Disclaimer: I don't own.
A/N: No, I'm not dead. Just been very busy with work and trying to rebuild years of lost, well, everything computer related. I can't promise it won't happen again but I'll try not to let it.
Thanks for all the reviews and feedback.
There's an old jukebox in the corner, beaten and scratched and bordering on being a relic. But the thing still works, still plays. Actually, she hadn't heard it not playing in the two weeks she'd been working at the bar for Murphy. She had the suspicion that the thing never got turned off because if it did it might never start again. The thing kinda reminded her of Murphy in a way. That was probably the only reason she hadn't pulled her hair out at listening to older than she was music for fourteen hours a day every day since she'd started at the bar. She liked Murphy and she liked the other people he had working for him. Sure, they were all rough around the edges but once they took you in you were theirs and they had a no bullshit policy from anyone that wasn't theirs.
They were a tattooed, foul mouthed, hard drinking, chain smoking hard assed group but they'd grown on her. Taken her in without any questions or judgment and she kinda loved them for that. Even if she'd heard the song about washing away her troubles and pain and being on a road for the sixth time since she'd started working in the bar. And that she was pretty sure they were a bad influence on her because she'd been drinking and swearing right along with them more than once.
“You figured out what you're gonna do next?” Pike had a cigarette hanging from his lip, a glass of Jack Daniels in one hand. Not that it was a shocker, he was at the bar every night along with about two thirds of the guys that worked in his garage. She could even pick out the guys on sight now.
She shrugged, took a drink from her own glass of Jack and Coke. Taking her 'lunch' with Pike every night when he showed up had somehow become a ritual for them. Though he hadn't asked her her plans since the first night. “No, not really.” she hadn't been thinking too far ahead yet, hadn't let herself. Her first step wasn't completely done yet and any ideas she'd come up with didn't feel right. College hadn't been her thing and she'd known it even when she was still going to classes. Getting married and having the apple pie life wasn't who she could be any more and she had a job.
So what else was there? Dammed if she knew.
“Hey Summer! Order's up!” Tiffany's voice cut over the sounds of the rest of the bar and she stood up, heading over to grab to two burgers and fries that were waiting on top of the bar.
She plopped Pike's food in front of him and sat, digging into her own burger. She'd grabbed a nearly stale doughnut and a cup of coffee on her way in earlier in the day and it hadn't been enough to keep her slayer metabolism happy.
She was about five bites into greasy burger heaven when she noticed the look Pike was giving her. “What?” it was a rhetorical what. She knew what he was thinking, she just didn't have a good answer. She let out a sigh and put her burger down. “I don't know yet Pike. Miss Normal with a Picket Fence I'm not any more and if I start slaying again someone is gonna notice and come looking for me.”
He gave her another look, though a different one, almost assessing. “True enough.”
She'd learned to be wary of sleep only a couple of days after becoming the slayer. Lothos and red ribbons and bad music had started it. And over the years as the slayer dreams had gotten stronger she'd learned to not just be wary of sleep but that she needed and had time for less and less of it. But it hadn't gotten really bad until after the Scoobies had brought her back. The dreams she'd had had only made the trauma of being alive again worse.
Now it was a good day when she got four hours of sleep. Which meant that even working from open to close five days a week at the bar she still had a lot of free time. Sometimes she'd wander through the city, walking without any real direction for hours at a time, but for the most part she spent all her free time in the dingy hotel room she was calling home.
Though to be fair it didn't look very much like it had the day she'd arrived. In just over a month it'd gone from craptastic and non personal to looking lived in. All those hours walking had yielded stops, little things bought and brought back. A couple of throw pillows for the lumpy brown couch, a new blanket for the bed that wasn't butt ugly, a couple of decent towels in the bathroom, a laundry basket in a corner half full of jeans and tshirts - just a few things to make the place not seem so bad. She'd even stocked the single cabinet and little fridge with food and raided the Dixie products in the picnic aisle of the grocery store so she had something to eat with. It was still craptastic, but slightly less so after a bit of work and some cleaning. She wasn't sure if what she'd done had transitioned the room from hotel to home enough to keep a vampire out but she wasn't willing to test it out either.
