On the Trail
AN: I know I just updated Trick or Treat like five hours ago, but I'm having a bad night,
and the writer's block has temporarily abated, so I stayed home and wrote all night.
Because, why not.
*************************** Life of the Party: Chapter Two ******************************
“I cannot afford for this to continue!”
Asher winced inwardly as Jean Claude’s fist smashed impressively down on his lacquered desk.
Jason cowered in the corner and he noted absently that, even in terror, the werewolf still
managed to look sexual. No wonder the pup was so popular with the others.
“Jason, you are dismissed. Tell NO ONE what you have told me.” The wolf began to slink away
when Jean Claude’s pointed continuation stopped the young lycanthrope in his tracks, “No one,
incidentally, includes ma petite.” Jason flinched at the command but knew better than to
pause long enough to argue. Jean Claude was not generally known for his shows of force, or
cruelty. Many on the Council considered him too soft for the position he now occupied. Too
Only those who lived with the Master Vampire, perhaps even loved him, knew the depths of his
cruelty. Belle Mort taught them all well, even the less bloodthirsty of her children.
When the office door closed abruptly behind Jason’s swift departure, Asher stepped closer to
his former lover, into the muted light of the room, though the ruined portion of his face
was still wreathed in shadows. Centuries of practice, of shame, had become inbuilt. Besides,
it was often with those that he cared the most for that he had the most to fear.
“We do not know for sure that this is him,” he said softly in French. Bowed own his head in
shared pain as Jean Claude buried his head in his fine boned hands and sighed heavily.
“There have been nearly two dozen deaths that have been reported of these… these monsters.
Children that have been turned, the mad, the elderly. It is obscene, their existence. I am
surprised they have not killed more humans than they have before they themselves have been
destroyed. Who else would this be but Angelus? And I do not know what is worse- that I cannot
stop him from doing this on land that is MINE, or that I dare not confront him for fear that
he is both responsible for releasing these monsters into my territory, and for having them
put down. Either way I am loosing power and I cannot afford this. Not now.”
Not with the triumvirate.
Not with the recent defeat of Council members in St. Louis. Angelus, if he looked for them,
would have little trouble finding allies amongst Jean Claude’s growing list of enemies.
Asher’s own hand reached out, wavered, and then withdrew before touching Jean Claude.
Anita, for all her brightness, complicated so many things that had been, quite honestly,
complicated enough before.
Angelus’s rise to power was not fortunate in this light. The younger Master was a brethren
of theirs, a son of Belle Mort, but while Asher and Jean Claude had been created for their
beauty, Angelus’s allure lay in his utter brutality. Oh there was beauty in the turn of his
cheek, the sneer of his lips, but while most of Belle Morte’s children gloried in the
pleasures of the flesh, Angelus had long been a purveyor of its tortures.
Lifetimes separated Asher enough from his memories that he could admit the other Vampire’s
uses, especially for their Sire. But when lifetimes bled away in his dreams, he was happy
that Juliana had not lived to suffer at Angelus’s hands as he had. Hoped that one day he
would not wish he had lived to suffer at them twice.
Jean Claude, sensing his old lover’s thoughts, raised his head and reached out unhesitatingly
to place a gentle hand against the curve of his face. “You will not go to him, ma amie.
But there was no promise there, despite the sincerity of the words, and could be none.
Jean Claude was too bound by the power and politics that he had immersed himself in. Games
that Asher had allowed himself to be dragged into once more by choosing to stay in St.
Louis and bask in what little warmth he could absorb from Anita, who did not turn from him,
and Jean Claude, who would forever remember his perfect lover of old.
“We must find out who the killer of these monsters is. If it is an agent of Angelus they
must be stopped, and if it is not… then perhaps we will find you a sufficient weapon to
use against him.” Jean Claude didn’t blink as his midnight blue gaze rested on Asher’s.
