8.Do you wanna dance?
The bruises on Kate’s neck were still visible so she’d wrapped a chiffon scarf around her neck to hide the marks. It felt weird walking into Caritas during the daylight and not with the objective of busting Cordelia Chase’s ass. That part of her life was all over now, there was a new commendation in her personnel file and her transfer to homicide was being processed. Just at the moment; if you discounted having her boyfriend of two years possessed by a demon and having to fill him so full of holes that he looked like a sieve, life was good for Kate Lockley. The bad stuff? Well, she’d adjust like she always did.
Stopping for a moment by the entrance, Kate let her eyes grow accustomed to the dim lighting of the club. Outside the day was a normal LA day, sunny and warm, inside the club the lighting was subdued with a slight red cast to it. Turning her head slightly she saw them sitting around a table between the stage and the bar. Kate instinctively checked that her pistol was in its accustomed place on her hip before walking over. As she approached she checked out the people around the table.
There was Chase, in an expensive and revealing dress, her hair bounced around her face as she shared some joke with Buffy. By comparison, Buffy looked care wore and tired although her face and eyes glowed with pleasure at whatever Chase was saying. Gunn sat next to Chase all expensive suit and shoes. He smiled in quiet amusement at whatever was being said. Wyndam-Pryce, however, had a slight scowl on his lips, Kate got the impression that he was the subject of whatever story was being told by Chase and didn’t like it. The last member of the little group was Winifred Burkle; she was holding one of Wyndam-Pryce’s hands and was trying not to look amused at Chase’s story.
The only other person in the room was the barman who was moving glasses around behind the bar. Kate didn’t know the guy’s name; she never had, although she’d seen him almost every time she’d come into Caritas. There was something ‘off’ about him, something Kate couldn’t put a finger on. When she looked at him her eye seemed to slide off him and she could never give a good description of the guy it was one of those really odd things that seemed to be intruding into her life a lot just recently.
“KATE!” Buffy’s happy yell snapped Kate out of her detective muse; Buffy bounced out of her seat and embraced Kate in an enthusiastic bear hug.
“Hey!” Kate gasped feeling her ribs start to bend, “And it’s nice to see you again too.”
“Sorry,” Buffy let Kate go and stood back to look at the older woman, “you feeling okay?” Buffy frowned, “I’m sorry, I’m feeling pretty good at the moment I forgot you were probably still hurting an’ dealing with stuff.”
“Not a problem,” Kate nodded to everyone else at the table, “I’ll survive, I always do.”
But not in the way Buffy obviously did, Kate guessed that Buffy’d had a couple of vodkas already this morning.
“Okay,” Buffy retook her seat, “now Kate’s here,” Buffy grinned at Kate as she sat down, “I’ll explain why I really came to LA.”
In the time it took Buffy to say those few words, Kate saw Buffy change from a bubbly cheerful young woman to someone who looked like she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders and had done so for a long time. Watching Buffy closely, Kate listened as she explained how something called the ‘old council’ had been destroyed and there were now lots of slayers running around with no back-up.
Knowing some of the background to this, Kate frowned; once there had been one slayer, sometimes two. There had always been a lot of these watchers. Now the situation was reversed, now there were lots of slayers and only a very few watchers and most of these were either too old or too inexperienced to be of any real help to the girls. Kate knew that going into situations without proper back-up could be dangerous, fatal even.
“…I don’t even know how many slayers there are in the LA area,” Buffy concluded.
“I might be able to help there,” Wesley pushed his glasses back up his nose.
“Yeah,” Fred grinned infectiously, “as soon as we realised what had gone down in Sunnydale we set about trying to find any slayers in LA.”
“Unfortunately,” continued Wesley, “it wasn’t until recently that we’ve had much luck and only then when we acquired a charm that tracks slayers.” Wesley paused, “As best as we can tell there are at least twelve slayers in the greater LA area. Five are actively patrolling by themselves. Two or three are running with groups of local vigilantes. Four are either too old or too scared to do much and one has taken to a life of crime.”
“Yeah,” Kate agreed, “I heard the stories of some thief who can apparently climb up the side of buildings and run faster than a squad car.”
“You’ve not tried to contact any of these slayers?” Buffy looked at Wesley her frown deepening.
