“Oh dear,” Giles murmured, staring down at the leather bound book in his hands.
“I don’t like that phrase,” Buffy complained, looking up from her own dusty book.
“Hmm, oh yes,” Giles stammered, looking up at her. “There’s a prophecy here that’s due to happen anytime now.”
“Any time,” whimpered Buffy. “What’s it about?”
“The time will come when one must pay for the price of many, one,
For the price of one, none.
Time will pass on Raven’s wings
Listen as the Cuckoo sings.”
“Does that make any sense?” Willow asked, her fingers racing over her laptop’s keyboard.
“Not to me,” Xander muttered, flipping another page.
“Are you sure it’s happening soon?” Buffy asked plaintively.
“Yes, it was confirmed using the Antikythera mechanism,” Giles told her.
“It doesn’t matter, it’s just right,” Giles snapped.
“Fine, we’ll go scouting and see if anyone knows anything about this,” Buffy said, standing up. “Willow, come on.”
Xander watched them leave, an odd look on his face. He shook his head and went back to flipping through his book, pushing the fact that they ignored him once again out of his mind. After a few minutes he found something and began laughing.
“What is it, Xander?” Giles said exasperated.
“I think I found your prophecy, Giles,” he snickered, pushing over the book.
Giles picked up the book and stared at the pictures on the page. “I think you are right, Xander,” Giles smiled.
“Are we going to tell them?” Xander asked.
Giles lifted an eyebrow. “No, not at this moment.”
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Buffy and Willow walked wearily back into Giles’ apartment, flopping down on the couch.
“No one knows anything about this prophecy,” whined Buffy. “We even stopped to beat up Spike.”
“Oh well, then,” Giles sighed. “Perhaps you should head home and we’ll try again tomorrow.”
Smiling their thanks, Willow and Buffy headed off to their dorm, leaving Xander and Giles at Giles’. Once the door closed behind them, Xander started laughing again, nearly falling off the chair he was sitting on.
“Are you ever going to tell them?” he managed to gasp.
“With the way they’ve been acting lately,” Giles scoffed. “I think we can let them hang for another day.”
Xander stood up and moved over to hug Giles. “You are the best!”
“And I love you too,” Giles smiled, placing a soft kiss on Xander’s lips. “We’ll give it a few days and then tell them.”
“Bed now?” Xander breathed a kiss across Giles’ lips.
“Bed now,” Giles agreed, pulling the younger man along.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“Giles, we still don’t know anything about this prophecy,” Buffy said, pushing the book in front of her away.
“Actually,” Giles disagreed, “we do.”
“What?” Buffy and Willow gasped.
“We’ve known about he prophecy and what it is about for a few days now,” he said absently as he made himself some tea.
“A few days?” Willow echoed.
“Yes, Xander found it,” Giles smiled at his lover.
“Xander? But Xander never finds anything,” Buffy exclaimed.
“Actually, Buffy, Xander has found several key pieces of information in the past,” Giles said coldly. “Only Willow and you never noticed. Because of your willful blindness, you have spent the past several days searching for something that has already happened.”
“It happened?” Willow echoed again, looking around confused.
“Yes, Willow, it happened.”
Giles tossed something down on the table in front of them. Both girls leaned over to read the print and see the pictures.
Valley Shoes Sale – Three Pairs of Shoes for the Price of One.
Kitten to a good home – free.
New Raven wear – Watches, ties and hats.
Sunnydale’s Newest Band – Cuckoo playing tonight at the Bronze.
“Xander found it in event/classified column of the Sunnydale Times,” Giles said softly. “Mostly since neither of you deemed him worthy of reading a real book.”
“I’m sorry, Giles,” Willow said softly.
“It’s not me you have to apologize too,” Giles told her. “And Xander has already said he won’t be by for a while.”
“Why not?” Willow asked.
“He’s in the middle of moving and doesn’t have the time to bother with you,” Giles said walking away.
“Moving?” Willow echoed, looking over at Buffy who shrugged.
Tara watched her girlfriend mix the potion ingredients together haphazardly with a wince. She was well aware that the spell wasn’t going to work the way Willow wanted, and would more than likely rebound on the witch, but she couldn’t find the words to warn the redhead. Every bit of magic Willow did went further and further toward the wrong side of the equation and Tara hoped that this mishap would make Willow consider her actions.
“That should do it,” Willow sat back with a wide smile. “Are you going to help me?”
“No,” Tara said softly.
“Why not?” Willow pouted. “It would work better with the two of us.”
“Because I know there’s no spell on Mr. Giles,” Tara said patiently.
“But he’s been so mean to me and Buffy lately,” Willow whined. “There has to be a spell or something on him.”
“I hate to say it, but you’ve been a bitch lately,” Tara pointed out. “And Buffy’s been worse. Maybe that’s the reason Mr. Giles has been upset with you.”
Willow flinched back. “I haven’t been a bitch!”
“Yes you have,” Tara retorted, then shook her head. “Nothing I say is going to change anything, so do the spell if you’re going to do it.”
A confused expression on her face, Willow turned back to the potion she had made, pouring it over a picture of Giles as she whispered the incantation. The potion fizzled and popped as it touch the photograph and a bright light flash, throwing Willow across the small room. Tara watched from her seat on the bed as the redhead picked herself up.
“What happened?” Willow asked groggily.
“There’s a protection spell on Mr. Giles,” Tara explained. “It repels all intrusive and malicious magic, like the spell you just used.”
“How do you know that?”
“I put the spell on him.”
“Why didn’t you tell me? You don’t trust me!” Willow accused.
“I didn’t tell you because it was none of your business,” Tara snapped. “And with how you keep misusing your magic, no I don’t trust you.”
Willow pushed to her feet and loomed over her girlfriend. “What are you saying?”
Tara stood and faced her head on, eyes unflinching and back firm. “I’m saying, if you can’t get control of your magic use then I’m walking away. I can’t be with someone who has no control.”
“I have control,” Willow protested, eyes dark with anger.
“No you don’t. You throw spells together without thinking about the consequences. You use magic to pry into other people’s private lives. You seem to think that magic gives you the right to do anything you want,” Tara said sharply. “Back off the magic or I’m gone.”
“And where will you go? Back to your parents?” Willow taunted meanly.
The blonde stared at her in shock before backing up a step. “You know, I was willing to give you a second chance, see if you could reform, but after that comment I can’t. I’m sorry Willow, but I can’t be with you anymore. I’ll pack my things up tomorrow.” Without looking at the redhead, Tara left the dorm room and headed off, shivering with grief in the night air.
“What are you doing out by yourself?” a familiar British voice snapped from a shadow, making her jump.
“Heading to Mr. Giles’,” Tara said quietly as Spike stepped into the lamp light, wrapping her arms around herself.
Spike stepped closer, smelling salt, anger, grief and fear on the witch. Without a word he began to walk with her, keeping her safe on he way to the Watcher’s place. He didn’t know what happened, but it was enough to make him want to protect her. He stayed back as she knocked on the door and waited. The door opened to reveal a half dressed Giles with an angry expression. The anger melted at the look on Tara’s face and Giles met Spike’s eyes over her head. Spike shrugged, he didn’t know what was going on either. Stepping back, Giles let them both into the apartment.
“What has happened?” he asked, leading the now shaking Tara over to the couch. “Is something wrong with Willow?”
“Yes, but it’s her own doing,” Tara said quietly. “We had a fight. I-I left her.”
“A fight about what?” Xander asked, coming down the stairs in pajama pants. He sat beside Tara and pulled her into a loose hug.
“Her using magic,” she looked over a Giles. “She tried to do a reveal spell on you, but the protections stopped it.”
A very Ripper-ish look fell over Giles’ face and Spike felt sorry for Willow for a moment, but it passed quickly. Even he had noticed that she used magic too much, even for the simple things.
“I told her to stop using it so much or I’d leave,” her voice broke a little. “She asked where I’d go, back to my parents. I couldn’t stay after that.”
A low growl sound from Xander and Spike felt himself slip into game face at that revelation. Willow had definitely gone to far by saying that to Tara. Brown eyes met golden and an accord was made, Willow would be dealt with. Glancing at Giles, Spike could see the same resolution in his eyes.
“Okay then,” Spike said, breaking the silence. “We should shuffle of this mortal coil and engage ourselves in something entertaining.”
Xander blinked at him. “Huh?”
“It’s a quote from Shakespeare,” Tara said softly, moving deeper into Xander’s arms. “It sort of means, leave behind the strife of everyday life.”
“Ah, so we should vegetate,” Xander nodded knowingly.
“Perhaps Spike should not offer our services so lightly,” Giles said, raising an eyebrow.
“I’m sorry,” Tara said suddenly, pulling out of Xander’s arms. “I probably interrupted something, I shouldn’t ave come here.”
“No, no,” Xander said, tugging her back against him. “Rupert was just teasing Spike. You haven’t interrupted anything and we don’t mind you coming here.”
Giles looked over at her. “Where are you going to be staying?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she whispered. “I told Willow I’d be back to pack my things, but I don’t really have anywhere to go.”
Giles and Xander held a silent conversation over her head. “You can stay with us,” Xander told her, giving her a hug. “We have a guest room and we’re pretty close to the campus.”
“I couldn’t,” she protested.
“You can,” Spike said firmly. “There’s no telling what Red will do. Between Giles and Harris they can keep you safe both physically and magically. It’s safer if you stay here.”
“I can’t believe I’m agreeing with Spike, but he’s right,” Xander said with a smile. “Tomorrow we’ll go get your things and make the room pretty for you. And if you beg Rupert might even let you bring Miss Kitty.”
Tara giggled at that and gave Giles a pleading look. He pretended to disagree but nodded under twin puppy dogs eyes. Spike watched the interaction with a small smile. This kept the three of them relatively safe, even if it guaranteed Red and the Slayer finally finding out about Rupert and Xander’s relationship. The only thing that could keep them safer was him moving in as well, but that wasn’t going happen.
Tara opened the door with shaking hands, grateful for Xander’s solid bulk behind her. She sighed with relief when the room ended up being empty of the redheaded witch. She really didn’t want to deal with Willow at that moment. The wounds of Willow’s words and actions were still too raw. Moving quickly, she packed up her meager belongs, leaving anything that might have belonged to both her and Willow. She didn’t want any reminders of their relationship. Everything all together, she smiled at Xander as he lifted up the majority of the boxes, leaving her with only a couple bags. Before they could leave, the door opened to let in a scowling Buffy and weeping Willow.
“What’s going on?” Buffy demanded. “What did you do to Willow?”
“Why does she have to have done something to Willow?” Xander countered, putting the boxed back down on the bed.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” Buffy sneered at him. “I was talking to the sniveling little witch behind you.”
“Stop,” Xander said harshly. “You know nothing about what’s going on but you still come in here and make judgments and demands.”
“I’m the Slayer,” she began.
“And that has nothing to do with this,” he snapped. “This isn’t some monster for you to kill. This is an issue between Tara and Willow.”
“Fine, I still want to know what’s going on.”
“I left her,” Tara said quietly but strongly.
“You left Willow?” Buffy snorted. “To do what? You were nothing without her.”
Tara touched Xander’s arm as a snarl formed on his lips, shaking her head when he looked down at her. “I was a witch before I met her, I’ll still be a witch without her. The only thing I’ve taken from our relationship is how not to abuse my gifts. Now, if you’ll move, we’ll be leaving.”
“And where are you going? You’ve got nothing,” Buffy sneered again.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Xander smirked. “She has me, Rupert and Spike. We’ll always be there for her.”
“Since when do you call Giles Rupert?” Willow asked, finally stopping her crying.
“Since I’ve been fucking him,” Xander said bluntly, grinning a little at their expressions of shock and disgust. “We’ve been together for a while now.”
