One-Shot: Miracle Bug
Title: Miracle Bug
Era/season/setting: Season 6, pre-OMWF
Summary: Spike might just have found something that can make Buffy smile.
A/N Thank you to my beta, darcygall.
It was a slow evening at the poker table in the back room of Willy's bar. Spike and Clem had resorted to a rather convoluted version of Snap! after the three demons they had been playing with decided to call it a night once they had lost most of their kittens to the bleached vampire.
It was still early. Well, early for a demon. Midnight had come and gone, but dawn was hours away. Spike was hopeful that there would be a couple more guys willing to join them for a few rounds before he had to head back to his crypt. He wanted to get a few more kittens before trading the lot back to his wrinkly friend for cash. Maybe he could persuade the Slayer to take some of it for pin money.
He won the latest round and smirked at Clem, whose forfeit as loser was to buy the next round of drinks. The floppy skinned demon sighed dramatically but nonetheless made his way back out to the bar.
Somehow he managed to collect not only drinks for the pair of them, but four new poker buddies. Spike recognised one as a regular, Hugo. The graxlok waved an ear tentacle in greeting.
The other demons were strangers to Spike, which made it almost certain that they were out-of-towners. The vampire mentally rubbed his hands together at the thought that his reputation at the poker table wouldn't work against him for once.
The three new faces were introduced as Ksh'mir, M'klazh and Fred. Spike didn't know what species Ksh'mir and M'klazh were and their heavy-set, armoured bodies made him wary of offending them by asking. Fred, it turned out, was a second cousin of Clem's and as intimidating as every other floppy skinned demon that Spike had ever met. Which is to say, not at all.
They settled around the table and Clem was nominated dealer for the first round. While he was shuffling the cards, the conversation turned to the stakes. The two floppy skinned demons were happy with an initial bet of one tabby a piece, but the two strangers seemed disgruntled.
It took a while to figure out how to communicate with them. Their own language was incomprehensible to the other players and their knowledge of English was not at a conversational level. In fact, it appeared that they had understood little more than basic introductions and the word poker and were unaware what the normal stakes were in Sunnydale.
Eventually, Spike started speaking in every demon language that he had a passing knowledge of and they figured out that the two newcomers understood Fyarl well enough. He wasn't overly fond of his role as translator but wasn't about to complain too hard. He really wanted to get to the winning part of the game.
The reason that Ksh'mir and M'klazh were unhappy was, it turned out, that the value of kittens among their community was minimal. They wanted a higher-stakes game. They wanted to play for puppies.
There was an outcry. Clem and Fred were too nervous to say anything too provocative to the vicious-looking demons but were definitely supporting the very outspoken Hugo. Spike was struggling to maintain a semblance of neutrality as translator but failing miserably, as the idea of trading puppies at poker sat very uncomfortably with him. He tried to convince them that, as there were no puppies perhaps this time it would be better if they joined in and played for kittens. He would even let them have a couple of tabbies each, on him.
Their reaction to that offer was to open a bag, containing a half dozen baby labradors. The sight of the poor beasts, obviously starved and whining piteously enraged Hugo and led to a full-on brawl.
Spike gave up on all pretence and leapt to join his friend with fists and fangs. It looked like the game was a bust so he might as well get some enjoyment!
The armoured demons leapt up to defend themselves from the crazy blue demon with ear tentacles. They were unprepared for the innocuous-looking tentacles to curl up and eject a foul-smelling acidic gel that clung to their scales and melted right through them and into the soft flesh beneath.
It was all over in a matter of moments. While the floppy skinned demons dithered at the end of the poker table, Spike quickly dispatched the couple of incapacitated demons with a knife that he pulled from his boot.
“Bollocks!” shouted the vampire, shaking his hand and trying to dislodge the spot of acidic goo that was burning through his skin faster than holy water.
“Sorry, Spike. Here.”
Hugo grabbed his arm and spat a gob of saliva over his hand. Spike wrenched his hand away, wiping the graxlok spit off with a disgusted growl. It took him a moment to realise that he was no longer being attacked by acid.
“Right. Thanks for that.”
They surveyed the damage. Fortunately, none of the furniture had so much as a scratch – otherwise Willy might have decided to implement the threatened month-long ban on poker nights. Really the only evidence of the fight was the two bodies in the middle of the room and a dark red spot on Spike's left hand.
