For the Weary Souls
: Ranger gets called in after Buffy is kidnapped by a group of mercenaries determined to bring down the IWC. A/N
: Set a few years after the end of “Chosen”. Disregarding the comics, same premise though. After the fall of Sunnydale, they rebuild the Watcher’s Council and start training the mini-Slayer’s. One change. The spell to activate the Slayer’s drained Willow of her power. This is set between books 6 and 7 in the Plum series. Disclaimer
: I don’t own anything. Buffy goes to Joss, and Ranger goes to Janet. Chapter Four:
October 2nd, 2006
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” Buffy said, shaking her head at her little sister.
Dawn shot her a smug grin, nudging the shorter woman in the arm. “Oh, c’mon Buffy. You gave in
way too easy, you know that you are just as excited as I am.”
Buffy resumed shaking her head, this time ruefully. “It’s a lot of responsibility, Dawnie. You’re at school all day long, and I’m…”
“Wandering aimlessly around the house?” Dawn provided helpfully.
Pouting, Buffy gave Dawn a little shove, causing the taller girl to stumble back. “Hey! I’m just… finding my niche, okay? Sheesh, I’m retired, I’m supposed to be enjoying my time off by wandering aimlessly and- and gardening and learning to cook!” Buffy exclaimed for what she felt was the millionth time since they had moved to New Haven. It wasn’t like she didn’t deserve to relax and spend time to herself. She was the original Vampire Slayer, wasn’t she?
“Well, you know that’s all well and good if you actually did any of that stuff,” Dawn replied, raising a brow and rubbing her arm where Buffy had shoved her. Her sister sometimes forgot she was stronger than the average person, and Dawn had the bruises to prove it.
“I’m getting around to it,” Buffy grumbled, frowning at Dawn. “Stop being judgy-girl, you brat.”
Dawn threw her hands in the air, palms up. “No judgy-girl here, Buffy. Seriously, I’m glad you’re enjoying your time off. Spend it however you want.”
Sighing, the blonde Slayer took a step forward and looked down doubtfully. “Can’t we just work up to this? I don’t know, get a fish or something? Ooh, or a hamster! Hamsters are easy!” She gave Dawn a hopeful smile, studiously ignoring what sat at her feet staring up at her with chocolate brown eyes.
“Buffy, you and I both know that we can’t keep a goldfish alive for longer than two days. I’m sure all the little goldfish spirits will gladly come back from the dead and remind us of this fact. Seriously, it’s not that big of a deal. Look at his cute wittle smooshy face,” Dawn cooed to the little pug that looked up at her happily, mouth open and tongue peeking out.
Buffy had to admit, it really was a ‘cute wittle smooshy face’. She still had her doubts as to whether or not she and Dawn could manage to raise the little puppy though. Like Dawn said, they had a terrible track record with goldfish, and weren’t they supposed to be easy to raise? Just feed daily and clean the tank every once in a while. So why was it that not one fish could live past two days once left in their care?
Staring down at Dawn who was currently sitting on the floor with the puppy in her lap, Buffy felt her heart melt at the sight they made. It had been a while since she had seen such a carefree look on her little sisters face. Joining her on the floor, Buffy held her hands out to hold the dog. Dawn’s face turned hopeful, and she practically shoved the dog at her sister.
Holding the animal up, Buffy examined him from head to toe. He was a nice white color with a black face and the bulging eyes she associated with pugs. His breathing was audible, and he was making snorting noises that Buffy found adorable. She scratched his belly and made a groaning noise, knowing she was a goner as he arched his back and got a blissful look on his doggy face.
“Okay,” she started, then had to stop when Dawn let out an excited squeal and practically crushed Buffy in a hug, the little dog making a surprised yelping noise and jumping to his feet. Buffy rolled her eyes and pushed Dawn back, handing the dog over to her. “There are a couple of conditions,” she warned.
“Anything!” Dawn said, hugging the pug to her chest.
