DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course. Buffy’s song is “And the Angels Sing,” by Benny Goodman.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY:Buffy and Spike’s lunch was cut short when they stopped a shooting at the diner, leaving both of them a little more curious, a little more trusting of the other’s capabilities…

*************

Chapter 9: Dance, Fools, Dance

He was humming under his breath, his thumbs tapping out some unknown rhythm against the steering wheel as they waited at the red light, and Willow chewed on her bottom lip as she stole yet another glance at her friend in the driver’s seat.  “So…did you get a lot done today?” she asked.  “Giles said he didn’t get a chance to ask you yet.”

The smile Spike shot her took her by surprise.  “Ripper’s just brassed off ‘cause I told him he could take a flyin’ leap if he even thought about keeping me away from Heaven tonight,” he replied jovially.  “He’s just savin’ his pride.”

“I’m surprised you’d be in such a hurry to go back after getting the boot last night,” she commented. 

“Aw, now c’mon, Red.  Since when do you know me to give up so easy?”  His eyes danced in devilish delight, a twinkle of sapphire, as the lights changed and his foot rested heavily against the accelerator, the car gunning forward into the surge of traffic.  “Something tells me that that Buffy Summers isn’t such a wrong number.  How much you want to wager that I can even get her to smile at me tonight?”

Willow immediately frowned.  “What did you do today, Spike?” she demanded.  “And don’t give me any line about being in the shower all afternoon.  I haven’t seen you in this good of a mood since…”  Her voice trailed off, the memory of how he’d appeared the morning after he’d met his mystery woman popping back into her head.  “Oh,” she said, eyes snapping forward, her face instantly devoid of anything he might misconstrue.  Stupid question to ask, she scolded herself.  Obviously, he saw her again.

“What?” Spike asked.

“Nothing.”

“Not nothin’.  You’re thinking something.  Don’t try lyin’ to me and tell me you’re not.”  His tone was amiable, and though she caught the warning in his words, Willow could tell that he was only joking around.  Whoever the dame was, she had Spike wrapped around her little finger, whether she realized it or not.

“It’s none of my business,” she said out loud.  “You’re a grown-up.  You can take care of yourself.  And why haven’t you asked me about my day yet?”  Change the subject, she thought.  That’s good. 

Spike chuckled.  “So that’s why you’re so distracted,” he said.  “Knew that date would put a smile on your face.”

She colored.  “It wasn’t a date.  It was a…fact-finding mission.”

Though he kept his eyes on the road ahead, he couldn’t help the amused quirk of his lips.  Fact-finding mission?  He’d see about that.  “Fair enough,” Spike said.  “So, what facts did you find out?  What’s he do again?”

“He runs Heaven.  General manager type of responsibilities.”

“And how long’s he been doin’ that?”

“A few years.”

“And what’s his favorite color?”

“Blue.”

Willow knew as soon as the word popped out of her mouth what he had done, and flushed in embarrassment.  So, all right, she hadn’t really found out very much that was useful in the job front.  A good part of their time had been discussing books and history.  She was amazed at how literate he actually was; he seemed far too intelligent to be running a nightclub for a living.  With that kind of information at his fingertips, it seemed more appropriate for him to be a professor or something.  Some kind of career that required him to be so knowledgeable. 

“I did get some background information on Angel and his fiancée,” she argued.  “And I plan on getting more tonight by talking to Buffy myself.  She might be able to offer us a different perspective about the Mayor’s activities.  Something we can use to figure out how to get close enough to him to do the job.”

They pulled up to another stoplight, and Spike glanced at her out of the corner of his eye.  “There’s nothin’ wrong in liking the guy,” he said gently.  “You deserve to have a spot of fun in your life.  Just remember who he works for, all right?  I don’t want to see you gettin’ hurt.”

“Like I would ever do something as silly as that,” Willow said with a dismissive gesture of her hand.  But she had.  They both had.  When Wesley had come back to the table and commented about pretending they were just two strangers who had met by coincidence, she had jumped at the opportunity, laughing and joking with him like she hadn’t done with anyone in a very long time.  Not since Oz at least.  He’d enjoyed it as well; she wasn’t so naïve as to not see that.  Even when she’d tried steering the conversation back to Heaven when he’d been taking her back to her hotel, his answers had been perfunctory, just enough to satisfy her requests before shifting back to topics that seemed to matter more to him.