“Well,” Wesley spread his hands and shrugged, “I was afraid I would be treading on your toes. After all you’d never bothered to contact me about the situation and what’s more…”
“Wes!” Cordelia spoke up nipping the blossoming argument in the bud, “I think we should maybe leave all the recriminations to later, okay?”
“But…!” Wesley was cut off when Fred grabbed his hand.
“Later, Wes,” Fred spoke firmly and quietly, “this is more important than your hurt feelings.”
“Yes,” Wesley took a deep breath and nodded his head, “of course, you’re quite right.” He looked across the table at Buffy, “I’m sorry Miss Summers, please continue.”
“No problem,” Buffy gave Wesley a tight lipped smile, “what we need to do is get organised and contact these slayers. Too many girls have been killed because they don’t have any back-up. I don’t want that to happen here. Okay,” Buffy looked from face to face, “any suggestions on how we do this?”
For a moment silence descended on the room.
“I know!” Cordelia held up her hand as if she was still in school, “They could all be hookers working for me!”
“WHAT!?” Everyone turned to stare at Cordelia.
“Hey look,” Cordelia replied defensively to the faces that looked at her in a mixture of horror and dismay, “I don’t mean like real
hookers. Look,” Cordelia turned to Gunn hoping for support, “slayers have to get into loads of places, they mostly work at night, they’re young, attractive. What better disguise could they have?”
There was silence for a moment before Buffy spoke.
“I don’t think so, Cordy.”
“Miss Summers,” Wesley leaned on the table as he looked across at Buffy, “Miss Chase may have an idea of some merit here…”
“I do?” Cordelia beamed flashing perfect white teeth at everyone.
“If arrested or questioned by the police,” Wesley gestured to Kate, “what would be more natural for them to claim they work for a well known nightclub owner.”
“Yeah,” agreed Kate, “any officer stopping a girl on a minor beef would think twice about hassling a girl working for Cordelia.”
“Why?” Buffy asked simply.
“Look,” Kate grinned at Cordy, “they know Cordelia has Wolfram and Hart as her lawyers. Anything short of murder would be too much hassle to try and bring to court.”
“And,” Fred took up the argument, “any girls who didn’t want to pretend to be hookers could be put on our books as investigators.”
“Yeah, okay,” Buffy still sounded uncertain but in the place of any better suggestions, she finally nodded her head in agreement.
“Well, that’s settled then,” Wesley leaned back in his chair, “I suggest that Miss Chase and myself get together and work out the details later.”
“Umm,” Fred didn’t sound so sure, “you know, Wes I think I should do that…”
“But…” Wesley began but was cut off by Fred before he could speak.
“You’re too busy…” Fred explained.
“Too…?” Wesley tried to cut in again.
“And anyway you’re a bit of a fuddy-duddy,” Fred grinned at everyone around the table, “I think us girls would do better,” Fred glanced over at Kate, “maybe Kate could help out?”
“Sure, why not?” Kate agreed smiling to herself; it was obvious what was going on here, Fred didn’t want Wesley left alone with Cordelia, there was history there.
The next fifteen minutes were taken up with making rough plans on how to organise the LA slayers and how to try and contact other girls in the surrounding States. Kate sat back and let the conversation wash over her, she didn’t know a lot about the world of the ‘weird and wacky’ so thought it best to just listen for now. Perhaps sometime soon she could get Fred to explain things in more detail; in the meantime she’d just watch and listen.
Finding her eyes drifting once more over to where Buffy sat, Kate watched as the young woman sat, mostly quietly, drinking her drink. Every now and again the barman would surreptitiously slip a full glass into her hand. Kate caught his eye and frowned shaking her head; the barman guy just shrugged and turned away. Kate could see why no one else seemed to notice what was happening to Buffy, they were all wrapped up in their own little world. Being an outsider, Kate could see what was happening, perhaps if she could get Chase (she was supposed to be Buffy’s old school friend) alone and explain things ask her to keep an eye on Buffy, tell her friends in England maybe?
“Okay, that’s enough business for one day,” Cordelia rapped her knuckles on the table top getting everyone’s attention, “how about some fun?”
“Yeah!” Smiled Fred, “What y’got planned, Cordy?”
