Title: The Yellow Rose of Sunnydale
Disclaimer: none of these characters belong to me. No infringement intended.
Feedback: love it, live for it,gimmegimmegimme at VVKS326@aol.com
Time-frame: season five, around the time of "Checkpoint"
They could here the twang of a steel guitar from the alley. The Bronze was hosting a Western Weekend, and Friday night found the Scoobies dressed up for a hoe-down.
Xander, in particular, looked spectacular. He wore a scarlet western shirt, complete with heavy white embroidery and a bolo tie. His jeans were held up by belt that sported a silver buckle the size of CD case, and the spurs on his black-and-white pony-hide boots jingle-jangle-jingled when he walked. He wore his twenty-gallon hat--white, of course--on the back of his head in a friendly manner. All in all, he looked not very much like an authentic cowpoke headed into town after a long, lonely week on the range.
The rest of the gang wore only slightly more subdued outfits. Willow and Tara were decked out in early 80's vintage prairie skirts and ruffle-y, high-necked blouses. Anya had chosen a truly hideous pumpkin-orange square-dancing dress, with a skirt and petticoats that flared so large that she had to walk single-file down the alley-way.
Buffy's attire had been inspired by a late-night viewing of an old episode of "Gunsmoke." Taking her cue from Miss Kitty, she wore her hair curled and piled high on her head, with a few strands dangling down to frame her face. A red satin bustier peeked out from beneath a sheer black bed jacket trimmed with marabou feathers, and her skirt was made of black lace. She wore old-fashioned button-up boots and fishnet stockings that flashed below the hem of her skirt when she moved. To finish the look, she had painted a small, black beauty mark high on one cheekbone. She looked very much the part of an expensive courtesan of by gone days--Miss Kitty would have been proud.
It seemed that the Bronze had gone all-out for this special occasion. Swinging saloon doors had been installed, and sawdust covered the floor. Bales of straw were stacked around the perimeter of the room to provide extra seating. As the gang stepped through the doors, the band onstage swung into a rousing version of "The Yellow Rose of Texas."
"And let me be the first to say--YeeHAW." Xander surveyed the room with a grin, his toe already tapping to the down-home beat. They made their way over to a table near the back.
"This isn't as bad as I th-thought it w-would be." Tara looked apprehensive, but she pretty much always did.
"See, Honey, rednecks aren't so bad...I mean, not that everyone here is a redneck, or anything. I'm sure that most of the people here are just pretending to be ignorant and closed-minded and married to their cousins...um...who wants a drink?" She and Xander took refreshment orders from the group and headed for the bar.
Buffy shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "I wish I'd worn something else--this corset-thingy is killing me."
"It's not a corset, it's a bustier--and you look great. You make a very convincing prostitute." Anya flashed her a smile of encouragement to go with her words.
"Thanks, but next time I think I'll go more with the 'Queen of the Rodeo,' and less with the 'Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.'"
"Oh. My. God." Willow had returned with several beers tucked beneath her arms.
"What's the matter, Honey?" Tara's brow wrinkled with worry.
"Look over there at the other end of the bar." They looked.
"It can't be--no way."
"Yes. That's Spike. I can tell by his defiant slouch and by the way his jeans bulge out there in front."
"ANYA!" Xander had also returned from the bar. He handed a soda to Buffy.
They all turned to stare at the figure across the room.
He stood with his back to the bar, leaning against it, in what Anya had accurately described as a defiant slouch. In place of his usual black denims, he wore a pair of very faded, very soft-looking blue jeans. Below them was a pair of old and scuffed cowboy boots, and above them was his perennial black tee shirt. He wore his ever-present duster, but on this night it looked different somehow--as if it belonged on a bandit of the old American West. The finishing touch was the black leather hat he wore pitched low over his eyes.
Buffy gulped, audibly.
"He...he looks kind of like Clint Eastwood in that movie--what's it called?" Willow looked around at her friends for help.
"A Fistful of Dollars?"
"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?"
"The Outlaw Josie Wales?"
"Yeah, all of those. Except Clint Eastwood isn't blond, and he's always got that stubble on his face, and he smokes a cigar"
"And he's not an evil, undead, creature of the night." Xander hadn't yet fully recovered from Anya's ability to identify Spike by the bulge in his pants.
Buffy tore her eyes away from the disturbing sight as the band launched into a slow song that was heavy on the weepy fiddle. "Dance with me, Xander." She glanced at Anya. "OK?"
"Yes, he can dance with you. But he won't pay you for sex. He gets that free-of-charge from me, and I won't have him wasting his hard-earned cash--"
"OK, Honey, we get the idea." He planted a kiss on Anya's cheek and escorted Buffy to the center of the dance floor.