“How? Why did you keep this from us?” Willow asked.
“Because it was none of your business,” Xander told her. “Thought you would have figured it out when Buffy saw the lamp.”
“That’s so sad,” Xander said, shaking his head. “You gave me that lamp. It belonged to your grandmother and you gave it to me after my own died. Of all the things I moved into that apartment, you should have recognized at least that.”
“Oh,” Willow said softly, eyes wide. “I didn’t-”
“You didn’t care, except about the fact that Rupert was hiding something from you,” Xander snapped. “It doesn’t matter anyway. I’ve gotten over it and over both of you.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Buffy said dismissively, waving a hand. “We don’t need you anyway.”
“I thought you’d say that,” Xander smiled sadly. “That’s gonna come back to bite you, but I can’t find it in me to care. Come on, Tara, let’s go home.”
Smiling, Tara nodded and picked the bags back up, heading out of the room.
“Wait, I wanted to talk to Tara,” Willow yelped, reaching out for her ex-girlfriend.
“I don’t want to talk to you,” Tara told her. “I think we said everything we needed to say last night. It’s over Willow, get used to it.”
“But I didn’t mean it,” Willow protested.
“Yes you did,” Tara replied. “And you know it. I’m not coming back. Nothing you say or do can change that fact.” She left the room, heading down to the car waiting.
“You lost the best thing in your life,” Xander said quietly. “And it wasn’t the first time. Maybe this will finally get through to you.” He followed Tara’s example and left the two women standing in the middle of the room.
“Forget them,” Buffy told Willow. “We don’t need them.”
“Yeah, we don’t need them,” Willow echoed.
“How did it go?” Rupert asked as they piled into the apartment with Tara’s belongings.
“Well, you’re probably gonna have to watch for a pissed of Slayer wondering why you’re with me,” Xander grinned. “Other than that, it went well. Tara stood up beautifully to them.”
“And Buffy decided she doesn’t need us,” Tara added.
“Hmm, I wonder if she included me in that,” Rupert smiled, pulling his lover in for a quick kiss. “Come on, we’ll get this stuff up stairs and then go get some better linens for the bed.”
“I don’t need that,” Tara protested as she followed the men upstairs.
Rupert stopped and turned to look at her. “You’re part of our family,” he said quietly.
“And we take care of family,” Xander finished. “That means buying you nice sheets, making sure there’s food you like in the house and finding a place for Miss Kitty’s litterbox.”
“Did you remember to get her?” Rupert asked. “I didn’t see her.”
With a smile, Tara reached into the box Rupert was carrying and pulled out the sleeping kitten. “She was napping.”
“No dawdling now,” Rupert smiled at her. “Let’s get this upstairs and then go shopping.”
“And if you want, we can see if Spike wants to join us for a cheesy horror movie marathon,” Xander offered.
“That sounds good,” she said softly. “Thank you, both of you. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
“Survived,” Xander said seriously. He reached down and brushed a piece of hair out of her face. “We always survive.”
“Yes,” Rupert agreed. “We always survive.”
“We are all alone and you are at my mercy,” Xander said with an exaggerated leer.
“Oh am I?” Rupert smiled. He loved his lover’s silly side and loved to indulge the young man in games. “And just what are you going to do to me?”
Pushing lightly on one shoulder, Xander steering Rupert toward the couch, sending him sprawling with a slightly harder push. “It is two hours until Tara’s class ends,” he murmured, moving to straddle Rupert’s lap.
“Yes, but it is less than an hour until sundown,” Rupert pointed out, gasping slightly as Xander’s lips found a sensitive spot on his neck.
“Hmmm,” Xander hummed, pressing wet, opened mouth kisses to Rupert’s collarbone. “He’s waiting for Tara, so he won’t be here until she gets out of class. That means we have two hours to do whatever we want without interruption or worrying about a voyeuristic vampire.”
“True,” Rupert admitted, drawing Xander’s face up for a series of deep kisses.
Pulling back slightly, Xander tugged at the buttons on Rupert’s shirt, growling when they wouldn’t open right away. Rupert sat back and watched as his lover struggled with the buttons, not offering to help. A moment later, the buttons went flying as need progressed past rational thought and Xander ripped the shirt open. Any protest left Rupert’s mind as warm lips slid down his chest and fingers traced through his chest hairs. Wet heat surrounded one nipple as clever fingers found and pinched the other. Shifting a bit, Rupert moved so he could removed Xander’s shirt, breaking them apart briefly. Once his shirt was off, Xander moved back quickly, going back to his task of driving Rupert insane. He traced the muscles of Rupert’s chest and stomach with his tongue, tasting the flesh and need. Moaning, he moved down to dip his tongue into his navel, grinning at the gasp and thrust that got.
“Naked,” Rupert commanded, pushing Xander off his lap. “Now.”
Standing, Xander complied, unbuttoning his jeans and pushing them down, taking his boxers with them. He stood there unashamed for a moment before reaching out and snapping open the button on Rupert’s pants. Tugging the older man to his feet, he quickly divested him of his remain clothing. With a wicked grin, Xander dropped to his knees, leaned forward and swallowed Rupert whole. The sudden cursing made him smile around the hard flesh in his mouth and he pulled back, swiping his tongue over the tip. With smooth movements, he blew Rupert’s mind, not caring when his lover’s hands wound into his hair, holding him still as Rupert’s hips began to move. Reaching up, he cupped fragile balls, rolling them lightly in their sac. He could feel Rupert getting close and he pulled away, smirking at the sound of discontent.
“We’re not done yet,” he scolded his lover, pushing at his hips until he was seated again. He moved one hand to lightly stroke Rupert’s erection while the other moved behind himself to start the task of stretching. Xander watched as his lover’s eyes widened with surprise at his actions, grinning as he moved the hand stroking the thick cock to grab the lube he had stashed in the couch cushions early. Sliding his fingers out of his body, he poured the slick liquid over them and moved them back to his hole, slicking himself up. He drizzled a layer of lube over Rupert’s cock, watching as he shivered at the cool sensation. Now ready, he moved to position himself over Rupert’s lap, reaching back to hold Rupert’s cock still as he sank down on it. Large hands held Xander’s hips, steadying him as he took Rupert to the root. Gasping he held still for a moment, relaxing round the feeling of being stretched and filled.
“Every time I moved the bloody thing disappear,” Spike groaned. Beside him Tara giggled, her laughter light and free. “I swear the bloody thing was playing hide and seek with me.”
“It was probably lonely,” Tara teased. “And you make such a good playmate.”
“Thanks, ducks,” Spike whined. “Just what I want to be known for.”
“It’s okay,” she said soothingly. “We all know you’re still the big bad.”
“Not nice to tease,” he groaned.
“Come on,” she laughed, grabbing his hand and pulling him along. “I’ll make you some hot chocolate since you were nice enough to walk me home.”
“Can’t let you wander around town by yourself,” Spike pointed out. “‘S dangerous.”
“I know,” she nodded and leaned over to kiss his cheek. “But thank you anyway.”
Thankful he couldn’t blush, Spike changed the subject. “How come you’re out early?”
“The teacher was attacked by a barbecue fork last night,” she reported mockingly. “So after getting our papers back, class was canceled.”
“Teacher dead?” Spike asked.
“Nope, just in the hospital.”
As they walked up to the front door something made Spike stop. “Perhaps we should wait,” he started, but Tara was already opening the door.
They both stopped in shock. Xander was straddled across Giles’ lap, both of them naked. The older man’s hands were cupping flexing asscheeks as Xander lifted and dropped down and the sounds and smells of sex filled the air. Tara gasped, dropping her bag and both men turned at the sound, freezing all motion.
“Nice show,” Spike quipped, breaking the silence that had fallen over the room.
Blushing brightly, Xander buried his face in Giles’ shoulder, murmuring about forgetting to lock doors and dusting voyeuristic vampires.
And To Complicate Matters
“What kind of demon did you say it was?” Giles asked, looking over at the grumbling Spike. Tara smiled into her own book as the blond made faces at Giles.
“It was a Crot’ch’rot demon,” Spike repeated, staring out the window with a pout. “Fully grown too.”
“Okay, Tara, see if you can find any spells to banish the Crot’ch’rot demon,” Giles said, handing her another book. “Xander, can you look to see if the demon has any weaknesses.”
“Why banish it?” Xander asked, picking up a book.
“Crot’ch’rot demons can’t be killed,” Spike offered in explanation. “They can only be banished back to their home dimensions.”
“Then why am I looking for weaknesses?” Xander asked, already flipping through the ancient tome.
“Because it might have a magically weakness that will make it easier to banish,” Giles explained, stopping behind the young man briefly to drop a kiss on the dark hair.
“Oh, okay,” Xander smiled up at him before going back to his reading.
Tara flipped the page and stopped, staring at the picture of the demon Spike had described. Quickly, she read all the facts, noting that no weaknesses were listed but the list for strengths was very long. Finally she found the section that mentioned how to banish them back to their home dimension. Blushing, the paling, she gasped Giles’ name, bringing the older man to her. When he reached the table, she pushed the book over, her finger highlighting the area.
“Oh my,” Giles breathed, reaching up to take his glasses off and wipe at them. Both Xander and Spike looked up, wondering just what the problem was.
“Found something then?” Spike asked, coming to read over Giles’ shoulder. “Bloody hell!”
“Okay, what?” Xander asked. Giles handed him the book and waited as he read it. “Am I reading this right?”
“Probably,” Spike noted. “Especially if it says we have to have sex to get rid of these demons.”
“See, that’s what I think I’m reading wrong,” Xander said, looking at his lover. He looked back down and read. “Only the seed of several men collected and mixed together with the proper spell ingredients can banish the Crot’ch’rot demon. The seed must be collected by a single witch within a short period of time. Though the manner of collection can vary, results are best when collected intimately.”
“That’s what it says,” Giles sighed, cleaning his glasses again as he tried to force his blush back down.
“So it says the only way to banish these demons is for Tara to have sex with us?” Xander asked for clarification. Giles nodded. “Are we forgetting that even if she would be willing,” he spared a glance for the blushing witch. “She still is a lesbian?”
“I realize that is a bit of a problem,” Giles admitted. “We’ll have to keep researching and see if there is an alternative means of banishing them.”
Handing the book back, Xander groaned. “Tara, can I talk to you in the kitchen?”
Tara hurried out of the room, ducking her face so her hair hid the splotchy redness of her blush. Xander was seated at the kitchen table, his head in his hands, muttering softly to himself.
“I don’t think there’s another way,” he said to her, lifting dark eyes. “But I don’t want to put you in a position that would make you uncomfortable.”
“I-” she started.
“Let me talk first, please,” Xander said. “I’ve seen. I know even if you haven’t admitted it yet. Rupert wonders and he won’t care either way.”
“Spike?” she squeaked, paling when Xander nodded.
“I know this spell worries you,” he smiled a little. “Hell it worries me. I won’t make you go through it if you don’t want to.”
“It scares me,” she admitted softly. “Until Spike I’ve never been attracted to men. And now this spell depends on me having sex with three of them.”
“Like I said, you don’t have to do it,” Xander reminded her. “We can find another witch who might be able to help.”
“But would you be able to be intimate with them?” she asked boldly.
He sighed. “No. I probably would have a big problem with it.”
“But you have no problem with me,” she said shrewdly.
“You’re family,” he said, reaching out to touch her hand. “It would be awkward at first, but I think it would bring us all closer in the long run.”
“Should we go tell them then?” Tara smiled, standing up.
“Yeah, before they waste another hour looking for something that doesn’t exist.”
“It’ll be fine,” Tara replied softly. “I trust all of you. I know you won’t hurt me.”
