“You sure about that?”
“Yeah. Lemme see what you got.”
Eyebrow cocked and a confident smirk in place – her pearly-whites beaming through her parted lips – Faith preens a little now that she’s got Spike on the ropes. It’s got to be a bitch for him to realize that she’s just beaten him at his own game. The way they tell it ‘round these parts, no one ever could beat Spike at a game of blackjack. Until now.
They’ve got piles of loose change dumped between them, a cache of unsorted coins that they were able to wheedle out of the girls, who had eagerly placed bets on the winner when the impromptu match was announced earlier in the afternoon. Girls against guys, vamps against Slayers, either way she’s won, and it’s a good feeling. Spike sits back and lets her take in her victory.
“You play a good game. Wouldn’t have pegged you for a card sharp,” he says between puffs on his Marlboro.
“Gotta pass the time somehow in the clink. Working out, eating pussy, and playing cards. That just about sums up your recreational options. Got a light?”
Spike extends his hand out to her, his zippo fisted in his palm. “Always got one for a lady.”
Faith eyes crinkle with amusement as she draws the flame up closer to her face, her fingers gently cupping his hand to hold it steady. “Lady. Huh. That might be a first for me.”
Dropping his hand, she nods her thanks and watches him gracefully snap the lid down with a flick. As he turns it over in his hand thoughtfully, she gathers up a mug of coffee on the table next to her and sips at it gingerly. It’s gone lukewarm, but she takes it slow out of habit.
“What will you do with your earnings, then? Have a night on the town? With the dosh we’ve got here you might be able to afford a few packs of gum and a shot of Maker’s Mark.”
Faith snorts and snatches up a coin from the coffee table. “I was thinking more along the lines of those scratch-off lotto tickets. Cheated the girls out of their pocket change, it’s the least I can do.”
“Being all diplomatic. That’s liable to make you popular.” As he recalls, she was on her way to the high horse of leadership back in Sunnydale. Had the charisma, the no bullshit policy, plus a flare for fun that Buffy had lacked.
“Bit of a change for you, isn’t it? Time was when you did and took what you wanted. Been there myself,” he concedes.
Arching her legs up over the arm of the easy chair she’s sacked out in, Faith lazily exhales smoke from her nose. Big and bad, that’s what they all were once upon a time. It’s the thread that connects them, these vampires and her. She had to fight for her soul in a more figurative sense, but the concept still stands. Redemption – done it. Got the certificate and all.
“You and me, we’ve only just gotten to the White Hat party, but you ever think about giving up, kicking the Mission to curb, saying sayonara?” Her question is pointed, serious.
Spike’s only started to get reacquainted with her, but the last few days have thrown a different light on Faith. There’s been some gutting that’s taken place somewhere between Cleveland and LA, and he wonders who held the dagger to her belly this time. He’s noticed that look of longing and regret steal into her glances when she thinks no one is looking. Never during a battle or with the troops, but afterward when they get back and she slinks off, a wounded and worried expression wrinkling her brow. Girl’s got troubles. He knows a thing or two about that.
“When they brought me back to living color after weeks as a spook. I wanted to pack it in. Been denied my great send off, was surrounded by people that didn’t want me about. I’d lost the drive. Couldn’t affect the world, could do no good in the state I was in. I would have given it all up.”
“What made you change your mind?”
Spike fondly grins at the memory. “The threat of an apocalypse and a bit of friendly competition. Old man and I kicked ten bells out of each other.”
Cocking his head to one side, he watches her take this information in, thoughts ticking away absently.
“What’s on your mind, pet? Has he been giving you trouble?” It doesn’t ease him any that he hasn’t seen Angel the last few days. It’s his way to hole himself up and brood. He expected that much. But the days are getting on, and Faith’s nervous glances and excuses to get back and check on him haven’t escaped his attention.
“There was this woman he drew. Blonde, pretty, older. Detail like that, you know he must have had a bone on for her.” She turns the mystery over in her head, one interpretation after another replacing the last. He’ll put her face to paper, but he won’t even talk to me when I call his name.
“Suspect it might be Darla,” Spike murmurs. Scratching behind his ear, he stubs out the cigarette in the upturned Tupperware lid Faith snagged from the kitchen. “Had a penchant for doing her up something nice with pen and paper.”
“Darla?” Turning her head back to him, Faith’s expression sobers, her eyes assessing and curious.
“His missus when he was still playing for the other team. They deserved each other, vicious twat that she was. Seems things changed for them a few years back though. Time’s a funny thing like that. Heals all sorts of wounds.”
“I’m still waiting for my catch-all cure. Salve I have just isn’t working fast enough.”
Shifting in his seat, Spike leaned forward, cocked his head. “A word of advice, love. Dunno what sort of shenanigans you and the boss are up to in that suite of yours. But keep at him. It’s not coddlin’ that’s going to get through to him. He’s a beast whether he likes to admit it or not, and every beast needs a bit of prodding.”
“I’ll bear it in mind.”
“Just about that time to punch the clock, anyway. I say we saddle up, grab Illyria and a few of your firecrackers, and head out. Nothing a spot of violence won’t fix. That includes all this worryin’ and belly-achin.’”
Faith turns to follow Spike’s line of sight. The picture window behind her, tinged with a warm, dying glow, heralds the start of their work day.
“I’m game,” Faith agrees, relieved by the offer. Nothing like patrolling to distract you from real-world worries, especially when said worry has gone AWOL.