Part 2: The Sting
It was a big gamble, yes. But not the kind of gamble it would have been before the chip revelation. And the whole thing was having unexpected benefits. Planning and executing this party had been really good for him. He felt confident. He felt gainfully employed. He was meeting a lot of new people. Re-acquainting himself with Angel, (who he'd always suspected he'd like, if Dru and Darla had stayed out of it). And he was having fun.
Still, he was playing with fire. Especially if Buffy figured out what he was doing before it was too late. Like he'd figured out that she was trying to relegate him to Xander status. How dare she? After everything he'd done.
He chuckled to himself. Hell, he was making her crazy right now and he wasn't even into Phase Two. It was a good thing there was no Big Bad lurking around right now. This wedding had put everything on hold. The Buffy being wrong thing had barely come up ... and only between the two of them. And in passing at that. Wasn't like her, to accept something like that on faith. Especially since she was the Queen of Denial.
It was taking a lot to stay away, to stay cool, to keep from beating some sense into her. Bad choice there. Been there, done that. Wasn't really his style. Well... not now anyway. To keep from grabbing her and ravaging her. He'd done that (or had he been the ravaged party?). It was time for some finesse. Not always his strong suit, but love seemed to be giving him wings.
Spike frowned. But the Angel thing was really a risk. Was he that sure?
He was that sure. And it was kind of cool to have another vamp to pull into this party thing with him. One that he didn't have to worry about killing someone. Unless the someone was him, maybe.
And Buffy? . Spike was tired of sensing Mr. Dark and Brooding everywhere. Spike had had Angel thrown up to him for the last time. So he was going to take care of it. End it. Somehow. Of course, when the Slayer was involved, his plans had a way of ... not working out.
Spike wasn't certain of anything in this unlife, but he was damn sure how he felt about Buffy. And by the time he was through putting on this party, she'd be sure too. One way or another. He just wasn't feeling very patient anymore. He'd stopped being patient the night she kissed him in the Bronze. So ...
One throw of the dice.
But he was loading them carefully as he went along. And enjoying it more than he ever had enjoyed anything in his life.
He hadn't been lying. They'd be talking about this party for years. When Xander was so old he didn't remember his own name, his last conscious thought would be this party.
Willow really didn't care, but she felt obligated to ask. Especially with Buffy knocking around the kitchen rearranging the cabinets that Willow had organized perfectly after she and Tara had moved in to take care of Dawn. She felt a surge of anger. Suppressing it, she decided Buffy must need to talk (why else would she be in the same room with her?) and as her "best friend," Willow should invite her to do just that and get it over with. Willow wasn't feeling very "best-friendy" right now, but no one really took how she felt into account anyway.
Willow sighed. Loudly. Buffy was really getting on her nerves.
Buffy whipped around in relief, forgetting the cabinet's contents (Willow gave herself 'snaps' for that part).
"Did you say something, Will?"
"Nope. You must've been hearing what I was thinking. Oops. Sorry. Forgot about that whole mind-reading-bad deal. So. What's up with you?"
Buffy relaxed a little and threw herself down in the kitchen chair across from Willow and her computer. "This whole bachelor party thing is way out of control."
"Oh, gee, Buffy, you shoulda said something. I'll be glad to help out. Bring it on. And maybe Tara -- maybe you could talk to Tara. Oh, I forgot. She's doing Anya's party that night. You know, puttin' it on. Maybe we could split up the responsibilities to make sure old Xander has a high old time!" Willow hated every bouncy word that came out of her mouth. But this was who Buffy expected. They all did. Even Tara. "You know, I would have asked sooner, but Anya said Spike had it all handled."
"Oh, he does. Believe me. In addition to the chip, Mr. TechnoVamp has a cell phone practically implanted in his ear. Too bad the Initiative wasn't looking ahead. At least he'd have two hands for patrol."
"Mmmm. You're all growly bear Buffy. What's wrong?" Willow managed a little encouraging smile. She sure hoped her face didn't crack open.
"Well, for one thing, Spike barely has time for patrol anymore. I'm all alone out there!"
