Part 9: The Standoff
He'd love to stay brassed-off. He really would. Have a bit of fire in his eyes when he called her on her "evil" plot to crash the bachelor party. Bite off some appropriately sharp words and see her defiant chin firm up in contrast to the uncertain look in her eyes. And he knew with frightening certainty exactly what he was going to see as she tried to brazen this little game out.
A muscle in his jaw started to twitch. But not with anger. She was still bobbing up and down, trying to see. He was finding it increasingly difficult to keep a straight face. And he was almost to her. Steady, steady. Hold onto ... what? Anger? Frankly, he was amused. And the Slayer looked absolutely adorable with that look of complete surprise on her face as she took it all in. The girls, the band, the food... He wished to just stand in the shadows for a while, gazing at her unguarded eyes and unguarded face.
Too late. As always, her face changed when she saw him. Her chin came up challengingly. Eyes a bit dangerous ...
Now wait just a bloody minute! Where did she get off looking at him with that knowing gleam in her eyes? How long had she been here? Did she see ... Going on the offensive looked like a good bet. He drew out the cell phone and waved it at her.
"Check in. Not crash in. You do know how to use a telephone, right, Slayer?"
Taken slightly aback, Buffy looked a little uncertain, but managed a save. She looked at him a little disgusted.
"You didn't give me your number."
Spike stared at her. Oh, this was going to be his fault? Not bloody likely!
"Red has it. Glinda has it. The Little Bit has it. The bride has it. Hell, I'd wager the bleedin' cheerleader has it! You couldn't ask one of them?"
"If you'd wanted me to have it, you'd have given it to me," she answered self-righteously.
Bloody hell, she was making it his fault! He felt like an idiot. It was that damned short skirt she'd been wearing, waitin' for him on the front porch like.... Remembering, he looked down to catch a quick look at her legs in that skirt. Which was ... where? Ah.
"Decided to go with pants?" he asked a little condescendingly.
She dismissively swept her eyes across him to focus on the server nearby.
"Girls," she said in a disgusted tone, ignoring his question completely.
"Yes, lots," he said agreeably. Now this was more like it. A spot of Buffy bitchiness to make his night complete.
"Oz?" she asked, indicating the stage.
"Well, yeah. What's wrong with that?" Spike was feeling a bit defensive now. But maybe she hadn't come in time to see him up on that stage. Looked like it was time to regroup and get back on the offensive. One of Harris' friends had noticed the Good Witch. Who was looking rather fetching as she swung her enormous eyes up at Willow. Ah, the big poof was moving that way.
Spike returned his attention to the big problem in the small package that seemed to be sizing him up for the kill. Oh, no, pretty Buffy, he thought sweetly. Not tonight!
"Getting an eyeful, Slayer? Well, you've had more than your fair share. Quite a bit more than a peep. And you've put Harris' wedded bliss in serious danger by lettin' demon girl in here." He pointedly looked behind her. "Is Sweet Bits around too? Since you seem to think anyone is welcome in this slave den?"
Buffy blew out a sanctimonious breath. "You said 'check in.' I finished patrol and I'm checking in. 'Watcher!'" she finished cuttingly. "Like I couldn't handle a simple patrol without you," she muttered under her breath.
"Hey!" Spike drew himself up. "Vampire," he reminded her unnecessarily. "I heard that! And the distasteful memory of that remark and the accompanying endearment will remind me to stop saving your pretty ass every time it needs it."
Buffy swung her head to the right and left to make sure no one had heard that rather intimate description of her anatomy. Okay, great. She didn't know where any of the girl Scoobs were. They had been swallowed by Spike's party.
"As if." Buffy's eyes glinted humorously with unveiled disdain in answer to Spike's remark. "Lately, it's been your ... ass ... in the wringer. And maybe next time I won't be so quick to ... uh...wring. Either." Buffy wondered what she had just said. She thought it might possibly be dirty.
Buffy felt a flush creep up her neck. Suddenly, he was wearing that self- satisfied smirk she'd dearly love to knock off his face and had several times in the recent past. And he was looking awfully good, with that shining hair and those shining eyes.
She shook herself mentally. Sure he looked good. But lately, she reminded herself, he was also really good at making her feel no more than fifteen years old. And he, on the other hand, was coming off as the patient Watcher-type.
Ewww. Which was kind of gross when you considered what her relationship had been with the evil undead lately. With the moaning and the groping and the touching and the kissing and ... things. Lots of different ... things.
