Why I Should Never Have Left England, by Rupert Giles

~ Co-written by Mad Poetess [website]

"So. What'd you call this stuff?" Xander peered at his glass, as if trying to make sense of the colour of the liquid inside.

"Batham's Bitter," Wesley replied patiently.

"I didn't mean the brand, I meant what kind of liquid is it? Gun cleaner? Shoe polish?"

"It's beer," said Rupert, taking it away from him, "and you're obviously too young to appreciate it, as well as looking too young to buy it." He tipped the pint mug up and drained half of it.

"Hey! That was my shoe polish!" Xander glared at him, then swiped the mug sitting on the table in front of Rupert.

"Do you mind?" Rupert asked, and picked it back out of Xander's hand. If only because his glass had had more in it than Xander's had, before he'd stolen it. Which rather belied Xander's claim that he thought it tasted like turpentine. Xander shrugged, and snatched his own glass from where Rupert had set it down. That made them about even, really.

It was still a struggle for Rupert not to snatch it back, though. Xander really *didn't* look old enough to be drinking it, and years of thinking of him as one of 'The Children' didn't help. Plus which, it was Batham's Bitter. There were only four bars anywhere near the Hyperion that served it, and they might run out any time. He had to protect it.

"So... what?" Xander asked, looking at each of them after he'd taken another drink, made another face, and then blinked slowly like he'd suddenly realized he might be getting drunk.

"What?" Rupert tried to pick the thread of conversation back up.

"Three," Wesley replied.

"Really?" Xander looked surprised. "All at once?"

"No, several weeks apart, thus not really answering the question 'What's the highest number of lovers you've had at the same time'," Wesley said with a suspiciously sober-sounding sarcasm. He needed more beer. Just not Rupert's beer. Rupert felt his hand closing protectively around his mug, and he snorted, shaking off the paranoia.

"Oh. That was the question. I though we were still talking about how many ding-dongs you could stuff in your mouth at the same time." Xander sipped at his beer, still frowning at it.

Wesley blinked at Xander. "Ding-dongs? Is that a euphemism--?" He stopped as Rupert sprayed beer over the table.

"It is *not*," he said sternly, upset that he'd been forced to waste precious beer. He considered stealing a bit from Wesley, but he was afraid the other Briton would be as fierce about protecting his, as Rupert was about his own. Besides, there was Wesley's rather over-protective, cock-whipped set of lovers to consider. If Wesley complained about having his beer stolen, Rupert just might find himself ordering a case to be shipped from England. Insured.

"Oh. Because I can do four." Xander was still staring at his beer, as if he expected it to do something to entertain him.

Rupert stared at *Xander.* "Er... four?" He wasn't sure if he wanted to be hearing this.

"Ding-dongs."

"I think we've moved past Hostess products, Xander," Rupert explained gently. In fact, Xander had asked the question in the first place, though he didn't seem to remember having done so.

"Oh. Um... so, three?"

Rupert blinked at him, then realized Xander was probably repeating Wesley's answer. Not giving his own. Wasn't he? "Three?" he asked.

"Not at the same time -- does that mean not *at the same time* or just... not all at once?" Xander shook his head, and how someone who owned a major demon skin magazine could blush at the thought of an orgy, Rupert didn't know. Although, as Xander had pointed out, he couldn't exactly recognize which bits he should be embarrassed by.

"No, it means I was being sarcastic, and they *were* all at the same time. " Wesley stated it rather proudly.

Now Xander was getting redder, while his face was making those little contortions that meant he was trying very hard to either picture something, or not picture it. "If you... no, that wouldn't work... well what about... no. Oh. No, not like that. Hmmm." Or perhaps the blushing was just ingrained in him. How many years of living with Spike did it take before one became completely immune to being embarrassed about sex? One would have thought it would have taken less than six months, let alone multiple years.

"It works best logistically if one person is simply receiving all the attention," Wesley explained.

"Yes, yes, thank you, no need to go any further," Rupert interrupted. Xander looked disappointed, and Rupert decided they *really* needed to change the topic. Before Xander asked *him*, and waited for details. But Xander had apparently decided to follow a new tangent. Thank God.

"All the attention. Oh yeah, I like that. Make-up sex. Mmmm..." Xander's eyes glazed over a bit, though that might have been partially the effect of the beer. Beers. Then they were suddenly sharp for a moment. "That was make-up as in 'Had a fight, Spike does all the work to make it up to me.' No mascara or lipstick involved. Ever."

Xander looked down at the table suddenly, and Rupert tried not to picture the scene he was denying had ever occurred. He wasn't sure he was ready to tell Xander what *his* maximum number of at-the-same-time lovers was. He focused on something else, instead. "There's nothing wrong with make-up. Actors and... what are they called? Goth boys? Wear it all the time."

Xander was giving him a look, now, that made him want to sigh and ask Xander if he had *really* been that sheltered, growing up.

"Oh, yes, and men who like to wear fishnet stockings," Wesley added, unhelpfully. "I have that picture, you know -- Nigel gave it--"

"What?"

"In just seven days... I can make you a ma--aa-aa-aa-an..." Wesley crooned. Xander's eyes widened. Apparently he hadn't been *that* sheltered in his upbringing.

Rupert groaned. "I was young. I needed the money." Wesley raised an eyebrow. "All right, I was young and I did it for free, so just shut up about it."

Xander turned his wide-eyed gaze on Wesley. "You have a picture?" Wesley nodded. "I'll take Spike away for a week."

"Deal!" Wesley held out his hand.

"Excuse me," Rupert tried to interrupt them. That turned out to be a bad idea.

"So, G-Man, what about you?"

"What about me?" he hedged.

"Wes has answered, now your turn." Xander looked at him sternly.

"What about *you*, Xander. You haven't answered yet either." Wait, what had he just said? The correct response would have been 'Don't call me G-Man, Xander,' which would've led off on a safe, nostalgic path. Now he would be forced to find out the answer to his own question.

"Just one." Xander looked pointedly at everywhere in the room except Rupert or Wesley. "So far."

Rupert relaxed, and took a sip of his beer. Thank God. He wasn't sure he could take hearing Xander Harris talk about multiple partners. Or any partners, come to it.

"Spike wants to have a threesome with Dru, though."

They stared at Xander for a moment. Carefully, Rupert asked, "Ah, and... this would be why you brought the matter up?" Xander shrugged, then nodded quickly.

"There's nothing odd about a threesome," Wesley said. "Takes a bit of communicating, but it can be rather nice."

There was another tiny nod, but Xander didn't look up at either of them. Rupert sighed. "I've never done a threesome, before. Five, yes--"

Now Xander looked up. "Um... five?"

Rupert couldn't tell if he was surprised that the number was so high, or that it was so low. He refrained from commenting that actual orgies didn't count, he was talking about how many people had been touching him at one *time*, not, for instance, in the space of an hour. "Well, it was hardly... It wasn't an ongoing thing, of course." He nodded at Wesley.

"This wouldn't be either," Xander said quickly. He looked down at his beer again, then looked up. "Spike's mine. This would just be... like, once, maybe." Rupert was trying to figure out how to respond to that. He'd figured out that Xander wanted some sort of advice, perhaps something as simple as reassurance that it wasn't a particularly odd thing to do. To want to do.

