The knock on the door was soft enough that no one really recognized it at first. On the TV, there was another tremor in the Force. Everyone shouted, ‘Drink!’ and Spike forgot all about the door. He finished off his bottle, and reached for another just as the second knock came, louder than the first.
No one seemed to be paying a bit of attention to the movie, he had no idea how they knew when to shout ‘drink,’ but obviously they knew if they ignored the knock at the door, eventually someone else would pay for the pizza. The third knock was loud as hell, and Spike sighed and tossed the cap off his beer at Xander to let him know where Spike was headed. Xander nodded, and blew a kiss at Spike without breaking his conversation with Kendra.
Faith hooted from her corner of the other couch, and Spike shook his head, shooting her two fingers. That one was a real corker. He was looking forward to seeing her and Foxy go at it. They’d agreed to come back the next night to do some sparing if Xander accompanied the Slayers on their rounds earlier in the evening. Spike hated not going with them, but he agreed that it would be best for them if he weren’t seen about for a while. The Slayers needed to establish that they were the ones who’d cleaned out the town, and adding an extra Spike back into the equation would complicate things dramatically.
He could smell the pizzas right through the wall, so he threw open the door to reveal a soaking wet delivery boy, the Watcher, and some berk with a back so stiff that he could have been made of wood. Well, there went the evening. He threw three fifties at the pizza boy, who thanked him profusely and practically ran back to his car. Spike shoved the pizzas at the Watcher.
“Here, make yourself useful, why don’t you?”
The glower he got for that was impressive, but Spike needed the free hand to shove his wallet back in his pocket. As long as Giles was willing to hold onto them, he didn’t care what kind of look the wanker gave him. He tipped his bottle up for a drink, then took his time checking out the berk with the stick up his arse.
“You must be the other Watcher.”
“Yes, of course. My apologies. Where were my manners?” Giles asked sarcastically. He nodded at the berk, and then in Spike’s direction, since his hands were full. “Wesley Wyndam-Pryce meet William the Bloody.”
Wooden Wesley didn’t seem to know what to do, and he paused halfway between shaking hands and nodding, his language skills escaping him in his flustered state. “I… Well, that is, I mean… William the… the…”
“May I suggest you call him Spike?”
Giles’ calm voice and firm manner should have had some impact on the man, but he just gawked at Giles before turning back and gawking at Spike again.
Spike snorted. “May I suggest you don’t talk to me at all?”
Giles shoved the boxes into Welsley’s arms, which was probably for the best, since that way he had something to do with his fluttery hands.
The Watcher grabbed the receipt taped to the side of the boxes.
“Four pizzas, two orders each of French fries, chicken wings, bread sticks and onion rings.” He glanced at Spike from over the top of his glasses. “I take it the girls are here, then?”
There was a loud, raucous shout of ‘Drink!’ from the other room, and the two Watchers exchanged a meaningful glance.
Giles sighed heavily. “May we come in?”
Spike turned his back on them, leaving Wooden Wesley to carry the pizza, and walked back toward the TV room. “Close the door behind you, please,” he said over his shoulder, “who knows what the cat might drag in.”
He stood in the wide, arched doorway to the ballroom, and stared at the group assembled before him. The two couches were pulled up together, the coffee table in front of them littered with beer bottles, snack food wrappers and empty crisps packages. Xander sat between Kendra and Tara on the far couch, talking animatedly. Faith sat on the far side of Clem, who was in the middle of the second couch. Spike still couldn’t believe how well she was getting on with Clem. They’d been flirting all night, and it was rather disturbing. The large screen TV was pulled up in front of them all, orange extension cords trailing out into the hall.
“Hey, Spike, where’s the pizza?” Xander stood up, but fell back again when he saw the Watchers walk up behind him. “Oh, shit.”
“Hey!” Faith stood up, and crossed over to them. “Wesley! You brought us pizza!” She grabbed the boxes from Woody and everyone scrambled to get the beer and soda bottles off the coffee table so she’d have a place to set them down.
Clem paused the movie, and rubbed his hands together. “Dig in, guys. Get it while it’s hot!”
An hour later, the food was demolished, the movie watched (or talked over), all the introductions had been made, and the excuses given. The Watchers weren’t really surprised that the rain had driven the Slayers inside. They’d even guessed that the two would head to Spike and Xander’s lair, since it was closer to the area they’d been patrolling than either of their homes. What they hadn’t expected was a party. Wesley, in particular, was having trouble dealing with the fact that the two Slayers were partying with demons of two distinct species, a dead man who wasn’t a demon at all, and a powerful witch.
