"Hey, Buff, what happened to you?" Angel asked jovially, turning away from Harmony and Larry as the three approached. Then he saw Spike, and the jovial went away. "What's he doing here?"
"He dropped her off or something," Cordelia dismissed.
His jaw clenched. "Is he staying?"
"Yeah," Spike said, returning his stare with equal suspicion. "He is."
"Hi," Harmony waved. "I'm Harmony."
He exhaled a stream of smoke through his nose and nodded. "Spike."
Cordelia glared at her, and she shrugged apologetically.
"So..." Buffy wrung her hands, "Who wants a really strong drink?"
* * *
Willfully ignoring the white elephant in the room, Buffy's people lounged on the sectional couches, while the elephant in question stood warily in the doorway, nursing a Guinness and checking the clock.
"Riley's a good old Iowa boy." Angel patted his buddy on the back. "Hundred percent farm grown."
"You mean like Superman?" Harmony asked.
"You're thinking of Kansas." Riley looked down humbly. "And I'm no superman."
"Plus I think he was actually grown on another planet," Buffy pointed out.
"Right," Harmony said. "I don't really pay attention to the plot. I just think Tom Welling is choice."
"Choicer than moi?" Larry asked her, aghast.
"Well... he is a superhero."
Buffy's eyes met Spike's. Please get me out of here and take off all my clothes.
He didn't get the message, apparently, because he just took another swig of his beer.
"Riley's a star football player," Cordelia said. "He's been on TV. Everybody says he's a shoo-in for top draft pick next year. He could be the next Joe Montana."
Riley chuckled. "Don't listen to them, Buffy. I'm really not as bad as they say."
"I'm sure you're not." She smiled sweetly, making Spike gnash his teeth.
"All this talk about me, and I don't know anything about you," Riley said to Buffy, and glanced pointedly at Spike.
Buffy hedged. "Um... me?"
"We were on varsity squad together," Cordelia supplied. "She would've been head cheerleader if it weren't for me being so talented."
Head cheerleader. Spike smirked, imagining Buffy in a short skirt and pom-poms. In his bed.
"Yep, Cordy just stole that away from me." In her peripheral, she saw Angel look at her, and down at his drink.
"What else do you like to do?"
Kiss Spike. Kiss Spike. And Kiss Spike. She realized she was gazing at him, and turned to Riley. "Um... you know. Regular stuff."
"Good," Riley breathed, realizing he was in for a difficult night. "Hey, me too."
* * *
Half an hour later, the only fully sober ones in the bunch were Buffy and Riley. Spike, who was running on a nice buzz, sat down in a chair and played quarters with Larry and Harmony, occasionally glancing at Buffy to see how close she was to her blind date. To his credit, Riley kept a respectful distance.
When Buffy laughed, Spike turned to her. Is she flirting?
Feeling his eyes on her, she sent him a tiny, reassuring head-shake.
He arched a brow and flipped another quarter.
"So," Riley said, noticing this. "How long have you two known each other?"
"Who two?" Buffy asked.
"You and... Spike."
"Ugh," Cordelia said, getting up. "Angel? Come with me to get another drink."
Angel mumbled, "Do you really need another?"
At Cordelia's icy glare, he sighed in defeat, and followed her out of the room.
Buffy watched them go, and refocused on Riley. "I--I'm sorry. You were saying?"
"I was asking... how long you--"
"Oh, right. Uh, not very long. He's a... he's a friend of the family."
Spike smacked his shot glass on the table.
Buffy chewed on her lip.
"A... friend of the family you haven't known long?"
"Well, yes. A new friend. Through my dad's work... it's... complicated."
"Got it. Your dad's a lawyer, right?"
"Entertainment law," she said absently. "Movie deals and stuff."
"Wow, that's pretty cool. You must meet a lot of famous people."
"Not really. It's not as exciting as it sounds." She gave him an obligatory smile and tried not to meet Spike's gaze. "What does your dad do?"
"Um, he's an ex-marine? I--"
"Oh, right. You told me that already, I'm sorry."
"It's okay. Hey, even the best relationships start with an awkward getting-to-know-you conversation."
And that was just about enough. Spike stood up and lumbered away.
Buffy's pulse quickened. "True!" Although, not true with Spike -- they'd fallen into easy, albeit mean-spirited, banter immediately. After nodding several times, she said, "I'll be right back, okay?"
* * *
Riley bumped into Buffy, mid-Spike search, in the den. "Hi. Not stalking, promise. Just passing through... for something to drink, specifically."
"Oh, please, help yourself. Kitchen's that way."
"Thanks. Can I get you anything? Water? 7-Up?"
"No, I'm fine. Thanks." She smiled widely until he walked away.
"Ooo-oooh," she heard a low sing-song behind her. "Can I get you a soda-pop? I think I'm in lo-ove..." Spike's arms slid around her waist.
