Spike couldn’t help but chuckle as Xander came home whistling and peering over a cardboard box full of containers of blood. Clearly Ronnie had hired the boy, and from what he could see, the other demon was still paying his employees far above minimum wage. Taking the box from the struggling human he set about making room in the fridge, raising his eyebrows slightly at the packets of human blood tucked carefully in one corner of the box.
“Where’d you managed to come across human?” He asked as casually as he could.
“Huh? Oh, one of the many benefits of working almost every job in this town is getting to know some interesting people. Know a guy who knows a guy sort of deal. Can’t get much, but at least it’s better than cow or pig, right?” The brunet was grinning as he threw off his shoes and flopped onto the couch.
“That it is. Take it your meet and greet with Ronnie went as expected?” He asked, more to let the boy talk about something that was so obviously exciting him than for the need to know. He’d known when he gave the human the note it’d get him hired, if only in a probationary capacity.
“Yeah, it really did. Thanks for that Spike. I mean, I’m sure I would have found something eventually but … just thanks. And holy-moly do demons in this town pay well! I’m never working for humans again!”
“Does it bother you, working in a place obviously for demons?” It was the one thing he hadn’t been sure about when he’d sent the boy to meet Ronnie. While the restaurant was upper class, it was still definitely not for humans.
“Fish gotta swim, bird's gotta eat, right? I mean, if anyone attacked me, I’d have to – ok, I’d have to run like hell and scream like a little girl – but you get what I mean? What harm are they doing if they’re just going out to a meal?”
Xander bit his lip slightly, knowing full well that statement would have gotten him checked for demonic possession if he’d said it to Buffy or Willow, but he found he meant it. He was sure there were demons that fell in the kill-on-sight category, but much like humans there had to be some level of distinction. After all, Harmony-the-vampire was no more evil than Harmony-the-human and ok, while not the best example in the world, it did lend credence to the theory that not all demons were out to destroy the world. At least not while there was a shoe sale on.
“Deep, Harris, real deep.” The vampire said with a serious face and once again he was glad for the mockery when a smile broke through.
Laughing he threw a sock at the blond, “See if I buy you blood again anytime soon.”
Xander relaxed into the couch, glad to have two days off before his new job started. He considered seeing if he could catch up with the rest of the Scoobies, and then realised that trying to catch up during the day was probably not going to work. The girls had school and Giles had watcher-stuff that constantly left him cleaning his glasses whenever any of them interrupted him during the day.
Considering his options he came to the very important decision that the next two days were going to consist of some heavy duty couch-occupation and a marathon of Sci Fi watching. If he was feeling adventurous he might throw in some comic book reading, just to break up his time.
He was well into his eighth straight hour of an original Star Trek marathon when he noticed something crucially significant; Spike was a neat freak. The vampire covered it well, strutting around and seeming to leave chaos in his wake. Until he realised each time the blond stomped past some piece of rubbish or clothing was moved to the appropriate spot.
Xander was only human. So, of course, he spent most of the night entertaining himself by moving some small thing or another just enough that Spike noticed and felt the need to put it back in its rightful place. He’d managed a good couple of hours before the blond tweaked to what he was doing, giving him a glare that would shrivel lesser men and sprawling on the other side of the couch in a display of indifference.
“Aw, I promise I won’t tell anyone Spike. After all who’d believe me if I said I knew a house-proud?” He couldn’t help but tease, laughing at the glower on the other man’s face.
“Least one of us is.” The comment was snarky, but not sharp like the vampire’s barbs had once been.
He shrugged and gave a far more honest answer than the light-hearted situation demanded, “What’s to be proud about? I live in a dump.”
Before the conversation turned to any subject close to serious he turned back just in time to quote along with McCoy "I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer.”
The one downside he had discovered in the brilliance that was a good old fashioned Trek marathon, was that one tended to lose track of time all too easily. Before he was really aware of two days passing he was hauling on work clothes and trying not to fidget nervously.
“You look like a girl on her first date, mate. S’just a job yeah? Here, something to read on your lunch break.” Suddenly Spike was thrusting the local paper into his hands, neatly folded to the real estate section.
“What’s this for?” He asked dumbly.
“Said you don’t like where you live. So do something about it.”
