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 language. 6700 words. Two parts.
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.
Here’s the second half below the cut.
The office door opened soundlessly on its ancient hinges. Spike snorted. Trust the little weasel to make sure he could come and go without fanfare. Probably bought WD-40 by the case lot, put some in the bottles for filler and used the rest on those hinges.
Since no sound penetrated the barrier spell it left the office an oasis of calm with no hint of the chaos just down the hall. His ears sighed in relief. It was almost completely dark inside the room too, with the only light cast from Willie’s ancient desk lamp.
Evading towering stacks of haphazardly piled papers all across the floor, he closed the door. “Hullo, Slayer.”
“Spike. I thought that snort sounded familiar. Watch out for those binders.” Jimmy Choos propped on Willie’s worn desk, she held a rocks glass in one hand. “Was that some demon chant or an actual band that I heard when the door opened?”
“I’m sorry to be the bearer of sad tidings, but that was tonight’s entertainment.”
“Then thank God sanctuary spells keep sound out, because Muse those guys certainly aren’t.” She smirked.
“No, but they’re trying hard to start a real ‘uprising’ with their playlist,” he replied, before matching the smirk and raising her an eyebrow.
“Well, I think they’re pretty ‘unwell’ myself.”
“Wrong band, Slayer.”
She shrugged. “I like that song, sort of reminds me of you.” She shifted positions so she could turn around and stare at him. “You know, it’s really nice here. I can be by myself and just think about everything and nothing.”
Her voice flattened. “And now, wonder of wonders, here you are and suddenly I’m no longer happily alone.”
A warning bell sounded in his head. Riiight. Caution Will Robinson. He leaned back on the balls of his feet. “Thinking can be overrated.”
“Figures you’d say that. So what are you doing here anyway? Wait, I’ve got it figured out. You’re Willie’s cavalry. He wants me gone. Well, if that’s the case, you can take a hike, you and the horse you rode in on.”
“That’s quite the mixed metaphor you have going there.”
“What can I say?” She jiggled her glass, making the ice tinkle. “Tonight I’m all about the mixy.”
“You’re wrong about Willie, Slayer. He just asked me to check and see how you’re doing back here. Didn’t anyone ever tell you that you’re not supposed to drink alone? It’s just too boring. You should add one more person to the party list. Me.”
“You’re not a person.”
“Truer words.” Like coaxing a feral cat into not scratching the friendly outstretched hand, he slowly approached holding the liquor bottles out in front like a Tender Vittles talisman. “I brought hostess gifts.”
There were a couple moments of scrutiny–in which he thought she’d grab the bottles and then forcibly evict him anyway– before she finally tilted her head toward a ratty easy chair in the corner. “Grab a seat, Spike and have a drink. Give yourself a little Dutch courage before disembarking the ride.”
The flat voice and bare inflection were so unlike the Princess of Pep it was disconcerting, but he attributed it to the dead soldier on the desk top. She’d finished the bottle Willie had supplied and yet she was still upright and coherent. Either he’d lied and given her a crappy bottle to begin with, or she metabolized booze at an astounding rate. He was impressed. Must be that Slayer constitution.
Pulling the chair closer, he brazenly propped his Docs next to her strappy red sandals. He noticed she’d polished her toenails pale pink. It always amazed him how girlie the Slayer could be, wielding both a stake and a bottle of OPI with careless impunity.
She was watching him warily. Shaking off the feeling he’d been caught thinking something dirty, he unscrewed the cap on one of the bottles and poured them each a generous tot.
“Don’t need Dutch courage, got plenty of my own. You know that better than most.”
He lit a Marlboro and contemplated his next move. His grand plan, hastily concocted on the way down the hall, was to get her hopelessly drunk and then lift her out through the office window like a hapless UFO victim being pulled toward the mother ship. Then he’d carry her back home; hold her hair back if there was a need while praying that when she sobered up with a colossal hangover she wouldn’t come looking for him.
