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Quarter to Three

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It was late, dead late, middle of the night late. Restless, Spike walked through the streets of Sunnydale, nowhere to go, nothing to see. No one to see. Since his relationship, such as it was, with Buffy had imploded, his life had no focus. So he wandered the streets.


He paused. Hadn’t this been an abandoned store last night? Now the neon sign blazed. A new bar in town. Vic’s Place. Unbelievably, at this forsaken hour, the open sign was lit. He pulled on the door and stepped inside.


It was big, bright, colorful. Reminded him of clubs he had seen in the ‘forties. What the hell was it doing in downtown Sunnydale? He wasn’t surprised that the place was deserted. A handsome, older man in a black tuxedo rushed over to greet him. “Hey, pal. Welcome to Vic’s.” He shook Spike’s hand. “I’m Vic.”


“This place is new.”


“Just opened. Come in. Sit down.” He gestured Spike over to a table near the stage. “Let me get you something from the bar. On the house. Opening special.”


The stage was large. It was set for a big band. Poor guy. What a miscalculation. He’d never make a go of it in Sunny-dead-dale. He’d lose his shirt in a month.


Vic put a bloody mary in front of Spike and asked, “Mind if I join you?” Spike nodded and his host sat down. “So, what do you think of my little place?”


“To be honest, mate, you’ll have a hard time makin’ a go of it in this town.” Spike took a sip of his drink. His eyes grew wide with shock when he realized that the bloody mary was made with real blood. “How did you…?”


“Know you were a vampire? Friend, in my business you get to know all kinds. Vampires, demons, Andorians, Klingons…” Music started from out of nowhere, and Vic stood up. “Time for my set.”


“But,” said Spike, “there’s no one here.”


“I wouldn’t say no one,” Vic winked. He climbed the stage and picked up the mike, singing in a rich, deep voice:


“It's quarter to three, there's no one in the place

Except you and me”


It had been years since Spike had heard the old Mercer standard.


“So set 'em up Joe, I got a little story

I think you should know

We're drinking my friend, to the end

Of a brief episode”


Spike put his drink down, stunned by the coincidence. A brief episode, yeah, that described it.


“Make it one for my baby

And one more for the road”


He took another sip of his drink. His baby. Why could she never see that? He only wanted to love her.


“I know the routine, put another nickel

In the machine

I feel kind of bad, can't you make the music

Easy and sad”


Sad enough, this was. Bad. He thought he knew what bad was. Nothing had ever hurt like this before. Nothing had ever been so sad. To hold her, but never have her. He felt tears well up behind his eyes, but he blinked them back.


“I could tell you a lot, but it's not

In a gentleman's code”


He snickered at that. A gentleman. Something he’d never been. Yet he hadn’t told. Never let on. None of her friends’ business.


“Make it one for my baby

And one more for the road”


He was going to need more liquor.


“You'd never know it, but buddy I'm a kind of poet

And I've got a lot of things I'd like to say”


This was getting too bizarre. Why had the singer picked this song?


“And if I'm gloomy, please listen to me

Till it's talked away”


Talked away. How could it be talked away? He would never stop loving her. It would never stop hurting. He’d never be happy again. She’d stolen that too, along with his heart. Damn her.


“Well that's how it goes, and Joe I know your gettin'

Anxious to close”


What time was it, anyway? Nearly three? Though this Vic chap hadn’t seemed near closing. Like he was waiting for something. Waiting for him?


“Thanks for the cheer

I hope you didn't mind

My bending your ear”


Maybe it would help to talk. The ‘cheer’ wasn’t bad. He took another mouthful.


“But this torch that I found, It's gotta be drowned

Or it's gonna explode”


Torch. Why did that seem familiar? And he was drowning. Drowning in her. Hadn’t he told her that, so long ago? He couldn’t go on like this. He thought he could end it, but he knew it would be the end of him. He stopped trying to blink the tears back. His hand shook and a little of the blood spilled on the front of his new gray shirt. Sod it.


“Make it one for my baby

And one more for the road”


He took one last swig. The music had stopped. Vic put another drink in front of him. This one was paler; much more vodka than blood. “You look like you could use this, buddy.”


“Thanks.” Spike downed it. “That song…”


“It's a favorite of mine. She hurt you bad, didn’t she?”


“Mate,” Spike replied, “you don’t know the half of it. But it’s over now.”


“Really,” asked Vic. “That’s why you’re sitting in a bar in the middle of the night. When all you can think about is being with her, touching her…”


“I can’t have her. She doesn’t want me. She doesn’t love me.”


“Hey, man, don’t sell yourself short. Things get complicated. Vampire. Slayer.”


Spike looked at him with shock. “I didn’t…”


“Lucky guess,” Vic smiled. “I’m just saying, don’t give up. I knew a guy who loved a girl. Different worlds. Hell, different species. He almost gave up. Just when he thought he’d never have a chance, he found out she loved him too. Big, romantic kiss in front of everyone they knew.”


“What happened to ‘em?” Spike asked.


“It ended. Things beyond their control. But they never stopped loving each other. I know neither would trade the time they had together. You see, my friend, nothing is a sure thing. Nothing is forever. But if you give up…” Vic snapped his fingers. “Besides, it’s always darkest before Dawn.”


Spike stared at the man. Coincidence, he knew, but the things he said were so pertinent. What was he, some kind of seer? Seemed human enough. “So you’re saying, don’t give up. Even though it hurts.”


“I’m just saying I wouldn’t,” Vic replied. “Not now.”


“I’ll think about it,” Spike said. He reached for his almost empty wallet. “What do I owe you?”


“Like I said, opening special. On the house.” He watched the vampire get up and head towards the door. “Take it easy, Spike.”


“Yeah, thanks Vic.” He had stepped outside before he realized that he had never mentioned his name. He turned around, wanting to speak to the owner again, but the bar was gone. It was just an abandoned storefront. “Bloody hell. Now I’m hallucinatin’.” He looked down at his shirtfront, and in the glow of a streetlight saw the stain from his spilled drink. As he walked towards his crypt, he thought of Vic’s words.


Were they just his own thoughts; own hopes? Didn’t matter. He was never one for just giving up. He whistled as he walked.


“One more for my baby, and one more for the road…”