There was a pitiful cry from the cracked leather bag in the middle of the poker table.
“What are we going to do with them?” asked Clem.
“They are certainly not for eating!” Hugo stated emphatically.
The rest of the group wouldn't have suggested such a thing within hearing distance of the graxlok, even if they weren't themselves offended by the idea. Puppies, after all, grew up into dogs and dogs were a demon's best friend.
Spike made his way back to his crypt much earlier than he had intended to when he left that evening. When Willy had seen the corpses of the two visiting demons he had, rather unfairly in Spike's opinion since none of the furniture had suffered, closed the back room for the rest of the night.
Spike had happily traded his earlier pot of kittens to the two floppy skinned demons for a couple of hundred dollars and then the four of them had debated what to do with the bag full of puppies that they had 'inherited'.
After a little debate, Clem had declined to take one. He hadn't thought his girlfriend would approve. Fred, on the other hand, selected two to take home with him.
That left four puppies in the bag. From his expression, it was obvious that Hugo would have been happy to take the lot and Spike had been about to suggest this when one of the little buggers had looked him straight in the eye and melted his heart. Hugo had left happy with three puppies (one each for his three kids, he announced with the relief of a parent that understands the easiest way to get their children to share is to make sure they all have their own).
Now Spike was strolling through Sunnydale with a roll of twenties in one pocket and a sleeping puppy in another, contemplating how he was actually going to care for the mite.
As they passed the pet store he grinned. A quick flick of the lockpicks later and he was in. Within minutes he had liberated a large bag of puppy food, bowls and a cosy little dog bed. On a whim, he added a couple of toys to the bag as he made his way back out.
He approached his crypt cheerfully, swinging the bag back and forth. He hadn't had a dog since he was a child – his mother hadn't been able to be around animals in the latter stages of her consumption as the fur had irritated her already weak lungs, and he wouldn't have dared try to keep a pet when Dru was around. Sure, she had had her birds that she inevitably killed by lack of care, but he had never tried to have his own animal. His dark, wicked plum would have killed anything that distracted his affections from herself.
He was surprised to find his evil heart warming at the idea of keeping this puppy for himself. It would be wonderful to have a friend and companion that actually cared about him. To have any creature willing to share affection with him. He had been so lonely the last few years.
He was only feet away from the door when it registered that the crypt was not empty. He froze, instantly stilling the swing of the bag to prevent any rustling and stretched out his senses. A second later he relaxed a little. It was the Slayer.
Not that she wasn't a threat in herself but he was pretty sure he was safe from a dusting at her hands. In fact, she had been almost... not exactly friendly but willing to be in his company. He couldn't quite understand what part of being pulled from Heaven would lead her to seek solace in the dark with him, but he wasn't going to turn her away even if it did kill him a little each time she treated him like a non-person.
Still, this would be a perfect opportunity to give her a little taste of her own medicine. He grinned evilly and rushed the rest of the way to the crypt, slamming the door open with a sharp clang.
Almost instantly he regretted it when he saw her jump up, tense and ready for a fight, from where she had obviously been dozing in his armchair.
“Sorry, luv,” he whispered. “Didn't realise you were sleepin'”
He sighed when she immediately answered “I wasn't asleep!” Denial really was a second home for the Slayer and it hurt a little that she would automatically deny something so unimportant.
“Good,” he replied gruffly. “Shouldn't let your guard down in here. You might be safe from me, but anything could walk through that door and if they caught you napping...”
A part of him was terrified that she had subconsciously wanted just that.
Obviously uncomfortable with the conversation, Buffy tried immediately to change the subject. Her eyes zeroed in on the shopping bag.
“What have you been stealing now?” she demanded.
Spike began to squirm guiltily. The warm lump in his pocket mimicked him.
“Jus' some essentials. Nothin' worth bothering yourself over.”
Of course, this response had the exact opposite effect on the Slayer whose eyes zeroed in on the bag as if she could observe the contents through the brightly coloured plastic.
“I'll be the judge of that.”
She snatched the bag and carelessly upended its contents onto the floor. The dog bowls hit the stone with a ring of metal that could be heard clearly above the thudding of the other items.
His pocket shivered and whined.
Buffy glared at him suspiciously and produced a knife from somewhere on her person.
“No! It's not dangerous.” He couldn't lose his new companion so soon. “Hold up a sec, Slayer, and I'll show you, but you need to put the knife down first. He won't hurt you.”
