No Room For A Stranger
Disclaimer: This is my fanfiction. I don’t own the real thing.
Warning: All chapters are self-edited so read at your own risk. Constructive Criticism is welcomed. Spoilers for all seasons of Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Chapter 2: No Room For A Stranger
The sky was dark and fire was everywhere. Two men stood on either side of the grand battlefield.
Between them laid the dead, who were too numerous to count, and the two men’s armies were continuing to battle. She looked to behind her and saw that she too had an army. Every Slayer that was and ever would be was armed and ready. They were waiting for her orders but she didn’t know what to tell them. The Slayers walked away from her. Some joined the left, others the right, very few stayed by her side.
The white suited man smiled at her. “After-
“Buffy, wake up. You’re having a nightmare.” Buffy opened her eyes to find her mother hovering over her. She groaned and turned to look at her alarm clock. 8:15. Way too early for a Sunday.
“Do you remember what you were dreaming?” Buffy frowned as she thought. She remembered the dream had felt intense, but other than that…
“Something about a tacky suit?” Joyce’s warm laughter filled Buffy with happiness. It had been a long time since she’d heard her mother laugh, what with the divorce, and the moving, and having a problem child for a daughter.
“Only you would have a nightmare about a fashion faux pas. Hey, I was thinking we could spend the day together, make up for all the fights we had last week.” A mom day sounded nice. After the drama with Amy and her mom yesterday, shopping, movies, and pedicures seemed like the perfect antidote.
“Sounds great mom.”
“Good. I’ve got blueberry pancakes waiting downstairs, so go get ready.” Joyce gave her a quick peck on the forehead before leaving her room. Buffy swiftly performed her morning routine, chose a cute outfit, and headed downstairs. The kitchen table held two plates of blueberry pancakes with a side of strawberries, and a small gravy bowl of warm chocolate syrup.
“Wow! Martha Stewart wants her recipe back!” Buffy said after tasting her pancakes. They were just like she remembered them, slightly crunchy outside with a warm, fluffy middle. Her mom hadn’t made these since she was 12.
“Well,” Joyce said, as she brought the coffee and orange juice to the table, “it’s a new week and I thought we could start fresh. We’ve been so distant with each other lately, and I remembered how much you used to love my pancakes so I thought ‘Why not?’”
Distant was putting it nicely. There wasn’t much they could talk about when ninety percent of her life revolved around slaying.
“So how’s your gallery going? I remembered you said you were hoping for a big opening.”
“Oh, it went good. I think my expectations on the turnout were a little high, Sunnydale isn’t Los Angeles after all, but Mayor Wilkins stopped by. He is such a nice man, and he really has a vision for this town’s future. What about you? Any cute boys I should know about?”
Well there was Angel and Dean, but she wasn’t about to talk about them with her.
“There’s this really cute guy named Owen in my math class. A lot of girls like him though, he’s the dreamy loner type of guy. Then there’s Mark from-”
“Yes, Mr. Greenham, I’m looking for information on a hunting family, surname W-I-N-C-H-E-S-T-E-R…No, they’re not from the United Kingdom, Charles.” Giles, feeling quite frustrated, wiped his glasses clean for the fifth time in the hour he’d been on the phone. “They’re American…What do you mean the Council has no record of American hunters! Eight slayers have been Called here since 1960 and in all that time the Council hasn’t done a single catalogue?...The Men of Letters did a census in 1950? Well, that’s very helpful Charles, seeing as that organization is extinct!...Yes, I know hunters are notoriously difficult to keep track of, but that is no excuse for—No, no, I’m not being difficult! There’s no need to involve Mr. Travers, but this lack of information is making my job very difficult and I highly suggest the Council make a catalogue of hunters for the American continent!...Yes, I would like the 1950 catalogue faxed over as soon as possible…Yes. Thank you. Goodbye!” Giles finished, as he slammed the receiver down. He paused to take a few deep breaths to keep himself collected. It wouldn’t do to have anyone walk in on him in a rage.
Sometimes the Council was beyond infuriating! Really, no catalogue whatsoever for the whole American continent! According to Charles Greenham (a man who’s high pitched voice he had always found grating), the Watcher’s Council barely had any presence south of Bolivia and the vast majority of Brazil and Peru. Did it not matter to them that the United States held two hellmouths, one of which was active? Did they believe that the hellmouth on Easter Island and the rest of southern America became inconsequential when the Warlocks of Brita moved the mystical convergence almost four thousand kilometers away from the coast of modern day Chile? It was stupidity like this that almost had him longing for the days of Ripper.
Buffy pranced into the library a half hour later, on time for once, and looking well recovered from her ordeal with that vile witch two days ago.
“Buffy, I’d like to speak with you about Dean.”
“What about?” She asked, as she made herself comfortable on the study table.
“Well, I-I don’t think it would be very wise to put much faith in Dean and his abilities for the moment. Hunters aren’t known for being the most trustworthy, they’re, they’re just as likely to try and kill you as they are to ally with you.”
“Kill me! Why would he do that? We’re on the same side!”
“Yes, well, your powers come from a supernatural source, and some radicals may consider you to, um, to not be human.”
“But, Dean didn’t seem like that! He thought me being the Slayer was pretty cool!” Buffy said, sounding distressed.
The young hunter did seem to think of the Slayer in a positive light.
“Even so, I believe it would be best to, uh, err on the side of caution. At least until we know more about his character and capability,
I, uh, propose a trial period, no patrolling or combat, research only.”
A frown creased his Slayer’s face as she thought it over.
“I guess that’s alright. I’m not too keen on patrolling with a stranger anyway.”
“Dean, I’m not going to accept this homework assignment.”
“Why not?!” This was beyond annoying! Dr. Gregory should be grateful he even turned in the assignment.
“Because I know you can do better. This work is in the C borderline D range and I know your smart enough to be a strait A student. You’re going to have a hard time getting into a good college with these kinds of grades.”
