"Look at her," Ikkaku muttered. It was early afternoon and the house was empty save for Buffy, Ikkaku and Yumichika. Dawn, Tara and Willow were all at school and everyone else who usually spent time at the house were either at work or elsewhere. Buffy was sitting at the kitchen table with the newspaper spread out before her, red pen in her hand as she circled job postings that she could apply for. Ikkaku and Yumichika were just around the corner, spying on her.
"I can see her just fine," Yumichika whispered back.
"How can she be happy here?" Ikkaku shot back. "Instead of doing what she loves, Hollow hunting, she's here, searching for a nowhere job so that she can keep a roof over her ungrateful, freeloading friends."
"You don't know that," Yumichika said. He grabbed Ikkaku by the arm and dragged him into the living room. They probably still weren't out of earshot, but at least it afforded the illusion of privacy.
"How could I not know that?" Ikkaku asked. "Dawn's understandable because she's still young and dependant on Buffy, but Willow and Tara? They're old enough to work, to contribute. Their schedules aren't so packed that they can't hold down something that pays. Most of the time I see Willow playing games or doing Slayer research on her computer than actually working on her school work."
"What do you suggest we do?" Yumichika asked. "She has no access to her accounts in Soul Society and there's no way she's going to accept our help. She's too proud for that."
"What about that sister of hers?" Ikkaku asked. "You're getting along better now, aren't you?"
"Better, but it's not perfect," Yumichika replied with a sigh. "She'll act normal and friendly for hours at a time, and then she'll remember that I'm 'stealing' her sister and give me the cold shoulder again."
"Maybe you can convince her that Buffy needs our help and to let us float her until she's able to come back," Ikkaku said. "I mean, we
still have access to Soul Society."
"That we do," Yumichika said. "Although I don't know how much longer I can keep lying to everyone there. It might be time to tell the truth, even if it means having Kurotsuchi come down here and poke and prod her a little."
"If you think I'm going to let you guys bring Kurotsuchi onto my turf, you must have hit your heads harder than I thought."
Ikkaku and Yumichika turned, guiltily, to see Buffy standing in the doorway, leaning against the frame, watching them. She arched an eyebrow at the two of them, looking neither happy nor angry with the current situation. Curious, more than anything.
"Yeah, if you're going to plot behind my back in my own home, you might want to make sure I'm, you know, not here when you do it," Buffy replied. "I suggest locking yourselves in the basement and talk about it while I'm on patrol, but make sure you stay away from the heating grates. Sound travels through the duct work and Dawn's nosey when she wants to be, which is, like, all the time."
"We weren't plotting," Yumichika replied sullenly. Ikkaku just snorted, not bothering to deny it.
"Really, because it sure sounded like you were making with the plans and trying to make sure I couldn't hear you," Buffy replied with a snort. "Doesn't really work when you have someone with supernatural level hearing in the house."
"We worry about you," Yumichika said. Ikkaku snorted. "At least, I
worry about you. I want to help in any way that I can. We still have access to Soul Society and our accounts there. Let me help with the expenses, the bills, anything, until we figure out what's going on."
"We're fine," Buffy replied quickly. "Just fine."
"Like hell you are," Ikkaku said with a snort. "If you were, you wouldn't be looking for a job flipping burgers."
"There's absolutely nothing wrong with flipping burgers," Buffy replied. "This isn't Soul Society, guys. Here, I can't get paid to bash the crap out of the things that go bump in the night. Since I've never held down a job that doesn't entail driving stakes into vampires or getting rid of evil spirits, I'm left with flipping burgers, waiting tables and maybe working the front desk at an office somewhere. Burger flipping is what's hiring right now, so burger flipping is what I'm applying for."
"But you don't have to," Yumichika said. "I have more than enough saved to keep you afloat until we figure this out, hopefully without involving Kurotsuchi."
"I can't take your money," Buffy said, shaking her head.
"When have you not accepted a gift?" Ikkaku said with a snort. "You need help, we're willing to give it. Why is that so hard for you to understand?"
"I don't like asking for help," Buffy shot back.
"You're not asking," Ikkaku retorted. "We're offering. Big difference."
"I don't want it," Buffy said.
"Maybe not," Yumichika said. "But want it or not, you need
it. We're family, we take care of each other. You'd do the same for us."
