Part 1: Bad Moon Rising
There were nights when patrol was so tedious, she thought about approaching Giles with the aspiration of redefining hellmouth. No vamps. No demons. No oogly booglies. Just a big, empty, ungrateful graveyard that wasn’t driving the up on rectifying her boredom. She had been looking forward to patrol tonight, too. Not for any reason—per se—she just really wanted to kill something.
Really wanted to let loose a little energy before tackling some algebra. After all, Sunnydale: equal to largest vat of evil on earth. The place that had killed her the year before, as in literally. It was the first night in several that she felt like indulging in her calling, and the lousy vamps that were supposed to run rampant were nowhere to be seen.
A deep breath spilled past her lips and she took a seat on the nearest headstone. Despite all her griping, the crap she gave Giles on a regular basis—even her own spiral of inward complaints—there was something to be said for the peacefulness of a cemetery on a night void of activity. Gave her time to clear her thoughts. Gave perspective to the road ahead.
She had come out here more and more often in the hope of running into Angel, though that seemed to be fruitless in itself. Angel only dropped by to warn her that the world was ending or that she was supposed to die—or both, on a really good day. For a guy that had been around for two centuries, he really needed advice on socializing. There were times when she felt him watching her…knowing that it was him without knowing how she knew. Just that certainty.
The guy could make it as a professional stalker. There wasn’t any doubt about that.
Even the night was still. There was no wind. No distant howling. No guttural growls of the recently undead. Sunnydale was asleep. No action to be had tonight. She might as well pack it in and go home.
After all, who could resist the tug of algebra?
She wondered if she could have Giles investigate the possibility that Mr. Kirsch was a demon. Really, no one should feel that obligated to give out so much homework. Ever.
Lousy school. That wasn’t even counting the English paper she had due next Tuesday, or the history project she and Willow had done diddly on since it was assigned. Well, knowing Willow, doing diddly wasn’t an option. They would have to arrange a time where Buffy could find some small way to contribute and quell her guilt over making her school-happy friend do the entire project by herself.
“Enough stalling,” she told herself, rising lazily to her feet. “Time to go home and argue with Mr. Pythagorean.”
It was a fact universally acknowledged that once someone gave up on something, a reason to stay inevitably popped up. She had just hooked her stake into her belt, frowning a bit at the signs of wear against the fabric when the classic damsel-in-distress scream tore through the still night air, reverberating off every tree in the graveyard.
“Typical,” she muttered, taking off all the same.
The scene that she found, however, exceeded every scenario running through her mind. A few vamp cronies she could handle. Damsel in distress, a little tacky but sadly more common than not, but she could handle. Get in a few kicks, satisfy that urge to cause some violence, go home and crack open the text.
Who was she kidding? Patrol was her excuse to not hand in homework. If she was participating in world saveage, studies could take a backseat.
On the other hand, explaining her progress report to her uninformed mother? Not something she would call fun.
Buffy stopped so quickly that she nearly tumbled to the ground. Her eyes widened beyond the point of casual disbelief and crossed into all-out astonishment.
She had never seen a man move like that. Such fluency. Such poise. Poetry in motion. He moved as though he was made for it. A twist here, a kick there. Flash of a stake and an explosion of dust. He didn’t look panicked. Didn’t look threatened at all. A man in his element. Doing what was natural for him.
And damn, was it natural.
Who the hell was this guy?
Buffy held her breath as he dusted the last, then turned to the damsel who looked to have overcome her fear for the appeal of a gorgeous man in black leather.
At least, that was her hypothesis. The stake-happy hottie looked to be, well, a hottie. He was at a distance yet, though, so that verdict was subject to appeal at closer inspection.
“Word of advice, pet,” the man drawled lazily. “From what I’ve heard of this town, you don’ wanna be lurkin’ around graveyards after dark.”
Oh God. He had an accent. Mr. I-Fell-Out-of-An-Abercrombie-Catalog had an accent. The Slayer shook her head to keep from swooning.
Honestly, what girl could resist an accent?
None, evidently. And at that, cue damsel. Damsel was supposed to slip into something seductive before dropping to her knees to begin her reimbursement. Buffy had heard enough from the upperclassmen at Hemery to know what men expected when they intervened a mugging. Not that many muggings were actually intervened, but such was sadly a topic of discussion. “They were…they were going to…and you…”
“Yeh. Stop walkin’ through graveyards after six o’clock, an’ we won’ have to play a repeat, all right?” He arched a brow and nodded generally in the direction of Restfield’s entrance. “Toddle off, now. No one’s hurtin’ you tonight.”
