Notes and disclaimers: Buffyverse, etc, property of large corporate entities, not me. No profit garnered here ever. Thanks to Tigs for beta magic. Title from Kristin Hersh.



AND WHEN YOU SHAKE THE DOGS HOWL




There's magic here and magic's weird
Look, this is you

Head in the clouds, feet underground,
And when you shake the dogs howl
I'm gonna live forever - Kristin Hersh

"I had no idea they made colored mascara," he said. It wasn't the best way to deal with all the awkward tension in the room, but Connor lacked Angel's experience. Now that Connor was thinking about it, Angel just would have brooded and stared out the window.

Buffy said, "I'm sorry, what?"

"Your mascara is blue. Cause I know your eyelashes aren't, but they are. They aren't naturally blue. It's pretty." He smiled and knew it looked like exactly what it was: the nervous smile of the prey hoping the predator wouldn't notice they were juicy, good-tasting and mostly scared. Not that Buffy was like that towards him. Mostly, when they had met in the past, she ignored him to talk to Angel or Spike. Or pretended she wasn't speaking to Angel or Spike and spoke to Wesley. Once she had told him his t-shirt was funny.

"Yeah," Buffy said, "I had other plans for tonight, believe it or not. Not that I don't always strive to look good for pointless demon hunts."

"Oh, me, too," Connor said. "The lots of other plans, I don't really care how I look for this part."

"I was going to read one of those Gossip Girls books that I pretend to buy for my much younger sister or possibly go to You-goober and watch old figure skating performances," Buffy said. She smiled and hers looked natural. "But I had a lunch with my sister and that's always a battle of cute. So, blue mascara because she totally can't wear it."

"You're cute battling with your sister. Did you win?"

"I think she did. She's a college student and her hair is perfect and shiny and she's somehow taller than me. And she looks like she gets ten hours of sleep every night and so I wanted to look better somehow. Unfortunately her ankle boots took no prisoners," Buffy said. She shrugged. "You know."

"That's not the kind of rivalry I have with my sister," he said. The awkward tension was at least gone. They were just two not very ordinary people, meeting in an abandoned warehouse, following the same dead end trail. Connor was going to have to stop answering the phone when Angel called. "Hey," he said, "Who sent you here?"

"My own hard work? I was following a trail. A slimy trail left by a mostly green demon with four legs. You?"

"Angel called. Well, actually, it was Wes. They said they had some spell that was tracking this demon. I was a little confused because nothing smells like demon. But here we are. And this place has been deserted for weeks," he said. "Would it be wrong if I just went home? I have work tomorrow. I have work in seven hours, actually."

"I thought you were in college. Super smart college that Angel could not stop mentioning to me. My child I sold the world to save goes to Stanford," Buffy said, glancing around the warehouse.

"I was. Then I graduated," Connor said. "There's no one in here besides us. I think we both have bad intel. Also, I don't think he sold the world exactly. He's not David Bowie."

She said, "What do you do? Please say it's something that will give me a discount at Nordstrom's or Zappos. I just found out I need ankle boots."

He rubbed his hands together, looked around again and really didn't see anything. Then he said, "I'm a cop."

"Huh," she said. "All my career planning tests in high school said I should do that. They might have been manipulated by the clan of assassins out to kill me at the career fair. But the uniforms you have to wear as a beat cop are super unflattering. Also, I didn't graduate college if that´s important, I hate guns and some people think I'm short. Which is why I work at restaurant and go to college part-time now so now I'm losing the battle of being accomplished. Two losses in one day. I really wish there was a demon here for me to kill." She laughed.

"With tips, being a waitress pays better than I'm making," he said. "I just got out of the academy. Anyway, I'm heading home. I, uh, drove, so if you need a ride, I'd be happy to."

"You don't even know where I live," she said. "Right, you don't, do you?"

"You can give directions, right?"

Thankfully she could give directions and she actually lived pretty close to Connor's apartment so it wasn't too inconvenient. He gave her his phone number so she could tell him if the stupid demon ever showed up. Then he sent Wes an email with a quick update ending with "thanks for calling me with that hot tip!!1!"

*

Buffy called a week later. He said, "Is that about that thing?"

"You're at the Ye Olde Donut shop right now, aren't you? So you can't talk."

