|Story Title:||Can't Buy Me Love|
Buffy now knows Spike’s been fighting for money and he owes Mr. Shark – what will she do about it?
MacKenzie Verity Weckerly born October 9th, 2010
Edmond “Eddie” Giles Rosenberg-Maclay born March 11, 2010
Joshua "JJ" Harris was born on April 21st, 2004
The twins (Danielle Dawn, "Dani" and William Rupert, "Billy") were born on February 12th, 2004.
Annie was born on February 14th, 1999
Spike and Buffy were married in February 1999
Buffy was born January 19th, 1981
William/Spike was turned by Dru in
All the Potentials were endowed with full Slayer power in February 2003.
Buffy and Spike learned of the other dimensions and got the memories from the 'Rome' Universe in May, 2003.
The ‘Wish-World’ lasted from January 19th, 2005 to January, 16th 2010.
J. Geils Band, Love Stinks http://youtu.be/E0LAs7X5ybE
ScreenCaps courtesy of ScreenCap Paradise: http://www.screencap-paradise.com/?cat=3
Thanks to 'epd4' for betaing this chapter. Any mistakes are mine because I can't stop fiddling ...
|Rating / Warnings:||
NC17. Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains explicit language, sex, adult themes, and other adult situations that some people may find objectionable. If you are under the age of 17 or find any of these themes objectionable – GO AWAY.
(Same Day – moments after walking out of the training room)
Saturday, December 25th, 2010, 4:30pm, Sunnydale:
Certain that everyone in the whole house had heard her heated ‘discussion’ with Spike, Buffy just kept walking, out the broken garden doors and up the stairs to the street. She had to get away … she couldn’t face the humiliation of being the dutiful, trusting wife who just found out her trust had been misplaced. She never doubted Spike’s stories when he started coming home so beat up … she’d never asked questions about where he got the money, even when he started bringing home more than normal … God, how gullible was she? If he lied to her about that, what else had he lied about?
Everyone in the great room looked at each other sadly, not sure what to do other than continue to clean up the debris the fight with the Fyarls had wrought. Finally, Willow dropped the broom she’d been using to sweep up the glass, grabbed both her coat and Buffy’s and followed the Slayer up to the street. Looking each way, she just barely caught a glimpse of her friend before the blonde turned the corner and headed into the park just down from the mansion.
Willow found her friend sitting on the swing set, not really swinging so much as just swaying dejectedly. The red witch handed Buffy her jacket and the Slayer slipped it on, neither girl saying anything as Willow sat down on the swing next to her and swayed gently in the cool, late afternoon air.
“I hate Spike,” Buffy finally murmured, breaking the silence between them.
“Yeah … he can bring that out in people sometimes,” Willow agreed.
“How could he do that to me? How could he go behind my back like that?” Buffy asked her friend, lifting her eyes up from the soft sand under the swing to meet Willow’s.
Willow shrugged. “It’s really not like him. He probably thought he was protecting you or …” Willow shrugged, letting her voice trail off.
“I’m the Slayer – I don’t need protecting! I’m the protector … not him,” Buffy contended angrily.
“Oh, sure, Buffy … I know – you’re all about the protecting. I just think sometimes Spike forgets that you’re in charge and don’t need any protecting …” Willow offered.
“Whose side are you on?” Buffy questioned with a contemptuous whine.
“Oh – your side, all the way, Buffy,” Willow answered quickly. “I mean … it isn’t like you ever lied to him or did stuff behind his back ‘cos you thought it was the right thing to do and you thought he wouldn’t understand and didn’t want to argue with him about it … right?”
“That was a long time ago and I had good reason for what I did helping Angel!” Buffy defended. “It was to save my family – to save Annie, not to buy a fucking motor for the Harley! Plus, we were supposed to be past that! I came back from hell and told him everything! I confessed everything I did … even when I knew he wouldn’t like it!”
“You told him everything … voluntarily? I thought you said you hadn’t told him about his soul getting condemned to hell until…” Willow began earnestly.
