Anne looked at the exhibit box with some satisfaction. She and her son, William, had been working on it for the past few weeks. It was to be a present for her nephew on his tenth birthday. He had a penchant for collecting insects and this display box would be the perfect gift.
Carefully, she slid the glass panes into each of its ten compartments. It could sit open on his shelf proudly displaying five collections on each side and still fold neatly into a single case complete with a handle for carrying. Contented with their efforts, she folded it up into its compact form and engaged the latch.
She had made a felt and satin cover for the box, colorfully embroidered with various butterflies, beetles and bugs. It sat on the arm of her chair near the fireplace. As she rose to retrieve it, the coughing began. It was a bad spell this day; by the time she reached the chair, there was blood all through her kerchief and she could do nothing but try to catch her breath and slump into it.
She would have to remember to hide the kerchief in her sewing basket and replace it from the supply of fresh ones she kept there, before William arrived home. She did not like to distress her son with her ailments and bloody kerchiefs were always most distressing; making him want to send straight away for Doctor Gull. They both knew he could do nothing for her but make her comfortable and ease his concerns a bit.
After a time, she heard the key in the lock of the door downstairs. “William, is that you,” she said as loudly as she could. The coughing spells often taking her voice, it sounded to her as if she had croaked it, but he had heard. She heard his reply drift up the stairs ahead of him. Hurriedly, she slid the soiled kerchief into the sewing basket and tucked its successor into the pocket of her skirt.
“Yes, it’s me. I’m sorry for arriving home so late. I got carried away with the presses.” His words were interspersed with the sounds of his coming up the stairs.
“I hope your day was pleasant, Mother,” he said to her with a smile, as he entered the parlor.
“It was,” she replied, “...and yours?”
“Uneventful,” he said.
“Molly left supper warming on the stove for us before I dismissed her for the evening,” Anne said.
“I shall accompany you to dinner, then,” he said extending a bent arm to her with a chivalrous flourish and helping her rise from the chair.
“And you shall tell me all about those scoundrel presses trying to carry you away from me,” she said teasingly.
“I shall,” he laughed, “...I shall indeed.” William escorted his mother to the dining room and they had an enjoyable evening meal.
As was their custom, they retired back to the parlor for coffee. Anne busied herself with her stitching and William read the evening papers.
Rising from his chair, William deposited the newspaper on the table, noticing the exhibit box there, he commented, “I see you have been working on Georgie’s box. Is it finished yet?”
“Yes, except for the cover,” she said gathering it from its resting place on the arm of the chair and handing it to him. “Would you, please.”
He walked to her chair and took the cover. “I shall, he said, “...and I have that jar of specimens I told him I would collect for him, his ‘London Lepidoptera.’ I will fix them in this evening, so it will all be ready when Aunt Gwen arrives.”
“I hate that part so,” she said. “I think that it must hurt them to spend their eternity so harshly pinned to a display.”
“They are dead, Mother. Dead things don’t feel,” he said trying to comfort her. Sometimes he thought his mother to be yearning for her days in Bengal; the notion that bugs have feelings about how they spend eternity seeming so eastern to him, like sacred cows and such. I should take her back there before...she would love it so...sometimes, I miss it too...he thought, though he knew her health would not permit the trip.
“I will take care pinning them to our gift,” he said.
“I know you will.”
“Would you like for me to fix the fire before I attend to it,” he asked thoughtfully, “...there is a chill in the air.”
“No. No, I think I shall retire. I am weary,” she said tucking her stitching into the sewing basket and adeptly secreting the soiled kerchief into the bag she would take upstairs with her.
“Good night, then,” he said leaning in to kiss her cheek as he had done every night since he returned home to her. He helped her up from the chair. “Take care on the stairs,” he added.
“I shall and good night to you as well, don’t stay up too late...skewering...the specimens.”
“I won’t,” he promised. He straightened the parlor and collected the box and its cover before he went to the study; it was just enough time to hear her bedroom door shut. Knowing that she was safely up the stairs and in bed, he could breathe easier. He had missed eight years of their lives as son and mother while on the plantations with his father and had been trying to make up for it ever since he’d returned to England.
More and more each day, he could see the colour in her face turn as grey as the London skies and it troubled him. He knew that death was inevitable for us all, but he did not have to like it.
He took the box and the jar of specimens into the study and prepared to mount them. Arranging several of the moths on the backing, he pinned them on. He needed one particularly handsome specimen to be the focal point of the display. All of the large ones were less than adequate; they were rather plain and of common variety. It was a somewhat small one that ultimately caught his eye with luminous blue and green wings.
