Sookie parked her old Nova behind Eric’s Corvette, well aware that it looked wildly out of place in the well-to-do neighborhood. Giving the house and the area a once over as she climbed out, she couldn’t help but give a low, impressed whistle. The grass was green and even, the hedges perfectly trimmed, and the tan stucco, now dyed a soft orange by the setting sun, looked freshly painted. She wasn’t sure why she was surprised, it wasn’t as if she’d spent any time thinking about what Eric’s house might look like, but if she had, it wouldn’t have been like this. Maybe it was his flair for the dramatic or the way he seemed to overflow with charisma, but some part of her obviously thought his house would reflect that.
She was so busy taking in the details around her, that she didn’t notice something peculiar was going on with herself
until she was almost to the front door. It was almost like that feeling when you leave the house and are sure you’re forgetting something but can’t figure out what, but stronger. Something was… missing… She turned her head and looked around her as if the answer would pop out of the hedges. It was only when she saw two little boys go zooming down the sidewalk on their bikes that she realized what it was.
She couldn’t hear any thoughts.
She whipped around on the front stoop to study the neighborhood more carefully. Her first thought was that maybe it was a vampire only community. But she discarded that almost immediately. Not only was there none of the strange vacant spaces where vampire thoughts should be, she’d also just seen the two little boys. There were other people around too - a man in a suit getting out of his car three houses down; a woman poking around in a rose bush across the street; a pizza delivery car cruising slowly by, looking at house numbers. Yet she heard nothing.
Well, that wasn’t quite right, either. As she forced herself to really pay attention, she realized there was a low sound in the back of her mind - a hiss, almost like white noise or a heavy, steady rain. Maybe her brain had simply shorted out? She guessed it was possible, but if that was the case, then it had only happened recently. She’d stopped for gas on the way there and had had no trouble hearing the cashier’s thoughts on how much he hated his job.
Still feeling a little dazed, but unsure what to do about it except wait and see what happened, she turned and knocked on the door. Maybe it was just Eric’s house? Maybe he’d had something done to it so no mind reading could go on there. Which didn’t really make any sense since vampire minds couldn’t be read anyway…
The door opened, pulling her from her thoughts and revealing Buffy, who gave her a big smile.
“Sookie! Hey, come on in!” She said, stepping to the side and waving her in.
Inside, the strange static was more pronounced, lending credence to her unlikely idea about it being Eric’s house that was interrupting her telepathy. Her eyes ticked around the entryway curiously, more concerned with what was blocking her senses than with Eric’s interior decorating choices (surprisingly tasteful…).
“You okay,” she heard Buffy ask behind her as the door shut. “You look a little… I don’t know, paranoid or something.”
“Uh, yeah, I guess I’m fine, it’s just-”
A girl with long, dark brown hair came down the stairs, derailing Sookie’s sentence. She paused at seeing Sookie in the entrance, then smiled brightly.
“You must be Sookie,” she said. “Because you’re way too tan to be a vamp. I’m Dawn, Buffy sister.”
Dawn stuck out her hand, but Sookie just stood there, dumbfounded. Dawn’s welcome look melted and she lowered her hand.
“Are you alright?” She asked, then turned to Buffy and whispered loudly, “Is she alright?”
“What’s up, Sookie?” Buffy asked, coming to stand next to her and eying her in concern.
“My telepathy,” she managed to get out. “It’s… shorted out…”
“Tele- She can hear our thoughts?!” Dawn squeaked turning red and taking a step back.
“No, she just said she couldn’t
hear our thoughts,” Buffy said in exasperation. “Pay attention. And what are you thinking about anyway that you’d get that nervous about someone else hearing it?”
“Nothing,” Dawn snapped, relaxing a little. “So you can hear thoughts, but… you can’t hear thoughts?”
“It’s you,” Sookie said wonderingly. “It’s like your blocking everything else out somehow. All I get is this kind of low buzzing sound.”
Dawn kind of curled in on herself. “Uh, sorry… I’m not doing it on purpose. I don’t know how to stop it...”
“No! It’s… It’s so quiet,” she said in amazement, relief rushing in now that she knew what exactly was causing the silence in her brain. “For as long as I can remember, everyone’s thoughts were in my head. For once, it’s just me…”
“And that’s… good?” Buffy asked.
“Very good,” Sookie answered, giving Dawn a huge smile that the other girl tentatively returned, tension leaking out of her.
“Hey, what’s going on? I’m not late, am I?”
The sudden voice behind them had Sookie jumping a foot off the floor. Whipping around, she came face to face with a pair of earnest green eyes. She was sure she would’ve noticed the front door opening…
“Jeez, Will, don’t pop up behind people like that,” Dawn scolded. “What if she’d been old? She coulda had a heart attack or something.”
