Word Count: 5,647
It was her cell phone that woke them up the next morning. Early. Too early. She searched for it, knocking it to the floor which only served to compound the noise of the ringing phone. She knew who it was by the ring tone. She really didn't want to explain to Giles why she hadn't found Lexie yet. If she didn't answer, though, he'd worry. And that could lead to bad things.
"Hello," she said groggily into the phone.
"I woke you?"
"Well, it is only," she sat up slightly, glancing at Lee's alarm clock. It was on his side of the bed, so she had to look over him to see it. "Giles, it's eight o'clock in the morning."
"I'm sorry, Buffy, but I just read your email."
"Oh," she said, realizing he wasn't calling about Lexie.
"Do you need reinforcements?"
"Not yet. I'm not even sure what's going on. It might be nothing. It could be something stupid like some new vamps just being careless."
"Have you found Lexie? Perhaps she can help?"
"I've been a little busy trying to find the vampires doing these killings, Giles. So, no, haven't found or even looked for Lexie yet. I plan to today, though. At a reasonable hour."
"It's not that early."
"Says you! It's three in the afternoon there."
"Very well, I apologize. Willow says you've been working with the police."
"Yes, a little."
"I always am, Giles."
"Sometimes more than others."
"That's true for anybody, Giles. Don't lay into me this morning. I'm really not in the mood. I'm the one traveling around collecting slayers, staying in hotels, eating fast food."
"Yes, yes, and it's such a hardship for you I'm sure."
She sighed heavily, running her fingers through her hair. She hated when they sniped at one another. They were both frustrated, trying to work together to find a neat solution to the situation she'd created. It had never been done before, obviously, so they were in virgin territory.
"I'm sorry, Giles. Okay? I'm just tired and a little on edge that I don’t know what's going on here."
"I understand, apology accepted. And I will do my best to be more mindful of the time from now on."
"Thank you! I'll call once I've found Lexie."
"Have a good day, Buffy."
She disconnected and set the phone down on the small table by her side of the bed.
"Everything okay?" Lee asked quietly after a few minutes, obviously waiting to see if she was going to say something.
"Yeah. I need to find that slayer today."
"Need any help?"
She propped herself up on her elbow to look at him. "What did you have in mind doing?"
He shrugged, sliding an arm along her arm. "Whatever you need me to do. I know you were going to do it yesterday but I called you out to a crime scene."
"No, this is really better one on one. Besides, you have to go to work."
"Not until this afternoon."
"Oh, right, you have that weird shift."
He smiled. "Yes."
"So, I can go find Lexie this morning and then visit you this afternoon at the police station."
"Because I'm suspecting these two girls aren't the first two victims. And they seem to be making their way toward town. I want to see if there's a pattern or we can at least figure out where the victims were found. See if maybe there's a common point in the middle where they might be hiding. We missed something, obviously. It wasn't that foxhole we found."
"Right. Yeah, we can do that."
"And no one at work will question it?"
He shrugged. "I don't have to tell them what I'm doing."
She leaned down and kissed him. "Thank you for dinner last night. It was nice."
He chuckled. "We didn't scare you off?"
"Nope. Were you trying to?"
"No, but I told you cops can be a little crass, and when everyone but you drinks it stands out."
"They were all fine."
"How was I?"
She laughed softly, rubbing her cheek against his shoulder. "Better than fine?"
"I was, huh?"
"Yes, and it was nice to go out like that. Thank you. I needed it I guess. I don't take time to relax that way. I used to, but I created this problem so I try not to be drop-the-ball Buffy anymore than I have to be."
"It sounds like you're doing more than your fair share."
"You're biased because you've never met Giles. You might agree with him if you did."
He kissed the top of her head. "I doubt it. I certainly wouldn't call you at eight in the morning."
"So, breakfast and then you can go about your business."
"Okay. If you insist."
"Well, we're both awake."
"That we are."
"And I'm sorry, but you wore me out a bit last night."
"I did, huh?"
"Just a bit. Give me 'til later and I'll be ready to go."
She shimmied down his body, cupping him as she went. "Are you sore?"
"Buffy," he whispered as she rolled his sac in her hand.
