Part 6: The Scramble
Angel shook his head. "That wasn't it at all. We were coming up the street … Didn`t want to make a big scene so we hung back a little until we could see who was there," said Angel said in his own defense.
"Oh, right!” Spike said, thoroughly disgusted with the stupidity of that statement. “With the bloody headlights off?"
"Like I need `em anyway. We were trying not to call attention to ourselves."
Spike looked disgusted. "Angel, it's illegal to drive at night without headlights. And a bloody good way to call attention to yourself."
"This is a covert visit as far as the demon population is concerned, remember? What if a neighbor saw us?"
"Acting all suspicious, you mean? Driving up and down Revello Drive with no headlights? The old lady across the street told me she always hated your bloody guts anyway. You never even bothered to say hello to her. Much less get her cat out of the soddin' tree.” Spike was warming to the subject and keeping Angel as far off track as he dared.
“There's a word for people like you, Peaches. Self-absorbed," Spike said righteously. If he could just keep Angel on the defensive, there was a chance…
"So, what was it you said you were doing at Buffy's at 6 am?"
Spike’s eyes became unreadable slits. "Didn't."
"Are you going to tell me it's not what I think?"
"Depends on what you think, doesn't it?"
"I think that you two were going over the patrol plan for tonight and tomorrow." Angel tossed the words nonchalantly into the middle of the silent crypt.
Spike looked a little startled. "Well. All right then." Spike turned toward the stairs, off the hook. Angel pounced.
"You never could lie worth a damn, William. Are you and Buffy…?"
Spike turned back to Angel. "What?" he said levelly, both eyebrows raised.
Spike blew out a held breath in disgust. "Watch some TV, all right? I'm knackered. If you`ve got any questions, you can ask the lady. I`m sure she`ll set you right, straight away. Until then, sod off."
Angel watched Spike go below, then sat back down and picked up the remote, musing.
Spike never had answered his question. Maybe Buffy would, if he ever got up the nerve to ask her. Angel would rather take his chances with Spike.
She'd had a total of two hours sleep. Maybe.
There had been some smothered bumpies in the night. Later a few more mixed in with some muffled voices. After her conversation with Buffy last night, Willow had been a bit surprised at their self-restraint. Still, it hadn’t been exactly what you’d call quiet. But right now, as far as Willow was concerned, Spike had unconditional amnesty. Cordy did not.
Willow yawned right in Cordelia's face.
Cordelia's eyes snapped. "Oh, you're tired? You don't know tired. Angel drove from right outside L.A. Too fast. My jaw is still clenched. Permanently locked."
Willow jumped in quickly, patting Cordelia`s arm. "Probably be better if you rested it then." She said innocently. "No talky for a little while."
Cordelia shot Willow one of her best dark looks. Willow leaned down toward the baby cuddled in Cordy's arms. "He kinda looks like a Cabbage Patch, doesn't he? You ever have a Cabbage Patch doll? Well, he looks like that. Except this little guy moves. And cries, I guess." Willow leaned in for a closer look. "Oh." She sniffed. "And poops?"
"Probably. I know I always do when I travel. And his father probably scared the sh…" Cordy got a good whiff. "Ewww, Connor!"
Spike turned over on his back and looked up at the ceiling, cell phone in his ear. "Hullo, Red. Can't let a man sleep, can you? Not a one of you."
Willow giggled at Spike`s gruff tone, "Maybe you should have gotten some sleep last night. You know. At home.” She was amused by the dead silence at the other end of the line. Obviously, they thought they were being quiet. “Houseguest made it?" she said conspiratorially.
"Yeah. Now what is it, Red?"
"Things are a teensy bit out of hand here."
Spike realized that the background noise he was hearing on his cell phone was a baby crying. "Right."
"Connor's gotten all fussy and no one can get him to sleep. And I'm feeling pretty loopy since I heard some noises in the night and couldn't go to sleep…"
Blackmail. Spike sat up and started pulling his pants on. He sighed, "Yeah? And?"
"Cordelia doesn't want Angel to think she can't handle the baby alone, so she won`t call him. I`m not sure what that`s about. Spike, we need Angel over here. Or we could bring Connor over there…" she said hopefully.