Buffy looked very suspicious but seemed to trust him enough to put the knife on top of the sarcophagus. Though she stayed tense, ready to attack.
Spike put his hand into the pocket and quickly withdrew it with a sharp “Ow!” followed by a muttered “little bugger.”
Casting a wary glance at the Slayer, he stooped down to the clutter of recently-acquired puppy essentials. He quickly tore a corner off the food bag and armed himself with a handful of small biscuits.
This time, when he put his hand in the pocket the little bugger was more cooperative. Once he had eaten the bit of food and was contentedly licking any trace from the vampire's fingers, he allowed himself to be lifted out into the fresh air without complaint.
Buffy went from battle-ready to 'aww look at the cute puppy' quicker than Spike could blink. Before he was really sure what was happening, she was closer than she had ever willingly stood before and cooing at the ball of black fur.
After a moment, she looked up sharply. “He's not going to grow horns or anything is he – it's just a regular puppy?”
Spike smiled. “Nothing demonic apart from the blokes who I got him from.”
She gave him a suspicious glare. “And why exactly would you get a puppy from a demon?”
Spike could have thought of any number of reasons why he might have gotten a puppy. Had he planned it, he would have gone to a reputable demon dog breeder. As it was, the answer was one he was sure would earn him brownie points with the Slayer.
“They were gonna eat him.”
She looked at him, wide eyed and a little green. “There are demons who eat puppies?”
“Yeah, but my mate Hugo wasn't happy when he found that out. Attacked the bastards. I had to kill them before they offed him. Then Willy kicked us out.”
He, very wisely, didn't mention the poker game. Or their usual choice of poker chips. Somehow he didn't think the idea of betting for kittens would go down much better than the idea of eating puppies.
“Puppies, as in plural? What happened to the others?”
Spike smiled. This was quite possibly the most animated that he had seen her since the resurrection.
“They're all safe, don't worry. Clem's cousin took a couple and Hugo had one each for his three kids. Neither of them are the puppy-eating type, don't worry. Most demons consider dogs as pets, not food.”
She looked uncertain but there was nothing to be done if they weren't in safe hands. She wasn't about to go traipsing through the sewers in the hope of finding five puppies that may or may not need rescuing. Instead, she focused on the one she could keep safe.
“What are you going to do with him?”
Spike winced. It sounded like she didn't trust him to look after the animal himself. Not that he blamed her, really. Most vamps would think a puppy was an hors d'oeuvre.
“Gonna keep him of course. Why else do you think I got all that stuff?”
He waved the hand not holding the puppy towards the pile on the floor. Damn infuriating bint was going to have him losing his temper if she wasn't careful.
She almost smiled. He could see the tiniest quirk of her lip and wondered if that last question had been a test.
“Can I hold him?” she asked.
He made no move to pass the puppy over and she was forced to once again move into his personal space. Spike barely managed to suppress the shudder as her hand brushed against his own when Buffy scooped the puppy up.
“He needs a name,” she said as she cradled him against her chest. He nuzzled into her, tiny tail thumping a tattoo against her wrist.
“Got one. He's called Bug.”
She gave him an utterly adorable squished-nose wrinkled-brow look of confusion.
“Bug. Short for Little Bugger.”
She shut her eyes and hung her head with a sigh. He could almost hear her pained wince.
What he wasn't expecting was the shaking of her shoulders and the scent of tears. Could his name for the little bugger really have upset her that badly? As he floundered for a way to take it back and undo the upset he heard the most magical sound in the world.
Within second she was giggling so hard that her legs no longer supported her. She collapsed on the floor at his feet, sniggering and letting the tears of laughter run down her nose and into Bug's fur.
Cautiously, he sat beside her.
Again, she shocked him almost to a stupor when she lifted her face away from the puppy and moved to rest her head on his shoulder. Without thought his arm had wound around her shoulders and when she didn't pull away and punch him in the nose, he released a slow breath and basked in her closeness.
He didn't understand how or why she had given in to it, but this moment of release – however miniscule in the scheme of things – was the first tiny motion she needed to make. Still on the starting line, perhaps, she was now at least facing the direction of recovery.
Spike gave silent thanks to the two ugly demons and their bag full of puppies. Maybe, just maybe, Bug was the miracle that he had been praying for. The miracle that led his Sunshine back out from the night.