Words: c5000
Rating: R
A/N: Written for this year's [info]fall_for_sx. Post-NFA, not exactly comics canon but with some references. Many, many thanks to [info]katekat1010 for the movie poster to match!

Majority Rule


It was a bright cold day in late October, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Xander hated those damn clocks.

Not to be Mr Picky, but if you’re going to insist that an army of loud, bonging grandfather clocks are needed to give the Gigantic Castle you now call home “the correct tone”, isn’t it then just beyond inappropriate to buy the world’s only supply of 24-hour grandfather clocks because you prefer military time? And isn’t the idea of a clock which strikes up to twenty-three just obviously... dumb?

To put it another, shorter way: Xander was pissed off and ripe for irritation. Those were Giles’s exact words, as of 18:00 hours the day before. Xander had not been able to dispute them.

Africa changes a man. Or so Xander was assured by many movie heroes. Possibly it was true. Definitely it was true that Scotland didn’t feel right after Kaduna and Enugu. It was grey, chilly, empty, quiet, wet... and it smelled off too. Wet wool and mothballs instead of spices and radiant heat.

He dragged over to the staffroom noticeboard to check his afternoon assignments. Quarterstaff support guy, 14:00-16:00. Mental groan. No skill, lots of bruises. Just his speed. It wasn’t exactly Mr Slayer Recruiter (Sub-Saharan West Africa), comforter of the unwary Chosen, negotiator, diplomat and (occasionally) people smuggler. But now they had “proper systems”, “negotiated political settlements” and “legal clarity”. No more seat of the pants stuff.

And the castle was now maintained by an “Estates and Facilities” team. No handyman needed here. Not that he could have shimmed granite anyway.

So: fish on a bicycle, out of water and gasping for air. That was Xander now.

At 16:45 life became a little more interesting. Xander had his breath back, and unfamiliar Elastoplast on his skinned knuckles, when Giles asked him into The Study. Which still felt like being called to see the Principal, even though Giles (Rupert, if Xander could only remember that) claimed they were all colleagues now.

“Xander, good of you to drop in.” Giles leant back in The Principal’s Chair, looking scholarly. “I’ve noticed you’re feeling somewhat unsettled at present.”

Xander resisted the temptation to shuffle his feet and apologise. He’d never done it for a real Principal, so wasn’t about to start for Giles. Rupert, dammit.

So not the point, it turned out. “I wondered if you’d be interested in a short mission.” Xander accepted so speedily Giles didn’t have time to finish what was obviously meant to be a longer sentence.

“Er... good. It’s in a little town in southern England. Not your usual beat, but I need an experienced operative; someone of your background and expertise to-”

Xander glowed mentally. Then paused to examine how likely it was that Giles meant that. That was flattery, right? Pre-prepared flattery, probably, since Giles must know that he was desperate to get out of the castle. What was the snag?

Giles was hustling through his words, slightly officious and embarrassed. Yes, there was a catch coming.

“Well, we don’t think it necessary or appropriate to send one of the raw Slayers from here just yet, and as you know our European squad is rather stretched with the Arkangel mess and the Sofia massacres. But we doubt there will be much danger – indeed, there may be little to report.

“The town has long been a centre for cult and occult activity, but nothing more sinister than a few charlatans and some half-powered witches making mischief. Till a month or so ago, when our analysis banks started to see a pattern.”

Analysis banks was said with careful emphasis. Giles accepted that their databases and skimmers were gathering useful information. Didn’t mean he was prepared to welcome them.

“So- mysterious deaths? Rain of toads? Apocalypse Next Tuesday?” Xander felt nostalgic for Sunnydale, of a sudden. Those questions felt like home.

“’Fraid not. It’s just a hint of... conformity. The town seems to be extremely homogenous. People travel at the same times, eat the same foods, vote the same way.”

“Giles, don’t we call that “suburbia”?”

“Quite. Except even in the suburbs it is considered quite noticeable when 97% of the households make an online supermarket order, using absolutely identical brands, within four minutes of one another. And a just under 97% vote in the last election, in all wards, for the same parliamentary candidate... That’s ballot rigging plebiscite territory, not suburbia. The travel issue is so acute the train operators have laid on a special train for the town to suit their needs – around 97% of the commuters in the place leave on the 07.57 train. And if you were British, you’d understand that train operators never put their customers’ needs first.

“So, we need you to look into this. Why is it this general 97% outcome, when the people involved must be different? Why such conformity?”

“Cool. When do I leave? I can get there tomorrow, be back the day after.” Xander had got it; was mentally heading out the door already.

