An aggregation of white noise brought Spike reluctantly out from her comfortable slumber. She lay picking out the separate sounds: Joyce vacuuming downstairs; birds chirping outside Buddy's bedroom window; car doors slamming.
She sat up and palmed the pistol under her pillow, then stifled a groan as she rolled off the bed and hobbled across the floor. She gingerly shrugged into a robe and went out. At the stairs she held the gun at the ready. The door opened and Joyce turned off the vac. She greeted Buddy and his good-looking mate Alex. Spike pointed the gun at the floor.
"Hi, Missus Summers," Angel greeted, coming through the kitchen.
Spike raised the pistol again.
Joyce saw her. "Spike, what are you doing up?"
Spike smiled weakly and brandished the revolver. "Protecting the homestead," she rasped.
Buddy headed up the stairs with his face down. Alex followed.
"Some protection," Angel remarked.
"My tactics are like your face with bulimics, you sod. Ugly but effective."
"Ugly is right," Angel retorted, then his eyes shifted as he thought about that.
Spike moved to embrace Buddy as he gained the last stair. "I'm feelin' better, sweethea –"
Buddy pushed past her.
"Well hello to you, too," Spike finished. Alex put a hand on her elbow.
"Can I talk to you, Spike?"
"I dunno," Spike said, "my husband just –"
"Get in the room, Spike," Buddy barked. "Now."Spike touched the bandage around her eye self-consciously. "He should call before he brings his mates," she commented to Alex. "Pardon my appearance."
They joined Buddy, who quickly shut the door.
Spike said, "I missed you, darling. I'm in need of a hug about now."
Buddy took a step back at her advance.
"What is it, why are you acting so dodgy?"
Buddy looked at Alex, who cleared his throat. "Spike, I'm here to help you."
An uncomfortable moment passed with Buddy staring at his feet.
"I feel like Blanche DuBois here, what's all this about. Y'having me taken off to a home or some'at?"
"Siddown," Buddy murmured, "Willow will tell you."
"You're mean," Spike complained, but she went to the bed. "When's this Willow coming?" She laid down the pistol.
"I'm Willow," Alex said.
Spike snorted good naturedly. "But you're –"
"It's a nickname."
"Oh." Spike lowered her head and tried to see Buddy's face. "In that case, my nickname is 'Beautiful Broad'. That works, don't it, Love?"
Buddy moved toward her, and Spike looked up at him, relief softening the crinkles around her eye.
Buddy picked up the pistol and walked to the door. "Will – er, Alex will tell you what you have to do." He left and shut the door.
Spike was struck to silence. Her lower lip drooped, and she bit it.
"It's a ritual," Alex told her, "and it'll bring back all your lost …"
Spike's lip oozed blood.
"Health. You'll get all your lost health back."
Spike shook her head bewilderedly. The movement caused her pain, and she slowly pressed her hand against her head. "Okay."
Alex hesitated. "Buddy is really, really concerned about you, Spike. Your eye and all those … bullet holes."
"Is that right?" Exasperation made her shrill. "Well he was bloody tender to me up to now. He drove me in from Vegas, tending my wounds, cleaning me up like I was a flippin' baby. Now he can't look at me."
She turned halfway around. "Sorry. New bride, uh? I may be getting my period too, I'm so emotional. Sorry if I'm embarrassing you."
Alex shook his head. "Listen, this ritual involves a little magic. It'll heal you and that's what we all want."A hopeful look crossed Spike's face. "Will it fix up my eye? It's absolutely gone, you know."
Alex felt himself nodding and went with it. "Oh yeah, your eye'll be completely healed."
"Well, I'm in then. Whatever gets things back to normal. Buddy still owes me some honeymoon time, and we can afford it."
"Okay," Alex said softly. "We'll start by having you lay back, up here. That's good. Okay, close your eyes, I want you to clear your mind …"
Hermione looked up from the tome she was reading and said softly, "That's it.""What is?" Anya asked.
"It was probably Surgat. Yes, had to be. The demon who bargains once. If the summoner requests a second deed Surgat then owns him. He's a very powerful, but harmless demon if handled properly."
Anya took a chair next to her. "I know all about Surgat, Girl-Giles."
"Please," Giles said aggrievedly, "just call me Giles."