College. That was a good one.
“Yeah, college isn’t really in my future.” He told the science teacher.
“If money is the issue, there are many financial aid opportunities available. Your father was a marine wasn’t he? The military will help pay for college in exchange for your service. UC Sunnydale has a ROTC program.”
“Look teach, I’m just not interested in higher education. I already know what I’ll be doing when I graduate next year, and college isn’t it.” He’d had a plan for years. Graduate, get custody of Sam, work full time at George’s garage and hunt a little on the side until Sam graduated. Then they’d shag ass to Chino and pull a jail break.
“Just think about it Dean. You would be a good engineer, you could design engines instead of fix them up. In the meantime, redo this assignment and turn it in to me tomorrow.” Dean took back his paper and headed out the door, a dark cloud over his head.
He didn’t have time for this. He was working till eight at the garage, and he’d been planning to catch Buffy on patrol that night. In the four days he’d known the Slayer, she and her Watcher had steadfastly refused to let him help, saying it was Buffy’s duty, not his. Instead he’d been told to sit quietly with Xander and Willow as they watched Buffy train and helped Giles with research. He’d been hunting on the Hellmouth for four years with almost no help, like hell he was going to be sidelined when he’d clocked more field time than Buffy and Giles combined.
He was on his way to the main doors, fully intending to skip the rest of the school day when Cordelia Chase blocked his path.
“Cutting class again, I see.”
“Get out of my way Cordy.”
“Is it true? Are you really hanging out with Buffy Summers and her loser friends?” Dean rolled his eyes at her candor. The only redeeming quality about Cordelia, besides her beauty, was her honesty, and that was often a double edged sword.
“So what if I am? She piss you off or something?”
“More like she’s a major freak. She threatened me with a weapon, you know. You need to be careful. Your social status is on the brink of sinking from cool to pariah, and it’s only the goodness of my heart and our history that’s keeping it afloat.”
“Some kind of stake. The wooden kind, not the grilling kind.” Dean chuckled a bit, imagining the scenario.
“Hey! It’s not funny. I took the time out of my free period to warn you about her, but if you’re just going to laugh at my efforts there is nothing keeping me from cutting you off!” Dean instantly sobered. He’d saved her father’s life last year from a vampire attack, though the man thought it was a gang war, and since then he’d been receiving monthly “gifts” of one hundred dollars. Dean had refused the money at first, but Cordelia convinced him to accept it when she found out he wanted custody of Sam. Dean needed that money if he wanted to put down a six month payment on an apartment when he turned eighteen in two months.
“Look, I’m sorry.” He tried to placate. “I didn’t mean to laugh at you, but you’ve got Buffy all wrong. Besides, stakes are a basic self-defense weapon, like pepper spray! I’d carry one too if I were you.”
Cordelia scowled at his perceived joke.
“Ugh! Look, if you want to ruin your social life, what little of one you have anyway, be my guest! But just know that if it sinks any lower, we are no longer associated!” As quickly as Cordelia came, Cordelia left, and Dean was left alone in the hallway.
Dean swallowed, his throat feeling dry. He had a good amount saved from the Chase’s and his job at George’s Mechanics, but if Cordelia carried out her threat…she wouldn’t of course. Cordelia was many things, but heartless wasn’t one of them. Even so, he’d start penny pinching even more than he already was, maybe start hustling cash for profit instead of fun. His dad had taught him to plan for all possible situations and Dean had just found he’d become uncomfortably reliant on the Chase family’s generosity.
He could smell her the moment he entered the room. Her scent a tantalizing mix of graveyard dirt and fresh spring flowers. And blood. Fresh, flowing, living, Slayer blood. This was a bad idea, making contact with her would only increase his demon’s thirst for her, but his human side couldn’t seem to help itself. Guilt rose up in him. She was a child by modern standards, meaning his love for her was wrong on levels other than the fact he was a vampire and she a Slayer, but the long buried part of him that was Liam could only consider her a grown woman. He caught her eye, despite the multitude of meat (‘People’ he admonished himself ‘They’re people’). She looked beautiful.
What was he doing! Stalking into The Bronze, searching her out like a predator! Oh no! She was coming closer. What was he going to tell her again? What if she didn’t believe his warning? He was just an untrustworthy stranger to her. Angel briefly wished for Liam’s, or even Angelus’ confidence with women.
“Well! Look who’s here!” Buffy’s voice rang like a bell through his head. ‘Quick.’ His human mind told him. ‘Respond with something clever!’
“I’d say it’s nice to see you, but then we both know that’s a big fib.”
He knew it. She hated him. ‘Make her change her mind about you.’ Liam whispered. ‘We can have a lot of fun with her!’ Angelus screamed. No. She didn’t have to like him. She was probably better off not liking him. He would help her from the shadows like he promised himself he would, nothing more.
“I won’t be long.”
“No, you’ll just give me a cryptic warning about some exciting new catastrophe, and then disappear into the night. Right?” Did he come across as cryptic? He was just trying to help her in as few words as possible. The quicker stuff was said the quicker she could take care of the problem. He was about to say as much when her smooth, milky skin distracted him. That wouldn’t do.
“You can take it.” Angel took off his jacket so he could cover her bare arms.
“I mean, you look cold.”
“A little big on me.” She said, as she examined the leather.
She looked tinier and more vulnerable in his jacket, but Angel felt oddly satisfied seeing her in it. Buffy suddenly reached for his left arm and gently traced her fingers on the scars Claw had left him earlier that night. He moved slightly back, out of her reach. Claw was the reason he had come here in the first place.
“I didn’t pay attention.”
“To somebody with a big fork?” Angel smiled. She was funny, he liked that in a woman.
“The Fork Guy?”
“Don’t let him corner you. Don’t give him a moment’s mercy. He’ll rip your throat out.” There. He’d warned her. She was prepared now.
