Speaker-to-Customers (speakr2customrs) wrote,

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Spuffy ficathon substitute entry

I saw i_digress_uk posting that she had a commitment that would prevent her writing her ficathon story for liliaeth, and I volunteered to step in. The setup was:
Up to two other characters (besides Spike & Buffy) - optional:Gunn, Dawn
Requirements: Dawn and Spike conversation, Spike getting a job, Buffy saving Spike from a bad guy.
Restrictions: no human Spike, no charbashing, no Wesley.

So, here it is. Rating I would put at PG-13. 7,400 words. I got carried away.

Working for the Yankee Dollar

Season 6 some time before ‘As You Were ’...

“You shouldn’t be here, Bit.” Spike’s voice was heavy, full of regrets.

Dawn’s heart sank. “You don’t want to see me. Huh. See if I care,” she said defiantly, and tossed her schoolbag to the ground.

“It’s not that. I’ll always want to see you. It’s – oh, sod it, your bloody sis has got her knickers in a twist and thinks I’ll lead you into evil ways. She won’t bleeding well let me see you.”

“Huh. Like you ever take any notice of what she says.” Dawn sat down on the lid of the sarcophagus and kicked her heels against the stone.

“Don’t damage your shoes, your sis has to pay for those,” Spike scolded her.

Dawn pouted, but obeyed. “Got any chips?”

“Only if you ask for them in proper English.”

“Wotcher, me old china, got any crisps, mate?” Dawn grinned.

“I said proper English,” Spike pointed out, his eyes twinkling.

“I say, my good man, would you be so good as to proffer me some refreshments in the form of some crisps?” Dawn lifted her chin regally and stuck out her little finger. “Tally ho, old chap.”

“That’d get you a job in any Yank TV show that was looking for an English character, and it’d get you laughed out of any town in England except maybe Tunbridge Wells. I just wanted you to call them ‘crisps’, you minx.” The vampire smiled, rummaged behind a statue, produced a tube of Pringles Spicy Cajun flavor, and held it just out of her reach. “And who’re you going to cheer for in the World Cup?”

“En-ger-land,” Dawn chanted.

“That’s my girl,” Spike said approvingly, and handed over the chips.

Dawn popped off the lid and set about the contents. “Snacking on the edge. Whatcha doing?”

“Same thing I do every night, Bit.”

“Try to take over the world,” Dawn responded happily. “No, seriously.”

“Trying to come up with some way of making some money for your sis. That sodding Doublemeat place is killing her, but she can’t do without the dosh. If I could just make a decent score I could maybe do something to help out.”

“She wouldn’t take it, Spike,” Dawn said soberly. “I mean, anything you got by stealing or whatever. It wouldn’t matter how much she needed it, she wouldn’t take anything dishonest.”

“Not gonna steal anything,” Spike assured her. “There’s this bloke who wants somewhere to stash some demon eggs for a while. He’s willing to pay cash for space. What would be the harm in that? Just trying to work out where I could stick the bloody things without them getting in the way too much.”

Dawn turned eyes older than her years on her vampire friend. “Oh, c’mon, Spike, you know better than that. They’ll hatch and try to eat everybody, or Mommy Demon will come looking for them and trample buildings and things, and Buffy will get seriously pissed at you.”

“S’ppose you’re right,” Spike deflated. “But what else can I do?”

“You could get a job,” Dawn suggested.

Spike laughed. “Don’t talk daft, Nibs. I’m a vampire. Card-carrying Evil Undead, not Green Card-carrying human. And can you see me working somewhere behind a sodding counter, putting up with all the crap she has to take?”

“If you really loved her you would,” Dawn told him. “Anyway, you could probably get something better than that.”

“Can’t work as a bouncer or anything like that, seeing as how I can’t hit humans,” Spike pointed out. “Can’t pick fruit ‘cos of the combustion issue. Can’t do any office job, what with not having a Green Card. I’m a bit bloody stuck, pet. Not exactly spoiled for choice. Once in a while I’ve done a stint tending bar at the Alibi Room, but they won’t take me on long term ‘cos I’ve made too many enemies. Too much danger of one of them starting a rumble and smashing the place up.”

“What about a human bar?” Dawn suggested. “There’s this English theme pub opening soon, over on Oakhurst Lane, they’d probably be glad to have a real Englishman.”

“A real live Englishman they probably would, yeah, but I’m not quite in that category. There’s still the Green Card issue with anywhere legit, pet.”

Dawn flipped a chip into the air, messed up the catch, and sent Pringles fragments scattering over the floor. “Can’t you get a fake Green Card, or fake being a citizen? I know there are demons around who have jobs, plenty of them, so they must have a way round it. Maybe Clem could help you out.”

