Disclaimer: I do not own any of the following characters, respective rights to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Twentieth Century Fox, and Laurell K. Hamilton. This is not written for profit of any kind, or for any reason other than for entertainment.
Title: Tumbling After
A bright flash of light. Nausea stirred in the pit of her stomach and her head swam, stars eating away at her vision. When she regained her sight, she wished she hadn’t. Gone were the headstones, the grave markers, the mausoleum, the solemn stone angels watching the progress of her latest battle. Gone, in fact, were all signs of the cemetery -and for that matter, Sunnydale.
A fist connected with her jaw, sending her stumbling back and to the ground.
Alright, scratch that. It seemed her four assailants had booked the flight along with her, and apparently had managed to recover from the jet lag a bit quicker than she. Points for them.
She pushed a lock of blonde hair out of her face even as she pushed herself up off the ground, eyeing the vampire across from her warily. “So there’s one of you, but where are your fr-”
She hit the ground again, this time, courtesy of well placed kick to the small of her back. “Well as long as we have that sorted out.” They didn’t rush her, nor take advantage of the fact that she was laying prone on the ground, due in large part to their own confusion over what the hell had just transpired. Buffy took the opportunity to assess the situation.
Four against one: doable.
Mr. Pointy MIA, a dagger sheathed to her calf under her jeans: messy, but doable.
Transportation of some sort to another dimension; not exactly what she would call a preferred destination, but not altogether unheard of: also doable.
A couple dozen half naked people and an even higher number of large dogs…nay, wolves staring at them with varying amounts of surprise: difficult to explain, yet doable.
Her lying in the dirt ruining a new, not to mention expensive blouse and vintage jeans; definitely of the ’non-doable’ category.
She sprung up off the group and immediately into a fighting stance. “Okay boys, lunch break is over, time to get back to work”
The vampires stared at her, then at one another, until a grin split the lips of what passed as their leader. “You know we’ve been watching you, Slayer. The funny thing being with all this ‘watching’ -we’ve come to realize that rushing you all at once doesn’t serve our best interest, see?”
“Sure it does, its like a group thing. You get to bond and then you get to die. Great way to work through issues.”
“And that’s what you book on, us being stupid enough not to take our time when we try to kill you. We’ve done our homework, sweetheart, and you’re not coming out of this anyway but dead.”
“I think the only thing I’m coming out of this with is one hell of a good work out.“ Hands raised to slim hips and her voice slipped into an outlandish mockery of the tones she used when lecturing the Slayers. “Duration of exercise is a key component to good cardiovascular health.”
The vampire sneered at her casual manner, to which she answered with a saucy grin. He opened his mouth to retort but was interrupted.
“This is sacred ground. Leave.” She searched the area for the source of the voice, but it was hidden within a sea of faces,
“Sacred ground?” She made a show of surveying the woodland area. They were in the middle of the fucking woods. “Um, yeah…give me a few minutes.“
“Hey, hey, hey -cool your jets, people -I didn’t mean to interrupt your little rally its just that I’ve been really busy with the whole them trying to kill me thing.”
A female voice spoke up from somewhere near the man who’d just spoke.
“This does not concern us. Take your people and your problems and go”
Irritation colored her voice, hazel eyes flashed. “My problem is soon going to become your problem if you don’t shut up and let me deal with it.”
The vampires eyed the large group with a slightly more calculating eye while the Slayer mouthed off. Once they’d taken care of her, they were going to have a lot of extra eyes to deal with. And while the prospect of finally ridding themselves of the bane of their existence was thrilling -the fallout was not.
Jared Case had been a smart man in life; death hadn’t changed that. This was not the place and the time to take care of their problem. He offered the Slayer an apologetic grin. “I think you may have a point Slayer.” He jerked his head, signaling his comrades in a universal ’lets go’ gesture.
She strode forward with a speed the surpassed even that of the undead, grabbing a handful of jet black hair and yanking it down hard to meet with her rising knee. “Oh believe me, I’m not even close to making my point yet.”
“That hurt, you bitch!”
Incredulity spread across her face. “You do get the idea of the whole ‘fighting to the death’ thing, right? Likely to involve pain. Mostly yours.” She quipped pointedly, with no small amount of amusement.
“We don’t want any trouble, Slayer.” Jared had made his way back to unsteady feet, already maneuvering himself further away from his nemesis.
“Yeah, but trouble wants you.”
Gray eyes stared at her for the span of a few heartbeats. Her heartbeats, of course. He blinked, once, slowly. “You’ve been watching too much bad television.”
“You’re right. That wasn’t some of my better work. Lets try this again.” Her index finger pressed to her lips and face mimicking concentration she murmured, “No that’s not going to work.”
“We don’t have all day, Slayer, we’re out of here.”
“Jeez, you have a supposed ‘eternity’ to do whatever you want! What do you mean you don’t have all day?” Somehow she’d managed to invade his personal space again
“We‘ll have to reschedule,” he shot back; still attempting to back up; this was not going at all according to plan.
She sighed and shrugged her shoulders. “Fine.” An uppercut to jaw sent him flying into the air a good 3 feet, and back further yet.
“Lacking in originality, granted. But I think it gets the point across. Whadya think?” She watched him writhe on the ground, blood spilling from his broken nose and dislocated jaw, already feeling better about her day. “Do you need to see it again?”
