Chapter Seventeen: Smile Time Part Two or Three Couples Agree to go on Dates
Xander groaned in pain as Harmony barrelled into him. "Ah, pain… Harmony, please," he managed to get out before she realised what she was doing and stopped.
"Sorry," she squeaked, "It was just –."
"Never mind," he said, interrupting her with a kiss, "It's worth it." He groaned again. "Maybe not," he admitted weakly.
"Can I do anything for you?" she asked.
"What happened to my bike?" he asked with trepidation.
"Oh, that thing?" she replied carelessly, "That thing's a wreck." He winced at the news. Something else occurred to him.
"How long have I been here?" he croaked, his throat feeling like sandpaper.
"Over a day," she answered, "It's just past three p.m. now."
"And you've been waiting here the whole time?" he asked in quiet astonishment.
"Yes," she said simply.
"Thank you," he said with all the emotion he could manage.
Location: Wolfram & Hart L.A. office
Fred practically flew into Wesley's office, skidding to a halt in front of his desk. "Harmony called," she said excitedly, "He's awake and he's going to be okay."
"I'll get my coat," he said, quickly getting to his feet.
"What happened?" he asked, "All I remember is a big bang and… well, I'm here." He didn't relish the thought of talking about his comatose conversation.
"We're still not sure," she confessed, "They seem to have been a bigger deal than we thought. All we know is that they are still probably on the West Coast."
"Maybe we'll run into them again," he said speculatively, "And I can show them the same courtesy they showed me."
"No you won't," she said sternly, "You just were shot, you need rest and recuperation, not a vendetta."
"Harmony, it was just a thought," he said, allaying her fears.
"I sure hope so," said a dry voice from the door, "I can't keep getting new assistants."
"Hey guys," said Xander happily. Wesley, Fred, Gunn, Spike and Angel ambled into the small room. Gunn tossed him a bag of grapes.
"I hear you're supposed to do that," he snarked, finding a chair to sit in.
"Lorne should be on the way," said Fred, sitting beside his bed.
"How are you holding up?" asked Wesley.
"I've been worse," said Xander, "I least I didn't lose anything this time. It was worse when we fought against the first."
"Yeah," agreed Spike, "He'll be up and about in no time."
"I hate to do this," said Angel seriously, "But is there anything you can remember about what happened on the highway?" Xander shook his head dejectedly.
"I've been trying," he said, "But I was on the ground behind my bike, I couldn't see a thing. All I heard was a bang. Oh," he said, suddenly realising something, "What happened to the hostages?" he asked.
"We don't know," admitted Angel, his expression indicated that fact was difficult to swallow, "They were also taken with the teleportation spell." Xander's face fell.
"Did we get anything at all?" he begged, "Harmony said you think they're on the coast but is there anything else?" They were saved from answering him by Lorne's entrances.
"X-Man, how are you?" he asked.
"Like I've been shot in the gut," he answered, "X-Man?" he asked.
"Ahh I don't know," said Lorne, "Just trying it out to see if it fits."
"So what's the case?" asked Xander, "And don't tell me there isn't one, because there is. A case, that is." Fred sighed.
"This," she said, handing him a photograph, "Is one of several cases that have occurred in children from four to eight years of age." He examined the creepy looking child.
"Spooky," he said, "Maybe it's the Joker." She scoffed. "What?" he asked.
"Nothing," she said, "It's just Knox said the same thing."
"Your assistant?" he asked, "Good to know. So any ideas on what's causing the whole enfant terrible thing?"
"We're still working on it," she said, "We don't even know if it's magic yet, it could be a new strain of plague for all we know." At that moment, an alarm went off on Angel's watch.
"Shoot," he exclaimed, hitting the snooze button, "It's a full moon tonight."
"So?" asked Xander, confused by the normally unflappable vampire's extreme agitation.
"So," said Fred, her eyes twinkling with mirth, "Nina has to come over."
"Who's Nina," he asked, "His girlfriend." There was a short silence. "She is?" he asked in astonishment, "How come no-one mentioned it to me?"
"She's not my girlfriend," said Angel hotly, "She's a werewolf who makes use of Wolfram & Hart's facilities during the full moon."
"And who always dresses like she's going to prom when she comes over," said Harmony.
"So why do you have an alarm for her?" Xander asked, glad that someone else's personal life was on display for once, "Couldn't an aide do it for you or something?"
"Well she – Uh… I," stammered Angel, "She –."
"Ask her out," said Xander.
"What!?" exclaimed Angel, "I couldn't do that, I have too many – It would be a bad idea."
"Come on Mr Boss-Man," pressed Xander, "I was shot in the line of duty, don't I get a last request."
"You're not dying," said Angel.
"Could change at any moment," said Xander impishly, "Come on, for me." Everyone's eyes were now focused on the spiky haired vampire.
"Okay," he said finally, heading for the door, "I'll ask the sexy werewolf lady out. The things I do for you guys." And with that, he was gone.
"You know," said Xander, "This may be the morphine talking but I could almost consider myself kindly disposed towards him."
