Thumbing Your Way to Vegas
Rating: PG, no big whoop
A/N1: In trying to keep with the spirit of the Fairy Tale Challenge, no dragons, fairies or ewoks were hurt in the making of this story. Bent the rules a little bit and broadened the definition of Fairy Tale. Any resemblance to a work by George Lucas or a Galaxy Far, Far Away is purely intentional.
A/N2: Yes, I tend to name demon species after small Midwestern towns. No offense intended, and it’s only a matter of time before I name one after the BFE town I live in. Oh, and no offense to Europeans. Someone in the story is just… opinionated.
A/N3: Many thanks, as always, to my killer beta cindergal. She simply rocks my little world.
Thumbing Your Way To Vegas
The sun rose slowly in the eastern sky, casting golden reflections against the monoliths of glass that lined the strip in the valley and smudging the sky with the muted reds of dawn while the city stubbornly refused to stop churning. Alive, it groaned and rumbled. Sparkled with the light of a billion neon lights. Water from rocks. Vegas, the shining beacon in the barren desert, it had refused to yield even as the cities around it crumbled to dust with the spreading apocalypse.
Los Angeles was gone, reduced to smoldering rubble in the first wave of destruction. It had taken only a day to reach Salt Lake City, another to reach Dallas. But yet Vegas lived on, fueled by greed, sex, and money. Powered by humans and demons alike, it continued. It survived.
Seven a.m. and the cars still sped in both directions down the strip. Billboards for Celine Deon, Wayne Newton, the Blue Man Group-Christ, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a demon in this town-seemed as bright as the sun itself.
The world kept turning here. Sure, there were still cities filled with both good and bad. The lines in the proverbial sand had been drawn, and humanity refused to be extinguished by the apocalypse. But here in Las Vegas, business deals were sealed with briefcases stuffed with cash and contracts promising souls for eternity. Bounty hunters, hoteliers and whores, each had a role. Each kept the city alive.
One of the countless limousines pulled into the drive of the Gomorrah Towers, the latest and greatest of hotels dotting the strip that promised, and the name so blatantly advertised, debauchery of biblical proportions. Four thousand rooms filled with decadence, a gaggle of suites higher up that promised even more. The crown jewel was the nightclub atop the tallest tower simply named Thorn. It offered more than the usual sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It symbolized power, the type that kept the city afloat in the seas of chaos around it. Power from the dawn of time. The Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart-or at least the remnants that survived the battle in Los Angeles-ran the place. And from there, they regrouped and once again grew strong.
As the limo slowed to a stop in front of the front doors, the chauffeur lowered the tinted window between him and the back seat a few inches. Turning back, he announced, “Welcome to Gomorrah, sir…ma’am, whatever the hell you are. Anyhow, the concierge is expecting to you. He’ll take you to Mr. Graham’s office.”
The Bemidji demon all but grunted its reply as it exited the opened door. It wasn’t the biggest Bemidji on the block, but it commanded its quarry with authority, tugging angrily on the leash in its left hand that snaked around the neck of the young woman beside it. All legs and long brown hair, the girl let out a surprised squeak in protest as they both exited the car and strode into the lobby. A cattle prod in the other hand, the demon didn’t look back, didn’t wait for the girl to keep up the pace.
“Easy on the merchandise, shorty,” the girl growled in a huff. “I’m going as fast as I can.”
The height difference didn’t seem to bother the demon at all. It stopped dead in its tracks, and without saying a word, spun on one heel and shoved the business end of the prod under the girl’s jaw.
“Enough with the lip,” it hissed its warning before resuming its quick pace.
“You must be Bousch,” the concierge smiled. Smarmy little son of a bitch, the Bemidji thought to itself. “Welcome to the Gomorrah Towers. Allow me to escort you and your…” He paused with another one of those greasy smiles and gestured to the grungy captive, “…companion to Mr. Graham’s office. He is eager to meet the both of you.”
The syrupy manners were nothing short of nauseating. Bousch had seen enough of these dives in its time to know that no amount of ornate marble or gold leaf could hide the stench and corruption that permeated every corner of the superstructure. It didn’t care what this shithole, or others looked like. After all, it was just business as usual for the bounty hunter. Get in, get what you want, and get out. Seemed like a simple motto, but it usually worked.