“Can I…is there anything I can do for you? You know…you just saved my life.”
The man stopped at that and his eyes narrowed; looked her up and down, though void of temptation and more prone to skepticism. “Thanks, but no thanks,” he replied. “Don’ take favors for helpin’ vamp bait, especially if they seem willin’. Now go home.”
That little comment earned him an almost-slap from the highly over-indignant damsel. She nodded, masking angered hurt, and turned to walk away.
It only took seconds. The Slayer watched as he battled with annoyance over gentlemanly manners; he turned to catch up with the scoffed girl in seconds.
She followed, keeping to the shadows. Watched him grab the damsel’s arm, apologize for his rudeness in a tone that indicated he wasn’t really sorry, but some form of manners beaten into him since birth demanded that he make an effort. He walked her out and Buffy watched. Watched him wait until he saw people before letting her loose, and turned to stalk away in the other direction.
Man saving woman and not wanting smoochies? Not wanting happies in return for services rendered? What the hell was going on?
Algebra forgotten, Buffy drew in a breath and turned to follow the guy, though at a careful distance. She didn’t doubt her ability to take him if he became aware of her presence and wasn’t exactly a guy who liked company, but she somehow doubted he was the type to lash out at anyone he came across.
At least she hoped. She was intrigued.
There were certain things she could make out simply by following him, the more obvious being his hair color and the incredibly sexy duster strewn across his shoulders. There weren’t many streetlights in the direction he was heading, and the moon wasn’t even out, but she knew a bleach job when she saw one. His hair was thoroughly bleached, reminding her fleetingly of a guy she had known in LA who enjoyed that type of dye job but wasn’t nearly as efficient as the slayer wannabe at making it look non-pathetic.
The glimpse she caught of him turning a corner confirmed the suspicion that had flustered her insides back at Restfield. The man was a hottie. A big hottie. Prominent cheekbones, his lips sensual at first glance…granted, Buffy wasn’t following him to cop a feel, but she was a girl and she did notice such things. Even the hair looked good. Ruffled, it seemed, from the fight; she liked it like that. Hoped he wasn’t the type to slick it back, though her mind’s projected image of such a style was not at all unappealing.
He walked as though he knew he was being followed and didn’t care. Walked as though he was leading her somewhere. The familiar nagging in the bottom of her stomach told her strictly that she should turn around and go home or—at the very most—report the incident to Giles and get his opinion, but her feet refused to comply. If he was leading her somewhere with the intent to harm, he was in for a world of hurt. She knew how to bring it, and well.
The Master, anyone? Killed him completely dead.
She could go get Angel, she supposed, but it was late and she wasn’t too keen on the idea of losing the guy before she saw where he was going.
It didn’t take as long as it felt. Maybe three quarters of a mile away from the cemetery—not far, but she was counting her blessings that she had foregone heels for tonight’s patrol. Especially since it was getting late and she would likely sprint home before her mother became wise to the fact that she was not tucked away in bed.
The guy was staying at the Sunnydale Inn; Sunnydale’s one and only inn. She had been there the week before to investigate the possible arrival of a Kfagna demon, as requested by Giles, and thus had a vague idea on the conditions of the rooms’ interiors. Not great; hardly comfortable. Granted, Sunnydale wasn’t exactly a tourist attraction for anyone with a pulse; accommodations for visitors were few and far between. Still, for half a beat, she wished she could run up to Mr. Mysterious with an alternative for housing. This place gave her the heebie jeebies.
No. No time. He had disappeared inside after a ten second battle with the door. Obviously imparting some restraint to keep from simply kicking it in. She knew that frustration well and silently commended his control…even if it had looked to be on the verge of shattering.
Some things just deserved commending.
The door closed just as suddenly, and then she couldn’t see him anymore.
Buffy stood still for a few minutes, sure that that couldn’t be it. She had been the Slayer long enough to know that stumbling over hotties who could fight was not something one would call a coincidence. There was a reason she had seen him. A reason beyond the obvious.
She expelled a deep breath and frowned. The guy had yet to flick on a light—the room cast in shadows. She wondered if he was watching her now…though the curtains appeared securely drawn, she knew not to trust anything based on appearance. He was a smoothie; with whatever else she could say about him, that much was a certainty.
