Watching you, watching me
Disclaimers: if I owned it, it wouldn't be fanfic :-)
Tears in our Cheerios
By: Cousin Mary
Asher didn't look particularly upset as he stood over the warlock as if to make sure he was dead. But he was dead, Buffy knew dead and that guy, dead. The French vampire didn't look pleased about that though, most likely because they still had more questions then they did answers. She looked around the chamber, the only light source being the eerily glowing pentagram under the dead cultist. It did occur to her then that they were in a secret underground room, that until recently no one but her had been able to find, with two dead bodies. It should have been a lot scarier, but somehow it was coming out sort of depressing.
She knew she should be more on the panicky side given that the Fantasia demon lord had just flown away to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting citizens of St. Louis, but for some reason her brain didn't want to process that. So she stared at the lonely blonde's body as it failed to do much of anything. Zane started walking around relighting some of the candles with his Zippy.
There were a stack of old and musty looking books lined up behind the altar and as Buffy made her way towards them she thought that she should have found them earlier, the last time she'd been there. But she hadn't, hell, they might not have even been there last time. Or they had been but she hadn't been able to see them. Or something. She frowned, her job was to find, fight, slay, not second guess illusions, magic and the smoke and mirrors of a deranged mind. God she missed hungry, stupid minions who's biggest trick had involved using Febreeze to cover up that tell-tale graveyard smell!
"Anything?" Zane asked as she cracked the first creepy leather tome.
She flipped a few pages but nothing really jumped out at her as "the Answer." It looked to be a diary of some sort, the rantings of a mad man no doubt. She wrinkled her nose as she glanced down at the dozen or so more books scattered at her feet. This was going to take awhile, even with Zane and the others help, and still then there was no guarantee that they'd have any answers in them.
Asher still hadn't moved. He was standing over the warlock's corpse, watching the blood drip from the self-inflicted wounds like it was somehow the key to everything. For a moment she thought he was going to do something gross and vampire-y, but he just stood there, watching. Zane came to stand beside her and then they were both watching Asher watch the body.
It must have been traumatic, Buffy thought. She really hadn’t considered just how freaky this whole thing had to be for him. If this had gone down the same way Kiev had then all of the master vampires in the city should have died tonight, all his friends, him... but it didn't look like that was going to happen. Instead something had been summoned, or born... whatever, and now they were dealing with complete unknowns. Possibly worse things. It had most likely been the biggest scare he'd had in a long, long time. Watching Jean-Claude accept his own death, maybe starting to expect it himself. She shook her head to clear it, because those kinds of thoughts weren’t going to get her anywhere, and went back to her Asher watching.
She was just about to say something, she forgot what, because suddenly Asher was doing more than watching. Some sort of rage seemed to overtake him. First, he raised a hand and pushed back his hair. Hair already matted with the warlock's blood so it stuck back, revealing his scars. The few times she'd seen the ruined side of his face it had been a mangled mass of white scar tissue, but as she watched the skin became an angry pink, like a welt. Like the marks were new and not centuries old. He was breathing hard through his nose and his eyes were taking on a gleam that had Buffy taking a step slightly in front of Zane.
He was saying something under his breath when he took the knife from a limp, dead hand. Something low and French, barely audible even with Buffy's Slayer hearing. Angry mutterings that grew louder as he started to hack and slice the body. Buffy was shocked, she wasn't sure why though. Considering that after the Master had temporarily killed her in Sunnydale hadn't she, as Xander had so poetically quoted, ground his bones to make her bread? But as the blood and muscle and splashes of bile and brain began to splatter the room and pool on the floor, Buffy found herself needing to turn away. It wasn't the violence so much as the emotion, the raw desperation of the act that maybe hit too close to home.
In the end it was Zane who got him to stop. Zane who tackled him from behind and somehow wrestled the knife away from him. The leopard talked him down in that same calm, gentle voice that had had Buffy trusting him as soon as she'd met him. Buffy pretended to read the fanatically crazy books while they talked in low voices, occasionally glancing up only to look away a moment later. When they were ready to leave she tried to give Asher what she hoped was an understanding smile, but he didn't seem to be able to look her in the eye. She settled for holding his hand briefly as they made it back up the stairs, he'd wiped it off, but it was still sticky.
When they finally limped their way back to the Circus they found it eerily deserted. It looked as if Jean-Claude had been good to his word and sent everyone away. Her spidey senses told her there were still things moving around down in the maze of halls beneath the building, but it was considerably less than the undead city it had been before. It also looked like the denizens of the night had helped themselves to “souvenirs” before they left . And by souvenirs she meant anything that hadn’t been nailed down had been taken. That’s why Buffy drew the line at undead houseguests: they just couldn’t be trusted. First they wanted your blood, but they’d so take your TV and VCR if they thought they could get away with it.
