Under the Stars
Buffy's green eyes gazed doubtfully up at the very ritzy apartment building that Frasier had brought her to. She wasn't at all certain about the benefits to this scenario, but she supposed that her newest vampire friend did require some closure. As long as he didn't try to eat any of the family members he wanted so badly to reconnect with and explain things to.
Frasier stood a few feet behind her, sipping what appeared to be a cappuccino. He was still somewhat in a state of shock, hardly able to believe he was standing outside his own apartment building, sipping warm pig's blood out of a covered coffee cup. 'Appalled' would have been an understatement in describing his reaction to Buffy's insistence on finding an all-night butcher's shop [he hadn't even been aware that those existed] and actually purchasing a few pints of the stuff. In spite of his own disgust, however, he hadn't been able to deny the rumble in his stomach when she'd heated it up. He wasn't sure if that was more or less disturbing than the increasing attraction he was feeling for Buffy. Whether he wanted her as a lover or a snack, even he wasn't sure.
His life was suddenly a very confusing thing.
He'd already finished one cup of the pig's blood, and Buffy had pressed another cup on him before leaving the hotel. She hadn't even let him inside her hotel room; she'd made him wait in the hallway, babbling some nonsense about his being unable to enter without her invitation. As if he would have forced his way in without such a welcome. So he had stood in the pale light of the hallway lamps, brushing off as much of the dirt from his Armani as he could. How unfair was that? No all-night dry cleaners in Seattle, but they'd managed to find an all-night butcher. Par for the course, it seemed. He thought that if he could just get home and change his suit, he would feel like less of a monster.
He'd communicated this belief to Buffy, who had barely restrained herself from scoffing. In her opinion, it would take a whole lot more than a new suit to keep Frasier from being a monster. She was thinking more along the lines of a soul and a regular supply of pig's blood. And if that didn't work, there was always the stake.
She turned back to look at Frasier, whom she found staring down at his cup with the oddest expression of mingled disgust and hunger on his face. "Are you sure you want to do this?" she asked him.
"Yes, yes of course I want to...it's just that, well, now that I'm actually here, I find myself at a loss for words," Frasier explained, tearing his gaze away from his cup to give Buffy a plaintive look.
"There's a surprise," Buffy muttered, and smiled sweetly at Frasier's ensuing scowl.
"Can you be serious for a moment or two? I'm supposed to explain what's happened to my family, and I'm not even sure myself what precisely is going on. Can't we go somewhere for coffee, and you can explain this to me? Can I even drink coffee now? There's so much I don't know!" Frasier was working himself into one of his tizzies, Buffy could see. She moved to his side and, after a moment's hesitation, gingerly placed her hand on his arm. He stopped his ranting and looked down into her green eyes, for the moment, his whole body utterly still.
"You can drink coffee," Buffy said in a quiet tone. "Come on...let's go find some."
* * * *
Twenty minutes later, the pair sat at a table in an all-night coffee shop. Both of them sipped from steaming cups, though it was clear that Frasier was not paying much attention to his coffee. His focus was centered squarely on the small blonde across from him, his expression one of horror as Buffy painstakingly explained how his 'new life' was going to work.
"You're saying I can't go out in the sun at all? No daylight whatsoever?" Frasier asked slowly. "That's ridiculous. How am I going to handle my affairs? My work? Every single business dealing I have occurs during the day!"
"Well, you'll have to find new...um, dealings. Or whatever. Look, it's either you change, or you dust. There's really no negotiation on that part," Buffy said, her words a bit sharp.
"But what will I do? Where will I go? I'm not some artist or college student that I can suddenly change to a nocturnal existence! I'm a psychiatrist. I'm an accomplished physician. I'm a radio celebrity!" Frasier set his coffee cup down on the table with such force that the liquid within sloshed dangerously. "Dammit, Buffy....I'm on billboards!!"
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Give me a break! Can't you get it through that giant forehead of yours that that part of your life is over? In fact, your whole life is over. Finito. Done. Kaput!" She paused for a moment, frowning. "What does 'kaput' even mean, anyway?"
Frasier opened his mouth to answer her, but Buffy raised a hand in warning. "Shut up! Don't even try. I'm going to the ladies' room. I've got to get away from Dead Man Talking for a few minutes, or I'm gonna end up dusting you." She turned and stalked away from the table, disappearing down one of the cafe's hallways.