“Shut up!” Buffy interrupted her. “That’s different … I was protecting him…”
“Oh, yeah, I know, ‘cos you’re the protector and he’s the ‘protectee’. I get it … I do!” Willow agreed eagerly. “I mean, actually he probably just did it to piss you off … I mean, who doesn’t love pissing the Slayer off now and then? I know it was always on my top ten list of things to do before I die…”
“What kind of Spike bashing is that?” Buffy asked with a pout.
“Oh! Was this a ‘Spike bashing’ talk? I thought it was a ‘help me find his logic’ talk…” Willow asserted. “Sorry … uhhh … exactly – Spike’s a jerk, you should hate him. Hate him forever! How dare he go behind your back and help Bess and then have the audacity to feel bad about it, like you did when you helped Angel. It’s not like you ever helped her behind his back by magic-mailing a Thanksgiving dinner back east or anything. Big ole jerky-jerk – trying to keep you from worrying more than you already were – geez, what kind of monster is he, anyway?”
Buffy sighed and rolled her eyes. “Thanks, that helps tremendously.”
“That’s what friends are for, Buffy…”
The girls sat in silence for a long while, swaying and twisting gently on the swings. The park was empty save for them – everyone was home with their families, eating Christmas dinner, watching ‘Charlie Brown’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ on TV, falling asleep on the couch… everyone but them.
“Will, we’re gonna need to borrow some money …” Buffy ventured at last.
“I know … there’s only one problem – I can’t withdraw that much in one day from the ATM and no banks are open today. I could get some out … maybe take out some cash advances on our credit cards, but nowhere near fifteen thousand,” Willow explained with a seriousness that gave Buffy pause.
Buffy shook her head and tears welled in her eyes. If he had just told her about this, she could’ve fixed it before now – before it was too late to fix.
“Ok, whatever you can do, I’d appreciate,” Buffy said at last. “Maybe … I don’t know … maybe I can work out something with that shark … would it be wrong to just slay him?”
"Well, I guess Spike does actually owe him the money, right?" Willow asked. "I mean ... it's not like he twisted Spike's arm and made him borrow the money... and Spike knew what he was dealing with when he went there."
Buffy rolled her eyes and nodded. And she thought she hated the bill collectors that called on the phone. Mr. Shark took bill collecting to a whole other level.
"You gonna be ok?” Willow questioned, giving Buffy a sympathetic look.
“Yeah, I just need to sit here a little while,” Buffy assured her friend.
Willow nodded. "Ok, see you back at the house, then..." she offered before heading back to the mansion to get their car and go to the bank to see what cash she could come up with, leaving Buffy alone.
Buffy shifted on the swing and felt the envelope from that morning still in her back pocket. She sighed and pulled it out. Careful not to drop any of the money, she opened the card and re-read it.
Buffy shook her head and blinked her tears back, staring blindly at his heartfelt words. Earlier they’d filled her heart with even more love for her husband, now her heart felt betrayed and completely deflated, like every emotion, every shred of trust, had been drained out of it.
Maybe Bess had the right idea after all … find a cute guy that likes Monty Python, don’t worry about catching his name, have some fun and move on. Love truly stinks sometimes … it really, really does.
Buffy sighed as she kept coming back to the same line, reading it over and over … hearing his voice echo in her mind, ‘Always know that everything I do, I do for you.’
“God, Spike … why? Why didn't you just tell me?” she questioned as she looked up and watched the sun sink below the tree line in the west; she knew just how it felt as the shadows grew longer and dusk started to descend on her.
What good were promises if they weren’t kept? He’d long ago vowed to never lie to her again, just as she’d vowed the same to him. Buffy looked down at the ruby and diamond ‘promise’ ring he’d given her after the Angel thing … she promised to never give up on him; he’d promised to never let her walk alone. Buffy had broken her promise in the ‘Wish-World’ … she’d given up, tried to get out of the lonely existence she’d been cast into. Maybe promises just weren’t that easy to keep. He’d forgiven her for breaking her promise, assured her it was simply the path she had to take to set things right.