“When are we going to do this?” Xander asked from the other side of her.
“As soon as possible would be the most opportune time,” Rupert said, removing his glasses and cleaning them. “So, basically anytime Tara is ready.”
“D-do we have the ingredients for the spell?” she asked.
“Yes,” Rupert nodded. “And in excess too. We can put if off for a few days if you want.”
“No,” Tara shook her head. “It’s best to get this done as soon as possible.”
“Meaning?” Xander asked softly, wrapping an arm around her shoulders.
“Now would be best,” she whispered. “Before I have time to think about it.”
“Are you sure?” Spike asked once again.
“Yes,” she stressed.
“We should head upstairs,” Xander offered. “A bed would probably be best.”
“I’ll get the potion’s ingredients,” Rupert smiled at his lover. “You go on up.”
Xander led Tara and Spike up the stairs, almost feeling the witch shaking behind him. He pushed open the door to his and Rupert’s bedroom, stepping out of the way to let them in. Spike whistled at the king size bed taking up most of the space in the room.
“We don’t have to do this,” Xander reminded Tara as she sat gingerly on the edge of the large bed.
“Would you all stop,” she complained. “I’m fine with this. Tomorrow I might have issues, but I good right now.”
Smiling, Xander stepped in front of her, lifting her face to place a gentle kiss on her lips. “I’m going to get some, um, stuff out. Remember, you can stop it at any time.”
“He’s quite correct,” Rupert said from the door. He walked over and placed his arm full of items on the dresser, before shutting the door. “Are we ready?”
“Yes,” the others responded.
“I think you and Xander should start the show,” Spike leered. “Seems you’re already good at it.”
Xander blushed but nodded, stepping up to his lover. He pulled the older man into a kiss, driving his tongue deep into Rupert’s mouth. Rupert responded in kind, kissing him hard as their hands began the familiar dance of removing clothing.
On the bed, Tara watched with wide eyes as the two men kissed, clothing falling under clever fingers. Spike sat beside her, pulling her into his arms.
“Aren’t they beautiful,” he whispered into her ear, his eyes still on the couple in the middle of the room. “They fit so well.”
She moaned quietly as Rupert fisted a hand in Xander’s hair and tilted his head tot he side, attacking his neck with teeth, tongue and lips. Xander gasped and grabbed onto his shoulders.
“They know we’re watching,” Spike murmured, hesitantly running a hand up and down her arm. “They’re putting on a show for us.”
By now, Xander had pulled a bit away from Rupert and giving a wicked grin, dropped to his knees, mouth tasting the skin just about the waist band of Rupert’s pants.
Spike’s hand wandered a bit, sliding down to play with her fingers and up over her neck to toy with Tara’s hair. She shivered a bit beneath his touch but didn’t pull away. As they watched, Xander deftly opened Rupert’s pants, pushing them and the boxers beneath down over the older man’s hips to puddle on the ground around his feet. Tara blushed at her first real look at a naked, aroused man, but Spike’s careful embrace kept her from bolting.
Rupert reached down and tugged Xander to his feet, flicking open the simple button on his baggy jeans, letting them fall to the ground. One hand pushed impatiently at his underwear until they joined the mess of clothes on the floor. Turning Xander to face the other two, Rupert stepped up behind him, wrapping his arms around his lover.
“Your turn,” he said softly. “Would you like some help?”
Feeling her face heat up, Tara nodded. A smiling Xander extracted himself from Rupert’s arms and removed her from Spike’s, pulling her to her feet. He placed another soft kiss on her lips as his hands gently undid the small buttons on the top she wore. He pushed the thin cloth away, leaving her in her bra and skirt. Next he tackled the shirt, easing it down her hips and thighs. Tara stood before him in her underthings and suddenly any thoughts of running left. These were her friends, her family and she knew they wouldn’t do anything to harm her in any way.
Glancing over, she noticed that Rupert already had Spike naked and had pinned the vampire to the bed and he devoured his mouth.
“Okay, that’s hotter than I thought it would be,” Xander admitted softly, wrapping his arms around her.
“Me too,” she agreed, as the two men on the bed continued to ravage each other’s mouths. “I still have clothes on.”
“I think it would be best if you removed those,” Xander told her, stepping away a bit to give her some space.
She understood. If she truly wanted to do this, she needed to participate somehow and something as simple as taking off her underwear would speak much louder than any words she might utter. Nodding, she reached back and unhooked her bra, dropping it at her feet. Then she pushed the plain white panties down, stepping out of them and back into Xander’s arms. He smiled and kissed her again, this time much more than the chaste ones before. She gasped as his tongue played over his lips and her opening her mouth let him sneak inside.
“Oh my,” Rupert remarked.
Tara and Xander separate and turned tot he bed, smirking down at the men sprawled over the large surface. They moved as one, sliding between Rupert and Spike, waiting for the older men to react. Spike reacted first, gazing intently into Tara’s eyes before moving forward and taking her mouth in a hard kiss. She moaned as all thought stopped, blasted away by the taste of Spike.
Time became a blur as the four of them tasted each other in multitudes of ways. They kissed and touched, rubbed and tugged before Tara found herself splayed beneath Spike. The vampire watched her as he sank into her body, breaching the tender barrier with no pain.
“Special lube,” Xander whispered into her ear as he rubbed her stomach.
Slowly she adjusted to the feeling of being filled for the first time. Reaching up, she pulled Spike down into a kiss, telling him without words that she was ready for more. Carefully he began to move, soft and slow, getting her used to the sensation. They rocked together, her legs climbing up over his hips and beside them, Xander and Rupert watched, hands playing on each other’s bodies as the waited. Before Spike could come he pulled out and Tara cupped her hands beneath his cock, catching the spilled seed. Carefully, she transferred it over to the waiting dish. Breathing heavily, Spike leaned down and kissed her again.
When Spike pulled back, Tara turned to look at Xander, smiling at his with surety. “Both of you,” she whispered, placing a hand on Xander’s face.
“Both?” he asked, leaning into her touch.
“Yes. You’re together in everything else, it shouldn’t be any different here,” her smile was serene.
Instead of answering, he leaned down a kissed her, drawing a soft moan as he mapped her mouth. Rupert moved to kneel behind Xander, hands drifting over both of them. They broke apart and Xander eased it position between Tara’s legs, looking down into her eyes once more for assurance. She smiled and he slid into her body, resting comfortably against her. They kissed again as Rupert sped through the preparations and thrust slowly into Xander. The two under him gasped and moaned into each other’s mouths as Rupert’s weight settled on to them. The rhythm was choppy at first until it slid into perfection, each of Rupert’s thrusts sending Xander harder and deeper into Tara.
Tearing her lips away from Xander’s, Tara glanced over a Spike shocked to find him once more aroused, erection in hand as he stroked to their rhythm. He met her eyes and she moaned at the heat directed at her and the gasped as Xander did something that sent her over the edge, her eyes still locked with Spike’s.
Still, Xander took several deep breaths and pulled away, seating himself further on Rupert’s erection for a moment before he moved off his lover’s lap. Hurrying despite the languid feel to her legs, Tara position a hand beneath each of them and watched as they stroked each other to completion. She transferred her warm handfuls over to the dish and Rupert added a mixture of ingredients. They both whispered the spell as they carefully mixed everything together. A quick flash and a new potion sat there, waiting to be used.
“I take it that worked,” Xander said quietly as he slipped off the bed.
“It did,” Rupert smiled at him.
“Well, I think I might have been for nothing,” he said in an off-hand manner as he crossed over to the window.
“Whatever to you mean?” Rupert asked, sliding of the bed to walk over to his young lover.
“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” Xander said, pointing outside.
Tara and Spike raced over the window, none of the four even aware of their state of undress as they stared out the window at the strange world they were now in.
“Did the spell do this?” Spike asked, glancing at the two magic users.
“No,” Tara shook her head. “This is a different type of spell all together. What we did would never be able to do this.”
“I think this is a different type of magic all together,” Rupert said absently, mentally cataloguing everything he could see. “This is Dream Magic.”
“We’re in a Dreamworld?” Tara squeaked, scooting so she was closer to Spike.
“So it seems,” Rupert said, casting a look at her. “But I don’t know how.”
“I do,” Xander said with no inflection in his voice. They all turned to stare at him. “Who’s the one person with the skills and power to do this? Who’s the one person with reason to do something evenremotely like this?”
“Willow,” Tara breathed, paling drastically.
“It could be Ethan,” Rupert pointed out.
“No, he always lets you know when he’s in town,” Xander pointed out. “He hasn’t been around since he gave his approval.”
“So what do we do? What do I need to kill to get us out of here?” Spike growled, wrapping a protective arm around Tara’s shoulders.
“I’m not sure yet,” Rupert admitted. “Every Dreamworld has its own rules. We need to find out which one we’re in before we can figure out how to get out of here.”
“I vote getting showered, dressed and fed before we tackle this,” Xander said. The others glanced down realizing they were still naked. Both Rupert and Tara blushed while Xander and Spike laughed. Xander grabbed Rupert and Spike guided Tara out of the bedroom and to the bathroom. There was nothing they could do yet and they all really needed a shower.
Rupert brushed a quick kiss over his hair before turning back to the book. “Not yet, I’m afraid. Hopefully I’ll find something soon.”
“D-d-do we e-even know w-which Dreamworld w-were in?” Tara asked softly from the other side of the room.
“No stuttering,” Xander admonished. “Especially after all that’s happened.”
“Sorry,” she said, with a quick grin and a duck of her head.
“I have it narrowed down,” Rupert informed them. “But the category has hundreds of different types of Dreamworlds. I’m afraid I don’t know anything more than that.”
“So what’s that mean then?” Spike asked from his perch by the window.
“We’re going to have to go out and see what’s in this world,” Rupert side, taking off his glasses to clean them. “It’s the only way I’m afraid.”
“What should we expect out there?” Spike asked. He glanced outside. “So far it looks different but not that different.”
“We can’t be sure,” Rupert shrugged. “We could be in a fairy tale world, a world filled with nightmares, or anything really. It all depends on where Willow sent us and what she was thinking at the time.”
Xander groaned and shared a resigned look with Tar. They could be anywhere. Willow’s mind often flitted around when she was working on something and she wasn’t always focused on the task at hand.
They loaded up on weapons and the like before carefully exiting the apartment and locking the door behind them. They really didn’t want visitors when they got back. Spike led their band of merry misfits, scouting ahead but staying close enough to keep watch over the more fragile humans. He had been surprised to find he could venture out into the sun, but not that surprised considering the orb of light hanging overhead was a light blue in colour instead of the normal world’s yellow. Rupert and Tara followed him, magic at the ready. Xander pulled up the rear, keeping his attention on the terrain around him instead o his lover’s ass in front o him.
The Dreamworld was full of rolling hills and picturesque meadows, but that didn’t fool any of them into believe it was innocent. They journeyed for a few hours, finding nothing of interest or anything to help pinpoint their exact whereabouts. Feeling more than a little dissatisfied, they trekked back to the apartment, all hoping a good meal and a night’s sleep would perk their spirits.
Almost to the door of the apartment, Spike stopped cold, a low growl issuing from his throat. The others brought their weapons up and waited, looking around for what was causing the vampire’s anger. A dark shadow stepped out of a small alleyway, gliding forward. Spike’s growl inched up a notch and he flashed into his demonic visage.
Little parts of the shadow seemed to stream forth, reaching out and wrapping themselves around Spike. His growl grew louder and a strange whine was added in. Xander stepped forward and Tara’s hands began to crackle with energy as the darkness completely engulf the vampire.
“Do you thirst?” something hissed from the shadow. The three humans shuddered as the sound seemed to slither into them, chilling them to the core. “Surrounded by heartbeats. Does your demon thirst?”
