I don't own either Buffy or the characters from the Anita Blake books. I'm just borrowing them.
Btw, I set this as FR21 because of voilence. Let me know if you think it could be moved down to FR18.
Buffy stepped out of her mom's car, gazing at the house ahead of her. Creamy white with pale red trim, it was a half brick, half wood two story house with a pale gray shingle roof sitting on a half acre lot. As nice or nicer than her old house in LA, it cost way less than half the price, something which her mom seemed to marvel at on a regular basis. Gotta love those inflated Cali real estate prices, Buffy thought.
“So when is the moving van going to be here?” Buffy asked, hoping it was soon, since she only had one suitcase of clothes with her. She was looking forward to sleeping in her own bed, rather than spending another night sharing a motel room with her mother.
“I just got off the phone with them. It looks like they'll be here within 30 minutes. While we're waiting, let me show you the house.” Joyce smiled as she opened the door ahead of her. She had been so surprised at how much lower home prices were here than California. In the divorce, her part of the community property settlement had more than paid for her new home. She really looked forward to settling in and decorating the house before starting work at the art gallery she had bought a one third share of with the remainder of her community property settlement. Her reverie was interrupted by her daughter's voice.
“As long as I get a room with a bathroom, I'm okay with wherever I end up.” Buffy said somberly. She caught the sideways glance her mother sent her and knew her uncharacteristically quiet mood was raising flags. Ever since the death of her Watcher in the big showdown with Lothos, the Master of Los Angeles, Buffy smiles had become a rare occurrence and Buffy laughter even more so. That she had burned down half her old high school while killing the master vampire and his followers, resulting in her expulsion, did not improve her mood at all. Ever since being called as the Slayer, she had struggled against her fate. Slayers here in the United States could no longer slay vampires and other supernatural creatures indiscriminately, rather you had to pick your targets carefully, often waiting until a vampire had a death order placed on its head. At least until you turned eighteen and could apply to be a vampire executioner. Merrick had lobbied hard for her to move back to England with him, where, along with the rest of Europe, vampires could still be killed on sight. Buffy had put paid to that idea. No way was she moving to the land of tweedom, although she had briefly considered how great it would be to shop for shoes in Italy. Not that she trusted Merrick to know the importance of Italian designer shoes. Ultimately she had decided to stay in LA with her parents.
Buffy felt guilty about the divorce of her parents and Merrick's death, wondering if either would have happened if she had just gone along with Merrick's suggestion. Her cover of attending a private school there might have worked, although Buffy was not sure her parents would have been copacetic with her moving completely out of the country. However, as it turned out, if she'd left, things would have been even worse. Lothos had decided to take over LA completely, not being satisfied with merely ruling over the supernatural community. He ultimately would have failed, but Buffy had reduced the death toll substantially by taking out him and his kiss of vampires before they had further clashed with authorities. She remembered the night everything had gone down...
Two months before...
Buffy leaped back as the black haired vampire lunged, her blazing cross leaving a fiery trail in the air. Slipping a silver bladed knife from her her wrist sheath, she waited, holding it hidden behind her arm. She placed the vampire's age at around five hundred years or so, based upon the amount of power he projected. Meeting the cruel eyes of the ancient vampire squarely, she felt satisfaction at the shock reflected there at her immunity. “Sorry, but there will be no Buffy hypno thingy today,” she said sarcastically. The vampire frowned at her. With blinding speed, he lunged a second time, but again Buffy danced aside with seemingly effortless grace. This time though she left the knife sitting squarely in the center of his back, piercing his heart. Swaying, he slowly turned to face her again, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. Mmmm, she must have nicked a lung as well. Buffy took the other blade she carried and stabbed him beneath the chin, driving it up into his brain, finishing him. With a grim smile, she cut off his head and then cut out his heart. Head and heart. The only way to be sure with an older vampire. Another one bites the dust, she thought bemusedly. Another assassin that is.
The Master of LA had repeatedly tried to kill her as soon as he realized a Slayer had been called in his city. This was just the latest in a series of attempted assassinations. Assassins ranged from vampires to various weres to some kind of weird snaky woman. With the vampires, Buffy had taken their heads and hearts. With the weres, Buffy had cut out just their hearts. With the weird snaky woman, she had taken the head, heart, then burned the corpse, still not sure if it was really dead after its boasts of immortality. In a hissy accent, go figure. Ultimately she hadn't seen it again, so figured it was at least discouraged.
