Joss Whedon owns "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and related characters; Patricia Briggs owns "The Mercedes Thompson Series" and related characters; I own nothing.Note:
This takes place immediately after the fourth book, "Bone Crossed". I am planning on going back and showing what happened between "The Winter of Our Discontent" and this story, though.~*~*~
“Yes, go into the haunted house,” Buffy muttered under her breath as she made her way through the bowl of popcorn in her lap. “Stop trying so hard to stay alive.” She was watching some sort of Japanese horror film that Warren had chosen for their movie night. It had been set ever since Buffy had moved in, but when Kyle called wanting to celebrate nailing a particularly heinous husband to the wall in court, Buffy told her new housemate to go and enjoy the date. That left her, the popcorn, and little Miss Too Dumb to Live on this lovely Tuesday night. Her life was just a barrel of fun-loving monkeys right now.
Hearing a knock on the door, Buffy got to her feet with a sigh.
“Finally,” she complained, not bothering to put the movie on pause. “How long does it take to get here with kung-pow chicken and spring rolls?” Grabbing her wallet, she walked over to the door, and opened it, only to have the question of how much did she owe die on her lips.
Samuel stood in the doorway, looking relaxed to most of the world, but to Buffy’s experienced eyes incredibly tense. His eyes were a shade too pale and his smile just on the edge of predatory for that.
“You’re not my Chinese food,” she told him, a pit settling in her stomach. She knew he would find out eventually, but she was hoping it wouldn’t be after an overall shitty day of dealing with trying to find out why her stuff wasn’t here yet. All she wanted was an evening to forget her troubles, not adding to them. Of course, she did kinda invite this on herself by moving to the Tri-Cities, but she’d ignore that for now and focus on the fact that her ex was standing in front of her looking like he was two seconds away from losing control of his temper.
“We need to talk,” he said, not even for the non-verbal invite and brushing past her to step inside.
“Please, invade my home,” Buffy raised her voice, doing her best not to slam the door closed. Walking back to the main room, she found him studying the TV screen as the heroine ran around screaming like the idiot she was. Buffy was in no mood to be merciful in her evaluation of the fictional character on the screen.
“You hate horror movies,” he stated, looking up to meet her gaze.
“Considering most of my DVDs are between here and Santa Barbara, I take what I can get,” Buffy replied, a little more sharply than she meant to. She had wanted this conversation to be on her terms, not his.
A lengthy pause stretched between them, neither of them making a move. Resisting the urge to cross her arms, Buffy waited for Samuel to speak, figuring that since he was the one who had shown up at her doorstep, he might as well have the decency to tell her why exactly he was here and interrupting her movie time.
“You lied to Mercy.”
Of all the things Buffy had expected him to say, that was definitely not it. She was expecting him going all demand-y and explanation wanting about her moving here, not accusing her of lying.
“About what?” Buffy asked coldly, although she already had a suspicion about what Samuel was referencing.
“You told her to be careful of Blackwood, that he liked to collect—I believe that’s the term you used—creatures for the properties their blood held. You also told her nobody had ever escaped from him,” Samuel told her, stepping closer, trying to use his height to intimidate her even though it had never worked before. Buffy was too used to people being taller than her.
“And you’re bringing this up why?”
“It turns out there was one who escaped, almost a hundred years ago,” Samuel said softly. “Strong, unnaturally strong, whom Blackwood kept to increase his strength and stamina, despite the fact that she looked like a sapling, to quote the fae Mercy talked to. A woman named Joyce.”
If Buffy had been holding anything made of glass, it would have shattered from the force of her fists clenching. Doing her best to keep her breathing as calm as possible, she consciously tried to relax her hands so that she didn’t quite look like she was getting ready to go seven rounds with Samuel. She wanted to speak, wanted to tell him to shut up and get out, but for some reason her voice wasn’t working.
“The thing that puzzled me was, why did you lie?” Samuel continued, moving in closer. “You were the only one who seemed to know anything about what Blackwood was doing, even though you did say you had only heard rumors. You could have told her that there might have been somebody who had escaped.”
“So I lied,” Buffy countered, finally finding her voice. She focused on her anger, made sure it was burning bright and hot, if only to keep her from sliding back into memories she would just as soon forget if she had the choice. “I don’t see why this matters at all.”
“You wanted her scared,” Samuel accused, his voice dropping to a growl. “After everything she went through, you wanted her to be scared? I thought you were her friend.”
“Do you have any
idea what Blackwood was capable of?” Buffy asked, taking a step forward. “Mercy only got a taste of what he could do to a person when he wanted to hurt them, the sick games he’ll put you through just to break you, just so he can do whatever he wants with you without you fighting back. How long do you think it would have been before he targeted Adam, targeted you
just so he could break Mercy? How about her family, since they aren’t under the protection of your father? He would have gone after them one by one just to watch Mercy break a little more until she stopped fighting.
