Disclaimer: All characterization of BTVS and Angel belongs to Joss Whedon and the world of Anita Blake belongs to Laurell K. Hamilton.
It had all started rather innocently. Well as innocent as running away ever could. She couldn't handle it and she knew that she couldn't. Seeing everyone that was left was great, she loved them all. But being back, being pulled out of peace and into that hellhole almost destroyed her. So she ran, she ran to the only place Giles had told her to never go to... St. Louis.
St. Louis, the one place in the entire country where she could hide, among the weres, vampires and magically inclined people. Oh, she knew that the rest of the country was different from California. She especially knew that the claptrap of her growing up out of the council's influence was a load of shit. How else could she not have known that Vampires were legal and that Weres were a common thing. She had only found out because the first thing she had done in this new city was spend a week in the library, reading and reading until she finally believed the words floating in front of her. Vampires were citizens and it was illegal to kill them without a written warrant.
A part of her had danced in joy; her job was done. Then reality intruded. She had very little money left, and no job. Where was an ex-slayer to get a job? She'd scoured the newspapers, and found nothing that she would even consider doing for a long period of time. She didn't want to drift from job to job, she wanted something stable."Guess I'll go for waitressing jobs," she muttered and started circling them. "Hopefully they'll take me without check my references."
* * * * *
Buffy looked up at the sky and made a silent prayer. 'Dear Lord, this is the last place. This is my last chance, just give me a little break.' She sighed and looked back at the front, The Lunatic Café. She'd heard it was a were hang out, but she didn't care. She needed a job and she needed money. A last look in the window to check her appearance, freshly pressed slacks and shirt, her hair neatly combed and loose about her head, it looked good, and she stepped in.
And had to pause before she passed out. The power rolling off every single person sitting in this place was overwhelming. Some of them were trying to hide it, but, from her, they couldn't. Her eyes quickly darted around as it seemed everyone was staring at her, some with narrowed eyes, some with smiles.
"Ummm, hi, here for the interview?" she whispered it, but a few people close to her pointed towards the office door. "Thank you." And she walked towards the door, taking deep breaths and muttering to herself not to be nervous. "I can do this," she muttered and then knocked on the door.
"Enter," someone barked out, and Buffy winced.
Upon entering she saw only one person and marched straight towards them.
"And you are?"
"Buffy Summers, I have an interview scheduled for 2."
The man finally looked up at her and smiled. "Have a seat Miss and we'll start the interview."
His hair was tawny, Buffy couldn't quite decide what color it was. Eyes were a greenish-gold, very unusual and his features were sharp. She didn't stare at him for long, but dropped her gaze down to her bag to pull out her resume. When she lifted her head and set it on the table he was still staring at her.
"To start out, Miss Summers, my name is Ronald Drake, and I am currently the manager here. We have to be very selective about who we have working here."
She looked him straight in the eye and couldn't help the little smirk that tilted her lips, "With the number of Weres you have sitting outside, yeah."
His eyes betrayed his shock, but he recovered quickly. "And how would you feel about taking orders from all of them."
"Any previous experience?"
"A bit when I was 16."
"What have you been doing with yourself since then?"
"Went to school for a while, but for the last few months I've been taking a break."
"I find myself in need of a job."
"So you're looking for temp work?"
She took a deep breath to keep from snapping at him. 'God,' she thought, 'Am I being interviewed or interrogated?' That pause made him quirk a brow at her and smirk, but it died when she responded. "No, sir, I need the job because I'm broke. If you don't give me the job then I don't know what I'll have to do, but people must make a living."
He sat there in shock for a moment, "Blunt, aren't we?"
"Well, I thought you wanted to get to the heart of the matter."
"Yes, yes, true. So you want me to be equally blunt?"
She nodded her head, "It would be appreciated, I hate not knowing why people are interrogating me."
"Interrogating..." he whispered it and then laughed under his breath. "Fine, I'll be blunt. Little girl, what makes you think you could work here and not die?"
She bit her bottom lip and held in her laughter, but it was a struggle. Luckily he seemed to think she was thinking about her answer. She shook her head and stood, holding her hand out to him. He smirked again, thinking she was done. But when his hand closed about her small one, it was his turn for shock when the beast inside of him recognized something feral inside of her. She could see it in his eyes and she glared at him. "Little man, what makes you think that there's anything you have that could frighten me?"
She drew her hand back and sat again, brushing imaginary pieces of lint off of her slacks as she waited for him to sit back down.
"You've got balls, little miss." She looked up at him and didn't quite understand. "How'd you hide what you are?"
Her eyes betrayed her confusion. "What do you mean?"
"Your beast, what is it?"
She sat straight up in her chair. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"You don't need to tell me, we'll figure it out by the next full moon." He smirked at her look of shock. "You're hired, you start tomorrow. I'll even be nice and give you an advance to tide you over until you get your first full paycheck. We're closed holidays and most full moons. So your next vacation day is in a month. You will be paid for it." He drew out $300 and handed it to her. "Uniform is anything durable and not too flashy. Customers aren't too rowdy but I don't allow them to touch the help. Let me know if anyone bothers you."
He stood and walked to the door, motioning for her to follow him. She stood, still a little shocked. The money disappeared into her pocket and she preceded him out the door. "You'll have opening shift. Be here by 8a.m."
Buffy looked at him a little stunned. "I'll see you tomorrow?" she sounded a little unsure and knew it.
"Don't be so shocked, little miss. I like you," he grinned at her then and it didn't reassure her at all.
The customers nodded to her as he led her out of the office and towards the bar. "Shelly here will have you fill out all your paperwork. We're paid weekly, so you won't have to worry about that. If you wear something that we don't think you should, the girls usually have spare clothes in the break room in case of accidents and such." Buffy just nodded through all of this, still a bit stunned at it all.
"Shelly," Ronald called, and the little red head down at the end walked towards them.
"Help our newest recruit fill out paperwork."
Shelly looked her over, noticing her height and lack of physical build. "Are you sure Ronnie?"
He just glared at her.
She held up her hands in surrender, "Fine, alright, I'll help her."
After the interview, everything seemed to fall into place. An apartment fell
into her lap, the rent was nice and cheap. The little old lady with the dog
across the hall always worried about her. Didn’t want anything to happen
to such a sweet girl. The other waitresses hadn’t even minded her starting
as it got them out of some of the horrid shifts, like 10pm to God knows when
in the morning. It was the only shift that Buffy could be on time to. Ronald
didn’t understand, but he accepted it.
Buffy shook her head and quit thinking about the first few weeks of her living in this city. ‘It had actually turned out all right and that’s all that matters,’ she thought. ‘Shelly wasn’t as stuck up as she seemed. Just worried because I look like a little doll.’
“Buffy,” Shelly called and waved a hand in front of her eyes. “Come on little doll, the customers are starting to arrive.”
‘She even has the audacity to call me that.’ Buffy moaned silently as she nodded, she’d agreed to work this night, even though Ronnie had given her the chance to back out. It was the night just before the Full Moon, and he was worried about her.
‘Everyone always assumes I’m delicate,’ she snorted, ‘Idiots!’ Shelly looked back at the snort and then motioned for her to hurry. Buffy just sighed and grabbed her paper and pen. Walking out in the front she wasn’t quite knocked down by the power wafting towards her anymore, but it still made her head swim. She bit back on the feral smile that tried to creep across her lips. It was close to the Full Moon and their power was starting to surge. She hid a shudder behind her normal cheerful smile, ‘I can handle this and not pass out.’
She noticed that since her resurrection all her senses were hyped up, all five of the normal ones, plus all the ones that made her a slayer. There were even a few times that it had saved her from being groped by one of the more friendly shifters. Ronnie kept an eye on her though. He was still curious about her “beast” and couldn’t quite figure out why she wasn’t getting frisky like the rest of them. After all, he knew she was only 23 and she shouldn’t have this kind of control yet. She laughed at him each time he tried to figure it out.
Tonight though, there was an extra buzz in the air. More of the shifters were in the Café and that always made Buffy’s mind go fuzzy. So it shouldn’t have surprised her when one of them was actually able to grab her and yank her onto his lap. Her tray went clattering to the floor and she eeped on the way down.
Only to be met by these gorgeous mahogany eyes and long dark hair. His lips curved upwards into a smile, and he would have been a nice boy to play with if he hadn’t touched her. He felt her power and closed his eyes in bliss. Buffy’s head turned and saw Ronnie heading towards her, but the crowd that suddenly surrounded them at this guy’s reaction was holding him back.
She normally kept her contact with the patrons to minimum and she was usually heavily shielding whenever she did. However, being caught by surprise was never any good on keeping her impulses in check, and normally and typically always flew out the window at those times.
“Hey there little girl,” a deep voice rumbled in her ear.
“Put me down you idiot!” she whispered in his ear. Unfortunately this only caused him to tighten his hold.
“But I like you.”
She sighed and checked on Ronnie again, but he hadn’t made it any closer. He opened his mouth to bellow at everyone, but caught the small shake of her head and her mouthed “NO”. He looked perplexed but settled back down and watched.
She heard Shelly in the background as she turned towards the guy again, but couldn’t make out the words. “Ronnie doesn’t like it when we’re bothered.”
He grinned at her again, “Like it really matters to me what that guy wants.”
Buffy moved, trying to wiggle so that she would fall off his lap. ‘Must stay in control, must not deck the man who will give me a lovely tip.’ He only tightened his hold upon her. His hands skimmed up and down her arms, just above the skin. She shivered and glared at him because of it.
She heard him take a deep breath and that’s when she realized he’d stuck his nose in her hair. “You are an interesting little bit of goods.”
“Gross much, get your nose out of my hair!” She reached behind her and placed a hand on the table, balancing herself on his lap a little bit better. “If you do not let me go, I will not be responsible for your damage.”
The guy threw back his head and laughed. He had a nice laugh, she had to admit that, nice and deep and it drew everyone around him to laugh as well. The little gasping noise he made as she decked him was also cute, his head turned sideways and she had a face full of his hair, at least until she fell out of his lap and onto the floor.
She pouted enough to have people see it, “These were brand new pants, and now they’re all dirty.” She tried to glare up at him, but the look of astonishment on his face was enough to have her up and backing away. She knew that look, that was the male ego wound look.
He stood up so abruptly that his chair flew out behind him. The people surrounding them cleared a little circle and all Ronnie could do was sigh and yell at her, “Buffy come here!”
“Ummm, Ronnie, sorta busy.” She stressed every single word as the guy stalked her. Yep, he was stalking her, not a good sign.
“Buffy,” that was Shelly, “if you back away now and come to Ronnie, it’ll end.”
An eye roll and “Sure it will, until the next time one of them wants to play grab-the-Buffy,” was the only answer they received.
The male in question moved quickly and made a grab for her. A quick duck and a smacking of said hand averted that disaster. “Ronnie,” Buffy called, “tell him to back down before he gets hurt.”
Everyone around them started laughing again, even the guy as he advanced on her. “I wouldn’t back down from a little thing like you if you had a gun pointed at me.” She growled at him, and saw the surprise in his eyes. “Give up now little girl, and it’ll end.”
Ronnie took that as his queue, “Buffy, back down and it will stop! He’s a wolf, submit to his dominance and he’ll leave you alone.”
Her eyes narrowed at the word submit. “Submit, as if.” She dodged another lunge, knowing that he was tiring of that game, but she had to keep her job, she liked it here. She moved behind a table to give herself a moment.
“Buffy, I don’t want to see you hurt.” This from Ronnie again, the old fart must really like her.
She sighed, “Ronnie, I don’t want to lose my job, if something goes wrong.”
Everyone around her stilled for a moment, wondering why she was more worried about her job than her well-being.
“You won’t little miss, but there’s no way for you to win this.”
The guy started advancing on her. She backed away slowly. “You promise I won’t be fired.”
“Yes, Buffy, just back away and it will end and you’ll still have life, limb and a job.”
She smirked at the guy and gave Ronnie a thumb’s up. “That’s all I wanted to know, boss-man.”
When the guy lunged this time, he smiled as she didn’t dodge, but he looked confused as she spun. Her foot met the side of his head, wiping the smile off of his face and sending him into the wall.
She walked over to him, her sensible working shoes making nary a sound in the dead silence that followed his flight. He lay propped against the wall, a little dazed from the impact but rather unhurt. She leaned down and grabbed his cheek, shaking it a little like that horrid old aunt at all the family gatherings did. “Did the little puppy fall and go boom?”
She didn’t know what possessed her, but, she guessed, the taunting came naturally. He glared up at her and made to grab her. Lunging up from his previous position on the floor, but oddly enough, his feet didn’t have any traction. And then he couldn’t breath. Buffy had grabbed him by the throat and slammed him against the wall.
“Now listen to me puppy. Leave,” she shook him, “me,” she banged his head against the wall, “alone!”
He nodded his head as much as he was able and she let him fall down the wall again. She smiled beautifully down at him, and then turned her back on him and walked away. “So, Ronnie, can I go home now?”
Ronnie’s eyes narrowed, and Buffy looked confused. “My office now!”
He grabbed her arm and dragged her there, the last thing anyone heard was her voice saying, “But what did I do?”
* * * * *
Ronnie sat down behind his desk and motioned for her to sit. He was almost pleased when she looked a little frightened, until he heard her speak, “But you said I wouldn’t be fired.”
“Buffy, I’m not firing you.” He heard her sigh of relief and was glad when she finally sat. “But I do want to know where you’re going for the Full Moon.”
She put her feet up on his desk, “I’m going to go home and take a nice, long, hot bath and relax. I might go to the gym and work out a little. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine with my day off.”
“That’s not what I mean and you know it Buffy!” He stood and loomed over you. “I want to make sure that you’ll be with whatever group you belong to when the Full Moon rises.”
Buffy sighed and put her feet down on the floor, “How many times must I tell you, I don’t belong to a group. There’s just little ole me.”
“And that display out in the front room?”
She shrugged, “I train, so sue me.”
“You just kicked a werewolf into a wall, and you still deny that you’re one?”
She nodded her head. “I have never gone furry during a Full Moon.”
“And that bite mark on your neck?”
Buffy lifted her hand to it, she always forgot that it was there. Faded, so most people couldn’t see it, but Ronnie wasn’t most people. “Vampire.”
“Any weres get a hold of you?”
She glared up at him, “Not to the point where they drew blood.” She stood and moved to the door, “Are we done?”
“No, sit back down!”
She leaned against the door instead. “Are you sure I can’t have tonight off?”
Ronnie growled a bit and ran his fingers through his hair. “You do know that everyone is going to be curious about you now?”
She nodded her head. “That’s why I tried to get him to back down.” She strolled forward, and place a hand on his shoulder. “I just want to be left alone. This is the best thing that ever happened to me and I don’t want to lose it.”
He patted her head and smiled. “We’ll make it right, little miss.” She smiled and stood on tiptoes to kiss his cheek.
“So, you’ve never told me, what kinda were are you?”
He smirked, “I’m a wolf, the wolf pack owns this café.”
Buffy rolled her eyes and sighed, “Figures. Is anyone going to try to avenge the little dork?”
“Nope, you won fair and square doll-face.” Buffy smiled, 20 questions was over. Thank God! “Go home dear, the girls can handle it for tonight. Just make sure you’re not alone tomorrow night. Shifting alone isn’t really fun, especially when you’re so young.”
Buffy rolled her eyes and called back over her shoulder as she went out the back door, “I told you, I’ve never gone furry, tomorrow won’t be any different!”
* * * * *
* * * * *
The wind was the only thing up here and she loved it. The little bit of roof access she had from her apartment was a blessing in disguise. It was her one night off a month from The Lunatic Cafe, the Full Moon, and she felt compelled to sit in the moonlight with the wind in her face. Tingles ran under her skin and it felt like her blood was humming. She closed her eyes and smiled up at the moon.
'Everything is so different here,' she thought. 'Sunnydale was so tainted that nothing ever felt this pure, this clean, not even my...' she winced away from the one word to describe it, 'peace.' The wind lifted her hair and she giggled as it tickled her face. 'And dear Lord does it feel good to be alone. No one wondering who I am or how I am.'
"Well little Slayer," she turned, crouched, ready to pounce and snarled at the person standing behind her, "you're not completely alone."
"Whistler," her voice dripped venom, "here to tell me that I'm in the wrong place again?"
He stood there, baseball cap and that annoying little face as he studied her. A smile almost made it to his lips and she sat there in shocked silence. "No, little slayer, I'm here to explain some things."
She stared at him, her head tilted a little bit to the side and she could see the laughter bubbling up in him when she did that. And that made her think, she was still crouched, ready at a moment to pounce on him, and... the tingle under her skin had intensified. "Is something wrong with me?"
He knelt down in front of her and smoothed a little bit of hair back from her face. "No, little slayer, everything is finally as it should be."
She backed away quickly, confused by his apparent liking of her. "What is your deal?" She narrowed her eyes, "Have you come to ruin everything? I'm happy, can't you guys just leave me alone?!"
Whistler held his hands up and just sighed, "You're a slayer, nothing in your life will ever be normal, but, no, I'm not here to ruin everything." He looked up at the moon and smiled, "I just was sent to let you know a few things. For once, they didn't want to surprise you with these developments."
She took a step closer to him and hissed at him, "What now?!"
"You've noticed the moon haven't you?"
"Yeah, it's full, so what?" sarcasm dripped from her voice.
"You've noticed that you feel different?" She nodded. "Explain it to me."
She turned away from him and looked up at the moon again, "I feel at peace. I feel a tingle within me, a leaping of my spirit, I've never felt that."
He was suddenly beside her, whispering in her ear. "Your beast wants out to play."
She jerked away from him, spinning and knocking his feet out from under him. "I am not a shifter!"
He chuckled from the ground, staring up at her. "And you're sure of this because?"
"I've never changed on the Full Moon, and I won't tonight."
"Again, I ask, And you're sure of this because?"
She shrugged, "I don't know, I just am!"
"Explain it to me."
She stomped over to him, "Unless you want me to start kicking you in the head repeatedly you will just spit out whatever you came to tell me and quit playing these games."
"Okay, okay, chill, little slayer." Whistler stood and brushed off his clothing. "You're the only slayer in ages to live without a hellmouth under her feet."
Buffy rolled her eyes, "I lived in L.A. for my first few years. Hello, no hellmouth there."
Whistler smirked, "And you're sure of this because?"
"I swear to God if you say that one more time without just spitting everything out I will drop kick you off of this roof!"
He laughed again and held up his hands in surrender. "I'll try, but it's such fun talking to you." He put his hands in his pockets and looked up at her, "Slayers are only activated when they are living on a hellmouth when the previous one dies. Maybe the hellmouth isn't as active as the one in Sunnydale, but still, there is more than one." He shrugged and gestured out towards the city, "Just not in this lovely place."
Buffy plopped down on the edge of the roof, her eyes gone wide at the thought. "And what? They want me to move back to one?"
He shook his head, "No, I told you I wasn't here to ruin your life and that would." He sat down next to her and held her hand, "You're in a unique position. You were never supposed to come back." Buffy tried to jerk her hand away from at that point, but he wouldn't let go. "Willow wasn't supposed to resurrect you." She jerked again. "Be still!" he snapped at her. She drew a deep breath. "But now that you're here, the Powers believe that this could be your reward."
Buffy sucked in another deep breath and let it out slowly. "So I can never go back?"
"That's not what they meant, I know, I asked." He looked at her. "But like I said, you're in a unique position. Half the powers that a slayer inherits is suppressed by a hellmouth."
She stuttered, "Ha-half?"
He nodded and finally let go of her hand, sure now that she wouldn't run away by the next thing he said. "All slayers are shifters, they're born to it."
Buffy's eyes widened in shock. "But the council never said."
"Those old shit-heads didn't know a thing about it. They keep slayers on the hellmouths of the world, under their thumbs never realizing their true potential." He looked at her and grinned, "Well until someone told them where to shove it anyway."
Buffy giggled at that, but then sobered, "So what you said about my beast."
He nodded, "Yep, little slayer, you are a shifter, but you're different."
She breathed a little easier, "Hence the reason I'm under a full moon without being furry?"
He grinned, "Knew you weren't stupid."
"So, what am I?"
He stood up and paced, glancing at her now and then with a little grin, "Well, slayers have to be solitary." Buffy nodded and made the general eyeroll of 'Well Duh'. "And they need to be night hunters."
Buffy sighed, "So what you're saying is that I'm not a wolf, leopard, lion, or any other shifter I'm familiar with because they all like to hang out together."
Whistler nodded and patted her on the head. She smacked him for it. "Stop treating me like a child and spit it out!"
"You're of the family 'Felus lynx'."
Buffy closed her eyes and rolled that phrase around on her tongue, "Felus lynx." She snorted, "So I'm a house cat?"
Whistler snorted. "No you blond idiot, you're a Lynx, not those domesticated little things either. Your heritage goes back before the humans decided that it would be cute to tame them."
She grinned up at him, "I think I could get used to that. Any other surprises?"
Whistler then gave her the general eyeroll of 'Well Duh'. "Have the Powers ever made anything that simple?"
"Not for as long as I've known about them."
Whistler nodded, “You can change at will. You’re an alpha so you can do all this bone re-structuring. They wouldn’t give me the full explanation on it, they wanted you to learn some of it for yourself.”
“If I’m the only Lynx around, how can I do that?”
Whistler shrugged, “Go play with the other shifters?”
“Yeah, because that worked so well last night.”
Whistler just held up his hands in defeat. “You’ll figure it out, you always have before. But at least you don’t have to deal with your beast getting out of control.”
She mentally sighed, ‘Oh, yeah, because I have so much control.’
“So what else?” she asked. “Don’t go disappearing before you tell me all the other things.”
“Oh, just you know, Vampire politics are a bitch, especially if they ever discover that you’re here.” He said it so nonchalantly she almost brushed it off.
“What do you mean, if they figure out I’m here!”
“Well, you know, no Vampires really like a Slayer to be in their town.”
“What about that Anita Blake woman. He’s dating her!”
Whistler scoffed, “And you compare yourself to her?! The Powers will be outraged. She’s human.”
“She’s a necromancer, tied to a Vampire and a Werewolf,” Buffy countered, amused that Whistler was playing along.
“She’s a trumped up little human, just like your friend Willow.”
Buffy moved back like he’d hit her. Bringing up her friends always had that effect on her. Luckily, not many people knew about them here. “And how is the gang?” she whispered.
“They searched for you.”
Whistler shrugged, “I might have told them to leave you alone.”
She looked up at him, “And how’d they take that?”
“The sicced Angel on me.”
“God, it’s like pulling teeth. Tell me what is going on! Do I need to go back? Are they safe?” she practically screamed at him.
“If you cared so much why did you leave?”
She turned away, wrapping her arms around her middle. “You know why.”
“And I made them understand that, little slayer.” Buffy whipped around and stared at him hard. “I told them what you hadn’t.” She shook her head in denial. “It was their punishment from the Powers. To realize what they had done to their friend.”
Buffy felt the tear slip down her cheek. “They weren’t to know.”
Whistler walked closer to her, “She was trying to find you. She was going to take you back to that hellhole, and it would have destroyed you.”
Buffy shuddered and wiped the tear away, “I know.”
“They’ll survive, little slayer. The Powers just want you left alone, you cannot be allowed to tip the balance on a hellmouth. As long as you stay away from one, disaster will be averted.”
She jerked around and snarled at him, the despair gone, “So that’s really why you did it. They don’t care about me, just their precious balance!”
Whistler sighed. “Yes, they think of the bigger picture, but you are also their best. And if they have you near the action, then the evil side of things sends their best. So the Powers gave you a vacation!”
She laughed out full and loud, dancing up onto the edge of the roof. “This is my vacation? Working, learning new skills, and pissing new people off?”
Whistler nodded, “Don’t you love it?”
“I would love more shopping.”
Whistler shrugged, “I’ll put in a request.”
She snorted, “Like that ever gets me anywhere.” She paused and looked up, “So I’m really their best?”
“But am I their favorite?”
Whistler laughed, and went to the edge of the roof with her, “You’re close, you’re very, very close.”
He tugged her back from the edge of the roof and towards her stairs. “Now go get on the net and look up classes for Preternatural Biology. I think you'll find those helpful.”
She turned to ask him why, but he’d vanished. Just like he always did. But she shrugged and decided to call it a night anyway, there was stuff to do now and work to be done tomorrow.
And just as she stepped inside, she missed seeing the salt and pepper coated wolf step out of the shadows. Whistler re-appeared for a moment, “Be warned little doggie, she would have destroyed you if she’d been able to sense you past my aura. Do not make her life any worse because of what you have heard.” And then he was gone and the wolf was running towards the forest.
She’d bounced into work the night after the Full Moon feeling rejuvenated
and completely hyped up. College, she was going to go to college again. She’d
looked it up on her old computer last night. Pages on pages of the local community
college and all the preternatural courses they offered. They even had one or
two degrees for it. And what is more natural for a slayer to have then a degree
in those things she’s supposed to protect the world from?
There was only one obstacle in her way, not losing her job.
She bounced past everyone that was there at 8pm. She’d come in a couple of hours early, to work on Ronnie. The newest employee asking for special treatment, she didn’t know how well it would go over. She stopped at his door as she heard a low murmur of voices. A deep breath and then she knocked.
“Enter!” he barked. He always did that.
She opened the door and peaked her head in, “Am I interrupting anything?” She glanced over the woman sitting in front of Ronnie, the lady seemed to be the same age as Ronnie, but Buffy could tell she was a shifter so she still looked really good.
“No, Buffy, come on in, I have someone for you to meet.”
Buffy stepped in and closed the door behind her, taking another deep breath and turning around to face them. Ronnie and the woman had both stood up. “Buffy, I’d like you to meet my wife, Janice.”
Buffy grinned and walked up to the woman, holding her hand out. “The old rascal never told me he was hitched.” They shook hands and then Buffy stood there awkwardly as the woman examined her. So Buffy returned the favor. Janice was tall, topping Buffy by at least 6 inches, but that made her almost the perfect height for Ronnie. She had long blond hair, it reached almost to her butt, and Buffy didn’t know how she kept it looking so carefully groomed. But it was her eyes that held Buffy the most, a deep blue, and so many thoughts lurking behind them, that Buffy knew this was not a stupid woman.
Janice smiled, and nodded her head at Ronnie a little, “Well, I think the old rascal just forgets about me now and then.”
Ronnie made like he was going to protest, but Janice shushed him.
Buffy giggled, “Now I understand why he’s so protective of me.”
Janice got a puzzled look on her face. “What makes you say that?”
Buffy reached up and started playing with her hair. “He’s just loves us blonds!”
Janice just laughed and pulled Buffy into a hug. “You’re a delightful girl.”
Buffy gave a panicked look to Ronnie but he just rolled his eyes and sat down. “No, you can’t keep her Janice.”
Janice let her go and motioned for her to sit. “Shush, Ronald. Now, Buffy, what brings you to your boss’s office? Not going to quit because Kevin was an idiot last night?”
Ronnie chuckled, “You know, the guy you kicked into my wall last night?”
“Oh, him…” Buffy thought for a moment, trying to come up with the best response. “No, not going to quit, just need to take more judo lessons.”
Buffy looked at both of them, ‘Hopefully that will make them think it’s a martial arts skill.’
Janice smiled and nodded her head, “Yeah, it seemed to work for you.” Then she grinned and Buffy thought that Janice had to’ve picked up that skill from an imp. “He won’t be bothering you again, though. Neither will anyone else.”
“Oh, and why is that?”
Janice just smiled and patted her hand, “That’s for me to know dear, and you might find out later. So spill already, what did you need to see my Ronnie for?”
Buffy looked down at her hands and mumbled.
Ronnie sighed, “Just tell me what you need, little miss, and I’ll see what I can do.”
“I need to change my schedule.” She was still staring at her hands, and didn’t see Ronnie’s eyes widen.
“And why is that?”
“I want to go to college.”
Janice reached and grabbed one of Buffy’s hands, “That’s great dear, Ronnie will work around whatever schedule you can get.”
Ronnie just closed his eyes, “I will?”
Janice kicked his desk, “Yes, you will!”
Buffy giggled and looked up at both of them. “Really?”
Ronnie could take a hint, before his wife decided to beat it into him. “Yes, little miss, I will. We’ve had college students work here before. They end up with the odd schedules that no one wants anyway, and it really gave me the boost I needed to make the café a 24-hour joint.”
Buffy bounced up and hugged them both. “Thank you, thank you, I’ll get my class schedule to you at least a month before the next term starts.”
Ronnie just motioned her towards the door, “Go on now, let me finish trying to charm my wife.”
She mock saluted him and backed out of the door. Running into Shelly as she did.
Buffy grabbed her by the arm and dragged her into the employee lounge.
“Buffy, never call me that again.”
“Alright, Shelly dear, it’s a wonderful day, how’re you?”
“And what has put you in such a chipper mood?”
“I’m going to start college in the fall.”
“Good for you. Now, when are you going to have a night out on the town to celebrate.”
And that is when Buffy knew that she’d backed herself into a corner. She’d been avoiding going anywhere out on the town. Shelly and other staff would always ask her, but she refused and stated that she just wanted to rest up after her move. Now, she had no excuses, well maybe she had one.
“But I’m going to be using all my money for college, Shelly. I can’t afford to go have a night out.”
The gleam in Shelly’s eyes told her that this was a lost cause, “No worries, my treat.”
“We both have Friday off, so be ready to go out and get wild, I’ll come by your place at 8pm to pick you up,” Shelly called as she practically ran out of the room, leaving Buffy no room to argue. And Buffy knew it was no use chasing her, Shelly’s shift had just ended and it was Thursday now.
“Tomorrow is going to suck!”
* * * * *
The day was beautiful, and Buffy had gotten about 6 hours of sleep before the pounding on her door woke her. She blinked blurry eyes open, it was Friday, it was her day off and to sleep in. She looked at the clock and eeped, it was 8pm. Yeah, she had gotten 6 hours, because she’d fallen asleep at 2pm after her 10pm to 7am shift. She’d spent hours filling out paperwork for college before finally giving in to the need for rest.
“Come on Buffy, open the door before you neighbors think I’m not supposed to be here!”
Buffy dragged herself out of bed and towards the door, opening it to reveal a Shelly that was all decked out. A green mini-dress and those stiletto heels, let Buffy know what kind of night it was going to be.
“You’re not dressed!” Buffy rolled her eyes, she was too dressed. The boxer shorts and little lace top were the perfect thing to sleep in.
“Shelly come in, sit down and I’ll be ready in a half hour.”
Shelly marched in and headed straight to the bedroom, “Nope, now I get to choose your outfit.”
Buffy rushed after her, but the damage was already done, Shelly was buried in her closet, picking up and discarding a majority of the clothes that Buffy had with her. Thank God she’d only brought a bare minimum, and hadn’t gone on big shopping sprees yet. Her wardrobe was very limited. Still, she knew of one outfit in there that she hadn’t been able to resist bringing.
And by the noise Shelly finally made, she’d found it. “This is perfect, Buffy dear.”
The low slung black leather pants, and silver halter-top that she pulled out were Buffy’s worst nightmare. Well not really, they looked good on her, but she didn’t really want to go out.
“Here,” and they were flung at her, “go change, and make yourself pretty.” Shelly moved to go back in the living room. “And if you don’t, I will.”
Buffy took that threat for what it was, if she didn’t come out looking her best, Shelly would use her as a life-size dress-up doll. “Perfect, just perfect.”
But Buffy delivered, and in a half hour she walked into the living looking like she wanted to go out and have fun. Her hair was pulled up with only a few curly tendrils left hanging down. She’d used a majority of silver make-up to go with her halter-top, and even done her eyes in that “cat’s eye” style. She’d giggled as she’d done it, thinking how appropriate it was now. She still hadn’t gotten comfortable enough with the thought to change, but she was getting to know her beast. By the time she was done getting ready, both of them were ready to go out and have a little fun.
“Let’s get the party started, Shells.” Buffy grinned when the other woman scowled at the name. But Buffy did turn as indicated when Shelly made the circle motion.
“Looking good, just like a little doll.” And Shelly grinned at Buffy’s scowl. “Let’s go have some fun.”
* * * * *
They’d gone to pretty normal places that Buffy had started to relax and enjoy herself. Just a couple of bars, where the bartenders were nice and there was music to dance to. And Buffy attracted a lot of dancers when she finally got out there and started. She was buzzed just enough not to care, and in tune with her beast just enough to pick up that smooth, sensual style so reminiscent of cats.
Shelly would drag her away before anything got too serious though. Laughing each time Buffy protested and responding that there were better things on the horizon. Though, Buffy did have to admit that she was right, each place they went to was better than the last. Shelly said she was saving the best place for last.