She moved into the restroom to wash off the blood in the sink. Buffy was attending the school dance, despite being a social pariah, primarily because of threats she had heard about second-hand from a previous assassin, a weretiger. As the weretiger lay dying, poisoned by the silver blade piercing his liver, he had gasped out Lothos' plan to draw her out by creating a mass slaughter at her school. Buffy had twisted the blade whenever he had paused too long between words. Finally, though, she had all of the details. The Master of LA felt that Buffy would have no choice but to come to him. Buffy had snorted at the example of weird vampiry logic. Still, she had decided that she would rather not have to attend the funerals of most of the people she knew. Figuring that the dance in two days would be Lothos' perfect chance to kill the greatest number of students since it took place during a time when he was actually awake, she had reluctantly planned to attend. Her arrival earlier had been greeted by stares and whispers, clearly audible to her Slayer hearing. Lothos was so going to pay for ruining her social life.
Merrick was somewhere here, intermixed with the crowd, ready to back her up. Buffy had seen him, just a glimpse really, shortly after she'd arrived. She had also noticed the vampire assassin then as well. Luring it into the hallways, away from the gym, she was ready for it when it attacked. The bloody corpse sitting outside the bathroom was the result. Finished cleaning up, she headed back to the dance.
As she arrived, she immediately felt the presence of more vampires, lots more vampires. Looking around, she spotted several spread out among the dancing teens, using their powers to hide their presence from them. Her cross again blazed into life, blazing like a small star, lighting the dim room. Heads turned as vampiric powers weakened. As she moved forward, she nearly walked straight into Lothos, who appeared to be waiting for her. Abruptly the veil hiding the vampires from the humans was lifted. Locking her eyes on Lothos, she took a step back as his power exploded outwards. Screams of panic erupted from the teens as the fear and dread rolled in waves from him. While vampiric powers for the most part did not affect her, this type of attack even she could feel. Gritting her teeth as adrenaline exploded through her system, the Slayer within her reacting, she spun, stabbing the vampire creeping up behind her through the heart as it attempted to punch her in the back. Ignoring the stunned look in its eyes, she danced with the other vampires encircling her, weaving in and out of their reach, twin silver streaks in her hands creating patterns of scarlet upon the floor. Lothos watched from the sidelines, focused on her, mostly ignoring the students who ran here and there. He did kill one dark-haired girl who ran right by him, snatching her by her hair and snapping her neck instantly. He smiled in satisfaction as the corpse crumpled at his feet.
Buffy noticed the act, but was too busy fighting the other vampires to react. Feeling sudden heat at her back, she dove sideways, avoiding the surge of heat from the vampire standing there. The blast of fire struck bleachers at the gym's edge, causing them to burst into flame. Buffy threw one of her knives, impaling the firebug through the forehead, dropping it instantly. It was worth sacrificing a weapon to remove that threat. “So much for lighting my fire,” she snarked. The Doors really said it best, she thought. Buffy used her remaining weapon to remove the grasping hand of another vampire, leaving a bloody stump. She ripped off her cross and swinging the chain viciously, drove into straight into the right eye of the vampire, who screamed in agony, flesh bubbling and sizzling. “Hey, we all have a cross to bear,” she quipped before frowning. Nope, definitely not her best material. Maybe she should have teased him about his stumpiness?
A fist struck her in the back of the head sending her flying. Landing face-first on the floor, her vision swam as her brain rebounded within the jelly suspension inside her skull. Fighting against the concusion, she was glad to be the Slayer. An ordinary person would have been decapitated by the force behind the blow. Rolling onto her back, she saw Lothos approach. It figured he would have finally decided to join the fight, after having lost so many vampires. What was Merrick doing? She tried to scream a warning as her Watcher swung an axe towards Lothos head. Almost leisurely, the vampire turned, dealing with the attack. Merrick had the axe ripped from his hands and his neck snapped, before being nonchalantly tossed aside.
