Crazy Eights – Chapter Three – Game of Spades
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. Where’re all the happy helpful today? Something came up that calls for a meeting of the Scooby kind.”
Looking up from his paperwork, Rupert Giles cast a concerned look in his Slayer’s direction. “What’s happened, Buffy? Have you come across some new demon we should know about?”
“Not a new demon, actually. An old one, or more accurately, a familiar one. It’s Spike. I ran into him last…”
Cutting her off mid-sentence, Giles face held a look of utter disdain. “How many times to I have to tell you, Buffy… that it’s not a good idea to ‘hang out’ as you say, with that bleached menace? Just because he’s not actively seeking to end your life like 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 you approve of me spending time with Spike is not the issue. What’s important here 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 in what way, Buffy,” the irate Watcher said. “He’s a vampire. If he gets into a scrape with another demon, 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.
“I’m trying to tell you that Spike was attacked. Brought down and beaten to within an inch of his unlife. You’re always telling me what an evil predator he is – strong and cunning enough to last over 120 years. So riddle me this – what can be strong enough or organized enough to take a Master Vampire out? And shouldn’t we worry about what that means for the rest of us?”
“All right, all right, Buffy. I’ll try and restrain myself from denigrating Spike out of hand unless it’s warranted,” he qualified.
“One question – were you at Spike’s crypt all evening? Your mother called, frantic with worry.”
“Yeah, I was there. He was really bad, Giles. I didn’t feel right leaving him unprotected overnight. He was so damaged.
“I did go home to let Mom know I was fine, and where I’d be. She’s got a soft spot where Spike is concerned,” she snickered. “Must be something in the Summers gene pool.”
“If you’re done singing the praises of the vampire admiration society, I assume you have an actual reason for coming here,” said the exasperated Watcher.
“Right – here’s the sitch: when I went looking for Spike’s duster, I found it and the surrounding area covered in playing cards. They were all the same suit – diamonds. When I asked him about the cards, he told me he had been to some new place called The Crazy Eights.
“He said he’d played poker and won pretty big, and that they weren’t all that keen on paying out his winnings. Oh! Spike said he swiped a deck of cards to keep 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 bars or clubs have them as toss-aways – advertising for their establishment. And yet you say there were loose cards tossed on the ground?”
“That’s the odd thing,” said Buffy. “He said when they were done beating him, they tossed the cards. But they weren’t the ones he stole. They’d obviously taken that deck back.
“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, like the location of this place. Just do me a favor – if you see any of the gang, ask if they’ve heard of The Crazy Eights.”
“All right, Buffy. Just be careful. Whoever attacked Spike might still be around.” No need to see her out, Giles was already immersed in his paperwork.
With her Watcher’s last words repeating in her ears, Buffy felt decidedly uneasy, and quickened her pace to the crypt.
Being cautious, she entered silently and looked around the upper level for signs of intruders. Seeing nothing awry, she climbed down to the lower level. Buffy let out a small sigh of relief upon seeing Spike asleep in his bed.
He’d obviously felt well enough to flip 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 to her. Leg, ribs, belly, shoulders and cheekbone had healed enough that movement didn’t jerk him awake with pain. All of the good.
Instead of flopping down on the bed beside him after what he’d been through – she thought it only wise to let him know she was there. Softly she called to him.
“Spike, can you wake up? I need to speak with you.”
Several incoherent words mumbled into his pillow and one vertebrae cracking stretch later, the sleepy vampire rolled over onto his side, his sheet slipping dangerously low on his hips. His not quite so badly bruised hips, Buffy noticed, cheeks flushing.
“C’mere, pet.” Patting the mattress beside him, he motioned for her to sit. “Won’t bite unless you ask, real nice.”
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 freed from the lacquer he uses to tame them, heavy-lidded eyes, pretty pink lips – and that damned, traitorous sheet. She could swear it was moving lower all the time. She stubbornly stifled the urge to wipe the drool that must be forming at the corners of her mouth.
Noting the Slayer’s hesitation, Spike frowned. Was he that damaged that she couldn’t believe what she was looking at? Did she feel he was contaminated by that filth and not worthy of her presence? He lowered his head, trying to diffuse the tension in the room.
“S’okay, luv. You don’t ‘ave to sit near me. M’all better now.” He reached for the sheet, pulling it around his body, and made to lie down again, his heart aching from what he deemed to be her rejection.
The movement of the sheet registered and snapped Buffy out of her daze. Rushing forward to sit on the bed, she gently gripped the upset vampire’s 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, the very relieved vampire sat up and enfolded the tiny blonde into a soft embrace. Eyes closed, breathing heavily due to the riot of emotions roiling through his slight frame, he murmured, “Thanks, Buffy – for caring enough to… for givin’ a damn about a lousy demon.”
Pulling back slightly from their embrace, she said, “Listen, Spike. I went to The Magic Box to ask Giles if he’s heard of this Crazy Eights place. I only 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 in finding out just what’s the what 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.”
“How can I refuse such a beautiful lady?” He smiled, obviously warming to the offer. “Be dark soon, and we can go. ‘Bout time to find out just what’s going on in Sunnyhell.”
Beta'd by the sweet tgray last minute at an ungodly hour! **smooches, pet**