The demon didn’t bother to strike up idle chit-chat with the concierge. The scrawny little man was already on its nerves, and if it had to listen to his whiny voice another second, it wouldn’t take much to drive that cattle prod into his ripe melon of a skull. Instead, it wrapped its leathery grey hand around the leash one more time and stared out the glass elevator as it started its ascent.
The nightclub was dark. It didn’t open until six, according to the sign. But it was hardly dead for the day. Music still throbbed through its sound system, albeit at a much lower volume and skinny pale-skinned demons polished glasses at the bar that fanned out in the shape of a circle of black thorns. These idiots were never ones for subtlety, Bousch thought to itself. The bar circumscribed a stage with four poles, no doubt for four topless dancers. Might as well add tacky to cliché.
Graham’s office was located on the mezzanine above. Bousch followed the concierge up the stairs with its quarry in tow and headed down the balcony to the waiting office.
“Are you Graham?” Bousch asked the human standing at the door. The man was familiar, dark hair, tanned skin, eye patch. They’d obviously crossed paths in the past.
“Nope, just another underling,” the man joked with a toothy smile. Bousch was not impressed. “Haven’t made it up the corporate ladder that fast. Only been here a few months. Just security. But Mr. Graham is eager to meet you.”
Without the flourish that the weasely concierge continued to display, the security guard merely opened the set of double doors, cleared his throat and announced, “Mr. Graham, you have a visitor.”
Looking up from his cup of coffee, the man offered a hand in greeting and leaned over his massive mahogany desk. The demon didn’t bother to return the handshake. Wasn’t its style. “Glad to meet you Bousch,” Graham said. “Your reputation proceeds you. I see you have brought me a present. Can I make you more comfortable? Perhaps take that cattle prod off your hands while we relax for a bit?”
The bounty hunter said nothing as it shoved the prod into the assistant’s hand and jerked the leash roughly. The girl stumbled forward toward Graham. “It wasn’t easy finding the Prime Slayer’s sister.”
“The name’s Dawn, assmunch,” the girl interjected. Mouthy little chit.
Drawing back its fist, the Bemidji was ready to strike the girl for such insolence. It had to endure that girl’s mouth the entire journey to Vegas, and it was ready to finally silence her once and for all.
But before the demon could hit her, Graham was already circling the desk to stop the violence. “Now let’s all calm down before my property gets damaged.” He reached to take the leash form the hunter’s hand, but Bousch only tightened its grip on the strap.
“It’s not your property yet,” it warned. “We haven’t discussed terms of payment. I don’t work for free, remember.”
“Oh, I haven’t forgotten that little detail,” Graham answered trying to defuse the tension. “I do believe I owe you ten thousand for your endeavors.” He snapped his fingers once to grab his assistant’s attention, “Harris! I do believe there is a briefcase waiting for our esteemed guest. Would you mind fetching it for me?”
Harris nodded his reply and quickly retrieved the waiting case and brought it to his boss.
“I don’t think so,” the bounty hunter answered. “The deal was for twenty-five, and I don’t accept discount coupons.”
“But you took a month longer than I was willing to wait,” Graham explained.
“Stockholm is not a hop, skip and a jump from here,” it replied.
The girl let out a disgusted sigh and flinched a way as he trailed the back of his hand over her bruised cheekbone and then over the curve of her breast. “And it appears that you are offering me damaged goods. My girls make me money with their beauty. I can’t, with a clear conscience, pay top dollar for a bruised dancer. My offer still stands: ten grand. Take it or leave it.”
The Bemidji brushed aside one of the scalps that hung from its belt and retrieved a small metal ball from its pack. It was sure Graham recognized what it was. To drive the thought home, he added as he slid back the to cover and pressed what looked like a detonating button, and the bomb started to tick like a stopwatch. “I wonder if the Suvolts are the geniuses with plutonium as they claim to be.”
The tiny bomb ticked away in its hand, and the demon did not miss how sweat instantaneously appeared on Graham’s balding scalp. “I’m sure we can work this out, my friend,” Graham nervously laughed.
“I am not your friend.”
“Right then,” he replied. “There must have been some sort of mistake.”
“Duh,” Dawn interrupted. “Just pay the guy. I don’t want to glow in the dark!”
