Rating: R for language
Disclaimer: Blah blah not mine yadda yadda.
Setting: A few days after that other one I just posted.
Notes: Wow, that was fast.
When Spike heard the word ‘party,’ it brought to mind Drusilla’s kind of party: elegant decorations, submissively awed guests, at least five out of seven deadly sins. He had no reason to expect he would ever attend one of those again, but he wasn’t exactly thrilled by the prospect of any other kind of party either, so he couldn’t quite identify the reason behind his decision to take this walk up this hill and meet these people. Buffy wasn’t even going to be there; he’d heard that out of her own lips. None of her most annoying cohorts were attending either, though, and there was one confirmed guest in particular that he thought might bear a little catching up with.
The house was easy to find, with its insides all lit up and some tedious music leaking out of it. A handful of people milled around outside, holding cups or smokes or the arms of their partners, calm though not subdued. He saw her before she saw him, perched as she was on the wide railing that bordered the porch, deep in an animated conversation with some hulking tattooed bloke. Was that her type? Long hair and voice like a cartoon beach bum? Looked like a prize idiot, to Spike, but he wasn’t about to judge.
Faith glanced up as he neared the house and immediately waved him over, smoke trailing from the lit cigarette in her hand. “Yo! You made it! Get over here, lemme introduce you.”
The prize idiot held out his hand with a smile as Spike came down the path and Faith stepped down from the porch, but he was saved from the need to shake hands by Faith reaching him first and throwing an arm around his shoulders as she walked him back toward the house. “This is my buddy Spike,” she said to the small crowd, then gestured with her cigarette to a few individuals. “This is Mick, that’s his brother, that’s Tommy or something and this guy is whoever.” The last one indicated was the long-haired idiot, which pleased Spike. At least the Slayers in town knew him by name.
They returned to the spot on the porch that Faith had staked out, and the attention of the others there slid off of them quickly. Faith dropped her cigarette butt and stamped it out with her heel. She explained that she had met Mick a few nights previously at a club and he had promptly urged her to come to this party and bring friends, but that was the extent of the time she had spent with him or anyone else who was currently present.
“Except Willow and her girltoy are in there somewhere,” she added. “Man, Red’s gotta be the latest poster child for how times have changed. Battin’ for the other team and making the whole world a near miss?” Her expression showed mixed admiration and disbelief. “Magic is some scary shit.”
Spike frowned. “Who’s the girltoy? You can’t mean she’s still with that...”
“Kennedy. Yeah, nobody else gets it either. My guess? The kid’s rollin’ in dough, and they had to ask her to bankroll their covert ops or whatever a couple times this past year. Hard to stage the ‘it’s-not-you-it’s-me’ speech after that, so now they’re stuck with each other.” She waved toward the door. “You wanna go inside? They got a keg.”
He shook his head wryly. “Not much good to me unless you’ve settled down in this pad, pet.”
“Huh?” She blinked, genuinely confused, then said, “Oh, right. Yeah, I don’t know which ones of these guys actually live here. S’alright, we can just chill out here.”
It was hard not to think about Buffy right then. She too had always effortlessly worked around the inconveniences of hanging around with vampires, occasionally even forgetting about details like the invitation rule. And she was a Slayer, with more reason to want to kill him on sight than anyone...
...Anyone except another Slayer, he reminded himself. Faith didn’t act like she gave half a thought to who she was supposed to want to kill, though. And she had saved him without taking even a second to consider if his life was worth the effort. He reached over to her and brushed her hair away from her neck to take a look at her new beauty mark. She had left it uncovered and it was recognizably the work of a vampire, but it was healing fast and he couldn’t tell if it would scar.
“Hey, man,” she said, amused. “If you’re hungry again, maybe you shoulda packed yourself a lunch.”
He withdrew his hand. “Guess you’re feeling alright, then.”
“Tell you a secret—-this trip has been a hell of a lot more fun than it was supposed to be. Not that easy for me to get a change of scenery anymore.”
“Well, next time I’m buried under a motherload of fallen metropolis while Angel’s beating the piss out of a dragon, I’ll make sure you’re invited.”
Faith smiled and reached into her jacket pocket, producing a crumpled pack of cigarettes. “I’d appreciate that.” She placed one between her lips and held out the pack to Spike.
He eyed it dubiously before accepting the offer. “American Spirits?”
“No additives. Don’t you care about your health?” she teased.
He found his lighter before she found hers and held it up for her, cupping the flame against the airy autumn breeze. “I’m dead,” he said as she lowered her face to it and inhaled. “Health has been cancelled. And you’re the one with the lungs that shouldn’t be taken in by that ‘no additives’ pitch.”
