Crazy Eights – Chapter Eight – Jack of All Trades
The rest of the evening passed without incident; with several rounds of beer helping to ease the tension between Spike and Xander. However, all four graciously refused the complimentary Yak Urine cocktails offered by the management, however.
Eventually, the desire to play poker wore thin and Xander and Willow were escorted home. Continuing on towards Revello Drive, no words were spoken between Slayer and Vampire.
Arriving at the porch steps, Buffy sat down, beckoning Spike to sit beside her. “Well that was interesting,” she said softly, staring straight ahead into the yard.
Awkward around the Slayer for the first time in years, Spike was torn between wanting to light up and wanting to pull her closer to him. The little act he’d put on in Crazy Eights had confused him as much as it’d angered the whelp. He ran a hand through his hair, releasing a few curls from their gelled restraint.
“Look, Buffy,” he began. “M’sorry if I made things difficult for you with your chums, earlier. I thought it would be better f’I could make staff and demonfolk alike believe the Slayer was my woman. Make you less of a target for the more opportunistic blokes.”
“It was fine, honest. I had no problems playing your Queen for the evening.” She smiled wickedly. “For a scrawny old vampire, you have a very comfy lap.”
“For someone barely out of nappies, pet, you need to work on respectin’ your elders.”
“Can I be Miss Mannersy tomorrow, Spike? I’m too tired at the moment to care,” she said, sidling over to the vampire, resting her head on his shoulder. “We’ve also gotta talk about what went on at Crazy Eights, and what our future plans are. Being more awake would help, though.”
Finally finding something to do with his arm, he encircled Buffy’s slight shoulders, relishing the feel of her body heat against him. They sat quietly side by side, listening to the crickets chirp and relaxing into each other in a rare moment of utter peace.
Their contemplative mood was broken moments later, by the internationally recognized sign for stay out daughters – the flashing porch-light.
“Oh she has so got to be kidding.” Buffy mumbled into Spike’s leather duster. “What am I – twelve?”
“S’alright, luv.” He stood, offering his hand to help her rise from the step. “Let’s go inside and make Mum happy.”
With a quick roll of her eyes, Buffy acquiesced and allowed herself to be pulled to standing.
Joyce’s eyes sparkled with suppressed mirth as she puttered around the kitchen, studiously ignoring her scowling daughter and Spike as they settled into chairs at the table.
“Don’t be angry, Sweetie. I couldn’t resist a little teasing,” Joyce laughed. “It’s not often I see you with a boy, much less have the honor of playing ‘Chaperone!Mom.’ You have to allow me some leeway here.”
Her scowl turned into a pout, then a small wistful smile. “I get it, Mom, really. It’s not very normal for either of us.” She sighed, “What with me and slaying, and you worrying, and then me and vampires and NOT slaying but bringing them home… okay then, I can deal with the porch light. Just not too often.”
Vampire stealth working to his advantage, Spike crept up behind the petite blonde’s chair and gently jabbed his fingers into her sides, just under her ribs.
“Oi, pet – I better not hear of you bringing any other vampires home with you. S’not a good habit to get into.”
Giggling, Buffy said, “No worries, Spike – you’re the last little Pound Puppy Vamp I’m inviting in. It takes too much time and trouble to housebreak a new one.”
With a definite growl coming from the vampire, the chase was on. Out of the kitchen, through the dining room and livingroom, up the stairs and down. Buffy letting out a high shriek each time Spike got close enough for another poke or pinch. They ended up on the couch in front of the television. Spike sprawled against the back cushions, legs splayed wide; Buffy sat next to him, legs folded underneath her, head resting against his shoulder once more.
Spike rifled through the channels, not pausing more than five seconds on any channel, and within fifteen minutes, both had fallen fast asleep.
Joyce paused by the couch on her way up to bed long enough to drape an afghan over the sleeping figures of her daughter and the vampire.
“Only my daughter,” she thought. “One vampire to pine and mope after, and another vampire to play tag with and sleep next to. Fat grandchildren just don’t seem to be in my future.”
As she climbed the stairs to her bedroom, a slight smile played over her lips. ‘At least she’s managed to find someone to share a few moments happiness with,’ she thought, ‘Someone to share her burden and watch out for her. Decent compensation for the loss of future grandchildren.’
Buffy awoke to the sound of chirping birds in a blind panic. Daylight! She relaxed almost immediately when she noticed her mother must have pulled the draperies closed, to protect the sleeping vampire pillow beneath her.