As a plan it left a lot to be desired. But he’d always winged things in the past and nothing ever went too horribly wrong. Uh huh. What was that saying about swamp land?
It was then that he realized she’d said something he’d missed. Hell. “Sorry, pet, I was woolgathering, enjoying the first decent drink I’ve had tonight. What did you say?”
She glared at him and he knew for certain now that she was stone cold sober–her eyes were completely clear. With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach he watched his plan fall by the wayside faster than a Pagan’s clothing during Samhaim.
“I said that coming in here makes you either very brave or very stupid,” she snapped. “It all comes down to point of view.”
“So which is it?” He mentally crossed his fingers.
“It’s early. The audience hasn’t finished texting in all their votes yet.” Satisfied at having surprised the hell out of him, she took an experimental sip of her drink and then
wrinkled her nose. “This isn’t scotch.”
“No, it’s Jack Daniels.”
“I’ve never had this before. I asked for something earlier that Giles always drinks.”
For some unknown reason he felt it important to explain. “Rupert drinks imported and this is 100% American, like you. Thought you might like to try it.”
“It tastes …okay. Could I see it?”
Handing the bottle over, he could have sworn that for a fleeting instant when she’d gazed at him, he’d noticed something he couldn’t place flicker deep within her eyes. A shadow.
Confused, he deliberately loosened his shoulder muscles. Sitting next to the Slayer he could feel that same twinge of uneasiness that he’d told Willie about trying to bore its way inside him, too. He forcibly shrugged it away and while she studied the bottle’s label, he unabashedly studied her.
It had been at least three weeks since he’d crawled out of a bottle long enough to come up for air–figuratively speaking of course– and join her on patrol. Having not seen her up close and personal in all that time, the first thing he noticed was how exhausted she looked tonight with the harsh lamplight as a backdrop.
Her eyes were puffy and tiny lines were etched in the corners. She wasn’t the fresh faced girl he’d appreciated on the dance floor a few scant years before, she’d grown older in the way humans inevitably did. But up until now it had always been like Rod’s old song– she’d worn it well.
He could see the Slayer had been training hard with her Watcher, too. She was whippet-thin like a well bred greyhound, and the corded muscles in her arms flexed when she pulled the lamp closer so she could study the minute writing on the label.
There was no doubt she was at the peak of physical ability and yet there was a hint of melancholy about her tonight that intrigued him. Everything on the planet has a cost–no one knew that better than him– and he wondered again about her reasons for being here alone.
Always thick as thieves, where were her friends? He couldn’t begin to guess and probably would never know. She was so good at keeping everything shuttered and he wasn’t remotely close to being part of the inner circle. Just call him Pluto.
She suddenly tossed the capped liquor bottle back to him. Jerking his attention back just in time, he caught the lightning fast throw one-handed. When he gazed at her face again she’d rallied, nodding appreciation at the faultless catch.
“Good catch. Your reflexes are nearly as fast as mine.”
“Ta. But I beg to differ; I believe they’re just as fast as yours.”
She smirked. “I knew that would get you going.” Then she surprised him. “But you’re probably right. Even though I usually kick your ass because hey, Slayer moves here, we’re really fairly evenly matched.”
It made him wonder if what he’d thought about her mindset was merely his own alcohol fueled imagination, or was she playing him?
To cover his confusion, he asked the question still uppermost in his mind. “So what’s a Slayer, especially one with moves, doing hanging out here at demon central? Decide to see how the evil half parties?”
She ignored him just like he’d thought she probably would. She was nothing, if not stubborn. But he’d had to try. His curiosity was overwhelming and she’d expect the question.
Then she tossed her hair over one shoulder and surprised him for the second time in twenty minutes. “You’ll be happy to hear that the votes cast this evening were in your favor. You can stay.”
When he said nothing in reply, she frowned. “What’s the matter Spike? Already change your mind about being in here with me? If you want to leave, I certainly won’t stop you. I came here to begin with because I wanted to be alone.” She snapped out the last word, staring defiantly at him with her arms crossed.
