Many thanks to betas frogfarm and tigerlily0484. Check out the former's long running FtVS and the latter's fic "When the Floods Roll Back" on their respective LJ's.
Title: Fairytale of New York (2)
Characters: Ensemble, core cast and Sunnydale survivors
Warnings: None for explicit sexuality or violence.
Ships: Gen, aside from canon relationships by "Chosen"
Andrew Wells tapped his way through the schedule on his Palm Pilot. He sat at his desk in the butler's office. The office was little more than a small room off the kitchens with an antique roll top desk taking up most the space. One wall was covered with small light bulbs connected to the bell pulls in each room. He kept an eye on the bulbs in case he was needed. One must be attentive. Of course, the office wasn't "his" at all. He had merely appropriated it while the Drake family staff were at the summer house in the Hamptons. Still, it was a quiet place for him to work out the day's schedules and the bills he needed to submit to Miss Kennedy.
Andrew noted down rearrangements for dinner's place settings. Nafisa and Ruth had had a teensy tiff today. Putting them on opposite sides of the room would give them the space to calm down. One had to be sensitive to the feelings of exuberant young women. Closing the application with a stylus tap, Andrew tucked the personal organizer into the inner pocket of his jacket. He smoothed down the dove-grey fabric. One must always be presentable. The fit was perfect. When he had asked Miss Kennedy for "working clothes", he assumed she would lend him the money to buy some. She had instead called in two tailors who had done things with draped fabric and tape measures. The finely-tailored suits arrived two days later without a hint of a request for payment.
Andrew had almost asked for tweed. Almost. He couldn't presume.
Nothing lit up on the wall. Well, one couldn't merely wait to be summoned. Time to make his rounds. A quick check of his newly-coiffed hair--short, with a touch of gel for styling--and an adjustment to his tie. A flick of a white handkerchief tucked in a triangle in the outside breast pocket to the mirror-clear toes of his oxfords. Perfect. Andrew nodded politely to Chao Anh by the huge range that occupied most of the kitchens. The knife in her hand blurred as she chopped up whatever exotic vegetables she had acquired in Chinatown. Though inexpert in English, Chao turned out to be a genius in the kitchen. The household had been treated to the most authentic Chinese cuisine they had ever tasted. By the sinks, Vi hummed a bluegrass tune while she and Rona washed up in the wake of Cho's assault on the utensils drawer.
So helpful. Of course, he couldn't call them his staff. They were volunteers. It wouldn't do to presume. It was sufficient to suggest, every so often, who might want to help fold bedding and do the laundry.
No one was in the huge main hall that occupied most of the center of the mansion. Grey stone walls rising high above to a vaulted ceiling was too grand, Andrew supposed, for their little band of refugees. It was amazing being in an almost-castle. Andrew thought it must be like the manor house Miss Kennedy had wanted to bring them to after fleeing Port Huemene. Somehow, though, the military flight Vi's father had arranged to pick them up had been diverted to Teterboro rather than Fort Bragg. Andrew had caught whispers from the Scoobies about something called the Initiative. Wasn't that the military unit Jonathan had consulted for when he was off co-starring in "Matrix"? In any case, it turned out that none of Miss Kennedy's family were using the mansion for the summer. Easier all around to settle here rather than up in the Berkshires.
Andrew slipped through a door into an arcade flanking the great hall. The columns leaving it open to the outside lent it the feel of a monastery's cloisters. Young women chased each other around the lawns and flower beds of the gardens between the two west wings of the mansion. He inclined his head in Miss Kennedy's direction. She paused taking on Caridad and Kate in a two-on-one fight with wooden wasters. A simple nod toldl him his presence was not required. Andrew bowed at htem unobtrusively as he could. He would go over the day's accounts later in the evening. Anya had taught him that. Oh, the heroes did the work of saving the world. But someone had to keep up the utilities payments and work out how to feed thirty hungry and scared teenage girls. Miss Kennedy's monthly dispensation from her trust fund equaled what his dad made in half a year. One must still budget.
Suggestions only, of course.