“You’re a pretty one, “he said aloud as he collected it from the pile on the desk.
William laid it out on the backing and carefully pinned one wing.
The shriek startled him so much that his rapid rise sent the chair skidding across the hardwood floor. He had never before heard anything like the sound it made, akin to a scream resonating from within the very core. It was not exceptionally loud, being proportionate with the size of the specimen, but it was profound and impassioned.
The cyan wings flapped frantically against the backing of the box. William hastily unpinned the tiny greenwing and it promptly flew in spirals upward, seemingly to look him in the face, fluttering and vocalizing. He had to swat at it. It kept flying in his face and around his ears all the way to the window.
Once he had flung open the window, the tiny scrapper promptly fluttered away leaving William in a fog. He stood dazed at the open window. Perhaps there was too much cyanide in the specimen jar, he thought, trying to rationalize what had occurred...Mother was right; it is too late for skewering.
Georgie’s gift could wait for another day, he was going to bed.
Oddly enough, he would smell camellia blossoms in his dreams this night.
“She doesn’t look like much,” Rudy swanked, in louder than his usual annoying voice, deliberately trying to goad. “A little past her prime, I’d say, not as fresh as most. They say this one’s got, oh, how should I put it,” he paused for effect checking for reaction from the target of his taunts, “…bit of an unusual technique.” Wax, Jake, Sami and the others sniggered quietly in the corner. The females of the gang shushed them wanting to settle down and get some sleep.
The Navoxnova bristled in its chrysalis poking out a feeler for more sensory input as if listening.
“They say she likes it cold, dead, and from the quality of our company,” he puffed up even more. “I’d say she must like it more Mick than Limey…”
Spike was on him before he could finish the word, slamming him to the floor. Rudy flinched when his skull hit the concrete.
“Don’t,” he knocked the younger vamps head on the floor again, with force, as if needing the extra emphasis to his snarled words.
“Insult,” the third bash cracked bone against concrete.
“The Lady, “ blood sprayed into the pores of the cement.
“Ever,” vertebrae dislocated popping audibly.
“Again.” He punctuated his last word with a thrust that bounced Rudy off the floor, sending him rolling for cover, clutching his throbbing head.
This Blog space reserved.
Spike crumbled the cigarette pack and threw it in the back. He searched the console for the spare pack, finding it under a myriad of junk. Gotta clean this heap out, he thought. The spare held one lone and crumbly specimen; that was enough.
He checked one pocket then another for a lighter, finally finding one. He tried it but it would not light. …really hate disposables, he thought.
After several unsuccessful thumb wrenching tries and one flying flint it joined the credit and debit cards and the crumpled pack on the floor of the back seat. He let out a scoffing sigh.
Buffy reached deep into her jeans pocket. She handed him the lighter. He took it and lit the cigarette, then started to hand it back to her when he noticed the nick on the bottom edge.
He flipped the lighter upside down in his one free hand and examined the bottom carefully, trying to keep one eye on the road. He looked at the dent on the one side and the scratch on the top. This was his lighter. He hadn't seen it since... Wait a minute; she has had it all this time, must have taken it with her when we went through the seal to face the First. He thought about the implications of that and almost ran another light.
He glanced sideways at her, hoping she would not see. She didn't, she was busy trying to hold back the tears by looking out the side window, completely avoiding him. That's good...he thought. I don't have to worry about her seeing me.
She looked over at him with her best 'I'm not crying I'm just very upset and angry face' and held out her hand for the lighter.
She wants it back, what's that mean... His eyes met hers for a moment before he hurriedly looked back to the road in front of them.
He couldn't stay mad at her, well, he could, but not as mad as he wanted to be. He handed it back to her, his hand lingering in hers a lot longer than, or not as long as, he intended it to, he wasn't sure. They both looked out their respective side windows for a moment then he had to remember to drive. It was very quiet for the rest of the ride.
At least he gets a good parking space…Buffy thought as they pulled into the emergency room parking lot. She was more or less numb from the day’s events. I’m about to get out of this car and do what, wait in some hospital waiting room while he…wow, too much, too much to grasp right now…need a demon to slay…plenty of demons here, just none I can deal with. Do I really want this…? She looks at the man in the driver’s seat about to get out of the car and knows the answer. Yeah…I do… the heat of the day had not dissipated, she was hot and sticky and very bothered in more ways than she wanted to think about.
