Disclaimer: Neither Buffy nor Smallville are mine.
It was the stillness that clued her in.
Normal humans were incapable of standing completely still for any length of time. Their bodies tended to sway, as their muscles made minute adjustments, like an inverted pendulum.
These movements were subtle and beneath the notice of most people, but Buffy had seen vampires who really were able to stand completely still. Their muscles were far stronger than those of a human being, and they didn’t tire as easily.
With most of them, the stillness was a temporary thing. Some, like Spike were never still. It happened often enough that Buffy had made a note.
Clark Kent stood as still as a statue.
Furthermore, his expression was flat, and when he smiled, it didn’t reach his eyes.
“Hello,” he said. “I didn’t realize Chloe had any visitors.”
“They’re doing a research paper on…what, haunted houses?” Chloe said.
“It’s a little more extensive that that,” Dawn said. “Spooky places in general.”
“No haunted houses around here,” he said. That smile that was not a smile flitted across his face again, and he said “I doubt there’s a house in town that’s much older than fifteen years old.”
Buffy forced herself to smile again. “Ms. Sullivan mentioned something about some Indian caves?”
“Those aren’t open to visitors,” he said. “I tried going there once and the tribes wouldn’t allow it.”
“Forgive my manners,” Buffy said. “My name is Buffy.”
She held her hand out for him, and he reached out and shook it. “Clark Kent.”
His grip was firm, but careful. Buffy began to squeeze, a hard human grip at first, and then harder and harder.
She had hands which could punch through brick, and there wasn’t any sign in his expression that he was even aware that what she was doing was out of the ordinary.
He pulled his hand from hers, and she could tell from the expression that appeared on his face that he was more uncomfortable with her eye contact than with her grip. That expression vanished almost as quickly as it came, replaced by the same calm, aloof look.
“I’ve got to go,” he said. “I’ll talk to you later.”
A moment later, he was gone.
“Is that one of the teachers?” Dawn asked.
Buffy glanced at her in annoyance. Wasn’t the oddness of the man obvious to everyone?
“Clark? Chloe asked. “He’s a freshman.”
“So he’s a little slow,’ Dawn said. “I guess the good looking ones always are a little thick.”
“Excuse me?” Chloe asked. “Clark is one of the brightest guys in school.”
“He’s got to be in his mid-twenties,” Dawn said. “Just look at him!”
“He’s fifteen, just like me.” Chloe said. Her voice had chilled. “Is there anything else I can do for you ladies?”
“We’ve got what we came for,” Buffy said. The other two turned to stare at her and she shrugged. “There are only so many hundred pound tomatoes you can see on one trip.”
“It’s not your paper!” Dawn said, holding fast to the lie.
Buffy made a mental note to smack Spike in the nose and remind him about the dangers of corrupting her sister.
“It’s my trip,” she said. “You guys are just along for the ride.”
They were silent for a moment, then smiled and made their apologies to Chloe Sullivan. Buffy let the others step out before her, and as she turned to shut the door, she thought she saw the computer screen reflected in the glass of the painting on the wall behind Chloe’s computer while Chloe stood beside the counter and scowled.
In the instant before the door shut, Buffy thought she saw the reflection of Willow’s picture on the computer screen
“It’s not my fault,” Warren said as he stared at the computer screen. “If these guys were anybody else, tracking them would be easy.”
“Her magnificence will not be pleased,” the weird, ugly demon standing all too close said.
“I didn’t say I couldn’t do it, just that it’s going to be harder. If these guys used credit cards or ATMs or even cell phones it would be a lot easier.”
“You’ve found nothing,” the figure said flatly.
“Not true,” Warren said. “I hacked into a US military satellite and managed to track their Winnebago as far as Denver Colorado. The convenience store they stopped at is a national chain, and their security cameras are linked together online. Your girl was definitely with them, stealing Twinkies.”
“So where is the Key now?”
“I lost their trail after that due to too much cloud cover. If they kept going in the same direction, I have a list of several places they might have gone, but…”
“They could have turned off at any place along the way. Can you not trace the computer of this Willow?”
Warren laughed dryly. “I’m good, but Willow cheats. She uses magic to help hide her trail.”
“So you are of no use to us, then.” the demon said. “I’d hoped for better from you.”
From the darkness behind him stepped a statuesque woman. Warren turned and felt his mouth go dry. She was beautiful, and given the number of demons she’d sent to collect him, she was connected.
“It’s just a matter of time until they make a mistake,” Warren said. “Somebody is going to have to get a cash withdrawal from a bank or ATM, and when that happens we’ll have them.”
