He had his eye on a special set of Two Cherries brand mini tools made especially for working with inlay and parquetry. He really wanted them, even though he had a nice set already.

“I want these and some good polish; I'm almost out of that. And there's a new kind of plane I want. And a finger rasp, and....”

Spike just laughed, cutting Xander off in mid-babble. “Get whatever you want. But... pet, what the hell is a finger rasp?”

Xander snickered; he knew what kind of images the name engendered in Spike's ever perverted mind. “It's a small scraper that fits on the end of one finger; makes it easy to get into tight places. Pervert.”

“You know it.” Spike replied proudly. “I'm a vampire, pet. What do you expect?”

Xander just swatted him on the shoulder and returned to his shopping.

Xander finished quickly, made arrangements for delivery, and turned to Spike. “I want to just ride. Can we do that? Just go?”

“Sure, any particular place? Or just ride?” Xander gave Spike a slightly disgusted look then nodded. “Just makin' sure, love. Think you'd like to cruise the Strip?”

Xander grinned and nodded. “That'd be great. It's dark enough now, let's go.”

So they mounted their bikes and roared away, headed to cruise the Strip for an hour or two.

Spike didn't need to see a watch; his senses made him aware of the hour in plenty of time to go back home.

They entered the garage in a surprisingly sedate way, Spike in the lead. They both knew the dangers of entering a dimly lit garage from a brighter area. Even with minimal lighting, the street lights had made it dangerously blinding. They eased down the entry ramp, the growl of the motors echoing off the walls.

Spike led the way into the bay where the bikes were all parked and eased the big machine onto its kickstand. He watched in appreciation when Xander did the same, unaware that doing this made his pants stretch across his backside in a very attractive manner.

“Xander, let's go up to the street level and just walk around a bit. What cha say?”

Xander tossed his helmet to a nearby mechanic and ran his hands through his hair, flipping the war locks behind his ears. “Sure. Sounds like fun. Maybe we can visit a buffet? I'm hungry.”

“Sure, pet, buffet, whatever. But we need to be in by... nine or so. I think Giles might arrange your meeting by then. I'll call and see.” Spike fished his cell phone out of his pocket as he walked and speed dialed their secretary.

When she answered, Spike asked her about the meeting; her reply was everything that Xander could have wanted. She said that Giles had arranged it for 3am so they had plenty of time to eat, spend some time together, and still not be late. Spike flatly announced that Xander was never late to a meeting. Xander gave him a slightly puzzled look, and Spike shrugged. “They wait on you, not the other way around. Never apologize for being late, even if it's hours after time. Got me?”

Xander favored Spike with one of his more ruthless looks. “I do. Over there.” He pointed to the buffet he was interested in. “Looks nice.”

“Ok. We should talk about your ideas for a schedule while we eat. Get some things straight in your head.”

Xander thought about that as they crossed the street. “Yeah, sounds like a good idea. Present them with a preliminary schedule, a starting point. But they're going to have to adjust their schedules to meet mine, not the other way around. I'm boss, and this is the way it is.”

“That's right. Good for you, you're thinking like a boss.”

Xander shrugged, making his leather jacket creak. “I am a boss. I ran a crew. I can do things no one else can. And I can beat the pants off most of the people Master Bruce puts me up against. I even got him once.”

Spike looked suitably impressed. “Can you now? That's good. Very good. Here.” Spike handed Xander a tray with a package of utensils on it.

They made their way down the line, pointing out what they wanted. Spike was happy to see that Xander picked a well balanced meal, a bit heavy on meat, but he was still way too skinny so Spike didn't say anything.

Xander found them seats and settled with his back to a wall. “This looks really good. I bet Timmins is glad we live in Vegas now. He was always having to cook for me. This gives him time to himself. Bet that's nice for him.”

Spike sipped his coffee for a moment. “Don't think so. He's been a servant all his life and unlife. He likes serving us for some reason or other. I think he gets bored when we're not around to manage. He's been grumbling about nothing to do for days now.”

Xander thought about that for a few bites. “Oh, well... never thought of it that way. I guess we're really lucky to have him then. And I won't feel guilty about asking him to get me a wardrobe worthy of my station. I need suits, and I'm shit at picking them. Mom always said that I look like a mortician.”

