AUTHOR'S NOTE: Lyrics to "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" by Culture Club, "Our Lips Are Sealed" by J. Wiedlin and T. Hall, and "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred used without permission.
DEDICATION: For Jeff, the most kick ass husband ever. His evil mind is to blame for the Boy George action.
Chapter Twelve: Slaves to Love
"What did you wish for?" asked Willow.
"That would be telling," she replied. Tara pulled out the smoking candles from the cake and set them aside.
Buffy brought over a stack of plates and silverware and a cake server from the china cabinet. "I'm breaking out the china in your honor," she said.
"I want my piece with that big pink flower on it," said Cordy. Buffy cut a generous slice and handed it to her, then passed forks and plates of cake to everyone else. "Thanks!" said the birthday girl. "Can we open my presents now?" She was as excited as a child at the prospect.
"Whatever you want," said Spike, through a mouth full of cake. "Open ours first, though. It's the pink one."
She obediently reached for the flat box and opened it. Seeing the soft ivory colored sweater inside, she stroked it with her hand and peeked at the tag. "Oh my God," she enthused. "You bought me cashmere?" She gave Spike a big hug, causing Angel to glare at him. She then hugged Buffy too. "This is the best present ever!"
"Cashmere is so nice," said Anya, looking a little envious. "Nice and expensive. I wish I had a cashmere sweater." She gazed at it longingly.
"Maybe for your birthday, An," Xander said as he ate.
"Why don't you open mine now?" suggested Angel. "It's the really big one."
"I want to open Tara's next," said Cordy. She opened up an intricately wrapped box to reveal a set of three glass bottles.
"They're homemade," said Tara apologetically. "But I know how much you like gardenia, and they are all scented with it. It's bath salts, shower gel and lotion."
"Thanks so much," said Cordelia enthusiastically as she hugged the other girl.
Angel cleared his throat and pointed at his gift. "Did you get me what I think you got me? The thing I dropped eight million hints about?" asked Cordelia.
"That would be telling," Angel replied with a small smile.
Cordelia clapped excitedly and unwrapped her present. Silence descended upon the room as they regarded her gift. "Isn't it great?" gushed Cordy. She turned to Angel and he opened his arms for a hug. She placed the box in his arms. "Can you carry that into the living room for me?" she asked him.
Buffy pulled the blender out of a cabinet and set it up on the kitchen counter. Spike walked into the kitchen and playfully slapped her ass as he grabbed a bottle of rum from a cabinet. "Angel's going to be the first up to sing karaoke," he said delightedly. "You don't want to miss this." He went out to the living room.
"Really classy guy you picked for yourself, Buff," Xander said as he grabbed a can of frozen margarita mix and a bowl of ice from the freezer.
"Yep, he's a total Neanderthal. But I kind of like that in a guy." She rummaged in a cabinet, coming up with another bottle of rum.
"I understand that you love him," he said, "but the appeal is really lost on me."
"This party is supposed to be a smoothing over the edges, bonding experience," she reminded him. "So save the snarkiness for another time." She poured the ingredients in the blender and Xander hit the button. He poured them each a cup and they drank.
"Tasty," he said as he slurped loudly.
"Margaritas are such a good thing. I can feel the tension melting away," she said, as she rolled her shoulders.
"What's cooking, drink-wise?" asked Willow as she came in the room.
Feedback blared loudly. "Strawberry margaritas," said Buffy, as she handed her a cup. The three friends followed the noise to the living room.
"Totally Eighties Hits or Pop Hits of the Nineties?" asked Spike.
"Eighties," said Cordelia. The vampire popped a disk into the karaoke machine and fiddled with the connection to the television set. A slow electronic beat filled the living room as lyrics scrolled across the screen.
"Come on, Angel, you're up," said Cordelia. He took the microphone from her and looked at her plaintively. "Please?" she asked. "For me?" He sighed and nodded.
"Give me time to realize my crime, let me love and steal," sang Angel uncomfortably, "I have danced inside your eyes, how can I be real?"
"This is fucking brilliant," said Spike as he flopped into a chair. "Everyone should have one of these. You can torture all your friends in the spirit of a having a good time."
"Be nice," said Buffy as she sat down at his feet.
"Tell me this isn't hysterical," he said, enjoying the spectacle. "Admit to me that this is the funniest thing you've ever seen in your life."
"Do you really want to hurt me?" sang Angel stiffly. "Do you really want to make me cry?" Buffy cracked up, and so did Spike. Tara covered her mouth and turned around.
"Don't be so mean," said Willow. "Singing in public is very embarrassing for some people. Especially if you don't sing very well." Angel threw down the microphone and stormed off.
"That didn't come out how I meant it," said Willow to Tara. The blonde girl smiled at her sympathetically.
"You go apologize to him, Spike," said Cordy angrily.
"I'm going," said Spike as he rose. "I'll make nice." He grabbed his bottle of rum and left the room.
Buffy got up and sat next to Xander on the couch. "I want to sing 'Xanadu','" said Anya excitedly.
"Cordelia said I could be next and I want to sing 'Total Eclipse of the Heart'," said Willow. The two girls glared at each other.