"I'm in a coffee shop, on my break, so yes. Also they don't even sell donuts here." He was actually having a muffin and a mocha.

"And I wasn't calling about the demon," she said. "I was actually calling because I had a question for you. Can you do anything about parking tickets, by the way?"

"No, I can't help you with your parking tickets." His partner BethAnn heard that and rolled her eyes at him.

"Dawn made me ask. Girl thinks she's too smart to read signs," Buffy said. "I don't drive. So I'm not a parker. Or an illegal parker, unlike some people who can't stop mentioning their SATs. Did you know they've totally raised the SAT scores? When I took them, 1400 was really high. Now it's apparently the kind of score you get for spelling your name right. I was calling to ask maybe if we could have lunch sometime? There are three Slayers in this town and it would be cool to know a cop who understands the fanged and horned part of the population of do-badders."

"Oh, um. Sure. There are three?" He wandered away from his partner, waving to indicate he was heading outside to wait for her. "I didn't know that. I didn't know you were in town until last week."

"Well, you get your info from Angel, we're not sharing is caring with him. The other Slayers in town are not getting along types. One's fifteen, one's twenty-six, they don't play well with each other, I'm here to mediate and whatever, keep them separated. I guess I'm the most experienced at dealing with 'my slayer, my enemy' drama. Well, the one who dealt with it without going evil and then seeking amends after coma times," she said.

"Okay," he said. "Look, I'll call you when my shift is over, okay? And I'll try to stop using okay in every sentence."

"Okay," she said. "I'll wait by the phone."

*

Buffy played with her chop sticks and said, "Convenient tools for staking and eating. Brilliant invention." She put them down and reached for his wrist. "Is this fake?"

"No," he said. "Actual medical alert and everything. I have an allergy." He liked it, as weird that would sound if he said it to anyone.

"Peanuts? Gluten is the new trendy one. I mean, not trendy like people are choosing it, but I hear it a lot lately at the restaurant."

"Pencillin," he said. "And many many other antibiotics. If you're going to have an allergy that will kill you, it's the one to get."

"Because you only get it from doctors. Not like gluten, that's everywhere. I think it's even in the chopsticks," she said. "But what if I went to the bathroom and got that antibiotic soap and threw it all over you? Which I might do if this isn't good Chinese food."

"I'm pretty sure I'd be okay," he said. "Plus, it's antibacterial, not antibiotic. You know that stuff is bad, right?"

"Do you really care? Not like you'll be taking it," she said. He was impressed that she could sound so mean and it was always so charming.

"I care about other people," he said.

"Because otherwise you probably wouldn't be a cop," she said. "Unless you really like guns and unflattering uniforms."

"I'm not a fan of either of those things," Connor said. "I won't wear a uniform forever. Hopefully."

When their food came, Buffy said, "I called you here because I was feeling like we should network. So, seen any demons lately? Do you just stick with the regular human version of bad?"

"I've seen a few. Mostly, I deal with those after work. Go back to them."

"See, now you can call me. Who ya gonna call?"

Connor said, "I can deal with most of it."

"Wasn't saying otherwise," she said. "This isn't America's Next Top Demon Killer. There's no Tyra standing there with someone else's picture if you don't personally get rid of them all."

"Do you often compare your calling to a reality show about modeling? Cause that's a little, well, actually, it's pretty you."

Buffy smiled. "I bet Janice Dickinson is a demon, though."

"I'm way more suspicious of Tyra," he said.

*

The smell of blood was making Connor nearly gag. And he had to concentrate and look normal and get his partner to walk over to the alley where they would be able to see whomever had died or was dying. He really hated being incredibly oversensitive to the smell of blood. He said, "Was that the alley where we saw those kids, with the pipes?"

BethAnn shrugged and said, "Wanna walk by again?"

"Can't hurt," Connor said. He let her lead.

Then she said "Fuck," and turned the corner quickly. He thought about not looking, but that was the point, after all, of being a cop. Always look, be ready to help. He tried to take a deep breath but then the smell was back. So there was nothing left to do but walk into the alley.

It was a dead woman, with a hole in her chest, right where you'd stake a vampire. His partner was squatting by the body, feeling the neck. "Dead," she said. She carefully stepped back from the body. "I'll, I'll call it in."

"I'll stand here," he said.