“You gonna stay out here,” he asked, “…gonna be a while, air conditioned
Reluctantly she got out of the car and followed him across the ambulance
The emergency room was fuller than she had expected it to be, not that she had ever made a habit of noticing emergency room occupancy before…hell, it was always my emergency when I was in Sunnydale Memorial’s: either me or potentials or Dawn or Tara or Mom…had it go there, didn’t I… and same in Europe… at least they have music here.
She grabbed a rumpled two year old copy of Cosmopolitan off the nearest end table and looked around for a seat; the only unoccupied one was between the sticky over-active toddler and his very…very…pregnant mother and the old guy with the oozy toe.
The loud speaker crackled faintly … Doctor Randal to recovery room six stat…then resumed its music …want your leather studded kiss in the sand…Gaga!…God, does it have to be that one… she thought as the toddler smeared spit covered lollipop over the empty seat she had been eying…want your bad, bad…
Spike finished talking with the triage nurse on duty and looked over to her standing there, then to the overcrowded, rather germy looking waiting room and cocked his head for her to follow him through the triage doors.
Ooh la la, watch out for romance… He held the swinging door open waiting; she took the magazine with her.
The elevator ride was silent except for the ‘rah rah’s.’
“Hello Nance,” he said to the nurse on duty at the desk.
“’Bout time, Spike,” the attractive auburn haired woman said handing him the clipboards with a smile that was absolutely salacious, “…full house; rooms one and two are ready whenever you are, three’s still in emergency, be another hour at least.”
“Three, dealin' em in spades tonight are we? Sorry, Love, you caught me out and about.”
“Nance, this is Buffy, the ER’s a bit crowded, ya mind?”
“No, got the desk to myself tonight, Roland’s off and Kelly and Kim have the floor, I could use the company.” She turned her attention to Buffy, “Buffy, was it,” she glanced to Spike for confirmation on the name; he nodded almost imperceptively, still going over the clipboards. “Hi, I’m Nancy Porter, there’s a waiting room down the hall, the light switch is on the left. No coffee though, we turn it off after visiting hours. You can stay out here if you want. I could really use the company after I get these orders in the computer and I’ve got a fresh pot on back here, just help yourself.” She nodded towards a little alcove at the end of the counter.
Spike looked up from the clipboards, “Kev’s here, again?” He asked with dismay, putting the other clipboards on the desk.
“Yeah, you missed the two times he’s been here since you last saw him.”
“Boy should just check himself in to the morgue, he keeps this up,”Spike slid the other clipboards across the desk to her. Nancy shrugged and sighed in
Buffy was pretty sure she should not be listening, patient privacy issues and all, and tried to busy herself with the outdated magazine as she sat on the bench across from the nurse’s station.
“Gonna be a long night, Pet,” he said to her, “…I can call Cisco to come get you, if you don’t want to stay?”
Buffy quickly shook her head and re-busied herself with the tattered magazine. That was your last chance out, you stupid, dumb…bint… she thought, ruffling the pages…now you’re stuck here with Florence-un-buckling-his-belt– with-her-eyes-Nightingale…besides…How to Understand Your Man, page 127…really need to read that one. Surprising herself, she actually read the article, it didn’t help, and the next one ‘Twelve Things You Can do With Your Tongue That Will Make Him Scream’; twenty minutes later she was bored nearly to tears and could think of at least six more.
“You’re the one, aren’t you?” Florence, er, Nancy asked her.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“You are his disclosure,” she said with certainty and the smuggest smile Buffy had seen since Sunnydale caved-in.
“Never mind,” she said filling her cup from the coffee pot in the alcove, “…employee privacy, not supposed to talk about it but everybody does.”
Buffy’s look of total confusion made her chuckle sending a wisp of steam up from her cup as she sipped it.
“What do you mean?” Buffy asked her curiosity piqued.
“It’s just unusual, on the employment application,” she sipped again offering Buffy a cup, “…they ask have you ever been convicted of, suspected of, or perpetrated a crime: robbery, felony assault,” she emphasized the last, stirring her coffee intently.
Buffy decided she would have that coffee after all.
“For his job, well, you usually don’t mark yes. I mean, the convenience store knock off, sure, he wasn’t convicted, he pleaded out and it never went to trial, but in his position, even if you were Chester the Molester, you don’t disclose it on the application unless there was a record of it on file somewhere that could be reviewed, proved, and you sure as hell don’t disclose an ‘attempted’ there was never a record of, not if you actually want the job anyway. So, you’re her, you’re his disclosure, have to be with the way he looks at you.”She concluded with another sip.