"Should I," she said, getting herself comfortable, "kiss it and make it better?"
She'd tried to do this yesterday in the kitchen, but he'd stopped her. He didn't seem in the mood to stop her now, so she took him into her mouth while fondling and stroking him. She really didn't care if he came, that wasn't why she was doing this. She just wanted to taste him, to feel him grow hard in her mouth.
She licked and sucked, finding his sac and taking the thin skin there gently between her teeth, rolling it between them. He cried out. She felt him pulse in her mouth, licked the veins becoming more pronounced the harder he got. He reached, pulling her hair away from her face. She lifted her mouth so she was only in contact with the tip of his head, her eyes finding his to make sure he was watching.
And then she took him all of the way into her mouth in one long, slick stroke. He was just the perfect size both length and width for her to be able to take all of him without feeling like she was going to gag. Spike had taught her how to do this well. He cried out as she used her teeth, lightly scraping him as she eased her mouth off him. She did it again and again, taking him all the way in, altering the pace of how she slid off him, but always taking him into her mouth deep and hard. He seemed to like it as much as she did.
"Am I making it better?" she asked, taking a brief break from the rather enjoyable task of going down on him.
He didn't really answer, at least not coherently. That was good, if he was coherent she was doing something wrong.
When she left after breakfast that morning, she felt pretty confident he was going into work that afternoon with a smile on his face. She programmed the car's GPS with Lexie's address and headed in that direction.
The bad thing about GPS was that it was sort of like driving on autopilot. It gave her time to think.
She'd never had a relationship based on sex before. So this was new territory for her. Not that it was strictly sexual, but this was the first time she didn't know name, rank, serial number, and past misdeeds about a person before she'd gotten down and dirty with them.
So, what did that say about her? And why was she hoping that this vampire problem in Phoenix wouldn't be solved too quickly.
"Bad, Buffy, bad." She so could not go there. She needed a trans-continental boyfriend like she needed Angel to lose his soul again. Okay, maybe that was a little drastic, but pretty close.
Sad thing was she liked him. She liked playing the part of his fiancé in front of his ex. She'd never really envisioned herself married. The closest she'd come was Willow's 'I will it so' spell back when Spike had just been chipped by The Initiative. She wasn't sure if all that excitement with the planning was in her for real or part of the spell.
Willow was happy, had a steady girlfriend. So, why couldn't Buffy? No one said she couldn't of course, but Lee living in Phoenix and her in London would pose a problem eventually. She rubbed the side of her head, hoping it would stop hurting from the thinking.
She found Lexie's address and checked herself in the mirror to be sure she was presentable before leaving the car. This was the hardest part of the deal, explaining to them who she was and what she'd done. And how what she'd done affected them. Some were glad to find out they weren't crazy and some were upset that their newfound powers came with a price. Some were happy to train and join the mission. Some didn't. And some went rogue. They hadn't dealt with many of those yet, but they were out there. She was sure of it.
She knocked on the door and waited. The door opened and an older version of Lexie was looking at Buffy. They had the ability to run background checks on the slayers, complete with a photograph. It was helpful in knowing that Buffy was giving her slayer spiel to the right person.
"Hi, I'm looking for Lexie. Is she home?" Lexie was a little younger than Buffy, but not so much that she hoped she would get away with making her mother think they were friends.
"Is she expecting you?"
"No, I was just in the neighborhood and thought I'd say hi."
"Come in. She's downstairs working out, it's all she seems to do these days. I'll get her."
"I can go down there. If she's in the middle of a routine I don't want to force her to stop."
"All right, I'm sorry, I don't know your name."
"I'm Buffy, Mrs. Fergus."
"It's nice to meet you."
"You, too. Thanks," she said when Lexie's mom indicated the stairs to the basement. The hard rock music coming from there was a pretty good indication, too. There was a door separating the two floors and Buffy shut it on her way down.
The girl's back was to Buffy, which gave her a moment to check her out. She was in shape. Not out of control bulky or anything, but she had good definition. And judging by the quality exercise room she had down here the activation hadn't been the reason for that definition.
"Hey," Buffy said loud enough to be heard over the music. The response was a clattering of the free weights she'd been using with her arms.