“Well, it's better than looking like an escapee from the 70's. Look.” Spike nodded his head sideways.

Xander looked carefully in the direction that Spike indicated. He was amused to see two men in polyester suits standing in the doorway. They were looking right at Spike with sneers on their faces.

“What's that about?”

Spike sighed. “Not sure, but it's not going to be fun. For anyone.”

Xander just returned to eating, mumbling around a mouthful, “If they come over here, I hope their insurance is paid up. Spoil my dinner and see what you get.”

Spike sighed again. “Looks like they're headed this way.”

Xander just put his fork down and stood up.

He met the men halfway between their table and the door. Spike followed after, frowning.

Xander just stood waiting for someone to say something. Finally, one of the men cleared his throat and snapped, “You're the new boss of Vegas? We were expecting someone a bit older. We need to talk.”

Spike stepped back to let Xander handle this himself. He didn't recognize the men; he didn't need to. They were dumb muscle and not much more. He also wondered who was stupid enough to send men like this to Xander.

Xander looked at one man then the other. He decided that, as they were real humans, he'd give them the benefit of the doubt. “Ok, talk. Come to our table, I want to finish my dinner.”

He turned around just in time to see Spike stop a bus boy from taking their plates which pissed him off. He plopped rather inelegantly into his chair and picked up his fork again.

“Ok, you nearly lost me my dinner so I'm not in the mood for small talk. What do you want?”

One of the men looked at the other then snapped, “I don't want anything; my boss wants a meet.”

The other man just rubbed his face with one hand then asked, “Are you a pet, thrall, Companion, or what?”

Xander looked at Spike for the answer to that. “He's a Companion now. He started out as a thrall, but he's had enough of my blood to be a Companion.” Xander gave Spike a wide-eyed look at that comment. “An' don't look at me like that. You are, get over it.”

Xander grinned and continued eating.

“Well, both of you look damned young to me.”

Spike snarled, “I'm over a hundred. What do you want?”

“Our boss wants a meet with the Master of Las Vegas. Come on, we'll take both of you to him.”

Xander snorted. “He wants a meet, he can petition like everyone else. I'll meet with him when he makes an appointment to come to me and not before. Get up and leave.” He stayed calm, which impressed Spike. He gave both men looks that made them get up and do as he said.

“Well, that went well. Wonder who they were from.” Spike poked at his now cold food.

“Don't know, don't care. They can all come to me or go to hell, don't care which. And since when, exactly, am I a Companion instead of a thrall?”

Spike shoved his plate away and shrugged. “Since about a week ago. You've gotten enough of my blood now to make your status change. Mad?”

“No, not mad, just... I wish you would tell me stuff like that. I hate finding out the details from a third party, and that includes Giles.” Xander finished his food and got up. “Come on. I'm tired of talking with my mouth full. Let's go home.”

They looked out the window and decided it was too busy to walk back across the street. Spike led Xander into the basement, dodging the few people who might object, and led the way to a series of tunnels that got them back across the street; they found themselves in one of the service areas near the residence. Spike pointed the way to the elevator down to the residence.

Xander leaned against the wall of the elevator in a snit.

“What is it?” Spike put his arm around Xander's waist and tucked one hand into his belt.

“Just... Do you really think anyone is going to let me be master of anything?”

“No, I don't.” Xander gave Spike a tired look. “No one is going to let you do much of anything in this world. You make them suck it up and take it. You rule by ruling, not by waiting for permission.”

Xander gave Spike a thoughtful look then nodded. “Ok, I get that. So... I just tell them like it is and make it stick?”

“Yup. And how you make it stick is your business. I'll help if you need it, but you have to ask.”

Xander grumbled something in a sour tone and sort of stomped out the elevator door. Spike followed with an amused smirk pointed at Xander's back.


Spike watched Xander as he padded quietly down the ramp to the gardens. He noticed that Xander checked the patches of blank wall, touching them with a finger.

“What's that all about?”

