Title: HEARTBEAT Chapter 21
AUTHOR: Mistress Ace
EMAIL: rosewood@inreach.com
FEEDBACK: How can I describe the importance of feedback? It benefits everyone involved. Unlike most venues, the Internet provides an open forum of interaction between writers and their readers. Everything I have received has pushed me to explore this world just a little more...
DISCLAIMER: Don't own the characters at all. They belong to Joss Whedon et al. I would love to own them but if I did, there's a certain vampire who would never be allowed to leave my house... ever... Please don't sue The only reward I seek from this is sharing my vision with each of you. My cat gets a little grumpy when all I do at night is work on this Magnum Opus but eventually he will understand...
RATING: NC-17 (You expected anything different from me?) warning - m/m thoughts
PAIRINGS: B/A/R/A(us)
SPOILERS: The I in Team and Goodbye Iowa
SUMMARY: This story takes place in my universe, not Joss'. The mated bond is complete, how will everyone else in Buffy's world react to it...
DISTRIBUTION: FINNactics, FINNSmut, Jen, it's yours... anyone else, just ask
EXPLANATION: Anything within ** denotes internal thought.
DEDICATION: To the ladies in the Buffy void. Master Angelus sends this with his compliments. (Note Buffy's shoes Just for you, Kelley)

 
CHAPTER 21

An hour after sunset, there was a quiet knock on their bedroom door. Angel roused immediately, untangling himself from his lover's limbs before rising from the bed.

Riley had gone out earlier to buy groceries and replenish his severely depleted supply of condoms. At the rate he was going through them, he mused that it might be a wise investment for him to buy latex stock. Buffy promised to get on the Pill once they returned to Sunnydale. But for now, he had to rely on the old stand-by.

When he got back from the store, the young man found Buffy and Angel practicing Tai Chi in the living room. The sheer beauty of their synchronized movements left him mute with amazement and admiration. The contrast of Angel's huge frame next to Buffy's tiny one was breath-taking. Riley was convinced he could easily have loved both of them for the sheer exquisiteness of their bodies as well as the pureness of their spirits.

Angelus chose that moment to flash an image of just how impure their spirits were when Buffy and Angel finished their kata. The combined heat in their eyes could easily have reduced him to a pile of smoldering ash.

The sexual tension between the three of them rose as he initiated a sparring match which ended up with a pile of thrusting sweaty bodies in the middle of the bedroom floor. No one really cared who was inside who, just so long as they were all together...

After grabbing a quick snack from Riley's cache of food, they settled down for a nap in Angel's big bed. Which was where they were still lying when Wesley's tentative knock sounded on the door.

Angel grabbed his discarded boxers from their landing place on the floor before glancing back over his shoulder at his slumbering mates. A small smile crossed his face as he noted Riley's eyes were open. The young man rose smoothly to his feet, slipping on his own boxers before catching the robe tossed to him by his vampiric lover.

Pausing for another moment, Angel gently pulled the sheets up over Buffy's gloriously nude body. His considerate action caused her to stir in her sleep, she sighed softly but did not awaken.

Riley stood behind Angel's shoulder as he opened the door, the young soldier poised and ready to defend his mates if need be. On the other side of the door stood the tall Englishman he met briefly yesterday when he ran through the office with Buffy. The other man took his measure over Angel's shoulder, recognizing the defensive posture and gave Buffy's young man a nod of silent approval.

Angel looked at Wesley, curiously noting the change in his demeanor. Something major must have happened to him in the past four days. The ex-watcher stood a little straighter, his eyes met Angel's directly without his customary self-effacing attitude. He stepped closer to Wesley, taking an unneeded breath so he could analyze his scent. *Hmm, Angelus was right, he has changed colognes... No, not quite... Well, well... Cordy. How entertaining...*

"What's up, Wes?" Angel suppressed the urge to congratulate the man on his changed circumstances. It would embarrass the ex-watcher if he knew his employer was aware of his recent amorous adventures. Not that he could blame Wesley. God knows, there had to be enough pheromones floating around the place to tempt even the Pope...