"Wring?" He repeated questioningly. Buffy almost jumped as she was brought back from her impure thoughts. He still looked so ... well, what? Self-confident? So much more like the old Spike, maybe? That self- assured figure she remembered in the alley behind the Bronze, clapping as she'd dusted the vamp. She was reddening again, fresh flush over fading one. Her body would betray her next. And he'd know. He always knew. And then...
She looked around. He had done all this. Put this incredible decadent shindig together. What was Buffy even doing here, all off-balance, ready to kill him one minute and kiss him the next? She looked wildly to the left. Where was Willow anyway?
Ahh, Spike thought, he had her. Like a deer in headlights. That was good. Or that could be bad. He had a window of opportunity here. One to take advantage of quickly and decisively. He hoped Peaches was gathering all the other ducks together. He had to get Buffy out of Willie's now. He grabbed her arm and pulled her toward the door, muttering something inane.
Spike's head swung around as he stopped at the sound of the familiar voice. He felt Buffy jerk her arm out of his grip. Oh, Christ. It was Anne, needing something, he'd wager. Inwardly, he was beginning to panic. There was a very narrow window for Off-Balance!Buffy! and he'd just missed it.
Anne dashed up to Spike, eyes smiling. "You were great up there! I told you not to be nervous. Everybody just loved it. You did 'jumpstart' things! The party has really kicked in!"
Buffy's eyes settled on Anne and her head full of long red hair. She absently ran her hand through her own, shorter hair.
Buffy looked suspiciously at Anne, then at Spike. Everybody just loved what? Buffy felt out of the loop and she didn't like it. And she didn't like this woman, either.
The redhead smiled down at the shorter woman and put out her right hand. "Hi, I'm Anne," she said with a small laugh. "The party planner."
Buffy shot a quick glance at Spike, and shook the woman's hand. "Hi. Uh, could you excuse us?" She looked behind her and saw the closed door of something that looked like an office. She grabbed Spike's arm and propelled him back through the door she opened with a smooth motion.
And saw a woman wearing nothing but a sequined thong sitting in a lotus position on the battered desk. Her eyes were closed, posture graceful, and her....
That was all Buffy took in, as she swung back through the door, Spike in tow, and pulled the door shut with a slam. Well, that was definitely a dose of cold water on the attraction that was 'Spike.' She turned on him with glitteringly eyes.
"What was that?" she asked, daring him to explain.
"Not quite sure. Was all so fast, pet. But I think Laura is meditating."
Flushing with embarrassment, Buffy looked down. Her mouth tightened into what Spike liked to think of as 'The Thin Red Line.' Which always meant that he was walking one.
"Okay, mister. Outside now!" A little desperately, Buffy pushed Spike toward the door. It miraculously opened, revealing more revelers, obviously out for an illegal California cigarette or two. The two men whooped and headed back into the thick.
Following Buffy outside, he congratulated himself on having gotten her there. Of course, a naked Los Angeles stripper in yoga position was not the way he would have chosen, but ... inwardly, he shrugged. Whatever worked. At least the Slayer was outside.
Of course. There was a nearby alley, and she had his arm, dragging him in that direction. Not that he was resisting. She stomped around the corner and turned to the vampire.
"Spike, that woman was naked."
"Well, not technically."
"I thought you didn't see anything." Buffy said accusingly.
"Well, it's not something you see everyday. The yoga and all. Bound to make a bit of an impression."
Buffy was ... angry? Shocked? She shook her head and focused on what she did know. Spike was a pig.
"You're a pig, Spike."
"Well, yeah. But it makes..."
"For a great bachelor party," Buffy finished, sarcastically. "Spike, that is the most disgusting, perverse thing I've ever experienced."
"What? Luv, I'm hurt. I thought *I* was."
Buffy swung a practiced fist toward Spike's face. Her mouth dropped open as his hand appeared and stopped the punch cold at nose level, her fist in his.
"No hitting, Slayer. It ceased to be foreplay a while back," Spike reminded her. "Right?" She nodded and he let go of her hand. "Now. Any problems on patrol?" he asked her calmly.
"Oh, no. We're not through talking about..."
"We are bloody well through talking about the party. Patrol?"
Buffy took a deep breath. He'd caught her fist in the air and solidly stopped it. She'd forgotten how fast he could move. Or maybe she'd just gotten sloppy. More training needed, obviously. Okay, patrol then. She opened her mouth to tell him about Cordelia's run in with the vamp.
"Wait." Spike waved her off. "You asked me to give Xander a party." Spike continued, trying to forestall any further argument. "It wasn't my choice, but the least I could do is make it a good one. Which I have. So." He stopped talking, hoping he'd made himself clear.