“Again, too many enemies, Niblet. With all this security crap there’s been recently it’s got harder to come up with fake ID that’ll pass muster, y’know. Not too many blokes who can do it, what with it having to be in computers and not just on paper, and none of the ones who can do it have me on their Christmas card list, know what I mean? More on their shit list.”

“I bet Angel could do it,” Dawn suggested.

“He couldn’t find his arse with both hands,” Spike scoffed, but then frowned. “He probably bloody could, or would know someone who could. Trouble is, can’t see him doing anything for me. Last time we met I chained him up and got this nutter to shove hot pokers in him. Not exactly the way to make friends and influence people, Bit.”

“Pokers? Eww! What’d you do that for?”

“He had my ring, didn’t he? I wanted it back. Oh, sod it, it didn’t bloody work, all it did was piss him off good and proper, can’t see him doing anything to help me now, and I can’t sodding well blame him. Nah, it’s no use. I’ll just have to stick to nicking things, and scavenging off the dump, Niblet.”

“Like that’s going to help,” Dawn muttered, tossing the Pringles tube at Spike’s battered wastebasket. “Got any soda?”

“Oi! Greedy little bint, you’ve eaten the whole bloody tube,” Spike protested. “None left for me, and now your sis’ll be mad at me for spoiling your appetite.”

“And I so was full of appetite for Doublemeat goodness.” Dawn rolled her eyes and ignored Spike’s wrath. “The chips are probably more nutritious than what she’ll be bringing home. She should be glad.”

“She’ll be mad,” Spike said soberly. “Best be off, Bit. Don’t let her know you popped in.” He ruffled her hair, provoking a pout and another eye roll. “And they’re crisps, not chips. What have I told you?”

“French fries are chips, chips are crisps, soccer’s football, and football is a game for wimps too chicken to play Rugby without putting on a suit of armor first,” Dawn recited. She scooped up her schoolbag. “Bye, Spike.”

- - - - -

After she’d gone Spike sat gloomily staring into space for a while. The Niblet’s visit had only brought it home to him how bleak his life had become lately. He’d never thought it would come to this, but he actually regretted having started shagging the Slayer. Before that they’d actually been talking, she’d been coming to trust him and to turn to him as a friend, and it had been much better than this bitter and resentful relationship it had turned into since the shagging started. He’d tried to get her to turn to him instead of to her friends, it hadn’t bloody worked out at all, and now he was just her shameful little secret. She was never going to join him in the dark, she wasn’t going to let him join her in the light – quite apart from the whole combusting in sunlight issue.

Oh, sod it. He could choose for himself if he was going to join her in the light, she couldn’t bloody stop him. He might be a monster, but he liked being treated like a man. Maybe he could try acting like one. Couldn’t be a monster any more, after all. Couldn’t kill, couldn’t defend himself if he got caught stealing; pretty much like a normal human, come to think of it. Maybe taking that one more step and getting a job like a normal human might be worth the effort. It could hardly be worse than the way things were now.

Okay, so how to get round the practical problems? Angel was out, yeah, but he had other blokes working for him. Maybe one of them could solve his identity problem, keep Angel out of it. They were supposed to help the helpless, and he was pretty helpless since the sodding Initiative had stuffed this bleeding chip in his noggin, wasn’t he?

After it got dark Spike took a walk to the site of the theme pub. Yes, there were notices up advertising for staff. He peered in. No use trying to get a job there if it was covered in mirrors, that’d be a bit of a dead give away; but from what he could see it was pretty light on the mirror front, certainly no big one behind the bar. Worth a shot, maybe.

The next step was to phone LA. If Angel answered he’d hang up; same if it was that Cordelia bint, she’d remember him from the little Gem of Amara fiasco. The Irish bloke who’d been around at the time was dead, he’d heard, so there was only the two he had to avoid. Although Angel had probably talked about him, best not to use his usual name, and it might be an idea to cut back on the working-class accent he had so laboriously taught himself all those years ago. Not go back to the nancy-boy William the Bloody Awful Poet, though. No point in going to extremes.

So it was that the following night Spike found himself in an LA diner sitting opposite a shaven-headed black bloke called Gunn. No, have to remind himself to think ‘African-American’, yeah, that was what they said these days, not ‘black’. Bloody stupid way of putting it, Spike thought. He’d even heard someone on the TV calling Nelson Mandela ‘African-American’, which had to set some sort of record for being obtuse.

Not that Spike cared what color humans were. He wouldn’t have kicked Giles’ old girlfriend Olivia out of bed for eating crisps, that was for sure, her coffee-colored skin was bloody lovely and she’d been a real classy bit of talent. Back in the good old pre-chip days he’d punched some tosser’s teeth down his throat for calling Andy Cole a ‘coon’; the color of the shirt was much more important than the color of the skin. If this Gunn bloke would help him out he could be purple with lime green stripes for all that Spike cared.

