Disclaimer: I own nothing. Except for new boots. They quite literally rock my socks. Buffy belongs to Joss Whedon and Anita to Laurell K. Hamilton. I make no money off this.
A/N: So, I know you all wanted to see what happens after Lunar
, but the muse put on the stubborn-hat and wouldn't let me write anything but this ficlet. And I figured, since I have 1st and 3rd person POV already, why not add a 2nd person story? So I did. Reviews, comments and all that are as always appreciated and salivated for. Please. (See, I said please, now you have to.)
Other Stuff: Thanks to Amusewithaview and Anneliese for support and kick ass beta. Everyone who's not those two: Please consider this my early Christmas present to you and have a wonderful holiday, whatever it is you celebrate. Ta.
Psh, almost forgot: This is set after Ghost
and before Lunar
. Just to clear that up.
She works here three nights a week. She smiles, flirts, sways her butt just enough to make the aging regulars look, cleans up and disappears again, taking her tips with her. She’s always on time, never sick and never cranky. She doesn’t talk much but has…something about her that makes people talk. Hell, you’ve caught yourself telling her things every once in a while.
She just, slips in. She starts wiping down the bar when there’s nothing else to do, shooing you off to sit with the boys like she’s always done it. Three months after she starts, it’s like she’s always been here, same as the dusty bottles on the shelves and the creaking chairs.
Sometimes, when she stays long enough to help you lock up for the night, you look at her in the bleak half light of the back room and it’s like she’s always been
. Period. Her face says she’s sixteen and thirty six and her eyes are carefully blank. It scares you a bit, every once in a while. You like to look people in the eye and search for their soul maybe, for the little pieces that make them real. You can see it in their eyes if someone’s had a bad day and needs an open ear to load off his troubles. That’s your job.
But she just meets your gaze, for hours it seems, and you see nothing. Nothing at all. In the aftermath, you think that maybe that was a sign. But really, she’s just a nice hard working kid who got dealt a shitty hand in life. And she deals. She’s a good kid. Harms no-one. And the boys like her. So she works three nights a week in your Irish Pub just off Chester Street.
He’s not from around here, that much is obvious from the moment he walks in, bells ringing, steps soft on the worn wooden floor, eyes not quite looking at you, not quite looking away. His shoes are too dressy, for one. And his shirt is too damn expensive. All crisp and white and you know an expensive shirt when you see one. You also know the way he sits at the very far table beside the broken down jukebox, keeping his back against the wall, checking out all entrances and patrons before his ass hits the chair. You know it because you were in Vietnam and paranoia is an old friend of yours.
War, too. And this man, he’s at war.
It’s a slow night, just the usual suspects. It gets full when the college kids come home for the weekend and need a quiet place to get together and catch up with old loves and friends and whatever else college kids do these days. Her shift’s almost over, technically. She’ll stay late today to help you lock up again. She always does. Damn girl. Should be out partying, not helping an old man.
She slips out from behind the bar, glides past the boys and toward him, twirling a pencil in her right hand idly. She stops in your line of sight, blocking the stranger from view, hips cocked, arms limp at her sides. Even from where you are, you can see that her usual smile is dimmer.
She bends forward, whispers something you might have heard twenty years ago but certainly not now and he hisses back, low and ugly. She answers, calm and quiet and he grabs her wrist, loosely, as if to keep her in place. She makes no move to leave and so you wait. You wait for her to deal with the guy on her own, or to limp to her rescue, aging hero that you are.
Again, he hisses at her. She pulls her hand away, hides it behind her back in a gesture that belongs in a playground and not here. Suddenly loud again, she asks for his order.
He shakes his head and as she steps aside, you can read the nothing
on his lips.
She turns around, strolls up to the bar, leans her elbow on it and says, “Can I have a coke please?”
You cock an eyebrow at her but give her what she wants because she’s never gotten into trouble before. Actually, trouble tends to not even brew when she’s around. Even on Saturdays, when the place is crowded and the tempers high and drunk.
You hand her the glass. She takes it without spilling a drop, grins at you and says as she spins away from the counter, “I’m paying for it, boss.”
You don’t answer, watching instead as she slaps the glass down in front of the stranger a bit too hard and turns to leave him to his un-ordered drink.
“Stop,” he commands. He sounds like he’s used to getting obeyed but she seems unconcerned, ignoring him.
She makes her way through the tables, offering refills. Behind her, the man in the city shoes takes off his leather jacket lazily, throwing it onto an empty chair. The gun dangles dark and stark against the white of his shirt under one arm.
You don’t like guns. Never have. In the far corner, the boys tense up just a bit.
She ends her round next to you and you grumble, “The guy givin’ you any trouble, sugar?”
You draw out the last r
the way she likes it, the way it amuses her but this time, you don’t get a reaction. She just shakes her head, offers a flirty grin usually reserved for customers who loaded too much but are likely to give a big tip. All business.
