Word Count: 2,863
Buffy sat at the DuBois' kitchen table. It was eerie really, knowing this woman had been in her mind. Had seen the things she'd done. There were things she wasn't so proud of. On the other hand, there were things she was very proud of. Getting Dawn out of Sunnydale alive was one of them.
The cup of hot chocolate reminded Buffy of her mom. This house seemed homey. She liked that. She just wished she didn't feel like a prisoner. Or like some sort of specimen under a microscope.
"My mom used to give me hot chocolate when I had a bad night."
"She doesn't anymore?"
"No, she's gone."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Allison said and sounded so sincere.
"It's okay, but thanks." Buffy grew quiet, taking in the room. It was clear a family lived here. It wasn't messy, just lived in. Pictures on the refrigerator, toys in the living room. "So, you're married?"
"Yes, with three kids. You?"
"No, I'm not married. Until recently I didn't come with a very long life expectancy. Even now that could still be the case. If you hadn't found me tonight I'm not sure I would have made it. If the vampires didn't finish me off, I'm sure an animal would have come along. Anyway, three kids, I'll bet that's fun."
"They're great kids. They're all girls, so my husband will be in for some fun when they get older."
"There were two of us, girls I mean. It wasn't too bad, but I was always getting in trouble because of having to keep so many secrets. So, Dawn was the good one."
"It sounds like you both turned out all right, though."
"Yeah, we did. After our mom died, we were all each other had. Our dad is around somewhere, but he may as well not be in the picture for all he's done for us."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
Buffy grew quiet then, not liking to think of Hank Summers. It just made her mad. It was a situation she had no control over and she'd learned to accept that recently. She'd tried, but it was just no use.
"Do they know what you do?"
"My husband does. The girls, not really. Ariel, my oldest, suspects some things."
"Are they like you?"
"A little. Some."
"He knows. It's why he went out there with me this morning. He'll come around, he always does. We haven't been working together too long, so he's still trying to figure out if I'm legit."
"And then I come along with stories of vampires and slayers."
"Yeah, he probably thinks I'm pulling a joke on him or something."
"Except jokes don't involve dead girls," Buffy said somberly. The girl in question was probably sixteen or so. She tried to remember what she'd been like at sixteen, beyond hopelessly in love with Angel. That had led to the badness that had been her seventeenth birthday and the five months of emotional hell that had followed it.
"Do you think he'll let me go?"
"I don't know. You were a witness to a crime. Where were you going when you stopped?"
"I was on my way here to Phoenix actually."
"Oh, do you have friends or family here?"
"No, I was looking for a girl, another slayer. Too bad I hadn't found her. Two of us together probably would have made child's play out of the group."
"Around here? Really?"
"Yeah. It's a long story."
"I saw it. Not all of it, I mean I don't claim to understand it all, but I saw what you did. Saved the world."
"Comes with the gig."
"It looked like a pretty thankless one."
"It has its moments."
"Anyway, I just meant it's funny I never picked up on it before now."
"Yeah, I'm not sure what the deal is with you seeing me in your dreams."
"That happens to me all of the time. Believe me, if I get a full night's sleep I'm lucky."
"Does it bother you?" There were times, not so much recently, that Buffy felt her calling was a burden. She wondered if this woman might feel the same way.
"Sometimes. The most frustrating part is when I get dreams or visions and I don't know what they mean, or which piece of the puzzle it is I'm seeing."
"And you work for the DA's office?"
"Yes, but you can't tell anyone. I'm a consultant, no one knows."
"No worries. I'm pretty good with secrets."
"Yes, I get that you are," Allison said, getting up at the sound of knocking at the front door. Buffy wasn't surprised when Allison went outside to talk to, presumably, the detective. She got up and rinsed her mug out in the sink, wondering if she'd be able to go on her way.
She's have to put a call into Giles, too, report what she'd come across. Maybe Willow or someone on their research team could find out if there was something out where she'd been. Tunnels, a house or something. Those vamps had to be living somewhere! She closed her eyes, resting her head against the refrigerator, knowing there'd be no sleep for her today. Or the next day.
She'd never get over the feelings that came over her when she lost someone, didn't get there in time. Like today. A few minutes earlier and the girl could have gotten away in time. Maybe, big maybe. They'd already made quite a meal out of her by the time Buffy had gotten there, so she was weak from the loss of so much of her blood.