Buffy could feel the heat of the flames from where she lay. The entire room appeared to be well onto its way to becoming ash. Tears, aching to be released, blinded her momentarily. Merrick was dead, dying in a futile effort to protect her. She blinked fiercely. Putting aside her grief, she forced herself to her feet, grimly meeting Lothos' gaze. She felt his power like the wings of a butterfly beating against her mind as the Slayer within, now fully roused by the blood and battle, protected her from his mental games. Finally she fully unleashed her own power, calling upon the bottomless wellspring of rage that was the Slayer. Black depths beckoned and she dove deeply within. A shudder went through Lothos as trickles of blood seeped from his nose and bloody tears ran down his cheeks. He moved towards her again, robbed of his customary grace as the power of the Slayer tore at his very being. The other vampires around them dropped to their knees, vomiting blood and crying in pain, unable to move, lacking the buffer of Lothos' age and power.
Moving forward, Buffy hammered her fist into his face, splitting open his cheek, while slipping most of the force of a return blow. Shaking her head, her stomach roiled as the motion aggravated her head injury. Again rage protected her from feeling the full effects of her injury and resulting nausea. With a feral smile, she darted beneath Lothos' grasping hand and shattered his right knee with a knife blow from her left hand. Spotting one of her knives buried in the corpse of the firebug vampire, she raced for it. Buffy had to end this now, or risk joining Lothos in his fiery tomb. Returning, she stabbed at the master vampire, but slipped on something on the floor, blood or some other foul liquid. Losing her grip on the the knife, she landed on her back, striking her head, stunning her. Lothos dropped astride her, hands gripping her neck, choking the life from her. As her vision darkened, Buffy felt the enticement of the grave beckon, velvet blackness edging her vision, before being pulled from its dark enchantment by another, even more intense, burst of rage. She looked upon a world painted gorgeous, glorious shades of red, crimsons and vermilions, the color of blood and battle, of fire and flame, of rage and ruin. This must be what madness is like, she thought giddily, the ending of all things. A strange smile twisted the muscles of her face like a rictus, sending vague tremors of alarm through Lothos. Something was wrong. Through the red haze, Buffy watched herself bring her arms down with shattering force, pulverizing the bones in the arms of the master vampire holding her down. As the vampire arched his back, crying out his pain, Buffy drove the stiffened fingers of her right hand upward, first tearing through the material of his shirt, then through the soft tissue beneath the breastbone, finally deep into the chest cavity. Gripping Lothos' heart almost lovingly, she cradled it gently in her hand, before tearing it from his chest, blood spraying in an arc from the grisly wound, drenching her in its crimson spray.
As he toppled off her, Buffy sat up, tossing aside the bloody organ. She shook her head, the overt presence of the Slayer fading more into the background. She spat out blood, having caught a bit in her mouth, grimacing at the taste. Reaching over, Buffy grabbed Lothos' head and slowly twisted it until bones splintered and broke, until flesh ripped and tore, until with a final wet tearing sound, like sodden silk, his head parted from his body. Head and heart. As it had always been. She lifted Lothos' head and looked intently into his eyes. Half-closed, their dull gaze disclosed no remaining spark. “See what happens, when you lose your head?” Buffy taunted, frowning, still not satisfied with her material. She really needed to sit down and brainstorm some new quips. Sighing, Buffy tossed aside the head and surveyed the room. The flames which had spread throughout the room, made it difficult to see through the resulting smoke. The vampires around her were either dead or dying, a result of the death of their sourdre de sang. Buffy spotted her Watcher's corpse through the smoke and flames . She gave her Watcher a small, sad smile and said, “Goodbye, Merrick, I'll never forgot you,” before staggering forward, seeking escape. Choking on smoke, blinded by heat and flame, she finally spotted a way through to the exit. As she fled the blazing flames, moving out into the dark night, cool air soothed her aching head and lungs. Wild-eyed students and teachers stared at her as she was outlined by the flames, watching her like a demon escaped from the pits of Hell. As Buffy looked back, she thought that the shit had really hit the fan...
