Chp 3 Little Flames, Big Fires
Chp 3 Little flames, big fire
With a snarl and a hiss, rain swept in across the ocean and fell on Sunnydale like a tiger seizing its prey. It threw itself at the hospital and Joyce Summers turned in her bed and stared at the water streaming down the windows. Lightning slashed across the small piece of sky she could see and she wished with all her heart that she could be out there, feeling the cleansing power of the storm instead of here, breathing in the worry and doubt and dust of this hospital room.
The squall fled across town and pounced joyfully on a car that was speeding through the streets. Riley Finn cursed under his breath as the wipers failed to cope with the downpour. He braked too sharply, felt the car begin to skid, wrenched the wheel too hard to correct it and yelled as the wheels bumped up onto the sidewalk, hit a tree and came to a smoking halt.
He pushed open the door and clambered out, slamming it shut behind him. He stared at the damage, kicked a wheel and knew it would mean a tow truck in the morning. He’d been lucky; there was no one around, the streets deserted at this hour.
Within seconds his clothes were soaked through but he could see he wasn’t far from his destination – the Bronze. And if anyone even looked sideways at him, he’d kill them, whether they were friends of Buffy and her gang or not.
Woken by the thunder, Dawn had pulled on jeans and T-shirt and padded downstairs. One glance into Buffy’s room had shown that her sister wasn’t there. She was probably asleep on the sofa with Riley.
‘I bet I know what they’ve been doing!’ she thought. ‘Well, they can just wake up and talk to me. They shouldn’t be doing anything while Mom’s sick. It’s icky. I hate them both!’
It was dark at the bottom of the stairs. She peered across the room, ready to yell at the couple on the sofa. Then a flash of lightning cleaned the room of shadows for an instant and she saw the tumbled afghan, the dented cushions and - no one. And knew she was alone in the house.
“OK,” she said out loud. “That’s cool. I’m not a kid any more. I don’t need someone here to look after me.” Her voice squeaked on the last word and she switched on all the lights, feeling a bit better as the shadows vanished.
This was weird. What on earth could have happened for both Buffy and Riley to go out? It was one of the things that annoyed her so much, this belief that she was too young to stay by herself at night. Suddenly her legs felt shaky and she sank down on the sofa. Mom! It had to be mommy. Buffy must have got a phone call – bad news – an emergency – they’d rushed out – no – no – nothing bad – nothing bad, please…
She jumped as another roll of thunder sounded almost overhead. Clutching a cushion she muttered, “Perhaps mom just needed something – something important – or perhaps she’s coming home. They might have discovered it’s all a mistake. She doesn’t need an operation at all.”
But she knew she was making it all up. No hospital would call in the middle of the night with good news. So Buffy and Riley had gone out for a bad reason. She shuddered and flinched as the lights flickered, faded, then came back on again. Candles! She had to find candles in case the power failed.
Mom always kept some in a drawer – right, here they were - but she needed matches – oh, okay, here they were in the kitchen. Good – now all she needed to do was – she struck a match, then jumped as a squall of rain threw itself against the windows.
The flame hissed against her skin and she squeaked and flung the match away from her. It spun through the air, landed on a pile of papers which flared alight. Dawn grabbed them and flung them into the sink, running water until all that was left was black ash.
She stared at the mess, pushed it around then abandoned it. Stupid matches, stupid fire. It was all Buffy’s fault. If she hadn’t gone out, then there wouldn’t have been a mess. She could clean it up when she got home.
OK, perhaps no matches would be good. Mom would be upset if she burnt down the house. No, she’d just sit and watch TV until Buffy and Riley got home. That would be sensible. Then she’d glare at them, be coldly polite and adult. She would show them she could look after herself. Her tummy rumbled and she decided to have a nice bowl of cereal with cold milk and there were strawberries in the fridge. She’d be okay.
She curled up in one corner of the sofa, but as she reached for the TV remote, the front door was flung open with a crash and as the bowl, milk and strawberries crashed to the floor, all the lights went out.
Across town in the Bronze, Buffy reached for her glass and found it empty. She glared at Spike who pushed the remains of their drinks across the table to her. She sipped at the Scotch, pulled a face and thrust it back at him. “I don’t know how you can drink that stuff.”