Spike laughed, a sound full of dark humour. “You,” he told the shadow. “Are an idiot. They’re all marked as mine. Why would I thirst? My demon sees them as family, not a source of blood.”
The shadow hissed again, breaking away and drifting off a bit. Slowly it grew solid, coming together in the shape of a young boy. He was small and slight with ash blond hair, but his eyes were solid black. His clothing seemed to be made of the shadows, shivering and sliding over his body. He cocked his head to the side and stared at Spike in confusion.
“You don’t thirst?” he asked, stepping forward. “I thirst.”
“What do you thirst for?” Tara asked, stepping past Spike to confront the boy.
“Touch,” he whispered. “So thirsty.”
“Don’t,” Rupert told Tara, coming closer. “What are you?” he asked the boy.
“He’s a Pen’Umbra demon,” Xander said softly. “Where’s your family?”
The young demon shivered, dissolving briefly back into a shadow before solidifying again. “Gone,” he whimpered. “All gone. All alone.”
Rupert gasped. “How long have you been alone?”
“Time has no meaning here,” the boy sighed. “Minutes are days, years are seconds, it’s all the same.”
“So too long,” Spike said.
Xander walked past them all and drew the young Pen’Umbra demon into a loose hug, not wanting to startle the youngling. The boy sighed and relaxed against him, drinking in the contact.
“What?” Tara asked, looking at the two hugging then at Rupert.
“Pen’Umbra demons rely on touch to survive, it’s how they feed. They live in large family groups that are almost always in constant contact with someone,” he explained, watching his lover help the young demon with a fond smile. “They’re not dangerous unless they see you as a threat.”
“He was touching Spike though,” Tara said, looking confused.
“They can only feed in human form,” Rupert smiled at her. “I think he might have been trying to protect us from Spike.”
“Wot? But I didn’t do anything,” Spike protested.
“You’re a demon with three humans on a Dreamworld,” Rupert said patiently. “It would look like we’re either your thralls or your prey. He’s young.”
“He thought if he saved us we’d take him in and help him,” Tara finished thoughtfully. “He really is young, isn’t he?”
“Pen’Umbra age slower than humans, but I’d still put him in his early teens either way,” Rupert nodded. “Poor child.”
“I take it he’s coming with us,” Spike noted. Rupert shot him a glare. “Good, means I’ll have more help protecting you three.”
“You’ll take me with you,” the young demon asked in shock, stepping out of Xander’s embrace.
“Not leaving you here alone,” Xander told him.
“Thank you,” the boy cried, throwing his arms around Xander’s waist in a hard hug.
“What’s your name?” Tara asked kindly, coming over to lay a hand on the young demon’s shoulder.
“Momma always said that Daddy lack imagination,” the boy grinned. “He named me Chade.”.
“Chade, how did you end up here?” Rupert asked, sounding puzzled. “I thought your kind could move between the Dreamrealms and the real world.”
“We can, but I haven’t learned that yet. Walking is only taught to those of a certain age,” Chade said quietly. “I was to learn it after my next birthday. I’ve got the basics of everything else down so far though.”
“Basics?” Spike asked, arching an eyebrow.
“Shifting between forms at will, dreamwalking, protection, that kind of stuff,” Chade smiled. “Walking between the worlds was deemed to dangerous for the young after a few got lost so the elders put an age limit on it.”
“How old are you?” Tara asked the young demon leaning against her.
“Thirteen,” he said promptly.
“In which?” Rupert asked.
“Both,” Chade answered. “I haven’t reached the second aging yet.”
Xander came back down the stairs, a shirt and jogging pants n his hands. “Okay, these’ll be to big, but they’re better than nothing. Bathroom’s up the stairs and to the right.”
Smiling gratefully, Chade made his way upstairs, his shadow abilities hiding his nudity by mimicking clothing. He came back down a few minutes later, dressed in the too large clothing. Tara hid a smile at his appearance but Spike laughed out loud.
“You look cute like that,” the vampire noted. Chade stuck his tongue out and went to curl up next to Xander.
“What happened to your family?” Rupert asked, sitting across from them.
“We came here because my parents were teaching my older sister how to Walk,” Chade started quietly. “She was really sick for a while so she had to wait a long time. We hadn’t been here long when this girl shows up. She was smiling and it scared me.” He shivered a little and burrowed into Xander’s side. “She saw us and frowned. Momma made me go hide since I was hiding behind my brother and hadn’t been seen. I found a deep shadow and hid there. It, it was awful. The girl, she was a witch. She let them go into their shadow forms and shattered them.”
Spike leaned forward. “What did this witch look like?”
“She was a little taller than me and had red hair,” he said quietly, a gentle shaking starting in his limbs. “She grinned after they were gone and said that it was perfect.”
Rupert got up and walked over tot he bookcase, coming back with a slender, hardcover book. He flipped through the pages for a moment before handing the book to Chade. “Is this her?”
“Yes,” Chade said, looking at the picture.
Xander took the yearbook from the young demon and growled. He didn’t even have to look at the photo to know it was Willow. She had placed them here on purpose and she had killed a family of harmless demons. “We really need to do something about her.”
“We will when we get back,” Tara said firmly. “I’ve been looking into ways to bind her magic for good. Something that only a decree from a God can get through.”
“Is there anything stronger?” Xander asked. “I don’t trust her not to find some dark God just so she can have her powers back.”
“There might be, but it’ll take research,” Tara said.
“I’ll asked Ethan when we get back,” Rupert added. “He knows more than he lets on about other magics. Plus, I think she might be tapping into chaos magic anyway.”
“You know her?” Chade asked softly, looking around at them fearfully.
“We knew the person she used to be,” Xander told him, giving him quick hug. “But she’s changed a lot and done a lot of wrong things lately. We’re going to fix that.”
“As soon as we get back to the real world,” Spike added with a snort.
“I might be able to help,” Chade offered.
He looked at Tara. “You’re a witch right?” She nodded and smiled a bit. “If you help I might be able to contact one of the other families. They would help us get out of here.”
“How can you be sure?” Spike asked.
“Because it’s a child asking,” Rupert answered for Chade. “No child is to be denied unless what he or she is asking for is dangerous to the clans.”
Chade nodded. “I can’t do it alone. I’m not strong enough yet.”
“How about in the morning?” Tara offered, smiling brightly at him.
“Okay,” he smiled back.
They spent the rest of the day doing minor things around the apartment. Chade was attached to someone at all times, his time spent alone leaving him frightened and wary. He spent most of it next to Xander, giggling softly as Xander told him stories and jokes to help the young demon settle in. Rupert watched his lover interact with Chade with a fond smile that was tinged with sadness. Xander was the type that was meant for fatherhood, but being in a relationship with another man took that option away. Sighing, he pushed the thoughts away and went to make supper, knowing that they all had to be hungry by now.
“Chade?” Rupert asked suddenly as a thought hit him. “What have you been eating?”
“Huh?” the boy looked up from the comic Xander had him reading. “I found some berries and stuff. There really isn’t anything else.”
“That means we’ll have to detox you before we head back,” Rupert groaned.
“Detox?” Tara asked, worried for the young demon.
“Food from here can do strange things to the body once it’s back in the normal world, so anything eaten has to be purged from the body,” Rupert explained.
“What about us?” she asked, gesturing to the food he was cooking.
“This food came from the normal world so we don’t have to worry about that,” he smiled.
“That’s good,” she sighed. “One less worry. When do we have to do the detox?”
“I’d say in the morning, after he makes the call,” Rupert decided, nodding slightly. “That way there’s nothing to stop us from going straight home if the others agree to help.”
“Do we need anything special?”
“Yes. We can get the ingredients ready tonight.”
“Will it hurt?” Chade asked, coming to stand by them, his eyes wide.
“It won’t hurt, but it won’t feel very good,” Rupert told him. “It will make your stomach feel a little strange.”
“I won’t be alone, will I?”
“No,” Tara smiled down at him. “We’ll all be here to help you through it.”
“Of course we will,” Rupert agreed. “Now, why don’t you go get Spike and Xander and tell them supper is ready.”
All grins, the young demon bounced off. Tara smiled and shook her head as she got places down and began setting the table. Commotion at the kitchen door made her lift her head and she giggled when she saw Chade dragging a resisting Spike into the kitchen.
“Mr. Rupert said to come to supper,” the young demon chided the vampire. Spike rolled his eyes and gave into the tugging, letting Chade push and pull him until he was seated in one of the chairs around the table.
After supper they all piled onto the couches, the adults picking up books and reading while Chade moved around the room, cuddling each of them. The sun set in sections, darkening the world outside the apartment.
“Chade, are you okay sleeping down here, or do you want to come and sleep with one of us?” Xander asked.
“Can I sleep with you, Xander?” Chade asked, looking around the darkening living room fearfully.
“Of course,” Xander smiled.
“We don’t mind,” Rupert added with a sincere smile.
“Thank you,” Chade said, hugging Rupert tightly. “I don’t like being alone.”
“Come on,” Xander said, standing and pulling the boy with him. “Let’s go get ready for bed. Tomorrow’s going to be a big day.”
Rupert woke slowly, wondering what the heavy weight on his chest was. Xander normally snuggled up to his side, not his chest, and the weight was too light to be his lover anyway. Opening his eyes, he blinked at the blond head laying over his heart. Smiling softly, he ran his hand through Chade’s hair, wondering what would happen to the young demon once they were back in the real world. Would one of the other clans be willing to take him in? Or would they leave the child to fend for himself?
“If things don’t go right, are we going to keep him?” Xander asked softly.
Rupert turned to look at his lover, noticing the tender look he gave the sleeping child. “Yes, I think so.”
“Good,” Xander smiled at him. “He should be alone anymore. Willow will pay for what she’s done.”
“Yes, she will,” he agreed. “She has a lot to pay for. I think I’ll contact some of the people I know in England and see if there’s anyone there who can do something about her.”
“You are binding her when we get back, right?”
“Definitely,” Rupert growled, waking Chade.
“What’s wrong?” the young demon asked, sleepily, rolling so he was laying between the two humans. “Did I do something wrong?”
“No,” Xander assured him, giving him a hug. “We were just talking. Why don’t you head downstairs. I’ll be right behind you to make breakfast.”
With wide grin, Chade slipped off the bed and raced down the stairs. Xander shared a fond smile with Rupert before leaning over and giving his lover a morning kiss. Moaning into the kiss, Rupert pulled Xander until he was sprawled across him. Hands travelled under shirts and pants as they continued to kiss, only breaking away for brief bits of air. Finally Xander pulled away, his reluctance written on his face.
“Chade’s waiting for us,” he murmured, brushing one last kiss over Rupert’s lips before climbing out of the bed. He changed quickly into jeans and a clean shirt and headed down to start making breakfast for them all.
“‘Bout time you got up,” Spike groused. “You breathing types spend too much time sleeping.”
Xander indulged in a moment of childishness and stuck his tongue out at the vampire. “Just for that, no eggs for you.”
“Hey,” Spike yelled, following Xander into the kitchen. “I take it back. I want my eggs.”
Xander grinned at him. “Tara would pout at me if I didn’t make you eggs.”
“True,” snickered Spike.
“Have you started cooking yet?” Rupert asked as he came down the stairs.
“No, why?” Xander asked, looking at his lover with questioning eyes.
“I just had a thought that it might be better to do Chade’s detoxing before he ate,” Rupert informed them.
“Huh,” Xander blinked. “Good idea.”
“So we’re doing it now?” Chade asked, looking around at them.
“If that’s okay with you,” Rupert nodded.
“Okay,” Chade shrugged.
“Let’s go into the living room, there’s more room there.”
