Joss Whedon owns "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and related characters; Patricia Briggs owns "The Mercedes Thompson Series" and related characters; I own nothing.~*~*~
I heard the bell over the front door jangle faintly, the first time it had on an abnormally slow day. Sliding myself from under the VW Bug I was restoring, I got to my feet and wiped my greasy hands on my coveralls. Walking into the main office, I quickly spied the potential customer: a casually dressed petite blond woman who looked like a strong wind could blow her over. It wasn’t until I walked closer to her that I sensed something strange about her. It was the way that werewolves and vampires felt around me, but different... There was something off about her, like she didn’t quite belong here. The only thing that I was sure of was that, somehow, she was a top predator and that the coyote in me wanted to get far, far away from her as soon as possible.
“You’re Mercedes Thompson?” she asked brightly, interrupting my stunned silence. She gave me a bright smile, which I returned. I almost expected her to make the almost obligatory remark about my name. “My car sounds like it’s about to have the engine drop out at any moment, and somebody told me this was the place to get it fixed.” Huh. Straight to business. That could be a good sign.
“Let me take a look at it and see what I could possibly do,” I answered. “And I go by Mercy.” I followed her outside to where her car was parked. She went inside and popped the hood, allowing me to get a good look at the engine. It was an older model BMW and looked like it had seen better days.
“So, are you in the area for business or pleasure?” I asked, taking note of the California license plate.
“I’m just passing through,” she answered, her voice filtering down to where I was bent over. “I travel a lot for my job, and I just drive wherever I need to go.”
“What do you do?” I asked, trying to make polite conversation. I studied the engine block critically. I might have the parts I needed in the shop, but I would have to order the other parts, and that would mean that the car wouldn’t be ready for at least a day.
“I like to think of it as creative problem solving,” she replied, her voice becoming carefully guarded. “It’s not something I really talk about.” Okay... Way to be mysterious there. Just what I needed to hear to convince myself that she wasn’t a threat and that I was just overreacting.
I shut the hood a little louder than I meant to. “Well, I can fix it, but it’s going to take a while,” I told her, going back inside. I would have to move the car into the garage after I got her paperwork filled out. I really wished that Gabriel wasn’t in the middle of finals right now, and therefore not here to take care of it for me. I hate paperwork almost more than I hate the stupid dominance games the werewolves play.
She filled out the paperwork fairly quickly, although when I saw her put down “Buffy Summers” as her name, I swallowed a laugh. Now I knew why she hadn’t made fun of my name. She really couldn’t with a name like Buffy.
“I think this is everything...” she started to say, handing me the paper when the door opened again, and my roommate Samuel Cornick walked in.
“Hey, Mer...” he began before his nostrils flared and he looked over at Buffy. She stilled and met his eyes, both of them not blinking. I felt the power building on both sides as they continued to play their little dominance game, neither of them willing to back down and show weakness to the other. Finally, both of them looked away at the same time.
“So, what have the Tri-Cities done to earn the Slayer’s visit?” he growled, his eyes becoming paler and the wolf coming closer to the surface. She smiled tightly, her green eyes glinting dangerously as her posture changed oh-so-slightly into what I recognized as a fighting stance.
“Samuel. So good to see you again,” she replied, sounding almost pleasant if it wasn’t for a dangerous undercurrent to her voice. She turned back to me and tapped the papers in my hand. “So, is there anything else I need to fill out, Mercy?” I looked down at the paperwork for a moment. The smart thing for me to do would be to say no and get her out of the store as quickly as possible so to diffuse the situation. But nobody ever said I was particularly gifted in the area of common sense.
“So, you two know each other?” I asked, looking between the two of them. “Wow. Talk about a small world.”