Court and Spark - 13
~ The Mansion, Tuesday, 9:05 p.m.~
“Pathetic. Just pathetic.” Willow muttered, burying her head in her hands. Asher had flown her back to the mansion where they had spent several steamy minutes in a steamy shower. By the time the water ran cold, they had fed Asher’s ardeur several times over and the effect of the Lovers’ Punch was just beginning to wane. Asher had politely stepped out of the shower, offering to fetch towels for Willow, who was lying on the floor of the tub, her cast hanging out from under the shower curtain.
“I can’t believe I just did … what the heck did I just do?” She winced. There was a knock on the bathroom door. “Who is it?”
“It is Asher. I have towels, mademoiselle.”
“Come in?” Willow muttered.
“Are you okay?” He asked, seeing that the girl had not left the tub although the water had been shut off for several minutes now. Quietly he shut the door behind him, and set the clean towels and change of clothes on the toilet seat.
“Oh, yeah, other than the part where I die of humiliation, I’m peachy.” Willow whimpered.
“But you are not sore? That is a good thing.” Asher tried to look at the positive side of things, which was hard to do. Spike had just arrived and gave him a warning that the slayer and her friends would be arriving any moment now.
“Is that all you care about? That I’m not sore? That your incredibly massive and talented manhood didn’t break me?” Willow felt like crying. She wasn’t quite sure why she felt like crying, but every cell in her body insisted that she should weep for what just happened.
“Massive?” Asher couldn’t help but smile at the compliment, but his gloating came to a crash landing when he heard her gasp out in tears. “Ma chaton, why do you weep?”
“Isn’t it obvious? My boyfriend hasn’t even been gone for a month and already I’m acting like a wanton hussy!”
“I am sorry.” Asher whispered. “If it is any consolation to you, I do not think you are a wanton hussy at all, and I think any reasonable person would understand that our actions were fueled by the Branwyn’s Tears.”
“So now I’m a wanton hussy with a drug problem?” Asher stared at the shower curtain in shock as a piteous cry echoed off the tile walls.
“No, ma chaton, that is not it at all.” Asher frowned. Of all the women he had ever met, this one seemed by far the most bizarre. He had never had them cry so soon afterwards, unless the tears were of happiness. He was raised to be a gentleman and never to take advantage of a lady. Had he been wrong in reading Willow’s intentions before? If she did not want him, why did she smile so charmingly in the car, why did she cling so close to him at the party, why did she wear such a provocative outfit?
“Just go. I don’t want to hear it.” Willow cried out.
“Very well, mademoiselle, I will leave. I have set some fresh clothes out for you. Your friends will be here soon.”
“No!” She wept. “They can’t see me like this.”
“Like what? You look quite lovely. I can not see why you would want to hide from them.”
“Oui, oui. I am leaving.” Asher backed out of the room, slipping the lock closed to leave the redhead some privacy while he went to see to the guests.
Asher had taken three steps out of the door when he ran into Spike. “So did you two…?” Spike arched his brow and nodded towards the bathroom.
“That is none of your business.” Asher answered with his courtly blank face. He was not about to disgrace his lady by mentioning such details to others.
“Oh. Was she any good? She looked edible back in the gym.” Spike quietly taunted.
“If you say another word, you will not be around long enough to see the sunrise.” Asher answered, and tried to step forward.
“Whoa there, cowboy.” Spike blocked his path. “Is she still in there?”
“Monsieur Spike, I warned you.”
“Her friends are down the hall. They’re going to demand to see her and whichever of us has to break the news will probably get staked in less than a minute. If I have to take the wood, I want to know if it was worth it.”
“I will inform them.” Asher decided that it would be far nobler to take responsibility of their actions and face the wrath of the slayer than let Spike take the stake in exchange for details. Willow deserved more than that.
“You’re an idiot.” Spike muttered, following Asher to the living room where a group had nervously assembled on the various couches. He hated to admit it, but the older vampire had sort of grown on him, and it was a pity he was about to be staked.
“I thought you said Willow was here. Where’s Willow?” Buffy immediately jumped up as soon as Spike entered the room.
“Willow is currently in the bathroom. She had bowl of punch spilled on her, and is cleaning herself up.” Asher answered, sitting down and indicating that Spike should sit down as well.
“Punch?” Giles was not sure he believed Asher.
“Is that so?” Asher was surprised to see that Giles was capable of wearing a political mask that would have been right at home at the Council.
“Actually, yeah, that’s right.” Anya spoke up. “Right before you guys showed up, this other vampire dumped a whole bowl of Lovers’ Punch on Willow. Zoltan was so annoyed, because well, Branwyn’s isn’t exactly cheap in any dimension. So did you have fun cleaning her up?” Anya finished with a wink at Asher, who was thankful his pale complexion could not show a blush.
