Origin and Season One (Ch. 39)
Character: Buffy Summers
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Word Count: 1875
Setting: Teacher's Pet
A/N: Some borrowed dialogue.
- Hunter, Interrupted -
Weatherly Park. Closed to the general public after 10, but open to the homeless, hellspawn, and anyone who could climb a fence 24/7. Buffy had been here on a sweep a few weeks ago, and though then she'd been glad to find nothing, tonight she was hunting, vengeance humming in some corner of her soul. She didn't know if Fork Guy was truly responsible for Dr. Gregory's death, but some part of her didn't really care. She just wanted to kill something, wanted to bring some sort of justice to the man who'd expressed a faith in her she wasn't sure too many others in her life felt. That random act of kindness had lightened her otherwise crappy day, and it disturbed her that he'd died so soon after their conversation. Though she'd dismissed the possibility that she was somehow responsible for his death, timing or not, she couldn't seem to shake a little, niggling sense of guilt.
Because anything was possible. She could be, for all she knew.
She stopped outside the fence when she reached it, listening. Nothing seemed amiss, and the place looked just as dark and unwelcoming at it had the last time she'd been here. After a pause, she climbed it, dropped to the other side, then started off, her stake a hard lump in her pocket.
She hadn't told anyone about her plans for the night. Even though she was growing used to Giles, and she could feel herself starting to trust him like she'd once trusted Merrick, she hadn't been able to stop the impulse to hold back from him. Lying had become so natural to her now that she hadn't really thought about it.
She passed between some trees and glanced around, but saw nothing.
Besides, if she was honest, if there was any night for there to have been a need for her to tell him, it probably wasn't tonight. She would've been out hunting for Fork Guy regardless, given Angel's tip, and after the incident at the docks, she wasn't sure she would've wanted him here. He'd gotten lucky with the apple strudels, but she didn't want to be banking on luck. It had frightened her when that shelf had collapsed, when she didn't know where he was or what had happened to him, more than she'd openly admit. She didn't want anything happening to him, especially if it was in an effort to protect her. She didn't know if she could live with that.
“Shouldn't be out here at night, little lady.”
She jumped near out of her skin, fists coming up.
“It's dangerous,” the bum continued, oblivious, as he emerged from the gloom. He reeked of alcohol and cigarettes, and she glanced between him and his bagged bottle as he moved past. She didn't look back at him as he walked away, instead resuming her foliage scanning. She couldn't remember the last time she'd felt threatened by another human being, though she couldn't help but think pre-Slayer Buffy would've been terrified right now.
Her attention caught on a pile of something on the ground, and she started forward again, breaking into a jog when she recognized it as human. She sunk to her knees beside the body, but she realized a moment later that it wasn't a body; that he was just another homeless guy, alive and sleeping.
She got back up. Resumed the hunt. Minutes passed. Five. Ten. She passed a hundred trees and a whole lot of nothing.
Maybe Fork Guy had moved on. This wasn't exactly prime monster territory, despite its residential proximity. Most seasoned vamps stayed away from the cemetery and the parks, preferring to nest somewhere with a few working electrical outlets and possibly a cable, or, failing that, somewhere underground. Then again, she couldn't imagine a vamp who'd cut off his own hand and replaced it with a fork cared too much for creature comforts. Maybe he'd found a little hole somewhere.
She paused, spotting something that looked off about the bush in front of her. Because it wasn't a bush; it was a branch. And it was covering something. Starting forward again, she grabbed ahold of it and shifted it aside.
Aha, a sew—
Something leaped out at her, and she yelped, scrambling back. The thing took a swing at her, and she ducked, hearing something hard and metal sing over her head, and then she was back up and hitting it in the gut, then the back. It fell out into the moonlight, and it was then that she realized it was indeed Fork Guy, and then he swung at her again with his fork, which wasn't a fork at all, but a few giant claws. She delivered a hard backhand punch, hit him with a kick, then another punch, dodged, another kick. Her heart was a hard staccato in her ear.
He rushed her, and she swung him over her back, then quickly grabbed her stake from her coat as he landed. She went down with it pointed directly at his chest, but he rolled aside at the last moment, and her stake thumped harmlessly into the ground.
They scrambled back to their feet at the same time, and she kicked him again. He went rolling away. She'd dropped her stake.
“Hold it! Police!”
Her blood froze, and she whirled to see a flashlight and several dark figures just over the hill.
