Exaggeration and Blank Verse
Cigarette Break
Battlestar Galactica
Horatio Hornblower
Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel the Series

He didn't want to keep coming back here- he despised himself for still coming back here- and yet here he was. It was lonely in his blank, memoryless apartment and lonelier still drifting through the crowded city. That tattooed Doyle fellow didn't come visiting so often they got tired of each other, and so he whiled away the long dull nights by going out walking. Somehow he always found himself drifting up to the Wolfram & Hart building, drawn like a magnet to the handful of names and faces he knew. Most times he'd curse himself for a fool and hurry away, but tonight he moved closer and looked up wistfully at the bright windows. Only half-past six, and all lit up like that- the weather in LA might refuse to admit it was January, but the sun wouldn't be denied its seasonal early rest.

Perhaps it would be worth it, to slip inside and pick a fight with Wes or Charlie, just to talk to someone for the first time in three days-

A little service door opened behind the dumpster and a slim figure slipped out onto the loading dock. His nostrils flared and eyebrows arched in recognition and surprise. He took a cautious step forward, peering around a concrete pylon, then froze in slackjawed shock at the familiar hiss and spark.

"Well, I'll be damned all over again," he said with a smile of pure wicked delight. "You, Miss Burkle? I never would've thought!"

"Spike!" she gasped, whisking the cigarette out of her mouth so quickly he thought she'd burn her hand. "What are you doing- this isn't- oh, hell." Her shoulders relaxed, and she chuckled and took a deep drag. "Caught red-handed for a guilty sinner. Might as well enjoy myself. You won't tell the boys, will you? Wes and Charles would lecture themselves sick- not to mention making me sick- and Angel would just look at me, with the disappointed puppy eyes..." She took another drag and blew the smoke out with a weary sigh. "I'm a big girl, for God's sake, but I would hate to tarnish the St. Winifred image when they've got so much invested in it."

"Your secret's safe with me, love," Spike said, setting himself on the steps and grinning up at her, "on the condition that you share."

She laughed out loud at that and handed him the pack and the lighter. "Where are my manners, lightin' up and not sharin'? What would the boys back home say?"

"You're going into your country-girl voice, Miss Fred," he said with a smirk, firing the lighter expertly. "So it was the boys back home that got you into a filthy habit, hmm? I suppose they also suggested-" he squinted at the label "-Marlboro Lights. Not a bad brand, at that." He tossed the pack down on the step and patted the spot beside him. "Come on now, sit and let's have a bit of a chat. You're hiding from your staff out here, I take it, so we'll stretch your break out a bit."

She smiled slightly and obediently sat down. "Not hiding, exactly...just needed a break and a whole minute of peace and quiet to myself, if I could find it."

"Want me to leave?"

"No, no," she said, waving her hand quickly. Spike watched the smoke writhe up towards the sky and blew his own stream out to join it. "You're not going to lecture me about budgets or project assignments or the status of particle generator three. Please, Spike, stay and let's talk about something non-scientific and non-evil."

"All right." He was quiet for a minute, then glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. "You always sneak out here to get your smokes in?"

She rolled her eyes. "Pretty much have to, around here...I don't do it much, just when I'm really tired and stressed out, or sometimes when I'm drunk. This is the only place I've found on the whole damn property where someone won't be watching me. I don't know what fool designed my office with those big glass windows. Enough to give a girl a complex. And Sandra the lab tech left a brochure for a salon on my desk the other day after she saw me cutting split ends at my desk, with a nasty little note that I might want to consider getting some highlights while I was there."

He leaned back and studied her carefully for a minute. "Might be something there...your hair's right lovely, but a few red or toffee highlights, artistically applied..."

She stared at him blankly for a minute, then grinned and stubbed her cigarette out on the step. She reached for another and he flicked the lighter for her. "Oh, right. You're sort of an expert at that sort of thing, I guess." She reached out and gently ran her fingers over his slicked-back coif. "What color is it naturally, under all that blond?"

"Dirt brown," he chuckled, playfully batting her hand away and lighting another cigarette for himself.

She rolled her eyes and pulled a lock of her own hair forward. "What do you call this, then?"

He gently took it in his hand. "Mahogany. Chocolate. Never dirt."

She blushed a little and looked down at the steps, letting her hair fall foward over her face, then shook it back again and took another drag.

He looked at the tension in her shoulders and around her eyes, then glanced back over his shoulder at the building. "What do you say we get out of here? Go out on the town, raise a little hell."

She smiled wistfully. "They're probably looking for me by now."

"You're the boss, right? Go back in, grab your purse, and tell 'em you have a hot date with a gorgeous hunk of danger. We'll go back to your place, you'll slip into something comfortable, and we'll go out."

She arched an eyebrow at him. "Inviting yourself over to my place already. You clearly weren't raised a Southern gentleman, Spike."

"Victorian gentleman, actually, but I got better." He grinned at her through the smoke rising from his fingers. "What d'ya say, pet, let's have a little fun?"

"All right." She ground out her cigarette and stood up, the little smile on her lips slowly blossoming out of her control until it filled her face. "But I get to pick the place. And I say...country-western bar, with good whiskey."

He made a face. "I can suffer through the music for the booze and your smile, love."

She scoffed. "Suffer, nothing, Spike, you're going to learn to line dance." She hooted with laughter at the look on his face, bounded back up the steps, called "Five minutes!" over her shoulder, and was gone. He rolled his eyes, pocketed her cigarettes, and settled in to wait.

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