"Cordy... Cordelia had a vision, Angel. I hate to interrupt but I'm afraid you are needed to handle this one."

Angel stepped out of the bedroom, Riley followed him out and shut the door silently behind them. He stayed close to his mate, not close enough to actually touch but it would have been evident to even the most oblivious person how devoted he was to Angel. Wesley found himself liking the young man more every second he spent around him. Buffy had chosen well with this one.

"What have we got, Wes?" Angel grabbed a pair of pants off the arm of his leather chair, pulling them up over his boxers as he dressed efficiently. Riley followed his lover's lead, dressing in silence as he listened to the details of Cordelia's vision. There was a nest of vampires about two blocks away with several victims trussed up and ready for the slaughter.

Mouth set in a grim line, Angel opened the weapons cabinet and started strapping on the tools of his trade. Stakes, bottles of Holy Water, his favorite axe...

Time to kill more of his own kind.

Angelus remained silent within him, completely at ease with the soul's need to do battle and eager to join in. Despite his gentle behavior with his human mates, the vampire was a predator after all. Since the soul would never allow him to hunt humans again, vampires and demons would just have to do...

Besides, most of the vamps that inhabited L.A. were monumentally stupid, he was actually doing the demonic underworld a favor by culling the herd. It wasn't like they were his childer. *Unlike Penn... Good thing it wasn't you who ended his existence, Angel, or we wouldn't be such good friends now...*

Massive guilt over that particular vampire's death as well as relief flooded though Angel, his demon was not fighting him for once. The melding caused by the mated bond had given him a reprieve from at least one internal struggle.

Riley finally spoke, his warm beloved voice chased away the cold spot left in Angel's heart by the mention of his demon's dusted childe. "You want Buffy to come along?"

"No. She's still worn out from last night. This one's a simple job, the three of us should be able to handle it." Wesley grimly took up a cross, careful to not wave it in his employer's face. Turning away from the cabinet, Angel tossed Riley a stake, which he caught with a wide grin. "You are coming with... right?"

"Try and stop me." The challenge in those words engendered an image of his big human mate handcuffed to their bed. Angel chuckled quietly, intrigued by that image while Riley shot him a look of combined amusement and barely repressed passion. That shared thought of Angelus' showed some real promise for later in the evening.

Riley swallowed the urge to grab his vampiric mate and kiss him soundly. While that action would be very satisfying on a personal level, it was counter-productive to their current mission. "Just give me a minute to let Buffy know where we're going. She hates waking up alone..."

Angel nodded in agreement, that was a story he knew all too well. They would catch no end of hell from Buffy if they didn't let her know where they were going. Riley slipped into the bedroom for a minute, then came out with another wide grin on his face. "You're right as always, way too tired. She wants us to go have fun."

The young marine climbed the stairs, taking them two at a time. He stopped at the landing to call softly over his shoulder to the two men still standing in the basement apartment. "C'mon Angel. To quote Spike, let's go kick some demon ass."

Riley caught the thought shot at him by Angelus as the remaining demon hunters followed him up the stairs. He had to stifle a laugh behind his hand when his hazel eyes met his vampiric mate's. *Kick demon ass, my boy? Wouldn't you rather fuck some demon ass?*

He slipped fully into the bond, amusing Angel with his silent answer to the demon's teasing. *Later, Angelus, later. *

*Promise?*

*Oooh, yeah, I definitely promise.* Another image came through the mated bond. Hot, sweaty fucking... Angel's long body pressed up against a wall, pants down around his ankles with a rock-hard cock sawing in and out of his gorgeous ass. The ensouled vampire swallowed a moan as Riley's image washed over him. The nest in question couldn't be destroyed quick enough as far as he was concerned.