Andrew climbed the staircase in the front hall, a soaring space of marble and authentic stained-glass windows. He ducked onto the second floor of Miss Kennedy's wing, the southwest one. Andrew straightened up as he walked through the hall of mahogany paneling and polished hardwood. The heels of his shoes made no sound on the green runner in the center. As it should be. Quiet, unobtrusive. Useful. The Misses Summers were out touring the city. Mr. Giles was occupied upstairs in the library, what had once been Miss Kennedy's Watcher's quarters. A silver tray had been left outside Mr. Harris' room. Hmmm. Well, at least he had been eating. Andrew cocked a closed fist to knock. Miss Rosenberg had been clear that one must be attentive to a man in such a delicate emotional state. Brave, brave Xander dealing with the loss of his lady love, the spitfire Anya--
Andrew swallowed heavily. Perhaps later.
Picking up the tray, Andrew carried it back to the kitchens. One couldn't leave it hanging about. It was the duty. Buffy was the selfless hero; Willow the mistress of the arcane; Xander the brave warrior fighting beside the women he loved, Mr. Giles the stern yet wise mentor. Andrew? A guestage. Until after Sunnydale had become a crater, and everyone had seemed so lost along with him, and then one day later Miss Kennedy had snapped her fingers and ordered a drink. It had seemed so...natural. Really, Warren was right: Andrew was a minion. Oh, he and Jonathan and Warren had thought they'd be Kirk and Spock and McCoy. Only, they had turned out to be the mirror universe versions. Without the beards, but with the betrayal and the, um, backstabbing.
Bad, bad word.
Andrew opened the tube of soothing throat lozenges nestled beside the Palm Pilot.
This was ever so much better. He wasn't the hero. He never would be. That was fine. He could be a minion. Hmmm. No, minions were evil. He wasn't a sidekick. Henchman? Also, evil. Yes! He was a retainer. Adventurers in Dungeons and Dragons earned retainers when they reached a certain level. So he would be one: trusted, loyal, efficient, taking care of the stronghold while the adventurers were away on their quests. One day, if he earned enough experience points, he might even join in. A below-decks episode. One had to start simple. After all, Chief O'Brien had been a minor character. Then he had become a key figure in the survival of the Federation.
Or Alfred, serving in Wayne Manor.
Andrew gasped. Not Albert. Jarvis. How could he have not seen it before? He was in the Avengers Mansion
. Buffy was so Captain America. Willow was Doctor Strange. Xander was Colonel Fury. Mr. Giles was of course Charles Xavier, only without a wheel chair and smelling of parchment. The other slayers were of course attending the--what should they call it? The Summers School for Gifted Young Women? Eventually they would develop their own powers and branch out into series of their own. He? Andrew would be among it all, serving at their side. One day, he might even take a call from the President. Yes, sir, I shall summon them immediately! AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!
Jonathan would have thought this was so cool.
That soothing throat lozenge hadn't lasted as long as he thought.
The doorbell rang.
Dabbing his eyes dry, Andrew squared his shoulders.
He had a duty.
Andrew waited patiently outside the door until the shouting died down. It was not, technically, eavesdropping to listen for cues when one was needed by one's charges. The needs of the mistress of the house must not only be met, but anticipated. It was a question of efficiency. Not that he would ever blab. Their privacy was paramount. Although he might note amusing anecdotes--not a Watcher's diary, merely a memoir--which he might later publish lightly fictionalized for the edification of any who might succeed his position. At the moment, though, Kennedy and Faith were in a private conference in the gymnasium. Kennedy had taken Faith in there after he summoned her, as per instructions.
Andrew assumed it was because of the lack of breakables there.
The private conference had probably become less so once the subject of Angel had come up. Vi and Rona poked their heads through the doorway at the base of the stairs. Andrew shooed them away with a quick gesture of his hands. It was the loud thump of a heavy object hitting a wall on the other side of the door that likely made them scurry away. He adjusted his tie for the fifth time in as many minutes. Faith was unlikely to rend him limb from limb simply for being upset. Er. Well, there had been all those stories about Deputy Mayor Finch and the others. That was in the past, of course. Faith was much better now. A haunted woman living each moment in redemption for her past crimes. So she wasn't about to do anything involving blood spatter.
Another thump. More of a crash.
