Deborah Barrone drove back to her new house, intent on speed-loading the groceries into the fridge before she had to pick up the kids from daycare. She automatically scanned the horizon.
Damn, dusk already.
She didn't mind the move, at first. Ray's transfer to a media centre close – but not too close – to LA elimated some problems.
Okay, one big problem living across the street, who wielded the umbilical cord like a steel cable.
And the property prices in Sunnydale were a steal. Three extra rooms, twice the yard front and back and a heated inground pool for seventy per cent of their old place? (She hired a handyman recommended by an old girlfriend that lived nearby to go over the place with a fine tooth comb, despite Ray's protests. Nothing wrong at all)
A week after they moved in that the problems really begun.
Odd screams, chants and sounds during the night. Neighbours unwilling and unable to talk about whatever the hell it was.
Then she met this redhead who was willing to help her set up a new computer system, who was willing to tell her about Sunnydale.
'Tell', however, wasn't an accurate description. 'Warn' was probably closer.
Hellmouth. Monsters. Demons, Vampires roaming around like bulimics at an all-you-could-eat buffet.
Ray wasn't much help, even when Spike showed him.
That was another thing. She'd come home to see Ray casually drinking beers with a self-confessed sociopathic monster in her kitchen. She screamed at Ray after they'd finally gotten rid of the Brit, but he protested that inviting the bloodsucking undead into their home was a small price to pay for not having to research the intricacies of the English greyhound racing system.
And the prophesised warrior that could protect them was a barely-twenty-something blonde with tight, skimpy clothes. If Ray could be locked up and hosed down while Buffy was around, Deborah would have her here twenty-four-seven.
The worst part was a month ago, when a knock on their door lead to a creeping horror, and a crockpot of meatballs when the three walked into her house uninvited.
Apparently Marie and Frank had found a fantastic price on the house next door. And Robert had been 'persuaded' to transfer to Sunnydale PD.
Actually, Robert wasn't the worst part. He'd been glum – well, glummer than ever about ditching his next promotion review in order to transfer, but the carefully bred incompetence and high mortality rate of the local police meant Robert was quickly promoted to Lieutenant.
But Saint Marie and Frank meant that not only inheriting a new set of problems, they'd been stuck with the old ones as well.
Deborah parked into the garage, closed the door, and started unloading from the back.
It was only when she deposited the first load on the kitchen counter when she saw what was in the lounge.
Buffy standing there, clearly in shock. A hatchet in her hands covered in blood.
And strewn around the lounge … yep, Frank and Marie.
Buffy turned to Deborah, mouth trembling before she could force the words out.
"They … wouldn't ... she just kept on ... and … I …"
Deborah walked carefully towards Buffy (watching where she walked) and hugged the distraught young woman. "It's okay ... it's okay ... we'll just find something in this town that isn't too picky what it eats, and it'll be our little secret, okay honey?"
Buffy looked up, eyes rimmed with tears, and nodded, gratitude radiating from every pore.
Of course, the sound of heavy footsteps ruined the moment.
Both women turned to see Spike casually surveying the carnage.
"It's the 15th today, right?"
"Ah ... yeah ..."
"Bugger." Spike casually flopped down onto the couch – not so casually as to land in a part of Marie. "I owe Giles a tenner."
The mention of money gave Deborah an idea. She reached over, and carefully extracted Frank's wallet from what was left of him, and flicks through it's contents.
"Look, I have to get the kids …sixty ... eighty bucks if you help with the bodies, okay?"
"Throw in his watch and you've got a deal."
Deborah smiled as Spike took the cash and shook her hand. This town was starting to grow on her …
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