Buffy sat on the floor of her suite, legs sprawled out in front of her as she leaned back against the king sized bed behind her. Wrappers from the stuff from the mini bar were spread all around her. She vindictively hoped that Andre would somehow have to pay for her indulgences. Rasul had insisted on their drive to the hotel last night that Andre wouldn’t have really killed her, but Buffy had her doubts. She also had her doubts about Rasul’s claim that he would’ve intervened if he’d really felt Andre meant to kill her and had she’d been nothing more than an ordinary girl. She wanted to believe him, but was still giving him the cold shoulder. At least for now - she had a feeling she wouldn’t be able to stay mad at him too long.
She was still sitting there, thinking of ordering room service (again), when her spidey sense kicked in. She cocked her head toward the hall and heard approaching footsteps. They stopped in front of her door and a knock followed. Jumping up, she looked at herself in the mirror, straightening her robe and wiping a smear of chocolate off her upper lip before going to the bedside table and grabbing Mr. Pointy. She didn’t think that whatever was on the other side of the door was a vamp since it was still a few hours from sunset, but since the stake was all she had, it would have to do. Mentally preparing for an attack and clutching Mr. Pointy in her hand, she opened the door.
The man standing on the other side was tall and round, his bald head gleamed in the hall lighting, only a fringe of black hair wrapped around his head just above his ears. He was dressed in a perfectly tailored suit and would’ve looked completely normal if it weren’t for his eyes, which were black - like his pupil had overrun his iris.
“Uh, yeah,” she answered warily.
“I’m Mr. Cataliades,” he said dipping his head in a nod. “Her Highness sent me to discuss some things with you. A kind of introduction so your meeting with her tonight can get straight to the point, if you will.”
She added sharp teeth to the list.
“Did you say ‘her Highness’?” Buffy asked, drawing her thoughts away from wondering what he was. She’d heard Rasul about to call Sophie-Anne the “queen” the night before, but she’d just thought it was more of a nickname than an actual title.
“That’s one of the things we must discuss. If I may come in?”
“Oh, yeah, right,” she said, stepping back and allowing him entrance. She was far from trusting him yet, but she couldn’t very well expect him to stand out in the hall while talking about her job offer.
He nodded at her and walked by, taking a seat in a chair by the window and placing his briefcase on the table beside it.
“First, I must ask, do you intend to take the position offered to you? There’s no point in wasting either of our time if not.”
“Well,” Buffy hedged, tucking Mr. Pointy in her robe pocket and plopping down on the corner of the bed facing him. “I think so. Maybe. Yes. It just depends on what exactly she’s asking me to do…”
“The particulars of the job she chooses to send you on are for her to discuss with you. Given that that is your only reservation, we’ll continue,” he said, pushing his black-rimmed glasses further up on his nose. “You heard me refer to Miss Leclerq as ‘her Highness’, that’s because she is the Queen of Louisiana.”
“The Queen of Louisiana…” Buffy repeated flatly before bursting out laughing. “That’s sounds… oh man… you’re serious?”
“I am. It’s certainly no laughing matter. Vampires have their own form of government, Buffy. Most territories are divided by states, but some others go by population. California is split into three fiefdoms, for example. Each territory has a king or queen that oversees it. It is further divided down by ‘area’s, which are headed up by a sheriff, who manages that section of the king or queen’s territory for them.”
Buffy’s mind whirled at the implications. How many vamps there must be, just in the United States, to require such organization. And that it actually worked
. If she hadn’t already known the vampires here were different, this would’ve cemented it.
“Uh, I have to ask… this all sounds like super secret type stuff, what happens if I don’t take the job and you’ve already spilled the beans?”
“Your memory of this would simply be erased.”
“Oh. Wait-what?” Buffy said, eyes going wide. “You can erase memories?! What are you?”
“Well, I’m a half demon,” he said, his lips twitching slightly at her reaction. “But no, I can’t erase memories. A vampire would have to do that.”
“All vampires can do that?”
“Most of them, yes.”
“…does it hurt?”
“No, no. It’s similar to the glamour they can set upon people. Like hypnosis. They simply replace one memory with something else. Say if they erased this conversation, they’d make you believe you and I only talked about pay and benefits.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Buffy forced out. In fact, she hated
the idea of anyone, let alone a vampire, messing with her mind like that. The only thing that kept her from freaking was that she doubted her Slayer side would let any vamp into her head.
After that, they really did get into talks of pay and benefits. All of which left Buffy giddy with thoughts of shopping before she mentally slapped herself and reminded her greedy little self that this was only temporary. Now she knew demons existed, that meant other things probably did, too, like witches. That meant a way home. But she pushed that away until later. As she seemed to keep doing…
After the demonic businessman had left, Buffy ordered a sundae from room service and then went into the bathroom for some pamapering while she mulled things over.
Not long after the sun had set, Buffy was picked up by Rasul. Although she was still a little wigged from her meeting with Mr. Cataliades (she’d written his name down after he’d left, not wanting to call him Mr. Cattle Cities or something equally embarrassing if they met again), but over all she was feeling pretty good. It’s funny how much you appreciate a bath and some hair care products after being homeless for only a day. So with her body clean, her hair fluffy and curled and wearing the clothes they’d sent up for her - jeans and a plain white long sleeved tee, a little bland but acceptable - she was ready to face what the (new) world had to throw at her.
Rasul had been wearing a particularly pathetic expression when she answered the door, and had kept up the sad puppy dog eyes all the way to the car (the effect was actually a little unsettling because of the strange way his eyes glittered, but she got the point) and was still doing it as they made their way toward Sophie-Anne’s estate.
