Kahuna Burger

"There's gonna be fireworks (Fireworks!) on the Fourth of July... Red white and blue fireworks, like diamonds in the sky! We're gonna shoot the entire works, on fireworks, that-"

"We most certainly are not!"


Xander entered the Summers' house to the familiar sound of a hundred and some odd year old demon ruining the fun of a teenaged girl. And the very familiarity of that demonstrated just how screwed up a summer this had been.

"Xander! Tell Spike that I shouldn't be deprived of the essential teenaged experience of the Fourth!"

The vamp rolled his eyes. "Oh yes, Harris, do explain how hanging around after dark with a bunch of distracted people who are half deafened by explosions and music and would dismiss the sounds of a struggle as necking even if they heard it is so essential in a town with more vampires per square foot than any outside Cleveland..."

"Much as I hate to agree with Fangless, it does pretty much have 'feeding frenzy' written all over it Da- Cleveland?"

"Right in the middle of summer too, when the day lasts so long that there aren't as many hunting opportunities after dark, so things are getting a little lean then suddenly, hey! All you can eat buffet!"

There was a slightly ill look from Xander when he glanced over from his pursuit of a soda. "Feeling a little nostalgic there, buddy?"

"Mmmm... Good times..." Spike had a pleasant faraway look in his eyes. "Did the Esplanade in Boston one year with Dru. The Pops were brilliant that year, it was before the national TV coverage so they were really playing it for the crowd, and once the fireworks started people were packed so close together but focused on the skies that you could drain someone right in the middle of the crowd and no one would notice until they dropped and started taking up more than their share of foot space..."

"And the completely disturbing reminiscing can stop any time now!"

"Okay, as scary a cast as that added to the whole plan, this really just means I have to go!" Dawn grinned in triumph.

"Well that makes the kind of sense that doesn't, Dawnster, but I'm looking forward to your insane troll logic." To his side, Spike snorted, but also waited for the explanation.

"Shows what you know! If it's such a feeding frenzy, we should have all available Scoobies there to protect people, shouldn't we? And since Spike won't let me even sit at home without someone guarding me, the safest place for me would be protected by both of you, with a cross and a stake in case anything temporarily gets past you. And I can do the 'guiding victims to safety' thing while you slay, or act as bait, or-"

"You are not bait, Niblet!" There was a flash of yellow eyes. "Harris can be bait! ...but otherwise..." He glanced over at his chosen bait.

"Tara can be bait with a protection spell up, Dawn will play first aid and victim counseling, and Willow and Giles can take the bot on tonight's regular cemetery patrol." Xander shrugged apologetically at the vampire. "She's right. Last summer, Riley took me and Willow on cemetery duty while..." he choked a moment but forged on, "While Buffy, Tara and Giles took Anya as bait and tried to protect the fireworks crowd. It is an all hands on deck night."

"And where will Demon Girl be tonight?" Spike didn't actually reject the plan, which had Dawn squealing and running to pick out clothes that were suitable for both slaying and being seen in. "She not part of the all hands anymore?"

Xander sighed. "There's a vendor fair sort of thing before the fireworks actually start and she convinced Giles that the Magic Box just had to be represented. She'll be packing a holy water squirt gun and selling protection charms, so..."

"Yeah, fine, we wouldn't want protecting the townsfolk to interfere with good business. Bit!" Dawn stuck her head over the top of the stairs. "Come back down a sec, got something for you since you're gonna be along tonight." He took a thick leather bag out of one duster pocket and poured the contents into her outstretched hand. "Had this made, was gonna give it to you when you'd earned a trip to the Bronze, but..."

Dawn gasped at the thick black choker and ran her fingers over the silver religious symbols set all around it. "It's beautiful, Spike! And functional too!"

"Now don't go thinking this in any way makes you vamp-proof! Someone with a decade or two on him will take a burnt hand to rip it off, and even a fledge that gets 'is mouth scorched can just as easily hit you in anger as run away. It's to give you or your protection an extra few seconds if something gets too close, or to encourage vamps to pick a different target when you're out in a group."

"Okay, okay, this is me not getting overconfident. It's still awesome. Xander, will you put it on me?"

"Sure, Dawnie." After she had run back upstairs looking for her camera, he glanced over at Spike who was looking studiously bland. "That's, um... a really good idea, and it looks nice on her. Makes me wish guys could get away with that sort of jewelry."