Spike didn’t see the problem, but he supposed they did make an odd group. Not that it mattered, they worked well together, and that was all that counted. Besides, Xander was obviously not dead, even if he did resemble the boy Wesley had watched die over a year ago. The way Spike figured it, the arsehole could go away and take them all with him if he wanted. Except for Xander. But if he was giving up the chance to snog with Xander, the least they could do was be civil.
When Xander and Clem had teased the new Watcher with their odd not-actually-a-demon language, Faith had ended up giving them away. She stuck her head out of the kitchen and asked, “Did I hear someone singing in Klingon?”
Spike laughed at both Watchers as they sputtered embarrassedly, ignoring the fact that he hadn’t known where it came from either. Kendra and Faith recognized it from the Xander they’d gone to high school with, who’d been as much of a scifi geek as Spike’s Xander was. Obviously, there were people even more obsessed than Xander, and they went around translating songs into Klingon, and trading them at Science Fiction conventions, on tape and video, as well as in 'zine' form (whatever the hell that meant.)
Spike was actually surprised that Clem and Xander had never run into each other at one. Clem admitted he started going to the conventions because no one looked at him twice there, except maybe to compliment him on his costume. Xander was in heaven to find another geek with whom to share his love of all things scifi.
“There’s another Con coming up later in the year, you know.”
Clem practically jumped up and down with excitement. “I know! I already have my tickets.”
“I have an extra. I was trying to talk Spike into going, but he just laughed at me and said, ‘over my dead body.’ Like that’s anything special.”
“Oi! I’ll have you know I have an excellent body.” Spike felt the need to remind Xander of that.
“Yeah, but it’s already dead, so what good is a warning like that?”
Spike shot him the bird, and Xander grabbed his fingers, squeezing tight.
“Watch it Hercules, I’m left handed you know. You’ve bruised my delicate little fingers. I may never play piano again.”
Xander laughed, refusing to let go of Spike’s hand. “I’m not that strong, Lefty.”
“Lefty? That the best you can do?” Spike scoffed, playing it up. They hadn’t had time to enjoy each other’s company for too long. It was nice just to muck about, joking with each other. “Lefty is hardly any insult at all. I’ll have you know that Aristotle was a lefty. So were Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci.”
Clem whispered something in Xander’s ear, and Xander smirked at Spike. “I have it on good authority that Ned Flanders is left handed.”
“Here now. No need to get nasty!” Comparing Spike to a fictional arsewipe like that one was hitting below the belt. He didn’t know who to be prouder of, Clem for thinking of the insult, or Xander for that knowing smirk.
At one point, Spike found both Watchers cornering Clem in the kitchen, pestering him about what species he belonged to, and why wouldn’t he show them his ‘other face’, Spike did his best to get them to leave the poor sod alone.
“But you must have some sort of tribal, or perhaps an ethnic name that…”
“Give it a break, Percy. If he wanted to tell you, don’t you think you’d know by now?” Watcher, Jr. drew up to his full height, insulted beyond words, which was exactly what Spike had intended. While Junior sputtered, Spike grabbed a beer out of the fridge for Xander, and a new bottle of JD from under the counter for himself.
“How dare you!”
Spike raised one eyebrow as he sauntered over to where the berk stood, and gave him an insolent once over, bottom to top. “How dare I what, Percy? Ask you to stop annoying my guests inside my own home? I think I dare as much as I like.”
Xander walked in just then, and Spike held out his beer to him. “Thanks, Lefty.” He glanced at Wesley and Spike, who were still face to face, and quite intentionally broke the tension.
“Hey, Giles. Look at this!” He put his thumb to the beer bottle’s cap while he studied the distance, then flipped the cap off, without the use of a bottle opener, sending it flying end over end right into the rubbish bin.
Clem grinned at him. “You’re getting better and better, Xander. I can’t believe Spike just showed you that trick tonight.”
Spike nodded his agreement. “Very impressive.”
He slapped Wesley on the shoulder in a show of mock-friendliness, and grinned evilly as the berk fought down a quite noticeable tremor.
“Xander, weren’t you going to show Rupert and Percy here your new sword?”