He should check the linens situation. You never knew--
Andrew narrowly avoided the door slamming into his face. He remained at attention while Kennedy, with Willow's hand on her back, stormed down the stairs. The expression on their faces indicated a refreshing martini might be in order. They left him waiting without any orders, though. Er. Linens? Grunts and the smack of fists echoed in the narrow staircase. Moistening his lips, Andrew tiptoed into the training room. Kennedy's practice room occupied most of the attic space above her suite on the third floor. It reminded him of Sunnydale High's gymnasium--bygone schooldays involving fear, phantom asthma attacks, and wedgies. The main difference were the ranks of medieval weapons--Miss Kennedy's personal collection--displayed along the walls in open-fronted cabinets. By the weight machines, Miss Faith attacked a heavy bag. The chains Xander had installed to deal with Kennedy's slayer strength groaned under each impact.
A side-kick snapped them right off as the bag hurtled into the wall.
needed to check the linens--
"What the hell do you want?" Faith rounded about. Sweat matted her--oh, really, Andrew would have to advise her of suitable salons.
"Um." Casting about, Andrew snatched a bottled water and a towel from a nearby stack. "Would madame wish a refreshment after her work out?"
"Madame wants a fucking bottle of Jack," Faith replied, slamming her fist into the wall, "so she can bite the neck off."
"I--I can provide that." The dent left by the punch was so very deep. "I also have these soothing...throat...lozenges--"
"Throat drops?" His fingers stung when Faith grabbed the water bottle. "Angel's signed up with Wolfram and Hart, Cordy turned out to have a demon god riding in her head, and none of the pain I went through for them mattered? And all you've got are cough drops?"
"They're citrus!" Andrew held them up like a cross.
"They're--" Faith emptied the tube down her throat. Grinding her teeth, she reduced them to fragments. "They're-- Huh. Actually pretty good."
"It's the eucalyptus extract. " Andrew licked his lips. "It produces a cool and soothing sensation in the sinuses."
"Tickles a little." Faith slumped down on a nearby bench, downing the water in one pull. "Unpucker, okay? This is a thing I do. A little property damage, some shouting, I'm good. Nothing personal."
"Of--of course." Andrew shakily smoothed out the creases in his lapels. "Would madame wish some time alone? I can prepare her rooms. Perhaps madame would like me to draw her a bath, as well."
"Bath'd be nice." Faith sniffed beneath her armpits. "Clem's a great guy. But no way was I getting in the same tub after he showered. He used up all the hot water anyway. I guess that explains the wrinkles. Mostly been using a wet cloth and soap to clean up."
"Then a bath madame will have." Andrew took her rucksack in hand. "I've found the perfect mixture of oils and lotions."
"Toss in that bottle of Jack, and you're golden." Faith shrugged. "Lead on, Jeeves."
A hot bath calmed anyone down. Andrew repeated this to himself as he went down the stairs to the second floor. Faith followed him in a way that wouldn't at all end in a knife piercing his spine. She was, after all, reformed. Like himself, once a desperado on the run before fate had shown her the path to redemption. Faith paused just inside the door when they reached the rooms Andrew had selected for her when told she had been invited. It was the smallest bedroom in the wing--meant for a lady's companion expected to be available to a visiting guest. One had to be mindful of Faith's recent period of incarceration. It would not do to overwhelm her. The covers of the four-poster bed had been remade this morning, and the heavy wooden furniture waxed and polished with a pleasing lemon-scented conconction. Faith stared at her new quarters as Andrew prepared her bath.
Bubbles frothed on the surface of the immense claw-footed tub in an en-suite bathroom of gilded mirrors and white marble. Andrew added in his own personal mixture of jasmine and rose that his mother had found so relaxing. Rolling up a sleeve, he tested the water temperature with his elbow. A little too hot. Running the cold tap for a bit reduced the heat to one best suited for healing sore muscles and emotional upset. Andrew averted his gaze as he glimpsed a flash of tanned flesh. Faith was...not shy about exposure. His focus stayed on a spot on the wall until the slosh of water and a heavy sigh told him madame was decent again. The tumbler of Jack Daniels he had poured beforehand was set on a small folding table beside the tub.
"Would madame wish anything else?" he asked. "Are her rooms to her liking?"
"I'd ask for Robin in the bed," Faith replied, settling back under the bubbles, "but mood I'm in, I'd end up popping his stitches no matter how slow he wanted it. Room's fine--the kind that should have a pink dress tucked into the closet."
"Mr. Wood is in a facility upstate," Andrew said, "recovering from his wounds. I shall send him a note that you are well."
