In the Circus
Disclaimer: I do not own the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or the movie The Descent, nor any of the characters from the Anita Blake books. No copyright infringement intended. No profit is gained. BTVS belongs to Joss. Anita Blake and her cohort belong to Laurell K. Hamilton.
Summary: “The worst thing that can happen to you has already happened.”
The door to Jean Claude’s office opens and immediately her senses go haywire.
In a blur she has unerringly leapt for the most powerful vampire in the room, knocking him to the floor, pinning him easily like a rag doll beneath her grip.
“No Anita, don’t shoot!”“Ma petite! Stop!”
Jean Claude’s voice rings in the necromancer’s mind, even as the dark haired vampire stares steadily up at the wild thing on his chest.
There is shouting and confusion around her but she ignores this as the Slayer that is pacing up and down in her comes to the fore.
“What the hell is she doing?”
“I think she’s...sniffing him?”
Crouched on his chest the Slayer’s fingers grasp the soft fabric of the shirt above his heart, her nails drawing in like eagle’s claws, his heart the unsuspecting fish below the surface of the water.
She drags the tip of her tongue down his cheek and across the shell of his ear. Her legs are tensed for the slightest sign of resistance.
If he tries anything she will rip out his throat and bathe in his blood.
And then she will kill him.
Jean Claude stills on the floor in the way that only the truly dead can do, trying not to provoke her.
Sensing his game, her eyes meet his deliberately. Challenging him.
Immediately he is swept into her mind, an empty space full of thick, dark clouds, as though a thunderstorm is about to happen.
A dark skinned woman emerges from the swirling darkness, her eyes wild, and her irises rimmed with gold, like a jungle cat. Her movements are precise and predatory and when she bares her teeth at him he is almost surprised she does not growl.
Behind him he senses another woman has appeared and when he turns to face this new threat he is momentarily thrown. The half wild creature that he knows still sits upon his chest in the physical world has reappeared but he only just recognises her.
The woman standing before him is young, her hair flowing past her breasts, her face pinched and tired. Dressed simply in jeans and a dark shirt she carries a scythe in one hand and a stake in the other. Her lips are full and painted red, but her lipstick smells of blood and beneath her nails he scents grave dirt.
Her mouth moves silently repeating a string of words over and over again, and it is only when she mouths them for a third time that he comes to an unwanted knowledge.I am a whitewashed tomb and full of dead men's bones.
“Who are you, mademoiselle
“We are the Slayer.” The woman points to the tribal woman who is still circling him, much like a cat would a mouse. “She is the First. I am the Last.”
Jean Claude freezes as stories he was told as a fledgling fill his blood with ice. “Non! You are a myth, a legend the Council uses to keep it’s children in line.”
The young woman smirks. “Not so mythical, but definitely legendary. Buffy, The Vampire Slayer- Legend.” She considers. “It has a ring to it.”
“Buffy, that is your name?”
Her face shutters. “It was. Now I have no name.”
Jean Claude feels himself treading on dangerous ground. “And, may I ask why you are here, mademoiselle?”
She laughs and the sound chills him. There are other women forming behind her out of the clouds now, hundreds of girls of all nationalities, but all of them so very young to his eyes. All of them carrying weapons.
“Silly vampire. You invited me. Your friends were very insistent that I leave my home and come and meet you.” Her teeth flash as lighting strikes above him. “So I came. As requested.”
His face is a picture of composure, schooled in that absolute unreadable way that only very old vampires can pull off. Buffy can do it now too. “And what will you do now?”
He hides his fear well, but the Slayer can smell it, like a bear can smell food under ice, or a fox the newly rotting carcass under the ground.
The First Slayer has edged even closer to him and he shifts ever so slightly away from her, even as all his instincts tell him to flee while he still can. The shadow women are gradually hemming him in.
Buffy tilts her head to the side; like he has seen some wild animals do and contemplates him. He suddenly feels very young, and very small.
“Death is my gift.”
Jean Claude swallows. “Perhaps we can come to some agreement?”
She shifts back into valley girl mode. “How about if you agree to die? Makes it much easier for me.”
He takes a step back. “That is not a request I can comply with.”
Buffy pouts. “Shame. Guess we’ll just have to do it the old fashioned way.” She consults her watch. “And to be generous I’ll even give you a ten second head start. Can’t say fairer than that.”