”Just checking.” They went back up the ramp, heading toward their private quarters. “If the paint is dry enough, I'll be able to fix this. Tomorrow, I think. Or day after. Depending on one thing and another.” Spike had to snarl a bit; he'd been had and he didn't like it. “Ok, Mr. Cranky Pants, I'll deal with your cheater. I'm Master of Las Vegas; I'll call him on the carpet and get to the bottom if this.” Xander opened the door of their private quarters and pulled Spike through it. “After I get to your bottom.”

Spike let out a little whimper; this was only the beginning of his penalty. He was looking forward to what Xander had planned now. The boy had an imagination that just didn't quit. And he had endurance. Spike knew that it was due to his blood, but that didn't make it any the less pleasant.

“Spike, come here.” Spike scurried to do what Xander asked. He didn't care that it was undignified, nor that he was obeying his Companion; all he cared about was the fact that they were going to share some mind blowing sex.

Xander pulled Spike into his arms and carried him to the bed. Spike snickered into his neck, but didn't protest. Xander tossed Spike in the general direction of the bed and let him manage to land on it for himself; he wasn't some fainting damsel who couldn't take care of himself. Spike yelped once then swore at Xander in a genial sort of way.

“Oi, asshole, watch what you're doin'. I could have gotten a bruise.”

Xander leaned into the bathroom just far enough to grab a towel. “Sure you could. But you didn't. Quit whining.” He tossed the towel down on the bed and flopped on top of it. He reached over and started tearing Spike’s clothing off. Spike didn't bother to protest as Xander was tearing his own off, too.

Spike laughed happily; things were working out a lot better than he thought they would. After his mistake in losing his temper, he thought Xander would be put off of him for a while. He hadn't counted on Xander's great heart and loving forgiveness. He was really enjoying his punishment much more than he'd anticipated. Xander was a gentle and considerate lover and just kinky enough that Spike was kept wondering what was coming next. He didn't mind that as long as he was coming, sooner or later.

Xander tossed the last of their clothing onto the floor and ran a hand over Spike's belly. It was hard and smooth. “Mmmm, nice. Pretty vampire.”

Spike blinked for a second, distracted by what Xander's hands were doing. “Oi!! Not pretty! 'M not a bint!”

Spike's indignation made Xander snicker.

“No, you're most certainly not a bint. I think.” Xander grinned at Spike and continued to rub circles on his stomach. “What's a bint?”

“A girl, you git!” Spike started to say more, but Xander's hand reached its goal, and he forgot what he was going to say. When Xander's sword-calloused hand closed over his erection, his brain went out the window. All he could do was hold his breath, not that he needed to breathe, and wait to see what would happen next.

Xander leaned down and licked the head of Spike's cock. He nearly exploded right there and then. “No coming until I tell you you can.”

“Xanderrrrrr.” Spike's whine made Xander snicker with Spike's cock in his mouth. Spike nearly came just from watching this.

Xander wrapped his hand around the base of Spike's cock and squeezed gently, laughing slightly as Spike moaned. Spike decided that he was going insane; how the hell could Xander snicker and laugh with his mouth full?

Xander continued to torment Spike, licking and sucking him, until Spike could only moan and wriggle under the assault.

He finally broke, whimpering in surrender, “Xan, pet, do something. Anything. I'm losin' my mind here.”

Xander grinned cheerfully at Spike, making him glare. “Ok, roll over. On your knees.”

Spike rolled over and presented himself. Xander sighed, “You're so... if I say beautiful will you laugh at me?”

“No. But 'm not beautiful. I'm a man. I'm handsome.” Spike glowered over his shoulder. “You gonna do something, or just look.”

Xander smacked Spike on the buttock, making him yelp. “Yeah, I'm going to do something.” Xander picked up the lube from where he'd tossed it and popped open the top. The soft popping sound made Spike shiver.

“Ok, this is cold. Give me a sec.” Xander held the lube for a moment to warm it a bit then he smeared some on himself and the rest on Spike. “You need prep?”

Spike snapped, figuratively and literally, “Damn it, what the hell am I, some sort of... just fuck me already.”

Xander just slid one finger into Spike. “I'm not going to hurt you. You never hurt me. So, prep.”

