Chapter Rating: PG
Series Rating: NC-17
Beta: spike_1790 the effulgent.
Summary: "Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple." - Dr Seuss
Spike was not a dumb vampire. Impulsive maybe, prone to distraction sometimes, but he saw a lot more than most ever realised – especially more than the bunch of misfit children who had all but donned superhero outfits. So when his reluctant housemate came home four hours early on a weekday, he saw.
He saw, and left it at, “Pass the remote would you?”
He had watched Xander drift through half a dozen jobs in as many months. And he’d watched the boy grow into himself with this last one. Construction - or something similar - that had him coming in when it was almost dark still smelling like sunshine and clean sweat, with a permanent grin.
Now he watched as the human shuffled to the fridge, pulled a beer from some unknown hiding spot and landed on the couch with something like devastation clouding his features. They stayed like that all night, Xander eventually passing out and Spike trying to imagine a situation that ended in the brunet being fired from a job he was obviously committed to.
It took him a few moments to realise the boy was awake. The human’s heartbeat was almost slow enough to emulate sleep and the brown eyes were only just open. The second he took a breath to speak he could see the tensing in hunched shoulders.
“So where did your underage-self manage to procure beer?” He asked, nodding to the almost untouched bottle set down on the floor at some point.
“Um, my dad.” Clearly not the question Xander was expecting.
“Ahh, that explains why it’s horse piss.” He nodded sagely, as though this were a great revelation.
“Yeah, I never really liked the taste of beer, but it’s what they always do in the movies after a crap day, so I figured it had to have a little merit.” Stiff shoulders relaxed slightly and shrugged.
“Does; it’ll get you shitfaced. But not before you manage to kill all your taste buds if you’re trying it on that swill.” He said, again nodding to the bottle.
“You’re probably right. Shit! I forgot to give you any blood last night. I’m so sorry, Spike.”
Xander’s concern for his welfare had not petered out like he had expected. Instead the human had made vague grumblings under his breath about the cost of blood now days and promptly ensured he had at least six square liquid-meals a day. Spike found himself in the unlikely scenario of telling the Scooby that - after five mugs served to him in quick procession once his arms had been untied again – he did not need more blood and yes, he was absolutely sure. Unless the human wanted him to throw it all back up again on the ugly orange chair?
There was a look of determination on the human’s face and suddenly the rest of the ropes were being untied. Blinking in surprise, he stayed in the chair for a few moments before leaping up and stretching the cramp in his back out that had been bugging him for the past two days. Looking to the brunet who was obviously wary, he did the only other thing he had desperately wanted to do since he’d first been tied to the damn chair.
“Using your towel, Harris.” He said, right before he shut the bathroom door and set the shower as hot as the dilapidated thing would allow.
He had only just stepped under the needle-like spray when there was a knock on the door.
“Yeah?” He growled, well aware that the word came out sounding more like fuck off.
A hand poked through the just open door holding a large towel and Xander’s voice came through the opening. “I just thought you might like a fresh one, instead of using mine.”
“Ah, right. Ta.”
No acknowledgement from the hand that placed the towel carefully just inside the door and withdrew. He stayed under the water until it began to cool; scrubbing away the fine layer of grime he could feel. While vampires gave up most human functions - including sweating - sitting stagnant in a chair for god knows how long, he knew he had picked up dust if nothing else.
Scrubbing shampoo through his hair as fast as possible so he didn’t have to finish his shower in cold water, Spike eventually flicked off the taps. Wrapping the towel loosely around his hips he finally exited the bathroom in a rather dramatic plume of steam - if he did say so himself.
Which was completely ruined once he spotted the shattered look on Xander’s face as he slumped in the recently vacated chair.
“Hinting at a bit of role reversal, pet?”
“Huh?” He watched as understanding dawned across the tanned face, had to smirk slightly at the spark of curiousity that was quickly hidden under over-done shock.
“Um, thanks but no thanks. Besides, I think the chair and you have a special bond, I wouldn’t want to intrude.”
“Only bond that chair has is with the devil. Thing’s from hell itself.” He said, twisting to try and loosen the knot in his back that hadn’t quite let go after the shower.
“I wouldn’t be surprised. I know it’s at least older than me, and I’m pretty sure it could give you a run for your money.” The smile on the human’s face was light hearted.
Xander saw the disgusted look Spike gave the pile of clothes the vampire had dumped in the corner of the room, and stood. Trying to remember where he’d put them he rummaged around in the back of his draws and eventually gave a loud “Ha!” of triumph as he produced his find.
“So they probably won’t be an exact fit, but I figure they’ll do until your clothes get a wash.” He said, handing the blond the worn blue jeans.
The jeans were old enough to feel like soft flannel rather than denim and he watched Spike finger the material. He’d owned them so long he remembered growing both into and out of them, could remember each tear and stain. Frowning at how much of his childhood the cloth had seen, he turned away to pick up his own clothes and head for the shower.
