"Now, Slayer, the deal was that the loser had to sit upon her pretty arse an' listen--or are you wrigglin' out of it now you know it won't be a fairytale?"
His eyes challenged her. Biting back a rude retort, she settled back against the stone with a resigned grimace.
"Right. Anyway, as I was sayin', this Buffy bird was famous 'round those parts for two things: bein' an accomplished...er...courtesan, an' a dead shot with a pistol. Kept her town tidy of bandits an' black-hats, an' ran the finest brothel in the state."
"She was a young chit--just a bit older than you, Slayer, an' looked rather like you too--all big, sad eyes an' pretty gold hair"
"I thought you said I had stupid hair?" She couldn't resist taunting him.
"Mmmm...it's grown on me some."
"Oh." She wasn't sure how to respond to that.
"So this other Buffy--who didn't prattle on near as much as you do--owned an' ran a whorehouse--fine, big house, it was, all red velvet draperies an' satin sheets..." His voice had taken on that dreamy quality again, and she peeked at him through half-closed eyes. He was staring over her head into the distance.
"But she'd retired from the actual servicin' of payin' customers. She'd been at it from her early teens, you know, an' didn't much fancy the male gender anymore. In fact, she'd grown just a bit cold in her mind an' heart, what with havin' to be the law in such a wild country--always lookin' for the evil in those around her. The black-hats all knew good an' well to steer clear of Sunnydale, lest they wanted a bullet between the eyes or through the heart."
"An' life went on fine like that for a bitthe brothel makin' good money an' the streets quiet an' safe for all the nice families about--'course most of the church-goin' prigs didn't care too much for the local Madam-slash-gunslinger, but they liked how she kept the town from bein' overrun by bandits an' such, so mostly they let her be."
"But, the thing was, Miss Buffy had a secret. An' she knew, in her heart, that someday it would be her undoin'."
"Seems that a few years previous to the time she came to Sunnydale, our Miss Buffy had herself a run-in with a real black-hearted rogue--took her body an' her love an' then left her broken. He was an outlaw an' a murderer, but she loved him. In the end, she forced herself to hunt him down an' send him to hell...but it twisted her spirit to do it."
Angel...he's talking about Angel. Buffy felt a small, searing pain in her gut and silently cursed Spike for bringing such a hurtful memory into the tale. But she didn't protest, didn't ask him to stop. Some part of her wanted to hear his perspective on the mess that was her love life.
Spike had sensed the change in her and ceased talking. She felt rather than saw him move closer.
"Go on, Spike."
He paused for a moment longer, then continued.
"She tried an' failed to love another...a soldier with the U. S. Cavalry. But the bloke couldn't stomach her chosen professions--had more of a problem with the gunfightin' than the whorin', in fact--an' left her to go massacre natives in another territory."
"So there the poor bird was, alone an' lonesome in a dusty little town just north of the border, wonderin' if she'd ever feel love again. She knew in her heart of hearts that what she needed was a bit of outlaw in her man, but she couldn't reconcile that need with what she considered to be her duty, so...Got so she resented the sounds of merrymakin' all around her in her own home."
"What was it called?" She opened her eyes and looked at him.
"What was what called, ducks?"
"The brothel...it had a name, right?"
He stared at her, his eyes drawn to the way the dim light, as it shifted and slipped between the breeze-tossed leaves above, caught the few strands of hair around her face and made them glow.
"The Yellow Rose. It was called the Yellow Rose."
She gave a little smile of satisfaction and closed her eyes again.
He cleared his throat and squeezed his hands into fists of frustration. The scent of her flesh and the blood pumping beneath it was having a singularly potent effect on him this night.
"So...anyway...there came word one day that a fearsome bandit was on his way in from the hinterlands. He was known far an' wide for his cruelty an' murderous heart, an' he'd heard of Sunnydale, an' the Yellow Rose, an' he'd heard of Miss Buffy, an' he wanted to see for himself this little chit who had vanquished so many of his kind."
"What was his name?"
Her unexpected query startled him. "Er...you're just brimful of questions tonight, aren't you, luv?"
She stared into his face and read his discomfort. She knew the name of the outlaw--she had a strong sense of the direction of the story in general--but she wanted to hear him say it.
He waited a beat, and then lifted his face as it creased into the sardonic grin that he used to hide real emotion. "His name was Will Blood."
She smiled again and nodded. "The Big Bad."
"You've no idea, pet."
She laughed low, under her breath. The sound of it started a shudder that enveloped him, making it difficult for him to continue.
Taking a deep, unneeded breath to steady himself, he turned to her. "I think it's time for another hand, don't you, Slayer?"
She made a small pout of disappointment, but accepted the cards after he cut them and began to deal. This time her hand was better: three of a kind and a pair. She took no further cards and watched as he studied his own with a scowl.
"Time to raise the stakes a bit, pet. What d'you say?"
A wave of something--uncertainty? fear?--washed over her. "I told you, Spike, Buffy doesn't do strip games."
"You insult my creativity, luv. I was thinking more along the lines of a little role-playin'."
"You know, act out the story a bit. You like my story, don't you?" He had leaned closer, and she caught the scent of cigarettes, leather and danger.
"Good. So if I win this hand, then I get to continue. An' I get to simulate a bit of the action, so to speak." He saw the alarm on her face. "No worries, pet. You want me to stop at any point, you just say the word."
She paused to consider this. "What if I win this hand?"
"Then you get to continue the story, an' perform it, if you fancy that."
She glanced down at her cards and wondered.
"Of what? You? In your dreams, Blondie."
"Then let's have at it. I call."
They threw down their cards simultaneously, and Buffy gasped. He had a straight flush, ace high.
He must have known...
His eyes sparked at her and she felt that fear again. Some part of her knew that it wasn't him she was afraid of, but herself. She watched as he gathered up the cards and then reached into his coat, pulling out a flask and drinking deeply.
"Storytellin' is thirsty work." He offered her flask and she almost took it, then shook her head.
He began again, and she tried to settle herself against the tombstone but was unable to find a comfortable position.
"Hmm...where was I? Ah, yes, the outlaw Will Blood, ridin' into town to find Miss Buffy an' test the legend, so to speak.
"It was a hot day, like a lot of other hot days, when word came that Blood was closin' in. Folks deserted the streets an' shops in droves, leavin' the place wide open for the battle they knew was comin'."
Buffy took a deep breath and forced herself to relax. The louder voice in her head told her that she was still completely in control of the situation. The quieter voice, from somewhere else inside her, just laughed.
Continued in Chapter Four