Buffy sighed heavily, got up from the swing, and tucked the card back into her pocket. It was time to pull together, not pull apart. If he could forgive her for nearly leaving him in hell for all eternity, surely she could forgive him for not telling her that he’d helped their daughter … despite the fact that it had ultimately put their other children in danger. Nothing had actually happened to them thus far … they were fine and that was obviously not a consequence Spike foresaw happening when he did it. Not that she was ‘over it’ … but now wasn’t the time to be selfish and petty; they needed to get this thing with Mr. Shark straightened out before someone actually got hurt – that’s what was important right now, getting it fixed … the rest they could work out later …
Back at the mansion, the mess had been cleaned up and Xander had put some plastic sheeting up over the gaping hole where the French doors had once stood in order to keep the cold out. Willow and Tara had gone to the ATM machine to see how much they could round up on Christmas day from their bank account and credit cards, everyone else waited in the great room for Buffy to return.
Faith met her halfway across the floor. “What do we need to do, B?” she questioned after having been filled in on what had happened by the others. "Are we having a fish fry?"
Buffy sighed. “Not sure until Willow gets back … Where’s Spike?”
“He … uhhh …” Faith stepped back one step and cringed slightly. “…went to work.”
Buffy’s hands went to her hips and she looked up at the ceiling as if she could find the last shred of patience she’d just lost floating around up near the new ceiling fan. “I’m going to fucking kill him …” she murmured low enough that only Faith could hear her – not the others who were waiting further away.
“Yeah, ok … that’s a plan I guess,” Faith shrugged.
Buffy thought of trying to contact him through the bond, but was sure, beyond any doubt, that he wouldn’t answer her or, even if he did, wouldn’t tell her where he was. Buffy took a deep breath and looked back at her sister Slayer. “Do you know of a demon UFC type fighting thing around here someplace?”
Faith shook her head. “No … but I know a certain snitchy ex-boss of mine that probably does… Want me to check it out?”
“Yeah, do you mind?” Buffy asked.
“Nope … maybe he’ll resist and I’ll have to pummel him. Been looking for an excuse to do that…” Faith agreed with a sinister smile before heading for the plastic-covered doors.
Buffy walked up to where everyone else waited, including all the children. “When Willow and Tara get back, Faith and I are gonna have to go out a while,” she began to explain, drawing moans from the younger children. “I know it’s Christmas and all …but … we have to do some stuff. You guys go ahead and eat – have fun … and, uhhh … don’t leave the mansion for any reason. When Willow gets back, I’ll have her put a protection spell around it. You all need to stay here until we get this straightened out with that shark demon.”
“But what about our Christmas show?” Billy whined, his face contorted into a pitiful frown.
Annie jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow. “We’ll do it later …” she whispered to him even as he ‘owwwed’ and rubbed his side where she’d hit him.
Buffy sighed. “I’m sorry, baby … but yeah, we’ll have to do it later – maybe for New Years or … I don’t know, soon, ok?” Buffy suggested, trying to sound optimistic and placate the disappointed children … well, really she knew it was more than the kids who were disappointed, everyone had grown fond of making fools of themselves in the annual ‘Crawford Street Review’ over the years – except her, she’d missed all but the first one.
“Is there anything we can do to help you?” Giles asked, holding Edmond on his lap.
Buffy shook her head. “No, just … enjoy the dinner … watch the kids for us and save me some of that chocolate lava cake.”
“Maybe I should go with, Buff …” Xander volunteered.
“Thanks, Xand, but I think it might be best with just me and Faith – I’m not really sure what we’re gonna run into and I wouldn’t want to put you in more danger than you already are,” Buffy explained.
“Don’t worry about anything,” Anya offered, taking hold of Xander’s hand. “We’ll stay here and hide. I think that’s a perfectly reasonable plan.”