Her musings were interrupted by Joyce opening the door ahead of them. Buffy followed her mother into the house. They walked into a large rectangular room about about fifteen feet by a little over twenty. Cream-colored carpet covered the floors and the stairs in the left back corner of the room leading up to the second floor. The walls were an antique white with paler ceilings and trim. Walking forward, Buffy entered what must be the dining room, with gorgeous cherry floors and the same paint scheme as the living room. She saw her mom to her right, already in the kitchen, which was divided from the dining room by a four foot high counter topped with pale golden-streaked marble. Looking over the counter, Buffy noticed the kitchen counters were the same color marble.
“Well, what do you think?” Joyce said enthusiastically.
“Well.. it's very nice,” Buffy said with a small smile. As her mom looked at her expectantly, she added, “Okay, I really like it. It's very pretty. And nothing says class like marble counter tops. And wood. Wood floors that is, not wood wood.” Realizing she was starting to babble, Buffy stopped talking. She smiled at the happy look in her mom's eyes. It was nice to see her happy again. Since the divorce she had been a little glum. Finding out that Buffy was expelled from the entire Greater Los Angeles School District had probably not helped her spirits.
“I like the countertops too. But the wood floors, here and in the dining room, as well as the entire upstairs, are what really sold me. They are just so gorgeous, the way the light glows off them.” Joyce warmed to her subject. “And did I tell you what a deal this place was?”
“Only like a gazillion times, but if you want to tell me again, I'm game,” Buffy teased, smiling.
“No no, that's okay. Sorry, I'm just so excited,” Joyce explained. Noticing Buffy looking past her, she asked, “What's up?”
“What's through that door over there?” Buffy asked curiously, pointing at a door in the right back corner of the kitchen.
“That's another nice sized room leading into the laundry room and then the garage. I was thinking about making it a den or maybe a library.”
“Err... library library? With books?” Buffy thought how best to foil this plot. “How about putting the TV back there with some nice stuffed couches for us to veg out on during movie night? Also if we need ice creamy goodness, the kitchen is right here, minimal walking.” Buffy smiled again. She was really getting into organizing the house. It was a nice, normal activity without Slayery overtones.
Joyce tilted her head, considering. “That would work fine. Why don't you take a quick look upstairs? I think you're going to like it.”
Buffy stepped out of the room, calling over her shoulder, “As long as I get my own bathroom for those mornings when I have to kill the cat that likes to perch on my head, then I'm cool.”
Buffy jogged up the stairs. Upon reaching the top, she looked down the hallway running along the back of the house. One long hallway, three doors. “Well Monty, let's see what's behind door number one,” Buffy mused out aloud. She stepped into the first door to her right, which opened into a large sunny room, with open doors to both a large walk in closet and bathroom at the back. Looking over the room, Buffy estimated it to be approximately eighteen feet by thirteen feet, which adding in the attached bathroom, probably made it the master bedroom, which her mom had already called dibs on. There were windows along the right wall, perfect for getting in and out unseen from a late night patrol. “Darn perfect master bedroom,” she grumbled. Moving back, she checked the next room. The next bedroom was practically identical to the first all the way up to having its own bathroom. Which meant that the other bedroom wasn't the master. Buffy grinned. She definitely had her own bathroomy goodness. And a clean Buffy was a happy Buffy. Couple that with with the Slayer entrance and exit and you had absolute perfection. She checked the last room just to make sure. Yep, it was the master bedroom. She looked longingly at the large garden tub. “Mmmm, long, hot soaks with vanilla bath salts,” she moaned, then resolutely turned away.
Buffy hurried back down to the ground floor, finding her mom standing in the living room. “Okay, this place rocks. Can you say three bathrooms, no sharing? Btw, I want the room at the top of the stairs.”
Joyce smiled, having already figured out which room Buffy would want. She wouldn't want to be right next to Joyce since that would negatively affect her privacy. “That's fine. Oh, look, there's the moving van. I'm so looking forward to getting unpacked.”
Eight hours later...
“Oooohhh, I'm beat,” Joyce moaned, plopping down on a couch in the living room. She had been going nonstop for hours now, first running around, directing the movers in exactly where to put everything, then unpacking, first her room then the kitchen. She had gotten halfway through the living room when she conked out.
