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London Calling


by
Shadowscast



9
Adult Accompaniment


"Mmmph."

"Hm?"

Xander struggled awake. It was dark, he was hung over, and he couldn't remember where he was but there was someone curled up next to him.

The someone moved, and stretched, and rolled away from Xander. A moment later a lighter flicked on. Spike gazed at Xander in the yellow glow. "Good afternoon, pet."

"Ugh." Xander sat up slowly, and watched Spike light the candles on the bedside crate.

"Bloody hell, what am I wearing?" Spike asked with an appalled expression, checking himself out by the candlelight.

"My track suit." Xander suppressed a snicker, seeing Spike twisting around to check out his own butt.

"'S all baggy," Spike complained.

The gray track suit was a size too big for Spike, and bloodstained down the front. He looked like a photo from the Worst Dressed issue of Undead People Magazine.

"Just be glad you can't see yourself in the mirror." Xander grinned, and then winced at how talking made his head hurt.

"Mixed blessing, that." Spike pulled the sweatshirt up over his head, giving Xander a view of the bloodstained wraparound bandages covering his torso. "No way to know if my hair looks funny when I wake up in the evening."

"Looks fine now," Xander assured him. It was rumpled and curly and sticking out in all directions, and it was weird how adorable Xander was finding it.

Funny how a vampire bite messed with your head. No wonder Riley had got drawn in so far. But this was nothing like that. That had been sick and twisted. This was...nice.

Spike shucked the pants off quickly, leaving them crumpled on the floor. Barefoot and naked, he sauntered over to his clothing shelf and pulled out a clean pair of black jeans. "'Course I always had it easy compared to the really old vamps, the ones turned before photography," he continued, pulling on the jeans. "Darla went centuries without seeing herself—bloody near forgot what she looked like." He pulled a black t-shirt off the shelf, shook it out and looked at it. "Sod it, this is my last shirt. I've been running through them like stockings in nettles these last few days."

"Wait, don't put it on yet," Xander said. Spike turned to him, raising an eyebrow. "Come here." Xander patted the futon beside himself.

"What is it, pet?" Spike came and sat by Xander.

"Let me see how you're doing." Xander peeled away one side of the square gauze bandage he'd taped over the pterey bite on Spike's shoulder. The crescent of puncture wounds was still clearly visible, but the holes were healed over with new pink skin. "Hey, that's great. Look at it!" He peeled the bandage the rest of the way off, and Spike craned his neck to look.

"Well, that's nice," Spike said. "Wouldn't go taking off the rest of the mummy-wrappings just yet—I can feel the deeper cuts still."

Xander frowned, touched a bloodstain on the wraparound bandage lightly with his fingertips. "Do they still hurt?"

Spike snorted. "Bloody right they do. Got a couple broken ribs, too, I think."

Xander jerked his fingers away, suddenly afraid he'd been hurting Spike whenever he touched him. "Fuck, Spike, you should've said something—"

Spike shrugged, then winced. "Said what? It doesn't matter, it'll all heal in a day or three." He paused, gazed steadily at Xander. "I owe that to you."

Xander shrugged, and lowered his eyes, feeling his face flush. "It was all I could think of—"

"It was fucking stupid," Spike said sharply, shocking Xander into looking up at him again. "Did you have any fucking idea how dangerous it was? Any idea how bloody hard it is for a vampire to stop feeding before they've drained all the blood? Goes against every instinct, pet, and I was hungrier than any vampire you've ever met."

Xander tried to lick his lips, but his mouth was dry. "I kind of knew about that," he said. "But I trusted you."

Spike blinked at that, then gave a sardonic head-tilt and half-smile. "Seems to me you Scoobies put altogether too much faith in a soul."

"Not just the soul." Xander squeezed Spike's hand. "That was part of it, but...I just met Spike-with-a-soul a week ago. It takes more than a week to build that kind of trust, Spike." Xander hadn't thought about this before he said it, but he knew it was true.

Spike hesitated, then laughed a bit awkwardly. "Are you feeling all right, mate?"

"Yeah! Well, no, kind of crappy actually, in a hangover kind of way which is weird 'cause I haven't been drinking, but I mean it, Spike—after that time Glory tortured you and you didn't betray Dawn I started to trust you, and I started to like you, only I hated it that I was trusting you and liking you because I knew you were really evil, you couldn't be anything but evil, you were a vampire, you've killed probably thousands of people, but I still couldn't help starting to trust you, but then I was always afraid you'd do something to make me regret trusting you, and then you did."