Although to start with things didn’t look promising. “You’re a vampire,” Gunn said flatly. “I hate vampires.”

“I’m not mad keen on them myself, have to say,” Spike replied. “I am one, yeah, but there’s not a lot I can do about it. I’m in the same boat as your boss. The only other vampires I meet these days usually try to kill me.”

“You ain’t claiming you got a soul, are you?” Gunn stared at Spike with suspicious eyes.

Spike sighed. “What’s the big deal about a soul? I don’t kill humans. Bleeding well protect them, don’t I? What does it matter whether or not I feel guilty about having killed them in the past? Fat lot of good sitting around brooding does.”

“You know Angel, then? Guess you must.” Gunn’s brows lowered and his mouth became a tight line. “You’re Spike.”

“Oh, sod it. Yeah, got me there. I’m Spike.” The diner was half empty, and they were sitting in a deserted corner. Spike raised his head and looked around ostentatiously. “Come on, help me out,” he said to no-one. “This is where you’re supposed to come forward and say ‘No, I’m Spikelus,’ and ‘He lies, I’m Spikelus,’ and so on. Bugger. Guess life’s not like the movies.”

Gunn raised an eyebrow. His mouth twitched for a moment, fighting back a smile, and then he broke into a chuckle. “If I remember right the Romans crucified them all anyway,”

“So, maybe just as well life isn’t like the movies.” Spike smiled back briefly, and then turned solemn again. “So, mate, you’ve found me out. Hope it doesn’t mean you’re not going to help me.”

Gunn didn’t answer directly. “Hear you have a microchip in your head that shocks you if you try and hurt humans, that right?”

Spike gritted his teeth and raised his eyes heavenwards. “Is there anyone who doesn’t bloody know about that? If I ever go back to Brazil I’ll go out into the impenetrable rain forest, find some lost Kayapo tribe who haven’t even met Sting, and they’ll greet me with “Olá, Sr. Spike, how are you coping with the chip these days?”

Gunn tried again to smother his laughter, and then gave up. “Man, you crack me up. Maybe I might make an exception to my hating vampires thing.”

“Just one exception? What, Angel being a Pointy-Haired Boss and doing the annoying focus groups and mission statements thing, is he? He’s already got the hair, I suppose.”

“Okay, okay, two exceptions. Angel’s all right. Maybe I wouldn’t pick him just to hang out and chill with, but he’s a pretty good boss. You read Dilbert?” Gunn sounded incredulous.

“Doesn’t everybody? Got to get my fun somewhere. Anyway, back on topic. Can you help me with the ID stuff?”

“Probably. But I have to be clear on what you’re using it for, man.”

“Told you on the phone, mate. I want to get a job.”

“What sort of job?” Gunn turned serious again. “I got to be sure you ain’t acting as the inside man for some outfit knocking over a bank, whether it’s the blood kind or the money kind.”

Spike fidgeted, looked resentfully at the ‘No Smoking’ sign, and stared at his half-empty coffee cup as if it was suddenly going to do something interesting. “Behind the bar of an English theme pub,” he said at last. “That’s all. No big evil scheme.”

Gunn scrutinized him carefully. Angel had told him about William the Bloody, the Slayer of Slayers, the swaggering and arrogant killer with the cold eyes and the appetite for destruction. The man, well vampire, in front of him didn’t seem to match the description. In fact, he seemed to be a decent guy. Okay, it could be an act, but if so it was a pretty damn good one. Gunn recognized that embarrassment he was showing. Back in the day, with the old gang, it was the thing. You had to have the ‘tude. You beat somebody up and you flaunt it; you help an old lady across the road, you make damn sure none of the brothers are looking. “Just a normal job? Just for the wages?”

“Yeah. Vampires aren’t exempt from the laws of economics. Not when I can’t just half-inch stuff any more, anyway.”

“So why now in particular? You’ve had that chip for, what, two years?”

“Bit longer. See, the Slayer used to pay me for information, for helping out. Things are a bit tight for her these days, she can’t come up with the readies, so I’ve got to find another way to pay for ciggies and blood.”

There had to be more to it than that. Gunn noted the points at which Spike had avoided meeting his eyes, and realization struck him. “The money’s for her, ain’t it? You want to help her out.”

“Nah,” Spike scoffed. “We’re mortal enemies, just with a truce because of the chip.” He faltered under Gunn’s cynical gaze. “Okay, you got me. Yeah, I do. She needs help. She’s working in a bloody awful fast food place, and it’s killing her. Got to do my bit to help her and the Bit, and she wouldn’t take anything from me that wasn’t honest. So this. You going to help me or what?”

“Okay. I know a guy. I can get what you want. You got the photos?”

Spike passed him a strip of pictures from a photo booth. “Don’t tell Angel, okay?”