The Master of St. Louis nodded once, finally, slowly in agreement and Asher gently
disentangled from the comfort being offered to him. “It is early yet- I will hunt
tonight, and perhaps by morning, by morning we will know who exactly we are dealing
Buffy Summers was in a fine mood tonight. Well, Dave reflected, if by fine you meant
homicidal. He watched as he slowly polished glasses as a drunk human attempted to pinch
her ass. Watched, slowly polishing, as she twisted around and broke a finger for his
efforts. But that wasn’t what caused his eyes to narrow. There were signs posted that
the wait staff were strictly off-limits, to humans, Weres, and other Vamps. It was part
of the no harm, no foul rule he tried to enforce.
In all honesty, it had been refreshing to have a human waitress who knew how to take care
of herself. And Buffy Summers, aside from being damn good with budgets, knew how to take
care of herself. She’d been with him for nearly seven months, and hadn’t batted an eye at
things that would send most good girls screaming into the night.
What was funny was that, despite being so competent at taking care of herself IN the bar,
she managed to show up to work with more interesting and severe injuries than he ever
imagined anyone sustaining, let alone with the smile Buffy usually flashed when he inquired
Take tonight for instance. The man had grabbed her on right side, but instead of reaching
out with her right arm, she had twisted and broken the finger with her left hand. He
watched, eyes narrowed, as she served food, always extremely careful to keep undue weight off
of her right arm. He carefully sniffed the air, trying to scent for her blood, but in the
smoky atmosphere of the bar, hell, with his clientele, it was like trying to find a needle
in a field of haystacks.
The long sleeves were a dead giveaway though. Sparkly top or not, Buffy Summers was a
flaunt ‘em kind of girl. Her clothes, while classy, were never demure.
He was about to call her over and have a little chat because, really, enough was enough, when
there was a flare of power just subtle enough that it caught his attention. Dave frowned,
and the frown only intensified as the front door opened. The entryway to the bar was
shadowed, so all he caught was the flash of long blonde hair, and the slight wave of a hand
beckoning him back towards the office.
Dave rocked back on his heels before straightening and heading back towards the office. He
wasn’t entirely surprised to find Asher, Jean-Claude’s newest second in command there, but
he was momentarily taken back by the lived-in look of the office until it occurred to him
that Buffy usually went over the books on Wednesdays.
The light was on, and there were papers scattered across the desk. Dave was hardly neat,
but he was in the office so rarely it used to have a kind of neglected feel. Since Buffy
came it was even more messy, but much more welcoming. The presence of life did that
Sure enough, her backpack was stashed under the extra office chair. A t-shirt was sticking
out of the top, and when Asher’s nostrils flared Dave sniffed, and bingo, Buffy’s blood. God
damn the girl. Whatever she was into, and he was sure it was something, the last thing she
needed were more Vampires sticking their fangs into her business. He was enough, and he was,
undead or not, most certainly one of the good guys.
Asher, and by automatic extension Jean-Claude, were somewhat more nebulous in their morals.
The second most powerful Vampire in the city of St. Louis seemed content to let the mystery
go though in favor of whatever had brought him to Dave’s doorsteps though.
“Many of our kind do not keep up with current affairs,” Asher remarked, breaking the silence,
as his blue eyes flickered to the desk and saw today’s newspaper wrinkled and well-read on
top. Dave’s own eyes dashed to the front page and winced internally as he saw the headlines
about the coup and new Master of Los Angeles. While he doubted that was why Asher was
sitting in his office, he was sure Jean-Claude and, hell, most of the other Master of the
Cities across the US had to be a bit jumpy about it.
“I get the paper delivered so my staff can keep up with economics and the like. It also helps
to keep abreast of the Life section, so I know when there are festivals and society events
that might make us adjust our hours.”