"Well, could get you a nice wide dog collar done up like that I suppose..."

"Or, let's say, not!" He couldn't help but grin, but then voiced his only concern. "Are you sure all those symbols will work, I mean if she's not a believer in them and I didn't recognize a couple..."

"Yeah they all work, think I'd give it to her without being sure?"

"But how do you... Oh." Would Spike really touch every one of them, making sure he was burned sufficiently by each? He watched the vampire start to make phone calls arranging the evening's patrols and laughed at himself. Of course he would, to be sure Dawn was protected.

Xander coughed on the dust cloud and tried to subtly take the weight off his left leg. The wide circuits of the park and one desperate sprint for the first aid tent carrying a victim they'd almost been too late for had taken their toll, but it had been worth it. Fifteen dusted vamps, two flesh eating nasties and one friendly fire narrowly averted when Spike recognized his poker buddy and assured them that he was just there for the funnel cakes.

Now Tara opened the small map Dawn had drawn of the gathering area and sprinkled dust over it, repeating the search incantation. "It- it looks p-pretty good." The shy witch was always more confident around Willow, and her stutter was worse when she was tired. "That dot is Clem, and that's Spike here with us. Th- the green ones are half demons, who are mostly harmless in Sunnydale."

"Excellent, luv." Spike gave her an encouraging grin, causing a slight blush. "Should likely do another check when the show is over, in case some buggers fancy some take-away as the crowds head out, but it's a good night's work."

"Does that mean we can actually enjoy ourselves?" Dawn seemed torn between excitement from being allowed to help with slaying and annoyance at missing out on the more mundane fun. "I'm not sure that Janice bought us having to find Spike's sunglasses, and I want to get some cotton candy with her."

"I don't see why not," Xander smiled down at the satisfied slayerette. "You did really well tonight, Dawnie, you helped a lot without risking yourself unnecassarily."

"Definitely, Niblet. I still don't want you on routine patrols, but cases like this where there's so many Happy Meals in the mix, you're a right asset to the team." The teen beamed with pride and they knew she would be actively searching for events that needed 'protective patrols' in the future. "Go on and see your friend, Glinda do you mind staying with her, Harris and I should stay out here and listen for anything coming from the woods."

Crap. He'd been planning on going to the Magic Box table and having a seat. As he steeled himself for more walking, Spike turned away from where the two girls had disappeared and gave him a look of annoyance.

"So now that you don't have to fake it for the birds, you want to tell me what's wrong with your leg? It didn't look like you took any bad falls and I don't smell blood."

Xander wasn't sure if he was more surprised that the vampire noticed or that he had let him preserve his pride in front of Dawn. "I wrenched it on site yesterday pulling one of my guys out from under a falling sandbag. I was supposed to spend the day off doing the 'elevate and ice' thing, but..." He gestured to indicate the inevitability of slaying. "I just need to rest it a little."

"Right then, sit down." He stripped off his duster and began carefully folding it up while jerking his chin towards a large rock.

"I was going to rest with Anya, and that doesn't look comfy and- hey!" It was easy to forget sometimes how strong Spike could be, until he picked you up like a swooning maiden and put you where he wanted you. Xander found himself leaned back against a cool and unmoving chest as the vampire sat against the rock.

"Said 'sit down' ya tosser," the folded coat was tucked under his knee and he had to admit that outside of the close encounter with the undead, it was pretty comfy and a good angle to the sky. "You don't need any more walking right now, and it's not like demon-girl would let you sit, you'd be carrying her boxes as she packed up the table. And the sparklies are about to start."

"Hrmph..." But sure enough the first of the fireworks burst overhead just a moment later, and Xander let himself relax and watch. "Nee nee nee nee nee nee..." He traced the spark of a launch with his pointer finger but it exploded before he could 'shoot'. "Darn! Stay on target... nee nee nee nee nee nee Pew!" The fountain of sparks was right on time and he laughed. "I got one!"

"Good job, kid, don't get cocky." He could almost hear the smirk.

"Heh, Star Wars references from you? I'm shocked."

"Watched a lot of movies in my time, haven't I? Nice and dark in the theaters. Dru would get confused between them and plays, didn't know why we couldn't meet the actors after the show."

"I always loved sci fi movies and shows..." Xander traced another spark but shot too soon. "Me and Jes- my friends would come out to the fireworks as kids and we always played space battle while we watched them. Defending the earth against invasion or whatever." He found himself snorting softly. "Guess that isn't the kind of game you'd have played as a kid, did they even know the moon wasn't made of green cheese then?"