‘Gotta thank the all-purpose Mom – she of the blanket gathering, vampire protecting variety,’ she thought, as she poked the aforementioned pillow in the ribs. ‘Or not,’ as he managed to unseat her from the couch in a flurry of flailing limbs when he startled awake.
“Not wise to poke a sleeping vamp, luv,” he mumbled, torn between getting up and burrowing back underneath the afghan, soaking up the body heat she’d left behind.
“Some vampire you are,” she snickered. “If you were back in your crypt, you’d be fair pickings for any demon wanting to take you out. Or a Slayer.”
“Luv, if I were in my crypt, I wouldn’t have had such a lovely warm body to cuddle up with, and I’d never have allowed myself the luxury of falling so deeply asleep. Vicious natural predator here with excellent survival skills.”
Watching him as he arched his back in a full body stretch, eyes closed, platinum blond hair in tufts and soft ringlets framing his face, he looked more like a sleepy little boy than a man eating beast.
The sound of the garbage truck broke her out of her viewing pleasure, and a quick glance at the cable box told Buffy she was already late for class.
“Damn, not even time for breakfast,” she grumped. “Spike, Mom’s already left for work, and I’ve barely got time to take a quick birdbath and grab a snack on the way to class. There’s blood in the fridge and if you go out, just leave me a note on the desk.” A quick ruffle to the blond tufts of hair sticking out from the afghan Spike had burrowed under, and Buffy was gone for the day.
Several hours later, Spike unfurled his limbs from his knitted cocoon and rose from the couch. Not a morning person by habit, he knew there were things that needed his attention that had to be accomplished during the daylight hours.
As he ambled up the stairs to take advantage of a long, leisurely hot shower, he let loose with a chortle. Buffy mentioned something about a birdbath, and he was struck with the image of the girl sitting naked in a marble pedestal bath, splashing herself with a large pair of white wings.
“Bloody hell, someone needs to get laid, mate,” he said aloud, as he stepped into the shower stall. A perfunctory lathering of his hair and body took care of the personal hygiene issue, and a few quick strokes of a soapy hand took the edge off another issue. He dried himself quickly, dressed and went downstairs to heat some blood for breakfast.
Sitting at the table, sipping his blood from the black and red “Kiss the Vampire” mug Joyce had picked up for him, Spike mapped out a course of action.
He had a general idea of what he wanted to accomplish – hit the sewer tunnels to see if he could intimidate any of the local demons into coughing up some new information on the club, scare up anything about beaten or missing demons. There was no way he’d been the only demon singled out for the club’s smash and bash special. Then, the Magic Box. Hopefully the Watcher had found out something useful. He had a sinking feeling that he and Buffy would need to visit Crazy Eights once more as a couple, during peak operating hours.
The idea stressed him out more than he was willing to admit. The longer he had that chip in his hand, the more nervous he got. He was so on edge, he was ready to rip the bugger out with his own fangs. Shaking his hand as if the movement alone would be sufficient to dislodge the chip, he could swear he felt it sending out little charges of electricity skittering up and down his arm, creeping ever closer to his head.
“Grow a pair, you stupid berk,” he growled “Just one more night and that chip is gone, even if I have to lose the hand.”
Leaving Buffy a note on the desk as she’d asked, he headed for the door, lifted the duster over his head and made the mad dash to the manhole in broad daylight.
He stalked the tunneled infrastructure beneath the streets of Sunnydale. Every now and then he'd come across pockets of vampire and other demons, and would grill them about Crazy Eights.
Some were outwardly hostile - his preference for working with the Slayer did not sit well with everyone. They called him traitor and coward to his face. Those that survived were threatened with nightly raids by said Slayer. There were definitely some advantages to having friends in high places; all sixty two deliciously powerful inches of her, and Spike wasn’t afraid to flaunt the fact.
Spike stretched his metaphoric wings as he went about his business. He might have chosen to stop hunting for his meals, and he had deliberately partnered himself to the Slayer – it didn’t make him any less of a bad ass amongst his own kind.
Vamps weren’t known for loyalties outside of their own clans, and the Big Bad had no problems terrorizing any demon he came across. Just a little indulgence he allowed himself. It felt good to be feared, even if regaining Mastery of Sunnydale no longer held any appeal for him.
‘Less than a handful of missing demons reported by those he confronted – quite possibly attributed to the Slayer’s nightly patrols and nothing to raise any alarms by themselves,’ thought Spike. ‘Might as well see what old Rupes has to say for himself.’
