Hallie was not feeling good. She, too, had a distinct premonition of oncoming digestive difficulties, and the idea of what that would be like while tied to a table made her forget that she was tied up. If she had felt better, the knots wouldn't have been a problem. The biggest item on her radar was her hangover, and Andrew was just an annoying noise that she'd slap away as soon as she felt better. If I ever feel good enough to get revenge on anyone again, it's Jack Daniels I'm going after, she thought. Her mouth felt like the bottom of an coal miner's laundry hamper. She turned her head just slightly. Strange. Ratboy was gone. In his place was some boy she knew she should have some vague memory of, but really couldn't bother to waste the energy on. She tried to focus on this one, who skittered away from her as soon as he saw her looking at him. He looked like he was going to cry. She just hated that. A surprising number of these sleazeballs did all kinds of crap—murder, rape, whatever -- and burst into tears when she so much as threatened their golf handicap. She'd told OJ Simpson she was going to curse him with girlfriends who were as beautiful as he was innocent, and he'd promptly displayed more acting ability then than she'd ever seen in his movies. Of course, D'Hoffryn just loved OJ's movies, so she'd seen the damned things numerous times. Shame, really, that there was no category of artistic revenge....She drifted pleasantly for a few minutes, occupied by thoughts of making N'Sync pay for their crimes, when she realized she was still tied up. Damn. This reality was so unpleasant. Next time she was definitely going to pop out before the hangover arrived. She concentrated her brain cells and focused on breaking the ropes. Nothing. Not even a fizzle. What the hell was going on...?Then she remembered. Her pendant. Anya had her pendant. She stared at the ceiling resentfully for a while. Then she licked her lips and tried to figure out which of the two boys she saw actually existed. "You."
God, how pathetic, she thought. Human. "Untie me."
"You'll hurt me."
Well, duh, you fool. Then she realized, mournfully, that minus her pendant, and severely hungover, she might not even be capable of that. Unless, of course, she could scare the little bugger. She turned her head the other way and tried to morph into demon face, but the hangover was rapidly getting worse, and all she could manage was a really bad case of acne. She sighed and turned back. "I won't hurt you." She paused. "If you untie me."
"Oh, I don't know." Andrew said tremulously. "Warren will be so...." His eyes widened at the way she glared at him. Hm. Think like a Supervillain! He thought. She was tied up. Warren was not. Warren might come back. Besides, how many people could boast they'd caught a demon? However, in order to get away, he had to get by the table to the stairs. Hm. How pissed would Warren be? Hm. He looked at where her hands were tied to the table; there were several thicknesses of rope around each wrist, and he knew her ankles were just as securely tied. She wasn't going anywhere, at least as long as she was tied up. Tied up, she was just another woman, just another experiment. He smiled slightly to himself, relieved. His favorite solution to every problem was simple; do nothing and wait for Warren. Here was a perfect opportunity.
Hallie cleared her throat. "Well?"
"Well, I don't think I should."
A scraping noise on the stairs made them both turn. Jonathon stood on the stairway, wearing his Superman Tee-shirt, jaw agape. His expression of astonishment gradually faded into one of disappointment as he realized that Halfrek in no way, shape or form resembled a cheerleader. She hadn't bothered to morph out of the demon face she'd managed, so she had a rather severe skin condition as well. "Oh," Jonathon said faintly. No cheerleader. No gratitude. Rescuing her no longer seemed interesting; disposing of her seemed to be the problem now. He grimaced. Supervillains or superheroes were supposed to get all the cool girls; what was going on here?
"Uh," Jonathon said. She was conscious, too, which meant he was about to experience conversational awfulness that no doubt would eclipse whatever torments had he'd survived in high school. How did you make polite conversation with someone your evil genius buddy had kidnapped for purposes he'd forced himself not to think about? Crap. He'd wanted to rescue a cheerleader. This person just wasn't pretty enough to rescue. He sank down onto the steps and sighed.
Hallie looked at him, then waited for five seconds before looking again. He was still sitting there, pouting, and she wondered if she'd inadvertently turned him to stone. She looked at the ceiling supports for a while, then glanced back. Nothing. Was he just going to sit there? "You." She said. "Untie me."
"Uh," Jonathon said, nervously standing up. It occurred to him he would have untied her if she'd been unconscious, but he just couldn't do it while she was looking at him. He hesitated, completely flummoxed by something he hadn't expected. "Uh. It's ...the phone." He said faintly.
Inspiration dawned on Andrew's face. "Yeah, I'm expecting a call."
"No, it's for me!" Jonathon said. "I'M expecting a call!"
"No, I am." Andrew snapped, jumping to his feet.
Jonathon leaped and whirled up the stairs, Andrew at his heels. Out of Hallie's sight, there was a thump, and a scuffle, muttered threats and insults, and then a door slamming. Her sigh reached only the ceiling.
