for your reading pleasure.
As always, feel free to comment. I look forward to what you have to say.
The little bell over the door of The Magic Box announced Buffy’s arrival. Quickly scanning the room, she located her Watcher behind the counter, sorting out the day’s receipts.
“Hey, Giles. We got trouble.”
Looking up from his paperwork, Giles cast a concerned look in his Slayer’s direction. “New demon?”
“An old one, actually, or more accurately, a familiar one. It’s Spike. I ran into him last –”
Cutting her off mid-sentence, Giles expression was one of utter disdain. “How many times to I have to tell you, Buffy – that it’s not a good idea to ‘hang out’ with that bleached menace? Just because he’s not actively seeking to end your life as he did –”
This time it was Buffy’s turn to interrupt. “Stop with the same old party line already, Giles. You’ve got to actually hear what I’m saying. Whether or not you approve of me spending time with Spike is not the issue. What’s important is that when I said ‘I ran into Spike last night’ – it was in that literal kinda way. Stuck my foot into a bloody puddle of vampire. He’d been attacked.”
“And this should concern us why, Buffy,” the irritated Watcher asked. “He’s a vampire. If he gets into a scrape, he’ll either heal or dust – thereby becoming one less problem for you.”
Taking a deep breath to keep her temper in check, the angered young woman said, “You’re supposed to be working with me, Giles. As my Watcher. If I tell you that a vampire is watching my back on a nightly basis and I’ve come to trust in him to do so – maybe you need to accept that. Working with the helpful vampire is a lot smarter than taking away a piece of my support system.
“Spike said it, himself. A Slayer with family and friends is not of the normal. But it is - for me. I depend on you guys to back me up. Having to worry about you fighting each other, as well as the demons and other night-bumpy things is not helpful.”
Looking faintly chastened, Giles sighed. “Point taken. I’ll try and restrain myself from denigrating Spike out of hand.” Chin rising stubbornly, he qualified, “Unless it’s warranted.”
“Okay,” Buffy nodded in agreement. “But what I’m trying to tell you is that Spike didn’t just get ‘into a scrape’. He was beaten to within an inch of his unlife. And you’re always telling me what a powerful foe he is – wily and cunning enough to last over 120 years. So riddle me this – if there’s something out there strong enough to take out a Master Vampire, shouldn’t we look into it?”
“Yes,” Giles agreed finally. “I believe we should.” Taking a breath he added, “How badly hurt was he?”
“Bad enough to warrant you staying at Spike’s crypt all night? Your mother called, frantic with worry.”
“He was really bad, Giles. I didn’t feel right leaving him unprotected overnight. And I’ve aleady stopped by home to let Mom know I’m okay. She’s fine now. She’s got a soft spot where Spike is concerned.”
“Clearly a genetic trait,” Giles murmured.
Ignoring him, Buffy plowed on, “Anyway – here’s the clue-age: when I went looking for Spike’s duster, I found it and the surrounding area covered in playing cards. And they were all the same suit – diamonds. Spike told me he’d played poker at some new place called Crazy Eights. Apparently, he won pretty big and they weren’t all that keen on paying out his winnings. Oh! And he swiped a deck of cards to keel as a souvenir, and he thinks that’s why they beat him up.”
Perplexed, Giles asked, “Why would they come after a patron for a deck of cards? Most clubs give them away – advertising for their establishment.”
“Weird, right?” said Buffy. “Spike thinks they took them back after the beating.”
“Seems an awful lot of trouble to retrieve a deck of cards,” Giles said pensively.
“I think I’m gonna go back to the crypt and see how Spike’s doing. Maybe he’ll have remembered something else about last night. Just do me a favor – if you see any of the gang, fill them in and ask if they’ve heard of The Crazy Eights.”
“All right, Buffy. Just be careful. Whoever attacked Spike might still be around.”
With her Watcher’s last words echoing in her ears, Buffy felt decidedly uneasy, and quickened her pace as she approached the crypt. She entered cautiously and looked around the upper level for signs of intruders. Seeing nothing awry, she climbed down the ladder and let out a small sigh of relief upon seeing Spike asleep in his bed.
He was flipped over on his belly, sprawled out like a starfish, a thin sheet covering his backside. Buffy could see the welts had mostly healed and bruises had lightened, considerably. His position spoke volumes. Leg, ribs, belly, shoulders and cheekbone had healed enough that movement didn’t jerk him awake with pain. All of the good.
She headed for the bed, ready to flop down next to him but paused. After what he’d been through, she thought it only wise not to startle him. Softly she called.
“Spike, can you wake up? I need to speak with you.”
Several incoherent mumbles and one vertebrae cracking stretch later, the sleepy vampire rolled onto his side, his sheet slipping dangerously low on his hips – his hips which were no longer so badly bruised, Buffy noticed, her cheeks flushing.
“C’mere, pet.” Patting the mattress beside him, he motioned for her to sit. “Won’t bite unless you ask.”
Buffy stood, rooted to the spot. Good grief, she thought. Wonder if he has a clue as to what he looks like waking up. Tousled curls, heavy-lidded eyes, pretty pink lips – and that damned, traitorous sheet. She could swear it was moving lower all the time. She stifled the urge to wipe the drool from the corners of her mouth.
Clearly noting the Slayer’s hesitation, Spike frowned and his expression shifted, his face suddenly awash with shame. He lowered his head.
“S’okay, luv. You don’t have to sit near me.” He reached for the sheet, pulling it around his body.
The movement of the sheet snapped Buffy out of her daze. Rushing forward to sit on the bed, she gently gripped his shoulders, careful not to cause him any undue pain.
“Oh god, Spike – no. I don’t have a problem with you – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Just look at you. I mean, if you could, which you can’t, what with the whole lack of reflection thing.” Buffy knew she was babbling, but she had to make herself clear before he withdrew into himself. “I can’t believe how much better you look this afternoon. The swelling is down in your face, and the bruising on your chest is fading. You look good.
“And before you think I’m just telling you what you want to hear, think about this. When have I ever lied to you? I’ve always called a spade a spade. We certainly argue too much for you to think otherwise. You know I’m not all placatey-Buffy.”
He raised his eyes to meet hers, clearly seeing the truth in her statement. With a small sigh, he sat up and enfolded the tiny blonde in a soft embrace. Eyes closed, he murmured, “Thanks, Buffy – for caring enough to… for givin’ a damn.”
Pulling back slightly from their embrace, she said, “Listen, Spike. I asked Giles if he’s heard of this Crazy Eights place. I told him you had a really bad run in with some of their enforcers, and he thinks they could still be after you. I’d feel better if you came back to the house with me. Mom’ll be fine with it for a while. We’ve got a spare room we can sun proof for you.”
“Not that I’m not grateful, mind, but I can take care of m’self, pet.”
“I know you can, silly. It’s not that so much as, I think I’d just feel better if we worked closely to find out just what the what is with this new place. And I don’t have to go looking for you if you’re already at the house. Please, Spike, if only for a little while.”
“Never been good at refusing you, have I?” He smiled, acquiescing.