Last story part before I "go dark" to deal with the computer. If my computer doesn't do its impression of a paperweight tonight, I'll try sneak online to try to respond to comments. Hopefully, I'll also be able to sneak in my links to this story for the Un-Fic-A-Thon tomorrow. My window of opportunity seems to be pretty limited right now before the computer goes nuts.
Continued from Part 4
Kennedy stood in the middle of the swirling crowd. Her gaze swept over the women in their chic dresses and impractical shoes and the men in their smart threads and perfectly coiffed hair. Here and there her eyes rested on people who seemed slightly off from the normal human template, but those targets for various reasons were dismissed.
The goal was to find a vulnerable target, one she could easily to take down and intimidate into giving her information about the local demonic landscape on the false promise she’d let it live. She wasn’t afraid of a tough fight, but she suspected she was signing up for a night of tough fighting, so she might as well start easy, gather some information, and then build up to a big finish.
Then, right at dawn, she’d take some trophies of her kills back to Buffy’s apartment, throw them in Buffy’s face, and let Her Highness know just what she thought of Buffy falling down on the job. She couldn’t wait to see the look on the Golden Girl’s face when she got a load of her confirmed kills.
Maybe if she kept up the pace all week, she could convince the Council to let her set up shop right here in Rome. Maybe they’d even decide to set up a house here and put her in charge as lead Slayer right under Buffy’s party girl nose. Once all those new Slayers got a load of Buffy’s lifestyle, the gossip vine would take care of the rest. She’d have to ship up and start pulling her weight, or she’d have to watch her rep get trashed.
Either way suited Kennedy just fine.
She finally spotted a likely target. This guy was a little too copper-colored to be real. As he passed her with a hot redhead on his arm, he laughed in a way that showed his double-rowed, pointed teeth. It took a moment for Kennedy to register what she saw. The redhead looked like a perfectly normal human and not a demon. So what the hell was a woman like that be doing on the arm of a guy with teeth like that?
Kennedy turned and followed her quarry, using every Rio-honed tracking skill at her disposal to keep them in sight without getting too close. She noted that the demon didn’t seem to have any obvious in-built weapons aside from the teeth, like claws or a tail. Although he moved with light grace as he squired his companion through the crowd, Kennedy noted that he didn’t seem all that muscular either.
They soon broke away from the main parade of party people and headed for one of the narrow streets branching off the main thoroughfare. As the couple walked ahead, Kennedy cursed. The street was more shadowed than the better-lit main road, but there were still plenty of open restaurants with a handful of people drifting between the welcoming open doors.
It wasn’t an ideal place for a Slay, but her chances of losing her quarry just increased. He could duck into one of the eateries with his redhead, which meant that Kennedy would be forced to either give up or wait for them to emerge. If they were using it as a shortcut to somewhere else, it could pose just as big a problem. While she doubted she’d lose them in the shadows, she had no idea where this street went. If it dumped out into another large thoroughfare, she could lose them in the crowd on that street before she could catch up.
She didn’t have much of a choice. It was now or never.
The couple paused by one of the arched doorways. As the demon leaned down to his companion to either eat her or kiss her, Kennedy struck. She shot forward, hooked an arm around the demon’s midsection, and slammed it into a solid wall. The woman let out a scream as the demon slumped, forcing Kennedy to spare the woman a quick glance and issue the barked order, “Run!”
The woman let out another scream when Kennedy yanked a stake out of her boot before finally doing what she was told.
“What?” the demon wheezed a question.
The scream distracted the Slayer enough that she was unprepared for the tackle. She fell to the ground with a yell while a reedy male voice hollered, “I’ve got it! I’ve got it! Run!”
Kennedy roughly shoved off whoever tackled her and flipped to her feet. She scanned around her and saw that several pedestrians were now staring in her direction.
Her quarry had disappeared.
“Sorry! Sorry!” her attacker said as he crawled to his feet. He held his shaky hands up as he turned in a circle. “Lover’s quarrel! Jealous ex-girlfriend! Sorry!”
“Andrew! You putz!” Kennedy yelled.
People around them seemed to get the gist of Andrew’s quick explanation. Kennedy saw some people exchange amused glances and a few more shake their heads as they all went back to the serious business of enjoying the nightlife.
Andrew turned around and beamed a worried smile at Kennedy. “Buffy needs to talk to you.”
“I bet she does,” Kennedy growled as she tucked her stake back into her boot. “So Rome’s a no-Slay zone, is that it?”
Andrew actually seemed to relax. “Yes, yes. That’s right. You can’t Slay anyone because…because—look Buffy really, really needs to talk to you right now.”
“Fuck you, Andrew.” Kennedy said as she stood up. “The only reason why Buffy doesn’t want me Slaying is because Buffy doesn’t want me playing in her sandbox.”
Andrew tensed and started nervously waving his arms around. “This isn’t what you think. There’s special circumstances—”
“Buffy is a special circumstance,” Kennedy snarled. “I barely know her and even I can tell you her life is a special circumstance because she’s Buffy. She can freakin’ slack off while the rest of us do her job.”
