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Sucker Punched

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Buffy was looking forward to some hot chocolate and unwinding with an old movie that evening, so she wasn’t particularly thrilled when someone knocked on her door. Until she saw who it was.

“Angel?” she asked, bewildered.

“Buffy,” said Angel. Buffy noticed he wasn’t alone.

“And... Spike,” she added, frowning. Spike did not reply, merely put a hand to his black eye, wincing.

“Spike here has an apology to make to you,” said Angel.

Buffy raised her eyebrows and folded her arms. As mentally and physically exhausted as she was from that vision quest, she couldn’t deny she was curious.

“What did he do now?” she asked.

“I haven’t done a thing!” Spike said.

The level of his voice drew footsteps into the living room.

“What’s going on?” Willow asked.

“Care if we come in first?” Angel asked.

Buffy stepped aside. Angel made to shove Spike over the threshold, but his invitation still being revoked, he bounced painfully off the mystical barrier, nose-first. “Bloody hell!”

Angel gave Buffy a quizzical look, to which she replied with an innocent shrug. Next, he heaved something wearing a leather jacket and an ugly pleated skirt inside. It sparked and twitched and made noise that sounded like “Sp-sp-sp—love—”

“What the...?” Buffy began, before noticing that the thing had her face. She recoiled in horror.

“Willow,” said Angel, “think you can get this thing decommissioned?”

Willow moved forward, looking half-horrified, half-fascinated. “Uh, yeah, shouldn’t be too hard.

“What is it?” said Buffy through clenched teeth. She was pretty sure she already knew. Spike’s horrifying shrine was still rather vivid in her memory.

“That’s what I brought Spike to explain.”

“I haven’t—” Spike tried to protest, still holding his nose, but Angel cut across him.

“Do it, Spike. Or did you forget our little conversation about amateur intracranial surgery to fish that chip out of your brain before I stake you? Was that not clear enough?”

 


 

Earlier that Afternoon

 

“Angel Investigations, how may I help you?”

Cordelia spent the next twenty minutes listening to another paranoid wife who insisted her husband—who coincidentally worked for Wolfram & Hart—had been cheating on her. Cordy tried to interject a thought several times, but the woman would call her rude, and threaten to hang up and take her business elsewhere if Cordy didn’t shut her gob to listen.

Cordy wanted to reach through the phone and throttle the bitch, but she was a potential customer, and they couldn’t afford to turn those away. The Wolfram & Hart connection could be something too. Otherwise, Angel didn’t have the time for this kind of crap. Cordy didn’t have the time for this kind of crap! She had an acting interview at ten in the morning and if she didn’t get moving she might lose her chance to model a new makeup line for QVC.

If the money wasn’t coming from Angel Investigations, then it had to come from somewhere, right? Even if she had to go to the interview with no makeup on whatsoever.

“So, anyway, he stays at work really late and I’m certain he’s screwing the CEO’s secretary—”

“Ahh!”

Maybe this call wasn’t important after all, if the Powers were seeing fit to interrupt it with a mind-numbing, skull crushing vision migraine.


 

Xander stood with his hand pointed accusingly at Spike in some kind of crypt. They were having a heated conversation. Xander seemed righteously pissed while Spike played off his reaction in a nonchalant manner, even going so far as to light a cigarette and look at Xander as if he were an idiot.

Xander grabbed Spike around the neck, and Cordy wished she could get some kind of idea of what they were saying to each other. It didn’t look good. And when did Xander get so brave? He would have never threatened a vampire like that before, chip or no chip. Everything was so fuzzy. Cordelia could hear muted voices, and just as she maybe thought she knew what was going on, four demons busted in, and Xander got thrown to the ground.


 

“This won’t be easy for any of us, Angel. You’re going to have to change your behavior. Engage your co-workers.”

Angel sat at his desk, wondering how much longer he could endure this uncomfortable conversation with Wesley. He was prepared to eat quite a lot of crow for what he’d put everyone through over the last few months, but he preferred forms of penance that involved less talking. Wesley paced as he continued his lecture. He didn’t seem to be enjoying it much either.

“...Be sensitive to their feelings, their opinions, especially before you take action one might construe as—oh one might say—insane. It goes a long way to—”

Cordelia’s scream from the front interrupted Wesley’s tirade. Angel was up on his feet before Wesley could say another word.

