Wagering History


by Annie Sewell-Jennings




You know that old expression, "I would love to be a fly on *that* wall?" It
took me the longest time to figure it out. I've never been good with old
wives' sayings and metaphors. Believe me, interpreting poetry in my English
101 class was absolute hell. I think it was my mother who told me what it
meant eventually, and I've never forgotten it. There must be, like, ten
thousand flies out there trading stories about what they've heard on my
walls. But this had to be one of the best walls of all.

Spike was a damn good spades player. He had the strategy all worked out,
never overbidding, instinctively putting down the right cards. And I have to
admit, I was pretty good at it, too. Together, we were completely kicking
ass, and Willow and Xander didn't look too happy about it. Too bad for them,
because I was thrilled about it. How could I not be?

The score thus far:

"The Sharks": 210 points, 6 bags
"The Mean People Who Do Not Get the Fun of Team Names": 450 points, 3 bags
"Rude Remarks Made By Spike": 19

I was starting to keep my own score. Spike had smoked thirteen cigarettes and
drunk two beers. I had downed three beers and had considered bumming two
cigarettes. Willow had told two stories that involved her sixth grade sense
of style (involving, oh yes, a mullet). Xander had shared one embarrassing
sexual escapade with Anya, and Spike had been loudly revolted.

Actually, Spike had been pretty tolerable the whole evening, and we'd gotten some pretty juicy stuff out of him. My personal favorite had to be the time
when he wrecked Giles's car. He had never told us why the Gilesmobile was
trashed, but hearing that Spike didn't know how to drive stick really amused me. And it was really strange to hear everyone joshing around and forgetting history while we sort of, well, got along.

A high-pitched giggle dragged me back into reality, and Willow covered her
mouth with her hand as she tipped back her head and laughed. "Oh my God, you
*so* didn't have sex with Anya in Giles's bathroom," she howled, and Xander
turned thirty shades of red, running his hand through his hair.

"Well, he was all out of town and it was my parents' anniversary, which meant a marathon of fighting," he muttered, and Spike was snickering while lighting what had to be his fourteenth cigarette. "What else were we supposed to do?"

I leaned in, arching my eyebrows at him, trying to hold back my own laughter. "Dude, you're supposed to, like, go in the car or something," I said, feeling a little lightheaded. Oops, my beer buzz must have wandered into drunk and
was quickly approaching wasted. "Xand, honestly - Giles's bathroom? The hell?"

Spike took another swig of his Sam Addams and snorted. "I have to hand that
one to you, boy," he said, a wicked grin on his face. That same wicked grin
he liked to flash at me. It's the one where he looks like a contented feline, with the sly arrogance and the blatant sexuality. That stupid smile always
makes me shift in my seat. "The place looks like a bleeding bordello.
London-style though, so it's stodgy."

I narrowed my eyes at him, watching him smoke his cigarette. "I thought that
you were *from* London," I said. Spike was anything *but* stodgy. Raunchy,
brash, crude, loud - these were much better adjectives for a creature like
Spike.

Spike nodded and picked up the deck of cards, the cigarette now hanging yet
again from his lower lip. There is no way to express how much I hate when he
does that. It makes his mouth look too nice, too pretty, and those are *so*
not good when associated with Spike. He doesn't need to be vulnerable or
appealing. He needs to be disgusting. Maybe he could belch. Maybe that would help. Maybe that would help me forget what his too nice, too pretty, too
swollen mouth tasted like.

"I am from London," he said. "But I haven't lost in a while, so I'm not going any further." WIth that, he started to shuffle the deck.

Wow.

His hands were... So fast. There was nothing but a flurry of white skin and
black nail polish as Spike shuffled the cards, flying back and forth, never
missing a step. How did his hands get so fast? I had never seen anything like
it before. The speed, the precision, the careless grace. It was almost
beautiful to watch, and I was mesmerized, eyes glazed over and watching only
his fingers.

Nimbly, he cut the cards and dealt them, and I realized that Spike actually
had very nice hands for a guy. Riley had very large hands to go along with
his very large body, and they sometimes suffocated me. I used to lay awake in
bed after we made love, thinking of how he buried me when he made love to me.
Spike couldn't do that to me. He was too slender, and his fingers were very
long and elegant. Nail polish was a good look for him. Most guys couldn't
pull it off, but on him, it just made... Sense.

Okay, so maybe I was more drunk than I thought I was.

A little dry-mouthed and a lot flustered, I picked up my cards and lit up
like a Christmas tree. Both jokers, three aces, one of which being the ace of
spades, two kings, and the face cards in spades. "Ooo, I have a *great*
hand," I said, and Spike raised his eyebrows over his cards.

"Do you really?" he asked, a sour twist to his mouth. "Because mine is a
steaming pile of shit."

Dainty little Willow wrinkled her nose in distaste and amusement, and Xander quirked his mouth. "Always so colorful," he said wryly. "Unlike my hand. It's boring. No personality to it whatsoever."

