Beta by kitty_poker1
Xander had never heard Wesley speak in such a cold tone before, not even when the man had been all uptight and working for the Watchers' Council. Between that and the way Gunn looked ready to tear the elder Wyndham-Pryce's head off, he got the feeling there wasn't much love between father and son.
"Son. I wasn't expecting to see you here in Sunnydale; I thought you were still working for that...thing in Los Angeles."
Xander made a noise of disgust. "Listen, I'm all for the bashing of Angel, but do it for the right reasons, like the fact that his hair is funny. Just don't call him a thing. That's rude and I would have thought you uptight Watcher types avoided rudeness."
"And you are?"
"Xander Harris, Dawn's guardian and foster parent. And believe me, you're not getting anywhere near Dawn. Unless it's, like, on the end of a really long spear. Through your chest. I've seen how you Watchers treat your Slayers, using them as cannon fodder. Who cares if one girl dies; there's always another, isn't there? Who cares if she leaves a family behind?"
"Now, Mister Harris..."
"Don't bother, Father. Xander has asked me to take on Dawn and see to her training. Well, I'm one of her protectors. She needs the Watchers' Council even less than her sister did."
"I see. Is he aware of your failure with the young Miss LeHane? She still occupies one of Los Angeles' ten area jails, I do believe."
Xander snorted. "Hey, Faith was messed up even before she came to the 'Dale, so I'm thinking it's her first Watcher's fault. Don't try to push your fuck ups on Wes."
"It doesn't matter, Xander. I've long since become accustomed to taking the brunt of my father's ire, be it well deserved or not."
"Doesn't mean the man has to be nasty, Wes,” Gunn said. “Look, there's no reason to stand out here airing the family's dirty laundry. Why don't we go inside so we can talk and Xander and I can find a nice blunt object to beat your Dad with if he tries to talk to Dawn?"
Xander grinned at that. Gunn had the right idea as far as he was concerned.
Wes' mouth twitched as if he wanted to smile but didn't dare. "Of course, where are my manners? Do come in, Father, and excuse the mess. We're re-opening in a few weeks as well as investigating new methods of hunting vampires. Wooden stakes and crossbows are rather outdated, don't you think?"
They walked into the back room of the Magic Box, Wes leading and both Xander and Gunn making sure to follow the man. Xander had to laugh at the organized chaos he was no doubt taking in. Half of the training room had been converted into a mad scientist's lab for Fred to play with her toys. Her current big projects were trying to make flash grenades and spotlights using ultra violet light.
Xander wasn't too sure it would work, since she got the idea from a bad vampire movie on the USA Network, but it was worth a shot. It couldn't be any worse that Willow's little ball of sunlight spells.
Fred was in her corner, her hair in braided pigtails, and with her glasses on she looked all of twelve. She looked up from the circuitry she was working on and gave everyone, even good ol' Roger, a sunny smile. "Well, hi! I didn't know we were having a guest today."
"This isn't a guest; this is my father, Roger Wyndam-Pryce. And he's just...visiting."
Roger glared at Wesley. "I am not visiting. I am Miss Summers' Watcher, as approved by the Council! She has not had the appropriate training from a young age and it is imperative that her training starts. After all, we don't want her to end up like her sister, do we? If she had been better trained and more willing to work with the Council, the elder Miss Summers might even still be alive."
Xander saw red and stepped forward with his fists clenched, ready to beat this man to a pulp, despite the fact that he was Wes' dad. Gunn and Wes both caught his arms, though, and held him back, although from the look on Gunn's face it seemed like he'd rather let go.
Wesley was the scariest to look at because he was totally blank. He might as well have been a mannequin in a department store window for all the emotion he was showing.
However, it was Fred who moved first. Her face had lost its congenial smile and she looked angrier than Xander had ever seen her. She came around from behind the table she'd been working at, a small black device the size of a cell phone in her hand.
Before Xander knew what was going on, Fred had hit Wes's dad in the gut. It wasn't a hard hit, just a tap, so Xander was shocked to see Roger drop to the ground, moaning in pain, twitching like Xander had the time he'd tried plugging in the shop-vac to clean up some water and had shocked himself stupid.
