They’d decided to introduce Buck to some of the other supernatural species at the local demon bar. They’d picked a Tuesday, knowing it was likely to be a quiet night. Spike had gone on ahead to check there were no demons in there that were likely to react badly to any demonic social faux pas Buck, in particular, was liable to make.
Xander was going over the basic etiquette again with Buck and JD, making sure they understood about the non-violence spell and the effects of trying anything stupid. Buck tensed as the vampire reappeared.
Spike scowled as the moustached agent once again muttered a snide comment under his breath. Spike wasn’t sure if the man kept forgetting about vampire hearing or was doing it intentionally. Either way, he wasn’t going to take any more of it. He headed over to where Xander was talking to Buck, JD and Vin.
Buck shifted to stand protectively in front of JD as Spike came closer. JD growled and punched the larger man in the arm.
“Damnit, Buck! Firstly, I can look after my own self, thank you very much, and second -- Spike’s not going to bite anyone! Well, not unless they ask nicely.” JD high-fived the vamp as Buck choked at his statement. Buck began to mutter almost sub-vocally again, causing Spike to turn to Xander.
“Come on, Chief, it’s not fair that I have to keep taking his shit.” Spike indicated the moustached man who was still watching every move the vampire made. “Just a bruise or two, please? I do have a rep to protect, you know,” Spike practically whined to Xander.
“No, Spike.” Xander made sure he was loud enough for the whole group to hear. “You can’t hit him. Buck, stop winding up the super-strong, supernatural predator to humankind.
“And Spike...?” Spike frowned; the damn whelp was going to spoil all his fun, he just knew it. “No dropping hints in the bar about terrorizing the new guy.”
Spike snarled his displeasure before striding off to get a drink. Xander sighed. So much for a quiet night out.
“So all these are good demons?” Buck muttered as he took in the look of various creatures in the bar.
“No, Buck, it’s the non-violence spell; outside of this place you’d be fair game. However, if they want to avoid the wrath of Abby, Spike, and the local demon lord, they’ll behave,” Xander explained. Again.
Vin smirked at the one-eyed man. “The Q’deen in the corner is more worried about you, Xan, going by the way he twitches every time you move.”
Xander glared at Vin. Buck snorted. “He’s massive… and he’s
afraid of Xander?”
Vin sighed. He loved Buck like a brother, but the man had a habit of judging the book by the cover. “Buck, Xander negotiated a treaty with the local demon lord. He’s the one these guys are most afraid of pissing off. No offence, Spike,” Vin added.
Spike grimaced. Yeah, he’d aligned himself with the whelp, but he could do without these guys rubbing his face in it all the bloody time. “It’s all about who you know. I’m a Master vampire, and I’ve chosen to ally with him; he’s got one of the world’s most powerful witches and the longest living Slayer on speed-dial and a Slayer under his protection. That
is someone to be respected.” Spike laughed at the look on Xander’s face. “’Course, none of them realize that he’s a clumsy git who could be distracted by a nice pair of tits . . . or a Twinkie.”
“And there’s the Spike we know and don’t particularly like,” Xander grumbled. He groaned as he saw what was going on behind Buck. “Abby! Stop teasing the Braznarc; you don’t know where he’s been.”
Buck took everyone’s distraction as an opportunity to look over the patrons again.
“How come there are humans in here?” Buck turned to ask Vin, who looked about in puzzlement.
“Buck, we’re the only humans in here,” Vin whispered back, knowing that some species were a bit sensitive when being mistaken for human.
“What!” Buck looked back over to the table that caught his eye. “But that guy… Wait, how the hell do you
Vin shrugged. “Xander reckons I’ve got good instincts, but tonight it’s because I know those guys. Went to Steve’s stag party a couple of weeks ago.”
“Steve?!” Buck exclaimed.
The demon in question looked up at hearing his name. Seeing Vin, he got up and ambled over to their table. “Xander, Vin, how ya doing?”
Vin shook his hand before introducing the others at the table. “Sorry to interrupt, Steve. Buck and JD are as new to this as I was at your party.”
“No problem.” Steve had a wry grin on his face. “Want some show and tell? Vin got real inquisitive after his third cocktail, eh? Evelyn was asking after you again just the other day.”
