Nothing Matters

Part 2 of What We Do

Author: Ares

 

Pairing: B/A

Rating NC17

A big hug and a thank you to my beta, Jo, who busy as she is, still finds time to nudge, help, and inspire.

For Fran who heckled me way back when. I bet you didn’t think this was going to happen.

Summary: Post NFA. Twelve months on and the slayer and her vampire are still battling the demon hordes, the army, human vigilantes and wanna-be-slayers. It is a stark existence, and they do the best they can. This story continues right on the heels of the first.

 

*

 

Nothing Matters.

 

There was only a slight smell of singed vampire flesh when Buffy’s feet hit the sewer floor. Angel had dropped into the access ahead of her and was folding the tarpaulin into a neat square when she turned.

She stared at him. “What are you doing?”

“This may come in handy one day,” he answered, and stepped away searching for a niche to tuck the material in to. Buffy followed, lugging their bag, shaking her head at the man in front. He found what he was looking for, placed the tarp into a recess he was sure would not be easily noticed, and relieved Buffy of the bag.

“You’re wounded,” she reminded him, reluctant to let him carry their belongings.

“I heal fast,” was all she got. That, and the sight of his retreating back.

“I still want to bandage it,” she muttered, knowing he would hear.

“Nurse Buffy,” was what she got back, and she grinned in spite of her weariness.

The grin lasted a moment more, slipping from her lips when recent events replayed in her mind. She had been relieved when Angel had fed; the dead man hadn’t needed his blood, after all. The man had wanted to rape her, and had raped others, besides. She wouldn’t be mourning his passing. She knew that Angel wouldn’t be, at least she hoped so, for his sake. It wasn’t as if Angel had actually killed the man, but she knew he would have if only for the sin of wanting to force her. Perhaps Angel was beating himself up for being a monster, for sucking the life-blood out of people. She thought that he was past that, hoped that he was past that but, knowing Angel, she was certain that he couldn’t help himself with the guilt trips. As far as she was concerned, the man had been an animal.

Buffy followed his broad back, grateful for his presence, and grateful that now and then a glimmer of daylight illuminated the murky darkness that hid unspeakably horrid things for her to step on. Still, she had said the air was sweeter here than it had been above. Her mood lightened despite the crud that clung to her boots. She resisted the urge to whistle, not that she could. Maybe she could hum.

Angel smiled into the dark. Only Buffy could hum tramping through a sewer. His mood didn’t stay buoyant for long. Clenching his suddenly too-long teeth and forcing them back to human-size, he thought of their earlier encounter and the promise of rape. The coppery tang in the back of his throat lingered still, and he licked his lips, not sorry the man was dead. He refused to feel remorse, and pushed it to the back of his mind. Surreptitiously, he flexed his shoulders, causing the bullet wound to send out a stab of agony. It was nothing in the scheme of things. He’d had worse, would again, in all probability. He closed his mouth around the beginnings of a hum.

Buffy followed Angel through the twists and turns of the sewers, no longer amazed at his uncanny sense of where he was beneath the city. Occasionally the tunnels narrowed, and she tried desperately not to touch the ick-covered walls when she squeezed by. Concentrating on this task, she wasn’t thinking about Angel’s wide shoulders and how they managed to cope.

Climbing a shaft, they emerged out of the sewers and into the safety of a basement. The utility room was disused and dirty, unlit because of the lack of electricity. It was something to do with underground cables and a military shell exploding down the line, they’d heard, in their wanderings. Whole blocks stood dark and forbidding, bereft of light and life. Angel stood by the door, listening. Satisfied it was safe, they both slipped through to the stairs beyond. Buffy hesitated long enough outside their temporary home for Angel’s nod before opening the door. She entered first to make sure the curtains were still safely drawn. Neither could be certain the rooms they used had not been visited while they were out. Angel shook his head to signal no, there had been no unwanted visitors. Buffy’s nose wrinkled in disgust all the same. Something foul and evil lurked nearby. It was then she realised it was her. She wondered how Angel could stand her sewer stench with his acute sense of smell.

“God! I stink! Dibs on the shower,” she said, and headed for the bathroom.

Angel nodded absently, and set the bag down. It was the smallest of winces when he shed his coat, but she noticed. Buffy stopped in mid-step, remembering his wound.

“You first,” she said, retracing her steps and tugging him gently towards the bathroom. “That wound needs cleaning…”

He opened his mouth to say he was fine, when she finished, “And if you’re good, I’ll join you.”