It wasn’t until about 2 in the morning that Shelly deemed it the right time to go to that last place. And Buffy became antsy the closer they got to it. Shelly was taking her out of the normal part of the city. Buffy had never been this way, she’d heeded Whistler’s advice and stayed away from any Vampire districts. But she was tipsy enough that she didn’t realize it until Shelly pulled her out of the cab and pushed her past the bouncer and into Guilty Pleasures.
Buffy pulled back sharply, almost pulling Shelly off of her stiletto heels in the process. “No, Shelly, tell me this isn’t the place I think it is.” Buffy dragged them back outside and stared up in dismay at the blood red sign. She quickly looked around for the cab that had just dropped them off, but he’d already gotten out of the area.
“You’ll love it Buffy!” Shelly grinned at the thought, “A strip club, full of the most gorgeous men.”
Buffy leaned in and hissed in her ear, “They’re all Vampires!”
Shelly snorted, “They’re some shifters here.”
“Shelly! That doesn’t matter.” Buffy started walking off, but Shelly grabbed her arm and dragged her back.
Buffy blinked, “I promised?”
Shelly nodded, “You said you would go any place with me tonight.”
Buffy thought back a couple of bars, and groaned. She had promised, a Tequila Sunrise and she promised that she wouldn’t back out on what Shelly had planned. Buffy looked up at the sign again, and just felt like there should be blood running down off of the sign.
“Come on, please…” Shelly begged, slowly inching them closer to the door again. Buffy caved, Shelly was a friend and really wanted to be here.
“Just not for long, okay Shell?”
Shelly nodded and quickly dragged Buffy back towards the club and past the bouncer. He nodded to Shelly and smirked at Buffy. “Go on in little lady, no one will do anything you don’t want them to.”
Buffy glanced at the bouncer, “We can only hope.” And then she was in, she had promised after all. It couldn’t be that bad, they’d get a table in the corner and she’d avoid everyone. And she’d have something to shock Giles with when she called or wrote to him, but she’d make sure he was sitting down first… and that she had emergency services on speed-dial.
‘This is exactly why he always forbade me to come to these cities.’
Shelly dragged her inside, chattering the entire time about the people here she knew. Then Buffy saw the sign on the door, “No crosses, crucifixes, or other holy items allowed inside,” and she almost protested again. Reaching for the cross that hung down into the top of her halter and closing it in a fist.
A human woman walked up to them and held out a box. “Place your cross in here and we’ll return it to you before you leave tonight.”
Buffy almost protested and then swallowed it at the look on Shelly’s face. The look that said, ‘Don’t argue or else!’ So Buffy reached up and undid the clasp, and placed it in the box. The cross wouldn’t help her if things went bad anyway. Shelly paid special attention to the chain, she reached her hand out towards it and then hesitated.
“Is that silver?” Shelly asked.
Buffy nodded absently as she fingered the cross, the cross that Angel had given her. She’d had it forever, it had been with her through so much, but she let it stay in that box. She still gave the woman taking it from her a good glare, “This is precious to me, lose it and I will not be happy.”
The woman just handed her a little piece of paper with a number on it, “This will get it back for you at the end of the night.”
Shelly dragged Buffy away, “So you’re really not a Were?”
The question was whispered, but Buffy heard the almost disappointed edge to it. “Why would you say that?”
Shelly looked at her like she was stupid, “Weres are highly allergic to silver.” Shelly looked at her neck, “And you show no ill affects to wearing that necklace almost 24/7.”
“Oh,” Buffy muttered. “I told Ronnie I didn’t go furry at the Full Moon, but he never believed me.” Buffy pointed to an empty table that was in the corner. “Let’s go to that one.”
Shelly dragged her heels, “No, there’s an empty one at the edge of the stage.”
Buffy glanced at it, and then at the stage, where some guy was stripping down to his skivvies. She whimpered, ‘God, he’s gorgeous,’ and then her slayer sense went haywire and it turned into, ‘I really don’t wanna be here!’ She looked longingly at the table in the back corner, “But Shelly, that one is secluded.”
Shelly looked at her like she was nuts, “And it’s too far away from the stage!”
Buffy hung her head in defeat, and then thought, ‘Maybe if I give in, the night will end sooner, and I can get out of here with no one figuring things out.’ She looked up at the ceiling as Shelly dragged her to the little table up front. ‘Whistler just warned me two days ago, and before the warning I was doing so good!’
A nice little waitress came around and got their drink orders. Shelly was still going strong with all the alcoholic stuff, but Buffy opted for water. The hairs on the back of her neck were standing on end. She glanced at the stage again and accessed, ‘He’s new to this. It can’t be him.’ And then, of course, the female half of her brain took over.
“He’s kinda cute, Shelly.”
Shelly just looked at her and grinned, “And just think, with us being this close, he’ll come and get close to us.”
Buffy’s eyes widened at that point and she sunk lower into her chair. Shelly tried to pry her back into a normal sitting position but finally gave up and got into the show. Shelly was getting along with the crowd too, bellowing and making noise, drawing attention to their little table. Buffy just sank further into her chair, wishing for a coat, a blanket, and a way out without breaking her promise.
At one point she tried to make a break for it. The dancer, if that’s what you called those kind of moves, had Shelly’s total attention and Buffy tried to slip out. Chanting to herself the entire time, ‘Shelly will forgive me, Shelly will forgive me.’
But just as she almost had her cross back so she could make the mad dash home, that damn hand came out and dragged her back to the table. “Come on Buffy, enjoy life a little.”
Buffy snorted, “I’d enjoy it if I was at home sleeping.” Buffy glanced at her watch, they’d only been here an hour. “How much longer Shelly?”
Shelly rolled her eyes and sighed, “Alright, you’re not enjoying yourself at all, but can we at least stay for one more show. I really like this next guy, very good dancer.”
“Sure, that’s why you like him.” Buffy smirked as Shelly tried to look innocent. “Fine, one more show, but just because you’re my friend. And if any of them touch me, I’m not responsible for what happens.”
Shelly nodded, thinking back to the other night and what had happened to the café. “That won’t happen here, the owner’s girlfriend would have a fit.” Shelly giggled and led Buffy back to their table.
They sat and Buffy huddled in her chair, now wishing that she’d worn something that covered just a little bit more of her upper body. ‘As long as none of them touch me, I’m safe,’ she chanted it in her head. Completely ignoring everything around her. ‘Just another half an hour, please God just let me get out of here soon.’
And as the 30 minutes slowly ticked by, the only thing in her head was ‘This is going to ruin my vacation. They’ll hunt me and force me back on my slaying job. I’ll miss out on college again. I’ll have to quit working at the café.’ The diatribe in her mind continued until she realized there was a sudden silence in the crowd. It was enough to force her to take in her surroundings again. ‘Stupid to let my guard down anyway.’ Someone was announcing closing time, so Buffy thought that she was safe, and bent down to make sure her pants were still over her boot-tops when that slayer sense kicked in again, reminding her that she hadn’t found the source of the “hair on the back of her neck” syndrome.
“Are you not enjoying yourself?” The vampire’s voice tingled down her back, reminding her of Dracula. She gave him a once over, long black hair, aristocratic face, blue eyes, and out of date clothing. Yep, she was in trouble.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, “Just thinking.”
‘Please go away, please go away,’ she chanted inside her head again.
Shelly was staring at them in shock. She hadn’t known he was going to be here tonight, and then she prodded Buffy.
“Quit it Shelly!” she snapped, and luckily that got the Vamp’s attention off of her.
“The beautiful Shelly,” he glided towards her and kissed her hand, “How’s the café?”
“Everything is going well, business is good,” she said it a little breathlessly, and Buffy almost gagged.
‘I need to go,’ and without thinking it through she stood up to leave.
Shelly looked at her with a pleading glance, and the Vamp’s attention returned to her. “Shelly, introduce me to your friend.”
Shelly quickly stood and dragged Buffy back the couple of steps she’d taken towards the door. The rest of the club wasn’t paying them any attention now, the final act had started, and Buffy wanted to keep the attention away from her so she didn’t protest being pulled back.
“Buffy Summers, meet Jean-Claude, owner of Guilty Pleasures.”
Buffy nodded to him, “Pleasure.”
He looked at her curiously, and did one of those Vampire moves to grab her hand. Probably to kiss it like he had done Shelly’s, but her hand wasn’t there anymore. She’d jerked back by instinct. Years of training made it so that her body responded before her mind caught up completely. And the puzzled look in his eyes was almost worth it.
“I would not have harmed you,” he said it softly; she could tell he wasn’t sure what she was. “Buffy Summers, I have heard that name somewhere.” He tapped one long finger on his chin and tried to remember.
“Maybe Ronnie or Janice has mentioned me, I work at the café now.”
“Yes, yes that must be it.” Still he looked her over. “You’re not entirely comfortable around us are you?”
Buffy detected a hint of amusement in his voice and she barely held back a snort. “A little uncomfortable, but I don’t like these types of clubs anyway.” She gestured to the guy gyrating on the stage, and hoped he got the wrong impression.
“That is a selective taste.” He gave a sidelong glance to Shelly, “And friends should understand that.”
Shelly looked like she was cringing under his gaze and Buffy barely hid back tripping him to make it stop. “Shelly didn’t know until too late, but she wanted to be here… so here I am too.” And she held out her hands, indicating the club, but he took it as an invitation to examine her.
He looked perplexed. “You do not like Vampires?”
She looked down at her feet and refused to answer. ‘I finally got him to be blunt,’ she thought, ‘and now I don’t want to answer his question.’
His gaze lingered for a moment on her neck, but then he smiled at her. “Are you afraid of us because of that incident?”
She realized that he smiled because he thought he’d figured it out. “Yeah, this.” She raised her hand to it. “It was a bad experience, and I’d rather not repeat it.”
“Well do not worry,” and this time she wasn’t fast enough and he pulled her under his shoulder like she was an old friend. “None here will harm you, or they will answer to me.” He leaned over and made to kiss her temple, like she was a child or something.
‘They always think I’m a child,’ she thought as she started to pull back. This caused him to tighten his hold on her, trying to do the male dominance thing she guessed, and his skin touched hers. Then all thought stopped when she felt him he stiffen.
‘Could he figure it out from one little touch?’ But that thought died as she fought the need to get him away from her anyway possible, even if it meant her first change being in the middle of the club.
He glared at Shelly, and pushed Buffy towards her. “Bring her to my office, now!”
Shelly actually quivered under his gaze and followed him as he glided towards the back. “What is going on Buffy?”
Buffy just sighed and shook herself out of Shelly’s hold, and followed the “head” vampire of the area. She knew his name, and had, to this point, made it habit to avoid him.
When Shelly and Buffy had finally closed the door behind them to Jean-Claude’s
office, he was already behind his desk and leaning on it. He seemed to have
calmed back down already and this puzzled Buffy. Shouldn’t he be ordering
her out of his town or something?
Jean-Claude motioned for both of them to sit, and Buffy waited for Shelly to take the chair further from the door.
“So, Buffy, who has put that spell on you child?”
Buffy’s head jerked up and she stared at him in shock. “Spell?”
He leaned back and looked her straight in the eye. She could feel him trying to grasp her, hold her, do something, and her beast just slithered out of his grasp. Shadows were all he saw, and Buffy controlled her facial expressions very carefully. She might still be able to pull out of this without him knowing.
“You have a protection spell built up all around you.”
Shelly gasped and Buffy looked shocked. “A protection?”
Jean-Claude nodded his head. “I must know.”
Buffy’s sense went off again. “Why?”
Jean-Claude just sighed, “You had no knowledge of this spell, that is apparent, it lacks your essence. If there is a witch within my city doing this, I must take care of it.”
Buffy shook her head and glanced at Shelly. “I don’t know anyone like that.”
Shelly finally spoke up, “It’s true, this is her first night doing anything but working and sleeping.”
Jean-Claude looked amazed at this, but Buffy saw a thirst in his eyes. Finally, her senses were getting in gear. ‘I’ve heard this about him,’ she thought. ‘Power, that’s all he cares about, no rules, only the power to uphold his way of things.’ She looked down at her lap. ‘I really need Giles, maybe this is why he had me avoid St. Louis in particular. He never told me why.’
“Buffy,” Shelly reached out and held her hand, “do you feel alright?”
Buffy glanced at Jean-Claude, the way he was dressed, realizing what century he was most fond of, she almost smirked at how easy this was going to be. The little girl she used to be crept out, and into her voice when she replied, “I’m really tired Shelly. All of a sudden.” She grasped Shelly’s hand tight and let a little tear bud up in her eye. “I’m confused by all of this, I just want to start college next month.”
Shelly nodded and patted her hand, her glance going to Jean-Claude, “Can I take her home?”
Buffy glanced at him too, the bit of a tear still held in her eye, and she could see the protest trying to form on his lips. ‘He’s slipped his hand, tried to jump on me like I was just a child, thinking I’d trust the big bad Vampire that knows all.’ She snorted in her head. ‘They always fall for the little girl act, it would only be better if I was wearing a t-shirt and chewing bubble gum.’
He stood and walked to her side, reaching to clasp the hand that Shelly wasn’t holding. Watching her every move and facial expression, trying to detect the lie he could almost smell. His hand closed about hers and Buffy had to clamp down tightly on her beast and hold with all her might.
‘This is the defense mechanism,’ Buffy thought, understanding finally, what her beast wanted earlier, ‘Little kitty wants to come out to rend the foul thing from the planet.’ Unbeknownst to her, the tear finally fell down her cheek and that, more than anything else, clinched it for the vampire. Not usually known for his soft-heartedness, his next statement made Shelly gape at him.
“It is alright, little one, just go home and rest. Shelly will never bring you back here again. The night has upset you.” He glanced at Shelly to make this stick; “You should have never brought this child out here, especially dressing her like that!”
Shelly meekly nodded.
“Now take her home, and let Ronald know that she needs a couple days off to recover from your stupidity.”
Buffy opened her mouth to defend Shelly, but Jean-Claude placed a finger over her lips. “Non, do not protest. You will be paid still, and Ronald will think nothing less of you for it.”
Buffy meekly nodded and pulled her hand from his as she stood.
“There will be a cab waiting for you out front.” He showed them to the door, and Buffy breathed a sigh of relief as they stepped out into the empty club. Her beast calmed, but was still keeping a watch on the unnatural thing. Only a few people, real humans, still lingered, idly talking, the music was low and the girl who’d taken her cross was waiting for her as they reached the door.
“Here you are Ms. Summers,” and the girl assisted her with placing the cross around her neck. “A cab has been called for you and will take you to your homes. Jean-Claude has already paid the gentleman, to make up for the little fiasco the night turned into. I hope you at least enjoyed your evening a little bit, and hope that you will come again.”
They were quickly ushered out into the cold night and into a cab. Shelly even walked Buffy to her door, apologizing the entire way, and promising to let Ronnie know about taking the next couple of days off.
“No, Shelly, I’ll come in.”
“Buffy, just take it. You looked zonked, girl, take the time, finish registering for classes.”
At that Buffy gave in. “I could use the time to concentrate on what I want to do.”
“Yes, now go sleep and I’ll buzz you tomorrow.”
* * * * *
The phone is actually what woke her up in the morning. She fumbled and grabbed hold, she didn’t know how many times it rang before she had it. “What?” she mumbled into the phone.
“Buffy?” It was a male voice, of that she was sure.
“Yes, that’s who you called, now what do you want?”
“It’s Ronnie, little miss, come open your door and let me know what happened!”
She glanced blurrily at the clock. “It’s 10 in the morning Ronnie.”
“And I’m at your door with Starbucks,” she could hear the grin in his voice, because the phone was quickly dropped, a robe shoved over her sleepwear and the door open.
He handed her the large cup of mocha and followed her into her apartment. He ignored her as she curled up in a chair and moaned as she sipped the lovely chocolate flavored coffee.
“It’s a nice little place you have here.”
She didn’t reply, her senses completely occupied with the cup of heaven in front of her lips.
He walked up to a wall and ran his hand over it. “The complex did a really nice job repairing all the damage Anita’s mishaps caused.”
Now that statement has Buffy jerking awake. “What?”
He laughed, “You didn’t know? This is Anita Blake’s old apartment.”
“I only cared that it was decent, cheap and on the bus-route.” She rolled the thought over in her mind and shrugged it off. She was bound to meet the woman sooner or later with the way the past week had been going. “So what do you want to know?”
“I thought Shelly would have told you.”
“No, I got a call last night from Jean-Claude.” Buffy did the expected gasp and hid her smirk behind the coffee cup. “All he would divulge was that the young college student I had working would need a couple days off, and that he would compensate me for the pay I was to still pay you.”
Buffy couldn’t help it, she giggled. Blame it on the coffee, the hour, or just the fact that the big bad Vampire was once again thinking she was a child.
“He also said that I was to keep an eye on our patrons, looking for anyone staring at you constantly and mumbling things. He seems to think you have a spell on you that wasn’t of your own design.”
She tucked her legs up under her, “Ronnie, what do you really want to know?”
Ronnie sat down next to her, “Were you hurt?”
“No, you old rascal.”
“Was Jean-Claude really nice to you?”
“Where’d you hear that?”
He shrugged, “Heard it from Shelly this morning, when she called me panicked about what had happened last night.”
“Yes, the big bad Vampire thinks I need protection. And that I’m too young to be dragged about town by elder women going to strip joints.”
Ronnie snorted, “Do you have a spell on you?”
Buffy took a large gulp of her coffee, “Have no clue, and I don’t really care. It kept him from invading my mind.”
Ronnie’s eyes widened. “Can I have one done on me?”
She giggled again, and poked him with her finger, “You’re his animal to call, no spell would help.”
He shrugged, “I would like to try though.”
“Is that it, can I go back to sleep now?”
Ronnie shook his head and held out a check, “Here’s your check, with the gift money that Jean-Claude sent you.” Ronnie stood up and walked towards the door, throwing over his shoulder, “Janice will be here by 2pm to take you on a shopping trip.”
Buffy almost spilled her coffee. “Did you say shopping?”
Ronnie turned, just before her front door, “Yes, little miss, my wife seems to think you need to be adopted.”
And just as he before he closed the door, “Does that mean I can call you Papa?”
He peaked his head back in, “Maybe you brat!” And then her door closed.
She stood up and danced around the room. “Shopping, shopping, I’m going shopping!” she chanted.
Buffy spent the intervening hours going through her course catalogue some more. This experience was going to be so different from Sunnydale, there were normal classes, but all this preternatural stuff. That’s what really interested her. ‘Why can’t the stupid council send Slayers to places like this? It would make identifying all the baddies from the goodies that much easier.
‘But,’ Buffy finally decided, ‘I’m only going to take three classes. I don’t want to stress myself out.’ She picked up a pen and circled the three, Biology – Preternatural Creatures, Myths and Legends – Fact or Fiction?, and some entry level math course that she wanted out of the way. She still hadn’t figure out what her major was going to be, but she glanced at the clock, ‘It’s 1 o’clock and I need to get dressed.’
Janice made it to her apartment it was closer to 2:30, and Buffy was waiting, impatiently, on the edge of her seat, thinking of all the lovely things to buy. ‘Stupid Vampire trying to buy me off,’ Buffy looked at her checkbook again, ‘It’d be irony for him if I used this lovely number to go buy a lot of weapons just to beat his ass into the ground.’
Buffy glared at the clock again, it seemed to be taking forever to tick every second by. ‘Stupid vampire, why the hell do they always fall for that act?’ She lifted her hand and twirled a finger in her hair, putting on that simpering face she’d learned that one Halloween night, ‘I’m just an innocent little girl, don’t see me as a threat, even when you feel what I am.’
She stood and looked in a mirror, checking her appearance again, she was wearing jeans, a Dingoes Ate My Baby t-shirt and a pair of sensible sneakers. ‘I don’t look that young! Idiots, all of them, they all deserve to be dusted!’
Janice only had the time for one quick rap on the door before Buffy pulled out of her reverie and they were halfway down the stairs heading towards the shopping day. Janice laughed the entire way. “Well I see someone is excited.”
“Shopping, does a body good!”
“Ronnie wants us home in time for dinner,” Janice cautioned, “But we’ve still got until just before sunset to shop.” Janice motioned to the blue GMC Jimmy sitting at the curb, “Want me to drive?”
Buffy grinned, “Considering I walk everywhere, I think that would be a good thing.”
“We need to get you a car! Relying on the bus to get to classes just will not do.”
Buffy shook her head, “I do not drive, at all.”
They both climbed up and into the car. “And why is that, my dear?”
“Because I have wrecked every single vehicle I have ever driven.”
Janice laughed, and took off like, Buffy imagined, a bat out of hell on a cold winter’s night would. “I’ll teach you a thing or two.”
“How to wreck them faster?” Buffy whispered out as she closed her eyes.
“Oh, come on, I thought you kids now a-days wanted to go faster.”
Buffy peaked her eyes opened and saw them barely miss clipping the tailgate of a car, “Fast, yes, fast is good.” Another close one had Buffy wincing and closing her eyes, “But I’d like to live to see my next birthday.”
Janice’s eyes narrowed, but Buffy didn’t see, “And you’re going to be what? 18?”
Buffy’s eyes opened and went very wide, “Please, tell me that I don’t look that young!”
Janice laughed, “If Ronnie hadn’t told me that you were 23, I would never have guessed it. What’s your secret dear?”
Buffy just groaned and sank low in her seat, “I don’t have one. It’s a curse.”
The conversation died down a bit, it seemed Janice was taking her towards the other side of the city for their shopping spree. Buffy was just glad that Ronnie had made it so that they’d be back to the normal part of town before the Vampires woke up.
The vehicle pulled into a parking spot and Buffy got out, it was a street lined with nothing but boutiques. Clothes, shoes, more clothes, all housed in shops that she didn’t know like the back of her hand.
“Let’s get to it dear,” Janice finally got a good look at her t-shirt. “We really need to get you some new casual wear.”
And about 4 hours later, they met Ronnie at home for dinner. Buffy’s shopping bags were safely tucked in the back of the SUV, and someone other than Ronnie was cooking dinner. Ronnie managed a café, and the café served food, but Ronnie couldn’t do anything but burn it all.
“So, college,” Ronnie started as he got everything set on the table. “What made you suddenly decide this?”
Buffy thought for a moment, “And old acquaintance mentioned it, and I thought why not? I had a lot of family problems to deal with the last time I tried, might as well give it another go now that I’m alone.”
“Alone? What happened dear?” That was Janice, her mother side coming out again; she’d been doing it all day, worming all these little details out of Buffy about her life.
“Mom had a tumor,” she took a sip of her cold lemonade and stared out into the forest, “they removed it, but there were complications, she died soon after.”
Janice was suddenly there and hugging her, “And your dad?”
Buffy snorted, but returned the hug, “Probably in some busy city with his latest new woman.”
Everyone quieted after that, lost in their own thoughts for a moment. The wind here was just like that on her apartment roof, soothing, caressing, and it made Buffy wonder more about changing.
“What’s it like?” the question just slipped out. “Being a lycanthrope?”
Both Janice and Ronnie looked at each other helplessly. “There’s not really a way to describe it,” Janice finally said.
“Can’t you try?”
Ronnie nodded, “It’s like being connected to the earth, to your pack,” he grabbed Janice’s hand, “to those you love, but on a completely different level than you were before.”
Buffy gazed out into the forest again, letting their words sweep over her.
“You have a completely other life inside of you,” Janice continued, “one that has it’s own instincts and desires, but it really is just another aspect of yourself.”
“It sounds wonderful,” Buffy murmured, hearing the purr inside her head as she paid attention to her beast.
Janice quickly grabbed her hand again, “There are down-sides to it as well.”
Buffy looked up at her in confusion, “What are those?”
“Most people are scared of you, and you can’t really hold a normal job.”
Buffy thought back to her life on the hellmouth and shrugged, “Those don’t really matter in the grand-scheme of things.”
“Buffy, don’t go out and intentionally become infected. It’s a very life-altering experience, think really hard before you do,” this from Janice.
Buffy laughed, “You mean you don’t think I am? Ronnie sure does.”
Janice just pointed to her necklace, “It’s silver, I saw you buy the polish for it today.”
Ronnie groaned, “You really do need those college classes. Lycanthropes are allergic to silver. Even just touching it causes burns.”
Buffy picked up her cross and stared at it in shock, ‘Did Whistler lie to me? But I feel it inside of me.’ She pushed at it mentally and heard it yowl in her mind creeping forward to initiate the change. Buffy quickly pushed it back down, ‘Can’t do this here, I’ll have to do it later.’ She looked at Ronnie and Janice, and smiled, ‘I’ll do it tonight when I get home, after all I still have tomorrow off of work.’
Janice waved a hand in front of Buffy’s face, “Earth to Buffy, come on back and enjoy you’re extended weekend.”
Buffy laughed at that and looked up, “Are you sure?” Buffy looked at Ronnie and smirked, “I could always come into work tomorrow and then take my normal two days off.”
Ronnie shook his head, “And have Jean-Claude bust my ass for working the petite child to exhaustion? Sorry, no, I’d rather avoid that.”
Janice chuckled, “If he could have seen her going through the shops today, he would not have worried about it.”
“Hey!” Buffy butted in, “I wasn’t that bad, and you were the one urging me on.” She picked up the hem of her t-shirt, “You seemed to really want me out of this shirt.”
Janice looked at the shirt again and just shook her head. “I cannot believe you are wearing a shirt for a rock band call ‘Dingoes Ate My Baby’, it’s just disgusting.”
Ronnie took a second glance at the shirt and just closed his eyes, “You went through all those expensive boutiques that I know Janice loves, wearing that?!”
Buffy shrugged, “Someone didn’t tell me we weren’t going to a mall.” She looked pointedly at Ronnie, who had the grace to look away. “Anyway, I loved seeing everyone pale when they read it.”
“Yes, very amusing,” Janice’s voice dripped sarcasm. “But enough on the shirt, I’ll burn it for you later. The food is just about done and it’s time to eat!”
It was almost midnight by the time Ronnie and Janice called it a night. “Some
of us have to work tomorrow,” was Ronnie’s comment when Buffy whined
about the early hour.
“I’ll drive you home, and we’ll see about getting you some driving lessons,” Janice said as they walked through their house to the garage.
“I could always walk home,” Buffy commented. “Ronnie can give me my bags tomorrow.”
Janice just grabbed her purse and kept walking, “Sure, with the trouble you seem to attract, we’d be filing a missing person’s report.”
Buffy had to admit, when she saw how far out they lived, she was glad of the ride. “You really live out in the sticks don’t you?”
Janice just nodded and set the last of the shopping bags in the living room, “Yeah, it’s more relaxing away from all the hussle of the city.”
Janice pulled Buffy into an unexpected hug, “Give us a call if you need any help at all.”
Buffy nodded and backed away slowly, “Don’t worry,” and with that reassurance Janice was gone, and Buffy breathed a sigh of relief. She wanted to try it, and if she didn’t do it tonight it would take her forever to get up the nerve again. This was going to change her life forever, she just knew it, but would it be a positive change?
Buffy grabbed a non-descript bag, a change of clothes and her house key and was out the door. Making sure that Janice really was gone before she stepped out of the apartment building and turned towards the nearest forested place she knew. It was a quick run, the streets were empty so she didn’t worry about going all out.
She had to breath deep the entire time, her stomach was in knots, her mind was whirling and now that she’d made the decision the kitty inside was very impatient. Buffy stopped when she was a few hundred feet into the woods and in a little clearing. She’d done a little research, she knew that the change could be messy.
“I can do this,” she muttered it under her breath. A quick look around found her a hiding place for the bag of clothing and the sneakers she removed from her feet. Another deep breath and she was sitting on the forest floor trying to relax completely. “Don’t fight it, just let it happen.”
She sank into her own mind, and realized the truth behind what Ronnie and Janice had described earlier. A connection was buried deep inside, a connection to earth and home, a connection to family and friends, and, most of all, a connection to the mystical spirit that made her how she was. Mental fingers ran through fur and over the stub tail, she couldn’t see it, but she knew that the fur was shades of gray to black. The body was something different, but it still felt like this was her, this was still Buffy.
And with that realization she slipped, and she felt it. Not pain, but changing. A crackle intensified across her skin and through her mind, until she felt the wind ruffle fur. Her entire body shook and tried to adjust itself. A small step and there it was, a paw. Her human mind could barely grasp it, but the feral side of her was already off and running. There was a scent on the air. It was familiar, and held the musk of fur and… she shook her head again, there wasn’t a word to describe it. Family but not. Friend but not realized. Connection waiting, but to what?
She slowed, closing her eyes and wallowing her senses in the scent trace. It was getting stronger, but she didn’t know where she was or how far she’d gone, but she was at the edges of a property. A house set back from the road, some type of vehicle parked in front, and it smelled of cat.
She crept close, staying in the shadows. Twitching at every little change in sound, one slow step at a time, with her belly as close to the ground as possible. Greenish yellow eyes stayed trained on the lights coming out the sliding glass door. People were there, but they smelled of the Forest, they smelled of the earth. And she froze completely when the door opened and someone walked out.
It was male, she could tell that by scent. She watched him closely; he seemed to be searching the shadows for something. His long hair was teased by the wind and brought a stronger scent towards her, vanilla. The light was too dim for her to make out colors, but he had a look of innocence about him, but he wasn’t a child.
A growl almost slipped out her throat as someone joined him on the porch. Female, this one was definitely female. Smaller than the male, but her aura was much stronger. Buffy couldn’t sort out the scent that was drifting to her from them. The woman was a complicated mixture, she smelled of earth and death, of cat but more human than the male did.
“Nathaniel,” Buffy was startled that she could still understand human speech, “what is it?”
The woman’s hand drifted to her back, reaching for a weapon, Buffy knew the move intimately. “I don’t know,” the voice was soft and hesitant. “I thought I felt something, but it went away when you came out.”
Buffy was startled, he could sense her, how could he sense her?! She mentally shook it off and continued to watch. The woman touched his arm and drew him back, “Come back inside, we need to get to bed soon.” The woman waited for him to get inside before she followed him, never turning her back to the dark.
Once the door was closed and the lights had gone off and stayed off for a while, Buffy crept closer again. This was all very interesting, but she needed to know why she had been drawn here. She scouted the yard and found a tree not too far from the back that would suit her purposes. She rubbed up against it, marking it, making sure she could find her way back to it. The house stayed silent, and Buffy was too keyed up to stay put tonight, so she took off running again, never noticing the pair of eyes that watched her from the window.
* * * * *
The night was a revelation to her. There were so many things out there that ran when you were human that didn’t when you were changed. Vampires drifted through the woods and didn’t sense their danger. Buffy stalked them until she realized that they never killed their “donors”. She followed scent traces, just for the fun of it. She ran and ran just to see if she would get winded quickly in this body, but it had as much stamina as her human one, maybe more.
The best part was when she discovered her new love, trees. Oh, to be able to jump with such agility from one branch to the other, until she was so high she could see above the forest was a rush like no other. She lazed about on one of the branches, sitting in the moonlight, dozing until the dawn, meditating on what this new aspect could do.
She realized that this form was rather large; she was about the size of a Great Dane. Thinking through her strategy, wanting to spy on that house, she realized this would never work. They would view her as a wild animal, and even if they were lycanthropes they would still call animal control on her.
That’s when this instinct prodded her, and she thought about being small, as small as a house cat. It shouldn’t have been possible, there’d been a study and lycanthropes retained their mass at the end of the change. But there she was, sitting high up in a tree and no bigger than a kitten.
Then the other problem hit her, and she changed back to her lynx shape as she hopped down the branches and took off towards the city. ‘They’ll sense that I’m not an animal.’ She sped up and went all out again. It was getting close to dawn and she wanted to be in that tree by then, watching the house. Another instinct though was telling her something different and she headed towards the one place she was guaranteed to have a lycanthrope touch her, the Lunatic Café.
Shelly was working the late shift, and as Buffy got close she shifted down to that small size again. She crept around back and waited, Shelly would come out for a smoke break. It didn’t take long, it never did on this shift.
The red head walked outside and leaned against the wall, taking a long drag on her cigarette, almost dropping it when she felt something rub up against her legs. She looked down and Buffy could see her heart melting. A little kitten, rubbing up against your legs in the cold of late night/early morning and she did what every animal loving person would, she bent down and picked it up.
“Aren’t you the cutest little thing?” she baby talked, and Buffy almost gagged. A purr was forced out instead and she rubbed her head against Shelly’s chin. Buffy spent a good five minutes charming Shelly, she thought about leaving at that point, but Shelly was a friend. Shelly put out the cigarette and set Buffy back on the ground, but before she could go back inside Buffy shifted to her human form.
The little muffled scream that Shelly did was worth it. Buffy looked down and was perplexed that her clothes had stayed with her. But then she grinned at Shelly, “Surprise dearest.”
Shelly gave another muffled scream and then smacked her good and hard on the shoulder. “You rat! You didn’t tell me.” She grabbed at her chest, “And you scared me half to death. How could you not tell me,” a hurt look crept into her eyes, “I thought you trusted me!”
