Lock, Step & Gone
Let the Dominoes Fall – Ch. 2 Lock, Step & GoneFandoms:
BtVS, Law & Order SVU & DexterPairing:
Buffy/Willow, Alex/Olivia & Debra Morgan/OCRating:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dexter and Law & Order SVU do not belong to me, nor do the character contained herein, ‘cept for the original ones, like Jimmy, he’s all mine and no one else can have him. Title of story belongs to Rancid – ‘cause they're my boys and I love ‘em dearly. This is for fun, not money…suing is bad and provokes the wheel of Karma in a negative fashion…A/N:
A while back, I was asked for a prequel to the first story in this massive A.U., One Last Shot
, and the stories that followed, Dark Passenger
. This A.U. took a turn for the wacky in Dark Passenger, crossing over with Dexter and then more so when I wanted to see what damage I could do to the gang from the One-Six.
Let the Dominoes Fall isn’t a true prequel, but it answers questions that a lot of the readership wants to know…at least I hope it does. For that reason, this can actually be a stand-alone if you accept the fact that Buffy and Willow & Alex and Olivia are in established relationships. I hope you read and enjoy…like the rest of the series…they have been experiments to test the boundaries of my writing ability…for this I’m sorry. I hope I succeeded with this endeavor. Ch. 2 – Lock, Step & Gone (2003)
She wasn’t sure when she broke the third time. The first time was after Merrick died and her parents sent her away for a little while. The second was when she shoved a sword through the heart of her honey and sent him to hell. But when exactly she broke the third time, she couldn’t really pinpoint.
Was it between that weird thing with her and Faith or having Angel rip out her heart and tap dance across it, in the nonliteral way of course, her senior year of high school? Maybe it was freshman year of college when she lost her friends for the first time and went to work for the U.S. Government under the insane notion that she was in love with Riley Finn, but in reality when her then best friend came out to her, she couldn’t help but freak out because there’d always been that idea of them in a not so-friendly-but-intimate position? Maybe it was the year after that when Dracula came and showed her the killer in her or was it her mom getting sick and dying or was it Glory Hell Bitch Extraordinaire or maybe just maybe it was when she really cracked and Willow went fishing in her mind soup or maybe it was when she died?
Of course, the most logical place to think that her break really happened was after she clawed her way out of her own grave and then everything before and after that’d been just a day on the bunny slopes for the mentally decimated.
The point was that she couldn’t remember.
As Buffy looked out the plane window, she did however, clearly remember every slight, every twist of the knife from each and every one of the people that she loved, that she died to save, from Giles to Xander, and the most painful Dawn and Willow. Of course she couldn’t really blame Dawn. If the positions were reversed…maybe Dawn had the right. Willow though…
Buffy’s eyes clenched shut as she willed the tears to come. Wanted them so much that her eyes burned and her face hurt, but as she sat there in her seat, in first class, on a plane whisking her away to New York City, no tears came. They stopped somewhere between the crater that used to be her hometown and the makeshift base of operations they had pieced together in Rio Del Mar. She stands in the shadows, just out of eyesight, but definitely within hearing range of the hushed conversation between Willow and Riley.
“How long has she been like this?” Riley asked. Buffy wanted to snicker, but she held it in. Did he really need to ask? Was he not the one that came in on her and Spike screwing? That should have clued him in.
“Riley, back off, she’s fine,” Willow cut in; her voice was strained and tired. She had been up for several days at least, helping Giles and Wood in trying to get things organized. They had changed everything and the three of them had taken point on resurrecting the Council. On trying to make sure the girls that she handed over to death a lot sooner than they probably would have been had at least some resources for their new found powers.
“She’s not fine, Willow. She’s changed,” Riley persisted.
Willow’s voice is dangerously low and for a second Buffy thought she’d have to step in, “Look, she’s Buffy okay. Things have been tense or did you miss us destroying Sunnydale. We’re all a bit on edge, tired and more than emotionally exhausted. Back off.”