“Sorry,” she said sheepishly. “Uh, I’m Willow, a friend of Buffy’s.”
“Sookie,” she answered, her heart rate slowly returning to normal.
“So, uh, Dawn, why don’t you take Sookie to the kitchen, see if she wants something to drink while we wait for Pam to show,” Buffy suggested with a quick tick of her eyes to Willow.
“You’re the hostess,” Dawn said. “This is you’re boyfriend’s house, you should be the one-”
“A drink sounds great,” Sookie said, getting a thankful look from Buffy that her sister couldn’t see.
Obviously, there was something Buffy wanted to talk to Willow about without her sister hearing, and as curious as Sookie was about that, she knew it was none of her business. Dawn shrugged and motioned for her to follow her down the hall. It wasn’t too much of a hardship, leaving her curiosity behind. She found she wanted
to stick by Dawn. The fact that she blocked out everyone else’s thoughts had ceased to be a worry and had become a kind of gift. For one night she’d get to be like everyone else.*******
Buffy watched Dawn and Sookie disappear off toward the kitchen, then nodded her head toward the front door. Eric was still around and while she was okay with opening up a little, she’d rather not let him in on this particular item.
Outside, the sun had completely disappeared, only traces of orange at the fringe of the horizon. It smelled nice, clean and fresh. Buffy took a second to take a deep breath and appreciate it before she turned to Willow and the not so clean and fresh conversation they were about to have.
“What did you find out?” Buffy asked, getting down to business.
“Not a whole lot, unfortunately,” Willow said with a helpless little shrug. “The spell’s real. And it’s not lost. But what exactly it entails, I couldn’t get anything on. Not without resorting to some drastic measures anyway…”
“What’s that mean?” Buffy asked, not liking the way her friend’s eyes slid away from hers.
“The thing is that it’s not written anywhere. I guess they were worried that if the wrong person found out about it that they’d find a way to kind of… reverse engineer it - pull down the wall that was put up. So they only passed it verbally, and only to people with enough power to keep it safe. I found a few people that would know it, but when I tried to get them to talk to me…”
Willow shook her head, still not meeting Buffy’s eyes. “They could tell my magic was… tainted. They didn’t trust me.”
“That’s total crap,” Buffy growled. “You are not
“But I am,” Willow said flatly with a shrug. “That dark part of me is locked away, but it’s still there. I did horrible things, I can’t just erase that.”
“So what you were saying about drastic measures…”
Willow cringed a little. “I meant, I could probably make
one of them talk. It would-”
“I know it’s not the ideal solution, but-”
,” Buffy bit out, maneuvering herself so Willow wouldn’t have any choice but to look at her. “No way. You just got finished telling me you locked that part of you away. No way in hell are you giving it a day-pass out of the slammer to do something like that.”
“I don’t like the idea either, Buffy,” Willow burst out, eyes wide and maybe a little scared. “But if there was a way to kick Wolfram and Hart out… Think how many live we’d save!”
“Not like that, Will,” Buffy said, her voice softer. “We’ll get the spell. I’ll figure out a way. But not like that.”
Willow’s shoulders slumped, maybe in relief, maybe in resignation, and she gave a nod. Buffy put a hand on her shoulder and squeezed.
“We’ll figure it out, we always do. But for tonight, let’s just have some fun. Plenty of time for angsting later.”
Willow cracked a tiny grin. “Right. Angst on hold.”
They went back inside to track down Sookie and Dawn, both of them looking relaxed and worry free, but Buffy was sure it was just as much a mask with Willow as it was with her. She had
to find a way to get her hands on that spell…
Sookie and Dawn were in the kitchen, both eating a piece of left over pizza and chatting about their boyfriends. She hadn’t known Sookie that long, but she could already see a noticeable difference in her - shoulders more relaxed, that little stress line between her eyes erased, the smile on her face more natural. It gave Buffy a pang of sadness to know this was the first time Sookie had ever gotten to just be normal. It wouldn’t last, but Buffy was determined to give her a night of fun to remember.
Buffy and Willow joined them, the latter grabbing a piece of pizza for herself. Buffy glanced at the doorway, wondering what Eric was up to. She hadn’t seen him since their little talk in the bathroom and she was starting to wonder if all that info had been a little too much in one go. That or maybe he was just avoiding Dawn…
She was just considering going to find him when she heard the front door open and Pam appeared seconds later.
“Tasty,” she said as she stood in the entrance to the kitchen, eyeing the group at the table and not the pizza.
“Pam, you remember Willow,” Buffy said, gesturing at her red-headed friend. “And this is my sister, Dawn.”
Dawn was looking at Pam in obvious surprise – not that Buffy could blame her, Pam’s cute pink dress with white cardigan and her ponytailed hair were as far from the vampire stereotype as you can get. Pam in turn was eyeing Dawn with a predatory smirk much more in line with what she was.