"Whatever you say, lady. I knew Surgat back when he was just a Rwasundi Demon."
"The temporal disturbance causing type? They're very rare."
"Good reason for that." Anya leaned back and laced her fingers behind her head. "But you're the expert, Giles."
"No," Hermione said, "I'm just a cursed victim and I need your help. You say he started as a Rwasundi Demon. How did he become a rogue, then?"
"Simple really. He wouldn't stop messing with other demons. The Principles don't allow for that sort of thing, but Surgat was always full of contempt for everyone. He followed the Principles only when he was forced to.
"He was feuding with a demon, a member of the Sahrvin Clan who had a big wedding planned. Surgat stirred things up, and before anyone knew what was happening the wedding was over. The bride was married to a Grimslaw Demon that already implanted her with eggs."
Hermione removed her glasses. "Interesting, and … ecch."
Anya tossed her head. "The Powers stuck Surgat in a little hell dimension, only to be released when summoned for spells and curses. The only kicks he gets these days come from torturing the poor slobs who screw up while commanding him."
"And since Rayne seems to have disappeared?"
"Surgat may have him. Since there's no big bad out here at the moment, just the usual vamps and demons, odds are something went wrong.
"But if you're going to summon Surgat, count me out, Giles."
Hermione glance at her sharply. "Why did you call me Giles?"
Anya slapped him. "Giles!"
Hermione's glasses fell from her face."You'd better concentrate, Rupert Giles, Watcher of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. How will you be able to deal with Surgat if you're losing your memory? You'll be a lot worse off than if you married some dumb robot."
"Oh yes, yes," Hermione muttered, picking her glasses up off the floor. "I did feel I was losing myself again, but I'm alright now. I must summon Surgat right away, then."
She swung back to Anya. "A robot, you say?"Anya shook her head and heaved a resigned sigh. "Looks like I'm gonna be schlepping you through another crisis, Giles old girl."
Garnerbot drove the Firebird with joie de vivre, getting much pleasure from the excellent handling, the tight steering, the wonderful pick-up the car offered on the highway. He blew the doors off a Lexus and laughed as it tried to catch up to him.
The front end was a disaster. The bumper was crushed down to the license plate, the grill was cracked and the hood buckled. Both headlights still functioned, but he wanted her pristine. If he went out of pocket for repairs, what good would that be? That jerk Buddy didn't want to sell. Maybe he could convince the kid, make him an offer he couldn't refuse.
Garnerbot turned off into downtown Sunnydale. He decided he would offer fifty grand, because that was a sum Buddy would otherwise never see in his lifetime. And James Garner, rich and famous actor, could well afford it.
He drove to Manny's Garage and parked. An estimate for the bodywork could be an added bargaining chip.
A dark sedan drove up behind the Firebird and two men got out. As Garnerbot walked to the office he turned back to see them examining the car. He went back and said, "Something I can do for you guys?"
They were big men. One stood maybe six-four, balding with a toothpick in his mouth. The other was a six-footer, broad with muscles and thick-necked. Both wore suits that had a tailored look, but he could tell from the bulges under their arms that they wore shoulder holsters. Could be feds, or they could be muscle.
"Yeah," the shorter one said. "We love this car. She for sale?"
Garnerbot stepped close. "It's not mine," he replied. "So why don't you girls drive off in your pretty little carriage, huh?"
The two looked at one another, the tall one smiling idiotically around his toothpick.
"You're not very friendly," the shorter one said.
"Check back with me later when I'm not so cranky. I may even pinch your cheeks and kiss you."
The tall one stepped toward Garnerbot, spitting out the toothpick. The shorter one stopped him. "Wait, Toothpick. Not now. I said not now."
Toothpick tried to shake him off, and Garnerbot took a step back, at the ready.
"Listen to your girlfriend, Toothpick," he taunted.
Toothpick's eyes flashed, but he stood back. He straightened his tie, then plucked another toothpick from the breast pocket of his shirt. He stuck it in his face while pointing at Garnerbot with his other hand, tacitly promising something unpleasant.
Garnerbot flashed him a grin. "See ya later, Nosepick."
He turned his back on the men and walked unhurriedly to the office.
The men got in their car and drove away, but down the street they u-turned and parked where they could keep the Firebird in sight.