He had every excuse to look nauseated now, staring down at a dead body. But it was already passing, he was used to the smell. Part of him was already sorting out everything else in the alley. People, human piss, rotting food and a demon of some sort. He heard footsteps from the other end of the alley and looked up.

"Buffy?"

She shoved her stake in her bag and walked up to him. She said, "What are you doing here?" Then she saw the body. She staggered and he held her at the waist so she didn't fall. She said, "Grace."

"Your, your friend," he said. He had to think for a second, but Grace was one of the Slayers. She'd said that. The Slayer she knew, the one that was 26.

Buffy still didn't look like she was up for standing, so he held on to her arm. She kind of crumbled against him and he patted her back. She didn't start crying but her grip on his arm tightened enough that it might have hurt if he were someone else. He kept patting her back and felt inadequate.

BethAnn said, "Reilly?"

"This is my friend, Buffy," he said. "She knows the, uh, woman here."

Buffy stood straight and pushed away from him. She clasped her hands together in front of her chest and sighed. She said, "Her name's Grace. Linkletter. She's a librarian. At the library. Which is how I knew her. We were supposed to meet tonight, around here."

"You'll need to talk to the detectives when they come," his partner said. "You should probably step away from the, uh, area."

Connor said, "Let's go sit down over there. It should be out of the way."

When they were out on the curb, Buffy whispered, "Was it a vampire?"

"No," he said. She was sitting on the curb, hugging her knees. "I didn't," he said, "I didn't smell vampire. And we got there about ten, fifteen minutes after that. Plus, it looked like, um, one blow. I think she was staked. So, someone pretty strong. Probably. There was definitely a demon there, but not something I've run into before."

"Okay," she said. She rested her cheek against her knees, looking away from him and all he could see of her was hair. "We were just going to get dinner and patrol. I don't know why she was early."

He rubbed her back for a minute and she let him. Then she shrugged him off and sat back, looking back at him. "I'm really tired of seeing dead Slayers," she said quietly.

"I'm sorry," he said.

Then the detectives and the ambulance and the coroners' van all arrived at the same time and she stood up to be questioned.

*

It was easy to find Buffy at the funeral and she scooted over when she saw him so he could sit next to her. She patted his hand and mouthed "thank you."

Buffy's sister was sitting next to her on the other side. She leaned across Buffy and whispered, "Do the police know anything?"

Connor shrugged. "I wouldn't know. The detective's here, in the back row. You can ask him after."

Buffy frowned. "I don't think he'll be telling me what we need to know."

Connor looked over his shoulder at the detective assigned to the case. Everybody said he was a good guy and a smart guy. "If it's not a demon, Troster will find who did it," he said. Troster was the one they'd had lead the case when a police officer was killed in his own house right after Connor started on the force.

He remembered the funeral, all pomp and circumstance. It seemed like Slayers should have something like that. He said, "Are there other Slayers here, for the funeral?"

"We're doing our thing tonight," Buffy said. She kept looking straight ahead, her eyes dry.

*

When he drove up to the restaurant, Buffy was sitting outside with another girl, both of them dressed for waitressing. He wished her restaurant went for something more like short skirts and tight shirts, but instead it was all black slacks and blouses. He stopped right in front of them and rolled down the window. "Hey," he said, "You called."

"I was hoping you'd bring the police car," Buffy said. "Gretchen doesn't believe you're really a cop."

"I don't own that car, you know. I don't get to take it home."

Gretchen said, "I told you. Do you at least have a badge? Cause that time you were here, you look way too scrawny to be a cop. No offense."

"None taken," Connor said. "I guess." He got out of the car and showed her his badge. Buffy took it after Gretchen tested it with her teeth to make sure it was real.

"Told you so," Buffy said. "And also, ew. You don't know where that badge has been."

Connor took it back. "Mostly, it's been on my shirt, you know, when I'm working." He still wiped it off after grabbing it from Buffy. "Do you really need a ride home?"

"I really need a ride home," Buffy said. "But we should wait because Gretchen's ride isn't here yet."

Connor said, "No problem," and sat down on the bench with them. "So, how was work?"

"Dull," Gretchen said.

"Dull to the dullest power of dullsville, frankly," Buffy said. Despite that, they both had a lot of stories to tell for the next fifteen minutes before Gretchen's boyfriend finally pulled up.