Spike nearly snarled in frustration; he was hard, ready, willing, and pissed. “Damn it.”

Xander snatched his finger out and lined up. “Ok, Ok. Grumpy.”

One steady push and Xander was seated in Spike up to the hilt and easing back out again. Spike just groaned, “Oh, god,” and waited. He didn't have to wait long; Xander started a steady, slow thrusting that dragged the head of his erection over nerves that sent sparks up Spike’s spine and into his brain. All Spike could do was kneel and enjoy, a lot.

Xander kept up his motions, groaning softly, “Oh, man. Spike, you feel sooooo good. Fuck.”

Spike started rocking to meet each thrust, making Xander see stars. Xander grabbed Spike and flipped him, pulling out and jamming back in easily. Spike just grunted once and pulled his legs up to his chest. Xander leaned over and braced himself on the mattress, one hand on either side of Spike's head. Their eyes met and Xander grinned, “Nice vampire.”

“Fuck, Xander; fuck now, talk later.”


A few seconds later Spike groaned, “Let me come. Please? I'm about to lose my mind.”

Xander gritted his teeth to keep from moaning then said, “Come when you're ready.”

Spike slid his hand down his belly and grasped his erection; stroking quickly, he brought himself to completion. Xander felt the convulsions as Spike clenched around him and came as well.

They collapsed in a sweaty, happy heap on the mattress and rolled apart. Xander scrabbled for the towel, found it, and wiped himself off. He handed Spike the towel, and Spike scrubbed himself down, too. He turned to say something to Xander and found him out cold.

Spike gave him an indignant poke which produced nothing more than a grunt. “Oi, ya better not snore.” Xander mumbled, rolled over, and started snoring. “Damn it.” Spike rolled the other way and tried to go to sleep, too.


Timmins smiled to himself; he knew both Spike and Xander and knew that they would be hungry in no time. He started fixing them something to eat. He liked it that his master ate. It made Timmins happy that he could do more to please Spike than just care for his clothing and keep the residence clean. It seemed more personal somehow to fix real food, not just warm up some blood or make sure that the new member of the stable was clean and sober. He hummed a bit as he put out pork and vegetables. He was going to fix a stir-fry; with everything ready, he could cook on a moments notice. The rice would hold in the cooker for several hours. He doubted it would be done before Xander woke hungry and woke Spike up, too.

He'd spent years, decades even, doing nothing but hiding bodies and putting out clothing. It was more than boring. Now he had two bright young things to train and take care of. Spike wasn't easy to manage, but he could do it when it was really necessary. Xander on the other hand didn't need managing; he was open to suggestion and ready to listen. Timmins smiled again. Yes, life, unlife, what ever you called it, was very good.

He heard foot steps in the bathroom and put on the rice. His masters would be in very soon. They were going to be hungry and impatient. He started chopping onions, adding the chopped bits to the already prepared stuff. He paused to listen to the shower; it was running full blast, and he could hear Xander yelling at Spike for using all the towels. He could also hear Spike laughing and the rustle of towels being tossed. He turned on the kettle for the tea.

It was only a few minutes until both Spike and Xander wandered into the room. They flopped into chairs and gave Timmins identical hungry looks. He just put tea in front of both of them and turned to check on the rice.

It was done enough that he could start the stir fry and have the rice come out ready at the same time. He listened to Spike explain what he wanted for court while he cooked the meat for the stir fry.

Xander finished his tea and poured himself another cup. He checked the pot then added more water to it. Timmins nodded to show that he had seen this. Xander grinned at him and reached around him to try to snatch a bit of carrot. Timmins smacked him on the hand.

“Ow! Evil man.” Xander gave Timmins his best pout.

“I'll ride to town on that lip. Hands off the food. The stir fry will be done in just a few minutes.”

Spike laughed softly. “Guess he told you, pet. Come sit down.”

Xander sighed dramatically. “Damn. And here I was with a taste for carrot.”

Spike rolled his eyes. 'You know that pout doesn't work on me.”

“Much. Don't fool me a bit, you.” Xander poured Spike another cup of tea and put the pot aside.

