Part 10: The Brawl
Angel grinned at Spike's 'bow and scrape' as they headed back into Willie's after getting the girl Scoobs and Cordelia off and on their way back to Buffy's house and to Connor. The grin froze as he saw Spike's eyes narrow.
"Bloody hell," Spike muttered, certain something was wrong, but not knowing what. Angel moved inside.
Neither of them could see a problem at first, but both felt the palatable change in the party's atmosphere. The focal point seemed to be somewhere around the impromptu dance floor. As they moved, Angel noticed that the band sounded a little...'off.'
At the same time, Spike heard that the band was still playing, but barely. The bass faltered off beat. Devon sounded preoccupied and was barely carrying the tune. And Oz, still plugging along, was on point, his wolflike attributes obvious.
Spike noticed that Oz's attention was fixed on an area to his left.
"Bloody hell," he repeated, eyes following Oz's. Xander was quite drunk and nose-to-nose with one of the men that Spike and Buffy had noticed going inside. His ears picked up Harris' voice as he answered the much more massive and older man.
"Hey, Brills, back off! Understand? I've taken the job and I'm keeping it. And you weren't invited anyway. Keep your lazy ass away from me and the job!"
Harris was going to get his drunken ass kicked, Spike thought, a little amused. Always was more bark than bite. Black eye would go quite well with the black tie...
Spike rushed toward Xander, throwing himself between Xander and the on-coming punch. A punch that would have decked the not-so-future bridegroom. Even though he was off-balance, the punch didn't do much. He ignored the big construction worker after a hard look into his eyes and turned to Xander.
"What the hell is this? Harris, you're not gettin' marked up two days before your bleedin' wedding! The de...uh, bride'll be seeking some serious vengeance. You get that?"
"This isn't your problem." The big man growled out the words. Spike turned back around to face him.
"It bloody well is!"
"Spike, stay out of this. Brills thinks he's such a toughie, let him come on!"
Spike turned toward Xander. "Whelp, you don't ..." He never saw the second punch coming, which slammed into the side of his head. He staggered a bit, off-balance as he turned back to Brills.
"Here, what's this? I'm having a conversation here."
Angel stepped up a little closer as the man took a menacing step toward Spike. He looked confused but stupid. A lethal combination, Angel thought. Time to get Xander out of there.
The bigger man looked down at Spike. "Harris took my job. The job I was up for. I've got the seniority and I've got the balls to back it up. So get out of my way, little man. I'm coming through."
Spike sputtered, Xander forgotten. "Little man...? Little man?" He drew himself up to his full height.
Derisively, the big man in the big plaid shirt smiled. "It's none of your business. Little man."
"Now it's my business," Spike said as he visibly winced in anticipation. He slammed his fist into the man's stomach, punch pulled, to try to cut down on the searing pain that was coming any moment now.
As the man doubled over, he heard an anguished growl.
The pain in Spike's head was so blindingly intense that he never saw the next fist coming from the other man who had entered with Brills. Then suddenly, he was grabbed around the waist and pulled up and away. He opened eyes that danced with twinkling white lights to see Angel looking at him in concern.
"Oh, yeah," he groaned. "Peaches, let go."
"But the chip!"
"Sod the bloody chip. Or get the whelp out of there yourself! Buffy'll never forgive me if he goes to his weddin' lookin' like a prize fighter!"
Angel looked over his shoulder at the beginnings of a drunken brawl. Some of Xander's friends from work had jumped into the fray, keeping the even angrier Brills away.
"Uh, oh. Bar fight."
"You bleedin' idiot! He'll get himself killed! Just in time for the weddin'!" Spike yelled, breaking away from Angel. Angel reached for him as he spun away but grabbed only air.
"Harris, here! Don't..." Spike roughly pushed his way through the thickening crowd of bodies, wincing with every shock the chip was giving him.
Then Xander had stepped out, moving toward Brills, who had recovered from the punch and was headed to meet the boy.
Spike flung himself in the air, turning to take another sledgehammer type punch. It connected, but it was high and glancing, barely noticeable if you'd fought the Slayer for four years. Or had sex with her. Spike turned to Xander in a rage.