"Okay, sorry, I didn't realize you'd have to hear the whole epic of working in a large Italian restaurant. But I couldn't exactly ask you the questions I want to with her here."

Connor pulled out of the parking lot. "So you didn't really need the ride, you just want to know about the murder investigation."

"No, I actually have no way of getting home. But I could have gotten a ride with Gretchen's boyfriend," Buffy said.

"Well, they have nothing. She was killed with her stake which the killer took with them. I mean, they don't know it's her stake, but they know it was a wooden stake. They can't find anyone with a motive and they don't know why she was early to meeting with you. I think the big worry is that it's the first strike of a serial killer, maybe. But stranger killings are pretty hard to solve," he said.

"We're not having any luck either. And we've got a lot of pissed off Slayers and Watchers and two pissed off witches. And still nothing. Generally, you kill a Slayer, we kill you back. Especially in the last few years," Buffy said. She rubbed her forehead. "You think maybe they're holding back some important detail in case a nutjob confesses and you just don't know it?"

"I'm sure they are, but I'm nowhere near the, you know, height on the food chain I need to be to know what that is. Sorry."

Buffy sighed. "Okay, well, thanks anyway. Wanna come in and watch a bad reality show about designers on my TiVo?"

"You think Project Runway is bad?" After she finished laughing, he said, "Sure. But I can't stay too long, you know, work in the morning."

"Well, I'm sleepy, too. But if I don't watch Project Runway tonight, Dawn deletes it so there's more room for her History channel documentaries and America's Next Top Model marathons." Buffy frowned. "It's very frustrating. Just because she doesn't have her own TV at her dorm room, she thinks she can come by all the time and watch mine."

"And if she didn't, you'd think of something else to make her come by all the time," he said.

"I'll never tell," Buffy said.

*

BethAnn said, "You heard about the new one, right?"

"New what?"

"Another one killed like the woman we found, the one your girlfriend knew."

"She's not my girlfriend," Connor said. "They're sure it was the same killer?"

"They're waiting on forensics," BethAnn said. "But yeah, looks like."

Connor hadn't heard shit. "When did this happen?"

"This morning. That's when the body was found. I heard right before you came in. And you would have if you weren't nearly late," she said, smiling. "Why were you nearly late again?"

"Nothing to do with Buffy," he said. He'd had a phone call from Angel about nothing, but it still took forever to get him off the phone. Connor had long ago lost the ability to be rude to Angel. "I should call her, when we know for sure."

"I imagine the detectives will tell her. When they go ask her if she knows the second victim, where she was, all that."

He waited until after his shift was over to call Buffy. She told him to come over for the big confab at her place.

"She wasn't a Slayer, she wasn't anything," Dawn said. "The new one. None of us know her."

The 15 year old Slayer, Jana, said, "So we're sure it was a demon. Cause it seems like, you know, the least likely suspect would be the right one."

"On TV," Buffy said. "Dawn, can you ram a stake into someone's heart? Non-Slayer people aren't that strong."

"If you get between the ribs," Dawn said, "It's just parts. Flesh. That sounds gross, but you know I'm right."

Connor said, "Is there something to eat? I haven't had dinner yet."

"Barbeque ribs," Buffy said, rolling her eyes. "You have nothing to contribute?"

"If you asked me over because you think I have secret police info, you asked the wrong guy." Connor shrugged. "But Dawn's right, you don't have to be special to do these killings."

"That's super helpful," Dawn said. She sighed. "We´re nowhere, Buffy."

Jana said, "Is there really barbeque?"

*

"You know," Buffy said, "your deathly allergy is probably because allergies are the immune system going blind and attacking itself, like a bomber with bad targeting or something. And yours is super mystical vampire like, so any allergy would be deathly. And you're probably allergic to penicillin because you didn't get exposed to it when you were in that place. The hellish one."

"Thanks," Connor said. "Did you ask me to lunch to, to analyze my health or something?"

She rubbed her forehead. "No. Sorry, bad Buffy. I didn't mean to offend. Which I clearly did."

"Don't worry about it." He understood why she was pissed off. There had been one more murder and now the demon/person/whomever was up to three. And they were happening closer together. Her being pissed off wasn't anything compared to the detectives downtown. Task forces were being formed, Connor heard. He didn't even try to tell her.