You hand her the next round of beer with a sigh and watch her deliver it to the boys. The sway is back in her step.
Then she’s back, climbing over the bar in that limber young way of hers and starts polishing glasses. After the second one, she gives you a look, wordlessly trying to shoo you out from behind the counter. It’s your cue to go sit with the boys for a while and talk politics and good old times. That’s just one of those things she does, give you a break when there’s a lull in action. Usually you take the opportunity, glad to rest your bad leg for a while.
Tonight, you ignore the blatant hint, opting to stay right here, next to her.
He downs his coke, setting the empty glass down with too much care. Slow, precise. Deadly, you might think but don’t. That’s the old paranoia sneaking back up on you. He gets up just as careful, not a motion too much, not a step wasted. Then he grabs his jacket, slings it over his left arm – he’s right handed and you don’t want to know what it means that he’s keeping his gun hand free – and comes walking over to you, to her.
His blonde hair shines as he leans heavily on the counter top, bending forward, whispering again. His eyes are blue in the light, blue as jungle skies after the rain.
“Not interested,” she answers, loud enough for everyone to hear. She sounds faintly annoyed. It’s a new sound for her, who never lets anything get close at all, never is in a bad mood. Actually, she’s never in any mood at all. She floats on smiles and nods, questions only half answered, not really refused. She’s water in anyone’s hands, good enough so you never noticed, until now.
“Listen to me.” His voice is sharp and cool. Surgical. Steel and blood.
She puts a shiny glass down and grabs another one, polishing it with sure, swift movements. “No.”
You should probably move to help her. The guy is getting too close and everyone else is watching by now. Strangers are rare and not too well liked. Strangers bothering the favourite waitress are liked even less. But what he says next stops you dead in your tracks because his voice doesn’t even change. Not at all. It just stays the same as if he’s talking about the weather now.
“Listen to me, or people are going to die.”
She raises an eyebrow, cool as a damn cucumber, her hands never faltering on that rotten glass. “That stopped working when I was fifteen and you know it.”
Her voice, too, suddenly tickles down your spine like freshly fallen December snow.
He frowns, his first expression at all you realize, but he backs off just a bit, elbows leaving the scarred surface of the counter. His smooth and sophisticated hands stray from sight, making you uncomfortable with remembered paranoia.
“How about,“ he suggests, “I tell you that in thirty minutes, death will come walking through that door.”
You gulp hard as she snorts and you don’t know how she does it. He doesn’t lower his voice, he doesn’t hiss or threaten. He simply says these words and that
more than anything else he could have done, makes them true. He’s not lying. He has no reason to because he doesn’t give a damn. And she just snorts. For the first time since she walked into this pub, you wonder just who she is. Who she is that she can be so cold, so callous to talk to a man with a gun under his arm and death in his eyes like he’s an old friend, a harmless fellow, out for a drink.
“He’s already here.” Her smile is wry and old like the wrinkled face looking back at you from the mirror every morning. Whatever mask she pastes on before coming here, it’s crumbling and what’s underneath makes you shudder because you never even guessed it was there. It just snuck up on you. Cocky, old man, you think, too damn cocky.
“Please,” he mutters, half choked and you wonder just what he is to her. Lover? Stalker? Hater? Family or friend or monster under the bed?
You feel your old muscles relaxing just a bit. He’s asking now, not demanding. He can’t be the devil incarnate if he says please, can he? But you’ve seen too much to totally dismiss him yet. His voice is too cold, his movements too precise. Even if he’s not out to kill tonight, he’s done it before. But he says please and even killers have manners. Besides, you’re being a crazy old fool again.
It’s in his eyes though, eyes you’ve seen before in drawn and young faces, looking at you the way you looked at them. There’s war in those eyes. And homicide. But underneath, there might not be the boy that was beneath any other big bad soldier you’ve ever met. He might just have been born like this. Perfect, clean cut, city raised pretty boy killer.
She laughs, loud and bitter all of a sudden and puts away glass and rag. “You know, if I didn’t know you, I might just believe that you’re being sincere.”
He sighs and shakes his head, a smile flitting across his features, small and dead almost too fast to see. He shrugs.
“Believe what you want. I’m here to tell you your vacation’s over.”
“I’m not on vacation. I’m hiding.” The argument sounds old, almost as old as you and you marvel at how well she handles this…this warrior beast in expensive dress shoes. He looks like he’d not only bite but rip off and tear to shreds the hand that feeds. But he won’t cause her so much as a scratch.
Still, the look he gives her is scathing. “Keeping your real name and your credit cards
isn’t hiding. It’s taking a vacation without telling anyone.”
She throws the dish towel at him, face serious. “It is for normal people.”
It lands in front of him harmlessly, leaving a bit of red fuzz on his white sleeve. “We’re not normal.”
