The kitchen of the Scoobies' house was a hubbub of activity with everyone getting ready for the upcoming day. Willow was perched on a stool at the center island, nose glued to her laptop. The early morning sunlight glinted copper on her bright hair. Leaning against the counter, Buffy watched Tara preparing toast, butter knife poised at the ready.
"My classes today are over at 11:30, so I can—" Tara's words were interrupted by a wide yawn and she blinked wearily before continuing, "—can have the car back by noon."
"That works," Buffy told her amicably. "I'm in no rush." She frowned as she looked at Tara. "You maybe wanna think about taking a nap when you get home? You look ragged."
Tara waved the knife dismissively. "I'm fine."
"Sure, if getting about four hours of sleep a night is 'fine'," grumbled Willow, not looking up from the monitor.
Tara threw the redhead a sharp glance, but focused intently upon the data in front of her, Willow failed to notice. Nonetheless, her expression was one of general crankiness.
Buffy's attentive gaze flicked between the witches, finally settling on Tara with a another frown. "What's going on?"
Tara made a valiant effort to be casual. "Nothing. Really. Just, you know." She gave a tiny sigh. "Sleeping's not as easy as it used to be."
"Nightmares?" asked the Slayer gently.
"Sometimes," Tara confirmed with a nod.
"Two or three sometimes a night," Willow felt it her duty to point out.
Yet another glance was thrown Willow's way; this time, Tara's eyes delivered an 'I wish you wouldn't' message. Again the redhead failed to appreciate the plea as she continued to concentrate on her laptop, the furrows in her forehead significantly deeper.
Buffy moved closer to Tara. "Slayer-style nightmares?" she queried uneasily. "Because – trust me on this – those are not to be ignored. Not even if they're about you, a guy named Leonard and a plate of sliced carambola." Tara arched a quizzical eyebrow while Willow dragged her attention away from the screen to toss Buffy a fleeting yet questioning blink. "Don't ask," Buffy advised.
"I won't," Tara promised. "And they're not."
Spreading two slices of toast liberally with butter, Tara carried the plate to Willow, squeezing the redhead gently on the shoulder. It was an imploring touch, a clear request for Willow not to be angry and the response was instantaneous. Looking up, Willow took Tara's hand and, with a tiny sigh, kissed the fingertips.
"It's really worrying me," she confessed.
"I know," acknowledged Tara with a small smile.
The pair's comforting encounter was broken as Tara returned to the counter. Buffy sidled toward her covertly, as though she were about to impart some momentous secret.
"Is it about coming back?" she whispered conspiratorially. When Tara didn't immediately answer, Buffy pressed on. "Only too able to relate here. I had nightmares for months." She paused for a moment before adding, "I still do, sometimes."
Catching the hushed statement, Willow pressed her eyelids together tightly.
"You know what helps, though?" added the Slayer more cheerfully. "Talking about it. And if you need to ..."
The smile that invaded Tara's lips was sincere and she threw Buffy a look of genuine gratitude. "Thank you," she told her softly.
Buffy's reaffirming nod was accompanied by a reciprocating smile of sympathy. They regarded each other in companionable silence for a second and then Dawn bounced into the kitchen, her arrival shattering the serene moment.
"I thought I got it!" she complained ruefully.
"'Got it'?" asked Buffy.
"Did you want it?" queried Tara.
Willow glanced up from her laptop. "Is it catching?"
Dawn chose to ignore them all.
"There I am, doing the exercises Giles assigned," she stated with a wave of her hand, "and then suddenly I notice – my notebook's gone!"
Reaching the cupboard, she yanked open the door and retrieved a box of Pop Tarts, promptly relieving it of one pouch. She impaled the packaging with her teeth and started to tug.
"So I'm first thinking, 'Whoo-hoo! Key Powers!', right?" she mumbled, chewing savagely on the stubborn wrapper. "Like I've sent my notebook hurtling into some parallel universe where bugs rule the earth or something."
"Planet of the Aphids," snickered Willow.
Triumphantly, Dawn extracted one of the elusive Pop Tarts and then treated the occupants of the kitchen to a scathing all-encompassing stare. "Oh, but no. I just threw my sweater on top of it."
She sighed heavily. It was the brand of long-suffering sigh that only disgruntled teenagers have the ability to achieve with any degree of success. Turning, she made her way to the refrigerator. As she passed, Buffy deftly removed the Pop Tart from between her fingers and without missing a beat, Tara equally as deftly replaced it with a piece of wholesome, lightly-buttered toast. Dawn sighed once more.