Spike nodded. "I hurt Buffy."

"Yeah. I was planning to stake you for that as soon as I saw you." Xander rubbed his temples. This was too much deep thinking and feeling; his head was pounding. "Buffy made me rethink that, though, when she talked me into coming over here. I was seeing it all black and white—man hurts woman. Man bad. Buffy reminded me that she's not a normal woman, and I guess there was a lot of...stuff...between the two of you that I still don't understand..."

"You have a headache?" Spike asked, touching Xander's fingers where he was rubbing his head.

"Um yeah—"

"You're dehydrated." Suddenly Spike was standing up, throwing on his shirt, searching the store for his boots. "Bloody hell, there's broken glass all over the place!"

"Don't look at me," Xander muttered.

Spike grabbed the last item left on his clothing shelf. It turned out to be a big blanket. "Be back in a flash, pet!" he called out, and, throwing the blanket over his head, hurled himself against the front door of the store and out into the daylight.

Xander waited on the futon, feeling nervous on Spike's behalf. The slice of world he could see past the half-open door looked bright and sunny.

It was less than a minute before Spike ran back through the door, smoking a little. He slammed the door shut and strode briskly back to Xander, and presented him with a bottle of pineapple juice.

"Where—?"

"Kebab shop across the street." Spike twisted the top off and pressed the open bottle into Xander's hand. "Mind you drink it slowly, now."

As soon as the sweet, cold liquid touched Xander's tongue, he realized how desperately thirsty he was. He tilted the bottle back and started gulping it, and Spike pulled it away.

"Slowly, I said. Give it a minute, pet."

It filtered through Xander's awareness that the term of endearment wasn't meant in a mocking way at all, and that it was actually kind of sweet.

"Spike, won't the guys at the kebab shop think it's kind of weird for a man to burst out of an abandoned store, sprint across the street wearing a blanket, and come into their shop with smoke pouring off him to buy a bottle of juice?"

"Nah, they're used to it." Spike grinned at Xander's skeptical expression. "It's amazing how blasé folks get in a big city."



*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


After Xander finished drinking the pineapple juice slowly enough to satisfy Spike, he went out to find a pay phone and check in with Giles.

"Yes, I accept the charges." Giles's voice was reassuring as always; a link to normalcy. At least, as close to normalcy as life got in the social circle of a vampire slayer. "Hello, Xander? I'm glad you called. The coven has been working steadily, and the high priestess assures me they will pinpoint the location of the summoning within the next twenty-four hours. I want to be with you in London when they do, so that we can move fast."

"All right," Xander said. "When can you get here?"

"Meet me at Paddington Station in two hours. The train station, not the Underground—that is, not the subway. Wait for me by the train information board."



*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


"Paddington Station," Spike repeated. "Too many skylights for me. I'll wait for you in the Underground."

Xander shook his head. "You're not coming. You noticed that bright yellow ball of vampire death in the sky, right?"

"Oh come on," Spike scoffed, "we'll be traveling most of the way by Tube."

"And how far is it to the nearest station?"

"Ten minutes' walk. Just four minutes running."

"Right." Xander rolled his eyes. "How could that possibly go wrong?"

"I used to do it all the time in Sunnydale."

"Sometimes it really amazes me that you've lived to be a hundred and twenty."

"A hundred and twenty-two, thank you very much, and that's just the vampire years." Spike crossed his arms. "There's a sewer entrance half a block away. We can get all the way to Euston station that way."

"Uh, no thanks. I'm not meeting Giles smelling like sewer." Xander put his hands on Spike's shoulders and pushed him gently down onto the futon. "You just hang out here and keep healing, okay? We might have another demon to deal with soon."

"I don't like sending you out by yourself," Spike muttered, sulkily lighting a cigarette. "You lost a lot of blood—shouldn't be running around so much."

"I'll buy a nice big hamburger on the way to the train station," Xander promised. "Hey, damn, do you see what we're doing?"

"What?" Spike sucked on his cigarette, making his lips into a pout.

Xander laughed. "We're fussing over each other."

"Are not," Spike said, but he smirked a little. "Just be careful, pet. Come back safe."

"I will."



*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Xander saw Giles before Giles saw him. The ex-librarian was wearing khakis and a brown leather jacket, and pulling a small wheeled suitcase behind him. He smiled when he saw Xander, and walked more briskly.

"Hi Giles," Xander said, hesitating between a hug and a handshake as always, wishing he could be unselfconscious about it like Buffy and Willow.

