Chapter 11: Dreams Part 1
Anita came to realizing something was wrong. Her head hurt, and her back and left side were throbbing in pain. She was lying on her back, and above her the metal ceiling showed burn markings and fragmentation patterns. She slowly levered herself into a sitting position, and when that didn't cause her any more pain than she was already experiencing, she slowly got to her feet.
She was in a room with no windows. It was dark - the light fixture had been damaged by whatever knocked her out, covering parts of the floor with debris and broken glass. The walls and ceiling on one side of the room were cratered and scorched. She was sure an explosive had gone off near the wall to the left of where she had been unconscious, and the blast had knocked her out. She had to admit that based on the evidence it looked like she was lucky to be alive at all, let alone thinking and standing. A little searching and she found her Browning at the far side of the room, near her smashed cell phone.
Where was she and what was she doing here? Who had tried to kill her? Checking to make sure she had a silver round chambered, she slowly made her way to what she thought might be the door out, down a hallway of pristine white drywall and white floor tiles. In the dark everything seemed grey. She pushed on the door at the end of the hall. She was on the second floor of a gymnasium - the door led her to a suspended running track circling above a wide open gym area.
She could hear voices at the ground level in the gym, echoing off the high ceiling, but she couldn't see over the hand rail. Wincing as she ducked down, she made her way over to the railing, slowly peering over.
Buffy Summers stood in a bloodstained, torn, and burned tracksuit. There were six vampires around her in a circle - Anita was pretty sure they were all from the out-of-town group.
"You've pretty much left me no choice here." Buffy was her rather nonchalant self, addressing the closest vampire who seemed to be the leader. Anita had known Buffy long enough to realize that Buffy sounded like this right before she made a serious mess of someone.
"This is for the good of everyone. You must." The short female vampire replied. Annete. Anita remembered her name now.
"I'm pretty sick of the good of everyone. I think I have a better idea. How about I just kill you, get rid of the bodies, and pretend this never happened?" Anita wasn't quite sure what her eyes had seen in between the two pictures frozen in her mind, but one second Buffy Summers had been standing in the gym, and the next an unbelievably massive white bear was fighting with six vampires. Anita had seen Buffy fight vampires before - Buffy had singlehandedly beaten pretty much every one of Jean Claude's vampires in her human form the very first night Anita had laid eyes on her. It didn't matter how good these vampires were – Anita put her money on Buffy.
But still, what had they been talking about? What is it that was for everyone’s good that Buffy would rather kill than do? Her gun was pointed down towards the fight, but she wasn't sure who the good guy was. She had never liked the blond, but she didn't really think Buffy was evil. Much. Sometimes. Even if Buffy was the bad guy, what could she do? She could maybe put two rounds in the bear before Buffy ran or shifted her attention to Anita. It was probably better to stay hidden so that she they could figure out what was going on and how to stop it.
The fight had ended quickly. The vampires simply weren't a match for the bear. Anita could see that Buffy hadn't spared them like she had Jean Claude's vampires - huge gaping wounds caused by claws and teeth marked the slowly moving undead bodies while they tried to get their heavily damaged and dismembered limbs to move. It looked like four of the six had actually been beheaded, while the last two, including Annete, had been injured enough that they weren't going to be fighting back anything soon.
The bear stood over the two vampires, looking down at Annete, seemingly indecisive. Then, finally decided, it lifted up a massive paw, placed it on Annete's head, and pressed down. The sound of the vampire's skull being crushed made Anita retch. *ONE MONTH EARLIER*
Buffy was hiding in her room, again. It wasn’t that she was afraid to leave, she wasn’t. She just didn’t want to. She had tried to make nice with all the vampires and shifters who lived here in the Circus, but a lot of the vampires remembered fighting her, and there was some bitterness there. Anytime she was in public areas all conversation stopped, and no one talked to her. In the end she had started hanging out in the lavish room she had been given, coming out for meals and exercise, and occasional socializing with some of the less standoffish puppies and kitties.
After the police had finished questioning her about the whole thing with Chimera, they’d let her know that they thought there was a bounty on her head – the reason for the hospital attack, apparently. That didn’t really help her any, though. In the end she had accepted the vampire’s extremely unsubtle invitations to stay at his lair. He didn’t like it when she referred to it as a lair, but she was inclined to call it as she saw it. It was underground, it was full of vampires – ergo it must be a lair.
She didn’t know what to do anymore. Bounty on her head or not, she was bored. She was on touchy terms with everyone, and as far as she could tell Jean Claude was looking to use her, or maybe bed her, or both. He was charming, in his own way, but she wasn’t really interested in working for him. She didn’t want to be the enforcer for his mob, and she wasn’t at all interested in stripping either. She thought about trying the fighting school thing again, but she worried it was too visible and there’d be guys with guns after her again.
