: The Buffy and Fast and Furious franchises belong to their respective creators. Title is stolen from a Poe song.Warnings
: Minor violence, minor angsting, off-screen crimes being committed. A/N
: I was trying to figure out a hasn’t-been-done-yet way of introducing Buffy to the FF franchise. This is the outcome.
+she’s liable to grow up mean
Buffy is eighteen when she stops running, and that’s really only because she’s standing with her toes dipping in the Atlantic, all out of country to run across. More’s the pity, she thinks. She’s always enjoyed moving.
It’s been a year. Angel and Kendra have been gone a year. Her mother has cast her out a year ago and no missing persons report has ever gone out. She knows because she had a close call with the cops early on and they bought her lies, shaky as they still were back then.
There’s no-one coming for her and she’s come to terms with that, somewhere between here and there, in sleazy diners and sleazier motels, with men who wanted her body, kids who wanted her money, strangers who wanted both.
And why would anyone come for her, with a new slayer out there, taking over the job. It’s not like they need her anymore. She’s an evolutionary dead end, just like the great white shark.
She’s never been the hero type anyway and the past year has cured her of any notion she might have had of the world being worth saving. She slays when she comes across someone about to be eaten, but apart from that, it’s dog eat dog.
And Buffy Summers is one of the dogs now.
She wasn’t the last time she ran away, on the back of Pike’s bike. Because the man himself was there, keeping her safe. Sheltered.
But across an entire year and a whole country no-one’s come for her, no-one’s protected her from anything.
She watches the bouncer take a quick look at her fake ID and a long look at her cleavage and then she’s inside the hottest club Miami has to offer right now.
It’s called Hades
, which doesn’t go at all with the white linen theme the city has going, but it seems to work for whoever owns the place. It’s packed.
Packed enough for no-one to notice a pretty blonde slipping her hands a few places they’re not supposed to be.
She’s been in Miami for three days, hasn’t found a job yet, and the funds are running low. You need an address to get a job – over the table now, thank god for finally turning eighteen. To get an address, you need money. Money she doesn’t have right now. It’s simple math, really.
Buffy likes to claim that the five-finger-discount is something she learned recently, but she was good at it long before she became the slayer, out of boredom and a thirst for a little thrill.
Maybe, she thinks, a little wryly, she’s always been one of the dogs. The whole hero business just derailed her for a bit, making her want to be a good person. A person worthy of friends that follow her everywhere, of a man that loves her like a father should.
Look where that whole schtick got her, huh?
Right back where she started from, playing the ditzy blonde in nightclubs she’s not old enough to get into. Alone.
Dancing, she slips one handsy guy’s wallet from his chinos, blindly fumbles the cash free, smiles blatantly at him and drops the wallet on the floor. She spins once, just long enough to tuck the cash into her cleavage, gives him a jaunty wave and moves on.
Two more, she figures, and she’s set for the week. That’ll give her time to find something other than a waitressing job, she figures, because her ass is just about permanently
bruised and she’s tired of it.
Grabby idiot number two never notices a thing, but number three gets bumped into her at the exact wrong moment and his eyes narrow. He grabs for her, clamps a hand around her biceps. His fingers dig into her skin hard enough to leave bruises on a normal girl.
She’s not a normal girl.
She lets go of his wallet, gives him a guileless look and asks, “What’s wrong?”
“You tryin’ to steal my money, bitch?” He presses close up, right in her face and she can see by his pupils that he’s a drunk as he smells.
“What? No!” She widens her eyes and gasps loudly. Lying is a skill that can be learned just like anything else. In Sunnydale, she always half-wanted someone to catch her in a lie, to ask why
. She wanted someone to save her.
These days, she saves herself.
She tugs at his hold, testing, putting on a show. He clenches tighter and she can feel bruises bloom now, even as her healing kicks in.
“Let me go,” she demands and he growls, bares his teeth at her. Angry. He’s a dog too, but she’s got bigger fangs.
“Let. Me. Go.”