Giles accepted the awkward hug and then pulled back, looking concerned. "Xander, I hope you don't mind my saying you look terrible."

"Oh. Uh, yeah." Xander glanced down at himself and grimaced, as the realization struck that he hadn't showered in four days—not since moving in with Spike—and he hadn't shaved since yesterday morning. Why hadn't he cleaned up better before meeting Giles? "You know how it is, living out of a suitcase, fighting demons and jet lag simultaneously."

"You're ghastly pale—and is that a black eye?"

"This?" Xander instinctively reached up to touch the bruise around his left eye. It was only a little tender now. Better not tell Giles that Spike had given it to him; he wanted Giles to trust Spike as an ally. "Uh, yeah, well, I got a little caught up in one of those famous football riots—"

Giles caught Xander's wrist as he lowered it, and pushed back the sleeve, fully revealing the blood-soaked gauze pad taped over Xander's left wrist. "Xander," Giles said, quietly.

"Uh, the Dur'athan." Xander laughed nervously. "Claws like knives. It was going for my face, but I blocked it."

Giles's expression was stern and concerned, and he held on to Xander's arm. "You told me this morning that you came through the fight unscathed. Also, you have an appallingly bad poker face. I think you need to tell me what's really going on."

Giles led Xander to an empty bench at the edge of the station, ignoring Xander's babbled attempts to deflect him.

"I suggest you start by explaining to me why you are in London in the first place," Giles said. "I trust life in Sunnydale has not become so dull that Buffy has started scanning foreign newspapers for hints of demonic activity."

Xander gave a weak laugh. "Sunnydale. Dull. Not two words I've put together in a sentence since I met Buffy."

Giles waited patiently.

"Okay, look, Buffy sent me here because she got a call from Spike, and she wanted to know what was going on. That's all."

"Hm." Giles didn't sound satisfied, but he let it slide. "The most pressing question, Xander, is how your wrist came to be injured."

"Well, that's—it's a long story, actually." Xander realized he was going to have to tell Giles that Spike had a soul now; otherwise there was no way to justify what he'd done. He felt strangely irritated that Giles was pressing him and making him tell.

"Is it one of those 'long stories' you can summarize in two or three sentences?"

"Um. How's this." Xander held up one finger. "Spike has a soul." Giles's eyes opened wide and he moved as if to speak, but Xander held up a second finger. "Spike stopped drinking blood." Third finger. "I made him feed off me so he wouldn't die. There, three sentences—do you feel enlightened?"

"I'm—I'm speechless, actually." Giles's glasses were suddenly in his hands, and he was patting his pockets, searching for a cloth to clean them with. Then he looked down at them, startled, and put them back on. "I can't even conceive what would lead you to—how did he bite you? Is the chip not working?"

"He didn't bite me." Xander absently pressed the bandage. It felt damp. "I cut myself. Look, Giles, you weren't there. Spike was teetering on the edge of going poof into dust right in front of my eyes."

Giles frowned. "I've never heard of spontaneous vampiric poofing. I think you took a terribly reckless action, Xander, and I'm greatly surprised that you survived it. And did you say that Spike has a soul?"

"Yeah. He's waiting for us back at his, uh, flat. We should go—never know when the coven's going to call, right?" Xander stood up.

Oops, bad idea. All of a sudden Xander's ears filled with a hollow ringing sound, and the station seemed to go dark—and he was sitting down again, hard.

"Xander?" Giles's worried voice seemed to come from far away.

"Just a little dizzy..."

"Put your head down between your knees. Yes, like that. Never mind Spike's flat. I'm taking you to the hospital."



*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


In the end, Xander had a two-hour wait in the emergency room. After the first half hour he managed to convince Giles to go meet Spike and let him know what was going on.

Then finally Xander did see a doctor. He got stitches, a new bandage, a blood transfusion, and a psyche evaluation.

"How did you cut yourself?" asked the nice woman with the clipboard and the yellow-framed glasses.

Xander gave her Cover Story Version 2.0. "I was peeling a potato." He demonstrated, holding a phantom potato in his cupped left hand. "The knife slipped."

"Mm hm." The doctor didn't sound wildly convinced. "Within the past two weeks, have you been experiencing feelings of isolation?"

"No." I've been getting really chummy with a vampire, actually. Xander nearly broke out laughing at the thought of what would happen if he started telling this doctor the truths of his life. Hello, straitjacket.

He covered up his expression with a cough.

"Have you been experiencing feelings of depression?"

"Nope. Happy as a clam."

"Have you been having trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much?"