“You’re really, really mad, which, I’m, ummm, not blaming you,” Andrew stuttered.
“Mad? Mad doesn’t even cover it, you loser.” Kennedy poked a finger in Andrew’s chest, forcing him to stumble back a few steps. “Buffy’s doing jack, coasting along, and partying hardy while some really dangerous creeps are walking the streets doing god knows what to god knows who.”
“Buffy cares! She cares more than you’ll ever know!” Andrew protested hotly.
“No. She. Doesn’t,” Kennedy emphasized. “I can see it with my own eyes. I’ve been here less than a day and I can see just how much Buffy cares about people who aren’t her.”
“Kennedy, please,” Andrew begged in a low voice. “Why don’t you come back to the apartment? Buffy will explain everything. You can’t go around Slaying in Rome.”
“Afraid I’ll kill one of her friends?” Kennedy asked. “We all know she lets murderers slide if they kiss her ass enough, right Andrew?”
Andrew’s chin began to waver. “Kennedy, please—”
“Time to see who’s the real Slayer around here,” Kennedy said.
“Listen! You have no idea what’s going on!” Andrew sounded desperate now. “There’s a whole James Bond, I mean Pussy Galore—wait, no—I mean something you don’t know that’s really, really important and—”
Kennedy thrust her face forward, forcing Andrew to stumble back some more. “Andrew, if Buffy was really doing anything but sitting on her ass, you wouldn’t be here.”
“You’re a useless twink, you know that Andrew?” Kennedy shot at him.
While Andrew tried to come up with a comeback, Kennedy ran out of the narrow street dove into the crowd on the broad thoroughfare. She could hear Andrew’s voice calling after her, but she had no interest in hearing what he had to say.
So, Buffy’s got a live-and-let-live deal with the demons around here? They get to be evil to their hearts’ content while they let her party? Time for me to alter that deal, she furiously thought.
Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap, Andrew thought as he chased after Kennedy’s retreating back and yelled her name.
He’d just popped back on to the main road when he was grabbed by the arm and dragged back. He yelped helplessly as the demon Kennedy had attacked leaned down into his face.
“What was that, little man?” he growled.
Andrew’s knees turned to jelly. Oh, god. Of all the demons for Kennedy to attack, it had to be this one. “Signore Caleffi,” his voice trembled.
“I asked you a question.”
“I don’t know,” Andrew squeaked.
“I seem to recall that you knew her name.” The undertone of a threat wove through Caleffi’s accented and smooth voice.
“Hurting me. Ow,” Andrew protested as he mentally hunted for a story that would keep Buffy safe, keep Kennedy safe, and keep Caleffi from ripping his throat out.
Caleffi loosened his grip, but didn’t let go.
“I am so, so, sorr—are you alright?” Andrew asked.
Caleffi frowned at him. “I was momentarily stunned, but I am otherwise fine. My lady for the evening, however, has disappeared. I spent weeks wooing her before she’d agree to join me for dinner. It’s very difficult to engage in the art of seduction while the object of your affection is, shall we say, at that time in her breeding cycle.”
Andrew convulsively swallowed. He knew what Caleffi ate, thanks to the fact that Buffy “fed” him three days out of the month. Buffy hated doing it almost as much as she hated Caleffi. The demon was a braggart who believed he was more important than he actually was in Rome’s demon community, but he knew a lot of people and a significant amount of the gossip. Small fish he was, but he was a small fish with connections to really big fish and an information goldmine. That meant that Buffy needed to stay on his good side.
If Buffy were here, she could charm her way out it.
Andrew knew that charm wasn’t in his arsenal, but he did know how to spin a story. Time to start spinning for all he was worth.
“Well, I do know who attacked you. Sort of. Her name’s Kennedy. She’s, ummm, a guest of Buffy’s. Kind of.”
Caleffi seemed shocked. “Are you telling me that Signorina Summers has allowed a working Slayer to come to Rome?”
“No! No! Of course not!” Andrew had his hands up. “Kennedy is a…ummm…she’s quit the Council. Then she ran away. She just kind of showed up because she knew Buffy wouldn’t turn her in because, you know, Buffy severed all ties with the Council over that little incident. You remember. Anyway, Kennedy contacted her while she was in South America somewhere. Unh, that would be Kennedy was in South America and not Buffy. She told Buffy that she didn’t want to Slay anymore but the Council was making her, so she ran away. Buffy felt so bad that she said Kennedy could hide out with her for awhile until Kennedy could figure out her next step. If Kennedy didn’t say she was through with Slaying, Buffy would’ve never let her come to Rome.”
“Ahhhhh.” Caleffi’s considering look had taken on a reptilian sheen. “So there appears to be a change of heart.”
Andrew dropped his voice. “I swear, we thought she was serious about quitting. Or maybe Buffy wanted to believe it. You know how much she hates the Council. And she really felt bad for Kennedy. I guess the Council really abused her. I heard they used Kennedy in these psychological experiments, sort of like The Manchurian Candidate, only without Denzel Washington to step in and save the day before they messed with Kennedy’s head.”
Caleffi placed a hand over his heart, “Signorina Summers’s heart is too soft. It is a wonder she survived her enslavement to the Council.”