That was the first of several hushed conversations about her mental health that people had. It was also the start of a three day sting of hiding out in her hotel room because she couldn’t handle seeing anyone. She couldn’t deal with the fact that every single one of her family members had kicked her out of her own house and the one person she had to hold her up was the guy that tried to rape her.
The irony, the sick, twisted, bitter irony that had become her final year in Sunnydale wasn’t lost on the blonde; she just wasn’t sure what the she could have done with it. Hence the brood fest.
In those three days, she came to a few conclusions. The first was that she was broken and she didn’t know when that had happened. The second was that her place in the world was unsure. She wasn’t The Slayer anymore; she was in an army she had forced Willow to create to help save the world. She didn’t need to fight anymore. The third was that she needed to get away. Giles and Wood had the Council aspects in hand and Faith had stepped in on more than one occasion to assist with the new slayers. Hell, Kennedy had a better rapport with most of the girls than Buffy. They just tended to keep clear of her and usually referred to her in the annoying way of “yes, ma’am” and “Ms. Buffy”.
Things needed to change and Buffy, well, she needed a way out.
She sat out on the back porch of the main house, her knees drawn to her chest, jacket wrapped firmly around her as the argument from inside became audible to her sensitive ears. The ocean crashed against the shoreline a little less than fifty yards away. Giles had secured them a place to set up camp for the foreseeable future in a coastal town, two and a half hours northwest of where Sunnydale used to be.
The argument from inside started between Giles and Xander, both blaming the other for Buffy’s decision to leave, then the blonde cringed as Willow jumped in to make an attempt at defending her decision. Dawn actually told her she thought it was a good thing and Faith – the blonde shook her head at the emotions that passed through Faith when she made her announcement. The argument carried on for a few more minutes with Willow and Xander going at each other like only two people that had known each other since elementary school could possibly go at each other.
She felt Faith way before she heard or even saw her. She felt the brunette walk out on the expansive back porch, plop down next to her before Faith said, “Where you gonna go?”
Buffy shook her head. She should have expected no less. So the senior slayer shrugged. Her left eye squinting as she looked sideways at her…she swallowed the word ‘friend’ and decided that coworker would have to do ‘cause she and Faith, weren’t friends. They barely spoke, but on the upside Buffy no longer felt the need to punch her in the face repeatedly. She figured somewhere in some dimension that that was considered growth.
Faith eyed Buffy and ran her hands through her mop of curls. “Look, B…I know we ain’t gonna be chummy or that we’ll ever be B.F.F.’s, but I just wanted to let you know…” she paused and wiped her palms on her dark blue jeans, “Well, I get it.”
An eyebrow rose, the left one, on Buffy’s face.
“I was thinkin’ that if you really wanted to get away, N.Y.C.’s a good place. Big enough if you want, you can disappear for a while.” Faith grinned at her then. Not the cocky know-it-all grin that Buffy was used to seeing, but one that made her flash back to a brief few days of her senior year when she and the brunette were actual friends, before Faith went all Green Goblin.
Buffy’s hands went to her hips as she looked around the efficiency that she just rented, thinking about that lone conversation with Faith. The slayer sighed, puffed out her cheeks and shook her head, knowing that her head needed to be checked more now than ever before…she let Faith choose her destination. Something had to be wrong with her.
“Well, I guess it’s just me,” Buffy spoke to herself.
The room wasn’t…who was she kidding. It was so damn similar to the place she had the summer she ran away to L.A. it was scary weird. The only difference was that the place she had found herself in New York was tinier and there was no kitchen.
The area wasn’t great, but it wasn’t the worst she had ever been in and she was happy that the place was clean. The other tenants seemed to be quiet and the only noises that could be heard were a few muffled TV’s and the sounds of the city outside of her tiny window.
Buffy could work with that until she found a place that she really liked. Money wasn’t an issue for once in her adult life and for that alone she thanked Willow’s ability with computers for the thousandth time since meeting her and Giles’ offer to at least give her access to the Council’s near inexhaustible funds.