Timmins smiled at the teasing. His boys were doing well. He was happy.

“Here. It's done. I'll put it in bowls with chopsticks?” They both nodded and leaned back so that Timmins could put the bowls in front of them.

Spike tasted the ginger pork and vegetables; it was spicy without being aggressive; the pork was just done and the vegetables were crisp-tender and perfect. “Mmmm, great. Timmins, you're a real treasure.”

Xander just nodded, he was too busy stuffing his face to talk; besides, Timmins had rules about table manners, and he might take away dessert.

Spike grinned at Xander; this punishment was turning out to not be so bad. “Xander? I really think I need to know where this is going. I'm all off balance; not that I'm not enjoying this, but....”

Xander pulled Spike out of his chair and onto his lap. “Ok, here's the deal. I'm treating you the way I want to be treated. You have some of the worst examples I've ever heard of.” He pouted slightly. “I still don't see why you won't let me stake Angel, or at least annoy him to death. You need really good role models to follow. Not that I'm an expert, but you get the drift?”

Spike pressed his forehead to Xander's. “Yeah, I get the drift. Completely. Here's my say. You're now my Companion; the blood exchanges have already completed the process.”

Xander didn't even flinch; he was much smarter than anybody gave him credit for and had already figured out what Spike was up to. “Ok. But that means you're my Companion, too, doesn't it?”

“Yeah. Mad?”

“Crazy mad, for you. More tea?” And just like that, the one thing Spike thought would send Xander into a tail spin was said and done with.

He accepted the tea and cake and returned to his seat, congratulating himself on dodging that bullet.

They were just finished with their meal when a high level minion stuck his head around the door, looking a bit puzzled at finding the two masters eating in a kitchen. “Excuse me. There's some trouble in one of the casinos; they want the Master of Vegas to come sort it out.”

Xander sighed and pushed away from the table. “How bad is it?”

“It's not bad, as in, no fight. But they would appreciate you getting there within the hour.”

“Ok. Timmins, set me out a suit. Something impressive, expensive, and... not too flashy.”

“Yes, sir. At once.”

Xander nodded. “I'll be picking out weapons. Spike? Advice?”

“Gun, big. Knife, easily hidden, where you can get to it quick. Bigger knife, also easy to get to. No sword. Maybe some pins, or something like that.”

“Thanks. I'll be ready in twenty minutes.”

The minion gulped; the sweetly smiling boy had just turned into something very scary. He nodded to the Master Vampires and the Master of Las Vegas and got out, going to wait by the door.

Xander went into the small armory they kept in one of the unused bedrooms and picked his weapons. He liked a common Taurus 9mm with a seventeen shot magazine. He inserted one and pulled back the slide, chambering a round then flicked the safety on. He also picked a simple chest harness and attached a sheath for his larger knife on the side opposite of the holster. He found a set of throwing pins and an arm band to hold them. He rechecked his choices and satisfied, he went to see what suit Timmins had chosen for him.

Timmins had chosen a Botany 500 suit of simple cut with a slightly nipped-waist jacket. This cut made it easy to hide a shoulder harness; and he remembered being measured for harness in Sunnydale. Timmins was always ordering him new suits; he assumed the same measurements were used for the suits and other garments that had appeared in his closet. The dark chocolate brown suit looked good combined with the soft soled shoes and bronze tie. His shirt was a lighter shade of brown linen and fit properly across his shoulders.

By the time Timmins was done fussing, he looked impressive, masculine, imperious, and ready for anything. Timmins brushed off his shoulders, straightened his tie, and told him, “You are now perfect. Don't mess with anything. Straightening your tie is a sign of discomfort or unease, don't do it. If it's crooked, just leave it. Now, go.”

Xander walked out the door, through the living area, and motioned to the minion to go first. “How far is it?”

“Just down the block. About five minutes walk. Master Spike told me to tell you that he was going out. I think he wants to be there without anyone else knowing.”

“I'm sure you're right. Don't look for him when we get there. You won't find him, and it'll clue the trouble makers in that I have back up. When we get there, introduce me to whoever I need to know then get lost.”

The minion shivered in relief. “Yes, master, thank you.”


