Disclaimer: As always, I own nothing. Respective rights to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and LKH.
AN: Thanks so much for all the great reviews! They’re all greatly appreciated. If anybody would be interested in beta-ing for me, please drop me a note and let me know. I’m in desperate need!
The first part of this chapter will be first-person from Anita’s pov. I can’t help it. I don’t think there is any other fitting way to write the character…
“So you’re saying that a little blonde girl just landed in the middle of the lupanar last night? She managed to hold off the entirety of the pack, escape unhindered, and nobody could track her down? And as if that’s not enough-“I paused here, sliding a glance at my Nimar-Raj, “she wiped the floor with a group of ‘supernatural bad-asses’ who then went up in a plume of smoke when she shoved a wooden stake into their hearts?”
A sigh of disbelief was my only answer. “No, not at all, they like, disintegrated, *poof* dust blowing in the wind…where did you get smoke from that?”
I choose not to answer that. Where did the miscommunication come into play? It could be something about the wildly fantastic story that no one in their right minds, except the circle I ran in, would believe. It could have been the telling of the tale from two incredibly hyped up werewolves whose eyes were still aglow with the thought of it. It could be from my extreme lack of wanting to listen to any new problem arising in the city. Or, it could be over 40 hours without sleep. Pick one, I’ll agree with whatever you decide to go with.
“The poof or plume debate, aside, I seem to have the gist of it, then?”
Jason turned to Stephen for confirmation. “That sums it up, yeah.”
“Were you joking? That’s not difficult whatsoever to believe.” I knew, staring down at my coffee, that my face was as blank as my words had been. The three men shared a glance over my head that would have made me take notice and glare if I had more energy. As it was, I could care less what looks they shared at the moment. Out of character? Yeah, I know; so sue me. Or don’t. I did mention I’m carrying enough weaponry to arm a small country, and passed ‘sleep deprived’ three exits back, right? Your call.
“Not difficult to believe? Are you joking? I was there and I’m having trouble believing it.”
“With the way this last week has been going, not a lot would surprise me right now.” A long gulp of coffee and a moment of contemplative silence had me feeling a bit more operational. “I assume Richard isn’t planning on going to the police?”
“Definitely not, bad publicity, double lives, same old story.” He shook his head and slumped into the seat across from me, next to Micah.
Stephen remained standing, which surprisingly enough, caused me a bit of worry. Did he not feel comfortable enough here to sit? Was it just my sunny disposition?
“Yeah, guess so.” I muttered distractedly before another idea hit. “And he didn’t order you against requesting my help?”
His eyes managed to be concerned and mocking at the same time. “You’re Bolverek. He said it’s in your job description.”
“Oh, really?” Off their wary nods, I sighed, too tired to get upset over it and knowing myself much too well to think I wouldn’t have gotten involved through other means, eventually, anyhow. I’d bring up the issue with Richard later, when I had more energy to get mad.
“Well, what did she look like?”
“Blonde. Hot.” Jason replied instantly the standard lecherous grin in place that had me mildly affronted on the strange woman’s behalf. I gave him a blank stare, trying to put into that neutrality just how much I wasn’t up to dealing with his normal antics at the moment.
Stephen took notice and stepped up. “She’s blonde, long hair in a pony tail.” His forehead scrunched a bit, and by the effort he seemed to be exerting in calling up her physical appearance, he should have been able to tell me what shade her Maybelline was; I was mildly disappointed. “She’s short.” His eyes turned thoughtful. “Probably shorter than you.”
Huh, well wasn’t that just peachy. I was now the standard for measuring shortness.
My voice came out even, controlled, and didn’t hint this time at the exhaustion I was feeling. I know. I was putting every bit of energy I had into keeping it that way. “Is there anything else besides blonde and short that you could give me to work with?” Other than a ‘pretty-please’, that was about as nice as it got.
They shrugged in tandem, at least having the decency now to look slightly sheepish. “To be honest, we weren’t really paying all that much attention to her looks so much as the way she moved and the way she verbally mowed over Richard. That was definitely a water and oil match-up. And then, well, there was the whole ‘chase’. I can tell you she bathed earlier this morning, used cherry almond shampoo, vanilla body lotion and perfume, and had some kind of chicken soup for lunch, but beyond that, I’m not sure I’ll be much help.”