"You, definitely," Buffy replied. She jerked her head in Ikkaku's direction. "Him? Maybe. Depends on how much he annoys me before he needs my help."
"I feel so loved," Ikkaku said sarcastically, rolling his eyes.
"I try," Buffy replied with a shrug. "But I'm still not going to take your money."
"Think about Dawn," Yumichika said. Buffy knew she was sunk as soon as Yumichika brought up Dawn.
"That's why I'm getting a job," Buffy replied. She already knew that she was losing this battle, but she wasn't going down without fighting to the end. Even in little squabbles, it was still the eleventh squad's way.
"You're not going to be able to keep this house with a fast food job," Ikkaku said with a snort. "And, like you said, you're not really qualified for anything else. Well, maybe private security, but most of them will just look at you and laugh. You're so tiny!"
"And yet I could still take you down," Buffy retorted.
"They don't know that," Ikkaku said. "Come on, just admit that you don't really have any other choice."
"There's always a choice, Ikkaku," Buffy replied quietly.
"Fine, taking money from us is the best
choice," Ikkaku reasoned.
"For once, stop fighting me on this," Yumichika said. "Take the money. Think of it as a loan if you have to."
"One you're not going to make me pay back," Buffy pointed out.
"If you need to pay it back to make yourself feel all independent and shit then fine, you can pay it back," Ikkaku said with a sigh. "But only after we get you back to Soul Society."
"If you get me back," Buffy replied with a snort. It was difficult for her to believe that she was ever going back to Soul Society. "Does Central 46 even know my status? My captain? Anyone besides you guys and Kurotsuchi?"
"Your captain knows, our captain knows and Kurotsuchi knows," Yumichika replied. "Last time we checked in, no one else did, and I doubt there's been some large revelation since then."
"And how much longer do you have to figure out what's going on before the cavalry comes barging in?" Buffy asked.
"A few more weeks at least," Yumichika replied. "I've been buying us time by telling them that we're trying every avenue we have bring your powers back."
"And that's working?" Buffy asked. Yumichika nodded. "The guys in the Central 46 must be more senile than I thought."
"Or we've just been around long enough that they're starting to believe that we're capable, responsible Shinigami," Ikkaku replied.
"That's a terrifying thought," Buffy said with a snort as the front door opened and closed. All three occupants of the living room held their breath, wondering who was there.
"Hello?" Dawn greeted, uncertainly. She entered the living room, looking at the three adults standing there, looking a combination of guilty and serious. "What's going on? Who died?"
"No one died, Dawnie," Buffy said. She glanced at Ikkaku and Yumichika before turning her attention back to Dawn. "I have something I need to talk to you about. Let's go in the kitchen."
"Okay," Dawn said, uncertain, as she followed her sister into the kitchen.
Ikkaku and Yumichika watched as they left, straining to hear the hushed voices in the kitchen. Without going to the door and actively eavesdropping, though, all they could hear were hushed murmurs as the sisters had their discussion. It wasn't long before they were finished, emerging from the room with Dawn in front. She got one look at Yumichika before rushing forward, tackling him in a hug that was so forceful that it knocked him back a few steps.
"Thank you," she whispered before letting him go.
"What about me?" Ikkaku asked. "Don't I get a hug?"
"Buffy told me not to trust you," Dawn said with a snort before she turned to Buffy. "I'm going to head up and start my homework, 'kay?"
"Kay," Buffy agreed, and Dawn headed up the stairs, her footfalls pounding on the wood before they heard her bedroom door close upstairs. Buffy turned her attention to Ikkaku and Yumichika, who were both looking at her with smug smiles on their faces.
"Not a word, boys, or I'm going to take you out patrolling with me," Buffy said, pointing a finger at each of them.
"Oooh, that could be fun!" Ikkaku exclaimed, getting a look in his eye that he only got when he was about to go up against a rather nasty Hollow. XOXOXO
"You said patrolling was going to be fun," Ikkaku whined as he perched on top of a tombstone in one of Sunnydale's newer cemeteries. Buffy sighed and rolled her eyes; of course, the one night it was dead silent was the one night she decided to take Yumichika and Ikkaku on patrol with her.
"To be fair, you were the one who said it was going to be fun," Yumichika said. "She just failed to correct you."