"And now, breakfast sucks." She gave the offending slice a withering glance, but took a bite anyway and then went fishing in the fridge.
A happy jangle emitted from Willow's computer, and the redhead peered at the screen. "Oh, hey! Mail time!" she pronounced with a huge smile. "News from our friends to the east."
"The entire nation of China?" asked Buffy, sipping at her orange juice.
"Kennedy, silly," retorted Willow, rolling her eyes.
Buffy shrugged. "That was my second guess."
Dawn's head appeared over the top of the refrigerator door. "Tell her I said 'Hi'."
"She already says 'Hi' back," was Willow's swift response.
Dawn nodded with satisfaction. "Efficiency. Cool." She slammed the fridge shut upon hearing a honk from outside. "That's Megan," she told the room, hoisting her backpack onto her shoulder. "Catch you guys later."
Mingled choruses of 'bye' and 'have a good day' followed her departure.
Tara joined Willow at the island. "How's she doing? Any better with her Slayers?"
Frowning, the redhead scanned.
"Not so much," she stated doubtfully before moving into direct quotation mode: "'You'd think after a few months, they'd buckle down to actually learn something. Instead, it's always the same thing: they challenge me in some way they probably think is really creative and endearing, I smash it to hell and make them do laps. I mean, what the fu—'" Employing great presence of mind, Willow hastily and efficiently censored the message, "'—frill? We dance the dance, I keep thinking maybe that's it, but then a week later or whatever, we do it all over again.'"
Buffy sank her teeth into Dawn's pilfered Pop Tart. "Kennedy's Slayers questioning her authority." She chewed with contentment. "Hmm. I'm just going to bask in the karma for a moment, donít mind me."
Lost in something akin to rapture, the Slayer did indeed seem to be basking. Willow lobbed a balled-up napkin in her direction and then resumed reading.
"'It's really getting tedious. So tonight (and I can't believe I'm saying this) we're all going to karaoke.'"
As soon as the words were spoken, Willow's lips twitched with amusement while Buffy actually let loose with a roar of hearty laughter, only narrowly avoiding choking on Pop Tart crumbs.
Tara was also highly entertained at the prospect. "I wonder if she'll video tape it for us if we ask real nice," she pondered with a wicked smirk.
Willow went back to relaying Kennedy's missive, voice laced with barely controlled hilarity. "'I swear to god, if you're laughing Rosenberg, there will be payback.'" Struggling to maintain composure, a wide-eyed Willow regarded Buffy and Tara. "Witness! No laughter!" she warned them.
Unfettered by any such promise, Buffy continued to whoop it up.
Willow shook her head. "'I know it sounds pretty crazy, but I figured that always being on the job with the girls is part of what made Buffy suck so bad.'" The statement was delivered before the redhead was fully aware of what she had just said. She glanced apprehensively at Buffy, who continued to revel in jovial delight.
"Hahah—" Then, the implication finally hit. Buffy's mouth grew prim as she narrowed her gaze toward Willow. "What?"
An expression of worry crossed the redhead's face. "Paraphrasing now," she muttered as she skimmed the screen. "Uhm, that's about everything. Oh—" She glanced at Tara. "She says to tell your lazy ass to reply to her e-mail." With a grin, Willow leaned forward in her seat to address said 'lazy ass'. "Reply to Kennedy's e-mail!" she instructed firmly.
With a laugh, Tara picked up her empty coffee mug and moved to the sink.
"I did not 'suck'," declared Buffy, glowering darkly.
It seemed that Willow was far from convinced.
"Back then? You kinda—" she began and then visibly crumbled beneath Buffy's piercing challenge. She hastened to change course, "—were under a whole lot of stress, so- so those situations should be considered atypical, and not at all the norm." She smiled brightly.
With a toss of her head, Buffy emitted a growling, "Hrmph," as Tara appeared behind Willow's shoulder. With a smirk, Tara leaned forward to whisper in the redhead's ear.
"Given everything that happened that year," Willow whispered back. "I am Niceness deified."
Buffy's dour expression returned in triplicate. "You know I can hear every word."
Willow made every effort to be charming. "I love you."
"Bite me," came the reply, but it was spoken good-naturedly.
As Willow favored Buffy with a little eyebrow waggle, Tara checked the time.