So she hid in her room at the circus. Hopefully one of the leopards would show up soon and rescue her. She wouldn’t mind spending time with Nathanial or Cherry again. They were nice, and they didn’t ask her stupid questions or look at her like she was about to cut their heads off or something.
A knock on her door brought her out of her daydreaming. She was pretty sure she didn’t want to see whoever was on the other side, but pretty much everyone in here was vampire or shifter and could hear through the door if she moved. She could be rude and ignore whoever it was – she’d done that a couple time already this week. But she probably shouldn’t, since it was rude and vampires had long memories and held long grudges.
“The Master of the City has called a meeting in two hours, in the main lounge. There will be guests in attendance from out of the city. He bids me remind you of the arrangement you agreed to, and wishes to know if you need help preparing.”
Gah. The most annoying vampires were the painfully formal ones. So she had hurt some of them a bit way back when – it wasn’t like started it. She hadn’t even killed a single one, even though she could have. “I don’t need any help.”
Buffy was late. She knew she was late, and that Jean Claude was going to be annoyed, but she had completely lost track of the time and she had already been ten minutes overdue before she even noticed. She stopped at a curtained side entrance to the main lounge; one she knew would let her sneak in without being heard. Maybe Jean Claude hadn't noticed.
There were three out of town vampires and some non-vampire entourage. Buffy thought one of them might be a human servant. They were talking with Jean Claude...something about a search for a missing artifact. Buffy carefully used the deep shadows at the corners of the room to slip in with Jean Claude's people standing to a side. She nodded her greetings to the wolf beside her - Jason, she thought.
The vampire speaking was small and red headed. She looked to be maybe 25, but Buffy could feel that she was at least 400 years old. "The amulet has been traced to St Louis. The witch who had it died here two years ago and we think she hid it before her death. The Council has ordered us to search the city until we either find the amulet, or find evidence that it was moved elsewhere."
"Annette, you have my permission to search the city for the amulet. You will not kill without my explicit permission, and you must not get in any trouble with the human authorities. St Louis is unsettled enough as it is."
The vampire Annette nodded, and then her eyes dropped from Jean Claude's and fell on Buffy. "And who is this?"
"This is a newcomer to my city, who I have great hope for. Although, Buffy, your lateness has been noted. I gave you ample warning."
Buffy cringed. He didn't even sound angry, but mentioning it in front of everyone was humiliating. "Ah, sorry. My watch broke." It was lame, but she didn't really care. It was better than "I forgot".
"Of course. I will get you a new one."
"Oh. Thanks. You don't have to."
"I insist. Annette, if that is all, I will have you shown to your rooms so you can commence your search when you wish." The words were phrased like a question, but it was a dismissal.
"Of course." Annette bowed her head, slightly. This was the signal for the entire foreign entourage to turn around. They were led out of the lounge by Jason the wolf and a vampire Buffy recognized as the doorman from Jean Claude's strip club, although she didn't know his name.
As the foreign group left so did most of Jean Claude’s people. Buffy had some idea about vampire politics now – the importance of not looking weak included. Jean Claude turned to her again.
“You have drawn attention to yourself by being late. Annette belongs to the Council. What she sees they will see, eventually.”
“I totally didn’t mean to be late. Honest. It just...happened.”
“Aside from Annette’s attention I am not annoyed with your lateness. I have noticed that it is not reserved for me – it is just something you do. I am French, I understand this. My words earlier were just a rebuke for Annette’s sake. I cannot appear weak in front of the Council.
“I know. I’m sorry, really.”
“It is forgotten. Now, onto more important things.” Jean Claude smiled at her. “You have been spending much of your time in your room, of late. I am not the only person to take note of this. You must make more of effort to socialize with my people. You are a powerful asset and wonderful person – there is no reason for you to spend time with only the leopards.”
“Your vampires don’t like me. They’re holding a grudge from that time we fought on the roof. I don’t think the wolves are too accepting of other types of shifters so that’s pretty much everyone down here. Occasionally we get visited by the leopards and some of them are really nice, but I’m an outsider there too. There really isn’t any reason for me to leave my room, aside from avoiding going crazy. I’ve been looking for a job but I’m not really sure what I’m qualified to do, aside from fighting, and we agreed we’ll keep my fighting in public to a minimum so that’s a no go.”
Jean Claude’s smile became...mischievous. “I’m sure I could find something for you to do at one of my businesses.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Ya, you’ve offered before. I don’t think my mother would be very proud if I became a stripper. I’ve been thinking I should become a skip tracer or a bounty hunter. I’d be good at that.”
“That can be complicated, when you are involved in politics. You would need permission to enter another vampire’s territory. You might find yourself needing to work on a full moon. Can I recommend something more...tame?”
