†††Part Three†††
Word Count: 2,403

Buffy dreaded this part of the day. It was the end of it for the kids and Dawn, most normal people really when hers was just beginning.

She hated tucking her kids into bed not knowing if she'd be the one to wake them in the morning. It was terrible to think like that, but it was always on her mind when she kissed them good night. She never left without that, and telling each one she loved them. Even Marcus despite his not wanting his mother's kisses so much anymore.

Tonight, Sierra wanted an extra bedtime story and Buffy gave in without much of an argument. If it had been Marcus he'd have known something was up, but Sierra was too little to think twice about her mother's willingness to let her stay up a little later to read about the Velveteen Rabbit.

Fortunately, the kids were fast asleep by the time she had to leave. Marcus would be full of questions as to why Buffy was leaving at night. She didn't want to lie to him more than she had to. She was doing a lot more slaying than she thought she would have to when agreeing to come here. Tasha had the knowledge; she was just too hesitant to put it to work. Hesitant enough that if it weren't for Buffy, the slayer would already be dead.

She already called Giles and complained. More like yelled. She assumed when he told her he was sending someone not just to the field but to a hellmouth that she was experienced. Had clocked some field time, had staked a vampire or two away from the controlled environment Giles' group of watchers gave the slayers.

He insisted she was as prepared as she was going to get and had shown more aptitude than any of the other candidates who weren't already assigned a city or territory.

That didn't bode well if she was the best The Council had to offer.

She asked why she couldn't have been sent somewhere a slayer already was, pulling one with experience to this new hellmouth.

Giles stammered, but had no real reply. He had to know Buffy was right. Buffy didn't know anything about other areas in the world, but she knew that hellmouths always had excessive amounts of vampire and demon activity.

The funny thing was that it felt good to be out there again. Normal. As if.


As if she was born to do this.

She never thought much about that. It was a given that she was getting a bit long in the tooth to continue slaying despite her particular circumstances, but it felt like she was flexing muscles that had been dormant for years.

Not just the ones that controlled her arms and legs, but muscles in her mind and (oddly) her soul. She hated admitting as she got into her SUV to meet Tasha for tonight's patrol that she felt better than she had in years. Both physically and mentally.

She was used to holding things she had to be careful with in Marcus, Sierra, and Cat. As bad as it sounded and as much as she loved her kids, she never felt right or completely at ease holding them. They were so fragile; she had to be so careful with them. Even now, with Marcus at eight, she had to be careful she didn’t hug him too tight or something. Having Slayer strength had its drawbacks from time to time.

Now a stake, crossbow, or battle-axe; those things felt right when she held them. They fit in her hands just right. She knew exactly how to balance them, how much weight to put behind each one against an opponent. Blindfolded she’d be able to fire off a shot and know where it would end up. She didn’t need to worry about breaking or damaging it because she gripped it too tightly.

She supposed there was something to the whole destiny thing.

She'd never really been in a position before now to test it. To see if it would go away or diminish as her use of her gift decreased. (Funny that she now thought of it as a gift, it didn’t seem like so long ago she considered it more a curse much like the clause that went with Angel’s soul.) There were no other thirty year old slayers walking around, at least none with Buffy's experience. So, comparing and contrasting wasn't possible.

She parked on the street where they were set to meet. Tasha wasn't there yet, so Buffy sat and waited. Traffic could be hard at this time of night so Buffy had no doubt Tasha would be there shortly.

She ran a fingertip over Steve's pin she wore each night she came out on patrol with Tasha. It and the cross Angel had given her forever ago. The lapel pin had been blessed by a high-ranking priest in Steve's local Diocese. Buffy wasn't too hip on religion, but being a first generation Catholic Italian-American Steve believed in it. They'd gone to mass every week and she'd keep taking the kids because it was what Steve would want. Supposedly, because of his belief the blessing made the little cross more powerful in fighting the baddies.

It hadn't helped in the end, but she wanted to wear it anyway. Stupid maybe, but it was something of his she could wear out here, doing this, that made her feel close to him. She wouldn't fit into any of his clothes, so the pin was the only option she had.

She got out of the car at the sound of another one approaching. She had no idea how long tonight was going to be. Tasha didn't even seem to know what to look for, how to go about finding where to go and that bothered Buffy. She wondered what the other slayers, the ones assigned to other cities who didn't have Buffy to help train them, did.

Buffy regarded the other slayer as she approached. More than one person had voiced surprise when they found out Buffy was the slayer because of the fact she was on the short side. Tasha, however, was anything but short. She was probably more in line with what people pictured when they heard what a slayer was and what she could do. Tall and muscular. She looked as if she was the one born to slay vampires.

She was, of course, but wasn't taking to it as naturally as she looked as though she would.

She supposed there was something to the looks could be deceiving thing, because more than once she'd been underestimated. Or taken for granted that she'd be easily beaten.

They made their rounds, talking some. Buffy didn't get too personal with her, but they were both pretty much alone here. Buffy understood what it felt like to have no one else to talk to. She knew Tasha had a younger sister that she missed, but that was about as chummy as they’d gotten beyond every day conversation about their current situation and slaying. Buffy wasn’t even sure if the other slayer knew she had kids, though she imagined so.