“You tried to steal from me, little girl. You’re payin’.” The way he tries to haul her in is a pretty clear indicator of how he expects her to pay
She brings up the heel of her palm, lets the way he pulls her close drive it into his chin, and when he releases her with a scream, she punches him with her newly freed fist. He grabs for her, blindly, and in the tight space on the dancefloor actually manages to get a hold of her. She spins under the hand, reels him in and throws him over her shoulder.
He lands in a heap on the floor, groaning and bleeding.
The music stops. The crowd inches away.
Buffy stands there, one heeled foot automatically come to rest on the asshole’s chest, his wrist still in one of her hands. He’s twice her size and weight and he can’t do more than groan and whimper right now.
Carter Verone is not a fan of nightclubs. Even his own. The obligatory appearances to appease guests are boring; it’s loud, chaotic and potentially dangerous for a man like him.
That said, sometimes interesting things happen.
He’s sitting in the VIP area above Hades
’ main floor, when a scream suddenly cuts over the thumping baseline. He looks down just in time to see a hole form in the crowd and then someone flies through the air in a picture book throw.
The music screeches to a halt and then there’s a little blonde girl standing with one heeled sandal on the chest of the man who has, apparently, touched where he wasn’t welcome.
Carter’s eyebrows hit his hairline. The girl a) doesn’t look like she’s old enough to be in here, cheap cocktail dress aside, and b) weighs about a hundred pounds soaking wet. Looking at her, no-one would expect the martial arts. Or the willingness to use them.
He sees her gaze flick over the crowd, not like she’s looking for an escape, but like she’s scoping out threats. Her head turns his way, her face rises, and for a split second, she’s looking straight at him and there is nothing nervous, nothing flustered about her. There’s only a challenge in her eyes.Bring it
His bouncers are already cutting through the crowd when he waves Roberto and Enrique over. “Get me that girl,” he orders and doesn’t even turn to watch them obey his order.
Five minutes later, the diminutive blonde is standing in the VIP area, dwarfed by his two henchmen and not looking cowed at all. Annoyed, perhaps. Calculating.
Roberto makes his way over, whispers in Carter’s ear. “Guy claims she was stealing from him, boss,” he murmurs, which is as close to an actual warning as either of his men will ever come.
They know he doesn’t pay them for an opinion. They’re paid to look intimidating and do the heavy lifting.
He nods, waves the two men into the background. Not away. He’ll pay her that much respect, won’t dismiss her as a threat just because she’s small and cute. After the display she put on, she deserves it. The nod at her skills is not wasted, he notes, as she shifts subtly to one side to keep all three of them in sight.
Carter motions for her to sit.
“I’d rather stand. Also, I don’t see how slapping down a sleazeball is an offense that warrants, what, getting banned by the bossman himself?”
He can see she wants to cross her arms, but she resists, keeps her stance casual, plays the game. Diamond in the rough.
“How old are you?” he asks, sitting back on the sofa, sprawling. This is his kingdom and he’ll damn well act like a king.
She snorts a little. “Old enough. Why? You like them young?”
“The man you hit has implied you were trying to steal from him.”
She cocks her head to one side. “Maybe he just didn’t want to pay.”
She’s implying prostitution to shift the blame back to him. It’s the kind of ruthlessness Carter appreciates. But he knows what a whore looks like, and she’s got too much spunk, too much fire in her to be that.
“Or maybe he’s telling the truth.”
“Maybe I’ll go now,” she counters, but makes no move to leave. Enrique straightens from his slouch against the wall. Carter waves him off. He suddenly, viscerally, wants
this woman, young and cold and big-mouthed, sassing him when he could just call the police and make life very, very difficult for her.
She might not be old enough to drink yet, but she’s right: She is
old enough. Old enough for the world to have beaten her down and for her to have come out on top anyway. He might be reading too much into her stance, into the look in her eyes and the way she keeps the exit in sight, but he doesn’t think so. This one grew up hard and nasty and didn’t let it keep her down. He admires that in a person.
That and the rapidfire violence she’s willing to unleash.
“I have a proposition for you.”
“You couldn’t afford me.”