- - - - -

He’d faced four Slayers, even two at once on one painful occasion. Angelus. Angel. The Third Reich. Adam. Glory. A mob of maddened Czechs. Joyce Summers with an axe in the corridor. Staggered, newly chipped and starving, to Giles’ door in broad daylight to throw himself on the doubtful mercy of the Scooby Gang. Nothing had ever been as intimidating as this.

A job interview.

The only reason that his palms weren’t sweating was because that was one of the physiological functions impossible for vampires.

He was wearing the ‘Randy Giles’ suit and a white shirt, although he’d left off the bloody stupid bow tie, and he felt like a complete tosser even with the leather coat over the top. He drew nervously on his cigarette, tossed the butt to the ground, and approached the door.

“I can do this,” he muttered. “How hard can it be?” He raised his hand to the bell, lowered it again, turned and walked away. “Coward,” he scolded himself. “Think of Buffy wearing that hat with the sodding cow. Just bloody do it.” A passer-by turned to look suspiciously at the strange man who was talking to himself. A cat hissed and spat at him. Spike laughed. “‘Turn again, Whittington’. Don’t want to be Lord Mayor of London, even if one of my ancestors was, but I’ll take it as an omen.” He turned back towards the bar. The passer-by walked hastily in the other direction. The cat began to wash.

- - - - -

The first thing she heard when she entered the pub was the music, of course, but the second thing was Spike’s laughter. Open, delighted, laughter. It was such a long time since she had heard him laugh like that. A pang shot through her as she remembered the last time; he’d been laughing with Mom and Dawn.

As she approached the bar she could make out what he was saying. “Nah, mate, you can’t count AC/DC as British just ‘cos of Brian Johnson. They’re still bleeding Aussies.”

“Ah’ve got the final say, ye naa, ah’m the manager an’ aal, like,” another voice replied incomprehensibly. “Wor Brian maaks them oors an’ that’s that. Had yer gob.”

She could see him now. There were two men behind the bar, Spike and a stranger, both wearing soccer team shirts. Spike’s was red, the other man’s bore black and white stripes. They were grinning broadly at each other, and at the two drinkers sitting on the bar stools in front of them.

She drew nearer. Spike turned towards her as he sensed a customer approaching. “What can I get you …?” he began, and then recognized her. “Buffy.” His relaxed good humor vanished.

“Spike.” She stopped, unsure of what to say next. The glimpse of a relaxed and cheerful Spike had shaken her; the way he had grown tense and still as he saw her had hurt.

“Well, we still know each other’s names,” Spike said, with a half smile.

“Yeah.” Buffy gave him a weak smile and stood still, ill at ease.

“This yor lass, Spike? Taak a bit break. There’s neebody in yet, ah’ll manage on me oon. Divvent worry, lad, ah’ll nee dock yor wages.” The other man, the bar manager, looked appraisingly at Buffy, and she flinched inwardly as she read from his eyes that she had been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Huh. She sniffed. He was no prize himself; no taller than Spike, although broader; hair clipped short, graying, receding at the front; probably around Giles’ age. Pretty muscular for an old guy, though.

“Ta, Keith. Back in ten.” Spike came out from behind the bar and led Buffy to a corner table. She noticed that his shirt bore the legend ‘Spike’ across the back and the number 7. “So. You’ve found me.” He sat down facing her and waited for her to speak.

“You haven’t been around. I’ve hardly seen you since the party. I wouldn’t have known where to find you if Dawn hadn’t told me.” Buffy looked at the wall above the table. A framed photo hung there, a determined-looking man with receding brown hair, who wore the same style black and white shirt as the bar manager. An inscription on the frame read ‘Alan Shearer OBE’, and the photo was autographed. There were similar photos at intervals around the walls. “So. You’re working. A real job.”

“Yeah. Look, pet, sorry I didn’t tell you. Wanted to be sure I could make a go of it first.”

“You seem to be getting on okay.” She almost envied him.

“Actually I’m having a smashing time. Keith’s a fantastic bloke to work for, the customers seem to like me, and we’ve got a license to record the Premiership matches off cable and play them back in the evenings, so I’m getting to see the football on a big screen telly.” He pointed across the room. “And I get paid for it, and I get tips. Bloody brilliant.” His smile lit up his whole face, but then the light went back out as he looked back into Buffy’s eyes. “Sorry,” he muttered. “Know you hate your job.”

“If I even still have one. I walked out tonight.”

“That’s great!” Spike beamed. “Told you that place was no good for you.”

“I still need the money, Spike,” she pointed out glumly.

“Don’t worry about it, pet. Told you I could get money, and there’s no reason for you not to take it now. All totally legit. I’m on twice what you were, even not counting the tips. Take some time out, find something decent, I’ll cover everything while you’re looking.”

“I can’t take your money, Spike,” she told him.

