Such a Lovely Face
Such a Lovely Face:
The two lane road seemed to cut across the desert and stretch its way out to a deep, dark nowhere. Buffy could have sworn she was over a hundred miles from the highway. By the time she finally steered her car into the hotel parking lot she felt like she'd been driving for ages.
At least, she had to admit, the hotel's appearance was quite a pleasant surprise. The farther she'd driven down this country back road, the more convinced she'd been that the Hotel California was going to turn out to be some roadside dump still reeling over the addition of color TVs to the rooms. Instead, the hotel was a lavish, two-story brick structure, with a circular drive leading to a covered carport and entryway. It might actually have been worth the almost endless journey deep into the California desert.
Killing the engine, Buffy hopped out of the vehicle. She was happy to once again feel the pavement beneath her feet. She hated driving, and, if she was being honest with herself, she was not all that good at it. Generally, if she needed to go anywhere, she would just walk, or run if demons were about and someone was in need of rescuing. But, there was no place in Sunnydale that she could run to and keep from being found. No place in Sunnydale was that far or unfamiliar. She needed to be gone for a while, and she couldn't be gone in her home sweet home corner of the Hellmouth.
Two large wooden doors with ornate glass panels parted before her as Buffy approached the front of the building. A pair of tuxedo clad men had been behind the welcome. One smiled, and bowed his head to her, almost as though he'd been expecting her to arrive. Shaking her head to dispel the sort of icky feeling that thought provoked, she took in her surroundings. There she stood in the doorway of one of the most beautiful lobbies she had ever seen. The floors were covered in a cream colored marble tile. The front desk was made completely of a reddish wood, carved intricately and inlaid with lighter honey-colored details. There were crystal vases overflowing with bouquets of pink, white, and yellow roses. And, to top it all off, there was even an enormous chandelier with lights that flickered slightly, giving the impression of dozens of tiny candles.
A tall man in a black suit, starched white shirt and long black tie stood behind the front desk. His face was narrow and angular, with a straight, pointy nose and squinting dark eyes. “Welcome to the Hotel California,” he said, his voice melodious and much kinder than his severe appearance would suggest.
“Thank you,” Buffy said, approaching the desk. “It's such a lovely place.”
The man smiled, bowing his head slightly. “Lovely place,” he repeated. “For such a lovely face.”
Buffy could feel herself blushing. “Uh, thanks,” she said. “Can I get a room?”
Pushing a ledger across the desk, the man nodded. “Plenty of room at the Hotel California,” he said, as though he'd rehearsed that line from the billboard on the highway a hundred times. Handing Buffy a pen, he gestured for her to sign the book.
Yawning, Buffy grabbed the pen and hesitated, wondering if she shouldn't use a different name. She knew that Spike had probably torn out of the Bronze after her. The odds were slim that he'd pick this exact hotel and find her, but stranger things had happened. Sighing, she rubbed her brow, much stranger things had happened.
“Well, there you stand,” the man behind the desk said softly. “With your little head down in your little hand.” He smiled sadly. “You're not like your mother. You're not like the others. You're not quite like anyone else.” Buffy stared, wide-eyed at the man. Hastily she wrote her own name in the ledger and pushed it back across the desk. “They don't even know you,” he said, his tone almost making Buffy believe that he knew her .
Abruptly, he retrieved the ledger from her, shaking his head like someone waking up from a daydream. “So happy you could join us this evening Miss Summers,” he said, his manner of speaking once again businesslike, completely changed. “You've plenty of time to change before the gala in the courtyard, but, believe me, you won't want to be late.” Snapping his fingers, the man summoned one of the doormen who'd let Buffy into the hotel. “Henley, do be so good as to take Miss Summers and her luggage to suite 105, please. Thank you.”
“I don't have luggage ... “ Buffy's voice trailed off as she saw the large trunk and pair of bags that the man named Henley was loading onto a wheeled rack. “Or, maybe I do ...”
The man behind the desk was smiling again. “Remember, dancing in the courtyard tonight. You won't want to miss a minute.”
Bleeding hotel was going to be halfway to China by the looks of things. Spike snarled aloud, venting his frustration into the dark, star-filled sky. Halfway to China, and, probably, no closer to Buffy. She'd never have gone this way. She hated driving, and there was no way she'd stay behind the wheel long enough to end up in the middle of the desert. Stupid bloody woman. Stupid bloody vampire for following her.