Tara was seated on the floor of the living room, a few spell components on the floor around her. She smiled reassuringly at Chade as she began to mix some together. Rupert came out of the kitchen with a pot of steaming water. Tara dumped the items into the pots, stirring it a few times before straining the mixture into a mug that she handed to the young boy.
“Drink it all,” she told him.
Grimacing at the smell, Chade did as he was told, swallowing down the drink.
“How long until it works?” Spike asked.
“It’s not like a purge,” Tara said quietly. “It won’t make him run off to the bathroom, though it will make his stomach feel strange for a bit.”
“Are you okay, Chade?” Xander asked, sitting beside the boy.
“That didn’t taste good,” Chade whispered.
“Most potions don’t,” Xander grinned. “But any that Tara makes will work.”
Chade nodded and leaned against him as the potion started to take effect, removing all things that were natural to the world they were in but not to the real world. The young demon curled up, shaking a little as the potion did its job. After an hour, he finally uncurled.
“All done,” Tara smiled at him. “And you won’t have to do it again as long as you don’t eat anything from the Dreamworld.”
Chade nodded. He really didn’t want to do that again.
“Let’s go eat,” Xander said, jumping to his feet.
Spike snorted while Rupert and Tara shook their heads and Chade raced to the kitchen with him.
Once breakfast was eaten, Tara led Chade outside, both of them sitting on the ground, Tara slightly behind Chade. A haze of shadows and magic surrounded them and a low thrumming sound started. The three men watched as the call went out, magic flying in all directions. As the two on the ground started to stand, a strange sound began. The sound called up despair from the deepest parts of their souls, making them want to weep. It wrapped around them, choking all thought.
“Stop!” Chade shouted, his shadows whipping around him. “That’s not nice!”
The sound stopped a two new shadows flowed toward them. “Are you the one who sent the call?”
“Yes,” Chade nodded.
“You used human magic to do it,” one of the shadows hissed.
“I’m not strong enough to do it by myself,” he admitted softly. “Tara helped me.”
“Why are you here?”
“A witch killed my family,” he said quietly. “I was trapped, all alone.” He wrapped his arms around himself.
“This witch?” the shadow hissed.
“NO!” Chade shouted. “Tara and the others have helped me. They’ve been nothing but nice. They’re trapped here too, by the same witch that killed my family.”
“What do you ask of us, child?” the other shadow asked, solidifying into the form of a woman.
“We would like to go back to the real world,” Chade told her.
“And where would you go after that, child?” the woman asked, stepping closer to Chade.
“I don’t know,” he said softly. “I have nothing left.”
“We cannot take you,” the first shadow said, forming into another woman. “We do not have the resources. But we can get you and your friends back to the real world.”
“We can take him in,” Xander said, coming to stand behind the young demon. “If that would be all right with you.”
“You would be willing to take a demon in?” the first woman asked, staring intently at Xander.
“We would be willing to take a child with nowhere to go,” Rupert told her.
She nodded. “Do you need the building to go with you as well?”
“Yes, please,” Rupert smiled at her. “Thank you.”
“No, human, thank you. Few would be willing to take a demon in,” the second woman smiled kindly.
“Not the first demon we’ve taken in,” Xander grinned, gesturing to Spike.
Shaking their heads, the two female demons joined hands. “Head back inside,” they told them. “You will be home shortly.”
Hurrying back inside, they waited as the demons sent them out of the Dreamworld and back into the real world.
“Did it work?” Xander asked after a few minutes.
Tara glanced out the window and smiled. “Yes, it did We’re home.”
“Good,” Spike said with a feral grin. “Now we have a witch to deal with.”
Throwing a sly smile at Xander, Spike ushered Tara and Chade out of the apartment, firmly closing the door behind them. The events of the past few days had left both Xander and Rupert stress beyond belief and the lovers needed some time to themselves. So Spike decided to take Tara and Chade to see his crypt. Not the ratty mess he usually let the Slayer see, but the true home he had made beneath the crumbling stone. Chade watched wide eyed as the walked through the darkened streets of Sunnydale, glowing eyes of various species of demon staring back out at him. Shuddering a little, the boy edged closer to the vampire, trusting Spike to keep him safe.
“Here,” Spike said, pushing the door open and letting the other two inside. “Hidden over in the corner is a ladder leading down.”
Giving him shy smile, Tara headed over to the ladder and carefully began the short journey door. Her startled gasp echoed up when she reached the bottom and both demons raced over to the opening, Spike jumping down and Chade take the safe route. Once on the ground Spike saw the mess that had once been his home. Clothing was torn and strewn around the small space. Pictures were ripped up and littering the floor. The bed had been overturned, the mattress sliced. Bending down, Spike picked up the broken pieces of wood of what had once been a gift from Dru. He could feel the growl rumbling in his chest, aching to be set free. Hesitantly Tara walked over to him, taken the shattered gift.
“What was it?” she asked softly, turning the pieces over in her hands.
“It was a chiwara,” Spike growled lowly. “Dru had a young man down in Africa make it. Of course she ate him after but she was so enthralled of it.”
“Just another thing that they will pay for,” Tara said soothingly. “I think we should head back. Gather up what you want to keep.”
Still growling, Spike did as she said, letting Chade help him bundle up any items that weren’t too damaged. The young demon hugged him, whispering how sorry he was. Spike wrapped his arms around the boy and tried not to scream out his rage at the destruction of his most cherished belongings.
“They won’t be done yet,” Spike said softly as they finished packing his things.
“Hopefully they were smart enough to go upstairs this time,” Tara said with a blush and a slight grin.
Spike grinned back. “Would be funny if they didn’t.”
“You, Mr. the Bloody, are a very bad man,” Tara said in a mock stern voice, shaking a finger at the vampire. She was glad to see the true smile on his face instead of the cold rage that had been there. Willow and Buffy were running up a tab of crimes and they would be paying for them.
Xander shot Rupert a mischievous look before racing up the stairs. He could hear Rupert lock the door behind the three, but he didn’t care. It had been too long since they had been alone together and he missed the feel of his lover on him and in him. Rupert’s steady tread sounded on the stairs and Xander quickly stripped off, knowing they didn’t have a lot of time to play around with.
The older man stopped just instead the door to their room, his eyes taking in the naked flesh on display for him. Eager to touch his young lover, he hurried across the room, clothing falling in a trail behind him. Climbing up the bed, he moved until he was kneeling over Xander’s prone form, loving the look of longing and need in the younger man’s face.
“Not a lot of time,” Xander reminded him as he reached up and pulled Rupert down with a tug.
Rupert let his body cover Xander’s as their lips met in a searing kiss that spoke of love and affection. Keeping in mind their limitations, he reached out to the night stand and snagged the bottle of lube they kept there, hurriedly slicking up his fingers and adding a generous layer to his cock. His fingers were quickly busy, stretching and preparing Xander’s as his lips located and exploited hot spots on Xander’s neck, shoulders and upper chest. Once he was satisfied they continue without injury, he moved to press inside, keeping the pressure constant until he bottomed out. Underneath him Xander gave a low moan, his head tipping back and his hips tipping up, encouraging Rupert to move. And move he did, thrusting hard and fast, driving both of them to the edge of insanity quickly.
Xander’s legs climbed up his torso, opening his body more, letting Rupert sink that little bit deeper with each stroke. Lifting up a bit, he slid a hand between their bodies and grasped Xander’s cock, stroking it counter to the rhythm of his thrusts. The cry Xander gave a loud and almost animalistic, driving Rupert to move just a little faster and harder until both slipped over the edge of pleasure. Sinking down, Rupert let his weight pinned his lover to the bed, knowing Xander loved the feeling.
As they lay there, they heart rates and breathing returning to normal, they heard the sound of the door opening and quiet voices in the living room. Glancing at each other, they laughed. At least this time they were upstairs.
Spike sniffed the air as they unlocked the door and entered the apartment. He could smell sex and couldn’t help but grin wickedly, giving Tara a broad wink. She blushed and shook her finger at him again. He stashed his things in the corner, looking up when he heard footsteps on the stairs.
“You guys are back early,” Xander said as he walked down the stairs.
“Seems the Slayer didn’t like me helping you lot,” Spike shrugged.
“What did she do?” Xander asked softly, a hard look entering his eyes.
“Trashed my stuff,” Spike answered.
Xander looked at him, staring hard before glancing at Tara and then turning to look up at Rupert. “I think we have to act sooner than later,” he said with quiet menace. “Before the violence becomes fatal.”
Chade sat safely in the circle of Xander’s arms as Tara and Rupert cast the spell to bind the bad witch’s powers. He hoped that it worked and the witch did hurt his new family. As if reading his mind, Xander tightened his arms and smiled down at him, brown eyes serious.
“This will work,” the older man whispered to Chade. “Tara’s strong and Rupert has the focus.”
Chade nodded, turning his attention back to the two magic users. He could feel the magic swirl in the air around them as Tara called on the gods and goddesses over magic, asking them to bind the bad witch’s magic from her. Chade shivered as the magic grew, swelling around them and crashing with an earth shattering flash. The young demon curled further into Xander’s arms as he blinked the spots from his vision. A gasp had him looking up, staring in shock at the tall, harsh looking woman standing in the middle of the room. She smiled at them gently, the expression altering her face slightly, making her look softer.
“You have been heard, daughter,” she said to Tara, smiling down at her.
“Hecate?” Tara whispered, eyes wide.
“Yes,” the goddess laughed, gracefully sinking to the floor. “We all heard and it was decided I would be the best candidate to come and speak with you.”
“Why?” Rupert blurted, blinking at his own rudeness. “I’m sorry.”
“It is okay,” Hecate told him. “We are answering directly because we feel this something we must deal with. I really wish we had watched Willow a little closer, but the Hellmouth masks most of the power around here. We did not notice her until it was too late.”
“When was that?” Xander asked quietly, drawing the Goddess’ attention to the two of them. Chade shivered again at the power in her eyes.
“Unfortunately not until she sent you to the Dreamworld,” she admitted. “It took a lot of power and it was off the Hellmouth. It was a big flash that shouldn’t have been and it definitely caught our attention. Before we could bring you back ourselves, you were back and calling on us. So, here I am.”
“And we thank you,” Tara said softly. “Can you help us?”
“Of course, child,” Hecate chided her. “We can bind her magic until she gets help, or we can take it a step further.”
“How much further?” Rupert asked.
“It is up to you since you have been the victims of most of her crimes, but we can strip the magic from her totally,” she said seriously. “Nothing would ever be able to bring it back. Even the dark gods are concerned about her misuse of magic. None of us like it. She has no care for the rituals that should be observed or the proper ways of magic. She does what she wishes no matter who it harms. That is not the way of magic, even chaos magic. We all want her stopped.”
“As useful as she has been in the past, I personally think it would be best to strip her of her magic,” Xander stated. Chade shifted to look up at him. He had been told that Willow had been Xander’s closest friend. She really must have done some bad things for even Xander to ask for that.
“I agree,” Tara sighed. “She’s too dangerous. We were asking for the binding while we looked for a way to block her.”
“Then we will do what we must,” Hecate said with a sad smile. “I will do my best to make sure she is not harmed in the process.”
“Thank you,” Tara whispered. “I do still care about her even if the love has died.”
“Those who hold our hearts will always be in them, no matter what,” the goddess said, rising to her feet. “I will tell the others and we will start. In two days Willow Rosenberg will be stripped of any magical abilities. Until then, shield yourselves well so she cannot harm you again. Oh, and get the young one some teachers. He’s about to come into all his powers.” She disappeared with a flash, leaving them sitting in shock and awe in the living room.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Willow whimpered, trying to get away from the bone deep pain. She didn’t know why she hurt, just that nothing she did eased her suffering. Through clenched eyelids, she saw a flash of light and eased her eyes open, staring at the strange group of people staring down at her as she writhed on her bed. Moaning, she tried to move away as they lifted glowing hands and held them over her as their power surrounded her, ratcheting up the level of her pain.
