|Meet the Pratts by Verity Watson|
|Chapter #3 - Ch. 3: Gallery|
Banner by the amazing always_jbj.
The upside to having an office in a drafty corner of the sub-basement, Buffy realized at nine the next morning, was that you could camp out with your Starbuck’s venti chai latte and Google whatever you desperately needed to know about, work-related or no.
And so she Googled and Wiki’d vampires – myth, lore, ancient cultures, Mercy Brown, Elizabeth Bathory. Anne Rice. Until she found a reference to Edvard Munch’s work and realized that a trip upstairs was in order.
There it was – the Expressionism show. The fundraising to underwrite the exhibit took place months before she came on staff, so she hadn’t paid attention. Now she rushed through the galleries, passing Kandinsky and Rouault, Soutine and Schiele. It wasn’t what she loved, but she could appreciate the use of color and line.
And there it was.
This vamp was a woman, with long straggly red hair, spilled out over her victim, a man with the graying skin of death.
This image plain didn’t fit with her experience of Spike – vital, larger-than-life, sexual as anything, but kinda chatty, too. And not scary, even though she’d freaked last night.
As she stared at the canvas, truth hit her like a freight train.
It wasn’t that she thought he wouldn’t hurt her.
It was that she thought she might like the hurt.
Common sense told her to stay miles away.
Buffy had always had oodles of common sense. She’d been the good girl, the one to help out mom through her illness, to understand when dad bailed for the arms of a younger woman, to take over the gallery even though she was still trying to get through college, to keep the family home nice and neat, to date handsome, polite Riley Finn.
She was done with common sense. What was that lyric? “Y’know I’ve been a good girl, but I hit a limit,” she mumbled as she waited outside Caritas on a surprisingly chill, rainy night.
“You’ll meet your death out here in the cold, love.”
“Where did you come from?”
And he made it easy. As if there had been no revelation the night before, he headed straight for Millie’s at an easy pace.
Since her master plan had gone no farther than the front door to the club, she followed.
He ordered decaf and a side of garlic bread.
“Are you teasing me?”
“I’m just havin’ a snack.”
“So tell me what you read today, pet.”
“If I know girls like you – and I think I do, love – you went off to your good girl job and spent the day on your computer, looking up tales about creatures like me.”
“So what if I did?”
“Fascinating thing, the internet.”
“It said you couldn’t eat garlic. Well, it said that Satan left behind garlic in his footprint when he left the Garden of Eden. Why that made it poisonous … that was a little unclear.”
“Not true, anyhow. Next?”
“Can’t say I much care for them.”
“Would do pretty much anyone in, yeah?”
“Fair enough.” She paused to search her memory. “A little sunlight? Stake to the heart?”
“I’ll never know if I freckle. And from what I’ve seen, a stake does the job. If you can aim straight and true.”
“It isn’t easy?”
“I’m swift of foot, love. And I don’t intend to be offed for many a year.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
It was his turn to stop.
“I like you.”
“You did WHAT, Buffy?”
“I met up with Spike.”
“After everything …”
“I don’t think he’s that bad, Wil. He seems kind of lonely.”
“Well, yeah. Duh. Soulless killer, not exactly the kind to win friends and influence people. Even if it he is a hottie singer in a rock’n’roll band.”
“He hasn’t done anything that made me even a little bit nervous.”
“Sweetie … I love you, you know that right? Best friends for life and all that?”
“Then listen to me. You’ve been in small town America your entire life. Surrounded by … by small town Americans. This guy eats small town Americans for lunch.”
“Yeah, but …”
“No, he has them for lunch. They’re on the menu. Happy meals with legs. Do you GET how wrong that is?”
“So is Elizabeth Bathory real?”
“The Countess. She killed and tortured hundreds of young girls in Hungary in the sixteenth century.”
“Never met her. But I’m not that old.” He shrugged and chomped on a french fry.
This time he snorted. “Poncy bugger owes me eleven quid.”
“So he’s real?”
“Unfortunately. Can’t stand for all those theatrics.”
“You sing in a band.”
“I’m no Lestat. By the way, he’s not real either. And don’t get me started on Tom Cruise playing a vampire. Or Anne Rice and her parvenu Vampire Ball. Attracts all sorts of nutters.”
“Whatever. You’re not exactly laying low.”
Spike laughed out loud. “True.” He grabbed her hands, so fast she couldn’t see him reach. “True enough, pet. But you’re not afraid of me, are you?”
Their eyes locked.
“No. No, I’m not afraid of you.”
She opened the envelope, knowing that it was good news.
Dear Ms. Summers,
We are pleased to offer you admission to the Los Angeles College of the Arts. Pending final review of your full transcript …
That was enough to send Buffy into a happy dance in the apartment lobby, one that lasted all the way up the steps to the third floor.
And then she flipped through the admissions package to the financial aid page. Her eyes scanned the page twice before she let it sink in.
Despite her careful note on the financial aid application that explained about Hank Summers gracelessly bowing out of her life at about the same time Joyce’s death became a matter of when instead of if, the financial aid package assumed a hefty parental contribution, plus a work-study job that would leave her with precious few hours to earn any money to actually pay for all sorts of luxuries … like food and clothing.
It had been the same old story at UC Sunnydale. The counselor there had told her she’d have to wait until she was 26 or try a private college that might have more liberal policies about these kinds of situations. When she’d went to talk to the admissions office at Crestwood, the only other school in her hometown, they’d suggested she seriously consider bringing a lawsuit against her dad.
All these miles south in Los Angeles, and she was no closer to a college education. She’d traded backbreaking 70-plus hour weeks keeping the gallery afloat for mind-numbing work; she’d given up her nice safe boyfriend and was keeping time with a fictional creature.
She flopped onto the second-hand sofa and faced facts.
Buffy Summers had nothing left to lose.
The lyric is from Poe's Lemon Meringue - someone made a fabulous Spuffy vid for the song way back.