"Mmm..." Back arching, she nuzzled into him, glad he wasn't angry, and liking the sound of him saying that entirely too much. "Don't make fun. He's a... nice guy."
"Courteous," he agreed, cheek rubbing against hers. "Dull as a butter knife, but courteous."
"You don't get that 'he's gonna break my heart' vibe?" she teased.
"I think you're gonna break his," he whispered into her ear, fingers easing up her shirt. "Let's go upstairs."
Her eyes closed as the dull ache that had been throbbing between her legs all night caught fire. "They'll be gone soon, I promise."
* * *
"I think it's time to soak in hot bubbly goodness," Cordelia announced gamely. "Who's up for it?"
"Not me," Riley said, catching another furtive, frisky smile between Buffy and her 'friend.' "I think I'm gonna head out."
Thank god. "Aw, really?"
"You can't head out!" Cordelia pshawed, almost spilling her margarita on the rug. "It's hot tub time!"
"Yeah, I'm really not a hot tub kind of guy," he said, standing up. "Buffy, it's been a pleasure meeting you." On his way out of the room, he ceded quietly to Spike, "She's all yours."
"Let me walk you to the door," Buffy offered.
* * *
Cordelia rushed up to Buffy as she locked the deadbolt. "What is your problem? How could you let him go?"
"I just, I'm not ready for anyone new right now."
"Are you sure? Because I'm beginning to think you've got something new already in progress."
Buffy sighed. "If I told you he went to Cambridge and he isn't poor, would that make it okay with you?"
"Oh god," Cordelia said. "You're a lost cause. That's it. I wash my hands of you."
"Strangely not upset about that," Buffy said under her breath.
* * *
"Spike, you can wear my dad's swim trunks, let me get them for you!" Buffy said loudly, for the benefit of their guests.
"I'm not getting in a sodding hot tub," Spike murmured to Buffy as she made for the stairs. "Not with these people. Make them leave."
"The faster you soak, the faster they leave. The faster we have hot sweaty sex in every room of this house."
His throat constricted. "Yeah, okay. Hot tub it is."
* * *
Larry patted Harmony on the ass as she sat down in the tub. "There's my fine lady."
"Where'd Spike go?" Harmony wondered.
"Back to his crypt, moohahahaha," Larry boomed, and bit her neck.
Harmony giggled and swatted at him. "Stop it!"
Buffy sat at the edge of the tub, feeling the stare of Angel, who sat in the bubbling water beside Cordelia.
She heard a noise -- Spike had emerged from the guest house. In his swim trunks.
"Whoa," Harmony said, jaw dropping. "Hello."
"Hey," said Larry, affronted.
"I see it's been tanning," Cordelia said, eyebrow arched.
Spike strode up, cocksure as ever. "Make room for Daddy."
Buffy giggled, and slipped into the hot water with him.
"So," Angel cut right to the chase, "How long've you been staying here, Spikey?"
"Staying? He hasn't been staying," Buffy said.
"Oh yeah?" asked Angel. "Where exactly do you live?"
"There a reason you need to know?" Spike asked.
"He's very protective," Cordelia explained, patting her boyfriend's chest. "They used to be steps."
Buffy rolled her eyes.
"Right," Spike said. "So you're big brother, then?"
"Something like that."
Spike frowned, knowing something was off. "Not staying. Crashed here that one night."
"After you two... crashed."
Buffy gaped. "Angel!"
"What?" He looked at Buffy, pointing at Spike. "I want to know what's going on with this asshole! You've been making fuck-me eyes at him all night!"
"He is not an asshole! And how are my eyes your business?"
Margarita glass empty, Cordelia helped herself to the rest of the latest pitcher. "Well, that clinches it. She's obviously having sex with him."
"Cordelia! I am not--"
"Oh whatever, Buffy. One thing I know about you? Is you don't know how to keep your panties on."
Spike was appalled. "She does too--"
"Spike, shut up," Buffy said, tunnel-vision on Cordelia.
"I mean, you gave it up, what, like three years ago in a one-nighter? And then you get pregnant with some other Shmoe -- you were doing it every which way but smart."
Taking a deep, unsteady breath, Buffy rose to a stand, fists balling until it hurt.
Angel looked up in trepidation and put a hand on his girlfriend's shoulder. "Okay, Cordy, that's enough. We're all drunk, let's just calm down."
"I'm not drunk," Buffy said evenly.
Cordelia continued, "Tell me. That guy who knocked you up? Did he even know? Or care?"
Eyes zeroing in on Angel, Buffy's voice dripped with venom when she said, "Why don't you ask him yourself."
And with that, she vaulted out of the hot tub and stormed into the house.
Cordelia frowned at Angel. "Huh?"
"Don't ask me!" Angel said, arms up in defense. "She's crazy! I have no idea what she's talking about."
Spike, on the other hand, did.
With a derisive sneer, he stood up, spat "Fucking coward," and rammed a fist into Angel's nose.