Graham cleared his throat. “Like I was saying, there must’ve been a mistake. Twenty-five it is.”
The demon made no move to deactivate the bomb. It tilted its head to the side and let out an annoyed sigh. “I tire of you. The price just went up. Forty thousand, or I turn the place into a crater in the desert. Your choice.”
Bousch didn’t bother to even look when he heard someone-probably that Harris loser-cock a gun behind him. It was probably pointed at his head. Those idiots always aimed for the head.
“Put down the gun, little boy,” it said calmly “Your odds are terrible. Handgun versus nuke never ends well.”
Graham loosened his necktie. “Do as our guest says,” he told his assistant, and the gun was lowered immediately.
Another few awkward moments of silence, the queen mother of all Mexican standoffs. Finally Graham started to laugh. “You know, you’re my kind of scum! Harris, go see Pitino about settling this tab with our friend here. Tell him I’ve authorized another thirty grand.” Turning to the bounty hunter, he added, “You sure know how to drive a hard bargain. I like that. Takes balls and initiative.”
The silver ball went silent, and Bousch tucked the bomb back in the pack and handed the leash over to Graham.
“Harris, before you leave,” Graham called out before his assistant could leave the office, “would you mind escorting our latest acquisition down to the dressing rooms? And be sure the girls help her hide that bruise on her face. I want her dancing tonight if possible.”
“It would my pleasure, sir,” he answered as he accepted the leash from his boss and started to escort the girl from the room.
She jerked back in protest and warned, “Touch me and you lose a kidney!”
As the two humans headed out, Graham added, “She’s got spunk, that’s for sure.”
“Been a pain in the ass from the moment I captured her,” Bousch answered. “She’s your problem now.”
Graham gestured to the leather couch and led his guest to the waiting seats. “I thought while we are waiting for Mr. Harris to return with your finder’s fee, we might celebrate over some drinks. I can have our staff fix us some espressos.”
“I prefer Mezcal,” the demon bluntly answered.
“Well, I suppose it is five o’clock somewhere in the world.” He picked up the phone on adjacent end table and placed a call. “Jeannie, be a dear, why don’t you and bring us another espresso and a Mezcal straight up.” He covered the receiver for a moment to ask, “do you want it con guasano?”
“I don’t do worms.”
“Make that an espresso and a Mezcal-no worm-darling.”
It didn’t take long for the refreshments to arrive. As expected, Graham sipped his coffee like some pansy-assed European. Bousch lifted its glass and downed the amber liquor in one gulp. It burned all the way down. A shudder and sneer later, it set the empty glass on the coffee table.
“Not to your liking?” Graham asked.
“I’ve had better.”
“Allow me to make it up to this evening. We are having quite the fete this evening, and I would be remiss in not inviting you. I’m sure we can find a beverage more to your liking at that time.”
The Bemidji leaned back into the couch, ignoring Graham’s offers of hospitality. “What’s with the statue?” it asked, gesturing to what looked like a man encased in a block of ice.
“That, my friend, is one of my most costly acquisitions,” the man explained. “Paid top dollar for that vampire. Nearly a million for the spell to hold the thing. Another two to call him my own.”
Recessed into the wall behind Graham’s desk, the strange objet d’art was an eerie focal point of the room. Illuminated in light, the vampire seemed caught between two worlds-a human face yielding to a demonic visage, neither face yielding to the other. Eyes that weren’t quite blue, but not quite yellow all at the same time. A shock of platinum blond hair topped its head. Blood, that looked as fresh as the day it was shed, rimmed one of the nostrils in a crimson ring and streamed from a gash on its face. A fist defiantly drawn back, mouth open as though a curse was silenced in mid-scream. This vampire didn’t go down without a fight. In fact, even in this strange display of suspended animation, the creature still appeared in the throes of battle.
“What did he do to deserve such a fate?” Bousch asked. Perhaps this Graham was a tougher bastard than estimated.
“He, like his deceased colleagues, thought he could take on the Black Thorn and live to tell about it.”
The night had been a typical Las Vegas bore. Too much over-mixed bad techno music, a combination of Botox and far too much silcone, and an abundance of liquor. Hey, it’s what people paid for, so Bousch wasn’t going to begrudge them their trashy little fantasies. Nevertheless, the demon was more than happy when the club wound down sometime after four in the morning and the lights went dark. One by one the revelers streamed out, and the staff started cleaning. The Bemidji had remained sober the entire night, only pretending to down shot after shot with the other humans and demons. Had to remain focused. That was always the mission.
