But it is Tuesday, so here's another chapter of Crazy Eights for you.
As always, I hope you enjoy, and would love to hear from you.
Research time hadn’t provided any solid facts, in part due to the dearth of information on microchips in Giles’ ancient texts. But conjecture pointed to a power broker – perhaps a mage with enough skill to harvest combinations of life force, soul energy, and auras. There was the daunting possibility that the power could be bartered and sold for any manner of nefarious schemes, none of which boded 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 The 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. Before it makes me its bitch,” he said, scratching at the back of his hand hard enough to draw blood.
“Stop it!” Buffy squeaked, 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. “And 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. And nobody uses m’body again ‘cept in the way nature intended.”
The smirk on Spike’s face seeped 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 moment.
“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.”
“Yeah,” Spike said, straight-faced. “Wouldn’t want to embarrass myself, haulin’ a dishwater dull Slayer around all night.”
“Out, both of you,” said Giles, mildly annoyed at the ridiculous conversation. “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 clearly 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.
This was different, however. They played with each other. They taunted, dared, smiled and laughed – a marked contrast to the broody silences and wistful gazes of her previous vampiric relationship. Good lord, if they kept going, they’d be finishing each other’s sentences before long. It was disconcerting, to say the least.
While Buffy showered, Spike waited impatiently in her room for his turn.
Joyce laid out fresh towels for them both before going downstairs. Knowing her daughter’s propensity for taking long, hot showers, it was only a matter of time before…
The yelp came from Buffy – a definite ‘I’m freezing’ squeak. And, right on its heels, by a ‘Bloody, buggering hell’ from the impatient vampire.
Ah, the joys of a timed water heater, Joyce smirked silently. ‘Wonder how long it’ll be before they decide to save water?’
Spike, of course, was ready first, aided by the cold shower. Elegant in a pair of black dress pants and a black-on-black patterned silk shirt. The monochrome 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. Just a day or so in Casa de Summers, 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.”
Next to her, Spike 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?”
Clearly shaken more than he’d like to admit, he covered with 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 rushed to apologize.
“M’sorry, pet. I –”
“No biggie, Spike. I’m sure a vamp like you can find someone else more to his liking,” she snapped. “So can I. Maybe, as your supposed Consort, I can find someone pissed off enough to challenge you for some time with me.” She looked positively gleefully, until she caught the look on his face.
As the discomfited pair left the house, 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 The 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 had rattled her enough to strike back. They’d been trading barbs since they were mortal enemies and reveling in it. How were a few simple words said in jest 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 appeal he’d never noticed before. Well, that wasn’t exactly true… He’d always thought she was beautiful, he’d just never fully acknowledged 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 couldn’t stop thinking about holding her in his arms the other day.
He was roused from his thoughts by a sharp poke to his arm.
“You in there, Spike? I’ve been trying to get your attention for the past five minutes.”
“Sorry, luv. Wasn’t paying attention.” He took a calming breath and made an attempt to clear the air. “Look, Buffy, I’m not sure what happened back at the house, but we’ve got to work together in the club. It’s dangerous in there and being pissed off at each other and distracted won’t work to our advantage. What say we put it on the backburner until we get home? Sort it all out then?”
Clearly recognizing the statement for the olive branch it was, she said, “You’re right. Something went really wonky back there, and we do need to talk, but not now. Now we need to be all couply.”
“I can do that.”
She gave him a hint of a grin. “And 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.”
“I reckon so.”
As they approached the entrance, she asked, “You ready?”
“As I’ll ever be. Let’s get in and get it done. Scratching at the back of his hand, he added, “This damned chip is killing me.”
“Welcome back, Ssspike,” Ailuros greeted him as he and Buffy walked into 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 him.
“It’s a pleasure to see you looking so well. I guess your little Ssslayer takes good care of you.”
Spike could almost feel Buffy’s hackles rise and he 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,” Buffy simpered, “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, “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, in a way that signaled she was not pleased.
