"Well, I'm not planning it!" Spike said stubbornly.
"You need to be involved. Heavily."
"Can't I just show up? Wait a minute. Am I even invited? All this sounds more like a job for the Ripper anyway. Why can't the bloody Watcher get his arse back here for a week or two and throw something together?"
Buffy blew out some carefully held breath in frustration. "You'd better be glad he's not here. If he'd taken one look at me the morning after our little escapade, you'd have been shish-kabob before the sun went down."
"Hey, you started it. Well ... I started it. But you...."
"Oh, yeah. He'd really blame me after everything you've done. Manacles. Robot. And don't think I didn't tell him about that shrine thing in your crypt."
"You blackmailing me, Slayer? Is that what this is all about? And what's all this buddy stuff all of a sudden? You drag me to the bloody mall to shop for a shower gift, which I graciously pay for. Shopping for wedding gifts, like I'm Willow, or something. A Big Bad like me? Now, I get to bond with Harris. Reducing me to a member of the Buffy Fan Club, are you?" Spike narrowed his eyes. "Trying to downplay this thing we've got til you kill it? Won't work, you know."
"Familiarity breeds contempt, Spike."
"Yeah. And your convoluted thought processes are becoming more familiar by the day. Sometimes you really scare me, luv, and I don't mean the wooden stake in the heart kind of scare. Well, maybe I do, but not necessarily the stake you're thinking about..."
"Okay. Back to topic. I can see you're not willing to talk. Again. So the Watcher can't do it. You could ..."
"The groom's best friend puts on the party."
"But I'm not..."
"You spent last summer bonding with him. Not me. You're the one he wants to show his new tools to, remember? And unless Willow, Tara, Dawn or I put on this bachelor party -- which is so lame I won't even consider it -- you're the closest thing to a best friend he's got. One more benefit of living on the Hellmouth. Anya said none of the guys where he works have volunteered. Now get over it. If you need us, we'll help. All you have to do is ask."
"Bloody hell," Spike muttered in surrender.
As time passed and the date for the bachelor party approached, Buffy saw Spike less and less.
When she did see him, he had a cell phone practically growing out of his ear and a memory like an elephant. No small detail was lost in the shuffle, as he expertly handled call after call.
And he was ... well, a little distracted. Not about slaying necessarily. Just distracted where Buffy was concerned. Like all his energy was going somewhere else. And although she should have been relieved at the lack of double entendre and sexual innuendo, she felt ... well, neglected.
Patrols used to pass in companionable silence with an occasional dusting. Sometimes a little conversation. It was Buffy's best time of the day. She could say whatever she liked, or nothing at all. And nobody was analyzing what she said or didn't say. Now even that was different. There was still conversation, but not really with her.
Then one night, after Spike helped polish off a new nest of vamps ("It was a mercy killing, really. No sense of style at all."), the cell phone rang.
"I thought I told you to turn that thing off when we were on patrol," Buffy grumbled.
Spike looked at the number on the caller ID and grinned at her apologetically. "Sorry, luv, got to take this one. "
"Who died and made you party god anyway?" she shot back.
"Well. You did. And. You did. Nobody else would do it. Seems I've got a gift or it." Buffy's eyes darkened and her mouth opened. " C'mon, Slayer." he aid placatingly. "Been waiting on this call for days. Watch my back for me?"
Buffy growled a 'yes,' but eyed his back. Looked down at the stake in her hand.
She shook off the thought and stepped a little closer. What little she'd heard of these phone calls had her grudging admiration. He wheedled, he coaxed, he cajoled, he threatened. Absently, she thought it was kinda sexy to watch him work the suppliers and caterers and the band and ... No, not sexy. Interesting. That's it. Interesting.
"Right. 'Bout time you called. No excuses now. You've seen her, right? It doesn't help me when you tap dance like this. I don't have time for it. I'm on a deadline here. So? Yes or no." Spike's voice rose in anger. Buffy knew that tone.
"Bloody hell!" he continued. "I'm drownin in details here. This is ground zero, right? I ask you, on the basis of past associations to handle this one important detail, not even an unpleasant detail, mind, and ...." He listened. Obviously, he was being mollified by the supplier. Buffy grinned.