He found himself directly under the Magic Box, grateful that the demon Mayor had the forethought to build Sunnyhell on such an intricate tunnel system. Another nod to the friends in high places bit.
Climbing up the ladder to the Magic Box’s storage basement and then to the upper level of the store proper, Spike announced himself in his typically singular fashion.
“Oi, Rupes! Need to have a talk ‘bout what’s going on. Where the bloody hell are you, git?”
If he had needed to breathe, he’d have been sore pressed for oxygen at that moment. Caught unawares, he found himself slammed up against one of the shop’s bookcases.
“Vampire,” hissed the irate shopowner, both fists full of Spike’s t-shirt in his clenched fists. “Talking to you is the last thing I want to do.” Banging Spike’s head against the bookcase for emphasis, he continued. “How dare you molest Buffy in a public place and threaten to bite her?”
Comprehension dawned. Easily breaking the Watcher’s hold, he flipped them around and held Giles’ hands over his head. Gameface sliding into place, fangs lengthening, Spike stood nose to nose with his adversary.
“So, you’ve had a visit from the little boy, have you? And you believe that I would endanger Buffy’s life in the middle of a demon club. Threatening to spill her blood amongst all manner of beasties who would try to take her from me? Are you off your nut, Rupert?
“If you want to know what happened, all you have to do is ask me. I’ve been trying to show you lot for years m’not a danger to any of you. Don’t happen to like you, but doesn’t mean I’m out to do harm.”
The little bell over the door announced the presence of a potential customer, but Spike had not backed off, nor dropped gameface.
“Spike, would you mind telling me why you’re all fangy and grrr? And why you’re all pressed up against my Watcher?”
Relaxing marginally, he shed his gameface as he looked into the eyes of a mildly annoyed Slayer.
“Sorry, luv – you missed the pre-show where old Ripper came out to play. For some reason, he believes I ravaged you on the floor of Crazy Eights and threatened to drink you dry for good measure.
“Let him go, Spike. I’m sure we can all sit down and straighten out this mess.”
With a final growl for good measure, the vampire stormed away and sat down on the stairs leading up to the second level of the store.
“I told you before, Slayer. That stupid git’s gonna shoot off his mouth one time too many, and I won’t be held responsible for drainin’ him.”
“You’re not helping your case, Spike,” said Giles. “I’m sorry for jumping to conclusions, but I’ve never known Xander to out and out lie before. I certainly trust his word over yours, and I know for a fact that he’s quite protective of Buffy.”
“Little shit’s just sorry she won’t drop her knickers for him. He’s jealous of anyone within sniffing distance.
“Truth here is real simple. Slayer and I acted the part of Vampire and Consort. I knew it would offer her almost as much protection as a claiming bite, and that I wouldn’t touch a fang to her pretty neck unless it was to save her life.
“Princess here sat on my lap, pretty as you please. We nuzzled necks and noses which made privacy easier in a room full of vampires and… and it bloody well felt good! You know, you can take your opinion and stuff it. Go believe the whelp and I’ll find someone else to research this chip for me.”
“Giles, this would be so much easier if you’d just listen once in awhile. If Spike had done something I wasn’t comfortable with, I would have defended myself. Slayer here, vampire there. He was a perfect gentleman, and asked me if I’d be comfortable following his lead before he acted.
“Personally, I’d be more worried about the chip the club uses, than the status of my virtue. There must be plenty of ‘em implanted in demons and humans all over Sunnydale, not to mention all those out of town players. We need to know what they do and how they’re activated, and what the club plans to use them for. No way are they simple members only passes.”
Focusing on the still agitated vampire, she said, “Spike, I’ve been thinking about this all day. As much as it makes me uncomfortable, I think we need to go back to the club once more before you try and deactivate that chip. I’m sure we’ll be able to mingle a little better if it’s just you and me.”
“We can go this evening,’ Slayer. Been thinking along those lines as well. In the meantime, if Watcher-boy can keep his knickers from twisting, I’d like to see if there’s anything that can be stolen from a human or demon through a conduit. As much as I’m concerned about the one I’ve been tagged with, I’m a little worried about what the club wants with all this information from all these folk. S’not kosher.”
Giles sighed. “All right, Spike. We can do this. You’ve raised some interesting points about the size of this whole operation. Since you’ve a number of hours before the club is open for business, let’s see what we can find.”
ETA: Fully beta'd by willa_writes, and all the better for it! **smooches** luv!