stock: typewriter

Fic: Lapsang Souchong - Part 1

Title: Lapsang Souchong
Author: avamclean
Fandoms: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural
Rating: FR15
Word Count: 17688
Content Warnings: hell imagery, language
Spoilers: Supernatural episodes “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Heaven and Hell”
Authors Notes: This story is part of the ‘Miles to Go’ series and is a sequel to ‘Oleander Wine’

Disclaimer: Supernatural and all related characters are copyright Eric Kripke, Kripke Enterprises & The CW Network. No infringement intended. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all related characters are copyright Joss Whedon and ME. No infringement intended.

Synopsis: Buffy’s just getting the hang of her new life, her new enemies and the open road when she’s needed back home, but is Sunnydale still her home?


Lapsang Souchong


The light-knit sweater rose up, exposing a line of smooth skin as Buffy bent at her waist, hips cupping the pool table as she lined up a shot. Doyle’s gaze dipped as he noticed the pleasant fit of her jeans. The sharp crack of the cue striking another ball lifted his head and he shook it, a hand snaking up and around the back of his neck as he silently reminded himself he was teaching Angel’s girl the fine and true ways of hustling pool and shouldn’t be noticing her finer attributes unless he wanted to be eviscerated.

Clearing his throat and pushing himself away from one of the high-top tables, set up sporadically around the dive the pair currently found themselves in, Doyle complimented before he critiqued, “Nice lineup, but y’ur using too much force.”

He came up beside Buffy and motioned her aside before leaning forward himself and lined a shot. He turned his head back towards her and absently shook the hand gripping the pool cue. “Ya got to loosen y’ur grip. It’s not a stake and the cue ball’s not a vampire.” He offered her a wink before turning back to the shot.

Blue eyes narrowed as he pulled the blue tipped end of the pool cue away from its intended mark and then snapped his wrist forward, sending the white ball spinning towards its striped brother and sank it in the corner pocket. He rose with a triumphant smile and turned, offered the tiny Slayer a knowing look as he stated, “And that’s how it’s done.”

A finely shaped brow rose before a slow smile spread Buffy’s lips and she shook her head, moving back towards the high-top table they’d commandeered and Doyle followed her over. With a hesitant glance around them she lifted the Caffery’s Doyle had ordered for her and took a cautious sip. Green eyes widened and the other brow rose to meet its sister as Doyle lifted his O’Hara’s and toasted the empty space between them. “Told ya, you’d like it just fine.”

“You did,” she took another sip before replacing it and stated, “it tastes a bit like—”

“Toffee?” Doyle interrupted with chuckle and smirk. “That it should.”

“But it’s not sweet.” A line appeared between her brows as she clarified, “I would have thought it’d be sweet. What with the toffee and all.”

His smile widened as he clarified, “And that’d be the beauty of a good ale.”

The smile she flashed him was just the side of cheeky as she stated, “And you would know,” before spinning on her boot heel and strolling back to the pool table. She moved herself to the farthest corner from him as Doyle watched her, still sipping at his own drink. A look of concentration tightened the area around her mouth and for a brief moment her nostrils flared. Doyle’s chin dipped, hiding his smile behind his glass as he watched Buffy once again setup a shot and she took a moment to shake out her right hand as she lined it with her left.

Green eyes lifted from their intense study of the cue and a solid to him and he lowered his glass, making his smile reassuring as he nodded to her. She sucked in a quick breath and Doyle’s gaze dropped as he couldn’t help but notice how that simple movement filled out the v-neck of her sweater and then the slight bounce as she sent her pool cue cracking against the cue ball. His eyes snapped shut and he took another, longer pull of O’Hara’s before turning away from the table and Buffy’s fine form to replace his glass on the high-top.

There was a muffled thump and roll as Buffy sank her solid and she made an excited sound that turned Doyle back to her. She bounced onto the toes of her boots and Doyle kept his gaze at neck-level or higher even as he applauded her.

“I did it!”

Her happy exclamation had him nodding again, “That ya did,” and he motioned her to take another shot, “which means ya go again.”

“Yay me.” She lifted the pool cue and moved, placing herself before the white ball again, even as she prompted, “So what’s your story?”

A brow rose with the sudden query and Doyle inclined his head. “Story?”

A nod dipped her chin as she bent, lining up a shot. “Yeah, story. Like what brought you to the good’ole L of A? How’d you meet Angel?”

“Ah,” a nagging voice told him which question was more important to the diminutive blonde, but for the moment Doyle played dense and offered her, “Well it’s quite the tale, it is.”

She sank another shot and prompted, voice drier then his O’Hara’s, “Really?”