Buffy landed on her hands and knees, blood dripping from the wound on her stomach to the ground beneath her steadily. They’d put up more of a fight then she’d anticipated. Shit.
“Deeper than I thought.“ she muttered, pulling herself back up to her knees and applying pressure to the wound with one hand while the other tucked the dagger back into the waistband of her pants. She gasped as fiery tendrils of pain raced from her midsection to the extremities of her body, lightening quick, a white hot rush.
Movement from the center of the gathering mercifully drew her attention off the pain. Hushed whispers, exclamations, and disbelief at her opponents having exploded into dust filled her ears, while her eyes followed their movements.
One of the taller men approached her, long rich brown hair and warm chocolate brown eyes shined and nearly spilled over with emotion. Sadness, confusion, despair, intrigue, and anger -mostly anger. And that was from 10 feet back. She couldn’t so much as see it as ‘feel’ it. It was pouring off of him in waves. That and power. Gobs and gobs of power.
She struggled back to her feet, not willing to start a confrontation on her knees, no matter the agony it caused.
He was flanked by a man on either side of him, one a tall dark African American, with white beads braided into his hair and a tall Asian male, lips set in a stoic, unyielding line. Both of their arms were crossed over their chests and alert eyes watched her along with the rest of the clearing. Bodyguards. If they planned to announce it any more so than that, they were going to have to jump up and skip around through the trees, shouting it at the top of their lungs; she didn’t see it happening.
He stopped but a few paces from her, enough room to guarantee her maneuverability if the situation went down the drain, while providing enough intimacy so that she wasn’t speaking to half the world.
That was a lot of man. She felt her mouth go dry. Not of the good.
“Can I help you.” When it doubt, abrasive normally worked well.
“Isn‘t that my line?” She recognized him now as the voice in the crowd that had ‘requested’ they vacate the premises earlier.
“Yeah, but you missed your cue about 5 minutes ago when I was getting my ass pummeled by Dumb, Dumber and Company. All lines not used within their regulated time frames are free game. So, back to my question; Can I help you?”
“You’re bleeding all over the place.” He said as if by way of explanation.
“Excellent observation skills. Have you thought of a career in forensic investigation?” The lines of his face tightened. Sarcasm just wasn’t appreciated nowadays. “Yes, I’m bleeding. People normally do that when they’ve had sharpened pieces of metal shoved in their guts.” Yeah, probably still not helping opening introductions.
His face darkened marginally. “Speaking of which, you seemed to handle yourself fairly well -and you’re positively glowing for all the damage you just took.”
She closed her mouth with an audible snap. Pesky secret identity. “That’s really beside the point.” She held up a hand, red, shining and sticky. “Hello? Bleeding profusely here.”
She watched his eyes dilate and focus on her hand, nostrils flaring. “What are you?” He questioned, voice deeper, more guttural, than it was a moment ago.
Hazel eyes narrowed in response and a memory nearly 5 years past assaulted her. Her first year of college, immediately after dispatching of the Gentleman, she and Riley sitting across from one another in her dorm.
“Capricorn on the cusp on Aquarius.” She replied dryly. “You?” Its not like he was going to know it had already been used, right?
He had the good grace to look sheepish, a small smile lifting a corner of his mouth. “Completely devoid of manners.” He held out his hand to her, but the expression in his eyes, now an odd shade of amber made her reluctant to reach out for it. “Richard Zeeman”
The moment they touched, a living warmth stirred deep in her belly, lit her body akin to the pain resident just a moment ago, crawled across her skin as though she was sitting to close to a fire. “Buffy Summers.” She breathed.
She hadn’t noticed the hand she’d extended to meet his was that which was covered in her rapidly cooling blood.
Richard had noticed.
He held his own hand in front of him, extending long fingers one at a time before rubbing it between his thumb and forefingers like it was a lotion. He raised the hand to his mouth almost subconsciously and Buffy felt her stomach flip with a mixture of repulsion and arousal.
Richard’s eyes met hers again and whatever was prompting his actions was pushed back down and capped. The hand wiped vigorously against his blue jeans, an expression of disgust painting his face as he looked anywhere but at her.
She was spared the expression however, as she followed the movements of his hand and was momentarily just as enthralled by the flat planes of his stomach and the promised play of muscles beneath tight denim.
Her breath caught in her throat. She was hit by the urge to simply jump him and be damned the consequences.
“You’re not human.”
He lifted an eyebrow and she knew clearly the meaning behind it.
“I asked first.” She replied tersely, tone brokering no argument, the Slayer in her peeking out.
That in itself seemed to piss him off; She felt a surge in the power that had been dancing across her skin since his approach. A surge strong enough to cause her to gasp and take a step back in surprise. Then, of course, regret it; it was hard to look intimidating when you were backing down. She retook the step she’d lost.
The group behind them took a collective step forward and the Slayer clawed at her in response. She demanded to be let free; be damned the damaged she’d already taken and allowed to fight what all her senses were interpreting as an entirely ‘hell-mouthy’ threat.
She drew on the last vestiges of restraint she harbored to fight from doing just that, to keep her face neutral and her breathing controlled.
Something wasn’t right. In fact something was obviously very wrong. You know, besides not being in Kansas anymore.
There was no other time for consideration as she caught movement out the corner of her eye and spun in time to take the full force of it head on…
To be continued…..