“What? Why?” she managed to gasp out.
“You have been found guilty of misusing your gifts,” one harsh voice hissed and she looked up at the two-faced God of Chaos, Janus.
“No I haven’t,” she protested.
“Yes you have,” another voice said and a woman stepped into her line of sight. “You have harmed others with magic, those who did not deserve it and justice has been called. We are here to deliver it. From this day forward, no magic will respond to you. Your powers have been stripped from you and nothing will bring them back.”
“Tara!” she growled, gasping again as the pain surged.
“She called on us to bind you,” the woman sneered. “We decided stripping you of magic would be much better. This way you cannot harm another with magic again. The pain will fade, eventually. It is reminder and a warning.”
The group disappeared, leaving her to cry into her pillow. If she didn’t have her magic, what did she have? Who would she be?
The door shook under the heavy pounding, even the wall surrounding it shaking. Cursing softly under his breath, Rupert hurried over, throwing it open and glowering at the petite blonde on the other side. She glared at hi, hazel eyes furious before pushing past into the apartment.
“Hello Buffy, why yes, you can come in,” Rupert said sarcastically as he closed the door.
“Where is she?” Buffy demanded, staring around at the empty room.
“Who?” Rupert asked, heading back to packing up the last of his things.
“That witch that cast the spell on Willow,” Buffy growled. “Willow no longer has magic.”
“I know,” Rupert said, taping up the last box. “And Tara didn’t do it. Not directing at least.”
“So she did have something to do with it,” Buffy confirmed. “Where is she so I can make her fix it.”
“There is nothing to fix and Tara did not do it,” Rupert said again, turning to glare at the Slayer, the girl that had once been like his own daughter. “We called upon the sources of magic, the gods over it, to deal with Willow’s misuse of her powers. They are the ones who took the magic from her.”
“Where do I find them so I can make them give it back?”
Rupert rubbed his forehead. “Listen carefully. Willow has been found guilty of extreme misuse of her magic, more so than even some of the worst warlocks and dark wizards.” He paused to let that sink in. “There was magic found on all of us. Spells to bend us to her will. If she had continued down the path that she was on, she would loss all her humanity and you would be duty-bound to slay her. Is that what you wanted?”
She gaped. “But-”
“There’s nothing you can do, Buffy. She has been tried and found guilty. The punishment is fitting to the crime,” he snapped. Stepping back he really looked at her, noticing the swirls of magic still surrounding her. Throwing a quick spell he had her frozen. “Tara?”
“Yes?” the blonde witch said, poking her head around the corner at the top of the stairs.
“Can you come here for a moment?”
Tara hurried down the stairs, stopping at the bottom to stare at the magic flowing around the Slayer. She rushed forward and placed her hands on either side of Buffy’s face, reading the spells. “Loyalty, obedience, confusion, lust, arrogance, hostility and blind violence.”
“All that?” Rupert breathed, stumbling back to a wall. “How did we miss this?”
“There is the remains of a see-not spell laid over all of them,” Tara said softly, dropping her hands and stepping back. “It was hidden very well from us, but without Willow continually pumping power into the spell, it faded.”
“And now we can see it all,” he finished. “We need to check the rest of us for anything else she may have cast.”
“And see if cleaning the spells off Buffy will change her back to the girl she was,” Xander said quietly as he came down the stairs to stand behind his lover.
“After we finish packing,” Tara said firmly. They smiled and nodded, going back to packing up the last of the apartment while Buffy stood, still frozen in the middle of the empty living room.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Chade watched as Tara cast the spell and all the magic circling the strange blonde woman stopped. The woman slumped, her shoulders shaking and he could smell the salt of her tears.
“What have I done?” she whispered.
Xander was beside her in an instant, hugging her close and whispering things that Chade couldn’t make out. He looked around at the others, judging their reactions to the woman. Spike looked like he didn’t care, a sneer of his lips, but his eyes were dark with worry. Rupert was shaking slightly, as if he wanted to go over to her as well. Tara’s reaction shocked him though. Tara was very angry.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Xander held tight as Buffy shook in his arms. He could almost feel the conflict of emotions as they happened and he slightly cursed Willow again for putting them all through this. A small sound from Chade had him looking up and he followed the boy’s gaze to a very pissed off Tara. Glancing at Spike, he nodded toward the now glowing Tara, knowing the vampire would calm her down.
“I’m so sorry,” Buffy said quietly, sitting up and moving back a little.
“That’s a bit paltry,” Spike noted as he wrapped Tara in a hug.
Buffy glared half-heartedly at him. “I know it’s not enough. I know nothing ever will be. Some of what I said and did was my own. She only played on my own feelings.”
Xander released his hold on her. “So what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “Talk to my mom first though. Let her smack some sense into me.”
“Get her to a doctor too,” Spike added. She glanced at him. “She smells off, like she’s sick but I’m not sure what it is.”
“Thanks,” she nodded. She looked around, noticing the lack of nearly everything. “You’re moving?”
“The flat’s not big enough for all of us,” Rupert told her. “Angel is letting us have the mansion on Crawford Street.”
“I’d ask but it’s none of my business,” she said with a small smile. “I’m going to go talk to Mom. If it’s okay, I’ll come visit when you’ve got the new house set up.”
They all sat in silence when she left, lost in their thoughts. Xander hugged Chade absently when he came over. Tara had already taken the spell off them and now they had to live with memories off all that Willow had done to them.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Joyce asked Rupert quietly. She had shown up while they were unpacking, an expression of hurt on her face. One smile from Chade had made things right though and she joined up with Tara to make sure the mansion was suitably clean.
“We didn’t want to make you chose sides,” Rupert told her with a soft smile. “Buffy is your daughter, regardless of her actions.”
“Yes, but if I had known I would have been able to beat some sense into her,” Joyce countered. “Daughter or not, she’s wrong. Even left out of everything I’ve noticed that.”
“She admitted that some of Willow’s spell work only amplified her own feelings,” he looked away briefly. “I fear she was talking about my relationship with Xander.”
Joyce smiled at him, a smile of soft compassion. “Do you love him?”
“Then what she thinks doesn’t matter,” she told him. “As for my feelings on the subject: as long as you don’t hurt him, every thing’s fine.”
“That simple?” he questioned.
“That simple,” she answered. “But if you do hurt him, any punishment you can think up will pale in comparison to what I will do to you.”
Rupert grinned. “Thank you. Other than Spike and Tara, no one has offered to stand for Xander. He hasn’t said anything, but I know it hurts him greatly.”
She nodded. “I’m not surprised. He always has been one to feel everything to the extreme.” She clapped her hands together, dismissing that topic. “Now, tell me about Chade.”
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“Do you think she likes me?” Chade asked quietly. He looked up at the vampire sitting with him.
“Joyce is a good woman,” Spike assured him. “Gave my cocoa and let me blabber about Dru. Hell, she put up with the Slayer for all these years.”
“But that doesn’t mean she’ll like me,” the young demon pointed out.
Spike thought for a moment. “How do you see Xander and Rupert? What are they to you?”
“Family,” Chade answered easily.
“And to her they’re family, which means you are family,” Spike reasoned. “Joyce sticks by family. If you’re doing something she doesn’t like, she’ll tell you. She’s straightforward.”
Chade curled up and cuddled further into the vampire’s side. “If you say so.”
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Spike carefully hid a grin as he watched the two interact across the room. Once Chade’s nature had been revealed to Joyce, she had wrapped her arms around the young demon and had yet to let him go. Chade was confused at first, but quickly adapted, sinking into her embrace like he did with the rest of them. Now, Joyce had a firm grip on him as she talked with Rupert about something and Chade looked content. A brief thought flickered through Spike’s mind, wondering if something happened to them, would Joyce take Chade in?
“Joyce?” Rupert’s voice rang loud and Spike looked up in time to see the woman slump, only Chade’s tenuous hold on her keeping her from hitting the ground. Rupert easily lifted her and laid her on the couch while the others rushed over. “Joyce?”
“What happened?” Xander asked. He glanced at Chade and pulled the distraught youngster into his arms.
“I don’t know,” Chade whispered. “She seemed confused and then she fell.”
Rupert looked at his lover. “We were talking about schools and teachers for Chade when she trailed off. I called her name just before she passed out.”
“Wha?” came groggily from the prone woman. “What happened?”
“You passed out,” Rupert told her, helping her sit up when she tried to move.
“Again?” she muttered.
“This has happened before?” Rupert stepped back. “How often?”
“I’ve actually fully passed out a few times lately,” Joyce admitted. “The rest are just momentary black outs.”
“That’s not normal,” Rupert said, shaking his head. “Did Buffy pass on the message for you to get checked out?”
“Yes, but there’s a wait to get into the doctors.”
“I think we need to schedule a trip to LA,” Xander said quietly. “See if we can get in to see someone there.”
“It’ll be a longer wait,” she protested.
“There’s some strings I can pull,” Xander assured her. “And I’ll gladly do it if it means you’re healthy and here for a long time.”
Joyce smiled softly at him. “You’re a good son, Xander.”
“Ah, Severus my boy,” Albus Dumbledore smiled as his Potions Master stalked into the room. “Thank you for coming. Tea?”
“No thank you, Albus,” Severus Snape said softly, seating himself in a chair across from the Headmaster. “What did you want to see me about?”
Albus didn’t answer right away, instead carefully fixed himself a cup of tea before smiling, eyes twinkling, at Severus. “I have a favour to ask of you.”
“Last time you asked a favour of me I ended up spending most of my time in the presence of Him,” Severus reminded him harshly.
“Oh, this is nothing like that,” the older man assured him. “An acquaintance of mine, and yours actually, has contacted me. It seems he has been given guardianship of a young boy and needs someone to help the young one in question control his abilities.”
“And you want me to go and do it?” sighed Severus, running a hand over his face. “Why?”
“The boy’s heritage is such that only a few would be able to teach him, otherwise the gentlemen who wrote me would have attended to that himself. He had attended Hogwarts for a bit.”
“Who is you friend?”
“Rupert Giles,” Albus said with a wide grin.
“Ripper?” Severus gasped, sitting forward to stare hard at his mentor. “Last I heard he had run back to the Watcher’s Council after the scandal that happened with Rayne.”
“He did,” Albus nodded. “He began a Watcher. A Watcher to a Slayer actually. And as I said, he recently became the guardian to a young boy who he cannot teach.”
“Ripper was a top student,” Severus protested. “Even if he has not used his magic in years, he would still be able to teach the basics to a young wizard.”
“Ah, but see, that’s the dilemma. Rupert’s ward is not a wizard. He’s a demon.”
“Yes, a Pen’Umbra demon to be exact. And given your own familial history, I figured you would be the most capable to teaching him to use his powers.”
The Potions Master stared at his mentor, shock and fear racing through him. Instead of sending him to spy of a Dark Lord, he was sending him to teach a demon. The man had to be mad! He shook his head, trying to clear the jumbled thoughts.
“I wouldn’t be asking if it wasn’t important,” Albus said quietly. “The young demon in question has lost his entire family to a rogue witch. Rupert and his mate have taken Chade in, given him a home and stability. But Rupert is not capable to teach Shadow Magics and his mate has no magic to speak of. There is another witch there, but she deals only in LIght and White Magics. She can teach him bits, but not enough to give him any control. And a young boy with uncontrolled magic is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Slumping back, Severus groaned. “Fine, I’ll go.”
“Thank you, my Boy,” Albus smiled slightly. “You won’t be going alone though. I thought it best if you had, well, a guard so to speak.”