The demon within him snickered at Angel's reaction to his mate's lascivious fantasy. Soul-boy could be so damned predictable at times. *Good... Nothing like a little violence to loosen up the old muscles. Especially the big one...*

This time Riley did laugh, startling Wesley as they cleared the building and fanned out into the street. *Angelus, did anyone ever tell you that you're a sex fiend?*

*Constantly.*

*******

Buffy yawned and stretched languidly, acutely aware when they reached the end of the bond's limits. The loss of contact had woken her from a deep sleep. She remembered Riley mentioning a nest of vampires before she lapsed into unconsciousness. Angel hadn't been worried when he left, so she was willing to let the boys play. It might help cut down on the levels of testosterone currently threatening to strangle their brains.

Case in point, their marathon sex sessions which left her utterly exhausted...

She flipped back the covers and rose to her feet. There would be no more sleeping for her until they returned, the absence of the bonded link was a dull ache deep within her. Buffy understood now why the loss of a mate could drive a vampire to suicide. They had only been gone for about ten minutes and she was ready to climb the walls.

After a brief workout, she jumped in the shower for a quick rinse. Angel's water bill was going to be through the roof by the time they went back to Sunnydale...

Buffy was humming softly to herself as she climbed the stairs up to Angel's office. All was right in her world, she was well rested, clean, happy and the boys were out having fun with each other, saving the world for humanity. Not much could spoil her good mood.

"Well, well, look who finally decided to make an appearance."

*That would be the one thing that would do it...* Buffy pasted a fake smile on her face, squared her little shoulders and turned toward the owner of that disgruntled voice. "Hello Cordy, how's the head?"

Angel's beautiful seer was lying on the couch in Angel's office, a glass of ice water held against her still throbbing temple. Her visions were always accompanied by blinding migraines that could last for hours, they seemed to be a self-defense mechanism. The bigger the evil, the worse the headache. The pain kept her out of the worst battles for which she was grateful. But if she ever got a chance to see Doyle again, she was going to rip his head off... *Wonder if you can do that to a spirit?*

She gave Buffy a scathing look, taking in her radiant appearance and was instantly jealous. Wesley had proven to be an excellent lover during this little interlude but she never looked as good afterwards as Buffy did now. The little blonde positively glowed, her hair fell in shimmering waves, her hazel eyes full of sensual memory and the way she unconsciously licked her lips sent Cordy into a spiral of sexual fantasy about the two men who had left earlier with Wesley.

*Angel and Riley... Riley and Angel... Two big bodies, big hands, long legs, broad chests, gorgeous faces... Fingers, mouths, cocks everywhere... Damn, damn, damn, damn. Jealous of Buffy again!* Cordy moaned in frustration, trying to wipe away the image of Angel's beautiful body moving on top of hers while Riley leaned over her vampire boss' shoulder to give her a deep, wet kiss. In her mind's eye, Angel lifted his head from her neck and captured Riley's mouth with his own as he gave her a particularly vicious thrust...

"Cordy... Earth to Queen C... You in there?"

"Hmm... Yeah, yeah... I'm here." Cordy shook herself and regretted it instantly, as the pain in her head flared up again. Taking Buffy's proffered hand, she sat up with her eyes closed, praying the world would stop spinning some time tonight.

The vision had been awful, bodies and blood everywhere, she could feel it on her skin, taste it in her mouth. *Yuck...* There had to be something in the health plan Angel set up for her that would cover a spa visit every time she had one of these type of visions. Only a mud bath and a full body massage would be able to erase all of the disgusting things she experienced with it.

Buffy took her glass of water and refilled it from the cooler in the front office. For one of the few times in her life, she actually felt sorry for Cordelia. The girl looked so miserable sitting there with her head pressed in her hands. Those vision thingies must really hurt...

"Thank you..." Cordy took the water and drank it all, her head finally starting to clear. "Buffy, there's a whole bunch of messages for you on Angel's desk..."

"Messages? For me? Who's been calling?" Buffy moved away from Cordy and gathered up the impressive pile of little pink message slips. She started leafing through them quickly as Cordy answered in that dry sarcastic tone she perfected in high school.

"Who hasn't? Giles, Willow, Xander, your mom, some girl named Tara... There was even a collect call from Willie's bar but I didn't accept that one."

"Willie's Bar... Who in the world would have called from Willie's Bar?" Buffy frowned for a minute before realization dawned. She slapped one open palm against her forehead. "Oh God, I forgot to call Spike."