Then Wesley said, "I was given to understand those orgies were quite regular. Every other month, on the fourth Saturday."

"Orgies?" Xander squeaked.

Rupert sighed. "There was *not* a regular orgy. It was *once*, and anyone who says otherwise... was at a different orgy than I was." It didn't sound quite like he'd wheedled his way out of it, but Xander looked a bit calmer.

"Oh." There was less of a squeak this time, but it was still there. "Orgy?"

"Yes, well, it was in my electric kool-aid funky Satan groove days." Rupert drained the last of his beer and looked desperately about for another.

"Aw, G-Man, you remembered something I said. I'm touched."

"If only you'd return the favor, and stop calling me that." A full mug materialized in his hand. He blinked at it. Then looked up at Wesley, who was smiling smugly.

"It's a very useful spell. Would you like to learn it?"

"You can do it without it going flat?" Rupert tentatively took a sip. Yes, indeed, still carbonated. Wesley had mastered an extremely useful spell.

"Took a bit of practice. Practiced on Diet Pepsi, of course. Cordelia was not amused..."

"Every time she made him buy her another six pack, he'd practice with it." Xander was grinning. Looking relieved to have something other than orgies to discuss.

"But you seem to have it down. Yes, I would very much like to learn it." A thought occurred. "Where did it originate?"

Another smug smile. "My cousin in Stoke-on-Trent keeps some for me in his flat."

Rupert goggled. "This is fresh? From *England*?"

"Well, fresh if you mean that the cat it was filtered through was probably only two or three months old," Xander commented, again belying his assessment by taking a large swig from his own suddenly-full glass.

"I can always replace it with Miller Light, if you prefer," Wesley said warningly. "Or possibly shandy."

"Who's Shandy?" Xander asked. "And are you thinker than I drunk you are?"

Rupert rolled his eyes. "It's beer and lemonade, and it's about weak enough that you *could* feed it to a three month old cat."

"Beer and lemonade? That's *disgusting*." Xander took another drink of his Batham's. "OK, so, it couldn't be any worse."

Rupert sighed. "For god's sake, Xander, what *do* you drink? Besides soda?" Xander gave him the kicked-puppy look that made him look four years old. *Definitely* not old enough to be drinking. And he'd obviously been living with Spike too long, because this was a much more refined pout than he'd ever had, back in Sunnydale.

"Oh, that's nice. Number Seventeen, isn't it?" Wesley asked.

"Seventeen Point Five. Specially reserved for having insulted his taste in beer or laundry detergent." Xander gave Rupert a tiny grin. "He's allergic to Tide. Makes him break out in interesting places." Yet another thing he had never wanted to know about William the Bloody. Rupert filed the information away in the back of his mind, however. One never knew when something like that might be useful. "And I like Rolling Rock," Xander continued.

"Grain-flavoured water," Wesley muttered. But he waved his hand, again, and there was a second mug sitting next to Xander's mug of Batham's -- which Rupert rescued immediately.

"Cool! Thanks." Xander accepted his new beer happily, and Rupert looked at Wes.

"What happens if you try that spell when you're drunk?"

Wesley blushed, slightly. Didn't answer. Xander snickered. "Next time you see Cordelia, just say the word 'sample' to her. See what she does."

Wesley turned a glare on him. "It was *not* my fault." To Rupert, he muttered. "My cousin is a medical student." Rupert wondered idly what might be in a medical student's refrigerator that looked like beer, but wasn't... And then wished he hadn't. Suddenly he'd rather be talking about orgies.

"Perhaps you should transport a few bottles here, now. While you're still... able."

Wesley nodded, and a moment later, two bottles appeared. Wesley looked at them, then frowned. "He hasn't purchased any more. Sorry."

"That's all right," Rupert waved a hand. He reached over and picked up the bottle. Looked at it. Real beer. Thank God.

Xander waited until Rupert had the glass to his lips, almost drinking, when he said, "So. Orgy."

Rupert gave the young man a glare that would quell Slayers. Mostly. Sometimes. Well, they'd told him it would, during training. "Yes?"

Xander rolled his eyes. "That was a polite way of saying 'Give me details, without actually giving me so many details I can't ever look at you again'."

"Ah, so, you don't actually want to picture me naked, surrounded by half a dozen men and women?" Well, that shut him up. Though once upon a time, the word 'orgy' itself would have been enough detail to guarantee at least a week of no direct eye-contact from Xander. Wesley, however, was looking at him... appreciatively. Rupert raised an eyebrow at him, wondering if he had the balls to ask.

"Wait a minute! You said 'five'!"

"What?" Rupert turned back to Xander.

"You said 'five' -- now it's half a dozen!" Xander glared at him, accusingly. "How many *was* -- do I really wanna know?" That last he asked, as if talking to himself. "Giles, naked, lots of other-- no. Nope, not wanting to know actual numbers."

"Perhaps we should move on to a new topic," Rupert suggested. Xander glanced at him again, and he sighed. "I was rounding up. The second time. *Now* can we move on to another topic?"

"How 'bout them Redskins?" Xander ventured.

Wesley rolled his eyes. "He doesn't really watch it, you know. He can actually hold a halfway decent conversation about real footy, after living with Spike for so long."

"Yeah, Man U can beat the crap out of Arsenal any day," Xander said with enthusiasm.

"They most certainly can *not*," Rupert protested. Wesley snickered.

Xander gave him a grin. "You were right. Wow."

"What?" Rupert had the feeling he was saying that rather a lot, tonight. "Right about what?" But he twigged, a second later. Frowning, he said, "Perhaps we should discuss cricket?"

"Jiminy?" Xander asked.

Perhaps they should discuss orgies after all. He sighed. "Right, then, we can cross sports off the list."

"No, really, I'm always interested in sports where guys throw balls at wooden stakes and then run back and forth for no apparent reason." Xander snickered into his beer-flavoured water.

"Philistine."

"Don't bother," Wesley told Rupert. "I've tried. I even taped it and showed it to him in slow-motion. Didn't help."

Xander tried to look offended, but he was grinning too hard. "The tape was put to good use, though."

"Oh, god." Wesley groaned, and his head hit the table top.

Intrigued, Giles looked from Wesley to Xander. "What happened to the tape?"

"Spike. Macintosh. Movie editor," Xander explained

"Oh, god," Wesley groaned again.

"You said that," Xander reminded him helpfully.

"All right, so Spike put something no doubt exceptionally pornographic on the tape that used to have a cricket match on it. So what?" Rupert looked confusedly back and forth between Xander and Wesley.

Xander snickered again. "I gave it back to him. And he doesn't remember which one it was."

Wesley groaned a third time. "I haven't watched any of my cricket tapes in six months, for fear that I'll be sitting there studying somebody or other's superb bowling technique, and..."

Rupert tried very hard not to laugh. It was a horrible thing to happen, truly, but... He laughed.

Wesley's head came up fast, and he glared. "*You* laugh. You have no idea what sort of things Spike can do with a movie editor. Last year when he asked for all the classic Disney animated movies?"

"Yes?" Rupert remembered, the entire group up in Sunnydale had chipped in to buy them the set. They'd laughed over it, but had been happy to give Spike and Xander something... they'd... oh, dear. "Oh, dear."