They were silent for the rest of the trip, both Spike and Willow lost in reminiscences of their day, and it wasn’t until he pulled the Desoto up to the front door of Heaven that the redhead looked over at him again.  “I’m not the only one who deserves some happy times, you know,” she said softly.  She didn’t have to tell him she knew about the girl, but she sure as heck could tell him how she felt about it.  “I think you’ve been waiting in line long enough for your share, too.  I like seeing you like this.  You know, smiling and…happy, and not all…”  She scrunched her face into a snarl, turning her hands into claws.  “…grrrr.  Whatever the cause of it…I hope it works out.”

Quickly, she leaned over and gave the surprised blond a peck on the cheek before pushing her door open and scurrying inside.  She didn’t even look back.  If she had, she would’ve seen the surprised confusion lighting her friend’s face, the small line between his dark brows as he contemplated the now-closed club door.

*************

She was early, but then she’d planned it that way, deliberately asking Spike to drop her off at work because she knew she could rely on him for that.  Giles and Xander would be arriving later, as would Spike, but she wanted the time before the doors would be open to the public to try and get to know this Buffy Summers just a little more.  She hadn’t been kidding when she’d said that in the car.

Her rap at the door was almost lost in the hubbub happening in the rear of the club, and her green eyes darted around the milling band members, watching as Jonathan scurried around with his clipboard.  She would’ve denied it if anyone had asked, but Willow felt a twinge of disappointment when she failed to spot Wesley anywhere in the crowd.

“Come in!” Buffy called from the other side of the door.

Hesitantly, Willow pushed open the door, edging her head and shoulders through the crack to peek inside.  “Hi there,” she said.  “You got a min…ute…”  Her voice trailed away as her eyes widened, drinking in the sight of the blonde sitting amidst the dozens of daisies scattered around the dressing room.

Buffy seemed adrift among the flowers, nuzzling the nearest to her nose to drown in their scent, the faintest of smiles curling her lips.  Slowly, her lashes lifted to look at the doorway, and recognition flickered behind the hazel.  “You’re the new coat check girl, right?” she asked.  “It’s…Willow, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.  Can I come in?”

“Sure.”

Easing the door closed behind her, the redhead hovered by the entrance, unsure what to say next.  Somehow, her plan on getting to know the singer had seemed much clearer before she’d actually come into the dressing room.  “Beautiful flowers,” she commented, her fingers going out to hover over the nearest bunch.  “Is this Angel’s way to make up for your fight last night?”

The mention of her fiance’s name seemed to draw a shutter over Buffy’s face, and she rose from her seat, crossing to the clothes rail on the far wall.  “I’m sorry you had to see that,” she said, sliding her hand over the various garments that hung there.  “I don’t like arguing in public, but sometimes…he doesn’t seem to care about that kind of thing.”

“Men can be real palookas sometimes,” Willow agreed, and the ingenuousness of the look on her face drew a smile to the other woman’s face.

Buffy’s gaze drifted to the daisies.  “Yeah,” she agreed quietly. 

There was silence for a moment as Willow searched for something to explain her presence.  A fragment of her conversation with Xander that morning came drifting back, and she latched onto it greedily.  “I wanted to tell you how much my friend loved your show last night,” she said.  “I think if he wasn’t married, you just might have earned yourself a new biggest fan.”

“Glad he liked it,” she replied, distracted.  She pulled out two dresses and held them up for Willow to see.  “Which of these do you like better?”

She suddenly felt very frumpy, gazing at the elegance of the two gowns, straightening as she smoothed out the black taffeta of her own skirt.  “They’re both nice,” she said.  “Is there a certain effect you’re going for tonight?”

Buffy shrugged.  “Not really.  I’m just in the mood to look amazing.”

“Oh, then the blue one, definitely.  The black’s very glamorous but the other’s more…glowy.”

She couldn’t help but smile.  “Glowy?  Is that a word?”

“It is in Willow-world.”

