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Cat-Attack...Arrrghhhh
Fic: All Night Long (5) 
7th-Mar-2016 10:50 am
b/f - dancing
Title: All Night Long - chapter five.

Series: Damned If I Don't, Damned If I Do.

Rating: R

Pairings: Buffy/Faith

Summary: Curses can pass from one generation to the next, even without biology involved.

Chapter Five.

This really wasn’t the restaurant they dined in last Valentine’s day, that much was obvious even as they were crossing the road. The name was hung over the glass plate window in big neon red letters and the owners probably wished they’d splashed out for a revolving door to save the wear and tear on hinges; there seemed to be a never ending stream of people coming and going.

Faith put a hand on the small of Buffy’s back to see her across the road. It was sweet, and deadly as she was forced to walk at waddle-speed across two lanes of busy traffic. Buffy was ready to join the end of the line of people waiting, but Faith steered her past them and through the door.

“V.I.P treatment tonight, B, ‘cause it’s your birthday. You never know, I might even pay,” Faith winked at her and then pushed a man away from the maitre’d stand with her stomach -- accident or not Buffy didn’t know -- and announced that they had arrived.

The maitre’d smiled and immediately showed them to a table himself, mindless of the people that had been waiting for who knew how long to be seated. Buffy really hoped that was good forward planning on Faith’s part and not the result of some name-dropping. Or a name dropping, to be precise. Buffy would rather be sat at the bar or next to the bathroom than have that.

“Busy,” Buffy said, as they made their way through dozens of packed tables. It was a worry tonight, being in such a crowded place.

“Popular,” Faith agreed happily.

“I hope this is okay for you?” the maitre’d beamed intensely at Faith, like a dog waiting for a ‘good boy!’

“I guess,” Faith shrugged and passed the decision to her.

Buffy was happy to change her feelings on name-dropping. The little alcove under the balcony was an oasis of calm even though it was more or less in the centre of the restaurant. It was perfect and she gave her answer by dropping down onto the far bench seat and sitting back, enjoying the squidge of the soft brown leather under and behind her.

The maitre’d handed them menus and promised someone would be along soon to take their drink order before going back to his post.

“Did you have to bribe someone to get this table?” she joked as she took off her coat and folded it beside her.

Faith wolf-whistled when she saw her dress. “Fuck me, B. You know it’s not my birthday, right?”

Buffy smiled bashfully, pleased that her effort hadn’t gone unnoticed. She hadn’t been sure about dressing up. She was pretty sure tonight would call for more practical attire: clothes you could move about in easily, shoes you could run in, no dangly earrings . . . but she’d resisted the urge to wear her smart-casual slaying gear and the pay-off was good.

“Thanks. You look . . .” Okay, it was rude not to return a compliment, but Faith had taken her coat off now and she was faced with one of Xander’s fraying checked shirts and a pair of maternity jeans that were really working hard. “Um . . .” And then Faith sat down and smiled at her and the compliment was in easy reach after all. “. . . beautiful! Did you do your hair yourself or did you go to a salon?”

Faith chuckled, “When could I go to a salon without you knowing? I’m on twenty-four seven lock down. That kid-slayer Zoe did it for me. So there’s some perks to living back with the fam, right?”

“That and Andrew making us breakfast every morning,” Buffy grinned.

“Gonna miss that when we leave,” Faith admitted. She sounded a little nervous when she asked, “So is this place okay? I know it’s not fancy, but . . .”

“It’s fine. It’s good,” she said honestly. Fancy wasn’t really them anyway, and they’d had more than enough of it with their previous partners and look how that had ended.

Not that it had ended, she reminded herself, and suddenly the alcove didn’t feel so safe. They were blocked off on two sides which narrowed the window of opportunity anyone had to come at them, but their cosy little nook was created by the spiral staircase and there were more tables the other side of it and an entire demon army could be amassing upstairs and they wouldn’t know it. She should have insisted on them being seated by the bathrooms, she realized; they were usually a handy bolt-hole and if that failed at least they had lockable doors. It was too late now to worry about it.

“So how do you know about it? Have you been here before?” It was a loaded question. This was just the kind of lively place Faith and Troy had spent many of their dates frequenting.

“Nah, I just borrowed Red’s laptop and searched for Cleveland restaurants. This place had hella good reviews so I figured it was worth a shot.”

“So it’s not . . .” she stopped herself from asking the question.

