Chapter 21: Another Day, Another Dollar
A/N: Thanks to my betas, deiticlast, murg, and Satsuma, and to kerrykhat, who’s probably the only reason I’m still sane. :) +++
This was one battle Buffy couldn’t win – had already lost
, in fact. She knew this. Still, she couldn’t quite bring herself to throw in the towel, wave the white flag, or anything else that required her to shake a piece of cloth in dramatic gesture of defeat. Not right away, anyway.
Nope, for a few long moments, she glared at her cell phone, willing it to stop ringing, especially since a quick glance at the clock showed her that they had only left Fangtasia less than four hours ago – not nearly enough sleep to function on, let alone rescue Vi and take down Kennedy and the Council.
It was just a bluff, though; both she and the phone knew it. Very few people had this number, and those that did wouldn’t be calling without good reason.
So, with a sigh worthy of its very own Oscar, Buffy crawled toward the edge of her bed and reached for her phone, wincing in pain as the sun assaulted her eyes.
She was totally aware that she was being ridiculous. Melodramatic, even. Sleep deprivation had that effect, though.
Then she saw who was calling, and she bolted upright, completely awake and drama-free.
Alcide Herveaux. Mr. Tall, Dark, and Unenthused himself – not that she could really hold a grudge against him for that.
Seriously, having one of your pack attack the Sheriff was bad enough, especially since, after a few intense questions courtesy of Eric, it was pretty clear that Alcide and his pack weren’t involved. But to have to explain all this and
promise full cooperation in investigating the matter? In front of a complete stranger
That wouldn’t be anyone’s idea of fun, and clearly Alcide was no exception.
It probably didn’t help that neither she nor Eric had made with the Slayer explanation, either. But honestly? She had no clue how werewolves felt about slayers, which meant she wasn’t going to say anything until she knew – even if it had made for one of the most awkward meet and greets ever
And yet, despite his lack of enthusiasm for all things Buffy, Alcide was calling her now.
She quickly flipped her phone open and put it to her ear. She tried to say ‘hello’, but her voice was still scratchy with sleep. So not the way to make a second impression.
Clearing her throat, she tried again. “Hello!” she said, this time a little too forcefully as she overcompensated.
There was a pause. Then a slightly taken aback Alcide came on the line.
“Miss Summers, I—”
“Buffy,” she promptly interrupted. “Call me Buffy.”
There was another pause. Then Alcide gave a small cough. “Alright, Buffy
,” he began again, and this time she could hear the tension in his voice. “We got some of our people looking into the unknown wolves. I’m personally handling Jared— the wolf who attacked you – and I found some interesting stuff at his place that I thought you should know about.”
“Great!” Buffy exclaimed. “What did you find out?”
“I’m not sure yet,” he admitted. There was another awkward pause. “Northman asked that I notify you or him immediately when we discovered anything.”
Apparently the sleep wasn’t quite out of her brain yet, because it took Buffy a minute to understand what he was saying.
“Oh... OH!” she exclaimed, as she jumped out of bed and ran to the desk, grabbing the little pad of paper and pen lying on top of it.
“Where are you?” she asked. She quickly scribbled the address down. “Okay, I’ll meet you there in... 15-20 minutes.”
As soon as she hung up the phone, she began scrambling to get ready, throwing on the first tank top and pair of shorts she could find as her mind went into overdrive.
There was no time to grab something to eat, let alone take a shower. And what about Xander and Oz? Should they come? Alcide was already chafing at her being there. And then there was that whole territory issue with Oz...
No, she decided firmly. She would go it alone. Besides, she couldn’t exactly walk down the street with the Scythe strapped to her back, right? And she definitely wasn’t going to leave it in her room for housekeeping to find, either. So to Xander and Oz it went.
Buffy grabbed the bag with the Scythe and headed out the door. Thankfully, Xander and Oz were only a few rooms down. She still wasn’t sure how Eric had swung it, getting them a room at 3 in the morning in the same motel she had been staying at before her night in Bon Temps, where all her stuff still
And for once, she wasn’t going to question it. +++
Sookie walked up to the motel door; she couldn’t quite bring herself to knock, however. Just because Buffy wasn’t in her room, it didn’t necessarily mean she was in here. Besides, it was still really early, and they were probably asleep.
Then she heard the sound of muffled voices behind the door, blowing her excuse to bits.
Sookie took a deep breath, silently berating herself. She was being silly. Bill was asleep for the day in one of Eric’s ‘guest’ hidey holes – and yes, her mind went to all sorts of places with that one. That meant she was all by her lonesome, and, considering recent events, it was not the smartest thing to be.
With that thought, she knocked smartly on the door.
There was a thud, followed by what sounded like a grunt. Then the door opened.
Sookie had come to expect a lot of things since she began dating a vampire, but boy, she didn’t see this coming.