I stared at him long and hard, somewhat amazed that even now, after so long of standing neck deep in all the supernatural bullshit, I could forget about a were’s ultra attuned sense of smell. It really is disturbing if you think about it too much. “And you weren’t able to sniff out her trail?”
Stephen shook his head. “She was too damn fast. We lost it a little after she hit the road. Somebody must have picked her up. Though, there was blood where the trail ended… blood that wasn’t hers.”
That definitely put another angle on things. Huh. Something to mull over in the 10 seconds it would take me to fall asleep. I downed the rest of my coffee and offered Micah my hand. Time for bed. This could wait until morning. “Tell Richard I’ll start looking into it tomorrow, look through missing persons reports, check out the rap sheets for the last few days, see if Zebrowski may have something we can go off of. No promises though, make sure he understands that.”
“Where are you going now?” Jason this time, still seated.
“To bed.” I answer shortly, a little pissed that I’m suddenly supposed to be accountable to him of all people. Still, he’s a friend …so he’ll get an honest answer and I’ll do my hardest to quell the urge to shoot him.
Eyebrows wagged. “Can I come?”
I didn’t bother with a response, but as I made my way up the stairs, my earlier convictions played like a mantra inside my head: ‘I’ll do my hardest to quell the urge to shoot him.’
Buffy drummed her fingers on the steering wheel, bouncing in her seat to the tune of Sheryl Crow’s ‘Soak Up the Sun’ as she made her way to god only knew where.
She didn’t understand the big fuss people always made over her driving skills, or as the more witty critics liked to say: ‘lack thereof’. Sure, she had seen people who could drive a lot better than she could, but she’d seen a hell of a lot worse, too. She could drive absolutely fine, perfectly in fact, on these types of long, winding, uncluttered roads. It was only when you factored in other drivers on said road, unnecessary stop lights, stop signs, and speed limits that problems arose.
Speaking of which, she hastily swerved back over from the center of the road to the right to narrowly avoid the lumber truck that had suddenly appeared from behind a bend, before easing back into the more spacious middle.
Don’t even get her started on pedestrians.
All in all, Buffy was fairly confident of her driving skills. The same couldn’t be said for her patience or strategic abilities in a situation that didn’t consist of immediate danger and violence.
The plan consisted of stumbling across a gas station before the tank hit empty. The contingency plan was much less thought through, involving a lot of pouting, tears, and curse words.
She sighed and hit the eject button on the CD player. Even Sheryl Crow wasn’t going to fix her funky mood. She stashed the disc into the visor above her and returned her attention to the completely unorganized collection of music she’d found under the passenger side seat.
For a man and a cop, this guy had some seriously weird taste in music. Come on, who in the world listened to TLC anymore? Savage Garden? Mandy Moore?
With a screech, Buffy slammed on the breaks, never once looking up as she gawked at the disc in front of her, the butterfly, the pastel lettering, and glanced in the rear-view mirror to contemplate the obviously deranged, unconscious, man still in the back seat before glancing down again.
She bit her lip, and checked the mirror once more to make certain he wasn’t awake. Rolling down the window, she decisively chucked the offending thing out it. Another second of consideration and the Mandy Moore disc followed it’s path.
She was the Chosen One. It was her duty to make the world a safer place.
She hit the gas, still not looking up and resumed the perusal through her choices. Finally deciding on a decent band she took up her drumming again, this time lending her own vocals to the track.
Priority one was figuring out what to do with Detective Music/Fashion Victim, here. Yeah, he wasn’t just a cop, but a detective. How did she know? By going through his wallet, of course. It’d been on her third…no, fourth trip into the back to re-render him unconscious that she’d thought to search him for weapons, ID, money, and what not.
Her search found her with a pistol, a badge, a license, about $150 in cash, a debit card, two credit cards, and a Subway point rewards card. Could come in handy.