From the look on his face, he hadn’t planned on it, but Xander recognized the request as the distraction it was, giving them something new to focus on, so he’d brought both of his pieces of Falenge metalwork out for examination. He’d been very clear that they not touch without permission, and he regretted that both Buddy and Death Song weren’t in the mood for more than the quickest of touches. The Watchers had both been very disappointed that neither of them could hear Death Song even when in contact with her, and quite jealous that both Spike and even Clem could.
Finally, Spike got bored of baiting the new kid, and dragged Clem back to the dining room off the terrace for a smoke that wouldn’t bother Xander’s lungs. It gave him the perfect chance to thank Clem.
“I’m proud that you came back for me, Chewie. And honored. You’re a good friend.”
Clem shuffled his feet and couldn’t meet Spike’s eyes. This kind of emotional shite was obviously as difficult for Clem as it was for Spike. “I didn’t intend to, you know. I left for home before they headed out to Puffy’s mansion.”
“But you came back, didn’t you?”
“Well, yeah. I figured maybe I could help if there were any injuries or anything. I brought water and bandages.”
“Then how did you get into the mansion? The demons just let you through?”
“Nah,” Clem laughed at that. “I’d never have had the guts to try. But when no one was at the car, I went to see if Tara was okay, since I knew where she was hiding. She said that her cell phone was dead, and she wanted to go in and check on everyone. I wasn’t going with her, but it all just sort of happened so quickly that before I knew it, there I was on the stairs, shaking in my boots.”
“But you did good, mate. You stood up to an angry Drusilla, and I can name the people who’ve done that and lived through it on one hand. And that trick you pulled on her! That was pure genius. It took me a moment or two to react, ‘cause I was too much in awe of your duplicity.”
Spike threw his butt out into the rain, listening to it sizzle before it was quenched. “We’ll make a proper evil demon out of you yet.”
Clem grinned widely. “Thanks, Spike. That means a lot coming from you.” He lifted his head to the cloudy sky and warbled his Chewbacca cry to the rain.
Spike laughed, wrapping his arm around Clem’s shoulders. “Come on, Chewie, let’s get back to the party before Xander gets mad at me for leaving him alone with the Watchers.”
Clem nodded. “We did desert him, didn’t we?” He paused, looking puzzled. “Wait. I wanted to ask you, what’s wrong with ‘Percy’? It’s just a nickname, right?”
Spike smirked. “Nah. It means your todger.”
“Your what?” It was obvious that this was slang that Americans weren’t familiar with.
“In England, Percy is slang for a penis.”
Clem’s eyes got comically wide, his mouth falling open.
“So any time he’s bugging you about where you come from, call him Percy. That ought to shut him right up.”
Clem chuckled. “Thanks, Spike.” Clem headed back to the TV area, where Spike saw Tara and the Slayers talking, and Spike went looking for Xander.
When he got back to the kitchen, both Death Song and Buddy were out of sight. Spike wasn’t surprised. Who likes to be stared at and touched by strangers? Xander was at the table, with one Watcher on either side as they talked over, and around him about what kind of spells they should use to treat his hormone imbalances.
The longer they talked, the more Hercules drooped in his chair, weary of all the questions and suppositions. It was obvious he was totally at a loss as to what they intended to do to him, and he was uncomfortable as hell with the thought of them using spells on him.
Spike was thinking of stopping their talk when Tara walked into the room, and listened quietly for a moment. She shook her head, then sat down across from Xander, and spoke directly to him, ignoring the Watchers entirely.
“I thu-think we should start out using the crystal I guh-gave you, Xander. I’ll come by in a few days and we can work on some meditation exercises, and begin a cleansing regimen. Those can work wonders for hormone imbalance. I have several teas that will help.”
By the time she’d gotten to that point, her nervousness about speaking in front of someone new was fading, and she spoke without stuttering, even when the Watchers stopped their conversation and started listening to what she had to say. She smiled at each of them once she had their attention.
“I think you both have good ideas on the subject, however, using witchcraft to force someone’s hormones to change can be very disruptive for the person in question. Xander and I discussed earlier that he seems to be suffering from less symptoms every day. There’s a good chance that if we give these other options a chance to work first, we may not need any of those spells after all.”
Spike came around and sat next to Herc. “The less mojo the better, I say, Glinda. Mojo’s what got us both into this mess in the first place. If we can do without it, I think he’ll be better off.”
Xander nodded his agreement, but squinched his face up as he asked, “Are you sure I need to drink herbal teas? Those things are awful.”