“And you got this all off his application,” Buffy asked.
“No, he just talks a lot over…” she stared at the dregs in her cup, looking up; she continued”…hot chocolate actually.”
Buffy looked at her and suddenly thought of little marshmallows.
“And, come on,” Nancy said refilling her cup, “… every single female on the floor this side of dead and a few of the guys too, would kill to get that look out of him; the one he has when he looks at you.”
“So he does a lot of socializing with the staff here,” she asked fanning the hot coffee.
No, not really, maybe a little, a lot of small talk mostly. I think he really doesn’t like all the attention he gets, with the eyes…”
“And the hair,” Buffy added.
“And the accent,” Nancy went on.
“And the abs,” Buffy sighed.
“Yeah, that too,” the nurse inquired.
Buffy nodded sheepishly.
“I’m really impressed. Practically every young thing fresh out of candy stripes tries to make a play for him. He talks with a few of us more personally, he’s sort of our sexy matty mystery man; good to talk to, great as a friend, anything more and they say he’s a little… cold.
Buffy’s eyes grew large until she realized that wasn’t what she had meant. Nancy laughed at her expression and then Buffy did too.
“He's really good at what he does you know. He did me a few years ago when my ex went on the rampage; there I was all blaming myself and wanting nothing but to go back to him.”
“What exactly does he do,” she asked.
“Listens mostly, talks to them, recommends programs, and gives a preliminary evaluation to the shrinks and the cops.”
Sounds a lot like what he does at the Mission… Buffy thought.
They had a good girl talk until number three was ready to be brought up. Nancy excused herself when Roland popped in with the proverbial clipboard for her to enter into the computer. Spike popped back in as well. Buffy thought Nancy’s smile was salacious; Roland’s had redefined the word. Was he checking out Spike’s ass on his way out? Hell yes he was.
“Good to see you two getting on,” he said a bit surprised at the fact and looking really tired. He opened the cabinet under the coffee alcove and asked,
“Nance, you got any…”
“No, all out, it’s on the list, “she said apologetically, “… coffee’s good though.”
“Thanks, Love,” he grabbed a cup off the stack and poured a cup Taking a sip, he asked Buffy, you okay, Pet, still got two to go, not too late to call for a ride?”
“No, I’m good.”
He swapped clipboards and headed back to work.
Buffy and Nancy talked again after the data was entered, then Buffy headed to the darkened waiting room to curl up for a quick nap.
"Something wrong at the Mission?" Buffy asked.
"No, but we gotta go. I'll explain on the way," he motioned to the waitress.
"Yeah, yeah,” the peppy waitress said, "...know the drill. Puppy box coming up." He slid the credit card on to the tray and flashed an obviously forced smile as she loaded it with their plates.
He lifted his glass but found it empty. Spying hers, he reached across and helped himself to a hefty draught of it making a face at the sweetness of the amaretto.
“Hey,” she said wondering what it was that was making him all bad moody, “…I'm not the one driving, so don’t be getting yourself all…influenced."
"One drink, vampire constitution, I'm fine," he snapped, sliding out of the booth. “Let’s go.”
Rhonda packed up their meals and even salvaged the rest of the appetizers which she handed to Buffy in a styrofoam container on their way out the door.
“Is this something Slayer-y or can I eat now?” Buffy asked after fastening her seatbelt. “I mean, what could possibly be so important to merit a page at 11:22 on a Friday night.”
“Have at it, Love,” he said, searching the CD pocket on the visor, obviously looking for something. “…and not exactly gonna put in for the day turn, don’t fancy turning into a big pile of dust cause it's a nice day in Northridge, Pet.”
He flipped down the visor and all the papers from earlier, his and hers, scattered.
“This what you’re looking’ for?” Buffy asked, wiping sauce from the food container it had landed in off of it. Another badge, she strained to look at it under the Saab’s dim courtesy light. William P. Hartleigh, State of California, Dept. of Human Services, Certified Crisis Counselor, she stared at it in the dim light, not quite believing her eyes.
“You’re a f**king rape councilor?” She blurted out, not knowing if it was the fact that surprised her more or her reaction to it.
“S-sometimes,” was all he could manage without an awkwardly long pause. “There’s more to it than that,” he said fumbling with the pile of paper that had suddenly acquired a life of its own.
“Over compensating a little aren't we?”
“No, yeah…no, maybe…I dunno… didn't want to go there yet,” he mumbled under his breath still trying to collect the rental paperwork that now cluttered the floor of the driver’s side, succeeding only in having the bulk of it slip beneath the pedals.