“Thanks, Ahn … I knew I could count on you,” Buffy replied, actually happy that she was there to make sure Xander, and everyone else, stayed put.
Willow and Tara got back a little while later and gave Buffy $4,000 – that was all the cash they could get out of the ATM machines as withdrawals and cash advances on their credit cards. With that money in hand … or in pocket, actually, Buffy gathered Annie, Dani, and Billy together near the research table.
“Don’t worry about anything,” she told them, even though she was sure it fell on deaf ears. “Faith and I are gonna go help your dad get everything straightened out – it’ll be fine. It’s just a misunderstanding, there’s nothing to worry about.”
“Are you mad at Papa?” Billy asked with insight beyond his years.
Buffy shrugged. “A little bit – but that’s not what’s important now – we’ll work that out later. Right now Faith and I haveta go give him a hand with this … misunderstanding.”
“Dad really lied to you?” Annie asked earnestly, having heard the others talking about the argument they’d overheard.
Buffy smiled slightly and brushed a strand of hair back from her daughter’s face. “He just …” Buffy paused and tried to think of what to tell them – Willow’s ‘find Spike’s logic’ talk came to mind. “…Yeah,” she finally acknowledged. “He sorta did … he was trying to keep me from worrying and he … kept some stuff from me. It’ll be alright, he didn’t mean to, he just made a mistake – ok?”
The children all nodded somberly and Buffy dropped kisses on their foreheads before standing back up. “Be good now – we’ll probably be back late, so don’t worry.”
Just as Buffy was getting into the minivan, Faith showed back up – Buffy figured she’d head for Willy’s and find Faith somewhere between here and there. “Get anything?” Buffy asked as Faith climbed in the passenger seat.
“Yeah – I got it. Down by the docks …” she began as Buffy pulled out of the driveway and headed towards the waterfront.
Buffy and Faith felt conspicuously under dressed as they watched the well-to-do patrons make their way into the fight club.
“I should’ve worn my pearls,” Faith muttered as the Slayers kept to the shadows and tried to find a way in.
“Or at least a shirt without spit-up on it…” Buffy agreed.
Faith had filled Buffy in on everything she’d learned from Willy … who gave the information without a struggle, much to Faith’s chagrin. Entrance to the fights was strictly limited. You had to be invited to purchase the $1,000 a head tickets – and you had to know someone and have a certain standing in the community to get that invite; in other words, you had to be loaded and know how to schmooze with the right crowd. The fight promoter, Mr. Andreev, was human, and made his money not just from the ‘cover charge’, but also by owning the betting concession in the club, as well as the well stocked, but extremely overpriced (according to Willy) bar. The fights were ‘no holds barred’, no weapons allowed, except for the demons’ natural endowments, and were often to the death – or until one could not go on, generally because they were unconscious.
All that information just made Buffy angrier with Spike – not only had he lied to her about the money and helping Bess, he was going out every Saturday and putting his very life on the line … or unlife … or whatever. He might’ve gone to work one night and not come home and Buffy would’ve had no idea what had happened to him or even where to look for him – he could’ve been dust-bin material, simply gone without a word or a clue.
“Any ideas, B?” Faith asked finally from their position down the alley from the heavily guarded door into the club.
“Yeah … follow my lead,” Buffy instructed as she skirted the people waiting in line to get in and left the alley for the street where most of the patrons had parked and were filing in from.
Faith followed Buffy until they were on the sidewalk just a few feet down from the alley where the entrance was. Buffy watched and waited until the line at the door had diminished slightly, and then locked in on her target. An older man, Buffy figured he was in his sixties, who had a buxom, long-legged woman on his arm whom Buffy guessed was nineteen or twenty. The man was paying more attention to her as she laughed and fawned over him than where he was walking, and the jacket of his tux was unbuttoned, reveling the prized tickets sticking up from the inside pocket.
