Disclaimer: Whedonverse characters (and the Whedonverse itself) belong, not surprisingly, to Whedon. The hotness of the Faith/Buffy relationship exists because of Eliza Dushku, and of course, all of us fan-types, who know that this is the sexiest pairing EVER.
April 8, 1999
Buffy couldn't help thinking that it was all a little too easy. Yes, she could be sneakier than most people, when she bothered to try, and yes, it was probably uncommon for a would-be intruder to gain access to the second floor of City Hall by leaping upwards and catching hold of the half-inch-wide window ledge, then pulling themselves up and forcing the window open. The tiny office inside hadn’t had any alarms protecting it; and once she’d gotten that far she had the run of the whole building.
Not that there was any reason for there to be elaborate security; after all, this was Sunnydale
, the picture-perfect example of a peaceful, sleepy little town.
Even so, as she exited the office and eased down the darkened hallway, there was an unmistakable sense of danger hovering over her.
Because despite the sleepy, safe appearances, this was still, well, Sunnydale.
She had been here before, in this very building, and the bad guys knew
she had. Therefore…. Well, she didn't know, exactly. It was just that it seemed strangely sloppy for Faith and Mayor Wilkins to have been so careless as to leave their headquarters unguarded like this.
Moving past closed doors and down dimly lit corridors, Buffy finally reached the rear stairwell. Unlike the wider, more impressive stairs that led up from the building’s front foyer, these were mainly intended for use in emergencies like fire, earthquake, or the semi-annual apocalypse. The Slayer pulled the heavy steel door open slowly, wary of traps or ambushes. There were none, and she frowned slightly as she stepped inside and let the door softly close behind her. Maybe the reason there's nobody guarding anything here is because there isn't anything here.
The thought didn't make her any happier, and her frown deepened as she headed up the bare concrete stairs. There's no rule saying that Wilkins has to keep all his stuff here, his sacrificial daggers and urns of zombie dust or whatever, just because his ‘Mayor’ office is here. He might have it all at his house. Or in a cave, underground, like the Master lived in, or in the groundskeeper's shed at the golf course for all I know!
Even worse was the possibility that there wasn't a cache of incriminating sorcery equipment to be found at all. That's what was so frustrating about the whole thing; she and Giles barely knew enough to know that they were
in danger. Vague warnings of an ‘Ascension’ from a now dead demon, and Faith’s inadvertent confirmation that the town would be destroyed on graduation day; even though they were armed with those scary tidbits, they had pretty much no idea at all concerning what form the danger would take. They needed more information, and the usual avenues of research were not producing anything useful.
Which was why Buffy was here tonight. Not that Giles knew where she was or what she was doing; he would have insisted on coming along, and it was just too dangerous for anyone other than a Slayer to venture into the enemy’s fortress… or their office building, in this case.
Another turning of the stairs, and the growl from above her would have warned her, if not for the fact that she'd already known the vampire was there, on the landing in front of the third-floor access door. She had felt it a moment before; a sudden intensification of the danger she'd felt pressing close ever since she had entered the building. When the vamp leapt down the final stretch of stairs at her, she simply crouched low, letting him pass overhead as she drew her weapon. He was fast, like they all were, rebounding from the wall, turning and attacking once more, all in a single, blurring movement.
Of course, she was faster yet, and she proved it by slashing her knife –Faith's DragonKnife--, through his throat in a flicker-swift move that he barely had time to see, much less avoid. Dust, not blood, gouted from the wound, the mystical fire bound within the blade searing the undead flesh to powder even as it's uncanny edge cut through with ghastly ease. He staggered back, hand flying to the wound as he tried to scream in horror; or maybe it would have been a cry for help. Either way, it wasn't going to happen now, when he was missing his larynx. Deftly flipping the knife around to an overhand grip, Buffy plunged it down, into his heart. The last thing that registered on his face was confusion. He knew that only wood could kill him in that way, not the gleaming steel of a knife blade. That didn't keep him from dissolving into dust, though, and the Slayer smiled grimly as she continued up the steps, toward the door where he had been standing watch, the magical weapon still held ready in her hand. Okay, that makes me feel a
little better about this. I found a guard, I dusted a guard; must be something here worth guarding, right?
Having used the knife that Faith had given her to dust him, though; that was an odd feeling. Somehow, Buffy didn’t think the fallen Slayer had planned on her gift being used against her own henchmen. It made Buffy uncomfortable, almost like she was betraying the other girl….Which is a crazy thing to think;
she’s the one doing all the betraying around here,
Buffy thought to herself. If she hadn’t decided to go all ‘dark side’ on me, we would already have had Wilkins taken care of.
She shook her head in irritation; this wasn’t the time to argue what-ifs.
Twisting the handle of the door with care to avoid any sound, she pulled it open a few inches and peered out into the hallway. Here was the center of Sunnydale's government… such as it was. A small town didn't really need a lot of governing, regardless of the politician’s opinion on the matter. A couple of nooks with receptionist’s desks, storage space for records, a few meeting rooms for the various small committees to gather and argue over zoning regulations and noise ordinances, stuff like that. Oh, and there was also an office where a man well over a hundred years old spent his time plotting something which would soon render all the rest of it moot.
The entire third floor was dark, with no one in sight; to all appearances completely deserted. Even so, something very faint reached her straining ears.
Vampires were, by their very nature, quiet creatures. They had no heartbeat, and no need to noisily push and pull air into and out of their lungs. When standing still, they were nearly impossible to hear.
