Disclaimer: Buffyverse characters belong to Joss/Fox. The lyrics which have been crow-barred into the tale belong to Don Henley & Glen Frey.
A/N: This story follows on from the events of A Slayer Went Down To Georgia
. It contains minor spoilers for that story, but the two have separate plot lines and can be read independently. Thanks to Kayla Shay
for beta reading.
It was approaching midnight as Xander drove Angel’s 1967 Plymouth Convertible along the highway. Dawn sat by his side, her hair blowing in the cool wind. Oz and Faith were packed into the back seat partaking in a little post-slayage relaxation; the gentle turbulence within the car occasionally carried the smell of the colitas forward to Xander’s nose as they passed the joint between themselves. The slayage itself had gone fairly smoothly: in hindsight the party of four had been overkill, but it was better to have brought too strong a force than too weak. The Demon had chosen possibly the most remote spot in the entire Arizona desert to attempt the ritual, hence Xander had been driving for five hours straight and his head had started to grow heavy. However, he couldn’t ask either of those in the back to take a turn at the wheel in the state they were in, and it had turned out that driving skill was one of the traits the monks had, unfortunately, included in the package when they created Dawn from Buffy. They had just crossed the state line on the unnamed road, and he was on the verge of stopping in the middle of nowhere for a break, when he saw a shimmering light ahead in the distance.
As they drew closer, his heart jumped for joy when he realised it was a hotel. And it was not just your average roadside motel either – this place looked like it had some character. It was built in the art deco style of the 1930’s with a strong Egyptian influence, probably due to the desert location. For a building situated in the middle of nowhere, there were a surprising number of cars parked outside, and they did not look like your traditional 21st century mix of cheap compacts, luxury saloons and SUV’s. Virtually all were classics, many of them of European heritage – Mercedes Benz, Astons, Lamborghinis – the Plymouth would be right at home in this company. “Maybe there is a vintage rally passing through,” he thought.
“Why are we slowing down?” asked a mellowed-out Faith from the back seat. “Oz, we’re slowing down. Nice and slow. Do you wanna go slowly Oz? Xander, why are we slowing down?”
“There’s a hotel up ahead and I’m beat. As neither of you two are in a fit state to drive, we’ll have to stop for the night.”
“Hey chill man, we’re cool with stopping, aren’t we Oz?”
As they pulled into the hotel forecourt, a young valet with slick black hair, dressed in a dinner jacket stepped forward to open Dawn’s door and offered her his hand to help her from the car. “Good evening milady, welcome to the Hotel California.”
“Thank you,” she replied as she cast an eye over the gloriously opulent building. “Wow – it’s such a lovely place.” He released Dawn’s hand and went to offer Faith the same assistance, her muscles protesting as she climbed from the cramped rear seat that she and Oz had occupied for the last five hours. Slayer or not, no body could survive five hours squished into the back of a convertible without complaining upon its release. Xander was preparing to apologise for her inevitable outburst when she shocked him by accepting the valet’s proffered hand.
“Why thank you, kind sir,” she purred, her eyelashes fluttering at the valet, who maintained his professional composure with apparent immunity to her charms. By this time Xander and Oz had joined them on the red carpet leading to the entrance.
“It looks like your pretty busy here tonight – do you have any vacancies?” he asked, casting his eye once again over the myriad of classic cars that adorned the car park.
“Of course sir, there’s always plenty of room at the Hotel California.”
“That’s a nice surprise,” Xander replied. He handed the keys to the valet and they started towards the revolving door.
“Bring your alibis,” muttered Oz under his breath.
“Sorry Sir?” enquired the valet.
“So what d'ya think of young Cary Grant back there?” Faith asked Dawn.
“He was cute, in a kinda retro way. A lovely face,” she answered.
“Uh-huh. And that was his face you were checking out when he helped me from the car was it?” Dawn reddened slightly, then reddened some more as a mellowed out Faith started to skip around her:
“Dawnie loves the bellhop, Dawnie loves the bellhop.”
“Down Faith,” said an amused Xander, sparing Dawn any further embarrassment. “You guys wait here while I go and get us some rooms.”
The grandiose exterior of the building was more than matched by the foyer they found themselves in. Antique leather armchairs stood on a marble floor, with ornately carved columns rising up the walls; huge oil paintings hung in the spaces in-between. Halfway up each column was a gilded cluster of gas lamps. Dawn marvelled at the level of detail on the canvases and in the carvings that decorated the columns. Faith and Oz just stared blankly; she wasn’t sure if they were still with her, or not.