Tired as he was, Angel’s eyes lit up as he left to do her bidding, his smirk leaving its mark on Buffy’s libido. To Buffy, Angel’s pallor seemed much improved, if not exactly rosy. He was now his usual pale, not the awful grey of a corpse well past its use by date. But then, she realised, he hadn’t slept much today. Perhaps he could be persuaded to find the energy…

Opening the door, she heard the sound of hot spray pounding against a hard male body. She thanked the Powers the gas mains were still intact and offered hot water. It was one of the reasons they had stayed an extra few days. All thoughts were forgotten when Buffy entered the cubicle. The sight of a beautiful vampire shampooing his hair, suds trailing over long sleek muscles, could do that to a girl.

+++

Tanneka Bliss heard the rattle of pipes as water gushed through to an adjacent apartment. She guessed it was those new neighbours of hers, the ones that no one heard coming and going. She knew when they were about though, because she listened really hard. Her hearing was very sharp. The building didn’t have many inhabitants, people were too frightened to stay in the city. She had no choice, she was a demon. Mind you, she could pass for human, and did. Her husband couldn’t, and she wasn’t about to abandon him. However, she noticed that there was a human couple living above on the third floor, and an old man on the fifth. A family living a few doors along from her were also demon. The ground floor was safer. They could disappear down to the sewers when necessary, and, on many occasions, it had been. For a long while she sat in her faded dress on her faded couch in indecision. Finally, Tanneka got up to rummage through her almost bare cupboards. She found a packet of Oreos that hadn’t been opened. Those would do. Quiet as a mouse or, in her case, a Mintzha demon, she tiptoed to the apartment down the hall and placed the packet on the floor. She banged on the door once, scurried back to her door and rushed back inside, her heart beating wildly. She didn’t like to go out in the day, even to the corridor, but these people were special. And they deserved a treat. It wouldn’t do to leave her gift unattended. Nobody needed a marker betraying their presence.

+++

Ointment stained her fingers as she gently smoothed the pungent medicine onto his fast closing injuries. The entry wound was negligible. The exit out his back was raw, ugly, and bloodless. She knew it was pointless to fuss, and it had been a long while since she found she had wanted to. Still, he hadn’t objected; he was surprised into silence, she was sure. Buffy finished her ministrations, said so, and in mere moments he was prone and heading into sleep, murmuring a sleepy “thanks’” as he faded away. Moving to the window to make sure both it and the curtain were secure, Buffy left him asleep on the bed and went out into the living room. She placed the ointment inside her weapons bag; they had a few bandages and dressings for her, just in case. Buffy dragged a chair to the apartment door and propped it up against the doorknob, jamming it shut. It would perhaps give a small measure of warning before the door was forced, if any foolhardy idiot decided to gate-crash. At that moment she heard a thud against the door. Wrenching the chair away, she threw it open. There wasn’t anyone there, although when she turned her head she saw the last flick of a skirt disappearing through a door down the hall. On the floor at her feet sat a packet of Oreos. Puzzled, and grateful, and using her teeth, Buffy ripped the packet open, sniffed at them and decided they weren’t stale enough to throw out. It would do for a snack. Munching on one, Buffy poured herself a glass of water. There wasn’t a thing left to eat in the place. They would have to venture out for food later, that, and clothing. She was down to her last pair of jeans and top, Angel too. Finishing off her snack, and after repositioning the chair, Buffy joined Angel on the bed, a list of items running through her head.

+++

The steel cages - once security doors - were bent and misshapen. They slipped past the mangled wire and into the department store. Slayer and vampire ears heard the murmur of voices and the scuff of feet somewhere within the vastness of the store. Deciding the sounds were non-threatening, Buffy headed for the specialty food section. Maybe she could find a few cans of fruit and other fare. Angel went straight to cosmetics, started picking out toiletries, and finding a hairbrush, placed it in a bag for Buffy.

Moving more silently than their unseen neighbours they met up in the clothing department. The store had been looted at the beginning of the madness, but there was still some merchandise on the shelves. Buffy scooted across to the underwear section hoping they had something in her size. The men’s section was on the other side of the floor. Leaving the small bag of toiletries beside Buffy’s bag, Angel glided over there. It wasn’t long before he had jeans and other necessities chosen. A coat caught his eye and, shrugging off his battered one, he slipped it on. It was the right size, and black. Pleased with his ‘purchases’, he made his way back to Buffy. She, too, had taken a liking to a coat. Leather. She held up a bag laden with her acquisitions, twirling as she did so, showing off her new coat.