“You get to potty train him. Also, we need to fence off the backyard so he can play outside,” she told her, and Dawn nodded vigorously in agreement. “And last, he’s sleeping with you.”
“Okay, okay, okay! Thank you so much Buffy!” Dawn gushed, giving her another hug and getting up off the ground of the animal shelter they were at.
Buffy followed suit, brushing off the back of her pants and turning to follow Dawn to the adoption counter. “Hey wait!” She called, and Dawn turned back to Buffy with a worried look. “What are we going to name him?”
Laughing, Dawn held the wiggling puppy up to her face and made kissy faces at him. “I think… He looks like a Simon.”
New Haven, CT
September 9th, 2007
“Simon! Oh my God, I’ve been so worried!”
Ranger paused as he was headed back inside, distracted by Dawn’s squeal as she leapt up from the porch swing and hurried across the porch, brushing by him in the process. Turning to see what had caught his attention, he had to grin at the sight in front of him.
Tank was walking towards them from a neighbors yard, looking as menacing as ever. He had a scowl on his face that would make normal people run away at the sight of the big man. However, the little white dog he held in his arms was such a complete contrast to him that Ranger couldn’t help but let out a soft laugh.
Dawn was undeterred despite Tank’s scowl, and she raced towards him and met him across her front yard. Her hands were held out in front of her and he gladly passed the dog onto the younger girl. Dawn grabbed the dog and hugged him to her chest, making cooing noises and kissing his face. The dog was alternating between whining in happiness and trying to get a good lick in.
“Thank you so much, where did you find him?” Dawn asked Tank, resting her face against the dogs head and smiling up at the big man.
“Ian found him in the forest in the back and brought him out to me. Thought you might know who he belongs to,” Tank replied, gesturing to the back of the yard.
Nodding enthusiastically, Dawn hugged the dog tighter to her chest. “He’s ours. His name is Simon, he went missing the same day Buffy did. My poor wittle guy, he’s been out there in that scary forest all by himself for four days.” Dawn kissed the dogs forehead and looked at Tank uncertainly for a moment. Seemingly making up her mind, she leaned forward quickly and hugged him. Simon was squished between them and he made a whining noise at the sudden pressure from both sides. Stepping back, Dawn planted a kiss on Tank's cheek and gave him a smile before turning to head back inside.
Normally a confident and quiet man, Tank’s face adopted a bashful and embarrassed look and Ranger looked at him in amazement. Tank scuffed his big boot against the ground and smiled. Raising a brow at him, Ranger approached his friend and stood in front of him expectantly until Tank lost the smile and turned serious.
“Good kid,” Tank said in defense, and Ranger clapped him on the back.
“Anything so far?” He asked, indicating the neighborhood.
Shrugging, Tank shoved his hand in his pocket and gazed at the neighbors house to the left of the Summers home. “Older lady there, says she saw a black van parked in front the same day Buffy Summers was taken. Says she saw a man standing outside smoking a cigarette a few days before, and he was staring at the house pretty intently.”
Nodding his head, Ranger cast his eyes to across the street and made his way over to where the man had been seen standing. “Description?”
“Average height, average build. Shaggy hair. She came out to get her mail, got a decent look at his face. He had a scar across the left side of his face, mouth to hairline. Said that it was ‘frightening’ to look at.”
It was a few hours after her first meeting with Mr. Grease Head. Buffy had been left in the same room, tied to the chair. They had turned the lights off, and the windows had been boarded up. Only a few strays of light struggled through the cracks between the boards, but it was hardly enough to provide her with enough light to see by.
Sitting in the dark for hours with drying blood on her chin wasn’t really her idea of a good time. One blessing she could count was that she could feel her strength coming back faster than before. Buffy guessed her body was getting used to the drug they kept shooting into her veins.