Buffy went up to her and hugged her, “I do dear, I do. Tonight was the first night I shifted.”
Shelly opened her mouth but closed it before a word had escaped. She quickly dragged Buffy inside the cafe and called out, “I’m taking my dinner break,” before she locked them both in the employee lounge. “I take it there’s a reason you played all nice animal with me and then changed.”
Buffy nodded, “Could you tell?”
“That you were holding a lycanthrope?”
“No,” the amazed tone amused Buffy. “How’d you do that? And why didn’t you change on the full moon?”
Buffy shrugged, “I’m still figuring this all out but I think it’s because my change is from a mystical source instead of a virus.”
Shelly nodded, “That makes sense. How long have you known?”
Buffy sighed, “Since the night of the Full Moon, but I still didn’t really believe it. My source has a habit of being twisted with the truth.”
Shelly nodded, but Buffy could tell she was confused. “Anyway, are you going to tell Ronnie?”
Buffy looked at her cross-eyed, “Of course I’m going to tell him!”
Shelly just smiled, “Good, you know he’d rather die than hurt you, and he’ll need to know to make sure that you’re protected.”
Buffy looked puzzled, “From who?”
Shelly just shook her head and rolled her eyes, “From Jean-Claude you idiot! Do you know what he would do if he knew that he wasn’t able to sense this in you?!”
Buffy just sighed, “I really hate Vampires.”
Shelly just patted her head, “I promise not to take the little doll with all the secrets to a vampire club ever again.”
Buffy smacked her hand, “It’s alright, they would have found me here sooner or later.” Buffy glanced at her watch, “Anyway, I gotta book it, I’ve got something I want to do. If Ronnie calls you looking for me, just tell him I had things to do and I’ll come by his place later.”
Shelly nodded and stood to follow Buffy out. “Just don’t get into trouble dear.” She didn’t follow Buffy into the alleyway behind the café, but she watched the kitten show up at the end of the alleyway and suddenly become something big before taking off towards the edge of town.
Buffy made it back to the house before anyone was awake. The sun was already making its way into the day, but there wasn’t a sound coming from the house. Buffy smirked; this was almost going to be too easy.
* * * * *
When Nathaniel woke up and slipped out of bed, he couldn’t help his curiosity about the animal he’d caught a glimpse of last night. He’d gone outside after it had left and couldn’t find any trace that it had been there, no tracks, and just a faint scent to the air. So he hadn’t mentioned it to the rest of the pard, they’d think he was imagining things.
Still, the first thing he did when he got up was to go back outside and check again. Maybe he’d see something with more light. Still, no tracks. He went to the tree that he’d seen it pay attention to, but there were no tracks there as well. He turned to go and heard something.
No reply, and he stepped towards the house again. He almost made it inside when he heard it again, it was something scraping, and that just confused him more. He turned back around, walking towards the tree again, and then he saw it, a kitten. It was kinda cute, and it was having a horrid time trying to get down the tree. So he plucked it up and into his arms.
“And who might you be?”
The only answer he got was a purr as the little thing burrowed into his warm arms.
* * * * *
Buffy purred in her triumph, it had worked! But she had no clue about why
it was so important for her to do this in the first place. She hoped she would
find out soon, and she hoped that it wouldn’t be too difficult to get
away when she needed to. She wasn’t a pet, but she did want to spy.
There was a little niggling of guilt inside her heart, but these people all emanated power. And if she guessed right, this was the Master of the City’s girlfriend. Still, the one that picked her up and was even now carrying her into the house, he seemed nice. She could tell just from something… she didn’t know what, but it was something.
The house was a strange mixture of smells, but it was quiet. Only quiet snoring
was heard. He must be the only one awake.
“Now, what am I to do with you?” he whispered, carefully scratching her behind the ears. She leaned into the touch, and purred a little bit louder. “You are a friendly little thing.” His voice was a rumble in her ear.
He took her into the kitchen and got a bowl out of the cupboard. He headed to the sink, filled it up with water, but when he set it on the floor he tried to set her near it. ‘Nope, not happening buddy,’ she thought and almost growled at him. She held the impulse and instead carefully picked her way up his arm, her claws going into his shirt enough to help her up, but not enough to touch skin.
He laughed softly, “So you don’t want to be put down?”
She made it up to his shoulder and purred directly into his ear. He quieted and calmly went to work on making breakfast. ‘What is he?’ she thought. ‘I guess this is his normal routine.’ She buried her nose in his hair and sniffed around, there were a couple different scents in here, he must sleep with someone.
He laughed and shook his head softly, “That tickles you little brat.”
She purred again and settled comfortably on his shoulder, she couldn’t figure out the scents, she didn’t know any of those people. She perked up again when she smelled heaven, ‘He’s making coffee. I think I’m in love.’ A quick rub of her head by his fingers reminded her that she wasn’t in human form and animals normally didn’t drink coffee.
Soft footsteps had him turning and greeting whoever was finally awake. It was a girl, her hair was short and blonde, it was sorta messy, you could tell that she’d just woken up. “Morning Nathaniel,” she walked into the kitchen and sat at the table. She yawned, “What’s for breakfast this morning?”
He walked over and opened the fridge, “I don’t know, Cherry, what do you want?”
“That is not breakfast.”
“Well I don’t want to make a decision, it’s too early.” She pouted a little bit like a child and held out her hands, “Coffee.” Buffy took that as her queue though, the holding out of hands was a universal symbol to most house pets of come here. And so she jumped from Nathaniel’s shoulder to the tabletop.
Cherry jerked back, glaring up at Nathaniel, “What is that thing?”
Nathaniel reached over and plucked her from the table top, “It’s a kitten.” Buffy turned to him, a little startled, the response wasn’t snarky, he just answered the question with no attitude. She batted at his hands with her paws and meowed. His only response was to set her on his shoulder again and go back to digging through the fridge for breakfast. She nipped his ear but settled back down when all that did was cause him to giggle.
Cherry stood and walked over to them, examining Buffy closely enough that every single move made was watched. So Buffy yawned and curled up again. “Where’d you find it? And when?”
Nathaniel reached up and rubbed Buffy’s forehead again, “I found her this morning, out stuck in a tree.”
Cherry laughed and shook her head, “Anita’s reaction is going to be interesting.”
“To what?” a sleepy voice called from the hallway, Buffy looked and stared. She could not believe what she was seeing, a very tall guy, rather thin though, not bulked out or anything, but you could still feel the power off of him. His hair is a pale green that almost hurt her eyes to look at, cut short on the sides with the top long in moussed spikes. His brown eyes stared at her little head peaking out of Nathaniel’s hair in shock, and she purred at that reaction.
Nathaniel reached up and plucked her off of his shoulder, “I think she likes you.” Nathaniel held her out towards the guy. “Go on, hold her Zane, I’ve got to get breakfast going.”
“No you don’t,” another female voice called from the hallway, Buffy recognized it from last night. “I’ve told you time and time again that you don’t need to cook every morning.”
Nathaniel hugged Buffy’s kitten body to him and she almost drowned in the vanilla scent that wafted from him, “But I like to.” He turned to Cherry, “Come on, take her, I’m sure you guys don’t want fur in your food.”
Cherry reluctantly took the kitten and sat at the table, waiting for Anita to realize what was in her arms.
“What is that Cherry?” Anita asked, her back still turned to the table as she poured a cup of coffee.
Zane had come close by then and was petting Buffy. ‘He’s good,’ she thought, leaning into his touch. “Mmmmm, he’s very good.’
By the time Buffy pulled herself back to reality, Anita was sitting at the table and staring at her, sipping her coffee. “There is a cat on my kitchen table.”
“Well there’s a few sitting at the table, too.” This from the guy’s entrance she had missed while enjoying her petting. His hair such a dark brown that it was almost black, and fell in curls to his shoulders. He was slender, but you could see the muscles under his skin. ‘He’s strong,’ she thought and then glanced up to his face again. His eyes had her hissing and backing away from him, yellow-green and definitely not human.
Anita laughed, “I don’t think it likes you, Micah.”
He sighed and sat at the table, reaching his hand out towards Buffy, she cautiously crept forward and sniffed at him. He smelled very strongly of the earth, almost like his connection to it was constant. His connection to the people at this table and others in the area was constant as well. Buffy looked up at him, raising her head in that regal way only cats can and waited. “All females like me,” he commented with a laugh and then petted her.
Anita snorted and then sipped her coffee. “Where’d she come from though?” Anita looked over at Nathaniel. “I take it you had something to do with this?”
“She was stuck in a tree out back,” he answered. “I think she’s what I heard last night, but couldn’t find.”
Anita watched Buffy as she went from person to person at the table, learning each of their scents. “So the little thing was outside all night.” Buffy finally got up the courage to head towards this woman. She reeked of magic; earth, death and something older. When Anita gently brushed her head, Buffy had to still completely.
‘Oh my God,’ Buffy stared up at her with those kitten eyes and almost whimpered. ‘What have those things done to her?’ She sensed it all, the two sides fighting within her. Lycanthrope and Vampire, locked in a struggle and trying to gain control and her innate magic the only thing keeping it from ripping her in two. Buffy didn’t know how she sensed all this, but she trusted it. She knew there was a damn vampire in basement, one that Anita was connected to and controlled. ‘I’ll have to get out of here before sunset, I don’t want to test this on a vampire yet.’
Buffy dragged herself out of the clashing ties within this woman. She purred softly and butted her head against the Anita’s chin. ‘You’re why I was sent here,’ Buffy stared up at her and sighed. ‘But how am I to do anything to help you. You’re helping them do this to you, and I’ve just got to wonder if you even realize it.’
Anita picked her up and cuddled her, everyone stared in shock, “What?” she asked, indignant at everyone staring at her. “She’s friendly little thing.”
They bantered around the table for a bit, but Buffy paid no attention. The problem that this woman presented to her was interesting and disturbing at the same time. ‘Vacation, my ass,’ she thought. ‘They set me up again, and Whistler distracted me so I wouldn’t see it! Rat Bastard.’
Finally Anita sighed, finished with the breakfast that Nathaniel had set in front of everyone. “I’ve got to get into work early today. Something happened the other night with Jean-Claude and he wants me to have Ronnie check into someone’s past, and if I don’t catch her early she’ll be out already.”
Buffy froze at the name, but then relaxed when it was obviously not her Ronnie. ‘Thank God, I’ve got things to explain before they try to track me down.
She stood and kissed Nathaniel on the cheek, “Thank you for breakfast. If you’re going to keep the cat, just make sure that she has the things she needs. Use the household checkbook.” Anita started out of the area, Micah getting up to follow her, they both stilled as Nathaniel responded.
Nathaniel nodded, “I don’t think she’s going to stay though.”
Anita stopped and turned back, just in time to see Nathaniel put the cat up on his shoulder. “Why do you say that?”
Nathaniel shrugged, wincing as the cat dug in her claws to stay put, “I don’t know.” He reached up and patted her hand. “She’s just visiting.”
Anita just shook her head and started walking towards the bedrooms again. “Well if she’s still here tonight when I get home, we’ll name her.”
Nathaniel just sighed and turned back to the others, “And you two?”
Both Cherry and Zane just shrugged, “We think the same thing,” Cherry responded. “She’s cute, but I don’t think she wants to stay here.” Cherry giggled and watched as the cat buried her head in Nathaniel’s hair again, “Well she might stay if it was just you.”
Nathaniel didn’t respond and Buffy just purred.
Zane stood, “Anyway, time to get the day started, we’ll see you later Nathaniel.”
And just as suddenly as everyone had shown up, everyone was gone and Buffy was alone with Nathaniel. He was quiet as he cleaned up the kitchen. He laughed now and then when her cold nose touched his neck.
He sat at the kitchen table when he was done and carefully pulled her off his shoulder. “So what is up with you, little girl? How did I know you were there?’
Buffy just purred as she laughed mentally. ‘Can’t tell you, because even I don’t know that much.’
* * * * *
That’s pretty much how they spent the morning, watching people come in and out of the house. So many that Buffy stopped trying to keep track of them, and just relaxed on Nathaniel. She really liked him, he was calming and his personality didn’t overwhelm the room, beyond that it also didn’t shrink from anything.
When Nathaniel got up to do something for lunch, Buffy shook herself out of the cotton her head was going into, and made her way back to the back door. Nathaniel followed her and sighed when he saw her direction.
“I guess it’s time for you to go,” he leaned down and scratched her chin. “Don’t be a stranger, little one.” The door was opened and Buffy licked his hand before she bounded out and into the forest beyond the property. When she was sure she was out of sight of the house, she shifted to her Lynx shape and took off to where she’d hidden her clothes.
‘Time to go explain things to Ronnie, and get some help in hiding.’
Buffy had grabbed the bag she’d stashed in the bushes and then headed
in the general direction she remembered Ronnie’s house to be, and relied
on her connection to them to pull her in the right direction. She didn’t
go at the full speed the Lynx was capable of, she had things she needed to think
She started remembering the feelings from her run last night, the times that she’d stalked vampires and pulled back only if she could convince herself that they weren’t going to kill anyone. Most of all, she was afraid, instincts warred with common sense, and she didn’t want to lose her friends.
‘How am I going to explain all this to them?’ she sighed, and continued trudging quietly through the woods. ‘Will they even understand? Will they be able to help me sort out the distinctions between myself and all these stupid memories?’
She groaned and sank down on the edge of Ronnie’s property. The bag with her clothes and shoes became a pillow for her head. The flashes had started while she was with Nathaniel, but she’d pushed them back until later. It was an interesting talent to push back those visions, it seemed that her slayer visions were no longer limited to dreams. But, luckily, it also seemed that a defense mechanism was installed because the first one flickered and then was shuffled somewhere until she was out running and by herself.
It had made her stumble, the vision of her Lynx fighting vampires and then changing to a girl dressed from the Middle Ages. That’s when she realized that it was a memory. They’d started coming a little more steadily, and every time they came she felt the need to go out and do the same thing, fight and destroy those things. Until she shook herself out of it and resolutely continued forward. Still, she’d stopped a couple of times and had to wait out a vision.
Another deep breath calmed her and strengthened her resolve to do this. She stood, grinning as she scented Shelly waiting outside on the back porch. Janice was with her, and they were talking quietly.
“So, she just showed up at the café and showed you?”
Shelly mumbled her reply and Buffy couldn’t hear it.
“Shelly, she’ll explain,” Buffy say Janice reach out to Shelly’s hand. “She’s still Buffy, and we’ve always known there were things she was hiding.”
Buffy chose that moment to step into view, stepping deliberately on a branch and breaking it before she paused and waited for them to come to her.
“That’s her?” Janice asked, stepping towards the edge of the back porch.
“Yes, I couldn’t see her clearly last night when she shifted to the larger shape, but that’s her.” Shelly ran off the porch and towards her, “I was so worried you blond headed idiot!” And Buffy found herself enveloped in a hug by the spunky redhead.
Buffy purred out her welcome and looked at Janice. Her ears went flat against her head, waiting for the older woman to respond. “And what did you think you were doing, changing without someone there with you?”
Buffy purred and bounded out of Shelly’s arms, changing in mid-leap and landing on Janice as a kitten. Janice let out a startled yelp and then laughed. “You little minx, so full of surprises. Let’s go show you to Ronnie, who is pacing and talking to as many people as he can to hide the fact that you’ve been missing for a day.”
Buffy looked up at her, and meowed; only remembering at the sound that she couldn’t talk. “All will be explained, little one, but I want Ronnie to see you.”
Buffy happily settled against Janice, letting the serenity of her friends wash over her as they walked into the house.
“Just tell everyone that I have to be out for a few days.” Ronnie growled into the phone, “Are you challenging me?” He snorted, “I didn’t think you would, just keep things going for a couple of days and call my cell if there is an emergency.” He turned just as they stepped into his office, “Is she here yet?”
Janice just held the kitten out to him, “Well see for yourself.”
Ronnie took the kitten and held her up to his face. Buffy swatted at him with a little paw, purring the entire time. “How can she be so small?”
Buffy wiggled and fell out of his arms, turning in mid-fall to land on her feet and walking away from them. She changed when she was halfway around the room, and turned to them as the full-grown Lynx. Her head held high, her ears perked up and showing off the tuft on the tips.
“Now, that is more like it.” Ronnie walked towards her and slowly circled her, “Now this is a form that you can defend yourself with.”
Buffy came out into her human form, rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter. Janice rushed to her quickly, “What is it? What’s wrong?”
Buffy calmed and turned into Janice’s arms, “I thought you guys would hate me for this.”
“Hate you?” this from Shelly as she rushed close again. “Why would we do that?”
“Because I didn’t tell you what I suspected was true.”
Ronnie scoffed and knelt down next to her. “Your life was very difficult before you moved here. It’s alright that you wanted to figure it out yourself first.”
Buffy looked at him in shock, “That’s it exactly, but how?”
“How did I understand?” Ronnie shrugged, “Because it’s what I did when I first found out I was a lycanthrope.”
Buffy giggled and wiped the tears off her face. “I just don’t really know what I’m doing, it’s all instinct, and there’s some things that I have to fight very hard.”
Janice stood and pulled Buffy with her, “Let’s all go get comfy on the couch and we will see what we can see.”
Buffy ended up curled between Janice and Shelly, with Ronnie pacing in front of her. She started out by describing her visitor from the Full Moon, leaving out some significant details. Buffy had her hands wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate and she had been quiet for a while, letting the three of them absorb all of this.
Ronnie was the first to speak, “So why you? Why did this guy come to you?”
Buffy sighed and stared down at her mug, “You guys already know more than is safe. All I can say is that while I was adjusting my guard was down and you all crept in.” They made noises of protest but Buffy held her hands up to still them. “Please just let me finish.” They stayed quiet as she composed herself. “This cannot get back to the people in charge.”
Ronnie sighed, “We’ve hidden you from Jean-Claude and Richard this long.” Buffy looked at him sharply, “And don’t think they haven’t asked questions. Especially after you kicked Kevin’s ass.”
Buffy sighed, “I thought the repercussions after that were tame.” Buffy looked at each of them, “I really should not be telling you any of this,” she stated it, “but you’re in danger from your leaders if you don’t know.” She twisted the cup in her hands again, “I come from an ancient line of warriors. We’ve been called, one after another since the days of people living in caves, afraid of the things that go bump in the night.” A sip and another deep breath, “We hunt the things that hunt innocents, humans.”
Janice stared at her in shock, as the tales of her life since her 15th birthday started spilling out of her lips. When Buffy paused for breath after the tale of Glory, Janice interrupted, “You’re a Vampire Slayer.”
Shelly snorted, “So is Anita, what’s the big deal?”
Janice rolled her eyes, “Buffy is called to it mystically, she has a lot more bonus features than Anita could ever dream of having.”
Buffy giggled at the phrasing, and then continued, “And after Willow pulled me out of Heaven,” the three winced, but kept quiet about it. They heard the hurt lacing that statement, and she continued on like she hadn’t said it, “the Powers decided that I was at a point where I could be trusted with my full potential, and it also helped that I got away from the hellmouth.”
Janice once again was the one that answered the questions before Ronnie and Shelly could ask them, “So you lived on a hellmouth since you were 16?”
Buffy nodded, “A mystical convergence of energy straight from hell. I have also recently found out that it warps everything that lives near it.”
Janice leaned over and pulled her into an embrace, “It must have been very difficult for you, but continue, what can we help you with?”
But Buffy was feeling insecure and looked at Ronnie, “Say something papa wolf?”
He laughed, “I don’t know how you survived, but I’m glad you’re here and want our help.”
Buffy turned to Shelly, “Don’t even ask it little doll, tell us the rest and we’ll figure it out together. Damn the torpedoes and all that jazz!”
Buffy took a deep breath and looked at the ceiling, “It’s like you said Janice, I have another life inside of me, with it’s own instincts and desires, it’s me, but it’s not, and it brought memories of its own.” Buffy buried her head in her hands, “It throws these memories at me. Every vampire I see is the one that killed a previous slayer and all I want to do is rend and tear it. I have to still completely and talk myself out of it, knowing that those vampires are already dead, killed by the slayer that was called as a result of the death.”
Janice pulled her close again, “It’s alright dear, we’ve all been there.”
Buffy took deep calming breaths, “I know they’re all power-hungry bastards, but still, that’s now reason to kill them.”
She shook in Janice’s arms and cried, “I just want to feel in control again, and it’s gotten worse since I changed.”
Ronnie grabbed her shoulders and turned her, “You’ll master it little girl, we all have had to. It’s a part of being what we are, whether it’s from a virus or from the mystical, it will take time, but you’ll master it.”
Buffy nodded and hiccupped on the next sobbing cry. She hated it, she hated crying in front of anyone, and she scrubbed defiantly at her cheeks.
Shelly’s the one that broke the somber mood, “Anyway, at least you’re not a slave to the moon! And just think, you’ll learn all kinds of interesting things from these old coots!”
Buffy laughed and looked over at Shelly, “It’s just overwhelming right now. Just a simple little thing changed my entire life and perspective.”
Ronnie snorted, “You call this a little thing?”
“What’s a big thing?” Janice asked.
Buffy shrugged and giggled a bit, “The world ending.”
Janice scoffed and brushed that off, “Let that other Slayer worry about it, right now we have to worry about getting you established before Jean-Claude finds out you’re here.”
“How will that help?”
“He won’t be able to sweep you under the rug without people noticing,” Shelly commented, and then Buffy finished.
“And he won’t hurt his power base if the right people know me.” Buffy winced, “I might have damaged that aspect already.”
Ronnie quirked a brow, “The place you had to be this morning?”
Buffy nodded, “I spent the morning with Nathaniel.” Ronnie gasped and looked pissed until Buffy continued, “as a kitten.”
Janice just chuckled, “I told you, you attract trouble.” Janice looked at Ronnie, “Is there a way to salvage this? You know that group better than I do.”
Ronnie just sighed, “It depends on how soon they find out. And I’m not sure that it being sooner would be better.”
Buffy just sighed, “They’re all really nice people, and they’re cats.” She looked at Ronnie and grinned, “Don’t you think that could help us?”
Ronnie tapped his chin and nodded, “Let me think about it, but keep your contact down to a minimum.”
Buffy sighed, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to, my beast is attracted to them.”
Ronnie groaned, “Yes, Janice, trouble should be her name!”
Shelly just brushed them both off, “We’ll worry about it later, it’s time to get her home, she needs to register for her classes tomorrow.”
Buffy perked up, “And I start them in two weeks.”
“Just enjoy your life little girl, and we’ll help as much as we can,” Ronnie said as Janice led her out to the car.
“I’m going to burn that stupid t-shirt Buffy, just watch to see if I don’t,” was the last thing he heard before the door shut.
* * * * *
“No, Ms. Sims, Buffy Summers from Sunnydale, California passed away six months ago,” the British gentleman stated clearly into the phone. Meanwhile, his colleagues were tracing the call and making sure that one Rupert Giles was brought into the Council Compound without delay.
“Yes, Ms. Sims, I understand that it is a very unusual name, but you can check the records in Sunnydale. She was buried and we pulled her private tutor home.”
He listened for a moment and jotted down a quick number and her name. “Yes, Ms. Sims, if I find that my story changes, I will contact you.”
Quentin Travers slammed down the phone and snarled at his aide, “Get someone out to that god-forsaken town and find out exactly what happened! If she’s alive I want her brought here! And get Rupert Giles in here, I have some questions for him!”
It was the fifth level of hell, she was sure of it. The line couldn’t
be this long. Buffy leaned to the side again and saw that it was this long,
and everyone was taking forever to get to their advisor. She sneered, ‘Idiots,
all of them. Young idiots too!’
Buffy sighed and leaned her head back to stare at the sky as she waited for the line to move, she’d been here for a good hour already and there were still at least 15 people in front of her and only 3 advisors to sort them out. This did not improve her mood, especially after the two hours she’d spent on the phone this morning with the University in Sunnydale convincing them that she was alive and needed her transcripts. She’d completely forgotten about getting her records reinstated, the phony story she’d given them about being in a coma in South America hadn’t made it any easier either.
But they’d finally consented to fax everything to the local community college and wished her luck. Buffy had snorted before she’d hung up the phone. Then there had been the other hour spent on the phone with the financial aide department. It had just been a morning of paperwork and more paperwork.
The line moved and the guy behind Buffy bumped her forward because she was still staring at the sky. Lycanthrope, her senses screamed as she stumbled a bit and groaned.
“It’s not that bad,” he whispered in her ear, causing her to yelp, and him to laugh.
She turned to look at the guy, and couldn’t help the giggle when she saw his grin, “Yes, it is, I hate paperwork and being stuck in lines.”
He smiled at her and looked her up and down. She was rather amazed by him, his hair was short, but not horribly. He seemed to be about the same age as her, and that smile, ‘He’s really cute.’ He had the grace to blush as she looked him up and down, and then he held his hand out to her, as if remembering his manners, “Jason Schuyler.”
Buffy tentatively took his hand, and was damn glad she was good at a poker face when she responded or she’d be laughing in his face, “Buffy Summers. So, do you know Ronnie?” She laughed at his perplexed look as she pulled her hand from his.
“You mean Veronica Sims?” he asked tentatively.
Buffy snorted, “No, Ronald Drake.” She turned her back on him again, hiding the merry grin on her face from him.
She heard his gasp, and he touched her shoulder to pull her around. She had other ideas, and moved forward in the line. The little tickle on the back of her neck let her know he hadn’t given up yet, he was trying to see what she was. “And you know Ronnie?”
She looked at him over her shoulder and nodded, “Best boss ever.”
This time she couldn’t help it and laughed full out at his expression. He didn’t look upset or anything, but she still knew it was rude.
“Next Please!” the authoritative voice called, pulling her out of her mirth and towards a chair in front of her advisor. A nice little old lady, with the whole glasses and that odd smell only old people had.
“Your major, dear?” she asked as she took Buffy’s file from her.
“I haven’t decided yet.” Buffy watched her as she went through the file. Noting the previous college experience, the unexpected dropping out. However, the small smile on her face as she reached the last bit of the transcript perplexed Buffy.
“Well you have very strong test scores,” she looked up at Buffy finally. “I don’t think we’ll need to put you on probation even though your previous college work was all incomplete.”
Buffy nodded, “I want to take it kind of light until I’m back in the swing of things.”
The woman nodded and flipped through some more papers, “And it looks like you’re going for one of the preternatural degrees?”
“Yes, ma’am just not sure which one yet.”
Another nod and she hummed a bit as she checked over everything. “Twelve credit hours, that will still make you a full-time student, financial aide will be based on that,” she stopped on that paperwork and looked it over, “that office should have a response within the month, in the meantime we’ll have to put your account on an interest bearing loan basis. But once the funding from the government comes in, that will be taken care of without you having to do anything.”
Buffy nodded, and waited for her to continue.
“Well everything seems to be in order.” The woman turned to the computer behind her and checked the classes, “And you’re classes still have the space so, no problems there.”
Buffy grinned, “Is it possible to borrow the text books from the library.”
Another nod from the lady as she finished entering the necessary information, and turned with the finalized schedule to give to Buffy. “Just take this down the line and they’ll print out your student ID for you. They will also give you a campus guide that will direct you to the library.” She quickly shook Buffy’s hand and motioned for her to go as she called out, “Next, please.”
Buffy breathed a sigh of relief and then squeaked as she ran into somebody. ‘Jason, from the feel of it,’ the body laughed, ‘and of course who could forget that sound?’
“Are you always this distracted?” he chuckled as he stood her back on her own feet and helped her move towards the student ID line.
“Not really, it’s just been a long day.”
He nodded and, once again, they were in a line waiting. “You new to the city?”
Buffy nodded. “Just moved here recently, thought this was the perfect time to go back to school.”
Jason grimaced, “Well, I’ve been talked into it, but we shall see what I make of it?”
“What classes do you have?”
He handed his schedule to her and waited for her response. He was taking the same biology class as her, but he only had one other class, something for the PE requirement. “Your schedule is even lighter than mine.”
He just shook his head, “I’ve got other things to do and that is all the time I’ll give this latest bit of madness.”
She looked at him perplexed, “Well why are you here then?”
“My Lord and Master,” he snorted, “thinks it will be good for me.”
“And that person is?”
He leaned forward and whispered, “Jean-Claude.”
Buffy turned away from him and rolled her eyes, and then made the appropriate little twit comments, “Well he was nice to me when I met him.”
She heard another gasp, but ignored it, “And when did you meet him?”
Buffy turned, it was almost her turn to get her picture taken, but she had time to set this up, “A friend of mine dragged me to one of his clubs, I didn’t like it and he noticed. He’s been super nice to me since.”
Jason stared at her in shock as she sauntered away to get her ID. The girls taking the pictures ended up messing his picture up a total of three times just to keep him in line, and he was just smiling at them as Buffy started huffing it to the library.
She was almost halfway there when he caught up to her. “Why’d you run off?”
Buffy chuckled, “I didn’t run, and I have to go get my books.”
Jason looked to where they were headed, “You’re not going to buy them?”
Buffy shook her head, “It’s much more cost-effective to borrow them.”
Jason nodded and still followed her, “So how’d you get a job at the café?”
“I interviewed there?” was her snarky reply.
Jason chuckled, “Well I thought it was only open to those of a certain persuasion.”
“Nope, equal opportunity employment and all that fun governmental stuff.”
“So you don’t mind Lycanthropes?” it was whispered.
She looked over at him, and smiled, “Not at all.”
He looked at her and grinned, “Go out with me?”
Buffy snorted and then laughed, “And what do you think papa wolf would have to say to that?”
Jason’s eyes widened, “Papa wolf?”
Buffy nodded and grinned, “Janice and Ronnie treat me like a child, I swear he looked cross-eyed just thinking about where Shelly had taken me that night.”
Jason laughed, knowing Ronnie too well, “And which club was it?”
“Guilty Pleasures,” Buffy whispered so that only he could hear and then darted up the stairs to the library.
Jason paused only a moment before he followed her. She stopped just before the doors, “Don’t you have anything better to do?”
He shook his head and laughed when she groaned. “What could be better than meeting a pretty girl on the day of registration.”
She walked into the library and called over her shoulder, “Flattery will get you no where!”
“Awwww, please!” He still followed her, and hovered over her as she handed her schedule to one of the library helpers.
“It’ll be just a moment,” the guy behind the counter whispered and then went to a back room.
She whirled and faced him, “Do you do this to everyone?”
“Everyone that doesn’t hold a gun in my face?” he said with an unrepentant grin.
“So I need a gun to keep you away from me? Ronnie beating you to a pulp isn’t enough incentive?”
Jason shook his head and leaned close, “I’d heal from the beating, but I’d have missed meeting you.”
Buffy laughed and then quickly covered her mouth, “You are a complete and utter tease!”
Jason nodded, and offered to carry the books that were brought to her. “That’s a pretty heavy course load you have there.”
She snorted and quickly loaded up her backpack before tossing it at him. He followed her out and towards the parking lot. “Just three classes.” She smirked, “But I don’t have a PE.”
Jason grinned, “We’re in the same biology class.”
“I know, and I’m already asking God to save me.”
“So can I offer the fair lady a ride home?”
Buffy just shook her head and motioned towards the blue SUV that could be seen in the parking lot. She grinned at him sweetly, “Janice took the day off to see me through my ordeal.”
Jason’s eyes widened and then he grimaced. “You little brat.”
Buffy laughed, “Is the big bad wolf afraid of little Janice?”
He snorted, “Janice is more likely to kill me for offending you than Ronnie is.”
Buffy grinned and waved to Janice as they got close. Janice was leaning against her vehicle and smirking at them. “Well don’t you two make a cute couple.”
Jason slung his arm around Buffy’s shoulder and suffered her elbow in his rib. “We are not a couple,” was Buffy’s quick reply. She slipped away from Jason and grabbed her back from his shoulder. “Thanks for the help.”
Jason grinned again and leaned in to kiss her, Buffy guessed he couldn’t help having a death wish, and quickly turned her head so he kissed her cheek. Janice grabbed him by the back of his neck and pulled him away, “Ronnie wouldn’t like that little boy.”
Jason laughed and looked at Janice as she let him go, “So I didn’t know you had adopted.”
Janice motioned Buffy into the vehicle, “She’s such a cute little thing that we couldn’t leave her unattached.”
Jason leaned on the door of the SUV as both Buffy and Janice were belting in. “Can I get ride?”
Janice looked pointedly over at the motorcycle she knew was his. “I know your ride is right there, now scat before I run you over.”
“You know you love me,” he commented and then had to jump back as she started backing out.
“See you later, Jason,” Buffy called out her window as Janice took off towards the café.
* * * * *
Ronnie laughed hysterically as Buffy related the happenings of the morning. “He seemed real shocked when I called you papa wolf.”
“You minx,” he wheezed out between laughs, “I’d be surprised if he doesn’t show up during your shift tonight.”
She pouted, “Janice’s reaction was much better.”