Frasier put his face in his hands, and took a deep breath. He honestly didn't know what to do. Somehow he'd thought that once he'd explained things to his family, he would be able to simply resume his normal routine. Now that Buffy had nixed that idea, Frasier was at a loss. The notion of his vampirism was a hard pill to swallow as well. The pig's blood was bad enough, but Frasier couldn't imagine actually hungering to steal the life from a fellow human being, taking them in his hands and ending their lives just as abruptly and harshly as his own life had been ended. The more he thought about it, the more he wondered why he couldn't recall the circumstances of his own death. He remembered getting out of the radio station a bit late, and walking towards his car....and then nothing. Why couldn't he remember what had happened?
Still, he couldn't deny his increasing hunger. He'd finished two cups of the pig's blood, and had thought his thirst under control. Then Buffy stood a little too close to him, or he caught a whiff of her perfume floating on the breeze, and that same thirst roiled up in his gut so painfully that Frasier thought he would collapse with it. Once or twice, he'd even felt his teeth sharpen, in anticipation, he knew now, of sinking into silky soft skin, ripping it wide open, and swallowing that rich, sweet vitae...
Frasier's fingers gripped the table suddenly, as if he were clinging for dear salvation, and to his great surprise, he heard a crack and splintering of wood as the table, and not his fingers, gave way. Panicked for no good reason, the doctor sprang to his feet, almost jumping away from the table's shattered edge. He backed towards the exit, and glancing up suddenly, saw Buffy in the hall. She had halted in mid-step on her way back to their table, and he watched her gaze dart to the ruined table, and then back to him. Thoroughly flustered now, Frasier shoved his shoulder into the door and disappeared into the night.
"Wait! No! Dammit...." Buffy darted back to her chair and grabbed her purse before heading for the door. "I knew I should have just staked him...."
Frasier sprinted down the street. He was amazed at the energy he suddenly seemed to have, the strength fairly flooded his body. He felt as if he could almost fly. He couldn't remember ever having been this strong, this...this confident. The panic he'd felt in the cafe had vanished, and now it was replaced with this, this adrenalin rush, this power....this hunger.
He turned down an alley, still running at top speed, and purely on instinct, leaped at the wall. His fingers curled in to find even the tiniest cracks in the bricks and mortar, and with preternatural ease, Frasier scaled the wall, nearly as fast as he'd been running. In just a few seconds he was atop the roof, his face turned up towards the moon, his arms out-stretched. The power he felt was still pulsing through him. He felt...alive.
"This is wonderful!!" he shouted at the night's sky. "Look at this, look at me, this is amazing!" A scraping sound drew his attention back in the direction that he'd just come. He didn't have to look to know that it was Buffy, climbing the wall herself, still pursuing him. Frasier started to run again, but a sudden whim struck him, and he turned back to the edge of the roof. He waited until the scraping got very close, and then suddenly he lunged over and grabbed Buffy by the back of her collar. "Here, my lovely, let me give you a hand up," Frasier said, and he lifted her, one-armed, up onto the roof. He enjoyed her expression of surprised anger for a moment, and then effortlessly flung her across the rooftop.
Buffy landed in a roll, and much to Frasier's surprise, she came to her feet instantly. He saw that she had her stake out again. Somehow it didn't frighten him as much as it had when he'd first seen it. A smarmy grin crossed his lips as he circled her slowly.
"I see you're feeling a little empowered," Buffy said, her green gaze following his every move.
"That would be one way to put it," Frasier agreed. "I've got to thank you for telling me how strong I can be. I wouldn't have believed it of myself. You know, I was never the athletic type."
"And now you're going to...what? Kill me?" Buffy said with a shrug.
"I think I could," Frasier said, his grin still in place. "You can't imagine the power I'm feeling right now."
"Oh, I think I can," Buffy said. She was in a crouch, her stake ready, moving in slow opposition of his movements.
"That's right...you're the one girl in all the world, isn't that what you said? You hunt and kill vampires. Born with the speed and the strength and all. Do you want my professional opinion on that?" Frasier stopped his circling, his gaze still locked on her. Buffy stopped moving too, and cursed herself for falling for the feint when Frasier burst into sudden motion again, his vampiric speed bringing him to her side in the blink of an eye. Her reflexes were fast, but not fast enough - she'd hesitated a split second too long, and then Frasier was behind her, his hand was gripping the wrist of the hand that held her stake, his other hand wrapped around her throat. "Professionally speaking," he whispered against her ear, and then he paused to take a deep breath of her scent. "I'd say that you show considerable signs of narcissism, coupled with a superiority complex. Oh, and a definite fear of intimacy." Buffy trembled in his grasp as Frasier paused once more. "But I think I can help you with that last one, my dear." She felt his lips gliding lightly over her throat, and thought fleetingly of Angel.