“Not what?”

Well, if she was going to be pushed. “Uh, Troy-affiliated in any way?”

“Buffy,” Faith groaned, shaking her head. Buffy was about to argue her case but she was beaten to it. “Look, I might not buy into all of Andrew’s dumbass conspiracy theories, but I’m not an idiot. I never came here with him, we never even came to this part of town, and I picked a big chain joint for a reason. Don’t you think I wanted to be somewhere secluded with you for your birthday, somewhere with soft lighting and a violin dude taking requests? I talk big, mostly because I really don’t believe he’d be stupid enough to, well, do anything stupid when I’ve got a slayer guard, but I’m not going to take any needless risks either.”

“Really? You promise?”

Faith rolled her eyes. “I’m not the dumb kid I was back when you were in High School, D.  I thought you would have realized that by now.”

“I do, and I never thought you were dumb back then either, for the record.”

A waiter arrived then, ready to take their order and Buffy realized she hadn’t even opened her menu yet. She pored over it now, reading the fare quickly, but mostly she was thinking about how pleased she was that Faith was taking the threat seriously. She really hadn’t thought she was, but if she’d put as much thinking into it as she claimed, Buffy could relax, because just maybe this restaurant really was off of Troy’s radar.  Just maybe she’d given her birthday curse too much weight this year.

“I’ll have the chicken ranch burger.”

Buffy looked up as Faith gave her order, because seriously? That sounded a little too pedestrian for her tastes lately.

“And the sizzling jalapeño steak pieces instead of fries.”

That sounded more like it, but . . . “You don’t want fries?”

“Fuck yeah, I want fries on the side. What do you think about the honeycomb pieces?”

Buffy already had a sinking feeling, but she tried to stay positive. “On your dessert? Awesome. We could share a sundae?”

“No, on my burger, to add a bit of crunchy sweetness. Can you do that?” she asked the waiter. He must have nodded, because Faith’s next words were, “Your turn, B.”

She was still staring at Faith in mild disgust – mild only because she was getting used to it – as she gave her own order. “I’ll have the chicken breasts in the herb and butter sauce, please, with a twice baked potato and corn.”

“Wanna share some ribs?”

“I don’t know?” she said cautiously. “Are you going to have them with strawberry sauce?”

“No, I was thinking barbeque.”

Buffy smiled, “Then yes please.”

Faith sighed and said to the waiter, “You better bring me some mustard on the side. And none of that fancy kind.  I want the gloopy yellow stuff, got it? And two cokes. And you better hurry it up, Junior has been starving since five,” she added, rubbing her stomach tenderly.

“Everything okay?” she checked, nodding at Faith’s stomach whilst secretly sliding her cell phone from her bag into her lap.

“Yeah, we’re cool. Just restless.” With one last rub Faith left her bump alone. “So, how’s your birthday rating so far?”

“Good, it is definitely of the good.” She was going to have to wait until Faith was eating to send a text, she realized; Faith was being too attentive to do it now. “And it’s all thanks to you. So thank you,” she grinned.

“You're welcome.” Faith winced and her hand went briefly back to her stomach.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Quit worrying. He’s just acting out,” Faith promised as their starters arrived. “He’ll be fine once I’ve eaten, so let’s get to it.” She tucked in with enthusiasm, maple syrup dripping from her fingers as she popped several pieces of the popcorn chicken into her mouth, chewed, talked and then started the whole process over.

Buffy ate with more care, using her fork to spear chunks of juicy yellow melon and scoop up the tangy clementine segments. Her other hand was busy under the table, laboriously tapping out a text message to Kennedy with the name of the restaurant and what she knew of the address. It was taking a long time and was bound to be full of mistakes because she didn’t dare look down to check for typos. If Faith caught wind of what she was doing she would probably confiscate her phone and those maternity bras were so ample it might be lost forever! So she mmm-hmm’d every once in a while to what Faith was saying and looked around, subtly doing a risk assessment in her head.

There was no clear route to the door was the first thing she noticed. You would have to wind around a dozen or more tables – some round, some rectangular like theirs – to reach it. They were nearly all full with groups of four or more. Around one table she counted twelve people. There were only three other couples like themselves. Buffy scanned around for any lone diners, because they were likely to be the most suspicious but she couldn’t see any from here. The door itself couldn’t be seen, it was blocked by the partition behind the maitre’d stand. It would make a quick get-away harder, but had the advantage of also slowing down anyone coming for them. Even if Troy sent a team of demons in they would have to pause a second to find them in the crowd and then make the same arduous journey through the tables.