He gives her a long, slow once over and then smirks. “Probably. Fortunately for me, I only want your skills, not your body.”
Since he took out a main competitor last month, waters have been a little hot for him. The last vestiges of the opposition are still around, gone to ground and nursing a spectacular grudge. Roberto and Enrique double as bodyguards, but their duties are not always by his side. Keeping them with him like he’s afraid makes business harder and, frankly, the endless inconvenience of keeping them from other tasks annoys him greatly. He needs someone to watch his back.
And who better than a tiny little slip of arm candy that no-one would suspect? The better to flush out my enemies with, my dear.
Carter is feeling decidedly wolfish right now.
She blinks at him, once, twice, big doe-eyes, and then says, “Do you want me to beat someone up, or to play bodyguard?”
Smart, too. Quick on her feet.
“What makes you say that?”
She hesitates for a moment, then deigns to lay it all out for him. “The only skills you’ve witnessed are my ass-kicking skills. You might be referring to those alleged sticky-fingers-skills, but I don’t think so. People need asses kicked for two reasons, attacking or defending. What exactly is it you do, Mr. …?”
“Verone,” he supplies helpfully. “Carter Verone.”
He’s vain enough to expect a flicker of recognition from her. Nothing comes. He blames it on her being obviously new to town.
She cocks her head to one side and he knows she files his little flicker of disappointment away. “And your business?”
Smiling thinly, he gives the standard answer. “Import export.”
Her expression drops. “Lie,” she says, absolutely flat and absolutely certain. How she can tell he has no idea.
“Half truth,” he counters. “I do
import and export.”
He says nothing more because, well, he’s not stupid. For a long minute, she stares at him, narrow-eyed.
The men start twitching and he glares at them sharply. She snorts. “Down boys.” Then she turns her attention back to him. “So you’re some kind of kingpin. And you want me to work for you.”
Because he’s bored and she’s interesting. Because she poses an elegant solution to a pesky problem. Because he’s an impulsive bastard and he likes pretty, deadly things. He doesn’t say any of that, just smirks instead, small and sly.
She nods like she expected that. “I’ll consider the offer,” she finally announces and then she’s gone before anyone can so much as move a muscle, out the door, down the stairs and gone
“So,” a voice says behind him three days later.
Since he was alone in his own living room thirty seconds ago, it’s understandable that he jumps and goes for his gun.
The little girl’s leaning against the open balcony door, arms crossed under her chest. “Apparently you really are
Miami’s kingpin.” She gives him a slow once-over and adds a muttered, “Sure as heck dress like it.”
He lowers his gun, but doesn’t put it away. She doesn’t even look at it, heavy by his side. Like it’s no threat at all.
“You researched me,” he states, redundantly.
“No,” she counters. “I asked a random person on the street who Carter Verone is. Duh.”
With a headshake, she continues. “They say you only deal in drugs, and that they’re clean. No girls, no weapons, little violence. I can live with that and I’m really, really tired of shitty tips in shitty dive-bars. So, okay, I’ll play the Kevin Costner to your Whitney. But there’s going to be rules.”
His eyebrows rise of their own volition. “I believe usually it’s the employer making demands.”
“I believe you want me a lot more than I want you,” she mocks and he wonders, briefly, what burned this little girl so badly. When he was her age, he wasn’t half as hard, and he grew up… in unusual surroundings, to put it nicely.
When he says nothing, she takes that as her go-ahead. “I bodyguard. I don’t beat people up for fun. I don’t want to know any details and when I’m on duty, you listen to me. I say don’t go in there, you don’t go in there because I have instincts you don’t. And I want a veto right.”
“Veto for what?”
“Anything. I don’t want to be involved in something, I veto it. You do it on your own or find someone else, I don’t care. I may not be a saint, but I have lines I won’t cross.”
Her demands are outrageous. A bodyguard the refuses to guard, wants a veto right and doesn’t do as told. He might as well stick with Enrique and Roberto. But she’s here
, after breaking into his house, past his security. She’s here and she wants the job. Carter can work with that.
He puts up his gun. “Two weeks trial time, a thousand dollars a week to start with, and all terms are subject to further negotiation.”
And he does plan for there to be further negotiation. A lot of it. He just needs to be sly about how he brings it up, and when.
He holds out his hand.
She looks at him, really looks, close and long and he finds himself impatient for her to say yes, to become his. Because the more he sees of her, the more he wants her.
All of her.
The way she smirks a little, crookedly, like the expression is still somewhat new, tells him that she knows that, too.
Finally she nods. “Call me Anna,” she tells him, and accepts his hand.
(“What, exactly, do you want me to do?” Brian O’Connor asks, two years later, slouching in Custom’s command center like he was made for it, long legs sprawled.
Markham wants to smack him, he can tell. Bilkins is amused.
“I’m sure you have enough UC people that you don’t need me.”
Markham grinds his teeth. “We can’t get anyone close,” he admits. “We’ve tried more than once. The closest we have is one of mine. She works at one of his clubs and occasionally hears something. Everyone else got flushed.”
Bilkins shoots Markham a look that doesn’t exactly speak of warm fuzzies and takes over. “There aren’t many ways to get close to a man like Verone.”
Brian snorts. He knows the spiel. Knows the game. Either you work your way up, which takes time and patience, or you play honey trap, fuck your way in through the front door.
Bilkins nods. “Exactly. The guys we send in somehow get sniffed out within weeks and Fuentes, the woman, never got that far.”
“Because of her,” Markham growls and click onto another bunch of surveillance pictures, all black and white, all showing a girl with bright hair and a sunny grin.
“We wish. That’s Verone’s hotpocket.”
Brian blinks. “She’s half his age.”
A nod from the fed. “Not quite, but yeah. We know nothing about her, except her name: Anna. Someone wiped any record she might have had.”
“Which,” Markham interrupts, “makes us believe she used to be a prostitute until Verone picked her up. He wouldn’t have paid big bucks to have her wiped unless there was something worth wiping. She showed up two years ago in one of his clubs and we figure she’s around twenty now. You do the math. She hangs off him like a fucking tie. Wherever he goes, she goes.” He pauses dramatically. “But lately, she’s been seen around the races.”
Realization dawns. “You want me to try and get in with her, flip her.”
Bilkins shrugs. “If Verone really picked her up off the street, if she was really a child hooker, she might not be with him by choice. We offer her an out, she just might take it. And after two years, she has to have some
dirt on him.”
“And if she isn’t being kept?”
Another shrug. “Then she might get you a job inside. Verone occasionally uses racers for transport. No fixed people, no fixed routes, but it might help us finally nail that guy to his money, and then to a wall.”
“Preferably that of a prison cell,” the Customs asshole grumbles and Brian senses real love there, he does. He looks at the picture of the little girl.
She doesn’t look unhappy or cowed. Doesn’t look like someone picked up off of a sidewalk. She looks like the kind of woman Letty and Mia are, the kind that’s made of steel and diamonds.
There are four pictures on the screen, three of them with Verone’s arm draped over her somehow.
The fourth is a close up of her face, squinting into the sun, staring straight at the camera. Brian bets she knew the surveillance was there.
If that girl wanted out, she would have found a way long ago.
That she’s still there speaks volumes. But there’s a look in her eyes, liquid and hot-cold, the way Dom looked before everything went to hell.
Brian’s always been a sucker for that look.
“Alright,” he tells the cops. “I’m in.”)
“Carter,” Anna says, stepping into his study in leather pants and high heels, smelling of exhaust and burnt rubber.
Fresh from the races then.
He leans back in his seat and watches her as she rounds his desk to plop down on it right by his left hand. She holds her phone out to him, a picture already pulled up. It shows a blond man with blue eyes, the photo obviously taken with him unawares.
“Who’s that?” he asks, putting the phone down and a hand on her thigh.
Anna shrugs. “A problem.”
He takes one last look at the picture, then up at her. “Is that so?”
Her grin is wide with anticipation as she shakes her head. “We’ll see.”