It went on. Xander gave all the right answers, and finally the doctor released him, though she didn't look happy doing it. She did make him promise to talk to a counselor when he got back home. Well, hey, Buffy was a kind of counselor now and he was sure to talk to her, so he promised it with a straight face and a clear conscience.

Giles was back in the waiting room when Xander got out. He had Xander's duffle bag at his feet.

"Hey Giles. So you, uh, found the place."

"You should have told me you were short of funds," Giles said, frowning. "I would have—there was no need for you to stay in that wretched hole with Spike. My God, Xander, I thought you had more sense." He led the way out of the hospital.

Xander followed. "Well, what can I say—it all seemed like a good idea at the time. Saved on commuting. Why did you bring all my stuff?"

"You're going to stay at the inn with me tonight." Giles shot a stern look over his shoulder. "No arguments."

"No arguments. Why would I argue?" Xander said, but it felt hollow. "Real bed, hot shower, food that doesn't come out of a jar—you are offering food, too, right?" It was a great deal. It would be silly to protest. Incomprehensible to say that no, he'd rather go back to the wretched hole with the vampire, thanks very much.

They got in a cab outside of the hospital—one of the big, boxy black ones.

"Did you talk to Spike?" Xander asked once they were settled and Giles had given the driver his directions.

"Yes—and I must say, I'm not convinced—" Giles leaned in close to Xander, and spoke more quietly, "that he has a soul, as he says. Frankly, he seems completely unchanged from the last time I met him."

"Well, sure, he doesn't do a Jekyll and Hyde like Angel does, but he's changed," Xander whispered back. "I mean, hello, not drinking blood? That's different."

"He drank yours happily enough, now didn't he?"

"I'm not dead. He can't drink blood from animals that've been killed." Xander wished he knew how to put this better. He wished Giles didn't dislike Spike so much to start with, making this so much harder to explain. "I tried to make him drink pig's blood, and he just started choking and gagging on it."

"Well, that's convenient, isn't it?" Giles pushed his glasses up his nose, looking angry. "I'm sure he's been missing the taste of fresh human blood these past three years."

"I know what you're thinking, but it wasn't a con, Giles." Xander was starting to feel very defensive. "He didn't ask me to feed him, he was completely shocked when I did. And he chewed me out for it, too—said it was dangerous."

"Well, he's right about that."

"He was dying."

"He looked fine when I saw him."

"Did you see him without his shirt on?"

The look Giles gave Xander made it very clear that no, he had not seen Spike with his shirt off. The look also vaguely insinuated there was something morally wrong with having even suggested it.

"What about his poems? Did you see the poems he wrote?" But Xander knew before he even asked that the answer would be no. The way Spike had reacted when he caught Xander with the notebook, the vampire wasn't going to be giving coffee-shop readings any time before a week after never. "Look, can't you just take my word for it? He's got a soul."

"Frankly, Xander, I'm finding your judgment questionable at the moment."

"I'm the one who always hated vampires, remember? Vampires killed my friend Jesse. I never trusted Angel. I never liked Spike. It's got to mean something that I'm the one saying I believe Spike now, doesn't it?"

Giles hesitated, then gave a small nod. "It does. I shall try to keep an open mind—but I do not trust Spike."





10
Showdown in Islington


"Wasn't that a stop sign?" Xander asked rhetorically, keeping a white-knuckled grip on the weapons bag he was holding.

"The summoning spell the coven detected will be reaching its climax in approximately seven minutes." Giles swung the rental car out around a slow-moving delivery van, honking his horn.

Xander swallowed hard and tried to comfort himself with thoughts of how a nice fatal traffic accident would get them all out of having to face another Dur'athan demon. It didn't help his state of mind that he was sitting on what he thought of as the driver's side. He kept instinctively stomping on a brake pedal that wasn't there.

"Any way of knowing what's being summoned, then?" Spike asked from under the blanket in the back seat. The call from the coven had come at two-thirty in the afternoon. At least it was an overcast, drizzly day, so it might take a few extra seconds for an unprotected vampire to combust.

"Not mystically, no." Giles two-wheeled around a corner, and Xander let out an involuntary squeak. "However, we do know this is the same person who summoned the Dur'athan, so the odds are good they will repeat that performance."

"Bloody wonderful."

“You’re sure that you can get Spike inside?” Xander asked. “’Cause I seriously do not want to face one of those things without some super-powered backup.”

“It’s a simple spell,” Giles assured him, wrenching the wheel hard to the right to avoid a startled pedestrian. “Easier even than the de-invitation spell—assuming one is not, one’s self, a vampire.”