“As some of you know,” Cordelia smiled knowingly as she spoke, “Lorne here,” she gestured at the barman, “is a demon who can read peoples destinies.”
“He is?” Kate found her right hand drifting towards her pistol.
“Lorne’s harmless,” Wesley whispered having seen Kate’s hand start to move.
“However,” Cordelia smiled fit to burst, “he can only ‘read’ people if they perform.”
“Perform?” Chorused everyone other than Gunn who just sat there looking smug.
“Perform?” Fred asked, “Like Karaoke?”
“No,” Cordelia shook her head, “nothing so lame…Lorne can only read people when they Pole Dance!”
“Pole dance!?” Laughed Kate, “Hey look you’re not getting me up there.”
“No, no, no! Like, later maybe,” Cordelia turned to face Buffy, “I think we should see what the future holds for Buffy!”
There was general agreement to this idea, even Kate thought it had merit, perhaps it would point out some stuff that Buffy needed to know, like about her drinking. Reluctantly, Buffy climbed to her feet and started to head for the stage.
“Oh no,” Cordelia laughed, “not so quick, you gotta change.”
“What!?” Buffy paused to stare down at Cordelia.
“Yeah,” Cordelia pointed towards the rear of the club, “like there’s costumes and stuff out back.”
After several minutes wait, Buffy reappeared in what Cordelia explained was the ‘Naughty Cheerleader’s’ outfit. The music started and Kate watched in amazement as Buffy started to dance slowly ‘with’ the pole. Shaking her head, Kate wondered if all slayers were that ‘bendy’ and the slayer super strength really helped holding some of the more difficult positions. If Buffy ever wanted to give up slaying, Kate thought, she could make a fortune in the erotic dance business.
Breathing a little heavily, Buffy finished her dance, as she climbed down from the stage to the applause of her friends, she thought pole dancing was a pretty good work out; maybe she’d start classes at Slayer Central. Letting herself be led over to the bar by Lorne she sat down on a stool and accepted a drink. The readings were private, what she told her friends was entirely up to her.
“Okay,” Lorne took a long pull on his Sea Breeze almost finishing the drink in one go, “I gotta tell you you’re the first person I’ve read in months that’s actually got a destiny worth talking about.”
“What?” Buffy didn’t really understand what the demon was saying but it sounded interesting.
“Look,” Lorne made himself another drink and topped Buffy’s up, “I normally just end up telling people what they want to hear, you know; their lives will get better, they’ll meet someone, they’ll do something important, they’ll stop biting people on the neck, you know the sorta thing?”
Nodding her head dumbly, Buffy sipped her vodka.
“But, it’s all a lie,” Lorne knocked back half of his Sea Breeze.
“But I have a destiny?” Buffy prompted, intrigued.
“Sure, sweet-cheeks,” Lorne looked like he was going to burst into tears, “you can’t stop it…”
“I can’t?” Buffy wanted to know what awaited her in the future.
“Okay, sweet-cheeks here we go,” Lorne took a deep breath, “very soon, in fact almost as soon as you get home you will have a major shock that will ultimately be life changing for you and your closest family and friends.” Lorne drank the other half of his Sea Breeze, “You’ll go away on a long journey but you’ll come back almost before you leave and finally you’ll stay in one place which isn’t your home for a year before going home…there’s something about the law as well.”
“Is that all?” Buffy asked disappointed.
“What do you mean ‘all’?” Lorne looked slightly hurt, “Isn’t that enough?”
“I gotta say,” Buffy pointed out, “that doesn’t sound like much of a destiny.”
“I didn’t say it was going to be exciting,” Lorne pointed out.
“But hey,” Buffy pouted, “slayer here, you’d think my destiny would be more…you know, more…well, interesting.”
“Well, there you go, sweetheart,” Lorne shrugged, “I can only see what the pole-dancing shows me.”
Sitting on the stool for a moment longer, Buffy finished her drink and started back towards her friends. By the time she got to the table she’d almost forgotten what her destiny held for her. Sitting down she ordered another vodka.And what have you got at the end of the day?
What have you got to take away?
A bottle of vodka and a new set of lies
Blinds on the window and a pain behind the eyes.
Scared for life, no compensation
Private investigations.The End.