The sign said "Closed for Private Party".
Someone -- and everyone suspected Spike -- had scribbled out the 'y' and written in an 's'. Only *he* knew the truth. Well, he and the guilty party, who was currently humming innocently over a pint of imported beer. And Spike, of course, since he wasn't guilty. But since the vampire--who'd never stopped singing, "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" since he'd skipped in the door--wished he'd been clever enough to think of it, he was letting everyone go on suspecting him.
The Host gave all the newest arrivals his most cheerful, welcoming, hi how are you don't mind the horns smile. Only half of the guests had ever been here before, but of course he knew them all. The party was in full swing, and it had only started ten minutes ago.
"Does anybody know where I'm supposed to set this thing up?" The words came from a large drum set with legs, but they were spoken in the voice of a bass guitar player. Which is to say, the boy was never meant to sing.
"Alfredo, help this poor boy." He waved over one of the waiters, a Skeelax demon, who lifted the entire drum set in one hand and carried it off towards the stage. "You shouldn't be worrying about that stuff," he said to the shortish man revealed by the drum set's sudden absence. "You're a guest. Mingle. Drink. Enjoy."
The young man blinked, then nodded. The Host felt like he'd just finished a convoluted conversation involving the rites of parties and guest/host rituals. Perhaps he was reading into it. But since that *was* his business, he didn't think anything of it.
The young man moved away, disappearing into the crowd which, while small, was managing to sound louder than his usual Thursday nights. The Host suspected part of it was the shouting match being held over near the door, and headed that way to see if they were having fun, or needed intervention.
"I am *not* wearing that hat!" It was Gunn, at his biggest and butchest, struggling in Angel's arms while Wesley tried valiantly to slip a horned Viking helmet onto his head.
"Suits you, actually," Spike shouted from the bar. He was trying to sound drunk, though due to orders from on high--Cordelia specifically--he wasn't being allowed anything stronger than Dr. Pepper until after nine. Even the Host didn't mess with Cordelia, so his waiters and bartenders were watching Groom Number One with hawk-eyes. Literally, in the case of Raz, the Egyptian demon.
"Are *you* actually calling *me* horny?" Gunn shouted back, surprised enough that Wesley finally managed to plant the hat, while Gunn was staring incredulously at the smirking blond at the bar. Gunn whirled immediately on Wesley with a fierce expression. The Host honestly didn't understand why the boy *bothered*. Everyone and his mother knew that Wesley had Charles Alyious Gunn -- and Angel -- firmly wrapped around his little finger.
Or possibly something else which the Host wouldn't repeat in polite company. Or whatever company *this* was. He stopped moving towards the tangle, but continued to watch, just in case. Besides, it was entertaining. Wesley knew more ways than the Host had ever seen of making his lovers do things they absolutely refused to do.
Right now, Wesley was just holding back laughter. The Host didn't blame him -- the Viking hat looked absolutely ridiculous. Which meant he fit right in.
"Whose stupid idea was it to make everyone wear hats?"
Spike looked resolutely innocent, even under the force of Gunn's glare, but 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' said otherwise. It told a sordid story that began with 'How dare they tell me I can't go past first base until after nine,' continued through 'Fine, wait 'til they hear about the ancient Frolox bachelor party tradition of everybody having to wear extremely silly hats,' and ended with 'why can't I get this sodding song out of my head, I know you're listening to me, you flaming green wanker.'
The Host was going to ignore Spike for as long as he could -- he knew it would drive the vampire nuts, not seeing the demon react to everything he was thinking while he sang under his breath.
"Charles, you needn't wear the hat if you *truly* don't want to," Wesley was saying, and those nearby perked up and listened, even if they pretended not to be. Charles, for his part, only started to reach up for the hat before he sighed.
"I don't even wanna know how you're gonna talk me into it," he said in defeat. "Fine. I'll wear it, but only if Angel wears the jester's hat."
Angel didn't even bother to answer. He took one look at Wesley turning toward him, and pulled the cap and bells down over his head. He did, however, turn to face Spike. "One word -- one -- and I'll tell *everyone* why you're afraid of squirrels."
Angel, luckily for the entire room, wasn't singing, or in any way attempting to make music. Spike, of course, was still humming under his breath, and it took every ounce of self-control the Host possessed not to fall on the floor in a puddle of laughter.
The Host saw the glare Spike shot his way, and the quickly-covered expression of genuine worry that followed. Xander was leaning over, then, and whispering something into Spike's ear. Spike began to relax, then he turned to meet Xander's whispering with his tongue.
Cordelia was walking past, and she raised the plate she was carrying. Spike quickly pulled away. "That didn't count! It wasn't against rule number four which clearly states "snogging" and as we *all* know, snogging requires both tongues."
Cordelia was glaring at him, and kept the plate up where she could use it, while she considered it.
"Let it go," Rupert said as he came up behind her. His tone was reasonable, almost sympathetic. "You can't expect Spike not to get a kiss after nearly hearing everyone find out that he was once--"
The hand that clapped itself over Rupert's mouth came as no surprise -- the fact that it was *Xander's* hand, the Host found amusing. "Be nice, Giles. Or I might have to start showing everyone the pictures I keep in my wallet. Especially the new one I just got from Wesley."
A few bars of 'Sweet Transvestite' hummed at the Englishman in the Atlanta Braves cap, and the Host was once again resisting the urge to laugh. Or surreptitiously check out Rupert's legs. Actually, on reflection, there really wasn't any reason to resist the latter, so he didn't.
Unfortunately the man was wearing trousers which fit entirely too loosely. The Host gave it up for lost, and moved back through the crowd again, listening in to snippets of conversation and watching everything to make sure everyone had a good time and that nobody died who wasn't already dead, or on-stage.
"Hey, is she the entertainment?" A tall, blond man asked everyone in his general vicinity, pointing at Cordelia.
"I *heard* that, Devon," she said, quietly, but her voice carried over the crowd, and silence fell. You could almost hear the theme from High Noon being hummed. Actually, you could, and it was the young man with the voice of a bass player who was humming it.
"Well, this *is* a guys' party, right? And you're not a guy. I think. So you must be the stripper, right?"
Oz was thinking something about Devon having started early, and how all he wanted to do was make sure his new bass didn't get crushed in the melee.
"Actually, since the grooms in question are both grooms, the stripper should be male." Angel looked fairly ridiculous, playing peace-maker while wearing a jester's cap. But it was enough to distract Devon, who glanced at the vampire - glanced long and hard, up and down.
The Host didn't have to be prescient to know who was on his way over, to voice an objection.
"We come as a group," Gunn said icily, and he looked just big enough and bad enough, even in the Viking helmet, that nobody dared to make the pun. Especially with Wesley standing next to him, one hand on his shoulder, the other held casually in the air, a ball of eldritch energy floating and crackling above the palm.
"Hey, no problem here," Devon said with a lascivious --or possibly stoned-- grin. "Anybody else got a problem with them all three stripping?"
"Yes," Cordelia hissed. "The entertainment is already set up, and it doesn't involve my boss getting naked. At least until after the party in the privacy of his own suite and God, what am I saying. That's it, set-up's done, I'm leaving. Giles, make them behave." She turned on her heel and walked out the door. There was a collective sigh of relief, and Spike made a quick move in Xander's direction. Only to be grabbed by the collar and firmly re-settled in his chair by Rupert.
"Oi! What the bloody hell--"
"If you think for one moment anyone believes you'll behave if you're sitting on Xander's lap, than you're sadly mistaken."
"But I just wanted a good view for when they strip! Are they gonna all go at once, or one at a time?" Spike looked pleased with the notion of the party's entertainment, ignoring the way the ball of energy in Wesley's hand sparked and crackled.
"Relax, boys, the entertainment has already been hired," the Host finally spoke. He wasn't sure what the ball of energy would do, but he was fairly sure that sort of nonsense shouldn't start so soon. Even if Xander *had* given him a down-payment on damages.
The trio of terror stopped bristling quite so much, as most of the people on the dance floor turned to look at the Host with interest. Well, it *was* about that time. All the girls were gone, Spike was getting bored and horny-- not that he wasn't most of the time, but he usually had Xander at his disposal to take care of it. Since the point of the bachelor party was to make the groom, or in this case grooms, the center of attention, having them spend the evening making out in a quiet corner wasn't exactly anybody's idea of a good time. Except Spike and Xander's, and what did they know-- they were just the grooms.