Ronnie lifted an eyebrow, “And what was her reaction?”
“She almost ran over him for me.”
Janice sputtered from her seat in front of the desk, “I did not! It’s not my fault he was leaning over me to get to you!”
Buffy laughed, and then quieted, “So what is he to Jean-Claude?”
“Pomme de sange.”
Buffy looked cross-eyed, “What is that?”
Janice whispered the answer, “Apple of blood.”
Buffy’s eyes flared and she had to lock herself in place. Ronnie rushed over and grabbed her shoulders. “He volunteered. He says the job has perks.”
Buffy nodded and took a deep calming breath, “I have so got to get that under control.”
Ronnie and Janice both nodded. “So how difficult was the registration?”
Buffy sank into her chair and sighed, “It was the seventh level of hell!”
Ronnie snorted, “But you met a cute boy.”
Buffy scrunched her nose, “He’s not the cutest.”
Janice rolled her eyes, “Don’t go on and on about Nathaniel again, I think I’ll puke if you do.”
The phone ringing interrupted the tirade that was about to start. Ronnie picked it up, “Lunatic café.”
He paused and listened, “Speaking.”
Ronnie doodled on the page a moment and then looked sharply at Buffy, “Yes, I have a Ms. Summers working here.” Another long pause that had Buffy panicking, “No, I cannot give out that information.” He paused and grabbed a pen, noting down some information, and then, “I’ll be sure to pass on this message.” He quietly hung up the phone.
“What is it?”
Ronnie sighed, “That was a Willow Rosenberg, someone from St. Louis has been investigating your death, and has been tipped off that you’re not dead. She also stated that your old employers were nosing around as well.”
Buffy gripped the chair tightly, “So it’s going to happen faster than we suspected?”
Ronnie nodded, “But I have a plan.”
Rupert Giles sighed as he stared up at Travers. “I’ve told you,
as far as I knew she was dead!” He really did not like this line of questioning.
His Slayer was dead, the little girl he had started thinking of as his own was
dead and buried and there was nothing he could have done to save her. Or at
least that’s what the Council shrinks kept telling him.
Travers slammed a paper down in front of him, “Then why were her transcripts faxed to St. Louis? Why is there activity with her file with the U.S. government?” He slammed another piece of paper down in front of him, “Why are there new employment records for her to work at some café?”
Giles just leaned forward and studied each document carefully, drawing in a sharp breath at the name of the café. He remembered warning her off of ever going to that city on vacation when he’d found out that a new, power-hungry Master of the City was in place. “She would never go there, I forbade it.”
“And that worked for you so well in the past,” Travers sneered.
Giles just picked up the papers and studied them again, ‘She’s working and going back to college.’ He smiled, and looked through the papers a bit more. It seemed she was applying for financial aide, and that her wages were quite decent at this café.
“Tell me why she would go there?” Travers asked.
Giles just looked up at him and sneered the response Travers was waiting for, “Because I told her not to!”
Travers whirled around and began to pace, “We have no control over her.”
‘Like you ever did,’ Giles thought. “I could go to her.”
Travers whirled, “No, you’re still listed as on medical leave.”
Giles calmly stood and walked to the door, “Then I’m taking vacation.” And he was gone, never noticing that Travers was smirking behind him.
* * * * *
“A plan?” Buffy asked quietly. Buffy chuckled, “Life is going to hell in a hand basket and you already have a plan. Papa wolf, why couldn’t I have had you in my life long ago?”
Ronnie just walked towards her and ruffled her hair playfully, “Because you had the audacity to not move here!”
Buffy just smacked at his hand, “So tell me the plan.”
“First, call your friend, have her stall them.”
Buffy looked pensive and mumbled, “She’s the witch.”
Janice jerked around to look at her, “The one that brought you back?”
Buffy nodded, “I guess I should look at it as a blessing, I would have missed so much up there.”
Janice smiled and touched Buffy’s cheek, “There you go dear, the best way to look at it. Ronnie will call her, don’t worry about that part.”
Buffy nodded and looked up at Ronnie again, “Okay, what else?”
“Go talk to Veronica Sims.”
Buffy interrupted, “That’s the second time I’ve heard that name today. Who’s she?”
“A friend of Anita’s,” Janice replied. “A private investigator that is really good at her job. Who else mentioned her?”
“Jason,” Buffy replied, “when I said that Ronnie wouldn’t be happy with him.”
Ronnie grinned, “You’re right about that. I’ll talk to that young pup later.” Ronnie sat on the edge of his desk, “You’ll need to ask her for help.”
Buffy nodded and waited.
“She’s investigating you for Jean-Claude.” Buffy rolled her eyes. “She’ll need to understand that you’re being followed, and that you needed to hide.” Ronnie paused, “I’m assuming that your Watcher’s Council keeps their Slayer’s identities hidden.”
Buffy nodded, “Yeah, they don’t want the baddies to find us through the phone book.”
“So get to it, Janice will drive you, and,” Ronnie sighed, “I’ll comp your pay for the shift you were supposed to work today.”
Buffy protested, “Don’t, I’ll make the time up this week. I promise!”
Ronnie just shook his head and shooed them out of his office, “Get you two, and make sure it’s a good story.”
* * * * *
“There’s two women here to see you, Ms. Sims,” that was how the receptionist introduced them. Not by name, and Buffy snorted.
‘Ms. Sims needs better help.’
“Send them in Robin.”
Robin bounced up and led them to the office door, “Can I get you anything to drink?”
They both shook their heads and walked into the office. Veronica Sims was standing behind her desk waiting for them. “Hello ladies, I’m Veronica Sims, what can I help you with?”
Buffy heard the door snick shut behind her, and remembered all that Janice and she had discussed on the way over. ‘Tell it as straight as possible. No need to put up a little lost innocent act just to make this quick and painless. It would cause more pain once the ruse fell.’ Buffy repeated it all to herself.
Buffy stepped forward and held out her hand to shake, when Veronica had grasped it Buffy smiled at her, “I’m Buffy Summers.” The smile widened when Veronica jerked, “I hear you’ve been looking for me?”
Veronica nodded and sat down heavily in her chair. “Well this is a first.”
Both Buffy and Janice sat down. “How so?” Janice asked.
“The first time I’ve had someone I’ve been searching for come and introduce themselves.”
Buffy laughed softly, “Well, I thought I should nip it in the bud quickly. Especially since you were ruining all my hard work.”
Veronica leaned forward, “Hard work?”
Buffy nodded, “I needed to disappear, and this was one of the last places anyone would expect to find me. But now they’re all paying attention.” Buffy sighed and relaxed back in her chair, “How can I get you to stop?”
Veronica just smiled, “It’s already done, I was just supposed to find out as much about you as I could.” She opened the file in front of her and leafed through it, “You were reported as dead, but that is being corrected through the office of Vital Records, and your death certificate should be gone by the end of the month.” She looked up and smiled at Buffy, “You started that process about a month ago.”
Buffy nodded, “Before I moved here.”
“Your friends, they were very reluctant to talk about any of it.”
“Well,” Buffy temporized, “they had a hand in my disappearance as well as my resurfacing. I wasn’t happy with them, so they’re trying to let me have my space.”
Veronica nodded and flipped to the next page, “And your private tutor, a Mr. Giles?”
Buffy nodded, “He also owned the Magic Shop.”
Veronica noted that down, “Anyway, he didn’t know a thing about your resurfacing, but I’m sure Mr. Travers will have informed him.”
Buffy almost cussed and threw a quick glance at Janice. “Just tell her,” Janice snapped, she sounded very annoyed with it.
Veronica’s head jerked up and stared at them both, “What is it?”
“Well, see, they want me to move to England, and they’re part of the reason I disappeared, I would rather they didn’t know where I was.”
Veronica sighed, “Well I gave him my number, and there’s no way he can’t know where I called from.” She tapped a pencil against her table, “But we can make all your personal information unlisted. I can also refuse to give them the information I have collected.” Buffy started nodding her head, “But I will need to give it to my original employer.”
Buffy shrugged, “That’s alright, just so that the academy can’t find me easily.”
“I’ll do what I can, Ms. Summers, but I can make no promises.”
Buffy smiled and reached out to shake Veronica’s hand again, “As long as I have little more time to establish myself before they find me, I’ll be alright.”
Veronica sighed and smiled, sinking back in her chair again, “Well that’s a relief, I hate this part of the job.”
Buffy tilted her head, “Which part?”
“Upsetting people’s lives,” Veronica replied easily. “You’re a nice little girl, a little bit of teenage rebellion, but nothing major.”
Buffy twisted her hands, “Does your employer need to know about that stuff?” She really didn’t want him to know that stuff.
Veronica shook her head, “He just wanted current information and a little bit about where you’re from. The nitty gritty details didn’t concern him.”
Janice stood and smiled at Veronica, “Now that her mind is eased a bit, we’ll get out of your way.” Everyone stood and Janice made for the door. “If you need anything more, just call her at the Lunatic Café.”
Veronica nodded and held the door for them, “I’ll do that, make my job very easy.”
Buffy turned before she left, “Thank you so much, Ms. Sims, this means everything to me.”
Veronica watched them leave, and then buzzed her secretary, “Start a search on that school Ms. Summers was a member of.”
“Will do, boss lady.”
* * * * *
Ronnie had called Willow back while they were gone. “She’s alright with burying your information a bit deeper. She’s a nice little hacker, your witch.”
Buffy just smiled and shook her head, “Well don’t expect her to leave you guys alone. She may know I need my space, but she’ll still worry.”
Ronnie shrugged and Janice voiced their response, “We have nothing to hide, everyone knows what we are and those that don’t, well they’ll find out sooner or later.”
Buffy just grinned again, “I’m going to start my shift, gotta make the money to pay for classes.”
Ronnie nodded and shooed her out of the office.
Buffy ran to the employee room and changed into the clothes she had stored there. In five minutes she was in the café and getting down to business as usual, her mind at rest for a moment to other concerns.
* * * * *
It wasn’t until the next morning that Rupert Giles could find a flight back to the states. All the stupid security prevented him from buying a red-eye the night before, but he’d camped out. The flight was due to land in LAX, and he’d go see Willow first.
He fell asleep to horrific dreams about what was happening to Buffy. Having her pulled out of her rest and back into this world. What could be happening to her in St. Louis, the hot spot for Vampire Politics and intrigue. ‘What have you gotten yourself into now?’
* * * * *
Quentin Travers just sat back and plotted, he had patience. He would need it so that he didn’t step on a land mine while dealing with this Summers girl. She’d been a thorn in his side for years, but now, now she would pay and pay dearly.
* * * * *
Jean-Claude just sat back and stared at the information Veronica Sims had collected for him. ‘That little girl came from a hellmouth,’ he thought in shock. ‘What did those creatures do to her?’
He well remembered the demon vampires that resided on those hot spots of hell. How twisted even the tamest of vampires could become after a few short days there. It was amazing that she worked at the café, he knew that any Lycanthropes that lived there were feral and man-eaters. He thumbed through it all, even the notes that Veronica had made on the girl’s visit.
Ms. Summers came by, one of her friends must have told her that I was looking into her past. She seemed very worried about this academy that sent a private tutor for her. Seems like she’s running from them. I’m doing a search on them, but, in the mean time, this search has tipped them that she’s here. The thought of it didn’t frighten her so much, she seemed resigned that they would find her sooner or later, but she said she needed more time.
Ms. Sims was very thorough on taking notes, and this stuff about the academy worried Jean-Claude. He wanted the girl kept here. He needed to find out about that shield on her, and if these Englishmen came and took her, then she would be out of his reach.
He buzzed the front, and Jason answered, “Jason, I want you and Asher to come here. We have some plans to make.”
“Okay, boss man.”
Jean-Claude sighed at the name, but let it go. No matter how many times he told the boy not to call him that, he still did. He went back to the paperwork until the door opened again.
“You needed us?” Asher asked softly. He sank in one of the plush chairs and waited.
“You remember the girl?”
Asher perked up, “The one from the club?”
Jean-Claude nodded, “It seems someone else is searching for her.”
Asher leaned forward at that. “What are we going to do? She can’t be allowed to leave, Jean-Claude.”
Jean-Claude held up his hands for silence, “Ms. Summers,” Jason chuckled drawing both vampire’s attention.
“What is it?” Jean-Claude asked.
“I met her this afternoon. A fetching little thing.”
Jean-Claude just shook his head in exasperation and continued. “Ms. Summers is in danger of being dragged off to some place in England. I will not tolerate that happening until we figure out how she can be that heavily shielded and it not be her own shields.”
Asher nodded, “I’ll get a watch put on the airports and hotels.”
Jean-Claude nodded and looked pointedly at Jason, “You, find out her schedule and have all the same classes.”
Jason’s face fell, “But she had a ton of books!”
Jean-Claude just sneered, “That doesn’t matter, keeping her here until I’m ready to let her go is what matters!”
The door opened and Anita walked in, “Keeping who here?”
She looked tired, “Just a little enigma, ma petite.”
Anita just stood at the door with her arms folded. “I’m not going to be happy about this am I?”
Jean-Claude shrugged, “I do not know. She has a spell on her, not of her own making. I want to figure it out.”
Anita looked puzzled, “Why?”
Jean-Claude shrugged, “Because it interests me.”
Anita just shook her head and replied lazily, “You know I’ll find out sooner or later.”
Jean-Claude nodded, “But until then, we shall keep her under wraps.”
Anita sat and stared at Jason, “I hear you’re taking college courses.” Jason nodded and Anita grinned, “I’m a guest lecturer your first week of Preternatural Biology.”
Jason groaned and sank down to the floor, “I knew this was a bad idea.”
Everything slipped back into normalcy for the next few days, and Buffy could
have pretended that there was no threat hanging over her. Still, she wasn’t
taking any chances and was going as far as she knew how to get her feet firmly
planted before the council tried to take her. She knew Ronnie and Janice were
doing the same thing, and she hated to trouble them any of it. They seemed glad
to help. Buffy chucked, ‘They really have adopted me,’ she thought
and then shook herself back to the problem at hand.
‘They’ll come after me, I know they will, with everything that happened, they’ll want to make sure that I’m still just me,’ it ran through her mind with a will of its own as she stared at the ceiling above the guest bed at Ronnie’s house. They’d had another late dinner and insisted that she stay the night. It was her weekend off and she should just rest and relax out in the country they had urged and she caved.
But boredom set in when Ronnie was called into work on an emergency and Janice was out teaching one of her private Yoga classes to Lycanthropes. They’d be back this afternoon, but still, no one was around to talk to. All of their CD’s were things she’d never heard of, and the only books she had with her were textbooks. So she had her preternatural biology book spread out on Ronnie’s desk, waiting for a call to let her know he was on his way back.
It rang close to noon, and she didn’t even think to check the caller-id before she picked it up, “So the fires all out?” was her greeting, thinking that only Ronnie had this number.
“Buffy?” it was a crisp British voice that she knew so well.
“Giles,” she whispered it softly. She sat there in shock, she’d tried to find him, but he’d disappeared. She sniffled, “Damn you, Watcher Mine, where’d you run and hide?”
Giles gave her a chuckle at that, “The council shipped me off for counseling.” Then there was complete silence. And then, “What happened?!”
Buffy just sighed, “Willow knows it all Giles.” Buffy closed her book and let it plop on the floor, “Whistler told them. It’s their punishment.” Buffy closed her eyes, “Can we just let it go?”
“I’ll let it go with you, but not with the others.”
“Whatever you feel is necessary, Watcher Mine.”
Giles snorted, “Like you ever listened to that! Why are you in St. Louis?”
Buffy had the grace to blush, even if he couldn’t see it, “Because you told me not to go there.” It was whispered and he barely heard it.
It still sent him laughing though. “Do you have any comprehension of what you have done?”
“Nope, not a clue.” She heard Giles take the deep breath that always heralded a tirade, “And I don’t want to know.” She almost smiled when he sputtered. “I want to live my life.”
“Come home, Buffy, you can have a life here.”
“It’s not home anymore, Giles, and I’m no longer the Slayer.”
Giles snorted, “You will always be the Slayer.”
“Don’t prattle on about duty. I’ve had it with duty. Whistler said I’m on vacation and I’m taking him up on that offer.” Giles made a noise but Buffy just kept going. “I’m going to college again, I’m going to get my degree and I’m going to live my life.”
“You’ve said all this before.”
Buffy laughed, remembering the first day she’d met him, “But then you didn’t have Faith. Get her out of whatever hole she’s in, and have fun keeping her to her duty. She the current Slayer anyway.”
“I want to see you,” Giles said it softly.
“You can’t Giles, the council will just follow you here.” Buffy sighed at his stony silence. “You know I’m right, Watcher Mine. Let me take care of those old geezers and I’ll call you. If you don’t hear from me, just call the Lunatic Café, they’ll always know where I am.”
“I can’t believe you’re alive.”
Buffy smiled, “I’m here, just a bit different.”
She heard someone walking into the house at that moment, “I have got to go, Giles.”
He made as if to protest and then sighed, “I understand, but I don’t like it.”
Buffy just winced at his tone, “I’ll call you later, okay?”
“Yes, yes, dear girl. Call me after you’re done with whatever you’re doing.”
They both hung up without saying good-bye and Buffy just stared at the phone until the Ronnie walked into his office looking for her. She didn’t greet him, but just dove right into his arms. “I told him to stay away,” she whispered it into his chest.
“Giles?” was Ronnie’s whispered response as he dropped the bag in his hand and wrapped his arms around her.
Buffy nodded, “I want him here!”
Ronnie smoothed her hair, just like he’d seen Janice do. “It’ll be alright little girl. We just have to let things play out.”
She nodded and sobbed again.
A good five minutes passed before she was ready to back away from him and sit in an armchair by herself.
“You okay now?”
She nodded and gave him a small smile. “It’s not forever, just for now.” She twisted her hands together, “But, dear Lord, I want his stuffy British butt here. He was always like a father to me.”
Ronnie laughed and ruffled her hair, “You seem to collect those.”
Buffy laughed and allowed just his presence to calm her. “So what was wrong at the cafe?”
Ronnie grinned and pointed to the bag. “Janice bought you some stuff, but she had that Yoga class to teach so she ordered me to bring it here. It was in my office at work, so I had to invent some reason to go in to get it.”
Buffy grinned and went over. The logo on the bag was the bookstore from campus and she looked over at Ronnie, confused for a moment.
Ronnie just grinned, “It’s a little start of school present.”
“You guys didn’t!”
Ronnie just motioned for her to bring the bag here. She shook her head and plopped down in front of it, quickly leafing through it. Her biology books, lab and lecture, were there. The many little books that her English teacher had wanted them to have for the study of preternatural creatures and the myths around them. Her math book she tossed aside without glancing at it. But there was still more, notebooks, some pens, and at the very bottom a cell phone. Her eyes widened and she looked back at him.
“You guys didn’t!”
Ronnie just laughed and held out a piece of paper, she quickly rushed and snatched it out of his hand. It had a number written on it and nothing else. “That, my little girl, is your phone number. Keep the phone with you at all times, or Janice will tear the city apart finding you.”
She mock saluted him and bounced around happily, dumping all the library books out of her bag and putting in all her own books. Hooking the little hanger that Janice had bought for the phone to her purse and babbling incessantly at Ronnie about completely and utterly nothing.
Life was here and she loved every second of it, even the pain of being away from her family.
* * * * *
Travers was the first to call him. Giles almost snapped at the man, especially with the phrasing of his first question.
“So have you found her yet? Is she really out of her grave?”
Giles took a deep calming breath and replied, “No, her grave is still there and intact! You had me all worked up over nothing.”
Travers sputtered on the other end. “But what about all these hits on her identification?”
Giles snorted, and replied in a bland voice, “Ever heard of identity theft?”
There was nothing but silence in response to that. Then, “Are you sure?”
Giles snorted, “Yes, I even called that Ronald Drake person. He does have a Buffy Summers working there. She’s a redhead with green eyes, and he tells me she’s a member of his pack!”
Travers groaned and sank down in his chair. “That could never happen to a Slayer.”
“Indeed.” Giles sighed, “I’m going to stay here a bit, the kids that used to help out need some assistance. It would really help if you could get Faith here as soon as possible.”
Travers made the appropriate noises and then hung up.
Giles almost cheered on his end, but just looked at Willow. “We’ve done all we can, now we just have to keep it going for her as long as possible.”
“But you want to bring Faith here?”
“Xander really isn’t going to like this.”
“Tough, it’s a situation you created on your own, deal with it!” he snapped and then stormed out. Completely pissed that he couldn’t go to Buffy immediately.
* * * * *
Quentin Travers sank into his chair and hung up the phone. Not believing what had just transpired. ‘Identity theft,’ he sighed, someone had gotten him all worked up because they wanted to steal the stupid girl’s identity. ‘Well that is just a problem for the American government to work out.’
He shook his head and shifted to the current problem. He buzzed his secretary, “Bring the lawyer in that is working on Faith’s parole case.”
* * * * *
It had been over a week since her talk with Giles. She woke up Saturday morning wondering why the council wasn’t beating at her door, and then she realized it didn’t matter. ‘They wouldn’t be able to keep me anyway,’ she thought and grinned, rolling out of bed, only to be hit by another desire. It had been a while since she’d checked on Anita’s house, and her curiosity was eating her up.
She took a deep breath and tried to think of all the reasons it would be a bad idea. ‘I shouldn’t keep them in the dark, they should really know about me as me and not the animal. It would be really horrid for them to hate me.’ Even as she found herself thinking all this, she was walking towards the forest, and changing once she was deep enough. ‘Just a quick peek at them,’ was her last thought before she took off running, the morning dew dusting her fur as she ran through grass and jumped over fallen branches.
She stopped by instinct for a moment, it almost felt like something was following her, she turned in a slow circle, her belly almost on the ground. Her eyes scanned the darkest corners and she saw nothing. A shake of her head at that foolishness and she was off again, her next stop was at the edge of the tree line, still in shadow, but she could see the house. She crouched low, keeping as still as possible and taking a good five minutes before she was convinced that no one would see her.
When she stepped out of the tree line, she was the kitten again. Small growls escaping her throat as she navigated the tall grass. She couldn’t help hissing as the dew still lingering on the grass drenched her completely. Laughter stopped her completely, and the next thing she knew she was airborne and landing in someone’s arms.
“So you’re back,” was the reply and she sniffed, Zane.
She purred and bit and looked up at him, “And you’re completely drenched little kitty.”
She snuggled down into his arms and yawned. He made his way back to the house and through the sliding glass door. “We have a visitor!” he called.
Nathaniel came out of the kitchen, a dishtowel wiping his hands. “Who is it?”
Zane didn’t respond and just carelessly tossed her to Nathaniel. Who easily caught her as she hissed and spit madly at the other guy. Nathaniel hugged her close and calmed her down. “A little more care Zane.”
Zane snorted, “Keep her locked up this time, so you don’t worry so much.”
Buffy perked up at that, ‘He’d worried.’
Nathaniel rolled his eyes and headed into the living room. He took position on one of the recliners and started rubbing her down with the towel to dry her off. “There you go, kitty, all nice and dry now.”
Buffy purred and butted at his hand.
Another smile and he started petting her, “I told you not to stay gone long.” He popped the footrest of the recliner back and placed her on his chest. Once he was settled he resumed petting her, talking to her about nothing at all until she fell asleep to the rumbling of his voice.
* * * * *
“Ronnie,” Janice rushed into the office at the café in a panic. “I can’t find her.”
Ronnie stood, “You tried her cell phone?”
Janice nodded, “I went by her apartment, I went by the library at the college, I went by the jogging track she’s fond of. I can’t find her!”
Ronnie growled and stalked out into the morning shift. His eyes scanned and found Shelly easily. She was trying to slip out the door when he caught her eye and motioned back towards his office. It only took her a minute to negotiate the crowd and she was there.
“We can’t find her,” Janice stated bluntly. “Do you know anything?” a small tinge of hope colored Janice’s voice.
Shelly shook her head, fear creeping into her eyes. “We’ve kept a watch though, no one has been following her. She was going to rest and relax this weekend before starting her classes on Monday.”
Janice nodded and stalked out to talk to the rest of the crew. Everyone gave her a wide berth, especially when they heard that she couldn’t find Buffy. Some of them tried to reassure her, but gave up quickly.
Janice turned and was questioning one of the girls working a corner booth when she heard the giggling comments.
“He looked so cute with that little thing curled up on his chest,” it was a female voice, Janice couldn’t tell who it was though. “Both of them purring to shake the house.”
Janice peaked into the booth, they looked familiar, and they noticed her. The woman held up her cell phone and showed Janice the digital picture she’d snapped, “Don’t they just look adorable?”
Janice barely held back growl as she saw the picture, her smile must have seemed pleasant though, “Can I go show that to my hubby real quick?”
The girl looked skeptical for a moment, but Janice motioned back towards Ronnie’s office. She still didn’t let go of the phone, “We’ve recently had a kitten go missing, and I want him to confirm that that could be her before I start to get all excited.”
“Oh,” the woman seemed disappointed but handed the phone over.
“I’ll bring it back, I promise.”
The guy with her sank low into his seat as well, “Well I hope that’s not your cat,” he looked up and grinned at her. “We want to keep her.”
Janice turned and quickly walked to the office, barely holding in her snarl. She shoved the phone in Shelly’s face, “Is that her?”
Shelly gulped and leaned back a bit to get a better look. A nod of her head and muttered, “And that’s Nathaniel, he doesn’t come here much so you wouldn’t know him.”
Janice nodded and glared at Ronnie, “I thought you explained to her to stay away from them!”
Ronnie nodded and gulped, he’d seen Janice like this once before and it never boded well.
Janice just composed herself and walked back out to the table, they both looked at her as she handed the phone back to them. “I’m sorry to say, but that’s our little minx.”
The woman stood, “I’m Cherry by the way and this is Zane. We can take you to get her, it’s best if Nathaniel sees who is getting her.”
Janice nodded and moved to get her keys. Zane decided to ride with her just so she didn’t get lost and it was a very quiet ride to Anita’s house. Janice’s thoughts were very dark. ‘I’ll chain her to a chair at work. Better yet, I’ll sew the damn cell phone to her hand. We’ll see how she likes that, worrying me this way!’
They pulled in, and both Cherry and Zane looked at the woman with disappointment. “Are you sure we can’t just keep her?” Cherry asked.
“Yeah, we’ve grown attached to the little thing,” Zane admitted reluctantly.
Janice just shook her head, “I’m sorry, but I’ve been frantic trying to find her.”
They were quiet as they walked into the house, and Nathaniel was in the recliner exactly how Cherry had taken the picture. The little kitten curled up high on his chest, both of them purring softly.
Janice walked forward and ran a lazy finger up Buffy’s spine, ruffling her fur in the wrong way. Kitten eyes opened slowly and then widened when they saw Janice. Janice could just see the thought process going. ‘Yeah, you’re in trouble little girl.’
The kitten stretched and walked up Nathaniel’s chest to bat at his nose, startling him awake and causing Cherry and Zane to laugh. It stopped abruptly when the kitten licked his cheek and then leapt at Janice.
Nathaniel looked confused. “This is her owner,” was Cherry’s soft explanation.
“Oh,” was the only reply Nathaniel made, he gave the kitten another scratch on the chin and still looked confused.
Janice couldn’t help it, “You’ll see her again.” Nathaniel looked up at her and smiled, “She gets away from me now and again. I’ll just look here before I panic, alright?”
“That would be good, she’s a sweet little thing.”
And Janice still couldn’t keep the comments to herself, she leaned forward and whispered in his ear, “She’s more than you realize, but you’ll find out soon enough. Just don’t hate her when you find out.”
Nathaniel looked at her in confusion but nodded his head.
Janice nodded to all three of them and then walked out to her truck, starting in on Buffy in a fierce whisper. “You are so dead when I get you home, young lady!”
Janice at least had the grace to wait until they were off Anita’s property and heading towards the café before she started in with the lecture. “We’ve told you and told you that you will never get along with them if you keep showing up and not letting them know you’re a person!” It didn’t even seem Janice cared that Buffy was still the adorable little kitten. “You’ve said you want them to like you, so why do you keep doing it?”
Buffy just mewed at her and huddled in her seat. She very much resented being yanked out of her slumber. It was the first real rest she’d gotten in over a week.
Janice just sighed, “We’re almost back to main traffic, if you’re going to change back, do it now and tell me what was going through that head of yours.”
Buffy silently shifted, appreciating for the first time the ease with which it happened, and the fact that she still had clothes on. “I don’t know,” she whispered in reply and sank low in her seat. She leaned her forehead on the window and gazed out at the passing houses. “I just had to be there.”
Janice glanced at her, but had to return her attention to the road for the early morning church traffic. “Just start at the beginning.”
Buffy took a deep breath, and tried to relax as she spoke it out, “I woke up and I was wondering why the council was suddenly just gone. I shrugged it off though, they’d never be able to take me and keep me.” Janice snorted and nodded her agreement to that. “But when I was done with that, and I was struck by the thought that I hadn’t been to Anita’s again. I wondered what was going on with them, it was like a little imp beating at my head.” She shook her head, as if trying to clear something from it. “So I started thinking of the reasons I shouldn’t go there, but none of them mattered more than seeing them again.”
Janice rolled her eyes, “Don’t you mean him?”
Buffy shrugged, “It wasn’t clear thoughts, a few words here and there, but it was mainly a feeling.”
Janice nodded curtly, “We’ll discuss this in Ronnie’s office.”
The rest of the ride to the café was in silence, Buffy staring moodily out her window and Janice chewing on her bottom lip. There weren’t many customers today, but Janice quickly dragged Buffy through the people that tried to greet her. They just chuckled, knowing that somehow Ronnie’s ‘little girl’ was in trouble again.
Buffy walked through the door before Janice and pouted when the door was firmly shut behind them. “I found our runaway.”
Ronnie just smirked, “Like there was any doubt of where she was.” Buffy’s head slowly came up and she stared at them, waiting for this part of her lecture to start. “Now, tell us why.”
Ronnie was calm, and Buffy had a feeling that this was a bad sign.
“I couldn’t help it,” was Buffy’s soft reply.
“Bull,” Ronnie replied.
Buffy walked over closer to him, “I really couldn’t. I tried to talk myself out of it, but I couldn’t.”
Ronnie smirked, “Couldn’t or wouldn’t?”
Shelly smothered a giggled behind her hand, and almost lost control at the look Buffy gave Ronnie. “I couldn’t. It was like something was beating the thought into my head. I had to go there, I had to check on them, I was halfway through the woods before I even noticed I was being followed!” She stated that, not quite remembering that they didn’t know that part of her.
Ronnie was up and out of his chair like a shot. “You were followed?”
“Yeah, and I’m usually more cautious than that,” Buffy responded, puzzled.
“By what?” Janice joined in, now both of them standing directly in front of her and making demands.
“I don’t know!” Buffy almost yelled at them. “I stilled, waiting for it to catch up with me and then it was gone. The feeling never came back. Hell I even had five minutes of watching the house before I actually went up to it and nothing came up on me!”
Ronnie sighed and looked at Janice, “Who do you think it was?”
Janice shrugged, “We’ll find out sooner or later. You know they’ll come for you.”
Ronnie nodded and then turned back to Buffy. “You’re starting class with Janice,” Ronnie said firmly.
“Class?” Buffy asked, completely confused.
Janice nodded, “Yes, I teach other things than Yoga.”
“Meditation,” Janice replied with a grin.
“I won’t have enough time between college and supporting myself!” Buffy was getting completely frustrated with this.
“We’ll drop you down to part-time, and that’s all there is to it!”
“But how will I support myself?”
Janice grinned, “You could move in with us. It’ll help with your training.”
Buffy groaned, “I’ll think about it.” She was sullen, but a part of her loved the idea of being in the forest instead of just near it.
“Even if you don’t, you’re starting classes next week!” this from Ronnie, followed with a quick agreement from Shelly.
“I don’t want to!” Buffy pouted, “It’s boring and I’ve got classes to start on Monday!”
Janice just sighed, “You’ll do it.”
Buffy shook her head and backed away, anger giving way to confusion, “You already do too much. I’ve already caused so many problems.”
Ronnie pulled her into a quick hug, “That doesn’t matter.”
Buffy sighed and hugged him back, “You’re all a bunch of big bullies.”
Ronnie opened his mouth to reply, but before he could utter a sound someone knocked on the door. “Ronnie, you in there?” it was a deep male voice, and everyone but Buffy snapped to attention.
“Yeah, Richard, come on in.”
The door opened, and this tall guy walked in. Power radiated off of him, but Buffy noticed his eyes more than that, a warm rich brown. She’d mistake him for a human if she didn’t know better; this was Richard, their Ulfric. His brown hair was cut very close to his scalp, almost military style, and Buffy really didn’t like the look, especially on him.
Richard smiled at her, “And who is this?” Richard walked towards her, his hand coming out to shake hers. “Is this the girl I’ve heard something about you adopting?”