Xander eyed the small, grey-skinned demon for a moment. “So, you're telling me that you have a problem with humans that know about us coming in and tearing up the place, and you can't do anything about it? Why not?” He wasn't going to lose his temper with this demon. He was some sort of prince or something. The introduction he'd gotten was less than good. “And explain to me again who you are exactly. Minions don't do introductions well.”

“Ah, no wonder you're confused. I am Prince Luspras of the Emrom. We are peaceful types, merchants and providers. We don't do well with violence. We have a contract with the Master of Las Vegas, whomever he is, to take care of things like this, especially with humans. Please.”

Xander nodded. “I see. So, you want me to make them go away? Or do they owe you money?”

“Both. We have the money. That's the problem; they want it back. They claim we cheated them.” He managed to look indignant and a bit angry without actually changing expression. “We don't cheat. We don't need to. Too many fools are ready to throw money our way without the work of cheating.”

Xander nodded. “Ok, didn't think you were cheating, but it's nice to hear. So... I'll just go down and see about things. Um... how much damage are you willing to put up with?”

“As much as it takes. Our reputation for handling our problems has suffered enough. I don't care if you kill them, just get our peace back.”

Xander nodded. He didn't wonder why he was doing this instead of hired muscle; he was well aware that it was a test.

Xander watched for a little while as the humans just made pests of themselves, taking drinks off the hostesses’ trays, pushing people around, and generally acting like punks.

He walked out of the observation room and into the casino proper. He looked around for a moment and realized that most of the demons in the room were peaceful sorts. The few who were not, the punks were avoiding very carefully; in fact, one actually gave a drink to a frowning, horned demon. Xander didn't recognize his kind.

After checking for exits and impediments to free movement, Xander decided that the best place to confront the group was in the blackjack pits. This casino had all the tables arranged around a large open space where the pit bosses and a few others stood or walked around, keeping an eye on the various games. It was perfect as the group insisted on jumping the velvet ropes and crossing the room through that customer forbidden area.

Xander went to the floor walker and told him to close down the tables. The demon didn't argue; he knew who Xander was. He just told the pit bosses to close the tables. There was a bit of grumbling, but not as much as Xander expected. All the gamblers just got up and walked away, gathering their chips and dispersing.

Xander watched the punks for a while more, waiting for them to notice that the blackjack tables were empty. He had to laugh when they did. The looks on their faces was one of total blank puzzlement. He wondered if they had enough brains to understand what was going on.

The group of punks jumped the velvet rope and started through the pit. Xander stepped into their way and just stood there. The inevitable happened; they got into Xander's face.

“Hey! Move! You're blockin' the way.”

Xander stood fast and just looked at the man. Another of the men changed direction and tried to back his buddy up. This put Xander, at 6'2” and not quite 260 lbs facing two men of 6' plus and around his same weight. The mismatch wasn't as obvious as it should have been.

One of the men took an amateurish swing at Xander. Xander caught his fist in one hand.

“You really shouldn't have done that.” The sound of the man's hand breaking couldn't be heard beyond a few feet away unless you were some sort of demon, but his scream of pain was heard all over the room.

The other man leapt to his companion's aid, only to find himself sailing across the velvet rope. He landed in the clear area between the rope and some slot machines. He didn't get up again.

This caused a bit of a disturbance in the watching crowd; a large demon jumped over the rope and charged Xander. Xander sighed slightly; trust some idiot to just want in on the fight. The demon met Xander's number nine, actually about a size 10 ½ , square on, right in the face. He bellowed and fell back a step. Xander followed up with a couple of quick jabs to the ribs and an uppercut left that lifted the demon off his feet and dumped him on his butt. There was polite applause from the crowd. Xander looked for his next opponent.

It didn't take long for the next one to throw himself into the fight, and all of two seconds for him to have a broken arm. Xander just grabbed him by the fist he'd swung and twisted sharply. The loud snap and scream didn't even make him blink.

Xander looked around for his next opponent and found that he was alone in the pit. The other punks had run out on their companions and disappeared. There was more polite patter, and it was all over.