“Hand me the torch, would you,” he asked, “…it’s in the glove compartment.”
She opened it and began rummaging through its contents.
“Buffy,” he began after a long breath “…I can’t say as I don’t know why…I know why, can give you a thousand reasons why…
“Thought you didn’t want to go there,” she fairly snapped at him. She knew the why…figured that out long time ago, sometime between the time you ran out of the bathroom and Xander came in. But she still couldn't help the scowl she was now giving him.
“Can I please finish before you give me the face?” He said calmly. “That’s really cheating you know.”
She gave a shrug and an eye roll and returned to searching the glove compartment intently. Don’t really wanna go there either, she thought.
“What I still don’t know is,” he went on, “really…why I didn’t.”
“Oh, what, you wish you had raped me?” She asked angrily.
“No, that’s not what I…” he sighed and shook his head, discouraged. “And no, it’s not overcompensating, getting the…” Just stop talking now, Spike, you’re in deep enough as it is.
Finally finding the flashlight, she hands it to him; their fingertips touching briefly as they had many years ago and the memories came pouring as if only moments had passed since.
You were going to use a spell on me…it wasn't for you…I wanted something…anything to make these feelings stop…I just wanted it to stop …I have feelings for you…I do…but it's not love…I could never trust you enough for it to be love…I know you felt it ... when I was inside you...gonna make you feel it…ask me again why I could never love you...Buffy, my God, I…because I stopped you...something I should have done a long time ago.
Words, memories came flooding in, loose-ing a hoard of personal demons she’d thought she’d slain long ago.
He’d felt them too; but for him, they were all too familiar, demons he lived with every day.
“Look I …”
“No,” she stopped him, “…you were right … let’s just not go there…yet, okay. Neither one of us is ready for it. “After a few calming breathes she added “…besides, Slayer here.” She stared out the window as he started the car and pulled out.
Uneasy silence was a demon she had grown accustomed to over the years from her friends, her family, herself, and now it was here in the car threatening to choke them. She had to say something soon or she knew the demon was gonna win.
“I just don’t get it,” she said calmly…trying, really trying here.
“Had to earn my keep…what you think the monks just let me stay there out of the goodness of their hearts”… God! Could you have said anything lamer than that, Willie-boy, they run a Bloody mission for God’s, sake. “They put me to work.”
“So you’re Mister Social Worker Vampire now?”
“It sure as hell wasn’t my idea, I mean it’s what they do…well, on top of the demons and such…” he trailed off. ”County of Los Angeles had a lot to do with it too.”
She crinkled her face in curiosity.
“The handcuffs,” he referred back to their small talk earlier over dinner, which now seemed like days ago to her, ”… Sebastian got me out and got me off with community service.”
“To be served at the Mission,” she said, “…convenient.” She wished she'd asked Rhonda for a plastic cup for the drink before they left the restaurant, she could so use it right about now.
“Just saying… I pay my debts. Can’t say as I fancied changing beds and doing laundry for the rest of my un-life, and gets Bloody boring just manning the desk, anything else…”
“Requires a degree in social services; behavioral science.” William the Bloody… scourge of Europe…slayer of Slayers… “They sent you to school.”
“More like sent school to me, on-line, great for the sunlight impaired.
Had to intern to get all the credits, never took m'self off the list, I guess. Besides, after tonight didn't think you'd bitch so much about something I actually get paid for.”
“You seem to work enough at the Mission.”
“Don’t actually get paid for that. I mean, there’s a stipend, not much, goes right back to the coffers, Love.”
Saint Spike…can I heave now? “Guess if it pays the parking tickets.”
“That it does,” he conceded, “…that and data processing, paper work for the state.” Even he was embarrassed at that.
She let out a “K-heh” and tried to stifle a laugh.
“You laughing at me?” he asked. “You are laughing at me.”
“No!” She said adamantly, trying so hard not to let the sheer hilarity of it show and nearly dumping the forgotten food container all over the floor and dashboard in the process.
“Worse'n wearing a dozy cow-hen on your head.” He murmured.
It all made sense so, maybe she could deal. The Big Bad gets anymore goody-goody and I don’t think I can stand it!
“If that’s how you get your money now, guess it beats the hell out of kitten poker.”
“Still play,” he said, “…and the regular kind too and this is part-time only three or four nights a month, when nobody else is available, not like its every day.”
"So, how's everybody...the Scooby's," Spike asked once they had settled into the booth.
Buffy shrugged. "Umh...Willow's a mom now."