"Good. Fine. Just check her out and if...well, you know ..." Spike chuckled. A naughty little laugh that sent a welcome --no, unwelcome, unwelcome -- chill up Buffy's spine. "Yeah, I remember. Bloody good. That's what I had in mind, too. Yep, I took care of the sound system. Finalized the band last week. Food's taken care... Hey, I told you it's all handled."
"Look, I'm trusting you on this." Spike said earnestly. "Can you make sure she gets here? She goes on at eleven. I've set this thing up for two nights before the wedding so that we're sure the groom gets to the church on time. Yeah, fine, bring her with. We'll find something to do with her til after the wedding. Or just fly her back out the next day.
Spike looked over his shoulder at Buffy. "She's fine. I don't know. Why don't you bloody ask her yourself? She's right here. " Buffy stiffened. Someone she knew? And obviously, Spike didn't like the question because he growled the answer, "What do you think? On patrol, of course. Right, then."
"What? Well, don't tell her where you're goin' then! Then take her with, for God's sake. She might even like it. God, I can't believe I asked you to do this and you're wimpin' out like this! I mean it, Peaches. Just deal with it!
Buffy was staring at Spike as he slammed the phone back in his pocket.
Since when was Spike even speaking to Angel? Or Angel to Spike? Or ...
"Bloody pouf," Spike grumbled. "Can't get his bleedin' soul-full self over to the club to even see the girl dance! Sends his minions." Now he was ranting. "Talk about whipped! Of course, if Gunn's been there twice, she can't be too bad..."
Spike saw Buffy staring at him in shock. "What?" he asked impatiently.
"A stripper ...?" It was the last thing on Buffy's mind, but the only thing that she could focus on just then.
"Well. Yeah. It's a bachelor party. I've crashed a few in my time. It's just not a bachelor party without a stripper. Better the stripper, the better the party. Nothing but skanks around 'Sunnyhell,' so I'm bringin one in. From L.A. Well, the poof is, but it's my money!"
"You're a pig, Spike."
"Which is why you puttin' me in charge of this bachelor party was such a good plan. Bigger the pig, the better the party. Besides, last night of freedom for old Xander and all that."
"And Angel's coming here? To Xander's bachelor party? Coming to Sunnydale?"
"Well. Yeah ... What?!" Buffy was looking at him like...
"Angel's gonna kill you when he finds out about..."
"About what?" Spike looked a little too cocky for her taste. Or relaxed. Confident? What?
"Oh. That. Like you're gonna have a heart-to-heart with him about something you contend isn't going on? Doubt it. I'm your friend, remember? Shopping buddy. Girlfriend."
"I won't have to say anything. He'll know."
"From who? 'Cause it won't be me telling' him. You said you'd kill me if I told anyone, right? Isn't that what you said? Well, I value this skin, so you won't have to worry. Not that that pouf could take me out anyway. And if you think he's going to see it in your face, you're sadly mistaken."
"You're not worried about me seeing Angel? I mean ..."
Spike took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "No. I told you once already: you've never had better than me. I stand by it."
"Oh, hell, Buffy. Let it lie. Angel's comin'. Unless the poufster backs out..." Spike dug for the cell phone and punched numbers in a rage, completely forgetting Buffy was there. "Yeah. It's me. Don't you bloody back out! I'm countin' on you ... You're going? Now? Good boy. I knew you were the vamp for the job. Great. Call me when you get in, you great oaf!"
Spike laughed. "Yeah, I'll be up." He hung up the phone and remembered Buffy was there.
His eyes hardened.
"You started this, Slayer. I'm going to pull off the most kick-ass bachelor party this Hellhole has ever seen. It's too bad you won't be there to see it. " He laughed and his expression became apologetic. "Well, maybe it's good you won't, you might never forgive me, but Harris'll never forget it. It'll sustain him through many a boring married night. For the rest of his life."
"I still say Angel's gonna kill you."
Spike shrugged. "It'll be a helluva party then."
Continued in Part 2: The Sting