DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course. The chapter title comes from The Doors’ song, “The Soft Parade.”
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Buffy’s in Vegas, working as a dealer, trying to have some semblance of a normal life with a new boyfriend, when Kevin sees her fight and figures out she’s a Slayer, the same one Spike’s been looking for…
AUTHOR'S NOTE: katekat1010 made me a beautiful banner for this. Thank you!
Spike scowled as he kicked at the dead demon. Bloody thing had gone and grabbed his jacket just before dying. Now there was a six-inch tear near the hem from the thing’s claws that was going to take more than terrorizing the best tanner he could find to fix it. This was probably going to require some magical stitching if he wanted it to look as good as new.
He kicked the demon again, relishing the feel of his boot sinking into the creature’s broken skull. He was beginning to really hate this town.
That hadn’t always been true. At one point, Vegas had topped his list of hot spots. Anything a demon could want could be found, stolen, or bought there if you wanted it badly enough. He’d even brought Buffy through for a long weekend before she’d gone and scarpered off on him. She’d grudgingly agreed to go play poker for a little bit, but then when she won a particularly large pot, she’d dragged Spike away to spend the rest of the weekend in one of the high roller suites. They’d fucked in every conceivable place for the duration of their stay. He still got hard thinking of her bent over the side of the marble whirlpool tub.
Maybe that’s why he continued to stick around. It sure as fuck wasn’t because the bloody town had anything to offer him. Six weeks in and only his twice-weekly poker games still offered enough of a diversion to keep Spike from going ‘round the bend, but even those were starting to get stale. Cheating the same blokes time after time was only good for keeping him flush. It was probably time for him to move on.
Yet, knowing this, going through the motions day after day, arguing with Kevin when the git showed up unexpectedly on his doorstep, Spike still went out every night in search of her. He prowled through streets bleeding in neon, stalked through casinos bloated with overfed tourists. Sometimes he caught a whiff of perfume that made his cock jump, but seeking it out inevitably led to disappointment when he’d find the wearer anything but Buffy. The wearer rarely survived. There was nothing like frustration to set off Spike’s temper.
In between poker games, he’d take off for a few days and try out some of the neighboring towns, see if Buffy might’ve made her presence known at any of them. Nothing ever panned out. As he’d head back to Vegas, he’d debate giving Ripper a ring to see what he might be able to offer. After all, the Watcher had been the one to find her in Los Angeles. But then he’d remember the look on Ripper’s face when Spike had left him at the warehouse with an unconscious Ethan and knew that wasn’t a bridge he was ready to cross just yet. Maybe if he got desperate enough.
But even then, it would sting to have to ask.
After taking what was useful from the dead demon’s body, Spike returned to his car, dumping the swag in the boot before sliding behind the wheel. He hadn’t gone out looking for a fight, but as seemed to be the norm these days, a fight had found him. Maybe that was another sign it was time to move on, he thought as he angled out into traffic. Not that he didn’t mind a good unsolicited scrap now and again, but for whatever reason, now and again was turning into every other night. Something was brewing in Vegas, and as much as Spike usually loved being in the middle of chaos, the entire notion currently left him cold.
He blamed it on Buffy. His world had been fucked ever since she’d walked out of it.
Lost in hungry thoughts of a writhing Buffy bleeding and panting around his hard cock, begging him to forgive her for leaving him, Spike didn’t notice the light glowing behind his heavy drapes as he pulled the DeSoto into the covered car port next to his apartment building. His current living arrangement was a hassle-free squat of a ground floor studio, courtesy of a ferret-faced property manager and his fear of a little fang. The bloke even kept Spike supplied with smokes in hopes of not getting killed. Circumstances could’ve been much worse.
The fact that his front door was unlocked didn’t catch Spike’s attention, either. It wasn’t until he heard the sound of hollow gunfire emanating from the television that he was startled from his reverie. He scowled when he saw Kevin parked in front of it, the pale ghosts of the video game he was playing flickering across his face.
“Told you to stop doin’ this,” he growled, stalking over to the fridge. He pulled out a beer and downed it in two gulps. “You got a home, don’t you?”
“Mine doesn’t have an Xbox,” Kevin replied without bothering to look away. He jerked when another round of gunfire erupted onscreen, dropping the controller into his lap as the turn ended. His eyes were dancing as he finally turned them to Spike. “You don’t want me around so much, don’t steal a place that’s got so many goodies next time.”
