Chain Of Command
Title: How To Win Friends
Chapter Title: Chain Of Command
Author: Restive Nature
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is owned by Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Under Siege 2: Dark Territory is owned by Warner Bros., Regency Enterprises and Seagal/ Nasso Productions. There is no profit made from this fiction and it is intended for private enjoyment only.
Rating: PG-13 at most for language
Pairing: Buffy Summers/ Casey Ryback (Under Siege)
Series Summary: Cordy presents Buffy with a Seventeenth birthday gift that keeps going and going…
Summary: Trying to track down Buffy is about as easy as understanding the military.
Spoilers/ Timeline: Season 2 Buffy, post movies for U.S. 2
Feedback: Always welcome!
Distribution: Various, ask before taking.
A/N: This was written in part for the TtH FfA, pairing Buffy Summers/ Casey Ryback.
A/N2: The book discussed in this fiction is a real book. While the book and author are mentioned, none of the contents are included in this fiction.
He had no idea how the book ended up in his restaurant. At first glance, Casey Ryback assumed that it had been left behind by one of the patrons. But when he’d read the inscription inside, he couldn’t recall there having been any seventeen year old Californian girls in any of the parties that had dined in the establishment that night. Of course that didn’t necessarily mean that the owner of the book had been there. Maybe the girl had loaned the book to a forgetful friend.
But since it was the only lead he had, Casey followed the proper course of action and began trying to track her down, rather than just tossing the book away.
A quick call to information gave him the only Summer’s residence listed in the Sunnydale area. He calculated the time difference, knowing that it would be seven o’clock in the evening there. Definitely not too late in the evening to be calling. Leaving the book open so he could reference the name written there, Casey put the call through.
“Hello?” a woman answered, older than seventeen though, by the sound of it.
“Good evening,” Casey replied softly and smoothly. “Is Miss Buffy Summers there?”
“Oh,” the woman sounded slightly surprised, like she wasn’t used to strangers calling for that person. “May I ask who is calling?”
“Ma’am,” Casey replied politely and a little deferentially. “My name is Casey Ryback. I own a restaurant and at closing I found that a book had been left here, belonging I believe to a Buffy Summers.”
“Is it Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People
?” the woman’s tone was suddenly dry.
“It is ma’am,” Casey felt his lips tug up in a tiny grin. Perhaps this had happened before.
The woman chuckled. “My daughter’s been looking for it for a week now. I wonder how it ended up in your restaurant.”
“Mm, stranger things have happened I believe,” Casey offered non-committedly.
“Well, my daughter’s not home presently,” the woman said. Casey assumed she must be Joyce, since that was the name the telephone number was listed under.
“I’ll tell you what,” Casey offered. “I’m going to be coming that way the day after tomorrow, to visit my niece, Sarah at school. Perhaps I can bring the book with me and drop it off.”
“Well that would be nice,” Joyce accepted warmly. “If you’re sure it would be no trouble.”
“No trouble at all ma’am,” Casey assured her.
“Oh, do you have our address?” Joyce asked. Casey looked to check.
“1630 Revello Drive, Sunnydale?” he read off.
“Yes, that’s it,” Joyce sounded distracted. “Although…”
“It was written under Buffy’s name,” Casey hastened to assure her. It wouldn’t do to have the poor woman think that he was some sort of stalker.
“That’s strange,” Joyce mused. “I don’t recall Buffy putting her information in there.” Casey didn’t answer, since he had none.
“Well, I’ll be there in two days,” he said instead. “I’ll see you then. Have a good evening ma’am.”
“You too,” Joyce replied automatically. “And thank you.”
Casey hung up the phone, the moment pushed to the back of his mind as he contemplated the rest of the packing he had to do before his flight left for the West Coast.
Renting a car in LA had been no trouble. A road map in the glove compartment had given him directions to the little ‘burg of Sunnydale, a few hours away. In all, Casey didn’t expect any trouble with this self-appointed mini-mission. If only he knew how wrong he’d be.
Finding Revello Drive hadn’t been difficult. What he’d forgotten about was that his flight had gotten into LA in the morning. By mid afternoon, Sunnydale was in the midst of daily life. Which meant that Mrs. Summers was probably at work. And judging by her daughter’s age, the young woman would probably be in school.
