Word Count: 3,223
"You going to get that?"
"Huh? Oh," he said, realizing only now the phone on his desk was ringing. "Detective Scanlon."
"Have you heard from her?"
"Yes, sorry. Have you heard from her?"
"I don't know. I've just been getting a weird feeling all day."
"Oh, I can tell you about weird," he said, glancing at his computer. He felt kind of strange doing as she'd asked. He was invading her privacy in a way, but she'd made it sound as if her life was an open book.
"Nothing, just some things I've been researching. I can go by and check on her."
"Yeah, I'd like that. I just don't like the feeling."
"No problem," he glanced at his watch, certain it was wrong. He looked at the clock on the precinct wall. No, he'd really been sitting there staring at a computer for hours. "I'm due some lunch anyway. I'll swing by and see if she wants to join me. She's got to be going a little stir crazy in there by now."
"Thank you, Lee."
"No need to thank me. I got involved in something, otherwise I would have thought to check on her sooner."
He hung up, slipped his sports coat on, checked himself out to lunch, and headed out to his car. He went over the things he'd read in his head while he drove. Police reports that read like a fantasy or horror novel. A chief of police that overrode detective and beat cop reports a good amount of time so that what was printed in the newspaper police blotter sounded believable. The chief of police hadn't covered his tracks that well, evidently assuming no one would look twice at the reports.
It went back years, before Buffy Summers ever arrived on the scene. She was mentioned a few dozen times, always footnotes as if noted for someone else's benefit. There were incidents at her high school. Too many to count.
And then last spring, Sunnydale fell off the map. Literally. He recalled when it happened. Everyone assumed the big one was coming, but it had started and stopped in Sunnydale. His research had taken him away from police reports and into some pretty out there territory. Conspiracies and cover-ups. And of course there were the religious nuts who had a view, too. He'd have to ask her if she knew what happened to Sunnydale.
Thing was, what he'd read. It all pointed to her telling the truth. He rubbed his forehead, not liking the direction his thoughts were taking him at all. He'd tried to get a nap in after dropping her at the motel, but images of the girl in the desert were lodged in his brain. So much blood loss. She'd been a pretty girl, but her killers had not been kind to her.
There was probably some logical explanation behind all of the bite marks. He couldn't think of one, though. He didn't need to stand in at the autopsy to know he'd never seen wolves or coyotes leave marks like those. And if it was a wild animal, it would have attacked Buffy, too. Buffy only had similar looking marks on her neck.
He winced, recalling her scream when he poured the water on them. He'd seen it fizz, heard it sizzle. She claimed it was holy water. Why would it do that? He'd touched holy water before, dipped his fingers in and crossed himself with it several times. Never once had he seen it do that.
As crazy as he told himself he was, he believed in facts. And so far he'd found nothing to debunk her claim. She'd be out of his hair in a few days, once he was sure there was nothing more he was needed for with the body found.
He knocked lightly on her door. It took her a minute, but she answered toweling off her hair.
"Detective Scanlon. Hi."
"Um, hi. I took my lunch and decided to come and see if you wanted to join me."
"That'd be nice, it's always better than eating alone and I don't know where anything is." She stepped back from the door, opening it wider. "Come in. I was just drying my hair."
"If I'm interrupting, I can just wait in my car."
"Not at all. I'm dressed. I was just being a bum, watching some soap opera I never watch so I have no clue who's who or what's what. But I'm pretty sure someone's cheating on someone or someone's pregnant and not sure who the baby's father is."
He chuckled lightly. "Better watch out for those things, they'll suck you in if you're not careful," he said, stepping in.
"See, you've saved me from a soap opera addiction."
He chuckled at that, eyes taking in the room while she walked to the bathroom.
"I'll be right out. Have a seat."
He was eyeing the chest he'd carried in for her earlier that morning when she came out of the bathroom. He glanced at her over his shoulder.
"What's in here?"
"Mm, what makes you think it's not clothes?"
"Because you have a bag," he said, gesturing with his shoulder to where her bag was.
"Ah. I guess I should know cops are observant."
"That's what we're paid the big bucks for."
"Yeah, I've heard that." She sat on the bed and slipped on some shoes. "Do you have anything to do the rest of the day?"
"No, not really. Lunch and then back to the precinct."
"Care to take me back out there?"
"Because I'm telling you they had to be somewhere nearby. It was too close to sunrise for them to be far from wherever they're holing up."
"And I told you there's nothing out there."
"Yeah, well, you'd be surprised what's right under your nose. I have some people researching the area, but I'd like to do a sweep on foot myself."
"You need me along?"
"I'm not sure where I was exactly. I was kind of out of it when Allison drove me here."
"And if I find someone, I'd feel better knowing the person with me can handle a weapon of some kind and Allison doesn't strike me as the type."
Lee chuckled lightly. "You're right there." He nodded then. "Yeah, I suppose I can do that."
"We can take your car, but I'll need this just in case we're out there and find something," she said, lifting the chest.
