Come to My Window
by Aadler
Copyright July 1999

Disclaimer: Characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Enterprises, Sandollar Television, the WB, and UPN.

Part I

Back when I was still putting in an occasional appearance at Sunnydale High, before I blew off school entirely, the Barbies used to say the only club in town was the Bronze. That's the way their minds work, if it's not their kind of place it doesn't exist. So they don't count the truck stops, the biker bars, the waterfront hangouts, danger spots like Willy's (okay, not many people with a pulse and human DNA know about Willy's) or little off-the-wall places that cater to special interests. I was a regular at most of those dives by the time I was thirteen, so I thought the Bronze was for wimps until people started turning up dead there (or sometimes just disappearing). I still save it as a last resort for when I'm really desperate; it may be a little dangerous, but it's so fricken wholesome. Also, there's a few people there I'd hate to have recognize me.

Booze and weed don't turn me on anymore, either (except, laugh and you die, I've developed a taste for Kalúah of all things), so I've dropped most of my old hangouts along with school and home and daylight. There's only two things I care about now, dancing and the hunt. Lucky for me, I can usually do both at the same time.

Prism is a little retro disco place that has a nice crowd most nights of the week. The turnover is good, too, there's always new blood coming in. Disco sucks big air, but you can dance to it, and the pickings are primo, so I'm there maybe two-thirds of my walking time. They notice me, too, which I kind of like but would probably be better without; no way you'll ever catch me in that Seventies crap, I go Goth, which makes me stand out, plus I'll yank somebody out onto the floor if no one asks me quick enough. A lot changed for me in September '97, but not my personality, what I want I want now.

Not a problem tonight, I had a yuppie eyelock on me the second I walked in. He wasn't bad looking, really, sandy hair and a good jawline, and he managed to match the theme of the place without actually using polyester. I didn't pretend not to notice, I walked straight to him and gave him a little hip wiggle and said, "Your call, sport."

Out on the floor I pushed the pace just enough to test him, and he did okay. Nothing that breathes can keep up with me when I break out, but he got points for not trying, when I doubled my tempo he halved his and let me cut loose around him, four moves to his one. This was rare, most males will drive themselves into the floor (in about twenty seconds) before they'll let a skirt outclass them. My guy just gave it over to me, and made us both look better. I scaled back and let him have it again, and we finished up with some body tosses — me doing more of the work than anyone could see, but not enough that HE could tell just how strong I was — that had people clapping.

Solid.

A good connection, but it went downhill from the moment we left the floor. I was a ripe sixteen when I was brought over, and with the clothes and makeup I look twenty-but-immature; but this guy would have been pressing thirty, and it was obvious he expected me to be bowled over by attention from a glamorous older man. (Yeah, right.) Once I really would have been flattered, but that was then. Even if it helps me in the hunt, I don't like someone marking me down as an easy target, especially when he's wearing a bullseye himself and doesn't know it. So I let myself go all dewy-eyed and flustered, and ten minutes later we were out in his car. He hadn't even offered to buy me a drink.

Fine, what I was thirsty for they didn't sell at the bar. I took him before he even got his key in the ignition (he didn't struggle, they never do), and then went back inside, leaving him slumped behind the steering wheel. Fast and neat, the way I usually prefer it … and a tad risky, as a rule I wait for more privacy, but he had pissed me off. So I was still maybe a little bristly when, two minutes in, someone laid a hand on my shoulder and said, "Yo, chickee."

We were in public, so I let him keep the hand for the moment. "Flush yourself, creep," I said without looking around. What is it, am I just a magnet for losers?

Looks like; he turned me around by the shoulder, and I reached up to pulp his wrist, stopped when I saw his face. He had changed his hair, it was dyed flamingo pink with gold leopard spots, but there was no mistaking that smirk. "Long time, Sheila," he said with a grin that would look a lot better once it was stuffed down his gullet.

"Yeah, but you had to go and spoil it." I twitched my shoulder away. Almost twenty seconds now, and he was still unmaimed. Not the natural order of things. "Interesting hair. I didn't know Kool-Aid made that flavor."

He clutched at a mock wound. "Whoa, I'm bleeding." (Not yet, dimwit.) "Come on, is that any way to treat an old bud?"

"You're right, Kyle, you're a much bigger jerk now, I should have maced you already." With a real mace, if I could find one.

He shoved me casually back against the wall — ooh, caveman time — and said, "I'd be careful if I were you, shooting off my mouth like that." Shooting off his mouth, now there was an interesting idea. Messy, but fun. "Before you get too snotty," he went on, "you might wanta think about what kind of trouble I could make for you. I mean, you did have that little probation problem going right before you dropped out of sight, didn't you?"

"I'm shivering," I said, and yawned to prove it. "You're talking old news, fella." Truth was, things had just taken a nasty turn. He really could cause me some serious hassle if that was where his mind was headed. Not the kind he was thinking, but still more than I could afford, I've got things set up the way I like them and this guy was in a position to bring in some ugly complications.

Then I saw his eyes change, cut across the room before coming back to me, and his stance shifted too. "Run that through your head a few times," he told me, but his mind was already on something else. "Next time I see you, we can talk terms." He brushed against me and was away, going past the bar to join some skag with a wispy goatee and a nostril ring, and the two of them settled into intense conversation. Deciding which quickie-mart to knock over next, probably, or arguing over who skimmed how much rock from who. You knew by the swagger that Kyle was convinced he was cruising the big time, but the truth was he was still just a punk, only dumber and meaner and less charming than before.

After two stinkers in a row I was about fed up with Prism for the night, and I was already turning to the door when I saw her watching me. Well. Mid-twenties, taller and thinner than me, long glossy dark hair, little red mouth. Yum. She checked me over in turn as I headed her way, and when I reached her table I said, "So, who leads?"

She weighed that for a second, making me wonder if I had overplayed her, then she answered, "You were doing a nice job of it before. But I'm not that athletic myself."

"And I'm not looking to prove anything now." So we went out onto the floor and moved together, slower and softer, not even really touching that much. If I'm in the mood for spice I usually drop by the Silk Tulip, but it can happen anywhere. She watched me with that detached control some fem-fems use to keep from looking desperate, and her pheromones were tangy and full of need.

"I couldn't believe it when you left with that guy," she told me as the first song ended and a new one started up.

"Yeah, well, he couldn't believe it when I cut him off in the parking lot and came back here." I took her hands and we did a walkaround, and she smiled back at me and the deal was cinched.

We talked for another twenty minutes before going back to her place. She wanted me to stay the night, but I was finished with her long before then, and I had other things I wanted to see to before the sun came up. I headed out, leaving her still and silent on the couch in front of the little fireplace, and went to see the only person I could call on when I needed to work out a problem.

A car is too much trouble, but now and then I think about getting a motorcycle, or maybe just a little scooter, for those times when there's distance to cover. Normal travel doesn't tire me any more, and there isn't a track star on the planet who can keep up with me (or many horses, for that matter), but it would still be nice sometimes to save the effort. It was close to ten o'clock when I reached the house I wanted: mid-range for this neighborhood, less than three hundred thou, but they'd added a pool since. The Barbies always have an upstairs bedroom, but mine had a convenient crepe myrtle tree right outside her window, and I was tapping on the pane half a minute after I got past the ornamental wrought iron fence at the edge of the property.

She didn't move at the sound, lying back on the bed and leafing through some kind of catalogue, so I hardened it to an insistent rap. She stirred but didn't look my way, and at the new angle I could see she was wearing headphones. Ripping off a branch and heaving it through the glass would have gotten her attention, but that might not be the best way to start a conversation. I dug out my cigarette lighter and flicked it on, passing it back and forth outside the window, and the moving flame registered in the corner of her eye, she glanced my way and I gave her a little wave and a grin with more teeth than I let most people see.

Barbie or not (and worse, a Cordette), she still wasn't a total dimbulb. When she saw me she pulled the headphone plug from the CD player, nudged the volume up a bit, and set the lock on her bedroom door before coming to open the window. "Wow, Sheila, I was starting to think you'd split for L.A."

"Wow, Tana, you going to invite me in or come out and sit in the tree with me?"

"Oh," she said. "Sure." She stood back from the window and said formally, "Enter freely and of your own will."

It's something we go through whenever I come to call on her. I've let Tana think she can keep me out by revoking the invitation once I've left, and as long as she doesn't know that her first welcome gave me free access ever after, she won't set up other precautions. (She also believes I can't touch her while she wears that little cross on the chain around her neck. And her a Buddhist.) I'm pretty sure I'll have to kill her eventually, so a little inconvenience now looks to make things a lot easier for me in the future. Let her feel safe, it makes her readier to talk to me, and when we get to crunch time she's in for some big surprises.

I slid inside, and she moved back to leave me room to pass between her bed and the invisible barrier she thinks the necklace gives her. Considerate little twit. "So what's up?" she asked me.

I settled into the oval white wicker chair in the corner of her room and grinned at her again. "Maybe I just got a craving," I said, and sure enough I saw the faint flush creep past the neckline of her peignoir. (I think that's what it's called. Something frothy, with little ribbons.) "No, actually I've run into kind of a snag, and talking with you helps me get things straight in my head sometimes."

She nodded and put a serious expression on that silly face, and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Tell me what's happening," she said earnestly, and I began to explain it to her.

Tana is nobody's prize when it comes to brains, but she has her uses. Which is why she's still breathing, of course. That, and luck.