“Really,” he shot back and continued, “It’s full of ribald adventures and beautiful damsels with loose morals.” Her short bark of laughter had Doyle smiling as he offered, “Don’t suppose you’d like to be one of those damsels?”

“Tempting.” Buffy shot him an amused look as she strolled back to him or more than likely her drink. “But I’m none too interested.” She leaned her pool cue against one of the stools and reached around him for said drink, but not before offering him a bright smile. “Thanks for the offer though.”

Doyle gave a put upon sigh. “I suppose this means ya’ll never fall for my ample, but unpretentious charms.”

She gave him a slow nod in return, her eyes widening even as she appeared to be holding back her laughter and Buffy stated, voice nearly even, “I suppose.”

He watched her take another few sips of ale and he couldn’t ignore the subtle shift in her stance as she directed her considering gaze beyond him to encompass the entire establishment. Doyle turned with her, attempted to see what a Slayer saw as he gazed at the rows upon rows of empty bottles lining the wall behind the bar. The stale scent of cigarette smoke clung to the well-worn stools and high-tops, hanging heavy in the dank air as one of the patrons, a no-neck in a beaten-in leather jacket, rose from his corner of the bar to trudge over to the jukebox that only worked every so often.

“Not the nicest of establishments.” He turned, chin dipping as he gazed down at Buffy’s profile as she continued to study the dive. He waited till she turned to him before offering, “But, as you can now attest, it does serve a mean ale.”

She kept eye contact as she took another sip of her Caffery’s before smiling and wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. “Yep.”

Her exaggerated popping of her ‘p’ shook Doyle’s head before he stated, without preamble, “I get visions.”

“Huh?” Buffy sent him a confused look and he raised his brows, watching as understanding dawned and she turned her attention back to the other patrons as she stated, her voice certain, “You got a vision that led you to Angel.”

“That I did.”

There was a short lull in which Buffy took longer drink of her Caffery’s before offering, “And the rest is history.”

The undercurrents to her tone had Doyle turning back to her and treating the Slayer to the same careful study she was giving the bar. He wondered, for a brief moment, over which part of her history she was obsessing on—Angel, hell or both—before he attempted to her pull back to the present, his voice as quiet as hers, “The past has an awful way of not letting go doesn’t she.”

His mouth thinned as Doyle came to the realization that his time spent with Angel was turning him into quite the softy, but the grateful look Buffy sent him very nearly made it worth it. Unfortunately he was still more then certain she was unwilling to be one of the damsels in his tale and he was also fairly certain Angel would remove parts of his anatomy he was greatly fond of should he try rather then just supplying her with false identities and such.

The perils of working with a vampire he supposed and winced when a woman’s voice cut across the dim of the bar and began to sing, ‘You and I in a little toy shop, buy a bag of balloons with the money we’ve got…’

A snort shook his shoulders as he met Buffy’s wide-eyed stare and she began to giggle as they both turned to stare at the no-neck patron that had chosen Nena’s ‘Ninety-Nine Red Balloons’ as his first choice in songs and Buffy turned back to Doyle. “If the Macarena comes on we’re so booking it.”

“Agreed.”

~*~


Absently Buffy continued to sketch out the few symbols she could remember of the box that had held the Colt Paterson currently sitting cattycorner to her at Dr. Primrose’s kitchen table. The overhead lights brought the etched words and symbols of the gun, that could kill demons, into focus and Buffy added the Latin phrase, “non timebo mala” to her doodles before refocusing on the backwards ‘C’ she was creating with sharp slashes of pencil against paper. Her eyes narrowed, chin dipping as she recalled the contrasting symbol that belonged in the center of the design and she quickly added it, wrist dipping as she attempted to mimic the low arch of its bottom.

“I shall fear no evil?”

The slight upward tilt to the tail end of Primrose’s statement made it a question and had Buffy turning to meet her gaze. She shrugged and nudged the gun with the tip of her eraser. “Was distracted by the shiny,” she used the pencil to circle the phrase on the gun before asking, “any clues as to the hows and whys this thing kicks such ass?”

“A few,” the doctor moved to take the seat directly in front of the Colt Paterson and she lifted it, held it delicately as she turned it over, thumb caressing the pentacle carved into the wooden handle. “Most of theses symbols are positioned precisely, much like the keys in Solomon’s grimoire.”

With a quirk of her brow Buffy returned to her symbols and lackluster memory skills as she snarked, “Couldn’t you just say devil’s traps?”