When the target was nearly to where she and Faith were standing, Buffy pulled Faith by the arm and swung her around, putting Faith’s back to the man, then Buffy wrapped her arms around the dark Slayer and planted a deep kiss on her lips. The timing was impeccable, the man bumped into Faith’s back sending them all stumbling, Buffy let go of her ‘girlfriend’, pushing Faith into the man's young companion, and grabbed onto the man as if to keep from falling and he caught her reflexively.
“Oh! I’m so sorry …” Buffy apologized with her best ‘damsel in distress’ manner. “How terribly clumsy of us …”
“It’s quite alright, my dear,” the man assured her as he righted the small, helpless blonde who was rubbing her body against his.
“You’re very kind … we just got a little carried away,” Buffy apologized again before moving away, grabbing Faith’s hand and heading across the street.
“What the hell was that?” Faith questioned, touching a finger to her lips as Buffy pulled her down behind a parked car out of sight of the club entrance.
“That was a diversion … and these are our tickets,” Buffy announced in triumph, holding up the two tickets she’d pick-pocketed from the man.
“B! I didn’t know you had it in ya, girlfriend!” Faith exclaimed in a low voice as they waited for the unlucky pair who had lost their tickets to be turned away and leave the area.
“You learn a few tricks when you live hand to mouth… If you tell any of my kids about this, I’ll kill you,” Buffy threatened.
Faith smiled and shrugged. “We can probably work out some kind of arrangement…” she teased. “Do me a favor though, if you decide to kiss me again, give me some warning and I’ll make it good for you, too…”
Buffy snorted a soft laugh. “Don’t get your hopes up…”
“You’re cruel … stringing a girl along like that …” Faith continued to joke.
“Yeah, well … Slayer, remember?” Buffy countered, raising up slightly and peering through the windows of the car in time to see the unlucky, ticket-less pair heading back down the street and away from the club.
“Let’s go,” Buffy announced, standing up quickly and darting across the street and into the alley.
The bouncers gave the girl’s attire a disapproving look and checked the tickets carefully, but they were real, so they had no choice but to allow them entry.
Inside, the Slayers got a lay of the land – which wasn’t hard, it really wasn’t that big. A large pit surrounded by a clear Plexiglas railing was obviously where the fights took place, since there was already a fight going on. The Slayers pushed forward through the screaming crowd to take a closer look … it wasn’t Spike; it was between a Brachen demon and a Carnyss demon … the Brachen seemed to be winning.
They made their way back out of the crushing crowd around the pit and looked around. Set back away from the pit there were four betting windows with the names of the competitors in the scheduled bouts and their odds listed above them. Off to one side of the arena itself was an enclave that contained a large, darkened bar, which was lined with wide screen TVs that televised the fights from the pit from several different angles, just in case you didn’t want to see it up close, you could sit in there and drink and watch the action at the same time.
It actually was rather elegant, in a rustic sort of way, with heavy oak beams on the ceiling and dark grey-green slate on the floors and the natural red-brick of the old warehouse on the walls. In sharp contrast to those rough, natural materials, there were lots of bright chrome lights hanging down at different levels from the ceiling, lighting the arena and pit, and the betting booths looked like a miniature Fort Knox, also very high-tech with sleek, smooth lines and thick, bullet-proof glass.
Buffy scanned the digitalized fight card above the betting windows, which listed the scheduled bouts, their order, and the odds for each fighter. It reminded her of one of the flight boards at the airport, but instead of destinations, gates, and departure times, it summarized the evening’s ‘entertainment’. It didn’t take her long to find Spike’s name – he was in the last fight of the night against a Granok demon named Rahardi; the odds on Spike, as they’d been since his second fight, were even.
“So … what’s the next plan and does it involve kissing anyone?” Faith asked after they’d looked around.