"Still..." Ikkaku whined. "This place is like a null zone. I've seen two frigging Hollows since we got here. Two! If I don't get any action soon, I'm going to scream."
"You know, there are places you can go for that," Buffy said as she twirled her stake. There was a katana strapped to her back, and Yumichika and Ikkaku had one each, having found them in the weapons chest at the Magic Box. Secretly, she was agreeing with Ikkaku. His whining was annoying her so badly that she needed to go and beat the crap out of something, anything before she decided that walloping him
was a more attractive idea than usual. She was about to pack it in and call it a night when she heard someone calling her name.
She looked around, trying to figure out where the voice was coming from. It didn't take long – the source of the voice was jogging towards her as soon he spotted her. Whoever she was expecting, it certainly wasn't Riley.
"Who the hell're you?" Ikkaku asked, hopping off of his tombstone and moving so that he could stand in front of Buffy in a protective stance. Yumichika did the same, both men forming a sort of wall in front of Buffy, partially blocking her from Riley's view.
"Guys, back off," Buffy said, elbowing her way forward, getting disgruntled grumbles from both men. "It's just Riley. Which is all kinds of weird now that I think of it. What are you doing here, Riley?"
Riley?" Ikkaku asked, pointing openly.
"Yep," Buffy replied.
"The commando ex-boyfriend?" Ikkaku asked.
Ikkaku looked him up and down, a sneer on his face. "I could take him."
"And just who are you?" Riley asked.
"No one important," Buffy replied. Ikkaku looked like he was about to protest, but Buffy was able to silence him with only a look. She turned her attention to Riley. "So. What are you doing here?"
"I was hoping I could get your help," Riley replied. He looked around, perplexed. "Where's everyone else?"
"Dawn should be at home doing her homework, Willow's with her, Tara's probably at the library and I have a feeling that Anya and Xander are doing last minute wedding planning," Buffy replied. "But you didn't come here to ask about them. So, what's the what?"
"Who are those two?" Riley asked, gesturing to Ikkaku and Yumichika. Buffy glanced over her shoulder; neither of them looked particularly happy to have Riley around.
"Ikkaku and Yumichika. They're friends," Buffy replied. At Riley's disbelieving look, Buffy sighed. "Things have changed, Riley. Deal with it. And you still haven't told me why you're here. You have five seconds before I sic the bald one on you. It's been a vampire-less patrol and he's really itching for a fight."
"I need your help," Riley said, again.
"I think we've established that," Buffy said with a roll of her eyes. "What
do you need help with? Vampire? Demon? Shopping for something that doesn't make you look like a soldier boy?"
"Funny," Riley said. He wasn't smiling. "Something's come up. Something big. We don't have much time. You understand?"
"Of course it is," Buffy replied with a roll of her eyes. "Something always comes up, it's always big, and we never have a lot of time." She turned to Ikkaku, who had a look of extreme interest on his face. "Hey Ikkaku, looks like you might be able to do your slice and dice thing after all."
"You want to bring them?" Riley asked, looking uncertain. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"
"They could wipe the floor with you," Buffy replied with a shrug.
"In more ways than one," Ikkaku muttered. Buffy snorted when she heard Yumichika smack him on the back of the head.
"Thanks, Yumi," Buffy said. She turned her attention back to Riley. "So, this big thing that's come up. Does it have a name, or is it just a sudden, big thing?"
"I've been up 48 hours tracking this thing and it's come to Sunnydale," Riley said.
"That's obvious, otherwise you wouldn't be here, asking me for help," Buffy replied. "Soo... name, or are we going in blind here?"
"It's called a Suvolt demon," Riley said. "Rare, lethal, nearly extinct, but not nearly enough. We've been tear-assing through every jungle from Paraguay up, taking out nests. As soon as we put one Suvolte down, a dozen take its place. They're breeders, Buffy. One turns into ten, ten becomes a hundred. This gets out of hand and there's a war with humans? Humans are gonna lose."
"Reminds me of back home and the Hollows," Ikkaku said wistfully.
"Hollows?" Riley asked, arching an eyebrow.
"Don't ask, long story," Buffy replied with a shake of her head, waving him off. "You were saying? Rare, deadly demon terrorizing the villagers?"
"Right," Riley said, taking out what looked like a cell phone. He flipped it open and Buffy saw that it was actually a portable radar, much like the portal Hollow detectors they had in Soul Society. "There are two close by. We should hurry."