So-- time for the beginning of the entertaining distractions. Or distracting entertainment. Or *something* which would get everyone facing the same direction, and less likely to try to entertain each other before they'd had a chance to get really liquored up.
The Host sent Eduardo into the back, to let the entertainment know it was time. Meanwhile, he set about making sure everyone *was* getting liquored up, properly. Wouldn't do for anyone -- except those forbidden it, of course -- to not be drunk enough to get really silly.
He made his way around the tables, stopping to listen to the conversation. Flirt a little here, call a waiter over to touch up someone's drink there. Make sure the demons and the humans who were unfamiliar with the place and with each other understood the rules: if any fights broke out in here tonight, they had better be food fights.
The Host was familiar enough with Angel and the Zoobilee Zoo he referred to as his family to expect foodstuffs to fly at some point during the night. That was part of the reason for the extra large cleaning deposit. Pretzels, beernuts, and jujubes were provided at every table, in an attempt to get them to use easily sweepable materials, but he knew there would always be some creative yahoo who would decide to conjure watermelons or moo goo gui pan to throw. Plus there would be cake, eventually.
"Everybody having a good time back here?" he asked at David Nabbit's table. The software tycoon had spread out a deck of twentieth edition Magic, the Gathering cards on the tablecloth, and was deep in the middle of explaining the game to the nondescript young man who sat across from him. There were nods, though the Host knew they had only barely heard him. That was fine with him -- the more distracted ones would probably not cause as much trouble.
Unless David was keeping some of the Magic rules to himself, in which case young non-descript might raise a ruckus. The Host gave the man another glance, and wondered if he'd get up on the stage tonight. He had the hint of someone who had some stage experience, and carried himself well.
The Host moved on to where Xander and Spike were trying to behave -- and the Host gave them each a mental brownie point for the effort. He stopped by Xander's chair and asked, "Get you a refill? Of soda, thanks, I can tell time."
Spike glowered at him. "Tell me why we're doing this, again?" Still humming under his breath, though now he'd at least moved on to 'Strawberry Fields Forever'. It didn't take the Host's particular talents to read *his* mind, however. It was written all over his face. Want to shag, want to shag now, why are all these people keeping me from shagging.
"Theoretically, you're doing it because it's traditional to give the groom one last night of drunken debauchery before he settles down to a sedate life with the little wife," the Host said with a wink at Xander.
"Yeah, but we're both grooms, there's no little wife, and we're not allowed to get drunk or debauched. So I ask again, why are we doing this?" Spike sounded very, very reasonable, and the Host wondered if perhaps, just once, he'd misjudged the vampire.
He dropped his defensive shields, and listened in: Want to shag, Want to shag now, why are all these people keeping me from shagging.
No, of course he hadn't misjudged anything. Why had he expected any different? Except that then there was a flash of Xander's hands holding Spike's, and the image of Xander smiling, in Spike's head.
Spike gave the Host a look, and there was very little of the perpetually-horny demon in it-- just for a moment. Then the lascivious grin was back in place, and he was once again thinking mostly in euphemisms for sex.
"You're doing this because Cordelia told you to," the Host answered with a grin of his own. "And when she says jump, you say--"
"Bite me, Cordy?" Xander offered, then looked around to make sure she wasn't anywhere in the vicinity.
The Host grinned, then leaned forward conspiratorially. "Look at it this ways, ducks. You're sober. They aren't. Imagine what you'll remember tomorrow that you can blackmail them with."
Spike's eyes grew wide, and he turned to Xander. "Would that count as irrevocably evil?"
Xander looked thoughtful. "I suppose...it depends on if Angel does the table dance."
"If he does, then it's not irrevocably evil of us to mention it?"
"If he does, I'd consider it our duty to mention it. As concerned loved ones."
The Host smiled, and patted Spike's knee before heading off again. Their spirits would certainly be high, the rest of the night.
Devon, too, would most likely be high the rest of the night. As long as he hadn't brought anything illegal through the doors, the Host didn't particularly care what the lead singer for Dingoes Ate My Baby had consumed before he stepped inside. As long as he behaved himself, or behaved at least as well as the other guests. The cheerfully stoned man was trying to balance a beer bottle on his nose at the moment, to the amusement of his bandmates.
The Host cast a glance at the stage, just in time to see Eduardo give him the thumbs-up signal from offstage left. He nodded, then made his way up to the stage. "Okay, guys and... guys, it looks like the entertainment is about to begin. Xander, Spike, put your hands where we can see them. Everybody else, relax, drink up, and enjoy the show."
It took several minutes for everything to comply with his request -- as he'd expected. The Host repeated the announcement after a bit, then finally the noise level died down a tiny bit, and everyone seemed to be facing his way. He glanced around at the crowd -- someone was singing "Hey, La, Hey La, my boyfriend's back" but he missed most of the image that accompanied it.
Something about toads and cheese. It was just as well. He smiled at the waiting crowd. "All right, everyone. Let's give a warm welcome to...Xslxgxx!"
There were murmurings of confusion from a few of the humans--some of them trying to repeat the name and failing miserably-- and scattered cheers from various demons who had obviously heard of, perhaps seen, Xslxgxx, before. Then there was silence as the entertainment actually stepped on stage.
Eight foot three of pure blue muscle, and just let anybody try to call him a Smurf out loud. Spike was very obviously considering it, but he got his hand smacked sharply before he could open his lips. Which might have broken Cordelia's rule number seven, the prohibition against general foreplay, but the Host wasn't going to tell on them if no one else did.
There was nothing smurfy about this guy, anyway. Nothing remotely smurfy about eight foot three of pure blue muscle in a professionally-fitted tuxedo. Especially once the music started.
The whistles and catcalls began immediately as he began to move. Gyrating to the music, he moved across the stage as if he'd been born to it. Or hatched, or spawned. The Host wasn't entirely sure of the demon's origins and honestly, didn't care. He was popular with the "see 'em strip" crowd, and always got great tips. Everyone was even more or less still behaving, focused on the dancer as he began to lose parts of his outfit. There was a short scuffle near the CharlesWesleyAngel table, but it was quickly resolved without his intervention.
On the other side of the room, Spike and Xander were watching with great interest -- though the Host saw Spike leering at Xander as often as he leered at Xslxgxx. There was a certain lack of logic in a bachelor party where both parties were present. Since neither of them particularly *wanted* to have a last wild night of sexual abandon with anybody but each other--although Spike was the type to not particularly care if any number of other people joined in--the party really seemed to be about giving everyone *else* a good time, and generally torturing Spike and Xander.
Which, hey, sounded good to the Host. After all, those two had done more damage to the place with one night of strip lasertag last year than had ever happened in any bar brawl.
A little riff of 'Send in the Clowns' hummed from offstage left-- the signal that something was up backstage. Oh, good. The first of the night's many pitfalls. Always best to start early. Not that it would get them over with any quicker, but it would put him in the right frame of mind to deal with them. He ducked behind the curtain and headed for the Green Room.
"Wrgu afur edkd slkgie!" was being shouted from behind the door. The Host rolled his eyes. Stage fright? Ridiculous.
The Host knocked on the door and called out cheerfully, "Hello? Are we having a fit or can I just get you another bottle of paint thinner?"
Two of the dancer's four eyes turned to him. "Humans! No one said anything about humans in the audience!" Rufu folded two of his arms in front of himself. "I *won't* perform for humans, I won't and that's final!"
"The amount of money you're being paid, I'd expect you to perform for fire ants," the Host muttered under his breath, then gave the dancer a cheery smile. "Honey, those humans out there are celebrating the wedding of a human and a *vampire*. We're not exactly talking Joe Yokel here."
Rufu turned to him, aghast. "Wait, one of the *grooms* is human?"
The Host blinked. "Well, on any given day, it's hard to remember which one of them's the demon, but yes. Xander's technically human."
