Crazy Eights - Chapter Nine - Ten O'Clock and All's Not Well
Research time hadn’t provided any solid facts, due in part to the fact that the chip was a modern development and the texts were ancient. However, all the evidence pointed to a power broker; a mage with enough skill to harvest combinations of life force, soul energy, and auras. The power could be bartered and sold for any manner of nefarious schemes, none of which bode well for the denizens of Sunnydale or anywhere else.
Looking up from her umpteenth volume of undecipherable text, Buffy said, “I think my time as research-gal is over for today, guys. I’m gonna look awfully silly if I show up at Crazy Eights in my stunning strapless gown and stilettos with the worst case of crossed eyes you’ve ever seen.”
“S’alright, pet. We know something wicked this way comes… and it’s up to us to find it. Don’t like being it’s bitch,” he said, glaring at the back of his hand and scratching at it hard enough to draw blood.
“Oh god, Spike. Stop it!” squeaked Buffy, slapping his hand to prevent further damage. “I know it’s wigging you out, but we need it for just one more night. I promise we’ll remove it when we get home from the club.”
“I’d be most interested in studying this chip of yours, Spike. If you come by the shop after tonight’s escapade, I’ll remove it for you,” Giles offered, intrigued at the prospect of having it’s mysteries solved. “I’m sure Willow will be more than happy to help me sort it.”
“Rupes, if we make it out of there without m’hand exploding, it’s all yours. Nobody uses m’body again ‘cept the way nature intended.”
The smirk on Spike’s face went straight through Buffy like a warm shiver. She’d been having the strangest reactions to him lately, but there wasn’t time for self-analysis at the momement.,
“C’mon, Nature Boy,” she said, as she grabbed his arm. “We’ve got to get ready for tonight. I need to make myself all Consorty, you know.”
Secretly, the vampire thought she could roll around in a mud puddle and come up looking bloody gorgeous. However, he said, “Yeah, s’true. Wouldn’t want to embarrass myself, haulin’ a dishwater dull Slayer around all night.”
“Out, both of you,” said Giles, mildly annoyed at the outrageous flirting the two weren’t even aware of. “If there were any customers here, you would have chased them away with all your childish prattle.”
Shooing them out the door, he was confounded by the level of closeness that had developed between his Slayer and William the Bloody. It’s not as if he hadn’t seen Buffy up close and personal with a vampire before – her time with Angel had been well documented.
This was quite different, however. They played with each other. They taunted, dared, smiled and laughed – so different to the broody silences and wistful gazes of her other relationship. Good lord, if they kept going, they’d finish each other’s sentences before long. That would be disconcerting, to say the least.
While Buffy showered in her mother’s bathroom, Spike used the one in the hall.
Joyce laid out fresh towels for them both before going downstairs. Knowing her daughter’s propensity for taking long, hot showers and Spike’s newly acquired accessibility to hot running water, it was only a matter of time before…
The first yelp came from her bathroom – a definite “I’m freezing” squeak from Buffy, followed right on the heels by a “Bloody, buggering hell” from the spluttering vampire down the hall. ‘Ah, the joys of a timed water heater,’ she thought. ‘Wonder how long it’ll be before they decide to save water?’
Spike, of course, was ready first, elegant in a pair of black dress pants, topped by a black on black patterned silk shirt tucked in at the waist. The totally black ensemble was broken by a silver belt buckle and a gunmetal grey tie. His ever-present Doc’s and duster completed the outfit.
Joyce was impressed. The man certainly did clean up well. Less than a week from the time he came to stay with them, and he was a whole new vampire.
Both turned their heads when Buffy finally made her entrance at the top of the stairs. She had chosen a beautifully simple party dress of flocked rayon in a black and white print. The princess seams accentuated her lissome figure, molding to her breasts and exposing her delicate shoulders, while flaring at the hip, ready to flounce and twirl as she walked.
“Oh, Buffy – look at you! My beautiful daughter all dressed up.” Joyce sniffled. “I swear the two of you look like you’re ready to go to the Prom.”
Spike, for his part, stood at the base of the stairs and gaped like a schoolboy.
With a twinkle in her eye, Buffy walked up to the stunned vampire, sashaying her way around him, occasionally rubbing against his body as she completed her circuit.
“So, do I pass muster, Mister? No dishwater dull Slayer to embarrass you?”