The time in this dingy room did provide her with an opportunity to come up and disregard about a million plans though. Most of her plans were contingent on her getting her Slayer strength back, and while she can feel it returning slowly she wasn’t sure if it would be enough. And more than likely, they would shove another damn needle in her soon and she would lose whatever leeway she had made.
Sighing in frustration, Buffy let her head drop down and she placed her chin on her chest. Her head hurt like hell, and she was feeling dizzy from hunger. She wasn’t used to going days without food, and her usual Slayer metabolism required her to eat every couple of hours. Even without her Slayer powers right now, the loss of proper sustenance was hitting her hard and fast.
Buffy closed her eyes for a second, trying to fight the oncoming dizziness. Taking some deep breaths helped, and once the dizziness passed she lifted her head and began tugging at the ropes binding her. After a few moments of fruitless pulling Buffy sat back with a huff of anger. That’s when she heard the scratching noise coming from the direction of the door, and her head shot up when she realized someone was once again entering the room.
She smoothed her face to reflect no emotion, not wanting to give the greasy bastard any satisfaction in knowing that she was more than slightly worried. The door creaked open slowly, and a figure entered the room quietly and shut it behind them. Buffy squinted her eyes, trying to make out who it was.
“Buffy?” The voice whispered, and her face crinkled in confusion. She didn’t recognize the voice, so she kept quiet. Footsteps sounded closer, then there was a clicking sound as the overhead light was turned on. Buffy winced at the brightness and waited for her eyes to adjust before she was able to look the person over.
The man standing in front of her was someone she had never seen before. He was tall, and had darkly tanned skin. His clothes were all black, from his combat boots to his t-shirt. Dark hair was pulled back from his handsome face, and he had light green eyes that stared at her inquisitively.
“Buffy, I’m guessing,” he said, hurrying over to her.
Buffy flinched back when he reached a hand out to her, and he noticed and shot her an apologetic look.
“Sorry,” he said before heading behind her. “But I’m here to help you.”
She tensed when she lost sight of him, but felt herself relax involuntarily when the ropes loosened and finally fell off. Shaking her suddenly tingling arms to get her blood flow going again, Buffy turned her head and followed him with her eyes. Once he was in front of her and crouching down to her level she looked him over again. “Who are you?” Buffy asked, her voice rough.
He sent her a soft smile and placed a hand on her knee. “I was sent by Rupert Giles,” he said as he gave her knee a soft squeeze. Her leg jerked back reflexively and he backed away, hands held in front of him. “We don’t have much time before someone comes to check on you, we should go now.” He made forward, hand out to help her stand but she shrugged his help off.
“Who are you?” She asked again, attempting to stand on her own. Her legs were wobbly, and it wasn’t a good feeling. There were sharp pricks of pain as the blood began to flow through her legs and her feet began to tingle. Straightening slowly didn’t stop the rush of pain that shot through her head, and her stomach rebelled again. Buffy barely had time to grab a hold of the chair before she was bent over it, dry heaving.
Her stomach muscles contracted painfully with each heave and she had to bite back a sob from escaping her cracked lips. Sweat began to make it’s way down her face, stinging her lips and mixing with the blood on her chin. There were spots of red on the chair where she was heaving, and she could taste the coppery taste associated with blood in the back of her throat. Once her dry heaving had passed and her stomach settled down, Buffy became aware of a soothing hand stroking her back.
She didn’t know who this person was, but at that moment she was grateful for his presence. Buffy wanted to get out of there, wanted to leave this hell hole and never look back. She wanted to feel safe again. And she wanted a damn cheeseburger.
Standing up determinedly, she fought against her dizziness and turned to face her rescue. “Let’s go,” the blonde Slayer said, gesturing for him to lead the way. He nodded and reached up to turn the light off, grabbing her hand as soon as they were plunged in darkness.
“There were a couple of people in the other room, and there are a few outbuildings surrounding the cabin,” he whispered as he herded her towards the door. “I had to sneak past them, they aren’t very diligent though. But I heard them talking about sending someone in here soon to check on you and feed you.”