Rufu sputtered for a bit, possibly in his own language but it was rather hard to tell, when his second, longer tongue kept slipping out of his mouth. The Host and Eduardo waited patiently. Finally Rufu calmed down enough to speak coherently. "I refuse. It is in my contract--"
"Which we didn't sign," the Host pointed out. As if he was going to go around signing contracts with Telescu Demons. Sure, you thought you were hiring a performer, then the sun rose, the invisible ink appeared, and you'd just signed your firstborn and his income in perpetuity over to some fine arts foundation or other. He'd dealt with them before. They signed *his* contract, with *his* pen, or nobody signed anything.
The Telescu sniffed through three of his five nostrils. "It was an *implied* contract."
Right, he'd had just about enough of this particular Prima Donna. "Look, sweetie. I don't care if you dance or you walk. But if you walk, you don't get paid. And do you know who that *human* groom happens to be? The editor of _Demon Lovers_. So you might think about what you're passing up if you *don't* strut your stuff in front of him."
There was a blink. Then another blink. Two more blinks, and Rufu said, "I'm going to be discovered?"
The Host carefully controlled his laugh. "Not if you don't go out there, hot stuff." He actually had booked this dancer for almost that very reason -- but mostly just because he was good enough and attractive enough to entertain his guests. *That* was what really mattered. If Xander decided he liked what he saw, then bonus points for him.
The Host wasn't entirely sure Xander would *know* if he liked what he saw, but he wasn't going to share that piece of information with the Telescu.
The music from the stage stopped, and sure enough, Rufu hurried to take his place on stage. Xslxgxx strode past the Host with a big smile, and an even bigger collection of tips stiffed in his G-string. Maybe things wouldn't go to hell early after all.
Back to the main floor, then, to mingle again, and watch from a better vantage point than backstage.
At Angel's table, there was general drooling in the direction of the stage. Rufu had captivated the entire triad so completely that none of them were getting growly over the others' interest in the sensuous movements of the dancer.
The Host admitted, privately, that he thought Telescu demons always looked sexier when they were frantically trying to stomp ants climbing up their legs. Something about the full body rhythm they never did duplicate when 'dancing'. But everyone else seemed to enjoy it. Perhaps it was the many arms, and the many eyes, all adding to the allure.
Or possibly it was the two sets of genitals, hidden underneath the g-strings.
The Host spared a moment to glance at Spike and Xander-- who were watching the dancer with polite disinterest. Nothing like the appreciation they had both shown for Xslxgxx. It rather looked like poor Rufu wasn't going to be getting his own line of videos any time soon. The Host scanned the crowd again, looking out for trouble-- or fun. A flash of yellow at the back of the room, and he smiled, recognizing an old friend.
"Hey, Morrie. Haven't seen you around these parts in a while. How's business?" He slipped into a seat, just for a moment, across from the human-sized rubber duck.
"Doing quite well, thank you. Getting in a new item you might be interested in -- massage kit with horn polishing rags and oils." Morrie picked up his drink and held it up to his beak and lapped a few swallows.
"Really?" It was easy enough to find horn polishing kits. But to find one that *Morrie* would carry.... "That bears looking into."
"Comp you one if you'll give that dancer my card. We're thinking of branching out beyond the security camera videos, into a foofy fine-arts line."
The Host inclined his head. "Let's see, free horn massage kit vs. having to put up with Rufu at every private party I host until his Clan decides he's too high-strung to be allowed outside the nest without a nanny... Sold. He's yours as soon as he gets offstage."
The duck waved a wing, dismissing the dancer's theatrical personality. "Eh. Shatner-complexes I can work with any day. Oh-- did I tell you I got the Terrible Trio on film? Being mushy?"
The Host turned very slowly towards Morrie. He blinked once, then considered if he needed to ask his friend to hum a few bars, or if he'd accept the fact that Morrie would *never* lie about sex vids. Or sexy vids. "Let me get my credit card."
Morrie laughed, and waved a wing. "Don't bother, we got it on file. I'll send one over -- I'm telling ya, one of the most popular tapes we've had come out since *those* two got caught in the supply room." Morrie nodded towards the grooms, who were now not even bothering to look politely disinterested. Instead, they looked extremely interested -- in each other.
"Yeah, I've got that one. I suspect half the people in this room have that one." It was essentially a G-rated video: Spike and Xander sitting in the supply closet, *quite* drunk, fully clothed, leaning against each other and singing 'I've Got You, Babe.' One of the few musical moments of Spike's that the Host actually *wished* he had been present for, because the looks on their faces... were absolutely nothing like the looks on their faces right now.
He rose. "Excuse me-- I think I need to keep the happy couple from getting too happy, too early."
Morrie nodded, and turned back to watch Rufu, an appreciative and calculating expression on his face. As the Host wended his way through the crowd, he saw someone else doing the same thing -- with the same purpose in mind. He stopped to watch -- hiding a smile when Rupert simply whapped Xander on the back of the head and kept going.
There were two annoyed "hey!"s, then the happy couple was too busy glowering to get immediately back into their incipient heavy petting. The Host realized that he'd better get the party moving forward again, if they were going to keep Spike and Xander from sneaking off to use the couch in his office.
Perhaps it was time for the movie.
The equipment was already set up-- all that was needed was a quick snap of the fingers to Eduardo, and the curtain was rising to reveal the large projection screen.
"Okay, folks, let give Rufu here a big hand... or several..." Pause for applause ranging from polite to exuberant, then off with Rufu and on with the charm. "And now, what bachelor party would be complete without the traditional stag film? Thoughtfully put together for us by Anne at the home office of Scooby Enterprises, and I believe you can either buy direct, or Morrie's has a limited stock."
Oohs, ahhs, and shiftings in seats, as the locals and worldly-wise who were familiar with Morrie's selection grinned in anticipation. The Host moved quickly to his seat at the bar -- he could see the room, *and* the movie. He'd already seen it, screening for the party, and had his own private copy at home. But he still wouldn't miss the public showing, for anything.
There was a bit of rustling and whispering, then the movie began. The traditional numeric countdown picked up at 3 -- and you had to be watching carefully to notice the eyes on each number. Then the movie began. Opening shot, Spike and Xander in Xander's office. There were immediate catcalls, and shouts of "goofing off at work, eh, Xan?"
Then the angle switched -- and you could see the two were playing Chutes and Ladders. "You cheated," Spike accused, and Xander looked resolutely innocent--even while the camera zoomed in on the hand that he held behind his back, containing a second pair of dice.
Spike in the audience turned to his fiance and repeated the accusation. Xander just smiled at him. Spike smiled back. Evil behavior from Xander was, after all, a turn-on for him. Of course, the Host reflected, *any* behavior from Xander was a turn-on for Spike.
On the screen, Spike's marker slid all the way down the longest chute on the board. There were titters throughout the room, and someone said rather clearly, "When's the sex start?"
"Think they're playing Strip Chutes and Ladders?" someone else asked.
There was a burst of laughter and a dozen or more "SHHHH!"s. The scene suddenly stopped, and was replaced with a grainy, slightly flickering view of a backyard.
There was a confused sort of silence, then all of a sudden a boy ran onto the screen, and tumbled onto the grass. As he rolled over onto his back, it was very, very obvious who the five year old was. Dark hair, cut short on one side, but longish on the other-- as if somebody who shouldn't have them had gotten hold of a pair of scissors and been doing naughty things with them. Dark eyes about the size of dinner plates, or at least saucers, and a bright grin-- with one front tooth missing.
At the grooms' table, there was what might technically be classified as inappropriate touching going on, but since it was Spike taking Xander's hand, a concerned look replacing his initial goofy gaze at the screen, the Host doubted anyone would take them to task for it. Grown-up Xander was looking a little confused by the clip, giving his fiance a faint echo of his child-self's grin, then returning his attention to the screen. The five year old boy swung a toy sword almost as long as he was-- and held it aloft. "By the power of Greyskull-- I have the power!" he chanted.
There was laughter again, throughout the room. The Host overheard Gunn saying "What a dorky lookin' kid." There was the sound of a hand hitting an arm, then Gunn added, "You're saying that's not dorky lookin?"
Angel hissed something that must have worked, because there was suddenly a lot of silence coming from that table. On the screen, young Xander was now chasing invisible bad guys around the yard, and they could hear a woman laughing, and calling his name.