She lightly kicked her duffle bag, looking down on it with just a hint of sadness. The black canvas bag held everything that she had left in the world. The slayer knew that the situation she had found herself in was laughable at best. A cliché of such proportions that she was sure a few country-western and horrible power ballads had been written about people in her situation.
She stared at her bag, then at the room, trying to decide what she should do first. She shuffled over to the full sized bed and sunk into the mattress. Buffy flopped back and closed her eyes, willing for the tears that she stopped being able to shed to form. Between arriving at John F. Kennedy Airport at an ungodly hour this morning to taking the better part of her first day in the city trying to find a place to rent for the short term, the woman was tired, physically and emotionally.
She couldn’t cry over the things that she had lost anymore. Buffy tried, thinking that grieving was the natural thing to do, but the slayer had been grieving for three months. Three months and five stages of grief for the people and things she had lost, for the girls that she had killed. Her knees drew to her chest as she turned on her side, falling into a fitful sleep.
The park by her efficiency was nice, mostly quiet with some really good vendors selling food in the spots that she liked to visit. In the two weeks Buffy had been in New York, she had developed a routine. Nothing strenuous, a light patrol here and there while she began mapping out and got to know the island of Manhattan. The one thing that she had learned her second day in the city was that Faith was right. People could get lost on this island and most wouldn’t be the wiser.
Her first week she rested. She caught up on sleep and then spent the nights looking for spots, places she could go, her habits of the past eight years walking the night hard to break, but that was the first week. At the tail end of her second week her schedule had been slowly shifting, she still went to bed rather late, two a.m. or three a.m., but she had also been getting up earlier and earlier.
The time away from it all, at least away from the California hell mouth, habitants included, had given her some perspective and a rest that she knew was sorely needed. She had also become very very content with hanging out at the park, sitting on her bench, drinking coffee and watching the people go by. It’s where she had found herself one day in the late afternoon, no sun to speak of but hot and muggy regardless. The only thing was that she hadn’t yet been able to answer the question that Willow had asked before she leftThey sat in the parking lot of the airport at San Jose. It was not even five in the morning; the fog had rolled in and covered pretty much everything. Xander, Giles and Dawn had opted not to see her off. Buffy was thankful for that, but it also meant that Willow was the default and had to make the forty-five minute drive back alone.
“I, uh, you sure?” the witch asked quietly. “What are you going to do now? No more slayer. No more patrol or hell mouth.”
Buffy stared out her window a minute longer than necessary, unsure of how to answer that question. Was she sure she wanted to go away, no not entirely. Was she sure that it was the right thing to do? Absolutely. “No clue, Will and would you hate me if I said yes and no about being sure?” she asked instead.
Willow snorted and gave a little laugh. “Can’t hate you Buffy.” Buffy felt Willow’s hand slip into her own as the redhead laced their fingers together. “I know it may not seem like it, but I do get why you’re doing this. Just doesn’t mean I have to like”
Buffy’s eyes fluttered closed as Willow’s thumb began caressing her palm.
“I love you; out of every one of our friends I love you the most. I always have. I just wish I could have done some things different,” Willow admitted softly.
A tear slipped down Buffy’s cheek and dropped down her chin. She shook her head and pulled away from Willow. Quickly she leaned over, pecked her friend on the cheek and whispered, “Bye, Will.”
Willow watched the girl that had taken up special residence in her heart scramble from the car, duffle bag in tow. Willow watched the woman who kept them all alive and mostly together slip from her fingers again as Buffy disappeared down the escalator to the arrivals terminal.
Buffy shook her head as she automatically swiveled around to single out the source of the disturbance that pulled her from her memory. There were a few people walking around, some kids playing on a jungle gym not more than twenty yards in front of her, when her ears tuned into the furious pace of the three people running. Coming up from the hill that led down to the street entrance, a man in basketball shorts, jersey and carrying something in his hand was being chased by two cops.