“Willow-world sounds like fun.”  Buffy put the black back on the rail.  “Blue it is, then.”

When Buffy stepped behind the screen to get changed, Willow edged her way further into the room, looking around without the scrutiny from its owner.  Other than her make-up and dresses, there were no effects to personalize the space, almost as if the singer didn’t really see this as part of her life.  Not even a picture of her fiancé, the redhead mused.  Interesting.

“You’re a lot nicer than the last coat check girl,” Buffy was saying.  “She was a real sourpuss.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that.”  Her eyes lit on the small envelope jutting out from the spray of daisies on the dressing table, and with a furtive glance toward the screen, she reached forward and plucked it from its hold.  “My theory is that she suffered from sore feet and it made her cranky.  That was the one part of last night I hated.  I’ve figured out how to get around it, though.”  She pulled the card from the envelope.  “Nobody can see my feet behind the counter so I brought slippers to stand around…in…”

The words faded in her throat as her eyes widened, scanning the contents of the card once, twice, a third time, as if each pass would somehow make its message different. 

Because you deserve to feel beautiful every day. – Spike

A knock at the door startled Willow, and she scrambled to shove the card back into its holder, stuffing it back into the flowers with a guilty flush as Buffy called out, “Come in!”

It opened and Wesley appeared in the entrance, immaculately groomed in a dark suit that set off his blue eyes.  The first thing he spotted was the redhead standing at the dressing table, hands clasped in front of her, and smiled broadly.

“I didn’t know you’d arrived yet,” he said, taking a step toward her.

“What’re you talking about?” Buffy asked before Willow could reply.  “You saw me come in, Wes.  You held the door open for me, remember?”

Her eyes darted from his face to the screen, and her smile was surprisingly nervous.  “Um, I think he was talking about me,” Willow said. 

“Oh.”  The blonde poked her head out to look at her guests, eyes flicking from the stain in the redhead’s cheeks, to the pent-up lean of Wes’ torso as he fought his feet to get even nearer to the other woman.  “Did you need something?”

“Need?  Oh.  Right.”  He forced his gaze to swivel to the screen.  “Mr. Wilkins has requested that you only perform the first set tonight.  He would like to have an opportunity to dine with you and Angel to celebrate your engagement.  I’ve already made arrangements for alternate entertainment for the rest of the evening after you’re done.”

“Oh,” she repeated, and did what she could to fight the disappointment in her voice.  “Thank you for telling me.”  She disappeared back behind her screen.

Wes’ eyes turned back to Willow, and swept over the simple lines of her dress, the wine-colored velvet bodice accentuating her upper curves, while the black taffeta of the skirt flared around her hips.  “You look lovelier every time I see you,” he commented.

“Thank you,” she stammered.

His gaze darted to the screen as he took another step closer to her.  “Could I possibly see you in my office before you start your shift?” he queried, his voice dropping in volume.  “I was hoping we might discuss…lunches.”

Her heart was pounding in her chest, and for a split second, Willow wished she had the gumption to just throw her arms around his neck and give him a huge kiss.  And more, a small voice inside her head goaded.  She flushed at the thought, wondering at her own bravado, and smiled as innocently as she could manage, hoping that the naughty thoughts going through her head couldn’t be read on her face.  “I’ll be right there,” she said out loud.

When Buffy emerged from behind the screen, Willow’s eyes were still locked on the door, wistful and distant, all thoughts of what she had found in the flowers gone.  She did deserve some happiness, darn it, and being around Wesley certainly made the butterflies that lived in her stomach feel like flying free.

“Do you have to go now?” Buffy asked gently

“Huh?”  She jerked from her reverie.  “Oh, go, yes, Wesley asked me to---.”

“I heard.”  Her smile was kind, teasing in a friendly way.  “Word of advice?  Wes isn’t one of the palookas of the world.  He’s as good a guy as they come.  Trust me on this.”

She couldn’t help her smile of relief.  Independent confirmation for her own gut instincts was always good, even if it was from someone she barely knew, someone who was engaged to…

The note and its contents came skittering back to her consciousness, and Willow’s smile faded as she edged her way toward the door.  Thinking about her own lovelife, although fun, wasn’t nearly as important as trying to figure out why Spike was sending flowers to their mark’s future daughter-in-law.  There were lives in the balance here, and as much as she wanted her friend to be happy, she couldn’t let this one just slip on by without some mention.