All three men dropped from their combative stances when they saw this, but it was Gunn who gave a sly grin and asked the question they all wanted to know the answer to.
"Damn, girl! That was good! What'd you do to him?"
Fred bounced on her toes, happy that her revenge had worked. "Cordelia and I got to thinking and we ordered some weapons off the Internet. Pepper spray, steel batons and stun batons for fighting, and these. It's a small stun gun, but it gives out 775,000 volts. The idea was that even vampires were susceptible to electric shock." Here she gave Xander an apologetic glance. "And that no one with even regular senses likes being maced, much less someone with a higher sense of smell. But when this...sidewinder, sorry Wes, came in talking like that I had to do something! It's like back home on the farm. You've got a bull being all mean and stubborn, a cattle prod to his balls does a world of wonder for his personality."
Roger was still moaning on the ground and Xander started laughing. Gunn was laughing as well, picking up Fred and swinging her around despite her protests to "Put me down!"
Wesley was only allowing himself a lip twitch as he bent down to help his dad up off the floor. "Well. I do believe that settles Dawn's training. Thank you for coming by, Father, but as you can see we are well prepared to not only use the traditional methods for fighting vampires," Wesley gestured with his hand to the corner of the room Xander had been using the day before to make stakes, "but the more modern ones, too. Oh, and this fine lady is Winifred Burkle. Not only is she a brilliant physicist and engineer, but she managed to survive for five years in a primitive hell dimension. She'll be assisting me with Dawn, as well as Charles. He's not only a good street fighter and adept at making weapons out of just about anything, but Charles is extremely good at fucking me so hard I lose my accent."
Xander couldn't help it, he grinned maliciously at the look on good ol' Roger's face. The man was still twitching but he managed to look nauseated at the same time. There was a story in that look, and it probably had insults like poofter and nancy-boy attached to it but Xander wasn't going to ask now, not with Gunn standing behind his lover, looking menacing.
"Then there is Mr. Harris here. Xander is not only one of Dawn's foster parents, but he's stood up to more than one Master Vampire while weaponless and lived. And there are three others just waiting to tear the Council apart to keep you and them away from Dawn, and believe me, Miss Chase is the least you have to worry about. In fact, I think if Dawn's other foster parent finds you here, your remains will be sent back to London in several different parcels to save on overseas shipping rates. Therefore I suggest, sire of mine, that you pack up your belongings and get out of town as Xander and my lover suggest."
Roger finally found his footing and stood up, albeit shakily. Still, he was moving pretty well for an old guy who'd just got his pubic hairs straightened. Still, he was red in the face and looking like a puffed up frog about to explode. Xander couldn't help but think it was a good thing Willow wasn't there.
"Now see here! You...people have no say over me, the Council or how we train our Slayers! Now, I demand to see Miss Summers within twenty-four hours and she will be..."
Xander felt a rush of anger and found himself in Roger's face without even thinking about it. "Demand all you want, you bastard! In fact, I should let you off the hook and let you near Dawnie. I doubt if you'd be able to walk anywhere after she got through with you. Still, you're not going to be that lucky." Xander looked at the clock on the wall. "It's just about noon now. The sun sets after seven so that gives you plenty of time to get out of the state, even if you have to drive. Or else."
Despite being angry as hell, there was a voice in the back of Xander's mind that was laughing its ass off. He was telling this man to be out of town by sundown. It was like some bad Western movie only, instead of having a six shooter, Xander carried a loaded vampire.
And there was something wrong with that last bit, but he wasn't sure just what.
Roger must have found it absurd as well because the man sneered at him and for a moment Xander expected him to twirl the mustache on his goatee. "Or you'll what?"
"Me? Nothing. But my partner will take great pleasure in hunting you down and eviscerating you. Dawn's honorary uncle will help. See, what Wes didn't tell you is that my lover's name is Spike. I believe you Watcher types know him as William the Bloody. Oh, and we let that thing you were talking about earlier, Angelus, lives upstairs. He still has his soul and all, but for Dawn's safety I'm willing to bet he'll forget that for a while. So go ahead, stick around. Spike hasn't tortured anyone since the showdown with that hell god we defeated. I'm sure he's getting itchy to play again."
