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Sandy [userpic]
Undercover Christmas, Part 3
by Sandy (sandy_s)
at December 31st, 2018 (12:58 pm)


Buffy was going back and forth between staring at Spike and scanning the room for danger from the upper level of the lounge, which was distracting with all the other guests enjoying themselves. Her dress was simple and perfect for fighting if needed but had a few sequins which were annoyingly itchy and distracting.

In a parallel position of watching and waiting, Mark was seated across the table from her and was slowly sipping a brandy. Buffy had a diet Coke with added grenadine. She was so lame, but drinking still wasn’t her thing.

After several minutes, Mark said quietly, “You love him.”

Buffy continued her vigilant watch, her fingers gripping the table. “Aren’t you paying attention to what’s happening?”

“I am. Just trying to blend in with the crowd, and you look like you’re about to jump over the wall there.”

Buffy forced herself to relax. “Oh. Guess I’m a little too obvious. Sorry.” She forced a smile but knew she was failing at looking the part.

“There are three of us. I think we’ll have it covered.”

Buffy trailed her finger around the edge of her glass. “Yeah.” She took a deep breath and then let the air out slowly.

Across the table, Mark nodded at her, taking a sip of his drink. “That’s it.”

“Okay.” She nodded to herself and gazed out over the festive crowd, trying to appear like a tourist taking in the whole atmosphere. “I think I got it.”

Mark’s glass clanked lightly on the tabletop. “You love him.”

“I do.” Buffy’s heart ached when she thought about how she almost lost him again.

“It’s strange, right? A vampire and a Slayer in love.”

Buffy gave him an even look. “Not so much.” She gazed down at Spike who was nursing a cocktail. “It actually makes a lot of sense. Took me more than once to figure it out.”

“There’s a story there.” Mark sat forward in his chair so that he was side by side with her in the watch.

“Too long a story to tell.” Buffy didn’t think she could summarize it quickly. “I fell in love with the right one the second time around.” She suddenly wished she could slip her arm around Spike’s waist. It was silly and illogical, but she felt a little jealous that he was waiting for someone who wasn’t her.

“Did you ever want a family?”

Mark’s question threw her for a loop. “I do have a family. Well, I have a sister. Most of my family’s not blood though, and everyone’s spread out all over the place.” It hadn’t taken long for she and the rest of the Scoobies to be more distant despite their closeness in Sunnydale. The bond was there – always would be, but there was a loss there. Buffy willed tears not to come.

Mark rescued her by sharing. “I don’t have much of a family either for reasons too long to get into. Enrolled in Watcher school when I was too young, and it’s all I’ve ever known. I get the separation piece. We’re all close during training, but once we’re in the field, it’s very lonely. Beth was my charge from the beginning even before she was called. She’s kind of like my daughter and kid sister all rolled in one.” Mark pressed his lips together.

Buffy suddenly wondered how lonely Giles must have been with only teenagers as companions. She made a mental note to call him soon just to chat and not to talk about work stuff. “That makes sense. And hence the need to kill whatever hurt her.”

Mark clenched his jaw. “Exactly. My Christmas present to her. It’s only fair.” He hesitated and then added, “But someday, I’d like to have my own child. . . a child I raise.” The corner of his mouth lifted. “With a wife, of course.”

“Do Watchers get married? I thought they were like monks. No love. No fun stuff in the bedroom.” Buffy sounded perky and naïve, and she didn’t know Mark too well, but she hoped he got her brand of sarcasm. And there was some truth to the lack of action. Poor Giles. Now that she was older, thinking about Giles having a sex life didn’t seem quite so gross as it did when she was in high school.

Luckily, Mark laughed, and it took Buffy a second for her mind to flip back to him laughing about her Watcher-monk humor. “Well, let’s just say they strongly discourage it. Or well, they did, but I was always a dreamer. I made my way to England to study to be a Watcher. And I’m from Seattle originally.”

“Ohhh…I thought you were Canadian.”

“Nope.” Mark reached back for his drink. Holding the glass over the edge, he asked, “Do you want kids?” Oh, he was going back there.

“I don’t think so.” Despite no longer being the one-girl-in-all-the-world, Buffy still didn’t see herself having the white-picket-fence-kind-of life. She didn’t think it was possible. “And well, kinda hard to have kids if you’re dating a vampire. Even if I wanted them.”

