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Finding William Pratt by Verity Watson
Ch. 3: Halo Cafe
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She’d mapped out the route from the Holiday Inn Express to the Halo Café twice, then asked the desk clerk just to be sure. As an afterthought, she asked if it was a dressy place. The clerk gave Buffy a funny look.

“Hey, forget it.”

“He must be good looking.”


“Be careful, okay?”

“Oh – it’s not. I mean, we’ve known each other for years.”


And still it seemed too early. She’d never found him at Caritas before midnight, and usually not until 1 or 2 a.m. But that was LA. What time did bars close around here? What time did he have to wake up to go to work? He’d said around 8, and it was almost 9 now. Did she look too eager? Should she go at all?

She was overthinking.

With a determined stride, she set her feet towards Tenth Street.


He was right where he’d promised – toward the back, on the right, sipping something golden on the rocks.

“Thought you weren’t coming.”

“I …”

He quirked an eyebrow, expectant.

“I never expected to see you again.”

“So you’re in Pittsburgh for the scenery?”

“Kind of. Assignment, actually.”

“My didn’t you just come over all Diane Arbus.”

“She’s a big influence, actually.”

He nodded. “Most people go through life dreading they'll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They've already passed their test in life. They're aristocrats.”

It was Buffy’s turn to raise an eyebrow at the Arbus quote, and she returned one of her own. “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”

“So what do you capture with your lens, Buffy? Secrets? Or something more glamorous?”

She paused. “Decay.”

“That’s a rather dramatic departure from when we last met.” He lit a cigarette.

A waiter appeared. “Hey Spike. Anything for your friend?”

“Ask her yourself.”

“Do you have Stella Artois?”


The waiter looked relieved that she’d made it easy, but still nervous. Buffy wondered if the waiter knew what he was serving. Back in LA, it had seemed like everyone knew except for her; here she wasn’t so sure.

“Another one, Spike?”

The vampire nodded, casually, turning sideways in the booth, drawing a booted foot up, leaning his forearm on his knee.

“So you come here often?”

“Most nights.”

“This is your new Caritas. Do you sing?”

“Not anymore.”

“Tired of the fans?”

“Seemed like I ought to keep a low profile. For a time.”

Buffy nodded. She couldn’t shake this sense that he wanted something, but wasn’t ready to ask.

He extended a hand, so quick Buffy didn’t see it as much as sense it. “Nice haircut, pet. Edgy. Though I did love your Goldilocks.”

The waiter returned with her beer and a glass. Buffy nodded a thank you before tipping it straight back from the bottle.

“You’re not the same girl I met in Los Angeles, Buffy Summers.”

“Time marches on.”

“Tell me how you chose photography.”

With a shrug, she related the story about happening to pick a class because it fit her schedule and falling in love with the medium. “Plus, it doesn’t hurt that I can earn a living this way.”

“And so you’re here on assignment?”

“Photographing bridges and industrial ruins.”

“This isn’t for Vogue, then?”

Buffy rolled her eyes.

“Will you take my picture?”

He said it casually, but Buffy realized that he’d been working towards this all night. Maybe since before she’d walked into Angry Moon.

“You knew.”

Spike was silent.

“You’ve been waiting for me.”

He shrugged, but the ghost of a guilty smiled played at his lips.

Buffy had more questions, but she’d learned to satisfy her curiosity from behind the lens, so she fumbled for her bag and pulled out her camera.

Spike fell back a little, resting his figure against the booth briefly. Then he moved forward, leaning against the table and lighting a cigarette. Then he was looking away, staring out into the Café like it was the Indian Ocean at daybreak.


Spike gestured towards a mirror mounted behind the bar, a gesture that Buffy caught on film. “I cast no reflection.”


“If you were as handsome as me, you’d want to gaze lovingly at your image from time to time, yeah?”

Buffy smiled, uncertain. “But a picture isn’t a reflection, Spike. It’s an image – it’s me seeing you.”

“Even better.”

She paused, fiddling with the settings.

“Is there a problem, pet?”

“No, I’m just not much of an indoor photographer.”

He nodded, and didn’t object when she put the camera down.

“Tell me about your work.”

“What do you want to know?” she asked.

“Do you like it?”

“Yeah. I mean, not many people do what they love for a living. And I can take time off, well … not really, I mean, I feel a lot of pressure to always take the job. But the more I build up my name, the more choices I’ll have.”

“I don’t doubt it.” He picked up his nearly empty glass, swirling the last ice cube in the bottom. “Do you think about it?”

“About my career? Of course, oh … you mean do I think about that night?”

He was silent.

“Yeah. All the time.”


She couldn’t be sure how they’d ended up back at her hotel room, but she was certain that, after her fifth Stella, she’d insisted on her Holga and some other equipment. Spike walked her back, edging a little too close to her, but only touching her in accidental brushes.

When she crossed the lobby with him in tow, the desk clerk from earlier gave her two thumbs up.

“Alright, then, you’ve got your fancy little gadget. Where do you want me?”