Buffy bit her bottom lip, she honestly wasn’t sure. There were two more fights before Spike would be up. Should she go find him … talk to him, talk him out of this? But then where would they get the money to pay Mr. Shark by sunrise? Perhaps she could find Mr. Shark’s tank and talk him into an extension … although it sounded like he’d given all the extensions he was going to give. She felt sure her friends and family were safe at the mansion with Willow’s protection barrier, but they couldn’t stay there forever and she got the distinct impression the shark wasn’t in the mood for mercy or any more bargains. She wondered if she slew the loan shark if that would wipe out Spike’s debt … but honestly, that option didn’t set well with her. Despite the shark’s threats against her children, this really was a business deal gone wrong, not some evil, apocalyptic conspiracy and thus far no one had gotten hurt. Spike owed him money – Spike should pay what he owed. Now, if the shark actually came after their kids with something more than words, that would be a whole different game.
Buffy pulled out her cell phone and called home. Giles answered the phone. “Giles! I need some information – what does a Granok demon do … what are its weapons and how do you kill it?” she asked without preamble.
After a few moments Willow came on the phone, Buffy could hear her typing on her keyboard. “Oh wow …” Willow muttered into the phone and Buffy sighed.
“‘Oh wow’ good or ‘oh wow’ bad?” Buffy wondered.
“Well, I guess it depends on if you’re the Granok or not…” Willow hedged.
“Tell me…” Buffy insisted.
Willow read from the Council’s demon database that she’d been helping set up, “‘Granoks were a race of fierce warriors who reveled in the carnage and death they caused. They are extremely powerful, possessing strength greater than any Slayer or Vampire ever known. However, they were found too chaotic and unpredictable and they were transformed into incorporeal beings by the Powers, unable to interact with the physical world or cause further damage.’”
“Incorporeal?” Buffy questioned. “So … what’s the big? How can they fight?”
“Uhhhh… it says they can travel through time and jump dimensions … they can assume humanoid form in other dimensions and … if they find a breach in the dimensional folds, can transport into our dimension in that form, or they may be summoned… They cannot be killed, but only contained with a Resikhian Urn,” Willow continued reading.
“Can’t be killed!? What do you mean they can’t be killed?” Buffy demanded.
“I … I don’t know, that’s what it says…” Willow stammered.
“They’re alive aren’t they? Live things can be killed!” Buffy insisted.
“I’ll keep looking and call you back, ok?” Willow offered. “Is that what Spike’s fighting?”
“Oh, wow… bad,” Willow sighed before hanging up.
Buffy snapped her phone closed and looked at Faith. “I have to talk Spike out of this … we’ll just have to deal with Mr. Shark some other way. Help me look for a way down to the lower level where the fighters are… he’s gotta be there.”
“Why don’t you use that cute little bond thing?” Faith wondered.
“He’s not answering … I tried as soon as Willow said this Granok thing can’t be killed,” Buffy admitted.
Buffy and Faith soon discovered that the only way downstairs from the arena area was through the ‘Fort Knox’ betting cages … or by jumping down into the fighting pit, neither of which was a very good alternative. Faith stayed inside while Buffy went back out and, just as Spike had done the first night, found the back entrance to the building. Unfortunately, no one came along with a keycard to open the door for her … she knocked for a while and was just about to try to forcibly let herself in without a key when the door opened.
The Brachen demon who had been fighting earlier leaned heavily on two teenage boys, one arm over each of their shoulders, as they helped him to his car which was parked in the back alley. Buffy hugged the shadows, staying out of the shaft of light that cut the darkness like a blade as the three figures moved away, unaware of her presence. She crept along the wall silently and stuck her hand over the door jamb just before it closed and the heavy door crashed against her fingers, smashing them between the frame and the unforgiving metal of the door.
She stifled a cry as she pushed the door open and edged inside, holding her bruised fingers with her other hand as she looked around quickly and scanned the area with her senses for Spike. It only took her a moment to locate the locker room and Spike and she moved quickly down the corridor and slipped unseen into the room. She was somewhat surprised that it smelled almost like the locker room in high school – did all locker rooms smell like that? Did they sell special locker room scented air fresheners that mimicked stinking feet and sweaty shorts? Of course, mixed in with that smell was another smell that she recognized … demon blood.
“Spike?” she called quietly as she started looking down the lines of lockers.