"I've gotta get to class," she informed hurriedly before frowning. "Where's Xander? I thought he wanted a ride to Slayer Central."
Buffy and Willow scoured the room, as though Xander might suddenly materialize from some mysteriously hidden nook or cranny.
"That's pretty weird," mused Willow. "He's pretty much conditioned to awaken with the smell of breakfast."
A crease appeared on Buffy's forehead. "I actually haven't seen him all morning."
Tara was equally puzzled. "I wonder where he is?"
Sprawled across one of the tables in the library, Xander appeared be in a state of unconsciousness. His flattened cheek rested against what was likely an irreplaceable tome and from the corner of his slack mouth, there trickled a steady drooling stream that was soaking into the doubtless ancient text. A pen and yellow legal pad were at his elbow, but obviously they had not been put to good use for quite some time.
Regarding him from the doorway, Willow and Buffy shared a meaningful look before entering the room. Upon reaching the slumbering Xander, who snored softly, they glanced at each other again.
"Guess that answers that question," stated Willow firmly.
"Personally, I'm stunned," admitted Buffy. "I thought he was allergic to this sort of thing?" She gestured vaguely in the direction of the apparent research.
Willow shrugged. "Maybe he's on the patch."
Curiously, they bent forward to peer into Xander's face. He seemed well and truly out for the count, but his contorted position appeared far from comfortable. Buffy winced with sympathy.
"I've had my neck like that for a few hours of unconsciousness," she told Willow in a sorrowful whisper. "Upon waking, there will be pain."
Willow nodded mournfully. "I guess we'd better save him from himself."
Reaching out, she began to gently shake his elbow.
"Xander ..." Her tone was hushed and soothing. "Time to wake up ..."
Her gentle words had no effect and he twitched not a single muscle.
Willow frowned and raised her voice a tad, trying to cajole him back to the land of the living. "It's Saturday morning and you're missing cartoons ..."
Xander's eye finally cracked open, although the rest of his limp body moved not a fraction and his damp cheek remained splayed on the open volume serving as a makeshift pillow. He blinked at the two faces in front of him.
"Angels of mercy?" he ventured hopefully.
"You're drooling," Buffy told him matter-of-factly.
Xander heaved a confirming sigh of resignation. "Angels of Sarcasm then."
Grimacing, he raised his head and began to stretch.
"That really wasn't sarcasm," Willow promptly informed.
"No," admitted Xander, shaking out a leaden hand, "but it sounded better than 'Angels of Obvious-Stating'."
He rolled his neck. It popped audibly, several times.
Xander grimaced again. "That neither felt nor sounded good."
Crossing her arms, Buffy tilted her head to one side. "Y'know, I hear they have these newfangled things called 'beds' now. They come with 'pillows', and when you sleep on them, they tend to not hurt so much."
Willow grinned widely and jabbed a finger. "That was sarcasm."
"Seriously, why the locale change?" asked Buffy. "Are you worrying about the long-term effects of living with so many women again? Because we had Willow go through all that research, and she didn't find—"
Xander pooh-poohed the very idea. "Nothing so self-involved. Giles is punishing me."
Willow's expression became mildly admonishing. "Xander, he's trying to teach you all you need to know to be a Watcher, he's not punishing you."
"No, really, he's punishing me," replied Xander in complete seriousness. "'This is your punishment,' he said, before shoving me in here with a list of topics, 30,000 books, and my regrets."
A frown crossed Buffy's face. "What do you regret?"
"Right now," sighed Xander ruefully, "mostly that I walked away from a promising future at Hot Dog on a Stick."
"Degrading hats hold no future," Buffy advised sagely.
Standing on tiptoe, Willow peered over Xander's shoulder to inspect the sheaves of notes that littered the surface of the table.
"So what's he got you on?" she asked with much curiosity as her eyes scanned the scrawl. "'The Baani, the Trimarga, the Sangerand' ..." She threw him a questioning glance.
Xander exhaled heavily. "The whatchamacallit, the thingtoozler and the bibbity-bobbity-boo. Progress go slow." He ran his fingers dejectedly through tousled hair.
"Nothing, huh?" queried Buffy.
"Nothing really new," the carpenter was forced to admit. "There are a bunch of words like this though, they keep coming up together." He prodded at the legal pad with aggravation. "These are just the only ones we've figured out so far."