"Yeah!" Spike was surprised yet happy for her, "...how'd she manage that, she still...she still with Kennedy?"
"Off and on, with Kennedy, so they say, and sperm donor, I guess...really don’t know. Tara Rose, she’s...almost five now. Kennedy spends most of her time away, South America, Asia and Australia."
"Wil’d make a good mum," he chuckled a little,"...and Xander?"
"He’s doing okay, has a small construction business on the side, but mostly he helps Giles run the place. I guess he and Faith are sorta together, off and on, when she’s here. She’s in charge of the east coast squad; they’re based out of Boston."
"And Anya," he asked wondering where she was in all this.
"You didn’t know? No, how could you know. Bringers got her; she didn’t make it out of the High School."
"Sorry, Love. I didn’t know. How’d the boy take it?"
She shrugged again. "He was tore up, wouldn’t admit it, but a few months later, the calls...it was pretty bad, but he...”
"Don’t say ’got over it’, Pet," Spike commented.
"I won’t, he didn’t."
"Giles," Spike asked changing the subject.
"Giles is...Giles. Overworked."
"You said you two weren’t that close anymore, what happened," he asked.
"You know what happened."
Spike hoped that was not the real reason, but her eyes said that it was.
"I’m sorry," he said with a heavy sigh.
"It’s not your fault," she said.
"Yeah, how’d you figure that," he asked knowing a lot of the distance between the two was because of him. "Buffy, you need him, he’s more your dad..."
"...than my Dad," she finished for him. "Yeah. I know. Wasn’t just that, I mean…he knew and he didn’t tell me. There’s been a lot of that and not all of it lately."
"I’m sorry," he whispered and nursed a sip of his drink. "What about the little boy, Andrew," he inquired after a slightly uncomfortable silence.
"Uh, he’s still with us...work in progress," she said. They both had a faint laugh. "Actually, he really does a lot to keep us all together."
"He has L.A., about thirty to forty girls. I’m surprised you two haven’t..."
"No, we haven’t. Most of the Slayerettes I’ve run across ...well, they’re pretty much...rogue."
"Yeah, seems to be an issue," she said quickly under her breath. She was getting tired of talking shop and was ready for a topic change.
Slowly she leaned close and kissed him. He felt her tongue slip between his lips and glide across the edges of his teeth.
After a prolonged moment of wondering if she tasted like sweet almond or cyanide, he pulled away, deciding on both with a hint of wormwood: intoxicating, addictive and deadly, and simply looked at her.
"Was that confusing," she asked. "I can clarify it," once again she leaned close and he did as well.
A little later, the sound of plates being set on the table broke the spell of the moment.
Spike took a sip of his drink and exhaled slowly, with the second sip he downed it.
"You okay," Buffy asked taking a sip of hers.
"Too fast," he said his voice hoarse from the straight whiskey or the kiss or both.
"That’s what you get when you slam it," she commented reaching for one of the empty appetizer plates and a fork. She started poking at the hot selection of goodies on the platter that had appeared on the table a few minutes ago while they were preoccupied.
"No, not the drink," he said still raspy, vocal cords still stinging, "...long time." He cleared his throat and reached for the other plate.
She looked at him with a little half smile and said, "yeah, right." There was more than a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
"No...really," he said cutting his eyes toward her as he speared a shrimp.
"Really," she asked with sincere surprise.
"Well, yeah," He said.
She laughed. “You mean, seven years and you haven’t…” Buffy began popping half a spring roll into her mouth.
“Not even once,” she questioned, “…with anybody? “
“Well…half,” he added quickly turning his attentions back to the plate of appetizers.
Buffy noticed his evasive shifts in position, the subtle sullenness of his tone and she couldn’t resist it, an opportunity to make him uncomfortable, like manna from heaven …must be the Slayer in me that makes me jump on every opportunity to torture him, neah…he’s just so cute when he squirms.
“Half,” she said carefully timing her next tidbit for maximum effect and almost losing the entire mouthful in the process. “What do you mean half…” she paused, “there is no half. You either did or didn’t.”
He wobbled his head slightly and scoffed as he thought how he would say it. “Harmony, and yeah… Half.”
Harmony she could handle, but the half was puzzling her.
“Half?” She asked again.
“We were under the influence of supernatural forces, started, didn’t finish. She tore into me. She wasn’t herself and I sent her arse end over…” he paused eyeing the prawns, “… appetite,” and settling for a stuffed mushroom instead after sniffing it for stray garlic.