The scene ended, and was replaced by an elderly couple sitting on a couch, looking at the camera. They both smiled, and the woman said, "I hope you don't mind, we gave that lovely young woman the movie to copy."
The man gave a half-laugh, and said, "Be glad we didn't give her the one with you and that diaper."
The woman whapped his arm, and shushed him, before smiling at the camera again. "Have a nice time, boys!"
A glance back at the matrimonial table revealed Xander looking a bit shellshocked, but not in a bad way. He said something softly to Spike, who was now humming 'When I'm Sixty-Four,' and the Host got a flash of some things he maybe hadn't wanted to know about Xander's family life-- accompanied by Spike's overwhelming urge to protect that five year old, and the man he had become, from anything that had ever, or could ever, hurt him.
Xander pointed back at the screen, and the Host joined Spike in returning his gaze to the film. A hand-lettered card was being held in front of the camera. In scrawly, childlike printing, the legend read: 'The Adventures Of One Undead Guy And The Puppy-Boy.' Beneath it were two stick figures-- a brown-haired one with a faint stubbly beard, and a blonde one with big blue eyes, and blood-dripping fangs.
The placard was pulled away to reveal two giggling figures, one blonde, the other brunette-- except the brunette's hair wasn't on quite straight. The 'guy' and the 'boy' weren't, exactly, either. The two took their positions in the cemetery, and Buffy-er, Puppy Boy got a very determined look on 'his' face. "I'm gonna hunt any evil dead guys I can find!" he said in an almost deepened voice.
"Oi!" said Undead Guy. "Don't try anything around *my* crypt, Puppy-Boy! I'm not afraid of you!" Harmony's British accent was eerily dead-on.
Xander brandished a stake, and struck an attack pose in front of Spike. "I'm gonna slay you, dead guy, so watch out!"
Then 'Xander' threw the stake down, and the two fell into a deep embrace. A second placard was raised in front of the camera, which read "The End except for the bit where Spike takes his Puppy Boy to a nice restaurant for dinner and behaves the entire time until dessert."
An aggrieved protest from Spike. "Well, *that* never happened, I can tell you for sure."
"Yeah, you've never taken me out to a restaurant in your unlife," Xander replied. "And you've never behaved until dessert when I've taken *you* out. I'm lucky if we get through the salad course."
"Not my fault I can't enjoy a meal without a bit of an appetizer," Spike responded, reaching for Xander across the table. Only to get his arm whapped by at least three different people.
Spike gave them each a glare that was getting harder and fiercer each time he glared it. The Host suspected it was just frustration, and didn't waste any sympathy on him.
The next scene opened, with Willow and Tara sitting at a table.
"Oo! The lesbian make out scene!"
Peanuts and pretzels went flying towards the interruption. But the Host noticed that Xander and Spike were watching eagerly. Willow and Tara were doing something, paperwork of some kind or another.
They kept doing it.
And kept doing it.
Willow looked over and asked, "Tara, do you have the rest of the instructions for the 1040 long form?"
"Yeah, here," Tara replied, and handed over a booklet.
"Do you think we should try to deduct the router cable Amy chewed though as a business expense, or just claim her as a dependent?"
"They haven't let us claim her the last four times we tried, and the guy at H&R Block said he doesn't foresee rat exemptions on the horizon any time soon."
"Sigh. Go with the router-loss, then. Hmm.. that means I need the 7065-Z worksheet..."
After about two more minutes of tax-preparation, accompanied by hissing and booing from the audience, the two witches looked up at the camera, smiled. "Think we should flash 'em, since they put up with all the boring stuff?" Willow asked. Then she looked out at the audience. "You guys think we should flash you?"
A resounding 'yes' echoed from around the room-- including from Rupert, who suddenly became terribly interested in his bowl of beer-nuts when the Host looked at him with amusement.
"Okay, I guess you guys deserve it. Ready, honey?" Tara nodded, and the two witches flashed the audience-- literally, with a blinding flash of light. When the whiteness cleared from the screen, the scene had changed.
"That was *not* bloody fair!" Spike said. The sentiment was echoed throughout the room.
The Host did hear someone saying, "Is that really what lesbians do?" Then there were more flying peanuts.
The dark screen slowly began to lighten, and as the picture became more visible, the noise quieted again. Soon Angel could be recognized. They watched as he raised a glass and tipped it. A dark, thick liquid began pouring out, and the shot slowed down. The vampires in the room leaned forward as the blood dripped in slow-motion. The camera panned down, following the leading edge of the blood...
And there was a scream of disgust as the camera shot caught Angel's feet -- wearing thick, fluffy, green socks.
Spike rather looked as if he was going to throw up-- something the Host had never actually seen a vampire do. Not even Angel, when Spike had revealed that he'd put fish food in Angel's steak tartar. Courtesy-of-Drusilla fish food, which meant it had still been wriggling.
Well, the green socks should keep the grabby-hands-boys from grabbing for at least five minutes or so, while Spike recovered. Xander didn't look too pleased with the fluffy footwarmers either, although the Host noted that the blood-shots had elicited, if not exactly the same reaction as the vampires had shown, at least a not unfavorable one. Perhaps it was just the look on Spike's face that Xander had been reacting to.
The scene changed again, to a shot of Spike and Xander's fish tank. For a few moments no one said anything, as they waited. They watched the piranhas swimming, and Spike whispered, "See? Told ya -- she's getting fat."
The Host heard Gunn muttering again. "This is the *freakiest* damn stag film I've ever seen."
"Does that mean you don't want your copy?" Angel asked him.
"Hell, yeah I want my copy!" Gunn replied. "Wanna see you in your socks." There was a pause. "Just your socks." Then *that* table was distracted.
Everyone else was watching the calming scene of fish, swimming. The Host noticed Spike and Xander returning to their groping-can-we-kiss-now-sneaking. He smiled. Ten more seconds, and....
"Stop that! Right *now*!" Joyce Summers scolded them.
A chorus of 'Eep!' from the grooms' table, then the two men were staring open-mouthed at the screen.
"If you keep making that face, it'll freeze that way," she warned.
Two soon-to-be-married mouths snapped shut, but brown and blue eyes were still bugging out.
"Now sit up straight!"
A millisecond later, The Host didn't think he'd ever seen two straighter gay men in his life. With the exception, possibly, of Angel and Gunn, who had also sat up suddenly in their chairs, much to Wesley's amusement.
A few seconds of silence, and a tiny "why?" escaped from Spike's lips, too quickly for Xander's head-whap to stop it.
"Because I said so!"
Spike looked utterly terrified. He leaned across to his fiance. "How is she *doing* that?"
"Because I'm the mom!"
Spike was now gaping at the screen...along with several others in the room. The Host noted that there were significantly fewer slouching guests in the crowd. Even Rupert was sitting upright, and he was at least smirking, instead of looking shocked.
Spike and Xander looked at each other, obviously afraid to say anything more, for fear of earning Joyce's pre-taped wrath.
Finally, they both turned to the screen and said, "We promise."
Joyce smiled, and nodded. "Don't forget to tell everyone 'thank you'. And wipe your face, Xander."
Xander rubbed at his face immediately, then turned bright red. The Host didn't even want to guess at what would be on his face that would cause him to blush that particular shade-- especially after having lived with Spike for as long as he had.
Spike giggled at the sight of his soon-to-be husband wiping off nonexistent something-or-other-- until Joyce said "Stop that, Spike!" from the screen.
The frightening thing was, it really was pre-recorded. Willow had told the Host as she was handing him the tape, that she and Tara had suggested that Joyce come in and hide behind the curtain, broadcasting via live camera-- Joyce had merely smiled kindly at them and said it wouldn't be necessary.
He wasn't terribly surprised. He'd known mothers before, a plenty. They were spookier than most demons he'd met -- or even read about.
Right now, Joyce was looking at the two grooms, who were looking back with sheepish expressions. Then she nodded, as though satisfied, and started to turn away. She stopped and peered at someone else in the crowd. She raised her finger in a scolding gesture, and the man sharing David Nabbit's table--Jonathan something?-- shouted, "I didn't do it!"