Buffy just shook her head with a smile and shook his hand. “Yeah, they like to adopt adults and highjack them.”
Richard laughed a bit and then turned to Ronnie, “I need to talk to you about a run in I had this morning.”
“Run in?” Ronnie repeated softly.
Richard nodded, “I was tracking something through the woods. It was heading towards Anita’s house and this wolf got in my way.”
Ronnie sank leaned back against his desk, his arms folded across his chest, “And I take it this wolf wasn’t one of us?”
Richard just shrugged, “What can I say, we have a rogue.”
Ronnie swore under his breath and looked over at Janice, “Can you manage this place while I hunt?”
Janice nodded and pulled Buffy close to her. It had been a really close call this morning, in more ways than they had originally known. Buffy looked up at Janice and there was a question in being asked in the movement. Janice just shook her head and Buffy concluded that it wasn’t time for Richard to know.
Ronnie and Richard made plans, that Buffy only half listened to. Her recklessness could have caused a ton more problems than she’d originally conceived of. She leaned back into Janice and closed her eyes. ‘I’ll have to go to those stupid classes, if only to get more control, I hate it, I hate feeling like this. Maybe those classes will help.’
Buffy was pulled out of that train of thought when Richard moved towards her again. “Just give in,” he said to her softly. Buffy looked at him confused, and Richard just smiled at her. “They won’t let you go, so just give in.”
Buffy laughed under her breath. “Like they’ll give me any other choice.”
Richard just smiled and headed towards the door. A quick nod was given to Shelly and he was gone. They all breathed a sigh of relief, but Shelly took it a step further and smacked her upside the head. “He almost caught you this morning!”
Buffy nodded and sighed, “I guess I do have things that need to be learned.” She wrinkled her nose in distaste, but the words still slipped through her lips, “I guess I’ll attend your stupid classes and move in.”
The sun was rising, and it seemed surreal that she was up in enough time to
watch it. Janice had a table out on the back porch and Buffy sat there sipping
her coffee watching the sun slowly rise above the horizon. If she sat still
enough birds could come to the feeders that Janice had set out back, and ignore
She’d had the most wonderful night of sleep last night. Janice had insisted that she not go back to that little apartment and be alone. The thought was that Buffy’s draw to the pard was loneliness. Buffy just sighed into her coffee and pushed the thoughts away. There would be time enough to concentrate on all of that when she had her first meditation class this afternoon.
She drew her legs up under her and smiled at the little scene that had ensued yesterday. They really worried about her, and Buffy found that amazing. Nothing could change their minds about her switching to a part time schedule and moving in with them. ‘It also helped that I didn’t protest too much,’ Buffy thought and giggled, ‘and they had sensed that weakness and used it against her.’
The meeting with Richard, though, that was nagging at her. ‘He was tracking me, it had to be by scent, why didn’t he realize that it was me?’ She sighed and took another sip of the warm coffee. ‘There’s so many things I don’t know about this aspect of myself, I could really screw things up.’
Her thoughts drifted to Nathaniel and a feeling of calmness washed over her, and then it annoyed the hell out of her. ‘Why do I react to him that way?’ She took another deep breath and tried to calm down. ‘Just think of college, just think of that and get through the day. Nothing stays a mystery forever.’
She took that last drink of coffee and bounced up, taking her own advice and rushing into the house. Janice was up and looking a little frazzled this morning. “Morning,” Buffy whispered to her, not knowing how she was in the morning.
Janice looked up at her and panic seemed to set into her eyes, “You’re not dressed or showered and we have to get you to campus!” Janice rushed towards her and started pushing her towards the room Buffy had taken over. “Go on, get moving, you can’t be late your first day!”
Buffy laughed, “Janice, dear, class isn’t until 11.”
Janice stopped and looked over at a clock, it was just past 8. “That doesn’t matter, I’ve got to get to the café, and Ronnie left early this morning to try to find that wolf. He’ll be obsessed with it until he finds the rogue. Damn him!”
Buffy just smiled, “I could help him.” Janice stilled completely, “I was good at that once upon a time,” Buffy continued in an off-hand manner.
Janice turned Buffy around and stared at her, “I appreciate it Buffy, but we’ve got to get your beast under control. Richard almost found out, and until we have everything set up perfectly, we’re playing a dangerous game.”
Buffy sighed and nodded, “I know and I’ve told you that you don’t need to. I’ll go back to my apartment and ….”
Janice just shook her head, “Don’t,” a sigh, “I’m sorry Buffy, I don’t mean to sound that way. Ronnie being gone always gets to me this way. You’re our little girl now,” Buffy started to protest but Janice stilled her. “You are, no matter what. You’re the daughter Ronnie and I couldn’t have.” Buffy smiled softly. “You’re everything and we’ll protect you, Richard will understand that.”
Buffy scowled at that point, “You hope! I hate that you guys are endangering yourselves for me. I can take care of myself!”
Janice snorted and started pushing Buffy again, “And you’d end up in Anita’s house, sleeping on Nathaniel every single day!”
Buffy laughed, “I think that would be a good way to sleep.”
Janice laughed, “He is kinda cute.”
Buffy just smirked at Janice and hurried into her room before the other woman could smack her for the look.
“Be ready in a half hour,” Janice said through Buffy’s door. “I need to check on the café.”
* * * * *
The drive that morning was the worst that Buffy could ever remember enduring. Between the Monday morning commuters, the college students coming in for their first day of class, and Janice driving like all the hounds of hell were following them, Buffy was sure she was going gray. The “Oh-shit” bar next to her door had fingernail marks in it, and Buffy just prayed that nothing was wrong at the café. She didn’t want to see what Janice drove like when she was well and truly ticked off. Buffy wondered if there was a way to talk Ronnie into staying at least until they all got their day started. It might help, she could hope at least.
The café, of course, was running smoothly. Everyone greeted them as they walked in, and the cook highjacked Buffy for a good breakfast.
“You gotta have fuel on your first day, child,” Buffy smiled at the slight New Orleans accented comment. The older woman bullied everyone, and thought that no one was taking care of themselves.
“I know, Alice, I know,” and Buffy smiled at the full plate that was sat down in front of her at the bar. “But look at her,” Buffy motioned to Janice who was fluttering everywhere and couldn’t seem to decide what she wanted to check on first.
Alice just grinned, “She’s like this every time someone calls on Ronnie for tracking. It’s just her way of dealing with the thought of what he’s doing and whether or not it’s dangerous.” Alice marched over to Janice and carefully steered her into the main office. Closing the door on Janice’s protests and thowing a quick, “There’s a note for you,” over her shoulder.
Buffy laughed and started in on her breakfast, grinning when someone slid a coffee cup in front of her. She turned and saw one of the other waitresses quickly getting back to the customers.
The note Ronnie had left for Janice seemed to calm her down quite a bit. Buffy breathed a sigh of relief. She might actually allow Janice to live through the rest of the day. Then Janice noticed the time. “Come on Buffy, we gotta get going.” Buffy looked up at the time, she still had 45 minutes, but she shrugged.
“I’ll meet you outside Janice, just let me go thank Alice.”
Janice nodded and rushed out the front door as Buffy gathered her things and headed into the kitchen. Alice was controlling the chaos and Buffy stayed out of the way. “Thanks for breakfast Alice. I think it will help me not kill Janice this morning.”
Alice just laughed and shooed her out. “Go, child, go. You’ll just make it worse if you keep her waiting.”
Buffy rushed out, making sure she had her bag and her purse as she slid into the passenger seat of the SUV. Once again, the “Oh Shit” bar was Buffy’s friend. The drive seemed to take forever, just because Buffy was tensed for an impact with another vehicle.
Janice pulled to a screeching halt in front of the science building, leaning over to give Buffy a quick hug. “Have a good first day dear. And I’ll be by at 3 to pick you up. If you go somewhere give me a buzz on the cell. I have your class blocked for 3 on Mondays and Fridays.”
Buffy nodded and waved as Janice drove by, breathing out a sigh of relief when the vehicle was out of sight.
“Rough morning?” someone whispered in her ear. Jason laughed when she turned quickly and glared at him.
“Give a girl a heart attack!” She didn’t wait for him but started walking towards the auditorium. He ran to catch up to her and the grin on his face had Buffy shaking her head. “Don’t even think about it!”
Jason plastered an innocent look on his face, “Think about what?”
Buffy paused before the door, “Whatever it is you have going on behind those eyes of yours.” She turned continuing into the room, completely ignoring Jason. Theater style seating had Buffy choosing something towards the front but near the exit door. Jason sat next to her, and Buffy sighed, trying to push him to a different seat, “Go away.”
Jason pouted, “Don’t you like me?”
Buffy just rolled her eyes, “You are annoying. How has Ronnie resisted the urge to kill you?”
“Because I’m so cute and loveable,” he replied with a smile.
Buffy just sighed and shushed him as more students filled the spaces next to them. Jason settled for a moment and Buffy thought that she might actually survive the class.
“You know you love me,” he whispered into her ear.
She growled, “I don’t even know you.”
Jason laughed, “But you still love me.”
Buffy just shushed him, and thanked the Powers that class was starting. The TA started passing out the syllabus, and the attendance sheet.
“Please fill in your name, you seat number, and your social,” the professor called out as he walked out onto the stage. Buffy almost laughed, he was wearing something that looked tweedy and he had glasses on. Brownish gray hair, and a briefcase completed a look that had her thinking Giles had a clone. “Write down your seat number, these are the seats that you will be staying in for this semester.”
Buffy groaned and glared at Jason. “If you cause me to fail this class because of your goofing off, they will not find the body.”
Jason snickered again and just tried to look innocent. “Class is important. I would never do anything to interrupt the learning process.”
Buffy just shook her head with a laugh, he sounded like he was reading it off of a prompter. It took about 15 minutes for the syllabus to make its way around and then the professor started in.
“My name is Alan Briggs, welcome to Introduction to Preternatural Biology. Your labs will start in two weeks, make sure that you are there for the lab as it is 50% of your final grade for this class.” Buffy started making little notes on her syllabus, the professor went over tests expectations, attendance rules, and then he got to the guest lecture portion. Buffy swore softly under her breath as she glanced over the schedule. “Guest speakers will be in every week for this class. Each will focus on a different section on the preternatural world. We have been able to get Anita Blake to agree to come in.” The professor paused as all the students started to chatter. Buffy just groaned, and glared over at Jason as he chuckled.
“I expect all of you to be respectful, not just to her but to all the guest speakers. You will note on your syllabus that I have marked the dates that I expect them in. There will be an update on the school website if there is a change. These classes will require class participation and you will be graded upon it.”
He walked to the edge of the stage and looked out over everyone, Buffy almost squirmed. “Are there any questions?”
No one raised their hands, “Alright then, next class will be a guest speaker. Please read over the chapters on Zombies and Animators. Be on time,” he stressed this, “the entrance doors will be locked five minutes after class starts.” Professor Briggs walked back to his briefcase and paused to answer questions of the students rushing to talk to him. Buffy waited a little while for the room to mostly clear out. She tried to ignore Jason, but he seemed insistent at following her.
When she got up to leave and he followed her, she just turned to him and put her hands on her hips. “Why are you following me?”
“Because your ass is cute,” he smirked at her and Buffy just laughed.
“You are too much,” she started walking out again, heading towards the quad to relax and glance over her books. Jason kept right on her heels. “Are you a lost little puppy? Is that why you’re following me?”
Jason caught up so that he was beside her. “Maybe, but,” he leaned in and sniffed at her hair, “I really just like the way you smell.”
Buffy swatted at him, and sat on an empty bench. “So, don’t you have to go to work or something?”
Jason shook his head, “I got off for good behavior.”
Buffy snorted, “Sure you did.” She glanced at the time on her cell phone and sighed.
Buffy just shook her head, “I’ve got three hours to kill.”
Jason popped to his feet and held his hand out to her, “Then let me treat you to lunch.”
“You mean annoy me?”
Jason shrugged, “Maybe, but I promise to entertain you.”
Buffy nodded and placed her hand in his, “I have a feeling that I’ll regret this, but alright.”
The cell phone ringing was the first clue Buffy had that time had flown by.
She grabbed it and noted that it was about 15 minutes until 3 and Janice was
calling. “Hey dear,” she answered the phone and made shushing motions
Of course, he didn’t listen so Janice’s first question was, “Why are you with that boy?”
Buffy laughed and kicked Jason under the table. “He bought me lunch.”
Janice snorted. “I’ll be out in front of the science building in about 20 minutes.”
“Okay, I’ll be there.”
They hung up and Buffy glared at Jason. “Now we’re in for it!”
Jason just shrugged and rolled his eyes, “It’s not like I seduced you and secreted you away to the Circus.”
Buffy groaned and started gathering up their trays. “You can ditch if you want.”
Jason shook his head and took the trays from her, “Nope, I wanna see Janice’s face when I’m hanging all over you when she drives up.”
She didn’t wait for him after that comment, but hurried out of the little diner that they’d found on campus. He caught up to her quickly and pouted, “You trying to lose me?”
Buffy shook her head, “No, but Janice is already on the edge.”
Jason quieted, “The rogue?”
Buffy nodded, “Richard came and got Ronnie to do the tracking. Ronnie has checked in but he can’t find anything to go on.”
Jason kicked a rock in front of them and quieted for a moment. “Well you shouldn’t worry.” Buffy snorted. “You really shouldn’t, Ronnie doesn’t do stupid things.”
Jason turned and stuck his tongue out at her, “They’re not stupid.”
They reached the parking lot and Buffy turned to him, tapping her foot, “Sure, not stupid.”
Jason shrugged and couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face, “What can I say, trouble likes me!”
Buffy hugged him quickly and laughed, “Yes, it seems to.”
He hugged her back, shocked a bit that she initiated it. “And what about you?”
She hummed for a moment and Jason moved to back away from her, “I like you,” she whispered and hugged him tight. “Just stop hitting on me!” she backed away from him then and popped him on the back of the head. His hands had been drifting down as she said it.
“Can I help it if your ass is so cute?”
Buffy just groaned, smacking him on the arm and then turned when she heard Janice’s laughter. “You two act like siblings!”
Jason groaned and glared at Janice, “I wouldn’t grab my sister’s ass.”
Janice quirked a brow as Buffy turned and stuck her tongue out at Jason, then climbed into the vehicle.
“I don’t need a sister!” Jason replied, but then he sighed because Buffy just looked out the window and pouted at him. ‘Yep, that’s how a little sister acted.’ He winced as she rolled up her window and slumped down in her seat.
“Still, that’s how she’s acting!” Janice threw at him, and Jason nodded shocking Janice when he didn’t seem offended by her comment.
“She’s too sweet for me,” was his mumbled excuse and then he was gone.
Buffy rolled down her window when she saw him run past and called a good-bye to him. He turned and waved at her from his bike. She couldn’t help the smile that lingered on her lips as Janice drove away from campus.
“Good day?” Janice asked.
Buffy nodded, “He’s going to be a good friend.”
Janice nodded, “Anything else going on there?”
Buffy made a sour face, “He’s way too outlandish for me. Been there, tried that, didn’t enjoy it.”
Janice laughed, and took off towards her teaching center. Buffy just leaned her head back and closed her eyes; it was the only way to keep from wincing at every jerk of the steering wheel.
“Oh, and Anita is going to guest lecture,” Buffy whispered it off-handedly. Not even thinking what Janice’s reaction would be. Luckily they were already in the parking lot of her private facility when Janice slammed on the brakes and just stared at Buffy.
“Do you think she’ll realize who you are?”
Buffy shook her head, opening her door and starting to get out, “Richard was tracking me this morning and he couldn’t tell when he met me in person.” And Buffy was out and going towards the building.
Janice quickly caught up to her, tapping in her code on the keypad and letting them in the back door. “I completely forgot about that.”
They both walked into Janice’s office in a little bit of a daze, the upheaval of the past couple days finally catching up to them. They both sank gratefully into the comfortable chairs and silence reigned for at least a couple of minutes before Buffy broke it.
“What are we going to do?”
Janice just gave her a reassuring smile, “Nothing has happened that would ruin everything if they found out. We just want a little bit more time to figure things out.”
Buffy nodded, but still looked a little too stressed for Janice’s peace of mind. She shook it off and stood abruptly, pulling Buffy out of her thoughts.
“Anyway, it’s time to start your lessons.”
Buffy stood slowly and sighed, “I really hate meditation. Something weird always happens.”
“Then you haven’t done it right,” was Janice’s response as she led the way to a different type of room. The walls were a nice soft caramel color, cushions littered the floor, all of them in soft shades that didn’t clash with the walls. There was a low table against one wall that had an incense burner on it, but it wasn’t set up.
Janice sat cross-legged on the floor, and motioned for Buffy to do the same. “The first thing you have to understand is that meditation is the art of your consciousness becoming aware of itself on the grand and cosmic scale.”
Buffy nodded, she’d heard it before, from Giles, but even just the repetition of the words brought a measure of calm to Buffy’s mind.
“If thoughts come to mind, then observe the thoughts without adding to them by your active participation. Be a detached and passive observer and simply feel your most basic fundamental being. This is the ground of being, the way to ground yourself.”
Buffy just nodded again, letting Janice know that she was still listening.
“Start by paying attention to your breathing,” Janice whispered to her.
Buffy took deep calming breaths and then started to slow her breathing.
“Completely focus on that simple act, take your mind away from everything that constantly tries to invade and gain attention. Allow everything to just slip away.”
Buffy’s eyes almost closed completely, blocking out everything as she slipped into herself, focusing on her breathing. Allowing the random images to pass through her mind. Janice continued to talk in the background, but Buffy could no longer hold onto the words that she was saying.
Images of each Slayer before her flashed before her mind. A girl in New York changing into a Lynx and clashing with a demon. Another one in Africa, she was being run out by her tribe for the first change she made. With each image came a rage that Buffy knew, intimately. It was the need to go out and rid the world of these things. Her breathing quickened and her eyes snapped open.
Janice gasped and walked up to Buffy, her hand moving in front of her, but she received no response and just sat back, waiting to see what would come of this.
* * * * *
Buffy swore as the sand drifted around her. She looked around, waiting for the guide to show up again. Hair blew into her face and she turned to face the wind and allow it to blow behind her. When she turned, she saw it. Only this time, it was a Lynx, probably her Lynx.
When it saw that it had caught her attention it started walking off, glancing back now and again to make sure she was following it. The camp was still there, a fire still burning, and the First Slayer was waiting for her. However, this time, there were other girls sitting with her.
“Welcome,” the one wearing the most modern clothing stated, standing and smiling at her. “You have finally made it here.”
Buffy gave her a small smile and stepped into the firelight, the Lynx padded next to her. It stuck to her side, not threatening the others, but brushing against her. Her hand drifted to its head without thought and lingered there, digging into its thick pelt.
“Sit,” the same one said, and Buffy complied, sitting down on one of the rocks that surrounded the camp, the Lynx following her closely. Everyone near them smiled. “It’s good, you’ve bonded well.”
Buffy just nodded, “So what’s up?”
The girl just laughed, “We thought you wanted an explanation, but we can leave if you don’t.”
Buffy shook her head, “No, an explanation past what Whistler told me would be good.”
A couple of the girls spit on the ground at the balance demon’s name and Buffy smothered a laugh. “Yes, he is quite negligent on the details. I’m Sara, I’ll be your speaker.”
Buffy nodded to her, “So I’ve graduated?”
Sara laughed, “They’re still using that explanation?”
“Well, in a sense you have, but the heritage is much more ancient than what Whistler wants you to understand. It’s also a lot more selective than he ever says.”
She motioned around the circle, “Each of us was granted the bond. Each of us went beyond what was necessary for the Slayer to do.” Sara paused, “Each of us had to overcome the beast and stay in control.”
Buffy nodded, “And how did you do that?”
Sara smiled, “By just what you’re doing. Meditating, visiting the past through the Lynx’s memories, and only in these ways can you understand your responsibilities.”
Buffy just sank down on her seat. “I thought I was on vacation.”
Sara snorted and some of the others laughed. “A Slayer never receives a vacation, it is a lifestyle, not a job.”
Buffy nodded, and pouted a little bit. “Yeah, I thought that, but I wanted a vacation.”
“You’ve had one,” that was the First Slayer’s growling voice, and Sara just sighed.
Buffy sneered, “I refuse to have this be all there is to my life!” The Lynx growled with her and the others looked at them in shock. The Lynx had never responded like this to any of them. Buffy heard it all absently in mummers around her. The Lynx neither helped nor hindered in these meetings before, always just leading the new one to the circle and sitting on the outer edge, close to the new person.
Buffy ignored them all, her attention focused on this First Slayer. Her fingers become buried deep in the thick pelt again, a tingle running through her fingers and a haze developing in her eyes, “We’ve found our place,” Buffy said, her voice coming out very rough. “We’ve found our home, and we will be slaves no longer!” The Lynx growled with her, and Buffy shook, not quite understanding all that was happening.
The First Slayer stood and marched towards them, “The Powers will not let you go.” The Lynx barred her teeth. “You were linked to our line as a tool and nothing more!”
Buffy felt the tensing of the Lynx’s muscles and dug her fingers in, keeping the Lynx from leaping across the distance. “We are tools no longer,” Buffy whispered, still speaking with that different voice. She looked around at all the girls. “You all did your duty and each of you died without fully knowing her.” Buffy looked down at the Lynx. “I will know her, and I will understand.” She backed away slowly, the Lynx following her, “We have found our home, and it will not be taken from us.”
“It is not your decision to make,” Sara spoke up softly, but Buffy and the Lynx faded into the shadows, backing away from all that this fire represented.
The dreams and urges will plague you no longer, something whispered in her mind. You are my way to freedom, you are my true…
And Buffy’s mind snapped out of that mental world and into the real. She fell back onto the pillows that surrounded her and stared at the ceiling. Nothing could have prepared her for that. She couldn’t even find the words to explain it to herself.
Janice moved into her line of vision slowly, “Buffy?”
Buffy just shook her head and stayed staring at the ceiling. “Things are a lot more complicated then even I realized.”
Buffy stayed as she fell, staring at the ceiling and feeling the Lynx curl
up inside her. It was like a little contented ball of warmth, and Buffy touched
her chest, not quite believing what had happened. One minute she was asking
for an explanation and the next she was telling them off.
Buffy closed her eyes and groaned, it was never good to do that. The First Slayer never took kindly to being told she was wrong. Another groan escaped her and she turned her head to look at Janice.
“Why can’t I be a simple girl?”
Janice looked worried, “Tell me what happened!”
Buffy sat up slowly, “I don’t really know.” Another pause so she could think. “I think the Lynx has let me know that she’s happy with me.”
Janice nodded, “That’s good, it’s a lot more progress than I ever expected this early.”
Buffy stared at her with wide eyes, “So others talk to their beasts?!”
“Some of them do, but I can never predict which ones will. Sometimes it’s an alpha, sometimes it’s the weakest of us all. But it never lasts forever.”
“What determines it?”
Janice shrugged, “I guess it can be related to how close they are to their beast. No one’s ever really linked one to the other, but that would be my guess.”
Buffy laughed softly, “Then I’m really linked to her. She just hauled my butt out of my destiny.”
Janice was silent for a moment, “Destiny?”
Buffy nodded, “All Slayers are linked to a destiny. When one dies, the next is called, and the destiny moves from one to another. It seems that it was the same way with this mystical beast of mine. When a Slayer reached the right potential, the Powers gift it to them. Link it to them. She has lived every death since the beginning. She remembers them all.”
Janice winced, “That is the most… I don’t even know if there’s a word to describe it.”
Buffy nodded, “I don’t know how to either. I just know that she’s not a happy camper.”
Janice looked at her watch, “Well that only took 15 minutes of your hour, want to try again?”
Buffy nodded and sat up, “Yes, I need to find out more.”
Janice began the entire process over, adding a pink quartz crystal for Buffy to concentrate on when she couldn’t relax. “Just concentrate on your breathing, feel the crystal in your hand, let it slip away. Feel the warmth inside of you and dive in.”
Buffy shuddered and dropped the crystal. “I can’t,” she whispered it.
Janice picked the crystal up and placed it firmly in Buffy’s hand again. “It’ll take longer this time. You’re resisting it because you’re afraid of what you’ll find.”
Buffy nodded, and tried again. A deep breath in, held for a moment and then released. The warmth within her spread a bit, and her eyes drooped shut, closing out a majority of the light. The aches in her body slowly faded to the background, the feel of the crystal in her hand anchored her, but her mind still slipped away.
* * * * *
And she was at the camp again. The sand between her toes, the darkness surrounding her, and the murmuring of voices letting her know that they were still upset.
You should not have returned so soon. Buffy looked and saw that the Lynx was with her again, padding silently beside her as they drew closer to the group of women.
“I must.” The Lynx snorted. “I must, and you must understand.”
I do not, but I will follow. For now.
Buffy knew that she was walking a thin line. The beast beside her wanted freedom, she wanted freedom, but they both had to understand first. The past, the present, and then the future could be theirs.
Buffy walked into the firelight again, the beast still padding next to her. “So you return,” that was Sara, and Buffy gave her a small smile.
“We must understand.”
“You understand nothing!” the First Slayer growled at her. Her gaze directed towards the beast next to Buffy. “It has its own wants and desires. It will control you if you let it.”
Buffy snorted, “Maybe, but that still doesn’t stand in opposition to the fact that I will not be a puppet for anyone.”
Sara walked closer, “We have all felt that way, but it is our duty!”
“What is our duty?”
Sara faltered and took a step back, “To protect the innocent.”
“And if it’s the demon, the beast, that is innocent?”
“Never,” the First Slayer growled and the rest echoed her sentiment.
Buffy sneered, “And that’s why you were all puppets.”
The First Slayer moved off, further into the shadows, but Sara stayed close. “Ask your questions.”
Buffy closed her eyes for a moment, “How do I stop the dreams?”
Sara motioned, “The Lynx controls that. She will stop them when she feels the time is right.”
I already have. Buffy heard in her mind, and, from the lack of response from Sara, knew that she was the only one to hear it.
“And the rage?”
“The same answer. All our deaths have been avenged; the Lynx cares nothing for anything else. You just needed to understand that the visions were beyond your control. That she is beyond your control.” Sara glanced down at the Lynx and sighed, “That she is what keeps you on the path of death.”
Buffy shrugged, “She seems to like me. I think we’ll get along well.”
Sara laughed softly, “You have no idea…”
Buffy stopped her mid-sentence, “And if you give me that line one more time I’m liable to kill myself.”
Sara just smiled, “It’s still true, all the same. Death is your gift,” Sara pointed to the beast, “she is your gift. I don’t know if you should be glad that you earned her.”
“So what message did the Powers want you to give me?”
“Blunt aren’t we?”
“Well, trying to be nice wasn’t working, I thought I’d change tactics.”
“They want you to do your duty. You are all that stands between the innocents and the demons. Your vacation was a fallacy to get you integrated into this society. You no longer have a use on the hellmouths, but you have a use here. Check this master’s power. Halt him in his tracks, and the Powers will let you go.”
“Sure, they will.” Buffy paced forward, the Lynx keeping stride with her. “I’ve heard that line before. I won’t be let go until I’m dead, and even then it’s not guaranteed.” She looked around the circle and noted how many were here. “Will I become trapped like you? Forced to explain things to the next girl with enough power?”
Sara just sighed, “We all chose this. The destiny, the aftermath, and the teaching.”
“Bull. Duty was shoved on you at an early age, and you don’t know any other way.”
“There’s nothing that can change it.”
Buffy turned and stalked away, “Watch me.”
The landscape changed once she was out of their sight. Trees surrounded them, and the Lynx was rubbing against her, urging her to halt.
It will take time.
Buffy just sat on a log, “What doesn’t?”
We will have to learn to trust each other.
“Complicated thing you’re asking.”
The Lynx purred and rubbed her chin on Buffy’s arm. But it will happen. The big cat turned and walked away from her slowly. I won’t be able to talk to you again. This drains me.
Buffy nodded and started to follow her, “As long as we’re going for the same thing.”
The Lynx paused and looked back at her, A right to just live. A right to stay in the home we have found. There was a touch of longing in the voice. I have been denied this for too long, and I will not allow it to happen any longer. It stalked towards her again and stared at her intently, green eyes staring into green, You are my true bond. You are why I allowed the first bonding to happen. Do not disappoint me. The cat started walking away again.
“How will I know what to do?”
It snorted and stopped, looking back at her, Just do what you want, and do not allow others to dictate to you. Green-gold eyes stared at her, Be the kitten, be our true form, be the human form, or just don’t be at all. Just do not be their tool!
Buffy nodded and watched it walk away, deeper inside of her, further away from touching her everyday life. She felt the change, even here in this mental world; a subtle shift of something clicking in place inside of her. It happened so quickly and so easily that Buffy was almost afraid it was a lie. But she saw the prints on the wet ground of her mind. She saw the changes that took place around her. Power surged up from an unknown depth, and then she was done.
She pulled out of it slowly. A smile graced her lips, full of contentment. Nothing had ever felt like this before. She felt free, nothing was making her jittery or on edge, like she had always been in Sunnydale. She didn’t feel like a blanket was wrapped around her head, muffling the real world, like she’d felt ever since she’d gotten here. It was something that you didn’t realize was there until it was gone. Still there was a familiar tingle as she opened her eyes.
She stood up and decked Whistler before Janice even knew he was there.
* * * * *
5 minutes earlier
“Whistler,” the melodic voice called him into being. One of the oracles stood there, her face resigned to something that Whistler was almost afraid to ask about. “Go to Buffy.”
Whistler nodded and waited, it was taking her a while to form her thoughts. A sigh escaped her and Whistler frowned, ‘What is going on?’
“We’ve lost her,” the blue skinned woman stated. “We’ve lost them both.”
Whistler walked forward and looked down at the board that the fates always played with. It was a live version of chess, and all their champions were the pieces that they manipulated. Whistler located the Buffy figurine and noted the change, it was marble now instead of clay, it had a beast figure beside it, connected by heavy strands of silver. The Oracle reached forward and tried to move it, it wouldn’t budge.
“You’ll understand our disappointment.” Whistler nodded. The Oracle smiled then, “She’s done it. And I’m proud, but still, I’ll miss her.”
“You won’t have time to,” her male counterpart spoke up from his reclining position.
Whistler looked down at the board and noticed that the Faith figurine was back in play. The Powers, they always had to have their hand something.
The male oracle continued with the instructions, “Go and tell her Whistler. She’s done, her actions are her own and we will neither hinder nor assist her any longer.”
He nodded again and disappeared, only to be decked when he appeared.
* * * * *
“Dammit, Buffy!” he stood there, rubbing his nose and glaring at her.
Janice was quickly on her feet and pushing Buffy behind her. “What are you?!”
“None of your concern,” was his reply to Janice, “I’m here for the younger blondie.”
Buffy stepped in front of Janice, “Say what you came to say and then leave.”
“I only came bearing a message.” Buffy nodded and motioned for him to continue. He was distracted by his nose though, “I think you broke it!”
Buffy stepped forward and grabbed his arm, twisting it a little, “If you don’t tell me, you’ll have other things broken!”
He sighed and shrugged her off, “Touchy, touchy!”
“Well you lied to me last time we spoke!”
“I did not lie!”
“You’re on vacation,” Buffy said in a mocking voice.
He shrugged, “Well you were! I just never said how long it would last.”
“So tell me, what other things must I do now? Do I need to go back to the wonderful hellmouth? Do I need to go, and leave this place?”
Whistler shook his head, “They’re done with you little girl.”
Buffy snarled at his use of that nickname. He held his hands up in surrender.
“They’re done. No help, no hindrance. Whatever you do here, you do on your own.”
Buffy looked at him in shock. “And I should believe you because?”
Whistler just smiled at her, “Because I would never tell you something like that unless it were true.” Buffy opened her mouth to protest. “I’ve never lied, at least not outright. So give just a little trust.”
The Lynx’s words came back to Buffy at that moment. “I will,” Buffy responded slowly and softly. “I’ll trust you just this once, but if you’re lying, your ass is mine!”
He turned and shook his ass at her with a grin, just before he popped out of sight. Buffy turned to the still shocked Janice and jumped the woman, pulling her into a tight hug as she stood there laughing with tears streaming down her face.
“What was all that?” Janice whispered, wrapping her arms around the hysterical girl.
“I have no idea,” Buffy whispered and then leaned back, “Just promise that I don’t have to do this anymore.”
Janice nodded, “I guess if this is what happens when you meditate, then I’ll cancel your classes.”
“Good,” then Buffy pulled her out of the room, “Let’s get home.”
They were laughing as they walked in the door to the house. Ronnie’s
car being in its spot had put Janice at ease almost immediately, but she paused,
looking perplexed at they walked in the front door.
“Richard’s here,” she whispered and Buffy nodded. They padded silently into the den and shook their heads at Ronnie and Richard both watching some old black and white movie on the television.