It never ceased to amaze her that she couldn't escape her slayer duties. On the road in an attempt to find a slayer and here she was, sitting in the kitchen of someone who worked for the District Attorney's office. Buffy was lucky Mrs. DuBois was psychic, no one else would have bought her story and she would have had a lot more explaining to do. For that matter, Buffy probably wouldn't have been found alive to tell a story.
They came in together, Allison avoided looking directly at Buffy and she knew then she wasn't going to be able to go on her merry way.
"Hi Buffy. How are you feeling?"
She pushed herself off from the fridge, walking toward the policeman. She saw briefly that his eyes widened and wondered what that was about. "I'm all right considering. Better than the girl anyway."
"Right. Well, I think I managed to avoid drawing you into anything, but there are some questions about the state of her body."
"I already told you she won't rise."
"I know what you told me," he said, and she knew the tone. He didn't believe her. She wondered how he'd gotten stuck working with a psychic. It seemed kind of Scully and Mulderish. "I wasn't talking about that. I'm afraid I can't let you leave town until I know that everything is cut and dried."
"Understand you're not on record as a witness, and it's not even my case. I was just an off-duty police officer who passed by, saw a struggle and stopped. As I'm supposed to do."
She frowned at that. "All right."
"That means I can't put you up anywhere. Allison's worried her children might pick up on things they shouldn't."
"Right. If they're susceptible, they could. My life's dark enough to make horror novel fans cringe, because you can put the book down when it gets too much. My life never stops. I understand."
"So, that means it's going to have to be at your expense."
Buffy shrugged. "I was coming to Phoenix anyway. I have an expense account, limited as it is, but I should be okay for a few days. Will that be enough time?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"All right. I can go then?"
"Were you driving through the night or did you have somewhere to be this morning?"
"The time you came upon the scene, you were headed here you just said. Were you driving through the night? Do you need a hotel now?"
"Oh, yeah, a hotel room would be of the good."
"You can follow me then, I'll get you settled. There's a place I've put up witnesses in the past, maybe they'll do an off the books discount for me."
"You don't have to."
"It's the least I can do. I'm still not sure I buy the vampire thing, but you risked your life to save someone else's. The least I can do is try and get you a deal on a hotel room while the situation is taken care of."
"Thank you for bringing me out there, Detective Scanlon."
"No, problem, Allison. Thanks for calling."
"I just wish we'd gotten there earlier."
"Well, at least there weren't two bodies out there to be investigated. One was gruesome enough."
"Thank you, Mrs. DuBois, for the hot chocolate and letting me sit here."
"Allison, please, and you're welcome. If I didn't have the girls I'd let you stay."
"I understand. My life tends to be kind of destructive, I wouldn't want to endanger you or your family anyway."
"Wait," Allison said, stopping Buffy and the detective just before they walked through the doorway. "My phone number. In case you end up staying longer than you think. We could have lunch or something. Or if you need anything."
"Oh, sure," Buffy said, taking the piece of paper Allison offered her. "Thanks. I have a cell phone, but I can never remember the number."
"Don't worry about it. Call if you want."
He was watching her. She didn't need to be psychic to know this. He stood, rocking on his heels as she checked out her trunk, making sure everything was intact and accounted for.
"You know, they're going to blame it on animals," he said finally.
"The body, the bite marks."
"Yeah, I know. I told you they'll come up with some story that jives enough not to make anyone think to question. They always do. Believe me. Do you have a computer?" She slammed her trunk closed and looked at him.
"Better yet," Buffy said, rethinking. "You're a cop. Do some research on Sunnydale, California, and then come talk to me."
"Just do it. Or not, makes no difference to me, really. You might find it enlightening, and it'd be all there for you in black and white. Anyway, I'm beat, can we motor?"
"Sure, sorry," he said, taking his keys out of his front pocket. "It's a couple of miles, but it's early enough yet you shouldn't have a problem keeping up."
"All right," she said, getting into her car. She waited for him to get in and start his, following as he left the DuBois house. It was a nice house. She missed that. She was living in a monstrosity of a place now with hundreds of slayers she'd activated. Willow, Xander, and Dawn were there, so sort of family, but it wasn't the same as a house like the DuBois' had.
She found a rock station and left the radio there while she followed him through the streets of Phoenix. If he did in fact do the research she'd suggested, he might just be able to help her find the slayer in question she was here for. She wouldn't let their paths cross though, unless he believed her.