Still, those things hadn't been a distraction, a way for her to kill the times when she wasn't working. TV didn't entertain her all that much, she'd gotten out of the habit of watching and there wasn't much on anyway in the middle of the night or in the early morning. So she'd been going through the books she'd made off with. It was slow going on an epic scale but she was making progress.
And she'd figured out something she hadn't even realized-she could actually translate a lot more than she thought. Given, she was no where near Giles or Willow or even Dawn but she could do some. Enough to figure out about every second or third word, which was good enough to work out a very rough translation of some of the more basic dead or demon languages in the books.
But she hadn't really bothered with the books in about four days. Not since her new identity had come through. She'd had the notebook that she'd started when she'd first arrived out and been planning. She'd left LA with a little over two million dollars and her new identity had taken ten grand from that. And so far she'd managed to replace just under half of that amount by working fourteen hour days five days a week at the bar.
A look down at the notebook and a shake of the head. One fool proof new identity and one not so fool proof one weren't enough and she knew it four weeks before. Because Willow will look, was probably already looking. No, two was never going to be enough. But that's not the only thing to deal with.
The money. Sure, she'd hid it in the hotel room, in the air vent no less. But its was only a temporary fix. Having that much money around isn't just a bad idea but a stupid one. She'd seen enough prostitutes and drug dealers working in or around her hotel to know it was only a matter of time.
A knock on the door. “Summers!”
A check at the peep hole and ten she swung the door open to reveal Pike, smelling like cars and cigarette smoke. “Spending you day off in here again?” he slides past her and sits on the lumpy excuse for a couch.
“You got any better ideas?” Murphy won't let her work seven days a week and he already seems to think she's a little crazy for working open to close on the days she does. Besides, what else is there to do? Slaying? Nope, not taking the chance. Join a book club? Not in a million years.
“Come work for me.” that earns him a sharp look.
“I make good money at Murphy's.” really good money. Almost six grand in a month.
He gives her a smirk as she sits on the end of the bed she doesn't sleep on, the one that still has a butt ugly blanket on it. “Yeah, you do.” he lights a new cigarette. “But when you're not there you're holed up in this shitty motel room.”
A raised eyebrow “Your point?”
“We need someone in the office my guys won't scare off. Eight to noon on the days you work at Murphy's and eight to close on the other two days. One of us will give you a lift to Murphy's so you aren't late.”
She leans back, palms on the scratchy blanket, and considers it. After a full two minutes she can't think of a good reason to turn him down. “Alright.”
There's yelling in the back of the garage, which is normal around the place. Half a dozen mechanics giving one another hell every chance they get means its never quiet not counting all the machine work always going on. But in the three weeks the yelling has changed some. Ok, a lot.
“Tito! I've got it! If you don't back off and let me do this myself I swear I'm gonna kick your ass!” Buffy sounds pissed and he figured out back in LA that a pissed off Buffy is not someone you mess with.
“What the hell is going on out there?”
Mike shrugs, grins, and drops a stack of invoices from the parts delivery that showed up an hour before on his desk. “Dumbass out there's teaching the princess how to fix a carburetor. I give it five more minutes before she beats him to death with the thing.”
For a half second the urge to go watch the show calls to him but he pushes it down. Seventeen receptionists, that was how many they'd had since he'd opened the shop and his crew hadn't taken to any of them like they had Buffy. It'd taken less than two days for them to start dragging her into the back to teach her about car restorations because “If she don't know what's goin' on back here how's she gonna know what to tell the richies?”
And he wasn't stupid enough to get in the middle of it. If his crew liked Buffy and if she didn't end up killing them when they drove her crazy then he was content to let it go so long as they didn't get behind on actual work.
“Don't let her kill him. We've got a Charger coming in tomorrow.”