“I have decided to open a new restaurant. Asher has agreed to manage it. I want you to assist him. I would pay you competitively, and given some time you could take Asher’s place once the business is running smoothly and he agrees you are ready.”
“Uh...ok? I can always quit if I don’t like it, I guess.”
“Excellent. Tomorrow we will meet to begin planning. 10:00, in my rooms. Asher will be there as well.”
“Ok. See you then.”This could be interesting.
She’d worked as a waitress before, but she’d never been a manager, and she didn’t think Jean Claude meant diner when he said restaurant. Oh well, not really too important anyways. I’ll figure it out as we go along.
She was chasing it. The vampire tried to lose her by running through a maze of alleys and streets. Buffy knew it couldn’t fly, because it would have long before if it could have. Instead all it did was run.
She could smell it, where it had run through this alley. In her mind she could feel it up ahead. She could feel its fear, and its uncertainty. It didn’t understand what was chasing it. It couldn’t feel her, or smell her. All it knew was that the thing chasing looked like a small woman but...wasn’t.
The vampire chose to find shelter in a busy all-night restaurant. Buffy could see the vampire rush in and ask the older woman by the counter something. The woman nodded and pointed to a public phone deeper into the building.It wants to be saved. How cute.
. She ran towards the building and smashed through one of the floor to ceiling windows. The people in the restaurant seemed frozen, and then the screaming started. She didn’t care, though. She moved swiftly to the vampire making its way to the phone.
She grabbed it by a shoulder and then punched her arm through its stomach, pulling out intestine. The vampire collapsed to the floor in pain, groaning and crying. “Please, please, I didn’t do anything. I don’t know why...”
Whatever else it wanted to say was cut off as Buffy kicked it brutally in its already grievously wounded stomach. She heard a familiar click and turned towards it. A human standing by one of the tables was pointing a gun at her and yelling. “Lie down and put your hands behind your back!”
She didn’t care, though. He couldn’t hurt her, couldn’t stop her from completing what she had started. She walked towards the human, who fired the gun at her. She felt the bullets hit her stomach, and exit. It didn’t matter.
She put fingers in the bleeding bullet wounds, and started tearing off skin and flesh. As she tore at herself a blackness filled her vision, but strangely it only made the creatures around her stand out so much brighter. She felt her body kick as the human fired more rounds into her body, but it was for nothing. Buffy was doing more damage than the bullets to herself.
Finally she was done. She had torn off the casing that had hidden her, constrained her. Yes, this felt so much better. She was finally free. She searched around herself for a mirror, but there were none. With a single thought she pushed the gun toting human away, walking past where it had been towards the reflective surface of the glass window. The only things she could make out were the two pitch black orbs where her eyes were supposed to be, and the blood soaked claws resting on the glass. Yes, she thought to herself, this would do nicely.
Turning around she noticed the vampire had begun to heal, but the intestines hanging out of its body had slowed the healing down considerably. She would have to remember that. The vampire’s face paled when it realized he had her attention once more.
She licked a finger absently, marvelling at the taste of her own blood. It sizzled with power. Her tongue brushed past her teeth, feeling their sharpened points. “Yes, you’ll do just fine.”
The time for games was over. The humans had all scattered, leaving only the injured vampire and the one unconscious human who had shot her. “Do just fine? Lady I’ll do whatever you want. Please, don’t kill me.”
She knelt beside the vampire, sticking her hand in the whole in its abdomen she’d already made. “Oh I’m not going to kill you just yet.” The vampire convulsed as she grabbed something in its body and pulled. She leaned closer to it, and whispered in its ear. “First I’m going to eat you alive.”
She woke in a cold sweat. Buffy’s sleep had been troubled by odd dreams for weeks. As a slayer she paid attention to her dreams, but these didn’t seem to be prophecies of trouble. Lots of the people who worked or lived here at the circus appeared in them.
Some were memories of fights she had been in. Sometimes she wandered the frozen world she had been trapped in, and the dreams dragged on forever. The images of Jean Claude naked and lying in bed just meant she needed to let off some of the H&H’s.
And sometimes she dreamt that she did terrible things. The violence that followed was always...wrong. She did terrible things, things Buffy would never dream of doing to another person...except for some reason she was dreaming it now.
There was always a sense of reckless abandonment in the dreams. While terrible to see, she always felt great when the violence was happening. The disgust she felt when she awoke never appeared in her dreams. Instead there was only a sense of freedom, of chains removed. That was the really scary part, to her. She never wanted to be the Buffy in her dreams.
Across town Anita Blake was woken by the shrill ringing of her cell phone. Sleepily she answered it, not even bothering to check the caller id. “This better be important.”
Zerbrowski’s voice on the other end didn’t sound any happier. “It’s important. I need you to come out to the restaurant on the corner of Adelaide and Fife.”
“Ugh. Ok. What happened?”
“That’s what I want to know. Get here as soon as you can.”