Willow inched closer to the table. "That's so weird, when you think this 'Baani' might have something to do with you."
"'Baani the Builder'," pondered Xander with something akin to confusion. He shook his head. "I just can't stop thinking it sounds like a kid's show about an ethnic construction worker."
Willow grinned and retrieved a handful of papers, waving them aloft with much enthusiasm. "What about the other two, what'cha got on them?"
Xander relieved her of the notes and began to sift through. "Uhh, one is maybe something to do with blood. The other ..." He looked at both women with a blank expression and shrugged. "Yoga?"
"Maybe it's an instruction manual, for building a bloodier yoga," offered Buffy with a grin.
"You are affrighting," responded Xander, tossing the papers back onto the table.
Apparently Willow felt that further clarification on an earlier point was in order. "Okay, so back up to the bit where Giles said you're being punished. Punished for what? Did you call it 'soccer' again?"
A wide-eyed Buffy turned to the redhead. "Ooo, he hates that." Willow's agreeing expression showed she knew only too well.
"Nothing so overtly sinister," corrected Xander, rolling a blood-shot eye. "It was about my report last night. You know how I had a group of girls out?" Buffy promptly acknowledged his words with a brisk nod. "We were checkin' on some intel we got from a couple local demons. No problem, but on the way back we run into a party pack of vamps."
Xander yawned before continuing. "They looked kinda weird, all uniformed up – you know how it's never a good idea when the bad guys get organized enough to coordinate their killerwear. Everything's going okay at first, but then one of the Slayers gets in a bit of trouble. Not liking the three-on-one odds, I jumped in to help her out."
He flopped gratefully into a nearby armchair and stretched out his legs. Throwing back his head, he stared at the ceiling, his tale apparently concluded. Buffy and Willow gazed at each other in amazement, neither having garnered any more insight than before the question had been posed.
Willow moved closer. "And you were punished why now?"
Xander's neck snapped in her direction. "Exactly what I asked! Boy was that a mistake. Giles starts on this huge big rant about how, as a Watcher, my job is to record, not do. 'By engaging your opponent, Xander, you cannot properly observe them. They may have provided some vital insight as to their nature and purpose.'" Xander raked his hair once more. "So I point out their purpose seemed pretty clear, what with the growling and the attacking and the killing. Looks like Logic ran away with Humor though, so next thing I know I'm pullin' an all-nighter in the most unappealing way known to god or man."
Frowning, Buffy joined Willow. "You know, I've been getting my fair share of Grumpy Giles lately too. I'm not sure what his deal is, but I am sure I don't like it." The Slayer jutted her chin defiantly.
"Yeah," agreed Willow with a pout. "I mean, the crusty outer layer you sort of get used to after like nine years, but I miss my real fruit filling."
Buffy arched an eyebrow. "I'm going so many places with that, and I'm a fan of none of them."
Xander leapt to his feet, ostensibly injected with a fresh supply of energy. "Bottom line, he must be stopped." He glanced at the worktable and surveyed all the research yet to be completed. His expression grew melancholy and his shoulders slumped. He looked to Buffy and Willow pleadingly.
"Soon, would be good," he entreated wistfully.
Seated at a small table in front of the classroom, a teacher wearing an expression of undisguised boredom wearily tapped a pencil upon the scarred surface. Behind him, a blackboard proclaimed the room to be the "Study Hall," followed by the message: "Take your assigned seat." Chalked next to the command was the notice: "This week: Mr. Anderson." Mr. Anderson's demeanor gave every indication that he considered this designation to be more of a punishment than anything else. His shoulders were slumped and he surveyed the students before him with a melancholy eye.
Among the gathering were Dawn, Brenda, Ginny and Grip. Dawn and Brenda sat next to each other, with Ginny a couple of seats to the left of Dawn, but one row behind. Grip was several rows in front of the girls, but not quite under the immediate gaze of the dour-faced Mr. Anderson. Every pupil had open books atop their desks but very few were focused upon the text, including Dawn and Brenda. Instead, the pair had a notebook positioned between them. The displayed page was littered with two very distinct and untidy scrawls, the words hurriedly written.
