(This one is a bit longer, but it’s the end of the chapter and I didn’t see a good spot to cut it, so here it is. :p Hope it’s been a good ride so far…it’s been neat for me to see and know other people are actually reading it. I’m thinking about trying to finish it before November, somewhere around 7,000 words or so…what do y’all think? I’m halfway there, now, so I know it’s possible…but is that a good length for a short story?)
Sev scowled, and nodded. That’s sorted…go on, take it. She grinned, and began scooping up the pile, already scoping out the main drag for a good spot. Let the newbies take the one under the sunbeam, she’d take the one where the beam’d be once the people started coming…and -away- from the entrance, where the non-serious shoppers wandered in, and blocked off the view of the good ones. Cuddling the pile to her chest, she began shuttling back and forth, her grin widening as each new layer became visible. Putting each find where she felt it got the best show took the best part of an hour, and by the time she was done, the first trickle of customers was heading in. As usual, the day went by quickly…maybe a little too quickly. By the time the torches went on, and the night crowd started filtering through, she was already wondering what to do with herself that night. Tossing a quick if insincere grin up at her replacement as he approached, she sighed, and adjusted the new scarf she’d appropriated for herself as she stood. Ok, ok…you can have it. Anything happening?
He shook his head, already more interested in sorting and sifting. Party up t’the Hotties, but you know how that crowd gets…and I heard something about a new singer over t’the Kitchen Sync. Oh, and Jamie wants t’talk t’ya…said it’s important. Butt-in-a-sling kinda important. He looked sideways at her, quirking his lip at her suddenly nervous expression. Hell, relax…she prob’ly needs someone t’chew on for a while…it’s Jamie, y’know? If she don’t got somebody to bite ever day, she gets cranky. Maybe the Spikester ain’t been licking her boots right, huh? He grinned nastily, and put on a whiny tone of voice. Why doncha ever -listen- t’me, spikie? Left -then- right…left -then- right…are you just stupid? Is -that- your problem? Blue snorted…then outright giggled, swatting him beside the ear. You…are gonna get us -both- in trouble, she ever hears you do that. Ok, I’m off…just…be careful, huh? And don’t let that big piece go to anybody but Old Dave…he’s been looking for one just like it for-ever.
She shook her head, and headed off down the hall, after one last wistful glance at the treasures spread out all around her. Not till the weekend. Sellers-day was coming, just two more days…then she could pick and bargain…for whatever was left. She bit her lip, trying not to anticipate what this little “talk” with Jamie was about…Spike being her best friend wasn’t going to hold her here for -much- longer, especially if Jamie got wind of her…nocturnal activities. Sidling through the torchlit shadows, she wondered again what was with the lo-techs and lighting. Sure, it made it more…romantic, in here, and got people buying more…but they acted like even having lights back in the stores was somehow bad. Just a few little lights, and they’d double their productive time, instead of having to rush everything, then leave it sit all night. She shrugged, and slipped back into the shadows behind the “sales floor” with relief. Less smoky back here…and less temptation.
The store was dark, as usual, the only illumination coming from the tiny candle that sat in the mouth of the stores sign/mascot, giving a soft glow to her somewhat frantic looking features, and the tiny fire in the barrel that sat in the middle of the main room. The off-duty team sat around the barrel as usual, and someone had been in a giving mood, obviously…there was a strong smell of cooking meat, without the charred-hair smell that meant rat-thing, and a jug of chilled water sweated gently in the heat. She inquired as to Jamie’s placement with a raised ‘brow, and was directed to the back of the Lair…behind the double-row of beaded curtain that blocked off all light from the back room.
Boss? She moved to the curtain, parting it just enough to stick her head through…and received the usual grunt in reply. Slipping the rest of her way through the surprisingly heavy beads, she waited a second for her eyes to adjust, then paced forward to kneel down by the pair of figures who curled together in the middle of the cushions covering the floor. As her knees hit the cushion, two pairs of eyes opened, and one mouth grinned…but which was which was hard to tell. The gravelly voice that spoke was -definitely- Jamie, though…and -not- in a good mood, so most likely -not- the grin. What’re you doing, Blue? She blinked, confused, and shrugged. Talking to you? She tried. The voice snorted, and a rustle from the darkness revealed itself as Spike sitting up and moving out of range. Lemme clarify…what’re you doing that I don’t know about? That takes you out all damn night? That brings you back beat to hell and gone, and dirtier than a Raver at a Pow-wow? What…are you…doing?
Blue…gulped. I uh…I got stuff, boss. That’s all. You said, long as I’m working, you’re good. You said, when Spike and me got here. She blinked, as a light flared, revealing Jamie’s face all too close to her own, looking rather demonic in the flickering flame of the tiny tea-light candle. I said…yeah, I did. But that’s before I saw. You’re working, yeah. But one-a these days, you won’t be. You’ll be down t’fill, only -in- it, steada on it. Now me, longs it don’t affect the Claires, I don’t give a smack…but Spike, he likes ya, and I’m not liking it when he’s too worried about ya to do his…job, y’hear what I’m saying? She glanced over her shoulder at him, the look on her face softening into as normally…human…as Blue had ever seen. Spike, for his part, kept his eyes down, hiding his face behind his curtains of soft blond hair…but Blue could tell he was upset by the set of his shoulders. So…either y’tell me what’s happening…or I got no choice. I gotta letcha go.