Looking Outside In Part 1/2

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Hi Everyone. It’s my turn to post and here’s my contribution-a short story from Spike’s POV.
Hope you enjoy it.

A big thank you to enigmaticblues for all the hard work keeping this community going.

Summary: Spike and Buffy spend an evening getting to know each other better at Willie’s Bar.
Disclaimer: Characters owned solely by Joss Whedon. I just keep sticking everyone inside Willie’s.
Rating: PG-13 for Spike’s sometimes baaad language. 6700 words. Two parts. Complete
A/N: Could be considered part of my Hellmouth ‘Slice series of one-shots, although it stands alone just fine. Not truly canon, it squeezes into the timeline somewhere after a chipped Spike gamely begins fighting alongside the Scoobies. A lighthearted story, it darkens for a bit in the second half.

Thank you to enigmaticblues for the beta work. As always, you rock J.

Looking Outside In

It had been several weeks since he’d visited the bar on a regular basis; instead doing Olympic quantity drinking alone in his crypt. Working with the Scoobies lately hadn’t exactly made him Mr. Popularity around Sunnydale. In fact now that he really thought about it, Spike realized Clem hadn’t been around for telly and chips in over two weeks. A brand new low point, even for him.

But now here he was standing outside Willie’s on Saturday night listening to a roaring crowd that thundered through the thin walls and spilled into the street. The bar must be jam packed all the way to the top of its termite-ridden rafters.

Well, in for a penny… Squaring his shoulders, he strode inside, chin held high. Pausing at the threshold, he drank in familiar smells while casually surveying the bar. He’d been right of course; it was bursting at the seams. Demons from every mausoleum and den around the Hellmouth– along with a few adventurous humans from Sunnydale itself –were partying full bore, squeezed shoulder to shoulder around dozens of warped tables. On the far side it was jostling room only in front of the newly erected stage.

Willie’s latest brainstorm to part patrons from their hard stolen money was hiring cheap garage bands on weekends and then requiring an exorbitant cover charge to listen. Sidestepping around a drunken imp shaking his booty in the aisle, Spike could tell the idea was brilliant. Trust Willie to come up with another way to line both palms.

To compensate for the din inside the bar, this week’s ode to ‘70’s stadium rock –Dust in the Wind? Really? – had ratcheted their amps to Defcon 1 level, making pretty much anything other than steady drinking nearly impossible, unless you were a demon inclined to bellow.

Trying to tune out the racket he stood and watched a crushed beer can sail through the air toward tonight’s lead singer. The man ducked expertly–it was obviously not the first one he’d avoided– leaving their bass player to take one for the team. It smacked him square in the forehead and his bass squealed off key.

The can launching pad–a group of vamps in the corner– erupted in laughter and high fives all around.

Suppressing a snicker, Spike nodded to the familiar group but they ignored him, either too busy partying or purposely snubbing the pariah. He couldn’t tell, and wasn’t sure he wanted to. Better just keep to his initial purpose.

With that in mind, he waded toward the bar to try and catch Willie’s eye. Though the line was five deep he could see the bartender doing his usual Saturday night hustle, playing the beer taps like Wagner conducting the demonic equivalent to Ride of the Valkyries. All he needed to complete the picture would be flying toasters armed with sharp teeth snapping at demons who’d run out of money and still dared to occupy a barstool.

Shouting orders over his shoulder to his harried waitresses, Willie finally noticed him and gestured toward the far end of the bar.

Gingerly threading his way between the packed tables, Spike watched closely for any sudden gleam of metal beneath the bar lights. It would be just his luck to get shivved in here. It wouldn’t kill him of course, but it would certainly put a damper on the evening.

Although the thought of having an evening actually worth damping amused him. After all, his was already shot to hell just by showing up here. There wasn’t much this side of a staking that could make it a whole lot worse. So far.

He managed to reach his destination without incident and strategically commandeered an empty stool in a quiet no man’s land far from both the foaming taps and the noxious band– now gamely plowing their way through Carry on Wayward Son. Pulling a stool out, he idly wondered if they were deliberately trying to get eaten.

A nearly comatose Shirago demon slumped drunkenly on the right and the bar’s bare wall on the left made his choice perfect–isolated enough to talk without being easily overheard and no possibility of a little light revenge by drunken patrons swaying by on their way to the Gent’s.

Angling the barstool so his back was literally against the wall, he slouched against the filthy plaster, crossed his arms and settled in to wait for Wagner to break away.

Patience had never been his best virtue so his teeth were planted firmly on edge from out-of-tune guitars and sheer boredom by the time the bartender finally made his way down to his end of the bar.