“Okay Wes,” Angel said, patting him on the back. “Good chat. I’ll take what you said under serious consideration, but, you know, Cordy’s having a vision, so...” He trailed off awkwardly, snatched the bottle of aspirin from the desk for Cordy, and bolted from the office. He hated what those visions did to her, but he couldn’t deny that sometimes they came at very opportune moments. And these days, more visions meant more cases, which meant more chances for him to make things right with Cordy, Wes, and Gunn. With less of the talking.

He found her on the lobby floor in front of the counter. “Cordy,” he said, gently helping her up and onto one of the couches, hanging the dangling phone up as he went. “Are you okay?”

“Whoa,” Cordy said, her eyes widening as she fanned herself. “That one was a doozy.”

“What happened, what did you see?” Wes asked, emerging from the office too.

Angel glared at him. Seriously? After all he’d just said about the ethics of treating his employees right, Wesley was just going to bombard Cordelia with questions straight off? Cordelia’s heart was still raced, and she was still leaning heavily on him even though they’d reached the couch.

“I’m fine—um, water?” Cordelia said.

Wesley hastened to get her a glass. Angel handed her the aspirin too. She popped four of them into her mouth and downed the entire glass.

“What can you tell us about the vision?” said Wesley.

“Hey, back off, Captain Treat Your Co-Workers Better,” Angel said. He couldn’t help himself. “Take your time, Cordelia.”

Cordelia stared at them with some kind of half amused, half annoyed expression. “Thanks,” she said flatly. She shook the empty glass at Wesley, rubbing her temples with her other hand. He went to refill the glass for her. Neither of the men said another word while she finished the second glass.  

“Xander and Spike,” she said.

“What?” said Angel. That was the last thing he had expected.

“My vision. I saw Xander and Spike,” Cordelia said.

“What about them? Did that chip thing in Spike’s brain stop working?” He still wasn’t sure he understood what that was about.

“I don’t know… They didn’t look like they were fighting, just arguing. But then they got attacked in some kind of crypt. Angel, did everything seem okay when you went to Sunnydale after Buffy’s mom died?”

Nothing had seemed fine when Angel visited Buffy. Her mother had passed away and she was in pieces, but Buffy was strong, and Angel had no doubts that she would pull through. He was grateful that he’d been able to provide her some small amount of comfort, but hated that he’d had to take that away from her so soon. It was for the best in the end, but that didn’t make it hurt any less that he couldn’t always be there for her.

“Why would you get a vision of events in Sunnydale?” said Wesley. “Should we just call Buffy to warn her?”

Cordy crossed her arms. “Doyle got a vision of trouble in Sunnydale once, and Angel was definitely needed. If they didn’t want Angel involved, they could’ve just given miss Chosen One of those prophetic dream things. Which, by the way, have I mentioned how not fair it is that I get splitting migraine visions while she gets the easy-peasy dreams and super strength?”

“I can go,” Angel said. “Could you tell what Xander and Spike were talking about before the demons attacked?”

“No, it was so fuzzy.” Cordy gulped down more water. “I’m really, really worried about Xander…but I got the sense that those demons would mean more trouble for Buffy.”

“I’m going to Sunnydale,” Angel said.

“We’ll call you if we find anything about what kind of demons they are,” said Cordy.

 


 

“Angel!”

He winced. Letting Buffy find him sulking in the graveyard was not how he’d wanted this to go. He would have gone to her house first, but Cordelia had called his cell on the road with more specific directions about where Spike and Xander would be, and that there wouldn’t be time to detour before the demons attacked. He’d arrived at the cemetery just in time to overtake a group of short, leprous-looking demons with black eyes. Even with so many of them against him, it had been a disappointingly easy fight. He’d been debating whether or not to even make his presence known in Sunnydale when Buffy rendered that decision moot.

“Buffy,” Angel said, but as he looked at her, he narrowed his eyes. Something was very strange here. She was there, but he couldn’t smell her, and he couldn’t hear any heartbeat. There was also some kind of clicking and beeping noise coming from somewhere, but that might just be his cell phone acting up again.

“You’re my ex with the large forehead,” said Buffy through a very wide smile. She held a stake firmly in her hands. “Why are you here? My information is that you should be combing your hero hair in LA.”

Angel just stared at her, feeling extremely disturbed. “Cordelia...had a vision,” he said.

“I don’t understand.” Very abruptly, her expression became blank and confused.