She looked around again. No phone. No company. No pendant. No way to get a hold of anyone. She was hungover, sick, and not likely to improve if she didn't get some aspirin. Plus, she just was not in fighting shape, and if those three twits came back, she'd have a great excuse for revenge, but not a lot of opportunity.
Oh, God, this is going to look so bad on my quarterly review, she thought. She closed her eyes and began chanting, softly and uncertainly. Before she'd gotten far, there was a roar, a puff of smoke that did her stomach no good at all, and an irritable-sounding cough. She tried to spot anything in the green smoke. There were tentative footsteps on the concrete, and the smoke swirled as someone waved irritably at it. Horns emerged from the soupy fog, and D'Hoffryn peered at her, only his head and face visible. "Hallie?!" He looked over her predicament. "What happened?"
For the first time, Hallie let herself get good and joyously angry. "You know that rule about us getting revenge on our own?"
"Well, we need to talk about changing that."
God, the phone again. Buffy jerked awake and glared at the thing. She was curled up against Spike's back, her arms looped bonelessly around his middle, his hand curled back around one of her thighs. She groaned in a very un-Slayer like way, and rolled over to grab the phone, vowing to turn the ringer off when she was done.
"Xander, don't take this the wrong way, but if it's another missing demon, your birthday present is in serious jeopardy."
There was an interesting pause. He was calling from the Magic Box; she could hear the noise of the cash register behind him. Behind her, she heard and felt Spike move, rolling over onto his back as she had, then beside her. She glanced down and Spike was stretched thoughtfully out on his side next to her, cheek propped on one hand.
"Well, does it count if it's the same demon?" Xander asked.
"Tell me again why I should care?"
Anya was saying something in the background, her voice alternatively buzzing and clearing in the earpiece. She sounded like a giant bug. "Anya says Hallie left, then Spike..." He let that phrase dangle suggestively in the air.
"What are you talking about?" Buffy demanded.
"Well, evidently there was some sort of history there between Anya's friend and... Spike. I know you've been all buddy-buddy with him lately, but..."
Buffy's mood slid from irritated to outright pissed in one second flat.
"Why don't you just spit it out, Xander? What are you trying to say?"
"Well, like I said, you know, Hallie broke his heart when he still had a heart, so who knows what he'd do if he had the opportunity?"
Buffy thought rapidly, frowning, trying to figure out something she knew she was missing. Spike reached out with one finger and traced her thigh, distracting her from whatever it was that she was trying to remember. "This was Anya's little vengeance demon friend?"
"Well, yeah." Xander said cautiously.
"So if she broke his heart, how come she's a vengeance demon?" Buffy demanded triumphantly. "He didn't kill her then, why would he do it now?"
More muttering buzzing sounds just a bit too far away to hear. Buffy glanced down at Spike, sensing impending distractions. Actually, she was actively hoping for them. "Anya said Hallie left first, then Spike took off."
"So?" Buffy said. She had the perfect defense, right in front of her, and she couldn't use it. He was here with me, all night.
"Jeez, Buffy, what is it? You're sticking up for him."
"Somebody's got to." Buffy snapped. "You just automatically blame him for everything." Something like shock slipped over Spike's face, and he looked up at her with wary eyes. "Dawn was telling me about this summer, Xander."
There was a tense silence, and when Xander finally broke it, his voice was tight. "Yeah, so what does that mean?"
"He fought alongside you all summer, and you might be able to forget that, but Dawn and I can't. And Glory tortured him."
"That's what he says." Xander said scornfully.
"You saw him, Xander. Do you think he did that to himself?"
"He's always getting into fights." Xander said contemptuously. "He's always got bruises and stuff all over. Look at that shiner he had at your party, and he didn't even bring you a present, did you?"
"Xander, you have whatever opinion you want." Buffy said. "But I have an opinion, too, and at least I change mine when the person it's about changes. I'll ask around about Anya's friend. " She slammed the phone down, hard, then picked it up and ripped the cord out of the base. Spike watched this with unreadable eyes.
"Talkin' about me, were you." It was not a question.
Buffy flopped down next to him. The day was at that perfect time of afternoon, not too hot, not too bright, not too dark, not yet cooling off into desert chill. Except Xander had spoiled it. "He talked, I just..."
"You were sticking up for me."
She turned and looked at him, giving him a fierce look. "I'd do that no matter what, you know? I change my mind! You've changed, you've done things, and Xander just doesn't change..." She glanced away sullenly as he brushed her hair out of her eyes.
"You talked to Dawn about more than boys, didn't you?"
"Well, let's face it, boys..." Buffy's shrug encompassed the entire gender. "Not a big subject."
"Oh, really, Little Miss-I-Change-My-Mind?"
"Living or dead." She amended with a smirk.