Joyce just nodded, and the scene ended.
"Can we please stop the movie?" Xander asked in a shaky voice. "Does it get any scarier? Can we have more naked people?"
"No, possibly, and very likely," the Host answered with a smile. The next scene showed the pool at the Hyperion-- the setting for the actual wedding ceremony. A single female figure swam back and forth in it-- Cordelia Chase, powerful and athletic, cutting through the water like an Olympic swimmer-- until, suddenly...
"Eek! Spike, you *will* die for this!" She swam rapidly to the edge of the pool, scrambled out, shrieking and kicking, until at last the piranha flew off her ankle and back into the pool. The camera followed it as it swam to meet its siblings, and they did an entertaining water ballet to the accompaniment of 'Three Little Fishies.'
Spike and Xander were snickering, and the Host could hear someone that sounded a lot like Angel trying to stifle his snickering. The camera swung up, again, to catch Cordelia walking calmly towards the pool again. There was a towel wrapped around her ankle, and she was carrying something in a bucket. "Here, fishies, fishies...." She smiled widely.
Spike cried out, "No! My babies! Stop her-- uh... when was this filmed?"
Xander, however, didn't look terribly concerned. In fact, he was snickering even louder.
Cordelia reached into the bucket and pulled out a small brown newt. That got a laugh from almost everyone in the room, except those friends and relatives from out of town who hadn't visited the boys at the hotel before. They included Jonathan, whose puzzled look disappeared as David Nabbit leaned over and whispered into his ear, and Devon, who looked mystified but cheerful.
"Go! Swim, be free!" Cordelia addressed the newt, and tossed it into the pool.
It paddled about desperately, as the sharp-toothed little fish made a beeline.. er, piranhaline, for it. When the largest of the piranha-- which looked to the Host, who had two of his own at home, like it might just be about to lay eggs-- got close enough to nip at the newt's tail, Cordelia shouted, "Now, Wesley!"
A flash of light from the pool, and the endangered newt was suddenly a very naked Spike, who cursed loudly and emerged from the water with one piranha attached to his Spikehood, and two nipping at his bare ass.
Xander was laughing louder, now. In fact, the Host wasn't sure that he wouldn't fall out of his chair, soon. Beside him, Spike was pouting. Xander caught sight of the pout, and laughed louder -- until the pout sharpened and Xander leaned over and whispered something in Spike's ear.
Spike's expression changed rapidly to one of sheer lust -- making the Host think that Xander had reminded Spike of the 'kiss it and make it better' that no doubt had occurred following the bitings. Which meant that someone needed to whap those two, again - or dump a bucket of ice on them. Which they had plenty of behind the bar, reserved. Not for drinks.
The rest of the audience was laughing uproariously, always a good sign. A few were glancing appreciatively back and forth between the naked Spike on the screen and the jeans-and-t-shirt-clad Spike in the audience. Pretty much the same out-of-towners who hadn't known who the newt was. Not that naked Spike wasn't worth appreciating, but anybody who had known him for more than a week, at least since he had moved to L.A., had seen it all before.
The *next* scene, however, might be a bit of a thrill for anybody outside of immediate family and those who had been unlucky enough to catch Spike and Xander in a compromising position *off* the hotel grounds. Which was rarer than one would imagine. Spike could control himself, when he wanted to; or at least, Xander could control him, when *he* wanted to.
It was just that they didn't *want* to, when they knew they could get away with it. Getting away with it usually meant not getting caught -- by anyone outside a certain select group of people Spike and Xander liked to annoy and/or tease by allowing themselves to be caught by.
All of which meant, most people in the world hadn't seen what they were about to see.
The scene looked like the interior of a bar. The bar was dark, but it was obvious it was empty, or mostly so. Music began, and the curtain rose. Xander stepped out, dressed to the nines in a tux.
In the audience, Spike's eyes were glued to the screen, and the Host didn't need the flashes he was getting as Spike sang along with the opening lyrics-- they pretty much matched what everyone was seeing on the screen. To a slow, dip-jazzed backbeat, Xander moved downstage, staring and smiling at somebody in the otherwise-empty bar, and there was no doubt in the minds of anyone whose minds the Host could access, as to who that somebody was.
"If you want a lover, I'll do anything you ask me to..." The Xander onscreen was moving his lips to the words. Moving his hips to the words. The Host wasn't sure what Xander in the audience was doing-- he himself was staring too hard at the screen.
This particular sequence was the reason for Morrie's shelf full of tapes. Well, those who knew any of Xander and Spike's friends would enjoy the rest. But total strangers would pay $31.95 for the privilege of seeing this. This man, throwing his head back slowly, moving his hands slowly to the lapels of his jacket, and letting it fall to the ground.
Xander continued to dance, slowly and more sensually than either of the professionals who'd graced the stage earlier. Perhaps it was because the performance had been for his lover, only. Perhaps it was the music.
Probably a combination of both. The Host realized he was analyzing this far too much, even if he had seen this twelve times already. His and everyone else's thoughts hushed as the chorus picked up and Xander began stalking his lover.
"The moon's too bright and the chain's too tight, the beast won't go to sleep..."
The Host was busy trying to juggle the flashes of images of Xander -- or other various persons -- wrapped in chains, under the moon. When the line 'I'd crawl to you baby' played through the speakers, a half-dressed Xander fell to his hands and knees and crawled down the stage.
It was a move from a feature film that had come out a few years ago, the Host had realized the first time he saw it, but Wil Smith hadn't been wearing only dress pants, a cummerbund, and a bow tie when he crawled across the floor to meet his leading lady, and he hadn't been crawling to meet Spike. There was really no comparison. Just for a second, the camera shifted off Xander, to show an utterly transfixed vampire sitting alone in the bar.
Staring at the stage with a hunger that had nothing whatsoever to do with blood. The Spike live -- er, undead -- in the audience now, was a mirror image of his filmed self. The only difference was the apparent awareness of the man beside him, holding his hand and tickling his other hand up Spike's thigh. The Host checked the clock - after nine. Spike and Xander could sneak into a back room for 20 minutes without catching hell.
Which was a good thing, since otherwise there would be a floor show....
Which would be entertaining, in and of itself, but then everyone --well, almost everyone, except for the few nominally straight guys in the audience-- would want to have sex. The Host wasn't insured for orgies. Morrie was, but he'd lost the coin toss. Neener neener.
Spike now looked like he was having serious difficulties-- choosing between watching Xander dance on the screen--especially as he was down to bow-tie and underwear-- or tearing his attention away to give it fully to the real live Xander next to him.
Living Xander saw his dilemma, and solved it for him-- after a fashion. Rising from his chair, he pulled Spike's away from the table, and sat down on his lover's lap. Great, the Host thought. Floorshow, here we come. But no. Xander took both of Spike's hands in his, and they watched the last of the scene together.
There were lots of hopeful glances sent their way, but Xander and Spike continued watching the screen, where Xander had pulled the bowtie free and dropped it on Spike's head, and was grabbing the fabric of his underwear.
The Host could hear even the non-breathers taking a gasp of air. When Xander-on-screen yanked the fabric away, there was the sudden sound of someone tumbling out of his chair. The Host didn't turn to look yet to see if he were all right. The slinky, shiny, sequined, tiny G-string was taking up most of the screen, now -- or perhaps it only seemed that way.
Then Xander turned and moved slowly down the runaway, away from the audience. There was a flash on the screen as someone lost control, and leapt upon Xander. Then the scene ended.
The Host heard growling.
Difficult to identify the source, since it was coming from at least three directions. One of them was *definitely* Spike, another was either Angel or Gunn and the third? Surely not the little bass player with the dyed-blue hair?
Or possibly from the next table over, where two guys, one white, one black, in sunglasses, Blues Brothers hats, and pitch-black suits were sitting. The white guy kept fingering a pencil-shaped object he was holding, and his tablemate whapped his hand every so often, just as if they were Xander and Spike. The last time it had happened, the Host had distinctly heard the younger man say "Quit messin' with the joy-buzzer, K. I wanna *remember* this."