For there, standing before her, was Xander, sweaty and breathing hard. Oz was in the background, looking slightly less winded, but flushed all the same.
“Oh!” she chirped brightly, trying to hide her mortification. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to interrupt... whatever it is you’re doing! It’s just that Buffy wasn’t in her room...”
She trailed off and, not knowing where else to look, just stared at the ground. Hell, that giant hole could swallow her up whenever it was ready.
“What?” Xander asked, confused. Then his eyes widened almost comically as he caught her drift. “No! You think... No, no, NO. We were up anyway, thanks to Buffy, so we just thought it would be a good time to bone up on our hand to hand... and can we just pretend that that whole sentence didn’t sound like one big dirty metaphor?”
A small laugh escaped from Sookie, though it came out more like a sob, as she was still swimming in her own embarrassment. Then her eyebrows shot up in surprise, discomfort completely forgotten, as Xander’s words sunk in.
“Wait a minute, so you fight alongside Buffy?” she asked incredulously.
“Yep,” Xander replied, a proud look on his face.
“How are you not dead yet?” she blurted out. She could’ve bit her tongue off when she realized how it sounded. It was only made worse when she could clearly see that it seemed to open up an old wound. “I mean, I just started dating Bill, and I’ve almost died twice.”
Xander shrugged. “It’s not hard. It just takes some skill, some instinct... and a lot of dumb luck,” he revealed with a sheepish grin. It quickly turned into a frown, however, as he gave Sookie a critical once over. “So, you’re hanging around vamps and you don’t
know any self-defense?”
Sookie opened her mouth to answer, but no words came out. Come to think of it, why hadn’t she done something like this? She shook her head mutely.
Xander looked over his shoulder at Oz, who nodded. Then he turned back to Sookie. “Well, do you want to learn?” he asked.
She hadn’t expected this. But she had to admit, it was an appealing offer. “Okay,” she said with a tentative smile.
Xander was having none of it. He threw an arm around her shoulders and led her into the room.
“Come with me, Young Skywalker,” he intoned. “You have much to learn in the way of the Scooby.”+++
As Alcide pulled his truck over to the side of the street, Buffy leaned forward in the passenger seat, studying the house a few doors up. They had been sifting through Jared’s papers when they found this address scribbled on a bank statement – right next to one of the many large deposits made within the past week.
Buffy had jumped at the chance to leave the dead werewolf’s apartment. Aside from being an incredibly morbid experience, Alcide had barely said two words to her, and the silence was killing her. At the very least, she needed a change of scenery.
Of course, in hindsight, sitting in the cab of his truck with him really wasn’t much of an improvement.
“Well, there are people in there,” she said as she tried to peer into the windows. “I can’t see who they are, though.”
Alcide made a non-committal sound – the same non-committal sound he had been making all morning.
Buffy frowned, feeling her nerves begin to fray around the edges. Still, she tried to shake it off and concentrate on the task at hand.
“Can you sense any werewolves or vampires?” she asked. She herself was getting nothing, but she wanted to double check.
This time she got a grunt accompanied with a negative shake of the head.
Fed up, Buffy turned to look at him, visibly annoyed. “Look, did I kill your puppy or something?” she snapped. When she saw the way his expression darkened, she winced. “Okay, I’m sorry. Bad choice of words, but seriously. Can we at least try using actual words, maybe work our way up to full sentences?”
Alcide glanced at her, a chagrined look on his face. He didn’t say anything, though, just continued to look at the house.
Buffy resisted the urge to bang her had against the dashboard. And yeah, she was kind of wishing she had a stack of mind-numbing financial statements to go through.
She still couldn’t see what the heck was going on in the house, either.
Frustrated with the whole situation, Buffy threw her hands up. “Screw this,” she muttered as she reached for the door handle. “I’m going to take a closer look.”
This got a reaction.
“What? No!” Alcide objected, reaching over to stop her from leaving, his hand encircling her wrist.
He wasn’t using enough force to hurt her, only stop her. Still, Buffy glared at the offending hand before pointedly removing it. Then she reached for the handle again.
Alcide growled, and this time, he grabbed her by both shoulders and forcibly turned her to face him. He then leaned over her, trying to intimidate her with his bulk, because even though was in no position to question her, he really didn’t want trouble, either.
Of course, he didn’t count on her giving it as good as she got. Sure enough, however, she scowled up at him, not backing down in the slightest.
This only made him madder.
“Do you want a war on your hands?” he asked angrily. “If anything happened to you, on my
Buffy felt some of her righteous anger deflate at this. She hadn’t thought about that. Still, she was the Slayer. So what if he didn’t know it?
“I can take care of myself,” she declared evenly.