"Spike... Why in the world would you want to call the bleached one? Other than to discuss how badly you both need to touch up your roots?" Cordy was recovering quickly, her sense of humor reasserting itself as the last of her headache faded. "Last I heard you two were still mortal enemies... Unless you're the same kind of mortal enemies with him as you are with Angelus?"

"Spike? Eww!" Buffy spun toward her, a slight guilty flush on her cheeks. She had been having some rather interesting thoughts about Angelus' favorite childe lately but how did Cordy pick up on that? The look on Cordy's face confirmed the last comment had just been a shot in the dark. Apparently her visions didn't include telepathic powers. *No, that skill still applies solely to my boys...*

"Well, why else would he be calling you? Not like he and Angel are friends. Last time they saw each other, he nearly tortured your ex-boyfriend to death."

Buffy gave her another brilliant, false smile before sitting down by Angel's phone. "Angel's no longer an ex-boyfriend."

Cordy leaned over the desk toward the tiny blonde girl. "So tell me, Buffy, what exactly are you two now? Going steady? Fuck-buddies? Planning on settling down somewhere in the hills with a white picket fence and 3.2 kids?"

Even though she knew the answer to her own questions about Buffy's relationship with Angel, she just couldn't stop. Cordy felt justified in her behavior right now by the virtue of her friendship with the ensouled vampire.

Her friend had been hurt too many times by the little Slayer for her not to try and protect him, even if the person she was protecting him from was himself... "I mean, I know you're no longer just friends. The noises coming up out of that apartment for the last four days don't belong in a platonic relationship... And what's up with that guy Riley being here with you and Angel, anyway? What are you playing at, Buffy?"

Buffy looked up from the number she was dialing to fix Cordy with a look. The envy on her old friend's face was glaring evident. "Wow, jealous much, Queen C?"

"Me, jealous of you? Hah!"

"Yeah, you... So green-eyed you can't see straight." Buffy stopped dialing and set the phone back on the hook. She stood up, leaning over the desk herself until her face was inches from Cordy's. "Listen up and listen good, cause I'm only going to tell you this once." She pointed to the scar on her neck. "Know what this is, Cordy?"

The brunette nodded, Wesley had gone on at great length about that particular portion of the vampiric mating process. "Uh-huh... Mate's mark."

"Well, when Riley gets back, take a good long look at his neck. You'll find a matching one there." Her hazel eyes flashed with repressed rage. "We're Angel's mates, we're with him for the long haul. You might as well take your boss off the `to seduce list', Cordelia Chase..."

Cordy gasped, had Buffy been listening to her earlier thoughts?

Buffy's voice was practically a shout as she finished "Because... he... is... so... taken... And so is Riley. Off-limits, don't touch or I break every bone in your body... Got it?"

Cordy backed up and nodded, intimidated into silence by the absolute fury and possessive fire reflected in Buffy's eyes. She'd never experienced the wrath of the Slayer first-hand before. No wonder most of the demons in Sunnydale ran the other way when Buffy was on a rampage. The girl was downright scary when she was mad...

"G-got it." She held up her empty hands in surrender. "I promise, I won't touch..."

Buffy nodded, her anger fading as swiftly as it had appeared. "Good. Now I've got some calls to make, so if you don't mind?" She lifted her eyebrows and inclined her head toward the outer office.

When she wanted to, Cordelia could take a hint. She turned on her heel and stalked out of the office to sit down at her own desk. It wasn't fair, it just wasn't fair... All that salty goodness given to little Miss Cry-Buffy and none for Cordy. Except for Wesley, that is. Tall, strong, soft-spoken, gorgeous eyes, great hands, wonderful kisser...

Hmm, when were they due back?

*******

The phone rang in Giles' living room and three hands dove for it. With an impatient flash of his green eyes, Giles warned the other two away as he lifted the handset. Xander shrugged, his usual self-depreciating grin in place, while Spike growled at the ex-Watcher. He ignored both of them with the ease of long practice.

"Hello?"

