Once more, comments are encouraged. Your opinions matter to me.
While throwing a few belongings into his duffel bag, Spike decided it would be a good idea to feed before he left the crypt. At this point in his unlife, he no longer needed to eat daily, but the added blood was a big plus in healing his injuries. Warming the two containers he had left in the fridge, he sought out the Slayer.
“Pet, since we don’t know how long I’ll be residin’ at Casa Summers, m’gonna need to make some eating arrangements.”
“We can stop by Willy’s on the way.” A shadow crossed her face as she had a troubling thought. “Spike, can you afford this? I mean, I’ve never given it much thought before – but it’s not like you have a steady income. And I know that Willy does not make with the demon philanthropy.”
He pulled a small roll of cash from a hidden inner pocket in his duster’s lining, rolling it around between his fingers. Cocking his head, he mused, “It’s strange, innit – those blokes went to the trouble of smashing me to bits and going through m’duster to take back a soddin’ deck of cards, but they left the dosh I’d won.”
“I guess that’s the Scooby mystery of the week,” Buffy answered. “Why don’t we get this settled with Mom, and then head over to The Magic Box and see if anyone’s got a clue.”
Shifting uncomfortably, the vampire mumbled, “Not sure that’s the best course to take, Buffy. Your mates don’t like me. They hate the fact that we spend any time together, and they damned well resent the fact that we patrol together – that you trust me enough to watch your back.”
He sighed and kicked at the ground. “Truth be told, I don’t want them finding out what’s been done to me. The witches might have a sympathetic moment, but Harris? He’ll not let me move past this. Can hear the whelp now,” he mocked, “always knew you were a bitch, Fangface.”
Buffy stood by, watching the agitated vampire attempt to mask his growing distress. From what she recalled from her Psychology textbook, victims of sexual abuse often had issues with self-esteem and helplessness that manifested in bursts of anger.
With his reputation as one quarter of the Scourge of Europe, Spike’s powerlessness in the hands of his captors must have been devastating to him. The best thing she could do for him, she surmised, was to let him vent.
“Bloody hell, Slayer – I can’t do this. S’not like I haven’t had worse done to me in my time; vamps and other demons near killed me on a regular basis when I was a fledge.
“But I’ve been an apex predator a hundred plus years. And these bastards were humans, my prey. Only ‘bout a dozen of ‘em fucked me into the ground.” He pleaded, head bowed low in a gesture of defeat. “And now I’m supposed to bare my secrets to the kiddie brigade and expect them to help me?”
Buffy shook her head. “They don’t have to know what happened, Spike. It’s none of their business. And showing up bruised or bloody is kinda the Scooby norm.
“They know what it’s like to be outnumbered and outgunned. Every time they go out patrolling, they fear running into even one vampire. You faced a dozen men and un-lived to tell the tale. There is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Spike stared wordlessly into her hazel eyes, as if searching for something. Then, clearly exhausted and shaken after his outburst, the emotionally spent vampire wrapped his arms around Buffy’s slender shoulders and pulled her in for an hug.
Buffy didn’t resist. She responded by wrapping her arms around Spike’s waist and nestled into the embrace.
When they parted, they wore mirrored expressions of surprised awe.
Flustered, Buffy was the first to break the spell. “Well that… that was new, Spike. We’ve never –”
“Don’t, Slayer. Don’t apologize for actually touching me outside of sparring or slaying unless you’re bloody well sorry it happened.” No longer stunned, his expression was rapidly turning to one of hurt and anger, his arms wrapping around his body as if to protect himself from the forthcoming rejection.
“I’m not sorry that it happened, Spike. Surprised is all. I mean, we’re been friends for a while – what with the neither of us wanting to kill each other. And obviously we care enough about each other to want to protect and defend. But, it’s just, we’ve never really touched each other outside of, you know, applying bodily harm.”
Looking a bit discomfited, she continued, “The hug was… well, something different. Not bad – just… different. I’m sorry if – ”
“Ah, luv,” he interrupted. “Not complaining here, just surprised that you allowed it, is all. His scarred eyebrow lifted suggestively. Happy to have you pressed up against me whenever you’re willing.”
His velvety rich baritone had softened to a honeyed purr and Buffy felt her body react – suddenly on edge and wanting, picturing slowly divesting the yummy vampire of all his clothes and climbing on board.
The image was beyond confusing. And Buffy rapidly elected to change the subject, bluring out, “Yeah, we should get moving! Mom’s expecting us both and I don’t want her to worry more than she normally does.”
Spike simply nodded, retrieved his duffel bag, and headed for the door.
“Hello, Spike.” A smiling Joyce greeted them at the door. “Welcome to our home.”
The invitation – freely offered with no hesitation… even though it was unnecessary warmed the vampire’s unbeating heart. Outside of the axe incident, he and Joyce got on well.
Even before Spike had formed an alliance with the Slayer, her mother had always made time for him. She’d listened to him pour out his heart over Drusilla’s betrayal and abandonment. They’d shared an interest in art and sculpture, discussing her work at the gallery.
In fact, it was over a shared cuppa with Joyce that Buffy had come to accept him into her own life. She’d come home after a night at the Bronze, and found him and her mother discussing Shakespeare’s dark lady and Sonnet 131. Buffy, who was studying the sonnets with a Professor Okati, joined the discussion. Wanting to continue the debate about the final couplet and unfortunate infatuation, but needing to patrol, Buffy had asked Spike to tag along on a quick lap of the cemeteries. It was the beginning of… whatever it was they shared. An understanding, companionship… trust.
A slight nudge from behind told Spike he’d been caught out daydreaming, and he offered his thanks as he walked into the house.
Joyce was in full hostess mode. “I’ve set up the spare room for you, Spike. I found some blackout shades and heavy curtains that will keep the sun from being an issue for you. Do you need anything else? Food? First aid?”
“M’fine, Joyce. Your daughter makes a right decent nurse, but thanks for askin’.”
Joyce turned to Buffy. “I’m going back to the gallery this evening for inventory.” She headed for the door, then paused. “I know you have to investigate what happened to Spike, but I want you to make sure you’re careful. I have a really bad feeling about this.”
As soon as the door closed behind her mother, Buffy turned her attention to Spike. “I’m going to check in with Giles; why don’t you settle in.”
“Will do, pet. The leg’s twinging a bit. I’m goin’ to rest up.” Heading for the stairs, he called, “Let me know when it’s time to leave.”
Buffy dialed The Magic Box. “Hey Giles. Any news for me?”
“There’s not much known about The Crazy Eights. Apparently, it’s a new club that caters to both demons and humans. A couple of steps up from Willy’s.”
Buffy could hear the telltale sound of glasses being polished, before Giles added, “I don’t suppose Spike has mentioned exactly where this establishment is located?”
“No, he hasn’t. But I’ve been more concerned with letting him heal enough to walk rather than interrogating him up to this point.”
“The Crazy Eights is located in Spike’s old factory. The top floor has been turned into a bar that serves both food and drink, and probably several other substances that don’t bear looking into too closely. It’s the basement that holds the gaming tables, complete with back rooms.
“I’ve spoken with Xander and Willow – told them what happened and that you’re going to investigate the club. Both are willing to accompany you.”
“Glad to have the backup.” Buffy sucked in a slightly apprehensive breath. “I’ve got a feeling there’s more involved than a simple case of vamp-beating.”
She called Xander, then Willow, and settled back await their arrival.