To Angel, Buffy’s teeth glistened when she smiled up at him.

“The only good thing about all this is the no money thing.”

He nodded his agreement. That was something, he supposed.

“Come on,” Buffy said, ignoring his gloomy mood, “this place is creepy.”

That made his lips twitch. Between the two of them, they carried their supplies down the motionless escalators. As they passed by, they could hear raised voices and more scuffling of feet. They ignored the sounds: people arguing over stolen goods weren’t their business. They made it out into the street without incident.

It was eerie, the city being so quiet. There were few cars to shatter the silence, although occasionally one did hear the odd engine roar. Sometimes it was an army vehicle, armoured, loaded with weapons. Other times, it was some foolhardy soul sightseeing, or just trying to get from A to B. In between times, it was vigilantes, or demons, or both. Whenever a vehicle turned into a street, it became deserted, a wasteland, every soul disappearing into hidden nooks and crannies, above and below ground. Slayer and vampire kept close to concrete and glass, the walls protecting their backs in more ways than one. The streets were shrouded in a terrifying gloom. Shops and restaurants, businesses and houses were all bereft of light. That warm glow that beckoned one in, that lit the way home, thatoffered safety from the dangers that lurked in the lethal blackness of the night, was long gone. The street lamps stood silent, lifeless and lightless. There was no one foolish enough to light a candle, or snap on a flashlight outside. Inside, if there was life, lights were hidden behind thick curtains or within windowless walls. Humans and demons alike did nothing to attract danger.

Suddenly, Angel went still beside her, and did his vanishing act a second before Buffy heard the low tones of voices. She stepped into a doorway, and very carefully put down her bag of clothing. She didn’t know where Angel had gone but she knew he wouldn’t be too far away. Peering around the brick of the building, she caught a glimpse of shambling figures. One carried a light. Buffy sighed. Some people never learned. The light weaved and bobbed, the small ball of luminescence settling for brief moments on glass, brick and mortar, empty cans and bottles, refuse left lying about, rotting, while waiting in vain for the city’s garbage collectors, and the eyes of an animal gleamed bright as it slunk away.

One of the men, if they were men, Buffy was unsure because of the rags and hoods that covered their heads, stumbled into another of his companions, and both of them staggered trying hard to find their balance. Buffy heard laughter, and smelled alcohol.

“They’re drunk,” said Angel beside her.

She nodded. His sudden reappearances always gave a small jolt to her heart but her body otherwise didn’t betray her. Reaching for her bag, she heard another sound, and stopped. Angel slid his bag next to hers. Buffy’s hand found the hilt of her sword. Angel freed his own. The rumble of a heavy vehicle entering the street made the windows rattle slightly, and Buffy could feel the ground vibrate a little through the soles of her shoes. She risked another peek and saw the three men hadn’t even bothered to run. Stupid with stolen booze, the men huddled together using each other for support. They were up against a wall off the road. Buffy snorted. Maybe they thought that would keep them safe.

Angel’s fleeting touch had her looking back at him. He jerked his head, and she understood. He slipped out to the sidewalk, Buffy next with the bags. She threw the bags to the roof of the portico and then with his help, sprang up after. Lightly as a cat, he joined her. Together, they lay flat, and watched as an armoured vehicle rounded the corner at the far end of the street. To Buffy, it looked like one of those S.W.A.T. vehicles she’d seen on TV, only those were black and shiny. It was hard for her to see its colour as it trundled towards them. The headlights were dazzling to any on street level. Up higher, the beams of light were to their advantage, they illuminated the surrounding area below. Angel watched the three men by the wall shade their eyes against the light. A shoulder moved, and one of the men fell over. Swaying, his friends tried to help their comrade regain his feet. They ignored the advancing vehicle, and Buffy thought maybe they were too inebriated to notice. The van stopped, engine growling, a few feet from the three unfortunates. A disembodied voice spat forth demands of identity and obedience, its squawk louder than that of the engine. Buffy looked about for hostiles; the noise was sure to attract attention. The drunken men blinked stupidly at the source.

Up close, Buffy could see that the vehicle was daubed with army-like camouflage. Oh, joy, she thought, just what the doctor ordered. In her opinion, and the vampire’s beside her, the army only exacerbated any situation, be it demon or human.

The speaker issued forth more orders, to no avail. The men on the street laughed, and settled down on the pavement. A bottle was passed round, and once, in a friendly gesture, was offered to the occupants of the van. A door opened at the back and four men stepped down. Their army fatigues reminded Buffy of Riley. She wondered where he was now. The men were armed with rifles, among other things, sophisticated and state of the art, she was sure. The door closed behind them, and she knew there would be more inside.

