Crazy Eights – Chapter Seven – Queen For A Day
Finished with their meal, obviously charged to Spike’s chip, since the waiter never came back with a bill, 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 all 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 Crazy Eights and you know how they slay me when they get their groove thang on.’ I mean geeze…”
“Bloody hell,” Spike seethed. “You arrogant, ignorant prat. Haven’t you learned yet that it’s not all about humans? Look around you!” the irate vampire hissed, arms encompassing the dining area and a look of disdain worthy 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 the amount of self-control the volatile vampire had been exhibiting was waning rapidly, Buffy reached up in an attempt to rein him in and not draw any more attention to themselves.
“Spike, let it go,” she said, quietly, knowing he would hear her through his anger. “It’s meaningless, and we have more important things to deal with.”
Clenching his jaw until she could see the little muscle tic from tension, he rotated his neck enough to crack the vertebrae and he shook off his anger like a dog’s coat sheds water.
“One last 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 nor Red for that matter, and I’d prefer to save my fightin’ for when it counts.”
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” said the contrite brunet. “I was just fooling around, and I’ve never really given much thought to demons’ social lives. I’ll try and keep my opinions to myself, but I don't trust you. You can bet your scrawny white ass I'm gonna keep my eyes on you.”
Leading the way, Spike strode over to the stairwell at the end of the room. They descended the carpeted 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.”
“Buffy, I need you to mind me here – it’s obvious you’re known on sight, an’ I don’t want anyone getting ideas to use you as a wager or marker. Tonight, let me treat you like my Queen an’ show you off. 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 to do this?”
“No biting involved?”
“Not unless your life depends on it,” he said, solemnly.
Trepidation making her voice shaky, she looked into his beautiful blue eyes. “I trust you, Spike. I believe you. Let’s do this.”
Snaking his arm around her waist, he opened the door to the gameroom, and they all stepped inside.
Whereas the upstairs club had been tiled in black marble, downstairs sported the most plush wall to wall carpeting Buffy had ever seen. Beautiful dark ruby red in color with black flecks, in reverse of the tiles. 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.
Tables were spaced far apart, so each individual game would not intrude upon another. 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. Members had their chips on file, their needs and preferences available at the push of a button.
There was an undercurrent of excitement running through the room. The players were seriously into their games, but their enjoyment was noticeable.
Spike walked up to the croupier’s table, 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? Making out like you’re at a junior high make-out party.”
A waiter quickly appeared at the table, concerned at the angry display. Looking at the vampire, 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 brunet, he left the implied threat hanging in the air.
Once the waiter was out of earshot, Buffy turned to face her two friends across the table. “Xander, I know you think you’re defending my honor, or something, but don’t you think I’m more than capable of stopping Spike dead in his tracks if I was uncomfortable with what was going on?”
“Now, Buffy, sweetie – you know Xander means well. 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?” Willow asked, bewildered.
Spike leaned across the table, motioning everybody to lean in closer. “You stupid sods,” he ground out through gritted teeth. “This place is under surveillance at all times. For sure the waiters have to report back to whoever’s runnin’ the place.
“As for the Slayer’n me, we’re friends. Been friendly-like for a couple of years, an’ she trusts me to have her back. I won’t hurt ‘er. There’s ways of marking one’s territory, so to speak. I told you she needed to stay close to me, to be known as mine.”
He paused, an absolutely wolfish smirk forming as he looked directly into the brunet’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 ‘er, 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…”
“You’ll what? Beat me up? Stake me? You get to fucking try, boy, but I’m gonna give as good as I get. S’a promise you’ll never take lightly again.”
“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 in a soothing manner. “Let’s try and salvage some of what we came here to do – play and observe. We’ll just have to come back again, at another time. Preferably alone and when the place is closed for the day.”
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. “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 deal.
ETA: Now lovingly beta'd by my sweet willa_writes, who used a feather instead of the aforementioned machete... and showed me that posting at some ungodly hour is never a good idea (read: stupid, silly typos)