Spike shrugged. “Nectar of the gods, pet.”
“Don’t call me pet. And where the heck are these demons of yours? I’m not sitting here with you for the rest of the evening. I need to get home.”
“What’s the rush? Soldier boy’s there looking after Dawn, isn’t he?”
“That’s not the point! Listen to that thunder. Dawn hates storms; she’s always been scared of lightning.”
Spike’s eyes widened, then narrowed as he took in the tension across her neck and shoulders, the flickering of the muscles around her mouth. He was mentally kicking himself; his plan to distract the Slayer from her mum’s operation had failed dismally. She seemed just as uptight and antsy as she had been before. And somehow he knew that the Dawn remark was just an excuse. Buffy knew Riley was there to take care of her sister.
OK, he’d have to come up with another plan, because he’d promised Joyce that Buffy wouldn’t just sit around worrying about things this evening. It shouldn’t be too difficult. He was good at plans, ideas, plots and secrets. It was the reason behind all his success as a vampire. He frowned down into his glass and wondered what would happen if he hit her. He knew the chip would fire in his head, but at least she’d have something else to think about. Yeah, hitting the Slayer on her dainty little nose was a great idea.
The band on the stage changed. The group were small, silver demons with long yellow hair and nails. They played mean guitars. This time the music was faster, the beat more insistent. He watched as her fingers began to tap on the table and instead of hitting her, heard the words, “Want a dance, Slayer?” coming out of his mouth.
“What?” Her eyes were huge and green in the candlelight. “No way, Spike. I’m here to work. We’re not on some sort of – date.”
He lit a cigarette, the flame from the lighter illuminating the flat planes of his face. “Never thought we were. But we look a bit conspicuous just sitting here. Everyone else is dancing.”
Buffy stared suspiciously through the dim, smoky club and pulled a face. He was annoyingly right; they were the only couple sitting down. All the other demon were dancing, tentacle in tentacle, horns and tails locked. Suddenly Spike threw off his coat, stood up and held out his hand. Buffy stared up at him; if she saw even the suspicion of a smile on his face, she’d hit him so hard he wouldn’t wake up for a week.
Oh god, what would the world be like in a week’s time. Mom! The thought rocketed through her brain but she couldn’t, wouldn’t think about it. She let Spike pull her to her feet and concentrated on the beat of the music, letting it take her body, slowly at first as she swayed and moved, then faster and faster, swirling, turning, the blood pumping through her veins, her hair flying free from its bonds, aware only of the relief the dance was bringing her and the cool touch of his fingers that were there to touch her, support her, balance her when she spun too fast, but that was what she wanted to do, spin and spin, faster and faster, leaving all the worries and despair behind her….
An icy grip fastened on her shoulders and she jolted back to the world. Angrily she stared into a blazing blue gaze, but just as she was about to kill him, the music changed, became softer, slower and without a word, Spike wrapped his arms round her and held her against his chest as her heart and mind slowed down to normal once again.
One part of her brain said, “this is stupid; what the heck are you doing dancing with a vamp” and she wanted to pull away, leave, find something to kill. But the music was soothing and the T-shirt under her cheek was smooth and smelt surprisingly clean, except for smoke and whisky and fried chicken. Slowly the muscles across her shoulders relaxed; she was almost unaware that fingertips were soothing and massaging them as he held her.
Spike let the music carry him; he didn’t understand what the hell he was doing: how had his plan to hit her got so turned around? He was holding the Slayer, dancing with the Slayer; he could feel a tiny patch of warmth on his chest from her breath. If he bent his head – just a fraction - her hair tickled his nose. He could feel the whipcord strength of her limbs, the tension in every inch of her body but as the minutes ticked endlessly past, that tension slackened, vanished, and he had the oddest feeling that she might even be asleep in his arms.
Then, suddenly, without any warning, an enormous crash of thunder rocked the Bronze. The sound equipment on stage died with a cascade of sparks as lightning hit the building and all the remaining dim lights went out. The main doors were smashed open by a violent gust of wind which extinguished all the candles.
The Bronze was plunged into complete darkness, but Spike’s eyes were not human and he could see, only too clearly, the figure of Riley Finn standing in the doorway.
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