"You never told me what was in it."
She set it on the bed again and worked the lock. "I'm not sure you're ready to see what's in here."
His eyes met hers and he saw when she realized he'd done as she asked and researched not just Sunnydale but her.
"So," she said, opening the chest. "What you have here is my basic supplies. I have a bigger one at home, but this will get me through pretty much any encounter."
He watched her methodically explain each item. Some were familiar to him, others not. He watched her as she spoke. She knew what she was talking about, thorough in her explanation so he would know she was capable yet not too thorough as to make him think she was shitting him.
The thing of it was, she was so small. When he pictured some sort of superhero, it was more along the lines of Rambo. Not that she was scrawny or anything. She was buff, close to her like this he could see that. She wasn't all muscles or anything, but there was definite working out on display with her.
He placed a hand at her neck then, staring a little too closely but he couldn't believe what he was seeing.
"What?" She looked genuinely distressed.
"I can't even tell you were near death."
"Yeah," she said with a wry smile. "It's part of the slayer gig. Fast healing. Got to get right back out there and fight another day."
He grazed over the spot he knew the bite marks had been earlier that morning. "You said that, but I didn't think. I mean, Buffy, I can't even tell where I had to pour the holy water." He realized he really had no business touching her. "Sorry. Am I not supposed to bring that up?"
"No, it's okay. I'm just so used to it by now, it always weirds me out when someone makes a big deal out of it. I heal," she shrugged. "It's part of who I am."
"So, is there a Mr. Summers?"
Buffy frowned, looking a little puzzled. "Well, sure, my dad."
"That's not what I meant." He smiled and chuckled softly, dropping his hand. "I shouldn't have asked that," he said. "Let's get lunch and then I'll take you back out there."
"Thanks," she said, still looking puzzled.
He mentally chastised himself. It'd been far too long if he was considering hitting on someone probably fifteen years younger than him. And she was involved in a case, though he didn't believe she was responsible for what happened to the girl. It could still get murky.
He watched as Buffy closed and locked the trunk. "You were asking me if I was married, weren't you?"
"Yeah, that was the gist of it."
"Huh. No, I'm not. Never have been." She lifted the trunk easily, easier than he had earlier that morning he realized. "And no boyfriend either. Or was it only a husband you'd worry about?"
"Why not what?"
"Why no boyfriend?"
"I don't know. Relationships and I haven't gotten along too well before now. They always end badly. Not to mention, my life the past two years, scratch that three years, has been all about the mission. Slaying. Saving the world. I did something pretty amazing. Used to be just one of me, now there are hundreds, thousands, and I have to track them down so they at least understand what they are now."
"I don’t understand."
"I'll tell you at lunch. Okay? I'm a little hungry now that you've mentioned food."
"All right," he said, smiling as he walked to the door. He opened it, letting her pass through. He had to admit she was nice to look at and he was sure her story would be an interesting one.
And he was right as it turned out. Listening to her, even if he'd yet to decide whether he believed her entirely.
"So, will there always be more than one now?"
She shrugged, eating the last of her fries. "I don't know. I admit I really didn't think about the whole big picture thing when the idea came to me. I just knew there was no other way we'd win."
"How do you find them?"
Her lips curved into a smile and she laughed softly. "Magick."
"We have a team of witches who locate the girls for us."
"All right. You've lost me."
"Kind of out there for you?"
"Yeah. This whole thing is."
"I know," she said, placing her hand over his. "You're doing great, really. I'm surprised you haven't called the men in the white coats on me yet."
"I thought about it early this morning."
"I bet you did."
"So, where are you living now? Because I know it's not Sunnydale."
"England." She took a sip of her iced tea and he noticed she was blushing.
"What's that for?"
"Well, it's kind of embarrassing."
"We live in a castle."
"A castle? We?"
"My sister, friends and the other slayers. And, yes, a castle. It's cool, but kind of creepy at the same time." She shrugged. "I don't know the history of the place, but I'm susceptible to dreams, so it freaks me out sometimes. Hundreds of years worth of history. Some of it bleeds into my sleep. It sounds entirely more posh than it is. I don't own it or anything."
"I see. Do you ever get a good night's sleep? You were driving here in the middle of the night."
"I sleep sometimes, sure. Even though I don't patrol like I used to in Sunnydale I'm still a night person."
"There's nothing wrong with being a night person. If it suits your schedule anyway."
"Isn't this cozy?" He knew that voice. Hadn't heard it outside of his mind for years. He wished he never had to hear it again. It reminded him of her betrayal, of a time when he'd sunk to depths he swore he wouldn't ever as an undercover agent.
Buffy started to slide her hand away. He caught it before she could, lacing his fingers through hers. No reason really, except one of the seven deadly sins. Pride. He was here with a pretty woman, why couldn't it be more than a weird business thing.
"Elena. What brings you to this part of town?"
"Oh, you know me, Lee, always expanding my horizons."
