Buffy wandered around the cemetery, a sharpened stake dangling from her right hand. She seemed to be mildly bored and slightly inattentive to her surroundings, but as any vampire who tried to nibble on her would have soon discovered, that stake could go from dangle to dagger in a split second.
Not that there were any vampires around to test the Slayer reflexes. "What is it with Thursdays?" Buffy muttered to herself. "I might as well not bother patrolling at all."
"First sign, that, Slayer," murmured a voice behind her.
Buffy could have pivoted, raised her stake and plunged it into an undead heart in one fluid series of movements. Instead a grin flashed over her face and her eyes rolled in mock exasperation. "I’m so not speaking to myself, Spike. I knew you were there."
"Sure you did, pet," said Spike, moving nearer to her and smiling down into her face in a particularly irritating way. "That's why your heartbeat just doubled and your - no don't hit me! Bloody hell, is that your only form of communication?"
Blocking her punch easily and stepping over the stake that she had dropped to the ground, he moved close enough for her to smell a mixture of leather, smoke and blood that should have made her nose wrinkle in disgust but which, for this particular Slayer, had quite the opposite effect. "I'm sorry," she began, deciding that for once, she had been a little hard on him.
"Huh? Are you wounded? Possessed? Red cast a spell of politeness or something?" Spike seemed genuinely taken aback at getting an apology from the Slayer.
Buffy realised, with some dismay, that her hand was once again moving to punch Spike in response to his reaction. “It's like a conditioned reflex!" she blurted. "I can't seem to stop doing it."
'It's bloody childish, is what it is," Spike replied. "Sort of thing little kids do to each other in the playground. Grow up, Slayer."
Buffy flicked a quick glance at his face and saw that he looked as stern as he ever got with her. Raising her right hand slowly she deliberately punched her own chin lightly. "Ow, that hurt," she murmured. "Going to kiss it better?"
His eyes darkened for a moment then he smiled, leaned forward and brushed his lips over the spot gently. "Summers, you're a handful sometimes, you know that?"
"Yeah, and I know where you’d be putting your hands, too. Forget it. Spike, where is everyone tonight?"
"What, your little mates, you mean? How would I know? Not like they drop in for coffee and a chat. Can't even remember the last time Little Bit came around to see me. Suppose you put a stop to that, did you?"
"Dawn's grounded until she gets her grades back up to where they were. And I didn't mean them; where are all the vampires? Why are Thursday nights so, well, dead these last few months?"
Spike gave her a look of astonishment. "You serious?" he asked.
"Yes I am. I noticed it and mentioned it to Giles. He actually started making me keep notes, you wouldn't believe what a pain it was. He had all these different coloured pens and graphs and well, he worked out that I'm lucky if I get to stake a vampire at all on a Thursday, let alone my usual four or five. He sent a report to the Council, in case it was significant and -why are you laughing?"
Spike was holding onto a handy tombstone and laughing so hard that he had trouble replying. "D-did they ever reply?" he managed to stutter.
"Giles did get a phone call and he was very terse about it. Said they'd told him to save it for April Fool's Day and no, vampires only laid low on Halloween. He sulked all week."
"Buffy, hate to break it to you, love but Thursday is a big night in Sunnydale for the evil, undead, bloodsucking fiends in the population. The reason you don't see them here is that they're, well, somewhere else." Spike had recovered enough to talk clearly but he still had a wide smile on his face. Buffy thought absently how much younger he looked when he wasn’t posing as the Big Bad or trying to be seductive. Well, maybe ‘trying’ wasn’t quite the right word.
"But vampires, cemeteries, where else would they be?" she said, trying to stay on track.
"Well for starters, not a lot to snack on in a cemetery at night, is there?" asked Spike going to perch on a nearby tomb, his duster swirling as he climbed up.
"True. Most of the ones I kill here are new vampires, sticking close to their graves."
"Yeah, or ones who know you're here and want to go up against the Slayer. The dumb and soon to be dusty ones."
"So, what goes on in Sunnydale on a Thursday and why aren't we invited?" asked Buffy, curiously.
"Oh, I'm invited but I don't think you'd get in,” Spike said, watching the bemusement increase on Buffy’s face.
"Why not?" she said with a frown, trying to think of any night spots apart from the Bronze in Sunnydale.
"It's a new vampire bar that's opened just on the edge of town, about five months back. Willy's furious because he loses half his regulars on a Thursday."
"Why only on a Thursday?" asked Buffy, totally unsympathetic about Willy's lost revenue.
"Oh, rest of the time, the drinks cost you an arm and a leg - not literally but still - anyway, Thursdays they have this vampire stripper, see and, well, fact is Buffy, she's a dead ringer for you, love. I think it gets them a bit worked up and wanting to have a go at you. Do much extra slaying on Fridays?" He paused expectantly, waiting for her response to his little bombshell. Nasty of him, but he had to get his fun somewhere now he couldn’t kill anything worth eating.