Buffy wondered exactly how much Cordy blabbed about her reunion with Angel to her friends and family. She regretted sending the other girl away so quickly before she checked her facts. But here was her watcher's voice in her ear and she had to say something. Best to play it safe, act casual and pray Queen C had learned some discretion from her close association with Angel...

"Hey, Giles."

"Buffy." At the sound of her name, the full attention of all the room's occupants were focused Giles. Once again, he ignored them, pouring his concentration into the telephone link to his Slayer. "Are you all right? We've been worried about you..."

"I'm fine, Giles. How's the gang?"

"Very well. All of them are here actually." She could hear a chorus of Hey's and Hello's through the phone and smiled. It was good to know they all still cared so much about her and loved her. Buffy just hoped they would still feel the same way after she told them about her new living arrangements.

"Good. I'm glad everybody's okay."

"Buffy, how are you really?" Giles leaned against his table, one arm crossed over his chest, his face impassive. "And where are you?"

She breathed a small sigh of relief at his questioning of her actual location. Maybe he didn't know what she and Riley had been doing for the past few days. That was one conversation she really didn't want to have right now. Explaining their changed situation to her friends would require delicate handling and it had to be done face-to-face.

Choosing to believe in the possibility of his ignorance, Buffy said a quiet prayer to whatever gods that had intervened on their behalf before slipping into cryptic mode. She hadn't loved Angel for so many years without some of his mannerisms rubbing off on her...

Her response to Giles' question was another question. "Didn't Spike tell you?"

Angel would have been proud of her subtle use of misdirection.

"He said something about Angel and that was about it." An angry British voice sounded in the background. Spike was arguing loudly with the ex-watcher and demanding to be put on the phone. After a moment, Giles' voice came back on the line as he had apparently won this round with the blonde vampire. "Spike, do be quiet, you prat..."

"Giles. We're at Angel's in L.A." She glanced through the office window at Cordy who shrugged. "Didn't Cordy tell you we were here when you called?"

"More or less... She babbled some utter nonsense to me about you and Riley and Angel... But she also mentioned Angelus, so we are all a bit concerned at the moment." When he mentioned the demon's name, Giles' tone shifted to one of suspicion and frosty disapproval. Buffy knew he had more reason than any of the other Scooby Gang members to react in such a fashion. During his reign of terror and madness, Angelus had done the Englishman the most harm.

His deeply ingrained sense of propriety allowed Giles to ask her politely, "Please tell me what has happened?"

"Don't worry, Giles. There is no problem with Angelus." Buffy sighed, not sure how to explain the recent events and subsequent repercussions to her beloved mentor. Keeping it simple for now was probably the best course of action. "Riley and I followed Angel to L.A.. He left without saying goodbye to me again and you know how much I hate that."

Her former watcher knew exactly how much she hated Angel's tendency to disappear without a word to anyone as she had gone off about it to him many times. Giles could not resist smiling as he imagined the expression on her face right now. It would be a scowl of supreme irritation combined with crossed arms and a rapidly tapping foot.

Buffy continued her train of thought aloud while her booted foot beat a staccato rhythm on the floor of Angel's office "When we got here, we cornered him in his lair and had the talk."

"The talk? And what talk might that be?"

"You know, the how do you know what's best for me speech..." Her voice dropped a little, the significance of her next words not lost on him in the least. "You and I have had talks like that before, Giles."

This time he did laugh for he and Buffy had experienced many such discussions with one another during their long association. When they first started together, Giles tried to get her to toe the straight and narrow guidelines set down by the Watcher's Council. He tried to get her to behave as he had been taught a Slayer should by his own father.

But his darling girl was a force of nature, something not meant to be controlled and it had taken him quite some time to get used to that fact. "I remember."

"Well, we had the talk and..." She closed her eyes for a second. *Time to bite the bullet here, Buff...* Her eyes opened again as Buffy prayed for him to remain calm. "And he's coming back with us to Sunnydale, Giles."

Some prayers just weren't meant to be answered...

"WHAT?" Everyone in the room stared at him in utter disbelief. Giles never raised his voice. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE'S COMING BACK WITH YOU?"