Xander nodded to the pit boss who opened the tables again. Xander was proud that he hadn't made much mess. He straightened his tie, even though Timmins had told him not to. He wasn't going to go around with the knot that far off center.

The owner, Prince Luspras, approached him bowing gracefully. “Thank you so much for handling this in such a timely manner.”

“You're welcome. But the next time you call me to handle something that your security could do, I'm not going to be pleased. Do we understand each other?”

“Yes. But this is going to comfort many people. People who've felt... abandoned by their rulers. You do see my point?”

Xander thought about that for a moment then nodded. “I do. But I do not do well in tests. Remember that. And there is the old human tale of the boy who cried wolf. Yes?”

“Ah.” The demon nodded, smiling slightly. “There is that. Would you care for a drink before you go?”

Xander shook his head. “No, I'm not of age yet.”

One of the servers approached with a tray on which was an assortment of drinks, alcoholic and non; Xander took a glass of iced tea and sipped at it.

“If you will come this way. I'll show you out by the underground. And, again, thank you for coming so quickly. My people will offer tribute as usual.”

Xander nodded. “That's good.” Xander gave the prince a bland look that didn't fool him for a second. “Nice that I don't have to come back. Here, and thanks for the drink.” Xander handed the prince his glass and walked into the tunnel that led back home.


Xander entered the residence from the side door and went to his gardens; he needed to walk in the soothing, blooming place. He didn't mind fighting; he'd been fighting all his life, one way or another. What bothered him was that it was just so stupid this time. The human men were bullies and idiots, not worthy of his time. And he hated being tested.

“Oi, pet. You have a scowl on your face that'll wilt the flowers. What's up?”

“It was a test. I don't like tests at the best of times; this was really annoying. So. I've got a meeting with Giles and Tom, soon. I better go get changed, then I have to meet Yakov. I hate wasting my time on stuff like this. Hug?”

Spike wrapped Xander in his arms and nuzzled into his hair. “Sorry about that, pet, but best over as soon as possible. Now they know that you'll come if they really need you. Trust you made a show of it?”

“No, I'm not showy like you are. I just handled business and came home. I want to walk.” Xander just started off; Spike let go of him and walked beside him.

“Ok, are we going anywhere special or just wandering?”

“Just wandering. I wonder if I could... this harness doesn't fit quite right. It's binding me under my left arm. I think I'll send it back and have it reworked.” Xander jumped when a minion appeared like magic from somewhere and held out a hand for the harness. Xander stripped off his jacket and the harness, handed the harness to the minion, and put his jacket back on. “Take that to Timmins and tell him that it chafes me. Have him send it back and get it adjusted. And be very polite to him; if I hear that you've snubbed him or anything, I'll stake you. Got me?”

The minion nodded, glancing at Spike. Spike just shrugged. “He'll just stake you. I'll make you beg for it. Go.” The minion scurried off.

They walked for a while more then Xander sighed. “I better get back. I've got that meeting with my tutors and then Yakov. No sense putting it off.”

“Put it off if you want. You're my Companion; if you don't want to, don't.”

“I don't, but I want to learn, so I gotta. I better get going before I do chicken out. See you. Kiss.” Spike answered that demand with pleasure and kissed Xander until he had to draw back to breathe.


Giles looked up when Xander entered the room in a suit.

“I think I'm late. I had a little something to take care of all of a sudden.” Xander sat down at the head of the table and waited.

Tom fussed with some papers for a bit then sighed. “I'm not sure how much you understand about your condition so I'm going to start from the beginning; if you know this, we'll go on.”

Xander sighed. “I have no idea what the hell the problem is. I was tested in Sunnydale, and the counselor told my parents that I was slow. Not an idiot, but near. He also told them that I just didn't apply myself. That I could do the work, if I'd just pay attention. I'm the 'runs with scissors' boy.”

Giles just sighed. “I read his permanent record, and I must say, I've never read a more depressing document in all my days. They gave up on him before he had a chance. His tests were done in....” Giles consulted a file, “third grade and followed him like a curse. I'm not impressed. So... Mr. Dalton, what do you recommend?”