“So, yes, I wanted her scared,” Buffy continued with a bitter, hollow laugh. “I wanted her to think about what the hell was going on and not just wander blindly into something that could kill her if she was lucky, or absolutely destroy her if she wasn’t! I didn’t want her to go through the same hell that I went through under that bastard!”
“You think too little of Mercy,” Samuel told her, his voice becoming cold. “She’s stronger than she looks.” He stared at her for a moment before brushing past her, heading for the door. Buffy let him take a few steps before speaking.
“But maybe I’m not,” she said quietly, knowing that he would still hear her. His footsteps stopped, but Buffy didn’t turn around. She didn’t want him to see the tears that were threatening to spill over. She wouldn’t look weak in front of him, not here, not now. “Maybe I’m not strong enough to lose somebody else to him.” She drew a shuttering breath and forced herself to keep her eyes open.
It had been a long time since she had let somebody in—Samuel excluded—and when Buffy had heard about Mercy’s first encounter with Blackwood, she had nearly panicked. Mercy was exactly the kind of person Blackwood would target to add to his menagerie of food sources, both for her power and her connection to Buffy, and that was something she couldn’t allow to happen. She had seen too much, lost too many people to be able to let him get his claws into someone she was slowly starting to consider family. She couldn’t handle that, not after what Blackwood had done almost a hundred years ago.
“Buffy…” Samuel began, before Buffy cut him off. She had already said much more than she originally meant to.
“You have your answer, Samuel. Now get out,” she ordered coldly, turning to face him. He hesitated, looking like he wanted to come closer, to say something to her. He didn’t, however, only nodding curtly before quietly leaving. Buffy watched him go, waiting until the door had closed before collapsing on the couch, drawing her knees to her chest, and staring blankly at the TV screen, lost in her memories before another knock startled her.
“I’m going to kick his ass,” Buffy muttered half-heartedly, wearily getting to her feet to answer the door. “Samuel…” she started before stopping, looking at the deliveryman on her doorstep, a bag of Chinese food in his hands. Shaking her head, Buffy quietly paid for the food, not even caring that it was later than it had any reason to be.
Waiting for the deliveryman to drive away, Buffy dropped the food on the end table near the door, grabbed her keys, and went outside. She needed to clear her head, she needed to run, do something to try to stop thinking about the people Blackwood had killed in order to break her resistance. She needed to stop thinking of her family’s broken, bloody bodies, their blank eyes staring back at her accusingly.
There was a park within walking distance of Warren’s house. It wasn’t much: a swing set, some slides, and monkey bars, but in the stillness of the night, it was what Buffy needed. Sitting on one of the swings, she began rocking back and forth slightly, studying her hands.
Of all her failures, she considered what happened with Blackwood to be her greatest. She had been cocky, stupid, going in there thinking that she could take him. There was a reason, after all, that his nickname was—had—been “The Monster”, after all. But she hadn’t been thinking when she went after him, blinded with anger and grief at the fact that he had killed one of her adopted family who had made the mistake of moving to Spokane. It was the first time something like that had happened in this new dimension, and the shock of it had caused Buffy to forget her hard-earned lessons about planning and making sure she knew exactly what she was up against before storming after Blackwood. Her almost yearlong captivity and use as a food source had brought her sharply down to earth. She would have done anything to prevent Mercy from even having a taste of that fate.
She didn’t know how long she stayed there, half-heartedly swinging. It was only when she noticed that the moon had almost disappeared from the night sky that she realized she was shivering in the cool air. Rubbing her arms, she walked back to Warren’s house, although it was technically hers as well. She was almost there when she saw a person sitting on her doorstep. It took her a moment to recognize who it was. Narrowing her eyes, she continued walking towards the house, stopping when she was about a foot away from her squatter.
“I thought I told you to leave,” she told Samuel coldly as he got to his feet.
“I was told I wasn’t allowed back in the trailer unless I apologized for being, and I’m quoting Mercy, ‘an enormous jackass who needs to pull his head out of his ass.’” Buffy couldn’t help it; her mouth quirked slightly as she played with the keys in her hand.
“She really has you pegged,” she answered, her voice only defrosting slightly. He shrugged but didn’t move from in front of her door. ”My way, you’re in it,” she told him after a moment of awkward silence between them.
“You do what you have in order to protect your pack,” he finally said quietly. Buffy studied his face before nodding slightly. As idiotic as she thought the werewolf structure could be some times, that was the one thing she would always agree on. You did whatever it took to protect those close to you. Samuel stepped aside, finally leaving the path to the door clear for Buffy. Buffy was unlocking the door when Samuel leaned down slightly.
“Goodnight, Buffy,” Samuel said, his breath warm on her ear. Looking up at him, she gave him a half-smile that she was surprised that actually felt real.
“Night, Samuel. Tell Mercy that she doesn’t deserve either of us as pack members.”
A smile flickered across his face as he straightened up. “I will,” he promised before starting down the walk. Buffy followed him with her eyes before turning the doorknob and letting herself inside where her cold Chinese food and an unfinished movie waited.