Xander was laughing. "Wanna borrow 'Dumbo'?"

"Say 'no'. I beg of you," Wesley said.

"You've seen it?" Rupert asked.

"There's a reason we've spelled our quarters to keep those two out. Thanks to a certain party's expertise with hidden cameras..." Wesley shot a dark glare at Xander, who looked resolutely innocent, "I was *in* it. "

Rupert tried *very* very hard not to laugh, but he had even less success this time. "Oh... dear."

"But he looked really cute flapping his ears and flying over the circus grounds," Xander said comfortingly.

"I am going to kill you one day," Wesley said calmly. "It will involve red ants and honey." He took a long drink of his beer. "And woodchuck cider."

Xander just kept grinning. "You say the sweetest things. Don't let Angel and Gunn catch you saying things like that to me."

Wesley blinked. "Where do you think I'm getting the ants?" Xander stuck his tongue out.

"Yes, I see the maturity rating in the room has reached new depths," Rupert observed, eyeing the unopened bottles of beer. Not that his own glass was empty. He just wanted to be sure they were safe. Protected.

"Okay, this from the man who not all that many years ago tied Spike up in his bathtub, and just because he was being a *little* annoying, made him listen to the entire London soundtrack of Chess, on permanent replay, for 24 hours straight?" Xander challenged him with humor in his eyes.

"Ah yes. Those were the days."

"Spike says he *still* can't listen to Murray Head without wanting to bang his skull against the nearest porcelain surface."

Rupert was affronted, though he wasn't entirely sure by what. "I *like* Murray Head." Xander just raised an eyebrow, as if Rupert had just proven his point. "Now, look, you can't tell me that torturing Spike isn't a worthwhile past-time."

"I would *never* make him listen to 'Chess'!" Xander looked honestly scandalized. "Put cucumber seeds in his blood, sure! But... but..." He blinked. Looked thoughtful. "Actually, that might be a good way of keeping him off the roof..."

Now Rupert was confused. "Why would you want to keep him off the roof?"

He glanced over at Wesley who said 'oh god' again, before answering. "Spike volunteered to do the Christmas decorations last year. It seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, there was always the possibility that he could fall off the roof and break his neck." Xander stuck his tongue out at Wesley again.

"And what's wrong with allowing him to decorate for Christmas? Sounds exceedingly wholesome, for Spike." The moment the words were out of his mouth, Rupert's imagination started to provide its own answers. Why did he ask these questions? Was he doomed to be the straight man in the Xander-and-Wesley-Comedy-Hour all night?

"Yes, so we thought. Until we saw the eight-foot-high naked statue of Spike, picked out in multi-coloured lights. Facing the road, where everyone else could see it as well. There was a news crew there." Wesley mouthed the words 'Honey. Ants. Cider.' at Xander, who merely whistled something that Rupert suspected came from the soundtrack to 'Dumbo,' and took another drink. "Spike was also there. Next to the statue. " Wesley took rather a large drink, himself. "Naked. When we got him down -- with a net, mind you, because he was suddenly afraid of climbing down the ladder, probably because Angel was waiting at the bottom -- he said it was because he needed inspiration."

"Inspiration for-- No. I'm not asking. Why are we talking about this, anyway? What happened to the orgies?"

"You chickened out telling us details," Xander replied.

"Ah, yes, I--" He stopped himself again. Surely there was something they could discuss safely. Something that didn't involve sex, or Spike. Not sports, not beer. Not business - he and Xander could talk, but Wesley would be left out. Magic, Xander would be left out. If they tried talking about the wedding, they'd have to mention Spike again. "You really want to hear about the orgy?"

Xander blinked. As if he weren't really sure if he did or not. As if -- and it was probably true, knowing Xander -- he'd just been seeing how far he could push, and was now faced with having to either own up, or hear the answer.

"Sure," came the cheery response. Then again, this was a man whose fiancé walked about naked on the rooftop... He really had to stop underestimating Xander's capacity for perversion.

"It was... nineteen something and something. Which is to say I remember which decade it was but don't care to elaborate."

"I don't care if it was eighteen ninety-five. I just want to hear about the multiple naked people," Xander replied.

"Well, there were multiple naked people..." When he didn't immediately elaborate, Xander leaned forward and stole the last two bottles of Batham's. "What on earth are you doing?" Rupert tried to grab them, but Xander had them under the table, out of reach. He scowled. He ought to have Wesley re-teleport them onto the table.

"Details."

He sighed. "Fine. Details? The difficult part is knees and elbows. Moving without hitting anybody where they don't wish to be hit--"

"Excuse me," Wesley interrupted. He handed Rupert a bottle of Batham's.

"Hey!" Xander looked down at his hands. "You... Briton!" Rupert and Wesley just looked at him. Xander frowned back. "Yeah, well, I live with one, remember? And he's *met* the queen."

Rupert gave him a hard look. "*Which* queen?"

Xander grinned. "I'm not sure. Knowing Spike, he could've meant Elton John. But I think he meant Victoria. Something about letting a bag of ferrets loose during the Great Exhibition?"

"How typical. No, wait. If Spike was... how old, when he was turned?" Rupert tried to do the maths, and ended up staring brainlessly into the depths of his beer.

"I don't know. 20-something, obviously. Unless he's as bad off as me, in beer-buying terms. He's told me six different ages, so take your pick."

"The Great Exhibition was in 1851. He would've been... er..." Rupert picked a number out of the ether and hoped it was right, "eight years old, at most."

Xander didn't even blink. "And you're saying an eight-year-old Spike couldn't have let loose a bag of ferrets at the Great Exhibition?"

Rupert tried to picture an eight year old Spike. And for once, he didn't have to push his imagination into a dark, beer barricaded corner. Eight year old imaginary Spike was frighteningly cute. He found himself smiling, and Xander said, "Yeah. If you ever get him sopping wet and offer him a lollipop, you can get that same effect."

Rupert glanced over, and saw that look on Xander's face. The one which prevented him and Xander's other friends from staking Spike and kidnapping Xander back to Sunnydale. The boy was besotted. "I'll keep it in mind," Rupert said, amused. As if he would ever have the chance -- or take it, if he did. Not that it wouldn't be fun to see Spike actually looking cute... Rupert suddenly decided he'd had too much beer.

"Of course," Xander continued, "if you get him sopping wet and offer him a lollipop, the cute look doesn't last very long..." Wesley groaned. Rupert wasn't sure if he'd ever raised his head from his beer, come to think of it. No, he had, He'd passed Rupert a bottle. "Since he gets naked pretty soon after that..."

"Right. Orgies," Rupert interrupted. Xander perked up. "The ones... one, I mean, that I attended, purely as a favor to a friend..."

"Ethan?"

"No, not Ethan! Why on earth does everyone think I used to sleep with Ethan?" Even Wesley raised his head to give Rupert an are-you-kidding look. Rupert was *not* going to blush. "All right, possibly I used to sleep with Ethan. Occasionally."

A low snort. "Used to as in 'in the last five months'?" Wesley asked, one eyebrow raising and apparently sticking there.

"You must be joking. Drusilla would-- never mind."

Xander's eyes widened, then narrowed, then did little circles within their sockets. "Oh God. Though that does explain how he got here so fast, if he didn't come with you guys."