Spike had noticed the Slayer and her ever-present group of friends the moment they'd entered the bar, but he made no move to join them. He knew that his presence would not be welcomed during recreation hours, though his fighting ability came in handy enough when the Scoobies were in a tough spot.
He lit a cigarette and watched as Buffy and Xander made slow circles in time to the music. Then his attention was distracted by the spectacle of a very drunken young man, built like a linebacker but dressed like a rodeo star, shoving his way towards the dance floor. He had Willow by the wrist and was dragging her along behind him
"I wanna dance with the lil' lady! "
The over-sized lunk pulled the redhead to edge of the dance floor, wrapped his muscle-bound arms about her and lifted her off her feet, delivering a wet and drooling kiss to her face at the same time. The witch struggled frantically in his arms.
Spike looked over towards the table where Willow and the rest had been seated. It was empty. Then he stretched up to his full height, searching the crowd for Buffy and Xander. He could see them, deep in the throng of dancing couples, but they were too far away to do Willow any good in her present predicament.
Sighing, Spike stubbed out his cigarette and pulled the brim of his hat a bit lower over his eyes. He walked through the crowd, hands in his coat pockets, seeming not to notice the way that others stepped aside before him, automatically giving him the right of way.
When he reached Willow and her loutish dance partner, he stood in front of them for a few seconds, watching in amusement as the witch sputtered the beginnings of a spell in the drunk's face, only to be cut off in the middle by another sloppy kiss.
"Ah, mate? Why don't you put the girl down now...I think she's had enough of your kind attentions for the moment."
The drunk turned toward the sound of Spike's voice and looked down at him, never releasing his hold on Willow. "Who're you s'posed ta be? Fuckin' John fuckin' Wayne?" He laughed loudly at his own joke and squeezed Willow 'til she squeaked.
"Look, mate, you're bruisin' the lady. Why don't we see if we can't find you another partner--someone in your own weight class, perhaps." Spike's voice remained friendly enough, but a fine wire of tension flowed through him.
"Fuck off, you fuckin' faggot. I wanna dance with the girl."
Willow had stilled her struggles and was watching the interaction between the bully and the vampire with growing alarm. Spike took half a step forward and his voice dropped a few notes into a threatening growl.
"Thing is, you bleedin' behemoth, the girl doesn't want to dance with YOU. Put. Her. Down." He paused for emphasis. "Now."
"Oh. All right. I'll put her down" As the drunk released Willow, he cocked a huge fist and with the force of all his weight behind it, swung directly at Spike's head.
Spike dodged the blow neatly, which completely overbalanced its deliverer, sending him sprawling forward and crashing through a table that was--luckily--unoccupied. There he lay, unconscious. Spike tipped his hat in Willow's direction and was about to make his exit when Buffy appeared on the scene.
"What the hell...? Leave it to you, Spike, to ruin a perfectly enjoyable evening. And what did you do to that poor guy, anyway? Is your chip malfunctioning or something? 'Cause if it is, we'd better take this outside where I can stake you and not make a mess on the floor."
Spike looked down at the sawdust under his boots and then back up into the Slayer's angry face.
"Sod off." He pivoted on his heel and stalked back towards the bar.
"Buffy--" Willow had regained her equilibrium and had her hand on the Slayer's arm.
"Oh, God, Willow, tell me again why I don't dust that loser."
"Buffy, Spike didn't do anything. He...he was trying to help me. That guy," gesturing toward the unmoving lump lying amongst the broken table parts and smashed glasses, "was pawing at me and Spike was just trying to get him to let me alone. The jerk took the first swing. I don't think Spike even took his hands out of his pockets."
Buffy's face dropped. "Oh. Well. That's different then. I suppose I should...I mean I guess I ought to apologize..."
"Why? Has the Blond Bloodsucker ever apologized to you for trying to kill you all those times?" Xander had appeared from out of the crowd. "Where did Anya and Tara go?"
"Oh, Anya had to pee, but she needed help with the whole petticoat thing. Tara went with her. Here they come." Anya and Tara had emerged from the ladies' room and made their way over to join the group.
"What happened, Honey?" Tara bit her lower lip and looked at the drunk guy on the floor.
"Nothing. I just got manhandled by a cowpoke. Let's get another drink."
"You coming, Buff?" asked Xander as they turned away.
"Yeah, I'll be right there." She was staring at Spike's back as he hunched over the bar. She watched as the bartender set a shot-glass down in front of him. He didn't move to pick it up.
With a resigned sigh, she walked over to where he was standing and presented herself to be insulted. She figured she deserved it.