Giles rubbed the bridge of his nose, avoiding Xander’s eye. “I think it will take longer than that. And I don’t believe it would be wise to go alone. We don’t see danger now, but that doesn’t mean it is absent. So...”

Oh.... bollocks. Xander knew exactly what was coming next. And it was affecting his vocabulary already.

Sadly, the power of his mental nononono did not reach Giles. “It would do Spike good to have something to focus on. He’s still a great fighter, and he would be excellent backup.”

“Yeah. Sure. Half-mad vampires, my backup of choice. We’ll be best buddies.”


It was a mostly silent journey south. Thankfully, Spike wasn’t muttering any more. He’d also started eating again, less hard-edged and skinny than he’d been when they’d scooped him up from the terror-ridden streets of Los Angeles. Willow reported he’d been babbling then; hadn’t stopped for two days. “Gotta go on, fix those bastards, gonna get through this, kill that fucker, duck, slash, kick.” The dribbling of a mind that had been fighting too long, and fighting a lonely, losing battle at that.

Spike had stopped shouting within a few days, but took months to stabilise any further and even years on was more than a little weird. When Xander rocked up on his recall, the castle had developed ways of coping with the slight nuttiness; even an ‘oh, ignore the noise, it’s only Spike’ eyeroll. But for much of the time now, even when calmer, he wasn’t quite the Spike of old. Xander seemed to help, though – Spike responded to him a little more than to the unfamiliar teenage Slayers.

The first time Spike had made a crack about Xander’s missing eye, the whole dining room cheered under its breath. Apart from Xander. Lack of joy at the return of old Spike and his hilarious mocking.

Still, that had felt like coming home too.


Spike’s views on the uncool look of their necessarily blacked-out Toyota Yaris had taken almost eighty miles to express in depth. It had passed the time. The four hundred wordless miles since had been more painful.

It was a relief to have something new to say as they entered Sussex. “Almost there. East Grinstead. Sounds sinister. Not.”

Spike chuckled, almost. “You don’t know market towns. Bloody Stepford’s got nothing on’em.”


Also, it emerged, Giles’s idea of covert ops did not extend to housing. Instead of a shady motel (not in huge supply in the home counties anyway), Spike and Xander found themselves billeted in a vast ramshackle black-and-white Tudor building on the High Street.

“Subtle.” Xander didn’t feel comfortable with this. Too big, too old, too creaky.

“No, I can see where Rupert was coming from.” (Why could Spike manage ‘Rupert’ so comfortably?) “Sewer access, lots of shade, no nosy chambermaids, right in the heart of the place. People’re bound to comment on the house, if nothing else – we’ll get some contacts that way. And since we’re glamorous media types they won’t expect us to be in the Travelodge, right?”

Xander wasn’t actually sure glamorous media types would be caught dead (or undead) in this place. No minibar, no housekeeping, no catering. They’d be playing house. Spike bitched about getting a twin room, but since it offered him non-lethal north light he couldn’t dispute the logic in Xander getting the huge (west-facing) double at the other end of the house. That was better. Far apart at all times, except for catering. The assignment might not end in slaughter after all.

But as subtle cover goes “researching a TV programme about the mystical allure of East Grinstead” just... wasn’t. It would never work.


It worked. Partly because they were about the fifth production company to scout round that story. Partly due to Spike, whose shade-lurking sun-glasses-wearing style seemed about what the residents expected. Maybe it was that he was skinny and pale, and sniffed a lot (seeking demonic scents, not in withdrawal, but how were the locals going to know that?). Partly because half the people they talked to were in fact fascinated by the damned house. And, of course, partly due to Xander’s glamorous eyepatch and finely honed sleuthing skills. No sign of suspicion as they questioned and probed.

Three days in, though, there was also no sign of covert occultism. Plenty of activity, though.

“Place is full of nutjobs,” was Spike’s Day Two report to Headquarters. Hippies, New Agers (which Xander had thought were the same thing but had now learnt to distinguish), fruitarians, pantheists and a group who lived according to strict astrological principles. Plus Scientologists, Rosicrucians and Mormons alike found a happy home there. Though they, of course, are not cult organisations (and told Xander that. Several times).

They had combed the local records for any idea of what marked out the 3% non-conformists in the population. Nothing. Not address, not ethnicity, not water supply, not geography or orientation, not school, not work, not social groupings. Nothing. It wasn’t even always the same 3% that did not conform, and the 3% wasn’t exact.