"I know you."
Buffy smiled. It was the one good thing about the slayer dreams. All the girls had them, all the girls knew who she was. As well as most of the slayers before Buffy. Not all of them and some knew different ones than others. But Buffy was always a common denominator. She imagined because she was not only the last one but also the one who'd activated them. Of course, she wasn't really the last one. That label belonged to Faith, but Faith had been inactive for so long before coming to help those last months in Sunnydale.
She draped a towel around her neck and grabbed a bottle of water from a regular sized refrigerator. "Do you want one," she asked, fridge door still open.
They each took sips of their water, sizing one another up.
"So are you going to tell me why you've been starring in my dreams the past few months?"
"I can tell you and then you'll have a decision to make."
She blotted her face with the towel and sat on the edge of the workbench, leaving Buffy to take the only chair in the area.
"This is going to sound a little strange. Believe me, I know, because when I was told I think I would have believed in Big Foot or the Loch ness Monster over this."
And she did. Buffy altered the story a little, depending on the response of the person on the receiving end. If they were hanging onto her every word, seeming to believe her she gave a little less detail initially. If it seemed like they needed convincing, she dialed the details up a notch. All of this culminating in their increase in strength and other goodies that came with being a slayer.
"So, the dreams…"
"Are part of the package. You'll have them forever, whether you come with me or stay here."
"And I could stay here? I'm going to school…"
"We have quite a few who have elected not to join us at all. I've stayed long enough to train them how to use their strength and how to fight a vampire in basic terms. Because, like it or not, you are a slayer and that seems to come with a little beacon attracting vampires. And once they find out a slayer is nearby they come out of the woodwork."
She paused, taking a sip of her water. "We've had others who haven't wanted to come to London and I've stayed long enough to help them. Then I send a few other slayers who have been trained by me in to continue helping her."
"I'm not sure…"
"I will say this. Maybe it was fate that sent me here, I don't know. There is something going on. I've been in Phoenix for a few days and I've already seen three vamp victims. One almost got me, but luckily I got rescued by a psychic."
Buffy waved her hand. "It's not important and really has nothing to do with you or why I came to Phoenix in the first place. But the point is if you want to see what it's like, there's action. Lots of it, right here."
"Can I get back to you? I mean, I'm not sure…"
"Yes," she said, pulling out a business card. It listed the address of the Council's headquarters and then simply her name and international cell phone number. "You can call me anytime. Like I said, I'm going to be here for a while anyway. I'll call here if I leave town before you decide."
"I'll be honest. I was called when I was fifteen and I hated it. I lost my friends, my family, everything. I've sacrificed more than I care to confess to, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I've had opportunities, several, to just walk away. The most recent being when I activated all of you. I could have just said screw it and gone on my merry way, walked into the sunset, all the stuff signaling the good guys won. It won't end, though. It may not be the last big bad I fought, but there will always be evil to fight, the world to save. It's a thankless gig, no one knows what you do except a select few and they don't say thanks because they're fighting right along side with you. They may not be wielding a stake or a sword, but books and computers for knowledge in how to defeat things are just as important."
"I believe you, I just have plans."
"I get that, I do, and you're not the only one. If you want to come with me one night on a patrol and see what it is I do let me know. It's entirely up to you. You could stay in Phoenix, you know. There's nothing saying you'd have to come to London. I can stay here as long as it takes for you to feel ready."
Wishful thinking, that. If Lexie wanted to stay in Phoenix, that would give Buffy a reason to stay.
"Sure. And if it's any consolation, you already did help save the world. That day, the spell, the strength of a couple thousand slayers helped me push back the First enough to shut it down."
She nodded simply, taking a sip of water but she wasn't looking at Buffy. She wasn't sure what to make of it. Usually she had a feeling about whether someone was interested. This one was hard to read. Independent. Buffy got that and so she stood from her chair, taking the bottle of water with her.
"Bye, Lexie, and if I don't hear from you. Good luck."
She found the police station easy enough. She was quickly learning that GPS was a Godsend. She made a note to tell Giles that whoever made her rental car arrangements in the future needed to request it.