"Bloody hell no. I've got things to do today. I'll get the pouf over right quick. Then you can get some sleep. Guess everybody's wide awake?" he asked innocently.
Willow giggled again. "Not everybody. When I was upstairs a few minutes ago, someone was sleeping the sleep of the undead. Congratulations."
"Don't know what you mean. Wait. Buffy doesn't know she has … early guests?"
"Don't think so. Haven't heard any bumpety wake-ups." But I did hear plenty of bumpeties last night, she thought slyly.
"Well, let the Slayer sleep. She's got patrol tonight. I'll fetch him over. Hope I can find another blanket over here. Don't fancy gettin' the two of us under just the one."
"Thanks, Spike. I'm not cut out for this. Just don't let Angel make Cordy feel bad, okay? She wanted him to think she could handle this. "
"Wouldn't want to injure the bloomin' cheerleader's feelings," Spike grumbled. "That is, if she has any."
"Fine. Calvary's comin', Red. Just hang on."
Buffy stretched and yawned. Flipped over on her stomach, face down on the sheet. Her nose tickled with the faint smell of stale smoke and the headier, stronger scent of sex.
Her eyes flew open. Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh boy…
Her eyes darted to the clock and then to the other pillow. The indented pillow.
Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh boy.
There was a knock on the door. Buffy looked wildly for a sleep shirt. Something. She grabbed the pillow and shook it.
"Just a minute," she said shakily as she dressed in last night's clothes. She sat down on the bed, going for nonchalant. "Okay," she called.
Dawn came in, looking around the room appraisingly. Saw a black sock peeping out from under the bed. Not one of Buffy's socks. Somehow she never had put together the idea of Spike and socks. Seemed kinda ordinary.
Buffy followed Dawn's eyes down and glanced up quickly, foot pushing the sock further under the bed.
Dawn smiled and said brightly, "Time to shop."
Buffy stood up. "Sure … sure. Just need to get a shower. Get dressed." Wash the sheets. Air out the room. Did Dawn know what … "Uh, why are we shopping?"
"Lingerie. Shower. Frederick's."
"Oh, no. No, no, no, no. No Frederick's. Victoria's Secret."
"Lame." said Dawn pertly. She was smiling, but her eyes were getting stormy. "Don't want lame. Get Anya … naughty bits."
Buffy walked over to the dresser and grimaced.
"What's up, Limpy?"
"What? No Limpy. Just a catch in my hip. See. Nothing." Buffy stretched her leg out behind her as she leaned on the dresser.
"Just makin' sure you're okay, Big Sis." Dawn headed toward the door. "I'll just go downstairs and play with the baby. Let me know when you're ready to go."
Buffy grabbed Dawn's arm. "Baby?"
"Well, duh. Connor's here. Didn't you hear him? And Fred's really tired, so when you get up and out, she's gonna get a nap up here in your room."
Buffy dropped Dawn's arm, aghast. "But they're not supposed to be here until tonight!" Buffy looked around the room wildly and started yanking sheets off the bed. Dawn watched her panic, inwardly amused.
"They came early. Before the sun came up." Dawn shrugged. "Guess Angel didn't want to miss anything. He went straight over to Spike's, Cordy said."
Buffy threw the window open wide and started to hand the sheets off to Dawn, but thought better of it. She pushed her hair out of her face and started out of the room to get a shower.
Dawn grinned. This was really going to be fun.
Buffy wandered into a crowded kitchen. Angel was with Spike in the corner with what she presumed was the baby. Angel was talking baby-talk.
"That's my big boy. Yessir, you grew while daddy was gone. I missed you, Connor." Angel looked at Spike. "Want to see a neat trick?"
"Yeah." Spike's head was twisted so far to one side it looked painful. "Little one does tricks?"
"No. I do. Watch Connor."
Angel slid into game-face. Connor's mouth turned up at the corners and he cooed. In a feral growl, Angel said, "See?"