“No, Albus,” Severus growled. “Not him.”
“Who else could protect you?”
“He has classes!” he exclaimed triumphantly.
“Which you can help him with.”
“We can’t stand each other!”
“Yes, but you have proven time and again that you can work together,” Albus countered. “You will not change my mind. Harry will be accompanying you.”
“Fine,” Severus sneered. “Where exactly are we going?”
“To Sunnydale, California. To the Hellmouth.”
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“So who’s coming?” Xander asked, sliding between the cover and snuggling up to his lover.
“Albus said he was sending the best he knew,” Rupert replied.
“So you don’t know,” Xander teased, yelping when the older man moved, flipping them so that Xander was on the bottom.
“No, I don’t know,” Rupert agreed, a shark like smile on his lips. “But I don’t care at the moment. I have better things to do.”
“Like what?” Xander asked coyly, shifting a bit so his lover was nestled between his legs.
“You for one.”
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
The sudden appearance to two men in their living room had all the inhabitants of the mansion jumping up and running for weapons. Rupert stopped for a second, recognition slowly coming as he stared at the older man. The face was older, but otherwise Severus Snape still looked the same. He looked at the young man standing at Severus’ side and blinked, wondering how the hell James Potter still looked seventeen, until the young man winked and he noticed the bright green gaze, very different from James’.
“Hello Rupert,” Severus drawled, quirking an eyebrow.
“Hello Severus,” Rupert replied. He felt Xander come stand beside him, their arms brushing with each slight movement. “It’s been a long time.”
“It has,” Severus nodded, then he smirked. “Never figured you would go for the young ones.”
“Much could be the same could be said for you.”
The young man at Severus’ side burst out in laughter, stepping away a bit. “I’d never shag Snape,” he managed to get out. “He’s a bastard and a git.”
“Is that your unbiased opinion?” Rupert asked.
“No, just my plain opinion,” the young man said. “He hates me. I hate him. And the world keeps on spinning. Harry Potter by the way.”
“James’ son?” Rupert gasped. “With who?”
“Lily Evans,” Severus answered. “But we’re not here to talk about Potter’s ancestry. I was told you have a young man in need of teaching.”
“Oh, yes,” he turned and look at Chade, beckoning the young demon forward. “This is Chade. He’s a Pen’Umbra. With his family gone and the nearest clan too far away, we have no one to train him.”
“I can do that if you are willing to help me continue with Potter’s training,” Severus offered. “Albus wouldn’t let me come without at guard and he still has a few months of school left.”
“Of course,” Rupert smiled. “Between myself and Tara, I’m sure there’s plenty he could learn.”
“Then it’s settled,” Severus nodded. “Do you know of a boarding house who could stay at?”
Xander snorted, drawing attention to himself. “We live in a mansion. Plenty of rooms. Besides, it would be easier to teach if you didn’t have to travel.”
“Quite right, Xander,” Rupert said, leaning over to brush a kiss over Xander’s mouth. “Well, let’s get started.”
The sounds drifted through the walls, muffled but still there. Severus sneered at the walls and brandished his wand, casting a quick silencing spell. He sighed when the sounds stopped. It has been longer than he liked to remember that he had been without a steady lover and each of the sounds had cut into him, reminding him what he was missing. Flipping over in the bed provided he began to think of what he could teach Chade. It wasn’t often that he delved into his own heritage, but this time he would. A scowl crossed his features as he realized that Potter would now know one of his most private of secrets.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Harry groaned as the sounds of sex and love echoed down the hall and slid under his door. He was well aware that a simple spell would end the noise, but he couldn’t find it in him to lift his wand and cast it. The sounds were coming from two different sources, both the sounds of sex, but full of love. He could almost feel the love in each breathy moan and sharp cry. Throwing himself back on his bed, he regretted rejecting Draco’s offer of a quick one before he left. Thinking about it now, there had been just enough time before he had left, but it was too late now.
“Harry?” A soft voice called from the other side of his door.
“Yeah?” he called back. The door opened a crack and Chade peeked in, waiting until Harry smiled and gestured for him to come in. “What’s wrong?” Harry asked as the young boy shut the door behind him and stood in the middle of the room, fidgeting.
“I’m hungry and they’re all busy,” the boy whispered.
“Well come on,” Harry said, standing and walking to the door. “We’ll get you something to eat.”
“Not food,” Chade said, shaking his head. “Touch.”
“Touch?” the wizard blinked. “What do you mean?”
“You don’t know,” Chade sighed. “I’m sorry. I’ll leave you alone.”
“No,” Harry said, laying a hand on Chade’s arm to stop him. “You just need to explain this to me first.” He led the young boy over to the bed and made him sit, taking a spot beside him.
“My kind, we have to eat, but we also feed off touch,” Chade explained quietly. “We were so busy earlier that I didn’t get a chance to feed. Now I’m hungry and I don’t want to bother the others.”
“Pen’Umbra demons,” replied Chade.
“Okay,” Harry said slowly. “What do you need?”
“Just touch,” Chade told him.
“Like a hug?” Harry asked.
“Yes,” nodded Chade.
“I can do that,” Harry smiled, reaching over to pull the young demon close. “I like hugs.”
Chade leaned into his side, sighing as the ache within him settled. “Xander gives good hugs.”
“My friend Hermione gives good hugs too,” Harry grinned. “She’s always hugging me.”
“I don’t have any friends yet,” Chade murmured.
“Before I lived here, I lived with my family and I didn’t need friends, I had my brother and sister. But everyone here is always so busy, it gets lonely sometimes,” he admitted. “I started to wonder what it would be like to have friends.”
“Have you said anything to the others yet?” Harry asked, worried about the young demon.
“No, not yet.”
“You should,” Harry told him. “There might be somewhere you can go sometimes to make friends. It seems a town like this probably has a place for young demons to go and hang out.”
“You think so?” Black eyes stared up at him imploringly.
“Yeah, I do,” Harry nodded. “How about in the morning, we talk to the adults and see if there’s anywhere to go play.”
“Spike might know,” Chade said thoughtfully. Then he smiled. “Thank you Harry.”
“For being a friend.”
A small spark of black flame formed in the palm of Chade’s had and he grinned up at his teacher. The normally stern man smiled slightly and nodded.
“Very good, Chade,” Severus said. “Now, extinguish it and do it again. This time try to make it bigger.”
Chade let the flame go out and waited a moment before calling forth the power within him to create a new flame, this one slightly larger than the first. The small spot of black fire danced and flicker in his hand, casting strange shadows across his face.
“Good,” Severus nodded sharply. “Tomorrow we should be able to move on to the next lesson.”
“He’s doing that well?” Rupert asked, walking over to them.
“He’s almost ready for the advanced lessons,” Severus answered. Chade grinned at both of them, bouncing a little in his seat. Severus shook his head. “Go play.”
“Is he really doing that well?” asked Rupert, sitting beside the other man.
“I don’t exaggerate issues like that,” Severus replied stonily.
“I didn’t mean it that way,” Rupert chided.
“He’s doing better than I expected,” the Potion Master said truthfully. “He told me he watched as he parents taught his siblings so he knew some of the basics.”
“He just didn’t know how to put them into practice,” Rupert finished. “That’s good.”
“Has Potter made any progress?”
“Up until we reached chants,” Rupert sighed. “I can’t seem to get it through to him. Tara either.”
“I’m not surprised he’s having problems, the boy never listens,” remarked Severus.
“I don’t have problems with him,” Rupert pointed out. “Harry’s just having rhythm problems. He can’t seem to keep the cadence of any of the chants.”
“Is it that important?”
“He asked to learn the type of magic Tara and I do, said Voldemort wouldn’t be able to block it, so I guess to him it is.”
“Little brat’s finally learning,” Severus sneered.
“Perhaps you should be nicer to him, Sev,” Rupert admonished, pushing to his feet. “After all, he doesn’t have to do what everyone wants. We would welcome him over here.” The ex-Watcher walked off, leaving his school mate to think about what he had said.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Xander watched as Harry slumped, disappointment evident in every line of his body. It was hard to watch the young man struggle. He actually had a fair hand for Chaos and Nature magics, but any spell that required chanting of any kind simply would not work for him.
“This isn’t working,” Harry moaned. “No matter what I just can’t get the rhythms right.”
“I might have a cure for that,” Spike said thoughtfully. He moved over to the entertainment system and fiddled for a moment. Suddenly a bass heavy song started. Moving quickly, Spike positioned himself behind Harry. “Listen.”
“To what?” the young man asked.
“To the beat of the music,” Spike said, stepping a little closer. “Listen.”
Harry closed his eyes and Xander saw when the music finally got to him. He began swaying slightly to the beat and behind him Spike grinned. Softly the vampire began to murmur the words of the spell, chanting along with the rhythm of the music. Harry picked up the stream of words and Spike’s voice faded out, leaving the young wizard speaking them alone. A flash of light briefly lit the room, blinding Xander momentarily, but when his sight cleared he laughed. The spell had finally worked and a small white rabbit sat on the floor in front of Harry.
Dazed, Harry opened his eyes, looking down when Xander pointed. “It worked!”
“All chants follow a rhythm,” Spike said, stepping away. “If you can’t find the actually rhythm, start it to the beat of your own heart. After that the words will show you the right way.”
Harry leaned down and picked up the rabbit. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” Spike shrugged. “Just find some place for that.”
Mr. Snape had spent hours teaching the young demon to control his magic and how to call up some of the higher magics. Chade soaked up all the knowledge the wizard gave him, learning everything he could. Likewise, Harry learned everything he could from Rupert and Tara while Spike and Xander watched on in amusement. In all it was a good life.
But even Chade had learned that nothing stays good forever. It was a lesson that stuck and was repeated again and again.
The day had been normal. Chade and Snape in one part of the house, Tara and Harry in another, Spike asleep in his room while Rupert researched something upstairs and Xander headed off to work. Then the house shook.
“Earthquake?” Spike asked, spilling down the stairs.
“No,” Snape said seriously. “That was magic. Heavy magic.”
“But no one in town has the kind of power,” Tara protested, looking around. “We’re the only ones who could have managed it.”
The door splintering open stopped any other words and Chade shrank back at the sight of a very familiar woman standing on the other side. Red hair flew in an isolated wind and the witch’s eyes were black. Her hands were covered in odd green-black scales and a strange amulet hung around her neck.
“Willow!” Tara shouted, pulling her power up while Snape and Harry moved together to flank her.
“You will pay for what you did,” Willow said harshly. There was an odd echo to her voice, as if more than one person was speaking.
“I didn’t do anything to you,” Tara yelled. “You did it to yourself and the Gods punished you for it.”
“Liar,” Willow screamed, raising her hand to shoot a bolt of power at the blonde witch.
Chade watched in horror as Tara went flying past the two men behind her, impacting with the wall. He rushed to her side, keeping an eye on the insane woman in the doorway.
“Are you going to try now?” Willow asked Snape and Harry. Neither said anything, but a quick motion of their wands had ropes binding her in place. A second later the ropes snapped and she grinned. “Not good enough.” More power lashed out at them, knocking them back and out.
“Wonder if you still read as human?” Spike asked, leaping at her.
Willow lashed out at him, sending him out into the fatal sun. Chade moved as fast as his abilities would let him, shifting past her and to Spike, surrounding the vampire in shadows to protect him. Out there, he couldn’t see what was happening in the house and could only listen to the faint sounds.
“We need to get inside,” Spike said quietly. Chade nodded and concentrated his powers, slipping them into the shadows then into the house, hidden from the witch. “Can you go get Xander?”
“I don’t want to leave you,” Chade said, clinging to the vampire.
“I know,” Spike said softly, pushing the young demon back a bit. “But we need help and he’s the only one who can get through to her. You know where his site’s at?”