“Branwyn, as in Branwyn’s Tears? Oh dear lord.” Giles muttered.
“Um, Giles, what’s with the my-brain-just-went-to-a-bad-place-glasses polish?” Buffy asked.
Giles winced and then turned to his slayer. “You actually can tell what I’m thinking by how I polish the lenses?” Buffy shrugged.
“Is Willow going to be okay? She didn’t turn blue or anything?” Xander asked, earning a sharp laugh from Spike.
“She will be fine; she would just like some time to compose herself.” Asher figured that sounded plausible.
“Ah, yes, I would imagine so.” Giles blushed.
“So if Willow’s okay, who are you?” Buffy glared at Asher.
“Ah, forgive me, mademoiselle. I am Asher.”
“Asher, huh?” Buffy stared him down, letting Asher know just what sort of trouble he’d be in if Willow was hurt.
The room feel into an uneasy silence as the humans and vampires faced off from opposite sides of the living room. “So what now?” Xander finally asked.
“Well, it’s obvious.” Anya blurted out. “We need to launch a rescue.”
“A rescue? But everyone’s here.” Buffy frowned.
“The bad guys took Clem and Zoltan. Those guys were just trying to have a good time, and the military had no right to break up the party.” Anya protested, Xander rubbing her shoulders lightly, hoping to calm her down.
“Hey, the H.S.T.s took out just as many on our side.” Riley replied out of a sense of Alpha unit solidarity.
“Our side?” Spike, Buffy, and Giles yelled.
“You’re taking their side?” Riley asked Buffy, nodding at the vampires.
“Well, at least they haven’t taken me hostage and shoved army rations at me.”
“No, instead they try to suck all your blood out.” Riley said bitterly.
“Whoa there, new guy. I think its time you learn something.” Xander interjected. “In this day and age, women are liberated and men get the donuts. Walk with me here.” Xander led Riley out of the room. He returned a minute later to grab his jacket. “No rescue campaigns while we’re out, okay? Oh, and any requests?”
“Pepperoni!” Buffy shouted, while Giles requested “Jellies, please,” and Spike grumbled out. “O negative. Oh, and grab me some wheetabix.” All eyes turned to stare at the bleach blonde. “What? It adds to the texture.”
“Yeah, and there are so many stores that carry stuff from the mother ship around here.” Xander rolled his eyes.
“That’s mother country, and if they don’t have it at the store, you can stop by my apartment on the way back. You might also consider picking up some stakes while you’re over there.”
“Aye aye, captain.” Xander saluted then headed out, Riley following.
“Wait!” Anya called out. “You’re going to be away for a long time, and these people will bore me. I don’t want to be left behind.”
“Come on, Anya. Another set of arms won’t be amiss.” Xander answered tiredly. He wasn’t really in the mood to do a food run, but it was a good defense mechanism, and at least it would give Buffy, Wills, and Giles some time to figure out what was up.
As soon as Xander left, everyone looked around nervously, unsure how long this uneasy truce would last.
“Is it fair to say that none of us are impressed with the military operations in this village?” Asher finally asked.
“I believe that is a safe assumption.” Giles nodded.
“Therefore we may work together long enough to dismantle that group.” Asher followed up with what to him seemed to be a logical consequence.
“I think taking down the U.S. government is beyond the scope of a slayer.” Giles commented. Buffy thought about protesting, but realized he had a point. “I also do not believe your motives are completely honorable for removing the group.”
“Motives are rather tricky things, no?” Asher mused. “Monsieur Ange, have you any wine?” Angel moved as if to get up, but Asher interrupted. “Perhaps Monsieur Spike would care to help you fetch three glasses. Monsieur Giles, may I offer you anything?”
“No thank you.” Giles shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Spike grumbled but got up and headed to the wine cellar, following the silent Angel.
Asher waited for Spike’s back to disappear around the corner. “Ah, now we are a more intimate group, no? Perhaps we may get to the heart of the matter. The Council is well aware of your activities in the area.” He nodded towards Buffy. “They respect your calling and have no interest in interfering with your duty.”
“Isn’t that nice of them.” Buffy grumbled.
“However, these soldiers are upsetting the balance of the Hellmouth, and that is good for nobody. As Mademoiselle Rosenberg has discovered, if these people are able to subdue a vampire and manipulate his behavior as they have done with Monsieur Spike, then there is nothing preventing them from applying the same technology to humans. Surely you must see the danger in that.”
“Indeed, but I do not think this is the best group to try and stop them.” Giles interjected.