He raised his eyebrow. “Oh, really?” he asked as he gave her a scathing look up and down. He stopped, however, when he reached her eyes, which were in full Slayer mode. Releasing her abruptly, he sat back in his seat and took a deep breath.
“I didn’t mean any offense,” he said after an awkward silence. “But do you see my point?”
Life was so much simpler when she didn’t have to worry about things like vampire-were relations.
Buffy slumped in her seat as she felt the rest of her anger leave her. “Yeah, yeah,” she muttered under her breath. Then she looked over at him and made a face. “I still think we should get closer, though.”
A bark of incredulous laughter escaped from him, but it was cut short when a car suddenly came zooming around the corner. It came a screeching stop right behind them, and a woman immediately jumped out.
Buffy could only stare at first. It was like looking at the girl the 80s forgot. Seriously, the woman looked like she should be following some hair band on tour. It was tragic and amusing all at the same time.
First there was the ripped jean shorts and shirt. Then there was the copious amounts of jewelry, which Buffy wasn’t even going to try to understand. And of course, she couldn’t overlook the teased, weirdly asymmetrical hair, which probably created its very own hole in the ozone in the styling process.
Most interesting, however, was the supernatural vibe she was giving. Well, that and ‘supremely pissed’.
“Alcide Herveaux! You get your ass out of that piece of shit truck right now!”
Buffy looked at Alcide, eyebrow raised questioningly.
“Debbie. How the hell did she find me?” Alcide muttered under his breath, more to himself than anything else. At Buffy’s look, he grimaced. “My girlfriend, sort of. It’s complicated.”
“Isn’t it always,” Buffy replied dryly.
A small, almost surprised, grin flashed across Alcide’s face. It disappeared almost immediately, however, as he took a deep breath and got out of truck to meet Debbie, who by that time was already halfway toward his door.
Buffy sat in the cab of the truck and shamelessly watched the scene unfold. It wasn’t often that she got to witness drama that wasn’t hers. And this one was good.
Apparently, someone saw her and Alcide going into Jared’s apartment and told Debbie. Debbie got there just as they were heading here, and so she followed them.
“Debbie, it’s not what you think,” Alcide said, his voice low and conciliatory. “This is pack business.”
“Oh, really? Because she’s
not pack!” Debbie shrilly pointed out as she turned to glare at Buffy through the window. “I drive all the way over from Jackson to work things out, only to have you sneak out and meet up with this whore?”
Buffy bristled. Whore? Yeah, little Debbie better watch herself, or there was going to be a smackdown.
It was at that moment that Buffy saw something out of the corner of her eye. One of the curtains in the house moved, and a face peered out at them.
Alarmed, Buffy jumped out of the truck and made her way over to the quarreling couple.
“Alcide,” she hissed as she tugged on his arm, purposefully ignoring the way Debbie’s eyes lit with rage at this.
He just ignored her, though, so she tugged again, this time putting a bit of Slayer strength behind it.
That got his attention. Alcide looked at her, the question in his eyes. Then he saw it, too, and blanched.
Turning back to his angry girlfriend, Alcide reached out to Debbie, but she stepped back out of his reach.
He clenched his jaw and inhaled sharply. “Go,” he ordered in a voice that left no room for argument. “I’ll explain everything later.”
Debbie glared, but after a second, she stormed back to her car, peeling away from the curb.
Alcide ran a frustrated hand over his face – just as the door to the house opened, and four men stepped out. They were all human, but they were heavily armed and heading straight for Buffy and Alcide.
And they had the Fellowship of the Sun emblazoned on their shirts.
“Get in,” Alcide said tersely, ushering Buffy toward his truck.
But it was too late.
Another car suddenly appeared around the corner, and it came to a screeching halt right behind Alcide’s truck where Debbie’s car had just been. Three men stepped out, also armed and decked out in Fellowship attire.
Buffy fumed. Next chance she got, she was so sending Debbie back
to her decade. Permanently. +++
A/N: Okay, so I have to ask – are people still enjoying this? Because I’ve noticed that I’ve been losing readers with every chapter as of late, and it’s getting really discouraging, to say the least. I’m not sure if I should take some time to regroup and rewrite or maybe not post anymore until the whole thing is written to cut down on the time between updates. Honestly, I’m at a loss. I just really want to finish this fic without it dying a slow death in the process.2/24/12: I just wanted to thank everyone for the overwhelming response and to say that I have not abandoned this fic. In fact, I never intended to, so I apologize if that's what came across in the Author's Note above. However, I did go through a spell when I was just burnt out and discouraged and unsure how to proceed. Plain and simple, I needed a break. I'm finally starting to come back to this fic, though.
I will say that it will be a bit of time before the next chapter is posted. I've gotten more than a few comments about the length of time in between updates, so I'm going to try to get this whole story written before I start posting again. But I will post again!