"Alright," the vampire snarled as he stomped up to the receptionist's desk, "ithat/i was a bloody long lift ride, which means 'm not leaving 'til I see Skrlnkd, that bastard." He thumped his hand hard on the polished metal of the desk, causing the receptionist to close his magazine with a snap and spin around to face him.
"Nice to see you too, Spike." Xander Harris grinned up at him from the other side of the desk. For a second, Spike thought his fangs were going to fall out of his mouth. Of all the people he would have expected to run into here, Xander Harris was at the very bottom of that list, right after Willy and that bint from the Sunnydale ice cream parlor that always short changed him.
"Bloody hell, Harris! What are you doing here?"
Xander's grin could have powered an entire city for a week off of sheer brilliance. "I work here. Though it's not really work, I just sit around and pretend to be a secretary. Mostly I play computer games, and read. Did you see the giant TV out here? It's great! Oh, and I make waffles?"
Spike's eyebrows almost climbed off his skull. He'd imagined quite a few things when Sunnydale's biggest white hat disappeared off the face of the planet last year, but not this. This was just... well, odd would be putting it mildly. This was Hellmouth-variety insane with a twist of Twilight Zone.
"Waffles?" Spike bit out the word like it was the next deadly sin.
"Yeah, waffles. It's how I got the job." Xander's smile widened as he spoke. "Just before the apocalypse, this big bloke, and I mean big, could have bent the counter in half just by leaning on it too heavily. Anyways, he comes into the dinner I was working at. See I wanted to try that whole road trip thing again but instead of getting stuck at Oxnard I wound up in this middle-of-nowhere town in the Midwest, and I was really strapped for cash, so I was there as a short-order cook, you see, and this guy, the big guy, he really like the waffles I made him. I mean ireally/i like them."
Spike was nodding along, only catching about half of the things Xander said and letting the rest of the words wash right over his head.
"So this guy was in there everyday after that, up until things started to heat up, which was really weird because no one saw him anywhere else in town, and it was a small town so there's no way anyone could miss him, and he wasn't checked in to any of the motels, but he was at the dinner every morning at eight o'clock, him and his whole gang of guys. 'Nother weird thing was that half of them, including the big guy himself, they were obviously demons, but no one said a word. It was like the townsfolk didn't even notice."
"There are spells that can do that," Spike interrupted. He could think of a good dozen off his head, but judging from what Xander described he had a pretty good idea exactly which one they'd used. Most likely the Murgoth one. "They made it so you can only see 'em as demons if you've seen demons before. Really low-grade spell, so either their caster wasn't very good or they just wanted something cheap and easy."
"Oh. So that explains it." Spike had to wonder what Xander had been doing the past year if he'd just now figured out the demons' trick. Probably playing video games all day like the kid had said, instead of learning anything useful from Skrlnkd's crew.
"So, this big guy came back and grabbed you after the apocalypse because you made good waffles?" It sounded like something Skrlnkd would let his lackeys do. He wondered what they'd made Xander do before getting up to this job. Probably scraped gum off the tables or something.
"Oh, no," Xander's grin split his face. "The boss-man offered me this job before the apocalypse."
That got Spike's full attention. His jaw hung open for a long moment, finally snapping shut with an audible clack. "You sold out humanity for a desk job?" He was impressed. He never thought the kid had that kind of balls in him.
Xander shrugged. "Not really. It was the health plan that sunk the deal."
"You'd love the dental."
Spike nodded grudgingly. "Place like this, I can imagine. But still, the end of the world? Thought you were one of the bloody white hats."
"They put it back! It was only for five minutes. No one even noticed. Well, none of the normals."
"They never do." And that was the truth. A year later and nothing had made it to the news about the cosmic revolution, as the demons were calling it these days. He could still remember the look on old Ripper's face the day after. Council hadn't had a bloody idea what had hit them.
"The only ones that knew anything was happening were the people involved. No one else noticed until it was too late, and no one's even complaining about it anymore. Well, except for the penguins, but that's just 'cause we lost part of their continent. We're looking for it, I swear."
"So you knew all along?" He'd have to have a few words with Skrlnkd about that. No way was he letting that bastard get away with letting dough-boy here in on the apocalypse while Spike had to find out with everyone else.
Xander nodded. "Yeah, the boss-man laid it all out ahead of time, and considering the options, this was the best."
"Options?" He hadn't realized there had been options. Skrlnkd had always been a single-focus kind of demon. Either the glass was half full or the world was ending kind deal.
"Other futures. They way things were going to end if the Company didn't step in. Boss-man showed me them all, wanted me to make an informed decision. I think he wanted me to decide for humanity, and to this day I really don't understand why. But I saw it all. I saw the First, and the Powers That Be, and all the other ways it could have ended. The ways it would have ended. There was so much death. Buffy died, and Angel. Well, most people died, no matter which way it went, even you. This way no one had to die."
