PART NINE: 5th July to 23rd September 2004
Chapter Nine: The Things We Do For Love
"I-yuh, um..." Buffy hesitated, looking between Troy and Quantiaro, but hey, who was she kidding? There was such a thing as priorities.
"Okay!" she stepped to Troy's side.
He nodded and gestured for her to walk with him. The guards stayed with their guns trained on Quantiaro.
"Buffy, no!" he called out. "It is a trap!"
"Probably," she agreed, eying Troy's face. It showed nothing but faint amusement.
She was prepared to take the risk if it got her into the palace. If anything smelled trappy when she was in there, well, she wasn't as stupid as Quantiaro gave her credit for, and thinking on her feet was one of her specialties.
"Fine, do as you must," his voice echoed across the plaza. "But be aware, the night of the equinox draws ever closer! Mapanos will side with any he pleases to best Eostre! Only you can stop it! The child..."
Gunfire cracked off the surrounding buildings. Stunned, Buffy turned to see Quantiaro fall backwards into the fountain with a loud splash.
"What the hell? You killed him for being a blabber mouth? Couldn't you just knock him on the head? Drive him out to the desert? Something a little less murdery?"
"Don't give him ideas!"
Buffy's eyes went wide to see Quantiaro sitting up in the fountain looking anything but dead as he fingered the four bullet holes in his expensive shirt.
"Again." Troy ordered.
One of the guards fired a single shot; Buffy reeled in revulsion at seeing the bullet hit Quantiaro in the forehead.
Water sprayed up as Quantiaro flopped backwards again. "You fucking bastard!"
There was a flash of white light followed by a short man-scream. By the time Buffy had blinked her vision clear, the mysterious stranger was gone.
"I love to make him do that." Laughing hard, Troy turned back towards the palazzo. "Come, please."
Bewildered, Buffy looked from the fountain, where the waves still lapped from Quantiaro's splash, to the guards marching smartly back to arch, to Troy.
"Where did he go?"
"To spend some time on the naughty stool, I imagine." Troy smiled as they walked up the steps and under the arch. "Do not worry yourself with the like of him, he is nothing but a thief's assistant. He stole what was mine many years ago and now... he simply does not want to give it back."
They were walking down a corridor as wide as the ones at Sunnydale High. The only differences between here and there were the marble floors, the columned walls, the domed ceilings and the gilded everything; oh yeah, and the lingering fragrance of roses. Aside from all that, this place wasn't so fancy.
They passed a stately drawing room and Buffy sniffed at it. Who needed a room just for drawing anyway? There was another room just as grand on the other side; through open double doors Buffy could see a lot of red velvet chairs.
"That where you keep your throne?"
Troy chuckled. "No."
Buffy looked up at a glittering chandelier as they entered a large round antechamber. There was a broad flight of marble steps leading upwards.
"Toni said you lived in an apartment. We sure don't have apartments like this back home."
"Much of the building is taken up with corporate concerns these days; Faith and I have a residence upstairs."
Faith and I, she mimicked silently with a grimace, but when Troy turned to her, she gave him her best serious look. He gestured to the stairs and up they went.
"She is very worried about you," Troy said softly.
"Faith?" Buffy looked at him sharply.
He shook his head. "Toni. You are not returning her calls or her messages; she fears the worst."
"Oh," Buffy dropped her eyes to the mosaic-ed landing. "My cell died days ago. I haven't even been receiving her messages. Can you tell her that?"
"Does she talk about me a lot?" Buffy wondered, frowning a little and not really meaning to say it out loud.
"To my great displeasure - incessantly."
Buffy's lips burst into a spontaneous smile, followed immediately by another troubled frown. Toni shouldn't be talking about her, or getting worried about her. She should be out doing her best to forget Buffy Summers had ever existed in her life. And perhaps she would be if Buffy had pointed this fact out to her, possibly tied in with an 'It's not you, its me.' speech - which had the added extra of actually being true in this case. A slight smile still hung around her lips though; it didn't suck to be Toni's hot topic of conversation.
"So how come you changed your mind?" she asked.
"Excuse me?" he opened a door and waved for her to go through first.
She began to, paused and stepped back again. "Actually, after you, age before beauty as they say."
He seemed to find her suspicion amusing. With a slanted nod of his head he went through first, not contesting the fact that at supposedly only twenty-one he was younger than her.