When he heard her voice, Spike looked away from the TV monitor which was showing the ‘bout in progress’ in living color in the ‘lounge area’ of the locker room … was he dreaming? Then he heard it again. Bloody hell…
He jumped up and strode quickly to the end of the row of lockers, meeting her just before she got to the row he and his opponent were in as they watched the fight before theirs and waited their turn.
“What the bloody hell, Slayer!? You can’t be here!” he informed her in a low whisper, grabbing her by the arm and escorting her back towards the door.
“I need to talk to you…” she insisted, trying to pull out of his grasp.
“Later!” he persisted, looking around warily. If Mr. Andreev, or any of the other fighters, caught her here, Spike’d be disqualified for sure. Once you were here, once the roster was set, there was to be no contact with outsiders … no opportunity to research your opponent, the point of the fights was you against them – the knowledge you brought in through those doors was all you had, you couldn’t augment it once you were here.
“No! Now!” she argued, pulling free and turning to face him, blocking his path to the door of the locker room.
“Buffy! If I get caught with you in here I’ll be canned! We’ll talk later!” he insisted again.
“I don’t care – you need to come home now – stop this madness!” Buffy demanded.
“Noooo, I don’t. I started this – I’m finishin’ it!” Spike informed her.
“Spike, the Granok you’re fighting…” she began and he clamped a hand over her mouth.
“Stop! Go home, Slayer. I’ll be there later. If they see you here, I’m done … Please trust me – don’t take this away from me, not now, not when I’m so bloody close,” he half-begged, half-demanded of her, his eyes shining with determination.
Buffy pulled his hand away from her lips. “At least open the bond…” she whispered to him as she let him turn her and guide her out of the locker room.
“No. Go home. I’m beggin’ ya … let me handle it – let me do what I set out t’ do,” Spike persisted.
“Spike, please don’t … not like this,” she begged him, but the tenacity in his eyes, the confidence in his voice, and the determination in the set of his jaw was chipping away at her resolve to just get him out of here. Surely they could figure out some other way to pay the loan shark … but right this moment, she didn’t know how.
Just as they got to the end of the corridor near the back door, it swung open and the two clean-up boys stepped back in from the alley.
“…And stay out!” Spike shouted at her suddenly, pushing her forward and away from him. “Don’t need no soddin’ groupies skulking ‘round in here!
“And you two!” he continued, turning to Raj and Binh as Buffy stumbled out the door and into the alley. “What the bloody hell you doing leaving the soddin’ door open so any bint with a hankerin’ for violence can just stroll in here?”
Raj looked between Buffy, who was now out in the alley, and Spike and shook his head. “No leave door … door close! Raj open!” he insisted, holding up one of the key cards.
“Well, someone let her in and if I find out who, I’ll bloody well have their heads on a platter!” Spike continued to rant as he turned quickly and started back down the corridor towards the locker room.
Buffy’s stomach lurched and she took a tentative step forward towards the still open door and the stunned clean-up boys standing in it that Spike had just berated. She could still stop this … just go in there and drag Spike out, or announce her presence to the world and get him ‘canned’. If the loan shark would just wait a few extra hours, she was sure Willow and Tara could have all the money Spike owed him … Spike didn’t need to do this. Just as Buffy made the decision and reached her hand out to catch the door and come back inside, it slammed shut and she heard a heavy electronic bolt slide, locking it securely.
Buffy sighed heavily, then vented her frustration by punching the door with all her strength, momentarily forgetting about her already bruised digits, and she cried out in pain when her fist connected with the unmovable steel. “God damn, mother fucking, son of a bitch!” she screamed as she held her hand against her thigh, bent over in pain.
Buffy finally stood up straight and shook her hand, then rubbed her knuckles with her other hand as she started pacing back and forth in front of the locked entry. She tried again to reach Spike through the bond, but all she got was a big nothing for her efforts.