Xander had some odd friends. Which was a pretty big statement coming from a green, empathic, prescient demon with impeccable dress-sense. The Host glanced back to Spike and Xander, and wasn't surprised to see them sneaking away from their table towards his office. Well, Xander *was* paying a hefty sum for the party -- he'd give them 20 minutes on his couch, then chase them out.
Someone else had other ideas. "Hold, it right there, busters! You aren't going anywhere!"
Everyone turned. There was a small group of hat-wearing, mustachioed newcomers, barring Spike and Xander's escape. Cordelia was the one who had stopped them. Spike was still trying to gnaw his way through Xander's shoulder; Xander was giving his ex-girlfriend a befuddled look. Or perhaps it was what Spike was doing to his shoulder.
The Host started casually heading that way, in case things got weird.
"Oi! No women allowed!" Spike was still nibbling away, so it actually came out "Ouugh. Mo woooom aooood!" but everybody managed to translate fairly well. They were used to trying to understand what Spike was talking about through a mouthful of some Xander-part or other. They were used to trying to understand what Spike was talking about, period.
"There's no women here," Willow said unconvincingly.
"Yeah. Just, um, men. Big, manly men," from her wife, whose mustache was slipping off.
"Yes," said the fourth newcomer, possibly the most plainly *not* a man of all of them. "We're all exceptionally masculine, virile men who like to watch televised sporting events, drink beer, and scratch in public. So when does the spanking contest start?"
There was utter silence, except for a very clearly muttered obscenity. Then, "There is *not* a spanking contest! Where the bloody hell did you hear about th-- that is, why would you think there was a spanking contest?" Rupert was coming over, trying to glare sternly at the disguised women, and at the same time look properly un-stern whenever his gaze met Anya's.
"We're having the spanking contest?" Spike asked. "You didn't tell me!" he added gleefully.
"We are *not*--" Rupert began.
"I was told there was a spanking contest," Anya interrupted. "And that you were judging."
Dozens of eyes were suddenly focused on Rupert. Who sighed. "I am not judging anything. I *am*, however, going to get another drink while Spike and Xander sneak off to have sex."
"Well, we can't bloody sneak off now that you've told everybody that's what we're planning to do, can we," Spike asked grouchily, just as if everyone hadn't known that was what they were planning on doing from the minute they came in the door tonight. "'Sides, I think you keep goin' back on your promises to my boy here. He says you told him you'd spank 'im, and you didn't. Now you're backin' out of judgin' the contest? Some father figure you are."
Rupert muttered something extremely rude-- something in Boggart, or possibly Phooka. That man *did* get around. "Well, I'd hardly turn my *back* on judging such a contest, knowing you lot. Backing away is really the only option."
Anya, however, was momentarily taken aback. "You were going to spank *Xander*?"
"I am *not* going to spank Xander. I was *never* going to spank Xander," Rupert explained carefully. "Though if the mere thought irritates you, you are free to spank me."
Anya blinked, and smiled happily.
Others in the room giggled -- and yet others backed away, saying "No, no, bad! Please, need beer!"
Rupert smirked. Then he caught Spike and Xander glare-pouting at him. "What?"
"You're not gonna spank me?" Xander pouted harder.
Someone, somewhere in the room -- and the Host thought it sounded an awful lot like the disguised voice of Ethan Rayne-- began the chanting. "Spank! Spank! Spank! Spank!"
"I am *not* going to spank Xander!" Rupert shouted.
"Oh, I don't mind, really," Anya said. "It's purely an expression of a repressed reverse-Oedipus complex, sublimated into pseudo-paternalistic adult behavior. I'm not at all threatened. Besides, it would be yummy."
"Yes, we don't mind at all," echoed her companions, in various still-lowered voices. And the chanting continued.
"I repeat, I am not, nor was I ever, going to spank Xander. I'm not going to spank anyone, except possibly you." This to Anya, who gave him an unreadable stare. He quickly added, "If you like."
"Now?" she asked eagerly.
He slapped a hand to his forehead. "No, not now. It would be completely inappropriate."
"Well, then, you might as well spank Xander," Cordelia pointed out gruffly.
"Or me!" echoed from the other end of the room, in Ethan's *un*-disguised voice. When the Host turned to look for him, however, that corner was completely empty.
Giles gave the empty corner a hard stare, then turned back to Anya. *Very* patiently, over the chanting that hadn't remotely died down, he explained, "If Xander wants to be spanked, I'm sure Spike can do it perfectly well."
"But Xander wants you to spank him. Er, no, wait, you're right, we *have* got this all confused." Any relief Rupert might have felt was destroyed by Spike's next words. "This was about Xander and Angel each spanking you." Spike's voice had turned thoughtful.
There was an undignified, un-Sirelike squeak. "I *what*?!?"
"I am *not*," Rupert began again, but it was clear to the Host that nobody was really listening to him.
"You didn't tell us you wanted to spank G-man," Gunn was saying. The Host heard a humming, something innocent-me sounding -- and got a *very* interesting picture. Apparently someone wasn't nearly as blameless as he made out to be. The Host wondered if it would be worth it to trade what he owed Wesley for the last month's darts games bets, in exchange for *not* tattling on him.
He usually didn't share other people's secrets, not unless there was a good reason. The Host owed Wesley over $400 -- that was good enough reason to tell Angel that his 'owner' had been the one to help Xander set up the spanking event.
"I don't!" Angel was protesting. "I mean, I've never even thought..." But he was now. The Host could read it on his face, no need, thank God, for the Tone-deaf Wonder to actually sing anything. He shook his head, visibly trying to change the subject, deflecting the attention of anybody who was studying his expression. "Who said I wanted to... ah... do anything to Giles?"
Spike cocked his head innocently. He and Xander were the only ones in the room besides the Host and the staff who weren't wearing hats-- grooms' immunity to silly rules thought up by the grooms in the first place -- and so nothing fell off his head except a beer-nut that someone had tossed there.
"Nah, the contest was just to see who spanks better, you or Xan," Spike explained helpfully.
"Oo, so we should have them each spank two or three people, so we can get a vote," Willow said eagerly. Eagerly enough that Rupert gave her a frightened look. She looked around the crowded room. "In fact, we could probably have *everyone*--" That was as far as she got.
People were standing up and re-arranging tables and chairs.
Angel was saying "No, I'm *not* going to spank anyone," but apparently everyone was ignoring him. Everyone except Wesley, who was rather innocently saying, "May I be first?"
Someone was pushing open the front door. The Host blinked-- he'd thought all the guests --even the uninvited, but frankly pretty much expected ones-- had arrived. Giving a nod to Eduardo and Mickey to keep the free-for-all under control, he moved to greet the latecomer.
Oh. This could be fun. A genial, elderly man in a trilby stood inside the doorway. When he politely took off his hat, the Host recognized him-- the man in the film, who'd threatened Xander with the release of even more embarrassing footage, and been whapped by his wife in response.
"Hello. Have I... come to the right place? I'm looking for the Xander Harris bachelor party."
"Grandpa?" Xander was staring at the elderly man, and the Host wondered if Xander even noticed where Spike's hand was. Then Xander jumped forward and headed through the crowd. "Grandpa?"
His grandfather smiled, and when Xander reached him, gave him a hug. "Your grandmother told me I needn't bother coming -- said something about me not needing this much excitement. I assured her if I had any heart attacks, I'd call. So, er, have I missed all the fun?" He looked around the crowd, and blinked slowly. "Xander? Is that gentleman wearing feathers?"
Xander glanced over. "No, well, yes, but he wears them all the time. Grandpa, why don't you come sit down? Morrie, could you--"
The Host decided it was time to intervene. He sent Eduardo over with a shot of scotch. One or two of those, then *he'd* go over and say hi. Angel was still being bombarded with "Me next" requests, and still protesting that there wasn't going to *be* a next, because there wasn't going to be a first. The chanting had died down, but at Angel's loud, "I said *no*!", it rose in volume again.
'Who on earth said I was going to do this in the first place?" Angel groaned. Rupert, a sadistic, Ripperish gleam in his eye, pointed straight at Wesley. There went 400 dollars, the Host thought sadly.
"You don't think I *spank* hard enough?" Angel asked Wesley, the tone at first incredulous, then turning oddly stern at the end. Oddly stern, that is, for somebody who was widely known to be wrapped around the ink-smudged little finger of the man to whom he was being stern.