He didn't acknowledge her. His profile was a sullen pout.
"I just came over to say...I mean, Willow told me what you did and I...what I mean to say is, I'm sorry."
He glanced at her for a moment. Then he turned back to the bar and stared into his shot glass.
"I shouldn't have gone off on you like that. It's just that I've been so stressed out lately--you know, with the whole Glory thing--but I shouldn't take it out on you and will you please turn around and look at me when I'm talking to you?"
He turned to face her and she saw the corner of his mouth rise in the beginnings of a smile. "S'all right, Slayer. Think nothin' more about it." He turned away again and in one quick motion downed the shot of amber liquid from the glass.
She sighed in frustration. It wasn't any fun when he didn't want to play. "So that's it? That's all you're gonna say to me?"
He glanced at her again in a weary way. "Sorry, Slayer. Bit off my game tonight. Don't feel much like the usual banter."
The band had returned from a break. The strains of some vaguely familiar ballad floated through the air. Spike lifted his head to listen and a slight smile touched his face. Then he looked down into her eyes and in a voice she'd never heard him use, he asked, "Care to dance?"
She wasn't sure what it was that made her nod her head. Perhaps it was the haunting melody or the strange, quiet way about him that she didn't recognize.
She followed him to the dance floor. The tune was a waltz and the band played it as an instrumental--no vocals to accompany the sweet, sad music. Spike held her very lightly and moved with surprising grace.
His touch on her skin was disturbing and the silence between them was too electric for comfort. She decided to try inane chatter. "I'm surprised to see you here, Spike. This isn't exactly your kind of music. And what's with the hat and boots?"
"Hmm...you think you know me so well, Slayer? I'm a complex character. My soul has many layers."
"Your soul has zero layers." When he didn't respond, she tried again. "What's the name of this song? It sounds familiar, but I can't place it."
"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."
"Huh?" She pulled back a bit and stared at him.
"The song's called I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry. By Hank Williams. Hear that melody line? The man was a bloody genius."
"Oh." She racked her brain for something else to say. "He WAS a genius? You mean he's...?"
"Dead. Yeah. But don't worry, Slayer, I didn't have a hand or a fang in his demise. Wasn't even in the country then."
"How'd he die?"
"Alcohol poisoning. Back seat of a car, on his way to a concert. Twenty-nine years old."
"Oh." He was behaving so strangely and she was growing more uncomfortable by the moment. Then she heard him begin to sing, very softly, directing his voice down the back of her neck. It vibrated there, causing a sweet shiver to bloom over the surface of her skin.
"Hear that lonesome whippoorwill
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
I'm so lonesome I could cry
I've never seen a night so long
When time goes crawlin' by
The moon just went behind a cloud
To hide its face and cry."
His voice was husky, with a rich, throbbing quality that made her breath catch in her throat. She inhaled deeply and steadied herself.
"What's wrong with you tonight? You're all...weird." Geez Buffy, articulate much? OK, the song's almost over. Get a grip. She pulled away slightly for a better view of his face.
"You're concern is right touchin', pet. It so happens that tonight is an anniversary of sorts for me."
"Yeah? What are you celebrating?"
"Mmmm...not sure celebratin' is the right word...although I used to celebrate it. Dru an' I used to have us a time." He paused and stared over her head at something very far away. "It's the one hundred and twenty-first anniversary of the night I was turned. An' here I stand, dressed up like Roy Rogers, dancing with a Slayer. How the mighty have fallen."
She wasn't quite sure how to respond to his revelation. She chose silence. He dropped his head low over the back of her neck and began to sing again.
"The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple sky
And as I wonder where you are
I'm so lonesome I could cry."
The music ran down and the band began another slow tune.
"You still miss her a lot?"
"Who? Dru? Well, we WERE together for-bleedin'-ever...but I guess it's not her I miss so much as..."
"So much as what?"
He sighed. "You wouldn't understand, Slayer. No reason to worry your pretty little head over it, either. Although, as I said, I'm charmed by your show of concern."
"Don't patronize me, Spike. So you're lonely. You think I don't know what that feels like? You think you're the only one who stands apart, different from every other creature on the planet? So, you're a chipped-up vampire, and that makes you a lonely vampire. I'm a Slayer, and there's only one of me--unless you count that lunatic in the L.A. County Jail--so I think maybe I can relate."
She was surprised by the heat of her emotion on this topic. His expression mirrored her surprise, and she felt him tense. Then pulled away from her.
"Where are you going?"
"Out for a smoke."
"Spike, you smoke in here all the time."
He ignored her and kept moving towards the exit.
Continued in Chapter Two