Payoff

Payoff

By Jidabug

Rating: PG for mild language.
Summary: Over the course of season five, Buffy needs a favor or three and turns to Spike.

***

Slam!

The crypt door once again took a beating as it announced the arrival of the Slayer. With the air of one long suffering, Spike put aside the book he was reading and turned in to greet his visitor. “Didn’t anyone ever teach you how to knock?” he asked with only a hint of annoyance. “You make such a racket, it’s surprising you don’t wake the dead.”

She stopped a few paces into the room and glared at him across the candle-lit area. “That is the general idea,” she replied.

“Right,” he said with the requisite eye roll. “And to what do I owe this visitation?”

Buffy took a few more steps into the crypt, glancing around as she did so, and noticed the abandoned book peeking out from underneath Spike’s chair. It surprised her to find him reading; actually, it continued to surprise her that he could read at all, let alone do it for something other than an evil scheme. She decided to use it as an opportunity to further annoy the most annoying man-no, that wasn’t right-vampire-not just that either-the most annoying anything she’d ever met. Letting a smirk cross her face, she looked up at him from the book.

“I hate to tear you away from Evil for Dummies since I know how much help you need in that area, but I need a favor-” she broke off in surprise as she realized exactly what the book had actually been. “Dylan Thomas? Really?”

Annoyance flashed across Spike’s face. He thought the book would’ve been hidden enough from prying Slayer eyes. He managed to mask his annoyance with a display of bravado, and shrugged as if it were no big deal that his guilty little secret of poetry reading had been found out. “I nicked it from some college girl. It’s not like I can get a library card, and all my shows are repeats at the moment. I take what I can get.”

Buffy snorted at that. “That girl is actually in my poetry class. When I heard her complaining that someone stole her book, I thought it was just an excuse to not do her homework. Stealing books from coeds, Spike? How lame is that?”

Further affronted by her intimation that he was the lamest evil vampire ever, he hurried her to the point of her visit. “And you’re here because?” he prompted.

Having had enough fun at Spike’s expense, Buffy reached into her back pocket and pulled out a wad of bills. Spike immediately forgot his wounded ego and perked up as she waved the bills around.

“Oh, so it’s really your friends, the Jacksons, who came to see me?” he asked, intrigued by the opportunity to land some cash.

“I need information. You give me what I need and the Jackson gang here are yours.”

Spike nodded. “Deal. What sort of information would that be, then?”

“There’s a new demon in town and the usual sources aren’t helping. It’s big, ugly, and seems to have a thing for kittens and spicy BBQ sauce, by all accounts.”

This got a laugh from Spike. “So you’re now after non-people-eaters?” He clucked his tongue at her. “You really have slipped in your old age, Slayer. Defending the kittens of the world now.”

“It may not be eating people yet, but for all we know kittens are a gateway food source. I want to take care of it before it gets to be a serious problem.”

“Mmm-hmm,” said Spike, disbelievingly. He stood up and crossed the floor towards her. If he were a jungle cat, one would describe his movement as prowling. Standing in front of her, his voice dropped to a low and silky tone. “Let me guess. You’re just looking for any excuse aren’t you?”

“Excuse for what?” she asked, genuinely confused and very flustered.

“You really don’t know, do you?” he said with a sigh. “Never mind. I can help you with this beastie, though.”

“Great. Where and how do I kill it?” she asked, glad to be past the innuendo part of the evening.

“It’s a harmless lesser-demon. I’ve played poker with him a few times, in fact. You don’t have to worry about him going after anything more than a few stray tabbies, and he doesn’t actually eat them. The spicy BBQ sauce is for magnificent homemade hot wings he makes.” Spike considered her for a moment before adding, “I’ll have a word with him about the kitten habit. It won’t be a problem from here on out.”

Buffy looked skeptical at his offer. “And if it is?”

“Because if it is, I’ll tell you everything you need to know to take care of it. But, Buffy, not all demons are out for the kill and destroy lifestyle. He probably just didn’t think he’d be hurting anyone. Let me take care of it.” He held out his hand for the money, but Buffy wavered as to whether or not he’d actually earned it this time, and held it back.

“You promise? If I find so much as one kitten out of place…” she began.

“Cross my heart and hope to die,” he assured her.

Putting the money into his hand, she said, “You know that would mean a lot more if you 1) had a heart, and 2) weren’t already dead.”

“Ha ha, Slayer,” Spike said, counting out the bills. She slipped out of the crypt before he could get in a good parting shot, but he knew she’d be back sooner or later.

***

This time the door opened with a grudging squeak, barely audible over the noise of the television. Spike merely craned his neck towards the door to see who in the world would be entering his crypt so timidly. He nearly fell out of the chair with surprise when he saw who it was.

“Slayer!” he exclaimed, rising from his lounging position, then noticed she wasn’t alone. “And Dawn.” He nodded at the younger Summers in greeting before turning his attention back to Buffy. “Still with the not knocking I see, but at least this time the hinges won’t need replacing after you’ve gone.”

The Slayer and her younger sister stood just inside the doorway as if they were nervous to come any closer. Buffy opened and closed her mouth several times, but couldn’t come up with the words required to fill the suddenly awkward silence.

Annoyed, Dawn dropped her backpack, folded her arms across her chest, and glared at her sister as only a young teenager can. “Well, get on with it, Buffy. Some of us have things we’d rather be doing then watching you do your impression of a goldfish,” she said.

Spike hastily turned his grin into a sneer. “Yeah, Slayer, some of us have telly to watch. Nice of you to bring the nibblet by for a visit, but if you don’t mind…” he waved back towards the door they stood in front of.

