Word Count: 3,026
"It all looks the same to me. How do you know this is the spot?" Buffy looked out the window at the expanse of desert around where Lee had pulled over.
"I remember the mile marker number Allison had me pull over by."
"You sure you want to do this?"
"I don't have any choice. I really don't. You, on the other hand…"
"I'm coming with you."
"Bullets won't work on them."
"But they'll slow them down, right?"
"Yes. You can shoot them, but I don't want you doing anything else. I really do know what I'm doing."
"If you say so."
She placed a hand on his forearm once he'd turned the engine off. "Lee, I'm serious. If I'm right and they have a hidey-hole somewhere nearby, you're about to come face to face with the stuff you until this morning didn't believe in. I can't take you with me if I have to look out for you."
"You almost sound like a cop there."
"Thanks, I think. Do we have a deal?"
"I'll give you a stake just in case, but unless they're on you leave the staking to me. And if you do have to, go for the heart. Nothing else will do."
They hadn't talked about what happened at the restaurant on the way out here. Buffy was okay with that. She wasn't sure what had come over her. Other than she'd been in the situation before where she wanted Guy A to know she'd gotten over him. Okay, it hadn't happened often, and she hadn't almost married Guy A. Still, though, she did kind of get what Lee was probably feeling.
"I was kind of hoping Willow or Xander would have called back, but they haven't. So, I guess that means we do this the old fashioned way," she said, sliding out of the car.
"What's that?" Lee met her by the trunk, which he opened so she could get her weapons.
"Search and search some more, hoping we get lucky."
"I'm telling you, there's nothing out here, Buffy."
"I know, and I'm telling you they have ways of finding things you'd be surprised exist. So, let's start at the scene, see if we can see anything in daylight we missed this morning."
"All right, this way," Lee said, and Buffy followed. "So, are we going to talk about it?"
"Back at the restaurant."
"You wait until we're out here to ask me that?"
"Well, yeah, seemed a little better than stuck in a car."
"Good point. What do you want me to say? You wanted her to think you'd moved on and I was the person you'd moved on with. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out."
"Do you kiss any guy that wants you for his girlfriend?"
"Mm, no, can't say that I have. In fact, if I told you when the last time I kissed a guy was you'd probably laugh."
"Probably not, it's been a while for me, too."
"No. Well, yes. Not so much with the kissing part. They didn't matter, you know? And kissing matters. That probably sounds odd."
"No it doesn't, I know what you mean."
Just then there was a slight shift in the air, Buffy tugged on Lee's sleeve to pull him out of the way. She knew what it meant, but Lee would have no way of knowing.
"What?" he asked, clearly miffed at her tugging him like that.
And just like that, Willow appeared in front of them.
"Willow. Am I glad to see you."
"I thought you might be."
"You could have just called."
"And miss the hottie you were telling me about." Willow smiled widely and glanced in Lee's direction. Lee was staring at Willow as if he'd seen a ghost. "He looks older."
"Wil," Buffy mumbled.
"What? He does. Not that I should be surprised."
"Where'd she come from?"
"Hi," Willow said with a smile, offering Lee her hand. "I'm Willow, Buffy's friend. Sorry to just pop in on you like that. It took me a while to get Buffy's location, I guess because you guys were moving," she said, glancing back at Lee's car.
He took her offered hand, but didn't look too sure about it. Buffy couldn’t help giggling. "You expect me to buy vampires and whatever she just did?"
"Teleport, and yes. They're very real, Detective. In fact, that's why I'm here. And why I didn't just call, Buffy. We figured it'd be easier if I just came then try and explain it over the phone."
"We found a shift in the land about a mile out this way," Willow said, pointing. "They've built themselves something underground. It's not very big, so I doubt it's their permanent residence."
"A foxhole for vamps," Buffy murmured.
"So, I came to take you to it, and to help."
"Right, thanks, always glad to have you along. Let's go."
"He's coming with?"
"Yes. I've told him not to do anything, but if he needs to shoot one that's okay."
"What? What do you expect me to do? Leave him out here in the desert by himself? Best we stay together."
"She doesn't have any weapons," Lee said simply.
"She doesn't need any. As strong as I am, Willow's stronger. With her here, we may not even need to do any fighting, except any that get away before she fireballs them."
"Just wait. It's a sight to see your first time. Well, any time really. It's cool, and yet makes me feel somewhat obsolete at the same time."
"Oh, Buffy, you're not."
Not quite a mile into their trek through the desert, Buffy was beyond thirsty. She now knew why Lee had insisted they bring water along. She took a sip of hers same as Lee did while Willow worked her locating magick. Buffy didn't understand how it worked, just knew if Willow said vamps were here, Buffy believed her.