Xander wasn't sure he could do that, really. He knew he shouldn't approve of Spike maiming and killing someone and if he got his fangs on Roger he would, despite the fact that he was Wesley's dad. It was wrong and Xander had always voted a big N-O when it came to feeding people to vampires in the past.
But this was different. He'd promised Buffy and Joyce that he'd protect Dawn no matter what. If that meant that Xander would encourage Spike to eat every Watcher out there, well, Xander would deal with it. Anything for Dawn.
Roger must have seen that in his face somehow because he paled and took a step or two back. "You wouldn't dare!"
Oddly enough, it was Wesley who answered him, giving a rather bitter laugh. "Are you willing to find out for yourself?"
Five minutes later, after more shouting and threats, Roger Wyndham-Pryce was gone. And Wes was back to looking as if he was carved out of stone. Xander shifted from foot to foot, feeling sympathy for the Englishman.
"Well, that was incredibly uncomfortable. All we need is an open bar complete with two generations of Harris' getting drunk and my Great Aunt Ethel trying to feel us all up and it would be like Thanksgiving at my house."
Both Gunn and Fred gave him a small laugh but it didn't affect Wesley at all. Xander couldn't help but wince at that; usually his inappropriate humor helped ease the tension, but not this time.
Wesley stood in the middle of the room and adjusted his glasses. "Yes. Well. I was coming to inform you gentlemen that I had managed to find a priest who will bless as much water as we can bring him in return for a donation to his parish and some added protection. I agreed for all of us; I hope you don’t mind. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm sure there are books that need to be inventoried."
Wesley left the back room in a hurry, Gunn following after. Xander groaned and leaned against the wall. "This is so not good."
"Yeah." Fred sounded sad and was looking wistfully at the door the other two men had disappeared behind. "I mean, me and my Daddy had fights and all, especially since I moved out to LA to go to school, but Daddy would have never been nasty to me in front of other people like that!"
Xander made a face. "Mine would, but he'd do it because he was drunk and stupid, not controlling and vicious. And the thought of Dawn getting anywhere near that guy pisses me the hell off." He ran a hand through his hair and fought the urge to pull it. "This so could not come at a worse time."
"Do you think Wesley and Gunn will be okay?"
Xander really looked at the young woman. He didn't know Fred all that well; she was very quiet when she wanted to be and between Dawn's teenage boisterousness and Cordelia's Queen of the World attitude, it was easy to overlook her. That being said, Xander thought she had to be one of the smartest people alive. Not just book and tech smart, either. Fred could program the DVD player and jury-rig weapons and survive on her own in hell. Literally. She had a quiet strength, and if it wasn't for the fact that she was so obviously hung up on Wes, and maybe Gunn, he'd be pushing her at Tara when the other woman got into town later that day.
And Xander couldn't help but think that Wes needed that kind of intelligence and strength right now, whether he wanted them or not. "I think he'll be okay, once he gets over the shock that we just threatened to kill his dad. Still, you'd better go check on them, make sure."
"Right. Thanks, Xander." She gave him a smile as she went into the other room and Xander just hoped he wasn't making a mistake. He sucked at this matchmaker thing, but, considering what Gunn had said earlier, there was a pretty good chance Fred would be able to help him console Wesley.
He blushed at the thought of what type of consoling might be happening and went back to the alley before getting his cell phone out. He so did not need to find out if Fred was a screamer or who did what to who if the three of them really got serious about....consolation.
Spike. He needed to talk to Spike. Plans had to be made, Watchers needed to be threatened. Before he could figure out which button to push, the phone rang and Xander jumped before pushing the talk button.
"Xander! Oh my god, I'm so glad you're there! He talked to Janice last night! Janice and Stephanie went to the Bronze without me because, hello, patrol! I always heard Buffy whining about how being a Slayer interfered with her social life but I thought she was being a drama queen, but she was right! So Janice and Steph are dancing and he shows up and asks where I am!"
"Dawn!" Xander had to stop this monologue before his little sister's head exploded. "What are you talking about? Who is he?"