“And then Dawn was all, if a double-headed axe is good, think what a triple-headed axe could do and now Xander wants to do a metal-work shop class but Giles said he won’t get a Council grant unless he can produce a prototype.”

“Uh-huh.”

The window started three-feet up from the carpeted floor and went all the way up to the ceiling. Not ideal for ram-raiders but it ran the length of the restaurant and was plate glass and Buffy knew it wouldn’t take much force to break it and then the whole thing would come shattering down. Then you’d have dozens of screaming patrons and a swarm of demons piling in making the most of the mayhem. On the upside, only about four square feet of it was visible from their snug little alcove, making them harder to spot from the outside and reducing the chances of Faith recognizing one of the slayers that would be circling the building soon.

Well, they would be soon if she ever got around to sending this text!

She’d finished writing it minutes ago but she had to look down to send it, or else she would never push the right buttons. It could draw unwanted attention but she didn’t have a choice. It didn’t, as it happened; Faith was too busy experimenting now with sprinkling cracked black pepper and olive oil onto the last of her chicken bites. Buffy pulled a face of affectionate revulsion at her before looking down one last time to send the message on its way.

“It needs a little chilli sauce. Red was all for the elastic kind, by the way.”

Buffy took a moment to see how those two sentences fit together, but it didn’t take her long to see that they weren’t supposed to as Faith happily carried on her one-sided conversation. Leaving the phone in her lap, she had a sip of her coke and finished her risk assessment. The bar was small and tucked away in one corner. This obviously wasn’t the kind of establishment where you came to drown your sorrows, being more geared to comfort-eat your way through them. There were two interesting doors behind the shiny wooden bar though -- well, one was marked Staff Only but the other had Fire Exit in those sticky glow-in-the-dark letters on it. It was almost as far away as the actual exit, but it was good to know there was a second option in sight just in case.

She scanned again for lone diners and still couldn’t see any. Maybe Faith had been right to choose this place. Maybe the extreme number of people in here and the popular, big-name, less-easy-to-be-infiltrated restaurant had put him off from trying anything funny.

Buffy winced as the metal staircase clanged over and over with ascending feet and realized her risk assessment wasn’t even half complete! She’d spotted at least another dozen tables the other side of the spiral stairs as they’d been shown to their alcove and who even know what was upstairs. Another dining area? A larger bar? Troy’s new apartment? It was possible; she’d had Kennedy drive past his warehouse a couple of times a week since Faith had dumped him and each time she reported it as dark and deserted, but he had to be somewhere still in the city.

 “So is that a no?” Faith’s nervousness shot through Buffy’s thoughts and she realized she’d finally been asked a direct question and she hadn’t heard it.

“I didn’t say that,” she hedged, confident that Faith’s comeback would clue her in.

“You don’t have to come. It’s not the nicest place and I know you hate them.”

Birthday parties? Puppet shows? Parents evenings? Think, Summers!

“It’s not like I’ll probably be in there long away. Soon as this little critter comes out I’m walking. You won’t miss much.”

Hospitals! Seriously? Faith thought she might not . . .?

“Effie, of course I’ll be there! Holding your hand from start to finish, I promise. Try and stop me.”

“You really don’t have to if it’s going to weird you out.”

“Try and stop me,” she repeated forcefully, grinning. “I’m not missing the birth of your child.”

Our child,” Faith said so softly it was almost lost under the general chattering.

Buffy swallowed down the lump of gladness and sadness that brought to her throat and said, “Nothing will keep me from being there, Faith. Not a rain of toads, or an act of God, or the Queen of England offering me a knighthood. Nothing!”

Faith’s smile was uncharacteristically shy and she ducked her head to hide it. “Thanks, B.”

Their plates were cleared but Buffy was too busy smiling reassuringly at Faith to really notice them going.

“I don’t know what I did to deserve you,” Faith said quietly, “but whatever it was I’m so fucking pleased I did it.”

Buffy grinned, “Well, you went through hell and back for starters, both literally and figuratively. That helped. Plus you’re hot.”

Wicked hot.”

“Goes without saying. So have you thought of any names yet?”