"Yeah, I guess." He glanced at Buffy who was looking at him as if she had a lot of questions going through her mind. He couldn't blame her, and was just grateful she didn't take her hand away. "Buffy this is Elena Cabrera. An old… My ex-fiancé."
"Oh hi," Buffy said simply, offering Elena a smile. She seemed sincere enough. Of course she would, since there was nothing between them. He'd kept her hand more for his own selfish reasons, not just pride.
"You never mentioned you were engaged." He stifled a chuckle at that comment. He hadn't seen her since the day they were supposed to get married. She probably wouldn't like the fact he didn't mention her. Of course, he hadn't had an opportunity to mention her to Buffy.
He watched as Elena assessed Buffy, as far as she could see anyway given they were still seated at their table. He knew what she saw. A pretty woman, younger than he was by at least a decade, and the polar opposite of Elena. Where Elena was dark, exotic, and foreign, Buffy was fair, pretty but not in a glamorous way, and probably about as American as they came.
He noticed the ring on her ring finger about the same time Elena did, saw the hurt pass fleeting in her eyes. He'd have to remember to ask Buffy about it since she'd claimed there was no husband or boyfriend. The ring, from his eye - untrained as it was - looked like an engagement ring. Or something like that.
"I'd ask how you've been, but I guess I know. Still frequenting the same spots."
"What can I say? I'm nothing if I'm not predictable."
"Yes, I suppose you are that. Well, I'll leave you two to your lunch then."
"We were just leaving," Lee said, blotting his mouth with the paper napkin before setting it on his empty plate. "Don't leave on our account."
"Oh, I wasn't planning to, Lee. It was a pleasure to meet you, Buffy."
"Yeah, you, too. Thanks."
Elena laughed then. The comparison between the two women was so opposite it was kind of comical. Despite - or maybe because of - Elena's chosen occupation of following in her father's mob connected footsteps, Elena was high class. He didn't sense that about Buffy.
He stood then, releasing Buffy's hand when he grabbed the check.
"She's pretty," Buffy said at the cashier counter to which he responded with a grunt. "She is."
"Bad things, though?"
"You could say that. I'm in NA because of it."
"Ouch," she said softly. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked."
"You're bearing your secrets, no reason I can't do a little of the same in return. She was also part of the case I was working at the time. The wrong side of it. I didn't find out until the day of our wedding she was connected."
"Oh," Buffy said, glancing over her shoulder at Elena who sat with someone he recognized vaguely. "And she thinks you're with me now?"
"She'll draw her own conclusions, but I imagine so."
"That's why you kept my hand?"
"That and a bit of the ol' male ego not wanting her to see I'm just as alone as I was the day I met her."
"Why is that?"
"Why are you alone?"
"Before her, I don't know. No one ever interested me. Since her. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me."
"Been there, done that, I know how it goes and how it feels."
"You're, what, twenty-six?"
"Doesn't mean I haven't been through some bad things."
"You're right, I'm sorry. I just haven't seen her since that day."
"Oh, so the first time seeing her on top of everything else."
"Will she buy I'm with you with you?"
"I don't know why she wouldn't, she really never knew the real me anyway. There were so many things working undercover I couldn't tell her. Came close to telling her, which made me kick myself even more when I found out who she was."
She did something unexpected then, sliding her hand back into his once he'd pocketed his wallet. He glanced at her and she shrugged.
"You obviously want her to think you moved on."
"Yeah, well, I didn't expect…"
She clutched his arm and smiled at him. She was good at this and he had to wonder if she'd done it before. "It's just holding your hand. I won't die from that. I don't think so anyway."
He chuckled again. "Thanks. Hopefully, I won't run into her again anytime soon for her to ask me where you went."
She shrugged. "That's the beauty of it, you can make up whatever you want. I'm traveling or whatever."
"I thought you said you weren't married or involved."
"Um? I'm not."
"You're wearing a ring."
"It was my mom's. I just haven't bothered to get it refitted, and I travel so much, get hit on. It's easier then having to explain why I'm only in their town for a day or two."
"I see. Yet you explained it to me," he said, leading her out to his car.
"I have a legitimate reason to with you."
"Because I stumbled upon you working."
"That and," she said, tugging on his tie drawing him closer as he opened her door for her.
"You're the first guy in a while who asked the marriage question at all, let alone without making a pass at me immediately after discovering the answer."
He smirked. "You're assuming I didn't think about it."
"Everyone has thoughts, Detective Scanlon."
She smiled. "Lee." She leaned up and kissed him then. Just a brief brush of her lips over his.
"What was that?"
"Just in case she's watching out the window," she whispered, smoothing down his tie and the front of his shirt.
He fought the urge to glance toward the restaurant to see if Elena was doing just that.
"Now, let's go find some killers."
"You make that almost sound like a good time."
She sat in the car then, hand on the handle, and she smiled again. No, it was more of a beam at him then just a smile. "It can be if done with the right people." She drew the door closed before he could respond.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com