"Sense any humans?" Buffy asked.
"No, just us. There is a fresh kill, though, not vampire. Yet."
"Yet?" Lee asked.
"I presume it will be. He or she is dead. But not long dead, I can still detect their soul and their heat."
"All right. Well, as long as no one's alive and breathing in there. Do your stuff, Wil," Buffy said quickly, not wanting Lee to focus too much on what Willow was saying.
A flick of her wrist, a murmuring of some incantation Buffy didn't recognize and would never remember resulted in the makeshift door leading to their hiding spot practically exploded open.
"One nice thing about daylight in the desert, there's no place for them to run to," Buffy said. Without hesitation, Willow did another spell, throwing a fireball followed by two more in rapid succession into the bunker.
"Let's go make sure we got them all dead," Buffy said. "You want to stay out here?" she asked Lee.
"I'll come with."
"There won't be any evidence. You realize that."
"What do you mean?"
"They disintegrate when they're burned."
"But that doesn't mean they didn't have a room set aside for just such an emergency. So, I have to check."
"I'm right behind you two."
"No, Wil, you take the back. No offense, I don't want you in danger."
He smirked at that. "Thanks, I think."
"Just remember, anything that's still moving around down there a bullet won't put down."
Buffy took the steps with caution. It was a pretty good setup they had. There must have been a magick user among the group to get the sand to cover the door once they'd come inside.
I thought of that, too.
Willow's thoughts invaded Buffy's mind. Good to know they were on the same track. Hopefully, she wasn't the only one who found it odd vampires would even bother to come out hunting in the desert. What did she know?
Willow had been right, it wasn't that big of a place. And it was clear. She cast a couple more spells to be sure they weren't missing anything while Buffy found the body Willow had claimed she sensed.
"What are you doing?" Lee asked.
"I've got to stop it from rising," she said, drawing her sword.
"It? It's a human being, Buffy."
"It was, Lee. It's not anymore. You heard Willow, she's dead. This one they did have time to kill, though, so she will rise. I can't allow that just because you don't understand what you're dealing with."
"So you have to chop her head off?"
"Yes. That's what I have to do."
"You've done it before?" He sounded horrified. Buffy couldn't blame him. There was a reason her job remained a secret. People couldn't handle what she had to do if they knew. They wouldn't like knowing that their precious Jimmy or Jane had to have their head lopped off in order to prevent him or her from coming home to them as a blood-sucking fiend.
"Yes, I have," she said calmly. "They're not people, Lee. I tried telling you that before. Whoever she is or was, she's dead. What would rise in her place would be a demon in possession of her body. The memories would be there, but she'd have no soul and the demon would be in charge."
"Buffy, I'm a police officer…"
"And I gave you a chance to stay back at the car."
"I didn't know you were going to be beheading anybody. I should call this in."
"And explain to them how you found this place how?"
"I'll think of something."
"Right. And you being the one to call in this morning's crime scene not a mile away won't look a little suspicious?"
He grimaced, raking his hand over his head. "I just…"
"I know it's hard. I'll see if she had a purse or something, so you can call her parents. I have to do this, though."
"I don't know what I'd say."
"Well, the alternative is letting a killer go free."
"She's not a killer!"
"She will be."
"They all kill?"
"Yes. They all kill."
Willow cleared her throat from the other side of the room, arms crossed over her chest. Buffy paused to glare at her best friend. Leave it to her to correct her now of all times.
"Okay, there are two that don’t kill, but they're exceptions to the rule going back centuries. Dozens of centuries."
"What made them special?"
"They have their souls."
"Maybe she will, too."
"No, Lee, it doesn't work that way. Angel got his as a punishment, it was forced back in him, cursed by a band of gypsies. Spike earned his, went through brutal trials that would have probably killed me. They didn't rise as vampires with souls and for the hundred plus years they didn't have their souls they were brutal. Angel was the most brutal of the brutal."
"You know them?"
"Yes, I know them. And I can tell you first hand that without their souls they're bad, evil."
That wasn't entirely true, Spike had shown even without his soul he could do some good things. She didn't want to cloud the issue here, though. And Spike's good deeds were usually done for his own benefit, so she wasn't sure it counted.
"There's got to be some way."
"I could let you take her back to the morgue or wherever you'd take her. Willow said she'd recently died, so we'd have a day or two for her parents to identify her. But I'd still have to do this, Lee. And then you'd have to explain to the parents why they have a headless daughter."
Willow stepped up to them then, looping her hand through Lee's arm. "Why don't we go outside, let Buffy finish up here."
"I don't know this is such a good idea."
"Has she done anything to suggest that she enjoys doing this? That she didn't wish the girl's parents had a body to bury?"