"I was just thinking," Buffy said. "I was thinking about you." She smiled. "And I also realized you are completely nuts and totally love your allergy because it makes you feel all normal. Which you aren't."

"This is really fun," Connor said. "You better be paying for lunch."

"You make more than me," Buffy said.

"You get paid by the Council and your restaurant. Plus, you're being an ass."

"I'm not being an ass, I'm being a bitch." She sipped her coffee and sat back as the waitress brought their dishes. "Sorry, I'll stop. I'm feeling very combative today and you're standing there in your red shirt, sitting duck a la orange in front of me."

"Is that why you invited me out to lunch? Dawn and Jana tired of you?"

She ate one of those teeny tomatoes from the top of her salad. "That was only one of my reasons. Also, I kinda wanted to ask a favor."

"I should have ordered the fish," Connor said. "So much more expensive."

"They're actually tenting my apartment building. I thought that only happened in movies or sitcoms. But I have to find somewhere to stay for a week. And hey, I thought, I know someone who's not home all the time. And has TiVo." She pointed her fork at him. "And is totally normal, just like everyone else."

"My couch is all yours," Connor said. "I bet you're a real fun roommate."

"I'm awesome," Buffy said. "Everybody loves me, you'll see."

*

She was an okay roommate. He really wished she wore more to bed. Like possibly a burqa. BethAnn had laughed at him when he'd told her Buffy was going to stay with him. "You'll totally have to stop repressing how hot you think she is, which, by the way, I don't get."

He really, really hated when BethAnn was right. She didn't even care that much about him, they'd been stuck together. She really didn't want to break in a newbie and she always told him that. Also, she refused to talk to him about her personal life and made snide remarks about his after badgering him to talk more. Partners looked different on TV, he thought.

Buffy probably looked even hotter on TV. She looked really good right then, in her pajama pants which hung off her hips and she was possibly not even wearing underwear. Or she was, but it was that kind women owned that were made for low rise pants and stuff. Maybe it was a thong. He looked at the sink. It was empty.

"Didn't I leave my dishes in the sink this morning?"

"Sorry," Buffy said. "Were you really looking forward to washing them? Cause I had time. And I've eaten a lot of your food."

"You're eating some now," he said.

She held up the bowl to him. "You want? I know it sounds gross, but this spiced chunky apple sauce with a scoop of sour cream is actually full of incredible tangy and also yummy deliciousness."

"Is that your dessert?"

"It's my two hours before sleeping snack," Buffy said.

"You're like a hobbit," Connor said. "How many meals a day do you eat?"

"You're like a nerd. And I'm a Slayer," Buffy said. "It's awesome! Was that a yes or a no on the apple sauce sour cream combo platter?"

"It was a, huh, okay, yes. Make me some."

"The trick," Buffy said, pushing past him to open the refrigerator. "The trick is not to mix it all up so it's goop, but to keep it separate, like a garnish on your spoon."

"Okay," he said. He went back to his bedroom and stared at the bed, counting to ten. She was nearly ready to go back to her own apartment.

When he came back into the kitchen, she stood right in front of him and held up the spoon. "Try it," she said.

"I can feed myself," he said.

She put down the bowl and spoon on the counter and said, "God, you are super frustrating." She pressed up against him, grabbed his shoulders and kissed him.

It was an excellent kiss. He said, "I'm frustrating? You're the one who making me think you were totally not interested."

"I've been told I'm very confusing," Buffy said. She smiled. "My apartment really is being tented, before you ask."

"I hadn't thought of that," he said. He was mostly thinking if he had any condoms between the kitchen and his bedroom. And feeling a little bad that assumed she'd immediately go to bed with him. "We should go on a real date. Or did you think we already had?"

She laughed and started pulling him towards the couch. "I don't think we've gone on a real date, okay? One time I pretended you were my boyfriend and you didn't notice, but it was just to deal with some jerk at the restaurant. Not that I can't beat the crap out of someone but violence isn't always the solution."

"I know you don't really believe that," Connor said.

She pushed him onto the couch and climbed on top of him. "Let's just make out and stop talking," she said.

"Okay," he said.

*

"This place still smells like antkiller," Connor said. He'd only had one bite of his apple, but he threw it away.

