Jan 25, 2020 5:22 AM
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Bella wakes up in a house she's never seen before that has to violate six building codes and an air quality regulation. There's furniture - abandoned, crappy furniture - but she's on the floor in the plaster dust among shards of glass that miraculously haven't cut her. She's got her cross on her neck but no crossbow, no stakes, and she feels like she's moving through gelatin. She's not sure if she could stand - she used to be able to stand! - let alone walk, let alone kick a vampire in the chin.

Oh, fuck, what happened, the last thing she remembers is -

- her birthday magic teacher clearly not being Giles's present after all, stupid, stupid -

- she doesn't seem injured. There's a tender spot in her arm but no bruise, just - is that a needle mark. Oh, powers that be fried on a stick.

She shuffles on her knees over to the door, slowly, slowly, sneezing. She tries the knob. It doesn't work - she thinks that's a lock and not her kittenish weakness. Well, of fucking course, you don't dump incapacitated girls in houses and leave the door open, but she had to try. She tries a window. It is also locked, what the fuck kind of house locks from the outside like this, and painted shut to boot. She could punch right through the glass if -

She can't punch through the glass.

Maybe among the debris on this floor is something she can improvise into a lockpick. She's acquainted with the theory, just because she keeps having to break doors down -
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"Well, would you look at that," says a voice from the shadows, lighthearted, faintly sarcastic, vaguely British. "They left me a snack. How thoughtful."

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Bella tries to freeze, but she can't even do that right anymore, so she sort of shakes where she was crawling in search of moonlit bobby pins.

Talk, you idiot, talk, it's the only thing you can do, do it!

"But they didn't leave you any fries with that. Send me back and demand a manager."
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Giggling, the vampire steps into view. Glass crunches under his boots. He's wearing black jeans and a white button-down shirt with dark spots on one rolled-up sleeve. If it's true that you can judge a vampire's age by fashion sense, this one must be fairly young.

And there's something familiar about his face, but the low light isn't helping anything.

"I like you already," he says. "But regardless, I wasn't planning to eat you. If the Watcher's bloody Council locks a vampire alone in a house with a teenage girl, one must assume they do not mean him to have her for breakfast and walk away whistling."
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One of her hands does its level best to clench. (It closes gently as though she is holding a baby bird in there, but still.) "Break down the door for me and, optionally, call 911," she suggests. "That'll piss them off."

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"Could do. What—oh, of course, you're the Slayer," he says, glancing at the barely visible mark on her arm. "Drugged to suppress your powers. That's fucking vicious, that is. I begin to think I actually could kill you and make it out of here alive. Still won't, though. My contrary nature has been thoroughly activated. Where do you imagine I'm going to get a phone?"

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"I'm not sure exactly where we are, but there's a few functioning pay phones in town and you don't need quarters to call emergency services."

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"True. I'm not sure that solves the problem, though. They might just decide to try again since their first vampire was inexplicably a dud."

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"Depends on what their goal is. Where did they even get you? You look sort of familiar, are you the vampire of somebody local, or... famous?"

(She is still fucking terrified, because this guy could decide to drain her like a jelly donut at a moment's notice and may in fact just be concealing an intention to do so because he likes psychological games, but for now, if she keeps him talking, that'll give whatever the fuck they did to her more time to wear off. They didn't outright murder her, they didn't bleed her out while she was unconscious, so they must want something out of this more complicated than her death.)
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"New York. Long story. Look, if you were the Watcher's Council and you decided to suppress a Slayer's powers and lock her in an empty house with a vampire, what would you be trying to accomplish?"

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"Plausible deniability and Slayer turnover, probably. I haven't interacted with the Council per se to know what might have annoyed them about me; any number of things, potentially, depending on what my Watcher reported back to them. It's my birthday, which might or might not be a coincidence."

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"There are less elaborate ways to kill someone. Even a Slayer. Even if plausible deniability is a significant concern. If I had to guess, I'd say this is a sink-or-swim situation. Either you manage to kill me somehow and prove what a clever Slayer you are, or you die and they start over with a fresh girl. But if I don't play along, the test is void."

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"I don't think I could kill you right now even if I had more tools because I would have to lift those tools. If it's supposed to be that, if this is some sort of idiot coming-of-age ritual, they overdosed me or they were lying when they said there have been Slayers who were eighteen and up."

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"Or you had an unusual reaction to whatever they put you on. I doubt most sincerely that Slayer-depowering potions are rigorously studied. You'd have a hell of a time putting together a trial group."

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"Yeah, maybe they didn't account for how I was before I activated, or something. Irresponsible fuckheads."

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"I'm not terribly impressed with them myself. What to do about it, now, that's the question. If this is the town in southern California I think it is, breaking the door down and calling 911 won't leave you with particularly good odds of survival, not in your condition and most especially not if any locals saw this whole business being set up."

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"I'd give myself decent odds. There aren't that many vampires around Sunnydale anymore and you could tell the dispatcher who I am."

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"There aren't that many vampires around Sunnydale anymore, she says. Why not?"

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"Me. And my key to the morgue."

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"And who are you, with a key to the morgue and a name sufficient to extract useful intervention from Sunnydale emergency services?"

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"My dad's a cop and he knows all about the sacred calling."

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"Hah. You know what, I think I'm reconsidering my objectives."

He pulls a laser pointer from his pocket and flicks the beam across his fingers, producing a quiet sizzling noise and a perfectly straight burn like he slapped a red-hot wire. Then he twirls the laser pointer theatrically and tosses it to her; it lands on the floor, within easy reach. "See if you can lift that."
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She picks it up. "Um."
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"Yes?"

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"What is it?"

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"Ultraviolet laser pointer, what's it bloody look like?"

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