“Thanks,” she said at the doorway.  “Have a good show.”

*************

She’d barely rapped at the door before it was pulled open, and Wesley was beaming down at her, holding it open enough for her to slip in past him.  “I didn’t mean to interrupt you and Buffy,” he apologized as she shut the door behind her. 

“We were done,” Willow replied, and stopped in front of the desk, turning to look at him as he closed the gap between them.  “What is it you wanted?”

“I wanted to ask you what you were doing tomorrow,” he said.  “Lunch was so enjoyable today, I rather hoped you’d be interested in repeating it.”

“Well, I do have this insane need to have lunch every day,” she teased.  “I don’t see why you shouldn’t be a part of that ritual as well.”

He chuckled.  “And here I feared you’d find me too forward.”  Another step, and the distance had narrowed to just a couple feet, his gaze steady on hers as he tried to gauge her reaction.

“I like forward,” she managed.  Nearness equals good, Willow thought wildly, and oh my goodness, he is very much nearer.  Did he smell this good at lunch?  Why didn’t I notice his smell before?  “It’s much better than being backward,” she finished, trying to joke her way past the flutters being around him was creating in her stomach.

“Will you do me a favor tonight?”

Automatically, her nerves plummeted.  Favor.  In exchange for lunch and nice compliments.  I should’ve seen that one coming, she thought.  That one had predictable written all over it.

“Sure, whatever you want,” she chirped in spite of her gloomier mood.

“As you heard in Buffy’s dressing room, Angel will be in again this evening.  If he…approaches you in any way, would you please tell me about it?”  His smile had vanished, the blue darkening as he gazed down at her in seriousness.

The tremor of what he meant rippled through Willow’s head, her mood shifting yet again as the implication of what he was saying sank in.  “Of course,” she said slowly.  “But…why?  I mean, he’s the boss, right?  Don’t I have to do pretty much what he says?”

His mouth settled into a thin line.  “Being one of Heaven’s owners does not give him the right to treat you inappropriately.  I won’t stand for it.”

“Why?  Because…you’re my manager?”  Why was she holding her breath?  What did she think he was going to say?

“What?  No, of course not,” he stuttered, only to stop and backpeddle as he realized what he’d said.  “Well, of course, I’m your manager, and as such, I’m concerned about the welfare of the staff here.  But this…”  All of a sudden, he seemed much less sure of himself, ducking his gaze.  “…I know it doesn’t seem appropriate and such, as technically, you do work for me.  And I have to admit, you present an interesting paradox that I find remarkably curious.  There really is no reason for me to assume---.”

Her hand was light against his forearm.  “It’s OK, Wesley,” she said.  “I like you, too.”

She’d debated letting him go on, trying to find the words that would say what he wanted without actually having to say the words, but a swell of courage had risen in her throat, and she’d flashed on just how empty of companionship her life had been since Oz had left the country.  Oh sure, she had Spike and Giles, and her little crush on Xander had been distracting for a while, but none of it really compared to that sense of closeness that came from knowing someone’s favorite place was in your arms, just as your favorite place was in theirs.  She claimed to like the forward?  It was about time she acted like it.

He seemed slightly taken aback at the directness of her words, and hesitated before the smile slowly canted across his face.  “Well, I must say I’m feeling rather foolish,” he said lightly.  “I simply must learn to stop talking at some point.”

Her own lips quirked.  “I think that’s a lesson I could handle a refresher course on, as well,” she said.

“I’m serious, though,” he said, and his eyes seemed darker, more intense as he searched her face.  “Angel can be…unpredictable.  And I’d rather you weren’t at the…wrong end of his variability.”  Slowly, Wesley’s hand came up and brushed back a loose strand of her hair, his fingertips trailing across her cheek as he did so.

Better than a kiss, she decided, her heart pounding in her throat.  “I promise.”

*************

Eight, she’d said.  And it was now quarter of.  Fifteen minutes.  Felt like it would last an eternity.