"Xander did it!" Was the immediate response. Then Wesley composed himself a bit, and said, "Spike said Xander spanks better than you. I was only trying to defend your reputation."
"You were, were you? Defending my honour?" Angel still sounded remarkably austere and the Host was astounded to see Wesley wilt, just a little. But he was smiling, too.
"I couldn't let it be said, without being fair about it."
Angel was facing down Wesley, and they were both being watched closely by Gunn -- and a handful of others. The Host wondered if they shouldn't have had the bachelor party at Morrie's, after all. The thing was degenerating into an orgy, after all.
"I have paddles in my truck," Morrie suggested, appearing at the Host's side.
"You realize you're not helping." The Host scowled at his old acquaintance and sometime business partner.
"Hey, I'm just trying to add to the party atmosphere," Morrie defended. "Besides, if those two have to spank everybody in the *room*, they'll hurt their hands unless they use paddles."
"The idea is for this *not* to turn into a multi-species spanking orgy," the Host replied tiredly. Hell, the idea was that he was going to grow up to play Mr. Mephistopheles in 'Cats' too, according to his mother, but that one hadn't panned out either.
Morrie gave him a bill-tilted stare. The fact that he was wearing a bishop's miter didn't make him look any less ridiculous. "Um... why?"
"Because the cleaning crew charges me double, and takes twice as long, and afterwards I have to air out the place for 48 hours before vampires, Drogans, or sLuthu demons will patronize the place after humans have participated in an orgy in here -- and that makes up 40% of my weekend clientele."
Morrie tilted his head. "We could segregate by species, if that'll help?"
The Host closed his eyes. His first instinct when Xander had asked if they could have the bachelor party here, had been to say "Sorry, we'll be closed all year." He should have gone with that instinct. "Maybe if you brought out the rest of the entertainment, it would distract them?"
Morrie blinked at him. "I was supposed to bring the rest of the entertainment? I thought *you* were providing it."
Oh, God. Any of them. Take your pick. The Host sighed, then said through clenched teeth, "Cake? Large, chocolate? Raspberry filling? Hollow inside for somebody to jump out of?"
"Oh, *that*. Yeah, it's out back. But the filling's not here yet."
"The raspberry filling?"
"No, the part that jumps out."
Arrgh. The Host glared at him, then made his way to the stage. "Look, fascinating as this impromptu insanity might be..." he said into the microphone. No one was listening. "Gentlemen? Ladies? Persons of indeterminate gender?"
Nothing. They were still beseeching Angel. Xander was trying to convince his grandfather that he really *had* come to the right party. No heart attack seemed imminent, but the old fellow was blinking confusedly at several of the more colorful and.. er.. horny, guests. He was also on his third cocktail.
"If there's going to be spanking, we need everyone to line up. Both sides of the room, please." The Host blinked as he heard the words that had come out of his mouth.
People were listening now, though, and hastily making two rows -- asses outward. The Host saw Morrie in line, and wondered if either Angel or Xander knew how to spank a large duck.
Angel, however, was stalking towards the Host with an Angelusic glare on his face. The Host smiled. "Would you believe me if I said I had no idea why I just said that?"
"Let me think about it for a minute. No."
The Host smiled a little more forcefully. "That wasn't a minute."
"I'm a fast thinker."
My, wasn't Angel a *large* vampire. "You do remember this is a Safety Zone, right?"
Angel wouldn't beat him up. After all, Angel got all kinds of help from him. Solutions to his most pressing problems. Spiritual advice. Free drinks and fashion tips.
Of course Angel also still owed him for that time last month when he'd made the vampire sing 'Weekend In New England,' twice, just to find out something the Host had discovered written on a discarded cocktail napkin... 'No, sorry, I didn't quite get anything. I'm afraid you'll have to give us an encore...'
All right, so maybe he should start looking for help from Angel's keeper. Who was currently standing in line with the others.
Aha. The Host spotted a way out and smiled, easily. "Don't worry, tall dark and fearsome." He lowered his voice to avoid a riot. "We can't have a contest anyhow, since Spike and Xander have absconded with each other."
Angel gave him a distrustful look, but glanced over his shoulder. True enough, Spike and Xander were nowhere to be seen. There were, however, four distinctly un-male backsides at one end of the line.
Angel took the stage. "Ahem," into the microphone.
Heads looked across over shoulders-- since they'd started worrying about arranging themselves, the noise had died down, and the sound of Angel's voice got *everyone's* attention.
"There will be *no* spanking tonight. At least until you leave the building. Any arrangements you make on your own are your business. Meaning I don't want to hear them."
There were indignant groans, then, after a scramble that made an English football game look orderly, the stage was pelted with peanuts. Jujubes. Foil-wrapped condoms. All expected at some point during the night, but the mutinous rumblings from the floor threatened to break out into a riot, which was *not*.
Which Angel cleverly redirected away from himself. "Does anyone know where Xander and Spike are?" He almost sounded like he didn't know perfectly well where they were.
But the other guests started looking around, and the mutinous rumbling became indignant 'hey, if we can't get sex, why should *they*?'
People began heading for doors -- bathrooms, supply closet, and looking behind the bar. No one headed for the Host's office, because the Host had his office hidden upstairs and very few people knew where the staircase was.
The Host finally intervened, when the short search began to prove fruitless. "All right, all right, everyone calm down. I think I know where they are. I'll go fetch them, then we'll bring out the cake." He shot a look at Morrie, which said there had better be *someone* filling the cake by the time he returned.
Or a large yellow duck was going to be jumping out. Followed by a retelling of the story of How Morrie Got Turned Into A Large Yellow Duck In The First Place.
The Host slipped through the crowd, who were mostly distracted by Angel's helpful, if not tuneful, a capello rendition of "Second-Hand Rose." Help. He'd segued from Manilow to Streisand. The world would never be the same. And, as he climbed the stairs to his office, the Host shook his head, trying to clear it of the images in Angel's. Images of what was going to happen to Wesley tonight after they all got home. He would feel sorry for the poor guy, if he hadn't seen the look on Wesley's face when he'd asked "May I go first, please?"
Staring at his office door, he debated whether to knock. It *was* his office. He *had* seen the two of them in numerous positions previously, he being one of the trusted few who was *almost* family. It came down, basically, to 'How much is it going to turn me on to walk in on two insane naked men in my office, doing things I'm not sure if I'm going to get to do tonight, since I don't have an official date for the evening?'
There was no reply. He counted to ten, and knocked again.
The Host sighed. "Xander, I thought you'd like to know the mob is getting restless. Two minutes and get your tails back downstairs or I'll let Angel know where you are."
Silence for a moment, then he heard Xander saying, "Hurry, Spike!"
The Host decided he didn't want to think about why Spike wasn't the one yelling at him, and stood in the hallway counting to sixty, twice. He was at his second fifty-eight when the door opened to reveal Xander tucking his shirt back into his jeans, and Spike happily licking his lips. So much for being able to not think about it. "Don't you *dare* sing," he warned them both. "Not a note, not a breath, not an 'excuse me, I was just clearing my throat'."
They looked at each other. They looked at him. Why had he put the idea into their heads? The Host was suddenly sure that both of them had been the kind of children who, if warned not to put beans up their noses, would immediately find an opportunity to do so, though the concept had never previously entered their infant minds. He covered his ears, as if it would do any good.
"Why do we always come here," they sang together, though hardly in unison, since Spike was actually in tune, and Xander changed keys at least three times during the first line. "I guess we'll never know. It's like some kind of torture, to have to watch the show..."
Yes, it was, as a matter of fact. The Host did his best to give them a completely flat, not remotely mind-blown, look. "Okay, Statler and Waldorf. Get your tight little asses downstairs before I call Angel-- and tell him just whose idea the whole spanking thing was in the first place. Right now he pretty much only suspects Wesley."
"Duh, since Ripper *told* him it was Wes, and Angel never suspects *him* of lying." Spike looked unimpressed.
"Besides, if he gets mad at us, he might spank us." Xander grinned. The Host decided that tomorrow might be a good day to start his vacation. Someplace far away where no one knew him, and he could seduce co-eds and reenact everything he'd seen in people's heads tonight.