"He's not helping? No wonder you look so tired all the time. Hey! We can help! Just like the old days. Put on our holsters and saddle up." Willow inwardly winced and hoped it wouldn't come to that.
Buffy answered her silent plea. "Oh, no, it's okay. He patrols every night. Buffy's brow puckered in a frown. "Well, most every night." Wonder what's up with that? "And he always lets me know if he's not. He's just ... not really there sometimes." Okay, Buffy became aware that that was lame. "Just going way overboard on this party. This whole last-night-of-freedom thing." She laughed. Mmm. That sounded better.
Willow smiled at Buffy, trying to get a smile in return. Of course, that seldom happened in these post-Resurrection days. "Awww, c'mon, Buffy. That's kinda nice. That he's so into doing this for Xander. I would have felt really weird throwing a bachelor party for him myself, even if he has been my best friend since birth. This way, I don't have to ... to feel all weirdy, I mean. This is a guy thing , you know. Big time."
"Will, you don't understand. This is no little thing he's doing. He's planning it like an all-out assault. Like the old Dru days. I'm glad I'm not a caterer. You know how Spike can get when he doesn't get what he expects." No, Buffy, she doesn't really. Focus on the party. This is not about you and Spike. Wait. Where did that come from? There was no you and Spike...
Willow was beginning to get interested. She was a little out of practice of course, but she was so sick and tired of Spike being Buffy's new best friend. He was the one she'd been talking to, confiding in, since she'd gotten "back." Willow was sure of it. And Willow was damned sure that it was because Spike hadn't been involved in any shape, form or fashion with Buffy's over-processed, over-analyzed resurrection.
Buffy realized Willow was looking at her questioningly. "What? Oh, assault. I didn't mean murder and mayhem. Nothing like 'Goodbye Mr. Chip' or anything like that. It's just that he's like ... Man on a Mission. He walks around with that damn cell phone in his hand. Making...calls. Getting...calls...." Buffy trailed off in confusion. What?
"So he's become phone friendly. Majorly phone call guy. " The lameness of the old perky Willow's banter was in danger of making new and improved Willow hurl.
"Oh, that's just the beginning," Buffy continued, rewarming to her subject. This was working into a Spike bitch session. Those were very cathartic. Buffy leaned toward Willow confidingly. "We stopped in Willy's last night after patrol... you did know Spike rented Willy's out for the night, right?"
"Well, yeah, but I really didn't get it. I would have thought the Bronze."
"Oh, well, get this. Spike says the Bronze isn't sleazy enough to have the right kind of atmosphere for the final night of decadence and drunkeness for a condemned man. "
Willow laughed in spite of herself. She relaxed a little.
"Anyway, we stop at Willy's ..."
"And you ended up in a bar fight!"
"What? No, no fight. "
"But you always end up in a bar fight if you go to Willy's with Spike."
"Oh. Well, yeah, we do. Sometimes I don't fight though. I just watch. But this time, no fight. We stopped in Willy's to check on the bandstand. The stage. For a band."
"I didn't know Willy's had a bandstand."
"It didn't. Now it does. That's when I find out. Spike's booked a band for the party! Not a d.j., not a karaoke machine. He's booked a live band."
"Now I wish I were going. Are you sure we aren't invited? Can we crash?"
"Oh, c'mon, you know Spike's taste in music. I think they're mostly dead by now. You know death, drugs and rock and roll. I think Billy Idol's touring again though. Hmmp." Buffy considered that a minute. Dismissed it.
Willow was getting way more intrigued with this conversation than she'd been at the prospect of it. It was almost like old times. Almost. "So who's he got booked?"
"Won't tell. Says it's a surprise. He's put together a song list though. To supplement, he says. You'd think he was booking Madison Square Gardens. Big expensive rented sound system. Real sound engineer. An independent, you know. And Willy's practically calling him Mr. Spike. Has a Bloody Mary --and I do mean Bloody -- waiting on him when we go by."
Willow decided it was fun to watch Buffy wig out. "Well," Willow prodded, hoping for more crumbs, "I don't know very much about the plans at all. Just what Anya's told me."