"Riley! He talked to Janice last night at the Bronze! They're okay, but Riley knew Janice from when, well, from last year when Mom was sick and he was watching out for me. He was asking her where I was and being all nosy. Xander, I'm scared!"
Xander was too, but he wasn't --couldn't-- say it. That would only make Dawn freak all the more. "Take a deep breath, Dawnie; you're okay. Are Janice and Stephanie okay?"
"Okay, here's what I want you to do. DO NOT skip class. If you're out running around it'll be easier to find you. Where are you now?"
"It's lunch and I'm outside. The others are about fifteen feet away so they can't hear me but I'm not alone."
"Good. I'm glad you remembered to do that. Stay with your friends, don't even go to the bathroom alone. I'll be there to pick you up after school and we'll come back to the Magic Box and figure out what to do. Don't forget Tara will be in today too, and maybe we can ask her to make some protective talismans or something for your friends once the jet lag is gone. Okay?"
"Okay. Cool. Yeah, that sounds good. Do you think I should tell Janice about the Hellmouth? I mean, not that I don't like Stephanie 'cause she's nice but Janice is my best friend. I don't want anything happening to her because of me, you know?"
Xander closed his eyes and thought about how many guilt trips Buffy would go on whenever he or Willow got in the middle of a fight. "I don't know, Dawnie. I want you to really think about it. Do you think she'd keep your secret? Freak out? Have us all carted away by the men with butterfly nets? It's something everyone needs to vote on, at least."
"Right. Yeah. Okay. I gotta go, Xander. Stephanie's looking at me funny. Either that or she got a stale cherry pie out of the vending machine. You'll...you'll be there after school, right?"
Xander's throat tightened when he realized how scared and upset Dawn was. This wasn't the more confident girl that had emerged in the past few weeks; this was the terrified girl who had just found out that the monster under the bed was real and trying to kill her family. "Yeah, I'll be there. Just be careful, okay? And I know your brain is going a million miles right now, but try to pay attention in class."
He could almost hear her eyes rolling. "Yes, Dad."
It was on the tip of his tongue to say he wasn't her dad. After all, he actually paid the bills and showed up in her life. Instead Xander grinned and took it like the compliment it was. Sort of. "Be good, my child, and I'll even let you order whatever you want for dinner. Now get going."
"Cool! Bye, Xander!"
Dawn hung up and Xander found himself shaking. Not only was good ol' Roger after Dawn, but Riley was on her trail as well. That wasn't a surprise, really, but he figured it meant they didn't have that much time before everything went to hell.
He found a sunny spot and sat down long enough to stop shaking. Then he'd call Spike and hopefully after that he'd be able to go into the back room without hearing any three-way sex going on. And then he could learn how to use one of those stun batons.
They'd be okay; everything would turn out all right. Xander couldn't let himself think anything else. Otherwise he might do what everyone else did in Sunnydale and hide under the bed. That had never been his style and he sure as hell wasn't going to start that now.
Still, five minutes in the sun wouldn't hurt, would it?
The sun fell below the horizon and the black veil of night covered Sunnydale once again. As Spike glanced away from the road ahead and out the side window, he glimpsed the darkness moving the way it always did when the sun was far into the future and the shadows were safe and undisturbed.
A woman walking along the sidewalk, laden with a handbag which was far too big for such a petite little person, shuddered and pulled her long coat tighter around her body. She clasped the collar closed with a tanned hand adorned with bronze nail polish, and glanced behind her.
Spike eased his foot from the accelerator and watched the shrubs lining the sidewalk shiver and sway as if someone, or something, was crawling through them.
The woman picked up her pace and, as Spike stopped, his hand on the door handle, the shadows around her shifted and closed in, gleaming eyes opening and shining under the flickering single bulb from the street light.
Spike flung open the door and he was out before it rebounded on its hinge and slammed itself shut. The woman jumped and turned an alarmed expression on Spike. He saw fear, could almost taste it. He breathed it deep and struggled to hold onto his human guise.
Standing still as stone now, the woman looked unsure, confused and slightly indignant.
“There’s someone… I think I’m being followed,” she said.
