Tea For Two

Written by Glassdarkly, May 2006

The table was all set.

It looked just the ticket, Spike thought, set out under the spreading branches of the oak tree in the front garden. The cloth was the very best linen and as for the Coalport service – well, it'd sound just grand when it came time to smash it. He did appreciate the finer things in life.

Somewhere in the distance, an owl hooted and one of the people seated round the table gave a muffled shriek at the sound – muffled because she was currently gagged with her own lace handkerchief, which was probably a bit on the soggy side by this time.

"Shut your trap." Spike glared at the woman and she subsided, her eyes round as saucers in her terror. He walked round behind her and rearranged the bits of straw stuck in her hair. The bowtie and waistcoat didn't suit her because her neck was rather fat, but you couldn't have everything could you.

"You remember your lines, don't you?" He bent down and put his face close to hers, flashing a bit of fang to remind her who was boss. She nodded frantically and he chucked her under the chin. "That's the spirit, love. You'll be fine, you'll see."

He tested her bonds again just to make sure and then moved on to her companion. The girl – a parlour maid – was slumped forward in her chair, looking quite as sleepy as Spike could ever have wished. However, when he eyed the teapot again, he frowned. It was big, certainly, but getting her into it was going to be quite a struggle. Probably, he'd have to go back for that axe he'd left behind the woodshed.

Regarding the teapot and the bloody task ahead, Spike sighed a little at his own impatience. He knew he ought not to have got so annoyed with the little girl hiding in the coal bin because she'd have been perfect for the role now assigned to the parlour maid. Still, it was no use crying over spilt milk, was it, and besides, he'd been in need of a snack at the time.

It was a good thing too, he thought, that the old fogies were off in Prussia visiting the Master, else Angelus would've stamped on this whole adventure pretty hard. He had no sense of fun and no poetry in him - that was the trouble. Sometimes Spike wondered how he ever dared claim to be an Irishman at all. Thinking of Angelus made a shiver run down his spine, though, because the old man was sure to come back from his reluctant holiday with an enormous flea in his ear, courtesy of his sire's sire. He'd be wanting a whipping boy most likely, and Spike was pretty certain he knew who Angelus would decide fitted the bill.

Spike scowled at the thought then shrugged. He'd cross that bridge when he came to it and until then, why worry? He took a cigarette case out of his jacket pocket and lit a cigarette at one of the flickering candles. Both case and cigarettes were Angelus's, but what the old man didn't know about wouldn't hurt him, would it. The night breeze was getting up a bit and the lady of the house, secure in her bonds, was shivering quite hard, though more with fear than cold.

"You'd better not let your teeth chatter." Spike glared at her again. "I want every word you say to be clear as crystal, understand?"

Again, the woman nodded frantically – so much so that Spike wondered if the silly cow had actually believed him when he'd said he'd let her go if she played her part. He shook his head, sadly. There was no accounting for humans.

Finally satisfied with the table's appearance – every place set and a big plate of thinly sliced bread and butter in the middle – Spike checked his own outfit as best he could with no reflection. He'd found the old-fashioned morning-coat in an upstairs wardrobe, along with the checked waistcoat and the large, spotted neckerchief. It was hard to imagine that such things had ever been fashionable but he supposed they'd look familiar to Dru, if not to him, her being that bit older. Her father might have worn something similar or that uncle of hers she was always mentioning – the one she'd been so fond of and that Angelus had taken such great pleasure in torturing that his eyes still went all misty at the memory.

Spike smoothed his hair and picked up his top-hat, a rather shabby affair he'd found in an old hat box in the attics while hunting down the last of the servants. It was perfectly serviceable, however – certainly good enough to make sure this was a birthday Dru would never forget. Spike wondered if it really was her birthday this time. You could never tell with Dru because she tended to say it was quite often. Still – anything to indulge his princess.

Satisfied, he rammed the hat on his head, being careful not to dislodge the sign that read, written in his best italics, 'In this style 10/6' and went to fetch Dru from where she waited in the house.

Wonder of wonders, she was still sitting where he'd left her, in the drawing room, running her fingers up and down the keys of the pianoforte in a discordant little tune of her own devising. She still wore, too, the dress with the puffed sleeves he'd found for her, from which he'd ripped a good few inches off the hem. She had a white pinafore over it with a smudge of coal-dust all across the front – well, he couldn’t have kept that juicy little girl all to himself, could he – and her hair tumbled down her back, held from her face with a black velvet band, just like in Tenniel's pictures.

When she saw Spike coming, she sat up and clapped her hands in excitement. "Is my present ready? Is it?"

"Yes, princess." Spike smiled at her indulgently and held out his hand to draw her to her feet. She took it, queen-like, and affected a haughty tone. "You must call me 'Alice' from now on, Mr Hatter, else you'll spoil the game."

"Come on then, Alice." Spike grinned at her. "Tea'll be cold in the pot if we don't hurry."

He led her out through the French windows into the garden, where the breeze was now blowing a gale and making the brittle china cups rattle on their saucers. As they drew near the table, Spike let go her hand and hurried to take his seat, jammed into one corner along with his reluctant fellow actors. Hastily, he un-gagged the fat woman and prodded the parlour maid upright, and together the three of them watched as Dru approached.

Spike sighed with pleasure at the sight of her. She was so beautiful with the breeze lifting her dark curls off her shoulders and the white dress glowing in the light of the waning moon. The owl hooted again – nearer this time – and this time both women jumped in their chairs and shrieked.

"Shut it!" Spike hissed at them, then counted them down slowly, "Three –two-one –" while their frightened faces stared at him, their lips moving silently along with his. When he reached one, they all turned towards Dru and shouted, in chorus: "No room! No room!"

Dru skipped a little in her excitement, then affected a sulky little-girl pout. "There's plenty of room!" she said indignantly, and she flopped down into a large arm-chair at the other end of the table from them. For a moment, she sat regarding them, her pale eyes like lamps, pleased as a tabby cat that had got the cream. Then she said, "Mad Hatter, March Hare and Dormouse – why this is lovely – just what I always wanted."

Spike grinned. Un-life was good when everything went as swimmingly as this. He nudged the fat woman in the ribs impatiently with his elbow. "Carry on, love," he said. We haven't got all night."

Or at least, he thought, as she opened her mouth and began to mumble through the words, "You haven't."