Warily, the soldiers approached the three men sitting on the pavement. Buffy ducked her head when three of the four spread out, checking the roofline and doorways. The remaining soldier couldn’t get any sense out of the drunks. He told them a curfew was in place and that they needed to get indoors. It wasn’t safe. Buffy stifled a snort. Understatement of the year. Just then, Angel’s hand touched the back of hers. She turned her head and could make out dark shapes flitting from one dark area to another. She tensed. Was this an ambush?

Suddenly, there was a high-pitched whine and a burst of light. Then Buffy heard the wumph from an explosion. The portico shook, as did the armoured vehicle. She looked down to see the cab had a gaping hole in it. The back doors of the vehicle swung open, two soldiers scrambled out and flung themselves away. Their comrades regrouped, and scrambled into a defensive position. Buffy watched the three drunks carefully to see what they would do. They just sat and stared in shock, and when furtive figures slunk out of the darkness and appeared in the street, armed and dangerous, the men rolled to their hands and knees and began to shuffle away, looking quite ridiculous to the watching couple on the portico.

Gunfire split the air and another explosion ripped the armoured van apart. The soldiers fired back into the advancing crowd of demons. One threw a grenade halting the advance.

Calculating the angle of trajectory, Angel’s fingers whispered against her own, and he was gone, flowing down the wall and across the street in a dark blur. Buffy gripped her sword and waited for a sign from him.

Angel scaled the wall of the building opposite and slipped through an open window. Moving swiftly, he left the empty apartment and, crossing the landing, burst through a closed door with a great splintering of wood. Inside were two demons looking back at him in surprise, the rocket launcher against the window forgotten for a startled moment. They were dead in the next instant, Angel’s sword cleaving their necks before they had taken more than a step towards him. Angel didn’t know what he could do to disable the weapon, so he stomped on it and threw it out the window before following it to join Buffy on the street.

The soldiers were outnumbered, but they had superior firepower and used it from their huddled positions. Other than a handgun or two, and the weapon used to blast the van, the demons were using conventional weapons. At least to Buffy they were conventional. Swords and axes, pikes and spears, were familiar and an odd sort of comfort to Buffy. Guns killed indiscriminately, be it friend or foe. She hoped that a bullet didn’t find her in the melee as she dropped to the street.

She worked her way through the demons, side-stepping those that had fallen to gunfire. Watching out for him, she saw Angel’s dark shape, and breathed a sigh of relief. Carcasses lay about, some ripped into unrecognisable shapes, others not, and still more demons emerged from the hidden valleys of the night. The soldiers would soon be overwhelmed, their weapons would soon give out. Buffy could see that one of the soldiers lay prone, dead, she supposed. Another was huddled in a doorway, wounded, but his weapon kept up a constant chatter of fire. From where he fought, Angel saw that two of soldier boy’s comrades were using their destroyed vehicle as cover. He saw an arm rise, and, putting all his effort into his speed, Angel flew at Buffy, snatching her up and away before the grenade detonated. The pavement kissed their knees and elbows hard as they rolled to a stop.

“I hate the army,” Buffy grumbled as she looked for her fallen sword. Rubbing her elbow, she was grateful for her new leather coat. “Do they know we’re trying to help here?”

Angel retrieved her sword, and his, pressing it into her hand, said, “Why don’t you tell them that?”

“Would they believe me?” she asked, as they both rushed back into the fray.

“I would, but they probably wouldn’t,” he admitted.

Grinning, she spun away to tackle a demon clutching a steel pipe. Snarling, the demon swung the steel at her blonde head, but he didn’t stand a chance. Buffy jabbed the pointy end of her sword at him, and felt the blade meet fleshy resistance. The demon danced back and brought a hand up to the wound. Dark liquid smeared his hand when he pulled it away. Yellow eyes, slit like a cat, glared at her. His growl, and fetid breath, was enough to give anyone pause. Buffy, however, was a slayer, and slayers weren’t deterred that easily. She performed a dance of her own and, at the demon’s left side, thrust her sword up into where she thought his heart would be. He fell, pulling himself off her blade as he did so. Two more demons hurried to take his place. Suddenly, Buffy found herself the centre of attention.

“That’s more like it,” she said, and swung her blade.