"Great, waste my food," Buffy said, coming out of her bedroom. She tugged her robe tighter. "If we're going to watch your cartoon show that I TiVo'd for you on *my* TiVo, sitting on my couch, you're going to put some clothes on. At least a few. Underwear."

"It's not a cartoon, it's South Park," Connor said. He found his boxers near the couch and slipped them on as he sat down. He bet it looked cool. Buffy said nothing but definitely giggled. "Okay, you're being silly, we had sex on this couch. I remember, it was great."

"It was a week ago and it was the first time we had sex, so you better remember," Buffy said. "Also, there was a blanket there. Also, my sister has a key to this apartment, she could walk in at any time."

"I'm pretty sure she'd knock," Connor said. "It's not like she doesn´t know you're seeing someone."

"She even knows his name," Buffy said, sitting down next to him. "Still, I like to keep naked time and Dawn time incredibly separate. Like, different dimensions separate." She fiddled with the remote. "Does it really still smell like antkiller? It doesn't to me."

"Well, I'm more sensitive than you," he said. "I bet no one else can tell."

"Good," she said, snuggling closer. She really liked to cuddle, not that he had any objections.

"Oh, Wesley finally explained to me why we both ended up pursuing that demon, the night we met. Like, here, in town."

She said, "Was it super dull?"

"In parts. Basically it was some sort of hallucination by this particular kind of demon. Half-demon, actually. There's no purebred version of that species."

"So, wait, some human is hallucinating and therefore I saw a green demon?" She sat up and paused South Park.

"Hey, hey, we don't need Cartman to stop for me to finish explaining this." He took the remote from her and unpaused. "Anyway, yes, there's this weird clan of half demons who all basically marry each other and there's this inbreeding so about half of them go crazy at age 40. But they don't realize it, and until it's detected, they hallucinate these visual and mystical things."

"If half of your family goes crazy at 40, that's the point where I stop having kids with my brother."

"Cousin, they're inbreeding, not incesting. They're trying to keep the ratio of human to demon the same in all generations," Connor said. "I know a lot more about this clan, if you've run out of Ambien or something. Wesley did a lot of research."

"Should I worry?"

"No," Connor said. "They keep to themselves, aren't violent, and when they go crazy, they mostly just end up killing themselves by walking off buildings or whatever."

"Then I'd rather watch South Park," she said.

"I can't believe you don't like this show," he said. "Don't think I missed the sarcasm there."

*

Buffy leaned against Connor and practically sat on his lap. She said, "Can I?" and didn't wait for any answer before completely abandoning her chair for his.

"Thank you, I feel like I'm demonstrating what a great stud I am, with your help," Connor said. She had really strong thighs.

BethAnn sat down across from them with Connor's beer, her wine and Buffy's very very pink drink. "I know," Buffy said, taking hers, "but as much as Andrew is full of crap, he is right about how yummy this is."

BethAnn said, "Who's Andrew?"

"Someone full of crap I know. Well, if you think superheroes and Dr Whosit and Godzilla and Star Trek are crap. I know some people don't," Buffy said, patting Connor's shoulder. "Thanks for getting the drinks."

"My pleasure," BethAnn said. She even smiled at them. It was actually her husband coming up behind them, Connor belatedly recognized the cologne.

It was nice, even pleasant. Like adults, not double dating in high school or anything.

Buffy even had fun, she swore. "That was totally better than when we went killing vampires together last week. BethAnn's husband is so funny."

Connor said, "He really does think high heels aren't sexy, Buffy."

"You can keep saying that," Buffy said, taking his keys out of his pocket. "I hope I made a good impression."

"She definitely no longer thinks I'm gay. Though she was never, like, negative about that. She's not homophobic," Connor said. "Yes, you made a good impression. She likes you way more than me."

"I told you, people think I'm awesome." She grinned and got into the car.

*

He was walking to the car carrying his cup of coffee and BethAnn's when he saw that BethAnn was talking to the dispatcher. And looked incredibly agitated. He got in the car and handed her coffee. She was staring at him like he'd grown a second head so he said, "Is everything okay?"

"No," she said. "The wooden stake guy hit someone new this morning."

"Fuck," he said. "Male, female, what?"