She watched the shady looking white guy gain some ground on the already struggling cops and felt a small pang of empathy for the two officers trying to do their job. Sighing, the blonde stood up and dusted her hands off on her green cotton shorts. She slung her purse across her shoulder to let it rest at her hip, tugged her beige tank top down to cover a strip of exposed hip and took off, running full tilt at the guy.
Buffy was only twenty feet from him, but he was moving quickly. She pumped her arms a little harder and picked up her pace. A few seconds and she had closed the gap, a few more feet and she launched herself forward aiming for the man’s hips to knock him off his feet.
She locked her arms around his waist, pulled down, sending both of them to the ground, rolling down a small hill and coming to a stop as they both rammed into the base of a tree. Buffy was on her feet in a matter of a second as the man sputtered and tried to get up.
Not needing to fight him, Buffy dropped to her knees, planting one knee between the man’s shoulder blades while using her other leg to steady herself as she held his hands behind his back.
“Hey!” a voice breathless and wheezing yelled from above her.
Unable to stop the grin she watched the medium height cop barrel down the hill to come to a stop a few feet from Buffy. His hands held him up at his knees as hunched and fought for breath. The second cop crested the hill and came to rest next to his partner, stance very similar, but this guy, Buffy noted, was a little less in shape and blonde.
“I, uh…” the brown haired cop sputtered.
“Get the fuck off me,” the guy underneath Buffy struggled, trying to dislodge the little blonde from his back. He winced as the hands clamping his wrists together tightened and he felt the bones grinned together. “Mother fucker, lay off bitch!”
Buffy’s knee dug in deeper, driving the breath from the man. He stopped yelling then and the two cops actually took over. Buffy watched on and waited knowing that they would want to talk to her. As they waited on a patrol car to show up to escort the man, whose name was unknown, but whose crime had been aggravated assault against his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, Buffy chatted with the brown haired cop, Logan. The conversation light until they had hauled no name dirt bag to processing.
“Uh, again, ma’am thanks for the help,” Logan stammered, “I just, well, I haven’t seen nothin’ like that before.”
Buffy rolled her eyes and thought of the first thing that came to her head, “I used to do it all the time back home.”
He cocked his head to the side and queried, “Where’s home?”
“Uh, was a little town in California. I just moved to the city,” she answered as vague as possible.
He nodded, actually taking the vague answer for what it was and instead, surprised the blonde by handing her a card. “Look, if there’s anything I can do or if you need help, give me a call.” With that Buffy watched as he tipped his hat and trotted up the small hill side to catch up with his partner.
She looked at the card and tapped it against her knuckles before slipping it into her purse thinking it couldn’t hurt to hang on to.
A week had passed since that incident in the park. She hadn’t bothered looking for another place, she hadn’t thought about a job and she really hadn’t given Logan, with the bright blue eyes and school boy smile, much thought. No, after the incident in the park, Buffy had been falling back on old habits. She went out at night, usually to a dive bar or some random club, flirted, danced and got tipsy before she went out and patrolled.
She had started walking north of Greenwich Village, meandering down small side streets and alleys coming up empty handed each night. No vamp attacks, no demons that she could find. She did however stop more than her fair share of muggings, attempted rapes and robberies. That little fact didn’t go unnoticed by her.
Here in this city, the demons kept a low profile and were generally harmless or as harmless as they could be. She’d yet to run into one that didn’t want to be left alone. The three vamps that she had dusted she chatted up before staking them. They, like her, were new to the city. They didn’t stay long. Usually they floated into the drainage system as Buffy dusted her hands off and watched as the would be victim scurried off into the night.
As Buffy walked that evening away from the thumping bass of the music wafting out of the club, a thin film of sweat coated her body, her clothes clung to her in all the right places and the few drinks she’d had caused the walls she usually kept up, to crumble.