As the cleaning crew started their early morning duties, Graham bid his goodnight to the demon, a buxom and intoxicated blonde in each arm. “So glad you could stay. Looks like our new girl worked out nicely!” He gestured to the now-empty stage.
“Your lackey took my cattle prod.” The demon was in a hurry. “I would like it back.”
“Oh that?” Graham answered. “My apologies. It’s still in my office. I’m a little…busy…at the present moment, if you know what I mean. If you don’t mind getting it yourself, I do believe it is over by the liquor cabinet. Have the cleaning crew let you in. Just let yourself out when you’re done.”
The bounty hunter nodded. So nice to have garnered this idiot’s trust so fast. Then again, all of the evening’s booze seemed to lower caution all around.
As soon as Graham left with his bevy of bimbos, Bousch found one of the pale demons from the morning before. It couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds wringing wet. With its horns sawed down the nub, it was probably more of an indentured servant than a local union brother. All the better to intimidate.
“You there!” the bounty hunter called out, and the tiny little demon jumped with a start. “I need you to let me into Mr. Graham’s office. I have left one of my possessions in there and need it now.”
“I’m not allowed to let anyone in there,” the little creature gulped. “It’s against company policy.”
A glare and one of those horrendous Bemidji snorts later, Bousch had a willing helper. “Just do as I say, little one.”
The demon fumbled with the keys on his belt, its hands shaking as he retrieved the key ring and escorted the bounty hunter back up the stairs. Its hands shook uncontrollably, and it took three attempts before it found the proper key to fit in his master’s door. Finally, the doorknob turned, and the little imp waited patiently at the door, its head bowed in humble submission as though waiting for the next command.
Irritated, the bounty hunter turned. “What?” it snapped.
Staring at its own feet, the servant answered, “I’ll just wait here until you are finished.”
“I do not need your assistance.”
The demon gulped. “I don’t wish to offend, but I must lock Mr. Graham’s office after you are finished.”
Nothing was ever easy when there were lackeys involved. Bousch’s hands balled into two fists. No, hitting this little slave wasn’t going to accomplish anything, but it might feel good. “Well, Mr. Graham did not tell me you were going to be such a pain in the ass about this. I can assure you I have his permission to retrieve my belongings and that I am more than capable of locking up his precious office when I am done. So, thank you for your help. You may leave now.”
The pasty demon stood as still as it could, well as still as one could while shaking like a leaf.
“I said go!” the Bemedji growled as the slave made one last curt bow and scurried back down the stairs.
The office was nearly dark. The only illumination came from the lights framing the minibar and those showcasing that giant living trophy behind the desk. Sure enough, the cattle prod was where Graham had promised. There was time to get retrieve it later after a little attention was given to the trophy-the real reason for returning upstairs.
The hunter unbound the leather pouch from its belt and retrieved the smoky crystal from its depths. It felt heavy in its hand, almost warm. Definitely powerful. The demon paused for a moment before shoving the crystal into the block encasing the vampire. It had expected it to feel cold, like a chunk of ice or maybe plastic. It certainly looked solid, but instead it felt gelatinous, almost organic. Then again, magick was never what it appeared to be.
It took a step back and uttered a single word, the one the witch had told it to say.
Didn’t seem that impressive of an invocation, but the block itself started to glow. Within it, the creature started to stir, its movements slowed as though it was moving through setting concrete. Its face morphed fully into a demonic battle face, its fist inching toward an unseen target. And while the vampire returned to life, the block around it started to fade away until there was nothing holding it but its own wobbly legs. With a weak growl, the vampire completed its swing, The momentum carried it forward, and the creature collapsed on to the floor in an undignified heap.
Bloody fucking hell that hurt, he thought to himself as he lay on the carpet. His senses assailed him from all directions. Weak as a kitten, he barely had the strength to push himself up. Every fiber in his body started to shiver. Spike was freezing. It took a lot to make him cold, but right now he was absolutely frigid. The room was dark. He had no idea where he was.
The last thing he remembered was a chase and a battle. He’d been the hunted. Dragons, bounty hunters. The world had gone to shit.