Finally the dam burst and a torrent of words rushed from Buffy. “Mom’s the hospital tonight and everyone else, I mean everyone else is unavailable and I have this stupid mandatory group session for one of my classes that is so not appropriate for Dawn to go to so I need your help to look after her for the evening, okay?” A slight blush came over her as she finished her run-on sentence and reached into her hip pocket to pull out a considerably smaller bunch of bills than she ever had before. “And I can pay you,” a glance through the notes, “ten dollars an hour. That’s like way more than I ever got for looking after Mrs. Schneegas’ kids in LA…”

“Stop,” he said, holding up a hand. “Before you pass out from a lack of oxygen. I’ll do it, all right? Besides, it’s nice to know that I made the top five list of people you know.”

The relief on Buffy’s face was nearly payment enough, but there was no way he was going to admit that to her. He had plans for that cash, after all.

With a final glare at her sister Dawn picked up her bag and flounced into the crypt, taking Spike’s unoccupied chair, and leaving the other two to talk. Buffy approached Spike with the money and stepped further into a pool of light. It had been a few weeks since Spike had seen her up close and he could tell that all the recent stress she’d been under was weighing heavily. There were dark circles under her eyes and her usually glossy hair fell limp and dull over her sagging shoulders. The weight of the world was certainly leaving its mark on her.

“I really appreciate this, Spike,” she said quietly, handing over a few bills.

“Don’t mention it, Slayer. You go do what you have to do. Dawn and I will be fine,” he said, his voice soft and full of concern. “Anything you need, you just let me know, right?”

Buffy looked up and gave him a very weak and sorrowful smile. “Thanks.”

He smiled in reply as she turned to go. Pausing before he turned back to his charge for the evening, Spike collected his Big Bad aura around himself and put aside the concern he felt. It simply wouldn’t do to have the littlest Summers see him frazzled, especially not with what he had planned for her. Fully composed, he rubbed his hands in glee at what the evening held in store and made his way over to the television to switch it off.

“So, Dawn, what say we continue our lessons in the fine art of poker?”

***

The knock was so faint that Spike wasn’t sure if he’d really heard it. Then another knock sounded, followed by a muffled thump. Not knowing what sort of weird ambush it could be, given that nobody ever bothered to knock, he grabbed his favorite axe and cautiously went to answer the door. Bracing for any nasty possibility, he flung open the door to reveal a badly battered Buffy.

“Slayer! What the hell happened?” he asked in shock.

All he got in reply was a small whimper. Deciding it was probably best to hold the questions for now, he tossed his axe aside and carefully picked Buffy up and carried her to the sarcophagus that served as his bed. Spike inspected her wounds and frowned. There was a deep gash down her upper left arm, cuts and bruises across her face, and a stab wound in her thigh. It was not like Buffy to be so careless with an opponent that could do that kind of damage. He washed and patched the wounds to the best of his ability and waited for her to come to.

He must have dozed off for a minute because he jolted at the sound of Buffy’s voice. “What time is it?” she asked, her voice raspy.

“About three in the morning, I reckon. You got a few hours of rest, anyway.”

“You did these bandages?”

He bit back his first instinct, a sarcastic retort, but couldn’t keep the defensiveness completely at bay. “Yeah. Not as good as your watcher would do, but you came here not there.” He shrugged.

She sighed. “That’s not what I meant. I meant that they’re good. I feel a ton better already.”

“I’m glad,” he said with relief. “Care to tell me what the hell you got into tonight and without backup? Must have been pretty big and nasty to get that much of a piece of you.”

In the dim light he could see her cringe. “I really don’t, but it’ll be all over the demon underground by now anyway.” She didn’t sound hurt or scared, though. If anything, she sounded embarrassed. “It was just two new vamps. I was fighting one and the other surprised me from the rear. The next thing I know I’m getting pummeled. I managed to dust them, but I was too hurt to go far.”

“Two fledglings got the drop on you? What is the matter with you?” he asked angrily. “You’re slipping, Buffy. You’ve got too much pressure from everything else, you shouldn’t be out patrolling alone. Not now.”

“I know it was stupid, and I was distracted. That never would have happened otherwise. The ironic thing is that I was coming to see you when I ran into them.”

“Coming to see me? Why?”

Buffy snorted with self-disgust. “Funnily enough to ask if you wanted to go patrolling. You’re the best fighter I’ve got on my side and I know that I’m not 100% focused on the slaying right now, so I wanted the backup…and the company.”

Spike really didn’t know what to say to that, so simply stared at her in surprise.

“You’ve been a big help, Spike, and I want you as part of the team.”

“Who said I wanted to be part of your team?” he asked, feigning outrage. “I couldn’t care less about your little gang, alright?”

“I know that,” Buffy said softly. “And don’t think I haven’t gotten all the big lectures from everyone else, either. Because I have. And I so don’t need everyone just picking on everyone else right now. I need all the help I can if I’m going to beat Glory. Spike…” their eyes met and the air between them electrified. “Spike, I need you.”

Any protest Spike had died instantly. There was no way love’s bitch was going to be able to resist a direct plea like that. “I’ll help you, Buffy. You can count on me until the end.” He stood and walked over to the sarcophagus where he could see her smiling at him. A smile, just for him. “You up to walking?” he asked.

“Yeah, I think I can do that.”

“Then let’s get you home before the sun and the worry-warts rise, shall we?”

She took his outstretched hand and allowed him to help her down. He could have sworn his heart began thudding in his chest when, as they exited the crypt, he realized she was still clutching his hand in hers.

The End

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