She frowns and you see the boys out of the corner of your eye. They are stuck in their chairs just like you, tensing and relaxing with each turn of the conversation. You crawled through the jungle together. They know the danger sitting in your midst as well as you do and damn them for not simply grabbing their coat and limping out of here before this gets ugly. But really, you’re all in the same boat, clueless and powerless until she decides to yell for help. Or he makes a move.
You hate it. There’s a predator sitting not six feet away and you do nothing. Nothing at all. You hate being old.
“Just tell me why you’re here.”
“The name Razor ring any bells?”
She scrunches up her pretty little nose for a moment before blinking slowly. “Big ugly guy with a nasty scar in his face? I roughed him and his gang up in Mexico City last year.”
Unlikely, you think amusedly, that this tiny girl can rough up anything bigger than a house cat. And even that is questionable. Your second wife had one, and the beast was bloody vicious.
“He found you.”
She stiffens, back straight, hands clenched loosely at her sides. “When?”
He makes a show of checking his watch when there’s one hanging on the wall right behind her. “Twenty minutes.”
“Can I outrun them?”
“Out of here, you mean?”
She nods. You slowly lean back against the whiskey shelf. Your bad leg is shaking for some reason.
“You’re still too soft.”
“Because I don’t want everyone in here dead? Yeah, call me soft, asshole. So, why didn’t you just call? That would have given me enough time to get the hell out of dodge.”
He seems amused by her antics and about to respond when the heavy front door is kicked open hard enough to rebound off the wall and almost snap shut again if it weren’t for the mountain of a man standing in the doorframe, surveying the scene.
There’s enough of him to almost fill the frame of the heavy oak door. His clothes are leather and chains, his face a visage of hate and rage. The kind of guy you usually serve no more than four beers because making these machines drunk is a bad idea for all involved. Even the most docile of them are weapons and this one, he’s got the look of a jungle cat locked in too small a cage. There’s something undeniably brutal about his appearance and even at twenty five you wouldn’t have messed with him.
At the bar, the city boy gives the waitress-cum-something-else a solemn look. “I didn’t want you do get out of dodge.”
She looks at him like she already knew, expected nothing else of him but deceit and manipulation. With sure hands, she unties the apron around her waist, bunching it up and dropping it under the counter.
She’s wearing jeans and a long sleeved shirt, like always. A grin flits across her face, followed by a frown. “I think your watch is broken.”
Her gaze is fixed on the mountain in the doorway.
His eyes follow her line of sight and he cocks one honey coloured eyebrow slowly, almost amusedly.
“They’re ahead of schedule,” he defends himself, mockingly.
At the entrance, the newcomer roars.
He places his jacket next to him on an empty bar stool and offers her a polite hand. She takes it, vaulting over the bar in a display of aerial acrobatics you didn’t think the human body was really capable of and landing on her feet right next to her, what? Knight in shining armour? She looks at the boys in the far corner. Nobody else left at this hour. Just those lost soldiers with no home except their own stories and woes. You huddle in this bar, all of you, almost until dawn every night, trying to forget but remembering instead, too much. Every bit is too much. But you’re old men and you don’t change well.
She doesn’t look at anyone but the roaring man as she says, “I suggest you all get behind the counter real fast.”
There’s a fight coming. That is clear. What’s not clear is how this slip of a girl can expect old soldiers to step aside and leave her to fight alone against an enemy so obviously beyond her capabilities. But then the bitter truth washes up your throat and you smile grimly as you realize that you’re no help to anyone anymore. Too lame too run, to scarred to even own a gun. There’s nothing you can do for her except pray.
But then you’ve given up on the divine a long time ago.
“Come on lads,” you call, “it’s…” The words no use
refuse to cross your lips, but they hear them still and they come.
“That will not save them, slayer!” the beast roars and finally steps into the bar, others following behind, all looking the same, all wearing the same mask of hate and hunger. Sam opens the flap separating you from the rest of the room and ushers Jim and Andy through. The others follow suit and you stand there, a row of old men, lined up for execution or salvation as your tiny waitress throws her hair over one shoulder and smirks coldly.
“You’re awfully cocky, aren’t you?”
Next to her, the stranger - who suddenly seems the lesser evil - pulls his gun and cocks it, finger on the trigger, aimed steadily at the head of some punk trying to sidle up to the counter. He stops in his tracks, pulling his lip back in a snarl, revealing teeth that are too sharp, too pointy and then his whole face shifts.
You’ll never forget these faces, those eyes, yellow like a cat’s in the dark but so much more dangerous, so much more cruel. To your dying day you’ll remember the sight of these eyes peeking out of underbrush and between trees, waiting. Just waiting. And then, one wrong step, one of the boys falling behind, out of sight.
They never came back, those lost boys.