She began an upside-down ‘Y’ with two lines running parallel through the top and smiled when Primrose made a rude noise, somewhere between a humph and snort. “I suppose you’re right.” Buffy’s smile widened with the sudden agreement to her observation and she dipped her chin to hide it as she added circles over the sections where the lines intersected. “I could perhaps slow my speech as well.” Buffy’s head rose and she shot Primrose a glare as the older woman offered, “I don’t want to confuse you.”

“Funny.”

Her dry retort only succeeded in raising one of the doctor’s brows as she lowered the gun back to the table. “Yes, well I have been known to have a sense of humor once in a great while.”

Green eyes rolled toward the ceiling as Buffy snapped the pencil against the polished wood of the table and felt a small sense of satisfaction as Primrose grimaced with the noise and thrust the notebook towards the doctor. “This is all I can remember.”

Primrose accepted the pad of paper with a gentle touch before bowing her head over Buffy’s notes and showcasing the pale brown of her hair. She’d let it grow since Buffy had seen her last and the few months had added a gentle wave and a bit of grey at the roots. Buffy eased back from the table, letting the tip of Willow’s Docs nudge the floor as she peered around the ex-Watcher towards her kitchen and the cast-iron kettle just beginning its low heat whistle.

The sound gradually grew in intensity as Primrose remained engrossed in the few symbols Buffy had been able to remember and she turned, frowned as the lines around the older woman’s eyes grew deeper. “Dr. Primrose?” Her blue eyes narrowed and she continued to scan the notebook, flipping the page to Buffy’s previous attempts. “Primrose?” A line appeared between Buffy’s brows before she raised her voice and palm slapped the table, “Amelia!” before rising and moving toward the now shrieking kettle.

She caught the wooden handle and hesitantly lifted it from the heat, the tightness in her shoulders easing with the sudden drop in noise as the kettle calmed. Depositing it on a cool burner she turned, sent a confused look towards Primrose as the older woman rose from the table and turned to Buffy, still holding the notebook. “Some of these symbols are a form of cuneiform.”

“And this means what to me?”

Blue eyes narrowed with her flippant response and Primrose’s brows dropped, turning a rather forceful frown into a glare. “Do not act as a git with me, Miss Summers. If you recall I have an astute understanding of your true mental worth as I was the one to administer your aptitude and intelligence quotient tests while you were my patient.”

Her arms crossed and Buffy eased away from the stove as she inclined her head and snapped back, “Yeah, because my parents thought me mentally challenged, but were hoping for a learning disability.”

“Your parents cared enough—”

“To lock me up?” The tightness in her shoulders was back and Buffy shook her head, offered, after her waspish interruption, “I’m sorry. It’s just, that’s not the memory of my parents I want to cherish, ya know?”

A slight dip of a square chin was Buffy’s only answer as Primrose calmly handed her the notebook and motioned her aside as she opened one of the many cupboards lining the walls and pulled down a small opaque jar, setting it beside the stove. She poured the water from kettle to pot and with quick, efficient movements she blotted out the inside of the kettle before opening the jar and a drawer beside the stove. There was the shuffle of silverware before she removed a measuring spoon and scooped out two teaspoons of a dry and crumbling plant.

Buffy’s nose wrinkled with the faint, though not unpleasant, scent of ash and wood and her brows rose as Primrose added the water back to the kettle and set a digital timer. Her head inclined with the process that went into making a cup a tea as she toyed with one of the frayed edges of the notebook. Primrose turned, hands still cupping the timer as she looked to Buffy and frowned, gaze dropping to the notebook.

“So what’s with the vacant stare a few minutes ago?” Buffy lifted the notebook to emphasize her point as she added, “What’s in here that made you all non-verbal?”

A hand rose to rub gentle circles along the bridge of Primrose’s nose, her eyes falling closed as she gave a tight pinch, paling the skin before her hand fell away and she stated, “Most of the symbols, while crude, resemble protective characters.”

Buffy’s head cocked as the scent of wood-smoke grew stronger as the tea steeped and she offered, “I kinda figured.”

“Protective characters meant to ward off humans and the angelic.”

“Oh,” the slight tingle in her cheeks let Buffy know they were paling and she really wished Primrose had chairs in her kitchen as she gazed at her, slightly stunned.

“Precisely.”

“I shouldn’t have been able to open it.”

“Perhaps,” Primrose took a hesitant step forward, “or perhaps you’re remembering the symbols incorrectly.”

“A good, solid theory,” she gave a broken laugh as her stomach tightened, “let’s stick with that one.”

“Buffy—”

“I’m human,” she shook her head, reiterated softly, but vehemently, “I am human!”

