"So, that's all there is to it?" April asked and Buffy laughed lightly. She was beginning to like her and hoped she would not be disappointed with her. Some retrievals left Buffy with a good impression and some did not. April was one of the good ones.
Buffy had just taken out the second vampire of the night. She had let April do the actual staking so she could get a feel for how it was done once Buffy had him under control.
"Yup," Buffy said as she tucked the stakes in her waistband again. "That's all there is to it. But this is what's been driving you, April. This is what you're called to do. We don't hurt humans, but we can kick demon ass."
"What about humans that are evil?"
Buffy sighed slightly. "I've met a few of those, April. We can't just go around killing people, that's what the legal system is for." April glared at her then and Buffy knew she had said something wrong. "It's not a perfect system, but we're not judge and jury of the humans. We're slayers not executioners."
"Could have fooled me," Ranger said as he strode toward them. Strode was too common a word, but she could not think of a more glorified term for what he did. He was one hundred percent bon-a-fide male perfection.
"I didn't hear you drive up."
"Parked back there."
"Oh," she said glancing in the direction he had come from. "You're early."
"I wanted to see."
"I've heard things."
He shrugged. "Slayers."
"You didn't say anything on the way to the park."
"Tank and Hal wouldn't know."
"But you do?"
"A while back there was a big government project that I did some security work for."
"I don't know. It was in Southern California somewhere, underground."
"Yeah," he said.
"It's on a hell mouth, attracts all kinds of baddies."
"I was called in afterward to disarm the system completely."
"So you got to see the mass death and destruction."
"Pretty brutal. Were you in on that?"
"Yeah," she said simply. "Not our finest hour as far as keeping civilian casualties to a minimum, but the way I look at it the government was asking for it."
"I signed away my life for that job."
"What?" she asked, not sure she heard him right.
"I swore never to mention anything about it. I could go to jail."
"So why are you talking?"
"I hear things," he repeated what he had said earlier.
"You know, it's a good thing I've been around guys before you who aren't big on talking."
He smiled that killer smile of his. "I say what's necessary to say. So are you done?"
Buffy glanced at April who had been quiet while they talked. "Yeah, I guess so. Can we drop you off somewhere and I can meet you in the morning?" She noticed that April kept the scarred part of her face in the shadows as much as she could. She wondered how she got them, but it was none of her business.
"I can walk, I don't live far from here."
"I'll drop you off and pick you up in the morning. You might not be too popular right now with those guys from the park."
He handed her a business card. "Call me in the morning when you're ready to be picked up."
Buffy watched as April slipped the card into the back pocket of her jeans. "If you don't want to leave, April, you don't have to. I can stay here for a few days and train you as best as I can."
"I have nothing here."
"Your baby's father?"
"Gang initiation," she said softly and Buffy did not know what to say. "Hey, I don't need you or anyone else feeling sorry for me. I've done all right. I work a job and everything. I just have to stay with my mama is all."
"Nothing wrong with that. I'd probably still live with my mom. Well, except for the she's dead part, but it's no big. Is it?" she asked Ranger.
"Let's get you home then and we'll get you whatever time you tell us. I realize it might take you a while to get your stuff together."
"Don't have much stuff, but yeah it'll take me a while. I don't know what to tell Mama."
"Tell her whatever she'll believe. She won't believe the slayer stuff, April."
"No," she agreed. "She believes in voodoo, but I think vampires might be taking it a step too far."
"I'm staying at the Red Roof Inn so if you have any problems or change your mind just call me okay? I'm glad you're coming with me, April, I think you'll be a great slayer."
"I'm not going to wake up tomorrow and have this be a dream am I?" she asked.
Buffy placed an arm on April's forearm and met her gaze, holding it for a moment. "No," she said looking straight into her dark eyes without wavering. "You're not dreaming and I don't think this will be something you'll regret. I live alone but we can arrange for a babysitter for the baby very easily. There are plenty of other slayers around who will pitch into help. They were all like you, had no idea what they were, just knew they suddenly had strength and speed."
Buffy gathered their things up and started walking the direction Ranger had come from. "All set?"
"Yup," Buffy said as she and April followed him to the SUV that gleamed under the streetlight.
"I'm surprised it's still here," April said. Ranger gave her a look that stopped both women dead in their tracks. "Okay, I guess I'm not."
Buffy glanced at April's house as the girl walked to the door and let herself in. "Will she make it?" Ranger asked, breaking her thoughts.
"Yeah," Buffy said wistfully. "I think her chances just improved one hundred percent." She laughed lightly at that.
"Funny that I should say that her chances at survival have gone up because she's a slayer."
"Talk to me."
"I tell you what, take me to a Denny's or something that's open this late so I can burn off my post-slaying hunger and I'll talk your ear off."
"You drive a hard bargain."
"Do you put any pollutants in your body?"
"The occasional beer and a slice of pizza."
She was quiet for a moment as she looked at him. He had an interesting profile. He did not have the scars April had, but she could tell that he had seen a lot, too. You get a look in your eye after a while and it was easy to recognize it in someone else. No, he was not a slayer but he had seen death and combat, too. He was immensely handsome and his being perfect physically just added to the mystique that enveloped this man. "It shows," she said simply.
He smiled simply, gracing her with a wink before turning his attention back to the road.
"I know how to pick them. You're not helpless or hopeless but you are spunky."
"Why is your wife spunky?"
He laughed heartily and shook his head. "No, just another woman I work with. She gets herself into messes that we have to bail her out of sometimes. She's a bounty hunter, probably one of the worst I've ever come across but she's incredibly lucky. That luck has kept her alive and catching her skips."
"Oh," Buffy said. It sounded kind of interesting. She had never met a bounty hunter before. "It sounds dangerous. Is that what you do? Bounty hunt?"
"We're back to the lack of talking."
He smiled again but said nothing as he pulled into a twenty-four hour diner near the Applebee's where her Jeep was. "Thanks," she said as she got out and joined him on the parking lot.
"No problem babe, you can pay me back."
"Oh boy," she said softly, not sure she wanted to be indebted to this man.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com