Andrew nodded and hoped his mournful face was a good answer.
Caleffi’s moment of sympathy passed as quickly as it appeared. “What is your mistress planning to do about this?”
“Find out what happened. Buffy’s looking for her right now, which is why I’m here. I’m going to be calling her, I mean Buffy. On my cell. Buffy’s looking for her somewhere else that isn’t here. Anyway, when we find Kennedy, Buffy’ll talk to her. If she has to, she’ll lock Kennedy up until we can figure out what the Council did to her. Buffy really wants to get to the bottom of this, especially if the Council has found a new way to crack the whip.”
“I see,” Caleffi nodded. “Surely Signorina Summers spoke to your Kennedy when she arrived. Has your mistress not had a chance to explain the rules to her guest?”
“Buffy was, ummm, detained and wasn’t able to greet Kennedy herself when Kennedy showed up. Kennedy isn’t even supposed to be here yet. She was supposed to come in next week, but I guess some Council agents found out where she was and she hopped on the first flight to Rome. Buffy had no idea she was coming early, so no welcoming party to explain the rules.” Andrew’s voice dropped low. “Buffy’s really busy right now. A guest. You know, one those she can’t afford to blow off. I mean, she is blowing—I mean, she couldn’t leave him alone. I mean—”
Caleffi’s aggressive stance relaxed as Andrew dangled the promise of gossip about Buffy in front of the demon’s nose. Andrew almost passed out from relief when the demon started chuckling. Gossip was Caleffi’s drug of choice and sharing it was the way he gained entry into some of the better clubs in Rome.
Andrew hoped he could match Caleffi’s expectations, otherwise, dead Buffy, dead Kennedy, dead Xander, and definitely ripped-out-throat him.
“Oh my dear Andrew. I will not force you to tell me the signorina’s amorous adventures.” Caleffi immediately sobered. “But do tell me, anyone within my acquaintance?”
Andrew shook his head so hard it was a blur. “No. No. Not even from the city. Human, besides.” He immediately winced. That was a little too much information. He didn’t want to give away that the Council’s top Watcher and one of its biggest heroes was staying with Buffy. He had to think fast.
“Human?” Caleffi sounded horrified at the idea. “She’ll be bored of him within days! What can a human possibly offer to someone with Signorina Summers’s great talents and sense of adventure?”
“Ummmm, some really good stock tips. Insider trading. You know Buffy. She’s got a plan to secure her financial, unh, security. As well as her physical, unh, security.” Andrew silently thanked the memory of Anya for the inspiration. “She doesn’t trust the Council to keep their word to leave her alone, so she’s working on some plans.”
“Plans?” Caleffi’s ears were practically pricking.
“Can’t say,” Andrew quickly said. “My contract won’t let me. Not that I know all that much.”
Caleffi grinned, obviously because he was looking forward to finding out more about these plans in the future. “Such a flower, Signorina Summers. Always an eye for the advantage. No wonder the Council fears crossing her. Still, she cannot hope to find satisfaction with a mere human, now that she’s tasted the delights Rome has to offer.”
“You’re right,” Andrew’s head blur was now a nod. “I think she’s already bored. I think he’ll be gone within the next few days. But I heard he’s a real Viking in the sack.”
“Vikings.” Caleffi rolled his eyes. “Yes, I do believe that says it all. No finesse, such creatures. They are merely brutes who descend upon one, swiftly enter, plunder the best, and then leave, mindful of no satisfaction but their own.”
“I think he’s nice,” Andrew said in a tiny voice.
“Andrew, Andrew, Andrew,” Caleffi placed an arm around Andrew’s shoulder. “You keep painting an ever-darker picture of the signorina’s current favorite. Whatever shall she say if she heard you so cavalierly discussing her private affairs?”
“She’d be really, really mad at me for telling you that she was entertaining a guest.” Andrew was almost hyperventilating. “Unh, once we get the Kennedy situation settled, I’m sure she’ll be calling on you. In fact, I’m positive. Ninety-nine percent, in fact.”
Caleffi placed a hand over his heart and nearly swooned. “Such great compliments shall have me walking on the air itself until I hear her melodious voice inviting me for a private dinner in her apartments. I look forward to getting reacquainted,” here Caleffi leaned forward and favored the quailing Andrew with a toothy grin, “with her smell.”
He suddenly let Andrew go and straightened his clothes. “Ahhhh, it appears I must work harder for my feeding this evening. No matter. I shall merely follow my nose to some likely candidates. I only hope she won’t be too horrifying to look at.”
Andrew leaned against the wall with relief. “Have I said I’m really, really sorry?”
Caleffi waved a careless hand. “Deal with this unfortunate situation, and no apology will be necessary. Give my regards to Signorina Summers.” On that note, he swam into the crowd.
Andrew swallowed and let out a sigh. It worked. Buffy’d be furious that he just set her up with Caleffi and that she’d have to elaborate on his story that she had “plans” to outfox the Council, but once she calmed down, she’d forgive him.
Assuming she didn’t reach through her cell phone to kill him when he called to tell her that he found Kennedy and then lost her again.