He silently applauded her defiance while still trying to appease her. “I’m sorry Slayer, I was just surprised. I’d really like to stay. And if it’s what you want, I can be a very quiet drinker.”
“As silent as the grave, huh?” She turned away to stare out the office window. Her voice had sounded bitter and tinged with an obvious–to him at least–definite hint of sadness.
So he ignored the jibe–anyway two could play the surprise game– and reached for his cigarettes again. What he’d told her was true. In spades. He knew exactly what it was like, how it felt, to drink alone.
Watching her somberly staring out the window Spike knew there was more here than he’d first thought. At Willie’s behest he’d blithely stepped through the looking glass.
Tonight wasn’t turning out to be about saving the bartender’s ass, or discovering what he needed to do in order to finagle himself into her good graces and save himself. This had twisted itself into a Tim Burton movie. He suddenly wanted to figure out what she needed so he could save her.
Behind the façade of strength was a once-upon-a-time mortal enemy who, for whatever reason, needed kinship tonight far more than she was willing to openly admit. He’d landed in such an absurd situation that he almost laughed out loud. The kicker? The only one who could have even noticed her emotional state was a fellow sufferer.
No wonder the clueless children were MIA. What could they possibly bring to the table?
When he continued to stay inside his head, she turned back to stare at him again, a quizzical expression coloring her face. She was trying to figure him out without getting into a real conversation.
He couldn’t explain what he’d been thinking, nor did he bother to concoct an amusing lie– instead he tried winning her over by quietly refilling her drink. No more questions. He knew now that she’d never reply anyway.
She accepted the drink with a slight nod and they fell into a companionable silence.
Through their tacit agreement, the only noise for the next couple hours was the wall clock ticking away the time while Spike steadily refilled drinks. Together they stared through the dirty window at the constellations and a sliver of moon showing above the buildings.
It was soothing in a way he hadn’t known in a long while and he could tell from the relaxed set of her shoulders that she’d begun to feel the same way.
They’d killed his first bottle entirely before she finally stirred.
“I wanted to be alone because I’m celebrating two personal things tonight,” she confided in a voice barely above a whisper. “But I think that just maybe you were right. It’s better not to drink alone.” She turned to look at him. “And if you can guess what day it really is, I’ll tell you why I’m celebrating. I think you deserve to know.”
He gamely tried to follow through. “Well that crappy band out front tells me that it’s Saturday night, and the date’s May 6th– no, wait, it’s the 7th now.” He took a long swallow and waited for the punch line.
He wiped his mouth with his hand. “I’m trying to follow your train of thought, but I might have derailed goin’ ‘round that last bend. Let’s see, it isn’t May Day, Cinco de Mayo was yesterday, and I know it’s not your birthday. Sorry Slayer, but I’m at a loss here.”
She made a buzzing sound. “Wrong answer Spike, you can have one more try.”
Another drink later and he still hadn’t come up with anything concrete. “Sorry Slayer, I’ll have to bite.”
She waggled a finger at him. “No, no biting tonight.”
He saw her mouth quirk. She was joking with him.
He chuckled. “Obviously I don’t have the wits or the sobriety to figure this mystery out. Besides you Yanks have some of the oddest celebrations. Give a bloke a hint here. Should I be wearing some sort of costume? Eating oddly stained food? Or drinking some strangely concocted drink?”
“Those are all quite good celebrations on their own merit, but no, none of those are the correct guess.” She lifted her glass in mock salute. “It’s Derby Day.” Her voice suddenly sounded strained again.
He wracked his buzzing brain for the reference. Right. American horse racing’s first leg of the Triple Crown. Lightning fast three year olds coupled with women in huge hats. Jetsetters and aristocracy from around the world cheering on their favorites. He was completely bewildered. It seemed an odd pairing with a Slayer, especially Buffy.