"Hey, that little doohicky could come in handy," Buffy remarked as Riley flipped the detector closed and put it back in his pocket. "Think you could score me one of those?"
"I'm sure if you let Kurotsuchi poke and prod you a little he'll rig one of ours up to sense demons and vampires," Yumichika piped up. Buffy shot him a glare, effectively telling him how she felt about that
idea. "Or maybe not."
"Kurotsuchi? Strange names your new friends have," Riley remarked.
"He's not a friend," Buffy replied quickly. "He's about as far from being a friend while still being all soul-having, and even then I'm not so sure about the soul-having thing."
"Why do I have a feeling there's a story behind all of this?" Riley asked.
"Because you're smarter than you look?" Buffy replied with a shrug. "But we don't have time to talk about who I've met and worked with since you choppered out into the sunset. Demons, ho!" She was about to go off to fight the demon when she realized something. "Um, where exactly are we headed?"
"Follow me," Riley said, gesturing for them to follow him, jogging to get there quickly.
"This is about the time I really start missing flash steps," Buffy grumbled as she jogged to keep up. If Riley had heard her, he didn't give any indication.
It wasn't long before they reached the demon – the people running and screaming were a pretty big indication of where it was. Riley pulled out a badge from his pocket and began flashing it around.
"National Forestry Service, we got a wild bear! Everybody stand back!" Riley exclaimed. He pushed a pedestrian aside, approaching the demon. To Buffy, it looked like something from a bad sci-fi movie. "Look out!"
"Is it just me, or does that thing look like Buffy before she puts her makeup on in the morning?" Ikkaku asked as he pulled his katana from its sheath. Yumichika just snorted as he did the same, and Buffy resisted the urge to hit them both as she drew her sword from her back just as the demon lurched forward and slashed Riley's arm. With three people with swords coming after it, the demon turned and fled down the alley.
Stopping only to help Riley to his feet, Buffy followed Yumichika and Ikkaku into the alley, katana drawn. It didn't feel like her zanpakuto – the sword in her hand was just a cold piece of metal with a handle and a guard. A very nice piece of metal with a handle and a guard, but it didn't feel like a part of her. She could use it just fine – she had mastered many weapons types before she had achieved shikai – but her zanpakuto felt like an extension of her. This piece of equipment didn't.
Ikkaku and Yumichika were holding their own against the demon – it had several large gashes on its body, but no lethal injuries as of yet. Riley pulled out a gun and shot it, the dart sticking in the demon's chest. It let out an unearthly scream and jumped, scaling the building to the roof.
"You said we were going to kill stuff," Ikkaku said with what could only be described as a pout as he followed the demon with his gaze until it was out of sight.
"Don't even think about it, Ikkaku," Buffy said, her voice stern.
"I wasn't going to do anything," Ikkaku said sullenly as he turned away, sheathing his katana.
"Only because I stopped you," replied with a snort.
"Swords?" Riley asked. "Did you seriously just go after a demon with swords?"
"I don't like guns," Buffy replied. "You know that. And these two probably wouldn't know what to do with one. So, katanas it is. Besides, Ikkaku likes the ol' hack-n-slash. Makes him feel all manly. So, are we going to go after this thing, or are we just going to let it continue to terrorize the villagers?"
"Come on," Riley said, gesturing for her to follow him. He looked over her shoulder at Ikkaku and Yumichika. "Are you sure they should be coming with us?"
"They're the best I've got," Buffy replied. "I trust them with my life."
"Okay then," Riley said as he led them out of the alley, Buffy in the middle and Ikkaku and Yumichika bringing up the rear. XOXOXO
So, here's another chapter. I hope you enjoyed it, late as it was. As I've said, this fic takes more episode watching/reading/research than the other pieces I'm working on, and that's why it takes so long for me to get chapters out. I appreciate your patience.
Just to let you all know, I'm participating in the TTH/Livejournal Wish List Fic challenge. What this is, is that I am asking for twelve prompts from you (yes, YOU) for a ficlet that you want written. My prompt post and fandom list is found here:angeluscado's/declawed_gecko's Wish List prompt!
I'm only doing a half order of ficlets (total of 12) this year, so get your prompts in early if you want a little fic gift!