Shaken more than he’d ever admit to her, he resorted to his usual snark, and said, “You’ll do in a pinch. Wouldn’t do for a bloke as handsome as m’self to show up unescorted on a Saturday night. ‘Course, I just might be lookin’ around for somethin’ later, after you go home.”
For a fleeting second, the smile on Buffy’s face faltered, and Spike wanted to kick himself for hurting her.
“M’sorry, pet. I…”
“No biggie, Spike. I’m sure a vamp like you has…needs,” she snapped. “So do I. Maybe, as your supposed Consort, I can find someone pissed off enough to challenge you for some time with me.” ‘Two can play at that game, Spikey,’ she thought gleefully, until she caught the look on his face out of the corner of her eye.
As the discomfited pair left the house, not another word having passed between them, Joyce shook her head with disappointment. “Guess Spike isn’t the only one who can’t keep his big mouth shut,” she sighed.
The walk to Crazy Eights was made in silence; vampire and Slayer each wrapped in their own thoughts. Buffy wasn’t quite sure why Spike’s offhand comment rattled her enough to strike back. They’d been trading barbs since they were mortal enemies and reveling in it. What could have changed so much that a few simple words said in jest were able to wound her so?
At her side, Spike was having similar thoughts. He hadn’t meant to hurt the girl. She’d come down the stairs and floored him. Absolutely beautiful, with a girlish quality he’d never attributed to her before. Well, that wasn’t exactly true – he’d always thought she was beautiful, but he’d never felt like acting on it before.
They’d been friends for years – were comfortable with each other, and trusted in each other during patrol and battle. And yet… he’d recently kissed her. And she’d kissed him back. But it was more comfort than passion after his ordeal – or was it? Had he been himself, that kiss outside his crypt definitely had staying power.
He was roused from his thoughts by a sharp poke to his arm.
“Are you even in there, Spike? I’ve been trying to get your attention for the past five minutes.”
“Sorry, luv – obviously not paying attention, which will stop, here and now.” He took a calming breath, knowing he had to try and clear the air between them. “Look, Buffy – I’m not sure what happened back at the house, but we’ve got to be together going into the club. You know it’s dangerous, and the distraction of being pissed off at each other won’t be to our advantage. What say we try and get it all sorted afterwards, when we get home?”
Recognizing the olive branch for what it was and resisting the ‘if you haven’t picked up a skank’ barb she had right on the tip of her tongue, she said, “I agree. Something went really wonky back there, and we do need to talk, but not now. Now we need to be all couply.
“Hey – we worked just fine together when we were trying to kill each other, so I’m thinking we can work through a bit of hurt feelings. You ready?” she asked, as they approached the entrance.
“As I’ll ever be. Let’s get in and get it done. This damned chip is killing me,” he said, scratching at the back of his hand.
Ailuros greeted the couple in the reception area. She was dressed in a deep violet silk gown that matched her eyes. Her hair was swept off her shoulders and clipped into a loose chignon, and she was definitely coming on to Spike, which set Buffy on edge from the moment she walked into the room.
“Welcome back, Ssspike. It’s a pleasure to see you looking so well. I guess your little Sssslayer takes good care of you.”
Spike prayed. It was something he hadn’t done in all the years since he’d been turned, but things were gonna go pear-shaped if Buffy reacted badly to this.
“It’s my goal in life, Ailuros – to make sure that Spike is well and happy. That’s what we Consorts do.”
Ailuros’ eyes flashed that ‘Consort my ass’ look before she said, “Then I guess our Ssspike is marking you somewhere other than the traditional spot. I see bite marks, honey – but they’re not his.” Her tail began to twitch back and forth, in a way you could tell she was not pleased.
“Pet, whether or where I bite m’Consort is really none of your business. Our personal life isn’t in question here. You have a job to do and I suggest you stick with it.”
“Ssssorry, Sssspike. It was just a comment between us girlsss, wasn’t it, Slayer?”
“I’m not bothered by her, Spike. She can make all the catty remarks she likes – at least we know where we stand with each other, right?”
“Right as rain, luv. Now if you’ll just be a pet and hand over m’Consort’s circlet for the evening, we’ve got some dinner to be havin’ an’ we’d like to relax.”