"Well," Wesley said in a reasonable tone. "That gives you an excuse not to invite her to a threesome. Because then you'd have to invite him, as well."

Xander goggled. "Yeah. That pretty much puts me *right* off. Green socks. Brrrr." He shuddered.

"Green socks?"

"Um. If I explain, it will involve me talking about Spike being naked."

"Ah." Rupert nodded. "Please don't explain." Xander looked like he was thinking about doing it anyway, so Rupert, not at all evilly, added, "Ethan wouldn't care if you invited Dru without him. Trust me."

Xander slumped down in his seat. "Oh." When Rupert looked questioningly at him, he sighed. "It's not that I don't like Dru. It's just-- you know. She was there before. Plus the whole crazy-not-chipped-vampire-might-eat-me-during-sex thing, but mostly the other one."

"So it's not so much the idea of someone else, as it being specifically Drusilla?" And they were safely away from orgies again, for the moment.

"Well, if it were Wesley, we'd only have to deal with Angel and Gunn killing us slowly."

Wesley choked on his beer. Possibly because Xander wasn't grinning, as though he were only saying it for shock effect. Rupert reconsidered, for the twentieth time, going back out and talking to Cordelia about teal morning suits. "I seriously doubt Spike would allow Drusilla to harm you... under any circumstances," Rupert told him.

Xander did grin, this time. "Well, no. Probably not. Unless I wanted her to." Wesley returned to his beer as if it were oxygen and he'd only just remembered he needed to breathe. "She's got really sharp teeth. Even when she's human," Xander added.

Rupert went off somewhere for a moment. It was a nice place. Women with sharp teeth lived there, and they didn't have any inclination to suck one's blood. He blinked, and returned to the present. Wesley and Xander were both staring at him. "Yes?"

"Giles?" Xander asked, and there was a note of hesitation in his voice.

"Yes, Xander?"

"Can I change my mind?"

"About what?"

"I don't want you treating me like I'm a grown-up. Treat me like your errant adopted son who's too young to know what sex, taxes, and cricket are."

"Ah. In that case, I'm afraid you're not old enough for that beer." Rupert snatched away the glass.

Xander pouted. Something like Number 17.5, but not quite. "Okay. Let's talk about orgies, then."

Rupert handed him back the beer. They stared at each other for a while. And stared. Drank a bit more beer. Looked about the room, a bit. Looked at each other. Looked at their mugs of beer. Finally Xander sighed. "Would it be really, really stupid of me to say yes?"

Rupert studied his beer. It really was rather a fine brew. "Er... You're asking me if I think having sex with his ex-girlfriend will suddenly make Spike not want you anymore?"

"Pretty much. Does that sound too dumb for a guy who's been old enough to buy beer for quite a while, now?"

"It does sound a bit silly coming from a man whose fiancé has refused to let him alone for one second for the last two days. The only reason you're here now is because Spike got kidnapped by Joyce, and he's incapable of turning her down."

Xander didn't look completely convinced. After a bit of staring morosely at his beer, he said, "But she's his Sire. Angel aside, she's the one who made him. He... can't say 'no' to her."

"And you think that he'll go back to her?" Rupert asked gently. Xander shrugged. "You can say 'no', you realize."

"But... what if that's... what makes him...."

"He won't." This came from Wesley, astonishingly.

"Huh?"

"Spike won't. Go back to Drusilla. She's left him too many times." Wesley's voice held a strange certainty, and Rupert wondered just how many nights he'd spent down here with Spike, drinking Batham's. "He... ah..."

Xander's eyes were round. "What? He what?"

Wesley looked elsewhere. "I'm not supposed to be telling you this."

"I'll take Spike away for two weeks..."

Wesley blinked, then smiled. "You're talking about the honeymoon, aren't you."

Oops-I've-been-caught-out face from Xander. "Ah... busted, huh?"

"Good, that means you can keep that picture. Or better yet, give it to me," Rupert said to the man across from him, who was still smiling gently at Xander.

Wesley spared him a larcenous glance. "Why, what will *you* give me for it?"

"He what?" Xander asked again.

Wesley took pity on him and said, "He won't leave you. He loves you, he trusts you, and he... how did he put it... he finds contentment in knowing that you need him in all the same ways that he needs you. Or reassurance. Something. Why do you think he wants you to have a threesome? Rather than simply inviting Dru up for the day? He doesn't want her -- he wants to remember what it was like, having her. Nostalgia. Old times' sake. Saying goo--"

"Wesley?"

"Yes?" He turned to Rupert.

"Are you drunk?"

"Does it matter?"

Rupert shook his head -- Xander was still staring at Wesley, absorbing what he'd heard. "I was just wondering if we should get you drunk more often. Or *not* allow you to get drunk."

Wesley blinked at him. "Why?"

"Your accent is slipping. You sounded like Spike."

"Well, that's only fair." Xander seemed to have come out of his revelation-of-love induced shock. "When Spike gets maudlin, he sounds like Wesley." Xander shook his head. "In fact, he must've been *really* maudlin, if he used the word 'contentment.' Non-maudlin Spike would say something like 'He's a great shag, makes me all growly, an' he spanks hard'." Xander quoted -- or misquoted -- Spike in a dead-on impersonation of Spike's usual accent.

Rupert looked at the floor. The beer wasn't doing it for him anymore. He needed something *really* complicated to focus on. Parquet tiles almost seemed to be doing the trick, except that he could still see a faint image superimposed over them -- of an imaginary soaking wet Spike, holding a lollipop, being spanked. He glanced up, hoping that perhaps Wesley might have an interjection into the conversation, something safe and not-Spike, and he found the other man gaping, staring off into space. The faint flush on his cheeks said that perhaps he'd gone off somewhere, as well.

There was a smug tone to Xander's voice when he said, "Spike says I spank better than Angel." Wesley's eyes did something quite intriguing. Rupert decided he would *really* rather argue with Cordelia. Or, perhaps, even wear teal to the wedding.

"Better than Angel?" There was a little squeak at the end of the question, and Rupert closed his eyes. He was either too drunk, or not drunk enough.

Xander nodded solemnly. Then looked a little uncertain. "Of course, this *is* Spike we're talking about. He lies. Lots."

Something entered Rupert's head. It might have been a thought. Or possibly a stray dust particle. It was getting that difficult to tell. "Yes, he does. If the Great Exhibition was in 1851, and he was turned in 1880, he'd have to have been twenty-nine when he was turned to even have been *born* in time to crawl into the Crystal Palace and let loose a bag of ferrets."

Xander's eyes went round in circles as he tried to puzzle out the arithmetic. Finally he frowned. "You said he would've been eight."

"I'm drunk. You expect me to do maths?"

Xander blinked repeatedly. "Okay, so he lied. Remind me to spank him for it."

Rupert found himself actually opening his mouth to respond to that. Firmly, he shut it. Looked at his beer, and decided he needed more. Wesley was looking at Xander, and Rupert started praying that he didn't ask. Wesley opened his mouth. Rupert prayed harder.

"I've thought of where I can get more Batham's," Wesley said.

Rupert offered one of the bottles of Batham's as a sacrifice, to whomever had been listening. Then he looked at Wesley. "Where?" He watched, somewhat surprised, as Wesley stood up and wandered over to the bar.

