She had the face of a fairy, a tired fairy who had gone through a bad day where the wands had been delivered not only late but half were missing, the wind was too strong for takeoff so she'd had to walk, and when she got there, the bloody kid'd swallowed the tooth.
She was also a lot older than she looked.
Spike realized this as he sat down at her little sidewalk table at the trendy little coffeehouse when she gave him a fishy eyed stare over the rims of her rimless glasses that said, "Look kid, don't bother me with your transparent pickup lines."
But he sat down anyway, intrigued.
Out of habit, he pulled out an unfiltered and started to light up.
She said to him in a bored voice trapped somewhere between a southern drawl and a Midwestern twang, "If you're going to sit here, put out the fuckin' cancer stick."
Startled, it had been a long time since anybody had been that direct with him, Spike closed his lighter, took the fag out of his mouth and defiantly put it behind one ear.
She wasn't impressed.
Embarrassed, he fumbled around mentally before saying, "Enjoy the show?"
"Yeah," she paused as the nasally pierced and tattooed waitperson of indeterminate gender placed a pot of green tea, a cup, and a dish with Splenda packets in it in front of her. "Not bad for a desperate attempt to compete with television, and the 3-D was interesting."
Wondering what she'd say if he casually mentioned that he'd seen its opening night, when was it? 1954? Spike replied. "I liked the hand comin' out of the water bits," he took the cigarette from behind his ear and began to fiddle with it, Drusilla had giggled and shrieked, "It's Ralphie, it's Ralphie! Look everybody, it's cousin Ralphie!" the first time the creature came out of the water, "And the bird swimmin'."
She gave him another look that said, "Typical." over the rim of her teacup. She poured two Splenda packets, then a third into the cup, "Though as an experienced aquatic researcher, you'd think the bimbo'd know better than to go swimming in strange waters without telling anyone." She took another sip, made a face and stared suspiciously into the cup, "Idiots didn't bother to wash the pot out after they made coffee in it before making this cup of green." Then she downed the whole thing in one fast swallow. "Paid four bucks for the privilege of sitting here absorbing their "eclectic artistic ambiance" as visualized by some corporate interior designer. Might as finish it."
He'd stopped in at this small Missouri college town out of nostalgia – it had been a great place to catch a meal and a bit of campus shenanigans in the good old days before Dru'd dumped him and the soul had put the dampers on his existence. The atmosphere was the same. Hell, so were the bars, head shops, and half-assed peacenik run used bookstores – the big old ornate Vaudeville era movie palace was still there, too. He'd gotten in line for a show, a one-night revival of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, for lack of anything better to do. He'd spotted her three warm bodies ahead of him in line.
She stood out, mainly because she was the shortest person there, her waist length brown hair floating around her in the light Spring evening breeze like a halo in the yellow marquee lights; un spiked, un chopped, and it's original color in among the wiggers, grungers, and neo-whatever wannabes.
She'd bought her ticket, strode like a man through the crowd, and disappeared.
Later he spotted her three seats down from him in the balcony, slouched back thoughtfully in among the popcorn throwers and cell-phone junkies.
After the show he'd casually followed her from a distance, just like in the old days, until she looked over her shoulder at him and shot him a filthy look before entering what had once been a tobacco shop and was now a pretentious vendor of overpriced hot water with brown grounds floating in it.
Spike remembered the place well, having murdered the owner in 1966 and looting an entire case of illegal Cubans from the man's office while Dru drained the body.
The cigars were all long smoked, Dru was who knows where, but the building still stood.
And he was stalking a woman who clearly knew what he was up to, though his soul wouldn't let him consummate the hunt.
She'd gone up to the counter, turned around glared at him again through the plate glass and steel front door, and then placed an order, which caused a bit of a panic behind the counter. He heard the counter-person ask, "Tea?" as he entered the place himself.
"Yeah, tea. It's on the menu." His target pointed one delicate hand over the cashier's head at the coffee menu decorating the wall behind the counter. Written almost as an afterthought near the very end next to Evian water was "Green Tea, $4/pot". The counter person fled, looking for the manager after pulling out a box of very dried up looking Jasmine from under the counter. There was dust on it.
The little woman was watching the commotion she had caused like a cat at a window watches birds at the feeder, one finger absently hooked into the collar of her painted-on long-sleeved tee-shirt printed with a Mucha portrait of the late, great Sarah Bernhardt.