A beeping from his computer grabbed his attention. Warren grinned. “Hah! I knew having a backdoor in the UC Sunnydale system was going to be handy. Of course, originally I was planning on screwing up the grades of girls who rejected…”
Glancing back at the silent woman, he cleared his throat and said, “In any case, someone just made an inquiry about Willow Rosenberg and Buffy Summers, grabbing their college transcripts and whatever information they could find.”
Tapping the keys excitedly, he said “I ought to be able to trace them…”
As he typed, he spoke again. “We should team up. I’ve had a mad on for the slayer since she ruined my plans for the prom. I can be very helpful.”
“You will receive what you deserve,” the demon beside him said tonelessly.
“Yes! They tried to hide their trail, but the inquiry came from Smallville, Kansas, from the high school newspaper office.”
He started to turn to look at the beautiful woman again, then felt only pain as fingers were plunged into his skull and he felt his sanity slipping away.
A moment later he was drooling, and Glory stood from behind him, smiling.
“It won’t be long now,” she said.
“So they were who they said they were,” Clark said. “UC Sunnydale students.”
Chloe shook her head. “Buffy Summers dropped out almost a month ago, and Willow Rosenberg isn’t taking any classes that would require the kind of paper she’s talking about.”
“So they are lying,” Clark said.
“Buffy Summers is a dangerous woman,” Chloe said. “She burned down her high school gym in LA. In Sunnydale, she’s been accused of murder at least once and has been noted several times for possible gang involvement.”
“She sounds like half the kids in Smallville,” Clark said. He smiled slightly.
“Although there are.
“Willow Rosenberg went to college on a Luthercorp scholarship for computer science. They were already trying to recruit her as a junior in high school.”
“I’ll watch out for both of them,” he said.
“They weren’t here looking for haunted houses,” Chloe said. “Until we know what exactly they are here for, I’m not going to feel safe.”
Clark laid a hand on her shoulder and said, “I’ll keep you safe.”
Chloe’s smile was bright like the sun.
“I didn’t sense a thing from him,” Willow said soberly. “Not a trace of magic.”
“He’s our guy,” Buffy said.
“I’m sure a lot of guys wear plaid around here,” Dawn said consolingly. “Bad fashion doesn’t equal demon when you live in redneck town.”
The three of them were walking slowly down the main street. With Giles gone, they were stuck on foot.
It hadn’t bothered her in Sunnydale, but here, it made Buffy a little nervous. Being able to put distance between Glory and Dawn quickly might mean the difference between life and death.
“I squeezed his hand and he didn’t even notice.” Buffy said.
Willow glanced at Dawn and then said, “Buf-“
“I squeezed hard. Slayer hard and he didn’t even flinch.” Buffy was silent for a moment, and then said “I squeezed his hand hard enough to crush his bones.”
“Buffy!” Dawn said, shocked.
“We don’t have time to play around,” Buffy said. “I had to know.”
Willow frowned. “He’d have had to have been shielded really well…of course, I was never as good with auras as Tara was…is…”
“We’ll get her back,” Buffy said quietly. “The sooner we take down Glory, the sooner we can get to work on fixing Tara.”
They were all silent as they passed a closed down movie theater, the Talon. It seemed like several of the buildings in town were closed, and Buffy had to wonder if this was what would have happened to Sunnydale without the mayor’s working at making it a supernatural feeding ground.
“I really think this is our guy,” Buffy said quietly.
“Chloe said something about mutants,” Dawn said. “What if he’s just one of those?”
“If he’s strong enough to help against Glory, I don’t care if he gets his powers from a decoder ring he got in a crackerjack box.”
“I can do some research,” Willow said. “Find out where he lives, what he’s really been doing.”
“He can’t actually be fifteen,” Buffy said. “It must be some kind of disguise.”
“We can’t even be sure he’s our guy,” Willow reminded her. “We won’t know until we find out a little more about him.”
“What are we going to say to him?” Dawn asked suddenly. “Hey…will you fight this hell god for us?”
“I suppose we could always try that approach,” Buffy said dryly. “We’ll figure something out. It’ll be easier when we know a little more about him.”
Dawn blinked, and Buffy realized that she was suddenly looking anxious, as though all of this was suddenly becoming real to her. It was terrifying enough for Buffy, but Dawn was only fifteen.
Actually, she was only a few months old, although Buffy didn’t like to think about that.
Dawn was made from Buffy. In a way, that made her as much her daughter as her sister. They were connected, family, and Buffy wasn’t going to let anyone harm her.
She pulled Dawn closer to her and wrapped one arm around her shoulder. She squeezed her sister’s shoulder reassuringly.
“I’ll keep you safe,” she said, quietly. “Whatever it takes.”