"Giles, Giles, stop yelling." She started pacing, a frown very evident on her delicate features. "I know what I am doing."

At that moment, Angel, Riley and Wesley dragged themselves back into the office. They were covered in scratches and bites as well as vampire dust. But their injuries were minor, it had been a good fight. They quickly disposed of the nest and sent the victims home with stern admonishments about wandering around unescorted after dark.

Now they were in a safe place Angel turned Riley to face him so he could check his injuries. There was one long scratch on his left cheek and a nasty wound on his wrist, but he was otherwise unscathed. One vampire actually tried to sink fangs into his throat before quailing in terror when he recognized Angelus' mark. That moment of hesitation had been enough for the young man to flip the vampire onto its back away from him.

Taking immediate control when his mate was threatened, Angelus gave voice to a full-throated roar as he dropped onto the other vampire's chest. He proceeded to remove each of its arms with his bare hands while cursing up a storm, utterly savage in his defense of his mate.

Wesley finally took pity on the mortally injured creature and shoved a stake through its heart underneath Angelus' arm. His act of mercy was not kindly looked upon by the demonic aspect of his employer. Fortunately Riley was able to reassure Angelus enough of his well being for the demon to back down and grudgingly return bodily control to Angel.

Cordy pulled the first aid kit out of the bottom drawer of her desk, fully prepared to deal with their injuries. Wesley was treated first, mainly because Angel would not relinquish his grip on Riley's arm. He had experienced true terror when he saw the vampire attacking his mate and it would take some strong measures before he would be willing to release him.

While Wesley and Cordy politely turned their backs, Riley pulled Angel into a tight embrace, kissing him full on the mouth. He soothed his semi-distraught mate with a soft whisper, "I'm fine, Angel. No harm done."

Angel nodded, reluctantly allowing Riley to move out of his arms. The boy was right, he was basically uninjured and had actually made quite a decent showing in the fight. The nest consisted of over twelve well-seasoned older vampires as well as about half a dozen minions. Riley had easily and efficiently taken out six before his brief tussle with the would-be assassin. Angel was proud of his easy fighting style, impressive strength and natural abilities. Buffy had really chosen well with this young man, he would make a fine back up for both of them.

After a moment of quiet communion, the mated pair turned to face Cordelia who was waiting with disinfectant and clean bandages. Riley noted how carefully she approached both of them, shooting nervous glances toward Angel's office where they could hear Buffy arguing with someone on the phone.

Cordy stood looking up at him for a moment before Riley realized his superior height would make her task difficult. He took a seat on the couch and presented his injured cheek to her first, then his wrist. While she was cleaning his cheek, she cast a quick glance down his shirt spotting a mark identical to Buffy's on his neck. The only difference between the two was his had not yet scarred over.

Her boss noticed her surreptitious observation and chose to confirm her suspicions. "Cordy, I know you met Riley yesterday but I don't think you were properly introduced. Riley Finn, this is Cordelia Chase, my assistant and connection to the Powers that Be."

Riley took her hand and gave her a warm smile. "Pleased to meet you properly, Miss Chase."

*God, what a damn fine lookin' man. And he has the cutest dimples when he smiles...* Cordy smiled back, encouraged by his easy manner. "Nice to meet you, too."

Despite Buffy's earlier warning and her burgeoning relationship with Wesley, she felt a momentary flash of sexual curiosity singing through her veins, sparked by his warm touch. After listening to the noises coming up from the basement apartment over the last few days as well as getting quite an eyeful of him the first morning, she admitted to herself that she wondered just how good he would be in between the sheets. If the glow on Buffy's face was anything to judge by, he had to be damn fine in that department too.

A strange sound came from her boss as he moved closer to Riley, it sounded almost like a possessive rumbling. Angel's body language was really odd too, he edged closer to the young man and reached out to break the connection between their two clasped hands.

Cordelia recognized the movement, she had seen it all her life. Especially when she expressed a physical appreciation toward someone else's boyfriend. Angel was acting just like Buffy, warning her off.

