Standard disclaimers apply.
A/N : Bad Kahuna! Bad, bad, bad. Kahuna is lame and talks about herself in the third person.
As the group left the high school, Angel was in full on brood mode. When Xander passed on Spike's last comments to the rest of the group, the vampire had just said, "I have to go if he's holding innocents hostage, and... they may not be family anymore but this is my business to fix." Now Buffy fluttered beside him with supportive and non-pushy concern and Giles looked curious but too reserved to pry.
(Well, it's a hard job, but somebody's gotta do it.) "So Deadboy, who's Penn?" The others gasped or tutted according to their citizenship, and the brood changed to a thunderous scowl, but he wasn't intimidated. "He's important enough to Spike for him to call you and important enough to you that you're willing to talk to Spike, so I think the rest of us should be going into this with at least a little context."
"Wait, we aren't actually going to be talking, are we?" Buffy looked confused. (I used to think that was cute.) "I figured Xander and Willow get the hostages out, me and Angel stake the two bloodsuckers and Giles keeps an eye out for any extra minions."
Willow got a look that made him wonder how hard she's be working to save said hostages, but he'd already rejected the plan so let it slide. "Not gonna happen, Buff. You and Deadboy are not a guaranteed win vs Spike and Dru, and Spike won't be feeling sportsmanlike this time."
The stubborn Slayer-knows-best pout came out. "No offense, but I don't think you're qualified to veto battle plans, Xander."
(Yeah, definitely over the Buffster crush.) "None taken, and I'm the only one here qualified to invite Captain Forehead into my house, which I'm not doing unless he promises to play this straight."
"This could be a trap for me or Angel!"
"And if it is, we'll deal with the situation as it happens," Deadboy stepped in firmly. He glanced at Giles who nodded his agreement and then Xander who grudgingly scowled his. "But I do need to talk to Spike about this new situation."
"Which brings us back to Penn, and does he have a brother named Pencil? Anyway, cough it up : who, how, where, when and why?"
(And there's our old standby, the brooding sigh. Get a new expression, would ya?) "Penn was the first vampire I ever turned as a childe rather than a minion. He was a Puritan in the late 1700s and Angelus wanted to see how far such a pious man could fall. He only traveled with me for a short time - Darla didn't like him. Spike met him once and they loathed each other."
"So, he's more powerful than Spike?" Buffy, for once, seemed to have a reasonable amount of concern. Giles looked vaguely offended by the information.
"The Watcher's journals have no records of a vampire by that name in the Aurelius line. Does he go by any sort of alias?"
"No, his activities have probably been mistaken for those of a human serial killer, and attracted little Council attention. And he's older than Spike, but never showed the same interest or aptitude in fighting."
"So, um," Willow almost raised her hand which was cute in the library, but a little silly walking down the street. "If he's not as powerful and he wasn't really part of the whole 'Scourge of Europe' traveling vamp family, why would Spike call him your golden boy?"
Xander snorted. "I'm guessing that has to do with the 'serial killer' part, Wills."
(Aaaand, there's the vampire hangdog look...) "Penn was much more like I had been, and I was never shy about expressing the preference to Spike. I'm sure he realizes that the guilt I feel now is just as strong as the pride I had then." Buffy put an arm comfortingly around his waist and glared at Giles when the Watcher seemed about to ask for more information. Xander was tempted to push anyway, but he could see his house, the porch light uncharacteristically on and Spike's huge black car parked up on the curb.
They paused at the front door, and he tried to look stern. "This is a talking meeting unless Spike starts something. If my parents die I get moved in with Uncle Rory and I will never forgive you. Come in, Deadboy." After a brief, offended look at the lack of barrier, Angel entered, and Buffy stepped behind him. She paused though in the doorway to look at Xander.
"I know they're your parents, and I'll do everything I can to protect them, but we're talking about two mass murderers here, Xan. If Spike takes one step out of line, I'm doing my job as the Slayer." Not giving him a chance to respond, she strode towards the living room, where Angel could be heard awkwardly greeting the humans. Grumpily following, Xander almost ran into her when she stopped dead in the doorway.