Plunking down an almost clean glass filled to the brim with Spike’s favorite choice of poison, Willie ran a practiced eye across the Shirago. Satisfied with his customer’s state of comatose inebriation, he pretended to clean a spot on the bar with his filthy bar rag, diligently scrubbing the counter like some manic-eyed housewife displaying a new product on a late night infomercial.

Spike scrutinized the offering. Supposed payment for responding to Willie’s frantic S.O.S., it was still watered down. Figured. He could only hope it was with actual water. The bartender was known to get experimental at the best of times.

He drank deeply–free is free after all– and waited for the desperate housewife to speak his piece.

The bartender nonchalantly scoured the counter and Spike’s eyes narrowed. What the hell?

Willie recieved the subliminal message. Flicking the spot one last time for emphasis he leaned forward and stage whispered. “Glad to see you got my message. I was worried you wouldn’t show.”

Drumming his fingers on the bar, he made the obvious smart ass B-movie response. “Well, I’m bloody here, aren’t I?” Not waiting for a witty come back–even vampires don’t live that long– he downed the rest of his drink in one gulp and banged the empty glass back down in front of Willie, who pretended to miss his cue.

Spike rolled his eyes. “Look, I admit I’m curious. Why would you pay a Chorrie hooker actual dosh to walk all the way to Restfield to request my shining presence? I don’t owe you money and I sure as hell haven’t been voted Mr. Congeniality by all the other good little boys and girls.” He stared pointedly at the empty glass again.

Reluctantly the bartender stopped his Harriet the Spy routine long enough to pour a second round before making a big show of turning away from Spike. Checking the surrounding room out of the corner of his good eye, he grabbed the four empty glasses in front of the Shirago, clinking them together hard enough to chip the cheap barware.

Spike muttered an oath not fit for anyone under twenty-one. Willie was nervous and that was a very bad sign. He wanted something that was either going to be a big hassle or required a fall guy, or possibly both. He glared at the bartender.

Catching the look Willie exhaled loudly and then started explaining, his words tumbling out in a rush.

“I know I can count on you, Spike. I said to myself if there’s anyone that can help get me out of this, why it’s Spike. He can be counted on in a pinch. You’ve still got a rep, you know, well, maybe not nearly as much anymore, but, uh,… Anyway, you see I need your help with a big problem. Probably the biggest problem I’ve ever had, well, other than the time that biker gang stuffed Lamont into the urinal. Do you have any idea how much that plumber charged me? It wasn’t my fault his tentacle got wedged like that. Anyway I have no friggin’ clue what to do about this.”

“For the love of all that’s unholy, stop dithering and spit it out.” Exasperated at the idiot’s rambling–not to mention the bad feeling he’d just confirmed– he held up a hand to damn the babbling brook. “This doesn’t mean that I’ll help, but I can’t decide unless I know what the hell you want.”

Willie nodded emphatically. “Right. I get that. Can’t just agree blind. Unlike most of the morons in here, you’re smart. Ah, you see it’s a certain dangerous blonde problem. That I seem to have acquired. Here.”

Surprised at the turn the bartender’s conversation had taken, he tried to follow it on around the bend. “Are you talking about the Slayer?”

Willie gasped and Spike quickly looked over his shoulder. Everyone was still pointedly ignoring him. Sometimes it paid to be persona non grata.

But the attempt at subterfuge had Willie looking much less than robust. In fact he looked like he was about to pass out. He was paler than Spike.

“Take a few deep breaths, mate.” He watched the bartender gulp air in a battle to stop from hyperventilating. When it appeared he’d calmed down again, Spike tried for the rest of the explanation. “Are you trying to tell me she’s here?”

At Willie’s glum nod, everything kaleidoscoped. Distracted, he raked a hand through his hair and tried to think it through. The Slayer. Here. No wonder Willie was freaking out. If this got out into the general population all of his money would follow Lamont’s tentacle right down the proverbial drain. Talk about a cash flow problem.

In the meantime Willie appeared ready to segue into a cardiac infarction. Sweating profusely, he stared vaguely over Spike’s left shoulder, while wringing his hands together and muttering softly to himself in what sounded to Spike’s ears like a bastardized cross between Farsi and French.

“Willie.” Spike snapped his fingers beneath the bartender’s nose. “Keep it together and answer me. Why is she here? Scratch that question, you probably don’t know. If it’s not shoe shopping or killing today’s roster of evil-doers, who knows why she does anything she does. Answer this one instead-exactly where is here? Because she’s not warbling away on that rat trap stage, I don’t see her flouncing around the floor with a tray of blood and nachos and she’s certainly not back in the kitchen; the fire department hasn’t shown up. Yet.”

Willie recovered quickly, jamming a finger to his lips. “God Spike, could you be any louder? Some of these guys have the ears of an elephant.”