“Please don’t hit on her, I don’t think my brain can handle the mental picture that would kick up,” Buffy pleaded.
Pam grinned at Buffy’s matter-of-fact statement. “We’ll see.”
“Nice to see you again, Pam,” Willow said with a little wave.
“A treat,” Pam leered before turning her eyes back to Buffy. “Where’s Eric? I need to speak with him then we can leave.”
“Last I saw of him he was in the bathroom being totally weird.”
Pam raised a curious eyebrow and drifted back down the hall. She came back a few minutes later, just as Buffy was cleaning up the kitchen.
“You need to go fix him before we can go,” she said, sinking into Buffy’s vacated chair.
She shot the vampire a questioning look as she tossed her crust in the garbage. “Fix him?”
“Yes, he needs to be at the bar tonight since I’ll once again be absent. He can’t work in the condition he’s in. No one wants to pay to look at a mopey vampire.”
“Huh?” Buffy grunted, totally not following this conversation at all.
Pam rolled her eyes. “I can’t be certain, but from what I could get out of him the two of you talked of Dracula and you managed to destroy the heroic image he’s mentally painted of him.”
“Uh…. what?” Buffy asked, sticking to the oh-so-eloquent conversation skills that had gotten her this far.
“You’ve met Dracula?” Pam asked.
“And you found him to be less than a shining pillar that all vampires should aspire to be?”
“Well, yeah, I guess. He’s a total asshat.”
Pam’s lips twitched. “Eric’s reveres that ‘asshat’. He happens to hold a party at Fangtasia every year in his honor.”
Ignoring Dawn’s snorted “Fangtasia?”, Buffy sighed and went to track down Eric. She found him still in the bathroom, sitting on the side of the tub where she’d left him.
“He’s truly that horrible?” He asked quietly, eyes starting at the tile.
“Umm, well, yeah,” she said, sitting down next to him.
She felt bad at inadvertently destroying this hero-worship thing he had going on. It was weird seeing the usually unflappable Eric so down. Hit by sudden inspiration, she bumped her shoulder against his to get his attention.
“But that’s just my
Dracula. This is a different dimension. Yours is probably completely different.”
“You think?” He asked, head tilting to the side as he seemed to perk up a bit.
“Totally. I don’t know much about this dimension hopping thing, but it seems wrong to have two people in two different places that are exactly the same, right?”
“Yes, that doesn’t seem quite right,” Eric agreed with a nod, maybe a little too quickly, as if he were latching onto this much more appealing idea. “They’re probably much different. Complete opposites, really.”
Buffy nodded, smothering a grin and filing away Eric’s crazy man-crush for later teasing and possibly blackmail.
“Okay the, now that that’s all cleared up, you need to get ready for work,” she said, hopping to her feet.
She was just as quickly pulled back down, this time onto Eric’s lap. Someone was feeling better…
“How about we stay here,” he suggested, nuzzling under her ear. “Let the rest of them go on their shopping trip - I have much more interesting ideas for the two of us.”
The feeling of his hand sliding up her side made her just want to sigh out a yes and melt into him right there on the bathroom floor (she was still a little frustrated that they’d been interrupted by her sister and Willow the night before). But knowing that there were people upstairs waiting on her, one of whom had incredible vampy hearing, kind of put a damper on things.
“No can do,” she said a little breathlessly. “I’d be a disgrace to women everywhere if I let a guy take precedence over a girl’s night out.”
His mouth was on hers without warning, a quick but intense meeting of lips and tongues.
“Being a disgrace has its perks,” he purred.
Buffy was about to agree, that frustrated, incomplete feeling she’d been feeling since they’d slammed the brakes on the night before surging forward and making her feel hot and pliant. It was once again her sister, the eternal bucket of cold water, that snapped her out of it.
“Buffy! Get your butt moving!” Dawn yelled in that one tone that all younger siblings seem to be born with. “The rest of us are tired of sitting around waiting on you!”
Buffy gritted her teeth and closed her eyes, all her previous steamy feelings turning into annoyance on a grand scale.
“I think I would’ve escaped to a different dimension as well,” Eric mused.
With a sigh, she peeled herself away from him and stood.
“We’ll finish this when I get back,” she promised, then fled before the sight of his darkening eyes could draw her in again.
The four others were already waiting in the entryway for her and Dawn snagged her by her sleeve and dragged her outside muttering about leaving before her hormones got the best of her again. It was obvious what they’d be driving once they got out there, something Buffy hadn’t really given any thought to until that moment. But there was her SUV, waiting for them in the driveway.
“You’re still driving my car?”
“I rather enjoy all the space,” Pam said as she slipped into the driver’s seat. “And I thought it might be convenient if we need to dispose of more bodies.”