Though Ripper had argued the wisdom of showing his face two nights in a row, there was no way Spike was going to miss her show tonight, not after the events at the diner.  Not after that kiss.  Hell, not after seeing her disable the second shooter without so much as blinking an eyelash.

So many questions.  He’d spent a good part of the afternoon mulling over the contradiction that was Buffy Summers.  Everything about that first night seemed so on the money now, different faces for different people, and now the bulk of his musings focused on how a dame like that had learned to shoot so straight.  Mickey had been her teacher, she’d claimed, but why him?  Why not Angel or one of his crew?  The matter of her being so handy with a weapon made sense---Dru had certainly known her way around a shiv---but Buffy hadn’t seemed the sort.  Singing was her bag, not slinging, yet she’d knocked out the second shooter as cleanly as if she’d been a pro.

When Spike had stopped by the hotel to pick up Red, Ripper had attempted again to broach the subject of the chanteuse, and for a brief moment, Spike had debated spilling what he knew.  Something had happened to Buffy in California and with the older man’s contacts, they could have that information relatively quickly.  He’d held his tongue, though, once Rip had launched into his latest “keep your mug out of the spotlight or this whole job’ll go to hell” spiel.  No way was he not seeing her again.

And now here they were.  Or rather, here he was, seated in the same spot as the previous evening.  Harris and Ripper sat at a table on the other side of the stage, near where Angel had been their first foray into Heaven.  Red was out front, and though it had appeared when he’d first arrived that she had been trying to get his attention, Spike had just given her a small nod and headed straight inside to wait, too excited about the night’s prospects to dally in small talk.

Ten minutes.  Fuck.  He hated waiting.

Movement at the main room’s entrance caught his gaze over the rim of his tumbler, and Spike glanced up to see Angel step inside.  His mouth curling in disgust, he was about to catch Harris’ eye when the pair who entered behind arrested his attention.

He was exactly as his photos had depicted him---the wide smile, cheeks well-creased from long-etched laugh lines, grey-blue eyes that seemed friendly at first appearance but glinted underneath with a steel malice, betraying his grim determination to win at all costs.  Even the spotlessly pressed tuxedo was to be expected.

What wasn’t expected was his companion.

Her dress left little to the imagination, a black silk sheath that clung to her generous curves.  Spike’s gaze slipped up her form, noting the gold tone of her bare arms, the dark cascade of casual waves that fell past her shoulders, the glossy scarlet of too-full lips parted in a seductive smile, huge doe eyes that did more than make promises.

The Mayor might be widowed but he sure as hell wasn’t dead.  Whoever she was, his date dripped sex with a capital X.

Harris was moving before Spike could even look away, his amiable grin on his face as he approached the trio with an outstretched hand.  Though he couldn’t hear what was being said, it wasn’t necessary; they were already being guided to the table beside Xander and Ripper’s, the Mayor’s hand pressed possessively to the small of the brunette’s back.

They could go digging for all the information that they wanted; at that moment, Spike didn’t care.  One more sweep over them and he was certain.

He knew now exactly how he was going to get to the Mayor.

Only the dimming of the lights could yank Spike from his mental planning, and he shifted in his seat just in time to see the stage go dark.  Beneath his ribs, his heart began to hammer in anticipation and he found himself leaning forward, waiting, willing the time to go by faster, too eager just to be allowed to see her again.

“We meet, and the angels sing…”

Just as before.  The voice reaching out into the darkness, searching for the balm to ease its pain.

“…the angels sing the sweetest song I ever heard…”

And then the lights, or rather spotlight, highlighting her at the microphone in a gossamer haze.

“You speak, and the angels sing, or am I breathing music into every word…”

She glowed.  Where the previous evening she had been taunting her audience with her golden sensuality, tonight Buffy floated before them, an ethereal sprite bowing from the heavens.  The pale aqua silk flowed like liquid air over her curves, shimmering and iridescent in the stage lights.  While the fitted halter bodice arched downward around her breasts, a pleated tulle inset of the same shade covered the swathe of bodice exposed by the scooped fabric and another nestled between the cut-outs of the floor-length skirt.  She was stunning.