“Speaking of Willow, why isn’t she here yet? She doesn’t take this long to clean herself up ever.”
“She is in the bathroom.”
“Yeah, well, I haven’t seen her. How are we supposed to know you haven’t eaten her or something?”
“You have my word, she is in the bathroom. You may go speak with her yourself.” Asher answered blankly. He hoped that Willow had composed herself enough that she would be able to speak with the slayer. Otherwise, he would soon be dust.
“I think I will.”
“It is down that hall.” Asher nodded, and watched as the slayer left the room.
“Do you think this technology could really be used against humans?” Giles asked, as soon as
Buffy was gone.
“It is quite likely that was their original intentions, and they are only using my kind because we are harder to kill through their mistakes. However, I am no expert. We were hoping to rely on the technical expertise of Mademoiselle Rosenberg to answer that question.”
“Hence the kidnapping,” Giles studied the shadows dancing around the vampire’s face. Asher had to resist the temptation to put the man under a thrall, despite his unease at being watched.
“The kidnapping, ah yes. That is not how it was intended to be. The mademoiselle was being attacked by a gang of fledges that had already succeeded in taking down her companion. Monsieur Spike and I simply happened to be at the right place at the right time.”
“You still took her captive.”
“She is safe; your slayer will see.”
“Details, indeed.” Giles said ominously, watching as Angel and Spike entered the room carrying four glasses. Spike handed one to Asher and took a seat nearest the old one. Angel handed a tumbler of scotch to Giles, sitting on the couch next to him.
“I figured you may need this before the evening is through. Where’s Buffy?”
“She went to speak with Willow.” Giles took the glass, silently thankful for the amber liquid.
“Good.” Angel nodded.
“I was just telling Monsieur Giles that Mademoiselle Rosenberg has promised to assist us in curing Monsieur Spike, and that I was sure she would appreciate her friends’ help.”
“Is that so?” Angel watched the expression on Giles face. Obviously Willow’s commitment to the vampires was news to him.
“And I was just telling Monsieur Asher that coercing Willow under any circumstance is grounds for a slaying.” Giles answered back in a civil tone.
“And I was just telling Monsieur…”
“Oh for Chrissake!” Spike interrupted Asher and Giles’ posturing. “Red’s staying here and we’re hacking the army. You’re either in or you’re out.”
~ The Mansion, Tuesday, 9:11 p.m.~
“Willow?” Buffy tried the knob on the bathroom door then knocked.
“Buffy?” A voice muttered from the opposite side.
“Willow, are you okay?”
“Um, I guess.” Willow muttered. She had managed to crawl out of the tub, dry off, and get most of her clothes on, but she didn’t feel like leaving the facing the world yet.
“Are you hurt?”
“Why does everyone always ask me that?”
“Because you’re locked in the bathroom?”
“Do you need any help, with your cast and all?”
“So what’s the matter?”
“It’s not what you’re thinking.”
“Okay. So can I come in? Or do you want to come out?”
“Okay.” Buffy rolled her eyes and sat down in the hallway, her back against the bathroom door. “So tell me, what’s the matter?”
“Well,” Willow scooted across the floor so that she was mirroring Buffy’s position. “Have you met Asher yet?”
“What do you think of him?”
“No really, what do you think of him?”
“You were right, his roots don’t show?”
“Buffy, I’m being serious here.”
“Wills, I only met the guy for like five minutes. I’m more worried about how you’re doing.”
“Oh.” There was a long lapse of silence.
“Can I come in?”
“Do you need to use the bathroom?” Willow glanced around the bathroom, wincing when her
eyes landed on the soapy handprints on the tile.
“Then no.” Willow pouted. She knew it was childish.
“Come on, Wills, spill. What’s going on?”
“Okay, so you know how Oz…”
“Oh, it’s one of those things.” Buffy rolled her eyes. Here she was worried about her friend’s health, and it was just another missing-the-ex-pouts.
“What? You and Oz are like me and Angel. It’s just one of those things that it was too intense, so it’s a bad idea to go there again, and can I say just how not happy I am that we’re using this place as a hideout.”
“No, that’s not what I mean at all.” Willow sniffled.
“Well, what do you mean?”
“Okay, so like you and Angel, it was and now it’s not.”
“Uh huh.” Buffy nodded, feeling a bit ill. She really didn’t want to have to revisit her Angel feelings with him sitting right down the hall.
“So, now it’s a Riley thing right? Or not?”
“Riley, I’d say that’s a definite maybe.” Buffy smiled at the thought of the soldier boy helping them out. He had such a goofy smile.
“So how did you know it was time to start looking? I mean, looking for a guy.”
“Um, it just sort of happened. I mean, you were there. You know.”