"You bloody fool! Back off!"
Slam. Another blow, low to the small of the back. Kidney punch. Lovely.
If he could concentrate on avoiding the blows, he'd be fine. But trying to talk sense into Harris at the same time was getting him a bit of an ass kicking.
"Here!" Spike saw Oz coming up on his left, moving sleekly through the crowd. An empty beer keg smashed into two men on Spike's right. "Take him!"
With that Spike grabbed Xander and practically threw him to Oz. Xander staggered. Oz steadied him and disappeared into the crowd.
Angel had finally waded up back up beside him, having been appreciably slowed by the thirty-five odd construction workers who had gathered around the growing fight. Many more of them were now throwing indiscriminate punches - hitting Angel, Gunn, Wesley and each other. The blows Angel was receiving, even with Wesley and Gunn now flanking him, didn't hurt, but the constant barrage was as annoying as hell.
"Spike, this is a hell of a mess," he said calmly to the younger vampire.
Spike looked at Angel incredulously, completely bowled over by the understatement.
Suddenly, Xander's voice was heard over the melee. "Hell, yes, I took your job! It wasn't your job to have, you lazy bastard! Come on! Come and get me, you..."
Spike's jaw tightened as the crowd picked up its fighting pace. Obviously, the whelp's removal from the mob had done nothing to diffuse the situation, especially since removing him hadn't kept his soddin' mouth shut. Suddenly, Xander's voice cut off in mid-challenge. Spike took a feeble kick to the groin and stayed standing, just looking at the 'mess.'
Angel saw Spike narrow his now glittering eyes as he looked around at the escalating violence. Chairs were being smashed, bottles were breaking as tables were overturned.
Suddenly, Spike grinned a feral grin, took a deep breath, let out a wickedly joyous laugh and dived deep into the fray. As Angel blocked punches, he looked for the top of the white blond head. And he saw him, as well as heard him. Heard him utter a constant stream of pained invectives and oaths to punctuate every pulled blow he threw.
Then Angel was so busy himself, he stopped paying attention.
Dawn put her video tape on pause and looked up as Willow, Buffy and Cordelia arrived back at Casa Summers. Cordelia looked around and went upstairs to check on Connor and Fred.
"Now that was a party," pronounced Willow in satisfaction. She grinned at Buffy. "Did you get some of those little puffy thingies with cheese inside? Spicy, spicy hot!" she said appreciably.
Buffy stared at Willow. "You ate?"
"Well, I didn't have time to get much. But Tara and I made a couple of napkins. See?" Willow reached into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out a bulging napkin and unwrapped it.
Dawn came sidling over. "Hmm. Didn't travel very well, did it?"
"Well, it's party food, Dawnie. It's for eatin' there, not for travelin'." She reached in and picked up another strange pastry. "Real men don't eat quiche." She popped the pastry into Dawn's mouth like she was a baby bird. "But these were almost all gone. Must be a shortage of real men at the party."
Cordelia came back down the stairs just as Dawn plopped down, chewing the baby quiche. "Okay, so tell me. How was it?"
"Connor's fine," Cordelia said to all and no one. "Angel makes me so crazy when he acts like I'm not being a good ... whatever," she complained. "Fred's asleep. Again. I think she's faking. I think she's hiding out up there."
Willow laughed at Cordy as she sat down beside Dawn. "Okay, Dawnie, time for the big explaino. Didn't see much. Oz and the band sounded great. They were doing all this eighties stuff. Spike's idea. 'You spin me right round baby right roundy.' Of course we missed the best part. One time performance. Spike singing."
Buffy, who had entered a fugue state, brought herself back to the conversation.
Making a surprised sound, Cordelia put her hands on her hips in consternation. "Is that what they were talking about? Vampire up on stage singing? Is this L.A.?"
"Singing what?" Dawn asked, eyes sparkling. "Was it good?"
"Well, when Xander and I were little kids, I guess about five or six, we used to watch MTV at Xander's house. Mom would have had a stroke if she'd caught me watching anything but PBS. But we could go to Xander's or Jesse's and turn it up til our ears bled. And watch. That was the best part.