Day four, though, they went to the hospital. All bad stuff ends up in the hospital – a basic Scooby principle. One of the sad, huddled family groups in A&E was particularly loud and worth hearing; bewildered and anxious in tone.

“I just don’t understand how- I mean- She was only twenty five. In the middle of Budgens, picking up washing powder. And her head just- I don’t even believe it, the way she... exploded.”

Spike raised an eyebrow. “Reckon that’s someone meeting the supernatural, don’t you? Don’t sound to be dealing very well. Morgue?”

Morgue it was. The usual cold room of secrets and a staggering absence of security. Spike checked the drawers, sniffing quickly to dismiss the elderly and sickly. That traumatised family hadn’t just lost grandma to lung cancer: it had been abrupt. Probably bloody.

“Oh fuck. Yeah. This is her.” Spike half-glanced at Xander before lifting the sheet. The stains on her shroud were way outside the norm.

Under the sheet was the explanation. A pretty woman, still young. Totally healthy in appearance, apart from the death. And the gaping, exploded state of her skull. The hospital authorities had tried to tidy it a little, propping the shards together on a small pillow, but it was all too clearly less than half a head. Brain matter had spilled from the wound even after she had been cleaned up.

It was that last detail, the grey spatter of the woman’s mind on the cold steel, that turned Xander’s stomach beyond denying. He ran for the door.


That night, Xander dreamed.

He knew, because Spike came hurtling into his bedroom at 3.20am demanding that “You shut that fucking awful noise up and let a feller sleep.”

He paused, to give Xander a chance to respond (not taken). “What’s upset you then? Not some poor bint with no head – seen enough of those, haven’t you?”

“Yeah. No.” Well done, Xander. Clear messages, always good. “It’s an Africa thing.”

Spike grimaced in the dim light. “The girl in Chad? Yeah. It’s always the ones you don’t save that come back.”

“You know about that?” Not such a huge Giles-Xander secret, then.

“Old Watcher gave me the heads up. Told me to keep an eye on you.” (Pause for boggling from Xander. That two-faced old fussbudget). Spike continued, “Poor little Ife, can see how that would get to you. Dismembered, right?”

“Yeah, by hyena people. I was one of those for a while; before your time. Her head was put on my pillow. She was thirteen.” Xander wasn’t even going to pretend that was an okay memory.

Spike was similarly frank. “Fuck. Nasty. Surprised you can sleep at all.”

“I don’t. Not much. And I dream when I do.”

“Can’t have that.” Spike hopped up on the side of the bed. “’Spect it helps to have company, right?”

“What? What? No!” Xander scrambled to the opposite side of the bed fast enough to lose his dignity.

“Look, mate. Got to look out for each other. Need to be alert. So you need to sleep. We can try this: it’s free and quick, and it might work. Besides...”

Don’t say it nononono. Unavailing mental shriek from Xander.

“...Not exactly the first time I’ve been in your bed, is it? Remember the basement?” Spike grinned an evil-dead grin as he slipped under the covers.

Sputtering ensued. Xander eventually got to the point of saying, “You promised we were never going to talk about that night again!”

“Evil, remember? What’s a promise to me? More’n a night too, so far as I recall. A week, ten days, bit more? You were sorry to see me go, that I do remember.” Spike sighed, full of nostalgia. “Was probably for the best, though – you were young, then. Would never have lasted.”

“Did you want it to?” Xander was feeling the last five years might have been very different. The feeling passed quickly at Spike’s headshake.

“No. Like I say, wouldn’t have lasted then. I had to find my chipped way in the world. Get a few things out of my system.”

The Buffy word went unspoken. But not unthought. It brought reminders of events which had never been discussed.


“Hmm?” Definitely drowsier now. How come the vampire was getting all the good late-night sleep?

“Sorry about the coming-after-you-with-an-axe thing.”

Spike snorted. “Yeah. Not to worry. Bit of an emotional night all round. You must have expected I’d tell all about you too. Getting your retaliation in first.”

“It was a hell of a complicated conversation.” Xander was still apologising.

Spike, though, had evidently had enough of confessions. “Yeah. If only Buffy and Anya had got it on sometime, would have evened things up nicely.”

Xander had no comeback to that. So he slept, next to the evil (soul-having) vampire. Who was a comfort, it turned out.


The next few days passed fast. They had an undeniably sinister happening now, and a victim’s name to investigate (Spike had checked after Xander fled. The dead woman had been Mary Wardle. So damn normal). There was much to be chased up.