"I keep some here for when I'm too drunk to telepat... telopot... get it from my cousin."

"You... fine." He wasn't about to complain. He could look forward to at least a few more bottles, and the subject was thankfully changed, so he wouldn't have to hear anything else about--

"But now I'm wondering if I really do. Spank as good as Angel, that is. I mean, if he lied about the ferrets..."

"I once knew a man who put ferrets down his trousers," Rupert interrupted desperately.

Xander stared blankly at him. "Um..."

"It was part of a stage act."

"Okay..."

"He juggled sausages, as well." Rupert gave Xander a wide smile.

Xander nodded. "Cool." Then he turned to Wesley. "So, do you think I would spank as good as Angel?"

Wesley brought over two more bottles of beer, and set them down. Looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, "There'd really be only one way to find out."

Rupert buried his head in his hands. Teal. Go out and find Cordelia, he told himself. You're drunk, you can deal with teal and salmon. "We'd need a neutral party, though, for judging," Xander pointed out. There was silence. Rupert told himself he was not going to look up. Told himself he would not want to see what he knew he would see.

He looked up, and found Wesley and Xander watching him, patiently. "Giles, would you--"

"NO! No, I would not. Whatever it is, I would not. Ever." He listened to himself for a moment, and realized he hadn't sounded this mentally deranged since the last time he'd talked with Anya. Calming himself, he readied a reasoned, intelligent explanation about how it was completely inappropriate for him to be discussing that sort of thing with Xander, really, let alone witnessing it or in any way participating in it. What came out of his mouth, however, was, "Er, would I what?"

"Would you..." Xander stopped, and thought hard. Rupert wondered if Xander was possibly too drunk to remember his thought processes from two minutes ago. "Would you, could you, on a boat?"

"Would you, could you, with a goat?" Wesley added, then burst into giggles.

"That is *perverted*!" Xander yelled at him. He turned a very serious, very not-completely-sober look at Rupert. "If you have, at the orgy or whatever, I don't want to know. K?"

Rupert was beginning to think he had no idea what either the other two were talking about. He suspected he should prefer it that way. "I have *never* done it with a goat. Or any other non-sentient being."

"Ethan?" Wesley prompted again.

Rupert simply thumped him with an empty beer bottle. Then again, Ethan owed him money. And a new pair of jeans. "I didn't say I'd never done it with a non-*human* being," he said after a moment. Followed by a grin.

But Xander, of course, chose not to take this as a comment on Ethan's parentage. "So... what, vampire? You been holding out on us?"

Rupert looked elsewhere. Suddenly he found that there wasn't enough of elsewhere to look in the hotel bar. "Of course I've done it with a vampire. Dear God, everyone in this *room* has done it with a vampire."

Xander nodded. "Yeah. With a vampire on a boat. But not with a goat."

Wesley grinned. "With a vampire and a Gunn."

Xander grinned back. "Oo, kinky. Where do you put the gun?"

"Excuse me, I think it's time for me to exercise my parental rights and demand that no one answer that question." Rupert gave Xander a very stern glare. "Otherwise I shall be forced to point out that I *did* agree to pay for the rehearsal dinner, and even agreed... though god knows how... to perform. I said I wouldn't ask for any return favors, but I lied. I'm asking for one now."

"Wow." Xander looked at him, amazement on his face. "You said that all in one breath?"

"You never answered the question," Wesley said.

Rupert turned to him. "What question?"

"If you would judge the spanking."

There was a reason God created cinnamon schnapps. It was so people could get drunk enough, fast enough, that they didn't have to deal with questions like that. He suddenly wished he had some. In fact, he wished he'd had some half an hour ago. No. That was the categorical answer. No, no, no, not on a boat or with a goat or a stoat, nor with ferrets down his trousers, nor while wearing a pear of green fluffy socks. The answer was no. The answer was--- "How on earth would I *do* that?"

Xander made a 'pfft' sound. "Duh! Get spanked--"

Rupert stood up and walked over to the bar. Perhaps there was a bottle, somewhere, of hard liquor. Something, anything which would ensure that tomorrow morning he would remember *none* of this. Better, something he could put in Wesley and Xander's drinks, so they would not remember it either. He couldn't find any bottles, and was considering sending someone out for one, when he heard Wesley asking, "Do you think that would be the best place for it?"

He spun around. "I'm sorry?" Was there more than one place for it? One generally got spanked on the arse, didn't one? Wonderful. Now he was actually *thinking* the words. No, no, don't want to hear, don't want to know. He turned back to the bar. No bottles, but perhaps there was a can of peanuts he could hopefully choke himself to death on?

"The bar." Wesley was standing, now, and walking towards him. Looking at the polished bar top. "It would make for nice atmosphere, but the height is wrong." He glanced back at Xander. "Isn't it?"

Xander walked over, and looked from the bar, to Rupert. No. Nonononononononono. What god had he offended that he was in this conversation? "It might work, actually." Xander positioned himself in front of the bar, as if -- Rupert looked away. Far wall, nice and drab.

"I am not listening to this. And you are not listening to *me*. I said no, that's the end of it."

Xander snickered. "The 'end' of it?"

Rupert looked back at him. He had that 'There is no Xander, there is only Zool' look in his eyes. As if he'd been taken over by that offended god, or some other, who wanted nothing more than to make Rupert Giles' life as miserable as possible in retaliation for some wrong, real or imagined. The only problem was narrowing to down to which one, really. That might take a few days.

"Eyghon?" he ventured?

Xander winked first one eye, then the other. "Nope. Both still here."

Wonderful. It was just Xander. Drunk Xander. "Are you drunk enough to not remember any of this tomorrow?" Rupert asked.

"Any of what?"

"Would you want any padding? Or just a towel?" Wesley asked, finally looking up from his inspection of the bar. Perhaps *he* was the one who was possessed, Rupert realized. He'd been providing Xander with the beer, after all. Cheap American drek that it was. He could have cast a spell on it.

"Padding?" The moment the word was out of his mouth, he realized he was just encouraging them both. Dear God. Perhaps it was *he* who was possessed? It was, after all, he who kept opening his mouth and responding to these things.

"On the bar. Or just a towel, to cover--"

"Yes, I get the point." Rupert looked over the bar again. Perhaps there was simply a bottle of cyanide tablets back there? "It's not an issue, because it isn't going to happen."

Of course, looking over the bar meant bending over the bar. Which he realized as soon as Xander walked up closer to him. "Oh yeah. That would definitely work."

He straightened up immediately and turned back around. Gave them both a very fierce glare, which bounced off their heads like a rubber ball. Instead he got round eyes blinking slowly at him, as if he were at an anime convention. "You two are either extremely drunk, or you're having me on."

"We can have you?" Wesley echoed, sounding pleased.

"However," Rupert continued, ignoring him, "if you are *not* extremely drunk, then you can be held responsible for everything you've said here tonight. To wit, I shall be forced to explain to all your respective significant others that the two of you were complaining about their abilities behind doors."

More blinking. Then Wesley and Xander looked at each other. Wesley looked back at him. "I'm extremely drunk."