Before Spike could correct him about elephants and their lack of special hearing acuity– as opposed to vampires for instance– the bartender said, “She’s in my office. I figured that was the best seat, since number one it’s got a great leather desk chair I bought at Office Depot on sale, and number two; I had a sanctuary spell set up in there years ago.” His voice became anxious again. “But Spike there’s more to it than that, she’s not hanging around sharpening stakes to cut down my income or direct dialing long distance on the phone, she’s in there drinking.”

Willie waited for Spike’s mouth to drop before continuing. The vampire didn’t disappoint. “See, she rolled in a couple hours before sundown and ordered a bottle of scotch. I was surprised, sure, but I couldn’t exactly say no. So I gave her a bottle– one of the good ones of course– and steered her back there. She still hasn’t left.”

Spike commiserated with the bartender. Knowing the Slayer ‘demanded a bottle of Scotch’ was probably the actual operative words in the previous sentence. “I get it mate, you couldn’t exactly deny her– not if you want the bar to remain the shining retail establishment the Hellmouth knows and loves.”

“Oh yeah,” Willie replied mournfully.

He thought about what the bartender had said. The timing explained a lot. For whatever reasons–and those he couldn’t begin to fathom yet– the Slayer had decided to hang out here at the demon bar. She’d slipped in on the q.t., before any of the real players had arrived. But now everyone was happily settled in for the duration and more than just a wee bit drunk. And being demons, drunk of course meant spoiling for a fight. Any fight.

Stifling a groan, he resisted the impulse to grab the rag from Willie’s hands and rip it to shreds. The poncy theme from Titanic leapt into his head and he grimaced. There was no way he was going down alongside the H.R. M. Willie. Especially if this band was going to be the last music he ever heard.

Willie, happily ignorant of the thoughts running through Spike’s head, finally shook off his case of nerves and regained a little confidence. “No one saw us. I’m absolutely certain that right now not one single customer is aware she’s in here,” he confided in a low voice. “Fast thinking on my part, huh?”

He wanted to throttle the imbecile, but settled for gritting his teeth. Damn chip. “Oh, make no mistake, they’re bloody aware alright. Most of ‘em have a real unsettled feeling with her so close, but don’t know why, so they’re drinking more to compensate and that triggers their fight instinct. Just imagine, the circle of life happening right here and me caught without any Disney stock in my portfolio.”

He shrugged. “I don’t know what I can do. It’s not like she’s going to listen to me. Believe me, that would be a first worthy of a place above the fold on Sunday’s front page. Besides eventually she’ll have to leave, Chosen responsibilities and all, yadda yadda. Tell me, by any chance does the office have a secret escape route under the rug?”

Willie’s eyes widened. “Tell me you don’t mean that. Come on Spike, help a guy out. I’m just trying to earn a living here. I know you could talk her into leaving. You’ve got a mouth on you, uh, I mean everyone knows you’ve got a silver tongue. Look how you chat up all the waitresses. I happen to know Bella didn’t mean anything when she threatened to stake you. Anyway, you work with her a lot. Okay, some. Look, get her to go quietly and I’ll cancel your next bar tab.”

“It’s not going to be that easy. Besides I haven’t had the time to hang out in here much. Got lots of other things on my plate lately.”

“Fine.” The desperate bartender pulled a wad of crumpled bills from his apron, extracted a couple and dropped them on the bar. Thought better of it and added a couple more. “Here. If you manage to keep the bar in one piece, there’ll be more. I don’t have anyone else to turn to. It’s not like I can call those strange kids for help.”

Spike scooped up the bills. “You and I both know they’d be dead before they charged heroically past the first row of tables.”

And as entertaining as that thought was–especially the boy’s demise–he pushed them away. Nah, he’d help. He’d been at loose ends for awhile now and he was beyond bored. First Dru, then the damnable chip. He needed to find a niche. In this current reality it might be her. God knows he certainly felt like fighting as much as possible. So this chance to spend rare alone time with the Slayer was like discovering a golden ticket inside his Hershey bar.

Besides his curiosity was piqued. Miss Perfect never drank more than an occasional beer. Why now? And of all the gin joints etc, why on earth had she chosen here? The Slayer here at Willie’s was like sticking a lion in a den of rats, setting his mane on fire, and then pointing out which of the rodent firebugs were huddled in the corner refilling the Zippo.

Stretching, he affected the casual air Willie hadn’t been able to pull off, and glanced around the room a final time. Malevolent looks were being cast in his direction, but nothing too solid. Probably wondering why he was still bogarting the bartender. Next to him the drunk Shirago slumped sideways on his stool, snoring gently.

“Hand over a couple of the good bottles; I’ll need an invite to the party.”

Thrilled that he’d finally agreed, Willie eagerly pulled out a couple quarts he had stashed and set them on the bar in front of Spike.

He eyed the labels. “Right. Barkeep’s sanctuary it is. ”

Second part here

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/402996.html