He scowled. “Why the Hell not? It’s legal and honest, innit?” His shoulders slumped. “Trying my best here, pet. Thought I could do something for you. Don’t throw it back in my face.”

“You’re doing this for me?” Her eyes widened.

“Well, yeah. Thought that would have been obvious.”

“I still can’t take it, Spike.”

“Why, ‘cos I’m a soulless evil thing?” he asked bitterly.

“No, Spike. I’m so sorry about that. You were trying your best for me and I spat it back at you. Took out on you things that weren’t your fault. It’s because I don’t deserve it.” She reached across the table and took his hand. “Thank you for offering. Thanks for being willing to do this for me. But I still can’t take it.”

“Suit yourself, Slayer,” Spike huffed. He pulled his hand free and looked over his shoulder. “Best be getting back, there’s more customers starting to drift in. We’ll be busy later. Gets a bit busier every day. We’ll be needing more staff soon.” He looked back at Buffy. “You could work here, y’know. Lunchtimes maybe if you want to keep evenings free for the slaying. I could have a word with Keith, bet he’d take you on.”

“I couldn’t understand a word he was saying,” Buffy complained. “What language was that anyway?”

“Geordie,” Spike grinned. “He can talk proper if he wants, he just likes winding me up.”

“Geordie?” Buffy repeated blankly. Her brows furrowed as she tried to remember if that was a demon species Giles had ever mentioned.

Spike recognized her expression. “He’s human, love. Geordies are people from a place in England called Newcastle. Opposite end of the country to where me and Giles are from. He’s not a demon, not evil, just got a wicked sense of humor. Want me to have a word about a job?”

Buffy shook her head. “No, thanks. Maybe if Lorraine does fire me I might. Look, what I came to ask you about – know anything about black market demon eggs? Somebody called ‘the Doctor’ selling Suvolte demon eggs to foreign powers?”

“So you’re only coming to me for information. Might have bloody known.” He seemed to shrink slightly. “There’s a demon who hangs out in Dave’s Bar most nights. Calls himself Jack McKee. Sort of pale purplish, little horns, apart from that he could pretty much pass for human, He offered me two hundred bucks to stash some demon eggs in my crypt for a couple of weeks. The Niblet warned me it might not be a good idea to get mixed up in it so I told him no. She was right, then? Thank her for me.”

“So she’s been seeing you even when she was supposed to be grounded?”

“Well, yeah, thought you knew that, seeing as how she told you where to find me. Don’t be hard on her, love.”

“Well, okay. I’ll tell her off, but then I’ll tell her she can call in on you after school if you like. Not more than one hour, absolute tops. Right?”

“Right. Thanks, Buffy. I’ve missed the Bit.” Spike smiled softly, and Buffy felt her heart twist.

“You’ve missed me too, haven’t you?”

“Damn right I’ve missed you,” Spike agreed, but his eyes were turned to the bar again.

“Tell me you love me,” Buffy demanded.

Spike turned back to her. “I love you. You know I do.”

“Tell me you want me,” Buffy went on.

“I always want you,” Spike agreed. “But this isn’t the time. You want to see me, I’m off Thursdays, or I’m in the crypt daytimes. Right now I have to get back to work and if you want to stay you’re going to have to buy a drink.”

“Okay,” Buffy agreed in a small voice. “I’ll go. Drink, Buffy, not mixy things, you know that. Goodbye, Spike.”

“Bye, pet.” Spike went back to the bar and was busily engaged in serving drinks within seconds.

Buffy walked slowly from the pub. She was confused, almost disorientated. Responsible Spike? Huh? Spike who seemed to have made real human friends outside the Scooby Gang. Spike who was offering her real help, putting considerable effort into it, but who wasn’t twisting himself around her little finger any more. It was too much to take in all at once. She failed to pay enough attention to where she was going and crashed into someone who was entering. A bearded man who looked vaguely familiar.

“Sorry,” she muttered, and then recollected where she had seen him before. “Hi! Still mustard-free?”

- - - - -

Gunn turned up a few days later. Early in the evening, not long after Spike had started work, with few customers around. “Spike, my man,” he greeted the vampire, settling himself down on a bar stool. “How’s it hanging?”

“Gunn,” Spike responded. “Who’s the black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks? Gunn.”

Gunn recognized the words as being the theme from ‘Shaft’ and almost fell from the stool laughing. “You’re damn right.”

“Who is the man that would risk his neck for his brother man?” Spike went on, eyes twinkling. “Gunn. Can ya dig it?”

“Hey, man, stop it, you’re killing me,” Gunn chuckled. “You seem to be doing okay. I can hardly believe it, but you really seem to be making a go of it. Good for you. Give me a pint of English beer.”

“Sure thing. Any preference?”