"There were," Buffy said in a calm and measured voice, "a lot of new vamps rising tonight. More than usual. Especially near your crypt." She grinned, as Spike's eyes widened slightly. "In fact, Cordelia..."
"Hmm. I have been neglectin' the place lately, I guess," Spike mused. "Well. Me and Peaches'll clean house tomorrow night. Do some light dusting."
One side of Buffy's mouth turned up in spite of herself. Well, he did have a sense of humor. A little twisted, but...well, her own sense of humor was a little dark, too. Didn't mean he could do stand-up comedy or anything...
Buffy realized Spike was patiently waiting for a sharp rejoiner. She wished she had one. But the image of that redhead telling Spike how...
"What was she talking about?"
Whiplash was an occupational hazard when you worked with the Slayer. "She who?"
"That Anne? As opposed to 'this' Anne?" he smiled at her.
He could make her melt with that smile. Better not let him know it though.
"Buffy Anne," she corrected sharply. "And I do mean that Anne. The party planner." That had sounded a little sharp, too. What had her so upset? Besides the overall existence of Spike in the first place.
Spike could tell by the look on her face that he wasn't going to get off the hook. "Speech. Host addressing the masses," he explained airily, omitting the rest. "Roasting the groom."
"Oh," she said, barely listening now. She was satisfied with his explanation and way too conscious of his new jeans and those silver tipped boots. "Well. I'd better find Willow and the others," she said, turning away from him. She heard Spike sigh in relief. Relief?
"Well, if the poof is doin' his job, all the kittens are in a basket on the doorstep by now," he quipped.
Buffy turned the corner to see Angel in deep conversation with Cordy, the others looking on.
"So you haven't checked on him since you went on patrol?" Angel whipped out his cell phone, turning it over and over in his hands, scowling. "The green button, right?"
Cordelia snatched the phone and looked at him witheringly. "Technology is so wasted on the undead." She looked up as Buffy and Spike approached. They were amused at the scene and not hiding it. And Buffy's color seemed a little high.
"Where have you two been?" Cordy asked suspiciously.
Spike didn't hesitate, as he locked onto Cordelia's eyes with a hard grin. "Fightin'." Shrugging, he commented, "S'what we do." He turned to Angel, smirking. "The Slayer met the Stripper."
Angel ducked his head to hide a smile.
"T'was a bit porn-ish," Spike continued. "But educational. The Slayer..."
"Spike, I am so staking you when this party is over," Buffy warned.
"Maybe. Maybe I'll be staking you, luv. So you might want to watch your...back," he said suggestively.
As Buffy started to blush, she turned to Cordelia. "C'mon, we can be at the house before you can make the call. Give him his phone and let's go." She moved off hurriedly, the brunette following. Hearing Spike's low chuckle and feeling the accompanying shiver, Buffy picked up her pace.
Anya looked at Willow. "Was that sexual innuendo? It sounded like sexual innuendo to me." When Willow didn't respond, Anya moved to catch up with Buffy and Cordelia. "Didn't you think that sounded like sexual innuendo?" she asked, shrilly, trying to get their attention.
Grinning at Willow, Tara said admiringly, "Spike got her good!"
"You have no idea," Willow muttered as they walked away, leaving vampire and sire at the bar's entrance. She looked back and gave Spike a little wave.
"Well, I'm impressed. You handled her pretty well," Angel said in congratulations.
"Nah. She'll start thinking about it and get pissed. Diversion works for a little while, though. Give her a little somethin' to distract her and she's slower to strike." Spike was feeling a little distracted himself. At the moment, he was thinking about the night before and wishing he were back in her bed.
Angel snorted. "Yeah, well, good luck with that."
Spike's head whipped around to look at Angel.
"The distracting, I mean," he continued, catching Spike's confused look.
Eyes sparkling as he roared with laughter, Spike threw his arm up, almost getting it over Angel's shoulder. He laughed wickedly. "Well, we've all but tucked 'em in their beds. Let's get drunk. Again. Buffy crisis is always a soberin' experience."
"I *am* buying, you bloody wanker!"
"That's what I said, you idiot. I brought the *stripper*!"
"That you did, Peaches. And a fine job you did, too. Very fine! You should have seen the Slayer's face! Let's roust our Laura out of her gilded cage. Soon as we're drunk!" Spike opened the door to Willy's and bowed, giving the right of first passage to Angel.
"You know, Spike, could be you drink too much."
"Slayer'd drive anybody to drink!"
Continued in Part 10: The Brawl