Buffy took a deep breath to steady herself. “I thought we’d go outside – maybe that empty street down by the synagogue …”



“I like it here.”

She glanced around the room, the bed she’d stripped down to just the white sheets; the bland framed prints on the walls and the subtle pattern of the wallpaper; the simple dark wood of the furniture. It screamed hotel room. Buffy thought about how to convince him to go for a little more atmosphere.

And so she didn’t notice him peeling off his jacket and shirt until he stood in front of her, bare-chested.

“Take my picture.”

From her vantage point, she could see things she’d only felt on that night in the alley – washboard abs, the corded muscles in his arms – plus the tattoos covering his biceps, the small one inside his left wrist. She caught details of his face, like the way the light played on his cheekbones and the scar arched through his eyebrow, that were familiar, but that she hadn’t really studied in their prior encounters. Buffy took a few tentative snaps, hesitant.

He turned towards the windows that overlooked the parking lot. “Don’t hear many clicking sounds yet, pet.”

“Um … the light …”

“Then turn it off,” he ordered, and Buffy was surprised to find herself complying.

Now working by just the 60-watt bulb of a table lamp, she made a few adjustments.

It was only after she’d refocused on him that she realized he’d toed off his motorcycle boots and was barefoot. In fact, he was dangerously close to undressed, though shoeless Spike revealed that he had an interesting design tattooed into the arch of his foot. She followed him from big toe to chin, snapping pictures as she worked her way up.

And then she came to his face.

He met her eyes through the lens, and Buffy felt heat wash over her, heat that was unrelated to the alcohol coursing through her system.

Buffy returned to her work, and Spike’s face flashed a mix of irritation and surprise. She focused on his arms, stepping to the left to zoom in on the bicep design detail, so she heard his hands tear open his zipper more than she saw it.

But of course, she followed the sound with her camera and found herself photographing him with his jeans pushed down, revealing sharp hip bones and a shadow of pubic hair.

She drew in a sharp breath. “I don’t do those kinds of pictures, Spike.”

“Yes you do, Buffy.”

She swallowed and returned to her project.

“Is that another tattoo?”

He pushed the left edge of his jeans down just a little farther.

“Isn’t that a Celtic cross?”

“The design’s far older than your Jesus.”


“The first one I ever had.”


“Some like to say the three spokes stand for maid, mother, crone – a woman’s path. You’ve mentioned the trinity and all that rot. I’ve got my own take on it.”

“Which is?”

“Birth, Death, Rebirth.”

“Kind of Christian.”

“My birth, my death, my rebirth. Physically, not spiritually.”

Buffy was at a loss for words.

“I guess that’s a bit self-absorbed of me, innit? What can I say? I was young then.”


“Not even 100. A mere pup.”

Buffy’s head swam with questions, but she stayed in her comfort zone – behind the lens, examining her subject from a distance. Sometimes he shifted so quickly she missed a shot, and she had to either avoid his restless, fidgeting hands, or focus on them.

“Does this make you nervous?” she asked, as she focused in on his thumbs, hooked in his belt loops.

“Nervous? ‘Course not. But I ‘spose it does cause another reaction of sorts.”

Buffy’s eyes bulged out behind her camera. Spike’s erection had grown throughout their photo shoot, until he was full and throbbing. With casual force, he pushed his Levi’s off his hips and stepped out of them.

“Why are you stopping?”

“I …”

“Can’t see any of myself in a mirror, Buffy.”

She nodded, taking a breath to steady herself.

“Come on, lover, you’ve seen it all before.”

She returned to snapping pictures, but replied, “No, not really. It was dark in the alley.”

Spike laughed. Threw back his head and laughed. She caught his mirth on film and then paused. “Why is that funny?”

“I wasn’t your first, luv. And I’m not your only.”

“No, but …”

He stretched out on the bed, moving with the unhurried grace of a cat, only turning to face her after making himself perfectly comfortable.

And, of course, making Buffy really quite uncomfortable.

“My, how you’ve grown up, Buffy Summers.”

She lowered the camera.

From her boots to her turtleneck, Buffy was covered neck to toe. Spike wasn’t making any move to take her clothes off, but did he really just want his picture taken?

For all that she had become wise about a great many things, Spikeology was still a complex subject.

He quirked an eyebrow and she bent to unzip her boots, dropping her camera on the bedsheets.

When she stood, he’d gone completely still, watching her.

His expression wasn’t anything – wasn’t encouraging or discouraging, just as neutral as white paint.

So she pulled her sweater over her head, unbuttoned her cargos and dropped them to the floor and wished she’d had the good sense to wear something sexier than her everyday cotton bra and panties with the yellow chick embroidered at the seam.

Buffy shivered. He still wasn’t moving.

“Do you prefer to photograph your subjects in your skivvies, or will we be doing something else tonight, Miss Summers?”

She took a deep breath and lowered her body to the mattress, crawling up his body until her lips hovered just an inch above his. “How do you feel about something else?”

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