"Well, I don't imagine Anya knows this. Will, Spike is bringing in a professional stripper from L.A.! Well, technically, Angel's bringing her ..."
"Whoa. Hold up! Angel? Our Angel? Well, your Angel...well, not anymore, but...that would mean... Well, duh. It does mean ... Spike's talking to Angel."
Buffy nodded grimly. "And Angel's talking to Spike. All the time. They call back in forth just to check in. Big cell phone buddies. They have plans to hit the Bronze the night after the bachelor party, the night before the wedding. 'Raise a few pints for old time's sake, luv.' "
Buffy's horrendous English accent cracked Willow up. "'Pints' takes on a whole different meaning when you're talking about those two."
"Oh, you think it's funny? Well, I don't think so. The two of them drunk, talking, comparing notes."
Buffy and Willow sat silent for a moment. Willow was trying to get the image of Spike and Angel with arms around each others' shoulders trying to get back to crash at Spike's crypt. Buffy's image was a lot different.
Willow broke the silence. "Anya told me Cordy was coming, " she said slowly. "I thought it was odd, but Anya said Xander was fine with all of it. All of a sudden Xander's fine with whatever. If Angel's coming, I guess Connor's coming too?"
"Oh, it's going to be a regular caravan. The May Queen. Vampire ex-boyfriend. Miracle child. And all of Angel Investigations. Spike's decided we're all one big happy extended dysfunctional family."
"What? But why? Xander doesn't even know ... well, Wesley of course. Ewww. That's weird, too."
"Spike says Xander has a lot more in common with professional demon-hunters than the 'blokes' he works construction with and that Xander needs more male friends." Buffy spouted like the BuffyBot.
Willow giggled again. "That's so lame, but sweet."
"Oh, yeah. Sweet. He says that that way they can give Xander his next bachelor party."
Willow laughed at that. A real old-fashioned Willow laugh. Buffy rambled on absently. "He's even got somebody working for him. Some kind of planner. Handles the daytime stuff with the caterers, liquor distributors, sound guys ... you know, party stuff. And that planner calls all the time. Even during patrol. He's figured out how to put the phone on vibrate so it doesn't alert the bad guys."
"And when we go... what? Who's Anne?" Buffy had no idea how much of the conversation she'd missed during her rant. She hoped Willow hadn't noticed.
"Anne, the party planner."
Buffy's jaw dropped. "Spike's party planner is a woman named Anne?"
"Uh huh. I don't know her last name. Anya met her a few weeks ago when she came by to see Xander about the party. Ask him about food preferences, alcohol ... you know, detail stuff. Anya said Xander's jaw dropped so far when he saw her, she felt like she should put a worm in his mouth. Anya liked her, though. Said she was very professional...really knew her business." Willow laughed, remembering. It hadn't seemed so funny a few days ago. "Anya said she thought she'd try a long red wig and higher heels on for Xander. See if that heated things up a few hundred more degrees." Willow shook her head. "Those two have a really rich fantasy life."
Buffy didn't answer and Willow frowned. Buffy seemed mighty disturbed over a wig and high heels. "It's okay, Buff. Anya wasn't mad or anything. I think she's feeling real secure now that the wedding's so close and all."
"That must be it," said Buffy, absently. Willow was losing her and suddenly, it felt really important not to.
"Buffy, what is it? Oh, Angel. That's got to feel weird."
"Well, there's more to it than that. Willow, I..."
Slept with Spike. And I really enjoyed it. Every time. And I'd like to do it again, but things got all weird. Like they always do with me no matter who's involved. And now he's so different since he's got something to do except wait for me to show up. And ....
"Never mind. I just need sleep. Lots of sleep. Wake me ... when the wedding's over." Buffy got up and left the kitchen before Willow could try and stop her.
Willow shrugged. Same old Buffy. What difference did any of it make anyway? Except ... well, maybe a visit to Anya ...
Willow turned off the computer and got up out of chair to get dressed. She was almost ... excited?
Continued in Part 3: Turnabout