Vin blushed while JD was practically bouncing in his chair. “Yes, please. What are you? Does it hurt when you change? *Can* you change?”
Spike cuffed the back of JD’s head, causing Buck to glare. Spike rolled his eyes at the posturing. “Pup, breathe and let the guy answer.”
“Sorry.” JD smiled at the now laughing demon.
“No worries, mate. I’m Kelfic and no, it doesn’t hurt when I do this.” On cue, Steve’s face erupted into scales.
“Holy crap!” Buck couldn’t help the exclamation. It was one thing to be told these things, but seeing was something else.
“That’s amazing.” JD shoved Buck aside from where he’d edged into him, and slid out of the booth. “Can I buy you a drink? I’ve got some more questions.”
Steve laughed. “Come on, let me introduce you to my pack-mates.”
Xander felt more than saw Buck’s burgeoning objection. “He’s fine, Buck. JD’s perfectly safe in here. Plus, I think Steve’s cousin owes Spike twenty bucks, so I’m sure he’ll be heading over there before JD can put his foot in it too badly.”
Buck was torn, but after everything that had been revealed he was sure now that Xander wouldn’t put any of them at any risk he felt was beyond their capabilities.
Xander had called it right and, in no time, the blond vampire made his way noisily over to the group JD had joined. Meanwhile, Abby had headed off and was now playing darts with Vin and some oddly horned purple thing.
Buck turned to face Xander fully. “I’m sorry. For doubting you--you know that, right? You were just trying to protect us, I get that now.”
“No, Buck, I’m
sorry. I’m sorry that my other life has impacted on yours. That it’s been causing all the conflict between my Dad and Chris and the rest of you. I really hoped that this was behind me, but I guess a normal life is not in the cards for me. I don’t regret helping -- I can’t. Despite all the terrible things that have happened, I know we’ve saved lives, but the price… And now, I’ve dragged you into this world, and I have no idea of the consequences.” Xander had always got on with Buck before Chris’ blow-up; he’d found the man supportive and easy to talk to. He’d been unable to shake the nagging fear this was all going to end badly.
The tension of the last few weeks had been eating away at him, and it wasn’t over yet. There was still Chris and Nathan, and while Abby was improving he wasn’t sure what more he could do for her. He guessed from the way that Spike had been shoving food at him, the vampire had noticed the weight loss, and no one would have missed the bags under his eyes from his poor sleeping. He’d thrown himself into his work, and only last weekend had got so lost in a project he’d actually torn through his calluses.
Buck winced at Xander’s tone. He’d not really stopped to think how all of this was affecting the younger man. It was clear to him now that Xander was wearing himself out with worry. He’d have to speak to Ez and Josiah. Maybe they’d have a better idea of how to help. Until things were settled with Chris he doubted there’d be much he could do, and he had no idea how his friend would deal with this. He suspected Chris was gonna need tying down through any kind of show and tell, and that it’d take all of them to convince him this was real.
“We’ll work it out, Xander. All of us, together.” Buck placed a comforting hand on Xander’s shoulder, giving his neck a squeeze. “Now, why don’t you introduce me to that lovely lady over there who’s been giving us the eye?”
Xander gave the other man a look. “Christine? Um, you know she’s not entirely human, right?”
Buck hesitated for a moment before figuring what the hell.
“How bad can it be?”
Xander laughed. “Well, once a month she’s an absolute animal.”
There was a slight commotion at the door, causing Xander to turn to see what was going on. At the sight of two of Bel Devan’s bodyguards Xander quickly headed over towards Spike, pulling Buck along with him. He signaled Abby to join them.
“Guys, the local head honcho is about to arrive, so best behaviour, alright?” Xander made sure Buck, Vin and JD acknowledged the seriousness of the next few minutes before nodding to Spike.
Spike reached into his pocket and pulled out an old looking bottle, tossing it to Xander. “Can’t be a coincidence.”
“Agreed.” Xander cast a wary glance over the other patrons of the bar, but he couldn’t see anyone else who might be a cause for the demon lord to visit. “Abby, he might want to meet you. No weapons; give them to Vin for safe keeping if I call you over. Make sure the hand-off is visible, okay?”
