Yankees game (and hope it doesn't get rained out. In the meantime, here's the next chapter of
the tale for your enjoyment.
Finished with their meal, obviously charged to Spike’s chip, the intrepid band of Slayer, vampire and Scoobies began to leaf through the flyers Willow had procured earlier in the evening.
A pink paper announced ‘Demon Poker Nite – Wednesday – 9 pm – 4 am. Bloodshed forbidden in gaming areas. An orange paper noted ‘Semi-Annual Harvest Ball – Summer/Winters Solstice Celebrations. Bring more than one donor for free admission. A green flyer proclaimed ‘Special Events Nights. Ladies’ Night – Mondays – No cover, no minimum for females (all species). Gentlemen’s Night – Thursdays – Complimentary drink and appetizer with full meal. Vampires’ Night – Saturdays – 4 Shot Special, mixed blood drinks – your preference.’
Glancing at the rainbow of colored papers spread out before him on the table, Xander sneered, “Who’d have thought the demon set would be all schedule-having? Can’t say that I see them sitting at home on a weeknight, goin’, ‘Hey Mabel, why don’t I take you out for a little free blood and dancing on Saturday? I hear the Bloodsuckers are playing at The Crazy Eights and you know how they slay me when they get their groove thang on.’ I mean jeez…”
“Bloody hell,” Spike seethed. “You really are an arrogant, ignorant prat, aren’t you? Haven’t you learned yet that it’s not all about humans? Look around you!” The irate vampire gestured around the dining area and shot Xander a look of disdain reminiscent of Giles at his most upper-crusty. “See any fledges with dirt still clingin’ to their ears? Even demons can have schedules, y’know. Most of these vamps have paying jobs – nightwork, an’ such, or old money behind them. And every one of ‘em has more class than you.”
Recognizing that the volatile vampire’s self-control was waning rapidly, Buffy attempted to rein him in before he drew any more.
“Spike, let it go,” she said, quietly, knowing he would hear her through his anger. “We have more important things to deal with.”
He clenched his jaw until she could see the little muscle tic, then he rotated his neck enough to crack the vertebrae.
Visibly shaking off his anger like a dog shedding water, he said, carefully, “A word of warning, whelp. Downstairs is serious business. It may be a game room, but the folk there don’t play around. If you can’t keep your gob shut and your stupidity under control, walk out now. I’ll not have you bollixing this up. Told you before – nobody endangers the Slayer, or Red for that matter, and I’d prefer to save my fightin’ for when it counts.”
“I was just fooling around,” Xander mumbled. “I’ve just never really given much thought to demons’ social lives. I’ll try to keep my opinions to myself.” He set his jaw and added, “But I don’t trust you. And you can bet your scrawny white ass I’m gonna keep my eye on you.”
Leading the way, Spike strode over to the stairwell at the end of the room. They descended the spiral staircase, coming face to face with a large black door and a sign that read ‘Last Warning! Spilling of blood and other fluids beyond this point will result in expulsion from The Crazy Eights for all surviving participants.’
Spike waved Xander and Willow through the door, and then paused momentarily. “Buffy, like it or not, down here, all humans are either taken or fair game. It’s obvious you’re known, a prize, an’ I don’t want anyone getting ideas to use you as a wager or marker. Tonight, let me treat you like you’re mine. Not as m’pet, but m’lady. It’s the only way I can be sure to protect you, other than marking you as my mate. Can you trust me enough on this?”
“No biting involved?”
“Not unless your life depends on it,” he said, solemnly.
Trepidation was making her voice shaky, but she met his gaze. “I trust you, Spike. Let’s do this.”
Snaking his arm around her waist, they stepped inside.
The room sported plush wall-to-wall carpeting – ruby red in color with black flecks, an inverse of the marble upstairs. The walls were covered with the same rosewood paneling. Tucked discretely in the far corner was a small recessed bar. The lighting was dim, just enough to see and be seen by – affording some measure of privacy to the players.
The thick carpeting swallowed the sounds of the waitstaff’s movements as they moved like cyphers at the merest crook of a beckoning finger. Spoken words were few and far between. The members’ needs and preferences met with silent efficiency.
There was an undercurrent of excitement running through the room. The players were seriously into their games, but their enjoyment was palpable.
Spike walked up to the pit boss, requesting a deck of cards and a set of chips. “S’just a friendly game, mate – not playin’ with the house money tonight.”
Pulling up a chair at one of the available tables, the blond vampire gently tugged Buffy over to him. Patting his thigh, he crooned, “C’mere, luv, Daddy needs a little luck this evening.” As he pulled her onto his lap, he nuzzled tiny kisses behind her earlobe, whispering, “Play along, pet. There’s eyes everywhere.” Hearing a murmured affirmative, Spike continued his exploration of her neck.
Both of Xander’s fists slammed down on the table, startling the ‘necking’ couple. “Damnit, Spike! Get your lips off of her. And what the hell are you doing on his lap, Buffy? Like you’re at a junior high make-out party.”
A waiter appeared instantly at the table. Eying Xander warily, he asked, “Is anything the matter, Mr. Spike? Do we need to take action here?”
“Nah, mate. Everything’s fine – just a bit of a jealous misunderstanding between me and the lad. No worries. Why don’t you bring a round of beers for the table, and an O pos chaser, for me.”
“As you wish, Sir. If you’re in need of further assistance…” Sparing a glance at the fuming Xander, he left the implied threat hanging in the air.
Once the waiter was out of earshot, Buffy turned to face her friend across the table. “Xander, I know you think you’re defending my honor or something, but I’m more than capable of stopping Spike dead in his tracks if I get uncomfortable with what was going on?”
“Buffy, sweetie, you know Xander means well,” Willow placated. “And, I mean, you do know you’re acting a little out of the ordinary. Since when do you and Spike make with the smoochies, much less in public smoochies?”
Spike leaned across the table, motioning everybody to move in closer. “You stupid sods,” he ground out through gritted teeth. “Firstly, this place is under surveillance at all times. And you can bet the waiters report suspicious behavior to the boss. So, can you please keep the commentary to a fucking minimum?
“Secondly, in this joint, , the Slayer’s either mine or she’s on the menu for every demon in the room. How exactly do you expect me to mark my territory?”
He paused, an absolutely wolfish smirk forming as he looked directly into Xander’s eyes. “Would you prefer I bit her and left m’mark that way? All other vamps’d be able to see and smell me on her, and I wouldn’t even have to be in the room to keep her safe.”
“You lay one fang on her Spike, and so help me God, I’ll –”
“You’ll what? Beat me up? Stake me? You get to fucking try, boy, but I’m gonna give as good as I get.”
“Spike, please don’t hurt him,” Willow begged. “We can do this, I swear. Can we just try to play a few hands of poker or whatever and then leave? I mean, it’s got to look better if we relax and play a bit rather than storming out of here, all grrr and fighty?”
“Will’s right, Spike,” Buffy placated, absent-mindedly stroking the curls at the nape of agitated blond’s neck. “Let’s try to stick to the plan – play and observe.”
Unified now, all three turned to Xander, who had remained quiet since his initial outburst.
“Damnit, I don’t like this,” he said. “I’m not comfortable with you and the fanged menace hanging all over each other.” He grimaced. “But I will try to keep it to myself for the rest of the evening. Anything to get it over and done with as soon as possible.”
With a deep sigh of relief, Buffy picked up the deck of cards from the table, and began to deal.