“Of course you are. Don’t be—”

Buffy interrupted her, voice trembling, “Uriel called me tainted,” she paused, frowned, “actually he referred to me as tainted. He’d have to actually talk to me to call me something.”

“Then Uriel is a fool and you twice as much for weighing his opinion more then your own.” She blinked, startled by Primrose’s quiet counterargument and before she could hazard a response the ex-Watcher was already continuing with, “I can not fathom why you would listen to a being whose whole purpose seems to be focused on the mockery of humanity.”

Buffy simply stared at her quietly a moment before a slow smile curled the edge of her mouth as she offered, simply, “You rock.”

“Well of course I do.” The timer chirped and Primrose turned away from Buffy and their moment of understanding to place an infuser over one of the mugs and slowly poured the tea. The scent of wood-smoke grew stronger and Buffy moved closer, coming to stand beside Primrose as the other woman switched the infuser, now covered in bits of dark, wet plant, to the other mug and repeated the process.

Her curiosity got the better of her and Buffy decided to refocus on the present and questioned, “Does it taste like it smells?”

A slow lift of Primrose’s shoulder accompanied her turn back to the stove as she deposited the kettle before she turned back to Buffy. “Some believe it to be a bit tarry, but I find the scent and taste quite relaxing.”

“Huh.” Buffy accepted the mug she was offered and hesitated a moment, watching Primrose take the first sip before following her example. The first taste that registered was salty and her nose wrinkled before it relaxed as the more subtle, smoky tones took effect and she swallowed, the taste lingering on her tongue. “It makes me want s’mores.”

Her response must have been a good one because Primrose sent her a smile that made the lines around her eyes gather in more subtle, attractive way. “I might have the makings of those somewhere in these pantries.”

Buffy took another sip and made a content sound as she moved back toward the kitchen table to lay down her notebook and sit in front of the Colt Paterson. Primrose followed her over, taking the seat Buffy had previously and pulled the notebook back towards her. “What is this?”

She raised the mug to clarify as Primrose raised her gaze and smiled. “It’s called Lapsang Souchong.”

“And it always tastes like a campfire smells?”

“When it’s properly smoke-dried, yes.”

“Nifty.”

Primrose shook her head and refocused on the notebook, turning back and forth between Buffy’s original notes and her more focused drawings. Buffy settled back in her chair, lifting the mug two handed to her face to take a few more sips as she watched the ex-Watcher dissect and analyze her work. A heavy, but not uncomfortable silence, settled around them and Buffy welcomed the sedated calm after having spent the better part of the night ignoring Doyle’s ogling while being equal parts amused and annoyed by it.

It was nice to have a guy notice her, a guy that knew where she’d been and what she’d been through and didn’t see her as damaged goods. It was also a bit distracting when she was attempting to focus on a shot or his explanation of why her newest fake ID was of a Los Angeles detective named Kate Lockley. She was more then certain there was a story behind that, but she didn’t have the time or the inclination to figure it out this trip.

A yawn worked its way up from the back of her throat and Buffy winced, mouth stretching as she lifted a hand to cover it and the watering of her eyes as she muffled it. Blinking rapidly to clear her vision she noticed Primrose’s amused look and ducked her head to hide her blush as she explained, “Nine hours on the road,” she added a hopeful note to her voice as she prompted, “any chance I steal your couch for the night?”

Her amused look stretched into a smile as Primrose stood and motioned Buffy to follow her. With a shrug and still carrying her tea Buffy did as requested and let the ex-Watcher lead her down the narrow hall toward the living room and she turned, heading back toward the bathroom and Primrose’s bedroom and storage rooms. She paused at the door to one of the rooms that had been filled with artifacts and boxes during Buffy’s previous visit and green eyes widened as the door opened to reveal a spacious interior filled with a bed and a few pieces of furniture.

“I thought, since you might come through once and awhile that I might offer you a more comfortable place to sleep,” she added, voice hesitant, “whenever you need it.”

The tears brimming Buffy’s lashes, that had nothing to do with yawns, were blinked back as she looked around the simply furnished room. “I…” her voice drifted off as she moved deeper into the room and noticed two framed photos on the nightstand beside the bed. She moved toward them, struck silent, and a little dumb, by the photo of her, Willow and Xander taken their junior year. They were smiling, hopeful and bright and she really needed to call Xander to catch up. Her gaze shifted toward the second frame and her throat tightened as her knees gave out and she sat on the bed. The down comforter absorbing her weight and she ignored the nagging voice, whispering too soft, too nice and the every present subtle feeling that this world was going to fall away, leaving her bare and defenseless in hell again.