"No, I just…"
"I know. I was sixteen when I first met Buffy. She saved my life. Did she tell you that?"
"Of course she wouldn't. She doesn't talk about the lives she's saved. I'll bet she felt guilty for the one she couldn't save this morning. And I know she does for this one. You can be sure she won't sleep tonight without seeing these two girls' faces."
"Yeah, she mentioned that," Lee said as Willow led him back outside.
"That's just the way Buffy is, but she's really good at what she does."
Without further ado, Buffy went about doing what she had to do. She didn't like it. Didn't like it at all. The girl couldn't have been much older than the girl this morning. If as old. Two young girls. The body taken care of she searched the area for a purse, anything identifying the girl. She found nothing. Searching the pockets of the girl's jeans, she found a battered state of Arizona ID card. The picture looked like the girl might have looked when she was alive. She pocketed it, deciding she'd take care of it instead of putting it on Lee.
"Sorry," she whispered. Yet another one she couldn't save.
She met Willow and Lee outside.
"There was nothing there. Sorry."
"It's all right. I'm not sure I was expecting anything."
"Wil, we'll need to seal this up. We don't want more vamps finding this hideout."
"Already taken care of. They should be here tomorrow morning."
"Good, thanks. Are you going to stay for a while?"
"I can. If you want me to."
"Sure. You can help me find the slayer I came here to find since I've gotten a little sidetracked. Did I mention I've got this great hotel room…"
"It's not that great," Lee said. "Cops don't have a huge budget for putting up witnesses, certainly not ones that are off the record."
"You wouldn't believe some of the dives I've been in Lee. I've been to towns that they didn't even have cable in the rooms."
"So you weren't being sarcastic?"
"Well, a little, but not in a making fun of you way."
He smiled a little. That was good, that meant he wasn't mad at her. Just the situation. He returned his attention to where they'd just come from. She knew that look well, realization that what she'd been telling him might just be true. Coming to grips with what he saw, not that he'd actually seen the vamps.
"I wish I could call her parents."
"Calling them without a plausible sounding explanation wouldn't make them feel better."
"I don't suppose you'd know how to handle this?"
"No. It's not something I've done before. That's not to say I haven't known who I've had to stake before."
"You've killed people you've known?"
"Well, they were already dead, so I didn't kill them. But, yes, I've had friends become vamps. I guess that's one of the reasons until me slayers have been alone. No chance of getting to know anyone, no chance of that moment's hesitation when it's your friend that you have to drive a stake through. Because that moment could be the difference between you living and not."
Willow did her magick once again, closing the doors leading to the hideout so that it looked untouched. One thing Buffy knew, no one would be going in there between now and sunset. They started on their way back to the car.
"So, slayers are usually raised alone?"
"Yes, by their watchers. I'm an anomaly. The Council wasn't too happy I stayed in school and stuff either. But that's part of the reason I'm still alive. I had help, like Willow."
"Have you always been a witch?"
"Wiccan. And, no, not always. I kind of stumbled into it through one of our old teachers."
"I see. What about the slayer's family?"
"They were taken from them typically, or given to their watchers. I've only met two other slayers before I activated the others, so I really don’t know beyond what I knew about them. Faith grew up with her mom, at least for a while. Kendra grew up with her watcher since she could walk I think."
"How'd you meet them if there was only supposed to be one of you?"
"Well, I kind of died. But only for like a minute. Evidently there are no time constraints, dead is dead according to the magicks involved. And that activated Kendra. Kendra was killed, that activated Faith."
"How'd you die?"
"I drowned trying to fight a vampire who was trapped under the earth. That's how I knew to look for these vampires here today having something underground. They thrive on that stuff."
"Too much for you?"
"No, no. Well, okay, a little."
"I suppose I shouldn't add that I died a second time then."
He glanced at her then, Willow on the other hand looked away. "Long story. To shorten it up, I came back. Here I am!"
"So, you're life is as dangerous as a cop's?"
"I guess so. I can't say I've known too many cops, not ones that did their jobs anyway."
"Yeah, I got that impression looking over some of the things I read up on about Sunnydale."
He unlocked the passenger door for her, she unlocked the other doors for Willow and Lee.
"Well, I guess I'd best get you back to the motel so I can go clock out."
"You're still on the clock?"
"Yes. I had my cell with me."
"Oh, I didn't realize."
"It's all right. I think I needed to go with and see that."
She watched as his eyes scanned the area they'd just come from.
"Hard to believe things like that can survive out here."
"I don't think heat actually bothers them, just sunlight. I don't know for sure, though," she shrugged.
She'd never asked Angel or Spike, but it wasn't like California was Siberia as far as climate and temperature. If they couldn't deal with hot temperatures, surely the vampires would have gone somewhere that wasn't California.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com