Angel started to really look at her, but he’d only taken one step closer when Spike came flying out from behind a large gravestone.

“There you are!” he said, relieved.

“Spike!” said Buffy, her face switching to the brilliant smile again.

This just kept getting weirder.

“Uh—Angel,” Spike said. “What are you doing here, mate?”

Angel folded his arms. “Cordelia had a vision, something about you and Xander getting attacked. You won’t have to worry about that now. The demons are dead.”

Buffy kept trying to grab Spike’s hand. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders in such a way as to keep her arms pinned to her side while still looking rather cozy. “Uh, thanks for that,” he said. “Now if you wouldn’t mind sodding right back off to L.A.; Buffy and I were in the middle of something.” Angel kept his flat glare fixed on Spike.

“That’s not Buffy.”

She stopped trying to cuddle up to Spike to stop and looked at Angel.

“Of course I’m Buffy. Buffy Summers. I’m the Slayer. And I love Spike.”

Spike looked rather alarmed, but he pushed through it. “Yes, that’s right! She’s seen the error of her former affections, and now everything is as it should be. Thank you for all the heroing, but you should leave now.”

Not-Buffy gleefully latched herself onto Spike. “Yes, so that we can have lots of sex.”

“Spike, what the hell did you do?” Angel snarled, his features shifting.

Spike actually gulped, then hastily changed his entire approach, stepping away from not-Buffy like the direct contact had burned him.

“So, there’s this bloke, Warran, right? Really twisted sod. Makes sex-bots in his spare time. Disgusting. I couldn’t believe it myself. I was helping Buffy deal with him, ‘cause of how I’m one of the good guys now, don’t you doubt that for one second—”

 


 

The Present

 

Buffy tried and failed to maintain a straight face. Using a continuous stream of threats, Angel had gotten Spike to recount his entire absurd lie about Warren building him that revolting machine as a bribe to keep himself out of trouble. After that, he’d forced him to admit the truth and apologize.

“Can you, uh, tell me again what the second thing he tried to convince you was?” she asked Angel.

“Something about how the robot being in love with Spike was for the greater good of the entire world.”

She couldn’t handle it anymore. She burst out laughing. It was so bad that she could barely breathe and had to lean on Angel for support. 

“I’m glad my busted eye is so hilarious to you,” Spike said from the back porch. He spoke with a slight lisp. “I’ve learned my sodding lesson, alright? Are you really going to leave me in this state?”

Angel pulled an ice pack out of the freezer beside them and tossed it at Spike. It slammed into his solar plexus, knocking the wind out of him. Just because he didn’t need to breathe, that didn’t mean he didn’t need the air to speak.

“That was a cheap shot back there in the cemetery,” he gasped. “He sucker punched me!”

“It sounds to me like if you still didn’t see the haymaker coming at that point, it isn’t the punch you should be calling a sucker,” Dawn taunted from the other side of the kitchen.

Buffy gasped. “Dawnie! Bed! Now!” She did not want her sister knowing about Spike’s fun new toy. Dawn stuck her tongue out before scampering away. Buffy rolled her eyes and looked at the open basement door, from which many electronic whirs and buzzes were issuing. “How’s that dismantling of the bot coming, Willow, Tara?”

There was a sharp ping, and Tara let out a little shriek. “We’re okay!” she said.

“It’s…coming! It looks like Angel pretty much broke it anyway,” said Willow.

Buffy reached up and gave Angel a kiss on the mouth. She’d taken him by surprise with it, which meant that when she pulled back, she was rewarded with a rather dopey smile.

“Thank you from saving me the embarrassment of dealing with Spike and the sex-bot. I’m definitely going to think about it too hard later and throw up, but right now, it’s hilarious.” She tilted her head in the direction of the living room. He accompanied her there without another word. As fun as it was to be affectionate with him in full view of Spike, she’d rather just focus on the two of them.

Once they were out of view of everyone else (as Dawn actually had gone back upstairs), she felt Angel’s arms wrap around her waist from behind. “Is this okay?”

She breathed in slowly and deeply, leaning back into him. “For a minute.”

“Good.”

“Really, though, thank you for saving me from Spike and his sex bot.” She turned around in his arms. “Stay for a little bit?” she asked, looking up at Angel.

He sighed. “I guess I do still need to tell you about Cordy’s vision and the demons.”

Buffy grinned and led him over to the couch. “I love it when shop talk helps the good stuff last longer.”