Xander, however, shook his head from side to side. Then up and down. As if trying to decide which way worked better. Then he said, somewhat dizzily, " Um... I'm probably extremely drunk. But since we were talking about *my* spanking abilities, what is it exactly that you think you're gonna tell Spike? That I accused him of lying? "

"Er... yes. Exactly."

"Because that would be *such* a shock. He'd have a heart attack."

Wesley looked at Xander wide-eyed. "Well, he might spank you..."

Xander grew thoughtful. "Hmm. Yeah. You're right." He turned back to Rupert. "I'm completely sober. Did you want me to go first, or Angel?"

Rupert rolled his eyes. "You think I'm not capable of lying through my eyeteeth, to get the two of you into trouble?"

"Yeah, but trouble's nice." Xander shrugged.

Rupert shook his head again. "Do you recall how Ethan always... twitches, whenever anyone mentions oranges? Or is actually, god forbid, given one?"

"Um, yeah?" Xander gave him a 'you're insane' look, as did Wesley.

Rupert cleared his throat, and said as distinctly and undrunkenly as he could, "He pissed me off."

Xander and Wesley exchanged doubtful looks, then Xander said, "Yeah... and...?"

"Would you care for me to do that, to you, with the spanking?"

Blinking. Rapid, this time. "You mean, make spanking a *bad* thing?" Wesley asked. Xander just squeaked.

"Oranges," Rupert repeated. Hoped to God they didn't ask Ethan why he really twitched whenever faced with an orange. It involved an orgy. One of them; he couldn't really recall which. And a goat. And even if forced to testify under oath, Rupert would only ever admit to *watching* it occur.

"We'll be good now," Xander said quietly. Once again looking not nearly old enough to be as drunk as he obviously was. He and Wesley both returned to their seats, eyes still in Japanimation-mode. Rupert gazed suspiciously at them, but took his own seat. Looked down to find his beer missing. He mouthed the word, 'oranges' at Wesley, and it re-appeared in front of him. With a satisfied nod, he picked it up, and took a drink.

He spit it back out as soon as he tasted it. "What the hell is this?"

"What?" Wesley looked honestly startled. "What's wrong?" But he was giggling, as well, now.

Xander sniffed his own, then took a sip. "Ah. You got mine, G-Man. The shoe polish is in my bottle." He held his beer out.

"Oops?" Wesley said, still giggling.

"I might just tell on you anyway," Rupert said darkly. A swallow of real beer improved his mood slightly, though the brief bursts of tittering from his drinking companions threatened to either drive him insane, or force him to join them.

"So," Xander said, immersed in his whatever the hell that swill had been. "About those orgies."

Rupert blinked at him. "About these oranges, did you say?"

Xander shook his head, and repeated more clearly, "Orgies. Oar-gees-- ow!" He glared at Wesley. Wesley glared back. "Why'd you kick me?"

"Because you're-- oh. Right, why do I care if *you* get... whatever it is, done to you." Wesley waved a hand. "Carry on."

"Thank you." Xander nodded. Then he looked back at Giles. "So, enjoying your stay?"

Rupert looked at the ceiling. "I'm in hell. Except I'm drinking Batham's, so I can't be in hell. Is there a level of hell where you get good beer, and yet have to deal with a Wesley and Xander?"

"OO!" Xander's hand shot into the air. "I know this one!"

He stared at Xander, who was now waving his hand around as if he'd just been given a chance to appear on 'Who Wants to Be a Very Drunk Multi-Millionaire.' Which he was, almost. "You do?"

"Uh-huh. Third level, right after the people who take 13 items into the 12-items-or-less line, and right before the place where they show only Three's Company repeats. In Spanish."

Xander appeared to be completely serious, and Rupert wondered what exactly was in the stuff Xander was drinking. He looked down at the bottle in his hand, which contained good old Batham's, but said 'Rolling Rock' on the outside. Hops. Yeast. Water. No psychedelic fungi listed, or mystical herbs.

"Is that your final answer?" he asked, not really thinking about what he was saying -- so unusual for him, tonight, and raised an eyebrow at Wesley. Just because the label indicated nothing had been added, didn't mean there hadn't been. On the other hand, it was possible that, given that he was drinking grain-flavoured water, Xander was completely sober. Which meant everything he'd said, he'd meant to say. Which meant he'd been living with Spike far too long.

"Xander? Perhaps I'd better perform that divination one more time, to verify whether or not you've been cursed." A thought occurred. It was happening with alarming frequency. "Perhaps *I've* been cursed. This might not be my dimension." He looked around, feeling rather more cheerful.

Xander cocked his head. "Did you or did you not tell me when I was eighteen that you once slept with Twiggy?"

Rupert goggled at him. "I certainly did not."

"Okay. Did you or did you not tell me when I was nineteen that you were gonna garrote Spike with the e-string to your guitar if he ever made you drop it again?"

"Yes. Absolutely."

Xander nodded. "Did you or did you not tell me that you would judge the spanking contest and then back out of it by threatening some vague crap about oranges that I don't believe for a minute?"

"Yes. No. Wait, was there a point to this?"

Xander lifted his beer in a toast. "Sorry, G-Man. You're in the right dimension."

"Damn." Rupert took another drink of his beer. "Damn." Wesley very slowly raised a finger. "Yes, Wesley?"

"Could you check for me? After all, I have to live in the same building as they, unlike some rather spineless people who are only visiting for a few days and obviously can't take it." He blinked. "Of course, if I weren't drunk, I'm sure I wouldn't have said 'spineless'."

"Oh, yeah?" Xander challenged. "And what if you *are* in the wrong dimension? You wanna get sent home?"

Looking rather surprised, Wesley regarded him for a moment before turning to Rupert. "Couldn't there be a dimension where I'm sleeping with Angel and Gunn, and yet Spike and Xander are in Zimbabwe?"

"Yes, but unfortunately there is no Batham's there."

"Damn." Wesley looked at his beer. Looked at Xander, who grinned brightly. Looked at his beer again. "Would there be any other good beer?"

Rupert considered. There was the World Without Shrimp. That one had Guinness, at least. It also had about four hundred shrimp-lovers who'd been sent there by the woman he was currently sort-of seeing, to live in eternal prawnless torment.

"I think there's one where you're sleeping with Cordelia," he finally said with a pointed stare. "Would you like me to send you there?"

Wesley opened his mouth. Closed it. Opened it again. "Er. No."

"You could send him to... um... Xanth. There's no Spike or Xander there." Xander's eyes were practically dancing with evil. Had Spike turned him without telling anyone?

"Oh, yes. That sounds good. Just send Angel and Gunn along with me, and I'll be perfectly happy," Wesley bubbled. Which meant he was *very* drunk.

Rupert shook his head. "Xanth. Where the carbonated beverage of choice is Boot Rear. Where they keep a large statue of the arse-end of a cat in the Great Hall of the palace."

Wesley blinked confusedly.

Xander helped him out. "Catastrophe."

Wesley covered his ears, and sank down behind his beer. "No! No! Send me to the bloody land without lube, but don't send me to Pundania."

Xander started laughing, and made Rupert fear he was going to fall off his chair. Then he realized if Xander fell off his chair, he'd only be getting what he deserved, so he relaxed. Then Wesley raised his head. He was smiling. He looked like Angelus. Rupert found himself wondering if Wesley hadn't lived here too long, as well.

"What?" Xander demanded.