Spike smirked, yeah, tonight was gonna to be interesting - this was the kind of woman who would order tea at a coffeehouse just to watch the liberated (her t-shirt under her coffeehouse apron said so in block letters two inches high) co-ed behind the counter scramble and then desperately ask the manager not only where the tea was, but how to make it as well.
She then leaned over the counter, pulling herself up by her elbows so that her very small feet dangled inches above the floor in a pair of child sized sandals, and watched the manager and the cashier frantically look for a teapot in the cabinet beneath the register.
Not too big, not too small. Sometimes age left that to a woman.
There was no teapot, so they ended up cannibalizing a coffeepot. The little woman dropped down from the edge of the counter, paid the cashier, and pushed past him in the cramped space and back out into the cluster of crowded sidewalk tables out front without even deigning to notice him.
She barely came up to his chest.
Size isn't everything. There's a lot a man can do with a wee lass what's easy to pick up and put wherever he pleases.
…bloody hell! Here he was, the Big Bad, all right the Big Bad with a soul, out on a Friday night preparing to make a pickup of a middle-aged woman with a face like a shopworn fairy princess who'd already indicated she didn't care to be seduced… and him a veal man!
On second thought, it was a way to kill a little time - something he had a lot of these days since coming to beneath a mound of dead demons in an L.A. alleyway after Peaches' hare-brained attempt to un-evit the inevitable pulled down an avalanche of shit on everybody's heads.
Of his grandsire and his grandsire's friends, there was no sign, not even a drift of dust in the wind. So he'd hotwired a car and gotten the hell out.
Should have done it years ago.
He'd crossed the continent three times since then, each time in a different vehicle, revisiting old hang-outs, settling old debts, and just…
Which brought Spike back to sitting in a chair at a sidewalk table on a balmy Friday night in April in the middle of a situation his pride wouldn't let him walk away from.
She poured more tea into her cup, followed by four packets of Splenda. "I'm not sleeping with you."
"Only free chair, pet." He replied. Not quite, there was one by some 300-pound Goth chick in a black rubber bodysuit, matching lipstick and hot green hair that looked like it had been styled with a weed whacker, set on fire and then put out with a brick. Good as a meal, once upon a time, but not really his type.
As if this one was?
But still, it was early, he was bored - and she was oddly attractive.
"Go sit next to the Queen of the Damned over there," she indicated the Goth, "I'm sure she'd appreciate your greasy limey charm more than I would."
"I am not greasy."
"Yes. You are." She smiled at him, just a twitch of the lip, and pushed her glasses up with one thumb, "Greasy, and you smell weird, just her type unless she's a lesbian – or is there something you're not telling me?"
"Give us a tumble love and you'll find you won't mind the smell." Spike leaned back in the hard steel chair and grinned at her. He'd spent the last few days sleeping under highway overpasses, Harley tucked out of sight to save on blood money and he didn't like showering at truck stops and state parks.
"Yeah, right." She gave a laugh, actually looked at him, and gave him a real smile. "Look kid, I'm on comp time. I wasn't anticipating sharing it with anybody, particularly you." She swung her feet, which were a good six inches above the sidewalk.
"I can show you a good time, pet." He waved the waiter, (Or was it a waitress?) over and ordered a cuppa himself just to enjoy the consternation that it would cause over at the coffee bar. "A real good time."
"Not in the mood for a good time even if it's real." She topped off her cup. "Go pick up some co-ed, drag her off by the hair to your squat in some old house divided up into 50 student apartments no bigger'n a broom closet, show her a good time and then ask her to do your laundry the next day – I'm not interested."
"Don't have a place pet, I'm on the road – we'd do it in a motel and use their laundry service."
He could spend the money, but Spike preferred somebody's place – this wee bird looked like she had a rambling old house, Victorian with a lot of tall windows, full of houseplants, books, and maybe a cat or two; better than a dorm anytime. They'd rut all over the place, knocking over stacks of books, tipping over plants, scaring the cats – then he'd find an excuse to stay the day, maybe get some laundry done, watch telly (if she had one), and if she liked his company, he'd stay until they bored each other and she tossed him out.
But that was only if he beat the odds - she was smart, hostile, and had a tad more wear and tear on her than his usual conquests which made her harder to foozle. Should he succeed, it could be fun: there might be real conversations about something besides the latest boy-bands and "Don't Republicans suck?" She might even get used to him enough so that he could eat in front of her without her being too grossed out – play it right and she might even keep him supplied… what the fuck?
