He hadn't expected her to come home early from the party. He thought she'd stay there, bitch about men and demons, and maybe come back in just enough time so he could clean up the junk food wrappers and score rare brownie points for being both neat and addicted to health food. Instead, he found himself rocketing up off the couch, chips geisering out of the bag as he clutched at it convulsively. He wondered if Halfrek had decided to throw him a demon bachelor party, but before he could decide on his hiding place of choice, the door flung open and he found himself in the headlights of Anya. It was just amazing how demon-like she could look when she was either pissed-off or shortchanged.
"Uh, Anya...? Honey? Sweetie? What's..." He swallowed. "...wrong?"
She kicked off one shoe, glared at him, then the other. "Everything is the matter. I can't remember everybody I got revenge on, can I?"
"Well?" Xander cautiously laid the chip bag down as if it would explode with rough handling. "Um, An, why would you want to? I thought..." He swallowed. "I thought that was all behind you?"
"But I keep getting reminded of it!" She exclaimed. "And I don't want to be."
"Hallie came to Dawn's party and talked about all kinds of stuff, and it just brought back memories of how Spike became a vampire, and then Buffy and I had... words... and I don't want to talk about it."
"Huh?" He shook his head as if to loosen the brain cells. "What was Halfrek doing at Dawn's party?"
"She wasn't invited." Anya said sulkily. She flopped down on the couch next to him, tugged at his shirt hem, and he sat down, hard, next to her. " But she came anyway. And then..." She sighed in a way he recognized; the pay-attention-to-me-because-I-feel bad sigh. It was going to be a loooonnnnnng evening now, he realized. No hockey for me. "I can't remember everything I do." She looked at him. "Do you remember what you had for breakfast ten years ago yesterday?"
"Well, then, why should I have to remember everything I did a hundred years ago. Or a hundred twenty?"
He noted the second figure, wondering why a little sensor in his brain was telling him the same thing it always told him, for example, on Housework Days: Here be Dragons. Nevertheless, he had a duty, a calling, a death wish, so he plunged on ahead. "What are you talking about?"
"I don't see why Hallie's so pissy." She sniffed. "It's not like he killed her. You can't be a vengeance demon and dead, you know?"
"Uh, don't take this the wrong way, sweetie, but what in the hairy hell are you talking about?"
"Ugh, Xander, that's gross."
"Well, okay, then what are you talking about?"
"Spike. He used to know Hallie. She's the reason he's a vampire, and he's the reason she's a vengeance demon, so it really doesn't have anything to do with me, and you know what? I think I'm going to stop returning her calls. Every times she's around, things just get so complicated."
"Well." Great. There goes the seating chart again. However.... Fewer vengeance demons around the house? A good thing. More confusion around the house? Business as usual. Once again, he found himself compelled into No Man's Land. "An? What are you talking about again? Spike and Hallie? An item?"
"No, they're not an item, it's Spike and--" Anya clapped her hand over her mouth. 'Oh. My. God." She jumped to her feet and to Xander's bewildered eyes, started doing the Macarena. After a moment, he realized instead she was digging in her pants pockets, although he was completely confused as to why. Confusion ended abruptly as she yanked out a pendant and dangled it before his eyes. She stared at it and then at him. "It's Hallie's vengeance pendant. Oh. My. God. She's helpless without it. I have to call Buffy. Oh my God, poor Hallie, who knows what could happen to her?"
Phone ringing in ear.
Fumble, fumble, mmm, Spike sighing himself awake under her cheek, oh, no, house full of girls... Buffy jerked awake with a violent start and sat up in the darkness. Crap. She rolled over to grab the phone off the nightstand, rolling on top of Spike to do so, and finding herself unable to roll back when he wrapped his arms around her and kept her on his chest.
"Buffy, it's Xander. Do you know where Hallie is?"
Buffy stopped a moment to consider this. Why, yes, of course, Xander, I keep track of her movements religiously so I can worship her more effectively. Clamping down heavily on the sarcasm pedal, she counted to ten and found a tepid answer. "Not a clue, Xander. I encouraged her to leave." Spike raised one eyebrow at this, and Buffy glared back, wriggling to try and get into a position where she could talk in a normal tone of voice. He slanted a look up at her under his lashes, wondering what he could get away with.
"Why, uh, did you encourage her to leave?"
Oh, crap indeed, she thought. Because she hurt Spike's feelings. Because I couldn't let her do that without wanting to smack her around for some reason. Crap. "She was causing trouble."
"Anya said something about Spike being there."
"He was at the time. He left, too." Of course, he also came back, and currently is lying in my bed, under me, looking up at me with the sort of eyes that mean big trouble, but why mention that? "Why?" Mm. Big trouble.
