She was tired.
To say she had had a long night would have been an understatement. First there was the terrible flight from New York to St. Louis, then the problems with her baggage at the airport. She had only brought one bag anyway, but it still had disappeared. And then, almost as soon as she had left the airport (with her bag, finally), she had picked up the trail of a demon.
She had ignored it, intent on finding a place that would put her up for the night since it was already past midnight. The demon would still be there in the morning and the police knew how to handle things if anything happened. She wasn’t alone anymore in this fight. Sometimes she had to remind herself of that fact.
The demon had decided not to stick to her plan and had attacked her. She had killed it, as she always did. Slicing it cleanly in half. Or not so clean, because the corpse landed right on top of the bag she had to drop to fight. The demon’s blood was acid. Her bag was no more.
Now, at almost two in the morning, she was wandering the streets of St. Louis, silently. She slid from shadow to shadow, never making a sound. She doubted that she would be able to find a hotel tonight. So she just kept walking.
Buffy didn’t need much sleep. Years and years of sleeping with one eye open or not at all because one or another thing was trying to kill her and her loved ones had conditioned her not to sleep too much. And there was something calming about wandering around like this. She simply walked, turning where she pleased, with no aim or purpose, no one to run to, no one to save tonight.
Just her and the darkness.
She wasn’t even really tired either, if she thought about it. Or maybe she was just constantly so tired that she didn’t even notice anymore. Body works just fine
, she told herself. She always did this. Analyzing her body like it was a tool and nothing more. If there was pain she used painkillers to get rid of it, to get her body working again. No need for painkillers now, only a few bruises on her ribcage and arm. Not even cracked ribs. No internal bleeding. Just bruises. They would be gone by morning.
Gone without a trace, like all those other wounds that should have left scars on her skin, like they did on her soul. Faith scarred. She had scarred, too, once upon a time, and she had hated it then. She had hated every single mark with a passion, because after only two years of slaying a bare stomach and short skirts had been out of the realm of possibility for her. When Willow had restored her the scars had remained down there, six feet under in her empty coffin.
Her skin had been flawless once more and if she would have had the energy to hate, she would have hated Willow for that. But she didn’t even have the energy to cry back then, so she had simply missed them in silence. The scar on her knee, from riding with Pike on his motorcycle, the one on her neck, where Angel had drained the life out of her, the small cut on her chin where Dawn had won the pool fight when she had been six and Buffy had kissed the tiles at the edge of their giant pool in L.A..
It was funny how badly she wanted them all back after hating them with such a passion before. This Buffy, this new, 26-year-old Buffy didn’t have a passion for anything. The only injuries leaving marks on her, were those that would have killed her before. Slit throat, stabbed stomach, torn thigh.
So she kept walking.
Dimly she was aware that she should call Dawn and Faith in Rome to tell them that she was alright, but she didn’t have the energy to talk. That was also the reason she barely contacted the rest of the Scooby gang anymore. They were scattered throughout the world and only called when they needed her strength to keep the world together. She had gone with Dawn to Rome back then, after Sunnydale had fallen and somehow Faith had followed after things with Robin had gone downhill. Buffy thought she had been almost happy then, with both her sisters in one place and no more weight of the world on her shoulders. But then the message had come form L.A.. The whole crew of Angel Investigations was dead, including the two souled vampires.
By the time Buffy had crawled back out of her grief, Faith and Dawn had gone and made lives for themselves together. Without Buffy. She decided to leave then, knowing that she was only dragging them down with her weight. Because that was what Buffy was. Dead weight. She had started slaying again soon after because in the end she could not deny any longer what she truly was.
Not a slayer anymore, Willow and one too many spells had taken care of that, thank you very much, but there was something inside of her, something primal. And Buffy did not have anything left inside of her to fight its pull any longer. Using some of her brother’s famous ‘connections’ and a couple of favors, she became the first and only Vampire Executioner that did not have to answer to anyone. She killed the bad guys when she ran across them and nobody questioned her. It turned out the government was scared shitless of the powers she held and decided they would rather have her on their side then elsewhere. They didn’t have to know that the spell that had activated hundreds of girls had turned out to be temporary, leaving only about a dozen active slayers all around the world, or that she had no contact to any of them.