“Okay, I’ll give you improved marks for that one. Ripping throats out, it’s a strong visual, it’s not cryptic!” Buffy was funny, but she wasn’t taking the threat seriously. That was fine, she was more than a match for Claw. And she was still young, responsibility to her duty would come in time, Angel would just have to make sure she lived that long.
“I have to go.” He quickly left the hangout, and despite being out the door, he still heard Buffy’s last words clearly.
“Sweet dreams to you, too.”
Sweet dreams? He could only remember having nightmares, but he took Buffy’s words to heart. Maybe one day his atonement would be complete and his conscience would let him have an hour of restful sleep. ‘Only after I’m gone.’ Angelus whispered to him.
His eternal tormentor was right. Rest would only come after he was dust in the wind, but until then, he’d help Buffy all he could. Her odds of surviving The Master were already looking better now that John Winchester’s son was working beside her.
Xander could see them arguing in the distance. Satisfaction rolled through him. It seemed Dean Winchester wasn’t so suave with the ladies after all. His approach was unnoticed to the group, and Xander dearly hoped he could overhear something that would turn his good day into a great day. Unfortunately Sunnydale’s biggest dick saw him coming when he turned around in a mini fit of frustration.
Dean had been hanging around the library, generally being a nuisance, ever since that situation with the non-evil and non-witchy Amy. It was like he thought they’d automatically let him into their little group just because he supposedly knew all about vampires and other evilness.
“Mornin’!” Xander said to the girls and Giles. He skirted around a frowning Dean and stopped at Willow’s side of the bench she and
Buffy shared. He frowned a little when he saw Buffy was still wearing Angel’s jacket, but didn’t let it deter him from the news he was anxious to relay.
“Guess what I just heard in the office? No Dr. Gregory today! Ergo, those of us who blew off our science homework aren’t as dumb as we look.” He reached down and closed Willow’s book for her. No studying what needn’t be studied.
“What happened, is he sick?” Buffy asked. Xander shrugged in response.
“They didn’t say anything about sick, something about missing.”
“He’s missing!?” Buffy and Dean said together. Xander grit his teeth a bit.
“That’s not good. When people go missing around here they tend to stay missing.” Dean continued.
Huh, Xander hadn’t thought about the implications ‘missing’ past no homework. Though considering all that had happened in the past month he really should of. Good day suddenly not so good.
“I hope nothing’s wrong.” The genuine concern on Buffy’s face only increased the dickish feeling spreading through him.
“He’s one of the only teachers that doesn’t think Buffy’s a felon.” Willow explained to him, proverbially hitting the nail on the head and driving his guilt home.
“I’m really sorry, I’m sure he’ll—” The most beautiful woman in the world was walking toward him. Long, almost endless legs. Two perfect buds half hidden beneath her blazer. A seductive face with lips that just screamed ‘Kiss Me’.
“Could you help me?” The beauty asked.
“Uuuuh, yes!” Xander said. He’d do whatever this woman asked. He pointedly ignored Buffy and Willow’s snickers, Dean’s eye roll, and Giles’ glasses cleaning.
The beautiful woman smiled. “I’m looking for Science 109.”
Science 109. Science 109. Science 109. Such long legs.
“Oh! It’s um…I go there every day!” Xander smiled, hoping she’d see his memory blunder as a joke, and his insides fluttered and leaped when she laughed pleasantly.
He turned toward the girls and pleaded in a non-whisper. “Oh God, where is it?!” The girls unhelpfully shrugged, and Xander was desperate enough to turn to Giles, or even Dean for help when Blayne Mall walked up to them.
“Hi, I’m Blayne Mall. I’m going there right now. It’s not far from the varsity field where I took All-City last year.” Xander saw red, and it was only his fear of making himself look a bigger fool that kept him from charging that smug looking Blayne.
When Blayne and the substitute finally left, the fog in his mind lifted and he saw clearly the blunder he had made.
“It’s funny how the Earth never opens up and swallows you when you want it too.”
Dean put a comforting hand on his shoulder. Xander had to fight the urge brush it off.
“Trust me man, hooking up with a teacher isn’t as hot as it sounds.” Willow let out a small gasp.
“You slept with a teacher!”
The bell rang.
“Yes, well. I, uh, best get back to the library. I suggest you four run off to where you’re supposed to be as well.”
Xander picked up his bag and ran to his first class, knowing he would spend the next few hours dreaming about the new substitute teacher.
When biology finally came Xander learned the name of the beautiful woman who had become so enchanted with him. Natalie French.
‘All the teachers should be as hot as Ms. French.’ Xander thought, watching Natalie pacing the room open mouthed as she lectured on the praying mantis. Xander dully noted that this was the most he’d ever learned in a classroom, and boy was he learning.
“The California Mantis lays her eggs, and then finds a mate…” Oh God! She was looking right at him! Xander crossed his ankles, thankful for the table. “…to fertilize them. Once he’s played his part, she covers the eggs in a protective sack—”
Xander was the second to sign up for the one on one lessons with Natalie after school. He would have been the first if Blayne hadn’t cut in front of him.
“I wonder what she sees in me?” He said to the girls later in the lunch line.
“It’s probably the quiet good looks coupled with a certain smoky magnetism.”
Righteous indignation filled him when he saw Willow and Buffy exchange mirthful looks. His mood was momentarily turned to fury when he saw Dean laying it on thick with Aura the Cordette from the corner of his eye. He squashed the sudden anger down quickly. Dean might get Aura and Joy and maybe (hopefully not) Buffy one day, but it was Xander Natalie was coming on to, and today that was all that really mattered.
“Ms. French.” He continued, wanting Willow and Buffy to see the seriousness in the situation.
“You two’re probably a little young to understand what an older woman would see in a younger man.”
“Oh, I understand.” Buffy said. Xander smiled, once again feeling satisfied.
“The younger man is too dumb to wonder why an older woman can’t find someone her own age, and too desperate to care about the surgical improvements!”
“Surgical improvements?!” NO! It was a lie! His Beauty looked so natural and perfect!
“Well he is young.” Willow said as she continued the unfriendly banter.
“And so terribly innocent!” How could he respond to this?
“Hey, those that can, do. Those that can’t—” Xander paused to let out a sarcastic HaHa! “at those who…can do.” Xander wanted to smack himself. His quip had started out good and ended so lame!
Blayne came up behind the three friends and started loading his tray with enough food to feed the whole track team.
“Gotta carb up for my one on one with Ms. French today. When’s yours? Oh, right, tomorrow. You came in second, I came in first. Guess that’s what they call natural selection.” Xander managed to find a much better quip as the varsity player was leaving the lunch line.
“Guess it’s what they call the rehearsal!” Yes, so much better. Xander chuckled to himself, inwardly praising his wit. “Rehearsal.”
Xander ignored Cordelia once again appearing out of nowhere and bumping into Buffy in favor of contemplating his fruit options. Bruised apples or wrinkled oranges, what would go better with hotdog surprise? He gently squeezed the orange and was pleasantly surprised to still find it firm, the flesh of it still holding some zesty juice.
A scream Xander somehow recognized as Cordelia Chase’s echoed through the cafeteria. Xander dropped his tray and ran behind Buffy and Willow toward the kitchen, and what he saw shocked him so much he forgot to be angry when Dean ran up behind him.
The body of Dr. Gregory was stuffed in the fridge and his head was nowhere to be found. Xander looked away and forced himself to swallow the vomit in his mouth.
School was cancelled for the rest of the day, which surprised Willow slightly, students had been found dead on campus before but this was the first time in several years that a teacher had been found deceased on the premises and she suspected that the cancellation was more for the staffs benefit than the students. It didn’t really matter, Willow was grateful all the same.
Willow, Buffy, and Xander had been in a state of shock after discovering the body, but Dean had jumped right in to establishing a perimeter to effectively keep other students away until Principle Flutie and the police arrived. Willow couldn’t help but admire how he had kept his cool, it was like death didn’t affect him. She witnessed Dean’s steely gaze simultaneously warn the other students away and inspire Buffy to help him and hold in her tears for the poor teacher until the four of them had reached the safety of the library an hour later.
Now that she was away from the chaos of the cafeteria and the questioning policemen Willow forced herself to breathe. Dead bodies were becoming more and more common in her life and she couldn’t afford to freeze like she had when Dr. Gregory was found. She needed to be stronger, more useful. Dread filled her gut, only to be overwhelmed by the sadness she felt at the passing of Dr. Gregory. She wondered if the cause of his death was human or supernatural, Buffy or Giles would know. Giles had helpfully loaned her some very interesting books on monsters and magic but she knew it would take her a very long time to catch up to them in knowledge. An idea struck her.
Willow gently tugged Dean away from the others as they mourned so they could speak more privately.
“What is it?”
Willow twisted her hair nervously.
“Well, you’re pretty much an expert on this monster stuff right? I mean, you grew up with all this.” A curious expression graced Dean’s handsome face.
“I wouldn’t exactly say expert, but yeah, I know a lot.”
“I was wonderin’ if you could tutor me— oh, and Xander too if he wants it.”
A strange emotion flashed through Dean’s eyes faster than Willow could name it, but she could tell from the rest of his body language that he wasn’t too thrilled with the idea. She hurried to lay down her case before he could rebuff her.
“It’s just Giles and Buffy are always so busy and it’d be so much easier and faster to learn if I had a real teacher along with all of Giles’ books. And y’know I can’t really fight like you and Buffy but I’m really good at research and I’m a quick study and—”
“And I have to do my part to save people! I can’t go back to how it was, I need to learn, and I need to help.”
Dean’s hands fiddled with the cuffs of his leather jacket as he thought it over, his eyes glazing a bit.
“I dunno, Xander doesn’t seem to like me too much.”
“He’s just getting used to you, is all.” Willow hurriedly said. “He’s been having a hard time lately, it’s nothing personal.”
Dean frowned before giving an accepting nod.
“Fine,” he sighed, “but you do everything I say and exactly how I say it during these tutoring sessions. I say jump you ask how high. Kapeesh?” Willow nodded determinedly.
“Okay, we’ll start after this mess with Dr. Gregory is over. C’mon, those three are starting to look at us weird.” The sadness in
Willow’s heart felt slightly lessened as they walked back to the now dry eyed Buffy, Giles, and Xander. Willow put on her mental
thinking cap as she sat down and urged herself to think like a detective.
“Who would want to hurt Dr. Gregory?” She heard Dean let out a derisive snort. So it was the supernatural.
“Don’t you mean what?”
“A what? Are you sure it was a what, Mr. Expert?” Xander’s tone was filled with something not unlike contempt. She silently wished her best friend would give Dean a chance.
Giles sighed sadly, and brushed a hand through his hair. “Yes, what is far more likely. Dr. Gregory had no enemies among the staff that I’m aware of. He was a civilized man. I liked him.”
Willow watched Dean hunch his shoulders as he leaned back against the study table, his face tense with thought.
“The neck looked like it’d been ripped. Like the head was torn off.”
“Dean’s right.” Buffy added. “The neck didn’t look completely severed, but I think I saw some cuts, maybe from a claw?”
“What else do we know?” Giles asked.
“Oh, not a lot. Um, he was killed here on campus. I’m guessing the last day we saw him.” Buffy responded to her Watcher.”
“How do you work that out?” Giles probed.
“He didn’t change his clothes.”
“This is a question that no one in particular wants to hear.” Xander interrupted. Willow braced herself for what was sure to be a stomach flip. “What happened to the head?”
“If we’re lucky it was dumped in the trash somewhere, better than some of the alternatives.” Giles nodded in agreement with Dean.
“Angel!” Buffy shot up from her chair suddenly and started pacing around the table. “He warned me that something was coming.”
“Wait, who?” Dean confusedly asked.
Willow thought back to last night at The Bronze when the handsome Angel gave Buffy his jacket and a cryptic clue. Was it already too late for Dr. Gregory by then, or could they have saved him if they’d taken the warning more seriously. A bit of guilt filled her. She and Buffy had spent the rest of the evening talking about how romantic Angel had been, giving Buffy his jacket. They had hardly talked at all about the reason he’d been there.
“Yes, yes he did, didn’t he? I wish I knew what he meant. I’ve been trying to gather more information about the Master, our, uh, local vampire king. There was one oblique reference to a, a vampire who displeased the Master and cut his hand off in penance.”
“Cut off his hand and replaced it with a fork?”
“I don’t know what he replaced it with.”
“Wait, wait, wait.” Dean interrupted again. “An angel told you Captain Hook would start going around killing teachers?”
“His name’s Angel.” Willow helpfully explained.
“And I’m not sure this vampire was our killer.” Giles said. “There was an incident two nights ago…” The librarian walked to the checkout counter to reference one of the newspapers. “Um, involving—”
“A homeless guy in Weatherly Park.” Dean cut in. “I read that too. Totally different MO from what happened to Doc Gregory.”
Willow looked over the paper Giles had handed to Buffy. Severe dismemberment. Shredded organs. Any information please contact…
“So there’s something else out there?” Xander stated more than asked. “Besides Silverwareman? Oh, this is fun. Some paradise, huh, Dean.” Dean just shrugged and started flipping through some of the books that were on the table beside him.
“Well unpleasant things do gravitate here.” Giles said. “It’s true, but, uh, we don’t know there’s anything besides this chap. He’s still our most likely suspect.”
“Where was that guy killed? Weatherly Park?”
“Buffy, I know you’re upset, but this is no time to go hunting. Not until we know more. Please promise me you won’t do anything rash.”
“Cross my heart.” Relief filled Willow at Buffy’s words. She didn’t want her friend to jump into a dangerous situation without all the information.
Buffy climbed over the fence into Weatherly Park and started her patrol. Darkness clothed her as she stalked through the park and let her instincts slowly unwind from the tight ball she kept them in.
“Shouldn’t be out here at night little lady. Dangerous.” A bum said to her before he moved on.
“Well, life’s no fun without a little danger.” Startled by this second voice, Buffy whirled around to find the unwelcome sight of Dean Winchester.
“Dean! What’re you doing here?!”
“Uh, hunting a vampire.” He said as he pulled out a stake to show her. Her eyes caught a bottle of holy water in his pocket and a sharp machete tucked into his belt.
“What, no gun?”
“Why would I bring a gun on a vampire hunt?” Buffy rolled her eyes in irritation. She briefly thought of ending her hunt before it had truly begun, but decided to roll with the punches. If Dean wanted to patrol with her she’d just have to push the message through that it was her destiny, not his.
“Look, Giles already told you. I don’t want you patrolling with me.”
“Hey, I’ve been walking these graveyards since I was fourteen! I know where the fledglings tend to hang, and which bars and shops are in the know when I need info. You’d be stupid to ignore my help.”
“Well,” Buffy said as she made sure a sleeping hobo had all four limbs, “how ‘bout you tell me all that juicy intel and leave the rest to me?”
Dean grabbed her arm, frustration clear on his face.
“This is my job. It’s my dad’s legacy. Just cause you’re the hotshot Slayer doesn’t mean you get to do this job all by yourself. The world’s too big for one person.” Anger filled her as she yanked her arm away. He didn’t understand.
They walked together in tense silence, each pretending the other didn’t exist. When they came across some suspicious shrubbery. Buffy moved it aside and the vampire they’d been searching for jumped out of a hidden manhole. She pushed Dean backward as she dodged a wide swing. She slammed her arm into its gut and back at its first opening, she dodged its sharp hand again and punched at its face, followed by a reverse round house kick to its jaw, determined to show him no mercy for what he’d done to Dr. Gregory. Dean threw his holy water on the vamp, causing it pain, and her time to pin it to the ground. Just as she was about to stake him flashlights caught the corner of her eye, distracting her from her purpose. Claw rolled out of her grasp and fled.
“Damn, it’s the police.” Buffy’s blood ran hot with the need to kill.
“I can still catch him.” She ran after the vampire, Dean not far behind. She saw Claw climb over the far fence and land behind a woman carrying groceries that she recognized as Natalie French. She knew she wouldn’t be able to jump the fence in time to help the poor teacher and despair filled her as she and Dean helplessly watched through the fence bars. Ms. French turned to see her attacker and she felt Dean tense beside her. She opened her mouth to shout a warning when the one handed vampire hissed in fear and ran to the nearest manhole to hide in. Natalie French continued on her way, like nothing had ever happened. Buffy and Dean stared wide mouthed after her.
“That—” Dean swallowed, “was not normal.”
Principal Flutie had tagged him on the way to American History and steered him toward the counselor’s office. Apparently he needed to speak to a grief counselor because he saw the body of Dr. Gregory. Dean mentally grumbled to himself that this was one of the few times he’d rather be in class than out of it. He was the third on the bench waiting to see the wannabe shrink, after Mrs. Colby from the cafeteria and Cordelia Chase. It’d been painful in an annoying way to overhear Mrs. Colby weep and whine over her “trauma”, and he was so not looking forward to Cordy talk and talk about herself to the counselor when her turn came.
After Cordelia entered the office Principal Flutie came by again, this time with a protesting Buffy.
“But I really, really don’t—”
“No, you have to talk to the counselor and start the healing. You have to heal.”
“But Mr. Flutie, I—”
“Heal!” Flutie walked off before she could protest more and Buffy sat down next to him, looking bummed. Dean shifted awkwardly as they glanced at each other before looking away. Not knowing what to say to the Slayer, Dean opted to stay silent. Buffy had made it pretty clear how she felt about him last night.
Cordelia’s voice drifted through the open doorway.
“I don’t know what to say, it was really…I mean, one minute you’re in your normal life, and then who’s in the fridge? It really gets to you, a thing like that. It was…let’s just say I haven’t been able to eat a thing since yesterday. I think I lost like, seven and a half ounces? Way swifter than that so called diet that quack put me on. Oh, I’m not saying we should kill a teacher every day just so I could lose weight! I’m just saying when tragedy strikes, we have to look on the bright side. You know?”
Ah, the brilliant mind of Cordelia Chase. He watched Buffy’s features slowly turn incredulous at what she was hearing. Dean couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Yeah, Cordy’s roots run deep.” Buffy gave him a small smile.
“I can’t believe she said that.” They quieted again to hear what Cordy had to say next.
“Like, how even used Mercedes have leather seats!” They both snorted quietly, trying and failing to give Cordelia and the counselor some semblance of privacy.
With the ice broken between them Buffy turned to face him more fully.
“Look, I’m sorry about last night. I was just really frustrated with what happened to Dr. Gregory, and I’m used to working by myself. It’s already a huge strain to include Willow and Xander in my Slaying duties. Guess I’m not much of a team player, huh?”
Dean nodded in understanding. “Yeah, my dad is kinda like that too. He only works with people he’s worked with before and knows he can trust. He can come across as a bit of a hard ass to people that don’t know him. Anyway, it was kinda my fault too. I snuck up on ya and I lost my cool a bit. Sorry for grabbing you by the way.” Buffy just waved him off, he was apparently already forgiven.
“I talked with Giles about what we saw, he was pretty put off that we hunted together, but he wants everyone to keep a closer eye on Miss French.”
“Yeah, I started doing that on my own when I got to school today. Y’know Blayne Mall hasn’t shown up for school yet, he was on a list to meet one on one with Ms. French yesterday.” Worry creased Buffy’s forehead.
“Maybe he just stayed home today.”
“Maybe, but it’s too early for authorities to be too concerned, twenty four hours and all that. We’ll know more by the end of the day, his mom’ll probably call the school by then if he really is missing.”
“We’re all meeting after school in the library again.” Buffy offered. “And I have to get back to my biology class with her after this grief session is over. I’ll brief everyone on any clues I pick up today there.”
Dean let Buffy go ahead of him for her counseling session, she needed to get to her science class as soon as possible. His thoughts kept flying to his last conversation with Dr. Gregory the rest of the school day. He kept replaying it over and over, trying to determine whether the teacher had seemed nervous or stressed, had complained of cold spots, or anything out of the ordinary but kept coming up empty. He wished he’d been more appreciative of the teacher. His advice may have been unwanted and unneeded, but it would have been solid for anyone other than him. The doc had been a good guy.
He asked Buffy’s Watcher if he could use the phone in the library after school and promptly headed to the checkout counter when Giles nodded yes.
He punched in his foster home’s number and waited for Ms. Snell to pick up.
“Hey, um, Nana, it’s me, Dean.”
“Dean, you’re not staying out late again are you? You know how I feel about my kids coming home after dark Dean.” He could clearly
see her prudish face scowling at him over the telephone line.
“Yeah, I’m staying at school late to work on a project with the librarian. Just some volunteer hours for the school.”
“Fine, just bring a note home from him. Oh, your social worker called. She’s stopping by in a couple weeks to talk with you about your case. December 14th. Remember that.”
“Yeah, thanks.” Dean hung up and turned to see Buffy and Willow walking through the doors, chattering away.
“No, I’m not saying she craned her neck. We are talking full on Exorcist twist!”
“Ouch!” The redheaded girl exclaimed.
“And Blayne never showed up today and he had a one on one yesterday, something really freaky is going on with her. Hey Giles, Dean! Find anything new?”
“Um, I’ve not found any creature as of yet that strikes terror in a vampire’s heart.”
“Try looking at things that can turn their heads all the way around.” Buffy suggested.
“Like the Exorcist twist?” Dean asked half sarcastically.
“Nothing human can do that.” Giles frowned.
“No, nothing human. There are some insects that can. Whatever she is, I’m gonna be ready for her.” Buffy spent the next half hour studying books on insects while Dean, Willow and Giles looked through the more classical monsters. Dean gave up in about fifteen minutes, he’d gone through his dad’s journal again last night, and some of the books Uncle Bobby had lent him, the info they needed wasn’t likely to be found in any of the Watcher’s books. He started playing around with one of Giles’ letter openers, flipping it around in his hand, and outwardly smirked when the pompous librarian gave him an annoyed glare.
Buffy soon came out of the book stacks holding up one of the books like it was the holy gospel.
“Dig this: ‘The praying mantis can rotate its head 180 degrees while waiting for its next meal to walk by.’” The blonde slammed the book shut triumphantly. “Ha! Well c’mon guys, ha!”
“Well,” Willow began uncertainly, “Miss French is sort of big. For a bug?”
“And she is, by and large, woman shaped.” Giles added.
“Okay. Factoid one: Only the praying mantis can rotate its head like that. Factoid two: A pretty whacked out vampire is scared to death of her. Factoid three: Her fashion sense screams predator.” Dean couldn’t help but snort at that last fact.
“It’s the shoulder pads.” Willow agreed.
“If you’re right then she’d have to be a shape shifter or a perception distorter. On a helpful note, I had a chum at Oxford, Carlyle,
advanced degrees in entomology mythology”
“Entoma-who?” Dean shared Buffy’s opinion of big fancy words nobody used.
“Bugs and fairy tales.” Giles clarified.
“I knew that.” Buffy pretended.
“If I recall correctly, poor old Carlyle, just before he went mad, claimed there was some beast—”
The computer Willow was researching on beeped and she turned to look at them with a scared look. “Buffy, 911! Blayne’s mom called the school. He never came home last night.”
Shit. “Xander’s next on the list for a one on one with that bitch.” He should’ve insisted they didn’t start researching till the kid was with them. If he was under some sort of thrall it’d be hard to reason with him to stay away from the substitute.
“Okay, don’t panic.” Buffy told Willow “I’ll warn him, but can you hack into the coroner’s office for me?” Willow nodded.
“Look for the autopsy on Dr. Gregory, I’ve been trying to figure out those cut marks on his neck and I think—”
“You think she bit his head off.” Dean said with a gruesome understanding. Willow looked at him wildly with fear for Xander, and Buffy glared at him for his lack of tact. He shrugged apologetically, Sammy was the sappy one, not him.
Buffy quickly left the library to search for Xander, and while Giles placed a transatlantic call Dean watched Willow hack into the coroner’s office, a little amazed that what she was doing was actually possible in real life and not just the movies.
Buffy returned shortly with the news that she saw Xander leave school, but that he seemed unreasonably attracted to the woman, and wouldn’t listen to her warnings.
“Y’know, I’ve been thinking.” He told Buffy. “If she’s a shape shifter silver should do her in real quick, but if it’s just an illusion we’re gonna need something a lot stronger than silver.”
“So we need to know for sure what kind she is before I go in for the kill.”
“Why would silver only work if she’s a shape shifter?” Willow asked from the computer.
Well, it wouldn’t hurt to start those tutoring sessions a little early.
“Silver’s a pretty soft metal, pretty useless unless you need it in a spell or to kill a shifter. Something about it being connected to the phases of the moon makes it pretty lethal to them.”
“Okay, I got the coroner report, and…Ewww! It comes with color pictures.” Buffy and Dean leaned closer to the screen to examine the close up of the neck.
“Yeah, those definitely look like teeth marks.” Buffy checked her praying mantis book.
“It says here the praying mantis eats her pray starting with the head, starts the mating process the same way too.”
“No, no, no! See? Xander’s…I like his head. It’s where you find his eyes, and his hair, and his adorable smile…”
Dean watched Buffy comfort the distraught girl and hoped Giles would finish his phone call quickly. When the librarian finally finished his call he explained to them that the creature was called a She-Mantis and that her delicacy of choice was young virgin men. Dean thought this was just another reason to promote fornication among teenagers, you were a lot less likely to end up eaten or sacrificed if you gave it up quickly.
“Virgins?” Buffy started uncomfortably. “Well, Xander’s not a, uh, I mean, he’s probably—”
“Gonna die!” Willow freaked and ran to the phone to call Xander’s home.
“Okay, okay, so this thing is breeding and we need to find it and snuff it. Any tips on the snuffing part?”
“Uh, Carlyle recommends cleaving all body parts with a sharp blade.”
“Slice and Dice.” Buffy aptly said.
“Xander’s not home!” Willow cried. “He told his mom he was going to his teacher’s house to work on a science project. He didn’t tell her where.”
“See if you can get her address off the substitute rolls.” Buffy instructed Willow. She turned to Giles. “And you need to record bat sonar, and fast!” Bat sonar?
“Bat sonar, right. What?”
“Bats eat them. The mantis hears sonar and its whole nervous system goes kaplooey!”
“Where am I going to find—”
“In the vid library? There’s no books, but it’s dark and musty, you’ll feel right at home, go!” Buffy turned to him and sighed. “I guess we’ve got the armory.” Dean nodded.
“I’ve got an extra machete in the Impala, but the length might be a bit long for you.” Buffy and Dean headed toward Giles’ weapon vault. “I’ll use my own, give that one to Giles, just in case.”
Giles drove Buffy and Willow to Ms. French’s house, with Dean following in his own car. Anxiety filled her the closer they got to the
She-Mantis’ house. What if they were too late?
She and Buffy jumped out of Giles’ car as they reached the house and the watcher and hunter followed after they parked.
“What now exactly?” Giles asked. “We can’t exactly kick the door down.”
“I’ve got a lock pick.” Dean offered.
She saw Buffy roll her eyes and lift her leg up to kick the door in when the door opened on its own. Before them stood a ninety year old Natalie French.
“Hello, dear! I thought I heard…Are you selling something? Because I’d like to help you out but, you see, I’m on a fixed income.”
“You’re Natalie French? The biology teacher?” Dean asked.
“Yes, that’s me. Oh, but I haven’t taught for over thirty years. I retired in 1972.”
“I can’t believe this!” Buffy shouted. “She used Miss French’s records to get into the school. She could be anywhere!”
“No, dear.” Miss French said. “I’m right here.” The four of them quickly said goodbye and walked down to the street.
“Dammit! I should have checked her credentials when you found them Willow. I might have been able to spot the fake. We’ve just wasted a bunch of time!” Willow put the question of Dean’s unusual skills set to the back of her mind for a time after they’d found Xander.
“What do we do now?” She pleaded with them for some kind of direction.
“Abject prayer and supplication would spring to mind.” Giles said unhelpfully.
“Dean and I saw her walking past this park with her grocery bags. She lives in this neighborhood.”
Xander was here! Somewhere. Panic swelled in her again.
“I’m gonna start banging on doors.” Buffy grabbed her arm before she could walk up to the adjacent house. “Wait, no! We do not have time for that!”
Fury filled Willow. “We have to do something!” She couldn’t lose Xander.
Dean had walked some distance away from the group and was staring down at a sewer entrance. Willow and Giles curiously watched Buffy walk up beside Dean and stare down at the manhole cover.
“You thinking what I’m thinking?” Dean asked her. Buffy nodded and bent down to lift the cover up before slipping herself inside. “I won’t be long.”
“Wait a sec.” Dean said. They watched him run back to his car and pull something out of the trunk. When he returned she saw a long length of rope wrapped around his shoulder which he handed to Buffy. “Thanks.”
After Buffy disappeared down the manhole Dean explained to them that Buffy was looking to capture the clawed vampire that had run away in fear.
“Maybe it can sniff the bitch out.”
Willow counted the seven minutes it took for Buffy to return with the vampire tied up anxiously, praying to God that they wouldn’t be too late.
“C’mon!” Buffy shouted as she pushed the vampire ahead of her, trying to get him to lead the way. “C’mon, where is she? Which house is it? I know you’re afraid of her, I saw you! Come on! They followed the vampire down a block and a half before he stopped and hissed away from a house on the left.
“Come on. What? What is it? This is her, isn’t it, this is her house? This is it!” Buffy cried jubilantly. “Better than radar!”
Buffy let go of the vampire and Dean immediately plunged a stake into the demon’s heart turning it to dust. Willow saw an annoyed look cross Buffy’s face but paid it no mind as she ran ahead to the house door.
“It’s locked!” She shouted. Buffy ran around the house and stopped at a window that went into the ground for the basement. “I can see them! She’s moving in on Xander!” Buffy kicked in the window and slid into the houses basement, Dean followed her, his machete raised, and she followed Dean with Giles behind her. She landed on the middle landing of the staircase and quickly ran down the stairs to the cage as Buffy began her assault with two cans of bug spray.
“HELP ME! HELP ME!” A still living Blayne screamed in fear. Giles tossed the tape recorder with the bat sonar to Dean, then joined her by the cage with Xander and Blayne. Willow stepped back to make room for him and almost tripped over a bone she dearly hoped belonged to an animal. Ignoring her discomfort she started to help Giles undo the binds around Blayne and Xander.
Buffy and Dean had the She-Mantis on the retreat toward her nest below the giant egg sack.
“Remember Dr. Gregory?” Buffy asked the beast. “You scarfed his head? Yeah, well, he taught me, you do your homework, you learn stuff! Like what happens to your nervous system when you hear this!” She pointed to Dean to play the tape with the bat sonar, but instead of the bat screech Giles’ British lilt filled the dungeon.
“…extremely important to file not simply alphabetically…”
“It’s on the wrong side!” Giles shouted. Dean hurried to flip the tape but cried out in pain when the She-Mantis slashed at his arm. She knocked Buffy to the ground when she tried to attack, then turned back to Dean but he had managed to switch the tape around by them. Willow held onto Xander tightly in anticipation. Ear shattering screeches filled the room and the beast started to shake and fit.
“Bat sonar. Makes your whole nervous system go to hell! You can go there with it!” And with those words Buffy let out a battle cry and started slicing and dicing. When the body was in more pieces than Willow could count Dean turned off the bat sonar.
“Well I, I say she’s deceased.” Giles said.
“And dissected.” Willow felt the need to add.
“You okay?” Xander asked Buffy.
“Yeah. But Dean got swiped. Are you okay? How bad are you bleeding?”
Dean was cradling his upper left arm slightly, and when he moved his hand away there was a large gash in his leather jacket and the shirt underneath.
“Yeah, I’m good. The leather protected my skin pretty well. It’s just a scratch.” Willow hurried to Dean’s side and saw that he was right. There was a thin red line going diagonally across his bicep. It was barely bleeding, but it would probably leave a nasty bruise.
“Well, uh…” Xander mumbled slightly. “Thanks Dean. And you guys too.”
“Yeah, thanks!” Blayne enthusiastically said.
“I’m really glad you’re okay.” Willow told Xander. “It’s really unfair how she only went after virgins.” Xander laughed a little. “What?”
“I mean, here you guys are, doing the right thing, the smart thing, when a lot of other boys your age—”
“Flag down on that play babe!” Blayne interrupted. “I am not—”
“Well, you see, that’s the She-Mantis’ modus operandi.” Giles explained. “Uh, she only preys on the pure.” Dean started to cackle as shock and embarrassment filled Xander and Blayne’s expressions.
“Well isn’t this the perfect ending to a wonderful day!” Xander blithely commented.
“My dad’s a lawyer!” Blayne spat out. “Anyone repeats this to anybody they’re gonna find themselves facing a lawsuit!” Blayne stormed out of the basement, and Dean started to cackle even louder.
“I don’t think it’s bad.” Willow told Xander. It was really quite romantic to her. “I think it’s really—” Xander held up a discarded machete in a half threatening way.
“Sweet! It’s certainly nothing I’ll ever bring up again!”
Xander walked over to the She-Mantis’ giant egg sack and looked at it calmly for a moment before viciously swinging the machete at it.
“Buffy? What kind of an idjit name is Buffy?”
“Hey, this is California Bobby. Just accept it and move on.”
“Yeah, well, I’ll look and see what I can find on Slayer lore that you wouldn’t already know. You should be careful around her, Dean. Slayers tend to live hard and die young, I don’t wanna see you goin’ down with her.”
“Hey, you know me Uncle Bobby, always careful.”
“Right, it’s your middle name. I knew a Slayer once you know. Didn’t know it at the time though, put it all together after I became a hunter.”
“Yeah? What was she like?”
“Japanese, tiny, and a hell of a fireball. The army stationed me in Okinawa for a time before shipping me off to Nam. Saw her take down ten yakuza that were causing trouble.”
“Yeah, that sounds like Buffy.”
“Hey, Dean. You give anymore thought to me and Jim’s offer?”
“Look Bobby, I really appreciate it, but I gotta stay in Sunnydale. Maybe after I get custody.”
I just wanted to give a big thank you to all my reviewers and followers, they’re a real motivating factor. This chapter, and probably the rest of the story, is turning into a labor of love and I hope all my readers will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
A funny thing about the scene with Dean and Cordelia, I had absolutely no plans to include that in this chapter but Cordelia just butted herself in and demanded my attention. Ah well, I guess that’s just Cordy.