Oddly, the local newspaper had no mention of the story at all. Surely you couldn’t hush up a woman’s brain exploding in the middle of a supermarket? But someone had tried, and it was working pretty well.

The supermarket manager was apologetic, but couldn’t tell them anything. “Really, this is a lovely place to live. Not somewhere you expect any problems; and we do try not to dwell on tragic events. We would rather think of more pleasant things.” Spike tried chatting up a couple of the cashiers, but got no further than wrinkled noses and “Yeah, that was well nasty”.

Mary’s doctor wouldn’t talk, but that was no surprise. Xander sneaked into the surgery late one evening and had a look at the files. He found there was exactly nothing odd in Mary’s records. Usual vaccinations, a bout of flu, on the pill, slightly overweight. The picture of normality.

Her vicar was very pleasant, and utterly unhelpful while trying to assist in their alleged documentary. “This is a splendid place to bring up a family. Everyone seems to fit the ambience just right. Very Christian, I think. A truly numinous feel to the area, which evidently attracts all those of a ... more creative religious nature. Still, we have plenty of the old-fashioned Anglicans to keep us going.” He blinked, benignly, and adjusted his spectacles. A powerful waft of Giles pervaded the conversation and unnerved Xander so much he didn’t ram home his planned questions about Mary’s death. But he pretty much gave up on interviewing anyone who had conducted the funeral the day before of a woman whose head had exploded, yet called East Grinstead “such a quiet place. I sometimes wonder how we merit our own newspaper, you know: nothing to put in it!”

Back at the house. “You know what this is like? Sunnydale. Land of denial. Feels like home, am I right?” Spike grunted from the sofa, where he’d recently sprawled after coming down for the evening. It was their routine, these days.

Xander’s mood was lifting as they worked. Not that the case was going well – obviously. But his dreams had pretty much stopped. Because Spike had semi-moved in to his bed. He kept his north-facing bedroom for daytime lurking when needed, but, grumbling yet faithful, he turned up in Xander’s room every night after the pub.

They didn’t discuss it, much, but they were getting closer. Very much so. Two days after Spike first moved in, in fact, Xander woke to Spike’s beer-tasting mouth on his, and a frantic fumbling mutual touching that sent them both to sleep more cheerful than any hasty self-pleasuring in the shower ever had. They didn’t talk that night, but the next, they relived their secret past. Actual sex, actual nakedness, actual rubbing and licking and penetrating and coming your brains out. Just like the good old days.

Not a bad town, really.

In between the revelatory happy sex (but not a relationship, oh no), they kept on with the increasingly annoying interviews. They managed to get in to talk to one of the town council, curious to see whether there was any awareness of Mary and the weird conformity of the place. But Councillor Petty spoke only in rosy cliché, and thought a hell of a lot more of the town than ‘not bad’. “Grinstead is a marvellous place to live. A family town. Just, a really nice place to be. That’s our mission, that’s our plan.”

My, that’s... banal, thought Xander, trying not to show it. Spike’s vigorous background eyeroll suggested he concurred.

They tried some muck-raking with the newspaper, in utter desperation. The editor (also chief feature writer and chief reporter – it was that kind of operation), cheerfully chatted about the “huge number of slightly unusual religious beliefs and practices around town” and the “vibrant spirit of the area”. Absolutely no mention of spooky conformity, mysterious deaths or other bloody great news story under his nose. It was also that kind of operation.

In desperation, Spike tried to get Mary’s gravedigger drunk. But even someone with such a morose eye and morbid profession wasn’t bucking the trend. “Lovely town, innit? They keep it so nice. Really glad I came here. No, never any trouble in the graveyard. Even the pagans keep it decent, give us plenty of warning and tidy up the tealights.” When pressed on sudden local deaths, he gave them only the smallest chink of acknowledgement. “Yeah, quite a few gone before their time. Very sad. Makes you think, dunnit?”

Eventually, they managed to approach Mary’s mother, the home she had shared with her daughter. “I won’t go on television, will I? It won’t help Mary now, and I don’t want to cause any trouble.”

Heavy exchange of glances between Spike and Xander at that one. Neither said, “Pretty much got all the trouble you could ever have imagined.” Both thought it.

Mrs Wardle was easy to steer into reminiscence though, defences apparently undermined by Spike’s ability to mainline chocolate fingers. They got Mary’s whole history, from potty training (early, but messy) to teen fashion sense (Goth) and preference for mulberries over strawberries. “She was always such a little terror. Never wanted to go with the crowd.”