“They took the chairs!” Buffy said, astounded, “Who steals chairs?!”
Asher gave her another of his unreadable looks before giving Zane a manly nod and heading off, presumably, to find Jean-Claude.
The slayer turned to see her grubby little sister making her way towards them. Gone were the pre-schooler’s usual baby-goth gowns that just happened to enter her wardrobe whenever she spent time with a certain French vampire. No, now Dawn looked like nothing so much as an urchin straight from Oliver Twist. Her feet were bare, and dirty, her hair was snarled and her dress... Her dress was pretty much a canvas sack with armholes! Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but it was still ugly. Buffy frowned, “Why’re you dressed like that?”
“They said I couldn’t get my nice clothes dirty so I hafta wear this,” Dawn grumbled, wrinkling her nose as she looked down at herself, “while everything was packed away.”
“Packed? Oh…” Buffy tried to ignore Zane’s stifled snort. Okay, so maybe the chairs hadn’t been stolen. But really, she wouldn’t put it past some of them to have tried, “So where is everybody?”
“Daddy is in his office going over ‘portant papers and I’m not to bother him unless it’s urgent,” Dawn recited with an over dramatic sigh, “It’s been really boring.”
“Did Anita come back?” Zane asked, scooping up Dawn and tossing her into the air as she squealed. It was all so normal, Buffy thought. Not at all like you’d expect people to act after some sort of horrific demon vampire had been raised and you’d just watched your vampire friend hack a body into little bitty pieces.
“Nu-uh,” Dawn shook her head as she was placed back on the ground, “she hasn’t called or nothin’.”
“Should we call her?” Buffy asked, but Zane just shrugged in response.
“There you guys are!” It was Jason, looking frazzled and nearly as grubby as Dawnie, “Where have you guys been? What happened? You just left us!”
“You stopped following,” Zane snapped back, “seriously, just because Anita and Richard start up again-“
“The police called!” Jason interrupted, “That guy? Gerald? He had Kimberlyn packed in the trunk of his car, trying to sneak her out of the city.”
“Is she dead?” Buffy frowned.
“What? No,” Jason looked down at her like it was a stupid question to ask. But really? Why would you put a live person in a trunk? Unless you were like, a mobster or Quentin Tarantino or something.
“I guess he thought the cops were after him. And they were, but if they hadn’t seen part of her hospital gown hanging out the back they wouldn’t have stopped him,” Jason ran his hand through hair that was already standing on end, now it all stood on end and leaned slightly to the left, “so they’re both back in the hospital.”
“Did the cops shoot him?” Dawnie asked, wide-eyed.
“No,” Now it was Dawn’s turn to get the what’s-wrong-with-you-look, “the girl had to go back and he refused to leave her.”
“He’s a vamp though, right?” Buffy asked, trying to put the puzzle together.
“Yeah, but,” Jason looked uneasy, “the cops let Anita talk to him and she said that there was no way he was in on anything. She said he’d only been a vampire for maybe three years and I guess he was dumb, really dumb. I mean, his get away plan was to drive to Mexico with his girlfriend in the trunk. He was going to save her... he even had fake I.D.s that gave their names as, get this, Juanita and Raul Mexican, and Mexican was misspelled.”
“That –is- dumb,” Dawnie’s little mouth was hanging open, Buffy thought her’s might be too.
“Then the warlock just got lucky finding someone pregnant with a Vlad’s baby?” Zane looked about as confused as Buffy felt.
“Who knows? Anita is off with the cops doing whatever it is they do,” Jason made some vague gesture with his hand, possibly illustrating cop-stuff.
“And Richard?” Zane frowned.
“Went home,” Jason shrugged, “him and Jean-Claude got into it when he came by, but it was over pretty quick. Hey! Where are Jamil and Shang-da?”
Shang- oh! The other bodyguard! So that was his name! Buffy was pretty pleased, though she wondered how she’d been able to forget a name like Shang-da. She had to pay more attention.
“They shifted and took off,” Zane scooped up Dawnie again, this time draping her over his shoulder and letting her dangle down his back. She was giggling like it was the funnest thing she’d ever done ever and that made Buffy smile. Zane was good at making uneasy situations seem somehow okay.
“Oh,” Jason seemed to puzzle over that a moment, but then just asked if they wanted him to order a pizza.
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