Priority two, or perhaps she should make that part two of priority one, since on the level of importance, it was pretty high up there, was to find somewhere safe to rest and recover. The bagged powdered sugar donuts, numerous soft drinks, and aspirin (man, this guy’s car was a trash heap) had helped against the pain and exhaustion, but she’d be coming down from the high soon enough, and knew it would be all the worse then. Slayer stamina and healing powers were all good and well, but without rest and proper cleaning, they weren’t going to be much help. Plus, she looked gross. A shower would be of the good.
Her eyes lit up as she approached a small convenience store whose sign proclaimed the best hot dogs in all of Missouri. Now there was a rousing endorsement.
She locked the car behind her and made her way in.
“Morning, Miss. Can I help you find-“ The attendant, a small 50’s something man with long, grey streaked hair, stopped short.
Buffy winced as his gaze swept over her body, his expression not one of lewdness but shock, mixed healthily with equal parts concern and apprehension. “-something?”
“Um, no. Not really…just going to browse a bit.” She responded with a sunny smile.
He returned the smile a bit unsure, but nodded nonetheless.
Five minutes later found her laden down with chips, more soda, candies of both the chocolate and hard varieties, chewing gum, water, and a small compilation of first aid supplies.
She dropped it all down on the counter with a huff and pulled out the money she’d stuffed away into her back jean pocket.
The clerk neatly arranged the items and began ringing them up, casting wary glances at her all the while. “It looks like you’ve had a long night, girl.”
“You don’t know the half of it.” She deadpanned.
He laughed. “I bet.”
She gave him extra points for not questioning her further. “Say, do you happen to have a bathroom here? Sort of want to clean up, you know?” She ventured hopefully.
He frowned, glancing towards the back and again at her scratched and bloodied arms. “Normally I’d tell you no, and let that be that, but since cleaning up would probably do you some good, we’ll have you use the employee lounge.” He pointed towards the back right hand corner of the store. “As long as you don’t go telling anybody.” He winked.
She grinned and pantomimed zipping her lips shut. Rummaging through the sack he’d began to fill her groceries with, she recovered the first aid supplies. “Can I take these back already.“
“Might as well.” He waved her away.
She stepped into the ‘employee lounge’, locking the door behind her. It was definitely not of the 5-star variety, but it’d do in a pinch.
Taking care of the necessities first, she then lined the supplies on the side of the sink and began vigorously scrubbing at any and all of the blood and grime coated expanses of skin she could find. A quick rinse of her clothes was all she could afford before seeing to her wounds. A good 10 minutes later, she stared in the mirror at the tired woman with the red eyes and pale face before her. It definitely wasn’t one of her more attractive looks, but then, she’d seen herself look worse. She would take the‘sleep deprived crack-head’ over ‘half dead mugging victim’ style any day.
Back at the counter she smiled at the man. “Thanks, I needed that.”
“Don’t we all, some days? Is there anything else I can get for you? We have cigarettes buy two get one free.”
Buffy cringed, shaking her head no. “Don’t smoke… though it might be a good time to start.“ She muttered under her breath as she looked at the car through the window. “Actually, there is something. Where could I find a motel around here?”
“’Bout five miles up the road and you’ll reach civilization again. Not much of one, I’ll be the first to admit, but good food and a place for the night at a halfway decent price.”
She handed over the money for the groceries with another sincere thank you and headed out before she realized she’d forgotten gas. “Ugh, I need gas, too. Can I get, ugh …$20 on the pump?” She handed over another bill.
“You’re all set. Take care.”
Back on the road again, she reflected upon her good look and the apparently friendly nature of the human population in this dimension. Maybe things wouldn’t be all that bad. Her luck did seem to be shaping up. Rest within reach and her rescuer/hostage hadn’t woken up while she’d been in the store. Maybe she should spring for a lottery ticket. Would her winnings travel back home with her when she went, though? Questions, questions.
Sure enough, a little over five miles up the road, a small town –or would that be hovel?- loomed with a wooden sign promising a motel at her next right. She pulled the car in between a black mud-caked Hummer and a Chrysler Seabring and turned off the engine.
Now, to get a room and get him inside without drawing any attention to herself… she just hoped her newfound luck would hold up.