Then Buffy forced her attention back to the moment at hand. "Sorry, Doc. I don't think my insurance would cover your treatment!" The Slayer jammed her elbow hard into Frasier's side, earning a scrape of his nails across her throat as she forced him away. Whirling, Buffy yanked her stake hand free of his grip, and with her free hand she punched him hard in the jaw. The vamp reeled backwards, grasping his face, but Buffy did not relent. With a leap she sent a high kick to his chest, and Frasier flew backwards, landing in a heap several feet away. Buffy darted forward, and when he seemed about to get up, she stomped his stomach and jumped atop him, her stake at the ready. She brought the point down to his chest with lightning speed, and felt him slump beneath her.
"Do it," Frasier said, his voice hoarse and pained. "Kill me."
Again, Buffy hesitated. Her green eyes met his light blue ones. There was no sign of the demon now, just Frasier as she'd seen him before, tired and beaten and a little scared. "Are you back? Are you in control again?"
"I...I think so. Yes." Frasier tried to take a breath, found none, and leaned his head back against the roof, closing his eyes. "I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me. I felt so...so violent. And hungry."
Buffy slowly raised the stake, alert for any sudden movement from the vamp. She straightened, and stepped aside, offering him a hand up.
Frasier didn't take it. "I really am a monster," he whispered quietly, his eyes still closed.
"You really are," Buffy agreed. "If you still want help, I'll help you. I can't let you kill anyone though. If we're gonna have trouble with that, I need to know now."
Frasier opened his eyes finally, and then rolled to his hands and knees before getting to his feet. With a sigh he brushed some of the dirt from his suit, and looked down at himself. "This is ruined. This whole thing is ruined." He looked back up at Buffy. "I suppose the only thing to do is get a new one. Maybe one that won't require dry-cleaning. I suppose I could learn to get along with a new suit. I could...adapt. Yes, I'm sure I could. But not all at once. I'll have to take it one day...er, one night...at a time. Maybe we could, um, play it by ear?"
Buffy gave him a wary smile. "You know Doc....you're a little weird."
"And is that....your professional opinion, Miss Slayer?" he said, returning her smile, though his was a bit forlorn.
"You can quote me on it," Buffy said, turning and heading for the building's edge. "Come on. We've got to get you inside. The sun is coming up soon."
"But what about my family?" Frasier asked.
"We can go see them tomorrow. You can call them from the hotel, even. I'll get you a room next to mine." She swung a leg over the roof's edge and started down.
"Right, because I can't go into your room." Frasier watched with some amazement how easily she disappeared from sight.
Buffy popped her head back up and sent him a look. "Of course you can't. You're old enough to be my dad, you perv."
Frasier looked affronted. "I didn't mean....I wouldn't presume to imply that....well that's just not what I meant at all!!"
She grinned at him and dropped back down. Frasier hurried to the side and looked down at her. "You...you're already half-way down!" he called.
"Yeah, so what are you waiting for? Sunrise?" she yelled back.
"I don't think I can make that climb!"
"Stop yelling!" Buffy snapped. "You climbed up. Climbing down is easier. And if you can't climb, then jump."
"Are you insane?!" Frasier yelled, and Buffy grimaced up at him. "A fall like that could kill me!"
"You've got to be kidding me! Jump down, you idiot. You can't die!" Buffy snarled, and by now she'd reached the ground. She brushed her hands off on her leather pants, then placed her fists on her hips in a posture that Frasier knew all too well by now. "If you make me come back up there, I'm going to throw you down!"
Exasperated, Frasier swung a leg over the edge of the building. It had seemed so easy when he'd come up. He'd put barely any thought to it at all. Now that he was focusing on it, the task of simply climbing down a sheer brick wall seemed insurmountable. For a few seconds he straddled the edge, and then began to ease over the corner, rather like a crab. Below him, Buffy waited, making impatient noises. "I'm coming!!" he snapped at her, and then, taking a deep breath, Frasier let go of the building.
He didn't go feet first, and landed hard on his back. Pain exploded along his spine, snapping outward like a rubber band towards his extremities. For a moment he stared, dazed, at the stars above him. Then those were blotted out by Buffy's silhouette. "See how easy that was?" she said with a smile.
"Yes," Frasier said in a dry tone. "I don't know why I've been wasting my time taking elevators all of my life."
"Very funny. Now get up. It's getting late." She moved away from his side.
"If you don't mind, I think I'll just lie here for a moment and wait for my mobility to return," Frasier replied.
"Sure, why would I care if you fry yourself like an egg?" Buffy's voice was retreating, and Frasier groaned in agony as he pulled himself laboriously to his feet. "I can't believe I can even walk after that!" He tried to retrieve that feeling of strength and power that he'd felt earlier, but it was gone for now. He took a moment to brush yet more dirt from his pants, then gave it up as an exercise in futility before hurrying after Buffy.