Hidden well out of view of administrative eyes, Brenda was looking quizzically at a piece of cardboard that lay in her lap. About the size of a sheet of looseleaf paper, it sported a large heart fashioned somewhat crudely from tape. No ordinary tape, however, this was the thick and extremely rough-textured variety. Colored yellow with black stripes, it bore a striking resemblance to a caution sign. Still, Brenda couldn't help but be impressed. Within the heart was a collage of pictures, cleverly arranged so that something different and novel seemed to leap out with each and every new inspection. Brenda shook her head in awe and handed the masterpiece back to Dawn, who accepted it with a smitten smile. From behind, Ginny tried desperately to attract Dawn's attention in her anxiety to also get a look at the creation. Her actions were subdued but nonetheless frantic in their execution. Unfortunately for Ginny, her frenzied efforts went unnoticed.
Grabbing a pen, Brenda wrote on the page: "It's cute, but...what is it?"
"I'm actually not sure," came Dawn's scribbled response.
Brenda smirked. "Nice," she noted beneath Dawn's reply.
Rising halfway out of her seat, Ginny leaned across the desk, and flopped her hand up and down in a frantic attempt to draw Dawn's focus. Again, her plea fell on stony ground, but this time Mr. Anderson caught her in mid-wave. Sensing that she had been espied, Ginny immediately froze, trapped in an embarrassing scrabble. She threw the teacher a faltering smile of apology and quickly jerked back into her chair, where she promptly shrank down, expression and posture screaming her guilt.
"I mean I know what it is," Dawn was swiftly writing, "but I haven't figured out all the stuff yet. He called it 'So Far'."
Brenda's features instantly melted into what might best be described as "soppy." The sentiment was immediately mirrored by a dreamy-eyed Dawn.
Brenda grabbed her pen. "AWWWWWW." She underlined the announcement heavily, three times, almost ripping a hole the paper.
Dawn understood totally. "I know!!!" Her fingers traced outline of the heart, nestling securely in the safety of her lap.
Having now filled up all available space on the page, Brenda put down her pen to flip the notebook to a pristine sheet. In doing so, she knocked the writing implement off the desk, where it rolled smoothly beneath Dawn's chair. Ducking down, Dawn reached to retrieve it at the exact moment a wadded-up ball of paper sailed over her head. Had she been sitting upright, its trajectory would have been halted, but alas, the sphere o' doom continued on a hapless course. Missing its intended victim, it found a target squarely in the middle of the beefy neck of a very muscular and very cranky jock.
He was less than amused at the unexpected violation upon his person and swiveled in his chair to track down the foolhardy assailant. With beady eyes narrowed, he spotted Ginny, hand clasped to her mouth in horror and cheeks visibly burning with remorse. She buckled miserably beneath the accusing gaze and hurriedly focused her attention on the open book in front of her. Hastily raising the text, she sought sanctuary behind its pages and hoped fervently that it would hide her guilt-stricken face.
With a smile of thanks, Brenda accepted the rescued pen offered by Dawn and wasted no time in christening the blank sheet of paper.
"Grip's so sweet," she wrote. "You're lucky." She rested an elbow on the desk and cupped her chin. "I can't even get Austin Edwards to look at me."
Dawn twisted the notebook toward her. "You should ask him out! We're modern women in the modern world." She pushed it under Brenda's nose and waited for a response. None was forthcoming. Brenda simply glanced at the words and then stared into space, wide-eyed and slowly shaking her head. The movement was virtually indiscernible, as though she had become immobilized in a private reverie.
Dragging the notebook in front of her again, Dawn added, "Or not. Okay, next plan: we make you over. New hair, new clothes, new makeup, new look! We'll bring out your inner supermodel."
The message spurred Brenda back into mobility. "Maybe," she scribbled. "Even if it works though, then the only reason he's noticing me is because I'm a J-Lo clone. I want him to like me for me, you know?"
Dawn considered this and then nodded, forced to agree that Brenda had a point.
Behind her, Ginny slid down in her seat and stretched out her legs beneath the desk, trying her utmost to reach Dawn's chair. Her obvious intent was to nudge the back legs and finally get Dawn's attention. Given the distance and Ginny's relative lack of height, however, the attempt was destined to be an exercise in futility. Nonetheless, Ginny was nothing if not determined and the effort was a valiant one.
"Which brings us back to lucky you," Brenda was now writing. "Grip saw the whole real Dawn Summers package and liked it. You don't have to be something you're not for him." She treated Dawn to a wistful smile.
Dawn glanced toward the front of the room and stared fondly at Grip's blue hair. He seemed to instinctively detect the gaze and peered over his shoulder. Seeing Dawn looking at him, he threw her an endearing grin. She returned the grin as he surreptitiously waggled a roll of yellow tape decorated with black stripes in her direction. He then resumed his studying before either of them could get into trouble.