“Not really. I’ve had a few suggestions. Dawn likes James. Andrew thinks Andrew would be a cool name. Xander said I should call him Clark K. Lehane, because then everyone would think he was Superman in disguise.” Faith rolled her eyes. “Willow’s idea was Moses, so if he did grow up to be the next messiah he’d have all the Jews on his side this time. And Giles is as bad as Andy and was trying to push Rupert.”

Grinning, Buffy had to ask, “And Kennedy?”

“She gave me a traditional Spanish name. I looked it up and then punched her.”

"I wondered why the black eye.” Bruises didn’t last long on a slayer but Buffy had marvelled over the many colors of Kennedy’s mysterious shiner a few days ago. “What was it?”

“Let’s just say it sound prettier in Spanish, but I’ll be naming him after good old Vagina Flower before Kennedy’s choice gets to a vote.”

Buffy grinned, “Vagina Flower? Who’s that? And let’s not, it’s not really a boy’s name.”

Laughing, Faith agreed with her. After slurping up some of her coke she sat back with a hand on her stomach. “So do you have any suggestions?”

She’d spent time wondering if she would be asked this question and now that she had been it was disappointing to know that she didn’t. She watched the people passing their table – there was always someone – for security purposes and inspiration. When Faith’s eyebrows rose, Buffy felt rushed and after just a brief hesitation declared, “I like . . . Ron.”

“Ron?” Buffy nodded and Faith’s eyebrows went higher. “As in . . . Ron?”

“What’s wrong with Ron? Ronald, I think it sounds dependable and sophisticated. Those are good things to have in a name.”

“It makes him sound like a clown, or somebody’s dad.”

“And he probably will be one day. Somebody’s dad that is, because Xander won’t allow clowns in the house.”

“Yeah but first he’s gonna be a little kid and a tearaway teenager. You can’t saddle a fifteen year old boy with Ronald.”

“Well you asked my opinion and I like it.”

“Actually, you know what? I read a few of the Harry Potter books when I was inside and they did make me think that Ron . . .” Faith tore into a bread roll with her teeth.

“Yes?” Buffy waited eagerly to hear her choice validated.

“. . . was a name I wouldn’t even call a hamster.”

“I think my sides are splitting. So, you’ve told me everyone else’s suggestions, do you even have any of your own?”

She wasn’t going to find out just yet because their waiter came back with their main meals and Buffy noticed him enough this time to recognize it was in fact a her, a waitress. The second thing she noticed had her reeling back in her seat. The waitress apologized for startling her, set down their plates and bustled off again.

“Did you . . . did you . . .?” she began in a fluster. She couldn’t believe she’d frozen, it must have been the shock of seeing the thing she’d been waiting for standing so brazenly in front of her. She also couldn’t believe Faith was just calmly biting into her burger like nothing had happened. “Did you not just see our waitress?” she finally got out.

“What, the old chick? Yeah why? You want to hit that, B, be my guest but don’t expect a threesome,” Faith joked and took another bite of her burger.

Buffy watched a couple of ranch-dressed honeycomb pieces fall in a daze and felt her phone vibrate against her legs. She looked down for Kennedy’s reply because they were going to need that back-up now ASAP, and was horrified to find a ‘Message Failed’ report instead. Why had that happened? She wanted to pick up her phone and shake it.

Faith couldn’t have seen her properly, or she would have seen what had been impossible to miss. “She wasn’t an old chick, she was an old demon,” she hissed. Faith’s burger stopped halfway to her mouth. “Didn’t you see the grey skin, the wrinkles?”

Faith set her burger down. “I saw the wrinkles, but that was all.”

“She was grey, Faith! She was a Goran!” Buffy was having trouble keeping her voice down and her eyes darted left and right to catch sight of her again.

Faith remained too calm. “She was an old woman who hadn’t seen the sun in a few months.” Faith pulled a sticky rib from the platter between them. “And you’re just doing that thing that Giles accused you of back in Sunnydale. Tipping your hat at sandcastles or whatever.”

“Yeah, well I was right then and I’m right now,” she argued, “and we’re getting out of here.”

Faith pulled her plate closer as if she was going to literally snatch it away and then turned in her seat with a sigh. After looking around she pointed across the room. “Is that her?”

Buffy studied the waitress in question. “No, that’s just an old woman!” That just happened to look remarkably like her demon, but that was probably just down to the formal black and white uniform all of the wait staff were wearing.