Oh, god, cops.
They were talking, but they hadn't spotted her or the vamp, though she realized when she turned back that it had already made a run for it. She glanced back to check the cops again, then moved to follow it, not sure as she did whether she was truly making chase or just running away. She could hear it crashing through the undergrowth, but it was moving faster than her in the dark. She didn't hear the cops anymore.
The thought of them spurred her on, and within a moment she'd spotted fencing, and then Claw Guy beyond it, on the other side. And another figure. A woman.
She gripped the fence, unsure if she'd be able to get over it in time.
And then the woman turned. It was Natalie French, the sub bio teacher.
Buffy was about to launch herself over the fence when she heard the vamp hiss, and then to her amazement he was running away, and French was watching him go, calm as could be. Claw Guy lifted a sewer grate and disappeared within, and Buffy stared at French as she walked away as if absolutely nothing had happened, still holding her groceries.
She stood there, floored, for once at an utter loss. She'd seen some weird stuff during her time as the Slayer, but this was beyond weird. Why the hell would a guy with razors for a hand be afraid of a substitute teacher? He certainly hadn't been afraid of her, and she was the Slayer.
Then again, something was off about the woman. She'd sensed that from the start.
And this pretty much upped it from suspicion to holy-crappy-ness.
She started at the voice, realizing it was a cop and that he was close, too close for her to vault the fence. She started running again, along the fence, all thoughts of French melting away. She hadn't forgotten a second of her time with the LAPD. Suddenly she was a little scared. She wished she'd followed Claw Guy into the sewer. Him she could handle.
She didn't head deeper into the park, instead running just inside the tree line until she found concrete. She had yet to have an encounter with the Sunnydale PD, and she wanted to forestall that moment for as long as possible.
Checking around, she stepped out onto the concrete, eyes on the exit. She had kicked it back up to a run when a voice stopped her cold.
A light hit her face, and then a cop emerged from the shadow of an entry pillar.
“What're you doing out here so late?” she asked her, looking her over. Her fingers were hovering just above her belt. She was wearing one of those hats.
“Was out for a run,” Buffy said automatically, knowing she wouldn't buy it, heart hammering in her throat. She remembered Bennett and the hospital and the precinct, her parents' faces when they'd left her at New Horizons.
She was going to run.
“Really?” the cop said, stepping toward her. “A midnight run?”
“Yeah,” she replied, tensing for the sprint. “Who doesn't like a moonlit park?”
“What's your name?” she took another step.
Instead of replying, Buffy flashed forward, aiming directly for the nearest pillar. She could hear the cop shouting something as she wall-jumped it, then vaulted over the top of the fence. She hit the ground hard, but she paused for barely a breath before flooring it, running full tilt for the other side of the street and the houses. Any sort of cover. She jumped over a picket fence and into a yard, then went over another fence and past a hedge, across another street. No one was pursuing her, but she couldn't seem to stop, every last nerve screaming for home.
She ran for a long time, half the town it seemed like, until she finally stopped, collapsing into a random street tree. Her house was a few blocks away, but she was out of breath, and her heart felt like it was going to explode in her chest. Her thoughts turned over in tandem with its beat.
She had made it. She hadn't been caught. She was safe.
Her brain snagged on the last word. Safe.
She kept repeating it to herself.
Safe. Safe. Safe.
Exhaling, she pushed off the tree, starting forward again at a normal person's pace. There were no sirens, no flashing lights. All was quiet and clear. She could feel her heart slow, could feel the heat slowly unfurling from her muscles.
By the time she'd reached her house, the panic had mostly faded away, though she made her way up to the roof a bit more hurriedly than perhaps she normally would. It wasn't until she'd finally climbed inside and shut her window that she felt completely secure again, and shortly thereafter she dropped heavily onto her bed, to stare blankly at the ceiling, to rewind the last half hour of her life, the chase and the flight.
And then she remembered French again, and Dr. Gregory.
If not Claw Guy, and she was pretty much convinced at this point that he was a check off the suspect column, then who had murdered him?
She kept seeing French's face through the fencing, the way she'd looked at the vamp like he was a fly in her potato salad and she wasn't going to bother with the swatter.
Could it be...?
If the Hellmouth could attract a body-swapping witch and a master vampire, a human-shaped demon wasn't exactly a shot from left field.
She closed her eyes. Let out a long breath. Wondered at what point she'd gone from Vampire Slayer to Mulder.