“I see,” Asher responded with polite cordiality that was chilling. He turned and faced the
bookshelves in the office, pale fingers tracing their spines, and Dave watched, fascinated,
as shadows clung to the right side of his face despite the fluorescent lighting in the office,
hiding scars that were only ever whispered about when some of his customers had too much to
Dave was not one to move in the high powered Vampiric circles, so he’d never been close to
any Master really, let alone Jean-Claude’s second in command. It wasn’t a comfortable
feeling and despite the fact that his own line sprang from one unconnected to Belle Morte,
he could still feel the power that he’d never be able to achieve, even after centuries of
life, simmering close to the surface, hidden by Asher’s cool façade of humanity.
“This bar is a local meeting spot for the supernatural community, for those who frequent
less… intense distractions such as Guilty Pleasures.”
“I would like to know if your customers have been whispering of, changes in the Blood
Dave wasn’t liking where this was going, not one bit. “Changes?”
“Yes,” Asher bit out, and this time his words were cold, “changes. Do they whisper
fearfully, do they walk in pairs. Have there been… disappearances?”
Definitely not liking it.
“Hey, Dave?” Oh god, girl, not NOW. Dave winced as Buffy came clomping into the office,
totally unaware of the fact that she could be walking into a temporary viper’s den. He
resisted the urge to throttle her, just barely, and plastered what he hoped was a reassuring
smile to his face. One that didn’t contain fangs.
“Buffy, can’t you see, I’m in a meeting.”
She shrugged blithely, but Dave hadn’t spent several decades on the Force for nothing. It
wasn’t lost on him that she very carefully didn’t give Asher her back, and just as carefully
kept her gaze on Dave’s collarbone. Not that THAT was anything new. Despite repeatedly
assuring her that it just wasn’t du jour to walk around ensnaring people with Vampiric gaze,
Buffy insisted, with a stubbornness that was vexing, on never, ever meeting a Vampire’s eyes.
What was amazing was that she could always, always tell. Even with customers who were really
good at passing right after they had fed. She always knew. And she was NEVER this big of a
Which meant she’d managed, from across the room, to pick up on his nervousness when he had
left the bar, had waited for what she had figured out to be a suitable amount of time, and
had come, quite simply, to extricate him from some uncomfortable situation. He would have
kissed her for it, if he hadn’t been so angry.
“There’s a table out there who want a round of hurricanes. I can’t remember what I’m
supposed to put in them.” The request sounded oh so reasonable, mostly because Buffy did
innocent and naïve very, very well. Even now she was looking at his collarbone with wide,
green eyes, and a small pout. He almost fell for it except for the fact that he’d taught
her to make hurricanes last week.
Buffy was many things, stupid was not one of them.
What did surprise him was that Asher seemed unwilling to call her on it. Dave knew she was
lying, and Asher had to as well. Instead the blonde Vampire merely inclined his head in
her direction. “My pardon, mademoiselle, I had not realized I would be depriving the bar
of its only bartender.”
The blonde girl sent Asher a sweet smile, even as she aligned her back to the other set
of bookcases nonchalantly. “I’m learning, but sometimes things take me awhile.”
Asher arched a single brow in her direction though his gaze never wavered from Dave. “I
can imagine. How long have you been working here, at Dead Dave’s, if you don’t mind me
asking of course?”
And Dave tried very, very hard to keep his mouth shut and face blank as Buffy, Buffy
Summers, one of the best employees he’d ever had, turned into one of the best actresses
he’d ever seen. She wasn’t lying blatantly, not again anyway, but the competent, slightly
insane, dedicated women he’d gotten to know over the last half a year was suddenly replaced
by, well, a guileless, simpering Valley Girl.
“Oh, about seven months.”
“And you enjoy it?”
She shrugged gracefully. “It pays the rent.”
“I see. You feel comfortable, safe working the night shift? Going home by yourself
“No less so than anywhere else. And there’s always so many people out. It might as well
Dave tried not to choke on that last bit.
“I see,” came the same neutral response. “If you feel so safe, Mademoiselle Summers, can
you explain to me please, why you then feel it necessary to keep Holy Water and a wooden
stake in your bag?”