Can't Always Get What You Want
I saw her today at the reception
In her glass was a bleeding man
She was practiced at the art of deception
Well I could tell by her blood-stained hands
-- The Rolling Stones
He took another long drag from his cigarette, closing his eyes as he exhaled. The sweet and slow melody of violins drifted into the lounge from an adjacent room and mingled with the sound of cocktail talk and ice clinking in half-full glasses.
He opened his eyes and blinked once, then twice, letting his eyes readjust to the low lighting. He was anxious to hear just how she'd pulled this one off. Who she'd conned, robbed, or killed to get to these people, this room, the ten layer cake, the high-ceilinged cathedral enveloped in rich silks and white lilies. The isle strewn with cherry blossom petals, the thick perfume of flowers, slow melting candles and—
Or maybe it wasn't as complicated as all that. Maybe he should be asking…who the hell'd she have to marry?
He spotted her against a white lily backdrop. She was thinner now, and even though she was draped in yards of bright white silk, he could still make out her delicate hipbones jutting from her small frame—and the long, graceful curve of her collar bone hidden just beneath her pale skin. Her hair was a shade darker now, and longer. It was pulled tight against her head in some elaborate updo. The diamond strand that was wound into her dark curls caught the light and sparkled wildly – they gleamed almost as bright as her thick, glossy hair.
And still there was something familiar about her, though he couldn't put his finger on it. He smirked, taking another drag off his cigarette. She still hadn't spotted him.
She was talking to someone – a tall, thin woman he didn't recognize. Her lips pulled back into a slow smile and she took a sip from her wine glass. He watched intently as light and shadow slid over the dark liquid along the smooth glass to her lips. She looked to him so different—like a dream.
And then her eyes were on him. Cold, glassy, emerald eyes.
He expected she'd drop her glass against the smooth marble floor. He saw it all in slow motion—the crystal shattering into a million glinting pieces without a sound, the dark wine splashing magnificently against floor, scattering, and staining red the bottom of that long, silk gown. Her perfect lips parting slow and even as her perfect eyes widened in accord.
Instead, her eyes narrowed. She swallowed hard, and then turned with a smile back to the tall woman who continued to talk in her direction.
He raised a brow in mild irritation. Surely she must have recognized him. It had only been a year and a half, for Christ's sake.
He took one last drag from his cigarette, then crushed it against the glossy mahogany table at his side. He took one long step toward her. Then another. And another.
And as he crossed the room it seemed to spin around him in brilliant steaks of white and cream and brown. Perhaps it was the alcohol. Or the nicotine.
Or the sight of Faye—Faye Valentine—looking so delicate, so calm, so graceful … and so utterly alone in a crowded room.
Faye turned toward him, her brow knitted again in frustration. Before she could respond, the woman at her side turned to her, placing her hand on Faye's upper arm.
"Faye?" she asked, smiling, "do you know this man?"
"No. No—I mean—would you excuse us please, Rosaline?"
Rosaline winked. "Oh. I understand…old boyfriend?"
Faye's eyes fell on his for a moment, and he saw something in them he couldn't recognize. "Something like that," she said.
Rosaline cracked a smug smile and eyed him critically. "Of course," she said, the grin playing at her lips widening. "Well. I'll be along then. Nice seeing you again, Faye."
Faye offered a polite smile and waited until the woman was out of earshot before speaking to him.
"Spike," she breathed through clenched teeth, "what are you doing here?"
"Nice to see you again, too, Faye," he said, placing another cigarette between his lips. He fished in his coat pocket for his Zippo, taking care to avoid making eye contact with her.
"Spike…" she said his name again, though this time not as tersely. Okay, that was progress. He stopped what he was doing momentarily to regard her, his eyebrows lifted in mock interest.
Faye's eyes narrowed. "There's no smoking here."
"Really?" he asked, pulling his Zippo from his pocket.
"Really." She pulled the cigarette from his lips and tossed it to the floor.
Spike shrugged and tucked the lighter back into his pocket. "Dead man walking, Faye. I thought you'd be surprised to see me."
"I'm not an idiot, Spike. I knew you weren't dead."
"Since they asked me to ID the body."
He shrugged again, smiling. "I thought it was a pretty good match. Jet pulled some strings with the ISSP. Not that you would know that … since you left." He paused for a moment, tucking his hands into his pants pockets. "So how'd you know?"
Faye took a breath. "What are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same question."
"It's my wedding reception," she said incredulously.
"I noticed," he said, lifting his hand to touch one of her earrings. The intricate diamond design shimmered even as it lay limply across his fingers.
She swatted his hand away, "Please, leave."
"I'm impressed. I bet that 300 million you owe has all but disappeared."
"Of course…I wouldn't want to insinuate that the reason you married the poor sap was to eliminate that nasty debt of yours." Spike tucked his hands into the pockets of his trench coat. "So, do you love him?"
"What?" she spat, crossing her arms over her chest. He didn't reply and she sighed and continued. "I'm happy now, Spike, all right?"
"I asked if you loved him."
"Does it really matter?"
"Well – " he drawled.
He shrugged. "Guess not."
Faye placed a hand on her hip and drummed her fingers restlessly over the bone as though she were waiting to come up with a novel response. "Yes, I love him, okay? Now, leave."
"You don't even want to know why I came?"
"Okay, Spike. Why did you come?"
He reached into his pocket and withdrew a neatly folded paper. Faye raised a brow as he placed it in her hand.
"Jack Bosch. 100 million woolongs."
Faye unfolded the paper and sighed. "A bounty, Spike?"
"No," she said, shoving the paper back at him.
"Jet and I can't handle this alone."
"No," she said firmly.
"It will be just like old times," he said with a smile.
"No, it won't be 'just like old times,' all right? I have—a life now. I'm married—"
"Come on, Faye."
"Why is this bounty so important to you, anyway? Just go after someone else."
Spike ran a hand through his thick hair. "We sort of owe someone a lot of money. Faking your own death isn't exactly cheap. Or easy. You know the only man to pull it off? Elvis."
Faye sighed, closing her eyes. "Christ, Spike…" When she opened them, she turned to look at a man over her shoulder. Spike stood on his toes, attempting to catch a glimpse of the man he assumed was her husband. He was tall. Really tall. Dark hair, dark skin. He winked, flashing Faye a brilliant smile.
And handsome. He should have guessed Faye would fall for a guy like that. Real slick. And dangerous.
"All right," she said, turning back to Spike. "We'll think about it."