"Jesse loved Cindy Lauper. You know 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun?" Dawn looked clueless. " 'Time After Time?'" At Dawn's blank look, she shrugged. "Guess you had to be there. Anyways, Xander loved Madonna. Oh, yeah, he did. Used to go through the house singing 'Like a Virgin.' Now I always had a real thing for Billy Idol."
Willow stopped, got a thoughtful look on her face. "The videos were kinda dark, but they were kinda like magic, too." She grinned at Dawn, finally answering her question. "Spike sang 'White Wedding' with Oz's band. Got up on stage and did it. One of the girls was practically swoony over it." She shot a quick look at Buffy, as she looked down at the napkin and popped another unrecognizable mass in her mouth, then offered the napkin to Dawn. "We missed it. But just barely," she complained. "We were at the Espresso Pump just a little too long."
Cordelia laughed wryly. "Well, I'm glad. The thought of Spike up on stage swallowing a microphone gives me the willies."
"Buffy?" Willow looked at her friend innocently. "Did you meet Anne?" She saw Buffy's eyes harden. Just a ghost of a 'harden', but it was there. "I saw her heading over in Spike's direction, so I thought you might. Tara said she was 'statuesque.' Funny word, statuesque. Like a statue? She didn't look very stiff to me. All that red hair. Think I should let mine grow out?"
Buffy shrugged, trying to look unconcerned, and succeeding. "She's all right, I guess. It's that stripper that gave me the wiggins. She was sitting in Willie's office up on the desk doing yoga. Naked. I got out of there fast."
"I think she's nice," Cordelia said haughtily. Buffy stared at her in shock. "Well, she is," Cordelia insisted. "She's an artist. Well, she is." She said defensively. "You just have to bear in mind that she's the kind of artist who takes off her clothes for men for money. Then you get it." Buffy rolled her eyes. She didn't know if she liked this new politically correct Cordelia. Talk about the wiggins!
Willow grinned at Dawn. "Then, there was a little scene with one of the guys Xander works with. Comin' on to Tara. She had this funny look on her face. Like she couldn't believe it." Willow face got very wistful. "She looked so beautiful tonight. Did you see that new way she did her hair? With that little twist and all the spriggies falling around her face? Thought I might have to say something, cause Tara was getting all twitchy like she does when she feels uncomfortable, but then Angel showed up and the guy backed off the leeeeery looks."
"Where is Tara?" Dawn asked. "She didn't come back here?"
"She had some things to do at home. Buffy's staying at her apartment tonight." Willow looked envious. "I haven't even seen it yet." She sighed, then grinned wickedly. "Well, maybe I'll see it sooner or later. I'm all over the sooner." Willow smiled. "But the party was really cool. I would have never known it was Willie's."
"It's just ridiculous," Buffy burst out. "Spike's going around like he's the Big Party Bad. And Angel's right in there with him. Do the evil undead still have testosterone? Cause there were major doses flying around over there."
Willow grinned mischievously. "Oh, I think there's definitely testosterone revenants. Ghosts of testosterone past." She let out a huge sigh. "Wish we could have stayed. I'd've loved to see what happened next!"
Shaking his head, Angel picked Spike up off the floor. Idiot!
Wesley frowned. "Is he all right?"
Oz glanced up from the kneeling position he had taken by Xander's prone body. Oh. Wesley was asking about Spike. He returned to his perusal of the groom. No bruises. At least not that he could see.
"How can you tell?" Gunn quipped. "Dead or unconscious look about the same in a vampire."
Angel looked up to see if any of the non-initiated had heard him. Anne was across the room, helping the others set up the tables again.
"Do you mind?" he said pointedly to Gunn, as he hauled Spike onto a nearby table that had survived the fight. "And there are ways to tell." He leaned over and put his mouth to Spike's ear.
"YOU ALL RIGHT?"
Spike jerked once and groaned long and low. His hands went involuntarily to his head. He turned on his side, pulling his knees up into a fetal position.
And promptly rolled off the table.
"Ow!" Spike sat up, head cradling his hands as he pulled his knees up to his chest. "Bloody hell." Waves of pain came and crested. He put his head between his knees. "Oh, Christ. I'm killin' Harris."