"I better go with him," said Lorne, "I still have some stuff to finish back at the office." He left the same way as Angel, lightly whistling along to the tune of "She'll Be Going Round The Mountain."
"He's certainly a character," observed Spike, idly flicking through a newspaper that had been left on Xander's bedside table. "Do you mind if I steal the crossword?" he asked.
"Sure, go to town on it," said Xander, lying back down, the hour of conversation having almost drained him entirely.
Location: Wolfram & Hart lobby
As Nina stepped out of the elevator she, again, could not help but feel shocked at the demons and monsters going about their business. No matter how many times she did this, she was quite certain that she was never going to get used to the sight of monsters in business suits. She saw Angel ahead of her, looking slightly out of breath and said, "Um… hey."
"Hey," he responded, "Back for the Wolfram & Hart Bed-and-Breakfast?"
"Full moon cycle starts tonight, in..." she checked her watch, "38 minutes, actually. Had a little snag getting out of the house."
"Haven't told your sister yet, huh?" asked Angel, signing a document an aide brought him.
"It's not the sort of thing that's easy to jump to in conversation. 'Oh, by the way, Jill, I've been a werewolf for 4 months," she said in a fake cheery voice, "I told her I was going camping in the desert again. She's starting to worry I've turned into some new agey, moon-worshipping Wicca person."
"Might be relieved to find out that you're just a werewolf," he joked, hoping it came across as funny and charming. Nina was polite enough to laugh at it. They spent the rest of the walk down to the basement level in comfortable silence. When they got down to her cage she confidently strode in, a far cry from her earlier apprehension the previous month.
"Seems like you're getting used to the routine," he said, procrastinating. Oh to Hell with it. "Are you doing anything for breakfast tomorrow?" he asked quickly, hoping to get it all out before he chickened out.
"Uh… Um…. No," she stammered, "Why?"
"Well," he began, "I was wondering if you wanted breakfast tomorrow. I mean, of course you're going to have breakfast, everybody has breakfast but I… Uh… I meant do you want to have breakfast with me?" He exhaled. "You know that sounded much better in my head," he confessed, "I was hoping to come across as suave not… well that." She laughed.
"Sure," she answered, "Breakfast sounds great."
Mental note to me: get Harris a new bike.
And maybe a raise.
Location: Wolfram and Hart Lab
Lorne strode into the lab, having agreed to fill in for a few hours while Fred and Wesley were at the hospital with Xander. Knox approached him and handed him what data they had gathered on the creepy, smiley children. "Hmmm," he mused thoughtfully, "All in front of the television within 7:00 to 7:30 you say?"
"Yes sir," said Knox. Lorne sighed wearily.
"Listen sugar," he said, "You don't have to call me sir. After Andrew Lloyd Webber got his slimy mitts on it, it lost all appeal."
"Whatever you say," Knox replied agreeably, "What was significant about the time 7:00 to 7:30?" he asked.
"Ah it's probably nothing," said Lorne, waving his hand in the air as though he could physically "shoo" the idea away.
"Come on," pressed Knox, "Right now some jackass has got us looking into aliens and comic villains so I'm open to anything."
"It's just this show," he answered, "Real popular kids' show in the So-Cal regional market. It's in the right time slot. It's in the right demographic."
"What's it called?" Knox asked.
"Smile time," he answered sourly. Knox immediately googled the name and got an address for the studio in which it was filmed. "It's just a thought mind you," he said quickly, "And it would be embarrassing for Wolfram & Hart to go in guns blazing only for it to be harmless. PR is very important right now."
"Fair point," agreed Knox before suddenly grinning, "What about Spike?" he asked.
"What about him?" asked Lorne, wondering where he was going with this.
"Well," explained Knox, "He's technically not on our payroll, he's a freelance. So we can send him in and if it's a bust we can claim a complete lack of knowledge."
"Alright," said Lorne, "I'll give him a call and ask him to have a sticky beak around and see if anything turns up." He paused and suddenly remembered something. "Who was it who asked you guys to look into aliens and comic villains."
"Oh that was me," said Knox easily.
Fred's phone rang. "Hello?" she answered before frowning slightly and then handed Spike the phone. "It's for you," she said. Spike took the phone from.
"Spike here," he answered, "Hey Lorne. Yes. Yes. Okay. Sure, I'll look into it. What's the address again? Yes I got it. I'll head over there immediately." He tossed the phone back to Fred. "Time for me to head off," he said, "Lorne has a theory 'bout those kiddies and he wants me to check it out."
"Speaking of," said Fred, getting up, "We really should head back as well."
"Yes," agreed Wesley, "You're quite right." As he reached for his coat, something occurred to Xander. Why not? I'm already on a roll.
"It's great that Angel agreed to ask out this Nina girl that he clearly seems to like," he said casually.
"Yeah," said Harmony, immediately seeing where he was going with this. "I hate the whole "will they, won't they?" thing people do." Spike immediately turned his face away so no-one could see the difficult he was having in keeping a straight face. He too could see what Xander had planned.
"Yes, I suppose so," said Fred non-committedly.