They were walking down a service corridor now, less wide, less gilt, less marble - the ceiling was still domed though.
"How come you told Faith I was here? You seemed pretty eager to keep us apart earlier."
"Well, you understand, I needed time to brainwash her." He gave her a sexy devil smirk.
"And it's funny because it's true," she said dryly.
For the first time ever, he laughed at one of her jokes, which surprised her enough to chuckle a little herself, she covered it with a cough.
There was a guard at the end of the corridor, dressed just like the ones outside and with a matching rifle too. Troy gave him a curt nod; in return the guard did some fancy handshake thing with his gun and stepped aside. Buffy watched with wary amusement. Her wariness grew when Troy hit a large round button and the wall slid aside to reveal an elevator car. He stepped in and waited.
Okay, this was worrisome. She didn't particularly want to get into a small square space with him with no weapons. Even though she had no doubt she could take him in a hand to hand fight, if he pulled a gun, there weren't a lot of places to dive for cover in an elevator.
"I think I'd rather take the stairs."
"There are no stairs to the apartment." When Buffy still hesitated, Troy added. "I have not intentionally taken a human life since 635, and I do not intend to sully that record with your blood."
Buffy lifted her chin, glaring at him. "Is that supposed to impress me? Are you trying to shock me with your age? Wow me with your self-restraint?"
She was a little shocked. That made him... so old she couldn't even do the sum quick in her head. It was hard to reconcile that with the fact that he looked to be barely in his twenties. She was a little insulted too; he'd made her blood sound like something you didn't want on your record.
She stepped into the elevator with him, still cautious and keeping her back to the metal wall. "What happened to change your ways?"
There were two buttons on the wall, marked A and B; Troy pressed button A and the doors slid closed.
"I am not an uncivilized beast. I know the true worth of a human life, perhaps even more so than the humans that own them." The elevator car started to move slowly upwards. "And besides, my dear friend, it is hard to gloat over a dead man." He winked at her as she grimaced. "Death is for life, but humiliation can last forever."
"Well, it's always wise to plan for the future. So, it didn't take you long to brainwash Faith this time, but I guess you must have it down to a fine art now, right?"
Troy chuckled again. "I have no control over Faith's mind, nor would I wish to. I am aware, however, that she still clings to the notion of your friendship..."
"It's not just a notion," Buffy interrupted angrily, "We are friends, and if you can't handle..."
"I can handle it, but I think you lie. I don't think friendship is the first thing you feel when you look upon her, and my fear was that you would once again hurt Faith due to this. Faith is my primary concern, you understand; whatever you think of me, please believe this truth."
"So if you think I'm gonna hurt her why change your mind at all? Why not just keep me away?"
"Because if Faith found out she would be mad at me, and I already live in fear that she will remember her Catholic upbringing and suggest a 'No sex before the wedding night' pact." He winked at her again, and she really did not like it when he did that, like they were some kind of conspiracy buddies or something.
Despite the lurching in her stomach, Buffy found herself smirking, "Doesn't really sound like the kinda pact Faith would make."
"I am not willing to take the chance." Troy smiled. "And so I decided it was up to Faith to make the decision on whether or not she wishes to see you."
"And she said yes." Buffy smiled, feeling like a weight was lifting, or it could have just been the elevator coming to a stop.
"She has not said anything, because I have not asked her." Troy smirked as the doors slid open to reveal a little but luxurious marble foyer with only one door leading from it.
A guard, the kind that was becoming familiar now, was stood to the side of it. He didn't acknowledge the doors had opened. Maybe he was asleep standing up; it was getting late and it couldn't be a thrill a minute standing watch over this small room.
Buffy had been about to exit, but changed her mind as his words sunk in. "What?"
"If you really wish to see her, if you are truly prepared to upset her life once again and take whatever consequences that may come with it, then I will not stand in your way. I only hope that you will accept her decision even if it is not to your liking."
Buffy just stared at him; she didn't really know the answer to that herself yet.
Troy gestured, "All you have to do is knock on that door."
Buffy walked out of the elevator with her eyes fixed on the gilt-leaf design in the centre of the sturdy wooden door, "Why? Don't you have a key?"
"I am afraid I have things to attend to and will be unable to stay for what I am sure will be a touching reunion."
Hearing his laugh afterward, she sneered at him over her shoulder, "Aren't you worried I'll try and seduce her if we're left alone?"