“Good to know,” Xander murmured, and gripped the weapons bag just a little bit tighter.

After narrowly avoiding death another four or five times, Giles screeched to a halt on a quiet street lined with brick row houses. "This is it," he called out, throwing his door open. "Number forty-two."

Xander ran after Giles through the front garden. The garden was tiny and filled with roses. Giles threw a handful of black powder at the door and said something Xander couldn’t make out—it sounded like Latin. “That should do it,” he said. Then he grabbed the doorknob and rattled it. "Locked," he said. "Spike!"

Spike burst out of the car, hunched under his blanket. He smashed the door with one kick and met no mystical resistance. Giles and Xander rushed in after him.

It was the right address, that was for sure. In the living room, a small couch and a TV table had been pushed against one wall, and an area rug rolled up out of the way, leaving the center of the room empty except for a large red pentagram painted on the hardwood floor. A middle-aged woman in a floral-print dress stood in the middle of the pentagram with her hands raised and blue electricity crackling around her. Her eyes were all black, and she was chanting.

"The bag, Xander, my book!" Giles snapped. Xander tossed him the spellbook, then ran to the picture window and pulled the curtains shut.

"Thanks, mate," Spike said, letting the blanket fall away. He circled cautiously around to the other side of the pentagram, holding the anointed dagger at the ready and keeping an eye on the woman, who seemed oblivious to them all.

Xander pulled a small battle axe out of the bag and tossed the rest to the side. He stuck close to Giles, who was reading aloud from his spellbook now in some language Xander didn't know—Latin, Sumerian, Fyarl, whatever. The woman turned to glare at Giles directly, and started chanting louder and faster.

All of a sudden there was a thunderous boom. Xander felt the floor vibrating under his feet. The woman clapped her hands, and Giles flew backwards into the wall. Lightning lanced from the ceiling to the floor in between the woman and Giles, momentarily blinding Xander. When he could see again, there was a Dur'athan demon standing in the place where the lightning had hit.

This demon was smaller than the one they'd faced before—maybe five feet tall, instead of seven. That wasn't a lot of comfort to Xander, though, since he was standing three feet away from it.

Xander took a step backwards and raised his axe. The demon looked his way and roared. Giles lurched to his feet and grabbed for the weapons bag. Spike bounded across the pentagram towards the demon, dagger raised. The woman in the floral dress, whose eyes looked normal now, crossed her arms and smiled smugly.

The demon extended its claws and swiped at Xander, but Xander hopped out of the way, swinging his axe. He missed, too. Spike hit the demon in the flank with a solid kick, which knocked it over onto the couch.

Giles yelled, "Spike!" and tossed the vampire a short sword from the weapons bag. Spike caught it and advanced on the demon, armed now with a blade in each hand. The Dur'athan lashed around with its horned tail and caught Spike on the legs. Spike fell, rolled, and came to his feet wearing game face.

Xander caught the woman's startled look at Spike's transformation. "Oh, sugar!" she spat angrily, and ran for the window and tore the curtains open. Since it was cloudy outside there was no sunbeam, just a diffuse brightening of the room. Spike didn't seem to notice; he was fending off the Dur'athan demon, fighting two-handed. The vampire and the demon smashed against a shelf at the other side of the room, sending dozens of porcelain kittens crashing to the floor. Wisps of smoke started to come off Spike's hair.

"Hell no," Xander swore. He ran and shoulder-tackled the woman, knocking her down, and he yanked the curtains closed again.

"Put your hands up and step away from the pentagram." Giles had a crossbow trained on the woman now. On the other side of the room, Spike kicked the demon back against the couch again, and slashed its belly with the sword. It screeched and ducked his dagger-thrust, swinging out wildly with its claws and catching him on the side of the neck.

The woman did as Giles said. Xander stayed in front of the curtains, poised with his axe. As Spike staggered from the Dur'athan's most recent blow, the demon suddenly leapt in Giles's direction. Giles quickly swung the crossbow round and fired its bolt right into the Dur'athan's neck. The Dur'athan screeched. It hunkered low and spun around at the same time, whapping Giles with its tail. Giles was knocked sideways, hitting his head on the door frame.

Xander hefted his axe and ran to put himself between Giles and the demon. Spike was faster. He deflected its claws with his sword and then followed through with a dagger-thrust to its eye.

Just like the first Dur'athan, this one squealed with an ear-shattering intensity as purple lightning started crackling around it. Then there was a pop, the demon vanished, and the dagger fell down to lodge point-first in the wooden floor.