So that left him with two options. He could leave the book on the porch or in the mail box and hope they found it. Or he could try and track Miss Buffy down. Frankly, the second choice appealed to him. His niece wasn’t expecting him until the evening. And Casey didn’t really relish the thought of his taking the time to drive out here just to have the book possibly being stolen on the cusp of being returned.
With that in mind, Casey pulled slowly away from the curb and drove slowly, hoping to find someone who could give him directions to the local high school. After a few streets, he found a willing enough man who gave him clear and concise directions. Unfortunately, he arrived a little too late.
Just as he’d signed himself in at the office, he heard the bell sound that dismissed the students for the day. Hurrying out into the hall, he approached the first group of students he saw.
“Excuse me,” he spoke in a low tone, fairly devoid of inflection, knowing that it would immediately catch their attention. The group of girls, almost universally blonde, turned as one. Casey felt slightly uncomfortable as they eyed him head to toe, taking in his tailored suit and slicked back hair. “Do any of you know Buffy Summers?”
If there had been any admiration in their eyes, it was instantly deflected by the mention of that name. One girl, with thick honey blonde hair, compared to the platinum blonde and the dye-job blonde, gave a scornful snort and jerked her head towards a hallway. “Try the library with the rest of the wonder less freaks.”
Casey attempted to thank them, but they were already stalking away, one of them muttering under her breath about wastes of all the good ones. Casey was amused. He walked in the direction that the girl had indicated and was gratified to find by the sign over the double doors that he was headed in the correct direction.
The room however was as silent as you’d expect a library to be. Casey cleared his throat when he heard some small noise coming from behind the desk. A gentleman’s head, complete with glasses and slightly thinning hair popped up to look at him.
“Erm, yes? Can I help you?” the older gentleman asked in a rolling British accent.
“Yes,” Casey replied with a small, genial smile playing at his lips. “I’m looking for Buffy Summers. I was told she might be here.” The librarian looked if anything, even more suspicious. So Casey held up the book he intended to return. “I’ve come to return this.” And finally the librarian’s face cleared and lightened up. He straightened up.
“Mr. Ryback, I presume?” he questioned. At Casey’s nod, he extended his own hand. “I’m Mr. Giles, the librarian here. Yes, Buffy told us yesterday that you’d probably be arriving today.” He gestured around then. “But as you can see, the library is woefully empty.”
“Oh,” Casey didn’t bother to follow Mr. Giles’ look around, since he hadn’t heard any other noises that would indicate another presence. “Do you know where I might find her? Perhaps she went home?”
“I do believe that she said she’d be studying with her friend Willow this afternoon.”
“Willow-?” Casey asked.
“Willow?” Giles echoed, and then realized what Casey was asking. “Um, yes, Rosenberg. Willow Rosenberg. Lovely girl. Is quite a bit of help when she has the time.” He seemed to become distracted again by something on the counter and quickly slid it off and bent to stuff it under the counter.
“Well thank you for your time then,” Casey nodded. The librarian had removed his glasses and was furtively rubbing at them with a handkerchief. Casey left to a muttered good-bye. He moved back to the office, recalling having seen a public phone with telephone directory three. It would be useless to ask the secretary to give out personal information. But he was lucky and found that there was only one entry for Rosenberg.
But at the Rosenberg’s, a nice looking redheaded woman informed him that Buffy and Willow had gone to study at their friend’s place. The young man was Xander Harris by name. And then he’d been casually dismissed. Another check in a phone book produced four families by the name of Harris. And of course, it wasn’t Edward or Jack or Rory that was Xander’s father, but Tony. And when Casey finally arrived, it was only to be told that the kids had headed downtown to get some coffee. They might, he was told by a harried looking woman dressed in a rumpled nurse’s scrubs, be at the Espresso Pump.
Having driven by it earlier, Casey was sure that he could find it again. Unfortunately, he still didn’t know what these children looked like. Finding three teens in a coffee shop might be likened to a needle in a haystack situation. Luckily, he managed to find a teen that he was sure he had seen at the school earlier, this one sitting with some other males, a shock of purple hair atop his rather short body.
“The Bronze?” he asked again to clarify. The unexplainably stoic teen nodded.
“We have a gig there tonight,” he explained. “Willow, Buffy and Xander are coming.”