"Head hurts, huh." said Angel innocently. It was not a question.
"Go to hell!" Spike growled at the patronizing tone he heard in Angel's voice.
Angel looked over at Wesley. "He's fine. Just hungover."
"S'not a hangover. I can handle a bleedin' hangover. This ... now this is a migraine. Get me somethin', Peaches. Somethin' to deaden the pain."
"Oh, yeah, alcohol's just what you need," Angel said sarcastically as he headed toward the bar.
"Bugger off! You think havin' a soul is painful, try one of these." Spike raised his head to look around the now-empty room from his vantage point on the floor.
"Hey, who got Harris?" Spike asked, seeing Xander's sprawled body.
Oz looked at Spike. "I did. Started fighting me to get back in there. Had to deck him."
Angel walked past Oz with Spike's drink. "Bet you just hated that," he murmured.
Oz settled back on his heels, a small smile playing around the corner of his mouth.
"Not bruised up, is he?" Spike barked out.
"Not that I can see."
"Well, if you can't see it, doesn't matter, does it? Good job shuttin' him up. Wish it'd been me."
Standing up shakily, Spike groaned. He looked around the bar from his new and much worse vantage point and absently took the glass from Angel, draining it. He felt something catch at the side of his back and reached around to see what the damage was. His hand came away with a dart.
"Somebody started throwing darts," Angel explained unnecessarily, while indicating the now empty dartboard in the corner.
Spike shook his head and looked closely at the dart. Metal and plastic were good. He dropped it and glanced around at the wreck that used to be Willie's. "Well." He realized that everyone was gone except a few servers and Anne.
"Hullo, Anne. Fine mess and all that."
Anne walked toward him smiling. "Hi. Glad to see you back in the land of the living."
Gunn choked on his drink and started coughing. Angel pounded him on the back. Gunn gave Angel a dirty look, as he pulled himself back up off the table. He rubbed his chest with a grimace.
Spike grinned at Anne, popping open a cut on his lip. "Ow!" He reached up and felt his lip, running his tongue over the spot.
"Let's get you cleaned up." Anne giggled at his mumble. "Oh, and Angel?"
Angel head swung over to Anne questioningly.
"Could you please rescue Laura now? I think it's safe for her to come out."
Spike's mouth dropped open as he remembered the stripper in her makeshift dressing room in Willie's office. He snorted wryly. "Bloody stripper comes all the way from L.A., all expenses paid, to spend the bachelor party in her dressin' room." The wider grin made his whole face crack. "Ow."
Anne put her hand on his arm. "C'mon. Clean up time. You'd scare the dead with that face."
"Well, that's somethin' at least," Spike grumbled as Anne carefully pulled him toward the bar. "Bout all I could do right now."
Buffy wondered what was going on at the party. That dancer had done her thing by now and she was quite certain, by the little she'd seen (which was more than she wanted to), that the crowd had been quite appreciative.
And it had become very obvious to her that Spike had really wanted to get rid of her. Something that Buffy was not really used to, especially not from Spike. Willow, yes. In fact, Buffy used to hang around sometimes with Willow and Tara to see if she could put a little crimp in things. Or stick around the magic shop after she could see that Anya and Xander wanted some alone time. So, so tired of being the fifth wheel.
"That was Anya," Dawn said as she came back in from the kitchen. "Xander's still not home and she's getting worried."
"It's barely one a.m.," Cordelia snarked. "She should be glad to get a night with him out of the house. I know I would!"
Dawn sat back down on the sofa, grabbing a bag of chips. "I think it's a wedding question. It's always a wedding question. They've been working on the seating arrangements for weeks! Xander's Uncle Rory seems to be a major cause of concern. And Anya wants to make certain her old boss is sitting with just the right people."
"Not looking forward to a repeato introduction to D'Hoffryn," Willow sighed. "But he is very polite. Very so not Uncle Rory. Ew!"
Willow saw Cordelia's disdainful look. "Hey! If you had Xander's family to deal with and that whole demon family of Anya's, you'd be a little nervy too." Willow defended Anya, something she wasn't big on doing, but still... "And they are all so here for it. Bringing gifts and everything. Wonder what the head vengeance demon gives one of his exes. Sooo glad it's Anya and not me!" Willow's eyes sparkled at the thought of wedding hell.
