Note: Thanks to my beta t_geyer for her unending patience, perseverance and support.
SECTION 3 - PARTY FEARS TWO
And what if this party fears two
The alcohol loves you while turning you blue
View it from here from closer to near
Saturday, May 18th, 2002
Spike pressed the keypad sequence that would open up the lock on the apartment block's main door and then held the door open for the others to precede him. A firm but gentle hand at Wes's back prevented him from hesitating as he reached the threshold. "Just give in and enjoy the ride," the vampire whispered at the watcher's ear making the other man startle slightly.
Spike scanned the room for familiar faces and had almost given up when he recognised the small woman with the bob. Even then, with her newly cropped hair, it was the black, vintage fifties dress with its fitted bodice and flared skirt and the impossibly high stilettos that gave her away.
"Hoi, titch. Where are the people in charge of this here shindig, then?"
Bee turned at the voice, a smile on her face. "Less of the titch, short ass. And Marie went upstairs to get changed twenty minutes ago, but apparently Rosa waited till the first guests arrived to spill juice all down herself. Lily's out in the yard."
"There's something different, but I can't quite place it," the vampire teased as he pulled her into a hug before looking down. "Nope, got it. You're wearing a wonder bra. Very Jessica Rabbit, pet."
Bee gave him a gentle slap on the arm. "You don't have to broadcast it, bitch. And engaged men aren't meant to go looking at other women's cleavages."
"Hey, if it's on display men are goin' to look. There's something else, though. Got it. I know you said the paintings weren't shiftin', love, but selling your hair went out back in my day." He gave her a big grin. "You look gorgeous, pet. Fancy meetin' the future missus?"
"That depends. Is she just incredibly brave and forbearing or is she certifiable?"
"Come judge for yourself, and you can meet the rest of her crew."
"Wow! Her crew? That almost sounds like humility coming from a vampire. If it meant anything I'd be checking your temperature. So, where do you fit in with this crew?"
"Wherever she wants me," Spike admitted.
"Okay, this is a woman I have to meet."
Spike held out his arm in an old-fashioned courtly gesture, lending his support as Bee teetered across the room to where the group were still hovering.
"Buffy, meet the cat lady, otherwise known as Bee to her friends. Bee, this is my fiancée Buffy, her sister Dawn, her boyfriend Brandon, Tara who's one of the family in all but blood and their new neighbour Wes, the guest of honour at this here event."
Buffy was caught off-guard by the name and found herself becoming defensive for no good reason. "B as in the letter B?"
"Bee as in bumble, flitting from one thing to the next and always busy. Actually, Marie says it's short for Beelzebub, but my parents named me Bianca."
"Sorry, it's just someone used to call me B... bad memories."
"Well, Lily and the drinks are all out in the yard. Food's in here." Her gaze travelled to Wes as she continued. "And Marie and Rosa will be down in a few minutes." She took Wes's hand and shook it politely. "I'm sure we'll be seeing more of you 'round here."
As she returned to the group she had been chatting with before Spike's arrival, Dawn berated her sister. "Way to go, Buffy, so every time Spike introduces one of his friends, are you going to act like a total bitch, or is it just if they're prettier than you?"
"It's... I didn't mean... I just."
Spike slid his arm around his fiancée's shoulders.
"Just the shock of meeting an adult who's actually shorter than you... I know." Buffy's expression changed to one of exasperation as he teased her. "Don't worry, you'll get to chatting later an' it'll be fine. Bee's not the type to hold grudges. Just so long as you don't say anything nasty about her cat, you'll be okay. In fact, tell her that her cat's gorgeous an' she'll be your friend for life. Come on, let's go pass over the booze to Lily an' get the mutt away from anywhere with carpets and then we can start to enjoy ourselves an' Wes can network."
"I don't get to enjoy myself?" Wes asked.
"Well, I'm guessin' that Marie's boss is here so that you can meet him. Whether you can make it fun is up to you."
Before the group had even all made it out into the yard, Lily came bustling toward them. For once, she almost ignored Spike, uttering no more than a brief greeting and an indication of where the drinks and the food were and issuing instructions for them to help themselves. Her attention was almost fully focused on Tara. She drew the girl into a motherly hug and then towed her off to a bench in the corner of the yard, shooing away the young couple who had been sitting there as if they were unwelcome pigeons, so that she could chat to Tara in privacy.
Looking round the yard, Dawn picked a spot where Rogue could have some freedom to move on her lead, but not enough to let her near any of the drinks or anywhere else where she could cause too much mayhem. Then, she tied off her lead to one of the many hooks along the high wall that supported hanging baskets after testing it to make sure it was strong enough to hold the large puppy in check. Kneeling to fuss over the dog, she turned to Brandon. "Mine's anything they have in diet, and food would be good too." She gave him an appealing smile and looked across at Rogue, as if to say she couldn't leave the pooch.