But the war is long over and there’s no jungle in this rundown dusty town, never was. It’s why you moved here. Trees and forests, too much green, it’s not good for you. And yet, here they are. Yellow eyes and feral smiles that promise death and no bodies. Every single atrophying muscle in your body tenses, bunches up in preparation of what?
Running? Fighting? You make a sound half laugh half sob and it comes out choked, cut off and broken.
She takes two steps to the left, never taking her eyes of the leader, asking conversationally, “So, that scar, do the ladies like it?”
Again he – it – roars. She grabs a queue off the billiard table, takes it with both hand and shatters it in two on her upraised knee. She twirls the longer end playfully in her right hand, retaking her old position.
“I will kill you, bitch!” It’s breathing hard, hands curled into tight fists, spine straight with fury.
She just gives him a sunny smile that fades as fast as it appeared. “You see that guy over there?” One end of the queue goes over her shoulder toward the stranger. “We call him Death. And you? Really not so scary.”
Death? Yes, you decide, it suits him, clear cut, clean and sharp, surgical like steel with eyes as empty as his soul and insides. And yet there’s something about him that reminds you of dirt and graveyard soil. Death suits him. One hand reaches behind him, pulling out a second gun.
She lets one of her make shift stakes fly, right into the heart of one of the monsters, causing it to explode in a shower of dust. The realization that these beings that have haunted your nightmares for more than thirty years can be killed makes you hysterically giddy. Next to you, Sam sags against the counter, as weak with relief as you are.
After that, it’s all so fast.
She moves like the wind, like fire and destruction, breaking through enemy lines and leaving only dust behind and he’s right next to her, at her back, using his guns to make sure nothing gets behind her.
They make it look so easy.
She grabs one of them by the throat, flings him into the nearest wall like a rag doll while another brings up a chair just in time to deflect a bullet aimed at his head. And, Jesus, what kind of bullets are those? The piece of furniture explodes into a thousand sharp splinters, flying shrapnel that you’re too slow to avoid entirely. One piece, it might have been a leg once, digs into your arm before you duck out of the way. The pain travels through your whole system much faster than you remember and then it’s all over.
She rides the last one – you still refuse to say out loud what you all know they are – to the floor, slamming her makeshift weapon home. She shifts her weight just right as her support crumbles to dust and lands on her knees in the middle of the room.
“Sorry about the mess,” she says, eyeing the dusty floor and broken furniture. You chuckle weakly as her helper snorts, putting his guns away calmly.
She gives him a look that should probably be a glare but actually just makes her look very young. “Shut up. You got what you wanted.”
“And what is that?” Already the coldness is creeping over him again, the stillness.
She licks blood off her cut and probes her injured arm carefully. “Me giving up the life I built here to come with you to wherever you’re planning to drag me to.”
“Not much of a life, is it?” His casual cruelty stuns you as much as her reaction.
She just shrugs. Either she doesn’t care or…there’s really no explanation for it. Not after what you just saw.
She hisses as she pulls on her arm and sighs resignedly, “Dislocated. Damn.”
Sam offers to call Doctor Meyers but she waves him off. “We can’t really explain this, can we?”
Her…companion notices the way you clutch your arm and walks over to you. He takes one look at the wooden splinter and asks the room at large, “First Aid kit?”
“Next to the dishwasher.” Andy hands it over wordlessly. His hands still shake.
You watch your – is she still your waitress? She hasn’t quit yet, has she? – waitress as she shoves a few bar stools out of the way and wraps the fingers of her left hand around the hand railing running around the outside of the bar with her good hand.
Then, without warning, the splinter in your arm gets pulled out. You manage not to scream.
Instead you ask, “You made her, didn’t you?”
You’re a bit afraid of looking at him, so you keep your eyes on her, watching as she tries to find a good angle to pop her shoulder back into place. You dislocated your shoulder once when you were seventeen and you still remember the pain to this day. How she can just fumble about like it’s nothing big, you don’t know and in the end, you brave his
face rather than her
casual acquaintance with pain.
His eyes are no colder close up than from a few feet away but there are lines around them, tiny, almost invisible but there. He’s older than he looks.
He tapes the bandage closed and there’s something in his voice. Something ugly. It doesn’t scare you but it makes you want to scramble backwards to put as much distance between you and him as is physically possible. He’s sorry. He’s damn fucking well sorry not because she is what she is but because he’s not the one who made her.
He’s sorry because this creature who fights and kills monsters, who is so familiar with pain and violence, this tiny woman with eyes as empty as his own is beautiful in a horrifying way but she’s not his. And he wants her to be. It’s no sexual. You don’t think so. It’s…psychological, physical, mythical, you don’t know. All you know is he wants to be the one who broke her. Wants it so bad he can taste it.
Out of your line of sight, her shoulder snaps back into place with an audible pop and she hisses sharply before falling silent.