“I’ll leave it to you, man, I don’t know jack about it.” Gunn looked around the bar as Spike poured the pint. “Nice place. You’re really getting on okay, then? How’s the Slayer?”

“I’ve hardly seen her,” Spike confessed, his good mood evaporating. “She won’t take the money, even though it’s as legit as it gets. Still, I’ll stick at it. It’s not a bad gig.” He took Gunn’s payment, operated the till, and handed back the change.

“Keep it, Spike,” the Angel Investigations man told him, and took a drink. “Hey, this ain’t bad. Kinda smooth. It was a long drive, and that really hits the spot.”

“So how are things in LA?” Spike asked.

“Not too good. Things are a bit tense right now. Don’t want to say too much, you dig, but it was good to get away for a while.”

“And check up on the evil vampire?”

“You’re not evil,” Gunn said decisively. “I’ve seen evil and you ain’t it.”

“Hey, take that back,” Spike protested half-heartedly.

“I’ve been doing some checking up on you,” Gunn admitted. “From what I’ve found out that song goes for you too. Who’s the cat that won’t cop out when there’s danger all about? Spike. Right on. You see, this cat Spike is a bad mother.”

“Shut your mouth,” Spike put in.

“But I’m talkin’ about Spike.”

“Then we can dig it.” Spike’s forehead creased. “You think so? I failed when it counted.”

“Hell, you think I ain’t failed? Think Angel hasn’t? We keep on trying, man, that’s all you can do. What I can see is you’re doing it. The job thing, that’s a good thing to do.” Gunn didn’t notice Spike going rigid and he kept on talking. “If you’ve come over to the side of good, man, we’re sure pleased to have you. You want to call me friend, I’d be proud. And if that girl of yours don’t see it, well, she’s dumb.”

“Hello, Buffy,” Spike said, looking past Gunn’s shoulder.

“Hi,” Buffy said without warmth. “Hi,” she addressed Gunn. “I’m the dumb girl in question. What’s Spike been saying about me?” She looked daggers at Spike, convinced that he’d been shooting his mouth off about the relationship. “His girl, not so much.”

“So you’re the Slayer,” Gunn replied. “He hasn’t said a damn thing other than that he wants to help you out. It’s the look in his eyes when he says it. He’s got it bad for you.”

“And just who are you, anyway?” Buffy demanded.

“Gunn. Charles Gunn, but nobody calls me Charles and keeps their teeth. I work for Angel.”

“Oh.” Buffy deflated slightly. “You’re really willing to be friends with Spike?”

“Why not? He’s doing good. Trying hard. Not letting go of things people have done in the past has caused a lot of pain for a lot of people lately, me included. I’m willing to give Spike a chance. You should try it.”

Buffy stood nonplussed. Spike getting a vote of confidence from one of Angel’s team was something she could never have envisioned. She engaged in displacement activity to give herself time to think. “I need something to drink, Spike. Not alcohol. A great big no with the alcohol. Soda.” She fumbled in her purse.

“Allow me, Buffy,” Spike waved her money aside and put money in the till from Gunn’s tip. He poured her a soda. “Try this. Irn Bru.”

Buffy looked dubiously at the bright orange liquid. “Iron what?”

“Irn Bru. It’s a Scottish soft drink. More popular than Coke there. Drink it, leave it, your choice.” He left the drink in front of her and moved along the bar to where another customer had arrived.

Buffy sniffed the drink. “Tangerine?” She sipped it. “Weird. But kinda nice. Now, suppose you tell me just what Spike’s been saying about me. But away from him.”

They took a seat at a table and began to talk. Gunn revealed that he had assisted Spike with the documentation necessary to get the job, and explained why he had done so. Buffy was still skeptical about the vampire’s motives.

“Vampires can’t love,” she said, for probably the thousandth time. “Lust, maybe. He has some kind of an obsession with me, but so not wanting to encourage it.” She avoided his eyes as she said the last part.

“If you’d been through what we went through with that cat James, after Angel staked his girl, you sure wouldn’t say that,” Gunn told her. “Sure they can. Maybe they do different things on a date to regular folks but that’s about all. I hate vampires as much, maybe more, than anyone on Earth, but I kinda like Spike. Change that, no ‘kinda’ about it. He’s okay. I can see the sparks between you. My advice? Quit fighting it. He’s changed his whole world for you. Willing to give you everything. Quit messing him about and just take it.”

“What about Angel? Shouldn’t you be on his side?”

“Look, girl, all the drama we’ve had, the last thing we need is more. Not gonna tell you the story, it’s for Angel to tell you if he wants you to know; but if you’re as interested in Spike as your eyes say, then just forget Angel and go for it.”

Gunn didn’t stay for much longer. He had a long drive back to LA, he didn’t want to drink much more, and the place was filling up to the point where he could tell he wasn’t going to get another chance to talk freely to Spike. He went over to say goodbye and then departed, leaving Buffy alone.