Another long sigh rolled off her shoulders. Nothing more could be done tonight. First thing in the morning, she would have Willow hack into the Sunnydale Inn registration system and get all the information on the occupant as possible. Then possibly run a background check.
Buffy frowned. Did Willow have the means of running a background check from the high school library? Well, either way, they would get the know. If not the easy way, then the way that involved her, the sexy blonde, and a lot of touching.
A grin tugged at her lips at that. Option B wouldn’t be bad, either. After all, single white female, not getting anything from her would-be vampire boyfriend. Even a spar at this point would be welcome. The only hint that the big brooding sulk even liked her was the reaction he had emanated when she ground up against Xander at the Bronze.
Speaking of things she would never do again…
“Okay,” she said to herself, turning promptly to begin the jog back to Revello Drive. “Let’s go home and not do math.”
It was yet another truth universally acknowledged that when vampires cornered a new victim, the ringleader of the vampires said something lame that was goal-oriented at striking fear into the impressionable hearts of young would-be snacks. And while she didn’t catch whatever the head vamp spat, she was more than certain that it fell into that category.
Seemed her tinglies weren’t tingling for the British hottie. Which seemed logical—tinglies usually indicated vampires, and unless the vampire in question was Angel, vampires didn’t tend to get overly heroic for damsels.
Especially without the added bonus of a blow at the end of said heroics.
Three very ugly vamps were circling her slowly in some bizarre form of attempted intimidation. She could tell they were newbies right off.
“All right, guys,” she said slowly, adapting a fighting stance all the same. “You really want to do this now? I mean, algebra.”
“You won’t be needing to worry about homework anymore, blondie,” one of the vamps snarled, his eyes trailing her in a way that made her skin crawl. “Or anything else, come to think of it.”
She arched a brow. “Do you write your own material?”
“Oh, touchy one, this is.”
“Not touchy.” She flashed him a pertinent smile before leaping into the air and kicking the one nearest clear across the street. “Bored.”
There were a few gasps at that. The familiar, “Slayer!” cries and so forth, confirming her note about their status on the vampire roster of power. Deciphering the old from the new wasn’t nearly as difficult as it had once been. She noted more and more that the young ones were usually quick to rush into a fight and never paid attention to their tinglies. Never acknowledged that Slayers existed and that one lived right here on the Hellmouth.
These three were toddlers in a world of giants.
Well, at least they knew who she was. That was a perk. Didn’t make them any more efficient at the killing her part, though. Rather, they dusted with near disappointing ease. A few high kicks here, a punch there. Three timed explosions of dust, and it was over. The hint of the skirmish collecting nicely on the pavement. And she was alone on the street again.
Only she didn’t feel alone. Buffy frowned and glanced back to the motel.
No change. Nothing. Only one of the curtains seemed pulled back. Just slightly. Not by much, but enough to make her wonder.
She couldn’t see anything. It was dark, it was Sunnydale, and it was a school night. Slayer or not, she needed to be getting home before her mother became wise to her absence.
Still…she couldn’t help but wonder…
Didn’t matter. Willow would pull up the file tomorrow. If she couldn’t, Buffy would orchestrate a visit herself to find out who he was and why he was fighting vampires. And why he was so damn good at it.
Either way, she would have an answer tomorrow.
It was time to call it a night.
She was a work of art.
A gorgeous, vibrant, young work of art. The sort of art that took age before it developed appreciation. Art that remained unobserved for years in museums, admired by a few but overlooked by the masses. He had never seen anyone so full of life. Just at this, at a casual glance, he knew he was in trouble. She was wonderful. And she was the best damn fighter he had ever seen.
Of course, she was the Slayer. Such was in her blood. In her making. In every fabric of what she was. Who she was.
He chuckled lightly to himself as she finally drew herself away from his window, allowing the curtains to fall back into place. Three vamps dusted in less than a minute. She was good. She was very, very good. A bloody pistol just waiting to be shot.
Tomorrow he would get to meet her.
Spike grinned. Somehow he knew. Knew meeting her would change everything. Forever. It wasn’t a hunch, wasn’t a guess—just there. Knowledge beyond knowledge. Something he couldn’t rebuke even if he wanted to.
Meeting her would change his life.
And he couldn’t wait.