Casey thanked the young man. As he returned to his rented vehicle, his stomach rumbled. Casey decided that rather than doing any more chasing, it would probably be a better idea to fuel himself up. Besides, he finally had a conclusive lead. It did occur to him that Mrs. Summers, Joyce was probably home by now and he could just drop off the book. But there was something about this amazingly elusive young lady that Casey felt he could afford to indulge his curiosity.
An hour later, he found the Bronze, paid his cover fee to get in, ignoring the strange looks he was receiving from various teens about an old man invading their territory and set about locating that purple topped youngster from earlier. Easy enough to spot since he was on stage helping set up some last minute equipment.
“Hey, Oz! It’s the bookman!” one of the other teens joked and the purple headed youth glanced up. He half-smiled and moved to kneel down at the edge of the stage.
“Mr. Ryback,” he greeted and somehow Casey wasn’t surprised that he knew his name. If he was friends with Miss Summers, then it wouldn’t be difficult for him to figure out who Casey was, if indeed Miss Summers had been announcing his arrival to her friends. The boy held out his free hand, having first inserted his guitar pick between the strings on the frat. “I’m Oz.”
“Nice to meet you, again,” Casey nodded, returning the quick firm handshake.
“Willow’s over there,” Oz instructed pointing over Casey’s shoulder. The boy’s eyes followed and his face clouded for a moment. “But I don’t see Buffy. She might be getting drinks.”
“So she’s definitely here then?” Casey asked wryly. Oz grinned and nodded. Casey sighed. Finally, the quest was at its end. He turned and moved in the direction that Oz had indicated. Seated at a round table, three teens were watching his arrival among them with varying degrees of interest. The redhead, probably Miss Rosenberg smiled widely as he got within earshot.
“You must be Casey Ryback?” she declared happily. “Cause you’ve got a book and Buffy said you were coming although she wasn’t sure when and Mrs. Summers said it would be today, but I didn’t think you’d come all the way to the Bronze, although when I called my mom to tell her that I was going to be here she said that someone had been looking for me and Buffy and so we decided to call Xander’s mom except she had already gone to work and she doesn’t like it when Xander calls her there and then Oz-!”
The dark- headed male reached over to touch the redhead’s arm. “Breathe Will!” he ordered her with a smile, while the other brunette female rolled her eyes. Willow took a deep breath and turned back to Casey.
“You are him aren’t you?” she asked meekly. Casey nodded.
“Well pull up a seat there pardner,” the boy, must be Xander, quipped at him, pushing the lone remaining stool out to him with his foot.
“I really can’t stay long,” Casey declined. He checked his watch. “I have to get going if I’m going to meet my niece on time. Is Buffy here?” The change that came over their faces was instantaneous and intriguingly, guarded.
“Well, she uh…” Willow stammered. “She went outside just a second ago to uh… she had to…”
“She had to get her sweater from my car,” the brunette girl offered. She held out her hand. “I’m Cordelia Chase, by the way.” Casey briefly took her hand and bowed his head politely.
“Very nice to meet you Miss Chase.” He sighed and gestured to the door. “Do you think your friend will be very long?”
“Could be awhile,” Cordelia shrugged. “She might run into some friends of hers and get distracted. Buffy’s that way.”
“Cordy!” Xander scolded.
“What?” the brunette demanded indignantly. “She is!”
“You don’t need to be rude about it,” Xander chided her.
“Well it’s the truth!”
“No, it’s your opinion. That doesn’t automatically make it gospel.”
“It does in my book.”
Casey and Willow shared an amused glance as the pair bickered back and forth. It wasn’t long before the girl was giggling and Xander was sneaking kisses.
“Well,” Casey sighed, checking his watch again. “I guess I’m going to have to admit defeat. I really do need to get going. Would it be possible to leave the book with one of you? Could you see that Buffy gets it?”
“I can do that,” Willow chirped. Casey nodded and stepped towards the table. He pulled a pen from his inside coat pocket and pulled a white square napkin towards himself. He jotted a quick note for the young Miss Summers on it, tucked it into the book and handed it to Willow. He capped the pen and put it away.
“Well,” he murmured as he heard the first sounds of guitars being tuned from behind him. “Enjoy your evening. It was nice to have met you all.”