"Well, would he know where she was?"
"Who, Hallie? Xander, you woke me up after a day full of boybands so we can talk about a vengeance demon who... what?" Who hurt Spike really badly? Definitely not to be included in the conversation.
"Anya's worried. She has Hallie's pendant."
"So... she can't accessorize now?"
Spike pulled himself higher on the pillows and loosened his grip. Buffy, without even being aware of it, made a sulky face at that, and sat up, sheets tumbling off her to curl around her legs. She looked so pouty that he cocked his head at her thoughtfully, finally reaching out and brushing the hair out of her eyes.
Anya danced around Xander, making grabs for the phone. Xander, very much in the manner of King Kong batting away bi-planes, waved her away. "No, Buffy, she's helpless without her pendant, right, Anya?"
"Well, not exactly." Anya said. "I'm really not sure how bad it is. I think they tell us that so we won't try stuff without it." Spike sat up slowly, shifting, the picture of caution, till he was beside her, face buried in her hair. His hands slid with infinitesimal slowness over her skin, and she began to sweat under his fingers. "Uh, well, it's always been understood, sort of..." Spike, kissing her neck now with the lightest of touches, sucking on her earlobe..... She arched, and he slipped closer, eyes glittering in anticipation, sliding his hands around her....
"Huh?" Xander and Buffy said simultaneously.
"At least I kind of think so. Officially, she's helpless without it."
"Officially?" Xander and Buffy said. Xander sounded slightly squeakier.
"Well...." Anya said guiltily.
"I'll call you back." Xander said tersely.
With that, they both turned to their respective companions at their end of the phone line, and hung up. Xander planted his hands on his hips and shook his head at Anya, and Buffy reached around and grabbed Spike, kissing him onto his back, and only then remembered that she was supposed to be perturbed at the way he'd tried to distract her during the phone conversation.
Somehow she managed the bi-athlete-like feat of rolling her eyes and shaking her head at Spike, then crawled forward a bit and lowered her face onto his chest. He tried not to give any indication at all that this was unusual. "Good thing he hung up."
"Tedious, isn't he? Nice to see you admit it."
She poked him in the side in an especially ticklish spot, and he wriggled like a hyperactive ten-year-old for a moment. She gave him a sphinx-like look, savoring his reaction and filing it away for future reference. He subsided as she continued to blink up at him with solemn eyes, till finally he leaned down and unleashed the ultimate weapon; the nosetip kiss. Poking him in the ribs again briefly seemed a good idea, but she decided to settle for wriggling closer and nudging against his face. He eyed her consideringly, thoughtfully, before he consented to be kissed, smiling against her mouth, urging her closer. Biting her lip, she pulled away. "Sleep." She muttered.
He kissed her again, rolling them onto their sides, pulling her closer, till it Buffy pulled back, sulking up at him. "Can't."
"Why not?" He punctuated this by kissing her chin.
"We were quiet."
"You tried that one already."
"Worked too, didn't it?"
"Well, not this time." But she looked into his eyes for so long, blinking up at him, that he was content to lie there, indulging in periodic kisses while she made up her mind. Only when he slipped from her mouth to her breast did she sigh and shift, pulling him back up to face her, smiling slightly and shaking her head.
He supposed in the name of men everywhere he should put up a fight, but she was warm against him and the best was a nest of soft blankets. She wiggled under him, pulling him closer, and he subsided on her breast, stroking her arms with hypnotic sweeps of one hand. He could feel her sigh as much as he could hear it, feeling her breath in his hair, her fingers playing across his back. They were both asleep in minutes.
Hallie blinked with eyelids that seemed glued shut, and tried to figure out if she was dead or not. She was in too much pain to be dead, but she couldn't move, either, which made her wonder if she was paralyzed.
"Well, Sleeping Beauty finally woke up."
Hallie didn't recognize the voice; it was male, human, and excessively optimistic, if he thought had a chance against a pissed, hungover and impatient vengeance demon. "Who are you, human?" She began to realize that her hands were cold from the wrist down.
"Human? Who do you think you are, Spock?" The voice shifted, steps approached her, and a male face topped by a frizzy rodent appeared in her vision. She squinted, and realized it wasn't a rodent, it was his hair. The sight actually made her hangover worse.
"I'm a vengeance demon, human!" She hissed, but he looked blank. "A vengeance demon?" She clarified. " A justice demon!"
"Yeah, but you look human. You're just trying to scare me."
Hallie rolled her eyes, which made her head throb like it was going to explode. She couldn't necessarily exert her powers on her behalf, but she could certainly defend herself. She sniffed scornfully at him, and concentrated....
