Illyria cocked her head, gazing at her reflection in the mirror. She followed the thread of a memory, one of Fred’s memories, her form bleeding into a likeness of Fred. She stepped out of the bathroom and into the half shadowed stillness of the bedroom. Connor lay sprawled on the bed on his stomach.
“I wish to celebrate the shell’s day of birth.”
Connor turned over slowly, dragging the sheet up to a decent position just above his hipbones. His face curled in disgust. “I told you not to do that.”
Illyria sighed. “I do not understand your dislike for the shell’s form. It is almost as bad as Wesley’s was.”
Connor grumbled, sat up, tugging the sheet even higher. “Another name not to be mentioned before, during or after sex.”
Illyria walked over to the bed and stood looking down her nose at Connor. “That would imply that I may never mention either the shell or Wesley.”
Connor glared at her. “I thought you’d catch on quicker, being a former goddess and all.”
It was a perfect night. Best I’ve ever had, I think, unless maybe you count… no, that was pretty good, but this was better. Yeah, this was the best. I mean, it didn’t start out the best, but it’s how things finish that matters, right? And that night finished great.
There was a kitten poker game at Willy’s and I was flush. It had been a good week for me, business-wise. I don’t play if I can’t afford to lose. After all, you never know what you’ll be dealt in life or in cards. And since I don’t play when I can’t cover the loss, I hadn’t played in a few weeks. I really wanted a win.
By the time I closed up shop and got to Willy’s, the game was already underway. I said hi to the usual crowd. Y’know, Willy and Fred and Hairy and Splorkhaz. Good old Splorky. Rotten player, but a real good loser. He sends his kids to sell me Girl Scout cookies every year. He knows no matter how much I’m trying to lose weight I can never resist a tasty little Girl Scout. Snacking is my downfall.
“Have you ever acted in front of the cameras before?” Crowe asked, lounging back in his chair, looking at the couple in scary make-up before him. They had shown up on set just as he had come up short a few actors.
“No, but how bloody hard can it be?” Spike pulled Dru to him.
Crowe scratched his balding head. “Well, your make-up is great, though we usually don’t want the girls to look scary, just the guys. Men pay to see girls doing vampires, werewolves and gargoyles.” He got up and went over to Dru, cupping her chin, turning her face one way then the other. He smiled. “Then again a demon chick with a normal guy and whatever you’re supposed to be, could be hot. My writers could probably come up with some lines for you and this delicate piece of tail.” He smoothed Dru’s hair, missing her predatory smile. “After all, I’m down a few actors tonight. They’re supposed to call when they can’t make it but actors don’t have brains enough to tie their shoes.”
“Maybe something disagreed with them,” Dru said with a giggle. Spike shot her an amused look. They had guzzled down a couple of amateur porn stars after hearing about the shoot that was to be some kind of gothic horror flick.
Dawn stood undecided at the bar’s door. Should she enter? This was not the kind of place she frequented. In fact, had she not needed Spike so desperately, she wouldn’t be here at all.
But Willow had said ‘whatever it takes’ and Tara had warned earnestly against coming back without him. They were really angry, and rightfully so. Any other day she’d have claimed defeat and gone back home but this time Dawn certainly didn’t want to face the witches’ wrath alone.
She’d already gone to his usual haunts; the crypt, a couple of graveyards, some bars. She’d even gone to Willy’s and peeked through the door to make sure Spike wasn’t there. Instead she had seen only the usual clientele; little furry demons at the counter, some big scaly thing playing pool with game-faced vamps. Dawn had checked twice that particular corner, aware that often Spike liked betting against the bigger player and then beating him out of his money anyway. But he wasn’t there.
That’s how this night started, and that’s how it’s gonna end. No vampires, no demons. No zombies, which, when you think about it, is actually a good thing. I roll my shoulders a few times, trying to stay loose.
Sighing, I decide to pack it in. Grab my awesomely stylish new black backpack, and stuff Mr. Pointy back in. Jump over the few headstones on my way to the cemetery gates, and suddenly my joy is totally destroyed.
A screeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaam! splits the midnight air to my left.
All instinct now, I drop my bag, having grabbed up my stake again, and race toward the shrill noise.
Sprinting around a small mausoleum, I menace the horrible, noxious, vile… Xander that is flapping at Cordelia to “shut up, Cordy! It was just a rat.”
Sighing again for the second time in as many minutes, I tell the couple, “my kingdom for a monster.”