"Skrlnkd came to you direct?"
"Yeah. Waffles, remember? Though I just call him Boss-man. Or Mr. Squeaky."
Spike's eyebrow made a dash for his hairline. "Mr. Squeaky?"
"It sounds kinda like Skr... like his real name. He likes it. Better than me trying to speak one of their tongues. They gave up on that an hour in."
Spike shook his head and grinned. Yeah, he could imagine Xander Harris speaking demon tongue. He'd even heard a few attempts and it had never been pretty. Or anything close to what it was supposed to sound like. "Anyone ever tell you you're a right piece, mate?"
"Yes, though I was wearing skin-tight leather at the time and it was meant as a compliment on my figure rather than an observation on my mental capacity."
Now there was a mental picture that gave him pause. His eyes raked over Xander's current figure, a lot leaner than it used to be, and he could imagine how tasty a sight that would be.
"Company parties can get pretty wild here," Xander added with a smile, and if Spike could forget all the history between himself and the kid, he would have thought there was a bit of a leer thrown on Xander's lips as well.
Past history aside, certain parts of him were taking a definite interest. "Leather?"
"And pole dancing." His interest was now permanently set, past-history be damned. "Did I ever tell you about the road trip I took to San Francisco? It was the summer after I went to Oxnard."
"I would have remembered that story, pet." He leered, his mind already off picturing Harris twisting on the pole. He was fairly certain Skrlnkd wouldn't mind if Spike borrowed his secretary for an hour or two.
Xander leered back, his tone full of cocky self-assurance. "Yeah, you would have," the kid purred. "Next time there's a party, I'll invite you along."
"Mighty fine of you, luv." He was going to make sure Skrlnkd invited him to every single one from now on. The bastard owed him. Another thought twisted his mind away from images of kinky sex. "You're a lot looser nowadays."
Xander nodded slowly, his smile slipping slightly from his face but not disappearing. "I noticed that too. I think it has something to do with the beezle in me."
"Beezle?" Was that some kind of kinky new sex toy he'd never heard of?
"Oh, right. You didn't hear. Probably wouldn't have heard, now that I think about it, since you don't work for the Company. Part of the whole apocalypse-revolution thing. Can't work here and be fully human. It's in the handbook. So they stuck a bit of demon in me and now I'm all up to regulation."
Spike narrowed his eyes. "Never heard of a beezle demon." That sounded more like Ygdroth's work than Skrlnkd, but the two were never far apart. There was no better demon to do Skrlnkd 's accounting.
"It's not actually a beezle. I just can't say its real name so I call it a beezle. Pretty cool though. Watch this!"
Xander picked up a slice of pizza off the desk with one hand and grabbed a can of coke in the other. A blue tail slipped from under the desk to grab the remote and flick channels.
Spike's eyebrow quirked as his leer slipped higher. "Now that's some kinky shit."
"Never said there weren't perks to switching to the dark side. Not that we're really dark, since it could be argued that we saved the world. Angel at least should be thanking us, what with no rain of fire falling on him anymore." Xander tapped his eye and Spike watched the iris flash purple then fade back to brown. "There were other changes. I got a couple other adjustments in my skull, and some really neat tattoos that go good with the leather. It's all mystical stuff that I didn't pay much attention to when they were explaining it. Cheers was on."
He snorted. That sounded like Harris. "Not a bad deal." Compared to dying, being part demon couldn't be that bad.
"Oh, and I'll never die."
If Spike breathed he probably would have gasped or choked. Instead he gave Xander an appraising look and started rethinking his earlier sex fantasies as longer term engagements. "Really?"
A loud buzz cut through their conversation and a voice like nails rattling in a tin can cut over the intercom. "Iglw crqt sylakaryznrk." So Harris was right. Skrlnkd really did like his waffles.
Xander leaned over the desk as he pressed a button on the phone. "Sure thing, boss. And William the Bloody's here to see you."
"Klrew nithc." Good, the bastard remembered him.
"Squeaky's office is at the end of the hall. It's the double doors with the bunnies on them. Can't miss it." Xander stood, his tail swishing. "I've got some waffles to make, but if you wanna wait around when you're done we could go grab a few pints."
"Sounds good, love." Spike watched the fabric of Xander's tight pants move as he stalked down the hall. The extra swagger in Xander's step meant the boy knew he was watching. Knew, and encouraged the looks by the way his hips twisted.
Spike smiled and headed towards the door with the bunnies. He and Skrlnkd were going to have a few words about the perks of working for the Company.