"I found one we can all sing together," said Cordy. The quartet of girls gathered around the microphones and peered at the screen. "Can you hear them, they talk about us," she sang.
"Telling lies, well that's no surprise," sang Anya.
"Can you see them, see right through them," sang Tara.
"They have no shield, no secrets to reveal," sang Willow tunelessly.
Spike stepped out onto the back porch. Angel stood there and looked off into the distance. "Does she know you love her?" asked Spike softly.
Angel looked at him. "I don't know what you mean."
"I know you love Cordelia," Spike said. "There's no way you'd make such an ass out of yourself otherwise."
"There's no point telling her," said the other man. "Nothing could ever come of it."
"Why not?" asked Spike. "Because you can't fuck her?"
"Don't talk about her like that," growled Angel loudly.
"Is it just the sex that's holding you back?" asked Spike directly. "Or is it something else as well?" He held out the bottle to Angel.
"Pretty much just the sex," admitted Angel, as he swallowed the rum.
"The woman obviously loves you," Spike said. "She takes care of your child, tells you how to spend your money, argues with you night and day. You're as good as married already."
"But I can't ever be there for her, not completely," said Angel. "I can't fulfill her needs."
"Think about it this way," said the other man. "Imagine you've already shagged her every way imaginable, the sex is beyond belief, everything's great. Suddenly, there's an accident. You can't make love anymore; your equipment is out of commission. Do you tell her to go find a better man, a whole man?"
"Well, yes, I would," said Angel. "Because I love her, and I want her to be happy."
"That's your fucking problem, Peaches. You get all noble, and make the grand sacrifice, instead of using your brain." He looked at Angel. "You let Buffy go; you left her to make a life without you. And she has. Can you tell me that you don't regret it?"
"No," the other man admitted. "I can't."
"Then don't make the same mistake twice." Angel took a deep swig of rum. "You've got hands, and a mouth, and a heart, same as any other man. If you love her, show her how you feel." Spike patted him on the back and stepped inside. Angel sat on the porch, and slowly polished off the bottle of rum.
Anya and Xander looked through the karaoke discs. Anya put one in and handed a microphone to her fiancé. "I'm too sexy for my love, too sexy for my love, love's going to leave me," she sang.
"I'm too sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my shirt, so sexy it hurts," sang Xander.
Spike walked in and grabbed Buffy's hand. "We need to leave," he said.
"Why, what's wrong?" she asked, concerned.
"We need to go patrol," he said as he handed her a coat. "We should get in a bit of the rough and tumble, you know?" he said distinctly. He arched his eyebrow.
"We do? Oh! Yeah we definitely do," she exclaimed as she put on her coat. "We're going to go patrol, we'll be back later," she said to Xander. "There are sheets in the closet if you want to sleep in Dawn's room."
"Thanks!" said Anya loudly into the microphone. It squealed with feedback as Buffy and Spike slipped out the front door.
"I think I'm going to turn in," said Willow. She made her way to the stairs. Tara followed her into the foyer. "Can I talk to you for a minute? Privately?"
Angel walked into the living room. "Cordelia, I need to talk to you," he said urgently.
"Is it Connor?" she said. She pulled a baby monitor out of her pocket and held it up to her ear. "I don't hear him."
Angel gently took it away from her. "The baby's fine," he said. "Come with me." He took her hand in his and led her from the room.
Buffy and Spike were stretched out naked on the seat of her Suburban. His blond head moved between her thighs as he energetically lapped at her swollen clit with his tongue. "Oh yeah, oh God," she said breathily. She let out a prolonged moan as she arched her back up to meet his mouth. He held her hips tightly as he brought her to orgasm. "You have the most amazing mouth," she said as she calmed. Her hands moved down to his head and pulled him up to her.
"I love the way you taste," he said. "There's nothing compares to it." He nipped her neck as he moved inside her. "I love you," he said in her ear. "You mean everything to me."
"I love you, so much," she sighed.
"You're mine," he said breathily as she shifted underneath him and he penetrated her more deeply. She kissed him deeply as she moved her hips to match his thrusts.
"Tell me," she gasped.
"I love you," he said. They stared at each other in wonder as they moved in rhythm. "No one else makes me feel the way you do."
She clawed at his back as he stroked deeper and faster within her. "Yeah, that's so good," she said. "You're perfect. Fuck me, fuck me harder."
"Buffy," he said frantically as he threw his head back. He pulsed harder and harder within her, as they both climbed towards orgasm.
"Spike," she cried, as he came inside her with a moan. She clenched around him as she buried her face in his shoulder.
Willow and Tara sat upstairs on the bed they used to share. "I've really missed you," said Tara. "It's been really hard doing all this research to help Spike and Buffy, and doing the healing spells for her is exhausting."
"How is she doing?" asked Willow seriously.
"She gets headaches a lot. And high fevers that nothing other than magic will break," the other witch replied. "We still don't know what's causing them, or what else might happen because of the claiming."
"I want to help," said Willow. "Now that I understand what's really been going on, I want to help. I want to be here. For Buffy, and for you." She reached out and touched Tara's hair gently.