“If there was a grey-ass demon chick putting food on the table in here don’t you think people would be screaming about it by now?” Buffy couldn’t answer that, but she knew what she had seen up close and personally delivering their dishes. “Just eat your dinner, B, and then if you wanna get the check before dessert we can.”

“But . . .” Faith was shovelling burger and sizzling steak pieces and fries into her mouth like she already knew Buffy was going to say no, and the protest died on her tongue. Faith had planned this special night for her and Faith’s greatest enjoyment in life right now was food.  Put those two things together and it was hard to picture dragging her out of there without leaving a trail of honeycomb chunks, rib bones and maybe even broken furniture. It was the greater, stupider evil of the two, but Buffy opted to stay for just a little bit longer. “Okay, but eat fast.”

“Do I ever do anything but?” Faith grinned, barbeque sauce coating her upper lip and steak juice running down her chin as evidence. “You gotta eat too.”

Buffy had lost her appetite, but she picked at her chicken and discovered it was too good to waste. She ate in small, quick bites, her eyes constantly dancing around for another sight of the Goran. She wanted to go to the bathroom to send the text again, assuming it was the discretion she’d used the first time that had caused it to fail. And she wanted to scout around too, to check out the hidden section of the restaurant and find out what was upstairs, but she didn’t dare leave Faith alone at the table.

“. . . snowing like the day after tomorrow out there now . . .” Buffy’s ears caught the morsel of conversation as it floated past and looked to the window, at once dismayed as she saw the thick white flakes falling outside. The skies had been clear when they had arrived, but it was January and this wasn’t Sunnydale so snow didn’t automatically mean demonic activity.

“It’s snowing,” she said, hoping that gauging Faith’s take on the weather would better inform her own.

Faith had to twist in her seat a little to see the window. “Sorry, B, it wasn’t forecast.”

So it was unexpected, but she didn’t understand why Faith was apologizing. “It’s not your fault.”

“No, but if I’d known there was a storm coming I never would have booked a place in the city. I know you hate driving anywhere far in snow.”

That was unexpectedly sweet; Buffy smiled and forgot all about threats and crises for a minute. “I’ll be fine, especially with you to guide me.”

“Always, B. Try a rib.”

“Okay.” Mmm, succulent juiciness. She nibbled all the meat from it as Faith played footsie with her under the table and this was a good birthday and maybe she had just been tipping her hat at sandcastles . . . or was it windchimes? “These are good.”

“Have another.” Oh, she intended to. “We were talking about names, weren’t we? To be honest, I don’t know. I always used to want a dog, when I was growing up, and I used to spend hours coming up with names for him: Rocky, Tae, Sonic, Rueben . . . I had a hundred of them, but none of them seem right for a kid.”

“Understandable, it’s hard to picture a kid as hairy as a dog,” she joked.

But Faith took her seriously, “Exactly! I can’t call my boy Death-Howl when it reminds me of a German Shepherd.” Buffy tried to contain her snigger. “Yeah, okay bad example, but I don’t think Nipper works either.”

“Probably not. Aren't there any traditional boy names that appeal to you?”

“I don’t know.” Faith finished her burger and picked her fork up to attack the rest of the sizzling steak pieces. In a confused, shy-sounding way she said, “Maybe Daniel, or Michael maybe.”

“They’re both nice,” Buffy reassured her and Faith took to popping slices of steak into her mouth while she thought about it. Buffy took to switching glances between her phone and the snow falling beyond the window. Was that why the message hadn’t gone through? Was the weather distorting her signal?

She was going to have to send it again and just hope that Faith was feeling contemplative enough to not notice. She managed to send it under the radar but just a minute later the same failed message pinged onto her screen.

“Something wrong with your pussy, B?”

Her eyes shot up, face flaming with embarrassment. “Language, Effie! We’re in a restaurant!”

Faith laughed, “I’m just asking. You’re the one who keeps playing with it.” 

“I spilled some herb sauce,” she covered. “So are we in a tunnel here?”

“What?”

“I meant a valley.”

“I don’t know, why?”

“No reason.”

Faith let it go at that, but Buffy had killed the conversational mood a little. Faith shot her small, occasional glances as she mopped up the mix of sauces on her plate with the remainder of her fries. Buffy steadily finished her chicken, trying not to imagine the worst happening even though she was constantly searching for it. Despite their different approaches they finished eating at about the same time.