“Oh good, so they weren’t
going to starve me to death,” Buffy muttered disgustedly.
“You don’t have to worry about that,” he assured her before opening the door. “We have to be quiet. This cabin is a fairly good size. We turn right and it leads us past a room with a few people. Once we pass them we follow the hallway until it splits. Turn left and we will reach the front of the house. There is a desk and a phone as well as some cabinets and a closet. I’ll tell you where we need to go once we make it out of here.”
Buffy nodded before realizing that he can’t see her. “Got it. Right, left, outside, be sneaky. Now let’s go,
” she said impatiently,
Tugging her hand, he set out at a slow pace and turned right. They walked quietly and slowed even more when they caught sight of a soft light under a doorway. Hugging the wall, Buffy shot dirty looks at the closed door the whole time. She was aware they couldn’t see her, but it made her feel better. Finally getting past the door they followed the long hallway.
Buffy’s eyes had adjusted to the darkness a bit better, and she was able to make out parts of the hallway. The walls were dirty and void of anything personal. The hallway was just long and softly carpeted, but the carpet needed the vacuum of a lifetime. She wrinkled her noise in disgust and fought the urge to sneeze.
Soon enough the reached the split and turned right. They moved quickly after that, the man setting the pace at a slow jog. After entering the main part of the cabin, Buffy looked around and noted that he had spoken the truth about the décor. There was a desk with a telephone sitting in it’s cradle, the desk angled to face the rest of the room with the chair to the wall. There was one wall of file cabinets, and a door that must lead to the closet. Most of the windows were boarded up with the exception of one, and Buffy drank in the sight of the setting sun. Being stuck in a dark room for hours and hours made her miss being outside.
Putting his fingers to his lips, he gestured for her to head towards the door ahead of him. She gladly took the lead and reached out to grasp the handle. Pulling the door open, she prepared herself to make a run for it. Buffy still didn’t trust this man, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to stick with him until she was sure he wasn’t lying to her.
However, she wasn’t prepared to open the door and be faced with the greasy haired, scar faced man who had brought her here to begin with.
Her face turned shock, but she quickly smoothed it to be expressionless. He grinned at her, his face twisted and ugly. “Trying to escape?” He asked, tutting disappointedly. “I thought you were enjoying your stay.”
Buffy didn’t waste her breath on replying. Ugly Face stepped closer to her, crowding her space in a major way. Running his finger down the side of her face, he brushed her swollen lip and smiled at the damage he had caused. That smile spurred her into action. She brought her knee up between his legs, hitting him with as much strength as she could manage.
His face turned white, eyes widening comically and mouth opening to let out a pained grunt. When he bent forward with his hands cupping his privates protectively, Buffy grabbed his greasy hair and smashed his face into her knee. He fell onto the ground, blood flowing from his nose and Buffy felt a sense of poetic justice at seeing him in pain.
Not sparing a thought to the man who was sent to ‘rescue’ her, Buffy took off running. She wasn’t sure where she was headed, she just knew she was getting the hell out of there.
New Haven, CT
A few hours after he had asked for it, Ranger received a list of possible suspects from Rupert. He had helpfully put asterisks next to the names of the ones that he felt were the most likely the masterminds behind Buffy’s kidnapping, as well as a brief summary on their connection to the IWC and why he believed they might be involved.
He handed the list off to Manuel with instructions to send the information to Silvio, who would provide him with a complete background on each of the suspects. Silvio was in charge of running the background checks for anyone they were checking into and Ranger knew he would find anything that could possibly help them find Buffy.
It was getting dark out, so Ranger headed to the back to meet Ian, Ricardo and Hal. He exited through the kitchen and was drawn once again to the fridge. Ranger’s hand went to his pocket involuntarily, and he brought out the picture of Buffy that he had shoved in there.