“But what if… what if it’s not long enough?”
“Long enough for what? We’re not even dating. At least I don’t think we are. After this week, he’ll probably never want to see me again.”
“But you wanted to date him right?”
“I don’t know.”
“But what about the cheese?”
“Um, Wills, I think we’ve moved beyond the cheese stage.”
“So, I guess you sort of missed the memo. Riley is one of them.” Buffy sighed.
“You know the soldiers?” Willow snorted. “He’s a soldier.”
“Oh god, Buffy, I’m so sorry.” Willow felt the urge to cry for her friend.
“Yeah. It’s really weird. I mean, he helped Giles and me escape and all, but now I just don’t know if I can trust him, and I don’t think he trusts me, and after spending two days in a prison cell with the guy… yeah, it’s definitely past the cheese stage.”
“Oh.” Willow frowned. Okay, that was in a completely different direction from the point she was trying to make, but it brought up a lot of other thoughts, none of which were particularly cheerful.
“So what was the point?” Buffy asked.
“Um, let’s see. So pretending that this was before the cheese stage, or maybe during the cheese stage, when did you get over Angel?”
“It’s not a get over thing. You’ll always want to cry when you hear Oz’s name. You don’t just one day wake up and think ‘I’ve cleared myself of him. I’m sacrificing my blues and getting on with my life. Hello life.’ You just gradually get to noticing the world around you.”
“And you noticed Riley.”
‘Well, yeah. Can you blame me?” Buffy frowned as she checked for split ends. It wasn’t like Willow to ramble like this. Ramble yes, but not about topics like this, there has to be a point. “Oh! I get it.”
“You get it?”
“Have you found your cheese guy?”
There was a loud sniff that let Buffy know she had guessed correctly. “Oh god, please say it’s not Spike.”
“The vampire? Haven’t we discovered vampires are bad?”
“But Buffy…he’s different. He’s so… and I can’t help it. I mean when he looked at me like that, and…”
“Come on, you have to admit he’s attractive.”
“He’s a total hottie, that’s not the point.”
“His eyes are the color of sand and the sea, and the more he talked to me, the more he reached me.” Willow sighed thinking of the blonde vampire. “Part of me knows that there’s not a future or anything, but I just couldn’t let go of L.A. I mean we connected there, in the city of fallen angels.” A melancholy sigh could be heard on both sides of the door.
“He’s a vampire.”
“So? You dated a vampire.”
“Yes, and we all saw how well that turned out.”
“Willow, please don’t go there.”
“He’s a vampire that’s already taken you hostage once. That’s not a way to start a relationship. Trust me on this.”
“He’s like fifty times your age, and didn’t you say he was a cherub?”
“Incubus… but Buffy…”
“So he’s famous for taking advantage of nice girls like you.”
“It’s not like that.”
“Of course you think that now.”
“Buffy, I …”
“Oh no! Is this a case of that watchamacallit Syndrome? You know like in that Bond movie?”
“Stockholm Syndrome? No, Buffy…”
“Yeah, that’s the one. That’s pretty scary stuff. I mean, you may think you like him but you don’t. It’s a good thing Giles and I escaped when we did, so we can rescue you before you do anything.”
“Yeah. You haven’t, have you? Done anything?”
“Please say you haven’t kissed him.”
“Oh my gosh! You kissed him? But you hardly know him!”
“I know. I’m a ho.” Willow started crying.
“Well at least it’s just kissing, it’s not too late. At least you didn’t sleep with him, right?”
Silence. “Right?” Buffy’s next comment got swallowed up by horrible wail.
“Leave me alone. I want to die.”
“I said go away.”
“I’m sorry.” Buffy stared at the bathroom door not sure what to do. She sat there in silence for a few minutes, listening to Willow cry, but didn’t know what to say. Eventually she got up and wandered back to the living room, leaving Willow alone.
Song 5: Court and Spark – Joni Mitchell
Love came to my door
With a sleeping roll
And a madman's soul
He thought for sure I'd seen him
Dancing up a river in the dark
Looking for a woman
To court and spark
He was playing on the sidewalk
For passing change
When something strange happened
Glory train passed through him
So he buried the coins he made
In People's Park
And went looking for a woman
To court and spark
It seemed like he read my mind
He saw me mistrusting him
And still acting kind
He saw how I worried sometimes
I worry sometimes
"All the guilty people," he said
They've all seen the stain-
On their daily bread
On their christian names
I cleared myself
I sacrificed my blues
And you could complete me
I'd complete you
His eyes were the color of the sand
And the sea
And the more he talked to me
The more he reached me
But I couldn't let go of L.A.
City of the fallen angels