"Gee, Willow, a little compassion would be good here. Xander and Anya are uniting two worlds. Like Romeo and Juliet. Capulets and Montages."
"Montagues," Buffy said absently, correcting Dawn. She stood up. "Well, I could go check and make sure everything's okay."
"Check what? The baby's fine," said Cordelia a little defensively.
"Check Xander," Buffy explained. "Just make sure the Xan-man isn't unconscious somewhere with a bottle in his hand being preyed upon by harpies in tasteless t-shirts. I don't trust Spike where Xander is concerned."
"Aw, Buffy, he's fine. Don't check up on him," Willow reasoned. "This is his last big night."
"That's what I'm afraid of," Buffy mumbled as she grabbed her coat and headed out the door.
Oz had grabbed his acoustic and had pulled up a chair at the table with Gunn, Wesley and the now conscious Xander. He strummed down the strings of the guitar softly, creating a diminished counterpoint to the conversation.
"It's a nice promotion." Xander explained, much more sober than he had been two hours ago. "Means Anya and I could look at buying a house. Think about having a family. Later. Much later." His voice raised slightly. "Except some people want to interfere with that. Giving fertility goddesses as wedding gifts."
Spike grinned as Anne worked on a cut behind his ear. "Ow!" He raised his voice to carry to the table. "Figured you might need some help, mate. Once you've bought the cow, the milk can sour, you know."
"I so did not want to hear that, Spike." Xander punched at the air with his finger, punching home the words. "You're disgusting."
"When did you start channeling the Slayer, mate? Might have to do something about that. Watcher-Boy, you ever done an exorcism?"
"Look, I love Anya and she loves me."
"She might have had a few questions about that if she'd seen you tonight."
"No matter what, I can always count on Anya being there for me. That's what love's all about, Spike. Something you know nothing about."
Spike's mouth tightened.
"Oh," Anne squeaked. "Sorry. Did I hurt you?"
"S'nothin'," Spike muttered. "But you really don't have to do this. I'm a quick healer."
"Well, this one.... Oh. Look at that." Anne laughed nervously. "I guess you're right! That's ... well, really something," she said uncomfortably.
All at once, Oz's guitar rung out with a grouping of chords that sounded very familiar.
"Ah," Xander breathed. "Miss Tammy." He looked at Gunn. "You wouldn't know about Miss Tammy, I guess," he asked hopefully.
"Sometimes its hard to be a woman, givin' all your love to just one man," Gunn crooned in tune with Oz's chords.
Xander grinned in delight and joined in.
"You'll have bad times and he'll have good times, doin' things that you don't understand."
Angel, who was sitting at a table with Laura, got up and bowed, crooking a finger.
"You do realize I still expect to be paid for this," she said, getting up and being swept easily onto the dance floor. "Even though I didn't dance."
Angel grinned. "Looks like you're dancing to me."
"But if you love him you'll forgive him
Even though he's hard to understand
And if you love him
Oh, be proud of him
'Cause, after all, he's just a man."
Spike grinned, joining in loudly from the bar, not really singing, but yelling the lyrics as Wes stumbled along a little behind.
"Stand by your man
Give him two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely
Stand by your man
And show the world you love him
Keep givin' all the love you can
Stand by your man."
Angel stopped dancing a moment, raising his voice with the others.
"Stand by your man."
"Spike?" Anne elbowed Spike as he took another swig out of bourbon. He had abandoned the glass and moved straight on to the bottle. His head hurt, dammit. And beltin' out that song hadn't helped. Anne nodded her head, and got up to meet the new arrival near the door.
Christ, she's back. Spike sighed.
"What the hell is this?"
"It's okay. Everything's fine," said Anne rushing up to Buffy. She gently took the shorter blonde's arm to guide her back to the door. "It looks worse than it is," she lied, laughing nervously.
Buffy looked down at Anne's hand on her arm, then back up into Anne's eyes. Anne's hand dropped to her side as her eyes widened.
