“Take me to you,
For I never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.”
Buffy looked up, a slight blush crawling up her cheeks as she met the eyes of her gathered friends. They were all staring at her, a myriad of expressions on their faces. Willow looked curious, while Tara had a smile on her face. Xander on the other hand, wore an expression akin to disgust. Anya just looked slightly bored.
They were sitting in the main room of Xander’s apartment, and Buffy was feeling more uncomfortable by the minute. Willow had insisted talking to the others would help sort out her mind jumble, but part of her believed that Willow just wanted Xander to know so she could talk to him about it.
“It’s John Dunn.” Tara, strangely, was the one to break the silence, giving the blonde in front of her a compassionate smile.
“Who cares?” Xander spoke up, his expression unpleasant. He was sitting on the couch next to Anya, his arms folded defiantly across his chest. “The point is, you found this in your bedroom. They could have been doing anything in there.”
“Are you missing any underwear? He could have taken some of those,” Anya perked up. “Stalkers like to take things like that.”
Buffy wrinkled her nose, but rolled her eyes just the same. “I’m not missing any unmentionables, Anya. He’s just leaving me poetry.”
“In your bedroom.” Xander stressed. He was honestly starting to annoy Buffy. She knew they were friends, but did he really have to try and dictate her life? “Doesn’t that bother you, Buff?”
Buffy shrugged, “I think if they were some killer demon, they would have tired, you know, killing me by now. Besides, I can take anything that thinks sending poetry and roses are evil.”
She could feel Willow’s eyes on her; feel the frown that was creasing the redhead’s brow. Sighing, she closed her eyes, titling her head back. “You got input, Will?”
The witch started, but opened her mouth all the same. “Well, Xander has a point. They could be dangerous.”
Buffy looked at her incredulously. “Just the other day you were making moon-eyes about how terribly romantic all this is! Now you’re telling me it’s a stalker?!”
“What if it’s not a demon, Buffy?” Xander cut her off, his eyes sparking. Buffy noticed then that both Tara and Anya had left the room. They seemed to do that a lot when the rest of the gang argued. “What if it’s some psycho human? What are you gonna do? Beat them up like you did Ted?”
Buffy was shocked. How could Xander bring up something like that. She thought she had killed someone. Her shock turned to fury. “He was a robot, Xander! Not human!”
“But you didn’t know that!”
“It was an accident! I hadn’t meant to hurt him!” Buffy began gathering her things, flinging her coat over her arm. “But, you know what? I really don’t think I need to explain this, or myself, to you, Xander Harris. Call me when you pull your head out of your ass.”
And with that, Buffy stormed out of the apartment, slamming the door behind her.
* * * * * * *
“Hey, Mom!” Buffy yelled as she came through the door, sighing as she hang her jacket on its hook. She hated fighting with the Scoobies, Xander and Willow especially, but she was so tired. She was tired of her judgment being second guessed all the time, of her friends trying to protect her like a weak little girl. She was the Slayer, and beyond that, she was Buffy. She didn’t need protecting. With a frown, she stretched out the tension in her shoulders. She needed to work it off.
She quickly headed up to her room, changing into a pair of loose, black drawstring pants and a green, long-sleeved shirt with a hood attached. She fixed her hair into an untidy knot at the nape of her neck as she trotted back down the stairs. She wasn’t going to win any fashion awards for the outfit, but she wanted a fight, and she wanted to be comfortable while doing it.
Grabbing a stake as she rounded the corner, she smiled bitterly. Most girls carry lipstick when they go out for the night. “Mom?”
“In here, Buffy.” Joyce called from the kitchen, and Buffy entered the room to find her with her head in one of the cupboards.
“Okay, so either you can’t find the saucepan you’re after or you had a really bad day at work and have that whole head-in-the-oven thing confused,” Buffy quipped, tucking the stake she was holding into her shoulder bag.
“I asked Dawn to put the dishes away last night,” her mother explained, still rummaging. “And the girl seems to have her own personal organization system.”
Buffy opened the oven, rolling her eyes as she pulled out the stack or saucepans within. “You need to learn to think teenage-slacker, Mom.”
“I resent that.” Dawn was leaning against the doorjamb in a passable imitation of the Slayer herself. “More like young-woman-slacker.”
“Thanks for the correction, Little Women.” Buffy grinned.
“Sorry, honey, but I’m still waiting on my graduation certificate for completing the Understanding-the-Slayer course.” Joyce smiled at her eldest before winking at Dawn. “Pasta for dinner?”
“Ooh! With the little olives?” Buffy perked up. Dawn wrinkled her nose.
“You betcha.” Joyce replied, pouring pasta shells into the now-boiling water.
“Count me in,” Buffy smiled, “But you better leave mine in the microwave. Duty calls.”
“Yeah, need to do a few rounds tonight.” She paused. “Mom? You haven’t seen anybody… hanging around the house lately, have you?”
Joyce looked up from the tomatoes she was dicing. “Hmm? No, I don’t think so. Xander came by a few days ago to fix a shelf for me and Janice came by to pick up Dawnie. Other than that, I haven’t seen anyone.”
Buffy frowned at the mention of the former, but nodded all the same.
Dawn stepped forward, taking a seat at the counter. “Why? Are we being stalked by an evil demon or something?”
“What? No.” Buffy shook her head. “It’s… it’s nothing.”
“Buffy? What is it?” Joyce looked up, putting down her knife. “What’s wrong?”
Buffy sighed. “Okay, don’t freak out, but I think I’ve got a, uh, secret admirer.”
“Oh, please. Vain, much?” Dawn scoffed.
Buffy rolled her eyes, but otherwise ignored her sister. “A few weeks ago, I found a rose on my bed. And since then, I’ve been getting poetry, and more roses. Four now, I think.”
“The first one was about a vase or something.”
“So this stalker is really into interior decorating?” Dawn quirked a disbelieving eyebrow at the Slayer.
“No, you moron,” Buffy bristled at the word ‘stalker’. “Anyway, I wanted to know if you’d let anyone into the house recently.”
“No, I learnt my lesson from the Dracula fiasco. But honey? That might explain this…” Joyce turned to the bench behind her and handed her eldest daughter a square package. Buffy took the new gift from her, looking down with a furrowed brow. The note attached simply said “Buffy” in the same curved calligraphy as the poem had been in.
It was a box of chocolates.
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