“Yes, Xander,” Abby answered with a hint of nervousness in her tone. She had enjoyed meeting some of the rarer species of demon as well as a few that had sent her slayer senses wild. As it turned out, they’d been juveniles who’d only approached as a dare. There’d be plenty of stories to tell the grand-spawn after tonight was over, it seemed.
“You’ll do me proud.” Xander gave her a smile, which she returned whole heartedly.
Buck, Vin and JD were thrown as a number of the fiercer looking demons suddenly looked a lot more submissive and Steve’s clan all stood as the new demon entered the bar.
“Stay as you are, Xander’s got this covered,” Spike muttered to the humans who stood behind him.
Xander waited until Bel Devan was seated and looking his way before canting the bottle in his hands. The demon lord waved him over.
“Good evening,” Xander said cheerily as he took a seat opposite Bel Devan.
“Greetings, Knight, I trust you are in good health.” The noise level in the bar increased as the pair exchanged their friendly greetings.
“Fine and dandy, thanks for asking.” Xander passed the bottle to one of the guards who opened it, sniffing cautiously. “I hope you don’t mind that I brought along a toast. As lovely as the gorgons fire was, I’ve got to work tomorrow.” Xander suppressed a wince at the memory of their last toast; the stuff had burnt like acid.
Bel Devan chuckled. He’d been impressed that the human had managed to continue in such a composed manner after their last toast, he’d known lesser demons handle the drink with less aplomb. “Of course.”
The pair drank and exchanged pleasantries. Xander waited for the demon to broach the subject of his appearance this evening.
“I don’t mean to presume,” Bel Devan gave the one-eyed man a toothy smile, “but are you sure it’s wise to expose so many humans into our world?”
“Wise? Absolutely not; but they’re family, so what can you do?” Xander ceded the demon’s point unhesitatingly. Bel Devan gave an understanding nod.
“Speaking of family,” Xander continued. “May I offer congratulations on your new pod?”
Xander froze as the two bodyguards instantly went on alert. “I apologise if I misspoke.”
Bel Devan gave him a long look before waving the bodyguards off. “No, you are quite correct, but that is not common knowledge. It is easy to forget your gift, Knight.”
Xander silently cursed. In all the recent turmoil he’d forgotten that since his reintroduction to the supernatural world-- and in particular since he’d claimed Spike as a brother-in-arms-- the effects of being the ‘one who sees’ had been increasing.
“Again, I’m sorry for speaking out of turn.” There wasn’t much else Xander could say.
“We shall speak of it no more in these surroundings.” Bel Devan shifted into a more formal pose. “I believe I may have a matter for which we can arrange a mutually beneficial solution.”
Xander had also straightened in response to Bel Devan’s change in mood. “I’m listening.”
“I have recently uncovered the actions of a vampire who was attempting to cultivate a power base to challenge me. Of course, such behaviour will not be tolerated and poses a risk to our… anonymity. Discipline of the transgressor was swift and fatal, but I have a number of fledglings with ideas above their stations in my possession.
“I would propose that a suitable object lesson to those with similar ideas would be to demonstrate that not only will they face my wrath but yours as well.”
Xander had been initially puzzled by the direction of the conversation but by the end shared a feral grin with the demon lord.
“It would be my pleasure to assist you.” Xander chuckled darkly. “I think Master Spike would have some excellent ideas to ensure that our point was clearly made.” At Bel Devan’s nod, Xander waved Spike over.
After explaining the situation to Spike, it took no time for the vampire to come up with a suggestion.
“I reckon what we need is a good, old-fashioned hunt.” Spike outlined his idea to declare an area off limits to demons for the night and, after ensuring the area was clear of any humans, releasing the fledges and then having Abby, Xander and himself hunt them down, maybe even training up Xander’s human clan to have a go as well. The news of the sanctioned execution of the culprits by ‘white hats’ would quickly spread.
Bel Devan smiled at the pair. “That would be satisfactory. I shall define the area and then post notification of the hunt for four days time.”
“It’ll be one of the best Saturday nights I’ve had for a while.” Spike was practically rubbing his hands in anticipation.
Xander smiled at Spike’s rising excitement. Hopefully, everyone would get something out of it; Vin had been asking about killing vampires, and Abby had mentioned the possibility of starting patrols again with Spike or Xander accompanying her. This would provide an ideal opportunity for both of them.
Xander raised his glass. “Here’s to happy hunting.”