Meet the Pratts by Verity Watson
Ch. 1: Caritas
Banner by the amazing always_jbj
Buffy Summers triple checked the address her best friend had text’d over that morning. Tiny battered brass letters spelled out “caritas.” Yup, this was it. Somehow she hadn’t expected it to be such a hotspot. Even on a Tuesday barely past eight, a line stretched out behind the velvet rope.
She approached the bouncer with a boldness she didn’t even begin to feel. “Hey. Um, my friend Willow, she uh, put me on the list.”
The bouncer looked her up and down with a critical eye. Dark jeans, tottering high heels and a silky camisole top … Buffy knew she looked the part. It was spending the better half of her 26 years in Sunnydale that left her feeling like an imposter.
“Charlie Gunn, you take it easy now!” A crowd exited the club’s VIP door and headed straight for a waiting limo.
“Was that –,” Buffy started breathlessly.
A look from the bouncer froze her.
“Sorry.” Note to self: Los Angelenos do not show excitement, no matter who walks by.
“Yeah. You’re on the list. Your friend’s working the main bar tonight.”
“Thanks.” Buffy slid past the rope and through the door, feeling like she’d already failed her first test.
“Buffy!” The girl hopped up to hug her friend, knocking over cocktail napkins in her haste.
“Wil! I’m so excited to be here … thank you so much!”
“It’s about time you left sleepy little Sunnydale behind.”
“This place is so … and hey, that’s a new hair color.”
“Wow.” She noticed a flash of something silver. “No way – stick out your tongue!”
The girl stuck her tongue out as far as it would go.
“Willow Rosenberg! Black hair, pierced tongue? You have been in LA for a while now, huh?”
“So what time are you off tonight?”
“Midnight, maybe one if it gets crazy – I’ve got the early shift Tuesdays and Wednesdays.”
“How do you get up for class?”
“Coffee. Lots of strong, dark coffee.” She paused and looked at her friend closely. It was a wonder Gunn had let her past. Buffy has always been a bit of a fashionista, so to see her still wearing her go-out jeans from freshman year in college was a surprise. She didn’t look like a middle-aged librarian, not by a long shot, but Willow doubted her friend realized just how far out of step she was with current trends.
“Will this place really be packed tonight?”
“Probably. The house band’s really hot.”
“Anyone I’ve heard of? Not that I’ve heard of anyone.”
“Yeah. Kind of a post punk Green Day vibe.” Willow expertly mixed two martinis and handed them off to a cocktail waitress, then starting uncorking mini bottles of Piper for another server. “What?”
“It’s just funny to see you all with the dexterity and the alcohol and all.” Neither of the girls drank during high school. Buffy still didn’t.
“Oh, yeah, well … pays the bills.”
“Oooh … they’re gonna do a warm up set. Always do real early in the night instead of a sound check.”
Buffy didn’t think she’d be much into it, but obediently pivoted on her stool to watch the band take the stage. There was no preamble – just the drummer counting off and then an explosive guitar riff. She recognized this track – was it a cover?
And then the lead singer opened his mouth and Buffy’s eyes were glued on him.
Long ago life was clean
Sex was bad and obscene
And the rich were so mean
Stately homes for the Lords
Croquet lawns, village greens
Victoria was my queen
Victoria, Victoria, Victoria, 'toria
Buffy knew zero ‘bout music, but she knew that she was in the presence of some serious animal magnetism. The guy wasn’t tall and she couldn’t decide if he was crazy handsome or just kinda good looking. Either way he was using everything to his advantage. With a strut across the stage, he was nearly at the edge, coming out of another refrain when their eyes locked and Buffy decided.
The band segued into something louder, “Hello to all you merry few who managed to slip past Charlie Gunn before 9!” A few shouts echoed back from the crowd. “This is just a little taste of what you’ll get later … much later, maybe after your bedtimes.”
“Tasty, isn’t he? And yeah, the accent is real.”
“Wil, I wasn’t … I mean, totally not my type.”
“A guy like that is everybody’s type, Buffy.”
She blushed furiously. “Yeah, well … he’d never …”
The second song wound to a close and before she knew it, the object of her curiosity was leaning over the barstool to her left, not a drop of sweat on him, even though leather pants under stage lights had to be hot.
Hot … yeah, that’s the word.
“Wil, pour us a little something?”
He hadn’t stayed long.
He hadn’t even asked her name. She’d volunteered it, in an awkward stuttering voice. She’d asked if the first song was a cover, and he’d replied that it was a cover of a cover, yeah. Was she into The Fall? He’d met Mark Smith at Lesser Free Trade back during the first Sex Pistols show, always thought he was a bit daft, but genius with the lyrical part. His voice was hypnotizing. Buffy had no clue what he was talking about, so she’d just smiled weakly. He’d downed his drink and moved on.
Not her finest moment, but it was hitting her harder than she’d imagined. “I’m in LA for five minutes, meet one hot guy and fall to pieces,” she murmured as she fixed her makeup in the ladies room.
The band was back on stage as she made her way to the bar.
“Hey, Wil … Wil …”
“Sorry, Buffy. This is rush hour. What’s up?”
“If it’s okay, I’ll just head back now. I’m tired from the trip.”
“Uh, yeah. Sure. Give me two minutes and I’ll get the keys and toss you in a cab.”
There was a chill in the air as she stood outside, willing herself to not think about Spike’s eyes.
And his growl.
It was … well, it was the kind of thing a girl obsesses about when she’s just broken up with her super-safe nice-guy boyfriend and moved to the big city.
She was lost in thought when Willow came outside and motioned for Gunn to queue up a taxi.
“Okay, I’ll be home by 1 or so. You’ll be okay?”
“Me? Yeah. Just want to get some sleep.”
“Listen, Buffy … about Spike … he’s … dangerous.”
“Let’s say heartstopper.”
“Okay, well, thanks for the warning.”
“Buf - ” but the taxi was already speeding away.
NOTE: The song is Victoria, originally recorded by the Kinks, but I'm thinking of the version recorded The Fall. In any case, the lyrics are not mine. ~ VW
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