“Ah.” Mark was quiet for a few seconds. “Seems like you have more options now than before. Less pressure. More time to do things you might want to do that you couldn’t before.” Buffy wasn’t sure if he was referring to the kids thing or just in general.

Buffy shrugged. “I thought about going back to college. Then, the thing in L.A. happened, and I helped out. So, the options thing kinda got put on the backburner. But that aside, I think I won’t ever retire from being a Slayer. It’s kinda in my blood. This one Slayer – the one who got called after I died the first time. Her name was Kendra. I was wanting a normal life with all the normal life trappings like studying and gossiping about boys. But she told me that the Slayer was who I was. She was right, and I’m okay with that.” Buffy surprised herself as she said the final words. Whoa.

“Good for you. Sounds like you had to grow up fast, too.”

She smiled at him. “I did.”

Something caught her attention in the corner of her eye, and she abruptly stood, alarm flowing through her veins and her muscles readying for a fight. The lady from Mark’s sketch was approaching Spike.

Mark was on his feet, too. “That’s her.”

* * *

The walk to the Waldhaus Pub had been well worth it. The path was clear of snow, and though the sky was heavy with grey clouds that no doubt masked the stars, golden streetlamps lit their way. Inside, the pub was narrow and inviting with chocolate brown beams of wood arching through and a red wall on one end. The furniture was of matching darkness and the lights low. The holiday greenery, tiny lights, soft background carols, and hint of cinnamon and pinecones only made the whole effect more cozy.

Plus, they served beer, onion rings, and spicy wings. Standard bar fare.

Spike felt right at home.

Now, he and his companion were seated a little private table and “getting to know” one another.  He picked up a still-hot onion ring, wishing it was a blooming onion but pleased that the hotel even had anything fried. Still, the fried onion melted in his mouth when he took a bite.

Rina had turned out to be human. Completely and totally one hundred percent human. No whiff of dog or wolf or any form of canine about her. She was also friendly and engaging, and though she was probably in her early-30s, she had a mix of youth and strength in her eyes that intrigued Spike. Plus, she was keeping up with him on the wings and beer. He was impressed.

Spike felt the signature prickle at the back of his neck that meant Buffy was there, too, and he knew she was seated with Mark at the long bar behind him. She was probably watching him like a hawk. He wondered vaguely if she was jealous. She didn’t seem to be the jealous type, but then again, he was always all about her and never really gave her much reason to experience that particular emotion except that one time at the failed Sunnydale wedding when he’d brought a date.

So far, Spike had gotten the standard information from Rina: her name, where she was from (Canada), her occupation (veterinarian), and type of music loved (punk/alternative, which Spike appreciated). He knew her sign (Gemini) and the fact that she was single and had been for a while. He’d shared bits about himself, too, though he changed his name to William and his age to thirty-one.

Now, he needed to nudge her a little further without seeming too obvious. “So what are you doing here at this hotel by yourself at Christmas?”

Something shifted in Rina’s expression, which she covered by taking a bite of her wing and then licking her fingers. She gave him a small smile and pointed to her mouth as she exaggerated her chewing – no doubt buying time before she replied to his query. She took in a deep breath after she swallowed. “Whew. Um, well, I just love this place. A-and my mom died this year. It was somewhere we always came together.”

Spike could tell she was lying by the way her heart started picking up speed, but he wasn’t sure which part was a lie because there were genuine tears in her eyes and grief on her face. So, he went with the real, covering her warm hand with his cooler one. The large stone of her London blue topaz ring pressed into his finger. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

She sniffed and blinked back tears, offering him a watery smile. “Thanks. It was sudden and unexpected. You know how you think your mother is going to live forever because she’s strong as a horse and healthy but then. . .” Tears sheened her eyes again, and Spike could tell she was trying really hard not to cry. She fanned her hand in front of her face and held her breath until the tears were contained. “S-sorry. It’s just so fresh.”

“I hear you. I lost my mum in a very painful and unexpected way, too.” Spike would just leave out the part where he turned his mother, and she came back wrong.

She blinked her eyes rapidly and forced herself to breathe. “So you get it.”