How the hell did he wind up here, soaked to the bone, his head filled with cobwebs? Someone had put the major mojo on him, and he wanted answers now. He didn’t have the strength to maintain a gameface, let alone move from his spot on the floor. Slowly, he repositioned his wobbly limbs and pushed himself up to his knees.
That’s when he smelled it. A musky demon. He wasn’t alone. But the world around was inky black; he saw nothing. “Mind turning the lights on, mate?” he said summoning up the remnants of his bravado. “Wanna see who’s trying to kill me.”
A gentle breeze swept across his face. The demon was moving closer. “Kill me and get it over. I’m tired of waiting.”
And then the demon was kneeling beside him. He could smell its breath it was that close. Spike tried not to flinch as he felt it invade his personal space. “Relax, I’m not going to hurt you. You’re free of the spell.”
He didn’t recognize the voice, so the words were hardly reassuring. “I can’t see,” he finally confessed. It wasn’t the room. It was him. He was as blind as a bat. Couldn’t even make out shadows.
“It’s an effect of the spell,” the demon told him, but it did nothing to ease his growing panic. “You’re eyesight will return in time.”
His hands sought out the anonymous rescuer. Spike grabbed demon and pulled it closer and let his fingers take in the contours of its face. Leathery with bristles around its tusks. Felt like an Oseola, maybe a Bemidji demon, but he couldn’t be sure. Neither was known for being a white hat.
“Who are you?” he asked.
As he tried to push away, he felt the demon reach up and yank something off its own neck. In that instant, the leathery skin yielded to something softer. The tusks receded and were replaced by soft lips. Even its scent changed to something oh so familiar and reassuring.
“Someone who loves you,” she answered.
“Buffy!” he cried, finally allowing himself to melt into her embrace. He was about to say something until her lips covered his with a gentle kiss.
“That is, if you’re willing to believe me this time, bonehead,” she quipped before kissing him a second time.
“Where are we?” he asked as she helped him to his feet. Those tiny but strong hands were around his waist, giving him the support he needed to stand.
“Las Vegas,” she answered. “Apparently the stupid branch of the Black Thorn. C’mon, let’s get outta here.”
“Don’t think I’m going to be much help to you, love,” he admitted.
A squeeze of reassurance and then, “That’s okay. We’ll get by. We always do.”
“Bravo!” a man’s voice came from the door as his applause echoed in the vast room. “Bravo! Let me get this straight. Boy, or should I say, vamp meets girl. Vamp loses girl. Vamp decides to battle some windmills and ends up in a crapload of trouble. Girl rescues vamp, and they live happily ever after. Oh wait, they don’t. Because they get caught and die a horrible death. Yup, the exact type of love story I adore!”
“Stay away from him, Graham,” Buffy warned. “This is my fight now.”
Spike heard several others enter the room and guessed that their only route out was now closed off. Figures. Escapes were never that easy.
“Gotta say, darlin’, you’re much easier on the eye than that Bemidji alter ego of yours,” Spike could practically hear the slime ooze from the man’s voice. “But I really don’t give a damn whose fight this is. You’re taking what’s mine, and I don’t like that. You may be the slayer, the prime one for that matter. But it just doesn’t matter anymore. It’s the end of the road, sweetcheeks, and you’re no better than…”
“Bantha fodder, sir?” That couldn’t be Xander’s voice, or could it?
“Bantha what?” Graham asked. “Speak up, Harris. What the hell is a bantha?”
“Nothing, sir,” he replied. “Just a bad movie reference that seemed apropos at the time.”
“Never heard of it, Harris.”
“Probably a good thing, sir.”
“Go lock them up in the vault, Harris,” Graham ordered. “I want to sleep this drunk off and decide what to do with them later.”
Someone yanked Buffy away, and a set of hands shoved him forward. Oh yeah, this was going to end well.
It felt like they’d been locked up for an eternity in that cramped little vault. Fortunately, it didn’t seem to be running out of air, but it was still boring as hell. Somewhere along the line, Spike had succumbed to exhaustion and dozed comfortably with his head in her lap. Her stomach rumbled and she wished they’d been locked in one of the kitchen’s pantries. Hopefully Plan B would start before she starved to death.