If they moved, though; well, that was different. Clothing rustled, carpet crushed softly beneath the weight of their shoes, even the faint swirl of air displaced by their body’s passage was enough to catch the ears of a Slayer who was paying attention.
Buffy was being very
The vampire who stepped into view at the far end of the hall had an easier time when it came to detecting her presence. She did
have a heartbeat, her body did
need to breathe. Even with the heavy door open just enough to peek through, enough sound must have leaked through for him to notice; he turned his head and looked straight at her. Okay then, the jig’s up (whatever that means), and I was getting tired of the cat-burglar thing anyway. I’m the Slayer; I don’t have to be sneaky unless I feel like it.
The thought barely had time to flicker through her mind before she was through the doorway and hurtling down the hall as fast as her driving legs could carry her.
He flinched back a step as he realized what was coming for him, and for an instant she thought it would turn into a chase. He didn’t run, though. Instead, his hand darted inside his jacket, frantically reaching for something hidden there.
Buffy snarled silently as she charged forward. No. No way am I going to get shot
It had been a week now since Faith had put two bullets into her, and Buffy could feel the faintest of twinges in her leg even now. She remembered quite clearly how much it had hurt, and she had no intention of waiting for the vamp to pull out his gun and put her through that again. So when she reached the end of the hall, she didn’t waste time with coming to a stop in order to cut or stab him. Instead, the Slayer simply lowered her shoulder and plowed into her foe without slowing, without even breaking stride. Granted, Buffy was small, barely five feet tall and weighing just over a hundred pounds. Despite that, she was moving fast,
and when she hit the unprepared vampire, he felt it.
Anyone in the building felt it, actually, since her body struck him with enough force to lift the demon off of the floor and drive him into the wall.
Not ‘against’ the wall; literally into
it. He might not have needed to breathe, but his agonized grunt testified to the pain he felt as the entire hallway shook in response to the impact. Buffy dropped lightly to her feet, finding her stance while the vampire recovered enough to realize his predicament. Half-lodged in the wall as he was, it was difficult for him to look threatening. He gave it his best try, though, the yellow-eyed stare, gleaming fangs, furrowed forehead; the whole deal. Buffy, unimpressed, merely raised one eyebrow and waited for his move. One hand still groping for something inside his jacket, the vampire erupted out of the man-shaped impression he’d made in the paneling and plaster. With a snarl he lunged at her—and met the blade of her knife as it punched neatly through his suit jacket, his ribs, and into his unbeating heart. --Woomf—beep—
Buffy took a step back to avoid breathing the dust as the demon imploded. ‘Woomf—BEEP’?!
She thought, crinkling her nose in confusion. The ‘woomf’ I hear all the time, when they go all dusty; it’s the ‘beep’part that’s not the usual….
She paused in mid-thought, her attention drawn to the vamp’s powdery remains. Usually all their personal effects, including clothing, were consumed as they died. Not always, though; sometimes metallic or plastic items survived, and this was one of those times. A small cellular phone lay on the floor, the digital display flickering. Buffy took a quick glance up both arms of the corridor intersection where she stood, making sure the coast was still clear, then she bent down and peered at the numbers there. This is what he was reaching for while I was coming to kill him? What did he think he was going to do, get a telemarketer to talk me to death? Leave a message with his girlfriend? “Sorry, honey, but I’m going to be late getting back to the crypt tonight. The Slayer’s here, you see, and what with me being an undead fiend and all, I think she’s going to dust me in about a second and a half—“
The phone finished connecting; she heard it ring once, then it picked up… to silence. Not an open connection, no one was on the other end. This was the dead air you got when someone’s answering service picked up. Either that… or someone’s pager. Buffy straightened. Hm. Now who would a vampire have on his speed dial? Or maybe the question should be, who would he think would be able to help him against me? Who had him so scared that he would obey their orders even if it meant delaying long enough for me to get my hands on him?
With a grim look in her eyes, the Slayer crushed the device beneath her heel. After that, it was only a matter of turning her head in order to locate her goal.
There, just to one side of the vampire-shaped divot in the wall, was the door to the Mayor’s office. Inside that room she might well find some clues about just what his plans were for Sunnydale come graduation. If she were truly lucky, she might even discover the means to ending those plans for good. Now that the guards were taken care of, all that remained was for her to get in there and start looking. Since the little scuffle with the second vampire had made enough noise to wake the dead, there wasn’t much point in being stealthy about it. Knife still held ready in her right hand, she raised her left, took hold of the heavy door latch, then twisted and pulled in one motion.
This door was
locked; not that it made any difference. Metal and wood screamed as she wrenched it open, and she couldn’t help a little grin at how easily this final obstacle gave way before her. So much for the big, bad Mayor trying to keep me out of his headquarters. Now all I need to do is find whatever box of nasty toys he has in here, take ‘em to Giles and Willow, and all of this will be wrapped up in time for me to catch Letterman tonight—
She’d taken only three steps inside before she realized the room wasn’t completely dark. A small desk lamp cast a dim light, enough to reveal shapes to even a human’s eyes. For a Slayer, it was enough to see everything with perfect clarity, including the man who sat behind that desk.
“Well, now,” He said from where he leaned back in his chair, to all appearances completely at ease. “I suppose I should say something about your not having an appointment, or maybe something about entering a room without knocking first—“ He sat up straight, and for a moment a trick of light cast his face into total darkness, with only his bright eyes and his broad, chilling grin shining out at her. “But the truth of the matter, Miss Summers, is that I’ve been wanting to meet you for quite some time.” He graciously waved Buffy into the room, and behind her the splintered door slammed shut with such force that for the second time in just minutes the building shook; this time to its very foundations.
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