On the wall above them, Rupert the Siamese commando-crawled until he was looking down on this strange new beast in his territory and gave a warning hiss that went totally unheard amidst the music that was playing, before settling in to keep a close eye on the four-legged competition.
"So, did I come across as a total bitch?" Buffy asked apologetically, her head tilted down slightly so that Spike got the full benefit of the through the lashes stare.
The vampire's fingers drifted across her jaw in a soft caress that somehow seemed warm rather than cool. "Just a tad on the defensive side."
"I'm sorry. She's your friend. I should go and apologise."
Spike dropped the bottles that they had picked up at a liquor store en route into the cooler alongside the beers and poured two glasses of margarita, passing one to Buffy.
"Relax, Buffy. It's a party. You can chat when you meet up again. An' I've met the bird about twice when she's been visitin' Marie an' I've popped in. I'd rate that at more of an acquaintance. You've pretty much already met everyone I'd call friend. Speakin' of which, I'd have thought Clem would have shown 'is ugly mug by now."
"I'm guessing where there's a buffet he'll show up sooner rather than later." Buffy gave him a half-teasing smile. She slipped her free hand around his waist. "Now, I need you to escort me to somewhere where my stilettos aren't going to disappear into the lawn."
"As you wish, love."
"I'll get it!" Rosa dashed downstairs ahead of her mother as the intercom sounded.
"Check who it is first, baby. Remember."
Marie followed more slowly, half expecting Lily to tell her to go get more dressed up when she did get downstairs. The old demon was in for a fight though. Marie reckoned Wes had seen her in her office clothes, with all the formality that entailed.
She wasn't going to pretend to be something she wasn't. When she had the choice she was a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl. So. the jeans might sit low on her hips and hug her figure to the knee like a second skin before flaring out to go over her Cuban heeled boots and the T-shirt might be one that she'd bought because Rosa had liked it and then she'd never worn it because it showed a couple of inches of trim golden stomach, reminding her of the skimpy tops she'd worn when she waitressed her way through college, but that was as much as she was prepared to concede.
"Mommy, it's an old man. He talks like Unker Will and the new man that's Auntie Buffy's friend."
"Hold on, baby. I'll be there in a second." Marie made her way down to the front door, just in time to hear Anya's impatient voice.
"Rosa, honey, it's Anyanka. The strange man is with us. It's okay. You can let us in."
"Go on, honey. You can open it."
"Hi, sorry to keep you waiting," Marie told her guests as she joined her daughter. "It's just we spend too much time telling her not to open the door for strangers to start making exceptions. I'm Marie and this is my daughter Rosa."
"Giles, Rupert Giles, but everyone just calls me Giles."
"Or G-man," Xander added. "That's a favourite of mine. Xander Harris, I think we saw you at Buffy's engagement party, but we didn't actually get to speak."
"That was because you spent half the night with your foot in your mouth, sweetie, and the other half falling on your butt when you tried to catch up and apologise," his wife pointed out.
"Rosa, why don't you take everyone's coats and put them on the bed in your grandma's room, while I show them through to the yard?" Marie prompted, leading the group towards the door off the stairwell. "I'm guessing this is the new husband?" she asked Anya.
The former demon nodded. "Yes, but I'm afraid he's not very well trained, yet, so I'll just apologise to everyone in advance as we go 'round before he insults them."
"And you must be the friend of Wes and Buffy who's just arrived from England ?"
"Yes, that's right," Giles told her.
"Well, I can see Dawn and her boyfriend, and it looks like Lily has got hold of... I think it's Tara. The others must be inside. Anyway, drinks and loud music out here, but if you go through that door there, it'll take you into the kitchen and the other side of the kitchen is the living room with the food and without the loud music."
Rosa came running out the kitchen door as Marie explained the layout to her guests. "Mommy, Uncle Clem's back with the extra ice but he doesn't know where to put it."
"Okay, honey, I'll come sort it out. Excuse me. Just help yourself."
"Gi-iles!" The watcher looked up to see Dawn beckoning him. "Come meet my boyfriend and my new dog."
'Oh, no-o-o-o,' he thought sarcastically. 'I'm not going to go to a party and chaperone Buffy's friends. This time I get to hang out with her younger sister and her boyfriend, instead.'
"Well, I thought by six it would be safe to head back and get first dibs on the chilli," Clem explained, as he shifted a large sack of ice cubes from shoulder to shoulder to prevent freezer burn. "But I guess I was wrong."
"They were waitin' for you?" Spike asked, before taking the sack from the demon and resting it on his own shoulder.
"Mom had taped a list of chores to the door of my apartment. with duct tape, just in case I thought about saying it fell off."