Luckily the Slayer was short enough for normal folks to see over her head. (Wonder if that's on purpose for easier Watching?) So he could see Drusilla sitting in the middle of the ugly floral print couch, holding his mother's hand on her left as she discussed something (probably doll fashions) with grave seriousness. Spike was in Dad's armchair, which had been covered by a tasteful blue throw (I wouldn't let The Coat touch that upholstery either) and pulled up beside the couch so he could talk to the blond woman on Dru's right.
The somewhat familiar blond woman who Buffy gaped at, frozen, for what seemed like a full minute before she squeaked out a single word somewhere between a question and a greeting.
Mrs Summers looked up with a smile that turned amused at the crowd in the doorway. "My, it seems Mr Pratchett was right about everyone wanting to be involved."
"Now, luv, told you to call me William, didn't I?" Spike shared an affectionate smile with the Slayer's mother before turning to Buffy. "Told Joyce here about how Liam and I had some family business that Xander is helping us sort out and that close as you lot are, you'd probably all want to have your say in it." He lay his hand casually on the back of the couch, close enough to snap the woman's neck before even the supernaturally endowed among them could get a weapon out, and continued without even a hint of menace to his tone.
"Certainly can't object to you having an interest in Peaches, but seeing as you still live at home, I wouldn't want you proposing any solutions without considering the effects on your own family." Xander could practically feel Buffy vibrating in rage, but he didn't know if it was primarily from the implied threats against her mom, or the utterly friendly and helpful voice they were spoken in. Most of the group was similarly frozen, not sure how to address or end a threat that Mrs Summers wasn't aware of, especially since they would much prefer that she stay that way.
"That was a smart idea, William." (And Deadboy steps up to the plate.) "I wouldn't have thought of that aspect of the situation." As Angel moved into the room to lean in as non threatening a pose as he could manage against a wall, a pleased expression flashed across Spike's face. "I don't think we'll need Mrs Summers here, though."
"No?" Spike just looked curious.
"No, I'm pretty sure we can work out what to do about the situation without involving Buffy, and then we won't have to explain all the minutia of our family issues before we can get down to it."
"Makes sense, and Jessica's here to make sure we don't get Xan into any trouble." The brilliant smile got a shy return from the hostess and apparently sparked Giles' attention.
"If you don't mind me asking, where exactly is Mr Harris tonight?"
"Oh, um, Tony would have been bored, and there was a game tonight he wanted to watch," Xander sensed Willow tensing beside him at the usual litany of excuses for the Harris brand of absentee parenting. "So Mast- uh, Mr Spike sent him out with one of his... er, associates, to see it at that bar downtown."
Those who expected confusion from Buffy's mom at the name slip were disappointed when she just turned to the vampire with a smile. "You never did get around to telling me why you chose that particular pen name."
Spike laughed as he stood and gathered Joyce's jacket and purse. "Silly, really. Was a bloke back home once said that he'd rather have railroad spikes pounded into his ears than hear my work. When things changed for me, I remembered that and sort of... turned it around on him as it were." Angel visibly shuddered, making Xander think the story was some variation on true, but no one else seemed to notice.
"Ah, nothing like reclaiming an insult. There's a lot of minority art on that theme. Anyway, Buffy and I will get home and let you all sort things out. Willow, do you need a ride?"
Giles opened his mouth to make some excuse but Spike beat him to it. "Oh no, Red here has been family to my Xan since he was in short pants... then again, in this town that could have been last week." Laughs both sincere and forced filled a pause for breath. "Wouldn't dream of interfering if she wants to give moral support, and Rupes here can cart her home after."
"Well, we better get going then. Oh and Buffy, William mentioned he was helping Xander with a big paper for English Lit, isn't that one of the classes you were having trouble in? You hadn't said anything and you can't put those off until the last minute. Maybe when we get home we can..."
As the door closed behind the Summers women, Spike dropped back into his chair and regarded the room with a smile less harmless but still pleased. "Right then. Jessica, luv, why don't you bring out some extra chairs and get that tea started, and we can get down to business."
Xander ended up in the middle of the couch, with Dru moved to the end to be between him and Spike. He firmly denied any warm fuzzies that he was being trusted to protect her, or disappointment that he wasn't sitting with the blond vamp. Willow sat on his other side and swung between nervous and fascinated at the situation, while Giles and Angel were provided with chairs from the kitchen.