"Like Riley?" Spike asked snidely, and I glowered at him with a cold look on
my face. That was uncalled for, and I could feel Willow and Xander tense
beside me.

"Not kosher, Spike," I said forcefully, and Spike actually looked guilty and
a little shame-faced. Like he'd lost points or something. But I wasn't
keeping score. Really, I wasn't. So I didn't know that Spike had smoked
thirteen cigarettes and was working on his fourteenth, had now made twenty
nasty remarks, and had ten really extraordinary fingers.

Nope. I wasn't keeping score at all.

We ended up betting six books, since Spike was absolutely pessimistic about
his hand. Willow and Xander threw in seven, and I really got worried. I had
shared only three secrets so far, all of them fairly pedestrian, but there
was something really strange starting. For starters, I was pretty sure that I was drunk bordering on plastered, and when I'm drunk, pretty much everything comes out. It's why I rarely drink. As if that wasn't bad enough, I was also starting to think that Spike was somewhat interesting. Again, bad. Very bad.

The hand played itself out badly. I did a good job, don't get me wrong, but
Spike's hand was... Well, it was awful. Like, it sucked big time. He had
almost all the hearts in the deck, and so it was pretty much up to me to win.
But I could only do so much when Willow was kicking ass left and right, and
when it was all over, we had five books and they had eight.

I never knew that Willow could be such a bitchy winner. I guess it's the
educational competitive drive in her, but she was bobbing her head left and
right as she ticked off the score. "Uh-oh, looks like we get more Spike and
Buffy theatre," she sang in a cheery little tone.

Spike leaned in close, so close that I could smell the cigarettes on his
breath. "If I strangle her, will I get kicked out of the game?" he asked, and
I saw a smile blossoming on his mouth. The spark in his eye. Wow, I never
realized that Spike had blue eyes before. Blue like rivers. And the smile...

I couldn't help it; his grin was infectious. I leaned in and smiled back at
him, shaking my head and never letting my eyes leave his. I don't think I
could have looked away if I tried, and so I didn't even bother. "After that
display, strangling her would be welcomed," I said, and there was a moment of silence there, with the two of us smiling at each other like big dumb idiots.
I think I might have glowed at him.

Uncomfortably, Willow cleared her throat and looked pointedly at me, and for some strange reason, that irritated me. She's not my mother. She doesn't have any control over me, and sometimes, she thinks that she is the high moral
authority on everything. When she looks at me with that highbrow attitude and that little disapproving look on her face, it makes me feel about ten inches tall and brings out the rebel in me.

It brought out the rebel in me until I realized that she was right. I *was*
smiling a little too brightly. What if the smile said too much? What if it
let them know what I had been enjoying Spike's company a little too much
lately, that I had let my mouth slide across his and that I wanted to do it
again?

For the benefit of Willow and Xander, I let the smile fade a little bit, but
if Spike looked hard enough, he could have found it still lingering on my
lips. I didn't erase it completely, and that was probably not a smart thing
to do. I would probably regret that later. But not at the moment. In that
instant, all that I wanted to do was smile at him and feel a little hot under the collar.

"So, Buff, reveal a deep, dark secret to us," Xander said, and I swallowed a little. Oh, God. A secret to tell. I had so many of them, ranging from the
ridiculous to the heartbreaking. But there was a look on Spike's face, a sort of invitation to be completely open, and for some reason, I trusted him. What a stupid thing to do, I know, but I just did. I just wanted to confess.

"I never loved Riley," I said in a hushed voice, and everyone stared. It was
late; there were not many people in the Bronze and an old Grant Lee Buffalo
album was playing throughout the club. I could be quiet and still be honest.
Nervously, I shrugged my shoulder a little and gave a soft half-smile. "No, I
did love him, but I wasn't in love with him. I cared about him. Part of me
still does, but there was no... Passion. No spark, you know?"

Xander had turned away from me, and I knew that it hurt to hear that. He had
liked Riley, had suffered from his absence, and I think it was the
testosterone factor. Riley was someone that he admired, that he looked up to
as a role model, and I think that a part of him still blames me for his
addiction to vampires and for driving him away from Sunnydale. Like I broke
his sacred idol and never bothered to fix it.

But Riley never gave me a chance.

Uncomfortably, I continued. "He's a good man, don't get me wrong. And he was
good to me, but he wasn't what I needed. Wasn't what I wanted. I don't know
what I want, really. And when we were in bed together..." Spike blanched a
little at that, and it made me feel even more weird. It was strange to see
Spike so openly jealous over me. We hated each other. Now... I don't know. I
just don't. I swallowed again and went on. "When we were in bed together, I
felt like he was trying to suffocate me. Like he wanted to drown out what I
was so that I could be his. It made me afraid. And, well, that's it. That's
my secret."

I wanted a cigarette. One of his cigarettes. The kind that was hanging from
his lower lip. Instead, I just took a long gulp of my beer, and it was gone. I didn't need anymore anyway. The others just looked away, except for Spike, who was staring right at me, like I said something that made him think.