“Just once or…” Buffy began, eyeing him sideways while picking at her plate. She had never considered Harmony a threat in any way, mortal or vampire, but Harm and Spike did have a thing going for a while.
“Pl-ease,“he said, “Harmony?” He scoffed lightly. “Half,” added ardently and speared another shrimp.
She gave the little half-shrug that meant she was satisfied with that response, but kept staring at him.
“Aren’t you going to ask?”
“Aren’t you curious?”
He sighed. She was not going to let it alone until he answered.
“Cause it makes me crazy to think about you with….anyone, so I try not to think about it at all,” his voice tapered to a whisper. “So, no, rather not know.” He was extremely happy to see their meals on their way to the table. Food, one of her best diversions, he thought, relieved at getting off the hook.
The trays no sooner hit the table when the pager went off.
Faith hung up the phone and sighed heavily. Not too serious… they‘re gonna be alright…cops! Humgph! She was relieved that Stacy and Janice hadn’t been hurt badly, but she was extremely annoyed that the Boston P.D. thought it necessary to haul them in for a drug test. Dumb ass’s, they spend half the night saving your sorry ass’s from things that you take one look at, drop your doughnut, and head for the station shrink and what, you see them on the street obviously in need of some medical attention, limping home...so, they were a little wobbly on their feet…had good cause.
Stopping at the fridge on her way back to the bedroom, she drained the last of the milk straight from the container; giving it a toss at the trash. Two points for me… she thought as the milk container settled in on top of yesterday’s Thai take-out boxes. She scanned the contents of the refrigerator …no more Thai?… and settled on half a ham salad sandwich left over from Xander’s lunch and a handful of grapes.
Padding lightly into the bedroom while popping the last grape into her mouth, she carefully got into bed and reached over Xander to put the phone back on the hook. Xander took the opportunity to give her a surprise tickle in the ribs as the phone settled into its cradle and she jumped nearly knocking him out of bed.
“Don’t do that!” She shrieked and gave him a playful slap.
“Sorry, couldn’t resist,” he said, shifting position and not bothering to turn on the bedside light as Faith nestled in next to him, “…everything alright on the Boston front?”
“No, well…yeah,” she said settling back onto her pillow, “…nobody’s seriously hurt, just two of the girls had a run-in with Boston’s boys in blue.” Again…she added to herself.
“They doing anything to deserve it,” he asked, knowing that most of Faith’s own clashes with the police were self-inflicted.
“No, just walking home after a fight, couple of Bvashkavars, cops thought they were a little wobbly, hauled them in for a drug test.”
Demon’s got them that bad? He asked.
No…yeah, they did a little damage, but Janice said somebody was shooting darts at ‘em…after,”she said,”…one nicked Stacy, made her a little… stoned.”
“Bvashkavar’s using dart guns now,” Xander asked.
Spike pulled into a parking space across from the booted rental. "Couldn't
have found a better space, Pet," he asked, noting the twenty minute parking
restrictions on the signs on that side of the street.
“It was out of gas," Buffy said, "…I was lucky I got it out of traffic…I
can't afford this." She took the stack of tickets off the windshield and looked
at the boot. "We could…" she began.
"No. We couldn't" Spike said taking the stack of tickets from her. He
sighed, "I'll take care of it. Get your stuff." He squinted to read the tow
notice stuck on the driver's window. "Get the paperwork too, the rental
agreement…" He sighed heavily and pulled out his phone. "It was scheduled to get towed about two hours ago…good for us they‘re running late." He punched in the number from the tow notice, "…paperwork, Love…" he said holding out his hand.
She handed him the envelope. Spike popped the trunk on the Saab as the call
connected, and the tow truck had turned the corner and was backing into position as he was hanging up.
He put the towing and impound fees on his credit card. Buffy had to sign for
the receipt of the vehicle. They gave her the forms with the information to get
it straightened out with the rental company. All she could do was stare at it.
She sat down on the curb. Spike took them from her and put them in the envelope with the rest, throwing it all on the dash.
"I can't afford this; there must be four hundred dollars’ worth of tickets…."
"Closer to six," he interjected.
"Paid it," he said.
"Did you have a security deposit?"
"Uh, yes, thirty five hundred," she said.
"Credit card," he asked.
"Cash, don't have a credit card."
"That…might be a good thing," he said half under his breath before he asked,
"how much overdue was it?"
"Uh, almost three weeks."
"Over mileage," he asked.
"Out of gas, towed and impounded, kiss that cash goodbye, Lamb, then
"That was all I had," she said.