At Brenda's insistent tapping on the notebook with her pen, Dawn refocused on the page. Brenda had left another note. It read: "See??"
Thoughtfully, Dawn nodded in accord, but the action was reserved. Her eyes clouded as they traveled yet again toward Grip and she chewed the top of her pen, leaving teethmarks in the plastic. Her expression was pensive, but before her friend could question Dawn's look, the silence was broken by a loud crash.
Every head in the room abruptly whipped around to the source of the disturbance. Ginny's book lay face down on the floor while Ginny herself had slid completely out of her chair, landing about three-quarters of the way under her desk. Mr. Anderson leaned to one side in order to avail himself of a clear view, but he had many years under his belt as a member of the teaching profession and was thus relatively unflappable in any given situation. Consequently, he simply regarded her impassively.
"Is there a problem with your seat, Ms. Jacobs?" he inquired politely, although there was no mistaking the underlying sarcasm.
Mortified and glowing beet-red with humiliation, Ginny scrambled to climb back into her upturned chair. In her flustered state, she banged her head on the underside of the desk. Wincing with pain, she attempted to retrieve the book, but it slipped twice from her trembling fingers before she was able to successfully return it to its rightful place. "No sir, Mr. Anderson," she managed to squeak while fumbling to set her seat on four legs once more "Sorry, Mr. Anderson. Sorry. Sorry."
Ginny's haunted gaze darted around the room before she buried her nose within the confines of the volume, obviously wishing she could be sucked into its depths and conveniently disappear. To everyone's merriment, the textbook was upside down and several snickers broke out before being stifled. But Ginny didn't seem to notice, lost as she was in her misery.
Dawn and Brenda exchanged a look of amusement, rolling their eyes at their spastic friend and wryly shaking their heads.
The moonlight cast dark shadows upon the deserted area, otherwise illuminated only by the occasional streetlamp. It was eerily silent, save for the muted whistle of an evening breeze snaking between the buildings. The brisk tap of approaching footsteps shattered the silence.
From around a corner, Xander emerged. His stride, long and speedy, was that of a man in a hurry.
"Chrissie! C'mon!" he whispered over his shoulder and then visibly jumped as she was suddenly there beside him, materializing unnoticed from the gloom. She effortlessly kept fell in time with his step.
"I thought I heard something," she explained in defense of her absence.
"Yeah, well, it's night," acknowledged Xander curtly. "Somethings like to make noise at night, it's part of their charm."
Chrissie scowled for a second and glanced up at Xander's tight-set expression. He was obviously in a fine mood, but she decided to let it drop, not wishing to antagonize him further. Luckily, she was blessed with the short-term memory inherent in dogs and young people. Consequently, she was soon chatting amicably once again.
"D'you think we'll be late?"
"Yes." Xander's response came so swiftly that he virtually answered the question before it was fully out of her mouth. "Which will earn me yet another Stern Talking To – just what I needed." The frown he was sporting deepened considerably.
"It's not your fault!" protested Chrissie supportively. "You were all tired and stuff."
Xander smiled wryly. "Ahh, Chrissie," he sighed. "Dear, sweet, naÔve Chrissie. Commanders don't sleep; we gave that up in exchange for knowing everything."
The girl's tone betrayed her amusement. "You guys know everything?"
"It's a well-kept secret," confided Xander. "It's what lets us be all pompous and condescending. Now come on, double time – there's other Slayers to meet and evil I have to order you to kill."
Pausing just long enough to deliver a snappy salute, which Xander blatantly chose to ignore, Chrissie easily jogged ahead of him. Picking up the pace, Xander followed in her wake.
"Of course I meant 'double Xander time'," he muttered irritably, "not 'double The Flash time' ..."
Swallowed within the darkness, Xander was unaware that he had left someone behind him –someone who had been tracking his path closely with a keen sense of urgency. The figure loitered beneath a streetlamp, wickedly pointed eyeteeth gleaming like polished ivory by the light of the full moon. The eyes shone with eager anticipation.
Swathed in a subdued black uniform, the watching vampire grinned with satisfaction before activating a communication device fastened to his lapel. His message was transmitted in a hushed and furtive manner, although the underlying excitement could plainly be discerned.
"We've got him."