Do something about it. Sometimes he marvelled at how easily the vampire could tear down the things worrying him into components so simple he was constantly surprised.
Walking to work, he considered it. His biggest problem at the moment was being able to pay the deposit for a place while paying the rent his parents charged him for his current… habitat. However, if he was working full time at Ronnie’s that wouldn’t be a problem for too long.
He tried to imagine his own place. Neighbours that weren’t family, the ability to walk around as he pleased and not worry he was being too loud lest he bother his dad, post-drinking. Actual walls separating him and his daylight challenged housemate.
Wiping his hands on his pants once again, and feeling only marginally less nervous than last time he knocked on the door again.
This time the door opened immediately and Ronnie was grinning at him, “Bang on time kid. Come this way, got a uniform for you then we’ll get you put to work. Don’t worry about much today; it’s all about learning the ropes.”
There was something about the matter-of-fact way Ronnie spoke that he found both calming and slightly unnerving. Taking a look around the interior of the restaurant Xander was impressed. A lot of places tended to put the tables too close together, but here they were spaced far enough apart each table had a sense of privacy, even in the middle of the room. He supposed it helped that the clientele ranged anywhere between the size of his shoe and seven foot with antlers besides.
“Oh, I realised that I didn’t give you a copy of my resume the other day.” He said, holding out a copy.
“Damn paperwork will be the death of me. How does that saying go? Nothing is certain but death and taxes. Pretty sure taxes are a far more permanent thing than death. Right, try these on for size.”
Xander fumbled with the pile of black clothing slightly before making his way to the room pointed out by Ronnie, marked with a simple silver sign; “Staff”. The bathroom, much like the restaurant, was understated style and he found himself appreciating it. Changing quickly into the black linen pants and shirt he was surprised by the bright silver buttons. Looking closer he realised each button had a small symbol engraved onto it.
Slightly worried he came back out and found his question being answered before he’d asked it, “Clothes are charmed. Nothing bad, just basic protection. You wear them on your way to and from work and while you’re here. No exceptions. Come see me before you go home tonight and I’ll give you a couple of spare sets. Now come with me and we’ll meet the guys.”
There was something comforting about the carefully constructed chaos of a restaurant kitchen. While the next fifteen minutes were spent trying to learn the names of the various kitchen staff – some human, some distinctly not – he found himself settling easily into the rhythm.
It wasn’t until the sous chef – a green demon whose name he was fairly certain was Carro – nudged him and pointed at the clock he realised he was well past due for his lunch break. Although given the time he really should call it a dinner-break.
“Hey, Xander!” The head chef called him across the kitchen, and he couldn’t help but be almost terrified he’d done something wrong.
“Yes um, chef?” He asked cautiously.
“None of that chef business just call me Vincent. You’re due for your break, right?” Vincent – who happened to be one of the seven foot tall variety demons (though thankfully without the antlers) – looked expectant and Xander, not quite sure whether it was a trick question, decided a slight nod was the best course of action.
“Great, could you try this for me? Possible new recipe – human friendly – and I need fresh tastebuds.”
Taking the plate that was handed to him he couldn’t help but gape slightly. While he was sure it was edible, the thing on the plate in front of him looked more like a piece of art.
“Yeah, sure. I mean of course. Thanks.” Not game to ask what was actually in the dish he made his way to the small room specifically for staff, grabbing cutlery on his way.
Working off the basis that whatever it was, he had probably eaten worse at one point or another, he dug in. And was immediately astounded. Xander now completely understood how demons could put aside any possible differences to come eat at Ronnie’s; the food was amazing!
Finishing the dish in short order, he managed to circle a couple of potential houses before he returned to the kitchen, “Vincent, whatever that was, it was a party in my mouth.”
Which earned him a round of laughs and face so red he’d officially been nicknamed Pomodoro once he realised what he’d said - which he was sure would have made more sense if he understood what it meant. The rest of the shift went quickly, and he soon found himself walking home with a pile of uniforms under one arm just before dawn.
“Hey Spike I – ” Stopping when he found the blond asleep on the fold out couch, he put his bundle carefully on the orange-chair-of-Satan, stripped down to his boxers and undershirt, figured the vampire could deal with sharing, and promptly fell asleep.
AN: Quotation credits for this chapter to both Finding Nemo and S01E26 of Star Trek, the original series.