Xander turned to Giles. He was sitting up woozily, holding his hand to his head.

"Don't anybody move." The middle-aged woman in the floral print dress had a gun, and she was pointing it at Xander. Xander froze.

"Don't let's be hasty, now," Spike said, dropping the sword and putting his hands up quickly—not up over his head, just shoulder height, casual. His face was human again. He took a couple sideways steps that put him closer to Xander and Giles, and fractionally closer to the woman.

"Not another step. You lot did away with my first demon, didn't you?"

"Hell yeah," Xander said. "Us and our ten burly, well-armed friends who are waiting just outside."

The woman's eyes didn't so much as flicker towards the door. "Now I have to summon another one. Do you have any idea how much the arcane materials cost?"

"Well, you could save money and just get a dog," Xander suggested.

"If I could train it to kill the filthy whores my husband's been fornicating with, I would," the woman said, her voice taking on a hysterical note. Her gun arm straightened fractionally, the barrel of the gun still pointing at Xander, and Xander knew in a moment of perfect clarity that she was about to shoot him.

He didn't see Spike move. Spike was standing absolutely still, a good three feet short of blocking the woman's line of sight to Xander, and then he was face-to-face with the woman, his duster swirling around his legs as he hit her with a full-force vampire punch to the head.

The woman fell, the gun fell, and Spike fell.

Xander grabbed for the gun. Spike was curled up on the floor, clutching his head and cursing. The woman was flat on her back with her eyes closed. Xander popped the clip out of the gun—wisps of memory from his Halloween as a soldier tickled the edge of his mind—and glanced towards Giles. The other man was on his feet now, holding the door frame with one hand and his head with the other.

"You need help?" Xander asked him.

Giles gave a wincing grin, and shook his head gingerly. "My skull has proven to be quite resilient, thank you."

With another anxious glance at Giles, Xander went over to crouch at Spike's side. "Spike?"

"Give me a minute, pet," Spike whispered, not uncurling.

Xander wanted to rub Spike's back and wait for him to stop clutching his hands to his head in that terrible, straining way, but it would be weird with Giles watching and besides, there was the woman lying on the floor and they'd better do something about her.

Xander went and checked her pulse. It was steady; Spike hadn't killed her. Xander wondered for a moment whether he had tried to, and whether the zap the chip delivered was proportional to the level of violence Spike attempted.

"Alive?" Giles asked, walking closer almost steadily.

"Yeah."

"There's some rope in the boot of the car, if you would be so kind as to get it." Giles rubbed his head. "The Watchers' Council will know what to do with this woman."

"Just as long as they don't let D'Hoffryn get wind of her." Xander shuddered. "Come to think of it, I wouldn't be shocked to find Anya hiding in the bathroom."

He took another worried look back at Spike—not moving—then ran out to the car. When he came back in with the rope, Spike was sitting up, and Giles was examining the gash on Spike's neck.

"Good thing I don't have a pulse, hey?" Spike said. There was a trickle of blood coming out of his nose. He absently licked a drop from his upper lip.

"Here—" Giles took a white cloth handkerchief out of his jacket pocket and handed it to Spike. "Press this over the wound."

Spike smirked. "Sure you want me to dirty up your nancy-boy hankie?"

"Do it now, Spike," Xander said, surprising himself with the hard edge to his voice. "That's my damn blood you're leaking all over the place."

"Sorry," Spike muttered, pressing the folded handkerchief against his neck. "Don't happen to want it back, do you?"

Xander held out the rope to Giles. "I bet Watchers learn lots of fancy knots. Like killer boy scouts. Am I right?"

Giles half-smiled, taking the rope. "I've been known to tie a double loop bowline or two."

With Giles taking care of the woman, Xander went and knelt by Spike. "You hurt anywhere else?" he asked quietly.

"Nah, just banged up. You?"

"Totally fine. It looked for a second like I was going to get shot, but then this vampire came flying out of nowhere like Batman and saved me."

Spike raised his eyebrow. "Batman? I never went in for that fancy-pants shape-shifting rubbish of Dracula's."

"No, I mean the superhero from Gotham City—never mind. Spike, your nose wasn't bleeding before you hit that woman. Did the chip do that?"

Spike touched his free hand to his upper lip, and looked surprised at the blood. "Doesn't usually. Well, I did give the bint quite a wallop."

Giles tied off the end of the rope and stood up. "Right then, time to leave. Xander, would you check that no one's watching out on the street? We need to get this woman to the car."





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