Angel was busy tackling the demons advancing on the soldier curled up in the doorway. The path ahead was littered with corpses. The man had defended his position quite well, but his energy was flagging. Angel added two more bodies to their number. Amazingly, one of the inebriated men crawled out from behind a pile of trash, and threw a bottle at a demon that had tried to take the vampire unawares. Another, popped up and threw whatever he had handy too. Angel whirled and took a glancing a blow against his shoulder. Staggering back, hand dangling the sword carelessly, he waited for the demon to lunge. Behind the demon, others of his ilk gathered.

The battle was bloody. The demons, who thought they would have the advantage of numbers, found the soldiers’firepower, combined with Buffy and Angel’s prowess, was too much for them. Weapons fell silent at last. The street resembled a charnel house. Three soldiers were dead – two of whom were killed in the initial attack and were still sitting inside the cab of the van - one was unconscious, and another two were sporting wounds but were mobile. The crackle of a radio could be heard reporting in.

Eyes down, Buffy stalked around some of the dead and dying.

“Senior Partners,” Angel suggested.

Buffy nodded. “This was too organised to be a random attack.”

“They’re getting sloppy, they’re using local demons to do their bidding.” Angel toed a body lying in the gutter. He looked no better than the grisly mess on the road. His clothing, spattered with gore and blood, matched those underfoot.

“I thought we were their top priority?”

He shrugged. “Maybe we were, and the army got in the way.”

“Maybe the army was the bait and we were the prize,” she said, wiping away demon brain matter from her forehead. Her hair felt like a ton of guano had been deposited there. She looked no better than the vampire by her side.

One of the soldiers approached them, his eyes wary, his weapon held ready. His buddies were tending to their wounds.

“Just wanted to say thanks.”

Buffy wasn’t happy. “By throwing a grenade my way?” she snapped.

Before the man could answer, Angel gestured towards the soldier in question, and said, “Those men helped save your friend’s life.”

The soldier glanced over to find the three drunks had disappeared.

“They shouldn’t be out at night. Demons would’ve made a meal out of them.”

Angel’s voice was soft. “They were demons.”

The man snapped his head around to look at him.

“They were human.”

“Looked human.”

His grip tightened on his weapon. “You can tell?”

“When you’ve been fighting as long as we have, yeah!” Buffy snorted.

The soldier stepped back from the two of them. Buffy could see his brain ticking over. They must look a sight, all covered in demon goop. Any second now…

“Are you human?”

Yep, he didn’t disappoint.

“Does that make a difference?” she asked, offended on Angel’s behalf. Hell, offended on behalf of many demons she knew. Oz for one, although technically…he wasn’t.

Whatever his answer, he didn’t get a chance to utter it. Another of his men walked over to join them. He limped slightly and Buffy could see a field dressing above his knee. What she couldn’t see was any sign of rank on his fatigues. She remembered Riley. Agent Finn. Were these guys part of all that?

He introduced himself. “Sergeant Halpert. Are you folks alright?”

Buffy frowned at Halpert. Where were his sergeant’s stripes?

Aloud, she said, “Where are your sergeant’s stripes?”

Staring at her, he tugged open his vest and showed her his stripes sewn there.

“These days we don’t advertise our rank. The enemy can’t go after the leader when they don’t know who to target.”

Buffy didn’t know what to think about that. She always figured out the big bad without the benefit of a big sign pointing the way.

“Sergeant. They say the three men we stopped to question were demons.”

Halpert glanced over to where the men had last been seen. “Are you sure, Stevens? Demons?”

Buffy answered him. “Sure that they helped save your man’s life? Yeah, I’m sure. Does it matter that they were demons?”

“We look after our own,” he said, bristling at her tone.

“Sometimes!”

“What does that mean, miss…?”

“It means I’ve seen your army decimate whole blocks, killing demons and humans alike.”

He had the grace to look uncomfortable. “Well, yes, that was unfortunate, but necessary at the time. We’re more careful now.”

Buffy crossed her arms, aware that Angel had edged away.

“Is that the company line? Have you helped any demons lately?”

“We’re not here to help demons.”

Wondering why she was bothering, Buffy said, “Not all demons are evil. Yes, these that died here were connected to the Senior Partners, but there are others out there that just want a bit of peace and quiet. The same as humans. There’s good and bad in every species.”

“Senior Partners?”

Throwing her hands in the air, Buffy said,“Forget it!” She was wasting her time.

She was ready to leave. She’d had enough for one night. Besides, the army wasn’t ready to listen, and the evidence that all demons were evil was lying in the street. She took a step back. She was tired, dirty, and she smelled. So much for a night out shopping.