"Things are going to have to be different," said Tara. "I need to know that I can count on you, that I can trust you."
"You can trust me," said Willow, as she leaned forward and kissed her lips.
Tara pulled away. "You really hurt me," she said uncertainly. "We can't just go on like nothing happened."
"I love you," said Willow. "I'll make it all up to you. Please don't push me away." Tentatively, Tara lifted her chin, and Willow stroked her hair as she gave her a long, slow kiss.
"It's a pretty night," said Cordelia, as she looked up at the stars. She turned and smiled at Angel. "Thanks for the gift. It really made my night."
"It was my pleasure," he replied. "I liked seeing you sing and laugh."
"Yeah, as usual, fun and happiness are in short supply in Sunnydale," she said. They sat in silence for a moment as they took in the stillness of the night. "So what did you want to talk about?"
"There's something that I really want to say," said Angel. "I should have said it a long time ago." Cordelia turned to look at him. He reached out his hand and touched her hair. "I love you."
"I love you too," she said warmly.
"I'm in love with you, Cordelia," he said softly.
She looked at him with a shocked expression. "In love?" she said uncertainly.
"I am," he said, his face serious. "Every day I love you a little bit more. When I see you holding Connor, or the way that you smile, or how hard you work, the drive that you have. Every minute that I'm with you, I need you a little more." Her eyes grew wide and soft, and she reached out her hand for his. He reached towards her, and abruptly she stood up and turned away.
"We can't do this," she said quietly. "This can't happen."
"Do you love me, Cordelia?" She didn't answer. He went to her and turned her around. Her eyes were full of tears. "I think you do," he said firmly. "The same way that I know I love you. I see the way you look at me, how you speak to me, how you touch me. Tell me that I'm not imagining things. Tell me that I'm not insane."
"I'm afraid," she admitted.
"The curse," he said. She nodded. "I can't have a moment of happiness," he said. "But there's nothing that says that I can't give you one." He leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers. She stood stiffly for a moment, and then relaxed into the kiss. She wrapped her arms around his waist, and he held her tightly.
She pulled away. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm sorry, I just can't."
Spike and Buffy slipped upstairs and settled into their bed. He pulled her close to him as they fell asleep, and she smiled at his touch. A few hours later, pain pulsed through her head, awakening her. She pulled on her clothes and went downstairs. Happily, there was some orange juice left. She poured herself a large glass and took a big gulp to wash down six aspirin tablets.
Xander walked into the kitchen and peered into the refrigerator. "You're a little low on food, Buff," he said. He shook the empty juice carton.
"I wasn't planning on a sleepover," she replied. "Although I am glad that it worked out that way."
"Want to make a food run to the Quick Stop and we can get some doughnuts? It'll be a nice surprise when everyone wakes up."
She checked her watch. "I've got an hour until sunrise. Let's go for it." He grabbed his jacket and they left through the back door.
Cordelia lay awake, and stared at the ceiling, her mind filled with racing thoughts. Connor let out a small cry, and she made her way to the crib. "It's alright, pumpkin," she said soothingly. She adjusted the pacifier back into his mouth and he sucked greedily. She sang to him softly and gently rubbed his back until he fell asleep again.
She turned around and stared straight into Angel's bare chest. She gasped and looked up. He stared down at her hungrily. Her heart began to race, and he reached out his hand to rest it against her pulse. They stared into each other's eyes as the awareness passed between them of how close they were to each other. He couldn't stop himself from sliding his hands sensuously over her bare shoulders. She didn't push him away, just shut her eyes and moaned at the caress. He bent his mouth down to hers, enfolding her in a scorching embrace.
Xander and Buffy perused the aisles of the convenience store. Buffy looked at a shelf of donuts. "What's your vote, crullers or chocolate dipped?" she asked Xander.
He walked over, his basket full of milk and juices. "I vote for chocolate dipped," he said. "But Spike and Anya are both cruller fans."
She picked up a box of each variety and tossed them in the basket. "Problem solved."
The lady behind the counter rang up their purchases when the chime rang on the door. Buffy was shoved aside as a man stepped in front of her and pointed a gun at the clerk. "Empty the register, bitch," he said gruffly. The clerk began to cry as she fumbled with the key. "Hurry the fuck up." She cried harder and her hands shook. "I said hurry up," the man yelled, his hand shaking. He turned and shot out both of the security cameras. Xander startled at the noise and dropped his basket to the floor with a loud crash. The man turned and shot him in the chest. Blood exploded everywhere as Xander fell to the floor. The clerk began to scream, and the man shot her in the head. Brains and blood splattered as the girl fell behind the counter, out of sight.
Buffy felt cool and calm for a second. It seemed surreal, too surreal to happen. She looked down at Xander's pale face, at the blood that pooled all around him. The man turned, and she saw him raise the gun at her. Rage filled her veins, and she felt the demon rising, felt the bloodlust pour through her. Abruptly, she reached out and snapped the man's neck as pain fired through her head.
Continued in Chapter Thirteen: When the World Falls Apart