Willow and Dawn froze as they were getting into the back. Sookie paused, made a face, then gave the inside a sniff and a shrug before climbing in.
“Bodies?” Willow whispered.
“No, no more bodies. That was a one-time thing,” Buffy said, shooting Pam a glare.
“Well, technically it was a two time thing,” she answered seriously.
Dawn just shook her head at Buffy with a look that said “what am I going to do with you” before climbing in the back.*******
Eric watched the SUV pull out of the drive, making a note of the license plate before he picked up his phone.
“Bobby, they just left. Don’t interfere, just keep an eye on them. No, just keep out of their way and keep me posted. No, I don’t need to know every detail, just what you think is important. Use your common sense, Bobby. It’s not that fucking difficult.”
Eric hung up the phone and flicked on the shower, hoping this wouldn’t prove to be too much for his assistant to handle. As much as he wanted to follow them himself, he knew Pam would sense him immediately, possibly Buffy as well. And letting them go off by themselves was out of the question - not after that little escapade in Bon Temps. Hopefully, his concern would be for nothing - their night would be an uneventful foray of shopping wonders and that was it. Somehow he doubted it though…
Eric had just taken his seat in Fangtasia an hour later when he got a text from Bobby.-No shopping yet. Stopped at a bar.-
Because they weren’t bad enough sober…
He debated a moment before peeking down the bond into Buffy’s emotions. It actually took a tiny bit of an effort this time, the bond was weakening. Reestablishing it more thoroughlywas something he’d have to put some thought into - but that was for another time. For now, he closed his eyes and sought out Buffy and felt nothing but a light amusement. So far, so good. He pulled back.
Another hour went by and Eric shoved thoughts of the “girl’s night” to the back of his mind. Business was good, they were busy but the crowd wasn’t wild. Thalia was currently tending the bar. Far from an ideal solution, but it would have to do until he could find a replacement for Charles. She was surly but adept. He was making sure to keep an eye on her though, just to be sure she didn’t maim anyone that annoyed her too much. But he was also thinking about the things Buffy had reviled to him earlier, putting things in order for closer examination. It had been a very illuminating conversation… Unfortunately, his musing was soon interrupted by another text from Bobby.-Girls were kicked out of dept. store. Argument between Pam and Buffy about which heel was best for stabbing, followed by a dramatic enactment, resulted in security being called. Leaving now-
Eric stared down at the message for a second before shaking his head. He could actually imagine that - that was the scary part. The two of them squabbling in the middle of a department store over which shoe would puncture which vital organs satisfactorily and then acting it out. He’d hoped that the presence of Buffy’s sister, her witch friend and Sookie would curb the ability Pam and Buffy seem to have of finding trouble anywhere, but apparently that had been an overly optimistic wish.
It was another hour before he got the next message.-Brunette and transvestite hooker got into a fight on east end. On the move again.-
“What the hell?” He blurted, replying with an -Explain-
The answer took a few minutes. -far away but think hooker assumed girl was a fellow tranny-
Eric let out a laugh that drew the attention of half the bar, but he didn’t care. That was just too priceless. He could just imagine the look of outrage on Buffy’s sister’s face. Damn, he should’ve gone instead of sending Bobby…
After that, things were quiet. As the hours ticked by, he felt the tension in his shoulders loosening as his phone remained quiet. No news was good news, wasn’t that what they said? He’d retired to his office to take a look at the numbers for the week when his phone rang. He stared at it for a second, dread creeping in as Bobby’s name flashed across the screen. He answered.
“Bad news,” Bobby said at once. “I lost them.”
Eric sighed. “Where are you and in which direction were they headed?”
“Well, I’m in a parking garage. But I have no idea where they were headed because they locked me in the trunk of my car then left. That was about three hours ago. I just got out.”
Eric literally couldn’t form words for a moment he was so shocked. He wasn’t sure whether he wanted to laugh or curse.
“I tried to track Pam’s phone,” Bobby added. “But I’m not sure if she canceled that one and got a new one or what, but I can’t find her. If you give me Buffy’s number, I can try again.”
Eric gave it to him and hung up, but didn’t hold much hope of him finding anything. It was likely that Buffy’s phone had been provided by the Queen, meaning it would probably be hard to track. Plus, he was beginning to learn that Buffy never seemed to know where her phone was anyway. He was willing to bet it was in his house somewhere, or possibly even still at Sookie’s. Sure enough, Bobby called back a few minutes later confirming that he couldn’t find anything with Buffy’s number either.
So, after drinking, getting kicked out of a store for pantomiming some kind of shoe murder, then getting into a fight with a transvestite hooker, they were now out there on their own. And had been for the last three hours.
Eric hung up on the apologetic Bobby and ran a hand down his face. He didn’t think his imagination was vast enough to even guess at the trouble they were probably getting themselves into.