“Yes, well, I agree with you there, Xander,” Giles sympathized, “but if you wish to attempt a natural course of clearing your hormonal imbalances, the herbal teas could prove invaluable.”
“You mentioned a crystal.” Watcher Jr. finally spoke up. “What type did you get, may I ask?”
Percy was being very polite, so Spike stayed quiet, and let them talk, but he was keeping a close eye on that one. If he showed one speck of disrespect for Tara or her powers, he’d find himself on the other side of the front door with a boot print the size of Spike’s foot on his bloody arse.
Xander pulled a blue bag out of his pocket and passed around the hunk of off white stone he pulled out of it. “Tara called it a Drusy quartz.”
Giles barely glanced at it. He kept his eyes on Glinda as Junior rattled on about the stone’s supposed virtues. Spike watched Giles carefully. His face was rather blank, but Spike could tell there was something brewing in his head. Finally he spoke, breaking into Junior’s monologue, speaking right over him.
“Did you get this at the Magic Box, Tara?”
Glinda nodded. “I went by this morning before the shop opened.”
Giles shook his head, sorrowfully. “Are you the one who found the owner, then?”
Everyone looked around at that question. It had a bad sound to it.
“Mr. Bogarty.” Tara nodded, her head down, letting her hair cover her eyes. “Yes, I found him.”
“What happened?” Spike could feel the despair coming off her in waves. “Glinda?”
“Are you all right, Tara? What’s going on?”
“The owner of the Magic Box was killed in his shop last night,” Giles said. “The papers didn’t say how.”
Tara looked up. There were tears in her eyes, but her voice was composed.
“Vampires. It wuh-was vampires. There were several buh-bites. I was quite surprised, because Mr. Bogarty had ku-kept the store longer than any other owner in years. Drusilla always kept truh-trouble away from the shop. She liked him, because he fawned over her, and let her take whatever she wanted.”
“That’s not the only reason demons left the store alone.” Spike paused. It hurt to talk about Dru, but Tara needed to know, especially if she intended to continue working there after the store was reopened. “I’m pretty sure Dru was grooming you.”
“Grooming?” Giles asked sharply. “You mean as in preparation for turning her?”
Tara gasped, she obviously hadn’t expected that.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure she had you in mind as her next childe, Glinda. There’s no other reason I can think of that she’d treat you the way she did.”
“You mean like the way she had Clem get a chair for Tara, and water, even while she was holding you hostage?” Xander asked.
“When did she do that?” Giles looked around the table, puzzled.
“You were passed out at the time, G-Man.”
Spike noted that Watcher, Sr. was too distracted to even note Xander’s use of his least favorite nickname. Watcher, Jr. simply tried to keep up with the conversation, blinking frequently as they changed directions more often than he could keep up with.
Spike could tell this was disturbing to Tara, but he had even more to say.
“Sorry to throw all this at you, Glinda. I just thought you should know, in case Dru mentioned you to other vamps. Someone who wasn’t worried about Dru’s reprisal was at the store last night, and that’s the night you usually work, right?”
Xander had told him earlier today that she’d asked her boss for the night off to help Xander rescue Spike. Glinda turned even paler than she’d already been, as the truth of the danger she was in hit her full force. She clutched at the talisman at her neck. Spike hoped it was one for protection.
“Either Dru sent them to pick you up, or some other vamp is making a play for the title of Master. A talented natural witch like you would be a real boon to a vamp who wanted to rule this town.”
Xander was on his knees beside her chair before the first tears fell. Spike grabbed the paper towels on the counter and joined them on Tara’s other side. Humans got awfully messy when they cried. He’d likely terrified her, but he knew that holding the truth back could get her killed. She was too much like Xander where it counted, though. He was sure she’d be even more upset to realize that she was very likely the reason another person had been killed. They held on to her, and each other, as she cried.
It was practically dawn before Spike and Xander saw the last of them off. They’d offered Glinda a room at the lair, but Giles and Kendra had insisted she stay with them. She promised that she’d call if she needed anything, that was the best they could do for now. Xander wrapped himself around Spike from behind as they waved goodbye to Kendra and Tara, and they both sighed with relief.
“Alone at last,” Xander said, stifling a yawn.
Spike turned around in his grasp, hugging Xander to him.
“C’mon, Hercules. Let’s go to bed.”
They were asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillows.