TWO: On Stealth, And Certain People's Lack Thereof
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or worlds used in this story, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scott Pilgrim, and Anita Blake. No harm is intended toward any of the copyright owners. This story is intended for entertainment purposes only.+++++PREVIOUSLY: Ramona Flowers is apparently a Slayer, although Todd's vegan powers kept her from finding out until recently, when she and Scott Pilgrim moved to Cleveland. Faith has been assigned to make contact. Anita Blake falls through a portal from her world to ours, and Buffy stumbles across her in a graveyard. Meanwhile, Willow and Kennedy are on vacation.+++++TWO: On Stealth, And Certain People’s Lack Thereof
Sometimes, all Faith wanted was a good night’s sleep -- no vampires, no demons, no one trying to take over the world. Just a chance to go to bed and not wake up for eight or nine hours.
Not tonight, though. Tonight, Faith was actually pretty interested in what was going to happen next with their latest slayer.
So she hid in the shadows across the street from the building where Ramona Flowers and her boyfriend lived, hands in the pockets of her leather coat -- it wasn’t the cold that bothered her; it was the wind -- as she watched and waited.
Two hours in, just as she was deciding whether or not it would be worth it to bug off for a snack at the all-night convenience store at the end of the block, the front door of the building opened and Ramona slipped out.
Faith followed at a discreet distance, allowing Ramona to set the pace. She walked lightly, carefully, her boots making as little noise as possible. She knew Ramona had the hearing of a slayer, and the last thing she wanted to do was get caught. That was how Vi’d ended up with that bruise on her face and a partially-dislocated shoulder.
Four blocks from the building, Ramona suddenly stopped, cocking her head. Faith melted back into the shadows -- she wasn’t as good at it as Angel, but she was good enough -- and watched Ramona look around.
Then Faith’s eyes widened as Ramona opened her small bag -- a little bigger than a canteen of water, with a yellow star on it -- and pulled out a hammer. How a weapon that big fit into a bag that small was something that Giles was still trying to figure out, but that wasn’t really Faith’s problem. No, Faith was more interested in seeing where Ramona went next. She watched her grip the handle at the base and just behind the head -- and barely suppressed a snicker; she’d have to remember to make a hammer joke the next time she saw Robin -- and followed again as Ramona ducked into an alleyway.
The alley opened up onto a narrow passage, and that narrow passage led to a two-lane street. Ramona crossed it quickly and, one-handed -- the other was holding the hammer -- climbed a fence and dropped onto the other side. Faith saw a playground and some jungle-gym equipment: the kind of place where couples might go for a little privacy, the kind of place where vampires might come for an easy meal. Faith cursed silently; there was no way for her to get across the street without guaranteeing that Ramona wouldn’t catch her -- all the girl had to do was turn around.
Then Ramona did turn around. “You might as well come out,” she said in a normal tone of voice. Faith’s hearing picked it up easily. “I know you’re there.”
“All right,” she said. “Be right over.” Faith jogged across the street, putting on a burst of speed as she hit the curb and bounding over the fence.
you people?” Ramona asked, holding the hammer in a ready position, one Faith recognized from practicing with Buffy’s scythe -- back when Buffy had still been around, that is.
“Great. Faith. And who are you with?”
“Oh, I think you know.”
“Know? Know what?” Ramona fixed her eyes on Faith. “I know that some annoying redhead got in the way while I was... I was...”
“Slaying a vampire.” Faith grinned at the expression on Ramona’s face. “Vi just wanted to talk to you, that’s all.”
“What about you? You just want to ‘talk’ as well?”
“Well, I mean, I could use a burger or something, but yeah. I want to talk to you.”
“Look, I don’t have time for this. I have places to be, and--”
“No you don’t.”
Faith shrugged. “You’re not the only vampire slayer around here, Punky.”
Ramona raised her eyebrows. “‘Punky?’”
“Don’t take it personal. Everyone gets a name.”
“Right.” Ramona didn’t seem to be showing any sign of tiredness from holding that massive hammer, but then, Faith supposed she wouldn’t have either. She’d used the troll hammer, after all; now that
thing made your arms tired. “Well, I don’t know how many of you there are, but I do know that I’ve been doing just fine on my own. I don’t need your help.”
“Look, Punky, it’s nothing personal. But you gotta come with me.”
“Because you got power, and you gotta learn how to use it.”
“Learn how--” Ramona shook her head. “Look, can I just fight you and get it over with? I can see that’s what you really want.”
“Hey, this ain’t no comic book,” Faith said. “Any night I go home without bruises is a good night in my book. And I wasn’t kidding about grabbing a burger.” She wiggled her eyebrows. “I’ll buy.”
“I don’t think so.”
“All right,” Faith said. “If that’s the way you want it...”
“Just, could you maybe put the hammer away? I don’t got nothin’ on me that’d make it a fair fight.”
Ramona looked like she was actually thinking about that for a minute.
Then she charged Faith, hammer raised.+++++
Ramona hadn’t really believed that Faith would just stand there and take it, Faith did wait until the very last second to jump. As she did, she grabbed the head of the hammer and yanked it out of Ramona’s hands. Ramona lost her balance and stumbled, turning as she fell, rolling backward and up onto her feet in time to see Faith fling the hammer off into the trees. “There,” Faith said. “Now we’re even.”