"I've thought of something useful you could do," Wesley said.

"Oh, yeah?" Xander sounded suspicious. Rupert inched back a bit, to get out of the line of fire.

"You could get us more beer."

Xander looked as confused as Rupert felt. "Get more beer? It's behind the counter."

Wesley shook his head. "At the corner shop, near my cousin's flat." He raised his hand.

Xander dove under the table. Rupert started to laugh. And laugh. And laugh. Wesley joined him. Rupert took another drink, and almost choked on it, because he'd fallen into that slap-happy sort of laughter where you don't really remember what was funny anymore, but you still can't breathe. Then he stopped. Dead still. In the silence, he cold almost swear he heard his digital watch ticking.

Xander was still under the table.

"Xander?" Rupert said slowly. Carefully. "What are you doing down there?"

"Shh! He'll find me!" Xander hissed back.

Rupert looked at Wesley, who shrugged. Rupert leaned over, and looked down at the young man crouching beneath the table. "Don't you want to get us more beer?" he asked cheerfully.

Xander glared. "You *do* remember the whole 'didn't get the beer once while drunk' story we told you?"

"Yes, I remember it. But you're not beer. I'm sure Wesley wouldn't... um... leave any bits behind."

Xander reached over and whapped him on the shin. Hard.

"Bloody hell!"

Xander snickered. "Yeah, that's what Spike says, too."

Rupert reached down and dragged Xander out from under the table by his elbow. "Well, I am *not* Spike, and you don't have license to beat on me every time I say something you don't like." He pushed Xander firmly back into his own chair, and Xander stuck out his tongue. "Yes, and that's another thing. I've half a mind to take you up on your request and treat you like my wayward adopted son who doesn't know anything about death and taxes and orgies, and turn you over my bloody knee." Wait, what was he saying? Was he suddenly possessed by the spirit of his father? Rupert watched Xander's eyes widen. And narrow. And a grin spread across Xander's face. "No, no, wait," he began, but Xander was already getting out of his chair again. Stepping *towards* him. "Now, wait a minute!"

"But you said! You did! Wesley, you're my witness!"

Wesley nodded. "I'm afraid so." He frowned slightly. "Unless you'd rather I send him for Batham's, first." Xander gave Wesley a look of fear, and dove behind Rupert.

Rupert stood up. "There will be no sending anyone anywhe..." He'd tried to be firm and fatherly, really he had. But the standing up thing... It had made the room start to shimmer and sway. Like Anya in that silver flapper costume she'd tried on last week. Right before he'd not so soberly told her that she didn't have the figure to pull off the flapper look. It was meant to be a compliment, but... By the time he'd stumbled over to the PC, switched it to you-speak-to-me-I-type-at-you mode, e-mailed Willow for the counterspell, waited until she'd stopped laughing, and gotten his head back *out* of his arse... Anya had flounced off to wherever she was stewing now.

He sat back down abruptly.

"G-Man?"

"Yes?"

"Are you... supposed to be doing that? Quite so fast?"

Rupert looked over at Xander, and found the young man staring at him from *far* too close up. There was no way he could spank him at this distance.

There was a cheer, and he suddenly found himself being pulled back from the table. "What the..." And then Xander draped himself over Rupert's lap. Christ, he'd said it aloud. "Now look here..."

Wesley nodded brightly. "Yes, I'm looking." Rupert covered his face with one hand. Absolutely sure, suddenly, that his eyebrows were crawling off, and he had to catch them before they got away. Dammit, there went the left one! "Rupert, you're not looking. I think *you* have to look. Otherwise you might miss, and hit him on the head."

He didn't take his hand away from his face. "At this point I'm not sure I could tell the difference if I *were* looking. Xander, get up."

"Uh-uh. Nope," came from his lap. "I heard you. You said."

"That wasn't me, it was the spirit of my long-dead father."

Wesley blinked owlishly at him. "Rupert, your father's alive and well and living in Droitwich."

"Yes, and when I tell him what's happened, it will kill him. Xander, get *up*. I shan't tell you again."

Xander wriggled, quite disconcertingly. "If I don't, ya gonna punish me?"

"Oh, for god's sake. Wesley, send him for more beer."

Xander raised a finger at Wesley. "If you send me to England, I'll tell Angel and Gunn I saw you in your swimsuit again."

Wesley blanched. "No, don't do..." Then he shook his head. "No, you didn't! I don't even know what they've done with it."

Xander grinned evilly, and Rupert wondered if he and Spike hadn't switched bodies for the night. Faith had managed it, why not these two? It would explain so much... "They don't know that. And who're they gonna believe?"

That one was probably a toss-up, actually, Rupert decided. Then decided that 'toss-up' was not the proper phrase to have running through one's mind when the world was spinning round and one's dinner was threatening to make an unexpected re-appearance. He looked down, to avoid the sight of the bar-lights circling each other like glowing tadpoles in a frenzied mating dance. Looking down was also a mistake.

"I mean, you *know* they're totally insane on the subject of anybody but them drooling over you..." Xander continued to tease Wesley, and Rupert continued to attempt to pry his eyes away from the sight of Xander's upturned jeans-clad backside. There. In his lap. And the world continued to not stay still.

"Xander, I should move, if I were you," he said as calmly as he could.

"Yeah?" Xander craned his head around, peering at him. Not actually moving out of Rupert's lap.

"Do you remember what we had for dinner?"

"Yeah, we had--" Xander's eyes went wide, and he rolled sideways off Rupert's lap. Landed on the floor and scooted backwards, much too quickly for Rupert to watch. He closed his eyes.

He heard a soft chanting, then suddenly his stomach settled. After a few moments, when the sensation of not being about to throw up remained, he risked opening his eyes again. "Been awhile, has it?" Wesley asked.

He scowled at Wesley. "No, it has *not* been a while, you..." His stomach gave a tiny rumble, and he shut up. "Sorry. Maybe a little while. Since I've had quite this much *real* beer."

Wesley nodded good-naturedly. "Yes. It does sneak up on one. Rather like..." And Rupert put out a hand to stop Xander from throwing himself across Rupert's lap again.

"Now just stop that. I'm not going to spank you."

Xander threw himself back in his chair with a sulky look. "Said you would. I heard you."

"I was drunk."

"You're still drunk."

The boy had a point. But still one didn't spank one's completely grown-up -- well, physically, at any rate -- adopted son who'd just gotten engaged. He couldn't begin to count the number of ways it was just completely inappropritae. Inapropiote. Inpriapitate. Wrong. Totally wrong. Nor was it appriap... proper, for Xander to know how bloody close he'd been to doing it.

There was possibly only one thing to be done about it. Other than actually spanking him, which he shouldn't be doing in front of witnesses, at any rate. He stood up, noticed with appreciation that the world was no longer swaying, and walked over to Xander. Xander's scowl cleared, and he looked like a child who'd just been promised a trip to Disneyland. It helped Rupert's resolve. Four-year-olds do not deserve to be spanked.

Well, actually, they do. But not the way Rupert *wanted* -- except that he *didn't* want. Most assuredly did not. Wouldn't, even if he did. He reached out and grabbed Xander's shirt, and pulled; Xander stood willingly. "Where do you-- hey!" And Rupert was slinging Xander over his shoulder in a fireman's carry.