"Female, she actually, she's still alive. At the hospital which is where we're going." She turned on the siren and pulled out of their parking space. Which was weird, Connor thought, since they weren't needed and they weren't part of the task force. Unless they were.

He said, "Who is it?"

"Buffy," she said. "She's in surgery. I dunno, they said it doesn't look good, but what the hell does Dispatch know, right?"

He didn't have an answer for her on that one. He rubbed his neck and sipped his coffee.

He was pretty sure he burned his tongue.

BethAnn was making really good time to the hospital but that was the plus of the sirens.

They were at the hospital and he had his hat in his hand. Funny phrase, he wasn't really asking for anything.

BethAnn pushed him past the people and there were a lot of people, smelly hospital people -- he wasn't processing any of it particularly well he realized and then thought, should he? He probably should. He should be better at personal trauma.

He was standing in front of Dawn and she said, "Thank god you're here," and hugged him hard enough he felt it.

He managed to say, "Any news?"

"Stupid news," Dawn said to his chest. "But she'll be fine, you know she'll be fine."

"I know," he said. He patted her hair.

Then he was talking to Detective Troster who was really good at his job. As much as Connor could judge the part of his job that was interrogating really upset people. Connor nearly said something about Buffy being a Slayer but he was pretty sure he covered it by being really upset.

That morning, he'd woken up and Buffy had stayed over so they'd had sex. It was weird how easily they'd settled into something easy. Staying over, keys to each other places, South Park on her TiVo, So You Think You Can Dance on his and you'd think, given it was Buffy and also he was Connor, there should have been more angst.

"What were you talking about when you left?"

Connor almost laughed. "Um, I know everything's important. Like, I'll say it's not important and you'll say you'll judge that. But she was talking about some appointment she had tomorrow – a girl thing. I mean, we were joking about her bikini wax."

"I agree that's not important," Troster said. "Do you remember where the appointment was?"

"Actually, no. It's a stupid pun name. About hair. I guess that's every spa," Connor said. "I know it's written on the calendar in her apartment. When you get in, it's on the wall by the fridge."

He wondered how many weapons and wacky mystical crap Buffy had in the apartment.

Then Troster patted his shoulder and got up and left. So Connor guessed he was off the hook and now he could go sit with Dawn. So he did. He didn't think he was actually doing so well with his dealing with trauma.

It was three hours before they heard for sure that Buffy would most likely be all right. "That means she'll be all right for sure," Dawn said to him. "They're always underestimating her. She's died twice, you know. That's one more than you, so she's totally going to get better."

*

"It was nice of the police to give you two days off," Dawn said. They were sitting on either side of Buffy's hospital bed. Buffy looked very pale but she was breathing on her own.

She'd even woken up for a few minutes earlier in the morning and remembered her name and remembered that she really hated when people made fun of it. That had even been a little funny, her weakly saying "My mother named me that," to Troster. You'd think talking to Dawn would have prepared the man.

Buffy didn't remember the attack. She'd thought there had maybe been two people, neither of which she knew and then everything was blank. For real, as she'd repeated after Troster left. Now she was sleeping while Dawn and Connor hovered.

"I think I know how this guy is picking his victims," Dawn said. "I did some investigating. Okay, I was at the magic store, the real one, and the clerk said she knew the third victim, her cousin or something. But I don't get why he hasn't gone after you or me."

"Because, wait, you skipped the part where you explained what he's looking for."

"He's looking at, ugh, this is hard to explain. Okay, mystical stuff like being a Slayer or doing magic or you or me, it's not genetics like dominant or recessive. Not Mendel or blue eyes. It's not exactly written on your DNA. Or the potential. There's actually only 10% of the population that can do magic at all. It's more, like, sticky. Like jelly. Once you've got it, you've got it. And if you've got a lot, so do your kids, it isn't reduced or anything because you have kids with someone who has none. All the victims, they were, you know --"

"Sticky. Slayers or, what, brothers of?"

"Or just had relatives who practiced or something. It's in the whole family, basically. But you see where I'm confused. You and me, we're so sticky, we're Velcro. When your entire existence came about because of magic, that's about as magic as you can get. If Slayers are lights on your shoes, we're giant glowing suits and beacons."

Connor fiddled with his medicalert bracelet. "But, okay, I've never known anyone or a demon who could sense that."