“God damn stubborn idiot vampire,” Buffy muttered to herself. “He’s gonna get himself dusted and he doesn’t even care! If he doesn’t care, why should I care? I should let him get beat all to hell, get his head ripped off and his dusty ass dumped out in the alley like yesterday’s cat litter.
“I wonder if it’s too late to take out life insurance on him? Oh! Idea! That’s what I should do – take out life insurance … one of those on TV that you only need to answer three questions to get … then, knock him out, call 9-1-1, and have them pronounce him dead – embalm him and bury him and collect my money. I wonder if embalming hurts if you’re actually undead instead of dead-dead? I hope so…” Buffy ranted as she continued to pace angrily in the alley, so caught up in her tantrum she didn’t even notice the door open again until she was bathed in the harsh light from the corridor.
It was one of the clean-up boys that had been there earlier. She turned and started towards him, but he held up a hand, his eyes wide with worry … or fear, and she stopped reflexively. “Kiwi Spike say you no worry him. He no worry. He know Granok – chop head, get money. You go home,” Raj related quickly before pulling the door closed again.
“What? Wait!” Buffy insisted even as the loud slamming sound from the door echoed down the alleyway behind her.
Spike! God damn it! Answer me! she tried again through the bond, but got nothing.
“God damn stubborn idiot vampire…” she muttered again. “‘He no worry’ … yeah, he’s not the one that’ll have to raise four kids all by himself! I’d like to see ‘he no worry’ if it was me in there … he’d worry heaps … he’d have to sew Billy’s next costume … and give him ‘the talk’ and give Dani and ‘Kenzie the talk too… that’d worry him plenty … good and plenty, in fact, it’d worry him a whole candy aisle full of Good n’ Plenty…”
Buffy kicked the door in frustration before turning on her heel and heading back to the main entrance, muttering angrily the whole way about ‘he no worry.’
Back in the club, Buffy found Faith again and told her what happened, then called Willow to find out if she’d found anything out about chopping a Granok’s head off, but she hadn’t. She wasn’t sure how Spike thought he was gonna chop its head off with no weapons, anyway. ‘He no worry…’ my ass.
Buffy looked up at the digital fight card above the betting windows again … they still had even money on Spike … The Granok, however, was the odds-on favorite, at four to seven.
“How can they have even money on Spike if he’s fighting against something that can’t be killed?” Buffy asked Faith as she eyed the board.
Faith shrugged and said in a voice loud enough for people standing in the betting line to hear her, “I don’t know – I hear that vamp, Spike, got in a heck of a fight just this morning with Mr. Shark’s thugs… I doubt he’ll be able to do much more than be a punching bag for that Granok...”
Buffy looked at her strangely for a minute until she noticed all the people standing near them whip out their cell phones and start making calls … confirming that Mr. Shark had, in fact, made a visit to the crowd-favorite’s home earlier that day. Faith pulled Buffy away from the windows and into the bar, where she repeated the same story several times, each time drawing worried looks and panicked phone calls from the patrons nearby.
As the warning bell sounded, indicating ten minutes left to put in a bet on the last fight of the night, Spike’s odds were down to ten to one and the Granok had risen to three to ten on the rumor that the blond vamp was less than one hundred percent.
Buffy stood in the betting line, shifting nervously back and forth from one foot to the other as she fingered the cash in her pocket that Willow had given her … $4,000. She swallowed hard as butterflies buzzed like killer bees in her stomach; if she bet on Spike and he won, she’d get lots more than if she bet on the Granok and Spike lost. But, if she bet on Spike and he lost, she’d have nothing … zero. It would be akin to taking the money and tossing it in the fireplace and just watching it burn… And if Spike was not only defeated but dusted? She didn’t even want to think about that.
Buffy took a deep breath as she reached the betting window and pulled the cash out of her pocket … then remembered the money in the Christmas card Spike had given her for the attorney – another $400 … she pulled that out too and slid it all through the small slot in the thick, bulletproof glass. She had to decide who to bet on – like now. Love stinks.
J. Geils Band, Love Stinks
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