Rating: R for language
Disclaimer: Not mine, no money, et cetera ad nauseum.
Spoilers: This goes AU after the 1st comic of S8; all the Scoobies are in Scotland but I didn't want to have to deal with any of the new issues or Angel S6.
Notes: Many thanks to wildannuette and sevendeadlyfun for the beta on what is my longest (and toughest) chapter to date; I’ve discovered that fight scenes really aren’t my thing. *g* Feedback feeds the muse.
Previous chapters here.
Spike wandered down the back stairs into the kitchen the next morning, feeling oddly content. The Haklar pack had been a bit of a challenge, but Harris was more help than he’d expected; seemed like training with a whole passel of Slayers had done more for him in two years than seven as a single Slayer’s lapdog hadn’t, and they’d both stayed miraculously gore-free.
Watching Xander swing an axe while wearing his nearly-skin-tight Sergeant Fury sweater hadn’t exactly been a chore, either.
Hastily pushing away that thought, he snuck into the cavernous kitchen, looking around furtively for whoever was in charge. In his experience, a head cook in a place this size was either an expressionless automaton or a holy terror. But this was where the blood lived, and he was starved after last night’s workout.
He was shoulders’ deep in the massive fridge when he sensed someone behind him. “You’d best have a bloody good reason for bein’ in my kitchen, young man.” The voice was that of an mature woman, brogue rich and cold as a Highland winter; he steeled himself for a loud confrontation and turned around.
"Oh! Forgive me, Mr. Spike, I dinna think you'd be up yet."
"There's fresh scones on the counter behind you, and I'll just get your thermos ready, shall I?" The woman now bustling around was the perfect stereotype of the Head Cook of the Manor, stout and rosy cheeked with strong arms. Put a ruffled cap on her head and she would have been a clone of his mother’s cook from a century ago.
"That isn't necessary," he said, wincing as William's cultured voice came out of his mouth. William had always been a bit scared of the cook when he was young. "I can get my own –"
"Nonsense, man. I prepare every meal here, an' I'll be doin' yours as well. A little blood certainly isn't goin' ta bother me." Quick as a wink, she had several bloodbags heating on the stove and was pulling bowls of clotted cream and jam out of another fridge. "Just bring the plate over, would you?"
“But I – did you say fresh scones?" His mouth watered despite himself; he hadn't had a warm scone in decades.
“Of course they’re fresh, wouldna have anything else in my kitchen.” She snorted. “One of these American chits had the cheek to ask me for buttermilk biscuits yesterday. Biscuits!” She quivered with righteous indignation. “I told her, ‘young lady, if scones are good enough for our Mr. Giles, then they’re good enough for you’. Biscuits indeed.”
Spike made a wordless noise of agreement as he scattered crumbs all over in his haste, then tried not to moan with pleasure as he popped a piece of scone dripping with cream and jam into his mouth. Vampire or no, an entire plate of warm scones was not to be sneered at.
“Now,” she said as she pulled the pot off of the burner, “my name is Mrs. Macready. My sister, Mrs. Drummond, is the housekeeper; you’ll most likely meet her today as well. Young Xander tells us you’ve been away from home a fair long while, so you be sure to let us know if there’s anything you need.”
“Yes, missus.” And there was yet more evidence of Xander taking care of him. It had been years since anyone had shown him this much consideration, and it brought on warm feelings that wanted to center themselves rather lower in his body than he was comfortable with in relation to that particular Scooby.
At least, not yet.
Spike looked up from his plate as Giles stepped into the room. “Ah, Spike, I see you’re awake, excellent.” The bruise on his jaw was turning green and yellow, and it gave him a strangely lopsided look. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Macready.”
“Afternoon, Mr. Giles. I would have brought the tea to your office…”
“Not at all, I needed to get away from the books for a bit. I much prefer having tea in the kitchen anyhow, at least before the hordes descend.”
Spike swallowed the last bit of his second scone. “Hordes?”
“Yes, the girls do chores in shifts along with their classes, and one of those is assisting in the kitchen.” Giles deftly sliced his scone in half and slathered it thickly with cream. “It was Xander’s idea, actually. He pointed out that even when Joyce became aware of Buffy’s status as a slayer, she didn’t let her out of such mundane things as washing dishes or cleaning her room.” He shoved half a scone in his mouth but continued to speak around it, much to Spike’s amusement. “It keeps them from getting the idea that they’re privileged to special treatment simply by virtue of being Chosen.”
“Mr. Giles! I wilna have such manners in my kitchen,” Mrs. Macready reproached him as she brought Spike’s thermos and a pot of tea to the table.
Giles swallowed, looking abashed. “Yes, missus. Sorry,” he mumbled.
Spike bit back a chuckle at the sight of the mighty Rupert Giles acting like a scolded child as he poured himself a cup of tea. “So you were looking for me, Watcher?”
“Indeed. There was a rather large vampire nest spotted last night by one of the locals, and I was hoping you and Xander would take a squad out tonight to deal with it. I’d like your opinion on the girls’ training and techniques.”
He shrugged noncommittally as he sipped his tea, though the chance of getting in some more violence appealed to him. “The boy’s certainly handlin’ himself better these days.”
“Yes, I’m sorry to say I was very remiss in not giving Xander sufficient weapons training years ago.” Giles frowned down into his teacup. “I suppose I continued to hope he would remain ‘fray adjacent’, as the children put it.”
“Should’ve known better than that, Rupert.”
“Quite.” He touched the bruise on his face and winced slightly. “Though at the moment I’m rather regretting it. He refused to even give me the time of day at supper last night.”
Spike smirked. "Boy’s got the knack of holding a grudge, he does."