Their eyes met then, and there was no denying the ghost of a smile that lit in the grey-green before she looked away again.  Though he knew she sang for all in the club, the glimmer she offered him told Spike the words were meant for him, only him, and his skin warmed at the thought.  He’d been right about the connection.  He was just glad she seemed to be more willing to lend it more credence, too.

*************

It lasted both too long and not long enough.  Though every second watching her left Spike breathless, wanting more, hungry for another moment of the magic she wove with her voice, he itched for her to leave the stage, to go back to her dressing room so that he could follow, to find out when exactly he could see her again.

He was behaving like an addict, but frankly, he didn’t care.  He’d merely switched his drug of choice from booze to Buffy Summers.

Spike was surprised, when instead of disappearing, she descended the stage with a smile and joined Angel at his table, her body leaning into his when he draped his arm across the back of her chair.  That made six there then---Harris and Ripper had long since moved places---and Spike felt the all too-familiar feeling of being left behind surge within his stomach.

What’d you expect, mate? the devil inside his head commented dryly.  She’s got a life that doesn’t involve you.  Why’d you think that would change just because you sent her a few flowers?

Because there’s something between us and she knows it, Spike argued back.

The devil chuckled.  Something she doesn’t want the world to know about.  Like a dirty little secret she can pull out to play with in Willy and Mickey’s world, where she doesn’t have to fuss about people asking questions she doesn’t want to answer.

She kissed me.  She invited me to see her tonight.

And that’s why she’s hoofing it with her fiancé, and not with you, you git.

His knuckles were white as his grip tightened around his glass.  Buffy and Angel were on the dance floor, the gentle strains of the band coaxing them to glide along in a waltz.  Although there was an ease to their movements, a familiarity borne from years of practice, something about it seemed off, Buffy’s petite form dwarfed by Angel’s bulk, as if any moment he would overwhelm her.

Not right, Spike thought.  Don’t care what she says.  Should be me.

One swig was all it took finish his drink.

One slide of his chair was all it took to rise to his feet.

*************

Xander saw it first and glanced furtively at the Mayor, noting the older man’s distraction by the constant nuzzling of his girlfriend before clutching at Giles’ sleeve.  Turning just enough from their host so his words would be unheard, he singsonged, “What’s he doing, what’s he doing, what’s he doing?”

“Who?” Giles replied.  His lips never moved, the single word just a slight exhalation.

“Spike.”

Two sets of eyes swiveled to see the blond stalking across the dance floor, head bent in ruthless purpose as he approached the couple.

“Please tell me he’s not packing tonight.”

The look Giles shot him was the only response necessary, the Englishman’s body tensing to rise.  “Get ready to grab Willow,” he said.  “I’ll---.”

“Wait.”  Xander’s hand curled around Giles’ arm.

They watched as Spike tapped Angel on the shoulder, and though they couldn’t hear the exchange that followed, both men relaxed as Spike’s hands remained clearly in view.

“That man will never cease to amaze me,” Giles murmured.

“I can’t wait to hear the explanation for this one.”

*************

“You wanna what?”

It took every ounce of control he could muster not to deck the prat then and there, but Spike kept his gaze level, his mouth quirked in a wry smile.  “It’s called dancin’, mate.  Last I heard, cutting in wasn’t a crime.”

“I don’t share my girl, not even for a dance.”  Angel glowered, puffing up his shoulders as he sought to accentuate the size difference between them.  “Just who do you think you are?”

Buffy squeezed her fiance’s forearm.  “The song’s almost over anyway, Angel.  It’s jake.  He’s a…”  She glanced at Spike.  “…fan.”

“I don’t like it.”  He announced it with a childish pout, but it was obvious he was conceding.

“Just this one,” she promised and stood on tiptoe to give him a quick kiss on the cheek.

Spike waited until Angel had stepped away before taking Buffy into the circle of his arms, his hand resting light in the small of her back as he guided her further away from her table.  All doubts disappeared as the rightness of feeling her pliant body pressed to his, a perfect fit as though they had been cast from complementary molds, pervaded his being, easing him into the dance as if it was the only thing they’d ever done.  “You look stunning,” he murmured.