He’d slept for several hours before he finally stirred. Sitting up, Spike wiped the sleep from his eyes and squinted at her.
“How’s the eyesight?” she asked realizing he was focusing on her intently.
“Big light blur,” he said rubbing his eye one last time. Spike shrugged. “Better than the big black blur earlier.” He checked out his surroundings. Four steel walls, a handful of empty shelves. Nothing to use as a weapon. “Lovely surroundings. Now what?”
“Plan B,” she said.
“Great,” he grumbled, settling back into the wall behind them. “You mean there is more to this well-thought-out clusterfuck? Who else did you recruit for this suicide mission? And who gets stuck wearing the metal bikini?”
“Apparently my sister.” They both realized this mirrored a bad movie escape plan. Under any other circumstance, it would be laughable.
“Fabulous,” he groaned. “We get stuck in a vault, and your kid sis gets to dress like a harlot. Great plan, Slayer.”
Without even thinking, she smacked his arm and ignored his mock indignation. “Hey, I did my job. I got you out of that giant jello shot, didn’t I?” She turned to him, that ungrateful little shit. “Besides, I still haven’t heard a thank you come from you yet.”
His brow furrowed together, the way it did when he was in one of those moods. “Thank you, Buffy,” he sneered. “I guess waiting to die in a giant metal box is worlds better than waiting to die in that wanker’s office. And just how long was I up there like a Rembrandt?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“How long?” The playful banter was gone. Now he was truly irritated.
“Six months,” she answered under her breath.
That sure took the wind out his sails, and he had no snappy retort to lob back at her. Spike deflated a bit, closed his eyes, and let out a sigh.
“Well, it’s not like we weren’t looking for you,” she tried to explain. “And then it took a few months for Xander to move into position here. It was all about timing, okay?”
“I supposed I’m glad it was you and not Harris that degummed me.” His voice softened, the irritation draining from it as quickly as it had emerged. “Guess I wouldn’t fancy the whole rescue with a snog with him.”
The door opened, and three sets of crossbows protruded into the vault. Buffy futilely shielded Spike with her body. “On your feet, both of you,” the guard demanded. She had to suppress her relief as she realized it was Xander barking the orders. “It’s show time.”
“Where’re you taking us?” She said while offering Spike a hand to pull himself up.
“The boss wants you, so let’s go!” he answered never breaking character.
As the other guards hustled Spike from the vault, Xander grabbed Buffy by one arm and whispered in her ear, “Get ready to move. Willow’s on her way. You get Spike, and I’ll make sure Dawn gets out.”
A shove into the hallway, and the plan was put into action.
The club was already open as they were led to the stage behind the bar. Music throbbed from every speaker, and the revelers didn’t stop their dancing as Buffy and Spike were shoved onto the stage. Dawn was there, nearly every inch of her skin showing. A tiny bikini was the only thing between her and a full out peep show. She looked bored as she danced around the pole. Buffy couldn’t help but notice the shackle on one of her ankles that secured her to the pole.
She laced hands with Spike as Graham joined them on stage with a microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Graham began, “Welcome to Thorn! I hope you are enjoying yourselves tonight!”
The crowd roared its answer. The mob moved in one to the music. They were eating out of this idiot’s hand.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had some performance art here. But tonight I want to give you something special. Have you ever seen a vampire burn?”
The crowd went nuts. Lovely, it was going to be death by bad art. Somehow, it fit with all of the Vegas clichés around them. Without any further fanfare, the stage was surrounded by Graham’s thugs, Xander among them. Each had a crossbow aimed at the stage, and with the synchronization of feather-topped dancers that were ubiquitous throughout town, their arrows ignited in flame.
“Doesn’t look like Xander’s batting for the right team, love,” Spike whispered in her ear, drawing her closer in one last act of chivalry to shield her. His turn to block out the nasties.
Maybe their plan wasn’t as watertight as she’d thought it was. As she heard the bowstrings creak into position, she closed her eyes and waited for the onslaught. But the arrows never left their cradles. Well, they did, but hung in the air motionless. Even their flames, though as bright as ever, didn’t flicker.
“Extinguish!” a voice commanded from the masses who were as motionless as the hovering arrows as their flames went dead. The music still boomed from the speakers. A beer teetered in midair, it’s contents cascading out in mid-spill. “Drop!” the voice added and the arrows clattered uselessly to the floor of the stage.