Spike simply nodded and scanned the surrounding area with narrowed eyes. The shadows retreated and Spike swore he could hear the murmurings of evil, a constant whisper as the shadows conferred and plotted.
There was a careless snap of wood that could been an animal and the woman jumped again and walked backwards into the road, towards Spike and away from whatever nightmare had been stalking her for probably the last block.
Spike took her place, listening carefully and glaring into the darkness with intense concentration. The hairs on Spike’s bare arms stood up as a chill ran though him, and a strange odor assaulted his nostrils. He moved closer to the bushes, bending and walking sideways as he tried to distinguish the real shadows from the monsters casting them.
“What is it?” the woman asked anxiously, and Spike straightened at that. Not ‘who’, ‘what’. It was funny how people only believed when it was their own necks on the line.
A car moved towards them in the distance and Spike looked up at it. He was pretty sure it was a taxi of some sort.
“Flag that down,” he said, and then he turned back and smiled into the darkness just before he leapt.
The creature beyond reacted and bolted. It was quick, but Spike had been expecting that. He tore through the thickening undergrowth, knocking away stray branches and darting around tree trunks that got fatter with every third or fourth stride. The demon stayed ahead, as black the night around it but not black enough to deceive Spike’s senses. Arms pumping at his sides, Spike matched its speed and stayed firmly on its tail.
With a shrill cry, the demon lowered itself onto all fours and with a sudden loss of momentum it abruptly stopped, and Spike was forced to jump clumsily over it before he collided with it. He fell to the ground and quickly rolled, coming back up on one foot and one knee. He ignored the stinging on both elbows and watched the demon, waiting for its next move. There was no point in reacting until it acted. It was too fast, too clever.
The creature stretched, almost languidly, and stared at Spike with vicious, red eyes. The black pupils widened and the eyelids creased with something that looked like deliberation.
“Come on, pet,” Spike cooed. “What’s it going to be?” Fight or flight were the only two options and these particular demons were a curse for their unpredictability. Spike had no clue which it would choose.
It opened its mouth and cried out. It was a sound that reminded Spike of a baby Velociraptor. Not that he really knew what a Velociraptor actually sounded like. He wasn’t that old. Not like Angel.
The demon tensed and in a split second it was rushing back the way it had come, Spike hot on its heels.
Spike had the speed to keep up, but his stamina was another thing entirely. They could be running all night before the demon made a mistake, and the heat already burning in Spike’s thighs told him he wasn’t going to be able to hold on for that long.
It was at that point his cell phone rang. Bollocks. That was all he needed.
The creature change direction again and Spike weaved through the trees to keep up, his hand digging into his pocket to grab his phone and at the very least cut off the tinny sounding rendition of The Muppet Show theme. He was going to kill Xander. Or Dawn. Or probably both of them.
He jumped over a rusted bicycle and stumbled when he had to immediately jump again to avoid what appeared to be a discarded fridge. He cursed Sunnydale’s thoughtless residents, wondered why he hadn’t thought of dumping the old TV here when it had gone kaput, and put the phone to his ear.
“Hello?” he said breathlessly as the creature charged through some shrubbery, the wispy and razor sharp branches pinging back and tearing at Spike’s face and arms as he followed. “Fucking thorns.”
“Tara! Luv, how are you?!” The trees were thinning out again after another slight change of direction, and Spike knew they were nearly back at the road.
“I’m good. Tired. Long flight… Spike, is everything okay? You sound… Are you running?”
“Yep,” Spike said as the demon stopped, lashed out with a large clawed paw and ran off again.
“Oh my god.”
“’S okay, I’m not running away. I’m running after. Nothing to worry about.” The creature slashed at him again, ran around in a confusing little circle and lashed out one more time before its turbo boost kicked in and it set off for the road.
Spike swore in Chinese and put the phone to his other ear, using his now free and stronger hand to swing himself under a low hanging branch before it took his head off.
“You at the airport? I’ll come get you.”
“Yes, but… You’re obviously busy. I can get a cab or… Can I help?”
“No, no, it’s fine. Not a problem. I’m on my way. Give me ten.”
Spike hung up the phone and jammed it back into his pocket. He could just see the road through a tiny gap in the foliage in front and he put on one last burst of speed that he knew he would regret later when his muscles retaliated. He dived though the shrubbery, his feet leaving the ground and his arm reaching out.
