Disclaimer: none of the characters are mine, but belong to their respective owners.
Dawn was bored.
Today was a regular day, when almost everyone was out or else busy elsewhere in the building, and she was stuck at the secretary duty as usual.
It was then that came then that the door opened and a tall dark stranger came in. Yes, it sounded rather like a cliché, but the man was tall, dark, powerfully built, and somehow lacking in any particular features or character traits, a generic face in the crowd.
“Can I help you?” Dawn said carefully, figuring that is was a client – or an employee – of the local Wolfram & Hart branch.
“Yes,” the man nodded. “I’m seeking one known as Faith LeHane or Faith the Vampire Slayer. I believe that I can find her here, can I not?”
“And what do you want Faith for?” Dawn asked flatly.
“To negotiate,” came the reply, as Dawn’s interlocutor appeared to decide that Dawn’s question amounted to an affirmative answer and settled in a visitor’s seat.
“Aha,” Dawn said crossly: the new visitor may have been intimidating, but he was also annoying. “Couldn’t you or your bosses do this over at Wolfram & Hart or some neutral ground-“
“I’m not from Wolfram and Hart,” the man replied with a long-suffering look upon his face. “I’m from the order of Taraka.”
Dawn fell silent.///
Faith, Buffy and others came back about 20 minutes after the apparent assassin (or whoever) first appeared, but for Dawn it seemed like hours, and for an obvious reason. Their latest visitor was a like a black hole in the world, and not just because he killed people for a reason. There seemed to be something in his character, something like aura that made him feel really oppressive and something else, something suppressive, perhaps. In any case, Dawn was very happy to have them back, and she promptly asked her big sister and friends what they have been up to.
“Doing a favor for Xander’s girlfriend for the last time,” Buffy exhaled. “Next time Melusine wants assistants to help her negotiate between some sort of a nasty field spirit and a mad scientist who grows giant lizards for minions, she can scrounge them somewhere else. And who’s this?” she added in a completely different tone of voice as she noticed the new visitor at last and did not find him likeable.
“He’s from the order of Taraka,” Dawn said brightly. “He’s here to see Faith,” she added less brightly.
“Ah,” Faith, who is been putting down her gear (mainly stakes and such for this occasion), turned around now. “Why is that?”
“We’re here for the remains of Septet,” the assassin said very calmly, flashing a rather crocodile-like grin at the Vampire Slayer in question. “The order is ready to trade for them, and I got the goods right here.” He pulled out a sack seemingly from nowhere, or rather – it has been there all along, but Dawn failed to notice it all the same.
“Interesting,” Buffy replied instead of Faith, before turning to her. “Faith, who’s Septet?”
“An assassin from Taraka, hired by Kakistos – I killed him before coming to Sunnydale, at the outskirts of Las Vegas,” Faith humorlessly replied, “and no deal. I do not negotiate with the order. I may be morally ambiguous, but they just kill people, pure and simple, and that is just unacceptable.”
“Are you going for the moral superiority high ground?” the assassin raised an eyebrow.
“No,” Faith began, but was interrupted by Xander, whose danger sense began to react really powerful to the current going-ons:
“How about we go and talk to Giles instead?”
There was a pause as everyone looked at him.
“What?” the young man said firmly. “This needs someone with intelligence and common sense, please?”
“Oh, all right.”///
Fortunately for everyone involved, and especially Xander, Giles was in the building. Of course, considering that he did not really go out on field missions this was not particularly surprising, but still lucky.
“Oh dear,” was all that he exclaimed when he learned what was going on. “When was the last time that the Council had encounters with Taraka?”
“About a year before Faith came to Sunnydale,” Buffy said crossly. “Remember? I... made Angel evil and he almost sucked Earth into Hell, but then Willow fixed him, and Xander screwed us, and Angel went to Hell instead, and I went to L.A.-“
“Okay, okay, I got the concept!” Giles said crossly. “I was just trying to establish the atmosphere-“ He trailed away when everyone looked at him as if he was Xander. “Fine. What have we here?”
“This,” and the assassin promptly produced several items from his bag. “Now where are the remains of Septet?”
“Here,” Faith said as she pulled out a strange bone figurine out of her pocket. It was seemingly made out of several pieces of bone, maybe even seven or eight. “See?”
Very slowly, Giles reached out and touched it – just for a moment, before jerking his hand away. “Oh my! I’ve heard of Taraka doing things to its members like this,” he exclaimed, before whirl-ing to face the live assassin. “Do you know even know-“
“But of course I know, here’s my piece,” the assassin nodded, revealing a similar bone figurine hanging around his neck, but it was made only out of one or two pieces. “It’s not as fancy, but it also works.”
Giles looked at the assassin in almost Ripper-like fashion. “You splinter your soul and merge it with souls – with other souls in exchange for what? Power?”
“Power to kill,” came the reply. “We’re doing you a favor by offering to trade first.”
“With what?” Giles said flatly. “The helm and rapier may be useful but are outdated, the knick-knacks are something that we can make for ourselves by ourselves, and the orb... it is evil, and you know it. And on other hand – a person so crazy that they spliced their identity, their self, with several other beings to become a better killing machine. No deal.”
“It’s your funeral,” the assassin said calmly, put his goods away and stood up.
“Now see here,” Buffy began, but Faith grabbed her by the arm and pointed with the other to the wall:
“Look. His shadow.”
And indeed, the assassin’s shadow was flickering, now being vaguely human-sized and human-shaped, and now expanding into something bigger – far bigger than the room they were in.
“As I said before, it’ll be your funeral,” the assassin said before leaving in several quick strides. “See you around – or not.”
And then he was gone.
“So,” Xander’s voice sounded unusually loud in the silence left by the assassin’s departure. “Is it just me or has our life just turned to the worse once more?”