"I'm looking for Detective Scanlon," she told the officer at the front desk.
"Is he expecting you?"
"Yes," Buffy said simply. "My name is Buffy Summers."
"All right," he said, picking up the phone. "Detective Scanlon, a Buffy Summers is here to see you."
"He'll be right down," he said after a moment of silence on his end, hanging up the phone.
"Thanks," Buffy said, clutching her purse in front of her as she walked to an area where they had pictures on the wall. She realized too late that she was looking at fallen officers, those who had died in the line of duty. There were so many of them. Some too young. A gentle hand to her shoulder brought her out of her thoughts. How long had she been standing there staring at the pictures?
"You made it."
"I did," she said, turning to face him. He was smiling at her, but his eyes reflected what she felt. A sense of loss from looking at pictures of so many dying to make the world a safer, better place. Or trying to anyway.
"Good. Come on back, I've been waiting for you. How'd your errand go?"
Buffy shrugged, falling into step beside him. "She's hard to read so I really don't know what she's going to do, but I'll stick around for a while no matter if we find out there's nothing down my alley going on here."
"A while, huh? Like how long of a while?"
"Trying to get rid of me already, Detective Scanlon? Afraid I'll scold you for leaving the toilet seat up one morning?"
He chuckled, opening a door for her. "No, I'm just curious how long you think I'll have the pleasure of your company."
"If you think any part of your company has been anything but pleasurable, allow me later to rectify that misconception."
"So? Any idea?"
"No. Like I said, I have no gut feeling about her. I'll give her some time, but eventually I have to get back."
"Can I ask why?"
"Why do you have to go back to London?"
"Well," she said, realizing he'd stopped at a desk. She presumed it was his, though there were no personal effects to indicate it was his over anyone else's. "We're based out of London."
"But you travel all over the place anyway."
"Yes, but we train everyone in London unless they don't want to come."
"But you're not training every day, every week."
"And you like heat and lots of sunshine."
He didn't say anything else, holding a chair out for her instead before taking a seat himself.
"Are you asking me to stay in Phoenix?"
He averted his gaze. "I'm not sure I should answer that. If I say yes it might scare you off."
"And if you said no?"
"My answer wouldn't be no, so I wouldn't have to worry about what your reaction to that would be."
"Oh," she said simply. He was asking her to stay, or at least think about it. "It would be kind of hard to go from living with you like this to not."
"I can't move in with someone I just met."
"Yes, because sleeping with me is nothing special."
She blushed. "If this is about this morning…"
"It's about this morning and last night and yesterday and the night I met you." He shrugged. "Never mind."
"No, I'm sorry, I just wasn't expecting you to ask me that."
"I wasn't really either."
"I'm quirky and my life is not a picnic. There are probably some other things you should know about me before you think much harder on this."
"Nothing I want to tell you here."
"All right. I'm about due for lunch. I'll show you what I've found and then we can grab a bite down the street and you can tell me these things."
She closed her eyes. She really didn't want to tell him these things. None of them, but it wouldn't be fair to him either if he was really thinking about this to withhold the information from him. She was telling the truth when she'd told Elena secrets destroy relationships.
"You were right, these two…"
"Three, don't forget the girl…"
"Yeah, I remember. Three," he amended. "They're not the only ones. I've got a time set up to talk with my commander later this afternoon because I want to know why we haven't been aware of this connection sooner."
"You think he'll tell you?"
"I don't know, but there've been at least six in the last month." He showed her a map he'd printed out with computer-generated pushpins to identify where bodies had been found.
"And they all fit the details of, you know?"
"Yes. Severe neck trauma."
"Huh," she said, wondering why these victims hadn't shown up on the Council's radar either. "Can I have a copy of this?"
"This is your copy and if you give me your email address I'll email it to you, too, so you can send it to your people."
"My people," she said with a low laugh. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. Now, lunch?"
"You don't sound so sure?"
"No, it's just not so much fun dredging up things. You know? I feel like I'm doing it constantly having to explain who I am to the girls. And now to you."
"I'm sorry if I make you feel that way."
"It's all right. I won't mislead you."
"I doubt you could do that."
"You say that now."