"Yes!" Buffy yelped, "And one of them said something about me looking skinnier up close. I didn't know what he meant, but it was funny and not in an amusing way. How long has this been going on? Who is this girl? Have you been to see her? Have you - " Buffy was getting so high pitched that Spike could see where Dawn got it from.
"Slow down, pet," he said soothingly. "It's beneath your notice. Tacky, I call it, and that challenge they've got nailed up over the bar, well, you'd have to be insane to take that personally."
"Challenge? What challenge? To me? How am I supposed to respond to a challenge if I don't know anything about - oh."
Spike reflected that Buffy was getting quicker on the uptake. He'd have to factor that in next time. "That's it, love. They asked me to pass the message on and all that, knowing that we're, well, friendly."
”'Friendly' isn't the word I'd use, Spike." Buffy said in a threatening tone of voice that had mercifully dropped a few decibels. "We've been seeing a bit of each other, that's all. The odd, meaningless kiss, the occasional...incident. Nothing to get cocky about - I didn't say that! Now start talking. And feel free to leave out any description of what my evil twin does on stage. I so don't want to know about Bimbo Buffy."
That meant that Spike would eventually be forced to describe every bump and grind. He wondered rather dismally if Buffy would want details of the costume too and decided that telling her he'd been concentrating on the parts without the costume would be dangerously reckless. Fun though. Jumping down from the tombstone, he sauntered towards her. "Let's just say that there's a lot of money riding on who's going to win in a showdown between the Slayer and the er, the other one."
"Other one? There is no other one, well apart from Faith and believe me, she doesn't count. What's this vampire's name?"
"Here we go," thought Spike. Taking a deep breath wasn't really on the cards so he settled for an ingratiating smile, putting every ounce of charm he possessed into the effort. "Did I ever tell you how good you look with the moonlight sort of glimmering in your hair like that?" he murmured softly, bending in closer again and trying to nibble her ear as an encore. "Reminds me of - "
"Spike, the moon is new. Which means it's not giving off much light. And I'm wearing a hat. Her name. Now."
"Well, I don't know her personally of course so I'm not sure what her real name is but on stage she's introduced as umm, Busty. Kind of cute in a way."
There was a pause, so crammed with seething tension that Spike found himself wondering if the sparks from Buffy's eyes were a risk to a highly flammable vampire like himself. When she finally replied, it was in one of those ominously quiet, slow voices. A Slayer who dealt with Armageddon all the time could get away with it without overdoing the melodrama.
"Busty - meet Buffy the magician. I've got a stage act too; with one wave of this little stick, I can make you vanish in a cloud of dust."
"That's what you're going to say to her, then? Going with the humour? Nice touch. Should lull her - but you're not really going to stake her are you? You wouldn't get out of there alive."
"Hello? Slayer of vampires standing right here. What do you want me to do to her? What does a challenge fight between a -"
"Oh, it's not a fight, Buffy; more of a competition."
"What? Best stage act? I can throw the stake at her from a distance if she's attached to one of those spinning wheel things. That takes some doing but it should bring the house down." Buffy was really making an effort to be reasonable but it was hard.
"Yes, you're on the right track but the idea is that you beat her at her own game, if you get my drift." Spike arched an eyebrow at Buffy, waiting for her to finally catch on.
"Her own - ? You mean they want me to strip? They die, OK? All of them. Tonight."
"But, Buffy - "
"No, Spike. This is too much. It's, well it's not showing me any respect. I'm the Slayer, damn it. I'm their worst nightmare. How could they possibly think I'd strip for them? How stupid do they think I am? I'd be bar snacks five minutes after I'd got rid of my G string. Not that I'm wearing, um, would wear one. No, they're going to pay for this. Big time."
Buffy stalked off, leaving Spike calling out after her, "They'll never let you in! You're underage and alive!"
Suddenly she stopped, stood for a second and then made her way back to Spike who had arranged himself nonchalantly against one of his favourite - just the right height and not many nobbly bits - gravestones.
"So, you realised you're gonna need an escort and want Spike to tag along, hmm? Well, if you ask really nicely, I -"
"Shut up, Spike,” said Buffy impatiently. “This vampire with a death wish; any special way I can recognise her with her clothes on?"
"I told you, she looks like you, well, not so much close up, maybe. And she always wears this necklace; got it off her first kill, sort of a souvenir."
"Gold chain with a big fake ruby attached?"
"Yeah, how did you know?"
Buffy flicked her hair back and turned to go, walking casually now. As she disappeared around a crypt, she shouted back, "Dusted her on Tuesday at the Bronze when she tried to bite a guy who wouldn't shell out for a fancy cocktail she wanted. Thought she looked familiar, in a skanky, slutty, not at all like me, way. Tuesday. Now that's a busy night for some reason."
A/N This was my first story.
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