"Ha bloody ha. I never heard of it as a child, but the earliest foundations of modern science fiction were being laid in my time. Me and my mates swung between pirates and American gunslingers for our play. Helped that we could get ideas for both from the dailies."

It was an odd thought that he was talking to someone who when he played 'cowboys and indians' was imagining only a different place, not time. "Did they have fireworks celebrations when you were alive?"

"Not in July, obviously, weren't that impressed with your Declaration... but for Guy Fawkes Day there would be some with the bonfires."

"Guy Fawkes?" Xander stirred around in the useless trivia portion of his brain. "Is that the, um, 'remember, remember the, um, fourth of...' um..."

"The fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot." The rough cockney edges to his speech disappeared as he almost sang the rhyme. "I see no reason, why Gunpowder Treason, should ever be forgot."

"Gunpowder treason? What was this Fawkes guy being honored for?"

A deep chuckle vibrated the vampire's chest, and he wrapped his arms around the human for an affectionate squeeze. "The day isn't to honor him, Harris, we burned him in effigy every year. Guy Fawkes was part of a plot to blow up the House of Parliament while the King was there making an address. High treason against King and Country, he was hanged drawn and quartered, and his name cursed for the next 400 years."

"You English really know how to hold a grudge, don'cha?" The chuckle came again, and Spike's arms were still around him, cool but somehow secure feeling. "This is nice." Oops, he said that outloud.

"What is?"

"Oh, um, you know, the fireworks... and talking..." He wondered if Spike could feel the heat from his blush, and gave in to the waiting quality of silence that followed his excuses. "Sitting this way together. As the designated guy, I'm pretty much always the one doing the holding. Willow would let me lean on her sometimes when we were younger, but since the kissing fluke and with Anya's jealousy that's really not an option any more, you know?"

He felt the vampire's nod. "Your folks don't exactly seem the cuddling type, either."

"My mom some, when I was really little, but yeah, not so much." He relaxed back into the embrace, and spared a thought for Drusilla who has this comfort for a hundred years and walked away from it. She really was insane. "Dad had all sorts of opinions on boys who needed snuggles, of course."

A soft snort. "And there's a man who's opinions we need to heed... You've been holding it together for the birds all summer, and it's helped the Bit heal. But you won't be as much good to her if you don't take a spot of comfort yourself once in a while."

"That's what it all comes down to for you isn't it? Patrolling, keeping a watch on wanna be Big Bads, caring if I'm okay... it's all about Dawn." And why did he resent that a little?

"Got no soul, Harris, no conscience, no desire to do good or reason not to do evil if the evil seems like a spot of fun. But when I care for someone, I give them what they need, to the ends of the earth and until they end it." They watched a few more explosions before he continued quietly. "Angelus was the one who left us when he got that poncy soul of his, you know. Always hated him almost as much as I loved him, but if he had let us stay... I would have drank rats in alleys with him and held myself back to his guilt if that was what he'd needed. Stalked the slums and taken out the human predators, hell I always preferred a bit of a fight to some swooning victim anyway. But it was all 'I cannot stand the sight of what I have let loose on the world, dramatic sigh, I'm a souled wanker' and I don't see him for fifty years."

"Kinda funny to think, but with you spoiling for a fight all the time, he might have actually started doing some real good a lot sooner if he hadn't left you." He thought for a moment. "So what about you? Do you ever take a 'spot of comfort' while you're trying to hold the world together for Dawnie?"

Cool arms tightened slightly around him. "This is nice," Spike echoed Xander's earlier words. "You're warm, and I don't have to worry about feeding a crush like with Niblet."

"Yeah, and Anya's a lot less likely to jump to conclusions than when she sees me with any of the girls..." He tried to think of a way to put his thoughts into words that didn't sound like a cheesy come-on. "So, I mean, if you need this... you're pretty valuable to us right now, we wouldn't be holding things together without you, so I guess I'm saying I want you to stay happy." He folded his hands over the smaller ones on his chest and felt their fingers intertwine and squeeze.

"See, that's why they made you a supervisor, Harris, thinking about keeping the troops happy." There was a smile in his voice and their hands stayed together. As the last of the explosions lit the sky he heard the quiet voice behind him singsonging again, "...and if there's one thing that makes me happy, you know that it's... fire... works..."

The End