She waved away a couple of guys who wanted to get to know her. So not interested. Spike was totally tied up, despite no longer being the only one serving behind the bar. He’d been joined by Keith the manager, and by a dark-haired girl who filled out her soccer shirt entirely too well for Buffy’s liking, and all were being kept busy by a stream of customers. Spike was smiling, chatting, serving the drinks with flair. She still hadn’t told him why she’d come; hadn’t told him about the ramifications of the Doctor’s demon eggs scheme, hadn’t told him about Riley’s visit, about what had occurred to Xander about ‘Jack McKee’ just too late to tell Riley before the Initiative agent had departed in his stupid flashy helicopter with his stupid flashy wife. Oh well, there was always tomorrow.

Buffy pushed her way to the bar near him and put down her glass. “Goodnight, Spike,” she called. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Earlier. And we’ll talk.”

Spike barely had time to shoot her a glance and call back “Goodnight, Buffy”.

No wonder he was making twice what she was getting paid by the Doublemeat Palace, this place was certainly pulling the crowd in. Maybe his idea she should try for a job here wasn’t so bad. She thought about it as she walked home. Buffy behind the bar. Had a certain ring to it, certainly better than Buffy Behind Bars. She smiled for a moment until the phrase brought back a certain memory. A walk towards the police station, filled with guilt and fear. A well-intentioned but bungled attempt by Spike to help her. Her loss of control, her fists smashing down again and again, bitter words spilling from her mouth like venom. The way tears now started to spill from her eyes.

- - - - -

“When I’m working, yes I know I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be the man who’s working hard for you. And when the money, comes in for the work I’ll do, I’ll pass almost every penny on to you.” Spike sang cheerily to himself as he set off for work. The Proclaimers, ‘500 Miles’. One of the eclectic collection of exclusively British records on the pub’s CD jukebox. He hadn’t heard it for years, but the use of one of their other songs in ‘Shrek’ recently had brought them back into the public consciousness, and somebody had played it last night. He’d been struck by the relevance to his situation, and it had stuck in his mind. Yeah, there was a lot of stuff on the machine he liked better, some classics by the Clash, the Buzzcocks, the Skids; but it was this one that he felt like singing as he headed for his motorbike. Buffy had got a look at him through fresh eyes last night. Gunn had spoken up for him, he felt sure. Definite progress.

“But I would walk five hundred miles, and I would walk five hundred more…” He continued to sing as he started the bike and rode off, but the roar of the engine drowned out his words.

It also drowned out Buffy’s exclamation of dismay as she saw him get astride the machine. She’d intended to catch him on his way to work and walk along with him; it hadn’t occurred to her that he’d take the bike, and she’d been walking behind him, listening to him sing, just too far away to catch him when she realized what he was doing. Typical Buffy Summers luck. She ran after him for a few strides, yelling “Spike, wait up,” but it was hopeless; she settled down to a walk again.

Spike roared through the cemetery and between the gates. Something hit him across the chest with stunning force. He was thrown from the saddle and sent crashing to the ground. The bike continued on for a few yards and then veered, toppled, and skidded on its side out into the road.

Spike landed on his back. His head bounced on the hard turf and his vision grayed out for a moment. When it cleared he raised his head and saw the black nylon rope stretched between the cemetery gates. A couple of inches higher and it would have caught him across the throat and possibly decapitated him. He began to scramble to his feet, anger coursing through him, and then a foot hit him in the side and knocked him down again.

Two figures. One just a typical hulking thug. The other he recognized. Mauve skin, little horns. Jack McKee, the demon who’d offered him cash to store dangerous demon eggs. “You,” Spike growled, “are in a world of hurt.”

“Wrong,” McKee smirked. “You are, Spike. You couldn’t keep your mouth shut. Ran it off to the Slayer, wrecked my scheme, cost me a lot of money. It’s coming out of your hide.” He waved the thug forward. Over six foot, muscular, cut-off denim vest displaying tattooed arms.

Spike wasn’t impressed. He came to his feet in one smooth motion and lashed out. The pain seared through him instantly. Blinding, incapacitating, pain. He fell to his knees and the henchman kicked him in the face.

“Heard you had a little problem hitting humans, Spike,” McKee chortled. “Looks like the word is right. This is going to be fun. Not for you, of course.” He held up a stake. “I’ll put you out of your misery, eventually, after I get bored of watching Barney here kick you around. Might take a while.”

A punch. Another kick. Spike struggled helplessly. Frustration burned through him so intensely that he almost wept. He was going to die at the hands of a human and a puny demon he’d take out in seconds in a fair fight. Nothing fair about this. It was humiliating. Gunn would eat this bloke for breakfast. Keith at the bar would smash his face in, no problem, too; the Geordie bar owner had the air of someone who could more than handle himself. But they weren’t here. All Spike could do was ride the blows as much as possible and hope for a chance to run.