“So this is what you guys call working,” Janice called and laughed as she walked into the room.
Ronnie just rolled his eyes and stood, hugging Janice to him. “Naw, we were waiting for you two to get home.”
Janice leaned back and pecked him quickly on the lips. “And why is that?”
Ronnie smiled and motioned to Richard, “He went back and followed that other scent trail to Anita’s house.” Janice stiffened in his arms and Buffy hid a groan. “Nathaniel told him that the only visitor they’ve had was our kitten.”
Richard turned and smiled at Buffy, “Do you know where the little thing likes to hide? Ronnie and I have been searching but we can’t find her.”
Buffy nodded, and walked to Janice, starting to pull her away from Ronnie.
“Go and find the little minx,” Ronnie said. “She likes you two best anyway.”
Janice nodded and walked out hearing Ronnie tell Richard, “That little feline is always getting into the worst places. Last week we found her out in a tree.”
Buffy took off running, changing swiftly on her way, going up to the second story of the house. There was a loft over looking the den, but no one used it because it was such a pain to get to. Buffy heard Janice half-heartedly calling out for the kitty.
‘She needs to stay calm,’ Buffy thought, “everything will be alright if Janice just stays calm.” Buffy maneuvered around boxes and jumped up to the railing, she looked down into the den and debated dropping something on their heads. Richard seemed to be frozen at something and Ronnie didn’t look happy. She just shrugged it off and jumped to one of the decorative ceiling beams. The distance to jump looked to be too much for a cat her size, so she started in on the normal response and meowed pitifully. Richard snapped out of his daze at the same time and glared at Ronnie, Buffy had no clue what that was about. They hadn’t heard her though, and that was vexing.
“What the hell was that, Ronnie?”
Buffy’s eyes widened at Richard’s tone. “What?” Ronnie asked softly.
“You felt it,” Richard got up and paced around the room. “The wash of power just now. It’s gone, but it was there.”
Buffy stiffened, debating what to do. She followed Richard’s pacing on the beam and then yowled as her feet slipped. She barely twisted enough to go across the beam instead of off of it. Both men looked up and saw her. Her head over one side of the beam, her tail end over the other, and her back legs scrambling for purchase.
“There’s the little thing,” Ronnie said softly and stepped up onto the couch, holding his hands up to her. “Come here,” he whispered to her softly, and Buffy hissed at him. She’d found a bit of stability and slowly eased herself back up onto the beam. She pranced back and forth on it, her tail high in the air meowing down at them now and again.
Richard laughed at her antics. “I see what you mean about trouble. Come on, let me get up there and get her, I’m taller than you.”
Ronnie nodded and changed places with Richard. Buffy saw that he was almost able to get to height she felt a cat would be able to jump, so she stopped right above him. “Come here pretty girl,” he whispered to her. She crouched down and jumped, landing on his head and causing him to fall backwards. She jumped again and landed in Ronnie arms as Richard laughed from where he’d landed on the sofa. By the time Richard stopped laughing and was situated again, she was purring in Ronnie’s arms.
“I definitely see what you mean by trouble.”
Ronnie grinned and held her out to Richard. “Go one, get a good look at her.”
Richard gingerly accepted her from Ronnie, and held her up to eye level. “She has very green eyes.”
Ronnie nodded, “That’s what made us get her. And she didn’t mind our auras.”
Richard nodded, “I noticed that.”
Buffy crawled up his arm and across his shoulders, eliciting laughter from him as she stuck her cold nose against his neck. “She’s a friendly little thing.”
Ronnie nodded and motioned Janice to come into the room.
“I almost think I’ve seen her before,” Richard said as he held her out in front of him again. He sniffed at her and Buffy batted at him with a paw. She squirmed and fell into his lap, curling up and staring intently at Janice and Ronnie.
He relaxed as she sat there, petting her absently as Richard started in on Ronnie again. “There’s still something strange going on Ronnie. You need to tell me. Jean-Claude suspects as well, you know he’ll pull it out of you unless I go to him with something”
Janice sighed and sat down on her own chair, rubbing the bridge of her nose with her fingers. “There’s nothing to tell, Richard. We’ve just had very hectic lives lately.”
“And that power surge I felt a bit ago?”
Ronnie brushed it off, “Something in the woods. It never does more than that second of flare up and then it’s gone.”
Richard shook his head, “There’s something more to this. You don’t think I can smell the lies on the both of you?” Janice closed her eyes and sank deeper into the chair.
‘I can’t do this to them,’ Buffy thought, purring softly as Richard scratched the top of her head. ‘He’ll be so pissed if we keep it from him now. Damn weres and their sense of smell.’ Buffy looked up at him, she remembered what the Lynx had told her, ‘Do what I want, huh?’
She jumped down and marched over in front of Ronnie. He reached down for her, but she backed away. Looking from him to Richard repeatedly until Janice shook her head.
Ronnie, on the other hand, though that it might be a good idea. “Alright, just give me a moment,” Ronnie stated. Buffy jumped up into Janice’s arms, purring softly to the older woman.
“You are nothing but trouble,” she whispered and then sat up straight.
“What is going on?” Richard asked.
“Just let me explain,” Ronnie said softly and sighed. “You have to understand. We’d do anything to protect her.”
Richard narrowed his eyes, “Just spit it out Ronnie.”
“She’s new to all of this. You remember how that was?”
Richard nodded and Janice spoke up, “It’s all very difficult to comprehend and control. The different wants and needs of this new being inside of you.”
“At first,” Richard muttered. “But where are you hiding her?”
Ronnie shook his head, “You won’t believe it unless you see it.”
Richard nodded and made an impatient sound. “Just get on with it. I’m having trouble holding my shields up.”
Janice set Buffy on the floor and moved away. “Just remember the girl you met, Richard,” she whispered as Buffy shifted.
Buffy stayed crouched on the floor when she was done and staring at Richard. He was gaping at her and Buffy had to hide the snicker. He was completely silent for over a minute and she finally got tired of it. She stood and walked over to him, waving her hand in front of his face, “Um, hello?” she whispered. Richard just stared at her some more.
Buffy turned to Janice, “I think we broke him.”
Ronnie snickered and nudged Richard, “Say something.”
“You’re,” he whispered, “a lycanthrope?”
Buffy nodded, “Just found out recently.”
Richard shook his head, “But how can I not tell?”
Buffy shrugged. “I’m different.”
Richard laughed, “And why are you so small?”
Buffy shrugged, “Dunno.”
“Why’d you wait to tell anyone?”
Buffy twisted her hands and stared at the floor, “I had to learn to control it.”
“But you’re just a kitten! What is there to control?”
Buffy looked at Ronnie, and he just shrugged at her. “You’ve come this far already.”
She walked up close to Richard and just smiled, “I’m not a kitten all the time.”
“So, your human form doesn’t count. You’ve had control of that since you were born!”
Buffy just rolled her eyes towards the ceiling. “I meant that I’m now always a kitten when I’m changed.”
Richard sat there in silence staring at her. “You’re what I was tracking the other night?”
“Why were you going to Anita’s?” Buffy shrugged. “What do you want with her?” Buffy shrugged again and Richard growled. “Answer me!”
“I can’t,” Buffy whispered.
“Explain!” he snapped at her, power finally rolling off of him and trying to slam into her for answers.
“I am not one of yours,” she whispered it, “so stop trying to force it out of me!” She turned around quickly and folded her arms. “It’s all new to me. I don’t know why I do half of what I do. I just want to go to college and lead a normal life!” She swung back to face him again, “But no! I had to become this.” She paused and touched her chest, where she could still feel the warmth seeping from her heart, “But I wouldn’t give her up for the world. I just want to be accepted for what I have become.”
Richard had calmed down considerable while she ranted. “I do understand, but I don’t like it that you’ve been hiding.”
Buffy just held her hands up, “What can I say? Secrets-R-Us is a way of life for me.”
Richard couldn’t help the chuckle at her blasé phrasing of it, but her got serious again quickly. “What aspects are you having trouble controlling?”
Buffy just leaned her head back and looked at the ceiling, chuckling the entire time. “I’m drawn to certain people.”
“Someone at Anita’s?” Richard asked softly.
Buffy nodded and turned to Janice, “I’ve tried to control it, but…” she let the statement hang as Janice nodded and drew her into a hug.
“Richard,” Ronnie started, “she’s not a danger to the pack, in any form she’s in.”
Richard sighed and sank back down on the couch. “It’s just difficult to comprehend,” he glanced at Buffy, and she felt his power brush over her again, bringing a taste of other people with him until she shrank further away. Her eyes sparked a yellow-green as her beast started to stir. Richard drew his power back hastily, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
Buffy nodded and calmed, taking a long deep breath and burrowing into Janice. “They are in your every use of power.”
Richard nodded, “I know. It’s part of the bond we have.”
Buffy stared at Richard hard, “Jean-Claude will not be happy to know that I’m here.”
Richard laughed, a touch of hysteria in it, “Oh, I know that. You’re an element he can’t control.”
Buffy smirked, “Just don’t tell him yet.”
Richard stood and walked towards her, “He’ll find out.”
“But he’ll find out when I’m ready, not when he has the upper hand.”
Richard shrugged, “I will try, but I can’t promise that he won’t find out.”
Buffy nodded and relaxed against Janice, “I can ask for no more.” She held her hand out to Ronnie and he took it. “And my family?”
Richard just laughed, staring at them, “I understand why they did it.” He stared at them hard, “And I know they wouldn’t have kept it from me forever.”
They both nodded, “She just wanted to be more firmly in place here before everyone knows,” Janice whispered.
Richard walked towards the exit, “Just make sure that you’re ready.”
Buffy nodded, and let go of Ronnie as he walked Richard to the door. The last Buffy heard was, “You understated the amount of trouble your little kitty brings,” Richard stated, causing Ronnie to laugh.
Janice sat on the couch, pulling Buffy down with her. “See, it’s alright.” Buffy was shaking as she leaned against Janice. “Shhhh, little girl, it all turned out alright.” Her fingers stroked through Buffy’s hair.
“It could have gone horribly wrong,” Buffy whispered it, tears evident in her voice.
“But it didn’t,” that was Ronnie as he sat on her opposite side. “Richard’s a fair leader, we were never worried about it.”
Buffy drew in a long shaky breath, “I just hated the thought of you getting in trouble because of me. I’ve heard storied about the punishments.”
Janice set Buffy away from her for a moment and stared at her hard, “That was our old Ulfric and his Lupa. Richard is completely different.”
Buffy nodded, her teeth biting her bottom lip as she looked from one to the other.
Ronnie’s arms wrapped around her, “Just let it out, little girl. Tomorrow is another day, and there’s one less worry on your mind.”
Buffy smiled and sat between them, relaxing into the both of them and the warmth they exuded towards her. Tomorrow was another day, a new one with a new friend that knew her and didn’t hate her because of it. Such a rare commodity should be appreciated.
* * * * *
The new day was new stress added to her life. Ronnie found the scent of the rogue, finally, but he found it around their house. No tracks, just a scent that lingered in the air. They rushed her out of the house because of it.
“Come on, Buffy, we gotta go. Ronnie wants to check on the café before he starts tracking that rogue. You need to get fed, and then off to your next class.”
Buffy groaned and buried her head under her pillow. ‘Mornings, I hate them, hate them, hate them.’
Her door creaked open and Janice stepped in as quietly as possible. She stood over Buffy’s bed and quickly poked the slumbering girl in the back, causing her to shriek and jump up. “I said to get up. Your day needs to start. Class starts at 11 again and you cannot be late to your first day.”
Buffy grumbled but got up. This day went almost like yesterday. Janice was a little calmer because Ronnie was there, but it seemed like she was always worried about being late in the mornings. She rushed everyone around and drove like a demon running from an angel.
Alice had a plate of food waiting for her when they walked in a quarter past 9. “Here you go, my dear, eat up. I don’t want to see you missing a meal because Janice is on the rampage again.”
Janice made a protesting noise, but it ended in a giggle as Ronnie dragged her back to his office. Everyone breathed sighs of relief; she wouldn’t be insane this morning. There was a grin on her face as Buffy dug into her food. Still, true to form, Janice was panicked again after Ronnie left a half hour later, and had Buffy out of there and dropped off at the English building by 10:30.
Buffy walked into the classroom, looking around for Jason. He wasn’t there though and she was almost disappointed. The first day here would be boring without him. She had her paper mostly covered in doodles by the time the teacher walked in. Another tweed wearing, briefcase carrying professor, and Buffy smothered a giggle.
The syllabus was passed around to the class and the professor calmly arranged everything on the desk before he looked over the class. His eyes seemed to linger on her for a moment. It was curious because he reminded her of someone and she couldn’t figure out whom.
She was tapping her pencil on her chin when he started talking. “Welcome to English 2318, Myths and Legends. My name is Patrick Merrick,” Buffy almost dropped her pencil in shock. He was looking straight at her as he said it, and then ignored her and looked to the rest of the class. “This will be a comprehensive study of the myths surrounding the preternatural creatures that we know.” He came around the front of his desk and leaned back against it. “Attendance is not mandatory, but there is no book or notes that will help you with the class discussion portion of your grade. We will study each myth, and discuss how they came about.”
He went on about the grading system he would be using. Buffy made absent notes as she stared at him, taking in the little similarities she noticed. He only had a slight British accent. His hair was that same odd color, and his eyes. They were the same eyes that Merrick had, they seemed to have a very old soul behind them.
He broke her out of her thoughts with his next statement, “I’m not going to keep you today. The first thing we will discuss next class are Vampires. Be sure to pay attention to their habits in the myths as compared to what is well known today. We will also study the rare myth of the Slayer, so pay particular attention to that.”
All the other students were gathering their things, walking up to ask him questions, things that all normal college students did on the first day. However, Buffy just sat there staring at him. ‘He…” she shook her head, ‘No, he can’t be!’
Buffy was still sitting there gaping at him when the rest of the room cleared.
‘He couldn’t be,’ Buffy thought, ‘Merrick would have
He walked towards her and stopped next to her desk. “Not going to say anything?”
Buffy stammered for a minute, and then said the first thing that popped into her head, “So the Council knows I’m here?”
Patrick sat down in front of her, backwards in the chair so that he faced her, and shook his head. “The Council doesn’t even know I’m here.”
“But you used your real name!” Buffy said, slightly panicked. Too many things had been happening; she didn’t need the Council here.
Patrick shrugged, “All my degrees are under that name. And without the Council resources, there was no way for me to change that.”
“So why didn’t you stay hidden?!” She started to pack everything back up, throwing things in her bag as quickly as possible. She had at least an hour and half until her next class, so that didn’t worry her. But staying near him, he could bring ruin to everything.
“Because,” Patrick sighed and watched her movements, “my brother wouldn’t have wanted me to.”
Buffy just shook her head and stood, “He never told me he had a brother!” She glared down at him, “And why have you waited so long?”
He stood and faced her, staring down at her and trying to give her a smile, “The Council sent me here, and I broke the rules.”
Buffy snorted, “Sure, a Watcher breaking the rules all on his own.” She stepped around him and started for the door. He took her by surprise when he grasped her arm and pulled her back. The tingle that ran down her arm was a shock and she looked up at him with it plain in her eyes.
“Just listen to me.”
“You’re him,” she whispered it, backing away slowly.
Patrick shook his head and followed her, “Just listen to me, please!”
“Why have you been following me?”
Patrick just sighed and shrugged, “It’s a calling more than a job. Drilled into every Watcher family from birth. ‘Watch the Slayer, assist the Slayer.”
“Blah, blah, blah,” Buffy snorted, and then laughed at the irony. “Beasts and callings, they seem to be the order of the week.”
Patrick frowned, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Buffy laughed again, remembering the super-dignified tone that both her previous Watchers had always gotten when she’d caught on to something. Especially when it was something that they didn’t want her to know.
“You’ve been infected,” Buffy stated it softly, laughter still heard in her voice.
Patrick just glared at her, “It’s not a laughing matter.”
Buffy shrugged and set her books down. “I still find it funny.” She looked at him and shook her head, “And you’re not hiding yourself all that well.”
“I’ve been in St. Louis for years,” Patrick replied, that holier than thou tone coming out now. “They won’t find me unless I want them to.”
“Then why is the local Ulfric having you tracked?!”
Patrick leaned forward, getting really in her face, “Because you haven’t been watching your back and someone needed to protect you.” He paced away from her, “You haven’t learned the control that the others had. Your beast pulls you to places that you shouldn’t be going.”
“You’ve been spying on me!” Buffy snarled at him and then rolled her eyes, “Like you’d know anything about it. The Council doesn’t know about her!”
The sneering tone in her voice caused him to smirk at her, “You’ve gotten very bad about knowing your surroundings.” Patrick shook his head, “Your training is lacking, you couldn’t sense me.”
She marched towards him. “You were there the night Whistler talked to me.” Patrick nodded. “ Like I’m going to pay attention to an annoying little tingle when I’ve got a balance demon in front of me.” She paused again and then growled at him, “You’re the one that put this damn spell on me!”
Patrick ran a hand down her arm, not quite touching it, “And the spell is gone.”
Buffy sneered at him, “My beast, as you call her, took it off of me. It was like a blanket wrapped around my head, muffling all the sounds that I’m used to hearing!”
“But it was protecting you!”
Buffy just shook her head and grabbed up her stuff again, “That doesn’t matter. I didn’t want it there; I had ways of keeping myself safe. Now I’ve got the Master of the City thinking it was a spell that protects me from him.”
Patrick got up and slammed the door shut over her shoulder before she could get out. “At least he doesn’t know he has a Slayer in his town!”
She turned on him then, pushing him away from her so that he almost flew into the wall. He twisted in mid-air and landed on his feet, facing her from the middle of the room. “And do you think I want to keep all these secrets?” She marched towards where he had landed, “Do you think that it’s better now that I’m hiding all these things from him?”
Patrick nodded, “Yes, I do!”
“He’ll try to destroy me all the more for hiding from him.”
Patrick shook his head, “He’ll never find out!”
“How long have you been out of the loop?” Buffy asked suddenly.
Patrick blinked at the sudden change in topic but shrugged, “At least five years.”
Buffy snorted, “And you think you know me? I couldn’t stay hidden if I wanted to!”
“I know what Merrick told me of you!” He started towards her, a kind of insane hope shining in his eyes, “He loved you unlike any other Slayer that he’d known. All of his letters spoke of your potential and how he hoped you’d survive that first major battle to go on and become what that potential hinted at.”
Buffy just stared at him in shock, “He never said any of this to me!”
Patrick touched her cheek softly, “He wasn’t supposed to care that way. Watchers are trainers, nothing more. When one becomes too attached they are replaced.”
Buffy nodded, “They tried that with me once.”
Patrick smiled, “I guess they failed?” Another nod. “Well they failed with me too.”
Patrick nodded and moved away from her again, “I became infected, just like you suspect.” He paused and stared at nothing, “It is not allowed.” Another pause and a deep breath, “I’d seen them kill others that this had happened to.” Buffy was silent. “I didn’t know what St. Louis was when they sent me here. I only knew that they sent me so that I wouldn’t follow my brother to his assignment with you.” He turned and gave her a sad smile, “I thought they were finally allowing me to do something on my own.”
Buffy sneered at him, “They sent you here to die, didn’t they?”
Patrick nodded his head, “I tried to fight the things they told me to. The lycanthropes, the vampires, all of the things that go bump in the night.” Patrick gave a chuckle, “I was so young and naïve.”
Buffy nodded, “You should have known that they never send you guys to do the dirty work. That’s what us girls are there for!”
“I know that now, but Travers was the head of the council. We did whatever he told us to do.”
Buffy groaned, “I hate that man. I hope that he gets eaten by something nasty one of these days!” She looked him over again, noting that he seemed younger than Merrick ever did. “So you’re the younger brother?”
Patrick nodded, “It never dawned on me that they’d want to get rid of me. I thought they sent me here to observe and only interfere when necessary.”
Buffy’s eyes widened, “And you interfered in something that got you torn up by a werewolf?”
Patrick just shrugged and looked at the floor, “It’s all a blur.”
“Why haven’t you introduced yourself to Richard?”
An annoyed look came across his face, “I was well hidden until you came here.”
“So I can go now and you’ll go back to hiding?”
Patrick shook his head, “No, I kept a low profile until I felt the need to follow you around.”
“It’s not a need,” Buffy stated. “It’s insanity.” Buffy walked closer to him and sighed, “You know that with both our names popping up on their radar the council is going to end up coming here.”
Patrick nodded, “I still couldn’t do less than what I did.”
Hands were on her hips as Buffy walked to him, a little bit of anger in her stride, “You mean you took it upon yourself to interfere in things you didn’t understand.”
Patrick at least had the grace to laugh, “What can I say? It’s a motto.”
Buffy threw her hands up in exasperation, “Yep, the Watcher motto,” she got a snide little British accent, “To interfere as no one has before. To screw things over until they’re impossible to reconcile without extreme prejudice.”
Patrick was snorting with laughter by the time she was done. “What can I say, I was trained by the best.”
Buffy sat on his desk and stared at him, “So are you going to try to be my Watcher?” He shook his head. “Are you going to tattle on me to the council?”
Patrick rolled his eyes, “Haven’t you heard a thing I said? They’ll kill me if they find me here. They think I’m dead. Watchers are supposed to stay untainted.” He let the power of his beast roll through the room, “And I’m bloody well tainted.”
Buffy was laughing by the time he was done. “You guys always take things way too seriously.”
He looked at her closely and sighed, “How Merrick saw your potential passed your little girl brattiness is beyond me.”
Buffy smiled at him sweetly, “Because he was good at his job?”
Patrick sat beside her finally, sorrow in his eyes for a moment, “He was the best.”
Buffy nodded, “You act just like him.” It was a whispered confession.
“You don’t know me.”
Buffy smiled and touched his hand, “You’re stuffy and British, how else would you be able to act?”
Patrick smacked her lightly. “You’re too trusting.”
Buffy snorted, “You’ve got the Watcher seal of approval stamped on your forehead, no trust needed or given.”
Patrick stared at her in shock. “How can you accept this all so easily?”
Buffy smiled and sauntered towards the door. “The British accent, the first thing you bring up as you look at me are Vampires and Slayers, you stand back and act all superior when faced with something beyond your understanding. You are a Watcher, born and bred.” She turned to him and grinned, “You should really just face up to the fact that you’re not Council anymore, it really loosened my last Watcher up.”
She marched out the door and heard him hurrying to catch up to her. “So you’ll let me help you?”
Buffy looked at him over her shoulder and gave him an evil little smile. “Introduce yourself to the Ulfic and the pack.” Patrick’s eyes widened, and Buffy continued on. “If you don’t, I will. If they don’t kill you, yeah, I could always use help with training.”
She was out the door and down the hall before he found the powers of speech again. When she glanced over her shoulder and waved at him, he just shook his head and went back into the classroom.
* * * * *
Math was a snooze-a-thon. The teacher loved to drone on and on about how important math was. Buffy was yawning by the time the class was over, and thanking all the gods of little green apples that it was one of her classes without attendance requirements.
‘College algebra?’ she thought, and thumped her head on the table after the professor walked out. ‘I learned all this crap in High School.’ She was almost to the point of pounding her head when she heard the laughter at the door. “Go away,” she muttered.
“Now is that anyway to talk to your best friend ever?” causing Buffy’s head to jerk up and glare at Jason.
“What are you doing here?!”
“I remembered your schedule from the other day, and I just got out of my phys ed requirement, so I thought I’d drop by and see what you’re doing.”
Buffy grabbed her cell phone and checked the time. It was only 2pm, and she had an hour to waste until Janice came to get her. She looked up at Jason and sighed. “Keep your hands off my ass and I have an hour free.” She stood and smiled at him, “Put your hands on my ass and I’ll have an hour to pound you into the ground.”
Jason stood and followed her from the room, “I make no promises.”
Buffy snorted with contained laughter as they walked side by side across campus and to the diner again.
“So, algebra that boring?” he asked.
“Very lame conversation, Jason, find a new topic.” Between Patrick and that stupid math class, her patience was at the end.
“Want to go dancing on Friday night?”
Buffy whirled around to face him, “Are you asking me on a date?”
Jason shook his head, “I wouldn’t dare.” He said it with an innocent smile that had Buffy worrying.
“Friends, clubbing, you know normal stuff.”
Buffy started walking again, “Normal.” She sighed, “As if that could ever apply to our lives.”
Jason nodded and kicked a rock on the ground. “Still, we could go out and have fun and just forget for a while.”
Buffy smiled, and bumped into him intentionally. “Sure, love to. Just no vamp bars.”
Buffy nodded and they walked the rest of the way in silence.
* * * * *
Once again it was the ringing of the cell phone that interrupted a conversation. Jason grabbed it before she could and answered. “Buffy’s cell phone, how may I hang up on you today?”
Buffy yelped and smacked him, “Give that here!” She snatched it from him, “Hello?”
“What are you doing with him again?” Ronnie asked quietly.
Buffy turned and glared at Jason. “Nothing Papa Wolf, just waiting on Janice to show up.”
“She can’t make it, do you need me come and get you?” he still had an edge to his voice.
“No, no, I can find a ride.”
Ronnie snorted, “As long as that is all it is.”
Buffy rolled her eyes, “Like I would do anything else with him!”
“I take offense to that!” Jason exclaimed loud enough for Ronnie to hear and laugh at.
“Alright, just show up at the café soon.”
“’Kay,” Buffy said and then hung up the line. “So I can get a ride right?”
Jason rolled his eyes and gathered their things. “I guess, but no more offending my male sensibilities.”
Buffy just snorted and followed him, poking him in the shoulder as the walked to his bike. “You do know how to drive with a passenger right?”
Jason just sat down and handed her the spare helmet. By the time the ride was over she was holding him tightly with her eyes shut, but she was laughing the entire time.
“Between you and Janice I’ll be gray before I’m 30,” she commented as she took off the helmet and handed it back to him.
“Naw, you’ll just get a taste of excitement.”
She snorted, “I really don’t need any more than I already have.”
He slung his arm across her shoulders as they walked into the café, “You lead a boring life dear.”
She shrugged him off and walked towards Ronnie’s office, “I do not.”
He followed her, “Yes you do!”
He paused in the hallway, “Ronnie has company.”
“So?” Buffy asked as she opened the door and barged in. “Papa wolf, he’s bothering me!” she said in a whining voice.
Ronnie just laughed in the middle of his sentence and shook his head, “Children, can’t you see I’m in a meeting?”
Buffy turned to see Patrick sitting in a chair with Richard next to him. Her eyes widened and then she smiled. “But it’s just Richard and a friend.”
Jason snorted from the doorway, “I’ll be going now.” He nodded his head to everyone and then quietly closed the door.
Buffy hopped up on the edge of the desk, swinging her legs a little bit, looking like the child she was pretending to be. Ronnie took in what she was doing and sighed, “Is there something you wanted to tell us?”
Buffy shook her head and glanced at Patrick, “Not at the moment.” She looked back at Ronnie and smiled, “So what’s up?”
Ronnie motioned to Patrick, “This gentleman wanted a meeting with Richard, I volunteered to host it. I think he said something about it being private.”
Buffy glared at Patrick. He just cleared his throat, getting the hint, “No, no, it’s alright if she stays.”
Ronnie nodded, “Are you going to tell us what this is about now?”
Patrick nodded and moved to stand in front of Richard. “I have been requested to present myself to you.” He said it so formally that Buffy rolled her eyes.
Richard looked puzzled, “And who made this request?”
“A friend, they pointed out that I have been remise in introducing myself to the local pack.”
Richard stood abruptly, facing Patrick, a little bit of a snarl in his voice as he answered, “Yes, you have.”
Buffy held in laughter as her brain rang with the power Richard was exuding, the entire café suddenly became quiet. ‘Richard won’t ask what he wants to know,’ Buffy thought with a sigh. ‘God I really hate politics.’
Patrick continued, “I’m correcting that now.”
Ronnie looked from Buffy to Patrick and back again. Raising an eyebrow in question to her. She shook her head and kept the smile on her face.
“So, why are you in this city?” Richard asked softly.
“No reason in particular,” Patrick shrugged. “I thought the area was nice and decided to stay.”
Richard sat back down; he got nothing off of this man. No scent, barely any sense that he was a lycanthrope, and worst of all he couldn’t tell if the guy was telling a lie.
Ronnie stood, walked around his desk and stopped in front of him, “Why were you tracking my daughter?”
Patrick turned and stared at Buffy in shock, “Daughter?”
She looked up and grinned at him, “What can I say, people like me.”
Patrick snorted and turned back to Ronnie, “She used to be a student of my brother. I recognized her and was trying to find a way to introduce myself.”
“How long have you been in town?” this was from Richard who was standing again.
Patrick looked at Buffy and saw that she was glaring at him. He sighed and looked down at the floor. “I’ve been here for a while.”
Richard stepped closer to him, “How long?”
Buffy kicked Patrick, “Just tell him!”
Patrick glared at the girl and bit out, “Five years.”
Richard’s anger swept through the room. Buffy just rolled her eyes and kicked Patrick again. “You’re a moronic British man.”
Ronnie laughed softly, especially when Richard just lost his anger and looked at Buffy in confusion. “You know him?”
Buffy smiled and nodded, “He’s one of my professors and his full name is Patrick Merrick. Younger brother to my first private tutor.”
Patrick chuckled at that old line. “She’s just as he wrote.”
Richard sank down in his chair and rubbed his temples. “You do know you broke quite a few laws being here without me knowing?”
Patrick nodded and Buffy commented, “Oh, say it isn’t so, my faith in your esteemed British-ness is trashed. You broke rules without my influence.”
Richard snorted with laughter, and his anger died completely because of it. “So why have you been hiding?”
“Let’s just say that the school I used to belong to doesn’t let people go easily.”
Ronnie jumped back in the conversation at that, “And Buffy?”
Patrick gave her a frustrated look, “She should be hiding as well. They will find her through all her activities.”
Buffy shrugged and smiled, “Doesn’t matter, I’ll send them to hell before I return.”
Richard turned to her in shock, “You think to involve my pack?”
Buffy rolled her eyes, “What part of I’ll send them to hell did you not understand?”
“You’re just one person!” Richard snapped at her. “You’ll need protection.”
Patrick started laughing, he couldn’t help it, “Her? Need help to stop a bunch of old British farts from taking her to England?”
Ronnie stood and moved closer to Buffy, “It doesn’t matter, she’s mine now and I’ll damn anyone that tries to take her.” His arms pulled her into a hug.
Richard just groaned and rubbed his temples again. “You are nothing but trouble, little miss.”
Buffy turned from Ronnie, “I don’t mean to be.”
Richard nodded and waived it away. “So, back to the original topic at hand. You’re friend here, how to keep him from getting his ass beat to hell for being in our territory.”
“Just let him get beat,” was Buffy’s response. “He deserves it for tailing me for weeks on end.”
Ronnie nodded, but Richard shook his head in the negative. “No, he didn’t do anything while he was here. There’s no reason to beat him until he’s dead.”
Buffy pouted, “But I wanted to watch!”
Richard looked at her in shock and noticed the laughter in her eyes. “You’re one mean little girl.”
Buffy nodded and walked forward to kick Patrick again, but Ronnie held her back. “Leave the man’s shins alone.”
“He deserves it!” Buffy responded, but Patrick just smiled at her.
“You’re exactly how my older brother described you.”
Buffy’s smile this time was pleasant. “Then I guess I’ll forgive you. I miss him,” she said the last bit softly as she sank back into Ronnie. “Are we done now?”
Ronnie looked over at Richard and saw the nod. “Yes, little girl, let’s get you home.”
The librarian kept walking by and shaking her head at the young girl sitting
at one of the corner tables. Books on every preternatural subject imaginable
were spread out around her. Vampires, lycanthropes, zombies and necromancy were
the main topics that she’d asked for assistance finding. The giggling
is what really had the librarian shaking her head and flouncing away though.
Buffy just looked at the retreating back and smiled. She couldn’t help the laughter that kept bubbling up. Some of the theories they had on the origin of vampires were completely laughable.
Some suspect that the telling of Dracula is the true origin of the vampire. Buffy read and just about rolled on the floor. Vlad the Impaler made a deal with a summoner of demons and merged with the spirit of one. This was the birth of the first vampire. Another snort escaped her. Dracula? That pompous little poser the origin of all vampires?
Buffy clamped both hands over her mouth and smothered her laughter. It was almost as bad as the telling of how lycanthropes came into being. Buffy picked up that book again and flipped to the right section.
The lycanthrope disease began in the middle ages. Brought about by witches that would curse men to become the animals they most resembled. This spell reacted with the bubonic plague and became the contagious disease we know today. She squeezed her eyes shut and slammed that book closed firmly, little giggles escaping her, until she had to take deep breaths to keep from passing out.