"Little blighter likes it, don't he?" Spike slid into game face too. The baby looked from one to the other, kicking his feet happily. Spike looked at Angel and grinned. Which Buffy always found disturbing when Spike was vamped out.
Willow came up from the basement and saw Buffy clutching a pile of dirty sheets to her chest. At almost the same moment, Spike saw Buffy and shook off the vamp face. Then he saw what she was carrying, along with the painfully embarrassed look on her face. His mouth twitched up at one corner. Dawn and Cordelia were sitting at the table discussing what was "in" in L.A., as opposed to the selection at the Sunnydale Mall.
Willow scrambled up to Buffy. "Your sheets," she whispered. Her eyes darted around the room. "Gimme." Willow reached to take them.
"Will, can you get these in the washer? Now?" Buffy pleaded desperately in a low whisper.
"Sure." Willow grimaced.
"Shut. Up. Just get em in the machine. Has Angel…?"
"Hey, Buffy." Angel called out. "You met my little man yet?" And he again regressed into the baby-talk voice. "There's my man. Such a big man." Buffy rolled her eyes. It was all Spike could do to
keep a straight face.
Angel shook off his game face. He walked toward Buffy. "This is Connor."
Buffy looked down and tried to smile at the baby. But there was white stuff with little lumps in it running out the side of his mouth. "Uh, Angel …" She pointed.
Angel spun to the table and grabbed a white cloth. He dabbed at the baby's mouth. "There. Buffy, this is kinda neat. When I …"
"Angel? I need to talk to Spike a minute."
Spike looked up from the baby. "Yeah?"
Buffy looked determined. "About that thing."
"That thing?" Spike echoed. Angel looked from Spike's face to Buffy's.
"Yeah. That thing. In the living room, okay? Angel, excuse us just a minute. Oh, and the baby's real cute."
Buffy dragged Spike out of the kitchen. She spun back toward him and ended up with her nose in his neck. She glared.
Spike put both hands out, palms up, in surrender. "What?!"
"That … thing? Last night?"
His face softened. "Yeah. That thing."
Buffy slapped his chest to get his attention. "Hey. They came in this morning," she hissed.
"I know. Peaches was waitin' for me when I got back to the crypt."
"Oh, great. So you had to lie to him about where you'd been."
"Uh. Well. Y'see, he knew where I'd been. Saw me leavin'. Buffy, they were out there stakin' out the house!" Maybe stake was a poor choice of words.
Buffy slammed her palm onto Spike's chest even harder as she made a face.
"Ow," Spike rubbed his chest. "I would `a left earlier if I'd known he was comin'."
"What. Did. He. Say." Buffy punctuated her words with sharp raps to Spike's chest.
Spike grabbed her hand. "D'you mind, luv? Didn't tell him anything. Told him he'd have to talk to you."
"Oh," Buffy squeaked. "Thanks." She shook off his hand. "Always the gentleman, aren't you?" The sarcasm dripped off her words and into an invisible puddle on the floor. She slipped two crumpled black socks into his duster pocket. He looked down, reached in and pulled the unrecognizable bundle out slightly. “Oh. Wondered where I’d left those.”
Angel came around the door with the baby. "Hey. Take care of that thing?"
Buffy started slightly as Spike nodded. "Yeah. Done." "It's all good."
"Great." Angel ducked his head and looked at them both suspiciously. Then he looked down at Connor. "C'mere, Buffy. Let me show you what Connor likes."
Spike leaned toward Buffy and muttered, "Call me later. I'm outta here."
"Coward," she growled through gritted teeth.
"The house feels different."
Buffy looked at her feet. "I think it's because Mom's not here."
Angel nodded, leaning back into the sofa. "Could be." He relaxed.
Connor had finally gone down for a late morning nap, along with Fred, Cordelia and Willow. Buffy hadn't really had a chance to meet Fred, as she had thrown herself across Buffy's bed as soon as the clean sheets were on. Still, Cordelia had seemed different, as Willow had assured Buffy she would be. Different, but a little distant, in some indefinable way.
Buffy and Angel had ended up in the living room, draperies drawn tightly. Dawn sashayed through and looked at Angel with disdain. "Hey," she said, lip curling, as she headed toward the kitchen.