His mom fluttered about playing hostess, which was fascinating in it's own right to Xander and Wills, who hadn't seen her this sober or attentive in years. Spike provided constant smiles and praise as she brought out chairs, tea and cookies. Giles sat as if he wished he could take notes. (Great, another paper will be coming. 'Extension of Claiming Behaviour to the Families of Minor Claimants' with more neck pictures...)
Might as well get the ball rolling. "So Spike, is this Penn guy one of the masters the Annoying One was calling on, or did he just show up on his own?"
"Little bit of both, Pet. Wanker was hanging round New York sucking up to one of Darla's older childer and heard about the summons. He'd have found out Dru and I were here and gotten curious and Peaches being around would just be the icing on the cake."
Angel leaned forward. "Fine, he's here, he knows I'm here and about the soul so he's going to do something gratuitously horrible to get my attention and try to get appointed Master of one of the local territories." He scowled at the younger vampire. "I can see you telling me just to upset me, but you did that on the phone. Why do you have a problem with Penn being here, and what do you want from me?"
The smile disappeared from Spike's face, and he reached over to tug his Sire a little closer as he spoke. "Penn is claiming seniority of line to gain regency of Dru and take secondary position to the Annoying One."
Xander could have sworn that Angel actually paled, and he didn't speak for a moment as thoughts almost visibly raced through his mind. The three humans were less constrained.
"Um, what's seniority of line, Spike? Do you mean like he's less steps from the Master cause he's Deadboy's childe instead of grandchilde?"
"What exactly do you mean by regency, I've never read of such a vampiric tradition."
"And, um, don't take this the wrong way, but why should Angel get involved? Does it really matter which of his Childer is helping the Court and caring for Drusilla?"
Turning from the older vampire, Spike smiled approvingly at Xander. "Just so, luv. We're both direct line, but he's a step senior in acknowledged sires." With a significantly less friendly glance he added, "Means exactly what it does for humans, wanker, and it's not a 'vampiric tradition' being as masters turned without the sanity to stay out of the sun aren't exactly thick on the ground."
Angel nodded. "Drusilla presented a unique challenge to the Master and his court. She clearly had the power of a master vampire, especially after she successfully turned Spike as a childe, but she was too unstable to be granted the full privileges and responsibilities of one. The Master took a page from the royalty he'd observed over the centuries and said that she could only leave the Court if another master of the line was her regent."
"I told Grandpapa that of course I would stay with Daddy and listen to him." Drusilla started to reach towards her sire, but checked herself and hissed instead. "But the nasty spark took Daddy away and Grandmummy wanted me to stay at home and travel no more until my dark knight earned his spurs and could go with me."
"Dru and I haven't held territory, so no one's really seen the advantage of her abilities to get interested, and we'd always do favors for that bitch Sire of yours, Peaches, so she didn't need to pull rank and take regency, and we've been left alone a good century."
Angel growled slightly. "Don't talk that way about-"
"About the vampire you dusted?" (Kicked puppy Deadboy is back! Guess staking Darla was a bigger deal than he made it out to be.) "Yeah, heard all about it from the minions." Spike's tone softened slightly. "Also heard she pretty much forced you to make a choice and didn't get the outcome she expected. Won't be making the same mistake, believe me. I know full well you wouldn't have picked me over your latest project back in the day, much less your new little clan."
"Fine." The older vampire looked sullen but less kicked. "What is it that you want?"
"Acknowledge me as your Childe to the Annoying One and his Court."
(Hey, hyperventilating Deadboy just doesn't get any less amusing!)
"How exactly is Angel meant to address the Court without being killed?"
(Ten points to Giles for getting practicality on the agenda, but...) "How can he do that, you said Dru was your Sire?"
"And um, not to repeat myself, but why should he help, aside from the whole hostage issue?"
Angel seemed to jump on Willow's question as the easiest to cope with out of the current crop. "It's the same thing we talked about on the way over - Spike and Penn are very different vampires. Spike is more dangerous in the sense that he has the desire and potential ability to kill Buffy or myself." The younger vampire didn't quite succeed in avoiding visible preening, but was at least dignified about it. "But in terms of the populous at large, as long as the issues with local masters and non vampire friendly demons are keeping him busy, Spike is no more dangerous than any other member of the court."