“Gotcha!” He grabbed a nobbly black tail and realised that it was the creature that had him as it dragged him into the middle of the road. But it was enough to slow it down and confuse it.
There was a terrible high pitched scream and screech of brakes and tires, and Spike quickly let go and snatched his hand back as a tire rolled over the demon with a squelch and a couple of loud cracks.
Spike took a moment to just lie on the ground in an exhausted heap.
“Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus. Did I hit you? What did I hit? Oh Jesus.”
Spike observed a pair of shiny black shoes running towards him. He pushed himself up to his knees and then to his feet with the unexpected help of the driver.
“Cheers,” Spike said.
“Are you alright?!”
“Right as rain, mate. Don’t worry about it. You did me a favour, actually.”
The man reluctantly let go of Spike’s arm when Spike pulled it back. He looked at his poor half-broken car and then spotted the creature lying a few feet away from it.
“What the hell is that?” the man asked.
“That,” Spike said, “is a…a…a beaver. Big beaver.”
“What? Are you kidding me? That’s no beaver!”
“Oh, it’s not local.”
“Nope. That’s a… Russian Big-footed Lesser-Haired Hungarian Beaver.”
The man thought about this. “How can it be Russian and Hungarian?” he asked.
Spike shrugged as if it was all a little bit beyond him. “Inbreeding gone mad, mate. I’ve seen a lot of it on my travels.”
“Huh. I guess they do have some pretty weird animals in Australia.”
Spike gritted his teeth. “I’m English. And your car is fucked. I suggest you toddle off home in it before the bottom falls off.”
The man did, but only after peering at the ‘beaver’ with a distasteful look on his face for a good five minutes. When he finally left, Spike checked it was dead and dragged it out of sight and wished that all demons dusted. It would be so much cleaner that way. This fellow was going to start stinking the place out as soon as the sun hit. Oh well, it wasn’t his problem.
Spike got back in his car and set off for the airport. He phoned Xander on the way to tell him he was picking up Tara and explained that he was going to require some TLS later. Tender Loving Sex.
It was the second time he and Xander had spoken on the phone that day, and Spike had been none too pleased the first time when Xander had told him about Dawn.
Riley was getting too close. It was bad timing. Dawn wasn’t ready, not yet. She still had so much training to do, so much more to learn, not only about how to fight and handle her power, but how her enemies fought, how to take them down. Riley, in vamp form or not, was unwelcome by Spike at the best of times, but this was something none of them needed.
They were re-grouping, adjusting and settling in, and it was delicate time for all of them. Add to all this the presence of the bloody Council and Spike was just about ready to throttle someone. There was no way they were getting near her.
Spike wondered how long Tara was going to stay, and he hoped it would be for quite a while. It would be good for Dawn and it never hurt to have some extra power lying around.
Spike inspected his shredded elbows and torn t-shirt as he drove. He looked a right old sight and was probably going to scare anyone he came across. That thought made him grin cheekily to himself, and he relaxed back into his seat and turned on the radio.
The demon that had been squashed by Mr. Ignorant-Gullible was one that Spike knew well: a Shurise demon. It looked nothing like a beaver, but more along the lines of an armoured koala. Spike hadn’t seen one for years, not since his fateful trip into Transylvania, but tonight he’d recognized the demon easily by its smell. They were vicious creatures that preyed on the weak, those that dared to wander alone and those that strayed from the path. And they never settled in an area guarded by a Slayer, preferring instead to live in the shadows of other dark demons.
It was worrying, and it was a sign that Dawn needed to start showing her face and playing her part before the demon population grew too accustomed to such a cushy life.
Yes, she was patrolling and everyone was doing their bit, patrolling the cemeteries with her and checking the obituaries, but it wasn’t going to be enough.
Spike hoped Xander and Gunn would make quick progress with their new arming tactics because it was nearly time to start the war, beginning with Riley and his men.
And as for the Council? If Spike laid eyes on Roger Wyndham-Pryce or any other official Watcher, he was going to lose his mind and someone was going to pay dearly.