The shadow women are just behind her now. The tribal woman is ready to pounce.
Buffy winks at him. “That was your cue to run.”
He does and flees into the only open route behind him, directly into the thick smog. He runs like he’s never done before. Can she kill him in her mind? He doesn’t wait to find out.
Behind him he can hear her mocking laughter.
“Ready or not, here we come.”
Jean Claude has no idea how long it has been since she started to hunt him. He is utterly lost in the smog and he can’t hear anything. In fact it’s almost as if all his senses have been blocked; smothered.
He’s tried calling out to Anita and Richard but he has no response and he can’t even feel their minds.
There is a hand on his shoulder.
He whirls, ready to fight to the last and she reels with him, throwing a punch that connects and snaps his head back. He hits back with all of his power and they fight, the scythe singing through the air, as she wields it like an extension of herself.
Five minutes later (and she has to give him points for being skilled enough to last so long when she has the scythe with her) she has managed to once again fix him to the ground, though he still desperately struggles beneath her, his eyes blazing, furiously trying to live.
He swipes at her and his fingernail catches her cheek. Blood wells in a thin red line across her skin and they both pause in momentary shock.
Astride him, her thighs holding him in place on the floor, her stake presses against his chest. She brings a finger to her cheek and watches the blood on her finger in fascination. She brings it to her mouth and licks it off, and Jean Claude feels the ardour flare.
She smirks at him, and presses the stake further into his chest. “Sorry, I don’t have sex on the first fight.”
The ardour flips off quietly, something it’s never done before. He stares at her in shock.
Her fingers are fluttering over her cheek again and then she stares at him as if she can see right through his clothes, through his flesh even into his bones and deeper.
She stills and then lets out a deep sigh and gets off him. Jean Claude is momentarily wrong footed at this.
“Don’t worry,” she tells him, seeing his discomposure. “You’ve got a soul.”
He is shocked. “I do?”
“Mmm.” She pouts and she rubs her thumb over the flat side of the scythe. “You’re one very lucky vamp. Your heart almost had a close encounter with my stake.”
The First Slayer has appeared again. Buffy looks at her primal self. “It’s a shame...”
“She can’t kill you...yet. All work and no bloodshed makes the Slayer really pissed off.”
She smiles at him but it holds no warmth. “One step out of line, one little mistake. The hint of blood anywhere on you that isn’t freely given, I let her loose on your friends and on your city.”
She stalks closer to him and runs her hand over his jaw, down his silk shirt and rests over his heart. “You’re pretty, but not that pretty. And believe me I’ll have no problem killing you and anyone else who breaks my rules.”
, I assure you...”
“Cross your heart and hope to die?” She interrupts with a snort. “I don’t trust the living, and I definitely don’t trust the dead.”
She backs away from him as the black smoke begins to curl around her. She melts into it like an old friend, the smoke curling around her in an intimate embrace.
“I sent my first lover to Hell.” Her eyes gleam in the darkness. “So let’s not misunderstand each other- I’ll have no bones about doing the same to you.”
She disappears within the dark, and his eyes snap open.
The Slayer on his chest stares at him for a heartbeat, her green eyes boring into his. The scent of smoke and dirt lingers and then she reluctantly, oh so reluctantly, moves off his chest, back over to the doorway.
“Anyone want to give me an explanation of what the hell just went on?” Anita, as usual (but for once understandably) is pissed.
“Souled.” She clicks angrily at him, her muscles tensed for a fight that doesn’t look like it will happen anymore.
“What does that mean?” Anita’s fingers are toying with her gun, but at least she isn’t threatening to blow the Slayers’ head off.
Richard is quietly amazed at her control.
“It means, ma petite
,” says Jean Claude, drawing himself up with liquid smooth grace, “that the petite dame de mort
cannot kill me.”
There is a dangerous growl from the deadly wild thing at the door that suggests otherwise.
“I think what Jean Claude meant to say,” says Richard clearing his throat, “is that she won’t kill him unless he steps out of line.”
The Slayer nods once, sharply. Richard thinks if she had a tail she’d be flicking it in agitation.
Anita frowns. “How can you even know that?”
“Because she looks like she wants to rip his head off and she’s only just about holding herself back.”
It’s how I feel most of the time goes unsaid.
