AN - A thousand thanks to my beta, Orin Forever Crimson! To any new readers, this is the third story in an ongoing series. The other two stories were previously in the mature section, but lacking anything meriting an actual mature rating, I've decided to bring it over to the teen section. You won't be entirely lost if you don't read the first two, but I recommend reading them anyway. That, and I'm just self serving! Please, R&R, but most importantly, enjoy!
It was a cold day for Sunnydale in late August, meaning it was about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Xander struggled to get the pilot lit in the Summers home, trying his best to ignore the women in the living room complaining about the temperature. He, like the other men in the house, weren't nearly as cold. Then again, as Dawn had pointed out, "Spike is dead and doesn't feel temperature the same way we do, and Giles is British, so same thing."
Giles had agreed, after Dawn had pointed out that she meant he didn't feel temperature the same, not that the British were dead, saying that the weather would've been seen as normal in London. So, here he was, trying to light the furnace before winter even began. Never mind the fact that he'd be turning it off by week's end and then turning it back on in a month or two. Xander grumbled to himself as he worked.
"What was that, sweetie?" Anya's voice cut through Xander's grumbling, making him want to grumble more, but if there was anything Xander knew, it was when to keep his mouth shut. Or, at least, to know when to keep my mouth shut with Anya, Xander corrected himself.
"Nothing, Ahn." Then, in a stroke of luck, the pilot was lit. "Just finishing up. And… wa-la! Behold the wonders of central heating!" Xander's words were music to the women's ears as a collective sigh of relief went up as soon as the heat hit them. Giles walked in from the kitchen, several glasses of hot chocolate on a tray. When Dawn saw that there were large marshmallows on the tray instead of the mini ones, she was suddenly reminded just how much she missed her mother. Still, she knew that Giles was trying his best.
The day before, Giles had taken her straight from school down to the Sunnydale Civil Services building to complete the transfer of guardianship. Giles had been forced to lie about the date of Buffy's death, and Ms. Cartwright, the agent who had been assigned to Dawn's case, had been surprisingly gloomy when given the news. Apparently, she had been quite impressed with Buffy after their meeting two weeks ago. She had inquired about the funeral, apparently hoping to pay her respects. Giles had told her that they had already buried Buffy, which was one of the few truthful things he had told the woman regarding Buffy. Dawn knew that it was necessary, but she had also come to like Ms. Cartwright. Lying to her made Dawn feel uneasy.
Thankfully, Giles had all the paperwork in order and everything went smoothly. She had expected to walk out of the building as Dawn Giles, but Giles had been adamant about her keeping her last name.
"You were born with that name," he had explained, "and I'll be damned if I let misfortune take that away from you. It was a proud name, held by wonderful women. And it still is," he had said pointedly, making sure Dawn understood his meaning. She had nodded, trying to blink back her tears of gratitude. She understood that not many men would step in and raise someone else's child, but she knew that he had already done so once, with Buffy. She was grateful that he had been kind enough to step up again. It made her sorry that she had included him in the list of people who had left her, all those weeks ago when she'd stood atop the Tower. Giles was a good man, and she was happy to have him back. Apparently, she wasn't the only one.
"Thanks, Giles. You're the best," a grateful Willow's had drawn Dawn's attention back to the present. Willow had commented after taking a sip of the drinks Giles had provided. When everyone else had said the same, Giles took off his glasses and began to clean them, shyly muttering "yes, well…" before walking off and finding Xander.
"There's something I need to speak with you about, Xander."
"What'cha need, G-man?"
"I need your expertise as a carpenter and as a construction worker." Giles' words appeared to surprise Xander because he just stared at him for a minute.
"Why?," Xander had responded, before lightly shaking his head. "I mean, not that I'm not grateful that you came to me, but what do you need?"
"I was thinking of expanding upon this house," Giles indicated the Summers home by sweeping his hand around in an arc. "As you've spent a great deal of time here, you are the ideal individual to make expansions look and, more importantly, feel natural."
"How are you looking to expand; up or out?" Xander was in business mode now, making Giles smile with pride. He could recall a time when Xander Harris didn't understand the meaning of serious, and now here he was. He had changed a great deal in five plus years; they all had. Giles could only hope that he had been somewhat influential in that process.
"A little of both, actually. "
"Geeze, Giles, are you bringing an army with you from London?"
"No, of course not," Giles said with a smile in his voice. "I was thinking of adding another master bedroom to the first floor, for myself of course, two more bedrooms to the second, and adding a third floor. The new floor would consist of two more bedrooms and a third bathroom for the house." Xander paused for a moment to visualize the additions Giles wanted.
"Okay, the master bedroom makes sense, ditto to the extra bathroom for the women. You have no idea how catty they can be in the morning!" Giles nodded his head in understanding. "But I can't see why we need the third floor. I mean, another bedroom and bathroom on the second floor would make sense, but why an extra two rooms for a third floor?" Giles thought about reminding him that the bathroom was to go on the third floor, but saw the man's logic in placing it on the second floor. After all, Xander was arguing against a third floor.
"Because we never know when we'll need the space, Xander. If, God forbid, we end up in a situation like last year and we all need to be concentrated into a single home, why not be as comfortable as possible?" Because it's extra work, Xander had wanted to say, but held his tongue. Giles had a point.
"How soon do want to start this?"
"Honestly? As soon as you can. Buy whatever you need to get the job done right. Also, get with Willow and Tara. I've been doing some research and found that the ancient Teutons would build runes into the very framework of their homes for protection and what-not. I believe that, if this is to become our home base, we could use all the protection we can get."
"Sure thing. I'll get some paper and work up some blueprints, see what works best, get some prices, whatever I need." Xander turned away as if to get started immediately but found himself turning around for the most important detail. "How much money do we have?"