"Yeah," Dawn said. "That's totally new, I think."

"So I guess we should be worried about you now," Connor said.

"And not you?"

"No," Connor said, almost rolling his eyes.

"Are you saying you're better than Buffy?" Dawn was suddenly incensed in that scary little sister way. "Cause she couldn't handle this guy."

"Buffy's better than me in a lot of ways, but yeah, when it comes to surprise attacks, I´m just, I was raised in a hell dimension, kill or be killed, remember?"

"Whatever," Dawn said. She patted Buffy's hand. "It's a good theory, though."

"I bet you're right," Connor said, not just to get her to stop being angry at him for possibly saying bad things about Buffy.

*

He wasn't exactly stalking Dawn. She wasn't going to listen to him and she refused to even let Jana be her undercover bodyguard. According to Dawn, she didn't want to scare off any potential girlfriends who might think she preferred teenagers or something gross like that. Dawn liked older blonde Wiccan Zen type ladies. Connor kept thinking he should see if he still had a phone number for his high school girlfriend Tracy.

Which was distraction thinking. Buffy was slowly recovering from getting impaled but that meant the hospital was really enforcing visiting hours, much to her chagrin. So he basically had nothing to do besides work and make sure Dawn didn't get killed.

Connor was really good at not exactly stalking. Dawn never noticed him. And he had a plan and everything. Anyone suspicious started honing in on Dawn, he'd jump in between. He was just as bright as her to the serial killer guy, it was a totally good plan.

Dawn went back to her dorm early. For once. He could see her through the window, settling into her normal evening routine. Since he had work early and Dawn wasn't one to go out after she started checking her email and her Facebook, he decided to head home.

He'd walked less than a block when he smelled something behind him, strong and bad. In front of him, right when he noticed the smell was something green, demon, five legs. What Buffy had followed into the warehouse way back when. And, not real. No smell, no heat, everything was coming from behind him.

It took him less than half a second to process that, thanks to that good old Quortoth "training" and he was already ignoring the green legs to turn around with his fists out.

He pulled back slightly right before impact when he sensed that after all this, it was a 45 year old guy who wasn't even tall. He still hit hard enough to knock the guy unconscious.

Connor thought about Buffy's stomach and that gaping wound, but he didn't kick the guy. He got out his phone and called 911.

*

"So you're not in trouble," Buffy said.

"He's not dead, and I didn't even shoot him, I'm, like, the opposite of trouble," Connor said. "Do you want to know why he was doing it?"

"Not really," Buffy said. "I know, you and Dawn are super proud of yourselves for figuring it all out, but hi, boring. I wanted to do the slaying part. For Grace's sake." She sipped her water. "Fine, you're bursting, go ahead."

"You wouldn't have slayed anyway, he's ¾ human. He has a soul and stuff," Connor said.

"I would have thought about it," she said.

"He was one of those demons, the cousin breeding ones. Except, his dad went outside the clan and when he saw the baby, our killer, the ratio was all wrong. Too much human. So he rejected the kid, never kept in contact. And the guy grew up never knowing he was part demon."

"And went crazy at 40," Buffy said. "That's really unfair, in a way. He wasn't inbred and he still went crazy."

"Also, he can sense mystical potential and stuff, which, it turns out, all the clan people can. They just never told anyone. So crazy guy, he's hallucinating and crazy and attacking anyone he sees who has the glow, as he calls it."

"And I was distracted by the hallucination up front and turned around too late. It's the second time I've been gored, you know, I still don't like it."

Connor said, "Me neither."

"So now he gets the death penalty, right?"

"No," Connor said. "He's not crazy in the sense of not knowing right from wrong, but since he keeps talking about demons and people glowing and he says I moved faster than a speeding bullet, which is a direct quote, anyway, he can't aid in his defense. So he's in the state lunatic bin. He probably won't get out."

"I dislike that ending," Buffy said.

"Our state institutions are really badly run," Connor said.

Buffy considered and took a spoonful of her pudding. "That only helps a little."

"He also didn't kill Dawn," Connor said.

"And she is so mad at you," Buffy said, laughing. "Okay, get over here. I can't do the lean in for romantic clinch to reward you yet. It's all on you."

He leaned forward for his kiss.

THE END.


Back to Stories

Send feedback to k.