"Convinced of it, yes," he laughed some more. "Worried about it, no. I am perfectly secure in our love for one another; the threat you pose is only to Faith's emotional well-being, not to our relationship."
The elevator doors slid shut again, leaving Buffy staring at them for a moment while she considered his words. He was right and he was wrong, she might be about to risk Faith's emotional well-being, but she was throwing her own into the pot as well.
"Cocky Son of a..." she trailed off as she noticed the guard was looking at her shiftily. "Cushy post you got here, huh?"
"Is okay," the guard said with a thick accent as he shrugged.
"So what's with the wacky pants?" Buffy asked to put off going to the door and knocking.
Her nerves were thrumming under every inch of her skin, her heart was dancing the Charleston in her chest, her palms were wet, her dress was wrinkled, she was barefoot and the soles of her feet were black with road grime - Oh God, what was she doing?
"Are you guys like a branch of the Swiss Army?"
"No, we are his Lordship's own private guard..."
"His Lordship?" Buffy asked in disbelief. "Oh, come on! He's a Lord now? The castle, the palace and the Ferrari-fast horses aren't enough? Now he has to be one of the landed gentry too. I still have no idea what his game is, but he is sure as hell playing it well."
The guard looked lost within her rapid rant and she tsked at him impatiently. Walking forward, her irritation making her bolder, she knocked firmly on the door.
There was no answer to start with; Buffy could hear music coming from the apartment. It didn't sound loud out here, but it might have drowned out the sound of her knocking. She lifted her fist again and banged a lot harder on the door.
"Just give me a damn fuckin' minute, will ya?"
Buffy's knees went weak as she heard Faith's muffled shout from inside. "Oh God," she muttered, feeling her insides crawling with caterpillars.
Louder, she announced, "She's just going to be a minute."
The guard nodded, smiling uncertainly.
"Why am I telling you?" she asked. "Oh God, I'm shaking."
She didn't know why she was telling him that either, but by talking she was stopping herself from bolting back to the elevator. She fidgeted on the spot, nervously pulling her dress down to a more presentable level and trying to wipe her feet on the cool, smooth marble.
The door was suddenly swung inwards. Buffy yelped in surprise and took a step back, like it wasn't just what she was waiting for.
If Buffy was surprised, it didn't come anywhere close to describing the expression on Faith's face as she stood in the doorway, staring.
Her mouth hung open; her eyes were huge, the pupils rapidly dilating. She'd been caught with her defenses completely down, and the fluffy white bathrobe she was wearing emphasized the innocence of her reaction. She was floored and Buffy could see it, could sense it as strongly as she could smell the mango shower gel Faith had just used.
"Hi." Buffy smiled shyly. "Bet I was the last person you were expecting, right?"
The door slammed in her face.
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Part Nine Quick-Jump:
Chapter One ||
Chapter Two ||
Chapter Three ||
Chapter Four ||
Chapter Five ||
Chapter Six ||
Chapter Eight ||
Chapter Nine ||
Chapter Ten ||
Chapter Eleven ||
Chapter Twelve ||
Chapter Thirteen ||
Chapter Fourteen ||
Chapter Fifteen ||
Chapter Sixteen ||
Chapter Seventeen ||
Chapter Eighteen ||
Chapter Nineteen ||
Chapter Twenty ||
Chapter Twenty One ||
Chapter Twenty Two ||
Chapter Twenty Three ||
Chapter Twenty Four ||
Chapter Twenty Five ||
Chapter Twenty Six ||
Chapter Twenty Seven ||
Chapter Twenty Eight ||
Chapter Twenty Nine ||
Chapter Thirty ||
Chapter Thirty One
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Part Nine Quick-Jump:
Chapter One || Chapter Two || Chapter Three || Chapter Four || Chapter Five || Chapter Six || Chapter Seven Chapter Eight || Chapter Nine || Chapter Ten || Chapter Eleven || Chapter Twelve || Chapter Thirteen || Chapter Fourteen || Chapter Fifteen || Chapter Sixteen || Chapter Seventeen || Chapter Eighteen || Chapter Nineteen || Chapter Twenty || Chapter Twenty One || Chapter Twenty Two || Chapter Twenty Three || Chapter Twenty Four || Chapter Twenty Five || Chapter Twenty Six || Chapter Twenty Seven || Chapter Twenty Eight || Chapter Twenty Nine || Chapter Thirty || Chapter Thirty One