He left to a chorus of goodbyes. It wasn’t often, practically never, that he had to admit defeat, but at least in this instance it wasn’t once of those life or death situations that he occasionally found himself in. Just as he was reaching for the door handle, it swung open towards him. He stepped back to avoid being hit and was amused to see a distracted blonde girl stepping in, not noticing him as she showed the doorman a stamp on the back of her hand. The burly guy waved her in and it was then that she noticed him.
“Oh sorry!” she exclaimed looking from his hand on the door handle, up to his face. “I didn’t hit you, did I?”
“No, I’m fine,” Casey assured her, raising his voice slightly to be heard. He took in her appearance, from the bouncing blonde hair, bright green eyes, typically Californian tanned legs and the sweater knotted around her waist. “You wouldn’t happen to be Buffy Summers would you?” The girl’s face became guarded.
“Who wants to know?” she demanded petulantly.
“Casey Ryback,” he said simply. It took a moment before the name registered with her.
“Oh, the book finder!” she exclaimed. “And returner, who is here…without a book.” Her voice sounded extremely doubtful. Casey couldn’t help laughing.
“I left it with your friends,” he explained, gesturing back to where Willow was waving at them. “I’m sorry I don’t have more time,” he apologized. “But I promised my niece I’d see her tonight.”
“Oh yeah, sure,” Buffy nodded, stepping away from the door. “Well, thanks for bringing my book back.”
“It was… no problem,” Casey grinned, a very small one. Nice to have met you at last Buffy. Good night.”
“Goodbye,” Buffy inclined her head and watched as he began to walk away. “And have a good trip!”
She didn’t bother to follow him to make sure that he made it to his car. She’d just done a thorough sweep of the street and alleyway, since she didn’t want to be disturbed at the Bronze. And it was still fairly early for the Vamps to be out. Instead she wound her way through to the table she and her friends had snagged.
Willow handed her the missing book and Buffy took it. But before stuffing it into her mini backpack that was resting against the legs of her stool, she noticed that there was a napkin sticking out from it.
“He wrote you a note,” Willow explained, seeing where Buffy was looking.
“Yeah,” Buffy smirked at her friend. “I kind of figured that.” She pulled the napkin loose and read the short note, then laughed. She laid it out on the table for her friends to read. “Too bad he didn’t sign it,” she sighed. “Mom and I had a bet going about how he spelled his name.”
Willow pulled the napkin close. Miss Summers, trying to track you down seems to be harder than going through the chain of military intelligence. This is quite the misnomer when you think about it. I hope you enjoy your book. It was one I read and enjoyed when I was younger.
“See,” Cordy preened after she’d read the note. “I do know how to pick out good books.”
“I never said you didn’t,” Buffy protested mildly. She picked up the napkin and flipped open the front cover to insert it, when she noticed that there was something written in there that hadn’t been before. “That’s weird.”
“What’s weird?” Xander demanded, leaning forward, trying to see. “Is it like Hellmouthy weird?”
“No,” Buffy shook her head. “It’s just… mom must have written my address and everything in here. And that guy signed his name.”
“Why would he sign in your book and not the napkin?” Willow wondered.
“Don’t know,” Buffy muttered. “But his military comment makes sense now.”
“Why’s that?” Xander asked, trying to still see the book.
,” Buffy read, her finger skimming along the inside of the cover. “Ex-Navy SEAL, martial arts expert, chef
“Where does it say that?” Xander scoffed, having finally stood to look over his friends shoulder.
“Right there!” Buffy jabbed her finger at the page.
“I’m seeing the Casey Ryback, but not the other stuff.”
“I don’t see it either,” Willow chimed in. Cordy just shook her head.
“It is Hellmouthy weird!” Xander accused, stepping back in wild excitement.
“Strange,” Buffy murmured. She picked the book up and delicately sniffed at it. “I’m not getting any vibes.” She turned to her best friend and held it up to her. “You getting’ any vibes Will?”
“Ew! Gross!” Cordy declared. “You sniff things?”
Buffy shrugged and grinned. “Thought I’d give it a try. You never know what slayerly super sniffer powers I might have.”
“Maybe we should ask Giles?” Willow wondered after having surreptitiously sniffed at the book as well.
“Sounds like a plan,” Buffy declared, quickly stowing the book away.
But she never got the chance, because when she finally remembered to ask her Watcher about it, the book had once again… disappeared.