He was rewarded with a faint blush.  “Not as beautiful as the daisies,” she answered, her voice just as low.  “Thank you for those.”

“What say you and me blow this joint?” he asked, blue eyes dark as they searched hers.  “There’s so much---.”

“I can’t.”  Although none of it was revealed in her face, the entreaty tinged her words.  “Please don’t make this so much harder for me.  Mr. Wilkins is insisted we eat as well.”

Spike’s eyes darted over her shoulder.  “Looks a bit busy to me,” he commented.  “I don’t think he’d even notice.”

She allowed herself a quick glance.  “Oh, he’ll notice.  That’s what he does.  Faith won’t keep him distracted for long.”

“So when can I see you?  You can’t expect me to just sit back and watch you with that wanker, Buffy.  Not after what’s happened between us.”

For the first time, her smile faded.  “You didn’t have to come tonight.”

Spike rolled his eyes.  “Right.  Might as well tell me not to breathe.”

The song was close to ending and she knew she would be left of him soon, her attentions forced elsewhere while he was left to stew.  Panic closed her throat, tightening her chest, and she took exactly ten seconds to have the debate inside her head.

“I’ll make sure I leave here at midnight,” she said quickly.  “Be at my apartment at twelve-thirty.  We can be alone there.”  The music faded away, leaving her no more reason to be publicly within his embrace.  Carefully, Buffy extracted herself from his arms, stepping away so that the pretense could be kept.  “I’ll send a note to Jonathan with my address on it,” she said through her polite smile.  “Get it from him.”

He watched as Angel appeared at her shoulder, taking her elbow in his large hand and steering her back to their table without saying another word to Spike.  Part of him felt like she’d merely tossed him a bone, offering him the scraps of her company outside the open realm of her real life.  Another part---a much bigger, celebrating like it’s New Year’s part---reveled in the knowledge that he would get more time with her, in the private sanctum of her flat, with hours to discover even more of those delicious secrets locked inside her pretty head.  No interruptions from would-be assassins.  Just the two of them.  And a bed.

He could really use a cigarette about now.

*************

The sounds of traffic from the street filtered down the alley, working with the nicotine to soothe the tension in Spike’s body as he leaned against the wall of the club, staring at nothing as he remembered the supple pressure of Buffy’s breasts against his chest, the tickle of her breath along his skin.  If he thought waiting that fifteen minutes before her show was an eternity, how the hell was he going to last the next three hours? he wondered.

Beside him, the side entrance to Heaven creaked open and he turned his head to see the Mayor’s date emerge, her purse dangling from her hand.  She spotted him immediately, her red lips spreading into a knowing smile, but waited to speak until the door was closed tightly behind her.

“Care to share your air?” she asked, reaching into her bag and pulling out a pack of cigarettes.

Spike shrugged.  “Free country and all.  Not really mine to share.”

“How about a light then?”

His hand scooped into his jacket pocket, removing his lighter and cupping his hand around the flame when it came.  She leaned forward, holding her hair back as she sucked on the filter, its tip glowing in the dimly lit alley, and both of them knew the angle of her body afforded him more than an ample view of her cleavage.  When she straightened, her lips pursed, expertly blowing out the first breath of smoke in her lungs.  “I’m Faith,” she said.

“Not the name I would’ve slapped on a dame like you,” Spike taunted with a grin.

She laughed.  “I think I’d surprise you, big boy.  I’m just that kind of gal.”

“Funny, I’ve been meeting a lot of those these days.”

Her eyes darted to the doorway before returning to the shadows of his face.  “Yeah, I saw you dancing with B.  Now why am I not shocked that you’re the type who likes to play with fire…?”

“Seems as if I’m not the only one.  Interesting date you’ve got there.”

For the first time since emerging, Faith’s face hardened, anger flashing behind the brown of her eyes.  “Stones and glass houses, buddy.  Because I think if anyone’s got a death wish around here, it’s going to be one William the Bloody Rook.”  When he started at the sound of his given name, she laughed.  “Guess me knowing your name counts as surprise number one then…”

 

To be continued in Chapter 10: Bullet Scars