“I do.”

Her heartrate was slowing. “Did your mother also leave you with some unwanted responsibilities, too?”

Spike removed his hand as it only seemed fitting given that he barely knew the woman. “Luckily, no. I take it your mum did?”

Rina nodded. “It’s kind of the reason that I’m here – ”

At that moment, the stone in her ring flashed a brilliant yellow. The flare was bright but rapid – so rapid that Spike almost thought his mind was playing tricks on him. A heavy sense of magic settled onto his shoulders. It was something he’d felt only rarely around Red when she cast a powerful spell. Rack’s magic had been a light irritating tickle that made him want to walk the other way to get away from it. This - this was something ancient and powerful – almost like Blue but not quite.

Staring at her ring in horror, Rina pulled her burgundy napkin out of her lap. “I-I’m so sorry, but I need to go.” She hastened to her feet, grabbing her small handbag but leaving behind her coat.

“Wait.” Spike reached out a hand, not wanting to show any of his vampire strength or to upset the other bar patrons. “Rina. What’s wrong?”

“I just have to go.” She dashed toward the pub’s exit.

Snagging her heavy jacket after shrugging on his own, Spike trailed after her, giving Buffy a small nod. He sent her a quick text. “Give me five.”

Her text reply was quick. “Got it.”

The snow was falling harder when Spike found himself on the path outside. He saw Rina running to the left, and he followed, catching up to her in no time at all. He snagged her elbow, trying not to be rough. 

“Rina. Wait.”

Rina’s eyes were panicked and glanced ahead but then back at Spike. She smiled at him despite her fear and touched his arm. “I-I can’t. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll go back the other way. This is bigger than anyone can handle but me.”

Spike couldn’t leave a lady to something dangerous on her own. He set his jaw. “I won’t go.” He shoved the coat at her. “You can’t be out here in this weather without covering.”

Shivering, Rina accepted the jacket and pulled it on while she studied his face. “Okay, but I have to hurry. I only have a brief window to take care of something that you’d never in your wildest dreams believe, and it’s very dangerous – ”

Without much thought, Spike scooped her into his arms, and Rina gasped. Buffy ran up through the haze of snow at that moment with Mark in tow; as usual, she hadn’t waited five minutes. Spike grinned. “Hey, love.”

Buffy’s eyes were shining in the light from the path. “Hey, yourself. Where are we going?”

Confusion clouded Rina’s face. “What?”

“We can go faster with me carrying you,” Spike addressed the bewildered Rina. “Just to be clear. I’m taken. My lady is here with me, and we’re here to help. Dangerous is not a problem.”

Buffy held out her hand and shook Rina’s. “I’m Buffy.”

Mark ran up and handed Buffy the bag of what Spike knew were weapons of the sharp and pointy variety. “Where are we headed?”

“You’re sure?” Rina said with uncertainty in her voice.

Spike took a risk. “Saw your ring flash. Felt the magic. It’s powerful and old, and it means something. From your reaction, it might be the same thing we’re after, too.”

“Y-you know about magic?”

Buffy blinked through the snow. “It’s a crazy world out there that most people are in complete denial about.”

Mark spoke then. “If this has anything to do with the Adlet, we know what we’re dealing with. Well, we thought the creature was you.” This wasn’t quite the truth. They just knew about the dead bodies and what Beth had told them, which admittedly wasn’t much. Not too long ago, they’d thought their target would be a woman who was part dog.

Rina’s eyes grew round. “Oh.” She paused as she processed. “Oh. It’s not me. And well, there are more than one. You call them Adlets?”

Mark nodded. “We do.”

Buffy tensed as a group of tourists passed by them going the opposite direction – the snow no doubt driving them inside. “We need to go. Tell us where.”

Rina pointed. “That way. And how can we go faster?”

Spike started to run down the path through the falling snow. “I’m a vampire. Fast comes with the territory.”

“A v-vampire? A good one? Like Edward Cullen?”

Spike was confused. “Who?”

Comments

Posted by: Double Dutchess (double_dutchess)
Posted at: January 2nd, 2019 04:15 pm (UTC)
Hell of a Woman

Uh-oh, Rina actually sounds like a pretty good match for Spike! But of course Buffy has nothing to fear.