"What about you Wes?" he asked.
"What about me?" replied Wesley.
"Do you think needlessly dragging out the progression of two people getting together is pointless and annoying?" he asked.
"I guess?" he said.
"So why haven't you asked out Fred yet?" he inquired. That did it for Spike. He exploded with laughter.
"Oh you two are so stupid," he crowed, "A blind moron could have seen where he was going with that." Noticing Fred and Wesley glaring at him, he quickly said, "I should be going now," and he did exactly that. Awkward silence followed his departure.
"What?" asked Xander, "You," he pointed at Fred, "Heavily implied you like him. You," he pointed at Wesley, "Actually went out and said it. I also told both of you that the other was into you and it's been weeks. I'm not gonna hang around for years as you guys pull a Ross and Rachel on us."
Seventeen minutes later
Location: An extremely awkward car trip.
Wesley and Fred were both silent as he drove them both back to Wolfram & Hart.
And even more silent.
"Okay," said Fred finally, "Pull over please."
"Uh, okay," said Wesley, pulling into the side of the road. When the car was at a still he said, "About what Xander said back there –." Strangely he wasn't able to say anything more but, to be fair to him, I have heard that it is difficult to speak when a beautiful woman starts kissing you. Naturally, he forgot whatever it was he was going to say and matched her with equal enthusiasm. After what might have been an all too brief eternity she broke the kiss.
"Do I have your attention now?" she asked him.
"You have whatever you want," he said. She checked the car's digital clock.
"You know," she said mischievously, "It's five-thirty. We're officially off the clock until tomorrow morning. Were you doing anything tonight?"
"Nothing I couldn't heartlessly abandon," he said, kissing her again.
Xander grinned cockily. "Oh yeah," he said, "I am awesome." Harmony rolled her eyes.
"You'd never know that you'd just been shot," she said, half serious.
"Hey," he defended, "If I'd known it would be this fun I'd have done it years ago."
"Don't say that," she said quickly. He scoffed quietly.
She doesn't love me.
She can't love me.
She is incapable of loving me.
"Sorry," he said, "You know I didn't thank you for waiting for me. For an entire day."
"I was worried," she said genuinely.
"I think I'm starting to get that." He suddenly remembered something that Giles had once told him years ago.
They had been patrolling without Buffy or the others and he (in a moment of weakness, when he still foolishly saw him as a father figure) asked him how a normal person like him could survive in the world of monsters and magic. Giles was silent for a while before leading him to a park bench. He sat him down and said a sentence of twenty-four words:
The first lesson a watcher learns is to separate truth from illusion. Because in the world of magics, it's the hardest thing to do.
Those twenty-four words later defined him. It helped him finally gain a sense of self-worth after seeing the best parts of him in a duplicate, it showed him Dawn's pain when she discovered that she would never be a Slayer and it shamed him when he believed the words what he believed to be a future him. He remembered being glad Giles didn't come to the wedding, he would have been disgusted with him; being so easily duped.
"Harmony," he said hesitantly, wondering how far he was willing to go with this line of thought.
"Yeah?" she responded.
"There's this thing on in two weeks Wesley recommended," he said, "They're doing a tour of Jesus Christ Superstar and I thought… I was wondering if you wanted to come see it. With me."
"Are you asking me out on a date?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said simply. She was literally speechless, her mouth hanging over somewhat comically.
"Okay," she said, finally regaining her senses, "Are you sure you want to do this?" she asked, vulnerable.
"I'm sure," he answered.
What did that old man know anyway?
Location: Filming Studio
"Lousy third-rate security," muttered Spike as walked down the hallway. It really was kind of bizarre, there should have been someone even if it was just a fat guy sitting in front of some monitors. Okay, there had been one guy, a janitor, but that had been weird. Spike might as well have been invisible for all the notice he took of him. He had even called out to him and yet there was no response. He walked into the main office and quickly gazed around the room. Eureka. There was a crack of light behind one of the filing cabinets. He easily shoved it aside to reveal a hole in the wall. Ducking slightly, he went through the hole and saw a door marked simply "don't." "Yeah, like that's gonna stop me." He casually punched through the lock and opened the door, wondering what other weird thing was going to happen tonight. Behind the door was a small room but it was the room's solitary occupant that drew Spike's attention. He (at least Spike thought it was a he) was sitting, hunched over resting his elbows on his knees wearing a towel over his head. Hovering above him was this weird egg shaped thing, no less than half a metre tall. Spike took a step towards him but the man started to violently tremble and convulse, hurling himself even lower.
"Y-you shouldn't be… here," he (it was a he) struggled to say. It was like he was fighting his own mouth for control. Above him, the large egg began to split near the bottom, light shining through the gap. The gap that looked kind of like a smiley face. Suddenly Spike was hurled back into the wall by some unseen force, resulting in him being buried under the remains of the now ruined wall.
He felt strange, woozy even, the room now looked like it was three times bigger. He rubbed his hand over his face and then stopped.
Since when do I have four fingers?
I hope you enjoyed this chapter and the slight twist of the original plot. Please review and, as always, see you next time.