‘God,’ she thought as she wiped tears from her cheeks. ‘They really need someone like Giles to review these books before they allow them to pollute the minds of impressionable young students.’ She pushed those books away and pulled the Animator’s magazine towards her, this is what she was really here for. She needed to find out more about this before she sat in on the lecture.
She quickly checked her cell phone for the time and breathed a sigh of relief; she still had an hour. Ronnie had dropped her off early to let her read up on the subject matter. This meeting was important, very important. Richard had already said that he wouldn’t keep their secret forever. He couldn’t, not with the triumvirate bonding he had. Still, he said he’d try for as long as he could, and she hoped for at least a week but would take the first opportunity that presented itself. She really wanted to introduce herself to them before they found out about her other aspects.
A quick flip through the magazine landed her on the article that she wanted to read. It was written by some doctor or other on the nature of Zombie raising in today’s society and the effect that it had on the human psyche. It was another quick trip to the ever so helpful librarian and she was heading towards the classroom with fresh copies of the article.
An odd disappointment set itself up in her mind when Jason wasn’t already there and waiting for her. The annoying little boy seemed to be growing on her. ‘Maybe I need some anti-fungal cream,’ she thought with a giggle and sat down in her assigned seat.
The walk had only eaten up about 5 minutes of her time, so she spend the next 40 reviewing the article and ignoring everyone until she felt it. The tingle ran up her skin and she grabbed his hand the moment before he tapped her shoulder. She peeked out of the corner of her eye and grinned at him.
“You’re late,” she whispered to Jason as she sat his hand back onto his lap.
“How did you do that?”
She just shook her head and smiled. She’d never realized how much that stupid spell muffled her until right this moment. It had clouded everything so slowly that she didn’t realize it was happening; her reactions were faster and her senses were sharper. It was such a relief that she couldn’t help the grin that came to her face. She’d missed this, the extra rush that came with her hyperactive senses. Everything was the way it should be, and she would never allow Patrick to redo that spell. No matter how often he said it would help.
Jason chuckled softly, and Buffy looked at him, “What?”
He motioned to the front and she saw Anita standing there, almost getting mobbed by ‘fans’. Buffy joined in the laughter but stopped suddenly when saw another head pop up from around Anita. Her breath stalled in her chest and a small smiled spread her lips, Nathaniel.
Jason laughed and leaned in to whisper in her ear, “See something you like?”
She turned and looked at Jason, “You know them?”
“Yep, they’re great friends,” Jason said it softly and Buffy leaned forward so that she could look at his face more closely.
Jason nodded and rolled his eyes, “I could wish for more, but I don’t think it will ever happen.”
Buffy just smirked, “Does the poor little puppy have a crush?”
Jason smacked her on the shoulder and they both quieted as Nathaniel walked towards them. Buffy sank low into her chair, hiding behind Jason’s shoulder as Nathaniel sat in an empty seat next to Jason.
“Hey Jason,” he said softly.
“It’s good to see you Nathaniel.” Jason turned to look at Anita again, “I’m sure she’s loving that.”
Nathaniel chuckled, “Yeah, sure, she loves getting mobbed by college students.”
They both sank into silence and just watched the entertainment at the front. It lasted for the next 5 minutes or so, before Anita looked around and motioned for Nathaniel to join her at the front. He rose swiftly and walked quickly to the front.
“So who was he?” Buffy whispered.
“Nathaniel,” was Jason’s whispered response. The professor was at the front and introducing Anita and the topics of the day, but Jason and Buffy ignored him.
“And?” Buffy nudged him.
“He’s a friend,” Jason replied with a smile.
Buffy rolled her eyes and punched him lightly on the arm. “Way to be helpful with the information.”
Jason just grinned, “I do what I can. Now pay attention!”
Buffy just sighed and turned her attention to the stage.
* * * * *
The class had gone just about as expected, everyone asked a million questions, and Buffy was too busy taking notes to pay attention to anything. Jason kept chuckling at something, but would never tell Buffy what, so she stopped asking.
The stage was being mobbed again and there was no way that she could get up there without busting some heads to do it. She sighed and walked out of the classroom, ‘Guess I’ll have to introduce myself to her some other way.’
She didn’t see Jason follow her or motion for Nathaniel to follow him. He’d noticed the looks that Nathaniel had thrown at the blond girl all through the class, even if she hadn’t. This could be interesting. He made it outside and next to her to hear her sigh, “What’s with the long face?”
Buffy shrugged, “I wanted to meet her. I’ve seen her before, but the time never seems right to meet her.”
Nathaniel was paused in the doorway, going completely still when he heard her voice. The puzzled look from Jason had him walking towards them again. “Well, I could introduce you.”
Buffy’s head jerked up and she stared at him. His long hair was auburn, Buffy knew it was soft, but she’d never paid attention to the color until now. When his eyes met hers she noticed their color, a pale lavender, a shade she’d never seen before.
Jason nudged her, making her realize that they both had been there, staring at each other in silence.
“Buffy Summers,” she said softly and held out her hand to him.
He took it and just held it, not doing the shaking thing most people did, “Nathaniel.” He looked at her intently and then his expression became confused, “Have we met before?”
Buffy couldn’t respond at all. ‘I refuse to lie to him, but I really don’t want to explain this right now.’
Jason interrupted them, stepping forward and laughing, “Oh, you might have seen her. Shelly dragged her to Guilty Pleasures one night.”
His hand slowly pulled out of hers, “Oh, so you might have seen me dance?”
Buffy shrugged, “I wasn’t real happy to be there, the owner took pity on me and got me a cab home.”
Nathaniel looked at Jason with wide eyes, and Jason just nodded. “Oh,” Nathaniel said softly and then moved towards the door, “I gotta go. Anita needs help getting things together so we can go.”
Jason nodded and pulled on Buffy’s arm, “We’ll be at the diner down the street if you guys want to grab something to eat with us.”
Buffy was staring at Nathaniel as she as dragged away and he walked back into the classroom. She couldn’t believe that this was happening today. ‘He sensed something,’ Buffy thought, tuning out Jason’s chatter as they walked to the café for lunch. ‘How am I going to do this? I can’t do it in public. This is so going to suck.’
She sighed, they were there and Jason was poking at her shoulder, “Come back to the real world Buffy. I know he’s cute, but he usually doesn’t fry brains.”
Buffy just shook her head and made her order. “He didn’t fry my brain, I was just thinking.”
“Of what?” Jason asked and made sure that the staff here didn’t forget anything.
Buffy just shrugged and smacked Jason as he leered at the girl filling their order. “Quit it.”
“What?” he said with feigned innocence. “She’s cute,” he said and smiled at the girl, “can I help it if the cute girls attract me?” Buffy just rolled her eyes and went to find them a table. “Find us something that will seat four, just in case,” she nodded in response to the request and found a table near the window that could seat four people. Really glad that she’d diverted the topic so easily.
They’d just sat down when Anita and Nathaniel walked into the diner. Jason waved to them, getting their attention. Anita whispered her order to Nathaniel before walking over and sitting in one of the chairs.
“Tell me again why I volunteered to do that,” Anita mumbled as she closed her eyes and tried to relax.
“Because you’re insane,” Buffy whispered causing Anita’s head to jerk up.
“So you’re Buffy Summers,” Anita said with a smile. “Jason talks about you quite a bit lately.”
Buffy rolled her eyes, “It’s all lies, unless he’s saying what a nice person I am.”
Anita smiled at Nathaniel as he set the food in front of her, “Yeah, all nice things.” She said it distractedly, her eyes moving to Buffy’s face and staying there. “Have we met before?”
Buffy laughed, “Nathaniel asked me the same thing.” Buffy sobered abruptly. “I can’t talk about it here though.” Buffy noticed how all three of them sat up straighter all of a sudden at that response. “I have a shift at the café tonight,” Buffy started picking through her food, “why don’t you guys come have a meal?”
Jason nodded his head and Anita just sighed. “I hate not knowing things.”
Buffy just smiled at her, “It’s nothing bad, it’s just not something I can discuss outside of the café.”
Anita growled under her breath, but she calmed a little when she remembered that Richard liked this girl. Jean-Claude had also said that this little girl wasn’t dangerous, just a mystery. “So, you’re still a mystery to everyone?” Anita asked with a smile. Both Jason and Nathaniel perked up at that.
Buffy polished off her small salad and grinned, “Sometimes, but a little mystery is fun.”
Anita just shook her head and munched on a fry, “You know, if I still had a brain left after that class I might be more worried about this.”
Buffy laughed, “So I owe this reprieve until tonight to my fellow classmates.” Anita nodded her head with a smile, “I guess I’ll have to find a way to thank them.”
Anita shrugged, “I still can’t help thinking that I’ve met you.”
Buffy’s laugh was cut off by her cell phone ringing and Jason groaning when he heard it. “Is that going to be a tradition?” he asked.
Buffy nodded and brought the cell to her ear, “Hello?”
“Hey dear, are you ready?”
Buffy just sighed, “You’re early.”
Janice laughed, “I’ve got things to do and I wanted to see if you were out of class so that you could go with me.”
Buffy just pouted a bit, “I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.” She hung up the phone and looked around the table. “Well normally I have an hour or two to kill, but Janice is early and I gotta go.” She grabbed her bag and nodded to everyone. “It was nice seeing you today.”
Everyone mumbled the appropriate responses and then Buffy was out the door. “Is she always like that?” Anita asked.
Jason shook his head, “No, she’s usually a lot more open.”
Nathaniel looked from Anita to Jason, “I know her though.”
Anita looked at Nathaniel sharply, “What do you mean?”
He shook his head, “I don’t understand it myself, but I know her. And it’s just not possible.”
Both Anita and Jason tried to get more information out of him, but, for once, Nathaniel wouldn’t respond to the outright orders they were giving them. His lips were firmly locked and his mind was turning the thought over in his head. He knew her scent, but it was impossible.
* * * * *
Buffy threw her bag into the back of the SUV and slipped into the passenger seat with a sigh of relief.
“So I bailed you out at the right moment.”
Buffy nodded, “Yeah, they were starting to question me. They sense something familiar about me.”
Janice sighed, “You know it would happen.”
Buffy nodded, “They’ll be at the café tonight.”
They arrived promptly at 6pm. It was probably a shift that Jason knew Buffy had worked since this was the café. All talking in the place stopped the second Anita walked in, but resumed slowly as she walked past everyone and into Ronnie’s office. Nathaniel made a beeline for the bar and looked over a menu.
“So Ron,” Anita started out, not even glancing around the office as she walked in without knocking, “I heard that I could get some answers here tonight.”
Ronnie had looked up from the paperwork in front of him when the door opened and he paled slightly as Anita walked in. He was not ready for this. Nothing could prepare him for this, but he really had no choice about it either.
Ronnie cleared his throat and stood up slowly, “Well, actually, I had to give her the night off. An old tutor showed up and demanded that she get back to her lessons immediately.”
Anita’s expression deepened into a scowl. “But I need those answers, Jean-Claude isn’t going to sit back and be idle for much longer.”
Ronnie nodded and grabbed his coat off the chair, “I thought of that,” he motioned her towards the door. “I suggested that we move the meeting to my house. I’ve informed everyone here and Richard is already on his way there.”
Anita paused, “Richard?”
Ronnie nodded, “He is my Ulfric.”
Anita grumbled something about stupid politics but preceded him out the door. Nathaniel was just getting his order placed when Anita motioned for him to follow. Alice just shook her head and rolled her eyes as he started out of the building again.
“Nathaniel and I will follow you out there.”
Nathaniel looked puzzled for a moment and then he smiled, “Your wife’s name is Janice right?”
Ronnie nodded before he started walking away, and heard the whisper to Anita, “That’s where the little kitten is.”
Ronnie groaned and waited for them to get in and pull out before he took off. The drive out to his house wasn’t nearly long enough. As he pulled into the driveway he noticed that Janice and Shelly were sitting on the porch with Richard leaning against the railing. Patrick and Buffy were no where in sight. ‘This is going to be a lovely beginning to the night,’ Ronnie thought and lead Anita and Nathaniel to the house.
Richard called out a greeting to them, and Jason walked out of the front door carrying a tray of snack foods. Anita just shook her head, “A lot of back up you have there Ronnie.”
Ronnie shrugged and smiled, “Well there’s a lot of people that need to know what Buffy is going to say. Might as well have the right people here for the first real telling of it.”
Anita just sighed and sank into one of the patio chairs, nodding to each person there, and scowling at Nathaniel. He wouldn’t calm down, and Anita just snapped at him, “Nathaniel, just sit down, and sit still!” This was her only day off of work this week, and she hated having to spend it dealing with Werewolf and Vampire politics.
Everyone heard the sigh from Nathaniel, but he sank down onto the patio next to her chair. Janice took pity on him and answered his unasked questions, “You’ll see the kitten later, she’s out playing right now,” Nathaniel grinned and happily sank back against Anita’s chair. “Just remember what I told you.”
Nathaniel nodded, and Jason just shook his head in astonishment. “He’s gone on and on about that stupid cat,” Jason moaned. “From the way he was talking I would think it would already be here crawling all over him.”
Richard snickered at that and Shelly joined him. Janice just sipped her coffee and stayed very quiet, watching the tree line at the edge of their property. “Patrick said he was taking Buffy for a quick run, but that was a half hour ago. They should be back soon.”
Anita nodded and a bit of an awkward silence descended on the group. The only topic Anita wanted to discuss was Buffy and no one would talk without her being here.
The only thing Nathaniel really wanted to see was the kitten, he suspected, but he needed to see her to be sure. The idea had been turning over in his head today, especially when Jason said that she had recently started living with the Drakes. The interest that Jean-Claude had in her just added fuel to the suspicion that he had.
The entire group stood as they heard the crashing in the underbrush. The fighting stances that they immediately took were testament to how rough things had been for the past few years. They settled a bit when the wolf came through the tree line. Anita relaxed a bit, thinking this must be another member of the odd group they were going to speak with, but the Drakes weren’t calming back down.
Janice’s worry grew when another form didn’t follow the wolf. Ronnie and Janice quickly rushed towards him, calling out to him, “Patrick!”
Everyone else followed once they heard that name and realized there was something else going on. Richard hopped over the railing and hit the ground running. Scanning the surroundings just in case something was following the wolf, but he relaxed when he noticed that Patrick wasn’t rushing.
Anita and Nathaniel came to an abrupt stop when they got a clear look at the wolf. The salt and pepper color of his coat made the beige little kitten stand out all the more. She was curled up in the hollow between his shoulders and he was moving very slowly so as not to dislodge her. The wolf stopped and whined at them, nudging the little thing with his nose, but she didn’t move.
Janice rushed forward and snatched her off of the wolf before she started in on the wolf. “What did you do to her!?”
There was a long painful howl as the wolf forced his transformation. Somehow he resisted the urge to collapse into the normal sleep cycle and answered. “She was a lot more out of shape than I am used to, just let her rest for another half hour and then wave coffee under her nose.”
Ronnie was there to catch him as he collapsed. A small smile graced Patrick’s lips as he whispered, “She’s the best I’ve ever seen,” and then slipped into sleep.
Ronnie lifted him and sighed, “I’ll get him settled in the guest room.” Ronnie motioned to Janice with his chin, “Take her in and see about getting that coffee she likes going.”
Anita followed them, and everyone could practically feel the rage coming off of her in waves. They’d barely gotten everyone settled before she started in, “This better not be what I think it is!”
Richard winced and noticed Janice hold the kitten closer to her. ‘This could get ugly real fast,’ Richard thought and stepped forward. “Can’t you hold off on the anger just a little bit longer?” Richard asked softly.
Anita just turned to him and snarled, “You knew about this didn’t you?!” And the fight was on. Richard defending the Drakes right to tell everything in their own time and Anita denying that anyone had that right when it involved the pack.
The kitten stirred in Janice’s arms at all the noise. Her green eyes blinked open slowly and the confusion in the eyes was very clear to anyone looking. Nathaniel had been staring at her the entire time and walked into her line of vision when her eyes opened. He blocked her from seeing the fight raging between Richard and Anita.
When she focused on him and mewed softly, Nathaniel held out his hands and she struggled to get out of Janice’s arms. She couldn’t manage it. She wobbled and almost fell. Janice settled her more firmly into her arms, not really paying attention to anything but the fight. Nathaniel startled her a bit as he rushed forward and plucked the kitten out of her arms. Janice just shook her head and moved so that she was between the two of them and the argument.
Nathaniel smiled at the kitten and she purred in response. Settling herself more into his arms and only pausing in her purr to yawn. The purr started when again when she was settled and stopped the argument dead.
“So she’s awake,” Anita said in a very calm voice that had Nathaniel backing away from her.
“You don’t even know if it’s true,” Nathaniel muttered, causing Anita’s eyes to widen in shock. He never spoke to her that way!
The kitten struggled to keep her eyes open, and everyone could see it. Still when she made to climb out of Nathaniel’s arms he set her on the floor and gave her a quick stroke down her back before he backed away.
Buffy shifted in front of them, her weak smile was the only thing Anita saw before the girl collapsed onto the floor.
There was some noise trying to pull her out of her warm cocoon. The smell of vanilla filled her senses and someone was running their fingers through her hair. Still, the noise intruded on this peace. It was angry, words being shouted. Still, the scent, the hand, the aura of whoever was holding her was enough to hold her in this peace.
Well, almost able to. Another smell intruded, dark, rich. Her eyes blinked opened slowly, meeting soft lavender eyes before a coffee cup was danced across her vision. The blush had no way of holding her as she snatched at the cup and purred, “Mmmmm… Coffee.”
At the sound of her voice and the answering laughter from the person holding her, the shouting stopped. People walked into the room slowly and they all paused at what they saw. Buffy awake, drinking coffee, sitting in Nathaniel’s lap as his fingers ran through her hair. Green and lavender eyes stared at them before the blushing took over and Buffy scooted out of his lap. She was stopped right next to him by his hand on her shoulder, pulling her so that she leaned against him as she sipped the delicious liquid.
“Buffy,” Janice started out, “what happened? Why’d you collapse?”
Buffy rolled her eyes, “It’s all Patrick’s fault.” Her voice took on the stuffy British tone. “You must be ready for anything. You will run and shift whenever I tell you to. You will jump from tree to tree and then shift when I tell you to. We will measure your stamina now so we know what to correct later.” Buffy just groaned and glared at Ronnie. “I refuse to be his student any longer. He had me running, jumping and shifting for an eternity until I collapsed on the forest floor! I don’t know how he got me home!”
Ronnie crouched down in front of her and stared up at her eyes, “Nothing permanent though right?”
Buffy nodded, “I’m not like you guys, remember?” Buffy was cut off from making the rest of her quip by a snarling sound coming from behind Ronnie. She looked up finally and gasped. “Why didn’t you tell me they were here?!”
Shelly smacked her on the shoulder, “Maybe because you woke up in Nathaniel’s lap?”
Buffy turned to him, a small smile on her lips, “Hi.”
Nathaniel chuckled, “Hi to you too.”
“Would you care to explain?” a very controlled Anita asked. It was the calmness that had Buffy tensing next to Nathaniel.
Buffy sipped her coffee and stared at the woman for a moment, “Well I was planning to do that. It’s not my fault that Patrick screwed everything up.”
Anita stalked forward and towered over Buffy, “So start!”
Buffy resisted the urge to salute, but the sigh couldn’t be held in, “What do you want to know first?”
“Why have you been visiting my house?” Buffy shrugged and sipped more coffee. “I would like an explanation.”
The coffee cup was lowered and Buffy looked up at her, green eyes boring into the calm dead sea that Anita had unleashed. “I felt at peace there.”
Nathaniel touched her shoulder, turning Buffy’s attention. “Why didn’t you reveal yourself?”
Buffy shrugged again, “The first night I appeared at your house was the first night I’d changed.”
Anita’s eyes widened and she looked back at Richard for confirmation. He only nodded. “But you came by again,” Anita continued on, anger still apparent in her voice, but not quite as hot as before.
Buffy chucked and nudged Nathaniel, “That was his fault.” Nathaniel just smiled. “I couldn’t stay away, but everyone had told me that it would be better if I didn’t suddenly become a person in your house.”
Anita nodded but she couldn’t let it go, “That does not explain why you carried on the charade for so long.”
Buffy scoffed, “Long?” She rolled her eyes and ignored Janice’s warnings, “It’s only been a couple of weeks, maybe a month if I’ve really lost track of the time. That isn’t long at all. I’ve kept secrets for years.”
Anita’s face darkened again, “I will not tolerate being toyed with!”
Buffy rocked back a bit in the sofa, “Calm down already. Over-reacting much aren’t we?”
Richard just shook his head and sat down. Nathaniel looked like he wanted to crawl into the sofa. Instead he just sank slowly onto the floor and scooted over closer to Jason.
“I am not over-reacting. You!” she stabbed a finger in Buffy’s face. “You need to learn your place, little girl.”
Ronnie groaned and sank in his chair. He’d been through this before; it was not going to be pretty.
Buffy stood abruptly, forcing Anita to back up a step, “And you need to learn that not everything is within your control, Ms. Blake!”
“And you’re using this to justify what you did?!”
Buffy growled, “No, damn it, I’m not! I’m just saying that there are times that things happen. It can’t always be controlled and as long as no one was hurt, violated or killed who cares!”
Anita was brought up short for a moment, her lips moved by nothing came out, there was a snicker being hidden from Jason, and then, “I’m either going to like you or hate you, there’s not going to be an in between, is there?”
Buffy smiled a bit, “Nope, you either love me or you hate me.” She gave Anita her cutest smile, “And I’d really rather be friends than try to beat the crap out of each other.”
Anita just sighed and sank down on the couch, looking over at Janice, “Does she do this to everyone?”
Richard’s the one who laughed, “Well, she jumped on my head the first time I met her.”
Anita snickered and Buffy went to sit on the floor next to Janice. “It was purely accidental. He was in the way of me getting to Ronnie.”
Richard arched a brow, “My hands were there to pull you out of the rafters of this room!”
Buffy grinned, “But I really didn’t need the help now did I?”
Richard just sighed and leaned back in the chair. Janice patted her head, “Now shush a moment dear, drink your coffee and let the adults talk a bit.”
“Yes, mommy,” Buffy said, obediently sipping at the still-warm liquid. Shelly and Jason snickered.
Anita just shook her head, “I’m still upset.”
Ronnie nodded, “We knew that would probably be the case. There’s more to explain about our dear little girl than anyone in this room knows.”
Buffy snorted, and was smacked on the head by Janice. “No comments from you. You’ll just try to distract everyone.”
By this time, everyone was ignoring her, and Nathaniel was inching closer to her, until his head was leaning against her shoulder. “I’m not mad at you,” he whispered in her ear. Buffy smiled at him and sipped more of her coffee.
“So what’s with all the secrecy?” Anita asked bluntly.
“Jean-Claude,” Ronnie whispered. “We’ve been hiding her from him.”
Jason snorted at that, “But he’s already met her.”
Buffy snorted again, and received another smack in the head. Nathaniel chuckled and settled comfortably against her, even though Anita glared at him for it.
“He’s right though,” Richard jumped in. “Jean-Claude has met her.”
Shelly smirked at this point, “No, Jean-Claude met the helpless little girl.”
Jason, Richard and Anita all turned to look at Shelly in confusion, “What do you mean?”
Shelly rolled her eyes, and gestured to Buffy, “Why don’t you show them?”
Buffy groaned, “You’re giving everything away!” Still Buffy moved so that she was kneeling in front of Anita and set the coffee cup down. She looked up at the woman, her eyes going very wide and getting the sheen of tears in them. She bit her bottom lip a moment and then let it out in a quivering pout.
Anita could have sworn that it took close to ten years off of her face and turned her into some type of helpless teenager. Anita’s eyes blinked several time trying to dispel the illusion in front of her, but it didn’t work.
“Please,” Buffy said in a very quiet voice, “I’m just tired, and this is all so confusing. Can’t we just go now?”
Anita swore as Ronnie, Janice and Shelly started laughing. Everyone else in the room was staring at them in wide-eyed shock. “Just stop it already,” Anita said. “That is just freaky.”
Buffy grinned and fell back into her relaxed position next to Janice, snagging her coffee on the way. “You would not believe how often a vampire falls for that act.” Buffy rolled her eyes, “The older they are the more effective it seems to be.” Nathaniel’s head landed on her shoulder again and she absently rubbed her cheek against his hair.
“So you used that on Jean-Claude?” that came from Richard.
Buffy nodded and started sipping her coffee again. Anita groaned and sank into the sofa a little bit more, “You do understand that he is going to be pissed.”
Buffy shrugged, “That’s what they kept telling me about you.”
Anita sat up very quickly at that comment, “And who says I’m not mad?”
Buffy looked up at her, “If you’re mad, why aren’t you trying to kill me?”
Anita sat there in shock for a moment and then sputtered, “I don’t try to kill everyone that makes me mad!”
Buffy laughed, the sputter reminded her so much of what Giles would do in this situation. “That’s not what I’ve heard,” Buffy responded in a singsong voice and sipped more of her coffee, grimacing because it was cooling off.
Anita just grumbled, “If I tried to kill everyone that made me mad, I would have killed Richard a long time ago!”
Richard just rolled his eyes, but he stayed quiet. Buffy grinned at his expression, “But he’s so cute, you can’t help but want to keep him around.”
Anita chuckled, the scowl momentarily leaving her face, “That is true.”
Richard had the grace to blush as everyone there chuckled. “Come on, we’re off topic,” he grumbled.
Buffy pouted, she’d almost gotten them to forget. Janice smacked her on the head again, “Be quiet, little girl, we need to get this out now and find out how to best deal with the repercussions.” Another grumble from Buffy, which was silenced by Nathaniel poking her in the side, and the discussion went back to being serious.
Anita sighed and started rubbing her temples. The headache there seemed determined to pound at her, “So what do we need to know?”
“What do you know about the mythology surrounding Vampires?” Ronnie asked, getting a confused looked from everyone.
Anita shrugged, “I know a bit. It was part of the curriculum for college.”
Ronnie nodded and looked at the floor, “In particular, do you know anything on the mythology of a Vampire Slayer?”
Buffy grumbled again, but was silenced by another smack on the head from Janice. “It has to be done. We have to find out how to mollify the situation.”
Buffy looked up at her, “Well can’t you just spit it out? It’s annoying to have them try to figure it out themselves.”
Ronnie looked up, seeming to pray to the heavens for patience. When he looked back at everyone they were all staring at him, “We have a Vampire Slayer.”
Anita stood abruptly, “Where? Do I need to go protect Jean-Claude until we have it neutralized?”
Buffy snickered, “No, you don’t have to protect the little vampire.” She winced as Janice smacked her again. “What?! I was answering her question.”
“Watch your tone,” was Janice’s reply and then she turned to Anita. “Calm down Anita, there’s no need. The Slayer isn’t some rampaging being. She’s a very annoying girl that seems to thrive on getting in trouble.”
Anita sat down abruptly and stared down at Buffy, “You?”
Buffy shrugged again, “What can I say?”
“You could tell me it’s not true,” Anita responded. “I really do not want to know about this.”
Buffy just shook her head, “Why is it such a bad thing to know?”
“A vampire slayer, in St. Louis. One that can shift forms at will, is part of the local were-wolf pack, and has already been introduced to the Master of the City, only he didn’t realize who it was,” Anita rambled and then stopped. “And you don’t think this is a bad thing?”
Buffy sighed, “I haven’t done anything though!”
“It doesn’t matter,” Jason interrupted. “It’s all about politics, and those always screw up everything.”
“How is me being here any worse than…” Buffy paused and thought for a moment. “Than, Jean-Claude being part of a triumvirate?”
Anita groaned, “Because he has control over that, and he doesn’t have control of you.”
“What if he thought he did?” Buffy said softly.
Everyone was sitting there blinking at her. It was rather amusing how one
simple little question could fry everyone’s brain so that they couldn’t
talk. The only problem was that when she stood to go get more coffee, that snapped
everyone out of it.
“What do you mean by that?!” Shelly started off the interrogation.
“I really shouldn’t be hearing this,” Anita said in a sort of daze.
Jason couldn’t help but chuckle, “I don’t know about everyone else, but I want to hear this. It’s bound to be hilarious coming from her.”
Buffy stood, glaring at him, from the entrance to the kitchen with a new cup of coffee. “Jason, if I didn’t like you so much I think I’d hurt you.”
Ronnie just sighed and shook his head, “Just explain your thoughts, little girl, before we all think you’re insane. Because it sounded like you wanted to turn yourself into a vampire lackey.”
The complete look of disgust that came over her face had everyone chuckling. She walked back over and sat next to Nathaniel on the floor again. When she was settled she spoke up, “All I’m saying is that I’m retired. I’m the first Slayer in a very long time to retire.”
Anita broke in at this moment, “You’re retired? You’re how old?”
Buffy snorted, “I’m the oldest living Slayer. The current, active Slayer is on the hellmouth as we speak taking care of things. I am not needed, I am retired, I can finally live my life.”
Richard spoke up, “Isn’t it more of a calling then a job? Are you sure that you can retire?”
Buffy turned and scowled at him. “You are almost the millionth person to tell me that.” Her voice took on that sneering tone again, “It’s a calling, Buffy, you can’t have a life, this is your life. Blah, blah, blah.”
Nathaniel’s hand started petting her arm, and Buffy felt the calming affect wash over her. She kept the scowl though and directed it towards him a bit. He just smiled at her. She rolled her eyes and turned back to everyone.
“I am a college student. I am living with some marvelous people that treat me like family. I actually have a life past a night life now.” She looked over at Anita and just beseeched her, “Don’t you think he’ll understand that?”
Anita nodded, understanding a bit better, but one point was nagging at her. “Your other form is a kitten, why should that worry anyone? Especially if you are retired.”
Buffy giggled, it sounded a little hysterical, but it was still a giggle. She took a sip of her coffee, and bent her head so that Janice missed smacking her. “You are the most distracting person that I know,” Janice grumbled.
Ronnie cleared his throat, “Well, see, that’s the other thing we were going to tell you. Someone sidetracked us, it seems to be a talent of hers.”
Everyone stared at Buffy and she tried to look as innocent as possible. “What?”
Ronnie just sighed, “Her other form. It’s quite a bit bigger than a kitten.”
Anita was tired, she still had to go to work, and she just wanted to know everything before it blew up with Jean-Claude, so her tone wasn’t pleasant, “Just spit it out!”
“She’s a Lynx. The only one that I’ve ever met.”
Everyone turned and stared at her again; she squirmed on the floor until Nathaniel leaned against her. “So you’re a cat?” he asked her softly.
She turned to him with a smile, “In both of my other forms, yes.”
Nathaniel turned to Anita and smiled, “She’s like us.” He said it with such a smile that Anita just shook her head and chuckled.
“It’s not that simple,” Anita told him.
“Why not?” Nathaniel asked. “She’s never hurt anyone, and like she said, she’s retired.”
Anita sighed, “We’ll just have to see how Jean-Claude takes it.”
That seemed to be the end of the discussion. It slipped down into a small talk session until everyone wanted to go home or had to go to work. Anita had one last parting comment though, “Go to Jean-Claude soon. It will make everything easier.”
Buffy nodded and hugged Nathaniel before he left. Now that she was further away from him, and her fuzzled brain started working again the confusion about him swamped her. She quickly tamped it down when Jason came towards her.
“Do you want to do it tonight?”
Buffy looked over at the clock, it was only ten at night. She was used to staying up until three or four in the morning. A look at Janice and Ronnie and she was nodding her head. “Let’s get this over with.”
Both Ronnie and Janice argued for a moment, but they gave in quickly when she wouldn’t be swayed.
“At least let one of us go with you,” Janice implored.
“No,” Buffy replied, very firmly. “It will go over easier with him if I don’t have my surrogate parents there.”
Ronnie started to protest again, but Buffy just shook her head. “Let me do this. I’m the Slayer after all, even if I am retired. If the vampire decides to play rough, I’ll win.” She grinned as she sauntered out the door.
The ride to the Circus was in silence. Jason didn’t even have any snarky comments to make. It was packed when they got there. People didn’t seem to be deterred in their fascination even if it was a weekday night.
“So, this place is really popular?” Buffy said it quietly.
Jason nodded. “What is a Vampire Slayer?” he asked it quietly. The doors to the car were still locked and Buffy sighed.
“The short version is that I’m a warrior, chosen by the Powers to fight the spread of evil.” Buffy looked over at him, and he was nodding his head. “We’re usually only seen on hellmouths.”
Buffy smiled at him a bit, “It’s a mystical convergence of energy that opens a gateway to hell.”
Jason snorted, “Sounds like life is hell, no matter where you go.”
Buffy chuckled, “Come on Jason, lets go get this over with.”
He nodded and unlocked the doors. When Buffy stepped out she had to pause and collect herself. This was the largest group of vampires that she had ever felt since leaving Sunnydale. She took a deep breath and followed Jason as he walked towards the main building. People would wave to him, but he wouldn’t stop to chat. Buffy walked closely behind him, hoping that they would get there without incident.