Xander, leaving Spike with the biscuit plate as a distraction technique, managed to wander aimlessly in the background. Took a while, but eventually he found the washing powder Mary had (possibly, but incomprehensibly) died for. Not the 97% conformists’ brand of choice. That was something. But that tiny result was pretty much all they got out of two hours of hand-patting and sympathy.

“Poor bloody woman. Don’t think she knows what to do with herself. Did her a favour, keeping her company a bit.” Spike rubbed his stomach, and went home for blood to wash down the cookies. Xander tried to be annoyed by his disgustingness. Utterly failed.


So much research. So few conclusions.

Xander was frustrated, but still feeling better than he had for months. This was real. They were doing something worthwhile. Late autumn in England wasn’t so bad. Short days, but often sunny and crisp. Crunchy drifts of leaves underfoot were unusual and pleasurable. The weather and the food weren’t half as awful as legend said. Hooray for the internet shopping revolution.

Spike was still in Xander’s bed, and they were wordlessly moving closer. Getting fucked six ways from Sunday every night didn’t hurt Xander’s mood either. That was new.

It’s not a relationship if you don’t talk about it. So Xander told himself, anyway. But it was nice.


One especially bright, chilly morning, Xander woke with the urge to do something different.

“Spike? Let’s go to church.”

“Whu’?” said the evil undead, awakened from his dread sleep.

“Church. It’s Sunday. I’m going.”

“Bloody hell, Harris. When did you become a holy Joe?”

Xander was already halfway to the bathroom. “Beautiful day. I hear English churches are old and picturesque and stuff. You coming?”

Spike appeared in the bathroom door, quite serious for once. “Xander. I’m not much for churches. Remember?

Oh, yeah. Vampire. Sunshine. Crosses. Bad. Totally on top of the situation in that regard.

Xander went to church anyway. It was, in fact, nice.


That evening, Spike was waiting when Xander came in from a hard and unproductive day’s trying to get the locals to open up.

Spike had a look on his face. It wasn’t a happy, sexy look.

“Xander.” Voice of doom.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s got you. The weird thing.” Spike sounded quietly sad; unusual enough to shake Xander’s world.

“Don’t get your point?”

“Harris. Xander. Think about it. You just went to church this morning, for the first time in your adult life. You’re using some bloody online food ordering thing and I checked with Giles and you’re ordering the same brands 97% of the population do. And you keep saying how nice this place is.”

Xander wasn’t about to accept that accusation. “Well, it is nice. I’m not some weird conformist. Pretty sure 97% of the population aren’t sleeping with you, for one thing.”

That at least made Spike grin. “Yeah. See your point, you’re still an individual. But I still think there’s something to this. You’re starting to fall into line. Gotta admit the church thing isn’t like you. And the stuff you’re ordering is brands you’ve never eaten before and have no reason to buy. There’s mushy peas in the freezer, for Christ’s sakes. That’s... un-American.”

One can argue the interpretation of many things, but mushy peas are unignorable. Xander went pale. “Oh. Crap. You’re right. I don’t even remember ordering that. I’m becoming a pod person.”

“Don’t panic. It’s useful, right? We know it’s something gradual, cos you’re not gone completely. And it’s not affecting me so far as we can tell, so it’s probably mainly aimed at humans. So we check out who you’ve talked to and all that. Send off some samples to the Council to analyse – food, water and whatnot. We’ll sort it.”

Weird, having a comforting Spike. Pleasant, though. Nice, in fact, to have someone caring for Xander a little. There was independence, which was a good thing, but then there was also loneliness and panic from being the only responsible person around. But not this time.

“My head hurts thinking about this,” said Xander.

Spike looked at him very solemnly. “Like a headache? Or like a head-about-to-explode?”

Crap. “Um. Tense, definitely.”

“Well, maybe that explains Mary. Mum said she was a rebel; maybe she thought too much about it; really wanted that washing powder. What a fucking stupid way to die. Think it’s time we got the Council in.” Xander nodded, cautiously.

Spike tried not to smirk. “Meantime, think like a sheep, okay?”

It was a total change from Sunnydale, being part of this organisation with all its resources. One phone call to Rupert Giles (getting there, Xander), and a chemist and a biologist came down to have a serious look at Xander and his environment, together with a doctor to keep a check on him. Spike officially moved into Xander’s room, grumbling about lack of space. And waking him in the middle of the night for sex and unexploded-head-checking.

The Council staff seemed completely unworried by this. Xander was secretly freaked out by how easy it was to be playing house with Spike. Though when he added up the last few years, he’d spent months living with him already. And neither of them had ended up dead.