"Maybe less," Xander put in when it looked like the assessment wasn't being taken as an insult. "Since he's not leaving crumbs."
Angel nodded. "There is that." He seemed ready to say more on the subject, but then focused back on Willow. "Penn is going to raise the body count around here and it's going to be ugly. And if he has Drusilla's visions to keep him out of Buffy's path and the court's resources to draw on, there's no telling how far he'll go."
"Daddy has a plan," he suddenly heard whispered in his ear. Dru sounded downright giddy. "He thinks William can keep the dogs in line if he leads the pack." Spike glanced towards them sharply, but Deadboy quickly moved the conversation on.
"As for the 'how', when Spike was presented to the court for the first time, he was introduced as Drusilla's Childe because she had turned him, but I stated my intent to... well, for want of a better term, raise him as a master of the line. Obviously I wasn't there when the Court recognized him as a master, and I doubt I'd have been given standing if I was..."
"Darla was still dusting anyone who said your name at the time," the blond put in helpfully.
"But if I swear that I was his Sire in that sense, he and Penn have the same standing as Masters of the Line. Though Penn would still be his senior by almost a century, so I don't see it helping much."
Dru giggled happily and wagged a finger in her sire's face. "Ah ah, a squire with hair of silver must still give way to a lad who has knelt and arisen a knight."
Willow and Giles got their "What?"s at the same time and with identical inflection. Xander held back the urge to applaud and just gave Wills a quick hand squeeze while he explained.
"She means that Spike became a master before Penn even though he's younger by turning date."
"What?" Angel's was late and more annoyed than confused. (No medal for the vamp competitor.) "The court was split on his recognition in '95, but I was certain they'd accept him in the next decade!"
"They did, Peaches. Three years after me."
The older vampire looked disgusted. "They made you a master just for killing a Slayer?"
"No, you git, they recognized me as a master for running the sodding gauntlet after a week of starvation under that wanker Seth."
Something in Deadboy's attitude changed, and he waved Giles aside when the watcher started to ask for clarification. "Alright, so you've got mixed seniority by age and, if I acknowledge you, the same in the line. You'll take care of Penn?"
"If he challenges me for Dru or court standing, I certainly won't be giving him mercy." Spike had sensed the change as well, and his posture became less defensive. (Angel is dealing with him as an equal. An adult instead of a potentially dangerous kid. Wonder if Deadboy could handle the gauntlet thing?) "Could probably call him out on some comments he made when he was trying to pull rank, but if he's smart enough to apologize, the Annoying One won't want me dusting him for old grudges."
"If you want me to be your Sire..."
"Want you to say you were my Sire." (Great, poke at his abandonment issues, that will keep things civil.) "If you want to claim Sire's Rights, you'd have to take some interest in whether Dru dusts or not. Otherwise, I need to stay on the fledge-king's good side until she's cured."
The older vampire looked at his frail child and maybe he did care just a little. "I might... We can talk about it once the seniority issue is settled without me getting staked."
"Angel?" Giles sounded downright shocked.
"There are options, things Spike could do that fall under maintaining a well run territory but would make things safer in Sunnydale." He avoided the Watcher's eyes. "If I'm going to officially be his Sire again, we should at least consider the possibilities."
"Oh!" Xander had never been so worried to hear his best friend's 'I've got an idea!' noise. (Don't say it, Wills, just wait until this is all over and we'll talk about it alone.) "Could you make Spike un-claim Xander?"
(Psychic shields still up, Captain.) Shut up, brain, this isn't time for jokes. What it was time for, it seemed, was looking at Spike, hoping for one unguarded glimpse of how the question affected him. If it affected him.
He looked in time. He saw the tiniest flinch and the sorrow that underlay weary resignation when the vampire looked at him in return. And he grinned in a way he hoped was reassuring as he patted Willow's hand.
"Naw, the Sire's Rights stuff only matters with unaccepted claims, so it won't change anything. But anyway, is the Annoying One going to give Deadboy safe passage to make the official statement or will he accept a notarized letter?"