“Hi, guys,” Willow called out as she wove her way through the immobile crowd. “Sorry I’m a little late. Got hung up in traffic.”
“Cutting it a little short there, Will,” Xander said casting aside his crossbow. Gesturing to the frozen Graham, he added, “Wait, can he hear us?”
Willow pointed a finger at the man and answered, “Release,” as the man sprung back to life. “He can now.”
Xander pulled his ID badge off his jacket and flung it at Graham. “Hey, buddy, I quit. Not your buttmonkey anymore. So find someone else to fetch your newspaper and your espresso. I’m so outta here. Anyone else have anything to say to him?”
“I do,” Buffy answered from the stage before clearing the bar in a single jump and landing on the floor in front of Graham. “If you even think of touching, harassing, or even crank calling me or mine again, I’ll kill you. Capiche? Or whatever you mobsters like to say.”
“I’m not afraid of you, little girl,” he growled.
“Maybe not,” Buffy smiled. “But you might want to think twice about crossing us.”
Willow waved at Graham with a smile. “Hello, my name is Willow, and Buffy’s right. There’s definitely safety in numbers here.” She turned her attention to the stage and said, “Unlock” as the shackle around Dawn’s ankle opened and she was free. Turning back to Graham, she added, “You really don’t want to start a fight you can’t finish.”
“I’ll be the one to decide what I can and can’t do, Red,” he answered, “but thanks for the concern.”
“You know what, buddy?” Willow replied. “I don’t like it when people call me Red.” Without missing a beat, she gestured to circular bar and merely said, “Crystalize,” and it transformed into a giant ring of salt. She gave the bar a swift kick and it collapsed under its own weight into a grainy heap.
Without breaking eye contact with Graham, Willow added, “Xander, there’s a limo waiting at the front door. Why don’t you help Spike and Dawn to the car while Buffy and I clear up any loose ends.
Spike was already standing in the salt heap helping Dawn off the stage, his long leather coat covering her and offering the modesty she lacked only minutes ago. Buffy sought out Spike’s eyes before she gloated, “See, we had a plan! I’ll be right down.”
She spun back toward Graham. The air still crackled with that ozone smell of recent magick. “Now where were we? Oh yeah. We were talking about you leaving us alone.”
“You remember what happened to the original Sodom and Gomorrah?” Willow interrupted. “Fire, brimstone, and a giant pillar of salt?”
“What about it?” Graham retorted?
“Well let’s just say turning this Gomorrah into one big pile of salt would be pretty easy. Don’t know if you know this or not, but a few years ago, I could have joined your little secret circle during one of my blacker periods. Anyhow, I just about turned the entire planet into a giant pile of steaming ash with a snap of a finger. If I can do that without batting an eye, turning this place into a salt flat wouldn’t take much effort. So as Buffy said, capiche?”
“Capiche,” was all Graham said as the two women left the club.
They were an image of cool, collected whoopass until they were safe inside the elevator. Overcome by a fit of giggles, Buffy manage to eke out among the laughter, “That’s why you turned the bar into salt? It was a biblical theme? I thought you were going for some stupid margarita imagery!”
“Well, duh,” Willow laughed back. “Who had to endure how many years of Hebrew School while everyone got to have fun in junior high? Guess it finally paid off.”
“Your mom would be proud, I guess,” Buffy answered.
The elevator dinged as it reached the ground floor. No one paid them any attention as their continued laughter permeated the lobby. Buffy waved once to that irritating concierge still perched at his desk before gesturing to the door, “Your limo waits, Darth Rosenberg. Let’s blow this Popsicle stand!”
It was the sound the shower that finally roused Spike from sleep. He stretched like a lazy cat and rolled over to pull her closer. At least that’s what he thought he was doing. Buffy’s scent still clung to the bedding, but she was nowhere to be found. The shower. That’s where she was. On any other day, he’d join her. Maybe wash her hair. He knew how much she loved it. Perhaps massage her shoulders. Or just cut to the chase and pin her to the tiles and enjoy a languid shag until the water turned cold.
That’d be a great plan if he didn’t feel absolutely hung over and his limbs didn’t feel like they were filled with lead. You’d think being out of commission six months would be plenty of time to rest. But if left to his own devices, he was sure he could sleep for another week. She’d be out of the bathroom in a few minutes, and until then, he was more than happy to pull her pillow closer and breathe in the scent that was unmistakably her.