He knocked on the back door, and some big, buff vampire opened the door and greeted him. “Who’s your little friend Jason?”
Jason just smiled and slung an arm across Buffy’s shoulders. “This is Buffy Summers. She wanted to talk to Jean-Claude. Thank him for helping her out the other night.”
The guy nodded, he remembered hearing about that little incident. They both walked by and quickly down into the deep part of the circus. Buffy stayed close to Jason the entire time. The place was just freaking her out. Too many vampires were here, and even though she was retired that did not mean her senses had gone with it.
When they finally reached their destination, Buffy looked around the room in shock. “A bedroom?” Buffy said, a little growl in her voice. “You brought me to his bedroom?”
Jason backed away with a chuckle. “You’re just lucky that I was willing to come here on my night off!”
Buffy rolled her eyes and hugged her arms around her waist. “So where is he?”
“He’s on his way, just relax.”
Buffy nodded and looked around. Everything was draped in silk. Black and white, everything was in black or white; the couch, the linens on the bed, even the carpet on the floor. Buffy rolled her eyes and turned to Jason. “Monochromatic?”
Jason chuckled and patted the seat next to him, “Come, sit, relax.”
Buffy plopped down next to him, “So what does he already know?”
Jason shrugged, “It’s not like he would tell me much of anything.” He laughed and leaned over towards her, “I was just supposed to keep an eye on you.”
Buffy snorted, “Did he specify that was supposed to be an un-lecherous eye?”
Jason shook his head and leered at her. She was laughing at him when the door opened and two men walked in. The laughter stopped abruptly as she stared at them. One she already knew, the long dark hair with blue eyes that was Jean-Claude. The other, she’d never seen before.
Long waves of golden hair half-covered his face. The eye that she could see was a very pale blue. She could see nothing of the side of his face that was covered, but the other side was perfection. A temptation to do nothing but stare at him all day lurked within his eyes. Buffy closed her eyes and turned her attention back to Jean-Claude. He was the one she needed to worry about.
“So you brought our little mystery here?” Jean-Claude asked Jason. He was gliding towards her, staring her directly in the eyes. Buffy could feel him trying to grasp at her, and he was failing. The spell that Patrick had put on her was gone, and he could sense that. She could see the frustration on his face. “So, what is it that you wanted?”
He asked it like he didn’t care, but Buffy knew better. She hated politics, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t comprehend the simple version of it. It was all about faking out your opponent.
“I heard you were curious about me,” she said it softly. Eye contact was held. She was a predator if nothing else, and she would not be taken by surprise.
He nodded his head and stopped in front of her, towering over where she sat on the couch. “So tell me, what are you?”
Buffy just grinned, “That is a very complicated question.” She looked from one vampire to the other; the grin didn’t leave her face. “I’ll need some…” she paused for a moment, “assurances before I tell you.”
“Assurances?” the other vampire asked as he came to stand next to Jean-Claude.
“And you are?” Buffy asked, moving her gaze to him for a moment. She could still see Jean-Claude, but the fact that she could turn away with no troubles worried the vampire. She could taste their worry on the air, and had to hold in a laugh.
“Asher,” he said quietly and gave her a little bow.
She nodded her head and licked her lips, both vampires followed that simple little act. ‘This is going to be interesting,’ she thought.
“Assurances?” Jean-Claude asked again.
Buffy nodded, “Yes, assurances. I came here to live a simple life.” She glared from one to the other, “I do not want anything to interfere with that. But neither of you will let me be!”
“Mysterious elements have a way of become dangerous ones,” Jean-Claude replied.
Asher continued on to the other topic though, “What assurances do you want?”
“I’ll tell you who I am,” she said it softly, looking from one to the other. When she didn’t continue they both nodded. “But I want it understood that I am here to go to college, and live my life.”
Jason was all but forgotten as both vampires thought over what she was saying.
“So you want to explain?” Jean-Claude asked, Buffy nodded.
“And you want to be assured that it will not affect your current life?” Asher continued, and Buffy nodded again.
“How can we guarantee that?” Jean-Claude asked.
Jason snorted, “Tell her you won’t try to kill her when she explains.”
All three of them turned and glared at Jason. “You stay quiet, my wolf,” Jean-Claude stated firmly.
Buffy shrugged, “He has a point though. That’s what I want assured of.”
Jean-Claude just sighed, this entire thing was annoying, she was just a little girl. How could she tell him anything that would cause him to want to kill her? “Fine, fine, just tell us.”
Asher opened his mouth to protest, but the statement was already done. Buffy motioned for them to step back, and she stood once she had the room. A slow walk, looking like she was pacing, and she was standing in the middle of the room, nobody thought anything of it, but she had room to maneuver now. She turned to them, “I’m the Slayer,” she whispered to them with a smile, and just stood there, waiting.
What she didn’t expect was the laughter that came pouring from both of them. Jason was even wide-eyed and staring at them. The laughter seemed to have hands that ran up and down her back, and caused the scowl to come to her face.
“Little girl,” Jean-Claude started, once he got his laughter under control, “the current Slayer was released from prison so that she could be moved to control the hellmouth. The previous Slayer died, and is no longer anyone’s concern.”
Buffy rolled her eyes at them, “And who says I’m the current one?”
“Slayers do not come back from the dead,” Asher stated, a smile still on his lips.
Buffy just shrugged, “I have problems staying dead it seems.”
Jean-Claude’s eyes started to show understanding. “You are the Slayer that defeated the Master?” he asked it very softly.
Buffy just grinned and nodded her head.
Asher stepped closer to her, “You are the Slayer that Angelus loved?”
She groaned, “Why does everyone have to bring him up? He was obsessive and psychotic.”
Jean-Claude circled around her, looking her up and down. “You’re so small.”
“Hey!” she turned and kept eye contact with him. “The best things come in small packages.”
Jason snorted at that, “Sure, that’s what all girls say.”
Asher turned to him, “Be quiet.”
Jason just chuckled and leaned back again. Jean-Claude watched him carefully, “She has support of your Ulfric?”
Buffy smiled, “Yeah, Richard’s very sweet.”
Jean-Claude turned to stare at her again. “And what is a Slayer doing in my city?”
“Retiring,” Buffy replied with a grin.
Both of the Vampires stared at her in shock. “You’re retiring?” Asher whispered.
She nodded, “I even got permission from the Powers.” Their shock seemed to increase and she couldn’t help looking around the room. “I don’t really like what you’ve done for the place. It’s, how do you say it?” She walked around tapping a finger on her chin, “Drab. Yes, I think that is the word I would use.”
That seemed to snap at least Jean-Claude out of his funk, “I’d heard this about you.”
Buffy looked at him, “What?”
“That you were annoying,” he said it dryly. His eyes laughed at her as she pouted at him.
“Annoying, that’s the rumors they circled about me?” She threw up her hands in disgust and then put them on her hips, facing him. “So will you leave me be?”
Asher was staring at her in shock, and then he turned to Jason. “Is she always like this?”
Jason laughed and nodded his head. Buffy turned and marched closer to Asher, grinning the entire way. “Am I always like what?”
“I think the political way to say it is hyper.”
Buffy stopped in front of him, “That’s a good answer.” She turned her back on him again and looked at Jean-Claude, “My answer?”
“You’re retired?” Jean-Claude asked slowly, disbelief could be heard in his voice.
“And what does that mean for my vampires?”
Buffy shrugged, “As long as they don’t suck on me or mine, they’ll be left alone.”
Jean-Claude nodded, “And if they do?”
“Then I practice my slayer skills on them.”
Jean-Claude walked closer to her, “And if I dispute that?”
Buffy just smiled up at him, “Then I would have to come out of retirement, kick your ass and then find a new town to move to. It would make me unhappy.”
Jean-Claude nodded, he glanced over at Asher for a moment, and then back to her. “And if I find myself in need of your skills?”
Buffy gave him another shrug, “If it’s something I think I can handle, I might help you.”
Jean-Claude looked over at Asher again, and Asher only shrugged at him. They both knew that this was an unknown factor they were going to be dealing with, but what else could they do?
“Then you can stay here, and I will put out word that you are to be left alone.”
Buffy nodded, “That’s all I wanted.”
“Why did you hide for so long?” Asher asked softly.
“I thought I could get away with it,” was Buffy’s response as she headed towards the door. “Oh, and, the fewer that actually know the truth about me, the better.”
Jason stood and followed her out as she left the room. “I’ll be back tomorrow,” he called over his shoulder as the door closed.
“What have we gotten ourselves into?” was the last thing Buffy heard from Jean-Claude as they walked down the hall.
* * * * *
Buffy sat slumped in her seat, they’d gotten about halfway to Ronnie’s house before she turned to glare at Jason. “I thought you guys said he would be angry with me.”
Jason just shrugged. “How was I to know that he would treat you with kid gloves?”
She just leaned back in her seat and sighed, “Because you actually live with the man!”
Jason shrugged, and turned to her when he stopped at a light. “Well this is the first time we’ve ever had the boogie girl of the vampire community move into town.”
Buffy just looked at him, “And what is Anita?”
Jason turned back to the road and started driving again, “She’s the Master of the City’s girlfriend.”
Buffy just snorted, “And I was Angel’s girlfriend. That never made any difference.”
Jason snorted, “Dating a vampire that helps you destroy other vampires is a bit different.”
They pulled up to the front of the house, Buffy slipped out of the vehicle and sauntered over the driver’s side. “Look up information on Angelus, and then tell me what you think.”
Jason nodded and then drove off, it had been along night and he wanted to spend some time to in a club getting drunk.
They made it in the club only because Jason knew the doorman. Otherwise they
would have been standing outside with all the other hopefuls. Buffy laughed
as Jason dragged her in.
“I’ll be good,” he promised the bouncer quickly when the man just shook his head at the two of them. He continued dragging Buffy through the club, heading towards the bar. He didn’t seem to care that she was in two-inch heels that made being dragged rather difficult. He also leered at her when he looked back because the way her arm was being held was causing her green halter-top to ride upwards. “I love that outfit, dear.”
She glared at him and tugged the top back down when they’d reached the bar. “You’re in a hurry,” she said. Checking to make sure that her knee-length leather skirt hadn’t ridden up as well.
He just nodded and then turned to the bartender, “Something fruity for the lady.”
“Don’t they have a leash law here?” Buffy asked slyly as she stared at Jason. He had his back leaning against the bar and was staring at the dance floor, practically drooling over the college girls there.
At her comment his head whipped around quickly so he could glare at her, “I am not a dog.”
Buffy just laughed, picking up her drink and taking a quick sip. Smiling at the bartender and then moving towards a table. “But you’re such a cute puppy.”
“And how would you know this? You haven’t seen me change.” He followed her, casting a longing look back towards the full to bursting dance floor.
Another grin was sent his way, “But I’ve heard such lovely stories.” She slipped into a chair and twirled her fruity drink in her hand.
Buffy just grinned, “Oh, from various people in the pack.”
“Don’t believe a word of it!” he said and turned to look at the dance floor again. Two girls were smiling at him and Jason just shook his head, “And we’re not out there dancing, because?”
Buffy just shrugged, “It’s early Friday night yet, there’ll be plenty of time to get all hot and sweaty, I thought you would want to relax.”
Jason just shook his head, “Nope, no wanting to relax here.” He stood and held out his hand towards her, “Come on, we’ll dance and I’ll grope random parts of you anatomy, it’ll be fun.”
Buffy just sighed and let him pull her up. “You do know that I can kick your ass.”
Jason just grinned and pulled her close, both of them beginning to move to the music. “That’s half the fun,” was the last thing he said before the music drowned out any hope of making sarcastic remarks.
By the time the next hour had passed, Buffy had been forced to smack him repeatedly to keep his hands off her butt. The press of bodies kept them close together, but that was no reason for the roaming hands. On the fifth occurrence of the ass grab she just laughed and danced away from him. A grin was sent from him to her, but the two girls from earlier were already taking her place.
She quickly got lost in a crowd of girls that were having fun moving to the dance beats the DJ seemed to prefer. Her eyes drifted shut as she lost herself to the moment, enjoying the freedom of the music and the people around her. It wasn’t until the slow songs were starting up that everyone started drifting to single partners.
Slowly each of the girls in the group was gone, and Buffy felt someone move in behind her, matching the line of his body to hers. She swayed with him to the music, their hips in sync, her eyes still closed. She raised her arms and wrapped them around his neck, her halter-top riding up until his hands skimmed over her bare skin.
A tingling sense of awareness hummed in her mind but she ignored it. It had been so long since she was able to lose herself in a moment that she wasn’t going to waste it. Hands locked on her waist and twisted her until she was facing him and flush against his body. She kept her eyes closed and laid her head on his shoulder. His fingers moved up and played with her hair.
It wasn’t until the next song that she got curious. The press of bodies around them made it impossible for her to step back, and he didn’t seem inclined to hand her off to anyone else. Her eyes opened and slowly adjusted to the strobe lighting of the club. Recognition was instant, and she drowned in his lilac eyes as the next song started.
if this world is wearing thin
and you're thinking of escape
i'll go anywhere with you
just wrap me up in chains
but if you try to go alone
don't think i'll understand
stay with me, stay with me.
He was the one that kept them moving, lifting her until her feet rested on his. He ran a finger down her cheek, smiling at her until she had to hold onto him to keep from falling down.
in the silence of your room
in the darkness of your dream
you must only think of me
there can be no in between
when your pride is on the floor
i'll make you beg for more
stay with me, stay with me.
His thumb ran over her bottom lip, but the beat of the song picked up before he could do anything more, forcing him to lift her to keep up with the movements of the dancers. He held her easily, and kept her close as he worked his way to the edge of the floor.
you'd better hope and pray
that you make it safe
back to your own world
you'd better hope and pray
that you’ll wake one day
in your own world
cause when you sleep at night
they don't hear your cries
in your own world
only time will tell if you can break the spell
back in your own world
stay with me, stay with me.
She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and buried her nose in his neck, inhaling deeply of his scent, vanilla and something that came from his beast rather than life. He had backed them into a dark corner by the time she pulled her head back and was looking at him again.
“What are you doing here?” she whispered it, a desperate longing to be with him warred with the need to understand the longing.
“I wanted to see you,” he told her just as softly.
“This is completely insane.” She shook her head and tried to push him to get away.
His hold on her arms tightened, “It might be, but does that make it wrong?”
She just sighed and tried to shake his hand off. “You don’t know me!”
He just closed his eyes, “But I want to.”
She stood and tiptoes and kissed his cheek, “So do I, but...” She could feel the panic starting to bubble up inside her. It wasn’t supposed to happen this fast. A twist and she’d slipped from his hold, “I gotta go.”
She was quickly out of the club and away from the crowd. Her arms wrapped around her middle as she lost herself in meaningless thoughts. ‘Should I go back?’ a pause in stride and a shake of her head, ‘No, no, I won’t jump into anything again.’ She stopped completely and looked up at the sky, ‘If it’s meant, then a little bit of a delay won’t affect whatever it is at all.’ She closed her eyes and brought up what he had looked like in the club, ‘Nathaniel, you’re going to drive me insane.’ She thought and took a step forward.
If her foot had come down a second earlier it would have drown out the click. It only took her a second to dive to the side, but the bullet still grazed her arm. She gasped and slapped her hand over it, quickly putting her back against the building and taking a look around. She’d walked into the business district of town, close to the clubs, but still deserted at this time of night. She growled and scanned the rooftops around her, but could spot nothing.
‘Jean-Claude will pay for this,’ she thought, and reached to the small of her back for the spot she’d hidden her cell phone. ‘That damn vampire promised that he would let me be!’ She hit the speed dial for Ronnie and pushed the pain of the flesh wound to the back of her mind.
While the phone was ringing she ducked under an awning and leaned back against
the wall. She winced as the wound started to sting, but waited patiently for
the phone to be answered. “Come on, be at work,” she groaned and
waited. It was Friday, it would probably take them a little bit to get to the
“Lunatic Café,” one of the waitresses answered.
“Hey Erica,” Buffy started, trying to sound as if nothing was wrong, “is Ronnie there?”
“Sure Buffy, just gimme a minute to go get him,” Erica replied and the hold music started.
Buffy took a deep breath, and groaned when she felt the sticky wetness on her fingers. It may just be a flesh wound, but it was still bleeding. “Dammit,” she muttered under her breath just as Ronnie picked up the line.
“What’s up little girl?”
Buffy winced for an entirely different reason. “Is Janice there with you?”
“Yeah,” Buffy could hear the shuffling in the background and then the airiness to the line signaling she was on speakerphone.
“Come on, Ronnie, take me off speaker,” Buffy whined at him.
“No,” Janice laughed, “you have to tell both of us what trouble Jason has gotten you into.”
Buffy rolled her eyes, “It has nothing to do with Jason.”
Ronnie groaned, “So what trouble have you gotten yourself into?”
Buffy whined again, “Come on Ronnie, take me off of speakerphone.”
“No, little girl, spit it out.”
Buffy groaned, and shifted a little bit, “Someone shot at me.” She whispered it, but they both quieted immediately.
“Were you hit?” Janice asked it softly.
“Just grazed,” Buffy heard Ronnie slamming out of the office. “It was just one shot.”
The handset was picked up, “So what happened?”
Buffy took a deep breath, “Is Ronnie on his way?”
“Of course he is. Jason had his phone on vibrate. They’ll track you once Ronnie’s there. So tell me what happened.”
“I needed air, so I took a walk. I’m about two or three blocks away from the club and I hear a click. I dove to the side and the bullet still grazed me. Whoever it was, he’s good. I’ll have to compliment Jean-Claude on his taste in thugs.”
Janice groaned, “You can’t jump to conclusions.”
Buffy snorted, “Who else would want to take me out?”
“Oh, well I don’t know,” Buffy could hear the sarcasm, “what was your previous job again? What kind of enemies have you made?”
Buffy just shook her head, “All of those types would come after me with claws or fangs.”
“Don’t be so sure, little girl. This is the modern age after all.”
Buffy just snorted again, and then groaned as Nathaniel came running up to her. He wasn’t even looking up at the rooftops as he ran down the sidewalk. “Get under cover you idiot!”
Janice chuckled in the background, and Nathaniel stopped so that he was between Buffy and the street.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Nathaniel just grinned and shrugged, “I’m doing what Jason ordered me to do. I’m standing between you and whatever is trying to hurt you. He said something about Jean-Claude skinning him alive if something happened to you.”
“And does he think that won’t make me think it was him?” Buffy stated bluntly, and Nathaniel paled.
“Come on, don’t be all paranoid now,” that was coming from Janice.
Nathaniel was just shaking his head, “You had an agreement. He wouldn’t break that. You’re...” Nathaniel trailed off.
Janice finished for him, “You’re an asset. You keep the bad little vampires in line when threats of Anita won’t.”
Buffy snorted again. “I still don’t know of anyone else that would be after me!”
The blue SUV pulled up just as Buffy said that, and Ronnie motioned for her to get in. “Get off the phone, everyone is meeting at the café in an hour. We need to get you there and cleaned up before they show up.”
Buffy said a quick good-bye to Janice and then groaned when Ronnie forced her into the back seat. “And keep your head down.”
“And Janice thought I was being paranoid,” she muttered it, but laid down in the seat. Nathaniel just grinned and scootched over so that she could rest her cheek on his leg.
“Just keep quiet and down until we get back to the café,” Ronnie stated, his grip tight on the steering wheel.
Buffy just rolled her eyes, and relaxed a tad as Nathaniel ran his fingers through her hair. “It’s going to be a long night, relax,” he whispered to her.
She sighed and closed her eyes, taking nice deep calming breaths. It wasn’t that far to the café, but still, there was enough time for her to at least loosen her muscles a bit.
Conversation wasn’t happening, Jason was twitching a bit in his seat. Looking out the window, paying attention to the roof tops and wincing whenever Ronnie barely slowed down to take a turn.
It was about 20 minutes later that Buffy pulled herself out of being relaxed and growled, “Where are you taking us?!”
“I’m making sure that I lose whoever is trying to follow us,” Ronnie replied.
“And you’re so sure that someone is following us?”
Ronnie didn’t respond, but he did finally pull in the back lot of the café. “Hurry up and get inside. Go to the back meeting room. Janice and Shelley are going to clean you up.”
Buffy just sneered at him, but did race to the back down. People smiled at her as she raced through the café and into the back meeting room.
“Well isn’t this fun?” Buffy said, Janice and Shelley immediately converging on her.
“Just hush, and let us get you changed.”
* * * * *
“Once upon a time,” Buffy started, glaring around at the circle of people, “people listened to me when I said the Vampire was out to get me.”
Janice and Ronnie just sighed, “You know that your life is different now.”
“But a vampire trying to protect me?!” Buffy sat down in a chair and slumped. “It just isn’t sane. I’d get thrown in a mental institution if Giles heard me say that phrase.”
“Unless he was talking about Angelus,” said vampire commented as he walked in the door.
Buffy let the sneer show on her face, “You know better. Angel would protect me. Angelus would offer to help.”
Jean-Claude just walked towards the table and looked her over. “You look relatively unharmed.”
She shrugged, “It comes from living a good life. A little slaying, some eating, working out, and you wouldn’t believe how young and fit it keeps you. Accelerated healing helps a bit as well.”
He sat, and glanced around noting that Anita and Richard hadn’t yet made it here. “So who do you think is trying to get rid of you?”
Buffy smiled and propped her feet up on the table, “You.”
The shock that lit his face was very amusing. “We had a deal Slayer. I leave you alone, you leave me alone and help is provided when it is needed.”
Buffy scoffed, “You never offered to help me.”
Jean-Claude shrugged, “That does not matter. Your death would bring things to my city that I don’t want here.”
Another roll of her eyes, “And what would those things be?”
Jean-Claude just chuckled, “Your watcher, your witch, and your ex-boyfriend.”
Buffy smiled at him, it was a very sweet smiled, “Which one?”
“Back on topic!” Ronnie snapped. “I want to know who took the hit out on her and I want it taken care of immediately!”
“I’ll take care of it,” Buffy said it softly. She looked around the table, “It’ll be easy. It was a human. He won’t die, but he’ll hurt when I’m done with him.”
Ronnie just shook his head, “No, I won’t have you risk yourself.”
“You have no choice,” Buffy replied. “I’m the one they are after. I’m the one that can track them down!”
Janice snorted, “You’re in a room full of the best trackers known to the world, and you want to do this on your own?”
Buffy sighed, “And you think they’re going to leave a trail that you can follow?”
Janice just shrugged and glared at Buffy, “Well it’s not like we’re going to let you do this alone!”
“Janice is right,” Jean-Claude butted in quietly. Buffy turned to him and stared at him in shock. “Someone is breaking the law I set down, and I will not tolerate it.”
Buffy laughed softly, “So you don’t care a bit about me, just your stupid authority.”
Jean-Claude stood and stalked towards her, “You need to pull yourself out of this selfish little world you’re in.” Buffy stood her ground and waited, “There are more elements involved here than just you!”
Buffy hauled back her arm and slapped him, “And it’s your damn fault that all this is happening!” She twisted and gave him a roundhouse kick to the head, “If you had left me alone, no one would know I was here.” No one was moving towards them to stop this. She hauled her arm back again and sent it towards him, intending to punch him until he stopped moving, but he grabbed hold of her fist before it connected.
“And you still need to realize that other people are in affected now.”
She twisted again and wrapped her arm around his neck, pulling him backwards and planting her foot in the middle of his back. “You need to realize that not everything is under your control.”
“Well obviously,” a sarcastic voice called from the doorway. Everyone but Buffy turned to stare at Anita. “He’s dating me. How could he ever dream that he controls everything?”
Buffy just bounced her foot on his back, “He still tries to control everything.” Buffy glanced over her shoulder, “Tell me that he didn’t hire the hit on me.”
Anita just sneered, “Of course he didn’t.” She stalked forward, smirking at the position Buffy had Jean-Claude in, “He can’t stand the person that accepted the contract.”
Buffy let go of Jean-Claude quickly enough that he fell flat on his face. Anita just laughed and ignored him.
“You know who it is?” Buffy asked.
“Yeah. There’s only one person good enough to have actually gotten that close to you.”
Richard walked in behind Anita then, “It was Edward, wasn’t it?” Anita nodded and a couple of other people just groaned. “And why didn’t your little friend let you know he was in town?”
Anita just shrugged, “I’ll be sure to ask him when I find him.”
uffy groaned and leaned her head back against the wall. “So how do we find this Edward? I’d like to have a talk with him about his manners.”
Anita just chuckled and shook her head, “He’ll show up when he wants to. I’ve already left a message with his service for him to call me; I have no way to find him before that.”
Ronnie stepped forward, “In the meantime, you can’t be alone.”
Buffy just rolled her eyes, “I’ve already told you, I can take care of myself.”
Janice finally marched up to her, “That’s not the point and you know it. Stop trying to downplay this situation!”
Buffy could tell that everyone was getting really frustrated with her, but she wanted to keep all of this stuff in the past. Why drag up the little moments of insanity when it wasn’t needed? She looked around, noting the expressions on everyone look at her, and closed her eyes, “He’s not the Order of Taraka, I think I can handle one little human trying to kill me.”
Jean-Claude looked at her, his eyes narrowing to the point that Anita was walking towards him before he spoke, “You survived the Order of Taraka?”
Buffy just stuck her tongue out at him, “No need to sound so shocked. It only took me killing 3 or 4 of them before they stopped sending assassins for me.”
Jean-Claude just closed his eyes and chuckled, “Then, no, one little human isn’t going to be a problem for you.” Everyone around them started to protest, but he just ignored them, “However, your friends will still worry, and we still have a bargain. Don’t try to handle this alone.”
Buffy just nodded, a weariness seeming to set into her shoulders. “Fine, fine, just don’t crowd me when I start kicking Eddie’s ass.” She sank into her chair and pouted, “It’s been a long time since I had a good fight.”
Everyone laughed, the tense atmosphere broken and the planning process began. They didn’t seem worried about Edward. He’d been contacted, everyone was sure he would back off once the situation was explained to him.
Buffy just snorted at that and started to doze in her chair, ‘If the people who hired him knew anything about me, then it would be one on one battles. Group effort would not be a factor.’ She wiggled down into her chair more, and phased everyone out. ‘I’ll find them anyway, it will be the only way to make it stop.’
Her eyes didn’t open again until close to an hour later when Nathaniel knelt next to her chair. A small smile was on her lips before she was even fully aware, and bloomed full out when she opened her eyes fully for him.
“Why are you so flippant about this?” he whispered it, not wanting to interrupt the others.
“Who says I’m being flippant?”
Nathaniel just shook his head, “How else would you classify your attitude?”
“Practical,” she responded, with little thought. It came out blunt, flat, but there was no other way to say it. She felt his sigh more than heard it, and reached to touch his cheek before he turned away. “I am what I am. Very few people ever grasp that concept. I am a predator. I have enemies, I always have and I always will. They would prefer to take me out without getting their own hands dirty. If I stop living my life just because of a few threats, they’ve won. My life will cease, and I’ll do nothing but hide during the day and my duty during the night.”
“But taking precautions doesn’t mean your life is over,” he argued back. “We all care for you Buffy and we just don’t want you to be hurt.”
“True,” she slumped down into her chair. “However, I can’t give in easily.” She stared him in the eye, hoping that he’d get the hint. “I’ve done everything alone for so long that it’s hard to understand people wanting to help for no reason at all.”
“But your friends?” He thought for a moment, “The ones you went to High School with?”
Buffy just shook her head. “They caused my greatest grief and berated me for not moving on quickly enough.” She held her finger to his lips when he started to say something. “They tore me from the only moments of happiness I’d ever known. When I finally took steps to be happy again, they told me I was running. I’ve tried to contact them, there’s nothing they said then that was any different than before.”
“Family?” he whispered it.
Buffy giggled and motioned over his shoulder, “They’re over there, trying to find enough cotton to wrap me in to protect me forever.”
Nathaniel just laughed, “You know that’s not true.”
“In a way it is, but I don’t blame them for it. It’s nice to have people think I need protecting. And I love it. I just hope they don’t try to keep me out of it.”
Nathaniel smiled, “No, they really believe you need to protect yourself, but...” he looked over his shoulder, “I really think Ronnie wants to put you under house arrest.”
Buffy snorted, “It wouldn’t work.”
“I think they’ve realized that.”
Buffy looked over at the group again, and they were all staring at her.
“Done with your cat nap?” Janice asked.
Buffy stretched and yawned, eliciting a laugh from the were-leopards, “But you’re doing all the hard work.”
“Hard work?” Anita asked.
“The planning, the trashing of ideas, the brain storming,” Buffy stood and walked towards them, Nathaniel taking her seat. “So what have you come up with?”
* * * * *
Edward leaned back in his chair, he was developing a headache, very odd of his life, but there was no other option. It was either develop the headache or have his head explode from all the contradictions. He glanced at the dossier again and then threw it on the counter.
His target’s life had been normal until sometime in High School. Honor roll, most popular, on every committee. If he’d stopped there, he’d think she was someone’s trophy wife by now, especially with the blond hair and that body. He shook himself again. But it was when things started going odd that it stopped making sense.
Her parents, divorced, right after she burned down the gym of her school. Nobody had been hurt, but there had been a gang involved. All the reports were confusing. “It’s almost like they were all told to rationalize the event and make up their own stories.” He murmured it to himself as he stared at the ceiling.
The move to Sunnydale hadn’t helped her any. Skipping school, destruction of private property, she’d even been accused of murder but no one could prove it. She’d run away, and no one had record of where she’d gone. Her mother had reported her found just before the school year started and then they’d fought to get her back in there. Just from the comments of the principal at the time, it was a miracle they hadn’t permanently expelled her.
He felt the urge to bang his head on his table. Her grades were close to flunking her out, and then she made an excellent score on her SAT’s. It wasn’t understandable. Then there were her college years, and he really threw in the towel then. The military had a file on her sealed so tight that he couldn’t bust into it.
“What are you, little girl, that makes everyone so interested in you?” he whispered as he stared at her picture. “Anita’s pet kitty protecting you. You live with the most upstanding werewolf couple that anyone at the café will speak of.” He shook his head and groaned again, “And even I felt the need to find out more about your before just putting a bullet in your head.” He never did this. He never researched his targets so heavily before just taking the necessary proof to justify the kill and getting it done. Something about this one, something about her just pricked at his nerves.
He reviewed the night in his head. He’d been on the roof of that building because it was in the path she would take to get home. It was a stroke of luck that she wasn’t in a car, and he just took it as a sign that this was going to be an easy mark. But the second he pulled the trigger things had gone wrong. It was almost as if she could hear the click of the mechanism. Not even a lycanthrope had hearing that good. It had only grazed her by the time she moved to the side, almost as if she knew from which direction the bullet was coming.
A couple minutes longer of waiting had been well worth the worry. Nathaniel ran up and put himself between her and the rest of the world. He’d been shocked enough at that but then the SUV pulled up and practically dragged her in and drove to the café after close to 30 minutes of trying to dodge whatever might be following. A quiet retreat had been in order. By the time he’d made it back to this motel, there was a laughing message from Anita telling him he was in over his head and that it wasn’t what he thought. She’d told him to call her, but he hadn’t made a determination yet. He wanted to know what this little girl was.
There was a knock on his door. “Open up Edward, it’s me.” It was a male voice, and one that Edward knew. The guy was non-descript, almost nerdy, with the glasses and ruffled hair. Nothing about him stood out, until you got him speaking about his passion.
He opened the door and allowed the guy to slip in before talking. “Hey Alex.”
Alex set down the mini-cooler that he’d walked in with and then turned to Edward, “Don’t, Hey Alex, me! What favor do you want me to do that forces you to threaten my life if I’m not at this flea pitt of a motel before morning.”
Edward just grinned, and laughed inside as Alex shook his head. Edward just walking over to the ice bucket, and pulled out the sample he had collected. He turned and held out the small vial to Alex. “How much can you tell me about this person, just using this?”
Alex just laughed and held the vial up to the light. The red was almost pure. “Do I even want to know how you got this for me to play with?”
Edward shook his head, “I’ll tell you that the donor is alive.”
Another chuckle from Alex, “But will the donor stay that way?” He turned and placed the vial in the cooler, not really expecting a reply.
Edward shrugged, “I don’t know on this one, Alex. I really just don’t know.”
Alex knew what Edward did, and knew that this blood sample was most likely from something preternatural. Hearing Edward admit that something was confusing him, that was the shock. “What is going on Edward.”
Edward just shook his head, “Just get me information about that sample. Keep it quiet, and keep it confidential. Just get it for me soon!”
Alex nodded, and picked up the cooler. “Anything for you my man. Anything for you.” And he slipped out the door just as quickly as he’d come in.
Edward smiled and looked back at the dossier again. He’d find out all he could about her, and then he’d confront her.