In the middle of his post-conquest plans, Spike realized that she'd pulled a book out of her back pocket and was pointedly ignoring him as she read.
She peered at him over the top of the battered paperback and said, "Did you say something?"
"I did. I mean, I'm trying to pick you up, and you're not biting!"
"I'm not interested." She replied serenely as she turned a page.
"Baby, I'm soddin' irresistible!"
"No. You're not." She turned another page, and took a drink from her tea from the cup at her elbow. "Go away little boy, Emily and I are having a grown up conversation."
"You mean as in, 'I would not stop for death so he kindly stopped for me?'" Spike leaned back smugly, cheeks sucked slightly in, arms folded, and thrust out his chin a little before ruining the effect by scratching at the dark stubble, souvenir of a week on the road, that decorated it. "I'm more than just a pretty face and a great arse, pet."
"So?" She threw another fragment at him from the book. He finished it.
He lobbed one back at her, she finished it effortlessly, so he slipped in some Kerouac.
She responded with Shakespeare.
He feinted with Sexton.
They came to a deadlock with Byron.
They were half-standing and nose-to-nose by the time they reached Donne; the tea was cold, the sugar bowl was overturned, and all but the most die-hard night owls had left.
Her sharp, narrow face was intent as she paused thoughtfully. Then she feinted with Shelley.
Spike countered with Wordsworth; he wanted to rip her clothes off and take her right there on the beat-up coffeehouse table while twining his fingers in her long brown hair - he'd make it worth her time all right, and she'd have a slave for life.
At Whitman's "Leaves of Grass", Spike gave a loud gasp and two them fell back into their chairs, she breathing hard; him faking it and desperately in need of a cigarette.
No, two cigarettes. Three.
The inside of his leather jeans were damp and sticky.
God, it had been a while since anything had felt that good.
They sat there in silence for a long time as the wait staff pointedly cleaned up around them and the street traffic died away.
The nearby stoplight shifted from red-green-yellow to flashing red over the empty intersection.
"Good night." She said as she stood up, adjusted her skin-tight jeans, slipped the book into her back pocket and sauntered off, "It was real. It was fun. But it wasn't real fun."
"Baby, wait up!" Spike started to stand up, "I'll see you home!"
She casually flipped him off with a laugh without even bothering to turn around or break stride as she rounded the corner.
The whole thing was so stupid that all Spike could do was laugh back and reply with his own two-fingered British salute before taking out and lighting up the fag he'd re-parked behind his ear.
He propped his booted feet up on the table, balls aching, and blew out a cloud of smoke at the moon. God, but tonight had been refreshing – and if he gassed up the Harley at the edge of town, he'd still make East St. Louis and its gambling boats before 2 am.
Then again, maybe he'd hang around here a little bit longer.
Hey, she'd be back for more.
Why wouldn't she?
All in all, it had been a pretty damned good night for a Friday.
She turned the corner, enjoying the night air as it wafted through her hair. She hooked her thumbs into her back pockets as she turned her piquant face to the stars. Damn, what a night! It'd been a while since she'd had an interesting sparring match with a total stranger.
'Break's over; back to work!' she thought as she rolled her shoulders. A dark cloud with faintly luminescent spots billowed up from behind her as her tightly furled wings began to open like a great, black rose through two carefully tailored slits in the back of her top. A downdraft from between two buildings caught at them, causing her to half dance, half glide sideways as she stepped down off of the curb and into the street.
She started a brisk, skipping run, rising on her toes as she followed the yellow line down the middle of the street, wings at full extension, letting the early spring wind catch at them, causing her to rise quickly against the indigo predawn sky
At 100 feet, she placed a cell phone call to the home office while checking the computer printout that she'd been using as a bookmark in the glare from the town below.
Yep, right on the money! Dispatch just confirmed that the little Ethiopian boy over in Married Student Housing who jonsed for candy lost his two upper front teeth five nights ahead of schedule on a stale Tootsie Roll left over from Halloween just like she'd predicted in the staff locker room at the beginning of tonight's shift – the change from the coffeehouse should just about cover it, just make sure to get a receipt. Accounting would see to it that she got reimbursed.
She ended the call, and clipped the cell to the back of her belt.
Yeah all in all, a pretty damned good night for a Friday.