“Fine, Sssspike. Anything for you.” Handing Buffy the circlet, she softly hissed, “Sssteer clear of the game room tonight. Big-wigs from out of town are having a private party and a Slayer on the premises might make them a bit… jumpy.”
They entered the dining area, and decided to skip the bar and dance floor. Right now, a meal and some private time was in order.
“For keepin’ your cool when Ailuros decided to challenge your Consort status.”
“Ah, you mean when she decided to go all bitchy-kitty on me? I was sure she was going to raise her leg and pee all over you.”
“She was this side of pulling off your dress to look for claim marks. If vamps don’t use the neck, they tend to go for breasts or the join of thigh to groin. Femoral artery's better for blood and accessibility to the playground, but breasts are always fun.”
“You’re a pig, Spike. Anyone ever tell you that?”
“You used to, on a daily basis.”
Their waiter appeared with the ubiquitous touch-pad, and asked if they wanted their “usual” order. Spike simply nodded, and Buffy – to be different – ordered a cheeseburger and fries, reasoning it hadn’t killed Xander so she was safe.
“Does she turn you on, Spike?” All innocence and hazel eyes turned to Spike with her question.
“Who, pet? Ailuros? Well, yeah. She’s gorgeous an’ I’m all male. What’s there not to like?”
No sooner were the words out of his mouth when he knew he’d been a right arse. Trying to avert another disastrous misunderstanding, he added hastily, “Just ‘cause I find the bint attractive doesn’t mean I’ll go haring off after ‘er.”
Slightly mollified, Buffy admitted, “She is a pretty woman, Spike. I’m not blind. I don’t know why I even asked you. Not like I’m really your girlfriend or real Consort, am I?”
“Does that bother you, pet? That I look at other women?”
“No! I mean, I don’t think so.” She frowned. “Maybe?”
Well that was certainly a new development. Question was, how did he feel about it?
“Things’ve been intense since you rescued me luv. P’raps you’re confusin’ kindness and carin’ with something more?”
“Spike, I’m caring with my Mom, and kind to my friends. I don’t get jealous when they look at someone else.” She tried to sift through her thoughts, choosing her words carefully as much for her as for him. “I like our friendship and don’t want to do anything that would ruin it, but…”
“You think you feel something more, yeah?”
“And what about you, huh?” she asked, deftly turning the tables. “Is there any attraction on your part at all?”
“I’ve always thought you were somethin’ special, Buffy. You know that. And yeah, was trying to kill you for a bit, but it was ‘cause you drew me in. Such a wonderfully vicious warrior for a little minx.”
Catching the look in her eyes, he could tell she was absolutely crestfallen.
“Oh, luv, you don’t really think that’s all I see in you? You walked down those stairs this evening, and I almost lost it right there. You remember, don’t you?”
Sniffling, she nodded.
“M’sorry if I hurt your feelings. S’all confusing…”
Spike was startled mid-sentence by a sharp jab from behind in his left shoulder.
The man with the question was tall, intimidating by most standards. He stood about 6 feet 4 inches tall, and was built like the proverbial brick shithouse.
“Yeah, who’s askin’?”
“The name’s Travis. It’s been brought to my attention that the little lady is unclaimed, and I was wonderin’ if she’d like to step out with a real man for the rest of the evenin’?” He extended his hand towards Buffy, who hadn’t made a sound since he’d shown up at their table.
She felt it, rather than heard it – the sub vocal growl issuing from Spike’s direction. When Travis reached in and yanked her from her seat, Spike sprung into action.
Gameface to the fore, he tackled the larger man, knocking him away from Buffy. When she made a move to join in, he warned her off with bared fangs and an outstretched arm.
Travis matched him fang for fang and growl for growl. They stood, circling each other like a pair of lions, challenging each other over territory.
“What the bloody hell do you think you’re doin’ here, mate? M’out for a night with m’lady and you have the bollocks to grab at ‘er while she’s eatin’ a meal in a public place? Are you mad?”
“You come in here, paradin’ this little piece of fluff around, no new bite marks, no claim evident and think your rep is gonna keep her? She’s a pretty little thing, and I think she’ll look better with me. C’mon, darlin,’ what say we skip this pop stand and find something better to do. Like each other?”
A crowd began to form around the pair, always eager for a fight.
With preternatural speed, Spike turned, grabbed Buffy by the shoulders, and with a roar of “Mine!” sank his fangs deep into her neck.