He had nearly dozed off when she smacked his foot that peered out of the covers and said, “Rise and shine, sleepy head!”
He mumbled something unintelligible and was ready to bury his head beneath his pillow when a warm kiss of what felt like sunshine washed across him, waking him and then some with a start. With a gasp, he sat bolt upright and tried desperately shield himself with the duvet. “Bloody hell, woman!” he croaked waiting for his skin to singe. “Still flammable here!”
“Will you relax,” Buffy answered with a smile as she pulled the curtains all the way back to reveal a cloudless sky. Rapping her knuckles against the glass, she added “We’re in Vegas, remember? Everything’s necrotempered. You’re not going to frizzle-fry.”
“Oh,” he said nonchalantly. Like he was supposed to know that. Last time he had visited was about the same time Sinatra still headlined the Sands. Changing the subject, he added, “What time is it?”
“Almost noon,” she said as she cinched the sash of her robe tighter and started to towel dry her dripping hair.
Spike took her pillow and bunched it behind him as he made himself more comfortable and surveyed the nightstand beside him. The Bellagio, at least that’s what the little notepad announced. So her great escape only took them a few blocks. Fabulous, should he get dressed now or when Graham’s thugs found them within the next hour?
“You know, love, not to sound ungrateful,” he said leaning back, “but usually when one is trying to avoid the baddies, one usually gets the hell out of Dodge and does not hole up in the poshest place in town. Not that I’m knocking the swankiness of this fine establishment, but we’re in still in the same bloody zip code!”
“Yeah,” she answered, tossing the towel over the chair at the desk, “that’d usually be the plan. But Willow pointed out that she nearly flattened the world a while back and that turning Gommorah into a real pillar of salt was small potatoes in comparison. I don’t think Graham will be giving us a hard time ever again.”
Spike’s eyes widened. “Where was I when that went down?”
Buffy shrugged. “Already in the limo, I think.”
“No,” he interrupted. “I mean the flattening the world part.”
“Oh, that,” she replied. “Africa.”
So the rumors were true. While he was searching for his soul, Little Miss Hewlett Packard had tried on the Big Bad mantel. He made a note to never piss her off ever again.
He was about to say something when someone knocked at the door. “Oooh, that was quick!” Buffy said as she rummaged through the front pocket of the jeans she had cast aside the night before and pulled out a few rumpled bills.
“You expecting anyone, love?” Spike asked.
“Breakfast!” she answered.
“But it’s already noon.”
“Well, I still wanted breakfast,” she answered as she opened the door, tipped the waiter and carried the tray into the room. Setting it down on the bed, she pointed to the champagne flutes, “Mimosa, coffee or… blech… O-negative?”
Sure enough, among the croissants and fresh fruit there was half-carafe of blood. Right next to the single rose adorning the crystal bud vase. Only in Vegas, he thought to himself. Spike retrieved one of the strawberries from the tray and bit into it before answering, “How much would it ruin the moment if I downed a little Bloody Mary right now?” he asked.
She thumbed the berry juice off his chin and smiled. “I don’t know how much I want to be kissing blood breath…”
“Oh, come on.” He tried his best not to plead. Hopefully she didn’t hear his stomach rumble. “Wait, there’s kissing involved?”
She pushed the tray to the other side of the bed. “Well,” she pointed out as she crept across the bed and straddled his lap, “eating isn’t the only thing you haven’t done in quite a while.”
“And what about you?” he asked, offering her the rest of his strawberry.
Her lips wrapped around it and she devoured the fruit. “Six months is a very long time,” Buffy purred.
She tasted like a ripe berry when he kissed her, his hands fumbling with the sash of that thick cotton robe she had found in the closet. A flute tipped over spilling mimosa all over the bedspread. She giggled as she rescued the carafe of blood from suffering a similar fate and set it on the nightstand. Mighty thoughtful of her. Her wet hair tickled his chest as the fountains exploded upward once again outside their window.
Yes, Luck was a lady tonight… this morning, or whatever bloody time of day it was. Fortunately, not everything that happened in Vegas had to stay in Vegas if you didn’t want it to.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/86398.html