The Ring Talks
Part 1: Taking Initiative
Chapter 3: Holiday Engagements
We’re sitting at opposite ends of Giles’ couch with our legs stretched out across the middle cushion between us. I hit the mute button on the remote control as soon as The Dick Van Dyke Show goes to commercial. “Why do so many of these old sitcom plots seem to revolve around the wife getting into some stupid mess and hiding it from her husband?”
“’Cause you women attract stupid messes?”
“So that’s Harmony’s excuse for dating you?”
“My guess? It worked for Lucy and Desi, so people kept writing the same kind of stuff.”
“Didn’t people get bored of watching that?”
Spike shrugs. “I wasn’t in the States back then, and not watching much telly. Couldn’t tell you.”
“Where were you?”
He frowns at me. “Why do you care?”
“I’m just making conversation, killing time during commercials.”
I hold up my left hand. I’m wearing his ring again. It’s become a routine over the last couple of weeks. I wear the ring when I come by late at night. After he let me keep it that second night, I started using it sort of as a taunt. I acted like I was holding the ring hostage until we talked for a few minutes. And then I’d keep it, anyway. When I realized he thought it was funny rather than annoying, I considered giving the ring back, or at least not wearing it anymore.
But if I don’t have something that belongs to him, what excuse do I have to keep up these visits?
And why do I enjoy us having a running gag together?
Meanwhile, the ring is occasionally good as a weapon. I wiggle my fingers in the air, making the silver catch the light from the TV. “Come on, Spikey. Be honest with your fiancee.”
He chuckles at that. “Europe. Italy, mostly. Me and Dru spent a good chunk of the fifties and early sixties drunk, if you want the truth. It’s kind of a blur. Not as blurry as when I came to the States in the late sixties, though. A few of my meals were on something. Acid, I’d wager. Woodstock was… interesting.”
I try to look disgusted, but I start laughing instead. “You were at Woodstock? I can’t imagine…”
“I was. And don’t.” He looks like he wants to say more, but the show comes back on, and he nods to the TV.
I hit the mute button again, and the show is the only sound in Giles’ living room for a while. When the episode ends, I again mute the sounds of the commercials. “Worth it,” I whisper.
“What is?” Spike shifts on the couch for the umpteenth time, his foot bumping into my knee.
I give his knee a nudge with my foot. “Stop that. Do you have any idea how fidgety you are?”
He raises his eyebrows at me. “How bloody fidgety would you be if you couldn’t get into fights anymore, Slayer?”
“Ugh.” I wrinkle my nose. “That would suck.”
“I rest my case. …So what’s worth it?”
I gesture to the TV with the remote. “All the stupid messes Rob and Laura get into. They’re still happy. That’s a couple that dances across the living room.”
“Any couple can be happy for thirty minutes a week, fiction or not.”
“And again I’m reminded that you weren’t a child of divorce.”
“Wasn’t exactly the done thing back then. …Not as if there was much of an opportunity, anyway. Lost my father young, and my mum never remarried.”
I have no idea how to respond to that revelation. The more we talk alone, the more of Spike’s history leaks out. Usually, it’s vague vamp stories, like the Woodstock thing a few minutes ago. But this is different. This is about his human life, and it’s pretty personal stuff. But what’s really throwing me for a loop is that he sounds like it still means something to him, like his history as a human still matters. I didn’t know that. Exactly how much of the human survives? Does the Council have it even more wrong than I thought? Worse, do they intentionally teach lies to watchers and slayers? Does Angel?
I shake off my thoughts and lean forward far enough to give Spike’s ankle a squeeze. “Sorry.”
The look on his face… Well, I’m not sure he knows how to respond, either. The conversation has drifted into weird and unfamiliar territory, for both of us.
“Was a long time ago.” He shrugs it off, and abruptly changes the subject. “Haven’t mentioned your new bloke lately. You manage to drive him off already?”
I stick my tongue out at him. “No! He’s visiting his family in Iowa. It’s almost Christmas, you know.”
He gives me an approving nod. “Well done, Slayer. You only got the last one to run as far as LA.”
“For Christmas, Spike. He’ll be back in a couple of weeks.”
“Ah, so he’s just avoiding you for mistletoe season. Smart boy.”
“Jerk.” I give his knee another nudge with my foot. “You know, I don’t get the mistletoe thing, anyway. It’s like a socially acceptable version of Spin the Bottle.”
Spike laughs at that. “Never thought of it that way.”
“I’m just glad my mother had the sense not to hang any at home. With all the Scoobies invited to Christmas Eve dinner, that could get seriously awkward.”
“Tell you what, Slayer. She changes her mind and hangs some, keep a camera handy. Could stand the blackmail material.”
I giggle. “Only if you promise to split the spoils with the photographer.”
I hold up my left hand again. “Who also happens to be your fiancee at the present moment.”
He pretends to be annoyed with me, which only makes me giggle more. “Bloody hell. Put a ring on a girl’s finger, and she thinks she’s entitled to half of everything.”
“Welcome to the community property state of California, Mr. Big Pile of Dust.”
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January 17, 2022 22:56