Riley gave Angel a very level look and the vampire immediately backed down. He silently reassured Angel through the bond there was no danger of trespass here. She was just a girl and meant nothing to him beyond her connection to Angel himself. His mate nodded and finished his introduction, although a deep note of warning could still be heard in his voice. "Cordelia Chase, this is Riley Finn... our mate."

Cordy lifted one elegant brow at him. "Our?"

"Buffy's and mine." That flat statement made more of an impact than Buffy's earlier outburst.

During her dealings with her boss, Angel had always been cryptic in the extreme about his personal feelings until now. He was guarded and secretive, never actually taking a stand on anything other than his love for Buffy. Cordy swallowed as she gave Angel an affirmative nod, she realized this was her final warning about Riley Finn.

The difference was this time she intended on taking it to heart.

She gave him a broad smile but dropped his hand. "Call me Cordy... Everyone else does."

Riley grinned, moving subtly so his leg brushed Angel's. He knew Angel had heard him through the bond but physical contact always seemed to soothe the vampire faster. "Great. And you can call me Riley." He looked past her into the other office, noting that Buffy was still on the phone but her voice had calmed considerably. "Who is Buffy talking to?"

"Giles, I think."

Angel shifted away from the couch after briefly running his fingers through Riley's hair. The fleeting caress was just another manifestation of the bond's effects, he craved physical contact with his human mates more than his demon wanted blood. Riley leaned into his touch unconsciously, closing his eyes for a moment before rising to follow Angel into the other office.

Buffy was sitting on the desk, speaking in a very no-nonsense voice to her retired Watcher. "Giles, we should be home..."

She looked up at Angel who held up three fingers, indicating how many days it would take for him to wind up his current cases and relocate to Sunnydale. He had to take some time with Wesley and Cordelia so they could coordinate schedules so it might take a little longer than that although he doubted it. Besides his mates had classes and schedules of their own which needed to be met. Angel would make it work, he had no intention of being separated from them again.

"About three days, Giles. We'll hash out all the details then..." Buffy gave each of her men hugs, scanning them for injuries as she continued to listen to Giles' protests about Angel's decision to return to Sunnydale. "Giles, Giles... Let me talk to Spike... Don't ask why, just put him on the phone."

There was a rustling on the other end, then another British voice was on the phone, this one just as irritated and disgruntled as the last. "Took you long enough to call, Slayer..."

"Sorry, Will." The other voice was immediately silent, Spike stood there in mute shock as the name registered in his brain. Buffy just called him by Angelus' pet name for him; it was only the second time she had ever used it. "We were kinda tied up until this morning... Talking and stuff."

Spike laughed at the slightly embarrassed tone of her voice, he could well imagine what stuff they had been up to and he was jealous. Not too jealous, but jealous none the less. "So I take it by the sour expression on Rupert's face that the great pouf isn't dust yet? Got there in time, I see."

"Yeah, just in time." Now her voice was full of darkness, it was a source of constant amazement for Spike on how much Buffy could convey with just a few words. He had been right, Angel had been planning to take himself out. Bloody Hell, it was a good thing the damned girl was so tenacious about the soddin' bog-trotter or his sire would have been gone as well.

*Time to give soul-boy the reaming he richly deserves for scaring all of us... Well, the three of us anyway.* Spike let out an exasperated sigh before he spoke again. "Slayer, be a pet and put Peaches on the phone."

"Why?"

"So I can give him a good piece o' my mind, you silly git." Buffy almost giggled, Spike was upset, really upset with Angel. Might do him some good to hear someone else yell at him about his suicidal tendencies for a change.

She handed Angel the phone with a shrug. "Spike wants to talk to you."

Angel knew through the bond Spike was royally pissed and why Buffy wanted him to talk to his childe. He sighed as he took the phone from her, deeply amused by the look of sheer innocence on her face. "Hello Spike."

"Hullo, pouf. Hear you're still among the unlivin'." Arrogance, pure and simple arrogance poured over the line. This was his childe, through and through, face the world with supreme confidence and don't every let anyone know what lies in your heart. Angelus had taught him that lesson very well.