Spike couldn't help but smirk and Buffy had to cover her mouth with her hand.
"This is the last one, though, so now I guess I get to get some food." Clem looked longingly at the buffet table which was already surrounded by people, human and demon alike.
"Go help yourself while there's still some left. I'll take this through to the kitchen or wherever."
"Kitchen. Chest freezer. Goood vamp." Marie gave him a peck on the cheek, as she arrived to point him in the right direction.
As he made his way to deposit the bag of ice it wasn't hard for either of the women to hear him muttering, "How often do I have to tell these bints that I'm bad ?"
Xander looked over at the buffet table. There seemed to be humans eating whatever it was that was available. That didn't mean that he wanted to eat it, though. I mean, look at the slime dripping off that guy, oops gal. So it looked like she'd been using the tongs and spoons and stuff but who knew what else from whatever else could have dripped its way onto the plates? His stomach vetoed his objections by grumbling loudly. It turned out that Anya hadn't thought much of his KFC suggestion. Maybe, if he checked the kitchen cupboards, he could bogart a packet of Graham crackers or some unopened chips or something before they were put out on the table.
Rogue bounced up and down, her paws scrabbling against the wall's brickwork as she tried to reach the source of that interesting scent. Rupert watched from his perch atop the wall, content in his superiority. If the canine hadn't worked out by the fifth try that she couldn't reach and that she was irritating her humans, then she was never going to.
"Rogue, will you behave? You can't reach no matter how hard you try or how loud you bark." Dawn admonished. "And good dogs don't chase kitties."
Giles sighed. "I really don't think trying to sit down and explain things to an over-excited cur is going to work, somehow," he pointed out to the teenager. "Maybe you should smack it on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper or something."
"Wow, Giles, look what I have in my pocket. Gee, no, I thought it was a newspaper but turns out it's a dime."
"There's no need to be facetious. I was merely trying to help."
Spike slid out the kitchen door unnoticed as he watched Bee making her way over. A huge smirk settled on his face as he waited for the inevitable.
"What?" Giles turned to stare at the woman as if she were demented. "Do I know you?"
Bee continued to make her way toward the group, somewhat hampered by trying to walk on her tip-toes so that her heels didn't sink into the grass. "Rupert baby, come to mommy."
"I'll have you know that I'm not in the habit of answering to Rupie-bear, or calling anyone half my age mommy, even if it weren't such a blatant Americanism!" Giles blustered by now quite upset at the offence to his dignity.
"And why should you?" she asked, catching the cat as he leapt into her arms and draped himself so that he could watch over her shoulder, whilst getting the maximum fuss made over him. "You need to calm down a little." She turned to the former watcher. "I recommend one of the brownies in the top kitchen cupboard. Come on Rupie, baby, we'll take you away from the nasty doggy. Did it frighten you?"
As she walked away Giles could have sworn that the beast with the sky-blue eyes was smirking at him just as much as the vampire who had materialised from nowhere, a wreath of smoke around his head.
"Glad you could make it, Rupie-bear."
Anya came over from where she had been discussing the possibility of a volume discount on bile with a regurgitating demon. "I guess maybe someone should have mentioned what Bee's cat's called. Apparently she read some newspaper article on Rupert Murdoch just after she bought him."
"So not only do I share my name with a cat, but with a cat named after an obese, uncouth Australian. Is that what you're saying?"
"That pretty much sums it up from where I'm standing." Spike smirked again.
Giles put down the can of beer he'd been drinking from. "I don't suppose there are any spirits round here?"
Spike leant against the wall to finish his cigarette before he returned to the main room, letting the wall take the strain after what seemed like an incredibly long day.
"He's never going to accept that he's a white-hat now, is he?" Buffy smiled at Marie.
"All it took was the right woman," Marie offered.
"Women," Buffy corrected. "Maybe I'm the one he's marrying but there are a lot more who help him be who he is. He does it for all of us. I mean who could let down a little cutie like this one? Do I get a hug?" she asked as she swept Rosa into her arms, taking care not to overdo the slayer strength.
"Mommy, the cat lady had to get Rupert down off the wall 'cause Auntie Dawnie's puppy was barking at him and the old man thought she was calling him Rupie bear and he got all proper."
Buffy flinched on Giles' behalf, hearing him described as the old man, but then she realised that if she hadn't watched the grey creep into his hairline, and the pounds gradually accumulate around his waist that she might think that way about him herself.
Moving back to England and Olivia really was his last chance at having a family of his own. She'd wanted to think that she was his family, but she knew it wasn't the same. Somehow, it seemed right that there should be a whole new generation of rebel watchers, to polish their eyeglasses and tut disapprovingly at a whole new generation of slayers. Buffy began to take the first few vital steps towards forgiving her former watcher for leaving her... not quite alone.
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