"I'll get the difference, Love, and the tickets. It'll be okay."
"I can't pay you back…"
"Don't worry about it, Pet. I got it. Come on, promised you dinner, let's
She snuffled and wiped her eyes as he helped her up from the curb.
Rupert tossed in bed unable to get to sleep again. He blamed the August heat
and a late night of pouring over the compounds bills for tonight’s bout of
insomnia. Willow, Andrew and several of the girls who had good bookkeeping
skills did the actual accounting; the figures were always accurate, that was the
There simply was not enough money generated by the trusts to sustain the main
compound let alone the satellites. Just in the past three years, they had to
reduce health insurance coverage four times, to where it was now virtually
worthless for a group of young women who were often prone to injury simply by the nature of their calling and required more than the normal amount of trips to the emergency room. In addition, caring for the institutionalized Slayers and
Potentials, though their numbers were dwindling in proportion with those being
called, was also fast becoming an issue. They would soon have to look further
into the possibility of handling that task in-house, which they were damn ill
equipped to do adequately.
Rising fuel costs had severely limited travel reimbursements as well, and the
whole organization was on a “no non-essential personnel movement authorized” restriction for the last eighteen months. Even Faith, who had been visiting rather frequently in recent months…why is she here this time… he wondered, had been taking the bus and paying for it out of pocket. Not to mention the phone and internet bills.
He had already called in all his markers and fairly begged all his contacts who had the means for help, with some success; but it was still not enough. It
seemed as though they could handle all the evils that the world could throw at
them, but not their creditors.
Buffy was finally coming home and the last thing he wanted was for her to
arrive to a financial disaster; she had enough monetary woes after Joyce had
passed away. There were enough other things for her to deal with.
Damn, it’s bleeding hot! He thought, flinging off the sheet and tugging at his t-shirt. He cursed the main house’s lack of central air. The small unit in the window was virtually worthless.
Reluctantly, he arose, depositing the sweat damp t-shirt on the bed post.
Intent upon adjusting the bloody thing to its highest setting, electric bill be
damned; he’d tap his retirement fund again to pay it next month.
“Bloody Hell!” He suddenly scowled picking his bare foot up off the soaked
carpet nearly half way from the bed to the window. As if on cue, the unit began
to vibrate and rattle. Gingerly, Rupert tried to skirt the wet carpet that was
squishing water between his toes…that’s going to smell horribly before it
dries in this heat, another sodding thing we can’t afford to fix…to unplug the bleeding thing.
Succeeding with only a minor electrical shock from the outlet when he yanked
out the cord, he proceeded to the balcony door. There may be some breeze off
the sea tonight… he thought, fumbling in the moonlight with the latch. Opening it, he supposed he had heard something fluttering in the leaves of the rubber plant on the balcony and stepped outside to check. Nothing there… not even a wisp of breeze, sleep deprivation taking its toll, Ripper… he thought. Spying the unopened bottle of Glen Livet on the dresser, he headed across the room for it. There would be no going back to sleep tonight in any case. He would forgo the glass, taking the entire bottle with him down the stairs to the study.
He turned on the desk light and swiveled his chair round to face the credenza
behind the desk. He pulled the cover off the mirror Willow had presented him
with as a gift years ago.
While she was pregnant with Tara Rose, Willow had taken a sabbatical from
teaching; she had spent a lot of her spare time scouring the thrift stores and
antique shops around the Bay Area looking for whatever called to her. The mirror was something that had called to her; though she recounted to him that she hadn’t expected it to do so literally, and certainly not to call her by name and plead with her to buy it and give it to him, which is precisely what it did.
After gazing into it for a moment to no avail, Rupert gave it a hearty slap
on the side of its frame.
“Wake up you sot!”
The glass misted over slightly, giving off a faint glow and then dimmed
again. “Wesley!” He shouted at it.
It responded with a string of slurred British slang worthy of a merchant
“Oh-ho,” he scoffed,”…quit your complaining, you dozy berk, you’re dead what bloody reasons do you have for always being pissed?” He took a swig from the bottle and set it down on the credenza.
The spirit of the late Wesley Windom-Pryce in the mirror sobered somewhat,
“…looks like you’re well on your way to joining me…”
This section is actually a last minute addition, I needed something to break up the Spike/Buffy retrieving the rental car sections so they wouldn't get boring and thought, hey, we haven't heard from Giles since prolog two.
I had planned all along to re-introduce Wesley as an active part of the Slayer world, while still keeping him conveniently dead, in this story and this seemed like as good a spot as any to do so.