“Wait a minute, please.”

It was the please that had her stop.

“Yes?”

“Your moves out here…you were amazing. Thank you.”

Buffy barely had the energy to smile. She managed to lift a lip. “You’re welcome,”and took another step.

“You must be one of the slayers.”

Buffy halted again.

“You know about slayers?”

“We saw a girl a month back. She was fighting demons, and she had a sword too. She was pretty amazing too, and fast.”

“What happened to her?”

“She…didn’t make it. They were…” Halpert had the grace to look sorry. “We’d heard rumours, asked around. The brass aren’t saying much, nothing official.”

Buffy felt the guilt of the girl’s death wash over her. Another girl sacrificed to the world, and the world didn’t care. It was her fault that the potentials had been called. And now they were dying. All because of her.

Angel heard the soldier’s words and felt a sadness seep into his heart. Slayers come and go, in every generation and all that, but his concern was for Buffy. She would be feeling the girl’s death was her fault. It wasn’t. It was his. He created this mess, this world suffering the demon hordes, the killing, and the mayhem. He should have left well alone. And on the heels of that thought another swiftly followed. No, he couldn’t have. It was in his nature to make things worse. He had proved that time and time again. Why should this have been any different? He heaved in a sigh. Guilt settled its weight upon his broad shoulders, and he slouched a little before straightening, shaking off the melancholy that threatened to overwhelm him.

Stevens, who had gone back to see to the rest of his team, came hurrying back. He whispered something to his sergeant which had the man jerking his head about looking for some one …. something.

Buffy saw the soldiers’ fingers close on the triggers of their weapons, and tensed.

Halpert licked his lips, his eyes were trying to see around her and through the gloom. “You’re companion isn’t human,” he said. “Infra-red readings say he’s a… vampire.”

“Is that a problem, sergeant? I mean, he did help save your sorry asses, or do I tell him that it was a mistake?”

Halpert’s eyes flicked back to where Buffy stood, and he was startled to see a glimpse of a pale face a few yards behind the girl’s right shoulder. He narrowed his eyes, squinting to see more.

Halpert swallowed, staring at the man…no…vampire behind her. He had seen something extraordinary in the way the ma…vampire had moved, and in the heat of battle had dismissed it as impossible.

In the vampire’s hand, he could see the outline of a sword, and Sergeant Halpert’s eyes were drawn to it. When he looked up he couldn’t see past the dark hollows of its eyes, and Halpert didn’t know if he was relieved when the vampire remained silent.

The sergeant swallowed his fear, and said,“No harm.”

The vampire acknowledged his statement with a nod of his head.

In a quiet voice, Buffy said to Angel, “Let’s go.”

Halpert and Stevens blinked. The vampire had simply disappeared before their eyes. They watched in silence as the slayer stepped over and around the bodies strewn in her path. And out of nowhere, the vampire was back with a couple of shopping bags. They saw her take one from him, and like any ordinary couple who had been out shopping, they both walked away into the night.

+++

Tanneka Bliss waited for her husband’s special knock before she unlocked her door. He staggered into their apartment smelling of drink and, she wrinkled her nose, garbage.

She didn’t bother to ask him where he had been. It was obvious. He had been out with his friends, drinking. She sighed, and helped him with his boots. He was having difficulty reaching them from where he sat sprawled in his favourite armchair.

His wonderful serpent’s eyes tried to focus on her. His forked tongue flickered from between his fangs as he tried to tell her his news.

He hadn’t been a mere drunken lout, he told her, he and his pals, they had helped two heroes rescue a group of humans from the clutches of an unknown, and evil, demon mob. She was wondering if he was lying about the help he was supposed to have given, when he mentioned a girl and a vampire. Her heart sped up with excitement. Were they the ones from down the hall? The girl and vampire she had seen through her window rescuing a demon child a few days ago? Surely there couldn’t be more than one couple like them anywhere else in the world? Tanneka looked up at her husband to find him asleep. She wondered if he had needed rescuing, instead. Getting up off her knees she found a faded throw to cover him, and left him in his chair. She retired to her bed thinking about the couple next door.

+++

Water shattered gently against porcelain, the dripping tap the only movement in the empty apartment. The curtains nailed closed, tangled sheets, and two plastic shopping bags were the only reminders of the rooms’ last occupants. The woman next door would be listening very hard for her neighbours and would be disappointed. They had moved on, for their sakes and for hers.

The End.

April 2007