Xander returned to the group followed by a girl from the reception desk who was lighting a candle to show them to their rooms. “This way, ladies, gentlemen...”
They were led down a series of twisting narrow corridors until they arrived at two adjoining twin rooms. Xander held out the keys to the two girls.
“Which room do you want?”
Faith reached out and grabbed the nearest key and said, “We’ll take this one.” She then proceeded to grab Oz and throw him through the open doorway onto the bed and slam the door, before an astonished Xander and Dawn could say a word. They were left in the corridor staring at the closed door in front of them.
“I guess it’s you and me then,” said Xander, happy that it seemed Faith and Oz may be going somewhere after all. This was the first sign of any ongoing relationship between the Slayer and Werewolf he had seen since they left Georgia.
“Faith never was one for the subtle,” replied Dawn, taking the other key and opening the door. Her scream brought Xander rushing up behind her, almost running into her back.
“What is it?”
“Erm...,” she replied sheepishly, “it just hit home – there is no electricity in this hotel.”
“You’ve only just noticed. Wasn’t being led here by candlelight a big enough clue?”
“But no electricity – that means... no TV!”
Xander burst out laughing.
“I’m sure you can survive one night.” He looked at the pout on her face, and laughed even harder. “Wanna head down stairs to the bar?”
“You go ahead, I’m going to take a shower first.”
The bar was situated along the edge of a partially covered courtyard. Mirrors on the ceiling reflected the light of exposed candles flickering in the breeze back downwards, causing a constant pattern of light to dance across the floor. It was joined in its dance by a number of glamorous couples on the open-air ballroom, their sweet bodies sweating in the hot summer night, moving to the foxtrot being performed by the jazz trio.
Xander sat at a stool, and was waiting to attract the attention of the barman when he his eyes were diverted by the sight of an angel. She stood in the doorway, a vision in a ruby red dress, with lips and heels to match, her perfect face carrying a light covering of alabaster makeup as she scanned the room. Seeing new blood at the bar, she made her way over to a panicking Xander, who was contemplating his past luck with women, and thinking to himself this could be heaven or this could be hell.
“Hey there, care to buy a lady a drink...”
Dawn wrapped a towel around her body and made her way from the shower. She stepped into the room intending to put back on the halter and low-rider jeans she had been wearing in the car; they hadn’t been planning to stop for the night, so none of them had brought a change of clothes with them. She came to an abrupt halt, shocked to find a silver ball gown, slit thigh-high on both sides, laid out on the bed. Surely Xander hadn’t bought it for her at the hotel boutique? She knew her original outfit hardly fit in here, but it looked like an extremely expensive dress – far too much to spend just to allow her to blend in better with a group of people they didn’t know, and whom they would never see again, at a hotel in the middle of the desert where they were only staying one night; however, that was the only possible explanation. Then she wondered where her clothes were: he must have sent them to the laundry, she supposed. She found herself torn between wanting to hug and kiss him for her new dress, and throttle him for not leaving her any underwear.
Oz lay back on his bed, staring at the ceiling, considering the events since they’d arrived at the hotel.
“It’s happening again.”
“What’s happening again?” asked Faith, looking up from the hotel directory she’d been intently studying.
“Haven’t you noticed? Replay that conversation Dawn and Xander had with the bellhop: Welcome to the Hotel California? It’s such a lovely place? There’s plenty of room at the Hotel California? We’ve got stuck in a song again, and you remember what happened last time.”
“Last time? We slayed, then we partied.” Faith climbed across the gap between the twin beds and sat astride the werewolf. “If it’s going to go off again, I say bring it on,” she said leaning in for a kiss, which prevented Oz from trying to analyse the logic of that statement.
“Ok, we’ll go with the flow for now and see where it takes us,” he replied after their lips parted. He picked up the phone. “Hello, room service? This room 403, I’d like a bottle of pink champagne, on ice, please.”
Dawn walked into the busy courtyard, scanning the crowded bar for Xander. Failing to spot him, she turned her attention to the dance floor, where she caught a glimpse of him whirling around in the arms of a blonde goddess. Where had Xander learned to dance like that? While hesitating, she found her hand being taken and kissed by a blonde of her own.
“Why my dear, you look most ravishing. You must permit me the honour of accompanying you for this dance.”
Dawn turned and found herself captured by the eyes of her propositioner. ‘Well, so long Orlando Bloom, it was nice dreaming about you,’ she thought.
“Wow, I mean... Yes, of course, I would be delighted,” she stumbled, her heart racing with unbridled lust whilst her brain was busy panicking over not knowing the first thing about how to foxtrot. Still, if Xander could manage it... She hoped the Adonis before her wouldn’t hold a few bruised toes against her.