Spike did not have a plan. He didn't know what he was going to say if by some miracle she happened to be at this Hotel California. She had told him at the Bronze, and many times before, that there was no chance. He'd given her ultimatums and threatened to kill Drusilla to prove to the Slayer how serious he was and she'd still told him “No.” And, yet, here he was driving across the state to find her. How many times was he going to let himself do this? How many different ways could she possibly reject him? Soon, he was going to start seeing repeats.
After driving for what could have easily been a million years, Spike steered his motorcycle down the driveway of a beautiful, two-story brick mansion. Marveling at the Victorian architecture, Spike's mouth fell open as he shut off the bike. This was the Hotel California? Two massive, square towers formed the corners of the building, steeply slanted roofs pointing skyward. The towers were joined by perfect rows of tall narrow windows. Taking in the repeating “X” pattern in the brick and the impeccably manicured lawn, the vampire was overcome with the oddest feeling. He'd been here before. Ascending the front steps, Spike entered the building through the two, large doors that had been instantly thrust open for him.
“Welcome to the Hotel California,” a tall man, with black hair and black eyes greeted from behind the front desk. Busy with stacks of papers, the man did not look up until Spike had crossed the threshold and came to stand in the lobby. “Yes, if you'd just please -” the man suddenly stopped speaking as his dark eyes rose to meet Spike's. He smiled knowingly, “He had a nasty reputation,” the man said, his voice soft and far away. Spike's icy blue eyes narrowed. Arching one brow, the vampire cocked his head to one side, about to comment on the man's unusual greeting. But, before he had the chance, the deskman shook his head, seeming to come back to the present. “Oh, I apologize, Lord Pratt, we didn't think you'd be arriving until after the gala had begun.” Forgetting whatever he'd been doing when Spike arrived, the man hurried out from behind the desk. “Henley! Frey! Help Lord Pratt with his things. Handsomely now.”
“That won't be necessary,” an English accented voice interrupted. “M'lord's personal staff is more than fit to the task.” A middle aged man dressed in oddly antique clothing entered the hotel lobby, followed by a half dozen others carrying various trunks, bags, and other pieces of luggage. Pausing, he shot Spike a glance indicating he was none to impressed with the deskman. A glance that also indicated familiarity, a sort of we've-been-through-this-all-before kind of sentiment.
Spike blinked several times, unable to keep his jaw from dropping as he watched the scene unfold around him. Never in his long life had he been to this out of the way hotel, but he recognized every man who'd followed him inside, every man who seemed to appear out of no where. His personal valet, Crowley, the footmen Joseph and Seward, the driver … Where in the bloody hell had he ended up?
Over one hundred years had passed since Spike had been in the company of his human self's personal attendants. These men had been his father's servants. When his father passed, they had become Spike's staff … William's staff. Faithfully, they had served at Devonshire, the country estate Spike's family owned. Later, when his mother became ill and they relocated to London, they had to let Seward go in order to pay the doctor's bills … Spike's eyes narrowed again. He hadn't thought of that in a very long time, and he didn't particularly want to think about it now.
“Will Lady Pratt be joining you this evening?” the hotel deskman asked.
Spike's head snapped back and he sternly regarded the skinny, beady-eyed wanker who obviously knew nothing about running this hotel or how to treat the people that were supposed to be staying in it. “Look here, I don't know what kind of game -”
“Of course,” the English valet answered, “Her Ladyship is in the carriage.” He rolled his eyes as he looked to Spike, that same conspiratorial expression on his face.
“What!?” Spike instantly stopped his rant. Lady Pratt? Completely forgetting about wanting to tear into the hotel staff, he used vampire speed to reach this carriage that had materialized at the entrance. He didn't spare so much as a thought for the fact that the motorcycle he'd ridden here was nowhere to be seen. Spike practically ripped the carriage door from its hinges in his haste to see who could possibly be inside.
“Oh, for heaven's sake, William,” a disapproving female voice greeted him. “I thought you'd leave me in here all evening and go to the gala alone.” A gloved hand shot forth from the shadows, and, Victorian instincts still firmly intact, he took hold of it to help the lady step down from the coach. She was clad in a dark blue visiting dress, covered from ankle to neck. Her brown hair was gathered under a small bonnet, tied beneath her chin. So familiar.
“Thank you, William,” she said as she reached the sidewalk in front of the hotel. Raising her chin, she favored the vampire with a small smile.
“Bloodly hell,” Spike breathed, blue eyes made wide by emotions he hadn't felt in quite a long time.
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