Buffy leaped the chain link fence lightly and jumped into a run, the sidewalk moving under her, the sea air meeting her lungs like cool water hitting a thirsty throat. She was beginning to berate herself; how rude, she thought. Blatantly rude, to run like that and let them know, so they would have to peruse. What's gotten into me, she thought, what is my problem, but the night air was like perfume, her eyes scanned the darkness, her muscles came awake, it was like a long, luxurious stretch after a good nap. Her senses came alive. She stepped up the pace, lengthening her strides, pumping her arms, taking in more air. She was almost into a pool of light; she sidestepped gracefully and plunged into the darkness, weaving playfully in and out of light, laughing a little to herself. Just going for a run was not the same, she had to be hunting or escaping, she had to put something on the line...what was the term for people like her? Adrenaline junkies.
It was about seven blocks to the drugstore and Buffy enjoyed every step of it. She saw two teenagers making out in a car, they were fine, no need to worry about them. She saw a stray cat hunting; it crouched when she came near, and leaped away. She glanced quickly into alleys, she wove her run around buildings, checking backyards and parking lots. Looked clean. She was almost to the store. A figure stepped out from behind a dumpster directly into her path. She threw herself into a spinning back kick, driving him away, but not down. He was at least 6'4", and solid. Buffy hurled a low side kick, catching him on the outside of his knee and tripping him quickly. She whipped out a stake and threw herself onto the chest of her attacker. She pushed the stake slightly into the flesh of his chest.
"How many?" she demanded.
"You'd be best off to keep your worries to me, at the moment," an Irish accent, and terrible breath. He'd just fed. Buffy leaned onto the stake; she was seized by one arm and thrown backward. She flew into the dumpster; it rang with a hollow boom. She jumped to her feet. Five of them. Gigantic, and all in game face. No crossbow. Buffy swore to herself. These were bigger and older than The Three.
"You're feeling satisfied, are ya?" said one, "So you go for an evenin' stroll. We're not done yet, young lady. We'll have a bit of what you done for us,"
Buffy reached quickly into her pockets and was armed, a stake in each hand. She paused. Why did they always have to talk? She hated that.
"Done for you?" What the hell were they talking about?
"You and the liar," said the biggest one, snaking foreword.
Buffy faked a front snap kick, pulling out at the last second. He fell for it; he ducked sideways and she nailed him in the fangs with a hook kick instead. He fell back, holding his mouth. Two others stepped in. She was surrounded, cornered against the dumpster, but this could be an advantage. She faked again, leaning toward the left. The vampire on her right stepped in, too confident, and she staked him quickly with a flick of her wrist. This made them angry, also an advantage. Two dove for her at the same time. She slipped quickly to the ground. They ran into each other. She grabbed one of them; he was momentarily stunned, and Buffy only needed a moment. She had him by the belt and she pulled him down, holding her stake up. He fell onto her, impaling himself, and exploded into dust. That's two, she thought. She was seized by the throat and held aloft, with a snarling, fetid face shoved into hers. She was surprised to see him winding up for an old fashioned round-house punch; he got her clean on the nose, she heard it break.
"That," he said, "Is for the Monaghan Clan,"
Buffy kicked him square in the crotch. He groaned, folding, and dropped her. She rolled away on the pavement, and jumped up with a fresh stake in each hand.
Two others were walking towards her, slowly.
"No bullets tonight, hunh?" she said, "They're more efficient,"
"This ain't about efficiency," the big one growled. She noted that she'd knocked his front fangs out, he was lisping. If she'd had time she would have laughed, but he pulled out something that looked like a machete. "We been hearing about your pretty face, so we decided it'll make an American souvenir the neighbors'll envy. We'll put it up on the Spanish Arch in Galway. The rest of ya'll come back with us. You'll be our own dessert platter for years to come,"
Buffy squared off with him. They circled each other in the parking lot. He brought the blade sideways in a lightening arc; Buffy leaped back, but the front of her sweatshirt was slashed. Too close. The streetlight glistened blindingly on the steel as he lunged again. Buffy noted that she was being circled from behind. She kept her feet in motion, ducking and dancing, keeping the vampire in back of her guessing; the blade swept at her again, just as Buffy bumped into him. She stood her ground, twisted to grab him and tossed him into the path of the blade. Half of his face fell cleanly away. It was several seconds before he started screaming, but by that time Buffy had grasped the handle of the weapon and had sent it back against it's wielder; he was sliced through the chest. Buffy scampered backward, twirling the machete in her hand, getting the feel of it. It was a nice weapon.
"Sweet," she said, "But I thought the fightin' Irish were all about fists-you know, honor, all that junk,"
"Honor," the one as-yet uninjured vampire was leaning against the dumpster, unhurried. "Americans know precious little of it. You've got no families. You've got no roots, no respect for yourselves, you've got no code,"
"So, Pat Robertson must be huge with you guys," said Buffy.