Spike jumped in. “Pet, where I bite my Consort is really none of your business, is it?”
“Sssorry, Ssspike.” She turned to Buffy. “It was just a comment between us girlsss, wasn’t it, Slayer?”
“She doesn’t bother me, Spike. She can make all the catty remarks she likes.” Buffy shot him a warm smile. “We know where we stand with each other, right?”
“Of course, luv.” He fixed Ailuros with an implacable glare. “Now, if you’ll just be a pet and hand over my Consort’s circlet for the evening we’ll go enjoy ourselves.”
Crumbling under the weight of his annoyance, she turned deferential. “Anything for you, Ssspike.”
She handed Buffy the circlet and, hissed softly, “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; a meal and some private time were 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?” Buffy grinned. “For a minute I thought she was going to raise her leg and pee all over you.”
“I’m just surprised she didn’t pull off your dress to look for claim marks. Which would have been interesting,” he said, contemplatively, “because, if vamps don’t use the neck, they tend to go for breasts or thigh. 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,” he noted, “on a daily basis.”
Their waiter appeared with the ubiquitous touchpad, and asked if they wanted their ‘usual’ order. Spike simply nodded, and Buffy, to be different, ordered a cheeseburger and fries… commenting under her breath that, since it hadn’t killed Xander, she assumed it was safe.
“So,” she asked, all innocence and hazel eyes, “does she turn you on, Spike?”
“Who, pet? Ailuros?” He shrugged. “Well, yeah. She’s gorgeous an’ I’m all male. What’s not to like?”
No sooner were the words out of his mouth than he knew he’d been a right arse. Trying to avert another disastrous misunderstanding, he added hastily, “But just ‘cause I find the bint attractive doesn’t mean I’ll go haring off after her.”
Appearing slightly mollified, Buffy said hastily, “She’s a pretty woman, Spike. I’m not blind. Don’t know why I even asked you. Not like I’m really your Consort, is it?”
“Does it 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? He ventured, “Things’ve been intense since you rescued me luv. P’raps you’re confusing kindness and caring 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.” He watched as she seemed to sift through her thoughts. “I like our friendship and I don’t want to do anything that would ruin it, but…”
“You think you feel something more, yeah?” he pressed.
“Don’t you?” she asked, immediately turning the tables.
“I’ve always thought you were somethin’ special, Buffy. You know that. You drew me in, such a wonderfully vicious warrior for a little minx.”
Catching the look in her eyes, he could tell she was crestfallen.
“Oh, luv, you don’t really think that’s all I see in you, do you? You walked down those stairs this evening, and I almost lost it right there. You remember, don’t you?”
Thawing slightly, she nodded.
“M’sorry if I hurt your feelings. It’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.
Spike had no problem smacking down shithouses. “Yeah, who’s askin’?”
“The name’s Travis. It’s been brought to my attention that the little lady is unclaimed.”
Spike watched the shithouse’s eyes meander over Buffy. The sub-vocal growl he issued in response was felt rather than heard.
Travis flinched for just a moment, then extended his hand towards Buffy. “I was wondering if she’d like to step out with a real man for the rest of the evening.”
When Travis reached in and yanked Buffy from her seat, Spike sprung into action.
Gameface jumping to the fore, he tackled the larger man, knocking him away from Buffy. She jumped up and made a move to join in, but he warned her off with bared fangs and an outstretched arm. A Slayer on the offensive in a room full of demons was pretty much a red rag to a bull.
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’, mate? I’m out for a night with m’lady and you have the gall to grab at her while she’s eatin’ a meal in a public place. Are you mad?”
A crowd, eager for a fight, began to form around the pair.
Travis snarled. “You come in here, parading this little piece of fluff around with 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 get outta here and find something better to do. Like each other?”
With preternatural speed, Spike turned – grabbed Buffy by the shoulders, and with a roar of “Mine!” sank his fangs deep into her neck.