While Dawn was being led onto the dance floor, Xander was led off the other side to the table he shared with Tiffany. As she took her seat, she called across to the bar captain.
“Randolph, another Martini for Alexander, and please bring me my wine.”
Xander, meanwhile, had now joined a sizable proportion of the male population of the room in noticing Dawn’s entrance onto the dance floor. After the initial shock of how fabulous she looked wore off, he wondered where she had got that dress from; it wasn’t the kind of thing you normally kept in your weapons bag 'just in case' when heading off to slay a Kxytackli demon. Tiffany noticed the competition for his attention.
“Don’t you think she’s a little young for you darling? What you need is a real woman.”
“I think she’s a little young for him too. Who is he?”
Sensing his tone was protective rather than jealous, she surmised that maybe the girl wasn’t a romantic competitor after all. “That’s Augustus Burroughs. He likes to think himself something of an American aristocrat, and he’s got the money and the looks to make a convincing case. Around here, we generally just call him ‘The Master’.”
“Well, I hope he isn’t thinking what I think he’s thinking regarding Dawnie.”
Tiffany laughed, “Why of course he is darling, she’s absolutely stunning. I think you are probably the only man here who isn’t thinking what I think you think he's thinking. Is she your sister?” she asked, that being the most likely explanation for his reaction.
“No, but it often feels like she is. She’s the sister of a good friend.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what, why don’t we leave these men here only thinking their dirty thoughts, whilst you and I go and put ours into practice.”
He was strongly tempted to take her up on that offer, but the music had stopped and Dawn was leading ‘The Master’ over to their table.
“Hey Xander, I want to introduce you to Augustus. Augustus, this is my friend Alexander, but everyone calls him Xander.” It was a cool handshake.
“Nice to meet you, Alexander.”
“Likewise. Dawn, this is Tiffany. Tiffany, Dawn.”
“Hi Tiffany! Wow, I love your nails, they must have taken ages,” a slightly hyperactive Dawn responded, feeling a little out of place.
“Why thank you my dear. And you look absolutely gorgeous in that marvelous dress – there isn’t an eye in the room that isn’t focused upon you.” Dawn blushed.
“Which reminds me...” She leant forward and kissed Xander on the cheek, then whispered in his ear, “Thank you for the dress, I absolutely love it.” His surprise that she thought he had bought it was blown from his mind by her next sentence. “But it would have been better if you’d left me some underwear to go with it!”
Quickly suppressing the inappropriate mental image, he returned to the subject of the origins of the dress.
“As much as I’d love to take credit, especially given how great you look in it, I’m afraid it wasn’t me that bought it.”
“But, it was on the bed when I came out of the shower; if you didn’t leave it there...”
“We need to check in with Faith and Oz.” He turned to their companions, “Excuse us, we need to find our friends,” and with that, he lead Dawn back toward their rooms.
“Oops! I think you may have overdone it with the dress, Master,” Tiffany commented.
“No matter, we both know they will be back soon enough,” he replied. “Now, how about a dance?”
Oz separated himself from Faith to answer the urgent knock at their door. He found an agitated Dawn and Xander piling into their room.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“Something strange is what’s going on. Someone came into our room while I was in the bar and Dawn was taking a shower, stole all her clothes, and left her this dress.”
“Wow,” said Faith running her eyes up and down Dawn’s body, a little hungrily for Oz’s taste. “That’s some outfit, babe. If the dress fairy left me something like that, I may even be tempted to put aside my leathers for a while.”
“It’s the song,” said Oz. Xander looked at him with a confused expression.
“The song?” he asked.
“Surely you’ve noticed by now, we’re living out Hotel California. Driving along a dark desert highway, we stop for the night? The bellhop saying, ‘Welcome to the Hotel California’?”
The pieces fell into place in Xander’s head. “Of course – the receptionist leading the way with the candle, the dancing in the courtyard, Tiffany asking the captain to bring her her wine.”
“Who’s Tiffany?” asked Faith.
“Xander’s date,” responded Dawn, “which given this development, together with his track record, probably means demon.”
“Well, let’s not stick around to find out,” he responded.
They quickly made their way back to the foyer and Xander approached the reception desk.
“Excuse me, we’d like to check out please.”
“Of course sir; if you’d care to wait one moment,” replied the night man.
“We don’t have one moment, we have to leave now.”
“I’m sorry sir,” he responded. As he spoke the flesh began to peel away from his skin to leave an animated skeleton beneath and his voice became altogether more sinister. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”