But Angel knew the pain that lay underneath the casual tone. He had seen the look of terror on Spike's face when he pulled out of the garage that night. Opting for a light response, he replied, "Appears that I'm still really hard to kill."

Spike snorted in disgust, Angel had proven time and time again how damned hard he was to kill. The only person who had ever really represented a threat to his safety was either the Slayer, who actually loved the sod, or Angel himslf. "Nah, you're only still here cause the Slayer's head over it for you..."

The deep laugh he heard from the other end of the line flooded the younger vampire with relief. He could believe it now... Spike had fretted for the past four days, wondering if the girl had made it in time. But she had, Buffy had done it, she had saved him from himself. *So good to hear your voice, sire. Even if you're not the one in control now, it's so good to know you haven't completely abandoned this world yet.*

Spike grinned, deciding it was time to tease soul-boy about Buffy's companion and check out how possessive his sire actually was about his new toy... "So how didya like her pullin' Soldier Boy along with her. He still among the livin' or did you shag him to death, you old ponce?"

Angel could hear the collective gasps from the rest of Buffy's friends. Trust Spike to let the cat out of bag.

He shot Riley an apologetic look, afraid the boy might not be comfortable with his sexual orientation being laid out for every one to see. Now that Buffy was aware of it and was obviously comfortable with his own bi-sexuality, Angel didn't feel the need to hide it any more. However, he was uncertain how Riley felt about being put on public display.

Riley shrugged, they would all find out about it when the three of them returned to Sunnydale anyway. It wasn't like he was going to be able to hide it since they would all be living together in a very short period of time. He lifted his chin, indicating that he wanted the phone for a minute. Angel handed it to him with a look of blatant curiosity.

Spike was still talking when Riley placed the phone against his ear. "So how was the boy, Angelus? Did he squeal a lot when you..."

With a very dry tone, Riley finished for him. "bent me over the back of the couch and gave me a good buggering?" Dead silence. "That is the proper British term for it, isn't it Spike?" Still shocked silence. "No squealing here..."

Riley locked eyes with Angel, tucked the phone up underneath his chin before wrapping his arms around Buffy and pulled her little body up against him. She giggled as Riley continued to talk. "Just lots of really good, really hot, sweaty sex... Don't expect any of us to be walking too straight when we get home."

Still silent, except for a nervous swallow from the other end of the line. Riley handed the phone back to Angel who was convulsing with silent laughter. He could just imagine the stunned look on Spike's face right now, serves him right for having such a big mouth. "Spike, you still there?"

The voice on the other end of the line barely sounded like Spike, it was so full of hurt and need. "Yeah, still here..." The tone made it painfully obvious to Angel that Spike was jealous of Riley's place in his life, very, very jealous. His demon rose within him, wanting to speak to his childe. Angel gave him free reign.

"Will..." Angelus' voice was quiet, it commanded his childe's full attention.

The voice on the other end of the line dropped to a whisper as Spike turned away from the group in the living room. Even though he knew Buffy had taken Riley to Los Angeles with the hope of convincing Angel to return with them, he had perversely hoped his sire would reject the boy out of hand.

Spike knew he couldn't compete with the love that Angelus had for the Slayer but he wanted to remain the first male in his immortal heart... But the unspoken joy he heard in his rival's voice confirmed his worst fears. His eyes stung with unshed tears, farm-boy had taken his place and it hurt.

It hurt deep all the way down into his blood and bone.

"Sire..."

"Will, meet me at the mansion in three days time..."

"But sire..."

Angelus' voice was threaded with steel, he would brook no resistance on this point. "Do not argue with me, Will. Just meet me there." He looked at his mates, directing the next words at them as well as at his beloved childe. "We need to talk."

A deep sigh, then a defeated sounding Spike replied, "All right... I'll be there." The connection was broken on the other end of the line.

Angelus set the phone down on its base and nodded toward the basement. The three of them filed downstairs after bidding Wesley and Cordelia goodnight. They really did need to talk about Spike...

*****