It was late enough in the afternoon yet too early for a dinner crowd so the restaurant wasn't too busy and they were able to get a table right away. Buffy noticed Lee looking around, same as she was, apparently both wondered if Elena would show up here again.
Their food orders placed she sighed softly. "I'm not sure where to begin. You asked me about the scars on my neck. I have three of them actually, though one isn't as pronounced."
"The first set came from the Master, an old vampire who was stuck underground due to an earthquake back in the 20s or something. I died."
"Right you mentioned that."
"The second set, the ones that are the most pronounced were from my boyfriend."
"He was dying, poisoned by another slayer who'd gone bad. The only cure for him was the blood of a slayer. I tried to get her, but couldn't."
"So you gave your own blood."
"And nearly died again I take it?"
"Yes, though he stopped in time. I'm not sure why the scar is there like that. Maybe because the Master didn't need to really feed off me, he just needed a little where Angel needed to replace the tainted blood."
"All right. So, wait, you had a vampire for a boyfriend? How? They're evil aren't they?"
"Well, he had a soul. I told you that I knew of a couple who do. He was cursed with his back at the turn of the century. The other vampire with a soul, Spike, went off to Africa to get his after he tried to rape me."
"And you let him live?"
"It's a long story, but yes. I was in a very bad place in my life. Willow had brought me back to life after I died the second time. They thought because I'd jumped into this portal that was meant to open a hell dimension that I was in hell."
"But you weren't?"
"No, and it took me months to get back to normal. And Spike suffered the most for that. I used him in the worst possible ways. He loved me and I used that to get whatever comfort I could from him without giving anything back. So, yes he tried to rape me, but I can't sit here and tell you that it wasn't partially my fault. Our relationship leading up to that had been violent. Fight and fuck, fuck and fight." She blushed, taking a sip of her water. "Sorry."
"The third scars are from Dracula, but like I said, his aren't as pronounced. So I don't know," she shrugged. "The holy water thing I discovered recently. It cleanses the bites somehow so they don't scar. It hurts like a son of a bitch, but it beats being covered in scars."
"So, two vampire boyfriends?"
"Mm, no, not really. My deaths. My months of dark abyss-like living. Two vampire boyfriends. Did I mention my sister is really a ball of energy older than history?"
"Yeah, that's why I jumped into the portal actually. I'd done so much, given so much I was ready to end it and give Dawn the chance to live her life. She didn't ask to be made human, to have Glory chasing after her. I wanted to spare her that. Our memories were altered, more than our memories actually, because she's in photographs and people who shouldn't remember her do. So, it's like they bent time to put her there."
"You really have interesting stories to tell."
"Too bad they're not the stuff fiction is made of."
"Have you ever thought of being a writer? You've got to have a ton of stories at your fingertips that would sell."
"Maybe. I'm not so good with words."
"It couldn't hurt to try."
"I suppose not. So, that's it. I lay this out for you and you're giving me career tips?"
"What do you want me to say? Are you still involved with them?"
"No, I'm honestly not even sure what they're doing."
"And you're out of the miserable place?"
"Yeah I am."
"And you're not going to go jumping into portals because you're ready to call it quits?"
"No, I'm not. I've come to the realization that I like my life. It took me a long time and lot of pain to get here, but I did."
"I surprised you with my question back there. I'm sorry. It just came to me and I asked it. I should have thought it through. I was sincere, though, there's no reason you couldn't do what you're doing from Phoenix or Chicago or Cambodia. As long as you have access to an airport that can get you to London when you need to get there."
"You're right. I just…"
They grew quiet as the waitress brought them their food. Buffy had a BLT and Lee had some sort of club sandwich. His looked better than hers. Oh well.
"You're here for a while anyway. Think about it. Even if you decide to stay and not with me we can find you some place to stay."
"And you'd be okay with that? Going from seeing me every day to whenever we could?"
"If that's what it takes, yeah. I like you, I won't deny that. I mean, the sex is great but it's more than that. I like your courage, your integrity, you talk big but you don't say anything you don't mean. And you're the first woman I've been with since Elena that made me see that I want what I almost had with her."
"Lee, I'm not marriage material."
"Okay, maybe marriage would be in the cards. But kids aren't."