He couldn’t say why the jeans made him sad, physically trying to shake the feeling off as he took the world’s shortest shower – certain undead housemates having just used all the hot water. Peering in the mirror to make sure he didn’t look quite as crappy as he thought he did, Xander ran a quick hand through his hair and announced himself as presentable as he was going to get.
“Right, I am off to get the paper. A-job hunting I will go.” He had no doubt the blond knew he’d been fired, and was grateful it hadn’t been mentioned.
“Hang on a mo’.”
He watched Spike scribble something on a scrap of paper, then tear the paper in half.
“This one’s for you, the other one’s for Ronnie. It’s nothing glamorous, mind, but it’ll tide you over.” The other man said, handing him both pieces of paper.
Immediately Xander looked at the piece he’d been told was his.
“Eleven? It’s ten already!” He exclaimed and shoved his feet into his shoes.
“Better hoof it then, eh? Don’t forget to pick up some more blood on your way home.”
Barely acknowledging the vampire last statement he hunted for the copy of his resume he’d kept safe – both a paper version and one stored on a floppy disk, at Willow’s insistence. Finally finding it in a dusty box at the back of his closet he ran hands through his hair again, prayed once again he didn’t look too bad and quick-marched out the door.
He had to get copies of his resume done, and the print shop was a fifteen minute walk away. Combined with the twenty minute walk in the opposite direction to get to Alice Terrace – or what he desperately hoped he was remembering correctly was Alice Terrace – as well as the time it would take him to get his copies and he was running short on time already.
So it was a surprise when he managed to turn up ten minutes early. Leaning against a wall to catch his breath – ‘cause ok he may have run part of distance when he thought he’d gotten lost – he looked at the address. It was a restaurant, that much he could tell, and fairly non-descript. The exterior was painted a charcoal colour, and the only distinguishing feature was the silver sign above the door proclaiming it “Ronnie’s”.
It was in a nice enough part of town that if he hung around leaning against the wall he’d probably earn himself a few odd looks. Wiping his palms on the front of his pants he finally glanced at the other piece of paper Spike had given to him.
Not sure whether to be grateful or worried that Spike was vouching for him, he took a deep breath, trotted across the quiet street and knocked on the closed door.
“Oh, um. I was uh, told to come see you. By uh…By a friend.” He surprised himself at the almost honesty of that statement.
The man that opened the door looked like he’s stepped right out of the 1940’s and Xander had a weird moment of checking to make sure he hadn’t somehow managed to time travel.
“Don’t sound too sure about that. What “friend” sent you by my place?” The man asked, and he decided that this must be Ronnie.
“Uh, Spike? He asked me to give this to you.” Fumbling slightly he handed over the piece of paper.
“Been a long time since I’ve heard from William. You’d best come in then.” Ronnie said and stepped back. “Now what’s your name, kid?”
“Alexander Harris, uh, Xander most of the time.” He stuttered slightly, unaccountably nervous and feeling very much like a kid at the first day of his first job.
“Well, Xander-most-of-the-time, as you can guess I’m Ronnie. Don’t suppose you know where you’ve ended up?”
“A restaurant?” He asked, feeling remarkably stupid.
Xander jumped slightly when Ronnie laughed, full bellied and delighted, “Oh, you’ll do nicely, kid. This is a demon restaurant, finest between here and L.A. Now William, sorry, Spike has put in a good word for you, and that’ll get you in the door, but from here on out you’re on your own merit, got it?”
“Um, yes sir.” The grade-school-er feeling only seemed to get worse.
“Demons come here for a good quality meal and a quiet conversation. There’s no violence, and everyone understands that. Get it so far?”
He nodded vigorously.
“Good. We’ll start you off in the kitchens, basic stuff ‘til you pick it up. We’re open Thursday to Sunday only, so you’ll be working four days a week, but they’re 10 hour shifts. Sometimes we’ll run longer than that, but I pay all my employees what they’re due, so I’m not going to be asking you to work for nothing. Now, let’s talk wages.”
The matter of fact tone had a calming effect and Xander was starting to feel like himself again. Until Ronnie mentioned an hourly figure that had him gaping.
“Sorry, how much an hour?” He couldn’t help the incredulous look, though he knew it was one of the things on the do-not-do-when-talking-to-a-potential-bo
“Understand this kid, I may pay well, but I expect a lot. When you’re here, you’re here one hundred and ten precent. You don’t say zip about anything that goes on here. You’ve never seen anyone or anywhat that comes in, got it?”
“Not a word to anyone about anything. I can do that.” Briefly he wondered if Spike counted as “anyone” before deciding that asking would be a bad idea.
“Now listen carefully kid, because this bit’s the most important.” He very carefully did not lean forward, “The not-a-word policy includes the Slayer.”
“Yes, sir. Personal life way separate from work; not a peep.” Clearly this was the right response, because Ronnie was grinning at him in a friendly way and slapping him on the shoulder.
“You’ll do just fine. You start Thursday, kid. Be here at 5pm. Now get out of here.”