Giles sighed and removed his glasses. "It seems he's still angry with me for keeping your… survival, a secret. I’ve been receiving similar treatment from Willow, and Buffy’s barely spoken to me in two days.”
“One thing I’ll say about your bloody Scoobies, at least they’re not hypocrites.”
Giles grimaced. “I take it he told you about our argument that night?”
“Had to explain that lovely bruise on your mug, didn’t he?” Spike shrugged. “Not really my lark how you handle your kids, mate. My business here’s with Harris.” He checked his watch. “I did call Peaches last night to see if he’s got a line on something that’ll shrink the Bit back to normal, and he said he’d work on it.” That conversation had been less than fun, though he’d been hard put not to laugh as Angel had oh-so-obviously not asked any questions about Buffy.
Girlish voices began echoing in the hallway outside the kitchen, and Giles jumped up hastily. “Yes, well, I think that’s our cue. Thank you for the tea, Mrs. Macready.” Spike grinned as Giles made his way out as quickly as possible.
Spike scooped up all the cups and plates and placed them carefully next to the sink where Mrs. Macready was doing the washing-up. “Brilliant tea, luv, thanks.”
She laughed and swatted him with a towel as he snatched up his thermos. “Off with ye now, ye charmer. And make sure Xander comes to supper tonight!” she called after him as he ran up the stairs back to his room.
“Where the hell is this nest Rupert was so worried about?” Spike groused several hours later, kicking a rock in frustration. “They’ve been hanging around for a month and just tonight they decide to move on? Bloody cheek.”
“Maybe they heard you complaining from a mile off and decided they didn’t wanna listen to it,” Rona muttered. “God knows I would.”
“Get used to it,” Xander’s voice floated back from his spot on point. “Captain Peroxide’s never happy unless he’s either killing something or bitching about it.”
“Oi!” he yelled over the girls’ giggles. “Watch it, boy, or I might just leave and let you and the Slayer bints take care of this on your own.”
Xander stopped and grinned at him, ignoring the girls who watched the two of them avidly. “Like it isn’t more fun to insult each other face to face. Don’t tell me you didn’t miss that in LA, Spike – Deadboy never was much good in the snark department.”
Spike barked a laugh. “Christ, you got that right. All SuperVamp ever says is,” he deepened his voice in mockery of Angel, “‘shut up, Spike; I don’t want to hear it, Spike; just go away, Spike’.” He sniffed derisively. “Can’t hardly piss the broody bastard off anymore.”
“You can’t piss him off? You’re slipping, old man.” Xander stuck his hands in his jean pockets and bounced a little on his toes. “Maybe I should come out sometime for a visit, five bucks says I can get him mad enough to hit me within one hour.”
“Five bucks?" Spike scoffed. "When did you get so cheap? Watcherdom not paying so well these days?”
Xander gave him a scornful look. “Who says I’m getting paid, Soulboy? And for your information I am not now, nor will I ever be, a Watcher.”
Spike opened his mouth to reply when he realized two things simultaneously; he and Xander had moved so close together they were almost touching, and the Slayers were no longer paying any attention to the Spike and Xander show. Then they were surrounded by vamps and there was no more time for thinking.
Spike got a better grip on his stake and felt a fierce grin stretch his face. God, he’d missed this! LA was too crowded and resources too thin to get large nests, and most demons tended to keep to themselves, so Spike hadn’t seen any action on this scale since Sunnydale.
Twenty or more vamps attacked immediately, ignoring the fact that they’d lost the element of surprise. As he dusted one fledge Spike noted approvingly that the three slayers had stayed in a standard defensive position, each keeping their backs to each other while covering all directions and protecting Xander, who stood ready in the center.
One vamp managed to get through his defenders; Xander went to stake the fledge – and hesitated. It snarled triumphantly and lunged for the human but collapsed into dust at the end of Spike's stake. "What the hell is the matter with you, Harris?" Spike began yelling furiously, then took a closer look at Xander, who was pale as a sheet and breathing heavily, stake still gripped hard in a shaking hand. Moving slowly as not to startle him, he gently touched his shoulder. “Xander?” he asked in a soft voice. “C’mon now, Xander, you’re scarin’ the girls.” Which wasn’t really true of course, since the slayers were too busy with the rest of the fledges to pay attention, but Spike figured chances were good that telling Xander someone else was worried would get him out of his funk faster.
It seemed to work; Xander blinked a couple of times then focused on Spike. “Are we done?” he asked hoarsely. No protestations that he was fine, no cracking jokes about himself in third person – Xander had completely closed down and it was freaking Spike out.
He looked around and watched Rona stake the last one. “Yeah, we’re done. Rona!” She turned around. “I’m taking Harris back now, you three can clean up the nest on your own.”
She looked worriedly at Xander but nodded. “Got it.”
Spike stuffed a silent Xander into the Rover and sped back to the castle, doing his best to avoid the potholes on the dirt road. Xander didn't say a single word until Spike got him upstairs into his room, fortunately not running into anyone on the way or he probably would have bitten them.
He plonked Xander down on the couch and pulled a couple of beers out of the minifridge that doubled as a side table. “Time to talk now, Xander. What the hell happened?”
Xander sighed heavily, stripping off the patch and running his hands through his hair. “This is gonna take a while. Can I tell you another story, Spike?”
Spike handed him a beer. “Go right ahead, mate.”
Xander took a long drink, then started picking at the label. “Once upon a time,” he began, smiling rather sadly, “there was a young boy who lived in Sunnydale, and his name was Jesse McNally…”
AN: It’s probably going to be a while before I post the next chapter; I made the ‘mistake’ of signing up for several Firefly ficathons, so I need to get my head back into that particular ‘verse for a bit. But I promise that as long as people are enjoying this story that it won’t be left as a WIP, because I hate that myself. *g*