"My turn," he said in a quiet, honeyed voice. He really did have a nice voice when he wasn't using it to be a jackass. "To backtrack for those who weren't there for our lovely night of buffalo wings and storytelling, before I was a vampire, I was a poet."

I'd never seen a spit-take done live and in person, but that's just what
Xander did. He sprayed his beer all over Willow's pretty little pink
Abercrombie & Fitch top, and she was too shocked to notice. Her jaw was
practically on the floor.

"What?" Xander asked incredulously. "I repeat, what? You were a poet?"

Spike glared at Xander. "Yes, and I was also a prissy little wanker who lived
with his mum," he said. "Even got the photographic evidence to prove it."
With that, he pulled out a stained and beaten leather wallet from his stained
and beaten leather coat, and procured a small yellow tintype from it.
Eagerly, I snatched it from his fingers. I had been dying to see a picture of pre-vamp Spike ever since the night he told me about it.

And he was wrong. Well, not about the prissiness. But he wasn't nothing. The picture showed a young man with a mop of floppy, unmanageable blonde hair and even a little pair of glasses perched on his nose. He had a dumb smile on his face, like he hated being photographed and was nervous about it. But he
looked... Well, he looked kind of like Giles. Spike was once Giles and Giles was once Spike. That's so damn weird.

Xander took the picture from me and just started laughing hysterically.
Willow took it and smiled. I could tell that she saw what I saw in it. She
saw that Spike had once been shy, had been doubtful and insecure, and that he
was sort of cute. "I think you were cute," she said in a timid little voice
and passed it back to Spike, who seemed oddly reassured by her. Good for
Willow.

"Thanks," he said, pocketing the wallet and the tintype, and then he glared
at Xander, who was still laughing like a heyena in the corner. "You know, not as funny as you think it is. I don't laugh at you and you look as stupid as I did. So shut your gob and quit your bloody laughing."

Wheezing through the last fit of laughter, Xander started to calm himself
down, red in the face. "Oh, God, I hope that we win this game," he sighed,
"because that would be the best story in the world to tell Giles." I had to
snicker a little at that, because he was right. Giles would howl if he heard that the big bad had once been a namby-pampy little poet. With glasses.

Spike flipped Xander the British version of the bird, and Xander didn't get
it. I didn't bother to explain. "Anyway, that's not the rest of the story,"
he said, and I was intrigued. Another hole in Spike's history to fill in. "I
was in love with a woman back then. Cecily. She was a high-society bird,
drop-dead beautiful and I was a loser. She told me that I was nothing to her, and that night, Dru made me." He was succinct with this, like he didn't care if Willow and Xander heard the same version that he told me. "But after I was turned, I came back to London to have my revenge."

A light sparked in his eye, and I was glad that it did, because it reminded
of me of what Spike was. He was a killer, and he loved being a killer. "Cor, those were some good times," he reminisced. "Angel and I were just ruthless,
and Dru was so thrilled. Darla was mostly bored, but the stupid bint mostly
wanted to go shopping and be pretentious." I bit down on a chuckle at that.
"Anyway, I saw her. I saw Cecily, and I wanted to kill her. Wanted to shag
her. I didn't know what I wanted. She had fucked me up good."

He looked only at me. The rest of the world faded away. It was just Spike and
me, surrounding each other, as he held my eyes and looked at me. "I didn't
kill her," he murmured. "Couldn't. I let her go, and three days later, Angel beheaded her and left her head on my doorstep."

I did not know. I never knew. But it left me breathless, left me hurt and
confused, like the rug had been taken from under my feet. I felt like I was
falling and would never surface. I didn't know what to say to him. He had
never killed Cecily, and it had been my lover, my sweet Angel, who had done
such a cruel thing. What did this mean? I didn't know what to think.

And I was lost in his eyes. Hopelessly lost. All I could do was swim in the
blue around his pupils, drown in them. All that I could see was Spike, the
vampire who had once hurt me and now made me somehow... Sad. It was sad what had happened to him.

"It's three a.m.," Willow said in a hushed voice. "I hate to forfeit and all, but it's late and Tara will worry." Quietly, she looked at the score sheet.
"You guys won, so, um, congratulations." She fidgeted with her fingers for a
minute, and then she did something that really shocked the hell out of me.
She stood up and ruffled Spike's hair. Like, she actually touched him. "See
you around, Spike."

Xander yawned and stretched, and then looked at Spike and me awkwardly. "So,
um, I'd really appreciate it if you didn't tell Giles that I had sex with
Anya in his bathroom," he said, and I just smiled broadly while Spike crossed
his fingers over his heart.

"Oh, your secret's safe with me," he said with a sneer. Man, Giles was going
to be super-pissed.

The losing team walked out of the Bronze, and I looked across from me at
Spike. "So, um, I should get going, too," I said, my fingers fidgeting with
each other in my lap. "Dawn's at home with Giles, and I know that he probably wants to get home, and I have to take her to school in the morning and..."

"Do you want to play gin?" he asked, and I sighed.

"Yes."

I was doomed.

*****

Continued