The hand holding the mug tensed and she quickly placed it beside the photo of herself, small and young, in her parents’ embrace as they, her family, smiled up at the person taking the picture. She turned, met Primrose’s neutral gaze with her tear filled one and asked, “How?”

“Your vampire is quite the resourceful one.”

“Angel?” She turned back to nightstand and its memories and she smiled, the tightness in her throat easing as she rose and offered Primrose a tired smile. “Thank you.”

“You should thank him.”

Buffy couldn’t ignore the panicked dive her stomach took with the thought of seeing Angel again, of hearing his voice and her spine stiffened, shoulders rolling back as she stated, “I will.”

“Good.”

~*~


“You think she’s the one we’re looking for?”

Bobby made a discouraging sound and shifted the phone tighter to his ear as he adjusted the frying pan on the stove. “Hell if I know,” he turned the heat from five to three before adding, “She’s smart, well trained and likes to make up words every other sentence so half the time I’m not even sure I know what she’s talking about.”

“Ruby mentioned,” Bobby didn’t bother to mention his lack of trust for Ruby and let Sam finish the thought, “it was a female hunter that got to the Colt before she did.”

The hand holding his stirring spoon paused in turning the sauce as his voice lowered toward a growl and he asked, “What about the Colt?”

“I didn’t tell you?”

“Would I be asking had you?”

There was an uncomfortable pause where Bobby could hear Sam shift uneasily, the bench seat of the Impala giving an uneven groan with his movement. “A few weeks—”

“A few weeks?”

Bobby’s skeptical interruption had him sighing and amending, “Back in October Ruby traced the Colt to a safe house guarded by what she called harbingers of the apocalypse.”

The comforting sounds of dinner cooking faded to white noise as Bobby was quiet a moment, digesting that tidbit of information and on autopilot he added salt to the pot of just about boiling water and lowered the heat on the red sauce to two. He noticed Sam’s slight hitch in breathing and took pity on the younger man by muttering, “Harbingers, huh.” Sam made a noise of agreement and a sudden insight had Bobby prompting, “As in the Four Horsemen?”

There was another groan of protest as Sam shifted, more then likely forward, as he stated, “She said Death bit it, but I thought…” he trailed off and Bobby added the noodles to the now boiling water, waiting for Sam to finally speak up again. “The Four Horsemen? They can be killed?”

“How many of the seven deadly did we off?” Bobby didn’t wait for an answer and finished his point, “I was in contact with another hunter prompting me for info about the horsemen around that time. That same hunter introduced me to Anne.”

Sam was quiet a beat before he asked, voice dipping lower which to Bobby meant Dean was heading back toward the car. “So she is the one we’re looking for.”

He snorted, “I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again, Sam. Hell if I know, but I do know is that I want a face to face with this Anne,” he grunted and stirred the pasta, “Harder to con a conman when it’s in person.”

“You think it’s a con?”

“Honestly?” Bobby sighed and added more salt to the boiling water and noodles. “I haven’t a clue. So far she seems on the level and anything she’s mentioned or referenced has checked out, but it seems a little too easy.”

A short bark of laughter escaped Sam. “Months of research and tracking someone down is easy?”

“One person outta how many billion?” He answered the rhetorical question with, “Yeah, it’s been easy.”

“Point.” Sam paused before stating, “Some of the other hunters that have run into her have mentioned a scar.” There was a longer, quieter pause and Bobby heard the driver’s side door of the Impala open and Sam rushed the last bit under his breath, “like Dean’s.”

“Yeah, well, some of the other hunters gossip like biddies.”

“You don’t believe it.”

“I’ll believe it, and in her, when I see’em with my own two eyes.”

“Alright. Gotta run.”

“Don’t be a stranger. The either of you. And don’t get y’erselves killed savin’ that girl.”

The line went dead and Bobby took a moment to frown at the black receiver before placing it back on its holder. A hand rose, lifting his ‘gimme’ cap up and he absently scratched at the back of his head before replacing the cap and turning away from the stove a moment to snag his Miller and take a quick pull that did little to calm the un-eased feeling in his gut. He flicked off the burner on the sauce as it began to more then simmer and he continued to frown, the line between his brows deepening, as he studied the red speckled stovetop.

Anne’s newest email had included a series of hand sketched images and a quick note asking him for any and all sheddings of light he could offer—her words, not his—and he couldn’t help but feel like there was a hurried edge to her plea. One or two he’d recognized right away, but the others had him wishing Pamela still had her eyesight and that he was at home with all his resources. His stomach sank and twisted with that thought before he took another pull of Miller and went about finishing the makings of his meal with a muttered, “Son of a bitch.”