She had a few hours before sunrise when they'd finished for the night. Tasha was on her way home and Buffy was organizing the weapons in her chest before doing the same. At this rate, she'd be home in time to get a decent nap in before the kids woke up so Dawn wasn't stuck getting them dressed and fed for the morning.

She took her time, because there was something about this time of night that Buffy liked. A city normally bustling with activity was quiet. A few cars drove on the area streets, but overall it was just Buffy and the buildings. It wasn’t something she’d gotten a chance to get accustomed to in LA, moving so soon after her calling. Sunnydale wasn’t exactly a thriving metropolis, so the quiet of a Sunnydale night was different somehow.

Everything in its place in the back, she closed the door and was about to leave when she heard a scream. It was loud enough that Buffy could tell she wasn't far. The chances at this time of night that it wasn't a vampire were fairly slim. Even if it wasn't a baddie, she couldn't just walk away after hearing someone scream for help. She might not kill humans, but she’d intervened more than once on a mugger or rapist about to go to work.

The scream stopped, cut off more than likely, so Buffy didn't waste time digging through her bag of tricks. Armed with the few stakes she always kept on her on patrols she ran the direction of the scream. If it wasn't a vamp or demon she couldn't use a weapon beyond her fists anyway.

She found them easily enough. The sounds of a struggle and growling were hard to miss. Three vampires against one woman. Not good. She was alive at least when Buffy strolled further into the alley. She didn’t appear to be hurt beyond scared yet either, so they evidently hadn’t gotten a taste of her.

"Really? Do you guys have radar or a sensor to know when I'm in the area?"

"Go away," one of them said. "This doesn't concern you."

"Well, that's where you're wrong. She doesn’t look like she wants to be here."

"She does."

The look of fear was written clearly on the woman's face. More people knew about vamps and demons than did ten years ago, but there were still a lot of people who didn’t know. Or didn’t want to know. It was so much easier to chalk the stories of Dracula and werewolves up to fiction then to take them seriously. To take them seriously would mean you’d have to be careful and so many people just didn’t want to do that.

"I don't think so."

"She made a deal and must pay the debt."

“Let me guess, she agreed to go home with one of you not knowing you got all bumpy in the face.” She regarded the three vamps. “Must have been you, you’re the better looking of the bunch.”

“She needs to be taught it’s not okay to play games.”

"Not on my watch," Buffy said, hands at her hips, fingertips grazing the top of a stake. “Maybe you should learn to be upfront with people.”

"Just pretend you didn't see anything."

"I can't do that. Let her go and we can talk about it."

The one holding her regarded Buffy, sizing her up. She knew what he saw. She didn't look like much of a threat. He was probably thinking he'd get two for the price of one at this buffet. Little did he know and by the time he figured it out, at least one of his friends would be dust.

"See, you're taking too long to decide. Let me introduce myself," she said as she moved in to stake one of his pals. "Because you're going to want me more than her when you find out who I am."

"Who's that?"

The stake came out from behind her jacket smooth as butter, quick as a blink and was impaled in the other vampire's chest before anyone could say anything else.

"I guess word hasn't spread too fast, which amazes me, but Orlando’s protected by a Slayer now," she said as the vamp disintegrated into dust particles.

As expected his easy prey of a victim was tossed aside, the prospect of being able to best and drain a slayer too tempting to resist.

"Run," Buffy cried out as she settled in to take on the two remaining vampires.

Vaguely she heard the sound of footsteps as she fought. Neither were much of a challenge, but she was always up for toying with them a bit after spending the night doing rounds with Tasha. The other slayer couldn’t afford to toy, so Buffy had to be very straight and to the point about any vamps they came up against on their rounds.

Plunge and move on Giles used to say.

Here, though, Buffy could do battle, prolong the ending for just a little bit by getting in a good roundhouse kick or a few good punches. Flex the slayer abilities she was coming to realize were just as much a part of who she was as the color of her hair and eyes. Honing her skills Giles would say.

One dusted followed rather quickly by the second, finally she was done. She glanced around the alley to ensure the woman had gotten away. No sign of her, so Buffy assumed that was the case.

Now that she was done with her fight, the adrenaline pumping through her was slowing down she had time to focus on her surroundings and realize that she was not alone. There was another vampire around somewhere, lurking in the shadows.

Very odd for a vamp, especially when they realized a slayer was around. Most of them were chomping at the bit for a chance to take her on.

“Don’t want to come out and play today?”

No response. She wasn’t surprised. She supposed he saw his three comrades get bested by her and wisely was going to stay hidden. There were too many hidey holes around for her to hunt him down.

And the thing with whatever it was in her that sensed vamps she was rather out of practice so determining how far the creature was from her was out of her realm of abilities just now.

“Soon though,” she whispered, knowing that she would do everything she could to ensure a bad guy didn’t live an extra night because of her inability to find him on her watch again.

“I will find you,” she called out. “You think you’re getting away tonight, but it won’t be for long. I will hunt you down and what happened to your friends will be child’s play compared to what happens to you when I’m done with you.”

Still nothing.

She imagined as threats went it wasn’t a great one, but he couldn’t know she hadn’t been adverse to a bit of vamp torture over the years. Only that was to get answers. Extending the battle a bit here and there to get some good licks in was different than outright torture.

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