Without asking, Spike tossed him a beer that was caught single-handed. “I thought you lot were celebrating tonight.”
“We were. Nicky took us out for poker.”
“So why are you here annoying me?”
“Because you love me. Or you will when I tell you what I saw tonight.”
It was said with such a wide grin that Spike immediately prickled with suspicion. “Don’t make me bite you,” he warned.
Kevin wasn’t fazed. “Like you even would. How many chances have you had now and choked? Try a threat that might actually scare me, Spike.”
“Just spill it or you’ll be wearing that controller cord as a cock ring, mate.”
“I saw a Slayer tonight.”
Everything in Spike sharpened at the word Slayer. “What’s that?” he asked warily.
“You heard me.” Kevin’s smile stretched even further. “Pretty little blonde with a thing for wood? Well, except I saw her with a knife---.”
The last of it was cut off when Spike’s hand wrapped around Kevin’s throat, the force knocking his cap to the threadbare carpet. “You better not be fuckin’ with me,” Spike growled. “Where’d you see her? How do you know it was Buffy? She doesn’t exactly go around tellin’ everybody what she is, you know.”
“I know,” Kevin rasped. His already florid face was growing more mottled from the lack of air, and he pulled at the fingers around his throat in a futile gesture. “C’mon. I can’t tell you if you fucking kill me.”
Abruptly, Spike released him, moving his hands to the arms of the wheelchair to brace himself as he leaned within inches of Kevin’s face. “Tell me what you saw.”
The details flooded from his tongue. Poker. The pit boss coming in. Finding her outside in the alley. The dead Fyarl. Spike’s lips twitched when Kevin related the comment about her life going to hell whenever she fought one.
“And you say she’s a poker dealer at this place?” he asked when Kevin was done.
“Yep. Comes highly recommended, too.”
This time he grinned. “That’s because I taught her everything she knows.”
“She doesn’t go by Buffy, though. She’s calling herself Anne.”
If he’d had any doubt, that banished it. “It’s her middle name,” Spike explained. “She used it once or twice when we were together.”
Whirling on his heel, he grabbed his keys from the counter and marched for the door. Kevin’s voice caught him before he’d walked out.
“What’re you going to say to her when you find her?”
Holding the edge of the door steady, Spike glanced back into the apartment. “Buffy’s never been one for wanting pretty words,” he said. “With her, it’s not what you say that gets her attention. It’s what you do.”
The door slammed with a satisfying crunch behind him.
She slipped backstage before Lindsey finished his set. It was hard to sit there and watch the women in the audience sitting forward, baring cleavage beaded with sweat, hoping the singer on stage would notice and make some girl lucky that night. Though she and Lindsey had only been dating for a month, Buffy was learning that she didn’t like having to share. She needed that sense that she was the only one, that she mattered. Thinking he could take off with just about any woman of his choosing wigged her out.
She didn’t love Lindsey. She wasn’t even sure how long they would last. But in the time they were together, in the moments when it was just the two of them, she needed to believe that nobody else could dare intervene.
She didn’t let herself think about the why of that. Whys led to more nightmares. Buffy had had her share of those for a lifetime.
The door opened behind her as she was flipping through one of the worn magazines Lindsey always had lying around. “Don’t do that,” Lindsey said, setting his guitar against the wall.
He took the magazine from her hands and drew her to her feet. “Make me think you’d left when you’d only just shown up.” His mouth nuzzled her neck. “You know I hate it when you just disappear.”
The chain of her necklace scraped gently across her skin as he pushed it out of his way. “I did that once,” Buffy said.
“Once is too much.”
“I’m here now, aren’t I? And tell me again why we’re talking instead of kissing?”
He was smiling when he pulled away to look at her. Buffy loved that he wasn’t that much taller than she was. She didn’t have to work so hard to fit into his body.
“Now if I tell you, then we’re still talking, aren’t we?” Lacing their fingers together, Lindsey stretched to grab his worn denim jacket from where it was draped over the end of the couch. “C’mon. Let’s get out of here.”
He led her with practiced ease through the back of the nightclub. They were almost to the rear exit when the stage manager called out to stop them.
“Already done my time,” Lindsey shouted back.
“Your uncle’s here!”
Lindsey’s hand tightened almost imperceptibly around Buffy’s as he came to a stop and looked back. “What did you say?”