"Old families, traditions, you've none of it. You're nuthin' but a country full of illiterate, drugged-up teenagers, with big guns. Americans, the worst of the living. The bullies of the planet, the scourge of the world. We'll wipe all of ya out, sooner or later,"
Buffy looked at the two piles of dust and two quivering, bleeding vampires on the pavement.
"So, then, that would have to be later," she said, "'Cuz you're not exactly holding your own yet,"
He came toward her, slowly. Buffy shifted on her feet. He reached into his jacket; Buffy threw herself into a spinning back kick and brought him down before the weapon was out. She leaped onto his chest, jamming her knees under his arms. His right hand twisted, aiming the gun at her head, but she had already swung the machete high; his head came off without a sound. His weapon fired into the air and fell onto a small mound of dust. She was barely off her knees when she felt the blood dripping on the back of her neck. She twisted, stake out, and the half-faced vampire dissolved and sifted gently onto the blacktop. She pivoted, looking for the last one, the big one with his chest hanging open. His fist caught her on the jaw and she was thrown off her feet. She landed hard, the air rushed out of her, and the machete went clattering.
"That was for Joe," he said. He loomed over her. He delivered a kick to the center of her chest. Buffy jerked foreword with an "oof "; funny, she'd thought she had all the wind knocked out of her just a second ago. He lifted her by a handful of her sweatshirt; it began to tear away, having been slashed almost through already.
"This one," he heaved, "Is for the entire Flaherty Clutch, the oldest and most exaulted of the ancient families, the most powerful family on the Isle of Eire, the last bastion of-"
Buffy's sweatshirt tore and she sank in it. He stumbled foreword.
"I hate it when you talk," she coughed, and staked him.
Buffy was sitting on the curb as Xander's cars pulled up. Two police cars pulled up directly behind them. She watched Xander take something out of his jacket and show it to an officer. They talked quietly.
Giles bolted to her. "Buffy!"
"I'm OK," she held the front of her sweatshirt closed.
"Your nose is broken," he said, tilting her face in his hands, "Are you injured otherwise?"
"Just my outfit. I'm OK. My nose'll be fine by morning, Giles. You know that,"
"How many of them were there? Were there five?"
"I didn't see their Visas, but yeah, they talked funny,"
"You've defeated the Dal Riada," said Giles, with his subdued excitement, "The oldest warrior vampires in the entire country of Ireland, named after the ancient Celts. They represented the last efforts of-"
"The Flattery Clutch?"
"Uh-Flaherty" he shot her a glance, "To-to preserve itself. They would only be sent as a revenge battalion. It's a clear indication that the center of power in Ireland has fallen, and taken a major part of vampire control in the British Isles with it,"
"Oh-well, always glad to help out those bloody Brits," said Buffy, smiling at him.
"Having a nice evening?" demanded Xander. He stood glaring at her. "Get your thrills in for one night?"
"Xander-" Giles began, but he was railroaded.
"Hold on a minute, Giles. What's it going to take, Buffy? Have you killed enough for the evening, have you gotten your rocks off, or should we hook you up with a rogue vamp so you can bone his brains out, just to prove you can do it?"
Buffy was on her feet instantly. Her first instinct was to clobber him.
"Don't you think that's a little over the top?" she said, her voice dangerously low.
"Yes, I think you are. You know what used to be cool about you? You used to care about other people. You act like a lunatic anymore. You've lost your grip. It gets old, Buffy. You're making Giles old,"
"No, Giles, she needs to know this. I heard about that stunt in San Francisco, Buffy. A cargo. A whole damn cargo, by yourself. Never tell anybody where you're going. You're starting to loose your mind,"
"Didn't loose a vampire, though," she said quietly, "That's the point. Strategy, and dust. Dust, Xander,"
"At some point it's got to occur to you that you are not the center of the damn universe,"
Buffy turned her head and spotted James.
"James," she said. He looked inquiringly at Xander, who was planted in front of Buffy , bristling. Buffy pulled two bills out of a pocket and held them out to him. He came foreword reluctantly. "Would you please go into the store and get me a bar of Ivory soap? I'm a little-" she looked down at her patrol outfit, which was torn down the front and covered with dust and blood, "-Unkempt, at the moment," He went.
"People get sick of this crap, Buffy," Xander continued.
She turned to him. Her voice dropped to a whisper.
"That's enough, Xander." she said, "I'm done. If you say one more word I'm going to embarrass you so badly in front of your team that they'll never look at you with a straight face again. I'll put you in that dumpster," she nodded sideways, "And make you sing to get out. Our friendship means a lot to me. Don't make me do it."
Xander stalked off to his car; it sped away. Buffy and Giles sat together on the curb waiting for James and staring back at the faces of people plastered to the window inside the store.
Buffy sighed. "I just hate confrontation, you know?" she said. She handed Giles the machete, "Here, souvenir,"