Angel chuckled mirthlessly. "She never did like me. I don't think your mom liked me either."
Buffy wrinkled her nose. "I think they just didn't know you. After all, you never spent any one-on-one time with them, like…" Buffy stopped.
Angel didn't seem to notice. "Maybe. Or maybe it was that whole vampire thing."
"Mmm." Buffy hummed noncommittally. She bounced her feet against the bottom of the chair.
Angel looked at her. "You okay?"
"Me? Yeah. Course. You?"
Angel smiled. "Okay. Spike’s place isn’t bad. But I'm really not used to being away from Connor. Could I stay here, Buffy? I'll try to stay out of your way."
Buffy smiled back. "That's okay. I'll stay with Tara or something. Give my company room to spread out. It's all for a good cause."
Angel looked at the ceiling. "Thanks. So," he changed the subject, "you and Spike worked out the patrol patterns for us? It must be some plan for you to have worked all night on it."
Buffy squeezed her eyes shut. Angel was prying and she was going to scream soon if he didn't …
Just then, the front door swung open in a snarl of moth-eaten blanket, rolled-up paper and blond vampire. Spike slammed the door and stomped on one edge of the blanket where it had started to smolder.
Angel shook his head, eyebrows raised. "Did I neglect in my training to explain about vampires and daylight?"
Spike smirked at Angel. "If you weren't such a poofster, you'd know the value of outside exercise." Spike walked over to the table in front of the sofa and unrolled several large sheets of paper. Buffy pounced to try and keep one stubborn corner from rolling back up.
Spike looked at Buffy, eyes holding hers steadily. "Slayer, I took care of that thing." He nodded down at the paper. "Drew up the patrol patterns for you and the witches."
He glanced at Angel. "And for us tomorrow night while the girls are having their party. I will have to slip away at one point to pick Dawn up at the Bronze and take her to her friend's house, but it shouldn't be a problem."
Buffy leaned forward and looked down at the carefully drawn maps. She grinned wickedly at Spike. "Just what I always wanted." Spike's eyes sparkled. Angel looked from one to the other, trying to figure out how he'd gotten the wrong idea about what he'd seen this morning.
Spike tapped the pages. "It was rather extensive, though. `Preciate you going over it. See if I missed anything."
Angel cleared his throat. "I'm going to check on Connor." He got up and went upstairs.
Buffy's face glowed as she looked at Spike. "Are you ever going to stop surprising me?"
"God. I should hope not." He looked down. "Neat, innit? Giles and I talked about this once, but we never did anything with the idea. Think it works?"
She nodded. "Wesley could follow it."
Spike chuckled, "Kind of keep-it-simple-stupid logic, right?"
"I think it's great." She sat back, smiling.
Spike fidgeted and looked at the wall clock. "Buffy, I've got to leave."
"Oh, of course." She pointed at the table. "Thanks for these." She leaned over and whispered, "Oh, and your timing was impeccable."
"Yeah? You mean just now or last night?" He grinned wickedly. Then, shrugged, a little embarrassed. "See you before the party?"
"You coming here?"
"Thought I would. Yeah. Pick up the poof. Show him my motorcycle."
Buffy considered a moment, then nodded. "Okay."
Dawn had decided to savor every minute of her shopping excursion. Even though Buffy wasn't showing the amount of guilt and distractedness she had come to expect from her, there were still opportunities for some sisterly digs. Most of Dawn's more pointed comments had been lost on Buffy though, getting her only puzzled looks.
Dawn wondered how long `it' had been going on. She decided that the first time had to have been the night no one had come home. Of course, Buffy had looked like a railroad train had run over her that morning and she wondered about that, but since Buffy and Spike patrolled together, it could have been some wildly romantic moment when Spike had rescued her from some demon Big Bad. She almost sighed at the images her mind was painting for her.
Dawn sniffed. It must have been that night. And last night. How many times in between? Spike and Buffy weren't your typical soul mate-type couple, but Dawn had always thought they were kinda sexy together. Especially since she'd seen them under that wedding spell that Willow had cast accidentally. And if Buffy and Spike were together, it meant more Spiketime for Dawn. She sure hadn't been getting much of that lately.