Every time he looked at a picture of her, he was struck speechless. It wasn’t only her beauty, though she truly was beautiful. It was the expressions on her face, the minute details. She had an open face, an honest face and he was drawn to it. He had never met her, and he wasn’t really sure if he ever would. The thought of not finding her in time tore at his insides.
He traced her laughing face with his fingertip.
Even in a picture, her eyes seemed to stare into his and cut through the bullshit he sometimes presented. In Ranger’s line of work, he saw so much dirtiness and hate that he felt it was caked on his soul. Buffy was brightness to his darkness and he felt that if had the chance to meet her, to be in her presence for even just a moment… she might be able to bring some of the light and cancel out the darkness that shadowed his everyday life.
Ranger wasn’t a naïve man. He understood what was out there, had been in close encounter with the fakers and the liars and the soul sucking people who inhabited this world. He knew about the secret world of demons and devils and just plain evil.
His daily interactions were mostly conducted in dark alleys and in dirty bars.
The only person in his life at the moment who could see through some of his armor was Stephanie, and not even she could begin to understand who and what he was. Stephanie stared at him with her blue eyes that begged him to bare his soul, and Ranger found himself lying to her to protect her.
But staring at this picture of Buffy, looking in her green eyes… and Ranger wanted to tell her. Wanted to tell her about the dreams he had at night that woke him up in a sweat. He wanted her to see his soul and judge if it was worthy of saving. He wanted it to be worthy of saving.
“This is crazy,” he murmured, realizing he was basing these feelings off of what he could garner from a picture.
He didn’t know Buffy Summers, didn’t know if she was the type of person who could forgive a man for his past and see him for his future.
Shaking his head, Ranger grabbed a magnet and put the picture back in its proper place on the fridge. He turned to go out the back door and felt rooted to the spot. Sighing in exasperation, he took the picture and shoved it back into his pocket.
Once he was standing outside on the back porch, Ranger could truly appreciate the smell of fall in the air. The backyard was picturesque. There was a smaller white fence surrounding the yard, and a gate that led into the forest that lay beyond. An apple tree sat in one corner, its green leaves already turning golden. With the setting sun acting as a backdrop to the tree, it looked like it was on fire.
Despite the situation, Ranger felt a certain peaceful feeling enter his body. It surprised him greatly. This place was definitely different from Trenton. And if Ranger were anybody else, the feeling that surrounded him would be something he could definitely get used to.
Unfortunately, he was who he was.
Shaken out of his thoughts at the sound of approaching footfall, he glanced up as three of his men entered through the back gate. They were empty handed, and from the looks on their faces they hadn’t found anything.
Cursing softly, Ranger waited for them to report on the off chance he was reading them wrong.
“Nothing,” Ian said, confirming his suspicions. If he were to be honest he hadn’t really expected there to be anything found back there. It seemed like whoever had taken Buffy had left through the front, and no one had stuck around to enter the forest.
“Silvio is looking at a list of suspects, we should have some info and a better idea by tomorrow morning,” Ranger informed them, gesturing for his men to enter the house. “In the meantime, I want the tracking system set up on the house phone with the option to plug a cell phone. Our guess is that they will make contact soon, if Buffy is still alive. And we want to be ready.”
Nodding in understanding, Ian headed out the front door to grab the equipment from the truck he came in. He skirted Dawn on his way out, the girl sitting on the ground with her dog in her arms. She looked up when he passed and she leapt up, dog in arms.
Looking down at the girl, though she really wasn’t a girl Ian had to admit, he gave her a quizzical look. She blushed prettily and ducked her head.
“I just want to say thanks for finding Simon,” Dawn said in the direction of the floor.
Ian lifted her chin with his finger and gave her a smile. “You’re welcome,” he replied softly before continuing out the front door.
Dawn watched him go before she turned to flop on the couch.
Witnessing this, Ranger had to wonder about the Summers women.
Dawn seemed to be having an affect on a few of his men, and he wondered how they would fare against her older sister.
Ranger himself couldn’t claim to be unaffected by Buffy Summers.