"Babies you mean, right?"
"And you're okay with that? No Lee, Junior walking around?"
"I've grown content with the fact I'd be alone for the rest of my life, so yeah."
"I don't get that. You're a nice guy, a good looking guy, an honest guy. What gives?"
"I don't know. You tell me?"
She laughed, taking a bite of a French fry. "I think you maybe like being alone and just haven't wanted to pursue it. Add to it being hurt by your ex…"
"I'm not so much with the liking being alone. I mean, I used to hate it. I think I thought if I didn't have a boyfriend I would die. I'm okay with it but I admit the past couple of days have been nice. Having someone there."
"And I am going to cook dinner for you tonight. You eat out entirely too much."
"All right. Do you need money for groceries?"
"No, I'm good."
"If you do, let me know."
"You've paid for every meal we've eaten so far, I think I can splurge for some groceries."
"So, you think she's going to go back with you?"
"No. I don't think she'll walk away from the opportunity, but I think she'll stay here. I think that's what's going to catch her up, feeling like she should go to London but wanting to stay here. Her father died not too long ago and she moved colleges to live with her mom."
"Yeah, so I think she's here for the long haul. And I can't blame her, having lost my mom I would want to cling to my dad, too. If he let me."
"I'm sorry about that. If there was something I could do."
"It's not your fault, but thank you. So, you'll probably have me for a while anyway."
Her cell phone rang the, the ordinary ring which meant it wasn't anyone she had programmed on her phone. She glanced at Lee, realizing she didn't even have his phone number programmed in it. What did that say? Of course, if she was still at the hotel she might have taken the time to put it in.
"Hi, Buffy, this is Lexie."
"Hi. How are you?" She was surprised to say the least. She hadn't expected a phone call this soon. A few days at the earliest had been her guess.
"You said I could come with you?"
"I think I'd like to."
"Okay. I can pick you up a little before sunset. I'm working on a couple of things now, so hopefully I'll have an idea of where to take you."
"I'm glad you called, Lexie."
"I'll see you later."
"Do I need anything?"
"Nope, just you. I'll bring everything we'll need."
"That was quick."
"Yeah," Buffy said. "Before I forget, what's your phone number? The card you gave me is somewhere in my purse."
"Think you're going to need it?"
"You never know."
He gave her three numbers, she programmed them all in.
"Am I allowed to answer your phone?"
"Why wouldn't you be able to?"
"I don't know, just asking in case I'm ever there and it rings."
"You can answer it."
"Okay," she said, satisfied with the answer. If he had things to hide he wouldn't have given her the go ahead to do that.
"Yeah, I'm really surprised she called this quickly. I guess my feeling was wrong about her. Then again, she could just be curious and if we see any action it could send her packing."
"No, this is something I need to do on my own. But thank you. You can keep me company when I get back later."
"You can bank on that. Ready to go then?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
Outside the restaurant, he slid his hand into hers as they walked the few short blocks back to the police station. She couldn't remember the last time she'd walked with someone and held their hand. She knew for a fact she'd never done it with Spike, so probably Riley. And that was just too long ago.
"I guess I need to go back to your place and look at this map and see if I can figure out where I'm taking her. Otherwise, it's surfing online for obits listing people with neck trauma."
"You can use my computer if you want. I've got DSL. There's no password or anything since I live alone I've never felt the need."
She noticed neither was talking about what they were both most likely thinking. If Lexie agreed to pick up the slayer baton and stay here in Phoenix, Buffy wouldn't be here past Lexie getting trained. She usually followed up on the slayers to see how they were faring. And, of course, if Lexie needed reinforcements Buffy and as many other slayers as were needed would be there.
"Thank you," she said simply. What else could she say? He was being generous, too much so in some ways. It made her wonder what he'd be like if she did stay here. It'd have to stop. Didn't it? The kindness, the consideration.
"Nettles is looking for you," the man sitting at the front desk said once they'd gotten in. "He told me to tell you to bring her with you if she was still with you."
"All right," Lee said.
"Who's Nettles?" Buffy asked.
"My commanding officer."
"Why does he want to see me?"
"I haven't the foggiest."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com