The best thing about Spike was that he didn't treat her like a little kid. He talked to her like an adult. And he didn't avoid difficult (for Buffy) subjects. He was also an excellent source of information about guys. First hand data. A girl would have to be stupid not to take advantage of that.
Dawn shrugged her shoulders and decided to can the rest of the snarky comments. They had a party to go to tomorrow night and Dawn didn't want to miss it. But Dawn did think she could probably cadge a late lunch and a big shake if she was good and quiet.
Anya tiptoed toward the door at Willie's. Tara followed, walking normally. "Anya …"
"I want to see. You know you want to."
Tara looked at her watch. "It's early yet. No one will be here anyway."
"Wrong," Anya said excitedly. "I bet that Anne is here. Oh."
A beautiful, long-legged girl in daisy duke shorts brushed past them and went inside. Tara gave an appreciative look.
"Humph. And you all think I'm sex-crazed? That’s a total stranger you’re looking at." Anya complained.
Tara reddened. "I just thought they were nice shorts."
"Uh huh." Anya said, not convinced. She pulled open the door. Tara reached out and grabbed her arm.
"For what? More girls? I told you I want to see." Anya stepped inside the door, Tara following hesitantly.
Willie's was covered up in women. Good looking women, seemingly college age. Some were already wearing tight, cropped yellow t-shirts that showed off most of their well-defined torsos. The t-shirts were emblazoned with the words "Xander's Toy" in big black letters. Tara's mouth dropped open. Anya nudged her.
"See. Those are the t-shirts Spike had made. Xander has one too. Only it just says `Xander.'" She frowned. "His is bigger, of course." She pointed at the shirt on the girl nearest them. "I have one of those. The prototype, Spike said." She bobbed her head up and smiled. "I've already worn mine. But not for very long," she said with typical Anya matter-of-factness.
Tara shook her head and looked toward the stage, disappointed that it was empty. "Do you see Oz yet? Willow said he was playing tonight and I thought I might get to say hello."
Anya drew in a breath in excitement. "See." She dug her elbow into Tara's ribs. "There's Anne. I told you she'd be here. She's such a professional," she said proudly. "Spike was lucky to get her."
Tara privately agreed. But not because of her professionalism. Although she looked pretty on top of things with her clipboard, checking the girls' names off of a list as she handed them t-shirts.
Just then, the woman looked back toward the kitchen and flashed a dazzling `welcome back' smile. Tara followed the woman's eyes and saw …
Tara involuntarily gave a low whistle. He must have come in through the tunnels. After all, it was broad daylight outside. Of course, that never seemed to be much of a problem for Spike, she reflected.
Spike was wearing obviously-new tight black jeans. On his feet (and Tara could have fainted when she saw them) were silver-tipped black cowboy boots with riding heels. The inevitable t-shirt was cobalt blue.
"Wow," Tara breathed. "I guess I never really looked before. You know?"
Spike began working the room. Talking to the sound guys, conferring with the caterers, patting backs, slapping a few willing fannies. He sparkled with every mischievous smile he bestowed. And those receiving those smiles bestowed them right back.
"That's our Spike? His eyes are bluer than I thought."
"Look at him," Anya said proudly. "He has everything perfectly planned, and it's being executed like clockwork. He's got his finger on all of it.
“It's so exciting.” Anya said admiringly. “Just imagine it. He could be the owner of a supper club, an actor or the CEO of a major Fortune 500 corporation."
Anya shivered slightly and her voice became a husky whisper. "Makes you want to call him `William,' doesn't it?"
Tara backed toward the door, pulling Anya with her, and muttering to herself under her breath. "You know, you think you know somebody and `blam,' one day you look up and they've become the most gorgeous guy you've ever seen."
Anya looked up at Tara in surprise. "You're still gay, aren't you? Because if you're not, Xander is still spoken for."
”Still gay, but highly appreciative,” explained Tara as she pulled Anya out of there.
Continued in Part 7: The Gauntlet