“Tutoring. Reading and writing. Math. His language skills are... excellent. Understatement there. It's a simple matter of retraining.” He held up a hand. “I said simple, not easy. It's mostly going to be drill. But you'll see results equal to effort. I promise. We set up a schedule that will allow you to do everything you need to do. It's very near the preliminary one you left with your secretary. I understand that you're going to be training with Mr. Ptomkin?” Xander nodded. “We have allowed plenty of time for that.” He slid the sheet of paper over the table to Xander.

Xander took his time looking over the paper carefully. “Ok, there's no conflict that I can see. You've left time for everything. And time for me to do nothing. Very good. Are we going to start on Monday?”

“Yes, Mr. Giles and I both thought that it would be a good idea. That gives you time to consult with Mr. Ptomkin.”

“Ok, and Yakov is going to take up a bunch more time than you think. And Sefu Bruce needs time with me, too. I'm not going to skimp on training. Giles, you know better than most how important that is. Don't over load me with homework; I really don't have time for it. And don't forget, Spike has first call on my time; he yells, I come.”

Giles nodded. “Of course. But you won't be having much homework. The thing that will help you the most is drill work. We'll be doing a lot of that. And you need several pair of glasses. I've made arrangements for you to have your eyes examined and proper glasses made, if that meets your approval. It won't take long.”

Xander nodded. “These glasses help a lot. I don't have time to go to an optometrist until next week. We might take my first class period to do that.”

Tom nodded. “That will be acceptable. I've got all the books we need and all the materials, too. So all we have to do is get started. Monday will be good. Start a schedule on a Monday, and it usually works out. So, questions?”

Xander thought for a moment. “No, not yet. Giles, anything?”

“Not really. Do you have a preference for the next tune you want to learn?”

Xander grinned. “Malaguena.”

“That's very difficult, but if you're sure?” Giles smiled.

“I'm sure I want to try. If that's all?” Tom nodded, as did Giles. “Then, I better go change and see what torture Yakov has planned for me.”


Xander changed quickly and headed for the dojo. He was really anxious to take up his training again. He knew he was just going to make it, if he ran. Minions and fledges pressed themselves to the walls as he charged by. No one wanted to get in his way; they were all afraid that he'd just run them down, and they were right.

“Sir, I'm sorry I was nearly late. I had a few too many things to take care of.” Xander panted.

“Well, I heard about the fight in the casino. I got the tapes. I'll go over them later and give you a critique. Now, I want you to show me what you remember.”

Xander nodded and went to the middle of the mat. He didn't have to wait long; the attack came almost immediately. He ducked the punch and rolled the man over his shoulder and almost off the mat. Yakov frowned. The next man got a kick in the solar plexus that left him gasping. Xander whirled and punched the last man, knocking him off his feet. Yakov just smiled a bit.

“Ok, good, good. You haven't forgotten anything. I'm pleased. Next we learn knife fighting.”

Xander just shrugged his gi into place again and settled himself, squaring his stance and grounding himself.

Yakov went to the rack and picked up a dummy knife. It looked like a real knife, but it left a blue line instead of a cut. It could bruise or raise a welt, but it couldn't cut.

“Treat this like a real knife at all times. I don't want you developing bad habits. Your opponents will all be demons or fledges with enough brains not to hurt you too badly. Do not expect me to coddle you anymore. You've had enough rest; now you're going to learn everything I can teach and learn it well. Any questions?”

Xander thought for a moment. “No, none yet. I reserve the right to ask questions.”

Yakov grinned. “Good, good. And you're going to keep working with Bruce, I take it?”

Xander nodded. “Yes, I like working with both of you. I like the challenge. But I do have to be a bit careful of my hands. Woodworking, writing, playing guitar; they all take whole hands.”

“Yes, I remember. I'm not senile yet.”

Yakov showed Xander moves, both attack and defense, and Xander practiced them. They wound up working for over two hours. When they stopped they turned to find Spike, Master Bruce, Bud, and Giles watching them. Xander sighed; this meant that he wasn't going to get back to the office anytime soon then he realized that it didn't really matter. He was the boss and he could come in anytime he wanted, or not at all. He settled on a zafu with his water and waited for the critique to start. This was going to be good.


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