"Well, thanks." He was looking at her again, far beyond serious now, and she simply couldn't look at him. She had stuck up for him to Xander, it was true. She wanted to believe she would have done that no matter what, but she really wasn't sure. Desperately, she clung to the belief of Fair Buffy, able to change her mind, able to grow. "So what did Dawn have to say?"
It was her turn to reach out and brush his face, not because his hair was anywhere long enough to obstruct her view, but because she had to touch him. "I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you."
"Well, what did Xander say?"
"He said that that friend of Hallie's was still missing."
"He thought that you..."
"Ah...." Spike shook his head and dropped his head back to the pillow. "And Anya said that?"
"How'd you guess?"
"I'm psychic." Spike said sarcastically.
The phone rang. Buffy jumped, staring in surprise at the phone she'd disconnected, then realizing it was the one downstairs. She jumped up, grabbing her robe, and dashing down the stairs. Spike got out of bed and stretched, noticing that all the blinds were drawn. He looked around, startled. She'd closed all the blinds so the sun wouldn't shine on him? No, probably just a coincidence. He ambled his way across the floor, tripping over his clothes, then kicking them out of the way. He scrounged in his pockets for smokes, pausing as he encountered the big roll of bills. God, he had to talk to Dawn, and who knew when that would be? He leaned in the hallway door, trying to catch bits of the conversation downstairs. All he could catch was a series of "Oh? Ew. Oh, no. Crap. Uh. Huh." Then the sound of the phone being hung up rather more enthusiastically than was necessary. After a moment broken by the sound of stomping feet, Buffy appeared at the base of the stairs, not looking happy. She started up about the time he started down, and they met in the middle. He turned her sideways till they on the same step, then turned around, so that she was a step higher.
"And that would be?"
"Something weird is going on."
"This is Sunnydale." He got his hands into the pockets of her robe, and she squirmed against him, grumpy but still persuadable. He kissed her just once, hands cupping her bottom through her robe, inching her robe open. Warm skin against his, heat spreading to his bones, he leaned against the wall, kissing her again, gauging her reaction. "How weird?"
"I guess somebody turned half the chess club into newts, and the trekkies at the Trek marathon were suddenly afflicted, with, uh, toaditis."
He pulled back and looked at her. "You are kidding, right?"
"Nope." She leaned against him for a minute. "So now I really have to go and act all Slayer like."
"I guess that means you have to get dressed."
"That's the plan." She muttered.
"Does that mean I have to get dressed?"
"Well," Buffy said thoughtfully. "I kind of thought, you could drive me there..."
Visions of slow twilight driving, Buffy with her head on his shoulder, suddenly appeared in Spike's brain. "I'll think about it."
"Think about it fast, because..."
They both jumped at the sound of the knock on the door. Oh, God, Buffy thought, then remembered that the door was locked. However, there were windows, and there she was with Spike, with her robe half off, and him completely naked. "Oh, God." Buffy said out loud. Spike rolled his eyes at the timing, and silently retreated up the stairs, giving Buffy a sarcastic look at she composed herself and her robe. All neatened up, she fixed a smile on her face, and headed toward the door. Of course, the house was so dark on the inside that whoever was outside in the bright sun couldn't see inside anyway, but why care about reality at this point anyway?
She positioned herself carefully behind the door so as to block whoever was selling Girl Scout cookies or whatever from seeing that she was still in her bathrobe. Definitely not good. She waited for the next knock, and opened the door a fraction.
The green demon who'd come up from LA with Spike looked down at her. She stared. He stared back. "Lorne?"
"Hey, sweetie." He looked at her, then smiled. "See you took my advice."
"Wha..? Huh?" She looked down, realizing that it was possible to see the fuzzy sleeve of her bathrobe as she held the door open. "Oh, uh, that, I, uh..."
"Never mind, sweetie, I gave you the advice, didn't I? You lucky thing. Uh, anyway, there's been kind of an interesting twist. You might want to get dressed."
"Well, I was just..." Lorne stepped aside, and Buffy stared at someone she knew she should recognize, someone who looked vaguely familiar, but not familiar enough to actually place.
"Hello, Buffy." Wesley said uncomfortably. They stared at each other, former Watcher and Slayer, Buffy staring in open astonishment. This was not prissy Wesley, not with that five o'clock shadow, wearing jeans -- okay, she could imagine, in a theoretical way, Wes wearing jeans, but she figured he'd press them or something, and probably make sure they were a perfect, dorky shade of blue. But here he was, wearing faded blue jeans, his hands stuffed uncomfortably in the back pockets.
"Wes." Buffy closed her mouth with a snap. "What brings you to Sunnydale?"
"Well, it's kind of complicated." Wes said uncomfortably.
I'm sleeping with my former mortal enemy, and somebody is turning geeks into amphibians, maybe kidnapping demons. So what isn't weird around here? Buffy thought.
"Try me," Buffy said. "It can't get any weirder."
"Yes it can." Wes said grimly. "Angel just stole Spike's car."
Continued in Chapter 35