The Slayer is rocking on the balls of her feet uneasily, her power flaring every now and then and even Jean Claude has the grace to be wary again.
“We will have to tread very carefully
,” Jean Claude whispers into Anita and Richard’s heads. “What have you brought into my city, mon loupe, ma petite?
“OK, we’ll take the softly, softly approach then
,” Anita agrees, though her worry over how unstable the girl really is taints her words.
“Maybe you should put the gun away?
” Richard suggests. “It’s not exactly helping.
The conversation has taken mere seconds but the Slayer looks more and more unhappy with the situation, and she only relaxes slightly when Anita puts the weapon back inside her jacket.
There is movement in the shadows. The glint of blonde hair. The Slayer spots the vampire she has seen earlier. Arctic blue eyes meet her in the darkness and something in her sparks. His soul sears her eyes like the sun.
She bolts back up the stairs before she can be burnt.
Anita, Richard and the vampires rush after her, but when they reach the surface she is only a faint scent of dirt on the breeze.
They search the Circus for her but she evades them easily. After all, she is made for shadows and dark places and they are loud and noisy and so very alive that their blood sings to her and she disappears before they can even come close.
She has spent decades in the dark, silently waiting for prey, learning to control each muscle quiver, each delicate shutter of her eyelids, each slow pull of her lungs. Finally she learnt to disappear entirely within the shadows, a no-name slayer in a nowhere place without time.
They will not find her.
She will find them when she wishes to.
Instead she disappears into the city and scuttles over the rooftops of the suburbs, her clawed toenails clicking over rooftops and down drainpipes, peering in at windows and down chimneys.
A memory stirs, long ago and she thinks she remembers a story about a man who also did this. Who visited your home in the coldest darkest night and brought light. Joy.
A child, straying secretly out of bed to play with his toys on his bedroom floor notices the shadow crossing his carpet. Glances at the window.
She opens her mouth and the moonlight catches her teeth.
As the house lights up and the child is swept up into the arms of his concerned parents she hurries away over the roof tiles.
Dropping down onto the neighbour’s roof terrace she thinks the stories of the Light Man never spoke of so much screaming.
Finally when she is hundreds of blocks away and edging into houses sounded by forests she finds a suitable house. This place reeks of death and sex and blood and the familiar smells soothe the anxious Slayer.
Slipping through the unlatched bedroom window she pads soundlessly over bloodied carpet, skirting the bed where a man and a woman lie, entangled in the bed sheets and each other, two gory holes where their faces should be, flecks of skull and blood splattering up the walls.
Instead she tracks into the bathroom, shedding her furs as she goes before stumbling into the glass cubicle and fiddling with dials and shiny silver knobs that encrust with dirt after she has touched them. Eventually the water shoots out and she yelps in surprise as the hot scalding water pours down onto her.
It takes three hours before the water runs something close to clear, three hours in which she has sniffed every bottle, every soap in the room before using the plainest on her tangled hair, on her grimy body.
When the drain begins to clog with scum she peels out of the shower, leaving pale brown foot and handprints as she scrabbles unashamedly nude back into the blood room.
Rifling through a wardrobe she picks out clothes blindly, more concerned with fit and texture than what she may look like. Silk is too soft on her skin, wool pulls and scratches, leather is too heavy on her bones so she settles for clinging black leggings and a plain black cotton t-shirt with a tick emblazoned on it.
Underwear isn’t even thought of.
Sitting back on her haunches her toenails snag in the imitation bear rug on the bedroom floor. She contemplates it silently for a moment before ripping the bears head off and wrapping the rest of the fur round her torso like a mantle.
Finally she heads downstairs, passing the open living room door where a man has slumped on the couch, also missing the side of his face. A still warm gun lies beside him, catching the glint of his wedding ring but she ignores all that and heads for the kitchen pulling out drawers until she finds scissors.
Then, patiently, she sits on the floor and cuts away centuries worth of split ends until she can run her fingers through her dull white blonde hair and not get it gnarled, until it sits just below her shoulders. Just as patiently she sits and reweaves her bones and trophies back into her hair before turning her attention to her overgrown nails.
Eventually, after the hours of transformation she gingerly stands up and catches her reflection in the metal of the shiny fridge door.
She stands still and takes in her small, sinewy form clothed in its human garb, with her rank dead smell gone and her hair cut and her nails filed, replaced by a pleasant blank nothing.