She blinked, running through her pre-curse checklist; she hadn't missed anything. When you did something every day for a hundred and some years, you got the routine down. She hadn't omitted anything. Her concentration, however, was distracted when Warren ambled closer and leaned over her. Her fists involuntarily clenched, and she realized that she was tied down. "I don't know, she just doesn't look like a demon."
"She has a name." Hallie spat out furiously. "It's Hallie."
"Well, nice to meet you, Hallie." Warren said sarcastically. He directed an irritated look at Andrew. "You must've done the spell wrong, doofus. She's supposed to be still unconscious."
"I did it all right." Andrew shrugged. "She said she was a demon."
"She sure looks like one." Warren said. "Damn." She couldn't see for sure, but the two of them looked like they were exchanging accusatory glances. "So, demon, why don't you curse us?"
Hallie tried to push aside the hangover and remember what it was she was doing wrong. "Untie me and I won't hurt you." Much, she thought to herself.
"Why should we?" Warren demanded skeptically. "You just look like any old chick to me."
Hallie focused on recent setbacks, current irritations. That ridiculous Spike, the Slayer standing up for him, undoubtedly because there was something going on there, Anyanka taking her pendant....!
Fury temporarily overcame alcohol fumes and she snapped into demon face abruptly. Warren froze, and Andrew wilted to the floor with a yip that got cut off once he made impact with the cheap linoleum. "OH, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit," Warren muttered. "You are a demon."
"Untie me, and I'll let you live."
"How can I trust you?"
Warren eyed her carefully, assessing the distance to the exit out of the corner of his eye. "Hell with it," He muttered, and bolted.
Angel soaked a towel under the cold-water faucet, and draped it over his head. Cordelia, having tucked Connor into bed, watched this sympathetically but a certain amount of anticipation. After all, she didn't often get to tease him, and here was the opportunity of the year. "Two new looks in one day."
A baleful eye glared at her from underneath the dripping towel. "I'll remember that when I'm..."
"Sober? Oh, I can hardly wait. You consumed the equivalent of the gross national product in one sitting, assuming they measured it in spew units, and you're threatening me with what you're going to do when you're what? Less pickled? If you open the fridge again, you'll spoil Connor's milk."
Another baleful look. "Why is this funny?"
Cordelia shrugged. "Because you're not exactly funboy, Angel. It's good to see you go out and have fun with your friends."
The eye disappeared, guiltily. Angel looked away. Cordelia didn't notice, and went on. "So what was the occasion? Did you get the wedding invitation?"
"Xander's getting married."
"Xander? Buffy's friend? God, you really are drunk."
"No so drunk." Angel muttered. He cocked his head at the sound of Wes banging around in what had once been Angel's own office. "Not so drunk I don't know people are lying to me."
Spike, in love? Who was it? Dawn? Willow? That other person Buffy had mentioned, Willow's new girlfriend? Joyce's memory? It seemed to intensify his pain, not knowing, not being able to warn this anonymous woman. At the very least, Buffy would be able to..?
There was a thought forming in the mass of alcohol-soaked marbles that made up his brain. Buffy should know. Buffy would know. Wes. Buffy. Wes. Buffy. Phone call. He'd crashed before then, what had Wes found out?
He raised his head, and tried to squint at the hallway to see how many miles' away Wes' office was. My former office, one of the more pickled parts of his brain piped up. Enough of that, admonished the mature brain. He wasn't sure how that part had gotten less alcohol, but it was distinctly unpleasant. "Cordelia, can you do something for me?"
"What?" She asked cautiously.
"Ask him what Buffy said when he called her."
She gave him a resentful look. "I knew I should have gone with you guys. Men just don't know how to gossip effectively." Unwilling to miss a minute, she backed out of the room, and kept her eyes on him till she'd covered the three feet or so to Wes' office.
"Yes?" He looked up from his suitcase. Only Wes packed for an overnight trip as if it were for an expedition to Sri Lanka, Cordelia thought, conveniently ignoring the contents of her oversized bag, which included shampoo for those emergency situations.
"Angel wants to know what Buffy had to say?"
Wes blinked at her, flummoxed. Angel remembered that? "Um, about what?"
"Hey, Angel, about what?"
Angel cringed at her tone of voice, which was, admittedly, slightly above normal speaking level. "What?"
Cordelia turned and looked back at Wes. "Do I have to act as interpreter here, Wes?"
Wes looked out. "What were you asking, Angel?"
"What. Did. Buffy. Know. About. Spike?" Angel whispered, clutching his head, or rather, his towel.
"Um, not much."
"But what did she know?"
"I, ah, couldn't get a lot out of her."
Angel thought about it, weighing consequences in his brain. "I can get a lot out of her, Wes." He straightened up. "I have to go with you."
Continued in Chapter 32