“Sorry pet, but I don’t follow horseracing, and I’m surprised that you do.” He reached for his drink. “Now if you’d said ‘World Cup’, then we’d be having a very lively discussion right now. It could even segue into Posh’s clothes and I’d still be along for the ride.”
“Spike, what was your family like? I mean, back in the day. You probably had a dad, didn’t you? Even vampires before…” her voice trailed off.
The rapid change of subject made his head spin. Hating to lose their tentative rapport, he considered his reply. He was drunk enough to stroll down memory lane, at least for a couple meters. There had to be a point in all this somewhere.
He set his glass carefully on the desk which seemed to list slightly left of center now. “Actually my father died when I was young. I don’t really remember him well. Growing up, it was just me and my mum. We were close, like you and your mum.”
“Oh. I have a dad, or had a dad is more like it.” She sounded…wistful.
“I’m very sorry, pet.”
“I assumed he’d died…”
“He isn’t dead. He and my mom divorced around the time I starting slaying. He took off for L.A., a city which evidently has outlawed telephone use within the city limits.”
Ah. There was part of the picture. “Is your father involved with horses?”
“No, he just loves watching them race. We used to watch together. We’d make a really big deal out of the Derby. Whenever any of the horses we picked ended up in the top three, we’d celebrate. Just us two. He even promised to take me riding some day, which he never did. I still haven’t been on a horse to this day.”
He could tell she was struggling to keep the bitterness in check, keep her explanation light, while in his minds’ eye all he could see was young Buffy cheering on the horses, with her rotter father sitting beside her.
What was it about fathers and daughters?
He took a long drink of his Jack. Or mothers and sons.
He refilled her glass and topped his own. “Fair is fair. I think you should know something more personal about me, too.”
“Even Steven huh?” She looked interested. “What is it?”
“Although I loved my mum dearly we had what the psychiatrists today would call
‘issues’. You know Slayer, I think all children and parents do to some extent.”
“What kinds of issues?”
Like his mum had held on tightly for far too long. Like the Slayer’s father let go much too soon….like every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Like sometimes it hurts and the pain never leaves. Forever.
She was still waiting for an answer. He tried for light hearted but the words suddenly seemed to be stuck. Tit for tat Spike. He cleared his throat. “She was very, very dependent on me. For everything. But then she’d been sick for a great long while, so…”
“That’s alright. You don’t have to say anything more.” She lifted her glass. “Here’s to dysfunctional families everywhere.”
“I’ll drink to that.”
“You know Spike, I came here because I wanted to be alone, but now… well, let’s just say that you’re a better drinking companion than I would have thought.”
“I’ll take that as a high compliment.”
“You should, I don’t hand them out lightly.” She leaned forward. “And in the spirit of full disclosure among drinking buddies there’s something else I want to say about tonight. Remember I said I was celebrating two things?”
“Well, I’ve decided to tell you this because I’ve had much too much to drink and in the twisted way which is my life you’re the only one who would possibly understand. Not even Giles knows this, so I want your solemn promise not to say anything. If you do, I’ll come and kick your ass.”
She searched his face. Nodding, she leaned back in the chair and stared up at the ceiling. “Alright. Well, you see, the Slayer before me was killed in April. I was called and after a few weeks of training I went patrolling for the first time with my first Watcher on Derby night. We found a nest in a mausoleum so I went in to scope it out. It was empty, but on the floor was a young girl, not much older than I was. I leaned over to check for a pulse. She was already cold. When I stood back up, the vamp was waiting there. We fought. I won.”
“Your first kill, Slayer. That is reason to celebrate.”
“Maybe.” Her voice went flat. “That very same weekend was also the last time my dad and I ever hung out together. I started patrolling evenings and he and my mom started fighting a lot, mainly over me being out late every night. A few months later he took off and then we moved here. So the celebration always has to be together. A two-for-one thingy.”