“Whatsa matter, vampire?” Barney sneered between punches. “Too chicken to fight back? A bit of pain too much for ya?” He kicked Spike again. Spike snarled, lashed out again, and again was brought down by the searing agony from the chip.

“That’s enough,” McKee ordered. “Check if he has any cash on him and then hold him still for me.” He raised the stake.

Barney nodded, seized Spike by one arm, and pulled open his coat. Spike snarled impotently. Suddenly Barney was jerked violently backwards and sent spinning away.

Buffy stood where he had been, eyes blazing. “Nobody messes with my boyfriend!” she spat.

“Slayer!” McKee exclaimed nervously, turning a more bilious shade of mauve.

“Boyfriend?” Spike repeated incredulously, a smile starting to spread across his face despite the pain.

“Yes, Spike, boyfriend. I’ll tell Willow, tell Xander, everyone.” She hesitated. “If you still want me, that is.”

“I’ll always want you,” Spike breathed. He turned towards McKee. “The game’s a bit different now, innit?”

Barney picked himself up and charged towards Buffy. She backhanded him casually and knocked him from his feet again.

“Slayer,” McKee said again. “What happened to the rule about you not hurting humans?”

“I think of it as more of a guideline,” Buffy retorted. She leaped on Barney as he scrambled to his feet, seized his arm, and twisted viciously. There was an ugly snapping sound and the thug screamed. “When you get to hospital be sure and tell them that a five foot nothing girl did this to you,” Buffy urged him. “Then you can get a nice padded cell to recover in.” She brought her elbow across into his jaw and Barney went limp.

“McKee’s ‘the Doctor’,” Buffy told Spike, tossing aside the unconscious henchman. “Xander remembered after Riley had gone. ‘Jack McKee’ is the name of the lead character in a film called ‘The Doctor’. William Hurt played him. This creep persuaded Riley he was just a fall guy, holding the eggs for cash, and he let him off with a warning. Dumb mistake. You gonna put it right?”

“You bet.” Spike bared his teeth.

McKee turned to run. He didn’t even make twenty yards.

- - - - -

They retrieved Spike’s motorbike and stashed it in some bushes, cut the rope, and then set off to walk to the pub together.

“So, Soldier Boy was back in town?” Spike asked. “What happened?”

“Long story,” Buffy told him. “I’ll just give you the Cliff Notes version, ‘kay? He came back, dragged me out of the Doublemeat to help him chase a demon, I killed it, turned out it was the eggs he was after, then Riley produced a wife, would you believe? I saw you, told him what you told me, he tracked down the eggs, blew them up, jumped on a helicopter with his shiny new wife and headed off to Nepal. Leaving the villain for us to deal with. That’s pretty much the whole story. Not so long after all, I guess.” They exchanged smiles.

“So, the boyfriend thing,” Spike reminded her. “You mean it?”

“I mean it. Wanna come to Xander’s wedding with me as my official date?”

“God, yes, Buffy.” He smiled at her teasingly. “Although, I did ask Sheri at work to come with me. Lame attempt to make you jealous.”

“Consider her invite cancelled,” Buffy ordered, and took his hand. “You’re mine now, and I don’t share.” They walked another few strides and then a new thought struck her. “How do you get by at the bar? Do they know you’re a vampire?”

“Know, yes; care, no. I tried to hide it but I couldn’t get away with it for long. Keith saw through me but he’s not bothered. I do the job, do it well, that’s all that matters to him. They treat me like a man, and I act like one.”

“I haven’t been doing that lately. I’m so sorry, Spike. You’ve tried harder than anyone I’ve ever known, and I just shot you down. You just kept on trying. What you’ve been doing lately, God I’m so proud of you.” She stopped walking, bringing him to a halt too, and stared into his eyes. “Mom would have been proud of you.”

“Really?” Spike felt pride surge through him. “Oh, Buffy, you don’t know how much that means to me.”

“I know,” she assured him. “Mom always liked you. You’ve proved her right.”

“Thank you,” Spike said reverently. He pulled her to him gently. His lips met hers gently, tenderly, becoming more urgent as she responded, but the kiss stayed sweet and loving.

When they parted Buffy’s eyes were shining. “It’s never been like that before. Never.” She puckered up. “Again! Again!”

“I would, Laa-Laa,” he teased, “but I’m carving out this new life as a responsible member of society, aren’t I?” He shook his head. “Not going to let you make me late for work.”


Lyrics quoted in the story come from the “Theme from ‘Shaft’”, by Isaac Hayes, and “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers. The title is taken from the song “Working for the Yankee Dollar” by The Skids.

The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox.

Tags: fic
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