She pulled into the driveway of the motel. It wasn't a dive, but it wasn't a Hilton either. She didn't care, as long as it had a bed, a TV, and a bathroom with indoor plumbing.
He got out with her and walked with her into the lobby area.
"Hey, Dan-o," he said to the front desk person.
"Lee," was the response. "What are you doing here?"
"I've got a delicate situation and need to put someone up for a couple of nights. Just until some things clear up. It's not official police business, but I was hoping you might be able to help her out."
"Sure," Dan (presumably Dan) went to work on the computer. "There's a room on the south side, second floor. In the area you like."
"Rooms on either side?"
"Great. We'll take it. You're the best, Dan."
"My pleasure. The business is welcome."
"Doing my best," Lee said, taking the offered room key. "Can she wait until it's check-out time to fill out the paperwork?"
"Yeah, I'll block it out like I normally do for you, Lee."
"All right," Lee said, leading Buffy back outside. "I'll get you settled. You hungry or anything?"
"No, not really."
"Good, I mean, there's a diner across the road there if you decide you are."
"Thanks," she said, opening her trunk. She gathered up her bags while he took her weapons chest. She had to chuckle at that, realizing he had no idea what he held.
"Here's my card, I'm writing my cell number on the back. If you need anything, just holler. I'm a little easier to track down than Allison. Well, correct that, it's a little easier for me to break away, I don't have a family."
"I work the afternoon shift most of the time, but if I'm not in the middle of something breaking away for a bit usually isn't a problem."
"I don't want you to feel like a prisoner or anything. If you need to go somewhere to eat or something, fine, but I'd really prefer it if you stuck here."
"Well, I'm going to try and get some sleep. Not that it will happen, but I have to try. Otherwise, I have no plans."
"Yeah, you saw a pretty brutal thing out there tonight."
She sat on the edge of her bed. "No, that's not it. I mean, it is. I'll never get used to seeing the death of a human."
He smiled at that."
"What?" she asked.
"Nothing, you just say that as if it's normal to have to specify someone's human."
"In my world it is. Anyway, it's not that. It's that I wasn't in time. If I hadn't made that last stop for a Diet Coke. Or did I take too long when I stopped for dinner last night."
"Listen, I don't know you and I certainly don't claim to believe all of this. I'll admit, I sit here and watch you carry yourself like someone who believes she's telling the truth. And when I saw you at Allison's tonight, I couldn't help but notice those cuts and bruises I saw on you at the scene are almost gone."
"I heal quickly."
"Yeah, I see that. I mean, vampires. It's the stuff that will make someone sound crazy if they walk around talking about it."
"That would probably be why it's a secret."
"Yeah, probably." He chuckled at that. "But Allison believes you, and as crazy as it sounds given what she is I tend to trust her judgment. These visions she gets aren't always accurate, but they're very rarely absolutely wrong. If that makes sense. All that aside, though. You can't blame yourself, Buffy. You really can't. I've been there, I know how tempting that is, but you just can't. I hate to sound like a cliché, but it was her time."
"I know, I really do. It's just. It's a terrible way to die. Because they don't kill you, they bleed you out, wanting to get every last drop they can. And you're alive and awake and coherent through most of it."
"You really do know a lot about this."
"It's been my life going on ten years now."
"You were just a kid."
"Fifteen when I got called, yeah."
"Huh," he said simply. "Listen, I've got to get going get ready for my shift. Are you going to be all right?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine. I'll turn on the TV, doze in and out."
"I'll call to check on you."
"Thanks, I'd appreciate that."
"No problem. First time for seeing death like that or not, it takes a lot out of you. And you were pretty beat up in the process."
"I'll be fine this afternoon."
"You should find the secret ingredient and market it, people would pay for that."
She smiled, walking him to the door. "Good night, Detective Scanlon. Well, I guess in your case it's not good night."
"Good night, Buffy." He walked out into the hallway and turned to face her. "What's your last name?"
"Summers. Buffy Summers. When you're pulling up the information on Sunnydale, you'll probably see my name in there a few times."
"Somehow I imagined that to be the case. Were you a trouble maker?"
"Some saw me that way."
He smiled at that and turned then, walking away. She ducked her head out a little to watch him leave before closing and securing the door. Hotels and motels were like a second home to her these days, so locking herself in was second nature. She wasn't worried about anyone hurting her, but her weapons chest was not something she wanted to risk.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com