No, Buffy was ok with her life as it was. A little lonely, a little painful, and plenty bloody, but without the gut wrenching agony of watching people she loved die.
Suddenly there was a shot, muffled, but clear to her ears anyway, which was followed by a pained cry. It pierced the darkness and the silence and tore at Buffy’s cloak of numb monotony. Then she heard another shot and another and another. So many shots and still the victim cried out in pain every single time.
She reached the source of the noise a scant second after the fourth shot had torn flesh and darkness alike. What she saw would have probably made her sick at one point of time. But not now.
She took in the scene before her with frightening efficiency. A boy, barely out of High School, if she’d have to guess was on the ground. He was staring wide eyed at the big man standing over him, weapon poised for another shot. The scent in the air was unmistakably Shifter blood and Buffy knew from experience that it was not coming from the man with the gun.
His name was Cain and Buffy had met him almost a lifetime ago when he had tried to shoot Oz on one of his furry nights. Cain was a were-hunter, who sold the pelts of shifters’ on the black market. Buffy imagined the price for were-fur had dropped drastically since the closing of the hellmouth, four years ago and the merging of the dimensions that had followed, Buffy’s own and this one. A dimension where Shifters were citizens with rights and power, just as the vampires, but that was a different story.
She would have apologized for ruining his business, if she didn’t despise Cain so much. She knew what he was doing, why he was using normal bullets on a shifter. He was trying to force the kid to change so he could kill him in his animal form. If he killed him in human form there would be no fur.
Pulling one of her daggers out, one of the few things that she had left besides her wallet and cell phone, she threw it with a precision born from over a decade of practice. It hit Cain, dull end first, on the temple, knocking him out immediately, without fuss or mess.
The kid looked at her, his eyes going even wider, but he did not attempt to move away from her. Chasing an injured were around town was not what she wanted to do right now. Or ever.
She kicked Cain forcefully in the head, just to make sure he was down for the count, and tucked her prized dagger back into the shaft of her boot before kneeling down beside the kid. He had endlessly long hair and the strangest eyes she had ever seen in a human. Or at least something human-shaped. She knew that it wasn’t the were shining through, because weres did not have lavender colored eyes.
She did a quick check of his wounds. His left arm and chest had taken one bullet each; his stomach had taken the other two. He wasn’t bleeding too badly but Buffy knew that the wounds would not heal as long as the bullets were still stuck in his flesh.
Looking up she saw that he was still scared. She had just saved his life and here he was, afraid of what she might do to him now, instead of thanking her for saving him. She wondered what had made him grow up so fast. She gave him what she hoped resembled a smile and brushed some loose strands of hair out of his eyes.
“What’s your name?”
Her question seemed to reassure him at least a little and he answered, “Nathaniel.”
“Ok, Nathaniel. Do you want to go to a hospital, or is there someone who can get those bullets out of you and patch you back up? Pack? Friends?”
His eyes widened again, so expressive, at her obvious knowledge of his status and the fact that shifter’s were generally not very ‘welcome’ for lack of a better word, in hospitals. It was like somehow the other patients and doctors resented them for healing so much faster than the average human, and of course, there was the danger of getting infected. Finally he seemed to decide that even if she was not trustworthy, she was his best chance right now.
“Pack. It’s only four blocks down the road.”
She nodded and started pulling him to his feet.
“Well then, let’s get you there before you’re bled dry and someone wakes up. Good thing you didn’t change. He would have killed you immediately.”
He nodded, “Couldn’t have anyway. Full moon was yesterday. I don’t have enough control to shift so soon after.”
She could have carried him, but she didn’t want him to be more scared of her than he already was, so she just wrapped her arm around his waist, careful not to hurt him more and waited until he had draped his good arm over her small shoulders, his other one clutching at his stomach wounds.
And then, slowly, they started to move forward.
It might take a while, but they would get there.
It was only four blocks after all.
Have you ever seen a prologue that long? Me neither. Thank you for your attention.