Now it was Faith’s turn to charge. Ramona set her feet and brought her hands up.
Faith, though, didn’t hit her. She jumped again, sailing over Ramona’s head.
Ramona had seen this move before -- Roxie had taken a raw streetfighter, the girl Ramona had used to be, and taught her martial arts in what, to Ramona’s mind, had been one hell of a training montage. And Ramona knew how to counter this move. She launched into the air, aiming for Faith’s midsection, hoping to bring her down.
Faith’s boot caught her in the forehead and knocked her back into the grass.
Ramona rolled up again, in time to catch Faith’s next flurry of blows. Damn, but the girl was fast, and every punch she took on her arms, every kick she cross-blocked, it all hurt like hell.
No one had been able to hurt her like this. Not since 2003.
Well, no one human, anyway.
Ramona caught Faith’s fist as she drove it toward Ramona’s face; she pushed back, then pulled, grabbing Faith with both arms when the other woman went off-balance. A twist, a turn, and Faith was slammed into the grass. She jerked her head forward for a headbutt and stars exploded in Ramona’s eyes; Ramona rolled away, covering her forehead. Her whole face felt numb, like she’d been whacked with a frying pan.
“Had enough?” Faith asked, struggling up onto her elbows.
Ramona felt blood trickling out of her nose and wiped it away with one hand. “No. You?”
“Hey, I could keep this up all night.” She did that cool kick-up-to-your-feet thing that Roxie had been so good at but Ramona had never mastered. “But my boss is gonna be pissed if I tell him I fought you and didn’t bring you home.”
“So you have a boss, huh?” Ramona got to her feet and watched as Faith began to circle her. She wasn’t going to fall for the bait; not again. Faith was the best fighter Ramona had ever seen; she wasn’t even sure if Scott could take her. And that was saying something. “What’s he like?”
Faith swung for Ramona; Ramona blocked, then avoided Faith’s follow-up, a roundhouse kick. “British. Stuffy. Cleans his glasses a lot.” When Ramona countered with a backhanded punch, Faith caught her wrist and tried to throw her; Ramona adjusted in mid-air and landed on her feet. “How about your boyfriend? What’s he like?”
Ramona jerked forward, but stopped herself. She knew what Faith was up to now; she was trying to get her riled up, trying to get her to make a mistake. Well, that wasn’t going to happen. “He’s nice.”
Faith cocked her head a little. “Nice? We don’t do nice, girls like us. I mean, Buffy banged a vampire, and--”
“Yeah. The boss.”
“But you just said a British guy--”
“New boss. Old boss up and left.”
“Bosses do that. And... Buffy?”
Faith shrugged. “I didn’t name her.” She rolled her shoulders. “Hey, we gonna do this or what?”
Ramona shrugged back. “Okay. Let’s.”+++++
“The Powers That Be,” Buffy said.
“The Powers That what now?”
Buffy had both hands around a mug of coffee. The scythe was tucked carefully in her jacket, its blade and point protected by leather codpiece-y things that she was sure Andrew would know the names of. Across the table, Anita was starting to feel a little more human, like the magic was being drained out of her. Buffy wondered if Anita noticed it.
“The Powers are in charge of balance,” she finally said. “They make sure neither good nor evil wins the whole kit-and-caboodle.”
“Well, that seems dumb.”
“Yeah. Little bit.” Buffy watched Anita sip her coffee. “Look, I don’t mean to pry, but over on your side... are they going to be looking for you?”
“I hope so.” Anita put down her mug. “I want to go home.” She looked thoughtful. “I guess my house doesn’t exist here.”
“It might,” Buffy said. “But... I’m sure it’s not your house.”
“I suppose I’ll need to get a hotel.”
“With what credit card? If you don’t exist--”
“I have some cash.”
Buffy shook her head. “You can come back with me. They gave me a double; I’m just using the other bed as a place to throw stuff.”
“Buffy, you don’t have to--”
“Yeah, I think I kind of do.”
She reached across the table and laid her hand over Anita’s. She felt Anita’s pulse jump, a scared jump, but Anita managed not to pull away. “The Powers wouldn’t have led me to you if you didn’t need my help.”+++++
With Kennedy sleeping the sleep of the blissful, Willow was able to extricate herself from the slayer’s embrace and walk silently out to the balcony. She’d thrown a little fit when she’d seen the price of the room Kennedy had reserved for them, but now she was glad for the outdoor garden. Naked -- sky-clad, she reminded herself with a small smile -- she used a tiny spell to keep warm as she lowered her body into the lotus position. The grass was prickly under her butt; she giggled, whispered, “don’t get fresh with me,” and giggled again.
Then she stilled herself, stretching her senses, seeking that unnameable thing that had been tugging at the back of her mind for weeks. Something strange was going on, something that had sent Buffy to St. Louis -- Andrew was keeping in touch, bless him. Whatever it was, it had all the slayers on edge. Even Kennedy, and almost nothing
really ever bothered Kennedy.
Maybe they were on vacation now -- a vacation enforced by Giles, who was concerned at how tired Willow looked all the time -- but that didn’t mean she couldn’t keep looking.+++++Your feedback is welcome.