"Downstairs, now," he told them again. He pointed, and they actually shuffled off, like scolded schoolboys. It made him wonder if they were hoping *he'd* -- no, not going there, he told himself.
They made it downstairs just in time to see Eduardo and Mickey wheeling the cake in, being directed by the flapping of Morrie's wings. "Yeah, right about there, boys. Everybody ready for the grand finale?"
Cheers and catcalls from the audience, and Xander and Spike slipped into their seats-of-honor--- two chairs pulled out and set in the middle of the open dancefloor, about five feet away from the cake.
"Right, cue the music," Morrie shouted, and from the sound system came the unmistakable sound of cellos, swirling up into a mad crescendo before the voices came in.
"If you want to know how to fly high then go now to the place where all the concubines meet..."
Spike's eyes widened, and he looked at Xander uncertainly. Xander just shrugged and nudged him to watch the cake. But Spike shifted in his seat, and the Host shot a suspicious look at Morrie. Morrie looked as guileless as a duck could look.
"Oh, god," the Host breathed. He didn't want to know. Except he had to, had to stay and be the Host, keep charge of his guests and not go run and hide.
The top of the cake was pushed outward, and a figure slowly rose. Spike eeped. Xander eeped. There were a few other noises scattered here and there as the woman rose from the cake, fully dressed in a velvet and lace dress, her hair swept up in a large golden clasp.
Drusilla licked something red off her hand -- possibly raspberry filling -- then held it out for someone to assist her out of the cake. Xander leapt up and took it, looking a tad surprised. Shell-shocked.
Perhaps, the Host thought, he could ask Dru to get back at them, for tonight, on his behalf.
"Um, weren't you supposed to come over *after* the party?" the Host heard Xander whispering. Drusilla just put a long red fingernail against his lips, and began to dance with him. Moving her slender form partially to the music, and partially to things only she could hear. The Host was glad that she was only dancing, and not singing. Very glad.
"They're dancing, now," she said, still swaying. She moved over to Spike, and stood-swayed before him. "Like pretty flowers, dancing in my head. There must be more, just once. Only once, then it's only fishies for Auntie Dru."
The Host saw a perplexed look on Spike's face that matched the one he felt appear on his own. Fortunately, the Host felt no compulsion to do as Spike was now doing.
"What do you mean, Dru?"
It must be a reflex left over from the century of following her around. That, or Spike had stepped his own insanity level up a notch-- and he was really only a notch and a half below Dru to begin with.
She moved sinuously to the music for a moment, almost, almost humming along with the tune, and the Host held his breath, because sure as Martha Stewart was really a man in drag, he did *not* want to know what was going on in her head-- and she stopped. Leaned over and whispered something in Spike's ear.
Her ex-lover looked up at her, then over at his fiance. Then back at Dru. "Er, could you repeat that?"
She leaned over a second time, and whispered again. This time Spike looked only at Xander. A question, unvoiced and unknown, and Xander nodded.
"Once, once, once," Drusilla was saying, almost too close to singing for the Host's comfort. Why he didn't just walk away and coax David into singing on stage, he wasn't sure. He could use the stock tips. Instead he watched and listened as Dru continued. "Once, only once." She cocked her head, and asked, "One night or one time? I forgot to ask."
She was addressing her question to the far wall, but Xander answered. "One night."
Drusilla smiled. Far too widely. Pointy teeth and pale skin was right. Even Darla hadn't been this creepy. Mostly because she'd been more or less sane, and a hundred percent evil, and Drusilla was something caught between two places, two states of being.
From the look on Spike's face, this was another one of those 'nobody needs to sing *anything*' situations. He kept looking back and forth between Xander and Drusilla, as if he couldn't decide between the chocolate cake or the raspberry filling. Although he'd already chosen the chocolate cake, hadn't he? And now the Host was thinking in pastry metaphors, which meant somebody out there with a sweet tooth was trying to sing along to the music.
He didn't need to overhear anymore from the Newt Twins, anyhow, so he started making his way through the gathered crowd again. The organized festivities were more or less over, and now it was just drinking and talking and singing. He'd go take his usual place near the stage and let those drunk enough to do so, indulge in a little karaoke.
Spike and Xander could slip out unscathed, chances were no one would mind too much -- since there was only one conversation still going about the spanking contest, and it was a rather quiet one involving Angel, Gunn, and Wesley. Another threesome the Host didn't want to hear sing. Some things a demon didn't want to know -- unless he had a date.
The party crashers had made themselves welcome, Anya was with Giles, consoling him over the fact that he still hadn't got out of ever being asked to judge the contest. Willow and Tara were talking to David and Jonathan, and there was a tiny flash of light -- someone was showing someone something.
Buffy was trying to talk to Morrie, while Morrie tried to flirt with Cordelia. Or maybe he was already making passes. Cordelia was looking desperate. Not that she didn't know Morrie-- working for Angel, and with Xander and Spike, you couldn't not know Morrie, or at least who he was, unless you were Wesley-- and wasn't *that* a video the Host would be ordering from Morrie first thing in the morning.
But the Wonder Duck could get a little clingy when he'd had as much poured down his bill as he had tonight, and Cordelia was obviously trying to find a polite way of..er.. ducking out of the conversation. The Host slipped across to the little group, and put an arm around Cordelia. "Hey, cutie-- long-time no throw up on my dancefloor and then faint prettily. How's your half of the vision biz these days?"
Morrie looked like he was about to object, so the Host pointed a long finger at Buffy. "Hey Morrie-- you do realize you're talking to the Slayer, right? *The* Slayer?" Morrie had been wanting to get a vampire/Slayer video going forever, and the prison authorities weren't terribly hot on letting him do any filming with Faith.
Not that Faith hadn't already signed the consent forms and the Host denied any knowledge of any certain vampiresses getting themselves arrested so they could get in close and let certain planted cameras do all the work. But that limited the location, and Morrie had an entire slew of venues he wanted to film.
The Host didn't for a moment think Buffy would agree -- but Morrie was already turning towards her with an entrepreneurial gleam in his eyes. He'd be distracted for a while. Long enough for Cordelia to make her escape and stay escaped.
She was giving him a grateful smile, even now, and the Host returned it. "No charge for the rescue, how about a drink Miss Chase? Or should I say 'Mister'?" Her mustache was perfectly placed, perfectly matched her hair color, and showed no signs of slippage.
Her smile widened slightly, and she let him show her to a table. "Thank you."
After a while, the Host heard someone humming the theme to High Noon, and received a vision of someone strangling a green prescient demon should he annoy the young woman. It was one of the extended Angel family, having noticed that the two of them had been sitting there for a little while, not saying much of anything at all, just smiling. And really-- as if he *would*. Annoy her. Without her permission.
Except that as the party took on its own life, and no longer needed a host, or even a Host, they started to talk about things non-evil-fighting-related, and he wasn't sure that she didn't just give him permission somewhere in there. If he wanted to take it. Perhaps he should make one last check on the party, see if everything was going smoothly, and then maybe he'd find out if they liked the same sort of movies. Or coffee. Or something.
The Host glanced towards the party-goers, saw Xander and Spike over by the door -- slipping out as expected. With Dru.
Not so expected.
He turned back to Cordelia. "I simply *love* the wedding dress -- tails and trunks, it'll be all the rage."
Her eyes brightened, and the Host heard someone new humming. Same song, same threat. For pete's sake, they were just *talking*. So what if she was smiling like that?
Then Cordelia gave him a wink, and twitched her mouth, as if her mustache itched her. Opened that mouth and sang-- something. He wasn't entirely sure what. Just a little bit of something, and he couldn't really concentrate on what it *was, because what was in his head was a bit too complicated. It involved
1. Certain vampires, researchers, or vampire hunters being found naked and painted purple on the lawn of the Hyperion if they interfered in any way with Cordelia actually having a chance at a decent date for once in the entire time she'd spent in this godforsaken city, and not winding up pregnant with demon-spawn or kidnapped or dumped out on the New Jersey turnpike, and
2. the Host being part of said decent date.
He wasn't sure if that was Cordelia's intent, or actual foreknowledge on his part.
And he didn't really care.