The sins of the parents are not inherited by their children is such bullshit Spike thought. We wear their marks deep inside all of us. “I’m sure they were fighting over things you weren’t even aware of. Don’t blame yourself for his leaving, Slayer.”
“I don’t really.” But she didn’t sound convinced and his heart ached for her. He wanted to make her understand. “It wasn’t your fault. Think of it this way. His taking off for the bright lights was a choice he made, not something forced on him by anyone else’s actions. We all live by our own decisions.” Some of us more than others.
“You’re right of course. But sometimes late at night I still wonder…”
“Buffy, sometimes late at night everyone wonders.”
She nodded slowly. “I suppose that’s true. He ran away with his secretary and God knows I shouldn’t be held responsible for some guy going through his midlife crisis.”
“Exactly. And I should add that’s a problem I’ll never have,” he replied, trying to lighten the mood.
She chuckled in response. A good sign.
Stretching, she eyed the office door thoughtfully. “And on that note and since we’ve finished the last of your second bottle, I suppose it’s time to stop drinking and go home. Any suggestions on how we can get out of here? Could go out there swinging, I suppose, although the idea of trashing Willie’s bar doesn’t really appeal to me. I must be drunker than I thought.”
“Not even a Slayer could take on every demon in Willie’s on crappy-band-night and live to tell the tale.”
“Maybe with her trusty vampire sidekick fighting beside her, she could.”
His mouth tilted. Sidekick huh? They’d certainly come a long way tonight. But even that compliment wouldn’t get him to go back in the bar as drunk as he knew they both were. On one hand they’d go down fighting, which was a good way to go….
He mentally shook his head. Nah, the best fighter he’d seen in decades deserved so much better than death by bar fight. And he’d help her get it.
Watching her weigh options, he realized he could fight alongside this woman and mean it. She had courage and strength sure, and that stupid uptight morality that drove him completely around the bend, but it was tempered by brains, wit and caring.
Maybe that was the real reason he’d begun to like her so damn much tonight. The Slayer was an entire package, the real deal, and there were damn few like that residing on the home planet.
His original plan suddenly floated to the forefront of his alcohol fueled brain. It would still work with a little tweaking.
“Not a good idea to go out there, Slayer, not even if you had Robin and Bucky as well as me, for ‘sidekicks’. Besides we wouldn’t want Willie left out on the street. The street would never be the same.”
“True. Willie’s not someone I’d want to inflict on anyone normal on anything remotely like a regular basis. Okay, I get Robin, Batman’s Boy Wonder, although red and green together? So White Christmas. But who the hell is Bucky? Right now I’m picturing a vicious squirrel with bad teeth.”
“Captain America’s sidekick.”
“Really? Captain America? God, you’re geeky and now that I think about it, oddly patriotic for a Brit. But don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of being Captain America a whole lot more than Batman. In every one of those movies, he’s a lot on the creepy side.”
“Not in the comic books. And you’d look incredible in a leather outfit, and I can’t believe I just said that outloud.”
She giggled, delighted at the complement in spite of herself. “I’ll let that one pass. We’ll chalk it up to all the liquor consumed tonight. But we’ve still got a serious problem.”
“There’s always the window. We can slip away into the good night.”
“Although the Slayer never just slips away into a good night or a bad, the sun will be up soon, so I’ll go along with your idea. Wouldn’t want my newest sidekick to combust.”
“Am I really?”
“Are you really what?”
“Your newest sidekick. Chalk it up to the liquor too if you want, but I’d like to know where I stand.”
“Right next to me from now on. And bonus, if we leave now, we won’t be responsible for escorting that band home.” She pretended to shudder.
“I’ll drink to that.” He downed the last of his drink and encouraged by her newfound lightheartedness he added, “I’ll bet you were good, even back then.”
“I was young. What did I know? I didn’t have any moves yet.” She smirked and he knew she was really back on track. “Now I’m good.”
He looked her straight in the eye. “No Slayer, now you’re magnificent.”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/403376.html