An older man appeared behind the stage manager’s shoulder. Deep lines were etched around his mouth, his eyes a watery shade of blue. Though a faint smile curved his lips, there was something chilling about the way he regarded both of them that made Buffy wish she had some sort of weapon in her hand.
“You put on a good show, Lindsey,” he said, stepping forward. “I’m glad I got a chance to catch it.” His gaze settled on Buffy. “You must be the reason the family hasn’t heard from our golden boy in almost a month. I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.” He held his hand out to shake hers. “I’m Holland Manners. Lindsey’s uncle.”
She took his offering, but released it as quickly as was polite. “Anne.”
Lindsey turned to place himself between Buffy and his uncle. “Why don’t you go wait in the truck?” he suggested, his voice low though she held no doubts that they could still be heard. He pressed his keys into her palm. “I’ll just be a couple minutes.”
With a silent nod, she stepped back to the door and pushed it open, casting one last glance at the two men before exiting the building. Lindsey didn’t like to talk about his family; part of her was dying of curiosity about what this Uncle Holland was doing in town.
Another part was wishing that fucking Fyarl had never shown up at the casino. She had a feeling things were about to get very, very bad.
Finding the pit boss Kevin had described wasn’t hard.
Slamming him face first into the faux-marble wall was even easier. And more fun.
“Tell me what I want, and we can have this over right quick,” Spike whispered in the man’s ear. Though Buck was probably close to three times his size, Spike had him pinned firmly out of view from the slots, his fingers digging tightly enough into the fleshy neck to feel blood starting to well beneath his nails. “Where’s the Slayer?”
“Fuck off,” the man growled.
Spike drove a fist into the man’s kidney. “This way’s more entertaining anyway.”
Buck sagged at the sudden pain, though to his credit, he didn’t make a sound. “You really think I’d just let some punk vamp get the drop on her?” he said. “Think again.”
“Obviously, you’re underestimating her.” He slipped into game face and leaned in to sniff at the sweat that dripped beneath the man’s collar. “Don’t be fussed. You’re not the first bloke to think he understands the Slayer.”
Puffed up bravado couldn’t mask the stink of fear already seeping from the man’s pores. Spike grinned.
“I already know she works here,” he said. “I even know she had a bit of a scrap with a Fyarl tonight. All I’m askin’ is where can I find her. That’s worth gettin’ to breathe a tad longer, don’t you think?”
The man grimaced, beady eyes screwing shut as he seemed to debate what to do. “She’s already gone,” he finally said. “I let her go after the fight.”
“Where’d she go?”
“How the fuck should I know? I’m her boss, not her babysitter.”
Spike was tempted to take a bite to see if that might let loose any more details, but he had a gut instinct the man was telling the truth. Buffy would keep a low profile. She wasn’t using her real name, and she probably did everything she could to stay as private as possible. How her calling had come out, he had no bloody idea, but that was a question for another day.
Right now, he had to track her down.
“Show me where the fight was,” he said, stepping away so that Buck slumped against the wall.
Spike rolled his eyes when the guy didn’t move. “Said show, not tell,” he said, and grabbed the man’s collar to start dragging him away from the main floor. “Now start leadin’ or I’ll have to forget that I already had someone to eat tonight.”
Buck stumbled when Spike let him go again, but he kept on walking, taking them through the maze of corridors until they stood in the cool alley alongside the casino. As soon as the fresh air hit him, Spike knew she’d been there. There was no mistaking that smell.
The fight had worked her up something good. Her panties were so wet, he’d have absolutely no problem following where she went.
Then he noticed what was missing.
“Where’s the Fyarl?” he asked, turning back to the pit boss that hovered in the doorway.
The man’s lips pressed together, but his eyes flickered to the dumpster for the briefest of moments.
He let Buck go scuttling back inside as he turned his attention to the demon’s dumping ground. An arm was visible where the lid wasn’t closed properly, and Spike tossed the covering back in order to get a better look. He saw the killing wound right away and smiled as he imagined Buffy in this particular fight. She’d probably danced right around the bugger. Golden. Shimmering. Lethal.
God, it was going to be good seeing her again.
He was about to close the dumpster and start on Buffy’s trail when he saw it. Frowning, Spike stepped closer, pushing aside the cardboard in order to get a better look at the demon’s haunch. The yellow light from overhead had caught on something, reflecting straight into his eyes.
A tattoo of some sort. In the shape of an inverted V.
Made completely of diamonds.
To be continued in Chapter 3: Eyes That Lie…