“Fine, I forgive you,” she finally said in exasperation. “Now will you please keep your eyes on the road. Only one of us is indestructible, ya know.”
“Ah, but I’m not indestructible. You’ve leveled my heart with your distrust and anger toward me,” he said, sounding dramatically wounded.
Buffy snorted and rolled her eyes. “I’m sure you were all broken up about it.”
“Well, I must admit, I’d be disappointed if you didn’t accept the position,” he said, grinning now that he knew he was forgiven. “We never get any interesting humans around there. They all either worship the ground we walk on or are scared shitless of us.”
“I’m not taking the job just to entertain you,” she said, shaking her head at him.
“Of course not. It’s just a bonus,” he said with a smirk as they pulled up to the gate.
Once out of the car, his professional demeanor dropped back in place and he escorted her to an office on the second floor without another word. He did give her a wink as he ushered her inside though. The lighthearted effect was ruined when he shut the door, closing her in the office, alone with Sophie-Anne while he remained out in the hall with the two giant Berts, who were guarding the entrance.
The Queen (Buffy wasn’t sure she’d be able to get used to calling her that, even in her head) was dressed in a sharp blue business suit instead of a gown this time, but looked just as impeccable. She was sitting behind a desk that would’ve dwarfed her had her presence not been so heavy. Instead, it just added to the intimidation factor.
“Please sit,” she said, waving her hand at the seat across from her without looking up from the papers in front of her.
Buffy sat as directed and awkwardly folded her hands in her lap to keep from fidgeting. They sat like that for a full minute, Buffy fighting the urge to break the silence and tapping a foot restlessly while Sophie-Anne read the paper in front of her, occasionally marking something with a pen. Finally she sat the pen down and focused her attention on Buffy.
“Have you made a decision?”
“Um, yeah, but I want to clarify. If you give me a job that I don’t feel comfortable with, what’s going to happen?”
“I don’t let my employees pick or choose what they wish to do, Buffy. But I will take into consideration your… moral objections to certain tasks and assign you work accordingly.”
“Well, I guess that would be-”
Just then the door burst open and another vampire came striding into the room. She looked pissed and stopped dead at the sight of Buffy. A scowling Rasul could be seen behind her in the hall, bent over and rubbing his shin.
“The fuck is this?” She asked, her lip curling back.
With her dark hair, dark eye makeup, leather pants and eloquent use of the English language, Buffy was immediately reminded of Faith.
“This is Buffy, she’ll be working for me. Buffy, this is Hadley Delahoussaye.”
“We need to talk,” Hadley said, turning to Sophie-Anne and completely dismissing Buffy.
“I’m in the middle of something, Hadley. We’ll have to talk later.”
“Is it true?” Hadley asked, taking a stiff step further into the room, her hands clenching and unclenching at her sides. “About Threadgill?”
Buffy, who was watching the two like a tennis match, was surprised to see sadness flash across the queen’s face before it smoothed back out into its normal bland expression.
“Later, Hadley,” Sophie-Anne said, her voice brooking no argument.
Hadley took a deep breath and looked like she was about to let loose with a foul-mouthed tirade, but then she just deflated. She shook her head once at Sophie-Anne then turned and left without another word, her shoulders slumped and her stride much slower than when she’d come in. Despite seeming like she could be a total bitch and ignoring the fact that she obviously saw Buffy as having all the importance of a houseplant, she couldn’t help but feel bad for her. She got the feeling there were some personal issues between her and the queen - issues that weren’t going to end well for Hadley.
“My apologies,” Sophie-Anne said, her eyes staring at the newly closed door for a moment longer before refocusing her attention on Buffy. “I believe you were about to accept the position I’d offered you? Someone came by to discuss the details, yes? The terms were acceptable?”
“Yes, it was all fine,” Buffy said, straightening in her seat and putting on her resolve face. If she was going to do this, she was going to do it right, damn it. “So, what is it you want me to do?”
“There is an important job in Texas that might need a little… extra attention. If things there should go badly, not only would the relationship with the vampires of that area be strained, but I could also lose a few valuable assets.”
“So, you already have people there working on this?” Buffy asked, confused, relieved and a little offended all at once.
“Yes, Bill Compton, the Investigator of Area Five is currently there with our telepath, Sookie Stackhouse. I have something I need Bill to work on for me, so it would be inconvenient to lose him. Even more so for Miss Stackhouse, who, as a genuine telepath is extremely valuable as you can imagine.”
She seemed to waiting for a dumbfounded Buffy to say something, maybe just to make sure she was still following along, so Buffy nodded, “Right, probably hard to find one of those.”
“Indeed,” Sophie-Anne said, looking amused for a split second. “This is new for both of them, just make sure things go smoothly. You might not have to do anything at all. In fact, I do believe you won’t be the only one there watching over them. Even though he hasn’t asked permission to do so, the Sheriff of Area Five may also be around. He is very… willful.”
“So I just have to go and keep an eye on those two?” Buffy asked. “Am I meeting them there? What’s the job they’re supposed to be doing?”
“Here is all the information you’ll need,” Sophie-Anne said, pulling a folder from the drawer of her desk and sliding it over to Buffy. “And they are actually already in Dallas, they arrived this evening. I have a flight booked for you first thing in the morning. And, as to you meeting them, I would rather you didn’t. I ask that you remain… discreet. It will make using you for future jobs much simpler if your identity remains a secret.”
“Of course,” Buffy said, pasting on a confident smile. “Discreet is my middle name.”Crap…