She shrugged. “I live long enough for it to matter, I’ll dedicate my cancer to you, a’right?”
Slayers died young. Spike knew that; he had helped it remain true, on occasion. On the other hand, he had spent so much time around Buffy and her committed denial of impending death that it was a bit of a wake-up call to hear Faith’s very different outlook. Besides, Buffy’s lifespan was already a record-breaker, and who was to say that her denial itself wasn’t at the root of that? He caught himself right before saying something encouraging. Bloody hell, he thought, I may as well take up some pom-poms and start a Slayer cheerleading squad.
“So what are you going to do now?” he asked instead. “Looks like the Golden State is done with issuing passports to hell for a bit.”
She put her feet up on the ledge where she was sitting, leaning back against the porch’s supporting post. “Back to Cleveland,” she said, evidently resigned to the fact. “Should be better, though. They’re buying me my own house, and--"
Spike coughed out a mouthful of smoke. “Hold fast there, pet. A house?”
“Yeah.” She grinned at his astonishment. “Like, I guess Angel thought ahead a little bit before he trashed his law firm, and he funneled a bunch of cash into untraceable accounts. So there’s some actual, non-Watcher-related warrior funding, for once. And since I’m the one in the Slayer-on-the-Hellmouth gig right now, he said I should have an HQ. Probably just so his team has a place to crash when they’re in town, but hey. Still a pretty sweet deal, huh?”
“Sweet as they come. Funny, he didn’t make me any offers like that.”
She cocked her head and peered at him with an inquisitive half-smile. “What is it with the two of you? Nah, on second thought, don’t tell me. Probably like a two-hundred year long story, right?”
“I’m not that old.” He took a drag from his cigarette. “What is it with you and Buffy, for that matter?”
“Whoa.” She held out her palm to halt his speech, but she laughed as she did it, confident in her armor of cynicism. “How about we don’t go there? I know I got a history with B, but we called it quits on the Tom and Jerry crap a couple years ago. Not her fault she’s the one true fuckin’ love of every man who lays eyes on her.”
Spike shot her a glare. Talking to people had been so much easier when he didn’t care if they lived or died. Someone gave him lip, he could always just murder some respect into them and feel better for it at the end of the day. The chip had taken his self-esteem down considerably and the soul wasn’t helping much in that area either. “I died for her,” he said. “Doesn’t mean she was my one true love.”
Faith didn’t seem perturbed by his intensity. “Good,” she said. “Who needs that kinda headache anyway?” She fixed him with a level gaze, and he found himself examining her features and the signals given off by her body’s languid poise. The first time he had met her, she had been wearing a stolen set of eyes, but the look in them had been her own: defiant, seductive, rash. All of that was gone now. She looked better in her own body, he thought, finally at ease with her real self, but getting there must have been hard on her. There was little enough left for her to defy, and if she chose to seduce anyone from hereon in, it would be an effortless exercise, with the outcome hardly of any interest to her.
Abruptly she changed the subject—-point in case. “So what about you? Where are you gonna go?”
“Haven’t really thought about it.” He was almost amused to reflect that that was the honest truth. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t had time to think about it, but the options that tempted him were an empty set, so there hadn’t been much call for careful consideration. “Wait for someone else to try to turn me into a hero again, I s’ppose.”
“Come to Cleveland.”
There was no need to ask for clarification. She had said it intentionally; he had heard it accurately. It wasn’t a plea or a command, just an invitation, so he answered in the same forthright manner. “Why?”
She rolled her shoulders, ashing her cigarette into the yard as she did. “Shits and giggles. Stuff to kill. Latest hotspot for your only friends in this cruel hard world.”
“Oh? And who are they, do you think?”
He had to give her credit, she did stop to think about it. “Scoobies weren’t really keen on you, were they?”
“What about that blue thing? Seemed like you were pretty chummy with her.”
“So what was the deal with you and B for so long? It’s just the chicks who want your hot bod who keep you around, is that it?”
He leaned back against the wall of the house and grinned at her. “Statement.”
There was a single beat of silence, and then she burst out laughing. “Fuckin’ A,” she said as she hopped down from the rail, her speech still peppered with chuckles. She flicked the butt in her hand onto the walkway. “I’m gonna grab some brews from inside. Don’t let anyone snap you up while I’m gone.” Before she disappeared behind the door, she leaned back out and repeated, “Come to Cleveland. Jackass.”
Spike picked up the pack of American Spirits from where she had left them on the rail. Two left, and they had a better flavor than he’d expected. He helped himself to another as he waited for the Slayer’s return.
Cleveland. Couldn’t be that bad, really.