“Yes,” Chade nodded. He shifted so he was back outside and took off running, hoping to get to Xander in time to help.
The house was quiet when they got back. Xander pushed open the ruins of the front door and entered quietly, making Chade stay outside. He could see Severus and Harry laying in a twisted pile on the ground but no one else was present. Venturing upstairs he began to hear a low chanting in a guttural voice. He could tell it was Willow. Following the sound he stopped at one of the unused room, staring at the sight inside the room. Rupert, Tara and Spike were tied up, naked, with symbols painted on them. Willow stood above them, chanting as power crackled around her. Xander took stock of the situation then walked in, breaking Willow’s concentration.
“You,” she hissed, turning dark eyes on him. “My other betrayer.”
“Is that how you see me?” he asked softly, stepping closer to her. “Despite the fact that you betrayed me first. I’m the betrayer?”
“You took my magic!”
“No, I didn’t,” Xander replied calmly. “The Gods and Goddesses over magic took it from you because you were abusing it. There’s no one to blame but yourself. But you never were good at taking the blame for anything you did.”
“What do you mean?”
“Even when we were little, I always took responsibility when things went wrong and got in trouble for everything you did,” he told her, stalking closer.
“You lie! I never did anything wrong!” she yelled.
“The sad part is you believe that,” he shook his head. “Where did you get the biohazards on you arms? What did you kill for that?”
“They were just demons,” she sneered. “They deserved to die.”
“Not all demons are bad,” Xander reminded her. “You told me that. What changed your mind? The magic? The power?”
“Shut up!” she yelled, moving to hit him with a bolt of power.
Xander moved before she did, slamming his fist into her face. She dropped, power dying without focus behind it. He stripped the gloves off her and removed the amulet and quickly tied her up before freeing the others.
“Thank you,” Rupert said, pulling Xander into his arms. “I’m sorry.”
Xander buried his head in his lover’s neck. “Chade’s still outside and Severus and Harry are knocked out downstairs.”
“I’ll take care of them,” Spike said, grabbing his clothes and heading out.
“I’ll take care of her for now,” Tara said, getting dressed and levitating Willow out of the room.
“Why?” Xander asked once they were alone.
“I don’t know,” Rupert answered. He lead his lover out of the guest room and to theirs, pushing Xander down on the bed and climbing in with him. “It was worse than we thought.”
“When Chade came and got me, I was so scared,” Xander admitted, hugging Rupert tightly. “I worried I would get here to late.”
“You weren’t,” Rupert assured him. “We’re fine and we’ll figure out what to do with her.”
“Buffy?” Xander whispered, pulling back to look at the older man.
Rupert’s eyes widened and he reached for the phone, dialing the number. Xander listened to the conversation.
“She’s okay,” Rupert sighed, hanging up. “They weren’t home when Willow went there so she came here.”
“I could have lost you,” Xander said quietly, still stuck on that fact.
Severus stepped up beside Rupert and watched as Tara stroke Xander’s hair. Chade had curled up against the older man and Spike sat a few feet away, watching with a pensive expression.
“I take it he’s normally not this taciturn,” Severus said softly.
“Normally he talks a mile a minute,” Rupert said fondly. He sighed. “Xander has a brilliant mind, but it works faster than his mouth sometimes. The girls used to put him done all the time, not realizing he often found what we were looking for.”
“They were that cruel?”
“Worse,” the ex-Watcher glanced at his friend. “I would sit in my office and listen sometimes. Xander would find something important and babble it out and they would scoff. A few times I tried to thank him in front of them, but they didn’t care so I started thanking him in private.”
Severus smirked. “Is that what they call it now.”
“Not like that,” Rupert snorted. “We started seeing each other after he came back from his road trip. He had all these tales, even if he didn’t make it very far, but Buffy and Willow didn’t want to listen. I did. We began spending more time together and one night after a bad patrol ended up in bed.”
Something in Rupert’s voice caught Severus’ attention. “You thought you took advantage of him.”
“Yes,” the other man sighed. “But Xander wouldn’t let my back way. Now, months later we’re still together.”
“What are you going to do?” Severus asked.
“I’ve called in a favour, a coven of witches in Devon have agreed to take her in. They can keep her from accessing any magic,” Rupert told him seriously. “She’ll be under constant supervision. One slip and they will bind her permanently.”
“It’s like Draught of the Dead,” Rupert explained. “She’ll basically be in a coma. Not something I really want to happen, but with everything she’s done, there is not alternative.”
“And the rest? Do you plan on staying in Sunnydale?”
Rupert turned to look at him. “Why are you asking?”
“Albus has an offer for you,” Severus admitted. “I was to see what your plans were and then offer if it was feasible.”
“What’s the offer?”
“What?” Rupert yelped, startling everyone into looking at him in shock. Xander stood and slowly made his way over, leaning against his lover’s solid form.
“My employer has offered Rupert a job,” Severus told him.
“Doing what and where?”
“Teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts.”
“Sounds like a good job,” Xander said thoughtfully. “But what about the rest of us?”
“There are offers for you too, but he wanted to put them forward in person,” the Potions Master said. “If Rupert agreed I was to take all of you back to Hogwarts when Potter and I left.”
“We need to talk about this first,” Rupert said.
“Agreed,” Severus nodded. “I need to start packing.” He walked off, beckoning Potter to follow him. Harry threw a quick grin back at them before heading up the stairs.
“This is. . .” Rupert trailed off. “I’m not sure.”
“What would we do there?” Tara asked, pulling Chade up and walking over to join them.
“I’m not sure,” admitted Rupert.
“I have an idea,” Xander said, glancing around at them and Spike still seat across the room. “Why don’t we go and find out what this guy has to offer? Make no concrete decisions until we hear everything?”
“That’s a good idea,” Spike said, finally joining them. “Keep our options open.”
“Are we agreed?” Rupert asked. Tara nodded and Chade just shrugged. “I’ll go talk to Severus. The rest of you start packing for the trip.”
Xander landed on the floor with a breath stealing thump, a second thump hitting beside him. Forcing his eyes open, he turned and looked to see a white faced Harry being helped to his feet by a young redheaded man while Rupert was talking to an old man wearing Gandalf’s beard.
“I hate portkeys,” Harry mumbled, reaching down to pull Xander up.
“You okay?” Xander asked. The younger man nodded and Xander made his way over to his lover.
“Ah, this must be Alexander,” the bearded man said.
“Xander,” he corrected. “I take it you’re Severus’ boss.”
“Albus Dumbledore,” he bowed a bit. “Headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
“Cool,” Xander grinned, then his face went suddenly blank. “Do you keep people from going bad?”
“I try,” Albus replied softly. “But if they truly want that path then no force on earth can stop them.”
“Not even death,” Harry added, appearing beside them. “Sir, I’m going to head back to the dorms.”
“Go ahead, my boy,” Albus smiled. “I’ll talk with you tomorrow.” Harry nodded and left with his friend. “I’m sure we have much to talk about, but perhaps it would be better if we got you situation first.”
“That would be nice,” Rupert agreed. “Can you make it so that Chade has a room connecting to ours?”
“And to ours,” Tara added.
“Oh, that will be easy,” Albus said with a bright smile. “The castle already seems to like him.”
Xander glanced over to see Chade sitting in a shadow, magic visibly humming around him. The young demon opened his eyes and grinned. “It tickles.”
“I’m sure it does, young man,” Albus laughed. “The magic in Hogwarts will keep him from running higgledy-piggledy.”
Xander blinked. “Say what?”
“The mojo will help keep him out of trouble,” Spike translated from the corner near Chade.
“Oh,” Xander nodded. “What about you?”
“What about me? Worried I’m going to nosh on the kiddies?”
Xander shook his head. “I know you better than that, Spike. No, how are you going to get around. This place is pretty shady, but there are still sunny spots. Not good for the flammable society.”
“Don’t worry,” Albus butt in. “I have just the thing for that.” He rummaged in his desk for a moment. “Here, this is the Gem of Amara.”
“Angel destroyed that!” Spike gasped, stepping closer. He plucked the ring out of Albus’ hand. “He destroyed it.”
“Did you really think only one had been made?” Albus said kindly. “There were three made. One was hidden in the depths of hell, one was given to the alchemist and one was lost in the halls of time. This was given to my dear friend Nicholas Flammel. When he heard there was a friendly vampire coming to Hogwarts, he sent it to me.”
“The depths of hell obviously was Sunnydale, but the halls of time?” Rupert murmured distractedly.
“Not now,” Xander grinned. “Can we head up to those rooms for now? I think we should unpack.”
“Of course,” Albus grinned back at him. “Severus can show you to one of the suite of rooms near his. Most are three or four room suites and well protected. That way you are all still together. And here,” he handed over a roll of parchment. “Some ideas of what the rest of you can accomplish here at Hogwarts and in the Wizarding world in general.”
“Thank you,” Xander told him before following Severus out, leading his still distracted lover.
It sat there, a reminder of things better left in the past. Xander could only stare at it, wanting the damn thing to disappear. Arms wrapped around him and loving lips dropped a quick kiss on his shoulder.
“Are you going to open it?” Rupert asked, keeping his young lover in his embrace.
“I don’t know,” Xander admitted quietly. “I’m not sure I want to hear anything she has to say.”
“It could lead to closure,” Rupert offered, not really believing it.
“No,” the young man disagreed. “I put the past behind me already. I don’t need closure.”
“No, but she does.” They turned to see Tara standing in the doorway, a sad smile on her face. Behind her, Spike stood grim-faced, eyes flashing between blue and yellow. “Her fate has been decided. Read the letter, Xander.”
With a sigh, Xander reached for the envelope and opened it, pulling out the few sheets of paper. He read silently, letting his lover read over his shoulder. The words did nothing to change his feelings on the matter, but he could sense the pain underlying them. When he reached the end he blinked in shock. The punishment she would suffer was harsh, but knowing the litany of crimes she was responsible for, it was fitting.
“I’m sending a letter back,” Tara said quietly. “I can include yours if you like.”
Xander nodded, leaning back into Rupert’s arms. “Thank you.”
I got your letter the other day, but I can’t understand why you felt the need to send it. Tara says you need closure before taking on your new role, but I know you better. You didn’t send it looking for closure or forgiveness. You sent it in the hopes that I would come and rescue you. I’m sorry, but I won’t be.
You’ve done so much damage. Not only to myself, but Tara, Spike, Rupert, Buffy and Joyce. Not to mention the destruction of Chade’s whole family. You hurt those you say you love and then hope a few words of sorrow will make it better. It doesn’t. Life doesn’t work that way.
I can’t accept your apologies. Nor will I ever forget what you have done. I’m not saying any of this to hurt you, it’s only the truth. I do hope, though, that your truly learn the extent of your crimes and truly understand the pain you caused.
“It is time,” a harsh voice intoned.
She stood and followed the cowled figure to a large throne room. He left her standing before a black throne sitting empty in the room.
There was a flash of light and then an older man was sitting on the throne staring down at her. “Willow Rosenberg. Normally I do not allow the living down here. But Hecate and Janus have spoken on your behalf. Therefore I will bend the rules a bit.”
Willow swallowed. She had no idea that anyone had spoken on her behalf.
“They have devised a punishment for you, one suitable to the crimes you have committed,” the man continued. “You are sentenced to help those whose demise came at the hands of magic. Being that there is a wizarding war occurring, there are quite a number of those. Your punishment will continue until the time your jailors feel you have learn the error of your ways.”
Another flash of light and Willow found herself standing in a enormous room filled with people. All of them having died by magical means. Skin sliced off. Body parts missing. A few looking normal but for the terror in their eyes. And at the front, staring up at her with confusion, a group of young children.