Buffy turned back to the bar and looked around, really taking it in.
Angel had been dancing with the stripper, who was thankfully now wearing some kind of shiny robe that barely covered a multitude of sinfulness. Oz was sitting at a table, guitar in hand, with Xander, a bleary eyed Wesley and a big man who must be Gunn. And Spike was sitting at the bar, a bevy of bloody cloths and the remnants of a first aid kit around him. There was a second drink beside his at the bar.
Buffy's eyes narrowed as they settled on him.
"Hey, Slayer." Spike had decided to brazen this out. After all, they'd just had a spot of violence was all. "You missed all the fun. Had a bit of a..."
"Bar fight?" She finished sweetly. Anne slunk back and into the kitchen, away from the fire in Buffy's eyes. "Obviously a bar fight. Denizens of the night, right? I told you there were..."
"No," Angel spoke up, determined to take a little of that Slayer heat off of the battered vampire at the bar. "Well, demonish, yes. Demon construction workers from hell!"
Spike looked over at Angel appreciatively, equilibrium restored. "Good one, poof." He looked back at Buffy. "Yes, luv. T'was a whole passel of 'em. Big ones, too!"
"You've been fighting," Buffy said slowly, taking in his battered face.
Spike laughed wryly, healing cuts set back another hour or so. "Like a bloody milksop! A real wanker, matter o' fact. But yeah. Pulled my punches, but my head's still killin' me. Finally got some kind of rhythm goin'." Spike looked over at Angel. "Up for a bit of a beheading, Peaches? Put me out of your misery?"
Angel laughed as Buffy tapped her foot, arms folded tight across her chest. Gunn chuckled at the scene. "Maybe later, Spike. You may not need me."
Buffy looked around again, pointedly taking in the debris. Willie's was trashed. Completely and utterly wrecked!
Her eyes swung back to Spike. Hazel eyes narrowed at his smirky grin. Anne walked back up, eyes down, to the bar and started stashing the alcohol and unopened gauze back into the old rusty first aid kit. Buffy's eyes flashed.
"Spike," she asked softly, "can I see you outside?" She said it politely, but her posture as she spun on her heel and headed to the door proved her calm tone was deceptive. She stopped, hand on the door. "And Xander, you might want to call your fiancé. Oh, and Angel, your son is just fine." She opened the door and went out without turning to see if Spike was following her.
Spike sat for a moment, staring vacantly at the door. Was he really up for this? If his head didn't kill him, Buffy might. He sighed in a big way. Then he realized the room had gone totally silent. Looking around, he saw all eyes on him, waiting expectantly. He gave a non-repentant grin, shrugged sheepishly and eased his way carefully off the stool, heading toward the door. He heard a big 'oooooh,' as he stepped outside and Gunn dissolving into whooping laughter.
Gunn snorted as the door closed behind Spike. "I thought he was a tough guy! Could he be any more whipped?"
"Hey!" Angel said in Spike's defense. "This is Buffy Summers, okay? Still, it is sad to see the demise of the Big Bad. It was fun having him back."
Gunn laughed. "She's pretty pissed, all right." He looked at Wes. "Remind me if I ever have a girlfriend again to be sure and never give anybody a bachelor party. Looks real hard on a relationship."
Xander's grin died, as puzzlement slid over his face. He laughed, but nervously. "No, no. It's nothing like that. Buffy and Spike are just .... Well, Buffy and Spike are ... well, it's nothing like that."
Gunn raised an eyebrow at Xander. Even Wesley looked at Xander like he was crazy. Angel's face was carefully non-committal - a look Gunn knew all too well.
Xander couldn't let it go. He stumbled over some kind of explanation for the scene that had just played out. "I mean, Buffy and Spike?" He laughed again. "Why that would be..." His voice played out as he looked at Angel and all the pieces fell into place. Including some pieces he would never want to think about again.
"...Typical," he finished. "Oh, God." He buried his head in his hands and sunk into a depressed silence.
Oz, who had never really raised his head from his guitar, played the first bit of the chorus of 'Stand By Your Man,' drawing the last chord out to punctuate the silence.
Gunn threw back his head and laughed.
Continued in Part 11: The End