Four blocks into her walk and three side streets, Buffy twirled the stake in her hand, the passer-bys not even glancing at the oddity. Passing Eleventh Street, the slayer paused. Her head cocked to the right towards a small alcove a few feet ahead.
Her stomach muscles tensed and the familiar tingle rolled in the pit of her stomach. She strode towards the dimly lit area and was unfortunately unprepared for the site that greeted her. She blinked, once, twice and then a third time as the body’s full visage sunk in.
The boy, no more than fifteen or sixteen years old, was laying on his stomach, his head turned at an unnatural angle to the side, one arm bent just as awkwardly as the leg on his opposite side. Her nose scrunched at the smell of blood and urine that pooled below the body.
Her eyes clamped shut and she cursed. She snapped open her purse and pulled out her cell phone and the card Logan had left with her. She dialed the number, explained the situation and waited. The night was warm, but a chill had seeped into the slayer. One she wasn’t too comfortable trying to figure out.
As Logan and his partner, Sam, came on the scene they called the rest of it in and before Buffy could blink, crime scene people and the coroner’s van were flashing their lights and roping the area off while she was left with a woman leading her to the back of an ambulance to be questioned. Buffy let herself be led away by female detective, Detective Gonzalez.
“So, Ms. Summers, do you want to tell me what you were doing out here in this area at two in the morning?” the detective asked as they sat almost casually on the back of an ambulance.
Swallowing, Buffy answered, “I, uh, was coming back from a club a few blocks south…”
“Which club?” the detective interrupted.
“Uh, Shooters,” Buffy answered then continued, “So I was walking home and uh, he was just lying there.”
“You live where?” Detective Gonzalez asked, looking Buffy over.
“Greene, just south of Broome,” Buffy sighed, knowing her answer was going to get her into trouble.
“Uh-huh, alright, so you live more than thirteen blocks south of the direction you were headed in?”
“Look, where I was going and what I was doing are none of your damn business. I was trying to do my civic duty,” Buffy snapped. “If we’re done, I’d like get home. It’s been a long night.”
She stood not waiting on a reply from the older woman. Buffy started to walk away when a voice stopped her, “Hey, I…sorry about that. Look,” the other woman tried again in a less accusatory tone, “I just talked to Officer Scott, he told me that you had helped with a collar a week or so ago.”
Buffy nodded as she folded her arms across her chest waiting on the detective to get to the point.
The detective’s lips pursed and she ran a hand through her hair, clearly trying to piece together what she wanted to say. “I’ve seen people like you, hell I was one. You look like you need something to do. Normally I tell people to stay away from police work, but you…” her eyes narrowed giving Buffy a once over, “I don’t really know, it just seems like this is something you could do. Better than drinking away the night and lying to a detective.”
Buffy’s mouth dropped open a little as the detective handed her her card. The blonde looked down and read the paper, Detective Aida Gonzalez, Detective, 17th Precinct, N.Y.P.D., Recruiter.
“If you want, give me a call. I think the city might just be a better place if you wanted to join.” Aida offered Buffy one last wary smile before turning away and ducking under some crime scene tape.
For her part, Buffy rolled her eyes and stalked off in the direction of her apartment. It didn’t take long for the slayer to cover the distance and as she got in she looked around the place she’d been living. No part of this place seemed like a home. She had been hiding. There was one lone picture of her and the Scoobies taken right before she made the announcement and her plans to leave became public knowledge. Other than that, the place was barren. Her clothes were still in her duffle bag. Her toiletries were few but lined up neatly.
Wearily, she plopped down on the bed and dumped the contents of her purse out, surprised that Detective Gonzalez’s card hadn’t been thrown away. Buffy was even more shocked when she placed it next to her cell phone on the nightstand. It was a crazy idea. In fact, out of everything, it was probably the one that should have caused her to be committed indefinitely, but there was something there that spoke to the slayer in her. More importantly it spoke to the woman the slayer had become. It was time for her to do something besides exist in New York.