"What are you doing?" Wesley stood unsteadily, and Rupert thought deeply about whether he could balance both of them, and finally decided that he could only manage his *own* wayward child. Angel and Gunn would have to take care of theirs.

"Go up to your suite, Wesley. It's time for bed."

"Oh, are you and Xander coming as well?" Wesley managed to sound just innocent enough that Rupert couldn't be sure whether it was a double-entendre or not, so he gave Wesley the benefit of the doubt, and shook his head.

"No, but you might tell your... er... boytoys, that you've had quite too much to drink and have been getting right up my nose." Wesley walked closer to him, and began looking suspiciously at his nose. "Wesley! It was an expression! Go!" His fellow former Watcher yelped at the stridency of his tone, and disappeared out the door, only weaving a tiny bit on the way.

With a sigh, and a reminder to himself to not do this again -- combining Batham's with Xander and Wesley -- Rupert started for the door, as well. Xander was humming happily. Luckily for all concerned, the lift was in working order. Rupert managed not to stumble as he exited on the correct floor, and found himself only staggering a little, as he reached the doorway. He pounded on the door.

"Don't you have a key to your room?" Xander asked.

"I do."

Xander giggled. "Nope. Sorry. Can't. I'm marrying Spike."

"I do have a key to my room, but this isn't my room. It's yours."

Xander was silent for a moment. Then, "Ooo! You're gonna spank me in mine and Spike's place? Cool! There's a hairbrush on the dresser, and a Ping-Pong paddle in the drawer next to the computer, and if you really wanna..."

Rupert pounded louder on the door.

"It's not locked. We never lock it. They're all afraid to come in."

Sighing, Rupert reached out to turn the knob with his free hand, and found it opening by itself. He looked up to find Spike standing there, looking amused. "Problem, Watcher?"

"I have something that belongs to you." He set Xander down, tried to keep him on his feet, and found the prospect made much more difficult by the fact that the hallway kept slipping sideways. Spike reached out and grabbed onto Xander, though, performing perhaps his only useful act in Rupert's experience. Rupert stepped back, and wondered if he should tell Spike that Xander had been annoying him. No, he realized, that would only make Spike happy. Possibly lead to things he didn't want to think about.

Xander was pouting. Spike leaned over and bit Xander's lip. Yes, Rupert realized, it was past time to go find his own room. Upstairs, far far away. He took a step away, heard Xander giggle, and stopped. Turned, found Xander facing away from him. Rupert reached over and walloped Xander on the arse as hard as he could.

Xander squeaked loudly. It sounded disturbingly happy.

Rupert shot a look at Spike, and held both hands up. "Just the once. He was *really* asking for it." No need to tell Spike how literally he'd been asking for it. Xander was, after all, completely intoxicated, no matter what he said. He wasn't responsible for his behavior, and shouldn't be blamed by Spike for doing things behind his back. Or... not doing them, but hinting very broadly that he'd like them done to him. Alright, stating outright that he'd like them done to him.

Spike blinked at him, as if he wasn't quite 'with the program,' as Buffy would say. Perhaps he'd been sleeping. "Oh. Yeah. Grrr. Mine. Keep your 'ands off 'im, wanker."

Rupert nodded. "Yes. Quite. Good night, then." Spike blinked at him again, nodded, and turned to guide Xander through the door.

"Here, have you been annoying Rupert, luv?" Spike said to a swaying Xander.

"No! I was good as cold. Good as gold. I din't do nothin'." Xander said it with such sincerity that Rupert almost felt his dinner rising up again.

He couldn't help himself. "He's a cheeky little psychopath, and he did his best to drive me out of my skull!"

Spike looked back at Rupert. "Really? I s'pose I'll have to teach him a lesson, then. Would you care to stay and watch?"

Rupert covered his eyes again, reflexively. "No, I would not. Shut the door and go away, and don't tell me about it tomorrow. If indeed I wake up tomorrow."

Spike pushed Xander the rest of the way through the door-- "Your loss, mate." -- and shut it behind them.

Rupert leaned against the wall and wondered what he'd done a past life. He must have been a tax collector. A televangelist. The wall was nice. Cool. Relaxing. He should go back to his room. Really he should. But it was so cool. He knew it was dangerous. Knew he was still within hearing distance. Suspected Spike had hollowed out the walls to their suite so people could hear them at the other end of the hotel. But that wall was so...

He heard a happy cry. "He spanked me!" So exactly *not* where he wanted to be. He pushed himself away from the wall and strode away, quickly.

Only to stop, when he saw what was floating in the air, above him. He didn't want to know. He really didn't. Except it had a multi-coloured apple on the side of it. And it was floating of its own accord. "Whathe... hell're you?" It didn't answer him, just floated there, so he swatted at it like a fly. "Get off. Go home." At the word 'home,' the thing zoomed neatly away from him toward Xander and Spike's door, and then beeped. The door opened to admit it, and, of course, Rupert couldn't make his legs start to work fast enough not to hear far too much before it closed.

"So... nothin' ?" In Spike's voice.

"Well, he spanked me!" Happy Xander sounds.

"Yeah, but just the once? Nothin' recorded on Skippy, here?" No sound in reply. "Bugger," from Spike.

"Sorry. We tried. He just holds his liquor too well." Xander seemed apologetic. And suspiciously uninebiliated. Unebattoted. Not drunk.

Spike's voice said, softly, a little petulant, a little sympathetic, "Yeah. M' sorry too. Oh well. Wanna try again tomorrow?"

"Oh yeah! We can haul out the Goldschlager's! But... um..." Xander sounded like a four-year-old, again, as Rupert leaned back against the wall and tried to decide if he should just slide down and sleep there, or run for the stairs and hope he broke his neck. "But I didn't get much of a spanking."

Spike, then, and Rupert could see him eight years old and soaking wet, and he just didn't want to. Or perhaps he did. It was getting too late to tell. "Oh, I can fix that. C'mere!"

Then, thank god, there was no sound coming from behind their door. Not yet, he realized, and scrambled to his feet. Swayed a bit, and reminded himself that Wesley was on his list, as well. Headed towards the lift, to go to his room and sleep it off.

*Tomorrow* they were going to find out why Ethan actually *did* as Rupert told him. Eventually, even if he whined first. There were reasons he was the elder, wiser one. It had nothing to do with age, or education. It had everything to do with the fact that he'd had to listen to his father explain in great detail what would happen to him if he dropped out of school at age 13. When his alive-and-well-and- living-in-Droitwich father had finished the catalogue of horrors that would befall him on the *first* day, he'd shuddered. And realized there was a reason his dad's drinking mates called him "Terror" and it had very little to do with his name being Terrence.

Rupert really always had been a good student.

Perhaps he could start with having them fetch him some sealed, uncontaminated Batham's. On foot. From Stoke-on-Trent. Then they could begin detailing his car. With their tongues. Or perhaps he could pretend he didn't remember any of this at all... and give them a tape tomorrow night, they'd never live down. After all, Wesley wasn't the only one who knew transmutation spells, and Rupert had long ago stopped thinking of the computer as that 'infernal machine'.

He slid easily down the wall of the lift, and leaned against the back corner. Planning. Just planning. And thinking. Then, possibly, when the lift reached his floor, snoring.