Well, Spike had a couple of times, but totally unrelated to flat-sharing.

So they screwed and bickered, cooked and cohabited. Mocked the TV, damned the idiot who’d left the Playstation in Scotland (each was, naturally, convinced the other was to blame). And waited for the verdict.


“It’s the water. You get a little every time you drink, eat – basically, when you ingest it.” The verdict was simple. Understanding it, less so.

The chemist left, because the issue wasn’t organic. The doctor and biologist carried out an ever longer selection of tests on Xander and cautiously suggested that he probably hadn’t ingested enough of the substance to explode. A whole new mystical investigation team determined that the odd water readings were caused by a powerful enchantment on the water supply, which slowly dripped a conformity spell into the community. The Council sent a lot of bottled drinking water, and Xander’s headaches subsided.

Spike tracked the source by nose, to the nearest water treatment plant. It served the whole town. Nothing selective about that.

They were stumped. Unless... “Do you reckon it’s a neighbouring town trying to...” Spike trailed off, embarrassed, as Xander started to laugh.

“Trying to what? Muscle in on the East Grinstead mineral rights? Beat them to the big new industry coming to the area? Come on, I didn’t think England worked like that.”


“So if it’s not another town...” Xander was sparking now.

“It’s this one.” Spike finished. “Should’ve spotted it ages ago. We know what they want. Everyone to get along and have a nice time, pretty much. Everyone to be ‘people like us’ and no one to rebel. Sound about right?”

“Who’s doing it?”

“Does it matter? They’re all in on it. It’s such a lovely, nice, family town and everyone wants to keep it that way. Someone’s just gone a bit further.” Spike looked ready to walk out on the whole situation.

Xander scowled. “Uh yeah. Does matter. Going Stepford on a whole town is a helluva lot more than a bit of social pressure. Also: dead woman. I thought we were pretty sure she wasn’t the first, either?”

Vampire sigh of martyrdom. “Yeah. Okay. We’ll get into it.”


Back to the water treatment works, for tedious surveillance, and then, joyously for the first time on this mission, Spike got to rough up an overall-clad man who was attempting to add something to the water supply.

“’Ey, ‘ey, what’cha doin’ that for?” Overall Wearer squirmed away from Spike’s clutch, and wiped his bloodied mouth on his sleeve. “In’t got no cash, mate. You wanna rob someone richer.”

“Not robbing you, mate. I’m beating you up.” Spike looked a lot happier at this than the media pose he’d barely been sustaining in recent days.

“What the fuck for? I’m only doin’ my bloody job.” Overall Wearer seemed also pretty comfortable with abuse and violence.

“Really? Who’s paying you to put stuff in the water?” Blatant vampire sarcasm...

...instantly deflated. “Bloody Borough Council, who’d you think?”

Okay. That was official. The magic was town-sponsored.

“Yeah, dont’cha remember? That campaign in 05? Happier Grinstead: Let’s All Pull Together? They delivered, all right.”


Back to the Councillor. For a long, tedious explanation of how their mild enchantment of the water supply, designed to bring the town together, was having unplanned effects. Like the strongest-minded council members accidentally inflicting their personal shopping, voting and commuting preferences on almost everyone in town. And how any rebels (who turned out to be about 3% of any given population – nothing mysterious about that number in the end) were experiencing ill effects.

Like explosive death. But even Spike didn’t ram that one home too much. Mass consent made it hard to blame anyone.

Sorting this out would take mystical expertise, patience, negotiating skills... in other words, this was no longer a Spike’n’Xander job. Giles was on the phone within an hour, confirming the Watcher Squad would take over.

Which meant they should be heading back to Scotland. Xander wasn’t sure he could take that. Just him and Spike had become so natural. This wasn’t home, but it felt right somehow. The right-feeling had nothing to do with market towns in England, and everything to do with spending his time with Spike.

Xander fretted silently. Had tried to start three conversations on the subject...

But it was Spike who spoke, and not directly to Xander. “Rupert, mate. Any chance you’ve got another job for us? Think we did okay on this; pretty bloody good team in the end. Touch more violence would have been nice, but can’t complain too much. There must be some little war somewhere needs sorting out. Right?” A little head jerk included Xander in these life-changing plans.

They were on a plane to Vladivostock next day. Together.

A/N: The house in question, which shouldn’t have a starring role but muscled in, is Sackville House, a genuine place genuinely in East Grinstead. There is no Grinstead Borough Council, though...

The End

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