"What about the Scoobies?" Faith tipped the tumbler to her lips. "The girls?"
"Oh, they're fine." Andrew filled her glass up another finger's worth. "I've been organizing expeditions into the city, and Buffy and Dawn have been out touring, and Xander has been um--resting in his rooms--"
"That's good. Everything that's gone down, they deserve the quiet." Faith glanced at him. "And you look like you've come out on top."
"Miss Kennedy has provided me," Andrew said, chest puffed out, "with a place in her household. One does what one can when one is--one is--"
"I don't deserve this."
The room was silent save for the water lapping against porcelain.
"I--I should leave," Andrew said, reaching in his pocket for a non-existent packet of lozenges. "I--I have things to do."
"Sit your ass down on the throne," Faith said. "You need to spill your guts? I'm here. An hour ago I got a reminder about paying it forward."
"Spilling in the symbolic sense, yes?" Andrew sat down on the closed toilet seat. He had always been good at following orders.
"All my knives are in the ruck." Faith extended one leg, covered in lather, into one air. "Go. Whatever's on your mind. Just skip the whining."
"Um." Andrew's thumbs twiddled in a mad dance. "This--all this was supposed to be Jonathan. He was the one who came back to atone for what we'd done to Willow. He was the one who wanted to seal up the Hellmouth. Only I'm here, and everyone is so nice to me, and-- It isn't fair."
"Fair's got nothing to do with anything," Faith said. "I was dealt a lot of hands, shitty and good. None of them came from an honest deck. You have to play the game with what you've got."
"I'm trying to be good." Andrew stared hard at the tile between his polished shoes. "Maybe I should--should turn myself into the police, like you did. For, um, hurting Jonathan."
"If that's what you need to do." Faith laid her head back against the edge of the bath. "That might be hard with no body. Prison-lawyering's for people who want out. I picked out enough to know about, what you call, it, haveus corpus. And even if you do convince them you did it? You go to prison, first night you'll be biting a pillow in the bottom bunk while a biker brands 'prag' onto your ass with a cigarette."
"I don't want that!" Andrew's adams apple bobbed. "I have a terribly low pain threshold. But it wasn't supposed to be me! Only I'm here and Anya's dead and I can't even go near Xander because he must hate me. I'm here and she's gone right before she was going to marry Xander again because they loved each other so much."
"Fairy tale ending, right?" Faith grimaced while sipping more whiskey. "The way I heard it, Anya did more damage than you ever did in her time. Maybe you weren't supposed to die for her. Maybe she needed to die for you. Maybe that's the way she sees heaven."
"It's so hard." Andrew really wanted a cough drop. His throat was all horrible and scratchy. "They're dead while I'm here."
"I see their faces every night." Faith stared blankly up at the ceiling. "Finch, that courier I killed for kicks, Professor Worth. I've tried it all--being the bad bad girl, locking myself up, busting out to save Angel. They never, ever go away. Whatever you do, however good you are, they'll always be there. They're the price you pay."
"I won't forget." Andrew raised his chin bravely. "I shall continue on, their deaths ever-heavy upon my soul, my life dedicated to penance--"
"Don't brood," Faith said. "Seriously? Don't. Angel could pull it off because he had the forehead. You look like a ferret with a hot pepper shoved up his ass."
"Oh." Andrew frowned. "So, what do I do?"
"The butler gig seems to be working." Faith's eyes rolled back. "Oh yeah. It works out fine. Top me up with some more. Just don't stab anyone who doesn't deserve it."
"No stabbing." Andrew nodded after freshening her drink. "Does madame require anything else?"
"No, I'm good."
"Of course." Andrew stopped at the threshold of the bathroom. "Um, I have a Playstation in my room in the servant's quarters. If madame needs entertainment--"
"You have Crash Bandicoot?" Faith's cheeks dimpled at his thumb's up. "I'll tell you what: let me finish with my own entertainment and you're on."
Andrew bowed before leaving her to her...entertainment? Well, that was madame's affair. Though he had no idea what Faith might do to entertain herself all alone in a tub. Perhaps she had a rubber duckie? He stroked his throat. Oh. Good. That persistent irritation had gone for now. Later, he might buy some more. The eucalyptus really did sort out all sorts of problems. A chime from his vest pocket alerted him to pressing duties in setting up the second-floor dining room for the evening meal. He had a duty.