“So are you ready to go?” Without the back-up of Kennedy’s team outside Buffy wanted to be out of there and on the road as soon as possible.

“You want to dine and dash?” Faith grinned.

“I meant after we’d paid, obviously, but let’s hurry up about it.”

Still grinning, Faith said, “I just need to finish my coke.” But instead of drinking it she sat back and rubbed at her stomach.

“I thought you said he’d be okay once you’d eaten?” she asked, concerned all over again.

“He will be, just needs time to go down is all,” but Faith looked uncomfortable despite her grin.

A waitress came to clear their plates. She was wrinkly, she was grey and Buffy snatched up her bread knife, but Faith whispered something to her and she hurried away. What the hell? Was Faith in on it? How did that make any sense? Buffy looked back down at her useless phone.

“Okay, we’re leaving, now!”

“Just give me five more minutes.”

“Why? Faith I just saw you talking to that Goran woman!”

“B, you’re cracked. She’s not a demon! Relax already.”

But Buffy couldn’t, because she was and they needed to get out of here and then the worst thing in the world happened right in front of her.

“Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you . . .”

It started with just a few waiters singing along with the old lady demon in the middle carrying a big cake but it wasn’t long before most of the restaurant had taken up the song.

“Happy birthday, dear ‘mumble mumble mumble’,
Happy birthday to you!”

Even Faith was singing, while looking a little embarrassed about it, but Buffy’s eyes were focused on the long sharp knife in the demon’s elderly grip. She knew from experience that it wasn’t as weak as it looked, and in fact she pretty much remembered that very Goran coming at her with a big, fat cleaver in the kitchens of Troy’s castle!

“Faith, watch out!” she yelled and instinctively shot from her seat. She had no weapons on her aside from the bread knife but she was a dab hand at improvisation and blinding ones enemy seemed like the best course of action right now and she slapped her hands forcefully under the cake tray and smooshed it directly into the blueish-grey face of the threat.

The ‘threat’ gave a choked scream, staggered back and then went down under the weight of the cake. “Ooh, my hip!” the demon cried out in a gurgling, buttercream and sponge-muffled way.

A shocked silence fell over the first floor of the restaurant, broken only by the old demon’s agonised wailing as she rocked about before her, clutching the top of her leg like she was in genuine pain.

“Come on, get up,” Buffy brandished her bread-knife in a no-nonsense manner. “You’re not fooling anyone.”

The demon stayed on the carpet, her uniform becoming covered in splats of chocolate frosting as she scraped it from her face in thick handfuls, the skin revealed beneath was a blotchy mess of shocked white shot through with faint blue veins making her face look like a fine china dinner plate, with a spot of bright purple-red over the central impact zone where the thin, age-dry skin was already bruising. She was a still making a fuss about her hip and the first inkling of doubt pricked Buffy’s bubble of absolute certainty. The Gorans weren’t tough customers by demon standards, but she still shouldn’t have gone down as easily as that, and where was the rest of her clan? They should have been scurrying out of the shadows by now to confront her, but only a couple of waitresses and a small number of kind-hearted diners were coming over, leaving their meals (or the meals of others) to help lift the old woman from the floor and assess the damage.

“She’s not a demon,” Buffy muttered, turning red and hoping the any actual ‘damage’ would be restricted just to her pride. “Oops.”

“No shit, Blondie!” Faith was up out of her seat too, watching the rudimentary first aid being administered with a queasy amusement. “What were you thinking?”

Well obviously she’d been thinking that a demon was coming at Faith with a big knife. “I barely touched her! It was the cake’s fault!”

“Yeah and that always stands up in court. Now what?”

The not-a-demon-lady was finally back on her feet, looking wobbly and caked in, well . . . Buffy looked her up and down, cake, but more of all she looked pissed off. So did all of her colleagues – the number of which had grown since orders had begun to pile up on top of each other and first a kitchen porter came to see what all the commotion was about and then another and another, soon followed by their pastry specialist in tall baker’s hat, the barman, a team of bandana-wearing sous chefs and finally a line of hairy, tattooed dishwashers. They gathered around the cosy little alcove with crossed arms, glaring at her in a way that was so reducing the size of their tip.

“Look, this is all just a big misunderstanding . . .” Somewhere thick knuckles cracked in anticipation and Buffy gulped.

On second thoughts, maybe the best tip of the night was: Get out while you still can.

“Um, check please!”


Chapter six




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