“Here mom.” Thankfully, Joyce took the ice cold diet coke from her daughter, sipping at the fizzy beverage. She watched Buffy zip back out of the room, heading back to the den to finish unpacking the last boxes. As hard as Joyce had worked, Buffy seemed to get twice as much done. Joyce had come out of her bedroom to find both Buffy's room and the new guest bedroom both set up and ready to go, even to the large rack of shoes, sorted by color and type, sitting in Buffy's closet. Hearing rustling sounds downstairs, she found Buffy taking dishes out of the packing boxes and placing them into the large armoire in the dining room. Sometimes, Joyce wished she could figure out a way to bottle Buffy's energy. Hearing a crash from the next room, followed by a loud “Ooops!”, she smilingly reconsidered. The world was probably not quite ready for Buffyfication. Getting up, she went to see what had happened.
Stopping at the door of the den, she surveyed the scene. Well, she hadn't really liked that lamp anyway. Stepping forward, she squatted next to Buffy, helping her pick up the pieces. Meeting her daughter's eyes over the fragments, she smiled reassuringly at the stricken expression on Buffy's face.
“Sorry, mom. I was moving the lamp and somehow it just slipped right out of my hand. I hope it wasn't expensive?” Buffy wondered aloud.
“No, not expensive, just a gift from your grandmother.” At that, Buffy's eyes bugged out. Laughing, Joyce continued, “I never really got along with Hank's mom and I never really liked that lamp, which is why it was in the den in the first place.” Relieved, Buffy joined her in laughter. “If you break anything else, I wouldn't miss the big blue floor vase. Your father and I flipped for it and unfortunately, I lost.”
Grinning, Buffy said, “Got it. Slay the blue vase, while leaving everything else alone.” She sobered as she caught the frown on her mother's face. Uh oh. Need to be all avoidy with the word “Slay”, Buffy told herself, remembering the morning after battling the Master of LA, when Hank had bundled her into his car and taken her to the Hogkins Institute, a sanitarium. Like for crazy people The trip had been his response to the screaming match he and Buffy had gotten into over what happened the night before. Unfortunately, Buffy had gotten so angry, she had let slip about being the Slayer. Hank had not reacted well to say the least. It had taken two weeks for Joyce to get her out and had been the straw that broke the camel's back as far as her marriage was concerned. She had filed for divorce the next day. The stay there had been hell on earth for Buffy. She had felt betrayed by the man who had always called her “my little princess”. Even now, remembering the feelings of helplessness and isolation, made her eyes well with tears. Blinking rapidly to keep them at bay, she took the broken pieces of lamp and carried them back into the kitchen, disposing of them in the trash.
Joyce followed her into the room. “Buffy, its okay. Hank overreacted to what happened. I know the fire wasn't your fault. It just wasn't smart to make up stories to excuse yourself.”
Buffy looked away. Sometimes she wished she could tell her mom about the Slaying. It was an old hurt for her, seeing the looks of disappointment, doubt, and anger that both Joyce and Hank had worn over this past year as Buffy had gone from being a popular cheerleader to a sometimes sullen social outcast. Late nights, cuts and bruises, and torn and stained clothing, had all been souvenirs of the battles she fought against Lothos as the mad master vampire attempted take over LA. While Buffy had been amazed at the blind eye her parents had turned to her activities, even they had not been completely oblivious. They had seen just enough to be upset with her behavior, without considering the underlying causes of it. The more disappointed they had become, the more Buffy had acted out, seemingly to reinforce their opinions. It had come to a head with Buffy's incarceration. Upon her release, she had talked at length with her mom, connecting with her in a way she never had before. It had been odd seeing Joyce as a real person, separate from being her mom. She had not seen her father since that morning.
Leaving grim thoughts behind, Buffy changed the subject. “What are we doing for dinner? There's nothing edible in the house, so unless you want to eat pictures of food out of Good Housekeeping, we need to order out.”
Allowing Buffy space, Joyce followed her lead. “How about Chinese? I think I have a menu around here somewhere for a place that delivers.”
“Ooohh, that would be great. Mooshy pork and kungy chicken would really hit the spot. And eggrolly goodness. Yum.”
Smiling at Buffy's butchering of the names, Joyce went to get her phone and place an order. She really thought St. Louis was going to be good for both of them...