"As much as we need, Xander. As much as we need." Xander's face lit up at the prospect of working for a client who actually wanted the job done right without haggling about the price. He grabbed his keys and said his goodbyes to the women of the house, saying he had important work to do before rushing out the door.
"What's got him movin' in such a rush," Spike called out as he came into the living room by way of the basement stairwell.
"Spike, may I speak with you for a moment. In private," Giles had added as he walked towards the vampire. He didn't look angry and the Scoobies looked content chatting away in the living room, so Spike had nodded his acquiescence. "Thank you." Spike led him into the kitchen before sitting down. "Spike, we need to talk about your drinking of the blood of a God. As far as I know, it is an unprecedented event. I'm worried about the aftereffects." Something about the way he said it made Spike believe that he was sincere.
"I don't know what to tell you, Rupert. I feel stronger than evah, my reflexes are amped up, and I could track someone by scent for hundreds o' miles now. Oh, and I pounded my way into a house. Uninvited." Giles was taking all the information casually until Spike's last sentence.
"You… punched your way into an occupied home," Giles asked incredulously.
"That's what I said, idn' it?" Giles stared openmouthed in disbelief before continuing.
"I must say, you being stronger can only be counted as a good thing." Giles paused long enough to consider his words. Spike being stronger a good thing? Several months ago, he would have laughed out loud at the statement. But that was before he had proven himself time and again. While Giles would most likely never enjoy the man's presence, he did surprise himself by believing he could trust Spike. After all, Spike had stayed and looked after Dawn and the others while he himself had fled back to England. Giles refused to let his thoughts drift to that are, and instead continued speaking with Spike. "That said, we have no idea how long the effects will last and if there are any unwanted side effects."
"Like what," a suddenly concerned Spike asked.
"I don't know. As I said, this is unprecedented to my knowledge. I'll see what I can find, try to discover if any other vampire has ever drank from a god. Until then, I want you patrolling every night."
"Oi! You're her caretaker, not mine," Spike said as he pointed back towards Dawn in the living room. "You don't get to boss me around."
"Fine, Spike, consider it a suggestion," Giles managed through grated teeth. "While you are far stronger, according to your testimony, I suggest you take advantage of it. Try to kill off as many demons and vampires as you can, re-establish a name for yourself in the demon community. Hopefully, we'll encounter less of the rabble if they fear you like they feared the Slayer."
"Not a bad idea, mate. I'll put the fear o' Spike back into Sunnydale. Er, the demon-side o' Sunnydale, that is," Spike added when he saw the look on Giles' face. Spike threw on his duster and headed to the door before stopping in his tracks as Dawn called out his name.
"Spike, where are you going? It's broad daylight!" He turned back towards Dawn, momentarily abashed but refusing to let it show. Instead, he put a smile on and headed towards the group.
"Right you are, luv. I was gettin' ahead o' myself, ready to drive the seedier element back into their holes. Can't do that if I'm the crispy fried version o' Spike, now can I?" Dawn smiled as Spike plopped down next to her on the couch, forcing Anya to scoot aside.
"Hey, I was sitting there, you jerk!"
"Was being the operative," a bemused Spike responded. Anya huffed a bit but settled down without much extra fuss. Dawn was happy that Spike had chosen to sit next to her.
Dawn had found herself thinking about Spike a lot lately. She had always had a small crush on him, if she was being honest with herself, and it had started to become less and less small the more time they spent together. She knew logically that it could never work, that she was waaaayyyyy younger than he was. Then again, Buffy had been about her age when she had started dating Angel, and he was even older than Spike! On the other hand, Angel had been in possession of his soul, a distinct point for his side. No matter how good he was, it was because of the chip. Or was it? Dawn lost herself in internal philosophical debates about a future with Spike, all the while oblivious to conversations springing up around her.
If it was cold in the Summers home, it was definitely cold in a typical Sunnydale basement. However, the temperature was the only thing typical about this basement. Electronics and hardware littered the room, as did games and action figures. Books on a variety of subjects were also in abundance, some lying open to their last viewed page. To top it off, several whiteboards were present, covered in writings and symbols in a plethora of colours. In what could be considered the middle of the room there sat a table, covered in books, leafs of paper, and dice of various designs. At the table sat three chairs, two of which were occupied.
"I open the door cautiously, ready to spring back at any sign of danger," a high-pitched voice called out as it descended the stairs. He had blonde hair and was carrying an armload of assorted chips and a case Mountain Dew.
"Sweet, grub time!" Both seated men shouted in unison. Both had brown hair and thin frames, but that was where the physical similarities ended. One was much shorter than the other, sporting a round chin and hair that fell flat on his head. The other was tall, about six feet, with a cleft chin and hair brought to spiked tips.
"It came to $7.49, so you owe me $2.50 each," the blond said to the other two as he set the sacks on the table, careful not to knock over any of the figurines set up on the grid sitting in the middle of the table. As the shorter man reached for his wallet and paid, the other spoke up.
"I'll have to catch you later on that Andrew."
"Warren," the man began in his high pitched tone, "you've said that the last three times!"
"Yeah, and I mean it. Really, though, we're in my basement, like always. That's gotta count for something." Andrew pouted a bit but stayed silent. Jonathan muttered under his breath but not loud enough for Warren to hear him. They ate in silence for awhile before Warrens spoke up again. "So, you guys wanna take over Sunnydale?" Silence reigned for a moment before both of the other men responded simultaneously.
"Sure," said Jonathan.
"Yeah," said Andrew.
"Alright. Let's get to work." His enthusiasm was met with stares until he hastily amended his statement. "After we finish eating, of course." Both other men smiled and nodded before all three enthusiastically finished off their 'meals'. Some things just had to be prioritized!