She passes for human like this.
Dropping back to all fours because erect hurts the muscles in her back, she opens the fridge door gagging at the smell of the human, normal food. Of cheese and eggs, juice, chicken wrapped in plastic, salads and vegetables and beans in foil and tin and metal.
She shuts the door abruptly, allows her stomach to settle and then heads outside through the french windows. In the garden is an ornamental pond and she catches the flash of gold and burnt umber scales in the water.
Her hand sinks into the water and plucks the carp from the depths before it even begins to squirm. One quick savage bite and the fish knows nothing more and she peels away the sunset scales to tear at the cold white flesh below.
She passes for human like this.
In his office Jean Claude is calm and controlled.
His voice is cool and smooth and bordering on loosing his temper. “You lost her and now she is roaming my city, completely free to wreak whatever mayhem she wishes.”
Anita paces the carpet whilst Richard watches them both, slouched casually in one of the leather chairs in the room. Asher is, as always, half hidden in the shadows.
Anita rubs her fingers over her gun in her holster, the motions familiar and soothing. “But isn’t she supposed to be one of the good guys, this Slayer you’ve talked about? You said she was a warrior for higher powers?”
Jean Claude’s eyes flash and he is losing his patience now. “She is a Slayer, the killer of my kind. She is mystically endowed with the power to hunt down and destroy the preternatural… and she is perfectly capable of taking over my city.”
Richard interjects hastily. “She hardly looked like she was going to go after your job, Jean Claude. Surely if she wanted your power she could have just killed you- you saw her reaction when she realised you were souled.”
Jena Claude is not soothed. The woman under his care and control could have been a great power in his arsenal. Unsupervised and unchecked in his city she is a dangerous threat.
Anita is inclined to agree with Richard, and that’s a surprise in itself. “She wouldn’t have fled if she was a threat. You saw her reaction when Asher appeared.” She winces at how that sounds but it is too late for her to go back on her words and salve Asher’s tortured ego over his appearance. “That’s not the action of something dangerous to vampires.”
“You don’t understand-“
Anita’s phone rings, cutting off the furious, brooding Master Vampire. He mutters something french and suspiciously derogatory under his breath as she answers.
Dolph is curt. A double/murder suicide, a new lover, a vengeful, depressed ex-husband, the same old tired human jealousies and motives which are played out over the city every day. Which would be fine except there’s something else that has been in the house and it smells like death.
It’s easy to read between the lines that Dolph is worried and that he needs her. She hangs up.
Jane Claude looks as though he knows exactly what has just been said but wants the news confirmed anyway.
So he really is angry then. Anita pockets her phone and chooses her next words carefully.
“There’s been a domestic down on the east side of the city. Three people dead.” She swallows. “She was there.”
In her car on the way to the crime scene, Anita ponders the strange woman she and Richard - she would say rescued but that hardly feels like the right word, helped is likewise equally redundant, perhaps took - from the cave.
Wonders why she isn’t just agreeing with Jean Claude and simply hunting her down.
Part of Anita realises that that thought is simply impossible. The girl with no name but Slayer is faster, stronger, more agile, more deadly than she ever could be. In a fight, Anita admits she’d have no chance.
Her thoughts skip briefly to Edward and then away again just as fast. Calling Edward is like bringing a sledgehammer to crack a boiled egg.
No, this has to be handled delicately. Anita snorts self-deprecatingly. No one has ever called Anita delicate. Especially with her gun in her hand.
But she has to try at least. She has to somehow coax the woman back to her if she can. It is after all Anita’s fault she is in this predicament in the first place. Her and Richard’s. There’s another first, Anita realises. She’s taking responsibility for her own actions.
The thought is sobering.
Why is Anita willing to try and help the woman known as Slayer?
Because she’s selfish.
Because Anita is relieved that here is a supposed force against evil that looks and feels like a thing crawled from the belly of Hell itself.
Here is something more terrible, more frightening than herself that is meant to be good.
Because when she looks at Slayer she sees herself, warped and twisted by the passage of time and with so much blood on her hands that she looks like the monster she often feels like.
If she can help her then perhaps there is hope.
In helping her, Anita is really helping herself.
Read and Review, pretty please! Your comments and thoughts are always appreciated. Apologies for the massive delay inbetween uploads but life kind of got in the way. It does that sometimes.